Despite having made countless trips to and through Hershey over the years, I had only once ventured to Hummelstown proper. On a recent trip to Hershey, I took a couple minutes to venture just west of the famous chocolate community.
I navigated the streets of Hummelstown and proceeded past the Hummelstown Cemetery on South Railroad Street. At the intersection with Lincoln Street, I turned to the left and followed the iron fencing to the intersection with South John Street. There, I was able to enter the cemetery grounds and doing so, went just a short distance before spotting the resting place of the man I had come to pay my respects.
As I stepped out of the vehicle, a gentleman nearby asked if I needed any help finding the grave I sought. I thanked him for the offer and stated that I could see the grave I had come to visit just a couple yards from the roadway.
“Phil Paine?” He studied me closely as he scratched his head. “You surely aren’t old enough to remember him playing ball.”
“I can’t say I remember him playing ball,” I responded. “It was a little before my time.”
“Thought so,” he let out a soft chuckle. He continued on his way as I walked over to the memorial for a baseball player who would call Hummelstown his home and whose career would set an interesting baseball record.
Phillips Steere “Phil” Paine was born June 8, 1930 in Chepachet, Rhode Island. The right-handed pitcher’s professional career had its beginnings in 1948 with the Bradford Blue Wings of the Philadelphia Minor League system. Paine ended the season with a 5-win, 4-loss record. The 1949 season saw Paine with the Vandergrift Pioneers of the Middle Atlantic League, where he had a 12-win, 13-loss season marked by fifteen complete games – two of them shut-outs – and 108 strike-outs.
In 1950 and 1951, Paine appeared in the Boston Braves Minor League system, playing for the Hartford Chiefs. He made his first Major League appearance on July 14, 1951, when Paine joined the Boston Braves as a relief pitcher. That season Paine appeared in twenty-one games and had two wins with seventeen strike-outs and an ERA of 3.06.
The following year Paine left baseball for military service during the Korean War and would miss the 1952 and 1953 seasons. While in the service, he would be stationed first near Hummelstown, where he fell in love with his future wife. He would also begin to call the community his home.
In 1953, while stationed in Japan, Paine became the first American player to appear on the roster of the Nishitetsu Lions and would be a starting pitcher for the team rather than a relief pitcher. In the Japan Leagues, Paine had a 4-win, 3-loss season, having started a total of nine games for the Lions. In his appearances on the mound, he had five complete games, one shut-out, and thirty-eight strike-outs with an ERA of 1.77.
In 1954, Paine’s military service came to an end and he returned home to rejoin the Braves, which were now located in Milwaukee. The Braves sent him to the Toledo Sox of the American Association where he appeared in fourteen games. While he had no wins credited to him with the Toledo team, Paine did make eleven appearances with Milwaukee and had one win for the season.
From 1955 to 1957, Paine would make appearances both with Milwaukee Braves and within their farm system. In the Minors, Paine appeared in 132 games, with a 24-16 win/loss record, and 228 strike-outs. At the same time, he made seventeen appearances for Milwaukee with a 3-0 win-loss record and twenty-eight strike-outs.
In 1958, Paine joined the roster of the St. Louis Cardinals. He would appear in forty-six games with a 5-0 win-loss record, one save, and forty-five strike-outs. At the end of that season, Paine’s career in the Major Leagues came to an end.
As Paine’s Major League career ended, newspapers were announcing in 1958 that Paine had agreed to play for the Japanese League in 1959, but he never went overseas to play. Instead, from 1959 to 1961, he would play for teams in the Pacific Coast League. In those three years, Paine appeared in 149 games with 159 strike-outs and a 20-19 win-loss record.
What is remarkable about Paine’s Major League career is the record he set. Paine ended his Major League career by appearing in ninety-five games with a 10-1 win-loss record. Until the loss in 1958, Paine had a nine-game win streak in the Major Leagues over seven seasons. Note: this is due to having the majority of the games he pitched in listed as “no decision.“
After retiring from baseball, he returned to Hummelstown where he operated the Warwick Hotel with his wife. Paine died in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on February 19, 1978 at the age of forty-seven. He was survived by his wife and three children.
I finished paying my respects to Phil Paine and left him to rest among the other former residents of the community he called home.