Friday, October 29, 2010

#40 - Jim Palmer

Whoa! Jim Palmer. When I was a kid in the 70's there were three things that were assured every summer: I was going to work like a dog to pay for everything I did during the year; I wasn't going to get any action; and Palmer was going to win 20. They all generally came true.

Jim Palmer won 20 games eight times in his career. If he didn't get hurt early in his career he probably would have won that many at least two other seasons. Maybe three since he completely missed '68 - The Year of the Pitcher. So Jim's '73, while excellent, was pretty mundane for him back then: all he did was win 22 games, lead the AL with his 2.40 ERA, and win his first Cy Young Award. In this shot he shows off his nearly aqueous delivery in Baltimore.

Palmer moved around a bit as a kid - see card back - and by the time he got to high school, settled in Arizona. There he played football, hoops, and baseball and in that last sport played center as well as pitched. After his senior year of '63 he played in the Basin League for a team with a loose affiliation with the Orioles and was signed later that summer. He missed any pro ball that year and then the next went 11-3 in the rotation in A ball and then pretty much preserved those numbers in fall IL ball. Baltimore had seen enough and the next year he joined the O's out of the gate as a set-up guy. He then moved into the rotation, and was one of the team's top starters on the '66 Series winner. He hurt his arm early in '67 and the next two seasons were a wash as he went only a combined 1-3 in the minors in '67-'68. Jim's prognosis was so bad, in fact, that he was left unprotected for the expansion draft and nobody took him! (though that seems a bit absurd). Bad miss by those four teams if so.

After his extensive recovery, Palmer came back strong in '69, leading the AL in win percentage while posting a tiny ERA. That year, not too coincidentally, Baltimore returned to the Series. Then came the '70's which outside of '74 - another hurt arm - he dominated. In '70 Jim put up his first 20 victory year. In '71 he was one of four Baltimore starters to win 20. In '72 he posted both his best ERA and strikeout ratio as a starter. All three years he was an All-Star, a status that eluded him somehow in '73. After the injury year of '74 - he missed two months - he picked up where he left off the following year, going 23-11 with a 2.09 ERA and ten shutouts - all those stats led the AL - to win Cy number two. Cy number three came in '76 when he went 22-13/2.51/six. Jim won 20 in '77 - he led the Al in wins those three years - and 21 in '78 before more arm pain threw him on the DL in '79 and contributed to a 10-6 season, though his team did get back to the Series that year.

The Eighties were a bit less successful for Palmer who was 34 when they began. He rallied to win 16 in '80 but his ERA spiked up a bit and remained there in the strike year of '81 when he went 7-8. His last great season was '82 when his 15-5/3.13 line enabled him to finish second in AL Cy voting. He did some spot work in '83 before running out of gas early in the '84 season. He retired with a 268-152 record with a 2.86 ERA, 211 complete games, 53 shutouts, and four saves. He also got those three Cy Young's, made six All-Star appearances, and won four Gold Gloves. He went 8-3 in the post-season with a 2.61 ERA and two shutouts in 17 games. He is the only pitcher to win a World Series game in three decades. He was voted into the Hall in 1990.

Palmer had an incredibly smooth delivery, demonstrated in part in this photo. It really was something to see. I tried to find a clip on YouTube but no luck. Surprisingly, the only guy I remember who had a motion that even approached Palmer's was Sparky Lyle. I am pretty sure that personality-wise those two guys could not have been more different.

Jim was born in NYC? That's pretty ironic since I think he was no Yankee fan. He was also adopted - twice! When he played in the Basin League his team was populated with future MLB guys - Merv Rettenmund, Jim Lonborg, Curt Motton, and Bobby Floyd, who is coming up next. What I like about Jim's stats is that the years that stand out are the ones he DIDN'T win 20. So what was the stinky sock season? It was 1969 and Mike Kekich broke the streak.

We have two AL guys in a row so I hope it helps:

1. Palmer and Elliott Maddox '77 Orioles;
2. Maddox and Ken Suarez '73 Rangers.

Lots of ex-Yankees coming up in these.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

#39 - Ken Suarez

This is the last card for Ken Suarez. It is also the card following his biggest season by far, the only year he was a semi-regular. '73 was a transition year at catcher for the Rangers. They were moving from Dick Billings to Jim Sundberg, so Suarez got a lot of work. His offense really wasn't that bad as he only struck out once in about 20 plate appearances. And his normally excellent defense was present as he allowed only three passed balls and as usual put up pickoff stats that were a premium to the league average. Here he crouches at Yankee Stadium on a not terribly sunny day.

Ken Suarez was a Tampa kid who in summers in high school played on an American Legion team with Lou Piniella and Tony LaRussa. He then went to Florida State where after a seldom-used sophomore year he had a big junior season in '64. He is the second player from Florida State to appear on this blog although he graduated a few years earlier than Johnny Grubb. Signed early in '65 by Kansas City, Ken had a good half-season of A ball followed by a not great half-season in Double A. But he made the A's out of spring training in '66 and began the season as the starting guy behind the plate. After putting up no offense through May, though, he lost the gig to Phil Roof, got benched, and returned to Double A where he hit even worse.That year he also began his military hitch in earnest, which also took away from his playing time. In '67 he did a reverse of the prior year, starting off in Double A, where he hit .250, and then moving back up to KC, where he did a much better offensive job than the prior year, including a .388 OBA. After that season he went to Cleveland in that Rule 5 draft I mentioned a couple posts back.

Suarez remained in Cleveland for all of the '68 season but saw almost no action. He then spent about half the '69 season in Triple A before returning to the Tribe where he put up his best MLB average the rest of the way. But '70 was then a return to Double A where Ken posted a .301 average and a .381 OBA in his busiest year. '71 was again all Cleveland but Ken was unable to break through Mendoza levels offensively and after that season he went to the Rangers in a big trade that included nine guys, none except Del Unser who was terribly high-profile.

Suarez began his Ranger run in Triple A in '72, posting his best offensive run, including a .341 average and a .406 OBA. While he didn't show too much up top, he stuck around to split the starting duties in '73. After that season he asked for a raise, didn't get it, took the Rangers to arbitration, and was sent back to Cleveland for Leo Cardenas. Instead of playing, Ken sued the Rangers for getting rid of him because he took them to arbitration, which I guess was a big no-no. Late in the '74 season he was traded to California with Rusty Torres for Frank Robinson, but Ken was done playing by then. So his stats on the back are his final MLB ones. He hit .272 in the minors with a .400 OBA. He also picked off 45% of the guys that tried to run on him during his MLB time.

After playing Suarez settled in the Fort Worth area, where he worked in aviation, radio, and agriculture. I will say this for Ken: he had and has some head of hair judging by this photo here from 2003.

Another good star bullet for this guy was pretty recent: during the '73 season Ken broke up a Jim Palmer - coming up - perfect game with a ninth inning single. Ken was not a big guy, was he? At 5'9" and 175, he must have been a tough bird. That he was a sheriff in the off-season then is not too surprising, although I cannot find anything anywhere to verify that. Maybe when Shaq gets done playing they can hang out.

Suarez moved around a bit so this should be quick:

1. Suarez and Jim Spencer '73 Rangers;
2. Spencer and Don Kessinger '77 White Sox.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#38 - Don Kessinger

Don Kessinger was the workhorse shortstop for the Cubs. While he did not go Cal Ripken on anyone, he did average 600 at-bats for the ten years from 1966-'75. Here he is photographed at Candlestick (any of these that I get right from now on get attributed to Jim who has educated me park-wise). '73 was a pretty typical Kessinger season, which means it was pretty good. Don led NL shortstops defensively in putouts and double plays and finished second in assists. Offensively he had a typical season but because nobody behind him in the Chicago lineup was hitting, his runs total declined from pushing 80 to 53. And for the only season in a seven-year run he was not named an All-Star, even though he was hitting around .290 at selection time. So maybe that's why he looks a tad ornery in his photo.

Don Kessinger was a big deal four sport athlete while growing up in Arkansas, adding track to the big three sports. He then attended the University of Mississippi where he not only played baseball but was a hell of a hoops player (check out his baseball-reference bullpen page to see with whom he was named All-60's SEC; pretty impressive). Signed by the Cubs just after his senior year ended, Don hit .236 while providing some decent D in Double A ball that summer before a short late look in Chicago. The next year at the same level he raised his average 50 points, stole 20 bases, and cut his errors in half. This impressed everyone enough that when he was called back to Cubbie land that summer, it was for good.

In the latter half of '65 Kessinger basically went straight to the starting shortstop job for the Cubs, replacing a guy named Andre Rodgers. Don's average was pretty lame but his defensive skills were evident pretty much immediately. In '66 he added a bunch of points to his average after manager Leo Durocher suggested he become a switch-hitter. In '68 he was named to his first All-Star team and in '69 he had perhaps his biggest offensive year while topping out in runs with 109 and in doubles. He was an All-Star again and would be every year through '72. In '70 he scored 100 runs and posted his best triples number; in both '69 and '70 he was a Gold Glove winner. In '71 and '72 the runs would dip to 77 per season but his other stats retained their levels. In '74 he hit .259 and scored 83 in his final All-Star season and in '75 he played a little third base in addition to his duties at short. In his ten year full season run ending that year, Don led NL shortstops in putouts, assists, and double plays three times each and in fielding percentage once. After the '75 season he was traded to the Cardinals for Mike Garman and a minor leaguer..

In '76 Kessinger served as the starting shorstop and sometimes other infielder, hitting .239 while putting up other stats that resembled those of his '73 season. He then served as a transition guy to Garry Templeton the next season before an August trade that returned him to Chicago, this time for the White Sox. Don split time at short the rest of the way and then in '78 was the regular guy there as he pushed his average to .255. In '79 he became a backup while also being named the team's manager. In that latter role he went 46-60 in his only MLB experience. Before the end of the year he would retire as a player and be replaced in the managerial role by Tony LaRussa in that guy's fist gig up top. Don finished with a .252 average with 527 RBI's and 100 stolen bases. Defensively he is 35th all-time in putouts for shortstops, 15th in assists, and 21st in double plays.

Following his career in baseball, Don became involved in insurance and real estate back in Mississippi. During the '90's. he returned to Ole Miss as its baseball coach - going 185-153 - and it's AD. He currently manages his own firm in Oxford. His son Keith played very briefly for the Reds in '93.

Don has one of the best middle names I have seen so far. His 6-for-6 game occurred June 17, 1971 against the Cards. I guess all those hits were needed because the Cubs took 10 innings to win 7-6. In '69 he also started the season with 54 errorless games.

For the hookup this time I will use Bill Singer plus Don's backup:

1. Kessinger and Paul Popovich '65 to '67 and '69 to '73 Cubs;
2. Popovich and Bill Singer '68 Dodgers;
3. Singer and Sells '72 to '74 Angels.

That last line sounds like a law firm.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#37 - Dave Sells

The title of this post sounds like an incomplete sentence as in "Dave sells...what?" Insurance? Used cars? Sorry about that.

This is Dave Sells' first and last card. And '73 represented the only year of Dave's caeer that was spent exclusively at the MLB level. And he didn't do a bad job either, posting a good record and ten saves. The only real knock on Dave that year - and it would be a career one as well - was that his control was a bit off, demonstrated by his walk and strikeout totals. Another telling stat was that he was a 26 year old rookie. But it does look like he's going to peg the photographer straight in the puss if he has to pose any longer.

Dave Sells grew up in Vacaville, California, where he played high school ball with Bobby Heise, a future Angels teammate as well. After that he attended Solano Community College where he again presumably played ball - and may have been a position guy as well as a pitcher - and also reportedly played in the summers. That would make sense because Dave was signed by the Giants just prior to the beginning of the '68 season. Initially, at least, Dave was strictly a reliever and he put up some nice numbers that first year in A ball and did it again the next year at the same level while recording 15 saves, his first season in the California system after being selected in the minor league draft. He saved 15 again in Double A in '70 but his ERA got pretty fat. But he fixed that the following year at the same level and in his bit of Triple A work, a season in which he posted a combined 14 saves. After a nice start to the '72 season - eleven saves - at the higher level in '72, Dave made his MLB debut in August and brought most of his good stats up with him.

In '74 Dave was seldom-used and it is inviting to assume he may have been injured. His stats for the Angels were pretty good and when he was sent down to Triple A the first time in June he had a 2.07 ERA up top. He got back to Anaheim in July, continued to throw sparingly but well enough, and then after a couple bad performances in early August was sent back down. He then began '75 in Triple A in the rotation, got upstairs in June to throw some crappy innings, and in July was sent to LA for Jim Brewer. For the Dodgers he turned the same trick, throwing pretty good ball in his Triple A rotation and not too bad upstairs, although he was almost never used. '76 was all Triple A rotation again, but this time with a big ERA and a losing record in Dave's final year in The States. After a season in Mexico in '77 he was done. Dave finished with an MLB mark of 11-7 with a 3.90 ERA and twelve saves. In the minors he went 62-46 with a 3.48 ERA and about 65 saves. And he could hit (hence my speculation above), posting a .241 average in the minors and a 1.000 average up top.

It appears that Sells never left Vacaville and after his baseball career returned there full time. There is currently a David W Sells listed there who owns his own tree service company so it is not too much of a stretch to assume it is this guy.

Now let's review what an idiot I am. This shot of Sells is clearly taken at Yankee Stadium. But I am almost positive Dave is wearing a home uniform. It is certainly the same uniform from the Angels' team picture. So I don't know what's going on with this picture. I am going to list this one as an away uniform anyway but, yes, I'm confused.

Nothing is terribly notable about the back of this card. Sometimes you have to give credit to the Topps cartoonist because he or she had to put SOMEthing down. I wonder if Sells liked "Chinatown"? That would have been appropriate.

To get from Sells to the '73 Cards requires some work. Let's try this:

1. Sells and Nolan Ryan '72 to '74 Angels;
2. Ryan and Donn Clendenon ' 69 to '71 Mets;
3. Clendenon and Joe Torre '72 Cards;
4. Torre on the '73 Cards.

I could also go through Bill Singer and Dick Allen, but that takes just as long.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Traded Checklist

Because I am a little winded from my last post, generally lazy, and have no place to put this that is not completely random, I am posting this card here. It has no number so I guess it doesn't matter.

There is not too much to say about this card. It looks a lot like the regular checklists with its green front and black pennant. If you are a bit of a dweeb like me you can try and figure out from the list who was traded for whom. The second and third guys were traded for each other, but I will get to those cards soon enough.
I honestly do not know if this card was issued in the packs. I don't think so. I got it by just buying all the Traded set in one transaction years after I had collected the set. A quick glance does show that the Dodgers had the most monumental trades that year; very significant since they would go on to win the pennant.

Since there is no way to do the degrees of separation exercise, how about these ones? How many Hall of Famers on the card? Just one - Juan Marichal. How many future managers? One again - Lou Piniella. No MVP's but there are two Cy Young winners (Mike Marshall and Steve Stone) See? The card is kind of a yawner. Not even any errors.

Friday, October 22, 2010

#36 - Cards Team Records

This is the second team card of the set and as I did with the Orioles team card I have also included the team checklist. This team card is much more representative of the norm than the Baltimore one was in that it is blurry enough that a lot of the players' identities need to be guessed. This card is also a bit amusing because I am pretty sure that the guys in civilian clothes at the ends of the last row are just fans. 1973 was a bit streaky for the Cards and the season kicked off with a bad one as the team came out of the gate 2-15 as problems abounded. Offense and the bullpen were pretty much non-existent, Bob Gibson would be hurt all year, and shortstop was a bit messy since it turned out new phenom Ray Busse had stage fright. But a good run in May and June got them close to first by the All-Star break and the starters did well enough that one of them, Rick Wise, started that game. But while the offense came around and rookie Mike Tyson finally solved the shortstop dilemma, the bullpen never did and like the rest of the division the Cards couldn't get too far away from .500 ball. In the end they finished at exactly that in second place and only two games back.

Not too much to say about the front of the checklist. The formality of the Brock and Gibson signatures stands out. Joe Torre's would too except that's how you signed your name if you were a Catholic kid from Brooklyn.

I hadn't realized until I studied this back how much success the Cards had during the war years - three straight pennants. So who were these record holders?

Bill White was born in the deep south, grew up in Ohio, and then attended that state's Hiram College on an academic scholarship (pre-med) where  he played ball. A big strong guy he was given a tryout by the Giants - at Forbes Field - and signed on the spot in '53. He moved pretty quickly through the minors, posting some big power years and after a hot Triple A start in '56 came to NY as a first baseman at 22, posting that many homers his rookie year. He then lost nearly all of the next two years to military time and by the time he got back late in '58 had lost his spot to Orlando Cepeda. Just prior to the '59 season Bill was traded to St. Louis where he would immediately take over first base. While it would take him a couple years to re-establish his power, Bill would off the bat put up good averages and start reaping awards. From '61 to '64 he would annually garner at least 20 homers and 90 RBI's. His best season was '63 when he would post a .304/27/109 line and during his initial seven year run with the Cards Bill was a five-time All-Star and won six Gold Gloves. After a discounted '65 he went to the Phillies in a big trade and had a big '66 season. In that off-season he tore his Achilles and then had two very reduced seasons for Philly before he closed his career back with the Cards in '69. Bill finished with a .286 average with 202 homers and 870 RBI's and hit .111 with two RBI's in his seven post season games. He then had - for guys of my age and geography - a more high-profile career as a Yankees announcer for nearly 20 years before becoming in '89 the NL president, from which he retired in '94.

Ken Boyer was one of three brothers who played in the Major Leagues. A Missouri kid, he was signed by St. Louis in '49 with the initial intent of being a pitcher. Though he threw well enough in D ball his first two seasons, Ken's bat was impossible to ignore, and by midway through his second year he was playing third base. After a big season in '51 in A ball, Ken missed the next two years to wartime military duty and returned to put up another excellent season in '54, this time in Double A. In '55 he made the cut and he would spend the next eleven years - '55 to '65 - as the St. Louis third baseman, a position at which he was a seven-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves. An excellent fielder and a very good hitter, he would average a .293/23/91 line with Cards and won the NL MVP in '64, a season in which he led St. Louis to the Series title with a .295/24/119 line. Like Bill White, Ken had a discounted '65 season - for Ken the culprit was a bad back - and was traded after it, he to the Mets. After a season as the regular guy at third for NY in '66, he shared corner infield time the next two seasons for the Mets, White Sox, and the Dodgers with whom his career ended early in the '69 season. Ken finished with a .287 average, with 282 homers, and 1,141 RBI's and hit .222 with two homers and six RBI's in seven Series games. Defensively he is currently 30th all-time in putouts at third base, 20th in assists, and twelfth in double plays. He then turned to managing right away and in '70 and from '73 to '77 went 373-361 in the minors for the St. Louis and Baltimore chains. From '71-'72 he coached up top for the Cards and early in the '78 season took over managing the team. He went 166-190 before being let go early in the '80 season. He then scouted for St. Louis until he passed away in '82 at age 51 from lung cancer.

Rogers Hornsby is the Hall of Fame second baseman who also spent a bunch of years managing. Raised in Texas, he was playing semi-pro ball by age ten and began his pro career after trying out for a D team in 1914. He was a skinny kid who initially didn't hit very well but his cocky attitude got him acquired from that level by the Cards in '15. During that off-season he ate like crazy and the next year posted his first .300-plus season while playing shortstop, a position at which he was error-prone. His initial time with the Cards encompassed the '14-'26 seasons and by midway through the '19 season he got moved to second, at which he did much better defensively. He then exploded offensively in the Twenties and for the next six years had about the best run as a hitter in baseball history, with an average line of  .397/26/115 with 42 doubles, 14 triples, and 216 hits. During that time he hit .400 three times, won two Triple Crowns, and one MVP. In '25 he took over as manager of the team and the next year, though injuries pulled down his stats a bit, led the Cards to a Series title. But in his managerial role, Rogers pissed off both his players and owners and he would then become a bit itinerant. In '27 he went to the Giants where he revived his stats a bunch but pissed off John McGraw. In '28 he went to the Boston Braves, where he won his last batting title with a .387 and in '29 to the Cubs, where he won his second MVP with a .380/39/149 line. He remained in Chicago through '32 but only had one more season as a regular. In '33 he returned to St. Louis, first for the Cards, and then for the Browns, for whom he continued to play and manage through '37, his final year as a player. Rogers finished that role with a .358 average with 301 homers, 1,584 RBI's, 541 doubles, 169 triples, and a sick .434 OBA. He led the NL in hits, doubles, and RBI's four times, average seven times, and homers twice. In the post-season he hit .245 with five RBI's in twelve games. After playing he would manage in the minors through '42 and again from '50 to '51. He then managed the Browns for part of the '52 season and in Cincinnati from '52 to '53, burning bridges everywhere. For that gap in the Forties he ran a baseball rec league in Chicago and from '54 on took on various coaching assignments. As an MLB manager Rogers went 701-812. He was elected into the Hall in '42. He passed away in '63 while coaching for the Mets at age 66.

Jesse Burkett is another Hall of Famer, who like Rogers Hornsby, could hit the crap out of the ball and manage to piss everyone off at the same time. His nickname was "Crab." Born in West VA, Jesse worked and played ball well before he finished high school, and signed with a B level team in 1888, when he was 18. Initially a pitcher, the following year at the same level, he went 30-4 and the next year his contract was picked up by the Giants. In '90 Jesse only went 3-10 with a very high ERA, but he hit well enough that by season's end he was also playing in the outfield. Following that season Jesse was traded to the NL's Cleveland Spiders where in '91 he had a tough time hitting up top but both hit and pitched well in the minors. After that it was all Cleveland from '92 to '98, a time during which Jesse averaged over .360 and hit over .400 twice. The Spiders ran out of bucks after that last season and the players were distributed elsewhere in the NL, Jesse going to the Cardinals. There from '99-1901 he averaged .378 and his last season won the batting title with a .376. He then moved to the Browns for three seasons before finishing in '05 with the Red Sox. Jesse finished with a .338 average, 2,850 hits, 182 triples, 75 homers, 952 RBI's, a .415 OBA, three batting titles, and 399 stolen bases. He'd done a good job saving money and prior to the '06 season established a minor league team in Worcester, MA, for which he both played (through '13) and managed (through '15), leading the team to four pennants before he sold the team prior to the '16 season. He then managed that year for some other local teams, took over as the baseball coach at Holy Cross ('17-'20), coached for the Giants ('21-'22), managed some more in the minors ('23-'24, '28-'29, '33) while also working for the Massachusetts Highway Department. He was admitted to the Hall in '46 and passed away in '53 at age 84.

Joe "Ducky" Medwick was a Gashouse Gang member, another Hall of Fame outfielder, who grew up in NJ as a big sports star and was wooed by Knute Rockne to play football at Notre Dame. Instead he opted for baseball and in '30 signed with a C team for which he hit .419. That got the Cards interested so they signed Joe and after nearly two seasons of over .300 in A ball he came up in September of '32 and hit .349 for a month. He would then be an offensive force for St Louis the next seven years, during that time averaging a .337/20/123 line with 49 doubles. In '34 he led the NL with 18 triples and in '36 along with that doubles record, he led the NL with 223 hits and 138 RBI's. He was MVP in '37 by virtue of winning the Triple Crown with his .374/31/154 season as well as leading the league in about every offensive category. But Joe, like the two above guys, wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy, and after two more good seasons he was traded to Brooklyn shortly into the '40 season. Then, in one of his first games against his old team, he was beaned and knocked unconscious. While he would return to post decent numbers the rest of the way and would post some more .300 seasons, he was no longer the hitter he was and he would move around a bit, going from Brooklyn ('40-'43), the Giants ('43-'45), the Braves ('45), back to Brooklyn ('46), and back to St. Louis ('47-'48), making pretty much no friends along the way. He hit .324 for his career with 2,471 hits, 540 doubles, 205 homers, and 1,383 RBI's. In the post-season he hit .326 with a homer and five RBI's in twelve games and was a ten-time All-Star. From '49 to '52 he coached and played in the minors. He then coached for various teams in the minors before becoming a St. Louis roving hitting coach in '66 which he did until he passed in '75 from a heart attack at age 63. He was elected into the Hall in '68.

Tom Long had a very brief career as an outfielder, playing with the Cards from 1915-'17. He was from Alabama and presumably played some college or other organized ball because his first professional experience was late in the 1911 season with the Senators. That was followed by three seasons close to home of A ball during which Tommy averaged about .300. He was signed by St. Louis prior to the '15 season and his rookie year cruised to the league triples crown by a fat margin. He then  had a decent '16, declined in '17,  and was then was a minor leaguer through '24. Up top he hit .269 with 49 triples and in the minors about .290. He appears to have not wandered terribly far from his birthplace and passed away in Mobile in '72 at age 82.

Johnny "The Big Cat" Mize is the next HOF guy, an outfielder/first baseman whose career was neatly divided into three sections. Born in Georgia, he was playing college ball in high school and was signed by the Cards in 1930. Then, despite some excellent offense the next few years at levels ranging from C to Double A, he was still in the minors when he got a nasty bone spur on his pelvis in '34 and thought he was done with baseball. But a successful surgery and a nice recovery year in '35 got him up top in '36. Johnny immediately started hitting and by now was playing exclusively first base. A big power guy who didn't strike out very much, Johnny would stay in St. Louis through '41 and during that time put up an average line of .336/26/109 with 36 doubles, eleven triples, and a .419 OBA. He came in second in MVP voting twice and was then traded to the Giants at the insistence of NY manager Mel Ott. There, Johnny had another big '42 before missing the next three seasons to military service. He got back for a partial season in '46 and picked up his power routine. In '47 he famously hit 51 homers while striking out fewer than 50 times, the only player to do that. He led the NL that year and with 40 in '48 and then during the '49 season as his legs were giving out - he was 36 - Johnny went to the Yankees for the stretch run. He would remain in NY as a part-timer from '49 to '53 which was pretty good timing since he got to win five consecutive Series. He retired after that last season with a .312 average, 359 homers and 1,337 RBI's, and played in ten All-Star games, including his last season which must have been a sentimental honor. In the post-season he hit .286 with three homers and nine RBI's in 18 games. After playing Johnny relocated to Florida where he was involved in real estate, orange groves, and ran a liquor store. In the mid-Seventies he moved back to his hometown where he retired and passed away in '93 at the age of 80. He made it in the Hall in '81.

Ron Willis was originally an outfielder and was signed by the Cards in '61 out of hi St. Louis high school. After hitting about .232 in a season-plus of D ball, though, by the middle of '62 he did a reverse Rick Ankiel and was moved to the mound and that year went a combined 9-6 as a swing guy in D and C ball. In '63 he joined the A level rotation and went 13-7 with a high ERA. He fixed that in '64 with a 9-1 season and a 2.31 ERA around some military time and some late Double A ball. In '65 he went 7-4 at the higher level before a great Fall IL season during which he went 6-2 with a 2.96 ERA. In '66 he switched gears, moving to the Triple A pen and winning ten games before a late look up top that included a save. In '67 he had a nice rookie year, forming a righty (him)/lefty closing tandem with Joe Hoerner while winning six and saving ten with a 2.67 ERA. In '68 he moved to a setup role and won two while saving four. After a slow start in '69 he did some Triple A time and was traded to Houston, where he didn't throw too much. After that season he was returned to the Cards and threw nice ball in Triple A - 2-4 with a 1.67 ERA and 13 saves in 26 games - before another mid-season trade, this time to San Diego. For the Padres, Ron went 2-2 while saving four in his final season. For his MLB career Ron went 11-12 with a 3.32 ERA and 19 saves. In the minors he was 53-36 with a 3.72 ERA. He had a tougher time in the Series, posting an 11.81 ERA in his six games. He would stay close to baseball on and off and in '77 was a scout for the Cards when he passed away from bone cancer. He was only 34..

Jack Taylor set the Cards complete game record in 1904, not 1967. Born in Ohio in 1874, he played local semi-pro ball until 1897 when he was signed to Connie Mack's Milwaukee A level team after beating them the prior year in an exhibition game. He threw well that first year but got hurt and then in '98 won 28 games before being traded to the Chicago Orphans late that summer and going 5-0 the rest of the way. He remained in the Chicago rotation and the next three years put up a way better than average ERA but for poor teams went only a combined 41-57. Then in '02 he would have his first big season, going 23-11 with a 1.29 ERA and eight shutouts, leading the NL with both latter stats. That year he also began a run of completing every one of his starts that lasted partway through the '06 season. He won 21 for the re-christened Cubs in '03 before a big trade - the Cubs got Mordecai Brown - took him to St. Louis. His complete games led the NL in '04 as he won 20 and after a losing season in '05 he returned to the Cubs midway through the '06 season when he went a combined 20-12 with a 1.99 ERA. But all those complete games took a toll on Jack's arm and the next year he threw well enough in a spot role but was done just before the Cubbies had their big Series run.He then returned to the minor leagues where he pitched through '11. Jack finished with an MLB record of 152-139 with a 2.65 ERA, 279 complete games (in 287 starts!), 20 shutouts, and five saves. A pretty good hitter as well, he would sometimes play other positions and hit .222 with 88 RBI's for his career. By 1913 he had returned to his hometown where he would become a coal miner until he passed away from lung disease at age 64 in 1938.

Ulysses Simpson Grant "Stoney" McGlynn was a pretty colorful guy and player. Born in PA in 1872 he pitched local company and semi-pro ball for years while working in the mining and building industries. He reportedly won 70 games one year out of a 126 game season. In '04 he signed with York of the Tri-State independent league. Though he told the team he was 21, he was actually 32 and for the next two seasons he won 30 and 28 games, respectively, quite a few of them both ends of double headers. His nickname was understandably "Iron Man." In '06 he topped both those seasons by winning 36 by late July before he was sold to a D team in Ohio for which he went 5-1 with a 0.71 ERA in a month. That was followed by a sale to St. Louis and in the final two weeks of that season Stoney threw six complete games while going 2-2 with a 2.44 ERA. Then, for a horrible team in '07 - the Cards went 52-101 that year - Stoney had by far his biggest MLB season, going 14-25 with a 2.91 ERA. His losses, 39 starts, and 33 complete games led the NL. In one game he went 16 innings against Orvall Overall of the Cubs who also went 16 and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. In another game he came in relief against Pittsburgh with the bases loaded and three balls on the batter, no outs. He then picked off each of the base runners and retired the side without throwing a pitch. He then held out prior to the '08 season, had a not great early run in a spot role, and by midyear was back in the minors. For his MLB time Stoney was 17-33 with a 2.95 ERA, 43 complete games, three shutouts, and two saves. He would then play with Milwaukee, an A team, for three-plus seasons, peaking in '09 when he won 27 and threw 426 innings, again many of them both games in double headers. He would throw in the minors until 1915 and at that level won a total of 177 games. By 1912 he'd relocated to Wisconsin full time and was initially a lifeguard as well as an athletics coach. He was a coach at the University of Illinois for a few years as well but spent most of his professional time after baseball at the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company in Manitowac where he worked in shipping and as a watchman while coaching the company baseball team. He also continued lifeguarding through at least his early sixties. He passed away in Manitowac in '41 when he was 69.
Dizzy Dean's Hall of Fame career was basically built on 5 1/2 seasons, all with the Cards. Born in Arkansas, Diz grew up in a sharecropper household, went to work at an early age, and joined the Army when he was 17. There he picked up some of his baseball skills as well as his nickname. Signed by St. Louis prior to the '30 season, Diz won 25 in A ball that year before throwing a complete game win for the Cards in September. In '31 it was back to A ball and a 26-10/1.57 season before coming up for good the next year. He won 18 his rookie year and from '32 to the All-Star game in '37 he ran at about a 24-win pace. His biggest season was '34, the year he led the Gashouse Gang to the Series and won the MVP for his 30-7/2.66 year. He is the last NL guy to win 30 and he led the NL that year in wins, shutouts (seven), and strikeouts (195). But like some of the St. Louis hitters discussed above, Diz used to piss off guys, more because of his cocky attitude than because of a pugnacious one. So when after putting up two more big years in '35 (an NL-leading 28 wins) and '36 (24), when in the '37 All-Star game he broke his foot, there wasn't too much sympathy and his power-pitching days were over. After starting that year 12-7, he went 1-3 the second half and after the season was sent to the Cubs. With Chicago, Diz occupied a spot role and the next three seasons went a combined 16-8. Early in the '41 season he was offered a coaching gig with the team and a few months later a broadcasting one. He would broadcast fore the Cards a few seasons, then move across town to the Browns and while there throw four scoreless innings for the Browns in '47. As a pitcher he finished his MLB run with a record of 150-83 with a 3.02 ERA, 154 complete games, 26 shutouts, and 31 saves. He made four All-Star teams and in the post-season was 2-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a shutout in five games. He was also a pretty good hitter, posting a .225 average with eight homers and 76 RBI's. After his Browns stint, he would broadcast elsewhere, including for the Yankees, before moving to a national TV gig. He was admitted to the Hall in '53 and passed away in '74 at age 64 from a heart attack.

Arthur "Bugs" Raymond was a sad case who came out of Chicago where he worked operating a printing press and then started playing company ball. In 1904 he signed with A D team and went 19-7 before being purchased by Detroit late that year. He threw pretty well in a few late games for the Tigers, but not well enough to let anyone overlook what was a pretty considerable drinking problem. So after the season Detroit sold Bugs to an A team for which Bugs showed up late, went 10-6, and continued to drink. In '06 he moved down to C ball, learned a spitter, and won 18. At that level in '07 he went 35-11 before a late summer sale returned him to the MLB level, this time for the Cards. For St. Louis the rest of the way Bugs went 2-4 in six complete game starts, but with a 1.67 ERA. He remained in the Cards rotation in '08, the year he tied the club record for losses. Despite his 15-25 record, he had an ERA that year just above 2.00 and threw five shutouts. Following that season he went to the Giants in a big trade and won 18 games in '09. But though John McGraw tried to corral him Bugs continued to hit the sauce and in '10 his record fell to 4-11. He had a bit of a bounce in '11 on the mound but was missing games, throwing drunk at others, and was eventually cut loose and missed the Series that year. He got work back in Chicago where he passed away in 1912 at 30 years old, apparently as a result of an onfield beating with a baseball bat by either a fan or an opponent. Bugs was 45-57 for his MLB work with a 2.49 ERA, 57 complete games, nine shutouts, and two saves. In the minor leagues he was 87-32.

"Hickory Bob" Harmon was born in Missouri and shortly thereafter lost both his parents so he was adopted by his mom's sister. His adopted family were farmers and Bob worked the farm while playing some local ball. In 1909 he signed with a C team for which he threw well enough to get signed by the Cards later that spring. Bob was primarily a fastball guy with some control issues and his first two seasons went a combined 19-26 with high ERA's. But then in '11 he had his best year, during which he led the league in starts and walks and went 23-16. He won 18 in '12, faded to 8-21 the following year, and was traded to Pittsburgh. With the Pirates Bob went a combined 39-47 the next three years but finally got his ball/strike ratio on the right side and posted better than league average ERA's. He also during that time bought some farmland in Louisiana and in '17 quit ball to set up and manage the cotton farm to which he converted his property. He returned to Pittsburgh in '18 but then retired mid-season when oil was struck om his farm. Bob finished with a record of 107-133 with a 3.33 ERA, 143 complete games, 15 shutouts, and twelve saves. He parlayed the oil strike into some petrochemical property and also expanded his farming empire to include dairy and grew quite wealthy. He passed away in '61 at age 74.

Cy Young pitched for the Cards? Yup, from 1899-1900. The thing is, though, that he actually gave up more hits in the former year, 368, than the latter. Either Topps made a mistake or they just counted 20th century records. Cy will have a much more detailed bio on the Boston team post.

So who's missing from the checklist. Bernie Carbo and Rick Wise have Boston cards since they were traded there before the '74 season (but I guess too late to get "Traded" cards). On the position player side, a few reserve infielders and an outfielder get shut out: Busse hit .143 with a couple homers in 70 at bats; Mick Kelleher - Busse's first reliever - hit .184 in 38 at bats; Ed Crosby .128 in 39 at bats; and Bill Stein .218 in his 55 first year at bats. All those guys except Busse would have cards down the road. Jim Dwyer hit .193 in 57 at bats as the reserve outfielder. On the pitching side Wayne Granger had a card with the Yankees and Jim Bibby with the Rangers so three wins and four losses are not represented in this set.Those were represented by: Eddie Fisher who went 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his last season; John Andrews went 1-1/4.42 in his only look up top; and Mike Nagy, former big deal rookie for Boston, was 0-2/4.20 in his penultimate MLB season. Some of these guys do make the cut on the team card though. Andrews is the first guy in the first row; Kelleher the sixth from the right in the second row; Nagy is the first player (next to the all white trainer) in the third row; Busse is the big guy in the middle of that row and Stein is to his immediate left; and Crosby is third from the right in the back row. For any completeness freaks, the Cruz brothers are fully represented in the second row by Hector, Cirilio, and Jose (after Luis Melendez) to the immediate right of Kelleher. So with lots of bodies but not terribly much field time the Cards are the second team in a row with excellent representation.

Finally, we get the '73 Cards to Mr. Perry thusly:

1. Joe Torre on the '73 Cards;
2. Torre and Felipe Alou '68 Braves;
3. Alou and Gaylord Perry '63 Giants.

I will expect to see a bunch more of the Alou brothers in this exercise.

Friday, October 15, 2010

#35 - Gaylord Perry

I have a new level of respect for Gaylord Perry. Whenever they have those annual Hall of Fame photos, Perry looks like the happiest guy there. You know who else looks happy in those pictures? Steve Carlton and Carlton Fisk (hey, I never realized those two guys have the same name!). Go figure...

And Perry had reasons to smile in '73. Yeah, his numbers were down considerably from his Cy season of '72 but he was still his team's best pitcher and the controversy he took such pleasure in creating was in abundance that year. Manager Ralph Houk of the Yankees got so frustrated with Gaylord's  - apparent - greaseball that he stalked to the mound and knocked off Gaylord's cap. Billy Martin accused him of throwing his greaser twice and got so blustered the second time that he had his own guys in the Detroit pen throw them (in not too coincidentally one of Billy's last games managing that team). Bobby Murcer railed at the commissioner, calling him a coward for not being able to figure out where and when Gaylord secreted his "stuff." All fun for Gaylord, who seemed to relish the attention and then blithely deny he did anything wrong.

Gaylord Perry and his brother Jim grew up sons of tenant farmers in North Carolina. In high school Jim pitched while Gaylord played third and they won a state title. After Jim graduated, Gaylord took his mound slot and over the rest of his HS career went 33-5 and was also a big deal hoops star. Signed by the Giants in '58, he threw excellent ball at the C level that summer and the next year got pushed all the way up to Double A where a few too many homers made his numbers a little sloppy. But he threw much better at that level the next year and though he continued to post losing records, took over a run off his ERA. In '61 he moved up to Triple A Tacoma and for the next year-plus showed excellent control while posting a combined 26-18 record and 2.52 ERA. Those numbers got him two trips to San Fran that year, one to kick off the season - when things didn't go terribly well - and a return in September, when they went a little better. He worked as a spot guy and even saw some playoff action against the Dodgers. Then, after a '63 start in Triple A early Gaylord was up for good.

'63 was a bit tough for Perry. He moved to a setup role in the pen and while he added a couple saves, his record wasn't so hot and his ERA was a bit high. Then in '64 the Giants picked up a pitcher named Bob Shaw who, legend has it, taught Gaylord a spitter. Gaylord has always toyed with people over how much he actually used that pitch but regardless of the reason his stats improved markedly that year as he returned to a spot role. Then in '65 though his record and ERA tipped the wrong way again, by the end of the season Gaylord was in the rotation full time which set him up for his first 20-win and All-Star season in '66. He would be a workhorse in that role and from '66 through '76 he averaged over 300 innings a season. But over the next couple years he was a bit of a hard luck guy since he was only a game under .500 while posting one of the NL's best ERA's over that time. Things got a bit better in '69 when he won 19. That year was also memorable because he was such a horrible hitter that his manager said that man would land on the moon before he ever homered; his first MLB home run came the day after the Apollo moon landing. Then things improved more so in '70 when a 15-1 start propelled him to another All-Star nod and his second 20-win season as he led the NL in starts, innings, and with five shutouts.  Ironically his two biggest victory seasons once in the Giants rotation were accompanied by his two highest ERA's. By then Gaylord was fully entrenched as a "known" cheater and after another very good season in '71 not too many NL hitters were upset when he was sent to the AL.

After the '71 season Perry was traded to Cleveland with shortstop Frank Duffy for fireballer Sam McDowell. That trade fell seriously in favor of the Tribe, especially in Gaylord's first AL season when he won his first Cy Young in '72, winning 24 games for a team that won only 72, while posting a tiny ERA. After all the fuss of '73 Gaylord won 21 in a '74 in which he was joined by his brother professionally for the only time while shaving nearly a run from his ERA. At the end of that season the Tribe picked up Frank Robinson, who would shortly thereafter be named manager and Frank and Gaylord did not get along. So after a middling start to the '75 season Gaylord was sent to Texas for pitchers Jim Bibby, Jackie Brown, and Rick Waits and for the Rangers had a much better second half. He then had two good seasons in Texas as the team's fortunes improved a bit, winning 15 each year. But after the '77 season the Rangers went on a youth kick and jettisoned 39-year old Gaylord to San Diego for some cash and pitcher Dave Tomlin. All he did for the Padres in '78 was win 21 games and his second Cy. He then followed a decent '79 for San Diego with a return to the AL where he pitched for Texas ('80), the Yankees ('80), Atlanta ('81 - I know; NOT the AL), Seattle ('82- '83), and Kansas City ('83) after which he retired at age 44. He got his 300th win for the Mariners and had five 20-win seasons and five All-Star appearances. His final record was 314-265 with a 3.11 ERA, 303 complete games, 53 shutouts, and ten saves. In his only official post-season he was 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA in two games. For a while he and his brother Jim had the record for most wins by brothers; that record was broken by the Niekro's.

Besides the spitballing legacy, Perry was also supposed to be a pretty tough guy to play behind. In the book "The Curse of Rocky Colavito" there is a chapter devoted to Perry's time with the Indians. In it teammates recall how he would stare at them from the mound after errors and call them out in the clubhouse before or after the game. It also sheds some light on how he did not get along with Frank Robinson, which prompted that trade to the Rangers. It is a great book for any Indians - or baseball - fan.

After playing Gaylord would be a gentleman farmer, which worked pretty well for him until it didn't, when his farm went bankrupt in '86, forcing him to take a gig as a sales rep for a local food company. Then, far worse, in '87 his first wife died in a car crash when she was only 46. For a few years in the late Eighties/early Nineties he created and then coached a baseball program at South Carolina's Limestone College. Since then he has been a big fixture at card shows and other baseball-related events. He was admitted to the Hall in '91.

When this card came out, Perry was 35. It was hard to believe that he had 134 wins left in him but he did. Tons of innings and tons of decisions are the hallmarks of the card. I like the cartoon; Perry was 6' 4" and if he came to the door telling me I needed insurance, I would probably have agreed.

Perry moved around enough that the separation exercise should be pretty quick:

1. Perry and Dave May '77 Rangers;
2. May and Andy Kosco '71 Brewers.

Dave May gets some good mileage in these.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

#34 - Andy Kosco

This is Andy Kosco's last card. Anyone that reads this blog knows by now that I suck at placing photos, but I am giving this one a shot. It is Shea Stadium in NY. Andy had returned to the NL via an off-season trade with Boston, he and Phil Gagliano coming to Cincinnati for one-time pitching phenom Mel Behney. With the Reds Andy would be a reserve outfielder, posting some decent offense in that role and then getting some starting field time in the playoffs.

Andy Kosco was signed by Detroit in '59 after some big athletic feats at his Youngstown, Ohio high school that included a .700 batting average his senior year. That summer, away from home for the first time and only 17, Andy had a tough time in D ball. Things picked up a bit the next year in B ball when he put up 22 homers and 73 RBI's but with a few too many strikeouts, which would be a continuing facet of his offense. In '61 he kept his RBI's up but his homers tumbled hard in A ball and in '62 he hit .284 at that level but the homer total fell to six. Then in '63 he bottomed out, hitting only .208 with no homers in Double A. So in '64 it was back to A ball and though his numbers to start the season were a bit better, Detroit cut Andy loose that June.

Kosco was picked up almost immediately by the Twins and manager Vern Morgan, who gave him a quick hitting tutorial that included an end to his switch-hitting. It worked fast because Andy ended up winning the triple crown in his A league that year and followed it up with some very good IL numbers. Then in '65 he moved up to Triple A and took his offense with him, posting a .327/27/116 line with 36 doubles in about three quarter's of a season. He got called up to the Minnesota outfield in August to do some reserve outfield work during their pennant year, but did not see any post-season action. In '66 he remained up top but didn't get too much playing time so most of '67 was spent back in Triple A where he put up a .297/13/67 line. After that season Andy was sold to Oakland and then got picked up by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft. Rule 5 basically stated that if a player with a minimum of five years minor league service was not protected on the Major League roster he was fair game.

Kosco immediately moved into the starting lineup with the '68 Yankees, putting up numbers as good as anyone else in the NY lineup that year. After a year in NYC he was traded to the Dodgers for Mike Kekich and in '69 had his biggest year up top, leading the team in home runs and RBIs. After diminished playing time in '70 - he lost his starting spot to Willie Crawford - he was traded to the Brewers for Al Downing, where according to his interview on the baseball-reference site, he was not terribly happy. From Milwaukee he went to the Angels, the Red Sox - where, again according to baseball-reference "he was a couple years younger than ... Carl Yastrzemski" (that cracks me up) - and finally the Reds. He also spent some '73 time in Triple A where in just 202 at bats he posted a .312/11/47 line around his MLB time. After a short year in '74 with Cincy - he got hurt fighting Ed Kirkpatrick of the Pirates - he was done up top. He played a year for the Phillies' Triple A club in '75 and that was it. Andy finished with a .236 average with 73 homers and 267 RBI's and in the post-season hit .300 with a .417 OBA in his three games. The interview with Kosco was done before the '75 season began and while it is a tad amateurish, it is interesting. It can be found here. He also has a SABR page.

Following baseball, Kosco got a law degree and went into the insurance business, for many years running his own agency. Sounds like he was a productive guy.

The back of Andy's card makes note of his '64 minor league season which was terrific and shows the numbers that won him his triple crown ('65 was better). Why is the cartoon a big deal? Because that part of the outfield was known as "Death Valley" and a ball hit into those bleachers would have had to be hit at least 450 feet. In fact, Andy reportedly hit so many warning track shots that year - over 24 by mid-season - that the prime reason he was traded to LA was to give him the opportunity to hit in a smaller stadium.

This one is easy:

1. Kosco and Don Newhauser '72 Red Sox.

I guess they were both younger than Yaz.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#33 - Don Newhauser

Don Newhauser is the first card I had trouble finding in this set. I keep my cards by team and not by number and I had to go through pretty much the whole set before I found this guy. He is the first Red Sox player featured and it's about time as the Bosox are the last AL team represented. It appears Don is about to slide off the field in what I believe is a spring training shot. And Don sort of slid off everywhere in '73 as that year he only put in a combined 31 innings between Triple A and Boston. And at both levels he threw pretty well so he probably wasn't benched. That leaves the usual suspects of injury (likely) or military duty (less so since Don was already 25 by then). But as will be seen, Don is a tough monkey for whom to collect data.

This is Don Newhauser's first and last card. Ironically he played his most baseball in '72 and did not have a card in '73. He was drafted by the Red Sox in '67 out of Broward Community College in the second round, which would indicate he had a couple good years there. He then spent the next four-plus seasons in A ball, which is odd, since his numbers in the pen were quite good every year, particularly in '69. He finally moved up to Triple A the second half of '71 and that year posted a combined twelve saves. After bettering his ERA a bit at that level in '72, Don came up that June to Boston.

Newhauser had an awfully good rookie year in '72 for the Sox, adding four saves to his card numbers, but again wasn't used terribly much. After his disappearing act in '73 he put in a few '74 innings up top but spent most of the season back in Triple A where he went 1-4 but with a 2.09 ERA in just 43 innings. That sparse time despite good numbers reinforces the injury supposition. '75 was all Triple A again - 4-7 with a 3.49 ERA and five saves - before a sale to Pittsburgh. For the Pirates Don did one more year of Triple A work, going 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA and six saves. For his MLB career he went 4-3 with a 2.39 ERA and five saves and in the minors he was 47-39 with a 2.67 ERA.

And that's it. Newhauser was originally from Miami but that was no help in finding out any info on this guy, so his post-baseball goings on is a mystery. At least for this writer.

Not much to say regarding the back. As said above, the numbers are not bad and according to the first star he received some positive notoriety, although with only 37 innings he must have become the number one guy awfully late in the season.

With only one meaningful season, the separation exercise may be tricky:

1. Newhauser and Reggie Smith '72 Red Sox;
2. Smith and Luis Melendez '74 to '75 Cards;
3. Melendez and Johnny Grubb '76 Padres.

This is another one I suspect may have a shorter route but I can't find it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#32 - Johnny Grubb

Johnny Grubb is a milestone card in the 1974 set for two reasons. The first is that he is the second Topps Rookie All-Star team member for the 1973 season. Johnny pretty quickly established himself up top as a good contact/good on base guy and posted a nice average and .373 OBA from the leadoff spot while playing center field.The second - and more significant for the set - is that Grubb is the first San Diego Padre in the set. That means that he is also the first Washington player in the set. The last bit requires an explanation.

Shortly after the end of the '73 season a bunch of noise was being made about bringing a team back to Washington D.C. The Senators had departed D.C. following the '71 season, moving to Texas to become the Rangers. Despite the poor attendance record of the old Senators, pangs were running deep for a team back in D.C. after a two-year absence; there had been a team there since the A.L was founded in 1901. Plans were made to re-locate the Padres and when the Topps set went to print, those plans seemed set. While Topps technically stopped issuing cards in series with the '73 set, cards were issued sequentially during the '74 season. Hence, the traded cards were issued later in the season. Similarly, it became clear that the Padres were NOT moving to D.C. so Topps re-issued the players given "Washington Nat'l" designation as regular Padres cards. The change occurred sometime between card 364 (Clarence Gaston) and card 387 (Rich Morales). That is why every Padres card in the earlier batch also has a Washington card. The ones after the "catch" only have San Diego cards. The only exception is the Rookie card #599 which has a Washington variant. I assume they began putting those cards together earlier than their numbers imply but I do not really know.

As for Mr. Grubb, he was a hot prospect when signed in the first round of the '71 draft by the Padres, fresh out of Florida State and the College World Series. Johnny had grown up in Virginia a big baseball guy and prior to Florida State had gone to Manatee, a JUCO school in Florida. While at Manatee he was drafted by both Boston and Cincinnati, but instead moved on to his new school. He was then selected by Atlanta in June of '70 but decided to return for another semester. Then the Padres showed up with a better round and presumably better bucks in January of '71. Johnny started hitting right away, posting good averages in A ball in '71 and Double A in '72 while playing the outfield. For a bit the Padres tried Johnny out at third base as well but when they grabbed Dave Roberts out of Oregon with the first pick in '72 that experiment ended. Johnny got up to San Diego in September of the latter year and after hitting well in his quick trial was up to stay.

Grubb came out of the box strong in '74 and his .316 average around selection time contributed to his being named to the All-Star team. He would slow down a bit in the second half and finish with a .284 and in '75 a .269 but he would keep his OBA up there. In '76 San Diego picked up Willie Davis so Johnny got moved to the corner spots and also missed a month-plus to injury, though around it he pushed his average back up to .284 and posted his best San Diego OBA of .391. Following that season he was sent to Cleveland in the trade that brought the Padres George Hendrick. From that point on Johnny was strictly an AL guy.

'77 was a tough year for Grubb, which is too bad because it looked like it was going to be a good one. A nice stretch in May had Johnny hitting above .300 with a .425 OBA when in his first game in June he was hit on the hand by a pitch from Gaylord Perry. That pitch shattered Johnny's hand and he missed the rest of the season. The next season Johnny stayed healthy and though his average came down a few notches, he was posting by far his biggest power season when in late August he was sent to Texas. He would finish that year with a .275/15/67 line. With Texas Johnny would go into platoon mode, swapping time mostly with Billy Sample, but also with Richie Zisk and Leon Roberts. He wouldn't provide as much pop as in '78 but outside of a tough '81 he would generally hit in the high .270's and post an OBA that was about 90 points higher. Prior to the '83 season he would go to Detroit for pitcher Dave Tobik.

When Grubb got to Detroit he was 34 and was made an outfield reserve guy and pinch hitter. He continued to get on base at a good clip - about .380 - and had nearly perfect timing as in a year the Tigers would win the Series. Johnny had some nice post-season numbers and was a steady guy for Detroit through '86 when he put up his biggest line for the team: .333 with a .412 OBA, 13 homers, and 51 RBI's in only 210 at bats. He had a big fall-off in '87 but enjoyed a great playoff that year, his final one as a player. Johnny finished with a .278 average with 99 homers, 475 RBI's, and a .366 OBA. In the post-season he hit .429 with a .467 OBA in nine games.

After playing, Grubb was pretty low key. He returned to his hometown area and in '89 did the Senior League thing. In '90 he coached in the Atlanta system and then with the Niekro brothers coached the Silver Bullets women's professional team for a few years. In 2000 he returned home full time and for the next ten years coached his alma mater's high school baseball team. Since then he has been retired. 

I have scanned both the San Diego (top) and Washington backs for Johnny. They are identical and in the future I will just scan one back. Grubb's quick minor league success is apparent on the stat list and all references point to his good hitting.

Linking Grubb to Gomez should be easy and hard, respectively. Let's see. For Gomez as manager:

1. Grubb and Clarence Gaston '72 to '74 Padres;
2. Gaston and Preston Gomez '69 to '72 Padres (Gomez was gone by the time Grubb came up).

For Gomez as player:

1. Grubb and Al Oliver '78 to '81 Rangers;
2. Oliver and Ron Kline '69 Pirates;
3. Kline and Eddie Yost '61 Angels;
4. Yost and Preston Gomez '44 Senators.

So I had to recycle the names from the last post. Without Eddie Yost, the list would have doubled.

Monday, October 11, 2010

#31 - Preston Gomez

Here we have the first manager/ field leaders card for the 1974 set. This card has a few unique attributes. First off, on the set checklist, card 31 is listed as the A's manager card, of which there was none in this set (Dick Williams had resigned right after winning the '73 Series; more on that on future cards). Secondly, poor manager Gomez is standing beside that same damn ugly wall that Bob Gallagher had to abide earlier. Preston wasn't actually the manager of the Astros in '73; Leo Durocher was. But at least Preston doesn't have to be airbrushed into his new role since he was a Houston coach in '73.The third thing that stands out will come up shortly. I would like to follow the format I did with the Baltimore team records card and do a little bio on the manager and all those floating heads below him.

Preston Gomez was born in Cuba and played for its national team before in mid -'44 he came to The States and played eight games for the Senators which would be the extent of his Major League career. He would then play a tiny bit in Double A that year and then in '45 hit .269 at that level, which was pretty good then for a shortstop, his regular position. But when the WW II guys floated back to the pro leagues the next year, Preston got pushed down to the lower levels and some seasons barely played. His best years were '47, when he hit .287 in B ball, and '51, when he hit .268 in C ball. Overall in the minors he hit .245 and up top .286 with a couple RBI's in his seven at bats. By the early Fifties he was coaching as well, both in The States, and south of them, in Cuba and Mexico. His managing career began in '57 as he took the helm for two years for the Mexico City Reds and had a winning record. Then it was a season in Havana in the Cincinnati system, three years in the LA system ('60-'62), and two in the Yankees one ('63-'64) during which his record was 469-485. He then moved back up top as a Dodgers coach ('65-'68) before in '69 being tabbed as the first San Diego Padres manager where he would remain through early '72. After a year as an Astros coach, he took over as manager for the '74 and '75 seasons. He then coached for the Cards ('76-'79) before being named manager for the Cubs ('80) in his final managerial gig. Preston went 347-529 in that role. In '81 he took up with the California Angels, first as a coach for four years ('81-'84) and then in administration. He was still working there when he passed away in 2009 from injuries sustained in a car accident at 85.

Roger Craig was a pitcher from North Carolina who was first signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, won 14 each of the next two years (in D and B ball respectively), and then missed all of 1952-'53 for military duty. He returned to a good short season in B ball in '54 and then started '55 by going 10-2 in Triple A before making the big club later that summer. He went 5-3 with a 2.78 ERA and a couple saves the rest of the way before pitching in the Series. In '56 he joined the rotation and went 12-11 but in '57 back in a spot role his ERA got toppy and he would spend a considerable part of the next two seasons in Triple A. He got back up top in '59 and had an excellent summer, going 11-5 with a 2.06 ERA. He would maintain his spot role through '61, when his ERA got pretty bloated. After that season he was lucky enough to be drafted by the Mets so that he could lead the league in losses the next two years, going a combined 15-46 during that time. Redemption came in his trade to St. Louis for the '64 season, another Series year for Roger, during which he moved to the pen and went 7-9 with a 3.25 ERA and five saves. He then pitched super for the Cards against the Yankees in the Series. He then moved to Cincinnati and Philadelphia, in neither spot pitching too much, before finishing his MLB time in '66. For his career he went 74-98 with a 3.83 ERA, 58 complete games, seven shutouts, and 19 saves. In the post-season he was 2-2 with a 6.49 ERA in seven games. He then scouted for LA in '67 before managing its Triple A club in '68, going 70-69. He then took on various coaching roles: for San Diego ('69-'72); in the LA system ('73); for Houston ('74-'75); and back with the Padres ('76-'77). By then Roger had attained guru status and he got his first managing gig for San Diego from '78 to '79, the first season leading the Padres to their first winning season. For the next five seasons he coached in Detroit reaching another Series in '84. He then became manager of the Giants, leading them to an NL title in '89. He managed the Giants from '85 to '92 and then retired. For his MLB managing career he has gone 738-737. I believe Roger is still kicking.

Grady Hatton was an infielder from the mid-40's through the mid-50's. His primary position was third base. He played shortstop in his Texas high school and then short and third at the University of Texas, where he played from '41 to '43, twice leading his team to a conference championship. Immediately after the '43 season he was called into the Air Force and spent the next three years as a PE instructor - that was also his major at school - in South Carolina. While there he also played service ball and when that gig was done in '46 he opted to go to Cincinnati. He went right to the Reds and his '46 rookie season was quite good (.271, 14 homers, 69 RBI's). He would be the regular guy at third through '50, putting up comparable numbers. He was injured in '51 and then made the All-Star team in '52 as a second baseman, his only year that position was his primary one, and stayed in Cincy through '53 when injuries forced him to a back-up role. He then went to the White Sox before a quick flip to Boston where he was the regular guy at third the next two seasons, though his offense was a discount to his best days in Cincy. After playing sparingly for the Cards and the Orioles in '56, he went to the PCL in '57 debuting in the minors as a 34-year old! He then moved to Double A San Antonio, a Baltimore ('58) and Cubs ('59-'60) franchise where he was a player-manager before coming up to Chicago for his final MLB time. Up top Grady finished with a .254 average with 91 homers and 533 RBI's. He returned to the minors to manage for Chicago, ironically in Houston, before taking a position for the new Colt .45's as director of player development. He then had nice success managing its top minor league club from '63 to '65. He was brought up to manage the Astros in '66 and lasted midway through the '68 season, replaced by Harry Walker. After some time scouting, he was brought back to coach during the '73 to '74 seasons. He then returned to scouting, a job he also did for the Giants through the late Eighties, when he retired. As a manager Grady was 482-409 in the minors and 164-211 for Houston. From what I can tell he is still around also.

Hubert ("Hub") Kittle was a minor league pitcher from 1936 to - yes - 1980, when he was 63 years old. Admittedly, he did not pitch that whole time. Hub grew up in LA, won a couple city championships, and then went to a military academy in San Diego. There he got scouted and his first season he went 15-3 for a team on Catalina Island. He was then signed by the Cubs and had a bad season in C ball before the next year at the same level going 18-8 with an ERA that shaved over two runs from the prior year. In '39 he moved to B ball in Yakima, beginning a long relationship with that city, and won 20. A similar start to his '40 season got him up to Double A at mid-season where his ERA got fat again; that would be the highest level he would reach as a pitcher, ex an exhibition game. His '41 season was going the same way so he quit and went to work in a tire factory. He got back in ball the next year, won 16 between B and A ball, and then in '43 had a good start to the season in Double A before he was drafted and missed through early '46 to the military. Back that year, Hub would win a combined 28 the next two seasons in B ball and then in '48 return to Yakima at the same level where he would also get his first managing gig. As a pitcher, Hub would then move to a bullpen role, pitching regularly through '54, but he did pitch that one inning in '80 (that is the third unique item regarding this card mentioned above). He would finish 144-115 with an ERA of about 3.80. After Yakima, Hub would manage in the Phillies system ('49-'54), and then return to Yakima, which in '58 would join the Braves system, where he would manage through '60. He was also GM that last year, and would then fill that latter role for a couple clubs through '63. In '64 he returned to Yakima to manage. He would remain in the Braves system through '67, manage in Houston's ('68-'70), and then coach for the Astros from '71 to '75. It was in '73 that Hub threw in the exhibition game at the Astrodome against MLB hitters. In '76 he moved to the St. Louis system where he coached ('76,'78-'80, '84-'96) and managed ('77) in the minors and coached for the Cards from '81 to '83 and was the Cards' pitching coach when they won the Series in '82. As a manager Hub was 1,364-1,282 lifetime. After retiring following the '96 season, Hub signed for a minimal amount as a roving pitching coach for the Mariners in '99 which he continued to do until he passed away at 86 in 2004.

Bob Lillis came out of Pasadena where he won a regional championship in '49 for Pasadena City College and then was named to the CWS all-tournament team in '51 after moving to USC. He was signed by the Dodgers that summer and spent the bulk of the 50's in their minor leagues. His averages were quite low until '53, when he hit .291 in B ball, but then he missed the '54 to '55 seasons to military duty. He returned in '56 to Triple A and that year posted his best offensive season with a .265/18/65 line. A shortstop, he was unlucky to be behind both Pee Wee Reese and Maury Wills and he remained at Triple A through most of the next four seasons. From '58 (when he hit .391) to '60 Bob got small MLB field time as a backup infielder. He then went to the Cards early in the '61 season and swapped time at short the rest of the way. After that season he was drafted by Houston for its inaugural year. Bob would be the Astro starting shortstop most of the next four years and then in '66 and '67 take on a reserve role finishing as a player that later year with a .236 career average.He finished that season as a player/coach, then worked for Houston in scouting and player development through '72. In '73 he joined the coaching staff which he did through mid-'82 when he replaced Bill Virdon as manager. Bob maintained that role through the '85 season, going 276-261, one of few Houston skippers with career winning records. From '86 to '96 he joined Roger Craig in San Francisco as a coach. Since then he has been retired. He appears to be with us still also.

These cards on the back are pretty dry. The only thing that jumps out at me is that Gomez was born in a town called Preston in Cuba. Maybe he was named after his hometown.

The degrees of separation exercise gets tricky here. It is easier to get to Gomez as a manager but let's try doing it as a player as well. First we have:

1. Gomez coached Ollie Brown on the '69 to '71 Padres;
2. Brown and Bobby Bonds '68 Giants.

Next is the player to player link and it is much neater than I would have thought:

1, Gomez and Eddie ("The Walking Man") Yost '44 Senators;
2. Yost and Ron Kline '61 LA Angels;
3. Kline and Bobby Bonds '69 Giants.

It took only three guys to cross 30 years of baseball.

Friday, October 8, 2010

#30 - Bobby Bonds

Yes this guy had a famous kid, but Bobby Bonds was a hell of a ballplayer in his own right. The knock on him was all the strikeouts, but he was an exciting player who added power and speed at the top of a lineup for ten good years that pretty much encompassed the '70's and then some. This would be the last of the Bonds Giant cards since his '75 card has him airbrushed - horribly I might say - into a Yankee uniform. While he did set two records in his one NY season, he arguably had his best years in San Francisco. And '73 was no exception as Bobby led the NL in runs scored with 131 while also doing his speed/power thing with his 39 homers and 43 stolen bases. He was also an All-Star and a Gold Glove winner, both for the second time. This photo of Bobby is taken at Candlestick and I want to say it's from some time in '72 because that looks like Fran Healy catching and Jim Ray Hart taking batting practice in the background (both were elsewhere in '73). But what do I know.

The Giants signed Bobby Bonds in '64 out of his California high school. Bobby came from an athletic family - his sister was an Olympian that year - and he was a track All-American on top of his feats in the big three sports. He played some local ball that summer so didn't get rolling professionally until '65 but had a big year in A ball that year with a .316/26/88 line with 34 stolen bases and 109 runs scored. '66 was another A season that was a small discount - .262/26/91/18/19 - but was followed by some pretty good IL ball. His numbers fell a bit more in a Double A '67 season but his IL season was a big uptick and in '68 Bobby was in Triple A where his .370/8/47 line in just 60 games got him to San Francisco before that summer started.

Despite the mid-season call-up Bonds showed enough potential to be named to the Topps Rookie team in '68. Bobby was already being compared to Willie Mays so that whole "potential" thing would be the millstone around his neck for his whole career. A big sophomore year followed in '69 when he stole 45 in his first 30/30 season, led the NL with 120 runs, and on the downside set a record with his 187 strikeouts. '70 was generally better as Bobby topped out in hits, runs (with 134), doubles, triples, and average. He also added two K's to that strikeout record. In '71 he had his first All-Star and Gold Glove year, dropped the K's a bit, but also the steals as a bruised rib cage hit him late in the season, making it difficult to slide, and actually kept him out of some playoff time. By then Bobby had become the team's first multi-year starter in right field for a long time. He initially played alongside Willie Mays - Barry's godfather - and then was part of an excellent young outfield that included Gary Matthews and Garry Maddox. That second Garry arrived in '72 and the first in '73. '74 was a bit of a discount to the prior year, though he got his third Gold Glove, and after that season Bobby left the Giants in a deal for another All-Star, going to the Yankees for Bobby Murcer.

Bonds' only NY season was a bit tough. Bobby Murcer was super popular in NY and was probably the team's best player still when he departed. The Yankees picked up this Bobby because they just missed out on a division title in '74 and thought his speed at the top of the line-up was the piece that would get them there. But though he had a good year - Bobby set two records with his third 30/30 season and most lead-off home runs - he got hurt in June, played through his injury, and his .270/32/85 season was viewed as disappointing. So after that season he was on the move again, this time to California in the deal that got the Yanks Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers, two key players on the Yankees successive three pennant teams. With the Angels, Bobby was again bedeviled by injuries, missing nearly half of the '76 season. But '77 was a nice bounce as he recorded a line of .264/37/115 with 103 runs and 41 stolen bases. After that season he was sent to the White Sox in the deal that moved Brian Downing to Anaheim and shortly into the '78 season he went to Texas for Claudell Washington. Combined he put up his final 30/30 season - number five - and then for '79 he went to Cleveland with Len Barker for Larvell Blanks and Jim Kern. With the Tribe Bobby would have his last big season with a .275/25/85 line but with a telling 23 times caught stealing - against 34 successes - that led the AL.

Bonds was a big smoker throughout his career as well as a reportedly big drinker. By the end of the Seventies his wheels were fried, as was most of his power. In '80 he returned to the NL for St.Louis for whom he did outfield reserve work. He was released after the season, picked back up by Texas, for whom he played a bit in Triple A, and then was sold to the Cubs. That got him through '81 when his speed left him at 35 but the strikeouts did not. After a year with the Yankees Triple A team in '82 he was done. Bobby finished with a .268 average with 332 homers and 1,024 RBI's, 1,256 runs, and 461 stolen bases, in what amounted to about twelve full seasons. In the post-season he hit .250 with a .400 OBA in his three games. Defensively he is 25th all time in right field putouts, 36th in assists, and twelfth in double plays.

After a year off in '83 Bonds returned to baseball as the Tribe's hitting coach for four years ('84-'87). He then took some time to work on his sons' careers; besides Barry, Bobby Jr. played as well, putting in ten years in the minors. This Bobby did the Senior League thing in '89 as both a player and manager. He then returned to Frisco as a coach from '93 to '96 before then doing some admin work for the team. But his hard living caught up to him and he passed away in 2003 at only 59 years old from lung cancer and heart problems.

Bonds had a great '73 and it should be remembered that he got those RBI totals batting lead-off. He finished his career with five 30-30 seasons which helped get him fifth place all-time on the power/speed list on I like the incorporation of his middle name in his signature.

Linking Bonds to his fellow All-Star happens thusly:

1. Bonds and Gary Matthews '72 to '74 Giants;
2. Matthews and Phil Niekro '77 to '80 Braves.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

#29 - Phil Niekro

This is the second NLer in a row, a streak that will continue for a few cards, breaking the norm so far of alternating the leagues. We are back to the posed shots and this one has Phil Niekro at what appears to be Shea, evidenced by the New York guys in the background. Phil didn't get an honor card in '73 though he certainly could have. He put up pretty good numbers for a mediocre - at best - team. But his decisions were down because he had to put in some pen time due to the general ineffectiveness of the Atlanta relief corps. On top of a pretty good season, Phil had a special moment in '73, but I'll leave that to the card back commentary. Hard to believe that at the time of this photo Phil would be back in NY pitching for the Yankees over a decade into the future.

Phil Niekro is a Hall of Fame 300-game winner who got there on the strength of his knuckleball, which he and brother Joe learned from their dad, a coal miner who was also a semi-pro pitcher. Phil was signed in '58 by the Braves - only the second guy so far whose career began in the 50's - and would play for them the bulk of his long stay in the bigs. It took Phil a while to get to the majors - he was strictly a reliever while working from D to Triple A ball through '62 and then he lost '63 completely to military duty, a feature of players' careers much less prevalent now than in the '60's. In '64 he finally got rotation work at the higher level and went 11-5 with a 3.45 ERA to earn a late-season look and while his numbers weren't great, outside of a short visit to the minors in '66, Phil was up for good.

Niekro had a nice rookie year, again working from the pen, and earning six saves. A rough start got him back in Triple A mid-spring where he did spot duty and when he returned in August he pulled over a run off his MLB ERA. Then in '67 Phil was doing bang-up pen work - through early June he was 1-2 but with seven saves and a 1.74 ERA - so Atlanta got wise, put him in the rotation, and in his first start Phil threw a shutout. He would go on to win the ERA title that year and from then on would be - mostly - a starter. After a good '68 he would enjoy probably his best season in '69 and his 23 wins were a big reason Atlanta got to the playoffs that year. He then pitched OK in the post-season but the Mets pitchers were tough that year. Phil would go on to reach double figures in wins every year in Atlanta he started with the exception of '81, which was a strike year. '70 was a little tough due to an injury but '71 and '72 were very good and in '74 Phil won 20 as his wins, innings, and complete game (18) totals led the NL. In '75 and '76 as Atlanta got truly bad, Phil rose above with a combined 32-26 record with a 3.24 ERA. Then from '77 to '80 he led the league both in starts and in losses, but in two of those years he had winning records and in all of them had ERA's considerably better than league averages. During that time Phil was a big innings hog and from '77 to '79 he led the NL in innings, complete games, and batters faced. In '77 he even led the NL in strikeouts. A 7-7 season in '81 was followed by another playoff season in '82 in which he Phil went 17-4 and had the best winning percentage in the league. After a discounted season in '83 Atlanta cut Phil at age 43. But he wasn't done yet.

Niekro promptly signed with the Yankees for whom he had a very nice '84, going 16-8 with a 3.09 ERA. He won 32 games in two seasons, including his 300th career win at the end of '85. He then went to Cleveland, Toronto, and back to Atlanta his final two seasons and retired following the '87 one. When he was done at age 48 Phil had under his belt a record of 318-274 with a 3.35 ERA, 245 complete games, 45 shutouts, and 29 saves. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner five times each and in the post-season went 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his two games. A good fielder, he is fourth all-time in pitcher putouts and 38th in assists.

After playing Niekro relaxed a bit, returning to baseball in '91 to coach in the Atlanta system. In '94 he began co-managing the Colorado Silver Bullets professional women's team with his brother Joe. That lasted through '97, when the team folded. That was also the year Phil was elected to the Hall. Since then he has been retired in Georgia.

There's Phil's no-no in the second star bullet. Four of the five 1973 no-hitters have already appeared in this set (Jim Bibby threw one and Nolan Ryan two). I like the cross-sports reference in the cartoon. Hondo was probably a hell of a football player. I also notice that Phil signed his name with a left-handed signature.

Sanguillen to Niekro should be easy enough given their long NL careers:

1. Niekro and Bruce Dal Canton '76 Braves;
2. Dal Canton and Manny Sanguillen '67 to '70 Pirates.