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Pee Wee Reese

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Harold Henry Reese
(The Little Colonel; The Captain)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1984.

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[edit] Biographical Information

"He was the heart and soul of the 'Boys of Summer'." - Vin Scully

Pee Wee Reese played sixteen years in the major leagues, missing three full years to World War II. He was in the top ten in MVP voting eight different times, appeared in seven World Series and was in ten All-Star Games. His entire major league career was with the Brooklyn and later Los Angeles Dodgers.

Reese in a commercial in the 1950's.

A versatile player, he led the league in a variety of categories: walks in 1947, runs scored in 1949, stolen bases in 1952, and sacrifice hits in 1953. He was also second in triples in 1946 and was in the top ten in doubles three times. On the pennant-winning 1947 Dodgers team, he and Jackie Robinson tied for the team lead in homers with 12. He played mostly in the days before Gold Gloves were awarded, but his range factors and fielding percentages during most of his career were good.

Reese broke into minor league ball in 1938 and 1939 with the Louisville Colonels and came up to the majors in 1940. Although he is remembered for his leadership of the Dodgers of the 1950s, he was originally a part of the previous Dodgers generation - the one which went to the 1941 World Series. The 1941 team was a sensation because the Dodgers had not won the pennant since 1920. He was the youngest regular on that team, a team which included the 38-year-old Paul Waner and whose star home run hitter was the 34-year-old Dolph Camilli. Some of Reese's later teammates, such as Duke Snider, were teenagers in 1941, while other future teammates such as Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella were barred by the color line at the time. Robinson was approximately Reese's age (born six months later).

Interestingly, in order to win the shortstop job in 1940, Reese beat out Leo Durocher who was also the manager of the team. Durocher had been the regular shortstop in 1939 and reduced his playing time in 1940.

Army Air Force Sergeant Joe DiMaggio and Navy Chief Specialist Harold "Pee Wee" Reese (right) autograph baseballs for commanding officers before their respective teams play for the Central Pacific Area Service Championship on July 7, 1944

Pee Wee entered the Navy in January 1943 and was discharged in November 1945.

His best year with the bat was probably 1954, fairly late in his career, when he hit .309 with 35 doubles and 90 walks. Another notable year was 1949 when he had a career-high of 16 home runs (Snider and Hodges were tops on the team with 23) and added 116 walks, allowing him to lead the league with 132 runs scored. He was fifth in the MVP voting that year.

After his playing career ended, Reese was a Los Angeles Dodgers coach in 1959 and a Cincinnati Reds broadcaster in 1969 and 1970. He was also a broadcaster for NBC's Game of the Week in the 1960s. Later he became an executive with Hillerich & Bradsby, the bat company.

Although he was called "Pee Wee", at 5' 9" tall he was not all that short. Roy Campanella was an inch shorter (although heavier), teammate Eddie Stanky was also an inch shorter and third baseman Spider Jorgensen was the same height as Pee Wee.

"Pee Wee is the team captain and he plays the part all out. Especially in the dressing room, he knows where to be and what to say at all times." - Jackie Robinson, 1952
"If I had my career to play over, one thing I'd do differently is swing more. Those 1,200 walks I got ... nobody remembers them." - Pee Wee Reese

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 10-time NL All-Star (1942 & 1946-1954)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (1949)
  • NL Bases on Balls Leader (1947)
  • NL Stolen Bases Leader (1952)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1949 & 1953)
  • Won a World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1984

[edit] Further Reading

  • Pee Wee Reese (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest (February 1971), pp. 35-38. [1]
  • Roger Kahn: "A Shortstop in Kentucky", in The Boys of Summer, Perennial Classics, Harper and Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2000, pp. 310-326 (originally published in 1972).

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