In Memory of Ron Willis

(c) Houston Astros
Ronald E. (Ron) Willis, 34, a former relief pitcher with the Cardinals, Astros and Padres, died in Memphis November 21 [1977] of a malignant brain tumor. Willis had undergone surgery for the tumor last January and since then had returned to a hospital several times.

A righthander, Willis was with the Cardinals from 1966 until the middle of the 1969 campaign when he was traded to the Astros. Houston sent him to San Diego in 1970 and he closed out his major league career there that year. He appeared in 188 games and six World Series contests and compiled an 11-12 record.

After the Padres released him, he played briefly at Hawaii in 1971 and then returned to Memphis. He was general manager of the Memphis (International) club in 1975, but was dismissed when the team had financial difficulties. He fell 80 days short of qualifying for a major league pension, but after his surgery he was hired by the Cardinals last May as a minor league pitching coach.

Survivors include his wife and three children.

Ex-Cardinal pitcher Willis dead at 34

St. Petersburg Times
November 23, 1977

Ron Willis, a relief pitcher on the St. Louis Cardinals' 1967-68 pennant-winning teams, died of cancer Monday night in a Memphis hospital. He was 34. The one-time bonus baby learned in January the persistent headaches he suffered were caused by a malignant brain tumor. He underwent surgery and was hospitalized four times. Willis rejoined the Cardinals this summer as part-time scout and pitching coach. After undergoing a series of cobalt treatments, he re-entered the hospital on Nov. 11. One of his last visitors was Philadelphia catcher Tim McCarver, a former Cardinals teammate who saw him the night he died. McCarver termed Willis "the best righthanded relief pitcher we had" in the Cardinal's world champion season of '67. Willis was 6-5 with a 2.67 earned-run average in 65 games.