During World War II, Pipp worked at the Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., and then landed a job as a manufacturer's representative for the Rock ford Screw Products Corporation. Pipp sold automotive screws and bolts to companies such as Buick and Oldsmobile. He had finally found his niche.
"He was very successful," says Dorothy Gibler, Pipp's only daughter. "He was a great talker, a great salesman. He loved calling on people."
"He had a lot of energy, which is why he was a good manufacturer's rep," says Ben Pipp. "Plus, he would always have a baseball story for a buyer."
The former first baseman was in great demand as an after-dinner speaker. He had a wealth of stories and a commanding voice. (His loudness may have stemmed from the hearing loss he suffered in his right ear, due, apparently, to the Caldwell beaning.) He loved baseball, and frequently went to games in Detroit and never missed a Yankee Old-Timers' Game.
Pipp's passion for sports did not end with baseball. He was an avid golfer, playing several times a week for many years and shooting regularly in the high 70s. "He was a fast golfer," Tom Pipp says. "He was a nervous man. He once played 18 holes at the Highland Country Club [in Grand Rapids] in an hour, 41 minutes."
Pipp suffered a debilitating stroke in 1963. He died on Jan. 11, 1965, after five months in a Grand Rapids nursing home.
When he reached the safety of the clubhouse, [Keith] Hernandez saw the name "Wally Pipp " taped over his locker.
—The New York Times Sept. 18, 1986
Though Pipp has been dead for more than two decades, his legacy is very much alive. If it's not Hernandez being Pipped, it's Brenly; if it's not Brenly, it's Brown. It's one story that fits all, though it has been stretched into some strange shapes and sizes.
Ben Pipp visited his daughter Marty last year in Washington, D.C. "I was driving in traffic and all of a sudden I hear my dad's name on the air," Pipp says. "He's been dead, what, 22 years. It was a tire ad. The ad said that Wally Pipp had been going to the ballpark one day when he got a flat tire. Because he wasn't there when the game started, his manager put Lou Gehrig in the lineup, and he played twenty-one hundred or whatever straight games. And then they said that if my dad had had the right tires, he wouldn't have had a flat and he wouldn't have lost his job."
Pipp was delighted with the ad. When he told Marty, she asked whether Ben wanted to sue the tire maker for using Wally's name without the family's permission. Ben just chuckled.