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Canyon Lake resident, former MLB player Paul Pettit passes away at 88

Paul Pettit reunites with other former Major League Baseball players who reside in Canyon Lake. Pictured, from left, are Paul Pettit, Jerry Wood, Edgar Carroll, Jim Merritt, Jerry Johnson, Rick Greene, Greg Harris, and Bobby Kielty. Photo by Canyon Lake Insider.

Canyon Lake resident and former Major League Baseball player Paul Pettit, 88, passed away at his home in Canyon Lake on September 24.

Paul Pettit was born and raised in Los Angeles. The baseball phenom attended Narbonne High School in Harbor City. From 1947 to 1949, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound left-handed pitcher struck out 945 batters in 549 innings and pitched six no-hitters, three of them in a row. In one 12-inning game, Pettit struck out 27 batters. He became known as “The Wizard of Whiff.”

In 1950, Pettit signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates worth $100,000. He is acknowledged as the first $100,000 “Bonus Baby” in Major League Baseball history.

Two weeks after his signing, Pettit was in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform for the first time. He made his professional debut, starting against Chattanooga, on April 23, 1950.

In 1952, Pettit played for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. He returned to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953.

Pettitt’s arm injury became impossible to ignore at the start of the 1954 season. He was eventually forced to give up pitching and was sent down to the Salinas Packers of the California League, where he played outfield.

In 1955, Pettit played for the Azules de Veracruz of the Mexican League. He hit .382.

In 1957, Pettit returned to the Hollywood Stars. He won 15 games and helped Hollywood win the PCL pennant.

By 1958, Pettit’s arm injury had become so bad that he was moved to first base. He retired in 1961.

Pettit attended Cal State Long Beach during his baseball career. By the time he stopped playing baseball, Pettit had earned a degree in physical education. He began teaching and coaching baseball in 1962.

In 1968, Pettit managed the minor league Dubuque Royals. At the end of the season, Pettit opted to return to teaching and coaching at the high school level.

Pettit was married to his high school sweetheart, Shirley Jennings, for 65 years. They have six children. Two of their sons, Mark and Tim, played briefly in the minor leagues. Shirley passed away in 2016. In 2017, Pettit relocated from Hemet to Canyon Lake when he married Sally Mitten.

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Editor, The Canyon Lake Chamber of Commerce would like to thank our sponsors, our board of directors, the event volunteers, the City of Canyon Lake, and the Canyon Lake Property