Ralph "Putsy" Caballero, an infielder on the Phillies' 1950 pennant-winning Whiz Kids, passed away Dec. 8 in New Orleans, where he spent his entire life. He was 89.
Caballero was signed by the Phillies as a 16-year-old on Sept. 9, 1944, for $10,000. Five days later, he became the youngest third baseman ever in the Major Leagues when he entered in the seventh inning against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. That ballpark was also the place where he got his first hit on April 26, 1948, and his last hit on Sept. 27, 1952. That hit -- a two-run single -- came in his final at-bat.
A utility infielder, pinch-runner and pinch-hitter, Caballero played for the Phillies in the Majors in 1944-45 and '47-52, plus seven seasons in their Minor League system. He hit .228 in his Philadelphia career, with one home run, 40 RBIs, 41 walks and 34 strikeouts in 322 games. In the '50 World Series, he was hitless in one at-bat.
One of his prized possessions was a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.
"The Babe came to Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla., in 1948 and I got him to sign a baseball. He died later that summer. When Hurricane Katrina flattened my house in 2005, I lost everything, including the ball," Caballero said.
In 2008, Caballero attended the Phillies Alumni Weekend, at which the 1950 Whiz Kids were honored. Pitchers Bob Miller, 90, and Curt Simmons, 87, are the lone survivors of the Whiz Kids.
Caballero played baseball at Jesuit High School in New Orleans. Following his baseball career, he owned and operated a pest control business in Metairie, La. He was honored twice by his hometown. Caballero was a 1994 inductee into the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame and a 2009 inductee into the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame.
Caballero is survived by his loving wife of 68 years, Clare Levy, plus seven children, nine grandchildren and one great grandson. Services were held privately for the family.
Larry Shenk is in charge of alumni relations and team historian for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.