Bill Skelley, infield
Padres: 1937 Hoover High School had Ted Williams; San Diego High had Bill Skelley. When high school talent was discussed, Ted Williams and Bill Skelley were mentioned in the same breath. They grew up playing baseball together at the University Heights playground. Bill’s tenure with the Padres was brief, but he played well in the 1937 playoffs when San Diego won eight straight.
[Bill Skelley interview by Bill Swank, 30 January 1995, transcript notes; background information from Paul Maracin.]
I graduated from high school in February of 1937. I think the Padres were just looking for another young man from San Diego, so I sat on the bench. The thing that impressed me as much as anything was riding in taxi cabs, riding on trains and staying in hotels. And, we won the playoffs that year, too and I got to play. George Myatt and Jimmie Reese were out for some reason, so I got to play in the Sacramento games. Our team won eight straight! I remember the first two times up, Ted hit the wall in centerfield, which was about four hundred feet and got doubles. The next time, he almost decapitated the first baseman and, then, he singles up the middle. Four for four! He was a pleasure to watch. Ted was exuberant, but he had a lot of common sense and he sure knew pitchers. He would tell us how a pitcher would pitch in a certain situation to a certain kind of hitter and what we could do and he was almost always right.
As kids, we lived on the stub of Olive Street at the north end of the bridge on 30th Street. Ted lived up on Utah. My friends and I would go up to University Heights playground and play ball as soon as it was open. It was well supervised and fenced. They were great places for kids to play and we used to play Over-the-Line. Ted was the best of us all. He could dunk and he could hit it out there. If there was a game, Ted was in it. They had caged handball courts there. They were about 20 feet by 40 feet by 20 feet high. We’d play in there and you didn’t have to chase the ball. Ted loved Pepper and he had the bat a lot of the time. Sometimes, he just couldn’t hold back and the baseball would ricochet and it was dangerous sometimes with him batting. I never got hurt. We were just kids playing and having fun.
There was a 20/30 tournament up in Pomona. San Diego High and Hoover went up there. There were a lot of fields without any fences. The ball kept rolling into our field and every time I looked, it was Ted rounding the bases. If the other teams knew him, he went 0-for-0, because they’d just walk him. If they didn’t know him, he went 4-for-4!
When Ted and I were with the Padres in ’37, I had a ’29 roadster. I’d pick up Ted at his home on Utah and he’d ride to the games with me. I remember his mother saying, “Teddy, have you got a handkerchief?”