In Memoriam 2021 (Part 2)

Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4

Chuck Dobson, 77 (d. Nov. 30): Chuck Dobson won 75 games for the Athletics and Angels between 1966 and 1975. He had a 15-5 record for Oakland in 1971, but an injury suffered toward the end of the year kept him off the team when it won the World Series in 1972. After several careers after baseball, he put his own demons behind him and became a counselor at an alcohol rehab center in Kansas City.

Solly Drake, 90 (d. August 18): Solly and Sammy Drake were the first African-American brothers to play in Major League Baseball. Solly was an outfielder for the Cubs, Dodgers and Phillies in 1956 and 1959. He had a career .232 batting average with 2 home runs and 15 stolen bases. He was for many years pastor at Greater Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Nino Escalera, 91 (d. July 3): Nino Escalera played in 73 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1954. He and Chuck Harmon both debuted for the team on April 17, becoming the first Black ballplayers in team history. Escalera hit .159 and didn’t get much of a chance to show off his blazing speed. When his playing career was done, he became a scout in the Caribbean and signed many future major-leaguers.

Pedro Feliciano, 45 (d. Nov. 7): “Perpetual Pedro” Feliciano was a dependable reliever for the Mets from 2002 to 2013. He led all major-league relievers in appearances from 2008 to 2010 and had a 22-21 record and 4 saves in 484 big-league games. He signed a contract with the Yankees in 2011 but never pitched for them due to an arm injury.

Ray Fosse, 74 (d. Oct. 13): Ray Fosse was an Gold Glove catcher, a member of Championship Oakland A’s teams, a 2-time All-Star and a beloved commentator for the A’s. He’s most remembered for a single play — the collision with Pete Rose at the 1970 All-Star Game that injured his shoulder. Rose has been criticized for the play, but Fosse was every bit the hard-nosed player that Rose was, and he never backed down from a play at the plate. He died after taking a leave of absence from the A’s broadcast booth to undergo treatment for cancer.

Helen Nicol Fox, 101 (d. July 25). Helen Nicol Fox was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the AAGPBL. She pitched for the Kenosha Comets (1943-47) and Rockford Peaches (1947-52). In 10 seasons with the AAGPBL, Fox had a record of 163-118 and a 1.89 ERA and is the league’s leader in wins, strikeouts (1,076) and innings pitched (2,382). She is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Paul Foytack, 90 (d. Jan. 23): Paul Foytack pitched for the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels from 1953 to 1964. He won 15 games twice for the Tigers, and in his first full season as a starter in 1956, he set a then-team record with 15 strikeouts. He lost the game, which exemplified some of the tough luck he faced as a pitcher for some pretty mediocre Tigers teams. He had a career record of 86-87 and a 4.14 ERA.

Bill Freehan, 79 (d. Aug. 19): Bill Freehan spent his entire 15-year career (1961-76) with the Detroit Tigers. He was selected to 11 All-Star Teams and won 5 Gold Glove Awards. He retired with a .262 batting average, with 1,591 hits, 200 home runs and 758 RBIs. Of all the players not currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame, he has one of the strongest arguments for induction. He died in August after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Adrian Garrett, 78 (d. April 22): Adrian Garrett played as a catcher and outfielder for the Braves, Cubs, Athletics and Angels between 1966 and 1976. He hit plenty of home runs in the minor leagues and in Japan, but he played in just 163 games in the majors and had a .185 batting average with 11 homers. He remained active in baseball through 2015 as a minor-league manager and major-league coach.

Don Gile, 85 (d. March 5): Don Gile was a 6-foot-6 first baseman and catcher and played in 58 games for the Red Sox between 1959 and 1962. He hit .150 with 3 home runs, with his limited playing partly due to the fact that Red Sox just didn’t think someone of his size could catch in the majors. He worked in the pharmaceutical and dental industry after he left baseball.

Pedro Gonzalez, 83 (d. Jan. 10): Pedro Gonzalez was the first Dominican ballplayer in New York Yankees history. The infielder/outfielder played for New York and Cleveland between 1963 and 1967 and batted .244 with 8 home runs and 22 stolen bases. During his playing days, he was a star in the Dominican Winter League. He also broke another barrier by becoming the first Dominican-born manager in the minor leagues, working for the Braves for a decade.

Charlie Gorin, 93 (d. Feb. 21): Charlie Gorin was a left-handed pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 and ’55. He appeared in 7 games, all in relief, and had a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings. The native Texan played for the University of Texas before turning pro and was a part of back-to-back College World Series-winning teams in 1949 and 1950. He returned to Texas after retiring from the game and was a teacher and coach at John Reagan High School in Austin.

Mudcat Grant, 86 (d. June 11): Jim “Mudcat” Grant was a 20-game winner as a starting pitcher and a top reliever in his 14-year career. He started with Cleveland in 1958 and moved to the Twins, Dodgers, Expos, Cardinals, Athletics and Pirates before retiring after the 1971 season. He won 145 games in his career, including 21 with the Twins in 1965. He was a talented singer and entertainer and continued his musical passions in his retirement. He also coined the term “Black Diamonds,” for the African-American pitchers who were 20-game winners in the majors.

Johnny Groth, 95 (d. Aug. 7): Outfielder Johnny Groth had a 15-year career with the Tigers (1946-52, 1957-60), Browns (1953), White Sox (1954-55), Senators (1955) and Kansas City Athletics (1956-57). He hit .293 in his first full season with 11 home runs and probably would have been the 1949 AL Rookie of the Year if a broken wrist hadn’t cost him a couple months of playing time. A standout in center field, Groth was a steady hitter, batting .279 in his career.

Chuck Hartenstein, 79 (d. Oct. 2): In a 6-year career, Chuck Hartenstein pitched for the Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals, Red Sox and Blue Jays. The stint with the Blue Jays came in the team’s inaugural season of 1977, six years after he last appeared in the majors. He had a career 17-19 record in the majors with 24 saves and a 4.52 ERA. He served as a pitching coach and scout after his playing career ended. He also was a volunteer coach for the Texas Longhorns 1993 College World Series team.

Wynn Hawkins, 84 (d. Feb. 11): Wynn Hawkins pitched for Cleveland from 1960 to 1962 and won 12 games as a starter and reliever, with a 4.17 ERA. His baseball career came to an early end after injuring his arm throwing a snowball.

Tom Hilgendorf, 79 (d. March 25): Tom Hilgendorf worked as a relief pitcher for the Cardinals, Cleveland and Phillies between 1969 and 1975. He had 14 career saves, not including the time he jumped fully dressed into a swimming pool to save a teenager from drowning. In his final season, he had a 7-3 record and 2.14 ERA for Philadelphia, with 52 strikeouts in 96-2/3 innings. Soon after that great season, he had surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow, and he never pitched in the majors again.

LaMarr Hoyt, 66 (d. Nov. 29): LaMarr Hoyt won a Cy Young Award with the 1983 White Sox, after winning 24 games and leading all of baseball with a 1.024 WHIP and 1.1 walks per 9 innings. His career was shortened after a series of drug-related arrests in 1986-87, but he won 98 games for the Sox and Padres in 8 seasons, with one All-Star Team selection.

Willard Hunter, 85 (d. Feb. 3): Willard Hunter pitched for the Dodgers and Mets in 1962 and ‘64. He became an original Met when he was the player to be named later in an earlier deal with the Dodgers. He picked up half of his career wins in one day, beating the Cubs on both ends of a doubleheader on August 23, 1964.

Grant Jackson, 78 (d. Feb. 2): Grant Jackson became an All-Star for the only time of his career in 1969, as a starting pitcher for the Phillies. The bulk of his career, though, was spent as a short reliever/closer for the Phillies, Orioles, Yankees, Pirates, Expos and Royals from 1965-82. He appeared in 692 MLB games.

Jerry Johnson, 77 (d. Nov. 15): Jerry Johnson started as a swing man for the Phillies in 1968 but eventually found his place as a short reliever. He won 12 games for the 1971 Giants with 18 saves and finished in 6th place for the NL Cy Young Award.

Ron Johnson, 64 (d. Jan. 26): Ron Johnson played for the Royals and Expos between 1982 and ‘84. He hit .261 in 22 MLB games and also homered 72 times in an 8-year minor-league career. Johnson became a very successful minor-league manager until 2018.

Doug Jones, 64 (d. Nov. 22): Doug Jones had 1 career save before he turned 30 and 302 after it. It took a long time for his teams to figure out how to best use him and his devastating sinker, but once they did, Jones became a 5-time All-Star closer in a 16-year career that ended in 2000.

Bobby Kline, 92 (d. Oct. 26): Bobby Kline first entered into professional baseball in 1947, when he was 18. He bounced around the minors quite a bit until be found a home with the Birmingham Barons in 1951. He hit .283 in his first year with the team and then hit .319 with 23 doubles and 3 home runs in 1954. His success there spurred the Washington Senators to draft him, and he spent all of 1955 in the majors. Playing all the infield positions except first base, Kline slashed .221/.288/.247 in 77 games. He also pitched 1 inning of a blowout loss to the White Sox on August 27. The final score was 11-1, and he allowed 3 runs on a George Kell RBI single and Minnie Minoso 2-run homer. Kline was traded to the Yankees in 1956 and retired as a player after the 1958 season.

Lew Krausse, 77 (d. Feb. 16): A second-generation pitcher, Krausse became the first Milwaukee Brewer pitcher ever when he made the team’s 1970 Opening Day start. Before that, he was a successful swing man for the Kansas City/Oakland A’s, as well as a reliever for the Cardinals, Red Sox and Braves after his time in Milwaukee.

John LaRose, 69 (d. Jan. 14): Lefty pitcher John LaRose had an 11-year career in the minor leagues, starting in 1970. He had a 10-5 record with 15 saves and a 1.60 ERA for Pawtucket in 1978, and he was called up to the majors by the Red Sox. His one appearance occurred on Sept. 20, 1978, against Detroit. He worked 2-2/3 innings in a 15-2 Tigers blowout. LaRose entered in the fifth inning with two runners on and nobody out. He walked the first batter he faced (Steve Kemp) to load the bases but got out of the inning with a force out at home plate and a 6-4-3 double play. In his second inning, he surrendered a 3-run homer to Lou Whitaker. He allowed the first two batters in the seventh inning to reach base before he was replaced by Jim Wright, Both runners scored, leaving him with a 22.50 ERA. The Rhode Island native worked at the Foxwoods Casino until his death in January.

Tommy Lasorda, 93 (d. Jan. 7): As a pitcher, Tommy Lasorda’s career numbers aren’t great — an 0-4 record and 6.48 ERA in 26 games. As a manager, though, Lasorda became one of the game’s biggest personalities and recognizable faces. He was on talk shows and commercials for years. Oh, and he also won 4 National League pennants with the Dodgers and managed World Series-winning teams in 1981 and 1988. Maybe not every player went along with his “Bleed Dodger Blue” mentality, but the results were undeniable: Lasorda won 1,599 games as a manager and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997.

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5 thoughts on “In Memoriam 2021 (Part 2)

  1. Thank you so much for the your research, your writing and your heart, Sam. So much appreciated. Have a great 2022.
    All the best from Montreal. Terry Haig

    Liked by 1 person

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