Ex-Phillies' and Rangers' manager Frank Lucchesi has passed away on June 8, 2019 at age 92.
Lucchesi was an organizational foot soldier for the Phillies for almost 2 decades. He managed their minor league teams from 1956-69, progressing his way up the ladder to AAA, until accepting a demotion back to AA for 1967-68 so the Phillies could inexplicably give recently-retired Bob Skinner the triple-A reins for those 2 years, having no previous managing experience. (In 1969, Skinner proved he was useless as a major-league manager.)
Frank finally got his shot in the majors in 1970, as the Phillies revamped their team, coaching staff, and even their uniforms that year. Lucchesi was the Phillies' last manager at Connie Mack Stadium, and their first at Veterans Stadium.
After all that waiting, Frank finally had the job he wanted, but not the players, as the Phillies continued to flounder in the early 1970s. He was fired mid-season in 1972, and replaced by the GM (Paul Owens) who "wanted to see up close who could play and who couldn't".
Lucchesi also managed the Rangers from mid-1975 to mid-1977, and the Cubs for the final 2 dozen games of 1987.
Joe Gibbon, who pitched for the Pirates and Giants during the 1960s, passed away today, February 20, 2019 at age 83.
As a rookie, Gibbon pitched for the World Champion Pirates in 1960, and remained with the Bucs through the 1965 season. (He returned to the Pirates for most of '69 and all of '70).
Despite all that time in Pittsburgh, I remember him as a Giant, because that is where he pitched when I jumped aboard the MLB train.
Although he was with the Giants from 1966 through early-1969, my first Gibbon card was from 1968 (because his 1967 card was in the high-numbered series, none of which I got in 1967). So in my consciousness, 450+ players from the 1967 low numbers had a 1-year head start on Gibbon, his teammate Bill Henry, and another 60 or so players from that 7th series.
Joe finished up his career with the Reds (1971-72) and Astros (1972).
Frank Robinson, the only man to win the MVP in both leagues, passed away today February 7, 2019 at age 83.
(My first Frank Robinson card)
Robinson played for 21 seasons. The first 10 with the Reds, then 6 with the Orioles. He wrapped up his career with brief stops in Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Cleveland.
1956 NL Rookie of the Year
2-time MVP (NL-1961, AL-1966)
1966 Triple Crown winner
Played in 5 World Series (Reds - 1, Orioles - 4)
Led his league in Runs 3 times
Hit 586 career home runs (4th place at time of retirement)
First African-American manager (Cleveland - 1975)
Managed the Indians, Giants, Orioles, and Expos/Nationals, for a total of 16 seasons.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982
When Frank came over from the Reds, he immediately provided veteran leadership for the Orioles, and kept the team loose. One of the first photos I remember seeing of him was holding "Kangaroo Court" in the clubhouse:
Long-time Pirates' hurler Bob Friend passed away on February 3, 2019 at age 88, in Pittsburgh.
He pitched for the Bucs from 1951 to 1965, and was a 3-time All-Star. He led the NL with 22 wins in 1958 (but also led with 19 losses in '59 and '61).
Friend was 18-12 during the Pirates' 1960 championship season, and made his final All-Star team that year.
He continued in the Pirates' starting rotation through his last season in Pittsburgh ('65) at age 34.
After the '65 season, he was traded to the Yankees for reliever Pete Mikkelsen, but by mid-1966 had crossed town to play for the Mets. He retired after that season.
Eli Grba, who pitched for the Yankees and Angels in the early 1960s. passed away on January 14, 2019 at age 84.
Grba (GUR-bah) was a reliever for the Yankees from 1959-60, then joined the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961.
He was the Angels' #1 pick in the expansion draft, and started the first game in franchise history. He was a starter for the Angels for 2 seasons, before finishing up his major-league career in relief in 1963.
Grba continued playing in the minor leagues through the 1967 season.
Lenny Green, an outfielder who played for 5 American League teams from 1957-1968, passed away on January 6, 2019, his 86th birthday.
Green's longest stretch with one team was with the Senators/Twins from 1959-1964 - also his most time as a regular player. He was the Twins' first center fielder.
He also played for the Orioles (1957-59 and '64), Angels ('64), Red Sox (1965-66), and Tigers (1967-68). His last stint as a regular player was with the Red Sox, where he started 74 games in center field in 1965.
Green began his final season (1968) in the minors, but was recalled by the Tigers in June. He only played 6 games before he was released in early-July, ending his pro career and missing the World Series by 3 months.