Those were the days when teams traveled by train, and St. Louis and Chicago were the farthest points west in the big leagues.
The magic of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field lives on in a downtown Knoxville insurance office. If you're a die-hard Dodger fan, E. M. (Pat) McGlothin, CEO of Mutual Insurance and with the firm since 1959, will gladly take you on a trip down memory lane as one of the players who made baseball so enjoyable in the late 1940s and early 1950s - not only at Ebbets Field, but at other stadiums around the big leagues.
A Central High School graduate (1938) and a pitcher on University of Tennessee baseball team in 1941, McGlothin was part of the Dodgers organization during the team's heyday from the early 1940s through the mid-1950s.
The Dodgers had 26 farm clubs in those days, making for some tough competition to get to the big club. He broke in with the Dodgers on April 25, 1949.
He is a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame, based on being on the 1949 World Series roster. He was also with the big club in 1950. He spent more time in places like Mobile, St. Paul, and Montreal, pitching three career no-hitters in those venues.
"Ebbets Field was a small park, only seating around 32,000 people, boxed in by streets on the side," he said. "The Dodgers were to Brooklyn what UT is to Knoxville. It's very similar to the folklore and the love for the team."
The names of teammates rattled off his tongue quickly, bringing back a flood of memories.
"Most positions were set," McGlothin said. "Roy Campanella was behind the plate, Gil Hodges at first, Jackie Robinson at second, Pee Wee Reese at shortstop, and Billy Cox at third. Carl Furillo was in right, and Duke Snider was in center. In left field were Gene Hermanski, George Shuba, and Pete Reiser."
Branch Rickey built the Dodgers into perennial contenders with a careful eye for talent.
"Branch Rickey was great at looking at ballplayers in the minor leagues, saying this one would be a good major leaguer, while this one has reached his peak," he said. Pat still has the registered letters from the Rickey offering that year's salary.
"You belonged to the club and could never get away unless they traded you, sold you, or released you. The Dodgers would keep all the players, because they had to furnish 26 clubs. In 1946, when we went to spring training, there were 600 players in that camp, including Jackie Robinson."
Allowing he "didn't know Jackie Robinson well," McGlothin paid Robinson great tribute.
"He was just a very aggressive, talented individual. He had great ability and meant to win. When he was at Montreal in 1946, he led the league in about everything. You learned to like him."
McGlothin has a newspaper clipping from a memorable Sept. 24, 1944, game between the Pensacola NATB All-Stars and his Corpus Christi team. "Mac bats in three runs and scores one tally himself," read the headline.
In a heroic effort, Pat pitched 19 innings in a 5-4 game, knocked in three runs including the game-winner in the bottom of the 19th, and held Ted Williams without a hit in seven tries. Pat had a hit to tie the score in the 17th before ending the contest in the 19th. One observer termed it "one of the greatest individual performances I have ever seen."
McGlothin has received professional accolades from the Mobile (Ala.) Bears Baseball Hall of Fame (1986) and the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame (1987). He still keeps office hours at the agency, joining his son, Steve, who is serving as company president. Daughter Suzan and Melissa Rinehart help make things function efficiently.
He and his wife, Dot, together 63 years this April, live in Knoxville. Life is good. They've been mainstays at First Baptist Church through the years. The old Dodger smiles warmly when he thinks about his time in Brooklyn. It's been a long time, but the memories are good ones.
Tom Mattingly is the author of "The Tennessee Football Vault: The Story of the Tennessee Volunteers, 1891-2006" (2006), to be published in second edition in 2008, and "Tennessee Football: The Peyton Manning Years" (1998). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His News Sentinel blog is called "The Vol Historian."