Did you know that Pat McGlothin was born in the incredibly tiny mining town of Coalfield which was originally known as Ruffner's Station? Baseball Almanac likes to take a look "beyond the stats" and we hope you enjoy the following historical baseball article about Pat McGlothin by feeelance writer Rebecca Rochat:
A Pretty Good Sticker
"It was one of the greatest individual performances I have ever seen in baseball." That was the observation of Lt. Commander J. M. (Sam) Barry, Naval Air Training Base (NATB) physical and military training officer commenting on a game played by E. M. (Pat) McGlothin, of the Corpus Christi NATB. McGlothin was the pitcher in the 19 inning victory over Pensacola in game four of the NATB All-Stars series September 24, 1944. McGlothin pitched the full 19 innings, batted in two runs, the winning run and made one run himself. One of the batters McGlothin faced in that series was Ted Williams who had been drafted into the military in 1942 the same year McGlothin joined. Pat McGlothin had come from the class D Elizabethton (Tennessee) Red Sox of the Appalachian League, a Boston Red Sox farm team. In game four of the NATB all-star game Williams, who some consider the best natural hitter ever, was up to bat seven times, did not get a hit, McGlothin stuck him out five times, and walked him twice. "Of course, he (Williams) wasn't in the best condition, but he was still in pretty good shape" was McGlothin's recollection of Williams' performance that day. As far as Pat's condition that day, after ten innings his manager was concerned and checked Pat to see if he was still able to pitch. "I feel good, I feel fine", said Pat.
McGlothin went on to have a five year professional baseball career with 67 wins and 41 defeats. While his name may not be one that is well known or remembered in baseball history, he is one of a very few of the 1949-1950 Brooklyn Dodgers players still alive, the others being Ralph Branca, Tommy Brown, Carl Erskine, Don Newcombe, Luis Olmo, Marv Rackley, and George Shuba. They were all part of the beginning of what would come to be known as "The Golden Age of New York Baseball".
After playing baseball at the University of Tennessee, Pat's got his first big break in 1941 when The Knoxville News Sentinel held its annual baseball school. Pat's talent did not go unnoticed by The Knoxville Smokies, the local minor league team. They quickly signed the 21 year old up and farmed him out to the class D Elizabethton Red Sox of the Appalachian League, a Boston Red Sox farm team. Pat made his debut in1942 as a 21-year-old unattached free agent. While with the Elizabethton Red Sox, Pat pitched his first no-hit, no-run game against the Newport (Tennessee) Canners, the first of three no-hitters in his career.
Pat's early professional career was interrupted in 1942 when he joined the Navy and became an athletic instructor at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Stationed at the Corpus Christi NATB, Pat would pitch for their baseball team against an Army, Navy, or Marine post playing for the troops two or three times a week. Meanwhile, Ted Williams was at stationed at Pensacola for advanced air training, eventually receiving his wings and commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps on May 22, 1944, four months before the Corpus Christi and Pensacola All Star series. It was in the All Stars fourth game in September 1944 that Pat pitched the 19 innings and struck out Ted Williams five of seven times up to bat. Pat had a hit to tie the score in the 17th before hitting in the winning run in the 19th. "I wasn't especially happy to stay in that long, but nevertheless, I did," offers Pat. Pat and Ted eventually became teammates in Jacksonville, Florida where Williams was learning to fly the F4U Corsair his last operational stop before assuming military duties.
In 1946 on his return from the service, Pat got a letter to show up at the Dodgers' spring training camp at Vero Beach, where he joined 600 other Dodger players. "They didn't know how many good players they had", remembers Pat. His first assignment was as pitcher for the Mobile (Alabama) Bears of the AA Southern Association. The former owners of the Knoxville Smokies, who had originally signed Pat before the War, moved their franchise to Mobile where they became a Brooklyn farm team. The team had originally played in Knoxville from 1931 to 1944 as the Knoxville Smokies before moving to Mobile in 1944. There were three other Mobile players that would eventually follow Pat to the Brooklyn Dodgers, left fielder Cal Abrams, third baseman George Shuba and catcher Bruce Edwards. In 1947, Mobile won the Southern Association league pennant beating Houston of the Dixie League.
From Mobile, Pat was sent to the St. Paul Saints of the American Association, another Brooklyn farm team, for the 1948 season. Pat played three seasons total for the Mobile Bears and the St. Paul Saints, winning 43 games and losing only 24. On September 9, 1948 facing 29 batters he pitched a no-hit, no-run game against Milwaukee. Joe Hennessy in his "Tip of the Morning" column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press observed, "The Knoxville boy looks like a pitcher. Ezra (Pat) McGlothin is personification of the post war, pitching rookie."
Pat's showing caught the attention of Branch Rickey, President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey went on to become a baseball innovator while at Brooklyn opening the first full time training facility in Vero Beach, Florida, creating the framework for the minor league system, and introducing the batting helmet. Pat remembers Rickey also had an eye for good talent, "He was great at looking at ballplayers in the minor leagues, saying this one would be a good major leaguer, while this one had reached his peak." But it was Rickey's bold decision to break Major League's color barrier by hiring Jackie Robinson and later Roberto Clemente, the first Hispanic superstar. Pat and Robinson had played together with the Montreal Royals for one season in 1949 after Pat left the St. Paul Saints. "He (Robinson) was an interesting character. Rickey told the players he'd trade them if they didn't want to play with him (Robinson). Some players had a problem, and he traded them. He hit so many runs, and was a pretty good second baseman, but he had a bad back and couldn't run very fast. He was just an aggressive, talented individual. He had great ability and meant to win. He was good at everything. He was the best right handed batter. You learned to like him. When he was at Montreal in 1946, he led the league in everything," were some of Pat's remembrances of his teammate.
Pat was called up to the big leagues and on April 25th 1949 he made his debut in a relief role with the Boston Braves at Ebbetts Field. Pat can easily recall the famous Dodger line up. Gil Hodges was at first base, Jackie Robinson was at second, Billy Cox at third. Pee Wee Reese played shortstop, and Roy Campanella was the catcher. In the outfield were Duke Snider, Carl Furillo and Cal Abrams." Pat and Roy Campanella were two of the 12 members of the pitching staff culled from a wealth of talent chosen Brooklyn's 26 farm teams. Don Newcombe, Preacher Roe, Joe Hatten, Ralph Branca, Rex Barney, Jack Banta, Carl Erskine (who for a short time was Pat's roommate), and Bud Podbielan were just some of Pat's fellow pitchers. Manager Burt Shotton assigned Pat to become the premier relief pitcher. One of Pat's observations was of Duke Snider, "a rare outfielder. He was an exceptional player, but he was sort of moody." Pat was 29 years old his first year with the Dodgers and playing in the minor and winter leagues, coupled with his career in armed services baseball had taken their toll on his pitching elbow, but as Pat said he "made the best of it," eventually having surgery at John's Hopkins for bone spurs in his pitching arm.
The 1949 Dodgers won the National League pennant, winning 97 and losing 57 that season. They faced Casey Stengel's New York Yankees in the World Series losing to the Yankees 4-1. Pat did not pitch in that series which made history in Game 5 at Ebbets Field when lights were turned on in the ninth inning making Game 5 the first World Series game played under artificial lights.
Pat signed a new contract for $7500 in 1950, "Pretty good salary at that time for half a year's work." Pat still has the yellowed, four page original contract signed by Branch Rickey in his office. In Pat's major league career with the Dodgers he pitched eight games, finishing 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA and 13 strikeouts. Pat is quick to point out that for the same 49-50 season Don Newcombe had only a 3.17 ERA with the Dodgers. Pat pitched his last game for Brooklyn on April 18, 1950. That same year Rickey and manager Shotton felt Pat would be a good starting pitcher for the high minors, so they sent him first to the AA Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League and later to the AAA Montreal Royals of the International League both Brooklyn farm teams. "You belonged to the club and could never get away unless they traded you, sold you, or released you. The Dodgers would keep all the players, because they had to furnish 26 clubs. In 1946 when we went to spring training, there were 600 players in that camp, including Jackie Robinson." While pitching for Fort Worth, Pat pitched a no-hitter against the Shreveport Sports. He walked the first batter and then for the next eight innings, he retired all batters. Fort Worth won 1-0. After the operation for bone spurs in his pitching arm, the rest of Pat's career saw him first returning to the St. Paul Saints for three seasons, then to the Birmingham Barons in 1954. He finished his minor league career playing for his hometown Knoxville Smokies and later becoming manager in 1954. In the end, Pat spent 10 seasons in the minors, finishing with a 108-86 record with a 3.80 ERA, appearing in 292 games. "I pitched three no-hitters," says Pat.
After retiring from baseball, Pat began a second career in insurance joining the Mutual Insurance Agency in Knoxville, TN eventually buying the agency. He still serves as CEO, but these days someone from the office picks 93 year old Pat up late morning at his home, about a 10 minute drive from his office in downtown Knoxville. He stills dons a suit spends about 3 hours in his office before being taken home in the early afternoon. "My family won't allow me to drive anymore."
It is in his office, where you will find some of his baseball memorabilia such as the 1950 Dodger contract. There is also the framed copy of the September 1944 "The Beam" article covering his 19 inning pitching streak, plaques commemorating his induction into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. But it is the plaque which he received at the 50th celebration of the 1949 World Series with the engraving "Relief pitcher, 1949-1950" honoring his 1999 induction in the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame that impresses people the most.
Piled on a glass top coffee table in the den at his home are scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings from the local Mobile, St. Paul, Montreal, and New York papers covering games in which he played. There is also a 1950 Dodger program, and the April 25th 1949 program when Pat made his debut with the Dodgers. A bowl holds several yellowed and dirtied baseballs with barely legible faded signatures collected from his many minor league games. Covered in plastic is a signed ball from his first major league victory with the Dodgers. Pat takes one of the yellowed baseballs and with a slight tremor in his right hand, but with sharp clarity demonstrates how a curve ball, fast ball, and a slider are held. For the curve ball, "the faster you spin it, the faster it goes. You bend your wrist and put a little twist in it." A fast ball, "you hold it across the seams with your wrist down and release it." A slider, "don't bend the wrist, throw it like a football."
On the wall are framed black and white pictures one from the Dodger roster of Pat in his number 23 uniform and a one of him in his pitching stance frozen in time. There is also a picture of the Dodger stadium signed by Duke Snider, Howie Schultz and others from the 1949-1950 team. Two bats lean against a display cabinet and on one of the shelves sits his last pair of baseball shoes he wore while at Brooklyn, all memories of his Dodger years and the Golden Age of New York baseball. When asked what teams he follows today, he mentions the Atlanta Braves and even though they're no longer in Brooklyn, he still follows the Los Angeles Dodgers. When asked how today's players are different, he says they're "bigger, better, stronger, and play harder."
Pat is not in the best of health these days. His six feet four inch frame is stooped slightly. He has heart problems, low blood pressure which sometimes makes him weak, and recently broke his hip, but is gets around with a walker. Dorothy, his wife of 68 years, shares their Sequoyah Hills home with him. She is not well either suffering from dementia and spends most days in bed. Pat never achieved the notoriety his famous teammates did, but shared with them in those first years of the Golden Age of New York baseball. Even though he wasn't one of the most famous Dodger players he still receives requests in the mail for his autograph, recently one from Germany. Playing for one of the most famous baseball teams in history is quite a legacy, but for Pat just playing was good enough. "I didn't necessarily think I was part of history. I just played. I was a pretty good sticker."
Abbreviated article courtesy of Rebecca Rochat. A Baseball Almanac exclusive. Please contact Rebecca Rochat for additional information.
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