A Tribute to Those We’ve Lost in 2014.
Regularly updating 90 Feet of Perfection often took a backseat to other things such as my professional life and actually playing baseball in 2014. With that said, I’ve always paid tributes to those from the baseball world who have passed, but with the exceptions of my tributes to Jerry Coleman and Tony Gwynn, I was not able to keep this up this in 2014. I feel there’s no better time to pay tribute to those we’ve lost the year than now, and by doing so, I start by sharing a quote from the book “Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul,” which I feel is quite applicable to this post.
“Baseball is not life and death. But in life and in death, we remember the game, and we remember those who shared the game with us.”
Tony Gwynn & Jerry Coleman
As mentioned above, the only memorial posts I did in 2014 were in honor of two of my personal baseball heroes in Tony Gwynn and Jerry Coleman. I’d rather not spend more time on their deaths as the posts (Coleman’s & Gwynn’s) were quite in depth, but to reiterate, I grew up with these legends and I’ll always associate my love of the game with both of them. It still bothers me that they passed away and as a fan of the San Diego Padres, I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the worst years in organizational history.
Don Zimmer literally spent his entire adult life in baseball. In 1949, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 18 years old, spent parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues, 1 year in Japan and spent the rest of his life in coaching, managerial and front office positions with various teams. When he died in June at the age of 83, he was still working with the Tampa Bay Rays and still quite involved with the game of baseball. My favorite thing about Zimmer is how’d he proudly proclaim that he “Never drew a paycheck outside of baseball.” He was a lifer and will be missed.
When Ralph Kiner passed away back in February, it made me think of Jerry Coleman. Jerry died the month before and was from the same era of baseball. In addition to this, both men made impacts via the broadcast booth with teams other than who they were associated with during their playing careers. Kiner will be remembered as both a Pirate and a Met and fan bases of both teams, along with the world of baseball heavily mourned the day the 91 year old Hall of Famer passed away.
Unrelated to his passing, what I often think of in regards to Kiner is his early retirement from playing the game. Due to a back injury, he was forced into early retirement at the age of 32 after only 10 years in the big leagues. During his shortened career, he hit 369 home runs and accumulated almost 1500 hits. If he managed to play another 5 or 10 years while being somewhat healthy and productive, I think it’s safe to say that he would be known as one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history. With that said, when Kiner did hang up his spikes, he was 6th on the all-time home run list.
The death of Bob Welch was a shock to many and much like Tony Gwynn, who would pass away one week later, he also left this world much too young. Anytime I think of the name “Bob Welch,” I think of the 1990 season, his 27 wins, his forkball and his Cy Young Award. I loved that era of Oakland A’s baseball as it had a big impact on me during my early years as a fan of the game. Bob Welch will forever have a place in the heart of A’s and Dodgers fans and for me, he was one of my favorite pitchers from my childhood.
Frank Torre may just be known as Joe Torre’s brother to many, but the guy had some solid years in the big leagues as a first baseman for both the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. I’m fascinated with brothers in baseball, especially when the baseball gods provide the opportunity for them to become teammates. The Torre brothers played together with the Braves for a period of time in 1960 and I assume that had to be one of their high points in their professional baseball careers.
Frank’s health problems were well documented as he famously had a heart transplant in 1996 while his brother was managing the Yankees in the World Series; so his death may not have been a surprise to many to due to this and his advanced age. Still, it sent a ripple through the baseball world, especially in the city of Milwaukee and with the Braves organization.
When Jim Fregosi died in February, the baseball world lost a man who lived and breathed baseball. He was a player who spent 18 years in the big leagues, was a manager for 15 years and worked in the front office of various other teams after his managerial days were over. Even though he was 71 at the time of his death (which caught me off guard as I thought he was a bit younger), I always assumed we’d see Fregosi pop back up as a Manager again. Unfortunately, this was not in the cards.
Like many people my age, I associate Fregosi with the Phillies due to him being the Manager of the 1993 World Series team. He pulled off that Phillies red & white so well and he LOOKED like a Manager is “supposed” to look like- grizzled and a bit on the angry size.
Connie Marrero died in April at the age of 102 and at the time of his death, he was the oldest living former Major League baseball player. Marrero was a Cuban junk ball pitcher who didn’t make his Major League debut until the age of 39. He played all 5 years of his career with the Washington Senators, where he was an All-Star in 1951. As someone who is fascinated with Cuban baseball of yesteryear, I’ve always loved reading about Marrero and his accomplishments on the field in Cuba, where he was well-known star. Quickly reading over Marrero’s SABR or wiki pages gives a glimpse into his interesting, and I would say amazing life in baseball.
When Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic back in October, it shook the baseball world to its core. A young man with potential for an incredibly bright future lost his life, and he demonstrated this potential with unforgettable home runs in both his professional debut and in Game 2 of the NLCS. I feel the pain of the Cardinals organization and fanbase as I remember when the Padres lost Mike Darr back in 2001. The one thing I’m always going to remember about Taveras is that wild follow-through swing of his, especially when connecting with a home run. I’d say it was it was a thing of beauty and it’s unfortunate that we will not get to experience it again.