Monday, February 28, 2011

#102 - Bill Greif

Our next Padre/Washington Nat'l guy is Bill Greif, which despite the way I had always said it is pronounced "Grife." Here he warms up in an action shot at Riverfront. I have to admit that over the course of this blog so far I have grown to like these yellow uniforms. It's a pretty good thing, then, that my chosen field of endeavor is not as GM of a baseball team. The yellow does look pretty good against the almost-blue artificial turf. Bill was in the middle of arguably his best season at the time of this shot. While he would put up an excellent ERA though, he was rewarded with yet another crappy record as San Diego once again finished dead last in NL hitting. Things wouldn't get better any time soon and Bill was frequently referred to as a "hard-luck" pitcher. This, then, is a very appropriate card shot for Bill: twice he took the hill in Cincy in '73 and both games started around 2:00 (so that small shadow isn't much help in picking the date). One start was May 18th and the other September 23rd. Both times he went up against Jack Billingham who was having an excellent All-Star season. I am going to go with the September game since Bill has the long shirt on. He lost that one 3-2 though he gave up zero walks and struck out seven in his seven innings. That qualifies as a hard-luck loss to me. 

Like Bobby Valentine, Bill Greif was drafted out of high school in '68, he in the third round by the Astros. A local boy from Austin, Bill was a multi-sport guy and QB'd his football team to a state championship. The next few seasons he wound his way through the minors, spending roughly a year at each level. He did pretty well with an ERA in the low three's although he was only 25-29 as primarily a starter. In '69 he followed up a good Rookie ball year with a couple solid starts in A ball and then his elbow popped. He threw only 30 innings between those early starts and some later rehab work. Two more good years followed in Double A and Triple A respectively. That second season of '71 his ERA moved up a bit but his K totals got everyone excited and he saw his first MLB work that year when he was called up in late July to replace an injured Larry Dierker in the rotation. That December he went to San Diego with Derrel Thomas for Dave Roberts (the pitcher, not the infielder).

Grief thereby joined a pretty horrible team and fit right in with a horrible '72 record of his own. His first start for the Padres was a shutout of Atlanta, but things went downhill fast. At one point during the year he went 0-7 while shaving a run from his ERA. In '73 he would add a knuckle curve (sort of) and throw three two-hitters. He was still seven games under .500 and it would prove to be by far his best season as a starter as in '74 he went 9-19 with a 4.66 ERA while leading the NL in HBP's. He was then moved to the bullpen in '75. The Padres started relatively strongly that year and Bill was one of the leaders in relief topping the club with nine saves. But he started '76 with an ERA above 8.00 and was soon sent to St. Louis for Luis Melendez. While he threw better for the Cards, his performance was less than stellar and after the season he went to Montreal (his '77 card is one of the worst air-brush jobs ever). But the Expos released him in spring training and he never played a game for them. After an abbreviated comeback in '78 with the Mets at Tidewater he hung them up. He finished with a record of 31-67 and an ERA of 4.41, 18 complete games, five shutouts, and 19 saves. In the minors he was 24-30 with a 3.20 ERA.

While playing Greif was able to get an undergrad degree in psychology at the University of Texas. He then acquired a Masters in Education from Texas State and went on to a career in real estate, based in Austin. Further down the road his wife got breast cancer which was treated successfully and the two of them began a support service for cancer victims and their families. It is linked to here.

Bill was a big boy and was sought after by a bunch of colleges, particularly in Texas. The shutout mentioned in the third star bullet is one of the two-hitters named above. He may have been a switch hitter but it didn't help any: his lifetime batting average was below .100. Bill has a SABR bio.

We are in the midst of one of the Topps west coast swings. Let's see if it helps:

1. Greif and Dave Winfield '73 to '76 Padres;
2. Winfield and Bobby Valentine '75 to '77 Padres.

Greif was gone before Valentine got his requisite at bats, a stat I totally made up.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#101 - Bobby Valentine

Continuing on the vacation theme, my family and I went zip-lining in St. Martin and the family immediately behind us was Jim Bouton's. He was awfully nice, looked great, and his grandkids were pretty sweet. Figures that a guy that has spent his last 33 years working in NYC would have to leave the country to meet an ex-Yankee.

This is a great action shot of Bobby Valentine, who was pretty much a bulldog of a player himself, at Yankee Stadium. It shows a nice swing extension which is appropriate since the shot was taken during his very brief season in '73 when his average did not dip below .300. After Dick Allen he was my favorite player; in the mid- and late-60s he was a hard guy to avoid in the sports pages if you lived in Southern New England or Jersey like I did.

Valentine was drafted in the first round of '68 by the Dodgers out of high school in Stamford, CT. He was All-State in everything and signed with the Dodgers when a couple scouts attended his signing day at USC where he planned to be a halfback and convinced him that baseball was the better choice. That year he kicked things off as a Rookie ball outfielder. By '69 he was playing at Triple A Spokane, whose manager was Tommy Lasorda. There Bobby moved primarily to shortstop where he had a decent defensive season but his offense came in a bit as he picked up the new position. The Spokane roster that year and the next would include as many future major leaguers - Steve Garvey, Tom Paciorek, Tommy Hutton, Bob Stinson, Von Joshua, etc. - as not and in 1970 Bobby would win the Pacific Coast League MVP while leading the team to a 94-52 record and the league championship. He was being groomed as the next Maury Wills and had all the power and speed to warrant the comparison. But in winter ball he injured his leg sliding and when the outfield in LA started getting crowded with the young guys, the Dodgers decided to turn one of them - Bill Russell - into a shortstop. When Bobby then came up in '71 he played everywhere in the infield but first which contributed to a slow start as he hit only .249. He had a decent - yet still itinerant - '72, boosting his average but not his power so that when the Dodgers decided they wanted California's Andy Messersmith, Bobby was part of the package that got them their boy.

In 1973 spring training, Valentine was given the starting shortstop job by the Angels on the heels of the trade to Cleveland of their '72 starter, Leo Cardenas. Bobby responded well, starting off the season at a .400 clip. That May 17, still hitting above .300, he got a rare start in center because Ken Berry was not feeling well. Chasing a fly ball that became a home run hit by Dick Green of Oakland, Bobby jumped the outfield wall in an attempt to catch it. When coming down, his cleats got stuck in the soft padding that covered the wall - really a fence - and as he fell, his right leg was broken in both his fibula and tibia (think Joe Theissman). That was it for his season and his rehab was very painful. By the time he returned in '74 his speed was pretty much gone and his lower leg was bent at an angle (there is a photo in an SI article from that year here) that made playing problematic. But he played hard and started off the year at .323, finishing at .261, again playing all over the place. He was beaned late in the season and the following year saw limited playing time for the Angels, mostly at DH, and played most of the season in the minors, where he hit .267 with a .383 OBA while concentrating on another new position, third base. For '76 he went to the Padres for Gary Ross and had a super season at Hawaii, the San Diego Triple A affiliate, hitting .304 with 89 RBIs in 396 at bats. He came back up at the end of '76 and hit .367 in the last month. He started '77 slowly and that June went to the Mets for Dave Kingman. In '78 he was an often-used backup, mostly at second base, hitting .269 in 160 at bats. He was released during spring training the next year and signed with Seattle where he backed up at shortstop and the outfield, hitting .276. When the '70s ended, so did Bobby's playing career. He finished with a .260 average.

Almost immediately after he stopped playing, Valentine returned to the Mets as a minor league coach. By '82 he was up in NY in the same role which he did through '84. In '85 he was hired as manager for the Rangers. He would take them to second place the next season and to a couple third place finishes by the time he left in '92. After a few years as a commentator for ESPN, in '95 he pulled his first management gig in Japan, getting the Marines to their first winning record in a while. But he had a personality clash with management and was fired before the next season. Back in the States, he returned to the Mets as a Triple A manager in '96 and late that season was promoted to the top. Bobby returned NY to the post-season in '99 and 2000, when they made it to the Series. He lasted there through the end of '02. He then returned to Japan where he took the Marines to the Series title in 2005. This time he lasted through '09 when he was dismissed, returned stateside and rejoined ESPN. He is still there. To date Bobby's managerial record is 82-59 in the minors; 513-429 in Japan; and 1,117-1,072 for his MLB work.

On the card back the big 1970 season shows. Bobby was a speedster early on and could get from home to first in 3.5 seconds until he got hurt. The cartoon is a bit different but significant: he won ballroom dancing contests in his early teens. Bobby was a big deal pick for USC and was expected to succeed OJ Simpson at halfback so the scoop by the Dodgers was a big setback for the school.

We travel from Pops to a Valentine (two weeks too late) through the NL:

1. Valentine and Maury Wills '71 Dodgers;
2. Wills and Willie Stargell '67 to '68 Pirates.

Friday, February 18, 2011

#100 - Willie Stargell

I am on vacation this week so my postings have been and will continue to be sporadic. We are on St. Martin and yesterday took a stroll on a clothing-optional beach (we were fully attired). Long story short, it wasn't pretty. Sorry about that lead-in Willie.

So Willie Stargell, fresh off an MVP-calibur season, gets the first century card of the set. '73 was a bang-up season for him and if Steve Blass' pitching hadn't completely self-destructed Willie may have led the Pirates to yet another division title. Here he looks benignly menacing at Candlestick.

Wilver Stargell - I love that first name - was drafted by the Pirates in '58. In the low minors he displayed some decent RBI power while playing both first and the outfield. He bumped up his homer totals in '61 in A ball and then in Triple A in '62 to 27. By then he was pretty much strictly an outfielder and when he came up late in '62 it was the position at which he would stay for a while. Although he would be much better defensively as a first baseman, Donn Clendenon was already established at that position so Willie would be an outfielder for the first half of his career. In '63 he was the fourth outfielder and in '64 he began to segue into a starting spot, mostly left field. That year he would be rewarded with his first All-Star appearance. '65 was his first 100-RBI season (he would have five of those). In '66 - the season he started swinging a sledgehammer in the on-deck circle - he would hit over 30 homers and over .300 for his first time; the former was a bigger deal because it was pretty tough to launch them out of Forbes Field. In '67 and '68 injuries pulled his numbers down, but his power bounced back the next two seasons. In '70 the Pirates would claim their first title in ten years and Willie would hit .500 that post-season.

1971 was Willie's magic season. A .295 average, 48 homers, and 125 RBIs were his way of welcoming the more cooperative dimensions of the Pirates' new home, Three Rivers Stadium. They were also the numbers that would lead them all the way to the Series title, even though he slumped in the post-season. A fine '72 followed, the first year he would play primarily at first base. In '73 he would return to the outfield. That year the Pirates were struck by the off-season death of Roberto Clemente and Steve Blass' self-destruction on the mound. Willie would lead the league in doubles, homers, and RBI's, almost taking them back to a division title. In '74 and '75 he would continue slugging while returning to first base, but the next two seasons injuries limited his playing time. In '77 he only got 186 at bats and his RBI numbers were his lowest in the majors. At 37 he was thought done. The following year, though, he rallied big, his 28 homers and 97 ribbies getting him that year's Comeback Player award. '79 was magic year number two as Willie - now Pops - cohered a clubhouse around "We are Family", shared the MVP with Keith Hernandez, and danced all the way to his second Series title. In the post-season that year he hit .415 with six doubles, five homers, and 13 RBIs in ten games. Willie would stay with the Pirates through '82 for a total of 21 seasons with the club. When he was done his .282 average, .360 OBA, 475 homers, and 1,540 RBIs would grab him a spot in the Hall on his first try, in 1988. His post-season numbers would include a .278 average with nine homers and 20 RBI's in 36 games.

Following his playing career, Willie would coach for the Braves. He would develop liver problems and very sadly passed away of a stroke in 2001. He was 61.

Wilver Dornel sure has some nice numbers on this card. I find it interesting he signs with his given first name. I am glad he liked to dance, but by '73 couldn't the Topps' artists acknowledge that dancing had moved past the Mr. Bojangles phase? Pops was supposed to be a great guy, very polite and cordial to pretty much everyone. It was a shame to see him go so soon. He has a SABR page but you gotta buy a book to read it.

Here is the double link. Fist to Crandall as manager:

1. Stargell and Richie Zisk '71 to '76 Pirates;
2. Zisk and Del Crandall '83 Mariners.

Now for Crandall as player:

1. Stargell and Del Crandall '65 Pirates.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#99 - Del Crandall/Brewers Field Leaders

Here is Del Crandall, Milwaukee manager in about the middle of his stay with the Brewers. '73 would be a year of drama for him and his team. The perceived ace of the staff, Tom Parsons, pretty much crashed and burned from day one. New third baseman Don Money was having a tough time with AL pitching. But led by the hitting of George Scott and Dave May, the pitching of Jim Colborn, and improved infield defense, the Brewers would win ten in a row and knock Detroit out of first place in mid-June. They would retain that position for about a week. It was the latest in a season they were in first. Then the pitching coach quit over the whole Parsons issue and the team cooled off a bit but it was still a .500 ballclub in late August, a first for the franchise as well. By then Money was on a roughly .300 roll and in the end the club finished 74-88, its best record through that year. Crandall would improve on that record by a couple games in '74 and manage the Brewers through the following year.

Del Crandall was an old Milwaukee man, having been signed by the Boston Braves in '48. A catcher, he showed some power in the low minors and was up top by the middle of the next season where his .263 average and 52% pick-off rate helped him finish second in the '49 ROY race. A slow start in '50 was then followed by two-plus years in the military. By the time Del returned in '53 the team had relocated to Milwaukee where by mid-season Del was the regular catcher which he would remain through the '62 season (he missed nearly all of '61 due to injury). During that time he would average 125 games with 18 homers and 60 RBI's per season while healthy. He was an excellent handler of pitchers and would be named to eight All-Star teams. He stayed with the Braves through '63 then played his remaining career with the Giants ('64), Pittsburgh ('65), and Cleveland ('66). He finished with a .254 average, 179 homers, and 657 RBIs, and won four Gold Gloves. In the post-season he hit .227 with a couple homers and four RBI's in 13 games, winning one ring.

Del moved into coaching pretty quickly and by '69 was managing in the LA chain at Albuquerque where he would stay through '70 and return to from '78 to '83. In between he moved to the Brewers system, first at Evansville from '71 to '72, then to Milwaukee from '72 to '75. After managing and coaching in the Angels' system he went back to LA's. He then returned to the majors to manage the Mariners from '83 to '84. His managerial record up top was 364-469 and in the minors 942-700. In '85 he started a career as a broadcaster and worked in that position for the White Sox through '88 and did the same for the Brewers from '92 to '94. From '95 to '97 he returned to manage in the LA system at San Bernardino. He is now retired. Del has a SABR page

These guys are all pretty young, the oldest being 49 at the time of this set. Let's see who they are:

Harvey Kuenn was discussed on the Detroit team post. I can add some color here, courtesy of "The Curse of Rocky Colavito." He and Rocky were both holdouts before the '60 season and it was widely believed that even though he hit over .350 in '59 and he was only 29, his legs were toast. But Frank Lane, the Indians GM, loved to trade and so he did. Harvey got hurt a bunch of times in his Cleveland season; one reporter noted on seeing him on opening day in the locker room that he looked way too old to be 30. He got traded after the season. When he managed the Brewers the team was known as Harvey's Wallbangers for the power they put out. The bangers included Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, and Robin Yount. He had a nice run in Milwaukee and was probably let go too soon.

Joe Nossek was signed by the Twins out of Ohio University, where he was an All-American outfielder in '61. An outfielder/third baseman, he put up some decent averages while moving up the chain the next couple seasons until a .238 in Triple A in '64 stalled things a bit. Still, he came up in the middle of '65, saw some reserve duty, and then started in that year's Series, hitting .200. He went to the A's early in the '66 season and there did more reserve work the next two years. In '68 he went to Triple A where his average was light. He was traded to the Cards in '69 but rarely played and spent the bulk of that season in the minors where he hit .338. He then put up a couple more light-hitting minor league seasons, finishing things up in the Brewers chain. He hit .228 for his MLB career and .263 in the minors and then segued right into coaching. After a season managing at Danville for the Brewers he came up to coach for them from '73 to '75. He then coached for the Twins ('76), Cleveland ('77 to '81), KC ('82-'83), and the White Sox ('84 to '86 and '90-2003). His specialty was coaching outfielders and he was very adept at stealing signs. Since 2004 he has been scouting for the Astros. His record as a manager is 73-52.

Jim Walton was an infielder signed by Baltimore in '54. He was traded to Washington in '55 and then went to the service the next three seasons. When he returned in '59 he was in the Reds' system. A third baseman, he couldn't get out of D ball due to a light average - around .200 by then - and in 1960 he gave pitching a shot. In '62 he was drafted by the Colt .45's as a player/manager. He never really got close to the majors as a player and finished with a .232 average - ironically he hit much better as a pitcher - and a 3-6 record with a high ERA on the hill.. He managed in the Astros chain at Moultrie for the '62 and '63 seasons where he went 106-128 and then scouted for Houston through '71. He then managed for the Brewers at San Antonio before joining the major coaching staff from '73 to '76. Since then he has scouted for the Major Leagues. He has also been an advance scout for the USA baseball team.

Al Widmar was signed by the Red Sox in '42 and started his career well enough but couldn't keep his ERA under 4.00. He made it to Boston in '48 and also played for the Browns from '50 to '51 and the White Sox in '52. He went to St. Louis in the trade that bought the Red Sox Vern Stephens. He did put up some nice numbers in the minors and from '49 to '53 won 20 games there three times. His minor league career lasted through '58 and he finished with a lifetime record of 169-130 with a 3.53 ERA. In the majors he was 13-30 with a 5.21 ERA, twelve complete games, a shutout, and six saves. Like the rest of these guys he pretty much jumped right into coaching, managing in the Phillies chain from '56 to '58, his last years as a player. He then moved back and forth between the majors and the minors in coaching stints for Philly through the '69 season. In '71 and '72 he managed in the Brewers system and then coached on top from '73 to '74. Al had to come up mid-season in '73 after the prior pitching coach quit. He then scouted for Milwaukee through '77. The next two years he coached in the Baltimore system. In 1980 he became a Toronto coach where he stayed throughout the '80s. In 1990 he moved into an admin role with the team. During his time as a pitching coach he was credited with the development of Chris Short, Rick Wise, Jimmy Key, and Dave Stieb, among others. As a manager he went 320-315. He retired from his admin role with Toronto in 2000 and settled in Oklahoma where he passed away in 2005 from colon cancer. Al was 80.

Time for one of those double exercises. First for Crandall the manager:

1. Crandall managed Johnny Briggs on the '72 to '75 Brewers;
2. Briggs and Bert Blyleven '75 Twins.

And now as Crandall the player. His age should help keep the iterations low:

1. Crandall and Willie Stargell '65 Pirates;
2. Stargell and Bert Blyleven '78 to '80 Pirates.

I'm getting a lot of mileage out of Willie.

#98 - Bert Blyleven

It's nice how these work out sometimes. The last post with a HOF guy had a lefty pitcher on the left side. This one has a brand new Hall of Fame pitcher on the right side who was a right-handed pitcher. Here Bert Blyleven is showing a pretty intense gaze in Oakland. '73 was a pretty intense season for Bert. Despite pitching pretty well, by mid-May he was 2-6 with a 4.08 ERA and he felt his rhythm was off. It was decided that he had developed a hitch when releasing the ball which was affecting the break on his famous curveball. As a cure, a handkerchief was placed on the mound in front of the rubber and each time he completed his motion he would follow through and pick up the hanky. The exercise must have worked because he went 5-1 immediately after its employ and then went 13-10 the rest of the way. It would be his only 20-victory season. I gotta admit it's a little surprising that for all the good numbers Bert put up in '73 he doesn't get an honor card, not even a "5."

Bert Blyleven was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Canada and California. Drafted by the Twins in '69 he flew through the minors and when Luis Tiant got hurt in 1970 Bert was called up to replace him in the rotation. He threw a shutout in each of his first two starts and went 10-9 with a 3.18 ERA. He then assumed duties as ace of the Twins' staff, a position he held through early '76. At the time of this card Bert was mid-way through a streak of six years in which he would record 200 or more strikeouts a season. Continuing to put up very good pitching numbers, he continued his - barely - winning ways with the Twins through '75. In '76 frustration with the Twins' mediocre records caught up to him and he complained to management. The response was a trade to Texas during the season with Danny Thompson for Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, and Bill Singer. Bert kept on putting up nice numbers for his new team over the next season-and-a-half, recording around a 2.75 ERA to match a .500 record. Prior to the '78 season he went to Pittsburgh in a huge four-team trade that moved Al Oliver, Willie Montanez, and John Milner, among others.

Blyleven's move to the NL was nearly perfectly-timed as he joined an emotional, rising club. For the Pirates he threw well though his ERA would move up a notch to the top side of 3.00, though it was still well better than league average. After winning 14 in '78 he went 12-5 in a '79 in which he satisfied his post-season jones, pitching superbly, and winning a game in both the playoffs and the Series. In '80 he had a losing record, was unhappy again and was traded to Cleveland prior to the '81 season. For the Indians he pitched very well in the '81 strike year, going 11-7 with a 2.88 ERA. But he then got hurt in '82 and in '83 and went a combined 9-12 with a high ERA. In '84 he came back strong with a 19-7 record, 2.87 ERA, and his highest Cy standing, third place. But in '85 Cleveland was going nowhere and when Bert asked to be traded mid-season he was sent back to the Twins in a deal that brought the Indians Jay Bell, among others. He finished strongly that season, won 17 in '86, and as the young Twins were establishing themselves rode his 15 wins with them to be a Series championhip again in '87. That year he won two against Detroit and went 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA against St. Louis. A poor '88 followed - he led MLB with 17 losses - and for '89 he went to California. There he had his last hurrah, going 17-5 with a 2.73 ERA and five shutouts, winning Comeback Player of the Year. He had a subpar '90 for the Angels, got hurt in '91 and wrapped things up in '92. He went 287-250 with a 3.31 ERA, 242 complete games, 60 shutouts, and 3,701 strikeouts. He was a two-time All-Star as well and his post-season stats were quite good: 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA. He was elected to the Hall this year.

Since '96 Bert has been an announcer, establishing himself as a fun-loving opinionated color guy. While researching this post I found it pretty amusing how often he was described as "shy" when he was younger. It sure ain't the case now.

The Dutch certainly comes through in Bert's formal name. In '70 TSN gave him quite an honor. Both Topps and TSN named rookie teams and awards. Topps didn't even have Bert on its '70 team. They had Carl Morton and Les Cain. I think TSN gets the nod in this case.

Let's connect the two B boys like this:

1. Blyleven and Willie Stargell (coming up soon) '78 to '80 Pirates;
2. Stargell and Bob Bailey '62 to '66 Pirates.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#97 - Bob Bailey

Here is a placid Bob Bailey at Shea. I find it funny to see such low-lying buildings outside the fence; it looks almost suburban. I cannot tell who the Met is in the background, though my guess is John Milner. Bob's '73 was a bit interesting. On the plus side he recorded a nice bounce from his dip in '72 and his RBI revival and .380 OBA helped keep Montreal in contention until the final week of the season. But the flip side was that the perception of him as a defensive liability at third base sort of came home to roost when reliever Mike Marshall complained about it to the press. So being a mellow guy was probably a good thing for Bob. 

Bob Bailey was a very big deal when his career started. An All-American in high school in California, he was signed by the Pirates in '61 for $175,000 which I am pretty sure was the biggest signing bonus ever at the time. He didn't start off terribly well in the minors - further confusing me on the '60's version of a bonus baby - in '61 hitting only .220 and getting 27 errors in 71 games at shortstop in A ball. He came back nicely in '62, hitting .299 with 28 homers and 108 RBI's in Triple A, winning TSN's Minor League Player of the Year. He moved to third base that year, a position he would keep when he came up to the Pirates in '63. To make way for Bob, Pittsburgh got rid of fan favorite Don Hoak. Bailey had some decent moments in Forbes but for the most part his iffy fielding and not great power numbers produced numbers that were discounts to Hoak's and that coupled with some poor Pittsburgh records didn't exactly endear Bob to the Pirates fans. Or management. So prior to the '67 season, when LA was looking to dump Maury Wills because he was viewed as too old, Pittsburgh took a flier and gave up Bob and Gene Michael for him. In LA Bob's numbers slid further - a .227 average with 12 homers and 67 RBIs in two seasons - further diluting his early promise. Following the '68 season he would be sold to the new Montreal Expos.

In '69 Bailey played first and the outfield, grabbing more time at the infield corner after Donn Clendenon went to the Mets. He also set a personal high with an RBI total of 53. The numbers took off in '70 when he hit 28 out and grabbed 84 ribbies in only 352 at bats. He also hit .287 with a .407 OBA. At that point he was back at third base after Coco LaBoy, the NL's '69 Rookie of the Year initiated what became a multi-season sophomore jinx. Bob would take over that position as Montreal's regular through '73. In '72 he got hurt and his numbers fell a bit. After his bounce in '73, manager Gene Mauch moved Bailey to the outfield for two-third's of the season, mostly to quell criticism over Bob's fielding, though ironically Marshall had been traded to LA. In '74 Bob put up over 100 walks and closed in on the .400 OBA again, while recording 20 homers and 73 RBI's. In '75 Bob relinquished third for good to Larry Parrish and his at bats came down pretty hard, though his on base and other numbers were still quite good. Following that season he went to the Reds for Clay Kirby. For Cincinnati Bob got a few starts at the infield corners and left field and did a bit of pinch hitting and did pretty well in that role, recording a .308 average. Late in '77 he went to Boston where he remained his final season of '78 as a DH. Lifetime he hit .257 with 189 homers and 773 RBIs. And despite all the noise about his fielding he is in the top 75 for lifetime assists and double plays at the hot corner.

After his playing career ended, Bailey did some managing and coaching in the minors for Montreal ('79-'83), Houston ('84-'85), and the White Sox ('86). As a manager he went 303-225. He then sold time shares.

In '71 Bailey was involved in a pretty surreal experience. He was a runner on third base in a game in Montreal against the Cards when it started to pour. The bases were loaded and the pitcher walked the batter, forcing Bob home. The Expos at the time were down by a run and Bob's run would have tied the game, about to be called because of the rain. Before he could score, Gene Mauch came running out and started pushing him away from home plate. After a while Bob relented and the two walked off the field without Bailey having scored. What had happened was that since he assumed the game would be called and he had done his homework, Mauch wanted a win rather than a tie. Since the game was called in mid-inning, the rule basically stated that if the home team was not able to TIE or go ahead, the score would be reverted to the last complete inning. The Cards had scored twice in the top of the called inning, so the score reverted back an inning and the Expos won the game. Pretty wild.

The rookie award from the second star bullet was also '62, not '63. Bob's dad played minor league ball for a few seasons. Those three seasons of 80-plus RBI's look pretty good. He is still ranked highly in a bunch of offensive categories for the franchise.

This one will be fun:

1. Bailey and Tom Seaver '77 Reds;
2. Seaver and Jerry Hairston '84 to '86 White Sox.

#96 - Jerry Hairston

This is Jerry Hairston's rookie card. He is the second bespectacled White Sox in a row. He is pictured at Comiskey in a shot that shows the old arches in the background along with some guy in civies working on the sprinkling system. Jerry isn't smiling but he is giving us a good look at the Sox uniform of the time. Jerry had been having a pretty good season at Triple A Iowa when he was called up to Chicago in July to help out at first base - and the outfield - in the wake of Dick Allen's injury. While Jerry would never match Dick's power he scored some decent numbers his rookie year and got to play in the same park his dad did. By the time he left the Sox for good as a player he'd build up a nice little and long-lasting franchise.

Jerry Hairston came from fine baseball stock - we will get to that on the back - and was drafted by Chicago in 1970 out of high school in Alabama. He would put up some decent minor league numbers: a top of the order guy, he demonstrated some speed and a good eye (his minor league career OBA was well over .400). In the minors he was primarily a second baseman, but in '72 he would put up time at first base. In '74 Dick Allen was healthy and the outfield was more settled which meant Jerry, who started slowly, was back in Iowa for a bunch of the season, where he hit .379 with 44 RBI's in only 140 at bats. In '75  he killed again in Triple A - a .369 average - before he returned to Chicago to post a .282 average and over .400 OBA that kept him in the majors. But in '76 he again spent the bulk of his time at Iowa, where his average dropped below .300 but he put up personal bests of 24 doubles and 65 RBI's in about half a season. After a .300-plus start to the '77 season on not many at bats, Jerry was sold to Pittsburgh.

Hairston would play out the balance of the '77 season for the Pirates. While that would be his sole time in Pittsburgh, he would garner a significant amount of  his at bats in a new role, pinch hitter, which would be a telling indicator of his MLB future. After the season Pittsburgh sold Jerry to Durango of the Mexican League. He would then go down to Mexico for the next several seasons where he got paid very little money to do what he loved - about a grand a month - and also experienced a very poor economy. But one year he won the league triple crown and another he experienced his first managing gig, so it wasn't all bad. During the strike year of '81 Tony LaRussa, who'd played with Jerry at Iowa and was now managing the ChiSox, was down in Mexico scouting replacement players - in case it came to that - and found Hairston, purchasing his contract for the remainder of the season. Jerry quickly established himself as a pretty good guy in the pinch: on the last day of the '81 season he hit a grand slam and grabbed a total of six RBIs. As the Sox improved, so did Hairston's pinch hitting ability. In '82 in that role he hit .234 with two homers and nine RBI's. In '83 his line improved to .295/2/11 with a .436 OBA as his timely hits helped the Sox to a divisional championship.He would continue to see regular action in the pinch the next four seasons and would put up a .276/2/28/.391 line over that time in 188 pinch at bats. Jerry would also be rewarded with some DH time and some outfield duties as well. In '88 he began coaching in the Chicago system and in both that year and in '89 Chicago got him some token at bats up top to make sure Jerry got his MLB pension. He finished with a career .258 average and a .362 OBA and retired as the career leader in pinch hits for the Sox with 94. In the post season he went hitless in three at bats.

Hairston has continued to coach and manage in the White Sox system and in that latter role has gone 185-235 during a seven-year run for the club's Rookie League team. I believe he is still the hitting coach at Bristol. He is also an instructor at Hitting World, a school in Arizona.

Jerry started his baseball life as in infield speedster and distinguished himself each of his first three seasons. His dad, Sam, was a Negro League catcher who got a couple at-bats for the White Sox in '51 and had an over .300 average in the minors where he did not start playing until he was 30. He later scouted for the Sox and signed Carlos May. Johnny was a catcher-outfielder who played a couple games for the Cubs in '69. He put up seven seasons in the minors and hit .257 there, finishing in '71. Jerry also had/has two kids playing ball: Jerry Jr. and Scott who played in San Diego in 2010. The Hairstons, along with the Bells and the Boones, are the only three-generation families so far to put in time in the majors.

Carlton and Hairston each have the same card colors. Let's see if it helps:

1. Hairston and Steve Carlton '86 White Sox.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

#95 - Steve Carlton

Lefty's picture is on the left side - that's fitting. Steve Carlton has an action shot in Philly and he gets a "5" card but not for anything he did in '73. Rather it was because of his amazing '72 season. Steve's follow-up to his big year mirrored that '72 season in that it was streaky, but that was about it. His ERA spiked a bit from that minuscule one from the prior season and the Philly bats just weren't powerful enough to cover the difference. In fact, they weren't very much help at all - in Lefty's 40 starts that year his guys score three or fewer runs in 23 of them. And his record could have been even worse - in the games he didn't get a decision, the Phillies went 2-5. And his ERA wasn't THAT bad. Plus, along with leading the NL with his 20 losses, he also led it in starts, complete games, and innings. What really happened in '73 was that beginning in spring training the press got on Steve about his - then - unorthodox training regimen and they wouldn't leave him alone about it. In response Lefty stopped speaking to the press, a practice he held to for nearly the duration of his career.

Steve Carlton grew up in Florida and after high school went to nearby Miami Dade (North) College. But during the fall season of '63 he apparently couldn't break into the rotation and so when St. Louis dangled a $5,000 check in front of him that October, he signed with the Cards. His first season in the minors in '64 he won a combined 15 games with a 2.20 ERA and over a strikeout an inning between A and Double A ball. He spent all of '65 with the Cards but only pitched in 15 games, which alludes to either some military time or to keep him out of the first year draft. After returning to the minors to start the '66 season - 9-5 in Triple A - he got back to St. Louis at the end of July and immediately joined the rotation. In '67 and '68 he had nearly identical seasons as the Cards returned to the Series both years and he copped a ring the former one. In '69 Steve improved his numbers significantly in the first year he crossed the 200 strikeout level. But in a '70 season very much a prelude to his '73 one the bottom fell out: by the end of August he was 6-18 when he received a long letter from a fan espousing positive thinking. Lefty embraced the contents of the letter, went 4-1 the rest of the season and followed it up with his first 20-win year in '71. Following that season he asked for a raise, got nowhere with the Busch family, and was sent to the Phillies for Rick Wise, another excellent young pitcher who was not having a good discourse with management.

In '72 Carlton had a season for the ages: 27-10 with a 1.98 ERA and 310 Ks for a team that won only 59 games. As noted above, it was a very streaky year for him: after the late start to the season brought about by the strike that year, he went 5-1 and then lost five straight as the Phillies gave him only ten runs of support. He then won 15 in a row and went on to win the pitching triple crown that brought him his first Cy. It was also the season he adopted his workout regimen including plunging his pitching hand into buckets of sand or rice, depending on the source. In '73 the Phillies improved a bit but Steve went the other way. But he would recover in '74 and '75, putting up better ERA's and winning 16 and 15, respectively, both with winning records. In '76 he went 20-7 in a year the Phillies returned to the playoffs. In '77 he went 23-10 with a 2.64 ERA to win his second Cy. In '78 he won 16 with another excellent ERA and in '79 he won 18 and returned to the over 200 K club where he would remain every season through '83 except for the strike year of '81. In 1980 he went 24-9 with a 2.34 ERA to grab Cy number three in the year his team won the Series. '81 looked to be as good a season - 13-4 with a 2.42 ERA - but it got derailed by the strike. The fourth Cy came in '82 on the heels of a 23-11 season; in both '80 and '82 Lefty led the NL in both victories and strikeouts.. Around this time he was engaged in a back-and-forth duel between him and Nolan Ryan for all-time strike-out leadership. He had a losing record in '83 but again led the league in K's and would destroy the Dodgers in the playoffs (2-0 with a 0.66 ERA) before losing a game in that Series. It was around this time that he discovered that his long-time agent had done a host of nasty business with Steve's money and had lost over half of his career earnings, which was a significant blow to his finances. After a decent '84 during which he went 13-7, he finally hit the wall in '86 when he was 40. From that point on he went a combined 16-37 for the Phillies, Giants, White Sox, Indians, and Twins. While he'd returned - a bit - to speaking with the press in his last seasons and expressed a desire to continue pitching, it was thought that it was really about the paychecks. He finished things up in '88 with a 329-244 record, a 3.22 ERA, 254 complete games, 55 shutouts, two saves, and 4,136 strikeouts, fourth place all-time. He went 6-6 in the post-season with a 3.26 ERA. He hit pretty well, too, with a lifetime .201 average, 13 homers, and 140 RBI's. In the post-season he hit .222 with a homer and five RBI's in 16 games. He grabbed the four Cy Young awards - the first guy to do that - pitched in nine All-Star games, and was elected to the Hall on his first shot in '94.

Steve got those strikeouts against the Mets in '69. He was a very streaky pitcher and would tend to get wins and losses in bunches. He has his own website and is now very cordial with fans and the media, from what I've heard. As I've mentioned before, he always has one of the biggest grins in the HOF photos.

This one should be shorter than the last one:

1. Carlton and Tony Taylor '74 to '76 Phillies.
2. Taylor on the '73 Tigers.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#94 - Tigers Team Records

In this photo we have the Tigers on a beautiful sunny day in Detroit. It is another blurry team card but most of these guys can be made out. The only thing I cannot figure out is the manager. It should be Billy Martin but the guy in the middle of the first row (next to the guy that looks like Jimmy Carter) looks too old to be Billy. But it ain't Joe Schultz who finished out the '73 season. It's not Ralph Houk either who managed in '74 because Frank Howard is in the picture and he was gone by then. So I guess it is Billy. At least this time he's not giving the finger.

The '73 Tigers were the defending AL East champs. Things were going well enough for them early in the season but a few key injuries nailed them. John Hiller and Lerrin Lagrow
got hurt shagging flies on the same day. Willie Horton and Al Kaline lost some serious time to injuries. Plus the regulars were getting old and Martin was starting to wear out his welcome. He and Jim Northrup, probably the team's most consistent hitter that year, did not get along and Billy benched Jim a bunch. Billy was also using up his starters, something that would tend to recur for Mr. Martin. He was fired at the beginning of September and replaced the rest of the season by Joe Schultz, of "Ball Four" fame. On the day Billy was fired the Detroit GM almost took a bullet in his hotel room. In the end the Tigers finished 85-77, 12 games back of the Orioles. The season's bright spot was probably John Hiller rescuing a five year old drowning in a hotel pool.

This is a very telling checklist card. Outside of Joe Coleman and Aurelio Rodriguez everyone whose signature is represented was at least 30 years old. It was an old team and a bunch of guys would be done or gone by the next season. I think Jim Northrup has the best signature.

I had not realized how often the Tigers met the Cubs in the Series. Out of eight Series appearances for Detroit, the Cubbies were on the other side four times. As for the then record-holders:

Rocky Colavito was everyone's favorite Indian in the late '50s. Signed by the Tribe in '51 out of The Bronx, NYC, Rocky banged his way through the minors and made it to The Show to stay in June of  '56. He started hitting homers right away - he hit 21 in just over half a season and finished second in ROY votes - and by '58 was hitting over 40 in a season. From that year to '62 his low in that department was 35. Fittingly Rocky had a rocket for an arm but had a reputation for being passive in the outfield. He could also be a streaky hitter and in early '60 was asking for more money. Those all contributed to the very unpopular - think LeBron - trade of Rocky to Detroit for Harvey Kuenn, the next guy on this post. Rocky continued to smack them for the Tigers and put up his best numbers in '61: 45 homers, 140 RBIs, 113 walks, and a .290 average. In Detroit he wasn't universally loved and he eventually went to the A's in '64 where he again topped 30 homers. In '65 he returned to Cleveland in a three-team deal that cost the Indians Tommy John and Tommie Agee, both of whom would have considerably more success than Rock down the road. In '66 he did lead the league in RBIs with 108 and walks with 93. The following year he hit 30 out again but his RBI totals faded badly and in mid-'67 he would go to the White Sox. In '68 he finished things up with LA and the Yanks, his boyhood idols. For his career he hit .266 with 374 homers, 1,159 RBIs, and a .359 OBA. He was also an eight-time All-Star and was regularly among league leaders in fielding, finishing in the top 60 all-time for putouts, assists, and double plays in right field. After he retired he helped run a mushroom plant he owned in PA. He returned to Cleveland as an announcer ('72, '75-'76) and coach ('73 - he nearly had a card in this set, '76-'78) and would also coach for the Royals ('82-'83). Thereafter he would spend a bunch of time hunting, both professionally and for fun. His home base is still Pennsylvania.

Harvey Kuenn was signed by Detroit out of the University of Wisconsin - where he was his school's first All-American - in '52 and by the end of that season was in the majors. In '53 he won ROY with 209 hits and a .308 average. He was primarily a shortstop early in his career and would eventually move to the outfield. Harvey was a spray-hitting machine; he led the league in hits four times and doubles three times. In '54 he again topped 200 hits and only struck out 13 times in nearly 700 plate appearances. In '55 he topped out with 101 runs scored and led MLB in doubles, which he would do two other times. In '56 he peaked in homers and RBI's with twelve and 88, respectively. He slumped to under .300 in '57 but then rallied to a .319 in '58 and then in '59 he led the league with a .353 average and in hits and doubles. But that off-season he went to Cleveland in the infamous trade. While he topped .300 in '60 he had barely finished the season there when he was traded to the Giants, further increasing the ire of Cleveland fans. While the average declined, Harvey was a productive member of the SF outfield for four-plus seasons and went to the '62 Series with them (he didn't hit too well). During '65 he went to the Cubs and in '66 he finished things up with the Phillies. He was a lifetime .303 hitter with over 2,000 hits and a .357 OBA. He too made eight All-Star teams and in the post-season hit .083 in his three games. After he finished playing Harvey would work as a sports announcer in Milwaukee and then as a sales rep for a printing company in that city. He returned to baseball in '71 when he became the Brewers' hitting coach, a post he retained though mid-'82. He then took over as manager of a .500 club, went 72-43 the rest of the way, and led the team to the Series, losing to the Cards in seven games. He had another winning record in '83 and was then fired. His managerial record was 160-118. Harvey had circulation problems and in '80 lost part of a leg. He scouted for the Brewers until he passed away from a heart ailment in '88 at age 57.

Ty Cobb has a great and comprehensive bio on his baseball-reference bullpen page so I won't go crazy here. He was signed by Detroit in '05 after playing local semi-pro and minor league ball. Shortly thereafter his mom shot and killed his dad, believing he was a burglar. Informed by that and by some very rough hazing he received from his Detroit teammates, Ty would adopt an overly aggressive - many would say abusive - style of play. He would also be charged as a racist, in a large part due to his assaults on black men at various points during his career. But there was no denying his talent on the field: he won the Triple Crown in '09; he hit .420 in '11 and .409 in '12; he led the AL multiple times in batting average (12 times), hits (8), runs (5), doubles (3), triples (4), RBI's (4), and stolen bases (6). He played for Detroit through '26, also managing the team the last six seasons. For the next two years he played for Connie Mack in Philly. He finished with a .366 lifetime average, 4,189 hits, 2,244 runs, 295 doubles, 117 triples, 1,933 RBI's, 897 stolen bases, and a .433 OBA. In the Series he hit .262 with nine RBI's in 17 games. He made the Hall on his first shot - and its first shot - in '36. He was a nasty guy but made a fortune investing in Coca-Cola among other public companies. He passed away in '61 at age 74.

Hank Greenberg was a big Jewish kid out of NYC. He was signed by Detroit in 1930 after a year at NYU and though he hit well at every level, took a few years to make it to Detroit. But after making the cut in '33 and a slow start he was the Tigers' starting first baseman by mid-summer. He hit .301 his rookie year with 12 homers and 87 RBIs. In '34 he cranked 63 doubles, 26 homers, and 139 RBIs and led Detroit to the Series which they lost to the Gashouse Gang (he hit .321). '35 was even better with 36 homers and 170 RBIs - geez - both of which led the league, giving Hank his first MVP. Again the Tigers went to the Series, this time winning it, although Hank broke his wrist midway through. He also broke it a couple games into the '36 season essentially missing the whole thing. In '37 he went after Hack Wilson's record, just missing with 183 RBIs. In '38 he went after The Babe, again just missing with 58 homers. A nice '39 followed and a real nice '40 (.340/41/150) thereafter with a second MVP. In those years from '34 to '40 Hank would average over an RBI per game. In '41 WWII called and Hank would miss all or most of the next four seasons. He came back mid-way through the '45 season and again went to the Series. A great '46 followed - .277/44/127 - and when he didn't get the raise he wanted he decided to retire; the Tigers then signed him and traded him to the Pirates where he hit 25 homers and then retired, but not before being one of the few guys who openly welcomed Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues (he was one of the few guys to identify with Jackie being the recipient of ethnic slurs). By the time he was done he hit .313 with 331 homers, 379 doubles, and 1,276 RBIs and a .412 OBA with four All-Star appearances in about nine-and-a-half seasons. In the post-season he would hit .318 with a .420 OBA, five homers, and 22 RBIs in 23 games. He then hooked up with Bill Veeck and was a managing partner of both the Indians ('48-'58) and the White Sox ('59-'61), getting to the Series at each stop. Thereafter he became a successful investment banker. He made the Hall in '56 and passed away at age 75 in 1986.

Sam Crawford played in the outfield with Ty Cobb (they barely spoke). He was from Wahoo, Nebraska - hence the nicknmae "Wahoo Sam" - and followed some local ball with stops in Canada and then Grand Rapids of the Western League. He was signed by the Reds in 1899 and immediately came up hitting above .300. He had an OK 1900 then hit his stride the next season, hitting .330 with 16 triples and leading the NL with 16 homers. Triples were his thing and he would lead his league in that category six times. In '02 he hit 22 and then following that season Sam signed with both the Reds and Detroit and was awarded to the latter team for $3,000. His first year in the AL he banged out 25 triples and hit .335. Then came a few sub-.300 seasons but with continued big triple numbers. During that time Sam mentored Cobb when he came up but then lost some thunder to him, hence at least part of the not speaking thing. In '07 Sam's average bounced to .323 as he scored over 100 runs for the first time. In '08 he led the AL in homers with seven and in '09 in doubles with 35. In 1910 he led the league in RBI's with 120 and returned to the top with 19 triples. He then went on the best extended run of his career and over the next five seasons would top 100 RBI's four times and lead the AL in triples three times.. He would remain a regular through '15 and would lose starting time the next two seasons to Harry Heilmann, the Tigers' next hitting star. He was cut after the '17 season and then played four seasons in the minors in the PCL for LA. He finished with a .309 average, 2,961 hits, 97 homers, and 1,525 RBIs. He also had a record 309 triples. He would hit .243 with eight RBI's in 17 Series games (no triples). After his career he coached USC baseball in the '20s and umpired in the PCL in the '30s. He would be one of the old stars interviewed for "The Glory of Their Times" in the '60s. He was elected to the Hall in '57 and passed away in '68 at age 88.

Just for the heck of it I have posted some cards from 1910 of the guys on this post from that era. The cards are reproductions.

Wabash George Mullin was signed out of Fort Wayne in the Western Association by the Tigers in 1901. He jumped into the rotation the following year and was an innings hog, regularly putting up well over 300 a season. He won 20 or more games five times for Detroit and lost 20 or more for them three times. He had a great fastball and a curve and led the league in walks four consecutive seasons. He led the league in earned runs three times also but his stats were normally at or better than his contemporaries. George was a sort of predecessor to Mark Fidrych in that he would often step off the mound to make some equipment adjustments and talk to opposing players and even fans. He got into three Series with the Tigers and was arguably the team's best post-season pitcher those years. He threw a no-hitter against St. Louis in 1912, remained with Detroit through early '13, and then was sold to the Senators the rest of the season. The next two years he joined the Federal League and was done in the majors when that league folded. He pitched a season in the minors and then hung them up. He went 228-196 with a 2.82 ERA, 353 complete games, 35 shutouts, and eight saves. He was also a lifetime .262 hitter with 70 doubles, 23 triples, and 137 RBI's. In the post-season he went 3-3 with a 1.86 ERA, six complete games, and a shutout in his seven games. After he stopped playing he coached in the minors a few seasons before returning to Wabash, Indiana where he was a policeman. He passed away in '44 at age 64.

Denny McLain just missed having a card in this set (he can actually be seen on the Braves team card). A Chicago kid, he was signed by the White Sox in '62 and started off well enough – he threw a no-hitter in his first professional game - but went unprotected the following winter and was claimed by the Tigers in the first year draft. He won 18 in a '63 split between A and Double A and came up at the end of the season. He hit a homer in his first start up top. Hurt for a bit in '64 he grabbed a spot in the rotation late in the year and then started cranking the next season. In '65 he went 16-6 with a 2.61 ERA. In '66 he won 20 but his ERA ballooned a bit. In '67 he won 17; the rumor was that his win totals came down because he got his foot squashed by a mob guy to whom he owed money. '68 was his big year: 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA and 280 strikeouts got him the Cy and MVP. He led the Tigers to the Series and won Game Six. 24 wins and another Cy came in '69 and then things went south - fast. He was suspended three times during the '70 season for bookmaking, consorting with gamblers, and pouring a bucket of water on some sportswriters. He only won three games that year and then was sent to the Senators in a horrible trade for Washington; Denny went 10-22 and incurred manager Ted Williams' ire. He went to Oakland and then the Braves in '72 but couldn't keep his ERA below 6.00. In '73 he attempted minor league comebacks with both the Brewers and the White Sox but his arm was toast. He finished his career with a 131-91 record with a 3.39 ERA, 105 complete games, 29 shutouts, and two saves. He went 1-2 in his three post-season games with a 3.34 ERA. Along with the two Cy’s he was an All-Star three times. After playing McLain would work as a musician – he put out a couple albums as an organist, hustle golf, and do some radio shows. But he would also get busted for running drugs and arms and for fraud and other financial crimes and serve a bunch of time.

Wild Bill Donovan was another early 20th century pitcher. Originally signed by the first - NL - Washington Senators out of Lawrence, MA in 1898, he went to Brooklyn the following two seasons. He pitched sparingly in both stops with a high ERA and spent most of his time in 1899 and 1900 in A ball where he won a combined 42 games and earned his "Wild" nickname in a funny way: after a teammate was called up to MLB after a game in which he threw a pitch over the backstop, Bill decided that was the best way to get up and in his next start walked nine consecutive batters. While that may not have done the trick, in 1901 he broke into the Superbas rotation and went 25-15 with a 2.77 ERA. He spent another season with Brooklyn, winning 17, and then jumped to Detroit where he joined the rotation and was a roughly .500 pitcher the next four seasons. In '07 he went 25-4 with a 2.19 ERA and pitched in the first of three consecutive Series. He would never again win 20 but did have some decent percentages the next few seasons, going 18-7 in '08 and 17-7 in '10, until his arm died in 1912. He then went to the minors where he played at and managed Providence. In 1915 he returned to the majors as player-manager of the Yankees. After three seasons with NY he returned to Detroit as a coach for the '18 season. That was his final time on the hill and for his career Wild Bill was 185-139 with a 2.69 ERA, 289 complete games, 35 shutouts, and eight saves. Another decent hitter, he hit .193 lifetime with seven homers and 92 RBI's. In the post-season he went 1-4 with a 2.88 ERA in six games, five of them complete. The next two years he managed Jersey City in the IL and then in '21 returned to MLB to manage the Phillies for half a season. He then went to New Haven, a Single A league. He was in line to manage the Senators in '24 when he was killed in a famous train crash in upstate New York. He was 47.

Paul Foytack was signed by the Tigers in 1949 out of Scranton, PA. After two good years – a combined 32 wins – in the low minors and a decent ’51 split between A and Triple A ball, he ran into a bit of a wall at the higher level due to injuries and an unrefined curveball. He spent the next few years shortening his break and reached the majors briefly in '53 and '55. In '56 he finally joined the rotation and won 15 games. He remained in the rotation the next three seasons, averaging 14 wins a year but then a rough start to his ‘60 led to pen time and an ugly 2-11 record with a huge ERA. The ERA stayed pretty high the next couple seasons though he returned to the rotation and won a combined 21 games. In '63 he got off to another slow start and was traded to the Angels where he finished with a decent record as a reliever. He pitched a couple games for LA in '64 and was then released. He returned to the Detroit system and finished out the year with ten wins in Triple A. He then went to Japan for ’65 where he turned in decent numbers in a short season for Chunichi. He finished with an MLB record of 86-87 with a 4.14 ERA, 63 complete games, seven shutouts, and seven saves. During his first season in LA, he famously gave up four homers in a row. When manager Bill Rigney came to the mound after the fourth run and asked Paul how he thought he was doing, the pitcher responded: “pretty well, I think. There aren’t any runners on base.” He returned from Japan to the Detroit area and for a few years threw batting practice for the Tigers. He also was a salesman for many years of industrial rubber for the Sell Corporation. He is now 80 and still around.

Hal Newhouser is the first Hall of Fame pitcher the Tigers have produced. Raised in Detroit, he was signed in '39 by the Tigers and though he got off to a rough start in the minors – a combined 13-18 but with a pretty good ERA - he was on the team by the end of the season. Hal was very tough on himself and his teammates and for his first five years he would post not great numbers - 34-52 with an ERA around 4.00 - as he moved between the rotation and the bullpen. Hal had a huge kick - think of Juan Marichal - and pulled a Sandy Koufax in '44 when he suddenly became the best pitcher in the league. He went 29-9 with a 2.22 ERA and led the league with 187 strikeouts. In '45 he went 25-9 with a 1.81 ERA and 212 Ks leading the league in all three and most other major pitching categories. He won MVP both seasons, the first pitcher to do that successively. In the '45 Series he went 2-1 with 22 Ks in 20 innings even though his ERA was above 6.00. In ’46 he again led the AL with his 26 wins and 1.94 ERA and posted his best strikeout total of 275. He continued his success the next three seasons, recording a combined 54 wins, though the Detroit offense contacted considerably. He hurt his arm midway through the '50 season and though he won 15 that year his ERA moved up a run. The next three seasons he would lose a bunch of hill time and he hurt the arm again in '53. In '54 he went to the Indians where he experienced a one-year revival as the team's long relief ace and threw in that year's Series. He was done after a couple games the following season. Hal went 207-150 with a 3.06 ERA, 212 complete games, 33 shutouts, and 26 saves and was 2-1 with a 6.53 ERA in his four post-season games. Another pretty good batter, he put up a .201 career average with 81 RBI’s. Following his career he was a bank executive for a bunch of years before returning to baseball as a scout for a few teams - he signed Milt Pappas, Dean Chance, and almost Derek Jeter (for the Astros) in ’92 when he was also elected to the Hall by the Veteran's Committee. He passed away in '98 at age 77 from complications related to emphysema.

Quite a few Tigers are missing from the '73 team. Duke Sims, the primary backup catcher had a Yankee card (he was traded to them at the end of the season). Tony Taylor (.229 in 302 at bats) played a bunch as an infield reserve (he was cut in December). Frank Howard (.256 with twelve homers in 227 at bats) shared DH time in '73 with Gates Brown in his last season. Rich Reese (.137 in 102 at bats) played one season for Detroit after many in Minnesota, backing up at first and in the outfield. Taylor (first row second from left) and Howard (third row first guy) are both on the Team card. Reese probably is also but the card is too blurry to tell. On the pitching side Bob Miller had a Mets card and Tom Timmermann a Cleveland card. Including them, 153 of 162 decisions are represented by the set. The only missing guy is Mike Strahler, a spot guy who went 4-5 with a 4.37 ERA and a complete game in his final season. I am pretty sure he is the fourth guy in Frank Howard's row. With nine missing decisions and over 600 missing AB's Detroit fares pretty poorly in the player representation category.

This will be a challenge:

1. Willie Horton on the '73 Tigers;
2. Horton and Nate Colbert '75 Tigers;
3. Colbert and Ivan Murrell '69 to '73 Padres;
4. Murrell and Marty Perez '74 Braves;
5. Perez and Rod Gilbreath '75 to '76 Braves.


Monday, February 7, 2011

#93 - Rod Gilbreath

I have to hand it to Night Owl. He lives in pretty much the same part of the country as I do and the guy gets out a post every day. My posting time has been consumed by snow removal so my posts are lagging. I am sure he's dealing with the same stuff I am so I don't know how he does it.

Back to this blog, we have Rod Gilbreath at Candlestick in a more-or-less classic infielder pose. It looks like a beautiful sunny day and look at the ground: you can actually see the photographer's shadow as well. I think that's a first for this set. '73 was a season of change for Atlanta: between the trades of Orlando Cepeda snd Earl Williams and the return of Hank Aaron to the outfield, not one first baseman from '72 was available. So Darrell Evans began the season there and our boy Rod here came out of the box as the starting third baseman. He did pretty well too, posting a decent average and only two errors during his month of starts. But the '73 Braves were built around the long ball and when Mike Lum decided to join that party he got moved to first, Evans returned to the hot corner, and Rod went back to Triple A where he would put up pedestrian offensive numbers but also very good D. So unfortunately for Rod he not only had to put up with the photographer's shadow but also the combined ones of the whole Atlanta infield.

Rod Gilbreath grew up in Mississippi and was drafted out of high school in 1970 by the Braves. During his first three minor league seasons he moved from Rookie ball to Double A  and put up pretty good offensive numbers at each stop while playing primarily third base. He was quite a base-stealer as well. In '72 he had a rough start at the hot corner - a .924 fielding percentage - but still was called up to Atlanta late that season. The scouting book on him that year noted that he had good range at his various infield positions but that he needed more seasoning. After his near-breakthrough in '73 he remained in Triple A for all of '74, that year playing only second base while hitting .254 with a .354 OBA.

 In '75 Davey Johnson went to Japan and Gilbreath got his chance. He split time at second that year with Marty Perez and then became the primary guy there the next two seasons. While Rod fielded well enough and had serviceable offense numbers, his average during that time - around .248 - was a pretty significant discount to his two All-Star predecessors, Johnson and Felix Millan. Plus he left his big stolen base numbers in the minors. In '76 Rod led the NL in sacrifice flies. By '78 Glenn Hubbard and Junior Moore were moving in to take away Rod's field time at second and he spent most of his time that year back at third. The following season he signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent, but it was the same story as his early days in Atlanta: there were a couple All-Stars ahead of him at his two positions in Bill Madlock and Phil Garner. As a result Rod played exclusively in the minors the next two seasons and 1980 was his final year as a player. He hit .248 lifetime with a .320 OBA. In the minors he tapped the ball at a .277 clip with 44 homers, a .361 OBA, and 165 stolen bases.

After his playing time ended, Gilbreath returned to the Atlanta system as a scout, managed its Rookie League team in '86 and '87 - he went a combined 68-72 - and then moved to the admin side. During the Nineties he was Atlanta's director of minor league operations. He then returned to scouting for the team, a position he still holds, according to Linked In.

Rod was big for a shortstop. He also had a great full name for a quarterback from that neck of the woods. Keith Jackson would have loved him.

This will be quicker than I thought, thanks to a former ROY guy:

1. Gilbreath and Earl Williams ' 75 to '76 Braves;
2. Williams and Paul Blair '73 to '74 Orioles.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

#92 - Paul Blair

Here is an action shot of perpetual Gold Glove centerfielder Paul LD Blair. Someone once told me when I was a kid that LD stood for Love Doctor. Nothing against Paul or his amorous abilities but I do not believe that was really the case. I probably believed it at the time however. In '73 Paul was certainly worthy of SOME superlative designation. After consulting with a hypnotist he put together his best overall season since he suffered a horrible beaning in '70, receiving his second All-Star nod as a result. Given Paul's ruddy face I assume the photo was taken mid-summer which means he and his boys were smack dab in the middle of another pennant race.

Paul Blair grew up in LA and was signed by the Mets in '61. Assigned to the NY C team the next year Paul homered 17 times but also hit only .228 and struck out 147 times. He was then drafted by the Orioles in the first-year Rule 4 draft; he was left off the Mets 40-man roster, hence his availability. In '63 in A ball he put up the same power numbers, dropped his K totals almost in half, and added 100 points to his average. Ex-Yankee Gene Woodling was a big help, suggesting to Paul that he treat any two-strike at bat as a game of pepper at which he excelled. After a year in Double A he made the Baltimore roster in '65 as the starting center fielder but by the end of June his .200 average in that role helped return it to incumbent Jackie Brandt while Paul went to Triple A. After hitting .329 at that level he returned to the O's in August and hit .255 the rest of the way to earn the regular gig outright.

During the '66 season Blair missed a bunch of time to military reserve work but around it he managed to raise his average substantially and then had a bang-up Series against LA, winning one game with a solo homer and another with a circus catch. He upped the offensive ante another notch in '67 when he put in a full season, led the AL in triples, and came in fifth in the batting race. He also recorded his first Gold Glove that season; he would win eight of those in all. In '68 his numbers took a big hit, caused in part to a broken ankle he suffered in winter ball that made him miss all of spring training as well as some games. But he bounced back in '69 with his best offensive season: he scored over 100 runs the only time in his career, topped out personally in doubles, homers, and RBI's, and made his first All-Star team. He was off to a similar start in '70 when he got nailed in the face by a pitch from Ken Tatum that broke his cheek and his orbital bones. He missed about a month and came back pretty strong, peaking in the Series by hitting .474. But the strikeouts took off again and the power numbers declined leading many to believe that Blair was a bit tenuous at the plate. After his '73 revival Paul had a very similar '74 in which his numbers stayed roughly intact and he recorded a career-high 27 stolen bases. But in '75 his playing time decreased a bit as Earl Weaver began platooning Paul with Al Bumbry and Jim Northrup and then much moreso in '76. When the field time went south so did Paul's average and RBI totals so that by '76 they numbered .197 and 16 respectively. That following January he went to the Yankees for Elliott Maddox and assumed a role as primary backup outfielder for NY the next two seasons. He won Game 1 of the '77 Series with a 12th inning single. He then reprised his backup role for the '79 Reds. In 1980 he was signed by the Yanks as a minor league instructor, got some major league at bats and called it a career. He hit .250 lifetime with 134 homers and 171 stolen bases. In the post-season he hit .260 with 15 RBI's in 52 total games.

As a fielder Blair played relatively shallow. Great speed and very good instinctual play allowed him to run down many fly balls and many opposing managers viewed him as the most important piece in the Oriole puzzle. Paul had a lifetime fielding average of .988 and continues to rank high in lifetime assists (15th all time), double plays (16th), and putouts (16th). A quote regarding his fielding ability went "...Two-thirds of the world is covered by water. The rest is covered by Paul Blair."

Following his playing career Blair coached both professionally (for the Yankees, Baltimore, and Houston) and collegiately (for Fordham and Coppin State). He also ran his own baseball camp for a while. He has since retired in Maryland where he occasions card shows and golf courses.

There's the LD. I have zero idea what it stands for, but his nickname was Motormouth. He was apparently full of stories and very funny. The three homer game in '70 happened before the beanball. The hoops game was a high school one.

We are crossing leagues again which may make this tough. Here goes:

1. Blair and Reggie Jackson '76 Orioles and '77 to '78 Yankees;
2. Jackson and Ken Forsch '82 to '84 Angels.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

#91 - Ken Forsch

Here is Ken Forsch at Candlestick which I really like since it is the first time in a long while we get to see an Astro in a real stadium. Ken seems to be not too overjoyed to have the photographer there but he does have a friend behind him so he's not totally anti-social. My first guess as to the player's identity would be Roger Metzger due to those sideburns but since the pitchers and players didn't mingle too much on the field, I am going to go with Mike Griffin. He had pretty good sideburns also. '73 would be Ken's big transition year: a starter his whole career to date, he led off the season in the rotation and by the end of June was 8-8 with a 3.21 ERA in that role. But after a couple ineffective starts he moved to the pen, a move that in my guess was also prompted by the general ineffectiveness of the rest of the bullpen. Ken's ERA would move up a bit after that move, but he would record four saves. He would also make that role work for him much better down the line.

Ken Forsch grew up in California and after finishing high school in '64 went to Sacramento City State where he played baseball and hoops and was nabbed by the Angels in the '66 draft but instead he decided to transfer to Oregon State. He remained at the school for two years - he also passed up the Cubs in '67 - got an All-American honorable mention and still holds the school's strikeout record for a season. In '68 he was drafted in a late round by the Astros and that summer threw some good A ball innings around his military reserve work. He did that again in '69 in Rookie - a 1.10 ERA in his ten starts - and back in A ball. He made big strides in '70 when he went 17-8 with a 1.96 ERA in Double and Triple A and then saw his first MLB work in a few late-season starts. He then spent the better part of the next three seasons in the rotation, usually the fourth spot. He recorded a very nice ERA in '71 but then saw it inflate a bit the following year when he had some elbow problems. That trend then continued a bit into '73.

When Houston got Claude Osteen for the '74 season, Forsch moved full time to the bullpen where he found substantially more success. That year he did a nice job as closer as he won eight, saved ten, and put up a 2.79 ERA. In '75 as the starting staff sort of imploded - not one had an ERA under 4.00 - Ken moved to a swing role and only got two saves. But in '76 a return to the closer role worked real well as his 2.15 ERA and 19 saves got him an All-Star nod. The next two seasons Ken added spot starts and during that time went a combined 15-14 with a 2.70 ERA and 15 saves. That latter year he recorded his first two shutouts since '71. In '79 Ken moved back into the rotation and celebrated by throwing a no-hitter in his first start against Atlanta. He won 11 that year and 12 in '80, Houston's first playoff season. He lost his only start against Philly but pitched pretty well and got two hits in the game. Following the season he went to California for shortstop Dickie Thon.

Forsch's first year in California was the strike one which was too bad because that season he earned his second All-Star nod and led the league in shutouts while going 11-7 with a 2.88 ERA. He then won 13 in '82 and 11 in '83 while throwing .500 ball with an elevated ERA (though it was below league average). In '84 he was off to a nice start when he suffered a season-ending injury covering first base. He also missed the entire following season. He attempted a comeback with the Angels and then Seattle - at its Triple A team - in '86 and then called it quits. He finished with a record of 114-113 with an ERA of 3.37, 70 complete games, 18 shutouts, and 51 saves. In the post-season he was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in his two games.

After playing Forsch would do the real estate thing for a few years. He would make his way back to baseball with the Angels, initially serving as the team's Director of Player Development (1994-'97) and then its Assistant to the General Manager ('98-present).

'71 was pretty much Ken's best season through this set. His brother Bob of course went on to have his own pretty good career. He and Ken are the only brothers to both throw no-hitters.

We can actually link these guys through both leagues. I will opt for the NL:

1. Forsch and Greg Gross '73 to '76 Astros;
2. Gross and Bobby Murcer '77 to '78 Cubs.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

#90 - Bobby Murcer

Here is an action shot of Bobby Murcer at Yankee Stadium. It appears that Bobby just swung and missed which has been the theme with a couple of these shots. Still it is an action shot, so why complain. Speaking of complaining, a highlight/lowlight of Bobby's '73 season occurred when he got in dutch with baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn: he called the latter gutless for not doing anything to prevent Gaylord Perry from throwing a greaseball. Away from that he had another All-Star season as the best - read: only - NY power guy on a team that stayed in contention for a division title until its late summer big fade. While Bobby wouldn't be able to match his late '72 homer surge, he still put up a decent amount and got the runs in at his normal clip. Just not on this swing.

Bobby Murcer was signed in '64 by the same Yankee scout that signed Mickey Mantle. This was fitting since they were all from Oklahoma and Murcer idolized Mantle. A big three sports star in high school, at that level he was a pitcher and shortstop and he kicked off his pro career in the latter role, just like Mickey. He started off great in Rookie ball, putting up a .365 average that summer before a knee injury killed his season. Then in '65 in A ball he put up a .322/16/90 line before getting his first look in NY that went pretty well. In '66, with the retirement of Tony Kubek, the plan was to have Bobby and Ruben Amaro swap starts at short, but when Amaro got hurt and Bobby didn't hit well, that plan was scrapped. Murcer instead moved to Triple A and while it was his first pro year at sub-.300 he did put up nice power numbers. He returned to NY at the end of the season, raised his average a bit, and looked set to take over the shortstop role full-time. But then the army called and Bobby lost the next two full seasons to the military. Once that commitment was done it was finally time to play in NY.

By the time Murcer got back with the Yankees for the '69 season, a couple changes had occurred on the left side of the infield. Gene Michael had taken over the shortstop gig and the transition at third base from Clete Boyer to Bobby Cox turned out to be a one-year thing. So this Bobby was given the starting third baseman job coming out of spring training. But while his offense was pretty exceptional - a .313/9/32 line in 128 at bats - his hot corner defense - 14 errors in 31 games - left a lot to be desired. So Bobby was moved to right field and by the end of the season had moved over to center and while his offense subsided a bit he still put up numbers not generally seen in Yankee land since the M&M boys were hot. After putting up similar numbers in '70 he then took off in '71. He led the league that year in OBA at .427, cut his strikeouts nearly in half, and boosted his average 80 points to nab his first All-Star selection. In '72 Bobby had a rough start to the season and at the end of May was kicking around at the Mendoza levels on offense. But from then on a stat line of .316/30/88 got him the AL lead in runs scored, another All-Star nod, and a Gold Glove. He was the only significant offensive threat on a team that almost won the division. In '73 he was again the offensive leader on a pretty good team that faded down the stretch.  In '74 the Yanks moved to Shea while Yankee Stadium was being renovated and Murcer's home run numbers took another hit. He moved to right field to allow Elliott Maddox to play center. He also went down the last week of the season to an injury sustained breaking up the Sudakis/Dempsey fight. That was too bad because when Bobby got injured, the Yankees were only a game out of first.

After the '74 season Murcer went to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in an even-up trade for All-Star outfielders. The Yanks were looking for more pop at the top of the order and the Giants wanted to keep the power but with a more agreeable attitude. The trade happened almost immediately after NY owner George Steinbrenner told Bobby he'd be a Yankee for life - shades of things to come for Big George. Murcer maintained his All-Star status in year one as his average returned to the .300 level and the rest of his stats were a slight premium to his ones in '74. In '76 more homers came but the average dipped to .259. Bobby was never terribly happy in San Fran and following the season he was traded for another unhappy camper, Bill Madlock, and went to the Cubs. In '77 the Cubbies were rejuvenated by a big division push the first two-thirds of the season and Murcer was a big reason, with his 21 homers and 77 RBI's through early August. But they folded down the stretch and Bobby's numbers declined with them. A decent '78 followed and then a slow start in '79. That June he returned to the Yankees first as a backup to and then a replacement for Mickey Rivers. He was around long enough to spend a month with his friend Thurman Munson. When the Yankees held their first game following Munson's death, Murcer gave a nice eulogy and then went out and got five RBIs to win the game. In both '80 and '81 he did a nice job as part of a revolving outfield group, hitting .267 with 19 homers and 81 RBI's in just over 400 at bats those two seasons; he also finally saw his only playoff action those years..He then played out the rest of his career in NY, mostly as a reserve and DH, retiring in '83.  He finished a .277 hitter with 252 homers and 1,043 RBIs. He played in five All-Star games and in the post-season hit .091 with a couple walks in his eight games.

Murcer almost immediately went into broadcasting after his playing career. He was behind the mike before '83 ended and remained in broadcasting the rest of his life. In 2006 he was found to have a brain tumor and although it was aggressively treated he passed away from it in 2008. He was 62.

The stats show the three best years of Murcer's career. I guess he was a righty golfer.

I will utilize an earlier-mentioned player for the exercise:

1. Murcer and Elliott Maddox '74 Yankees;
2. Maddox and Jackie Brown '71 and '73 Rangers.