From the Archives: William A. Altemeier, MD Collection Discovery

Dr. Altemeier PaintingWe received an addition to the William A. Altemeier, MD collection from Dr. Altemeier’s son, William Altemeier III, MD, at the beginning of February. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Dr. Altemeier is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Dr. Altemeier became the Christian R. Holmes Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1952 and served in that position for twenty-six years. His surgical expertise and research led to hundreds of publications on surgical infections and he counted the over one-hundred chief residents which he trained during his tenure with UC as his greatest contribution to medicine.

While many of us remember Dr. Altemeier’s stellar reputation as an educator and a surgeon, we don’t always think of another of his interests – baseball. Included among the items in the recent donation was a Goldman brand baseball score book dating from the mid-1920s. It appears to be a league of local business teams, for which Dr. Altemeier played catcher. These included Fischer Radio and City Transit (see score page below).

Goldman Official Base Ball Score Book Front Cover

In speaking first with Dr. Altemeier’s son, William, and then receiving responses from his brother George and sister Ann, we found that all three siblings remembered that Altemeier had several crooked fingers from fractures that stemmed from catching, which didn’t slow him down as a surgeon.

Dr.  Altemeier's Baseball Team

A team on which Dr. Altemeier played ca. 1930

They also remember that he was offered a position in the minor leagues, seriously considered taking it, but eventually turned it down to go to medical school. The siblings’ remembrances of their father are confirmed by an interview conducted with Dr. Altemeier on June 6, 1983 with fellow doctors Benjamin Felson, MD and Charles M. Barrett, MD serving as the interviewers. An excerpt of the interview below sheds some more light on the remembrances of the Altemeier siblings:

From left to right: Charles M. Barrett, MD, Benjamin Felson, MD, William Altemeier, MD

From left to right:
Charles M. Barrett, MD,
Benjamin Felson, MD,
William Altemeier, MD

Felson:   I like to start when things were young, you see. Here you were a baseball player and a catcher. How in the world did you keep from ruining your surgical career? Did that ever bother you or worry you…?

Altemeier:   Well, as you know, at the time, I had no idea I was going to be anything but a practicing physician. Even in medical school, I was going to be a bacteriologist. It was Dr. Reid who talked me into going into surgery half way into my internship. The reason he talked me into going into surgery was that he was a catcher for the University of Virginia. He used to watch the ball games over at UC. That and research, those were the two reasons [I became a surgeon].

F:  As far as baseball is concerned, you were supposed to be pretty good. Somebody even said you had a professional offer. Is that true or something you made up??

A: Made up? (laughs)  I was scouted by Saint Louis in about 1930-1931. There were offers made and I considered it.

F:  Do you ever have any regrets?

A: Often

F:  You should have been a baseball player?

A: No….but…there’s an appeal to the game and particularly to being a catcher as you know. You’re in on every play and you’re trying to outwit people. It was good practice for when I was a faculty member.

Dr. Altemeier

Dr. Altemeier


If you are interested in viewing this collection or receiving a copy of the Felson/Barrett interview of Dr. Altemeier, please contact Veronica Buchanan, Archivist, Winkler Center at (513)558-5120.


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