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TORONTO – Al Widmar, the very popular former pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays for 10 seasons, has died of colon cancer at the age of 80. Widmar died on Saturday 15 October 2005 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the team said in a statement. He became the team's pitching coach on 1 November 1979 then served in that capacity for ten seasons (1980-1989).

Six years later, in 1985, he guided a rotation which featured Dave Stieb, Doyle Alexander, Jim Clancy and Jimmy Key as the Blue Jays won their first division title. He next spent two years as a Special Assignment Scout (1990-1991) before being elevated to the role of Special Assistant to the Vice President and General Manager. For the better part of the following nine seasons he offered his wit, wisdom and experience from his lifetime in baseball to first Pat Gillick and later Gord Ash from 1992-2000.

He also took on the added responsibility during that time of coaching with the St. Catharines Stompers in the Class-A New York - Penn League.

Albert Joseph Widmar posted a lifetime career 13 - 30 record with a 5.21 ERA over 114 games pitching for the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. In 1947 he was 0-0 with a 13.53 ERA in 2 games;  in 1948 he went 2-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 49 games;  in 1950 he was 7-15 with a 4.76 ERA through 36 games;  in 1951 he was 4-9 with a 6.52 ERA in 26 games and was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in one last MLB appearance in 1952.

All in all, he pitched for 17 years in professional baseball (1942-1958) and was the sole reliever for the Browns in 1948, spending 1949 winning 22 games in the International League before returning to St. Louis as a starter in 1950-1951, going 11-24.

Born on 20 March 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, the tall, rangey 6'4" right hander began his career in professional baseball before the 1942 season when he was signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent at the age of 17. In what was a major deal at that time, on 17 November 1947 he was traded by the Boston Red Sox  with Pete Laydon, Joe Ostrowski, Roy Partee, Eddie Pellagrini, Jim Wilson and $ 310,000 in cash to the St. Louis Browns for Vern Stephens and Jack Kramer. Stephens went on to lead the American League in RBI in two of the following three seasons, averaging 33 home runs per year.

On 10 April 1950, based on his 22 wins for Baltimore in 1949, he quit the Browns team, threatening a lawsuit against major league baseball unless the team grants him a pay raise, later signing within a week. On 25 April 1951, in the opening game, an 8-6 win over the Browns, Eddie Robinson becomes the 8th player, and first for the White Sox, to hit a ball over the right field grandstand at Comiskey Park, with the blast coming off Al Widmar.

On 30 May 1951, in the first game of a double-header, the first place White Sox defeated the Browns, 5-1 behind Billy Pierce. Then, in game 2, Randy Gumpert, 3-0, stops Chicago's 4-game win streak, defeating them 8-1, which saw Al Widmar take the loss in the first game. On 27 November 1951 he was traded by the St. Louis Browns with Sherm Lollar and Tom Upton to the Chicago White Sox for Dick Littlefield, Joe DeMaestri, Gus Niarhos, Gordon Goldsberry and Jim Rivera, who will then return to the Sox in eight months.

Following his playing days, he moved immediately into coaching, taking on a variety of assignments at both the major and minor league levels, first with the Philadelphia Phillies (1958-1969) and Seattle Pilots (1970), before he become the farm director for the Milwaukee Brewers (1971-1972, 1974-1977), then coached with the Baltimore Orioles (1978-1979) before joining the Blue Jays organization.

Visitation will be held on Wednesday 19 October 2005 at the Floral Haven Funeral Home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.\

Funeral services will be held on Thursday 20 October 2005 at St. Madeline Parish in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Special to Canadian Baseball News – 19 October 2005

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