December 30, 2014

Hal Woodeshick

   Born on August 24, 1932 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Harold Joseph Woodeshick signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1950. His time with them consisted of only one inning pitched for the Carbondale Pioneers, the Phillies' North Atlantic League team. He split his 1951 campaign with a pair of independent minor league clubs: the Duluth Dukes of the Northern League and the Youngstown A's of the Middle Atlantic League. He joined the New York Giants organization in 1952, winning thirteen decisions that year with the Kingsport Cherokees of the Appalachian League and fourteen in 1955 with the Danville Leafs of the Carolina League. He served in the United States Army during the two years between those seasons.

   He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the minor league draft on November 27, 1955. A twelve-game winner with the Charleston Senators in 1956, he made his major league debut later that year on September 14 with a loss against the New York Yankees. His only other appearance with the Tigers came ten days later on September 24 in another start at home which resulted in him yielding four runs again and earning his second straight loss. He returned to the minors in 1957, dividing his time between Charleston and the Augusta Tigers. He was traded to Cleveland Indians on February 18, 1958. Woodeshick split the 1958 campaign between the Indians and its top farm team in San Diego, and began the next one with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was dealt to the Washington Senators on May 25, 1959. After that franchise moved west and became the Minnesota Twins, he was picked in the 1960 MLB expansion draft by the second Washington Senators on December 14, 1960. He returned to the Detroit Tigers just under six months later on June 5, 1961.

   Woodeshick was on the Houston Colt .45s roster for the expansion team's inaugural opening day in 1962. The acquisition was a big risk because Woodeshick was prone to wildness with his pitches and had problems with his fielding. He spent most of his first Colt .45s spring training working to correct his inability to make accurate throws to the first baseman after cleanly fielding ground balls. He started in 26 of his 31 appearances in 1962. In the Colt .45s' second-ever regular season contest on April 11, its first at night, he pitched eight innings and endured a one-hour rain delay in the fourth to earn a victory over the Chicago Cubs. He finished the campaign with a 5-16 record due to a pair of nagging injuries. A slow-healing throat infection had left him out of playing shape at midseason. By the time he was released at year's end, his back pain was so debilitating that his wife had to drive him back to their Pennsylvania home. After two spinal taps failed to provide a cure, his problem was remedied by a chiropractor who prescribed an exercise regimen.

   He returned to the Colt .45s as its first-ever legitimate closer in 1963, winning eleven games with a team-leading ten saves and a 1.97 ERA. Woodeshick pitched two scoreless innings in the 1963 MLB All-Star Game, striking out Joe Pepitone in the sixth and Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew in the seventh. His best year in the majors was 1964 when he led the senior circuit in saves with 23. A trade deadline deal on June 15, 1965 sent him to the Cardinals. As a member of the 1967 World Series Champions, Woodeshick's only appearance in the Fall Classic was a scoreless bottom half of the eighth inning in Game Six. His professional baseball career ended when he was released by the Cardinals on October 20, 1967, only eight days after The Series concluded. Hal Woodeshick died on June 14, 2009 after a long illness and was buried in Houston's Memorial Oaks Cemetery.

29° 46.734, -095° 36.893

Botanical Garden
Memorial Oaks Cemetery

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