Thursday, October 18, 2012

#447 - Frank Quilici/Twins Field Leaders

This guy is only 34 years old and already in his second year of managing the Twins when this photo was probably taken in an away park (Oakland? – those guys behind Frank have yellow jerseys on). Unlike Sparky Anderson, Frank Quilici looked his age and was handed the managing job by his boss, Calvin Griffith, when he actually expected he would manage in Denver, the Twins’ Triple A affiliate. Instead Frank stepped in up top and took over a team that was pretty much middle-of-the-road. The Twins of ’73 had an amazing young pitcher in Bert Blyleven and a couple young hopefuls in Ed Bane and Danny Fife. They also had a lineup that could hit – they led the AL with a .270 team average that year – but with the Killer on the decline were not exactly over-run with power. Or speed, outside of Rod Carew. They managed to be in first place as late as early July, when only two games separated the top five teams in the AL West. But then the A’s caught fire, the new pitchers sort of petered out, and the Twins finished in third place with a record of 81-81.

Frank Quilici grew up in Chicago where he played rec league baseball in the city's park system. It was a good thing that system was so extensive because his high school didn’t have a baseball team. Upon graduating a friend got him a try-out with the coach of Loras College in Iowa. Frank made the cut and his first semester worked two jobs to pay for school but the schedule was a bit much and before the season began the following spring he was back home where he worked at a bottling plant the next year-plus. He was then discovered by a Western Michigan University scout playing rec ball and signed with the school, playing middle infield, twice going to the CWS, and being named second-team All-American his junior year and first team his senior year. During that time he had two connections to the Yankees: they tried to sign him after his junior year; and Jim Bouton was his roommate. Upon graduating WMU in ’61 he was signed by the Twins and that summer hit a combined .276 for a couple D level teams. In ’62 he hit at Mendoza levels in both B and A ball. But he got things together the next three years, earning league all-star nods at second base each year while moving from A to Double A to Triple A. His best full year was ’64 when he hit .261 with 60 RBI’s and a .343 OBA in Double A. In ’65 he was hitting .277 at the higher level when the Twins got hit with injuries and Frank was called up in mid-July to play second during the pennant run. He hit only .208 but did a very nice job on defense, coupling well with MVP Zoilo Versalles, and earned starting assignment for the Series, during which he hit .200 with a .333 OBA. In ’66 he returned to Triple A Denver where he hit .256 and the next year got leapfrogged by the guy who would render him a back-up, Rod Carew. After barely playing anywhere in ’67 Frank stayed up top the next three seasons, doing reserve work all over the infield, topping out in ’68 when he hit .245 in 229 at bats. In ’69 he returned to the post-season under manager Billy Martin and when Martin left the Twins to manage Detroit in ’71 he recruited Frank to join him. Calvin Griffith wasn’t too crazy about that so he relegated Frank to a coaching position in ’71 and then in ’72 named him manager, replacing Bill Rigney. His final record as a player was a .214 average in the regular season and a .182 in ten post-season games.With an under-developed farm system, Frank did a pretty good job as a manager, going 280-287 through ’75. He then moved to the broadcast booth for a few years before leaving baseball to partner with an old college buddy in an automobile supply business that did quite well. When he retired he chaired the Minneapolis park system for a while, channeling his rec league ball days. He also plays golf and makes appearances on behalf of his old team. In 2009 he did a long phone interview which was pretty interesting and to which I have linked here. Frank pretty much interviews himself and is a genial, well-spoken guy with some great stories.

Vern Morgan excelled in sports at a young age and was signed by the Giants out of Emporia, Virginia in ’44 when he was just 15. But the signing was voided and Vern then attended Fort Union, a local military academy, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. After graduating in ’47 he went to the University of Richmond with the plan of continuing in all three sports. But his football season was delayed when the NCAA questioned his eligibility due to his Giants signing – he later played – and his hoops season got blasted by appendicitis. Then before playing baseball he was signed by the Cubs in the spring of ’48. A third baseman, Vern could hit, and he kicked things off with a .331 season that summer in B ball. The next three seasons were spent primarily in A ball where he never hit below .296 and during which he had a couple forays as high as Triple A. He then missed all of ’52 and ’53 to the military and the Korean War. He returned in ’54 to hit .322 in A ball and had his debut in Chicago that August, hitting .234 the rest of the way. After a brief stay up top in ’55 – he hit .225 in 31 games lifetime – it was back to the minors. After finishing out the season in A ball, Vern went to the Nats in the minor league draft and spent the next four seasons with Chattanooga, a Double A team. He peaked with them in ’57, hitting .335 with 14 homers and 92 RBI’s. In ’60 he moved down to A ball in his last regular season. He began managing in ’61 and played a bit at first and pinch hit through ’64 when he finished as a player with a .301 average in the minors. He continued to manage through ’68 and was 488-540 lifetime. In ’69 he went up to Minnesota as a coach and remained one through the early part of the ’75 season when he had to take a leave to undergo a kidney transplant. That operation was unfortunately rejected and Vern passed away later that year at age 47.

Bob “Buck” Rodgers has a bio on the Angels Team Records post.

Ralph Rowe was pretty much a lifetime resident of Newberry, South Carolina. An outfielder, he was signed by Cleveland in ’42 out of high school and started with a bang, hitting .357 that summer in D ball. Then came WW II and the Marines, for whom Ralph was stationed in the Pacific. When he returned in ’47 he’d been traded to the Cubs and for them hit well over .300 the next two seasons in B ball. In ’49 he hit .280 in A ball and was promoted for a few games in Triple A. After a ’50 back in B ball, he was traded to the White Sox for whom he hit .327 in Double A and after a strong start there in ’52 again hit Triple A. But after a .172 average at that level the ceiling was in place. He put in three more years at the Double A level, batting between .275 and .309, and then returned to the service in ’56. He put in another two years as a regular: in the Cleveland system in Double A in ’57 and the Washington one in ’58 in A ball. He became a manager in ’59 and thereafter played sparingly, finishing in ’61 with a lifetime average of .296 in the minors. Meanwhile he coached from ’60 to ’62 and then managed again from ’63 to ’71, all in the Twins system, and had a lifetime mark of 750-648. In ’72 he moved up top as a coach which he did through ’76. He then moved to the Orioles system from ’77 to ’80 in the minors, and from ’81 to ’84 as the Baltimore hitting coach. After a brief retirement following the ’84 season he returned in ’85 as the O’s pitching coach but that didn’t go terribly well. He then resumed hitting coach duties, first in the Montreal system (’86-’88), and then the Atlanta one (’89 until at least ’90). He eventually retired to Newberry where he passed away in ’96 at age 72.

Frank played so recently that the two-way hook-up should be pretty easy. First for him as manager:

1. Quilici managed Cesar Tovar on the ’72 Twins;
2. Tovar and Lenny Randle on the ’74 to ’75 Rangers.

Now for Frank as manager. This will look familiar:

1. Quilici and Cesar Tovar ’65 and ’67 to ’70 Twins.
2. Tovar and Lenny Randle ’74 to ’75 Rangers.

1 comment:

  1. The stadium is Tinker field in Orlando, Fla. the Twins spring training site. It's the gold seats and small grandstand size that give it away.

    Quilici was a family friend to two boys who were nieghbors of mine. They would show me picture of them with all the Twin greats of the time. Some kids have all the luck.