Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Importance of Talking with Players (Part 2)

Two more names to add to the list of Kitty League players who died in 2006:

Dave Bartosch - died Apr. 30 in Nashville, Tenn. (age 89)
Dominick Italiano - died Mar. 5 in St. Louis, Mo. (age 80)

I had the opportunity to meet both players at reunions I organized, Mr. Bartosch at the Kitty League Centennial in 2003 and Mr. Italiano at the Jackson Generals reunion in 1999.

Dominick was one of my favorites, having played four seasons for my hometown team in Jackson, Tenn. (1950-53). I was especially saddened to learn of his passing.

The Importance of Talking with Players

The year of 2006 has almost ended and it's only fitting that I recognize the passing of several former Kitty League baseball players and fans this year. I had the honor of meeting a few of them such as Lon Carter Barton, Billy Joe Forrest, Ivan Kuester, and Jacque Riedel and talking with George Buickel on the telephone. Each gentleman was kind and supportive of my research and willing to share their memories of playing in the Kitty League.

First, I'd like to stepped up on my soapbox and address my fellow baseball researchers.

I've enjoyed digging into microfilmed newspapers and searching for undiscovered tidbits and stories about the Kitty League. It's been a labor of love that I've done for 10 years now. I've been fortunate enough to also track down a few players now in their 70s and older or have them contact me. Library research is important in any historical project, but to actually speak with persons who were there and who can share what it was like to play at Miller Field in Owensboro, Ky. or what road trips were like is even more important.

Anyone doing baseball research should try his or her best to track down players, write or call them, and politely ask to do an interview. Is there someone in your hometown or nearby who played pro ball? Maybe no one has even talked with them about it! They appreciate their careers being remembered and many are happy to share their memories with you.

But the sad part is they won't be around forever. I've kicked myself many times when I've had a player's address or phone number sitting on my desk, but I've been too busy to pick up the phone or simply procrastinated and learned later that they passed away. Whether your father or grandfather was a professional baseball player or a cook in an Army camp in World War II, be sure you sit down with him in 2007 and ask him questions about his life experiences and get them on tape or video. Years later, you'll be glad you did.

The Kitty League lost at least six former players and one fan in 2006. They may be more; if I've missed someone, please write to me.

Lon Carter Barton - died Mar. 28 (age 80) (Kitty League fan)
George Buickel - died Oct. 3 (age 85)
Robert W. Cropenbaker - died May 2 (age 92)
Billy Joe Forrest - died Apr. 5 (age 78)
Ivan Kuester - died Oct. 3 (age 86)
William J. "Butch" Leary - died Nov. 28 (age 84)
Jacque Riedel - died Jul. 26 (age 82)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

William J. "Butch" Leary 1922-2006

William J. "Butch" Leary, who pitched for the Madisonville Miners in 1946, passed away on November 28, 2006 at Glen Falls Hospital in Glen Falls, New York. He was 84 years old.

He pitched in 12 games for Madisonville, finishing the season with a 5-5 record and 5.18 earned run average. He struck out 38 batters and walked 22 in 66 innings pitched and worked three complete games. At the plate, he batted .292 in 16 games, hitting one home run and driving in five runs in 24 at-bats.

Before playing in the Kitty League, Mr. Leary served his country in the Army during World War II and fought under Gen. George Patton at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.

Funerals services were held at Founds Funeral Home in West Chester, PA and burial at Philadelphia Memorial Park in nearby Frazer.

(Information provided from his obituary published in the West Chester Daily Local News, december 1, 2006 and Ray Nemec.)