Phil Cavarretta, who came directly from the campus of Lane Technical High School less than two miles from Wrigley Field to the major leagues, has died at the age of 94.
Cavarretta was a three-time All-Star and the National League MVP in 1945, when his .355 batting average led the National League and helped the Cubs to their last pennant. He had 1927 hits for the Cubs and hit .317 in three World Series for them; he wound up finishing his career with the crosstown White Sox after Phil Wrigley fired him as Cubs manager just before the 1954 season began. Why? Because Cavarretta was honest with Wrigley when the Cubs owner asked him how the Cubs would do in '54 and Cavarretta told him "we're a second division club" ("second division" being an old-style way of saying the team would finish in the lower half of the standings in the pre-divisional play era).
Cavarretta was the last living player who had played against Babe Ruth; he played against him in his first full year, 1935, when Ruth was finishing his career with the Boston Braves. He managed the Cubs for part of 1951 and all of 1952 and 1953, finishing at .500 in 1952 -- the only non-losing season the Cubs had from 1947 through 1962.
His firing before 1954 scotched plans to retire his No. 44 uniform -- those plans had been in place and there was supposed to be a ceremony in early April, but after he was fired, the ceremony was scrapped and no number was retired by the Cubs until after the Wrigleys sold the team to Tribune Co. In my opinion, his number ought to be retired.
Condolences to Phil's family; he resided for the last years of his life in suburban Atlanta, near his son and several grandchildren.