Nov 18, 2008

Passing of Brooklyn Dodgers - Preacher Roe (1916-2008)

Elwin Charles "Preacher" Roe was born in 1916 & grew up in the Ozark Mountains in a small town of 200 people, near the Missouri border. As a boy he was taken on horse & buggy rides by a local minister & when an uncle asked what his name was he responded "Preacher", the moniker stuck.

Roe was a smart man who taught math but liked to be labeled a dumb country boy & played up to the image. He was a wild fast ball pitcher who would walk more batters than he would strikeout. He was signed out of high school by Branch Rickey for the Cardinals, where he'd pitch one game then toil in the minors for six years.

Roe learned to control his wildness by become one of the craftiest pitchers in the league, mixing up his pitches and throwing a spitball. He was one of the slowest working pitchers, stepping off the mound to ruin the batters timing.

He was called up to the Pirates in 1944 going 13-11. The next year he made the All Star team & led the NL in strikeouts. In the off season he was a basketball coach & teacher. In a an off season fight he suffered a concussion which almost ended his career. He was luckily traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and was revived, especially after he mastered the spitball. After retirement he confessed using a spitball and tried to have it legalised again. He had remarkable control & disproved the theory the spitball was hard to control.

From 1948 through 1953 he would post a winning % of over .600 every year & make the All Star team each year as well. In 1950 he won 19 games, with a 3.30 ERA, he topped that in 1951 going 21-5 with a 3.03 ERA coming in 5th in the MVP voting & winning the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award. The next two years he would get less starts but go 11-2 & 11-3 respectively.

Post Season: Roe pitched in three Brooklyn World Series going 2-1 with 14 Ks & a 2.54 ERA:

In 1949, he pitched a six-hit shutout victory in Game 2 against the Yankees
In 1952, he won Game 3 with a complete game, then pitched scoreless relief in Game 6.
In 1953 he lost Game 2 in a 4-2 complete game loss to Ed Lopat.

Retirement: He finished his career in 1954, at the age of 39. Overall in his career, he went 127-84 with 956 strikeouts, & a 3.43 ERA in 333 games pitched.
After baseball he operated a successful grocery store for years in Missouri. When he confessed using the Spitball in a Dick Young book he was sort of condemned by his peers. As a result he stayed away from the game.

Highway 160 in West Plains Missouri is named Preacher Roe Blvd. & a ball field is also named after him in Salem, Arkansas. Roe had many great stories in Carl Erskine's book, Tales From The Dodger Dugout & Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer. He passed away last week at the age of 92.

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