Obituary: Ray Webster (1937-2020)

RIP to Ray Webster, who spent parts of two seasons as a middle infielder in the major leagues. It was announced recently that he died on June 3 at the age of 82, with his wife Anne and his dog Shadow at his side. Webster played for the Cleveland Indians (1959) and Boston Red Sox (1960).

Raymond George Webster was born in Grass Valley, Calif., on November 15, 1937. He became a professional baseball player at the age of 17, signing with the AAA Sacramento Solons in 1955 after graduating from Marysville High School. He signed as a shortstop, but he also had a pretty impressive record as a pitcher, with a no-hitter and a one-hitter while playing in the Marysville junior league.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, August 15, 1956.

“You know how as a kid you play any place. Just so you could play was the main thing,” Webster explained, adding that he ended up in the right spot on the field. “I fooled around and pitched and caught, but that shortstop position always looked good to me.”

The Solons optioned him to the Class-B Salem Senators. He didn’t get much playing time, but he did get 5 hits in 13 at-bats. He came back to the Senators in 1955 as the team’s regular shortstop, and he hit .253. The Solons were pleased at his effort in his first full season, even if there were some concerns about whether his arm would suit him at shortstop.

Webster moved up to the Class-A Amarillo Gold Sox in 1957 and showed a power stroke for the first time. He slammed 19 home runs and drove in 87 runs while batting .284. He also showed a good batting eye, drawing 88 walks. He appeared in all but 2 innings for the Gold Sox in ’57 — he had to leave one game after hurting his ankle. After that season, the Solons brought him to AAA for 1958. His hitting slumped to .244, but he hit 10 home runs — not bad for a 20-year-old in the competitive Pacific Coast League.

Cleveland selected Webster in December 1958 as part of the minor-league draft. Indians manager Joe Gordon had heard good things about the youngster and recommended him. The problem was that the team already had a capable shortstop with Woodie Held. Held hit 29 home runs in 1959, second on the team behind Rocky Colavito’s 42 bombs. That left Webster to split time with Billy Martin at second base.

Webster didn’t sound too concerned about where he would be playing; he was looking forward to being on the same field as his idols. “Ted Williams was always everything I ever wanted to be as a ball player,” he said. “I know I have a long way to go, but I’m sure going to keep trying.”

Webster played in 40 games for Cleveland in ’59. He started 11 games at second and another 4 games at third base, but he didn’t field particularly well at either position. His first MLB hit was a 3-run homer off Orioles reliever Billy Loes on May 6. After being sparingly used for most of the season, he was given a start on September 14 and hit two singles and a double, driving in 3 runs in an 8-5 win over the Yankees. Those hits brought his season batting average from the .120s to .161. A late-season flurry of hits left him with a .203 average on the year.

The highlight of Webster’s time in Cleveland took place off the field. He met Ms. Anne Steinborn, who was from Cleveland. They were engaged in October of 1959 and married after Webster came home from a six-month stint in the U.S. Army. They were married for 60 years.

While he was in the Army, Cleveland traded him to the Boston Red Sox for reliever Leo Kiely. He joined the Sox near the end of spring training, after his time in the Army was over. He made the Opening Day roster, along with his idol, Ted Williams. He pinch ran a few times, pinch-hit a few times and played 4 innings of second base. He was hitless in 3 at-bats with a walk and a sacrifice fly before he was cut in May, as the roster was trimmed to 25. Though he was just 22 years old, he’d never return to the majors.

Ray Webster of the Honolulu Islanders is congratulated after hitting his first professional grand slam home run. He’s met at home plate by teammates Neil Wilson (No. 2) and Milt Smith. Source: Honolulu Advertiser, July 10, 1961.

Webster played a total of 47 games and went 15-for-77 with a .195/.250/.325 slash line. He hit 2 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs, with 11 RBIs.

Webster spent several more seasons in the minor leagues. He was assigned by the Sox to Indianapolis, but he spent the bulk of 1960 with the Montreal Royals. He logged time with Vancouver, Hawaii and Charlotte before calling it quits after 1963. In 8 minor-league seasons, Webster hit .253 with 45 homers.

Webster and his wife relocated back to California, where he became an insurance agent and stayed active in semipro ball around the Marysville area, as both a player and a manager. The Websters moved to Browns Valley in 1982, and he spent his spare time golfing, hunting and fishing. He was inducted into the Christian Brothers High School La Salle Hall of Fame in 2004, along with 11 other Northern California baseball stars.

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