BEENEY!

Former Yankee Hurler Fred Beene Proved
Big Things Can Come In Small Packages

by Todd Newville

Fred Beene - 1973 Topps baseball card

Former major league pitcher Fred Beene proved big things can come in small packages.

Affectionately known as “Beeney” throughout much of his professional baseball career, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Beene defied skeptics who thought he was too small to succeed on a major league mound. At times, the criticism of his physical attributes proved frustrating for the slick-fielding right-hander who possessed a crafty assortment of pitches.

But, because he wanted to play in the big leagues so badly, Beene paid no attention to what some thought of his stature. He knew he could pitch in the majors - and so did his father.


Fred Beene pitched eight years in the Baltimore Orioles organization. Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes and scout Dee Phillips signed him to his first professional contract in 1963.
“I was small and I had to battle all those perceptions about my size,” said Beene, who incidentally could also switch-hit. “I always heard that I was too little to pitch in the big leagues. I did have talent, but because of my size, I couldn’t be lacking in other areas. Having perseverance and not giving up helped me get to the big leagues. What my dad taught me and having pride in what I did helped me to become a major league pitcher.”

It certainly did. Beene (now 64) grew up in Angleton, Texas, which is located about 30 miles from Houston near the Gulf of Mexico. His father William taught him how to pitch with heart.

“My dad was my biggest influence,“ Beene said. “He never pitched an inning anywhere except in a cow pasture. He was a farm boy who just loved baseball. He taught me about pitching inside and changing speeds and location. That’s what pitching is all about and he preached that to me. I threw a perfect game when I was 10 years old. I didn’t walk a guy and I struck out all 18 hitters.”

From there, Beene was on his way to becoming a nifty little hurler. After high school, he played collegiate baseball for Sam Houston State, where he helped propel his team to victory in the 1963 NAIA title game. It wasn’t long before he caught the interest of big league scouts.

Former major league pitcher Burleigh Grimes and Dee Phillips were responsible for signing Beene to his first pro contract with the Baltimore Orioles before the 1963 season. Grimes is in the Hall of Fame, having won 270 games over 19 years mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920s and ‘30s. Grimes (who stood 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds) was the last of the legal “spitball” pitchers.

“Burleigh Grimes and Dee Phillips signed me,” Beene said. “Burleigh was in the room when I signed at a Holiday Inn in Joplin, Mo., after a national tournament. I was negotiating all day in that motel room - calling my dad back home and asking him what he thought about this and that. Burleigh said if I were bigger, I could get more (signing bonus) money. That talk was already starting. But, Dee knew me and he scouted me. He knew what kind of athlete and competitor I was. He wanted me pretty bad. And, Burleigh told me a lot of good things that day.”

Grimes pitched in an era when knowledge of the strike zone was considered an art and when pitching inside was accepted as part of the game. It wasn’t all about body size, arm strength, and speed in his day. Beene took Grimes’ words of wisdom to heart.

“He told me he had a reputation for knocking guys down,” Beene said, recalling how Grimes sported a big belly and cowboy boots while chewing on a wad of tobacco when he signed his first pro baseball pact. “He only did that, he said, to move guys out of their stance. If a hitter would dig in and plant his feet and do all that stuff, he would knock ‘em back and get them out of their comfort zone. I remember what he said to this day.


Fred Beene (as he appeared on his 1970 Topps rookie baseball card)

“It told me they get really technical, so to speak, in the majors. I had no idea at the time how technical things were. Burleigh told me a lot of other things that day (when I signed) that I have probably forgotten over the years. But, I do remember that. He wasn’t very big during his career - like me. So, those words echoed somewhat and helped me to an extent.”


Fred Beene was traded to the New York Yankees from the Baltimore Orioles and promptly became a force out of the bullpen in 1972.
Beene’s professional career began in 1964 with Fox Cities in Appleton (Wis.) of the Class A Midwest League. There, the diminutive righty forged an impressive 11-5 record in his pro debut along with a sparkling 2.22 ERA and 102 strikeouts in just 77 innings of work. Beene surrendered just 29 walks and 50 hits while allowing 5.84 hits per nine innings. He had a remarkable ratio of 11.92 strikeouts every nine innings pitched. It seemed Beene was on his way, for sure.

In 1965, Beene continued to excel at the Double A level. He fashioned a 7-7 record for Elmira (N.Y.) of the Eastern League along with a 2.25 ERA and 99 whiffs in 132 innings. He worked a league-leading 62 games for manager Earl Weaver that campaign - none more grueling and demanding than on May 8 against Springfield (Mass.) in front of just 386 fans.

Weaver (a Hall of Famer who also guided Beene at Appleton in ‘64) later won 1,480 games, four American League pennants and one World Series in 1970 during his 18 years as Baltimore’s skipper. He placed a lot of confidence in Beene, who rewarded his manager’s faith in him all year with gutsy performances - particularly against Springfield.

In a game that started on the afternoon of May 8, 1965, the Elmira Pioneers defeated the Springfield Giants 2-1 in 27 innings. At the time, the contest set a record for the longest game ever on record in organized professional baseball. Beene picked up the win by hurling the last 12 innings.

The game was scoreless for the first 25 frames. Then, both clubs scored a run in the 26th inning. Finally, Elmira broke through with the winning run in the last inning to give Beene a hard-earned win and some much-needed relief for the Pioneers.

“People went home about the 12th or 13th inning,” Beene remembered, “but then the game went so long, they started coming back to the park. They wanted to see what would happen. It was 0-0 for 25 innings and when they scored a run in the top of the 26th inning, I threw my glove in disgust clear down the right field line into the bullpen.

“But, we scored a run and tied it up again. I had to go clear out to the bullpen and get my glove for the 27th inning. We won it 2-1 and, in that game, there was actually a perfect game pitched for nine innings.”

Beene can’t recall the starting pitcher for Elmira by name, but he said that pitcher’s last three innings were “three up and three down.” Then, Dave Leonhard threw three perfect frames. After Beene tossed three more 1-2-3 innings, an unofficial perfect game had been recorded.


Fred Beene was 6-0 with a marvelous 1.68 ERA in 91 innings for the Yankees in 1973. He helped set up closer Sparky Lyle.

“The first pitcher had three perfect innings his last three innings,” Beene said. “Dave threw three innings of perfect ball - then I pitched the last 12. Between the first pitcher, the second pitcher, and my first three innings, we all recorded 27 straight outs. It was early season and I don’t think anyone realized it at the time that it was a record.”


Fred Beene (as he appeared on his 1974 Topps baseball card)
Since then, there have only been two more games in pro ball that have lasted longer. On June 14, 1966, at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., two Class A Florida State League teams battled for 29 innings before a victor was determined. The visiting Miami Marlins beat the St. Petersburg Cardinals 4-3 in a contest that lasted 6 hours, 59 minutes. The game didn’t end until nearly 2:30 in the morning the next day.

“Our game was just unbelievable,” Beene said, “and the next year in Miami, they played 29 innings. They broke the rules, though, because the ’Blue Laws’ should have stopped them. Then, in the early 1980s, Pawtucket and Rochester went like 30-something innings before somebody won it.”

Indeed, the longest game ever in professional baseball was recorded in the Triple A International League between Pawtucket and Rochester on June 23, 1981. Dave Koza scored Marty Barrett with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 33rd inning to give the Paw Sox a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings that day.

The contest was suspended on June 19 after 32 innings, 8 hours, and 7 minutes of play. When the game continued four days later, it took only 18 minutes to complete. Future major league pitcher Bob Ojeda earned the win for Pawtucket. Future stars Wade Boggs for Pawtucket and Cal Ripken, Jr., for Rochester went a combined 6-for-25 during the marathon.

“You’ll find that when games go beyond 12 innings, they can get really long,” Beene noted, “because of the lack of concentration. Even on the professional level, you just get tired. You hope that someone will just go up there and jack one out of the park and end it. Pitchers start dominating because they are pitching for survival. The batters are just going through the motions and the pitchers don’t want to give up the winning run.”

In 1966, Beene went 10-12 for Elmira with a 2.16 ERA and 129 whiffs in 150 innings. He later advanced to the Triple A level with Rochester, where he went 2-1 in four contests with a 2.57 ERA. In ‘67, Beene was 2-1 in 12 games for Elmira along with a miniscule 1.67 ERA before going back to Rochester, where he was 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 22 outings.

In ‘68, Beene went 8-7 with a 2.68 ERA in 48 games at Rochester. On Sept. 18, he made his major league debut with the Orioles during a 4-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Beene surrendered two hits, one walk and one earned run while striking out one in his only inning of big league action that season. Bosox third baseman Joe Foy (who was named The Sporting News’ Minor League Player of the Year in 1965) was Beene’s first major league strikeout victim.


1974 New York Yankees

In ‘69, Beene again was assigned to Rochester, where he fashioned an impressive 15-7 record along with a sparkling 2.98 ERA and 132 strikeouts in a league-leading 193 innings. He walked just 47 hitters. At the end of the minor league campaign, Beene was called up to Baltimore. In two contests against Boston and Cleveland, Beene didn’t allow an earned run.


Fred Beene was traded to the Cleveland Indians in April 1974 in a deal many Yankee fans termed "The Friday Night Massacre."
He pitched in the Puerto Rican League that winter - hurling a 6-0 no-hitter for Santurce against Arecibo on Jan. 17, 1970. Later that same year, Beene was 9-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 13 games for Rochester. Then, he again saw limited action with the Orioles - getting into four games late in the year. Beene was certainly one of Baltimore’s best pitching prospects.

But, professionally speaking, he was caught in an unfortunate scenario. The Orioles were a powerful club during the period - winning three straight American League pennants from 1969 to ‘71. The ‘70 club won the World Series over the Cincinnati Reds in five games.

Beene certainly had the capability of pitching in the majors at that time. But, the Orioles featured a stellar staff of Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Dave McNally, and Jim Palmer. All four won at least 20 games for the O’s in ‘71 - only the second time in major league history that has happened. The 1920 Chicago White Sox (with Red Faber, Lefty Williams, Eddie Cicotte, and Dickie Kerr) are the only other club with four 20-game winners.

With such a stout collection of hurlers in Baltimore, Beene was left with virtually no chance to break into the team’s rotation at that time. Orioles general manager Harry Dalton (who was twice named The Sporting News’ Executive of the Year in 1970 with Baltimore and ’82 with the Milwaukee Brewers) recognized Beene’s aspirations and made a promise to him.

“I was with the Baltimore organization for eight years,” Beene said. “I was one of their top guys to be called up but there weren’t many chances for me. Earl Weaver liked the older, veteran players. The Orioles were a good team and they dominated during that time. There just wasn’t room for me.

“Harry Dalton was a good guy. He called me into his office after the (1970) season and said he would trade me if they could get a good deal for me. He realized I had a tough fight and probably deserved to be in the big leagues. It just wasn’t happening for me in Baltimore. He said if they could trade me to another club, they were going to do it.”

And, they did. Baltimore engineered a multi-player deal that winter on Dec. 1, 1970, with the San Diego Padres - sending Beene, fellow pitchers Tom Phoebus and Al Severinsen, and shortstop Enzo Hernandez to San Diego for Dobson and Tom Dukes.

“That winter, I went back to Puerto Rico to play winter ball again,” Beene added, “and on Opening Night, I blew out my elbow. I threw a slider to Ken Singleton and I thought I had broke my arm. Something snapped and the doctor in Puerto Rico said I might not pitch again. But, I went to Baltimore and got an American doctor to look at me. The day I went to Baltimore to have my arm examined, they made the trade.“


Fred Beene was traded from the Yankees along with fellow pitchers Fritz Peterson, Tom Buskey, and Steve Kline to the Indians for first baseman Chris Chambliss and pitchers Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw.

Beene’s arm didn’t immediately get better. So, the Padres sent him back to Baltimore on May 16, 1971. That year, he pitched for Dallas-Fort Worth in the Texas League and went 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA in just five games. He also toiled once more for Rochester where he was 7-1 with a 4.44 ERA in 12 contests. All together, Beene showed he still had command of the strike zone - walking just 35 batters in 108 innings while surrendering 107 hits.

“I went to Rochester to heal up,” Beene said, “and I finally got some good news.”

Indeed, soon the salty little Beene finally got his big break. On Jan. 19, 1972, the Orioles sent Beene to the New York Yankees for minor leaguer Dale Spier. That spring, Beene wowed the Yankee organization mostly because he was intent on making the major league roster.


Fred Beene pitched his last two seasons in the major leagues for the Cleveland Indians in 1974 and 1975.
If a former major leaguer named Pete Ward hadn’t played a part in the transaction, Beene may have never been a Yankee, though. Ward at the time was a coach in the Baltimore minor league organization. He played for the Yanks in 1970 (his last major league season) when he hit .260 in 66 games. Before that, Ward had been one of the American League’s top-fielding third basemen.

A career .254 hitter, Ward spent nine years in the American League - mostly with the Chisox. He finished second behind teammate and pitcher Gary Peters for the 1963 AL Rookie of the Year award when he batted .295 with 22 homers and 84 RBI. He finished that season ranked second in the Junior Circuit behind Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski (183) with 177 hits. He also ranked second in total bases (289) and doubles (34), fifth in hitting, and eighth in slugging percentage at .482.

“Pete Ward was a coach at Rochester at the time,” Beene said. “He recommended to the Yankees that they trade for me - on the sly, of course, since he was still working for the Orioles. I was very happy they traded me because I thought that I might be through at that point.”

Soon, Beene provided New York with a much-needed lift out of the bullpen. Beene’s debut with the Yankees was delayed because players went on strike in 1972 for the first time in history - wiping out the first 13 days of the season. Once play commenced, he went 1-3 with a 2.34 ERA and three saves in 29 games for the Bronx Bombers. In 58 innings, he struck out 37 and surrendered just 24 walks and 55 hits. He was finally carving his niche.

Beene got the opportunity to pitch for New York mostly because of his own hard work over the previous winter. But, he also got a little help in the way of injuries to other Yankee hopefuls at camp.

“When I got to Spring Training, they had about five sore-armed pitchers,” Beene recalled. “I had been pitching in Puerto Rico over the winter and I was in pretty good shape. I got into the first exhibition game that spring and I was mowing them down pretty good for about six outings with the Yankees. (Manager) Ralph Houk called me into his office and said I had made the club.

“He said he wasn’t waiting around on anybody else to come around. I couldn’t believe it! I’d been waiting to hear that forever, ’You’re going North.’ I was finally one of the main 25 guys out of spring. I wasn’t just waiting to be called up later in September. What a feeling it was!”

In 1973, Beene had his best year in the majors. He fashioned a perfect 6-0 record along with a microscopic 1.68 ERA in 19 games. He walked just 27 and yielded only 67 hits in 91 innings while striking out 49. Opposing batters hit just .209 against Beene, who helped anchor a solid bullpen which also featured Lindy McDaniel (12-6, 2.86 ERA) and closer Sparky Lyle (27 saves, 2.51 ERA).

“I thought the DH would ruin me in 1973 since you don‘t need as many pitchers on a team,” said Beene, referring to the introduction of the designated hitter in the American League that season. “But, it actually worked to my benefit because I became one of the first long relievers in the game. It was a new niche for a lot of pitchers.”

Just when Beene thought he had finally established himself in the majors, the proverbial rug was pulled out from underneath him. The 1974 season was barely underway in April when the Yankees and Indians completed a controversial transaction at that time - known to some Yankee fans as the “Friday Night Massacre.”

On Friday, April 26, New York beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 to remain within a half-game of first place. As the Yankees filed into their clubhouse, they learned much to their dismay that Beene and fellow pitchers Tom Buskey, Steve Kline, and Fritz Peterson had been traded to Cleveland for first baseman Chris Chambliss and pitchers Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw.

“To say the least, the clubhouse was in an uproar,” Beene said. “They traded four good ol’ boys from the club and broke up the party. Guys were upset and didn’t leave the clubhouse until well after midnight.”

To put it in perspective, the Yanks traded 40-percent of their 10-man pitching staff. “You don’t trade four pitchers,” veteran pitcher Mel Stottlemyre said at the time. “You just don’t.” Catcher Thurman Munson added, “Half the pitching staff is gone - just like that.”

The trade shocked and angered both players and fans alike. When general manager Gabe Paul walked into the clubhouse two hours later to officially announce the trade to the team, several players had been “sitting around having a few beers,” Beene recalled. “I think the beer was working a little on the guys. It was a pretty hostile environment for (Paul) to walk into.”

Former catcher and Yankee coach Elston Howard was especially vociferous in his opinion of the deal. “There was a lot of noise and angry statements flying around,” Beene said. “The team felt like (owner George Steinbrenner and Paul) were breaking us up.”

For Beene, the trade was particularly traumatic.

“I was leaving a place where my role had been established,” Beene said. “I had a spot and I felt secure with the Yankees. It had taken me a long and trying time to finally make it to the big leagues. I felt like I was a very important part of that Yankee pitching staff. One of the keys to being successful in the major leagues is to function in the role that you are best suited for. I had established that with the Yankees.”

Before the trade, Beene appeared in six games for New York with a save and a 2.70 ERA. After going to Cleveland, he was 4-4 with two saves and a 4.93 ERA in 32 games in ‘74. In 1975, Beene’s pitching arm started bothering him again. He spent 62 days on the disabled list that season. Beene was 1-0 with a 6.94 ERA in 19 games. He walked 25 and allowed 63 hits while striking out 20 in 47 innings before shutting it down for the year.

As it turned out, that would be the last time he pitched in the majors. In 1976, Beene toiled in the minors for Cleveland’s top farm club, the Triple A Toledo (Ohio) Mud Hens of the International League. His record that year was 7-9 with a 3.78 ERA in 33 games. He struck out 88 and walked just 48 in 181 innings. Even with Toledo finishing 33 games out of first place, Beene still made the league’s all-star squad.

In ‘77, Beene was 5-10 for Toledo with a 3.55 ERA in 17 games. The Philadelphia Phillies purchased Beene from Cleveland that year on July 15 and assigned him to their top minor league team, the Triple A Oklahoma City 89ers of the American Association. Beene went 2-2 with a 4.82 ERA in nine games for the Niners that year.


Fred Beene (as he appeared on his 1975 Topps baseball card)

In ‘78, Beene was 12-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 games for OKC. He struck out 70 and yielded only 50 bases on balls in 153 innings that year. The 1979 campaign saw Beene once again in an Oklahoma City uniform. That year, the club won the American Association’s Western Division title with a 72-63 record.


1979 Oklahoma City 89ers
In the playoffs, the 89ers took two of the first three games at home against the Evansville Triplets, the top farm team for the Detroit Tigers. But, the Triplets won the next three in Evansville to win the American Association pennant. Beene (who was 24-12 lifetime for the 89ers) retired from playing pro baseball after that.

“That last game in Oklahoma City against Evansville was my last game as a pitcher,” Beene said. “I remember that pretty well. I went about four innings and didn’t pitch too good. I knew those last three or four years in the minors that I was possibly a game away from being done for good. I had so many physical problems. I really wanted to pitch well, but I struggled and I was defensive out there on the mound. So, I hung it up.”

Incidentally, Evansville featured slugger Kirk Gibson, a former All-American wide receiver at Michigan State who would go on to star for the Tigers when they won the 1984 World Series against the San Diego Padres. Gibson was also the National League’s MVP in 1988 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, when they won the World Series against Oakland. Thanks to his dramatic game-winning, pinch-hit home run in Game 1 off Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, the Dodgers went on to beat the favored A’s in five games.

In 1980, Beene became a pitching coach for the Tidewater Tides in the International League, the top minor league franchise of the New York Mets. After that, Beene scouted for the Milwaukee Brewers before finally retiring from baseball in 2001.

“After scouting for 20 years,” Beene said, “I determined the biggest factors in a prospect are his ability to adapt and his perseverance. It’s not always the talent. Sure, you have to perform. But, you can’t be a quitter in any sport and play it professionally. You can’t have any ‘quit’ in you. Those are what they call intangibles - things you can’t measure with statistics or a radar gun.

“Lots of guys may have the ability but they don’t want to make the sacrifices that you have to make in order to make the big leagues. You’d be surprised at how many players actually regard their coaches as their enemies - when they’re putting them through some extra drills or pounding on them about execution. Consequently, they don’t prepare themselves accordingly to perfect their game. They play for themselves and their image.”


Fred Beene (shown pitching in 1978) was 24-12 in his two-plus years for the Oklahoma City 89ers of the American Association.

In 1982, Beene signed a 6-foot-3, 215-pound pitcher from Brownwood, Texas, who played for Ranger Junior College. By the age of 25, that prospect had hurt his arm and was out of pro ball - opting instead to settle down, raise a family and coach high school baseball near his home in Big Lake, Texas.


Fred Beene (as he appeared on his 1979 Oklahoma City 89ers baseball card)
Ten years later, Jim Morris made his major league debut on Sept. 18, 1999, with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during a 6-1 loss to the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington. Morris struck out the first hitter he faced (Royce Clayton) on three fastballs in the upper 90s. Soon, a book was written about Morris and actor Dennis Quaid later portrayed him in the Disney movie “The Rookie,” which told the story of how Morris finally made his dream of becoming a big league pitcher come true - as a 35-year-old “rookie” reliever.

When Morris’ high school team (the Reagan County Owls) made the playoffs for the first time in school history during the spring of ‘99, he promised he would try out again for a major league team. Soon, he was riding buses and staying in cheap motels while toiling in the Tampa Bay minor league system. Doug Gassaway (one of Beene’s good friends from his scouting days) was the scout who signed Morris for the Devil Rays.

“That was my first year of scouting,” Beene said of when he first signed Morris to play for the Brewers’ organization. “The coach (at Ranger JC) wouldn’t let you scout at the ballpark so I never saw him throw. He wouldn’t let you in the park and you had to look at Morris with binoculars. Our people, though, had seen him before I got there and they liked him a lot. He was a tremendous athlete back then. He was a good hitter and played football, too.”

While Beene said he actually had nothing to do with evaluating Morris, he was the one who got his signature on a contract calling for a $35,000 bonus - which Morris promptly spent on a new red sports car. “Like I said, he was a great athlete,” Beene remembered. “He was chiseled with a good physique. He was a good family man. We gave him $35,000 which was good money then for a junior college player. I’m sure his book and the movie made him wealthy. I thought the movie was done very well and accurately.”

As for Beene, he remembers a lot of good things from his playing days - particularly teammates from his Yankee years. Munson, the late Yankee captain who was Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the American League’s MVP in ‘76, was a dear friend. Munson died in a plane crash on Aug. 2, 1979, in Canton, Ohio.

“I think Thurman was probably one of the best all-around catchers of all time,” Beene said. “He was my catcher and we had a special relationship. We worked extremely well together. Thurman and I were so close that we hardly ever disagreed on a pitch selection.”

Peterson, Lyle, Stottlemyre, Graig Nettles, Bobby Murcer, Gene Michaels, Felipe Alou, Jerry Moses, Roy White, Ron Blomberg, and others made a lasting impression upon Beene. “I got to see a lot of them last January at a baseball card show in New York,” Beene said. “It was like we never separated. It was like we left the ballpark together yesterday. We were a tight knit bunch. They were all good buddies.”


Fred Beene was a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers for 20 years before retiring from that occupation in 2001 - bringing an end to his 37 years in professional baseball.

His days in the minors also evoke fond memories for Beene, who was named to the all-time Rochester team as the club’s right-handed pitcher a few years ago. “Rochester is king of minor league cities,” Beene said. “They put me in their Hall of Fame. That’s one of the biggest honors I ever received. They thought of me as the little guy and their battle hero. I really liked it there in Rochester and I appreciate that recognition because I did give my heart and soul to that city while trying to make it to Baltimore.”


One of this author's most prized baseball possessions: "To Todd, Thanks for being Darrell's good friend and for being such an exceptionally good kid, Fred Beene." This ball was signed in 1979 while Beene was with the OKC 89ers. It has never left Todd Newville's possession.
It’s been over 30 years since Beene threw his last pitch in a major league uniform. But, the well-spoken former ballplayer with a strong Texas drawl was humbled when he went to the aforementioned card show. “The people who worked at Yankee Stadium remembered me,” Beene said. “They were just as excited to see all of us today as they were back then when we played.

“They shook your hand and asked for your autograph and it made you feel good. I’m thinking, ’I’m just a former ballplayer. I’m nothing really. I’m no different from you except that I’m blessed with an ability to play ball.’ It was sobering and touching to see how much fans really care. I have never understood the heart of the true fan and their love for the game and it's players. But, it certainly made me feel good.”

Beene (who now lives in Oakhurst, Texas) ended his seven-year major league career with a 12-7 record, eight saves, and a 3.63 ERA over 112 games. He struck out 156 while allowing 111 walks and 274 hits in 288 innings. His nephew Andy pitched collegiate baseball at Baylor before appearing in a handful of games for the Brewers in 1983 and ‘84. Andy (now 42) scouts for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Beene’s dad passed away in 2001 at the age of 91. His mother Inice Faye, however, is 91 and living in Oakhurst. Beene and his wife Carolyn have a 36-year-old son named Darrell and a 27-year-old daughter named Monica. They also have two grandchildren by Darrell and his wife Karen - a 7-year-old grandson named Grant and a 4-year-old granddaughter named Savannah.

Beene and his wife (a secretary for their local church) have been on several cruises in recent years to several exotic places. Beene also likes to fish offshore in the Gulf of Mexico when he gets the chance.

“My wife is the church secretary,” Beene said, “and we travel a great deal with them. We’ve been on about 10 cruises the last couple of years. We’ve been to Europe, Australia, and everywhere just about. I fish about 50 miles out of Freeport, Texas, and that’s the best snapper fishin’ in the world. That’s where we always go. It’s really beautiful out there.”

Along with his son, Beene operates several retail warehouses that sell fireworks. “That keeps me pretty busy,“ Beene said. “Darrell is a great kid. We do a lot together.”

Unlike the aforementioned Morris, Beene’s journey through the ranks of professional baseball never made it into the pages of a best-selling book or onto the silver screens of Hollywood. Yet, one could argue that his colorful and diverse career would make for a good story nonetheless - and perhaps even a pretty good movie.

After all, everybody loves to root for the underdog - especially the little guys like Beene who come up big in the end.


(From left to right) Todd Newville, Darrell Beene, and Rick Newville with the "Bleacher Creature" before an Oklahoma City 89ers baseball game at All Sports Stadium in 1979. (Photo by Richard Newville)


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