Andy Seminick was a rock-solid catcher who had a career year in 1950 and had a lot to do with the Phillies winning their first pennant in 35 years. He was the antithesis of bonus babies like Curt Simmons, Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, and Stan Lopata because he was anything but highly sought after. He became a big-league ballplayer only through perseverance and hard work. His path to the major leagues was so trying and improbable that in 1951 The Saturday Evening Post ran a feature article on him titled “The Ballplayer Nobody Wanted.”1 Although roundly booed early in his career in Philadelphia, he became one of the most popular Phillies; the ultimate blue-collar catcher in a blue-collar town. He played in pain, he played through injuries, he always hustled, and he was a block of granite blocking home plate.
On the field Seminick was a no-nonsense ballplayer, and not somebody to mess with. Teammates sometimes called him “the mad Russian” in deference to his Russian heritage.2 In August 1950, in the middle of the pennant race, he wiped out almost the entire infield of Leo Durocher’s New York Giants on two trips around the bases.3 He also became very adept at handling pitchers and calling an effective game behind the plate. In fact he became regarded as the most effective catcher in the National League, better in some opinions than even perennial All-Star Roy Campanella.4
Andrew Wasal Seminick was born in Pierce, West Virginia, on September 12, 1920. His father, Wasal, and mother, Mary, were born in southern Russia. They came to America at the turn of the twentieth century, where they met in 1906, married, and settled in Jermyn, Pennsylvania, near Scranton. Wasal had grown up on his father’s farm in Russia and did farm work after arriving in America. Eventually he worked for a coal-mining company. In 1912 the family moved to West Virginia when Wasal took a job with a company that specialized in sinking mine shafts. Andy was the youngest of 10 children, five boys and five girls. Two of the girls and one boy died in infancy and one of the sons, Nick, died from injuries suffered on Guadalcanal in World War II.5
Two years after Andy was born, the family moved to Muse, Pennsylvania, a company town about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, where Wasal took a job with the coal mine.6 Life was not pleasant for the Seminicks during the Depression and sometimes Andy’s father had to do farm work when there was no work at the mine. The family helped stay afloat by growing their own vegetables as well as keeping a cow, and some pigs and chickens.
When Andy was about 12 he was part of a baseball team that some local kids formed. The boys would walk several miles to play teams from neighboring communities like Canonsburg, Cecil, and Houston, and then walk home after the game. The team was loaded with talent and included future major-league infielder Eddie Kazak and Steve and Ed Hrabezak, who both played minor-league baseball.7 When Andy was in his early teens he left home and made his way to Florida one winter, where he supported himself by milking cows for a dairy. But he soon returned home and went back to school.
Seminick played baseball and football at Cecil Township High School but became restless and at 17 dropped out of school and, against the wishes of this father, began to work in the mines and play semipro baseball. In doing so, he decided against attending Duquesne University, where he had been recruited to play football.8 Although his father and brothers worked for the mining company, Andy was the only member of the family to work inside the coal mines.9 He toiled there for two years but injured his back in the spring of 1940 when he stepped on a chunk of coal. He ended up in the hospital for about a month and while there decided not to return to the mines but to try to make a career out of baseball.10
Seminick had continued to play for the Muse Independents and then the Canonsburg Elks a couple of nights a week while working in the mines but had not attracted any scouts.11 So he hitchhiked about 30 miles to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, where a couple of the Pittsburgh Pirates farm teams were training. Pirates head scout Leo Mackey and the legendary Pie Traynor were impressed enough to sign him to a contract for $75 a month with London, Ontario, of the Class-D PONY (Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York) League. Seminick struggled in his professional baseball debut and after hitting .156 and committing seven errors in 19 games was released.12
An unsuccessful tryout with Oneonta of the Canadian-American League followed. Seminick then headed to Detroit, where his oldest sister lived. Earlier, when he was 13, he had seen his first big-league game there. Watching Mickey Cochrane catch for the Tigers had strengthened his resolve to become a catcher.13 This time he secured a job in a milk-bottle-cap factory and joined a semipro team sponsored by Coca-Cola.14 He also got a chance to work out with the Detroit Tigers and reported to Briggs Stadium every morning for about three weeks. Then on Labor Day Seminick received a special-delivery letter at his sister’s house. It was from the Tigers’ head scout, Wish Egan, and told Seminick not to come out anymore.15
That summer Seminick also managed to secure a tryout with the New York Giants while the team was in Chicago playing the Cubs. However he was delayed in traveling to Chicago and when he arrived at Wrigley Field the Giants were packing to move to the next town. Giants manager Bill Terry told him, “Sorry kid. You’re too late.”16
Seminick got a better-paying job for the winter working as a meatcutter for the Stanney Meat Market and saved enough money to pay his way to spring training in 1941 to attempt to hook on with a team. He decided to try the Knoxville Smokies camp in Tallahassee, Florida, because they had signed a couple of players from his area of Pennsylvania.17 After a long workout in front of Smokies manager Freddie Lindstrom in which he caught batting practice for an hour and a half before doing any batting, the team signed him for $75 a month and sent him to Elizabethton, Tennessee, in the Class-D Appalachian League.18
Elizabethton’s manager, Hobe Brummette, liked Seminick’s power at the dish but was less than taken with his abilities behind the plate. As a result, Seminick played more second base and outfield than catcher, but he did stick with the team and had a solid year, hitting .263 with 16 homers and making the league All-Star team as a utility player.
He also met his future wife at Elizabethton, Augusta Irene (Gussie) Anderson, early in the season and on August 14 they were married.19 He returned to Elizabethton in 1942 with a $10-a-month raise. Seminick had a stellar season, batting .325, leading the league in home runs with 15, and making the All-League team as a catcher. He somehow injured his knee late in the year, which led to his being rejected for military service.20 Instead, to make ends meet, he went to work for a defense plant in Kingston, Tennessee, running a bulldozer and making $175 a week.
Knoxville wanted Seminick to report for the 1943 season and sent him a contract for $150 a month, which was less than he was making a week at the plant. When he sent the club a pay stub from his paycheck, they immediately offered him a contract for $350 a month, which was enough to convince him not to give up baseball.21
Initially, Seminick was in a utility role with the Smokies, filling in at first base, second base, and the outfield. However, in midseason their catcher Bob Finley was purchased by the Phillies, and Seminick became the everyday catcher. Although he had jumped from Class-D baseball to Double-A, he didn’t miss a beat, hitting .303 with 16 homers and 83 runs batted in.22 The Phillies attempted to purchase Seminick late in the season, but were beaten to the punch by Bill Veeck of the Triple-A Milwaukee Brewers.23 On September 12, Seminick’s 23rd birthday, Veeck paid the Smokies $15,000 for his rights and then turned around and sold him the same day to the Phillies for $35,000.24
Seminick’s first major league game came on September 14, 1943, against the New York Giants in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park. He was the starting catcher, batting seventh; and in his first at-bat, against Giants pitcher Bill Voiselle, struck out. He then grounded out to first baseman Nap Reyes unassisted and struck out again in his third trip to the plate. Seminick then suffered the minor ignominy of having a pitcher pinch-hit for him in the ninth inning as the Phillies rallied with two runs to tie the score 4-4. Minor ignominy because the pinch-hitter was Schoolboy Rowe, an excellent hitter who pinch-hit 49 times that year and finished the season batting .300.
That game ended in a 10-inning, 4-4 tie. Seminick started the next game and was again 0-for-3 with three more strikeouts against the Giants’ Van Lingle Mungo in the first game of a doubleheader. However, the Phillies won 1-0 with Seminick behind the plate as Jack “Tex” Kraus pitched the only shutout of his career. He also caught most of the second game, coming in for an injured Benny Culp. After flying out and reaching on an error by shortstop Buddy Kerr to go 0-for-8, Seminick smashed a home run off Hugh East in the seventh inning for his first big-league hit.25
A couple of days later, Seminick went back for a popup, stumbled over the pitcher’s mound in front of the dugout, and broke a bone in his wrist. He did not tell manager Freddie Fitzsimmons about his injury and asked the trainer to keep it quiet so that he could continue to play. After the season, he had it x-rayed and ended up in a cast most of the winter.26 In total Seminick appeared in 22 games for the Phillies in 1943, batting just .181 with a pair of home runs and seven RBIs in 72 at-bats.
Seminick stuck with the club coming out of spring training in 1944 but continued to struggle at the plate in a backup role at catcher and in left field. He was hitting .220 on June 18 when the Phillies sent him to the Buffalo Bisons of the International League. There he played mostly left field and batted .273 in 87 games and 297 at-bats. He continued to show power, slamming 14 home runs and driving in 50 runs for the Bisons. That earned him a late-season call-up but he appeared in only one additional game for the Phillies.
In 1945 Seminick was with the Phillies the entire season as a backup catcher and played some third base and outfield. In 80 games he hit .239 in 188 at-bats and benefited from hitting advice from Chuck Klein and Jimmie Foxx.27 Ben Chapman became manager of the Phillies in midseason in 1945 and Seminick quickly became his whipping boy. Seminick’s catching and throwing left a lot to be desired and he had trouble with pop flies and making contact at the plate. Game after game Chapman verbally abused Andy, who later gave his manager the benefit of the doubt and acknowledged that Chapman was trying to reinforce how important the catching positon was and was trying to make him better.28
Two former catchers, Cy Perkins and Benny Bengough, joined the Phillies coaching staff in 1946 and both worked closely with Seminick to improve his catching. Perkins helped Seminick with his catching and throwing mechanics and Bengough hit him popup after popup until Seminick finally became comfortable fielding them.29 Perkins later said about Seminick, “I never doubted that he’d make it. He was very quick in his movements. He loved to catch — you have to love it. But most of all, I believed in him because of his gameness. He didn’t know how to quit.”30 All spring, the Phillies, now owned by duPont heir Bob Carpenter, talked about the team’s need for a catcher.31 But even with the return of ballplayers from the service in 1946, Seminick persevered and became the Phillies regular backstop. Although still struggling sometimes with popups and throwing to bases, his hitting improved markedly. In 124 games and 406 at-bats he hit .264 with 12 home runs, 15 doubles, and 5 triples.
He had a similar year in 1947, batting .252 with 13 home runs, 16 doubles, and 2 triples in 337 at-bats. But though Seminick had improved all aspects of his game and had clearly advanced from being just a wartime replacement player, he was the almost incessant target of the notorious Philadelphia boo-birds. It didn’t help any when the Phillies acquired veteran knuckleballer Dutch Leonard before the 1947 season. When some knuckleballs inevitably got away from Seminick it gave the fans another reason to boo.32 But he withstood all the fan abuse even though his batting average dipped to .225 in 1948. He still showed occasional power with 13 home runs and even stole four bases, showing he was not the typical slow-footed catcher. But he also led the league in errors with 22 and had 13 passed balls.33
During the season three Philadelphia teenagers, sisters Anne and Betty Zeiser and their friend Kitty Kelly, took umbrage at the fans’ negative treatment of Seminick, and with the blessing of Phillies’ traveling secretary Babe Alexander started “the Andy Seminick 21 Fan Club.” They produced a newsletter called “Backstop News” and gave Seminick “Days” during the 1949 and 1950 seasons. The fan club became the largest and most active of the many that Phillies fans started for different Whiz Kids and continued to be active well past Seminick’s playing days.34
Softer-spoken Eddie Sawyer had taken over as manager for Chapman in late July of 1948 and he just let Seminick do his job. But Sawyer announced before the start of the 1949 season that he expected that Stan Lopata, a highly touted rookie and former bonus baby, would be the Phillies regular catcher.35 But Lopata started slowly and by late April, the 28-year-old Seminick was again doing most of the catching. He responded with a strong year, batting .243 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs to silence his critics.
Seminick began to catch fire on May 31 with a home run and double in a 7-6 loss to the Boston Braves. The next day he drove in the winning run on a long 10th-inning sacrifice fly against the Cincinnati Reds. Then on June 2 versus the Reds he homered in the second inning and then twice in the eighth as the Phillies tied a major-league record by hitting five home runs in one inning in a 12-3 win.36 The next day he drove in the decisive two runs with a first inning double and followed that with a seventh-inning home run off the Cubs’ Bob Rush for the only run in a 1-0 Phillies victory.
For the week Seminick hit five home runs in six games and drove in 14 runs, including the winning run in all five Phillies wins. He continued his timely hitting during the next week and broke out again in a June 12 doubleheader split against the St. Louis Cardinals with three more home runs and seven runs batted in. Two days later, against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, he smashed a three-run homer that sailed so far over the left-center-field bleachers that neither centerfielder Andy Pafko nor left fielder Harry Walker moved. In a 16-game span Seminick blasted nine home runs and drove in 25 runs, including the winning run in seven games as the Phillies surged into the first division for the first time in many years.37
Seminick was by now considered the top catcher in the National League and, not surprisingly, was named to start the All-Star Game.38 The improving Phillies continued to play well in the second half of the season and finished the season in the rarefied air of third place, eight games over .500 and 16 games out of first place.
Going into the 1950 season, the Phillies showed promise of competing for the pennant. They had a young pitching staff with Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, Bubba Church, and Bob Miller. Seminick had been through the wars and was the perfect man to handle these young guys. He knew the opposing hitters and had the ability to calm young pitchers down.39 Early in the year, sportswriter Harry Paxton dubbed the club the Whiz Kids because of their youth and writers began referring to the 29-year-old Seminick as “Grandpa Whiz” because he had been with the team the longest.
Seminick had the unlimited respect of his teammates. According to Richie Ashburn, “If there was a leader, I would have to say it was Andy Seminick. Although I don’t think anybody ever said Andy was our leader, he commanded respect because of his toughness and his great work habits.”40 Robin Roberts said, “If you had to pick a guy in the clubhouse who was our leader that year, it would be Andy Seminick. He always played hard and that was his best year by far.”41
At 5-feet-11 and a rock-solid 190 pounds, Seminick looked the part of a big-league catcher. He was barrel-chested with thick legs, was prematurely bald, and had arms like a blacksmith.42 In sum, he was an imposing figure at the catching position and liked nothing better than to block the plate.
Although Seminick was as tough as they come on the field, he also knew how to have fun off the diamond. After a big win, Dick Sisler and he would lead the team in singing in the shower. They would often add their own lyrics to favorites such as “Blood on a Saddle,” “Detour,” and “In the Evening by the Moonlight.” Their singing received some notoriety and late in the season Seminick, Sisler, Granny Hamner, and Puddinhead Jones were scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show to belt out a couple of songs. The Phillies’ afternoon game with the Giants ran long, however, and by the time the quartet arrived at the studio they were too late to get on the air in the days of live television.43
Seminick and Sisler sometimes were up to mischief in hotel lobbies. One of their favorite bits was to sit on opposite ends of a couch and get into a fake shouting match about something silly, like the size of the lobby.44 Sometimes Seminick and several teammates would sit in the lobby reading newspapers and led by Sisler’s cadence would all cross and then uncross their legs at the same time.45
Seminick had the benefit of some hitting advice from Luke Appling about hitting to the opposite field before the 1950 season46 and had the best year of his career, slugging 24 home runs and driving in 68 runs in 130 games to match his 1949 totals. He also batted .288, his career-best average by a wide margin. He hit two of his career total of eight grand slams and won several key games with his bat. For example, on May 21 he slammed a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Cloyd Boyer to defeat the Cardinals, 4-2. On September 12, he hit a solo shot against Max Lanier of the Cards in the fifth inning for what proved to be the only run of the game.47 The home run broke Seminick’s only serious batting slump of the year; he had been hitless in 21 at-bats when he connected.48
But on August 12 Seminick had his greatest impact, almost single-handedly wrecking the entire Giants infield in the Polo Grounds. It all started the previous day when Giants second baseman Eddie Stanky moved behind the pitcher and started jumping up and down and waving his arms when Seminick came to bat. Seminick stepped out of the batter’s box and complained to umpire Al Barlick, who replied that there was nothing in the rule book to prohibit it. Sal Maglie was pitching for the Giants and had a history of throwing at or behind Seminick.49 Sure enough in the eighth inning Maglie plunked Andy on the elbow.50
The next day Seminick’s elbow was swollen and discolored and he was seething. Giants manager Leo Durocher agreed before the game to have Stanky cease and desist from distracting Seminick until league President Ford Frick issued a ruling on its legality. As a result, during Seminick’s first at-bat, in the second inning, Stanky made a big show of standing absolutely frozen at second base.51 On the first pitch, Seminick swung and sent his bat flying toward the mound, as if to signal the Giants what they could expect that day from him.52 He then drew a walk, which brought Mike Goliat to the plate. Giants pitcher Sheldon Jones threw up and in to Goliat, sending him sprawling in the dirt, to further set the stage. On the next pitch Goliat singled to left to drive in Granny Hamner, who had doubled earlier in the inning. Seminick never broke stride rounding second and raced full throttle toward third, where he crashed into Hank Thompson, who was reaching for Whitey Lockman’s throw from the outfield. Seminick led with a forearm shiver and knocked Thompson out cold.53 Thompson went one way and the ball another so Andy picked himself up and scored on the play.54
In the fourth inning Seminick again came to bat and Stanky resumed waving his arms wildly over his head behind the pitcher. Umpire Lon Warneke promptly ejected Stanky, who was replaced at second base by Bill Rigney. Seminick reached base on an error and then slid hard into Rigney at second when Goliat grounded to Giants shortstop Al Dark. Rigney started after Seminick, who was lying on the ground, so Andy reached up and grabbed him, pulling him down with his left hand while he popped him with his right. After a couple of punches, Rigney said, “Turn me loose. You’re killing me.”55 Meanwhile both benches emptied, and a full-scale brawl was on, with several of the Phillies lighting after Durocher, whom they intensely disliked. The umpires had trouble restoring order and the police had to come onto the field to separate the teams. Seminick and Rigney were ejected, making it three Giants infielders to exit the game. The next day Durocher commented that the Phillies would have been playing Jersey City if the umpires had not gotten Seminick out of there.56
Seminick’s teammates knew from past experience that he was not someone the opposition should take liberties with. In 1949 Gene Hermanski of the Dodgers came in to score on a bloop hit. Since there was not going to be a play at the plate, Seminick moved up a couple of steps in front of the plate so as not to impede Hermanski. However, Hermanski took it upon himself to go out of his way and run into Seminick, knocking him on his can. Seminick got up and grabbed Hermanski by the chest while he hit him a couple of times and sent him flying. The umpires, realizing that Hermanski was the instigator, did not even throw Seminick out of the game.57
Seminick was front and center on another pivotal play against the Giants late in 1950 on September 27. The Phillies’ magic number was down to three as they went into successive doubleheaders against the Giants in the Polo Grounds. They fell behind 7-2 in the sixth inning of the first game before rallying for five runs in the eighth to tie the score. The game went into extra innings and in the bottom of the 10th Monte Irvin drew a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second. Alvin Dark poked a single between first and second and Irvin came barreling into the plate just as Seminick was reaching for Del Ennis’s throw from right field. Irvin slammed into Seminick’s left ankle so hard that Seminick was knocked into the air, landing on his face, but still clutching the ball. But Irvin had beaten the throw to win the game and Seminick had to be helped by teammates all the way to the Phillies clubhouse in center field, with what was later diagnosed as a dislocated ankle.58
Although barely able to walk, Seminick caught the doubleheader the next day and played out the season by taking Novocain shots in his ankle.59 He also played in the World Series against the Yankees on his dislocated ankle and did not fare well at bat, with two singles in 11 at-bats.60 Although the Yankees swept the Series, the Phillies were in every game. They lost the first three by one run and the fourth by three runs. After the Series, Seminick was in a cast for eight weeks.
Manager Eddie Sawyer later commented about Seminick’s toughness: “Andy was tough. If Andy could stand the pain and wanted to play, there was no reason not to let him play. It didn’t hurt his speed any because he couldn’t run anyway. … Of course, we didn’t know how bad it really was. We thought it was just a bad sprain. But at that point in his career he was a fine catcher and he really played well on that bad ankle.”61
Early in 1951 season the Phillies obtained some helmet liners for the players to try on the inside of their caps when batting. Seminick later recalled picking one up in the clubhouse and discarding it, thinking that it wouldn’t offer much protection. On that very day he was severely beaned by a Max Lanier fastball and had to be rushed to the hospital. After a day there, he rejoined the team and tried to play on the third day after the beaning, but collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital again.62 The injury affected his play for the rest of the year as his batting average dipped to .227 and his home runs fell to 11 in 291 at-bats as the Phillies slipped to fifth place.
Seminick was traded to the Cincinnati Reds during the winter meetings after the season along with Dick Sisler, infielder Eddie Pellagrini, and pitcher Niles Jordan, for catcher Smoky Burgess, pitcher Howie Fox, and second baseman Connie Ryan. He was the regular catcher for the Reds in 1952, raising his batting average to .256 in 336 at-bats. He clubbed 14 home runs and drove in 50 runs for the sixth-place Reds. His average fell to .235 in 387 at-bats in 1953 but he connected for 19 homers and drove in 64 runs as the Reds again finished in sixth place. In 1954 Seminick shared the catching duties with rookie Ed Bailey and hit .235 again in 247 at-bats as his homers fell to 7 and his RBIs to 30. He did smack four triples, the second highest total of his career.
The following year, on April 30, 1955, Seminick was traded back to the Phillies along with outfielders Jim Greengrass and Glen Gorbous for Burgess, pitcher Steve Ridzik, and outfielder Stan Palys. He took over much of the catching for the Phils and batted .240 for the year in 99 games and 304 at-bats. In 1956 a hot-hitting Stan Lopata finally became the Phillies regular catcher, relegating the 35-year-old Seminick to the backup role. His average fell to .199 in 161 at-bats but he still stroked seven home runs. The following year he became a coach for the Phillies but was activated on September 1 because of injuries.63 He appeared in eight games to end his playing career.
In all, Seminick played 12 years with the Phillies and three more (with a few games in a fourth) with Cincinnati. In a 15-year career he batted .243 with 164 homers. The Phillies honored his long service with the team by holding an “Andy Seminick Night” in 1956 between games of a Phillies-Reds doubleheader in Connie Mack Stadium. It was even more memorable to Seminick because the Phillies won both games.
During his playing career Seminick had held a number of jobs in the offseason to make ends meet, including work as a meatcutter, hoist operator for a chimney construction company, ambulance driver, and even as an undertaker.64 But after his playing career ended, he worked solely in baseball.
Seminick also served as a coach for the Phillies in 1958 before embarking on a minor-league managing career in the organization. He started at the lowest rung with the Elmira Pioneers of the Class-D New York-Pennsylvania League where two of his players made the All-Star team, future major-league manager Lee Elia at third base and pitcher Bob Baillargeon. The team finished in third place and then won the first round of the league playoffs before losing to the Wellsville Braves three games to two in the championship series.65 That performance earned Seminick a promotion in 1960 to the Class-B Des Moines Demons of the Three-I League, who finished tied for the basement with a 64-74 record. He advanced to the Williamsport Grays of the Class-A Eastern League in 1961 where the team finished second with a 79-61 record. The Phillies liked Seminick’s ability to work with young players and moved him back to the Class-D Miami Marlins of the Florida State League for 1962 and 1963. He moved to the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Double-A Southern League in 1964 and 1965. When the Lookouts moved to Macon in 1966, Seminick went with them, guiding the Peaches to a fourth-place finish.
Seminick then returned to the major leagues as a coach for the Phillies for three years under manager Gene Mauch and then Bob Skinner and George Myatt from 1967 through 1969. In 1970 he was back managing in the minor leagues, piloting the Double-A Reading Phillies to a second-place finish in the Eastern League. His club finished just one game behind the pennant-winning Waterbury Pirates and was led by league MVP Greg Luzinski.66 The Phillies organization assigned Seminick to the Eugene Emeralds of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 1971. He returned there for 1972 and, with future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Bob Boone won the West Division by five games before losing in the championship playoffs to the Albuquerque Dukes, managed by Tom Lasorda.
Seminick was named the PCL manager of the year and when the Phillies fired Frank Lucchesi after the season, hoped to get the big-league managerial job. But the Phillies hired Danny Ozark and Seminick did not even get an interview. Phillies general manager Dallas Green later told Andy that he was never considered.67
Altogether Seminick managed 90 players who made it to the major leagues during his 11 years managing in the Phillies minor-league system, including Schmidt, Ferguson Jenkins, Luzinski, and Boone, whom he successfully switched to catcher. Of course, Schmidt, Luzinski, and Boone were key players for the Phillies’ great teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s.68 John Vukovich said, “Andy probably had more impact on more guys coming through the system than anyone at any time.”69 Vukovich also said, when describing flying back from a series in Hawaii to Portland, busing to Eugene, and going straight to the ballpark with no sleep, “He [Seminick] is somebody who caught in the World Series with a broken ankle, so how are you going to tell him you’re tired.”70 Pat Williams remembered that after every game Seminick would go around to every player, congratulating or consoling some and acknowledging others with a pat on the back.71
After the 1973 season Seminick became a scout for the Phillies, before retiring in 1986.72 He was also the first head baseball coach for Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, where he had relocated after his playing days.73 His teams won 276 games from from 1961to 1977.74 He also served as assistant athletic director and was heavily involved in fundraising for the college. In 1999 the new baseball field at Florida Tech was named for Seminick and Les Hall, also a baseball coach of note there. In 1994 Seminick was inducted into the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame.
Late in life, Seminick battled a number of health issues, including diabetes and prostate cancer.75 He had two knee-replacement surgeries and periodically had to have polyps removed from his vocal cords, strained by all his years in the game. He continued to attend Phillies spring training in Clearwater and their fall instructional program, serving as a minor-league catching instructor until his death. His Mercury Marquis always sported “Whiz Kid” vanity Florida license plates.
On August 2, 2003, Seminick was honored in a reunion by more than 50 of his former players in Philadelphia. The reunion was organized by Joe Short, whom Seminick cut from Elmira in 1959, while the master of ceremonies was noted author Pat Williams, who played for Seminick in the Florida State League.76 Six months later, on February 22, 2004, Seminick died in Melbourne. He was 83 years old. Surviving him were a son, Andrew Jr.; sisters Helen Moscher of Detroit and Mary Torsky of Cedarville, Michigan; and granddaughter Andi. His wife, Gussie, had died in 1991.
In a vote of Phillies fans in 1969 Seminick was named the Phillies all-time catcher. He had come full circle from the player the fans loved to boo in the late ’40s, a testament to his perseverance, hard work, and fighting spirit.
This biography appears in “The Whiz Kids Take the Pennant: The 1950 Philadelphia Phillies” (SABR, 2018), edited by C. Paul Rogers III and Bill Nowlin. An earlier SABR biography of Andy Seminick was written by Ralph Berger.
1 Harry T. Paxton, “The Ballplayer Nobody Wanted,” Saturday Evening Post, June 30, 1951: 30.
2 Robin Roberts and C. Paul Rogers III, The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), 252.
3 Roberts and Rogers, 248-52; Rich Ashburn, “The Day Seminick Wiped Out the Giants’ Infield,” Baseball Digest, August, 1974: 76.
4 Paxton: 30.
5 Paxton: 131.
6 The family lived near Perry Como, the future singer, and young Andy played baseball with Como’s brother Al. Rich Marrazi, “Interview With a Whiz Kid: Andy Seminick,” Sports Collectors Digest, July 31, 1998: 80.
7 Paxton: 131.
8 Author interview with Andy Seminick, September 10, 1993.
9 Jack Newcombe, “The Old Man of the Phillies,” Sport, April 1951: 78.
10 Paxton: 132; Harry T. Paxton, The Whiz Kids — The Story of the Fightin’ Phillies (New York: David McKay Company, 1950), 94.
11 Charles Dexter, “Seminick — Key Man of the Phils,” Baseball Digest, November 1950: 24.
12 Roberts and Rogers, 34. He did hit a home run and a double in 45 at-bats.
13 Paxton: 132.
14 His teammates included future major leaguers Johnny Lipon and John McHale, who later became the general manager of three teams, the Detroit Tigers, the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, and the Montreal Expos. Paxton: 132.
15 Roberts and Rogers, 34; Paxton: 132.
16 Roberts and Rogers, 34, Paxton: 132.
17 Eddie Lukon was already on the Smokies and they had recently signed Emil Broski. In addition, Seminick rode the bus to Florida with another player from his area, Eddie Kazak, who was reporting to the Cardinals farm camp in Columbus, Georgia. Paxton: 132.
18 Roberts and Rogers, 34.
19 Newcombe, 78; Paxton:132.
20 Danny Peavy, ed., We Played the Game: 65 Ballplayers Remember Baseball’s Greatest Era — 1947-1964 (New York: Hyperion, 1994), 30.
21 Roberts and Rogers, 35.
22 Seminick later recalled that the Phillies manager, Bucky Harris, came to Knoxville during the major-league All-Star break to scout a shortstop named Ray Hamrick. Seminick hit two home runs that day, prompting Harris to tell a sportswriter, “Looks like we bought the wrong catcher.” Roberts and Rogers, 35.
23 Sam Levy, “Seminick a Veeck Quickie,” Baseball Digest, November 1950: 25.
24 Seminick had been told by the Army to report for a physical and so told Veeck that he couldn’t report to the Phillies. Veeck promised him $500 if he would just report to Philadelphia. When Seminick did report, there was a check waiting for him as promised. The Army again rejected him because of his bad knee, so he was able to stay with the Phillies. Roberts and Rogers, 35-36; Paxton: 132-33.
25 The Phillies lost to the Giants 6-3, as East recorded the second and final victory of his big-league career.
26 Roberts and Rogers, 36; Marazzi, 81.
27 Marazzi, 81.
28 Marazzi, 81. Once, however, Seminick “did stand up to Chapman” because he was criticizing Andy in front of the entire team. Teammate Johnny Wyrostek grabbed Seminick and pulled him back to his seat before a real confrontation could take place. Peavy, 30.
29 Paxton: 133; Newcombe: 78.
30 Bengough also said, “Nobody made Seminick a catcher. A coach can only do so much. … Seminick made himself.” Paxton: 133.
31 Frank Yeutter, “Poppa Seminick’s Son, Andy,” Baseball Magazine, June 1947: 237.
32 Newcombe: 42.
33 Newcombe: 78.
34 Roberts and Rogers, 253-54; Newcombe: 79; Paxton: 134.
35 Paxton: 134.
36 Del Ennis, Puddinhead Jones, and pitcher Schoolboy Rowe had the other three home runs in the inning. The Phillies actually came within about 15 inches of hitting seven homers in the inning as Jones’s triple and Granny Hamner’s double both hit very near the top of the outfield wall. (The first time a team had hit five homers in an inning occurred on June 6, 1939, when Giants Harry Danning, Frank Demaree, Burgess Whitehead, Manny Salvo, and Joe Moore accomplished the feat against the Reds.) C. Paul Rogers III, “The Day the Phillies Came of Age,” The National Pastime, 1999: 31-33.
37 Rogers, 32-33.
38 In the game, he was hit by a pitch and grounded out to George Kell at third in two at-bats before being replaced by Roy Campanella as the American League defeated the National League 11-7 in Ebbets Field.
39 Dexter: 21. Bubba Church later recalled how Seminick had interceded between umpire Larry Goetz and him in a game in which Church was upset about not getting calls on the outside corner. Seminick told Church to get back on the mound and to stop jawing at the umpire. The next day Goetz told Church that because of his follow-through way over toward first base, the balls he thought were strikes were really not. Church confirmed it with Seminick, who had managed to keep Church from getting thrown out of the game. Roberts and Rogers, 252-53.
40 Ashburn went on to say, “Andy was quiet, a really nice guy. The fans loved him. His teammates loved him. My wife loved him. He was a guy who didn’t have a hair on his head and he wasn’t Tyrone Power, but he had a presence that women just loved.” Roberts and Rogers, 253.
42 According to one source, Seminick had fought in some amateur boxing matches when growing up, which, if true, explains his prowess with his fists. Dexter: 24.
43 Roberts and Rogers, 270. Earlier Seminick had appeared on Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club in Chicago and a show hosted by Ed McMahon where he, along with teammates Sisler, Ashburn, Hamner, and Jones, sang a song about “The Fightin’ Phillies.” Peavy, 119.
44 Roberts and Rogers, 272.
45 Author interview with Andy Seminick, September 10, 1993.
46 Seminick had worked at Jack Rossiter’s Baseball School in Cocoa, Florida, where Appling was also appearing. Marrazi: 81.
47 Rich Westcott and Frank Bilovsky, The New Phillies Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 339.
48 Harry T. Paxton: The Whiz Kids — The Story of the Fightin’ Phillies (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1950), 97.
49 Earlier in the season Maglie brushed Seminick back with a high and tight fastball when he was ahead in the count. On the next pitch, Seminick pushed a bunt down the first base line, hoping to steamroll Maglie when he went over to field the ball. Maglie, however, never moved off the mound, so Seminick just ran to first with a bunt hit. After the game, Maglie was asked why he didn’t field the bunt. He said, “I get paid to pitch, not to fight.” Roberts and Rogers, 254-55.
50 Roberts and Rogers, 248-49.
51 Roberts and Rogers, 248.
52 Skip Clayton and Jeff Moeller, 50 Phabulous Phillies (Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing
Inc., 2000), 183.
53 The blow apparently knocked out some of Thompson’s teeth. Richie Ashburn later said that Thompson’s “teeth looked like Chiclets flying out of his mouth.” Roberts and Rogers, 249.
54 Roberts and Rogers, 249.
55 Bubba Church later said that Rigney was bouncing up about a foot and a half or two feet every time Seminick hit him. Curt Simmons said that he felt sorry for Rigney because he didn’t have a chance against Seminick. Roberts and Rogers, 250-51. The Phillies eventually won the game in 11 innings on a Stan Lopata triple and a sacrifice fly by Eddie Waitkus to pad their league lead to five games.
56 Roberts and Rogers, 251.
57 Roberts and Rogers, 254; Marrazi: 81; Newcombe: 55; Dexter: 24.
58 Seminick later said that his teammates wanted to carry him off the field but that he insisted on walking off, even though the Phillies’ clubhouse was about 500 feet away beyond center field. He didn’t want to give the Giants the satisfaction of knowing they had really injured him. Roberts and Rogers, 302-03.
59 Roberts and Rogers, 302-04. After the Series Seminick admitted that his ankle kept him from shifting properly behind the plate and that “it hurt pretty bad” when he swung the bat or had to run. “Seminick Played Series with Ankle Separation,” unidentified clipping dated October 10, 1950, from the Andy Seminick clippings file, National Baseball Library.
60 The Phillies as a team hit only .203 for the Series. The Yankees hit only .222 but their team earned-run average for the Series was 0.73.
61 Roberts and Rogers, 303-04.
62 Roberts and Rogers, 288-89.
63 Clayton and Moeller, 184.
64 Peavy, 155. Once Seminick almost dropped someone that he was hoisting and had to jump on the hoist brakes with both feet to stop the descent. Author interview with Andy Seminick, September 10, 1993.
65 The Pioneers had a couple of memorable games in 1959. On May 10, they raced to a 12-1 lead after six innings against the Erie Sailors but managed to lose 14-13. Erie scored five runs after two outs in the ninth inning to win the game. On June 10, the Pioneers lost to Auburn 6-5 in a game in which the Elmira pitching staff allowed only three hits but gave up 15 walks. Lloyd Johnson & Miles Wolff, The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 1997), 463.
66 Luzinski played first base for Reading and was later moved to the outfield in the major leagues by the Phillies. Seminick thought he should have stayed at first. Rich Ashburn, “Andy Seminick: The Memories Come Russian Back,” Philadelphia Daily News, March 30, 1982: 70.
68 He also managed Oscar Gamble, Bill Robinson, Johnny Briggs, Alex Johnson, Danny Cater, Wayne Twitchell, John Vukovich, and Hank Allen in the minor leagues, all of whom had significant major-league careers.
69 Sam Carchidi, “Old Players Show Their Love for a Guy Who Guided Them,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 2003: D6.
70 Carchidi: D7.
71 Scott Brown, “Ex-Phillies Catcher Stirs Memories With Teammates,” Florida Today, September 22, otherwise undated from the Andy Seminick clippings file of the National Baseball Library.
72 Bill Ballew, “Andy Seminick: Hard Nosed All the Way,” Sports Collectors Digest, February 5, 1993: 179.
73 Seminick had become familiar with the area earlier while working with the Jack Rossiter Baseball Camp in nearby Cocoa. Brown.
74 Paul Hagen, “Whiz Kids Catcher Was ‘Tough’ Competitor,” Philadelphia Daily News, February 23, 2004.
75 Peter Kerasotis, “Seminick a Whiz at Remembering 1950,” Lansdale (Pennsylvania) Reporter, August 8, 2000: D-2.
76 Carchidi: D6.