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2015 Spring-Training Countdown, Day 18: Glenn Beckert

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We should remember these men while they're still here.

Glenn Beckert with Leo Durocher and Ron Santo in 1971
Glenn Beckert with Leo Durocher and Ron Santo in 1971
Diamond Images/Getty Images

Seeing many of my childhood heroes at Ernie Banks' memorial service reminded me that they are all aging, and some of them, like Ernie and Ron, are gone now.

That's why we should honor and celebrate those remaining, particularly Hall of Famers like Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins, but also the other solid players on those memorable late-1960s teams like second baseman Glenn Beckert.

You might have seen Beckert during the service; he was one of the honorary pallbearers, walking at the front of Ernie's casket, with a cane. Beckert has had some serious health issues in recent years so it was good to see him up and around.

After the untimely death of Ken Hubbs in 1964, the Cubs were looking for someone to step up and take over at second base and Beckert, who had been acquired from the Red Sox in 1962, was installed at the position in 1965 at age 24 -- without any previous major-league experience. If you look at his offensive numbers from a 2015 standpoint, they don't look all that good. In nine years in a Cubs uniform he hit .283/.318/.348, for an OPS+ of 83. But in those days, middle infielders weren't expected to hit well. It was enough for most teams if they could field their positions, and that's something Beckert did well. He won only one Gold Glove (1968) but was a four-time All-Star and in 1968, a low-offense season, posted 5.6 bWAR.

In 1971 -- the year when the photo at the top of this post was taken -- Beckert had a career year, hitting .342 and finishing second in the batting-average race to Joe Torre, who was N.L. MVP that year. Beckert finished 11th in MVP voting.

You could consider him kind of the Darwin Barney of his time, a very good fielder. He hit better than Barney, even by the standards of the time, and solidified the Cubs' infield for nearly a decade. When he was traded in the "Back Up The Truck" deals post-1973 he brought value back to the Cubs in Jerry Morales.

Beckert will turn 75 this year. We should all celebrate these baseball heroes while they're still with us.