On the Pirates checklist front we get a significant part of what would be the team’s starting line-up in ’74. Two signatures here – Ken Brett’s and Jerry Reuss’s – belong to people not on the team in ’73. There is one Hall of Famer in Willie Stargell and one cusp guy in Al Oliver. There could have been another of those latter guys in Dave Parker but he didn’t make the cut. Manny Sanguillen seems to prefer the multi-level signature. On to the pitchers we go.
Pete Mikkelsen was born in Staten Island and is reported to have remained there through high school but he graduated from a school in Alhambra, California, the same town in which Ralph Kiner went to high school. So maybe Pete moved out there late in his high school career. Wherever he was he attracted the attention of the Yankees who signed him in ’58 out of school, sending him to D ball that summer. Pete didn’t do too great, going 0-4 with a high ERA and lots of walks as a reliever that summer. He was a big kid but his fastball and curve were sort of mediocre. In ’59 he went 9-9/4.44 as a spot guy in D ball and in ’60 improved to 13-10/4.43 in C ball. In ’61 he began his Marines reserve hitch and moved up to A ball where he went only 4-10 as a spot guy again but posted by far his best ERA with a 3.49. He also pitched well that year in a couple Double A games. In ’62 he hurt his shoulder and was unable to throw his big sinker any more so he modified it by developing a palmball he threw from shoulder height. He moved to the pen in A ball that year and between his injury and military duty his innings came down but he posted a 3-5 record with a 3.18 ERA and nearly a K an inning with his new pitch. In ’63 he refined it and finally stuck in Double A, going 11-6 with a 1.47 ERA as a reliever. After a good spring in ’64 he moved up to NY and became the ace of the pen with a 7-4 record, 3.56 ERA, and twelve saves. In the Series that year he gave up a grand slam to Tim McCarver but otherwise pitched well. In ’65 he fell to 4-9 in the big tumble with just one save but he lowered his ERA to 3.28. He then went to Pittsburgh for aging pitcher Bob Friend and had a big year, going 9-8/3.07 with 14 saves. In ’67 injuries and more reserve work sort of killed his season and after going just 1-2 with two saves and a 4.31 ERA he was taken by the Cubs off waivers. Pete’s time in Chicago was not productive and early in ’68 he went to St. Louis for whom he went to Triple A. There he sandwiched a nice 16-4/1.91 season in the rotation around a few good games up top in June. At the end of the year he went to the Dodgers for Jim Ellis and for LA he did his most consistent work, the next four seasons going a combined 24-17 with a 3.27 ERA and 20 saves. ’72 was his last year – his last Topps card was in ’68 – and he finished with a record of 45-40 with a 3.38 ERA, 49 saves, and went 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in his four post-season games. He moved to a farm he’d purchased in Washington state after he finished as a player and worked the farm until he passed away in 2006 from cancer at age 67.
Vic Willis was covered on the Braves team card post.
Burleigh Grimes grew up in Wisconsin where by his early teens he was working at lumber mills and already throwing a spitter. He signed with a local D league team in 1912 when he was 18 and over the next year-plus went 10-6 at that level with a decent ERA and got purchased by the Tigers. Detroit then flipped him to an A league team for whom he went 6-7 the rest of the way. He then won 23 for a C team in ’14, and then 17 and 20 for an A team in ’15 and ’16, respectively, both years with super ERA’s. Late in ’16 he was purchased by Pittsburgh and he went 2-3 from mid-September on in the rotation. In ’17, though, he was only 3-16 with a high ERA and prior to the ’18 season he was sent to Brooklyn in a trade that brought the Pirates Casey Stengel. With the Dodgers/Robins Burleigh became a star, winning 19 games his first year while missing part of that season and nearly half of the next one for Naval duty. Ex that ’19 season he averaged 21 wins a year through ’24 wile leading the NL once in games, winning percentage, wins, and strikeouts, three times in complete games, and twice in innings pitched. In ’20 the spitter was outlawed but Burleigh was grandfathered in and allowed to continue throwing it the duration of his career. He could be pretty nasty on the mound and regularly threw at batters. After a nasty bad year in ’25 – 12-19 with a 5.04 ERA – and a not great season in ’26 he was sent to the Giants prior to the ’27 season in a three-team deal. With NY he bounced to win 19 with a better ERA. But he didn’t get along with John McGraw and in ’28 he was sent to Pittsburgh – Round 2 – for Vic Aldridge. That year Burleigh recorded hos biggest season, going 25-14 with a 2.99 ERA while leading the NL in wins, starts, games, complete games, innings, and shutouts. After winning 17 in ’29 he wore out his welcome again and went to the Braves and then St. Louis for whom he won 13 in just over half a season in ’30, returning to the Series. He then won 17 for the Cards in ’31 before having an excellent Series, going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his two starts. But he was then on the road again, going to the Cubs – for Hack Wilson, among others – back to St. Louis, back to NY, and finally back to Pittsburgh – Round 3 – where he finished things in ’34. Burleigh went 270-212 with a 3.53 ERA, 314 complete games, 35 shutouts, and 18 saves. In the post-season he was 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA in nine games. He could hit, posting a .248 regular season average with 168 RBI’s and a .316 Series average. After playing he turned to managing various minor league franchises: for St. Louis (’35-’36 and ’45-’46); Brooklyn (’39-’40); Pittsburgh (’42-’44); the Giants (’46-’48); and the Browns (’52-’53). In ’37 he managed the Dodgers for two seasons, replacing Stengel, and going 132-171 his only seasons up top. He missed the ’41 season after being banned for reportedly spitting in an umpire’s face. From ’48 to ’52 he was a scout for the Yankees. He also scouted for Kansas City (’54-’56) and Baltimore (’60-’71), his final gig in basball, retiring at age 77. He then returned to Wisconsin. Voted into the Hall in ’64, he passed away at home in ’85 when he was 92. He has a SABR bio.
Jack Chesbro has a bio on the Yankees team post.
Murry Dickson was born in Missouri and relocated to Leavenworth, KS, as a kid. He threw American Legion – check out his SABR bio for an interesting tidbit during that time – and semi-pro ball near home before he was signed by St. Louis in ’37 when he was 20. He had a couple choppy years in the minors his first two seasons but in ’39 won 22 in A ball before making his short debut with the Cards in September and then in ’40 17 in Double A. In ’41 he won 21 in Double A and then made the St. Louis roster the following year. The next two years he worked as a spot guy, going a combined 14-5 with a 3.38 ERA and a couple saves for the NL champs. He then enlisted, initially playing service ball, but by mid-’44 he was on the front lines in Europe and saw lots of action. He returned to St. Louis in ’46 to post maybe his best season, going 15-6 with a 2.88 ERA and a save in his spot role. His starts picked up a bit the next couple years though he went a combined 25-32 before being traded to Pittsburgh following the ’48 season. With the Pirates he would generally put up good ERA’s but also losing records. His first two seasons he went a combined 22-29 but in ’51 became a full-time starter while going 20-16 for a team that won only 63 games. The next two years he led the NL in losses with 21 and 19, respectively. He then went to the Phillies prior to the ’54 season, again posted a better than league average ERA, and again led the NL with his 20 losses. He won twelve in ’55 and after a crappy start to the ’56 season went back to St. Louis where he went 13-8 after the trade. Prior to the ’57 season he hurt his shoulder and only got into 14 games, going 5-3. He then went to Kansas City, the Yankees and back to KC in ’59 where he finished things out of the pen at 42. Murry put up a 172-181 record with a 3.66 ERA, 149 complete games, 27 shutouts, and 23 saves. In five post-season games he went 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA while winning two rings. He, too, could hit, putting up a .231 regular season average, and a .400 post-season one. A union carpenter in off-seasons he took that on back in Leavenworth full-time after playing and passed away there in ’89 from emphysema. He was 73.
Elroy Face was born in Stephentown, NY, not too far from Albany, and threw American Legion ball there in high school. When he graduated he went to the Army where he continued to pitch in service ball in Guam, and when he returned home also did the same for some local teams. A little guy, he never planned to play pro ball, but was spotted in a tournament by a Phillies scout in ’49, when he was 21. Signed that year he made an immediate impact, going a combined 32-7 with a 2.88 ERA his first two years of D ball. Prior to the ’51 season he was selected by the Dodgers in the minor league draft and that season went 23-9 in A ball with a 2.78 ERA followed up by a 14-11/2.83 season in Double A in ’52. He was then selected by Pittsburgh in the Rule 5 draft which meant an automatic promotion to the top in ’53 where he had a tough season as a spot guy, going 6-8 with a 6.58 ERA. The next year it was back to Triple A, but not before he learned a new pitch in spring training from ex-Yankee reliever Joe Page, a forkball. While it wasn’t crazy successful for him right away – he went 12-11 with a high ERA in ’54 and then 5-7 /3.58 as a spot guy in ’55 back in Pittsburgh – it worked wonders when he moved into a relief role later that second season. That year he had five saves and then in ’56 went 12-13/3.52 with six saves while leading the NL with his 68 games. In ’57 he went 4-6/3.07 with ten saves while missing some games after being hit in the face by a comebacker. He set an NL record that year by pitching in nine straight games. In ’58 he was 5-2/2.89 with an NL-leading 20 saves before raising his profile huge in ’59 by going 18-1 with his record winning percentage with a 2.70 ERA and ten saves. His last two seasons he won a total of 22 consecutive games. In ’60 he helped take the Pirates to the Series with his 10-8/2.90/24 save season while again leading the NL in games. He saved three as well against the Yankees in the Series. In ’61 he again led the NL with 17 saves and in ’62 he turned that trick again with 28 while going 8-7 with a personal best 1.88 ERA. He would remain with the Pirates through most of the ’68 season, generally continuing to pitch well, though he was injured for part of ’64 and nearly all of ’66. Over that time he averaged 15 saves a season in his healthy years. Late in ’68 he was sold to Detroit for its stretch drive but missed out on the post-season. Early in the ’69 season he went to the new Expos as a free agent where he went 4-2/3.94/five saves his final year up top. In ’70 he finished things out with California in Triple A – he was 42 – and was done with a record of 104-95 with a 3.48 ERA, six complete games, and 193 saves. In his lone Series he posted a 5.23 ERA in his four games, but got those three saves. Another carpenter, in off-seasons he did cabinetry work and actually also traveled the yodeling circuit (there’s a yodeling circuit?). After playing he became the carpentry foreman at Mayview State Hospital before retiring in the early Nineties. He continues to reside in suburban PA.
Marty O’Toole was born in PA and relocated to Framingham, MA, at a young age. He grew up in a family of pitchers, two brothers having played extensive minor league ball. Marty began his pro career in ’07 when he was 18 and won 20 games for the local Brockton team, a B-level squad. According to his SABR bio, baseball-reference and other sites incorrectly have credited his brother’s stats for ’06 and ’07 to Marty. In ’08 he went 31-11 for the same team which got him purchased by Cincinnati late in the season. After a brief look he was to Brockton – apparently he pissed off management – and in ’09 won 26 games. He was then purchased by Boston, who optioned him to the A leagues where for two teams Marty went a combined 22-8. In ’11 he was 15-11 by late July with a bunch of double-figure strikeout games and a bidding war began for his services. Eventually that was won by Pittsburgh, which paid $22,500 for Marty’s contract which was abetted by other fees that ultimately made Marty one of the most expensive pitchers of his day. When he made it to Pittsburgh late that year he threw three straight complete-game wins before finishing his short season there 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA. In ’12 he put up a 15-17 record with a 2.71 ERA while leading the NL with six shutouts and his walk total. But Marty was already having severe arm problems due to his extreme usage in the minors which amounted to over 1,500 innings and 154 complete games in his 163 starts. Officially diagnosed with rheumatism in his throwing shoulder, he only went a combined 8-17 his next two MLB seasons and finished at that level with a record of 27-36 with a 3.21 ERA, 31 complete games, and two saves. In ’15 he returned to the minors where he went 14-15 that year in Double A and then a combined 39-26 the next three years for Omaha, a team in the A-level Western League. He finished with a record in the minors of 164-88. By the time he was pitching in Omaha he’d left his family in the wake of what was considered to be depression after being publicly derided for his physical flameout in Pittsburgh. He worked at a clothing store in Omaha and then managed an independent team there in ’19. Shortly thereafter he relocated to Oregon and then Washington, where by the late Twenties he was running a pool hall. He was a taxi cab dispatcher in the town of Aberdeen when he was found dead apparently after a fall down some stairs in ’49. He was 60.
Technically Bob Veale should have had a card in this set with Boston since he had eleven saves for the Sox in ’73. But he doesn’t so here we are. Bob grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where in high school he played first when he didn’t pitch, and was a batboy and occasional pitcher for the Black Barons of the Negro Leagues. He had a shot at getting signed by the Kansas City Monarchs but instead opted to go to Benedictine College in Kansas wher he played both hoops and baseball his four years there. Signed by Pittsburgh when he graduated in ’58 he had a tough start that year in C ball. A big guy and a hard thrower, Bob could rack up K’s but also put up big walk totals. He had a much better ’59 season in B ball, going 12-5 with a 3.49 ERA with 187 strikeouts and 126 walks in 147 innings. He then spent the next two years in Triple A, going a combined 24-20 with a 2.98 ERA while posting nearly a strikeout an inning. He began ’62 in Pittsburgh, where he went 2-2 as a spot guy before returning mid-year to Columbus to go 8-5. In ’63 he back with the Pirates where he again did spot work, going 5-2 with three saves and a crazy good 1.04 ERA in 78 innings. The next year he joined the rotation where in ’64 he had maybe his best year, going 18-12/2.74 while leading the NL in walks and with 250 strikeouts. He would lead the NL in walks four of the next five seasons, though none of those totals was crazy high. In ’65 he had a comparable year with all those K’s and a record of 17-12/2.84. In ’66 he went 16-12 with his final season of over 200 strikeouts and in ’67 16-8 as his ERA elevated a bit and his complete games halved. In ’68 Bob went 13-14 with a 2.05 ERA, which was the lowest ERA posted by someone with a losing record in that many starts since 1914. Bob had two more seasons in the rotation before being made a reliever in ’71, when as a setup guy he went 6-0 with a heft 6.99 ERA, one of the wiggiest combos I think I’ve seen in baseball. After spending a significant part of ’72 in the minors – 4-3 with a 2.82 ERA – while rehabbing from an injury, Bob was sent in September to Boston where he posted two wins and two saves while throwing shutout ball down the stretch. In ’73 he went 2-3/3.47 with those eleven saves and he finished his playing career the next year in Boston with a 120-95 record, 3.07 ERA, 78 complete games, 20 shutouts, and 21 saves. He was an All-Star twice and had a 13.50 ERA in an inning of post-season ball. He coached through at least ’84 for various organizations – not having Google news search is a killer for this stuff – and then did some scouting before retiring back to Birmingham, where he still resides.
Al “Lefty” Leifield was born in Illinois and grew up in St. Louis where he worked and played company ball after having to leave school early when his dad died. In ’02 and ’03 he played local ball and then in ’04 signed with Des Moines, and A team for whom he went 16-17 with a low ERA. In ’05 he improved to 26-9, was signed by Pittsburgh, and was able to go 5-2 with a 2.89 ERA for the Pirates that September. In ’06 he cracked the rotation full-time, going 18-12/1.87 and posting all those shutouts. In ’07 he went 20-16/2.33, and in ’08 15-14/2.10. Al was a control pitcher and he would continue to post excellent ERA’s, going 19-8/2.37 in ’09, 15-13/2.64 in ’10, and 16-16/2.63 in ’11. He lost his only Series start in ’09 though he got a ring and in ’12 he hurt his arm, starting badly before a May trade to the Cubs, for whom he went 7-2 after the trade with a 2.42 ERA. In ’13 his arm problems returned, and instead of going to the minors for rehab he returned home to St. Louis to work in a saloon. He then joined the San Francisco PCL team, going 13-8/2.47 in half a season and then 21-19/2.22 in ’14. He then put in three years of Double A ball, going a combined 39-39 with a 2.62 ERA before returning to MLB action with the Browns in ’18, for whom he did some spot work before the season shut down due to WW I. In ’19 he continued in that role for a 6-4/2.93 season before finishing his MLB stay in a bit of work the next year. Up top Al went 124-97 with a 2.47 ERA, 138 complete games, 32 shutouts, and seven saves. He finished 115-92 in the minors with a 2.40 ERA. He then coached for the Browns, Red Sox, and Detroit before returning to the minors to manage independent ball from ’29 to ’32. He then did some more coaching before returning to St. Louis in ’36 to work for the city’s water department, which he did until retiring in ’62. He passed away in ’70 when he was 87. He, too, has a SABR bio.
Al Mamaux was born and raised in Pittsburgh and after high school attended Duquesne University there from where he was signed by the Pirates in 1913 when he was 19. That year he went 18-16 in D ball before coming up to Pittsburgh for his September debut. The next year he worked through some injuries as a spot guy and went 5-2 with a 1.71 ERA. In ’15 he went 21-8 with a 2.04 ERA. Al was a fastballer pretty strictly and didn’t always have the best control and though in ’16 he went 21-15 with a 2.53 ERA for a sixth-place club, he led the NL in walks and earned runs. Those two stats were a prelude to a horrible ’17 when he went 2-11 with a 5.25 ERA and twice as many walks as strikeouts in only 16 games. Apparently Al liked ice cream a bunch and was a bit of a late night guy and, like Burleigh Grimes above, feuded with his manager. He was sent after the season with Grimes to Brooklyn where he missed nearly the whole ’18 season because he enlisted in the Army for WW I. The next two years he went a combined 22-20/2.67 for the Dodgers as he moved from the rotation to a spot role, putting up four saves that second season, when he also saw his only Series action. The next three years he pitched out of the pen as his ERA ramped up and he finished with the Yankees in ’24 with an overall 76-67 record, 2.90 ERA, 78 complete games, 15 shutouts, and ten saves. In the post-season he put up a 4.50 ERA in three games of relief work. He hit .182 up top and didn’t strike out terribly much. In both ’23 and ’24 Al spent considerable parts of the season in Double A where he went a combined 28-16 with a 3.28 ERA. In ’25 he coached in the minors for the Yankees befre being sold to the independent Newark Bears, a Double A International League team. Again, he coached for the ’26 season before also returning to the mound in ‘27. The next three seasons he went 25-10/2.60, 15-8/3.33, and 20-13/2.91 before he scaled down his appearances the next couple years. He would finish 131-74 in the minors and in ’30 took over managing the team. He was very popular and helped improve the team significantly, winning the league title in ’32 and ’33. He left after losing the playoffs that second year and after a year off managed Albany, a Nats affiliate for two season, but didn’t do nearly as well. He would finish with a 495-480 managing record. In ’37 he became the head coach at Seton Hall where he went a combined 69-19 through ’42. That last year his Pirates were undefeated and were led by a first baseman named Chuck Connors, who would go on to be The Rifleman on TV. He left the school to do wartime work duty the next few years and by ’45 had relocated to California where for years he worked as a security guard at an amusement park in Santa Monica. He was admitted to the halls of fame of the International League, Seton Hall, and Duquesne, where he finished up his degree in the off-seasons. For years he also did a singing bit on the vaudeville circuit. He was still working as a guard when he passed away in ’63 at age 66.
Ray Kremer was born and raised in Oakland, where he played high school ball and then led his semi-pro team to an area title in 1913, when he was 20. In ’14 he got signed to a Double A team but had a messy season so in ’15 he moved down to B ball where he was 7-5/3.14 before the league threatened to fold and he went home. Prior to the ’16 season he was signed by the Giants but he’d developed rheumatism in his shoulder and again wasn’t very effective and so was cut. In ’17 he signed with the Oakland Oaks, a PCL team for whom he pitched the next seven seasons. His shoulder issues flared up from time to time and his team wasn’t so hot, so though he had a decent ERA he was a combined 42-64 his first four seasons. In ’21 he went 16-14 for his first winning season in six years and he followed that up with 20 wins in ’22 and 25 wins in ’23, finally shaking the “warm weather” pitcher tag and being signed by the Pirates at the end of that season. In ’24 he joined the Pittsburgh rotation as a 31-year old rookie, leading the NL with 41 games and four shutouts as he went 18-10 with a 3.19 ERA. In ’25 he went 17-8/3.69 before getting three starts in the Series and winning two of them. In both ’26 and ’27 he led the NL in ERA with marks of 2.61 and 2.47 while going 20-6 and 19-8 respectively. He won 15 in ’28 and 18 in ’29 before posting the rather amazing record of 20-12 – his wins led the NL – with a 5.02 ERA in ’30 as batters collected all those hits to put up an average of .322 against him. He won eleven in ’31 before slowing down considerably the next couple seasons, finishing his MLB career in ’33 when he was 40. Lifetime at that level he went 143-85 with a 3.76 ERA, 134 complete games, 14 shutouts, and ten saves. In the post-season he was 2-2 in his four starts with a 3.12 ERA and two complete games. In ’33 and ’34 Ray pitched a bit back in Oakland and finished his minor league career with an additional 115 wins. He then became a mailman for over 20 years before retiring upstate a bit in the late Fifties. He passed away from a heart ailment in ’65 when he was 71. He is yet another Pirate with a SABR bio.
Wilbur Cooper was born in West Virginia and as a young boy relocated to Ohio where he threw local ball before signing in 1911 with a D team from Marion. After going 17-11 for them late that summer he was sold to an A team in Columbus for whom he finished 3-3. In ’12 he went 16-9 with a 2.76 ERA for Columbus, now a Double A team, before a late August trade to Pittsburgh, where he finished 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA. The next year Wilbur worked out of the pen with some spot starts, going 5-3/3.29 with a save. In ’14 he moved into the rotation where he would remain the next eleven seasons as an excellent control guy. That year he went 16-15/2.13 and then fell a bit in ’15 to 5-16/3.30. Wilbur had lousy timing and managed to spend his whole career in Pittsburgh between two Series years. In ’16 he went 12-11 despite that great ERA but the next year he started posting big wins, going 17-11/2.36. From ’18 to ’24 he averaged 21 wins a season with well-above league average ERA’s. He led the NL in ’21 with 22 wins after setting a personal high the prior year with his 24-15 season. He won 20 in ’24 before being part of a big trade to Chicago that depressed the crap out of him. In ’25 he went only 12-14 before finishing his MLB career the next season in Chicago and Detroit. Wilbur went 216-178 for his career with a 2.89 ERA, 279 complete games, 35 shutouts, and 14 saves. He was a pretty good hitter, putting up a .239 average with 106 RBI’s and only 140 K’s during his career. He returned to the minors in ’26, moving to Oakland in the PCL in ’27 and winning 25 games there the next two years. He won 17 in A ball in ’29 before finishing his playing career in ’30 at that level with an 83-76 record. He then moved into real estate in the Pittsburgh area full-time outside of three seasons managing D teams from ’35 to ’37. He relocated to California in ’47 where he continued in real estate while also being involved heavily in local amateur baseball. Another pitcher with a SABR bio, he passed away in ’73 when he was 81.
Even splitting these up, that was a ton of bios. Time to see how Topps does representing this team. Offensively Milt May has a non-Traded traded card with Houston and Vic Davalillo has a regular one with Oakland with whom he finished the ’73 season. That leaves only the newly retired Gene Alley as the only guy on the team with more than four at bats without a card. Gene hit .203 with 25 runs in his 158 at bats in his final season. On the pitching side we miss: Bruce Kison, who got shut out after having a card in ’72 and ’73 and went 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in his seven starts; John Morlan, who went 2-2/3.95 in ten games and would get his only card in the ’75 set; John Lamb, 0-1/6.07 with two saves in 20 games in his final MLB season, who was nearly killed by a line drive in ’71 and was the brother-in-law of Steve Blass; Jim McKee, 0-1/5.67 in 15 games in another last call; Tom Dettore, 0-1/5.96 in twelve games his rookie year, who would have cards with the Cubs in ’75 and ’76 and then a long run as a Pirates minor league pitching coach; and Chris Zachary, 0-1/3.00 with a save in six games in another final season, a one-time Houston phenom who made his debut in ’63. That adds up to eleven decisions and three saves missing. Overall, that combo is pretty good.
No Watergate news this time, just the hook-up:
1. Dave Cash was on the ’73 Pirates;
2. Cash and Ollie Brown ’74 to ’76 Phillies.