REESE, JIMMIE


REESE, JIMMIE (James Hymie Solomon; 1901–1994), U.S. baseball player and coach for 78 years. Reese first became involved with baseball in 1917 as a mascot and then batboy for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League, for whom he played briefly in 1920 and 1924. Reese had changed his given name from Solomon, and no one knew that he was Jewish. Reese was invited to play in a celebrity exhibition game in Los Angeles against a team with songwriter Harry Ruby pitching and Ike Danning – brother of N.Y. Giants star Harry – as the catcher. Clowning around, the battery mates opted to forgo the traditional hand signals and instead call out their pitches in Yiddish, certain that nobody on the other team would understand. Reese got four hits in the game, and afterward Danning said, "I didn't know you were so good," to which Reese replied, "You also didn't know that my name was Hymie Solomon." Reese played fulltime with the PCL's Oakland Oaks from 1924 to 1928, when he was sold to the New York Yankees. Reese, who made his Major League debut on April 19, 1930, played second base for the Yankees in 1930 and 1931 – when he was the roommate of Babe Ruth on the road – and then with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1932, finishing with a .278 batting average in 742 at bats. Reese returned to the Pacific Coast League, finishing a 14-year minor league career hitting .289 in 1,673 games, and setting the PCL record for most put-outs by a second baseman (4,771) as well as most assists (5,119). Reese served as a coach with four minor league teams and managed two others, and then joined the California Angels in 1972, where he remained as scout and coach until he died. Reese was known for his ability to hit fungos, and for being known as "the nicest guy in baseball" – indeed, two pitchers he worked with named their sons Reese.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.