The 1948 Zanesville Dodgers celebrate their Ohio-Indiana League championship with batboy George Eistetter.
EISTETTER FAMILY PHOTO Enlarge
George Eistetter, a 76-year-old Toledoan, remembers 1948 very well. Not only did his beloved Cleveland Indians win the World Series that year -- something they have not accomplished since -- he made big money in professional baseball.
Yes, 18 bucks is big money when you're 12 years old. His team, the Zanesville Dodgers, couldn't have won a championship without him. He was the Dodgers' batboy, an awesome responsibility for a sixth grader.
The Class D Dodgers were one of 26 farm teams of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. There was no Class E. Class D was the lowest of the low.
George Eistetter, who served as batboy for the 1948 Zanesville Dodgers that won the Ohio-Indiana League Championship.
It didn't matter. Young Eistetter and his Dodger "teammates" were the toast of Zanesville, winning the championship of the Ohio-Indiana League and then capturing the playoff title as well.
A good batboy is an essential part of any professional team, and evidently George did his job well. The players, all of whom received $120 each as their share of the playoff pot, voted a fractional share of 15 percent for him.
He also earned a dollar a game during the regular season. That added up to some pretty nice pocket change and really cool bragging rights at school.
Batboys for professional teams usually are contest winners. And so it was with young George, in 100 words or less.
Here's his winning essay:
"I would like to be the Zanesville Dodgers' batboy because it seems to me that there would be nothing better than to be the batboy for such a fine, clean team as the Zanesville Dodgers. It has always been my ambition to be a part of the Zanesville Dodgers' team in my favorite sport, baseball. It would also be very swell to meet and be with fine professional baseball players as Zanesville has always had."
Mr. Eistetter today says: "It sounds pretty corny now." It sounds almost poetic to me. Regardless, he's pretty sure his family's friendship with the owner of the team had a lot more to do with his selection than his flair with prose. Say it ain't so, George.
Baseball in Zanesville predated George's tenure by a lot. Zanesville entered the old Ohio State League in 1887 as the Kickapoos, a name as distinctive in its bizarre way as the Mud Hens. Why the team ever changed the name is unfathomable; why mess with a good thing?
It calls to mind the time in the 1950s when the Toledo Mud Hens changed their name to the Toledo Glass Sox, and then simply the Sox. Eventually, common sense prevailed and the most famous name in minor league sports was restored.
But in Zanesville, the team name was a moving target. The Zanesville nine became known as the Moguls, the Infants, the Potters, the Flood Sufferers (a nod to the flood that inundated the town in 1913), the Greys, the Cubs, the Dodgers, and the Indians.
The Infants? Maybe it was a natural progression from the Kickapoos. The Greys paid tribute to native son and author Zane Grey, although Zanesville was named not for him but for his ancestors.
Many players from the Ohio-Indiana League made it to the major leagues, including Billy Hoeft, Bob Nieman, Brooks Lawrence, Jim Bunning, and Ned Garver, of Ney, Ohio, among others.
Young George's favorite Zanesville Dodger was a player named John Pulcini from Trenton, N.J. -- not because the player was a superstar, but because he was a left-handed first baseman, like George. The team's playing manager, Ray Hathaway, won 22 games as a starting pitcher for Zanesville on the down side of a brief major league career.
Teams in the Ohio-Indiana League in 1948, in addition to Zanesville, were Lima, Marion, Newark, Portsmouth, and Springfield in Ohio, and Richmond and Muncie in Indiana.
There's one other Toledo connection. The Zanesville Dodgers were supported by White Chevrolet Co., whose founder, Hugh White, later moved to Toledo and established dealerships that still operate today.
How much did a Class D ticket cost a fan during those 1948 playoffs in Zanesville? A box seat went for $1.10. A grandstand seat cost 75 cents, and a spot in the bleachers was 50 cents.
Mr. Eistetter remembers sending autograph requests as a child to stars such as Bob Feller, Stan Musial, and Hank Greenberg and receiving personally signed autographs in return.
He asks: "What major league player today would respond personally to such requests? Growing up as a young baseball fan in the postwar years fueled an age of innocence for young baseball fans like myself."
It was 1948. It was a simpler time. For George Eistetter, it was the best of times.
Thomas Walton is retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org