by Waite Forsyth
Harry "Doc" Rissel Was Outstanding Catcher
The name of Harry (Doc) Rissel must be placed high on the list of athletes who shared in the laying of the foundation of Jamestown's burgeoning sports empire during its formative years and who is contributing significantly to its solidarity and steady improvement as the three-quarter mark of the 20th century is neared.
Unlike a majority of players, who hang up their spikes for good, once their playing days are over, Harry Rissel cast about some baseball niche, with the result he became one of the four managers of the Muny Single A Baseball League upon its formation in the winter months of 1962 and, such is his love for the game, he has no idea of retiring. He piloted the 1558 Metal Corporation Tigers to the flag in 1964.
Rissel, now 47, has the springy stride and the coordination of movement that is the hallmark of the natural athlete. He still retains the strong throwing arm that made him one of the area's top-notch catchers during a playing career that spanned 25 years. And he is still the possessor of that good vision that enabled him to retire with a career .333 batting average. A casual observer would guess his age to be in the thirties.
Measuring 5-11 vertically and weighing 185 pounds during the peak (which he reached early and maintained until his final season, 1959) Doc was the natural choice of his kid teammates as a catcher. Their judgment must have been good for the Buffalo-born Rissel (April 23, 1918) never played another position.
The Frank Rissels moved to Kennedy when Harry was a year old and he attended elementary school there. He attended Falconer High School in 1935 and '36, quitting school following the close of the 1937 football season.
A youth to whom the athletic competition was almost second nature, he caught for the Golden Falcons nine and was a tackle on the football team, earning two baseball letters and three in football.
Kenneth (Kenny) Anderson was athletic director and coach those years and Rissel's eyes sparkle as he recalls Anderson. "He was one of the finest coaches and persons ever," he recalls. "He was the kind kids like to play for and those Anderson coached teams learned lessons that helped them in their later years."
Two of his FHS teammates were Orv Chandler and Frank Gore and his football contemporaries included Billy (Rabbit) Haskins, Louie DeSantis, Elmer Frick and Gene Backus.
Rissel played his first non-league scholastic baseball as a member of a youthful Kennedy team in the Chautauqua County Association. Some of the players were George Eccles, Billy Wright, Jr., Bob and Howie Willis, and Dick (Rubber Arm) Wakefield.
Doc's catching performance caught the eye of Morrie Mistretta, manager of the Jamestown Spiders, in 1942, and he was to have played with the semi-pro team that season. Instead, he joined up for service in the Army of the United States in May of that year and served four years and four months, being discharged in October 1946, after seeing action in England, Africa, and Italy, and earning the rank of Staff Sergeant.
He caught for his outfit's team. Back in the states on furlough and based in the town of Millville, PA, near Philadelphia Doc received one of his greater baseball disappointments. The base team was scheduled to play Connie Mack's Athletics, so Harry hurried home to visit his parents and returned in time for the game, only to find it had been cancelled.
Rissel caught for the American Legion nine, managed by Bill Wright, Sr., in 1947, teammates included George Forslund, George Eccles and Wayne Barnes.
The following season found him starting a three-year stint with Falconer Milling, which defeated the favored Mitchell Field entry in the state semi-pro championship tournament, held in Jamestown that year, 8-5, in the first round. The tournament was eventually won by the Steel Partitions. Most of the Falconer Milling players were enlisted under the Turcotte Milling team in 1951, playing both Muny and county league ball.
Later on Harry managed the Ellington entry in the county league, the roster being composed of Jamestown and Ellington players. Then followed a couple of seasons with the Marlin-Rockwell Rollers and a couple more with the Steel Partition Bombers, closing out his playing career in 1959.
Rissel did not confine himself to one sport. Decidedly a latecomer, he started bowling in 1947 with the Matthews Tire and Tread team which rolled its games at the long-gone Falconer Bowl-O-Drome, managed that year by Bob Meabon, with Billy Haskell as aide.
On his way to the form that enabled him to achieve a 194 average during the 1964-65 season, Doc was a member of Jay's Photos team, along with Pat Savino and Nick Giampietro, which held forth at the Playdium, another establishment that has bowed to present-day traffic and parking conditions.
His first taste of Classic League competition came with the Ten Pins Lanes' Rolling Rock team, the roster including Morrie and Phil Mistretta, Joe Agliolo and Elt Swanson. Then came his alliance with the Classic League teams, competing both at Satellite Bowl and Ten Pins Lanes, with Rog Holmes, Gene Coan, John Levine, with Bob Gunnell, Clair Anderson and Tab Weeks as sometimes bowlers and finally with three seasons with the Aluminum Contracting five, whose members include Jimmy Barone, Phil Modica, and Augie Erickson.
You might say Doc Rissel is an 11-month athlete, what with his managing of a baseball team and his bowling activities. That is, giving himself a month off for vacations and such.
Rissel married Miss Joyce Phillips of Celoron in 1941 and they are parents of Jim, 19, a 1965 graduate and football and basketball star at JHS, and Barbara, 16, a JHS junior who is one of the clarinetists in the school's marching band.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.