MLB News: Recent baseball passings

Here’s a rundown of some recent baseball deaths.

Jose Ortiz – Died January 20, aged 63

Though he died in late January, Jose Ortiz’s death was not reported until mid-March. An outfielder, he played in the majors from 1969 to 1971 and performed quite well in limited duty, hitting .301 with three stolen bases, 14 runs and six RBI in 67 games. He began his career with the Chicago White Sox, however on November 30, 1970, he was traded to the neighboring Chicago Cubs with first baseman Ossie Blanco for pinch hitter Roe Skidmore and pitchers Pat Jacquez and Dave Lemonds. He spent 11 seasons in the minor leagues, hitting .286 with at least 176 stolen bases in 1,159 games. He later managed at the minor league level, skippering in the Arizona League in 1999 and 2000.

Joe Frazier – Died February 15, aged 88

Joe Frazier both played and managed at the big league level. An outfielder and pinch hitter during his playing days, Frazier spent time with the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles. In 217 games, he hit .241 with 10 home runs and 45 RBI, with his best year being 1954, when he hit .295 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 81 games. He skippered the New York Mets in 1977 and 1978, after successfully managing in their system for eight years. As a minor leaguer, he hit .282 with 144 home runs in 14 seasons. With the Oklahoma City Indians in 1953, he hit .332 with 22 home runs, 55 doubles and 113 RBI.

Len Gilmore – Died February 18, aged 93

Len “Meow” Gilmore spent one game in the big leagues, pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1944. Though he allowed seven runs on 13 hits against his opponent, the Philadelphia Phillies, Gilmore still logged a complete game, making him one of only five players since 1920 to finish his only big league appearance. Even more incredibly, Gilmore went the distance without striking out a single batter. He performed much better in the minor leagues, going 128-94 in 11 seasons. In 1944, he went 21-5 with a 2.63 ERA for the Albany Senators.

Spook Jacobs – Died February 18, aged 85

Second baseman Spook Jacobs played in the big leagues from 1954 to 1956, donning the Philadelphia Athletics, Kansas City Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates uniforms in that three-year span. He performed well as a rookie in 1954, hitting .258 with 63 runs and 17 stolen bases in 508 at-bats for the Athletics—however, he would never again duplicate his initial success, as he hit .247 overall in his career. He showed a dearth of power in his three seasons, as he slugged only .274, but he made up for that with a good eye at the plate (he had 80 walks to only 32 strikeouts) and good speed. He played 14 years in the minors, hitting .300 with only nine home runs in 6,537 at-bats.

Buddy Lewis – Died February 18, aged 94

Washington Senators player Buddy Lewis was an All-Star twice in a career that lasted from 1935 to 1949, with World War II an interruption in-between. He hit .297 with 71 home runs and 607 RBI in his 11-year career, with his All-Star nods coming almost a decade apart in 1938 and 1947. His best year, however, was probably 1939, when he hit .319 with 10 home runs, 16 triples, 75 RBI and a 132 OPS+. Not often a league leader, he paced the loop in at-bats in 1937 and triples in 1939. He split his career between third base and the outfield, performing competently at both. He only played 164 games in the minors, hitting .304 at that level.

Greg Goossen – Died February 26, aged 65

First baseman/catcher Greg Goossen played for the New York Mets, Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Senators in a six-year career that spanned from 1965 to 1970. He hit .241 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI in his career, with his best season his second-to-last—with the Pilots in 1969, he batted .309 with 10 home runs, 24 RBI and a 175 OPS+ in 139 at-bats. He was involved in a few trades in his career, including a deal that sent three-time All-Star centerfielder Curt Flood to the Washington Senators. Goossen spent eight years in the minors, where he hit 130 home runs.

Duke Snider – Died February 27, aged 84

From 1947 to 1964, Duke Snider was one of the most respected and feared ballplayers in the game as he roamed the outfield for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. Mostly a centerfielder, Snider exhibited great strength, speed and agility that would land him on eight All-Star teams and, eventually, in the Hall of Fame. In 2,143 big league games, Snider hit .295 with 407 home runs, 1,333 RBI and 2,116 hits. He never won an MVP award (though in 1955, he won the Sporting News’ Major League Player of the Year Award), however he finished in the top ten in voting six times, including an astonishing five years in a row. He helped lead the Dodgers to six World Series, and though the New York Yankees vanquished them in four of those Fall Classics, Snider cannot really be to blame—he hit .286 with 11 home runs and 26 RBI in 133 World Series at-bats (including .345 with four home runs and eight RBI in the 1952 Classic, which his team lost) and ended up with two World Series rings. As Hall of Famers often do, Snider led the league in a whole slew of categories, finishing with a black ink score of 28. When he wasn’t leading the league, he was finishing close to the top as evidenced by his incredible grey ink score of 183. As a minor leaguer, Snider hit .297 with 18 home runs and 43 RBI in 344 games.

Scott Cary – Died February 28, aged 87

Pitching for the Washington Senators in 1947, Scott Cary went 3-1 with a 5.93 ERA in 23 games (three starts). He tossed a single complete game, which came on September 1—in that match, he held the Philadelphia Athletics to eight hits and four runs. He pitched three years in the minors, going 38-26 with an ERA around 3.00. In 1946, with the Orlando Senators, he went 22-7 with a 2.08 ERA in 36 games.

Bob McNamara – Died March 9, aged 94

One of the last players to appear in the 1930s, infielder Bob McNamara worked in nine games for the 1939 Philadelphia Phillies, collecting two hits in nine at-bats for a .222 batting average. One of his two hits was a double which came off future Hall of Famer Ted Lyons. He spent three years in the minor leagues, and though his statistical record is incomplete, it is known that he collected at least 168 hits, of which at least 30 were doubles, four were triples and four were home runs.

Mitchell Page – Died March 12, aged 59

Mitchell Page had a solid eight-year career for the Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates, which lasted from 1977 to 1984. Originally drafted by the Pirates, he was involved in a big trade in March 1977 that sent Tony Armas, Doug Bair, Dave Guisti, Rick Langford and Doc Medich to the Athletics for Chris Batton, Phil Garner and Tommy Helms. In 1977, he had an incredible rookie season—he hit .307 with 21 home runs, 75 RBI, 42 stolen bases and a 154 OPS+, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting behind only Eddie Murray. He followed that up with a solid sophomore year (.285 average, 17 home runs, 70 RBI, 23 stolen bases, 134 OPS+), but never again performed as well as he did in 1977. Overall, he batted .266 with 72 home runs, 104 stolen bases and 259 RBI in 673 games. He also spent eight years in the minors, hitting .292 with 114 home runs in 678 games. Following his playing career, he became a coach at both the minor and major league levels.

Marty Marion – Died March 15, aged 93

The 1944 National League MVP, shortstop Marty Marion was a seven-time All-Star who some believe should be in the Hall of Fame. He played from 1940 to 1950 and from 1952 to 1953, hitting .263 with 36 home runs and 624 RBI. Though he won the MVP in 1944, his best year probably came a couple years earlier in 1942, when he hit .276 and led the league in doubles with 38 (that year, he finished seventh in MVP voting. He would finish in the top-10 once more in his career, 1945, when he placed eighth). He played in four World Series, helping lead the Cardinals to victory in three of them by hitting seven doubles and driving in 11 runs in 78 Fall Classic at-bats. He was an especially solid defender, leading league shortstops in fielding percentage four times, putouts twice and assists twice. Following his career, he garnered quite a bit of Hall of Fame support, as he received votes for election multiple times, earning as much as 40.0% of the vote. As a minor leaguer, he hit .260 with 20 home runs in 509 games.

Fred Sanford – Died March 15, aged 91

Pitcher Fred Sanford went 37-55 in a seven-year career that lasted from 1946 to 1951 with a small cup of coffee in 1943. He played for the St. Louis Browns, New York Yankees and Washington Senators. Despite leading the league in losses, he had arguably his best year in 1948 when he went 12-24 with a 4.64 ERA in 227 innings of work. He had nine complete games and a career-high 79 strikeouts that year. In 1949 and 1950, he helped lead the Yankees to the World Series, though he did not pitch in either Fall Classic. Interestingly, he was traded for Dick Starr twice in his career—the first deal came in December 1948, when Starr was sent with All-Star catcher Sherm Lollar and others from the Yankees to the Browns for Sanford and catcher Roy Partee. The second transaction took place in June 1951, when Sanford was traded by the Senators to the Browns for Starr. As a minor leaguer, he went 94-91 in 268 games over nine seasons.

Tom Dunbar – Died March 16, aged 51

Outfielder Tom Dunbar spent parts of three years in the big leagues, from 1983 to 1985, hitting .231 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 91 games for the Texas Rangers. His best season was his second, when he hit .258 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 97 at-bats—he hit .250 the year before and .202 in his final season. He also spent 12 years in the minors, hitting .283 with 89 home runs and 614 RBI in 1,300 games. In 1982, he hit .323 with 16 home runs and 85 RBI, making that year his best professional season as a whole. A first round pick by the Rangers in 1980, Dunbar never lived up to the hype, yet he still managed to put together a solid minor league career.

Charlie Metro – Died March 18, aged 91

Outfielder Charlie Metro played from 1943 to 1945 for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics, hitting .193 with three home runs and 23 RBI in 171 games. Though not a solid hitter, he showed some signs of brilliance at the plate—including back-to-back three hit games in June 1945. As a minor leaguer, he performed considerably better, hitting .257 with 133 home runs in 16 seasons. His best year came in 1948, when with the Twin Fall Cowboys, he hit .351 with 22 dingers. Metro also managed in the minor leagues for many seasons, leading his teams four league championship victories. He worked his way up to the major leagues, skippering the Chicago Cubs for part of 1962 and the Kansas City Royals for a single game in 1970. He also scouted for many years.

Tom McAvoy – Died March 19, aged 74

Pitcher Tom McAvoy spent only one game in the major leagues, which took place on September 27, 1959 with the Washington Senators. In the bottom of the second inning, he replaced starting pitcher Jim Kaat, who had allowed six earned runs. He pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and two walks. He even faced legendary slugger Ted Williams, who promptly grounded out to second base. In the minors, he went 38-72 with a 4.74 ERA in seven seasons. He later became involved in fastpitch softball and was inducted into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame.

Bob Rush – Died March 19, aged 85

Starting pitcher Bob Rush pitched from 1948 to 1960 for the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Braves and Chicago White Sox. He went 127-152 with a 3.65 ERA in his 13-year career and was named an All-Star twice—in 1950, despite finishing the year 13-20 and leading the league in losses and in 1952, when he went 17-13 with a 2.70 ERA. He was involved in one major trade in his career—on December 5, 1957, he was sent with outfielder Eddie Haas and pitcher Don Kaiser to the Braves for pitcher Taylor Phillips and catcher Sammy Taylor. He spent only one year in the minors, going 15-8 with a 2.85 ERA in 1947.

Normie Roy – Died March 22, aged 82

Nicknamed “Jumbo,” Normie Roy spent only one season in the major leagues, pitching for the Boston Braves in 1950. He was used both as a starter and in relief, going 4-3 with two complete games, four games finished and one save in 19 games (six starts). He went the distance for the first time in just his second career game and his second complete game should have been a shutout—except he allowed one unearned run. As a minor leaguer, he went 27-15 (.643 W%) over five seasons.

Tom Silverio – Died April 2, aged 65

Outfielder Tom Silverio spent parts of three seasons with the California Angels, from 1970 to 1972, where he was mostly used as a pinch hitter. In 30 career at-bats, he hit .100 with three hits, two runs scored and two walks. He played considerably longer in the minor leagues, hitting .285 with 87 home runs in 869 games over eight seasons. His son, Nelson Silverio, coached for the New York Mets in 2004.

Larry Shepard – Died April 5, aged 92

Larry Shepard was an excellent minor league pitcher, going 179-84 in 13 seasons. He won 20 or more games four seasons in a row and posted a .681 winning percentage—and yet he never reached the major leagues as a player. After his playing days, he became a successful minor league manager, eventually working his way up to the big leagues—he headed the Pittsburgh Pirates for all of 1960 and for the first 157 games of 1961. Working with such players as future Hall of Famers Robert Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and Jim Bunning, he put together a 164-155 record in nearly two full seasons at the helm. He later coached for the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants.

Eddie Joost – Died April 12, aged 94

Shortstop Eddie Joost had a long career that lasted from 1936 to 1955, with a handful of interruptions in-between. Over the course of 17 seasons, he hit .239 with 134 home runs and 601 RBI, earning a spot on two All-Star teams and finishing as high as tenth in MVP voting. He began his career with the Cincinnati Reds, helping them to a World Series victory by collecting five hits and driving in two runs in the 1940 Fall Classic, and also spent some time with the Boston Braves. Though it was with the Philadelphia Athletics where he really shined—from 1947 to 1952, his first six years with the team, he averaged 18 home runs and 68 RBI a season. He finished his career in 1955 with the Boston Red Sox. He was involved in only two trades in his career—the first sent pitcher Nate Andrews and himself to the Braves for shortstop Eddie Miller and the second sent Joost to the Cardinals (with whom he never played) for outfielder Johnny Hopp. He also played 800 games in the minors, where he hit .280 with 34 home runs. At the time of his passing, he was the oldest former Red Sox and Reds player, being replaced by Lou Lucier and Danny Litwhiler, respectively.

Reno Bertoia – Died April 15, aged 76

Reno Bertoia never played in a lot of games and he never hit for a high average, yet he still fashioned himself a solid career, which lasted from 1953 to 1962. Originally signed by the Detroit Tigers, he played in the Motor City until 1958 and then spent time with the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins, wrapping up his career back with the Tigers in 1961 and 1962. He hit .244 with 27 home runs and 171 RBI, with highs of .275, eight and 45 respectively—though it wasn’t his offensive prowess for which he was known (though as a minor leaguer, he hit .288 with 19 home runs in 261 games). He was a very versatile defender, starting games at third base, second base and shortstop and finishing in the top five among third basemen in fielding percentage in 1957 and 1960. He was involved in multiple notable trades in his career, including one that netted the Tigers All-Stars Rocky Bridges and Eddie Yost. With his passing, only one Italy-born big leaguer remains: 91-year-old Rugger Ardizoia.

Bobo Osborne – Died April 15, aged 75

First baseman Bobo Osborne played from 1957 to 1959 and 1961 to 1963 for the Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators, hitting .206 with 17 home runs and 86 RBI in his six big league seasons. Interestingly, he best season was his very last (and his very first, and only, with the Senators, to whom he was traded by the Tigers on March 23, 1963 for outfielder Wayne Comer)—he hit 12 home runs and 14 doubles with 76 hits, 42 runs and 44 RBI in 1963, by far all career highs. Nevertheless, his power output was not enough to counter his .212 average, as he was replaced by the Senators for the 1964 season. In the minor leagues, Osborne played considerably longer—and better as a result. In 12 seasons, he hit .263 with 190 home runs and 247 doubles, with his best season coming in 1960 for the Denver Bears, with whom he hit .342 with 34 home runs and 40 doubles (all career highs). He later managed in the minors and became a scout for the San Francisco Giants.

Bobby Thompson – Died April 25, aged 57

Outfielder Bobby Thompson played in the big leagues for the Texas Rangers in 1978, with whom he hit .225 with two home runs, 12 RBI and seven stolen bases in 64 games. He arrived in the big leagues with a bang, hitting .333 through his first eight games, though he slowly tapered off after that. He played in the minors for six seasons, stealing at least 165 bases with a career-high of 65 in 1975.

Duane Pillette – Died May 6, aged 88

Pitcher Duane Pillette worked in the big leagues from 1949 to 1956 for the New York Yankees, St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Athletics. He went 38-66 with 34 complete games, four shutouts and a 4.40 ERA in his career. He had perhaps his best season in 1954, when he went 10-14 with 11 complete games and a 3.12 ERA in 25 starts for the Orioles. In 1949, he helped lead the Yankees to the World Series by going 2-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 12 games. He was involved in a couple deals in his career, though the most notable transaction took place on June 15, 1950 when he was traded by the Yankees with Jim Delsing, Don Johnson, Snuffy Stirnweiss and cash to the Browns for Tom Ferrick, Joe Ostrowski and Leo Thomas. As a minor leaguer, he went 74-61 in 11 seasons.

Former Negro Leaguers Elmer Carter, Bill Deck, Stanley “Doc” Glenn and Emilio Navarro, Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman, Cardinals co-owner Drew Baur and umpires Bill Kinnamon and Frank Dezelan passed away recently as well.

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