In Memory of Merritt Ranew

Local baseball legend Merritt Ranew passes away
Albany (GA) Journal
October 19, 2011

(c) Houston Astros

Merritt Thomas Ranew, an Albany native who became a Major League baseball player and successful local horse trainer and businessman, died Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Langdale Hospice House in Valdosta. He was 73. Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors is handling the arrangements.

Ranew was born on Tuesday, May 10, 1938. In 1957, at the age of 19 young Ranew was discovered by baseball scout and Albany legend Paul Eames. He was signed with the Milwaukee Braves as an amateur free agent. He played for many farm teams and even played in Venezuela in the off season. He was the 17th pick in the 1961 expansion draft in October 1961; he was only 23 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 13, 1962, with the Houston Colt .45s.

In 1963 Ranew was traded by the Colt .45’s to the Chicago Cubs. By June 1965, Ranew was playing for the Milwaukee Braves before moving on to the San Francisco Giants. His contract was then purchased by the California Angels.

In May 1966, while catching for the Seattle Angels (a farm team for the California Angels); the Angels were playing the Vancouver Mounties in Capilano Stadium in Vancouver. According to Sports Illustrated:

Seattle Pitcher Jim Coates threw one high and tight and struck Ricardo Joseph of Vancouver on the shoulder. Joseph charged the mound, but before he could get to Coates, he was tackled from behind and had his chin bloodied by Seattle Catcher Merritt Ranew. The ensuing free-for-all finally subsided, but then Vancouver’s Tommy Reynolds bunted up the first base line, forcing Coates to field the ball and tried to run the pitcher down. Again Ranew raced to the aid of Coates. Vancouver’s Santiago Rosario dashed from the on-deck circle and hit Ranew over the head with his bat, opening up a deep three-inch gash. There is internal bleeding in the brain, and the left side of Ranew’s face is paralyzed.

The attack very nearly killed Ranew; he suffered a blood clot in his skull and remained in a hospital for three weeks close to death. He had surgery to remove the clot but was unconscious for 72 hours after surgery. Ranew sued the Vancouver Mounties and Rosario and won his case in court before the next spring training.

Ranew later said this of Rosario: “Let’s just say I don’t have too much respect for him. I couldn’t understand his actions. He wasn’t involved in the fight.”

Before the 1968 season Ranew was sent from the Angels to the New York Yankees. Before the 1969 season Ranew was playing for the Seattle Pilots before going with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Senators. By 1969 he made his last move to the Hawaiian Islanders. He played his final MLB game on September 30, 1969.

Ranew was also a respected horse trainer, training champion award-winning horses at his stable on Old Leesburg Road. He also trained horses in Texas as well as in Florida. One horse Ranew trained locally, was crowned World Champion Appaloosa. He not only trained the winning horse, he rode it in the championship.

Ranew was also co-owner, along with Gene Connell, of the Jolly Fox night club in Albany. The Jolly Fox hosted many singers and bands, as well as other celebrities in the 1970s, including “Tiny Tim” of “Tip Toe Through The Tulips” fame. Ranew picked Tiny Tim up at the Albany airport and escorted him all over Albany.

Ranew, well respected locally, is also among few Albanians to have been given a “key to the city.”