Sixty years after Wally Post was one of baseball’s most feared power hitters for the Reds, the Phillies, and the Indians, his memory lives on through a family dedicated to his memory…and each other.
St. Henry, OH – There’s a photo in my desk drawer that I like a great deal. Given to me by a collector friend years ago, it’s St. Henry native Wally Post touching home plate after hitting a home run in Game 5 of the 1961 World Series, a series in which the Cincinnati Reds were outplayed – overpowered – by star-laden New York Yankees with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. They lost, four games to one.
And at World Series time, that photo has become a yearly ritual for me. Get it out, look at it, and remember.
The Reds had captured the attention of the National League in 1961, with stars like Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, and a pitching sensation named Joey Jay, whom they had acquired in an off-season trade with the Milwaukee Braves (for shortstop Roy McMillan). Jay shocked the baseball world by winning 21 games, the missing ingredient that led to the Reds beating out favored Los Angeles for the ’61 pennant.
It was a magical year for fans up and down the Ohio River Valley and across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. People poured into tiny Crosley Field in record numbers. And when they couldn’t be there in person – which back then, many couldn’t – they glued themselves to the radio broadcasts of legendary play-by-play man, Waite Hoyt, who was equally known for his story-telling during rain delays, and his committed sales pitch of the team’s lead sponsor, Burger Beer.
The following year, in the spring of 1962, I was ten years old, and on a warm Sunday afternoon my dad and my Little League coach, Eddie Hardy, drove four hours from Ironton and took me to Crosley to see my first major league baseball game. The Reds played the expansion New York Mets, and prior to the game Dad and Hardy took me down to the railing between the field and the box seats by the Reds dugout. Standing there, waiting to take his batting practice swings, was Wally Post.
Hardy spoke to Post, told him I was a Little Leaguer, and asked him if he had any tips for a young player. Post replied, “I have to take some batting practice cuts, but I’ll be back to talk with you in ten minutes.”
He went to the cage, hit a few balls into the screen above the terrace in left field, and true to his word when he was done he dutifully walked over to where we were standing and shook hands with each of us. I was stunned at this unexpected thrill of meeting not only a big league ballplayer, but the man whom my dad called ‘The St. Wendeln Walloper’ – what Waite Hoyt called him on radio. We talked briefly, then Post disappeared into the Reds dugout and emerged a moment later with a shining new National League baseball.
“Take this home and practice as a much as you can,” he said with a friendly smile. “That’s how you get to the big leagues.”
And to make that day even more memorable, with the Reds trailing late in the game Post was sent to the plate to pinch hit against Mets pitcher Al Jackson. With a man on base, he hit a fastball into the screen in left field for a home run that helped the Reds eventually win the game.
I’ve carried that day with me for the past 50 years, and kept the baseball that’s wrapped in tissue paper in the same drawer with the photo (see bottom of this page). And more ironic, eight years after that day in 1962 I was playing baseball at Ohio State with the son of Wally Post – John, a quiet first baseman on our 1971 team. To make this story even better John Post hit a two-run home run in a game that I pitched and won against Marietta College. I remember sharing with him the story of meeting his dad in 1962, the details, and what how cool that experience had been.
“Wow,” John deadpanned. “I see him all the time. It’s not that big a deal.”
We laughed about that, and a lot of other memories last week when I met with the four children of Wally Post – Sue (Hoying), Mary (Beyke), Cindy (Hueslman) and John Post – to renew acquaintances and their own recollections of their father’s storied career…and the World Series of 1961. Young then, about my age in 1961, what did they remember about being the children of a major league star?
They all married locally in Mercer County, they all still live in St. Henry, and between them they have many of the mementos of their father’s career – uniforms, his World Series bat, letters, contracts, and of course…a lot of memories.
“We were so young then…we didn’t really think much about what Dad did for a living,” says Sue Hoying, whose sons Bobby and Tom played football for Ohio State and are now principals with Crawford Hoying Construction in Columbus and Dayton.
“What I remember was us being a family within the Reds’ family – the Bells, the Nuxhalls, the O’Tooles, the Purkeys…all those players. We were very close with a lot of their families. The O’Tooles and the Nuxhalls later attended our weddings.”
“I remember Ted Kluszewski coming to our house one time and breaking the chair he was sitting in,” said Cindy. “He reached over the arm to pick up a beer sitting on the floor and the chair collapsed.”
“And I used to baby sit for Marty Keough’s kids when they were little,” remembers Sue.
Keough’s son Matt would later grow up to be a major league star with the Oakland Athletics – a pitcher.
“And Betty O’Toole. She was married to Jim and I remember her being worried about not being able to get pregnant,” Sue laughs.
“My mom would listen to her and tell her to be patient. Give it time. And of course she and Jim eventually had, I think, eleven kids. But she was wonderful, and she would come and take us kids shopping with her. She would say, ‘You know, I have nieces and nephews about your age and what fits you would fit them. But she was actually shopping for us, and she would buy us things.”
Did they go to the Reds’ games? And what do they remember?
“We really didn’t go that often…sometimes,” says Mary (Beyke). “Mostly Mom (Pat) managed the house and we spent a lot of time with her.
“We lived in an area called Swifton Village, and a lot of the families lived there,” remembers Sue. “And we never really thought about what Dad did. We just knew he played ball all the time.
“When they were on the road I remember listening the games late at night on the radio,” she added, shuffling through a stack of correspondence. “And when Dad left the Reds (in 1963) Waite Hoyt wrote a letter to him, that he saved, that I still have. They were in St. Louis, and staying at the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel. It was a very touching thing for him (Hoyt) to do, and it meant a lot to Dad.
The letter read: Everyone will miss you. But, sadly, baseball is like that – and I guess we must expect it. Nux (Nuxhall) was pretty well broken up. Despite the release to Minnesota – your future looks good – and as we all do – someday you’ll look back and remember it all with a great deal of affection – like I do. Good luck – there – with that gang – and know we will watch the box scores and pull for you. Thanks for many happy moments….Sincerely, Waite Hoyt
“Actually, John spent the most time with Dad around the ballpark because he was the boy,” says Cindy. “He got to go in the clubhouse and hang around with the players.”
John Post laughs as he remembers one particular incident pertaining to hanging around the players.
“I came home one time and shared all the new words with Mom that I learned in the clubhouse – ones that she wished that I hadn’t learned,” he says. “There were a lot of nicknames, and she particularly didn’t like the one they had for Jim Maloney.
“When Dad got traded to Cleveland I was the visiting team’s bat boy in spring training. That was in Tempe, Arizona, and Minnie Minoso was playing for the Indians then. He once gave me $20 to wear his new shoes and break them in.”
Wally Post would appear in all five games of the 1961 series, collecting 6 hits in 18 plate appearances, for a .333 average, and of course, the home run in Game 5. And what do they remember now about the World Series? Did they get to go? And were they aware of their dad hitting a home run on the biggest stage in baseball?
“Frankly, I don’t remember,” says Cindy. “I think we got to go to one game, and we sat in the upper deck. I wasn’t paying attention to the game. I think we were more concerned with what we were going to get to eat.”
Among Post’s most cherished possessions was the World Series ring he received for having playing in the Series.
“What I do remember was that after he was done playing he and Mom were with friends in FishMo’s one night and some guys from Lima came in and robbed the place. They had a box and told everyone to put their wallets and their jewelry in it, and to keep looking down. Dad was wearing his World Series ring and folded his hands in front of him on the table so that the ring was covered up…so they didn’t see it. Later, one of the guys got caught because he told someone who knew Dad that he was Wally Post and showed them Dad’s credit card as proof. That’s how they got caught.”
We talked around the kitchen bar in Sue Hoying’s home for almost two hours. One story led to another, and another stack of photos, letters, Post’s World Series bat (with no knob on the handle – the knob pinched his little finger when he swung), his presentation plaque from the Reds Hall of Fame…and of course his close relationship with long-time Reds favorite, and announcer Joe Nuxhall.
“Wally was just an easy-going regular guy,” Nuxhall once said of their friendship. “There’d be winter baseball banquets in Cincinnati, and Wally would drive all the way down from St. Henry, and he and his wife would stay at our house. We’d pick up Gus (Bell) and his wife, and Klu and his wife would be there. And I’d drive up to St. Henry and go to dances and play charity basketball games in the school gym on Sunday afternoons.”
“They were very close,” said Sue. A few years ago, after Joe died, we were in Cincinnati and we weren’t far from Nuxhall’s house (in Fairfield). The neighborhood had changed a lot over the years, but we decided we would try to find it, and had no problem. We drove right to it. We got out and rang the doorbell to see if Donzetta (Nuxhall’s widow) was home and she came to the door. She was so surprised and happy to see us. We had such a great visit, just like the old days.
“Another of my favorite memories was opening day one year, and Dad and Mom brought us to Cincinnati the night before to stay at the Sheraton Gibson. It was Easter weekend and Dad bought us all flowers for Easter, and took us to the movies that night to see ‘How The West Was Won’. Dad was always the easy one, between him and Mom. Mom would lay down the law. Dad was the soft touch.”
Dorothy (Pat) Post died in 1980…Wally two years later in 1982. They were both young…so young. Post was just 51. His passing was a shock to both the St. Henry community and the baseball world.
“We all married local people,” said Cindy of the four children. “And we’ve all stayed in St. Henry. We’re very close to each other, and I think it’s because we lost our parents so young.”
“People write all the time about Dad,” added Sue. “Letters from people we didn’t even know. Here’s one from someone in Cleveland who remembers that Dad and Pete Ramos (pitcher with the Senators, the Indians, Twins and Yankees) were the only players that took the time once to sign an autograph when he was a young Indians fan.”
A lot of people remember Wally Post that way, myself included. And how ironic that Sue, Mary, Cindy and my old teammate, John, would share their own time, and their lives, just like ‘Dad’.
I’m privileged now…twice. They say what goes around, comes around. It can be a blessing!
Life, and people, are funny that way.