Frank William Gustine, a native of Hoopeston, considered an athletic prodigy at the age of 16 signed a contract with the Pittsburg Pirates manager Harold Trayanor in 1936 while still in high school. He reported to to the Hutchinson farm club, the Kansas Larks, in the spring of 1937 and received his call up to the Pittsburg Pirates in September of 1939 playing as third baseman.
In an article by the Society for American Baseball Research on Gustine, Gustine said, “Baseball had always been in my blood.”
Born in Hoopeston February 20, 1920, Gustine was the son of Harry and Zelda (Forshier) Gustine. The family, Harry, Zelda, Frankie and sister Marjorie, moved to Chicago in 1927 to find medical assistance for Marjorie for her deafness which had occurred after a case of whooping cough. Frank grew up in the Englewood area of South Chicago.
According to family, Gustine did spend summers as a young boy in Hoopeston playing baseball for the American Can Company as part of the industrial league at least until he was 12 years old.
According to Gustine’s 1949 baseball card, Gustine “batted right, throws right, height 6 foot, 185 lbs.”
“During his eleven years of baseball, Frank has played every infield position, and in 1945 helped out behind the plate for a few games. He joined Pirates at the end of 1939 season and remained with them through 1948. At end of season, he was traded to Cubs. In 1947, he led NL third baseman in putouts, assists and double plays. He appeared in All-Star games.”
Gustine, as an American League Major League Baseball player, played in three All-Star games in 1946, 1947 and 1948 as second and third baseman. By 1948, Gustine was paid $15,000, a huge salary in 1948 but not by today’s standards in which players are paid millions by baseball teams.
After the Dreyfus Family, owners of the Pirates since 1900, sold the team in 1946 to Frank McKinney, an Indianapolis banker, things changed for Gustine. In 1947, Gustine had a double hernia operation, previous injuries began to give him problems, he went into a slump and was then traded to the Chicago Cubs on December 8, 1947. Gustine struggled with the Cubs in 1949, only batting a .226 and was place on waivers. The Philadelphia Athletics claimed him briefly but then traded Gustine to the St. Louis Browns. He was on the roster of the Browns until 1950, earning his ten-year status to receive his baseball pension.
In his baseball career, Gustine had 1,214 hits, including 222 doubles and 47 triples, his best season was 1947 with career highs of .297 batting average, 183 hits, 102 runs scored and 67 runs batted in plus he was head coach for the Waynesburg College basketball team of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania through 1950 from October of each year until spring training began.
Gustine opened Gustine’s Restaurant and Bar in 1952 a few blocks from Forbes Field, decorated with Pirates memorabilia. He ran this business until 1982, was a successful real estate developer and later part owner of the Sheraton Inn at Station Square in Pittsburg and the Green Tree Holiday Inn.
Gustine married Mary Alice Gormley in November 1944. The young couple had five children. Frank Jr., Joanne, Robert, Mark and Mary Louise. Gustine died of a heart attack on April 1, 1991.
Frank William Gustine was just one of the many outstanding alumni that has been called a Cornjerker who went on to accomplish great things in life but not the last.