Baseball took Donora's Pado across the country in 1940s
By Ron Paglia
Published: Saturday, July 28, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Updated: Friday, August 3, 2012
Part 2 of 3
George Pado of Donora was traded in 1940 by the Butler Yankees to the Ashland Colonels of the Class D Mountain State League, where he continued to make his mark as a pitcher.
Sports Editor Burgess Damron of the Ashland Independent wrote on July 29, 1940, that during Pado's time with the Navy's Quincy team, “he pitched for three years, winning 80 games and losing 20. He also pitched for Fairfield, California, one season, winning six and having no defeats.”
Damron also recounted that Pado won two games and lost four and was used mostly as a relief hurler at Butler.
“George's biggest thrill came ... when he drew the pitching assignment for Butler against the Yankees from New York,” Damron said. “He pitched six innings and struck out four men – Lefty Gomez, Frank Crosetti, Flash Gordon and Joe DiMaggio. Butler was trailing 6-2 when he was relieved.”
In a June 5, 1941, profile column Damron said Pado was “Ashland's most effective pitcher of the 1940 season” and recalled that he was the “star pitcher for the team of the USS Quincy, a member of the Pacific fleet and as such, he played baseball in South America and Cuba during some of the ship's cruises.”
Pado's dominance at Ashland drew the attention of the Boston Braves of the National League. It was announced on Aug. 20, 1941 by Randal E. Stevens, president of the Ashland Baseball Corp., that the right-handed ace had been sold to the Braves and assigned to their Evansville, Ind. team in the Three I League, a Class B organization.
“A crowd estimated at about 800 persons saw Pado make his final Ashland appearance last night as he relieved Ernie Chonko, southpaw, in the eighth inning and stopped a nine-run rally by the Bluefield Blue-Greys, giving the Colonels a 12-9 victory,” the Independent reported. “One of the most popular men ever to play baseball in Eastern Kentucky's first city, Pado was the mainstay of the colonel mound corps since he joined the squad.
“When announcement was made last night that Pado had been sold, a collection was made up by the fans and he was given over $35, a final gesture of the friendships he has made in Ashland.”
Pado's son-in-law, Bill Watkins of Waynesburg said George recounted the story of how he traveled by bus from Ashland to Evansville for 11 hours.
“He got off the bus, walked to the stadium, put on his uniform and pitched a one-hitter for a 1-0 victory in his first start with Evansville,” Watkins said. “One of his teammates was Warren Spahn, who of course became a Hall of Fame pitcher with the Braves. George and Spahn, who were roommates, pitched Evansville to their league championship.”
Pado also had other memories of his time in the minors.
“In the Bluefield League, the whole team and coaches had to jump out of the bus on a road game because it couldn't make it over the crest of the hill,” Watkins said. “They jumped back on as the bus moved downhill and gained momentum for the next rise. Travel conditions were rather primitive, to say the least.”
One of Pado's closest friends was another Yankees Hall of Famer, “Fireman” Joe Page, who some observers consider the first true “closer” in Major League Baseball.
“George also often scratched his head to call attention to a knot the size of a golf ball,” Watkins said. “He recalled that ‘In those days, you bean a batter, you get beaned back. Just so happens in one game there were eight bean balls and I took four of them.' He had a million stories.”
Watkins also recounted his father-in-law's experience with the general manager of the Braves' farm team in Hartford, Conn.
“After his service to our country in World War II, George had been promoted to the Hartford club, which was to have been his last stop in the minors before joining the Boston Braves,” Watkins said. “Bob Coleman, his former minor league coach, was the manager at Boston and indicated George would be joining the Braves early in the season.
“A few players were owed back pay from the Evansville team after the war and George went back there to collect. Upon meeting with the general manager an argument ensued on the amount owed to him and some harsh words from the GM escalated the heated dispute. Like many war veterans who had seem their comrades give all in defense of their country, George reacted with a one-punch statement floored the general manager, got him fired and blackballed from Major League Baseball. But to his death, George never regretted his actions.”
It did come back to haunt him, however.
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.
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