Danny Litwhiler

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Daniel Webster Litwhiler

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Biographical Information[edit]


Danny Litwhiler was an outfielder for 18 years (1935-1954), four in college (1935-1938), eleven in the Majors (1940-1951) and seven in the minors (1936-1940;1952-1954), losing one year to the Military and another to an injured knee.

He was born on August 31, 1916, in Pennsylvania Dutch country in Ringtown, PA. He attended Bloomsburg State Teachers College and, unlike most major leaguers, was a college graduate. He earned a bachelor's degree in Science and Social Sciences in 1938.

He played for Charleroi in the Pennsylvania State League (1936), Charleston in the Middle Atlantic League (1937) and Alexandria in the Evangeline League (1938). Having sat out the 1939 season with a knee injury, he was scouted and signed as a Free Agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1939 by scout Billy Doyle. Litwhiler was 23 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 25, 1940, with the Phillies but was sent down to the minors for more seasoning, playing with Wilkes-Barre in the Eastern League and the Baltimore Orioles in the International League before being recalled by the Phillies late in the season. At the end of the season, he married Dorothy Lynch on October 10. She passed away in early 1971.

He played for the Phillies (1940-1943), the St. Louis Cardinals (1943-1946), the Boston Braves (1946-1948) and the Cincinnati Reds (1948-1951) with whom he played his last MLB game on September 25, 1951 at the age of 35. He played with the Oakland Oaks and the Sacramento Solons in the Pacific Coast League in 1952 and then finished his career as a player-manager with Fargo-Moorhead in the Northern League (1952), Wilkes-Barre in the Eastern League (1953) and the Duluth Dukes in the Northern League and Jamestown in the PONY League in 1954.

Litwhiler had to overcome serious knee injuries in the minor leagues. Called up by the Phillies late in the 1940 season, he batted .345, hitting in 21 straight games. The following year, 1941, he had a career-high 18 home runs, collecting one in every National League park. In 1942 he became the first major league outfielder to play at least 150 games in a season without making an error. He was traded in 1943 to the Cardinals, who won pennants in 1943 and 1944. His was one of two Cardinal homers hit in their 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Browns in Game Five of the 1944 World Series.

Because of his badly damaged knee, Litwhiler was originally classified 4F, but in 1945 the Selective Service began targeting ballplayers. Litwhiler joined the Army Special Services on March 20, 1945, after being turned down seven times for his weak knee. He was finally accepted for "limited service." Within a month he began five weeks of basic training at Fort Lewis, WA.

The battalion commander, learning of Litwhiler's baseball experience, asked him to start a recreation program. Danny organized softball teams by platoons. The games were so popular that he was named recreation director for the 10,000 servicemen at Fort Lewis. He and his assistants established teams for softball and touch football. They put in ping-pong tables and pool tables, they organized card games, and they auditioned GI's for entertainment shows. One recruit was an 18-year-old trumpet player, Carl Severinsen, who later made his reputation on The Johnny Carson Show as 'Doc' Severinsen.

"We also had a baseball team for the post," Litwhiler said, "and we won the Ninth Service Command Championship. I coached the basketball team, and we won that championship, too."

After being mustered out in May 1946, Litwhiler reported to the Cardinals on June 1. He was a platoon player for the remainder of his major league career. After coaching for the Phillies in 1951 and managing three years in the minors, he was named Head coach at Florida State University on the recommendation of Ford Frick and was there from 1955 to 1963. While teaching and leading his FSU teams to three College World Series, Litwhiler compiled a record of 189-81. He also produced major leaguers such as Dick Howser, Woody Woodward and Ken Suarez.

In 1964 Michigan State University lured him to the cooler Midwest. He coached for Team USA when they won Silver in the 1969 Amateur World Series. He married Patricia Walsh on November 26th, 1971. The former big leaguer, "Skip" to his players, coached his MSU teams to Big Ten Championships in 1971 and 1979. His Spartans compiled an overall record of 488-363 (plus eight ties). The major leaguers he turned out include Kirk Gibson, Rick Miller, Steve Garvey, Bruce Look and Dick Billings. He retired in 1982.

The longtime coach accumulated many honors, including being selected to Halls of Fame for the state of Pennsylvania, for Bloomsburg University, for Florida State University, for the American Baseball Coaches, for the Helms Athletic Foundation. He was inducted into the American Association of College Baseball Coaches' Hall of Fame in 1980 and, in 1994, for the MSU Sports Hall of Fame. Litwhiler recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Litwhiler invented Diamond Grit, a chemical to dry the baseball diamond after rain, which came to be used in some major league parks [1].

He has written a book about his experiences called "Danny Litwhiler - Living the Baseball Dream", it was co-written by Jim Sargent, and has a foreword by Stan Musial. It came out in September of 2006.

Litwhiler died in Clearwater, FL in 2011, aged 95.

Career Highlights[edit]

Records Held[edit]

  • Accepted 317 chances in 151 games as an outfielder without an error, 1943.
  • Played 187 consecutive games in the outfield without an error, September 17, 1941 to May 20, 1943.
  • Tied NL record for most years leading outfielders in Fielding Percentage, 100 or more games, 1942-1943 (2)
  • All of theses records have since been broken


In addition, Danny invented a number of devices to improve the game, including:

  • a 3x6 foot, 3/4" thick unbreakable mirror for pitchers to perfect their delivery;
  • the radar gun (now called JUGS gun) to measure pitching speed;
  • a bottom-only bat for bunting practice;
  • a product that today is called Diamond Grit, for drying wet fields. This was originally called "Danny Dust".

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Danny Litwhiler and Jim Sargent: Danny Litwhiler: Living the Baseball Dream, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2006.

Related Sites[edit]


Principal sources for Danny Litwhiler include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs {{{WW}}} (WW), old Baseball Registers {{{BR}}} (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN {{{DAG}}} (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) {{{MORE}}} and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.