Irv Noren, who played for the Cubs in 1959 and 1960, passed away at his home in California November 15, aged 94, just two weeks short of what would have been his 95th birthday. He had been the oldest living former Cub at the time of his death and the 13th-oldest living former major leaguer.
Noren began his career with the Washington Senators in 1950 and was acquired by the Yankees in a six-player trade in 1952. He had his best years in New York, playing the outfield for three World Series teams (1952, 1953, 1955) and making the American League All-Star team in 1954.
The Yankees dealt him to the Kansas City Athletics in 1957 in a massive 13-player deal that eventually sent Clete Boyer to New York. From there he spent time with the Cardinals and was traded to the Cubs May 19, 1959 for somebody named Chick King, who had played a total of 15 games in a Cubs uniform.
This was the sort of deal the Cubs made often in those years, acquiring an older player (Noren was 34 at the time) who had been good several years earlier, hoping they could squeeze some good play out of him. Usually, this failed. This time, though, the Cubs actually got some value out of a deal like that. Noren hit .321/.384/.462 (50-for-156) in 65 games with six home runs for the Cubs in 1959, providing 2.1 bWAR, not that anyone knew what WAR was back then.
When Noren got off to a bad start in 1960, the Cubs released him. He played briefly for the Dodgers, then retired.
His SABR biography says he managed in the minors briefly and scouted before being out of baseball for a time in the late 1960s. Dick Williams hired him to be a coach for the Oakland A’s in 1971, so Noren got a pair of World Series rings in 1972 and 1973, but when Williams left, he and new Oakland manager Al Dark did not get along and Noren was fired mid-1974. He returned to the Cubs as a coach under Jim Marshall (who had been his Cubs teammate in 1959) in 1975, but left baseball after that.
The New York Times obit linked above has this interesting anecdote about Noren and his salary negotiations with the Yankees in the 1950s, something not atypical for many players in that era:
Two years after experiencing the thrill of becoming a Yankee, and in the wake of his All-Star season, Noren encountered the Yankee front office’s “bad cop, good cop” negotiating strategy.
As he told it, Bill DeWitt, the Yankees’ assistant general manager and formerly general manager of the usually woeful St. Louis Browns, grudgingly offered him a raise of $2,000 from his $19,000 salary (which would have given him the equivalent of about $200,000 today).
“I called him and said, ‘That’s no raise after leading the team in hitting,’” Noren recalled in Richard Lally’s oral history “Bombers” (2002). “I told him: ‘Billy, you’re not with the Browns in last place anymore, you’re with the Yankees. Act like it.’”
“Oh, did he hang up on me in a hurry,” Noren remembered. “Three days later, George Weiss called and asked what it would take to satisfy me. I told him I wanted an $8,000 raise, and he agreed. Just like that.”
Imagine a salary negotiation like that today.
Here is a brief interview with Noren recorded in 2017 in which he talks about working for the A’s as a coach:
With Noren’s passing, the oldest living former Cub is now Wayne Terwilliger, who was born June 27, 1925 and who played in 219 games for the North Siders from 1949-51. BCB’s Ashley MacLennan wrote more about Noren here last month.