As of early December, some 72 former major leaguers had died in 2012. The number is much higher than any of us would have guessed.
Gary Carter was only 57 when he died in February in West Palm Beach. He was the only Hall of Famer and his passing received the most publicity nationally.
But the names that meant the most to me were the ones I saw often when I collected baseball cards in the early 1950s – Joe Ginsberg, Les Moss, Mel Parnell and Eddie Yost.
Born Myron Joseph Ginsberg in New York, Joe moved with his family to Detroit when he was a toddler and played high school baseball before being signed by the Tigers in 1948. After a couple of seasons with Detroit, he was traded to Cleveland and dreidled around in Baltimore, Kansas City, Washington and Boston before going to the newly created New York Mets.
Ginsberg was the first catcher in Mets history under legendary manager Casey Stengel to start a game at the fabled Polo Grounds. Joe eventually returned to the Detroit area and became a liquor distributor, retired to Florida for two decades, before returning to Detroit where he died at 86.
Les Moss was 87 when he died in Longwood, Florida. Called up to the major leagues by the old St. Louis Browns, he became the regular catcher in 1948 but was relegated to a backup role the following season. Moss stayed in the majors until after the 1958 season and also played for the Red Sox and White Sox.
Moss became a coach and managed in the minor leagues before being promoted as Tigers manager in 1979 for 89 games before being replaced by the colorful Sparky Anderson. He wasn’t unemployed long and served as a pitching coach for several years on different big league clubs before retiring in 1995 at age 70, racking up over a half century in uniform.
Mel Parnell was 89 when he died in his native New Orleans. He spent his 10-year pitching career with the Boston Red Sox, compiling an excellent career record of 123-75. The lefty had his best season in 1949 (25-7, 2.77 ERA). Parnell’s 25 victories, earned run average and 27 complete games led the American League that year.
Third baseman Eddie Yost died in the Boston area at 86. He joined the Washington Senators in 1944 at the age of 18 and never spent a day in the minor leagues. Yost went on to spend 18 years in the big leagues and also played for the Tigers before closing out his career with the California Angels in 1962.
Yost met his wife while she was a secretary in the public relations department of the Tigers and the couple made many baseball moves as he coached for Washington, the Mets and Red Sox. They lived in the Boston area and raised three kids.
A smart man who loved quiz shows and crossword puzzles, he had an uncanny ability to read pitchers. Known as “The Walking Man,” as he often led the league in bases on balls. Yost had a .254 lifetime batting average, but coupled with walks his career on-base percentage of .394 is higher than several .300 hitters including Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Pete Rose and Honus Wagner.
Yost was walking with Gil Hodges 40 years ago when the Mets manager collapsed and died after playing golf in West Palm Beach during spring training.