Billy Connors, the long-time pitching coach for the Cubs, Yankees, and others, passed away on June 18, 2018 at age 76.
Connors played on a team from Schenectady, NY that won the Little League World Series in 1954. His teammate on that squad was 1966 Dodgers' outfielder Jim Barbieri. (Barbieri was the first player to play in the Little League AND Major League World Series.)
Connors was signed by the Cubs in 1961, and played in their farm system from 1961-67, and in the Mets' organization from 1967-69. He played 11 games for the Cubs in 1966 and 15 games for the Mets from 1968-69.
After his playing career, he was a minor-league pitching instructor from 1972-79 for the Mets and Phillies, then a pitching coach from 1980-95 for the Royals, Cubs, Mariners, and Yankees. From 1996-2012 he worked in the Yankees' player development office.
With the recent passing of long-time Cardinal Red Schoendienst, it was said that he was the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame. Bringing that idea closer to this blogosphere, I wondered “Who are the oldest living players with baseball cards in the Topps sets that I am following?”
Pirates’ reliever Elroy Face is at the top of the list for the 1966-69 sets, at age 90. One would think Willie Mays (at age 87) is up there too, but there are 13 living players older than Mays in the 1966 set. That number drops off to 7 in the 1967 set, as 6 players had their final card in the ’66 set.
In the ’68 set, only 3 players are older than Mays. In the 1969 and 1970 sets, there is only one player older than Mays – Face (’69) and Hall (’70). (Elroy Face’s final card was in 1969. Dick Hall was not in the ’66 or ‘69 sets, but was in the ’67, ’68, and ‘70 sets.)
Here are the 5 oldest living players per set that I follow:
Whitey Ford Don Mossi
Career Cardinals' player, manager, coach, and executive Red Schoendienst passed away on June 6, 2018 at age 95. He was the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame.
Schoendienst was signed by the Cardinals in 1942. After some minor-league time (and missing most of 1944 while in the Army), he made his major-league debut as their left fielder in 1945, then was their regular 2nd baseman from 1946-55.
After stints with the Giants and Braves, Red returned to the Cardinals in a supporting role from 1961-63 (including player-coach in his final 2 seasons).
He managed the Cards from 1965-76 (including 2 World Series appearances). Red was also a coach and special assistant for the Cardinals from 1979-2017, including 2 turns as interim manager for parts of 1980 and 1990.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Cardinals retired his #2 in 1996.
(Schoendienst just made an appearance on this blog last week.)
Early-1960s backup first baseman Ray Barker passed away on May 29, 2018 at age 82.
Barker played in the minors from 1955-64 and 1967. He also played for the Yankees from 1965-67, along with a few games for the Orioles in 1960 and Indians in 1965.
Most of his big-league playing time came with the Yankees in 1965, when he started 43 games at first base behind Joe Pepitone.
Although with the Yankees for all of 1966, his playing time was diminished, and by September his role was filled by rookie call-up Mike Hegan.
Barker was traded to the Orioles in mid-1967 for pitcher Steve Barber (with Barber essentially taking the retired Whitey Ford's spot in the starting rotation).
Barker's final card (in the 1967 high-number series) is pictured above.