Remembering Andy Seminick

For the second time this winter, the Whiz Kids are mourning the loss of a friend. For the Phillies family, the death of Andy Seminick is what they hope will be the final chapter in an off-season that saw Paul Owens, Tug McGraw and Mike Goliat also pass away. Losing friends is tough, but to lose so many, so quickly is even tougher.

Andy Seminick looked every bit as tough and tumble as he played on the field. When you looked at him, you saw what seemed to be a hard, raw person. The truth is that underneath that exterior, was a man who could play the tough guy role when needed, but was also mild mannered to say the least.

With a young pitching staff coming into the 1950 season, manager Eddie Sawyer was comforted somewhat by the fact that he had Andy Seminick behind the plate. Seminick was 30 years old and had been through enough baseball wars to know what to expect and to know how to guide young pitchers. He immediately commanded and got the respect of the pitching staff, many of who referred to him as Grandpa Whiz. It was no coincidence that 1950 was Andy Seminick's greatest season in the majors. Some say he was rejuvenated by the youth of the team and the opportunity to finally win a pennant with the Phillies. For Seminick, he was determined to do everything possible to carry the team on his back if need be.

Andy Seminick grew up in western Pennsylvania as the youngest of 10 children. Initially, he was following in his father's footsteps working in a coal mine when he suffered a back injury. The injury made 19 year old Andy realize that he didn't want to spend his life as his father had, so he took off for Pittsburgh and a tryout with the Pirates. He was given a Class D contract, but struggled in his first minor league season and was quickly released. The following spring, he paid his own way to spring training and found work again, with a Class D team and got a promotion the next season. In September of 1943, the Phillies decided to take a chance on him and purchased his contract. He arrived in Philadelphia in time to play in 22 games that season and hit just .181 and figured he would be back in the baseball unemployment line again, but the Phillies had faith in him.

Seminick was moving from position to position and spent most of 1944 in the minors, getting into 22 more games for the Phillies and hitting .222 with the big league club. In 1945, Seminick played third base, outfield and catcher and had made himself flexible enough that the Phillies kept him around, although his average still didn't climb above the .240 mark.

The Phillies had almost resigned themselves to the fact that Seminick was never going to be much of an offensive threat. Perhaps because there was no better alternative, the Phillies kept Seminick behind the plate even though his fielding was an adventure. Seminick would finish his career having led all catchers in errors in five different seasons. To see him drop a pop-up or toss a throw to second base into center field wasn't an unusual occurrence. Playing as the Phillies everyday catcher, Seminick hit 12 homeruns in '46 and followed that with 13 homeruns in both 1947 and 1948. He even got his average up to .264 in 1946 before it slid down in following years.

Just as it appeared that the Phillies fans would run Seminick out of town, he started to come around. In 1949, he smashed a career high 24 homeruns and a career high 68 RBI. His '49 season was filled with great moments. Against Cincinnati, he hit two homeruns in the same inning and another later in the game. In a double-header against St.Louis, he hit three more homeruns and also had a double and homerun in the same inning in a game later in the season. Quickly, Seminick became a fan favorite and was the starting catcher in the 1949 All-Star Game. While the fans were impressed, they had no idea how much of a hero Seminick would become just one year later.

Many would argue that the Whiz Kids were Andy Seminick's team. As a veteran who had pulled his career off of the trash heap, he was well respected. After his 1949 season, he had the fans in his corner as well. The 1950 season was rolling along when mid-August hit. Seminick was angered by Giants second baseman Eddie Stanky, who waved his arms to distract Seminick when he was at bat. The next day, Seminick got some revenge when he bowled over Giants third baseman Hank Thompson at third, but it only made Stanky wave his arms harder in an effort to distract the hot Seminick. Stanky was ejected, but Seminick wasn't satisfied. When he went into second base, he made sure to go in high and hard on new second baseman Bill Rigney and the two came up swinging. Both benches emptied and police actually had to intervene to stop the brawl.

In the last week of the season, Seminick did one of the most amazing feats in the history of Phillies baseball. With lingering animosity with the Giants, Seminick's ankle was fractured when Monte Irvin slid into him at home plate. Seminick could barely walk, but he returned the next day to catch both ends of a double-header and caught every remaining game of the season and every World Series game. Unfortunately, 1950 would basically be the end of the Andy Seminick era in Philadelphia. The following season, his numbers again slipped and after the season, he was traded to Cincinnati.

Seminick returned to Philadelphia in an early season trade with Cincinnati in 1955 and played one more season before announcing his retirement. The Phillies hired him as a coach and convinced him to catch a few games in 1957 before Seminick retired for good following the '57 season.

Andy Seminick passed away February 22, 2004 at the age of 83.

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