In a year that has been so devastating in terms of famous people passing away, the St. Louis Cardinals family went relatively unscathed in comparison, with just six former players leaving us during 2016. This is the lowest total since I first began preparing these annual reports 11 years ago.
However, there were several significant losses still, including the passing of the oldest living former Cardinals player.
After three years of holding the title, 98-year-old Bill Endicott passed away on November 26. The outfielder, then 27 years of age, appeared in just 20 games for the 1946 Cardinals after returning from service during World War II.
The new record-holder is 96-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. Ironically, one of the players heading in the other direction in that deal passed away during 2016, Joe Garagiola.
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 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.
93-year-old Red Schoendienst, who debuted in April 1945, continues to be the living Cardinal who played for St. Louis the longest time ago.
Endicott and Garagiola were joined in passing during 2016 by four other former Cardinals. A summary of each follows.
2016 Cardinals deaths
January 13: Luis Arroyo, age 88
The screwball specialist from Puerto Rico made his MLB debut with the 1955 Cardinals and went on to win 11 games, earning the first of his two All-Star selections. The lefty was traded to Pittsburgh the next May. Arroyo went on to pitch eight years in the majors and much longer in winter ball in his homeland.
Arroyo’s best year was with the World Champion 1961 Yankees. By then a reliever, Arroyo won 15 games, saved 29 and in addition to being an All-Star, he placed sixth in the American League Most Valuable Player vote. He later scouted and managed.
March 23: Joe Garagiola, age 90
The native St. Louisan and childhood friend of Yogi Berra may have made the most successful transition from playing major league baseball to broadcasting.
Following World War II, the Cardinals promoted the 20-year-old to the majors in 1946. Despite hitting just .237 as a rookie, he went on to star in the World Series, earning what would be his only ring in eight seasons as a player, mostly as a reserve. Garagiola was dealt to Pittsburgh in 1951 and later moved on to the Cubs and Giants before retiring at age 28.
Harry Caray recommended Joe be added to the Cardinals broadcast team in 1955 and from there, his second career took off. It would become more successful than his first, including stops at the Today Show, NBC’s Game of the Week, and countless other appearances where he showed off his self-deprecating wit.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame presented Garagiola with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting in 1991 and the Hall added the Buck O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
April 28: Joe Durham, age 84
The outfielder signed with the Browns in 1953, but did not reach the majors until the club had moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season. He also appeared with the Orioles in part of the 1957 season, interrupted by two years in the service. Durham was claimed by the Cardinals in the 1958 Rule 5 Draft before concluding his big-league career with six games for St. Louis in 1959.
June 25: Jim Hickman, age 79
The Tennessee native is most remembered for his years playing in the outfield for the Mets and Cubs, but Hickman concluded his 13-year MLB career with the 1974 Cardinals. It was a full-circle move for him, as he had originally signed with St. Louis in 1956 before being selected by the Mets in the 1961 Expansion Draft.
During spring training 1974, the Cardinals acquired the 37-year-old from the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Scipio Spinks. After hitting .267 including the final two of his 159 career homers, the 1970 All-Star was released by St. Louis that June and retired.
November 26: Bill Endicott, age 98
The oldest living former Cardinal player at the time of his passing, Endicott lived a long life following his birth in 1918 in Acorn, Missouri.
The outfielder, signed by Branch Rickey in 1937, was a minor league standout, with a batting title in the Georgia-Florida League and three All-Star berths, including in the Pacific Coast League in 1941. However, instead of being called up with Stan Musial and several others that September as planned, Endicott was drafted into the Army.
By the time he finally made St. Louis in 1946, an injury to his shoulder that occurred while he was in the Service severely limited his throwing. As a result, 18 of his 20 MLB game appearances were as a pinch-hitter. Endicott returned to the minors in 1947 and hung up his spikes that June. He later worked nearly three decades for the California Highway Patrol.
December 19, Phil Gagliano, age 74
The native Memphian was a high school teammate of Tim McCarver and both signed with St. Louis in 1959. After three straight All-Star seasons in the minors from 1960-1962, the infielder made his MLB debut in April 1963. By the close of the 1964 season, he remained up for good and served as a valuable utilityman for the Cardinals until May 1970, when he was dealt to the Cubs.
Chicago sold Gagliano’s contract to Boston prior to the 1971 season. He contributed to the Red Sox for two seasons before moving to the Reds at the close of 1973 spring training. In October 1974, his career ended at the age of 32 when Cincinnati released him. Gagliano batted .238 over 12 seasons as a major-league utility player and ultimately retired to the Branson area.
Remembering the Browns
98-year-old Chuck Stevens, a member of the St. Louis Browns in 1941, 1946 and 1948, is currently MLB’s second-oldest living player. Only Red Sox Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr is older.
I am aware of two former St. Louis Browns players who passed away in 2016. Pitcher Hal Hudson, who appeared in three games for the 1952 Brownies, and later for the White Sox, died on July 8 at the age of 89.
Infielder Neil Berry, who spent most of his seven years in the majors with Detroit, also played for the Browns in 1953, batting .283 in 57 games. The Michigan native passed away on August 24 at the age of 94.
According to the Browns fan club, only 18 of the team’s former players are still alive.
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