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Ross T. “Brud” Passineau

Man wearing suit and light shirt and tie

Ross T. “Brud” Passineau

One of only a handful of South High graduates to play professional baseball, Ross T. “Brud” Passineau ’43 was a four-sport standout for the Bulldogs who went on to serve his country in World War II before graduating from Ithaca College. A measure of Ross’s athletic prowess is this fact: He was a member of the inaugural class of the Ithaca College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1969, and is thought to be the only student-athlete in the history of that school to letter in four sports. He was also inducted into the Heritage Hall Sports Hall of Fame in Glens Falls in 1996.

At South High, Ross was third in his class and voted outstanding athlete by his classmates. He played basketball, baseball and football and ran track, and was a member of the 1942 “Hatchmen” football team that went undefeated under Coach Pete Hatch. “That was the only undefeated team I ever played on. What a thrill that was.”

Former South High wrestling and baseball coach Andy McGuffin, a Glens Falls graduate who competed against him, said “Ross Passineau was the best athlete South High ever had. He is by far the best athlete that ever came through there.”

Selected for U.S. Navy Officers Training in 1943, he attended Union College, where he played varsity basketball, and then went on to Stevens Tech in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he played basketball and baseball. He then was commissioned as an Ensign and served aboard the USS Marshall, a destroyer, and the USS Jesse Rutherford, a destroyer escort, before being honorably discharged in 1946. He stayed in the Naval Reserve and was eventually commissioned as a Lieutenant J.G.

In the summer of 1946, he said, “I got a call from Ebba St. Claire up in Whitehall who asked me to play on a summer league team in Rutland, so I did. What a team we had. All the best college players played in that league. We played against Robin Roberts,” who later went on to a Hall of Fame major-league pitching career.

That fall, Passineau returned to Stevens Tech, but then ended up at Ithaca College in 1947, graduating in 1950.

Already a star in football, baseball and basketball, Passineau said the track and field coach asked him to run the 100-yard dash and do the broad jump in a track meet in the spring of 1950 on the same day the baseball team was playing St. Bonaventure. In Ithaca’s 15-3 win over the Bonnies, Passineau went four-for-six with a double, a two-run home run and two stolen bases.

After the game, still in his baseball uniform, he competed in the broad jump, won the event and set the school record of 21-feet, 5-3/4 inches, which stood for many years.

“That’s how I got my fourth letter,” he said, smiling.

After graduating from Ithaca in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, he signed a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was an infielder in the Pirates’ organization for four years, finishing his career in Triple-A with Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. In pro baseball, he played with Danny Murtaugh, Bob Skinner (whose son, Joel, played for the Glens Falls White Sox in the 1980s) and Gene Freese, and became lifelong friends with Pete Peterson, who went on to become general manager of the Pirates when they won the World Series in 1979.

In 1951, when he was contemplating leaving baseball to take a coaching and teaching job locally, Ross sent a letter to Branch Rickey, asking him for advice. Mr. Rickey, best known for signing Jackie Robinson and breaking the color barrier in major-league baseball, wrote him a personal and touching four-page letter where he advised Passineau to continue to follow his dream of playing in the major leagues.

In 1952, Ross married A.J. Dewey of Hudson Falls, a teacher at the old Spring Street School. Together they had four children: Tom, Mike, Susan and David, along with three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, “with another one on the way,” Ross said in July. Mrs. Passineau passed away in 1992.

After retiring from baseball, Ross was an agent with Berkshire Life Insurance Company for 55 years, earning the designation of Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant. A longtime member of Pinehaven Country Club in Guilderland, N.Y., Ross has recorded five holes-in-one and twice won the senior club championship. He is very proud of the fact that he is the only member of Pinehaven to record two holes-in-one on the challenging 236-yard 11th hole, and also of a double-eagle on the par-5 15th hole. In 1969, he played 36 holes at Pinehaven with Mickey Rooney and recalled, “I took him for $20!”

Still active at 86, Ross plays golf three or four times a week.

“You know, when I think back on my life, I’ve had so many nice things happen to me,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”