Stanley Frederick Slack
Born: June 2, 1930 (Petrolia, Ontario)
Died: June 12, 2013 (Sarnia, Ontario)
Member: Sarnia Lambton County Sports Hall of Fame (1990)
Stan Slack won his first game as a professional baseball pitcher at the tender age of 14.
The St. Louis Cardinals signed the schoolboy pitcher at a time when rosters were stretched by the war. The organization assigned Slack to the Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals, a team in the Class-D Appalachian League.
The boy made his debut on May 8, 1945 — remembered today as VE Day for the Victory in Europe — against the Elizabethton (Tenn.) Betsy Cubs. The right-hander was a bit shaky at the start, surrendering four runs in the first three innings before settling down. The game went into extra innings tied 4-4. Slack pitched eight scoreless innings before surrendering a run in the top of the 12th. Happily for him, his team came back by scored twice in the bottom of the inning. Slack walked seven and struck out 11 batters for the victory. He also hit a single and a double in five at-bats.
He spent his 15th birthday on the mound against the Bristol (Tenn.) Twins, who knocked him out of the game. The tyro hurler was replaced by playing manager Hal Gruber, the shortstop.
Slack managed a four-hit victory in July and was named to a league all-star team in an exhibition against a team assembled by Moore General Hospital of Asheville, N.C., which featured former New York Yankees slugger Spud Chandler in the lineup.
The teenager began a slow climb up baseball’s alphabet ladder of the minor leagues, spending two seasons in Johnson City before moving on to pitch for Cardinal farm teams in Allentown, Pa., Salsbury, Md., St. Joseph, Mo., Pocatello, Idaho, and Columbus, Ga. In 1952, the Boston Braves organization acquired his rights, and he pitched for the Hagerstown (Md.) Braves for parts of two seasons. He managed a brilliant two-hit performance for the Braves in 1953, which was his best season, as he went 15-10 with a 2.99 earned-run average in 205 innings pitched.
After eight professional seasons in Organized Baseball, including a final stint on the roster of the Evansville (Ind.) Braves, Slack retired at the young age of 24. His combined won-loss record was 77-83.
Slack also pitched in the semiprofessional London (Ont.) Majors of the Intercounty Senior League for three seasons.
After returning to Canada, Slack helped create the Sarnia (Ont.) Braves youth baseball program. He had a reputation as an uncanny fundraiser, helping find money to send youth teams to tournaments. For many years, he lived in a house just beyond centrefield of the local ball park.