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Archive for the 'Untimely Events' Category

Former Cy Young Winner Flanagan Dead of Gunshot Wound

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Mike Flanagan                 Mike Flanagan

Former Baltimore Orioles lefthander and Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan was found dead Wednesday afternoon near his Baltimore home, according to an AP report for Yahoo sports, from what the Maryland medical examiner ruled as suicide — a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.

Flanagan, one of the stars of a fine Orioles staff of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was the ace of the 1979 staff going 23-9 with a 3.08 ERA and was a prominent part of the Orioles’ pitching rotation which brought them to the 1983 World Series where they beat the Phillies by 4 games to 1.

The Baseball Library site provides these notes about Flanagan:

Armed with a big-breaking curveball, an underrated fastball and a great pickoff move, Flanagan strung together a decade of formidable pitching after losing his first five major-league decisions. From 1977 to 1987, he started more games (334) than any other AL pitcher and posted a .500 or better record each season from 1977 to 1984.

Flanagan suffered a severe knee injury in 1983 (though he returned to win 12 games and make a pair of post-season starts) and a torn Achilles tendon in 1985, costing him big chunks of both seasons. Struggling in Baltimore, Flanagan found new life after getting traded to Toronto during the 1987 stretch run. The Blue Jays were no doubt glad to acquire him, as he owned more wins (17) and innings pitched (208) against them than any other hurler.

After starting 30 games for Toronto in 1989, he was released when he got off to a slow start the following season.

Flanagan ended his career with the Orioles retiring in 1992.

The AP report for Yahoo provides notes on Flanagan’s career and demise:

After his retirement, he worked for the Orioles as a coach and in the front office before settling into a job as color commentator on the team’s broadcast network.

Flanagan was scheduled to work this weekend’s series against the New York Yankees.

“He was looking forward to broadcasting the Yankees series coming up. He was doing something he loved,” said Jim Duquette, who teamed with Flanagan from 2005-07 to attempt to rebuild the Orioles.

A police investigation revealed the 59-year-old pitcher was upset about financial issues. He left no note.

According to police, Alex Flanagan last spoke to her husband about 1 a.m. Wednesday. She told police he sounded upset, and he promised he would talk to her later.

When Alex Flanagan did not hear from her husband, she called a neighbor to check on him. The neighbor went to the home and called 911 after failing to find him.

Police discovered a body on the property but could not immediately determine the identity because the wounds were so severe.

Flanagan was a crafty left-hander who went 167-143 with a 3.90 ERA over 18 seasons with Baltimore and Toronto.

He was 141-116 with Baltimore and is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. Flanagan was also the final Oriole to pitch at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore’s home from 1954-1991.

“It’s very tragic. He was a good friend. I just wished I’d known he was having a struggle,” former Orioles player and manager Davey Johnson said. “I’d sure liked to have talked to him. It’s just a terrible loss. Everybody who knew Flanny loved him. He was always a delight to be around.”

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Dodgers Hall of Famer Duke Snider Passes Away

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Duke Snider   Duke Snider   Duke Snider

Former Brooklyn Dodgers’ centerfielder and Hall of Famer Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider died on February 27, 2011 at the Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, Calif. of natural causes after an illness which lasted several months.

Snider wore the No. 4 in Dodger blue and, although a great hitter and fielder in his own right, was regarded as overshadowed in offensive and defensive prowess to the 2 other centerfielders in New York — Willie Mays of the  Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.

The Duke was an integral part of the Dodgers’ lineup providing homers and RBIs with a repectable batting average from 1949 to 1957 along with his teammate 3rd baseman Gil Hodges.  With Snider and Hodges providing power and RBIs, the Brooklyn Dodgers won NL pennants and went to the World Series in 1949, 1952, 1955 and 1956 while narrowly missing out in the 1951 Pennant race on NY Giants’ 3rd baseman Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world” walk-off 3 run homer in the decisive 3rd playoff game despite Brooklyn’s holding a double-digit lead in the NL standings at the beginning of September.   The Giants had gone 20-5 in September while the Dodgers struggled and were 14-13 down the September stretch to force the playoff.

Snider amassed 207 homers between 1953 and 1957 — at the peak of his career and clubbed 11 homers, drove in 26 runs, garnered 38 hits and posted a respectable .286 BA in the 6 World Series that he played in.   He pounded 4 homers each in both the 1952 and 1955 World Series.  He led the Dodgers their only Brooklyn World Championship in 1955 in defeating the Yankees by 4 games to 3.  Snider also played in the 1959 World Series with the L.A. Dodgers, getting 2 hits including a homer, as they defeated the Chicago White Sox.’s Marty Noble wrote this of The Duke:

…He was The Duke of Flatbush, the one guy with the regal nickname on a team identified as Dem Bums. And he was regarded on every street corner in the borough as superior to Mays and Mantle. Those flights to California after the Brooklyn seasons ended were a hurdle for some fans. And a few of Snider’s colleagues lived year-round in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn loved the Dodgers as Desi loved Lucy, as Ralph loved Alice … as mothers love their children. The borough didn’t always embrace Snider as much as it might have perhaps because he returned to his West Coast roots each autumn. Lord knows, he once left the team in New York and returned home in midseason for the birth of his child. Remarkably, that paternal act led to a demerit on his Brooklyn record.

Whatever his standing was in the borough, Snider said he enjoyed his time as Flatbush royalty. When the Mets staged a celebration of Snider at the Polo Grounds in 1963, he was moved to say: “The Mets are wonderful, but you can’t take the Dodgers out of Brooklyn.”

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, Sniders’ hitting numbers and games played decreased markedly in the spacious L.A. Coliseum after having played his entire career to date in tiny Ebbets Field where a pop-up to rightfield could easily become a homer with the pole set 297 feet away.  He remained with the Dodgers until 1962 going to the Mets in 1963 and then to the Giants in 1964.  His BA plummeted to .243 in 129 games in 1963 and then to .210 in 91 games in 1964, his final year in MLB.  Snider finished his career with 407 homers, 1,333 RBIs, 2,116 hits and a lifetime .295 BA.

AP’s Ben Walker notes:

“Willie, Mickey, and the Duke,” goes the popular ballpark song, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

Snider wore No. 4 in Dodger blue and was often regarded as the third-best center fielder in New York—behind Mays of the Giants and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.

“Today, I feel that I have lost a dear friend,” Mays said in a statement. “He was a hero to the fans in Brooklyn and a great Dodger.”

To Snider, the rivalry with Mays and Mantle was made up.

“The newspapers compared Willie, Mickey and I, and that was their thing,” Snider said several years ago. “As a team, we competed with the Giants, and we faced the Yankees in the World Series. So we had a rivalry as a team, that was it. It was an honor to be compared to them, they were both great players.”

Mantle died in 1995 at age 63. Mays, now 79, threw out a ceremonial ball last fall before a playoff game in San Francisco.

“Willie, Duke and Mickey. They were great players in one city, one town. Duke never got the credit of being the outfielder that Mays and Mantle were,” former teammate Don Zimmer said Sunday. “But Duke was a great outfielder. He was a great player.”

Commissioner Bud Selig called Snider an “integral part of Dodger history” and part of an “unparalleled triumvirate of center fielders” in New York.

Snider was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980 on his 11th try. He was a broadcaster for the Montreal Expos for several seasons—he played in the city as a minor leaguer in the Brooklyn farm system—and later was an announcer with the Dodgers.

“He had the grace and the abilities of [Joe] DiMaggio and Mays and, of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn,” Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully said. “Although it’s ironic to say it, we have lost a giant.”

During his playing career, Snider became an avocado farmer and lived many years in Fallbrook, Calif.

He is survived by his wife, Beverly, whom he married in 1947.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Zimmer lamented another Dodger gone.

“They’re all passing away,” he said. “There’s not many left.”

Duke Snider, gone at age 84.

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Phillies: Off-Season 2010 – 2011

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

After taking a long rest over the past 2 months since the Phillies’ season ended, it’s time to start talking about off-season events.

Tim Lincecum          Giants Win 2010 World Series         After 56 Years

Everyone knows that the Texas Rangers beat out the New York Yankees in 6 games in the ALCS and that the San Francisco Giants subsequently downed the Rangers in the 2010 World Series to emerge as MLB Champions.  For the Giants, it was their 1st World Series Title in 56 years, since 1954 when they swept the Cleveland Indians in 4 games.  The Giants had gone to the World Series two other times since moving to San Francisco, in 1962 when they lost by 4 games to 3 to the Yanks, losing game 7 by a 1-0 score as Giants slugger Willie McCovey slammed a liner snagged by Yanks 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson with a 2 out runner on 3rd base to nail down the title, and in 1989 when they were swept by one of their state rivals, the Oakland Athletics.

And I’m sure that all ML Baseball fans know by now that 3 icons of the sport passed away in the off-season, 2 of them  Hall of Famers.

Sparky Anderson                Sparky Anderson

Former Phillies 2nd baseman Sparky Anderson, who went on to lead the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” of the 70’s to four World Series appearances, winning two Titles, and later leading the Detroit Tigers to a World Series Title in 1984, defeating the  San Diego Padres in 5 games.   Anderson passed away at 76 years old in Thousand Oaks, Calif. from what was reported to be complications of dementia.

Ron Santo              Ron Santo

Early this month, former Chicago Cubs great 3rd baseman, and later 21 year broadcasting veteran Ron Santo passed away in December in Arizona.  It was reported that Santo died from complications from bladder cancer.
Bob Feller              Bob Feller
In mid-December, Hall of Fame former pitching ace for the Cleveland Indians, Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller passed away from acute leukemia at a hospice in Ohio.   Durring his Hall of Fame career, he amassed six 20 plus win seasons with the Indians and led them to two World Series appearances — in 1948 when they won the Title and in 1954 when they were swept by the then New York Giants.

Cliff Lee      Cliff Lee

Jayson Werth       Jayson Werth

Finally, all Phillies fans must know by now that rightfielder Jayson Werth went via free agency signing with the Washington Nationals for a reported $126 million over 7 years and that lefthander Cliff Lee, the hero of both the 2nd half of the Phillies 2009 season, as well as the post-season, has returned to the Phils, reportedly spurning more lucrative offers from the Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies’ friendly confines.  Lee reportedly signed a 5 year, $120 million deal with the Phils.  There will be more commentary on those major signings in subsequent posts.

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Bobby Thomson Who Hit Famous Homer, Passes Away at 86

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

              Bobby Thomson     Bobby Thomson

The phrase the “shot heard around the world” has come to be identified with several famous world political historical and war-time events.

But for baseball fans, particularly those from 40 years and up, the phrase  “the shot heard around the world” has come to be and will always be identified with the climatic 3 run leftfield walkoff homer slammed by  New York Giants’ outfielder Bobby Thomson in the bottom of the ninth inning on the 2nd pitch from Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca.  Branca relieved starter Don Newcombe with 2 on and 1 out in the inning, in the final of a 3 game playoff series to decide the 1951 NL pennant. The Giants won the pennant-clinching game by a 5-4 score.

That the Giant’s cross-town AL rivals, the Yankees would go on to win the 1951 World Series by 4 games to 2 keeping their dynasty intact, would prove to be anti-climatic after the drama generated by the 3 game NL pennant playoff and Thomson’s winning blast.

Yahoo reports that Bobby Thomson, whose name was immortalized by that one swing of the bat on October 3, 1951:

…died “peacefully” at his Georgia home on Monday night. He was 86 years old and had been in poor health.

The New York Daily News report on Thomson’s passing calls the blast which shook and reverberated the MLB world:

…the most famous home run in baseball history…

The New York Daily News report continues:

The cause of death had not been specified, and although Thomson had been in declining health in recent years, his daughter, Megan Thomson Armstrong, said he died peacefully. He was 86.

Baseball has had several historic home runs, but Thomson’s shot off Ralph Branca into the left-field seats of the Polo Grounds on Oct. 3, 1951, will always be regarded as the granddaddy of them all.

The dramatic blast capped the Giants’ incredible charge to the pennant after they had trailed the Dodgers by 13-1/2 games as late as Aug. 11. Beginning on Aug. 12, the Giants won 16 straight games and went 37-7 down the stretch to tie the Dodgers at season’s end. In the playoff series that ensued, the Giants won the first game, 3-1, on a two-run fourth-inning homer by Thomson off Branca, and the  Dodgers came back to win the second game, 10-0, behind the six-hit pitching of Clem Labine.

That set the stage for the deciding game, which the Dodgers led 4-1 going into the ninth inning. But Dodger starter Don Newcombe tired in the ninth, surrendering a leadoff infield single to Alvin Dark, another single to Don Mueller, and then, after Monte Irvin fouled out, a two-run opposite field double by Whitey Lockman.

Dodger manager Charlie Dressen summoned Branca from the bullpen to replace Newcombe with Thomson coming to the plate. “The delay really helped me,” Thomson later said. “I walked out to talk to (Giants manager) Leo (Durocher) and he said: ‘If you ever hit one, hit one now.’ I could see he was plenty excited, too, and I calmed down a bit.

“On my way back to the plate, I said to myself: ‘You’re a pro. Act like one!'”

Branca’s first pitch was a called-strike fastball. Thomson hit his second pitch, another fastball, toward left. As Dodger left fielder Andy Pafko drifted back to the wall, the ball sailed over his head into the seats for a 5-4 victory.

From the broadcast booth, Giants announcer Russ Hodges could be heard screaming, “THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!”

“Right away after I hit it I thought it was a home run,” Thomson had said. “Going around the bases, I could hardly breathe. I was starting to hyperventilate.”

…Thomson and Branca became friends years after their careers ended and capitalized on the historic home run by doing autograph sessions together…

“Bobby was a really good guy,” Branca said from his home in Rye, N.Y. “He was just doing his job and I was just doing mine…”

Thomson said…. “I was looking for a fastball and that’s what I got. We’re married to each other by this.”

In some ways, the home run was a bit of a mixed blessing because it raised expectations that Thomson was never able to meet. Thomson hit .293 with 32 homers and 101 RBI in 1951 and had similar seasons in ’52 and ’53, but he never achieved superstar status. After the ’53 season in which Thomson hit .288 with 26 homers and 106 RBI, the Giants traded him to the Milwaukee Braves. For Thomson, the ’54 season was a complete bust as he broke his ankle sliding into third base in spring training and appeared in only 43 games for the Braves. He was traded three more times before retiring in 1960 with a lifetime .270 average, 264 homers, 1,705 hits and 1,026 RBI over 15 years.

Thomson was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and moved with his family to Staten Island when he was 2 years old, where he later attended Curtis High School before serving in the United States Air Force in World War II. In addition to his daughter Megan, Thomson is survived by his other daughter, Nancy Thomson Mitchell and her husband, Charles (Chuck) Mitchell; his daughter-in-law, Judy Thomson; and six grandchildren.

…Private services will be held in Savannah and in Watchung, N.J.

“He’ll be remembered, I’ll tell you. We’ll always be grateful for what he did,” Irvin said. “He was a great ballplayer, a great fella, and he was beloved by all the Giants’ fans and teammates.”

So let’s return to yester-year — to October 3, 1951 and remember Bobby Thomson and “the shot heard around the world”!

Bobby Thomson passes away at 86.

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Phillies ‘Whiz Kids’ Ace Robin Roberts Passes On at 83

Friday, May 7th, 2010

            Robin Roberts      Robin Roberts     Robin Roberts

Former Phillies pitching ace Robin Roberts, who led the 1950 Phillies to the  NL Pennant and who won 20 or more games in consecutive seasons between 1950 and 1955, passed away of natural causes at his Temple Terrace, Fla. home on Thursday at age 83.

At 62 years old, Roberts was one of the first Phillies that I recall when Major League Baseball first entered my conscious cognizance in 1958.  Roberts had run off successive 20 win seasons in 1950 through 1955 followed by 19-18 season in 1956 followed by a 10-22 season in 1957 — the beginning of a string of awful Phillies’ teams through the early 1960s.

Roberts was the work-horse of the Phillies pitching staff throughout the 50s, a staff which also featured lefthanded starter Curt Simmons and starter/reliever Jim Konstanty.  Roberts often took the ball on short rest, as witnessed by his pitching in 3 games in 5 days during the crucial final run to the 1950 NL pennant.  He gave up a load of homeruns in his career, but had the ability to repeatedly escape jams unscathed due his overpowering fastball.

Roberts won The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in 1951 and 1955 and I recall his winning some sort of comeback award in 1958 when he finished 17-14 following his disastrous 1957 season.   Unfortunately, Google searches didn’t net exactly what that 1958 award was.  But, by then Robert’s career was on the down-side, his fastball lost something, he began suffering with shoulder problems and coughing up even more homers than previously.  He stayed in baseball until retiring in 1966 after stints with Baltimore Orioles, the Houston Astros and part of a season with the Chicago Cubs.

Robbie racked up a total 286 wins vs 245 losses, completed 305 games with a career 3.41 ERA.

In 1950, Roberts and the Phillies were part of the lowest-scoring World Series in MLB history as they and the New York Yankees scored a total of 16 runs between them as the Yankees swept the series winning by a collective 6 runs.

Roberts was a gentleman on the field, and as much a gentleman off of the field as this video of his conversation with a fourth grader working on a book report testifies and as does his close relationship with current Phillies rightfielder Jayson Werth as noted by AP sports writer Rob Maaddi:

…Werth was Roberts’ favorite player because he also came from Springfield, Ill. Fittingly, Werth hit a three-run homer in the first inning against the Cardinals.

“Robin would always tell me stories about people in my family being that he was from my hometown, but especially about my grandfather and my great-grandfather,” said Werth, the grandson of former major leaguer Dick Schofield. “He would make it a point to tell me good things about them. That was how much of an overall good guy he was. He will definitely be missed and remembered. He definitely has a special place in my heart.”

Roberts was the leading pitcher on the 1950 squad that won the franchise’s first pennant in 35 years. Roberts put together a 20-11 season with a 3.02 ERA and five shutouts.

The team, with several 25-and-younger stars such as Roberts, Richie Ashburn and Del Ennis, was dubbed the “Whiz Kids.” It marked the end of a three-decade span in which the Phillies were mostly awful.

The Phillies led by 7 1/2 games with 11 to go but struggled to hang on as injuries—especially to the pitching staff—took their toll. On the final day of the season and just after his 24th birthday, Roberts made his third start in five days and pitched the Phillies to a 4-1 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers to clinch the pennant.

Roberts started Game 2 of the World Series against the Yankees and held New York to one run on nine hits through nine innings. With the score 1-1 in the top the 10th,  Joe DiMaggio led off with a home run, giving New York a 2-1 win. The Yankees would go on to sweep. Roberts, who pitched in relief in Game 4, finished the series with a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings.

Roberts was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976. He remains the franchise’s career leader in games pitched, complete games and innings pitched. He was the leader in wins and strikeouts until Steve Carlton eclipsed those marks.

Robin Evan Roberts was born Sept. 30, 1926. His parents, Tom and Sarah, had moved to central Illinois from Wales in 1921. His father was a coal miner and Roberts grew up listening to Cubs games on the radio.

Roberts played baseball, basketball and football at Lanphier High School in Springfield before going to Michigan State, where he starred in basketball and baseball.

Roberts is survived by four sons, one brother, seven grandchildren and one great-grandson, the Phillies said. His wife, Mary, died five years ago.

Robin Roberts, former Phillies ace passes on at 83.

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Former Oriole Great Mike Cuellar Passes Away

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

                                   Mike Cuellar

That Baltimore Orioles starting pitching rotation of the early 1970s had to be the most formidable assemblages in modern MLB history, particularly over the last 50 years.  This blog commemorated the passing of Pat Dobson in November, 2006 and an earlier great from the mid-to-late 1960s Steve Barber who died in February, 2007.  Dave McNally, whose career in Baltimore spanned from the mid-1960s through the mid-70s, passed away in December, 2002 — nearly 3 1/2 years before this blog came to be.  During the span from 1966 through 1971, the Orioles represented the AL in the World Series in 4 of those 6 seasons and winning the MLB World Championship twice.  The dean of those great Oriole staffs,  Hall of Famer Jim Palmer is still with us at age 64.

On Friday, another member of those memorable staffs — lefthanded great  Mike Cuellar passed away at age 72.  No information as yet has been released regarding the details of Cuellar’s demise.

AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker recalls:

Mike Cuellar, a crafty left-hander from Cuba whose darting screwball made him a World Series champion and Cy Young winner with the Baltimore Orioles, died Friday. He was 72.

Cuellar made his major league debut in 1959 and bounced around Cincinnati, St. Louis and Houston for almost a decade before a trade brought him to Baltimore. Wearing the black-and-orange bird logo, he blossomed on one of the most imposing pitching staffs in baseball history—in 1971, he was among the Orioles’ four 20-game winners.

A four-time All-Star, Cuellar was 185-130 overall with a 3.14 ERA. He was voted into the Orioles’ Hall of Fame.

“He sure was an ace,” Hall of Fame teammate Brooks Robinson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday night. “He had a way of making good hitters look bad, making them take funny swings.”

Cuellar joined the Orioles for the 1969 season and that year became the first Baltimore pitcher to win the AL Cy Young Award, sharing the honor with Detroit’s Denny McLain. Cuellar went 23-11 with five shutouts, including a game in which he held Minnesota hitless until Cesar Tovar’s soft, leadoff single in the ninth inning.

Cuellar helped pitch Baltimore to three straight World Series from 1969-71. He finished off that run by teaming with Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Pat Dobson to become the only staff other than the 1920 Chicago White Sox with a quartet of 20-game winners.

Though often overshadowed in the rotation by Palmer, a future Hall of Famer, and McNally, another great lefty, Cuellar pitched more than his share of big games.

“I think when he got to Baltimore, he wanted to be like those other guys,” Robinson said. “He wanted to win as many games as Palmer and McNally. He wanted the ball.”

Cuellar started the first AL championship series game ever, in 1969 against Minnesota. He then outdueled Tom Seaver in Game 1 of the World Series—it was the Orioles’ only win while getting upset by the New York Mets.

Cuellar won a career-high 24 games in 1970 and again excelled in the postseason, this time with his arm and bat. A career .115 hitter, Cuellar highlighted Game 1 of the ALCS with a grand slam.

He then closed out the World Series by beating Cincinnati in  Game 5 at old Memorial Stadium. After giving up three runs in the first inning, he shut out the Reds on two hits the rest of the way. Cuellar raised both arms after the final out and skipped toward third base for an embrace with Robinson—the picture is among the most popular in Orioles lore.

“I can still see it, his arms up in the air,” Robinson said.

Cuellar pitched a gem in his final World Series appearance, but lost Game 7 in 1971 to Pittsburgh  2-1.

Cuellar finished up 143-88 with the Orioles and ended his career in 1977 with the Angels.

Robinson said he first saw Cuellar while playing against him in Cuba in the winter leagues.

“He and I were the same age. I used to kid him all the time that he’d already been pitching in Cuba for five years. That used to get him going,” Robinson said.

Cuellar had been living in Orlando, Fla., in recent times and last year was a volunteer pitching instructor for the Orioles at spring training.

“He was a humble man,” Robinson said. “He didn’t brag about himself.”

Lefthander Mike Cueller, passes away at 72.

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