The Post-Journal

Lory Lodestro - Champion

An oldtime rhymer named R. B. Oldfield once wrote:

His lightning moves, his catlike treads,
Should make a batter fall down dead;
The way he twists 'em around the corners,
Keeps the old bench filled with mourners.

Not exactly Longfellow, but this and several other verses that went with it were beamed around two Jamestown men. They played baseball with and against each other and now, only a few weeks apart, they have passed on to the elysian diamond where every batter hits a homer and every pitcher hurls a no-hitter. The first was Oscar "Swede" Larson and the second was quiet, soft-spoken Lory Lodestro of Falconer. His passing leaves another vacancy in the ranks of the great oldtimers of yesteryear who played the game more for fun than money.

Lodestro pitched against just about every type of competition except the majors and he almost made it there. He was in Triple A with Syracuse and Newark of the International League after service in the Michigan-Ontario circuit, the Blue Ridge and the New England. Lory, who pitched semi-pro until he was 52 years old, also played with the famed Spider Webbs at Celoron along with such stars as Hugh Bedient, Swat Erickson, Billy Wright and Billy Webb. They played such touring major league teams as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves and New York Yankees during an era when the big leaguers were allowed to barnstorm after their season ended.

Bedient and Erickson, of course, were established major league players during their careers, but they were not the only big names Lory played with and against. One he remembered best when we interviewed him years ago was Cy Young, still holder of the lifetime major league victory record, 507, and the man after whom the Cy Young Award for top pitchers is now named. Lory also played with or against Ed Rommel, Gabby Street, great star of the old St. Louis Gashouse Gang; Tom Clark, Red McGee and Tom Downey.

Lory was under one of the most colorful managers baseball has ever known when he was at Oil City. Jake Pitler, who managed Olean in the old Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York (PONY) League, was the Oil City skipper and in later years Lodestro could spin some great tales about Jake. Pitler was a big drawing card at the Jamestown stadium during the toddling years of the PONY and some of the feuds between he and Jamestown's Greg Mulleavy were well-remembered classics. Greg is now living on the California coast. It was Pitler who once told this writer Lodestro would have gone all the way to the majors but for an arm injury just before he entered the military in World War One.

A man talking about the great old star yesterday said, "He died without an enemy in the world; he was low pitch, easy going, a strong man with plenty of courage and a dislike for any reference to star status."

His son, Lucian, a Falconer attorney, recalls seeing his dad pitch a doubleheader for Falconer Merchants against Kennedy and win both games. "He was 81 years old when he was still showing up at Falconer Park to pass on tips to the Little League and Babe Ruth players," Lucian remembers. Lory managed both Babe Ruth and American Legion teams long after his own career had ended.

Fellows like Lory Lodestro, the old furniture factory worker, come along periodically during a lifetime. Often their talents and their great personalities are overlooked until they pass on. Then their true character is appreciated and missed. That was Lory Lodestro, who played sports and the game of life with the gusto of a true champion.

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