Albie Pearson - 'Littlest Angel' now has huge impact on boys' lives
As one of the shortest players in the history of Major League Baseball,
Albie Pearson says he was never booed.
Not even on the road.
"I was the guy-who-never-made-it's hero," says Pearson, who stood 5 feet 5 and weighed 140 pounds. "The blue-collar guy who made a couple hundred bucks a week would always root for me."
Imagine, then, how fans might honor him today because Pearson, 74, is still leaving an outsized mark, still making a contribution worthy of admiration and applause.
"The Littlest Angel," as the former outfielder was known when he played for Gene Autry's expansion Angels from 1961 to 1966, is the founder of
Father's Heart Ranch in Desert Hot Springs, an 11-acre home for abused, neglected and abandoned boys.
These are kids, ages 6 to 12, whose lives have been torn apart so horribly, Pearson says, that it's almost unimaginable.
Pearson, an ordained minister, offers comfort and hope.
"We saw a tremendous need with these little guys," he says during an interview at the ranch, voice cracking and eyes welling. "We teach them that they're not a piece of meat, that they were created and there's a plan for every one of them."
Looking up, he smiles.
"They respond to love," he says.
Helen and Albie Pearson, Founders
Pearson and his wife, Helen, married 55 years and high school sweethearts before that, have five grown daughters of their own, 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
But that didn't stop them from emptying their wallets 12 years ago, selling their home on a golf course and plunking down $200,000 to buy a dusty parcel in "no man's land," as Pearson describes the out-of-the-way site where dorms and a dining hall were later built.
For 16 months, with nowhere else to go, the couple lived there -- until a daughter and son-in-law bought them a place to live at PGA West, the same course where they'd lived previously.
"There was no other way to buy it," Pearson says of the ranch site. "It's hard to explain -- I call it a God thing -- but we had this desire to put our hand to something for the kids. . . .
"We came over here . . . and when we walked on to the property, I said to my wife, 'This is what God wanted.' "