By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Former Chicago White Sox third baseman and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pete Ward has passed away at the age of 84.
White Sox reporter James Fegan, of The Athletic Chicago, shared the news on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
Ward died from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease on Wednesday night.
The son of Montreal Maroons hockey star, Jimmy Ward, Ward was born in Montreal before moving to Portland, Ore. when he was eight years old. In 1958, the Baltimore Orioles signed him and he toiled with the triple-A Vancouver Mounties during his first professional season.
After five seasons in the minors, he made his big league debut with the Orioles on September 21, 1962. In his first at bat, he pinch-hit for Marv Breeding with the O’s trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning and promptly delivered a two-run single against Minnesota Twins right-hander Camilo Pascual to propel the O’s to a 3-2 win.
During that off-season, Ward was traded to the White Sox in a blockbuster deal that would bring Luis Aparicio to Baltimore. In his inaugural campaign in the Windy City, he was transformed into a third baseman. On Opening Day, with the Sox trailing the Detroit Tigers 5-4 in the top of the seventh at Tiger Stadium, Ward belted a two-out, three-run home run off future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning to give his club a 7-5 victory.
“I’ve always hit wherever I’ve been,” a confident Ward told reporters after the game, “so I can’t see any reason why I shouldn’t hit here.”
That home run was a sign of good things to come from Ward. In 157 games that season, he hit .295, socked 22 home runs and finished second in the American League to Carl Yastrzemski in hits. He topped White Sox hitters in batting average, home runs, doubles and RBIs. For his efforts, he was named The Sporting News American League Rookie of the Year.
For an encore, Ward belted 23 homers – including three grand slams – and knocked in a career-best 94 runs in 1964 and finished sixth in the American League MVP voting.
Unfortunately, he would suffer a neck injury in a car accident in 1965 that hampered him for the rest of his career. After four more seasons with the White Sox, he played his final campaign with the New York Yankees in 1970. He was used primarily as a pinch-hitter by the Bronx Bombers, batting .260 in 66 games.
“I’ve always felt that I was fortunate to play for two of the most outstanding managers of all-time and that would be Ralph Houk, who I played for on the 1970 Yankees and Al Lopez, who I played for, for about six years [with the White Sox],” said Ward in a 2011 interview with Chris Potter Sports.
In parts of nine big league seasons, Ward finished with a .254 batting average, 776 hits and 98 home runs in 973 games.
After retiring as a player, he managed for eight seasons in the minors with the Yankees, White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates. He also spent the 1978 campaign as a coach for Bobby Cox with the Atlanta Braves.
In 2011, he told Potter that he was surprised at the 60 or so autograph requests he still received through the mail each month.
“That’s surprising to me because it has been a long time [since he played],” said Ward. “And I get them from all over the country. It’s kind of nice, and surprising.”
Ward eventually left baseball to open a travel agency called Pete Ward Travel in Lake Oswego, Ore.
There has not been an official obituary released yet and funeral arrangements are pending.