As has become an annual tradition, I wanted to take a moment before turning the calendar to 2015 to remember the members of Wisconsin's baseball history that we've lost over the last year. Before we start the list, however, we have something to be thankful for.
I started doing the prep work for this post a couple of weeks ago, and noticed something I shared on Twitter:
According to @baseball_ref , 93 retired MLB players died in 2013. Only 62 have died this year. Probably some reporting lag, but interesting.— Kyle Lobner (@BrewFrostyMug) December 18, 2014
It's been almost two weeks since I wrote that, but the list has not grown. B-Ref still shows just 62 players that passed away in 2014, down a third since a year ago. Locally we have even more to celebrate: There's not a single former Milwaukee Brewer on the list. Last year we mourned the passing of five former Brewers, including George Scott and Mike Hegan, and 12 players overall. This year we have just four.
Frank Torre, age 82, passed away on September 13
Frank Torre is perhaps best remembered for being the older brother of longtime MLB player and manager Joe Torre, but also had a pretty solid MLB career in his own right. He debuted in the majors as a member of the Milwaukee Braves in 1956 and played first base there for five seasons, including World Series appearances in 1957 and 1958. Two of his three hits in the 1957 series were home runs, and he drove in a run during the 5-0 win over the Yankees in Game Seven, the win that clinched Milwaukee's only World Series championship.
Jack Dittmer, age 86, passed away on May 31
Jack Dittmer made his major league debut as a member of the 1952 Boston Braves and followed the team to Milwaukee, where he played a career-high 138 games as a second baseman in 1953. All told Dittmer spent five of his six MLB seasons with the Braves (including four seasons in Milwaukee) and hit .232 with a .280 on-base percentage and .334 slugging in 379 appearances.
Roberto Vargas, age 84, passed away on May 27
A native of Santurce, Puerto Rico (also the hometown of Juan Nieves), all 25 of Vargas' MLB relief appearances came as a member of the 1955 Milwaukee Braves. The Brewers had selected Vargas from the Indians in the 1954 Rule 5 draft but he struggled with the transition to the majors, posting an 8.76 ERA over 24.2 innings of work. Vargas remained in the organization and returned to the minors in 1956, but never earned another call to the big leagues.
Red Wilson, age 85, passed away on August 8
Red Wilson was a Milwaukee native, an alum of UW-Madison and caught ten seasons in the majors between 1951-60 as a member of three franchises, including seven years with the Tigers. Wilson appeared in more than 78 games just once in his career but held his own at the plate, hitting .258 with a .338 on-base percentage and .355 slugging as a part-time playing catcher.
Wilson was one of just thirty UW-Madison alums to play in the majors. Just eleven of them are still alive, according to Baseball Reference.