Wednesday, January 22, 2014

#632 - George Culver



On a busy sunny day at Shea we get yet another final card of pitcher George Culver showing a pitching form that appears to have even the cops behind him interested. George had come over to the Phillies from LA early in August which makes it a bit easier to get a time-frame for this photo. The only time the Phillies were at Shea after the trade was an early September stand during which they lost three out of four which may help explain George’s concerned look. His ERA spiked a bit after his arrival even though his record was pretty good. By this point George had been pitching with bone chips in his elbow for a couple years so every visit to the mound was a pretty painful ordeal for him. He would get into another 14 games for the Phillies in ’74 with the same control issues as well in his final MLB work. At least he gets to go out in an un-retouched uniform.

George Culver grew up in the Bakersfield area of California. In high school he lettered in the big three sports plus track and cross country. When he graduated in ’61 he was offered a $1,000 bonus by the Phillies but shot that down to attend Bakersfield College, where he pitched for two years before he was signed by the Yankees for $2,500 in ’63. That summer he threw well in the rotation for three A teams, going 7-6 with a 2.07 ERA. And 170 K’s in 139 innings. He was then selected by Cleveland in the First Year Draft and in ’64 he went 11-6/ 2.41 in Double A before improving to 4-2/1.18 in seven starts in Triple A that year. In ’65 he shared his first Topps card with Tommie Agee from two posts ago but that year had a tougher season in Triple A as he went 10-11 and his ERA popped to 4.95. That kept him on the farm but in ’66 he rallied to go 14-10/2.93 on the same Portland team and that September he made his Cleveland debut.

Culver made the Tribe roster out of spring training in ’67 where as a rookie he worked exclusively out of the pen. His ERA was a tad high but his record was quite good as he added three saves. After that season he went to Cincinnati in the deal that brought Tommy Harper to Cleveland. For the Reds George joined the rotation and was the team’s busiest pitcher, finishing second among starters in ERA despite posting a losing record. That June he threw a no-hitter against Philadelphia. The next year he began experiencing the elbow problems and he moved between the rotation and the pen and missed six weeks as his ERA bloated. After the season he was sent to St. Louis for pitcher Ray Washburn. For the Cards George had a tough start to the season as a spot g uy and midway through he was sent to Houston for Jim Beauchamp and Leon McFadden. For Houston he settled down a bunch throwing out of the pen and put up three saves. He remained with the Astros in ’71 and for the next two years was one of the team’s go-to pen guys, putting up seven saves the first year and upping his strikeouts a bunch in ’72 when he moved to a setup role. During spring training of ’73 he was sold to LA where he again did set-up work but his K totals tumbled a bit. Still, he posted a good ERA and added a couple saves before his move to Philly. In ’74 he threw well as a starter in Triple A – 7-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 13 starts – but not too great in Philadelphia. In ’75 he had less success at the lower level and midway through left to pitch in Japan but didn’t throw too much better. By then his MLB time was done and he finished at that level with a record of 48-49 with a 3.62 ERA, seven complete games, two shutouts, and 23 saves.

For a time during off seasons Culver worked as a sportswriter for local papers in the Bakersfield area, where he continued to reside. Around 1970 he became involved in doing fund-raisers for his old college, and after Japan he returned to the area full time to do odd jobs. In ’78 he managed the local independent affiliate while pitching in 23 games and going 2-0 in the pen. He then hooked up with the Phillies organization again as a roving pitching instructor (’79-’82), minor league coach (’83-’85 and ’89-’98), and manager (’86-’88). In that last role he went a combined 263-294 and made his league’s playoffs twice. After some time away he came back to coaching, this time in the LA organization, which he did from 2004 to 2010. In between and since he has remained very active in local baseball, particularly in supporting his alma mater for which he has raised around one million dollars through golf tournaments and other events. He continues to reside in the Bakersfield area.


George’s no-hitter gets star billing. That second one is a bit odd since he only had those two saves that year, though it was a pretty good one. George has some funny cards. In ’68 and ’70 Topps uses the same photo in which he has real short hair and looks like he’s 19. In the early Seventies he was sporting as big a set of muttonchops as anyone in the sets then. He has been inducted into some local halls of fame for his charity work.

In Watergate news the whole tape thing is coming to a head:

10/20/73 – President Nixon had offered what he considered a compromise regarding the tape recordings made by the system he had installed in his White House office. Instead of handing over the requested tapes, those tapes would be reviewed by Senator John Stennis, a Democrat from Mississippi. While that compromise appeared to be accepted by the Senate Committee it was not by Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who continued to demand the tapes. In what became known as “The Saturday Night Massacre”, Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox, whom Richardson had appointed to the position in the first place. Richardson refused and instead tendered his resignation. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox but Ruckelshaus refused as well. Depending on the timing of following statements Ruckelshaus then either resigned or was fired by Nixon. Nixon then turned to Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire Cox, since in the wake of the two resignations, Bork was now Acting Attorney General. Bork complied and fired Cox. Cox’s investigative powers were then turned over to the FBI who raided the Special Prosecutor’s offices and cleaned out all the files. The move, widely seen as desperate and a whitewashing of the scandal, pretty much backfired. Congress got pissed and pretty much immediately resolutions appeared in the House to have President Nixon impeached. Within a few days Nixon back-tracked and indicated he would share some of the files with Judge John Sirica. He also instructed Bork to name a new Special Prosecutor.

11/1/73 – Bork names Leon Jaworski the new Special Prosecutor. Jaworski had his own politically-connected law firm in Texas, was categorically a Democrat and a friend of LBJ, but had voted for Nixon twice. He came into prominence by overseeing several high-profile WW II-related war crimes and court martial trials in both the US and Europe after the war.

A guy who seemed a shoo-in for the Hall early in his career helps here:

1. Culver and Vada Pinson ’68 Reds;
2. Pinson and Steve Barber ’72 to ’73 Angels.

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