Growing up in the 1960s, baseball was my first love. There were not many games on television, but I devoured the box scores every day.
Now I’m at the age where many of my baseball heroes are dying. In 2020, we have already lost five Hall of Famers. Here are some of the players who have passed away this year.
Lou Brock: He is known as one of the best base stealers in the history of the game, but Brock was much more than that. He was a great leadoff hitter and had over 3,000 career hits. He hit an amazing .391 in the World Series and helped the Cardinals win championships in 1964 and 1967 and the National League pennant in 1968. He came up with the Chicago Cubs and was a part of one of the most lopsided trades in history. The Cubs dealt Brock to St. Louis for pitcher Ernie Broglio in 1964.
Whitey Ford: My dad loved the New York Yankees, so I was taught at an early age about Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. Ford is considered the best pitcher in the rich history of the Yankees. He was a six-time World Series champion, winning a record 10 World Series games, and a 10-time All-Star. Ford died at the age of 91 on Thursday.
Bob Gibson: In the mid-1969s, my father and I took a “Reds Excusion” train from Charleston to Cincinnati to see the Reds play the St. Louis Cardinals at Crosley Field. It was a fun train ride full of Reds fans and an elderly conductor who was a needler. He would walk up and down the aisle telling all the fans, ”Tickets, tickets, get your tickets out. Now, you Reds fans are in for a long night because ‘Hoot’ is pitching. Gibson’s pitching tonight and Hoot’s the meal ticket.” I was 12 years old and I asked my dad what “meal ticket” meant. When we got to Cincinnati I could not wait to walk from Union Station to Crosley Field to see Bob Gibson.
Al Kaline: I used to co-host a national radio show based in Michigan. One of our annual guests was longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. He used to always say that Ty Cobb was the greatest Tiger ever, but that Al Kaline was “Mr. Tiger.” Kaline was beloved in Detroit and many do not realize he was from Baltimore.
Ron Perranoski: He was not a Hall of Famer, but he he was a big-name pitcher in the early 1960s. He was a relief pitcher for the Dodger teams that won the World Series in 1963 and 1965.
Tom Seaver: There are many who consider Seaver the best pitcher in the history of the game. Seaver helped turn the Mets from a laughingstock into world champions in 1969. Seaver pitched on many bad teams, but won 311 games, was a 12-time All-Star and a three-time Cy Young Award winner.
In the 1960s, these players seemed larger than life. I could not imagine them getting old. I assumed that they would live forever. Many of us are losing our childhoods with the 2020 deaths of these baseball greats.