Stanley H. Bard
Although he was the first base coach, fans rarely if ever saw Jake Pitler in the coach’s box, as he patrolled the baseline urging on his Brooklyn Dodgers. Few of them knew Pitler had once played in the Major Leagues with men like Honus Wagner or that he had been an outstanding Minor League manager.
Jacob Albert Pitler, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Frederick and Yetta Pitler, was born in New York City on April 22, 1894, the eldest of seven children. Jake was still a child when the family moved to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where Frederick plied his trade as a junk dealer. By 1910 the Pitlers (the original spelling was Peitler) were in Pittsburgh, where Frederick was now selling produce. Jake and his two brothers helped the family finances by selling newspapers on Pittsburgh street corners.
Often he sold papers near Forbes Field, and he became friendly with the Pirates players. Jake’s interest in baseball soon resulted in his playing with semipro teams in the Pittsburgh area. (Another newsboy became a lifelong friend—the future owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Art Rooney.) Pitler’s two newsboy-brothers also found a niche in sports: Harry became a lightweight boxer and later managed heavyweight Billy Conn; Dave played quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh football team.
Jake Pitler was very adept at stealing signs from his first
base coaching box.
Jake entered professional baseball in 1912, primarily as a way of earning money, according to his son, Larry. Baseball was a way of making a living without having a formal education. Pitler began his professional baseball career in 1912 with Connellsville (Pennsylvania) in the Class D Ohio-Pennsylvania League, but the team disbanded on June 12. The next year, 1913, found him playing second base for the Jackson Convicts of the Class D Southern Michigan Association (there was a state prison in the city). Jake spent 1914 with the team, now designated Class C and renamed the Chiefs, and batted .301. He started the 1915 season with Jackson, but when the league collapsed in July,