Bill Salkeld was destined to become a professional baseball player, and the race between West Coast and East Coast teams to sign him started while he was attending Sacramento High School.
Early in 1934, the promising catcher had scouts from the New York Yankees knocking at his door. They were so impressed, they offered a $500 signing bonus with the agreement he could finish high school before starting his pro career.
But Salkeld’s mother was so upset with the idea of her son being so far from home she refused to let him sign.
Sacramento Senators owner Earl McNeely (Sacramento), seeking a new hometown hero for his money-scrapped Pacific Coast League team, made a unique offer.
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McNeely, who as a Washington Senators rookie drove in the winning run in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, offered a contract that would allow Salkeld to attend classes in the morning and practice with the Senators in the afternoon.
Bill Salkeld finished his major-league career with a .273 average, 31 homers and 132 RBIs.
When Salkeld turned 17 on March 8, his parents signed off on the deal. He had two uneventful seasons with the Senators, hitting .259 in 200 games, before signing with the San Francisco Seals for 1936.
Three months into the 1936 season, Salkeld’s batting average plummeted to .211. In June, his mother died. On July 10 against Portland, his season ended when he was spiked on his right knee during a rundown.
The wound didn’t heal, his immune system became compromised, and a blood transfusion was needed to try to preserve the flexibility in his leg. He was hospitalized for three months with his leg in a brace at a 90-degree angle. Doctors even considered amputation.
Salkeld missed the 1937 and 1938 seasons, and a return to baseball seemed impossible.
Salkeld was traded to the Boston Braves and helped them win the 1948 National League championship, the team’s first in 34 years.
But in 1939, Salkeld, then 22, received an opportunity to be player-manager of the Tucson Cowboys of the Class-D Arizona-Texas League. While working out with the team in the desert climate, his leg began to improve. He started penciling himself in the lineup at first base. During practice, he developed a new catching stance and soon was back behind the plate.
Salkeld returned to the PCL and played with San Diego from 1940 to 1944 before being acquired by Pittsburgh and making his major-league debut with the Pirates in 1945. As a rookie, he hit .311 with 15 home runs and finished 24th in the National League MVP voting.
After two more years in Pittsburgh, Salkeld was traded to the Boston Braves and helped them win the 1948 N.L. championship, the team’s first in 34 years. The Braves lost the World Series to the Cleveland Indians in six games. He played in five Series games, going 2 for 9 with five walks, and hit a home run off Hall of Famer Bob Feller in Game 5.
Salkeld’s big-league career ended in 1950 with the Chicago White Sox. He finished his major-league career with a .273 average, 31 homers and 132 RBIs. He spent three more seasons in the minors and finished a 13-year minor-league career with a .257 average and 77 homers.
Salkeld managed the Stockton Ports of the California League in 1962, when they finished third with a 70-68 record. He died in 1967 in Los Angeles from cancer at 50.
His grandson, Roger Salkeld, was a first-round draft choice of the Seattle Mariners in 1989 and pitched three seasons in the majors.
▪ The Houston Astros promoted left-hander Jordan Mills (Oak Ridge) to the Lancaster JetHawks of the Advanced-A California League.
▪ Cleveland promoted right-hander Casey Weathers (Laguna Creek, Sacramento City) to the Akron (Ohio) RubberDucks of the Double-A Eastern League.
▪ Outfielder Jimmy Bosco (Jesuit) was placed on the voluntarily retired list.
▪ The Los Angeles Dodgers claimed right-hander Preston Guilmet (Oakmont) off waivers from Tampa Bay.
Mark McDermott is a freelance writer specializing in Sacramento-area baseball: firstname.lastname@example.org.