Sunday, July 23, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: July 23, 1918 - Harold Henry “Pee Wee” Reese


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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Harold Henry ("Pee Wee") Reese, baseball player, son of Carl and Emma Reese, was born on a small farm in Meade County, Kentucky , between Ekron and Brandenburg, on July 23, 1918. When he was a child, the family moved to Louisville, where he got his nickname not because of his size but because of his prowess at marbles. One year he was the runner-up to the national champion in the Louisville Courier-journal marble tournament. He graduated from DuPont Manual High School in 1936.

As a professional baseball player, Reese was first signed by the Louisville Colonels of the American Association in 1937. His fielding skill at shortstop attracted the notice of major league scouts, and in 1939 a group that included Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey purchased the Louisville Colonels baseball club for $195,000, largely because they wanted Reese's contract. Later that year the club sold Reese to the Brooklyn Dodgers for the equivalent of $75,000 ($35,000 in cash and four players). At the time, Larry MacPhail, president of the Dodgers, described Reese as the most instinctive base runner he had ever seen.

During his rookie year (1940), the Kentuckian displaced Dodger regular Leo Durocher and thus began a sixteen-year tenure at shortstop that was interrupted only by a three-year stint in the Navy (1943-45). During the seasons that Reese played full-time with the Dodgers (1941-42 and 1946-57), his team finished first in the league seven times, second four times, and third twice. He played in seven World Series. Reese was known for his clutch hitting and for big plays in the field. He also led the National League in stolen bases (thirty in 1952), in double plays four times (1942 and 1946-48), in runs scored (132 in 1947), and in fielding average (.977 in 1949). He was named to the All-Star Team eight times (1947-54). Reese was such a dominant shortstop that the well-stocked Dodger farm system was unable to produce a player capable of dislodging him. Players who tried (Tommy Brown, Mike Sandlock, Stan Rojek, Eddie Miksis, Chico Carrasquel, Bobby Morgan, Billy Hunter, Don Zimmer, and Chico Fernandez) all ended up playing for other teams. Reese's offensive career totals (126 home runs, 885 runs batted in, and a.269 batting average) do not begin to measure his value to the team. He was the team's captain, and Dodger sportscaster Red Barber described him as the glue that kept his team together. Reese, instrumental in smoothing Jackie Robinson's entrance into baseball, was called "the catalyst of baseball integration," by author Roger Kahn.

After his baseball career, Reese worked as a broadcaster with CBS, NBC, and the Cincinnati Reds. He was elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, on August 12, 1984. He is director of the college and professional baseball staff at Hillerich and Bradsby , maker of the Louisville Slugger bat. Reese married Dorothy Walton on March 29, 1942; they have two children, Barbara and Mark.


Selected Source from UK Libraries: 

Kahn, R. (1972). The boys of summer. (1st ed.]. ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
GV875.B7 K3 1972, Young Library - 4th Floor

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