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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Interview Part 2: Ed Nottle, Best Thing

Brockton Rox assistant coach Ed Nottle, jacket, talks with players before a game Aug. 13, 2011 at Pittsfield.

Part 1: Stayed in Baseball | Part 2: Best Thing | Part 3: Snapped One Up | Part 4: Two Things | Part 5: Ballfield Rat | Player Stories

The bowler was looking for a young pinsetter and Ed Nottle wasn't it.

This was the mid 1950s, a time when mechanical pinsetters hadn't yet arrived at this bowling alley. It was also a time when an admittedly wild youth was sent to the reformatory, and then could enlist directly into the Army.

It was also a time where that same wild kid could find in the Army a game he grew to love: Baseball.

On this 1950s night, the teenager who would go on to a half-century spent in minor league baseball, was just upset the bowler hadn't picked him.

"When he didn't pick me," Nottle recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days, "I stole his car."

Quickly catching up to him were the police and, as Nottle tells it, a few shots fired from law enforcement. That landed him with a sentence of two years in reform school - and on the path to the Army and baseball.

"Going into the service was the best thing that ever happened to me, ever," Nottle told The Greatest 21 Days before a recent game at Pittsfield, Mass., where his Brockton Rox were playing. "I was kind of a wild kid, not a bad kid, but a wild kid."

Since 1960: Rox assistant coach Ed Nottle at Pittsfield's Wahconah Park, a park billed on the scoreboard as being there since 1892. Nottle has been in baseball since 1960.

Nottle sat down with The Greatest 21 Days at Pittsfield's Wahconah Park, a coach for the visiting Rox. Now 71 years old, he's in his 51st year in the game, as a pitcher, coach and manager.

As a young pitcher, Nottle found himself on the other side - working to keep young runners honest and away from the theft of other things, mainly bases.

For Nottle, it was the Army that was the turning point.

"I never had a baseball uniform on until I went in the service," Nottle added a short time later.

That came when he joined the Army baseball team, with the 101st Airborne. He made the team as a pitcher, weighing all of 140 pounds.

Discharged two years later, the regimented life of the Army ensured Nottle's wild youth was now firmly behind him.

Nottle now headed for Florida, looking for a job in his new-found game.

Rox hitter Chris Grossman at bat Aug. 13, 2011 at Pittsfield. Brockton manager Bill Buckner leans against the dugout in the background.

The day he was discharged, Nottle caught a flight to Jacksonville, to try out for the Pirates. He had a good spring, but he was let go after two weeks.

"It was always 'you're too small, you're too small,'" Nottle recalled, "So I started hitchhiking all over Florida."

He finally ended up in Pensacola, getting a shot with the White Sox. He pitched a couple of innings, struck out six and he was signed on the spot, earning $225 a month to pitch Class D ball.

The one-time wild teenager-turned Army man was now a professional baseball player.

"It was the biggest thrill of my life," Nottle said, "believe me."

Within two years, Nottle was on a big-league roster, if only briefly. He went north with the team and played in the annual Cubs-White Sox exhibition series, Nottle recalled. Then it was back to the minors.

It was also early in his pitching career that Nottle recalled possibly being in a position to be selected by another team, that might have given him a clearer path to the majors. But the White Sox apparently felt they didn't want to lose him, blocking the move.

"My timing sucks," Nottle said, referring to the White Sox move, "my whole career."

Nottle went on to pitch for more than a decade, all in the minors, staying with the White Sox organization through 1969. Soon after, he started his career in the coaching and managerial ranks.

To do that, though, he had to prove himself in a time where he recalled former pitchers weren't generally looked at for top jobs.

Go To Part 3: Snapped One Up

Part 1: Stayed in Baseball | Part 2: Best Thing | Part 3: Snapped One Up | Part 4: Two Things | Part 5: Ballfield Rat | Player Stories

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