Card: 1952 Bowman #113
In what may be a unique event in the annals of baseball history, Al “Zeke” Zarilla had to buy a ticket to his major-league debut. He didn’t have to buy a plane ticket or a train ticket but the brand-new baseball recruit had to buy a game ticket to the game in which he was about to participate.
On June 30, 1943, the St. Louis Browns played the first of a series of “Baseball for Victory” games at their home field, Sportman’s Park. Proceeds from the game went to benefit the National War funds; consequently, every spectator, player, umpire, and member of the press was required to buy a ticket. Zarilla paid his way into the game and smacked two hits (off Athletics right-hander Orie Arntzen) as the Browns went on to defeat the Mackmen, 3-1. Five years later, a grinning Zarilla said, “Best money I ever spent.”
Zarilla was born in Los Angeles, California. Al was an MLB outfielder with a strong arm who hit line drives. He played from 1943 to 1953, most notably as a member of the only St. Louis Browns team to win an American League pennant in 1944. In 1948, he was voted onto the AL All-Star team. He was called "Zeke" because he was bowlegged and was from California, calling to mind a cowboy.
Zarilla started his major league career in 1943 with the St. Louis Browns. In 1944 he hit .299 in 100 games, scoring and driving in a run in Game Three of the World Series. After that, he served in the military, returning to the major leagues in 1946. He also played for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox, primarily as a right fielder.
The Red Sox were an offensive juggernaut in 1950, scoring 1,027 runs in 154 games, and hitting.302 as a team. Six of the starting eight players hit over .300 with Bobby Doerr (.294) and Vern Stephens (.295) just missing. Zarilla was a big part of the attack. He hit .325 in his first full year with the club, with 32 doubles (seventh in the AL), 10 triples (fourth), 9 homers, and 74 knocked in over 130 games.
In 1952, Al appeared as himself in the movie "The Winning Team", a biopic about Grover Cleveland Alexander starring Ronald Reagan and Doris Day.
Zarilla scouted for multiple MLB teams after his playing career, and spent one season, 1971, on the coaching staff of his old teammate Ted Williams, then the manager of the Washington Senators.
Al Zarilla is part of the Military Service during Wartime Tour – go to the Next Stop
Zeke is part of the All-Star Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
Al is also part of the Boston Red Sox Player Tour – Go to the Next Stop
Al is also part of the Chicago White Sox Players Tour – Go To the Next Stop
See all Zeke’s baseball cards at TCDB
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