Cy Greenlaw Old-Timers Salute Award
Thanks in large part to World War II, Cy Greenlaw never made it to the major leagues - or the Pacific Coast League, for that matter - but the rangy left-handed pitcher from Kapowsin occupies a special place in local baseball lore.
Greenlaw, who made a name for himself in the old Tacoma City League and played nine seasons in the minor leagues, died April 5th, 2007 at the Franke Tobey Jones Retirement Estates, at the age of 90. He had lived the past 15 years with his sister, Julie Revett, in Tacoma's North End.
Born Nov. 11, 1916 in Tacoma, Greenlaw grew up in the country and was a dominating three-sport star at Kapowsin High School, a fullback in football, center in basketball and baseball pitcher. He even ran a 10-flat 100-yard dash for the track team.
How good was Greenlaw as a pitcher? In 1935 he was a member of the 1935 City League champion Superior Dairy team coached by Ocky Haughland. In 1937, before turning pro, Greenlaw and a star-studded roster for Johnson Paint of Tacoma earned a trip to the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kan. That semipro outfit was managed by John Heinrick and included two other pitchers destined for major league stardom - Fred Hutchinson and Earl Johnson.
But it was the raw-boned Greenlaw, and not Hutchinson or Johnson, who grabbed the attention of scouts as a flame-throwing lefty. Others on the first team from Tacoma to reach a national tournament included Hal Lee, Joe Salatino, Frank Ruffo, Jim Ennis, Rudy Tollefson and Erling Tollefson.
The team finished fifth, and Greenlaw returned to his college pursuits, obtaining a degree from St. Mary's in 1939. Greenlaw and Johnson both pitched for the Gaels, and Greenlaw once struck out 17 in a game against UCLA. He was inducted into the St Mary's College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1974.
A decorated veteran of the Army Air Corps, Greenlaw played for the Fort Lewis Warriors in 1942, when they were 39-6, and also played for championship teams while based in England in 1943 and '44.
After the war ended, he joined the Tacoma Tigers of the Class B WIL and was an 18-game winner in 1946, tossing a 3-0 seven-inning no-hitter against the Yakima Stars. In fact, Greenlaw is one of only 14 pitchers to ever throw a no-hitter in local professional baseball history. But his career was on the decline. After three seasons with Tacoma, he played for Wenatchee in 1949 and with the Tri-City Braves in 1950 and 1951 before retiring from baseball.
After leaving the game, Greenlaw joined the sheet metal workers union and worked for a local heating contractor.
"He was truly a prince of a guy, and one of Tacoma's all-time greats," said Marc Blau, who wrote the book Playgrounds To The Pros: An Illustrated History of Sports in Tacoma-Pierce County. "He was so classy on and off the field. He didn't like the attention focused on him. When we saluted Cy at an oldtimers function, I had to trick him into coming because he thought I might ask him to say something."
Greenlaw began his professional career in 1939, with Canton, Ohio, of the Class C Mid-Atlantic League. He played with Rocky Mount (N.C.) in the Class B Piedmont League in 1940, and Vancouver, B.C., in the Western International League before the he joined the U.S. Army in 1941.
At his time of death, survivors included his former wife, Rosemary W. Greenlaw of Kansas City, Kan.; his sister and three children – Rosemary B. Greenlaw of San Jose, Calif.; Erica Reichel of Germany and Cybelle Greenlaw of Malawi.