This has been a hard year for everyone. And in the world of baseball, it has hit particularly hard. Major League Baseball lost a staggering number of legends in 2020 -- those who represented the very best this sport has had to offer for decades -- and we’ll all be struggling with their absence for the rest of our baseball lives.
Today, as we wind down the final days of this extremely difficult year, we take a look back at the baseball people we lost in 2020. Names are listed in alphabetical order by last name. There were seven Hall of Famers who passed away this year, and those are noted with an asterisk.
Dick Allen (age 78)
One of the most unappreciated great baseball players in history, Allen had to withstand as much racist abuse as any star of his era. (“Dick was a sensitive Black man who refused to be treated as a second-class citizen,” Mike Schmidt said.) He responded by hitting, hitting and hitting some more. Allen was widely thought to be near selection to the Hall of Fame before his passing in December.
Johnny Antonelli (age 89)
One of the most heralded prospects ever -- and one of the first “Bonus Babies” -- Antonelli had his best years with the Giants, including a brilliant 1954 season, when he won the World Series. The lefty also served in the Korean War in the middle of his career … and was Army teammates with Willie Mays.
Kim Batiste (age 52)
An infielder who had a key hit in the 1993 National League Championship Series for that beloved Phillies team.
Glenn Beckert (age 79)
The longtime Cub once made four consecutive All-Star teams from 1969-72.
Frank Bolling (age 88)
A longtime second baseman for the Tigers and Braves, he once hit a grand slam off Sandy Koufax.
Lou Brock* (age 81)
The Cardinals’ trade of key starting pitcher Ernie Broglio to the Cubs for an unproven speedster turned out to be the greatest trade in franchise history: Cards fans used it to taunt Cubs fans for decades. Brock was most known for his stolen bases -- he was the all-time leader when he retired, and he’s still second, with no active player within 600 of him -- but he was great at everything. And he was a figure of quiet dignity in St. Louis, beloved in the community in a way that may have even exceeded his baseball stardom.
Gene Budig (age 81)
The president of the American League from 1994-99, he was the last person to hold the position.
Horace Clarke (age 81)
A likable Yankee during a fallow period for the franchise -- he played for the Yanks for 10 years without playing in a World Series, which is hard to do -- he once broke up three no-hitters in the ninth inning in the span of a month.
Derryl Cousins (age 74)
He umpired three World Series, one perfect game behind the plate (Dallas Braden’s) and was at second base for the last game at the old Yankee Stadium.
Ed Farmer (age 70)
A successful reliever for the White Sox, he was the radio voice of the team for 30 years.
Tony Fernandez (age 57)
The longtime slick-fielding Blue Jay played for seven teams in his career and hit .395 in his two World Series appearances. He also was the Yankees’ starting shortstop before Derek Jeter.
Whitey Ford* (age 91)
“I’ve been a Yankee fan since I was 5 years old,” Ford said when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and few have represented the franchise with the signature class and dignity that the Yankees franchise self-mythologizes better than Ford. Of all those Yankees of the 1960s, it was he who was known as “The Chairman of the Board.” He wasn’t physically overwhelming, but as Casey Stengel put it, “If it takes 27 outs to win, who’s going to get them out more ways than Mr. Ford?”
Jim Frey (age 88)
High school best friends with Don Zimmer, Frey managed the Royals to a 1980 World Series appearance and nearly got the Cubs to one in ‘84.
Dámaso García (age 63)
He won the 1982 AL Silver Slugger Award at second base for the Blue Jays and stole 54 bases that season. He also made the All-Star team in ‘85 and ‘86.
Bob Gibson* (age 84)
From my own personal obit for Gibson: “He loomed larger -- an almost mystical figure for the fanbase -- than everyone else, who were merely legends. Gibson was more like a grand auk, a regal figure whose mere presence seemed to elevate anyone in his proximity. Every year on Opening Day the Cardinals have all the members of the club’s Hall of Fame return to St. Louis, wearing loud red jackets as the city -- which has shut down for the day -- greets them and the Clydesdales horses parading around the field. Everyone who can make it back always does. But there was something particularly special about having Bob Gibson there. You’d have inner-tier Hall of Famers in the room … but when Gibson walked in, everyone hushed. That’s Bob Gibson. The only thing you did when you were in the room with Bob Gibson is think, ‘Oh my gosh I’m in the room with Bob Gibson.’”
David Glass (age 84)
Glass owned the Royals from 1993-2019, at last winning a World Series ring in '15.
Carroll Hardy (age 87)
He played one year in the NFL before heading to baseball, where he became the only man to pinch-hit for Ted Williams. (Ted didn’t much like it.)
Lou Johnson (age 86)
He spent a decade in the Minors before finally sticking in the Majors in his mid-30s, where he won a World Series as a starting outfielder for the Dodgers.
Jay Johnstone (age 74)
The longtime outfielder was an eccentric, an infamous puller of pranks and, when his career was over, a television personality, hosting the syndicated show “The Lighter Side of Sports.” He was also in “The Naked Gun.”
Al Kaline* (age 85)
“Mr. Tiger” debuted with the team at the age of 18 and spent the next 22 years with Detroit; at the time of his retirement, he’d spent more of his life as a Tiger than he had spent as anything else. He made 18 All-Star Games, won 10 Gold Glove Awards, earned the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973 and represented the Tigers franchise as well as anyone has ever represented anything.
Eddie Kasko (age 88)
A light-hitting infielder who came to the Majors straight after serving in the Korean War, Kasko was most known as a manager and executive in the Red Sox organization, where he played a hand in drafting Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Jeff Bagwell.
Matt Keough (age 64)
A converted infielder, he was a solid pitcher for the A’s for nearly a decade. After his retirement, he appeared on “The Real Housewives of Orange County” with his ex-wife.
Don Larsen (age 90)
Larsen was shelled in his first start of the 1956 World Series, going just 1 2/3 innings in Game 2, giving up four runs (all unearned) and walking four batters. There were no such control issues in Game 5, in which he of course threw the only perfect game in postseason history and was thus responsible for one of the most famous games in baseball history.
Phil Linz (age 81)
He homered off Bob Gibson in the 1964 World Series, but he’s much more well-known for the infamous “harmonica incident” that led to Yogi Berra being fired as manager at the end of the season.
Mike McCormick (age 81)
The first man to win a Cy Young Award for the Giants -- and the only until Tim Lincecum would do it more than 40 years later -- he’s also the guy who gave up Hank Aaron’s 500th homer.
Lindy McDaniel (age 84)
A longtime reliever, he pitched 21 years in the Majors, mostly for the Cardinals and Yankees. He also once retired 32 straight batters.
John McNamara (age 88)
A manager for six clubs in the Majors, his best team was in 1986 with the Red Sox, when he came oh-so-close to earning the curse-breaking designation that would eventually go to Terry Francona.
Denis Menke (age 80)
An oft-traveled infielder who ended up having a long career as a hitting coach.
Joe Morgan* (age 77)
The epitome of a player who could do everything, the Little General won two MVP Awards (1975, ’76), and his Big Red Machine teams won the World Series both those years. He was also an incredible fielder and still got on base at an All-Star’s clip into his 40s. He’d later become a longtime broadcaster whose views could be polarizing but his intelligence and understanding of the game was never questioned. As someone with speed, power and a keen batting eye, he was essentially the perfect “Moneyball” player.
Phil Niekro* (age 81)
Niekro will forever be known for his longevity -- he pitched until he was 48 and was taking calls from teams when he was 55. But as impressive as his long career was, it is often lost just how baffling hitters found him at his peak. Niekro's 1.87 ERA in 1967 led the Majors. Offense was so down they lowered the mound for the '69 season. He also threw six shutouts in '74, a year he had a 2.38 ERA in 302 1/3 innings. Rick Monday once said Niekro's knuckleball "actually giggles at you as it goes by." It just so happened that it did that for 24 years.
Bob Oliver (age 77)
The father of longtime reliever Darren Oliver, Bob played a decade in the Majors and hit the first grand slam in Royals history.
Ron Perranoski (age 84)
A left-hander who won four World Series with the Dodgers, two as a player and two as a pitching coach.
Charley Pride (age 86)
The country music groundbreaker played in the Negro Leagues (he was an All-Star in 1956 and ‘57) and in the Minors before discovering an even more lucrative career. He was also a part-owner of the Rangers.
Rick Reed (age 70)
Reed worked the 1991 World Series and multiple All-Star Games. He’s also the umpire in the movie “For the Love of the Game.”
Tom Seaver* (age 75)
There have been millions of men named “Tom,” but only one of them got to be known as “Tom Terrific.” Seaver was both overwhelming and precise, physically gifted and deeply intelligent, making him an impossible combination for hitters to deal with. He was the savior of the Mets, The Franchise, a North Star for that whole franchise still to this day. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and yet, after college, he was nearly a dentist. After turning down an offer from the Dodgers he felt was beneath him, then-Dodgers scout Tommy Lasorda told him, “Good luck with your dental career.”
Hal Smith (age 89)
In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, Smith hit a dramatic three-run homer to give the Pirates a 9-7 lead in bottom of the eighth. The Yankees would tie the game in the top of the ninth, leading to Bill Mazeroski’s far-more-remembered walk-off shot in the bottom half of the ninth.
Hank Steinbrenner (age 63)
George’s oldest son co-chaired the Yankees with his brother Hal.
Tony Taylor (age 84)
The longtime Phillie played 19 years in the Majors and notched 2,007 hits.
Bob Watson (age 74)
The veteran hitter played 19 years and scored the millionth run in MLB history. But he made his biggest mark as an executive, becoming the first Black general manager to win a World Series ring with the Yankees in 1996.
Bobby Winkles (age 90)
The longtime Arizona State coach -- he coached Reggie Jackson there -- made the leap to the Majors and managed the Angels and the A’s.
Jimmy Wynn (age 78)
An underrated hitter with a 15-year career, Wynn was a heavy-strikeout, heavy-walk, heavy-power hitter long before that became baseball’s norm.