loses standout baseball player
Many thanks to Jay Rentzel, secretary of the Central League Old-Timers Association, for letting me know that Joe Biros died recently.
I must have missed the obit notice in this newspaper. Biros died on Saturday, July 9, at his home in West York. He was 91. I got that much about him from the one-paragraph obituary notice that appeared in The York Dispatch on Monday, July 11.
Rentzel called earlier this week to give me a much-needed heads up.
I didn't know Biros well. The first time I ever saw the man -- if my memory serves me correctly -- was when I was about 15 years old and playing in a 13-15 league all-star baseball game. If I was 15, that meant Biros would have been about 43 when I first laid eyes on him.
I didn't know it at the time, but Biros was a scout, or what they called in those days a bird dog, for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He approached me after the game was over and introduced himself. He said he'd heard a lot about me and wanted to see me play.
Other than that, I didn't know much about Biros. I later found out he might have been one of the best baseball players who ever lived in York County that hardly anyone knew anything about.
In truth, what I recall most about him was that he was maybe the most bow-legged man I'd ever seen. If it bothered him, though, he never let on.
But later, when I was told more about him and learned that he'd played minor league baseball for eight years, including two full seasons and part of a third season for Pittsburgh Pirate affiliate, the York White Roses --1943, 1944 and the beginning of 1946, before being moved to Class A Albany, N.Y., the last step before the Major Leagues -- and again for half a season in 1951, on his way back down the ladder -- I wondered how he could possibly run with those bowed legs.
Apparently it didn't matter. During his minor league career, Biros played second base, third base, caught and toured the outfield. He started out at age 16, playing with West Palm Beach, Fla., and Statesville, N.C., in what was then Class D baseball. The next year, at age 17, he arrived in York, playing 138 games in the outfield and hitting .228.
By the next season, at age 18, he was the White Roses catcher and upped his batting average to .312. His combined minor league batting average over eight seasons was .279.
Danny Diehl, from the Mount Wolf area, was one of Biros' teammates while playing in York. Diehl pitched for the White Roses when Biros played center field and caught. Also on that team was Major Leaguer-to-be Vic Wertz, the right fielder.
"I recall that Joe had a great personality, a terrific sense of humor. Guys used to kid him about his bow legs, but he took it in stride. He knew how to talk to people," Diehl said. "And he could really run. He had a great arm from the outfield and behind the plate. A great competitor. We were probably the two youngest players on the team."
Biros was elected about 10 years ago to the Ed Romance Lower Anthracite Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. As it turns out, Biros was born and raised in coal country.
He'd been a three-sport standout athlete -- baseball, basketball and football -- for the Mount Carmel Township Golden Bears in the late 1930s. A running back, he played in the backfield in 1936 for what many believe was the greatest team Mount Carmel ever had.
He was a three-year starter in basketball, leading the team in scoring two years as the starting center and team captain.
Following graduation from high school, he went to work in the coal mines, as most young men in that region did in those days. But a cave-in changed his mind. He packed his bags at age 16 and headed south to West Palm Beach, Fla., to play pro baseball. His baseball experience was interrupted only by several years in the military during World War II.
Once out of the service, he returned to York and entered York Junior College. He played basketball at YJC and went on to win a Pennsylvania State Championship with the York White Roses baseball team in the Eastern League.
Once out of pro ball, Biros went to Gettysburg College, graduating with a degree in education. He received his Master's degree from Western Maryland College in 1954.
Biros coached basketball and baseball at Central High School for three years, and then took a job teaching at the Hannah Penn Middle School in the York City School District, where he also coached baseball, basketball and football for 30 years, until he retired in 1982.
He spent 35 years as a PIAA football, basketball and baseball official.
He also umpired Central League baseball games, and was a long-time member of the York Central League Old-Timers Association.