Baseball Players With One Spectacular Year
by Richard H. Letarte
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Power usually answered his critics with logical responses, further infuriating them. On one occasion, when asked about his penchant for attractive white women, he answered, “I suppose if I told them I liked big mammas, they’d leave me alone.” Another time, when the team was in the South for training and the bus stopped for the players to eat, Vic was informed by the owner of a restaurant that he did not serve Negroes. Power quickly let him know that he did not eat Negroes and that he would be satisfied with rice and beans. Victor Filipe Pellot was born in 1931 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. As a boy he showed talent as an artist, but when he was thirteen, his father died, the result of an industrial accident.
The firm for which the elder Pellot worked had pledged to assist Mrs. Pellot and her children, but her lawyer abruptly dropped the case against the company. This infuriated the family and convinced young Victor that he should pursue the legal profession in order to make old wrongs right. He held that dream until he signed a contract to play with Caguas, in the winter league, in 1947. The skills and maturity he showed at first base convinced the regular thirty-five-year-old first-sacker to retire in favor of this enthusiastic and energetic young man. Power played the entire four-month season and earned $250 per month in the process. The following year, his salary was increased to five hundred dollars monthly and he was able to purchase a home for the family in San Juan, relieving his mother of the financial burden of providing for the family. He did this and completed high school, a shining example for his younger siblings, who all finished their secondary education. His success at baseball, however, eliminated his plans for pursuit of the law.
After playing baseball in Puerto Rico for two seasons, the ¬seventeen-year-old Pellot signed a contract with Drummondville, a Quebec team in Canada’s independent Provincial League, in time for the 1949 season. He suffered airsickness on the plane ride north and quickly became homesick, as he had never traveled away from the island. Here he was, fifteen hundred miles from home, with nary a clue as to the customs or the language. The fans embraced him immediately, however, and Quincy Trouppe, who signed him, took him under his wing, caring for him as a son. He started in right field and after his first season was switched to first base. During the 1949–50 period, Victor Power batted over .330 and in 1950 drove in 105 runs in 105 games. This consistency brought Tom Greenwade of the Yankees to watch the league all-star game and Power in particular. Vic’s performance included an error, so Greenwade rated his fielding as poor. Still, the Yankees bought his contract from Drummondville for seventy-five hundred dollars but the twenty-year-old showed that bit of independence that would annoy the Yankee brass in the future. He wanted a share of the purchase price, and got it. It was only five hundred dollars, but Power showed that he would be a force to deal with.
Up with the Yankees?
The New York Yankees, who acquired the contract of Vic Power, were born as part of a compromise between the warring professional major leagues of baseball after the birth of the American League in 1901. After a decade and a half of so-so baseball, in 1914 they became the property of one Jacob Ruppert. The new owner had inherited a large estate but was a success in his own right. He and his dollars presided over the birth of the Yankees dynasty. He purchased the best players available, among them Babe Ruth, in time for the 1920 season. The next twenty-three years saw fourteen Yankee pennants and ten World Series flags. Stellar Yankees besides Ruth included Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, and Red Ruffing.
World War II took its toll on all big-league teams and the Yankees suffered through a three-year stretch (1944–1946) in which other teams took championships. They resumed their winning ways in 1947, besting the Brooklyn Dodgers in a tough seven-game series for the world title.
Yankee general manager Larry McPhail shocked the baseball world by resigning immediately after the 1947 campaign, and George Weiss took over as general overseer. He replaced McPhail’s choice of manager, Bucky Harris, after a near miss in the 1948 campaign and raised a few eyebrows when he announced his selection, Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel.
2006 by Richard Letarte