Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High Schooler Treasured His Day of Spoiled Dreams Frank W. Santucci

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High Schooler Treasured His Day of Spoiled Dreams Frank W. Santucci

Article excerpt

In the spring of 1952, I was a young pitcher with big baseball dreams while finishing my junior year of high school. The Pittsburgh Pirates gave me one chance to make those admittedly long-shot dreams come true.

The Pirates had ended up in seventh place in 1951, and they would do even worse the next three years. I had pitched in 1951 for the Verona Jets, a team of local teenagers that played teams around Allegheny County.

In the early spring of '52, I saw "The Pride of St. Louis," a movie about Dizzy Dean, the colorful pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. I identified with his story.

In their woeful season (42-112) that year, the Pirates had a first baseman, "Catfish" Metkovich, whose nickname came from an accident when he stepped on a catfish and had to go on the disabled list for a while. Also on the club was Clem Koshorek, who was the shortest player in the league at 5-foot-4, making it appropriate that he played shortstop.

More impressively, that team included future Hall-of-Famer Ralph Kiner, who hit 37 homes in his last full year with the Pirates, and a couple of local Pittsburghers, Bobby Del Greco and Tony Bartirome.

On June 12, 1952, I received a letter from the Pittsburgh Baseball Club, Minor League System, that teased me with the idea of becoming another local boy on the club. It invited me to Forbes Field for a tryout at 9 a.m. on June 18. A scout for the Pirates had seen the Jets play, and two teammates and I had all been impressive enough to receive tryout invitations.

The letter was signed by George Sisler, chief minor league scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a former star for the St. Louis Browns and Boston Braves who had twice batted over .400.

The letter told us to report at the Forbes Field gate with a glove, spikes, uniform and "the letter," to get us inside to the ball field. Can you imagine being in high school and going to Forbes Field to play ball?

That week the Pirates were out of town so we had full use of the locker rooms. When I reached the field, I looked over to the left field bleachers, where I usually sat as a paying fan, and strange scenarios entered my mind. …

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