This article was written by Bob LeMoine
While his father spent his life laboring below the ground in Pennsylvania’s coal mines, Bill Hart skied on Bear Mountain with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Because of wartime travel restrictions, the “spring” training home of the Dodgers in 1944 was only about an hour north of New York City.[fn]“S’no Time for Ball Players- But Good Time for Snow Sports,” The Sporting News, March 30, 1944, 5.[/fn] The Dodgers enjoyed the comforts of the Bear Mountain Inn: a hearty breakfast, pool tables, and comfy chairs in front of a 12-foot fireplace.[fn]Tommy Holmes, “Lip Leads Lads in Leaps from Lobby to Drill Hall,” The Sporting News, March 30, 1944, 4.[/fn] The war years were a unique opportunity for the 31-year-old rookie Hart, who already had eight years of minor-league baseball under his belt. Hart’s 17-year stint as a ballplayer took him from Duluth to New Orleans, Oakland to Brooklyn, and places in between. While he played only 95 games in the major leagues, Hart’s greater story includes batting .400 for a season and hitting four home runs in a game.
Hart was nicknamed “Two Gun Hart” after William S. Hart, “the first western movie star, and a top box-office leading man in silent movies from 1914 to 1925” who was called the “Two Gun Man.”[fn]Peter C. Holloran, “Hart, William Surrey,” American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. anb.org/articles/18/18-00539.html; accessed October 19, 2014.[/fn] The baseball Hart’s nickname evolved to “True Gun Hart,” denoting his accurate throwing arm.
William Woodrow “Bill” Hart, Jr. was born on March 4, 1913, to William Wellington Hart, Sr. and Sarah (Calnon) Hart in Wiconisco Township in Dauphin County in central Pennsylvania. The elder Hart was a laborer and machinist for the Susquehanna Coal Company in Wiconisco. He had served as a corporal in the 16th Cavalry during the First World War. The Harts lived in a rented house on Walnut Street in Wiconisco. William Jr. had two brothers, J. Marvin and Robert T. Hart. He played on Wiconisco High School’s baseball team in the Upper Dauphin County League.[fn]“Hart, Rodgers Hit Well,” Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Evening News, March 26, 1945, 11.[/fn]
In 1934 Hart played for Donaldson in the semipro South Anthracite League, batting over .300, clubbing 16 home runs, and leading the league in stolen bases.[fn]“Columbus Gives Three Players, Cash for .390 Hitting Kurowski,” Reading (Pennsylvania) Times, September 10, 1938; 11; “Syracuse to be First Exhibition Foe of Senators,” Harrisburg Evening News, March 25, 1935, 12. Statistics conflict on his actual batting average.[/fn] He made his professional debut in 1935 with the Harrisburg Senators of the Class-A New York-Pennsylvania League, a Boston Braves affiliate. Though Hart batted just .223 and made 23 errors at shortstop, Nobe Frank of the Harrisburg Telegraph wrote, “It has been a pleasure to watch that young Bill Hart improve daily at his shortstop job. … When he came to Harrisburg he fought that ball too much when he met it, and errors were numerous. … He now takes them like a veteran and is smacking that pill in addition and makes an ideal leadoff man.”[fn]Frank Nobe, “It Just Occurred to Me,” Harrisburg Telegraph, July 2, 1935, 13[/fn]
The Senators hosted a Coal Region Night in Hart’s honor on July 15.[fn]“Coal Region Night,” Harrisburg Evening News, July 15, 1935, 1.[/fn] About 100 fans and family from the Wiconisco area attended. Hart was presented a traveling bag “in recognition of his fine work with the Senators his first year in professional base ball.”[fn]“Bargain Day Plans Ready,” Harrisburg Telegraph, July 16, 1935, 12.[/fn] As Hart batted in the first inning, the rains came and the game was postponed.[fn]Ibid.[/fn]
The 1936 St. Patrick’s Day Flood[fn]Susquehanna River Symposium (2012). Retrieved on October 9, 2014, from eg.bucknell.edu/sri/river_symposiums/2012/flooding.html.[/fn] severely damaged the Senators’ stadium, appropriately named Island Field,[fn]“Harrisburg Baseball Club Without a Diamond,” Harrisburg Evening Sun, March 25, 1936, 8.[/fn] so owner Joe Cambria moved the club to York, Pennsylvania, and then to Trenton, New Jersey.[fn]“Park Leased at York for Play; Return Likely,” Harrisburg Evening News, March 27, 1936, 21; “York Franchise Goes to Trenton,” Harrisburg Telegraph, July 2, 1936, 13.[/fn] Hart reported to York,[fn]“Clubs Ready for Thirteenth Season; York Lets Lake Go,” Harrisburg Evening News, April 28, 1936, 31; “Allentown Faces York at 3 O’Clock,” York (Pennsylvania) Gazette and Daily, April 29, 1936, 10.[/fn] but may not have played there, as one account has him in semipro ball when he refused demotion to a Class-D team.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Dodger Tintypes: Introducing Bill Hart,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 4, 1944, 14.[/fn] Another account mentions Hart playing for Johnstown, Pennsylvania,[fn]“Duluth’s Chances are Good,” Winnipeg Tribune, April 26, 1937, 12.[/fn] but no statistics were found.
In 1937 Hart played for the Duluth (Minnesota) Dukes, a Class-D affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals in the Northern League. He played 106 games at third base, batted .269 with 18 home runs, and set a league record with nine assists in a game on June 25.[fn]The Sporting News, July 15, 1953, 56.[/fn] Duluth won the Northern League pennant over Fargo-Moorhead.[fn]“Duluth Dukes Win Northern Playoff,” Oshkosh (Wisconsin) Daily Northwestern, September 23, 1937, 16.[/fn] In Game Five of the playoffs, Hart went 5-for-5 with three doubles in Duluth’s 12-2 win, and doubled again in the 8-5 Game Six clincher.[fn]The Sporting News, September 30, 1937, 7.[/fn]
In 1938 Hart played for the Portsmouth (Ohio) Red Birds, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals in the Class-C Mid-Atlantic League. Hart played 117 games at shortstop and made 32 errors but hit .342 with 16 home runs. Portsmouth won the pennant, finishing a half-game in front of Canton at 79-50.[fn]“Red Birds Cop League Title,” News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), September 7, 1938, 5.[/fn] Game Two of the semifinals against Springfield was tied 1-1 in the ninth inning. Hart followed two intentional walks with a walk of his own, forcing in a run and giving the Red Birds the win.[fn]Carl M. Hess, “Kurowski’s Hit Gives Birds 2-1 Victory in 9th,” Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times, September 10, 1938, 1.[/fn] Portsmouth won the series, and then defeated Akron in the finals as Hart homered in the clinching game.[fn]“Champion Red Birds Cop M.A. Playoffs, 7-6,” Portsmouth Daily Times, September 21, 1938, 1.[/fn]
After spending part of the winter coaching the Wiconisco High School basketball team,[fn]“Champion Red Birds Turn to Off-Season Jobs, Recreation,” Portsmouth Daily Times, September 25, 1938, 10.[/fn] Hart played the 1939 season for the Asheville (North Carolina) Tourists of the Piedmont League, a Class-B affiliate of the Cardinals.[fn]“New Players Make Tourists Piedmont Pennant Contender,” Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch, April 12, 1939, 16.[/fn] He played 139 games at shortstop for the pennant-winning squad. He made 41 errors at shortstop, but Hart and second baseman Russ Wein turned 165 double plays, which manager Hal Anderson credited for his club’s success.[fn]Paul Jones, “Tourists Go Places in Race and at Gate,” The Sporting News, September 28, 1939, 5.[/fn] Hart batted .268 with 12 home runs.
For 1941 Hart moved up to the New Orleans Pelicans of the Class A-1 Southern Association.[fn]Val J. Flannagan, “Pels Land Hart and Seinsoth in Fralick, Martynik Deals,” The Sporting News, January 23, 1941, 2.[/fn] William Keefe of the New Orleans Times-Picayune commented, “Bill Hart has been the best shortstop the Pels have had in many, many moons. He rides herd on anything that comes down his way and he throws strikes to first base.”[fn]William Keefe, “Viewing the News,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 27, 1941, 54.[/fn] On June 19 his 14th-inning single beat Johnny Sain and Nashville, 1-0.[fn]William Keefe, “Bill Hart’s Single Sends Richards in with Winning Run, Ending Sizzling Duel,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 20, 1941, 18.[/fn] Hart had a league-leading .962 fielding percentage at shortstop,[fn]Harry Martinez, “Sports From the Crow’s Nest,” New Orleans TimesPicayune, June 29, 1941, 52.[/fn] but slumped at the plate, batting .256 with 3 home runs while battling tonsillitis.[fn]William Keefe, “Locals Make Clean Sweep of Chick Series by Scoring 4-2 and 2-0 Night Victories,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 23, 1941, 14.[/fn] He spent the winter working as an electrician at the Pendleton Shipyard in New Orleans and played on the shipyard’s basketball team.[fn]The Sporting News, January 21, 1943, 10.[/fn] In March, he had his tonsils removed.[fn]The Sporting News, September 25, 1941, 9.[/fn]
Hart’s offense improved in 1942 with a .292 average, 6 home runs, and 11 triples, but with 45 errors at shortstop. He played in the Southern Association All-Star Game.[fn]Harry Martinez, “Four Pels Will Play in All-Star Contest Against Leaders,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 28, 1942, 57[/fn] Harry Martinez of the Times-Picayune wrote, “Hart’s improvement can be traced to the removal of his tonsils. … Since his operation, he has been a changed player and has certainly been a big factor in the Pelicans fight to keep up in the first division. He is hitting the ball harder and further than he ever did.”[fn]Harry Martinez, “Sports From the Crow’s Nest,” New Orleans TimesPicayune, August 16, 1942, 61.[/fn]
After the season Hart played in the in the Taylor Winter Softball League,[fn]“Sal Stars Oppose Nu-Ways in Loop Headliner Today,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 3, 1943, 19.[/fn] and in a benefit doubleheader for the Times-Picayune Doll and Toy Fund at Pelican Stadium.[fn]“Doll and Toy Baseball Set for October 18,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 4, 1942, 62.[/fn]
In 1943 the Pelicans began a working agreement with the Brooklyn Dodgers.[fn]“Pels to Start Practice Monday; Hurth Hopes for Dodger Deals,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, April 4, 1943, 25.[/fn] With more players in the military, new manager Ray Blades quipped, “Greatest asset of a baseball player today is his draft status rather than his ability.”[fn]Max Patrick “Pelican Hopes Rest With ‘Bum’ Castoffs,” Baton Rouge (Louisiana) State Times Advocate, April 7, 1943, 13.[/fn] Hart had a great season, batting .315 with 15 home runs (third in the league) and 14 triples (second in the league). He went 6-for-9 with four doubles in a doubleheader sweep over Little Rock in May,[fn]Harry Martinez, “Pels Beat Travelers Twice, Winning First in 16 Innings,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 3, 1943, 14.[/fn] and then on June 27 drove in the winning run against Memphis, giving the Pelicans 12 wins in 13 games.[fn]“Jesse Danna wins No.13 as Pels Take Twin Bill,” Baton Rouge State Times Advocate, June 28, 1943, 9.[/fn] Hart was again an all-star[fn]William Keefe, “Gardner Hurls Nashville Vols to 3-2 Victory Over Stars,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 10, 1943, 8.[/fn] and one of six Pelicans batting over .300 at the break.[fn]William Keefe, “Viewing the News,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 17, 1943, 9.[/fn] He even won a 75-yard-dash competition between games of a doubleheader.[fn]The Sporting News, July 8, 1943, 21.[/fn]
In mid-August the Dodgers purchased the 30-year-old Hart’s contract. At the time, he was leading the Southern Association in RBIs (98) and home runs (15) while batting .320.[fn]“Hart is Sold to Brooklyn Club,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 19, 1943, 16.[/fn] The Pelicans lost the championship to Nashville, and Hart moved on to the major leagues.[fn]William Keefe, “Vols Trim Pels, 7-0, to Win Southern Playoff Series,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 14, 1943, 10[/fn]
“Another of Branch Rickey’s rookies is expected to report to the Dodgers … a character named William Woodrow Hart,” wrote Tommy Holmes in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “Hart is in immediate jeopardy of being appointed the Dodger third baseman. … No fewer than eight gentlemen have played third base for the Dodgers this season. … Meaning Two Gun Hart might get a pretty good trial. …”[fn]Tommy Holmes, “Hart, Pelican Star, Due to Play Third for Flock,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 17, 1943, 13.[/fn]
Hart started at third base for the Dodgers in his debut. “He is a tall, rangy fellow with a right-handed batting stance that looks like strictly business. He lashed a hard single to left-center in his first time at bat,” wrote Holmes.[fn]Tommy Holmes, “Wyatt, Olmo Subdue Giants in Ninth, 6-4,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 19, 1943, 21.[/fn] Hart singled in each of his first three games but finished the season with a .158 BA in eight games.
Hart “wasn’t on the bag long enough for the club to get a good line on him, though the manager wasn’t too high on him,” observed Harold Burr in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.[fn]William C. Burr, “Draft Blows English Into Ebbets Field,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 2, 1943, 13.[/fn] In contrast, Hart was runner-up for the Southern Association MVP and his 104 RBIs for New Orleans were three short of the league lead.[fn]Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 11, 1944, 12.[/fn]
Hart again worked at the Pendleton shipyard during the winter. He played on the shipyard’s semipro baseball team[fn]The Sporting News, November 4, 1943; 10; Tommy Holmes, “Hart, Likely 4-F’er,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 1, 1944, 12.[/fn] and also in the Defense Basketball League.[fn]The Sporting News, December 16, 1943, 12.[/fn]
“I am looking forward to a pleasant and long stay with the famous Brooklyn Dodgers,” Hart said optimistically before the 1944 season.[fn]Tommy Holmes, “Hart, Likely 4-F’er.”[/fn] Dodgers manager Leo Durocher announced that Hart would be his starting second baseman,[fn]Roscoe McGowen, “Hart of Dodgers Choice for Second,” New York Times, April 12, 1944.[/fn] but later decided on Luis Olmo.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “New Infielder Discovered by Lip—It’s Olmo,” The Sporting News, April 20, 1944, 4.[/fn]
Hart replaced Gene Mauch at shortstop on April 25, 1944. He sparkled in his debut, going 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored, and he looked good in the field.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Hart Streamlines Flock Infield At Last,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 26, 1944, 16.[/fn] Durocher praised True Gun, saying, “I like Hart out there. Of course, he didn’t have any difficult chances, but he has the look of a shortstop. He’s got a fine, accurate arm, a shortstop’s throw.”[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Dodger Outfield, At Least, In Safe, Sound, Vet’s Hands,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 27, 1944, 14.[/fn]
In a 2-1 victory at St. Louis on May 11, Hart scored a run, drove in a run, and threw Pepper Martin out at the plate to end the game.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “True Gun Hart Finds Range For The Dodgers,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 12, 1944, 14.[/fn] Yet the Dodgers’ infield was weak at turning double plays, and Hart’s bad throw cost a game in Pittsburgh. “For once Hart’s nickname of True Gun was ironic,” quipped Burr.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “D.P. Shortcomings Costly to Dodgers,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 19, 1944, 14.[/fn]
Hart’s season unraveled on May 21 as the Dodgers ended a 4-10 road trip. Durocher recalled, “The last one in Cincinnati we lost because Bill Hart, our shortstop at the moment, dropped a pop fly your Aunt Emma could have got.”[fn]Leo Durocher, The Dodgers and Me, the Inside Story (Chicago: ZiffDavis, 1948), 190.[/fn]
Nearly frothing at the mouth, Durocher bellowed, “I could go out there and shove my hands into my pockets and just stand there and be more help to the team than Hart. And don’t tell me I ought to leave him there because he’s the best I got. At least I can catch a fly ball.”[fn]Jack Cuddy, United Press, “Leo Durocher Moans Low as Dodgers Skid,” Piqua (Ohio) Daily Call, May 23, 1944, 6.[/fn]
Hart and other tongue-lashed Dodgers were ordered to report to “Kindergarten Class” at Ebbets Field while Durocher used gestures showing them how “to make plays that they should have learned in high school or on the sand lots.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]
Durocher benched Hart … in favor of himself, believing that despite a broken thumb he was a better choice than some of his players. “I can’t possibly be any worse,” Durocher ranted.[fn]Roscoe McGowen, “Durocher, Disappointed in Club, Considers Return to Shortstop,” New York Times, May 23, 1944.[/fn] “I’ll guarantee to hit the ball someplace, batting with one hand.”[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Leo, Aroused, May Provide Life at SS,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 23, 1944, 12.[/fn] He further spouted, “I know if he wants to put on a hit and run that I’ll know what to do, and I’ll at least get the sign,” referring to the many mistakes the Dodgers were making.[fn]Roscoe McGowen, “Durocher, Disappointed in Club.”[/fn]
Roscoe McGowen of the New York Times found humor in all of this, observing, “On the theory that desperate conditions call for desperate remedies, Leo Durocher, bad thumb, extra poundage and all, has decided that he is the best available Brooklyn shortstop.”[fn]Ibid.[/fn]
After 29 games, Hart (who was hitting just .178) was sent back to New Orleans,[fn]“Dodgers Option Hart, Get Jack Bolling,” Troy (New York) Record, May 27, 1944, 17; William Keefe, “Bill Hart Returns to Pelicans Under 5-Day Recall Agreement,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 27, 1944, 8.[/fn] where he batted .283 with 13 home runs, and was again an All-Star.[fn]“Hart and Ulisney of Pelicans Named as Southern All-Stars,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 6, 1944, 16.[/fn] Hart was recalled to Brooklyn at the end of the season, but didn’t play in a game.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Farm Grads, 13, Of ‘Em, Called Back By Flock,” Brooklyn Daily News, August 29, 1944, 12.[/fn]
In spring training 1945, Hart patched things up with Durocher, who assured him of a chance at third base. “I had a long talk with Leo last night and he told me the job was mine if I could play well enough to keep it, and that I’d get the chance to prove that,” Hart said confidently, adding “We got all straightened out on last year’s troubles. Maybe I didn’t play so well, but not because I wasn’t trying.”[fn]Roscoe McGowen, “Durocher Working For Playing Role,” New York Times, March 17, 1945.[/fn]
Hart received orders to report to Asheville, North Carolina, for a military physical and possible induction. “I’m glad the suspense is over. I’m ready to go wherever they want me to go,” he said.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Bad Eardrum And Knee May Keep Hart With Dodgers Despite Army Call,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 26, 1945, 11.[/fn] However, his draft board classified him 4-F because of his perforated eardrum.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Nazi Collapse, Hart, 4-F, Cheer Rickey,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 2, 1945, 15.[/fn]
His draft card listed “Ruiz Electrical Company” on Patton Avenue in Asheville as his employer.
The start of the 1945 season was a positive one. “Hart is a happy third baseman now that the pepperpot pilot has thrown away the key to his doghouse. He’s gathering in the smoking hits and rifling ’em across to Augie Galan. … He hits a long ball to left, and is one of the best bunters on the Dodgers,” offered Burr of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.[fn]Harold C. Burr, “Dulled Durocher Bite Has Benefitted Dodgers,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 23, 1945, 15.[/fn]
Even Durocher praised Hart, saying that as well as improving mechanically, “Mentally and spiritually … he has improved 100 per cent. He has the assurance and poise he didn’t have last year. He isn’t the silent, lifeless infielder he was a year ago.”[fn]“Bill Hart ‘Most Improved’ Dodger” article of unknown origin in Bill Hart’s Hall of Fame player file, April 27, 1945.[/fn]
Despite Durocher’s rosy disposition, Hart lost the starting third-base job to Luis Olmo in early June. He finished his major-league career on the Brooklyn bench, finishing with a .230 average and 3 home runs in 58 games in 1945.
In August Hart was sent to the St. Paul Saints, Brooklyn’s team in the Double-A American Association.[fn]“Dodgers Option Hart,” Boston Daily Globe, August 12, 194, D28.[/fn] He had spectacular numbers for the Saints, batting .368 with 17 home runs and a .442 on-base percentage in 38 games. He had a four-home run game on Labor Day, September 3, against Minneapolis. Hart and teammate Buddy Kimball were nicknamed the “home run twins.” Hart modestly said his increased power was “just one of those things. I don’t seem to swing at the plate any differently. Maybe it is because I played more regular.”[fn]Louis H. Gallop, “Wild Bill Hart, As ‘Two-Gun’ Saint, Ties A.A. Mark of 4 Homers in Game,” The Sporting News, September 13, 1945, 4.[/fn]
In 1946 Hart played for the Oakland Oaks of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, managed by Casey Stengel. Hart played third base, batting only .227. When he batted only .178 to start the 1947 season, he was released on May 16.[fn]“Oaks Release Pair,” Bakersfield Californian, May 16, 1947, 12.[/fn]
Hart returned to the Southern Association, playing for the Mobile Bears, the Dodgers’s Double-A club. He smacked 15 home runs with a .276 batting average and the Bears were 1947 champions of the Southern Association,[fn]Vincent Johnson, “Depth in Mound Corps Carries Mobile to Top,” The Sporting News, September 17, 1947, 29.[/fn] eventually losing the Dixie Series to Houston. Hart batted .264 with 15 home runs for the Bears in 1948.
During the 1948 World Series Hart assisted his close friend Jackie Price, a baseball trick artist, in pregame entertainment. (Price performed comic routines like hitting a baseball while suspended from a screen.) Earlier, Hart had contributed to Price’s film Diamond Demon (1947).[fn]“Price Aided By Hart During Acts,” Harrisburg Evening News, October 9, 1948, 11.[/fn] Price performed in Hart’s hometown of Lykens, Pennsylvania, to raise funds for new lights at the Lykens High School athletic field.[fn]“Price To Appear At Lykens Game,” Harrisburg Evening News, October 15, 1948, 21.[/fn]
In 1949 Hart became the player-manager of the Cairo (Illinois) Dodgers of the Class D Kentucky-IllinoisTennessee (Kitty) League.[fn]“Billy Hart Gets Post At Cairo As Player-Manager,” New Orleans TimesPicayune, January 5, 1949, 20.[/fn] He had his most remarkable season at the plate, batting .404 at the age of 36.
Hart was the player-manager of the Santa Barbara Dodgers of the Class C California League in 1950-51. The 1951 team finished 88-59 and won the California League pennant on Hart’s walk-off home run.[fn]“Santa Barbara Wins State League,” Santa Cruz (California) Sentinel, September 4, 1951, 5.[/fn] He was named California League Manager of the Year.[fn]“California League Ups Veteran Limit,” Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), March 4, 1952, 9.[/fn]
In 1952 Hart became the player-manager of the Asheville Tourists of the Class B Tri-State League. He injured his back throwing batting practice during spring training.[fn]Story recalled by William Hart, III, Bill Hart’s son, in email correspondence with the author, October 27, 2014.[/fn] Hart was fired in July when the Tourists were in seventh place and suffering at the gate.[fn]“Tourists Fire Bill Hart As Manager,” Aiken (South Carolina) Standard, July 9, 1952, 5.[/fn] Hart called his firing a “shocking surprise,” and returned home to Lykens.[fn]Ibid.[/fn]
Hart worked in Lykens as a machine operator at the Reiff and Nestor Company. He had complicated back surgery on April 20, 1953,[fn]The Sporting News, April 29, 1953, 32.[/fn] and became a heavy drinker the rest of his life. William Hart, III recalled that his father’s transition out of baseball was a difficult one.[fn]Bill Hart’s son, William Hart, III, in email correspondence and phone conversation with the author October 27, 2014.[/fn]
Hart died on July 29, 1968, at the age of 55 at the Holy Spirit Hospital in East Pennsboro, Pennsylvania. He had been living at the Hotel Lykens after separating from his wife.[fn]William Hart, III.[/fn] The cause of death was portal cirrhosis of the liver,[fn]Death certificate in Bill Hart’s Hall of Fame player file.[/fn] a condition he suffered from during the final years of his life.[fn]“William Hart Dies,” Oil City (Pennsylvania) Derrick, July 30, 1968, 11.[/fn] Hart was survived by his wife, Anna; sons, William Hart III, and Larry J. Hart; a daughter, Patricia; and a grandchild.[fn]“Anna T. Hart,” Harrisburg Patriot News, April 25, 2008; “Bill Hart, Jr., Ex-Pro Baseball Player, Dies,” Sayre (Pennsylvania) Evening Times, July 30, 1968, 13.[/fn] Hart is buried in Calvary United Methodist Cemetery in Wiconisco.
This biography originally appeared in “Who’s on First: Replacement Players in World War II” (SABR, 2015), edited by Marc Z. Aaron and Bill Nowlin.