MLB News: Recent Baseball Passings

Multiple notable baseball figures have passed away lately, including former All-Stars, well-known managers and the oldest living former baseball player.

Francisco de la Rosa – Died January 6, age 45

Pitcher Francisco de la Rosa appeared in two games for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991, posting a 4.50 ERA in four innings pitched. Though his major league career was not too notable, his minor league and overseas careers were impressive. In nine seasons on the farm, de la Rosa went 30-25 with a 3.70 ERA, surrendering only 503 hits in 571 innings. In 1990, he went 9-5 with a 2.05 ERA in 25 games (20 starts) and in 1991, before his stint in the big leagues, he went 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 38 games. He pitched successfully in the Dominican Winter League for many years as well, serving as a closer and a middle reliever.

Ryne Duren – Died January 6, age 81

A three-time All-Star, relief pitcher Ryne Duren played in 1954 and from 1957 to 1965 for the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Athletics, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Senators. Over the course of his 10-year career, the bespectacled, fireballing Duren went 27-44 with a 3.83 ERA, with 630 strikeouts in 589 1/3 innings. His best years came with the Yankees—in 1958, his first season with the team, he led the league with 20 saves and posted a 2.02 ERA in 44 games. In that year’s World Series, which pitted the Yankees against the Milwaukee Braves, Duren pitched 9 1/3 innings, allowed only two runs and struck out 14 batters. The following season, he saved 14 games and had a 1.88 ERA in 41 relief appearances, striking out 96 batters in 76 2/3 innings. He also spent nine years in the minor leagues, going 95-76 with a 3.36 ERA in 271 games. In 1951, with the Dayton Indians, he went 17-8 with a 2.73 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 32 games. Though he had an already-intimidating fastball, Duren frequently threw warm-up pitches to the backstop to make opposing batters feel even more nervous.

Red Borom – Died January 7, age 95

Despite hitting .269 in 130 at-bats with the Detroit Tigers and helping them win the World Series in 1945, that year would be the last of second baseman Red Borom’s two seasons in the major leagues. Borom began his career in 1935 and toiled in the minor leagues until 1940. He did not play professionally in 1941 and 1942, and in 1943 he spent time with the United States Army, serving his nation during World War II. After being sent home due to medical problems, Borom resumed his professional career in 1944 and made his major league debut that season. In 1945, he scored 19 runs in 55 games, though his lack of power may have sealed his fate—he slugged only .300 and drove in only nine runs, relegating him to minor league status for the rest of his career. He was in the minors until 1950, playing in 1,111 games at that level. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living former Detroit Tiger.

Jose Vidal – Died January 7, age 70

Outfielder Jose Vidal spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues, from 1966 to 1969, playing for the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Pilots. Though he hit only .164 in 88 big league at-bats, he was still a very successful baseball player—in the minor leagues, that is. “Papito,” as he was nicknamed, showed a rare blend of speed and power, frequently hitting over 10 home runs and stealing over 10 bases in the same season. His best year was, by far, 1963 with the Reno Silver Sox—that season, he hit .340 with 40 home runs and 31 doubles in 139 games, numbers solid enough to earn him the California League MVP Award.

Dave Sisler – Died January 9, age 79

The son of Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler and the brother of outfielder Dick Sisler, pitcher Dave Sisler played from 1956 to 1962 for the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators and Cincinnati Reds. Though he was the only one of the triumvirate to never receive a major accolade (George was elected to the Hall of Fame, Dick was elected to an All-Star team) Dave quietly managed to put together a solid career. Used as both a starter and a reliever in his seven big league seasons, Dave went 38-44 with a 4.33 ERA in 247 games, allowing only 622 hits in 656 1/3 innings. Perhaps his best season was in 1960 with the Tigers, when he went 7-5 with a 2.48 ERA and a 162 ERA+ in 41 relief appearances. Though he never led the league in any pitching categories, he did lead pitchers in fielding percentage three times. As a minor leaguer, he went 18-16 with a 2.92 ERA in 56 games.

Roy Hartsfield – Died January 15, age 85

Roy Hartsfield played from 1950 to 1952 for the Boston Braves, hitting .273 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 265 games. Notably, he was the team’s starting second baseman in 1950 and 1951. He later became an excellent minor league manager, leading three teams to league championship victories over the course of a 19-year career skippering at that level. His performance was rewarded, when he was named the very first manager of the expansion Toronto Blue Jays, a role he held from 1977 to 1979. As a minor league player, he hit .267 with 108 home runs in 15 seasons.

Perry Currin – Died January 17, age 82

Shortstop Perry Currin hit .251 with 64 doubles, 19 triples and 21 home runs in five seasons, spanning from 1947 to 1951. That was his minor league career, at least. At the big league level, Currin played in only three games as a fresh-faced 18-year-old with the St. Louis Browns in 1947. Though he was hitless in his two major league at-bats, he did manage to draw a walk off of pitcher Joe Dobson.

George Crowe – Died January 18, age 89

First baseman George Crowe hit 31 home runs one year and was an All-Star once as well—though oddly, all those home runs and that All-Star nod did not come during the same season. In 1957 with the Cincinnati Reds, Crowe hit .271 with 31 dingers and 92 RBI at the age of 36. The next year, when he made the All-Star squad, he hit .275 with seven home runs and 61 RBI. Overall, Crowe played from 1952 to 1953 and from 1955 to 1961, spending time with the Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. He made his major league debut at 31 years of age after spending years in the Negro and minor leagues. As a minor leaguer, he hit .338 with 103 home runs in six seasons.

Gus Zernial – Died January 20, age 87

“Ozark Ike” spent 11 seasons in the major leagues and he powered his way through each of them. Eclipsing the 20-home run mark six times, the 30-home run mark three times and the 40-home run mark once, outfielder Gus Zernial hit 237 home runs in a career that spanned from 1949 to 1959. He played for four teams, the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Athletics, Kansas City Athletics and Detroit Tigers and he slugged at least .465 with each. In 1951, he led the American League in home runs and RBI, and in 1953 he was an All-Star, hitting 42 home runs on the year. His major league success did not come as a surprise, however. Prior to his promotion to the major leagues, he hit .322 with 96 home runs in four minor league seasons, swatting 40 home runs for the Hollywood Stars in 1948.

Ron Piche – Died February 3, age 75

Known as “Monsieur Baseball,” Canadian native Ron Piche spent six years in the big leagues, going 10-16 with a 4.19 ERA in 134 games. He began his major league career in 1960 with the Milwaukee Braves and played with them until 1963. He did not play at the big league level in 1964, though he returned the following year with the California Angels and in 1966, he wrapped up his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps his best season was his very first—that year, he went 3-5 with 27 games finished, nine saves and a 3.56 ERA in 37 appearances. He finished second on the Braves staff in saves and tied Don McMahon for the team lead in games finished. As a minor league, he performed very well as well—in 16 seasons, he went 130-65 in 517 games, posting a .667 winning percentage. In 1988, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Woodie Fryman – Died February 4, age 70

18-year veteran Woodie Fryman won 141 games, struck out 1,587 batters and made two All-Star teams in a career that spanned from 1966 to 1983. He played for six different big league teams—the Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers, Montreal Expos, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs, and won at least two games with each. Though he was solid as a starter, perhaps his most dominant streak of excellence came towards the tail-end of his career, as an aging reliever. From 1979 to 1981, pitching for the Expos, Fryman made 140 relief appearances and went 15-13 with 34 saves, 87 games finished, a 2.34 ERA and a 154 ERA+. He spent only one year in the minor leagues, 1965, going 3-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 12 games.

Cliff Dapper – Died February 8, age 91

Cliff Dapper’s major league career was short, but incredible. He spent eight games with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942 and had only 17 at-bats with the team—but he hit .471 with a double, a home run and nine RBI. In addition, he posted an on-base percentage of .526, a slugging percentage of .706 and an OPS+ of 254. In fact, Dapper is the only ballplayer ever to have 15 or more career at-bats and a .470 or better batting average. As a minor leaguer, he hit .273 with 102 home runs in 17 seasons. Notably, with the Billings Mustangs in 1952, he hit .348 with 19 home runs. Dapper is also noteworthy for having been traded for Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell. Read all about that here.

Tony Malinosky – Died February 8, age 101

Baseball’s oldest living player at the time of his passing, Tony Malinosky’s career might not have been long—but his life sure was. Born in 1909, he lived through both World Wars, the careers of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and much that we now can only read about in history books. In his own right, Malinosky fashioned himself a one-year major league career, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937. That season, he hit .228 in 35 games, swatting two doubles and scoring seven runs in 79 at-bats. He also spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, hitting over .300 multiple times. In 1933, he hit .320 with seven home runs in just 76 games. With Malinosky’s passing, only a handful of players from the 1930s remain, with the most notable being Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr. Mike Sandlock is now the oldest former Brooklyn Dodger, at age 95.

Chuck Tanner – Died February 11, age 82

Chuck Tanner is most well-known for his career as a manager, a job he held for 20 seasons with four major league teams. He started off with the Chicago White Sox in 1970, leading them to a .565 winning percentage and a second-place finish in 1972 and ending his time with them in 1975. He spent one season with the Oakland Athletics, leading them to a second-place finish in 1976. From 1977 to 1985, he skippered the Pittsburgh Pirates successfully, leading them to a World Series victory in 1979 as well as three other second-place finishes. He then wrapped up his career with the Atlanta Braves, managing them from 1986 to 1988. In total, Tanner won 1,352 games as manager, placing him 27th all-time—ahead of Hall of Famers Ned Hanlon and Whitey Herzog. From 1955 to 1962, Tanner played in the major leagues for the Milwaukee Braves, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels. He hit .261 with 21 home runs and 105 RBI as a big league outfielder. In the minors, he hit .313 in a 14-year career. He also managed at that level for several years.

Gino Cimoli – Died February 12, age 81

Gino Cimoli was an All-Star in 1957 and helped lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to World Series glory in 1960, though he is notable for one other, less publicized feat as well. On April 15, 1958, Cimoli became the very first big league batter on the West Coast, when he stepped up to bat against the San Francisco Giants’ Ruben Gomez in the top of the first inning of that history-making game. To ring in a new baseball era, Cimoli didn’t hit a home run or a double or a triple—instead, he struck out. Nevertheless, it was an important mark in California and West Coast baseball history. Cimoli began his big league career in 1956 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, with whom he played until 1957. When they moved to Los Angeles, he moved with them, spending one year in the City of Angels. He played in the majors until 1965, spending time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Braves, Kansas City Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and California Angels. In a 10-year big league career, he hit .265 with 44 home runs and 321 RBI. He also spent nine years in the minors, hitting .292 with 36 home runs.

Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies coach Carroll Beringer and umpire John Rice also died recently, as well as Negro Leaguers Cecil Kaiser and Butch McCord.

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