A Silk Sox Saga

This article was written by Frank Gabrielli

This article was published in 1979 Baseball Research Journal

   The roar of the crowd is old stuff to the veteran ball player who clouts a game winning home run or who makes a spectacular fielding play. Sometimes, to a chosen few, there are moments when the applause is meant for something more meaningful than a special athletic feat.

   Just such a moment was Howie Lohr’s. Never heard of Howie Lohr? Well, I guess not many did, but it doesn’t matter. He was just a semi-pro ball player. Not a great enough ball player to make the big leagues, but he was an outstanding member of a trio of fleet outfielders who roamed the grasses for the Paterson Silk Sox of Northern New Jersey in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Lohr in left field, Jimmy Eschen in center, and “Bibs” Raymond in right; they played these positions for many years. Their fielding and long-distance hitting were the stellar attractions of the fast-paced circuit in which they performed.

   Big Howie Lohr was accustomed to the roar of the crowd as his big bat accounted for many a Silk Sox victory. But one day, before a capacity crowd in Brooklyn, in a game against the Farmers A. A., he was accorded a tumultuous ovation, the like of which he had never experienced. That day no resounding blow came from his destructive bat; nor did the plaudits stem from a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch. It was just that the nobler nature within him was called upon, and it easily matched his prowess as a player.

   In a late inning of this closely fought game, the Farmers had a man on second base with one out. At the bat was Lou Heisler, Farmer second baseman. He lifted one out near the foul line in left field and Lohr was off in full stride for the fly. He had negotiated about 25 feet when he was arrested by a dull thud and impact simultaneous with a startled cry from the packed grandstand and bleachers. A boy, seven or eight years old, had somehow escaped the attention of all present, including the attendants, and had wandered onto the playing field, where the contact with Lohr had flattened him. Disregarding the ball, which dropped a few feet from him, oblivious of Heisler making the circuit of the bases, and without another thought about the ball game, the big outfielder worriedly knelt and attended the stricken boy. He gathered the youngster in his arms and tenderly bore him to the turf in front of the dugout where a doctor was hastily summoned. The crowd, in stunned silence, had risen to its feet, touched by the sight of this rough and ready man concernedly trudging in with the still form of a boy.

   Happily, the boy was soon revived. He had just been shaken up and presently was escorted home.

   As Lohr went back to his position in left field, the crowd let loose a mighty cheer which welled into a throaty roar. The ovations which his experienced ears had heard through the years were as nothing compared to the crescendo of acclaim that now pierced them.

   Perhaps Howie Lohr was not a ball player great enough to make the big leagues, but that day the fans knew that his was a heart that beat with the greatest.