Art Ditmar, who grew up in Pittsfield and later pitched in two World Series for the New York Yankees has passed away. Ditmar was 92.
No cause of death was given in the obituary, published by the Goldfinch Funeral Home in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where Ditmar lived. The obituary said he was with his wife Dianne when he passed.
Ditmar was inducted into the Western Massachusetts Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, the second class of inductees. Another former Yankees pitcher Vic Raschie of West Springfield, was also inducted in the Class of 2015. Ditmar was the first of eight Berkshire County inductees into the Western Mass. Hall of Fame.
Ditmar pitched in the majors from 1954-1962. In the eyes of kids of that era, Ditmar was as much a hero to them as Mark Belanger was to the Pittsfield youngsters of that generation.
“I would say yes,” said Pittsfield’s Paul Procopio, the long-time St. Joseph High School basketball coach, who grew up in Pittsfield during Ditmar’s career. “He played in the City League before he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics. He was great with the kids.”
According to a biography of Ditmar published by the Society for American Baseball Research, he went 14-2 pitching as a senior at Pittsfield High School.
“People loved him,” Procopio said. “The thing was that back in the day, on television, all we got were the Yankees and the [New York] Giants. On the radio, you got the Red Sox. I would say more Yankees fans, where I lived anyway. I lived on the West Side."
Ditmar got a tryout with the then Philadelphia Athletics in 1947, receiving a $1,000 bonus to sign a contract instead of playing college baseball at the University of Mississippi. That tryout came after a stellar performance in an amateur tournament in Johnstown, Pa.
Working his way up the minor league ladder, Ditmar made his Major League debut on April 19, 1954 with the Philadelphia Athletics. He spent three seasons with the Athletics, one in Philadelphia and two in Kansas City. He was traded to the Yankees prior to the 1958 season. He played four full seasons with the Yankees before being traded back to Kansas City during the 1961 season. Ditmar’s final Major League game was on May 19, 1962.
Ditmar was acquired by the Yankees along with Bobby Shantz in a multi-player deal. The manager of the Yankees seemingly liked the idea of that trade.
“I believe … Ditmar could grow into one of the big pitchers in the majors,” Yankees manager Casey Stengel said at the time, and the quote came from the SABR biography. “[T]he first thing he must develop is the realization that he is as good as he is, and that he has so much in him.”
Ditmar was a member of the 1958 World Champions who beat Milwaukee 4-3 in the World Series. In 1960, Ditmar and the Yankees were on the losing end of a 4-3 World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was 0-2 in two starts, Game 1 and Game 5. Coincidentally, both of those Pittsburgh wins had saves by Stephentown, N.Y. native Elroy Face. The 1960 World Series was one of the rare World Series where a player on the losing team, Bobby Richardson, was the Most Valuable Player.
Ditmar’s two best statistical seasons came with the Yankees in 1959 and 1960. In 1959, he went 13-9 with a 2.90 earned-run average. He pitched in 38 games, started 25 and had seven complete games. In 1960, He was 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA. He started 28 of 34 games and had eight complete games.
Ditmar leaves his wife Dianne, daughter Debra and sons Todd and Terry. Todd Ditmar is the women’s soccer coach at Westfield State University.
A celebration of Ditmar’s life will take place on June 27 at the Goldfinch Funeral Home’s Celebration Center in Murrells Inlet, S.C. The celebration will begin at 11 a.m.