Former Red Sox pitcher George Susce passes away
On July 20, 1955, Red Sox rookie pitcher George Susce Jr. took the mound in Kansas City and threw a one-hit shutout against the Athletics while his father, a Kansas City coach and former Major League player, watched from the home dugout.
Ironically, the elder Susce had been let go as Red Sox bullpen coach when Mike Higgins was hired as Boston manager for the ’55 season, and that summer evening was Susce’s first chance to see his son pitch in the majors.
It was the high point of Mr. Susce’s five-year Major League career, four of them with the Red Sox, with only a first inning hit by Kansas City’s Vic Power depriving him of a place in baseball history. Sold to the Detroit Tigers early in the 1958 season, he hurled a seven-hitter two months later to beat the Red Sox, 2-1, much to Higgins’s chagrin.
Mr. Susce, a longtime Needham resident who had a career 22-17 record and 4.42 earned run average in 117 games, mainly as a reliever, died May 8 at his home in Matlacha, Fla., of heart failure related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 79.
“George was a great teammate, on the quiet side, and he and one of our other pitchers, Frank Sullivan, loved to fish in Florida during spring training,’’ recalled Red Sox catcher and Mr. Susce’s teammate, Pete Daley of Newbury Park, Calif. “They even used to work on their fishing flies in their hotel room during the season so they could use them in the winter.
“He wasn’t overpowering, but he was sneaky fast, and since his dad was a former catcher, I’m sure that helped him,’’ Daley said. “He was very competitive, but in a calm way. He accepted his role, took the ball, and never complained.’’
Frank Malzone, the team’s third baseman and now a Red Sox consultant, said Mr. Susce had a dry sense of humor and was popular with his teammates. “He threw strikes, and he went right at the hitters,’’ Malzone said. “He didn’t brag about his successes, and I never heard a bad word said about him. I’ve lived in Needham for many years and was close to George, and our wives were good friends.’’
Signed by the Red Sox after graduation in 1949 from Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Mr. Susce, who served two years in the Army during the Korean War, worked his way up the Red Sox system, culminating in a 14-6 record for Boston’s top farm team in Louisville, Ky., which won the 1954 “Little World Series’’ against Syracuse.
But his signing did not set well with Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, Cleveland’s general manager, who relieved Mr. Susce’s father of his coaching duties because he failed to secure his son for the franchise.