Hall of Fame Sportswriter and Dad
George Lederer, affectionately known to me as Dad, was one of seven members inducted into the Long Beach Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday. The city's HOF was created in 2004 and the inaugural class included a couple of Cooperstown selections in Bob Lemon and Tony Gwynn as well as Bob Bailey, Jeff Burroughs, Ron Fairly, Bobby Grich, Vern Stephens, and several coaches and scouts.
Including the class of 2010, there are now 57 honorees, 31 of whom have played in the major leagues. The list excludes such notables as Long Beach Poly's Chase Utley and former Long Beach State All-Americans, first-round draft picks, and MLB stars Bobby Crosby, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jered Weaver. This quintet will no doubt be elected shortly after their playing days are over.
Five members were added to the Long Beach Softball Hall of Fame, a group that now totals 53, many of whom have also been inducted into the International Softball Congress HOF. The Long Beach Nitehawks won ten men's World Championships during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the heyday of men's fast-pitch softball.
The ceremony was held at Blair Field and across the way at what is now known as Red Meairs Field at Joe Rodgers Stadium. There were a number of previous inductees in attendance, including former major leaguers Joe Amalfitano and Dave Frost, scouts Bob Harrison and Harry Minor, coach Bob Myers, and umpire Joe Reed.
Dad is the third journalist to be named to the Long Beach Hall of Fame. The first two were Ross Newhan (class of 2006), a former sportswriter for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and Los Angeles Times, and Frank Blair (class of 2007), the first sports editor of the Press-Telegram from 1921 until his death in 1953. Newhan was the recipient of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. Four of Dad's colleagues, including former sports editors John Dixon and Jim McCormack, who also serves on the selection committee, plus Jack Teele, an NFL executive for over 30 years, and Al Larson, were on hand to honor him.
Amalfitano, who prepped at St. Anthony High School in Long Beach, told me that Peter O'Malley and his family planned to be at the ceremony and sent their well wishes to our family through him. The former player, coach, and manager also said he spoke to Sandy Koufax, who sent his regards as well.
My father was the sports editor of the Wilson High School and Long Beach City College newspapers. He joined the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram in 1948 and mostly covered local prep and college sports for the next ten years. Dad was assigned the Dodgers beat at the tender age of 29 when the team moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. One of our favorite photos is of Dad walking outside the P-T in downtown Long Beach on his way to the airport for his first spring training in Vero Beach in 1958.
Dad covered the Dodgers for 11 years, including the World Series championships in 1959, 1963, and 1965. He also served as the Dodgers statistician in the post Allan Roth days and was one of four MLB official scorekeepers for the team's home games, including Koufax's perfect game in 1965. Amalfitano reminded me that he was the 26th out in that game. Dad was the president of the local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America and a member of the Board of Directors on a national level.
After more than a decade traveling around the country every year from late February through early October, Dad decided to accept new Angels GM Dick Walsh's (standing on the right next to my father) offer to become the club's Director of Public Relations and Promotions in early 1969. He served in that capacity until passing away in 1978 from a misdiagnosed case of malignant melanoma.
Bob Keisser featured Dad in a recent article on the front page of the Press-Telegram's sports section. In The Lederer Tree, Keisser tells the story of the family's sports legacy in Long Beach. My Mom was recognized in a follow-up column a couple of days later.
In the course of covering the Family Tree of the Lederers - the late George Lederer, the former P-T baseball writer who will be inducted into the Long Beach Baseball Hall of Fame next Saturday - the contributions of Pat Lederer, George's wife, were overlooked.
That was egregious. George passed away in 1978, so it's been Pat who served as the foundation for the family for the last 30-plus years and guided her four children and seven grandchildren through life.
My mother, who just turned 82 last month, joined my brother Tom, sister Janet, and me for the ceremony on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, our younger brother Gary, who lives in Phoenix with his wife and three children, was unable to join us due to a major conflict in his schedule. Our three spouses, four of George's seven grandchildren, several members of the extended family, and numerous friends (one of whom traveled from out of the state and another drove over 100 miles) were also in attendance. Needless to say, it was a very special day.
There was only one person who was missing that we all wanted to be there with us. The Hall of Famer himself. George Lederer. My Dad.