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Philadelphia Baseball Ghosts: Eddie Stanky

One tiny little man forced himself on baseball in a way that set the bar for the sport's many subsequent "scrappy" players.

Baseball History Daily

For many ball players, Philadelphia becomes merely a second home. What we aim to do with the "Philadelphia Baseball Ghosts" series is take a look at those who are born within Philadelphia city limits before they set off on their grand baseball adventure somewhere else in the vast, horrible world.

Past entries:

William "Yank" Robinson

Harry "Socks" Seibold

John Francis "Phenomenal" Smith

Alan Strange

Ed Sixsmith

Oyster Burns

Highball Wilson


Eddie Stanky

DOB: September 3, 1915

What was happening in Philadelphia at the time: What's going on? What's going on?! Why, our own Philadelphia Phillies are headed to the World Series to take on those filthy Yankees! Pat Moran and the boys are going to give those New York fellows what's what, I'll tell you that much! Sorry if I sound so excited, but it's taken our town's ball team - well, one of our town's ball teams - only 32 years since their inception to make it to the league championship! That's got to be some sort of record!

And with the way this town is buzzing, I don't think it's going to become an isolated incident, no sir! Now that we've got a taste of glory, there's no way this team is letting that go! We're a city of winners, and the whole world's going to know it or Possum Whitted doesn't have the most hideous name in the history of the sport! Well, either him or Gavvy Cravath. Our outfield sure has some curious monikers!

Gosh darn, I haven't been this amped with civic pride since they installed that electric train between here and Paoli! What a time to be alive!

MLB career: 1943-44 Chicago Cubs; 1944-47 Brooklyn Dodgers; 1948-49 Boston Braves; 1950-51 New York Giants; 1952-53 St. Louis Cardinals

.268/.410/.348, 29 HR, 364 RBI, 996 BB, 374 SO, 49.3 WAR in 1259 G and 4301 AB.

Bio: Imagine you're a child growing in Kensington, stumbling through the adolescent obstacle course provided by puberty and being in Kensington a lot of the time. Just when you feel like you've got a good handle on things, if that ever happens, your parents announce that they are changing the family name with which they arrived in this country to "Stanky."

That's what happened to Edward Stankiewicz when he was but a lad, giving the neighborhood toughs all the more reason to taunt him. As a small-framed fellow, Stanky probably had enough natural predators to fend off as it was; now his family crest featured a phrase often used to describe open sewer drains.

No matter - Stanky decided at a young age that baseball was the job for him, and slow reflexes and bad instincts or not, he was going to play in the big leagues.

"Not gifted with natural talent" was how SABR described Stanky in their 2012 book on the Brooklyn Dodgers with barely a "How dare you" from the man's offspring. In modern times, announcers and analysts would laud Stanky for his intense desire to be on the baseball field, and we internet people would roll our eyes at the praise as Stanky amounted season after season of .240-.250 hitting and probably won an NLCS MVP award somehow, probably with the Giants.

Baseball got to see how far that famous Eddie Stanky resolve would hold up in the late '30s, when Stanky played in the minor leagues in Greenville, Mississippi. The answer is: not long at all. Stanky hated it there and wrote a letter to his mother, asking to come home. She said no.

So, with few options, Stanky kept playing baseball and eventually met a manager named Milt Stock, whose leadership helped him become an improved batsman and whose daughter helped him become a husband. He won a league MVP award in his final year in the minors before the Cubs nabbed him for the 1943 season at the age of 27.

Stanky put in a decade as a player, leading the league in walks and OBP multiple times and making three All-Star teams. He then entered the magical world of baseball managing, and was cited for his keen development of young players by former scout Red Murff. Murff also said that Stanky "was also the most sophisticated ice cream connoisseur I ever met in the big leagues." He also yelled at a player for being too lackadaisical during the National Anthem. So as a manager, Stanky would probably have announcers and "old school" types bowing at his feet while the rest of us made wanking motions. Baseball: It's so divisive!

What the response letter to Eddie Stanky's pleas to come home may have said:

Dear Eddie,

Somehow, you've used that devil magic that grown men under 5' 10" are given at birth in order to have a fighting chance in this world to convince people that this game you play is a job. At first I didn't believe it, but then you got on that train to Greenville and I could see for the first time that this wasn't just some cockamamie tomfoolery you'd cooked up to get out of doing chores.

For that, I was grateful. It is not often that a mother can rest easy on the welfare of her children for more than several seconds. So you must understand how distressing it was to receive your last correspondence, wishing to come home.

This morning, I woke with the sun for 14 hours of highly physical labor, after which I barely have the energy to put pen to paper. What time did you get up this morning, Eddie? Have they started playing games at sunrise? Or were you fairly well rested when it came time to go to the field and play with the other boys?

We did not replace six letters of our last name with a "y" just so you could frolic about this country playing stickball and coming home whenever you feel like it. If I catch you on this farm I swear to the god who never answers my prayers that I will strip you of your inheritance and use it to give myself a vacation to some exotic place beyond the Kensington border. Do not test me on this.

This is not a family of quitters and if you bring shame upon us with your actions, I will burn this estate to ashes and go aground, leaving you with no proof that you even exist. Are you real or simply an ungrateful phantom? You will ask yourself this until your death.



Further reading:

The Team that Forever Changed Baseball and America by SABR

The Scout by Red Murff