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Letter Box


Letters from alumni about Princeton's baseball history

September 18, 2002

Along with the letter from Moose Joline '47 about Princeton baseball history, you ran a reunion photo of 1942's class baby Woody Rutter throwing in the first ball at the Yale-Princeton game in 1947.

It was then traditional to bring the class baby on the field in some unique way. The previous year, I believe, a miniature car arrived at the mound and amazingly, like clowns in the circus, about five men and the class baby squeezed out for the first toss. But '42 outdid that by landing an autogyro (predecessor to the helicopter) on the mound and out stepped little Woody!

The crowd roared. Still, at our fifth we tried to out-do '42 by having three full-grown elephants parade onto the field with our class baby Richard Wolf atop one of them. All three elephants kneeled down, raised their trunks to salute President Dodds, and then off stepped our five-year-old for the first pitch. (A photographer recorded the occasion for the New York Times the next day.) I don't think any class thereafter could match either the autogyro or the elephant.

Not to be forgotten, '44 brought back two of the same elephants 35 years later for our 40th reunion to parade down Prospect Street for the second time. But there was no Yale-Princeton baseball game.

Herbert W. Hobler '44
Princeton, N.J.

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June 10, 2002

I was very pleased to read, in the June 5 issue, of the feats of early baseball players — including my grandfather, William Smith Schenck, Class of 1880. During my early life my mother, on occasion, would relate the tale of my grandfather's use of a "chest protector" during the Yale game at reunions in 1880. Since she was not born until 1894, the story is clearly hearsay, but I am thankful to have your confirmation of the incident.

As I recall my mother's description, for the Yale game in 1880 my grandfather walked in from his farm (now The Chapin School) — or perhaps from his town home at 42 Mercer Street — and joined the team for breakfast at a local eatery. The hot foods were placed atop a thick rubber mat to protect the table top from scorch marks, and my grandfather, knowing the pitcher for the game to be somewhat wild, took one of the mats and stuffed it under his shirt for chest protection.

As anticipated, during the course of the game a fast pitch struck my grandfather directly on the chest knocking him over but causing no harm. He got up and completed the game, which I believe Princeton won. A representative of the Spalding Sporting Goods Company happened to be in the stands and after the game asked my grandfather how he had withstood the hit by the pitch without injury. Grandfather exposed the rubber mat — but, unfortunately, did not request compensation or royalties for his imagination and foresight. Thus was born the baseball chest protector — originally, if not still, made and sold by the Spalding Sporting Goods Company.

I have related this tale over the years to several Princeton acquaintances — each of whom has greeted my presentation with great skepticism or outright denial of its authenticity. Therefore I am grateful to receive your report and would be most appreciative of knowing your source for the reference in you From the Editor column to substantiate my own knowledge of the event.

Robert L. Logan ’53
Pittsburgh, Pa.

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June 7, 2002

I enjoyed your thumbnail sketch of Princeton baseball history,  especially the photo of Woody Rutter throwing out the first ball in June '47! Woody's father, Joe Rutter, had been my camp counselor five or six years before, when he was a pitcher for Princeton.

On that '47 reunion day, I believe that Bob Wolcott pitched a 1-0 win over Yale.  And my best memory is that I drove onto the field in the P-rade in an army surplus jeep with about 20 classmates hanging on.

Without in any way belittling Ed Donovan's many successes, I would like to mention that you left out a historic baseball season — that of 1945, when Charlie Caldwell, more widely known for his football teams, coached  us Tigers to the Eastern intercollegiate baseball championship. He was followed as coach by Wes Fessler, Matt Davidson, and Emerson Dickman before Eddie took the reins, although Eddie had been assisting since Bill Clarke's last year.

Moose Joline '47
Duxbury, Mass.

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June 5, 2002

The Last 25!

Thoughts of baseball, again. A storied past and a storied current history.

After reading the Letter from the Editor in the June 5 PAW, let's set the record straight for the past quarter-century of Princeton baseball.

Rather than discuss those that were "absent", perhaps we can chronicle the history with those who were "present." Too numerous to mention individually, may we look at their achievements in the program from a team approach?

Five EIBL or Ivy League Championships: 1985, 1991, 1996, 2000, and 2001. Seven consecutive Gehrig Division Championships since the inception of division play: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 2001, and 2002. Five College NCAA World Series Regional Appearances: 1985, 1991, 1996, 2000, and 2001. Also, in the past 20 years, more than 20 Princeton graduates have signed professional baseball contracts, and although they did not all reach the major league level, many distinguished themselves in professional baseball. Some of these graduates are continuing to work in the front office and administration of Major League Baseball.

Noting the picture in your article on the fifth reunion of the Class of '42, it was many members of the same class that spearheaded the growth of The Friends of Princeton Baseball.

During the time, since "82", The Robert L. Peters '42, The Edward Donovan, and The Robert H. B. Baldwin '42 endowments were created. In addition, The Robert L. Peters, Jr. '42 Award, given to an alumnus was also established. Significant that Larry Luchino '67, Dick Sisler '53, and Moe Berg '23 received this award as their names were mentioned in your article. Verification for this information is easily obtained at the Office of Athletic Public Affairs for Media Relations in Jadwin Gym.

No, not uneven, but smooth goes the course of Princeton baseball in the last quarter-century. The achievements are noteworthy, and in many cases have surpassed those of the first 75 years. The program continues to build on the foundations of the 19th and 20th centuries as it moves into the 21st century.

Tom O'Connell, coach 1982-1997
Scott Bradley, coach 1998-present
Princeton, N.J.

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June 3, 2002

Congratulations on your review of the "storied past" of Princeton baseball (From the Editor, June 5). However, may I point out that in your review you overlooked what was one of the most storied three year eras of Princeton baseball? The 1949-51 teams won two Eastern League championships and tied one. The 1951 team was recognized in the April 2000 (page 56) issue of the PAW. In a follow up letter, published in the June 7 issue, I indicated that the strong pitching staff of Brightman, Churigi, Reichel, and Sisler pitched us to the Eastern League championship and then on to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. This was the only Princeton team to achieve that honor. Emerson Dickman was our coach in those three season. Eddie Donovan took over in 1952.

Finally, the picture of the crowd at the Alumni Day game at Reunions in 1947 was a poignant reminder of what fun it was for the players to play Yale in front of such an enthusiastic audience.

Jack Reydel ’51
Blue Bell, Pa.

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