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Baseball legends play at 1948 Farmington Blues game
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Baseball legends play at 1948 Farmington Blues game

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Baseball legends play at 1948 Farmington Blues game

An undated booklet owned by Bob Bone Sr. records the time in 1948 when five baseball legends came to town to play against the Farmington Blues at Wilson Rozier Park. They are, from left to right, Yogi Berra, Chuck Diering, Joe Garagiola, Pete Reiser and Albert "Red" Schoendienst.

A game played between the semi-pro Farmington Blues Ball Club and a team of players who would later be known as baseball legends took place sometime in the year 1948 at Farmington’s Wilson Rozier Park. Bob Bone Sr. owns a copy of the undated program from the game, and recently brought it to the attention of the Farmington Press/Daily Journal.

Playing against the hometown team were “Yogi” Berra, Joe Garagiola, Chuck Diering, Pete Reiser and Albert "Red" Schoendienst. A photo of the five players was included in the booklet.

It was possible to deduce the year that the game was played after learning Garagiola — who is wearing a Red Birds jersey in the photo — went to the Cardinals in 1946 after returning from the service in World War II. He played with St. Louis for two years before getting shipped back to the Red Birds for one year — 1948.

The following is background on each of the major league players in the photograph.

• St. Louis native, Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra, May 12, 1925-Sept. 22, 2015, was an American professional baseball catcher who later took on the roles of manager and coach. He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–1963, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees.

He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player — more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in.

He is one of only six players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times and is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. The Yankees retired his uniform number 8 in 1972.

• Joseph Henry Garagiola Sr., Feb. 12, 1926-March 23, 2016, played nine seasons in the MLB for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Giants. Born in St. Louis across the street from Berra in the famous Italian "Hill" neighborhood, Garagiola was signed at age 16 by the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

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At age 17, he remains the youngest player to play in Columbus Red Birds history. Garagiola made his major league debut in 1946. In his only World Series appearance as a rookie in 1946, Garagiola batted 6-for-19 in five games, including in Game 4, when he went 4-for-5 with three RBIs.

• Charles Edward Allen Diering, Feb. 5, 1923-Nov. 23, 2012, was an MLB outfielder from St. Louis. He played all or part of nine seasons in the major leagues — between the years 1947 and 1956 — for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles. He was the first Baltimore Orioles MVP in 1954.

• Harold Patrick Reiser, March 17, 1919-Oct. 25, 1981, nicknamed "Pistol Pete", was an outfielder and coach who also hailed from St. Louis. He played in MLB during the 1940s and early 1950s. While known primarily for his time with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Reiser later played for the Boston Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cleveland Indians.

• Albert Fred "Red" Schoendienst, Feb. 2, 1923-June 6, 2018, was known for his coaching, managing, and playing years with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was the only one of the five not from St. Louis — he was born in Germantown, Illinois. Schoendienst played 19 years with the Cardinals (1945–1956, 1961–1963), New York Giants (1956–1957) and Milwaukee Braves (1957–1960).

He was named to 10 All Star teams and then managed the Cardinals from 1965 through 1976, the second-longest managerial tenure in the team's history behind Tony La Russa. Under his direction, St. Louis won the 1967 and 1968 National League pennants and the 1967 World Series.

He was named National League Manager of the Year in 1967 and 1968, and elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. At the time of his death, he had worn a Major League uniform for 74 consecutive years as a player, coach, or manager, and had served 67 of his 76 years in baseball with the Cardinals.

According to information provided in the program, the Farmington Blues were organized in 1936 by Farmington businessman Jesse Heck who was assisted by Barney Pelty, a Farmington baseball legend and former St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators pitcher who was one of the first Jewish baseball players in the American League.

In 1937, the Blues were incorporated and Mr. Heck, along with other local business and professional men, continued to run the Blues.

The program goes on to say that the Blues were taken over by the Farmington Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1947 and were run by a board of directors made up of Harry Jennings, president; Eugene Cole, treasurer; Edwin Knight, equipment manager; Allie Wright, secretary; Jesse Heck, announcer; Bob Politte, advertising manager and W.O. Pope, ticket sales.

Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or kjenkins@farmingtonpressonline.com

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