Today's thoughts

Category: Sherm Lollar (Page 1 of 6)

Chicago White Sox Catcher

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). 

 
 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Lost Socks or Sox #1580

It’s “Hump Day” in Hawaii, the half-way point of our South Beach retreat. Sunshine has been the common theme since we arrived in Florida last week, with more blue skies in the forecast. Meanwhile, back home in Portland there have been signs of snow in Facebook posts. As a side note, I was reunited this morning with my lost sock, left behind in efforts to do laundry in a few days ago. I think I left more socks at my son’s house last week, like a trail of bread crumbs throughout the state. 

Florida has put in a bid to host the Olympics in six months, citing their success with other sporting events during this pandemic. Tokyo may not be able to handle this commitment that was already delayed from 2020. Another year setback would jeopardize the ability of some athletes to compete. With all the uncertainties, it must be difficult to maintain focus and be motivated to train. Regardless, I will once again not be competing. It was hard enough to complete my 3.1 mile run this morning, but day #4,316 is officially in the books. On our way to dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab tonight, I may even get to see the start of Robert Kraft’s bid on 16,829 consecutive days. 

On a frustrating note, there will be no one elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year for the first time since 1960. Curt Schilling fell sixteen votes short. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to be excluded from this club despite their credentials and will have one more chance next year. Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson were not on the ballot. They need to add a “bad boys” wing of the Hall to accommodate these controversial personalities. There are also so many others that could have been added like Saturnino Orestes Armas Minoso of the Chicago White Sox and other Negro League players that were crippled by discrimination. A friend just sent me an article claiming that “it is utterly inconceivable that “Minnie” Minoso is not in the Hall of Fame.” The same can be said for Satchel Paige and countless others. 

I once again make a plea to the Hall of Fame to reconsider the “Lost Sox” like Minoso, Sherm Lollar, Shoeless Joe, Billy Pierce, Harold Baines, Dick Allen, and Tim Raines. It still bothers me that a majority of HOF players are pitchers, while their supportive catchers and fielders have been overlooked. Their accomplishments have been forgotten over time and their votes misplaced like my running socks – missing soul mates!

 

 

 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Home Inspection #1563

This morning was about as exciting as it gets these days. The money was deposited in our savings account to cover all the closing costs on our new Florida home and the builder took us on a detailed tour of the exposed wiring, plumbing, and structure. Our new home is slowly coming together based on the model we selected and the modifications that we arranged. Ten-foot ceilings, eight-foot doorways, a larger garage, upgraded appliances, and a pool are gradually becoming reality. I will share the floor plan and some photos with my friends shortly in a Zoom “Leadership Meeting.”

This afternoon, I will then put together a plan for to tomorrow’s baseball card show. I want to fill in some lineups for the 1954-1972 White Sox teams. I also added some photos to my Sherm Lollar collection this past week with some E-Bay purchases. Switching back and forth between hobbies keeps things from getting too routine. Card collecting, genealogy, and writing have been the mainstays of retirement. It’s been frustrating not being able to travel, as well, but at least a trip to Florida is only a week away. We’ll check out the house in person, visit with friends & family, drive down through The Keys, and spend a week in Miami. Florida is the one place that has been consistently open this past year, so we’ve managed three visits, including the cross-country drive. 

It was another frustrating finish for I.U. basketball last night. A chance to beat Wisconsin in Madison for the first time in 23 years fell short in double overtime. We were on the verge of winning in regulation and overtime, but the second extended period was all Badgers. The next game is Sunday at Nebraska, with must-win expectations. The new year has not been kind to the Hoosiers with key losses in both football and basketball. At least, I have a new home to look forward to in March since Madness may not happen again for this very average BIG team. Today’s home inspection, however, has lifted my spirits about the future. 

Retirement is not without Hassles: Christmas Story #1546

Another long day of doing nothing. I’m beginning to notice little things like there are no receipts in my wallet yet my credit card bill still goes up. I did receive  my new calendar from our financial advisor, but it’s words this year not pictures. It will be a relief to tear off that final page of 2020 and turn over that first of 2021. The calendar has been a desk-top tradition for many years now and an inspiration for an occasional blog post. Everything in my life tends to be digital so to have something to hold on to is somehow comforting. 

I watched A Christmas Story yesterday, rekindling some childhood memories. I never had a BB gun, but nearly once poked my eye out with a sharp stick. I was running through the woods and did not see the broken limb that knocked me off my feet. It’s disturbing to think about all those close calls in life. This time of year we often stayed in a Marriott hotel near the Indiana Welcome Station that features a permanent display of A Christmas Story, including a flagpole out front with Flick’s tongue stuck to it. I would run by and give him “five” before we made the drive to pick up my wife’s mother and head to Indianapolis for the holidays. 

I did receive a childhood memory in the mail yesterday. I ordered a tattered, felt Chicago White Sox pennant on e-Bay that was similar to one that hung on the wall of my bedroom as a kid. It arrived in a package that brought back a similar excitement to opening that long-awaited Ovaltine decoder ring. On the other hand, I was disappointed, however, to be out-bid on a rare Banty Red Sherm Lollar baseball card from 1952. It’s now in someone else’s collection, that probably isn’t as big of fan of the White Sox catcher. At least, I made him pay more for it, while he used an auction snipe app to cheat me by a buck at the buzzer. What fun is that?

I did not get to see the Christmas Star or Jupiter/Saturn conjunction last night because of overcast skies here in Portland. It was all the buzz on Facebook for those fortunate enough to capture pictures of the once-in-a-lifetime event. We’re lucky to even see the moon this time of year, and by the same token have not witnessed any of the key astronomical occurrences this year. It rained again this morning just before my run, with more on the way. We certainly won’t see white – just wet! For that matter, other than a couple of family Zoom calls, there won’t be much of a Christmas Story for me to talk about this year! 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Favorites #1463

Baseball and cold pizza, two of my current favorites, came together for lunch yesterday, before the yard work started. The White Sox were up against the higher-seeded A’s and playing on their home turf. I’ve never been a fan of the once Kansas City now Oakland A’s, but since childhood the White Sox have always been my favorite. Catcher Sherm Lollar has perpetuated this relationship since 1959. Granted, I’ve strayed to the Cubs at times when they were winning, following suit with my son and dad. I’ve been fortunate to see both Chicago favorites first-hand in World Series victories. 

Lucas Giolito pitched seven innings of perfect baseball and the Sox bats were hot in a 4-1 victory. The lucky socks proved their worth. Today, I’ll wear a Cubs sock on one foot and the Sox sock on the other, hoping for the Chicago sweep. There will be no fans to interfere with any Marlin foul balls, reminiscent of Steve Bartman in 2003, so there should be no excuses for anything less than a Cubbies “W” at Wrigley.   

I do have a busy today with a second moving estimate, Cubs & Sox baseball, dinner to cook. and the first game of the NBA Finals, in addition to the eight televised MLB playoff games. LeBron has oddly become a basketball favorite of mine, even though he’s never played for the teams I support, with the exception of the Olympics. Part of this is the lack of respect he gets, especially from Michael Jordan fans. In my opinion, they are equal greats from separate eras. Comparisons are unfair, especially considering that there wasn’t nearly as much free agency in the Jordan era and contact rules were vastly different. 

While championship match-ups were being determined in baseball and basketball, the Tampa Bay Lightning claimed their second Stanley Cup title. I’ve officially adopted them since we now own property in Florida, along with the Rays, Buccaneers, and Rowdies. Having now owned homes in six states, I’ve amassed quite a collection of teams, improving my chances to win something…anything. Chicago is still my favorites sports town, with the exception of the Bulls. Michigan teams don’t count. The Portland Trailblazes have now replaced the Pacers as my favorite NBA team. When it comes to college football, I lean to the Texas Longhorns and Oregon Ducks, even though my pigskin favorite will always be the hapless Indiana Hoosiers. Soccer favs are the MLS Portland Timbers and Indiana University, while my vote for college baseball goes to the Oregon State Beavers. College basketball is hands down Indiana, as well. I do enjoy sports of all kinds and genders, but do not have as strong of allegiances. I also know the teams and players I hate in any given league – but this is all about favorites. 

I still have fond memories of watching a White Sox playoff game back in 1983 from a motel room in Indianapolis. I was down there from Ft. Wayne on an overnight business trip and played hooky for the afternoon game. It was players like LaMarr Hoyt, Floyd Bannister, Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, and Ron Kittle, as I check the memory banks of Wikipedia. Tony LaRussa was the coach of this team that won their division and made it to the American League Championship, losing to the Orioles after winning the first game of a series of five. The Orioles went on to win the World Series. It was the first time the Sox were in the postseason since the 1959 World Series, featuring for me a home run by Sherm Lollar. They wore the patriotic uniforms with SOX in block letters on a blue stripe, trimmed in red, across the chest. They’ve brought them out on several occasions this year – one of my least favorite looks!

2008 was the last White Sox postseason win, falling 3 games to 1 against the Rays in the opening series. They did win the division that year. The team featured Ozzie Guillen, Jermaine Dye, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Nick Swisher, John Danks, and Mark Buehrle, along with Manager Ozzie Guillen. The Sox were eliminated on the day I started work in Austin, Texas, one of my least favorite jobs. 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Sherm Lives-On #1439

I got a surprise e-mail the other day and was pleased to find out that there are people who take the time to read what I write. There are indeed rewards to my ramblings other than just personal therapy.

I came across your blog earlier today and wanted to drop you a note. Sherm Lollar was my grandfather. Much like you, I never met him but he’s a hero of mine. Guess I just want to say thanks for your kind words. And I need to know more about your Sherm Lollar t-shirt.”

When I first began writing a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame regarding John Sherman Lollar, (See Post #5), I reached out to one of his sons through Messenger. Kevin was a career writer, so I felt he should review my first draft, offering some great suggestions. I was relieved that he didn’t write me off as some star-struck baseball lunatic.

Kevin is my uncle. I forwarded your blog links to my dad as well. He loved your ‘Ode to Sherm’ (See Post #1189).   I look forward to seeing pics of your memorabilia.”

Several years have now passed and I’ve written several tributes to my baseball hero as a component of my daily diary that covers running, sports, adoption, retirement, travel, poetry, and pets. It’s an important part of my retirement routine that anymore keeps me sane in these pandemic times.

It’s crazy how a person I’ve never met has become such a personal influence. The closest I’ve ever gotten to him was a seat at Comiskey Park, where I watched several White Sox games as a child. His #10 was barely visible from the cheap seats, let alone his face.  His was the first card I usually searched for in a fresh pack of Topps cards. His jersey digits became mine in any sport I poorly played, and continues to be my lucky number.

I get daily memorabilia notifications from E-Bay and auction houses on items pertaining to Sherm’s career. I buy what I can afford and keep a scrapbook of his cards, photos, and accomplishments. I’m glad to have a contact with his family because my collection will mean little to my heirs.

It’s doubtful that Sherm will ever become a Hall-of-Famer, although the White Sox organization has honored him as one of their greatest. There are too many catchers that have been slighted by the Cooperstown committees that don’t seem to recognize defensive and leadership achievements. He was one of the best defenders in the game and a skilled field general. I would challenge modern-day players to be as effective using the cumbersome, heavy gear he was forced to wear, and the poorly padded mitt designs of yesteryear. Sherm indeed lives-on in my office and in the hearts of his family. 

                                      

 

Old Sport Shorts: Lollar 10 #1419

A friend sent me an early birthday present. It’s a custom mug made from a hollowed-out baseball bat and engraved, “Michael L Johnston #1 fan of John Sherman ‘Sherm’ Lollar, Jr.” It also has the Sox logo on the barrel. It’s made by Dugout Mugs, a division of the Thompson Mug Company. I don’t know if I’m Sherm’s biggest fan, especially since he still has family, but I continue to recognize his achievements when most people have forgotten. 

I have a substantial collection of his memorabilia, including a 1955 game-worn jersey, catcher’s mask, cups, glassware, pins, postcards, ball, newspaper clippings, press photos, autographs, and baseball cards. Until somebody proves me wrong, I will continue to boast of the largest collection in the world. The new mug and “Sherm Freakin’ Lollar” t-shirt that I occasionally wear make my collection unique. I’ve also written a letter to the Hall of Fame committee on his behalf. 

August 23rd would have been Sherm’s 96th birthday. He died at age 53. Sherm Lollar was behind the plate for 18 seasons with four different teams – Indians, Yankees, Browns, and White Sox. He was a member of the “Go-Go Sox” who played in the 1959 World Series. I became a fan as a young boy of eight, watching him hit a home run against the Dodgers on black & white TV. His number 10 became my lucky number. When I joined a baseball card club here in Portland about 5-years ago, the other members asked me what I wanted to collect. I said I would start by getting any items associated with Sherm Lollar. At least, it was an affordable hobby, unlike the pricey Mickey Mantle cards. I’m now known in those circles as the “Sherm Guy.” (See Post #1328).

Sherm was apparently a quiet, humble man. We shared big ears and little else. I never got to meet him, but saw him play many times in Chicago throughout the years. He always seemed to be upstaged by Berra from the minute that Yogi replaced him in the Yankee’s starting line-up back in 194 7. His on-base percentage was actually better than Yogi’s, and he was a much better defensive back-stop, but cavernous Comiskey Park where Lollar spent most of his career was not designed with hitters in mind, unlike the Yankee right field porch that favored the lefty Berra. Sherm earned 7 All-Star selections and was the first catcher to receive a Golden Glove. His lifetime .9921 fielding percentage is ranked 60th all-time for catchers, but he played more games with a primitive equipment handicap than anyone else on the list. I have some of that gear in my collection and it amazes me that he could maintain that level of play with little padding, a smaller mitt, and bulky, heavy body protection.

Sherm Lollar’s playing career ended with a fractured thumb in 1963. I have a ticket stub from that game on September 7th. He went on to coach for the World Champion Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics, plus managed the Iowa Oaks and Tucson Toro’s before retirement. He earned two World Series rings in the process. I maintain a scrapbook of his career, along with other White Sox greats. Lollar is buried in Rivermonte Memorial Gardens in Springfield, Missouri. Happy Birthday – Sherm!

Old Sport Shorts: Hooray Opening Day #1391

It’s finally here – Opening Day. I last wrote about it (See Post #1306) almost three months ago, wondering if it would ever happen? There was originally talks of an Arizona bubble where all the teams would stay and play in one place. Instead, the stadiums are open to the players but not the public. I watched a few of the Summer Camp games these past few weeks in empty venues, just glad to have something live on TV. There’s no “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the only option is to tune in. I may resort back to childhood and listen on the radio. With a few sound effects, it will seem no different than 1955. 

The defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals will play the Yankees tonight on the east coast, while the Dodgers meet the Giants in the west. That’s pretty good social distancing. Tomorrow the Cubs start their 60-game journey against the Brewers at empty Wrigley Field. With half a season, every game is worth twice as much! I got in the spirit earlier this week with a trip to my baseball card guy’s house. A couple of items were added to my Sherm Lollar collection, speaking of 1955 baseball. Plus, some catching equipment from that era. Above all, it was good to talk with another avid baseball fan – it’s great to see anyone – period – in these troubled times. 

I’ll soon be living next to a Spring Training venue in Florida, as I think back to the cancellation of the March games in Phoenix. I did get a credit for my tickets to those games. I also received autographed cards from Topps for Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Luis Robert (White Sox) after being shorted on my Opening Day lineup purchase. All in all, it was a rough start to the season, but all is now right. We’ll finally hear the words “Play Ball,” following a four month delay in the action. It’s the first season to ever start in July. I’ll tune in for the first pitch. Hooray – it’s Opening Day!

Old Sport Shorts: Sherm Lollar Guy #1328

In these times of no baseball or other popular sports, it’s important to savor the past and why a silly game has so much personal meaning. I blame it on my dad, taking me to games as a kid. High school basketball in our hometown, Notre Dame football, and occasional trips to Chicago for the Cubs or White Sox were bonding moments for us. I used the same magic on my son. I can remember fiddling with the TV antenna to watch a game with either of them, although we had an electronic rotor by the time I became an adult. It sure beat aluminum foil or climbing up on the roof. My son also got to see NBA and college basketball, NFL football, auto racing, and soccer with me. We still share an interest in baseball cards, but he’s more for the Cubs than my White Sox.

My dad started as a Tigers fan, but eventually became a die-hard Cubs supporter. As a grandfather, he lured my son to the Cubs side. I had no choice but to play along, although my loyalties still lie with the Sox. It all comes down to one man, that I’ve never met, but a childhood memory keeps our relationship strong. In the 1959 World Series in glorious black & white, Sherm Lollar hit a home run against the Dodgers, and even though they lost the war, it was at least a battle won, and a lifelong attraction to the number 10 that he wore on his back. 

Some may joke that I’m still obsessed with this man who has been dead for 43 years. I did see him play when my dad took me several times to Comiskey Park, and still know the line-up of those White Sox teams of the 60’s. It wasn’t for another 46 years before they got back the World Series and actually won. I was there for two of the games in the sweep of 4. It’s too bad Sherm couldn’t have been around. Cancer took him at the early age of 53. Although, he did get a World Series ring in New York before he joined the Sox, and one more with the Orioles as the bullpen coach. It’s also a shame that more catchers have not been voted as Hall-Of-Famers, because they are the heart & soul leaders of any team. The glory always goes to the pitcher. Unfortunately, I don’t think he will ever get the defensive credit that he’s long overdue. 

I’m not a wealthy man that can spend a lot of money on baseball cards and memorabilia. They were like gold to me growing up, even though I abused a few Yankees on my bicycle spokes. If I had extra money, I would spend it at the neighborhood store on bubble gum packs and trade the duplicates with my friends. As a retiree, I reverted back to childhood and joined a group of collectors, knowing that I couldn’t compete with their high-priced Mickey Mantles or Ty Cobbs. Fortunately, for me Sherm Lollar was not on the Cooperstown wall and therefore his cards were relatively affordable. As it turns out, however, there were hundreds of them made by various manufacturers over his 28 years of playing and coaching, not to mention photos, articles, ticket stubs, yearbooks, score cards, cartoon likenesses, promotional items, and ads. He was even a Trivial Pursuit question, beanie pin, card game, and coin.  Sadly, he never got his own bobble-head or figurine, but there were glasses, plastic cups, mitts, catcher’s masks, and stamps bearing his likeness and/or signature. At the end of his career he owned a bowling alley, and provided a post card for patrons to get his signature. I was able to secure one of these, after his nephew sold some of his personal collection. 

I have Sherm Lollar’s signature on cards, photos, scraps of paper, and baseballs. My rarest find is his uniform #10 from the first four games of 1956. It’s hard to imagine that I’ve spent over $4,000 on items that mean little to anyone but me. I will probably never recover that investment even if he somehow gets into the Hall. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of a movement on his behalf. I care for his memory and family, but I could have never gathered so much of his past on my limited budget. Granted, there are famous teammates and fellow All-Stars of his on some items, adding to their value. I have him in photos along side of Yogi Berra, Bill Verdon, Al Lopez, Marty Marion, Minnie Minoso, Early Wynn, Frank Hayes, to mention a few. 

Over the past month, with little to do, I’ve added to to my Sherm Lollar collection, that has to be one of the largest in existence. A photo of him with Billy Pierce showing off #10, another with Frank and Brooks Robinson, plus a couple of magazine pictures have been recently added to my bulging notebook. A 1960 ticket stub, a team photo from the 1951 St. Louis Browns, and a couple additional magazine clippings are in the mail. Within reason, I’ve vowed to add whatever I can, because within my circle of fellow collectors, that I have been separated from during months of social distancing,  I’m known as the “Sherm Lollar Guy” and have the t-shirt to prove it!

Old Sport Shorts: The Numbers Game #1292

I did feel like an “Old Sport” in my running “Shorts” this morning, dragging a sore left leg and extra weight on top of my concrete-like feet. It was slow going on Day #4129 of “The Streak,” thinking of how much longer I’ll be able to maintain this daily routine. I think this viral threat has aged me both physically and mentally. It’s hard to get going every day in a fight against an enemy we can’t see coming. Some of my favorite past-times have been taken away in the process, including basketball and baseball just for starters. As I mourn the lack of sports in my life, I at least wanted to write about it today!

To think I was on my way to Spring Training and in anticipation of March Madness when this whole pandemic started. The hotel where we were staying would soon empty and the restaurants began to slowly shut-down. We got on a plane to fly back, leary of what was to come in the way of self-quarantine, social distancing, and protective gear. My reality was the fact that all sports stopped when at first play was restricted to just fans. At least, we’d be able to watch on TV, but instead we’re stuck on re-play. Out of habit, I continue to check the ESPN app, but unfortunately there’s little to report. 

I did run across Tim Kurkjian’s article about baseball uniform numbers and the greatest players in history to wear each one. It struck me because as a kid I was drawn to #10 when it came time to pick a uniform. It was because of my catching hero Sherm Lollar of the Chicago White Sox. I have his 1955 uniform in my collection, along with lots of cards, pictures, and stories about his career. I would imagine that many other kids made similar decisions in Little League based on their favorites

#10 in the article was assigned to Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves, a top-four Hall of Fame third baseman. He was born as I turned twenty-one. Sherm sadly died five years later. I’m sure there are those that adopted #10 based on Chipper’s popularity. Sherm, I’m sure was far down the list of those wearing the number, since he will probably never inducted into the Cooperstown Club. Chipper’s #10 was ceremoniously retired by the Braves, while infielder Yoan Moncada currently wears it for the White Sox. Sparky Anderson, Dick Howser, Phil Rizzuto, Ron Santo, Tony LaRussa, Tom Kelly, and Michael Young all wore #10 and were honored by their respective teams by not allowing others to ever wear it again. Howser, Kelly, and Young have yet to be inducted nationally. 

Kurkjiun reported that the Yankees were the first to put numbers on the back on their jerseys starting in 1929. “The numbers often corresponded to where the player hit the batting order, which is how Babe Ruth ended up with No. 3 and Lou Gehrig No. 4.” Other Yankees secured their place in numbers history with Derek Jeter #2, Joe DiMaggio #5, Mickey Mantle #7, Sherm’s rival Yogi Berra #8, Alex Rodriguez #13, Whitey Ford #16, and Roy Campanella #39. Many of my childhood baseball peers fought over Mickey and Yogi’s numbers, while #10 was usually always available. 

Some kids wanted to be #1 like Ozzie Smith or #6 Stan Musial, particularly if they were Cardinals’ fans. #17 Dizzy Dean and the Gaslight Gang was slightly before my time. If you were a Reds’ fan, Barry Larkin #11 or controversial Pete Rose #14 were probably your top uniform choices. Ted Williams wore #9 while Red Sox traitor to the Yankees Johnny Damon #18, Tony Gwynn claims #20, Roberto Clemente #21,Clayton Kershaw #22, “Say Hey” Willie Mays #24, Barry Bonds #25, Wade Boggs #26, and Mike Trout #27. They are each Hall-of-Famers on Kurkjian’s list. With the current trends in free-agency, it’s more challenging for a player to retain the same number throughout their career, particularly if it’s retired by the team they join. Big bucks have also been rumored to change hands during team transitions since the number is part of a player’s brand. 

In the higher ranges of uniform numbers, everyone wears No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Hank Aaron wore #44 on his back, Nolan Ryan #30, Greg Maddux #31, and Sandy Kolfax #32. If you were into base-running speed you might crave the number 35 of Ricky Henderson fame. Orel Hershiser owns #55, the highest number on this particular list.  Other pitchers like Goose Gossage chose #54, Don Drysdale #53, CC Sabathia #52, Randy Johnson #51, J.R. Richard #50, Hoyt Wilhelm #49, Tom Glavine #47, Lee Smith #46, Bob Gibson #45, Dennis Eckersley #43, Bartolo Colon #40, Curt Schilling #38, spit-baller Gaylord Perry #36, and Tom Seaver #41. 

I’ve been skipping around quite a bit on the ESPN list with preference given to some of my more familiar favorites. For the record, these are all great players, with just a few yet to gain Hall-of-Fame status. The best defensive second-baseman in his opinion was #12 Roberto Alomar, Carlos Beltran tops those wearing #15, followed by #20 Mike Schmidt, #23 Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs, Bert Blyleven #28, Rod Carew #29, Eddie Murray #33, Big Papi, David Ortiz #34, Keith Hernandez #37, and last but not least Torii Hunter #48. At this stage, too many uniform numbers have already been claimed forever, so modern day players will have to start at #56 to make a lasting numerical impression. Who will be the first to wear #100 or #1000? Manny Ramiriez and Aaron Judge have already claimed #99, while Yasiel Puig wears #66. It’s a number game – what’s lucky for you?

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