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Pee Wee Reese

Profiles of Valor

Henry “Pee Wee” Reese was born in 1918 in Meade County, Kentucky, before the Reese family moved to Louisville in themid-1920s. Reese’s first claim to fame came from his skills in marble rings around Louisville, earning him the nickname “Pee Wee.”

 

Reese always loved baseball but was unable to secure a starting job while at Louisville Manual High School. After graduating in 1936, Reese continued to play baseball with local teams and was part of the 1937 Louisville City Championship team. The Louisville Colonels of the American Association signed Reese after the 1937 season. The Colonels had no major league affiliation but were bought in September 1938 by a group including Tom Yawkey, the Boston Red Sox owner. Without a shortstop opening in Boston, Reese was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers midway through the 1939 season. His Major League debut against the Boston Bees in 1940, established his presence as a leader on and off the field.

 

After the 1942 season, Reese enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a Chief Petty Office in the Pacific Theater. While stationed in Guam, Reese played shortstop for the 3rd Marine Division baseball team, until his 1945 discharge.

 

After the Dodgers debuted Jackie Robinson in ‘47, Reese was one of the few Dodgers who did not sign the petition to keep Robinson off the field. While playing in Cincinnati that season, Robinson was faced with jeering fans and playerswho still supported segregation. Reese’s courage paved the way for the acceptance of integration when he walked over to Robinson, placed his hand on his shoulder and chatted with him. The display of acceptance garnered national attention and was the beginning of the friendship between Robinson and Reese. The respect Reese received afterwards, from both fans and players, led to his promotion to captain in 1949. Won another ring in 1959.

 

Reese went on to play for the Dodgers until 1958, when he officially retired after winning a World Series ring against the New York Yankees in 1955, seven National League Pennants, eight All-Star selections, and a Hall of Fame induction in 1984.