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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Ike at the Bat: Eisenhower’s rumored baseball past

While there, he was overheard by reporters telling Giants manager Mel Ott that he once played pro ball in Kansas under the pseudonym “Wilson.”

“That’s a secret from my past,” Eisenhower said when asked for further details, according to The New York Times.

Days later, during a news conference in Abilene, he elaborated.

“I was a center fielder,” The Times quoted Eisenhower as saying on June 22, 1945. “I went into baseball deliberately to make money and with no idea of making it a career. I wanted to go to college that fall, and we didn’t have money. But I wasn’t a very good center fielder and didn’t do too well at it.”

However, while Eisenhower is responsible for the creation of the rumor, it’s never been confirmed to be explicitly true. In the years after his proclamation, he either denied or avoided expanding on the claim.

But why would he lie? If an interesting tidbit like this was true, why not embrace it and add it to the already expansive list of fascinating details of his life? To understand why he may have regretted saying what he did, one must go back to where it all began: Abilene.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 15, 2020 at 01:26 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dwight eisenhower

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   1. sunday silence (again) Posted: July 15, 2020 at 02:54 PM (#5963098)
I remember reading this story in one of those hopelessly apochryphal books: Baseball's Unforgettables, by Mac (not the singer) Davis.

He described Ike as having played D league junction ball or something like that. I always wondered where he got that story.
   2. catomi01 Posted: July 15, 2020 at 03:12 PM (#5963110)
My senior seminar in college was based on the Eisenhower years. The Professor was a big baseball fan (and a bigger Eisenhower fan), and lobbied like hell to get one of us to pick up this story as part of our senior thesis. No one took up the challenge though.
   3. Rally Posted: July 15, 2020 at 03:26 PM (#5963121)
If Ike was exaggerating the level of baseball he played, he would not have been the first or last man to do so. Up until very recently you couldn't just go to baseball reference on your phone and with a few clicks be looking at rosters from the 1911 Central Kansas League.

Some guy says "Yeah, I played a little minor league ball back when" and you might strongly suspect BS, but no way to prove it. Good example is Robert DeNiro's villain in The Fan. Throughout the movie he talks about his days playing minor league ball, often mentioning his old catcher. Towards the end he finds the old catcher, who is very surprised to see him, and it turns out their time on the diamond together was in little league.
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 15, 2020 at 04:07 PM (#5963153)

If Ike was exaggerating the level of baseball he played, he would not have been the first or last man to do so.


Ike is certainly not even the only presidential candidate to exaggerate his baseball skill, nor the only President
   5. sunday silence (again) Posted: July 15, 2020 at 04:21 PM (#5963162)
The best story was at one of these funerals of a relative back in western PA and Im talking to one of these older ladies my dad was friends from long ago.

"My husband played for the Yankees."

she says. And Im trying to think of which guy from western PA this would be, because there are all sorts of old athletes running around back there. And then I remember. Springdale, PA had one of these teams in an industrial league that was supposed to be associated with the Yankees. These teams actually did exist and they may have been associated with MLB teams cause they owned a lot of teams back in the day, but they wont even show up as class C minor league team cause they werent even that good. I think Joe Page of the NYY actually did play for one of those teams after his MLB career was over but it wont even show up in his minor league record.
   6. vortex of dissipation Posted: July 15, 2020 at 10:43 PM (#5963255)
Some guy says "Yeah, I played a little minor league ball back when" and you might strongly suspect BS, but no way to prove it.


It works the other way, too. A Facebook friend mentioned that her family said that her late uncle had signed with the Yankees and played minor league ball for them in the 1940s and 1950s, but she knew little of the details. I looked him up on BR, and he did indeed play a couple of seasons for low-level Yankees farm teams in Victoria and Boise. I showed her his BR page, and she was thrilled to see it, and mentioned that she remembered that the family had a bag marked "Victoria Baseball Club"...
   7. The Duke Posted: July 16, 2020 at 06:58 AM (#5963288)
This guy had a nice swing in the Vatican league.

https://youtu.be/rOoESXEabpU
   8. AndrewJ Posted: July 16, 2020 at 07:23 AM (#5963290)
Ike once stated that while growing up, he and his childhood best friends had dreams: “I wanted to be Honus Wagner, and he wanted to be President of the United States. Neither of us got our wish.”
   9. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: July 16, 2020 at 10:27 AM (#5963328)
One certainty is that 90% of the stories people tell you about having played professional baseball are complete BS. I used to hear such stories from customers who'd buy baseball books and memorabilia from me, and not a single one of them checked out. The only truth-teller I've ever encountered was an old-timer I met in a pool room named Johnny Priest, who actually played for the New York Highlanders. Back then I had to fact-check his claim in my old Reach Baseball Guides, but now he's got a page in Baseball-Reference.
   10. Gazizza, my Dilznoofuses! Posted: July 16, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5963338)
On the topic of people telling stories about their baseball careers, is there a way to see lists of spring training invitees from the 30s?

My great-uncle (now deceased) told me multiple times about getting invited to spring training with the Cardinals and facing Dizzy Dean in what I assume was an intra-squad game. (I tend to believe the story because my uncle wasn't one to make up stories and this story ends with Dean striking my great-uncle out in rather humiliating fashion.)
   11. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: July 16, 2020 at 11:54 AM (#5963349)
It works that way for other sports, too. My grandmother always claimed that her father played for Celtic, who were/are sort of the Yankees of Scottish soccer.
   12. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: July 16, 2020 at 12:08 PM (#5963354)
The only truth-teller I've ever encountered was an old-timer I met in a pool room named Johnny Priest, who actually played for the New York Highlanders. Back then I had to fact-check his claim in my old Reach Baseball Guides, but now he's got a page in Baseball-Reference.

A punishing 179 OPS+ in his last season. What did he do, take the first steroid?
   13. Perry Posted: July 16, 2020 at 01:36 PM (#5963396)
A few years back at a social gathering I sat down at a table with a small group of older people. The only one I knew was the father of a friend, who knew I was a big baseball and Cardinals fan. He nodded at another man at the table and said "he played for the Cardinals." "Yeah, right," I thought, figuring he had a tryout once or maybe played Class D for a year. Turned out it was Marty Marion.
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 16, 2020 at 02:27 PM (#5963411)
When I was a kid my uncle gave me Total Baseball by John Thorn, which was basically Baseball Reference in print form. A buddy tried to claim his dad had played for the Reds, but when I looked him up in the player register, nope, he wasn't there, and I was able to call BS (now that I can access BBRef and minor league records, it looks like he actually played one year of Rookie ball - still impressive, but man, don't overstate it!)
   15. Bourbon Samurai stays in the fight Posted: July 16, 2020 at 02:48 PM (#5963414)
It works the other way, too


Yep! When my wife and I were dating she told me her grandfather had played pro ball, and I of course immediately checked baseball reference and was dissapointed not to find him, but then a couple years later I remember hearing they'd added a bunch more minor league data and there he was! Played with a couple big leaguers too.

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