Vida Blue, RIP: “You deserve it. But I ain’t gonna give it to you.”

I’m talkin’ baseball—like Reggie, Quisenberry
Talkin’ baseball—Carew and Gaylord Perry
Seaver, Garvey, Schmidt, and Vida Blue
If Cooperstown is calling, it’s no fluke—
they’ll be with Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

Terry Cashman, “Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Talkin’ Baseball),” 1981.

Vida Blue

A Time cover star one season, Vida Blue became a poster child for Charlie Finley’s caprice and cruelty the next.

Out of 24 major league rookies to throw no-hitters, Vida Blue had the greatest sophomore season of the group—including the only Hall of Famer among them, Christy Mathewson. That sophomore season made him a national phenomenon, a Time cover star, a Cy Young Award winner, the American League’s Most Valuable Player . . . and a particular victim of then-Athletics owner Charlie Finley’s notorious caprice.

Blue died at 73 Sunday. He’d never again equal that surrealistic 1971, after his owner left him feeling worthless during offseason contract talks that took a turn called nasty even by Finley’s contradictory standards. He’d be a good pitcher who never again got anywhere near the greatness his 1971 promised.

On 21 September 1970, Blue struck nine Twins out (including Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew twice), walked one, and landed a 6-0 gem supported by a run-scoring double play in the first and a five-run eighth, finished when A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris—in the middle of a very unlikely 22-homer season (he averaged five per 162 games lifetime)—yanked a three-run bomb with two out off the Twins’ Jim Perry.

Slightly over a year later, Blue finished that Time season credited with his 24th win, before what looked like a certain American League Championship Series Game One triumph turned into disaster: leading the Orioles 3-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, Blue and the A’s were torn for four runs, two scored by Hall of Famers Frank and Brooks Robinson, en route a 5-3 loss that led to being swept out in three.

Still, Blue sat atop baseball’s mountain. No Show sophomore sat higher. As Time put it with a corner banner on his cover issue, the 21-year-old lefthander put “new zip in the old game.” He’d posted a staggering 1.82 earned run average, a 0.95 walks/hits per inning pitched rate, and a 2.20 fielding-independent pitching rate. On the mound he looked taller than his six feet with his knee-up, arm-whip delivery. And, with a fastball considered the hardest that didn’t belong to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

As would be said of another ill-fated child prodigy, Dwight Gooden, over a decade later, Blue was great before he’d even had much chance just to be good. He stood at 22 as the youngest man ever to win an MVP and the youngest (until Gooden over a decade later) to win a Cy Young Award. Analysts determined that one out of every twelve tickets to American League games were sold for his starts.

Even President Richard Nixon got into the act, when learning Blue’s 1971 salary ($14,500) was barely above rhe rookie minimum. Nixon called Blue “the most underpaid player in baseball.”

Then it came time to talk contract for 1972, in the days before Curt Flood lost his reserve clause challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court and well before Andy Messersmith pitched contract-less and prevailed to finish what Flood started. No player that offseason would better evoke the once-fabled malaprop of radio comedy legend Jane Ace: “You’ve got to take the bitter with the better.”

Audaciously, Blue engaged an agent and asked for a $100,000 salary for 1972. It happened, according to Jason Turbow’s Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, when Blue’s veteran teammate Tommy Davis—seeing him drowning in endorsement offers—introduced him to a California attorney named Bob Gerst, who agreed to represent Blue for a flat fee instead of percentages per.

You can only imagine how little Finley loved that idea. The same Finley who’d crowed during Blue’s sensational season, “Don’t you worry about him making money. He is going to make money. He is going to get more than money. He is going to get great things from this game. I’m going to see that he gets great things. I’m going to protect him.”

Come 8 January 1972, Finley proved just how much he’d protect Blue. Aghast as it was that Blue had Gerst in tow, Finley simply couldn’t resist talking down to the earnest lefthander.

Well, I know you won twenty-four games. I know you led the league in earned-run average. I know you had three hundred strikeouts. [Actually, 301, but let’s not get technical.—JK.] I know you made the All-Star team. I know you were the youngest to win the Cy Young Award and the MVP. I know all that. And if I was you, I would ask for the same thing. And you deserve it. But I ain’t gonna give it to you.

“He said it with a smirk,” Blue would say later, “and, man, it made me want to slide under the table.” This was the kid who’d gone on a USO tour of Vietnam with comedy legend Bob Hope and, when Hope asked how come he didn’t get more money from Finley, cracked, “Well, Mr. Finley claimed I was only using one arm.” Who knows how much of a strand of truth that crack contained?

The talks became contentious enough that Finley took them public while Gerst helped swing a profitable non-baseball job for Blue to prove he wasn’t kidding around. A’s players were torn between believing Blue should get every dollar he thought he was worth and wishing he’d sign for Finley’s proffered $50,000 just to be among them.

Gene Tenace, Vida Blue

Vida Blue (right) with catcher/first baseman Gene Tenace, at a 40th anniversary celebration of Oakland’s first of three straight World Series championships.

Blue even announced he would leave baseball for that job with a successful bathroom fixtures manufacturer. (Wags suggested Blue was going down the toilet.) Finley’s pressures included making Davis—maybe the team’s most valuable bench player in 1971—a scapegoat for introducing Blue to Gerst, and rather nastily. He ordered a very unwilling manager Dick Williams to wait until the A’s arrived at the ballpark, for a spring exhibition game three hours from home, before telling Davis he was released—and leaving Davis to find his own way home. (Turbow recorded that the A’s traveling seceretary loaned Davis his car.)

Blue got some relief from baseball’s first-ever players strike, over a 17 percent pension hike, the players finally agreeing to settle for a little over half that. Finley kept the pressure up, acquiring once-glittering but shoulder-ruined righthander Denny McLain and trading popular outfielder Rick Monday to the Cubs for pitcher Ken Holtzman. Finally, commissioner Bowie Kuhn interceded.

“It wasn’t that Finley’s $50,000 offer was outrageous, the Commissioner said,” Turbow wrote, “but that ‘Finley had a way of making it seem so’.” Blue finally came away with a $63,000 1972 salary. “He treated me like a damn coloured boy,” the lefthander told two California newspapermen when the deal was done. “Charlie Finley has soured my stomach for baseball. Tonight isn’t tell it like it is. Tonight is tell it like I feel.”

After being part of three straight A’s World Series titles, after being one of the players whose sales post-Messersmith Finley tried but Kuhn foolishly blocked*, and after a trade to the Giants that saw him become the first pitcher to start All-Star Games for each league, Blue would move on to the Royals—and become one of five teammates sent to the slammer on drug charges after the 1983 season.

Blue struggled with cocaine addiction until he retired before the 1987 season. He became a pre- and postgame television analyst for Giants games; he became known for philanthropy in the Bay Area and as a role model for children he worked with through a Giants’ outreach program. His marriage (the couple walked under a an arc of bats held by Giants players as they walked to the Candlestick Park mound) ended in divorce; he may have beaten cocaine but struggled further with drinking.

Maybe the Finley contract contretemps roots it. He became “bitter and withdrawn,” noted John Helyar in The Lords of the Realm, “eventually developing a drug problem that landed him in court.” Except that, somehow, away from the field, Blue remained likeable and magnetic.

“Vida’s such a wonderful guy,” said Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda to the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea in 2005, after Blue was dinged for driving under the influence. He’s been through a lot, but he likes to keep things inside. I went through some tough times myself, and sometimes you’ve got to open up and accept help from your friends.”

And, your children. Blue had a son and two daughters; the son, Derrick, told Shea, He’s got great people skills, and I think that’s been a downfall. People have let him get away with more. People come to me and say, ‘He’s a great guy. He took us out drinking and partying.’ I cringe. That’s what’s wrong with being professional athletes, my dad included.”

A one-time A’s teammate, ill-fated pitcher Mike Norris—one of the early 1980s “Five Aces” said to be ruined by temperamental manager Billy Martin’s callousness toward pitchers and their workloads and by his own issues with drugs—wondered to Shea just how much substance abuse ruined Blue when Finley hadn’t.

I wanted to be the best black pitcher in the history of baseball, the first to win thirty games, but I screwed it up. So you kick yourself in the ass about it. Maybe I could’ve been in the Hall of Fame. It sounds cocky, but winning twenty games wasn’t hard for me. [Substance abuse] led to my arm injury. Being addicted, you’re not going to eat or sleep. You can’t play this game without eating or sleeping. Vida had the best fastball I’ve ever seen, and that includes [Hall of Famer] Nolan Ryan or anyone else. It was inevitable he’d go to the Hall of Fame. I believe . . . Finley turned him off to baseball. If he left him alone, there’s no telling what would have happened to this beautiful person.

Most recently, Blue took part in an A’s celebration marking the half-centenary of their 1973 World Series winners. Who knows what went through Blue’s mind and heart, riding in a classic, antique Thunderbird convertible, around a ballpark left gone to seed, hosting an A’s team left in ruins by an owner who might, maybe, make Finley resemble a kindly grandfather by comparison?

“I know he hung on for that last anniversary celebration like the absolute gamer he was,” tweeted Dallas Braden, another ill-fated A’s pitcher, whose Mother’s Day perfect game was the highlight of a career rendered brief by a shredded shoulder, and who’s since been an A’s game analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area. “Rest easy, Mr. Blue.”

We wish Blue’s family comfort in knowing the man will be remembered for what he was, for what his boss did to him, and for how he tried every time his addiction demons flattened him to flatten them right back. And we wish Blue nothing less than a deserved rest in the Elysian Fields, with the Lord’s embrace, forgiveness, and love.


* In The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James probably said it best about Bowie Kuhn’s quash of the notorious Charlie Finley fire sale bid of 1976:

[It] was an ignorant, bone-headed, destructive policy which had no foundation in anything except that Kuhn hated Charlie Finley and saw that he could drive Finley out of the game by denying him the right to sell his [star] players.

What Kuhn should have done, if he had been thinking about the best interests of the game, is adopt the Landis policy: rule that players could be sold for whatever they would bring, but 30% of the money had to go to the players. Had he done that, the effect would have been to allow the rich teams to acquire more of the best players, as they do now. But this policy would have allowed the rich teams to strengthen themselves without inflating the salary structure, and would have allowed the weaker teams, the Montreal-type teams, to remain financially competitive by profiting from developing young players.

“The Landis policy” refers to longtime commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’s suggestion—un-acted upon, of course—after Pacific Coast League star Earl Averill refused to report to the Cleveland Indians unless he got a percentage of the sale price the Indians paid the San Francisco Seals to buy him. It may have been the single smartest idea Landis ever had, and it fell on the proverbial deaf ears.

The players on Finley’s fire-sale market were Blue, Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, and outfielder Joe Rudi.

Sal Bando, RIP: One grave mistake

Sal Bando

Sal Bando, a solid third baseman and peacemaker/keeper for the Swinging’ A’s, but the eventual American League player representative helping change the player pension plan in 1980 with a grave error.

“Sal Bando,” said Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson about the third baseman for the 1970s Athletics, “was the godfather. Capo di capo, boss of all bosses on the Oakland A’s. We all had our roles, we all contributed, but Sal was the leader and everyone knew it.” In more ways than one.

When then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn decided to put the brakes on A’s manager Dick Williams’s seemingly endless mound conferences in a World Series, Williams chose Bando as his end-run around Kuhn’s edict. This enabled Bando to visit Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter as often as he wanted or needed to settle Hunter down.

“Take him away,” said the Mustache Gang’s 1973 traveling secretary Jim Bank of Bando, who died of cancer Friday at 78, “and that team was nothing.”

That team was also saved a few moments when mere testiness might have turned grave. The early-to-mid-1970s A’s were known as the Swinging’ As, partially for beating everyone else on the field and partially for swinging on each other almost at will, or the drop of a single brickbat. Bando himself had to thwart a few such swings including one that involved more than a flying fist.

After the A’s beat the upstart Mets in the 1973 World Series—and it took seven games to do it—shortstop Bert Campaneris, fuming over Jackson being named the Series MVP despite Campaneris having an arguable better Series, grabbed a table knife during the team’s closed victory dinner and headed for Jackson.

Bando headed Campaneris off at the pass. After enough Series hoopla, including the unconscionable bid by owner Charlie Finley to scapegoat hapless second baseman Mike Andrews over a pair of errors in the Game Two twelfth, the last thing Bando needed was one teammate trying to shish kebab another.

“Because no media was there to document it,” wrote Jason Turbow in Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, “the incident was quickly lost amidst the annals of team drama. What really could be said? This, apparently, was how the A’s relaxed.“

“[T]hey didn’t have many rules,” wrote the late Jim Bouton in I Managed Good But, Boy, Did They Play Bad. “Oh, maybe they weren’t allowed to punch each other in public. No punching a teammate, I suppose, in a nightclub. Fighting only allowed in the clubhouse. No screaming at each other when the wives are around. And don’t embarrass the manager to more than two wire services during any homestand.” (Ancient evenings, of course. Today, Bouton would write, “Don’t embarrass the manager to more than two social media sites.”)

A rock-solid third baseman who was too often underrated for his sterling defense (he retired with 8.5 defensive wins above replacement-level among his 61.5 total WAR, and with +35 defensive runs above his league average), Bando couldn’t resist when manager Dick Williams made good on his threat to step down over Finley’s abuses after the ’73 Series and Alvin Dark—a former A’s manager canned after he refused to go along with ginning up an incident and fine against pitcher Lew Krausse—was hired to succeed him.

“When you have a championship club, you don’t make many changes,” Bando told a reporter after Dark’s formal reintroduction. “I hope he doesn’t have too many strict rules, because we haven’t had many the past two years and we don.” As Bouton went on to continue, “[It] doesn’t mean the A’s won the championship just because they had long hair, or their manager had long hair, or their manager was permissive and let them do things their own way.”

That was maybe ten or fifteen percent of the reason. The other 85 percent was because they had a lot of good baseball players. Williams could have tried his long hair, his mustache, and his lack of rules with the Cleveland Indians, for instance, and he would have gotten a lot of long-haired .220 hitters. In fact, there would have been a lot of people blaming his permissive ways for why the Indians didn’t do so good.

Bando, Willliams would remember in his own memoir, No More Mr. Nice Guy, was “the only player I ever socialised with. I’d invite him to my hotel suite after games or during an offday, and we’d just talk baseball. The rest of the [A’s] saw this and figured I must be all right.” Small wonder they didn’t exactly plan a celebration when the fed-up-with-Finley Williams wanted out.

Bando also criticised Finley unapolgetically for his notorious meddling in their off-field lives and for his weaknesses in delivering television contracts to broadcast the team on their own home turf. “In another town, someplace back East,” Bando told The Sporting News in May 1973, “we might be heroes. Here we’re not even something special.”

The Messersmith ruling ended the reserve era near 1975’s end. Bando was one of seven A’s refusing to sign 1976 contracts, electing to play their lawful options out to become free agents at the end of that season. When Finley’s subsequent bid to fire-sale Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers plus pitcher Vida Blue and outfielder Joe Rudi was blocked by Kuhn, and Finley ordered manager Chuck Tanner not to play the three, Bando intervened, threatening a team strike until Finley caved.

The third baseman signed as a free agent with the Brewers, then still in the American League. A player-coach in due course, he finished his playing career in Milwaukee as the team’s and then the American League’s player representative. Which is where Bando made perhaps his worst mistake, even ahead of eventually letting Hall of Famer Paul Molitor escape as a free agent in 1991 when Bando was the Brewers’ general manager.

When the Major League Baseball Players Association joined with the owners to revamp the player pension plan in 1980, the result was 43 days major league service time to qualify for a pension and one day’s major league service time to qualify for health benefits. But it excluded players with major league careers shy of the previous four-year vesting requirement even if they had 43 days or more major league time.

Their redress since has been a 2011 deal between then-MLBPA director Michael Weiner and then-commissioner Bud Selig, giving them $625 per quartet for every 43 days’ worth of MLB time, up to four years’ worth. And, a fifteen percent hike in that stipend as a result of last winter’s lockout settlement. The kickers: It’s still not a full pension, and the players can’t pass the money to their families upon their deaths.

Today, there are 514 pre-1980, short-career players without full baseball pensions. The most recent such affected player to pass was Bill Davis, a first baseman/pinch hitter who played in part of two 1960s seasons with the Indians and one with the expansion Padres.

Bando and his National League player rep counterpart, Montreal Expos pitcher Steve Rogers, voted in favour of the 1980 change and the exclusion. Various surviving affected players even now suspect the reasons included perceptions that they were mere September callups. But a majority of the affected players actually made teams out of spring training, or came up to play in the Show in months prior to September in various seasons.

The solid third baseman who didn’t suffer Charlie Finley’s act gladly suffered a momentary lapse of reason that left several hundred players with short careers but long vision in supporting their union on the undeserved short end of a big economic stick.

A man smart with his own money during his playing days, working off-seasons in banking before the free agency era, then creating a successful investment firm after his playing days ended, should have been smart enough to know better.

Lew Krausse, RIP: Accidental co-pioneer

Lew Krausse, warming up on the sideline at Yankee Stadium when he was young and an Athletic.

Being suspended and fined by Charlie Finley over a nebulous accusation put righthanded pitcher Lew Krausse into a very unlikely position. Inadvertently, he helped baseball players still bound by abuse of the old reserve clause see what could be had if they were allowed to negotiate on a fair, open market for their services.

The first six-figure bonus signing in Athletics history, Krausse died at 77 two days after Valentine’s Day. Finley’s foolishness involving a notorious 18 August 1967 team flight provoked outfielder Ken (Hawk) Harrelson’s release, a public remark from Harrelson that made him persona further non grata with the A’s, and into unexpected and profitable free agency.

Aboard a 3 August flight from Boston to Kansas City, Harrelson and pitcher Jack Aker sat near the rear of the aircraft, knocking back drinks while Harrelson tried getting Aker to relax over the reliever’s frustration over a spell of bad pitching. How that translated to trouble was anybody’s guess, because when the A’s flew from Kansas City to Washington on 18 August, Finley ordered the flight crew not to serve drinks to his players.

That flight landed with the players learning Krausse was singled out, suspended, and fined $500 for . . . who the hell knew exactly what? “Conduct unbecoming a major league player,” Finley’s public statement said. A’s manager Alvin Dark apparently talked to several players and concluded that Krausse did nothing more than play soft in-flight pranks on broadcaster Monte Moore. If there’s one behaviour that’s never been unbecoming of major leaguers, it’s been practical joking.

The problem was that Moore, reportedly, decided to lose his sense of humour about it and to lie about it. He told Finley a very different story, one involving Krausse addressing a pregnant woman aboard the same flight in “deplorable language.” That accusation had the same credibility as a seven-dollar bill.

Dark refused to deliver Finley’s suspension order to Krausse. Finley promptly demanded a meeting with Dark at the team hotel, after the A’s landed in Washington for a set with the Senators. The meeting lasted as long as some doubleheaders did. During the meeting, Finley fired Dark, un-fired him, then fired him again—after the manager was handed a players’ statement having his back and zinging Finley both for the Krausse incident and, among other things, for sending spies out to follow them off the field.

Harrelson was one of the more vocal A’s having Krausse’s back. He even called Finley a menace to baseball while he was at it. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball Players Association director Marvin Miller filed a formal complaint with the National Labour Relations Board after Finley, apparently, tried coercing his players into dropping their support for Krausse. The capricious owner also withdrew Krausse’s suspension but refused to budge on the $500 fine.

That in turn prompted Krausse and fellow A’s pitchers Aker and Jim Nash to demand trades. In due course, Aker would be left open to the expansion draft that made him an original Seattle Pilot, and Nash would get his wish after that 1969 season when he was traded to the Braves for veteran outfielder Felipe Alou. And Krausse would be traded to the Pilots in January 1970 . . . before their eleventh-hour move to Milwaukee to become the Brewers.

After his 25 August 1967 release, Harrelson found himself the unlikely subject of a bidding war on his unexpected open market. If Hall of Fame pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale showed players what could be done when they bargained together in spring 1966, the fun-loving Hawk was about to show them something Koufax and Drysdale couldn’t quite show.

According to Peter Golenbock’s Fenway, Harrelson refused to retract his public remarks, rejected Finley’s initial attempt to send him to the minors, challenged Finley to suspend him, yet said he didn’t want to be released for fear of being blackballed out of the game. Finley released Harrelson on 25 August, anyway. Baseball’s jaw dropped.

Finley had just dumped the hottest hitter on his team; in 61 games with Kansas City following a trade back to the team from Washington, Harrelson’s slash line was .305/.361/.471. “Now,” Golenbock wrote, “Harrelson was scared. He blinked back tears. Was he through?”

Not even close. His telephone rang just a short while after Finley released him. The White Sox’s general manager Eddie Short called to say that, four days later, after he cleared the irrevocable waivers list, the Hawk would be a free agent. He could sign any old place he pleased. How much would it take to bring him to Chicago? Harrelson, whose 1967 salary was $12,000, replied: $100,000.

Short didn’t faint. He said only that he’d get back to Harrelson. Then came calls from the Tigers and the Red Sox, and the Braves. The Tigers and the Red Sox didn’t make offers at first, despite Red Sox executive Heywood Sullivan once being a Harrelson teammate, but the Braves—whose then general manager Paul Richards just so happened to be one of Harrelson’s golf friends—offered him $112,000.

Lew Krausse, after throwing a ceremonial first pitch to mark the A’s fiftieth anniversary in Oakland.

“Harrelson called Sullivan,” Golenbock wrote, “and told him he had an offer from another club worth over a hundred thousand and was taking it. Once Sullivan learned the club was in the National League, he wished Harrelson luck. Both Detroit and Baltimore said they would give him more than the Braves, but Harrelson decided he’d have more fun with Richards. Money was important, but not that important.”

Enter Red Sox GM Dick O’Connell. The pennant-challenging Red Sox were desperate for outfield help after Tony Conigliaro’s tragic beaning the day after Finley tried suspending Krausse. Harrelson told O’Connell he’d committed to “another club” without naming the Braves, but O’Connell wouldn’t surrender without a fight. “You don’t understand, Kenny,” the GM said. “We’ve got to have you here. How much money would it take for you to play in Boston?”

Money may not have been that important, but Harrelson was no fool, either. His reply was $150,000. O’Connell simply said it’s a done deal. In an unexpected bidding war, the Hawk bagged himself a $138,000 pay hike.

He went to the Red Sox, where he didn’t hit often but made it count when he did hit with thirteen runs batted in down the stretch, and mostly let his outsize personality take the press pressures away from other players as the Red Sox nailed the 1967 pennant at the eleventh hour themselves. (The Hawk would have an outstanding 1968 in Boston and make himself a fan and player favourite alike.)

Seven years later, when Dodger pitcher Andy Messersmith finished what former Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood started, Hall of Fame catcher Ted Simmons said, “Curt Flood stood up for us. [Catfish] Hunter showed what was out there. Andy showed us the way.” Simmons forgot about what Harrelson reaped in the immediate aftermath of the bungled Krausse incident. Hunter may have shown the millions, but Harrelson showed six figures on an unexpected open market.

Krausse probably had no idea of the chain reaction he’d provoke on that fateful August 1967 flight.

You’d love to say that Krausse went on to great triumph himself, but it wasn’t to be. He had the talent–he won his first major league start with a three-hit shutout against the expansion Angels in 1961, days after receiving his $125,000 bonus; he eventually pitched the first shutout from any Brewers pitcher in July 1970. But he also had arm and elbow issues that may or may not have been ignored by the A’s.

In 1966, The Sporting News quoted then-A’s director of player development George Selkirk as quoting in turn a doctor who, in 1961, “said the boy had the arm of a man of 25 because Krausse had pitched so much as a boy. The doctor said he doubted Krausse could pitch over a period of years.”

The namesake son of a short-lived 1930s Philadelphia Athletics pitcher–who ended up signing his own son as an A’s scout–managed to eke out parts of twelve major league seasons between starting and the bullpen. When he was good, he often pitched through terrible run support. After doing assorted jobs during his off-seasons, he had a successful post-baseball career running a metals business.

He had just as successful a marriage to Susan Wickersham, whom he met when she was a flight attendant in 1969. In fact, Mrs. Krausse told the Kansas City Star something telling about the man: her husband not only went unforgotten by Kansas City fans, he received daily letters including baseball cards in the mail to autograph–and, when those requests included a few dollars, “Lew always returned the money.”

May the Lord have welcomed the inadvertent pioneer home to the Elysian Fields gently but warmly.