RIP: Ned Garver Dead at 91
Ned Garver was a much better role model than Fiction’s Joe Hardy
As a baseball card collecting, sandlot baseball playing, and summer Game of the Day listening kids of the Post World War II era, many of us were blown away by the accomplishments of pitcher Ned Garver during the 1951 season.
And how could we not be?
As a smaller sized right handed pitcher for the lowly St. Louis Browns, all Ned did in 1951 was win 20 games for a club that finished eighth and dead last in the American League while still losing 102-games as a club – in spite of all that one fellow named Ned Garver did to play the game as though he had a chance to help his club reach the World Series. If it did nothing else, the Garver accomplishment managed to get through its message to thousands of us who could only follow major league baseball from the boondocks via radio, The weekly Sporting News, and whatever our local newspapers cared to print for us on a daily basis.
The 1951 Garver accomplishment was loud enough to reach and capture many of us out here – even converting many us to scattered allegiant, sometimes quietly so, followers of the St. Louis Browns. In 1951, the kids in our town followed the Texas League Houston Buffs, a farm club of the NL St. Louis Cardinals. The City of Houston was no fertile ground for the cultivation of Browns fans, after all, for another good reason, One of our big Texas League rivals, the San Antonio Missions, were a farm club of the St. Louis AL club. When the Missions came to play our Cardinal-dressed out Buffs, they came dressed out in the brown and ornage apparel of their own mother ship club.
Ned Garver did not turn us against our Houston own, but he did convert some of us kids into Browns fans who already had bought into the message that those things in life we give our hearts to full bore have a chance to succeed. Nobody in baseball modeled that belief better than Ned Garver did back in 1951. To me, he will always be the man in reality to beat out the fictional Joe Hardy from “Damn Yankees” – or even Roy Hobbs from “The Natural” – for what’s possible when, in the real world, the qualities of talent, commitment, determination, luck, and the blessing of the baseball gods come together, but only when they can all get behind the lead force of individual heart. With heart, we may all be able to push beyond the horizon of our current perspective and find the real potential of our possibilities. Without our own heart involvement , all the forces of support we can think of, all blowing as a mighty gale behind us, will not get us there.
Garver Career Stats
Garver the Humorist
Over the years, New Garver served as either the toastmaster or lead speaker at just about every annual St. Louis Browns Fan Club Luncheon we held in St. Louis. We have neither the time or space to cover all the things he said here, but this one example should support the point we are hoping to make about their spontaneous (or well planned) quality. Asked once by a dinner guest if the fans in St. Louis ever gave the Browns a hard time for their losing ways, Garver just smiled as the guest concluded his somewhat bloviated version of the same idea. “Our fans never booed us,” Ned Garver offered, in that same straightforward midwestern tone he always used. Then he added: “They wouldn’t dare to boo us. – We outnumbered them.”
The St. Louis Browns, the Game of Baseball, the State of Ohio, the USA, and People Everywhere, especially including those of us who came to realize the influence he had come to be in our lives, all of us – just took a big loss in the passing of this good man, Ned Garver. The thing we get to keep is all the love that came with the life lesson gifts he instilled in so many of us by simply being all of the caring human being he really was born to be. And so lived to be. For 91 years, 2 months, nd 1 day.
An Aside to Bill Veeck
“Hey, Bill! Here comes the guy who helped make your legend what it grew to be. Maybe you really did explain your reason for not granting Ned Garver a raise after 1951 because “we (the Browns) could’ve finished last without you”, but maybe not. All we know, Mr. Veeck, is that you personally could never have left the planet as the most magical owner in baseball history without the earlier presence of Ned Garver on your 1951 Browns club.”
Rest in Peace, Ned Garver
We shall miss you – and love you – forever.