Les Fusselman, Catcher in the Pie.

Les Fusselman: Catcher in the Pie.

Les Fusselman of the 1948, 1950-51 Houston Buffs was the personification of what everybody used to think that a stockily built catcher should look like. At 6’1″ and 195 lbs., Les had the physique of a catcher, the posture of a catcher, and the listen-to-me look of a catcher in his eye.

Unfortunately, Les Fusselman also ran and hit like a career minor league catcher who never would be quite strong enough, early enough, to make it for long in the big leagues with a talent-heavy club like the contract owning St. Louis Cardinals, but that’s OK. Les had his place in the higher minors. He was a   steady influence upon the pitching staff of the 1951 Buffs Texas League championship club and he had the catching range and moxie to work with pitchers like wily veterans Al Papai and Fred Martin while also serving as a steady and strong teaching influence upon the up-and-coming lefty star that Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell was becoming.

Les also hit with some pop for the ’51 Buffs, banging 36 doubles, an incredible 5 triples, and 12 homers for a .444 slugging average and a .255 batting average over the course of that championship season. It was enough to win the Western Illinois University alum a short-term trial with the 1952-53 Cardinals. In his two seasons and 43 games at St. Louis, Fusselman would hit a less-than-Mendoza-meager .169 and be sent back to the minors forever.

Les Fusselman’s rare baseball card is supposedly worth $300.00 today. I’d love to have one for my former Buffs collection, but not at that price. I can remember and appreciate Les Fusselman without his card, if need be, and that does seem to be the state of “need” for me on the card level. Meanwhile, I do think Les is another of those guys who could have had an earlier and longer major league career had he played the game today – now instead of then. He just seemed to be in control of things when he conferred with his pitchers during tight game situations. Maybe his age and veteran experience and persona were the keys that carried with through the gate of peer respect. He was as old as any and senior to most on the ’51 Buffs club.

Over the trail of his nine-season minor league career (1942, 1946-51, 1953-54), Le Fusselman batted .274 with 49 homers and a slugging average of .414. His best hitting seasons for average both came in widely separated seasons for Columbus, Georgia of the Sally League. He broke in with a rookie BA of .303 at Columbus in 1942; he also batted .308 for the 1947 Columbus team. These two full season accomplishments (117 and 129 games) were the only times that Les batted over .300 for a single year.

Sadly, Les Fusselman died early. He passed away in Cleveland, Ohio on May 21, 1970 at the age of 49 and he is buried there in the Acacia Masonic Memorial Park. Cleveland was Les’s late-in-life home, but he was born in Pryor, Oklahoma on March 7, 1921.

As I conclude these thoughts, I’ll add the words that always flow through my brain anytime I write about the members of our old minor league club in Houston: Long Live the Memory of the Houston Buffs!

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9 Responses to “Les Fusselman, Catcher in the Pie.”

  1. Mike McCroskey Says:

    Here’s a “Buy it now” Les Fusselman ebay post for $19.95

    http://cgi.ebay.com/1953-Topps,-Card-%23218,-Les-Fusselman,-Cardinals_W0QQitemZ230443721127QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxZ20100303?IMSfp=TL100303184002r39335

    And here’s an ebay bid site, 2 days remaining, no bids yet, starting at 56 cents.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/1953-Topps-Les-Fusselman-%23218-Poor_W0QQitemZ350332321075QQcmdZViewItemQQimsxZ20100325?IMSfp=TL100325139013r26

    Hope you get one of these.

    Mike

  2. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Thanks, Mike! I’ll give it a go.

  3. David Munger Says:

    Bill,
    Another if only “NOW” story. It’s a shame. Les sounds
    like he would have made a fine Coach or MANAGER.

  4. Kellie Klein Says:

    This was my Uncle Lester. Thanks for the article. I have never seen this photo before.

    • Debbie Lentz Says:

      I am the secretary at Payson Seymour High School in Payson IL, where Les graduated from. We have established a Hall of Fame and Les is in the inaugural class inducted this weekend. We were unable to find any family to notify of this honor. If there is any way I could get in contact with Kellie Klein, his niece, I would be very grateful. Thank you!

  5. Cathy Menard Says:

    Hello,
    Les was my MOM’S (Janet Fusselman) cousin. The last time I saw him was at our family get together on Memorial Day in Pryor, Oklahoma many years ago. This is a new photo me, also. I do hava BB card of Les that I will always treasure.

  6. April Dawn Callender-Mullins Says:

    Aunt Kellie,

    Did you ever see the response to your comment?

  7. Jill S. Hernandez Says:

    Kellie (Uhland) Klein in my aunt…April Callender Mullins is my cousin…my mom, April’s mom, and Kellie are all sisters (and there is one more sister). Their mom, my and April’s grandmother, is Uncle Lester’s younger sister, Helena Fusselman Uhland. We would love any info, articles, pictures, etc., that you have from Payson from the Hall of Fame ceremony, and/or any other information you may have. Thank you so much! We all 3 are on Facebook, as is my brother, David Shoemaker, who collects Uncle Lester’s memorabilia that he can find. Again, Kellie, April, David, and I are all on Facebook, and I may also be reached at jillshoemaker.hernandez@gmail.com . Thank you again so much!!!! (And thanks, April, for posting! 🙂

  8. Jill Shoemaker- Hernandez Says:

    Hope my above comment posted…

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