ALFRED "FRED" CERBO, Sr.
During 1943 World War II was raging and most of the regular ballplayers were off at war. The ones that remained were soon to be called into service or older players who were beyond draft age. Joe Medwick and Ernie Lombardi fell into the too old to be drafted category, but they were great players. Pitching to them would be like pitching to Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada today. What a thrill it must have been for Fred Cerbo. An interesting note is that Joe Medwick grew up in Carteret, New Jersey.
In 1943 Fred Cerbo pitched batting practice to the N.Y. Giants when they were home at the Polo Grounds in N.Y. City . The player manager was the great Mel Ott. The talent was thin during the war years and Mel Ott playing only part time was second in the league in homers at age 34 with 18. He would tell Fred to sit at the end of the dugout and be quite and he could stay. What is hard for us to understand today is unless you were at the game you did not see the game! No T.V.!! To actually see a major league baseball game in person back then was huge. Pitching to Mel Ott was like pitching to Hank Aaron or Bonds today. Mel Ott's baseball records follow.
Fred pitched against Larry Doby when he was in Hackensack High School from 1941-1943. Doby hit a homer off him. He grew up in Paterson New Jersey and went to Eastside High School. He waited far to long to be recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame, but a good quote by Hall of fame player Bob Feller his teammate in Cleveland sheds some light on the subject, “He was a great American, he served the country in World War II, and was a great ball player. He was kind of like Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, because he was the second African-American in the majors.”