Monday, November 26, 2012

Two Oldest Browns Club Members Deceased; Chuck Diering, Former Cardinal, Oriole

Within the past month we lost two of our oldest members of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club.  Jim Green, age 95 of Pacific, MO died on October 30 while Rev. Msgr. Jerome O. Sommer of St. Louis passed away on November 18, 2012 also at age 95. Both gentlemen were born in 1917 two days apart on September 15 for Jim Green and September 17 for Msgr. Sommer.

 Jim's first wife passed away sometime ago.  After being a widower for many years, Jim remarried at age 89 to Betty Gustafson, a widow age 83. Little did Jim know she had 10 kids - all grown, of course. Little did she know that Jim at 11 kids - all grown. So between them, their families suddenly exploded to 21 children plus all the grandkids and other relatives.

Jim served in the U.S. Army during WWII and fought in The Battle of the Bulge. He remained active in the Veterans organization and was involved in school presentations on educating children about The Battle of the Bulge. Jim was an avid golfer, charter member of Forest Hills Country Club and life time member of Franklin County Country Club.

 Msgr. Sommer was ordained a Priest on June 9, 1940. He served as Chaplain in the United States Army 1945 to 1974, then as pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine parish, St. Robert (Waynesville), Mo., 1974 to 1986.

Chuck Diering, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1947 to 1951, died Friday November 23 at the age of 89.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the elderly former outfielder fell in his Spanish Lake, MO home on Thanksgiving and was later found by his son, Bob. He passed away at a hospital a few hours later from cerebral hemorrhaging.

Diering began his professional baseball career over 70 years ago. After losing three years in the military to World War II, he still played in over 750 major league games.

Spending over half of his big league career with the Cardinals, Diering was a serviceable backup outfielder to the likes of Hall of Famers Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial and reliable cog Terry Moore.

In 396 games with the team, he hit .252 with eight home runs, 75 RBI and 127 runs scored. He knew how to draw a walk, posting a .367 on-base percentage in his five-year St. Louis career, with a high mark of .388 in 1949.

In fact, 1949 was the only season he received significant time as a regular while in a Cardinals uniform. He played in 131 games that season, starting 78 of them, with 123 of his appearances being in centerfield.

 Not a slugger, the then 26-year-old still hit .263 with 21 doubles and eight triples in 369 at-bats that year, scoring 60 runs and driving in 38.

 The following year, he started 50 of the 89 games in which he appeared.

World War II took a major chunk out of his playing career. In 1941, he began his professional career as a Cardinals farmhand at age 18. In 1942, the up-and-comer hit .305 with 25 doubles in 126 games with the Class-D Albany Cardinals.

 Then the military called.

 He was a private-first class in the Army who served in the United States and the Pacific Theatre of Operations from 1943 to 1945, but Diering's career was not entirely stunted as he continued to play while enlisted. According to Baseball in Wartime, he led one league with a .524 batting average and eight home runs in just 12 games.

He returned to professional baseball in 1946, spending the entire year in the minor leagues—in his first year back, he stole 19 bases for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.

After that year of re-acclimation, he made his major league debut on April 15, 1947, thus beginning his five-year skein with St. Louis.

On December 11, 1951, Diering was traded to the New York Giants with aging pitcher Max Lanier for similarly aging second baseman Eddie Stanky. He spent a year with the Giants before playing all of 1953 in the minor leagues. From 1954 to 1956, he was with the Baltimore Orioles, wrapping up his big league career.

Overall, Diering hit .249 with 14 home runs, 149 RBI and 411 hits in nine major league seasons. He played 752 games, scored 217 runs and had 76 doubles.

1 comment:

  1. MSGR. SOMMER was a very congenial man with some interesting stories about being a Browns fan, one of which he wrote up for our Browns magazine Pop Flies recently. He was a regular at our players reunion luncheons and dinners until the last year or two.

    CHUCK DIERING attended a Brown's luncheon a couple of years ago, without us even inviting him. Of course, when we found out he was in the room, we introduced him from the podium.

    Chuck was "almost a Brownie" as we say, *twice*. A graduate of Beaumont High in St. Louis (same H.S. as Roy Sievers), he was recruited by both the Cardinals and Browns. But the Cards had the advantage "because a friend’s dad worked for the organization as a scout."

    Then on November 30, 1953, he was purchased by the franchise which had only 13 days earlier changed its name to the Baltimore Baseball Club Inc. (Of course the last St. Louis shareholder suit had been dismissed by Judge Duggan on October 28, 1953 ... so everyone had been simply waiting for the other shoe to drop.)

    As it was, it was small satisfaction for heartbroken St. Louis fans that the first Orioles team MVP in history ('54) ... was a born and raised St. Louisan ... and a former Cardinal on the tail-end of his career, ... Chuck!