In early November this year an article appeared in the Eastwick Press about the dedication of a new athletic field in Berlin, New York, honoring Elroy Leon Face, a Stephentown native best known for his remarkable career as a professional baseball player. His career as a relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates is legendary.
Elroy Face, better known as Roy, was born February 20, 1928 in Stephentown, New York. Sometime in the early 1930s, he crossed paths with Eldress Sarah Collins, a Shaker known for her skilled and tenacious work in webbing Shaker chairs and braiding rugs at the South Family.
Roy’s father, Joseph Face, Sr., and his mother, Bessie Rose Face, operated a boarding house owned by the Faith Knitting Mills in Averill Park, NY. Roy played baseball at Averill Park High School. Prior to this, however, Joseph worked for the Shakers at the South Family at Mount Lebanon taking care of their cows and horses. It was this work that led to the photograph shown here. The image, taken in the South Family chair showroom, shows Roy and his older brother Joseph Jr. In recent correspondence with Roy, he confirmed that he is the young boy in the photograph by answering, “It’s true!”
After he finished high school, Roy served in the Army from 1946 to 1947. When he returned from service he was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies. After two successful seasons with their farm team, he was not, however, given a spot in the majors. He was drafted in 1951 by the Brooklyn Dodgers and in 1952 by the Pittsburg Pirates. His first trip to the mound in a major league game was in April 1953 and by 1956 he had become a force to be reckoned with when he set a record for pitching 68 games in a single season. He became best known as a relief pitcher and the master of the “forkball.” He was so effective with that pitch that home run master Hank Aaron said that “he hated to try to hit Face and that forkball.” In 1959 Roy Face posted a season of eighteen wins with only one loss for a record .947 season winning percentage – a record for relief pitchers that still holds. In 1959, 196-, and 1961, he played in the annual All-Star game and was a World Series champion in 1960. In all he played seventeen seasons – fifteen for the Pirates and one each for the Detroit Tigers and the Montreal Expos. For aficionados – his career stats are: career wins: 104; career losses: 95; era: 3.48; strikeouts: 877; saves: 193.
Roy now lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where from 1994-2012 he supported the Elroy Face Forkball Golf Tournament and raised over a half-million dollars for the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.