2020 has been quite the year, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Among those we lost in the year that’s coming to a close were seven members of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Lou Brock, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Whitey Ford, Joe Morgan, and just a couple of days ago, Phil Niekro:
Master of the knuckleball and a great mentor, leader and friend, Hall of Famer and @braves legend Phil Niekro passed away overnight at the age of 81. https://t.co/aj7uScYnuy pic.twitter.com/F1GmX9Yb1n— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) December 27, 2020
So as 2020 comes to an end, I wanted to take note of the 10 men who played for or managed the Chicago Cubs who passed away this year, including Brock. This list is in order by the date of their passing.
January 1: Don Larsen
Larsen, of course, was best remembered for his World Series perfect game for the Yankees in 1956. By the time the Cubs signed him at age 37 in 1967, he was just about at the end of the line. I told the story of his three games in a Cubs uniform here last January, ending with this quote from Larsen:
I’ll pitch as long as my arm holds out. I would go on pitching in the minors even if I had all the money in the world. Baseball has been good to me and I’m staying with it as long as I can go.
Larsen did, in fact, stick around one more year in the minors, pitching in the Cubs farm system in 1968 before hanging it up. He passed away last New Year’s Day, aged 90.
February 7: Angel Echevarria
Echevarria, who played college baseball at Rutgers, played for the Rockies and Brewers from 1996-2001. The Cubs signed him as a free agent in December 2001 and he played in 50 games for the 2002 Cubs, hitting .306/.351/.469 (30-for-98) with three home runs.
This article details his life. He passed away far too young, aged just 48.
February 10: Dick Scott
The Cubs acquired Scott, then 30, from the Dodgers for Cuno Barragan and Jim Brewer. This was a spectacularly bad deal, as Brewer went on to pitch 13 more seasons and in three World Series for the Dodgers, piling up 126 saves and compiling 15.7 bWAR.
Scott, meanwhile, appeared in three games for the 1964 Cubs, posting a 12.46 ERA.
After baseball, per this obituary, Scott moved to Georgia, where he had met his future wife while playing minor-league ball in Atlanta in 1960. He was 86 when he passed away in February.
April 12: Glenn Beckert
Beckert was a key part of those great late 1960s Cubs teams that never won anything. He was a four-time All-Star who had 1,473 hits in an 11-year career. Here is the article I wrote on his passing last April at age 79 and BCB’s Tim Huwe added this remembrance.
Here’s Beckert making the play on the final out of Ken Holtzman’s first no-hitter, August 19, 1969:
April 12: Jim Frey
Frey managed the first Cubs postseason team since 1945, the 1984 N.L. East champions. Let go as manager in the middle of 1986, he later served as a Cubs radio analyst and briefly as the team’s general manager. Previously he had managed the Kansas City Royals to the American League pennant in 1980. Here is the article I wrote on Frey’s passing last April at age 88.
July 16: Tony Taylor
Originally signed by the Giants, Taylor was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Cubs in December 1957.
This would have been a great signing in Cubs history, except after Taylor played two years for the Cubs, they traded him and Cal Neeman to the Phillies for Ed Bouchee and Don Cardwell.
Cardwell pitched well enough for the Cubs, for a time, but they’d have been better off keeping Taylor, who played 16 more years in the big leagues for the Phillies and Tigers, retiring after 1976 with 2,007 career hits. Taylor became a beloved figure among Phillies fans.
He coached and managed in the minor leagues for two decades in the Phillies, Giants and Marlins organizations after his playing career. He passed away July 16 at age 84.
September 6: Lou Brock
The Hall of Famer was, of course, better known for his long career with the Cardinals after one of the worst trades in MLB history sent him from the Cubs to St. Louis in June 1964. Here is the article I wrote on his passing at age 81.
September 26: Jay Johnstone
Johnstone played 20 years in the big leagues, mostly as a backup outfielder/first baseman. His Cubs years were 1982-84, but he was released in September 1984, so he didn’t play for the team in the NLCS that year.
Here’s my remembrance of Johnstone from September, including a personal story. Johnstone was 74 when he passed away.
October 1: Lou Johnson
Johnson seemed to be a promising young outfielder when the Cubs acquired him from the Pirates in 1956. He played a few games for the big-league Cubs in 1960, then was traded to the Angels. Eventually Johnson wound up with the Dodgers, where he hit .267/.319/.407 from 1965-67 with 40 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 387 games. He hit a home run in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series that helped galvanize the Dodgers to their Series win:
The Cubs reacquired him prior to the 1968 season for Paul Popovich and Jim Williams, but he played in just 62 games for the team before they dealt him away again, this time to the Indians for Willie Smith.
This article gives more details of Johnson’s life. He passed away just nine days after his 86th birthday.
November 14: Lindy McDaniel
The righthander pitched for the Cubs for three seasons, 1963-65, and then was sent to the Giants in one of the better trades in franchise history, the deal that brought Randy Hundley and Bill Hands to Chicago. McDaniel also pitched for the Cardinals, Yankees and Royals in a 21-year career. Here is the article I wrote on his passing last month at age 84.
While you might not have seen any of these men play or manage, they were all part of the rich history of the Chicago Cubs, some for a very short time, others longer. They all deserve to be remembered.