Former big league pitcher and longtime Blue Jays coach, Mel Queen, passed away this morning at the age of 69.
The Blue Jays made the announcement on their website just after noon today. The cause of death was not released.
“Our organization would not be what it is today without the contributions of Mel Queen,” said Toronto Blue Jays president, Paul Beeston, in a statement. “In Toronto, he was both the major league pitching coach and manager, but his real strength was in the minor leagues. He joined us in 1986 and whether he was serving as the farm director, minor league pitching coordinator or in a number of other roles, Mel was instrumental to our system being one of the most respected in the game.”
Born in Johnson City, N.Y., Queen inherited some of his talent from his father, also named Mel, who pitched for the Yankees and Pirates between 1942 and 1952. Mel Jr. would make his big league debut with the Cincinnati Reds as an outfielder in 1964, but was transformed into a pitcher in 1966. He put together his finest major league campaign the following year, when he won 14 games and recorded a 2.76 ERA in 31 games for the Reds. The 6-foot-1 right-hander would suit up for two more seasons with the Reds, before being sold to the California Angels. Over the next three seasons, he pitched predominately in relief for the Angels.
Following his playing career, he started coaching with the Indians in 1979, before joining the Jays organization as a pitching instructor in 1986. In 1990, he was tabbed as the Jays’ director of player development. But Queen is best known for his tenure as the Jays’ pitching coach from 1996 to 2000. In his four seasons in that capacity, Jays hurlers won three Cy Young Awards (Pat Hentgen – 1996, Roger Clemens 1997 & 1998).
Two-time Cy Young Award winner, Roy Halladay, also credits Queen for helping him revive his career when he was shipped to the low minors in 2000. Queen also aided in the development of players like Chris Carpenter, Alex Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Pat Hentgen, Jeff Kent, Shannon Stewart, Todd Stottlemyre, Mike Timlin, David Wells and Woody Williams.
“He was not only a great coach and passionate instructor; he was a great friend to me and everyone in the organization and he earned the utmost respect from the young men who had the pleasure of working with him,” said Beeston in the statement. “We were fortunate to have Mel rejoin the organization in 2008 to assist with the rebuild. Our sincere sympathies go out to his wife and family.”