In 1946 Pittsfield Flectrics third baseman Al "Flip" Rosen ripped the cover off the ball, leading the circuit in homers and RBI's while batting at a .323 pace.
"He was kind of a team leader with the players here," recalls Paul Tamburello. "They wanted a pay raise, but we couldn't give it. We met on the roof of the building, of our office."
Perhaps not surprisingly, Rosen retired as an active player following a dispute with Cleveland management over his salary.
"I can remember Al Rosen," says Schenectady's Charley Baker, who seemed to be one of the few hurlers in the circuit not impressed by Mr. Rosen. "I 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, "Stick it in his ear!" and that was the whole solution. You knocked him down, threw him three curves, and bye- bye Al. He was gone."
"Flip" 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 Cleveland's Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg clubs. Scout Laddie Placek assigned Al to Pittsfield: "You'll play there for sure."
But when Rosen got to the Electrics he was again handed a back-up role. Farm director "Buzz" Wetzel happened to be in town and gruffly told all hands: "Anybody who doesn't want to play for Pittsfield can have his release."
Rosen wanted out. When Wetzel saw Al'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. "Laddie stood beside me," recalled the player they called "the Hebrew Hammer," and kept repeating, "You'll be a great player some day, a big star. Stick it out." He said it over and over. Finally I said, "˜Okay."
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 teammate 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.
Tomanek's father promised he would walk the 20 miles to Cleveland'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.