Former Dodger got his start in Piqua

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Fred Kipp relived his role in baseball history in a visit to his hometown of Piqua.
Kipp, of Overland Park, pitched three seasons for the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn and then Los Angeles, and part of a fourth season for the New York Yankees. He was in Los Angeles earlier this year for a reunion of the 1959 Dodgers, the year they defeated Chicago’s White Sox in the World Series. Kipp, a late season call-up in 1959, wasn’t eligible for the World Series roster, but was a part of the team that year.
Kipp’s best year in the majors was 1958, when he went 6-6 with the Dodgers in their first year in Los Angeles.
He grew up in Piqua and played with the Specht boys, Archie, Hank and Lloyd, Mike and Arnie Lair, Jerry Wille and others.
In 1949, the Piqua team won the eastern Kansas district tournament and a berth in the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita. Kipp joined five other teammates from 1949 for a team reunion in Piqua Friday.

KIPP’S story is one of perseverance.
After being graduated from Iola High School in 1949, Kipp went to Kansas State to play basketball. He became disillusioned and transferred to Emporia State, in part so he also could play baseball.
One of his first starts for Emporia was against Washburn University. Kipp, a 6-4 left-hander with good control and a variety of breaking pitches, twirled a no-hitter. His skills were noted by the Washburn coach, who was a “bird dog” for Bert Wells, the Dodgers’ Midwest scout.
In 1953, with Kipp’s college career behind him, Wells encouraged Kipp to attend a tryout at the Vero Beach, Fla., spring training site of the Dodgers. The Dodgers would pay his way to Florida, Wells told the southpaw.
“It was 40 hours by train from Emporia to Vero Beach,” Kipp said. “When I got there, they gave me a uniform with a big ‘F.A.’ on it, which meant ‘free agent.’ I was one of 500 to 600 players at camp.
“I pitched pretty well and the Dodgers offered me a $500 signing bonus, another $1,500 in 90 days,” if he pitched well to stay in the farm system, “and $200 a month salary,” Kipp said. He took it.
In his first year, Kipp won 15 of 20 decisions for a class D team at Asheville, N.C. After time out for military service, he pitched for Mobile, a class AA team, and was a 20-game winner for class AAA Montreal in the International League in 1956. That piqued the interest of the Dodger front office and a chance in 1957 for playing time in the majors, a noteworthy occurrence. That was the team’s last season in Brooklyn and Kipp is one of only about 40 players alive today who ever wore a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.
Then came 1958 and his only full season in the majors.
Kipp had productive minor league seasons, with class AAA teams at St. Paul, Minn., and Richmond, Va., and was traded to the Yankees in 1960 by the pitching-rich Dodgers, but had limited time in the majors.
“I finally decided I’d had enough in 1962 and retired,” Kipp said. “Unless you were a big star in the majors then, it was difficult to get by (financially). You had to play winter ball or have an off-season job if you had a family. I played in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico during the winters.”
After baseball Kipp got into construction and, at age 77, still runs a company in the Kansas City area.

KIPP threw to many catchers in his years of professional ball, including the Dodgers’ Roy Campanella and Johnny Roseboro, but he said one of the best ever to squat behind the plate and receive his pitches was Archie Specht.
“Pound for pound, there wasn’t a better athlete ever to come out of Piqua,” he said. “He was very good behind the plate and he always could put the ball in play, no matter who was on the mound for the other team.
“He could have played professionally,” Kipp said.