Wes Westrum

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Wes Westrum
Wes Westrum 1955.png
Westrum in 1955.
Catcher
Born: (1922-11-28)November 28, 1922
Clearbrook, Minnesota
Died: May 28, 2002(2002-05-28) (aged 79)
Clearbrook, Minnesota
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 17, 1947 for the New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 1957 for the New York Giants
Career statistics
Batting average .217
Home runs 96
Runs batted in 315
Teams

As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Wesley Noreen Westrum (November 28, 1922 – May 28, 2002) was an American professional baseball player, coach, manager, and scout. He played for 11 seasons as a catcher in Major League Baseball for the New York Giants from 1947 to 1957.[1] He was known as a superb defensive catcher.[2] He served as the second manager in the history of the New York Mets, replacing Casey Stengel in 1965 after the latter fractured his hip and was forced to retire.[3]

Major League playing career[edit]

A native of Clearbrook, Minnesota, Westrum was a stalwart defensive player for the New York Giants (1947–57) and, in his prime, a powerful right-handed hitter, although he had trouble making contact and hit for a low .217 career batting average. He began his major league career as the Giants' reserve catcher, playing behind Walker Cooper.[4] When Cooper was traded in 1949, Westrum shared the catching duties with Ray Mueller for the remainder of the season.[4] He became the full-time catcher for the Giants in 1950, leading National League catchers with a .999 fielding percentage, 31 baserunners caught stealing, a 54.4% caught stealing percentage and 71 assists, and finished second to Roy Campanella with 608 putouts.[4][5]

Westrum was a key player for the Giants’ during the 1951 pennant race, hitting 20 home runs with 70 runs batted in, and led National League catchers in baserunners caught stealing.[1][4][6] The Giants were 13 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 12, when they proceeded to win 14 games in a row.[7] The Giants ended the season tied with the Dodgers, and their season was climaxed by Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard 'Round the World, a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 5–4 win of the third and final playoff game.[7][8] Afterwards, the Giants would lose to the New York Yankees in the 1951 World Series.[9]

His 1952 season was plagued by injuries and he only managed to hit for a .220 batting average in 114 games, although he still managed to finish second to Del Rice among catchers in assists.[1][10] Westrum remained the Giants' starting catcher throughout the 1954 season, catching all four games in the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians.[11] Injuries continued to take their toll, and by 1955, Ray Katt had replaced him as the starting catcher.[4] When the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, he was offered a role as a third-string catcher or as a coach.[4] He decided to retire as a player at the age of 34, and accepted the coaching job.[4]

Career statistics[edit]

In an 11-year career, Westrum played in 919 games, accumulating 503 hits in 2322 at bats for a .217 career batting average along with 96 home runs, 315 runs batted in, and a .356 on-base percentage.[1] He ended his career with a .985 fielding percentage.[1] In the 1950 season, he committed only one error in 139 games played, and had 21 double plays, the 11th highest season total for a catcher.[12][13]

Westrum's 1950 fielding percentage of .999 stood as a National League record for catchers, until it was surpassed by Charles Johnson in 1997.[14] He made the National League All-Star teams in 1952 and 1953.[15][16] Over his career, Westrum threw out 47% of the base runners who tried steal a base on him, ranking him 9th on the all-time list.[17] He played more games as a catcher than any other player in Giants history (902).[18] Westrum was pictured on the cover of the first issue of Sports Illustrated on August 16, 1954, along with Milwaukee Braves star Eddie Mathews.

Coach and manager[edit]

Westrum served as the Giants' bullpen coach and them became their first base coach through the 1963 season.[2] He joined the Mets as a coach in 1964, and became pitching coach in July 1965 after the release of Warren Spahn. Westrum was named the Mets' manager when Stengel was injured on August 30, 1965, and stepped down as skipper of the perennial last-place club.[12] The Mets fared no better under Westrum in 1965, losing 48 of the 67 games under his leadership.[3] But his 1966 club escaped the basement for the first time in the Mets' five-year history when it finished ninth in the ten-team National League, posting a record of 66 wins and 95 losses, a 16-game improvement over the previous season.[3] The Mets were slowly developing an array of young pitchers in the minor leagues; however, apart from Tom Seaver, none arrived in time to help Westrum in 1967, when New York again finished tenth and last. Westrum resigned with 11 games to go in the season.[19] Coach Salty Parker managed the team for the remaining games of the 1967 season, and Gil Hodges was named manager for 1968.

Westrum then rejoined the Giants, who eventually gave him a second managing opportunity in July 1974 when he succeeded Charlie Fox with the club in fifth place. He was not able to post a winning record in his 1½ years as San Francisco's manager, although he came close when his team finished one game under .500 in 1975 and in third place in the National League Western Division. That marked his last year as a major league manager, although Westrum stayed in the game as a scout for the Atlanta Braves for many years.[12] His final record as a manager: 260 wins, 366 losses (.415).[3]

Westrum died in 2002 in Clearbrook.[2]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Warren Spahn
New York Mets Pitching Coach
1964–1965
Succeeded by
Harvey Haddix