Thursday, October 31, 2013

#605 - 1974 Rookie Pitchers



This next rookie card is the second one that gets an honor number designation, which is unavoidable due to the choice by Topps to issue the rookie cards sequentially. One pitcher on the card was worthy of the designation pretty much right of the bat, but we get to him last. One pitcher for sure gets photographed in a city that would be his stomping grounds years down the road. As usual, there are very few smiles; rookie jitters perhaps.

Vic Albury was a first baseman and pitcher when he was drafted by the Indians in ’65. He had helped lead his high school team from Key West, FLA, to its state championship in ’63 and two summers later began his pro career by hitting .233 in A ball while playing first. Then it was off for three full years (?!!) of military duty; that sounds a bit long to me and I have a hunch that he left baseball for a bit before reappearing with his hometown team in ’69, an A franchise of San Diego’s. Vic had a nice year, going 12-10 with a 2.32 ERA before a bit of a rough ’70 split between Triple A and A ball, going a combined 7-10 with a 5.83 ERA. He was then drafted by the Twins for whom he turned things around big in Double A, going 12-7 with a 1.73 ERA and 13 saves as a reliever and hitting .354 with 17 RBI’s in only 65 at bats that included some during a few games back at first. Unfortunately that was followed by a ’72 – during which Vic had his first rookie card – in which he hurt his elbow in spring training enough that surgery was mandated and he didn’t get on the mound until August and would only see 18 innings of Triple A ball. In ’73 he went 8-11 in the rotation with a 3.99 ERA before he was called up in August. He did surprisingly well in his 23 MLB innings, going 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA, given his walks outnumbered his strikeouts, which would become a running theme. His true rookie year of ’74 he would be mostly in the rotation with 22 starts of his 32 games, and go 8-9 with a 4.12 ERA. In ’75 his ERA elevated a bit as he took on more of a swing role, going 6-7 with his only save. In ’76 it was all relief as he went 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA in his final season up top. He went a combined 18-17 at that level with a 4.11 ERA, six complete games, a shutout , and that save. He put up 220 walks against 193 K’s. In ’77 he pitched for Syracuse, then the Yankees’ Triple A team, going 9-9 with a 5.13 ERA and a couple saves in a swing role. He was apparently on loan because after the season he declared free agency as a Twin. He pitched in Mexico in ’78 before in ’79 throwing for Puerto Rico of the short-lived Inter-American League and then signing with Cleveland the rest of the way. He went a combined 6-4 with a 3.80 ERA that year which would be his last as rotator cuff problems helped to end his career. In the minors he went a combined 54-53 with a 3.72 ERA, 29 complete games, and 19 saves. By ’82 Vic was coaching in the Cleveland system, which he would do through early ’85. At some point he appears to have returned full-time to Key West where a street and baseball field were named in his honor. According to one local chat site a Vic Albury did get back and fall on bad times and then pass away but I do not know if it is our boy here as according to baseball-reference he is still around.

Ken Frailing grew up in Marion, Wisconsin, where the baseball seasons were short and he also played football and basketball in high school. He finished his hoops career with 1,000 points and his senior year went 13-0 with a 0.17 ERA for a team that went 16-0 overall. That spring of ’66 he was drafted in the fifth round by the White Sox. That first summer was a bit tough as he went 1-6 with a 5.07 ERA split between Rookie and A ball. He then spent the next three seasons in A ball, going a combined 14-14 with a 2.97 ERA around his military time while throwing for some pretty bad teams. In ’67 only 28 of his 51 runs were earned. In ’70 he moved up to Double A where his 4-9 record was a lot more indicative of his team than him as his ERA was only 2.71. He then spent the next two years at Triple A Tucson where the dry air elevated his ERA to a combined 5.27 as he went 14-19 before his September debut in Chicago. He then had his best year in ’73, going 11-3 with a 2.86 ERA in Triple A before some more late-season MLB action. When he left the Sox for the Cubs in the Ron Santo trade the following winter he was 1-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his 14 games. With the Cubs, Ken used his lefty status as a way to lever himself into the mix as a swing guy and his rookie year of ’74 he went 6-9 with a save and a 3.88 ERA. He remained in Chicago in ’75 but early in the season suffered shoulder issues and his work was reduced to all middle relief as his line fell to 2-5 with a 5.43 in less than half as many innings. He split ’76 between Chicago – 1-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 19 innings – and Triple A where he was 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA around lots of down time. In ’77 he got his shoulder operated on and he put in a few innings but was released while in rehab. He signed with the Sox for ’78 which he spent in Triple A as a player-coach in his final season, during which he went 8-5 with a 3.11 ERA and eleven saves. Ken went 10-16 with a 3.96 ERA, a complete game, and a couple saves during his MLB time and 55-61 with a 3.73 ERA in the minors. A pretty good hitter, he hit for over a .220 average at both levels. In ’79 and ’80 he coached in the KC system before later that latter year relocating to Sarasota, FLA, where he began a new career selling insurance. He has a very nice SABR bio.

Kevin Kobel attended a Catholic high school outside Buffalo, NY, and while there made a couple all-Catholic state teams in baseball. Nabbed by the Brewers in the ’71 draft at 17 he started fast by going 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA in A ball. The reality of being in the Brewers system set in the next year when he went 3-15 with a 4.31 ERA in Double A San Antonio – more dry air – before things got back on track in ’73 with a 12-8/3.40 year at the same level. In his few games in Milwaukee that year his run wasn’t too impressive but he remained on the Milwaukee roster all of ’74, going 6-14 with a 3.99 ERA in the rotation. Though his record wasn’t too hot, he owned the Yankees, going 3-1 against them giving up just one run per in the three wins. In ’75 a tough spring training followed up by a bad shoulder sent him to Triple A where he only got in seven games but went 3-2 with a 2.40 ERA in them. He remained at that level nearly all the next two years, going 7-12 in ’76 with a 5.50 ERA and then in ’77 though the ERA didn’t drop much, his record reversed itself as he went 12-6. He got some topside work the former year but it wasn’t very good and after the ’77 season he was sold to the Mets. In ’78 a nice start in the pen n Triple A brought him up to NY in May where some initial tentative usage produced good results in the same role. With an ERA still under 1.00 in July he became a spot guy the rest of the way and finished the year 5-6 with a 2.91 ERA. In ’79 he joined the rotation full-time, going 6-8 with a 3.51 ERA for another horrible NY team. But in ’80 the shoulder pain and bad numbers returned en force and at the trade deadline he was sent to Kansas City for Randy McGilberry. That finished Kevin’s MLB time with a record of 18-34 with a 3.88 ERA, five complete games, and three shutouts. He didn’t pitch terribly well either for KC’s Triple A club and he was released by the end of the season. He then spent ’81 and ’82 pitching in Mexico before a late season tryout with the Pirates went nowhere and he was done with a 46-47 record in the minors with a 4.27 ERA. According to his Facebook page he is back in the Buffalo area where he looks pretty happy.

When Frank Tanana graduated Catholic Central High School in Detroit in ’71 he had scored over 2,500 points in hoops and had a 32-1 record as a pitcher with a 0.30 ERA. He was widely recruited by D1 schools in both sports but signed with the Angels after being the team’s first round pick that June. After briefly attending Cal State Fullerton he began his career in A ball in ’72, going 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA. In ’73 he went 16-6 with a 2.71 ERA in Double A, 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts in Triple A, and 2-2 with a 3.08 ERA after being called up to Anaheim in September. In his rookie season of ’74 he went 14-19 but with a 3.12 ERA and four shutouts to get a spot on the Topps rookie team. He followed that up with an excellent three-year run that cemented him as the best young pitcher in the game. His stat lines - 16-9 with a 2.62 ERA and 269 strikeouts in ’75; 19-10/2.42/261 in ’76; and 15-9/2.54/205 in ’77 – were all for losing teams and got him two All-Star appearances, the AL strikeout lead in ’75, and the AL ERA and shutouts – with seven – lead in ’77. In ’78 he went 18-12 but experienced some shoulder pain that led to an elevated – for him – 3.65 ERA and a dramatic drop in strikeouts. That September his teammate, outfielder Lyman Bostock was shot and killed and Frank, before then a pretty hard partyer, became a devout religious guy as a result. In ’79 he would miss over ten weeks to a shoulder operation which would limit the range in his left arm and force him to become a control pitcher. He went 7-5 but the tiny ERA’s and big strikeout totals were behind him. In ’80 he went 11-12/4.15 before being traded to Boston with Joe Rudi for Steve Renko and Fred Lynn. After a horrible season for the Sox – 4-10/4.01 – he went to Texas as a free agent and had an even worse ’82 as he went 7-18 with a 4.21 ERA to lead the AL in losses. During the next two seasons he improved to go a combined 22-24 with a 3.21 ERA before a weak start to the ’85 season got him sent to Detroit for a minor leaguer. Frank went 10-7 the rest of the way and settled in for a long Tigers run during which he went a combined 96-82 with a league-average 4.08 ERA. He won the division-clincher in ’87 and remained with the team through ’92 before spending his final season with both NY Teams. He went 240-236 for his career with a 3.66 ERA, 143 complete games, 34 shutouts, a save, and 2,773 strikeouts. He made three All-Star teams and in the post-season was 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts. Since his playing time he has been very active in fantasy leagues and on the lecture circuit as well as with various baseball and Christian charities.


The pitchers on this card put in a collective 28 seasons with four All-Star appearances and a Rookie team membership, mostly thanks to Mr. Tanana. All these guys were still residing in their home towns at this point in their careers.

The inter-card hook-up is a quick one:

1. Frank White and Jerry Terrell ’78 to ’80 Royals;
2. Terrell and Vic Albury ’73 to ’76 Twins.

Around the card takes a little longer:

1. Vic Albury and Rod Carew ’73 to ’76 Twins;
2. Carew and George Mittyerwald ’68 to ’73 Twins;
3. Mitterwald and Ken Frailing ’74 to ’75 Cubs;
4. Frailing and Jerry Morales ’74 to ’75 Cubs;
5. Morales and Doug Flynn ’80 Mets;
6. Flynn and Kevin Kobel ’78 to ’80 Mets;
7. Kobel and Andy Hassler ’79 Mets;
8. Hassler and Frank Tanana ’73 to ’76 and ’80 Angels.

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