Sunday, May 22, 2011

#164 - Tom House

This is Tom House's first solo card. He had a rookie card in '72 then got shut out in '73. So technically he was still a rookie that second season, a year spent entirely in the pen and entirely up top. Tom's ERA was a little toppy also but so was everyone's who pitched in the Atlanta bullpen that year. But he posted a good record that included four saves. He's doing the sideways stare-down thing at Shea and was heading into the best season of his career, one in which he'd go high profile for an event that occurred when he wasn't even on the mound.

Tom House was a west coast kid who went to USC after shooting down the Cubs as a '65 pick his senior year of high school. He threw a season of freshman ball and then in '67 as a sophomore he put up some pretty good numbers for the varsity: 5-3 with a 1.43 ERA. Those got him drafted by the Braves and he split his first summer throwing good ball in Single and Double A. He began '68 at  the higher level, threw well, and spent the remainder of the year as well as all or most of the next four seasons at Triple A Richmond. That first season he posted some nice numbers in the rotation but '69 was a bit more challenging and by a third of the way through the '70 season he was working pretty much exclusively in relief. In '71 he took nearly two runs off his ERA and recorded eleven saves, later seeing his first MLB time.Then in '72 he put up super numbers that included 20 saves. After finishing that year in Atlanta he was up for good, at least for a while. In '74 he would have his best season, going 6-2 with a 1.93 ERA and 11 saves in 102 innings. He even got his photo in Cooperstown that year as he was the guy who caught Hank Aaron's 715th homer. In '75 he matched his save total while going 7-7 with a 3.18 ERA. After the season Boston was looking for some lefty relief and Tom was traded to the Red Sox for Rogelio - Roger - Moret, another relief specialist. So he had to wait a couple years for the full Topps air-brush treatment.

In Boston House's ERA climbed above 4.00 as he got a bunch less work than he did in Atlanta. His saves total fell to four that year and after a lousy start to the '77 season, he was sold to the Mariners where he recovered a bit and spent some time in the rotation, going 4-5 while lowering his ERA to 3.93. He again relieved with some spot starts in '78, pitching 116 innings, his career high. But he couldn't bring the ERA down and he would be released during spring training in '79. By then he was having some serious knee issues and that year he would throw and coach a bit in the Inter-American League, where his numbers were quite good in the rotation, 5-2 with a 2.36 ERA. When that league folded, so too for the most part did his pitching career. Tom finished with MLB numbers of 29-23, with a 3.79 ERA, four complete games, and 30 saves and was 39-36 with a 3.03 ERA in the minors He could hit, too: .257 in a restricted amount of at bats up top and .227 in the minors.

Tom's real baseball legacy is from off the field stuff, however. After he finished playing, he became a pitching coach for a bunch of organizations: the Astros, Padres, and Rangers in the States as well as the Marines in Japan. He also later came out about his steroid use during the Seventies, informing that it was pretty prevalent during his playing career. He has authored a number of books on pitching, helped establish the National Pitching Foundation, and has a business and website - linked to here - devoted to pitching. He is currently the pitching coach at USC.

This card back has some pretty good tidbits. He is one of a very few guys to get his first career win on the last day of a season. He is listed at 185 pounds here; when he was on 'roids, he blew up to 220. Finally, Tom was a big achiever degree-wise. He returned to USC where he picked up his BS in Management in '71, a Masters in Marketing in '74, a Masters in Psychology in '81, and a PhD in Psychology in '84.

Tom hooks up to Ken through the AL:

1. House and Leroy Stanton '77 to '78 Mariners;
2. Stanton and Ken Berry '72 to '73 Angels.

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