Entries Tagged as 'Deaths'

RIP Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner Former MLB manager Chuck Tanner died yesterday after a long illness at the age of 82. 

Tanner ranks 27th all-time among managers in wins with 1352.  Unfortunately, he has 1381 losses just barely giving him a losing record for his career.  Of course, his crowning jewel was his World Series victory in 1979 with the Pirates. 

He was described as “upbeat” by the media and that was collaborated by my friend, Todd the Ump, who is a die-hard Pirates fan.

When I got home my son was watching the Pens post game show and they started showing clips of the 1979 Pirates and Chuck Tanner.  My son said, "Oh yeah, he died."  I didn’t believe it.  Chuck Tanner is not supposed to die.  He is the eternal optimist who said "You must never ever ever ever quit."  Other than the normal happiest days of my life (i.e. kids being born, day I got married – yes I actually do love my wife) the day I met Chuck Tanner and had my picture taken with him at PNC ranks right up there. 

You couldn’t help but like Chuck Tanner.  He never said a bad word about any player and you never heard a player say a bad word about him.  Looking back it’s hard to believe that when he skippered the Buccos to the ’79 Championship that he was only a few years older than I am now.  Yet when I met him a few years back he didn’t seem to be any older than he was in 1979.

I hope the Pirates do the right thing and retire his number 7 this coming season.  After all, he quite possibly will be the last man to lead them to a World Series title.

I don’t think anyone could have said it better.

Ron Santo passes away

cubs conv sat 053 My friend Tyler called me Friday afternoon with the sad news that Cubs broadcaster and former third baseman Ron Santo had died.  It had been such a busy day, I hadn’t heard the news reports. 

Tyler lamented, “I wonder now will they induct him in the Hall?”

I don’t think he was insinuating that players should be inducted on the basis of sympathy (although no doubt, others may feel that way).  However, it would be a sad irony if he did get his invite to the Hall posthumously. Mr Santo made no secret (though he did it with such humbleness) that he wished to get to Cooperstown. 

I’ll be honest… Santo was not my favorite broadcaster behind the mike.  I don’t think I’m alone in that.  He was entering an modern era that was not his.  That said, as a representative of the Cubs, a liaison to the public, a go-between from baseball to Joe and Jane Public, there was no one better.  He was as real as it gets in this media-phony world of broadcasting.  His love for the Cubs was atypically genuine.  For that, I will miss him. 

RIP Sparky Anderson

As most of you know, Sparky Anderson died last week at the age of 76.  No doubt, he was one of one of best managers of the 70s and 80s.  As a Cub fan, I didn’t relish the days they had to play the Big Red Machine.  The amazing part was when he left the Reds, he wasn’t done.  He guided the Tigers to two first place finishes and a World Championship.

Tiger Tales has a good collection of links to articles about Anderson.  And Sports Illustrated has a real nice photo gallery (via StumbleUpon) that spans the life of Sparky including a photo of him in a Phillie uniform back in 1959. 

New patches will be worn in memory of Yankee legends

gmspatch sheppardpatch

In light of the recent deaths of Yankee legends Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner, the New York ballclub’s graphic designers have been busy coming up with a patch that will adorn the uniforms of the Yankee players. 

Both are stark black and white to match the Yankee uniforms.  The Steinbrenner patch includes his full name plus his initials “GMS”.  At the bottom, it says The Boss”.  Nice touch.

Sheppard’s patch is a nicely done graphic of an old time PA mike within a baseball diamond and simply says, “Bob Sheppard The Voice of Yankee Stadium”.

The GMS patch will be worn above the NY on the left breast on the home jerseys and above the YORK on away jerseys. 

You’ll find the Sheppard patch on the Yankees’ left sleeves.

Steinbrenner changed baseball (for better or worse)

Truly a rough week for the Yankee faithful.  In the last three days, two iconic figures who represented the Bronx Bombers in two very different ways, passed away

On Sunday, PA announcer Bob Sheppard passed on at the ripe age of 99.  His time with the Yankees goes back to the days of DiMaggio and Mantle.  His voice was long lived.  It could be heard as late as 2007. 

Then today the Boss was finally dragged kicking and screaming from this dimension into the next life.  George Steinbrenner, the shipbuilder turned baseball team owner who swore he would not get involved in his team’s business died at the age of 80.

Steinbrenner was controversial, aggressive, intrusive and yes, sometimes mean.  But he won, too.  Under his ownership, the Yankees won eleven championships and seven World Series. 

A friend posed this question to a few of us over email:  “Which had more effect on player salaries,  George Steinbrenner or Curt Flood’s free agency case?”

Truly an academic question which has no real answer.  But it does give one pause to think.  Other owners were skeptical of free agency, not wanting to shell out the big bucks for players.  Meanwhile, Steinbrenner, who inherited a sub-par Yankee team in the early 70s, wasn’t afraid to adapt his business model to include the concept of Flood’s idea of free agency.  With the acquisition of Catfish Hunter and so many others, Steinbrenner changed the way, for better or for worse, how baseball owners approach acquiring on-the-field personnel. 

The results,in Steinbrenner’s case, speak for themselves.

Angels make a class move, vote Adenhart a playoff share

nickadenhart A nice touch by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim players. 

The team, who made the playoffs this year, voted deceased pitcher Nick Adenhart a full share of the playoff winnings according to the LA Times Blog.  That comes out to roughly $138,000.  The cash goes to Adenhart’s family, of course. 

Nick Adenhart gave all he had for the Angels.  Unfortunately, it for just one game when he pitched six scoreless innings in his MLB debut in April.  That night, he was killed in an accident by a drunk driver. 

Geremi Gonzalez’ body to be exhumed

A very odd story is coming out of Venezuela in which former MLB pitcher Geremi Gonzalez’ body will be exhumed as part of an investigation.  Prosecutors are trying to determine if he was struck by lightning as originally thought or if he was a victim of a fatal robbery.

Authorities determined that Gonzalez, 33, died instantly when he was hit by lightning at a beach in May 2008. Investigators ruled out homicide after an autopsy blamed "an electric shock produced by natural causes."

Doubts surfaced, however, after a friend notified the family that some of Gonzalez’s belongings were being offered for sale, including a gold chain he was wearing when he died, federal police commissioner Cesar Gomez told Diario Panorama.

Nice detective work by the family friend. 

Gonzalez debuted with the Cubs in 1997 with a 11-9 record.  He came in ninth in the Rookie of the Year voting that year.  For his career, he was 30-35 with a 4.93 ERA. 

Mark “the Bird” Fidrych Has Flown Home

fidrych Mark Fidrych, a Northborough native whose aw-shucks charm and on-the-mound antics helped make him a national phenomenon as a Detroit Tigers rookie pitcher in 1976, was killed in an accident in his hometown this afternoon while working on his pickup truck. He was 54.

Fidrych, who won 19 games as a rookie before injuries derailed his career, was found dead on his 107-acre farm this afternoon, according to the office of Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. Fidrych was found by a family friend underneath his truck at about 2:30 p.m.

In the 1974 amateur draft, he was not selected until the 10th round, when the Detroit Tigers picked him. In the minor leagues one of his coaches dubbed the lanky right-handed pitcher “The Bird” because of his resemblance to “Big Bird” of the Sesame Street television program.

In the process Fidrych also captured the imagination of fans with his antics on the field. He would crouch down on the pitcher’s mound and fix cleat marks, what became known as “manicuring the mound”, talk to himself, talk to the ball, aim the ball like a dart, strut around the mound after every out, and throw back balls that “had hits in them,” insisting they be removed from the game.

At the of his rookie season, the Tigers gave him a $25,000 bonus and signed him to a three-year contract worth $255,000. Economists estimated that the extra attendance Fidrych generated around the league in 1976 was worth more than $111 million.

Fidrych tore the cartilage in his knee fooling around in the outfield during spring training in 1977. He picked up where he left off after his return from the injury, but about six weeks after his return, during a game against Baltimore, he felt his arm just, in his words, “go dead.” It was a torn rotator cuff, but it would not be diagnosed until 1985.

At age 29, he was forced to retire. After seeing everyone from chiropractors to hypnotists, Fidrych went to famed sports doctor James Andrews in 1985. Dr. Andrews discovered the torn rotator cuff, operated, and cleaned out the shoulder. But, the damage already done to the shoulder effectively ended Fidrych’s chance of making a comeback.

Fidrych remained cheerful and upbeat. In a 1998 interview, when asked who he would invite to dinner if he could invite anyone in the world, Fidrych said, “My buddy and former Tigers teammate Mickey Stanley, because he’s never been to my house.”

It doesn’t seem possible, he seems to young to be dead, maybe because his career was a flash of light, like a meteor streaking across the sky. I just watched a special on the MLB Network about Mark Fidrych, now surely to be replayed, I’ll be watching for it. But it brought back great memories of Bird Mania, what an exciting time it was, the ballpark was electric, and then he was gone, just like today. Gone too soon! Our thoughts & sympathies go out to the Fidrych Family & the entire baseball world. Gone, but not soon forgotten.

RIP: Harry Kalas


Born in Naperville, Illinois, Kalas graduated from Naperville High School in 1954. He attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa and later graduated from the University of Iowa in 1958. Kalas began his career in 1961 calling minor league games for the Hawaii Islanders while he was in the United States Army stationed in Hawaii.

Kalas made his major league debut in 1965 with the Houston Astros. He was hired by the Phillies in 1971 to replace Bill Campbell, and was the master of ceremonies at the 1971 opening of Veterans Stadium. After the retirement of By Saam, Kalas was paired with Andy Musser and Hall of Fame player Richie Ashburn. Kalas joined NFL Films in 1975, and remained there until his death.

Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas passed out in a press box at Nationals Park today and was pronounced dead at GW Hospital. He was 73.

“We lost our voice today,” team president David Montgomery said, his voice cracking. “He has loved our game and made just a tremendous contribution to our sport and certainly to our organization.”

Nats acting GM Mike Rizzo talked to Montgomery after Kalas’ collapse but there was never really a thought of canceling the game; Montgomery told Rizzo that Kalas would have wanted them to play. There will be a moment for silence for both Nick Adenhart of Hagerstown and for Kalas.

“Major League Baseball has lost one of the great voices of our generation,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “Baseball announcers have a special bond with their audience, and Harry represented the best of baseball not only to the fans of the Phillies, but to fans everywhere.”

Montgomery said that Kalas was found unconscious in a broadcast booth, where he was preparing to work Monday’s game against the Nationals. He was found by the Phillies director of broadcasting at about 12:30 p.m.

Montgomery called his condition serious at that time, and the Phillies closed the visitors’ clubhouse to the media.

Kalas missed most of spring training after undergoing surgery in February. The team declined to reveal details of the surgery, saying it was a “minor medical procedure.”

Kalas, who has broadcast Phillies games since 1971, was known for his distinctive “Outta here!” home run call. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after receiving the Ford C. Frick Award in 2002. He was in the final year of a three-year contract with the Phillies. Kalas also narrated for NFL Films, broadcast Animal Planet’s annual Puppy Bowl and did the voice-overs for the Chunky Soup commercials.

Kalas and Ashburn became beloved figures in Philadelphia, and also became best friends. They worked together for 27 seasons until Ashburn’s sudden passing on September 9, 1997 of a heart attack in his sleep in a New York City hotel room after broadcasting a Phillies/Mets game at Shea Stadium. Due to the closeness of Ashburn and Kalas, Kalas openly stated that he still grieved over Ashburn’s death, over eleven years afterwards.

Kalas’ familiar home run call was “Swing…and a long drive, watch this baby, outta here! Home run ” If it was a gigantic home run, he sometimes inserted “deep center field” after “and a long drive” and described it as “that ball’s way outta here!”. As a guest on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball on July 15, 2007, Kalas recounted that his famous “outta here” call originated in the mid-1970s. Standing around the batting cage during batting practice Philly slugger Greg Luzinski hit a ball into the upper deck to which Philly shortstop Larry Bowa reacted with the words, “Wow! That’s way outta here.” Kalas claims that it had a nice “unique ring to it and has been using it ever since”.

Harry Kalas died, doing what he did, and he did it good. I remember when 73 was old, not any more, tomorrow I turn 53, and 73 is too young to go. Kalas will be missed, sympathies go out to Harry’s family, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the NFL.

Halos Hurler Adenhart Killed in Crash

nickadenhart_1_400 Hours after holding the A’s scoreless for six innings, 22 year old righthander Nick Adenhart was killed in a car crash. The accident occurred shortly after midnight at the intersection of Orangethorpe Avenue and Lemon Street in Fullerton, said Lt. Craig Brower of the Fullerton Police Department. Several witnesses told police the driver of a red minivan ran a red light at the intersection, hitting a silver Mitsubishi carrying four passengers. Two people in the Mitsubishi were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, authorities said. Two others also in the Mitsubishi were taken to a nearby hospital, where one was later pronounced dead, Brower said. The driver of the minivan fled on foot, but police found him about a mile away and took him into custody on suspicion of hit-and-run, Brower said. Further charges are pending as the investigation continues, he said.

This is a tragedy beyond baseball, it puts things into perspective, what’s really important in life, how very precious life is, and how it can end at any time. Please take the time to enjoy your life, reach out & touch those you love, and remember Nick Adenhart.

I still remember, forever young, 27 year old righthander, Paul Edmondson, a starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, who died in a Santa Barbarba car accident February 13, 1970 (one day after his birthday) on a rain soaked highway 101.