Breaking News Bar
updated: 4/21/2016 10:56 AM

Ex-Cub Pappas recalled for near-perfect game, wife's 1982 death in Wheaton

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Chicago Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas on March 3, 1973, at spring training.

    Chicago Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas on March 3, 1973, at spring training.

 
By Don Babwin
Associated Press
Updated to correct that Pappas pitched in the 1969 NLCS for the Atlanta Braves.

Milt Pappas, who came within a disputed pitch of throwing a perfect game for the Chicago Cubs in 1972 and was part of the lopsided trade that brought Frank Robinson to Baltimore, died Tuesday. He was 76.

Pappas died of natural causes at his home in the South suburb of Beecher, said his widow, Judi Pappas.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts issued the following statement on the passing of Pappas, who pitched for the Cubs from 1970 to 1973:

"The Cubs organization is sad to learn of the passing of Milt Pappas, who not only had a special place on the field with the team in the early 1970s but also maintained a relationship with Cubs fans as a frequent guest at Wrigley Field, the Cubs Convention and other team events.

"Milt will forever be remembered for one of the most dramatic pitching performances in team history as he delivered a no-hitter that neared perfection in 1972. Pappas ended his impressive career wearing a Cubs uniform, and we will always consider him part of the Chicago Cubs family.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends, relatives and fans as we mourn this loss."

Pappas also made headlines in the 1980s because of the mysterious death of his then wife, Carole, who disappeared on Sept. 11, 1982, after a shopping trip to Bloomingdale. Her body was found five years later on Aug. 7, 1987, when her 1980 Buick Regal was pulled from a shallow Wheaton pond near Wheaton's Fire Station No. 2, just four blocks from the Pappas' home.

The 6-foot-3 right-handed Milt Pappas won 209 games during his 17-year career with the Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Cubs, finishing with a career ERA of 3.40 to go along with 1,728 strikeouts and 43 shutouts. Pappas was a teenager when he joined the Orioles in 1957 and he started quickly.

"He spent two weeks in the minors and then he was in the major leagues pitching to Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle," Judi Pappas said.

Pappas won at least 10 games every year he was in Baltimore and was part of the Baby Birds staff in 1964, a young rotation with great promise. He was an all-star by 1962 and started the Midsummer Classic in 1965, months before he and two other players were dealt to Cincinnati for Robinson, the future Hall of Famer who won the Triple Crown and was named the World Series MVP in his first season.

Pappas was sent to Atlanta two years later, where he pitched 2⅓ innings of relief and gave up 3 runs in the 1969 National League championship series against the Mets, and then to Chicago in 1970.

Twice in the next four seasons he won 17 games with the Cubs, including 1972 when he went 17-7 and came within one pitch of throwing a perfect game.

Instead, he walked San Diego's Larry Stahl with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and finished with a no-hitter. He disputed the calls by umpire Bruce Froemming for years, and his widow said he forever insisted he had thrown a strike.

Pappas also made headlines in the 1980s because of the mysterious death of his then wife, Carole, who disappeared on Sept. 11, 1982, after a shopping trip to Bloomingdale. Her body was found five years later on Aug. 7, 1987, when her 1980 Buick Regal was pulled from a shallow Wheaton pond near Wheaton's Fire Station No. 2, just four blocks from the Pappas' home.

The disappearance of Carole Pappas had been investigated for years -- even by a psychic who said she would be found under water but did not know where.

The DuPage County coroner's office ruled her death accidental in October 1987, saying she had drowned.

How she might have driven into the pond could not be explained; she was said to have a history of drinking problems, but no alcohol was found in her system. Her wallet and other belongings as well as old groceries were found in the car. The Wheaton police chief at the time called it an accident.

Last year, Jake Arrieta won his eighth straight start to become the first Cubs pitcher to win that many consecutive games since Pappas won 11 in 1972.

Though Pappas spent nearly half his career in Baltimore and just four seasons in Chicago, Judi Pappas said he always considered himself a Cub.

"He was first and foremost a Cub, absolutely," she said. "He was there (Wrigley Field) for Opening Day."

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.