photo: Solly Hemus (Getty Images)
2016 was a relatively quiet year in that only seven former St. Louis Cardinals passed away, the lowest total since I first began preparing these annual reports in 2005. Unfortunately, in 2017, the count increased to nine, including former manager Solly Hemus.
The oldest living former Cardinals player remains 97-year-old Wally Westlake. The outfielder, who had a 10-year MLB career with six clubs, was already 30 years of age when he joined St. Louis in June 1951 in a seven-player trade with Pittsburgh.
Westlake spent just 11 months wearing the Birds on the Bat before being sent to Cincinnati in a four-player trade that brought Dick Sisler back to the Cardinals to conclude his career.
Those who held the honor most recently prior to Westlake are as follows. Then-98 year old Bill Endicott held the record for four years before the 1946 outfielder passed away last November. In 2012, former pitcher Freddy Schmidt died at the age of 95. Two years earlier, Don Lang, the 95-year-old ex-third baseman from the 1948 club, left us. Herman Franks, then 95, passed away in 2009, preceded by 96-year-old Don Gutteridge in 2008 and Ernie Koy, aged 97 upon his death in 2007. 100-year-old Lee Cunningham passed in 2005.
94-year-old Red Schoendienst, who debuted in April 1945, continues to be the living Cardinal who played for St. Louis the longest time ago, now 72 years back and counting.
Hemus was joined in passing during 2017 by eight other former Cardinals. Also, one died at the end of 2016 and missed that article, so he leads off here.
A summary of each follows.
2016 Cardinals deaths (addendum)
December 30: Chris Cannizzaro, age 78
The California native may be best known for being the first catcher and first all-star in San Diego Padres history, but Cannizzaro came up in St. Louis’ system before being selected by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft.
Cannizzaro signed with the Cardinals out of high school in 1956 and reached St. Louis to open the 1960 season. He caught in just 13 games over his two seasons in the Gateway City. In addition to the Cards, Mets and Padres, Cannizzaro played for the Pirates, Cubs and Dodgers in a career that spanned 13 seasons.
2017 Cardinals deaths
January 2, Daryl Spencer, age 88
The power-hitter from Wichita, Kansas joined the Cardinals mid-way through his 10-year MLB career, in December 1959. Having idolized Marty Marion as a kid, Spencer was delighted to join the Cardinals, but stayed just one and a half years, dealt to the Dodgers in May 1961. The shortstop hit 20 home runs and batted .257 in 185 games with St. Louis.
Prior to becoming a Cardinal, Spencer played six seasons for his original club, the Giants, in both New York and San Francisco. After parts of three seasons with Los Angeles, he finished his major league time with the 1963 Reds. Spencer prolonged his career by starring in Japan until age 43, and coached there as well.
Spencer’s SABR biography
January 6, Bob Sadowski, age 79
Having been born (and later died) in St. Louis, it only seems fitting the utilityman made his MLB debut at Busch Stadium I with the 1960 Cardinals. Sadowski’s one game with the club came on September 16, but just three days later, he was traded to the Phillies.
“Bo” signed with the Cardinals out of high school and began the minor league segment of his career in 1955. Following the 1961 season, Sadowski was dealt to the White Sox, then moved to the Angels in the 1962 Rule 5 Draft. Sadowski batted just .222 over his four partial years as a major leaguer.
He played six more seasons in the minors, finally hanging up his cleats as an active player following a stint with the Cardinals’ farm club in Cedar Rapids.
March 25: Jack Faszholz, age 89
Another lifelong Missourian, “Preacher” Faszholz’ entire MLB career consisted of four games, including one start, totaling 11 2/3 innings pitched for the 1953 Cardinals. He was drafted by the Cards from the Red Sox in 1948 after he spent four years in their system.
Despite his short major league stint, the right-hander enjoyed a long career, which lasted 12 seasons. He won 128 games, including a record 80 wins, for the Cards’ Rochester affiliate in the Triple-A International League. Faszholz is a member of the Red Wings’ Hall of Fame.
March 31: Ruben Amaro Sr., age 81
The native of Mexico was signed out of the Mexican League by the Cardinals in 1954 and broke into the majors with the 1958 club. At the age of 22, Amaro appeared in 40 games, hitting .224 in 76 at-bats. That December, he was traded to Philadelphia, where he played for six years and won a Gold Glove in 1964. Amaro finished with four seasons between the Yankees and the Angels. He managed and scouted for the remainder of his years.
The shortstop’s father had a long career in Cuba and Mexico and his son, Ruben Amaro Jr., has been a player, coach and executive in the major leagues. Amaro Jr, a long-time general manager of the Phillies, has signed on with the Mets as their 2018 first-base coach.
May 15, Bob Kuzava, age 93
Kuzava pitched 12 years in the majors after coming up with Cleveland in 1946. After appearing with five other clubs, the left-handed pitcher wound up his career with three games for the 1957 Cardinals. The club purchased his contract from the Pirates with two weeks remaining in the season.
Kuzava pitched for the Cards in Triple-A in 1958 and continued in the minors through 1960.
May 19, Ed Mierkowicz, age 93
The outfielder began his career with Detroit in 1945 and remained with the Tigers through the 1948 season. Mierkowicz came to the Cardinals organization in the 1948 minor league draft and toiled in the system through 1953.
His major league stint with St. Louis was amazingly short, however. On April 19, 1950, he made his one and only appearance in a Cardinals uniform. The pinch-hitter struck out. It was also his final moment as a major leaguer. Mierkowicz bounced around the minor leagues before finishing his career in Mexico in 1957.
Mierkowicz was the last surviving player from the 1945 World Series, in which the Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs.
Back in 2011, I wrote about Mierkowicz because of his high-scoring last name in Scrabble. (If you think of who was with the Cardinals back then, it should make sense.)
May 19, Steve Waterbury, age 65
Signed in 1971, the Illinois native reached St. Louis in 1976 at the age of 24. After pitching a total of six innings over five games, the right-hander’s MLB career was over.
In June 1977, Waterbury was dealt to the Phillies along with Bake McBride for three players. He moved to the Cubs in 1979, but retired shortly after, never again having reached the majors.
October 3, Solly Hemus, age 94
After serving in World War II, Hemus was briefly with the Dodgers before signing with the Cardinals in 1946. The 5-foot-9 scrapper reached St. Louis in 1949 and remained with the club as a second baseman and shortstop until he was traded to Philadelphia in 1956. The Cards reacquired him the fall of 1958, when he was named player-manager by owner “Gussie” Busch.
Hemus managed the Cardinals for less than three years, and with a 190-192 record, was fired during the 1961 season in favor of coach Johnny Keane. He managed and coached in the minors for several organizations until moving into the oil business in Houston in 1966. Hemus was the last surviving big-league manager from the 1950’s.
December 7, Tracy Stallard, age 80
The Boston right-hander cemented his place in history in 1961 when he served up Roger Maris’ record-setting 61st home run. After five seasons in total with the Red Sox and Mets, culminating with a 20-loss 1964, Stallard was traded to the Cardinals. He joined the rotation and pitched two seasons for St. Louis, though during part of 1966, he was returned to the minors.
In the spring of 1967, Stallard and Maris were teammates with the Cardinals, but the pitcher did not make the club. Stallard returned to the minors until retiring in 1969 at the age of 31.
Remembering the Browns
With the passing of Red Sox Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, 99-year-old Chuck Stevens, a member of the St. Louis Browns in 1941, 1946 and 1948, is now MLB’s oldest living player.
St. Louis native Roy Sievers passed away on April 3 at the age of 90. “Squirrel” was the first American League Rookie of the Year, in 1949. The outfielder played five seasons for the Browns, through their final season of 1953, on the way to a 17-year MLB career.
On February 26, Ned Garver died. The right-hander won 20 games for the 52-win 1951 Browns and finished second to Yogi Berra in the American League MVP balloting. It was his fourth of five years with the club.
Dick Starr, who pitched for the Brownies in 1949-1951, died at the age of 96 on January 18. Outfielder Tom Wright, who appeared with the 1952 club, passed away on September 5 at 93 years of age. Another outfielder, Jim Rivera, who at the age of 31 also debuted in 1952, died on November 13 at 96 years of age.
According to the Browns fan club, only 12 of the team’s former players are still alive.
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