Cobb Honors Harry Danning

Cobb is generously supported by the Harry Danning Foundation in honor of New York Giants catcher Harry “The Horse” Danning (1911-2004).

Before World War II, minorities in sports were a rarity especially in America’s favorite pastime—baseball. So what could baseball legends Ty Cobb, a builder of these barriers and Harry Danning, who helped break them down, possibly have in common? Both men loved the game of baseball. Cobb is being dedicated to the memory of Harry Danning, a Jewish catcher for the New York Giants from 1931 to 1942, for his great love of the game and the enduring spirit of American baseball.  

For 25 years, the Valparaiso Parks Department honored Danning, Valparaiso’s adopted son, with an annual softball tournament in his name made possible by donations from friends and family. In 2014, the Parks Department ended that tradition citing a lack of interest in baseball. Rather than allowing the spirit of baseball to strike out, his daughter, Viktoria Voller McAuliffe, worked with Chicago Street to bring this production of Cobb to the community. 

Danning moved from California to Chesterton in 1976 when he retired from the Metropolitan Insurance Company. After he was widowed, he  joined  his only  daughter, Viktoria and her husband, Lot Voller, in Valparaiso. He enjoyed the community and found purpose in volunteering with the Parks Department, the American Cancer Society, and the Valparaiso Chamber’s Senior Core of Retired Executives. 

He was most proud of his grandkids, Randy, Dee Dee, and Cynthia Voller, who were active in sports, music, and theatre. Through the years, Grandpa Harry never missed a Chicago Street Theatre production when his grand kids were performing or his daughter was involved back stage. “Theatre, like baseball, is about bringing the community together in an optimistic way, and I like that,” Danning always said.  

Danning passed away at the Valparaiso VNA Hospice on November 29, 2004. At that time, he was the last surviving member of the fabled New York Giants baseball teams of the 1930’s. This notoriety was the inspiration for a short 17-minute film, “The Last Giant,” directed by Seth Swirsky. The 2007 film was a finalist in the Washington D.C. Independent Film Festival and the National Baseball Hall
of Fame and Museum Film Festival. 

Harry “The Horse” Danning, former New York Giants star catcher during the 1930’s and 1940’s, was born the third of six children to immigrant parents in Los Angeles on September 6, 1911. During his baseball career, “The Horse” played in four all-star games with and against such notables as Carl Hubbell, Gabby Hartnett, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenburg, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams, just to mention a few.  

–Viktoria Danning McAuliffe 

Danning’s other career highlights include: 

  • Named best catcher in the National League in 1939 and best catcher in baseball in 1940
  • Danning was catching when Lou Gehrig hit his last World Series home run, Joe DiMaggio hit his first World Series home run, and Ted Williams hit his famous game winner in the 1941 All Star Game.
  • The record for hitting five homeruns in one inning still stands. On June 6, 1939, five Giants—catcher Harry Danning, right fielder Joe Moore, center fielder Frank Demare, second baseman Burgess Whitehead, and pitcher Manny Salvo—all hit home runs in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Selected for the 1938 and 1939 All-Star Teams
  • Inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Also inducted are Sandy Koufax (MLB), Ed Sabol (NFL), “Red” Auerbach and David Stern (NBA), and Mark Spitz (Olympian)