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Birth:
22 Oct 1918 1
Death:
08 Aug 1999 1
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Full Name:
Harry Walker 1
Birth:
22 Oct 1918 1
Death:
08 Aug 1999 1
Residence:
Last Residence: Leeds, AL 1
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Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-2970 1

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Stories

Harry Walker, 80, Is Dead; A Fidgeter With a Purpose

Harry (the Hat) Walker, who made baseball history twice when he won the National League batting title in 1947, died Sunday at University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham. Walker, who lived in Leeds, Ala., was 80.

The cause was complications from a stroke, his family said.

Walker, a left-handed-hitting outfielder, was the only National League player to win a batting championship after playing for two teams during the season. He played 10 games for the St. Louis Cardinals, with a .200 average, and 130 games with the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting .371, en route to capturing his 1947 batting title with an overall average of .363.

That accomplishment also produced the only brother combination to win batting championships. Dixie Walker, Harry's older brother, won the National League batting title in 1944 when he hit .357 playing the outfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The hugely popular Dixie Walker was the Peepul's Cherce, in the Brooklynese of the day, while Harry was known as the Hat because he was forever fidgeting with his cap at the plate, supposedly wearing out at least a dozen hats a season.

 

''When I step away from the batter's box, fix my hat and my hair, I relax my muscles,'' he said, ''and maybe I get the pitcher and catcher upset.''

Walker's most memorable at-bat came against the Boston Red Sox at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series. With the scored tied, 3-3, with two out in the eighth inning and Enos Slaughter on first base, he hit a drive to left-center field that appeared to be a single. But center fielder Leon Culberson, replacing the injured Dom DiMaggio, made a weak relay throw to shortstop Johnny Pesky, who hesitated before throwing home. Slaughter's ''mad dash'' scored the Series-winning run as Walker, who hit .412 in the Series, wound up with a double.

A man who loved to talk, Walker was forever discoursing on matters ranging from his hitting theories to the hard-nosed play of the Cardinals' old Gas House Gang to his 12 factors for success (attitude, initiative and adaptability among them).

Walker became one of baseball's best-known batting instructors. ''The secret is waiting,'' he said. ''Stroke the ball, inside out. The only kind of guy who should try to pull the ball is a guy who can hit you 40 homers a year.''

Walker hit only 10 in his career.

Harry William Walker was born in Pascagoula, Miss., and grew up in Birmingham, a son of Ewart (Dixie) Walker, who pitched for the Washington Senators, and a nephew of Ernie Walker, an outfielder with the St. Louis Browns.

He made his debut with the Cardinals in 1940, played on their World Series-winning team of 1942 and pennant-winning club in 1943, then spent two years in Army service, winning a Bronze Star fighting in Germany with a reconnaissance unit.

Walker hit .237 in the 1946 season, and when he got off to a slow start in 1947, he was sent to the Phillies, then went on a tear to capture the batting title. Dale Alexander, who led the American League in batting in 1932 with a .367 average, playing for the Tigers and Red Sox, was the only other man to win a batting crown appearing with two teams.

Walker later played for the Cubs, the Reds and the Cardinals again and had a .296 batting average in 11 seasons.

He was named the Cardinals' manager in May 1955, then was dismissed at season's end after a seventh-place finish. Walker also managed the Pittsburgh Pirates (1965-67) and the Houston Astros (1968-72), but never finished higher than third place. He later worked in the Cardinals' organization and spent eight years as baseball coach at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

He is survived by his wife, Dot; three daughters, Carole Miller, Barbara Muir and Mary Peterson, all of Leeds, and four grandchildren.

Though a fine hitter, Walker was overshadowed by his Hall of Fame teammates on the Cardinals, Stan Musial and Slaughter, and perhaps by his brother Dixie. But he never grew tired of celebrating the life of a baseball player.

''You couldn't worry about what Musial was doing,'' he once said. ''You've got to enjoy the game, love putting the uniform on. You have to perform each day, because what you did yesterday is history.''

Harry Walker Military Service

       

 

Date and Place of Birth: October 22, 1916 Pascagoula, Mississippi

Died: August 8, 1999 Birmingham, Alabama
Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Outfield
Rank: Unknown
Military Unit: 65th Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized), 65th Infantry Division

US Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations

 

Harry Walker was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on October 22, 1916 - a member of a distinguished baseball family. He was the son of former Washington Senators’ pitcher Ewart “Dixie” Walker and the brother of Fred “Dixie” Walker, like Harry a left-handed hitting outfielder, and one-time National League batting champion.


Walker earned his nickname from his habit during at-bats of continually adjusting his cap between pitches. He began his career in professional baseball in 1937 and first appeared for the Cardinals in 1940, playing seven games and batting a lowly .185. He was back with St. Louis the following year for another seven games, but played 74 games in 1942 and batted a superb .314. In 1943, Walker was the Cardinals’ regular left fielder appearing in 148 games, producing a .294 batting average and appearing in the World Series.

“The next morning after the Series,” Walker told author Richard Goldstein, “Al Brazle and I were inducted in the Army at Jefferson Barracks [Missouri]. Originally we thought we were going down to Memphis to an air base, but it seems that Pete Reiser’s troop commander at Fort Riley, Kansas, had a big pull at Jefferson Barracks. So we went to Fort Riley."

Walker was a private at the Cavalry Replacement Training Center (CRTC) at Fort Riley. In February 1944, he was taken seriously ill with spinal meningitis. “I almost died with it,” he recalled. But Walker recovered sufficiently to play for the CRTC Centaurs baseball team. Reiser – Centaurs manager - had an impressive line-up that included Brazle, Ken Heintzelman, Lonnie Frey, Murry Dickson, Joe Garagiola and Rex Barney. The Centaurs played in the 1944 Kansas Victory League in Wichita which consisted of four service teams and two factory clubs. “All players here at camp do a full day’s work,” Reiser assured the Ogden Standard-Examiner on July 26, 1944. “We work out from four to six each night unless it’s a game.”

On July 27, 1944, the Centaurs played a War Bond game against the Toledo Mud Hens to raise $500,000 in bond sales for the purchase of a B-29 Superfortress bomber. The Centaurs won the game 11-10 as the Mud Hens committed six errors. In August 1944, the Centaurs competed in the National Semi-Pro championship tournament but were knocked out in the early rounds. The Sherman Field Flyers, based at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, were the eventual winners behind the pitching of Herman Besse.

In September 1944, Walker, along with major leaguers Brazle, Heintzelman, George Archie and George Scharein, were assigned to the 65th Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized), 65th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Together they were sent overseas to Europe with the 65th Infantry Division. “We stayed pretty much together all through, went about five hundred miles in combat,” said Walker.

Walker earned a Bronze Star for "meritorious service in connection with military operations" and a Purple Heart for wounds received on March 22, 1945. At one time Walker's unit was ordered to hold a bridge and stop German troops trying to get across. Manning a machine gun on a Jeep, Walker was faced with an enemy that refused to stop. "So that's when I had to start shooting," he told author Frederick Turner, "and I just cut through the whole mess, and they were scattered everywhere, firing back and forth at you, and you're just out there on point like a sitting duck."

On another occasion he was on patrol when he ran into three German guards. "They came within ten feet of us," he recalled. "The only thing that saved us was they thought we were Germans retreating from fighting. Those three guards walked up to us, and one of them asked me, in German, where the Americans were. I asked them, in English, to surrender. Instead, he threw his rifle up in my face. I had a .45 caliber revolver, one that I'd bought myself ... I shot all three Germans. Five shots, and all five hit them. But it was close. That rifle was only about four feet from me when I started shooting. What saved me was that he was trying to get his safety bolt off. He couldn't get it off before I was able to get him."

Days later the war in Europe was over and Walker's next assignment was to organize baseball games for the troops. He located earthmoving equipment in Czechoslovakia and built a ballfield in Linz, Austria. The 65th Infantry Division baseball team clinched the II Corps championship title before being defeated in the Third Army play-offs. But for Walker, the baseball season was not over. He joined the 71st Infantry Division Red Circlers along with Bob Ramazzotti, Ancil Moore, Johnny Wyrostek, Garland Lawing, Ewell Blackwell, Al Brazle, Russ Kern, Milt Ticco, Herb Bremer, Bill Ayers and Jimmy Gladd. Walker, playing centerfield, helped the team win the American League division of the Third Army baseball league and a five-game Third Army Championship Series followed in August 1945 against the National League division winners - the 76th Infantry Division Onaways. With two shutouts by Blackwell - including a no-hitter in the second game - the Red Circlers advanced to the Army Ground Force Championship Series and easily put aside the 29th Infantry Division in three games to move on to the ETO World Series against the OISE All-Stars from France. 

In front of crowds of 25,000-plus at Soldiers’ Field in Nurnberg, Germany, the Red Circlers (representing the Third Army) won the first game, 10-6, before losing two straight to Sam Nahem's All-Stars. In the fourth game Walker helped even the series with a two-run home run in the first inning to help the Red Circlers to a 5-0 win behind the five-hit pitching of Bill Ayers. The celebrations, however, were short-lived as the OISE All-Stars came back the next day with a 2-1 win to clinch the ETO World Series title.

In October 1945, Walker with teammates Blackwell, Lawing, Heintzelman, Maurice Van Robays and Benny Zientara joined the OISE All-Stars to play the Mediterranean champions in Leghorn, Italy.

After two years of military service, Walker returned to the Cardinals in 1946. He played 112 games and batted just .237, but by 1947 he was back to his pre-war form, if not better, and led the National League with a .363 batting average.

Walker remained in the major leagues as a player until 1951, and managed at the major league level in 1955, when he took over the Cardinals from Eddie Stanky. He managed Pittsburgh from 1965 through mid-1967 and Houston from 1968 through late 1972. After working as a scout and highly successful hitting instructor, Walker returned home to Leeds, Alabama in 1979 and became the first head coach of the University of Alabama at Birmingham baseball program. He held that position until his retirement in 1986. 

Harry Walked passed away in Birmingham on August 8, 1999. He was 82 years old.

Thanks to the late Harry Walker, W P Sims of the 71st Infantry Division Association and Robert Patton of the 65th Infantry Division Association.

 

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