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FAITHFUL FAN | Catholic guys help resurrect a colorful baseball team

It should come as no surprise that a couple Catholic guys believe in a resurrection.

In this case, "resurrection" refers to the St. Louis Browns baseball team. The Browns played in St. Louis from 1902 through the 1953 season before moving to Baltimore to become the Baltimore Orioles.

The Catholic guys are Bill Borst of Annunziata Parish in Ladue and Bill Rogers of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in Oakville. They're organizers of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and Fan Club, which is dedicated to preserving statistics and stories of what's known as baseball's most colorful underdogs.

Among other things, the Browns have an exhibit of team memorabilia at Scottrade Center Downtown, home of the St. Louis Blues; another at the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame at Ballpark Village; and a website, www.thestlbrowns.com. The fan club also sponsors player/fan reunion lunches.

Borst and Rogers have teamed with another fan, Ed Wheatley, on a new book, "St. Louis Browns: The Story of a Beloved Team." With a foreword by Bob Costas, the coffee-table book published by Reedy Press illustrates the history of the Browns through vignettes and photos.

Browns' fans wanted to see a book produced, suggesting it to Rogers and his co-authors many times. It took about a year to put together.

The book covers ownership of the team, the Browns' seasons, all the players and special moments such as the 1944 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. George Sisler is considered the greatest player in Browns' history, hitting over .400 twice in winning the American League batting title and holding the single-season hit record, 257, for 84 years. When he hit .420 in 1922 he struck out only 14 times. Roy Sievers, American League rookie of the year for the Browns in 1949, emerged with the Washington Senators, hitting 42 home runs and drove in 114 while batting .301 in 1957.

Former Browns player Jim Delsing was known as the pinch-runner for Eddie Gaedel who, at 3 feet, 7 inches tall, coaxed a walk in a much-reported stunt in a game in 1951. Delsing, who retired after selling advertising for the St. Louis Review and was active in his parish and Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference, should have been remembered for much more — he hit .255 in 10 years in the majors, connecting for 11 home runs and 62 RBIs with a .288 batting average in 1953 for the Detroit Tigers.

The authors are fact machines about the Browns. Rogers tells of the two times the Browns fired manager Rogers Hornsby. Fourteen men who played for the Browns are alive today, including 10 in their 90s. The second-youngest, Don Larsen, 88, is known for throwing a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the World Series. He enjoys coming to St. Louis from his home in Idaho, including at a Browns reunion luncheon on Sept. 26.

At the Sept. 26 luncheon, Larsen was one of three players there who'd pitched no-hitters. St. Louisan Sonny Siebert threw a no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians in 1966 against the Washington Senators. And former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog threw a no-hitter while in college, striking out 18.

As Catholics and as baseball fans, we honor the wisdom of older adults such as these former players and the importance of those who came before us. The Browns were beloved by many when they were challenging for pennants in the 1920s and later when losing seasons resulted from poor financing, bad decisions and the need to trade good players to stay solvent. It's good that their history has been resurrected.

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville. 

>> Lecture/book signing

WHAT: "St. Louis Browns: The Story of a Beloved Team" authors

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10

WHERE: Missouri History Museum

AT&T Foundation Multipurpose Room

Forest Park, 5700 Lindell Blvd.

COST: Free 

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