Mitchell Page, hitting coach for Nationals and Cardinals, dies at 59

Mitchell Page works with Jared Sandberg during Nationals spring training in Florida in 2005.
Mitchell Page works with Jared Sandberg during Nationals spring training in Florida in 2005. (The Washington Post)
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By Matt Schudel
Friday, March 18, 2011; 12:37 PM

Mitchell Page, 59, a former major league outfielder who was a hitting coach for the Washington Nationals and for the 2004 National League champion St. Louis Cardinals, died March 12. His death was announced by the Cardinals, but the cause and place were not disclosed.

He was known to be a heavy smoker and had struggled in recent years with alcoholism.

Mr. Page made a splash during an outstanding rookie season with the Oakland A's in 1977, when he batted .307 with 21 home runs and 42 stolen bases. He finished second in the American League rookie-of-the-year voting to the Baltimore Orioles' Eddie Murray, a future Hall of Famer.

In seven subsequent seasons, Mr. Page never equaled the success of his rookie year. He retired in 1984 with a career batting average of .266 and 72 home runs.

He then turned to coaching in the minor leagues and, in 1995, spent a season as first-base coach for the Kansas City Royals.

After working as a hitting instructor for minor league teams in the Cardinals' organization, Mr. Page moved up to St. Louis in 2001 as the hitting coach for the major league club. Albert Pujols, one of the most feared hitters in baseball, was a rookie in 2001 with the Cardinals and worked with Mr. Page.

In 2004, the Cardinals led the National League in batting, runs and slugging percentage and went to the World Series behind the powerful hitting of Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.

After they lost the series in four games to the Boston Red Sox, Mr. Page was dismissed by the Cardinals and entered treatment for alcohol abuse. The next year, he joined the Nationals as a minor league hitting coach.

"He knows more than a little bit about hitting," Frank Robinson, then the Nationals' manager, said. "Guys like that sometimes don't get the credit . . . But Scott Rolen, he made him a tiger. Jim Edmonds, he became a better hitter."

Mr. Page discussed his personal problems in a 2005 interview with The Washington Post.

"I take responsibility," he said. "What it basically comes down to, ain't no alcohol good for you."

In 2006, Mr. Page became the Nationals' major league hitting coach. He took a leave of absence in May 2007 for what was reported as a relapse of his alcoholism. He did not return to the big league team but later that year did serve as a roving minor league instructor for the Nats.

A year ago, Mr. Page assisted the Cardinals as a spring training instructor.

Mitchell Otis Page was born Oct. 15, 1951, in Los Angeles and attended Cal Poly Pomona before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1973.

A complete list of survivors could not be confirmed.

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