Anyone who knows Don Demeter will be thrilled that he’s going into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. Even if they don’t know anything about Demeter’s baseball career.
I wrote a story in 1996 about Todd Demeter, Don’s son, who was dying of cancer. Todd had been a high school star at U.S. Grant and a first-round draft pick of the New York Yankees. Todd’s baseball career never rose above AA.
Two weeks before he died, Todd Demeter told me the call to fatherhood was greater than the call to baseball. Todd eventually had five children; his oldest was just a baby when Todd left baseball.
“I feel I had the greatest example anybody ever had,” Todd said. “My dad is still my hero.”
Don Demeter, now a Baptist minister, is a hero and mentor to many. He, too, left baseball because of his family. Almost 30 years after Don retired from the major leagues, his son remembered the words his dad used to explain the reason.
“He saw two boys who needed a father,” Todd said.
But for the record, Demeter was an excellent ballplayer. A star at Capitol Hill High School who signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953, reached the Dodgers by 1956 and was in the big leagues to stay by 1958.
In 11 major league seasons, Demeter hit 163 home runs, including four straight years of at least 20. With the Phillies in 1962 and 1963, Demeter received MVP votes; in ’62, he hit 29 home runs and was seventh in the National League with 107 runs batted in.
Demeter was traded to Detroit before the 1964 season, then traded at mid-season 1966 to Boston and at mid-season 1967 to Cleveland. Then with two young boys at home, he decided enough moving. Time to be a dad.
When they build a Father’s Hall of Fame, Demeter will be a first ballot inductee. For now, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame will have to do.