Thanks to our son, Stephen, and his wife, Anna, my wife, Anita, and I have a new grandson. Everett is, of course, the cutest, most adorable baby in the world, but he’s already generated a major debate in the family. Now 3 months old, Everett still doesn’t have much hair, and therein lies the problem.
Anna is beautiful, intelligent, caring, and she’s a redhead. Right now, it’s hard to tell if Everett has Stephen’s brown hair or Anna’s red hair. The first male redheads that come to my mind are comedians, like Red Skelton, Red Buttons and Carrot Top, so I decided to search through baseball history for redheads who led their teams to championships and eventually made it into the Hall of Fame. After all, his grandfather has already decided that Everett is the chosen one to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates out of the wilderness and into the World Series.
It’s an easy search because there are three players in the Hall of Fame whose nicknames are a dead giveaway that there was red hair under their baseball caps. All three played on a World Series championship team and one of them managed World Series championship team. One played for a championship team in St. Louis, while another played for a championship team in Chicago. The third, ironically, pitched and won games in the World Series against St. Louis and Chicago.
Urban “Red” Faber, a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964. A spitballer at a time when the pitch was legal, Faber was a four-time 20-game winner, and won three games in the White Sox victory over the New York Giants in the 1917 World Series. He was a member of the infamous Black Sox team that fixed the 1919 World Series, but he had the good fortune of not pitching in the World Series because of an injury.
Charles “Red” Ruffing, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967. He started his career with the Boston Red Sox, but didn’t reach stardom until he was traded to the Yankees and joined another former Red Sox, Babe Ruth. Ruffing won his first World Series game in 1932 against the Chicago Cubs and defeated the Cubs twice in the 1938 World Series. He defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the opening game of the 1942 World Series, but he lost the seventh and deciding game to the Cardinals.
Second baseman Albert “Red” Schoendienst, arguably the best known redhead in baseball history, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989. Now 90 years old, he played on the St. Louis Cardinals 1946 World Series championship team and managed the Cardinals to a World Series victory in 1967. While he spent most of his playing career with the Cards, he was traded to the Milwaukee Braves late in his career and played on the Braves team that won the World Series in 1957. He held the Cardinals record for most games managed, until his record was broken by Tony La Russa.
The three Hall of Fame redheads received numerous honors and awards during their careers, but the most unusual belongs to Red Faber. White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was so pleased with Faber’s pitching that he named a moose from his Wisconsin hunting preserve after Faber. When the moose escaped and attacked a nearby farmer, the local newspaper’s headline the next day shockingly declared. “Red Faber Killed in Self-Defense.”
Baseball playing redheads also had their literary moment in Zane Grey’s “The Redheaded Outfield.” While Grey is best known for his Western novels, he also played minor league baseball. In his baseball story, one of the redheads has to play the outfield by himself after his red-headed counterparts are injured during the game. He makes a game saving catch in the ninth inning and then delivers a game-winning grand slam.
When I told my wife about baseball’s famous redheads, she was impressed, but said she had higher aspirations for our new grandson than playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. When I asked her what could possibly be higher than playing for the Pirates, she reminded me that Thomas Jefferson was a redhead.
RICHARD ‘PETE’ PETERSON is the commentator for the Reading Baseball series of WSIU-FM. His most recent publication is Pops: The Wille Stargell Story