Ex-Yankee lists associations over accomplishments Severna Park man recalls the greats

August 16, 1992|By Tom Worgo | Tom Worgo,Contributing Writer

If a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame II were founded for former players who associated with a large number of all-time greats, then Ted Sepkowski would be on the top of the induction list.

The former Cleveland Indians infielder and New York Yankees outfielder managed a skinny shortstop in 1953 named Hank Aaron, roomed with Yogi Berra in 1947, made three lamps for Willie Mays in the '50s and was scouted by Ty Cobb as a minor league player in the '40s.

The list does not end there.

Sepkowski, a Severna Park resident, was a teammate of ex-Indian pitcher Bob Feller and Yankee star Joe DiMaggio, and played against Ted Williams in 1941 when he hit .406.

All of these baseball greats are in Cooperstown. Sepkowski boasts about being associated with these stars, but not about his six months in the majors over a four-year period.

"I wasn't up there [in the big leagues] that long," Sepkowski said. "But I associated with such great people. It was an honor to play with them and against them. People played 15 years and never roomed with Yogi or bumped into Bob Feller. I would like to be associated with those people and not my four years in the big leagues."

Sepkowski also spoke of his manager at Cleveland for two years, Lou Boudreau, and Bill Veeck, the owner of the Indians who sold him to the New York Yankees in 1947.

Despite his limited time in the majors, Sepkowski has received fan mail, about two or three letters a week, since 1955 from throughout the United States.

Last month, a youth from New York sent Sepkowski 25 photos to be signed. "He formed a Yankees club," Sepkowski said. "He even sent me an extra 10 to keep."

Another youth last year sent him a Yankees history book to be autographed. But when he opened the book to sign it, Sepkowski was shocked.

Inside "The New York Yankees," several signatures already appeared, including Cobb, Babe Ruth, Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose and DiMaggio. The book had been appraised at $100,000.

Sepkowski almost lost the book when he left it on top of his truck and drove off in Linthicum. But he recovered it an hour later and signed it free of charge.

"It brings back my memories," said the married father of two. "It means people haven't forgotten you. When guys charge all that money, it hurts me." Sepkowski said he dislikes Mantle getting $25 for an autograph.

The 68-year-old might not boast about his time in majors, but Sepkowski is not shy to mention his brief career, involving recalls from the minors and lots of time logged on the bench.

In 1941, the Baltimore Orioles, then a triple-A franchise of Cleveland, signed the 17-year-old before he finished high school at Mount St. Joe.

Cleveland bought Sepkowski from Baltimore in 1941, and he played second base in three games. Sepkowski said he robbed Williams of a base hit in September.

The next year, Sepkowski returned to Baltimore for the summer, but the Indians promoted him in September again. The one-month stint produced a hit in 10 at-bats as a second baseman.

"I liked him as a player. He always hustled," said John Whittig, who played against Sepkowski for two seasons in the International League.

Sepkowski, in 1943, started his third season in the minors for the Orioles before joining the service for World War II in May. He served in the Coast Guard until fall 1945.

Looking back, Sepkowski said, 2 1/2 years away from the game hampered his chances of sticking in the majors. "I was in a groove and it stopped," he said. "It could have turned my career around."

In 1946, he played for Oklahoma City in the Texas League before being recalled by Cleveland in September. He performed at third base, compiling four hits in eight at-bats. Cleveland then sold the 23-year-old to the Yankees.

With New York, Sepkowski was used as an outfielder, frequently pinch hitting and running. He hit .250 in 12 games during May, June and July. The Yankees sent him to Newark of the International League in July.

Three months later, New York won its third World Series of the decade. That's why it was so difficult to take the move to Newark.

"I was thinking if I was there with the Yankees, I would have gotten a ring and a Series share and perhaps played," he said.

For the next five years (1948-1952), Sepkowski played in the minors for the Chicago Cubs. Then he served as a player/manager from 1953-1955 for the Milwaukee Braves and the Washington Senators.

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