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.”
Merritt Thomas Ranew, 73, of Leesburg, GA. passed away on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at Langdale Hospice House in Valdosta, Ga. He was born May 7, 1938 in Albany GA.
The funeral service will be held Saturday 2:00PM at Kimbrell-Stern with interment to follow at Crown Hill Cemetery. Rev. Adam Brant will be officiating. The family will receive friends Friday from 6:00 to 8:00PM at Kimbrell-Stern and also noon to 2 PM before service Saturday.
Merritt Ranew graduated from Lee Co. High School in 1957 and was a former American & National League professional baseball catcher. He was selected in the 1961 MLB Expansion Draft by the Houston Colt .45s from the Milwaukee Braves. Ranew played for the Colt .45s (1962), Chicago Cubs (1963-1964), Milwaukee Braves (1964), California Angels (1965), and the Seattle Pilots (1969).
After Merritts MLB baseball career ended he started a 35 yr. career training and showing cutting horses professionally. He was member and respected judge of the NCHA.
Merritt was a Christian who loved the Lord and always wanted to share the gospel with anyone he came in contact with.
Merritt Ranew was a well known and well respected man by all who knew him. He will be remembered by all his friends and family members who loved him. He made an impact in everyone’s life and always helped a fellow friend in need with a smile and a joking chuckle
He was preceded in death by his parents; Grover Dudley Ranew and Louise McDonald Ranew, his brothers C.D. Ranew and Richard Ranew and a sister Elizabeth Coxwell.
He is survived by his wife Juanita Ranew of Floral City, FL; his children: Robin Carter of Valdosta, GA, (James), Ryan Ranew of Leesburg, GA. (Angela) and Rebecca Sheltra of Leesburg, GA. (Jay); Steven Lee of Mebane, NC and Monique Denney of Floral City, FL. grandchildren Kayla & Kacy Hancock, Austin Denney, Garrett Denney and Tory Carter. his brother and sisters, Clifford Ranew, Betty Clements, Velma Braswell of Albany, GA. and Janelle Larkin of Smithville, GA. and several nieces, nephews and cousins.