Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#463 - Pat Dobson

Our next action shot has Pat Dobson pitching from the stretch in a rare Yankee away shot. My guess is that the photo is from an old stomping ground of his – Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium – and should be from the same series as the Jim Palmer and Fritz Peterson shots many moons ago. That would make this photo one from a game September 16th, the second game of a double header, in which Pat won 7-5. That must have felt good since before the season Baltimore sent Pat to Atlanta where in the early first half of the year he had a miserable time going from a team with one of the best MLB defenses to a team with one of the worst. And Pat wasn’t shy about making his feelings felt so when he mouthed off that a ground ball pitcher – like him – needed a hard-working defense behind him and the Atlanta sluggers weren’t doing the trick, it wasn’t long before he was sent packing, moving to NY for four – mostly – minor leaguers. His ensuing performance certainly seemed to back up his assertions since with the Yankees he shaved three-quarter’s of a run from his ERA and bettered his record by five wins. In ’74 he would do even better.

Pat Dobson was born in Buffalo and raised in a small town in upstate NY named Depew. There in high school he went a combined 19-1 his two varsity baseball years and, according to his coach, never gave up more than two hits and struck out 17 batters a game. In ’60 when he graduated he was signed by a local scout for the Tigers and he went to B ball the rest of the summer. There he was a bit wild and his numbers weren’t too hot and it took Pat a while to get any real traction in the minors. In ’62 he went 8-7 in D ball with a 2.56 ERA and over a strikeout an inning and in ’63 he had a nice stint in Double A: 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA. In ’64 and ’65 he lost some time to the military but the latter year went a combined 4-1 with a 1.38 ERA split between Double and Triple A. In ’66 he went 12-9 with a 3.45 ERA at the higher level and finally got his curveball in line, significantly reducing his walk totals. Then in ’67 a 4-1 start with a 1.47 ERA in Triple A got him finally promoted to Detroit.

Dobson had a Topps rookie card in 1967 which is mentioned here because it had an odd narrative on the back: Topps spent the whole space given to the other guy on the card letting us know they screwed his card up the first time. Called up in May Pat put up some pretty good numbers from the pen as mostly a middle-innings guy. In ’68 he nearly tripled his innings as a swing guy and added seven saves. Tigers pitching coach Johnny Sain was doing some nice work with Pat, especially in helping him refine his curve. He got his first post-season action, relieving in three games against St. Louis. In ’69 he reprised his ’68 role, grabbing nine saves and finishing more games but the lower mound helped add almost a run to his ERA and when Sain was released as pitching coach, Pat let it be known that he wasn’t a fan of the move, so he was sent off as well, going to San Diego with Dave Campbell for Joe Niekro. Pat’s first shot in the NL was pretty impressive as he finally got a shot in the rotation full-time and had an awfully good record for a terrible team. But he wasn’t there too long as after the season he came back to the AL in a big trade: he and Tom Dukes went to Baltimore for Enzo Hernandez, Tom Phoebus, and Al Severinson.

For the Orioles, Dobson again got regular rotation work and with the stellar Baltimore defense behind him put up some excellent numbers, becoming one of four 20-game winners on the ’71 O’s pitching staff. He returned to the Series where he did a so-so job in the loss to the Pirates. In ’72 he led the AL with 18 losses as the Birds missed the post-season for the first time in four years even though his ERA was considerably better and his other stats were roughly parallel with 71’s. After the season when the power-hitting Earl Williams became available to solve the Baltimore catching issue, Pat, Roric Harrison, Johnny Oates, and Davey Johnson were sent to Atlanta for Williams and Taylor Duncan.

In ’74 Dobson had one of his best seasons, tying Doc Medich for Yankee team leader with 19 wins while posting a 3.07 ERA. The next year was a bit of a letdown. After starting the year 2-5 but with a very good ERA he went on a 6-0 run to pull his ERA below 3.00. But then NY went to a five-man rotation – Pat worked much better under a four-man one – and he went 3-9 the rest of the way and spent some time in the pen. After the season he asked out and was sent to Cleveland for Oscar Gamble. There he was reunited with Frank Robinson and recent post subject Boog Powell and like Boog Pat had a nice comeback, going 16-12 in a – yes – four-man rotation while lowering his ERA over half a run. Early the next season he hurt his back and the ensuing season was pretty disastrous: 3-12 with a 6.14 ERA. Early in ’78 he would be optioned to the minors and then released, ending his pitching career. Pat finished 122-129 with a 3.54 ERA, 74 complete games, 14 shutouts, and 19 saves. He went 0-0 in the post-season with a 3.97 ERA in six games.

After sitting out most of the ’78 season Dobson hooked up with the short-lived Inter-American League as a coach and later manager of the Maracaibo, Venezuela team. After that league folded mid-season he got hired as a Class A pitching coach for the Indians. He then spent ’80 and ’81 as a pitching coach in the Yankees system before moving to the Brewers one, where later in ’82 he moved up to Milwaukee. He stayed with the Brewers through ’84 and then coached in Seattle’s system through ’87. From ’88 to ’90 he was San Diego’s pitching coach and in ’91 for most of the year he was Kansas City’s before resigning. In ’92 he became a scout for the Rockies until ’96 when he was the Orioles pitching coach. He then became a scout for the Giants in ’97 and had moved up in the organization to become assistant to the GM when in 2006 he was discovered to have lymphoma. The day after his disease was diagnosed Pat passed away at age 64.

Topps brings out the obscure stuff for Pat’s star bullets but the cartoon is pretty significant. It’s hard to believe that it took over 30 years – from when the first night game was played – to get a nighttime Series game.

The Yankees offered up Don Larsen’s perfect game from the ’56 Series as the team’s contribution to the ’76 baseball centennial. Hard to top that one. Ironically, as this post is being written, Larsen’s uniform from that game is about to be auctioned off to help pay for his grandkids’ college educations. Don threw a pretty good game at Brooklyn, only once getting to three balls on anyone. The fifth was a nail-biter with Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges both flying out deep in the outfield. Pee Wee Reese and Sandy Amoros also had some deep fly balls later in the game. The last out was made when pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell looked at a called third strike setting the stage for the famous shot of Yogi Berra jumping into Larsen’s arms.

So the last card marked the 70% mark of this set. Time to do the tally:

Post-season: Thanks to Dave Winfield teams that have appeared in post-season play has been expanded somewhat. From ’57 to ’95 there is at least one player from a team that went to the playoffs or beyond except for these years: ’60 (still!); ’91, and ’93 to ’94. Maybe some upcoming rookies can help fill the gaps. ‘73 leads the way with 71 players.

Awards: These ones have sort of flat-lined a bit. There are now 22 players who were MVP’s of their respective leagues; 14 Cy Young winners; ten Firemen of the Year; 18 Manager of the Year winners; 21 Rookie of the Year winners; and 22 Comeback Player of the Year winners.

Milestones: We are up to 34 Hall of Fame inductees. There are 36 players for whom this year’s Topps card is their first and 41 for whom it is their final card, which I believe is the first time the balance has tipped to the latter group. We are also up to 47 players – roughly 12% of the set – who are now deceased.

Topps Rookie All-Star Teams: Every year except the current one (’74, but that will change) is now represented by at least one player who was named to the Topps team. Here is the breakdown:

1959 – 3            1963 – 3             1967 – 5          1971 – 6
1960 – 1            1964 – 3             1968 – 6          1972 - 8
1961 – 4            1965 – 3             1969 – 6          1973 - 9
1962 – 1            1966 – 5             1970 – 5

Miscellaneous: There are 101 action shots in the set. There are cards of 150 players in their home uniforms and 257 of players in their road ones. We have had 45 players represented by official or unofficial Traded cards and 33 by a parenthetical name, a good indication of players from Latin America. We are still stuck at 14 Washington Nat’l cards. There are still only five cards which I have designated as ugly, but I may be being generous. We are up to five guys who served in Viet Nam which I still regard as the most surprising stat of this set.

These two very nearly played with each other in Cleveland:

1. Dobson and Chris Chambliss ’74 to ’75 Yankees;
2. Chambliss and Eddie Leon ’71 to ’72 Indians;
3. Leon and Luis Alvarado ’73 to ’74 White Sox.

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