Duane Pillette spent 8 years in the Majors and he made the most of his time there:
*** Won a World Series ring as a member of the 1949 Yankees. The Yankees repeated in 1950, but Duane was traded to the St. Louis Browns in June of that year.
*** The last starting pitcher in the final St. Louis Browns game
*** The first winning pitcher in modern-day Baltimore Orioles history
*** Teammates with several Hall of Famers including Satchel Paige
*** Held Mickey Mantle to a .167 batting average (5 for 30)
*** Took part in the famed Eddie Gaedel game; he was the starting pitcher
Duane also pitched 11 seasons in the minor leagues. Mr. Pillette had plenty to be proud of. We wrote to Mr. Pillette in May 2010. We asked him several questions about playing with a young Yogi Berra in Newark (1946), his memory of the Gaedel game, and his time in Baltimore. We mentioned that we were a father-son collecting team and Mr. Pillette seemed to like that. With all of his accomplishments in the game, he chose to devote his letter about his father Herman Pillette.
Herman was a big leaguer as well. He pitched one game for the Cincinnati Reds in 1917 (managed by Christy Mathewson), then another 3 seasons for the Detroit Tiger from 1922-1924. In 1922, he had a team high 19 wins while pitching under manager Ty Cobb.
Duane explained why his father’s big league career was cut short:
“During the 1923 yr. he was hit with a line drive on his knee-cap. He tried after that, but nothing!! Our family returned to the West Coast.”
Herman wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats. Duane explained how his father rejuvenated his career.
“He met a pitcher he knew from yrs in Triple A. That friend suggested he visit this Dr. My father almost said no, because the Dr. in Detroit said that he was through. With exercise and guts, he overcame that problem. He signed with the Vernon Triple A club in San Francisco. …My dad continued to stay in the Pacific Coast League. He played for many teams for 23 years. Last year he was voted in the Hall of Fame in the league.”
With his comeback complete, Herman finally called it quits in 1945. Along the way, Pillette racked up 264 career minor league wins; 226 of those coming in the PCL. He was also teammates with several future Hall of Famers…Bobby Doerr, Harry Hooper, and a young Ted Williams. Not bad for a guy, who over two decades earlier, was “done” in baseball.
“Old Folks”, as Herman was affectionately called, provided inspiration for his son. Duane explained:
“Now I told you that story because my dad was a great guy And a great pitcher as well. Therefore I wanted to play ball also. And be a right handed pitcher like he was. Well I never really became as good as he was, but I got my wish (By the way he didn’t want me to play). But I played 8.5 years in the “Bigs” and 17 years overall.”
Duane is modest. He had a good professional career with many accomplishments to be proud of. It’s obvious that he is most proud of being a son.
Thanks Duane for taking the time to respond to your fans. Mr. Pillette passed away on May 06, 2011.
Full text of our correspondence. Click to enlarge.