Pee Wee Reese was the leader of the 1940s and 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers. He was an outstanding shortstop who, despite his short stature, stood so tall among his teammates that he was able to silence a team revolt against Jackie Robinson in 1947.
Pee Wee Reese was the only Dodger
player who played from the MacPhail
era to L.A.
Harold Henry Reese (1918-1999) was born in Louisville. He was a city marbles champion at the age of 12, and was tagged with the Pee Wee nickname. He was a very good player on the same church-league team that sent Billy Herman to professional ball. Pee Wee was signed by the Louisville club of the American Association in 1938, and spent two solid seasons there. The Red Sox owned the rights to Reese, and when they were not ready to purchase him, Branch Rickey of the Dodgers spent $75,000 to obtain him.
Dodgers manager Leo Durocher said, “Pee Wee was 20 years old when I first saw him in spring training and he looked 12. I took one look at him and I said to myself, ‘Leo, you can rest your aching tootsies.’” While Pee Wee wasn’t a great player immediately, he became important to the Dodgers as a hitter, a fielder, and a leader. In 1941, Pee Wee took the first misstep in the legendary Dodgers-Yankees rivalry when he was caught stealing in the World Series, killing a Dodgers rally. It was the first of five Series losses to the hated Yanks.
Reese spent three years in the Navy during World War II but returned to the Dodgers to become the old man of the Boys of Summer -- the “Little Colonel” of the team that won six pennants in Reese’s 12 postwar seasons. Though his batting stats don’t indicate a big hitter, he was a three-time league leader, once in runs, once in walks, and once in stolen bases. He was a complete player who, despite limited power, helped make the offense go and was an anchor on defense. His play won him top ten mention in MVP voting eight times.
Reese’s teammates were lavish in their praise. Though at first he was among the many to request a trade upon the signing of Jackie Robinson, Reese quickly changed his mind. When the rebellion continued, Pee Wee befriended Jackie, and the other Dodgers players fell in line. Robinson and the other pioneer black Dodgers continually name Pee Wee as one of the men who helped them on their difficult road. Reese was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
Here are Pee Wee Reese's major league totals:
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