On the Dodgers team checklist front we get a first: a team card in which every signature belongs to someone actually on the team in ’73. Two signatures – those of Willie Davis and Claude Osteen – belong to members of that team who would leave but contribute significantly to the ’74 NL pennant won by LA. Davis brought reliever Mike Marshall and Osteen brought outfielder Jimmy Wynn, both new faces contributing mightily to that ’74 success. There is one Hall of Famer in Don Sutton and a couple cusp guys in Tommy John and Bill Buckner as well as an NBA Hall guy in Bill Russell (oops, wrong one). OK, enough drivel. Time to get to the bios.
So of course the first of these is about a guy for whom there is almost no media presence at all, which is too bad because he sounds damn interesting. Oscar Jones came out of Missouri farm country and presumably played some baseball while in school. But he left his education like lots of guys from that era to – no, not play semi-pro or factory ball, but ... – join a circus. He seems to have specialized in riding a bicycle on a high wire and other tricks and during down time relaxed by playing a bit and was discovered by a scout doing that in 1901, when he was 21. He’d already earned his nickname “Flip Flap”, which was somehow related to his circus act (back then “flip flap” was synonymous with a “loop the loop” on a roller-coaster). That scout seemed to be right because Oscar’s first two seasons for LA, a California League A team, he won 29 and 36 games, each year pitching well over 400 innings. After a couple starts in ’03 he was sold to Brooklyn and then went 19-14 with a 2.94 ERA as a rookie, throwing four shutouts. In ’04 his ERA improved to 2.75 but his record fell to 17-25 and his loss total led the NL. Despite his 377 innings up top he somehow also managed to go 6-3 with a 2.02 ERA in almost 100 innings of A ball. In ’05 things took another backward step when his ERA inflated to 4.66 and his record fell to 8-15 before he fell back to the minors, where he went 2-5. From then on it was all lower level stuff as now in the PCL Oscar won 60 games the next two seasons, both with excellent ERA’s. That first year of ’06 he threw 500 innings. In ’08 he fell to 10-26 though his ERA was still good at 2.76. From ’09 to ’13 he pitched for D level teams but only stats from ’10 (16-8) and ’13 (24-8) are available. He finished things out by winning ten in B ball in ’14 and was done. Oscar went 44-54 with a 3.22 ERA, 83 complete games, and a save during just three seasons of MLB work. In the minors he went 194-159 with a lifetime ERA around 2.00. On both levels he hit pretty well, including a .211 average up top and nearly that in the minors. And then? He passed away in ’53 at age 73 in Fort Worth. It’s really too bad there’s nothing else out there on him.
Iron Man Joe McGinnity has a bio on the Giants post.
Farmer George Bell is another turn of the last century guy on whom much information does not exist. Born in upstate NY, he began playing pro ball in the NY State League in ’04 – according to his card back then of which I have a reprint – when he was already 29 years old. In ’06 he went 23-16 for an A level team in the Tri-State League and was then sold to Brooklyn. George wouldn’t have too much luck up top, starting with his Rookie year in ’07 – he was 32 – when despit an excellent 2.25 ERA he went 8-16. The next year his ERA moved up to 3.59 and his wins halved. In ’06 he had perhaps his best season with a 16-15 record and a 2.71 ERA. Then came 1910, when he arguably pitched the best baseball of his career, putting up a 2.64 ERA with four shutouts but only posting a 10-27 record (his WAR that year was nearly a five). That was followed by an elevated ERA in ’11 that got him returned to the minors after going 5-6. George would win ten each of the next two seasons in Double A, get injured in ’14, and close things out with twelve wins in a ’15 season split between B and D ball. He went only 43-79 for his MLB time with a slightly under-average 2.85 ERA, 92 complete games, 17 shutouts, and four saves. In the minors he was 56-42 for years his stats are available. After playing he apparently settled in NYC where he passed away on Christmas of ’41 when he was 67.
Freddie Fitzsimmons was raised in Mishawaka, Indiana, not too far from Notre Dame. He signed to a B team in ’20 when he was 18 and went a combined 33-33 at that level the next two-plus seasons before moving up to Double A late in ’22. He stuck with Indianapolis the next four seasons where he posted a record of 40-31 despite a generally high ERA. It was during this time that he perfected his knuckle curve, which would be his out pitch. Sold to the Giants in ’25 after winning 14 in the minors, he finished the season going 6-3 with a 2.65 ERA in the rotation. Though his ERA would expand each of the five years in that hit-happy time, Freddie put up some nice numbers, escalating his wins from 14 to 17 to 20 in ’28, his highest MLB total. He was also an excellent fielder and would regularly lead NL pitchers in putouts and double plays. In ’29 he went 15-11 and in ’30 19-7 to lead the NL the first time in win percentage. He had an off ’32 but surrounded that year with win totals of 18, 16, and 18 through ’34, before he got hurt in ’35, missing pretty much the whole summer. His numbers tailed off significantly after his injury as he won only 14 over the next two seasons before a June ’37 trade to the Dodgers. After a poor finish to that year he rebounded to win eleven in ’38 and seven as a spot guy in ’39 before going 16-2 in the same role in ’40 to again lead the NL in win percentage. In ’41 he went 6-1 in limited starts with a 2.07 ERA and returned to the Series where he was nailed in the knee by a comebacker. He missed pretty much all the ’42 season but served as a coach and then was traded early in the ’43 season to the Phillies. But at 41 his knees were shot and Philadelphia named Freddie its manager. His pitching career was done with a record of 217-146 with a 3.51 ERA – way better than the norm then – with 186 complete games, 30 shutouts, and 13 saves. He was a pretty good hitter, batting .200 with over 100 RBI’s, and went 0-3 in four Series games with a 3.86 ERA while hitting .375. He managed the Phillies through ’45 when he gave way to Ben Chapman, who everyone now knows via the “42” movie. Freddie went 105-181 for that sorry club and then became a coach for the Braves (’48), Giants (’49-’55), Cubs (’57-’59 and ’66), and Kansas City (’60). He also managed in the minors for the Giants (’53), Yankees (’56), and Cleveland (’61), going a combined 219-217 at that level. He also coached in the Boston (’47) and Chicago (’62-’65) systems and even held a gig as the GM for the Brooklyn Dodgers AAFC team in the mid-Forties. He retired to California in the late Sixties and passed away there from a heart attack in ’79 when he was 78.
Wild Bill Donovan has a bio on the Tigers post.
Sandy Koufax grew up in Brooklyn where he played basketball and baseball and went to the same high school as future Mets owner Fred Wilpon. He went to the University of Cincinnati on a hoops scholarship but before he got to play his hometown Dodgers finally signed him to a bonus baby contract. So Sandy never pitched in the minors and his first couple years he suffered the bonus baby stigma of not playing too much, posting just 100 innings while exhibiting not great control and being shut out of any Series work. In ’57 he did spot work and improved to 5-4 with a 3.88 ERA and better than a strikeout an inning. In ’58 the Dodgers moved to LA and there Sandy’s control issues reappeared as his ERA shot up in a hitter’s park. That first year he led the NL with 17 wild pitches and it was generally regarded that he was overthrowing his awesome heater. After going a combined 16-19 in ’59 and ’60 – though both years he put up more than a K an inning - he worked with catcher Norm Sherry in ’61 spring training to just throw strikes, velocity be damned, and the results were pretty amazing. That year he went 18-13 with a 3.52 ERA – his best since his rookie year – and an NL-leading 269 strikeouts. He made the first of what would be six successive All-Star teams. In ’62 he went 14-7 with 216 K’s in 184 innings and led the NL with his 2.54 ERA, his first of five successive titles in that category. He did that despite missing most of the summer to injury. His MVP year of ’63 he won pitching’s Triple Crown with a 25-5/1.88/306 K line with eleven shutouts and led LA to a Series win. In ’64 another injury meant lost time as his line was 19-5/1.74/223/7. In ’65 he went 26-8/2.04/382/8 for another Triple Crown as he set the K record and also led the NL with 27 complete games and won another Series. Finally in ’66 he went 27-9/1.73/317/5 with another 27 complete games and another Triple Crown. But by then the arthritis that had initially flared in his pitching elbow in ’64 had taken its toll and Sandy retired after the ’66 season at only 30 years old. He finished with a record of 165-87 with a 2.76 ERA, 137 complete games, 40 shutouts, and 2,396 strikeouts. In the post-season he was 4-3 with a 0.95 ERA and 61 strikeouts in his eight games. He made the Hall his first shot in ’72. He’d made some good change during his career and did even better investing his earnings and spent the next 23 years as a Dodgers spring training and special pitching coach, leaving when Rupert Murdoch bought the club in ’89. He then served in that same capacity with the Mets with his old buddy Wilpon before returning to LA for the 2012 season. While with the Mets he unfortunately threw a lot of his investment money at Bernie Madoff at Wilpon’s suggestion so his time back in NY wasn’t all good. But he was smart enough to stay diversified and he is back at spring training for LA.
Rube Marquard was born and raised in Cleveland where he became a big deal pitcher as a kid and then in local factory and semi-pro ball. In ’06 when he was 19 he threw in a couple games for a C level team but that didn’t go too well and he returned to Cleveland. He tried again the next year, this time at the B level, and went 20-13 with a 2.01 ERA and then in ’08 in A ball put up a 28-19/1.69 line with 250 strikeouts. That year he led Indianapolis to its league title and garnered lots of interest at the MLB level, eventually signing with the Giants that September for $11,000, a then-record sum. Initially things didn’t go too well for him and after his first couple seasons he was only a combined 9-18 with a high ERA and was thought to be a bust. But in 1911 Wilbert Robinson became a Giants coach and made Rube his project and the pitcher went 24-7 with a 2.50 ERA and an NL-leading 237 K’s. In ’13 he set his record by opening the season 19-0 and finishing 26-11/2.57 before going 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA in the Series with two complete games. A 23-10/2.50 year in ’13 was followed by a disappointing 12-22/3.06 season in ’14. By then Rube had met and married Blossom Seeley, a big NY stage star, and they’d put together an off-season variety act that played to packed houses in NY and elsewhere. In ’15 he began the season with a no-hitter but was only 9-8 when that August he was sold to Brooklyn, now managed by Robinson. The rest of that year was pretty sloppy but he had a nice bounce as a spot guy in ’16 by going 13-6 with his 1.58 ERA. In ’17 he went 19-12/2.55 before falling to 9-18 the next year, leading the NL in losses despite a 2.64 ERA. He pitched well in ’19 as well but missed nearly the whole season to a broken leg. He won ten in ’20 and then went to Cincinnati for Dutch Ruether where in ’21 he went 17-14 for his old roommate Christy Mathewson who was now managing the Reds before he got sick. He was then traded to the Braves for whom he pitched four mediocre seasons. Rube was done after ’25 and finished 201-177 with a 3.08 ERA, 197 complete games, 30 shutouts, and 19 saves. In the post-season he was 2-5 with a 3.07 ERA. By the time his MLB career ended Rube and Blossom were divorced and the next bunch of seasons – through ’33 – he either managed or coached in the minors, playing a bit through that final year. By that time he’d also become heavily involved in horse racing and from about ’31 through the late Forties worked at a pari-mutuel track in Baltimore. He had remarried but his second wife passed away in the early Fifties and shortly thereafter Rube remarried a third time, this time to a wealthy widow. From about the mid-Fifties on he did lots of traveling and leisure activities and his name and career were revived a bunch with the publication of “The Glory of Their Times” in ’67, a book in which he was a feature subject. The book elevated his profile and helped get him elected to the Hall in ’71. Rube hung out until 1980 when he passed away at 93.
So my expectation is that Topps did pretty well by the ’73 Dodgers, giving the cohesive unit they were becoming. That’s a good expectation because nobody with over 25 at bats is missing. On the pitching side only Geoff Zahn, who was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his 13 innings is missing, but he’d have plenty of cards down the road. That is for sure the best we’ve seen which is a nice way to end these team cards.
Now for the hook-up. Who’s on the other side of this again?
1. Don Sutton was on the ’73 Dodgers;
2. Sutton and Dick Allen ’71 Dodgers;
3. Allen and Terry Harmon ’67 and ’69 Phillies.