CHICAGO – Phil Cavarretta, the 1945 National League MVP who led the Chicago Cubs to their last World Series appearance, died Saturday. He was 94.
Cavarretta died at a hospice care center in Lilburn, Ga., of complications from a stroke, according to family members.
His son, Phil Cavarretta Jr., of Lilburn, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that his father suffered the stroke about a week ago. He also had been battling leukemia for several years, but that was in remission, Cavarretta Jr. said.
"If he went 0 for 4, he wouldn't bring that home," Cavarretta Jr. said. "He would enjoy his family, then he went about his business the next day."
A first baseman and outfielder who went to high school just a mile from Wrigley Field, Cavarretta signed with the Cubs at age 17 and broke into the major leagues in 1934. He spent the first 20 of his 22 seasons with the Cubs before moving across town to play 77 games for the White Sox.
The three-time All-Star led the NL with a .355 batting average and a .449 on-base percentage in 1945, when the Cubs lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Cavarretta was one of the last living members of that team. The Cubs have not won a pennant since and their last World Series championship came in 1908.
In a statement released Saturday night, the Cubs called Cavarretta "a local hero and a tremendous player."
"His 1945 MVP season continues to rank as one of the finest in Cubs lore," the statement said. "The Cubs extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Cavarretta's family and his many friends."
Cavarretta played in three World Series (1935, '38 and '45). He batted .423 with a home run and five RBIs in the 1945 Series, which went seven games. He also went 6 for 13 (.462) in the 1938 World Series, when the Cubs were swept in four games by Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and the New York Yankees.
Cavarretta Jr. recalled hearing a story about his father crashing into the wall to catch a fly ball during a spring training game late in his career. When a writer asked him why he gave so much effort in an exhibition, Cavarretta responded: "Well, there are other players who are maybe trying to take my job," his son said.
"He came from an era where they all played hard, but he was a player who gave even more," Cavarretta Jr. said.
Cavarretta finished with a .293 batting average, 95 home runs and 920 RBIs in more than 2,000 big league games. He was the second major figure in Cubs history to die in a little more than two weeks. Longtime third baseman and broadcaster Ron Santo died earlier this month of complications from bladder cancer.
Besides his son, Cavarretta is survived by his wife, Lorayne; daughters Diana, Patti, Cheryl and Lori; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Cavarretta Jr. said.
One grandson, Jeffrey Brown, of Lubbock, Texas, told the AP that he was one of several family members who grew up as baseball players largely because of Cavarretta.
"We're full of sorrow, but he lived a full, wonderful life," Brown said.
AP Sports Writers Mike Fitzpatrick in New York and Rick Gano in Chicago contributed to this report.