Thursday, January 5, 2012

#306 - Earl Weaver/ Orioles Field Leaders

This guy was about as successful a manager as you got back when this card came out. When Earl posed for this shot at Yankee Stadium he was in the midst of managing Baltimore to its fourth divisional title in the five years divisions were around. He'd also won three AL pennants and one Series in six seasons. Earl's card here is a bit of an anomaly because the Baltimore type in the top pennant is in the wrong color. In '73 Earl had another notoriously good pitching staff, some decent offensive power at his infield corners, a young and speedy outfield, and amazing defense. While there was some drama through the summer with Detroit, New York, and even Milwaukee spending time in first, the O's took over the top spot on August 1 and then went on a 13-1 run in the middle of the month to make them the guys to beat. Earl moved his guys around well. When Boog Powell went cold, he moved catcher Earl Williams to his spot. He gave two rookie outfielders - Rich Coggins and Al Bumbry - starting spots and they both responded by hitting over .300 and making all-rookie teams. He resuscitated Tommy Davis' career, re-making him into one of the league's top designated hitters. And he almost returned to the Series, taking the champion A's to five games in the playoffs. He also won AL Manager of the Year. That's why he looks so happy.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Earl Weaver was signed by the Cards in ’48. A second baseman, he began his playing career that year in D ball and hit pretty well. The next year in C ball he won the league MVP with a .282 average and 101 RBI’s, by far the most of his career. He would win two other MVP’s in the minors, although I am unsure at which stops. After another good season at B ball he would move up to the A leagues, spending some time at Double A in ’51 and ’52. In ’53 and ’54 – when he moved to the Pirates system - he went back down to put up good numbers in Single A before returning to Double A in ’55 where he hit .278 with 69 RBI’s. It would be his apex as a player and the next year he began managing as well as playing. In both that season and ’57 he would give himself some significant at bats and he would gradually wind things down as a player by ’60. He hit .267 lifetime.

Meanwhile Weaver got a rough start as a manager, going 10-24 his first season. But in ’57 he moved to the Orioles chain and by ’58 he had a winning record in C ball. That would continue every year as he moved up the system ladder until he put up two years at Triple A Rochester in ’66 and ’67. For ‘68 he came up to Baltimore to be its first base coach and then was given the manager job after Hank Bauer was fired. Earl’s success was pretty immediate as he had the O’s in the next year’s Series and returned there the next two seasons, winning in ’70 against the Reds. He would win three more division titles and one playoff during the Seventies, returning to the Series in ’79. In '77 and '79 he won AL Manager of the Year again. He retired after the ’82 season to do television color work. After a couple years there he returned to manage Baltimore, taking over for Joe Altobelli, who had replaced him. But this run wasn’t nearly as successful and he again retired after the ’86 season, finishing with a lifetime record of 1,480-1,060. He came out of retirement briefly in ’89 to manage a Senior League team but that was his last professional endeavor outside of some spec work over the years for the O’s. In ’96 he made the Hall. Earl has had a prodigious life after baseball on YouTube and pretty much any video of him or voiceover from there is awfully entertaining.

This is an great group of coaches, so here we go:

George Bamberger came out of Staten Island where he was born in either '23 (baseball-reference) or '25 (Topps) and in '43 enlisted in the Army and spent the better part of the next three years in Europe in WW II. In '46 he returned, was signed by the Giants, and went 13-3 in C ball. In '47 he won 12 in B ball and was then promoted to Triple A where he spent most of the rest of his playing career. In '50 he won 17 for the Oakland Oaks and that got him in NY to start the '51 season where he only got into a couple games, the same as '52, with not great results. After his time up top in '52 he was basically optioned back to Oakland where he pitched the next four seasons. In '56 he was sold to the Baltimore system where he continued to pitch through '63 and saw his last Major League action in '59. In the minors he went 213-184 with a 3.72 ERA. Up top he went 0-0 with a 9.42 ERA and a save in ten games. George had also begun coaching in '60 and then from '64 to '67 served as minor league pitching coach at various spots in the O's system. In '68 he came up to Baltimore with Weaver and retained that position through '77 during which he produced 18 20-game winners - including four in '71 - and four Cy Young winners. In '78 he left to manage the Brewers and was immediately successful, taking the team from 95 losses in '77 to 93 wins his first year. He won UPI's Manager of the Year. After winning 95 in '79 George suffered a heart attack in spring training of '80 and only managed a few games mid-season before stepping down. He returned to baseball in '82 to manage the Mets, who were pretty horrible back then, and resigned after losing 125 games in just under a season-and-a-half.He then sat out a season before returning to Milwaukee to manage in '85 and '86. But by then a bunch of "Bambi's Bombers" were gone and the run wasn't too successful. He finished managing with a record of 458-478 and basically retired to Florida, occasionally showing up in spring training to do some ad hoc coaching, as with Montreal in '89 when he worked with Randy Johnson. George passed away in Florida in 2004 at age 80, so I guess B-R is correct on his birthdate after all.

Jim Frey was born in Cleveland and grew up outside Cincinnati where he played high school baseball with his longtime friend Don Zimmer. Signed by the Braves in '50 he hit .325 his first season in D ball, and hit .300 each of the next four seasons at successive levels until he reached Triple A in '55. A line drive hitting outfielder, he could show some good power - he had 40 doubles in '54 - and had a pretty good '55, hitting .282 with a .388 OBA. But in '56 he returned to Double A and then in '57 he was his league MVP, hitting .336 with a .412 OBA, 50 doubles,and 74 RBI's at the top of the order. That season got him to Triple A for good and a trade to the Cards and he spent the rest of his playing career at that level, where he hit for generally good averages through '63, his last season. He finished with over a .300 lifetime average on over 1,800 hits. In '64 he did a two-year gig managing in the lower minors for Baltimore and was then an O's scout from '66 to '69. He joined Weaver's staff in '70 and remained there through '79. In '80 he took over managing the Royals, and took them to the Series his first year. After a losing start to the strike season of '81 he was released. He then re-joined Bamberger in NY as a Mets coach for '82 and '83. In '84 he became manager of the Cubs and took them to the playoffs, earning TSN Manager of the Year. He stayed at the manager post through '86 and then moved upstairs as the Chicago GM from '87 to '91. In '92 he took on other admin roles and lost the GM gig to Larry Himes. He continues to do some work for the Cubs although he is now mostly retired.

Billy Hunter was born in groundhog territory, Punxsutawney, PA. After high school he went to Indiana University of PA and from there was signed by the Dodgers in '48. Primarily a shortstop, Billy hit like one while moving up through the Brooklyn system until '52 when he reached Triple A and hit .285. After that season he was traded for three guys and $95,000 to the Browns. In '53 he grabbed the St. Louis shortstop spot, hit .219, and made the All-Star team. He went to Baltimore with the team in '54 and after the season was part of a big trade - 17 players - that moved him and Don Larsen to the Yankees. In '55 he replace Phil Rizzuto at shortstop and then sat the bench the next year when Gil McDougal took over. In '57 he moved to the A's in another big deal - 14 players - that sent Clete Boyer to NY. In KC he spent a bit over a season as a starter before going to Cleveland to finish out the '58 season. After a year at Triple A for the Indians in '59 he was done as a player. He hit .219 for his MLB career. In '60 and '61 Billy scouted for the Indians. The next two seasons he managed in the minors for Baltimore and then from '64 to '77 he moved to the majors as the O's third base coach. Midway through the '77 season he took over as the Rangers manager and went 60-33 the rest of the way. Then after putting up a winning season in '78 - rare in Texas in those days - he was canned on the last day of the season. He went 146-108 as a manager. He then moved back to Maryland to coach Towson State for nine seasons - he went 132-166-4 - and then moved athletic director until '95 when he retired.

George Staller also came out of PA, where he was signed by the Dodgers after playing some local ball in '37. Another line drive hitting outfielder, he threw up some nice averages while working through the Dodger system, reaching Double A Montreal in '40 where he hit .307 with 40 doubles. After losing some points off his average the next year, he was traded to the Philadelphia A's for whom he put up two good seasons for their Baltimore franchise, beginning his relationship with the city. In '43 he hit .304 with 16 homers and 98 RBI's for his best season, earning him a few games in Philly late in the season. After he hit .271 with three homers and 12 RBI's in 85 at bats for the A's George enlisted and spent the rest of '43 through '45 in WW II. He returned in '46 to post a couple OK seasons back in Double A but his numbers weren't nearly as good as before he went away and beginning in '48 he became a player-manager for various teams in the Philly system. By '54 he was essentially done as a player and he finished with a .309 average in the minors. That year he moved to the Baltimore system where he continued to manage and also pitched a few games. He managed through '61 and then moved to Baltimore as a coach in '62. From '63 to '68 he scouted for the O's and he then returned to coaching in Baltimore from '69 to '75 when he retired back to PA. His managerial record was 955-1,051. He passed away back home in '92 at 76.

On January 5, 1973 a new group got their first radio gig in London. Queen performed on BBC Radio 1. In '74 on the third Bob Dylan began a big tour with The Band, opening in Chicago. Shows recorded on this tour would be used on the "Before the Flood" double album. On the fourth Marvin Gaye performed live for the first time in five years with a backing band featuring Ray Parker Jr. - of "Ghostbusters" fame - among others.

Four out of five guys on this card managed MLB teams. I think that's the best achievement level in this set. Earl didn't play up top so we only get a single link to Tito:

1. Weaver managed Jim Northrup in '75.
2. Northrup and Mickey Stanley '64 to '74 Tigers;
3. Stanley and Tito Fuentes '77 Tigers.

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