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Remembering men the baseball world lost in 2018

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Some memories of those who passed away this year.

Former Cubs infielder Luis Valbuena died in 2018
Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

It’s the end of 2018 and thus time to reflect on things that happened during the year.

Many well-known (and some not so well-known) baseball players died during 2018. Here are some memories of some players who had Cubs connections, and others who were better-known for playing for other teams.

Luis Valbuena

The popular Cubs infielder died in an auto accident in his native Venezuela just a few weeks ago.

When he was a Cub he was known for his bat flips. Here’s one:

Oscar Gamble

Gamble debuted with the Cubs at age 19, then was traded away, having his best years with the Indians, Yankees and White Sox. He died of cancer last January 31 at age 68. Here’s a home run he hit for the Yankees in the postseason in 1981:

Bill Johnson

Johnson was an undrafted free agent signed by Dallas Green’s Phillies; Green acquired him along with Dick Ruthven in exchange for Willie Hernandez in 1983. Johnson pitched in 14 games for the Cubs in 1983 and 1984 and passed away far too young, at age 57 on January 20.

Dave Nelson

Nelson played for the Indians, Senators and Rangers in a 10-year playing career from 1968-77. He was briefly a Cubs radio broadcaster from 1988-89 and later became a beloved figure in Milwaukee as a coach and broadcaster for the Brewers. He passed away April 23, aged 73.

Tony Cloninger

Cloninger pitched 12 major-league seasons, mostly for the Braves and Reds, and became famous when he hit two grand slams in a game against the Giants July 3, 1966, the only pitcher ever to do so. He died July 24, aged 77.

Frank Quilici

The Chicago native played for and managed the Twins in the 1960s and 1970s. Here’s some video of him batting in the 1965 World Series;

Quilici passed away in Minnesota May 24, aged 79.

Billy Connors

Connors pitched briefly for the Cubs in 1966, then spent 17 years as a pitching coach, including eight years with the Cubs (1982–86; 1991–93). He died June 17, aged 76.

Frank Ernaga

Ernaga, whose name is also the user name of a poster here at BCB, became one of eight Cubs to homer in his first major-league at-bat May 24, 1957 against the Braves at Wrigley Field — off future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, no less. Ernaga, though, would hit only one more home run in a Cubs career that spanned just 29 games. He died April 30, aged 87.

Red Schoendienst

If Stan Musial was the Ernie Banks of the Cardinals, Schoendienst was the Ron Santo, with a distinguished playing career in St. Louis (with brief detours to the Giants and Braves), and then 14 years as Cardinals manager, including two pennants and a World Series title in 1967 and 1968, respectively. Here’s a retrospective of Schoendienst’s career from the Hall of Fame:

Schoendienst died June 6, aged 95.

Willie McCovey

The Hall of Famer played most of his career with the Giants (with a couple of years in San Diego) and became a beloved icon in San Francisco, even more so than Willie Mays, because San Franciscans viewed McCovey as their own, as opposed to Mays, who first became famous in New York.

At the time of his retirement, McCovey’s 521 home runs ranked tied for seventh all-time with Ted Williams, and even today it’s still tied for 20th with Williams and Frank Thomas.

Here’s a home run he hit in Game 2 of the 1962 World Series:

McCovey died October 31 at age 80.

Here are all the 92 former MLB players who passed away in 2018.