LifeTimeline

Lee Pfund

    • OCT 18

      Born in Oak Park, Illinois

    1919
    • Lee Gets Hooked on Baseball

    1933
    • Breaks into baseball

    1941
    • Lee Plays for the Brooklyn Dodgers

    1945
    • Lee Plays with Jackie Robinson in Cuba

    1947
    • Becomes Coach of the Wheaton Baseball Team

    1948
    • Joins staff at Wheaton College

    1950
    • Becomes Head Coach of the Wheaton Men's Basketball Team

    • Wheaton Baseball Team Wins Championship

    1951
    • Wheaton Wins NCAA College Division Championship

    1957
    • Becomes Head of the Alumni Association

    1976
    • Named Alumni of the Year

    1977
    • Baseball Stadium Named After Lee Pfund

    2012
    • JUN 02

      Died

    2016
  • Born in Oak Park, Illinois

    Oak Park, Illinois
    Lee was born in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago to Liebhart and Helen Turner. His father co-owned the Pfund Nursery Company, a florist company in Elmhurst, Illinois.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Lee Gets Hooked on Baseball

    Chicago, Illinois
    Lee's father took him to the first All-Star game, played in 1933 in Chomiskey Park. According to Lee, that's when he got hooked on baseball.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Breaks into baseball

    Albany, Georgia
    After playing baseball for the University of Illinois, he broke into pro baseball in 1941 with the Albany (Georgia) Cardinals, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals in the Class D league. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, "A stipulation in the deeply religious Pfund’s contract allowed him not to play on Sundays. On the other six days he pitched 157 innings in 27 games and finished with a 10-10 record, 186 hits given up, and a 5.16 ERA.

    He and Mabel Lillian “Mibs” Tillman were married in August in a double wedding with Mabel’s sister. (Pfund’s manager, Joe Cusick, adjusted the pitching rotation so Pfund had a week off.)

    Pfund spent spring training with Albany in 1942 and did well. He would have played in Albany that season, but his wife was pregnant and the doctor warned that the pregnancy would be a difficult one, so Pfund asked to play closer to home. Branch Rickey, the Cardinals’ general manager, told Pfund: “We have several teams that want you as a result of your spring training. Where do you want to play?”4 Pfund chose the Decatur (Illinois) Commodores of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa (Three-I) League. Pfund pitched in 28 games for Decatur, winning 6 and losing 10. He lowered his ERA to 4.86 and gave up 176 hits in 163 innings, but walked more batters than he struck out.

    Pfund stayed out of professional baseball for the entire 1943 season. His wife was expecting again and her health during her pregnancy delayed his draft examination until late summer, when he was rejected for military service because of a floating bone chip in his left knee. He played with a semipro club in Alton, Illinois. That fall, Pfund accepted a teaching position in a school in Wheaton, Illinois, where he and his wife eventually settled.5 (Mabel died in 2006 at the age of 88.)

    In 1944 Pfund went to spring training with the Columbus Red Birds of the American Association. Weak from a cold, he was hit hard in his first outing. His next appearance was against the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, a team managed by Mickey Cochrane and consisting of top major leaguers, including Johnny Mize, Bob Feller, Ken Keltner, Dick Wakefield, Schoolboy Rowe, Virgil Trucks, and Billy Herman. Pfund entered the game as a reliever and after retiring the first man he faced on a fly ball he stuck out Billy Herman with a side-arm curveball, his “out” pitch. He wouldn’t throw it until he had two strikes on a batter. Pfund earned a start from this performance and pitched five innings against the Kansas City Royals. He drove in all of the Red Birds runs with a double and a triple to earn the win.6

    Pfund was 4-4 in 19 games with Columbus before being sent to the Mobile Bears of the Southern Association in August. Mentored by former journeyman catcher Bill “Buddy” Lewis, who told him, “I’ll send you to the big leagues,”7 Pfund pitched in 10 games for Mobile and finished with a 6-2 record and a 3.06 ERA.

    In the fall of 1944 Branch Rickey came into Pfund’s life again. Rickey had become president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in November of 1942. Pfund was subject to the minor-league draft, and the Dodgers, impressed with his performance in Mobile, the Dodgers drafted him."
    By Steven Waldman
  • Lee Plays for the Brooklyn Dodgers

    Lee pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945.

    In the book "Ebbets Field: Essays and memories of Brooklyn's Historic Ballpark, 1913-1960," Lee describes pitching in Ebbets Field:

    "In 1945, I pitched 15 games, starting 10 and relieving in five. My record was 3-2. First when you came to the park, it was a magnificent looking ballpark from the outside, where it was rather ornate. But when you got inside, it was different. It was much smaller. And the tunnels, as well as the areas where the concessions and washrooms were located, were very small.

    The dimensions were small, and it stayed that way until they moved to Los Angeles. The right field fence was over 300 feet down the line when it was built. But when I played there, it was 295. So I have a little bit of a different memory of the park. It was small and as a youth, I had been to Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park which were more expansive.

    The left field wall was longer than the right field. Left field where Hilda Chester spent some of her time – her commotion getting the crowd going. She was all over, but I think that was her spot to sit and cheer. There was an Abe Stark sign at the base of the wall in right field. And if you hit that sign, you got a free suit. There were a lot of different signs. Wrigley Field didn’t have any of those advertisements, and neither did Comiskey Park. I stayed at a hotel in Brooklyn with Clyde King, until my wife joined me.

    My first start was on a Monday. I came to the ballpark for extra-men batting practice. I was in the outfield and Charlie Dressen, the pitching coach, said he wanted to talk to me. He asked if I had thrown at all. I said no – just the ball back into the infield. And he said Leo (Durocher) would like to talk to you. He asked me the same question. I said no. He said I was the starting pitcher. I had relieved in two games before that. The start was against Pittsburgh’s Preacher Roe. In the seventh, we scored three to take a 4-1 lead. In the eight, I walked two men on eight pitches. So I see Leo staring out from the dugout and motioning the bullpen to get up.

    I did not want to come out, as I was used to pitching nine innings. So I kicked some dirt around the mount, and Mickey Owen came out and settled me down and said, “we’ll get the next guy,” who was a pinch hitter. Then Leo came out and asked if Mickey told me how to pitch to this guy. I said, “Yes.” He said, “I don’t know what I came out here for then” and went back to the dugout. We got the guy out and then got the side out in the ninth for the win.

    My contract said I couldn’t pitch on Sunday because of my faith, and Leo wanted to get me some work, so he pitched me on Saturday before we went West. I gave up four runs in the first inning, and we got four runs in the second half. So he sent me back out, and I loaded the bases. I still hold the record for one of the longest home runs given up at Ebbets Field. Andy Pafko hit it off me. I got out of the second, but they still pinch hit for me.

    There was another time—I was going to pitch on a Monday. We had a doubleheader on Saturday and used a lot of pitchers. I was 101 in the eighth, and Don Lund pitch hit for me. Then Clyde King pitched five shutout innings, and a Howard Schultz single in the 13th won it. Leo gave each of them $100 bill in the clubhouse. Ebbets Field was an unusual place to play, and I got to pitch in all the old ballparks. My career was short-lived as I suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Red Cross benefit game in Washington DC on July 17, 1945.”

    The Society for American Baseball Research, based on interviews with Lee Pfund, described his Dodgers years:

    "Pfund made the pitching-poor Dodgers’ squad in 1945. Branch Rickey intended for him to be a starter.9 In his first game as a Dodger, on April 21 against the New York Giants, Pfund relieved starter Ben Chapman in the seventh inning. He hit the first batter he faced, Steve Filipowicz, who then was erased in a double play. Pfund finished the game, giving up no hits and no runs in two innings pitched.10 On April 27 he pitched in relief against the Giants again, giving up a run and two hits in two innings.

    On May 14 manager Leo Durocher gave Pfund his first start, against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ebbets Field.11 The Pirates scored a run in the third to take the lead, but the Dodgers tied it in the fourth and took the lead for good with two runs in the seventh. With two out in the eighth inning, Pfund walked two Pirates on eight pitches. Manager Durocher visited the mound but then left Pfund in the game and he retired the next batter. Pfund completed the game and the Dodgers won 4-1, his first majorleague win.

    In his next start, four days later against the Chicago Cubs, Pfund was knocked out in the second inning. He was saved from picking up the loss by Brooklyn coming back to win, 15-12. On May 26 Pfund pitched a complete-game victory over the Cardinals.

    Shortly after, Pfund mentioned to Branch Rickey that he was having trouble making ends meet. A few days later his regular paycheck was accompanied by a $700 bonus check, enough to get him through to the end of the season.12

    As the season went on, Pfund pitched either really well or really poorly. After giving up five runs to the Cubs in four innings on June 28 and four runs to the Pirates on the 30th, he was sent to the bullpen.

    Because of travel restrictions the major leagues did not hold an All-Star Game in 1945. Instead, there were benefit games against, typically, a geographical matchup. The Cubs played the White Sox, the two Boston teams played each other, as did the two Philadelphia teams. The Dodgers played the Senators in Washington.13 Pfund was going to start that game, but before the game a downpour soaked the field. The game began anyway. In the second inning, Washington’s Jose Zardon topped a sinker and the swinging bunt died on the wet turf as it rolled towards third. Pfund ran over to the ball and bent to pick it up. He twisted his knee and it swelled up like a football. He might have been able to return later in the season, but Rickey ordered him sidelined for the rest of the season; he didn’t want Pfund to come back too soon and risk reinjuring the knee.14 Pfund finished his only major-league season with a 3-2 record and a 5.20 ERA.

    Pfund began the 1946 season in Mobile. He pitched better than he had with the Dodgers in ’45, but poor hitting support cost him some victories. Late in the season a Dodger scout came to see Pfund pitch and told him that wanted to bring him up, but bring him up on a win. Pfund tried extra hard that night, ended up hurting his shoulder, and missed the next three weeks. He finished the year with 7 victories and 16 defeats, and after the season the Dodgers sold his contract to their Montreal farm team."
    By Steven Waldman
  • 2

    Lee Plays with Jackie Robinson in Cuba

    Cuba
    He and Jackie Robinson were in Spring Training in Havana. Lee told baseball historians that they were close and would talk often about faith and the bible.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Becomes Coach of the Wheaton Baseball Team

    Wheaton, Illinois
    Pfund led Wheaton's baseball program from 1948-59 and 1961-74. His 1951 team is the only Wheaton baseball team in school history to win a CCI or CCIW championship.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Joins staff at Wheaton College

    Lee joins the staff of Wheaton College, where he had earned a degree in 1949
  • Becomes Head Coach of the Wheaton Men's Basketball Team

    Wheaton, Illinois
    He served as head men's basketball coach from 1951-75, guiding Wheaton to the first-ever NCAA College Division Men's Basketball Championship in 1957 as his squad garnered a 28-1 record. Overall, he mentored the Crusaders to five College Conference of Illinois (CCI) championships; and from 1955-59 his teams won a conference record 58 consecutive CCI contests.(Wheaton Athletics Dept)
    By Steven Waldman
  • Wheaton Baseball Team Wins Championship

    His baseball team wins the CCI and CCIW championship.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Wheaton Wins NCAA College Division Championship

    "The 1957 NCAA College Division Men's Basketball Tournament involved 32 schools playing in a single-elimination tournament to determine the national champion of men's NCAA College Division college basketball as a culmination of the 1956-57 NCAA College Division men's basketball season. This was the first College Division men's basketball tournament and it was won by Wheaton College." (Wikipedia)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1957_NCAA/.../tball_Tournament
    By Steven Waldman
  • Becomes Head of the Alumni Association

    Wheaton, Illinois
    He served as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Alumni Association until his retirement in 1987.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Named Alumni of the Year

    Wheaton, Illinois
    In his honor, the college holds a basketball tournament, the Lee Pfund Classic, every November.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Baseball Stadium Named After Lee Pfund

    Wheaton, Illinois
    In 2012, the baseball stadium was named after Lee Pfund to honor his profound impact on the school and its students.
    By Steven Waldman
  • Died

    Marie Gravesande
    My deepest condolence for the loss of your dear loved one. ‘May, our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loves us and gave everlasting comfort and good hope, comfort your heart and make you firm’ in your grief and recovery.
    2 Thessalonians 2: 16,17