Gone to the Eternal Confines: 2008 Cub Obits
Update: Loyal TCR reader Jacos points out my glaring omission of Bobby Murcer from the obit list. I think I scooted right past his name on the list of 2008 baseball deaths because I will always think of him as a New York Yankee despite his time with the Cubs and Giants, just like I will always think of Billy Williams as a Cub, despite his time with the Athletics. For the record, Murcer was acquired in trade from San Francisco for Bill Madlock in 1977 then traded back to the Yankees in June of 1979. In his two and a half years with the Cubs, Murcer had a couple of okay seasons--including 27 HR and 89 RBI in '77.
In the year just past, eight more men with various ties to our beloved Cubs left this world without seeing a World Series championship find its way to the North Side.
R.I.P. to you all, gentlemen...
(Died 6/15/08 at age 71 in Prosperity, South Carolina)
A right-hander signed by the Cubs as an amateur in 1954, Buzhardt pitched for the team in September of 1958 and all of 1959. In his two seasons in Cubbie blue, Buzhardt went 7-5, bouncing between starting and relief roles. The highlight of his Cub career was in June of '59, when Buzhardt threw a complete game, one-hit shutout at the Phillies. In addition to pitching for the Cubs, Buzhardt played for the Phillies, White Sox, Orioles, and Astros, ending his career in 1968 with a record of 71-96.
Don Cardwell (Died 1/14/08 at age 72 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
Two days after being traded to the Cubs by the Phillies in 1960, Cardwell no-hit the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. If you haven't seen the grainy black & white footage from the WGN broadcast that day, you should.
Cardwell won a career-high 15 games for the Cubs in 1961. Following the '62 season, he was traded to the Cardinals, who, a month later, traded him to the Pirates. By 1967, Cardwell was a Met, and though he was bumped from the post-season rotation during the Mets' run to a World Championship in the God-forsaken '69 season, he was a big contributor during the team's stretch run, going 4-0 from mid-August through mid-September while yielding just five runs in 45 innings.
Don Eaddy (Died 7/9/08 at age 74 in Laconia, New Hampshire)
A multi-sport star in college, Eaddy was signed by the Cubs out of the University of Michigan in 1955, when college men weren't all that common in professional baseball, and college men who happened to be African-Americans were even less common on the Major League scene.
Eaddy's Cub career--and his time as a big leaguer--consisted of one season, 1959, when he appeared in 15 games, almost exclusively as a pinch-runner. In fact, he only had one at-bat and played one inning in the field for the Cubs, in the same game, on 8/21/59 against the Reds. Eaddy struck out in his one at-bat and made an error in the field, thus validating the Cubs' decision to use him almost exclusively as a pinch-runner.
Kevin Foster (Died 10/11/08 at age 39 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
Kevin Foster experienced both the honor of playing Major League baseball and the joy of doing it for the team he had lived and died with as a kid.
The former Evanston High School star was originally drafted in 1987 by the Expos as an infielder. He was converted to a pitcher in '91 and by '93, he was pitching in the Majors for Philadelphia. The Cubs acquired Foster from the Phillies in 1994, in exchange for Shawn Boskie.
In 1995, Foster's first full year in the bigs, he went 12-11. In 1997, he enjoyed the distinction (if that's the word for it) of earning the Cubs' first victory after the team had dropped its first 14 games of the season.
Arm injuries shortened Foster's career and he last pitched professionally for the Rangers, though only briefly, in 2001.
Foster, who died from renal cell carcinoma, seems to have been a first-class guy, as these remembrances by people who knew him attest. (Hard to know if the note from Jim Riggelman really was from Foster's former Cub manager, but I would like to think so.)
Geremi (aka Jeremy, Jeremi) Gonzalez (Died 5/25/08 at age 33 in Punta Palma, Zulia, Venezuela)
Even by baseball standards, Gonzalez was a young man when he was killed by a lightning strike while on a beach in his native Venezuela.
Gonzalez won 11 games for the Cubs as a rookie in 1997 and 7 more games in '98, before injuries kept him out of the Majors until 2003, when he reappeared as a starter for Lou Piniella's Tampa Bay Devil Rays. On June 3rd of that year, Gonzalez was pitching in Wrigley Field for the Rays against the Cubs, when Sammy Sosa's bat exploded and all of that unsightly cork was exposed.
Said Piniella of Gonzalez, who was known as "Jeremy" while a Cub and then began to adhere to the Spanish spelling of his name later in his career:
"He was a nice young man...a competitive kid, really good natured...I liked him a lot."
Jerome Holtzman (Died 7/25/08 at age 82 in Evanston)
You'll find a brief audio recap of Holtzman's more than 50-year career as a Chicago sportswriter and official MLB historian at the NPR Web site right here. Also Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald offered a personal reminiscence at the time of Holtzman's death.
Al Montreuil (Died 1/18/08 at age 64 in New Orleans)
Montreuil was signed as an amateur free agent by the Red Sox in 1963, was acquired by the Cubs organization prior to the 1969 season, and finally made his Major League debut late in 1972, when the Cubs needed a warm body to replace injured second baseman Glenn Beckert and the usual backup, veteran Paul Popovich, who was also hurt. (The Cubs were so desperate that before Montreuil got the call-up, Ron Santo was actually pressed into some duty at second base.) In 11 September at-bats for the Cubs, Montreuil produced just one hit, a single off the Padres' Bill Greif in Montreuil's first game on September 1st.
Lou Stringer (Died 10/19/08 at age 91 in Lake Forest, California)
Stringer, whose three seasons as a Cub second baseman were interrupted by his service in the Air Force during World War II, owed his place in the Cubs starting lineup to one of the worst trades in team history.
In May, 1941, as the story goes, Dodgers chief exec Larry MacPhail (Andy's granpda) got Cubs GM Jim Gallagher and Cubs manager Jimmie Wilson in a New York hotel room and after five and a half hours of "conferencing" over a variety of alcoholic beverages, the three emerged to announce the trade of eventual Hall of Famer Billy Herman from the Cubs to the Dodgers for two journeymen and $35,000.
The trade opened a job for Stringer, who, over the course of the '41, '42, and '46 seasons, appeared in 346 games for the Cubs, hitting .246, .236, and .244. Herman, meanwhile, had several more productive seasons and two All-Star appearances for Brooklyn before his playing career ended in 1947.