For the third consecutive year, the title of the oldest living former St. Louis Cardinals player is held by Bill Endicott, age 97. The outfielder, then 27 years of age, appeared in just 20 games for the 1946 Cardinals after returning from service during World War II.
Those who held the honor most recently prior to Endicott are as follows. In 2012, former pitcher Freddy Schmidt passed away 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.
92-year-old Red Schoendienst, who debuted in April 1945, is the living Cardinal who played for St. Louis the longest ago.
The oldest Cardinal who died during the course of 2015 was 92-year-old Minnie Minoso. He was joined in passing by at least nine other former Cardinals. A summary of each follows.
2015 Cardinals deaths
|Miller: Fast start in 1952|
January 4: Stu Miller, age 87
The soft-tosser pitched for 16 years and appeared in 704 games in the Majors with the Cardinals, Phillies, New York and San Francisco Giants, Orioles and Braves. After leaving St. Louis, Miller led the National League in ERA in 1958 and converted the most saves in the NL in 1961 and the American League in 1963.
Then a starter, Miller came up with St. Louis in August 1952, pitching a 1-0 shutout over the Cubs in his MLB debut. He finished his strong rookie year with a 6-3 record and a 2.05 ERA in 88 innings, but that would be his peak as a Cardinal. After posting a losing record with a 5.61 ERA over the next two seasons, Miller spent most of 1954 and all of 1955 in the minors. The Cards dealt him to the Phillies early in the 1956 season in a bad trade in which they also gave up Harvey Haddix and received Herm Wehmeier and Murry Dickson.
One of Miller’s signature moments occurred during the first of MLB’s two All-Star Games in 1961. The 165-pounder was charged with a balk after being knocked off balance on the mound due to heavy winds at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
In the later years of his career, Miller thrived as Baltimore’s closer. He helped the Orioles to their first World Series title in 1966 and was later named to the team’s Hall of Fame.
Link to related article: Former Cardinal Stu Miller Died at 87
January 28: Rocky Bridges, age 87
The journeyman infielder played in just three games as a Cardinal in 1960, never making a plate appearance, as he neared the end of his 11-year MLB career. Bridges was purchased from Detroit for the final month of the season and was released that fall. After retiring from play, the Idaho native had a long second career from 1962-1989 as a major league coach and minor league manager with four organizations.
February 23: Jim King, age 83
The outfielder had two stints in the organization. From 1951-1954, King played in the Cardinals minor leagues before being taken by the Cubs in the 1954 Rule 5 Draft. After two seasons with the Cubs major league club, St. Louis re-acquired the Arkansas native in a trade. King spent most of 1957 at Triple-A but appeared in 22 games with St. Louis before being dealt away, to the Giants at the end of 1958 spring training.
February 28: Alex Johnson, age 72
While the highlight of Johnson’s MLB career may have been winning the 1970 American League batting title with the Angels, the outfielder was a controversial figure throughout his 13 years in the major leagues, playing for the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Angels, Indians, Rangers, Yankees and Tigers. He was known for not realizing his full and considerable potential and for a combative personality.
Amid high hopes, Johnson joined the Cards following the 1965 season in a six-player trade with the Phillies that cost them two All-Star starters in Dick Groat and Bill White. He was installed as the starting centerfielder and cleanup hitter, but did not perform and was soon demoted to the minors. Unable to claim a regular job and clashing with coaches and teammates, Johnson was finally dealt to the Phillies in January 1968 for much less - part-time outfielder Dick Simpson.
Following his playing career, Johnson retired to his hometown of Detroit, where he died as the result of complications from prostate cancer.
March 1: Minnie Minoso, age 92
The Cuban outfielder, one of baseball’s best hitters of the 1950’s, spent most of his 17-year MLB career with the White Sox, but also was with St. Louis for the 1962 season. Severe injuries, including a fractured skull, broken wrist and a broken bone in his forearm limited the then-39-year-old to 39 games, during which he batted just .196. The next spring, the Cardinals sold Minoso’s contract to the Washington Senators.
Later, Minoso coached as well as made a handful of plate appearances in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, to officially become professional baseball’s first and only seven-decade player.
Link to related article: Minnie Minoso’s Lost 1962 Season as a Cardinal
|Schultz played and coached|
September 6: Barney Schultz, age 89
The veteran knuckleballer’s Cardinals career highlight was his domination in relief down the stretch for the 1964 comeback club.
Schultz was originally signed by the Phillies in 1944 and after 10 years in the minors, he was sold to the Cardinals in 1954, but was traded away in 1958. After some success with the Cubs in the early ‘60’s, Schultz was reacquired by St. Louis in 1963. He had to return to the minors before being recalled at the end of July in 1964. Then 37 years old, Schultz pitched in 30 of the team’s last 60 games, winning one and saving 14 as St. Louis passed the Phillies in one of the Cardinals’ greatest finishes ever.
Sent back to Triple-A in late 1965, Schultz soon transitioned into coaching and was St. Louis’ major league pitching coach from 1971-75. He later coached for the Cubs and in Japan before retiring in 1982 to his native New Jersey.
September 8: Joaquin Andujar, age 62
One of the game’s biggest personalities, with St. Louis the right-hander was a two-time 20-game winner, twice an All-Star, Gold Glove Award winner and a leader of the 1982 World Championship squad. Andujar, who called himself “one tough Dominican,” had joined St. Louis during the 1981 season in a trade with Houston for outfielder Tony Scott.
Despite his success, Andujar carried heavy baggage. In the emotional aftermath of the Don Denkinger missed call in the 1985 World Series, Andujar twice bumped the umpire in a Game 7 tantrum that led to a suspension. He was also one of the players implicated in the Pittsburgh drug trials, so despite a 21-win 1985 season, he was shipped to Oakland that winter in trade for two players who later contributed almost nothing as Cardinals.
After retirement from baseball, Andujar ran a trucking business in his native Dominican Republic and suffered from diabetes.
August 2: Jack Spring, age 82
The left-hander pitched in parts of eight Major League seasons over an 11-year period, but despite appearing in just two games for the Cardinals while nearing the end of his career, he was part of one of the team’s most famous transactions. In June 1964, Spring was one of the two other players received from the Cubs in the Lou Brock trade. (The other was Paul Toth.)
Prior to the 1965 season, Spring was moved to the Angels, then sold to the Indians, where he made his final MLB appearances that year.
September 15: Randy Wiles, age 64
Like Jack Spring, Wiles may have been more known for his Cardinals connection to another. Drafted by St. Louis in the fifth round in the 1973 draft, Wiles never appeared in the majors for the Cardinals, despite being organization property twice. On December 15, 1976, the left-handed pitcher was traded to the Chicago White Sox for an aging, veteran minor league infielder named Tony La Russa.
After posting a 10.13 ERA in five games for the Sox, Wiles was placed on waivers the next August, from where the Cardinals claimed him and assigned him to Triple-A. 3 1/2 months later, St. Louis dealt Wiles to Houston, but he never reached the bigs again. La Russa did, however.
December 31: Vern Rapp, age 87
The St. Louis native was widely remembered for a tumultuous stint as the Cardinals’ manager in 1977 and briefly in 1978, but had begun his playing career in the organization as a catcher in 1945. After two years in the service during the Korean War, Rapp was released by the Cards in 1955. Having never reached the majors as a player, he used the player-coach role to transition into managing in the minors.
During his journeys, Rapp managed in the Cardinals system at Double-A Tulsa and Arkansas, with three first place finishes in four years from 1965-1968. His success continued at the Triple-A level for the Reds in Indianapolis and Denver from 1969-1975.
At Gussie Busch’s direction, Rapp, a disciplinarian, was hired to replace nice-guy Red Schoendienst as St. Louis’ skipper for the 1977 season. Though the team improved on the field, Rapp’s strict approach rubbed many players the wrong way, including Bake McBride, Garry Templeton, Buddy Schultz and Ted Simmons. Most notable was closer Al Hrabosky, who was forced to shave off his trademark Fu Manchu mustache and claimed it cost him his edge as The Mad Hungarian.
After a 6-11 start in 1978, Rapp was fired, with his permanent replacement Ken Boyer. Rapp received another chance to manage in the majors, with Cincinnati in 1984, but did not last the season before Pete Rose was brought home to take over the Reds.
Remembering the Browns
I am aware of only one former St. Louis Browns player who passed away in 2015. Sedalia, Missouri native Bud Thomas (age 86) died on August 15. The shortstop appeared in 14 games for the 1951 Brownies, his only MLB experience.
According to the Browns fan club, only 20 of the team’s former players are still alive.
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