Duane “Dee” Pillette, eight-year major league veteran pitcher, died Friday, May 6 in San Jose, Ca. at the age of 88. Pillette broke into the majors with the New York Yankees in 1949, pitching until 1956 with the St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies. He compiled a 38-66 record, leading the American League in losses in 1951 for the cellar dwelling Browns. He holds the distinction of being the last starting pitcher in Browns history and the first winning pitcher in Orioles history.
Despite his father’s long career in baseball, the patriarch did not want his son to follow in his footsteps. In a 2009 interview that I conducted with Pillette from his home in San Jose, he discussed how his father wanted him to stay far away from baseball. “My father never talked much about baseball except he didn't want me to play. He fought me tooth and nail when I was a kid. Even though he didn't make much money in the Coast League, he sent me to Parochial schools. He never got past the sixth grade,” Pillette remembered. His father stressed the importance of getting an education ahead of playing baseball. “He said, ‘I don't give a damn about baseball, you aren't going to make any money. I want you to get a good job and the only way is to get a good education.’”
As any teenager would do, Pillette pleaded his case to his father. “I said, ‘You don't have any money and I don't have any money. I have to play baseball to get a scholarship.’ He said, ‘I'll let you play in high school, but if you have a scout come around, he has to talk to me.’”
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