Ted D. Smith
Dick Whitman’s life was described by his brotherin-law Bob Read as “the kind of story that maybe America was built on.” A member of “The Greatest Generation” that survived the Great Depression and fought totalitarianism in World War II, he forged a professional baseball career that began in 1942 and ended in 1957. While the war delayed Whitman’s big league debut, he eventually played as an outfielder for three pennant-winning teams in his six years as a Major Leaguer. His most notable contribution came as a member of the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies, for whom he served as a pinch hitter and substitute outfielder during the team’s pennant drive.
Dick Corwin Whitman was born on November 9, 1920, in Woodburn, Oregon, thirty miles south of Portland. His parents were Clyde Eli Whitman and the former Nancy Margaret Hicks. The couple also had a daughter, Virginia, born in 1928. Clyde was in the Oregon National Guard and saw action at the Mexican border in 1916, and he served in France in World War I.
Dick’s baseball abilities were apparent early. After starring for his local high school team, he played alongside fellow future Major Leaguers Johnny Pesky and Joe Erautt in 1938 and 1939 for the Silverton Red Sox, a local semipro team. The Silverton team was highly successful, winning the Northwest regional tournament and competing in the National Baseball Congress semipro championship tournament in Wichita in both those years. The 1939 team went 34–2, finishing third nationally. Pesky, Erautt, and Whitman all made the 1939 national semipro All-Star team.
Dick Whitman was a semi-regular in 1946, but he appeared
in only four games in 1947.
Upon graduation from high school in 1938, Whitman enrolled at the University of Oregon, where he was an active member of the Sigma Nu fraternity and played on fraternity teams in a number of intramural sports. On the baseball field, he was a standout center fielder for the Ducks’ varsity team from 1940 through 1942, batting .397 for his college career, a mark that still stands as the school record. The team won the Northern Division of the Pacific-8 conference in his junior and