Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared April 14, 2007.
WORTHINGTON - Al Worthington annoys me every now and again, not that Al Worthington is to blame for anything in any way.
I go to eBay. Not often. I type, “Worthington,” to find what is being offered for auction, maybe a Worthington postcard or a souvenir dish or a Nobles County Co-op milk pitcher from a Christmas long past. Often, eBay reports the Worthington listings are, “Worthington, Al, autographed baseball card,” or, “Worthington, Al, autographed matchbook cover.”
“Dummy!” I say. “That’s not Worthington!”
A new baseball season is unfolding. The boys of summer are back, with the Minnesota Twins destined for the World Series. (Carlos Silva, Away!) It’s time once again to talk about the old hardball game.
One of these columns a couple of years ago focused on John Donaldson, the black pitcher for the Lismore Gophers who may be enrolled in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It is fitting that there be a column focused on Al Worthington - who never played for Worthington. The world knows, Al Worthington was a pitcher for the Fulda Giants.
(There are Truth in Advertising laws these days. Sunshine laws. If you are a disc jockey or a newspaper writer, either laws or ethics require that you make plain if you have some special tie to a person or a product.
(I must make clear that Al Worthington is nearly my next of kin. Al is married to Shirley Reusse. One of Shirley Reusse’s uncles was married to one of my mother’s first cousins. I thought this makes Al and me almost twin branches on a family tree but someone said, “That’s what they used to call ‘shirt tail relatives’” and someone else said, “That isn’t even shirt tail.” I’m still claiming there is a Major League Baseball player in the family.)
Al Worthington is an Alabama native who emerged as a hotshot pitcher for the University of Alabama. Dick Reusse of Fulda drove to Omaha for the 1950 College World Series. Al Worthington was pitching for the Crimson Tide. Dick offered Al a summer job: pitch for Fulda in the First Night League. He said Fulda would pay $500 a month. Room would be in a private home for $1 a night.
Al said, “OK!” In his book, “I Played and I Won,” Worthington wrote he had no idea even where Minnesota was located on the U.S. map.
Al Worthington’s vivid memory of Fulda is meeting Shirley, who was a lifeguard that summer on Fulda’s Seven Mile Lake.
Al returned home to Alabama, but he and Shirley were engaged. On Dec. 20, he boarded a bus at Birmingham for the wedding, which was set for Dec. 28. It was a two-day, two-night bus trip, and Fairmont was as close to Fulda as the bus would come.
Shirley persuaded her parents to let her take the family car to Fairmont to pick up Al. On the return trip along old, two-lane U.S. 16, “We began to skid on the ice,” Al remembers. “We ended up sliding in a ditch that was filled with snow. The car turned over on its roof and bounced again … Shirley had a few minor cuts and I came out of it without a scratch.”
A farmer came with a tractor. The car was “in pretty bad shape … none of the doors would shut tight.”
All’s well that ends well. The wedding went as scheduled at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church.
Al can recall a game with Wilmont:
“It was a Sunday night … I pitched a no-hitter. I did walk two batters, and I hit one. We won by 3-0.”
He also recalls a game with Iona:
“(Iona) had a population of about 400 people. When the game started, there were about 5,000 people on hand.”
Al Worthington’s memory of Worthington itself is confused. His new father-in-law introduced the boy from Alabama to ice fishing. Twenty below zero. “We went in Mr. Reusse’s truck and drove to Round Lake. It was located at the town of Worthington …”
Al pitched in the majors through 16 seasons, six with the Twins. He was also a Twins pitching coach.
Al Worthington’s Major League Baseball debut was with the Giants. He beat the Phillies, 6-0. Five days later he beat the Dodgers, 6-0. This is still a National League record.