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Baseball History as American History: Lost Stories of Influential Ballplayers

Kiersten McMahon, Austin Hawkins, Gabe Foltz, Hannah Young, Tyler Storm, Miranda Nelson, Authors

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Baseball Career

Joe began playing baseball at an early age, but success did not come as easy as it did in the Chicago streets. The coaches at Mt. Carmel didn't give him much attention, as he wasn't a household name and he was a small kid. Also, Mt. Carmel didn't really take baseball seriously. The sport didn't make money for the school so an emphasis was never put on the game. When his father got the new job out East, he figured he would go somewhere where both he and baseball would be taken seriously.

The destination was Taunton, Massachusetts at Bishop Coyle High School. Joe blossomed into a very good rightfielder at Bishop Coyle and his hard work paid off. His Uncle Johnny noticed his advancements on the field as well and decided he needed to help out his nephew. From his playing days in the NFL, Johnny had connections with the Rooney family. He called up the Rooney's, who then called Pirates scout (and future Hall of Fame manager) Danny Murtaugh to come and give Joe a look. Murtaugh left Taunton impressed and Joe was drafted in the 1st round of the 1967 amateur draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Joe played professional baseball for four seasons. His first year was in 1967 in Salem, Virginia with the Salem Rebels. He had his best season offensively in Salem, hitting 4 home runs for the Rebels with NO errors. His efforts got him moved from instructional ball to A ball.

In 1968 he played in Clinton, Iowa with the Pilots. He only spent one season with the team as the club was moved back to Seattle, rejoining a different farm system for another major league organization. Joe cited that the midwest curve ball was hard to hit, and the pitchers were unforgiving.

Joe spent his last two seasons of professional baseball in the Western Carolina League with the Gastonia Pirates. He played well enough to be brought back in 1969 without further thoughts, but in 1970 he began to see the writing on the wall. His at bats began to decrease and they only used him for fielding situations because of his strong arm and fearless attitude when going after flyballs. He came back for the 1971 season, but he knew the end was near.
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