Saturday, June 13, 2015

Francona Missed H.S. Graduation to Report to Browns

John Patsy "Tito" Francona was inducted this week in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Hall of Fame.  At that banquet, Tito told a story about the circumstances of his being signed by the St. Louis Browns in 1952.  It seems he signed with the Browns the very day before he graduated high school.  And baseball - and the Browns' management - proved to be a harsh mistress.

He was ordered to skip graduation ceremonies and report directly to the Browns' Class B farm team!

Tito giving batting tips to some local little-leaguers
The decision to forgo cap-and-gown and don pinstripes was a good one for Tito.  He went on to have a successful major-league career as a first baseman-outfielder including being elected by Cleveland baseball writers as the 1959 Man of the Year, and an appearance in the second 1961 All-Star game.

Tito played two years in the Browns farm system before the team was sold to Baltimore: one year with the York White Roses and one year with the Aberdeen Pheasants.   At Aberdeen, Tito met his future wife, a local girl named Roberta Jackson.  Terry Francona, their son and current manager of the Cleveland Indians, was born in Aberdeen in 1959.

Here is a scorecard featuring Tito as an Aberdeen Pheasant. Note that Roger Maris (misspelled Maras), is in the lineup that day as a right-fielder for the Fargo-Moorhead Twins.

Yep, that's THE Roger Maris!
The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League was founded in 1907 for high school sports. Its Hall Of Fame includes Stan Musial and Arnold Palmer.

Other famous Aberdeen Pheasants that later came up to be major leaguers include Don Larsen, Bob Turley, Don Lenhardt, Perry Currin (all very recent attendees at the annual St. Louis Browns Fan Club and Historical Society banquet) and Blackie Schwamb.

Although Tito did not make it up to the big leagues in time to be a Brownie, he did eventually make it to Sportsman's Park as a St. Louis Cardinal (and batted cleanup in the last game, May 8th, 1966). Tito also played with Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago (AL), Detroit , Atlanta, Philadelphia, Oakland and Milwaukee.

Tito Trivia

  • was traded twice for the same player: Larry Doby.  Once by the Orioles, and once by the Tigers.
  • shares the record (with Paul Bako) of being the player who played in the most contiguous states.  Francona played for teams in seven contiguous states: MO, IL, WI, MI, OH, PA, MD.
  • is the only player signed by the Browns to have played into the 1970s.

Read more: a member of the St. Louis Cardinals ts/hssports/otherhighschoolsports/8542448-74/wpial-francona-basketball#ixzz3cyUWtJcO 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bitsy parade is big on spunk

(The following story appeared on the front page of the June 10, 2015 St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  The Browns are finally front-page news, 61 years after their last season).

by Jack Witthaus of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch staff

ST. LOUIS • Emmett McAuliffe remembers exchanging baseball cards with an older kid in Creve Coeur in the 1960s and happening upon one from the Browns.

He couldn’t believe it. There was another baseball team in St. Louis besides the Cardinals? Immediately, the team’s colors, losing tendencies and elf logo mystified him.

Now, McAuliffe, [an officer in the St. Louis Browns Fan Club,] collects hats and other gear from the Browns. On Monday, he donned a milky white Browns jersey and a bow tie as he told stories about the team’s history.

McAuliffe was among dozens gathered Monday night around the Tiny Bar on Locust Street to witness the self-proclaimed “world’s tiniest parade” to honor the 90th birthday of former Browns player Eddie Gaedel.

The parade featured a Smart car, a float in a child-size wagon pulled by child, a toy dog, a one-man band and the world’s smallest horse, Thumbelina. Led by Mayor Francis Slay, the 1/8th-block-long parade started and ended in minutes. Attendees broke into applause when the parade halted at the entrance of the Tiny Bar.

Mayor Slay leads the tiny parade
Parade organizer Aaron Perlut — a founding partner of Elasticity, a digital marketing and public relations firm at 1010 Locust Street — helped open the Tiny Bar on May 27. Perlut said the 250-square-foot establishment is used to celebrate the “little guy” in a world that often cherishes huge things.

At 3 feet, 7 inches, Gaedel was the shortest Major League Baseball player ever to record an at-bat. During his August 1951 debut, Gaedel walked on four straight pitches. Then-Browns owner Bill Veeck signed Gaedel as a part of a stunt. Gaedel died in 1961 at the age of 36.

A large Gaedel mural greets guests who enter the Tiny Bar, and his name is part of the bar’s Wi-Fi password. “He’s the patron saint,” Perlut said.

Although the city issued a permit for Monday’s little celebration, Cindy Riordan, executive assistant to the director of streets, said the streets department didn’t call the “tiny parade” a parade for permit purposes. Due to the small size, the parade was dubbed a “special event.” Riordan said people who apply for parade permits generally do not ask to hold parades less than a block long.

“It’s definitely the smallest one anyone’s called a parade,” she said, noting that it might have been the shortest one in St. Louis history.

Travis Sheridan operated the 2010 yellow Smart car that was in the parade. He said he liked the atmosphere of the event. Music played while attendees milled around and ate birthday cake.
Sheridan said St. Louis might have an inferiority complex, but it shouldn’t see itself as little. Small events like Monday’s parade make Sheridan, a friend of Perlut’s, optimistic about the future of the
city that he moved to about three years ago.

“People doing tiny things can have a big impact for St. Louis,” Sheridan said.