A BASEBALL STORY OF TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY
While growing up in Hackensack, when our parents were watching a baseball game and someone would mention the pitcher whatever praise they may have for the guy throwing it always ended with “He isn't as good as
Stanley Pitula, nobody is.” So many people who I have met over the years who grew up and played against him in the late 1940's all say he was the best pitcher they have ever seen. Paul Giblin an all County catcher 1950 and a prominent attorney today who caught him occasionally in all star games and different leagues said, “Stan's control was perfect. Where ever I put the glove he would hit it. He threw hard and had a great breaking ball. He was a great guy and fun to be around.” Ted Sellarole who was his catcher and classmate in High School stated “Stan was a great guy fun to be around. I was All County as catcher because all I had to do was put my glove up and Stan would hit it every time, his control was tremendous. He was the greatest pitcher I ever saw.”
After high school Stanley Pitula signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians in 1950. He played in the Minor leagues until having to enter the service during the Korean War in 1952-1953. He was stationed in Austria and played ball. This interrupted his career but by no means ruined it. He pitched a lot in the service which was common then and probably did not have to serve in combat because he could play ball and all the posts wanted to keep there good ball players. Stan's biggest problem was the team he signed with was the Cleveland Indians. Teams in the 1950's had four main starters and the Cleveland Indians had, you could argue, the greatest pitching staff of all time. Three of the four starters, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Early Wynn were all Hall of Fame Pitchers and the last was
Mike Garcia who had Hall of Fame seasons during the 1950's. The Indians came in second to the Yankees in 1951, 1952, and 1953. In 1954 the team won 111 games while losing only 43. In, 1955 and 1956 they took second again. By the time these pitchers started to age, Pitula's arm was beggining to be worn out because he had thrown so many innings. The Indians had a great rookie named Herb Score in 1955 and by his second season 1956 he had won 20 games. On May 7, 1957 in a game against the Yankees Herb Score was hit by a line drive off the bat of
Gil McDougald. One of the guys they called up to replace him was Stan Pitula.
He threw his arm out officially on July 24, 1957 while pitching to Roy Sievers of the Washington Senators. The
Yogi Berra story told of him pitching to Berra when he threw his arm out may be true, or it may just be bar room talk, no one knows for sure. What is certain, is that Stan never got the shot he deserved. Baseball had a reserve clause back then which meant once you signed with a team you could not leave that team unless they released you. You were at their mercy. Cleveland would never have let a talent like Pitula go because he could have played for another club like the Yankees and hurt there chances of winning. Part of the signing of players back then was "I will keep this player just so he doesnt join another club and help them". It was unfortunate that Stan Pitula signed on to the Cleveland Indians because it was the worst possible team to be on as an up-and-comming pitcher in the1950's.
How he dealt with this disappointing struggle is another story and a very, very sad one for those who knew and loved him. I don't know anyone who knew him who ever had a bad word to say about him.
Let us learn from Stan Pitula's story not to let the dark clouds of despair overshadow the shining hope for a better tomorrow.
July 27, 2008