Happy Birthday, Gordon Maltzberger!

In lieu of my writing a full bio, here’s a snippet of information and two really complete articles written about a fine reliever who pitched during the war years for the Chicago White Sox.  The first is a wire copy story that made the rounds in 1944, and the second was a local San Bernadino paper that welcomed Maltzy back home in 1953.

Gordon MaltzbergerGordon Ralph Maltzberger was born 04 September 1912 to Oliver and Addie (Jones) Maltzberger in Utopia, TX, the seventh of eight kids, and moved to Colton, CA before reaching high school age. The Maltzbergers were farmers who lived a couple of miles north of Utopia. While a minor league nomad, Gordon married Barbara Ewing and had one son, William. After his baseball days were over, he was a successful pitching coach and minor league manager in the Braves and White Sox chains.  He served as a pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins in the early 1960s.  For a brief time in 1970, he was a contender to become the manager of the Chicago White Sox, but the job went to Chuck Tanner instead.

Maltzberger passed away at 62 in Rialto, CA on 11 December 1974 after an extended illness.

(US Census Data 1920, 1930, 1940, TX Birth Certificate…  Also Dozer, Richard. “New Candidate For Sox Helm”, Chicago Tribune, 24 July 1970, Section 3, Page 3.)

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Gordon Maltzberger - Twins CoachGordon Ralph Maltzberger picked up the baseball where Ed Lopat laid it down in the seventh inning in Washington the other afternoon. That meant Chicago was “in,” for the White Sox up 90 per cent when the soft-spoken Texan takes command. That’s how much confidence his teammates have in Maltzy.

Gordon Maltzberger had to go to the 12th to gain his ninth decision of the campaign, all scored in the role of a relief worker. He has saved seven other engagements, has
failed to pull a close out of the fire only once – early in the going.

Jimmy Dykes sends out fireman Maltzberger only when the Comiskeys have a chance.

An easy sidearm motion enables Maltzberger to pitch practically every day. He was in
28 of the club’s first 65 games.

Maltzberger is the finest relief pitcher in the game. Mike Tresh says he never saw anyone like him, and he caught Clint Brown. The Sox rate him superior to Johnny Murphy.

Maltzy has good speed and can threat a needle with a two-speed curve. His control is so perfect that he can deliberately build up a hitter for a pitch.

The Sox talk at length of his achievements. They recall him striking out Lou Boudreau to end the final game of their last stand in Cleveland. Two Indians were on base when Dykes paged Maltzberger, and Skeeter Webb filled the sacks with a poor throw. Boudreau fouled off two slow curves and struck out on a fast one in the same spot.

The Sox won 12 out of 14 on their final eastern swing last season, and Maltzberger was in six of them. He ended both ends of a double-header in Griffith Stadium by striking out two men with the bases full.

Maltzy had stitches in one eyeball, the result of an automobile accident. He wears glasses when pitching at night, but not in the daylight.

Blond, handsome, 31-year-old Maltzberger, on the skinny side with no more than 164 pounds draped on a six-foot frame, quickly established himself as a stickout relief pitchers last season although few had heard of him when he reported to the White Sox from Shreveport.

Maltzberger, who makes his home at Colton, Cal., was kicked around in the minors for 11 summers, twice remained out a full campaign because he “just didn’t have the connections.” He was released by the New Orleans club, then managed by Roger Peckinpaugh, in mid-season of 1940, wound up with Jackson of the class B Southeastern league, became so discouraged he thought of quitting.

Maltzberger is a striking example of the scouts’ hesitancy to recommend a pitcher who is not a giant in stature and does not possess an impressive fast ball. Many a ball player stays in the minors because those paid to search for the better ones are fearful of recommending a dud.

Looking at him for the first time, Gordon Maltzberger hasn’t the slightest quality of the overpowering thrower.

But, he’s a pitcher against whom the opposition is powerless, and that is the main idea.

Grayson, Harry. “Greatest Relief Twirler Pulls Games Out of Fire”, Fort Myers News-Press, 13 July 1944, Page 8.

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Gordon Maltzberger, who started pitching baseball when he was at Colton High School way back in the 20’s, is still looking forward to some hurling assignments in 1953 after 17 years in professional baseball.

Maltzberger, who lives in Colton between seasons and works in the cement plant as an electrician, recently signed a contract with the Hollywood Stars which calls for him to coach the younger pitchers, throw some at batting practice and occasionally do a stint on the mound, as a reliever.

Many players have remained active in the majors and minors for as long as Gordon has, but few of them are pitchers. The all-time longevity record for hurlers is only 22 years, held by Cy Young, Charlie (Red) Ruffing, Herb Pennock and Sam Jones.

Maltzberger has played with 10 teams as a starting and relief pitcher and managed one, St. Johns in Quebec. His greatest success came when he helped lead Hollywood to the Pacific Coast League championship in 1949.

Winning 18 games and losing 10 that year for the Stars, Maltzberger, then 36, was the sensation of the league at an age when most pitchers are long since washed up. He had a 3.03 Earned Run Average and was topped in victories for the Stars only by Pinky Woods, with 23.

That was one of the few seasons that Maltzberger appeared regularly as a starter. In his three-and-a-half years with the Chicago White Sox and on almost every one of the minor league teams that he has been with, he had relief roles only.

Gordon had two good years with the Chisox before he went in the service, and another year-and-a-half after the war. The first year, in 1943, he had a 7 – 4 record and was credited with saving another 18 games in clutch roles. He sported a 2.45 Earned Run Average, the best of his career.

The following year, Maltzberger won 10 and lost 5, saved another 12 and had an ERA of 2.95. Four of his victories were 12-inning jobs, and another went 17 innings after Gordon had taken over in the eighth. He won this one, 1 – 0.

Gordon signed with the Los Angeles Angels after graduating from Colton in 1932, stayed out of baseball in 1933, went to the Stars in 1934, missed another year in 1935, then went to Macon, Ga. in the Cincinnati chain in 1936.

The Reds sold him to Atlanta in 1937, then in the next seasons he played for Knoxville, New Orleans, Jackson, Dallas, and Shreveport. In 1943, he went up to the White Sox and was there, except for his time in the service, through 1948, when he was sold to the Stars.

After Gordon’s first year with the Stars, he won 13 and lost 13 in 1950, then went back to relief pitching the next year, winning 7 and losing 8. Last seasons, Pittsburgh, which had a working agreement with Hollywood, sent him to manage their farm club at St. Johns in Canada. He guided the team into third place and did some pitching.

The toughest batter he faced in his long career, Gordon said, was Ted Williams, although Charley Keller and Tommy Heinrich of the Yankees were almost as hard to get out. Best hitter he ever pitched to in the Coast League was Luke Easter, who played first base for San Diego in 1949.

Maltzberger believes that physical conditioning had more to do than any other factor with keeping him in the active ranks so long.

“I’m a great believer in running,” Gordon said. “I ran at least 15 minutes every day, whether I was scheduled to pitch or not. That is the best thing you can do to keep your legs in shape, and a pitcher has to have strong legs, or he’ll fold up in the later innings. Running also helped my wind and my ball control.”

Never known as a fast-baller, Maltzberger uses a side-arm delivery and mixes a sharp curve with sinkers and screwballs.

Gordon, his wife, and 12-year-old son Bill make their winter home at 856 Edgehill in Colton, but the family lives in Los Angeles during the baseball season.

Boyd, Jerry. “Colton’s Gordon Maltzberger to Coach, Pitch for Hollywood Stars This Season”, San Bernadino County Sun, 15 February 1953, Page 38.

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One thought on “Happy Birthday, Gordon Maltzberger!

  1. Pingback: Baseball History for September 4th | Mighty Casey Baseball

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