Mike Garcia, the Cleveland Indians’ pitcher who belonged to the team’s 1950s rotation known as the Big Four, has died after a long battle with diabetes and kidney failure. He was 62.
Garcia will be buried at his birthplace of San Gabriel, Calif., where he signed with the Indians out of high school for $85 a week in 1942. Memorial services will be held in Cleveland within the next two weeks.
Garcia died Monday night at his home in the Cleveland suburb of Fairview Park. He is survived by his wife, Gerda, and three children, Michael, Lisa and Celeste. Monday was also Garcia’s 35th wedding anniversary.
Garcia was known as the Big Bear because he carried 220 pounds on a 6-foot-1 frame.
In the early 1950s, Garcia joined with Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn to form what is regarded as one of the finest starting rotations in major league history.
As a junior member of that group, Garcia averaged 20 victories a year from 1951 through 1954, the year the Indians won the American League pennant but lost the World Series to the New York Giants. That was also the year the Indians set a league record with 111 victories.
Garcia was 19-8 in 1954 and led the league with a 2.64 earned-run average. His best year was 1952, when he was 22-11.
Garcia won 142 games with Cleveland from 1948 through 1959. He tied for the American League lead in shutouts in three different seasons.
“I don’t feel good and I don’t have much strength,” Garcia said in December during a fund-raiser intended to help pay his medical bills, including the cost of undergoing dialysis three times a week.
Garcia was joined at the fund-raiser by Feller, Lemon and Wynn, and by Al Lopez, another Hall of Famer who managed the Indians from 1951 to 1956.
“I love my old teammates,” Garcia said then. “I always enjoy seeing them.”
Garcia had a career record of 142-97 in 14 seasons with the Indians, Chicago White Sox and Washington Senators.
After leaving baseball, Garcia concentrated on a dry cleaning business he had purchased in 1955 in the Cleveland suburb of Parma.