Former StL Brown Frank Mancuso Dead at 89

Former Houston Buff, St. Louis Brown, and Washington Senator Frank Mancuso died Saturday at the age of 89 in a Pasadena Rehabilitation Center for stroke victims.

Frank had been recovering poorly for about a month as a result of a recent coronary and stroke. The baseball community, and especially the people that he represented from the East End during his 30 years on the Houston City Council, shall miss him greatly.

Frank Mancuso's 2003 induction into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame reunited him with his older brother, the late Gus Mancuso (1997), as the second member of the family to be inducted. into the state's highest institution of honor for Texas baseball players and ancillary contributors. As you may recall, brother Gus had an outstanding career in the big leagues, most prominently with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Giants.

Frank Mancuso was a fine baseball player in his own right, - but we will never know for sure how great he might have been, had the hand of fate been a little kinder to his body. In 1943, six years deep into Frank's professional baseball career, his service in World War II placed a serious halt to what had been a brilliant minor league start. Frank entered the U.S. Army and went into training as a paratrooper at Fort Benning, Georgia. On one near fatal day, Mancuso suffered a broken back and leg when his chute opened late and improperly. He almost died from his injuries and was subsequently discharged from the service for medical reasons.

Incredibly, and in spite of this brush with death and long time on the mend, Frank Mancuso worked himself back into shape and returned to baseball in 1944 as one of two catchers for the only St. Louis Browns club to ever win an American League pennant.

The Browns lost to the Cardinals in the '44 Series, but Frank hit .667 and collected 1 RBI in injury-limited pinch-hitting duty. "My biggest problem from the army injury was looking straight up into the sky for foul balls behind the plate," Mancuso says. "I never regained all of my mobility after the parachute jump, and I have lived with this pain in my back and legs for sixty years now. I'm not complaining, but I sure am getting tired of it."

What might've been would be a good name for a ballpark where many have played out their lives, - but Frank Mancuso's character hasn't allowed him to waste valuable time in bitterness and regret. – He's been too busy doing his best and giving of himself to others to wallow in self-pity.

We'll take the liberty of wondering what might've been for Frank. – Look at the way his career started. - Mancuso began playing in 1937 in the farm system of the New York Giants. He quickly found the fast track. After hitting .417 for Fort Smith in 1938, the Giants moved him up to their roster for the entire 1939 season as a third string catcher. Frank didn't get into a single game in 1939, but that disappointment was offset by the opportunity he had to warm up the great Carl Hubbell, and to rub elbows with baseball wisdom in the company of other immortal Giants like Mel Ott and manager Bill Terry.

Frank hit .317 with 18 homers for St. Joseph, Missouri in 1940. He followed that great year with a .300 average and 15 homers for St. Joseph/Carthage in 1941. After another stellar season at San Antonio in 1942, Frank joined the army and was on his way to the accident that forever altered the course of his career.

From 1944-47, Mancuso was a fine defensive catcher for the St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators. From 1948-55, Frank earned further respect as a catcher for top minor league clubs like Toledo, Beaumont, and the 1953 Houston Buffs, among others.

After baseball, Frank Mancuso served for 30 years (1963-93) on the Houston City Council. During his political life, he gave of himself generously to the needs of the little guy and to causes benefiting disadvantaged children. - In the late ‘90s, Harris County built the Frank Mancuso Sports Complex, a facility that strategically reaches out to the needs of inner city kids, in his honor.

Frank also had time for the needs of his old St. Louis Browns friends during his political days. Back in 1986, he once got a call in the middle of the night from an old friend and ardent St. Louis Browns fan Arthur Richman, who was then working as the travel secretary of the New York Mets. – Arthur had a problem. Several of his players had been thrown in jail following a Houston nightclub altercation and the Mets faced the possibility of going into an important game later that same day against the Houston Astros without the benefit of their full roster. - Whatever Frank did from there, it sure worked. All the Mets were in the dugout and available for play come game time.

We'll never know what might've been, had Frank Mancuso been spared his accident, but we do know this much, - Frank Mancuso is a deserving member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame on the basis of his minor league record, his courageous comeback in the World Series, and his lifetime of public service to the City of Houston and the State of Texas. - If there also were a Good People Hall of Fame, Frank Mancuso would be a charter member.

- Bill McCurdy


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