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MLBirthday: Preacher Roe

Posted on February 26, 2010 by Don Spieles

Elwin Charles “Preacher” Roe was born on this day in 1916 in the town of Ash Flat, Arkansas.  Around the age of three, a relative asked him his name.  Roe, who had been spending a lot of time with the family’s pastor who took the local kids for horse-and-buggy rides, answered with the name “Preacher”.  It stuck and lent an air of the eccentric to one of the premier pitchers of the 1940′s and 50′s.

Why anyone would think it was a good idea to get a photo of me with a bat is beyond me.

"Why anyone would think it was a good idea to get a photo of me with a bat is beyond me."

Roe was a minor leaguer in the Cardinals organization before ending up with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1943.  His talent developed quickly and Roe found himself as the opening day hurler in 1944 and lead the National League in strikeouts in 1945.  After a few more seasons in the steel city, Roe was picked up in a trade by the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Branch Rickey had remembered Roe from his days with the Cardinals organization ad decided to get him for the Dodgers.

Roe excelled while in Brooklyn, becoming one of their most solid starters.  In 1951, though the Dodgers lost the pennant to the Giants with “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” Roe had a carreer season, posting a 22-3 record in 33 starts.

Roe was known for his excellent control that he utilized to make up for not having an amazingly powerful arm.

“My three pitches are my change, my change off my change, and my change off my change off my change,” Roe was quoted as saying.  Which wasn’t exactly true as Roe reportedly made use of the “spitter” on occasion, as well.

He played in three World Series with the Dodgers (’49, ’52, 53) while posting a 2-1 record in starts and logging a 2.54 ERA.

After retiring from the game after the 1954 season and bought a small store in Missouri.  He stayed active in youth baseball and his community throughout his life.

Pee-Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Preacher Roe

Pee-Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Preacher Roe

In 2005 Roe became an author (or co-author) when he published “When Baseball Was Still a Game: Truths, Legends, Tales and Photos from Preacher Roe”, a memoir of sorts, full of photos and stories about the game he loved.

One such photo showed Roe on the dugout steps, bat in hand.  A notoriously bad hitter (.110 lifetime average) even for a pitcher, the shot was an obvious pose, of which Roe later commented “Why anyone would think it was a good idea to get a photo of me with a bat is beyond me.”

Preacher Roe passed away in November of 2008 and the age of 92.

Check out the official Preacher Roe website.


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