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Andy Pafko, star on Cubs’ last World Series team, dead at 92

Andy Pafko 2003

Andy Pafko in 2003

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Updated: November 10, 2013 6:44AM

Andy Pafko couldn’t have asked for a bigger break when the Cubs traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in June of 1951. Without having to leave Wrigley Field — the Dodgers were in town for a four-game series — he moved from seventh-place in the National League to first.

But the timely trade also put Mr. Pafko on a collision course with baseball history. As the Dodgers left fielder in the final game of a best-of-three playoff with the New York Giants, Mr. Pafko could only look up and watch as Bobby Thomson’s three-run homer — the ‘‘shot heard ‘round the world’ — sailed over his head in the ninth inning to win the pennant in stunning fashion for the Giants, 5-4.

‘‘If the ball was hit in Brooklyn, I might have caught it,’’ Mr. Pafko told the Sun-Times’ Elliott Harris in 1999.

‘‘The ball went over my head, and there goes the pennant. My wife is in Chicago watching the game on TV. She’s going to catch a train downtown to go to Brooklyn to watch us play the Yankees the next day [in the World Series]. The cab is in front of the house blowing the horn.

‘‘So she runs out by the cab. She says, ‘Wait, I’m watching the playoff game in New York.’ Not even five minutes later, Bobby hits the home run, and she goes out, tells the cab driver, ‘I don’t need the cab.’ Instead of [her] going to New York, I’m going from New York back to Chicago. I’ll never, ever forget it.’’

Mr. Pafko, a four-time All-Star who played on the Cubs’ last pennant-winning team in 1945, died Tuesday in a nursing home in Stevensville, Mich. He was 92.

A Boyceville, Wis. native, Mr. Pafko played 17 seasons in the major leagues (1943-59). After being rejected for World War II military service, he came up with the Cubs in 1943 and became their starting center fielder the following season.

Mr. Pafko hit .298 with 12 home runs and 112 RBI for the Cubs’ pennant-winning team in 1945. He was fourth in voting for the Natinal League’s Most Valuable Player Award that year — when teammate Phil Cavaretta won it.

With Mr. Pafko’s death, shortstop Lennie Merullo is the last suriving member of the Cubs’ 1945 pennant-winning team. He was 32nd in a Sun-Times ranking of the top 50 Cubs of all-time published in 2010. Mr. Pafko lived in the Chicago area for most of his retirement.

Mr. Pafko hit .294 with 126 home runs and 584 runs batted in over nine seasons with the Cubs from 1943-51. He made the All-Star team in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950.

He played on pennant-winning teams with the Dodgers in 1952 and the Milwaukee Braves in 1957-58 — winning the World Series in 1957. At the time, he was the first player in baseball history to play in the World Series with three different teams.

He had a .285 career batting average with 213 home runs and 976 RBI in his 17-year major-league career.


Twitter: @MarkPotash

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