Earl Battey became a starting catcher at age 25 in 1960, and for the
next four seasons he led all American League catchers in assists. Battey had a
strong and accurate throwing arm, and tended to take it personallly when
runners took long leads. In 1963, he picked 13 men off first and third bases.
Not only did his trade from the White Sox into owner Calvin
Griffith's organization become a key to the Twins' 1965 American League
pennant, the Los Angeles native quickly settled into life in the cold Minnesota
climate and became a year-round resident of the Twin Cities after Griffith
relocated his club to Minnesota in 1961.
Battey - who considered a career in journalism a a young teen - had a radio
show in Washington D.C., and a job with a liquor distributor as a member of the
Senators. But he adjusted to the shift to the Midwest and worked in public
relations for General Mills during off-seasons.
Battey was one of the first players to use an ear-flap on his batting helmet
to protect his face. He twice suffered broken cheekbones when hit by pitches,
so he began wearing the special batting helmet in 1962. Today, all players wear
Beanings and mangled fingers - the latter being part of life as a catcher -
were not the only things that nagged him during his career. Battey had health
issues involving his thyroid, which made it difficult to control his weight.
But he was an athlete, and was known for enduring. Earl Battey had
interesting athletic touchpoints in his life, and because he played on
multi-cultural teams as a youth, he spoke Spanish, which came in handy because
the Senators/Twins had many Latin pitchers.
Battey grew up knowing many top-caliber athletes. He was a good friend of
his brother-in-law, Ed Sanders, who defeated Ingemar Johannson en
route to the 1952 Olympic heavyweight title.
Jordan High School of Los Angeles, which produced Battey, also turned out
pro football player Joe Perry, middleweight boxer Spider Webb,
1952 Olympic long jump champion George Brown and two-time Olympic track
team member Earlene Brown.
Battey's mother and father were both stars on the diamond, with his mother
being an accomplished fastpitch softball player.
With such influences in his life, Battey knew what it took to excel. At the
start of the 1960 season, one coach said Battey was the worst catcher in the
American League. Battey kept at it, and after the season the same coach said
Battey was "the best in the league the last three months."