Former SLO High standout Mel Queen succumbs to cancer

Queen went on to be pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1996 to 1999

May 13, 2011 

Mel Queen, a former San Luis Obispo High star, Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach and manager who rejoined the organization in 2008 as its player development senior adviser, died Wednesday.

Queen, 69, was diagnosed with lung cancer in November. Queen’s daughter, Shirlee Spang of Morro Bay, said the lung cancer was being treated aggressively but complications led to the cancer spreading to his brain.

Queen was a standout baseball player at San Luis Obispo High and led the Tigers to CIF-Southern Section divisional titles in 1958 and 1959. He was the Southern Section divisional player of the year in 1959 and 1960 and was later enshrined in the Tigers’ athletic hall of fame.

Queen was an outfielder who became a pitcher and played for the Cincinnati Reds (1964-69) and California Angels (1970-72). He posted a 20-17 career record with 389 innings pitched, 306 strikeouts and a career earned run average of 3.14.

He was the director of player development for the Blue Jays when they won back-to-back World Series in 1992-93.

In his four seasons as Toronto’s pitching coach, Blue Jays pitchers won three Cy Young Awards: Pat Hentgen in 1996 and Roger Clemens in 1997-98. Queen served as the club's interim manager for the final five games of 1997 after the firing of Cito Gaston.

He returned to the Blue Jays in 2008 as a senior adviser to the player development department.

“Our organization would not be what it is today without the contributions of Mel Queen,” Blue Jays president Paul Beeston said in a statement. “In Toronto he was both the Major League pitching coach and manager, but his real strength was in the minor leagues.

“He joined us in 1986, and whether he was serving as the farm director, minor-league pitching coordinator or in a number of other roles, Mel was instrumental to our system being one of the most respected in the game. He was not only a great coach and passionate instructor, he was a great friend to me and everyone in the organization, and he earned the utmost respect from the young men who had the pleasure of working with him.

“We were fortunate to have Mel rejoin the organization in 2008 to assist with the rebuild. Our sincere sympathies go out to his wife and family.”

Queen’s father, Melvin, was a Major League pitcher for the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1942-52.

Queen is survived by his wife, Gail, daughter and two stepsons, Jason Both and Chris Both, all of Morro Bay.

Spang said Queen will be cremated and that a family celebration will likely be held at a later date. The Blue Jays will hold a ceremony for Queen during 2012 spring training.

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