Thursday, June 30, 2011

#192 - Mario Guerrero

Here we have Mario Guerrero's first solo card. He gives us his infielder pose in Oakland in front of a huge pile of dirt so it's probably early in the season. Mario would be the guy who got between two longer player stints at shortstop for the Sox: Luis Aparicio and Rick Burleson. In '73 he came up top and as a rookie provided infield backup in the middle. He would knock in the game-winner in the first Carlton Fisk/Thurman Munson brawl game and generally fielded pretty well. He would prove to be a bit combative himself but we'll get to that below.

Mario Guerrero was born in the Dominican Republic and was signed there by the Yankees in '68. He would alternate good and not-so-good hitting years for them as he moved through their system reaching Triple A Syracuse in '71. He had consistent trouble in the field - his pre-season scouting reports in both '72 and '73 indicated he needed to work on his range at shortstop - but improved his errors total substantially in '72 when he also put up his finest hitting numbers. Ironically that season he was the player to be named later - this would be a pattern - in the Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater trade earlier that year with Boston so he finished up at Louisville, then Boston's Tripe A affiliate. He had a rookie card in '73 on which he was paired (trioed?) with Pepe Frias and Ray Busse, two NL guys to be.

Coming out of spring training in '74 Guerrero was named the winner over Rick Burleson as heir to Little Louie at shortstop. He would start a bit more than half the games that season while bettering his average a few points and again providing decent defense. But he was dissatisfied with the way things were going and would hold out during '75 spring training. Bad move and Mario would be sent - for a player named later - to the Cards also for Jim Willoughby. With St. Louis in '75 he did a little time in Triple A Tulsa while up top he hit .239 in a backup shortstop role.

Guerrero's stay in the NL would only last one season as he would be sent to the Angels for Ed Jordan and a player to be named later, Ed Kurpiel (both career minor leaguers). The next two seasons for California would be his best offensively with a .284 average as he split starting time with the other inhabitants of the revolving door at shortstop (see Rudy Meoli from a couple posts back). After the '77 season he would leave California - the team, not the state - and sign with the Giants as a free agent. Right before the season began in '78 he was the player to be named later as the last of seven guys and cash sent to Oakland for Vida Blue. That year Mario would be the outright starter at shortstop, taking over from the lighter-hitting Rob Picciolo, and hit .275 in what was by far his busiest season. In '79 the younger Picciolo returned and outhit Mario, winning back starting rights. In '80 Billy Martin became manager and was a fan of Mario's fiery nature, returning his starting status and naming him co-captain with Dwayne Murphy. While Murphy's appointment worked well, Mario was apparently anything but a stabilizing force in the locker room and with only a .239 average for the seaaon was sold to the Mariners that December (I wonder if the cash came later?). Seattle would release him before the start of the '81 season. The line on him was this: a .257 average with 170 RBIs. He did put the ball in play striking out only 150 times in his career.

After his playing time ended, Guerrero would return to the DR and would work as a sort of independent talent scout. His name would appear in headlines in the Nineties when he sued some of his "discoveries" that later went to the majors for a percentage of their earnings. Just recently he was named as part of a group running a baseball camp down there.

Ironically Mario gets props for his defensive work in the minors. The cartoon is a bit of a reach since his stats already dictated that bit of info. On this card Mario is listed as 5'9". By '76 - see here - he gets upgraded to 5'11". His maternal name would be familiar to Wall Street guys back then. It was the trading symbol for Anheuser Busch. Maybe his brief time in St. Louis was destiny.

Mario is the last of a short AL run. I get to use a former Pilot:

1. Guerrero and Marty Pattin '73 Red Sox;
2. Pattin and Al Fitzmorris '74 to '76 Royals.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#191 - Al Fitzmorris

Al Fitzmorris is giving us a good look at the old school Royals away jersey in this shot. The newer road jersey was the pullover that most Royals on this blog have been photographed in so far. This may mean that this photo is from a season other than '73 but whenever it is it is a spring training shot in what appears to have been a drought year given that not a blade of grass in the background appears green. 73 would be Al's first consistently good MLB season which is ironic since he started it back at Triple A Omaha - where he went 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA - before moving back to KC in July. From there on it was nearly all rotation work as he turned in an excellent second half record and a very good ERA. His combined win total of 17 was the highest of his career. This card is also the last card Al would be sans mustache.

Al Fitzmorris was born in Buffalo and moved to San Diego where he was a high school star in baseball, football, and basketball (he gets good props for that last sport on his '73 card). He was signed by the White Sox in '65 as an outfielder out of Johnson County Community College in Kansas. He started off well enough, hitting .292 in D ball, but only .223 in A ball after being promoted. In neither place did he exhibit much power and after a similar run in A ball in '66 - .237 with 45 RBI's in 337 at bats - he took some tentative steps toward pitching. Early results were good enough (a 1.29 ERA in four games) that in '67 he moved to the mound full-time and went 14-8 with a 2.27 ERA. The next season he won 11 with a 2.73 ERA. It looked like the move to pitching was working for him but he was still in A ball and the Sox left him unprotected in the expansion draft, allowing the Royals to grab him. He would spend that first season at Triple A, winning ten games. After a bit of pen time in KC that year, he came up full-time in '70.

Fitzmorris would spend his first two seasons in KC as a spot starter/long reliever, posting a good record with a sub-par ERA. In '72 the record reversed itself as he spent almost all his time in the pen, posting three saves as the long guy. After Al's nice return in '73 in '74 manager Jack McKeon put him in the rotation. The next three seasons Al would post some solid numbers: 13-6 with a 2.79 ERA and a career-best four shutouts in '74; 16-12/3.57 for his best MLB victory year in '75; and 15-11/3.06 in '76. In the playoffs that year Al would rather famously not pitch as Whitey Herzog dumped his lefty starters against the primarily left-handed Yankee lineup. That winter Al found himself in a familiar place - unprotected in an expansion draft. He was picked by Toronto and immediately traded to the Indians for Alan Ashby and Doug Howard.

Unfortunately Futzmorris would be the other big pitching bust for Cleveland in '77 - Wayne Garland got the most of that thunder as a free agent signee - going 6-10 with a 5.41 ERA. After a couple games in the pen to start the '78 season he was released. The Angels nabbed him pretty quickly and Al went 1-0 with a 1.71 ERA in nine games. He was only under a one-year contract though and he left as a free agent after the season. He then signed with Hawaii, San Diego's Triple A club, as a pitcher/coach. There he threw well enough but never made it back in what was his final season. Al went 77-59 with a 3.65 ERA, 36 complete games, eleven shutouts, and seven saves. As expected, he was a pretty good hitter, putting up a career .242 MLB average.

Since playing, away from his activities described below, Fitzmorris has been a salesman for a few different manufacturing companies and has been a color guy for Royals broadcasts for some years. He has also done community work for the team. There is a very informative interview with him here.

These are some pretty good star bullets. The first is pretty amazing, given Al's MLB tendencies. He got those K's in 198 innings. In the majors, he was notoriously low in the strikeout department, averaging about three every nine innings. He put up a complete twelve inning game in which he struck out one guy. As a fielder he had three successive seasons with no errors. That last bullet is pretty cool; Al hit .290 that year with four doubles in nine hits. Lastly this is the second year in a row Topps reminds us Al was a singer. He still does that and writes a bunch of music.

All AL here. The recently departed Killer helps out:

1. Fitzmorris and Harmon Killebrew '75 Royals;
2. Killebrew and Tony Oliva '64 to '74 Twins.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#190 - Tony Oliva

Tony Oliva shows his swing in Oakland. This park had sort of a nasty association for Tony since it was there in '71 that he tore up his knee fielding a grounder in the outfield. That injury destroyed all his cartilage in the knee and forced him to basically miss the '72 season to do rehab. It was thought that his career was over but the card title gives a hint to its revival. After Orlando Cepeda, Tony is the second guy exclusively depicted as a DH in the set. And like Orlando, Tony had a big revival year in '73, putting up a nice average and posting power stats that compared nicely to those before his injury. That new DH rule really was a life-saver to some bad kneed former All-Stars.

Tony Oliva is a Cuban who grew up on his dad's plantation with four brothers and five sisters. His birth name is actually Pedro but he assumed the name Tony when he borrowed his brother's passport to come to the States in '61 to play ball. Signed by the Twins that spring he went to camp in Florida and hit well but was cut because anyone non-white couldn't play for the Florida development team. Having nowhere to go - Cuba had just been ruled off-limits for travel - he found some friends in Charlotte and went up there. It was another Twins franchise and the owner of it, Phil Howser, liked what he saw in Tony, convinced the Twins to re-sign him, and then sent him to Wytheville, another D team. All Tony did was hit .410 for him there. In '62 Tony moved to Howser's team, a Single A one, and hit .350. That was followed in '63 by a .304 season in Triple A. All three years he showed pretty good power as well and his fielding improved tremendously over that time. In his two brief call-ups those last two seasons he hit well over .400.

In 1964 Oliva would have one of the best rookie years ever, becoming the first rookie to lead a league in hitting and generating considerable power. He led the AL as well in doubles, hits, runs, and total bases. His stats would get him Rookie of the Year and a place on the Topps team. But by mid-year '65 he was hitting only .250 with torn up knees and a bad knuckle on his hitting hand. One result of that was his propensity to let the bat fly on some big swings since he couldn't hold onto it properly and in his games lots of players on the bench would wear batting helmets. Another result was that everyone thought the dreaded sophomore jinx had struck. But that was laid to rest as he pulled his average up to .321 and had a comparable season to his rookie one. '66 would be another .300 season but '67 to '68, while good, were off for Tony due to his problem knees. He revived big the next three seasons, getting over 100 RBIs the first two years and winning the batting title in '71 despite barely being able to walk the second half of the season.

In '72 the injury hit hard and while Tony was rehabbing himself and re-generating his magic at the plate, he couldn't field at his former level by a long shot. The DH rule saved his career and '73 was a nice comeback year. He would continue to DH for the Twins through '76 though the big power days were behind him and retired after that last season with a .304 average, 220 homers, and 947 RBIs in 15 seasons. He made eight All-Star teams and won a Gold Glove. In the post-season he hit .314 with three homers and five RBI's in his 13 games.

Oliva began coaching for Minnesota his last playing year, which he did through '78 up top. He then pulled the same role in the minors from '79 to '84, returning to Minnesota from '85 to '91 (he was hitting coach for both Series winners). Since then he has been a minor league hitting coach for the team.

Tony has some excellent star bullets. He would not better any of those numbers during the remainder of his career.

These guys faced each other in the '65 Series. We hook them up with a great nickname:

1. Oliva and Jim "Mudcat" Grant '64 to '67 Twins;
2. Grant and Jim Brewer '68 Dodgers.

Mudcat Grant threw for Cleveland a few years before coming to the Twins in '64, just in time to help lead the team to the Series the next year. His 21-7 record was by far his best and though injuries would derail his career a bit, he put together another nice season in '70 as Oakland's bullpen ace. His last years he also threw for LA, Montreal, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh, finishing in '71.

Monday, June 27, 2011

#189 - Jim Brewer

Here Jim Brewer poses at Shea - we can't seem to get away from NY these past few posts - with some chaw near the end of his productive time with the Dodgers. While his ERA came up a bunch, it was still very good and '73 was his first All-Star selection season and his final big save year with 21. A close look at Jim's right eye reveals that it's a bit off. That is courtesy of Billy Martin who sucker-punched our boy Jim here after Billy believed that latter guy threw at him. The punch landed Jim in the hospital with a broken jaw and a broken orbital bone that took three operations to fix. That happened in Jim's first season up top in 1960. He is the second Jim on this blog - Jim Ray Hart was the first - who had a rough start to his MLB career. Maybe it was a thing back then.

Jim Brewer was born in California, grew up in Oklahoma, and was signed by the Cubs in '56. He took a while to get going in D ball but in '58 - '59 won a total of 19 games as a starter in B ball. In '60 he went 8-5 for Triple A Houston with a 3.38 ERA and that got him his call up to Chicago and the introduction to Martin's fist. That altercation would put him out of action the rest of the season. In '61 he returned to the Cubs and spent his whole time there. But by the end of his second season he was a combined 1-10 with an ERA approaching 6.00. That got him a ticket back to Triple A in '62 where he went 10-10 with a 4.31 ERA in the rotation. In '63 he was back in Chicago but it was another mediocre stat year and after that season he was sent to LA with Cuno Barragan (that's a great name) for Dick Scott.

Before his first spring training for the Dodgers Brewer ran into a guy named Warren Spahn who fixed the younger guy's screwball, moving his thumb up to the side from the bottom of the ball. That small change was enough to turn Jim's career around and he would go on to ten-plus seasons as an effective LA reliever. In '64 he posted his first decent ERA. In '65 he knocked it down to under 2.00 in a very nice but short season. He also got some Series innings for the champs. The season was short due to some calcium deposits that developed in his elbow. Those would be cleaned out after the season and that operation would contribute to only a few innings thrown in '66, some of them back in the Series. But in '67 things took off. That year some starting time got him his first and only season of over 100 innings and saw his ERA drop by a run. From '68 on it was all relief and for the next three seasons, Jim would average nearly 20 saves a season as well as over a strikeout an inning. In '70 he peaked with 24 saves in a year he ironically posted his highest ERA during that run. In '71 and '72 the ERA would drop to well under 2.00 and he maintained the 20-save pace.

In '74 Mike Marshall took nearly all the relief innings in his big record year so Brewer's appearances dropped significantly and his saves to zero although his numbers were still pretty good and he got his final post-season work. In '75 he began the season 3-1 but the ERA shot up to above 5.00 and in mid-season he went to the Angels for David Sells. There he had a good finish and a nice '76 after which he retired. Jim finished with a record of 69-65 with a 3.07 ERA, a complete game shutout, and 132 saves. His post-season work consisted of a 2.70 ERA in three innings.

Brewer moved right into coaching following his playing career, first with the Expos ('76 to '78) and then, to be closer to home, Oral Roberts University ('79 to '86). Starting in '82 he also picked up some work back in LA, teaching the kids in the minors his screwball in the wake of the Fernando craze. In '87 Jim was killed in an auto accident just shy of his 50th birthday.

Jim gets only one star bullet but it's a good one. His screwball was devastating when he was on. Once a heckler told Jim that without that pitch he'd be back at the copper mines in Oklahoma. Jim, who knew a few things about his adopted state, told the guy that they didn't mine copper in Oklahoma. When the idiot asked what they did mine there, Jim's reply was "Their own business." Pretty good.

Two former California guys get a quick hook-up:

1. Brewer and Rudy Meoli '75 Angels.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#188- Rudy Meoli

Rudy Meoli gets a rookie card shot at - where else? - Yankee Stadium. There are a lot of shots there in this set. Maybe the boys at Topps figured the place would be off-limits the next two years so they were compensating. Rudy was number two in a long line of shortstops used to replace the recently departed Jim Fregosi (Leo Cardenas was the first). None would be the starter for more than one season until Tim Foli in '82 to '83. In '73 Rudy grabbed the starting shortstop job after Cardenas went to Cleveland. While his offensive numbers were nothing special he would make three great plays that season to help save both of Nolan Ryan's no-hitters.

Rudy Meoli was born in upstate NY and moved to California as a kid. He was drafted out of high school by the Angels in '69 and then put up great numbers that season in Rookie ball. He then posted generally good middle infielder stats as he rose through the ranks and reached Triple A by '72.  In '74 most of his season was spent back in Triple A where he hit .308. Up top that season most of his games were at third and while his average rose a bit , it did so on only 90 at bats. In '75 he backed up everywhere in the infield but first, but his average slipped down to .214 and after the season he was sent to San Diego with Bobby Valentine for Gary Ross. Before the '76 season began he went to the Reds for Merv Rettenmund. For Cincy he played shortstop and then second at Triple A Indianapolis but with All-Stars ahead of him at each spot he wasn't coming up in a hurry. Down there he hit .261 that year and upped his average to .286 in '77 and than before the end of that year he went to the Cubs. For Chicago he hit .293 in Triple A and played third but didn't get too much time up top, and he would get released after the season ended. The Phillies signed him as a free agent before '79 and he began the season on the roster but only hit .178 as a backup and was sold to the Twins that June. For them he played at second and third at Triple A and was then released. He would sign briefly with the Giants but would not be on a roster by the time the '80 season began. That would be all for baseball for Rudy. His numbers included a .212 average although he did hit over .280 for his minor league career with a .385 OBA.

Not too much print on what Meoli did following baseball. There is a Rudy Meoli listed at various places in Anaheim and Fullerton, California, who is described as an officer in a solar engineering firm and who holds various patents by himself and through the firm of solar-based implements. If that is this Rudy - the initials are all the same - he seems to have thrived since baseball.

Rudy gets star bullet props for his defense. Up top in his only significant season he led shortstops in errors in '73 but those numbers would improve markedly later.

So Baylor and Meoli played for the same team, just a couple seasons apart:

1. Meoli and Frank Tanana '74 to '75 Angels;
2. Tanana and Don Baylor '77 to '80 Angels.

Friday, June 24, 2011

#187 - Don Baylor

Look how thin Don Baylor is! Hard to believe but when this guy first came up he was as much a threat to steal a base as hit a home run. Or get popped with a pitch. In his sophomore year of '73 this Don capitalized on Don Buford's departure to Japan which gave Baylor more playing time and his numbers picked up pretty well, especially his average by 33 points. It was also a season of firsts: his first season of over 30 stolen bases; his first post-season action; and his first year to lead the league in hit by pitch. For that last stat Don would ultimately lead the league eight times. Here, like many future Yankees, he gets a shot at Yankee Stadium in this set.

Don Baylor was an Austin, Texas kid who excelled at baseball and football in high school. Football would be a big influence on his baseball career: in '66 when he was a safety he made two successive hits with his right shoulder, the first pinching the nerve and the second dislocating the joint. Those injuries would pretty much wreck his throwing arm which would later contribute to his time as a DH. Don went to Blinn Junior College from where he was drafted and signed by Baltimore in '67. He kicked things off pretty well that season with a big year in Rookie ball, then put up pretty much identical numbers between three levels in '68, and then boosted his power a bunch the next year in Double A. Then in '70 he won the TSN Minor League Player of the Year with a big year in Triple A. After another year of similar numbers in '71 he would reach the O's outfield for good in '72 with Frank Robinson's departure to LA. Don's numbers that year were good enough to get him a spot on Topps' Rookie Team that season. His '74 was a pretty good comp to the prior year and in '75 he would set personal bests for Baltimore with 25 homers and 76 RBIs, the best power numbers by an Oriole outfielder since Frank Robinson's glory days.

In '76 Baylor was the other side of one of the big Oakland breakup trades, going to the A's with Mike Torrez for Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman. The fans expected Don to take Reggie's place as the big power guy but he wasn't that kind of a hitter. In an otherwise forgettable season, Don would steal 25 straight bases en route to a total of 52 as part of a team that set the single-season record and nearly got to another division title despite reduced pitching. But it was a short stay as Don would be one of the first official big name free agents and go to the Angels, along with teammate Joe Rudi and former teammate Bobby Grich. Hopes were high in Anaheim for '77 but Grich and Rudi got hurt and Don felt the wrath of the fans when another losing season resulted even though he put up comparable numbers to those of '75. He would ratchet things up seriously in '78 (34 homers and 99 RBIs) and then lead California to the division title in '79 with his MVP season. It was also his only All-Star season as he led the league with 139 RBIs and 120 runs while bashing 36 homers. He also played every game including two months during which his shoulder was dislocated. Pretty amazing numbers for a guy that injured.

1980 would be a big disappointment for Baylor as he broke both his wrist and a toe, missed a considerable part of the season, and saw his numbers tumble hard. After the strike season of '81 during which he had a nice bounce, he put up a pretty good year for another division-winner in '82, with 24 homers and 93 RBI's. By then the bulk of his time was spent at DH. He would then go the free agent route again, hooking up with the Yankees for three seasons. Two of those years he won the Silver Slugger at DH and during his NY time he averaged 24 homers and 88 RBI's. In '86 he went to the Red Sox for Mike Easler and in his last full season he won another Silver Slugger - 31 HR's and 94 RBI's - and got plunked 35 times. He also finally won a post-season series. During '87 he got sent to the Twins for their pennant run.That year he won everything and contributed by hitting nearly .400 in the two post-season series. He then went back to Oakland in his final season, again returning to the Series. For his career, Don hit .260 with 338 homers and 1,276 RBIs. He had over 2,100 hits, 285 stolen bases, and was HBP 267 times, a record when he retired. In the post-season he was a .273 hitter with four homers and 21 RBIs in 38 games.

Baylor successfully moved into coaching and managing after he played, starting right up in the majors. He coached for the Brewers ('90 to '91) and Cards ('92) before taking the job as he Rockies' initial manager in '93. In '95 he took the team to a wild card spot and won Manager of the Year. He remained with Colorado through '98 then managed the Cubs from 2000 through half of '02. In between he coached the Braves. In '03 to '04 he coached for the Mets and then the Mariners in '05. After some time away - some doing commentary - he returned as hitting coach for Colorado in '09 and then the Diamondbacks this year. His managing record to date is 627-689.

Don's Texas roots are showing in his personal info. He also gets some props for his last two minor seasons. The poetry angle is pretty interesting. His signature looks like he was trying to conserve paper.

Baylor takes a couple guys to get to Scherman:

1. Baylor and Jason Thompson '80 Angels;
2. Thompson and Mickey Stanley '76 to '78 Tigers;
3. Stanley and Fred Scherman '69 to '73 Tigers;

Thursday, June 23, 2011

#186 - Fred Scherman

Here's Fred Scherman in spring training, his last one with the Tigers. In '73 Fred suffered in part the downside of fellow reliever John Hiller's continued amazing renaissance from his heart attack as his hill time declined, his ERA popped, and he only had one save. Fred looks pretty sedate standing in a huge outfield posing his stretch shot. I guess he didn't know that his best pitching years were behind him.

Fred Scherman was another Ohio kid who went to Ohio State. He was signed by the Twins after his sophomore season in '64 although he would eventually return to finish his degree. After a successful start in Class A (14-13 as a starter with a 2.33 ERA) he was selected that November in the first year draft by Detroit. He would spend the bulk of the next two seasons in Class A Rocky Mount where he would go a combined 11-13 with a 3.55 ERA. In '67 he hit Double A and in '68 Triple A where his numbers would be excellent - 15-9 with an ERA just above 2.00 - but by now his time was almost exclusively spent in the pen. After a '69 in which he was back in the rotation at Triple A he got into a couple games up top.

The next few seasons would be Scherman's best in the majors. In '70 he became a regular in the pen, mostly as a middle guy. In '71 he stepped up during John Hiller's absence and had his best season, finishing 40 games and adding 20 saves to his 11 wins. In '72 he put up over 90 innings and had 12 saves along with another nice record. He also pitched well in his short time in the playoffs. Following his reduced '73, this trade took him to the NL.

For Houston, Scherman would not have a great run. Expected to be at least part of the closer solution his record in '74 was 2-5 with an ERA north of 4.00 and only four saves. After a weak start in '75 he was sold to Montreal and put up his best numbers since '72 in long relief duty and some spot starts. He stuck with the Expos in '76 but his ERA bloated to nearly 5.00 and he was released. The next year he hooked up with Pittsburgh's Triple A Columbus team and did OK (6-8 with nine saves and a 3.90 ERA) but couldn't stick. He finished with a lifetime record of 33-26 with a 3.66 ERA, a complete game, and 39 saves. In the post-season he gave up no runs and recoreded a strikeout in an inning of work. In the minors he went 52-47 with a 2.92 ERA.

There is a Fred Scherman Jr. listed in Ohio who does chemical testing for corporate accounts and this Fred apparently got an engineering degree at Ohio State so there's a good chance it's the same guy. Other than that there is zilch out there on his career after playing.

This Traded card isn't horrible. It is a Detroit away uniform shot with a red touch-up around the hat brim. I just saw "Bridesmaids" - very funny - and in this shot Fred has a passing resemblance to the guy who played the cop.

Fred's '71 season was quite good. That year he would finish second to Ken Sanders in the AL Fireman race. He did give up Frank Robinson's 500th home run so he is somewhat immortalized whenever those lists come up. The cartoon is another period one - I don't think anyone "tinkers" with stereo equipment any more.

Now this is a Topps faux headline that actually works with its Civil War reference. The Tigers would arguably get the better of the trade as Sutherland would be their starting second baseman for two years. That 69-game appearance wasn't broken until '84 by Willie Hernandez in his MVP season.

Finally, Scherman gets hooked up to Cardenal like this:

1. Scherman and Andre Thornton '76 Expos;
2. Thornton and Jose Cardenal '73 to '76 Cubs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#185 - Jose Cardenal

Jose Cardenal gets a "5" card. That's pretty cool since he was in the midst of his best years and has one of the best smiles in the set, laughing away at Candlestick. It's a pretty fitting pose for a guy whose '73 numbers would get him Chicago Player of the Year. Towards the tail-end of his career Mets fans used to call him "Jose Can you See", apparently as a referral to his strikeouts, but I never thought that fair as this guy didn't whiff all that much. But the Mets sucked then so I guess the fans needed an outlet. It turned out that the initial reference was to a spring training game he asked out of because he claimed his eyelids were stuck shut. That plus the time he asked out of a game because a cricket had kept him up all night helped cement his reputation as a kook.

Jose Cardenal was signed by the Giants out of Cuba in '61. He ripped through a season of D ball that year (.351 with 35 homers). After a poor '62 at Triple A he banged 36 at Double A in '63. In '64 he returned to Triple A and hit .289 with 12 homers. But like Jim Ray Hart on an earlier post, Jose couldn't crack the Giants' outfield, getting a total of 20 at bats and before the '65 season he was sent to the Angels for Jack Hiatt. In California Jose would prove to be less of a power guy and more of a speed guy. In '65 he stole 37 bases, hit .250 and made the Topps Rookie All-Star Team. In '66 he would boost his average 26 points but the following year his numbers and playing time came down because of injury. After that year he went to Cleveland for Chuck Hinton. In two seasons for the Indians Jose hit .257 and stole a total of 76 bases. He then went to the NL, traded to the Cards for Vada Pinson. In '70 he topped his previous highs in RBI's and average by a bunch, but in '71 the average dropped huge and he was sent to the Brewers in mid-season for Ted Kubiak. While he boosted his average a bit with Milwaukee, his real achievement that season was a new lifetime high in RBI's with 80. That December Jose was traded to the Cubs for Jim Colborn and Brock Davis.

For the Cubs, Cardenal blossomed. For the next five seasons, '72 through '76 he would average over .300 with 29 doubles and 25 stolen bases per season, while also reporting consistently good OBA numbers. While he had a reputation as a hot dog and a flake he was able to generate some pretty good power out of his relatively small frame. He was also a fan favorite as well as an enervating force in the locker room.

In '77 the Cubs overhauled their outfield, sending Rick Monday to LA, and Cardenal's playing time decreased mightily. Following the season he was traded to the Phillies for a guy I never heard of, Manny Seoane. For a year plus, Jose would do a decent job as a backup outfielder. He got some playoff work in the '78 NL series. In mid-'79 he was sold to the Mets in the middle of a double-header between the two teams. That trade occurred the same day that Thurman Munson died. Jose would break his hand shortly thereafter and miss most of the rest of the season. He would do some pinch-hitting in '80 before being released that August. He was soon picked up by the Royals for help during their pennant drive and would hit .340 for them the balance of the season, again in a limited role. That year he got some post-season time in the Series and he hit .200, missing a couple clutch opportunities. That would be the end of his playing career. Jose hit .275 with 138 homers, 775 RBIs, 333 doubles, and 329 stolen bases. His post-season average was .188 in six games.

Following his playing career, Jose would coach in Latin America and in the States at the minor league level. By the early Nineties he was back in the majors for the Reds ('93), the Cards ('94-'95), the Yankees ('96-'99), Tampa Bay (2000-'01), and back in Cincinnati ('02-'03). In '05 he was named assistant to the Nationals' GM and I believe he still has an administrative spot with the team.

This card is awfully crooked. Jose gets star bullet props for a couple amazing plays in '68. Thanks to baseball-reference a little digging gives the narrative for the two plays: on June 8 a shallow fly by Don Wert allowed Jose to grab Jim Freehan returning to second; and on July 16 with two on Jose made a running catch of a line drive by Chuck Hinton of California - the guy for whom he was recently traded - and kept going, picking off Jim Fregosi. Both plays happened while Sam McDowell was on the hill. Jose is one of very few guys to pull off the Bobby Bonds special in the minors: in '63 he had over 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in Double A and in '61 he pulled the same trick in D ball. He is a cousin of Bert Campaneris. Like Luis Tiant by the time of this set he hadn't seen his parents for 13 years since they were still locked in Cuba. Jose doesn't have the parenthetical name thing going which is odd for Latin guys in this set.

The big trade helps get Jose with the Rangers:

1. Cardenal and Fergie Jenkins '72 to '73 Cubs;
2. Jenkins and Jeff Burroughs '74 to '75 Rangers;
3. Burroughs on the '73 Rangers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#184 - Texas Rangers Team Card

We segue from one of the Texas Rangers' most successful managers ever to the Rangers themselves. Here we get a typical Topps team card in which almost nobody is recognizable because the damn thing is so blurry, though I can make out some guys. That's big Jim Bibby in the back left next to some guy who seems not to know which way to face. It also looks like David Clyde is present as well as Whitey Herzog in the manager seat. With those two pitchers present, then, this is definitely a mid- to late season photo. This is also the first team card that featured the scoreboard with that huge map of Texas on it. It was the second year for the Rangers in their new home.

1973 would be an all too typical season for these guys. Despite a fast start by Alex Johnson and the emergence of some new talent - particularly Jeff Burroughs and Mr. Bibby - the Rangers would already be out of the running by late June. The Clyde debut around that time would be a shot in the arm and a late-July streak in which they won six straight would piggy-back that to bring some hope but in the end Rico Carty was a bust, Herzog got frustrated and was let go to be replaced by Billy Martin in September, and the team ran up its second straight 100-loss season. I COULD get super expansive on the team itself due to its coverage in one of the best all-time baseball books, "Seasons in Hell" by Mike Shropshire, but rather than do that I would hate to deny anyone the pleasure of that read. Suffice it to say that the '73 Rangers were such a you-know-what show that they went through three pitching rotations that season and managed to frustrate a manager - Herzog - who cut his teeth on the Mets when they were truly awful (before he fixed them). That is some achievement.

The checklist front is loaded with "J's" and would appear to be more so if new guy Fergie Jenkins didn't begin his last name with an "S" for some reason. It's a very democratic card as every position is represented by a signature. The normal mix of formal signings and everyday names is here as well.

The Senators/Rangers, being a relatively new and to date unsuccessful team, get all their annual records on the back of the card. That '69 season under Ted Williams stands out. Here, again, a bunch of the record holders have cards in this set. Bios on the guys that don't follow:

Frank Howard had two of the best nicknames in baseball: The Capitol Punisher; and The Washington Monument. Also called Hondo, he was actually active in '73 as a DH for Detroit but it was his last season. A huge kid from Ohio at 6'7", he attended Ohio State where he was All-American in both baseball and basketball. He was drafted in hoops but instead signed with the Dodgers in '58. After a decent start in the minors that season he had a killer year in a '59 split between the two top levels (.342 with 43 homers and 126 RBI's) and won TSN Minor League Player of the Year. He had another hot start in '60 and was promoted to LA where his numbers (.268/23/77) were good enough to win NL Rookie of the Year. After a '61 in which he was hurt, Hondo rallied in '62 to post his best numbers in LA (.296/31/119) but over the next two seasons, despite a '63 Series in which he hit .300, he found himself being platooned and asked for a trade. It came following the '64 season as he went to the Nats in a big deal. He put up some good numbers the next couple seasons but really took off in the '67 to '70 seasons when he averaged 43 homers and 110 RBI's. He led the league in those stats twice and once, respectively and after some tutoring from manager Williams upped his walk total to grab a couple .400+ OBA seasons. By '72 his bad knees had drained his power considerably and he went to the Tigers late that season. In '74 he hooked up with a team in Japan but got injured his first at bat and retired. He hit .273 with 382 homers and 1,119 RBI's in 16 seasons and played in four All-Star games. Beginning in '76 he would coach or manage at various levels for the Brewers, Mets, Braves, Mariners, Yankees, and Tampa. He briefly managed in the majors for the Padres in '81 and the Mets in '83 where his combined MLB record was 93-133 and he went 89-120 in the minors.

Chuck Hinton came out of NC and attended Shaw University, a school also attended by Maury Wills. Upon graduation Chuck was signed by the Orioles in '56 and got a decent start that year in the low minors. He then lost '57 and '58 to the Army, returned in '59, and alternated between good and not so good seasons in the minors the next couple years. During that time Baltimore decided to turn him into a second baseman from the catcher he'd been until then. After the '60 season he was drafted by the Nats for whom he had a good year in Triple A and was moved to the top. For them Chuck proved to be versatile as he would spend time at every position but pitcher. In '62 he had his big year, leading the team in every major offensive category while bumping between all three outfield positions and second. He was the last Senator to hit .300. By '63 he was running his own insurance agency and that year would grab 12 triples. In '64 a hot start would get him on the All-Star roster but after the season he would go to Cleveland for Bob Chance and Woody Held. In '65 he had his season high with 18 homers but his power numbers would decline over the next two seasons and in '68 he went to California for a season for Jose Cardenal. It was a poor year and Chuck returned to Cleveland for Lou Johnson where he would play a utility role his last three seasons. He would hit .264 with 114 homers and 443 RBI's and 130 stolen bases. He would then become the Howard University baseball coach for 28 years and help establish the Major League Players' Association.

Ron Kline was a local kid signed by the Pirates on the recommendation of Pie Traynor in 1950. For the next three seasons he pitched pretty well in the minors, reaching Double A. He came up top late that season but didn't show too much, going 0-7 with a fat ERA. After spending '53 to '54 in the service he returned to Pittsburgh where he would spend most of his time in the rotation through '59 and go 53-83 for some awful teams. Despite having an average ERA over that period he would lead the league twice in losses. After another dismal season for the Cards in '60, Ron was sold to the new Angels and then taken off waivers by the Tigers, who turned him into a reliever. They sold him to the Nats before the '63 season and it was then that he hit his stride, going 45-31 with 95 saves and an average of 65 games through the '68 season. In '65 he also led the league in saves with 29 and his game total was a record that would soon be broken. In '67 he pitched for the Twins and '68 was a triumphal return to the Pirates (12-5 with a 1.68 ERA in 112 innings). That was his last hurrah as he would put up sub-par numbers for various teams through '70, his final season. After a career in which he went 114-144 with a 3.75 ERA, 44 complete games, eight shutouts, and 108 saves he would return to his hometown, sell jeeps, and become mayor. He passed away at 70 in 2002 from heart and liver problems.

Denny McLain was discussed on the Detroit Team card.

Tom Cheney was signed by the Cards in '52 and got off to a slow start in the low minors, going 21-24 his first three seasons. But from '55 to '57 he would go a combined 38-25 while moving up to Triple A. After losing '58 to the Army, he would return to Triple A in '59 and get a couple games up top. He would also get attacked at his home that year by a slasher with a fish scaler who nearly cut off his arm. Tom survived that and in '60 went to the Pirates for Ron Kline, among others, and got a few starts along with some innings in the Series (he struck out six Yankees in four innings). He then moved to the Senators where he had a horrible '61 and got more time in the minors. He returned to DC in '62, got some starting time, and would set a record that year with 21 strikeouts in a complete-game 16 inning win. He would assume that same role - spot starts and relieving - over the next two seasons. For those three years Tom would win a total of 16 games and seven of those wins were shutouts. During the '64 season he hurt his arm and despite a couple comeback attempts his career was over by '66. He went 19-29 with a 3.77 ERA, 13 complete games, eight shutouts, and two saves and went 76-69 in the minors. In the post-season he had a 4.50 ERA in three innings. He then settled in Albany, Georgia where he worked for a home oil distribution company. He died there in 2001 at age 67.

Frank Bertaina was signed by the Orioles in '61 out of high school in San Francisco. In '62 he had 13 wins in C ball, which got him moved up in '63 to Double and Triple A ball. From '64 to '66 he would have a combined record of 33-10 at those levels as well as some time in Baltimore during which he went 3-5 with a 3.22 ERA. That last season he had knee surgery and in '67 he went to DC with Mike Epstein for Pete Richert. That season he went 6-5 in the rotation and all four of his complete games were shutouts. But '68 was pretty messy (7-13 with a 4.66 ERA) and he led the league in wild pitches. In '69 he had a poor start and got sent back to the O's and in '70 he moved to the Cards. He did put up some good numbers in the minors during that time but nothing special up top and he was released following the '71 season. Overall he went 19-29 with a 3.84 ERA, six complete games, and five shutouts, and 72-47 in the minors. After he played he would relocate back to the west coast where he became a revered fisherman, ran a lodge, and started and ran a business that arranges fishing trips throughout the world. He passed away in 2010 at 65.

Camilo Pascual is the best pitcher of the bunch. Signed out of Cuba by the old Senators in '52, he flew through the low minors and was up by the end of the '54 season. He took a while to mature, easing into the rotation from the pen, and by '58 was putting up good numbers. Things took off in '59, when he won 17 and led the league in complete games and shutouts. He would lead in each of those categories twice more and also lead in strikeouts every season from '61 to '63. In '62 and '63 he won 20 and he was named to five All-Star teams during his career. In '65 the Twins finally got to the Series and despite being hurt much of the year, he would start one game in it, losing to LA. After an off '66 Camilo was traded back to DC, to the new Senators for - who else? - Ron Kline. The next two seasons he would be the Nats best starter, winning 25 with excellent ERA's. '68 was his last good season and after a poor start to his '69 season, he would move to the Reds, LA, and Cleveland, who would release him in '71. Camilo posted a record of 174-170 with a 3.63 ERA, 132 complete games, 36 shutouts, ten saves, and 2,167 strikeouts. In the post-season he was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in one start. He would later coach for the Twins and since '89 has worked as a scout for various teams, primarily in Central and South America.

The Rangers had two guys that got significant at bats without cards. Larry Biitner played the outfield and first base and Rico Carty DH'd and played outfield. Carty went to the Cubs during the season and Biitner would go to the Expos for '74. That's over 600 unrepresented AB's. Other guys without Ranger cards have them elsewhere: Mike Epstein (Angels), Vic Harris (Cubs), and Bill Madlock ( a rookie card with the Cubs). On the pitching side, guys with cards on other teams include Sonny Siebert (Cards), Mike Paul (Cubs), Rich Hand (Angels), and Dick Bosman (Indians). With them, 50 wins and 84 losses are represented in the set. The other decisions went to: Steve Dunning (2-6 with a 5.34 ERA) in the middle of his short stay with Texas, where he was known as Steve Stunning; Charlie Hudson (4-2/4.62 with a save), a young guy who only pitched a couple years and may still be the only MLB pitcher to go on the DL because he shot himself; Don Stanhouse (1-7/4.76/1), a reliever who would go on to have some big years with Baltimore at the end of the decade; Don Durham (0-4/7.59/1) and Jim Kremmel (0-2/9.00), a couple young guys in their first seasons; and Rick Waits, future Indian (0-0/9.00/1). Overall, there is not a terribly great representation in the set, but then again, each team only got about 25 cards.

We get to the '73 Rangers from to-be manager Oates like this:

1. Rico Carty was on the '73 Rangers;
2. Carty and Hank Aaron '63 to '72 Braves;
3, Aaron and Johnny Oates '73 to '74 Braves.

Friday, June 17, 2011

#183 - Johnny Oates

Johnny Oates' action card at Shea is from the same game as Davey Johnson's. Again that looks like Tom Seaver in the dugout so he didn't pitch - the only game Seaver pitched against the Braves at Shea that season was a complete game win - so we can eliminate one game of the six these guys played each other there. That's the only digging I feel like doing to figure out which game this was. Johnny looks like he's legging out a hit to the right side of the field during his first season for Atlanta. It would be cool if it was the July 7th game where Johnny had a pinch-hit single and DJ homered, but that's just conjecture. In '73 Johnny took over starting Atlanta catching duties from the guy for whom he was traded after the prior season, Earl Williams. A very good defender, he wouldn't match Earl's bat pop and that year he would get the most at bats of his major league career.

Johnny Oates was born in North Carolina, played high school ball in Virginia, and continued things at Virginia Polytechnic (now Virginia Tech) where after a sophomore season in which he hit .410 he was drafted by the White Sox in '66. He said no thanks, hit .342 his junior year, and was drafted and signed by the Orioles. The next three seasons he moved up the minor league ladder, displaying very good defense and pretty good averages but without much power. In '70 between Triple A Rochester and Baltimore he only had 34 at bats so he may have been hurt. He would spend all of '71 at Rochester and then have a '72 rookie season for the O's where he pretty much split the catching chores with Andy Etchebarren. He led league catchers in fielding percentage (.995) and after the season went to Atlanta with Davey Johnson, Pat Dobson, and Roric Harrison for Williams and Taylor Duncan.

In '74 Oates again got the most games as catcher but his average dropped to .223 and the following season he was sent to the Phillies with Dick Allen for Jim Essian and some cash. There he split time with Bob Boone and had his best offensive season, posting a .286 average and a .349 OBA. He was again slated to swap equal time with Boone the next season but in his first start in '76 Johnny was steamrolled at the plate by Dave Parker and broke his collarbone. That injury also pretty much wrecked his playing career. In '77 he went to the Dodgers for Ted Sizemore where he would be pretty much the third-string catcher the next three seasons. In '77 he would hit .269 in 156 at bats but that was the last season he would get up over 100 times. He would be released right before the '80 season and then sign as a free agent with the Yankees for whom he would do his back-up thing sparingly two more seasons. That would end Johnny's career in which he hit .250 with 14 homers and 126 RBI's. He also hit .333 in three games in the post-season.

Oates would be another guy who jumped right into coaching. From '82 to '83 he managed in the Yankees' chain. From '84 to '87 he coached for the Cubs. He then moved back to the Baltimore organization where he managed in the minors ('88), coached ('89-'90) and managed ('91 - '94) the O's, where he would revive the franchise and win Manager of the Year in '93. But O's owner Peter Angelos would fire him during the '94 strike and in '95 Johnny would take over managing the Rangers. He would lead the team to its first ever post-season appearances and again win Manager of the Year in '96. He would keep that gig through early 2001 when he would resign after what he thought was a horrible start. His overall managing record was 797-746. Later that year a brain tumor would be found and Johnny would pass away from brain cancer in 2004 at age 58. He is another guy about whom I could find not a bad word said while researching this post.

The All-Star team in the second star bullet was a Single A one. I never heard that nickname while Oates was playing but that's too bad because it's a pretty good one.

This hookup is not so short but the Hall of Famers come in handy:

1. Oates and Hank Aaron '73 to '74 Braves;
2. Aaron and Hoyt Wilhelm '69 to '70 Braves;
3. Wilhelm and Lindy McDaniel '57 Cards

Thursday, June 16, 2011

#182 - Lindy McDaniel

Lindy McDaniel gets a double post near the end of his career. '73 was one of his best seasons at 37 years old. Along with his 12 wins he had ten saves and he pitched 160 innings, the most in a season since his days as a starter. In one game he relieved in the first inning against the Tigers and gave up one run the next 13 innings to win the game. Here in a spring training shot he's showing off his forkball grip on a follow-through pose in sunny Florida. Lindy had three out pitches: fastball, curve, and that forkball, which he threw very low so that when it broke it was already just above the batter's knees. When the pitch truly worked it was virtually unhittable; in one of his early seasons he got 51 strikeouts and gave up only three hits on the pitch. It was a mighty contributor to Lindy's longevity.

Lindy McDaniel was a farm kid from Oklahoma who was a star baseball player in high school and American Legion ball. His senior year in school he threw two no-hitters - and lost both of them! He was a bonus baby, signed in '55 by the Cards for $50,000. He only got into 19 innings that season so '56 was really his rookie year and it was pretty good as he relieved and threw some spot starts. In '57 he was in the rotation and impressed everyone so much that the Cards went and snatched up his younger brother Von as a $50,000 bonus baby also (Von would shut out the Dodgers in his first start, go 7-6 his rookie year, blew out his arm and be done in the majors at 19. He tried to revive his career Rick Ankiel-wise in the minors but didn't hit well enough to make it back.). The next season was a bit of a flop - he spent his only time in the minors that year - so Lindy asked brother Von to teach him his forkball. In '59 armed with his new pitch he moved to the pen and led the league in saves with 15. It was a good prelude to his '60 season when he again led the league in saves, this time with 27, and was the first reliever to receive Cy Young votes, coming in third. He was an All-Star that season and it was also around that time that he began his streak of 225 straight games without an error. But '61 was pretty much a downer, despite his 10-6 record, and Lindy compensated by messing with his forkball. He would start to get things right in '62 when he returned to his original mechanics and double digits in saves with 14. After the season ended Lindy was sent to the Cubs in the deal that brought George Altman and future Met Don Cardwell (fitting) to the Cards. In '63 Lindy gave nearly a repeat performance of his '60 season - both years he was TSN's Fireman of the Year - by winning 13 and saving 23. He would then go through a period of alternating good and not-so-good seasons for mediocre teams.

He would also move around a bit . Before the '66 season McDaniel went to San Francisco in a trade that gave the Cubs Randy Hundley and Bill Hands. One would be an All-Star and the other a 20-game winner but Lindy went 10-5 his first season with six saves and helped to stabilize the bullpen. After a disappointing '67 in '68 he went to the Yankees for Bill Momboquette - Lindy definitely won that one - where outside of an off '71 during which he was hurt he put up very nice numbers for six seasons. In '68 he had a streak in which he retired 32 straight hitters. In '70 he had 29 saves. And in '72 he had a nice year as a set-up guy to new bullpen ace Sparky Lyle. After two decent seasons with the Royals following this trade Lindy would hang them up and finish 141-119 for his career with a 3.45 ERA, 18 complete games, two shutouts. and 172 saves.

McDaniel moved right into his next career following playing, a church ministry at which he is still active. 

The Traded card appears to be a closeup from the same site as the regular card (note the palm tree over Lindy's right shoulder. But the whole cap is pretty sloppy. Plus Topps really didn't have a photo that didn't highlight the double chin? This card doesn't get to be an ugly one but it comes pretty close.

No room for star bullets here. Lindy continued to hold that rank when he retired but he was later passed by others and is now 16th in games pitched behind number 15, Goose Gossage, who gave Lindy props at his HOF induction. Lindy is tied for 17th in games finished and had 119 wins in relief which is second all-time to Hoyt Wilhelm.

Sometimes the boys at Topps would get clever with the headlines, but I don't think this one really works. This trade was a pretty huge win for the Yankees.

Given McDaniel's duration, this one should be quick:

1. McDaniel and George Brett '74 to '75 Royals;
2. Brett and Cesar Geronimo '81 to '83 Royals.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#181 - Cesar Geronimo

Here we have Cesar Geronimo doing that bat-pointing thing at Candlestick. It's funny how many guys who were mediocre hitters - Cesar is fresh off the worst hitting season of that part of his career - were in that pose in this set. But the guy he shared the center field spot with in '73, Bobby Tolan, didn't have a great offensive year either and after the season would be traded to the Padres, giving Cesar full access to the position. Plus Cesar could field and he had a gun (he'd also have a couple pretty good seasons later at the plate) and a half. He once threw out Cesar Cedeno at home in a game in the DR from 385 feet away. He was instrumental in turning the Big Red Machine into Series winners.

Cesar Geronimo was signed as a free agent from the Dominican Republic by the Yankees in '67. He would only get into a few games in the lower minors that season as the NY organization recognized the strength of his arm and tried to make a pitcher out of him. In '68 they wised up and he put in a more or less full season in Single A where he hit only .194. That December Cesar was selected by the Astros in the Rule 5 draft and in '69 he was elevated to Houston. But he barely played for the Astros and over the next three seasons he would be confined to mostly late-inning defensive or pinch running work. In November of '71 he would be part of the big trade to the Reds where he would enjoy his greatest baseball success.

Initially, Geronimo would share center field with incumbent Tolan. After Bobby's trade, Cesar started off his solo role pretty well, hitting .281 in '74 while topping out in runs and RBI's, but the average tumbled 65 points the following season. When he took over center in '74 he was an immediate hit defensively as well, winning the first of four successive Gold Gloves. Over those four seasons he would also average .278, erasing his offensive liability tag. He would peak at the plate in '76 when he hit .307 with 53 RBIs from the eighth spot. In the '75 and '76 Series he did pretty well also, hitting .290 with two doubles, a triple, and two homers as the Reds won both. From '78 to '80 Cesar would lose playing time to new outfielder Dave Collins and he would then go to the Royals his final three years, where he did defensive work and was released following the '83 season. Along the way, Cesar would be the 3,000th strikeout victim of both Bob Gibson and Nolan Ryan. He ended up hitting .258 with 40 homers and 354 RBI's and his .990 fielding average in center is 34th best all-time. In the post-season Cesar hit .167 with three homers and eleven RBI's in 36 games.

Geronimo would return to the Dominican Republic full-time once his playing career ended and both scout and run clinics for Japanese teams. He has also been involved in institutionalizing baseball in local high schools.

Topps was pretty much grasping at straws to fill in the star bullets here. Cesar had a 9.00 ERA in that one game. He may or may not have been discovered by the Yankees playing softball in the DR.

Two more Series opponents:

1. Geronimo and Don Gullett '72 to '76 Reds;
2. Gullett and Ken Holtzman '77 to '78 Yankees.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#180 - Ken Holtzman

Now these yellow uniforms look pretty cool but that may be because when I was a kid they were associated with a winning team. Ken Holtzman gets an action card to commemorate his best season. his second consecutive All-Star year and his only season of 20 wins. That is either Billy North or Angel Mangual in center behind him at Oakland. Being that Ken was both a left-handed pitcher and Jewish he was of course dubbed by the creative minds of the day "the next Sandy Koufax." So much for original thinking.

Ken Holtzman was from St. Louis where he excelled in baseball. He then played at the University of Illinois where he was All Big Ten in '65 and despite all the activity listed below would graduate in four years with a BA in Business. '65 was also the year he was drafted by the Cubs following his sophomore year and that season he went a combined 8-3 with a 1.99 ERA in Rookie and Single A ball before pitching a few innings up top. In '66 he moved right into the Chicago rotation and put up pretty good rookie numbers, despite going 11-16 (the Cubs went 59-103 that year). He beat Koufax 2-1 the only time he faced him in his career that year and also experienced alternate raves and putdowns by manager Leo Durocher for the first time. '67 would be an interesting season: limited to just twelve starts because of military duty, Ken went 9-0 with a 2.52 ERA and was named one of TSN's Pitchers of the Year. He returned to the rotation full time during '68 but again had a losing record. In '69 Ken began the season 10-1, threw a no-hitter against the Braves and would finish with 17 wins. He got off to another strong start in '70 and matched his prior year win total. That year he also topped 200 strikeouts for the only time in his career. They would be his best seasons with the Cubs as in '71 his ERA bloated and he only won nine games, although he did throw his second no-hitter. He spent a considerable amount of time that year in Durocher's doghouse and not enjoying that too much asked to be traded. He was accommodated, as luck would have it, by being sent to Oakland for Rick Monday.

Holtzman excelled during his time with the A's. He would post a combined record of 77-55, or an average of 19 wins a season. A curveballer who favored groundouts he took advantage of Oakland's better defense in riding his record to four pennants and three Series championships. He excelled for Oakland in the post-season and in '72 was a first time All-Star. Tellingly, he would go to arbitration after every season with owner Charlie O Finley and eventually that relationship would lead to his departure.

Immediately prior to the '76 season the great Oakland Unload began, with Holtzman and Reggie getting sent to the Orioles for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez, and Paul Mitchell. Ken's O career started pretty well but that June he was sent to the Yankees in a big trade with Elrod Hendricks, Grant Jackson, and Doyle Alexander for Rick Dempsey, Rudy May, Tippy Martinez, and Dave Pagan. For the balance of the season Ken won ten games but was not used in the post-season. He was player rep for the Yanks and a ten-year guy by this point, both of which would piss off NY owner George Steinbrenner, since Ken would veto most of George's trade ideas. Over the next year-plus George and Billy Martin would wreck Holtzman's career by only using the pitcher in 23 games over that time span. In June of '78 he would finally be traded - back to the Cubs for Ron Davis - but the damage was done and Ken would go 0-3 in 23 games the remainder of the season. After a 6-9 year in '79 he was released and hung them up. For his career Ken went 174-150 with a 3.49 ERA, 127 complete games, 31 shutouts, and three saves. In the post-season he stepped things up, going a combined 6-4 with a 2.30 ERA and a shutout in 13 games. He hit well in the post-season as well, posting a .308 average with three doubles and a homer (all his post-season hits went for extra bases).

Ken gets props for his no-hitters in his first star bullet. He was economically savvy and he would move right into being a full-time stockbroker when he finished playing. He was also a successful insurance salesman and would be retired by '98. He lives around St. Louis and ran an activity center there and also managed in the inaugural 2007 Israel Baseball League (Ron Blomberg was a manager as well). There is an on-line video interview with Ken from 2008 but my computer crashed when I tried to watch it so beware.

These two Series opponents get the double hookup. For Yogi as manager:

1. Holtzman and Ron Guidy '76 to '78 Yankees;
2. Guidy managed by Yogi Berra on the '84 to '85 Yankees.

Now as player:

1. Holtzman and Roy White '76 to '78 Yankees;
2. White and Joe Pepitone '65 to '69 Yankees;
3. Pepitone and Yogi Berra '62 to '63 Yankees.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

#179 - Yogi Berra/ Mets Field Leaders

Hey, it's Yogi! In pinstripes! The wrong kind, for old-timers, but he doesn't seem to care. Yogi is the first HOF player to have a manager card in this set (we already had Walt Alston but he went to the Hall for his managing). In fact Yogi just made the Hall in '72 about a year before this photo. 1973 would be one of those character-building years for Yogi. Plagued by injuries to every starter except Felix Millan, his Mets were still in fifth place in the NL East at the end of August. And Yogi had to listen to a month of rumors about how Billy Martin was going to replace him (ironically that did happen but not for another ten years and for a different team). But good pitching kept his guys close and a 19-8 tear in September won them the division. Then he surprised the Reds in the NL championship and took the A's to seven in the Series. For all that he was rewarded with a crappy team in '74 and a dismissal the following season. But he was still an icon.

Even in '73 Yogi Berra had already been around baseball forever, having been signed by the Yankees in '43 out of his St. Louis high school. After a season in the B Leagues he went overseas for WW II at 19 and saw some pretty serious action. He returned in '46 and hit .314 with 15 homers and 59 RBIs in half a season at Triple A Newark. He was up top by the end of that season and by the end of the following season was NY's regular catcher. Then followed 15 All-Star games, three MVP seasons, lots of World Series, and lots of malaprops. Yogi played for the Yanks through '63, moved to the coaching side and managed them to a Series in '64 and was then fired and replaced by the guy who beat him that year, Johnny Keane. Yogi then moved across town to Shea and coached for Casey Stengel. He also played a little bit in '65 which was his last season as a player. He finished with a .285 average, 358 homers, and 1,430 RBIs. In 2,120 games he only struck out 414 times. In the post-season he hit .274 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 75 games.

Yogi coached the Mets from '65 to '71. When Gil Hodges died of a heart attack before the '72 season began, Yogi was named to take his place. He managed the Mets most of the way through the '75 season and then went back to the Yankees to coach. He did that through '83 and then managed the Yanks for '84 and a couple games into the '85 season. Then George Steinbrenner fired him and replaced him with Billy Martin. Yogi avoided the Yankees for a long time after that and wouldn't return to The Stadium until George apologized. Yogi's managerial record was 484-444. He later coached for the Astros and in some way, shape, or form has been connected to baseball ever since.

Roy McMillan I talked about on the Mets' team card. The link is here.

Like a bunch of coaches on other posts, Joe Pignatano began his baseball life as a Dodger. Signed by hometown Brooklyn in '48 he spent three years in D ball. He must have had pretty good wheels because in '50 he hit 17 triples. He then lost a couple seasons to military duty and returned to B ball in '53. He worked his way up the Brooklyn system reaching Triple A in '57 and then playing a couple games for the Dodgers at season's end. He spent the next three seasons backing up John Roseboro at catcher in LA. In '61 he was sold to the A's for whom he had his biggest season (.243 with four homers and 22 RBI's in 243 at bats). He was then traded to the Giants for Jose Tartabull - Danny's dad, although that's getting to be an old reference too - and after playing very little that July went to the Mets. His last at bat that season he hit into a triple play which pretty much summed up the season for both Joe and the Mets. After putting in some time at Triple A for the Mets and Baltimore he was done. He hit .234 with 16 homers and 62 RBIs in 307 games for his career and in the minors hit .259. He moved right into coaching, hooking up with his friend Gil Hodges in Washington ('65 to '67) and then following him to the Mets in '68. He was with Gil when the manager had his heart attack. Joe stuck with the Mets through '81 and became famous locally by planting a vegetable garden in the Shea bullpen. He then coached in Atlanta - with Joe Torre - from '82 to '85. He coached a couple more seasons in the minors and then retired. He still lives in Brooklyn.

Rube Walker was signed by the Cubs in '44 out of high school in North Carolina. Like Yogi and Joe, Rube was a catcher. From '44 to '47 he climbed the Cubbies' chain . In that last season he hit 22 homers at Double A while hitting .331 (he hit nearly .300 during his minor league career) which got him up to Chicago in '48. He hit .275 his rookie year backing up Bob Scheffing. It would be the highest average of his career. He continued his reserve role until mid-'51 when he was part of a huge trade that moved him and Andy Pafko to the Dodgers for a bunch of guys. Both Rube and Pafko were on the field for the Bobby Thomson playoff homer that year. Rube backed up Roy Campanella through '58 when he was released. He hit .227 for his major league career. He then became a manager in the LA chain, playing as well his first couple seasons. From '59 to '64 he went 418-466 running Double A and Triple A teams. His career arc then pretty much paralleled that of Piggy above: Washington ('65 to '67), the Mets ('68 to '81), Atlanta ('82 to '84). He then scouted for the Braves and the Cards until he passed away from lung cancer in '92 at age 66. Rube was credited with developing the great NY arms during his tenure as well as instituting the five-man rotation the Mets frequently used.

Eddie Yost was also signed in '44, he by the Senators. He'd attended NYU - he was from Brooklyn - and would eventually get a Masters in PE there. He never played in the minors and between some token at bats for the Nats in '44 and '46 he pulled his WW II military stint. He became the regular third baseman in '47, a position he held until prior to the '59 season when he was traded to the Tigers to make way for a new third baseman, a guy named Harmon Killebrew. While in DC Eddie led the league in doubles once and in walks four times, recording a superb OBA. His nickname was "The Walking Man." He led the league in walks both seasons in Detroit as well, where he also had his two highest homer totals. Griffith Stadium in DC was huge and it was thought that if Yost had played his whole career in Detroit, he would have had at least 100 more homers. After the '60 season, he went to the Angels in the expansion draft and was their first ever batter. After two seasons in LA he was done as a player, finishing with a .254 average, 139 homers, and 683 RBI's. He walked over 1,600 times and his OBA was .394. He returned to Washington to coach for the new Senators, first under ex-teammate Mickey Vernon and then under Gil Hodges. He too followed Gil to NY where he coached through '76. He then went to Boston where he stayed through '84. He then retired to Wellesley, Mass where he still resides. Eddie has a very interesting baseball-reference bullpen page. It is pretty brief but the author knows his stuff about baseball.

Since Yogi played forever I get to do the double hookup, first as manager:

1. Berra managed Tug McGraw from '72 to '74;
2. McGraw and Garry Maddox '75 to '84 Phillies.

Then as player:

1. Berra and Roger Maris '60 to '63 Yankees;
2. Maris and Orlando Cepeda '67 to '68 Cards;
3. Cepeda and Willie McCovey '59 to '66 Giants;
4. McCovey and Garry Maddox '72 to '73 Giants.

Friday, June 10, 2011

#178 - Garry Maddox

Another action shot and this one is pretty cool. At least the subject's cool as Garry Maddox awaits a pitch at Candlestick. Garry had a big heart, big brains, and big hair when he played. And he had some pretty serious wheels; his nickname was Secretary of Defense for his ability to run down fly balls in center field. With the '73 outfield addition of another Gary - Matthews - this Garry improved big on his very good rookie year numbers by posting a .319 average and setting a career MLB high with 76 RBI's. Garry is one of the more interesting players in the set so let's get to it.

Born in Ohio, Garry Maddox grew up in California and was drafted by the Giants in '68 after a year at Los Angeles Harbor Community College. That season was spent mostly in Rookie ball with a late call-up to Single A. He then experienced a different kind of call-up when he was tagged for military service the next two years, including a year in Viet Nam where he was a perimeter guard in some pretty hot spots. While there Garry was exposed to some chemicals which made the skin on his face and neck very sensitive and made shaving painful. Thus developed the stylish facial hair he sported throughout his career thereafter. He returned in '71 where he put up a very nice season back at Single A Fresno. In '72 he got bumped all the way to Triple A where he was killing it so much that a few games into the season he was promoted to San Francisco, influencing the trade of Willie Mays to the Mets. There, Garry joined Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson in one of the league's better outfields and put up good enough numbers to make Topps' - and other's - Rookie All-Star Team.

By '74 Maddox was considered an above-average fielder. During that season he decided that he could be much more valuable in the field by moving in substantially, turning a bunch of potential singles into outs. To do this he had to master running back to cover longer hits and this he did, thereby earning his nickname. He was very smart and very fast and was one of very few fielders who could have pulled off that defensive shift. When he played he tended to position himself just beyond the infield for the start of each at bat and adjust his position during the batter's time at the plate. He would hit .284 that year. In '75 the Giants traded Bonds for Bobby Murcer and also acquired Von Joshua, giving them three potential center fielders, a move that didn't make much sense given Garry's success at the position to date. Both his playing time and average dipped early in the season and that May he was sent to the Phillies for Willie Montanez.

It was a superb move for Phiadelphia as Maddox went on to hit over .290 the rest of the season and win the first of what would be eight consecutive Gold Gloves. In '76 he hit .330, came in fifth in MVP votes, and was a big contributor during the first of three successive division titles. In '77 he set lifetime highs in homers with 14, and in '78 he topped 30 stolen bases for the only time. He won a Series ring in '80 and returned in '83. By then his playing time was falling and after a couple more seasons he would retire. Garry finished with a .285 average, 117 homers, and 774 RBIs. He also stole 248 bases and while baseball-reference doesn't show any All-Star listings, I am pretty sure he made at least one team in the mid-'70s. Post-season he hit .271 in 29 games with eight doubles and 11 RBIs. And defensively he ranks in the top 45 for putouts, assists, and double plays in center field.

Maddox really turned it on after he played. He enrolled at Temple University and later received an honorary doctorate degree. He began a concessions company which he later sold. By '95 he acquired a majority interest in and became CEO of a Philadelphia-based furniture company, A. Pomerantz. In 2003 he was named to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve; he's got to be the only former major leaguer to pull that one off. While playing he did a bunch of work for underprivileged kids and victims of violence. That work later segued to his annual BBQ bake-off he holds at the stadium in which proceeds go to his Youth Golf and Academics program. In baseball he has done some spring training coaching and announced for the Phillies PRISM network before it shut down. He's been a busy guy.

That one star bullet is pretty impressive. I don't ever remember hearing that nickname in the cartoon. Then again I was on the wrong coast. Garry's son, Garry III played ball for a bunch of years in the Nineties, but didn't crack the major leagues. I know I've got some of these suppositions wrong before, but had he, I am pretty sure the Bonds-Matthews-Maddox Giant outfield of '73 -'74 would have been the only one whose kids all played in the major leagues.

Here's a rookie from the next year's set to link these two:

1. Maddox and Greg Gross '79 to '85 Phillies;
2. Gross and Dave Roberts '74 to '75 Astros.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#177 - Dave Roberts

This is one of the set's two Dave Roberts, this one being the pitcher fresh off his best season, in the cow pasture in which most Astros have been photographed. Dave set his personal high in wins with 17 in '73 and he arguably should have been a 20-game winner: in six starts in which he got no decision in the first half he put up a 2.62 ERA in 32 innings so even if you only give him an even record for that span, he got to 20. Just bad luck I guess. At least Dave gets to stand in a nicer part of the park than Preston Gomez or Al Gallagher did. Although he's standing still here, Dave was an itinerant soul while playing and Houston would be his most permanent and successful stop.

Dave Roberts was signed by the Phillies upon departing high school in Ohio in '63. After a nice year at Single A he was snatched off waivers by the Pirates. For Pittsburgh Dave labored the next five seasons while moving up the minor league ladder. He had particularly good seasons in '66 (14 -5 with a 2.61 ERA in Double A), '67 (5-1 with a 2.18 ERA before he got hurt at Triple A), and '68 (18-5 with a 3.17 ERA in Triple A). He was then plucked in the expansion draft by the Padres. In '69 Dave would have an OK season at Double A before being called all the way up to San Diego where he had a less than fruitful season out of the pen. He also re-injured his shoulder which by then had bursitis. Dave began '70 in the pen again but eventually worked into the rotation and, despite going 8-14, knocked a run off his ERA. At one point during the season he had ten straight losses during which time the Padres supported him with a total of 16 runs. '71 would be a big deal for Dave. Although he again had a losing record, he won 14 and came in second to Tom Seaver in NL ERA. He also got a bunch of props from his competition, including a couple Astros, Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn. It wasn't too surprising, them, when Houston picked him up after the season for Bill Greif and Derrel Thomas.

Houston was good times for Roberts. In '72, despite his ERA popping over two runs, he put up his first winning season. '73 was very nice as he pulled the ERA back below 3.00. The next two seasons Dave went a combined 18-26, however, as the team's fortunes sort of reversed course. Following the '75 season Dave went to Detroit with Milt May and Jim Crawford for Leon Roberts and a bunch of guys that wouldn't play too long. In Houston he'd averaged 12 wins a year and his first season in Detroit he won 16 with a 4.00 ERA and 18 complete games, his career high. But '77 was a disaster as the bursitis returned along with arthritis in his hands. After going 4-10 for Detroit with an ERA above 5.00 he was sold that July to the Cubs where he came back to earth out of the pen. '78 would be his last season with significant starting time. He also hit .327 for the Cubbies that year. Dave then signed with the Giants as a free agent and put up pretty good numbers before he was part of a big trade: Bill Madlock, Lenny Randle, and he to the Pirates for Al Holland and Ed Whitson. In Pittsburgh he did a nice job - 5-2 with a 3.27 ERA - as the long guy and spot starter. He got some action in the NL championship but not in the Series. In '80 he was sold to the Mariners and in '81 finished things up with a few games for the Mets. Overall Dave went 103-125 with a 3.78 ERA, 77 complete games, 20 shutouts, and 15 saves. In the post-season he threw a scoreless inning and for his career he hit .194 with seven homers.

Dave moved around a bit after baseball. He had done some off-season industrial work on boilers and other welding and steel work. He worked at a detention center and did some volunteer work as a local high school coach. In '96 he presented a trophy to the Potomac State coach for winning the two-year college championship and then became their pitching coach for three seasons. But he later contracted lung cancer from asbestos poisoning from his earlier job and passed away from it in 2009. He was 64.

Dave's '66 and '68 seasons were mentioned above. He still holds that team shutout record.

To hook these two up I am going to use a recent post:

1. Roberts and Gene Clines '77 to '78 Cubs;
2. Clines and Mike Hargrove '76 Rangers;
3. Hargrove and John Lowenstein '78 Rangers.