Hall of Fame slugger Johnny Mize died at his home Wednesday at the age of 80.
He had a history of heart trouble and died of cardiac arrest.
Mize, nicknamed the Big Cat because of his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame and smooth moves at first base, played 15 seasons in the major leagues.
As a rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1936 he batted .329. It was the first of nine consecutive .300 seasons, interrupted by a three-year stretch in the Navy during World War II.
He had played in 10 All-Star games and homered in every major league stadium. He had a batting average of .312 for his career, with 359 home runs, 1,337 runs batted in and 2,011 hits.
“He spanned all those great eras,” said fellow Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, now a broadcaster with the New York Mets, who tied Mize for the league lead in home runs with 51 in 1947 and with 40 in 1948. “We’re sure going to miss him.”
Despite his statistics, he was bypassed 22 times for the Hall of Fame. He finally was inducted in 1981.
Kiner said when he knew Mize as a player he was “kind of an irascible guy.” But, Kiner added, that changed outside the ballpark. “He was always a very affable guy and a great storyteller,” he said.
Mize retired to Demorest, where he advised Little Leaguers and helped raise money for the Boy Scouts through autograph fees, friends said.