E.R. “Salty” Saltwell worked for the Chicago Cubs for more than three decades in various capacities, mostly as business manager, traveling secretary and director of ballpark operations.
He’s probably most remembered by longtime Cubs fans as the general manager for one season, 1976, when he replaced the retiring John Holland. As GM, Saltwell made one major trade that didn’t work out well for the Cubs when he sent Andre Thornton to the Montreal Expos for Steve Renko and Larry Biittner on May 17, 1976. Thornton went on to have several good years in Cleveland. After the ‘76 season Saltwell was sent back to the business side of the Cubs operation and Bob Kennedy succeeded him as general manager.
Saltwell passed away in his suburban Chicago home Sunday, about three weeks after his 96th birthday. He was born April 14, 1924 in Sioux City, Iowa and began his baseball career working for his hometown Sioux City Soos in 1947. He became president of the Western League in 1954, ran the Des Moines Bruins (a Cubs affiliate) in 1955 and 1956 and was hired as the Cubs’ business manager in 1958. He was the last significant living management figure from the Cubs’ Wrigley ownership era, which ended with the sale of the team to Tribune Company in 1981. The Cubs honored him on the field as part of the team’s 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field celebration in July 2014:
His daughter Susan was kind enough to share these remembrances of her dad with me:
My heart is heavy but rich in memories of my wonderful dad Salty who passed away early [Sunday] at home. He lived a wonderful life, physically healthy at 96, and he still had his classic Salty wit until the end. Anyone who met my dad loved him. He had fans everywhere. Never having played sports, Salty spent his entire career in professional baseball. First with the Sioux City Soos before joining the Cubs until he retired. He loved me, my mom and sister more than anything. His “girls,” having matching clothes made for us when we were little. He gave me my nickname “Guncho” when I was a kid. It became a term of endearment throughout my life.
The best gift he gave me was the time I have been able to spend with him since my mom passed. I saw him several times a week and we chatted about my work, my kids and he told stories about the Cubs and working for Bill and P.K. Wrigley. He had been in the hospital with pneumonia but I brought him home last Wednesday night and spent a big part of the next three days with him. I saw him on Saturday night, the last thing I said to him was that I loved him and gave him a big hug. And he told me he loved me too. While I miss him terribly, I feel blessed to have had those final moments with him. A life well lived for both of us.
It gives me immense joy to know he has reunited with his beloved Betty, he was so in love with her. So, if you ever met my dad or not, raise a beer for him to toast an extraordinary life. Old Style preferred. Tell him Guncho sent it.
Raise a glass, indeed, for that long life well lived. Sincere condolences to Salty Saltwell’s family and friends.