Monday, October 21, 2013

#602 - 1974 Rookie Pitchers

Back to the pitchers, we get a couple guys who had decent careers and a couple we’d never hear from again, at least in Topps world. They all get sunny skies though.

Glenn Abbott was a big boy from Arkansas who was drafted by Oakland his first year at the University of Central Arkansas in ’69, but then missed playing that summer for military time. He returned early enough the following summer to go 8-3 with a 3.83 ERA in A ball and followed that up with an 11-10/2.72 season at that level in ’71. In ’72 he went a combined 9-16 in Double A and Triple A but with 13 complete games and a 2.96 ERA. In ’73 he led the PCL in wins as he went 18-8 with a 3.50 ERA and got a save in his only non-start. He made his debut that year in a July start, returned to Triple A, and then finished the year in Oakland with a win in a five-hitter against Kansas City and a 3.86 ERA for the year. He then began ’74 back in the minors, going 6-2 in eleven starts, before he returned to Oakland in June to finish the season as the A’s fifth starter, going 5-7 with a 3.00 ERA. In ’75 he moved to more of a swing role, going 5-5 with a 4.25 ERA and spending a few mid-summer weeks back in Triple A (2-2 in four starts with a 3.60 ERA) before in his final game of the regular season combining with Vida Blue, Paul Lindblad, and Rollie Fingers to throw a no-hitter. In ’76 his numbers continued to slide as he went 2-4/5.49 in just 19 games. After the season he was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft and in ’77 he led the Mariners in victories while going 12-13 with a 4.45 ERA. The next two years were pretty miserable for Glenn stats-wise as he went a combined 11-26/5.23 before he had a pretty good bounce in ’80 going 12-12 with a 4.10 ERA. In ’81 he lost a bunch of time to an elbow ailment and his record slid to 4-9 as his ERA improved to 3.94. That off-season he had surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow but while recovering came down with viral meningitis, lost 30 pounds and some of his hearing, and missed the whole season. While recovering early in ’83 he got tendinitis in his pitching shoulder which contributed to not great rehab numbers in Triple A (0-2/6.08). But he was called up anyway and in his first start in June threw a five-hit one run complete game against the Royals. By mid-August he was 5-3 though his ERA had fattened to nearly 5.00 and he was sold to Detroit for whom he would have a nice stretch run, going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in seven starts. But his follow-up in ’84 wasn’t so great and after some time back in Triple A he was released, missing the big Series run. Glenn finished with a record of 62-83 with a 4.39 ERA, 37 complete games, and five shutouts. He threw a hitless inning in the post-season and was 55-48 with a 3.45 ERA in the minors. After playing he immediately went into minor league coaching: for the Mets (’85-’89); Oakland (’90-2002); Texas (2003-’05); San Diego (’06-’10); and back with the Mets (’11- present). He has been in professional ball non-stop for the past 44 years.

Rick Henninger is another big boy from not too far away in Nebraska. After being drafted by Cincinnati and passing in ’66, Rick went to the University of Missouri from where he was drafted his sophomore year in the first round by the Senators. Rick had a big curve and would later add a palmball and a screwball and began things the following summer by going 4-6 with a 3.22 ERA in Double A. A big target, Rick was a horrible hitter – he would go 2 for 120 in the minors – but he moved quickly on the mound. In ’70 he went a combined 12-10 with a 3.28 ERA in Double A and Triple A but he was then beset by injuries which pretty much killed his numbers the next year, going a combined 4-7/5.97 at the same levels. In ’72 he bounced at the higher level, going 9-8 with a 2.87 ERA, and in ’73 he was 12-5 with a 3.81 ERA when he was called up to Arlington. He would get in six games in September, going 1-0 with a 2.74 ERA in his only MLB action. In ’74 his record fell to 7-9/ 4.99 in Triple A and in ’75 he moved to the Cleveland franchise where he went 3-7 with a 5.64 ERA before being released. After a season in Mexico in ’76 Rick’s pitching career was done. In the minors he went a combined 51-52 with a 4.00 ERA. After playing he remained in Texas where he has since had a long career in the oil exploration field.

Craig Swan went to Arizona State after a standout baseball career in Long Beach, California. While there he went 47-9 with a 2.25 ERA and 459 strikeouts and in ’72 was on the CWS all-star team. That same year he was drafted as a third-rounder by the Mets and he then matched his ASU ERA while going 7-3 in Double A. He then spent most of the next three years at Triple A where, while he was healthy, he threw excellent ball and went a combined 22-15 with a 2.66 ERA. In ’74 he lost a bunch of time to tendinitis but he bounced in ’75 to win his league’s pitcher of the year award.During that time he also pitched a bit in NY But that didn’t go so well as over those three seasons he went 2-7 with a 5.81 ERA as a spot guy. He got untracked in ’76 when he went 6-9 with a 3.54 ERA in the rotation for a pretty good team. In ’77 the team got bad fast and Craig went 9-10 with a 4.23 ERA as he worked to resolve some control issues. That he did, and after an excellent spring training in ’78 he went 9-6 in 28 starts while leading the NL with a 2.43 ERA. Despite his achievements on the mound it was a frustrating season: he was 1-5 to start even though his ERA was 2.67; in nine games in which he got a no-decision he went at least seven innings and only gave up 14 earned runs (his ERA in those games was 2.17). Then in ’79 he went 14-13 with a 3.29 ERA for another horrible team. Then in ’80 he began the season 5-4 with a 2.21 ERA when the tendinitis returned in his shoulder. That was followed by a lower back ailment and finally a small rotator cuff tear that ended his season in August at 5-9 with a 3.58 ERA. He rested and stretched the shoulder and after a pretty optimistic training camp returned to the mound. In his second start he was nailed in the back by a Ron Hodges throw trying to nail a runner going to second. Craig missed the rest of the pre-strike season and then all the post-strike one when the shoulder pain returned. In ’82 he had a nice bounce when he went 11-7 with a 3.35 ERA and came in second to Joe Morgan for the NL Comeback Player award. But by ’83 the rotator cuff issue was back and a downward spiral never abated as Craig went a combined 3-9 with a 6.15 ERA which included some brief ’84 time with California. That was his final season and he finished with a record of 59-72 with a 3.74 ERA, 25 complete games, and seven shutouts. At the tail-end of his career, some of his therapy was the Rolfing technique and Craig really took to it, so much that he became a practitioner, opening his own shop in CT where he is still going strong.

Dan Vossler played at least basketball and baseball while growing up in Portersville, California. In the former sport he appears to have put up a record 39 points in a game and in the latter he was good enough to be drafted by the Twins coming out of high school in ’66. Instead he opted to play ball at USC- Riverside where he set a record one year with a 1.80 ERA though his other stats are elusive. His junior year of ’69 he was drafted again by Minnesota and this time he signed, beginning his career the next summer by going 5-3 with three saves and a 2.83 ERA in A ball. He went 10-10/3.04 at that level in ’71 and then was a league all-star at Double A in ’72, going 10-8 with a 2.11 ERA and five saves. He then spent the next two years in Triple A but a combined 10-21 record and 4.97 ERA over that time got him away from the game following the ’74 season. He never made it to the Major Leagues and finished his career with a 35-42 record, a 3.52 ERA, and ten saves. And that’s it. For a big guy he has been impossible to find.

Look at how big these guys were! These personal dimensions would have been as fitting on NBA rookie cards as they are here. We get 18 seasons and that ERA title out of these guys which doesn’t work out to that much per inch.

I guess for the hook-up we bypass Vossler. To keep it fair, let’s just get to the ’74 Twins. From the last card we get:

1. Glenn Abbott and Sonny Siebert ’75 A’s;
2. Siebert and Bake McBride ’74 Cardinals.

For the round the card trip we get:

1. Glenn Abbott and Paul Lindblad ’73 to ’76 A’s;
2. Lindblad and Dick Billings ’71 to ’72 Senators/Rangers;
3. Billings and Rick Henninger ’73 Rangers;
4. Henninger and Elliott Maddox ’73 Rangers;
5. Maddox and Craig Swan ’78 to ’80 Mets;
6. Swan and Jerry Koosman ’73 to ’78 Mets;
7. Koosman and Bob Randall ’79 to ’80 Twins;
8. Randall and Steve Braun ’76 Twins;
9. Braun was on the ’74 Twins.

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