As 2018 comes to a close, it's a good time to remember the people the baseball community has lost in the past year.Some played in the Major Leagues, whether they were stars, role players or only had cups of coffee. Some managed, umpired, scouted or worked in front offices. Some
As 2018 comes to a close, it's a good time to remember the people the baseball community has lost in the past year.
Some played in the Major Leagues, whether they were stars, role players or only had cups of coffee. Some managed, umpired, scouted or worked in front offices. Some made their mark in other ways. But each contributed to the sport.
Among those who passed away in 2018 were two great players whose talents took them to the Hall of Fame, and who remained close to the game throughout their lives.
Willie McCovey was voted into Cooperstown on his first ballot in 1986, capping a 22-year big league career that included a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, six All-Star selections, and three home run titles. One of the most feared power hitters of all time, McCovey bashed 521 homers, a total that tied him for eighth on the career list upon his retirement after the 1980 season. "Stretch," an imposing 6-foot-4 figure in his prime, teamed up with Willie Mays while playing most of his career (19 seasons) with the Giants. Despite dealing with health problems, McCovey remained involved with the Giants in numerous roles until his death at age 80 on Oct. 31. His presence remains at AT&T Park, which features his statue at the mouth of "McCovey Cove," beyond the right-field wall.
Red Schoendienst was, at 95, the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame before he passed away on June 6. Few in baseball history have been more intertwined with a certain franchise than Schoendienst was with the Cardinals. He spent 67 of his 76 years in professional baseball with St. Louis, and remained a senior special assistant in 2018. Mostly a second baseman as a player, Schoendienst made 10 All-Star teams and won championships with the 1946 Cardinals and '57 Milwaukee Braves. He later served as a manager, coach and front office member, piloting the Redbirds to another World Series title in '67. Along the way, he influenced generations of Cardinals.
Rusty Staub's career didn't quite carry him to Cooperstown, but the six-time All-Star collected more than 2,700 hits over 23 big league seasons -- including 500-plus apiece for the Mets, Expos, Astros and Tigers. He is the only player in MLB history to notch at least 500 hits for four different teams, but it wasn't just his bat that made him a popular figure wherever he went. With his fiery red hair, big personality and dedication to philanthropy, Staub was a fan favorite. He was one of the first star players in both Houston and Montreal -- earning the nickname "Le Grand Orange" in Canada -- and nearly carried the Mets to a championship in 1973. Staub died on March 29, just shy of his 74th birthday.
Longtime executive Kevin Towers didn't play in the Majors but became a beloved figure in the game, experiencing success as general manager of both the Padres and D-backs. A former Minor League pitcher for San Diego, Towers became a scout, scouting director and then GM. He led the Padres from November 1995 to October 2009, during which time the team won four division titles and an NL pennant (1998). Towers later served as GM in Arizona from 2010-14, overseeing another NL West title in his first season ('11). He then worked for the Reds as a special assistant to GM Walt Jocketty, even as he battled a rare form of thyroid cancer that led to his death on Jan. 30, at age 56.
The baseball world experienced a tragedy on Dec. 6, when free agent Luis Valbuena and former big leaguer Jose Castillo were killed in a car crash in their home country of Venezuela. Both were playing winter ball there for Cardenales de Lara. Valbuena, 33, played infield for the Mariners, Indians, Cubs, Astros and Angels from 2008-18, reaching double digits in home runs six times and making a mark with his personality and stylish bat flips. Castillo, 37, was an infielder for the Pirates, Giants and Astros between 2004-08, before continuing his professional career in Venezuela, Japan and Mexico.
While baseball wasn't the headline when George H.W. Bush died on Nov. 30, at age 94, the game was a lifelong passion for the 41st president of the United States (1989-93). A first baseman at Yale well before he was a politician, Bush met Babe Ruth and played against Fordham's Vin Scully. He was also a huge fan, and Bush and his wife, Barbara, became fixtures at Astros games. Bush took part in the pregame ceremonies before Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, along with his son, former President George W. Bush.
Of course, these were just some of the important baseball figures we lost this year. Among those we also remember are:
Bob Bailey (age 75): Longtime third baseman who played 17 Major League seasons for five different clubs, most notably the Expos from their inaugural 1969 season through '75.
Tom Brewer (86): All-Star right-hander who logged eight seasons with the Red Sox from 1954-61.
Ed Charles (84): Third baseman who endured segregation while playing Minor League ball in the Deep South before contributing the "Miracle Mets" World Series championship in 1969.
Tony Cloninger (77): Tough flame-throwing right-hander for the Braves, Reds and Cardinals who also carried a potent bat; he remains the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in a game, having done so for the Braves against the Giants on July 3, 1966.
Billy Connors (76): Pitching guru and fixture of the Yankees organization credited with helping Bronx heroes such as Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera lead the pinstripes to a dynastic run in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Doc Edwards (81): "Baseball lifer" who began as a catcher for the Indians, Royals, Yankees and Phillies before going on to manage Cleveland from 1987-89.
Bob Engel (84): Longtime umpire who worked more than 3,630 Major League games -- along with four All-Star Games, three World Series and six National League Championship Series -- while ascending to president of the Major League Umpires Association.
Sammy Esposito (86): Revered baseball coach at North Carolina State, where he won 513 games with the Wolfpack after contributing to the White Sox's 1959 AL pennant as a utility man.
Bill Fischer (88): Former Marine and right-handed pitcher for four Major League clubs in the 1950s and 1960s who remained in the game as a coach and advisor until his passing.
Tito Francona (84): Father of the World Series champion manager, Terry Francona, and an accomplished player in his own right, finishing with a .272 average over 15 Major League seasons.
Al Gallagher (73): Eccentric third baseman who became the first San Francisco native to play for the Giants after they moved west in 1958.
Oscar Gamble (68): Left-handed slugger known for his affable nature and the impressive Afro that often protruded from his batting helmet. Gamble finished with 200 home runs across 17 Major League seasons.
Dave Garcia (97): Minor League player/manager who became manager of the Angels and Indians before serving as a coach and mentor to countless players until his passing at age 97.
Augie Garrido (79): University of Texas mainstay who became the winningest coach in college baseball history as he skippered Longhorns to College World Series titles in 2002 and '05. Garrido also helped Cal State Fullerton win national titles in 1979, '84 and '95.
Hank Greenwald (83): Longtime voice of the Giants on local radio who also called games for the Yankees in 1987-88 before John Sterling took over the Bronx Bombers' mic.
Doug Harvey (87): Hall of Fame umpire affectionately nicknamed "God" by reverent players and managers. Harvey worked six All-Star Games and five World Series, standing behind the plate when Kirk Gibson hit his famous walk-off homer in Game 1 of the 1988 Fall Classic.
Ken Howell (57): Former Dodgers and Orioles pitcher who went back to Los Angeles after his playing days and fostered several star pitchers in the Los Angeles organization -- including closer Kenley Jansen.
Wayne Huizenga (80): Business magnate who built Waste Management and Blockbuster Video from the ground up before becoming the founding owner of the Marlins -- who captured the World Series four years after they entered the league with Huizenga at the helm.
Keith Jackson (89): Legendary broadcaster for ESPN and ABC who called 11 World Series -- and the famous 1978 one-game playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox -- in addition to his extensive impact in college football and other sports.
John Kennedy (77): Journeyman infielder who homered in his first Major League at-bat in 1962 and entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning of Sandy Koufax's perfect game three years later.
Bruce Kison (68): Beloved and fearless Pirates pitcher who memorably twirled 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief as a rookie in Game 4 of the 1971 World Series -- the first night game in Fall Classic history -- before contributing to Pittsburgh's second title team of the decade in '79.
Steve Kline (70): Right-handed pitcher who won 16 games with a 2.40 ERA for the 1972 Yankees before he was traded two years later in a deal that brought postseason hero Chris Chambliss to the Bronx.
Wayne Krenchicki (64): Third baseman who hit .283 across four seasons in Cincinnati from 1982-85 as part of an eight-year Major League career.
Penny Marshall (75): Beloved actress and director whose passion for baseball inspired her classic 1992 film, "A League of Their Own," which dutifully chronicled the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Wally Moon (87): Three-time All-Star outfielder and 1954 NL Rookie of the Year whose power surge helped push the Dodgers to the 1959 World Series title. Vin Scully described his high-arcing homers to the Los Angeles Coliseum's short left-field porch as "moon shots," thus establishing a popular term still used for dingers today.
Jerry Moses (71): Former Red Sox catcher who became the youngest Boston player to hit a home run when he went deep at age 18 in 1965.
Dave Nelson (73): Speedy infielder who made the 1973 All-Star Game with the Rangers before later becoming a well-regarded coach and broadcaster with the Brewers. Nelson scored the Washington Senators' final run at RFK Stadium in 1972.
Billy O'Dell (85): Southpaw pitcher who became the Orioles' first "bonus baby" after signing out of Clemson in 1954 and captured MVP honors in the '58 All-Star Game by retiring nine straight batters to preserve the AL's 4-3 victory.
Marty Pattin (75): Won 114 games over 13 seasons as a big league pitcher -- making the AL All-Star team with the 1971 Brewers -- and not long after finishing his career with the Royals served as head baseball coach at the University of Kansas.
Rob Picciolo (64): Had a nine-year career as an infielder and a much longer one as a coach and Minor League manager, filling various roles on the Padres' staff from 1990-2005, and later becoming Mike Scioscia's bench coach with the Angels.
Frank Quilici (79): Served the Twins organization as an infielder, coach, manager (1972-75), and broadcaster, and was heavily involved in community work in the Twin Cities.
Marv Rackley (96): After serving in the Army Air Force during World War II, made his big league debut, for the Brooklyn Dodgers, on Opening Day 1947 -- same as Jackie Robinson. Only played in 185 career games but batted .317 and appeared in the 1949 World Series for Brooklyn.
Dutch Rennert (88): National League umpire from 1973-92 worked six Championship Series, three World Series, and two All-Star Games, becoming well known for his unique strike calls.
Ed Roebuck (86): Pitched in 460 games, winning a championship with the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, before enjoying a long career as a scout.
Carl Scheib (91): Remains the youngest player in AL history, having pitched in six games as a 16-year-old for the 1943 Philadelphia A's. Went on to pitch in 267 games over 11 seasons, all but one with his original club.
Lee Stange (81): The stepfather of another longtime big leaguer, Jody Reed, he pitched 359 games over 10 seasons, including for the inaugural 1961 Twins and '67 "Impossible Dream" Red Sox.
Sammy Stewart (63): Set a record by striking out seven straight batters in his MLB debut in 1978, went on to pitch 359 big league games, and came up big in the postseason for the champion '83 Orioles.
Chuck Stevens (99): Former St. Louis Browns first baseman, who died less than two months shy of his 100th birthday, directed the Association of Professional Ball Players of America (APBPA) from 1960-88, helping others from the baseball community in times of need.
Dean Stone (88): As a rookie, the lefty was the winning pitcher of the 1954 All-Star Game without actually retiring a batter, as he was on the mound when Schoendienst was caught stealing home, before Stone's AL club took the lead in the next half-inning.
Moose Stubing (79): Never got a hit in the Majors but launched 192 homers in the Minors and enjoyed a long career in various scouting, coaching and front office roles, while also serving as a prominent college basketball referee.
Chuck Taylor (76): Right-hander pitched in the Majors from 1969-76, mostly as a reliever, and posted a 3.07 career ERA while working more than 100 innings three times.
Matt Kelly and Andrew Simon are reporters for MLB.com.