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.

1 comment:

  1. If I were to make my "dream set" I would have team checklist inserts like these. My team cards would also be like the 1974 cards, but the pictures would be sharper.