February 2021 ~
The fan mail still arrives at his home in Lake Oswego every day, even though it has been 51 years since Pete Ward (Jefferson, 1955) played in the major leagues.
He signs cards and responds however else requested to those who remember his nine MLB seasons. They included seven with the Chicago White Sox and a runner-up finish to teammate/pitcher Gary Peters in the 1963 American League Rookie of the Year voting.
But many of Ward’s happiest days came at Jefferson High and as a youngster in Portland. He recalls the days of sandlot baseball at Alberta Park, in an era before kids had that much organized ball, and he loved being at Jeff, where he graduated in 1955.
“Great teachers, great athletes, winning teams,” he says. Ward, a 1986 PIL Hall of Fame inductee, adds that all of his Jefferson coaches were influential in his development.
Ward, 83, was born in Montreal. The family moved to Portland – which he knew nothing about – when he was 8, and he attended Kennedy School. Pete’s father, who played 12 years in the National Hockey League, accepted a coaching job with the Portland Eagles of the Western Hockey League.
Ward went on to star at Lewis & Clark College, eventually splitting time between school classes and pro ball after being signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1958.
“I always dreamed of playing major league baseball,” he says.
Ward, who played third base, first base and in the outfield, was called up by Baltimore late in the 1962 season. The O’s traded him before the 1963 campaign to the White Sox in a deal that sent standout shortstop Luis Aparicio to Baltimore.
Ward was Chicago’s Opening Day third baseman and had a sensational inaugural run, batting .295, with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs. Peters edged him in the Rookie of the Year battle, going 19-3 with a 2.33 ERA.
However, Ward, the first L&C player to reach the big leagues, was The Sporting News AL Rookie of the Year.
His strong showing continued in 1964, when the 6-1, 185-pound left-handed batter (who threw right-handed) placed sixth in the AL MVP balloting.
A neck injury from a car accident slowed him in 1965, and he had back problems in 1966, but he continued to stick in the majors, playing one year for the New York Yankees.
Ward went on to coach for the Atlanta Braves, manage in the Yankees’ farm system and manage the Portland Beavers to a 72-65 Triple-A record in 1981.
Ward also is a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.