FORMER DODGER DEE FONDY DIES
REDLANDS, Calif. (AP) - Dee Fondy, who played for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds and was the last player to bat in Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, died Thursday of cancer. He was 74.
Fondy, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, died at Plymouth Village retirement center, said his youngest son, Joe Fondy.
"Dee Fondy was one of my favorite people," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "He had a great sense of humor. He and I used to kid each other a lot."
Fondy grounded out for the last out at Ebbets Field in Pittsburgh's 2-0 loss to the Dodgers on Sept. 24, 1957. The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles the following year.
He hit .286 with 1,000 hits in eight seasons in the majors. Following his playing career, Fondy worked as a scout and front office official for the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers.
"I ran into Willie Mays once and he said, `I've still got the bruises from the tags your dad used to give me. He was a hard-nosed player,"' recalled his son, Joe Fondy, a freelance cameraman who has covered major league games.
Signed originally by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Fondy came to spring training in 1949 and competed with Gil Hodges and Chuck Connors for the starting job at first base. The position was won by Hodges, and Connors eventually became a TV star in the Western series, "The Rifleman."
Fondy played in the Dodgers' farm system until being traded to the Cubs. He won a spot on their roster and his first major-league hit was a bases-loaded triple off St. Louis pitcher Ken Raffensberger on April 17, 1951, in Wrigley Field.
Fondy was traded to Pittsburgh in 1957, where midway through the season he led the National League with a .365 average. The next year he was traded to Cincinnati for Ted Kluszewski, a transaction mentioned by Tom Cruise's character in the 1988 movie "Rainman."
After his playing career, Fondy worked as a scout for the Mets and the Brewers, where he signed Paul Molitor, who went on to more than 3,000 hits. He retired from baseball in 1995 after serving as a special assistant to the Milwaukee general manager.
"He was as good a judge of talent as I've ever known," Selig said. "He played a great role in the development of the Brewers. I had as much faith in his baseball knowledge as anyone I know."
Fondy, a native of Slaton, Texas, served in the Army during World War II and was part of the forces that landed on Utah Beach in Normandy in 1944, three months after D-Day. He received the Purple Heart.
Fondy's other surivivors are twins Jon Fondy and Jan Cornell of Las Vegas. His wife, Jacquelyn, died last year.
The funeral is Saturday in San Bernardino.