Major leaguer batted in 2 World Series
Connie Cone Sexton
The Arizona Republic
2003 12:00 AM
He couldn't get a base hit when it mattered most but Dick
Whitman wouldn't have traded the chance to be in the spotlight at Yankee
Stadium for anything.
How many other guys in the country, he'd ask,
would get to bat against the New York Yankees? In back-to-back World
Even though his teams (the 1949 Brooklyn Dodgers) and (the
1950 Philadelphia Phillies) fell short in both World Series bids, the
experiences remained among the most exciting times in Whitman's
"He loved baseball, loved playing the game,"
said his wife, Joan Whitman, 82. "It was his life and he made it a great
Whitman died Feb. 12 of an apparent massive heart attack.
The Peoria resident was 82.
Throughout his life, he enjoyed telling
stories of his professional baseball career, which included not only the
Dodgers and the Phillies but also the St. Paul, Minn., Saints and as
manager of the San Jose JoSox. For much of his career, he was a pinch
hitter and a reserve outfielder. But in 1950, he hit .250 overall and led
the National League with 12 pinch hits in 39 at-bats, ending with a .308
As thrilling as it was to play in two World Series,
Whitman found nothing compared to the Phillies' efforts to get there,
ultimately capturing the National League pennant in 1950. The Phillies,
which were battered and missing a few key players, had a roster filled
with some of the youngest players in the league. Despite their
inexperience, the team came together and were holding on to a seven-game
lead in the league near the end of the season and in the process had won
the hearts of Philadelphians, Joan Whitman said.
But their joy
turned to dismay as the Phillies went on to lose eight of 10 games,
leaving them with only a one-game lead on the final day of the season.
They were up against the Brooklyn Dodgers, who most thought would stop the
Phillies. But they held on, winning 4-1 and bringing the pennant home to
Philadelphia for the first time in 35 years.
"It was really quite a
terrific time for them all," Joan Whitman said. "They all have such
camaraderie. Dick was honored to be among them."
For the team's
never-say-die efforts by such young players (many were 24 and younger),
sportswriter Harry Grayson dubbed the team the "Whiz Kids."
was a bit older but certainly a part of the youthful spirit and zest of
the team, remembers Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts, who was the Phillies
starting pitcher at the time.
"Dick was quite an important part of
the team," said Roberts, now 76 and living in Florida. "When you win a
pennant with a short margin like we did, we needed his help."
many of the Whiz Kids are still alive, said Roberts, who was elected to
the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. "With Dick's passing, I think
there are 11 or 12 of us left our of about 30, including the
Whitman retired from baseball in the late 1950s and
worked for a water company in San Jose until he retired in the 1980s. The
Whitmans moved to Peoria about 11 years ago.
"He was thrilled to
see the rise of the Diamondbacks," Joan said. "He loved watching them and
was an armchair coach."
Whitman was also an avid golfer, whose golf
cart carried a sign hanging on the back: "No sniveling."
up his belief that hardships come along in life and you have to just deal
with them, Joan said.
He was never one to brag about his time in
World War II, she said. But in the Battle of the Bulge, his back and ear
were injured by shrapnel and he later suffered from frostbite. He came
home from the war with a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and three battle stars.
Survivors include his wife, Joan; daughter Alison Mettler of
Arroyo Grande, Calif.; sons Richard of Yuma and Joseph of Sacramento;
sister Virginia Read of Eugene, Ore.; five grandchildren; and two