RIP to infielder Milt Ramirez, who played for parts of three seasons in the majors during the 1970s. According to the website Noticel in an article published on August 18, he has passed away at the age of 72. No date or cause of death was given. Ramirez played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1970-71) and Oakland Athletics (1979).
Milton Ramirez was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, on April 2, 1950. He was not the only baseball player in the family, as brother Wilfredo “Brea” Ramirez was a catcher for Mayaguez. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles and spent the 1968 season playing for the Bluefield Orioles of the Rookie-level Appalachian League as an 18 year old. He batted .305 with a couple of home runs and scored 40 runs. He played mostly at second base and had a .911 fielding percentage. He moved over to shortstop in 1969 as he moved between Miami and Aberdeen. He had a sub-.900 fielding percentage at the position, but he did have his moments as he developed as an infielder. He started three double plays as the Aberdeen Pheasants shut out Sioux Falls 3-0 on July 20. He hit poorly in Miami but batted .299 at Aberdeen.
Ramirez was drafted by St. Louis and joined the Cardinals in 1970. The Cardinals liked what they saw of him in the Instructional League and paid $25,000 for him. The team had to keep him on the roster for a full season or offer him back to Baltimore for $12,500, and they were adamant in keeping him. In his two seasons in professional baseball, the young infielder hardly ever struck out — just 43 times in 623 plate appearances. He also showed a lot of raw fielding talent, despite his poor numbers. “Ramirez has quick wrists, which is important when a shortstop had to flip the ball on the double play pivot,” explained director of player procurement George Silvey. The Cardinals coaching staff was similarly impressed by him.
Ramirez was just 9 days past his 20th birthday when he made his debut on April 11, 1970, making him one of the youngest players in the league. Ramirez spent most of his time coming off the bench as a late-inning replacement for veteran shortstop Dal Maxvill. He made his first start against the Chicago Cubs on April 22 when Maxvill went through an early-season slump. Ramirez was 1-for-4 in the 7-5 loss, striking out once and getting his first major-league hit off Cubs starter Fergie Jenkins. He also committed an error, and his defense was a point of concern for the team. He made two errors on June 6, allowing the visiting Padres to score 2 unearned runs and beat St. Louis 6-5. At one point, Maxvill started a game at second base with the thought that he could coach Ramirez on the field. Ramirez ended the season with a .923 fielding percentage at shortstop, with 13 errors in 240-2/3 innings at the position. He also slashed .190/.264/.241 in 62 games, with 8 runs scored. He struck out just 9 times in 87 plate appearances and took 8 walks.
Having spent his full season in the majors, Ramirez was sent to the Arkansas Travelers of the short-lived Dixie Association in 1971. Manager Jack Krol was happy to have the infielder, especially after Ramirez hit a homer in the team’s first game of the season. “He was up with the Cardinals last year for 62 games, but he rode the bench a lot there,” Krol said. “Here, he’ll play every day and he’s got all the tools. He’s gonna be a helluva ballplayer.” He called his double-play combination of Ramirez and Tom Heintzelman the best in the league.
Ramirez hit .216 for Arkansas and drove in 29 runs. His fielding improved at shortstop, and the Cardinals returned him to the majors in September. He appeared in 4 games and hit .273, including a 2-for-5 performance in a 7-1 win over Montreal on September 26. He committed 1 error in 4 games at shortstop for a .947 fielding percentage. Ramirez spent the next seven seasons in the minor leagues and moved between multiple organizations. He spent one more season with Arkansas and hit .231 in 1972. After that season was done, he was traded to Houston in a deal that sent infielders Ray Busse and Bobby Fenwick to Houston for Ramirez and catcher Skip Jutze.
Over the next few seasons, Ramirez moved from Houston to Los Angeles to Reynosa of the Mexican League to Kansas City. His hitting ebbed and flowed, from a low of .202 to multiple seasons in the .250s. He finally found some stability when he ended up with the Oakland A’s in 1977. He spent three seasons in Triple-A, and his offense reached new heights in the Pacific Coast League from 1977-79. He hit a career-high 6 home runs in 1977 and batted .316 in 1978 for Vancouver in 100 games. He played all over the infield in the minors and showed pretty good defense, too. Given more of a chance to play for Vancouver in ’78 when Oakland called up shortstop Rob Picciolo to the majors, he drove in 5 runs on May 17 with a sacrifice fly, double and single. “That’s the first time I’ve ever had five RBIs in a game in my career,” he said.
Ramirez returned to the major leagues in May of 1979, when Oakland infielder Mickey Klutts injured his thumb. In his first major-league game since 1971, he drove in the go-ahead run with a single off Milwaukee’s Lary Sorensen in a 3-2 victory on May 27. Ramirez started off hot as he got regular playing time in the majors for the first time in his career. He moved between second, third and shortstop and started consistently for a couple of weeks. Then batting average tailed off to below .200, and he returned to a backup infielder role. He appeared in 8 games in July and was 0-for 5 for the month. Ramirez made his last major-league appearance on August 1, 1979, as a replacement at third base. Facing Minnesota reliever Mike Marshall, Ramirez hit a 2-out triple and later scored on an error, kicking off a 4-run splurge that iced a 7-1 A’s win. The hit raised his season batting average to .161. A week later, Ramirez was sent back to Triple-A when pitcher Mike Norris was activated from the disabled list.
Over parts of three seasons, Ramirez appeared in 94 games and slashed .184/.248/.230. His 28 hits included 3 doubles and 2 triples, and he scored 14 runs while driving in 6. He was the first player in the American or National League to ever have the last name of “Ramirez.”
Ramirez stayed one more season in the A’s org, hitting .274 with Ogden of the PCL. He completed his playing career with Campeche of the Mexican League in 1981. Over 11 seasons in the minor leagues, he hit .257 with a .296 on-base percentage. He had 1,008 hits, with 27 home runs.
The article on Noticel did not mention what Ramirez did after his playing career, or where he lived. Mayaguez interim mayor Jorge L. Ramos Ruiz issued a statement that read (via translation), “On behalf of the municipal administration of Mayagüez, we join in the sorrow that overwhelms our city of sports and culture for the sensitive death of Milton Ramírez, a humble athlete, slow and simple in his speech, a product of our public housing projects that gave Glory to our professional baseball from our Indios de Mayagüez team and the St. Louis Cardinals of the Major Leagues in the 1970s.”
For more information: Noticel