Getter told me that in 1952, the Indians offloaded him to an independent team in Duluth, Minn., where he drove in 121 runs during 140 games — a staggering stat. He could have gone back to the Indians but declined the offer, so he was sold, again, to the Giants and shipped to a farm team in Sioux City, Iowa. Then it was off to Nashville. Then Sioux City again. Then Minnesota. Then, finally, here.
“And when I got to Dallas,” Getter told me, “I made the All-Star team here in a short amount of time.”
He was part of the Eagles team that took the 1957 Texas League title, with more than 100 wins. The next year he was named the Eagles’ player of the year, for which his prize was a shotgun gifted him by famed pawnshop owner Dave Goldstein. He played with a lot of major-leaguers on their way up and down — McCovey, most famously, but there were so many more.
And his sons Kerry and Rusty, who were also drafted to play ball in the bigs, remind that their father was the only man to strike out Mickey Mantle and hit a double off Satchel Paige.
Getter played for the Dallas Rangers, too, in the late 1950s. But the last uniform he put on was that of the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League. Getter, then 31, hit close to .300 that farewell season; drove in 63 runs; hit 15 balls out of the park. Not bad. Impressive, even. Then, he hung it up. Went into the scrap-paper recycling business. Eventually his boys followed.
I asked Getter in ’98 why he left the game at such a young age. He said he was just tired of moving — and of not having control over his own destiny.
“It’s not like today,” Getter said. “Today, these guys have options in their contracts. Like, they can say, ‘Well, I don’t want to go over there and play, because I don’t like that town.’ Well, in our day, if you didn’t play, you didn’t get paid. They’d tell you to go here or there, and what could you say? But it was a good team then. We were a close enough team. We didn’t go to bed with one another, but we were close. We drank beer together, raised hell together.”
Last I saw him was on Nov. 3 of last year. Getter invited me to bring my son, a left-fielder at Hillcrest High School, to talk hitting and fielding. The University of Texas was playing football on TV; Getter wore a wool Longhorns cap and sat in a recliner. He asked my son to stand so he could see his swing; while he gave Harry some tips I thumbed through and took pictures of an scrapbook filled with yellowed clippings and old Eagles and Rangers programs. I snapped photos, too, of my son with a man I considered a great — a legend.
Harry and I were talking last week about going back to see Mr. Getter. But on Saturday, during our drive to the baseball card shop, Rusty Getter called to say that father had but a few hours to live. Rusty wanted to drop off a book of interviews and photos they made for his father before he died; it’s a wonderful keepsake filled with stories about baseball, Campisi’s and stripper Candy Barr.
My Baseball Life, the book is called.
When Rusty hung up I asked Harry what he remembered most about his time with Mr. Getter.
“He told me, ‘Never, ever dive for a ball if you’re not sure you’ll catch it,'” Harry said. “I’ll always remember that.”
Good advice from one outfielder to another. And just good advice, period.
A version of this column originally appeared in Robert Wilonsky’s Most Dallas Newsletter Ever.