Friday, March 11, 2011

#111 - Clay Carroll

Another Cincinnati action card! Pretty cool. This one is Clay Carroll close to the end of his reign as the Reds' bullpen ace. Like the guy from the post before this, Clay was an Alabama kid. Here he throws one in at what I believe is Shea, so again it may be a playoff card. Clay's '73 was a bit of an aberration for him as it was the only one of his final nine seasons in which his ERA topped 3.00. It was a bit bipolar: a horrible early-season ERA  - it was above 10.00 by mid-May - helped lead to some time in the rotation. While Clay did much better in that new role - 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in five starts, his time away from the pen allowed Pedro Borbon to sort of slide into the closer role. But from July on Clay's much better second half in the pen - 6-3 with ten saves and a 2.70 ERA helped revive the Reds into playoff mode.

Clay Carroll was signed by the Braves in '61 and began his career in the low minors where he was mostly a starter. In '62 he won 14 from his spot in a C rotation and in '63 and '64 he won a total of 21 between Double and Triple A. By late '64 he was throwing well enough at Triple A to get a call-up and responded by throwing real well out of the pen. In '65 he got very little work and returned for a bit to Triple A. The move to Atlanta must have helped because in '66 Clay led the league in games and got 11 saves. But '67 was a disaster as another run of bad early-season outings pushed his ERA way up and he was unable to recover. It was also another season in which Clay had to join the rotation due to a depleted starter roster. Then, yet another slow start in '68  - 0-1 with zero saves and a 4.84 ERA though early June - led to a trade to the Reds with Tony Cloninger for Milt Pappas and others.

Carroll's move to Cincinnati resulted in an immediate career revival as he dropped over two runs from his ERA the rest of the way that year and grabbed 17 saves. In '69 he threw over 150 innings which was buttressed by some more rotation work. But for the next three seasons it was all pen work as Clay averaged 95 innings a season as staff closer, topped by his big '72 in which he set the NL saves record. In '74 and '75 he threw a combined 200 innings out of the pen but a lot more of that was set-up work as manager Sparky Anderson went all out in his Captain Hook role. So the save totals came way down but the ERA was a very sharp 2.45 over that time. Clay remained in Cincy through the latter season and then was sent to the White Sox basically to reduce payroll.

His first season in Chicago had good and bad moments. Carroll's numbers were quite good - 4-4 with six saves and a 2.56 ERA - but injuries casued him to miss over a month in the summer and nearly all of September. In '77 he did a round tripper, going to the Cards for Lerrin LaGrow and then coming back to Chicago for a bunch of guys. The Sox released him at the end of the season and he hooked up with the Pirates, his last team in the majors. After a try in Triple A with the Brewers in '79 he was all done. Clay finished with a record of 96-73 with a 2.94 ERA, one complete game, and 143 saves and was a two-time All-Star. He killed in the post-season going 4-2 with a 1.39 ERA and two saves in 22 games.

I remember reading on the back of one of Carroll's cards that he was a deputy in Florida which was where he settled since playing for Atlanta. I have been unable to find more information on that. In 1985 Clay was back in the news for something pretty horrible. His stepson, a guy named Fred Nowitzke, got into an argument with the rest of the family and came back armed and loaded. While Clay was able to wrestle a shotgun away from Nowitzke, he was unable to prevent him from shooting him, his wife, and his 11-year old son with a handgun. His wife and son died and Nowitzke was sentenced to death in '87. From what I can gather he is still around, however. I also have seen photos of Clay at Reds' autograph shows as recently as 2008 and he is smiling and reported as being friendly and good-natured at them. A very resilient guy.

Every Topps source except his '73 card I have seen quotes Carroll with 35 saves in '72, but every other source I come upon says 37. I am going with the higher number. Hawk is a great nickname. It was on one of these cartoons that I saw the deputy thing.

Now this will be pretty weird:

1. Carroll and Dave Hamilton '76 to '77 White Sox;
2. Hamilton and Billy Williams '75 A's.

I gotta link two guys that played almost exclusively in the NL through the AL.

1 comment:

  1. Three great cards in a row. Clearly this is the best card of Clay