2006-01-12 21:04:49 UTC
FROM: The Grand Rapids Press ~
By Steve Kaminski
Fred Petillo recently finished reading Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest
Generation," and immediately his father-in-law, Walter Benjamin Pipp,
came to mind.
"He was what that generation was all about," Petillo said. "World War
II interrupted his college career, and when he came back, he helped
build up industry and raised a family. People like him are responsible
for what is good in America today."
Mr. Pipp, 83, died Sunday in Grand Haven, and his funeral was
scheduled for today. Pipp never played professional sports, but his
name remains a
legendary one in the annals of Major League Baseball history.
His father, Walter Clement Pipp, played first base for the New York
Yankees in the early 1920s, until Lou Gehrig replaced him on June 2,
1925. Walter Clement Pipp never got his job back because Gehrig went
on to play 2,130 consecutive games, which was a record until Cal
Ripken Jr. broke it in 1995.
Pipp's daughter, Marty Petillo, said Tuesday at the VanZantwick
Bartels Kammeraad Funeral Home in Grand Haven that her father was just
talking about his dad's baseball career before he died. Pipp was only
six years old when his father retired from the Cincinnati Reds in
1928, but he did have some fond memories of life on the road with his
"My dad was just saying on New Year's Day how he was glad he got a
chance to see his father hit a home run in his last season," Marty
Petillo said. "I know he was suffering from dementia, so I don't know
how much he was remembering was true. But that's what he said.
"He loved the University of Michigan, and he was a big fan of the New
Record books show that Walter Clement Pipp did hit two homers in 1928.
He finished his 15-year career with 90 home runs, and he led the
American League in homers in 1916 (12) and 1917 (9).
He eventually retired from the big leagues, moved to Grand Rapids and
went to work as a salesman. He and his wife raised four children,
including Walter Benjamin, Tom, Dorothy and Walter Clement.
Pipp proved to be quite an athlete himself. He graduated from Ottawa
Hills in 1940 after lettering in football, baseball, basketball and
golf. Pipp did have aspirations of becoming a professional athlete,
but Marty Petillo said her dad had no intentions of following in his
"He wanted to become a professional golfer," she said. "Dad went to
the University of Michigan and played golf there. He only went for a
year because then he enlisted. He always loved to golf, and he won a
lot of amateur tournaments."
Golf was put on hold because he enlisted in the army and trained in
the military weather school. Pipp, who earned the rank of captain,
served in the Pacific theater as the chief weather forecaster in Guam.
Pipp is survived by his wife Mary, six children and three siblings.
Tom Pipp said the reason his parents named two of their children
Walter is because at the time juniors were often taunted in school. To
avoid that, the Pipps named their first child Walter Benjamin. Twelve
years had passed when they had their last child and decided society's
stance on juniors had softened.