New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Baseball

Bill White

Bill White (Baseball.  Born, Lakewood, Fla., Jan. 28, 1934.)  A versatile man with a strong personality, William DeKova White had three distinct careers in baseball.  While in the New York Giants farm system, White attended Hiram (O.) College, but he became a big league player, not a doctor.  In 1956, he played 138 games as a rookie, winning the regular first-base job with the Giants (hitting .256 with 22 homers).  By the time White returned from military service, the Giants had moved to San Francisco.  He played there only briefly in 1958 (26 games) before being traded to St. Louis, where he became a star, playing on the 1964 World Series champion Cardinals.  In 1966, White was traded to Philadelphia, where his broadcasting work (already begun in St. Louis) began to blossom.  In a 13-year career, White hit .286 in 1,673 games.  His second career came where, by 1970, he was sports director of Channel 6 in Philadelphia.  In 1971, White began an 18-year career as part of the Yankees broadcasting team (1971-88).  On Feb. 3, 1989, he was elected 13th president of the National League, succeeding Bart Giamatti and becoming the first black man to head a major U.S. pro sports league.  He retired Feb. 28, 1994.

Zack Wheat

Zack Wheat (Baseball.  Born, Hamilton, MO, May 23, 1886; died, Sedalia, MO, Mar. 11, 1972.)  For 18 seasons, Zachary Davis (Buck) Wheat was the pride of Brooklyn.  Wheat was a lifetime .317 hitter, a steady leftfielder, and the cleanup hitter for Dodgers teams that contended often and twice won N.L. pennants (1916 and 1920).  He was the N.L. batting champion in 1918, hitting .335.  Wheat’s average rose as the ball got livelier in the 1920s (.375 in both 1923 and 1924 and .359 in 1925).  The righthand hitter’s home run production also grew, although never to major proportions.  His career best was 16 (in 1922).  At Washington Park and in the early years at Ebbets Field, which opened in 1913, leftfield was a sizeable area and Wheat covered the ground well.  Although Casey Stengel was doubtless his most intriguing outfield partner (1912-17), Wheat also played with his younger brother, Mack, who was a part-time player with Brooklyn (1915-19).  Zack Wheat finished his career with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1927.

Lee Weyer

Lee Weyer (Baseball.  Born, Imlay City, MI, Sept. 3, 1936; died, San Francisco, CA, July 4, 1988.)  An above-average umpire despite his unusual stature (6’6”), Lee Howard Weyer worked in the N.L. from April 1963 to July 4, 1988.  On that day, Weyer suffered a fatal heart attack while playing a pickup basketball game at the home of fellow umpire Ed Montague.  He had worked first base during the Giants game earlier that day.  After a couple of false starts, Weyer became a full-time umpire in 1963.  He had first worked in the league in 1961 but then did a hitch in the military, worked part of 1962 in the N.L. and the balance in the I.L.  Weyer missed a good part of the 1980 season after contracting a neurological disorder as the result of bronchitis in spring training.  In his 25 years, he was assigned to four World Series and was at first base in the fifth game of the 1969 Series, when Lou DiMuro at home plate awarded Cleon Jones first base in the famed “shoe polish” incident.  Weyer also umpired the 1976 Series in the renovated Yankee Stadium.  His other Series assignments were 1982 and 1987.  Weyer worked four All-Star Games, the 1981 Division playoffs, and five N.L. championship series.

Harry Wendelstedt, Sr.

Harry Wendelstedt, Sr. (Baseball.  Born, Baltimore, MD, July 27, 1938.)  At the time of his retirement, Harry Hunter Wendelstedt, Jr., had served the second-longest tenure as an umpire in major league history.  Wendelstedt came to the N.L. in April 1966 and umpired 33 seasons, through 1998.  Although identified as “Wendelstedt, Sr.” for umpiring purposes, it is he, and not his son (who is actually Harry Hunter Wendelstedt, III and referred to as Wendelstedt, Jr.) who is the junior.  His father was not an umpire.  The two made major league history in 1998 when they became the first father-son combination to work a game together.  (The son became a regular member of the N.L. staff in 1999.)  Wendelstedt umpired five World Series (1973, 1980, 1986, 1991, 1995), four All-Star Games, three division series and six N.L. championship series.

David Wells

David Wells (Baseball.  Born, Torrance, CA, May 20, 1963.)  A talented but undisciplined lefthander, David Lee Wells spent four seasons with the Yankees and helped pitch them into two World Series.  Extremely popular with fans, Wells threw the Yankees’ first regular-season perfect game ever and compiled a 68-28 record in those four seasons (1997-98, 2002-03) for a .708 winning percentage, highest ever for a Yankees lefty.  He threw his perfect game May 17, 1998, against Minnesota at Yankee Stadium, winning 4-0.  Wells pitched most of five years in the Toronto minor league system after being selected in the June 1982 draft.  He then went to Detroit as a free agent in 1993 after six seasons with Toronto (1987-92) and was with Cincinnati and Baltimore before signing Dec. 19, 1996, with the Yankees.  He was 16-10 and 18-4 in his first two seasons with the Yankees, beating Cleveland in the third game of the 1997 A.L.D.S. and being named the M.V.P. of the 1998 A.L.C.S. as he won both his starts.  On Mar. 3, 1999, Wells was traded to Toronto with infielder Homer Bush and reliever Graeme Lloyd for Roger Clemens.  He returned to the Yankees Jan. 10, 2002, again signing as a free agent.  Wells was 19-7 in 2002 and 15-7 the next season, but left the fifth game of the 2003 World Series after one inning with the recurrence of a chronic back problem.  He underwent surgery on his back in November 2003, the same month the Yankees declined to exercise a $6 million option for 2004.  He finished his 21-year career in 2007 with a 239-157 record.

Mickey Welch

Mickey Welch (Baseball.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, July 4, 1859; died, Nashua, NH, July 30, 1941.)  A known quantity when he was acquired along with the rest of franchise from Troy, N.Y., after the 1882 season, Michael Francis Welch became the first great pitcher of the New York Giants.  From 1884-86, Welch won 116 of 170 decisions with a club-record 44-11 in 1885.  He helped pitch the Giants to pennants and in 1888 (26-19) and 1889 (27-12), but these were his last top seasons.  Welch stayed with the Giants through 1892 but was only 24-22 over his last three seasons.  Even though pitchers worked from 45 feet during his career, Welch’s numbers are still substantial.  In 1884, the 5’8” righthander struck out 345 in 557-plus innings over 65 starts (he threw 62 complete games).  Welch’s first major-league season was in 1880 at Troy, when he was 34-30 in 65 starts (574 innings).  He also pitched 500 innings for the Giants in 1886.  For his 13-year career (1880-92), Welch was 311-207 in 564 games.  For the Giants, he was 1-2 in three World Series starts, but the Giants won both Series (in 1888 against St. Louis and 1889 against Brooklyn) against American Association teams.

George Weiss

George Weiss (Baseball.  Born, New Haven, CT, June 23, 1895; died, Greenwich, CT, Aug. 13, 1972.)  If any baseball executive in New York history matched the acumen of Ed Barrow or Branch Rickey, George Martin Weiss was that man.  Weiss was the Yankees general manager from 1948-60, during which time the team exerted the greatest dominance for the longest period of time in the history of the sport, winning 10 pennants in 12 years.  From 1949 through 1953, the Yankees won five straight World Series, a feat unmatched in baseball.  Weiss was fired by owners Dan Topping and Del Webb after the seven-game loss of the 1960 Series to Pittsburgh.  He was then hired as president of the expansion Mets and retired in 1971 after overseeing their rise to World Series champions in 1969.  He died eight months after retiring.  Weiss began by promoting exhibitions in New Haven and, in 1920, took over the local Eastern League team.  In 1929, he moved to Baltimore, then in the International League, and was hired by Barrow on the last day of 1932 to organize a Yankees farm system to emulate Rickey’s with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Weiss narrowly escaped death in a 1923 train wreck that killed New Haven manager “Wild Bill” Donovan.

Phil Weintraub

Phil Weintraub (Baseball.  Born, Chicago, IL Oct. 12, 1907; died, Palm Springs, CA, June 21, 1987.)  A thickly-built lefthanded hitter, Philip Weintraub was a noted minor league hitter in the 1930s and played 103 games for the Giants in parts of three seasons (1933-35), primarily as an outfielder.  Weintraub hit just .278 in that span with only two home runs, not enough to cover his defensive deficiencies.  He was sent back to the minors, resurfacing briefly with the Giants, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia in 1937 and 1938 before going back to the minors.  World War II, however, returned him to the Polo Grounds.  The manpower shortage created by the war made the big league clubs significantly less choosy.  The Giants brought Weintraub, now a first baseman, back after a superb 1943 season at Toledo.  He finished second in the American Association in batting (.334) and third in r.b.i. (96).  Under wartime conditions, Weintraub was a positive addition, finishing eighth in the 1944 N.L. batting race (.316) and driving in 77 runs in 104 games.  But his big splash was on Apr. 30, 1944, when he drove in 11 runs in a 26-8 rout of Brooklyn in the opener of a Polo Grounds doubleheader.  Weintraub, who was found physically ineligible by his Chicago draft board Mar. 25, had a home run, triple, and two doubles in the game, missing Jim Bottomley’s 1924 N.L. record by one r.b.i.  He hit .272 in 82 games for the Giants in 1945 and finished his seven-year big league career with a .285 average in 444 games.

Del Webb

Del Webb (Baseball.  Born, Fresno, CA, May 17, 1899; died, Rochester, MN, July 4, 1974.)  A major construction magnate and a former minor league pitcher, Del E. Webb was an ownership partner of the Yankees for two decades.  Along with Dan Topping (q.v.) and Larry MacPhail (q.v.), Webb bought the Yankees Jan. 26, 1945, for about $2.8 million from the estate of Jacob Ruppert (q.v.), who had died in 1939.  He was initially a “mystery man” in the deal who was unmasked by Max Kase (q.v.) of the Journal American.  Webb began his working life as a carpenter in Oakland, while pursuing a career as a pitcher.  By 1926, his pitching aspirations were finished and in 1929 Webb began a construction company in Phoenix.  That venture survived the Depression and thrived during World War II, growing into the Del E. Webb Corp., a giant construction and ownership combine in Arizona, Nevada, California, Hawaii, and Florida.  During his ownership, the Yankees won 15 A.L. pennants and 10 World Series.  Topping and Webb bought our MacPhail after the 1947 season.  In August 1964, the pair sold 80% of the team to CBS.  The next year, Webb sold his remaining 10% interest to CBS as the Yankees dynasty was collapsing.  His company continued to build and operate hotels, office complexes, casinos, and housing developments, as well as a large construction business.  His baseball career made him a popular figure with Yankees front office personnel.

Mo Vaughn

Mo Vaughn (Baseball.  Born, Norwalk, CT, Dec. 15, 1967.)  Following a stellar career at Trinity-Pawling (N.Y.) high school, Maurice Samuel Vaughn was rated as a sure-fire college baseball star.  The lefthanded power hitter more than lived up to his advance billing, hitting a school-record 28 home runs in his freshman season at Seton Hall.  In three varsity seasons (1987-89), Vaughn batted .417 with 56 homers and drove in 218 runs for the Pirates.  He was then the first-round choice by Boston (23rd overall selection) in the 1989 draft and was signed by Matt Sczesny.  By 1991, Vaughn was playing in Boston and in 1993 hit .297 with 29 homers and 101 runs batted in.  In 1995 he led the American League in r.b.i. with 126.  In 1996, he hit .326 with 44 homers and 143 r.b.i., and earned A.L. M.V.P. honors.  Two years later, Vaughn hit 40 homers and batted .337.  Vaughn signed as a free agent with Anaheim in Nov. 1998 but injuries (to his ankle in 1999 and bicep tendon surgery in 2001) cost him significant playing time.  After missing the entire 2001 season, Vaughn was traded to the Mets Dec. 27, 2001, for righthander Kevin Appier.  His first Mets season started with a homer in the second game he played (April 3), but, having missed all the previous year, Vaughn needed time to find his stroke.  He finished with 26 homers (and hit only .259) in 2002, but 21 of his homers came in the final 85 games.  By the time he started hitting, the Mets were already in fourth place and sinking.  Burdened with an arthritic left knee, Vaughn played his last major league game, for the Mets, in May 2003.  He finished his career with 328 career homers and an OPS of .906.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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