Monday, January 14, 2013

#484 - Carmen Fanzone

This is the second of three cards Carmen Fanzone had in his career and the photo memorializes his best season, which was either ’72, when he played a bunch and had eight homers and 42 RBI’s in only 222 at bats, or ’73, when he hit .273. That’s because this shot almost definitely comes from the same photo shoot as his ’73 card, which was his first. But they are both quite mild compared to his ’75 card with that monster mustache. Carmen was an excellent fielder – he even got props from Sparky Lyle – whose soft hands were as nimble on grounders as they apparently were on trumpet keys. In ’73 he backed up the corner infield guys: Ron Santo at third and a whole host of guys at first. Then he had a year with the ‘stache, a year in the minors, and it was on to the music world.

Carmen Fanzone grew up in Detroit where he played both music and baseball. After high school he went to Ferris State where he hit .464 for the freshman team and then .418 with three homers and 23 RBI’s in 17 games as a sophomore. He then transferred to Central Michigan University – also attended by Dick Lange from this set a couple years later – where he appears to have played ball only his first year of ’63. Coincidentally he got his preview of Wrigley by playing in the team’s marching band in both ’63 and ’64 when it did the halftime show during Bears games. In the winter of ’64 he signed with the Red Sox and that summer between school sessions pounded the ball awfully well for two A teams while splitting time between second and third. In ’65 it was all outfield at the same level. From ’66 to ’68 he played in Double A, played mostly first and third, and that last season was his league’s mvp. ’69 was his military hitch year so he didn’t play too much. But he came back with a big year in Triple A in ’70, all at third base, and made his debut in Boston. The Sox that year were sort of rudder-less at that position since George Scott played there as much as anyone and he got hurt. So Carmen was pretty psyched when he was called up but the Sox instead went with John Kennedy, a light-hitting ex-Yankee and Pilot, and Carmen really didn’t get too much of a look. That he had four errors in five games at the hot corner may have contributed to that. After the season he went to the Cubs for Phil Gagliano.

For the Cubs Fanzone had a big first act in the minors, again winning an mvp title, this time for Triple A Tacoma. He then finished out the year with the Cubs with a few games in the outfield. He led the team in hitting in spring training of ’72 and then got a break when Ron Santo got hurt that year and had a hot start at the plate. Though he cooled off, his power numbers stayed at impressive levels and he also worked at first and second. In ’73 he pretty much stuck to the corners and got some pinch-hitting work. In ’74 he was back to working almost exclusively at third in relief of Bill Madlock, but his average slid to .190. After the year he was released and in ’75 he hooked up with San Diego’s Triple A franchise in Hawaii. There he played more first than third and though he hit only .217, got on base at an over .400 clip. That was his final year and he finished his minors career with a .292 average with 102 homers, 571 RBI’s, and a .398 OBA. Carmen hit .224 up top with 20 homers and 94 RBI’s in 588 at bats.

From there it was on to music. Fanzone had finished his degree at Central Michigan and taught and played with various performers, including Lou Rawls and an offshoot of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, the Baja Marimba band. He then moved on to do union rep work in LA, which he was still doing in 2011. He married Sue Raney after playing also. She is a jazz singer who has been nominated for four Grammys. Carmen was inducted into the Ferris hall of fame in 2003.

Topps highlights Carmen’s season in ’68 but his ’71 was even bigger. In “The Bronx Zoo” Sparky Lyle’s story about Carmen is that he was super strong, especially in his hands. He was forever squeezing a rubber ball to keep them strong and once Sparky – who’d played with Carmen in the Sox minors – and a teammate cut up the ball and Carmen nearly tore them up.

Continuing the theme from he last post, the Cubs also submitted a milestone home run for its entry into the baseball centennial celebration of 1976. The game took place May 12, 1970 at Wrigley against the Braves and it was a big deal because both teams were in first place at the time. The game’s starters were Ken Holtzman for the Cubs and Pat Jarvis for Atlanta. The Braves went up 2-0 in the first on a wild pitch by Holtzman and on Ernie Banks’ first at bat in the bottom of the second he stroked a solo shot to left off Jarvis to become the ninth player to reach 500 career homers. The Cubs went on to win the game 4-3 in extra innings.

Let’s use a pitcher to do the hook-up:

1. Fanzone and Milt Pappas ’71 to ’73 Cubs;
2. Pappas and Hank Aaron ’68 to ’70 Braves;
3. Aaron was on the ’73 Braves.

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