Tuesday, July 10, 2012

#397 - George Stone

The action cards keep coming – they’ll end pretty soon – with a slightly off-centered George Stone unloading one from the mound at Shea. It is sort of tough to overstate the impact George had on his new team in ’73. Pretty much a throw-in in the trade that brought Felix Millan over from the Braves, he began the season with low expectations as a middle reliever. Then in May he threw six shutout innings of relief – in a 19-inning game! – and Yogi began to ease him into the rotation. George had always had a tender arm so he could only throw every five of six days from that position. But later in the year as NY was doing the big playoff push he won eight straight and would wind up the season as one of only two starters with a winning record. On top of that he hit .271 during the season as well. And he kept going in the post-season as he gave up only one run in ten innings. It would be a career year for him and the success would be too short-lived. But for one season he was one of the Mets’ brightest lights.

George Stone grew up in Ruston, Louisiana and after high school would attend Louisiana Tech where he played both basketball and baseball for two years. After his sophomore season he was drafted by the Braves in ’66 and immediately put up excellent numbers as a pro, going 8-2 with a 2.25 ERA that summer in A ball. Back then primarily a flame thrower, he would average a strikeout an inning. He then split ’67 between Double A, Triple A, and the military, going 8-5 with a 2.68 ERA.. In ’68 the routine was pretty much the same except that he got called up to Atlanta mid-season, leaving behind a minor league record of 19-9 with a 2.53 ERA and only a runner an inning.

Stone got some early season time up top in ’67 but his for real rookie year was ’68, a good year to be a pitcher. Throwing more starts than relief he had a nice year and continued his promising career when he kicked off the ’69 season by going 9-2. Even though he cooled off in the second half and moved part of that time to the pen, where he had three saves, he still posted his career high in wins and got some playoff action. Then his next few seasons were sort of ho-hum as he battled some injuries and general ineffectiveness and after the ’70 season, declining innings as he spent more time in the pen. ’72 was pretty much a disaster as his ERA shot up a couple runs and his control was undone by a shoulder injury. During the season he hit Rusty Staub with a pitch – some say intentionally – that broke Rusty’s wrist, killed that guy’s season, and made George very unpopular in NY. So of course after it that was where he went with Millan for Gary Gentry and Danny Frisella.

After his big ’73 Stone kicked off ’74 in the rotation and looked good his first couple starts but something was amiss as his walk total was steadily beating his strikeout one. His shoulder hurt and after a couple times on the DL it turned out it was his rotator cuff which back then meant serious trouble. He went on the shelf for good in August and didn’t return until June of ’75 but the comeback didn’t last and George became another pitcher laid low by rotator cuff problems. Right before spring training of ’76 he was shipped to Texas for Bill Hands but he knew he was done and so retired before he threw for the Rangers. George finished with a record of 60-57, with a 3.89 ERA, 24 complete games, and five saves. In the post-season he got zero decisions but put up a 1.69 ERA in eleven innings. He hit .212 with 39 RBI’s in 339 at bats during the regular season as well.

After playing Stone returned to Louisiana and got involved in educating kids. He’d been returning to Louisiana Tech in off-seasons and finished up there in ’70 with an education degree. So he became a teacher and a guidance councilor at area schools and also coached baseball through at least ’99. He continues to reside in that neck of the woods.

Look at that - I missed posting George's card on his birthday by a day. There is part of George's early '69 run. I guess he was a streaky guy. As noted above, basketball was a bit more than a hobby.

George and Tommy missed each other in NY by a bunch of years but hook up through a former ROY:

1. Stone and Earl Williams ’71 to ’72 Braves;
2. Williams and Tommy Davis ’73 to ’74 Orioles.

As promised, it is time to do the re-cap of where the set stands 60% into things so here we go:

Post-seasons: things get expanded by a year and each one from 1957 to 1990 with the exception still of 1960 is represented by at least one player. ’73 leads the way not surprisingly with 59 players.

Awards: things are still moving slowly here as we are up to 20 MVP’s, 14 Cy Young winners,21 Rookie of the Year winners (that is actually a pretty big jump), and 19 Comeback Players of the Year. The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year is stuck at seven, we have 17 Manager of the Year winners (again with a bunch of multiple winners), and remain at ten Firemen of the Year.

Milestones: we only added one rookie card in the last 66 to move that total to 29. Hall of Famers also moves up only one to 32. There are now 40 official or unofficial traded cards, 25 cards representing the final ones in a player’s career, and 38 cards of players who have since deceased.

Rookie teams: the ’62 team continues to be shut out. Here are the rest of the totals:

’59-3; ’60-2; ’61-3; ’63-2; ’64-3 (I goofed last time) ’65-3; ’66-5;
’67-4; ’68-6; ’69-5; ’70-5; ’71-6; ’72-7; ’73-9
Pretty good growth on the newer teams. We only need one guy to complete the ’73 set.

Random: action shots get a big bump to 91. There are 124 guys in home uniforms and 221 in away ones. Parenthetical names, a good indicator of Latin guys, is up to 27. Ugly cards remain at five, though some have come close, and guys who served in Viet Nam is stuck at four. The Washington Nat’l cards are at 14 but there will be only one more of those.

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