In Memory of Former Cardinals: 2011

Our annual feature remembering 14 former St. Louis Cardinals that passed away during 2011.

The honor of being the oldest living former St. Louis Cardinals player has been a hot potato in recent times, but was less so in 2011. For the first time in the last five years, the man who I believe holds that spot did not pass away during the course of the previous 12 months.

 

Based on my research, I believe Freddie Schmidt continues to be the oldest living former Cardinal. A right-handed pitcher who appeared in 1944, 1946 and 1947 with St. Louis, Schmidt celebrated his 95th birthday on February 9.

 

Those who held the title before Schmidt are as follows. In 2010, Don Lang, the 95-year-old former third baseman from the 1948 club, left us. Herman Franks, then 95, passed away in 2009, preceded by 96-year-old Don Gutteridge in 2008 and Ernie Koy, aged 97 upon his death in 2007. 100-year-old Lee Cunningham passed in 2005.

 

The oldest Cardinals who died during the course of this past year were Danny Litwhiler, 95, and 93-year-old Marty Marion.

 

In terms of the living player who played for the team the longest time ago, I believe 91-year-old Stan Musial now holds the distinction. "The Man" first arrived in the bigs in September 1941, about a year and a half after Marion made his St. Louis debut.

 

2011 Cardinals deaths by date

 

January 18: George Crowe, age 89.

"Big George" was a former Negro Leagues player and Indiana basketball star. Crowe closed out his career with the 1959-61 Cardinals after having hit 31 home runs for the Reds in 1957. The first baseman had been an All-Star in 1958, but was dealt to the Cards following that season. With St. Louis, he became a clubhouse leader, but could not recreate his past magic on the field.

 

February 3: Ron Piché, age 75.

The native Québecer concluded his six-year MLB career with 20 appearances out of the Cardinals pen in 1966. The right-hander spent part of 1966 and all of 1967 in Triple-A before St. Louis dealt him to the Cubs in April 1968.

 

February 12, Gino Cimoli, age 81.

The outfielder spent just one big-league year with St. Louis of his ten. The 1957 NL All-Star with Brooklyn arrived in the Wally Moon trade following the 1958 season. Cimoli logged a career-high 72 RBI with the 1959 Cards before being dealt to the Pirates the next winter.

 

February 15, Joe Frazier, age 88.

A reserve outfielder in parts of three seasons with St. Louis, 1954-56, Frazier was most famous for his stint managing the New York Mets from 1976 into the 1977 season. Ironically, he was replaced by another ex-Cardinal, Joe Torre, who was still an active player. In 1982, Frazier managed in the Cardinals minor league system at Triple-A Louisville.

 

March 12: Mitchell Page, age 59.

The former major league player (second in the 1977 AL Rookie of the Year voting) and Cardinals organizational hitting coach died in his sleep at his Arizona home. Page was the Cardinals Major League hitting coach from mid-2001 through 2004, including during their "MV3? days. Prior to that, Page served as Cardinals minor league hitting coordinator and was the hitting coach at Triple-A Memphis in 1998. Page came back briefly as Quad Cities hitting coach in 2009, but continued to struggle with alcohol problems.

 

Marion in St. Louis (2005)

March 15: Marty Marion, age 93.

The defensive wizard known as "Slats" and "The Octopus" was recognized as the top defensive shortstop of his era as well as the Cardinals' all-time best shortstop until Ozzie Smith emerged. Marion earned nine consecutive All-Star Game invitations and led National League shortstops in fielding percentage three times, including a career-best .981 mark in 1947. He was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 1944 and also starred for the 1942 and 1946 World Champs. After managing the Cardinals in 1951, Marion played for and managed the St. Louis Browns and was also skipper of the Chicago White Sox.

 

March 18: Charlie Metro, age 91.

Metro was an outfielder with the Tigers and A's and later briefly managed the Cubs (1962) and Royals (1970). He spent a number of years as a coach and scout and managed one season in the Cardinals system, at Triple-A Tulsa in 1966.

 

July 12: Howard Hilton, age 47.

The 1985 draftee from the University of Arkansas had a very short major league career of two games in early April 1990. After his release by the Cardinals in spring training 1991, the right-hander finished his eight-season minor league time with two years in the San Diego system.

 

Litwhiler

September 23: Danny Litwhiler, age 95

The outfielder first came up with the 1940 Phillies and made the 1942 All-Star team before being dealt to the Cards in June 1943. He played on the 1943 and 1944 champs, logging his career high of 82 RBI with the latter club. He remained with St. Louis until his sale to the Braves in June 1946, where he rejoined his Cardinals manager Billy Southworth. Later, Litwhiler was a very successful college coach for almost three decades with Florida State and Michigan State Universities.

 

October 2: John Romonosky, age 82.

The right-handed pitcher from Illinois made two starts at the end of the Cardinals' 1953 season before returning to the minors. Romonosky later pitched in the Senators, Yankees, Twins and A's systems and was a deputy sheriff following his playing days.

 

November 3: Bob Forsch, age 61.

Just a week after he threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 7 of the World Series, Bob Forsch died suddenly. After 15 seasons with the Cardinals, the right-hander ranks third all-time in franchise history with 163 victories. Forsch was a member of the 1982 World Championship team and is one of only 28 pitchers in MLB history to throw multiple no-hitters (1978 and 1983).

 

November 3: Matty Alou, age 72.

The Dominican Republic native was a 15-year MLB veteran and one of three outfield-playing brothers. The former NL batting champ and two-time all-star with the Pirates was dealt to the Cards in the Nelson Briles deal prior to the 1971 season. Alou spent almost two years with St. Louis. Not normally considered a run producer, he drove in a career-high 74 runs in 1971. The Cardinals re-acquired him to close out the 1973 season before he moved on again.

 

November 11: Charlie Lea, age 54.

The former Montreal Expos hurler spent seven seasons in the majors and tossed a no-hitter in 1981. Having pitched in Memphis as a collegian and minor leaguer, Lea lived there after his playing days concluded. He spent the last decade as the color commentator for Memphis Redbirds radio broadcasts. 

 

December 21: Bud Bloomfield, age 75.

First signed in 1957, the third baseman had one of the shortest Cardinals careers on record. Bloomfield was a late-game defensive replacement for Ken Boyer in one game in September 1963, but did not bat. Bloomfield appeared in seven games for the Twins during the following season before retiring.

 

Remembering the Browns

 

Former St. Louis Browns players Perry Currin, Fred Sanford and Duane Pillette also passed away in 2011. The latter was the starting pitcher in the Brownies' final game.

 

Previous years' articles: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

 

© 2012 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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