Two former Major League Baseball pitchers with area ties have recently passed away.
Former Detroit Tiger and Mon-Clair League Hall of Famer Leslie Clyde “Les” Mueller died Oct. 25, at St. Paul’s Home in Belleville. He was 93.
Former Columbia High School standout pitcher Jim Kremmler died in Spokane, Wash., on Oct. 12. He was 63.
A former hard-throwing righthander with the Tigers, Mueller may be best remembered for his single-game record of pitching 19 and 2/3 innings against the Philadelphia Athletics on July 21, 1945. In that game, Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell was 0-for-10.
When Mueller walked off the mound for the last time that evening at Shibe Park, he had surrendered only one run to the Athletics.
The marathon game ended in a 1-1 tie after 24 innings as umps called the game due to darkness, although it was about 8 p.m. on a steamy summer evening.
But rules prohibited turning on the lights for a day game.
Mueller signed with the Detroit organization after graduating from Belleville Township High School. His baseball career was interrupted by military service during World War II. After his time in the Army, he pitched for the Tigers when they were the 1945 World Series Champions.
After retiring from baseball, Mueller ran Mueller Furniture Store in Belleville with his brother, Roland, with his late wife Peggy, and then with his son, Lynwood, who is the current owner with his son, Mark Mueller.
Mueller was the last living person to have pitched against the Chicago Cubs in a World Series game.
“He pitched two scoreless innings of relief in game one,” Mark Mueller recalled Friday.
Mueller was also a Belleville alderman and was very involved in raising the money to build Citizen’s Park in Belleville, now home of Whitey Herzog’s field.
“He once played against the great Satchel Paige,” Mark Mueller said. “In his first at bat off Satchel, he hit a triple off the top of the fence.” Regarding the next three at bats, Mark Mueller recalled his grandpa saying with a big old grin: “And then Ole’ Satchel threw me nothing but curveballs and struck me out three straight times.”
Mueller played against Jackie Robinson in 1946 in AAA. Robinson tried to steal home on a ball that barely got away from the catcher. Mueller was quick to cover the plate. He received the throw and tagged Robinson out at home.
“He was the fastest player I had ever played against,” Mark Mueller recalled his grandpa once saying.
Mark Mueller also recalled his grandpa struck out Joe DiMaggio on a side-arm curveball in a spring training game.
“The ump didn’t ring him up, though,” Mark Mueller said. The umpire later admitted to Mueller, “he missed that one.”
Mueller later taught his grandson how to lower his arm angle and throw the side-arm fastball and curveball. Those have been and are still Mark Mueller’s best ‘out’ pitches as a pitcher with the Waterloo Millers in the Mon-Clair League.
Lynwood Mueller said his dad loved baseball, especially pitching.
“Back in his era before the relief pitching specialist, the starting pitcher was expected to go out nine innings or more,” Lynwood Mueller once told his son.
“Dad always tried to go the distance. He lived more than nine full decades, because of the way he lived his life. We believe he should be more than credited with a win.”
Jim Kremmel was an early-season member of Spokane’s 1973 Pacific Coast League championship team and he spent parts of two seasons in the major leagues with the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs.
Kremmel graduated from Columbia High School in 1967. While attending CHS, he helped lead the Eagles to the 1967 Cahokia Conference baseball championship.
Kremmel later earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Economics from the University of New Mexico. After he struck out 18 batters in one 1970 game and pitched a no-hitter in another, the Texas Rangers drafted him in the first round of the 1971 supplemental draft. He went on to become UNM’s first major-league player.
In 1973, he went 0-2 in two starts with the Rangers and 5-2 at Spokane before Texas traded him to St. Louis. That fall, he was traded twice more in less than two months, winding up with the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in 23 games with the National League team in 1974, losing his only two decisions. Injury ended his career two years later.
He earned masters degrees in business administration and counseling psychology from Gonzaga University and spent most of the last quarter-century as a psychotherapist in private practice.
From 1989-1995, he worked at Sacred Heart Medical Center Inpatient Psychiatry. He was a sports psychology consultant for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, and Texas Rangers from 1998-2002. He also did business consulting from 1995-2002. He was married to Teresa Elaine Stewart from 1974-1985 and they remained close friends until the end. His daughter, Lindsey Marie, was born in 1979 and his son, Joseph Stewart, in 1981.
Jim and Teresa opened Pride and Joy Maternity Fashions in 1979 followed by Uniforms, Etc.
Kremmel was an avid reader of spiritual texts and a prolific writer, including twice-monthly psycho-spiritual email messages called “Finding The Spark.” He also had a passion for yoga.
He is survived by his daughter Lindsey Marie Kremmel and new granddaughter Lilliana Grace Kremmel of Livermore, Calif; former wife Teresa Elaine Stewart of Spokane, Wash.; niece Marla Gummersheimer Walters and her children Jacob, Hannah and Sophia of Columbia, Ill. He was preceded in death by his parents; son Joseph Stewart Kremmel and sister Joan Earlene Pieper (Kremmel) of Columbia, Ill. A Memorial Service was held Saturday October 27, at Heritage Chapel in Spokane, Wash. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Diabetes Assn., www.diabetes.org/donate.