Harold H “Pee Wee” Reese is highlighted this week for his service in the United States Navy during World War II and his long-lasting impact in baseball. Reese was highly respected for his outstanding character by those who knew him in baseball and those that served with him in the Navy.
His professional baseball career began in 1938, when he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He played with the Louisville Colonels in the American Association, but when his contract ended, he went to the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox then sold Reese to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Reese found longevity with the Dodgers, making his Major League debut on April 23, 1940. During his rookie season, he played 84 games, batted .272, and shared the shortstop position with Leo Durocher, a player-manager. In 1942, at the young age of 24, he became a National League All-Star.
Reese joined the Navy in 1943 and was stationed at Norfolk Naval Air Station. He continued to play baseball and was transferred to Hawaii in 1944 and played for the Aiea Hospital team. Reese was also a part of the Navy’s Pacific Tour and was then assigned to Guam where he was a shortstop and the assistant coach playing for the 3rd Fleet baseball team.
In 1946, Reese returned to the Dodgers and saw quick success, becoming a National League All-Star for nine consecutive seasons. Reese was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
Reese showed his class as a person when he publicly supported Jackie Robinson when he broke the color barrier in 1947. During an away game in Cincinnati, Robinson was being heckled by the crowd, prompting Reese to put his arm around him showing his support and friendship. Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s wife, recalls how Reese was a true leader, welcoming Jackie onto the team with open arms.
Although he retired as a player in 1958, it was the not the end of his passion for baseball. He became a broadcaster with CBS, NBC, and the Cincinnati Reds. Reese was also the Director of College and Professional Baseball staff for Hillerich & Bradsby, the maker of the Louisville Slugger bats. A statue of Reese now sits in front of the entrance to Louisville Slugger Field.
The Foundation honors Pee Wee Reese for not only his commitment and military service, but also for his dedication to being a genuinely good person. His legacy and greatest impact came from his humanity and kindness.