The Obit For Ken Raffensberger

The York Dispatch, Monday, November 11, 2002 - 10:00:05 AM MST

York loses baseball standout

Raffensberger, winner of 1944 Major League All-Star Game, dies at age 85
By GREG BOWERS Dispatch/Sunday News

Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer, called him one of the toughest left-handed pitchers he'd ever faced and dubbed him "Crafty Raffy."

York's Ken Raffensberger, the winning pitcher in the 1944 Major League All-Star Game, died yesterday afternoon at Memorial Hospital of natural causes.

He was 85.

Raffensberger pitched for 16 seasons in the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds.

But the biggest moment of Raffensberger's career came in that 1944 All-Star Game when he was the National League's winning pitcher in a 7-1 win over the American League.

The game had lost some of its luster that year because 325 major leaguers were serving in the military. In fact, it drew the fourth-smallest crowd in All-Star Game history with 29,589 fans watching in Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

Still, Raffensberger, then with the last-place Phillies, pitched the fourth and fifth innings, allowing just one hit.

"It was undoubtedly the highlight of my career," he once said. "I guess I was lucky enough to be on the mound when the National League went ahead.

"I wasn't nervous because I didn't think I would pitch."

Raffensberger was 9-4 during the first half of the 1944 season with the Phillies, but ended the season 13-20.

While he was with the Phillies, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, and many in baseball were angry about seeing a black player in the major leagues.

Years later, Raffensberger said that Phillies manager Ben Chapman had instructed pitchers to throw the ball at Robinson whenever there were two strikes in the count.

"I didn't go along with it," Raffensberger said. "I never believed in throwing at a guy."

His best season was 1949 when, with Cincinnati, he was 18-17 with a 3.39 earned-run average.

On his career, he was 119-154 with a 3.60 ERA. Although he never played on a team that finished above .500, he pitched four one-hitters(including two against the 1948 Brooklyn Dodgers) and led the league in fewest-walks-per-nine-innings four times.

After his major league career ended in 1954, Raffensberger returned home to play for one season with his hometown York White Roses in the Piedmont League. He was 38 years old, and still went 13-3 for York that season.

Marlyn "Curly" Holtzapple played with Raffensberger on that 1955 team.

"He didn't throw that hard, but what he would do is he had great control," said Holtzapple, who manages Stoverstown in the Central League.

"And he was a great competitor," he added. "I remember one time a guy hit one back to him. He threw it to me (at second base in an effort to start a double play) and I threw it away.

Holtzapple laughed. "He wasn't happy with me."

Ralph Goodwin, longtime manager of the Dover Central League team, bowled with Raffensberger for years.

"I saw him this year at the Colonial (baseball) tournament," Goodwin said. "He was a unique guy. He never talked a whole lot about his baseball career, but every now and then you could get him going on it.

"He was a left-hander and I was a left-hander and we both prided ourselves on having good control."

Raffensberger's control was legendary.

"Ray Mueller (Reds catcher) said he could catch me sitting in a rocking chair," Raffensberger said.

Hall of Famer Musial agreed.

"The forkball looked as big as a grapefruit," Musial wrote in his autobiography, "but fell off the table low.

"I stubbornly tried to slug with him and didn't have much success. The challenge of going for the long ball off soft stuff hurt me and the Cardinals against Crafty Raffy."

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized but are being handled by Etzweiler Funeral home in York. Burial will be at Mount Rose Cemetery.