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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Eddie Stanky - "Don't Come Home, Son"

"Dear Son:

Received your letter and am sorry to hear that you are so homesick.

You will notice that I did not forward any money for your passage to Philadelphia. The reason was not that I didn't have it to send to you, but that you were trying to tell me in your letter that you wanted to come home right away.

Edward, I have tears in my eyes while I'm telling you this, but if you do come home, please do not come to 915 East Russell Street. We do not want quitters in this family.

Your Mother"

That's Stanky next to Robinson, with Pee Wee Reese on the other side
and John (Spider) Jorgensen.
That's the 1947 starting infield during Robinson's rookie year. 
This is a real letter sent to Stanky as the 20 year old began his baseball career with the Philadelphia Athletics (yep, the A's started there, moved to Kansas City and finally finished the migration west in Oakland). Apparently the tough love approach worked, as Stanky did not come home.

In fact, Stanky was the opening day second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by starting at first. Stanky had told Robinson that he didn't like him but they'd get along and play together because he was his teammate.

And it was Stanky who jumped to Robinson's defense on that dark day in Philadelphia when manager Ben Chapman led his team in the most brutal taunting that Robinson endured that rookie season. Robinson later wrote that it was the closest he came to quitting. Stanky had jumped up and started screaming at the Phillies to pick on somebody who could fight back.

The scene (somewhat embellished) was included in '42'.

Stanky was far from the most athletically gifted player. Leo Durocher once said of him, "He can't hit, can't run, can't field. He's no nice guy ... all the little SOB can do is win." But he was a three time all star who lasted 11 years in the bigs and made it to three World Series': all with different teams.

Stanky had major league managerial stints in the fifties, sixties and seventies (for one game). He had a lasting impact as the head baseball coach at the University of South Alabama. Formerly a doormat program, he created a national powerhouse. Forty-three of his players made it to the major leagues and Stanky (nicknamed 'The Brat' as a player) changed his hard nosed philosophy to one of teaching the game and getting every player in-game experience. The ballpark at South Alabama is named Eddie Stanky Field.

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