CUMBERLAND — As an eight-year-old Pennsylvania Avenue kid, Kevin Ogle’s love for the game of baseball took him to every ballfield in South End for spontaneous pick-up games with neighborhood friends.
Ogle’s organized baseball activity began in the Pee Wee League under the late Coach Bobby Cavanaugh before he graduated to the Dapper Dan Cardinals under the late Coach James “Bromo” Ellsworth. In the Hot Stove League, Ogle played for the B’nai B’rith team.
Ogle’s baseball career did not extend beyond his mid-teens but his love for the sport grew stronger.
Through it all, and up to this day, Ogle has rooted for the Pittsburgh Pirates, one season after another. “I’ve never been to a World Series but I’ve been to a couple playoff games,” said the retired captain of the Cumberland Police Department.
“I remember the 1959 season and that was the year I started collecting baseball cards. But my collection got lost over the years and as I grew up I didn’t give much thought to them.”
That is, until 1994.
“I saw a 1960 Roberto Clemente card at the All-Star Fan Fest at Point State Park near Three Rivers Stadium and purchased it for $125,” he said.
However, a 1955 Clemente rookie card, worth more than $1,300, is the crown jewel of Ogle’s baseball card collection that now numbers more than 5,000 cards. His collection includes a Fred Clarke card from 1909-1911 and a 1940 Honus Wagner card.
“I thought it would be nice to get the entire Pirates collection. I traveled to Duncansville and Beaver Falls in Pennsylvania and a little shop in Conway, N.H., and to other states for baseball cards. Now I buy them mostly through the Internet. I get all the Pirates cards every year,” said Ogle, whose favorite Pirate is pitcher Vernon Law.
Ogle owns every Pirates card from the Topps Series 1 and Series 2 collections. “I also have every Hall of Famer of which Topps made cards for the last year of their career. There are about 100 of them,” said the son of Betty Ogle of Jane Frazier Village and the late Ralph Ogle, who often took Kevin to ball games at Forbes Field.
“We would take the train and get off at Station Square and walk a few miles to the stadium. I remember a game when Clemente caught a fly ball against the right field wall and threw a perfect strike to home plate to throw out Orlando Cepeda who tagged from third. I’ll never forget that.
“I was also there with my daughter for a Pirates-Astros game in July 1997. It was the only extra-inning, combined pitchers no-hitter ever thrown in Major League Baseball. I remember Mark Smith hit a walk-off three-run homer to win the game 3-0. I kept the ticket and later offered it to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. They accepted it and gave me a certificate of donation and a lifetime pass to the Hall of Fame.
Over the years, Ogle has visited the Baseball Hall of Fame about 10 times. “It’s a great place with all the baseball history and memorabilia. And Cooperstown is a beautiful little town.”
Ogle’s love for the game has also taken him to 42 Major League ballparks since 1963, his first game being at Forbes Field that year. Ogle visited the retractable-roof Marlins Park in Miami last year and in 2010 he visited every major league park in California, prior to a stopover in Target Field in Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Twins.
Ogle visits PNC Park five or six times every baseball season to cheer on his beloved Buccos. He has viewed games in all 30 current Major League ballparks. But PNC Park is his favorite. “With the cityscape and the Allegheny River right behind the stadium, it’s a great ballpark. Great views from every vantage point in the stadium,” he said.
But it is a memory as a nine-year-old boy walking home at 3:36 p.m, on Oct. 13, 1960, that holds a special place in Ogle’s baseball heart.
“Bill Mazeroski hit a home run in game seven of the World Series to beat the New York Yankees. They were a better team and it was the only time a World Series Most Valuable Player (Yankee second-baseman Bobby Richardson) was on the losing team. Mazeroski in his book (“Maz”) said it was the only time Mickey Mantle ever cried. I love it,” said the soft-spoken Ogle with an ear-to-ear grin.
What’s so great about baseball?
“Baseball is a nice, slow game. Not fast-paced, action-packed. It’s not governed by the clock. It’s been said the hardest thing to do in athletics is hit a baseball. A split second to react to a 90-mile an hour fastball. There are a lot of nuances to baseball that you don’t get in other sports.
“Baseball is a game that every kid of my generation played while growing up. Parents didn’t let you sit inside watching TV all day and there were certainly no video games on iPhones.
“Baseball just gets in your blood. Even now, after more than 50 years, I can’t wait for pitchers and catchers to report every February,” said Ogle. “Winter, for me, is insufferable.”
Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at email@example.com.