Memories Of A Bat Boy

Johnie J. Logue
Enterprise Staff
By Johnie J. Logue
Enterprise Staff
Harvey Kirmse works at the Warsaw Walmart store. He worked for Hallmark for many years. However, it his precious memories of being a bat boy for the Kansas City Athletics that has stayed close to his heart for all of these years.
I had a chance to sit down and talk baseball with this man of many memories last week. Below is our interview.
JL- How was your early life?
HK- My father was killed when he was hanging  a sign and was thrown into a power line. I never remember ever having a baby sitter. So when my mother went to work as a manager of a concession stand at the ball park, my two brothers and my sister and I  went to ball park with her. I was 11 years old in 1952. A man named Bob Walker asked us if we wanted a job at the ball park. I started in the right field area running down home runs. Later I moved to the press box. Then around 1967, I was promoted to be the opposing team bat boy. My brother Larry was the bat boy for the A’s.
I had a wonderful childhood. I don’t think you could equal what I went through. It was hard though without my dad. He could do everything.
JL- Who are some of the players and coaches you met?
HK- I got to talk to Casey Stengel, Micky Mantle, Ted Williams, Billy Martin and a host of others. Some of the old timers like TY Cobb  would come to the old timers game and I was able to walk up to them and get autographs.
I got the name Boots. My granddad knew a black man named Boots and I was named after him. The ballplayers called me Boots.
JL- Were they players nice to you?
HK- Yea, they were always nice to us kids. They were super to us but they wouldn’t sign baseballs for the fans when they were on the field or in the dugout. 
There was a rule about that but some of the players signed anyway.
Jl._ How much did you make?
HK- I got a dollar a game and I had a paper route and made twenty dollars a week.
I worked forty years at Hallmark Cards and retired there. I started at Walmart  in 2004.
JL- Who were some of your favorite players?
HK-Mantle was one of my favorites.
JL-I understand you gave all of your memorabilia to your son.
HK- Yes, I have nothing but a few old books and a cap.
JL- Did you play ball?
HK- My high  school didn’t have a team so I played for the K.C 3-2 league. I played with Paul Lindblad. I pitched and he beat me 3-2 in front of a bunch of scouts and was signed by the A’s. Players didn’t stay in the minors very long like they do today.
JL- You don’t follow baseball much anymore.
HK_ No, the strike did it for me. The old guys played hurt and didn’t make near the money they make today.
JL- Should Pete Rose be in the HOF?
HK- With the lift on gambling, yes, he should be in the HOF
JL- Who was the best player you ever saw?
HK- Ted Williams. He wouldn’t sign some baseballs for me once. I never saw him happy. The clubhouse was always too hot or too cold for him. However, he was the best player I ever saw.
I am writing a book about personalities in baseball.
JL- Was it dangerous being a bat boy?
HK- Yes, you had to keep your eyes open. Once a player got a base hit and the runner started home. I started to get the bat and the umpire tossed the bat to the side and I got chewed out in of of everybody by the umpire. I was in the wrong.
The  big crowds that were here for the Yankees like 32,000 didn’t bother me but when the Washington Senators were here with 2000 people in the stands, I felt like everyone was watching me.
JL- Could the players then play with the guys today?
HK-I think the pitching was better then with Bob Gibson, Elroy Face, Whitey Fordand Pedro Ramos. They would pitch 14 innings. I was bat boy for the 1960 All- Star game.
JL- You knew Roger Maris?
HK-Roger Maris lived close to me. The home run record changed him. He was so nice and then he wouldn’t talk to anybody.
Harry Bright was my cousin and played in the majors. Vic Powers lived closed to me and would pick me up and take me to the ball park. Sometimes we would go to his house and eat a bologna sandwich.
JL - What life lessons have you learned from baseball?
HK -To never judge anyone. I never knew a bad ballplayer personality wise. Ted Williams wasn’t mean to me, he just was rude.
JL- Before we go, tell me about your family.
HK-I have been married to  my wife Linda for 38 years. My grandson Jonathan Kirmse will be a sophomore at Central Methodist University.
 JL-Thanks Harvey