Cleveland Indians shortstop Woodie Held dies at age 77
Courtesy of Russell
Held's power seemed contagious on July 31, 1963. He hit the first of four Indians homers in a row.
Held died Wednesday at age 77 at his Dubois, Wyo., ranch after seven months' struggle with brain cancer. His wife and high school sweetheart, Nadine, is fighting the same disease.
"Woodie was one of the nicest guys I ever played with," teammate Tito Francona Sr. said Thursday
In retirement, Held was a regular at fantasy camp for fans. Indians spokesman Bob DiBiasio called him "a fun-loving man who really looked forward to fantasy camp, not only to have fun back on the diamond but rekindle his relationships with his old teammates."
Held once gained rare notoriety for throwing a helmet that hit manager Joe Gordon. The manager barked, and the player cursed. But Held later apologized in front of the team.
He was normally easy to get along with. He'd laugh off a yearly barroom prank during fantasy camp, where teammate Gary Bell would snatch Held's false teeth and dunk them in the latter's drink.
In 2001, the Indians named Held one of their top 100 players of all time.
Held was born in Sacramento, Calif., and became a batboy at 13 for a minor-league team there. He grew to 5-11, 180 pounds, with muscles strengthened by swinging from a family tree.
He signed with the New York Yankees for a $6,000 bonus and played four games for them in 1954.
He was traded to Kansas City, and his young family followed him there in 1958. Days later, he went to the Indians with Vic Power for three players, including rising star Roger Maris. His family went back to Sacramento.
Held spent his best 6Â½ years here, and helped the team contend for pennants in 1959 and 1964. He briefly played center field and third base, making dramatic catches and strong throws. Then, Gordon put him at short and talked the general manager, Frankie "Trader" Lane, out of swapping him.
He had a malignant tumor removed from his back in 1960.
Held roomed mostly with Gary Bell. Their first night together, Held tiptoed into the dark room late, trying not to disturb Bell, who'd pitch the next day. Secretly awake, Bell toppled Held with a pillow. Soon the room filled with feathers and laughs.
From 1965 to 1969, Held played for several other teams. He rode the bench for the Baltimore Orioles when they swept the World Series in 1966.
For his career, he batted .240 with 179 homers.
In those low-paid days, Held earned $20,000 apiece for several seasons. He worked winters installing electrical equipment, selling toys and running a Rocky Mountain dude ranch in Dubois, where he moved the family in 1961.
In retirement, he raced snowmobiles around the country, played in charity golf tournaments, hunted, fished, four-wheeled, ran Dubois' first pizzeria and started the town's first Little League.
He liked to say, "Don't forget to swing hard, just in case you hit the ball."
Besides his wife, survivors also include children, Cinda Cornwell of Galt, Calif., Joy Brown of Sacramento, Woodson Held of Platteville, Colo., Sherry Mitchell of Trevose, Pa., and Roxanne Plummer of Dubois; 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Memorial services are pending, and arrangements are by Davis Funeral Home, of Riverton, Wyo.