Alfred Thomas Papai
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 185 lb.
- High School Divernon High School
- Debut April 24, 1948
- Final Game September 16, 1955
- Born May 7, 1917 in Divernon, IL USA
- Died September 7, 1995 in Springfield, IL USA
Right-hander Al Papai , a slender 6' 3" pitcher, was 23 years old when he was signed as an amateur free agent by the St. Louis Cardinals before the 1940 season. He spent his first season with the Worthington Cardinals of the class D Western League, going 12-10 with a 3.36 ERA while pitching 209 innings. He was moved up to the Springfield Cardinals of the class C Western Association for his second season and cooled off a bit, going 7-6 with a 5.30 ERA. Papai received notice then from the United States Military Service and spent the next three years (1942-1944) with the Army during World War II.
Back in his baseball uniform in 1945 Al spent three more years in the minors and in 1947 won 21 and lost 10 for the Houston Buffaloes of the AA Texas League with a 2.45 ERA while pitching 283 innings. He was brought up to the St. Louis Cardinals, debuting on April 24, 1948. Al appeared in 10 games for the Cards, going 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA and finished out the year with the Rochester Red Wings of the International League with a 5-6 record and a 4.37 ERA. Papai was then selected off waivers by the St. Louis Browns from the Cardinals on May 4, 1949.
Papai was just 4-11 for the Browns in 1949, but he did have one outstanding outing, a 10 inning two-hit shutout over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Boston Red Sox took him off waivers on December 1st of that year and he was 4-2 but had a 6.75 ERA for them in 1950. The Cardinals then tried him again, taking him off waivers from the Red Sox on July 5]th. He finally wound up that year with a combined 5-2 record and a 6.33 ERA in 29 appearances.
Al, now 34 years old, dropped back down with Houston again in 1951, led the Texas League with 23 wins and lost but 9 with a 2.51 ERA while pitching 272 innings. He helped his team win both the league pennant and the playoffs. One would think that after this show he would get a call from the big guys, but none came and Al would have to do it one more time with the Oklahoma City Indians, also of the Texas League, in 1955, going 23-7 with a 2.65 ERA in 255 innings.
This caused a stir and the Chicago White Sox gave him a ring on September 1, 1955. He had his last and brief stay in the major leagues that year, appearing in 7 games with no decisions. This ended his four-year major league tour with a 9-14 record and a 5.37 ERA. Big Al hung in for three more seasons in the minors, finishing up in 1958 at 41 years of age and a minor league stat sheet that said he played 14 seasons, winning 173 games and losing 128 with a 3.27 ERA, while pitching 2,622 innings.