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Memorial Day

This is our national day of remembrance, and we thank all of our veterans whose lives were sacrificed in the protection of our democratic institutions, our liberty, and our safety. The baseball world doesn’t have a remembrance day, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back on some of the 80 ballplayers who died since Memorial Day 2016 (May 30th).

We can’t talk about every ballplayer who died because, frankly, we’d all be asleep. But we’ll list them all out and provide commentary as we are so moved. Please place your own remembrances, comments, and stray thoughts in the comments.

Obviously, we hope that the loved ones these men leave behind are comforted in their time of loss and understand the joy their ballplayer family member or friend brought to many millions of others.

  • Dick Adams
  • Red Adams
  • Bob Addis
  • Vic Albury
  • Gair Allie
  • Ruben Amaro, Sr.
  • Jose Arcia
  • Steve Arlin
  • John Barfield: No relation to Jesse and Josh.
  • Vic Barnhart
  • Juan Bell: Bad year for the 1980s Phils. Bell, Greg Jelks, and Dallas Green all goners.
  • Neil Berry
  • Bob Bowman
  • Ralph Branca: An acquaintance of mine is Ralph Branca’s niece…. Of course, Branca threw one of the ten most notorious pitches in MLB history. What are those other nine doomed pitches? Here’s some strong candidates:
    • Eddie Cicotte: Hitting Reds’ leadoff man Morrie Rath with the game’s first pitch indicated that the Black Sox fix was in.
    • Al Downing: Hank Aaron’s 1974 record-breaking homer had a similar effect, but in the racially charged 1970s, with Hammerin’ Hank receiving death threats as he approached the Babe’s 714 homers, the atmosphere was even more charged
    • Bump Hadley: Crushing Mickey Cochrane’s skull with a fastball and effectively ending his career.
    • Carl Mays: Killing Ray Chapman with a pitch in 1919, Major League Baseball’s lone on-field fatality
    • Donnie Moore: Allowed the Dave Henderson homer that sent the Angels’ hopes to hell in 1986. Especially notable because it haunted Moore for years until he took his own life
    • Tracy Stallard: Roger Maris homered, and the Babe was dethroned, asterisk be damned, ending an era of sorts.
    • Bob Stanley: The wild pitch that tied the score in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series, setting up the Buckner botch
    • Ralph Terry: Giving up Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 World Series game-seven winning walk-off homer
    • Mike Torrez: Bucky Dent’s homer to catapult the Yankees over the reeling Red Sox in the 1978 one-game playoff to decide the AL East
    • Tim Wakefield: Aaron Boone turned Wakefield’s 12th inning pitch into a walk-off playoff win.
    • Mitch Williams: Coughing up Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series game-six winning walk-off roundtripper
  • Alan Brice
  • Jackie Brown
  • Mark Brownson
  • Bob Bruce
  • Mike Brumley
  • Jim Bunning: I hate the Senator’s politics, but I love the pitcher’s career. An easy choice for the Hall of Miller and Eric, and a shame that the BBWAA couldn’t figure him out for the 15 years they kicked his name around. My various adjusted WAR for him shows four seasons with more than 7.0 WAR and another with 6.6. Tack onto those two 4.0+ seasons, one above 3.0, and four more above 2.0. His career is slightly more stretched out version of Juan Marichal’s, or a peakier Luis Tiant. Regardless, his career is plenty good enough for the HoME or any Hall worth its salt.
  • Putsy Caballero: Caballero means gentleman in Spanish. It can also mean a horseman in the southwestern US. Putsy (an alternative spelling of putzy) means stupid, idiotic, foolish. Which makes one wonder how Ralph Joseph Caballero from New Orleans got his nickname.
  • Chris Cannizaro: Poor guy. As a 24-year-old in 1962, he was rostered by the famously inept 1962 Mets. Then in 1969, at a more mature 31, he played for the inaugural Padres squad. He and his 68 OPS+ were the Friars’ lone All-Star representative. The honor could easily have devolved upon Nate Colbert (127 OPS+) or Al Ferrara (124 OPS+). In fairness, his OPS dropped 50 points from the time the voting was conducted to the actual game itself, then it collapsed again in the second half.
  • Eddie Carnett
  • Bob Cerv: Here’s one of those guys that made AL fans in the 1950s puke. Cerv could really hit, but the Yanks were lousy with outfielders, so they traded him to the KC A’s, also known to the AL as the unofficial farm team of the Yanks. There he proceeded to hit the dickens out of the ball for a couple years, at which point, the Yanks said “thanks for taking care of him, we’ll have him back now.” The Bombers got 8 homers and a 113 OPS+ as they patched over an injury to Roger Maris. They let him go in the expansion draft to the LA Angels, who promptly traded him back to the Bronx where he mashed down the stretch to help the Yanks breeze to the pennant and once more patch over injuries. The team could seemingly summon guys like Cerv, Enos Slaughter, Johnny Mize, or whoever they needed at will from some corner of the baseball world (usually KC), and those guys rarely sucked. Kinda like the 1990s–2000s Yanks, now that I think on it.
  • Bill Champion
  • Bryan Clutterbuck: Out of respect for those who have passed on, I’m not going to tell you exactly why I pause every time I see his name, but I suspect you can guess.
  • Choo-Choo Coleman: One of the great early Mets, famous, of course, for calling everyone “”
  • Marlan Coughtry: They don’t make names like this anymore. Straight out of central casting for tough-guy westerns.
  • Neil Dade
  • Joe DaMaestri: Sort of the Johnnie LeMaster of his day, without the awful moustache.
  • Bill Endicott
  • Leon Everitt
  • Jack Faszholz
  • Jose Fernandez: Obviously, a death representing both tragedy and the foolishness of youth. But if we play What If, can we say much about what the baseball world will miss out on? It’s very hard to say because Fernandez had already gone under the knife and had never reached 200 innings. His best campaign was his first, though none were too shabby. 38-17 with a 151 ERA+ for the Fish is pretty great. He could hit a little too. At 20 Fernando was his most comparable pitcher with Denis Eckersley and George Uhle also in the top ten. At 21 it shifted to Jack Stivetts, Mark Fidrych, he first Dutch Leonard, and Howie Pollett. At 22, Fidrych and Mark Prior plus Pollett once again. Fydrich and Prior = bad news. But after age 23 came an interesting mix include some incredible comps (Tom Seaver, Roger Clemens), some very good ones (Addie Joss and Mel Stottlemyre) and another warning sign (Herb Score). With pitchers, you always take the more conservative approach because it’s a game of survival, not merely ability. The Marlins and their fans would no doubt sign up for Joss (160-97, 45.9 WAR) or Stottlemyre (164-139, 40.6 WAR).
  • Chico Fernandez: Fernandez was a bad baseball player, -2.3 career WAR. But I mention him now because I hope that no one else in MLB from now until eternity will be known regularly as “” The word means “boy” in Spanish. (Although to be fair it can also be a nickname for Francisco.) We would never, ever call a player “boy” today, especially not an African-American. The last player I recall being referred to as “Chico” even a little bit was Jose Lind. I haven’t heard it since. Good riddance.
  • Dave Ferriss: Great hitting pitcher. He had MVP votes in 1945 and 1946, winning 46 games over the two years. His arm went south in 1947 and never recovered. He was done by 1950.
  • Todd Frohwirth: A submariner and a bullpen mainstay for two amazing years. Today his 1991–1993 stats look like a joke. He tossed 299 innings of 153 ERA+ baseball, including 106 frames in 1992. He saved only 11 games in his career despite his overall effectiveness. He had a massive platoon split to the tune of 175 points of OPS. His K/BB ratio against righties was 2.13:1 and 0.80 versus lefties.
  • Phil Gagliano
  • Ned Garver: Not to be confused with turn of the 20th Century hurler Ned Garvin. Garver’s record is pretty impressive despite its appearance: 129-157, 3.73 ERA, leading the AL in losses in 1949, hits allowed in 1955, and earned runs allowed in 1955. He mad just one All-Star team (1951) and never received a Cy Young vote (it wasn’t initiated until much of his career was over). He did finish second in the MVP voting for 1951, the one year he won 20 games and even picked up a stray vote the year before despite a 13-18 record with the lowly Browns. He pitched mostly for crappy teams, coming to the big leagues with the late 1940s Brownies, sliding over to the so-so Tigers of the mid 1950s, gliding toward retirement with the lowly KC A’s, and wrapping up with the expansion Angels in 1961. The underlying facts, however add up to a better pitcher than all that. My own systems indicate a candidate about as strong as Steve Rogers, Carl Mays, Eppa Rixey, Jesse Tannehill, and Mickey Welch. Yeah, not a HoMEr, but a pretty good. And less famous than any of those guys, except maybe Tannehill.
  • Dallas Green: I never liked Dallas Green. In fact, I still carry a grudge. Green hailed from some fictitious era and land of chest-thumping, red ass machismo. As a player Dallas Green was 20-22 with an 88 ERA+. A great basis from which to judge the performance of others. He destroyed the arms of Generation K because…Dallas Green. That was what real men did I guess. Soon after, he went back to the Phillies, where he’d worked for two decades in the 1960s and 1970s. He helped push Scott Rolen out of town by trash talking him in the press. “Scotty’s satisfied with being a so-so player. I think he can be greater, but his personality won’t let him.” Rolen, 27 at the time, was merely turning in the same excellent season he always did. But you know…Dallas Green (and fellow loudmouth, red-ass fool Larry Bowa who piled on). Rolen was dealt shortly after to the Cards. He was going to be a free agent at the end of the season, and Green led the organizational charge to ensure that the great third baseman wouldn’t resign. Green did some wonderful work to help get the Phillies a title in 1980 and the Cubs into the playoffs in the 1980s. But destroying three young arms and riding a team’s best player out on a rail seem like the kind of stupidity that should mar his reputation. Instead, upon his death, he was considered an outspoken baseball lifer or baseball man. Let’s hope that’s a dying breed because it sure looks like a synonym for jerk to me.
  • Doug Griffin
  • Vern Handrahan
  • Bill Hands: Little remembered today, from 1967–1973 Hands ran off a string of fine seasons, including an 8 WAR performance in 1969. He tossed 1547 innings of 126 ERA+ ball, never made an All0Star team, never got a Cy Young vote. With 30 pitching WAR, he’s very similar to Teddy Higuera and Mike Garcia, well known pitchers with relatively short careers but a very nice prime. Because Garcia was one of Cleveland’s four aces in the 1950s, Hands is probably the least well known of the three. But he was a fine, fine pitcher.
  • Phil Hennigan
  • Jim Hickman: In 1970 at 33, he came out of absolutely nowhere to throw down a 5.0 WAR season, get onto the All-Star team and finish 8th in the MVP voting for the Cubbies. Timing is everything, and that same performance just a year earlier would have gone a long way toward fending off the Amazin’ Hickman’s 1970 is amazingly anomalous compared to the rest of his career. His bat was worth +63 runs. He produced +43 of them in 1970. He had just one other season with more than 1.4 WAR in 1972 at 35 when he popped out 2.4 WAR for the Bruins thanks to another +15 batting runs. Which means that +58 of his +63 runs came in just two years. Pretty weird.
  • Mark Higgins
  • Hal Hudson
  • Greg Jelks: Not to be confused with the great Steve Jeltz on those amazing late-1980s Phillies squads.
  • Joe Kirrene
  • Steve Korcheck
  • Bob Kuzava
  • Jim Lehew
  • Stu Locklin
  • Turk Lown: At one time, the majors featured two Turks: Lown and Farrell. I’ve always conflated both of them with the infamous Turk Wendell of the tween-innings teeth-brushing. Lown is the worst pitcher of the three. Farrell and Wendell were actually pretty good.
  • Harry MacPherson
  • Andy Marte: Marte died this January in an automobile accident. Something happened to him in 2005 that derailed his career. Marte began his pro career at age 17 with the Braves’ rookie ball squad in the Appalachian League. He advanced a level a year, losing very little in his offensive slash line as he faced stiffer competition. Prospect mavens named him the #9 prospect in the minors before 2005. He stiffed as a 21-year old in a brief stint with parent club but continued to hit well in AAA. Before 2006, he was still the #14 prospect in the minors and was traded to Boston for Edgar Renteria and then flipped to Cleveland in a deal for CoCo Crisp. In Buffalo that year, he lost power and patience, in the majors, he flopped (though he showed some pop), and lost his place on prospect lists. The rest of his career was similar. Up and down and never really finding a foothold and, except for 82 games in AAA in 2009, never again as a younger player showed much of what made him a well-regarded prospect. I don’t know what happened. Was he injured in 2005? Was he out of shape? I remember rumors to that effect. Or is there really such thing as a Quad-A player?
  • Gordon Massa
  • Sam Mele
  • Ed Mierkowicz: A name that sounds like he should have been a mechanic on the Andy Griffith show.
  • Carl Miles
  • Don Minnick
  • Steve Nagy
  • Morris Nettles: No relation
  • Russ Nixon
  • Luis Olmo: In baseball random happens. Olmo tripled 13 times in 1945 to lead the NL—more than half his 25 career three-baggers.
  • John Orsino
  • Lee Pfund
  • Ruben Quevedo: A real lifesaver in baseball Scrabble.
  • Robert Ramsay
  • Johnny Rutherford
  • Bob Sadowski
  • Charlie Sands
  • Joe Schaffernoth
  • Roy Sievers: Sievers won the Rookie of the Year in 1949. He suffered some shoulder and arm injuries the next several years. He slumped terribly in 1950 as a 23 year old, and according to the man, himself, the organization tried to fiddle with his swing. It didn’t work. The Brownies jerked him around for another three years before dealing him to Washington. He was 27. Through age 34, all he did was make four All-Star teams, receive MVP votes six times, finishing as high as third, and lead the AL in homers in 1957 with 42, despite playing his home games in cavernous Griffith Stadium. Stupidly, the team made him a left fielder. He was OK at first but poor in the pastures, and the long distances in DC exposed him. He later played in Comiskey Park, another chamber of horrors for power hitters. One wonders how many dingers he’d have hit playing in Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. Or, for that matter, for a team that knew what to do with him in his early 20s.
  • Daryl Spencer: Couldn’t hit. Average runner. Kinda spotty glove. But could fake it well enough in the middle infield to be an average big leaguer…until he couldn’t, which took about 4000 PA. A fairly similar player in all these regards to Billy Martin
  • Dick Star: There used to be a lot of Dicks in the majors. Now, for reasons that should be obvious there aren’t. This guy should have gone by Rich.
  • Mike Strahler
  • Walt Streuli
  • Yordano Ventura: Another very sad and untimely death. Most deaths are untimely since in general we don’t want folks to die. With the exception of a few truly awful souls, whose deaths are untimely because we wished they’d gone sooner. Anyway, a la Jose Fernandez above, we can’t speak much to what baseball’s future loses in Ventura’s absence. He threw a mere 548 innings. Mostly they were good innings, and he finished with a 106 ERA+ and 7.2 WAR. After his age-25 season, he had a nice set of comps that included Jack Morris, Gio Gonzalez, Ernie Broglio, Darryl Kile (spookily), Joe Sparma, Wade Miller, Black Jack McDowell, Roy Halladay, and Mike Torrez. All of these guys were quality pitchers (Gonzalez, of course, is still at it). If an arc between Wade Miller and Roy Halladay describes his potential MLB career, then any fan would want to see it through.
  • Ken Wright
  • Jose Zardon

And that’s our baseball memorial roll since last Memorial Day. There’s lots more to say about any or all of these guys. Please add your thoughts in the comments.

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Discussion

One thought on “Memorial Day

  1. Thank you.
    v

    Posted by verdun2 | May 29, 2017, 9:01 am

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