The respected history between the city of Louisville and the sport of baseball is one that was cultivated by a plethora of individuals; and it’s those people that have made this bluegrass city so synonymous with America’s past time.
Few other cities are so closely aligned with a sport. Sure, Green Bay, Wisconsin is known as Titletown, and Springfield, Massachusetts is often called the home of basketball. But, for Louisville, Kentucky, the sport of baseball seems to go farther than that. And, no Louisville story of the game from Cooperstown seems to explain the bond greater than the tale of Harold “Pee Wee” Reese.
Born in Ekhert, Kentucky, but raised in Louisville, Harold Reese received his now famous nickname as a child, playing marbles. As a marble champion, he earned the nickname of a small marble which, at the time was called a pee-wee. The name stuck. It had nothing to do with his size, contrary to popular belief.
Reese was a graduate of Manual High School, where he developed his now trademarked humility. After high school, Reese joined Louisville’s minor league team, The Louisville Colonels at the ripe age of 18.
It didn’t take long for the young shortstop to gain big league attention, though. In 1940, Reese left his hometown when he was drafted to the Boston Red Sox, but was quickly traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers – later to move to Los Angeles – where he spent the bulk of his professional career.
During his time as a Dodger, Reese famously stood up for the first African-American in major league baseball, Jackie Robinson. Known to be good friends on and off the field, Reese and Robinson were one of the most dynamic forces in Major League Baseball at the time.
And, through that duo, the Dodgers won seven national league pennants and one World Series in 1955 against the New York Yankees, in a famed rivalry series.
During his tenure, Reese played for the National League all-star teams from 1947-’54, led the league in runs in 1949 and stolen bases in 1952.
With his entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, Harold Reese is undoubtedly a sports legend of the Ville.
Image: D. Rose
A Yankees/Dodgers world series highlight reel from '52. Note Reese and Robinson