Pee Wee Reese played in his last game with the LA Dodgers just 3 weeks before I was born, so I never got to see this Hall of Famer play. My frame of reference for him was always centered around the World Champion 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. Reese was 36 at the time, and all the photos that I saw of him were of a battle hardened grizzled veteran nearing the end of his baseball career. At 5’10” his stature for that Era was anything but Pee Wee, and as an aged veteran he looked anything like someone that you would call Pee Wee.
I recently came across this photo of a 23 year old Pee Wee Reese. Now I get the whole Pee Wee thing. This photo taken in 1942 shows a fresh faced boy sliding into home with his spikes flying high, with all the energy and intensity you would want from a young ball player. He looks like he’s no more than 16 years old. Now I get the whole Pee Wee thing.
The 1942 Dodgers won 104 games that year
and played the New York Yankees in the World Se……No wait….they didn’t play in the World Series that year. The St Louis Cardinals won 106 games that year, edging out the Dodgers by 2 games. That 1942 Dodger team holds the unenviable record of winning the most games in a season and not qualifying for the post season. That had to hurt, that’ll age any ball player fast. Now I think I get the whole grizzled veteran look in his later years.
Pee Wee Reese passed away in 1999 at the youthful age of 81. This photo is the Pee Wee Reese I’ll think of from now on. Thank you Pee Wee for playing the game the right way. Thank you the youthful enthusiasm that you show in this photo. Thank you for making us all remember what it was like to be boys of summer.