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Mehring Monday 10/26: Fat Pat10/26/2009 3:31 PM ET
By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
During the Major League Playoffs, I have been keeping track of Rattler Alumni with their current teams. It's always interesting -- to me at least -- to see how a player wound up with their current team. Everyone remembers that Alex Rodriguez played with Seattle until signing that huge contract with the Texas Rangers. Then, he was traded to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias.
If you've been following Rattler Radio at all, you'll remember that I've had some fun with "How did Chris Tillman and Adam Jones wind up in Baltimore?" and "Shin-soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera are with Cleveland?"
So, for the next few editions of Mehring Monday, I will select a player from the Appleton Baseball Honor Roll (players with experience in Appleton with Papermakers, Foxes, or Timber Rattlers who made the major leagues) and took a look at their transactions to follow their careers. To start, here is a player from the 1940s who picked up an unfortunate nickname and made a little history in a short major league career.
Pat Seery was an 18 year-old with the Appleton Papermakers, the Wisconsin State League affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, in 1941. And he had a very good season for the Papermakers in his first year as a professional. Seerey hit .330 with 31 homers and 125 RBI in just 104 games. By 1943, he was a member of the big league club. The Indians never threatened for an American League pennant in the first five years of Seerey's career.
But in 1948, the Indians were in the thick of things. They split a doubleheader with the St. Louis Browns on May 31 and were in second place, one game behind the Philadelphia Athletics and three games ahead of the Yankees. But, the Indians felt they needed to make a move. To that point in the season, Seerey had played in just 10 games as an outfielder for Cleveland. He was playing behind Larry Doby, Thurman Tucker, and Dale Mitchell. The deal went down on June 2. Seerey was sent -- along with pitcher Al Gettel -- to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for infielder Bob Kennedy.
At the time the trade was not popular with the people of Cleveland. But, Lou Boudreau, Cleveland's player manager, apparently didn't like Seerey. According to the Baseball Biography Project:
After Seerey's draft board classified him 4-F (physically unable to serve) several times, he was assigned in 1943 to Tony Lazzeri's Wilkes-Barre team in the Eastern League. Hitting .246 with five home runs, on June 8, Seerey was called to the major league when the Indians Hank Edwards broke his collarbone. Lou Boudreau, the young player-manager, had a veteran outfield and had no intention of playing Seerey. The rookie was to be used in case of emergency, play a game or two if a tough lefthander was pitching, or if a pinch hitter was needed. He played in five games, including three pinch-hit appearances, and hit a home run off Chicago's Orval Grove in the first month and a half he was with the Indians.
Maybe this event in 1946 had a little something to do with it?
September 13 - The Boston Red Sox clinch the American League pennant, edging the Cleveland Indians, 1-0, at Cleveland's League Park II on Ted Williams' inside-the-park home run, the only one of his career. Williams punches the ball over the shift when Cleveland left fielder Pat Seerey pulls in behind the shortstop position. It is Boston's first pennant since 1918.
I'm just guessing here, but Seerey was probably playing where he was told to play by his manager. But, that is a Wikipedia entry, so grain of salt, I guess.
The main thing that probably got to Boudreau was that Seerey struck out. A lot. Seerey led the AL in Ks in 1944, 1945, 146, and 1948. Those were his only four years as a regular. While his seasons of 90+ strikeouts nowadays would barely raise an eyebrow, at the time those totals were, well, eyebrow-raising.
Seerey was tagged with the nickname of "Fat Pat" by the sportswriters in Cleveland. You really need to click on that Baseball Biography Project for the full lowdown, but he was 5'-9" and 220 pounds. Speaking as someone who is both taller and heavier than those numbers, "Fat Pat" is not a fair nickname. But, different eras, I guess.
Boudreau wanted to send Seerey down in 1946, but Bill Veeck had just bought the team and Veeck liked him...a lot. How much? This much.
In the fall of 1947 Veeck said, "This fellow has so much potential ability that I hate to quit. I have known only about five ball players who had Seerey's 'color' and possibilities." In addition to hiring Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker and Hank Greenberg as Pat's batting coaches, Veeck had Seerey and catcher Jim Hegan at his Arizona ranch in the winter of 1947-48 for a program of conditioning and batting drills with Greenberg. Pat admitted being difficult to coach: "I'm sort of a rockhead. When somebody tells me something and I'm not sure it's right, I get stubborn and won't do it."
The stubborness won out in the end and -- despite a good start to spring training in 1948 -- Seerey got into Boudreau's doghouse. He couldn't get out this time.
Seerey wasn't supposed to be traded. Veeck just wanted to send him down to the minor leagues and get his swing straightened out. But, four teams claimed him off waivers and Veeck wanted to get something for Seerey. So, the trade with the White Sox was made.
Kennedy appeared in 66 games with the Cleveland as the Indians went on to win the pennant and the World Series. Seerey, played 95 games for the White Sox after the trade. He hit 18 homers and drove in 64 runs for a team that finished the season with a 51-101 record.
One of the best things about baseball is that any player can have that one game. You know the one. A perfect game by the guy with a career record below .500 or a 7-hit game by a career .274 hitter. Seerey had that one game on July 18, just a few weeks after being traded. Chicago was playing the Athletics in Philadelphia. He hit four home runs in that game, to that point in history, only four other major league players had hit four round trippers in a game. And the fourth one came with a little pressure:
Pat received a $500 bonus from a Philadelphia scorecard advertiser who had offered $300 for any player who hit three home runs in one game. The advertiser called the ballpark and promised Seerey $500 if he hit his fourth. Pat did it and collected his prize.
But, that was the last major league hurrah for Seerey. He played just four games for the Sox in 1949 and would knock around the minor league system of the St. Louis Browns, the Yankees, the Chicago Cubs, and the White Sox again. There was a season -- 1950 -- in which he hit 44 homers for Colorado Springs of the Western League. But, he never made it back to the bigs and was done as a player after the 1951 season.
Trades happen for a reason. Maybe the reason Fat Pat got traded was so that he could hit those four homers on July 18, 1948 in Philadelphia. He certainly made the best of it. And he is one of ours.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.