Monday, January 9, 2012

#308 - Bruce Dal Canton

This poor guy was always a step away from glory: he got traded from the Pirates the year before they won the Series; and he got traded from the Royals the year before they made the playoffs. But Bruce had been such a long shot to play at all that at some times the sun shone on him. One of those times is this day in Oakland where he looks like he's about to unload a fast softball pitch. But Bruce's specialty was a knuckleball.

Bruce Dal Canton was born in California - the town, not the state - which means he came from PA. After playing ball in high school he continued doing so at California University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with a degree in education. He'd had no interest from any professional teams so when he graduated in '63 he took a job teaching science at a local high school. He also played in a local adult league and on a whim in '66 attended a Pirates tryout. He was signed on the spot and put up a short season in Double and Triple A. He did well at the former level and was a little challenged at the second one, a theme that would be common the next few years (for his career, Bruce went 12-8 with a 2.86 ERA at the lower level and 1-5 with a 6.08 ERA at the higher one). He got in a few games up top in '67, pitching three scoreless innings in his debut, and in '68 when he added two saves in his seven games.

In '69 it was all Pittsburgh for Dal Canton in one of his best seasons in which he added five saves. The next year the ERA flew as he did some spot starting and mostly middle relieving. Although on a division winner, he got zero playoff time. After the season he was sent to the Royals with Jerry May and Freddie Patek for Jackie Hernandez and Bob Johnson. In KC Bruce joined the rotation and lowered his ERA by over a run. Over the next two seasons he drifted back to the pen and he put up only three starts in '73, a year marred by an elbow injury. In '74 he had a bit of a comeback, returning to the rotation and posting a 3.13 ERA, even though his record was 8-10. After a horrible start to the '75 season he moved back to the NL in a trade to Atlanta for Ray Sadecki and a couple minor leaguers. There he resuscitated his ERA down to 3.36 the remainder of the season, although he again had a losing record. In '76 he did the middle relief thing again and did a pretty good job, although he was released at the end of the season. He signed with the White Sox for '77 and threw a few innings, all in long relief, before he was released that August. After a couple looks for Chicago's Triple A club in '78 he was done. Bruce finished with a record of 51-49 with a 3.67 ERA, 15 complete games, two shutouts, and 19 saves.

Despite Dal Canton's degrees he remained in baseball for most of the rest of his professional life. In '82 he returned to the Braves and began a minor league coaching career. In '87 he became Atlanta's pitching coach, which he held through '90. He then returned to coach in the minors, including a ten year gig for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a Carolina League Single A franchise. He was still working there when in 2008 he developed esophageal cancer from which he passed away later that year. He was 66.

Bruce gets some good atar bullets, although the first one is inaccurate since he got a couple saves in '68. At some point he earned a masters degree in education, so that is probably the degree to which the cartoon refers. He has been added to both his college's and the State of Pennsylvania's halls of fame.

I find this musical tidbit a bit interesting. In '73 on January 7, the UK was admitted to the European Economic Community ("EEC") and at the celebration, the group Slade performed at the request of Edward Heath, then the Prime Minister. That must have been a pretty good party.

The Alous are always helpful in these exercises:

1. Dal Canton and Matty Alou '67 to '70 Pirates;
2. Alou and Luis Martinez '71 to '73 Cards.

I just noticed that Night Owl is back with two new year-specific blogs, '71 and '85. I'm a little behind the eight ball free time-wise but I, for one of I am sure many, am very belatedly happy with that development.

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