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.

1 comment:

  1. I always felt sorry for Gomez. To start a mlb managerial career with expansion Padres was a pretty tall and thankless task. Note: from info I get Gomez didn't manage in the Cuban leagues, he managed at Havana which was part of the AAA International League (One of the teams that made it "international" along with Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa)