Kermit Emerson Wahl
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 170 lb.
- School Indiana University
- High School Columbia High School
- Debut June 22, 1944
- Final Game July 29, 1951
- Born November 18, 1922 in Columbia, SD USA
- Died September 16, 1987 in Tucson, AZ USA
Kermit Wahl was an infielder, principally a third baseman, 13 years (1940-1954), one in college (1942); two in semipro or independent ball (1940-1941); ten in the Majors (1944-1945, 1947 and 1950-1951) and eight in the minors (1944-1954), losing one year to the military.
Before World War II
Wahl was born on November 18, 1922, in Columbia, SD. He graduated from Columbia High School, where he starred in baseball and basketball, graduating in 1940 at age 17. He then attended Indiana University, where he played baseball. In the summers, he played in the independent Western Canadian League.
He served in the U.S. Army Enlisted Reserve Corps for seven months during World War II before receiving a medical discharge for a knee injury suffered in his senior year of basketball (OB). He went back to school and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Education. Signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1944, he broke into Organized Baseball that year at age 21 with the Birmingham Barons in the Southern Association. In his pro debut in Birmingham, he hit .231 with 3 RBI.
Wahl was 21 years old when he broke into the big leagues on June 22, 1944, with the Reds. He played 4 games for the Reds that season and was with the team also in 1945, when he was a utility infielder, appearing in 71 games (32 at second, 31 at shortstop and 7 at third base). With the seventh-place team, he hit .201 in 194 at bats with 8 doubles and 2 triples. His on base percentage was .286 as he walked 23 times and struck out on 22 occasions.
The first postwar year of 1946 found Kermit with the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League. The Chiefs finished second and he hit .271 with 7 HRs and 58 RBI. The next season, 1947, was again spent with the Reds as their utility infielder. He played in 39 games (20 at third, 9 at short and 2 at second). His average dropped to .173 in 81 at bats. For the fifth-place Reds, he hit his first major league home run on June 27th off lefthander Howie Pollet, but that was his only extra-base hit of the year.
In 1948, it was back in Syracuse where he had a good power year hitting .255 with 20 HRs and 95 RBI. The team finished third and Kermit was sent from the Reds to the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1949, he played for the Dodgers' farm team, the Montreal Royals of the IL. They finished third in the circuit and Kermit hit well (.286, 11, 83).
On September 28, 1949 he was traded by the Dodgers to the Philadelphia Athletics for Bill McCahan and $25,000. He played for the Athletics in 1950 and 1951 as two good years in the International League had earned him a promotion to the majors, albeit with the last-place Athletics who won only 52 games for Connie Mack in 1950. Again he was a utility infielder making the lineup cards 89 times (61 at third, 18 at short and 2 at second). He hit better then in his previous major league seasons (.257) with 280 at bats and with more power (12 doubles, 3 triples and 2 HRs). He had 27 RBI and increased his OBP to .331 with 30 walks (he also struck out 30 times).
Would his improved play allow him to play more regularly in 1951? The answer was "no" as Kermit played just third base for the A's, batted 59 times, hit only .186 in 20 games in the team's first season after Connie Mack's retirement. On June 4th he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Hank Majeski. The White Sox turned right around and, later in the day, traded him with Paul Lehner and cash to the St. Louis Browns for Don Lenhardt.
His stay was short with the Browns as in 8 games, he batted 27 times and got 9 hits playing third base in 6 games and playing his final major league game on July 29th at age 28.
On July 31st he was purchased from the Browns by the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, he never got a chance to wear the Yankee pinstripes as he was sent to their American Association affiliate the Kansas City Blues. For the Blues he hit .275 with 9 RBI. The next two seasons, he was stuck at Kansas City. In 1952, he hit for his highest career average at .302 with 5 HR and 43 RBI. Had he been in another organization, he would have had a much better chance at playing for the big club. In 1953, he spent another year on the "farm" hitting only .240 with 3 HRs and 17 RBI. His career was obviously fading. In 1954, he finally escaped the Yankee farm system and played for the Milwaukee Braves' AAA team, the Toledo Mud Hens. Kermit hit well for average (.305) and had 5 home runs with 20 RBI but he ended his baseball career at age 31.
At one point, the list of teams who had turned 200 or more double plays in a single season had fewer than 10 entries, and no team had over 200 in consecutive seasons EXCEPT the A's, who did it THREE consecutive seasons from 1949 to 1951. Their three-year total was 629, and those were 154-game seasons. Serious challenges to their 1949 record of 217 have been rare. The fact that Ferris Fain took part in more than 190 DP's in 1949 and again in 1950 shows that a very high percentage of those were infield DP's. So that would mainly be Eddie Joost at shortstop and Fain at first base, with a variety of second basemen (Pete Suder, Nellie Fox, Billy Hitchcock, Lou Klein). Actually Fain shared first base with Lou Limmer in 1951 (partly because of Fain's broken foot). In case the third baseman is thought to matter, they were Hank Majeski, Bob Dillinger and Wahl. Because of the 154 vs. 162 game issue, the A's three-season DP/game record of approximately 1.36147 is considerably more "unbreakable", and a similar remark would apply to their single-season per game average of around 1.40909.
Unless some other South Dakotan has gone on a real power spree, Wahl is actually fourth on the all-time born-in-SD homer list. According to Lee Sinins' SABERMeteric Encyclopedia, the top five through 2004 were: Dave Collins (Rapid City) (32); Carroll Hardy (Sturgis) (17); Terry Francona (Aberdeen) (16); Kermit Wahl (Columbia) (3); and Rube Fischer (Carlock) (2).
In 1950, his best year in the major leagues, Wahl had 72 hits, 26 runs, 12 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 27 RBI and 1 stolen base at (.257/.331/.343) in 89 games. In 1949, his best year in the minors, he had 129 hits, 80 runs, 30 doubles, 5 triples, 11 home runs and 83 RBI at (.286/~.351/.448) in 134 games.
Overall in the majors, he had 145 hits, 58 runs, 23 doubles, 6 triples, 3 home runs, 50 RBI and 3 stolen bases at (.226/.302/.294) in 231 games. Overall in the minors, he had 51 home runs and 328 RBI.
When Kermit retired from baseball in 1954, he taught school and coached at Groton, SD for two years. He then joined the staff at N.S.T.C. in Aberdeen, SD as Assistant Director of Special Service. He was at Northern for 6 years. He was then Director of Admissions at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, SD. He worked in coaching and college admissions in South Dakota from 1954 until 1975 and also, during those years, was an amateur baseball coach and very visible exponent of baseball in the state. In 1975 he moved to Tucson, AZ, where he worked at a business college until his retirement in 1984.
He had brown hair and blue eyes, his ancestry was Scandinavian and his principal hobbies were hunting, basketball, movies and popular music records. He died at age 64 at his home in Tucson from cancer on September 16, 1987 and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Columbia, SD. He was survived by his wife Marjorie and six children.
- Led International League third basemen in fielding percentage, 1949 (.955)
Awards and Honors
- On October 27, 1950, Columbia had a big affair in honor of Wahl who was playing third base for the Athletics at that time. Nearly 140 friends and relatives gathered at a dinner in the Congregational Church. Mayor Rudy Buntrock presented him with a key to the city. A gold wrist watch was given to Kermit by his fans and presented to him by Reese Lawrence. Coach Bud Burin was toastmaster.
Principal sources for Kermit Wahl 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 (1951) (WW), old Baseball Registers (1948;1950-1951) (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN (none) (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) ; The Southern Association in Baseball, 1885-1961 by Marshall D. Wright; The International League: Year-by-year Statistics, 1884-1953 by Marshall D. Wright; The American Association: Year-By-Year Statistics for the Baseball Minor League, 1902-1952 by Marshall D. Wright; and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.