Alfred James Pilarcik
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 10", Weight 180 lb.
- School Valparaiso University, Purdue University
- High School Whiting High School
- Debut July 13, 1956
- Final Game September 24, 1961
- Born July 3, 1930 in Whiting, IN USA
- Died September 20, 2010 in Schererville, IN USA
A native of Whiting, IN, Al Pilarcik began his career in the New York Yankees organization when he signed as an amateur free agent before the 1948 season. The lefty-hitting outfielder had great speed and a strong throwing arm. Al once raced Mickey Mantle. "We had a match race in training camp which he said he beat me by ten feet, but it was more like ten inches," recalled Pilarcik.
Al spent seven active seasons in the minors (1948-1956) and sandwiched in between these years he spent 1953 and 1954 serving in the United States Military during the Korean War. Pilarcik had three good years out of the seven; his first was in 1949 with the Joplin Miners of the class C Western Association when he hit .304 in 107 games.
The year before he served in the military, 1952, he hit .305 for the Beaumont Roughnecks of the AA Texas League in 137 games. Al was sent to the Kansas City Athletics by the New York Yankees in October of 1955 as part of a conditional agreement, playing with the Columbus Jets of the International League in 1956. In the first half of the season he was on fire, hitting .375 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs. "Luke Easter and I were challenging each other," said Pilarcik. "Luke was about 6' 5" and 240 lbs.. I was 5' 10". They called him 'Big Poison' and me 'Little Poison'." Unknown at the time this would be Al's last run in the minors and he finished up his seven-year stint by hitting .285 along with 43 home runs.
His strong showing with Columbus in the first part of the 1956 season got Al called up for his first crack at the majors and he debuted with the Athletics on July 13th. He finished out the year there, hitting .251 in 69 games. The following year Al was sent to the Baltimore Orioles in a multi-player deal and was with the Baltimore Club through 1960, In 1957 Al had 15 assists in the outfield and hit a career high .282 in 1959.
Pilarcik was known for making the catch for the final out in the mammoth baseball career of Ted Williams. On September 28, 1960 at Fenway Park, a thirty-year-old Pilarcik was stationed in right field with Baltimore Orioles RHP Jack Fisher on the mound during the future Hall of Famer's final game of his active playing career. Williams had flied previously to Pilarcik, and was issued a free pass in his first plate appearance. Then, in the 5th inning, Williams launched one. Pilarcik waited at the wall in right for the towering blast as it fell from the stratosphere and landed with a thud in his outstretched glove. It was Williams’ final out ever, but not his final at-bat, one lefty hitting out to another lefty. Coming to the plate once more in the 8th in another dramatic righty/lefty matchup, the “Splendid Splinter” got into one, sending a terrific arching drive over Pilarcik’s head and into the Boston crowd for a farewell home run. And that was it for Boston’s #9. View footage of the event at Youtube
Pilarcik waltzed out with the Athletics and the Chicago White Sox in 1961 with six major league years on his record, hitting for a .256 average in 668 games. He played the outfield well, ending with a .986 fielding percentage.
Al attended Valparaiso University in the off-season while working for a degree in physical education and later earned his master's degree at Purdue University. For 34 years he was a high school health teacher in St. John, Indiana, and coached baseball, basketball and football. More recently he taught part time at the Indiana University campus in Gary, IN and was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. He died in 2010 at age 80.
- Baseball Players of the 1950s
- Rex Hamann