Tuesday, June 5, 2012

#379 - Billy Martin/Rangers Field Leaders

Now we come to Billy Martin, Texas manager. Why is Billy airbrushed into his Ranger threads? Because he spent most of ’73 managing the Tigers, in whose uniform he is actually attired. There are even some of his boys in the background by the batting cage. Detroit was Billy’s second gig up top and he was able to pull off his usual magic, taking an aging Tiger team to the AL East championship in ’72, his second year. Then, on top of the team aging fast in ’73, both the Tigers and Billy were bedeviled by what would continue to be negative fallouts from his managing style: used-up pitchers; significant disagreements with veterans; and public issues with the executive suite. For a while he had no bullpen. Al Kaline and Willie Horton got hurt. He was knocked out of first place by the lowly Brewers. Then in August the bad stuff peaked when frustrated in a game by Gaylord Perry, Billy retaliated by having his pitchers throw spitballs as well, and then announced he did so to the press. That was a bit too much for GM Jim Campbell who suspended Billy and then fired him (and then for all his troubles nearly took a bullet in his hotel room). Within a week Billy was hired by the Rangers who summarily disposed of Whitey Herzog just for the opportunity to get Martin (owner Bob Short said he’d fire his own mother to get the guy). While Billy only went 9-14 the rest of the way, he ramped things up considerably in ’74 when he took the Senators/Rangers franchise to only its second winning season in its existence.

Billy Martin was a scrappy kid out of Berkeley, California, who played some ball late in his high school career for a local affiliate of the Oakland Oaks, an independent PCL team. The Oaks signed Billy upon graduating in ’46 and sent him to their C league team to finish that season. In ’47 at the same level he hit .392 to earn a call-up to the Triple A Oaks late that year. He played there the next two seasons as well, earning the admiration of manager Casey Stengel. After he hit .286 with 12 homers and 92 RBI’s in ’49, Casey had Billy and Jackie Jensen traded to the Yankees for Eddie Malone. After a good partial season in Triple A he came up for good at the end of the ’50 season. A second baseman and sometime shortstop he didn’t get too much time in the field the next couple seasons behind Joe Coleman and Phil Rizzuto. Early in the ’52 season Coleman enlisted to fight in Korea and Billy took over second base. He had a pretty good regular first season and then peaked up top in ’53 with a .257, 15 homer, and 75 RBI season followed by .500 hitting on a record 12 hits in the Series. For ’54 and a bunch of ’55 he was in the service. He returned as the starter for ’56 and then, early in ’57 was involved in a bar fight in NYC with a bunch of other Yankees. Billy, as the most expendable one, was traded to Kansas City. He then moved around a bunch: to Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati – where he nearly blinded Jim Brewer with a sucker punch on the mound - Milwaukee, and Minnesota. His final season was ’61 and he finished with a .257 average and an All-Star appearance. He hit over .300 in the minors and kicked butt in the post-season: .333 with five homers and 19 RBI's in 28 games.

Martin became a scout for the Twins shortly after he finished playing which he did through ’64. He then moved to Minnesota as a coach from ’65 to early ’68 when he got his first managing gig for the team’s Triple A franchise, turning a losing record into a winning one. In ’69 he took over managing the Twins and took them to a division title. But he was then fired after the season, partly because during the year he got in a fight with one of his star pitchers, Dave Boswell. After a year off he became Detroit’s manager, kicking off his career there off by pushing the Tigers to second and flashing the bird on his ’72 Topps card.  In ’74 he won his first Manager of the Year award for his work in Texas. In ’75 he was fired after the team couldn’t repeat in part because of overused pitchers and veteran fallouts. Like in ’73, though, he was quickly scooped up, this time by the Yankees. In ’76 NY made some huge trades that pretty much all worked and Billy got his second MOY award as he took them to the Series for the first time in 12 seasons. In ’77 he won the whole thing before pretty much imploding mid-way through the ’78 season. He returned in mid-’79 to replace Bob Lemon – the guy who replaced him – but the death of Thurman Munson was too much and NY finished in fourth place. In ’80 he moved to Oakland where he revived that franchise to second place before winning the division championship and his third MOY award in ’81 (he lost to the Yankees in the AL playoffs). In ’82 same story as his pitchers ran out of gas and Billy posted his first season-long losing record. He returned to NY to manage in ’83 (when he finished in third), ’85, and ’88. He put up excellent records in both latter stints but was replaced both times due to attitude issues and the Boss’s worries about Billy’s health. His managing record was 1,253-1,013 in the majors. In between he did consulting gigs for the team. He was doing that as well when he was in a fatal car accident Christmas Day in ’89. He was 61.

Art Fowler was a pitcher in South Carolina who played some local industrial ball after graduating high school. In ’44 he was signed by the Giants – he is about the only guy eligible so far on this blog to miss WW II service – and won 13 that first summer in D ball. He then ramped that up to 23 wins in C ball in ’46 which earned him a promotion to Triple A in ’46. But with everyone returned from the service Art had a tough time for a few years turning in consistent numbers at the higher levels. In ’48 he won 19 back in A ball; in ’49 he was traded to the Braves; and four years and 63 wins later – most at Double A – he was traded to the Reds. For them he finally made his debut up top, in ’54 going 12-10 with a 3.83 ERA as a 31-year old rookie. It would be his best season. He spent the next three seasons with Cincinnati in both the pen and the rotation. In ’58 he returned to the minors and mid-year was traded to LA for – among others – Don Newcombe. He spent the next three seasons pitching for Dodger franchises including part of ’59 up top, though he got shut out in Series play. During ’61 he was sold to the new Angels and for them he joined the pen where he would stay the next three seasons. After a poor start to the ’64 season he was released and finished with a record up top of 54-51 with a 4.03 ERA, 25 complete games, four shutouts, and 32 saves. He finished out the season as the Angels bullpen coach then moved to Denver, Minnesota’s top team where he both pitched and coached five of the next six seasons. His pitching numbers were pretty good during that stretch even though he was over 40 and in ’68 his manager was Billy Martin. The next year they both went to Minnesota to win the division. Art returned to Denver for his last year when Billy was fired. There, at age 47. he went 9-5 with a 1.59 ERA and 15 saves. He finished his minor run with a record of 205-137 with a 3.39 ERA. He then stayed with Martin, going to the Tigers (’71-’73), the Rangers (’73-’75), and eventually the Yankees (’77-’78,’79,and ’83). He also coached at Oakland (’80-’82). Between and after those dates he returned to South Carolina where he played some golf and ran local promotional events for the Yankees and other teams. He passed away in 2007 at age 84 from blood cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Frank Lucchesi signed with the Yankees out of San Francisco in ’45 and that year began a minor league career as an outfielder that stalled at the B level. Despite hitting over .300 a couple times and a decent career .276 average, his size – 5’7” – and lack of speed worked against him and by ’51 at only 24 he was managing a D team. He worked his way through the NY and then the St. Louis/Baltimore systems and landed in Philadelphia’s in ’56. From that year through ’64 he would put up a winning record each season and win four titles, including three successive ones from ’60 to ’62. After a couple off years he resumed capturing titles in ’68 in Double A and the next season in Triple A. Those earned him a promotion to the top in ’70. But the Phillies were a transitional team back then and Frank made it mid-way through ’72 after going a combined 166-253 when he was replaced by Paul Owen, the GM. He then hooked up with Cleveland as a coach/admin guy in their system until late August when he got a call from old friend Billy Martin to join him as a coach in Texas. That he did until mid-’75 when he was named to replace the fired Martin as manager. He put up a better record the rest of the way than Billy and after a middling ’76 was set for a big year in ’77. Unfortunately , after naming rookie Bump Wills his new second baseman, the old one – Lenny Randle – took umbrage and nearly destroyed Frank’s face in an assault in spring training. Frank had to spend over  a week in the hospital, and though Randle was fined and traded, Frank was released a couple months into the ’77 season, which would turn out to be by far the team’s most successful one with 94 wins. He would return to Texas as a consultant in ’78 and then as third base coach from ’79-’80. In ’81 he returned to the Cleveland system as a scout and then manager for part of the season, resuming things as a scout in ’82. In ’85 he took up the same role with the Dodgers and then in ’87 signed on with the Cubs as a coach. He would later manage Chicago that season when Gene Michael resigned, that being Frank’s last managing gig up top (lifetime he was 316-399 at that level). In ’88 he joined the Cincinnati system, taking over as manager of Nashville later that year which he did through ’89. He finished his minor league managing career with a 1,561-1,365 record. He then mostly retired although he made Arlington his home and has done a bunch of community work for the Rangers in the past twenty-plus years.

Jackie Moore was signed by the Tigers out of high school in Texas in ’57. Originally an outfielder he was converted to a catcher early in his career and worked his way through the Detroit system, reaching Triple A in ’61. Stuck behind Bill Freehan and John Sullivan in the pecking order most of his career, his best season was probably ’63 when he hit .296 with seven homers and 37 RBI’s. He split ’65 between Triple A and Detroit, when he got his only action up top (he hit .094 in 53 at bats). After the ’66 season he was traded to Boston in the deal that brought Detroit Bill Monbouquette. After a season in Triple A for the Sox he was released and finished in the minors with a lifetime .250 average. He then immediately got into coaching. After managing in the BoSox chain in ’68 to ’69 he moved up to coach the Brewers from ’70 to ’72 and then the Rangers from ’73 to ’76, taking a few months in ’75 to manage half a season in the minors. In ’77 he joined the Blue Jays where he stayed through ’79. Jackie then returned to Texas for a year before re-joining Billy Martin in Oakland, first as coach, and then from mid-’84 through mid-’86 as manager. His record with the A’s was 163-190. He then moved to Montreal (’87-’89), Cincinnati (’90-’92), back to Texas (’93-’95), and Colorado (’96-’98). It seems he enjoyed three-year runs. In 2000 he took over as manager for Round Rock in the Houston chain for its owner Nolan Ryan which he did through ’07. His minor league managing record is 949-948. In ’08 he returned to the majors as the Astros bench coach. He then went back to Texas in the same role, re-joining Ryan. He is currently the Texas bench coach. He has a son, Jonathan, who plays in the minors.

Like Jackie Moore, Charlie Silvera was a catcher. Signed by the Yankees out of the San Francisco area in ’42, he put in a summer of D ball before he got drafted into the service. He then played ball on Army teams in the Pacific the next three years. When he returned Stateside in ’46 it was to three years of Triple A ball, peaking in ’48 when he hit .301 with 85 RBI’s. He made his debut for NY late that season and hit .571 in 4 games. The next season Yogi Berra missed a bit over a month so Charlie got his career high up top of 130 at bats and hit .315. He also got into the Series that year. After that year, though, it was Yogi all the way and Charlie maxed out with 82 at bats in any one season. He stayed in NY through ’56, put in a partial season with the Cubs in ’57, and finished his career up top with a .282 average and .356 OBA. In ’58 he returned to NY as a player/manager in the minors which he did through ’59. He then moved to the Pittsburgh system for a year, his final one as a player. In the minors he finished with a .262 average. From ’61 to ’68 he scouted for the Senators and he then returned to coaching, this time up top, and all for Billy Martin. Charlie had gigs for the Twins (’69), Tigers (’71-’73), and Rangers (’73-’75). During the ’70 season he managed again in the California chain (his lifetime managing record was 167-203). Since ’75 he has done scouting, principally for the Yankees and the A’s. As of late 2011, at 87, he was still at it from his home base back by the bay.

This is the first double hook-up in a while and at least one of them is easy. For Billy as manager:

1. Martin managed Fergie Jenkins on the ’74-’75 Rangers;
2. Jenkins and Burt Hooton ’71-’73 Cubs.

For Billy as a player:

1. Martin and Harmon Killebrew ’61 Twins;
2. Killebrew and Bill Hands ’73-’74 Twins;
3. Hands and Burt Hooton ’71-’72 Cubs.

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