When you talk to area baseball old-timers about Jack Sloey, there's one common description from former teammates and opponents: He was a hard-nosed player and a competitor.
Sloey, who passed away recently at the age of 83, was a standout in the early days of the George B. Kelley Amateur Baseball Federation and, after a stint in the U.S. Navy and a couple years of pro ball, spent several seasons in the Altoona Greater City League as well as other semi-pro leagues in the area.
Sloey grew up in the Fairview section of Altoona and was the catcher for the 11th Ward team which won the Kelley Federation's first championship in 1948. Some of his teammates included Gene Bates, Bill Crownover, Bob Donaldson and Tip Clouser.
According to the Altoona Scrapbook of Baseball Memories Circa 1900 to 1960, written by Herman R. Nagle, Sloey was urged by former major leaguer Tommy Irwin to sign a pro contract with Reidsville, N.C.. He later played in the Coastal Plane League and his contract was purchased by the Durham Bulls.,
While in the Navy, Sloey played on a Bainbridge, Md., military team and competed against big leaguers Willie Mays, Dick Groat and Johnny Antonelli, among others.
After the service, Sloey returned to Altoona and played in the City League, playing for Fairview, Juniata, PNA, Apprentices and Tyrone.
"Jack always showed up to play, compete and win," said Dick Nedimyer, who was both a teammate and opponent of Sloey for many years in the City League. "I think his uniform was dirty before the game and I think he must have worn his hat to bed, that's how much he loved to play."
Nedimyer noted that Sloey would play any place, "he just wanted his name in the lineup."
Nedimyer also recalled that Sloey loved to break up double plays, a fact that didn't escape former City League infielder Charley Hess.
"My first game in the City League I played for Juniata," Hess said. "Jesse Campbell and I were the middle infielders and Jesse told me before the game that if he [Sloey] comes into second on a double play 'you better get out of the way.'
"Jack and I later were teammates," Hess said, "and he was a great guy to play with. He knew the game and studied it. He played third base at the time and he would always talk to me and inspire me. He was always positive and wasn't afraid to speak his mind. He was a real good teammate."
According to City League records, kept by the Frank Eby, Sloey was Fairview's top hitter (.304) in 1951 and batted .358 in both 1954 and 1955, .351 in 1956, .327 in 1960 and .340 in 1963. He led the league in RBIs (28) in 1963 and shared the lead in doubles (eight) with Jack Morgan . Bob Nassif also played against Sloey in the City League in the early 1960s.
"I played against him early in my career," Nassif recalled. "He was hard-nosed and played the game in the right way. I enjoyed playing against him.
"When I was playing third, I cringed whenever he came to the plate," Nassif said. "He and Sam Miller were dead pull hitters and I hated to see them bat.
"Jack was a class guy," Nassif added. "He was a gentleman with his teammates and with others."
Sloey, who is survived by his wife, Dolores, and sons Doug and Jeff, volunteered for several organizations and took a leadership role in the Blair County Old-timers picnic, which is held each summer at DelGrosso's Park.