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07/13/08 2:28 PM ET

Ricketts, former big leaguer, dies at 73

La Russa remembers him as a great motivator, instructor

PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals were saddened by the news that former Cards player, coach and Minor League instructor Dave Ricketts passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 73.

Ricketts played for the Redbirds from 1963-69 and won a World Series ring in '67. He played one year for Pittsburgh in 1970. After retiring, Ricketts was a coach for the Pirates (1971-1973) and the Cards (1974-75, 1978-1991). He continued to serve as a catching instructor in the Minors and at Spring Training.

Ricketts had been in poor health in recent years, suffering from renal cancer.

"Sometimes the word 'great' is overused, and it's a shame," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "There have been some truly great Cardinals that have come through our organization, but I don't know anybody as great or more beloved than Dave Ricketts. I put him in the George Kissell category -- or Red Schoendienst -- as far as people that he associated with and the fondness that they feel for him."

The news also saddened the Pirates organization.

"I go back with Dave Ricketts," former Pirates pitcher and current broadcaster Steve Blass explained. "For a brief time we were teammates, and he became a Pirates coach. And to this day I don't know a coach who worked harder and dedicated more of himself to his ballclub than Dave Ricketts, whether he was a Pirate or Cardinal.

"I know for a fact that Mike Matheny, who was one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, gives a lot of credit to Ricketts for the work that he did and the work ethic that he helped him develop, and Yadier Molina the same way. He was just a good guy and an absolute workaholic. He was a great motivator."

George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.