Monday, December 16, 2013

#624 - Bob Miller

There is a lot to say about this card. First of all it is the third card in a row that represents the subject's final Topps card as a player. Bob Miller had at this point had a pretty long run that began in the Fifties and, especially recently, had covered a whole bunch of teams. Secondly, this is a damn ugly card, which we have happily been without for a long time. Nothing against Mr. Miller, who in younger years was a good looking guy, but he is all of 33 years old at the oldest (see below) in this photo and he looks 20 years older. Plus this must be about the nastiest air-brush job in the set, with Bob’s Pirates uniform being compromised into a Mets one. The neck line is horrific and the hat looks like a pile of atomic waste. Third, the newest this card is is from ’72 and it may even be much earlier because the background is very Forbes Field-ish and that park closed in ’70. So it’s probably a spring training shot. Lastly, and best-ly (I know that’s not even a hyphenated word but you get the drift) it has Roberto Clemente in the background, which is awfully nice and pulls the card back to respectability. Don Leppert appears to be there also over Bob’s right shoulder, but I’m no good with the rest of those guys. ’73 was an all too-typical year for Bob in the Seventies: lots of traveling conjoined with some pretty good pitching. He actually went through nearly all of spring training with Pittsburgh, only to get released right at the end of it. Immediately picked up by the Padres he got off to a pretty good start in relief until some messy outings in May pushed up his ERA. Unfortunately, too, in not one of the San Diego games in which he pitched did the team record a win. So after 18 games he was placed on waivers from which he was again snatched pretty quickly, this time by Detroit. Bob won two of his first three games with the Tigers, threw generally good ball, and added a save through late September. He was then sold to NY for a very short stretch drive, especially for him since he only threw one inning. So Topps really didn’t get much of an opportunity to not airbrush Bob. But it would be nice if they did a better job.

Bob Miller grew up in St. Louis where at Beaumont High School he went 22-1 during his career and 12-0 as a senior. He also led his team to the American Legion national championship and in ’57 was signed as a bonus baby by St. Louis out of high school. Like most players signed under that umbrella Bob rarely played his first year and after the rule associated with those kinds of signings was changed in ’58 he went to the minors. After beginning the year in Triple A with a bit of a fat ERA he moved to Double A where he went 8-11 with a 3.54 ERA in the rotation. The next year he pretty much matched those numbers in Triple A – 8-12 with a 3.50 ERA – before he returned to St. Louis that August, winning his first game in his first start. He threw well the rest of the way but then had an injury-filled ’60 during which he missed most of the middle part of the season and did some Double A rehab time. In ’61 he moved to a reserve role and saw a spike in his ERA – but everybody did that year – and recorded his first three saves. After that season he was one of the early round picks by the new Mets in the expansion draft.

Miller spent most of the ’62 season in the NY rotation but probably wished he didn’t. He lost his first 12 games and didn’t put up his first win of the season until late September. Mercifully he was traded after the season to LA for Larry Burright and Tim Harkness, two infielders. Bob’s timing was pretty good and his first year he worked as a swing guy for the Series winners, getting a save in his relief work. After being shut out of any post-season work he was pretty much strictly a reliever the next few seasons. In ’64 he led the NL with his 74 appearances and recorded nine saves. He hit that save total again in ’65 and then put up five in ’66. Both those years he threw shutout ball in the Series. In ’67 the Dodgers did a fast fade and Bob went right with them as both his record and his ERA deteriorated and he was shut out in the saves department. In ’68 he went to Minnesota in a big trade with Johnny Roseboro and Ron Perranoski for Mudcat Grant and Zoilo Versalles. With the Twins Bob basically did set-up work for Perranoski and over the next two years garnered five saves for himself. In ’69 he added some spot starts which bumped up his innings and returned to the post-season. Then with the beginning of the Seventies came the real onset of his travels. Three years during that decade he played for three teams, beginning in ’70 when prior to the start of the season he was involved in another big trade, going to Cleveland with Dean Chance, Graig Nettles, and Ted Uhlaender for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams. It wasn’t a great year for Bob: as a swing guy for The Tribe, a starter for the White Sox (he went there in June for Buddy Bradford), and a reliever for the Cubs (a sale in September), his work was below par and his ERA escalated quite a bit. But in ’71 after a lousy start for the Cubbies he went to San Diego after being released in May and did some excellent work in the pen, recording seven saves with his miniscule ERA. He continued that after an August trade to Pittsburgh for Ed Acosta and Johnny Jeter. After posting three saves for the Pirates he again got some post-season work, winning another ring. In ’72 he stayed put for a change, adding another three saves, before he did the three team thing again in ’73. In ’74 he finished his MLB time with pen work for the Mets, going 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA and a couple saves in 58 games. Bob finished with a record of 69-81 with a 3.37 ERA, seven complete games, and 51 saves. In his post-season work he was 0-2 with a 3.07 ERA in nine games.

In ’75 Miller returned to the Padres as a player/coach for the team’s Triple A Hawaii franchise. He went 0-1 with three saves in his 15 games and the following year got a straight-up manager gig, going 81-54 for the team’s Double A franchise. In ’77 he was named pitching coach of the new Toronto Blue Jays – so he got a card that year – and retained that role through the ’79 season. After a year off in ’80 he joined the Giants as a minor league pitching instructor from ’81 to ’84 and then returned to The Show with an ’85 stint in San Francisco. After the whole staff was canned following a disappointing season Bob became a scout for the club. He was still doing that when he was killed in a car accident outside San Diego in August of ’93. He was 54.

Bob has zero room for star bullets, mostly because of his travels in the Seventies. Sixteen different managers, huh? Dare I name them? Why not:

Fred Hutchinson (’57 Cards);                                   Don Gutteridge (’70 White Sox);
Solly Hemus (’59 -’61 Cards);                                 Leo Durocher (’70 –’71 Cubs);
Johnny Keane (’61 Cards);                                       Preston Gomez (’71 Padres);
Casey Stengel (’62 Mets);                                        Danny Murtaugh (’71 Pirates);
Walt Alston (’63 -’67 Dodgers);                              Bill Virdon (’72 Pirates);
Cal Ermer (’68 Twins);                                            Don Zimmer (’73 Padres);
Billy Martin (’69 Twins and ’73 Tigers);                Joe Schultz (’73 Tigers);
Al Dark (’70 Indians);                                              Yogi Berra (’73 –’74 Mets).

Bob also famously roomed with another Bob Miller on the ’62 Mets which was memorialized by a Topps card.

Bob played with everybody apparently except this guy:

1. Miller and Lindy McDaniel ’57 and ’59 to ’61 Cardinals;
2. McDaniel and Celerino Sanchez ’72 to ’73 Yankees.

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