Wally Westlake was a utility player who had a 10-year career from 1947 to 1956. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies all of the National League and the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles both of the American League. He played third base and outfield. He was elected to the National League All-Star team in 1951. Westlake is a graduate of Christian Brothers High School (Sacramento, California.) He currently lives in Sacramento.
Quitters Apply: “There were quite a few pitfalls in my baseball career before I made it to the major leagues. I was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers at age 19 in 1940. They sent me to Dayton, Ohio, Mid-Atlantic League, Class D. They were paying me around $120 a month, and my first thought was, what on earth am I going to do with all that money? Well, I didn’t play well. Every curve ball fell off the table and I was a day late on every fastball, so it was not a real confidence builder, to be certain. They called me into the office one day, and gave me a pink slip and my bus ticket home. They told me I should go home, forget about baseball, because I’d never have the skills to be a professional ballplayer. So, that night I’m leaving for the bus, and on the way there, I swing by the ballpark; the lights are on and the game is on. Forgive me, but the tears and the snot was flowing and I asked myself right there--you think I am going to quit? Not yet. The worst thing that scared me was the idea of facing my dad. I couldn’t face him as a failure. Fear of failure is one of the greatest motivators in the world, believe me. So, they let me stay and pretty quick I started playing better. And before I knew it, I was moving up through the minors at a pretty good clip.”
Casey Took a Swing at Helping Wally: “I had some great teachers along the way, like Casey Stengel during my career in the minor leagues. He was a very strong force in my career starting in 1946. He saved my butt. Called for me one day early in the season and said, “You got talent and you can catch and run well enough to play centerfield, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. I am going to teach you how to play at the major league level.” And he did. For six months, he rode my biscuit, let me tell you. “Mister, you got your head where the sun don’t shine,” he told me. He was tough, but he made the game fun. He taught me how to read the pitchers, how to anticipate in the field, so that I was in position to make the tricky catches. He turned it around for me. I was 25 years old at that point and I was running out of time. Today, if you’re 25 and still in the minors, they give up on you. So, every chance I get, I’m proud to say thank you to Charles Dillon Stengel.”