In 1946 Pittsfield Flectrics third baseman Al â€œFlipâ€� Rosen ripped the cover off the ball, leading the circuit in homers and RBIâ€™s while batting at a .323 pace.
â€œHe was kind of a team leader with the players here,â€� recalls Paul Tamburello. â €œThey wanted a pay raise, but we couldnâ€™t give it. We met on the roof of the building, of our office.â€�
Perhaps not surprisingly, Rosen retired as an active player following a dispute with Cleveland management over his salary.
â€œI can remember Al Rosen,â€� says Schenectadyâ€™s Charley Baker, who seemed to be one of the few hurlers in the circuit not impressed by Mr. Rosen. â€œI remember him like it was yesterday. In fact, you know, he had a big reputation, and I can close my eyes and hear manager Lee Riley saying, â€˜Stick it in his ear!â€™ and that was the whole solution. You knocked him down, threw him three curves, and bye-bye Al. He was gone.â€�
â€œFlipâ€� almost packed it in at Pittsfield. He had to hustle to get into baseball in the first place. No scouts came knocking on his door. He flubbed a try-out with the Red Sox. Then he caught on with the Tribe. After returning from the Navy in 1946, he was promptly cut by Clevelandâ€™s WilkesÂBarre and Harrisburg clubs. Scout Laddie Placek assigned Al to Pittsfield: â€œYouâ€™ll play there for sure."
But when Rosen got to the Electrics he was again handed a back-up role. Farm director â €œBuzzâ€� Wetzel happened to be in town and gruffly told all hands: â€œAnybody who doesnâ€™t want to play for Pittsfield can have his release.â€�
Rosen wanted out. When Wetzel saw Alâ€™s previous stats, he balked, but Al persisted mightily, and Wetzel gave in.
When Placek learned that Rosen had been released he rushed all over town looking for him, finding him venting his ire on a pinball machine. â€œLaddie stood beside me,â€� recalled the player they called â€œthe Hebrew Hammer,â€� â€œand kept repeating, â€˜Youâ€™ll be a great player some day, a big star. Stick it out.â€™ He said it over and over. Finally I said, â €˜Okay.â€�â€™
The rest, as they say, was history. Also from Wahconah Park came pitchers Brooks Lawrence and Dick Tomanek, slugging outfielder Jim Lemon, and catcher Hal Naragon.
Lawrence was a college football teamÂmate of Jonathan Winters and still managed to win 19 games for the Cards in 1956. He threw the first official intentional walk in history on April 12, 1955. (Prior to that records were not kept on intentional passes.)
Lemon coached for the Twins and managed the Senators in 1968.
Tomanekâ€™s father promised he would walk the 20 miles to Clevelandâ€™s Municipal Stadium if his son pitched there. He did. Dick beat the Tigers but won only nine more games lifetime.
Naragon backstopped for ten seasons for Cleveland, Washington, and Minnesota and also coached for the Twins and Tigers.