Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Witte’

Buff Biographies: Jerry Witte

June 15, 2013

Buff Logo 12

Jerry Witte, First Base Houston Buffs, 1950-52

Jerry Witte, First Base
Houston Buffs, 1950-52

The 1950  wonderful morning that I read in the Houston Post that first baseman Jerry Witte was joining the Houston Buffs on assignment from the Cardinal AAA club in Rochester, I was doing just about the same thing that I’m doing this June Saturday morning in 2013, drinking my wake-up cup of hot tea and reading the sports page reports and columns of the wonderful old Houston Post and writer Clark Nealon.

Those were the days, my friend, but that’s a much longer story for a different day. The point here is that I suddenly found my self stunned into happiness over the thought of Jerry Witte joining my Buffs. He had been something akin to Darth Vader in my childhood mind since he came to town with the 1949 Dallas Eagles and made Houston one of the places he cranked out those 50 home runs in a single season. Now it seemed that old Darth had decided to come on over to fight for the Light side against the forces of evil darkness.

We didn’t have Star Wars as a base metaphor in 1950, of course, but it retroactively fits Jerry Witte coming to Houston back then better than any other frame of reference available to our experience as Buff fans of that era. I am right about Jerry joining the light side in 1950 Houston. The Buffs were about as “light” on talent that year as they could be. Even the 30  home runs that Witte brought to the Buffs lineup from June 11, 1950 forward did not matter that much as the club went on to a 61-93 record and a last place finish.

The next season, Jerry Witte’s 38 homers paced the Texas League as the Buffs rose to first place and also captured the playoff league pennant before losing the 1951 Dixie Series in six games to the Birmingham Barons. Jerry played one more season for another bad Buffs team in 1952 before retiring from baseball at age 37.

Jerry Witte and his wonderful wife, Mary Witte, settled in the Houston East End following the end of his baseball career and proceeded to raise a family of seven bright and beautiful girls. Jerry operated his own successful landscaping business until some time in the 1980s, but he never forgot his earliest roots as a contributing member of the working class.

Many had a bigger wallet. None had a bigger heart.

Late in life, Jerry  and I teamed to write his autobiography, “A Kid From St. Louis”. The book was published in 2003, a year following Jerry’s death in 2002 at the age of 86. It is an engaging story of the man and his times. Born in Wellston County, west of St. Louis, on June 30, 1915 as the 6th born of 10 surviving children,  Jerry grew up as the child of  a hardworking German-Polish family who also just happened to have been blessed with a special talent for crushing baseballs into flight across the summer skies of St.  Louis, Missouri.

Signed originally by the St. Louis Browns in 1937, Jerry Witte had a 13-season minor league career (1937-42, 1946-52) in which he batted .276 with 308 HR. After three years of Army service in World War II, Jerry had brief cracks with the Browns in 1946 and 1947, but didn’t stick.  His best minor league years were 1939 at Lafayette when he batted .354 with 14 homers and won the Evangeline League MVP award and 1946 at AAA Toledo when he batted .312 with 46 home runs, plus also crushing 3 HR in the All Star Game that season. His 50 and 38 homer seasons with 1949 Dallas and 1951 Houston were pretty good too.

Jerry’s downfalls were the high inside pitches he could neither resist or hit and the fact that he placed way too much pressure on himself to perform instantly during his 46-47 call ups with the Browns. Late in life. he was quite accepting and philosophical about the way things turned out.

“My life worked out the way the Good Lord wanted it to work out,” Jerry once told me. “The Lord gave me baseball and landscaping as my ways in life. He delivered me to a happy lifetime of marriage to the only woman I ever loved. And He blessed us both with seven wonderful daughters and our whole family with happy times and the support of truly good friends and a faith in Jesus Christ that makes sense about why we are all here, anyway. – Money can’t buy those things. So, how could more time in the big leagues have made any real difference? It wouldn’t have mattered one iota. No sir! I’m happy with the whole thing and the way it played out as it did. – Who knows? God may have been saving me from myself.  Had I made it big in the big leagues, I might have been one of those guys who got so full of himself that I screwed it all up!”

I don’t think so, Mr. Witte. As one of your dear friends in later life, there was no way you would have ever screwed up everything that was so right as rain about the loving state of mind, heart, and soul that was your marriage, your family life, your friendships, and you as a man. You just weren’t destined to be one of those dumb turkeys who made all the stupid self-serving choices.

Everyone should be so “lucky” as you and your good friend, Mr. Larry Miggins. If we all could, what a wonderful world this would be, indeed.

Note: For any who may be interested, hard cover copies of Jerry Witte’s autobiography, “A Kid From St. Louis”, are still available. Do not send cash. If you would like one, please make out a check for $26.70 and send it to “Bill McCurdy” to cover the book, sales tax, shipping, and handling and send your order with clear mailing address instructions to:

Bill McCurdy, Publisher

Pecan Park Eagle Press

PO BOX 940871

Houston, TX 77094-7871

Jerry Witte is deceased, but I will be happy to sign the book for you as his co-author, if you would like or just send it as is. If you do want me to sign as a gift to someone or just want a dedication message, simply let me know your wishes and I will be happy to oblige.

For further information or order follow-up, I can be reached at 713.823.4864.

My apologies, but I am not set up to handle credit card orders.

Thank you for your interest.

Jerry Witte: Remembering a Best Friend

April 28, 2011

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!


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: