Famous For Something Else: Herman Wedemeyer (College Football HOFer and ‘Hawaii Five-O” Actor)

Herman Wedemeyer was a All-American football player at St. Mary’s College and would later go on to be elected to College Football’s Hall of Fame. He also played two years of professional football and was a politician in his native Hawaii- where he also dabbled in acting, appearing as “Duke” Lukela in 143 episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O.

However, he also had a brief baseball career, playing in 15 games in 1950 for Sal Lake City in the Pioneer League, where he played alongside future MLB player Mike Baxes and also Wally Yonamine, who would be the first American to play in Japan after WWII.

Here are his stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev G AB H 2B 3B HR BA SLG TB
1950 26 2.8 Salt Lake City PION C 15 48 12 0 1 0 .250 .292 14
1 Season 15 48 12 0 1 0 .250 .292 14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2014.

Famous For Something Else: Frank Borghi, the washed-up catcher who helped Team USA pull off one of the greatest upsets in the history of Soccer

The World Cup is going on now in Brazil, so perhaps there is no better time than now to talk about Frank Borghi.

Who is Frank Borghi?

Well, let’s go back to 1950. It was a World Cup year, with the tournament in Brazil then, as it is now. And Team USA was in it then, as it is now. However, this was decades before the United States was even semi-competitive in international competitions, and the team was made up entirely of amateurs or semi-pros, many of them from St. Louis, a hotbed of soccer much like it is a hotbed of baseball.

It was from St. Louis that Frank Borghi came into the picture. Borghi was the team’s goalkeeper, primarily because he lacked much leg strength to actually kick the ball well. Of course, that wasn’t his main profession- he made his living in the funeral home business, and at the time was driving a hearse as his day-job.

Not surprisingly, his relative inexperience showed early on, as he had given up 3 goals to Spain in a 3-1 loss. It wasn’t looking any easier, with England coming up and with a team made entirely of their top professional players, having already beaten Chile 2-0.

But a funny thing happened: the United States won, 1-0, on the strength of a goal in the 38th minute by Joe Gaetjen, a Haitian cook (others say he was a dishwasher or student, or possibly all three) who lived in New York and was only on the team due to the lax FIFA citizenship regulations of the time. The win wouldn’t have been possible without Borghi, who constantly stopped the English onslaught, holding them scoreless despite 20 shots on goal.

The end result was a shocker. It is said (possibly inaccurately) that many newspapers around the world, not believing the result, printed it as a 10-0 win for England, having thought there was a mistake. It probably looked even more shocking a few days later, when the USA was trounced by Chile, 5-0.

Which brings us back to Borghi. After all, he was a goalie mainly because he didn’t have much leg strength, which begs the question of how he got into soccer in the first place?

The answer is that originally he didn’t. No, his true love was baseball- soccer was initially just a hobby to stay fit during the off-season. In fact, Borghi was a good enough player that he was briefly a professional, playing catcher in the very low minors of the Cardinals system in 1946:

1946 21 -1.4 Carthage KOML D STL 103 272 71 9 6 0 .261 .338 92
1 Season 103 272 272 71 9 6 0 .261 .261 .338 .599 92
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/23/2014.

While in Carthage, Borghi would have likely caught for future MLB pitchers Cloyd Boyer and Bob Habenicht. Borghi, however, would never reach anywhere close to the bigs as a baseball player- according to Baseball Reference, 1946 would be his only year professionally (other sources say that he played more than that year, but it’s possible that those were in non-affiliated leagues or simply have been lost due to the haphazard score-keeping and coverage of the minors at the time). After his professional baseball career ended, he spent more of his time on soccer… which is how a washed-up catcher helped Team USA pull off one of the biggest upsets in soccer history.

Borghi still lives in St. Louis and is a member of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and the National Soccer Hall of Fame.