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All-star pitcher from northwest Ohio dies at 91

03/01/2017, 12:52am EST
By By MARK ZABORNEY BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ex-Mud Hen shared field with legends


Ned Garver, ace pitcher for the St. Louis Browns baseball team, participates in Defiance County’s celebration of Ned Garver Day on Oct. 15, 1951. THE BLADE

BRYAN, Ohio — Ned Garver, a onetime Toledo Mud Hens pitcher and a teammate of some baseball greats during 14 years in the major leagues, who earned a spot in the record books for his stellar performance with the cellar-dwelling 1951 St. Louis Browns, died Sunday in Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers, Bryan. He was 91.

His blood pressure dropped and his heart failed after he became unconscious at home, his son Don said. Mr. Garver had undergone dialysis the past three years, but remained active and golfing until less than a year ago.

He moved with his second wife, Dolores, to Bryan after their 2001 marriage. His longtime home was the Defiance County village of Ney, where after his baseball career he served on village council and was mayor. He retired about 1982 from the former Dinner Bell Foods in Defiance after 14 years as director of personnel. He’d previously been on the firm’s public relations staff.

Mr. Garver started his career in a golden age for baseball. His late wife, Dorothy, liked to tell the story of his first encounter with Ted Williams at Boston’s Fenway Park in 1948 when Mr. Garver, a St. Louis Browns rookie, struck out the great Red Sox hitter.

“It was the first time I had ever pitched to him and he wasn’t used to my style,” Mr. Garver said for a 1977 Toledo Magazine article.

Mr. Garver also recalled pitching against Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial, but the player who remained “a thorn in my side and gave me the most grief” was Vic Wertz of the Detroit Tigers.

Mr. Garver was traded to the Tigers in 1952, but the eight-player deal sent Mr. Wertz to St. Louis.

Months earlier, Browns owner Bill Veeck had rewarded Mr. Garver with a $25,000 contract for his achievement in the 1951 season: winning 20 games for his 52-102, eighth-place American League team. A home run he hit won that 20th game for the Browns.

He was credited with being the only pitcher in modern baseball history to win 20 games in a season for a team that lost more than 100 games.

Mr. Garver led the league in complete games in 1951 with 24, the second consecutive season he was No. 1.

In 1996, the U.S. Postal Service issued a special cancellation stamp in tribute. He signed specially stamped postcards during a ceremony at the post office in Ney.

“I never saw him walk away from any place until every kid had his autograph. I don’t care how bad his arm hurt,” his son said.

In 1951, Mr. Garver was joined on the St. Louis roster by the legendary Satchel Paige, 44, only in his third major league season after years of playing in the Negro Leagues.

“Next to me, Ned knew more about baseball than just about any pitcher in the American League,” Mr. Paige said in his 1962 memoir, written with David Lipman.

When Mr. Garver joined the Tigers, he was on the same roster as Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser. An 18-year-old rookie, Al Kaline, arrived in 1953 and went on to a 22-year Hall of Fame career. He and Mr. Garver continued to play golf.

Mr. Garver went to the then-Kansas City Athletics in 1957, a season before the arrival of Roger Maris. In 1961, Mr. Maris, then a New York Yankee, broke Babe Ruth’s record by hitting 61 home runs in a single season.

Mr. Garver closed his career in 1961 with the Los Angeles Angels.

In demand as an after-dinner speaker, he told audiences of playing ball as a boy with brothers Don and Mark “and always said that having two brothers that were better than him made him a better player,” his son said.

Mr. Garver pitched for Ney High School’s baseball team for four years, concluding with his team playing in the 1943 state finals. Afterward, he played for an amateur team in Fort Wayne, Ind., and signed with the St. Louis Browns organization.

He began his minor league career with the Browns’ farm team, the Newark, Ohio, Moundsmen. He pitched part of 1945 with the Mud Hens and had a 5-8 win-loss record. He later pitched for the Elmira, N.Y., Pioneers, and the San Antonio Missions.

He was born Dec. 25, 1925, to Susie and Arl Garver. He and his family for years lived across the street from the farm where he grew up.

He and his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Sims, married Oct. 3, 1943. She died Feb. 10, 1995.

Surviving are his wife, the former Dolores Hart, whom he married Oct. 7, 2001; sons Don and Ned Alan Garver; daughter, Cheryl Garver; stepson, Kevin Cottrell; stepdaughters Tonya Cottrell and Tammy Berenyi; four grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the Oberlin-Turnbull Funeral Home, Lynn Street Chapel, Bryan, where services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The family suggests tributes to the Ney Church of God on State Rt. 15, where he was a lifelong member.

Blade staff writer Jeff Svoboda and Blade news services contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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Ned Garver originally played for the St. Louis Browns in the major leagues but was traded to the Detroit Tigers in 1952. The player, born in Ney, Ohio, is seen here on a baseball card for his time with the Tigers. THE BLADE

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