Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#281 - San Francisco Giants/Giants Team Records

For some reason I cannot fathom, the Giants decided to take their team photo during a solar eclipse. Half of the team is in the light but the other half just sort of fades into darkness which was sort of how their seasons went back then: strong starts but the big fades in mid-season. '73 was no exception as Ron Bryant's fast start and perhaps the best young outfield in the league (Bonds, Matthews, and Maddox) had them in first place by early June. But weak starting pitching outside Bryant - even Juan Marichal was moved to the pen - and an injury to Chris Speier sort of sealed their doom as the Reds and the Dodgers surged past them in the summer. This is such a poor photo; I can only sort of make out just about anybody in it. Bryant helps us out by bringing his teddy bear to the first row. I bet that made the batboys feel special.

On the checklist front its pretty standard stuff. The whole starting lineup is represented as well as most of the rotation. These are generally nice signatures. A bunch of guys favor using middle names, or at least an initial. Garry and Gary have the most flair. Tito Fuentes tries to merge his whole name into one. He must have been shooting for that one name thing popular back then; like Liza or Pele.

The Giants had been around a long time at this point. Look how long John McGraw managed. There was no Series opponent in 1904 because McGraw refused to play any team from that upstart league. Let's get into these guys:

Jose Pagan almost could have had a card in this set as he played most of the '73 season with the Phillies. Signed by the Giants out of PR in '55 he moved through the minors a few seasons before putting up nice numbers as a Triple A shortstop in '59 and '60. Both seasons he also got some action up top and in '61 he settled in as the Giants' starting shortstop for the next few seasons, including the '62 pennant-winner. He got into so many games because his guys had to play LA in a playoff. Early in '65 he was sent to the Pirates for Dick Schofield as the afore mentioned Mr. Fuentes was on his way up. In Pittsburgh Jose moved to third and started there in '66. He then moved to a reserve role, backing up first Maury Wills and then Richie Hebner. He would return to the playoffs late in his career and even won a game against Baltimore in the '71 Series. He went to the Phillies on waivers before the '73 season and was released later in the year. He hit .250 for his career and .316 in 13 post-season games. After playing he did some coaching and managing, including up top for the Pirates ('74-'78) and managing in the minors for Oakland ('79-'80). In the States he was 131-158 as a manager. He was also a very successful winter league manager in PR for a number of years, winning titles with three teams. He passed away earlier this year at 76.

Jo Jo Moore was a guy I never heard of before this post but he was a hell of a player. Born in '08 he was in minor league ball a couple seasons when he was signed by the Giants in 1930. Most of his time between then and '32 was spent in A and Double A ball and he never hit below .312 during that time. He had some time up top in '30 and '31 but McGraw thought he was too small at 5'10" and about 150. Early in '32 Bill Terry replaced McGraw as manager and pulled Jo Jo up from Jersey City and immediately made him the starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Jo Jo would occupy that spot through '41 and six of those seasons was an All-Star. He was an excellent first ball hitter and rarely walked but even more rarely struck out. In '34 he hit .331, his best season average, and the next year while his average moved down to .295 he otherwise had his best offensive season with 201 hits, 15 homers, and 71 RBIs while leading the NL in at bats. He only struck out 24 times that season. Defensively he had a gun of an arm and was an exceptionally smooth fielder earning the nickname "The Gause Ghost", Gause being his Texas home town. After the '41 season he was sold to the Reds but with the outbreak of WW II he did some induction work and spent the next two seasons at Double A Indianapolis, putting up some good numbers. For his career up top he hit .298 with 79 homers and 513 RBIs. After playing he returned to Gause and worked his ranch until he passed away in 2001 at age 92.

There is a pretty funny story tangentially involving Mr. Moore above. Frenchy Bourdagay was a colorful player in the '30's for the Dodgers, among other teams, and his manager with Brooklyn was Casey Stengel. When a long fly was hit deep in the Polo Grounds, Stengel motioned Bourdagay, who was on second, all the way home. But Moore nailed a throw to home plate that was waiting for Frenchy almost before he rounded third and so Frenchy, knowing he was out, didn't even try to slide, enraging Stengel. His next at bat, Frenchy hit a homer, and in the wake of being fined by Casey on the spot for not sliding, decided to play it safe and during his trot slid into every base including a dramatic swan dive into home.

Bill Terry was born in Atlanta in 1898 and began his professional baseball life at 16 as a pitcher in the local minor leagues. He was pretty good and by 1917 had reached the B levels with a lifetime 38-24 record and an ERA well under 3.00. But he was a practical guy and at 18, unsigned to a Major League team and with a young family, he quit ball and went to work in Memphis for Standard Oil. He played for their company team and was re-discovered by an old manager who recommended him to John McGraw. McGraw liked Bill's tenacity and signed him and so Terry returned to the minors in '22 as a pitcher/ first baseman. After putting up a 4.25 ERA in Double A that year but hitting .336 he was moved to first full time. He remained in the minors, hit .377, and was up in NY by the end of the '23 season. In '24 he backed up High Pockets Kelly at first and only hit .239 but he turned it on in the Series that year, hitting .429 against Washington. He was given first base and hit .321 in '25 but without a whole lot of power. In '26 he pissed off McGraw by holding out, lost first base back to Kelly, and only got 225 at bats. But in '27 all was good, he returned full-time to first, and he kicked off the numbers that got him in the Hall. He hit .326 that season with 20 homers and 121 RBIs. He would never hit below .300 the rest of his career and each of the next five seasons he would also top 100 RBIs. In 1930 he famously became the last NLer to hit above .400, banging out 254 hits. During the '32 season he was given the managing job by McGraw, who moved upstairs. It would be his final season with over 100 RBIs and though he put up pretty good averages the rest of his playing career and made the new All-Star game three times, his power numbers would diminish as he concentrated on managing. He was awfully good in that role as well, taking the Giants to the Series twice. When he finished playing during the '37 season he had a .341 average with 154 homers and 1,078 RBIs, those being accrued in what amounted to eleven full seasons. He managed through '41 and had a record of 823-661. In '42 he moved to the front office but didn't enjoy it so he left baseball and returned to Memphis to trade cotton for a few years. He then moved to Jacksonville where he opened a very successful auto dealership and lived the rest of his life. He passed away there in 1989 at age 90.

Willie Mays I'll save for the Series cards.

Laughing Larry Doyle came out of mining country in Illinois to play local ball and was signed by the Giants during the 1907 season for a then-record $4,500. He went right up, but having played third base exclusively up till then in his career, lost his first game when while playing second he got confused and let a run score while holding the ball. But from there it was all good and he would be the Giants starting second baseman for most of the next 13 seasons. In '09 he led the NL in hits, in '11 in triples, and in '12 won the Chalmers award - then the MVP - by hitting .330 with 90 RBIs on the pennant winner. He went to the Series three times with NY, from '11 to '13 (hitting .237 in 19 games). In '15 he led the NL in hits, doubles, and with a .320 average. While hitting, he had to wear a string around his right wrist attached to the bat to keep him from slinging it into the dugout. Late in the '16 season he was traded to the Cubs for Heinie Zimmerman but after a season starting there he was back in NY before the '18 season. That year he was part of a pretty funny double play: on first base he was given the hit and run and was at second before the Cards' second baseman was. Rabbit Maranville had fielded the ball at shortstop and had tossed the ball to second. On reflex Larry caught it as he was running in, pivoted and threw to first, nailing his own batter. The batter was out and Larry was called out due to interference, do he recorded a double play against himself! He remained with the Giants through the '20 season, finishing with a .290 lifetime average, 123 triples,793 RBIs, and 298 stolen bases. At the time of his retirement he had played the third most games at second. He managed in the minors in '21 and '22 and returned to Illinois to work. At some point during the '20's he contracted tuberculosis and went to Saranac Lake in NY where his old roomie Christy Mathewson was ailing also. Larry got cured eventually and when the sanatorium closed in '42 was the last resident to depart. He remained in Saranac Lake the rest of his life, passing away in '74 at age 88.

Nobody worked the short dimensions down the lines at the Polo Grounds better than Mel Ott who, despite his size - only 5'9" - was a big power hitter for 20 years. Recommended to John McGraw by the owner of the sandlot team on which he played at 17, he was signed by the Giants in '26. Mel never played in the minors, instead warming the bench a couple seasons before the sudden death of outfielder Ross Youngs eventually allowed him to take over left field in '28. That year he hit 18 homers and .322 in his first season as a regular. The next season he hit 42 and from then until '42 he would average over 30 homers and 100 RBIs a season. Along the way he appeared in three Series and that last year he would assume the manager role as well, following Bill Terry. Mel played through the '46 season and finished with a .308 average, with 2,876 hits, 511 homers - then an NL record - 1,860 RBIs, and a .418 OBA. He hit .295 with four homers and ten RBIs in 16 post-season games and was an 11-time All-Star. Mel managed through the '47 season, going 464-530. After a couple years doing admin work he managed in the PCL in '51 and '52 and then turned to broadcasting which he was actively still at when he and his wife were killed in an auto accident in '58. He was only 49. Mel was elected to the Hall in '52.

All the above guys have detailed bios by the SABR guys. On to the pitchers:

Hoyt Wilhelm came out of North Carolina and was already throwing a knuckleball before he finished high school. He kicked things off in the local minors in '42 when he went 10-3. He then missed the next three seasons to WW II where he was in the Battle of the Bulge. He returned to the North Carolina State League in '46 and the next two seasons went a combined 41-15 and was finally signed by the Giants prior to the '48 season when he was 25. After a couple years for them in the low minors, Hoyt went 26-25 in two years at Triple A in '50 and '51. The next year he moved to NY where he had a monstrous season as a 29-year old rookie. He led the NL in games and went 15-3 with 11 saves and an NL-leading 2.43 ERA entirely in relief. The next year he was an All-Star with 15 saves and in '54 went 12-4 with a 2.10 ERA for the Series champs. He stuck in NY through '56 then was traded to the Cards for Whitey Lockman. After a partial season there he moved to the Indians - where he got the first start of his career at age 35 - and then Baltimore. For the O's he joined the rotation in '59 , went 15-11, and won the ERA title with 2.19. He stayed with the O's through '62 by which time he was back in the pen, leaving behind a 2.42 ERA in five seasons. He then moved to the White Sox where he was one of the AL's top relievers, going 41-33 with a 1.91 ERA and 98 saves in six seasons, all in his Forties. From there he moved to the Angels, Braves - where he was an All-Star in '70 - Cubs, and Dodgers before he finished in '72 when he was 49 with a 143-122 record with a 2.52 ERA and 227 saves in a record 1,071 games. He managed in the minors from '73 to '75, and the was a roving pitching coach for the Yankees from '76 to '98. He was elected to the Hall in '85, the first relief pitcher so honored, and passed away in 2002 from a heart ailment at age 80.

Iron Man Joe McGinnity was another late bloomer. Born in Illinois in 1871, he played sandlot ball after high school while working in local foundries, reaching the Southern Association in 1893 where he went 15-20. After not receiving much interest he returned home to play local ball and work in a saloon. Late in the '98 season he hooked back up in organized ball, going 9-5 with Peoria. After the season he was signed by Baltimore, for whom John McGraw played, and the following season as a 28-year old rookie, led the NL with 28 wins. In 1900 the team dissolved and Joe went to Brooklyn and again won 28. In '01 he rejoined McGraw in Baltimore, now an AL team, winning 34 there in the next season-plus, before following McGraw late in '02 to the Giants. In '03 and '04 he had two of the best successive seasons by a pitcher ever as he went 66-28 in 845 innings. In '04 he led the NL with a 1.61 ERA (which should trump the Hubbell mark on the card), wins (with 35), shutouts (nine), and saves (five). In '05 he finally go to a Series and went 1-1 despite not giving up an earned run in 17 innings. In '06 he led the NL in wins for the fifth time and in '07 and '08 in saves. After finishing in the bigs at age 37 with a 246-142 record, a 2.66 ERA, 32 shutouts, 24 saves, and over 3,400 innings in ten seasons Joe returned to the minors to play and coach. Before he finished as a player - when he was 54 - he had won an additional 205 games. He coached through the '29 season when he became ill and later passed away at age 58. He was elected to the Hall in '46.

Christy Mathewson was the other half of a pretty fierce pitching duo with Iron Man above. After growing up in eastern PA, Matty went to Bucknell where he was all-everything in baseball, basketball, and football. He'd also played a season of summer ball but had a miserable run, going 2-13. Upon graduating in 1899 he played for Norfolk, went 18-2, and hit .280 while also playing the outfield, and by the end of the season was purchased by the Giants. After being selected by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft, he was traded back to NY and his career began in earnest when he won 20 in '01. After going 14-17 in '02 - but leading the NL in shutouts with eight - he put together a pretty amazing streak. He won over 30 each of the next three seasons - he and McGinnity each won at least that amount in '04 and '05 - and over the next twelve seasons his lowest win total was 22. During that time he led the NL in wins four times, shutouts three times, and ERA and strikeouts five times. In the '05 Series he famously went 3-0 while not giving up a run in 27 innings. By '14 Matty was running out of gas - possibly due to tuberculosis that had killed a younger brother that year - and the next couple seasons were very sub-par. In '16 McGraw traded him to the Reds so that he could manage and there Matty built the team that would play the Black Sox in the '19 Series. But in '18 he went to Europe for WW I and there was exposed to mustard gas and also got hit with influenza. During the '19 Series he got a gig for the NY Times and for that paper opined that things were a bit suspicious on the field which would of course turn out to be correct. After a couple years coaching for McGraw with the Giants, Matty went up to Saranac Lake, by this time in pretty bad health from the mustard gas and full-blown tuberculosis. He stayed there until he passed away in '25 when he was only 45. During his career he went 373-188 with a 2.13 ERA, 79 shutouts, 435 complete games, and over 2,500 strikeouts in nearly 4,800 innings. In the post-season he was 5-5 with a 0.97 ERA with four shutouts in eleven games. He was elected to the Hall in '36.

Luther "Dummy" Taylor was born in Kansas in 1875 and grew up there, graduating from the Kansas School for the Deaf in 1895. Called "Dummy" because of his inability to hear or speak he played local ball until '99 when he went 6-7 with Shreveport of the Southern League. The Giants signed him and brought him to NY the following year where he went 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA as a rookie. In '01 he went 18-27 for a team that only won 52 games. The next year he jumped to Cleveland in the AL for more money before jumping back to NY by the end of the season. He was a favorite for the Giants because his ability to see well and to sign made him very adept at stealing signs from other teams and he would spend a bunch of time coaching first base as well. In '04 he went 21-15 with a 2.34 ERA, his best season. He would stick in NY through '08 when his arm gave out but would be shut out of any Series appearances since those starts were monopolized by the two guys above. Dummy finished with a 116-106 record and a 2.75 ERA, 160 complete games, 21 shutouts, and three saves. He returned to the minors where he pitched and coached through '15, winning another 75 games. He then became an umpire for The Hose of David, among other teams, from '15 through '38. He also spent a bunch of time coaching and doing various admin work for a few schools for the deaf. He passed away in '58 at age 83.

Charles "Jeff" Tesreau was born in Missouri in 1888 where he worked in lead mines and played for local teams. He had a rifle fastball with almost no control and by 1910 had hooked up with the Texas League, going 15-14 with a 1.91 ERA. The Giants picked him up and over the next couple seasons Jeff learned and refined his new out pitch, a spitball. He came to NY in '12 and went 17-7 as a rookie, leading the NL with a 1.96 ERA. He would average over 20 wins the next four seasons and in '14 won 26 and led the NL with eight shutouts. He pitched in three Series, going 1-2 with a 3.62 ERA in six games. In '18 he was off to a 4-4 start with a 2.32 ERA when an argument with McGraw led him to quit the team. That was it for him up top and he finished at 115-72 with a 2.43 ERA and 27 shutouts. He then became Dartmouth's baseball coach from '19 to '46, going 379-264 while there. He was still the school's coach when he passed away from a stroke in '46 at age 58.

Carl Hubbell, the Meal Ticket, was also born in Missouri, but grew up in Oklahoma. After high school he worked in the oil business, played company ball, and eventually hooked up with independent teams when he was 21 in 1924. Then he was primarily a fastball pitcher but over the next couple seasons he would learn and refine a screwball. After the '25 season he was bought by the Tigers but in '26 manager Ty Cobb wouldn't let him throw his screwjie and he was sent down, eventually winning 14 that year at various levels. Sold to a Texas League team he was allowed to throw his pitch again and after an increasingly better season was sold to the Giants. He came up in '28 and after a rough start put in some good relief outings and by the end of the season was in the rotation. The next four seasons he averaged 17 wins for McGraw during the manager's last four years. In '33 He went on a five-year tear, averaging 23 wins a year while leading the NL in ERA three times, shutouts, saves, and strikeouts once each. He also won two MVP's during that run: in '33 when he went 23-12 with his 1.66 ERA; and in '36 when he went 26-6 with a 2.31 ERA. He made the first six All-Star teams - he would make nine altogether - and went to the Series three times, going a combined 4-2 with a 1.79 ERA in six games. He pitched for NY through the '43 season and finished with a record of 243-154 with a 2.98 ERA and 36 shutouts. After he played he moved to run the Giants' minor league system from '44 to '77 when he suffered a stroke. He then scouted for the Giants through his death in '88 at age 85.

All the pitchers also have great bios on the SABR site.

Finally to the '73 rundown. Back then Topps loved the Giants so I expect pretty good representation. The only missing regular is Willie McCovey but that's because he was traded to the Padres and has a card there. The pitching side has a few holes. Don McMahon went 4-0 in '73 with a 1.48 ERA in 22 games, although technically he had a card since he was a Giants coach that year (his bio is on that post). Charlie Williams - acquired the season before for Willie Mays - went 3-0 but with a 6.65 ERA and gets skipped over this year. Sam McDowell went 1-2 with SF but has a Yankees card. And then there's John Morris, who went 1-0. Including McMahon there are cards for 158 of 162 decisions, so that's pretty good. The guys with no player cards went a combined 9-0, definitely a first for this set.

To fill out music news for November, since this post took forever, in '73 a new number one hit appeared on November 24th in the U.S. It was Ringo Starr's "Photograph" and it ironically replaced John Lennon's song "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" up top. In '74 a new number one song hit the top stateside: Billy Swan's "I Can Help." It would stay there for two weeks beginning on the 23rd. On the 28th John Lennon joined Elton John onstage at Madison Square Garden in what would be the last concert appearance by Lennon. They would perform his '73 hit "Whatever ..." as well as "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There. "Lucy" would be a hit in '75 for Elton and the latter was released as a b-side to his "Philadelphia Freedom."

To make this quick, we take advantage of a very recent trade, seen later in this set:

1. Juan Marichal was on the '73 Giants;
2. Marichal and Carl Yastrzemski '74 Red Sox.

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