Reusse: Underappreciated Battey holds spot in history

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 29, 2014 - 8:33 PM

Earl Battey stood out as a fellow slow enough to kill a rally quickly. It took years to understand his importance.

hide

Twins catcher Earl Battey met President John F. Kennedy after catching the ceremonial first pitch at the first 1962 All-Star Game — there were two in a season from 1959 to ’62 — in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Courtesy of the Minnesota Twins,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Baseball still held the soul of America’s sports consumers entering the 1960s. You weren’t a major league town unless you had a Major League Baseball team, and ours arrived on the Bloomington prairie in April 1961.

Minnesotans were possessed with this team, with these Twins. We chose our favorite players and also culled out our least favorites.

Harmon Killebrew was the first hero of the masses, but you would hear a surprising number of newbie fans say their favorite player was center fielder Lenny Green or pitcher Shorty Pleis.

My guys were the kid at shortstop, Zoilo Versalles, and the ace starter, Camilo Pascual. The Twins were billing Versalles as “Zorro,” and the popular sobriquet for Camilo was “the Castilian Curveballer.”

Jim Lemon, a slugger who didn’t live up to his advance billing, was the first Twin to hear the wrath of Met Stadium crowds.

I also had friends who were quick to tire of Bob Allison’s streakiness. He became their personal whipping boy, and they repeated the fable that Allison was related to owner Calvin Griffith; “He’s a nephew or something,” they would say.

As a 15-year-old fan, I devoted my bashing to Earl Battey, the slow-footed catcher. He hit into way too many rally-killing double plays for my taste. Heck, he got thrown out at first base when he hit a one-hopper to right field (Lou Clinton was the culprit, I believe).

Poor Earl.

When big-league baseball was new here, there was little appreciation for the beating a catcher would take. They wore a fragile mask and a flimsy chest protector, and guys like Earl started as many as 143 games, and we — OK, me — could only complain about him trudging down the line and being out by 20 feet on the back end of a double play.

Later in life, I had a chance to talk with Earl several times. More important, I had a chance to talk to his teammates from his seven seasons (1961-67) with the Twins.

This is no lie: After doing so, I actually had a sheepish feeling for those times I was in the Met Stadium crowd and uttered boos toward Earl, or cussed at the radio as Ray Scott or Herb Carneal described Earl rolling into a double play.

Earl Battey should have been my hero, not a goat.

Earl Battey was everything a manager — whether it was Sam Mele back then, or Ron Gardenhire today — could want in a catcher. He could throw, he could receive, he could lead a pitcher, and he would play.

He had gnarled fingers from foul tips, and terrible knees, and throbbing shoulders, and he caught six days a week, caught day games after doubleheaders, because noble men did that in the era that big-league baseball came to Minnesota.

There were no DH days to offer a breather. If a manager wanted Battey in his lineup 130 or 140 times a year, and Mele did, he wrote him in the lineup at catcher.

In 2005, the Twins threw a 50th reunion at the Metrodome for the 1965 World Series team. It was a great occasion, except for the absences of old friends:

Versalles, Allison, Cesar Tovar, Johnny Klippstein and Jerry Zimmerman (Battey’s backup) were deceased.

So was Earl. He died on Nov. 15, 2003, after what was described as a “long bout with cancer.” Just from hearing his teammates, I’m betting that Battey fought that bout stoutly.

  • related content

  • Chart: About Earl Battey

    Saturday March 29, 2014

    ABOUT EARL BATTEYRole in Twins history: First regular catcher when the franchise moved from Washington, D.C., to Minnesota before the...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota0000101002100
Baltimore «00010110X381
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:A.Miller(5-5) L:J.Burton(2-3) S:Z.Britton (30)
HR: MIN- None BAL- J.Paredes (1)

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 FINAL
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 FINAL
Hawaii 16
Utah State 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close