Former Dodger Al Lopez, 97, dies in Tampa

Former Dodger catcher Al Lopez, 97, died October 30 in a Tampa, Florida, hospital where he had been hospitalized following a heart attack at his son's home. Lopez was the oldest living Hall of Fame member and caught Hall of Famers Dazzy Vance, Bob Feller, Dizzy Dean and as a teenager he worked with with Walter Johnson, who won 417 games.

During spring training in 1925, the Washington Senators hired the 15-year-old Lopez to catch batting practice for $45 a week. Johnson was nearing the end of his career by then, but still made an impression on the youngster.

He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928 and from 1930-35. hitting .279. His best season was as a rookie in 1930, where he roomed with Babe Herman, and posted a .309 average.

He was traded to Boston on Dec. 12, 1935 along with 2B Tony Cuccinello, RLP Ray Benge and OF Bobby Reis for LHP Ed Brandt and OF Randy Moore.

The two-time All Star also played for Pittsburgh and Cleveland, hitting .261 with 51 homers and 652 RBIs during his 19-year career in which he was one of baseball's most durable catchers and set the record for most games caught in the major leagues at 1,918. The record was later broken by Bob Boone, then Carlton Fisk.

He alsao managed Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox, becoming the only AL manager to finish ahead of the New York Yankees between 1949-64. He helped the Indians to the 1954 pennant and, until last week, was the last manager to lead the White Sox to the World Series -- their 1959 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"We're saddened by the news," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said through a spokesman Sunday. "Al lived a long and good life. We're so pleased we were able to win the World Series this year and that he was able to see it before he died."

The two-time All Star's first full season in the majors was 1930, and he played 18 seasons for Brooklyn, the Boston Braves, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. He managed the Indians from 1951-56 and the White Sox from 1957-65 and 1968-69.

Lopez was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 as a manager with a .581 winning percentage. The Indians won a then-AL record 111 games in 1954, and his 1959 "Go-Go" White Sox won Chicago's first AL pennant since 1919. His teams finished second to the Yankees every other season that decade.

Lopez's second stint as manager of the White Sox ended May 2, 1969, when he resigned for health reasons with a career record of 1,422-1,026.