Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Cot Deal

 

Date and Place of Birth: January 23, 1923 Arapaho, Oklahoma

Baseball Experience: Major League
Position:
Pitcher
Rank:
Sergeant
Military Unit:
USAAF

Area Served: United States

Cot DealEllis F “Cot” Deal was born on January 23, 1923 in Arapaho, Oklahoma, a small town in the western part of the state. Aged 14, he was playing for his father, Roy Deal, a legendary baseball figure in Oklahoma and manager of the semi-pro Oklahoma City Natural Gas Gassers. The young outfielder-pitcher was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1939. “The Pirate scout drove my mother, dad and me to Pittsburgh,” recalls Deal. “I spent a week in the dugout, then signed. I wouldn't be 17 until January.”

The Pirates sent Deal to Hutchinson of the Western Association his rookie year. Playing the outfield and third base he batted an impressive .312 in 137 games. He remained with the team in 1941 and batted .285 in addition to pitching five games. The 19-year-old switch-hitter joined Harrisburg of the Interstate League in 1942, where he batted .266, prior to entering military service with the Army Air Force in September.

Deal was stationed at Enid Army Flying Field in Oklahoma - a Basic Flying School - where he served as a physical instructor and played ball for the Enid Army Flying School Enidairs. In 1943, the team finished second in the Victory League, second in the Oklahoma State semi-pro tournament and second in the Sooner Service League. In August 1943, the Enidairs made it to the finals of the National Baseball Congress Semi-Pro Tournament in Wichita, Kansas, where, on August 29, and with Cot Deal on the mound, they were beaten, 5 to 3, by Cecil Travis and the Camp Wheeler Spokes. Before 12,000 fans – the biggest crowd in the nine-year history of the event – Deal allowed only seven hits, but his support was limited due to a makeshift lineup caused by injuries and illness to regulars in the closing days of the tournament. Deal was named on the All-American semi-pro club for his outstanding play in the tournament.

Coached by B D Booth and Bill Hankins, and featuring minor leaguers Monty Basgall, Nick Popovich, Bill Hankins, Ray Honeycutt, Odie Strain, Lew Morton and, of course, Cot Deal, the Enidairs competed in the tough Victory League in 1944. They finished the year in second place behind Fort Riley with a 54-18 record. Deal was 10 and 1 on the mound, and batted .371. Again, the team made it to the National Baseball Congress Semi-Pro Tournament. In the fourth game of the tournament the Enidairs faced the Sioux Falls Army Air Field club with the score tied, 3 to 3, going into the eighth. That morning Cot Deal had received news from home that his wife had given birth to a baby girl. With the bases loaded and the count standing at three-and-two, Deal hit one over the center field fence and the Enidairs won, 7 to 3. The Enidairs advanced to the final of the tournament where they were beaten by the Sherman Field Flyers, 5 to 4. Deal again made the All-American team and was voted the most valuable player of the tournament.

In 1945, Deal – who batted .326 for the year - along with Lou Kretlow and Red Sox catcher Danny Doyle led the Enidairs to the Oklahoma semi-pro title on July 28, defeating Tinker Field, 9 to 3. They then claimed the National semi-pro title without a single defeat. For the third straight year he was named to the All-American team and became the first man ever to be voted most valuable player two consecutive years. Deal played outfield in all seven championship games and hurled hitless relief in two.

Sergeant Deal was discharged from military service in October 1945. “It had a maturing effect,” Deal says of his years with the Army Air Force, “and I was glad to be serving.”

Deal was with Toronto of the International League in 1946 and 1947, where he was used more frequently as a pitcher than an outfielder. It was on the mound that he made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox on September 11, 1947. Deal made five appearances for Boston, including two starts, and finished the year with a 0-1 record and 9.24 ERA. He hurt his arm in spring training the following year and spent most of 1948 with Louisville of the American Association but did make four last-inning appearances for the Red Sox without allowing a run and earning his first major league victory.

Cot Deal with Cardinals
Five former Rochester Red Wings, who played under manager Harry Walker prior to joining the St Louis Cardinals are pictured with their former boss in 1954. Left to right: Tom Burgess, Rip Repulski, Ray Jablonski, Walker, Wally Moon and Cot Deal.

Cot DealDeal was traded to the Cardinals’ organization in 1949 and was 15-9 with Columbus of the American Association. He started, completed and won a twenty-inning game against Louisville on September 3, 1949, allowing only one earned run. He was 10-14 with Columbus in 1950, and made three relief appearances for the Cardinals. Deal was back with Columbus in 1951, and joined Rochester of the International League in 1952. He was 14-9 that year and his 16-9 record and 3.72 ERA in 1953 prompted a return to the major leagues. In 1954, Deal made 33 relief appearances for the Cardinals.

Deal, aged 32, was back with Rochester in 1955. He became a player-coach under manager Dixie Walker in 1956, took over as the team’s manager in 1957 and reached the playoffs the following season. Deal joined Cincinnati as a pitching coach in 1959, and later held that position with Houston, the Yankees, Kansas City, Cleveland and Detroit. Along the way he managed in the minors and was an assistant farm director with the Chicago White Sox.

In 1994, Cot Deal was inducted into the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame. He remains the only person in National Baseball Congress history to win the annual tournament MVP award twice.

Cot Deal and his wife, Katie, live in a lakeside house in suburban Oklahoma City. “We were married at 19, parents at 21, and grew up with our kids,” says Cot. “We've been married 65 years.”

Thanks to Cot Deal and Pat Doyle for their valuable help with this biography.

Created March 6, 2008.

 

Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.