- Bronx Banter - http://www.bronxbanterblog.com -

Observations From Cooperstown–Pastime Passings in 2008

Posted By Bruce Markusen On January 3, 2009 @ 10:08 am In Bronx Banter,Bruce Markusen | Comments Disabled

The New Year is a time to initiate a fresh start, to make plans to change our bad habits and develop better ones. Yet, I also find myself thinking about the past, specifically about those who left us over the recently concluded year. Baseball lost a number of important personalities and contributors, and while the game remains great, their departures leave us a little bit emptier. In tribute to them, here’s a glance at just a few of those good souls we lost during the past year:

Dock Ellis… An underrated pitcher and two-time World Champion, he gave the game many breaths of color and life before dedicating his efforts to fighting drug abuse. On a list of the game’s most unusual characters, Ellis ranks among the top ten all-time…

Dave Smith… Though forgotten in retirement, he was one of the game’s most consistent closers of the 1980s. With a killer change-up and the Astrodome at his disposal, Smith could be quietly unhittable at his best…

Sal Yvars… Though mostly a backup catcher, he played a major role in the New York Giants’ intricate sign-stealing system of 1941. He became a star of Josh Prager’s The Echoing Green, which revealed the details of the Giants’ “thievery.”…

Red Murff… He was the scout that discovered Nolan Ryan for the Mets, who benefited briefly from Murff’s wisdom before giving “The Express” away to the Angels…

Herb Score… With two All-Star Game appearances and a 20-win season early in his career, Score appeared destined for Hall of Fame glory.  Then came an errant line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald in 1957, which effectively ended Score’s career as a dominant left-hander. If not for the injury, he might have gained as much notoriety for his pitching as he eventually did as a popular Indians broadcaster…

Preacher Roe… He didn’t overpower hitters with strikeouts or fastballs, but instead used trickery (including the spitball) to earn five All-Star Game berths. He did his best work for the old Brooklyn Dodgers, doing so with equal effectiveness as a starter and reliever…

Tom Tresh… For one year, he was the 1960s equivalent of Derek Jeter, but found most of his playing time in a Yankee outfield that was searching for successors to a departed Maris and a fading Mantle…

Bruce Dal Canton… He was the “other” knuckleballer on those Braves staffs of the mid-1970s, before forging a legacy as one of the game’s great minor league instructors. It’s no wonder that he was called “The Professor.”…

George Kissell… He worked for the Cardinals’ organization for an amazing 68 years, doing everything from minor league instruction to scouting to coaching on the big league staff. He was the epitome of a baseball lifer, and forever loyal to the Cardinals…

Eddie Brinkman… With his giraffe-like neck and lanky build, he set a distinctive pose as one of the slickest shortstops of his era. Along with Tiger teammates Norm Cash, Dick McAuliffe, and Aurelio Rodriguez, he helped form one of the best defensive infields of the early 1970s…

Mickey Vernon… The consummate gentleman, he proved that nice guys could also succeed as great players. He was the Keith Hernandez of his day, a master batsman and a skilled defender whose numbers were damaged by a bad ballpark in Washington and military service in World War II…

Don Gutteridge… The oldest living former manager at the time of his death, he had the misfortune of managing the White Sox in 1969 and ‘70, one of the low points in franchise history…

Skip Caray… He brought humor and sarcasm to the broadcast booth, making the Braves bearable (and even entertaining) during the Biff Pocoroba years and later during the Rafael Ramirez era…

Jerome Holtzman… “The Dean” did much more than invent the save rule, bringing a sense of history and style to baseball writing in the Windy City. He also served the game as one of the leading historians on the scandal of the Black Sox and one of the most outspoken members of the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee…

Red Foley… Simply put, this New York sportswriter set the standard by which all official scorers should be measured. For years, his “Ask Red” column because a must-read for fans who wanted to learn more about the rules of the game…

Bobby Murcer… A personal favorite, he brought joy to two different generations of Yankee fans, first as an All-Star player, second as an affable broadcaster, and always as a gentleman. Along with the passing of Dock Ellis and John Marzano, Murcer’s death hit this writer the hardest in 2008…

Steve Mingori… The owner of the one of the funkiest sidearm deliveries in existence, he was so brilliant at playing the role of lefty bullpen specialist that one wonders how he might have fared if given the closer’s role in Kansas City…

Jules Tygiel… He proved that academics could also be great baseball writers, all the while educating thousands about the historic roles of Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey…

Buzzie Bavasi… The architect of eight pennant winners and four World Champions, Bavasi oversaw the development of a flurry of young Dodgers during the fifties and sixties. Along with fellow Dodger patriarchs Branch Rickey and Walter O’Malley, Bavasi belongs in the Hall of Fame…

John Marzano…A former backup catcher who once famously sparred with Paul O’Neill, he became an energetic talks show host and beloved member of the MLB.com staff. …

Tommy Holmes… In 1945, he hit 28 home runs while striking out nine times, one of the most singularly phenomenal accomplishment in the game’s history…

Walt Masterson… A close friend of Ted Williams, he made two All-Star teams and scores of friends during a long life in baseball. The consummate gentleman, he also played a vital role in establishing the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association…

Bob Howsam… Like Bavasi, he belongs in Cooperstown, which would be a fitting tribute to his legacy as the underrated architect of the “Big Red Machine.” He pulled off one of the great heists in major league history when he secured Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo, and Denis Menke from the Astros for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and the other Jimmy Stewart…

Johnny Podres… Brooklyn Dodgers fans will always revere him for his two-hit shutout in Game Seven of the 1955 World Series, an achievement that cemented his reputation as a big game pitcher. Pitchers of recent generations will thank him for his wisdom as a pitching coach, specifically his ability to teach the change-up.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for MLB.com and welcomes e-mail at bmarkusen@stny.rr.com [1].


Article printed from Bronx Banter: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com

URL to article: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/2009/01/03/observations-from-cooperstown-pastime-passings-in-2008/

URLs in this post:

[1] bmarkusen@stny.rr.com: mailto:bmarkusen@stny.rr.com

Copyright © 2011 Bronx Banter. All rights reserved.