Wally Westlake, 98, RIP, Memories of Jackie Robinson, Stengel, Greenberg
Wally Westlake, MLB's oldest-living WWII veteran passed away peacefully on Sept. 6. When we spoke earlier this year the Sacramentan (and SF Giants fan) laughed about being an old geezer, recounting his titles as the oldest-living former National League player, the oldest-living former All-Star and the oldest-living former player to play in a World Series etc. During WWII Wally served in the Coast Guard for three years, admitting that he missed the game terribly during the war. In 1946, Wally played in the PCL for Casey Stengel, whom he called his "Great Savior." “He taught me how to play the game. How to respect others. How to run bases. How to read pitchers.” Wally broke into MLB in ’47 with Jackie Robinson (Wally with the Pirates, Jackie with the Dodgers) and he remembered Jackie as a hard-nosed player who "came out there to kick your can." Wally described Willie Mays as the best player he ever saw and credited “Big” Hank Greenberg for teaching him the most tricks about the game. “Quality is the word for these people,” he said, they "played hard and clean" referring to Bob Feller, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson, Casey Stengel, Big Hank Greenberg, Pee Wee Reese (they nicknamed each other Captain) and many more. Wally said what he missed about most about baseball was the people, who ran in and out of the sports circles. When he played for Pittsburgh and Bing Crosby owned part of the team, Wally hunted on Crosby's ranches near Las Vegas and Redding, California. “Your heyday is short in pro sports. When it’s over it’s over …. you have to soak up every minute,” he said with a chuckle.