Wednesday, February 26, 2014

#643 - Los Angeles Dodgers/Dodgers Team Records

The final team card of the set highlights the LA Dodgers. It’s a pretty crappy photo and seems amateurish, with blackness encroaching at the sides. And I haven’t been able to find a better copy of this card online so it seems the blurriness was a part of the original shot as well. That’s too bad because these guys deserved more. The Dodgers had finally fixed a long-standing flaw at third base with rookie Ron Cey and the rest of that storied infield began its long time together during the ’73 season as well. The pitching was as solid as ever and the team nicknamed the “Little Blue Bicycle” (in contrast to Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine) hung tough pretty much the whole season, riding an excellent late spring run to get to first place which it held onto for 72 days before pitching injuries derailed that run and the Reds came charging ahead. LA finished with 95 wins, only 3 ½ games back, and had definitely set the foundation for its long successful run that would last through the Eighties. It seems sunny the day of the photo but it’s hard to tell. Some of these guys are recognizable and the team keeps up its habit of having Willie Davis sit among the coaches in what would be his last season in Los Angeles.

On the card back the Dodgers have pretty much the most post-season appearances this side of the Yankees, a team which they faced seven straight times in the Series. No wonder they were so elated in ’55.

Maury Wills played hoops, quarterbacked, and pitched during his time at his DC high school. Signed by Brooklyn after he graduated in ’50, he began his career the following spring in D ball. Maury would hit well in the minors while playing middle infield but since his two favored positions away from the mound were second and short, he wouldn’t be moving to Brooklyn for a while since they were manned by Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. In ’57 he went to Cincinnati in the minor league draft but LA got him back after the season and then promoted him midway through the ’59 season after he finished his minors run with a .276 average and lots of steals. He did pretty well the rest of the way and in the Series and then the next year became starting shortstop, hitting .295 with 50 stolen bases, which led the NL. He led the league again with 35 in ’61 while hitting .282 and then exploded in his MVP year of ’62 when he hit .299 while leading the NL with ten triples and a new mark of 104 steals (against only 13 picks). He also won his second consecutive Gold Glove that year and made his second of what would be five All-Star teams. He continued to hit awfully well for a shortstop the next few seasons while leading the NL in steals each of the next three years, peaking in ’65 with 94. By ’66 he had to tape his legs because he was 33 and they were getting pretty banged up and that season he stole only 38 bases against 24 pickoffs. So LA sent him to Pittsburgh for two left side guys in Bob Bailey and Gene Michael. It wouldn’t be a great trade for LA and Maury hit .302 and .278 in two seasons of playing mostly third base. In late ’68 he got selected by Montreal in the expansion draft where he returned to short but didn’t hit too well. That changed with a mid-season return to LA with Manny Mota as Maury hit .297 the rest of the way. He posted good averages in ’70 and ’71 before finally giving way to old knees and Bill Russell in ’72, his last season. Maury finished with a .281 average, 2,134 hits, 1,067 runs, and 586 stolen bases. In the post-season he hit .244 in 21 games. After playing he did some commentary work on national television from ’73 to ’77 and managed a few years in Mexico during the winter, winning a championship. After some coaching he was named manager of the Mariners in ’80 but his tenure was very flawed and he only lasted until early in ’81, going 26-56, before settling into a cocaine-induced depression that lasted a few years. The Dodgers would pay for his rehab, get him a community relations gig and then sign him as a coach in ’85. Maury also coached with the Japanese Osaka Braves for four years and with Toronto before returning to LA where he has done lots of spring training and other work since. He didn’t get his first Topps card until ’67.

Babe Herman was born in Buffalo, NY, and relocated to Glendale, CA, in time to be a big star athlete at its high school. In ’21 he signed with a B league team in Canada and hit .330 while playing first. Though he was a challenged fielder he hit well the next few seasons in the minors, putting up averages ranging from .316 to .418 while playing in systems that included Detroit’s and Boston’s. After a ’25 season in the PCL he was traded to Brooklyn prior to the following year and in ’26 had a .319/11/81 rookie year while playing first. After cooling off a bit in ’27 he was deemed to be too much of a defensive liability at first and was moved to the outfield. The next two seasons he put up lines of .340/12/91 with a .390 OBA and then .381/21/113/.436. His big year was ’30 with his .393/35/130/.455 season that set team marks in all Triple Crown categories. His last season in Brooklyn for that run in ’31 he hit .313/18/97 before a trade with Ernie Lombardi to the Reds. With Cincy Babe hit .326 while leading the NL with 19 triples before departing for two seasons with the Cubs where his average slipped just under .300 for a couple seasons. After a quick ’35 stop in Pittsburgh Babe returned to the Reds where he hit .335 to round out that year, put in another as a regular, and then spent a bit of time with Detroit in ’37 before being released. He returned to the minors and by ’39 was back close to home in the PCL, where he played through ’44 and hit well over .300. In ’45 he returned to Brooklyn at age 42 to do some pinch hitting work in his last season. He finished with an MLB average of .324 with 181 homers and almost 1,000 RBI’s and hit over .333 in the minors. He spent over 22 seasons scouting for various teams and managed a year of C ball in the Cubs system, going 64-75 in ’57. He then retired to Glendale where he passed away in ’87 when he was 84.

Wee Willie Keeler was a Brooklyn, NY, kid who had left school to play semi-pro and factory ball by the time he was 16. That was in 1888 and in ’92, after hitting .376 for his semi-pro team, he was signed to an A team in Binghamton where he hit .373 as a shortstop but made lots of errors. He was purchased by the Giants late that season and hit .321 in a handful of at bats in NY but his fielding was still pretty awful. In ’93 he was moved to third but barely played before he broke his leg, missed two months, and was sold to Brooklyn before spending a bunch of the rest of the season back in A ball. Brooklyn then traded Willie to Baltimore where the Orioles got smart, moved him to the outfield, and made him a regular. Willie became part of a pre-20th century dynasty as he hit the crap out of the ball by choking up huge, hitting lots of Baltimore Chops (or Texas Leaguers), and rarely striking out. For the next five seasons he would average 219 hits and 150 runs while hitting .388 and striking out only 38 times! His biggest season was ’97 when he hit .424 with 239 hits (and five K’s) and a .464 OBA. After the ’98 season the team would be split up and Willie returned to Brooklyn where he hit nearly as well, averaging .354 the next four seasons and in ’99 struck out twice in 633 plate appearances. Then after a two-season delay he jumped the NL ship for the Yankees where he continued to plug away at an over .300 level the next four years before his legs gave out during ’07 when he was 35. He remained in NY for two more seasons with the Yankees before finishing things up back with the Giants in a few games in 1910 with a .341 average on 2,932 hits, 495 stolen bases, and only 136 K’s. He also put up a huge .415 OBA. After a season of minor league ball in ’11 he coached with Brooklyn (’12-’13), the Federal League’s Tip Tops (’14), and then scouted for the Braves (’15). Initially successful with his investments, he also bought a gas station that he ran until he got tuberculosis just before WW I. While he was laid up the gas station failed and a bunch of his real estate investments crashed after the war ended. By ’20 he was having heart problems and pretty much living hand to mouth and the following year was bailed out by a fund raiser held by the Dodgers. But his health was going south fast and by late ’22 he had also picked up endocarditis, and he passed away shortly after New Year’s Eve of ’23 when he was 50. He made the Hall in ’39. Willie has a lengthy SABR bio.

Johnny Frederick was born in Denver and by the time he was 19 was playing B ball in Canada as an outfielder. After a couple seasons at that level he hooked up with Salt Lake City of the PCL for whom he played three years before moving on to Hollywood for a couple seasons in the same league. Despite hitting well over .300 with some good power during that time he was unable to hook up with any MLB club until ’29 when he was 27 and the Dodgers purchased him on the recommendation of the Stars owner, though by then he was playing in the Southern Association, an A level league. He had an excellent rookie year, busting for all those doubles and a .328/24/75 stat line with a .372 OBA. He followed that up with a similar line in ’30 - .334/17/76 with 44 doubles and a .383 OBA – but then hurt his leg at the end of the season. That injury would nag him the rest of his MLB career as his doubles power and other offense dipped a bunch and he had to move from his regular center field spot to the corners. In ’32 he set a mark with six pinch hit homers in a season. He would finish with Brooklyn during the ’34 season when he was only 32 and leave behind a .308 average with 200 doubles and a .357 OBA in his six seasons. Then it was back to the PCL where the warm air or the long seasons must have revived him because he again hit well over .300 for six seasons, the last five with Portland, where he also managed his final year of 1940, going 56-122. That ended Johnny’s time in baseball, but not in Oregon. During the earlier part of his playing career, Johnny’s mom, originally from Oregon, relocated there and began buying up some land near Tigard, eventually acquiring over 400 acres. After Johnny finished with baseball he joined her and the family turned her acreage into a river-front park named Avalon which became a big local and tourist destination. Johnny, his mom, and his descendents ran the park for about 30 years until a highway bypass and the expansion of the free National Park System pretty much rendered it obsolete. He then worked a few years with his brother at his butcher shop before retiring. He passed away in Tigard in ’77 when he was 75.

Hi Myers was a farm kid from Ohio who after playing some local ball signed in ’09 with a D league team for whom he hit .304, generating enough interest to get purchased by Brooklyn and get in a few games late that year. But Hi had a habit of tagging up every time he was on base and that frustrated the team so they sent him back to the minors. Over the next five seasons he would get a couple more looks from the Superbas but he spent most of that time in the minors in both A and Double A ball, hitting well at both spots. He made it back to Brooklyn for good the second half of ’14 and staked out the regular spot in center. A hustling slap hitter, he had good triples power and had his best seasons in ’19 with a .307/5/73 line when his RBI total and 14 triples led the NL; and in ’20 with a .304/4/80 line and his triples total led both leagues. He remained in center the next two seasons and left behind a .282 average when traded following the ’22 season to St. Louis for Jack Fournier. He hit .300 his first year as a semi-regular but tailed off pretty quickly with ’25 being his final season. He finished with a .281 average with 100 triples and hit .208 in twelve post-season games. He returned to farming in Ohio full-time after he retired and also had his own car dealership. That was followed by stints as a security guard at a steel mill and as a bank teller. He passed away from a heart attack in ’65 at age 76. He also has a SABR bio.

Duke Snider grew up in Compton, CA, and was a four-sport HS star there when signed by the Dodgers in ’44 at 17. He apparently had a bit of a temper and though he hit pretty well that year in B ball, struck out a bit much and got frustrated enough that he joined the service, which meant he missed all of the next season and half the ’46 one. He returned that year to post some middling offensive stats in Double A but then had two successive good seasons in Triple A and was an excellent center fielder. By the end of the ’48 season he was in Brooklyn and would begin a long run there in the center spot. In his first full season of ’49 Duke put up a .292/23/92 line and pretty much improved from there, peaking during a three-year run from ’53 to ’55 when his line averaged .329/41/131 with 126 runs and a .420 OBA. That last year he led Brooklyn to finally defeat the Yankees in the Series. In ’56 a .292/43/101 line hid what was becoming extensive knee damage and with the move to LA Duke’s time in the field had to be compromised as did most of his power, though in ’59 his line of .308/23/88 was achieved in only 370 at bats for another Series winner. By the early Sixties he was in right field to cut down on his running in the field and only getting in about half the games. He was sold to the Mets for the ’63 season and then to the Giants for ’64 after which he retired with a .295 average, 407 homers, 1,333 RBI’s, 1,259 runs, and a .380 OBA. He made seven All-Star teams and in the post-season hit .286 with eleven homers and 26 RBI’s in 36 games. As a fielder he is in the top 50 in putouts and assists in center. He made the Hall in ’80. In the meantime after he played he managed in the LA chain (’65-’67) and coached for the Dodgers (’68). He then left to take the same position with the new Padres (’69-’71) before managing in their chain (’72), finishing with a record of 246-185 in that role. In ’73 he moved to the Montreal franchise where he coach a bit but was mostly a broadcaster though the ’86 season. He then was a regular attendee at card shows, mostly on the west coast. He passed away there in 2011 at age 84. Duke is another Dodger with an SABR page.

The hook-up will be on the next post.

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