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Carl Sawatski

Sport: Baseball

Born: November 4 1927

Died: November 24, 1991

Town: Mountain View

Carl Ernest Sawatski was born November 4, 1927 in Shickshinny, PA and moved with his mother to Mountain View, NJ after his parent separated. Short, stocky and powerful, Carl was know for his long, towering home runs in American Legion ball. He played third base and batted left-handed. Carl also played football and basketball for Pompton Lakes High School, and boxed in the Golden Gloves competition. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1944 at the age of 16.

Carl played his first season of pro ball in 1945 with the Class-D Bradford Blue Wings. He played the outfield and tied for the league lead in homers. Carl enjoyed himself a bit too much in the off-season and reported to spring training 50 pounds heavier. The Phillies released him. Carl realized that to continue his career he would have to find a position where weight would not be a significant issue. He turned himself into a catcher. In 1947, Carl led the North Atlantic League with 34 home runs and drove in 138 runs. The Cubs bought his contract in 1948 and he led the Class-A Western League with 29 home runs. He was called up to Chicago at the end of the season as a reward for his slugging. Carl was back in the minors in 1948 with the AA Nashville Sounds. That year he hit a home run measured at 575 feet. For the fourth time in five years, he was the league leader in homers, this time with 45. He hit 5 more in the 7-game Southern League championship series. Near the end of the 1950 season, the Cubs gave him a chance to be their everyday catcher.

Unfortunately, 1951 found Carl in military service. He returned to the Cubs in 1953 and spent the season as their third-string catcher. Carl bounced around the minors over the next three season before catching on with the Braves in 1957. He played well in a reserve role and earned a World Series ring as Milwaukee beat the Yankees in seven games. Carl established himself as a handy platoon catcher from that point on, batting against tough righties and handling himself relatively well behind the plate. He caught for the Phillies in 1958 and 1959, the Cardinals from 1960 to 1963. He enjoyed his best season in the majors in 1961, batting .299 with 10 homers and slugging over .500. In 1962, he tied the St. Louis record for home runs by a catcher with 13. He retired after the 1963 season with 58 big-league homers—every one of them against right-handed pitching.

Carl made many friends in baseball. He was a team leader in the clubhouse and his practical jokes kept teammate loose. In 1968, he became GM of the Cardinals Texas League affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers. He was named Minor League Executive of the Year by The Sporting News in 1970 and became president of the Texas League in 1976. He held that position for 15 years, even as he battled leukemia in his 60s. Carl passed away from the disease in the autumn of 1991.

 

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