The Purn Goldy baseball bat I got for my old-timer birthday

Purnal “Purn” Goldy waits his turn to take batting practice with the Detroit Tigers in 1962.

My good friend, Bill Dow, sent a game-used bat to me for my birthday. It was my “MOTHER-OF-GOD, I’M NOW OLDER THAN CRABBY OLD MR. SURDY UP THE STREET WAS WHEN HE DIED AND HE WAS REALLY, REALLY OLD BIRTHDAY.” So, it had to be a very special bat. And it is. The Holy Grail of bats, actually. A “Purn” Goldy bat from the late-50s/early-60s, and since Purn wasn’t in very
many games, this bat is RARE.

When I was a kid, the Detroit Tigers just couldn’t get past the Yankees. Or the Kansas City Athletics, for that matter. From 1955 to 1964, the Yankees won the pennant nine times. We needed someone to put us over the edge. We needed Charlemagne marching into Denmark. We needed Patton’s Third Army, sweeping across France, to put the last nail in the Nazi war machine. We needed George Washington
crossing The Rouge to defeat the British in The Battle Of Melvindale.

Purnal “Purn” Goldy was our Savior-In-Waiting. For several years on either side of 1960, Purn was all over the sports sections of The News and The Free Press (we were a Free Press family). Purn Goldy was going to be the next Babe Ruth. The next Jimmie Foxx. The next Hank Greenberg. They even gave him Hammerin’ Hank’s number: 5.  Plus, Goldy and Greenberg were both way over six feet tall. What could go wrong?

Everything. Purn broke the heart of every kid who hung out at Elmhurst Park (now Schemansky Park) in Dearborn: a beautiful park, shaped like a geometry problem, in the shadow of the former Adray Appliance. We all wanted to be Purn Goldy. Steve Plichta. Dave Seehaver. Dale Conti. John Krolik. Keith Korte. Mike Sudik. All the big names in the Home Run Derby contests we used to have (a home run was anything over the first sidewalk that didn’t hit the gigantic oak tree down the third base line). All of us wore black arm bands when the Tigers traded Purnal “Purn” Goldy to a minor league team in Colorado that didn’t have jerseys or a peanut vendor. It was over.

On the bright side, Purn Goldy and Hank Greenberg hit a combined 334 homers while wearing number 5. Purn’s career is part of Tiger history. His name and stats are in The Baseball Encyclopedia. I, however, only have a tattered copy of The Baseball Encyclopedia (it’s now available online).

I peaked athletically when I was ten years old. It’s been downhill ever since. In my old-guy softball league, here’s a typical play: I hit a fly ball over the left fielder’s head; his caregiver goes back to the fence, picks up the ball, and throws me out at first by 20 feet.

Thanks for the memories, Purn. And thank you, Bill Dow.