Monday, October 5, 2015

Perk Reitemeier- Captain of the 1951 Final 4—Team makes K-State’s All Century Baseball Team

Look Magazine featured Perk Reitemeier and members of his Lafayette Indiana high school basketball team in a 1947 issue.  Reitemeier, a six foot guard- was an all around star and was also listed as a pitcher and 3rd baseman.  A business owner affiliated with an amateur baseball group located in Manhattan, Ks- saw the story and invited him to try out for the team.


“I had an offer to sign a professional baseball contract with the New York Yankees but liked the idea of going to college first, so I headed to Manhattan for the tryout,” said Reitemeier.  Reitemeier was auditioning to become a member of Manhattan’s ABLA (Amateur Baseball League of America) team.

“This was a perfect situation because we played games everyday just like professional baseball,” Reitemeier said.  “I struck out 22 batters during my first start in Manhattan and made the team.”  (Photo of Perk- courtesy of Perk Reitemeier)

It just so happened Kansas State’s head basketball coach Jack Gardner was at the game along with the basketball coach from Anderson Indiana High school- Dobbie Lambert, who later become Gardner’s assistant coach at Kansas State. According to Reitemeier- Lambert told Gardner, “‘I coached against that guy on the mound,’”

“Gardner offered me a basketball scholarship,” said Reitemeier.  “But, I had told Purdue I’d play basketball for them.  Although I loved Manhattan, I felt like I needed to honor that commitment.”

After one year at Purdue, Reitemeier returned to Manhattan in 1948 to play for the Manhattan ABLA team.  This time- Gardner talked him into transferring to Kansas State.

Reitemeier, a member of Kansas State’s 1951 runner-up national championship basketball team faced stiff competition to win a spot in the starting lineup going up against talented teammates like All American Ernie Barrett, who went on to play for the Boston Celtics, Lew Hitch who played in the NBA five years and Gardner recruits from the West coast Jack Stone and Ed Head.

Perk- whose given name is Clarence- got the nickname Perk when he was playing basketball in grade school because his teammates and coaches said he had lots of pep and was a very perky competitor.  “It was a gift,” Reitemeier said.  “Can you imagine calling a young kid Clarence on the baseball diamond?  Let’s get a hit Perk sounds a lot better than Clarence.”

Photo -Perk with ball
Photo -Perk with ball

He was never a starter in basketball- but received the honor of becoming captain of the 1950-51 “Piss” team.  “Every college ball club has one,” said Reitemeier.  “It’s made up of former high school stars that don’t get much playing time and are pissed about it.” 

“It was necessary to be in your second year on the Piss team to be given the honor,” said Reitemeier.  “My main responsibility was to keep other P-team members in line.”

Reitemeier outlined a list of traits needed for P-team membership.  He read all 23 on his list during a 1951 team reunion years ago which drew huge laughter from his audience.

  With Reitemeier’s permission, I picked a David Lettermen “Top ten” among the 23 listed.

Some of Reitemeiers requirements for P-Team membership included the following ifs:  (I can visualize Perk reading these off on the David Lettermen show)

1. If you spent 90% of practice time on defense.

2. If you were reluctant to pass the ball to a wide open teammate on a fast break.

3. If you had the guts to wear only your athletic strap under your warm-ups on the nights you played strong and ranked opponents.

4. If Tex Winter didn’t do a bed check on you when you were on the road.

5. If by the time you got finished shooting your free throws (after the regulars) there was no hot water in the showers.

6. If your only spot on the highlight film was a backside shot of you on the outside of a time-out huddle.

7. If your attention to action on the floor was focused on cheerleaders from 20% to 30% of the time.

8. If one of the autograph seekers, mistaking you for one of the stars, would say, “oh well, sign this anyway.”

9. If you got injured, the coach’s main concern was to get you off the floor so practice could be resumed.

(Drum roll here please……and the number ten requirement for P-team membership is……………..

10. If you had the nerve to say, “oh just forget it” when Coach Gardner called you to go in the game with less than a minute to go.

Reitemeier said, “ The- forget it issue- actually happened during one game when Gardener called on me and my teammate Dan Schyler to go into the game with 1:30 remaining on the clock- and Schyler told Gardner, “‘Just forget it.’”  I asked what happened to Schyler after making that comment.  Reitemeier said, “He got called on less often.”

“There was never any resentment or jealousy felt by any of the P-Team members toward any of the regulars or coaches,” said Reitemeier.  “We were all friends and we didn’t feel like anybody was getting screwed- we wanted action too- it was quite a group.”

graduated from Kansas State in 1954 and stayed on one year as a graduate assistant to Kansas State baseball coach Ray Wauthier- then started his teaching career in Victoria, Ks in 1957 where he coached both basketball and baseball.

Since my parents came from Victoria, I asked, “How did you got along with those Volga Germans?”

(Victoria’s “Cathedral of the Plains” church built by the Volga Germans)
(Victoria’s “Cathedral of the Plains” church built by the Volga Germans)

“I had the right name but couldn’t speak German,” said Reitemeier.  I told him my dad used to tell the story about Victoria’s infamous baseball announcer Honey Braun.  Honey would say, “Gut afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I vunt to tank you all for coming today because vit out you der vouldn’t be a crowd.  And,  I vunt to remind you dat- ve- have a conception stand here at Grant Park under the bleachers sponsored by the Daughters of Isabella. So go down der and get your stuff.”

That brought a big laugh from Reitemeier- then he said, “I knew Honey Braun, he was my neighbor.”

Washington High School in Kansas City Kansas was the next coaching and teaching stop for Reitemeier after his two year stint at Victoria.  “We had a great baseball league in Kansas City,” said Reitemeier. “We played against LaSalle, North Kansas City, Ward, Wyandotte and I can’t remember the others but I bet I coached against 7 or 8 players who ended up in the major leagues.”

This conversation led to the 1961 Kansas High School state baseball tournament.  I learned for the first time Reitemeier was coaching Washington High- the team we beat in the State finals during my junior year.  “Are you the Weigel guy that kept me from getting my first baseball state championship?” said Reitemeier.

I admitted I was the Hays Cadet who played for St Joseph’s (now Thomas More Prep) who got the lucky hit to win the game in extra innings that year. One of Reitemeier’s favorite former players of all time is Jerry Carson who was pitching when I was at bat.

Several years ago I met Carson for the first time and told him, “I’m the guy who got the hit to knock in the winning run.”  He had shared that conversation with Perk- which sparked the State tournament discussion during our phone interview.

Reitemeier was proud to recommend Carson to play baseball at Kansas State for Perk’s former coach Ray Wauthier.

After coaching baseball, Reitemeier became an elementary principal for two years in the Kansas City school district- then moved to Parsons, Ks where he was a Junior High principal two years, assistant superintendent three years and superintendent for three years.

He joined School Specialty Supply Company of Salina Ks in 1975, and retired in 1992 as Vice President-after spending 17 years with the company.

Age 85 is soon approaching in November but Reitemeier still keeps his mind very active.  “I enjoy watching T.V., doing cross word puzzles, and reading but I don’t get around much anymore,” said Reitemeier.  “I’m pretty well home bound for the time being.”

A Kansas City Kansas co-ed named Norene Buckles came into Perk’s life while they were attending Kansas State.  “She was an Alpha Delta Pi sorority girl and I was in the Sigma Nu fraternity-and we met at a party,” said Reitemeier.  “We celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary last year.”

(Photo of Perk & Norene -courtesy of Perk & Norene Reitemeier)
(Photo of Perk & Norene -courtesy of Perk & Norene Reitemeier)

Norene and Perk have five daughters, two sons, 17 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandkids.  Their one daughter Amy was a Kansas State Pridette pom pom girl.

When asked what he remembers best about his Kansas State experience, Reitemeier said,  “Being on the 1951 basketball championship team was an honor- but my biggest honor was being named to the all century baseball team at Kansas State in 2000.”

Reitemeier was a three year starter for the Cats as an outfielder and pitcher and led the 1951 team with a batting average of .383.

In 1950, he was the top ranked pitcher in the conference, and hit in the 300’s.  He led the 1951 team with a batting average of .383, and returned for the 1954 season after a two year stint in the army and batted .321 as a switch hitter, along with some fine pitching performances.

He was one of 21 inductees accepted on the Kansas State baseball’s all century team.

(Photo of Perk batting-courtesy of Perk R.)
(Photo of Perk batting-courtesy of Perk R.)

Some of the other Kansas State inductees included:  Eldon Aucker- a major leaguer - who struck out the legendary Babe Ruth on four pitches in his first visit to Yankee stadium,  pitcher Ted Powers who played in the majors 13 years, Bobby Randall, of the Minnesota Twins, Andy Replogle with the Milwaukee Brewers, Heath Schesser with the Detroit Tigers, Craig Wilson a member of the 1992 US Olympic Baseball team and- who could forget Keith “Kite” Thomas of the Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators who later opened his famous “Kites Bar and Grill” in Manhattan’s Aggieville.

“I’m so glad we now have a new Kansas State baseball facility and am very pleased to see our baseball team getting the recognition they deserve,” Reitemeier said.  The Kansas State baseball team beat Arkansas 4-3 in the NCAA regional tournament on Sunday and will advance to an NCAA Super regional next week for the first time in school history. The Wildcats will travel to Corvallis, Ore, to take on Oregon State.

Many stories were written about the 1951 runner up NCAA championship team but few fans have heard the inside story of the important role of Reitemeier and the Piss team and how their day to day efforts in practice enabled folks like Barrett, Stone, and Hitch to become the headliners who put Kansas State in the NCAA national championship spotlight in 1951, a feat that no team has repeated since.

(1951 Team reunion in Manhattan, Ks –Feb 1986 photo courtesy of Topeka Daily Capitol- Perk is sitting to the left of Tex Winter)
(1951 Team reunion in Manhattan, Ks –Feb 1986 photo courtesy of Topeka Daily Capitol- Perk is sitting to the left of Tex Winter)

“I was very fortunate to play basketball for three Hall of Fame Coaches”, said Reitemeier.  Legendary Indiana coach Marion Crawley- whose teams won 4 state titles and were runner up 3 times- coached Reitemeier at Jefferson Lafayette High School and is in the Indiana Basketball Hall of fame, while Jack Gardner and Tex Winter are both in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Congratulations Perk.  We’re glad you left your Indiana roots as a Boilermaker to become a Wildcat. Coaches –Gardner and Wauthier would be proud for what you have accomplished in life. And-that includes Tex too.

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