Former big league outfielder Albie Pearson has passed away, the Angels announced. A former Rookie of the Year winner and All-Star, Pearson was 88 years old.
“The Angels Organization was saddened to learn of the passing of former Angels All-Star Albie Pearson,” the team said in a statement. “As a key member of the expansion Angels, Albie’s impact on our franchise was immediate. In the Club’s inaugural game in 1961, he would etch his name into the record books by scoring the organization’s first run. … While Albie will always be a treasured member of the Angels Organization, his greatest achievements may have come away from the diamond. For over 20 years, he and his wife Helen dedicated their time towards impacting countless communities through their tremendous work with Father’s Heart Ranch. We would like to extend our deepest condolences to Albie’s wife, Helen, their five daughters and the entire Pearson family.”
A native of Southern California, Pearson began his professional career in 1953. He signed with the Red Sox as a 19-year-old and played four-plus seasons in their minor league system. Before the 1958 campaign, Boston traded Pearson with first baseman Norm Zauchin to the Washington Senators for infielder Pete Runnels.
Runnels finished tenth in AL MVP balloting that season and would eventually earn three All-Star selections in five years with Boston. Pearson, meanwhile, hit .275/.354/.358 over his first 146 MLB games to secure that season’s American League Rookie of the Year award. Early in his second season, Pearson found himself on the move again. Washington traded him to the Orioles for outfielder Lenny Green. Pearson spent a season and a half in Baltimore but struggled offensively, spending some time in Triple-A in 1960.
Over the 1960-61 offseason, the Angels nabbed him as an expansion pick. Pearson would play six seasons with the Halos to wrap up his career. Consistently running high walk totals, the 5’5″ outfielder would go to put up a .275/.379/.366 line in just under 2700 plate appearances as an Angel. He hit .288/.420/.400 during his first season in Los Angeles and led the American League with 115 runs scored in his second. Pearson’s best year came in 1963, when he posted a .304/.402/.398 line in 684 trips to the plate. He earned his only career All-Star selection and finished 14th in AL MVP voting.
Pearson remained effective through 1965, when he hit .278/.370/.369 in 122 games. Unfortunately, he was limited to just two games the following season by back injuries. He retired after 1966, his age-31 campaign. As the organization referenced, Pearson became a minister in his post-playing days. He and his wife co-founded a group home for abused or neglected young boys.
Over parts of nine major league seasons, Pearson hit .270/.369/.355 in just under 1000 games. He only connected on 28 home runs but picked up 831 hits and scored 485 times. MLBTR sends our condolences to Pearson’s family, former teammates, friends and loved ones.