Thursday, August 11, 2011

#222 - Ramon Hernandez

Ramon Hernandez was around 33 when this photo was taken at Candlestick during the '73 season. Or he wasn't. Like Luis Tiant Ramon had a pretty wiggy pitching motion. Like Luis, he also had a bunch of people who thought he was quite a bit older than his stated age. Regardless, Ramon was in the middle of a pretty good run as the setup guy/closer in the Pirate bullpen. In '73 on top of another excellent ERA he recorded eleven saves. He also gives us a clear look at the circled number 21 on his sleeve in honor of his countryman Roberto Clemente. It looks a lot better than the electrical tape a bunch of other Pirates wore.

Hernandez took a circuitous route to the majors after being signed by the Pirates in '59. He pitched a couple seasons for them in the low minors, sat out '61 and was then sold to the Angels. In their system he would advance, showing some success as high as the Double A level but none higher. In late '66 he went to the Braves in the Rule 5 draft. After a season in Atlanta during which he pitched not too badly he moved to the Cubs in the same draft. He stayed up top in Chicago, but without much action, and went to the Cards in a mid-season sale in '68, finishing out the year poorly at Triple A. In '69 back down in Double A he had his best season, going 10-10. He was then released by St. Louis, spent '70 with the Mexico City Reds, and was sold to the Pirates before the '71 season. After a pretty good year as a reliever - 2-3 with a 4.02 ERA at Triple A - he came up, this time for good.

Hernandez only got into a few innings for the eventual Series champs, but wowed everyone with his array of pitches and motions. His money pitch was a pretty wicked screwball which he could throw from three angles. In ten games in '71 he had four saves with a 0.73 ERA. He was then made Dave Giusti's setup guy and would have lots of success in that role the next four seasons, going a combined 16-9 with a 2.45 ERA and 32 saves. His ERA floated up to the mid-3.50 level in '76 and he was sent to the Cubs late in the season in a sale. He then had a horrible start to the '77 season, was traded to the Red Sox for Bobby Darwin, and finished things up in Boston. Ramon went a combined 23-15 with a 3.03 ERA and 46 saves in 337 games. He put in playoff time three seasons while with the Pirates and generally did pretty well, posting an 0-1 record with a 3.24 ERA in eight innings.
A quiet guy when he played, Hernandez moved back to PR and went underground. He passed away in 2009 at age 68, if his official data is to be believed.
As mentioned above Ramon had his best minor league season in '69 and gets mention of it in his first couple star bullets. I have no idea from where Topps pulled his '69 MLB data: Ramon really went 0-2 that season in Atlanta with a 4.18 ERA with five saves in 51 innings. He was a switch hitter which is pretty amusing since he couldn't hit well at all. He did have some good fielding stats, getting double figures in assists a bunch of times and going almost three seasons in a row without an error. In the minors lots of times he would carry a gun which never made his managers terribly happy.

Ramon missed playing for Chuck Tanner by a season, but let's see how they hook up. For Tanner as manager:

1. Hernandez and Dave Parker '73 to '76 Pirates;
2. Parker was manged by Tanner on the '77 to '83 Pirates.

Now for Chuck as a player:

1. Hernandez and Paul Popovich '74 Pirates;
2. Popovich and Ernie Banks '64 to '67 and '69 to '71 Cubs;
3. Banks and Chuck Tanner '57 to '58 Cubs.

I love the retreads.

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