Fritz Ostermueller

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Frederick Raymond Ostermueller

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Biographical Information[edit]

Fritz Ostermueller pitched 15 years in the major leagues from 1934-1948, winning 114 games. He was in the top ten in ERA as a rookie, and the twice more in the mid-1940s.

Ostermueller, sometimes called "Ostey" and later in his career "Old Folks", was born in Quincy, IL, where he later died fifty years later. He grew up on a dairy farm, and played baseball in the fields. He then played in a church league and on a college team. Professionally he began with the Quincy team (in 1926 and part of 1927). He played minor league ball from 1926 through 1933, with Quincy, Wheeling, Topeka, St. Joseph, Greensboro, and Rochester. He was a star at Rochester in 1933, leading the International League in ERA, although he missed the end of the season due to appendicitis. He also hit .315.

His performance in 1933 interested the major leagues, and while he had mostly been in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league organization, the Cardinals felt themselves strong with Dizzy Dean and Daffy Dean in 1934 (which turned out to be an accurate feeling), so Ostey found himself with the Boston Red Sox, who were acquiring quite a few players as a result of millionaire Tom Yawkey buying the team. Herb Pennock was assigned to work with Ostey to improve his control.

As a rookie, he was in the top ten in ERA, but perhaps most notably he was the victim of two of Babe Ruth's last home runs, when he had already passed # 700.

He had arm problems in 1937 and had surgery after the season.

His career almost ended in 1942 when he was sent back to the minors, but he pitched well for Toledo and came back to the majors.

He was hit by a ball on the elbow in 1943, and needed surgery again.

He volunteered in 1943 for service in World War II, but was rejected due to arthritis. At this point, he was in his mid-30's. Eventually he was re-classified, and served in the Navy from May to July 1945.

He was sent to the minors in 1944 but refused to report, and was picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates. For many decades, Ralph Kiner had been credited with the famous saying "Home run hitters drive Cadillacs, singles hitters drive Fords", but Kiner has said that Ostey was the original source. He was the losing pitcher in Warren Spahn's first of 363 career victories on July 14, 1946.

The movie 42, released in 2013, painted Ostermueller as a villain, hitting Jackie Robinson in the head intentionally with a fastball, shouting “He doesn't belong here" and getting his comeuppance when Robinson hits a pennant-winning homer off him in September after being taunted by Fritz. In real life, Ostermueller had worried about hitting Robinson prior to the game due to his throwing inside to righties and had hit Robinson on the arm, an incident that the press (including noted local black writer Wendell Smith) did not find overly significant. Robinson did homer off Ostermueller in September but the Dodgers did not clinch the pennant that game and there was no taunting. The filmmaker, Brian Helgeland, explained that he had simply looked for an instance of a pitcher who had plunked Robinson at one point before surrendering a homer to him later in the season; he then added all the additional context without striving for historical accuracy, resulting in the false portrayal of Ostermueller.

After major league baseball, he was a broadcaster for the Quincy team, and owned a motel. In 1956, he was diagnosed with cancer and died the next year.

Main Source: SABR Biography of Fritz Ostermueller, which is quite comprehensive. Also see 2014 Post-Gazette article by Pete Peterson

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1944)

Related Sites[edit]