A full house of family, friends and admirers celebrated the rich, full life of Allie Pierce Reynolds at the First Presbyterian Church on Friday morning.
Reynolds, who was nicknamed the Superchief while throwing high, hard fastballs for the New York Yankees more than 40 years ago, died late Monday night at St. Anthony Hospital. He was 77 years old, and was laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery after American Indian services befitting his Creek heritage.
Numerous sports, civic and Indian leaders were on hand to pay final respects to one of Oklahoma's most respected native sons.
"Allie Reynolds was a great athlete, a great family man, a great civic leader, and I was privileged to be his teammate for eight years," said Dr. Bobby Brown, a former Yankee third baseman who delivered one of two eulogies. "I was even more privileged to be his friend for 47 years. Hail to the Chief. " De Vier Pierson, a Washington, D.C., attorney related by marriage, compared Reynolds to an eagle in the second eulogy.
"There is a special place in the traditions of the American Indian for the eagle," he said. "The eagle is a proud bird, it soars higher and higher in the sky until it is no longer visible to the naked eye, and then is closer to its creator. Allie Reynolds is an eagle. " Brown, the former American League president, said it was the New York City writers who tagged Reynolds as the Superchief while he was winning 131 games in eight Yankee seasons.
"I suppose it was in part due to his Indian heritage," he said.
"But for some of you too young to remember, the Santa Fe Railroad at that time had a crack train (call the Superchief) that ran from California to Chicago, and it was known for its elegance, its power and its speed.
"We always felt the name applied to Allie for the same reasons. " Brown said the name wasn't used by the Yankees, however.
"When we talked with him, we called him Allie," he said. "But when he wasn't in the room, he was referred to as the Chief, because we felt he was the one at the top, the real leader. " Pierson said Reynolds was not always comfortable with the nickname.
"He knew chief was a sacred title, not conferred lightly, and he was not officially the chief of any Indian nation," he said. "But all American Indians were proud to call him Chief, because he was a great ambassador of American Indian values, and he had the respect and admiration of all tribes and all nations.
"Allie told his family that if he had to choose, he'd rather be remembered for his help to the American Indians than for all of his achievements in baseball. " Reynolds was president of the American Indian Hall of Fame in Anadarko since 1978, president of the Center of the American Indian in Oklahoma City since 1984 and then founding president of Red Earth, Inc. He served on the Creek Gaming Council and was active in UNITY (United Native Indian Tribal Youth).
There were two large portraits of Reynolds flanking his casket during Friday's services, one with him in Yankee pinstripes and the other in full Indian headress. Also displayed prominently was a large, porcelain kettle, which he used for carrying water to all the coffee pots at May Ave. Methodist Church each Sunday morning.
"He was, in the best sense of the word, a common man," said Pierson.
Reynolds is a member of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, but not the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Unfortunately, his teammates don't have a vote.
"Allie was the toughest pitcher against tough teams, against tough opposing pitchers, in close games, that you could ever imagine," said Brown. "In the '49 World Series against Brooklyn, he shut out the Dodgers 1-0 on two hits. In Game 4, he came in to relieve and got the last 10 men out to end the game.
"So he pitched 121/3 innings against that great team (Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, etc.) and gave them two hits and no runs. Four of those players are now in the Hall of Fame. " BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 597444