Recent Passings

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 MLB.com 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 MLB.com. "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.”


Jose Capellan, former MLB pitcher, found dead in Philadelphia home


By Bernie Augustine
New York Daily News
Thursday, April 9, 2015, 1:06 PM


A former major league pitcher was found dead inside his Philadelphia home Tuesday following an apparent heart attack. He was 34.

Jose Capellan, who pitched for the Brewers, Braves, Rockies and Tigers over parts of five seasons, was found in his bed by his wife’s stepfather around 8 p.m. Tuesday. Capellan’s wife, Patricia, told ESPN Deportes that her husband had a dependency on sleeping pills.

“Apparently it was a heart attack, (according to) the paramedics who responded to the emergency call,” Patricia Capellan told ESPN Deportes. “I was working when I received a call telling me that Jose was dead. I could not believe it. He was alone in the house.

“When I got home, the police were already there. They asked me if he used any other medication because there was indications that his heart could not resist anymore. Jose had no love problems or other problems, such as have been speculating on social networks. He didn't drink alcohol, but had lost control in the use of sleeping pills.”

Patricia Capellan disputed the notion that her husband might have taken his own life, and told ESPN that he was seeking treatment for his addiction with the help of Major League Baseball "He had become addicted to this prescription drug, not just now but rather over the past five years," she said. "He was even under treatment as part of Major League Baseball for the use of this medication. These problems were well-known by those of us who lived with him.

"My husband did not commit suicide, nor did he have financial or problems with other women. He didn't have the same financial situation as he had before, but he was not having any kind of trouble.”

Capellan’s funeral will be held next week in his hometown in the Dominican Republic. In 99 appearances over parts of five seasons he pitched to a 5.89 ERA and a 5-7 record.

"He had become addicted to this prescription drug, not just now but rather over the past five years," she said. "He was even under treatment as part of Major League Baseball for the use of this medication. These problems were well-known by those of us who lived with him. "My husband did not commit suicide, nor did he have financial or problems with other women. He didn't have the same financial situation as he had before, but he was not having any kind of trouble.”

Capellan’s funeral will be held next week in his hometown in the Dominican Republic. In 99 appearances over parts of five seasons he pitched to a 5.89 ERA and a 5-7 record.

Local baseball legend Parnell Hisner dies

Monroeville native gave up Joe DiMaggio's last regular-season hit

By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel
Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 4:31 pm


Fort Wayne baseball legend H. Parnell Hisner died Friday afternoon at age 88 after a recent bout with cancer.

A 1976 inductee into the Northeast Indiana Baseball Association's Hall of Fame, Hisner was also a board member for the organization for 12 years and in 2010 received the Colin Lister Award for "dedication to the game of baseball and its historic legacy."

The longtime Monroeville resident was known for getting to pitch one Major League game: Sept. 30, 1951, for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees. That happened to be Joe DiMaggio's last regular-season game before he retired.

A rookie, Hisner had been called up from AAA Louisville for the last two weeks of the season. He sat and watched all but the final game of a Boston collapse, as the Red Sox fell to 11 games out. After Allie Reynolds had no-hit the Red Sox, Boston manager Steve O'Neill told Hisner he was starting the next day.

He had the privilege of allowing DiMaggio's 2,214th regular-season and last hit. Hisner pitched six innings; gave up seven singles; walked four, including DiMaggio his first time up; and lost 3-0. He also twice struck out Mickey Mantle.

DiMaggio later had six hits, including a home run, as the Yankees beat the New York Giants in the 1951 World Series.

"The next year, I went to spring training on the 40-man roster and dressed right beside Ted Williams," Hisner told The News-Sentinel's Reggie Hayes in 1998. "They didn't cut me until two hours before they broke camp. (New manager Lou) Boudreau didn't give many rookies a chance at all. I feel I would have had a better chance if O'Neill had stayed, but he didn't, so that's all history."
Hisner shuffled around the minors for two more seasons. He then returned to his roots near Monroeville, where he graduated from Hoagland High School, and played semipro baseball in Fort Wayne several years before becoming a youth coach. He retired from Rea Magnet Wire in 1987 after 33 years.

On April 20, 2012, Hisner joined nearly 200 former Red Sox players and coaches on a visit to Boston for Fenway Park's 100th anniversary.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Anna, in 2013. They had three children and eight grandchildren.

Services are pending.


Al Rosen, Who Missed Triple Crown by a Step, Dies at 91

By Richard Goldstein
The New York Times
March 14, 2015


Al Rosen, a slugging third baseman for the Cleveland Indians who was unanimously named the American League’s most valuable player in 1953, when he came within a hit of winning the batting triple crown, but whose career was cut short by injury, died on Friday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 91.

His death was announced by his family.

Rosen was also the president of the Yankees in the late 1970s and the president and general manager of the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants, helping to build the Giants’ 1989 pennant winner.

In the early and mid-1950s, Rosen, a muscular right-handed batter, joined with the lefty-swinging Luke Easter and Larry Doby to provide the punch in Cleveland’s lineup. Rosen led the league in home runs twice and runs batted in twice and played in the All-Star Game every year from 1952 to 1955. He was best remembered for his 1953 season, when he led the league in home runs with 43 and runs batted in with 145 while batting .336.

Going into the final game of the 1953 season, Rosen was battling Mickey Vernon, the Washington Senators’ first baseman, for the batting title. In Rosen’s last at-bat, against the Detroit Tigers at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, he hit a slow ground ball to third base and seemed to have beaten the throw on a close play.

“Everybody on the bench thought I was safe,” Rosen told Baseball Digest in 2002. But the umpire, Hank Soar, called Rosen out, and he agreed.

“I tried to leap to first base,” Rosen recalled. “But I did a quick step and missed the bag.”

Had Rosen been safe, he would have won the battling title and the triple crown. But Vernon edged him for the batting title, finishing with a .337 average.

Despite being hampered by a broken finger, Rosen hit .300 in 1954, helping the Indians win the pennant with 111 victories, then a league record, to end the Yankees’ streak of five consecutive World Series appearances. The Indians were then swept in four games by the New York Giants in the World Series.

Ralph Kiner, the future Hall of Fame slugger who joined the Indians in 1955, came to admire Rosen. “He was the leader of the team and the best all-around player I ever played with,” Kiner was quoted by Danny Peary in the oral history “We Played the Game” (1994).

Albert Leonard Rosen was born on Feb. 29, 1924, in Spartanburg, S.C., where his grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, ran a department store. When he was a youngster, his family moved to Miami, where, he recalled, he was sometimes taunted over his religion. So he took up boxing and showed the grit he would later display on the baseball field.

“I wasn’t starting trouble in those days, but when it came to me, I wanted to end it, and damn quick,” he told Roger Kahn in “How the Weather Was” (1973).

Rosen also played fast-pitch softball and turned to baseball in prep school. He later joined the Indians’ organization and made his major league debut in 1947. He briefly played for the Indians in 1948, when they won the World Series, but did not become a regular until 1950, when he hit a league-leading 37 home runs.

The lingering effects of his 1954 finger injury, which he sustained fielding a grounder while playing first base, and an injury from an auto accident brought on Rosen’s retirement, at age 32, after the 1956 season. He had a career batting average of .285 with 192 homers and 717 R.B.I.

After working as a stockbroker and casino executive, Rosen embarked on a second baseball career in 1978 when the Yankee owner George Steinbrenner named him the team’s president. Steinbrenner had known Rosen from his years as a shipping executive in Cleveland, and Rosen was already a minority owner of the Yankees.

“George tapped me on the shoulder and said he wanted me to run the Yankees,” Rosen once told The Akron Beacon Journal. “It’s like having a tiara put on your head.”

During the 1978 season, Billy Martin departed as manager and was replaced by Bob Lemon, a former star pitcher who had been Rosen’s teammate with the Indians. The Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff on Bucky Dent’s memorable home run and went on to win the pennant and the World Series.

Rosen’s tiara did not stay on long, a familiar pattern in the tumultuous years when Steinbrenner’s Yankees became known as the Bronx Zoo. Rosen quit in the summer of 1979 amid conflicts with Steinbrenner and Martin, who had returned as manager.

Rosen was the president and general manager of the Astros from 1980 to September 1985, then ran the Giants’ baseball operation through 1992. He hired the former pitcher Roger Craig as manager, and they brought the Giants a division title in 1987 and a National League pennant two years later, though the Giants were swept by the Oakland A’s in the 1989 World Series, which was famously interrupted by an earthquake.

Rosen is survived by his wife, Rita; three sons, Rob, Andy and Jim, from his marriage to his first wife, Terry, who died in 1971; two stepchildren, Gail Evenari and David Loewenstein; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Rosen was known for his determination and intensity. He fielded hundreds of ground balls in drills to improve his fielding. Yankees Manager Casey Stengel told Time magazine in 1954: “He’ll give you the works every time. Gets all the hits, gives you the hard tag in the field.”

Rosen once told USA Today: “I worked hard at it. I wasn’t as talented as many. I didn’t have a long career, but I thought I had a good career.”


Former big leaguer McKnight dies; played for Mets and O's

By Chad Thornburg / MLB.com | March 2, 2015

Former Major Leaguer Jeff McKnight passed away on Sunday after a 10-year battle with leukemia. He was 52.

McKnight spent parts of six seasons in the Majors, with the Mets and Orioles. He primarily played the infield but logged time at every position except center field and pitcher. He hit .233/.284/.304 through 218 career games.

A second-round selection by New York in the 1983 First-Year Player Draft, McKnight made his Major League debut with the Mets in 1989. He spent the next two years in Baltimore before returning to New York for three seasons to finish his career.

His father, Jim McKnight, also played in the Majors, with brief appearances for the Cubs in the early 1960s.

Alex Johnson dies at 72; Angels' troubled batting champ

By Chris Foster
The Los Angeles Times
February 29, 2015

Alex Johnson, the only batting champion in Angels' history, died Saturday of complications from cancer. He was 72.

His death was announced by the James H. Cole Home for Funerals in Detroit.

Johnson hit .288 in 13 major league seasons, but it was his two volatile years with the Angels that defined him.

In 1970, Johnson hit .329 to win the American League batting title, beating out Boston Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski on the last day of the season. In 1971, he was suspended five times and became the face of a dysfunctional team.

The Major League Players Assn. filed a grievance, which became a landmark case that forced baseball to treat mental issues on par with physical injuries.

Marvin Miller, then the head of the players' union, said in 1990 that he became convinced of Johnson's "emotional illness" after an 11-hour meeting with the left fielder. The Angels lost the arbitration case and were ordered to reinstate Johnson with back pay.

In a 1990 interview with The Times, Johnson denied having emotional issues but said, "I was young back then and didn't know about human beings. What I saw on that team was evil. You get too many negative things and you get your mind off the main objective, which was winning baseball games. A lot of guys on that team were more concerned about watching me than doing their own jobs."

The battles with teammates, managers, front office officials and sportswriters overshadowed Johnson's abilities. He often boasted, "you hit when you can; I hit when I want," and could back up that bravado.

Johnson was born Dec. 7, 1942, and grew up in Detroit. He played at Northwestern High, where he was a teammate of future Detroit Tigers star Willie Horton. Ron Johnson, Alex's brother, was a star running back who became a 1,000-yard rusher for the New York Giants in the NFL.

Alex Johnson turned down a football scholarship to Michigan State to play baseball. He spent two seasons each with the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, where he both impressed and frustrated managers. Phillies' Manager Gene Mauch said Johnson was the fastest player he had ever seen going from second base to home plate. He also grew weary of what he perceived as Johnson's bad attitude.

The Angels traded for Johnson in 1970, a deal that paid off initially. The Angels remained in the race for the American League West Division title until mid-September. Johnson and Yastrzemski took the batting title race to the wire.

The Red Sox finished their season a day before the Angels. Manager Lefty Phillips put Johnson in the leadoff spot for the last game and he went two for three. After Johnson beat out an infield grounder in the fifth inning, the scoreboard flashed that he was .0003 percentage points ahead of Yastrzemski. He was pulled for a pinch runner.

"Lefty Phillips came over to congratulate me," Johnson said in 1990. "I said, 'The people in Boston are going to be mad at both of us.' "

In 1971, the Angels were picked to win the division but quickly unraveled. Johnson became the focal point. He was viewed as loafing too often and having a confrontational manner.

"I think Alex took the heat for everybody," Angels pitcher Dave LaRoche said.

Others disagreed.

"He was really like two different people," Jim Fregosi, the Angels shortstop who went on to manage the team, recalled in 1990. "I saw him do tremendous things for kids when he was out of uniform. Then he'd put the uniform on and he'd change. If he didn't feel like doing something, like running hard, he wouldn't do it."

Johnson feuded with sportswriters — he once dumped coffee grounds in the typewriter of one who had hidden his bats as a practical joke — and brushed aside disciplinary attempts by Phillips.

Phillips suspended Johnson after one game, declaring that he would never play for the Angels again. When Phillips reinstated him two days later, Fregosi said, "Lefty gained one player and lost the other 24."

Incidents piled up. Pitcher Clyde Wright brandished a clubhouse stool at Johnson. He backed down when Johnson hit himself in the head with his own stool and said, "that stool is not going to save you," according to Wright. Chico Ruiz, a reserve infielder who was godfather to Johnson's adopted daughter, pulled a gun on him outside the clubhouse during a game. Johnson refused to talk about the incident in a 1990 interview.

Johnson was suspended the last time in June 1971 for what the team called "lack of hustle and improper attitude." The players union's Miller put much of the blame on Dick Walsh, who was then the Angels' general manager. "In the middle of everything that was going on … Walsh called Johnson's wife and, in essence, complained to her about Alex," Miller said. "That really set Alex off."

Miller said a psychiatrist confirmed his suspicions that Johnson had an emotional illness. Walsh requested that Johnson see a second psychiatrist, one selected by the Angels, who came back with the same findings.

An arbitrator ruled that Johnson had an emotional disability that needed to be treated as much as physical injury. Johnson was reinstated, but said in 1990, "I lost all enthusiasm for the game." He played five more seasons with Cleveland, the New York Yankees and Detroit.

Johnson stayed in Detroit after his baseball career to run his father's trucking company. His survivors include his daughter, Jenifer; a son, Alex; his brother, Ron; and his sister, Jean.

Don Johnson, a Yankees Sensation Who Fizzled Out, Dies at 88

By Bruce Weber
The New York Times
February 27, 2015

Not many baseball fans — not even the die-hard Yankee variety — will remember the right-handed pitcher Don Johnson, but he was the Yankees’ most promising rookie 68 spring trainings ago. That was 1947.

The manager, Bucky Harris, told The Sporting News that Johnson, a fireballer with a high, Bob Feller-like leg kick, was the most impressive first-year player he had ever seen. In April, Johnson won his first major league start, pitching all 10 innings in a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics, and his second start, too — another complete game — beating the Washington Senators, 3-1.

But Johnson fell victim to injuries, bad luck and his own indiscretions, becoming the very emblem of unrealized talent.

He won only three more games for the Yankees — he scoffed at being coached after his good start, earning Harris’s disdain, though he earned a World Series ring in 1947 — and in a seven-season career that included stints with five or six teams (depending on whether you count both the St. Louis Browns and the Baltimore Orioles, different iterations of the same franchise), he never won more than eight games in a season.

Johnson was 88 when he died in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 10. His death was announced on the website of the Rose City Cemetery and Funeral Home in Portland.

A sore arm in 1948 stalled his career. He was out of the majors until 1950, when he returned to the Yankees, then managed by Casey Stengel, and his promise lingered through spring training.

“Everybody we talked trade with wanted Johnson,” Stengel said that February. “This prompted me to take another look at him myself. He must be good, and if he is, we can use him.” Stengel’s optimism lasted until June, when the Yankees traded Johnson, who was struggling with eczema, to the Browns. From then on, his career was a frustrating one, bursts of brilliance buried in stretches of mediocrity.

He had stellar years in the high minors, winning 32 games over two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League and being named the league’s most valuable player in 1957. His best year in the majors, however, was 1954, when he went 8-7 for the Chicago White Sox, with three shutouts and a victory over Whitey Ford and the Yankees in New York.

Along the way, he pawned his World Series ring when his car broke down in Wyoming; was thrown in jail in Tijuana, Mexico, after a brawl; and was consigned to six days on a Florida chain gang after a drunken auto accident. The owner of the Maple Leafs, Jack Kent Cooke, bailed him out.

“Cooke said, ‘I don’t think you’re normal,’ ” Johnson told The New York Times in 2010 when he returned to Yankee Stadium for Old-Timers’ Day. “I was in a jail cell with three murderers, but they took care of me. I had a bump on my head.”

After his playing days, he drove a cab in Portland but quit, he said, because he was robbed twice and shot. He also worked for the Parks Department.

Donald Roy Johnson was born to Swedish immigrants in Portland on Nov. 12, 1926. A star in high school and American Legion ball, he was signed by the Yankees before the 1944 season. After a year in the minors, he served in the Army at the end of World War II, much of the time playing ball, and joined the Yankees for spring training in 1947.
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Continue reading the main story

In addition to the Yankees, the Browns, the Orioles and the White Sox, he played for the Senators and finished his major league career with the Giants in 1958, their first year in San Francisco.

Neither his overall record, 27-38, nor his earned run average, 4.78, was much to admire. But one statistic, an indication of his undeniable if erratic gift, was: In 70 big league starts, Johnson threw five shutouts — not a bad ratio for his era, when a starting pitcher was expected to finish a game, and better than that of many star pitchers who came after him, including Roger Clemens and the Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez.

Johnson’s first marriage ended in divorce. His survivors include his wife, the former Karen Morgan, and three children.

“I was no superstar, but I played with the best players who ever lived,” Johnson recalled at Old-Timers’ Day in 2010, referring to Yankees teammates who included Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Tommy Henrich. “Joe DiMaggio liked me. He took me under his wing. He said, ‘Stay off the booze and away from the broads.’ ”

Johnson was asked if he took the advice.

“Hell, no,” he said.

James H. "Jim" King
August 27, 1932 - February 23, 2015

Nelson-Berna Funeral Home
February 25, 2015

James H. “Jim” King of Elkins died Monday, February 23rd at WRMC. He was born August 27, 1932, son of Elmer and Mary Alice Lawson King.

He was preceded in death by his parents and five brothers and two sisters.

He is survived by Rose King, his wife of 60 years; a daughter, Sheree L King of Richmond, VA; one son, David L. King and his wife Debbie of Batesville, AR; one grandson James Dustin King and wife Amanda of Ft. Meyers, FL; one granddaughter, Dr. Ashley King-Tinsley and husband Dr. Tasch Tinsley of Louisville, KY; a great grandson Emory William Tinsley; a step-grandson, Rusty Elumbaugh and wife C. J., and their sons Ryder and Rixon Elumbaugh of Batesville, AR.

He played professional baseball for 18 years; 10 years in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, and with the San Francisco Giants and Washington Senators.

He retired from White River Telephone and Alltel Telephone Companies after 24 years.
The family will receive friends from 6 to 8PM on Thursday at Nelson-Berna Funeral Home.
Services will be at the chapel of Nelson-Berna Funeral Home at 2:00PM Friday, February 27, 2015 with Glen Faulkner officiating. Burial will follow in Mt. Olive Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Elkins Volunteer Fire Department P. O. Box 292, Elkins, AR 72727, or to the Mt. Olive Cemetery Fund, c/o Marilyn Tate @ 21643 Mt. Olive Road, Elkins, AR 72727.
Pallbearers will be Kevin Caler, Randy Disney, Dale King, Rick Teague, Bob Teague,
Mike Bell.

Honorary pallbearers are Frank Pummill, Buddy Ledford, Bruce Ledford and Jack Roles and members of the Elkins Volunteer Fire Dept. and the afternoon coffee drinkers at McDonalds.

White Sox scout, former Cubs outfielder Gary Woods passes away

By Mark Gonzales
The Chicago Tribune
February 20, 2015 10:52 AM

MESA, Ariz. - Chicago White Sox scout and former Cubs outfielder Gary Woods passed away at his home in Solvang, Calif., the team confirmed Friday.

Woods covered the Southern California region as a scout for the White Sox in 2008 and scouted games at UCLA and Pepperdine as recently as last weekend.

Details on services are pending, the Sox said in a statement.

'Sad day': 1984 Tiger Dave Bergman dies at 61

Bergman played first base, outfield for Tigers from 1984-92, won World Series in '84

By Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press
February 2, 2015 9:44 p.m. EST


Of all the on-field memories Dave Bergman shared, and all the off-field contributions he made to the game of baseball and its youth over the years, the former Tigers first baseman will be most remembered for this scene.

June 4, 1984. ABC's "Monday Night Baseball." Tiger Stadium.

The Blue Jays, just a handful of games behind the Tigers in the American League East standings, were one strike away from escaping the bottom of the 10th inning in a tie game, in front of a packed crowd on national television.

"I remember it well," Alan Trammell said.

"I don't think anybody that followed us back then will forget that," Lance Parrish said.

And pitch after pitch after pitch — Bergman fell behind no balls and two strikes to Blue Jays reliever Roy Lee Jackson — that third strike never came.

"He fouled off 10 or 12 pitches," Parrish recalled.

And on the 13th, Bergman hit his first home run as a Tiger — a walk-off, three-run home run into the rightfield upper deck for a 6-3 win — a shot that is forever etched in team lore as one of the most memorable in the team's most recent World Series championship campaign.

Rocky Bridges, who played for Dodgers and Angels, dies at 87

The Los Angeles Times
January 30, 2015, 8:28 PM


Rocky Bridges, a journeyman infielder whose 11-year major league career was bookended by seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the expansion Los Angeles Angels, has died in Idaho. He was 87.

Bridges, who went on to be a minor league manager and major league coach, died Tuesday of natural causes in Coeur d'Alene, his family said.

During his baseball career, Bridges was better known for his wit and wordplay than his performance on the diamond. He played for seven teams from 1951 through 1961; the longest stretch was four seasons in Cincinnati. "It took me that long to learn how to spell it," he liked to tell reporters.

A shortstop, second baseman and third baseman, Bridges had a .247 career batting average and never hit more than five home runs or stole more than six bases in a season while playing for the Dodgers, Reds, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Angels. He made the All-Star team in 1958 as the Senators' sole representative.

"I never got in the game, but I sat on the bench with Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Yogi Berra," Bridges told The Times in 1985. "I gave 'em instruction in how to sit."

In 2011 Bridges reminisced about his life in an interview with The Times. "I had fun playing baseball," he told columnist Jerry Crowe. "Many of the players now, I'm not sure they have fun playing the game."

After retiring from the Angels, he stayed on as a coach and then became a minor league manager in the Angels, San Diego, San Francisco and Pittsburgh farm systems, ultimately winning more than 1,300 games.

"I managed, I scouted, I coached, I did everything," Bridges said in 2011. "I was like a house without toilets. I was uncanny."

He was born Everett Lamar Bridges on Aug. 7, 1927, in Refugio, Texas, and grew up in Long Beach. After graduating from Long Beach Poly High School, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Bridges moved his family to Idaho in 1970. His wife, Mary, died in 2008. According to the Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman-Review, he is survived by his daughter, Melinda Galbraith of Coeur d'Alene; sons Lance of Post Falls, Idaho, Cory of Coeur d'Alene and John of Idaho Falls, Idaho; and grandchildren.


Charlie Williams, a Met Traded for Mays, Dies at 67


By Patrick McGeehan
The New York Times
January 30, 2015

Charlie Williams, a pitcher best known as the trade bait the Mets used to land Willie Mays in the twilight of his career, died on Tuesday in Daytona Beach, Fla. He was 67.

The cause was complications following surgery in late December to clear blocked coronary arteries, his brother-in-law, Paul Eggermann, said.

Even as he lay in the hospital in the last few weeks, Williams continued to receive copies of his baseball cards from fans seeking autographs, Eggermann said. “It was a regular thing for a long time,” he said. “People would want to complete their collections.”

Williams’s cards were keepers not because of what he accomplished in his eight years in the major leagues, but for how he wound up as a San Francisco Giant. The Mets drafted him in 1968 and put him on their roster in 1971, at a salary of $12,000. He earned his first major league win by pitching the last five innings of a 5-2 victory over Mays and the Giants at Candlestick Park in San Francisco and went on to win four more games that year.

Still, he was expendable when the Giants offered to send Mays, who was by then 41, back to New York, where he had broken into the majors with the Giants before their move to San Francisco.

Mays, who had hit 646 home runs at that point, hit just 14 more in his two seasons with the Mets before retiring. Williams had a career record of 23-22 in 268 games, 31 with the Mets.

Charles Prosek Williams was born in Flushing, Queens, on Oct. 11, 1947, 16 years before the fledgling Mets took up residence there. He grew up nearby in Great Neck, on Long Island.

After retiring from baseball in 1978, Williams briefly drove a taxi in New York City before settling in Florida. His immediate survivors include a daughter, Sharon Williams; a son, Ryan; and a sister, Barbara Eggermann.

“He always kidded around that they traded Willie Mays for him, instead of vice versa,” Paul Eggermann said.


Former Red Sox Coach Don "Bear" Bryant Passes Away

Served as Major League Bullpen Coach on Pennant-Winning 1975 Team

The Associated Press
January 28, 2015

Boston, MA - Don "Bear" Bryant, bullpen coach for the Red Sox from 1974-76, passed away on Thursday, January 22 at Shands Hospital in Gain esville, FL after a brief but serious illness. He was 73.

Bryant spent seven seasons as a major league coach, his first three with the Red Sox. The catcher, who played parts of three seasons in the major leagues, ended his playing career with three years in the Red Sox' farm system, ultimately serving as a player/coach in 1973 for Triple-A Pawtucket under PawSox manager Darrell Johnson. When Johnson took over as Boston's skipper in 1974, Bryant joined him as bullpen coach.

With the Red Sox, Bryant was a part of the 1975 squad that won the American League pennant and served as a coach in the 1976 All-Star Game. From 1977-80, he was reunited with Johnson on the coaching staff for the expansion Seattle Mariners.

Signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1959, Bryant spent 14 seasons playing professionally and saw action in 59 major league games between the Chicago Cubs (1966) and Houston Astros (1969-70). On May 1, 1969, he caught Don Wilson's no-hitter for the Astros in Cincinnati.

Born in Jasper, FL, he had been living in Jacksonville and was survived by
his loving wife Judi, his father, who passed away on January 26, his mother, brothers Clyde and Jim, sister Judy, children Darrell, Darren, and Wendy, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be held tomorrow, January 29 at 2:00 p.m. at Jacksonville Memorial Gardens in Orange Park, FL. The family will receive visitors beginning at 12:30 p.m.


Former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette dead at age 78


Steve Buckley
the Boston Herald
Monday, January 26, 2015

Bill Monbouquette, who was a 20-game winner and threw a no-hitter during his years with the Red Sox, but whose greatest contribution to the team was in the area of race relations, passed away on Sunday after a long battle with leukemia. He was 78.

The Medford native, who also starred on the hockey team at Medford High School, played a pivotal role in making the Red Sox clubhouse a more welcoming environment when Elijah “Pumpsie” Green arrived in 1959 as the team’s first African-American player.

Monbouquette was only 22 years old and in just his second big-league season when Green debuted with the Red Sox on July 21, 1959, making the Sox the last major-league team to integrate. Yet despite Monbouquette’s youth and inexperience, he had no problem stepping in during an incident in which a Red Sox coach began race-baiting an opposing player in Green’s presence.

As Green himself told the story, Monbouqette stood up, walked over to where the coach was standing in the dugout, and said, “Pumpsie Green’s on our team now, and you can’t talk that way.”

Monbouquette always explained that the famed Underground Railroad, which was used to spirit escaped slaves to Canada in the 19th century, played a role in the way he viewed the world. With many ex-slaves choosing to settle in West Medford, some of their descendents would later play with and against Monbouquette on the athletic field.

“I had black friends and black teammates growing up,” Monbouquette said. “Playing with Pumpsie was like being back in Medford.”

Monbouquette signed with the Red Sox in 1955 and made his major-league debut in 1958. He threw a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in 1962, and in 1963 he fashioned a 20-10 record. He was a three-time American League All-Star.

He also has a unique niche in baseball history in that he was the last strikeout victim of Hall of Fame pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige, the Negro Leagues legend who finally made it to the big leagues in 1948. Paige was 59 years old when he came out of retirement to pitch a few innings for Charlie Finley’s last-place Kansas City Athletics on Sept. 25, 1965. Monbouquette, who was Boston’s starting pitcher that day, struck out against Paige in the third inning but pitched a complete game in Boston’s 5-2 victory.

Monbouquette was traded to the Detroit Tigers following the 1965 season and later pitched for the Yankees and San Francisco Giants. He had a 114-112 record in 11 big-league seasons, after which he went on to a long, distinguished career as a pitching coach.

Mike Timlin, who would later pitch on four World Series-winning teams, including the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox, credited Monbouquette for teaching him how to throw a sinker when he was a minor-leaguer in the Toronto Blue Jays system. That sinker played a large role in Timlin’s 18 big-league seasons.

Monbo also worked for the Tigers and Mets as a pitching coach. Among his many pupils was a young Justin Verlander, now the ace of the Tigers pitching staff.

“I thought Verlander was going to need a year in Triple-A,” Monbouquette said in 2007. “But his stuff was just plain nasty. It was just a matter of time with him.”

And he continued to coach even after retirement. A workout freak who made daily visits to Cousens Gym at Tufts University, Monbouquette would often stage impromptu coaching sessions with the Jumbos’ pitchers.

“He was the best pitching coach we ever had that wasn’t on our staff,” Tufts baseball coach John Casey said this morning. “He’d tell our players things that only a man of his experience could deliver. And when he’d finished, our players would be standing there with their mouths open.

“When he was diagnosed with leukemia and couldn’t come by any more, it was a tremendous loss for us,” said Casey. “He was a real presence here.”

When Monbouquette was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, hundreds of people showed their support by turning out for a bone marrow drive at Tufts University.

“What happens when you do these events,” former Red Sox catcher Jerry Moses said that day, “is that you’re doing it in honor of the person who needs the bone marrow. But the beauty of it is that whoever comes in and takes the test, the information goes out all over the country to see if it’s a match for them. You might help Bill, you might help someone who lives in the Northwest.”

Funeral services are pending.


Ernie Banks, legendary 'Mr. Cub,' dead at 83

By Fred Mitchell
Chicago Tribune
January 23. 2015


Ernie Banks, one of baseball’s most ebullient and optimistic ambassadors, died Friday, his wife, Liz, confirmed.

Known worldwide as “Mr. Cub,” Banks became the Cubs' first African-American player on Sept. 17, 1953, and went on to become an 11-time All-Star and two-time National League Most Valuable Player (1958-59). His boundless enthusiasm and optimism personified what it meant to be a Cubs fan.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts released the following statement Friday night:

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known. Approachable, ever optimistic and kind-hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”

President Barack Obama and the First Lady expressed their condolences Saturday morning.

"Michelle and I send our condolences to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him. Ernie came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day. He became the first African-American to play for the Chicago Cubs, and the first number the team retired. Along the way, he became known as much for his 512 home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs as for his cheer, his optimism, and his love of the game. As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago. He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class – "Mr. Cub" – is ready to play two."

Banks, who hit 512 home runs and had 1,636 RBIs, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Renowned for his sunny disposition, Banks, 83, loved the game and often proclaimed: “Let’s play two!” even when the Cubs struggled to climb out of the National League basement. On Nov. 20, 2013, Banks was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom during ceremonies at the White House in recognition of his goodwill.

When first notified that he would be receiving the award, Banks said: “It means everything to me. It means life is just wonderful. When you do things to try to help people and share things, it really comes back to you. I try to do that. I love the players, love Wrigley Field, love all the players. … This award means a lot to me. It’s almost like the Nobel Peace Prize to me.”

In 1950, Banks began playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. After serving two years in the military, he joined the Cubs.

Banks’ best overall season was 1959 when he led the NL with 143 RBIs and hit 43 home runs. Defensively, he led all shortstops with a .985 fielding percentage. In 1960 he won a Gold Glove at shortstop. He hit more than 40 homers five times, including 47 in 1958. In 1955 he hit a record five grand slams. Banks played his entire career with the Cubs and is considered one of the greatest players of all time not to play in the postseason.

Banks played more games at first base (1,259) than he did at shortstop (1,125), but he is remembered more for his most productive younger seasons at shortstop.

“It was just a pleasure playing with Ernie. I can't say it was a pleasure playing against him,” said former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas, who also pitched for the Orioles, Reds and Braves during his 17-year career. “He was so genuine. He was just a great ambassador for the game.”

A statue of Banks’ likeness was unveiled near the corner of Clark and Addison outside of Wrigley Field at the start of the 2008 baseball season.

“When I am not here, this will be here,” Banks joked after the ceremony as he pointed to the sculpture.

“I wanted to finish my career with one team, in one city, one mayor, one park, one owner. I did that,” Banks said then. “The Wrigleys owned the team. We played all of our home games at Wrigley Field during the daytime. So my career was very unique and I am proud of it. I have been involved in the city of Chicago and with Little Leagues all around the city and suburbs. It was a fun and enjoyable time both on the field and off the field. Now I meet a lot of people who used to come out to Wrigley Field when they were kids and they are older now. They still remember those days.”

Banks was born in Dallas on Jan. 31, 1931. His father had just a third-grade education and his mother a sixth-grade education.

“But they were very wise,” Banks would say.

The outpouring of condolences began as soon as news broke of Banks' death and continued through the weekend:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

"Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago’s greatest ambassadors,” Emanuel said. “He loved this city as much as he loved — and lived for — the game of baseball. This year during every Cubs game, you can bet that No.14 will be watching over his team. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two."

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

"I am saddened to learn of the passing of Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. "Mr. Cub" was so much more than a great hitter and Gold Glove fielder. His infectious love for the game of baseball was matched only by his passion for the people of Chicago. When I called the White House and asked the President to consider a Medal of Freedom for Ernie Banks, I felt that his impressive career with the Cubs and his courage in breaking down the color barrier in baseball were reason enough. But more than these amazing achievements, Ernie's spirit set him apart. His positive, hopeful Cub view of life filled every room and every baseball diamond he ever touched."

Gov. Bruce Rauner

“Ernie Banks was a trailblazer who helped break down barriers, a veteran who served his country with honor, a respected community leader and the greatest Chicago Cub of all time,” he said in a statement. “While we mourn him here, there’s no doubt that up in heaven, 'Mr. Cub' is lacing up his cleats and asking Saint Peter if they can ‘play two.’ Ernie Banks’ passion for baseball and for life showed us what true joy looks like and captured our hearts. He inspired us all.”