photo: Wally Westlake (Getty Images)
On Thursday, September 5, the baseball world said goodbye to the St. Louis Cardinals’ oldest living player, Wally Westlake of Sacramento, California. The 98-year old was also the second-oldest living MLB player, by just four days.
He played nine seasons in the major leagues for the Pirates, Cardinals, Reds, Indians, Orioles and Phillies, from 1947 to 1956. Westlake was primarily an outfielder with his career highlight being named to the 1951 National League All-Star team.
Westlake was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers at age 19 in 1940 and credited Casey Stengel as having been key in his development as a minor leaguer while in the Pacific Coast League. After serving in World War II, Westlake made his big-league debut with the 1947 Pirates.
In the midst of his all-star, career-best 1951 season, during which he hit 22 home runs, drove in 84 and batted .266, Westlake was traded. On June 15, Pirates general manager Branch Rickey sent him to St. Louis in a seven-player trade that also included pitcher Howie Pollet and catcher Joe Garagiola joining the Cardinals. Westlake played in 73 games with his new team to finish the season, and his performance dropped off. He hit six home runs, drove in 39 and batted .255.
At 31 years of age when the 1952 season began, Westlake became a journeyman, spending that campaign with three different teams. He played just 21 more games for St. Louis, hitting one home run, driving in 10 and batting a disappointing .216. In May, he was swapped to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-player deal that included Dick Sisler, and was dealt again in August, to Cleveland.
He remained with the Tribe until 1955, when he moved to the Baltimore Orioles. Westlake finished his MLB career with five games for the 1956 Phillies, before retiring the next spring.
Over his career, Westlake played in 958 MLB games, taking 3,117 at bats, with 127 home runs, 539 RBIs and an average of .272. He spent his retirement years back in Sacramento.
Westlake had been the oldest living Cardinal for almost three years. Then-98 year old Bill Endicott held the record for four years before the 1946 outfielder passed away in November 2016. Now, 1954 Cardinals pitcher Bill Greason is the oldest living Cardinal. The right-hander celebrated his 95th birthday on September 3rd.
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