Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Whitey Wietelmann Born
His given name was William Wietelmann; that's equally bad insofar as aliteration goes. He would've been better off going by "Frederick" (his middle name) but once Casey Stengel made him Whitey, he was Whitey for good. Wietelemann played parts of nine seasons in the forties. His only full time role was in 1943 when, not called to serve, he manned shortstop for the Braves full-time. Despite the lowered level of competition, Wietelmann hit just .215 and it was plainly apparent that hitting wasn't for him. To be fair, he at least explored all possibilities at this; in 1939-40 and 1942 Wietelmann played exclusively as a righty. In 1943 and 1945 he went as a lefty and 1941, 1944 and 1946-47 he batted from both sides of the plate. None of this, of course, worked.
Wietelmann's true fame in baseball came after his Major League career. Although he had pitched seven and two-thirds awful innings in the Majors, he became a decent minor league hurler, once winning more than twenty games. After his career ended, Wietelmann became a coach in the minors, evantaully moving up to the Majors as a coach with the Padres, a role he served from for ten years before moving onto a variety of jobs in the Padres organization. Wietelmann was choosen to throw out the first pitch before the Pads' first home playoff game in 1984 and was introduced as Mr. Padre. Wietelmann, of course, was honored by this but also embarrassed, admitting "I didn't like that. If you're not playing in the game, you shouldn't be on the field."
Wietelmann lived the rest of his life in San Diego, dying there in 2002, just before the season was to begin.