Thursday, October 6, 2011

#256 - Tom Griffin

Ah! Back to the horse farm with another beautiful Astro spring training shot. Tom Griffin just let a horse chip fly in this photo just before the tornado struck. My what gloomy pictures these guys had to endure in this set. Tom must have been particularly bummed as he had a great action shot in the '73 set.

Tom Griffin threw heat while playing high school ball in southern California and it was his arm and his size that made him a sought-after first rounder in '66 by the Astros. But he was wild. His first two seasons played at every level from Single to Triple A he put up a record of 6-15 with a 5.65 ERA, 152 strikeouts, and 86 walks in 145 innings. In '68 he settled down a bit to drop his ERA down over a run and go 7-14 at Oklahoma City. In '69 Tom came up to Houston, nabbed a spot in the rotation, and had an excellent rookie season, recording over a strikeout an inning. He won a bunch of rookie honors although he got shut out from the Topps team (too bad because he would have been the third guy in a row) and hopes were high for an award-filled career. In '70 he kicked things off with an early shutout but then everything fell apart. Tendinitis just wrecked his pitching shoulder and though he put up good numbers when he was sent down for rehab work - 3-2 in five starts with a 1.29 ERA - his numbers up top were terrible. In '71 it was more of the same: pretty good numbers in Triple A (6-8 with a 3.11 ERA back at Oklahoma City) but no wins and a high ERA in Houston. By then Tom was working some in the pen and in '72 he would pitch relief almost exclusively. It seemed to work as he lowered his ERA by over a run, racked up pretty good K totals, and had a winning record to go along with three saves. In '73 he added some spot starts back to his routine and while his ERA rose, it was a significantly better season than '70 or '71.

In '74 Griffin would post a nice comeback, going 14-10 in over 200 innings with three shutouts and a 3.54 ERA, by far his best numbers since his rookie season. Unfortunately though his career mimicked itself and the next two years were busts in Houston as the arm problems resurfaced. He went a combined 8-11 with an ERA well over 5.50 before he was selected off waivers by the Padres in August '76. Tom finished nicely for San Diego though, posting a 4-3 record in eleven starts with a 2.94 ERA. After a less than stellar '77 split between the rotation and the pen he left San Diego as a free agent and signed with the Angels. There his pitching was restricted by arm pain again and after a 3-4 record and a 4.02 ERA in only 56 innings he was released. But he stayed on the coast as the Giants signed him and for the next three seasons Tom did OK as a set-up guy ('79 and '80) and a starter ('81), going a combined 18-15 with a couple saves and an ERA of 3.48, better than league average. In '82 he was traded to the Pirates for a guy I never heard of but after a few sub-standard games there he was released and at 34 done with baseball. Tom had a record of 77-94 with a 4.07 ERA, 29 complete games, ten shutouts, and five saves. He had a couple good hitting seasons and overall batted .163 with four homers during his career.

Tom was pretty tough to track down since baseball but it turns out that he's actually pretty high-profile. Since '89 he has been running a business with his wife Lorri that customizes furniture arrangements for homes and businesses. They have a website that I have linked to here.

Tom's rookie season gets some serious star bullet props. In '69 he was also one of three Astros - Larry Dierker and Don Wilson were the other two - to have over 200 K's.

More music news. On this day in '73 a new number one song was unveiled: "Half-Breed" by Cher. I think my comment on yesterday's post works for this one as well.

Still going with the rookie all-star theme, I offer up this hookup:

1. Griffin and Greg Gross '73 to '76 Astros;
2. Gross and Larry Bowa '79 to '81 Phillies.

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