Al Widmar was born on March 20, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio. Al attended the prestigious boys’ college preparatory school Cathedral Latin High School, where he attracted the attention of scouts. An excellent basketball player, Al spurned scholarship offers to play on the hardwood so he could pursue his dream of pitching in the major leagues.

At the end of his junior year, he signed a contract with the Red Sox’ affiliate in the Class C Middle Atlantic League, the Canton (Ohio) Terriers and reported to the team in June 1942.

After graduating from high school in 1943, he reported to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to play in the Class A Eastern League, where he prospered, winning 10 of 15 decisions and posting a 2.22 ERA. When he reported to the Red Sox’ top minor-league team, the Louisville Colonels in the American Association, in 1944, he was considered a young prospect of great potential.

Bothered by elbow soreness during the 1945 season in Louisville as well, Al compensated for his injury by altering his delivery and mechanics and began to throw side-arm to relieve the pain. Pitching for the reigning Junior World Series champions for a third consecutive season, he reinvented himself as a pitcher in 1946. He threw almost exclusively side-arm and overcame some of the control issues that plagued him the previous season. 

Al helped lead the Colonels to their third consecutive Junior World Series appearance, which they lost to the Montreal Royals in six games. The 21-year-old led the American Association with a 2.43 ERA and was added to the Red Sox big-league roster at the end of the season.

Arriving at the Red Sox spring training in 1947 with much fanfare, he struggled yet made the team. In May, hewas optioned to Louisville and did not make it back to the majors the rest of the year. After a disappointing summer with the Colonels, Al was traded in November 1947, to the St. Louis Browns.

Used exclusively out of the bullpen, he was the Browns’ most dependable and effective reliever in 1948. Two months after the season’s conclusion, he was sold to the Baltimore Orioles, the Browns’ International League affiliate. Like their parent club, the Orioles were a downtrodden, second-tier team.

By midseason, with Al on his way to a career-high 22 wins, leading the league in wins, innings pitched, and complete games, was named an all-star, and finished second in the league’s MVP voting. In spite of all that, the Browns wanted to reduce Al's salary the next season.

Dissatisfied with his new contract with the Browns, he asked to be released back to the Orioles or to be placed on the voluntarily retired list in order to play in Cuba. Unexpectedly, Baseball Commissioner, Happy Chandler denied the request, setting off a controversy with wide-ranging implications. Feeling trapped and exploited, Al refused to report to the Browns’ spring training. 

He remained at his off-season home in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Scranton, and sold cars. In order to stay in shape, he coached basketball at the University of Scranton and played professional basketball for the Allentown Aces of the American Basketball League.

As his holdout progressed and his relationship with the Browns worsened, he stunned the baseball community when he announced plans to sue major-league baseball on the grounds that the reserve clause was illegal and prohibited him from earning a decent living. His own suggestion was that he be dealt to another major club or even Baltimore rather than have to play for the Browns.

Concerned about the financial ramifications and potential costs of another lawsuit, Commissioner Chandler personally intervened to resolve the impasse, and called Al. Chandler then dictated a new contract to the Browns with a salary increase for Al. Though the terms of the contract were not revealed, they were good enough for and Al reported to the Browns on Opening Day, 1950. Without the benefit of spring training, he struggled in his first four games.

He was one of the first Browns to sign a contract for 1951 and despite a good spring training, was hit hard when the season opened. 

Al's off-season was a busy one. In light of the national headlines about his threat to sue baseball, Congress, led by Representative Emanuel Celler of New York, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Study of Monopoly Power, initiated hearings on Major League Baseball’s antitrust immunity granted by the US Supreme Court in 1922.  Ultimately, the hearings were adjourned without legislation introduced to repeal baseball’s antitrust exemption.

Six weeks after testifying in Washington, Widmar was involved in another multiplayer deal when the Browns sent him to the Chicago White Sox. In April, the White Sox sold his contract to the Seattle Rainiers, in the Pacific Coast League. With the Rainers’ staff ace, Al won 20 games again in 1953, before slipping to 8-13 in 1954. 

He again was a holdout during the off-season because of a salary dispute with Seattle, and joined the team the day before the 1955 season began. After being used exclusively as a reliever in the first month of the season, he was sold to the Tulsa Oilers, the Cleveland Indians’ affiliate in the Double-A Texas League. His career in baseball was transformed suddenly when he was named player-manager of the Oilers, at the conclusion of the 1955 season. 

For the next 45 years, until 2000, Al established his reputation as one of the most attentive and effective developers of young talent in baseball, especially pitchers. He served in the capacities of minor-league manager, major-league pitching coach, director of player development, and scout. With his patience, attention to detail, and astute evaluation of talent, he became a highly successful and respected pitching coach with the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays. At 64 years old, Al retired after the 1989 season. From 1990 until his retirement in 2000, he was a special-assignment scout.

On October 15, 2005, Al Widmar passed away at age 80.