Like so many players of his time, Layne lost some of prime baseball years to World War II. He played for the Washington Senators before and after serving in the Army.RIP.
Hillis Layne, 91, a Whitwell native, played in the major and minor pro baseball leagues. For much of his career, Layne played for the Seattle Mariniers of the Pacific Coast League. His play on the field earned him the nickname â€œMandrakeâ€ after the magician in the comics and the leagueâ€™s batting championship in 1947.
Other playing stops for Layne included the Chattanooga Lookouts and the major league Washington Senators.
Layne was a scout for many years for the Texas Rangers. Altogether, Mr. Layne spent 40 years playing, managing and as a scout for professional baseball teams.
He won 59 games in a career that spanned 10 years. He won 36 games in a Yankee uniform, notching 16 victories in both 1956 and 57. He pitched in three World Series alsoRIP
Tom Sturdivant, who pitched the New York Yankees to victory in Game 4 of the 1956 World Series on the day before Don Larsen’s famed perfect game, has died. He was 78.
Sturdivant threw a complete game in a 6-2 win against the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 7, 1956, to even the best-of-seven series at 2-2 and set the stage for the only perfect game in World Series history. Whitey Ford, Sturdivant, Larsen, Bob Turley and Johnny Kucks threw five straight complete games in that series — a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since.
Sturdivant was a member of the Yankees teams that played in the World Series in three straight years, beginning in 1955. He went 16-8 in 1956 and 16-6 in 1957, when he led the American League in won-lost percentage and was second with a 2.54 ERA.
He hurt his arm the following year and spent the rest of his career pitching with six different teams — Kansas City, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Detroit and the New York Mets.
He finished his 10-year career in 1964 with a record of 59-51 and a 3.74 ERA. He died early Saturday at INTEGRIS Southwest Medical Center in his native Oklahoma City, said hospital spokeswoman Brooke Cayot.
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He was the first ever manager of the San Diego Padres. Before that he worked in the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodger organization and had a very brief career as a player. RIP
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Preston Gomez, who managed the expansion San Diego Padres and later guided the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs during a six-decade career in baseball, died Tuesday. He was 85.
Gomez died in Fullerton, Calif. He never fully recovered from head injuries sustained last March when he was hit by a pickup truck while walking to his car in Blythe, Calif.
Gomez worked for the Angels for more than 25 years, and was on his way back from the team’s spring training camp in Tempe, Ariz., when he was struck. The Angels announced his death.
Before the accident, Gomez had been a fixture around the ballpark and had been in the Angels’ organization since 1981, most recently as an assistant to the general manager. Angels manager Mike Scioscia annually invited Gomez to instruct in camp.
“Preston had an incredible passion for baseball and was a mentor for all of us who were fortunate to spend time with him,” Scioscia said. “He will certainly be missed, but I know his presence will be felt every time we take the field because of the knowledge and wisdom that he imparted to us.”
The Cuban-born Gomez played eight games in the major leagues. He played and managed in the minors and served as coach, manager and executive in the big leagues for decades.
Gomez was the third-base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1965-68, a span when they won two NL pennants and a World Series title.
“The man spent his entire life in baseball,” Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda. “He came from Cuba and got the opportunity to work for the Dodgers.
“He managed three major league teams and was a credit to the game. We are very sorry to see him pass away. He wore the Dodger uniform with pride and dignity. He has helped a lot of people in our game and he will be missed.”
Gomez managed seven years in the majors, going 346-529 in a span from 1969 to 1980. He never had a winning season, coming the closest at 81-81 in 1974 in the first of his two seasons with the Astros.
In his first three years as a big league manager, the expansion Padres finished in last place every season. It was a feat that wouldn’t be repeated by a manager for 15 years.
Amid those forgettable seasons came some memorable moments.
On July 21, 1970, Gomez pulled pitcher Clay Kirby for a pinch-hitter after eight no-hit innings against the Mets. To this day, the Padres haven’t had a pitcher throw a no-hitter. And they lost that game 3-0.
Gomez was fired by the Padres just 11 games into the 1972 season, one of the earliest dismissals in major league history. But he would still find four more seasons of work as a manager, next relieving Leo Durocher in Houston.
Gomez was born Pedro W. Gomez Martinez on April 20, 1923, in Central Preston, Cuba.
At age 21 he played in eight games for the Washington Senators, going 2-for-7 with a double and two RBIs.
He spent a decade after that playing in the minor leagues, then spent another decade as a minor league manager, working in the systems of the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees and the Dodgers.
Pitcher Billy Muffett, who played for Gomez for the Yankees’ farm club in Richmond, Va., recalled an encounter with the manager after he had given up a couple of long home runs.
“Preston comes out to the mound and says, ‘What did he hit?’ I said, ‘Preston, I believe it was a Rawlings,’” Muffett recalled in 1990.
“Well, he didn’t think it was too funny. He said, ‘Next time, throw fastballs’ and walked back to the dugout.”
Four years after becoming a Dodgers coach, Gomez moved to the Padres. He was hired by former Dodgers vice president Buzzie Bavasi, who had become president and part-owner of the newborn Padres. San Diego lost 110 games in Gomez’s first season.
Gomez joined the Angels in 1981 as third-base coach and became a special assistant to the GM in 1985.
“The Angels family has lost one of its invaluable members, and one of baseball’s truly great ambassadors,” Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. “His influence and impact on so many throughout the industry is impossible to measure. Though he will be missed, Preston’s legacy will forever remain a part of this organization.”
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A hard throwing lefty, he was on two world series rosters with the Los Angeles Dodgers but never appeared on the mound. Two interesting notes about his career.
He was sold and repurchased by the LA Dodgers in less than seven months.
More notably, he was traded by the California Angels to the New York Mets in 1967 for Jack Hamilton. This set in motion the beaning of Boston Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro later in the season. Jack Hamilton was the pitcher whose pitch helped destroy that promising player’s career. Thought I would share that trivia. RIP Nick.
Nick Willhite, a hard-throwing left-hander for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 67.
Willhite, who grew up in Denver and starred in baseball and football at South High, died Sunday at the home of his son Monty in Alpine, Utah, the son said Friday.
Jon Nicholas Willhite pitched for the Dodgers from 1963-66, and was a member of their World Series championship teams of 1963 and 1965 along with Hall of Fame pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. Willhite also had stints with the Washington Senators, California Angels and the New York Mets, finishing with a career record of 6-12 in 58 appearances.
Monty Willhite said his father struggled with alcoholism over the years, but ultimately became a Utah-based alcohol counselor and a coach at a youth baseball program at Brigham Young University.
A native of Tulsa, Okla., Willhite also had minor league coaching jobs with the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees.
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An excellent gloveman, but a light hitter, Brinkman played spent most of his career with the Washington Senators and Detroit Tigers. Brinkman was part of the deal that sent Denny McLain to Washington after the 1970 season. More recently Eddie Brinkman worked for the Chicago White Sox. Living in New York till I was 15, I saw Brinkman play when I sometimes watched NY Yankee baseball. He was an excellent defensive SS. RIP Eddie.
CHICAGO — Eddie Brinkman, a record-setting shortstop during a 15-year career in the majors and a former high school teammate of Pete Rose, has died. He was 66.
Brinkman died Tuesday in his hometown of Cincinnati. The Chicago White Sox, for whom he was a longtime coach and scout, held a moment of silence for him before their AL Central tiebreaker against Minnesota. The team did not give a cause of death.
Brinkman made his big league debut at 19 in 1961 with the Washington Senators and played in an era when shortstops were known for their gloves, rather than their bats. The only two times he hit over .240 came when Hall of Famer Ted Williams personally worked with him.
“Steady Eddie” was traded to Detroit after the 1970 season in a deal that included Denny McLain. Brinkman solidified his reputation as “good-field, no-hit” more than ever in 1972, the year he won his lone Gold Glove.
Brinkman batted just .203 with six home runs and 49 RBIs for the AL East champion Tigers, but set the league record for shortstops with 72 straight errorless games — a mark Cal Ripken broke in 1990.
Brinkman’s glovework in 1972 earned him a ninth-place finish in the AL MVP voting. No Detroit player did better in the balloting that championship year — Mickey Lolich, a 22-game winner, came in 10th and Al Kaline, who hit .313, was 24th.
Brinkman was an AL All-Star in 1973. The next year, he set career highs with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs.
Batting eighth for most of his career, Brinkman hit .224 with 60 home runs and 461 RBIs. He spent most of his days with Washington and Detroit, and split his last year with St. Louis, Texas and the New York Yankees in 1975.
His best year with the bat came in 1969, when he hit .266. That was Williams’ first year as manager of the Senators, and the great slugger made Brinkman his pet project.
Williams worked on improving Brinkman’s mental approach at the plate. The result was a career-high average for Brinkman, coming after successive seasons in which he hit .188 and .187.
Brinkman missed much of the 1968 season while serving in the National Guard. A week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Brinkman was stationed in the left-field seats on opening day in Washington.
Brinkman was a prep star, pitching on the same team as Rose. Their high school, Western Hills in Cincinnati, also produced Don Zimmer.
Brinkman’s brother, Chuck, was a backup catcher in the majors from 1969-74.
Despite making his mark at shortstop, Brinkman started his big league career as a third baseman in September 1961. He started out 0-for-9 before singling in the next-to-last game at Griffith Stadium. He shifted to shortstop in 1962 when the Senators moved to D.C. Stadium, later renamed RFK Stadium.
Brinkman was the infield coach for the White Sox from 1983 through 1988. He then became a special assignment scout for the team until retiring in 2000.
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The left handed Stobbs came to the Major Leagues for the first time in 1947 and stayed around till 1961. He won over 100 games, but with a losing record. Mostly because he played most of his career with one of the worst teams(The Senators) in the American League. His one claim to fame or infamy, was giving up a 565 homerun to Mickey Mantle. My memories of Stobbs comes from my playing past seasons of Strat-O-Matic baseball. His luck in most of the games I recreated were no better than Stobbs was in real-life. RIP.
SARASOTA â€” The Washington Senators were just playing out the string and it wasnâ€™t even his turn in the rotation, but left-hander Chuck Stobbs gamely took the ball for the 1957 season finale.
Facing the indignity of suffering his 20th loss of the season, Stobbs battled the visiting Baltimore Orioles for 10 innings before dropping a 7-3 decision at Griffith Park. The fact that he cemented his spot in baseball lore that Sept. 27 day overshadowed Stobbsâ€™ competitive spirit.
That same competitive spirit served the Sarasota resident well the last seven years as he battled cancer. Surrounded by friends and family, the 79-year-old Stobbs succumbed to the disease early Friday morning.
â€œWhat I will always remember is that he didnâ€™t complain once during the last seven years,â€ Stobbsâ€™ son, Charley, said.
Born in Wheeling W.Va., on July 2, 1929, Stobbs attended one year of high school in Vero Beach before his family moved to Norfolk, Va. He starred in football, basketball and baseball at Norfolkâ€™s Granby High School.
He was later recognized by the Granby High School Hall of Fame and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. The Virginian-Pilot newspaper named Stobbs as one of the Tidewater-areaâ€™s greatest athletes of the 20th century.
Stobbs received a $50,000 bonus when he signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox organization prior to the start of the 1947 season. He made his major-league debut on Sept. 15 of that year
against the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park.
Stobbs was the youngest player in the majors during the 1947 season and the youngest player in the American League in 1948. The legendary Ted Williams once took the youngster along on a clothing shopping spree in New York City.
After compiling a record of 33-23 in five seasons with the Red Sox, he was dealt to the White Sox on Nov. 13, 1951. Following the 1952 season, the White Sox traded Stobbs to the Washington Senators.
The Senators were perennially one of baseballâ€™s worst teams. Fans joked, â€œFirst in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.â€
In his first season with the club, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Stobbs gave up a â€œ565-footâ€ home run to Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle. The blast, which was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, was the first of its kind described as a â€œtape measure shot.â€
Stobbs was credited with throwing the longest wild pitch in history during the 1956 season. The pitch reportedly traveled into the 17th row in the grandstand.
Stobbs joined the St. Louis Cardinals after being released in July 1958 by the Senators. The Cardinals released Stobbs in the offseason and he rejoined the Senators, staying with the organization through its first season as the Minnesota Twins in 1961.
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A journeyman pitcher with a career record of 39-38, his career spanned sixteen years, with a 6 year span in the middle where Ridzik pitched 29 innings or less of ML ball or was out of the league entirely. He was a VERY small part of the 1950 pennant winning Philadelphia Phillies known aka The Whiz Kids. Being a fan and player of Strat-O-Matic’s past seasons, I was somewhat familiar with Ridzik’s accomplishments. RIP
BRADENTON — Former professional baseball player Steve Ridzik never forgot the fans who helped him fulfill his dream for more than a decade.
The former pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Giants and several other teams, who died Jan. 8 of heart disease at 78, helped create a players’ alumni association that raises money for charity.
Ridzik helped organize a Bradenton golf tournament with former baseball players that raised more than $50,000 for Manatee Memorial Hospital in the early 1990s, said his wife, Nancy Ridzik of Bradenton. The ex-ballplayer had undergone open-heart surgery there for a triple bypass a couple of years earlier, she said.
In addition to taking part in several other fundraisers over the years, Ridzik also regularly granted fans’ requests for autographs by signing baseball cards and blank cards that arrived by mail on almost a daily basis, his wife said.
“We’ve even had baseball bats and baseballs sent here” and he obliged, she said.
Born April 29, 1929, in Yonkers, N.Y., Ridzik was signed by the Phillies’ in 1945 at age 16 and pitched his first major league game in 1950, the same year the Phillies went on to win the National League pennant for the first time in 35 years.
Nicknamed “The Whiz Kids” that year because their average age was 26, the Phillies were the youngest team to ever reach the World Series, which they lost to the New York Yankees.
Ridzik subsequently played for the Cincinnati Redlegs, the Giants, the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Senators before retiring from baseball in 1966. He later worked for a food distributor in the Washington, D.C., area before retiring and moving to Bradenton in 1988.
He helped former Senators teammate Chuck Hinton establish the nonprofit Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association in 1982 for former players to serve as goodwill ambassadors of the sport.
Ridzik returned to Philadelphia in 2000 for a 50th anniversary reunion of his pennant-winning team before a crowd of 40,000 in Veterans Stadium.
“He wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” his wife said. “I think there were 13 of the original ‘Whiz Kids’ still around back then, and now there are only about six left.”
In retirement, he enjoyed golfing and watching horse and dog racing.
He did two tours with the Casey Stengel Yankees starting in 1949. Casey never had a set rotation or lineup. Rather he was always moving pitchers around, if not from the starting rotation to the bullpen, or the Yankees to Kansas City, Stengel liked to match certain pitchers against certain AL teams. Pitchers Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat seeing usually the AL’s best other than NY. Guys like Byrne, Don Larsen, Art Ditmar and others facing the 2nd division. Still Tommy was a vital cog of 3 World Championship teams, appeared in 4 post seasons, won 85 games, and swung a pretty good bat for a pitcher. As seen by his lifetime Batting average of .238, .350 OBP and 8 career homeruns. RIP.
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (AP) — Tommy Byrne, who fulfilled a boyhood dream by pitching for the New York Yankees and won a game during the 1955 World Series, has died. He was 87.
Byrne, who served two terms as Wake Forest mayor, died Thursday, his son John said Saturday. Tommy Byrne had congestive heart failure and was in declining health the last six weeks. He was surrounded by his family and priest when he died, his son added.
After two years at what was then Wake Forest College, Byrne signed with the Yankees in 1940. In his rookie year of 1943, he played in 11 games and had a 2-1 record.
Byrne eventually was traded to the St. Louis Browns and also pitched for the Chicago White Sox and the Washington Senators. He returned to the Yankees in 1954, and in 1955 pitched a complete-game victory in Game 2 of the World Series. But he was the loser in Game 7, 2-0 to Johnny Podres and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
“His lifetime dream was to pitch for the New York Yankees,” said John Byrne, who is mayor of Fuquay-Varina. He said that dream grew from the fact that his father was born in Baltimore, home of Babe Ruth. The two eventually met when Ruth appeared at an old-timers game at Yankee Stadium.
“He borrowed my father’s glove,” John Byrne said. “Daddy said he could have had anything he had in his locker.”
The glove is in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, displayed as the last glove Ruth used at Yankee Stadium.
Byrne served eight years as a town commissioner starting in 1968 and became mayor in 1975. He served a second term as mayor in the 1980s but failed in at least three attempts to become a county commissioner.
“My father always believed in helping people and serving,” John Byrne said. “In growing up, I got to see him do a lot of good things. You have role models as you pass through life. He was certainly one of mine.”
Besides John Byrne and his wife, Tommy Byrne is survived by two other sons, Thomas J. Byrne Jr. and Charles P. Byrne; a daughter, Susan Byrne Gantt; 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.