The Oldest Living Former Cubs

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Andy Pafko threw out the first pitch at Game 2 of the NLCS in 2003. Hopefully, the 91-year-old former Cubs outfielder will still be around to do it again when the Cubs return to the World Series.

As of the end of this month, there will be 66 former major-league players who are at least 90 years old (Ralph Kiner will become the 66th when he turns 90 on October 27).

Nine of those 66 played for the Cubs; some had very short careers, some had significant ones for the team, a couple played briefly for the Cubs but had more fame elsewhere (Kiner, for one, qualifies as that).

Here, then, are brief capsules on the nine over-90 ex-Cubs. Just two living human beings have played in a World Series for the Cubs. We hope that list increases by a couple of dozen, within the next few seasons. These players are listed by age, from oldest to youngest.

Freddy Schmidt, RHP, born February 9, 1916: Schmidt, who is the fourth-oldest living former major leaguer, pitched in one game for the 1947 Cubs after spending 1944 and 1946 (like many, he missed 1945 due to World War II) with the Cardinals and Phillies. He got a ring with the 1944 Cardinals, and pitched six more years in the minors after his one game with the Cubs, who apparently decided to pick him up on waivers in September from the Phillies after he had thrown a couple of good games earlier that year against the Cubs while he was with St. Louis. Here's the boxscore from his one Cubs game, a nondescript, late-season game between two bad teams.

Lennie Merullo, SS, born May 5, 1917: One of two living persons who has worn a Cubs uniform in a World Series, Merullo played in just three games of the 1945 Series, going 0-for-2. He played seven seasons for the Cubs, hitting .240/.291/.301, which wasn't very good even then (career OPS+ 69), but was a good defensive player. Merullo's grandson Matt played several years in the majors for the White Sox, Indians and Twins and was in the Cubs organization briefly in 1996 at Iowa. This article from boston.com about Merullo from about two years ago gives a good look at his life, and his career with the Cubs, for whom he still roots from his home in Massachusetts.

Monte Irvin, OF, born February 25, 1919: Irvin is in the Hall of Fame, but primarily for his career in the Negro Leagues and some good years with the New York Giants; Irvin finished third in NL MVP voting in the Giants' pennant year of 1951. Five years later, he spent one year with the Cubs at age 37 and hit .271/.346/.460, decent enough, but was yet another example of the Cubs of that ert getting a star player far past his prime.

Andy Pafko, OF-3B, born February 25, 1921: Pafko shares a birthday with Irvin and was the principal in one of the worst Cubs trades made in the 1950s. Signed by the Cubs from a minor league team in Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1941, Pafko played for the Cubs from 1943-54, making four All-Star teams and having a fine .298/.361/.455 season for the pennant-winning 1945 Cubs, in which he led the NL with 110 RBI and finished fourth in MVP voting, then went 6-for-28 (.214) in the World Series. On June 15, 1951 -- the trading deadline in those days -- he was sent to the Dodgers along with Johnny Schmitz, Wayne Terwilliger and Rube Walker for Bruce Edwards, Joe Hatten, Gene Hermanski and Eddie Miksis. Miksis played a decent 2B for the Cubs for a few seasons, though he didn't hit much; the others were pretty useless. Meanwhile, Pafko helped lead the Dodgers to a pennant in 1952 and the Braves to two NL titles in 1957 and 1958. If you have seen the film of Bobby Thomson's famous home run in the 1951 tiebreaking playoff series against the Dodgers, it's Pafko in left field looking forlornly at Thomson's ball heading into the seats.

Red Adams, RHP, born October 7, 1921: Adams spent several years in the Cubs' nascent farm system before pitching in eight games for the major-league team in May, June and July 1946; he posted an 8.25 ERA and was, understandably, shipped back to the Pacific Coast League. There, he spent 13 more seasons for teams in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Sacramento. All told, Adams threw over 3300 minor-league innings and won 193 minor-league games, after which he became a longtime scout and coach in the Dodgers organization; Tommy John credited him with helping him prolong his career. This is another example of the Cubs not knowing what they had; imagine him being able to help Cubs young pitchers in the 1960s and 1970s.

Alvin Dark, INF, born January 7, 1922: Dark was the starting shortstop for Giants pennant-winners in 1951 and 1954 and was another case of a good regular player coming to the Cubs far after he was any good. He spent two years as Cubs third baseman, 1958 and 1959, and became a major-league manager, for the Giants, in 1961, just one year after his retirement as a player. He was a longtime coach after his managing career; two of those years were as a Cubs coach (1965, 1977). He managed two pennant-winners, the 1962 Giants and 1974 Athletics; however, no mention of Dark as a manager should fail to point out one major part of his personality:

In 1962, San Francisco Giants manager Alvin Dark imposed a no-Spanish rule on a clubhouse with such Spanish-speaking starters as Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Jose Pagan and Felipe Alou. Dark was known as a virulent racist from his playing days, yet was put in charge of a team loaded with Latino stars. By denying these players the right to use the language in which they were most fluent, Dark alienated such team leaders---notably Cepeda and Alou---who were positioned to help push the team over the top.

When one examines the Giants failures in 1963 and 1964 after getting to the World Series in 1962, Dark’s racism is clearly to blame.

Harry Perkowski, LHP, born September 6, 1922: Perkowski had a couple of good years for the Reds in 1951 and 1952, and not-so-great years for them in 1953 and 1954. Naturally, as he turned 32, that sent the Cubs after him! And, it was in another bad trade, made just after the '54 season ended; he was acquired along with Jim Bolger and Ted Tappe for Johnny Klippstein and Jim Willis. None of the players in the deal was worth much going forward -- except for Klippstein, who hadn't done much as a part-time starter for the Cubs, but wound up having a long career as a reliever for several teams, including the 1965 AL champion Twins.

Grady Hatton, INF, born October 7, 1922: Here's yet another curious past-his-prime player. The Cubs had signed Hatton to manage their then-minor-league affiliate in San Antonio in 1958; he managed there in '58 and '59, switched to Houston when the affiliation changed in 1960 and was activated as a major-league player late that season more than a year after he had last played in the big leagues. He went 13-for-38 (.342), starting seven of the 28 games in which he played, and then went back to the coaching ranks -- as a member of the infamous College of Coaches. He never got a major-league assignment with the Cubs, though, and eventually wound up managing the Astros for three years from 1966-68, and then became a longtime assistant in Houston's front office.

Ralph Kiner, OF, born October 27, 1922: Kiner, who turns 90 later this month, was an outstanding home-run hitter with the Pirates for seven years from 1946-52, leading the league all seven seasons. So when the Cubs got him in mid-1953 in one of the typical huge deals of the time (along with Joe Garagiola, George Metkovich and Howie Pollet for Bob Addis, Toby Atwell, George Freese, Gene Hermanski, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward and $150,000), Cubs fans thought, "Great! We're getting one of the best sluggers in baseball!" Unfortunately, Kiner had begun to have back trouble, and after 1954 was shipped to the Indians, for whom he played one year and then retired at age 32. He later broadcast one season (1961) for the White Sox, and along with Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson, became part of the inaugural broadcast team for the expansion Mets. "Kiner's Korner" became one of Mets' fans favorite parts of their broadcasts and Kiner is still at it in 2012, 50 years after he began.

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