We pause to salute those we lost this year. Some lived long, rich lives and contributed to the game we love. Others were taken from us much too early. All of them contributed to the mosaic that is Major League Baseball.One of those was Don Baylor, who played 19 seasons
We pause to salute those we lost this year. Some lived long, rich lives and contributed to the game we love. Others were taken from us much too early. All of them contributed to the mosaic that is Major League Baseball.
One of those was Don Baylor, who played 19 seasons for six different franchises and went to the World Series three times. In the second half of his playing career, he was a guy that general managers wanted almost as much for his leadership and influence over young players as his bat.
Baylor also managed the Rockies for six seasons and the Cubs for three, and when he died from cancer last summer at 68, he was remembered as someone who represented the best of baseball at every level.
Roy Halladay was like that, too. During 16 seasons with the Blue Jays and Phillies, he won two Cy Young Awards and was an eight-time All-Star. He was committed to his craft on every level, but when he died in a plane crash last month at 40, it was his friendship, decency and commitment to his craft that his teammates and friends remembered. As Brandon McCarthy so eloquently put it: "Roy Halladay was your favorite player's favorite player."
Those who knew Gene Michael speak in similar tones regarding his integrity and humanity. He played 10 seasons and managed parts of four. But his enduring contribution to the Yankees will be as a man who could spot talent and understand how that talent fit into the tapestry of a winning environment. You could argue that he was most responsible for the Yankees' dynasty that won four World Series championships in five years from 1996-2000.
Michael's enthusiasm for his job knew no bounds. He would show up at a Spring Training game excited about the possibility that he might just see something he'd never seen before. He crossed paths with thousands of people during a life spent in the game, and when he died in September at 79, the news hit hard across every level of the sport.
Yordano Ventura also died this year, killed in an auto accident in his native Dominican Republic in January. He was just 25, and his Royals teammates wept as they laid him to rest among family and friends in his native land. The Royals wore "Ace" on their sleeves during the past season as a tribute to the soaring talent of someone who flirted with greatness from the moment he debuted at 22 in 2013.
Among the others baseball lost in 2017:
Jim Bunning: Hall of Fame pitcher who threw a perfect game during 17 seasons in the big leagues, and then crafted a second career as a Republican congressman from Kentucky. Bunning and Cy Young are the only pitchers with 100 wins, 1,000 strikeouts and a no-hitter in both the American and National Leagues.
Bob Wolff: Spent nearly 80 years in broadcasting and did everything from calling the 1956 World Series, including Don Larsen's perfect game, to play-by-play for the Washington Senators.
Dick Enberg: One of the giants of American sports broadcasting who covered virtually every major event. One of his first jobs was doing play-by-play for the Angels in the '70s. One of his last was doing the same thing for the Padres.
Dallas Green: Played eight seasons and managed eight, including 1980 when he led the Phillies to a World Series title. His larger contribution was as a genius personnel man who constructed playoff teams with the Cubs and Phillies.
Lee May: Played 18 seasons for four franchises, hit 354 home runs and was a three-time All-Star. He went from the Reds to the Astros in 1971 as part of an eight-player trade that brought Joe Morgan to Cincinnati.
Ruben Amaro: Played 11 seasons in the big leagues, and then worked in the game in a variety of roles for almost his entire life. Won an NL Gold Glove Award for the 1964 Phillies.
Bobby Doerr: Hall of Fame second baseman who spent all 14 of his big league seasons with the Red Sox between 1937 and 1951. He was nicknamed the "Silent Captain" by Ted Williams, helped the Red Sox get to the 1946 World Series and was a nine-time All-Star.
Darren Daulton: Won a World Series with the 1997 Marlins, but he's best known for his work ethic and leadership leader during 13 1/2 seasons with Phillies. Diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013, Daulton died at 55 in August.
Bill Webb: Directed baseball broadcasts for FOX Sports and the Mets. He had the gift of allowing fans at home to feel the tension of the ballpark by using extreme closeups and an assortment of camera angles.
Gene Conley: Won a World Series while pitching for the Braves in 1957 and three NBA titles while playing for the Celtics. Won 91 games over 11 Major League seasons for the Braves, Red Sox and Phillies.
Jim Piersall: Outspoken outfielder and broadcaster, his battle with mental illness during his rookie season with the Red Sox (1957) was the focus of the movie "Fear Strikes Out." Played 17 seasons in the Majors and made two All-Star teams.
Roy Sievers: Was American League's first Rookie of the Year Award winner in 1949 for the St. Louis Browns and became one of baseball's top power hitters with the Washington Senators in the 1950s. He led the NL with 42 home runs in 1957, and hit 318 total.
Jim Landis: Won five Gold Gloves for his play in center field over 11 seasons and was sometimes compared to Willie Mays as a defensive playmaker. Helped the White Sox win the AL pennant in 1959.
Bob Cerv: Played in three World Series for the Yankees. His best season was 1958 when he hit 38 home runs for the Kansas City A's. World War II Navy veteran who survived a kamikaze attack on his destroyer in 1944.
Andy Marte: Spent 16 seasons playing at all levels in the United States, South Korea and his native Dominican Republic. Died at 33 in an auto accident in his homeland.
Bill Hands: Won 20 games for the 1969 Cubs and 111 over 11 Major League seasons. Part of a core of young players that became one of the most beloved Cubs teams in history.
Solly Hemus: Played nine of his 11 seasons for the Cardinals and also managed the team for three, including 1959 when he was a player/manager.
Katy Feeney: Spent almost 40 years in the game in an assortment of roles, including the National League's primary schedule maker. Her father, Charles, served as NL president and also president and general manager of the Giants.
Sam Mele: Was a Major League player, manager and scout during nearly 50 years in the game. Also played basketball at New York University.
Ned Garver: Won 20 games for the 1951 St. Louis Browns team that lost 102 times. Runner-up to Yogi Berra for AL MVP Award that year.
Paul Schaal: Played for the Royals from 1969-74 before being replaced by George Brett in lineup. "I tell everybody it took a Hall of Famer to take my job from me," he joked.
Jim Rivera: Helped White Sox win 1959 AL pennant during a 10-season career with three teams. Led AL with 16 triples in 1953 and 25 stolen bases in 1955.
Daryl Spencer: Hit the first home run in San Francisco Giants history. That was also the first Major League home run hit in the Pacific Time Zone. He hit it off Don Drysdale.
Don Lock: Played eight seasons for three teams and was a two-sport star (baseball and basketball) at Wichita State. Hit 28 home runs for 1964 Senators.
Steve Palermo: One of baseball's best and most colorful and respected umpires until 1991, when he was shot while attempting to break up a robbery outside a Dallas restaurant. He regained the ability to walk -- despite being told otherwise -- and served MLB as a special assistant and umpire supervisor until his death at 67 in May.
Mike Ilitch: Bought the NHL's Detroit Red Wings in 1982 and the Tigers in '92. He was instrumental in keeping both teams in Detroit. Instrumental in the revitalization of Detroit through an assortment of projects. Founded Little Caesars Pizza in 1959.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.