The Obit For Ralph Albers

Athlete never forgotten

Gloucester County Times

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not many lefthanded pitchers dominated the way Ralph Albers dominated for Pitman High School in the 1946, 1947, and 1948 baseball seasons. From a sheer record standpoint, he was a combination of Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton.

Fireballing Albers' three-year composite record was a startling 35-and-2, a big part of the key to Pitman's championship trifecta in the Tri-County Conference and South Jersey Group 1. It was hardly surprising that he earned all-Group 1 honors each season.

Perhaps Albers' most memorable clutch performance came as a junior when he blanked Ocean City, 2-0, for the Group 1 title, striking out 20 and allowing just one hit. As a senior, when the Panthers went undefeated, Albers won 11 games eight by shutout.

In the 1947 and 1948 campaigns combined, Albers threw one no-hitter, eight one-hitters, and seven two-hitters. That's domination. Little wonder a South Jersey newspaper named him honorable mention on the All-Century Classic-Era team.

In a small town where top-notch high school athletes have proliferated over many decades, Albers was one of the best.

A quiet and humble man who was reluctant to discuss his achievements, Albers died at his Pitman home Sept. 6 at age 79. He had a successful career in banking and often was honored for his commitment to agriculture in Gloucester County over many years. But, make no mistake, it was his athletic prowess that many will remember.

After a stellar high school sports career, the 1948 PHS graduate signed a professional baseball contract with the National League Boston Braves, now the Atlanta Braves. He performed well in the Braves' minor league system for five seasons (he once shut out Danville, Ind. in a game played in an hour and 23 minutes) until an automobile accident in Texas cut short his career.

Dewey Gray, a Pitman High school mate of Albers' who also signed a pro contract as a pitcher, said Albers was moving up the ladder and seemed destined to one day pitch for the big club.

"But it didn't affect him - he never felt sorry for himself," says his brother, Bill Albers, a retired Pitman electrician. There were three Albers brothers and only Bill survives. Ken Albers was a member of the popular 1950s four-part harmony group, The Four Freshmen.

Ralph Albers also lettered in basketball for three seasons, serving as co-captain and winning the James Naismith Award as No. 1 Group 1 player as a senior, and in football for three two as team manager, the third as punter.

Perhaps his most cherished accomplishment was being part of three 1947-48 PHS athletic teams that went undefeated.

And it's a shame that he couldn't play baseball and golf in the same PHS spring season. Albers' golfing career featured four holes-in-one.

In 2001, Albers' alma mater inducted him into its hall of fame.

In 2003, Gloucester County followed suit.