with Elwin "Preacher" Roe, Age: 88
by Michael Harrington, 8th Grade, West Plains Middle School, West Plains, MO. First place winner in the national Weekly Reader/Current Events magazine Eyewitness to History contest
Q: If you were pitching today, following that 22-3 season [in 1951, playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers], you would be worth millions. How do you feel about escalating salaries in baseball?
A: When I was playing, I was playing in my time. My money then was really good according to the way things were. I donât blame any of the players. Escalating salaries in my opinion is a very damaging thing to baseball, and I don't know how they've kept it going even this long. But I don't begrudge any of the players for making the money. Because, if they would've offered it to me I'd took it, too. I don't know who to blame but I blame somebody because it sure got out of control. I think television money is the only thing that is still keeping it alive. These days it is hard for an average family to go see a major league baseball game.
Q: Were you ever in a World Series where your team won?
A: No. I was in 3 but we never did win a series. That is the one thing in baseball I wanted, that I never got. I wanted a championship ring. I pitched in all 3 of them and I won 2 ball games, started one, and pitched 3 complete games.
Q: Who was the toughest batter you faced?
A: When people ask me this I half-way kid with them saying "Well, left and right handed hitters" because it was all a battle that you had to prepare for. But there is no question that Stan Musial was the best hitter I ever seen. He was a very good friend of mine, still is a very good friend of mine. He was a good hitter. I think the best. He had the sharpest eyes I've ever seen in a baseball hitter. Some of the boys would throw bullets up there, and would throw them 6 inches from his nose. He wouldn't move. He wouldn't even flinch.
Q. How do you feel about that home run you gave up to Mickey Mantle in game 6 of the 1952 World Series?
A. I didn't like it but those good hitters will hit em' off of 'ya..In the World Series, I'd pitched to Mantle 3 games and relieved twice against him and all he had gotten off me was a one base hit. So I wasn't to ashamed of my record with him. He hit that home run hard... real hard and he had a reputation of hitting long home run balls. When he hit it, naturally I turned my head and looked for it. Pee Wee Reese ran in from short stop position and said "Preach, what are you looking for? You know that ones gone." And I said, "Yes Pee Wee, but let's see how far." It was a monstrous home run. He didn't beat me really. The men in front of him did. Hank Bower was a line drive hitter with 2 outs in that inning; he got a base hit off of me, then Mantle came up and hit a home run.
Q. You played with Brooklyn in 1948, Jackie Robinson's first full season in the before all-white major leagues. What was it like being on the team that integrated baseball?
A. Well, I'm kind of proud of my career at that time. I feel like it was a change in the way of life. It was a step in our civilization, and I'm part of it. I'm really proud of it. I just felt if Jackie hit a home run while I was pitching it counted just as much for me as if Pee Wee Reese hit it or some of the other guys that were white. It didn't matter to me. People asked me if Jackie could play baseball, and I'd say, "You never have seen a good ballplayer until you've seen him". He was that good. He was just outstanding. I can say I have no regrets about it, and I'm proud of my space in history right there.
Voice of Pride Editor's Note: Elwin C. "Preacher" Roe was born on February 26, 1915 and eventually played his first professional baseball in 1938 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Dubbed "Preacher" by an uncle of his just returning from World War One in 1918, Roe has enjoyed a lifelong love of the game of baseball. He played/ pitched in a total of 5 World Series games along with 3 Baseball All-Star games, matching up against some of baseball's true legends in a time when many feel that game really mattered to the fans and the players. Now retired, Roe lives in his home town of West Plains, Missouri, where he plays lots of golf and occasionally visits with fans who travel to the community for the purpose of talking with the quiet legend.