Monday, September 26, 2011

#246 - Oakland A's/ A's Team Records

So it's been a while for which I apologize. I couldn't scan anything for a couple weeks because the damn scanner broke down. It is an HP Photosmart 309A. While it worked pretty well when it actually did work that was not for very long and the HP folks are way less than helpful on the help desk. Long story short, if you get an HP wireless printer - Apple offers them when you buy one of their computers at the store - expect the wireless part of it to break down pretty much immediately and so only get it if a wired solution works for you (you can hook it up right to your router with an ethernet cable). Any questions, feel free to ask. This ends the consumer advocacy part of the program.

Moving back to baseball, specifically during the '73 season, the A's get another color-coordinated team card (note the alternating green and gold jerseys) surrounding manager Dick Williams smack dab in the middle of the virginal white jerseys. Dick did not have a manager card for the '74 set because he resigned immediately after Oakland won the Series. Al Dark would manage Oakland for the '74 season. Dick's resignation was a fitting ending to another tumultuous yet successful A's season. After a rough April during which the team's vaunted starters were only 5-8, they worked up to .500 ball by the end of June but were six back of the surging Sox. Both Reggie and Joe Rudi were benched and everybody, particularly Reggie and coach Jerry Adair, was fighting. But Catfish was on a tear - he'd be 13-3 by the break - and a strong June got them in first by the end of the month. There were some mid-season scares - Catfish got hurt in the All-Star game; Dick Williams got sick and had his appendix removed; Billy North got hurt and would miss the post-season - but from early July on the A's were never more than a couple games out of first. A 13-1 run in mid-August sealed the deal and they won their third division title in a row before grabbing their second consecutive Series in an exciting post-season.

The front of the checklist is a good one, representation-wise. All starting position players are on it and three quarters of the starting pitchers. Reggie's signature is big and bold, no surprise. Vida Blue shuns convention and prints. William North, Kenneth D Holtzman, and Dagoburto Campaneris are the formal guys, and Mr. Tenace shows off one of the best given names ever.

That was one long run between pennants under Mr. Mack and Mr. Williams. After three straight pennants ending in '31 Connie Mack, also the team's owner, had to dismantle his team to raise money fast and keep his franchise afloat and then 41 years of pretty much misery ensued as the A's were viewed by many as a Yankees farm team. But the great run in the early '70's resuscitated things and put them back on the map in a good way. Let's check out these record holders.

Norm Siebern was signed by the Yankees out of high school in '51. His first couple seasons working through the NY system - and generally doing very well - he also was a star hoops player at Southwest Missouri State. He would miss '54 and '55 to military duty and come back to Triple A in '56 where he had a good enough season to get promoted to NY in the outfield and do some Series time. He then moved back to the minors for '57 where his stats - .349 with 24 homers and 118 RBIs - won him TSN Minor League Player of the Year. After that season it was all majors and in '58 he won a Gold Glove playing left field and returned to the Series where he had a tough time. After another season in NY Norm was one of the players traded to KC for Roger Maris. While Maris thrived in NY, at least homer- and MVP-wise, Norm did pretty well in KC, playing mostly first base and averaging 19 homers, 92 RBIs, and a .290 average over four seasons, two of which were All-Star ones. In '64 he went to Baltimore for Jim Gentile where he led the AL in walks his one season as a starter before Boog Powell took over at first. After that it was mostly back-up work for the O's, Angels, Giants, and Red Sox where he finished things in '68. For his career Norm hit .272 with 132 homers and 636 RBIs. After playing he scouted for the Braves and ran an insurance agency.

Al Simmons is a HOF outfielder who posted monster stats for a decade as probably the most famous and successful "bucket hitter", or one whose outside foot points down the baseline (in Al's case third). Al was signed by his hometown Milwaukee Brewers, then an independent farm team, in '22 out of Stevens Point Teacher's College. After a couple very successful minor seasons at various levels he was traded to the A's in '24 and immediately took off, hitting .308 with 102 RBIs. From there he only got better and the next eight seasons he would average over 200 hits, 25 homers, and 132 RBIs while hitting about .360. After the '32 season he was one of the stars Mack had to dump and he spent the next six seasons moving from the White Sox to Detroit to the Nats, averaging 17 homers, 99 RBIs, and .305. After a '39 season split between Boston and Cincinnati in '40 he returned to Philadelphia as a player/coach for a couple seasons, strictly coaching in '42. In '43 he went to Boston as a coach and was activated during the season because the Sox ran out of players. In '44 the same thing happened back in Philly for the A's. That was his last season. Al would coach through '51. He hit .334 for his career with 2,973 hits, 307 homers, and 1,827 RBIs. He was a three-time All-Star and hit .329 with 17 RBIs in 19 post-season games. He was voted into the Hall in '53 three years before Al, a big drinker, died of a heart attack at 54.

Frank "Home Run" Baker was a farm boy from Maryland who reached the minors in 1908 after a couple years in semi-pro ball. He was purchased by Connie Mack at the end of the '08 season and the next year became an immediate starter at third, hit .305 and led the AL in triples, with 19. He would lead the AL in homers each season from '11 to '14 with a grand combined total of 42, but would earn his nickname with a couple bashes during the '11 Series against the Giants. 1912 was his best season with a .347 average, ten homers, and 130 RBIs to match all those triples. Before the '15 season Frank didn't care for Mack's salary offer so he sat it out and was sold the next year to the Yankees. He stayed in NY for seven seasons - he also sat out '20 - and was a solid starter although his offensive numbers didn't approach the ones he put up in Philly. '22 was his last season and he finished with a .307 average, 96 homers, 103 triples, and 987 RBIs. In the Series he hit .363 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 25 games. After playing he managed and played in the minors for a season in '24 but mostly returned to farming in his hometown. He made the Hall in '55 and passed away of a stroke in '63 at age 77.

Everyone knows Jimmie Foxx, even people that don't follow baseball because the Tom Hanks character from "A League of Their Own" was based on him. Another Maryland farm kid, Jimmy actually got started playing in the independent leagues in '24 for Mr. Baker when he was 16. Frank turned Connie Mack on to Jimmie and by '25 he was up in Philly. Originally a catcher, he spent a good deal of time on the bench behind Mickey Cochrane. In '28 he was moved to the infield corners and got some serious at bats, hitting .328. In '29 he moved to first base pretty much exclusively and started cranking for the first of three successive pennant winners: three MVPs, a triple-crown, four home run titles, three RBI titles, two batting titles, and an enormous OBA would occur the next 11 seasons. He would be the only remaining offensive star after the '32 season as Mack did the big unload, finally going to Boston after the '35 season. For the Sox, Jimmie would continue his reign of terror, putting up excellent seasons through '41, his all-time best probably being in '38 when he hit .349 with 50 homers, 175 RBIs, and a .462 OBA. He also won his third MVP. In '42 Jimmie hit a wall. He was going through a divorce, had never got along with manager Joe Cronin, and some sinus and vision issues resulting from a beaning in '34 were escalating significantly. All contributed to a slow start that year and in mid-season he was sold to the Cubs. He retired after the season at 34. After getting re-married in '43 he returned to the Cubs to coach in '44 and played a little. He then returned to Philly, this time in the NL, for a last go-round with the Phillies. Jimmie finished with a .325 average, 534 homers, 1,922 RBIs, and a monstrous .422 OBA. In 18 post-season games he hit .344 with four homers and 11 RBIs. He also pitched a bit, grabbing a 1.52 ERA in 24 innings. He was elected to the Hall in '51. Like Simmons above, Jimmie had some alcohol issues during and after his career and found consistent work tough to come by. He coached a bit, including his one-year stint in the women's league in '52, did some broadcasting, managed the University of Miami team, worked in trucking, beer distribution, and some of his own businesses that failed. He relocated to Florida in the early sixties where his wife passed away in '66. Heartbroken, Jimmie only made it another year. When he passed away in '67 he was only 59.

Nap Lajoie played semi-pro ball around Rhode Island, where he grew up, and Massachusetts for a bunch of years before being signed by the Fall River Indians, a B league team, in 1896. There he hit well over .400 and that season he was sold to the Phillies, where he finished that season and most of the next at first base, hitting a combined .350 with 127 RBIs his first full season. In '98 he moved to second where he would be an excellent fielder the duration of his career. He kept hitting also and stayed with the Phillies through 1900. When the AL opened in '01 Nap jumped ship and put up huge numbers in what was basically an expansion league - 232 hits, 48 doubles, 14 homers, and 125 RBIs - all which led the league along with his average, giving him the triple crown. A suit by the Phillies owner forced his trade to the Indians and disallowed him from playing in Pennsylvania for the '02 season so he missed a bunch of games. In the middle of the '03 season the sanction was lifted and Nap would go on to be one of the AL's premier second basemen - with Eddie Collins - sticking with Clevelend through the '14 season. He led the AL in average another three seasons, including the title he got in '10 in which Ty Cobb may or may not have been victimized. He also managed the Indians from '05 to '09, going 377-309. In '15, running out of gas - he was 40 - he was traded back to the A's where he played the next two seasons as a back-up and successor to Collins. Nap hit .338 for his career, with 3,242 hits, 1,599 RBIs, and 657 doubles. In '17 he was named player-manager of Toronto, and hit .380 while leading them to the league title. He pulled the same gig for Indianapolis in '18 and then returned to Cleveland where he had a farm in the suburbs, ran for office, and worked in a bunch of businesses. He retired to Florida in the fifties and passed away there in '59 at age 84. He made the HOF in '37, a member of the second class elected.

John Wyatt was signed out of Buffalo by the Cards in '54 after a couple Negro League seasons for the Indianapolis Clowns and won 12 his first year in D ball. After a year back with the Clowns, he was drafted by the A's in '56 and put up some pretty bad numbers before missing time the next two seasons in the service. He returned in '59 and posted some OK numbers the next few seasons, almost all in relief. After a 9-3 start in A ball, he came up to KC to get a few innings. From '61 to '65 he would be a main component of the A's bullpen, getting an All-Star nod in '61 when his 81 games set a record. After a poor start to the '66 season, he was traded to the Red Sox with Jose Tartabull - Danny's dad - where he revived in a super way, becoming the closer for the '67 pennant-winners. After a middling Series, he got off to a slow start in '68, was sold to the Yankees and then the Tigers (for whom he finished pretty well but didn't get any Series time), and finished things up back with the A's in '69. John finished with a record of 42-44, 103 saves, and a 3.47 ERA. He had become a real estate investor while playing and continued in that after, building a few units in KC. He passed away in Omaha in '98 from a heart attack at age 62.

Rube Waddell is the HOF pitcher about whom it is tough to separate fact from fiction. A country kid from PA - hence the "Rube" - he played a bunch of semi-pro ball until he debuted in 1897 for Louisville, the old NL team. The Colonels loaned him out to various minor league and semi-pro teams and he returned in '99 to go 7-2 in a few games up top. The next year Louisville was booted from the league and the Pirates got the spoils, including Rube and a shortstop named Honus Wagner. Rube got loaned again, this time to Milwaukee, a Triple A team managed by Connie Mack. He pitched very well for Mack and when he was back in Pittsburgh led the league with a 2.37 ERA. In '01 after a crappy start he was sold to the Chicago Orphans for whom he finished out the season, winning 14. In '02 he signed with an independent team, Los Angeles, before hoking back up with Mack in Philly. In the final 90 games of the season Rube went 24-7 with a 2.05 ERA and led the AL with 210 strikeouts, the first of six successive seasons he would do that. Mack was the only big league manager able to corral Rube and Waddell would win over 20 the next three seasons, peaking in '05 when he went 27-10 with a 1.48 ERA and 287 K's. He set a record the prior year with 349; that wouldn't be broken for 60 years. Although he helped Philly reach the Series Rube was shut out in post-season appearances because he was either hurt, missing, or suspended. After a couple OK but troublesome seasons in '06 and '07 he was sold to the Browns. He would win 19 his first season but then do a big fade and was out of the majors by mid-season of 1910. He hooked up with a succession of minor league teams the next few seasons - he won 20 in Minneapolis in '11 - and finished up top with a record of 193-143 with a 2.16 ERA and 2,316 strikeouts. In '11 he was helping apply sandbags to a rising river in Kentucky in the freezing cold which led to him contracting pneumonia and then tuberculosis, severely impacting his health. He passed away in 1914 at age 37. He was elected to the Hall in '46.

Colby Jack Coombs was signed by the A's in 1905 while still attending Colby College where he starred in baseball, football, basketball, and track, and earned a degree in chemistry. Colby pretty much served as Jack's minor league because he went straight to Philly upon graduating in '06, throwing a shutout his first start. He was an effective, though .500 pitcher his first few seasons, but then turned it on in '10 going 31-9 with a 1.30 ERA and a record 13 shutouts for the eventual Series winners. He won 28 in '11 even though his ERA ballooned over two runs, again for a Series winner, and 21 in '12. In '13 and '14 Jack missed pretty much the entire seasons with typhoid fever. After Philly won the pennant again in the second year, Mack did his disbanding thing, releasing Coombs, who was picked up by Brooklyn, then named the Robins. He had a big comeback in '15 winning 15 and then 13 the next season. He pitched a couple unremarkable seasons for the Robins and then retired. In '19 he coached and then managed the Phillies - he went 18-44 - and then moved on in '20 to Detroit as pitching coach and threw a couple games. Those were his last appearances and he finished 158-110 with a 2.78 ERA and 35 shutouts. He also hit .235 and killed in the post-season, going 5-0 in six games. He would go on to coach in college for Williams and Princeton before hooking up with Duke, where he was the manager for 22 seasons until he retired in '52 at age 70. He passed away from a heart attack in Texas at age 74 in '57.

Lefty Grove grew up in a mining town in Maryland and didn't start playing formal ball until he was 18. By 1920 he had hooked up with the minor leagues and by the end of that season he was in Baltimore, a Double A independent team long considered a de facto major league team. For them the next five seasons Lefty excelled, going a combined 108-36 with a 2.96 ERA. He was finally purchased by the A's in '24 and after a slow start in '25 won his first ERA title (of nine!) in '26 while winning 13. He turned it on the next seven seasons, becoming Mack's premier pitcher, averaging 25 wins and winning the ERA title four straight times, strikeouts seven consecutive seasons, pitching's triple crown twice, and one MVP (in '31 when he went 31-4 with a 2.06 ERA). In his three Series he nearly matched Mr. Coombs above going 4-2 in eight games with a 1.75 ERA. After the '33 season he was traded to the Red Sox mostly for cash. There, after a poor '34 when his fastball famously failed him, he won 20 his second season and four more ERA titles. He slowed down significantly in '40 and '41 (he was over 40 by then) and got his final win when his old friend Jimmie Foxx hit a two-run triple. Lefty finished with a 300-141 record, a 3.06 ERA, 35 shutouts, and 55 saves. He was elected to the Hall in '47 and was a six-time All-Star. He kept a pretty low profile after retiring and passed away of a heart attack in '75 when he was 75.

Scott Perry, like a few guys on this post was a reputedly big drinker who could also pitch pretty well sometimes. A big guy out of Texas he had a false start in the majors in the mid-teens with the Browns before he ended up with the Atlanta Braves in the Single A Southern League in '16. There he won 24 games before getting two wins up top with the Cubs. In '17 he ended up in semi-pro ball again and got into a couple innings with the Reds up top. Late that season the Boston Braves optioned him from Atlanta, pretty much his professional home base, but only paid them $500 of the $2,000 option price. So before the '18 season when Connie Mack came looking for a pitcher they happily signed him over. Scott then began winning big for a horrible team, causing Boston to demand him as theirs. Mack refused, the dispute went before the National Commission - the ruling body before a commissioner was appointed - and the Braves won. Mack sued, won in court, and kept Perry, who went on to go 21-19 with a 1.98 ERA for a team that only won 52 games. But the magic didn't last and the next three seasons Scott went a combined 18-48 before being released. That was it for him and he finished with a 40-68 record with a 3.07 ERA. He passed away in '59 at age 68 when he was working as a cook in a KC hospital. The ineffectiveness of the Commission in his case is one of the reasons a commissioner was soon named to replace it, the other, of course, being the Black Sox scandal.

Elmer Myers grew up and played semi-pro ball in York Springs, PA. He was signed by the A's in 1913 and sent down to Raleigh to pitch D ball under Connie Mack's son Earl. He pitched there for three years, winning 29 in '15 when he was deemed good enough to go up to Philly. In his first start late that year he struck out 12 Nats in a shutout, a record for a debut. He then went 14-23 his rookie year, throwing 31 complete games. He threw some out of the pen in '17 and then got 15 starts in '18 before he was whisked off to Europe for WWII. In a sad nod to Christy Mathewson Elmer was also hit by a mustard gas attack and returned stateside to recover and while away was traded to the Indians. For Cleveland he again started and relieved and had OK numbers. He started slowly in '19 and was traded to the Red Sox for whom he won nine straight and posted a 2.13 ERA. But the mustard gas pulled his weight down from over 200 to under 160 pounds and killed his fastball. In '21 he fell to 8-12 and after a horrible start in '22 he asked the Sox to send him to their farm club in Salt Lake City. He would pitch there for two seasons, in LA for two (both were Double A teams), then move down to Knoxville, a B league team, and win 49 games in two years. He took a last stab at Double A Columbus but after going 1-12 in '29 he retired. He finished up top going 55-72 with a 4.06 ERA, 78 complete games, and nine saves. He also won 165 in the minors. He returned to Philly where he sold and delivered meat, then to Atlantic City where he ran a concession stand. He then opened a tavern in Collingswood, NJ where he passed away in '76 at age 82.

Most of the above have detailed bios on the SABR site.

As returning Series champs the A's should be well-represented so let's see. On the offense side the most significant absentee is Angel Mangual, the team's fourth outfielder. He had 192 at bats. Rich McKinney had 65 at bats as a utility infielder. Allan Lewis, "The Panamanian Express", scored 16 runs as the team's first pinch runner but had zero at bats. Mike Hegan had some at bats at first and has a card with the Yankees. Angel is to the right of the guy with the suit and Lewis is the last guy in the last row. On the pitching side Chuck Dobson, former staff ace, had one loss which represents the only missing decision. I'd say that's excellent representation.

Finally Mr. Jones played these guys in the '73 Series:

1. Jesus Alou on the '73 A's;
2. Alou and Cleon Jones '75 Mets.

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