Remembering baseball greats lost in 2022

December 31st, 2022

Today, as we wind down the final day of 2022, we take a look back at the baseball people we lost this year. The deceased are listed in alphabetical order by last name, with their year of birth in parentheses. The baseball community is lessened by their absence.

Roger Angell (1920). Perhaps the best baseball writer ever, Angell was a writer and editor for The New Yorker for decades, most notably serving as the magazine’s fiction editor. But he became known mostly for his baseball writing -- including his legendary essay, “Gone For Good,” about pitcher Steve Blass. He was the winner of the Spink Award, the PEN/ESPN Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sportswriting and an inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the only man to achieve all three honors. His 2014 essay, “This Old Man,” remains one of the best pieces of writing this journalist has ever read.

Tommy Davis (1939). A two-time batting champ (he hit .346 in 1962, a year in which he also had 153 RBIs), he won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1963. Davis, who initially signed with the Dodgers rather than the Yankees on the advice of Jackie Robinson, was famously well-traveled in his career, once playing on 10 teams in 10 seasons.

Jeremy Giambi (1974). The young brother of Jason Giambi, Jeremy was a key player for the A’s (and famously immortalized in the book "Moneyball") in the mid-2000s. Like many members of those A’s teams, he was adept at drawing walks and posted a career .377 OBP, though for some fans he is best known for being the player tagged out by Derek Jeter on the famous “Flip Play” in the 2001 American League Division Series.

Hector Lopez (1929). Among the best Panamanian baseball players, Lopez was the other Yankees outfielder in 1961 and '62, playing alongside Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. He homered and had seven RBIs in the four-game World Series sweep of the Reds in '61. After he retired, he would go on to become the first-ever Black Triple-A manager when he took over the Buffalo Bisons in 1969.

Gaylord Perry (1938). The first pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award in both the National League and the American League, Perry was perhaps most famous for his spitball -- a pitch he made sure to note that he threw a lot less than hitters thought he did. (He once tried to secure a sponsorship from Vaseline.) He pitched until he was 45, winning 314 games. He was finally ejected for doctoring the ball for the first time in his career during his second-to-last season in 1982. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

Vin Scully (1927). The first Dodgers game Vin Scully ever broadcast in 1950 featured future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Richie Ashburn. The last game he ever broadcast featured Buster Posey, Corey Seager and Justin Turner. In between was most of baseball history, with Scully right there in the middle of all of it -- the narrator, soundtrack and soul of the national pastime. “Hi, everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be.”

Bruce Sutter (1953). Sutter did not invent the split-fingered fastball, but he was the one who mastered it -- a pitch he only started using because he had nerve surgery when he was 19 and discovered when he came out of surgery that none of his pitches worked anymore. He was a reliever from the beginning -- in the Minors, then with the Cubs. He was traded to St. Louis along with Leon Durham and Ken Reitz prior to the 1981 season, where he would be known as Engine No. 42. Sutter struck out Gorman Thomas to win the 1982 World Series. He was on the Hall of Fame ballot for 13 years before being elected in 2006.

Ralph Terry (1936). A starting pitcher who appeared in five consecutive World Series for the Yankees, Terry actually won the Series MVP in 1962, when he put together a 1.80 ERA in three games against the Giants -- most notably a shutout win in Game 7 in which he outdueled Jack Sanford. He is perhaps still most famous for giving up Bill Mazeroski's homer that won the 1960 World Series for the Pirates.

Anthony Varvaro (1984). A reliever for the Red Sox, Braves and Mariners from 2010-15, Varvaro, a Staten Island native, became a police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after he retired and was stationed at the new World Trade Center. He was killed in September by a driver going the wrong way in Jersey City while he was reporting to his post on the 21st anniversary of 9/11 attacks.

Gerald Williams (1966). A 14-year veteran who came up in the Yankees organization with Bernie Williams (and who would later befriend Derek Jeter, who considered him one of his closest friends), Williams would end up facing the Yankees as a member of the Braves in the 1999 World Series. Jeter once wrote, “Williams speaks softly and thoughtfully and is more like a philosopher than a baseball player. You could sit down next to Gerald on a plane, take a three-hour flight, talk the whole time and never, ever guess that he played baseball. Gerald would talk to you about politics, religion, health care, the judicial system, anything. He is a person who thrives on life. He always finds positives and has told me that he doesn’t think he could ever overuse the word positive.”

Maury Wills (1932). The man who brought the stolen base back, Wills won the 1962 MVP largely because of his 104 stolen bases, which broke Ty Cobb’s then-record of 96. This was after an inauspicious start to his career in which he was asked to take over for Pee Wee Reese as Dodgers shortstop. He would make seven All-Star teams and win three World Series with the Dodgers. Wills also took the first-ever at-bat for the Montreal Expos.

John Wockenfuss (1949). The eccentric, magnificently mustachioed (and magnificently named) Wockenfuss nearly quit baseball in 1975 to run his own pizzeria. He hung around as a utility player with a highly unusual batting stance and was ultimately part of the infamous 1984 Tigers-Phillies trade that gave Detroit Willie Hernandez, who would win the AL MVP and Cy Young, as well as the World Series that season.

Others of note

Larry Biittner (1946). Pinch-hitter extraordinaire for four teams over 14 years.

Chuck Carr (1967). A stolen-base champ for the Marlins in 1993, Carr was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1997 until, ordered to take a pitch 2-0 by manager Phil Garner, he swung away and popped out. Afterward, he told Garner, “That ain't Chuckie's game. Chuckie hacks on 2-0.” He was released shortly afterward, but it worked out fine for him: He hit a homer off John Smoltz as a member of the Astros in Game 3 of the NLDS that year. It would turn out to be his final MLB at-bat.

Julio Cruz (1954). A slick-fielding second baseman who was also a prolific basestealer -- Cruz once said Lou Brock told him, “Don’t go unless you’re going to make it eight out of every 10 times.” He ended up being the Mariners’ Spanish language announcer for nearly 20 years after retirement.

Gene Clines (1946). Pirates outfielder on their 1971 World Series team, Clines was also part of the Bucs' historic all-minority lineup that season. He was later a first-base coach for Dusty Baker when he managed the Cubs.

Terry Cooney (1933). Longtime umpire who joined the profession after serving as a prison guard.

Jim Corsi (1961). Massachusetts native pitched for the A’s on three different occasions before finally playing for the Red Sox, for whom he later worked as an announcer.

Ike Delock (1929). Longtime relief specialist for the Red Sox.

Dick Ellsworth (1940). Named an All-Star in 1964, one year after he won the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Bill Haller (1935). Umpired in four World Series, but may be most famous for a profane Earl Weaver tirade directed at him that was caught on tape.

Joe Horlen (1937). Led all AL pitchers in ERA (2.32) from 1964-68.

Odalis Perez (1978). The first pitcher ever to win a postseason game before a regular-season game, Perez was also once traded for Gary Sheffield.

Dick Schofield (1935). Played for 19 seasons, mostly for the Cardinals and the Pirates. The Springfield, Ill., native was the first player ever to bat at Shea Stadium.

Dwight Smith (1963). The runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 1989 behind teammate Jerome Walton, Smith was one of the best pinch-hitters in baseball and a key member of the 1995 World Series champion Atlanta Braves. He also platooned with Bo Jackson in Anaheim before Jim Edmonds showed up and forced him to the bench.

John Stearns (1951). The “Bad Dude” once got involved in an infamous brawl with Gary Carter, but, like Carter, the four-time All-Star will forever be known as a Met -- the team he both played for and coached with for more than a decade.

Lee Thomas (1936). An All-Star first baseman for the Angels, Thomas is perhaps better known as the general manager of the Phillies, where he built the 1993 World Series team.

Pete Ward (1937). Third baseman for the White Sox, who was acquired from the Orioles (along with Hoyt Wilhelm) for Luis Aparicio.

David West (1964). Crafty left-hander who won a World Series with the Twins in 1991 (and almost won one with the Phillies in '93).

Dave Wickersham (1935). One of four players (along with Aurelio Monteagudo, Moe Drabowsky and Ken Sanders) to appear with both the Kansas City A’s and the Kansas City Royals.