It must have been something in the Pine Bluff water …
Ray Hathaway, a pitcher who played in four games for the old Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, is the sixth oldest-living major league baseball veteran at the age of 95, according to several sources. He honed his skills in part 73 years ago as a member of the 1939 Class C Cotton States League’s Pine Bluff Judges, when he was just 22.
And until last year, another former Brooklyn and Pine Bluff player, Tony Molinosky, had been the senior major league veteran. A third baseman and and shortstop who appeared in 35 games with the ‘37 Bums, Molinosky died at 101 on Feb. 8, 2011, in Oxnard, Calif.
Molinosky opened the 1933 campaign with the Waco, Texas, Cubs in the then newly-reorganized Class C Dixie League. The club folded by midseason and then relocated to Pine Bluff, replacing a previous Judges club that failed with the Cotton States League in ‘32. Records from the time are spotty, but Molinosky apparently was here only briefly before winding up the season with the Tulsa Oilers of the Texas League.
Hathaway was a minor league journeyman, putting together a 109-76 mound record with a stout 3.60 earned-runs-average in a playing career covering 1939-41, 1945-50, 1952, 1954-60, 1962, and 1964-65. With the ‘39 Judges, Hathaway performed in 29 games and finished 4-5.
He served as a minor league manager from 1947-65, in 1967, and from 1969-73, and is regarded as perhaps the majors’ best-ever pitching coach. He managed the Arkansas Travelers of the Class AA Texas League in ‘69.
Other former Arkansas minor leaguers numbering among the 90 oldest-living major league vets include:
• BABE MARTIN – Performing in 69 games for the St. Louis Browns and Boston Red Sox from 1944-49 and in 1953 as a first baseman, outfielder and catcher, the 92-year-old Martin was the leading hitter for the 1941 Paragould Browns of the Class D Northeast Arkansas League. Martin had a .352 batting average at Paragould, 40 percentage points above his closest competitor.
• VAL HEIM – A Chicago White Sox outfielder in 13 games during 1942, Heim, now 91, was a regular for the Northeast Arkansas League’s Jonesboro White Sox from 1940-41, batting at a .323 clip in ‘41.
• CHARLIE MEAD – An outfielder in 87 games with the New York Giants from 1943-45, the now 91-year-old Mead appeared in 109 games for the 1940 Hot Springs Bathers of the Cotton States League.
• RUSS SULLIVAN – Now 89, Sullivan was an outfielder in 45 games with the 1951-53 Detroit Tigers. He had a flash of brillance in ‘52 when three of his 17 hits were home runs and he batted .327 in 15 contests. He was with the Little Rock Travelers of the Class AA Southern Association from 1953-54, shining for the latter squad with 17 homers and a .333 batting average in 127 games.
• HARRY ELLIOTT – A pinch hitter and outfielder with the 1953 and ‘55 St. Louis Cardinals, Elliott is now 88. He played sparingly for Little Rock, still in the Southern Association at the time, in 1958.
• ED MIERKOWICZ – Now 88, Mierkowicz was a pitcher and outfielder in 35 games for the 1945 and 1947-48 Detroit Tigers and 1950 St. Louis Cardinals. In his rookie season, he played in one game of the World Series, which Detroit won over the Chicago Cubs. He saw action in 57 games with the Little Rock of the Southern Association in 1948.
Hub Andrews, a pitcher who was 10-5 in 26 games with the Fort Smith Giants of the Class C Western Association in 1942 and posted no decisions or saves in eight mound appearances with the New York Giants from 1947-48, died at 89 on March 11. He was the 65th oldest-living major league veteran at the time of his death.