I sat down this week to write a column in tribute to Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, who recently passed away.
There was just one problem. Today's articles have to have an edge of greed, avarice or impropriety to be interesting. The 1990s reader scans the newspaper and stops at stories about illicit affairs and gruesome crimes.
It's hard to find a negative aspect on Pee Wee. The guy was just too darn nice. What a pity! Just too darn nice!
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Reese was expected to be a staunch segregationist. Upon his return to the Dodgers from the U.S. Army in 1946, he was taunted when it was suggested that Jackie Robinson, a black man playing for the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn's farm team, might take his position away from him.
Instead they ended up as teammates, later becoming one of the best double-play combinations in the major leagues. On one occasion, Reese stood directly in front of the Philadelphia Phillies' dugout with his arm around Robinson's back, in answer to the bigots.
Pee Wee was the man at the center. He was the captain. He was the lead-off hitter. He wore number one on his back. He led the Brooklyn Dodgers to National League Championships in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, and 1956 and helped deliver a World Series Championship in 1955.
The Hall of Famer hit with surprising power for a five-foot, 10-inch shortstop, and he fielded his position flawlessly.
He got the name "Pee Wee" not from his height, but because he was a marbles champion in Louisville. After his playing career, he was employed by the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger major-league baseball bats.
Reese died at age 81.
The coda of an obituary of a bland, honest, forthright man is pure Dullsville. I am sorry, my readers, for a lifeless story, but it must be told.
Harold "Pee Wee" Reese was a giant of a man, wearing Dodger blue and conducting his life in a more-than-exemplary fashion.
In the '40s and '50s we were looking for heroes like Reese. Today we barely acknowledge them.