Joe Faron, Jr. of New Melle was born and raised in Creve Coeur, Missouri, and while doing some family research he came across a scrap book and short manuscript that his uncle, Steve Raab, had written about the early days of baseball in and around Creve Coeur, Missouri. Steve Raab was involved in amateur baseball for over 50 years and was a professional baseball scout for over 30 years. In 1996 he was inducted into the Greater St. Louis Major League Baseball Scouts Association and has been recognized for many other accomplishments in his lifetime, including:
• A founder of and inductee into the Greater St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame
• Part time major league baseball scout who signed numerous major league players to various Midwest teams. *
• Originator and founder of the Metro Collegians Instructional Baseball League
• Founder of the American Legion Post 397 in Creve Coeur in 1945.
• Founder of the Creve Coeur American Legion Junior Baseball Team
Realizing there was a lot of history in the memories his uncle Steve had penned, including names and stories of players who moved on to play professional baseball back in the day, Joe was inspired to find a way to share the information with others as a tribute to his Uncle Steve. He approached Steve Cranford, owner of Pixilated in New Melle, and together they set out to publish a book that contained not only Steve Raab’s manuscript, but as an additional perspective,Steve suggested incorporating memories from some of the people who played amateur baseball in Creve Coeur through the 1940s and 1950s. The result is a book of stories, photos, illustrations and newspaper clippings that chronicle a rich history of baseball in what was then “rural” St. Louis County.
Besides Steve Raab’s manuscript and a few of Joe Faron, Jr.’s own memories, other contributors include Jim Kahlmeyer, Jim Wennemann, Len Queathem, Paul Faron, Bill Besancenez, Vic Hezel, Roy Faron, Charlie Hezel and Billy Dierberg.
Steve Raab’s manuscript begins prior to 1904. It tells how teams from St. Louis would come out by train or bus to play in Creve Coeur. When teams played in other nearby towns, the players often went by box wagon. “Using chairs for seats, the wagon would hold the entire team. They would leave home early and return late.”
1. 1955 Creve Coeur Baseball Team (L-R): Jim Wennemann, Vic Hezel. Les Meyer, Don Wennemann, Paul Peters (bat boy), Joe Faron, Jim Kahlmeyer, Jules Faron, Charles Hezel, Nelson Faron, J.D. Hezel, Harry Wennemann and Harold Meyer.
2. Steve Raab as a coach in 1949.
3. Steve Raab as a player in his younger days.
4. 1951 Team (L-R) front: Billy Dierberg, Jim Kahlmeyer, Harold Meyers, Don Wennemann, Charlie Hezel. Back: Gene Scheffing, Joe (Cork) Besancenez, Harold Wennemann, Nelson Faron, Gene Drury, Jim Wennemann.
5. Joe Faron, Jr. holding a copy of the book, and Steve Cranford - Pixilated.
The teams of 1925 and 1926 were particularly good, thanks in large part to the pitching of William “Bill” Beckmann. Beckmann was signed by Charlie Barrett (a well known scout for the Cardinals) in 1929 and played professional ball until 1943. While pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in late Sept, 1942, Beckmann’s win against the Philadelphia Phillies put the Cardinals in first place, and they went on to win the Pennant and the World Series. He was known to have one of the best change ups in baseball.
Also mentioned in the book are Walter J. Mueller and his son Donald F. Mueller, both of whom also played professional baseball.
Through the years a county league formed that included teams from Creve Coeur, Manchester, Ballwin, Chesterfield, Olivette, Festus, Valley Park, Florissant, Glencoe, Maryland Heights and more. At its peak, it was considered a Semi-Pro League that, according to many major league scouts, was comparable to the class “C” minor leagues associated with Major League teams at the time.
Prior to 1940, baseball diamonds in the Creve Coeur area were provided by individuals or teams renting land from property owners for nominal fees. In 1939, a field was built at the Creve Coeur Farmers Hall at Olive Street and Ballas Road, and the Creve Coeur Athletic Association was formed. In 1952, when Khoury League started using the facilities, less than 100 boys were participating. By 1966 over 1000 boys participated, and in 1968, the Khoury League was using new facilities at River Valley Drive.
The latter part of the book contains individual memories by the contributors mentioned above. From the early days when balls and equipment were scarce and broken bats were nailed back together and reused, to keeping track of balls and strikes in the dirt, to a humiliating loss in Festus to a team that didn’t even take batting practice, to wearing the first batting helmet — which eventually led to a league rule to wear them all the time (another of Steve Raab’s foresighted accomplishments), the book is unique collection of interesting and sometimes amusing information.
For those who have a connection to the Creve Coeur and the players that played there, the book provides a unique personal treasure. For others, it provides a unique glimpse into a bygone era that is both interesting and entertaining.
Joe Faron, Jr. commended Steve Cranford for doing a great job on putting the book together. Steve said he hopes others enjoy the book as much as he enjoyed hearing the stories and interviewing “these fine gentlemen of baseball.”
Copies of the book can be ordered through Pixilated in New Melle (314-540-9530 or www.pixilated.net.) Copies have also been purchased by the St. Charles City-County Library District and the St. Louis County Library District where they will be loaned out to patrons.
* Raab Signed Dale Stevener and Kent Keiser (FHHS) to Major League Teams
During his career as a baseball scout, Steve Raab signed New Melle native Dale Stevener, and Kent Keiser, another Francis Howell graduate to the Cinncinatti Reds. Raab also signed one of the first black players – a man from the boot heel area of Missouri, to the Minnesota Twins. Steve Raab accomplished many other things in his life, and Joe is planning a second book that will contain more information about him and some of Joe’s other uncles.