Wednesday, September 5, 2012

#427 - Bobby Bolin

Bobby Bolin got released in spring training of ’74 on the same day as Luis Aparicio, so like Little Looie, this is his last card. The infield behind Bobby looks enormous and the shot appears to be taken about a year before his release, on a practice spring training field. Bobby certainly deserved a card in ’74 as his ’73 numbers – particularly his 15 saves – made him one of the AL’s better relievers. But new manager Darrell Johnson regarded the 34-year-old Bolin as too old, so he replaced him and his saves and his 2.72 ERA with Diego Segui, who in ’74 was 36, saved ten, and put up a 4.00 ERA. Oops. Bobby and another “aged” reliever – Bob Veale – actually put up 26 saves between them and formed a pretty good closer combo, finishing 53 games between them. Bobby seemed to roll pretty easily though, and it wasn’t long before he was back to his home base and onto his next thing.

Bobby Bolin threw some serious heat as a kid and high schooler but nobody outside the hamlet of Hickory, South Carolina, knew that until the school’s principal kept bugging one of the local rags to do a feature on him. He succeeded and the article got some bird dog scouts to take interest, one of them being from the Pirates, who signed Bobby with Branch Rickey in the room. That signing was later annulled by the commissioner because the Pirates broke all sorts of rules but later in ’56 Bobby signed with the Giants and this time it was left intact. He got things rolling the next spring and went 15-9 in D ball with a no-hitter and a 3.53 ERA but was a bit wild with more walks than strikeouts. He had an off year in C ball in ’58, going 10-8 with a 4.22 ERA but got the K to BB thing ironed out and then in ’59 tossed another no-no as he went 20-8 with a 2.84 ERA and 271 strikeouts in 225 innings in B ball. Those numbers got him into the A’s and in ’60 he went 12-8 with a 3.19 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning split between Double and Triple A.

When Bolin came up to San Francisco in ’61 he was initially a reliever, a role at which he did a pretty nice job over the next couple seasons, averaging nearly a strikeout an inning , and adding 17 saves through ’63. His second year he got some post-season action, though he didn’t do terribly well. In ’63 he did spot duty and in ’64 his starts outnumbered his relief outings for the first time and though he threw pretty well, his record didn’t reflect it. In ’65 it was mostly pen work again but he got enough innings to get the seventh best ERA in the NL. ’66 was back to the rotation where again an excellent ERA was belied by his record. After a ’67 blow-up he came back strong in ’68 to post the NL’s second-best ERA at almost a run higher than winner Bob Gibson. After a sub-standard season in ’69 he was traded to the Pilots/Brewers for Steve Whitaker and Dick Simpson. While he won the first home game ever in Milwaukee for that franchise it was sort of a lost year there and in September he came to the Sox for outfielder Al Yates. For them he had a couple saves in his six outings and added six more and a winning record despite a high ERA in ’71. He spent a bunch of the ’72 season at Triple A Louisville – he went 6-1 with six saves and a 2.20 ERA at that level - and added five saves up top. After his fine ’73 he was released the following March. Along with the stats on the card he had 32 complete games, ten shutouts, and 50 saves. In the post-season he had a 6.75 ERA in nearly three innings.

Bolin returned to South Carolina, settling in a town called Six Mile where he worked his land for a bit and had his own business that may have been a purveyor of travel cards. He also sold a home in a nearby town that is now a wildlife refuge. In ’86 he returned to baseball as a pitching coach in the White Sox organization. I am not sure how long that tenure lasted but it was long enough for him to get props in developing Bobby Thigpen, the future record-setting reliever. He stayed local, adding a home supplies business to his portfolio, and in 2008 was inducted into his home state’s hall of fame.

Bobby gets room for one star bullet. That game was against the Dodgers. I find it pretty wiggy that on baseball-reference the pitcher with whom he has the greatest similarity is Kerry Wood.

This guy came up in a post a while back:

1. Bolin and Jose Pagan ’61 to ’65 Giants;
2. Pagan and Rennie Stennett ’71 to ’72 Pirates.

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