Bill Peterman

This article was written by Chris Rainey

Bill PetermanOn May 1, 1983, the Philadelphia Phillies celebrated their 100th anniversary in baseball. The festivities that day included 93-year-old John Enzmann, the oldest living member of the team. He was invited to toss out the ceremonial “first pitch.” Former Phil Bill Peterman was also on hand to take part in the festivities.1 Peterman was one of more than 50 Philadelphia natives to play for the Phillies and before he was called to duty in World War II, he posted a 1.000 batting average with his hometown team.

Peterman was a catcher who began his professional career in 1940. He earned a roster spot with the Phillies during the spring of 1942. He was used as the bullpen catcher until April 26, when manager Hans Lobert beckoned “to me to come in from the bullpen.”2 The Dodgers were pounding the Phillies, 10-2; Peterman caught the ninth inning and then led off the bottom half against pitcher Ed Head.

Peterman recalled, “My legs were shaking. He threw the first two pitches by me. I decided to start swinging as he wound up. … I hit the ball through the middle for a single.”3 The next batter, Bert Hodges, forced Peterman at second base. The Phillies left the next day for a two-week Western swing. Peterman was sent a different direction, joining Williamsport in the Eastern League. He never played in another regular-season major-league game.

William David Peterman was born on March 20, 1921, in Philadelphia. He was the youngest of seven children born to Issachar and Amanda Louise (Walters) Peterman. The Peterman family had been in eastern Pennsylvania for generations. Issachar’s father and grandfather were both carpenters. Issachar used those skills plus talent as an upholsterer to become a mattress maker.

William was educated at Clara Barton Elementary before graduating from Olney High School. The blue-eyed blond became quite the athlete. “Like any kid, I played on the lots and dreamed of the big leagues,” he said.4 He grew to be 6-feet-2-inches tall and weighed 185 pounds. He threw and batted right-handed. Earning the title of “Most Athletic” for his class, he played soccer, basketball, and baseball at Olney.

Olney has sent six ballplayers on to the majors. In addition to Peterman they are Elmer Burkart, Del Ennis, Jack Crimian, Al Spangler, and Lee Elia.5 The area newspapers provided good coverage of high-school sports during Peterman’s time. He was captain of his soccer team in 1939 and most likely played forward or midfield. In basketball he began his career as a guard and was moved to center his final season, when he served as captain. He must have graduated in January (not uncommon, the team lost three players the previous year at semester) because he played in several recreation leagues starting in February. Before leaving the high-school team, he was third in the area in scoring.

In baseball, Peterman played with multiple teams during the summers he was in high school. In 1939 he played with one of the strongest area squads – Stonehurst Hills. He was spotted by a scout for the Boston Red Sox and signed late in the summer.6

The Red Sox sent Bill to the Centreville (Maryland) Red Sox in the Class-D Eastern Shore League in 1940. There he joined catcher Stephen DeCubellis. The team started the season poorly and many roster moves were made ,including jettisoning both catchers before either had played 10 games. According to box scores in the Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland, Peterman made eight appearances and batted .308 (4-for-13).

Peterman was released by the Red Sox and joined the Phillies organization with the Ottawa-Ogdensburg team in the Class-C Canadian-American League. An injury had sidelined the number-one catcher and the team needed a partner for 20-year old Dixie Howell. The 19-year-old Peterman debuted on July 2 and went 4-for-4 with two doubles. “He seemed right at home behind the plate and exhibited a strong throw to second base,” an Ogdensburg sportswriter observed.7

The Senators, also known as the Double-O’s, had a unique schedule, playing their home games in two countries. The roster was loaded with talent that would go on to the majors, including pitchers Paul Masterson and John Podgajny. The Senators made a shamble of the pennant race, finishing with an 84-39 record, only to collapse in the first round of playoffs and be eliminated.

Besides catching, Peterman was used at second base and third base when injuries and illness sidelined the regular. In one doubleheader while playing at second he turned three double plays and had three hits.8 He batted .253 in 46 games but delivered only seven extra-base hits.

The Phillies placed Peterman with Allentown the next year; in turn Allentown sent him to join the Wausau (Wisconsin) Timberjacks in the Class-C Northern League. The Timberjacks’ roster was loaded with bats and arms. Outfielder Chet Cichosz was second in the league in batting at .356 and his 31 home runs outhomered both Winnipeg (28 homers) and Fargo-Morehead (24). Peterman was sixth in the league at .336 as Wausau batted .291 as a team. Pitcher Hugh Orphan led the league with 21 wins and 261 strikeouts.9

Peterman took an immediate liking to the pitching in the league, and at the beginning of June his batting average was over .400.10 Wausau surged to the top of the standings and stayed there for the season. The Timberjacks took on the league all-stars on July 21 and, while they won 11-7, it nearly proved disastrous. Peterman was hit while at bat and it was feared he had fractured two fingers. After going 2-for-3, he was forced from the game. His counterpart on the all-stars, Wes Westrum, was also injured in the game.11

Peterman was back in action quickly as the injury provide to be not as bad as initially feared. Wausau took the title and faced Duluth in the first round of the playoffs. The Timberjacks entered the postseason in “injury ridden” condition.12 Peterman went 9-for-21 in the first round, but his teammates struggled. Duluth defeated the Timberjacks four games to one. The Phillies were impressed with Peterman’s bat and his league-leading 139 assists. They added him to their roster with orders to report to Florida in the spring of 1942.13

Peterman was anxious for his chance at the majors and was in the first group that left Philadelphia on February 27 headed to Miami Beach. The club had appointed veteran Hans Lobert as manager with hopes of finishing higher than the cellar, where they’d been the last four seasons. Peterman was joined in camp by holdover catchers Mickey Livingston and Bennie Warren.

Warren, a better hitter than Livingston, got more work than expected when Peterman split a finger the same day that Livingston pulled a muscle in his leg. Livingston and Peterman were back in action within 10 days. Warren opened the season as the regular catcher, Livingston was the backup and Peterman worked in the bullpen.

On April 27 Peterman was sent to the Williamsport Grays in the Class-A Eastern League. He was paired with Gus Hixson as the catching corps. Bill batted .205 in 200 at-bats. Showing little power again, he had a slugging percentage of .245. In August his draft board changed his status from 3-A to 1-A and told him to report for induction.

Peterman entered the Army on September 9, 1942. He was assigned to the 1301st Service Unit, headquartered at the New Cumberland Reception Center near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The facility fielded a powerful baseball squad the next summer with Pat Mullin, Harry Marnie, Bob “Ducky” Detweiler, Paul Minner, and Tommy Hughes among the players. Their only losses were to the Phillies, Senators, Buffalo (International League), and the Homestead Grays.14

The team defeated every Army unit it faced and hoped for a late-season series versus the Great Lakes Naval base team. That series never materialized. Joe Lawlor, who had some collegiate coaching experience, was the baseball manager and also coached the Center basketball team. Peterman played basketball in the winter, joined by newly enlisted Elmer Valo. The next year the teams added Ron Northey.

Peterman remained at the Center until January 1945, when he was transferred to service in the China-Burma-India Theater.15 He returned a year later and was mustered out on January 15, 1946. A month later he signed his Phillies contract and prepared to join 71 other candidates in spring training.16 One writer noted, “Nobody knows everybody else on the Phillies.”17 Thirteen of Peterman’s teammates were returning from military service.

Andy Seminick, who like Bill was 25 years old, and Hal Spindel were the returning catchers. Former catchers Cy Perkins and Benny Bengough were in camp to offer instruction to the receivers.18 Ben Chapman was the manager and he ran a looser camp than Peterman experienced in 1942 under disciplinarian Lobert. The catchers even put together a calypso singing group that wrote a song about how Bengough lost his hair.19

Early in camp, “Bill Peterman, a big brawny rookie prospect[,]” split time with Seminick. Spindel played poorly in camp and management went looking for a veteran receiver.20 On March 25 Rollie Hemsley was purchased from the Yankees. A few days later, Peterman was sent to the minor-league camp. On April 22 he was sent outright to the Utica Blue Sox of the Eastern League.21

Peterman opened the season for Eddie Sawyer’s team going 2-for 4 with two RBIs in a 5-4 win over Binghamton.22 The year would prove to be Bill’s second most productive offensively as he batted .260 with a .311 slugging percentage for the seventh-place Jays.

Peterman was married to Grace Marie Haber on March 6, 1947. Grace was an Olney graduate (a year behind Bill) and had served as a WAVE during the war. Her brother Bill had played baseball with Peterman in high school.

They left for training camp three days later as Bill joined a Philadelphia Athletics farm club, the Birmingham Barons of the Double-A Southern Association, for 1947. In the preseason it was thought that Peterman and Ed Murtyn would give the team a powerful catching staff.23 Instead they each lasted less than a month. Peterman was optioned to Lincoln after only 10 games and 27 at-bats.

The Lincoln (Nebraska) A’s were in the Class-A Western League and destined for last place. Peterman started hot for the A’s but on May 22 he suffered a broken thumb and was sidelined nearly a month. The woeful A’s would spend the summer feeling the wrath of their fans. One day Peterman became their target after a bad throw. Later in the game he delivered a single and acknowledged the fans by “doffing his cap as he ambled to first base.”24 It was one of the few times Peterman showed his feelings toward the fans on the diamond.

In December it was announced that Peterman’s contract was sold to Montgomery in the Class-B Southeastern League.25 The Rebels were managed by Frank Skaff and had won the playoffs the previous season. Peterman went to spring training where he split time with John Sosh. Once the season began, Peterman got a couple of starts and went 2-for-9 before his contract was sold to the Augusta Tigers in the Class-A Sally League.

Peterman spent only about 10 days with the Tigers. He went 6-for-19.26 His last game with the Tigers came on May 7. Three days later he debuted with the Savannah Indians in the same league. There he found himself paired up with Ed Mutryn again. Mutryn played first base and outfield on days that Peterman caught.

Peterman’s season ended in late June when he was hit near the left eye by a pitched ball. Grace recalled that it was the “most horrible thing I have seen in my life.”27 It was feared that the injury was so severe he might not play again. “Physicians expressed only faint hopes of saving the eye.”28 As often happens, the fears were exaggerated; he returned to the game the following year.

Peterman was offered the position of player-manager with Moultrie (Georgia) A’s in the Class-D Georgia-Florida League. He replaced another former Phillies catcher, Joe Antolick. One sportswriter suggested that the Philadelphia Athletics were requiring minor-league managers to have a Phillies background.29 To prepare, he and Grace played catch by the hours to improve his eyesight and coordination. Peterman played 31 games with the A’s before he removed himself from the active list and concentrated on managing.30 He had little talent to work with and the team finished 40 games out of first.

The franchise was moved to Cordele, Georgia. For the 1950 season with Peterman again at the helm. He was joined again by second baseman Skeeter Kell, who batted .353. Kell was the only player on Peterman’s squads to eventually make it to the majors. Cordele also had a young pitcher named Mike Deitch, who lived only a few miles from Peterman in the offseason. The A’s finished in seventh place and Peterman’s managing career came to an end when ownership hired former Army teammate Detweiler for the 1951 season.

Bill left baseball after that and went to work as a delivery truck driver, often for grocery chains. He was no longer playing baseball but his love for the game never wavered. He became a steadfast member of the Philadelphia Hot Stove League, which began in 1952. The group held yearly banquets in the winter to get fans and players together to talk baseball and keep the spirit alive.31

Living in the Philadelphia area and being a former player gave Peterman opportunities to participate in events with the Phillies like the 100th anniversary. One of his last appearances came in 1998 when he joined former Army teammate Harry Marnie and others at an Alumni Night at the ballpark.

Peterman died on March 13, 1999, just short of his 78th birthday. He had suffered for about a year from prostate cancer. He was buried at the Hillside Cemetery in Roslyn, Pennsylvania. During his life he was often asked about the 1.000 batting average. He once told a reporter, “I get a little embarrassed when my friends talk about that hit. Heck, there are so many guys who have played a thousand games, had a thousand times at bat. I only had one.”32



Minor-league records/standings are courtesy of the The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, First edition. Unless noted otherwise, statistics come from



1 Ralph Bernstein, “Phils Plan Birthday Celebrations; Will Peterman Deliver?” Daily American (Somerset, Pennsylvania), February 10, 1983: 16. Peterman would have thrown out the first pitch if Enzmann had been unavailable.

2 “Phils to Celebrate 100th Season,” Daily Item (Sunbury, Pennsylvania), February 10, 1983: 31.

3 “Phils to Celebrate 100th Season.”

4 Bernstein.

5 Ted Silary, “Carillo’s Performance Leads to Semi-Sweet Win,” Philadelphia Daily News, May 30, 1997: 124.

6 “Stonehurst to Meet Villagers in Scribes Play,” Delaware County Daily Times (Chester, Pennsylvania), September 21, 1939: 23.

7 “Double-O’s Win, Oswego Stays for Winter Park Today,” Ogdensburg (New York) Advance News, July 3, 1940: 9.

8 “Double-O’s Rout Roman in Double-Header Games at Ottawa Park Yesterday,” Ogdensburg Advance News, July 17, 1940: 13.

9 Sporting News Official Baseball Record Book (St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1942), 351-356.

10 “Bears Rightfielder Second in Northern League Batting Race,” Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wisconsin): 10.

11 “Wausau Whips All-Star Team, 11-7,” Leader-Telegram, July 22, 1941: 6.

12 How They’re Batting in the Playoffs,” Leader-Telegram, September 17, 1941: 10.

13 “Phils Recall Farm Players,” Winnipeg Tribune, August 23, 1941: 19.

14 William G. Smock, “Tom Hughes’ Team Claims Service crown,” Times Leader, The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), August 12, 1943: 15.

15 Mel Antonen, “The Time of Their Lives,” USA Today, December 29, 1999. Located in Peterman’s Hall of Fame file.

16 “Phils Sign Hodkey,” Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), February 20, 1946: 16.

17 Harry Grayson, “Nobody Knows Everybody Else on the Phillies,” Trenton Evening Times, March 10, 1946: 15.

18 Grayson.

19 Art Morrow, “Vaudeville Back (Phillies Version),” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 24, 1946: 34.

20 John McMullan, “Phils Seek Lamano or Lakeman of the Reds,” Miami News, March 5, 1946: 9.

21 From Peterman’s file at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

22 “6,000 See Trips Lose Opener, 5-4, Despite 2 Homers,” Press-Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, New York), May 2, 1946: 22.

23 Leroy Simms, “Barons Plead for More Help,” Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser, April 3, 1947: 12.

24 Walt Dobbins, “I Could Be Wrong,” Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star, July 10, 1947: 10.

25 Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, December 5, 1947: 19.

26 “Tiger Averages,” Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle, May 11, 1948: 5.

27 Antonen.

28 Lincoln Journal Star, July 6, 1948: 10.

29 Fred Pettijohn, “In the Pressbox,” Tallahassee Democrat, January 25, 1949: 6.

30 Fred Pettijohn, “In the Pressbox,” Tallahassee Democrat, June 17, 1949: 11.

31 Edgar Williams, “The Scene,” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 8, 1994: 14.

32 Bernstein.

Full Name

William David Peterman


March 20, 1921 at Philadelphia, PA (USA)


March 13, 1999 at Philadelphia, PA (USA)

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