Recent Passings

Former Braves, Angels pitcher Hanson dies at 29

Right-hander played for Atlanta from 2009-12 and Los Angeles in 2013

By Mark Bowman / | 11/10/2015 | 12:59 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Many members of the baseball world are understandably reacting to Tommy Hanson's premature death with shock and sadness. The former Major Leaguer, who pitched for the Braves and Angels, was just 29.

A Braves representative confirmed that some of Hanson's former teammates were near Hanson when he passed away at Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital late Monday night. Multiple sources told WSB-TV in Atlanta that Hanson suffered catastrophic organ failure. A source said he had difficulty breathing early Sunday morning and was taken to a hospital.

"Devastated" was the simple and fitting response one of Hanson's closest friends provided as he attempted to deal with the grief early Tuesday morning. This seemed to be a common sentiment among the many who had the pleasure of knowing the big redheaded right-hander, who possessed a bushy beard and a kind heart.

Among those expressing their sorrow was Andrelton Simmons, who tweeted, "Very sad to hear about Tommy Hanson. Wish his family and close friends a lot of strength. He was a really nice dude. :/"

Braves president John Schuerholz said in a statement on Tuesday the team was "incredibly saddened":

"He was a favorite in the clubhouse and with our staff and he will truly be missed by everyone in Braves Country. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, family, former teammates and friends."

Former Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, now with the Padres, tweeted about Hanson on Tuesday: "Tommy Hanson was a great person, it hurts my heart to see him go so soon. My prayers and thoughts are with the Hanson family."

Also taking to Twitter was Oakland's Josh Reddick, who wrote, "Thoughts and prayers to the family of Tommy Hanson. Great guy and competitor. RIP"

Hanson established himself as baseball's top pitching prospect after he dominated as the 2008 MVP of the Arizona Fall League. He made his much-anticipated Major League debut the following June and ended his first month at the big league level by winning four consecutive starts, including two straight against the Yankees and Red Sox at Turner Field.

After producing a 3.28 ERA over the 77 starts made during his first three Major League seasons, Hanson was hampered by a shoulder and back ailment that altered his career. The Braves traded him to the Angels after the 2012 season, and he did not pitch at the Major League level after making 15 appearances for the 2013 Angels.

He spent the past two seasons pitching in the White Sox and Giants organizations. Though he finished this past season with a 5.60 ERA in 11 appearances for Triple-A Sacramento, he went 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings in his last four starts.

"The Giants are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Tommy Hanson," the Giants said in a statement. "Tommy was a great talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the many people who were lucky enough to know him. "

Hanson had a 49-35 record, 3.80 ERA and 648 strikeouts in his Major League career.

Frederick Cyril Besana
April 5, 1930 - November 7, 2015

Lambert Funeral Home
November 8, 2015

Frederick Cyril Besana passed away in Roseville on Saturday November 7th at the age of 85. Born in Lincoln, California on April 5th, 1930 to Cedo and Clara Besana, Fred remained a Northern California guy his entire life.

He was preceded in death by his parents and wife of 55 years, Sylvia. He is survived by his son Fred (Shelly), grandson Adam, and brother Keven (Barbara).

Fred was an avid hunter and fisherman from the time of his youth in Lincoln until his early 80's. As a 57 year member of Sierra View Country Club in Roseville, golf played a large and enjoyable part of his life.

Fred graduated from Lincoln High School and attended Placer (Sierra) Junior College. After serving in the US Air Force for 4 years, Fred embarked on a 12 year baseball career caped by playing with the Baltimore Orioles in 1956.

After his baseball career ended, Fred finished his college degree at Sacramento State. He went on to get both his teaching credential and Master's Degree at Sac State as well. He started his teaching and baseball coaching career at Roseville High School before going to Oakmont when that campus open in 1966. He left for American River Junior College in 1968 to teach and coach baseball and remained there until his retirement in 1990.

Services will be held Friday, November 13th at 10am, Lambert's Funeral home at 400 Douglas Blvd in Roseville. Services will be preceded by a viewing at 9am. Burial will be private but a reception will immediately follow the services at Sierra View Country Club.

Norm Siebern, All-Star Who Left Yankees in Trade for Maris, Dies at 82

By Bruce Weber
The New York Times
November 3, 2015

Norm Siebern, a solid outfielder and first baseman who was an American League All-Star three times and played in three World Series, but who may be best known as part of the trade that brought Roger Maris to the Yankees, died on Friday in Naples, Fla. He was 82.

The Yankees confirmed the death without giving a cause.

Siebern, a left-handed hitter with extra-base power — he hit as many as 36 doubles and 25 homers in a season — was seen as a potential star when he arrived in the big leagues with the Yankees in 1956, a promising candidate to fill the team’s hole in left field and play alongside Mickey Mantle in center and Hank Bauer in right.

Siebern had one at-bat in the World Series that year as the Yankees beat the Dodgers, but an injury to his knee and shoulder, sustained when he ran into a wall chasing a fly ball, slowed his progress. He spent all of 1957 in the minor leagues, playing for the Yankees’ Class AAA farm team, the Denver Bears, and was named minor league player of the year by The Sporting News.

Promoted to the Yankees again the next spring, he became the regular left fielder and hit .300. Although he won a Gold Glove, the only one of his career, his fielding in the 1958 World Series against the Milwaukee Braves proved costly.

Left field in October in the old Yankee Stadium could be tough duty: the catcher (and Yankee teammate of Siebern’s) Yogi Berra, who died in September and who played left on occasion, once famously observed about the afternoon shadows that “it gets late early” there. In Game 4 of the Series, with the Yankees down two games to one, Siebern lost a handful of fly balls in the sun or in the lights, which had been turned on to accommodate television. Although he wasn’t charged with an error, his misplays had a role in all three runs of a 3-0 Braves victory.

Manager Casey Stengel benched him for the rest of the Series, which the Yankees came back to win. The next year, Siebern played fewer games, his average slid to .271, and in December 1959 he became a key figure in one of baseball’s most consequential trades.

The Yankees had made such a habit of bolstering their roster by trading for Kansas City’s better players that the Athletics were often referred to as the Yankees’ farm team, and in 1959 the Yankees sent Siebern; the aging Bauer; Don Larsen, who had pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series but whose career was on the downslope; and the young first baseman Marv Throneberry (who would later become known for his goofy play with the expansion-era Mets) to Kansas City for Maris, then just 25, and two inconsequential players — first baseman Kent Hadley, who didn’t last the 1960 season, and infielder Joe DeMaestri, whose major league career ended in 1961.

Maris went on to hit 100 home runs over the course of the 1960 and 1961 seasons, including a then-record 61 in 1961, and won the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award both times as the Yankees won the league pennant both years, and the World Series in 1961.

Kansas City remained a dreadful team, never finishing higher than eighth in the A.L. in the four seasons Siebern spent with the team. But Siebern was a fine player for them, averaging close to 20 home runs a season, and in 1962, his best year, he drove in 117 runs and hit .308, with an on-base percentage of .412.

In 1964, he was traded to Baltimore, where Bauer was the manager, and before retiring in 1968 he also played for the California Angels, the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox, with whom he played in the World Series against the Cardinals in 1967. The Sox lost in seven games. For his career, Siebern hit .272 with 132 home runs.

Norman Leroy Siebern was born in or near St. Louis on July 26, 1933. He was an editor of his high school newspaper and preferred basketball to baseball, but according to a biographical sketch on the website, he was spotted by a Yankees scout when he was just 15, and the team signed him as soon as he finished high school.

For a time he attended Southwest Missouri State College (now Missouri State University) and played basketball there. One of his teammates was Jerry Lumpe, who also went on to play for the Yankees and the Athletics. Siebern played in the minor leagues and spent two years in the Army before joining the Yankees.

Baseball-Reference reported that for a time after his retirement from baseball, Siebern owned an insurance agency in Florida, and that he was married and had three daughters. Information about survivors was not immediately available.

Former Red Eddie Milner dies at 60

By David Jablonski
The Dayton Daily News
Wednesday, November 4, 2015 9:31 a.m.

CINCINNATI — Former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Eddie Milner died Monday at 60, the Reds announced Wednesday.

Milner, a Columbus native who played two years in college at Central State University, played in 804 games for the Reds between 1980 and 1988. He was a 21st-round selection in the 1976 draft. He was a .253 career hitter with 42 home runs, 145 stolen bases and 195 RBIs.

“I’m so sad about the passing of my great friend and teammate,” former Reds pitcher Tom Hume wrote on Twitter. “A true God fearing man. So committed to the game of baseball. I will miss the big smile he always had. No matter if he was happy or sad, (you) never knew.”

Milner hit a career-best .268 in 1982. He hit .261 with 41 stolen bases in 1983. He hit a career-best 15 home runs in 1986 with a .259 average.

Milner was traded to the Giants in 1987 but returned to the Reds as a free agent in 1988.

John Tsitouris

Published in The Charlotte Observer on October 25, 2015

Monroe - John Tsitouris, born May 5th, 1936, went home to be with his Heavenly Father early Thursday morning, October 22, 2015, at CMC-Union. He was surrounded by his family.

He was the son of the late Philip and Verla Tsitouris. He was born and raised in Monroe, NC. Johny attended Benton Heights High School where he met his sweetheart of 56 years, Dottie. His senior year, 1954, he signed to play professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers. He pitched and won his first professional game at the age of 21. From there, he went on to have an incredible career.

In 1964, he pitched a 1-0 shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies that started their epic collapse. The best season of his career was in 1963, when he went 12-8 with a 3.16 ERA for the Reds. He finished the year with 145 strikeouts second highest on the pitching staff. He started 21 games, had eight complete games, and three shutouts. He finished the 1963 season with back to back complete game shutouts against the Cardinals. He still holds the Sally League ERA record of 1.51.

He stepped away from his professional baseball career in 1968 to permanently move back to Monroe where he would live a comfortable life with his wife Dorothy and their five children. He also served in the military, like most men of his era. He was a fun loving man, with a heart of gold, and he will be missed by many, especially his family.

He is survived by his wife Dorothy of the home their five children, sons Philip of Monroe, Eric and wife Julia of Monroe, daughter Robin Smith and husband Garry of Charlotte, daughter Sandy Conley and husband RC of Nellysford, VA, and son Marc of Monroe; his nine grandchildren, Johnny Tsitouris, Brooke Smith, Brooks Conley, Tori Tsitouris, Hunter Tsitouris, Abby Conley, Chase Smith, Emry Tsitouris and Gracie Tsitouris; one great-grandchild, Daniel Tsitouris; his siblings, Georgia Brooks of North Myrtle Beach, SC, Ernest Tsitouris and wife Sue of Monroe, Sylvia Belk and husband Don of Matthews, Steve Tsitouris and wife Patsy Troutman, and many loving nieces and nephews.

He was also preceded in death by his sister, Rachel Biggers and brothers-in-law, Harry Biggers and Charles Brooks. He loved Jesus and spent every night reading God's Word, loved to hunt and fish, but his favorite past-time was watching his grandchildren play in their sporting events. He was a humble, quiet and confident man. He took care of his family and we are proud to call him Dad and PawPaw. He achieved so much in the sports world as a Major League Baseball Pitcher. Yet when one of the doctors at the hospital asked him what he was most proud of, his answer was his family.

The family will receive friends at McEwen Funeral Home on Sunday, October 25, 2015, from 5:00pm - 7:00pm. The service to celebrate Johny's life will be held in the McEwen Colonial Chapel on Monday, October 26, 2015, at 3:00pm, conducted by the Rev. Paul Saleeby. A burial service will follow in Lakeland Memorial Park.

Carlos “Bimbo” Antonio Diaz Diaz Jr.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
October 17th, 2015

Carlos "Bimbo" Antonio Diaz Jr. 57, of Kailua, Hawaii passed away on Monday, September 28, 2015. He was born on January 7, 1958 in Honolulu to Carlos Antonio Diaz Diaz and Cecilia Rodrigues.

He was a senior driver with Pacific Courier for 13 years and a major league baseball player.

He is survived by wife, Tracy Iwamoto-Diaz; son, Cory Diaz; daughters, Kari Diaz-Ayat and Erica Diaz; sons; Bryce and Vic Miyahira; daughter, Megen Miyahira; brothers, John , Dennis, Frank, Richard, Delbert and Darryl Diaz; sisters, Matilda, Emelia, and Lori; six grandchildren.

Visitation: 10:30 11:30 a.m. on Monday, October 19, 2015 at Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary Chapel; Service to begin at 11:30 a.m.

Dean Chance, Cy Young Award Winner and Yankees Nemesis, Dies at 74

By Bruce Weberoct
The New York Times
October 12, 2015

Dean Chance, a right-hander for five major league teams whose Cy Young Award-winning year, 1964, ranks among the great season-long performances in the history of the game, died on Sunday at his home in New Pittsburg, Ohio. He was 74.

The cause was a heart attack, his son, Brett, said.

A loose-limbed — and occasionally loose-lipped — farm boy with a variety of pitches and an unusual delivery that involved turning his back on the hitter until shortly before he released the ball, Chance pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues, twice winning 20 games and enjoying special success against the Yankees, a team he beat 18 times.

“Every time I see his name on a lineup card,” Mickey Mantle once told the sportswriter Maury Allen about Chance, “I feel like throwing up.”

Chance arrived in the majors in 1961, pitching in five games for the Los Angeles Angels at the tail end of the inaugural season of a franchise later known as the California Angels and now as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He had mixed success in his first two full seasons, but in 1964 he emerged as dominant.

Although his season started slowly — he was beleaguered by a finger blister — he went 15-4 after July 1 and 20-9 over all, including 11 shutouts, five of them in games the Angels won by 1-0. The Yankees, who were American League champions that year, lost only 63 games, four of them to Chance, who shut them out three times; in a fifth game against them, he pitched 14 scoreless innings before a reliever lost the game in the 15th.

In 50 innings against the Yankees, he gave up 14 hits and one run — a homer by Mantle — for an earned run average of 0.18. Against the whole league for the whole season, his E.R.A. was 1.65, still the second-best figure in the American League (behind Luis Tiant’s 1.60 in 1968) in more than 70 years.

For good measure, Chance also led the league in complete games and innings pitched.

At the time, the Cy Young Award was given to the best pitcher in the major leagues — since 1967, the American and National Leagues have each awarded a Cy Young — and at 23, Chance was the youngest pitcher ever to receive it. (In the dual-award era, younger pitchers have won, including Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers in 1981 and Dwight Gooden of the Mets in 1985.)

Wilmer Dean Chance was born on June 1, 1941, in Wooster, Ohio. His parents, Wilmer Chance and the former Florence Beck, were farmers.

A stellar schoolboy athlete, young Dean played on state basketball and baseball championship teams for Northwestern High School in West Salem and reportedly won 51 of 52 decisions as a pitcher, including 18 no-hitters. Originally signed by the Baltimore Orioles, he was chosen by the Washington Senators in the 1960 American League expansion draft, then traded to the Angels.

The Angels traded Chance to Minnesota after a subpar season in 1966, and he won 36 games for the Twins over the next two seasons, including 20 in 1967, when he pitched two no-hitters in August (one was a rain-shortened five innings), started the All-Star Game for the American League and won the league’s Comeback Player of the Year Award, given by The Sporting News.

He finished his career playing briefly with Cleveland, the Mets and the Detroit Tigers. In all, he won 128 games and lost 115, with a career E.R.A. of 2.92.

A marriage, to Judy Larson, ended in divorce. In addition to his son, he is survived by a sister, Janet Connelly, and two granddaughters.

Besides his pitching, Chance was a baseball notable for other reasons. For one thing, he may have been the worst hitter ever to play in the big leagues; in 1966 he went 2 for 76, an .026 average, and for his career he hit .066, the lowest figure for any player with at least 300 plate appearances; in 662 official at-bats, he struck out 420 times.

He was also known as a good-time Charlie who served as a wingman for one of the game’s legendary night prowlers and ladies’ men, the pitcher Bo Belinsky.

After retiring from baseball, Chance worked at a number of jobs, including boxing promoter (he managed the heavyweight Earnie Shavers and was president of the International Boxing Association) and carnival barker.

He wasn’t shy. The Angels inducted Chance into the franchise Hall of Fame this year. In his speech, he graciously acknowledged the second baseman Bobby Knoop for making a fielding play that saved his 20th victory in 1964. That was a far cry from the young Dean Chance, who, before the 1965 season, suggested to The Saturday Evening Post that it call its article about him “The Most Exciting Pitcher Since Bobby Feller.”

“My God,” he said to The Post, “you could go back further and call your story ‘The Most Exciting Pitcher Since Dizzy Dean.’ ”

And he added: “Fifty thousand seen me at the All-Star game last year, and I was the best damn pitcher out there. You could call the story ‘From Rags to Riches.’ Or how’s this? ‘The Greatest Year Ever!’ ”

Ronald Garry Hancock
January 23, 1954 ~ October 10, 2015
October 14, 2015

Ronald Garry Hancock passed into the arms of his loving Savior on Saturday, October 10, 2015.

Garry had an ironclad memory for the details and names of all he met because he cared about everyone unconditionally. His life story was unique and full of adventure. He truly was a “bigger than life” kind of guy.

Garry had many affectionate nicknames, but the one he cherished was “The Mayor” (of Buckhorn). He could tell story after story and make you laugh and love life. Although Garry was blessed to make and keep friends, he cherished his family the most. He was always so proud of them and made decisions with them in mind. He was a man of influence because he modeled kindness, generosity and service to others.

Garry was pre-deceased by his son, Justin Hancock. He leaves behind his wife of 41 years, Kathy; his daughter, Courtney (Mitchell); granddaughter, Charley; sister, Karen (Pat); brother, Terry (Jeana); as well as his beloved extended family members with whom he shared many good times over the years (in-laws, nephews, niece, great nephews, great nieces and countless cousins).

We will all miss him greatly and never forget the spice he added to our lives.

Funeral services will be held on Thursday, October 15, 2015, at Bell Shoals Baptist Church (Worship Center) beginning with family visitation at 10:00 A.M., service at 11:00 A.M. with interment following at Serenity Meadows, Riverview, FL.

In lieu of flowers, we would appreciate any donations made in Garry’s honor to Moffitt Cancer Center.

Harold Schacker

April 6, 1925 - October 2, 2015

Boza & Roel Funeral Home
October 5, 2015

Harold Schacker went to heaven on October 2, 2015 at age 90, leaving behind his wife Martha and their three children Kerri Atkins, Brian and Dale Schacker and their wives and grandchildren Kaila and Luke.

Harold served his country in the military during World War II and then met Martha while playing professional baseball. Harold played throughout North and Central America and made it to the majors with the Boston Braves. Later he coached youth baseball teams in New York and Florida.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Harold moved his family to Florida where he secured a US Post Office job until retirement.

Harold loved his home and family and lived in Tampa for over 50 years. He was an avid supporter of the Rays, Lightning and Buccaneers. His parents Rebecca and Samuel raised three boys in Brooklyn during the depression era, and now have relatives across the United States.

We miss and love you and look forward to seeing you again and hope there's a baseball team in heaven : )

Former major-league catcher Cal Neeman dies

Rick Hummel
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
October 02, 2015 11:15 pm

Former major-league catcher Cal Neeman, a Valmeyer native, died Thursday at his home in Lake Saint Louis. He was 86.

Neeman, originally signed by the New York Yankees, played seven seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and Washington Senators. His best season was his rookie year with the Cubs in 1957 when he hit .258 with 10 homers and 39 runs batted in as their regular catcher. Neeman hit 12 homers, drove in 29 runs and batted .259 for the Cubs in 1958.

Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Pitman Funeral Home in Wentzville. The funeral is Monday at 10 a.m. at Living Lord Lutheran church in Lake Saint Louis.

Thomas H. Kelley

January 5, 1944-September 25, 2015

Published in The Sun News on September 28, 2015

Thomas H. Kelley, 71 passed away September 25, 2015 in Myrtle Beach, SC. He was born January 5, 1944 in Manchester, CT a son of the late George and Harriet Berry Kelley.

Thomas was a Major League Baseball player with the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves and ended his career with the New York Mets. After his baseball career ended he worked for UPS for fifteen years retiring as a center manager. He moved to Myrtle Beach after his retirement so he could play as much golf as possible.

Survivors include his loving wife, Diane M. Kelley of North Myrtle Beach, SC; a son, Michael Kurtz of Roanoke, VA; a sister, Carol Dixon (Harry) of Salinas, CA; two brothers, Michael J. Kelley (Evelyn) of Bloomfield, CT and George Kelley (Marie) of Enfield, CT; a grandchild, Jordan Kurtz of Roanoke, VA; a sister-in-law, Donna Merusi (Jim) of Rochester, MA and many nieces and nephews.

The family will hold a private service at their convenience. Memorials may be made to NMB Humane Society 409 Bay Street, North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582.

Yogi Berra, Master Catcher With a Goofy Wit, Dies at 90

By Bruce Webersept
The New York Times
September 23, 2015

Yogi Berra, one of baseball’s greatest catchers and characters, who as a player was a mainstay of 10 Yankee championship teams and as a manager led both the Yankees and Mets to the World Series — but who may be more widely known as an ungainly but lovable cultural figure, inspiring a cartoon character and issuing a seemingly limitless supply of unwittingly witty epigrams known as Yogi-isms — died Tuesday. He was 90.

His death was reported by the Yankees and by the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center Museum in Little Falls, N.J. Before moving to an assisted living facility in nearby West Caldwell, in 2012, Berra had lived for many years in neighboring Montclair.

In 1949, early in Berra’s Yankee career, his manager assessed him this way in an interview in The Sporting News:

“Mr. Berra,” Casey Stengel said, “is a very strange fellow of very remarkable abilities.”

And so he was, and so he proved to be. Universally known simply as Yogi, probably the second most recognizable nickname in sports — even Yogi wasn’t the Babe — Berra was not exactly an unlikely hero, but he was often portrayed as one: an All-Star for 15 consecutive seasons whose skills were routinely underestimated, a well-built, appealingly open-faced man whose physical appearance was often belittled, and a prolific winner — not to mention a successful leader — whose intellect was a target of humor if not outright derision.

That he triumphed on the diamond again and again in spite of his perceived shortcomings was certainly a source of his popularity. So was the delight with which his famous, if not always documentable, pronouncements, somehow both nonsensical and sagacious, were received.

“You can observe a lot just by watching,” he is reputed to have declared once, describing his strategy as a manager.

“If you can’t imitate him,” he advised a young player who was mimicking the batting stance of the great slugger Frank Robinson, “don’t copy him.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” he said, giving directions to his house. Either path, it turned out, got you there.

“Nobody goes there anymore,” he said of a popular restaurant. “It’s too crowded.”

Whether Berra actually uttered the many things attributed to him, or was the first to say them, or phrased them precisely the way they were reported, has long been a matter of speculation. Berra himself published a book in 1998 called “The Yogi Book: I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said!” But the Yogi-isms testified to a character — goofy and philosophical, flighty and down to earth — that came to define the man.

Berra’s Yogi-ness was exploited in advertisements for myriad products, among them Puss ’n Boots cat food and Miller Lite beer, but perhaps most famously, Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink. Asked if Yoo-Hoo was hyphenated, he is said to have replied, “No, ma’am, it isn’t even carbonated.”

If not exactly a Yogi-ism, it was the kind of response that might have come from Berra’s ursine namesake, the affable animated character Yogi Bear, who made his debut in 1958.

The character Yogi Berra may even have overshadowed the Hall of Fame ballplayer Yogi Berra, obscuring what a remarkable athlete he was. A notorious “bad ball” hitter — he swung at a lot of pitches that weren’t strikes but mashed them anyway — he was fearsome in the clutch and the most durable and consistently productive Yankee during the period of the team’s most relentless success.

In addition, as a catcher he played the most physically grueling and concentration-demanding position on the field. (For a respite from the chores and challenges of crouching behind the plate, Berra, who played before the designated hitter rule took effect in the American League in 1973, occasionally played the outfield.)

Stengel, the Hall of Fame manager whose shrewdness and talent were also often underestimated, recognized Berra’s gifts. He referred to Berra, even as a young player, as his assistant manager and compared him favorably to star catchers of previous eras like Mickey Cochrane, Gabby Hartnett and Bill Dickey. “You could look it up” was Stengel’s catchphrase, and indeed the record book declares that Berra was among the greatest catchers in the history of the game, some say the greatest of all.

Berra’s career batting average of .285 wasn’t as high as that of his Yankee predecessor Dickey (.313), but Berra hit more home runs (358) and drove in more runs (1,430). Widely praised by pitchers for his astute pitch-calling, Berra led the American League in assists five times, and from 1957 through 1959 went 148 consecutive games behind the plate without making an error, a major league record at the time — though he wasn’t a defensive wizard from the start.

Dickey, Berra explained, “learned me all his experience.”

On defense, he certainly surpassed Mike Piazza, the best-hitting catcher of recent vintage — and maybe ever. Johnny Bench, whose Cincinnati Reds teams of the 1970s were known as the Big Red Machine, and Berra were comparable in offensive production, except that Bench struck out three times as often. Berra whiffed a mere 414 times in more than 8,300 plate appearances over 19 seasons — an astonishingly small ratio for a power hitter.

Others — Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter and Ivan Rodriguez among them — also deserve consideration in a discussion of great catchers, but none was clearly superior to Berra on offense or defense. Only Roy Campanella, a contemporary rival who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and faced Berra in the World Series six times before his career was ended by an auto accident, equaled Berra’s total of three Most Valuable Player awards. And though Berra didn’t win the award in 1950 — his teammate Phil Rizzuto did — he gave one of the greatest season-long performances by a catcher that year, hitting .322, smacking 28 homers and driving in 124 runs.

Berra’s career was punctuated by storied episodes. In Game 3 of the 1947 World Series against the Dodgers he hit the first pinch-hit home run in Series history, and in Game 4 he was behind the plate for what was almost the first no-hitter and was instead a stunning loss. With two out in the ninth inning and two men on base with walks, the Yankees’ starter, Bill Bevens, gave up a double to Cookie Lavagetto that cleared the bases and won the game.

In September 1951, once again on the brink of a no-hitter, this one by Allie Reynolds against the Red Sox, Berra made one of baseball’s legendary errors. With two out in the ninth inning, Ted Williams hit a towering foul ball between home plate and the Yankee dugout; it looked like the end of the game, sealing Reynolds’s second no-hitter of the season and making him the first American League pitcher to accomplish that feat. But as the ball plummeted, it was caught in a gust of wind; Berra lunged backward, and it deflected off his glove as he went sprawling.

Amazingly, on the next pitch, Williams hit an almost identical pop-up, and this time Berra caught it.

In the first game of the 1955 World Series against Brooklyn, the Yankees were ahead, 6-4, in the top of the eighth when the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson stole home. The plate umpire Bill Summers called him safe, and Berra went berserk, gesticulating in Summers’s face and creating one of the enduring images of an on-the-field tantrum. The Yankees won the game though not the Series — it was the only time Brooklyn got the better of Berra’s Yanks — but Berra never forgot the moment. More than 50 years later, he signed a photograph of the play for President Obama, writing, “Dear Mr. President, He was out!”

During the 1956 Series, again against Brooklyn, Berra was at the center of another indelible image, this one of sheer joy, when he leapt into the arms of Don Larsen, who had just struck out Dale Mitchell to end Game 5 and complete the only perfect game (and only no-hitter) in World Series history.

When reporters gathered at Berra’s locker after the game, he greeted them mischievously. “So,” he said, “what’s new?”

Beyond the historic moments and individual accomplishments, what most distinguished Berra’s career was how often he won. From 1946 to 1985, as a player, coach and manager, Berra appeared in a remarkable 21 World Series. Playing on powerful Yankee teams with teammates like Rizzuto and Joe DiMaggio early on and then Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, Berra starred on World Series winners in 1947, ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’56 and ’58. He was a backup player on the championship teams of 1961 and ’62. (He also played on World Series losers in 1955, ’57, ’60 and ’63.) All told, his Yankee teams won the American League pennant 14 out of 17 years. He still holds Series records for games played, plate appearances, hits and doubles.

No other player has been a champion so often.

Lawrence Peter Berra was born on May 12, 1925, in the Italian enclave of St. Louis known as the Hill, which also fostered the baseball career of his boyhood friend Joe Garagiola. Berra was the fourth of five children. His father, Pietro, a construction worker and a bricklayer, and his mother, Paulina, were immigrants from Malvaglio, a northern Italian village near Milan. (As an adult, on a visit to his ancestral home, Berra took in a performance of “Tosca” at La Scala. “It was pretty good,” he said. “Even the music was nice.”)

As a boy, Berra was known as Larry, or Lawdie, as his mother pronounced it. As recounted in “Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee,” a 2009 biography by Allen Barra, one day in his early teens, young Larry and some friends had gone to the movies and were watching a travelogue about India when a Hindu yogi appeared on the screen sitting cross-legged. His posture struck one of the friends as precisely the way Berra sat on the ground as he waited his turn at bat. From that day on, he was Yogi Berra.

An ardent athlete but an indifferent student, Berra dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He played American Legion ball and worked odd jobs. As teenagers, both he and Garagiola tried out with the St. Louis Cardinals and were offered contracts by the Cardinals’ general manager, Branch Rickey. But Garagiola’s came with a $500 signing bonus and Berra’s just $250, so Berra declined to sign. (This was a harbinger of deals to come. Berra, whose salary as a player reached $65,000 in 1961, substantial for that era, would prove to be a canny contract negotiator, almost always extracting concessions from the Yankees’ penurious general manager George Weiss.)

In the meantime, the St. Louis Browns — they later moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles — also wanted to sign Berra but were not willing to pay any bonus at all. Then, the day after the 1942 World Series, in which the Cardinals beat the Yankees, a Yankee coach showed up at Berra’s parents’ house and offered him a minor-league contract — along with the elusive $500.

Berra’s professional baseball life began in Virginia in 1943 with the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League. In 111 games he hit .253 and led the league’s catchers in errors, but he once had 12 hits and drove in 23 runs over two consecutive games. It was a promising start, but World War II put his career on hold. Berra joined the Navy. He took part in the invasion of Normandy and, two months later, in Operation Dragoon, an Allied assault on Marseilles in which he was bloodied by a bullet and earned a Purple Heart.

In 1946, after his discharge, he was assigned to the Newark Bears, then the Yankees’ top farm team. He played outfield and catcher and hit .314 with 15 home runs and 59 runs batted in 77 games, though his fielding still lacked polish; in one instance he hit an umpire with a throw from behind the plate meant for second base. Nonetheless, the Yankees summoned him in September. In his first big league game he had two hits, including a home run.

As a Yankee, Berra became a fan favorite, partly because of his superior play — he batted .305 and drove in 98 runs in 1948, his second full season — and partly because of his humility and guilelessness. In 1947, honored at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, a nervous Berra told the hometown crowd, “I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.”

Berra was a hit with sportswriters, too, though they often portrayed him as a baseball idiot savant, an apelike, barely literate devotee of comic books and movies who spoke fractured English. So was born the Yogi caricature, of the triumphant rube.

“Even today,” Life magazine wrote in July 1949, “he has only pity for people who clutter their brains with such unnecessary and frivolous matters as literature and the sciences, not to mention grammar and orthography.”

Collier’s magazine declared, “With a body that only an anthropologist could love, the 185-pound Berra could pass easily as a member of the Neanderthal A.C.”

Berra tended to take the gibes in stride. If he was ugly, he was said to have remarked, it didn’t matter at the plate. “I never saw nobody hit one with his face,” he was quoted as saying. But when writers chided him about his girlfriend, Carmen Short, saying he was too unattractive to marry her, he responded, according to Colliers, “I’m human, ain’t I?”

Berra outlasted the ridicule. He married Ms. Short in 1949, and the marriage endured until her death in 2014. He is survived by their three sons — Tim, who played professional football for the Baltimore Colts; Dale, a former infielder for the Yankees, Pirates and Astros; and Lawrence Jr.

Certainly, assessments of Berra changed over the years.

“He has continued to allow people to regard him as an amiable clown because it brings him quick acceptance, despite ample proof, onfield and off, that he is intelligent, shrewd and opportunistic,” Robert Lipsyte wrote in The New York Times in October 1963.

At the time, Berra had just concluded his career as a Yankee player and the team had named him manager, a role in which he’d continue to find success, though not with the same regularity he enjoyed as a player and not without drama and disappointment. Indeed things began badly. The Yankees, an aging team in 1964, played listless ball through much of the summer, and in mid-August they lost four straight games in Chicago to the first-place White Sox, leading to one of the kookier episodes of Berra’s career.

On the team bus to O’Hare Airport, the reserve infielder Phil Linz began playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the harmonica. Berra, in a foul mood over the losing streak, told him to knock it off, but Linz didn’t. (In another version of the story, Linz asked Mickey Mantle what Berra had said, and Mantle responded, “He said, ‘Play it louder.’ ”) Suddenly the harmonica went flying, having been either knocked out of Linz’s hands by Berra or thrown at Berra by Linz. (Players on the bus had different recollections.)

News reports of the incident made it sound as if Berra had lost control of the team, and though the Yankees caught and passed the White Sox in September, winning the pennant, Ralph Houk, the general manager, fired Berra after the team lost a seven-game World Series to St. Louis, in a bizarre move replacing him with the Cardinals’ manager, Johnny Keane.

Keane’s Yankees finished last in 1965.

Berra, meanwhile, moved across town, taking a job as a coach for the famously awful Mets under Stengel, who was finishing his career in Flushing. The team continued its mythic floundering until 1969, when the so-called Miracle Mets, with Gil Hodges as manager — and Berra coaching first base — won the World Series.

After Hodges died before the start of the 1972 season, Berra replaced him. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in that summer, but the Mets team he inherited faltered, finishing third, and for most of the 1973 season they were worse. In mid-August, the team was well under .500 and in sixth place, when Berra uttered perhaps the most famous Yogi-ism of all.

“It ain’t over till it’s over,” he said (or words to that effect), and, lo and behold, the Mets got hot, squeaking by the Cardinals to win the National League’s Eastern Division title.

They then beat the Reds in the League Championship Series before losing to the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. Berra was rewarded for the resurgence with a three-year contract, but the Mets were dreadful in 1974, finishing fifth, and the next year, on Aug. 6, with the team in third place and having lost five straight games, Berra was fired.

Once again he switched leagues and city boroughs, returning to the Bronx as a Yankee coach, and in 1984 the owner, George M. Steinbrenner, named him to replace the volatile Billy Martin as manager. The team finished third that year, but during spring training in 1985 Steinbrenner promised him that he would finish the season as Yankee manager no matter what. However, after just 16 games (the Yankees were 6-10) the impatient and imperious Steinbrenner fired Berra anyway, bringing back Martin — and worse than breaking his word, perhaps, sending an underling to deliver the bad news.

The firing, which had an added sting because Berra’s son Dale had recently joined the Yankees, provoked one of baseball’s legendary feuds, and for 14 years Berra refused to set foot in Yankee Stadium, a period during which he coached four seasons for the Houston Astros.

In the meantime private donors helped establish the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the New Jersey campus of Montclair State University, which awarded Berra an honorary doctorate of humanities in 1996 and where a minor league ballpark, Yogi Berra Stadium, opened in 1998. A tribute to Berra with exhibits on his career, the museum runs programs for children dealing with baseball history. In January 1999 Steinbrenner, who died in 2010, went there to make amends.

“I know I made a mistake by not letting you go personally,” he told Berra. “It’s the worst mistake I ever made in baseball.”

Berra chose not to quibble with the semi-apology. To welcome him back into the Yankee fold, the team held a Yogi Berra Day on July 18, 1999. Also invited was Don Larsen, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which Berra caught.

Incredibly, in the game that day, David Cone of the Yankees pitched a perfect game.

It was, as Berra may or may not have said in another context, “déjà vu all over again,” a fittingly climactic episode for a wondrous baseball life.

Former Explorer Walter Young dies at 35

Terry Hersome
September 23, 2015 4:54 pm

PURVIS, Miss. | Seven years after leading the Sioux City Explorers to their last playoff appearance prior to this season, king-sized first baseman Walter Young died here Saturday from a heart attack at the age of 35.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds when he joined the Baltimore Orioles in 2005, Young’s weight and body mass index (38.2) were the highest ever recorded for an active Major League baseball player.

The Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native, whose published weight reached as high as 340, declined to disclose his weight while playing for Sioux City for the final month of the 2008 season and the first six weeks of the 2009 campaign.

He joined the X’s on July 26, 2008, and had an immediate impact for Manager Les Lancaster’s team, driving in 15 runs in his first four games with the team, including a seven-RBI outing in just his second game with the club.

With Young driving in 29 runs in 26 games, the Explorers went 19-7 down the stretch to win the second-half North Division title before falling to Sioux Falls, the first-half winner and eventual league champ, in a semifinal playoff series.

He returned to Sioux City at the start of the 2009 season, but was released by Lancaster after batting .272 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 41 games. He finished the season with Edmonton in the now-defunct Golden Baseball League and that became his last stop in professional baseball.

Young, once a highly touted prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system, was acquired by the Orioles in 2004 and he promptly put up a club-record 33 home runs along with 98 RBIs in 133 games for the Bowie, Maryland, Baysox of the Class AA Eastern League. After hitting .288 with 13 homers and 81 RBIs in 123 games for Class AAA Ottawa in 2005, he got a late-season call-up from Baltimore, where he went 10 of 33 (.303) in 14 games.

It was the only Major League opportunity for Young, who spent 2007 with the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the Northern League, batting .313 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs. He played 55 games in 2008 for Sussex of the Can-Am League before being acquired by Sioux City.

Young, proportioned more like an offensive lineman than a baseball player, spurned a football scholarship to LSU when he signed to pursue baseball in the Pirates’ organization.

Since leaving baseball, he had returned to Mississippi and joined the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department as a shift sergeant at the county jail. At the time of his death, he was working as a school resource officer and pursuing a degree from online University of Phoenix.

Bobby Etheridge

The Smith Funeral Home
Saturday, September 19, 2015

Graveside Services for Bobby Etheridge, age 73, of Greenville, will be at 10:00 am on Saturday, September 19, 2015 at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery, He died Thursday, September 17, 2015 at Sharkey Issaquena hospital, Visitation will be Friday, September 18, 2015 from 5:00-7:00 PM at Smith Funeral Home, 1580 South Colorado St., Greenville, MS.

Bobby was born November 25, 1941 in Greenville, MS. He is the son of the late Murray Aubrey and the late Ezma (Mayo) Etheridge SR. He was employed by Mississippi Marine as a Supply Coordinator. He was a lifelong resident of Greenville Mr. Bobby was a very humble and passive man. He was a man of integrity and was always willing to lend a helping hand. He was an avid hunter and loved running his beagles. Bobby Played baseball his freshmen year at Mississippi State University before transferring to Mississippi Delta Community College where they won the state championship. He then played professional baseball as a third baseman for the San Francisco Giants. He made his first major league debut in 1967; In his first start with the giants, down 4-1 in the ninth inning, he hit a two out triple to drive in two runs. He was also a member of the Mississippi Delta Hall of Fame.

Bobby was preceded in death by two brothers Murray "snow" Etheridge JR.; and James "Jimmy" Winston, and two sisters Mary Jane "Janie" Etheridge.; and Patricia Ann "Patsy" Etheridge, and sister-in law Debbie Etheridge.

He is survived by one daughter: Cissy Etheridge Of Nashville, TN. and two sons: Bud Etheridge And His Wife Tracy Of Greenville Ms., Jason Walker And His Wife Christa Of Oklahoma City, Ok; two sisters: Sue Etheridge Harper And Her Husband Ray Of Senatobia, MS., Linda Etheridge Smith And Her Husband Charles Of Tunica, MS, one brother: Dickey Etheridge Of Winston- Salem, NC.; He also has two grandchildren; Meredith Etheridge Of Oxford, MS; and Brett Etheridge Of Greenville, Ms.

Pastor David Ingram will be officiating.

Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton dies

Worked MLB games for 60 seasons, Astros for 28; called Aaron's 715th homer

By Brian McTaggart /
September 17th, 2015

Milo Hamilton, who called games with enthusiasm and distinction as the voice of the Astros for a generation of baseball fans in Houston, passed away on Thursday. He was 88.

Hamilton's death comes less than three years after he worked his final game behind the microphone for the Astros, calling the team's regular-season home finale in 2012. He was still a presence at the ballpark in the past few years, but his health deteriorated in recent months.

Hamilton is predeceased by his wife of nearly 53 years, Arlene, who died in 2005, and his daughter, Patricia, who died in 2006. He is survived by his son, Mark.

"It's a sad day for baseball and a sad day for the Houston Astros," Hall of Fame second baseman Craig Biggio said. "The man was an amazing voice and an amazing person behind the microphone to describe the game. His knowledge and history of the game was second to none. It's a tough day."

Hamilton's death comes less than two weeks after longtime Astros announcer and 2006 Ford C. Frick Award winner Gene Elston died on Sept. 5.

Hamilton had a broadcasting career that stretched more than 65 years and included work calling basketball and football games, but it was baseball that allowed Hamilton to showcase his unforgettable voice. He worked as a Major League broadcaster for more than 55 years, with stops in St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Houston, where he landed in 1985.

A moment of silence was scheduled in Hamilton's honor prior to Thursday's game against the Rangers in Arlington. The Astros will wear a patch on their uniforms beginning Friday to honor Hamilton.

"Today, the entire Astros family and many throughout the baseball world are mourning the loss of our friend, Milo Hamilton," Astros team president Reid Ryan said in a statement. "For decades, Milo had a special connection with the Houston community, bringing Astros baseball to the cars and homes of fans throughout the great state of Texas and beyond. During his legendary career, we enjoyed the privilege of Milo calling some of the greatest moments in Astros history.

"In addition to his great work in the booth, Milo was also an outstanding ambassador for Astros baseball, a mantle he carried with a great deal of pride. While we mourn his sad passing, we should also celebrate Milo's long, wonderful career. He was one of the all-time greats and a true icon whose contributions to the game and beyond will be remembered always."

Hamilton's impact on the game goes beyond Houston. He was given the industry's highest honor in 1992 when he was presented with the prestigious Frick Award, given annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame for excellence in broadcasting.

"During his 60 years covering our game, Milo became one of the national pastime's most distinguished announcers, serving seven different Major League clubs," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "He chronicled some of our game's most historic moments during the era of Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Ernie Banks. As 'The Voice of the Astros' since 1985, he ushered into the homes of fans Houston's first World Series appearance, the Hall of Fame careers of Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio and countless other memories.

"I enjoyed spending time with Milo during my trip to Houston earlier in this resurgent season for the Astros, and it was a pleasure to correspond with him in recent months. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Milo's family, friends, admirers throughout the game and to all Astros fans."

Hamilton was in the booth for some of baseball's most memorable moments, including Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run in 1974 and serving as the play-by-play announcer for the 1979 World Series champion Pirates. He also called Roger Maris' 61st homer (recreated on Western Union ticker), 11 no-hitters, Ryan's 4,000th strikeout in 1985 and Barry Bonds' 70th home run in 2001.

"Milo and I were friends for many years," Aaron said. "I had great respect for him and his knowledge of baseball. For me, he was in the class with Vin Scully."

Scully also shared his condolences.

"Milo Hamilton was an enthusiastic and highly accurate broadcaster who was also a dear friend of mine," Scully said.

Hamilton's famed "Holy Toledo!" became one of the most recognizable signature lines in baseball history.

Hamilton's tenure as a Major League broadcaster is surpassed by only Scully. His big league on-air career included stops with the St. Louis Browns (1953), Cardinals (1954), Cubs (1956-57 and 1980-84), White Sox (1962-65), Braves (1966-75), Pirates (1976-79) and Astros.

As far as his time with the Astros goes, Hamilton said Mike Scott's division-clinching no-hitter in 1986 and Biggio becoming the first Astros player to collect 3,000 hits in 2007 are his two most memorable calls.

"A lot of great things happened here," Hamilton once said.

In addition to receiving the Frick Award, Hamilton is a member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame (1994), Radio Hall of Fame (2000), Texas Radio Hall of Fame (2002) and the Iowa Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame (2011). He shared the broadcast booth with numerous other Frick Award winners, including Jack Brickhouse, Jack Buck, Harry Caray and Bob Elson.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame released this statement:

"By the time Milo Hamilton was presented the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence in Cooperstown in 1992, he was already a titan among the sport's greatest voices, yet he was seemingly still in his early era for Astros fans, with many of his signature moments in Houston baseball yet to come. Visitors to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are graced by his calls over a half-century, from Hank Aaron's 715th home run to Mike Scott's no-hitter in 1986 to clinch the N.L. West. His is a voice that will remembered for generations and his legacy is one that will resonate with baseball's greatest moments - in Houston and throughout the country."

A native of Fairfield, Iowa, Hamilton graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in radio speech and began his radio career with the Navy in 1945. He later called basketball and football games for Iowa and Minor League games for the Quad City Tigers, as well as Quad City Black Hawks basketball games.

The game has changed mightily since Hamilton began his career in the 1950s, when teams and broadcasters traveled by train and radio was the only medium to follow baseball. Early in his career, while calling Minor League games, Hamilton recreated games for broadcast purposes and even created his own sound effects.

"I had a metronome, and if you hit that metronome it sounded like the bat hitting the ball," Hamilton said.

Hamilton called a game from his 59th Major League ballpark in 2012, when the Astros made their first visit to the Miami Marlins' new ballpark that April. He served as a guest radio commentator for select Astros home games from 2013-15, with his final stint in the booth coming on June 28, during the Astros' game against the Yankees at Minute Maid Park.

"It's been a great game for me," Hamilton said when he announced his impending retirement in 2012. "I did football for 25 years and basketball for over 40 years, but baseball was the greatest game in the world when I started, and it still is today. When the end of the season comes and I do that last game as the voice of the club -- if you want to put it that way -- I'll still be around doing a lot of things."

Alex Monchak

Manasota Memorial Park & Funeral Home
September 15, 2015

Alex Monchak peacefully passed away on September 12, 2015 after living a wonderful life. He was a Bayonne, New Jersey native, first generation American and the eldest of three children, son of Ukrainian parents MaTrona Marich Monchak and George Monchak. He is preceded by his beloved wife Audrey Guidry Monchak, brother Edward Monchak and his sister Mary Monchak Danchak. Alex is survived by his children: son Alex Monchak Jr. of Texas, daughter Trona Jean Monchak-Carter of Florida, two grandchildren: granddaughter Amanda Jean Carter, grandson Quinton Sagely Carter, and a large extended family throughout the United States.

Alex and Audrey raised their family in Cinnaminson, New Jersey prior to relocating to Manatee County, Florida in 1980. They were founding and longtime members of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church.

Alex lived a long life as he pursued his passion and childhood dream to participate in Major League Baseball. His ultimate goal was to support the growth and development of both himself and the team as they worked together to achieve a Major League Baseball World Series Championship.

His Major League Baseball career began as the shortstop with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1940. Like many players during that time, his career was quickly interrupted when he received the call to serve our country. Alex was deployed to the 11th Armored Division of the United States Army during World War II and fought under General George Patton in the Battle Of The Bulge, the largest battle ever fought at the time. Following his military service during World War II, Alex continued to pursue his childhood dream of a career in baseball. In 1949 to 1961 he managed in the minor leagues with the Odessa Oilers, Lexington Indians, Wellsville Braves, and the Cedar Rapid Braves amongst others and even took on the role of a player/manager in 1956. In 2013 Alex traveled to Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he was honored for his accomplishments and inducted into the Cedar Rapids Hall of Fame. From 1962 to 1970 Alex worked with California Angels both as a scout and in their instructional program.

Then Alex received the call to return to the Major League Baseball roster, this time as coach with renowned Manager Chuck Tanner. This coaching/management team stayed together for many years sharing their leadership with the following Major League Baseball organizations: Chicago White Sox (1971-1975), Oakland A's (1976), Pittsburgh Pirates (1977-1985) and the Atlanta Braves (1986-1988). Alex's childhood dream came true in 1979 when he was the first base coach, (yes on the field) with the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates who became Major League Baseball World Champions! Alex continued his Major League Baseball career as a Major League Baseball scout for several teams and was honored as a recipient of the distinguish Roland Hemond Award in 2009 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.

Upon Alex's passing he was the third oldest living Major League Baseball player and the oldest living Philadelphia Phillies player.
A "Celebration of Life" mass will be held for Alex at 9:30am on Saturday, October 17th 2015. The church location is Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church 2850 75th Street in Bradenton, Florida 34209. Alex's Interment will take place in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

A mass will be held at Fort Myers' Old Post Chapel followed by military honors and Alex's interment joining Audrey in the columbium at Arlington National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation; 5010 N. Parkway Calabasas; Suite 201; Calabasas, CA 91302 a 501-C-3 organization.

George W. Schultz; pitcher helped defeat '64 Phils on way to Series

Walter F. Naedele,
Philadelpia Inquirer Staff Writer
Sunday, September 13, 2015, 1:09 AM

George W. Schultz, of Cinnaminson, a St. Louis Cardinals knuckleball reliever known as "Barney," posted a 1.64 earned run average in 30 regular-season games for his 1964 World Series champs - breaking the hearts of Phillies fans along the way.

On Sunday, Sept. 6, Mr. Schultz, 89, died at Lourdes Medical Center in Willingboro of complications from a heart attack.

"He was an important part of our family and he will be missed," Ron Watermon, vice president of communications for the Cardinals, said.

"He was very important as part of the team, particularly in 1964, when we made that amazing run for the world championship."

During the Phillies' 10-game losing streak that cost them the 1964 National League pennant, the Cards swept all three September games from those visitors.

"Schultz saved two of the games," John Stahl wrote for the website of the Society for American Baseball Research.

Phillies manager Gene Mauch was not impressed.

"Eleven saves in two months. That's more than Schultz had in his whole big-league career," Stahl wrote of Mauch's reaction. "He never saw the day he could get us out before."

(Actually, before the Cards promoted him back to their major-league roster on July 31, 1964, Mr. Schultz had saved 19 games in six seasons, including for the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs.)

In the last 60 games of the Cardinals' 1964 season, Stahl wrote, "Barney appeared 30 times, all in relief, winning once and saving 14 games as the Cardinals rushed past Mauch's Phillies and captured the National League pennant."

"After Barney's successful appearance in Game One of the 1964 World Series, Cardinals manager Johnny Keane declared, 'Without him, we wouldn't be here.' "

In Game One of the Series, played in St. Louis, the 38-year-old "pitched three effective innings in relief of Ray Sadecki as the Cardinals defeated the New York Yankees, 9-5," Stahl wrote.

In Game Two at Yankee Stadium, Mr. Schultz "entered the 1-1 game in the ninth inning.

"On Schultz's first pitch of the inning, Mickey Mantle blasted a game-winning home run," Stahl wrote. "The towering homer reached the third tier of the right-field stands. Mantle later listed the home run as one of the top five thrills of his baseball career."

The Cards won the '64 Series in seven games.

Mr. Schultz ended his eight-season major-league pitching career in 1965, with the Cardinals, in the year he turned 39.

After working as a minor-league pitching instructor for the Cards, Mr. Schultz was the major-league team's pitching coach from 1971 to 1975, then the pitching coach for the Cubs in 1977 and a coach in Japan, before retiring from pro ball in 1982.

In 1988, he was inducted into the South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame, his daughter, Barbara, said.

Mr. Schultz lived in Edgewater Park for 50 years, before moving to Mount Laurel in 2010 and to Cinnaminson this past June, she said.

Born in Beverly, Mr. Schultz graduated from Burlington High School in 1944, where he was a starting pitcher but only "fiddled with the knuckleball, using it as a change of pace when he was well ahead in the count," Stahl wrote.

Arm problems kept him in the minor leagues until at 29 he joined the Cardinals for the 1955 season. He was with the Tigers in 1959 and with the Cubs from 1961 into 1963, before being traded back to the Cards that year.

Then came 1964.

In retirement, his daughter said, he golfed in celebrity tournaments until he was in his early 80s.

Besides his daughter, Mr. Schultz is survived by his wife, Frances, sons George Jr. and Paul, six grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

He was a lifelong member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Beverly, his daughter said. No services are planned.

Joaquin Andujar, All-Star Who Pitched ’82 Cardinals to Title, Dies at 62

By Bruce Webersept
The New York Times
September 8, 2015

Joaquin Andujar, a Dominican right-hander who made four National League All-Star teams and pitched in two climactic World Series games for the St. Louis Cardinals, winning one and being ejected from the other, died on Tuesday in the Dominican Republic. He was 62.

The Cardinals announced the death on their website. According to an ESPN Deportes report citing the former Reds pitcher Mario Soto, who is the president of the Dominican Federation of Professional Baseball Players, Andujar died after a long battle with diabetes.

Andujar, a hard thrower with sharp breaking stuff, played in the big leagues with three teams from 1976 to 1988. He began and ended his career with the Houston Astros, pitching in the National League Championship Series for them against the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980, in which he earned a save in Game 2 of a series the Astros eventually lost.

He was traded the following June to St. Louis, where, with his strenuous windup and his intensity on the mound, he became a fan favorite and a star. A workhorse in the starting rotation, from 1982 to 1985 he pitched more than 260 innings in three seasons out of four, leading the league in 1984. (Last year’s major league leader, David Price, pitched 248 ? innings.)

Andujar won 20 games in 1984 and 21 in 1985. In the 1982 postseason, he earned three of the Cardinals’ eight victories: He beat the Atlanta Braves in the N.L.C.S., and in two starts against the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series he pitched 13 ? innings with a 1.35 earned run average and earned two victories, including Game 7, clinching the title.

The 1985 season proved to be his undoing. Though he finished the regular season with perhaps his best statistical showing — he went 21-12 with a 3.40 E.R.A. and pitched a career-high 269 ? innings — he faltered badly in the second half. After beating San Diego on July 26, he was 17-4, but he won only one more game after Aug. 23, and his postseason was simply disastrous.

Though the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers in the N.L.C.S., Andujar lost Game 2 and had a no-decision in Game 6. He then lost Game 3 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, and in Game 7 he was tossed out by the home-plate umpire, Don Denkinger, for arguing balls and strikes in the fifth inning with the Cardinals down, 10-0. Andujar was furious and had to be restrained by several teammates.

The explosion was emblematic of the Cardinals’ greater frustration. They had led the Series, three games to one, and seemed to be on the verge of claiming the title the previous day. In the ninth inning of Game 6, with the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, Denkinger, at first base, missed a call and opened the door for a Kansas City rally and a come-from-behind victory. And then, in Game 7, the Cardinals were clobbered.

Andujar was brought in with the score 9-0 and gave up a run-scoring hit. (The final score was 11-0.) He threw an inside pitch to the next hitter, and Denkinger — rightly — called it a ball. Andujar expressed his displeasure, but the Cardinals’ manager, Whitey Herzog, ran out on the field, argued with Denkinger on Andujar’s behalf and was ejected. It was after the next pitch that Andujar exploded.

“I’ll tell you,” the broadcaster Tim McCarver said on the air as Andujar was led off the field, “Joaquin Andujar may never recover from the second half of this season.”

He was right. That December, the Cardinals traded him to the Oakland Athletics of the American League; he played three more seasons but won only 17 more games.

Joaquin Andujar was born on Dec. 21, 1952, in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, a link in a long chain of outstanding Dominican pitchers that includes Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez (who said on Tuesday that Andujar had been an inspiration to him as a boy) and Bartolo Colon. Andujar was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cincinnati Reds in 1969 and pitched in their minor league system, where he made his professional debut at age 17, until 1975, when the Reds traded him to Houston.

For his major league career, he was 127-118, with a 3.58 E.R.A. and 1,032 strikeouts in 2,153 innings.

Information on his survivors was not immediately available.

Former Astros broadcaster Elston dies at 93

By Chandler Rome / | September 6th, 2015

HOUSTON -- Gene Elston, the longtime Astros radio broadcaster, Texas Baseball Hall of Famer and 2006 Ford C. Frick Award winner, died on Saturday. Elston was 93.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Gene Elston," Astros President of Business Operations Reid Ryan said in a statement. "Gene helped introduce baseball to Houston as a part of the original broadcast team of the Colt .45s when the franchise was born in 1962. For 25 seasons, he served as the lead voice of the Colt .45s and Astros and called many of the great moments in franchise history. The memories he helped create are cherished fondly by the generations of Astros fans that he touched.

"On behalf of the entire Astros organization, I send my deepest condolences to Gene's family members and to his many friends and fans."

Elston was the lead voice of the Astros from the beginning, starting in 1962 when the franchise was still called the Colt .45s and ending after the 1986 season, when the Astros captured a National League West Championship. He called 11 no-hitters, including one of Nolan Ryan's and Mike Scott's that clinched the National League West title on Sept. 25, 1986. Also among his broadcasting feats was Eddie Matthews' 500th home run.

"Gene worked in the era that radio brought the game into our cars and into our homes," said Nolan Ryan, who listened to Elston while growing up in Alvin. "As a kid growing up in Texas, my connection to Major League Baseball was through Gene and his radio partners. It was a big part of my life. It was a great experience for me to be around Gene when I came to Houston as a player. He had a real passion and commitment to baseball."

His career in broadcasting began in 1945 when, after serving in the Navy during World War II, he was a color commentator for the NFL's Cleveland Rams. A year later he began broadcasting baseball, calling games for the Waterloo White Hawks before moving to the Western League's Des Moines team three years later.

Elston broadcasted alongside Bob Feller in 1958 for Mutual's Game of the Day before joining the Astros as they became an expansion franchise. After leaving Houston, he worked the CBS Radio Game of the Week from 1987-1995 and CBS postseason games from 1995-97.

"Gene Elston brought a classic broadcasting approach to Houston as the first voice of Major League Baseball in Texas," current Astros broadcaster Bill Brown said. "His smooth style emphasized accuracy and depth of knowledge about the game's history. He was the perfect baseball teacher for the generation of fans who built their loyalty to the Colt .45s and Astros through his stewardship."

Elston was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2002.

The Astros held a moment of silence for Elston in the middle of the eighth inning of Saturday night's game and had a pregame tribute scheduled for Sunday at Minute Maid Park.

Jack Spring, former major league pitcher, dies

Played for seven teams in the majors, coached West Valley to state championship

Thomas Clouse,
The Spokesman-Review
August 4, 2015 in Sports

Jack Russell Spring, a left hander who pitched in the same bullpen as Satchel Paige and against Mickey Mantle before returning home and coaching West Valley to the Spokane area’s only state high school baseball championship in 1978, died on Sunday. He was 82.

Last summer, after advanced Parkinson’s disease had confined him to a wheelchair, Spring attended a ceremony for the naming of “Jack Spring Stadium” at West Valley High School where he spent 23 years as a teacher, coach and administrator.

Friends and family will return to West Valley on Aug. 22 at 11 a.m. for Spring’s memorial service.

“I think what defined my dad was his genuine care for others,” his youngest son, Chris Spring, said. “He was such a genuine and humble man. That’s why so many people have reached out to us. It’s been overwhelming.”

Spring had a major health setback on July 25, just two weeks after he celebrated his 63rd anniversary with his wife, Vona (McLean) Spring. Jack Spring then died on Sunday.

Bill Farr, 83, said he met Spring when they were freshmen at Lewis and Clark High School. It started 67-year-long friendship that ended only with Spring’s passing.

“He was a great family man and he was a great friend,” said Farr, who caught for Spring on LC’s baseball team.

Spring graduated from high school in 1951. He played one year at Washington State and then started a 17-year professional career that included stints with seven major league teams.

During his final year in 1969, Spring pitched under Spokane Indians manager Tommy Lasorda and had several other teammates who would reach the majors, including Bill Buckner and Bobby Valentine.

“When he retired, I was only 6 so my memories are minimal,” said Chris Spring, an assistant principal and athletic director at Medical Lake. “I remember bits and pieces of the 1969 season with the Spokane Indians.”

But he and his brothers traveled with their father in 2012 when the Boston Red Sox welcomed every living former player to the 100-year celebration of Fenway Park.

Spring took part even though he only pitched one inning for Boston in 1957. Spring came on in relief in a 7-5 loss to Baltimore where he pitched a scoreless ninth by inducing a ground out and throwing two strikeouts.

“He walks up to (229 game winner) Luis Tiant, and Tiant says, ‘Jack. I haven’t seen you for years,’” Chris Spring said. “To watch him with his buddies and to see him in his element, it gave me a lot of goose bumps to see him live that experience again.”

In an earlier interview with The Spokesman-Review, Jack Spring told the story of spring training that same year with the Red Sox in 1957 when hitting legend Ted Williams finally arrived at spring training. Spring had pitched in Triple-A in Miami the year before.

But here he was in Sarasota, Fla., watching the future hall-of-famer jogging out onto the field.

“I’m standing in left field and pretty soon he ran right up and nudged me and said, ‘Hi, Jack. How’d you like it in Miami last year?’

“I didn’t think he knew I was even alive. But he was a student of pitchers, and it didn’t matter if it was an opposing pitcher or one on his team – there was always the possibility he’d have to face you.”

The next season, Spring was pitching for the Washington Senators when he faced Williams, who hit a single.

After ending his baseball career, Spring started his second career in his hometown at West Valley where he coached the Eagles to the 1978 state championship.

His exploits as a baseball player and coach earned him induction into halls of fame for Washington coaches, administrators and the 2005 induction into the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame with former Gonzaga great John Stockton and others.

Spring is survived by his wife, Vona, and five children: Vicki Spring-Brown, Teresa Jordan, John Spring, Mike Spring and Chris Spring and seven grandchildren.

Asked what his father would say about his own passing, Chris Spring said his father would say he’s a proud man.

“I think he would say he’s proud of his family first and proud of his accomplishments,” he said. “But the number one accomplishment would be the relationships he had with hundreds of people. That is what really defined him.”

Negro league great and Tampa native Dirk Gibbons dead at 86

By Joey Johnston | Tampa Tribune Staff
Published: July 28, 2015

TAMPA — Walter Lee “Dirk’’ Gibbons, a Tampa native and Negro League pitching legend who was a contemporary of Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, died Friday after a long battle with prostate cancer, family friend Neil Armstrong said. Gibbons was 86.

Funeral services are pending, but a wake is planned for Aug. 7 at Aikens Funeral Home, 2708 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., from 5-8 p.m.

Gibbons, who worked in the University of Tampa’s campus maintenance department until his death, was honored in February by the City of Tampa as part of Black History Month. He also was embraced by the Rays and served as the club’s representative during the 2008 amateur player draft.

Gibbons pitched for the Philadelphia Stars, New York Black Yankees and Indianapolis Clowns, closing with a two-season stint in 1948-49 following his service in World War II. He had an opportunity to play professionally in Puerto Rico, but that was short-circuited by his service in the Korean War.

In 2013, when a movie (“42”) detailing Robinson’s life and breaking of the major-league color barrier in 1947 was released, Gibbons reminisced about a 1950 weekend, when the Jackie Robinson All-Stars came to old Plant Field on UT’s campus, an event that drew thousands of spectators.

Gibbons said he retired Robinson on a ground out, but surrendered a long home run to Doby. Later, Gibbons tried to take Robinson inside Plant Hall for a closer look at UT’s famed minarets, but they were turned away because Gibbons said “that was the world of segregation.”

He also pointed out an irony.

“Now I’ve got the keys to every building on campus,’’ Gibbons said with laughter in a 2013 interview. “I can go anywhere I want.’’

Billy Pierce, White Sox Power Pitcher in the 1950s, Dies at 88

By Richard Goldstein
The New York Times
July 31, 2015

Billy Pierce, the Chicago White Sox left-hander with a blazing fastball who became one of baseball’s leading pitchers of the 1950s, died on Friday in Palos Heights, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. He was 88.

The cause was gall bladder cancer, his son Robert said.

Pierce was only 5 feet 10 inches and 160 pounds or so, but his smooth mechanics enabled him to become a power pitcher with the team then known as the Go-Go Sox, which relied on pitching, speed and defense in an era dominated by the power-hitting Yankees.

Pitching for 18 major league seasons, Pierce won 211 games, was a seven-time All-Star, posted an American League-leading 1.97 E.R.A. in 1955 and amassed 1,999 strikeouts.

“Generations of White Sox fans lost one of their heroes,” Jerry Reinsdorf, the team’s owner, said on Friday.

During his 13 seasons with the White Sox, Pierce was often matched against the Yankees’ ace left-hander Whitey Ford, who was backed by the slugging of Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, among others. The White Sox had few power hitters in lineups usually featuring Luis Aparicio at shortstop and Nellie Fox at second base, with Minnie Minoso in the outfield and Sherm Lollar at catcher.

“There was a time when I entered a game after our team had been shut down three games in a row,” Pierce told Major League Baseball’s website in 2013. “Early in the game, Louie got a hit, stole second. Nellie bunted him over to third and someone knocked him in. Nellie, who was my roommate on the road, came over to me and said, ‘O.K., roomie, you got your run, now hold it.’ ”
Pierce often did just that. Pitching out of an overhand delivery, relying on fastballs but mixing in curveballs, sliders and changeups, he was a two-time 20-game winner and threw 38 shutouts.

“He has wonderful coordination,” Lollar told Sports Illustrated in 1957. “He sure is pretty to watch, the way he pumps and rocks and throws.”

Facing the Washington Senators at the White Sox’s Comiskey Park on June 27, 1958, Pierce was one out away from a perfect game when the reserve catcher, Ed Fitz Gerald, delivered a pinch-hit double down the right-field line. He settled for a 3-0 victory, his third consecutive shutout.

The White Sox center fielder Jim Landis was impressed by Pierce’s equanimity in the face of disappointment.

“We went into the clubhouse and I looked at Billy, and there was no way in the world you could tell what happened,” Landis told Danny Peary in the oral history “We Played the Game” (1994). “He just got showered like he did every day and went home to be with his family. That’s strong, silent leadership.”

The White Sox beat out the Cleveland Indians and the third-place Yankees for the A.L. pennant in 1959, the first for the franchise since the infamous Black Sox of 1919. But Pierce, hampered by a hip injury late in the ’59 season, was relegated to relief duty as the White Sox lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a six-game World Series.

The White Sox traded Pierce to the San Francisco Giants before the 1962 season. He rejuvenated his career in the National League, going 16-6 with a shutout, and he earned a save in the ’62 Giants’ three-game playoff victory over the Dodgers. He started twice in the World Series, with a 1-1 record, as San Francisco lost to the Yankees in seven games.

Walter William Pierce was born on April 2, 1927, in Detroit, where his father was a pharmacist. He was a high school pitching star and impressed scouts while pitching in an amateur all-star game at the Polo Grounds in New York in 1944.

He signed with the Tigers and pitched briefly in the regular season as an 18-year-old rookie with the Detroit team that went on to defeat the Chicago Cubs in the 1945 World Series, bringing him his only championship ring. After shuttling between the minors and the Tigers, Pierce was traded to the White Sox before the 1949 season.

He had a career record of 211-169, led the A.L. in complete games for three consecutive seasons and had an E.R.A. of 3.27.

Pierce, who lived in the Chicago suburb of Lemont, Ill., worked in sales for an envelope company after leaving baseball and raised funds for cancer research. The White Sox retired his No. 19 and erected a statue of him at their U.S. Cellular Field.

In addition to his son Robert, he is survived by his wife, Gloria; his son William; his daughter, Patricia Crowley; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Pierce was a mild-mannered sort who shunned night life and drinking.

In his early years with the White Sox, he received some advice from shortstop Luke Appling, who was nearing the end of a long Hall of Fame career.

“He said: ‘Kid, you’ve got to learn to drink scotch. It’s good for you and will give you strength,’ ” Pierce recalled in “We Played the Game.”

“So I drank a little. It was ugliest tasting stuff I had in my life. I thought it was medicine.”

But Pierce said: “I never had problems with other ballplayers, where if I didn’t drink I wasn’t part of the group. They understood that I’d rather be at the movies.”

Rugger Ardizoia, 95, was the oldest living New York Yankee, July 21, 2015, 6:36 AM MST

Rinaldo "Rugger" Ardizoia, a pitcher who played in one game for the New York Yankees in 1947, passed away Sunday evening due to complications from a stroke. He was 95.

The Italian born pitcher gained notoriety in his later years as the oldest living alumni of the New York Yankees. He pitched in one game during the 1947 season against the St. Louis Browns, throwing the final two innings in a 15-5 loss. He gave up two runs, including a home run to one of his former teammates in Iwo Jima during World War II.

"The guy that hit the home run off me was one of my boyhood idols, Walter Judnich," he said to Bill Nowlin in Bridging Two Dynasties: The 1947 New York Yankees. "I more of less slid it in for him because we were so far behind anyway."

Ardizoia played the majority of his career in the Pacific Coast League with the Hollywood Stars, where he had the chance to befriend celebrities such as Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, and a fellow that would later become president of the United States.

“Ronald Reagan — he used to hang out with us,” Ardizoia said to the New York Times in 2015.

At the completion of his professional baseball career in 1951, he went to work selling rental linen for 30 years. Still, his passion for baseball did not dwindle, as he played on the semiprofessional level until he was 61. He continued to attend old-timers reunions well into his 90s, willing to share his stories of playing with the legendary Yankees no matter how brief it was.


Buddy Hicks, former Detroit Tigers infielder, passes away at 87, July 7, 2015 12:40 PM MST

Clarence “Buddy” Hicks, a former switch-hitting infielder with the Detroit Tigers in the 1950s, passed away December 8, 2014 in St. George, Utah due to complications from a fall. He was 87.

Hicks started his professional baseball career with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1944 after being plucked from the sandlots in California. He was signed before he was even old enough to vote.

“I was just 17,” Hicks said during a 2008 phone interview from his home in Utah. “I was scouted by the Dodgers playing sandlot ball in Montebello, California. I went to Montreal and sat on the bench waiting for my assignment. I started with Trenton and went to Newport News.”

The talent rich Dodgers organization was filled with bonafide prospects. Branch Rickey’s keen eye for scouting placed Hicks on the same 1944 team in Newport News with future Dodger mainstays Duke Snider, Clem Labine, Tommy Brown, and Bobby Morgan. The group of budding stars first met at training camp in upstate New York during World War II.

“It was at Bear Mountain that the embryonic ballplayers appeared in the war time training camp,” Bo Gill recalled in a 1968 edition of the Evening News. “Duke Snider, Bobby Morgan, Buddy Hicks, Clem Labine and Steve Lemo [sic], 17, and Tommy Brown and Preston Ward, 16, were to be the stars of the future as the Dodgers, under Leo Durocher, made the change from age to youth.”

As soon as the 1944 season ended, Hicks and Snider traveled cross country to return home to California. With the war escalating, Snider knew that their days as civilians were numbered.

“I made the trip back to the West Coast with my Newport News roomie, Buddy Hicks,” Snider said in his autobiography, "The Duke of Flatbush.”

“We didn’t need to be reminded there was a war on; the evidence was all around us. The train was filled with uniformed servicemen and women traveling home on leave or returning to camp or—worst of all—being shipped overseas. I was looking forward to a few more months of good times, but the Selective Service System didn’t fool around in those days. With more than ten million people in uniform and the manpower needs growing all the time, your friendly neighborhood draft board had a way of letting you know you were always in its thoughts.”

Hicks joined the Navy and didn’t return to baseball until 1947. Upon his arrival, he encountered a flood of ballplayers that finished their service and were looking to regain their places in the organization.

“When I got out of the service, I went back and played some sandlot ball to get me back in shape,” he said. “There were 800 of us in spring training with the Dodgers coming back from the war.”

Used almost exclusively a shortstop in the minor leagues, Hicks was stuck behind Pee Wee Reese on the Dodgers. When the Dodgers tried him out at second and third base, he was looking up to Jackie Robinson and Billy Cox respectively. While he couldn’t crack their major league lineup, the Dodgers thought enough of his abilities to keep a high asking price on his services.

In 1949, when Reese got hurt in spring training, Hicks attracted the eyes of Chicago Cubs scout Red Smith. Dodgers manager Burt Shotton held firm to the Dodger creed that if other teams wanted their players, they would have to dig deep in their coffers.

“Sure we’ve got the men they want. … But they can’t get them for a dime. … We haven’t got that kind. They’re going to have to come up with their prices if they want our boys,” Burt Shotton was quoted as saying in Bob Mack’s “Bird Hunting in Brooklyn.”

The fact that the Dodgers were playing hardball with moving Hicks to another organization frustrated him. He always felt that the constant movement in their farm clubs, combined with their outrageous asking prices, hindered his rise to the major leagues.

“There were a lot of guys coming down from the majors and then working their way [back] up,” he said. “The Dodgers had 27 farm clubs that year, all the way from Class D to AAA. They had three AAA farm clubs. The Dodgers tried to draft talent, and if they couldn't use them, they would sell them. I learned later that the Washington Senators were interested and the Dodgers wanted $100,000; that ended things for me.”

A knee injury in 1950 hampered his performance with Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League. Hicks batted only .239 and in October, the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies purchased Hicks’ contract from Hollywood. Finally, there was a team willing to meet the Dodgers asking price.

Quickly, Hicks’ fortunes were about to turn. No longer buried deep in the Dodgers farm system, there was immediately opportunity for him at the big league level with the Phillies. On July 3, 1951, the Phillies recalled Hicks from Atlanta of the Southern Association. Now there was more for him to celebrate other than Independence Day; however, his glee was short lived.

For two weeks, Hicks sat on the bench and never once did manager Eddie Sawyer call for his entry. On July 17th, the Phillies returned Hicks to Atlanta without him ever playing in a major league game. Despite this tease of major league immortality, Hicks pressed on.

His contract was sold to the Boston Braves organization the next year and then to the Detroit Tigers to start the 1953 season. For two more seasons, Hicks battled at the Triple-A level, waiting for his break. Finally in 1956, his efforts were vindicated when the Tigers kept him on the roster when they broke from spring training.

“Joe Gordon was instrumental in getting me up there,” Hicks said. “He said if he was managing, I would have been playing short and Harvey Kuenn would be in the outfield. What got me up was when Frank Bolling came out of the service. I spent most of my career at shortstop and I had trouble making the transition from short to second. I think the throw from second more than anything was the hardest thing for me. You have your back to the runner trying to make a double play. It just didn't work out for me.”

Hicks recalled how he could hardly keep calm during his first major league at-bat. It was in the 9th inning with the Tigers down 2-1 to the Kansas City Athletics.

“My first at-bat was a disaster,” he stated. “I was a really good bunter. My knees were shaking so bad, I could hardly stand up. They sent me in to bunt the person over from second to third and I popped the damn thing up to the catcher. That was very disastrous for me.”

Hicks played in 26 games for the Tigers in 1956 at every infield position except first base, handling 52 chances without an error. He hit only .213 and was sent down to the minor leagues in July. It was his final call to the majors.

“I went from Detroit to Charleston,” he said. “I played the first year-and-a-half, and then I was a player coach under Bill Norman.”

He continued as a player-manager through 1962, spanning 17 seasons in which he amassed over 1,700 hits in the minor leagues. Overlapping with the end of his playing career, he spent 10 seasons as a minor league manager in the Braves and Senators systems from 1960-1969 before calling it quits. He then spent the next 20 years working first in sales, and then managing an automobile parts business in California before retiring in 1990.

Kal Segrist Jr.

(1931 - 2015)

Published in Dallas Morning News on July 1, 2015

Kal Hill Segrist Jr., longtime Texas Tech baseball coach and a great player in his own right, died Friday, June 26, 2015 at Carrillon LifeCare Community in Lubbock. He was 84.

He was born April 14, 1931, in Greenville, Texas, and attended Adamson High School in Dallas, playing on a team that won two state baseball championships his sophomore and junior years and that made the state finals his senior year.

He signed a baseball scholarship to the University of Texas, and played in the Longhorns' National Championship season in 1950, the first time Rosenblatt Field in Omaha, Neb., hosted the College World Series. Segrist led the Southwest Conference with a .442 batting average for the season and was named to the national championship all-tournament team.

He turned professional the following year, signing with the New York Yankees in 1951. He was hampered throughout his professional career with chronic knee problems.

His time with the Yankees ended when he and 16 other players were part of the "Big Trade" between New York and Baltimore in 1955, at the time the largest trade in Major League Baseball history. He spent 11 years playing professionally, including stints in Canada, the Pacific League and the Texas League. After retiring from baseball, Segrist finished his bachelor's degree at the University of North Texas.

He worked for a time in the Dallas public schools before heading to Texas Tech to work as an assistant baseball coach and to earn his master's degree in physical education.

He became head baseball coach in 1968. At the time, Tech's baseball field had several trees in the outfield and a backstop that would blow over in a strong breeze. Segrist earned Southwest Conference Coach of the Year honors in 1969 and in 1980, when the Red Raiders appeared in the postseason conference tournament for the first time.

He won the honor a third time after his final season as head coach in 1983. During his tenure, he served on the NCAA baseball rules committee. He retired from the head coaching slot after leading the effort to build the stadium that houses the Red Raiders to this day. At the time, the head coaching position at Tech was a part-time job, and Segrist continued teaching softball, basketball refereeing and archery in the Physical Education Department until his retirement in 1994.

He is a member of the Texas Tech Athletic Hall of Honor as well as the Adamson High School Hall of Honor. He spent his retirement years living in Lubbock, tending to the family farm in Hico, Texas, and visiting and coaching his grandchildren.

He and his wife are members of Lubbock's First United Methodist Church and the Hi Robinson Sunday school class.

Kal Segrist, Jr., was the son of Samye Bethel and Kal Segrist, Sr. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Rebecca Garvin Segrist of Lubbock; six children: Kathy Smith of Waco; Susan Vestal of College Station; Khris Segrist of Lubbock; Scott Segrist of Lubbock, Sunny Betts of Annandale, Va.; Samuel Segrist of Martinez, Ga.; a sister, Kay Julian of Garland; and 10 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a grandson, Tom Vestal of College Station.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions to be sent to the Kal Segrist Scholarship Fund, Attn: Chris Snead, Box 45001, Lubbock TX 79409-5001, or to the Hospice of Lubbock Foundation at http://www.hospiceoflubbock.ora/.

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m., Thursday, July 2 at First United Methodist Church of Hico. Visitation will precede the service from 10 a.m. to noon at Harvest Hills Funeral Home in Hico.

There will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. on July 6 at First United Methodist Church of Lubbock. Harvest Hills Funeral Home 254-796-4722.

From the major leagues to the moon launch, a life lived in full comes to an end

By Mark McCarter
July 13, 2015 at 4:32 PM

He was teammates with Hank Aaron and with Dr. Wernher von Braun. He helped put a man on the moon and he one-hit the Jackie Robinson-led Brooklyn Dodgers. He fought under the steely Gen. George Patton. He regaled Valley Hill Country Club members with his comedy while wife Mimi dazzled them with song.

Eulogists frequently refer to "The Hyphen," that space between date of birth and date of death, and how that time is spent.

The space between Feb. 14, 1925 and July 12, 2015 for Everett Adrian "Bud" Lively was richly spent.

Lively, a former major league pitcher and a key member of the NASA team on the Apollo project and others, died Sunday at age 90. Services will be Thursday at 1 p.m., with Valhalla Funeral Home handling arrangements.

He is being praised as a great neighbor, always quick with a smile and a wave, an inspiration, a generous soul.

To research the saga of Bud Lively is more like reading a Hollywood script than a biographical portrait. His nine decades were "full of drama and life and fun and victory," as his niece Dianne Lively Yost said Monday afternoon.

The Bud Lively script is one worth retelling.

His dad was Jack Lively, who played nine years of pro baseball. That included one season in the majors with the Detroit Tigers, when his roommate was Ty Cobb.

Bud Lively signed to play pro ball as a 16-year-old and was just starting the 1943 season with his hometown Birmingham Barons when he recognized his civilian days were numbered.

Though under Patton's command, his outfit was attached to the British Second Army, and as the war ended, he was assigned to Special Services, remaining behind during the occupation. He recalled playing baseball for a service team at Berchtesgaden, the site of Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" fortress in the Bavarian mountains.

"We had fresh eggs, a nice hotel, clean sheets, good food, a brewery nearby," Lively told former Huntsville Times sports editor John Pruett. "It was pretty good duty."

He returned to pro ball in 1947, signing a $5,000 contract with the Cincinnati Reds, and despite only 36 games' experience at lower minor league levels, he broke camp with the major league team.

Sixty-eight years ago, on July 14, 1947, in only his fifth big-league start and 18th appearance, he gave up a second-inning double to Spider Jorgensen, then retired the next 22 men he faced for a one-hit 9-1 win over Brooklyn.

Lively spent three years in the majors, then knocked around the minors a while, including a stop in Jacksonville in 1953, where a young Hank Aaron was just starting out. By then, Lively's shoulder was beginning to give out. He retired in 1955.

This time around, he went calling on Uncle Sam, instead of the other way around. He went to work for the U.S. Army's procurement office at Redstone Arsenal. Four years later, he transferred to NASA's procurement office, where he worked until 1984.

"I was there when it all happened - Von Braun, our first satellites, the first men in space, the moon landings," he once told Pruett. "It was a great time to be working for NASA. I've always said that I was really lucky to have two fabulous careers."

"He had a life, did he not?" Dianne said.

It was at Redstone Arsenal where he met a woman attached to a voice he had heard years before. They would fall in love and spend 52 years together, before her death in 2012.

On Aug. 9, 1947, Bud Lively pitched a shutout against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. In the stands was Mimi Primich, who then worked for a Gary, Ind., steel mill while pursuing her avocation as a big-band singer.

She was a Cubs fan who would later gleefully confess, "I booed him on every pitch."

Ex-MLB player Darryl Hamilton reportedly shot dead in murder-suicide
Published June 22, 2015

Former Major League outfielder and MLB Network analyst Darryl Hamilton reportedly was killed in a murder-suicide in Texas, police said Monday.

According to Reuters, Pearland police said they found the bodies of Hamilton, 50, and Monica Jordan, 44, in a home. The couple's 14-month-old baby was unharmed and was turned over to Child Protective Services.

According to the Houston Chronicle, officers were sent to the home on an emergency call about a disturbance.

Hamilton's body was found near the front door and Jordan's body was found in another area of the home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Reuters reported.

Investigators said it appeared Hamilton had been shot more than once, the Chronicle reported.

"At this point it does not appear that there was any kind of struggle. The incident occurred just inside the front door," police Lieutenant Onesimo Lopez told reporters.

Hamilton played 13 seasons for several teams, including the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers, Reuters reported.

He had a career batting average of .291 in 1,328 games with Milwaukee (1988, 1990-95), Texas (1996), San Francisco (1997-98), Colorado (1998-99) and the Mets (1999-2001). He batted left, but threw with his right arm and had a career fielding percentage of .995 with only 14 errors in 2,770 defensive chances.

Hamilton recorded 1,333 hits, 707 runs scored and 454 RBI in his career, the Chronicle reported. He joined MLB Network in 2013.

"We mourn the passing of our friend and colleague, Darryl Hamilton," MLB Network said on Twitter.

In Hamilton's only season with the Rangers, they made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history after winning the AL West title. He also went to the postseason with the Giants and two consecutive years in New York.

Hamilton later worked in operations for the commissioner's office and for baseball's digital arm, MLB Advanced Media.

"All of us at Major League Baseball are shocked and saddened by this tragedy," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "He was a talented and personable individual, and we were proud to call him a member of the baseball family. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest sympathies to Darryl's family and his many friends throughout our game."

The Mets said they will have a moment of silence for Hamilton prior to Friday's home game against Cincinnati.

"We are saddened by the tragic death of Darryl Hamilton," the team said in a statement. "Darryl's vibrant personality made him a key member of our postseason teams in 1999 and 2000. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

The Rangers praised Hamilton as well and singled out his "memorable" year in Texas.

"He was not only an offensive catalyst and defensive standout on the field but also was a club leader and an outstanding teammate," said the team, which planned a moment of silence before Tuesday night's home game against Oakland.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said the team was stunned by the tragedy, "something that is impossible for us to even begin to comprehend."

"Darryl was a wonderful player for our organization, but more importantly, he was a true gentleman and a great friend to many here," said Melvin, who was with Texas during Hamilton's lone season with the Rangers.

Leonard Matarazzo

The New Castle News
Saturday, June 20, 2015 7:15 am

Leonard Matarazzo, 86, of New Castle passed away the morning of June 19, 2015.

Born on September 12, 1928, in New Castle, he was a son of the late John and Asunta Frigone Matarazzo.

In February 1965, he married his beloved wife, the former Verna (Vicky) Moffett, and the two spent over 30 wonderful years together until she preceded him in death on May 13, 1995.

In 1983, Leonard retired as an engineer to shop foreman for Long Island Railroad.

He also served his country as a member of the Navy from 1946 to 1948. He was a member of St. Vincent de Paul Church.

An accomplished athlete, Leonard played Major League Baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics. He was an avid New Castle Red Hurricane fan and had volunteered with the football program and Coach Lindy Lauro for many years. He enjoyed watching his son’s and grandchildren’s sports and school activities.

Leonard is survived by his son, John Matarazzo and wife, Laura, of New Castle; sisters, Dolores Matarazzo and Marie Rainey, both of New Castle; and grandchildren, John L. Matarazzo, Gabrielle Matarazzo and Carmella Matarazzo.

Visitation will be held 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Ed and Don DeCarbo Funeral Home and Crematory, 941 S. Mill St.

A procession will leave the funeral home at 9:30 a.m. Monday to attend a Mass of Christian burial at 10 a.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Church, officiated by the Rev. Larry Adams.

Mourning in the Mexican baseball ; Andres Mora dies
06/13/2015 - 9:39 a.m.

Saltillo, Coah.- Andres Mora, one of the greatest players who have had the Mexican baseball, died early on Saturday.

The exligamayorista will be veiled in the funeral los Pinos, located on Calle Abasolo going President Cardenas, after 12 noon.

The news spread like wildfire fair trail weekend in the Mexican Baseball League has monopolized the attention to its activities for the 90th anniversary of the circuit and have its Home Run Derby in the Zocalo of the capital.

With 419 homers, Andrés Ibarra Mora is the fourth best in that line in the history of the Mexican Summer League, surpassed only by three other immortals, Alejandro Ortiz, Hector Espino and Nelson Barrera, the last two also died. In the Mexican Pacific he fired 148 homers.

The death was confirmed by a niece of legendary slugger who played at his best in the majors, which, say experts at the time, prevented him from becoming the greatest Mexican slugger in history.

Mora confirmed the LMB, was 60 years old. He born in Rio Bravo, Coahuila.

He suffered from diabetes and recently, their health deteriorated after suffering pneumonia, so he was hospitalized in Saltillo, where lay.

Lennie Merullo, the Last Cub to Play in a World Series, Dies at 98

By Richad Goldstein
The New York Times
May 31, 2015

Lennie Merullo was honored by the Chicago Cubs at a June 2014 game, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and leading the crowd in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, part of the many events marking Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary.

Even the most long-suffering Cubs fans might have had only vague memories of Merullo. He spent seven seasons as a Cubs infielder, playing mostly during the World War II years when many front-line ballplayers were in military service, and was never an All-Star. But he enjoyed a distinction that would elude hundreds of other Cubs who played at Wrigley in the last seven decades.

Merullo, who died on Saturday at 98 in Reading, Mass., played shortstop for the 1945 Cubs, the franchise’s last pennant winner, and was the last surviving ballplayer to have worn a Cubs uniform in a World Series.

Merullo died of complications following a stroke, his son Rick said.

Merullo was deferred from military service because of color blindness. In 1945, he played for Manager Charlie Grimm in a lineup including first baseman Phil Cavarretta, the National League batting champion, along with third baseman Stan Hack and outfielders Andy Pafko, Bill Nicholson and Peanuts Lowrey.

They joined pitchers Hank Wyse, Claude Passeau, Paul Derringer, Hank Borowy and Ray Prim in propelling the Cubs to the N.L. pennant by three games over the St. Louis Cardinals, winners of the three previous N.L. pennants.

But the Cubs played in the World Series against a Detroit Tigers team that had Hank Greenberg, the future Hall of Fame slugger, and Virgil Trucks, the fastballing right-hander, both having returned from military service late in the ’45 season. When the Tigers won Game 7 at Wrigley Field, the Cubs were still looking for their first World Series championship since 1908, a search that continues.

Merullo was especially remembered in his playing days for his misadventures in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 13, 1942, when he committed four errors in a single inning against the Braves in Boston.

A native of Boston, he was keyed up that day because his wife, Jean, had given birth to their first child, Len Jr., at a nearby hospital.

“The baby was born in the morning,” Merullo recalled in an interview in the late 1970s. “Well, naturally, you’re not as sharp as you should be, but still you should be all excited and have a pretty good day. I did just the opposite.”

As Merullo told it, a sportswriter for The Chicago Daily News pinned the nickname Boots on the baby in honor of his dad’s miscues.

“My son is now 36 years old,” Merullo noted in that interview, “and they still call him Boots.”

Leonard Richard Merullo was born on May 5, 1917, one of 12 children of Italian immigrants, and played baseball at Villanova before signing with the Cubs organization. He appeared in 639 major league games with a career batting average of .240.

He was the Cubs’ starting shortstop for most of the 1945 season, but played behind Roy Hughes in the World Series, going 0 for 2 at the plate. He retired after the 1947 season, then spent more than half a century as a scout for the Cubs and other major league teams. “While I have experienced many joys as owner of this great franchise, one of the most memorable was meeting Lennie last season,” Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement.

In addition to his wife, Jean, and their sons Len Jr. and Rick, Merullo, who lived in Reading, Mass., is survived by two other sons, Dave and Charles; several grandchildren, including Len Jr.’s son, Matt, who spent six seasons in the major leagues, mostly as a catcher for the Chicago White Sox; and several great-grandchildren.

In the 1980s, Merullo became a good-natured target of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko, who often cited him in his annual quizzes centering on the futility of past Cubs teams.

One day, Merullo sent a letter to Royko, who ran it in one of his columns.

“I thought you might like to know whatever became of your favorite Cub shortstop,” Merullo wrote. “I’m now 66 years old, the father of four wonderful grown sons, grandfather of three, and still married very happily to my girl-next-door sweetheart. And I’ve spent my entire years in baseball — a very much respected scout here in the New England area and in special assignments throughout the country.”

Merullo told Royko that he had always worked hard at his game and that “perhaps my contribution to baseball can be described as being able to understand and have a feel for the player who is having a bad day — as I have had many.”

Royko vowed in that column to make “no more wise-guy remarks about Lennie,” but he could not resist a concluding quip. Noting that Merullo had knocked a few front teeth out of the mouth of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Dixie Walker in a 1946 brawl at Ebbets Field, he had a final message for him:

“Don’t tell me you never gave us anything to cheer about, pal.”

Everett "Skeeter" Kell
Saturday, May 30th, 2015

Mr. Everett Lee “Skeeter” Kell, age 85, passed away Thursday, May 28, 2015. He was born October 11, 1929 in Swifton, Arkansas, the son of Clyde and Alma Kell.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Clyde and Alma Kell; and two brothers, George Kell and Frank Kell.

Skeeter is survived by his wife of 67 years, Sue Kell; sons, Roger Kell and wife, Debbie of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Jerry Kell and wife Kimmie, of Dallas, Texas; daughters, Becky Bussey and husband, Don of Conway, Arkansas and Karla Gawlikowski and husband Bob of Houston, Texas. He is also survived by ten grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and his uncle Wilson Kell and wife, Betty Sue of Marianna.

Skeeter graduated from Arkansas State College (Arkansas State University) in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1952. He played professional baseball through from 1949 to 1954, and in the off season, he would coach and teach in Grubbs, Arkansas. He retired from baseball in 1954 and opened Skeeter Kell Sporting Goods in Kennett, Missouri in 1955. He moved to Pine Bluff and started working as a sales representative for L.G. Balfour Graduation Products and opened Kell Athletic Goods in 1964.

Skeeter and Sue moved to Conway, Arkansas in 1994, and he retired from Balfour in 2000. They moved to Newport in September, 2014.

Skeeter was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Conway. Skeeter will be remembered as a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Everyone who met him loved him, and he will be missed so much.

In the words of a precious friend of ours “on May 28th, Skeeter Kell took his last at bat on the game of life. His lifetime batting average was about 900, which means he was among the best that ever lived. His is now in Heaven’s Hall of Fame and the Angels are cheering as he starts his first game on God’s team. He was a great one.”

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, or a charity of your choice.

Funeral services are 10:00 a.m. Saturday at Swifton United Methodist Church with interment in Swifton Cemetery. Friends may visit at the church Saturday, 9:15 a.m. until service time.

Arrangements by Jackson’s Newport Funeral Home.

Ex-Tigers pitcher Fred Gladding, Flat Rock native, dies at 78

Tony Paul, The Detroit News 1:04 a.m. EDT May 28, 2015

Fred Gladding, who starred on the baseball diamonds at Flat Rock High School before making his mark in the majors with the Tigers and later the Houston Astros, passed away last week.

He died in Columbia, South Carolina, at the age of 78.

"'The Bear,' they called him," said Tigers radio analyst Jim Price, a teammate of Gladding's for one year in Detroit. "A good guy. He loved life, like all of us when you're young and in the big leagues."

Gladding was born and grew up Downriver, in Flat Rock, before signing with the Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1956.

A big, tall right-hander, he debuted in the major leagues five years later, and spent seven years with Detroit, almost exclusively as a relief pitcher.

He was 26-11 with a 2.70 ERA and 33 saves in 217 games as a Tiger. His winning percentage (.743) remains the franchise record for pitchers with at least 200 games pitched.

After a spectacular season in 1967, in which he posted a 1.99 ERA and 1.052 WHIP, over 77 innings, Gladding was traded in November from his hometown team to the Astros as the player to be named in the trade that, during the summer, had brought future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews to the Tigers.

By one year, Gladding missed out on winning a World Series championship with his hometown team.

Injuries hampered him in Houston in 1968, but in 1969, the first year saves were officially recognized by Major League Baseball, Gladding led the league with 29 of them.

Gladding pitched for the Astros for six seasons before being released in 1973. He signed with the Indians, but never made it back to the major leagues.

For his career, he was 48-34 with a 3.13 ERA in 450 games. In 601 innings, he struck out 394 and walked 223.

"He threw hard, and had very heavy sink," said Price, Gladding's teammate in 1967. "He'd break your bat in a hurry."

One thing Gladding never did very well was hit. As a reliever, he didn't get regular turns at-bat -- and that was a good thing for his team. In 63 career at-bats, he had one hit, a single, for a lifetime batting average of .016.

After his career, Gladding coached in the minor leagues and also was the Tigers pitching coach under Ralph Houk from 1976-78. The first year of his stint was highlighted, of course, by "Bird Mania" and the emergence of Mark Fidrych.

Gladding's funeral was Sunday in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is survived by his wife, Margie Clotfelter Gladding; daughter Brenda Findlay; and three grandchildren.

Ollie 'Downtown' Brown, baseball's 'Original Padre,' dies at 71

By Gary Klein
The Los Angeles Times
May 15, 2015, 8:11 pm

Ollie Brown, who played 13 years in the major leagues and was known as the "Original Padre" after the San Diego team claimed him with their first pick in the 1968 expansion draft, has died at his home in Buena Park. He was 71.

Brown, who grew up in Long Beach, died last month from complications of mesothelioma, his brother Willie Brown said.

Brown was the middle child in a trio of brothers who all played professional sports. His older brother, Willie, played football and baseball at USC and three seasons in the NFL. He later coached at USC and in the NFL. His younger brother, Oscar, played baseball at USC and spent five seasons in the major leagues with the Atlanta Braves.

During his baseball career — which included stints with six teams — Ollie Brown batted .265 with 102 home runs and drove in 454 runs. He also was known for his strong throwing arm.

Brown broke into the major leagues in 1965 with the San Francisco Giants, and in 1968 became the first player chosen by the San Diego Padres in the expansion draft. He batted .292 with a career-best 23 homers and 89 RBIs for the Padres in 1970.

"As our franchise's first pick in the expansion draft, Ollie truly was the 'original Padre,' a beloved member of the Padres family," the team said in a statement Friday.

Chris Cannizzaro, a longtime major league catcher who played for the Padres from 1969 to 1971, said Brown was a valuable teammate.

"He was one of the better people I played baseball with," Cannizzaro said during a phone interview Friday. "He was quiet, did his job, played hard and he was just a good person."

Cannizzaro was a teammate of Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1968. "Next to Clemente," Cannizzaro said, "Ollie had the second-best arm I have ever seen in a right fielder."

Next to [Roberto] Clemente, Ollie had the second-best arm I have ever seen in a right fielder.
- Chris Cannizzaro, former Padres catcher and teammate of Brown

Ollie Lee Brown was born on Feb. 11, 1944, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. His parents took the family west shortly after he was born, settling in Long Beach.

"Our mom and dad came out to California from Alabama to give us an opportunity," said Willie Brown, 73, who works as an academic monitor and life-skills mentor at USC. "We spent all of our time out at the playground.

"Ollie was one of the good guys."

Ollie Brown's upbringing in California shaped his pro baseball career.

He went to Long Beach Polytechnic High School, and signed as a teen with the San Francisco Giants in 1962; he was assigned to a minor league team in Salem, Va., in the Appalachian Rookie League. During a 2013 appearance at USC, Brown told students that on a road trip in West Virginia, he and other African American players were informed by their manager that they would not be allowed to stay in the team hotel but would be taken to the home of an African American family.

"We were raised in Long Beach," Willie Brown said. "We had not been around segregation. He was not used to being treated that way."

When the team returned to Salem, Ollie Brown told his manager to tell the Giants to move him to another team and location or he would quit baseball.

He was sent to an affiliate in Decatur, Ill., and later flourished for Fresno in the California League, where he hit 40 home runs. Some of the blasts were so prodigious they earned him the nickname "Downtown."

"I hit a lot of balls to center field," he told in 2012. "And the way the ballpark was situated, when you did hit it over the fence, the ball was going the direction of downtown.

"One day, after I hit a home run, the radio announcer said the ball was going downtown. That's how I got my nickname."

Brown made his major league debut with the Giants in 1965 and played on teams that featured Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Bobby Bonds and Juan Marichal.

The Padres tabbed him with the first pick in the expansion draft in 1968, when four teams were added to Major League Baseball.

"I figured that once the Giants might put me on the expansion list, thought I might have a good chance of getting picked," Brown told "But I had no idea I would be the first one picked. It came at a good time in my career because I got the chance to play on an everyday basis."

Brown played just over three seasons for the Padres before he was traded to the Oakland Athletics during the 1972 season. He later played for the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros before finishing his career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

He is survived by his brothers; his wife, Sandra; daughter Danielle; and five grandchildren.

Ex-major league and Snohomish star Earl Averill Jr. dies

By Adam Jude
The Seattle Times
May 14, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Earl Averill Jr., a Snohomish High School graduate and a seven-year major league veteran, died Wednesday in Tacoma. He was 83.

The Mariners scheduled a moment of silence in Averill’s honor just before the start of Thursday’s game against the Red Sox.

Averill is the son of Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Averill.

Averill Jr., one of the most prolific hitters in University of Oregon history, was the Ducks’ first All-American. He hit .439 as a sophomore in 1951 and was a three-time Pacific Coast Conference All-Northern Division selection. He was inducted into the Oregon Hall of Fame in 1997.

At the end of his college career, the Cleveland Indians, the team for which his father had starred for 11 years, invited Averill Jr. for a tryout and “I jumped at the opportunity,” he said in a 2013 radio interview. “My wife had no clue that I was interested in playing baseball (professionally).”

He made his major-league debut for Cleveland in 1956 and went on to play for the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies, mostly as a catcher.

“He was a really good storyteller,” his son, Randy Averill, said. “To him, it was never about the baseball, but more about the people. Dad loved his teammates and his opponents.”

Averill Jr. had his best major-league season with the expansion Angels in 1961, when he hit .266 with 21 home runs and an .873 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

He remains part of baseball trivia lore: In 1962, he tied a major-league record by reaching base in 17 consecutive at-bats — a record he shares with Piggy Ward, who set that mark in 1893.

He recalled that one his at-bats in that record streak was an error by Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson. “He made the only error he made in 10 years on a gimmie,” Averill Jr. said jokingly.

Toward the end of his career, Averill Jr. played minor-league ball with the Seattle Rainiers (1964) and Seattle Angels (1965). He became an avid Mariners fan and was “really optimistic” about the team this year, Randy Averill said.

After baseball, Averill Jr. worked as a computer programmer, salesman and business consultant. He and his wife, Pat, also ran an upholstery business out of their Auburn home.

Averill Jr. is survived by his wife of 63 years and their four children, 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Jim Fanning, 87, Dies; Lifted Baseball in Canada With Expos

By The Associated Press, April 26, 2015

Jim Fanning, the longtime Montreal Expos executive who managed the franchise to its only playoff appearance in Canada, has died. He was 87.

His death was confirmed on Saturday by the Toronto Blue Jays, for whom he had worked as an ambassador to amateur baseball. The team did not say where or when he died.

Mr. Fanning was the Expos’ first general manager. Hired in 1968, a year before the team’s first season, he spent 25 years with the franchise in various capacities. In 2005, the Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals.

Late in the 1981 season, Mr. Fanning, who was then in charge of the Expos’ farm system, replaced Dick Williams as manager. “When I took over, I didn’t give the team a pep talk because I didn’t know how,” he told The New York Times that October. “I gave them a fact talk. I told them they had 27 days to win it.”

Because a players’ strike interrupted the season and no games were played from early June to early August, that year the teams with the best first-half and second-half records in each division met in playoff series. The Expos finished with the best second-half record in the National League East and beat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games, but then lost the five-game National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series. It was the Expos’ only postseason appearance before the move to Washington.

Mr. Fanning remained the Expos’ manager through the 1982 season and briefly managed the team again when Bill Virdon was fired near the end of the 1984 season. He then returned to the front office. His overall record as manager was 116-103.

William James Fanning was born in Chicago on Sept. 14, 1927, and attended high school in Moneta, Iowa. He played college baseball at Buena Vista in Iowa and the University of Illinois. He was a backup catcher with the Chicago Cubs from 1954 to 1957, hitting .170 with five runs batted in in 64 games. He then managed in the minor leagues before joining the Milwaukee Braves’ front office and remained with the Braves when they moved to Atlanta.

Survivors include his wife, Maria; a son, Frank; and a daughter, Cynthia. A resident of London, Ontario, Mr. Fanning became a Canadian citizen in 2012.

“Jim Fanning was a baseball pioneer in this country,” said Scott Crawford, director of operations for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2000. “Without his tireless efforts, there may not be Major League Baseball in Canada.”