Jerry Witte: Remembering a Best Friend

Jerry Witte and the Scouts, Buff Stadium, 1951.

Not that I ever forget him. He was my great childhood baseball hero with the Houston Buffs, my late-in-life best adult friend, my palling around the old Houston East End buddy, my best company in late summer afternoon baseball conversations on Oak Vista Street, the booming loud and smiling patriarch of the seven daughtered Witte family, the sometimes cantankerous partner to Mary Witte in a marriage that stretched  this one man’s  affection over a half century of loving dedication to God, marriage, family and the simplest most powerful connections to life, the biggest hunter  I ever met, but an even bigger collector of raw or slightly used building materials, a gardener with a Kelly green thumb, and a Telephone Road area driveway fly swatting champion of unparalleled success.

All these things were simply the veneer of the deeper soul that was Jerry Witte, one of the best men that God ever put down here to walk the earth as an honest-to-goodness everyday hero. In baseball and in life, Jerry Witte was tough, honest, and dedicated to the goal of giving everything he did his best shot. Whether it was playing the game of baseball, landscaping an entire property as the head of his own post-playing career company, or simply chewing the fat with friends, you could always count on Jerry Witte to give it his most earnest effort.

Today marks the ninth anniversary of Jerry’s departure from the Earth. Depending upon what we know is true (He actually passed away on April 27, 2002, which is how all the Internet baseball stat sites show it.) or when it was recorded (The death record lists his final date of life as April 28, 2002 and that’s how it is marked on both his grave marker and in his autobiography.), Jerry Witte passed away on either April 27th or 28th of 2002.

We will be thinking especially hard of you today, Jerry, and all in the name of our love for the influence you still are in our lives. Years ago, I wrote these feelings in the following way on page 324 of your post-mortem published autobiography. I could not improve today upon anything I said then:

OUR FAREWELL TO JERRY WITTE, on The Day of His Funeral, May 1, 2002.

I’ll never see a summer sky,

And fail to think of you.

For all the love you brought to life,

Each day came shining through.

 Your wife and seven daughters,

Were the center of your world,

But your spirit spread beyond the nest,

To others – it unfurled.

And we are all the richer now,

For the luck of meeting you.

You gave to every life you touched,

A friendship – blood-red true.

You rose from salt that made this world,

A place that honored labor.

You worked for everything you had,

With integrity – as your saber.

You never wasted precious time,

On the stuff that doesn’t matter.

You saw through fame and fortune,

As the path of growing sadder.

Instead, you gave your giving heart,

To those who needed love.

And we were captured on the spot,

Like pop flies in your glove.

And on this day we say farewell,

Our hearts hold this much true,

We’ll always have that special gift,

– The gift of knowing you!

Godspeed

Bill McCurdy, May 1, 2002

A Kid From St. Louis, Pecan Park Eagle Press, 2003.

Jerry Witte was born on July 30, 1915 in St. Louis Missouri. He played professional baseball from 1937 to 1952, finishing his career as the Houston Buff first baseman from June 1950 through the end of the 1952 season. Jerry had two brief exposures to the big leagues with the St, Louis Browns in 1946-47, but mainly played out his game over the years as one the great home run hitters in minor league history, including a 50 homer season for the 1949 Dallas Eagles.

Beautiful 317-page hard-cover copies of Jerry Witte’s autobiography are still available for $25.00, which includes shipping within the USA. If you are interested, please endorse your check to me, “Bill McCurdy,” and send it, along with a clearly typed mailing address, plus any personal signing instructions for me as Jerry’s co-author to: Bill McCurdy, PO BOX 940871, Houston, TX 77094-7871.

If you have any further questions, I am easily reachable through my e-mail address:

houston.buff37@gmail.com

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5 Responses to “Jerry Witte: Remembering a Best Friend”

  1. Rick Feldman Says:

    I happen to be friends with Jerry Witte’s daughter, Judy. I also happen to have gone to school with former Met and Card, Kieth Hernandez. My question is, did their fathers play on the same team?

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Rick:

      Thanks for commenting, That’s quite a Buff Baseball double family contact you had back there in the day. In brief answer, no, Jerry Witte and Johnny Hernandez were not here as teammates. Both were starting first basemen at the time, anyway, and it’s most unlikely the Buffs would have carried both men on the same team, especially with the 19-player roster limit that was in place in the Texas League for most or all of the 1940s and 1950s.

      For the record, Johnny Hernandez was a Buff for large parts of the 1947 and 1948 seasons. He came to Houston from Oklahoma City early in 1947 and was then dealt back there late in the 1948 season. And, as I wrote in the column, Jerry Witte was a Buff from early in in 1950 through 1952, his final season in pro ball,

  2. Carole Boyd Says:

    Thank you for allowing me to read about my childhood hero yet again. His kindness to the seven-year-old girl who watched his every game for the Dallas Eagles was unparalleled. On my desk to this day I have the autographed baseballs he gave me, and on the wall hangs the autographed picture of him holding me in my little Dallas Eagle uniform. Thus I get to see him daily — and remember the gentle giant he was.

  3. Judy Witte Romero Says:

    What a beautiful, memorial tribute. You keep my father alive for me. Your kind words and memories comfort me. I long to sit with him and ask him all the questions that I had not yet formulated before he passed. I miss him too! You are a very dear and wonderful man, Bill.

  4. Paul Voudouris Says:

    my deceased wife was a teenage fan of Jerry whie at st. Louis.. As a penpal they frequently wrote each other..he would my wife stuff including baseballs..papougreek

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