Former MLB catcher Cannizzaro dies at 78

Original '62 Met, first Padres All-Star played 13 seasons

Former MLB catcher Cannizzaro dies at 78

Chris Cannizzaro, an original 1962 Met and the first All-Star in Padres franchise history, died on Thursday at the age of 78.

The former catcher, who played in the Major Leagues for 13 seasons from 1960-74, had been suffering from lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Padres acknowledged his passing on Friday.

Cannizzaro was born on May 3, 1938, in Oakland. He began his professional baseball career with the Cardinals, making his MLB debut on April 17, 1960.

Before the Mets' inaugural season in 1962, New York drafted Cannizzaro with the 26th pick of the Expansion Draft. Cannizzaro played in 59 games for the Mets that season, and he spent four years in New York, leading the Major Leagues in caught-stealing percentage in '62 and '65.

In March 1969, Cannizzaro was traded to the Padres, who were about to begin their first season in the Major Leagues. Cannizzaro caught the first game in San Diego franchise history, a 2-1 win over the Astros on April 8. He went on to earn his only All-Star nod that season, in which he played a career-high 134 games.

In addition to the Cardinals, Mets and Padres, Cannizzarro also played for the Pirates, Cubs and Dodgers before his retirement in 1974. He finished his career with a .235 batting average and 18 home runs in 740 games, with a 41 percent caught-stealing rate. After retiring, Cannizzaro coached in the Padres, Braves and Angels organizations, as well as at the University of San Diego.

"Life is good when you have a baseball uniform on," Cannizzaro told MLB.com in 2002.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, a public memorial for Cannizzaro is being planned for February.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.