Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#621 - Bernie Carbo



I want to start this post with a few words about Baseball-Reference since it has been pivotal in making it difficult for me to post. BR was always a great site and obviously an excellent source of data for lots of people, including me. But I cannot go on that site any more without their damn advertising search engines doing a “Big Brother” on me so it can put up ads on the site as I peruse it that are apparently tailor made for me. If I am on the site I have to shut down my browser after about five minutes because all the searches chew up all my memory and make it nearly impossible to do anything. I don’t know when those guys got so greedy but it really is a pain in the butt and makes me want to go elsewhere to look up stats. If anyone else out there regularly uses the site and has the same issues you have my sympathy. I’d recommend getting AdBlock or a similar program which seems to help a bit. And to anyone just doing random fly byes of it you’ve been warned. Now back to real baseball.

For Round 2 or possible Round 3 of baseball players who look like adult film start, we have Bernie Carbo and his mustache which I think ranks behind only Dal Maxvill’s combo. Bernie is a lot more serious than Dal was as he gazes skyward at what appears to be San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium. Topps got him in one of those “looking up” poses and we know what that means: yup, Bernie was traded. That’s why he’s on an AL card in an NL stadium. Bernie and pitcher Rick Wise had been sent to Boston from St. Louis for outfielder Reggie Smith and reliever Ken Tatum and all those guys except for Tatum would have air-brushed cards in this set but not Traded ones. Bernie probably had mixed feelings about going to the Sox. A mid-western kid, after a rough start to the ’73 season he was hitting only .180 halfway through the year, he had a nice bounce beginning July 4, going .329 with a .433 OBA the rest of the way. So things were working out pretty well with the Cards as he seemed to recover fully from his nasty sophomore season. But Boston gave up one of its stars – albeit an unhappy one who wanted out – to get Bernie so he probably figured he was in for a bunch of starting time at Fenway. He was right about that and it would also be where he’d have the game of his career.

Bernie Carbo was a big sports star in Livonia, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, while growing up and as a senior in high school hit 13 homers while playing a mean third base. But Bernie had an unhappy home life with a disapproving abusive dad and by the time he was 16 was already an alcoholic. Still, the Reds made him a first rounder in the first ever draft of ’65 and that summer, while Bernie turned in an excellent year at third in A ball, he only hit .219 with no homers. He improved substantially at that level in ’66 with a .269/15/57 line but then fell to a .201/2/27 stat line in ’67 in Double A, a year he missed a bunch of time to military duty. Meanwhile a guy drafted behind him named Johnny Bench was going crazy and about to win Rookie of the Year when in ’68 Bernie got a new manager in Double A named Sparky Anderson who rode him pretty hard but also showed him attention and got nice numbers out of the kid. Bernie had a .281/20/66 season with 16 stolen bases and a .411 OBA in a year in which he re-established himself as a prospect. In doing that he also began spending significant time in the outfield since Tony Perez was blocking him at third base. Bernie had a monster arm and would generally be among league leaders in assists from his new position. In ’69 he bumped things up a bunch with a .359/21/76 line with a .452 OBA in Triple A. His numbers were still compressed a bit due to his missing games for military work – that would continue through ’72 – but he made his debut late that year and was up for good in ’70.

In 1970 the Reds were on the cusp of some big things. In the late Sixties they built an impressive infield but outside of Pete Rose they hadn’t had too much outfield stability and their pitching was always questionable. Prior to the ’70 season they landed speedster Bobby Tolan and got some good role players to fill some outfield gaps. They also got a new manager in Sparky Anderson and a couple exciting kids in Hal McRae and Bernie Carbo from the minors. Bernie took over left field for Cincinnati and while he continued to miss some time his numbers – which included a monster .454 OBA - got him second place in NL ROY voting and a place on the Topps Rookie team as well as TSN’s Rookie of the Year. But then a post-season in which he went o-fer presaged a bad ’71 in which too much pressure to help fill the gap left by the injured Tolan contributed to a definitive sophomore jinx year. By ’72 Bernie was reduced to a pinch hitting role and had minimal plate appearances before a May trade sent him to St. Louis for first baseman/outfielder Joe Hague. In St. Louis Bernie moved across to right field where he got starts after Matty Alou had to move to first to replace Hague and Donn Clendenon, who was in retirement mode. His average got a nice boost but his power numbers stayed low and he became more of a contact guy while with the Cards. In ’73 he split time in right with Luis Melendez and Jose Cruz, who did a mid-year swap between right and left. After the ’73 revival Bernie moved to Boston.

In ’74 Carbo stepped into the mix of young Boston outfielders Rick Miller, Dwight Evans, and Juan Beniquez and put in corner outfield time with the above and veteran Tommy Harper. His K totals were a bit high and his average slipped to .249 his first year in the AL but in only 338 at bats he put up twelve homers and 61 RBI’s. In ’75 Bernie realigned his K’s and walks, moved up in the order, and had a hot start to the season, still hitting around the .300 level in early July. But then he went into a slump and the Sox now had two new full-timers in rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice so playing time was whittled down over the course of the year. In September he mostly pinch hit. Still he put up another pretty solid year with a .259/15/50 line with 64 runs and an OBA that again reached the far side of .400 in only 319 at bats. He got shut out of any playoff time and then only got pinch hit roles in the Series. But he maxed those out big time. In Game 2 he hit one to deep left that got caught on the track. In Game 3 he homered off Clay Carroll in the seventh inning. In Game 6 he launched the homer that tied the game Carlton Fisk would win innings later. In Game 7 he hit a double and overall he put up ten total bases and a walk in his eight plate appearances. Good stuff but in ’76 he was on the bench nearly the whole first half and got only 55 at bats before a June trade to Milwaukee for outfielder Bobby Darwin and pitcher Tom Murphy. Bernie split the rest of the year as a right fielder/DH for the Brewers but it wasn’t a pretty season. After that year he was involved in a big trade when he and George Scott returned to the Sox for Cecil Cooper. Bernie got some stepped up outfield time that season and in his 228 at bats put up a .289/15/34 line with a .409 OBA. But he also had 72 K’s and he was now permanently enmeshed on the wrong side of his BB/K ratio. ‘78 then resembled ’76 in that he moved to another team in June, this time Cleveland, though his numbers were considerable better with a .282 average in his 220 at bats. For ’79 he signed with St. Louis as a free agent and was primarily a pinch guy, with a .281/3/12 line in 64 at bats. He split his final MLB season with the Cards and the Pirates before signing a Triple A contract with Detroit in ’81 and then getting released. In ’82 he played his final season in Mexico. Bernie finished with a .264 average with 96 homers, 358 RBI’s, and a .387 OBA for his MLB numbers. In the post-season he hit .143 with two homers and four RBI’s in his ten games.

Carbo would later reveal that he was pretty much drunk or stoned during just about his whole professional career. Immediately after he completed a degree program in cosmetology and opened his own hairstyling place, which he ran for a number of years. He also did some work at some local baseball schools but his life was in a downward spiral that bottomed out in ’93 after his mom committed suicide and his own family fell apart. Former Sox teammates Bill Lee and Fergie Jenkins turned him on the the Baseball Assistance Team that year and Bernie took control of his substance abuse issues and shortly thereafter started his Diamond Club Ministry which makes presentations about baseball, religion, and substance abuse worldwide. He returned to baseball formally when in 2004 and 2005 he managed the independent Pensacola Pelicans, going a combined 108-80. He has a SABR page and quite a few YouTube appearances.


Topps sticks with the minor league stuff for Bernie’s bullets. Bernie was a colorful guy and was well-liked. Before the ’75 Series a bunch of his former teammates on Cincinnati, including Clay Carroll, sent him a signed team photo wishing him well. But after his first homer off the pitcher Carroll apparently went to Bernie’s locker and tore up the photo. When he was on deck for the second homer he was pretty sure Sparky would bring in another reliever to face him and that he’d be pulled for Juan Beniquez, a righty. But that didn’t happen and the results worked out pretty well for Bernie.

Shortly after the resignation and firing of various White House staff members at the end of April, the Senate Watergate Committee was named. Chaired by Sam Ervin, Senator of North Carolina, the committee decided to hold its hearings publicly since there had been so many Grand Jury leaks regarding various testimonies. The hearings would be televised by PBS and a rotation of the national networks ABC, NBC, and CBS.

5/18/73 – A day after the committee officially began its proceedings James McCord, a Watergate burglar, was called to testify. His testimony verified leaks from Grand Jury testimony attributed to him in which he indicated that various White House staff members knew beforehand and in fact helped plan the bugging of the Watergate Democratic Headquarters as well as other establishments. Those named by McCord included John Mitchell, John Dean, E. Howard Hunt, and G. Gordon Liddy

5/19/73 - Archibald Cox, a Harvard law professor, is named Special Prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the Watergate affair. Cox, a Democrat, was Solicitor General under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations before leaving to teach. He was named by newly-appointed Attorney General Elliott Richardson as his appointee after Richardson interviewed several candidates for the position including Warren Christopher, who would be a Secretary of State in the Clinton administration.

These two guys played for Milwaukee, but years apart:

1. Carbo and Tommy Harper ’74 Red Sox;
2. Harper and Al Downing ’70 Brewers.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't noticed the problems with baseball reference, but now all of a sudden I can't do a "google news" search. Has anyone else noticed that one?

    ReplyDelete