1964-1966
DON DEMETER   OF

In 1966 Don Demeter was traded to the Red Sox for pitcher Earl Wilson. The trade would prove to be a lopsided one for the team losing Demeter, as Wilson went on to star for the Tigers. Don played mostly center field for the Red Sox in 1966, hitting .268 ...

Donald Lee Demeter was born in Oklahoma City on June 25, 1935. By his own admission, he was ďpretty badĒ as a youngster. His parents divorced when he was 12, and left to his own devices, he frequently skipped school to steal beer cans off the back of trucks or spend his lunch money on tobacco to roll his own cigarettes. He was sent to live with his grandparents in Oklahoma City and eventually moved in with a classmateís family, who introduced him to Christianity. It changed the direction of his life.

Along with being a regular attendee at his Sunday school, he became a top hitter on Bill Mosierís Tires of Oklahoma City team, which won the Nebraska-Oklahoma American Legion Junior Invitational Tournament in 1952. He was a part of the Capitol Hill High School baseball team that won 60 straight games and two state titles between 1952 and 1954. One of those titles came in Donís senior year of 1953. When he graduated in the spring, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and was assigned to their Shawnee Hawks team of the Class-D Sooner State League. The Dodgers were impressed by his power and his outfield defense, but he struck out 91 times in his first 62 games, so improving his contact became a priority.

Gradually, that strikeout total began to decline. Don led the California League with 147 strikeouts in 1954 while with the Bakersfield Indians. The following year, he lowered his whiff total to 116 while playing at the Class-A and Double-A levels. He fanned an even 100 times for the Fort Worth Cats of the Double-A Texas League in 1956, but if anybody complained about it, they were really missing the forest for the trees. He hit .287 for the Cats, with 22 doubles and 41 home runs. He drove in 128 runs, scored 115 times and was named to the Texas League All-Star team.

By September, Dodgers manager Walt Alston had received glowing reports about Don from Fort Worth manager Clay Bryant, scouts Andy High, John Corriden and Tommy Holmes and Dodgers vice president Fresco Thompson. So he was promoted to the majors and made his debut against St. Louis on September 18, 1956.

Ebbets Field was torn down in 1960, and Don was playing in center field at the time, but he hadnít supplanted the great Duke Snider. Secondly, he was doing it in Los Angeles, because the Dodgers had left New York for the West Coast after the 1957 season. Don spent all of 1957 and most of 1958 with the Saint Paul Saints of the American Association. Even with the tremendous power he showed, the Dodgers still wanted him to cut down on his strikeouts. By the time he saw the majors again, he did it in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform.

Don played briefly for the Dodgers in 1958 and was sent back to the minors when the rosters went down to 25 men. The Dodgers brought him back to the majors, for good, in August. Both Snider and Carl Furillo were banged up, and Don saw regular playing time in the outfield. But he struggled badly and didnít really heat up until the final two weeks of the season.

At least for a year, Don did push Snider out of center field. He started 81 games in center field in 1959 and played in 139 games overall. He played every game of the 1959 World Series against the Chicago White Sox.

Don, however, was a little upset about his salary. He was still a rookie and only entitled to whatever the Dodgers felt like giving him. When he went back to Oklahoma City, he ran into folks from the oil business who were doing considerably better financially. He would have much more successful days in the majors, but they wouldnít be in Los Angeles. Rookies Tommy Davis and Frank Howard took up the slack, and Don went from Duke Sniderís successor to trade bait. He was dealt to the Phillies on May 4, 1961.

The Phillies were awful in 1961, so Don had a chance to play and he played everywhere. He started games at all three outfield positions as well as first base. He hit .257 for the Phillies with 21 homers. Don had his finest seasons with the Phillies in 1962.

During the offseason, he acted as a Sunday school teacher and made use of his celebrity in a positive way. Early in his career, he acknowledged that he didnít like baseball all that much, because he wasnít sure how the sport fit his convictions. He learned to see the value of it, though. Being a big leaguer makes you important and it makes the kids in my Sunday school class look up to him.

His religious beliefs set him apart from some of his teammates. He didnít smoke or drink, and he spent his money on collecting old bibles instead of sports cars. Wally Moon, a Dodgers teammate, said that it took some time for players to know what to make of him.

Don was traded from the Phillies to the Detroit Tigers on December 5, 1963. The Tigers also took advantage of his ability to play all over the field, but they primarily kept him in center field. Detroit had a surplus of good outfielders, and he was part of a mix that included Al Kaline, Gates Brown, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup and Bill Bruton. When he did play in the outfield, he was as reliable as they came. At the plate, Donís 1964 season was very similar to his 1963 campaign with the Phillies with a .256 average, 22 homers, 80 RBIs in í64.

His time with the Tigers ended after 32 games in 1966. He was batting .212 with 5 homers when he and a player to be named later (Julio Navarro) were sent to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Earl Wilson and outfielder Joe Christopher. Donpent about a full season in Boston and batted .290 in 93 games. On June 4, 1967, Boston traded him and first baseman Tony Horton to Cleveland for pitcher Gary Bell. Don managed a lowly .207 batting average in 51 games.

His contract was purchased by the Detroit Tigers on September 1st as an extra bat for the stretch run. However, a medical exam for chest pains determined that his arterial circulation was impaired, canceling the deal. After a short stay in the training camp in 1968, Don elected to retire from baseball to focus on his family.

Don owned and operated Spartan Pools, a pool construction company in Oklahoma City, for 30 years. It was a family business that he ran with his sons. He was a part of the Oklahoma City 89ers executive team for a time and led chapel services for the team for years. His faith, a constant throughout his youth and playing career, remained at the forefront of his life after his playing career. He participated in Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings and other religious events. From 2002 until his retirement in 2018, he was the pastor of Grace Community Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

Don Demeter died on November 29, 2021 at his home in Oklahoma City at the age of 86.