Longtime Kennedy resident reflects on decorated athletic career
Kaintz' baseball team was featured on the front page of the Sun in 1964 for beating Newport.
By Alex Topor
Ron Kaintz, 87, is a longtime Kennedy resident and native of McKees Rocks with a history of athletic excellence that includes a stint in minor league baseball, four world titles in slow pitch softball, a hall of fame basketball officiating career and several years as a baseball scout.
Kaintz’s athletic dreams began when he was in fourth or fifth grade when he told his mother, “One day I will play professional baseball.” Kaintz would honor that statement eventually, but his journey began in 1952 as a senior at McKees Rocks High School.
The senior was a three-sport athlete at McKees Rocks and played vital positions in all three sports. Kaintz played middle linebacker for the football team, which went 7-2 that season. In five of the wins the defense, led by Kaintz, held the opponent to zero points.
After football season, Kaintz took to the hardwood as a point guard for the basketball team.
His team went 21-2 and one of his favorite sports memories came in a playoff game at Pittsburgh Field House.
McKees Rocks was down five points with about a minute remaining to West View, now North Hills High School. Two of his teammates each stole the ball and scored to bring the deficit to one point. Following another steal, Kaintz had the ball and made a miraculous shot to win the game by one point.
“A few years ago I was leaving my chiropractor and as I was going out the door a man asked if I was Ron Kaintz,” Kaintz said.
“The man told me ‘I was a little kid at the field house and remember when you made that shot over West View.’ I can’t believe there are still people that remember that moment. That means a lot to me.”
Before his successful baseball career, Ron Kaintz, number 7, played basketball for McKees Rocks High School.
After basketball, it was time for baseball, Kaintz’s best sport. McKees Rocks went 10-1 and lost in the playoffs, but he had a lot more baseball in his future. His high school career was over but his athletic career was just beginning — as Kaintz was being scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Now my athletic career at McKees Rocks was over. In my senior year we were 38-5 across all three sports with me at linebacker, point guard and shortstop,” Kaintz said.
“I’m pretty proud of that. We had some good teams.”
A day after graduation Kaintz had a workout with the Pirates at Forbes Field. The Pirates worked him out several times but didn’t offer him a contract. Kaintz also had a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals in Columbus, the location of one of the organization’s minor league teams.
The Cardinals offered Kaintz a contract later that summer, which he signed immediately.
Before Kaintz would play professional baseball just like he told his mother he would as a young boy, he joined the U.S. Army to serve his country.
Kaintz was stationed in Germany until 1955. While there, he tried out for the army league football team as a running back. Despite only practicing for three days, Kaintz got to play in a game and scored on his third play — cementing his role as the team’s lead back.
“I did some things that made people stand up and cheer that season. At our banquet, Col. Curtis told me I did a great job entertaining the troops. As I was walking back to my table everyone stood up and gave me a standing ovation,” Kaintz said. “I was the only one to get a standing ovation at the banquet. That is something special I’ve always remembered.”
Col. Curtis also connected Kaintz to a job coaching basketball for the children of military families in Frankfurt, Germany. Kaintz’s team went 9-1 in his only season as a coach in Germany before he returned home to Pittsburgh.
He was home for two weeks before leaving to begin his professional baseball career.
Kaintz’s baseball career only lasted one season, but he played with four different teams in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Kaintz played in Sanford, Fla.; Johnson City, Tenn.; Ardmore, Okla.; and Dothan, Ala., according to baseballreference.com.
“I had my moments, but I was basically a utility player. I made some mistakes though. I took a little off a throw once because my arm was tired and the runner beat the ball to first. I was cut the next morning,” Kaintz said. “When you’re a shortstop you can’t have a weak arm and to them that’s what it looked like I had.”
Following his release from the Cardinals, Kaintz worked out with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pirates. Neither team offered him a contract and his professional baseball career was over.
After the door closed on his professional career, Kaintz began to play slow pitch softball, officiate high school basketball, begin a career as a welder and start a family with his wife, Barbara.
He joined a softball team, Skip and Hogans, which turned out to be very good. The team won four ASA Men’s Slow Pitch National Tournaments in the 1960s.
Kaintz was a key part of these teams and was named to the all-world team, the tournament’s all-star team, once. The best part of Kaintz’s game was his ability in the infield.
“I could turn two as well as anybody. I could catch a ground ball and make big plays out of bad hops,” Kaintz said. “I'm told on many occasions I was the best fielder on the team. We were loaded with good fielders but the things I did with my glove and the plays I made were special. I had the utmost fun playing softball with that team.”
Beyond dominating opponents at the yearly national tournament, Skip and Hogans got to play against Eddie Feigner and the King and his Court. Feigner was famous for his four-man team that would travel the country playing softball against other teams and professional baseball players.
Feigner and the King and his Court became very popular and always drew a crowd.
Skip and Hogans played Feigner twice and won one of their matchups. Kaintz is proud of the fact that he was able to get a hit with Feigner pitching.
Feigner was known for striking out high profile players like Willie Mays and Sammy Sosa.
Kaintz eventually stopped playing slow pitch softball but continued to officiate basketball in his spare time.
He was honored in 2019 by the Pittsburgh Basketball Club by getting inducted into the hall of fame for his contributions as an official.
After Kaintz retired from his welding career and as a basketball official, he began a short career as a baseball scout for the Miami Mariners organization. He worked as an associate for several years and was offered a contract to get on the team’s payroll, but turned it down because of language in the contract.
One of the biggest names Kaintz scouted is Don Kelly, who was from Butler and played in Major League Baseball for several years. Kelly is currently bench coach for the Pirates.
Kaintz also wrote a poem, Big Mac, which is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Nowadays, Kaintz spends his days with his wife and enjoys looking back on a lifetime of memories.
“I have my moments that I cherish,” Kaintz said. “I had some great days on the ball field.”