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Harold Henry "Pee Wee" Reese (July 23, 1918 - August 14, 1999) was a professional baseball player who played for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1940 to 1958. Reese was a ten-time All Star shortstop who contributed to seven league championships for Brooklyn.
Reese was a strong supporter of the first black Major League Baseball player, Jackie Robinson. He refused to sign a petition that threatened a boycott if Robinson joined the team. When Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947 and traveled with them during their first road trip, he was heckled by fans in Cincinnati, Ohio. Reese, the captain of the team, went over to Robinson and put his arm around his shoulder in a gesture of support which silenced the crowd. The gesture was especially telling because Reese was born and raised near then-segregated Louisville, Kentucky. This gesture is depicted in a bronze sculpture of Reese and Robinson, created by sculptor William Behrends, that was placed at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn, New York, and unveiled on November 1, 2005.
Throughout that difficult first year in the major leagues, Reese helped keep Robinson's morale up amid all the abuse. Their rapport soon led shortstop Reese and second baseman Robinson to become one of the most effective defensive pairs in the sport's history.
At Reese's funeral, Joe Black, another Major League Baseball black pioneer, said:
- "Pee Wee helped make my boyhood dream come true to play in the Majors, the World Series. When Pee Wee reached out to Jackie, all of us in the Negro League smiled and said it was the first time that a White guy had accepted us. When I finally got up to Brooklyn, I went to Pee Wee and said, 'Black people love you. When you touched Jackie, you touched all of us.' With Pee Wee, it was No. 1 on his uniform and No. 1 in our hearts."
Following his retirement as a player, Reese enjoyed considerable success as a play-by-play announcer on network television. He called games for CBS from 1960-1965 (with Dizzy Dean) and for NBC from 1966-1968 (with Curt Gowdy). Reese also broadcast several World Series for NBC radio.
In 1984, Pee Wee Reese was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In front of the main entrance into Louisville Slugger Field, stands a statue of Pee Wee Reese.
The friendship between Reese and Robinson is the subject of a popular 1990 children's book called Teammates (ISBN 0-15-284285-3), by Peter Golenbock.
Most people believe that Pee Wee Reese's best season was 1949, when he slugged 16 home runs, stole 26 bases, hit for a .279 average and knocked in 73 runs.
- Signed as an amateur free agent by Pittsburgh Pirates (1938).
- Sold by Boston Red Sox to Brooklyn Dodgers for $35000 and 4 players (July 18, 1939).
- Released by Los Angeles Dodgers (December 30, 1958).