Eli `Ginny' Paul, 89, celebrated amateur softball player, salesman

December 10, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Eli "Ginny" Paul, a retired salesman and veteran Baltimore softball star who thrilled crowds with his play at Easterwood Park and elsewhere during the 1930s and early 1940s, died of cancer Monday at Springhouse Assisted Living in Pikesville. He was 89.

Mr. Paul, who was born in Baltimore and raised on West Pratt Street, graduated from City College in 1932.

His father owned Paul's Baby Shop, and when he wasn't looking his young son would slip out of the store in search of a nearby softball or basketball game.

Known for his athletic prowess, he was recruited as a teenager by the Easterwood Park League, where he played softball for his first team, the Moreland Athletic Club.

Games were played in Northwest Baltimore at Easterwood Park, 8 acres of grass and clay that backed up to the Western Maryland Railway tracks and was bordered by Bentalou Street on the east, Baker Street on the north and Moreland Avenue on the south.

Milton Bates, a retired Baltimore businessman and writer who played outfield for the Easterwood Mohawks, recalled strolling over to the field on a summer night in 1935 to watch Mr. Paul play.

"So, on a hot July evening, I learned how great the game of fast-pitch softball could be. In my mind's eye, I see a scuffling, redheaded shortstop in a uniform that stayed white only until the first grounder came his way. Glove, chest, whatever it took, he'd collar it, fire to first and almost always got his man," Mr. Bates recalled at Mr. Paul's induction ceremony into the Maryland Old-timers Fastpitch Softball Association Hall of Fame two years ago.

Mr. Paul's batting was no less exciting, and as the star hitter for Waller Gas during the 1935 season he hit 30 homers.

"Ginny was a hell of a hitter and had eyes like a hawk. He had a fluid motion at the plate, and when he launched the bat it came off his shoulder flying. He would just uncork it and pound the ball," Mr. Bates said in an interview from his Canton home. "He was a consummate line-drive hitter whose likely batting average was above .350."

Mr. Paul went on to play for the nationally known Trenton Democratic Club team, which was supported by political boss James H. "Jack" Pollock.

In 1936, he traveled by train with the team to Chicago for the national amateur softball tournament title game against the Rochester Kodaks of New York at Soldier Field.

"They went up against the defending champs, the Rochester Kodaks, and lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in 13 innings," Mr. Bates recalled.

After leaving Trenton, Mr. Paul played for and managed the Tru-Fit team during the 1940s.

"I played with Ginny on a number of teams and always had great respect for him. The Tru-Fit team played in the Triple A league, which was the top league in Maryland," said William W. Lewis, retired Polytechnic Institute athletic director. "He was a good fielder and shortstop. Very few balls got by him."

"I knew him late in his career, but I can say that Ginny was a good all-around player, coach and manager," said Charlie Holston, president of the Maryland Old-timers Fastpitch Softball Association Inc.

Mr. Paul's strong sense of competitiveness made him such a memorable standout, friends recalled.

"This is not in any way to downgrade the accomplishments of so many worthy others, but when a clutch hit was needed, Ginny was the man you wanted stepping up to the plate. A simple way to put it is that, in my opinion and those of many others, he was the single most exciting player of his time," Mr. Bates wrote in a 2002 letter supporting Mr. Paul's admission to the state softball association's Hall of Fame.

Mr. Paul had worked in the men's department of Hochschild-Kohn and Hutzler's department stores, and at Liberty Hardware, owned by his father-in-law.

For about 20 years, until retiring in 1985, he was a salesman for Seaview Construction Co., owned by Mr. Bates.

"Ginny proved there was a life beyond softball. He was a very personable guy, and he proved to be a good closer on deals, which approximated his batting average," Mr. Bates said.

In 1939, he married Phyllis Malkin, and for more than 50 years they lived on Edenvale Road in Pikesville. She died in 1996.

In later years, Mr. Paul enjoyed bowling and golfing. He was a member of the Turf Valley Country Club and the old Summit Country Club.

He was a member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation.

Services were Wednesday.

Mr. Paul is survived by two daughters, Judi D. Silverman of Mountainside, N.J., and Renee L. Kango of Laguna Beach, Calif.; a brother, Leonard Paul of Baltimore; a sister, Helen Paul of Baltimore; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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