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Former Cubs executive E.R. ‘Salty’ Saltwell dies at age 96

Saltwell was with the club for 30 years, including one season as general manager.

E.R. “Salty” Saltwell poses with the Wrigley Field scoreboard as background after being named general manager of the Cubs.
E.R. “Salty” Saltwell poses with the Wrigley Field scoreboard as background after being named general manager of the Cubs.

Eldred “Salty” Saltwell, who worked in a variety of roles including general manager and vice president over 30 years with the Cubs, has died, the team said Tuesday. He was 96.

The Cubs said his death Sunday was not related to the novel coronavirus.

Saltwell arrived in Chicago in 1958 and served as concession manager, traveling secretary, assistant secretary, assistant treasurer, secretary, general manager, vice president and consultant.

Saltwell served a variety of roles within the Cubs organization during a 30-year career that started in 1958, which coincided with the front end of back-to-back NL Most Valuable Player awards for Ernie Banks and was three years before Billy Williams won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1961.

He replaced John Holland as GM after the 1975 season and lasted one year in that role, drawing criticism for trading All-Star shortstop Don Kessinger and first baseman Andre Thornton as the Cubs finished fourth in the NL East at 75-87.

Saltwell sent Kessinger, the last player remaining from the Cubs’ 1969 squad, to the rival St. Louis Cardinals in October 1975, and dealt Thornton to the Montreal Expos in May 1976.

In his lone draft as GM, Saltwell used the Cubs’ first-round pick — seventh overall — on pitcher Herman Segelke. The right-hander made just three major-league appearances — covering 4⅓ innings — and compiled an 8.31 ERA. Left-hander Steve Trout, taken by the White Sox, was the next pick in that draft. The draft also included future Hall of Famers Alan Trammell, Rickey Henderson (fourth round), Ozzie Smith (seventh round) and Wade Boggs (seventh round).

Saltwell worked as an usher, trainer, play-by-play announcer, traveling secretary and business manager for Sioux City of the Western League from 1947-54.

He moved to the Western League office in 1954 and began work in the Cubs’ organization a year later with stops in Des Moines, Los Angeles and Fort Worth before arriving in Chicago.