November 29, 1931 |
Los Angeles, California
|May 4, 1951, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 19, 1953, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Pettit graduated from Narbonne H.S. in Harbor City, California. He was known as the "Wizard of Whiff." As an amateur—in high school, for the semipro Signal Oilers—he pitched six no-hitters, three of them in a row, and struck out 945 batters in 549 innings. In one 12-inning high school game, he struck out 27 batters.
In 1949, movie producer Frederick Stephani was looking to make a baseball movie but could not afford the story of an established star. Instead, Stephani scouted high school athletes with major league prospects, and eventually signed Pettit for $85,000. Upon his graduation in 1950, Pettit was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who bought his contract from Stephani (though Stephani retained film rights), plus an additional $15,000. This sum was a new record, and made Pettit baseball's first $100,000.00 bonus baby.
Pettit started his career in New Orleans with very high prospects, spending the remainder of the 1950 season with the Pelicans with the clear expectation that he would be brought up to the Pirates the following season.
Sent up to the Pirates in 1951, Pettit pitched 2.2 innings with a 3.38 ERA, with no decisions. Although his performance was disappointing, it is not considered to have been the result of a lack of talent or an error on the part of the scouts, but was mainly due to an arm injury.
In 1952, playing for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, he was 15-8 with an ERA of 3.70. He also batted .320. Pettit returned to the Pirates in 1953; in 28 innings, he was 1-2, with an ERA of 7.71. As a hitter, he was 2 for 8 for a batting average of .250.
At the start of the 1954 season, the arm injury became impossible to ignore. Pettit was eventually forced to give up pitching and was sent down to the Salinas Packers of the California League, where he played outfield. In 1954, he hit .324 with 20 home runs and 102 RBIs. In 1955, playing for the Azules de Veracruz of the Mexican League, he hit .382.
In 1957 he returned to the Hollywood Stars, replacing future Pirate Slugger Dick Stuart. Pettit hit .284 with 20 home runs and 102 RBIs. On September 12, 1957, he had 10 RBIs against the Seattle Rainiers. By 1958, Pettit's arm problems had become so bad that he was moved to first base.
Pettit retired in 1961.
Pettit had attended college during his baseball career, and by the time he stopped playing had earned a degree in Physical Education from Cal State Long Beach. He began teaching and coaching high school baseball in 1962. He managed the minor league Dubuque Royals in 1968, after which he returned to coaching high school baseball in Lawndale, California.
- "Paul Pettit". Baseball-reference.com.
- Burns, Ed (April 1, 1985). "Ex-bonus Baby Paul Pettit Doesn't Dwell On His Lost Baseball Career". Sports Illustrated.
- Kelley, Brent P. (1997). Baseball's Biggest Blunder: The Bonus Rule of 1953-1957. pp. 9–11. ISBN 0810830493.
- Purdy, Dennis (2007). Baseball on the Brain. p. 731. ISBN 0761140344.
- Snelling, Dennis (2012). The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903-1957. p. 351. ISBN 0786465247.
- Hemphill, Paul (1974). The Good Old Boys. Simon & Schuster. p. 66.
- "Time Magazine". Vol. 55. 1950. p. 70.
- "Convenios con equipos mexicanos en el 54".
- "Shirley Joan Jennings and Paul Pettit Married Here Last Sunday Afternoon" (PDF). Peninsula Press. January 25, 1951.
- "Dubuque Royals". Baseball-reference.com.