General Mills had its own All-Star ballplayer
A baseball exploded off his bat and sizzled from his hand. Earl Battey packed a thunderous combination of offense and defense as a four time All-Star baseball player for the Minnesota Twins.
He packed more than that when he worked for General Mills.
An articulate leader, Battey could move the needle on the charisma meter with engaging stories in both English and Spanish. He was bilingual as a result of playing with Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians on his first youth baseball team.
But how did arguably baseball’s best catcher in the early 1960s find himself making speeches and public appearances for a food company?
Out of high school in 1953 Battey, the oldest of 10 kids, signed a contract with the Chicago White Sox for what would be about $35,000 today. His mother was ill and the family needed money. That ended Battey’s journalism aspirations. Earl Sr., a machinist, would have to pay for that schooling. A baseball career would pay the family.
Battey entered his prime shortly after being traded to the franchise that became the Minnesota Twins. He was an All-Star in ’62, ’63, ’65 and ’66.
Despite that, his baseball salary peaked at just under $40,000 a year in 1966. A player with Battey’s talents today would earn $15 million a year.
So instead of building a mansion in a warm climate Battey became a year-round Minnesotan and for at least three years starting in 1963, according to Minnesota Twins’ information, representing Big G in “the promotion of sports and physical fitness activities,” read a General Mills news release.
You could say baseball just got in the way a bit, because Battey was on a career path little different than most people until his 6 foot 1, 225 pound slow-moving train of a body took him into sports.
He was eloquent, and had his own radio show when he played for the Washington Senators before the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961. He joined Consolidated Edison after he retired from baseball in 1967 and helped run the power company’s baseball community relations program in New York.
In 1980 at age 45, he enrolled at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, finished his undergraduate degree in fewer than three years, then taught high school and coached baseball.
In addition to his four All-Star appearances, Battey was the catcher on the Twins’ first World Series team in 1965. The 102 wins that season are still a franchise record. Battey won two Gold Gloves for his defensive prowess and twice finished in the top 10 of Most Valuable Player award voting.
Nearly 50 years after his retirement, Battey still holds the career record for home runs by a Minnesota Twins’ catcher.
At 68, Battey died of cancer in 2003.
Editor’s note: The General Mills Archives provided information and images for this post. You can learn more about our past on GeneralMills.com. Have a question about General Mills’ history? Send our Archives team an email.