October 10, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Former Montreal Expos second baseman Marv Staehle passed away on September 30 at the age of 80.
He died in Lake Geneva, Wisc., where he lived in retirement with his wife, Mary Lou, who he had been married to for 56 years.
No cause of death has been released, but he had been battling Parkinson’s disease since 2015.
A scrappy, left-handed hitting infielder, Staehle, who stood 5-foot-10 and weighed just 165 pounds, batted .228 in 110 games with the Expos in 1969 and 1970.
On April 14, 1970, he hit a 10th inning triple against the St. Louis Cardinals to become the first player in Expos’ history to record an extra-inning RBI.
Born on March 13, 1942 in Oak Park, Ill., Staehle was a multisport star in high school. Upon graduation, he was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Michigan and a full baseball scholarship to Northwestern University. But he opted to sign with his hometown Chicago White Sox who gave him a $25,000 signing bonus.
An 18-year-old Staehle reported to the White Sox class-D affiliate in Clinton, Iowa. He had been an outfielder in high school, but the White Sox converted him into a shortstop.
His steady, disciplined approach at the plate was his strength. Few appreciated on-base percentage in the early 1960s, but if they had, Staehle would’ve climbed the minor league ladder quicker.
After posting a .351 on-base percentage (OBP) in his first season, he returned to Clinton for the following two campaigns. In 1961, he registered a .404 OBP in 121 games and had 81 walks while striking out just 22 times. He was even more patient in 1962 when he walked 86 times and fanned just 18.
In 1963, he finally advanced to double-A Nashville, where he hit .337 and won the South Atlantic League batting title. His performance earned him a call-up to the triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs, where he went 4-for-10 in five games.
He continued to improve at triple-A Indianapolis the ensuing season, moving to second base and batting .301 with a .386 on-base percentage, amassing 176 hits and 79 walks, while striking out just 31 times in 157 games.
That was enough to earn him his first big league call-up with the White Sox that September. Staehle would spend the bulk of the next three seasons in triple-A before receiving a late-season call up. In parts of four campaigns with the White Sox between 1964 and 1967, Staehle hit .160 in 53 games.
On October 26, 1967, the gritty infielder was shipped to Cleveland to complete the White Sox trade for Rocky Colavito that had taken place on July 29.
He was then acquired by the expansion Seattle Pilots on April 1, 1968 and spent much of the next two seasons in triple-A.
On September 13, 1969, the Pilots traded him to the Montreal Expos, with whom he’d go 7-for-17 (.412 batting average) in six games down the stretch.
On September 21 of that year, Staehle clubbed his first – and only – major league home run when he belted a solo shot off Phillies right-hander Lowell Palmer in the bottom of the eighth at Jarry Park to break a 6-6 tie.
“Every dog finds an acorn once in awhile,” Staehle told the Montreal Star when asked about his home run. “I never knew how to pull the ball until recently. I was always a Nellie Fox-type spray hitter, but Eddie Stanky, who was managing the White Sox two years ago, told me I’d better learn how to change my style.”
Despite making a strong impression that September, Staehle was an underdog to crack the Expos’ roster in 1970. Gary Sutherland was pegged to be the regular second baseman.
But Staehle proceeded to .485 that spring and endeared himself to the coaching staff with his scrappy play. On March 17, he swung the momentum of a Grapefruit League game against the Atlanta Braves in the Expos favor when he broke up a double play in the ninth inning with a hard slide into second base.
“Stanky taught everyone in Chicago to run that way,” said Staehle to the Montreal Gazette after the game. “Sure, you know you’re going to get yours someday, but that’s the only way to play. Run hard, upset the double play. I’ll keep doing it.”
Deemed the “surprise sensation” of Expos camp by Montreal Star reporter John Robertson, the left-handed hitting Staehle made the Opening Day roster and platooned with Sutherland at second base during the regular season.
Staehle would bat .218 with 26 RBIs in 108 games. He had 39 walks and struck out only 21 times, which gave him a .306 OBP, but it wasn’t enough to secure his future with the club.
On December 30, 1970, the Expos acquired second baseman Ron Hunt from the San Francisco Giants, which made Staehle the odd man out heading into spring training.
Staehle was also recovering from toe surgery.
“I can only hope I get the chance,” Staehle told the Montreal Gazette about cracking the Expos’ Opening Day roster in 1971. “I hit the ball well in the first half last season until my toe started bothering me. Now I’ve had the operation. I want the opportunity because this might be my last chance in baseball.”
In the same interview, Staehle told Ian MacDonald of the Montreal Gazette that if he was sent down to the Expos’ triple-A club in Winnipeg that he might quit and work full-time in his off-season job in Chicago, selling sporting goods to high schools.
As camp progressed, it became evident Staehle was not going to make the team and by late March, the Expos were actively attempting to trade him.
He was eventually released and signed by the Atlanta Braves. He played his final 22 major league games for the Braves in 1971.
He started the 1972 season with the triple-A Hawaii Islanders but tore his ACL and decided to retire.
After hanging up his playing spikes, Staehle became an agent for State Farm Insurance in Buffalo Grove, Ill. He worked in that job for 34 years.
In retirement, he split time between homes in Lake Geneva, Wisc., and Fort Myers, Fla.
In a 2016 interview with Bill Traughber of milb.com, he was asked what made him most proud about his baseball career.
“To have the respect of your teammates was always very important to me,” said Staehle. “Jim Bouton was very complimentary to me saying I was a player’s player and I always gave it my all every time. I believe I had the respect of my teammates. Several people have written books that have mentioned me. I want to be remembered as a team player.”
Staehle is survived by his wife Mary Lou, sons Craig, Randy, Todd and Mark and 12 grandchildren.
You can read his official obituary and leave online condolences here.