Charlie Armstrong, who was the first head baseball coach at Florida State, died Dec. 13, 2009, in Tallahassee, Fla. He was 87.
Armstrong came to Florida State in 1948 to serve as an assistant coach for the school’s football team, but he also started its baseball program from scratch. He coached the Seminoles for the first four seasons of the program’s existence and had winning records in all of them, with an overall mark of 46-29. The Seminole football team also had a successful run while Armstrong was on its staff, going 30-4 over his four seasons. Armstrong, who flew bombers for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, was called back into the military in 1951. He went on to have a successful high school coaching career after leaving the service. Armstrong was inducted into FSU’s hall of fame in 1994.
Bob Curley, a righthander who pitched professionally for eight seasons, died Nov. 6, 2009, in Cincinnati. He was 84.
Curley started his baseball career in 1946 after getting out of the military. He went 11-5, 3.61 for Chanute (Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri) in his debut season and then 12-13, 3.52 with 19 complete games for Topeka (Western Association) in 1947. Curley reached the Double-A level with Tulsa (Texas) in 1950, going 9-14, 4.11 in 175 innings, and came as close as he would to the majors in 1951, when he made seven appearances for Buffalo (International). However, he spent most of the 1951 and ’52 seasons pitching back in Tulsa, where he had his best season in ’52, going 11-14, 3.09 in 201 innings. He wound up splitting the 1953 campaign, his final year, between three clubs, spending the most time at Burlington (Three-I), where he posted a 5.36 ERA in 47 innings. For his career, Curley owned a 69-84, 3.72 lifetime record with over 1,200 innings pitched.
Bob Dillinger, a third baseman who played six seasons in the majors and was an all-star in 1949, died Nov. 7, 2009, in Santa Clarita, Calif. He was 91.
Dillinger broke onto the scene by hitting .314 with 67 stolen bases with Lincoln (Western) in his pro debut in 1939. Signed by the St. Louis Browns out of the University of Idaho, Dillinger quickly worked his way up the minor league ranks over the next three seasons and was on the cusp of the majors after hitting .305 for Toledo (American Association) in 1942, but World War II interrupted and Dillinger went into the armed services.
Dillinger immediately broke into the majors upon returning to the States in 1946, getting into 83 games for the Browns and hitting .280 with 11 RBIs in 225 at-bats. Dillinger was one of the few bright spots for the Browns over the next three seasons, as he toiled for St. Louis clubs that never finished higher than sixth in the American League during his four years there. He batted .294 and led the AL with 34 steals in 1947, his first full season in the majors, and would go on to lead the league in steals in the next two seasons as well, with 28 in 1948 and 20 in 1949. Dillinger led the AL in hits in ’48 with 207 en route to hitting .321 on the year. He followed that season up by hitting .324 in ’49 and earning his only all-star invite, though he didn’t get to play in the game.
The struggling Browns traded Dillinger to the Philadelphia Athletics after the ’49 season, but his stay in Philadelphia was brief, as the A’s sold him to the Pirates in July 1950. Dillinger still hit .301 with 50 RBIs between his two stops, but he would stay only one more season in the big leagues, during which the Pirates sold him to the White Sox. After hitting .292 combined between Pittsburgh and Chicago in 1951, Dillinger headed West and spent the last four years of his playing career with Sacramento (Pacific Coast). He won a PCL batting title in 1953 with a .366 average and hit .301 in his last full season in 1954. He made just 34 appearances for Sacramento in 1955, batting .281 in 114 at-bats. For his big league career, Dillinger left behind a .306 lifetime average with 10 home runs and 106 stolen bases.
Kevin Edwards, a lefthander from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, died Nov. 29, 2009, in Chicago as the result of an automobile accident. He was 19.
Edwards made a team-high 13 appearances, including five starts, for Arkansas-Pine Bluff as a freshman in 2009. He struck out 17 hitters over 31 innings. The school announced that he would be granted his degree posthumously.
Earl Escalante, a righthander who pitched in the minor leagues for 11 seasons, died Oct. 27, 2009, in San Jose. He was 91.
Escalante opened his career as a third baseman with Mitchell (Western) in 1939, but he hit just .182 with 10 RBIs in 137 at-bats and then spent the next two seasons out of baseball. When he returned to the game with San Jose (California) in 1942, Escalante began seeing time on the mound and went 6-7, 2.49 in 112 innings, although he continued to see some time at third base when he wasn’t pitching. He moved up to the Pacific Coast League in 1943 and split the season between Portland and Hollywood, going a combined 5-8, 3.57 in 106 innings. He stayed with Hollywood for the 1944 season but then entered the military and missed 1945.
Escalante focused exclusively on pitching after coming back from the service in 1946. He pitched 19 games in the PCL that year with Hollywood and San Diego and went 3-5, 3.57. He spent most of the rest of his career in the California League. In 1949, Escalante led the CL with 28 victories and 300 innings pitched while going 28-9. 2.85 for Bakersfield. He went on to lead the league in innings in three consecutive seasons, pitching 279 in 1950 and 286 in 1951. Escalante moved to Idaho Falls (Pioneer) for the 1952 and ’53 seasons, but returned to the Cal League in 1954 for his final season, going 18-18, 2.93 for Salinas.
Dale Harbaugh, a shortstop who played in two pro seasons in the 1950s, died Dec. 5, 2009, in Seneca, Mo. He was 76.
Harbaugh had a productive first season with McAlester (Sooner State) in 1952, batting .280 with nine home runs and 101 RBIs. However, he entered the military after that season and didn’t get back to baseball until 1955. He split that season between Winston-Salem (Carolina) and Grand Forks (Northern), but wasn’t as successful, hitting a combined .244 with six home runs and 48 RBIs in 389 at-bats.
Myron “Red” Hayworth, a catcher who played two seasons for the St. Louis Browns, died Nov. 2, 2006, in High Point, N.C. He was 91.
The younger brother of Ray Hayworth, who played 15 seasons in the big leagues mostly with the Tigers, Myron hit .301 with 53 RBIs for Joplin (Western Association) in 1936, his first pro season. He continued working his way up the minor league ladder over the next few seasons. He never hit for much power, as he hit just nine home runs in his entire career, but he continued advancing nonetheless. After hitting .278 for Toledo (American Association) in 1943, Hayworth got his first shot at the big leagues with the Browns in 1944. Hayworth hit .223 with one home run over 269 at-bats as the Browns captured the American League pennant for the first time in team history. The Browns lost the World Series to the Cardinals in six games, the only all-St. Louis Fall Classic in history, with Hayworth playing in all six games and going 2-for-17 in the series.
Hayworth played one more season for the Browns, hitting .194 over 160 at-bats in 1945, before signing to play in the Mexican League in 1946. He hit .261 for Torreon that season, then .270 for San Luis Potosi (Mexican) in 1947. After his two seasons south of the border, Hayworth spent the 1948 season out of pro ball, but returned in 1949 with San Antonio (Texas). He went on to play another three seasons with Syracuse (International), but his playing time was limited and he retired after the 1952 season. After his playing days, Hayworth went on to a career as a scout and minor league manager.
Tommy Henrich, an outfielder who was a five-time all-star with the Yankees, died Dec. 1, 2009, in Dayton, Ohio. He was 96.
Henrich needed just three seasons in the minors, hitting over .300 in each of them, before breaking into the big leagues with the Yankees in 1937. He hit .320 in 206 at-bats playing a part-time role for the Yankees club that won 102 games and went on to capture its second of four consecutive World Series titles, although Henrich didn’t appear in the Series. Henrich moved into a full-time role in 1938 and hit .270 with 22 home runs, plus one more during the World Series as Yankees swept the Cubs for their third straight title. His production fell off somewhat in 1939, as he hit .277 with nine home runs, but he bounced back to hit .307 with 10 homers in 1940.
Henrich’s average fell back to .277 in 1941, but he slugged a career-high 31 home runs, second on the team to Charlie Keller’s 33 and one ahead of Joe DiMaggio’s 30. The Yankees got back to the World Series and Henrich hit another home run during their five game triumph over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Henrich hit .267 for New York and made his first all-star team in 1942 but left after that season to join the Coast Guard, missing the next three seasons.
Henrich’s career took off after he returned from the service. He slugged 19 home runs in 1946, his first season back, then began a streak of four straight all-star seasons in 1947, when he batted .287 with 16 homers, 98 RBIs and an American League leading 13 triples. The Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series again that year, and Henrich had his best showing in the Fall Classic, batting .323 with a home run and five RBIs in their seven game series win. Henrich set career highs for average (.308), home runs (25) and RBIs (100) in 1948, while also leading the AL in both triples (14) and runs (138). He didn’t tail off in 1949 either, batting .287 with 24 long balls and 85 runs driven in as the Yankees went on to capture their sixth World Series during Henrich’s career, again knocking off the Dodgers in five games. Henrich played his final season at age 37 in 1950 when, having shifted to first base full-time, he hit .272 with six home runs in 151 at-bats. Henrich’s career came to a close with him sporting a .282 career average with 183 home runs and 1,297 hits.
Bill Kirk, a lefthander who made one major league appearance as part of a nine-year pro career, died Oct. 26, 2009, in Lititz, Pa. He was 74.
Kirk’s pro career began with Welch (Appalachian) in 1954, when he went 12-9, 3.32 as a 19-year-old. He broke out two years later with El Paso (Southwestern) in 1956, going 6-2, 2.96 in 76 innings. Kirk missed the 1957 and ’58 seasons to enter the military and returned to pro ball in 1959 with Shreveport (Southern Association), but he struggled in going 1-5, 4.68 in 33 appearances. He got back on track the following season and had his best year in 1961, when he posted a 2.00 ERA in 103 innings for Portsmouth (South Atlantic). That performance earned him his only big league callup, when the Kansas City Athletics promoted him to the majors that September. Kirk’s lone big league appearance came Sept. 23 against the Indians, but he was hit hard and allowed four runs over three innings of work. He would continue pitching professionally for another three seasons in the minors, but never had enough success to get another big league callup. He ended his career after going 4-7, 3.03 for York (Eastern) in 1964.
Ron Klimkowski, a righthander who pitched four seasons in the majors, died Nov. 13, 2009, in Plainview, N.Y. He was 65.
Klimkowski was originally signed by the Red Sox in 1964 and had his breakout year in 1965, going 10-5, 2.12 in 119 innings for Waterloo (Midwest). He followed that season up by going 13-12, 2.57 for Winston-Salem (Carolina) in 1966 and was having another strong season in 1967, with a 7-4, 2.83 record through 22 appearances for Pittsfield (Eastern), when the Red Sox included him as part of the trade that netted them Elston Howard from the Yankees during their “Impossible Dream” season. The Yankees converted Klimkowski to the bullpen in 1968, but moved him back into a starting role after one year. He proceeded to go 15-7, 2.18 for Syracuse, leading the International League in both victories and ERA, and earned his first big league callup that September. He made three appearances for the Yankees, including one start, over the season’s last few weeks and gave up only one run in 14 innings of work.
Klimkowski moved back to the bullpen for the Yankees in 1970 and was a valuable contributor on a team that won 93 games and finished second in the American League East. Klimkowski made 45 appearances that season and posted a 2.66 ERA in 98 innings, but that proved to be his only full season in the majors. The Yankees traded him to the Athletics shortly before the 1971 season in a deal that sent Felipe Alou to New York. Klimkowski made 26 appearances for Oakland in ’71, posting a 2-2, 3.40 record in 45 innings. The A’s released him shortly into the 1972 season and he returned to the Yankees as a free agent, making 16 appearances for New York while also spending part of the season back at Syracuse. He pitched one more season, but never got to the majors again.
Eddie Lavene, a second baseman who played seven seasons in the minor leagues, died Nov. 16, 2009, in Richmond. He was 76.
Lavene hit .284 as an 18-year-old in his pro debut season for Marion (Ohio-Indiana) in 1951. He then has his best season as a pro in 1952 while with High Point-Thomasville (North Carolina State), batting .354 with 67 RBIs and 13 stolen bases, all of which turned out to be career highs. His numbers dipped in 1953 as he moved up to Albany (Eastern) and hit .279 with 30 RBIs, then entered the military and missed the next two seasons. Lavene returned in 1956 and split the season between Albany and San Francisco (Pacific Coast), batting a combined .238 with one home run and 14 RBIs in 193 at-bats. He bounced back somewhat over the next two seasons, hitting .253 for Oklahoma City (Texas) in 1957 and .249 for Allentown (Eastern) in 1958. Lavene had one of his best years in his final season, as he returned to Allentown and batted .284 with 18 RBIs in 204 at-bats to close out his career.
Ed Rakocy, an outfielder who played six seasons in the minors, died Nov. 9, 2009. He was 94.
Rakocy, who used the surname Rockey during his playing career, hit .269 in 1937 to start his pro career, splitting the season between Charleston (Middle Atlantic) and Lake Charles (Evangeline). He remained at Lake Charles for the 1938 campaign and hit .257 in 131 at-bats. He had his best season in 1939 while with Hot Springs (Cotton States), where he hit .321 with nine home runs and 62 RBIs over 402 at-bats. He followed that season up by hitting .267 for Montgomery (Southeastern) in 1940, then he returned to Hot Springs for most of the 1941 season and hit .296 over 294 at-bats. That effectively marked the end of Rakocy’s baseball career. He was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and returned to the game only briefly in 1946, making a handful of appearances for Evansville (Three-I).
Tommy Reis, a righthander who pitched one season in the majors as part of a 20-year pro career, died Nov. 6, 2009, in Ocala, Fla. He was 95.
Reis opened his career in 1933 and pitched most of his first four seasons with Zanesville (Middle Atlantic), but he didn’t have a standout year until 1937, when he went 19-9, 2.97 for Wilkes-Barre (New York-Pennsylvania). He made his only trip to the big leagues the following season, pitching in four games for the Phillies, all in relief, before being sold to the Boston Bees in late April. He made four more relief appearances for Boston before being sent back to the minors. The Bees traded him to the Yankees after the ’38 season, but he would never pitch for New York, instead spending the next five seasons with their affiliate in Kansas City (American Association).
Reis’ first year in Kansas City turned out to be his best, as he went 17-4, 2.30 in 164 innings in 1939. He later won 13 games and had a 2.83 ERA in 1942, but he would enter the military following the 1943 season and missed two years. He returned to Kansas City for one more season in 1946, going 7-5, 3.57, but would spend most of the rest of his career pitching in the Texas League. After one year in the Pacific Coast League, he spent three seasons with Oklahoma City (Texas) from 1948-50, then three with Tulsa (Texas) from 1951-53. His best campaign in the TL was his 8-2, 2.86 season for Tulsa in 1951, although he also won 15 games for Tulsa in 1952 with a 3.08 ERA. He pitched one more full season for Tulsa, then pitched briefly High Point-Thomasville (Carolina) in 1954.
Jerold Riddle, a righthander who pitched in one pro season, died Aug. 20, 2009, in Mobile, Ala. He was 78.
Riddle made 17 appearances for Muncie (Ohio-Indiana) in 1949, going 7-6, 5.27 in 94 innings. He also pitched in four games for Lockport (PONY). He later entered the military and didn’t return to baseball.
Bob Roselli, a catcher who played parts of five seasons in the major leagues, died Nov. 5, 2009, in Roseville, Calif. He was 77.
Rosellli’s pro career started with Ventura (California) in 1950 and he played four seasons in the minors before entering the military and missing the 1954 season. He had hit .302 with 12 home runs for Modesto (California) in 1953, and when he came back from the service, he reached the big leagues for the first time with the Milwaukee Braves in 1955. He made six appearances for the Braves and got nine at-bats, going 2-for-9. He got into just four games for the Braves in 1956 and went 1-for-2 at the plate, though that one hit was a home run off the Phillies’ Harvey Haddix in Milwaukee on July 21.
Other than a single appearance for Milwaukee in 1958, Roselli didn’t get back to the majors again until 1961, and spent most of the intervening time playing with the Pacific Coast League’s Sacramento Solons. He hit .258 with seven home runs for Sacramento in 1960 and was taken by the White Sox in the Rule 5 draft after the season. Roselli saw his most meaningful big league action in Chicago, making 22 appearances in 1961 and hitting .263 with four RBIs in 38 at-bats. He got into 35 games the next year but hit just .188 in 64 at-bats, though he did slug his second career big league home run. Roselli was sent back to the minors in 1963, when he hit .212 with Honolulu (Pacific Coast), and called it a career after that season.
John “Greek” Scolinos, a first baseman who played four seasons in the minors, died Nov. 7, 2009, in Pomona, Calif. He was 91.
Scolinos started playing pro baseball as a 19-year-old in 1937, making his debut with Osceola (Northeast Arkansas) and hitting .266 with five home runs. He has his best season the next year, hitting .292 with 11 home runs, 110 RBIs and a league-high 21 triples for Corpus Christi (Texas Valley). He played sparingly in 1939 and sat out the 1940 season altogether. He returned briefly in 1941, making 39 appearances combined between stops with three different teams in the California League—Anaheim, Merced and Riverside—and hitting .265 with three homers and 18 RBIs.
Peter Tusa, a second baseman who played in one professional season, died Nov. 17, 2009, in Louisiana. He was 81.
Tusa made the most of his brief stay in pro ball, getting into 13 games for Roswell (Longhorn) in 1952 and batting .320 with three doubles and six RBIs in 50 at-bats.
Dick Wilson, a first baseman who played 15 seasons in the minor leagues, died March 9, 2009, in Reno, Nev. He was 87.
Wilson spent the bulk of his career playing in West Coast minor leagues. He opened his career in 1944 but saw little action over his first two seasons, then he missed the 1946 season to serve a stint in the military. He saw his first meaningful playing time with Ontario (Sunset) in 1947, getting 205 at-bats and hitting .380 with nine home runs. He had his first of several huge offensive seasons in 1948 while serving as a player-manager for Mexicali (Sunset), batting .347 with league highs in home runs (42) and RBIs (188) in 507 at-bats. After slugging 26 home runs for Visalia (California) in 1949, Wilson had two big seasons with Modesto (California) in 1950 and ’51. He led the league in home runs in both seasons, with 30 in 1950 and 40 in ’51, and captured the batting title in ’51 with a .371 average.
Wilson saw some time with Hollywood (Pacific Coast) in 1952, but he hit just .233 in 120 at-bats and spent most of the season back in the Cal League with Modesto, where he hit .310. While his stint with Hollywood might have been the closest Wilson would get to the majors, he continued slugging in the lower minors for another few years. He hit 24 home runs for Modesto in 1953, then hit 60 over two seasons as Bakersfield’s (California) player-manager in 1956 and ’57. He continued playing until 1960, when he hit .289 combined between stops with three different teams as a 38-year-old in his last season.
Walter “Junior” Wolfe, a righthander who pitched professionally for six seasons, died Oct. 31, 2009, in Luttrell, Tenn. He was 86.
After serving in the Army during World War II, Wolfe got his pro baseball career started with Fort Smith (Western Association) in 1946 by going 9-11, 3.64 with 16 complete games. He stayed with Fort Smith in 1947 and had the best year of his career, putting up a 15-8 record with a 2.91 ERA in 192 innings. He saw only limited action with Sioux City (Western) and St. Cloud (Northern) in 1948, then went 9-6, 3.57 for Middlesboro (Mountain States) in 1949. He continued playing another two seasons, but once again didn’t see much time on the mound, making just 14 total appearances over those two years, which he split between three teams.
Anyone with an obituary to contribute may contact Bill Carle at 909 SW Corine Court, Lee’s Summit, MO 64081, or at [email protected]
Minor league obituaries may also be e-mailed to Ray Nemec at ‘[email protected]