Today's thoughts

Category: Sherm Lollar (Page 1 of 6)

Chicago White Sox Catcher

Old Sport Shorts: Big Bertha #2207

A friend was over last night and I showed him my prized Sherm Lollar #10 1955 game-worn jersey. It’s in a glass case along with his worn, signature Rawling’s glove that pales in comparison to the 45” mitt worn by Baltimore Oriole’s catcher Clint Courtney in 1960 to better handler the knuckler of future Hall-of-Famer Hoyt Wilhelm. Courtney was back-up to Lollar for half the 1955 season before going to the Orioles while Wilhelm came to the White Sox in 1963, the year Lollar retired. I could find no evidence that they ever formed the same battery because Lollar only played in 35 games that final year of his career due to injury.

I also came across some interesting stats that prove how much the catcher matters to a pitching staff. A good example is that of future Hall of Famer, Yadier Molina, who while on the disabled list, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitchers had a combined 3-10 with an ERA above 5. The same is true as to why World Series Champion catcher Martin Maldonado remains in the Astros starting lineup despite a batting average of .151. Catchers should not necessarily be judged on their hitting.

Defensive skills, the ability to call a game and work with pitchers are incredibly important to a team’s success. It supports my argument as to why more catchers like Sherm Lollar, should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. His outstanding .992 fielding percentage, using the cumbersome gear of the era, supports the argument. Could a bigger glove have enhanced his chances or at least earned him more attention?

Clinton Dawson Courtney, nicknamed Scrap Iron, was an American professional baseball catcher who played in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees, St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. His oversized glove earned him notoriety. However, eventually MLB adopted a rule that restricted the size of a “Big Bertha” mitt like Courtney’s:

Rule 1.12: “The catcher may wear a leather mitt not more than thirty-eight inches in circumference, nor more than fifteen and one-half inches from top to bottom. Such limits shall include all lacing and any leather band or facing attached to the outer edge of the mitt. The space between the thumb section and the finger section of the mitt shall not exceed six inches at the top of the mitt and four inches at the base of the thumb crotch. The web shall measure not more than seven inches across the top or more than six inches from its top to the base of the thumb crotch. The web may be either a lacing or lacing through leather tunnels, or a center piece of leather which may be an extension of the palm, connected to the mitt with lacing and constructed so that it will not exceed any of the above mentioned measurements.”

The Sherm Lollar mitt in my collection measures less than 35” in circumference and is less than 11” from top to bottom. It’s well within the guidelines of this rule and ten inches smaller than Courtney’s. Meanwhile, “Old Sarge” Wilhelm, used primarily as a reliever, only had 52 career starts. Gus Triandos handled the catching duties in 32 of those games. Courtney got the assignment only 5-times, but “Big Bertha” also played a role in relief work during their two years together with the Orioles. Hail to the catchers!

Old Sport Shorts: Gold Gloves #2190

Sherman Lollar of the Chicago White Sox was the very first recipient of a Rawlings Gold Glove at the catcher position. In fact, in its inaugural presentation year of 1957, it was awarded to the best player regardless of league. In subsequent years it has been divided into American and National League position players. Lollar won the award three times while it was one of the few honors never bestowed on Yankee rival Yogi Berra. 

“The 2022 winners were announced prior to Tuesday’s Game 3 of the World Series between the Astros and Phillies on “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN2, with a record 14 first-time recipients earning the honor for best defensive player at each position (the old mark was 11, recorded in both 2020 and 1958, the year the award was established to include both Leagues.” For the record, only nine were presented in 1957, the fewest of all. 

National League 2022:

Catcher: J.T. Realmuto, Phillies                                          First: Christian Walker, D-Backs
Second: Brendan Rodgers, Rockies
Shortstop: Dansby Swanson, Braves
Third base: Nolan Arenado, Cardinals
Left field: Ian Happ, Cubs (first Cub at that position)
Center field: Trent Grisham, Padres
Right field: Mookie Betts, Dodgers
Pitcher: Max Fried, Braves
Utility player: Brendan Donovan, Cardinals


American League 2022:

Catcher: Jose Trevino, Yankees
Trevino is the third player in Yankees history to win a Gold Glove Award at the catcher position, joining Thurman Munson (1973-75) and Elston Howard (1963-64). Trevino led all Major League catchers with 21 defensive runs saved, which was also tied for the third-most Defensive Runs Saved in baseball, regardless of position.
First base: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
Second base: Andrés Giménez, Guardians
Shortstop: Jeremy Peña, Astros
Third base: Ramón Urías, Orioles
Left field: Steven Kwan, Guardians
Center field: Myles Straw, Guardians
Right field: Kyle Tucker, Astros
Pitcher: Shane Bieber, Guardians
Utility player: D.J. LeMahieu, Yankees

In other baseball notes:

“A managerial search that included candidates such as Joe Espada, Ozzie Guillén and Ron Washington, Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol’s candidacy flew a bit under the radar.” It appears that he will be the new White Sox manager for the 2023 season, replacing Tony La Russa at the helm. 

I.U. alum Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies has now reached base in ten consecutive Playoff games with a  first-inning walk. He was the first to cross the plate last night with Bryce Harper’s 2-run homer. “Schwarbs” then went on to hit a 2-run bomb in the bottom of the 5th, part of a 5-homer Phillies barrage that led to a 7-0 victory over the Astros in Game 3. He was already a “Taco Hero” after stealing a base in Game 1, but has yet to be a candidate for a Gold Glove.

Old Sport Shorts: World Series #2185

Tonight is game one of the World Series that practically everyone in the world can watch on TV if they want. However, that wasn’t the case up until September 30, 1947 when three networks shared the broadcast of the very first World Series featuring the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers. NBC televised games 1 and 5, CBS games 3 and 4, and DuMont games, 2,6, & 7. It was the first racially integrated series with Jackie Robinson going 7-27 and getting his first hit in game 2 to tie the score. Although it was televised, games were only seen on a small number of Eastern markets with stations connected via coaxial cable.

Sherm Lollar started game 3 at catcher for the Yankees wearing #29. He was a right-handed hitter and went 2-3 with two doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored. When the Dodgers brought in right-hander Ralph Branca in the 7th, manager Bucky Harris sent Lollar to the bench in favor of lefty Yogi Berra, who then proceeded to hit the very first pinch-hit home run in World Series history. The Dodgers still won 9-8, claiming their first victory in the series. Incidentally, four years later, Branca, pitching for the New York Giants, made unwelcome history again by giving up the 1951 Bobby Thomson “Shot heard round the world.”

Lollar did not play again until game 6 when he shared the catching duties with Aaron Robinson, the game 5 starter with Berra in right field. Sherm had another single and scored another run, going 3-4 in the series overall and earning his first World Series ring. His Yankees won it all in Game 7, but Robinson did the catching and Berra played right field. Neither of them had a hit. It’s the only time, so far, that the New York Yankees have won a Game 7 at home. In my collection, I have a piece of Sherm Lollar’s uniform from that series. He was traded to the St. Louis Browns in 1949 and finished his career with the Chicago White Sox starting in 1952.

Lollar’s next World Series was in 1959 with the Sox, losing to the Dodgers. He went 5-22 in that series. In 1966, he was a coach with the World Champion Baltimore Orioles. 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Home Run Derby #2177

Fellow I.U. grad, Kyle Schwarber, hit a monster home run yesterday to assist in a Game 1 Phillies NLCS victory. It sparked memories of the Cubs World Series run six years ago where he and Anthony Rizzo, now a Yankee, made history. “Riz” also hit a bomb off of Verlander last night in a losing cause in his quest for  another World Series ring. “Schwarbs” has made several appearances in the All Star Game Home Run Derby, slugging 55 home runs. Rizzo and Kris Bryant both participated in 2016, the first Cubs since Sammy Sosa’s 4th attempt in 2004. The only modern day Derby that I witnessed live was Miami 2017 with Aaron Judge winning it all. I ran across an interesting article written by Arnold Bailey about the early days of the 1960 TV show. It was a great childhood memory for me, recreating the event in our back yard with a whiffle ball and bat. 

From a baseball card collecting perspective, “a set of 20 baseball cards was produced picturing the collection of sluggers the show would feature. Today, those cards have gained a cult-like following and are among the hobby’s scarcest. American Motors, the show’s sponsor, produced the cards which were handed out at the carmakers’ dealerships across the country. Created in 1954, American Motors was then No. 4 behind the nation’s Big 3 (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler), with Rambler its top car. Apparently, neither AMC’s cars or its cards were overwhelmingly popular. That may be one reason why the “Home Run Derby” cards are so scarce today.” I was certainly not aware of them.

“The cards are about postcard size (3 1/8”-by-5 1/4”) and are unnumbered with blank backs. The fronts feature black-and-white posed photos, most of which show players from about waist up. The pictured player’s name and team are in two lines across the bottom. A black circle that promotes the show with a ‘See Home Run Derby on TV!'”

“The 19 players include nine future Hall of Famers (Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Duke Snider) plus 10 other sluggers of that era. All but three of the players are pictured holding a bat, either resting it on a shoulder or positioned at the start of a swing. The other three – Bob Allison, Jackie Jensen and Eddie Mathews – are attempting to hold a smile while posing for the camera.”

“Fifteen of the 16 teams that then comprised Major League Baseball were represented on the show and the cards. Only the Chicago White Sox aren’t included, although the Pale Hose won the American League pennant in 1959. But the team hit few home runs despite its winning season (the team’s homer leader was catcher Sherm Lollar with just 22). While the pennant-winning White Sox have no representative in the “Home Run Derby” lineup, the lowly Washington Senators (who finished in last place, 31 games behind Chicago) have three (Killebrew, Bob Allison and Jim Lemon).”

“The other dozen teams sent one player each to hit homers: Banks (Cubs), Ken Boyer (Cardinals), Bob Cerv (Kansas City), Rocky Colavito (Indians), Jackie Jensen (Red Sox), Kaline (Tigers), Wally Post (Phillies), Dick Stuart (Pirates) and Gus Triandos (Orioles).”

“The home run totals for the 19 players would eventually reach 7,375 by the end of their careers. So the home run lineup was a powerful group, including three of the Top 10 homer hitters of all time (Aaron, 755; Mays, 680; and Frank Robinson, 586). 

The 20th card (now the hardest to find) in the set pictures Mark Scott, the play-by-play broadcaster of the original TV show and one of the creators. Here’s a link to the article with even more interesting details:

https://sportscollectorsdigest.com/.amp/cards/tvs-home-run-derby-relived

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Bridges #2153

We’re experiencing very bad internet service in Skagway. I can see where the Colts and Bears both won today but can’t get any details. The same is true with my E-Bay auction that ends today for the Sherm Lollar Lanes match book -pretty sure I’ll get sniped at the last minute but it’s not worth more than the $20 bid I made. It ultimately went for $20.50 as I feared.

We spent the morning in a fog, missing most of the sights along the White Pass Summit Vintage Railroad tour. It was amazing to see how this route was built through rock and over fjords to establish a goods exchange between the city of Skagway and its Canadian neighbors. It runs along the narrow rocky trail that prospectors used during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1899. I was concerned that the Canadian Mounted police might board the train as we circled back just over the boarder, demanding my surrender for not taking the mandatory covid test that I was randomly selected to undergo (See Post # 2147). Once the threat never materialized, my wife counted over 60 waterfalls along the way back until she lost interest and began to focus on downtown shopping.

I had a Alaskan beer yesterday afternoon at Juneau’s Red Dog Saloon complete with swinging doors and sawdust floors. It was my first beer since our Portland Leadership Meeting at Two Dogs Tavern – a dog theme is apparently forming when it comes to bars. Three Dog Night is probably next or the Dog Sled Saloon. I’ve mostly stuck to premium red wines or Chef’s Table pairings, Champagne, Limoncello, and Cranberry juice/Tito’s Vodka spritzers on the cruise.

As we crossed the treacherous bridges and trestles along the way, my wife was feeling squeamish and wondering why I was’t? Well, she had me all psyched for yesterday’s Brotherhood Bridge that turned out to be just street level, plus heights don’t seem to bother me in an enclosed area like the train car. It was built to celebrate the joining of the Huna Tlingit eagle and raven clans through marriage, as it is unacceptable to marry a fellow clan member. We learned all about Alaskan tribal clan houses, Potlatch parties/hats, and totem pole lore in Ketchikan.

It made me think of all the bridges we’ve crossed just in the past few months. These include Alabama’s Selma Bridge, Michigan’s Mackinac, Florida’s Skyway, Hope Memorial in Cleveland with the Guardians, the L&I over the Ohio River linking Indiana and Kentucky, the Venice Island drawbridge in our hometown, and the many bridges that span the canals in our Islandwalk neighborhood. Tomorrow, we’ll spend some time exploring Glacier Bay where the only bridges are made of ice.

 

Old Sport Shorts: Sox Memories #2097

I added the 1956 Chicago White Sox Topps team card to my collection this week. I have an autographed baseball from that year and the same team photo clipped from a 1955 magazine. Sherm Lollar is in the back row next to Nellie Fox. The White Sox of 67-years later continue to underachieve with another lackluster home loss last night following the All Star break. Tim Anderson and Liam Hendriks were the Sox 2022 representatives as the American League won for the ninth straight time. The Pale Hose had finally gotten to the .500 mark on the season and within three games of first place Twins in the division before losing 8-2 to the second place Guardians. Now, the gap is 3.5 games going into today’s double header at Guaranteed Rate Stadium

I have given up on the White Sox many times already this year. It’s frustrating to watch them fall behind early in games, leave so many potential runs on base, and make sloppy errors in an effort to catch up. Yosmani Grandal came back from the injured list to go a pitiful 0-3 in clutch situations. Luis Robert took his place on the DL with dizzy spells. Injuries and a lack of hustle have sadly become their trademark this season. 

I was only 5-years old when the 1956 Sox took the field. Sherm Lollar hit .293 and had 11 home runs and 75 RBIs. It wasn’t until 1959 and the televised World Series games that he became my favorite player. Minnie Minoso led the 1956 team with a .316 batting average. Larry Doby was the home run leader with 24 on this team that finished 3rd in the American League with a record of 85-69. As far as the All Star game, Yogi Berra (2-2) of the Yankees won the starting position as catcher with Sherm (1-2) as his back-up. The NL won 7-3. I might have been a Mickey Mantle fan back then, but soon fell for #10 Sherman Lollar and have been following him ever since. 

Old Sport Shorts: Let The Games Begin #1821

Let the Games Begin! The Playoffs are finally underway, while the Cubs have been put out of their misery. It’s hard to believe the late season success of the Cardinals or the fact that it could all for them end in one Wildcard game. My focus is now primarily on the SOX and their 76-year old manager, Tony La Russa. It’s been 16-years since they last won the World Series, but only 10-years for him in the same role with St. Louis. The White Sox lost two out of three to the A’s in last year’s Playoffs while La Russa was still enjoying retirement. Let’s hope for a deeper run in 2021.

I’m starting today in Tampa after four days in Pittsburgh. It’s a Sunday, but I actually wrote this yesterday on the plane, knowing that I would be crunched for time. I will be trading my family for my wife’s over the next three days as we make our way back to Venice. I’m glad the Braves made the Playoffs since we’ve moved into their Spring Training neighborhood. There will be some watch parties at the Stadium near our home, a great way to start a relationship with my new team. Maybe they’ll even have an afternoon game that I can stay awake to watch. Former baseball home favorites have included Chicago, St. Louis, Texas, and Seattle on our moves across the country over the past 25-years. However, the SOX will always be my favorite thanks to Sherm Lollar and the 1959 crew that become my first childhood baseball love.

It took 54-years of my lifetime for the White Sox to win a World Series and 65-years for the Cubs to claim a crown, although they were primarily my dad’s and son’s favorite. My dad originally tried to coax me into being a Detroit Tiger’s fan, that would have been even more frustrating. He did pry my allegiance away from Mickey Mantle like every other kid my age back then, but I chose the White Sox because he insisted that I support someone closer to home. If I hadn’t followed his advice, I could have been an obnoxious Yankees fan.

The Damn Yanks are slipping in the Playoff race, but the SOX are solidly in the field. The Cubs are on the outside looking in, while my dad sadly died before his Chicago team finally won it all in 2016. I’m ready for some Playoff baseball where the SOX will finally face some competition. They’ve been playing most of this injury plagued season with a firm grip on the AL Central. If they can stay healthy, they have a strong chance of winning it all. If they can’t do it, maybe the Braves can, so Let The Games begin.

Old Sport Shorts: Baseball Cards #1799

The last few days I’ve taken a step back sixty years, sitting on my floor sorting baseball cards. I had some unopened packs from 1991 and 1992 to open, including The Babe Ruth Collection. There was a time when I would have left them in their wrappers, hoping they would have more value, but why deny myself the joy of opening them and organizing them into teams. In this case, there was no bubblegum involved. It was fun, until I realized that I was just one card short of completing the Babe Ruth set of 165. Card number 134 was missing, but the next day I found it stuck to another card, just before I was ready to order it on E-Bay. All the Cubs and White Sox players are placed in a special binder while all the others are lumped together in separate books. I can’t bear to throw any of them away regardless of duplicates, knowing that my entire childhood collection disappeared due to good housekeeping. 

I’m certain that my now valuable Mickey Mantles were part of that loss, but if everyone had held on to their cards they all would be worthless. #7 Mickey was once my favorite player and his Yankees my team, but they were somehow replaced with #10 Sherm Lollar of the White Sox. I now have a massive collection of Sherm stuff that is only valuable to me. Mickey has made many men rich by simply investing in his memorabilia, or being lucky enough that their mom didn’t toss out their card collections. Right now, I’m even bidding for a Cancer Foundation medallion with the likeness of Sherm on one side and teammate Nellie Fox on the other. Hall of Famers like Fox drive up the value and increase bidding, which makes me think that I will probably not be the winner of this trinket. They both died at young ages due to cancer. The cheek-full of tobacco that became the shortstop’s trademark look probably didn’t help. Most ballplayers were smokers in that era, with little to do in the confines of the dugout. 

There is an organization founded by Marv Samuel, a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns in the late 40s and perhaps a Lollar teammate, known as Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities. It is “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit using sports to give back by helping fund cancer research and patient care programs at Chicago-area hospitals, and supporting services to empower kids with cancer.” Billy Pierce, White Sox pitcher and teammate of Fox and Lollar, led the organization after the death of Samuel in 1993 from Leukemia. “Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities has since its founding in 1971 donated more than $11 million to fund cancer patient care, education and research programs at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Children’s Memorial Hospital.” I’m assuming that the medallion was part of the fundraising elements of this organization.

I just ran across a Billy Pierce baseball card last night. He lived to be 88 and was on two World Series runners-up teams, the 1959 White Sox and 1962 San Francisco Giants. It’s amazing what you learn about the good that players do during and after their time in baseball, although Lollar died at age 53 and Fox even younger at 47, so they did not get the opportunity to give as much back. Every card and piece of memorabilia has a story. Collecting is more than just child’s play – it’s part of our history that I enjoy!

 

Old Sport Shorts: Sherm Day #1781

I drove to Tampa with my son to watch the White Sox play the Rays yesterday afternoon. Along the way, I reunited with a fellow Sox fan, who last went to a game with me at then named Verizon Wireless Stadium fourteen years ago. We hadn’t seen each other since. The Cubs beat the Sox that May day in 2007 11-6 and proceeded to be blown out by the Rays 9-0 in yesterday’s encore. I’m suddenly not sure if we’ve ever seen them win together, but we’ll probably keep trying now that we only live an hour apart. 

In  1962-1965 the White Sox were the home town Florida favorites, known as the Sarasota Sox, long before the Rays and Marlins became the Sunshine teams to support. White Sox Spring Training has moved to the West Coast and the Cactus League, so it’s mostly old timers like me that are White Sox fans in this area. My love of the White Sox began in 1959 with a catcher named Sherm Lollar. I was 8 years old when the Sox played the Dodgers in the televised World Series and #10 became my favorite jersey number. I wore it yesterday in honor of Sherm, even though it has belonged to a worthy Yoan Moncada for the last five years, as well as Pete Appleton in 1940 and Red Wilson 1952 before Sherm joined the team. Lollar has worn it the longest, eleven years, from 1953-1963. Since that time, it’s changed hands many times, including J.C. Martin (2), Tommy Davis, Chuck Brinkman (2), Jay Johnstone (2), Sam Ewine, Ron Santo, Jack Brohamer (2), Ron Blomberg, Joe Gates, Steve Lyons, Fred Manrique (2), Shawn Jeter, Mike LaValliere (3), Dave Steib, Darren Lewis (2), Chris Snopek, Mark Johnson (2), Royce Clayton (2), Shingo Takatsu (2), Bob Makowiak (2), Alexei Ramirez (8), and Austin Jackson. I proudly display in my personal collection, Sherm Lollar’s 1955 game worn jersey #10. 

The number 10 should have probably been retired by the White Sox, along with Nellie Fox #2, Harold Baines #3, Luke Appling #4, Minnie Minoso #9, Luis Aparicio #11, Paul Konerko #14, Ted Lyons #16, Billy Pierce #19, Frank Thomas #35, Mark Buehrle #56, and Carlton Fisk #72. The White Sox once had a team Hall of Fame but put it in mothballs in favor of an expanded gift shop. He is a member of the Chicago White Sox All-Century Team. At this point, he’s probably too far down the Cooperstown list to ever be included, despite his stellar 18-year .992 fielding percentage. However, I continue to collect his memorabilia, the latest being a vintage 1959 Rawlings baseball bearing his likeness that is still in the box. 

In an article written by Brett Kiser twelve years ago, he mentioned that the great Ted Williams claimed the Pale Hose never would have made it to the 1959 World Series without Lollar. Kiser also pointed to his three Gold Glove Awards and the fact that he was named to seven All-Star squads (playing in nine games). Despite the loss to the Dodgers in 1959, he earned two World Series rings as a player with the Yankees 1947 and as a bullpen coach for the Baltimore Orioles 1966. I have made my case for his Hall of Fame induction. (See Post #5)

I honor Sherm Lollar today on what would have been his 97th birthday. He died in 1977 at the age of 53. Although I never met the man, I somehow feel compelled to collect articles, press photos, cards, merchandise, and gear related to his career. He lives on in my office, along with his Hall of Fame teammates that certainly believed that he belonged beside them in the Hall, as the field general in their 1959 title quest. I was disappointed with the effort of yesterday’s White Sox in Tampa and noted that the 2005 World Series patch on my #10 jersey was now 16-years old. As a lifelong Sox fan, it’s been too long of a wait again for that elusive title. 

Old Sport Shorts: Lollar Biography #1606

I’ve added several magazine clippings to my personal Lollar collection over the past month. These are mostly photo panels from True, a men’s publication in operation from 1937 until 1974. To additionally honor Sherm, I found this excellent article on-line by John McMurray that summed-up his career. It’s based on Lollar’s biography that was included in the book “Bridging Two Dynasties: The 1947 New York Yankees”(University of Nebraska Press, 2013), edited by Lyle Spatz. An earlier version originally appeared in SABR’s “Go-Go To Glory: The 1959 Chicago White Sox” (ACTA, 2009), edited by Don Zminda.

Soft spoken and self-effacing, Sherman Lollar provided a strong defensive presence behind the plate during his eighteen-year Major League career. Lollar spent twelve seasons with the Chicago White Sox, after spending all or parts of six seasons with three other American League teams. An All-Star catcher seven times, Lollar won American League Gold Glove awards from 1957 through 1959, the first three years it was given. 

Though Lollar played well and received awards during the 1950s, he did not receive as much national recognition as did fellow catcher Yogi Berra, who won three Most Valuable Player awards. As Red Gleason wrote in The Saturday Evening Post in 1957, “It is the fate of some illustrious men to spend a career in the shadow of a contemporary. Adlai Stevenson had his Dwight Eisenhower. Lou Gehrig had his   Babe Ruth. Bob Hope had his Bing Crosby. And Sherman Lollar has his Yogi Berra.” 

John Sherman Lollar, Jr. was born on August 23, 1924, in Durham, Arkansas, to John and Ruby (Springfield) Lollar. When Lollar Jr. was three years old, he moved with his family to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where his parents opened a grocery store. Lollar’s interest in baseball began at an early age, and he remembered playing catch with his father outside the store as a six year old. When he was eight, his father died unexpectedly during surgery. At that early age, Lollar, who was the oldest of four children, including two girls (Bonnie and Pat) and a boy (Jerry, who was born after his father’s death), had to take on additional responsibilities at home. His mother sold the grocery store and began working in a nursing home for the Veterans Administration. She told Gleason, “Sherman took a large share of the responsibility of looking after the younger children. He was both a big brother and father. Our being left alone so soon created a sense of oneness in all of us that remains even now.” 

Despite his additional responsibilities, Lollar’s interest in baseball never waned. In 1936, shortly before he turned twelve, Lollar became a batboy for the Fayetteville Bears in the Arkansas-Missouri League. After graduating from Fayetteville High School, a school that had no baseball team, the sixteen-year-old Lollar took a job with J.C. Penney in Pittsburg, Kansas. He played with a team affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce in the Ban Johnson League while also studying at Pittsburg State Teachers College (now Pittsburgh State University). Two years later, after the Ban Johnson League folded, Lollar both played for and managed the semipro Baxter Springs (Kansas) Miners, working as a brakeman in a local mine when he wasn’t playing baseball. 

The Baltimore Orioles of the International League signed Lollar in 1943, when he was eighteen. His pay was $20 a month. He batted just .118 in twelve games, but improved to .250 with fifteen home runs in 1944. He also drove in seventy-two runs, one of the highest totals for any catcher in organized baseball that year. Lollar won the International League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1945, tearing up the league with thirty-four home runs, 111 runs batted in, and a league-leading batting average of .364.

Baltimore had a working agreement with the Cleveland Indians and was forced to sell its top slugger to the Major League team for $10,000. After making his big league debut on April 20, 1946, Lollar played infrequently behind veteran catchers  Frankie Hayes and Jim Hegan. He asked to go back to Baltimore so he could play regularly. Back in the International League, Lollar was unable to duplicate his previous year’s batting success. He batted just .234, but he did hit twenty home runs in only 222 at-bats for the Orioles. His biggest plus that year was meeting his future wife, Connie Mattard, whom he married in 1949.In December 1946, Cleveland included Lollar in a five-player deal with the New York Yankees. The Indians had been willing to trade Lollar because of concerns about his attitude. According to writer Bill Roeder, “The Cleveland complaint was that Lollar displayed insufficient dash and spirit. He had the ability all right, but no inclination to exploit it. Within a month, he was homesick for Baltimore, and Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau sent him back. Now Sherman belongs to the Yankees, and they hope he will react favorably to the fresh start.” 

In New York he was caught in a catching logjam that included Ralph Houk, Charlie Silvera, Aaron Robinson, Gus   Niarhos, and Yogi Berra. As a consequence, Lollar spent most of the 1947 season with the Newark Bears, the Yankees’ farm club in the International League. Lollar appeared in only eleven regular-season games for the Yankees in 1947, but he did play in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, getting three hits, including two doubles, in four at-bats. About Game Three, sportswriter Dan Daniel wrote, “A secondary standout was Sherman Lollar, who started the game as a surprise entry.  Manager Bucky  Harris benched Berra in favor of the right-handed Lollar against the southpaw  Joe  Hatten. Lollar got a single which became a run in the third, and in the fourth drove in a run with a double.” 

A contemporaneous article called Lollar “a Charlie Gehringer type,” adding, “He appears a colorless, dispassionate individual, on and off the field, but he gets his job done effectively. If Lollar hits as well as Gehringer did, no one will care if he doesn’t say a word all season.” In parts of two seasons with the Yankees, Lollar saw action in only thirty-three games. Yogi Berra was on his way to becoming a star and Lollar’s playing time was further reduced by a hand injury caused by a foul tip, requiring him to get stitches on two fingers of his throwing hand.

In August 1948, Dan Daniel wrote, “Sherman Lollar, right-handed hitting catcher, is another who has possibly had his last big opportunity with the Bombers. Now that Yogi Berra is available again, Gus Niarhos will handle all the receiving duties against left-handed pitching.” Not surprisingly, Lollar was soon traded, this time to the St. Louis Browns on December 13, 1948, with pitchers Red Embree and Dick Starr and $100,000 in return for catcher Roy Partee and pitcher Fred Sanford. In St. Louis, Lollar took over for Les Moss as the team’s regular catcher and batted .261 in 1949 with eight home runs. For three seasons, Lollar stabilized the catching position for the second-division Browns while earning All-Star honors for the first time in 1950. 

After the 1951 season, the Chicago White Sox were looking for a replacement for incumbent catcher Phil Masi, and on November 27, they received Lollar from the Browns in an eight-player deal. According to his son, Lollar’s salary was increased to about $12,000 when he was traded. Arriving in Chicago was the break Sherm Lollar needed. Unlike the Browns, who had won only 52 games in 1951, the White Sox had finished eight games over .500 and were considered a potential World Series contender. But the 1952 season was a disappointment for Lollar, who endured additional stress when his wife fell ill after childbirth. While he batted only .240, his work with manager Paul Richards helped turn the young catcher’s career around.

As Gleason recounted in The Saturday Evening Post, Lollar later said: “When I was having that terrible year in 1952, Richards called me into his office late in the season. He told me that my natural style of catching lacked appeal and I would have to be more of a holler guy. Paul said he understood my problem because he had been the same kind of catcher that I was. I feel that I’ve always hustled in baseball, but until Paul talked to me I probably had a misconception of what ‘hustle’ meant. I hustled to first base on a batted ball, and I hustled when the ball was around me. Richards made me see that something more was expected. “Paul told me to show a little more animation. He wanted me to be a little more agile in receiving, and to show more zip in returning the ball to the pitcher. He recommended that I run to and from the catcher’s box between innings, instead of just strolling out there.” Gleason wrote that Richards recommended Lollar’s distinctive style of catching, with his left knee on the ground, because, according to Richards, “This moved him up – closer to the plate – and down – closer to the ground.” 

Lollar caught 100 or more games in each of his twelve seasons with the White Sox, and he was an American League All-Star six times (1954–1956 and 1958–1960). As evidenced by his Gold Gloves, he developed into perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game. In 1957 he played without making an error in his first eighty-nine games before throwing wildly to second base on September 14. Years after trading for Lollar, White Sox general manager Frank Lane said, “It was one of the best trades I ever made. Sherm turned out to be one of the best catchers in the American League, behind only Yogi Berra and maybe Jim Hegan.” Paul Richards told Gleason that Lollar was a better handler of pitchers than Berra.

Throughout his time in the American League, Lollar was compared to Berra, whose offensive numbers and championships outshined Lollar’s. Wrote Gleason in The Saturday Evening Post, “Where Berra is distinctive looking, to put it mildly, the brown-haired Lollar is a sad-faced, sad-eyed individual. In most of his pictures, he looks as though someone has stolen his favorite catcher’s mitt. In his ‘smiling’ pictures, the smile seems forced. Berra is celebrated for malapropisms. Lollar is seldom quoted. An unobtrusive workman, he is obscured on his own club by crowd-pleasers such as Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, Jim Rivera, and Luis Aparicio.” 

On April 23, 1955, against Kansas City during a 29–6 rout, Lollar accomplished the rare feat of getting two hits in an inning twice in the same game. He had his finest offensive season for Chicago’s 1959 pennant winners, batting .265 with twenty-two home runs and eighty-four RBIs. In both 1958 and 1959, he finished ninth in the American League’s Most Valuable Player voting. Perhaps most importantly, Lollar was instrumental in handling the team’s pitching staff in 1959. Although he batted only .227 in the World Series, he hit a three-run homer in Game Four off the Dodgers’ Roger Craig with two outs in the seventh inning to tie the game at 4–4. Other than the three home runs hit by Ted Kluszewski, Lollar’s home run was the only one hit by a White Sox player in that Series. However, a key point of the Series came in Game Two, when the slow-footed Lollar was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from first base on Al Smith’s eighth-inning double, which helped ensure a 4–3 Chicago loss. 

Lollar’s overall offensive performance began to decline in 1960, and the White Sox released him on October 4, 1963. Although he was not known as a power hitter, the six-foot-one, 185-pounder had 155 career home runs among his 1,415 hits. Lollar committed only 62 errors in 1,571 games behind the plate in his Major League career, finishing with a .992 fielding percentage. In his 2001 Historical Baseball Abstract, historian Bill James rated Lollar as the thirty-first best catcher ever. James wrote” “[Lollar] led his league in fielding percentage five times, in double plays three times, also has the lowest career passed ball rate of any catcher listed here.” – The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press, 2001. P. 394.

After his playing career ended, Lollar sought a minor-league manager’s job. Al Lopez remarked, “[Lollar] had tremendous ability with young pitchers. I think he shows great ability at handling men, which is the most important part of managing in the game.” Lollar coached with the Baltimore Orioles from 1964 through 1967 and with the Oakland Athletics in 1968. He managed two Oakland farm teams: the Iowa Oaks of the American Association from 1970 through 1972 and the Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League in 1973 and 1974. He left the Toros after the 1974 season reportedly because of a dispute with Athletics owner Charley Finley. Lollar barely escaped serious injury while managing in Iowa in 1970. He was sitting in his car at a red light after a game, when a nearby building suddenly collapsed. “I was just sitting there listening to the radio when—wham! It was like the sky falling,” he recalled. “What made it worse was that I had no idea what was happening. I couldn’t see a thing because of the dust and debris.” Luckily, he was unhurt. In the last few years of his life, Lollar operated a bowling alley in Springfield, Missouri, and refereed high-school basketball games. After a long battle with cancer, he died in Springfield on September 24, 1977. He was fifty-three years old. Lollar was survived by his wife, Connie, and a son, Sherman III. He is buried in Rivermonte Memorial Gardens in Springfield.

My personal recap of his career is titled “Who Was That Masked Man? (Post#5). 

 
 
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