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Jimmie Reese's minor league days

Reader Mike Dudnikov, commenting on a post about the late baseball player and manager Bobby Bragan, asked if we could track down a story about the late Angels coach Jimmie Reese, who like Bragan spent some years in the old Pacific Coast League. Here is Dudnikov's comment:

Your mention of the Hollywood Stars reminds me of another Southland baseball fixture and my second favorite baseball story. This story comes right from the sports pages of this very newspaper and is from a lengthy interview with Jimmie Reese, then a longtime coach with the then-California team. The interview was from several years before his death at age 92, while he was still coach, thus making him the oldest man ever to wear a major league uniform.

Some time in the 1920s Reese took part in a charity exhibition game at, I believe, Gilmore Field. The game featured on one side players from the old Pacific Coast League, and on the other side Hollywood celebrities and retired major leaguers. One of the players on the PCL team was Reese, and the battery on the other side consisted of Hall of Fame songwriter Harry Ruby on the mound and Ike Danning, a retired MLB catcher, playing that position.

Well, Ruby was having trouble seeing the catcher's signals, so as he and Danning were both Jewish, they decided to just call for the pitches in Yiddish, feeling that to be a safe strategy. Well, Reese had a terrific game that afternoon gong five for five with several extra base hits. After the game Ruby went up to Reese to congratulate him and tell Reese, that as a devoted baseball fan, he was a little ashamed at not being aware that Reese was such an outstanding player. Jimmie replied that he wasn't really that good, it was just that he knew every pitch that was coming that day. He then went on, "You see most people know me as Jimmy Reese, but actually I was born Hymie Solomon."

I just wish I could find out exactly when the Times printed that interview.

We found a 1981 story by Ross Newhan on Reese when he was named a coach with the American League All-Star team. Reese recounts quite a bit about his career, including the celebrity game. You can find Newhan's story in PDF format here.

-- Keith Thursby

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Keith, thanks so much for that information. When I put that line in about the interview, I was hoping that someone would come to my aid, and like P. G. Wodehouse, I was not disapppointed. Wodehouse, the famed British humorist of many years ago, moved to the U. S. later in life. Living until the age of 94, he grew frail and housebound as he aged, and used to throw the letters he had written out of the window of his apartment with a note asking for help in posting them, and hoping some kind stranger would happen by and assist him in that endeavor.

Once again thanks for your help and for the fine job you and your colleagues do in writing the Obituaries and the Afterward. A well written obit is informative, will often unearth some special facts or impact and can be a real history lesson. Many years ago my father told me that the New York City Public Library system was often referred to as the poor man's university. Thanks for keeping on in that tradition and providing a resource many would be wise to avail themselves of.

When I read the original article by Ross Newhan in the link so generously provided, I found out that I had made a small error in my recitation of Jimmie Reese's big day. He had gone 4 for 4, not 5 for 5 at bat that afternoon. But I see that I am in good company as Mr. Newhan erred therein as well. In the article Ross talks of a picture in Jimmie Reese's house of the great composer Harry Ruby. Ruby, a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, had his life story told in the hit movie Three Little Words, which starred Fred Astaire and Red Skelton.

Newhan segues from mention of that picture to his description of the game in question and notes that Harry Ruby served as pitcher on the opposing team. He then continues with the following sentence. "Ike Danning, Ruby's brother, was the catcher." Well Ike did serve as catcher that day, he had a brother, and his brother's name was Harry, but it was not Mr. Ruby. Ike, a former major league catcher, was the brother of one Harry (the Horse) Danning, who like Ike played the same position in the majors, though had a longer and more impressive career.


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