Baseball still a true love for Clarendon Hills resident
Former minor league baseball player Jim Sarros, 91, of Westchester has lived since July at The Birches retirement community/assisted living facility in Clarendon Hills. | Chuck Fieldman—Sun-Times Media
Name: Jim Sarros
Likes to watch on TV: baseball, football and detective shows
Sox fan or Cubs fan: both
Used to sleep with: a baseball bat
baseball players: Babe Ruth, Kiki Cuyler and Riggs Stephenson
Updated: November 26, 2012 2:19AM
CLARENDON HILLS — Jim Sarros has never lost his love for baseball.
The longtime Westchester resident, who has lived since July at The Birches retirement community/assisted living facility in Clarendon Hills, always is ready to talk about baseball with anyone who shares an interest in the sport.
Sarros, who turned 91 in January, has some great baseball stories to tell. He played four seasons of minor league ball in the 1940s. And as a teenager he played catch with baseball great Babe Ruth.
“I love baseball,” Sarros said. “I love everything about it. I devoted my whole life to baseball.”
Sarros grew up in Chicago and played baseball while a student at Austin High School. As a teen, he attended a baseball school the Chicago Cubs operated at the time as a way to find young talent.
“A lot of guys would show up for those, and they’d pick only a few to move on,” Sarros said. “The Cubs gave me a look, but they released me in 1941, and I ended up with the White Sox.”
Sarros started out as a third baseman, but moved over to play second base after a teammate’s injury.
“The coach asked if anyone had played second base,” Sarros said. “I hadn’t played there before, but I said I’d try it. I’d go out with our shortstop an hour before practice to work on turning double plays.”
In July 1942, his passion had to be put on hold as he enlisted in the Coast Guard and served four years during World War II.
“I came back and tried again, but it was very difficult after not playing for four years,” he said. “I did what I needed to do during the war and came back and played again from 1946-48, but I do regret that I wasn’t able to continue playing the whole time. I think I could have made it to the majors.”
About two years before enlisting in the Coast Guard, Sarros did have his meeting with Ruth.
“He stopped by while some of us we’re practicing,” Sarros said. “I shook his hand and played catch with him. I started telling him how wonderful I thought it was that he had come from being an orphan and made something of himself (Ruth, actually, was not an orphan, but his parents did take him to live at a school for underprivileged boys when he was 7).”
Ruth was touched by Sarros’ comments.
“He started to cry,” Sarros said. “He was really good to all the guys, and he told me to always be good to my mother and father.”
In four seasons of minor league baseball, Sarros played in 370 games and hit .237, with 7 home runs.
Sixth-four years after hanging up his spikes, Sarros still has plenty of great memories from his days as a ball player. And he has a scrapbook filled with photographs and newspaper clippings.
“It was a great time, and it’s a great game,” Sarros said.