Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#625 - Ollie Brown

We get away from the final cards with this post but not the air-brush ones as Ollie Brown shows us what may be a smile at what may be Shea Stadium. Ollie’s new uniform, courtesy of the Topps artists, is one in which he never played as he had been sold to Houston before ’74 spring training ended. And if I am correct about the stadium designation then this is another photo at least two years old. Regardless, though Ollie looks reasonably happy, ’73 was a mixed year for him. In his second season with Milwaukee he was named the Opening Day DH and so was one of the first guys to ply that trade. He had a couple of good early games but by mid-May his average had tailed off to Mendoza levels. Then, though his average began to bounce, he was platooned the rest of the way with Joe Lahoud and Darrell Porter. From early June to season’s end he hit well over .300 but continued to be used in only about half the games. After the season he joined Lahoud, Skip Lockwood, and Ellie Rodriguez in a trade to the Angels for Steve Barber, Ken Berry, Art Kusnyer, and Clyde Wright. Ollie joins just about all those guys in being air-brushed into a non-Traded traded card for his new team.

Ollie Brown was born in Alabama but grew up in Long Beach, California, where he was the middle child of three who had professional careers: Willie, after playing at USC, was a running back and returns specialist in the NFL; and Oscar was an outfielder for the Braves. Ollie was a guard/forward in hoops in high school and in ’60 led his school to the California state championship in that sport. In baseball he was a pitcher and an outfielder and the summer after he graduated he was signed by San Francisco and assigned to a D team in Salem, Virginia. But Ollie wasn’t too happy that on that team’s first road trip he and his black teammates couldn’t stay in the same hotel as the white guys so he asked the team to move him. Pretty gutsy move for a kid not hitting terribly well, but the Giants complied and moved him to Decatur, another D team in the Midwest League. There Ollie hit better, raising his average to .230 from .167, and banged out ten homers in 235 at bats from the leadoff spot. In ’63 Decatur became an A-level team and there Ollie moved to the mound, going 9-8 in the rotation, but with high walk totals – over a BB an inning – and a high ERA. He hit better though too, posting a .304 average, and in ’64 he moved out to Fresno, the club’s California League A team, and back to the outfield. Good move by the Giants as Ollie put up a line of .329/40/133 and led his league in just about every offensive category. That was the year he earned the nickname “Downtown” since that’s where a lot of the balls he hit seemed to want to go. In ’65 he moved up to Triple A where he put up a line of .293/27/81 with 15 stolen bases. He led his league in outfield assists as well and then made his MLB debut. In ’66 the trade of Matty Alou helped Ollie stay in San Francisco and he got a bunch of starts in right but when his offense got a bit thin he returned to Triple A for about a month in the summer. After a line of .343/9/29 in just 103 at bats he returned to the bay. Ollie had a huge arm and he came in third that year in assists from right field. In ’68 the emergence of young outfielders Bobby Bonds and Dave Marshall helped push Ollie to a reserve role and some time back in Triple A but the run at the lower level was a big discount to his one in ’66. After the season he was the first pick by San Diego in the expansion draft.

Brown immediately stepped into the starting spot in right field for the Padres and was one of the team’s first most consistent hitters. In ’69 he set PR’s in just about every offensive category and in ’70 he topped nearly all of them as he teamed with Clarence Gaston and Nate Colbert to give San Diego a serious offensive trio. In ’71 Gaston crashed and Ollie, who batted ahead of Gaston, put up discounted power numbers, though he topped out in OBA with a .346. Then in ’72 a slow start at the plate contributed to a May trade to Oakland for Curt Blefary and others. With the A’s Ollie initially got some starts in center and then moved to right as his power depletion continued. In June he was sort of traded to Milwaukee for Billy Conigliaro – check out that card to see that transactional mess – and rediscovered his stroke while platooning in right with Joe Lahoud the rest of the way. The next year he became the first Brewers DH, went to California, and the following spring to Houston. With the Astros Ollie did some reserve work in right while hitting .217 in 23 games. Then he was on the move again, this time to Philadelphia off waivers in late June. With the Phillies Ollie initially got some work in left field, hitting .242 the rest of the way. He then settled in for a three-year run as the team’s fourth or fifth outfielder. In ’75 he had a line of .303/6/26 in 145 at bats and in ’76 .254/5/30 in 205 at bats. His plate time diminished a bunch in ’77, his final season. Ollie finished with a .265 average, 102 homers, and 454 RBI’s and got a walk in his five post-season plate appearances. Defensively he is in the top 100 for assists from right field and twice led his league in double plays from that position.

Brown did some real estate work after he played in southern California. He also formed a marketing company with his wife but was admittedly semi-retired once his playing time was over. He gets some face time in a 2009 interview I managed to find (yes Matt, the Google news feature is pretty much shut down) in which he looks pretty healthy while riding around the Padres field in a convertible with Dave Winfield.

Ollie’s cards’ narration frequently included mention of his pitching gem and his big ’64 season. He and his brothers attended the same high school later attended by the Gwynns.

Since there are only 35 cards left in the set I think it’s time to pick up the Watergate stuff. By this point in the recap the televised hearings had been going on for a few weeks and much of the testimony was by role players asserting – or not – many allegations made by James McCord earlier in the hearings.

5/22/73 – President Nixon gives a televised statement specifically in regard to Watergate. In it he categorically denies his involvement in any activities related to the break-in and subsequent events related to it. But he then hedges his bets a bit by indicating his involvement in a few activities put in motion to safeguard “national security” including authorizing the group of plumbers established to undertake the suppression of information leaks. He also admitted his involvement in several wire-taping activities, all of which he declared were legal. He named people involved in plumbers’ activities, none of whom was terribly surprising at this point: Liddy, Hunt, Erlichman, Haldeman, and Dean. He didn’t exactly throw them under the bus – except for Dean – but he didn’t exactly take responsibility for their exploits either. He also initially denied CIA involvement in the whole affair but then rambled on about how one – one meaning he – might have believed the CIA was at the heart of the matter. If the speech was meant to throw off the wolves, it really didn’t do a very good job.

6/3/73 – The Washington Post reports that John Dean was planning on testifying that President Nixon was deeply involved in the cover-up of Watergate and participated in around 35 meetings with Dean and others subsequent to the break-in. Dean did not indicate that Nixon ha any knowledge of the break-in prior to the event itself and also indicated all his evidence was authored by himself and was therefore limited to his actual testimony. He also indicated he was never actually asked to run his own investigation of the Watergate affair and that he frequently also met with John Erlichman and H.R. Haldeman with and without the President. The reports came from a few independent sources of Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s and also included Dean’s pronouncement to Nixon in April that to save the presidency, he (Dean), Erlichman, and Haldeman needed to come clean regarding their activities to the various investigative bodies. Initially Dean believed the others agreed with that notion; when Erlichman and Haldeman subsequently shot it down Dean believed he would become the scapegoat for the operation and began plans to work out a deal of immunity in exchange for his testimony. He would appear before the Watergate Committee later in June.

This is an easy hook-up because of all of Miller’s travels:

1. Brown and Bob Miller ’71 Padres.

A team card is next up which means a big delay in posts. Everyone who is celebrating have a great Xmas and a Happy New Year.

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