Red Rolfe Makes His Major-League Debut for the Yankees

Robert "Red" Rolfe, Dartmouth Class of 1931, played ten seasons with the New York Yankees and was his alma mater's athletic director from 1954 to 1967.

The following article by Ruel Colby '27 appeared in the June 1934 issue of Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.

To the current generation of Dartmouth undergraduates Robert Abial Rolfe '31 may be only a myth, his baseball exploits just another of those legends that abound in the hinterlands of Hanover.

But to hundreds of Dartmouth alumni scattered in banking houses, business offices, newsrooms, law offices, classrooms and cubicles of commerce along the American League front, Red Rolfe, $11,000 third baseman of the New York Yankees, is a happy excuse to sneak away from the daily grind whenever the Ruppert Rifles appear in the local ballpark. 

No matter by what tags the sportswriters from Florida to Maine may distinguish him, Rolfe will ever remain "that ex-Dartmouth star to Dartmouth folks the world over, just as his home-town admirers in Penacook, N.H., always think of him as "Bobby"

And to us provincial folk who still carve out a humble living within hailing distance of Dave Camerer's "low, over-hanging hills of Hanover," Rolfe will remain our proud Yankee contribution to a "Yankee" ball club. A ball club, incidentally, that comes up confidently to the defense of a world's championship this summer.

The rusty-thatched star of the world's champion Yankees was a campus hero in the land of the Wah-Hoo-Wahs only six short years ago. Today he is generally regarded as the American League's outstanding third-sacker. The story of that transition reads like a Horatio Alger tale. 

Some day some more gifted chronicler of Dartmouth lore might well spin this yarn under the caption: "Up From the Soil." For the beginnings of Rolfe's career go back to sandlot days amid the rustic simplicity and charm of a little New Hampshire village. As a red-headed tyke of a shortstop with the then-famous "Bog Pirates" of Penacook, peaceful suburb of our Granite State Capitol, Rolfe first started forming the habit of success by practicing long hours alone, tossing a ball against the clapboards of his home. From ball playing antics in his grandfather's cow pasture, Rolfe travelled a long, straight road to national fame by way of Penacook High, Exeter Academy, Dartmouth College, Albany in the old Eastern League, Newark in the International loop and, finally, the New York Yankees, present kingpins of the major leagues. 

Sid Hazelton, who has always insisted that he "took Rolfe already well-schooled by Murch at Exeter and was careful not to do anything with him that Jeff Tesreau didn't like," was one of the first to recognize the youngster's unusual talents. There is a hitherto unpublished anecdote to the effect that one day back '29 when Sid had invaded Exeter with his Dartmouth freshman nine, Simeon Murch asked him, "What kind of ball club have you brought down for us today?" Sid joking replied, "I've got eight damn good tourists and one ball player!"

That "one good ball player," we might remind Sid, at this time, has turned into quite a tourist himself.

"The best training I could have had for what turned out to be my future," Rolfe told me just before his departure for the south this spring, "I received under Sid and Jeff. With spring weather in Hanover what it is and the playing season so short, Tesreau has always done a wonderful job. I'd rate him one of the smartest men in his business, and his business has been a good one for me."

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Photo caption: Dartmouth Baseball Team, 1931. Rolfe, the team's captain, is pictured in the center of the first row. Photo courtesy of the Dartmouth Library.