Ole T-Bone is the nickname earned due to his regular order up of steak and eggs while on the Texas League road with the Oklahoma City Indians back in 1939. As Eddie Reeser turns ninety-seven (97) years old on this Memorial Day of May 25, 2015, I attempt to memorialize some of his fascinating stories from what is considered the early part of baseball's Golden Age.
I discovered Reeser's existence by way of my persistent quest for "old baseball stuff related to Oklahoma City." That's the regular descrip I offer with most inquisitions at flea markets and tique stores around town. Just happened to ask long time Oklahoma City resident and antique store owner George Haney on the right day at the right time. "Well, I don't have anything on hand but my brother-in-law sure played for the ball club a long time ago," shared Haney. "He lives over in Arkansas and he was a catcher but I'm not for sure exactly when."
Wait a minute, "he lives" was a key phrase that immediately caught my attention. George has some great stories of his own to share but I'm thinking this one could get real interesting real fast and it did. With a few more clues from Mr. Haney, I had enough to now track down what I think would be Oklahoma City's oldest living and former baseball player.
Upon returning home and a quick visit to my usual in-depth online baseball career and roster resources, I found Reeser playing catcher for Palestine, Texas, and the Oklahoma City Indians in the year of 1939. Wow! Although a majority of human beings on planet earth will not possess one iota of interest, this seemed to be a jackpot filled with Oklahoma baseball history to me. Turns out I was right.
From there, I began assembling some most interesting first hand stories of vintage baseball on the road. "Mr. Eddie," as he is fondly recognized by friends and neighbors, is full of em. In conversation, Reeser shared about batting against Satchel Paige in Enid one night and playing against other Negro League ball clubs from around the midwest. He told me how he came about to play for the Oklahoma City Indians in 1939. He tells of winning a world semi-pro championship in 1940 down in Puerto Rico and playing for a famous Oklahoma City manager named Wilcy Moore who had played with The Babe and the Yankees in the 1920's and early 1930's.
Reeser batting against Satchel Paige and playing against old Negro League teams really peaked my interest. While digging around in The Oklahoman Archives, I discovered evidence of an Enid victory over one of these Negro League ball clubs spoken of by their catcher Reeser.
Datelined May 30, 1940, the newspaper article read "In a game featured by nine homeruns, the Enid Champlin Refiners defeated the Negro Memphis Red Sox, 12-9, here (Enid) Thursday night.
Neal Robinson, Red Sox centerfielder, hit three of the five homeruns knocked by the Red Sox, while Larry Brown, and Ugene Bremmer each hit one. Verdon Gilchrist, Cecil McClung, Eddie Reeser and Red Barkley each hit one for the Refiners."
From there, I discovered how Reeser transitioned from baseball to normal everyday work life. Heard humorous stories about getting into trouble as his pitcher tossed a rosin bag instead of a baseball down in Georgia. As well, enjoyed plenty of other funny and interesting stories related to team travel with the Enid Champlin Refiners and the Oklahoma City Indians.
Coincidence or karma, it was exciting to get Mr. Reeser's autograph on a 1939 Oklahoma City team bat I have in my collection. It was actually used by his teammate Neb Stewart who was with the Indians for the latter part of the 1939 season. I'm no scientist for sure, but, I'd say it's a zillion to one chance to get a '39 roster player to sign it in 2014.
The casual conversation experience with T-Bone is one I will never forget. We have become good friends ever since and we keep up by telephone as best we can. In a more recent phone conversation, he shared one of his most intriguing baseball stories to date. He and a teammate greased the street car tracks down in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while they were winning that 1940 world championship. Says they got the biggest kick out of watching the conductor try to figure out why his streetcar can't make it back up the hill. "We were having a big time hiding out and laughing," shared Reeser. "That is till the cops showed up. Then we got the heck outta there!"
With a world filled with so much bad news and bad news headlines, what a treat it is to hear some good old school hard ball stories of days past. To be enabled access to a first hand account is what I consider a miracle. I am certainly thankful for Mr. Eddie's enthusiasm to share his baseball experience.
Mr. Eddie's recent 97th (and last) Birthday celebration included a baseball theme. Baseball cupcakes, plates, napkins, table cloth and everything else imagined included the essence of leather and lace. Within a post celebration phone conversation, Reeser shared the excitement of his big day. "Well you know I'm licensed to drive till I'm a hundred," said the humorous Mr. Eddie. He also mentioned, with great enthusiasm, one highlight that we can bring to life as his daughter (Sue Sikora) played "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" on piano as a climax to number 97 for this great American human being.