Don Mincher, a Huntsville baseball legend and President Emeritus of the Southern League
, died on Sunday evening after a lengthy illness. He was 73.
Over a sprawling and versatile career that lasted more than 50 years, Mincher made his presence felt throughout the world of professional baseball. The depth and breadth of his influence was amply illustrated during the 2010 Winter Meetings, when he was named the "King of Baseball" at the annual Awards Gala. In the world of Minor League Baseball, there is no greater honor.
"We were saddened to hear of the passing of Don Mincher. Don was a pillar of the Huntsville community and treasured member of the baseball family," said Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner. "We will miss Don's gentle grace and presence. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife, Pat, and family."
Mincher was indeed a pillar of the Huntsville community, and one of its most celebrated citizens. He was born in this northern Alabama city in 1938, a local standout who turned down a University of Alabama football scholarship to sign with the Chicago White Sox. He went on to club 200 home runs during a Major League career that spanned from 1960-72, the majority of which was spent in Minnesota. Mincher was the Seattle Pilots' lone All-Star representative in 1969 (the franchise's sole season of existence) and earned a World Series ring as a member of the 1972 Oakland A's.
But this distinguished Major League resume was mere prelude. Upon retiring, Mincher returned to Huntsville and in 1985 became the general manager of the Southern League's fledgling Stars franchise. In 1994 he and a group of local investors bought the club to ensure that it would remain in Huntsville, and he served the Stars in this capacity until assuming the Southern League presidency in 2000.
"Don was bigger than life in this town. ... If you wanted to make a movie about the prototypical local hero, then he'd be the guy," said current Huntsville Stars general manager Buck Rogers. "He grew up here, went to school here, played Major League Baseball, won a World Series, came back home and became the first general manager we'd ever had. He bought the team, sold the team and became the league president all while still living here. He really ran the gamut -- playing, owning and operating -- and you don't get that very often."
Such versatility led to a rare level of expertise.
"Don was the closest thing to a psychiatrist this league is going to get. He understood everything, because he'd done everything," said Rogers. "Our problems might have sounded big, but he took them and made sense of them, and it would turn out to be a small problem in the end. There aren't a lot of guys like that in the world, and there aren't a lot within the game of baseball."
Mincher stepped down as Southern League president this past October, citing ongoing health issues. Southern League vice-president Steve DeSalvo was then named interim president, with Mincher receiving the title of "President Emeritus" in honor of his extensive work on behalf of the venerable Double-A circuit.
"I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to serve as president of what I feel is the best league in baseball," said Mincher at the time.
Mincher is survived by his wife, Pat, son Mark, daughters Lori and Donna, and six grandchildren. Funeral arrangements include visitation on Tuesday, March 6, from 5-8 p.m. CT, followed by a funeral on Wednesday, March 7 at 1 p.m. Both visitation and funeral services will be held at the Mayfair Church of Christ, 1095 Carl T. Jones Drive, SE, Huntsville, AL 35802.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.