Hal Woodeshick

Through the 2012 season the Cy Young Award has been bestowed to relief pitchers on only nine occasions, the first time in 1974. Eleven years before, three relievers were cited as potential candidates for the prestigious honor – “Dick Radatz of the Red Sox, Ron Perranoski of the Dodgers and, perhaps the most surprisingly improved hurler in [1963], Hal Woodeshick of the Colts.”[i] Although Sandy Koufax would eventually be the unanimous choice, Woodeshick’s miniscule 1.97 ERA served notice to the history that might have transpired a decade earlier – the very first Cy Young Award reliever.

The older cousin of football notable Tom Woodeshick, these talented athletes shared two common traits through their professional sports careers: they both plied their respective trades performing primarily for sub-.500 teams, while also ending their careers playing in St. Louis. For Hal, his road was a long, arduous climb that did not yield marked success in the big leagues until he was in his thirties. Yet when that success finally arrived, Hal became one of the most respected relievers of his time. While in pursuit of such acclaim, Woodeshick also etched two unique distinctions through the course of his 11-year major league career: He fanned Hall of Famer Yogi Berra for his first major league strikeout, and his last recorded out (in World Series play, no less) was against another Hall inductee, Carl Yastrzemski; and; due to the unique circumstances surrounding the staggered expansions of 1961-62, Woodeshick remains one of only three players in history to play two seasons consecutively for two different expansion teams during both of their inaugural campaigns.[ii]

Harold Joseph (“Hal”) Woodeshick was born August 24, 1932, to Harold Albert Woodeshick and his wife Amy (nee Naylor) in Askam, Pennsylvania, just outside of Wilkes-Barre. The paternal grandchild of Austro-Hungarian immigrant miners (at 16 years of age, Hal’s mother made her way through Ellis Island from Wigan, England), the town was familiar terrain, sitting as it does in the heart of coal country. Hal’s father went to work in the mines at age 14 but eventually took on a completely different profession in carpentry. When Hal was 8 years old, the family relocated 300 miles to Beaver County along the western border of the state, where his father became foreman in the building construction industry.

A region renowned for producing such sports notables as Terry Francona, Joe Namath, Mike Ditka and “Pistol” Pete Maravich, it was in the borough of Monaca, located near the center of the county, that Hal carved his own athletic resume. With his younger brother Kenneth (he also had a sister, Rosalie, 14 years his junior), Hal’s authorship of a perfect game was just one example of his baseball prowess at Monaca High that resulted in a contract to play professional baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. At 17 years of age, Woodeshick found himself returning to the Wilkes-Barre region to pitch for the nearby Carbondale Pioneers of the North Atlantic League (Class D). Before the Army tapped him for a two-year stint as a military policeman in 1953-54, Woodeshick bounced among four teams in the lower minor leagues while attempting to establish his pro career.

Shuffled from the Phillies to affiliates associated with both the Cleveland Indians and the New York Giants, the 22-year-old lefty returned to the Giants’ fold when his two-year stint in the military was complete. Woodeshick reported to the Danville Leafs in the Carolina League (Class B); his 14 wins placed him among the league leaders. The Giants attempted to reward this success with a promotion to their Double-A affiliate in Dallas, but in doing so they exposed Woodeshick to the Triple-A draft that resulted in the lefty’s move to the Detroit Tigers. He was assigned to the organization’s Charleston Senators for the 1956 campaign where, in spite of a month-long absence due to a ruptured blood vessel in his pitching elbow, Hal again etched his name among the league leaders by posting a mark of 12-5, 2.75 in 157 innings of work. Favorable comparisons were drawn to Herb Score, the last southpaw star in the American Association,[iii] and it wasn’t long before Woodeshick was soon compelled to postpone wedding plans – he was scheduled to marry Marianne Fogle, also from Monaca, on September 26 – when the parent club beckoned.

The Tigers were in the midst of applying the final touches to a second straight fifth-place finish in the American League, and were anxious to determine who could be added to the existing mound corps for the following campaign. Woodeshick made his major-league debut against the New York Yankees on September 14, 1956, and aside from the aforementioned strikeout of Berra, both this and a subsequent start ten days later did not go as hoped – a 13.50 ERA in 5.1 innings of work. Still, despite these two rough outings, Woodeshick was one of three young hurlers – including future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning – looked upon to bolster the already-young Tigers’ staff of Frank Lary and Billy Hoeft.

A winter campaign in Cuba was intended to supplement Hal’s development, but a perception that Woodeshick reported to spring training overweight, plus the need to further develop his curveball, relegated him back to Charleston for the 1957 season. Whether it was the curve he was developing, or another less-than-legal delivery – he was accused by the Wichita Braves of throwing a spitball in a May 8 outing – the overall results fell far short of earlier Herb Score-like comparisons, and when the weight issue resurfaced during the course of the season, Woodeshick was demoted to the Tigers’ Single-A affiliate in Augusta, Georgia. The confidence once shown toward the lefty appeared to have vanished completely when, on February 18, 1958, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a multi-player swap.

Woodeshick was ecstatic, viewing the change of scenery as an opportunity to break into the Indians’ rotation on a permanent basis. “It’s the greatest break of my life,” he said, adding, “I’ve got my weight down and I never was in better shape.”[iv] Entering the 1958 season, Cleveland’s pitching staff was in a state of transition. With the trade of longtime ace Early Wynn, an injury to stalwart Mike Garcia, and the ongoing absence of Herb Score, Woodeshick appeared poised to step into the vacuum. Inexplicably, as Hal grumped six years later, manager Bobby Bragan “kept me on the bench 27 days and then sent me out [to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in San Diego]. He never gave me a chance.”[v]

Fate dictated that Woodeshick would not spend his entire campaign in the Pacific Coast League. A lackluster 31-36 start to the season resulted in Bragan being replaced by future Hall of Famer Joe Gordon (in his first stint as a major-league manager), and one of the first decisions made by Gordon was the desire to promote Woodeshick to the parent club. The decision was not a hard one to make, as Hal was in the process of posting one of his most successful minor-league seasons – 10-2, 2.54 – which resulted in his selection to the PCL’s all-star game that summer. Initially, the promotion made Gordon look like a genius, as Woodeshick reeled off three complete-game victories in four starts, accompanied by a 1.85 ERA. Unfortunately, Hal’s next five starts did not go as swimmingly, and it was later divulged by teammate Jimmy Piersall in Washington the next year that Woodeshick was guilty of tipping his pitches. Relegated to the bullpen, Woodeshick closed out the season strongly, yielding only one hit over his final five appearances (nearly eight innings) in relief – a forerunner of his signature role a few years later.

That winter the Indians traded Don Mossi and Morrie Martin in separate transactions that left Woodeshick as the only left-handed relief option available going into the 1959 season. Unfortunately a dismal spring combined perhaps with the recurring weight problems found Hal once again reporting to a Triple-A affiliate – the Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League. Pitching three straight victories to start the campaign, Woodeshick demonstrated afresh that he’d developed as far as he would in Triple-A ball, but instead of being rewarded with a promotion, he found he was packing his bags for Washington.

“Trader” Frank Lane, the Indians’ general manager, did not come to his nickname accidentally. Having taken over the role from onetime Tigers great Hank Greenberg, Lane constructed 55 deals involving 82 players in his first 20 months on the job – seemingly indicating that trades were often executed without proper vetting. One such trade may well have been the swap of Hal Woodeshick, as the still-young lefty was packaged with a 30-year-old catcher in exchange for Ed Fitz Gerald, a 35-year-old backstop who would receive his release from the team at the end of the season. Meanwhile, the ink was barely dry on the trade’s paperwork when the Washington Senators quickly elevated Woodeshick to the parent club.

The addition of Woodeshick immediately provided the Senators with a second lefty out of the bullpen, and although Hal had trouble in the early months of the campaign – 6.52 ERA in 14 appearances spanning 29 innings – he eventually settled down to a fine 1.13 ERA in his final 17 outings (32 innings).

The following year Washington used 11 different starters in search of a winning combination, and Woodeshick received his share of time in the rotation. A mark of 4-5, 4.70 is hardly indicative of the contributions Hal made to a club with a .474 winning percentage. A lack of run support was often the culprit when the Pennsylvania native took the mound. For example, over the course of six starts, Woodeshick twirled a nice 1.61 ERA that resulted in only one win, a loss and four no-decisions. Undoubtedly Hal’s efforts were more than serviceable for a team destined for its fourteenth straight second-division finish.

Great transition was in store for the AL in 1961 (as it would be for the NL a year later). The Washington Senators bolted for Minnesota but were promptly replaced by an expansion franchise which took on the same Senators name. Woodeshick was selected in the expansion draft by the new Washington team and was thus subjected to watching most of his teammates pack their bags for haunts further north. A few months later, Hal found himself on the move as well.

In his short time with the new Senators club, Woodeshick was the fortunate beneficiary of an autographed baseball from the recently inaugurated President John F. Kennedy. The opening day pitch, a tradition dating to William Taft in 1910, was delivered to one of Hal’s teammates, but a second pitch was required primarily for the news cameras. It was this second delivery that was caught by Hal. Tradition further stipulated that the president would then autograph the ball for the lucky recipient, and as any biographer knows all too well, Kennedy turned to an aide and asked, “How do you spell Woodeshick?”[vi] Regrettably, this autographed acquisition was one of Hal’s few highlights of the 1961 season.

On the strength of a fine spring training display, Woodeshick was again slotted into the starting rotation where, after seven appearances and a 3-2 mark, Hal’s 4.02 ERA precisely mirrored the league average for the season. Meanwhile, the expansion Senators were still busy trying to find the right combination of players to build for a successful future, and when they had an opportunity to acquire Chuck Cottier, a young second baseman from the Detroit Tigers, Woodeshick was the price of that acquisition. Hal was thus returning to the franchise with which he’d made his major league debut five years earlier.

The Tigers were no longer an also-ran as, on the day the trade was consummated, the team was holding a slim perch in first place in the AL standings. Though the team went to win 101 games – the first time in 27 years they eclipsed the century mark in victories – they fell short of the AL crown by eight games to the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, Woodeshick’s contributions fell woefully short of a 100 win campaign, mustering a dreadful 7.85 ERA in 12 appearances that resulted in another demotion to the minor leagues, and by mid-October the Tigers sold Woodeshick to the expansion Houston Colt .45s. Whereas Woodeshick had once viewed his parting from the Tigers in 1958 as “the greatest break of [his] life,” this separation was exactly that, as it opened the door to the success he would sustain over the next six seasons.

Of particular note is that when Woodeshick was demoted by the Tigers, he was assigned to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Charleston, West Virginia. The onetime host city of Detroit’s affiliate when Woodeshick hurled in the American Association in 1957-58 was now home to a Cardinals affiliate in the International League, while also serving as the permanent home of Woodeshick and his family since his Charleston Senators days. It was Charleston that Woodeshick rushed home to in April 1958 to see his first-born, Sharon, for the first time, and it was again Charleston that Woodeshick reportedly requested (as opposed to Detroit’s affiliate in Denver) when he learned of his demotion. Presumably, Woodeshick had a two-fold motive: his wife was pregnant with their second child, while a month before the city had been devastated with terrible flash floods that killed 22 people. Hal sought an assignment close to home to help with any necessary recovery, while also being present for the birth of his son John. Arrangements were made between the Detroit and St. Louis clubs to facilitate these needs.

The next spring Woodeshick came to the Colt .45s with an interesting reputation on two fronts: He was a terrible fielder and an even worse worrier. The latter concern was cited as far back as his days with Cleveland when the team would often resort to extreme measures – including not telling the hurler when he was scheduled to pitch until the last moment – in order to avoid the pre-game angst that often befell the young lefty. The fielding concerns were also long-term, with an inability to master a throw to first base that his former manager with the Senators, Mickey Vernon, labeled “a mental block.”[vii] Pitching coach Cot Deal worked extensively with Woodeshick to overcome these concerns while also helping the lefty develop an effective curveball, and the successful results were immediate.

Ushered into the starting rotation, Woodeshick (with ninth-inning help from Turk Farrell) tossed Houston’s first-ever shutout, a masterful 2-0 blanking of the Chicago Cubs, and carried a nice 2-0, 1.38 mark into May. A throat infection sidelined Hal for a three-week span beginning May 20, and by the time he returned to the rotation he was caught up in the team-wide tailspin that saw Houston win a mere five games in the month of July. Woodeshick witnessed his own personal downward spiral the second half of the campaign when he managed only one win in his final 10 decisions. Still, his 26 games started and 139⅓ innings pitched would both be career highs, and he received credit for his only unassisted career shutout with an eight-hit, eight-strikeout performance in Cincinnati against the Reds. As it turned out, this performance would be one of Hal’s last as a starter – following the 1962 campaign, Woodeshick would never start again.

Incidentally, Woodeshick was involved in an event that June that today might be referred to as “Milk-gate.” With the Los Angeles Dodgers in town, and in honor of National Dairy Month, Hal was paired against the Dodgers’ Lee Walls in a pregame milking contest that was won by the home team. Allegations were quickly raised that not all the milk in Woodeshick’s pail had come from the cow, and teammate Don McMahon was accused of enhancing the yield via rubber tubes concealed under his warm-up jacket. “[A] matter that may develop into baseball’s biggest slap since the Black Sox scandal”[viii] was alas soon forgotten when Woodeshick failed to outperform the milking efforts of Cincinnati’s Wally Post a few weeks later.

In order to protect a handful of promising youngsters within the organization from the major league draft, Woodeshick was left exposed when assigned by the club to the minor-league affiliate Oklahoma City roster. For the mere cost of $25,000 any club could have claimed Hal that winter, and by the end of the 1963 campaign many teams would come to rue their decision (or lack thereof). Instead, Woodeshick reported to Apache Junction, Arizona – Houston’s spring training site – three days early and 27 pounds lighter (the result a of steady “diet of handball and no starches”)[ix], ready to take on the 1963 season. Hal had determined early in 1963 that if he didn’t make the Houston squad out of spring camp, he would quit the game. A particularly nasty spring outing brought Woodeshick very close to this decision, and had it not been for his wife’s convincing counter-argument, Hal may never have experienced the success he soon realized. In addition to the curveball developed the year prior, Woodeshick learned the slider from an unexpected source: the club’s 19-year-old rookie first baseman Rusty Staub, who arguably should have been appointed the team’s co-pitching coach on the spot based on the success that followed.

Woodeshick posted an incredible 1.97 ERA in 55 appearances that warranted the aforementioned Cy Young Award consideration. He established a career-high 94 strikeouts in 114 innings pitched, while his 11 wins and 10 saves combined accounted for nearly one-third of Houston’s 66 victories. The overall output justified an invite to his old haunts when Hal garnered his only career selection to represent the NL at the All-Star Game in Cleveland, where he hurled two innings of one-hit ball that included three strikeouts (one versus future Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew). An ancillary benefit to Hal’s All-Star selection was his receipt of the ceremonial gift distributed to all participants. When he received the issued silver set, the package clearly read “Hal Woodeshick, c/o the Houston Colt .45s,” but when he opened the package the silver-engraved letters read “Ray Culp, Philadelphia Phillies.” (A prompt exchange between players was soon executed.) By the end of this outstanding campaign, Woodeshick was selected as the landslide pick for the Most Valuable Colt .45 as determined by the Houston baseball writers. In becoming the team’s second such honoree, he is also, through 2012, the first of only two full-time relievers — the other being Doug Jones in 1992 — to capture the award in the team’s 50-plus years of existence. All told, this was fine work for a player who started the year on the team’s Triple-A roster.

Proper ceremonial gift in hand, and with his career still intact, Woodeshick reported to spring training in 1964 prepared to show critics that 1963 was no fluke. Meanwhile, the club had spent a sizable portion of the offseason swatting away a multitude of trade inquiries for their rejuvenated lefty. After seven years in the major leagues Woodeshick had finally established himself as one of the premier relievers in baseball, and the 1964 campaign provided further evidence.

Of Houston’s first 21 victories of the new season, Woodeshick had a hand in eleven (ten saves and one win), while fashioning a superb 1.25 ERA. A “rough spell” followed that caused his ERA to more than double, but as teammate Bob Bruce accurately summed up, “[w]hat this proves is that the guy is human … [h]e’s just having one of those spells that all of us have. The thing is, he’s been carrying us for two seasons.”[x] Indeed, when Woodeshick emerged from the midseason slump he would go on to lead the NL with 23 saves, accompanied by a more-than-respectable 2.76 ERA. In his final 10 appearances spanning 12 innings, Hal was nearly untouchable, yielding five hits and no runs.

Even before the bell rang to issue in the 1965 regular season, Woodeshick had two victories under his belt: He’d won a $5 bet with new manager Lum Harris by reporting to spring training at less than 205 pounds, and he won the first gave ever played in the Astrodome (albeit in exhibition play against the New York Yankees). These early gains appeared to serve as a springboard for Hal’s season, as the early results – 2.05 ERA with three wins and two saves at the end of May – nearly mirrored the success of the preceding campaign. Then suddenly, 15 days later, Woodeshick was packing his bags and heading to St. Louis.

In many ways the four-player trade between the Cardinals and Astros made sense to both teams. The Cardinals were the reigning world champions, but a 4.36 ERA from their relief corps during the first half of the 1965 campaign was making it difficult for the team to realize a repeat performance. The acquisition of Woodeshick was intended to bolster the work out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, the Astros had long-coveted 28-year-old lefty Mike Cuellar (who later had much greater success with the Baltimore Orioles), and part of the price in acquiring him from the Cards was Woodeshick. In parting with Hal, the Astros were disposing of another of their links to its inaugural campaign – leaving in his wake only six players[xi] who had logged continuous time with the franchise since April 1962. It would be another 13 years before the Astros had another lefty reliever as effective as Woodeshick. (That would be Joe Sambito.)

Although St. Louis fell far short of a repeat performance, the expectations placed on Woodeshick were more than realized. Over his final 42 appearances (spanning 47 innings), Woodeshick yielded only 30 hits and five runs that resulted in a miniscule 0.96 ERA. His 15 saves in a half-season of work paced the Cardinals’ relief corps by a wide margin, as did his 51 appearances. Apparently hurling for the Redbirds seemed to appeal to Woodeshick greatly.

An injury to Woodeshick’s left shoulder in his last spring training outing of 1966 opened the door for yet another lefty Houston castoff – Joe Hoerner – to step into and ultimately retain the role as the Cardinals’ primary closer. Saves notwithstanding, the 33-year-old veteran took on another role that was nearly as valuable to St. Louis. While posting another season with an ERA under 2.00 (albeit in only 70-plus innings, the lowest total of work he’d received since 1961), Hal took on the responsibility of mentoring a number of club’s younger hurlers – including the lefty who replaced him as closer – a role that some of these grateful youngsters never forgot. “Woody gave me a lot of confidence,” Hoerner said at the end of the campaign. “He helped me a lot by telling me how to pitch to various hitters.”[xii]

Meanwhile, Woodeshick remained a coveted commodity, and the Cardinals were continually fielding inquiries as to the lefty’s availability. Perhaps the most amusing probe came from the Atlanta Braves, whose skipper was reportedly interested in adding the Cards’ second baseman Julian Javier and Woodeshick to his squad. That manager was none other than Bobby Bragan, the same skipper who eight years earlier had parked Hal on the Cleveland bench for 27 days before shipping him to the minors. A year later, Woodeshick’s name was also linked to rumors of a large multi-player swap with Pittsburgh that included such notables as Curt Flood, Manny Mota and Al McBean.

With a fully healthy Woodeshick teamed alongside Hoerner entering the 1967 campaign, the Cardinals were perceived to have “the best lefty relief tandems in the business.”[xiii] This rosy depiction played out precisely as choreographed through the first quarter of the season as the Cards raced to a fine 24-15 start to the campaign, but Woodeshick’s season soon reversed course. A dreadful outing on June 7 against his former Houston teammates – he yielded six runs while facing only seven batters in a 17-1 pummeling of the Cardinals – was the maiden outing in Hal’s dismal second half. In his final 27 innings of work Woodeshick posted a bleak 6.26 ERA, and saw but one appearance in the team’s last 31 games (a harbinger of things to come).

In spite of one of his poorest performances in years, Woodeshick was to receive a championship ring. St. Louis paced the NL by a wide margin and advanced to the World Series where they successfully battled the Boston Red Sox in an exciting seven-game match. In Game Six Woodeshick was one of 11 pitchers used – a then-Series record – and induced three groundball outs (including the aforementioned out registered against Yastrzemski) that amounted to mop-up duty in an 8-4 drubbing. Days after the championship celebration Hal and his wife Marianne were off to Acapulco, Mexico, their first childless vacation in years.

Within weeks, for purposes of protecting a number of budding minor league prospects, the Cardinals issued unconditional releases to a number of aging veterans – one of which was Woodeshick (to the disappointment of protégé Hoerner). Not long afterward, from his home in Charleston, Hal announced his retirement from the game. A number of teams beckoned for his services – the Braves, Reds and in particular, the White Sox, all jockeyed to land Woodeshick for the 1968 season – but as Hal declared in the press conference, “I have attained both of the goals I set out to reach in baseball – to play in the All-Star Game and in a World Series – and now I feel that I ought to retire while I’m on top.”[xiv] A long-ago graduate of the Dale Carnegie sales training course, Woodeshick teamed up with his longtime friend and offseason employer, Larry Baldwin, for a successful endeavor in industrial automotive sales.

In announcing his retirement from baseball, Woodeshick would thereafter deprive both fans and teammates alike of both his experiences and (sometimes unintentional) humor, episodes his family called Woodyisms. After all, it was not by chance that he was once portrayed – in a day preceding political correctness – as follows: “Hal not only throws lefthanded, but he thinks lefthanded [too].”[xv]

Perhaps the best means of describing Woodeshick’s hitting ability is to state he was a very fine pitcher. A righty at the plate, he once struck out from the other side of the batters’ box presumably thinking that he could do no worse. Of course this ineptitude at the plate did not dissuade Hal from offering batting tips to Lou Brock when he suggested that the future Hall of Famer should drink a milkshake each day to avoid hitting slumps – seemingly appropriate advice from a player whose weight was frequently a concern of management’s. Lest one think that eating would not enhance a pitcher’s ability as well, Woodeshick claimed credit for Steve Carlton’s brilliant 16-strikeout performance on September 20, 1967, for having introduced the youngster to a pre-game meal of cherrystone clams. With food at the forefront, Hal was once described by the Cardinals’ trainer as “a physical illiterate, the most uncoordinated man from the waist down [he’d] ever seen.”[xvi]

Hal’s propensity to worry manifested itself into sleepwalking, and he was fortunate to avoid serious injury on two occasions. In one instance Woodeshick’s road roommate, Bob Bruce, was awakened by Hal’s nocturnal meanderings. Hal had somehow shattered a full-length mirror and was on his way out the window of his hotel room – on the 24th floor – before Bruce pulled him back to safety. Then there was the time where Woodeshick was describing a long-ago game where he was knocked unconscious on a play at the plate. “They had to work on me for 10 minutes,” he described. “They gave me gas and everything trying to bring me to.”[xvii] Moments later Hal sheepishly crawled away after being informed that people are given oxygen, not gas, to bring them to their senses. Still another priceless quote was issued in 1964 when Woodeshick spoke of trying to “stay in shape, I’m worried about the sophomore jinx”[xviii] whilst entering his third year with Houston.

After a spring training outing, Hal sat at an isolated bench and began absentmindedly kicking at a nearby pile of dirt. He soon discovered why the bench was isolated when the pile he was kicking turned out to be fertilizer. But perhaps the most amusing story of all stems from an exhibition outing in Florida early in Hal’s career. He’d chosen to offer an expletive-laced opinion of the home plate umpire at the exact moment when there was an unexpected lull in the crowd noise, which only served to cause the words to reverberate and linger in the ears of those in attendance. In exhibiting his expanded vocabulary, Hal was reportedly “slightly embarrassed.”

Hal eventually moved from West Virginia to Houston, the location of his greatest baseball success. Following his exit from the professional ranks, Woodeshick coached and tutored youth baseball for several years. His career would be commemorated by his induction into the Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Sports Hall of Fame in 1979. In the 1980s he underwent a triple bypass — and then did a great deal of volunteer work on the hospital’s cardiac floor as his way of giving back. Woodeshick died in 2009, survived by his widow Marianne, his two children, Sharon Louise and John, and four grandchildren. He was buried in Memorial Oaks Cemetery on the west side of the city; his grave marker reads “Courage, Strength, Determination, Family, Love.”

It may be that nothing represents both the player and the man more than the words of his protégé, Joe Hoerner. Coming off arguably his greatest season in the major leagues with the Phillies in 1971, Hoerner was still invoking the name of Hal Woodeshick several years after his friend had retired when he said, “Hal helped me so much, and I really owe him a lot.”[xix] Hoerner’s words echo the thoughts and feelings of family and friends, teammates and fans alike, as they serve to point out the patience, honesty and lasting friendship that the Pennsylvania native presented to all whom he encountered – a true gentleman.


Thanks are extended to Hal Woodeshick’s family for their helpful input: Hal’s widow, Marianne, daughter Sharon (“Sherrie”), and his brother, Kenneth (“Woody”) Woodeshick. Appreciation is extended as well to Houston Astros television play-by-play voice Bill Brown and copy editor Mark Pattison for their valuable assistance in this narrative.









[i] “Hill Trophy,” The Sporting News, August 31, 1963, 4.

[ii] The other two players being Gene Woodling (Washington Senators in 1961, New York Mets in 1962) and Bob Cerv (Los Angeles Angels in 1961, Houston Colt .45s in 1962).

[iii] “Draftee Woodeshick Rated Top AA Lefty Since Score,” The Sporting News, August 15, 1956, 31.

[iv] “‘Greatest Break’ Says Woodeshick,” The Sporting News, February 26, 1958, 11.

[v] “Bragan Rides With ‘Popoff’ Punch From Woodeshick,” The Sporting News, July 4, 1964, 12.

[vi] “’Ya Gotta Do Better, John,’ Said Rivera – Prexy Grinned,” The Sporting News, April 19, 1961, 4.

[vii] “Donovan Aching to ‘Show Lopez’ in Nats’ Opener,” The Sporting News, March 1, 1961, 14.

[viii] “Dodgers Claim Foul in Milking Contest,” The Sporting News, July 14, 1962, 18.

[ix] “Woodeshick Battling For Job With Colts,” Charleston Gazette, April 3, 1962, 26.

[x] “Woodeshick Runs Into Dry Spell,” The Sporting News, June 20, 1964, 20.

[xi] The six players being: Bob Aspromonte, Bob Bruce, Turk Farrell, Ken Johnson, Bob Lillis and Al Spangler. A seventh player, Dave Giusti, was with Houston in 1962, but played all or portions of the 1963-64 campaigns in the minor leagues.

[xii] “Cardinals Tooting Bugle Over Notable Relieving by Hoerner,” The Sporting News, December 17, 1966, 34.

[xiii] “Strong Bird Wings Giving Rosy Tinge To Red’s Outlook,” The Sporting News, April 22, 1967, 19.

[xiv] “Woodeshick Hangs Up Toeplate,” The Sporting News, January 13, 1968, 35.

[xv] “Woodeshick Deals Woe to N.L. Swingers,” The Sporting News, July 27, 1963, 3.

[xvi] “Woodeshick Gets Needle,” The Sporting News, April 2, 1966, 27.

[xvii] “Woodeshick Deals Woe to N.L. Swingers,” The Sporting News, July 27, 1963, 3.

[xviii] “Pete Hotter Than Pistol, Sprays Hits as Colt .45s Riddle Rivals,” The Sporting News, April 4, 1964, 22.

[xix] “Phils’ Hoerner Thrives on Pressure,” The Sporting News, May 1, 1971, 22.

Full Name

Harold Joseph Woodeshick


August 24, 1932 at Wilkes-Barre, PA (USA)


June 14, 2009 at Houston, TX (USA)

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