Obituaries: Sept. 17

Bill Berndsen, a lefthander who pitched professionally for one season, died May 14 in Breese, Ill. He was 77.

Berndsen saw extensive action for Fresno (California) in 1952, getting into 39 games and going 15-9, 4.05 in 198 innings. He entered the military after that season and never played pro ball again.

Jim Burns, a righthander who pitched in six pro seasons, died May 1 in Nashville. He was 86.

Burns got his career off to a flying start in 1946, winning 17 games and putting up a 3.02 ERA in 176 innings with Hopkinsville (Kitty). He moved on to Clarksdale (Cotton States) in 1947 and had another strong year, going 18-14, 3.58 in a league-high 279 innings. The 1948 season didn’t go as well, as Burns struggled in stops with Nashville (Southern Association) and Fayetteville (Tri-State) before returning to Clarksdale in 1949. Burns got back in form in his second go-around with Clarksdale, going 9-11, 2.52 over 193 innings. He was solid again in 1950 in going 11-5, 3.04 for Monroe (Cotton States), but pitched only one more season, working just 10 innings for Shreveport (Texas) in 1951.

Hal Coffman, a righthander who pitched professionally for six seasons, died May 30 in Topeka, Kan. He was 81.

Coffman enjoyed successful seasons early in his career but was saddled with some very heavy workloads. At the age of 19, he threw 195 innings for Independence (Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri) in 1948, going 18-5, 1.94 along the way. He worked even harder the next year, throwing 234 innings for Joplin (Western Association), where he went 15-12, 3.15. After winning 17 games and pitching another 227 innings for Columbus (South Atlantic) in 1950, Coffman lasted only two more full seasons. He was still successful in 1951, putting up an 11-7, 2.96 line for Omaha (Western), but he struggled in 1952 and made just four appearances in 1953 before his career came to an end.

Joe Doljack, an outfielder and righthanded pitcher who spent 10 seasons in the minors, died May 20 in Mayfield Village, Ohio. He was 99.

Doljack broke into pro ball as a pitcher in 1930, but didn’t get to see a full season of action until 1933, when he went 2-6, 6.39 in 24 appearances with Knoxville (Southern Association). He pitched for three more seasons, the best of which was his last one, when he went 5-8, 3.25 in 97 innings with Waterloo (Western). After not playing any pro ball in 1937, Doljack returned to the game as an outfielder with Sanford (Florida State) in 1938. He hit .216 in 88 at-bats there before finishing the year with Mooresville (North Carolina State), where he hit .282. After two seasons with Granby (Quebec Provincial), Doljack had his best offensive year in 1941, hitting .292 with four home runs in 507 at-bats with Three Rivers (Canadian-American), but that would be his last year in pro ball.

Frank Hand, a lefthander who made pitched briefly in pro ball, died May 7 in Tucson. He was 83.

Hand’s only pro appearances came in 1947, when he got into seven games combined between Ogdensburg (Border) and Portland (New England), posting a record of 0-4.

Bob Hartman, a lefthander who pitched in two major league seasons as part of a nine-year pro career, died June 16 in Kenosha, Wis. He was 72.

Hartman broke into pro ball in 1955 and had his first big year in 1958, when he went 20-10, 2.94 with Atlanta (Southern Association). That performance earned him his first big league callup, and he pitched in three games for the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, though he didn’t figure in any decisions. After two more years back in the minors, Hartman was traded to the Indians in 1962 and got into eight games there, going 0-1, 3.18 in 17 innings. He only pitched one more season, making five appearances for Jacksonville (International) in 1963.

Ken Holcombe, a righthander who pitched six seasons in the major leagues, died March 15 in Weaverville, N.C. He was 91.

Holcombe pitched six seasons in the minors before getting his first shot at the big leagues in 1945 with the Yankees, appearing in 23 games and going 3-3, 1.80, working mostly as a reliever. Despite pitching well as a rookie, Holcombe was sent back to the minors in 1946 and didn’t get another full season in the big leagues until 1950, when he was already 31 years old. Holcombe, who had changed organizations several times in the intervening years, spent two seasons as a regular in the White Sox’s rotation. He went just 3-10, 4.59 in 1950, but was much better in ’51, winning 11 games and posting a 3.79 ERA in 159 innings. That would be the high point of his big league career though, as the White Sox waived him in June 1952. He was picked up by the St. Louis Browns, but released just a month later. He pitched two more seasons, spending most of that time in the minors other than a brief stint with the Red Sox in 1953.

Morrie Martin, a righthander who pitched in the majors for 10 seasons, died March 25 in Washington, Mo. He was 87.

Martin reached the big leagues for the first time in his sixth pro season, getting into 10 games with the Brooklyn Dodgers and going 1-3, 6.97. He struck out the very first hitter he faced in the majors, who was none other than Stan Musial. His minor league career had been interrupted when he missed three seasons  to serve in the Army during World War II, and he didn’t get a full season in the majors until 1951 with the Philadelphia Athletics, who had picked him up in the Rule 5 draft.

Martin made the most of his first season with the A’s, going 11-4, 3.78 in 138 innings, seeing time as both a starter and reliever. He wasn’t able to build on that momentum in 1952 though, as his pitching hand was struck by a line drive in his fifth start, injuring it badly enough that he couldn’t pitch again that season. He got back on the mound in 1953 and went 10-12, 4.44 but was traded to the White Sox the following year. He shuffled between a handful of organizations over the rest of his career, with his last big league stop coming with the Cubs in 1959. In all, Martin compiled a 38-34, 4.29 big league record, making 250 appearances, including 42 starts.


Rogelio Martinez, a righthander who pitched in two major league games, died May 24 in Waterford, Conn. He was 91.

A native of Cuba, Martinez spent most of the first few years of his pro career pitching in his home country with Havana (Florida International). He received his only big league callup in July 1950, during a season in which he went 10-4, 1.72 for Havana. Martinez pitched in  two games for the Washington Senators, logging a scoreless inning in his debut but getting charged for four runs in his final appearance a few days later. He would sit out the 1951 season, then returned for four more seasons in the minors. He went 20-12, 1.91 for Tampa (Florida International) in 1952 but struggled in later seasons. He spent most of his final two years pitching in the Mexican League.

Jack Pickart, a righthander who pitched in the minors for four seasons, died May 14 in Atherton, Calif. He was 79.

Pickart spent the bulk of his career with Sacramento (Pacific Coast), starting in 1951 when he went 3-2, 3.92 in eight appearances there as a 21-year-old. He split the 1952 season between Sacramento and Idaho Falls (Pioneer), then missed the 1953 season to serve in the military. He pitched briefly for Sacramento in 1954 and again in 1955, though he spent most of his time that year with Colorado Springs (Western) and Modesto (California), going a combined 7-8, 5.64 in 126 innings.

Jeriome Robertson, a lefthander who pitched in the majors for three seasons, died May 29 in Exeter, Calif., as the result of a motorcycle accident. He was 33.

The Astros took Robertson in the 24th round of the 1995 draft out of the University of Washington, and he would go on to have his breakout season in 1999 with Double-A Jackson (Texas). He won a league-best 15 games that year and posted a 3.06 ERA in 191 innings. In 2002, he won the Pacific Coast League’s ERA title after going 12-8, 2.55 in 180 innings for New Orleans, earning himself a September callup. He worked mostly in relief for the Astros, getting into 11 games and going 0-2, 6.52. The 2003 season was his only full year in the majors, as he went 15-9, 5.10 as a full-time member of Houston’s rotation. He was traded to Cleveland after that season but made only eight appearances there in 2004. He went on to pitch three more seasons in the minors, ending his career in 2007 with independent Newark (Atlantic).

Thomas Roche, a pitcher who saw action in one pro season, died June 19 in Torrington, Conn. He was 89.

Roche pitched in one game for Muskegon (Michigan State) followed by a handful of appearances with Huntington (Mountain State) in 1941. He subsequently joined the Marines during World War II and did not return to pro ball.


Roman Roh, a righthander who pitched in three minor league seasons, died May 29 in Creighton, Neb. He was 92.

Roh made his pro debut with Portsmouth (Middle Atlantic) in 1939, going 5-3, 3.50 over 10 appearances. He spent most of the next two seasons with Decatur (Three-I), where he put up a 9-9, 4.13 record in 1940 and 4-8, 4.50 in 1941. He finished out the ’41 season at Columbus (South Atlantic) with a 2-6, 5.12 mark.

Jay Schlueter, an outfielder who played briefly for the Astros in 1971, died May 13 in Phoenix. He was 60.

Schlueter’s big league career was limited to just seven games with Houston in June and July of 1971. He got just three at-bats but did manage to get a big league hit, a single off the Cardinals’ Jerry Reuss on July 3. While his big league career was brief, Schlueter played nine pro seasons overall. He spent most of that time in the Houston organization, which picked him in the third round of the 1967 draft. He played five seasons at the Triple-A level, primarily with Oklahoma City (American Association) and Denver (American Association). He hit .216 in his Triple-A career and was a .209 hitter for his entire pro career.

James Snow, a righthander who pitched professionally in four seasons, died July 10 in South Yarmouth, Mass. He was 78.

Snow pitched well in his first look at pro ball, going 2-2, 3.60 for Batavia (PONY) in 1950. After a rough 1951 season at Fort Smith (Western Association), he bounced back to go 6-5, 3.76 for Duluth (Northern) in 1952. He returned to Duluth in 1953 but made only one appearance.

Jerry Stephenson, a righthander who pitched in seven big league seasons, died June 6 in Anaheim. He was 66.

Stephenson actually made his big league debut in just his second pro season, making one appearance for the Red Sox in April 1963 at age 19. He went back to the minors for the rest of that season and the next year as well. He went 6-4, 1.57 in 92 innings for Seattle (Pacific Coast) in 1964, earning a trip back to the majors the following season. He went 1-5, 6.28 in 52 innings for the Red Sox in 1965, making 15 appearances, eight of which were starts.

Stephenson continued seeing limited action for the Red Sox as both a starter and reliever over the next two seasons before signing with the Seattle Pilots for the 1969 season. He only got into two games for the Pilots while spending most of the year at Vancouver (Pacific Coast). He was traded to the Dodgers after the ’69 season and went 18-5, 2.82 for Spokane (Pacific Coast), their Triple-A affiliate, in 1970. He pitched in three games for the Dodgers that year but never got another look at the majors again. After his playing days ended in 1973, Stephenson went on to a long career as a scout for the Dodgers and Red Sox.

Seibert “Putter” Zimmerman, a righthander who pitched in one professional season, died May 12 in Chambersburg, Pa. He was 83.

Zimmerman’s pro career consisted of six appearances with Dover (Eastern Shore) in 1947. He went 0-1, 3.18 in 17 innings.

Anyone with an obituary to contribute may contact Bill Carle at 909 SW Corine Court, Lee’s Summit, MO 64081, or at bbxpert@aol.com.



Minor league obituaries may also be e-mailed to Ray Nemec at basebalray@aol.com.

Majors | #2010 #Obituaries

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