1944 World Series hero Sylvester “Blix” Donnelly was born in Olivia, MN on January 21, 1914. He graduated in 1932, and spent his first two years out of high school working and playing townball. He caught a break in 1934, receiving an invitation to a three-day baseball school at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis, and began his pro career the following season in Superior, WI. He was traded to Duluth for the ‘36 season where he went 11–19 with 232 strikeouts in 214 innings.
Donnelly’s minor league exploits, including a 19-K game and three no-hitters, are thoroughly laid out in Gregg Omoth’s essay in the Stew Thornley-edited Minnesotans in Baseball. Perhaps his best minor league season was 1941 when he went 28-6 with Class C Springfield, setting a Western Association record with 304 strikeouts. He also led the league in innings pitched, complete games, and wins despite being traded late in the season to Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League, where he pitched another three games.
After nine minor league seasons, Donnelly made the Cardinals out of Spring Training in 1944. He came up big for the Cards in an all-St. Louis World Series, pitching perfect eighth and ninth innings in Game 1, and holding the Browns scoreless while striking out seven in the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings of Game 2 to earn the win. The Cardinals won the Series in six games. Over 1,000 people crammed into the Olivia Armory to honor the World Series hero on October 24, 1944 at an event broadcast by WCCO’s Halsey Hall and Cedric Adams.
Donnelly went on to pitch eight seasons in the majors, including 14 appearances with the 1950 National League Champion Phillies. He passed away in 1976 at age 62.