Alzheimer’s claimed the lives of two men who shone brightly in World Series play on consecutive days earlier this week.
First, on Tuesday, Jose Pagan passed away at the age of 76. Pagan played in the bigs for 15 seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies. His best season came with the Giants in 1962 when they won the NL pennant. Pagan hit .368 in the World Series but the Giants fell to the New York Yankees in seven games.
By 1971, Pagan was a bench player for the Pirates. Although the 1971 World Series is remembered as being Roberto Clemente’s finest hour in a baseball uniform, it was Pagan who got the game winning double in the eighth inning of Game 7 off Baltimore Orioles southpaw Mike Cuellar (who sadly is also longer with us.) After his retirement, Pagan spent several years on the Pirates coaching staff before returning to Puerto Rico to start a managerial career. The Pirates honored Pagan with a moment of silence before that night’s game at PNC Park.
Less than 24 hours later, Jim Northrup passed away at the age of 71. Northrup played 12 big league seasons the bulk of which came with the Detroit Tigers. He also had stints with the Montreal Expos and the Baltimore Orioles. Bob Gibson struck out 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series including Northrup twice. But I bet the future Hall of Famer would have been satisfied with two fewer strikeouts if it meant not surrendering a two-run triple to Northrup in Game 7. Cardinals centerfielder Curt Flood (again, another great no longer with us) was maligned for misjudging the ball but Northrup always maintained the ball was forty feet over Flood’s head and that he never would have caught the ball.
Northrup would go on to become a Tigers broadcaster and a local businessman. As the Pirates did for Pagan, the Tigers also held a moment of silence for Northrup.
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