The Post-Journal

Morrie Mistretta Is "Three Letter" Man In Sports And Exponent of Square Deal

Baseball, football, bowling...

When the final records of Jamestown's athletic leaders from the 20th century are inscribed in the books of the Old Man with the Scythe, the name of Morrie Mistretta will occupy a high place.

Here is a fellow who has followed the sportsman's code with scrupulous honesty: He has played hard but fairly; he has never alibied a defeat nor belittled the achievement of a rival, and he has ever been modest in victory.

Morrie has attained his greatest success in baseball. He made his bow to local fandom 16 summers ago, back in 1926, as a member of the Tigers, long since disbanded, when he was 16 years old. He has been a member of more than one victorious diamond outfit, but his feat of piloting the Jamestown Spiders to the 1941 championship of the fast, semi-pro Interstate League is recognized as one of his finest.

In his early sandlot days, Mistretta played third base and caught, but his fine throwing arm, an uncanny ability to ferret out the weakness of an opposing batter and his "pepper" so took the fancy of his early managers that he was placed behind the plate and stayed there. On down through the years he has waved a potent bat, his lifetime average being around the .305 level, and his distance clouting has been a factor in many a triumph. The only flaw in his diamond equipment was slowness afoot, so he says of himself, "I need to hit a triple to make it to first base."

During his career on the diamond, Morrie has caught the offerings of Hugh Bedient and Swat Erickson, former major-league pitching aces; the late Stacy Ross, one-time double A minor leaguer; Tony Spetz and many another pitcher who has gained a high rating in local baseball annals.

He is known throughout this area as a shrewd handler of young pitchers and more than a few of the city and county elbowers give Morrie credit for their good showing.

He first stepped into the local football limelight as a lineman for the Liberty A.C. in 1927, the year that the eleven's feud with the Crescent A.C. was born. This was a grid rivalry that is accorded front ranking by local fans and which endured for five years. Somewhere along the line he was shifted to the backfield and in 1932 pitched a forward pass to Sam Mason (his present employer) in the end zone on the last play of the game that gave the Liberties a 6-6 tie.

Morrie remembers another Liberty - Crescent battle on Thanksgiving Day. They were playing on Washington Field and it was snowing so hard you were unable to tell who was a Liberty and who was a Crescent at a distance of seven or eight yards. The Liberties were ahead 2-0 on a safety, when Sam Sardi went to knock down a pass. There was ice on the ball and the pigskin skittered away from Sam's cuff, straight into the arms of Ken Anderson. "Ken made the catch and ran for the touchdown. That beat us 6-2. Boy, that was hard one to take," said Morrie. "By the way, that was when Tex Dain was coaching us and Rollie Taft was the Crescent's head man."

Two other moments that are vivid in Mistretta's memory concern baseball. "It was in old Allen Park, on the little diamond. Mit Reynolds, the good southpaw, one of the best in the city in my estimation, grooved one for me and I put it across the gully with plenty to spare. That gave me a real kick."

"In later years, Dutch Lloyd of Ashville, a right-hander, was on the mound in a game at Oriole Field. I caught one of his fast ones on the seams and it rode over the left-field fence. It was a good 400-foot poke, and that was one time I made the circuit without trouble," laughed Morrie.

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