From St. J. to MLB

To the Editor:

Three other baseball players who spent summers either on the St. Johnsbury Town Team or with the St. Johnsbury Senators went on to careers in Major League Baseball (to join the select club along with Jean Dubuc, Harding “Pete” Peterson, and Al Blanche, also players in organized baseball in St. J. and “Big League” professional baseball players). [Jean Dubuc (born in St. Johnsbury) having pitched as a player for the New York Giants against a select St. Johnsbury baseball team on Oct. 14, 1919 during a Giants post-season exhibition tour of New England. Al Blanche pitched for the Boston Braves in 1935 and 1936 and then pitched/played for the St. Johnsbury Senators in 1940. Harding “Pete” Peterson was a catcher for the 1946 St. Johnsbury Yankees before going on to a playing and management career with the Pittsburgh Pirates].

1. Lawton Walter “Whitey” Witt (Ladislaw Waldemar Wittkowski) was born on Sept. 28, 1895 in Orange, Mass. Whitey Witt attended the old Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vt. and played baseball on the St. Johnsbury Town Team in summers 1915 and 1916 (“ ‘Whitey’ Witt Day on 26th of June [at Fenway Park] Baseball Fans to Give Former St. Johnsbury Player Send-off,” The Caledonian-Record, Sat. June 17, 1922, at pp. 1, 4). Witt was a center fielder and utility man who played for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1916-1921 (not playing in the 1918 season due to military service); for the New York Yankees from 1922-1925; and one season with the National League Brooklyn Robins in 1926. Over his ten year Major League career, Witt played in 1,139 games, had a batting average of .287, had 1,195 hits, hit 18 home runs, and knocked in 300 RBIs. The blond-haired Witt (which inspired his nickname) played on two World Series Yankees teams: in 1922 (a Yankees loss to the N.Y. Giants) and in 1923 (a Yankees win over the cross-town Giants). In his post-baseball career, “Witt purchased a farm near Alloway [N.J.] and opened Whitey’s Irish Bar in Salem [N.J.], a gathering place for fans and players.” (“Whitey Witt, 92, first Yankee to bat at Yankee Stadium,” Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla., Sun. July 17, 1988, at p. 27). Whitey Witt died on July 14, 1988 and his remains are interred at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Woodstown, N.J.

2. David Edwin “Dave” Keefe was born on Jan. 9, 1897 in Williston, Vt. and was, like Whitey Witt, a Goddard Seminary player, a St. Johnsbury Town Team player, and a player (a pitcher) for the American League club, the Philadelphia Athletics. Keefe pitched for the A’s during the 1917 and 1919-1921 seasons and for the Cleveland Indians during his final Major League season in 1922. During his five seasons in MLB, Keefe achieved a 9-17 won-loss record with an earned run average of 4.15. Among his career pursuits following the end of his baseball playing career, Keefe served as the traveling secretary for the Kansas City Athletics (“The A’s Keefe, George Selkirk Stay in Motion,” The Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Mo., Thur. Aug. 10, 1961, at p. 32). Dave Keefe died at the age of eighty-one in Kansas City on Feb. 4, 1978. He is interred at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Cemetery in Richmond, Vt.


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