Pee Wee Reese Biography

Short in stature, but not in heart, the late Pee Wee Reese is a Brooklyn Dodgers' legend.

His real name was Harold, but is better known simply as "Pee Wee". In the late 1940s and 50s, he was one of Brooklyn, New York's most beloved citizens. It didn't hurt he played shortstop for the Dodgers.

Reese really wasn't that short. At 5'9, he was about average for a shortstop of his day. His nickname stemmed from his prowess as a marbles player. But in 1938, he signed a pro baseball contact with his hometown minor league team, the Louisville Colonels. Mired in last place, the Colonels won the pennant in '39 when Pee Wee was only 19.

Signed by the Red Sox, Reese was sold to the Dodgers, where he struggled until 1942, when he became an All Star for the first time. He went on to appear in the next nine Mid-Summer Classics.

World War II came calling and cost Pee Wee several prime years of his career, but he came back in 1946 and by '47, he played a prominent role in baseball's integration. While Jackie Robinson endured catcalls from some fans, it was Reese, the double play partner, who publicly befriended Robinson, making the transition much easier. One of the most famous scenes in 1940s baseball is a picture of Reese, the southerner, with his arm around Robinson. Reese's friendship with Robinson was unpopular even among some of his teammates, but he gradually won them over.

Durable throughout his career, Pee Wee played in 90% of his team's games every season. He helped the Dodgers to a World Series championship in 1955. He's the answer to a great trivia question.

"Which player appeared in every game of the seven played between the Dodgers and Yankees?" With Reese's career ending, Dodger fans payed tribute in September of '57, lighting candles in a darkened stadium to honor their favorite son in a ballpark soon to be vacant while the team plotted a move to Los Angeles. Reese's playing career ended early in the 1958 season,when the team had moved to Los Angeles. He spent the 1959 season as a coach for the team but never returned to the field in much more than an honorary capacity.

Reese later became a broadcaster with NBC, calling games in the 1960s and 1970s on television withthe legendary Dizzy Dean. He returned to his native Louisville and stayed active with many business interests including a position with Hillerich & Bradsby, maker of the Louisville Slugger bats.

The Dodgers eventually retired his uniform number 1. Pee Wee finished his career having played in over 2100 games, collecting 2,170 hits and stealing 232 bases for his career, numbers good enough to earn him an election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a Veteran's Committee vote in 1984. A friend to thousands, many of which he never really knew personally, Pee Wee Reese died in August of 1999 at age 81.

© High Speed Ventures 2011