The Post-Journal

Lyle Parkhurst Reminisces

Jamestown-born Lefty Lyle Parkhurst was part of the local baseball scene during the colorful years of World War II and two of his favorite personalities were the Falcons homer-hitting Johnny Newman and big Eddie Mordarski, the Polish third-sacker and catcher.

"I was in the dugout the night Newman went after a bat instead of the ball," Lefty related, roaring with laughter at the memory.

"You remember how it was at the stadium late at night, lots of bats flying around. They'd dip and flutter and often resembled a fly ball in their flight. Well, one night John was in left. The batter lofted a soft fly that he had to come in for. As John raced in, a bat came fluttering along, almost parallel to the ball. John got mixed up, something pretty easy to do under the circumstances, and he went after the bat. The ball plunked down 40 feet away."

"When John got to the dugout Frankie Heller and Johnny Pollock (two more of the Falcons finest during those years) got all over him, just kidding of course."

Parkhurst still remains awed at the late Newman's power at the plate. "I saw him hit balls that just didn't seem possible. One night he hit one that just cleared the shortstop's glove when he leaped in the air and dang my soul if it didn't keep rising and cleared the left-center wall for a homer."

Parkhurst was also in the dugout the night Newman hit one over the left-center light tower at the local stadium, a feat that was unequaled until Jim Rooker turned the trick two decades later. Rooker, a tremendous power hitter, made it to the bigs, strangely enough, as a pitcher. He served with Detroit and Kansas City and is now the property of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"That Mordarski, I'll never forget him," Parky chuckled. "One night we're playing at the stadium. We're one run down, two outs, runners on first and third, bottom of the ninth. Eddie was the guy on first, and if you remember, he was no gazelle on the base paths. So what do you think he tried to do? Steal second, that's what. Well, he got cut down of course and the ball game was over. When he came to the dugout, Ollie Carnegie, the manager, was all over him. 'Now take it slow and easy and tell me just what the hell was going on out there.' Looking as innocent as a baby, Eddie replied, "Well, I'll tell you, Skip, I just wanted to show you my terrific speed."

Eddie, according to Parky, got a yen one time to chew tobacco like some of the other players did. "So the boys loaded him up with a huge chaw," Parkhurst relates. "Well, he singled his next time up and Elmer Weinschreider singled right behind him. Eddie, however, got hung up a second. He was standing out there munching away on his chaw when all of a sudden, upchuck - everything he had eaten for a week, it seemed, came up to haunt him and really mess up that second base area."

Eddie Mordarski may have been worth a laugh a minute as a teammate, but he was not the least bit funny to the opposition. "He was a whale of a ball player," Lefty added.

Getting back to Parky's career - last week we left him after two seasons at Rock Hill of the Tri-State League. About this time, Mark Hammond, one-time Jamestown business manager under owner John Jachym, was looking for a left-handed pitcher for Olean, where Mark was running the PONY League club. He settled on Parky who remained at Olean two years, 1949-50.

"I had been working for Weber-Knapp in Jamestown during the off-season. I had a family and I surely wasn't getting any younger, so I just up and called it quits as far as the pros were concerned."

Baseball was still an integral part of Parkhurst's life, however, so he joined Spike Nelson's Marlin-Rockwell club. Bob Kerr, who died just a few days ago, was the business manager and the club boasted such outstanding players as Ted Wyberanec, Dick Wakefield, Walt Brown, one-time major leaguer with the St. Louis Browns, and Dick Ringer to name a few.

As a pro, Parkhurst never pitched a no-hitter, but he had seven or eight one-hitters. The 1944 season with Jamestown, 20-10, was his best on a won-lost basis.

How he got that 20th win is a story in itself. Jamestown was at Erie the day before the season ended and Parky hurled a shutout against the Sailors for his 19th win. "I wanted 20 the worst way," he relates, "so when we came back to Jamestown for the final game I went to Manager Ollie Carnegie and asked him to let me start again. He gave me quite an argument but finally agreed and I had a good day, pitching another shutout."

Back-to-back shutouts on successive days have been few and far between in the history of baseball.

Lefty, now employed at Walker Creamery Products as a driver, is better known to the younger generation as a basketball and baseball official. "Lou Brown (one of the area's real veteran whistlemen until his retirement a few years ago) got me interested in basketball officiating," Parky offered. He was a member of Board 39, International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) for more than 30 years until an injury brought about his retirement.

Parkhurst still umpires baseball and softball and is a familiar sight on the local diamonds during the summer. He also had two hitches as a professional umpire with the PONY League. Here, too, the financial returns were low so he turned in his card despite the urging of league president Vince McNamara of Buffalo that he hang in there and try to move up from the then lowest rung in baseball, Class D.

"How did that injury that ended your officiating come about?" a man asked.

This being Lefty Lyle Parkhurst, man of many whimsical incidents, one could almost sense the unusual in his answer.

"I fell off the roof of my house," he grinned.

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