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1955

 

JIM WESTLAKE MEET
MOONLIGHT “DOC” GRAHAM  

In the novel Shoeless Joe (and the movie Field of Dreams), “Doc” Graham tells Ray Kinsella that he wishes he could have gotten to bat just once during his one-day stay with the New York Giants (June 29, 1905). One can feel Graham’s disappointment of having been so close and to never know what it was like to stare down the pitcher and wink

Jim Westlake knew.  

Westlake appeared in just one major league game in 1955 for the Philadelphia Phillies. And he got to bat in the game. Just once. 

At 17, and right out of McClatchy High, Westlake began playing professionally, starting with Class “C” ball in the Pioneer League in Salt Lake City. Jim’s older brother Wally had a decent major league career, so the younger Westlake must have thought he’d died and gone to heaven. Or Iowa. 

In 1955, when he broke spring training with the Fightin’ Phils, he had performed in 855 minor league games and batted more than 3,000 times. And on April 16, in just the third game of the season, he got a taste of what it’s like to face big league pitching. 

The Phils were playing at the Polo Grounds against the World Champion New York Giants. Attendance was just 11,163, and likely fewer were in the stands as the home team was ahead 8-3 when Westlake led off the ninth inning, pinch hitting against Giant pitcher, Jack Hearn. He struck out. Records don’t state whether he even fouled off a ball.  

Just like “Moonlight” Graham, Jim Westlake made only one major league game appearance. The Phillies sent him down to their Triple-A affiliate, Syracuse Chiefs, where he appeared in more games (144) than any of the Chiefs’ players and batted a respectable .262 for the season. The Phillies finished the season in fourth place, an even 77-77 record. 

In the end, one has to wonder: Was it worth it? To finally make it to the majors, get your one at bat in the Bigsā€¦and then strike out

Jimmy Westlake—meet “Moonlight” Graham. 

  All contents © Rick Cabral, 2010

 

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