Class of 2010
Gene played baseball ever since he can remember. He had the opportunity to play shortstop on the Hyndman High School team as a regular when he was in 8th grade and played there until graduation in 1949. That year, Hyndman won the Bi-State Interscholastic Championship, playing against much bigger schools such as Fort Hill, Allegany, Beall and others.
For five years Gene had to thumb 5 miles home after practice, as this was his only form of transportation in order to play baseball. Gene recalls, "While playing for for a midget league team in Cumberland, I was helping a farmer cut oats. I told the farmer I would help until it was time to go play ball. When the time came to go I took off my shoes and waded across Wills Creek to get to Route 96. I ran home, about 1.5 miles, got dressed to play and then I ran 3 miles to Ellerslie to catch a bus to Cumberland. I was lucky. When I got about half way, a car stopped and picked me up and took me to Ellerslie. I tell this just to say how much I enjoyed playing baseball."
While playing in a local all-star game he was noticed by Pittsburgh Pirates scout, Joe Brehanny, and signed to a professional contract as an outfielder. In 1950 Gene was assigned to a Class D league in Salisbury, NC. One of his fondest memories of that year was: there were runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth with no outs; he was ordered to bunt but failed; two pitches later he hit a home run to win the game. Gene batted .310 that year.
Gene s professional career was interrupted for three years while he served in the Army during the Korean War. He then returned to professional baseball in 1954 and Pittsburgh assigned him to St. Jean in the Class C Canada League. He set a league record of 10 consecutive hits and ended the season batting .273.
In 1955, Gene was assigned to Phoenix, Arizona. By July, Gene was batting a league leading .376 with132 hits, 18 doubles, 10 triples, 7 home runs, and 104 runs batted in with a 25 game hitting streak. Gene was promoted to Class A Lincoln, where he batted .259 and injured his arm,
Gene was employed by the B & O Railroad in the off season and the railroad granted him leaves to play baseball. But in the 1956 season, Gene was forced to make a decision between playing baseball and working for the railroad; the railroad refused to grant a leave to play ball. At the time, Gene saw more security in the railroad, but he said that it was one of toughest decision of his life.
Gene continued to play or manage the Hyndman Merchants in the Pen-Mar League for 7 years. In 1957 he finished second in batting with a .448 and won the title in 1959. In 1965 he managed Hyndman to both the playoff and the pennant which was only the second team to accomplish that feat.
Gene's highlight of his baseball career happened in the fall of 1958. Dick Groat's all-star team, which consisted of major league, came to Cumberland to play the Pen-Mar all-stars in an exhibition. In the second inning, Gene hit a grand slam home-run off of Elroy Face. Face was Pittsburgh's #1 relief pitcher at this time. Face also holds the major league record for the highest winning percentage for a year of .947 with an 18-1 record.
Gene and his wife of 54 years, Patti live in Stringtown, four miles south of Hyndman. They have five children.
Bedford County Sports Hall of Fame
Bedford County, Pennsylvania