Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#638 - Ken Sanders

This is one of the rare cards photographed at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium and boy, does it make that place look huge. And dreary. Ken Sanders seems to be channeling the weather with an expression that lives up to his “Bulldog” nickname. 1973 was about as bi-polar a season as Ken had experienced. It began in Minnesota and his first four games he got three saves and a win, though his ERA was around 6.00. By the end of May he had eight saves though his ERA didn’t move too much. By the end of July his record sort of stalled and he wasn’t getting used too much and after a couple painful outings – ironically against Cleveland - the Twins placed him on waivers. Then the Tribe grabbed him and in his 15 games the rest of the way Ken pitched awfully well, adding five more saves to his record. So though he looks pretty lonely here in stormy weather he probably didn’t feel that way on the mound.

Ken Sanders graduated St. Louis University High School in that city in ’59 after a pretty robust athletic career in soccer, football, and baseball. He then gave the university itself a shot but was signed by Kansas City the next spring before he got to play an inning. He went 19-10 with a 3.21 ERA in D ball and the next year 13-8 in A ball with a similar ERA. But ’62 was tough as he went a combined 3-18/5.26 between three levels, at none of which he pitched terribly well. In ’63 he moved to more of a spot role and improved a bunch in A and Double A, going a combined 6-7/3.65. In ’64 he moved to the bullpen pretty much exclusively and there he posted some nice numbers at the higher level, going 9-1 with a 2.28 ERA and nearly a K an inning before getting called up to KC in August where he threw pretty well from the pen, adding a save to his stats. But ’65 was all Triple A where Ken put together another good season, going 8-6 with a 2.74 ERA in 57 games of relief. After that season he was selected by Boston in the Rule 5 draft.

In ’66 Sanders made the cut out of training camp and got his first Topps card. With the Sox all that year he again threw pretty well in middle relief and put up a couple saves before a mid-June trade back to KC in which the Sox picked up Jose Tartabull – Danny’s dad – and John Wyatt, two guys who would be instrumental in the ’67 pennant run. With the A’s Ken continued to throw pretty well in the same role, adding another save. But he would get scarce work up top the next few seasons and wouldn’t see another Topps card until ’71. He spent nearly that whole time in Triple A. In ’67 he was 9-6/2.04 in 50 games and in ’68 2-4/3.41 in 35 games as he spent some time in Oakland but was rarely used. In ’69 he moved back to a swing role, going 6-7 with a 3.39 ERA in ten starts among his 29 games. Following that season he was involved in another big trade, going to the Seattle Pilots with Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse, and Phil Roof for Ron Clark and Don Mincher.

The Pilots were in the midst of some financial difficulties when Sanders got there early in ’70 and would relocate to Milwaukee before the season started. Ken relocated as well, back to Triple A, and put on a nice show, going 4-1 with a 1.06 ERA and a couple saves in the pen before being recalled in late May. Finally allowed to get some regular work he continued his excellent Triple A run, adding twelve saves as he moved to a closer role from a setup guy as the season progressed. Ken didn’t really have a curve and his two out pitches were a cut fastball and a slider. In ’71 he occupied the stopper role all season and delivered, putting up seven wins and 31 saves as he won the AL Fireman of the Year award. After the strike ’72 started off pretty well for Ken and he didn’t give up an earned run until May. But he went into a bit of a cold streak just when the Milwaukee batters stopped hitting and the poor run support and higher ERA pulled down his record, though he did record 17 saves and so still had a hand in nearly a third of the team’s wins. But his relationship with new manager Del Crandall wasn’t great and after the season Ken went to Philadelphia with Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, and Earl Stephenson for Don Money, Billy Champion, and John Vukovich. His ’73 Topps card would have him in an air-brushed Phillies cap even though a month after that trade he was off again to the Twins with Joe Lis and Ken Reynolds for Cesar Tovar.

Sanders remained with Cleveland to start the ’74 season but once again got off to a poor start in very little use and after going 0-1 with a couple saves in just 14 games he was released that June. He was picked up nearly immediately by California and the Angels sent him to Triple A where Ken went 3-1/3.44 with a couple saves in 19 games, including a couple starts. By mid-August he was up in Anaheim where he again pitched sparingly but well, putting up a 2.79 ERA with a save in his nine games. The next March he was on the move again, going to the Mets for catcher Ike Hampton. Ken again returned to Triple A and dazzled there, going 6-1 with a 1.34 ERA and nine saves before coming up to NY in late June. With the Mets he continued his good work as part of a trio of stoppers with Bob Apodaca and Skip Lockwood, a former teammate with the Brewers. Ken went 1-1 with a 2.30 ERA and five saves in his 29 games and then in ’76 was 1-2 with a 2.87 ERA and a save before a late sale to Kansas City for the Royals stretch run during which he threw three shutout innings. In ’77 he signed back with Milwaukee as a free agent and spent his final season in Triple A. Ken finished with an MLB record of 29-45 with a 2.97 ERA and 86 saves. In the minors he was 90-76 with a 3.39 ERA.

By the time Sanders was done with baseball he’d established himself as a real estate agent in the Midwest with his home base in the Milwaukee area. He was an executive VP for a long time for Coldwell Banker and GMAC and was the selling representative for the “Field of Dreams” property a few years back. In the Nineties he ran his own fantasy camp on that farm for a few years and he has been actively involved in fund raising for the Baseball Assistance team and other charities.

Ken’s big ’71 season absorbs all the star bullets and that year he led the AL in games as well. One winter while pitching in Venezuela he handled 13 chances in one game. There is a pretty good “Where are they now” type interview with Ken that I have linked to here.

Sanders seems to be a guy interested in a good fight so lets get to that with the Watergate standoff:

4/30/74 – A day after his televised speech President Nixon formally releases 1,200 pages of transcripts to the Special Prosecutor and the House Judiciary Committee. He also released transcripts he’d made available to those recipients earlier to the public. Ironically most people were more concerned with the amounts of “expletive deleted”’s in those transcripts than with anything concerning Watergate. Still, neither release did much to assuage anyone’s desire to see unfiltered documentation of the White House tapes and both the Prosecutor and the Committee demanded the actual – by now – 64 tapes originally requested instead of the redacted transcripts. The President continued to refuse.

5/9/74 – the House Judiciary Committee begins impeachment hearings in the wake of President Nixon’s continued refusal to submit tapes for which he’d been subpoenaed. It is only the second time in history – the first being for Andrew Johnson – in which impeachment proceedings against a sitting President had been initiated.

Skipping the checklist card, Ken needs to get hooked up with fellow pitched Dave Goltz. This one’s easy:

1. Sanders and Dave Goltz ’73 Twins.

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