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02/01/2010

Jimmie Reese's minor league days

February 1, 2010 | 12:31 pm

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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