RIP to Stan Palys, an outfielder for four seasons in the 1950s. He died on February 8 surrounded by family at his home in Jupiter, Fla. He was 90 years old. Palys played for the Philadelphia Phillies (1953-1955) and Cincinnati Reds (1955-56), as well as the Tokyo Orions of the Japan Pacific League from 1964-67.
Stanley Francis Palys was born on May 1, 1930 in Blakely, Pa. He was a shortstop on the Blakely High School team, but when the Phillies signed him in 1950, he was moved to the outfield. Aside from a few stints at first base, he would remain there for the rest of his professional career. Philadelphia didn’t move him very far from home, as his first minor-league team was in nearby Carbondale, Pa., home of the Class-D Pioneers of the North Atlantic League. Blakely is less than 10 miles from Carbondale, so a delegation made the trip to host a “Stanley Palys Day” at Carbondale’s Russell Park on July 6, 1950. The young outfielder was presented with a number of gifts in a pregame ceremony, including a new baseball glove, a travel bag and bonds. He then played some excellent defense in center field and had an RBI single in a losing effort to the Stroudsburg Poncos.
Palys’ whole rookie campaign was a cause for celebration, as he hit .318 with 24 doubles and 11 home runs for Carbondale. Phillies’ farm director Joe Reardon said that Palys was “the kind you dream about.” He couldn’t capitalize on his success immediately, as he missed the entire 1950 season to serve in the U.S. Army. He was part of an excellent baseball team at Camp Atterbury in Indiana, and his obituary notice also states that he served overseas in Germany. He couldn’t get back into baseball until May of 1952, with the Terre Haute Phillies of the Three-I League. He made quite an impression with the team, though. In one five-game stretch in August, he had home runs in four games and drove in 15 runs, too.
Palys started the 1953 season with Class-A Schenectady, but management determined that he needed more experience, so he was sent westward to the Spokane Indians. There, he slammed 35 doubles and 22 home runs while batting .331. He was so impressive that the Phillies decided to bring him from the Class-A Western International League straight to the majors, after Spokane won the league’s pennant. He appeared in 2 games in September and was hitless in 2 at-bats, with a walk. Still, the Phillies reported that he would get strong consideration as the fourth outfielder in the 1954 training camp.
Palys lost that competition in 1954 and was sent to AAA Syracuse. There, he played poorly, reportedly due to a combination of disappointment and a sore elbow. He was demoted to Schenectady and hit 14 homers in 93 games, and the local paper stated that he might become the best hitter the Blue Jays had ever had. “From the time Big Stan takes his stance to the completion of his swing, there isn’t a more impressive batsman in the Eastern League,” wrote Al DeSantis, sports editor for the Schenectady Union-Star.”Everything shoots out of there, dangerous-like. There is fear some third baseman will be decapitated.”
Again, the Phillies gave him a couple of late-September appearances in the majors. He had his first MLB hit on September 15 in a 3-1 loss to the Cardinals. Playing right field, he singled and walked off Tom Poholsky. It was his only hit in 4 at-bats with Philadelphia that year.
Palys finally got a chance to see regular play in the majors in 1955, thanks to a flurry of injuries to the Phillies’ regular outfielders. Palys was the Opening Day left fielder, replacing the injured Del Ennis, and contributed a hit, a walk and 2 runs scored in a 4-2 win over the Giants. Once Ennis returned to the lineup, Palys played both in center and right field. He hit well with the Phillies, too. His first big-league home run came on April 23 off the Pirates’ Bob Friend, and he was hitting .288 after a 2-for-4 performance on April 29 — his last game with Philadelphia.
The Phillies and Cincinnati Reds made a trade on April 30 that sent Palys and Smoky Burgess to Cincinnati in exchange for Glen Gorbous, Jim Greengrass and Andy Seminick. Palys continued to hit with the Reds and clubbed 2 home runs against Brooklyn on July 18 as part of a 9-5 win. However, he slumped in the second half of the season and finished with a .241 average — just .230 for Cincinnati. He had a combined 8 home runs and 38 RBIs while appearing in 94 games.
Palys returned to the Reds in 1956, though he was strictly a backup outfielder and pinch-hitter. He started an exhibition game against the Kansas City Athletics in late May and hit a 2-run homer off Tom Lasorda, but he was unable to crack the starting lineup much in regular season games. Palys did have one incredible series against the New York Giants from July 31-August 2. He appeared as a pinch-hitter in the July 31 game and homered off Joe Margoneri. He missed the next game but had another pinch-hit at-bat on August 1 and singled off Marv Grisson. Reds manager Birdie Tebbets gave him a start on the last game of the series, and Palys went 5-for-5, with 3 hits off Johnny Antonelli, a home run off Hoyt Wilhelm and a single off Steve Ridzik. The Reds cruised to a 10-2 win, with Tom Acker picking up his second win of the year. All total, Palys was 7-for-7 in the series with 2 home runs, raising his batting average from .185 at the start of the series to .353. Those were also the last hits he was get in the majors, as he went 0-for-19 to finish the season. He hit .226 overall, with 7 of his 12 hits coming in that one series.
In 4 seasons, Palys had a slash line of .237/.293/.378, with 79 hits that included 17 doubles and 10 home runs. He had 43 RBIs and scored 42 runs. He had an above-average .993 fielding percentage in 66 games in left field, and he also played 14 games at right field, 4 in center field and an inning at first base.
Palys changed organizations several times over the next few seasons. He never was able to return to the major leagues, but he had some excellent seasons in the minors. He hit .359 for Nashville in 1957, with 24 home runs and 112 RBIs, and he topped those numbers with a .370-28-116 season for Birmingham in 1960. He had a career-best 33 homers while playing for the Hawaii Islanders in 1962, and he also batted .333. Despite the offensive prowess — he had a .322 average with 189 homers in the minor leagues, Palys was never able to get a team to bring him back to the majors.
Pennsylvania never forgot about their native son. Over the years, newspapers across the state pondered why the slugger was stuck in the minor leagues. Near the end of the 1962 season, a “Pennsylvanians for Palys” committee traveled to Honolulu for a “Stan Palys Night.” They presented him with many gifts, a check for nearly $3,700 and bonds, and the Honolulu mayor gave him the key to the city in front of a cheering crowd. “I’m so nervous and excited I can barely talk,” said an emotional Palys as he started a short speech. “This is the greatest night of my career… and I just want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.”
The thought behind the honors was that Palys might take an offer to play in Japan, and his supporters wanted to honor him before he left. He elected to stay in Hawaii for one more season, hitting .305 for the Islanders in 1963. Palys then accepted an offer to play for the Tokyo Orions. It was a two-year contract estimated to be worth about $20,000 a year, and Palys said it was the first multi-year contract he ever signed in pro ball. He did pretty well in Japan, too. In his 4 seasons with the Orions, he batted .275 and averaged about 17 homers a season. He hit 25 home runs in 1965, good enough for fourth in the Japan Pacific League — and that was after missing several weeks with a torn tendon in his leg. When he returned to the lineup, he smashed 5 home runs in a week and 16 in a month, becoming a major attraction among Japanese baseball fans. He retired from baseball after the 1967 season after suffering an injury to his right shoulder that made it almost impossible to throw the ball from the outfield anymore.
Adding in Palys’ games in the majors, minors and Japan, he had a .308 career average with 2,084 hits and 265 home runs. That’s not even including his winter ball stats from Panama, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. He had a very full passport when his playing days were done. After his retirement, he attended the University of Scranton and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He became an accountant in the State of Pennsylvania education system and worked for the Lackawanna NEIU (Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit) until his retirement.
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