Preacher Roe

Elwin Charles Roe (February 26, 1916 – November 9, 2008), known as Preacher Roe, was a Major League Baseball pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals (1938), Pittsburgh Pirates (1944–47), and Brooklyn Dodgers (1948–54).

Preacher Roe
Preacher Roe
Roe in 1953
Born: February 26, 1916
Ash Flat, Arkansas
Died: November 9, 2008 (aged 92)
West Plains, Missouri
Batted: Right Threw: Left
MLB debut
August 22, 1938, for the St. Louis Cardinals
Last MLB appearance
September 4, 1954, for the Brooklyn Dodgers
MLB statistics
Win–loss record127–84
Earned run average3.43
Career highlights and awards

Early years

Roe was born on February 26, 1916, in Ash Flat, Arkansas and grew up in Viola, Arkansas. The nickname "Preacher" came at the age of three when an uncle asked his name and Roe responded "preacher" because of a minister who would take him on horse-and-buggy rides. For some time, Roe’s father, Charles Roe, played semi-professional ball for a Pine Bluff, Arkansas team before he began practice as a country doctor.[1]

College career

From 1935 to 1939, Roe attended Harding College (now University).[2] While majoring in education, he received a baseball scholarship and also tried his hand at basketball. At Harding, in a thirteen-inning game in 1937, Roe gained national attention by striking out twenty-six batters.[1]

Major League Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals

In the summer of 1938, Roe was signed by Branch Rickey, then general manager for the St. Louis Cardinals. Roe pitched in one game for the team that season, giving up six hits, two walks, and four runs in 2⅔ innings. He spent the next five seasons in the Cardinals' minor league system before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 30, 1943 in exchange for pitcher Johnny Podgajny, outfielder Johnny Wyrostek and cash.[3]

Pittsburgh Pirates

As a fastball pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Roe had a record of 13-11 with a 3.11 earned run average in 1944 and a 14-13 record with a 2.87 ERA in 1945. His 148 strikeouts in the 1945 season led the National League and he was selected for (but did not play in) the 1945 All-Star Game.[3] While coaching high school basketball after the 1945 season, Roe suffered a fractured skull in a fight with a referee.[2] His pitching suffered in the following seasons, with his record falling to 3-8 and an ERA of 5.14 in 1946, and deteriorated further in 1947, as he finished the season with a record of 4-15 and an ERA of 5.25.[3]

Ralph Kiner, he said, stood in a hole in the outfield. He caught balls hit to his hole but otherwise did not field. One can get a great flavor of 'Ole Preach', as he was called, by reading Roger Kahn's book The Boys of Summer.

Brooklyn Dodgers

Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, remembered Roe from Rickey's time in the Cardinals' management and engineered a trade.[2] On December 8, 1947, the Dodgers got Roe, and infielders Billy Cox and Gene Mauch in exchange for pitchers Hal Gregg and Vic Lombardi and outfielder Dixie Walker.[2][3]

With his health improving and with the spitball now in his repertoire, Roe had much success with the Dodgers, including winning records in his first six seasons with the team.[2] Roe finished the 1948 season with a record of 12-8 and an ERA of 2.63.[3]

Selected to play in the 1949 All-Star Game, Roe pitched in the ninth inning, retiring all three batters he faced.[4] He improved further in the 1949 season, finishing with a 15-6 record and a 2.79 ERA.[3] He pitched for the first time in the postseason in the 1949 World Series, winning Game 2 with a six-hit complete game shutout against the New York Yankees that the Dodgers won 1-0, their only win in the five game series.[5]

Roe posted an exceptional 22-3 won-loss record for the Dodgers in 1951, becoming only the fifth pitcher since 1916 to begin the season 10-0.[6]

Roe was an exceptional pitcher, but notorious as a poor hitter, finishing his career with a .110 batting average.[3] In 1953, he hit a home run at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, the only one of his career, causing fans to roar in surprise and delight. Dodger broadcaster Red Barber told his radio audience, "Well, old Number 28 has hit a home run, and we'll never hear the end of it, folks!"

Roe was still pitching in the majors at age 39, unusual at the time, and was the third-oldest player in the National League in the 1954 season, his last in the majors.[7] When asked to explain his longevity, he replied "Clean livin' and the spitball." He described his methodology in a 1955 article in Sports Illustrated, "The Outlawed Spitball Was My Money Pitch", published a year after he retired.[2][8]

Roe's overall career statistics were hurt by the fact that he was away from baseball during World War II and that for two of the years he pitched for the Pirates they were among the worst teams in the National League. Contrasting the fielding of the Dodgers and the Pirates, he once said that a pitcher should pay to pitch for the Dodgers, whereas the Pirates' second baseman and shortstop were like goalposts with the ball bouncing between them. After being taken out of a game in the second inning, Roe commented that, "Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you."[9]

After baseball

Roe lived in West Plains, Missouri, where for many years he operated a small grocery store (now a florist shop) on the northeast corner of Broadway and Porter Wagoner Boulevard, and has a street named after him (Preacher Roe Boulevard), which included U.S. 160 north of the US 63 bypass until the city rerouted U.S. 160 and Route 17 after 2000. U.S. Route 160 still runs as Preacher Roe Boulevard south of U.S. 63.

A community ball field in Salem, Fulton County, Arkansas, 18 miles from Roe's birthplace of Ash Flat, is known as Preacher Roe Park.

The book Carl Erskine's Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: Extra Innings (2004) includes short stories from former Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine. Roe is prominent in many of these stories.

Roe died on November 9, 2008, from colon cancer.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b Malone, Dave. ""Preacher" Roe (1916–2008) - Encyclopedia of Arkansas". Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Goldstein, Richard (November 10, 2008). "Preacher Roe, Brooklyn Dodgers Star Known for His Spitball, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Preacher Roe, Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  4. ^ Jul 12, 1949, All-Star Game Play by Play and Box Score, Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  5. ^ 1949 World Series, Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  6. ^ Sipple, George (June 18, 2013). "Detroit 5, Baltimore 1: Max Scherzer first Tiger since 1909 to start season 10-0". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  7. ^ 1954 National League Expanded Leaderboards, Retrieved November 11, 2008.
  8. ^ Young, Dick (July 4, 1955). "The Outlawed Spitball Was My Money Pitch". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  9. ^ Doubtful
  10. ^ Schudel, Matt (November 12, 2008). "Southpaw Preacher Roe; One of 'Boys of Summer'". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 18, 2013.

External links

Preceded by
Carl Erskine
Brooklyn Dodgers Opening Day
Starting pitcher

Succeeded by
Carl Erskine
1948 Brooklyn Dodgers season

Leo Durocher returned as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers to start the 1948 season but was fired in mid-season. He was replaced first by team coach Ray Blades and then by Burt Shotton, who had managed the team to the 1947 pennant. The Dodgers finished third in the National League after this tumultuous season.

The 1948 Dodgers were very much a work in progress, beginning to coalesce into the classic "Boys of Summer" teams of the 1950s. Gil Hodges was in the opening day lineup, but as a catcher. He would only be shifted to first base after the emergence of Roy Campanella. Jackie Robinson started the season at second base—Eddie Stanky had been traded just before the start of the season to make room for Robinson at his natural position; he had played first base during his 1947 rookie season. Pee Wee Reese was the only "Boys of summer" regular to already be ensconced at his position, shortstop. Billy Cox had been acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates during the offseason, but as one of nine players who would see time at third for the team that year, he only played 70 games at the position. Carl Furillo was already a regular, but in center field. Duke Snider was brought up to the team in mid-season, and it was not until 1949 that Furillo moved to right field and Snider became the regular center fielder.

Preacher Roe and Ralph Branca were in the starting rotation, but Carl Erskine only appeared in a handful of games, and Don Newcombe would not join the staff until the following year.

1949 Brooklyn Dodgers season

The 1949 Brooklyn Dodgers held off the St. Louis Cardinals to win the National League title by one game. The Dodgers lost the World Series to the New York Yankees in five games.

1949 World Series

The 1949 World Series featured the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, with the Yankees winning in five games for their second defeat of the Dodgers in three years, and the twelfth championship in team history. This victory would start a record run of five consecutive World Series championships by the Yankees, and was also the first of 14 AL pennants in 16 years (1949–1964 except for 1954 and 1959) for the Yankees.

Both teams finished the regular season with exactly the same records and winning their respective leagues by exactly one game.

1950 Brooklyn Dodgers season

The 1950 Brooklyn Dodgers struggled for much of the season, but still wound up pushing the Philadelphia Phillies to the last day of the season before falling two games short. Following the season, Branch Rickey was replaced as majority owner/team president by Walter O'Malley, who promptly fired manager Burt Shotton and replaced him with Chuck Dressen. Buzzie Bavasi was also hired as the team's first independent General Manager.

Vin Scully joined the Dodgers' radio and television crew as a play-by-play announcer in 1950; in 2016, Scully entered his 67th consecutive season with the club, the longest such tenure in the history of sports broadcasting, that season was the first wherein his voice, as well as of Red Barber's, was broadcast on television station WOR-TV, making the Dodgers the last New York City MLB team to introduce regular television broadcasts, 11 years following the first broadcasts of 1939.

1951 Brooklyn Dodgers season

The 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers led the National League for much of the season, holding a 13-game lead as late as August. However, a late season swoon and a hot streak by the New York Giants led to a classic three-game playoff series. Bobby Thomson's dramatic ninth-inning home run off Dodger reliever Ralph Branca in the final game won the pennant for the Giants and was immortalized as the Shot Heard 'Round the World.

1951 Philadelphia Phillies season

The 1951 Philadelphia Phillies finished in fifth place. The team had won the 1950 National League pennant but in the United Press' annual preseason poll of sportswriters, only 18 out of 168 writers picked the team to repeat as pennant winners; the Giants received 81 votes and the Dodgers 55. Those two teams wound up tied, with the Phillies 23 games behind.

1952 Brooklyn Dodgers season

The 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers rebounded from the heartbreaking ending of 1951 to win the National League pennant by four games over the New York Giants. However, they dropped the World Series in seven games to the New York Yankees. Led by Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, and Duke Snider, the high-powered Brooklyn offense scored the most runs in the majors.

1952 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The 1952 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 19th playing of the midsummer classic between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was held on July 8, 1952, at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the home of the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League. The game resulted in the National League defeating the American League 3–2 in 5 innings. It was the first All-Star Game—and to date, the only—to be called early due to rain.

Mickey Mantle was selected an All-Star for the first time, as was pitcher Satchel Paige, who a day before the game turned 46 years old. Neither appeared in the game.

1952 World Series

The 1952 World Series featured the 3-time defending champions New York Yankees beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games. The Yankees won their 4th consecutive title, tying the mark they set in 1936–1939 under manager Joe McCarthy, and Casey Stengel became the second manager in Major League history with 4 consecutive World Series championships. This was the Yankees' 15th World Series championship win, and the 3rd time they defeated the Dodgers in 6 years.

In Game 7, the Yankees' second baseman Billy Martin made a great catch, preserving the Yankees' two-run lead. Also, the home run hit by Mickey Mantle during the 8th inning of Game 6 was significant because it was the first of his record 18 career World Series home runs.

The NBC telecasts of Games 6 and 7 are believed to be the oldest surviving television broadcasts of the World Series, as they were preserved via kinescope by sponsor Gillette.

1953 Brooklyn Dodgers season

The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers repeated as National League champions by posting a 105–49 record, as of 2017, it is the best winning percentage in team history. However, the Dodgers again failed to win the World Series, losing in six games to the New York Yankees.

1953 World Series

The 1953 World Series matched the 4-time defending champions New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers in a rematch of the 1952 Series, and the 4th such matchup between the two teams in the past seven seasons. The Yankees won in 6 games for their 5th consecutive title—a mark which has not been equalled—and their 16th overall. Billy Martin recorded his 12th hit of the Series scoring Hank Bauer in Game 6.

Billy Cox (baseball)

William Richard Cox (August 29, 1919 – March 30, 1978) was an American professional baseball third baseman and shortstop. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Baltimore Orioles.

He played for the Newport Buffaloes high school team. Signed as an amateur free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1940, Cox made his MLB debut with the Pirates on September 20, 1941, playing in ten games at shortstop that season before serving in the military during World War II.

After returning to the Pirates, he was the starting shortstop in 1946 and 1947 before being traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers on December 8, 1947, along with Preacher Roe and Gene Mauch, for Dixie Walker, Hal Gregg and Vic Lombardi.Cox was the third baseman of a Dodgers infield in the 1950s that included Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.

In the 1953 World Series, Cox had a two-run double in Game 2 and a three-run homer in Game 5 against the New York Yankees. He batted .304 for the Series and led Brooklyn in runs batted in with six.

Cox was an infield starter (principally at third base) and leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles for the first half of 1955, but after being pulled for a pinch runner on June 11, was traded at the trading deadline, June 16. Cox, however, would not report to his new team, the Cleveland Indians, reigning American League champions. Even after a meeting with Indians' manager Al López, Cox resolved to retire and did so on June 17. After Cox retired, the Orioles did not settle on a starting third baseman until Brooks Robinson won the job in 1957. The Orioles used 13 third basemen in 1955.

The youth baseball park on North Second Street in Newport, Pennsylvania, is named after Cox, and hosts River League games (independent Little League) as well as an annual Pete Howell Memorial tournament during the second week of July. Howell was the local district justice and long-time president of the Newport Baseball Association.

Carl Erskine

Carl Daniel Erskine (born December 13, 1926) is a former right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948 through 1959. He was a pitching mainstay on Dodger teams which won five National League pennants, peaking with a 1953 season in which he won 20 games and set a World Series record with 14 strikeouts in a single game. Erskine pitched two of the NL's seven no-hitters during the 1950s. Following his baseball career, he was active as a business executive and an author.

Les Layton

Lester Lee Layton (November 18, 1921 – March 1, 2014) was an American professional baseball player. An outfielder whose pro career extended for 11 seasons (1944–1954), he appeared in 63 Major League Baseball games for the 1948 New York Giants.

Layton was born in Nardin, Kay County, Oklahoma, and attended the University of Oklahoma. A right-handed batter and thrower, he stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and weighed 165 pounds (75 kg). He signed with the Giants in 1944 and spent his first four seasons with the Jersey City Giants of the top-level International League. After batting .289 with 20 home runs for Jersey City in 1947, Layton made the 1948 varsity Giants' roster. In his first Major League at bat as a pinch hitter May 21 against the Chicago Cubs, Layton homered off Cubs' southpaw Johnny Schmitz. Used primarily as a pinch runner and pinch hitter by managers Mel Ott and Leo Durocher, Layton occasionally spelled corner outfielders Bobby Thomson and Willard Marshall.

He enjoyed his two biggest days as a Major League batsman in the mid-summer of 1948. On July 2, Layton cracked three hits (all singles) in five at bats against the Brooklyn Dodgers — two off Preacher Roe and one off Rex Barney — in a 6–4 Giant win at Ebbets Field. Then, three days later, Layton had a career-high four safeties (including two doubles) off Boston Braves' ace Johnny Sain in a 13-inning, 6–5 New York win at the Polo Grounds.During his Major League career, Layton collected 21 hits (including four doubles, four triples and two home runs) in 91 at bats. He returned to minor league baseball in 1949 and played six more seasons, including two productive years with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in 1950–1951.

List of Brooklyn Dodgers Opening Day starting pitchers

From their inception in 1884 through their last year in Brooklyn, 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers (also known as the Trolley Dodgers, Grooms, Bridegrooms, Superbas, and Robins at various times in their history) used 41 different starting pitchers on Opening Day. Brickyard Kennedy made the most Opening Day starts for the Brooklyn Dodgers, with 6 such starts between 1894 and 1900. Nap Rucker made 5 such starts between 1907 and 1913. Carl Erskine made 4 Opening Day starts between 1951 and 1955 and Van Mungo also made 4 Opening Day starts between 1934 and 1938. Five Brooklyn pitchers made 3 Opening Day starts: Leon Cadore, Watty Clark, Don Newcombe, Jesse Petty, Dutch Ruether. The first game of the new baseball season for a team is played on Opening Day, and being named the Opening Day starter is an honor, which is often given to the player who is expected to lead the pitching staff that season, though there are various strategic reasons why a team's best pitcher might not start on Opening Day.The Dodgers played in the modern World Series nine times before moving to Los Angeles, winning once in 1955, when Carl Esrkine was the Opening Day pitcher. Erskine was also the Opening Day pitcher in 1953 when they played in the World Series but lost to the New York Yankees. Joe Hatten also had two Opening Day starts in World Series years, 1947 and 1949. Other Opening Day starting pitchers in World Series years were Larry Cheney in 1916, Leon Cadore in 1920, Whit Wyatt in 1941, Preacher Roe in 1952, and Don Newcombe in 1956.

Prior to the existence of the modern World Series, the Dodgers won National League championships in 1890, 1899 and 1900. They also won an American Association championship in 1889, when the American Association was considered a Major League. They played in the 19th century version of the World Series in 1889 and 1890. Mickey Hughes was the Opening Day starting pitcher in 1889, Bob Caruthers was the Opening Day starting pitcher in 1890, and Kennedy was the Opening Day starting pitcher in 1899 and 1900.

Don Newcombe was the starting pitcher in 1956, the last Opening Day that the Dodgers played in their longtime home field, Ebbets Field. Newcombe was also the Opening Day starter on Opening Day of the 1957 season, the Dodgers last Opening Day before moving to Los Angeles. Nap Rucker was the Opening Day starting pitcher in the last Opening Day the team (then called the Trolley Dodgers) played at their previous home park, Washington Park, in 1912. Rucker was also the Opening Day pitcher in the first game at Ebbets Field in 1913.

Joe Hatten was the Opening Day starting pitcher in one of the most momentous games in baseball history. That was in 1947, the years of Jackie Robinson's first game in the Major Leagues, ending the racial segregation that had prevailed in Major League Baseball since before 1900. The Joe Hatten started and the Dodgers won Jackie Robinson's first major league game, beating the Boston Braves 5-3 at Ebbets Field.


A spitball is an illegal baseball pitch in which the ball has been altered by the application of saliva, petroleum jelly, or some other foreign substance.

This technique alters the wind resistance and weight on one side of the ball, causing it to move in an atypical manner. It may also cause the ball to "slip" out of the pitcher's fingers without the usual spin that accompanies a pitch. In this sense, a spitball can be thought of as a fastball with knuckleball action.

Alternative names for the spitball are spitter, mud ball, shine ball, supersinker, vaseline ball (because originally, Vaseline was used to give the ball a little more break), and emery ball. Note that a spitball technically differs from a standard emery ball, in which the surface of the ball is cut or abraded.

The Boys of Summer (book)

The Boys of Summer is a 1972 non-fiction baseball book by Roger Kahn. After recounting his childhood in Brooklyn and his life as a young reporter on the New York Herald Tribune, the author relates some history of the Brooklyn Dodgers up to their victory in the 1955 World Series. He then tracks the lives of the players (Clem Labine, George Shuba, Carl Erskine, Andy Pafko, Joe Black, Preacher Roe, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson and Billy Cox) over the subsequent years as they aged. The title of the book is taken from a Dylan Thomas poem that describes "the boys of summer in their ruin".

West Plains, Missouri

West Plains is a city in Howell County, Missouri, United States. The population was 11,986 at the 2010 Census. It is the county seat of Howell County.


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