Jim Landis, who played 11 mostly stellar Major League Baseball seasons with six teams before moving to Napa with wife Sandy and four children, three of whom are in the Vintage High Athletic Hall of Fame, passed away Saturday. He was 83.
He and Sandy were married in Berkeley, not far from his hometown of Richmond, and celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary on Friday. All four of their children were in town – Vicki Robinson and Mike Landis of Napa, Michelle Stafford of Elk Grove, and Craig Landis of Murrieta, Calif. – when Landis died at the care facility where he had resided for 4½ years.
Craig Landis said his son Tyler, a junior majoring in chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., was the only one in the room, sleeping, when his grandfather passed away at about 5 a.m.
“We were there for the anniversary, and we knew my dad was getting worse,” Craig Landis said. “We came because we had the feeling from the doctors that he only had another week or two to live.”
A third baseman at Richmond High, Jim Landis learned to play outfield while in the minor leagues. He went on to win five consecutive Gold Gloves in eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox as a center fielder. He helped them win the 1959 American League pennant with a 94-60 record and reach the World Series, which they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.
Jim Landis was voted by fans to Chicago’s 27-player “Team of the Century” in 2000. He also played for the Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, batting .247 in his 1,346-game career with 93 home runs, 467 RBIs and 139 stolen bases.
“He said he was fortunate as a player to do what he loved for a living,” Craig Landis said. “He was very well-respected around town, and he wasn’t a pushy, loud man. He just tried to help, that’s it. He was always teasing and joking. He had a young heart and a young spirit and it never went away until the end.”
After calling it a career in 1967, Landis worked for Marzetta Safety Signs in Richmond for about 20 years.
“In those days, you had to work after you were done with (professional) baseball because you didn’t make enough money to retire,” Craig Landis said.
Meanwhile, Vicki became a top tennis player at Vintage, posting a three-year record of 48-1 and winning three CIF North Coast Section titles. The 1976 graduate also starred in basketball, badminton, and track and field, and was inducted into the Vintage Hall of Fame last year.
Craig was an All-American in football and baseball, and CalHiSports.com’s “Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year” after his senior season in 1977. He was a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in the MLB Amateur Draft. He played six seasons (1977-82) in the minors, three in Triple-A level. He was in the first Vintage Hall of Fame class in 2013.
Mike, a 1979 Vintage alum, entered the Vintage hall of fame in 2014 for his football feats. A standout free safety, he helped the Crushers win two league titles and reach the 1977 section title game. He went on to play four years for the University of the Pacific on a scholarship.
Michelle graduated from Vintage in 1981 and was not as involved in sports.
While coaching Babe Ruth baseball, Jim Landis also made an impression on his co-coach’s son, Kyle Rasmusen,, who has used what Landis taught him during his own 35-plus years of coaching baseball in Napa.
“I met Jim when I was 13 years old. He was always so humble and kind to everyone around him. He had such a positive impact on the youth of our community,” Rasmusen said Sunday. “To me, he was more than a friend. He is and always will be my hero. He was a true legend in our community, especially with the kids.”
Added Craig Landis, “He had an impact on Kyle, me, Mike and our friends, and then he had an impact on our kids. He was a good coach because he taught in kind of broad strokes, (saying) ‘Work hard, but have fun.’ He was always saying ‘You gotta enjoy it.’ He wasn’t one of those parents who made it stressful. If they showed some talent, he would work with them and have some goals for them. But he didn’t believe in putting pressure on kids.”