Remembering ‘Goldie’ Goldsmith

04/11/2013 12:00 PM |

SOUTHOLD HISTORICAL SOCIETY COURTESY PHOTO | Hal Goldsmith played with the Boston Braves and St. Louis Cardinals from 1926-29.

In the years after Hal Goldsmith’s professional baseball career ended in 1929, a steady flow of fan mail continued to trickle into his Southold mailbox.

The address on the envelope would often simply read: “Goldie — Southold.”

The mail always found its proper destination.

“He was very popular around town because of teaching and coaching,” said his son Gene Goldsmith. “He was a very gregarious guy and had a fantastic sense of humor. He loved to help people, especially the underdog.”

Born in Peconic in 1898, Mr. Goldsmith played four years in Major League Baseball, beginning in 1926, alongside some of the most memorable names in the sport’s illustrious history. A Southold graduate, Mr. Goldsmith spent his post-baseball career teaching and coaching at his former school, where he became a revered figure, always referred to as “Goldie.”

“Even his students called him ‘Goldie,’ his son said. “Can you imagine that in school now?”

While the legend of “Goldie” may have faded in the years since his death in 1985, the Southold Historical Society has brought his accomplishments back to light with a photo exhibit titled “Hal Goldsmith: Early Baseball Photographs, 1916-1929” at The Reichert Family Center.

SOUTHOLD HISTORICAL SOCIETY COURTESY PHOTO | Mr. Goldsmith was friends with many of the legends of baseball like Ty Cobb.

The exhibit opened to the public Saturday and will remain on display through May 18.

Gene Goldsmith, who lives in Connecticut, contributed many of the pictures that show his father in his early days as a pitcher for the Boston Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.

At a reception Friday, Mr. Goldsmith got a chance to view the photographs as he’s never seen them before, enlarged and framed with captions detailing information on his father.

“I thought it was very well done,” he said. “Geoffrey Fleming, the director, is a young, enthusiastic guy and I think he did a great job.”

Mr. Goldsmith plans to visit the exhibit again at the end of the month with more friends and family.

While he never got a chance to watch his dad play baseball — Mr. Goldsmith was born nearly a decade after his father’s career ended — there were plenty of stories that stuck with him over the years.

Hal Goldsmith, a relief pitcher with a career 6-10 record, told stories of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Casey Stengel and Leo Durocher among others.

His recollections of the Babe included his well-documented tales of drinking, womanizing and gambling, Gene said. He described Lou Gehrig as a “very good friend.” And Casey Stengel was “quite a character.” Leo Durocher, however, he didn’t quite care for.

Rabbit Maranville, a Hall of Fame infielder who clubbed 2,605 hits in his career, stopped by Southold one year for a visit long after his playing career ended.

Mr. Goldsmith even considered Ty Cobb, one of the most legendary players in the game’s history, a friend.

“Given Cobb’s reputation of the nastiest player of all time, I probably should chalk up that friendship to either misjudgment, or maybe more generously, to a bit of compassion,” his son said.

One time in an exhibition game, similar to today’s Home Run Derby, Mr. Goldsmith was given the task of serving up pitches to Babe Ruth in the sweet spot so Ruth could dazzle the crowd with long home runs.

“Ruth never got the ball out of the infield,” Gene recalled. “Dad said that Ruth obviously had a bad day — had to be quite a party the night before — and took his eye off the ball each time he tried to hit it out of the park.”

Mr. Goldsmith graduated from Southold in 1916 in a class that included five boys and one girl.

“Sort of makes you wonder what the junior prom must have been like,” his son joked.

From there he attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., with his best friend from high school, “Mighty” Glover. Hal impressed a few scouts during his college career and was invited to join the Brooklyn Dodgers as a batting practice pitcher after graduating in 1920, his son said. And, as his son notes, the Dodgers won the pennant that year.

Hal journeyed through the minor leagues, from New Orleans to Newark to Saginaw, Mich., for five years before getting the call to join the Boston Braves in June 1926. In his first season he went 5-7 on the mound with a 4.37 ERA while throwing 101 innings. It was his only season with more than 100 innings pitched. The following season he posted a 3.52 ERA in 71 innings.

When his father died at the end of his tenure with the Cardinals in 1929, Hal decided to move back to Peconic and the family farm. His teaching and coaching career at Southold began shortly after and he started a family with his wife, whom he persuaded to move from Cincinnati.

The greatest accomplishment in his life, his son said, was helping others, including so many students over the years.

“To those who knew him best, ‘Goldie’ was a very special person,” his son said.

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