Name: Jackie Jensen, Famous Baseball Player
Image Number: BPLAD019_JackieJensen
Comments: A recent biography of Jackie Jensen, baseball star of the 1950's, is entitled The Golden Boy and authored by George Martin. Not only was Jackie handsome and fair-haired, but he was a fantastic athlete, playing both football and baseball in high school and college, but eventually going to the major leagues with the New York Yankees. There he was awed to be on a team with his idol, Joe Dimaggio. Jackie was traded to the Senators, and Casey was to say later, "Trading Jackie Jensen was the biggest mistake of my life." Jackie eventually wound up with the Boston Red Sox and played for them as a right fielder for nine years, 1953-1961. When baseball began to be played on a more national scale, teams traveled more and more by air, and Jackie's terror of flying forced him into early retirement. His widow, Katharine, says the fear was triggered by an early experience of a near-collision in mid-air. Looking out the window, he had seen the other plane approaching, avoiding a crash only at the last minute.
Jackie married young in 1949 to the glamorous Olympic swimmer, Zoe Ann Olsen, with whom he had three children. After retiring from baseball in January 1960, he worked at various jobs--coaching, radio announcing--but found that none of these matched the income he had while an active player. His marriage fell apart.
Jackie married again in 1965, and with his new wife, Katharine, visited central Virginia where she had grown up. She had attended Lane High School, and her mother still lived in Charlottesville. Jackie was attracted by the rural charm and relative peace of Fluvanna County, and in 1977, they bought Twelve Oaks, a house once owned and remodeled by Virginia Moore. Here they raised Christmas trees, and Jackie landed his favorite job of all time, coaching baseball at Fork Union Military Academy. He had coached the University of California team from 1973 to 1977, and commented on how much he appreciated the more disciplined and enthusiastic approach of FUMA players. Jackie died of a massive heart attack in 1982. He was just 55 years old.
In Scottsville, Jackie liked to hang out at Lumpkins, chatting with the regulars there. Asked what I should say about her late husband, Katharine said, "He was a delightful person, with a great sense of humor. He loved to read and was interested in everything. He was so happy on the farm, and just loved coaching at Fork Union."
Thanks to Mario Kuhar, who alerted me to the local presence of Jackie Jensen, and to Kartharine Jensen, for sharing her memories of her late husband.
Evelyn Edson, President
Some additional notes from local people on their remembrances of Jackie Jensen:
Chris Wade: I enjoyed this article, which brought back memories of my few, brief encounters with Jackie, or Jack as Katharine called him. He bought something at True Value early on, and I was at the register when he handed me his credit card with the name, "Jack E. Jensen" on it. I reacted as any fan-boy would, I guess. guess. "THE Jackie Jensen?" He was most gracious. Some months later, he came into the store, barrel chest encased in a pink Rose Milk T-shirt. Of course, I had to comment on that, and he replied, "A friend of mine owns the company and sent me the shirt." Always affable and never aloof. Chris
Bruce Dorrier: Thanks for the article on Jackie Jensen. I remember when he was in Fluvanna County, and while he was a big deal, he never acted that way. He was humble and approachable. By the way, he was Most Valuable Player in the American League in 1958 when he was in Boston. This is a huge honor and recognition to us sports fans! Keep up the good work, Evelym, as your email epistles are always interesting and fun to read!" Bruce
Katharine Jensen: Dear Evelyn - thank you for sending the nice article you wrote about Jack. I enjoyed our chat, and am sorry we never met while I lived there. Wishing you a happy Christmas holiday! Katharine Jensen
Jackie Jensen dies
Standard-Speaker, Hazelton, Pennsylvania, 15 July 1982, p. 31
SCOTTSViLLE, VA (AP) - Jackie Jensen, an American League All-Star and Most Valuable Player in the 1950's, died early Wednesday (14 July 1982) of a heart attack. He was 55.
Katharine Jensen said her husband died at 2 a.m. while enroute to the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville.
Jensen had complained of feeling ill Tuesday night after returning from a summer baseball camp he operates at nearby Fork Union Military Academy.
He was scheduled to play Monday in an old-timers game at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Jensen played 12 years in the majors before retiring in 1961 because of his aversion to flying. He hit .286, smashed a career-high 35 home runs and drove in a league-leading 122 runs in 1958, his MVP year with the Boston Red Sox.
He was a member of the AL All-Star team in 1953, 1955, and 1958.
Jensen signed with the New York Yankees in 1949 and played with the Yankees in the 1950 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. He was traded to the Washington Senators in 1952 and went to the Red Sox in 1954.
Jensen had a lifetime .279 average, hit 199 homers, drove in 829 runs, and stole 143 bases.
On March 26, 1969, Jensen suffered a heart attack during a practice session while coaching at the University of Nevada and was hospitalized for 2 1/2 weeks. The attack came a year after his divorce from Zoe Ann Olsen, a former diving champion and the mother of three of his children.
Jensen was an All-American fullback at the University of California at Berkley, but passed up his senior year to join pro baseball in 1949 with Oakland of the Pacific Coast League. Later that year he signed with the Yankees.
He last coached college baseball at the University of California in the mid-1970s.
A native of San Francisco, Jensen had operated a Christmas Tree farm here for several years before his retirement.
He is survived by Katharine, his wife; two sons, John and Jay, both of Reno, Nev.; a daughter, Jan Knapp of Carson City, Nev.; and a stepdaughter, Kay Tinsley Place of Washington, D.C.
Jack E. Jensen is buried in Amherst Cemetery, Amherst, Virginia.
Image Located On: Boston Public Library Arts Department, Photographer Leslie Jones
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