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York, Pa.’s, Vic Wertz made baseball history – but there’s a catch

The New York Giants’ Willie Mays makes what has become known as “The Catch” of York County native and Cleveland Indians Vic Wertz’s long fly ball in the 1954 World Series. Mays amazing play overshadowed Wertz’s stellar performance in that series. Background posts: Who were most prominent 20th-century sports heroes in York and Adams counties? and York County sports a miniature Cooperstown and Story answers much about great athlete Hinkey Haines, including origin of his nickname.

I’ve written before about York native and major league baseball player Vic Wertz.
All he did was hit .500 in the 1954 World Series in which his Cleveland Indians lost to the New York Giants.
He returned from a bout with polio to hit 32 home runs.
Late in his career, he broke his ankle and came back to play on.
But it was that World Series and Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder grab of Wertz’s long fly ball that relegated Vic Wertz to baseball’s “almost-great” list.
But this post really isn’t about baseball.
In a York Sunday News column (11/1/09), I compare Vic Wertz to his native York County, Pa., a kind of human metaphor for this south central Pennsylvania county … .

See what you think about these excerpts:

When I think of Vic Wertz’s story, I think of York County.
It’s a region that’s overlooked and underrated and undervalued because it’s overshadowed by its more illustrious neighbors — Lancaster and Gettysburg and
Baltimore and Harrisburg.
Its people can do great things — and Wertz did, indeed — but it’s subsumed by those of greater accomplishments or standing or history.
Wertz gained a spot in the Michigan Hall of Fame, but 266 home runs, 1,692 hits and .277 batting average never gained the attention of the coveted hallowed Hall in Cooperstown.
He was overshadowed by the likes of Willie Mays and others with more flash, stats, talent — and fortune.
The story of this solid professional is the story of his home county.
The late sportwriter Jim Hubley wrote in a York Daily Record that the comeback from polio and a broken ankle were indicative of Vic Wertz:
“Wertz was indeed a fighter,” he wrote.
In this respect, his home county should strive to emulate its native son in its bid to move its considerable assets from under the shadow of its neighbors.

The context here is that leaders are engrossed in finding ways to move York County’s accomplishments, resources, landmarks and people higher on the tourism, heritage and economic development list.
Like Vic Wertz, the county might indeed remain “almost great” but, like Vic Wertz, it shouldn’t be for lack of effort.
To read the full column, visit: York ballplayer made history — but there’s a catch.
To share your memories of Vic Wertz, visit this thread on The Exchange.