Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#236 - Red Schoendienst/Cardinals Field Leaders

In 1973 Red Schoendienst was in the middle of a long - and generally successful - run as manager of the Cards. He would need that experience to deal with the streaky season his team had. Although Joe Torre started the season off by channeling his '71 MVP year (hitting .343 through early June), St. Louis stumbled out of the blocks, winning three games in all of April. Their infield was in a bit of disarray as Ted Sizemore went down with a hamstring pull and Ray Busse, their new golden boy shortstop, had a case of stage fright. They climbed back to .500 by late June and were in first place at the All-Star break. Mike Tyson came up to solidify the infield, the bullpen was finally coming around, and Bernie Carbo got hot in the outfield. Then Bob Gibson went down with a knee injury, All-Star starter Rick Wise had a 1-6 run, and by late August they looked out of the picture. At the end of the season, though, they went on a 5-0 binge and had it lasted an extra weekend, they probably would have won the damn thing. They finished 81-81, one and a half games back.

Red Schoendienst was signed by the Cards in '42 as a middle infielder and hit awfully well while moving from D ball through Double A the next couple seasons. In '44 he was hitting .370 in Double A with 16 steals and only one strikeout in 106 at bats when he was drafted into WWII where he would spend the bulk of the following calendar year. When he returned in '45 he came up to St. Louis where he spent his first season in the outfield and led the NL in stolen bases with 26. In '46 he settled in at second base where he would stay the next ten seasons, nine of them as an All-Star. Red was an excellent defender who could smack the ball at a pretty good clip as well, peaking in '53 when he hit .342 with 35 doubles. Midway through the '56 season he went to the Giants in a big trade that also included Whitey Lockman, another future manager. On almost the same date in '57 Red went to Milwaukee for Bobby Thomson and others and finished the season with 200 hits and third in NL MVP voting. That year and '58 saw him back at the Series - he also won with St. Louis in '46 - in which the Braves went one for two. Then in '59 Red - who'd already had serious eye and arm injuries early in his career - missed just about the whole season to tuberculosis. He returned for a season of backup in '60 and then rejoined the Cards as a player/coach the next three seasons. They would be his final as a player. He'd hit .289 with 427 doubles among his 2,449 hits and only 346 strikeouts. In the post-season he hit .269 in 19 games. He played in a total ten All-Star games and was a lifetime .983 fielder.

Red spent the '64 season as a Cards coach then took over the manager spot when Johnny Keane went to the Yankees following the '64 Series win. He took them to two Series, winning NL Manager of the Year each of those seasons, and managed them through '76 when he was replaced by Vern Rapp. He went to Oakland as a coach for the '77 and '78 seasons, then returned to St. Louis where he coached, managed two interim stints, and worked in admin roles since the early '90's. His record as a manger is 1,041-955. He was inducted into the Hall in '89 and his number was retired by the Cards a few years later.

Vern Benson was signed by the Philadelphia A's in '43 out of Catawba College in North Carolina, where he also grew up. After a token appearance up top he spent until '45 in WWII. He returned in '46 to play a not terribly productive year and was then released. He was picked up by St. Louis, played a couple games for them and then spent considerable time in Triple A, peaking in '51 when he hit .308 with 18 homers, 89 RBIs, and a .444 OBA. But he really couldn't catch on up top and at that level he was done by '53 with a .202 average in only 104 at bats. Vern was primarily a third baseman but also spent considerable time in the outfield. He played as a regular through the '56 season - he hit .248 for his minor league career - and then moved into managing. From '56 to '60 he twice won league championships in the Cards system. Midway through the '61 season he was named to Johnny Keane's staff in St. Louis, and he stayed with Keane through the '64 season there and then moved with him to NY in '65. After Keane was fired in '66 Vern resigned. He moved to the Reds under Dave Bristol and coached there through '69. In '70 he moved back to St. Louis where he remained through '75. He rejoined Bristol in '76 in Atlanta, managed a game there in '77 when he went 1-0 to end a long losing skid (and Ted Turner's managing career), managed in the Toronto system from '78 to '79 (winning one championship) and again rejoined Bristol in '80, this time in San Francisco. That last gig lasted a year and from '81 to his retirement, Vern worked as a scout for the Cards. Vern went 523-502 as a manager and, like Red, is still around.

George Kissell was another infielder who was signed by the Cards out of Watertown, NY in '40. The next couple seasons he hit generally well - over .300 - without much power as he moved from D ball to B ball. In '42 he went off to WWII and when he returned in '46 he continued hitting well and added managing to his resume. He could never get above B ball, however, and retired as a player after the '50 season with a roughly .315 career average. He continued to manage in the Cards system, putting up generally good records through '68. When he wasn't managing he was coaching and doing some scouting. George went 1,116-1,125 as a manager. In '69 he came up to St. Louis where he coached for Red through the '75 season. He then returned to the minors as a roving instructor, tutoring many future stars and traded vets - he taught Joe Torre how to play third base before his MVP season. He remained with the Cards through his death from an auto accident in Florida in 2008 at age 88. The Cards' spring training facility is named after him as is the annual award given to their top-performing minor league manager.

Johnny Lewis was signed by the Tigers out of Alabama in '59 and almost immediately flipped to the Cards. Initially he moved through their system pretty quickly as an outfielder with a decent average and some spotty power, reaching Triple A in '62. He remained at that level through '64 when he made his debut up top, getting in 40 games for the Series winners but no time in the post-season. After the season he was traded to the Mets and was the team's more-or-less regular right fielder for the '65 season. He hit .245 with 15 homers that year but had as many strikeouts as hits and in '66 was pushed to a reserve role by the arrival of Cleon Jones. By '67 he was done in the majors - he finished with a .227 average with 22 homers and 74 RBIs - and spent most of his time back in the minors. In '68 he played a final season for the Phillies' Triple A club and had amassed a .272 average and 132 homers in his minor league career. He then moved on to scout for the Cards through '72 and then joined the team up top as a coach from '73 to '76. From '77 to '79 he managed in the system and then coached at various levels through '84. He again moved to St. Louis from '85 to '89 and was then a roving instructor through '98. In '99 he moved to the Houston system where he has since been a hitting instructor. His managing record is 136-142.

Barney Schultz was signed by the Phillies in '44 out of New Jersey. Beset by a couple arm injuries and general ineffectiveness, he was a combined 49-78 by '52 when he went 17-9 in A ball and leveraged that season to get to Triple A by '54. By then he had moved from the Philadelphia system to Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis. He had also run into Johnny Keane who thought that Barney and his knuckleball were best suited to relief. He occupied that role the next eight years spent mostly at Triple A as he reversed course from the Cards to the Tigers to the Cubs. He had brief sojourns up top for St. Louis in '55 and Detroit in '59, neither of which was terribly successful. In '61 the Cubs pulled him up and he was a regular man out of the pen for the first time in his career, doing pretty well. Early in '63 when he became available, Keane snapped him up in a trade for Leo Burke and he finished that season in St. Louis. In '64 he was sent back down to Triple A to start the season and after going 8-5 with a 1.05 ERA, Keane insisted on his return which came in early August. Barney would go 1-3 with a 1.64 ERA and 14 saves in 30 games down the stretch as he became an integral part in the team's pennant drive. While he didn't perform too well in the Series he did get a ring. After a not great start for a disappointing team in '65 Barney returned to the minors. He would remain at that level through '66, was re-signed in '67 so he could receive a major league pension, and was done. He went 20-30 with 35 saves and a 3.63 ERA in the majors and 155-168 with an ERA around 3.80 in the minors. He became a minor league pitching coach for the Cards from '67 to '70, moved to St. Louis from '71 to '75, and then hooked up with the Cubs' system from '76 to '80 as a pitching coach, spending '77 up top. In '81 and '82 he coached in Japan after which he retired. He returned to NJ where he still resides.

Here goes the double hook-up. First with Schoedienst as a player:

1. Red and Eddie Matthews '57 to '60 Braves;
2. Matthews and Mike Cuellar '67 Astros;
3. Cuellar and Dave McNally '69 to '74 Orioles.

Not too bad. Now for Red as manager:

1. Schoendienst managed Moe Drabowski on the '71 to '72 Cards;
2. Drabowski and Dave McNally '66 to '68 and '70 Orioles.

Friday, August 26, 2011

#235 - Dave McNally

Dave McNally may be the first guy on this blog from Montana. He was pretty much a local icon before, during, and after his baseball life. Here he couldn't be further from home climate-wise as he soaks up some early spring rays in Florida. Even Walt Disney - or at least his name - makes an appearance. Dave was off a '72 during which he got no support and in '73 his win total ratcheted to 17 but his vaunted control began to be compromised as his walk totals nearly matched his strikeouts. Dave had a pretty excellent run in the late '60s to early '70s. Unfortunately he is the second player in a row to fall victim to lung cancer at a rather early age.

Dave McNally helped put Montana baseball on the map in 1960 when he led his American Legion team to its World Series, in which it finished second. Dave went 18-1 that year and received all sorts of attention from scouts. His dad had been killed in WWII so a family friend helped him through negotiations and Dave finally opted for Baltimore and a signing bonus of $85,000, half of which he gave to his mom.By then he had missed the rest of the '60 season so the following year he kicked things off in B ball and a few games in Double A. While that season was a struggle, in '62 he went 15-11 in Single A and by the end of the year he was up top to throw a two-hit shutout in his first start. After a couple losing seasons for some not great O's teams, Dave began progressing nicely, going a combined 24-12 in '65 and '66. Those years peaked in the '66 Series when he threw the final shutout win against LA's Don Drysdale to sweep it.

In '67 McNally had some serious elbow problems which contributed to an off year that included about two months of downtime. He rebounded huge in '68 by winning 22 and sporting a 1.95 ERA, by far the best of his career. His 20-win streak lasted four seasons with the O's reaching the Series the last three, winning it all in '70. By '71 shoulder pain started affecting his pitching although he would generally put up very good numbers the next few years. In '72 he dropped eight wins and posted his first losing season since '64 despite an excellent ERA that included six shutouts. The O's averaged scoring less than three runs a game during Dave's starts that year. After a '74 season in which he went 16-10, Dave was traded to the Expos with Rich Coggins for Ken Singleton and Mike Torrez. It would be a great deal for Baltimore. Dave pitched through a lot of pain but after a start of 3-6 with an ERA over 5.00, he retired. He finished with a record of 184-119 with a 3.24 ERA, 120 complete games, two saves, and 33 shutouts. He was spectacular in the post-season, going 7-4 with a 2.49 ERA and two shutouts in 14 games. He was also a three-time All-Star.

Ironically, some of McNally's most high-profile time in baseball took place after he retired. In '75 Dave played for the Expos without a contract, as did Andy Messersmith with the Dodgers. That status allowed them to successfully file a grievance against Major League Baseball and its reserve clause and in March of '76 the two were officially declared free agents. The player's union encouraged Dave to sign with a team to memorialize the event and though he had a few offers, he knew his arm was toast and he declined. Dave returned to Billings where he ran a chain of auto stores with his brother, for a time was the state's highway commissioner, and coached some ball. One of his players was Jeff Ballard, who went on to pitch for the Orioles. Dave passed away in 2002 at age 60, a couple years after being named Montana's best athlete of the 20th century.

During Dave's 20-win streak he went 85-31. In an American Legion game he struck out 27 batters, including five in one inning. He must have moved the ball around pretty well during that game. He has a very detailed obituary linked to here. Elrod Hendricks would fondly remember him years later wen he said Dave's injuries forced him to stop relying exclusively on his fastball and "learn to PITCH!"

The Pittsburgh connection helps here:

1. McNally and Tim Foli '75 Expos;
2. Foli and John Milner '79 to '80 Pirates.

Good luck to all you fellow east-coasters during Irene.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#234 - John Milner

This guy was a huge fan of Hank Aaron and for a while the big hope in NY was that he would BE the next Aaron. John Milner adopted Hank's nickname, played first and the outfield, and hit at least a few towering home runs. He also picked up Hank's ability to barely move for his first few baseball cards. Night Owl caught this initially, so I will defer to his commentary on that (linked to here). 1973 would be a mixed sophomore season for John. He came out of the gates blasting the ball and in late April was hitting .330 with 13 RBIs. Then he pulled his hamstring stretching for a low ball at first and was the first Mets regular of many to go on the DL, he for three weeks. It was a big deal because he was the only Met outside of Teddy Martinez who was hitting well and NY went promptly into a swoon. When John returned later that spring the homers started coming and even though the average fell hard, he nearly doubled his RBI total, hitting especially well down the stretch. In the post-season he wouldn't exhibit much power but he did get on base at an almost .400 clip as the Mets nearly stole the show. For now let's just say that John was NOT the next Aaron and didn't really come close. But he won as many Series rings as Hank did.

Like his idol, John Milner was a southern kid from out of East Point, Georgia. A multi-sport star in high school, he was drafted by the Mets in '68 and his first two seasons in Rookie and A ball ripped the ball posting high averages and OBA's in the mid-.400s. In '70 (Double A) and '71 (Triple A) the averages came in but the power upticked and by the end of that second year he was in NY for good. In the minors John moved between first base and the outfield and he would continue to do that up top. During his rookie year the Mets got another guy to do that as well whose name was Willie Mays and the first few months of the '72 season when John was the starter he was booed at home because the fans wanted to see Willie. Scoring runs that year was tough for NY and though the ribbies didn't exactly fly of his bat, John's numbers were good enough to get him selected to Baseball Digest's rookie team - Tommy Hutton got that spot on the Topps one - and third place in NL ROY voting.

In '74 Milner had another 20-homer season as he played strictly first but the Mets were pretty bad that year and although it would be his only season of over 500 at bats his RBI totals came in. Then in '75 more hamstring injuries and a horrible start got him on the bench while new Mets Dave Kingman and Joe Torre grabbed time at first. John revived in '76 posting his best numbers in NY - .271 with 78 RBIs and a .362 OBA in 443 at bats - and in '77 would post discounted numbers as the Mets began their slide back to truly awful.

In December '77 Milner was part of a big complicated trade that saw him go to Pittsburgh, Jon Matlack to Texas, and the Mets obtain Willie Montanez from Atlanta and Ken Henderson from Texas. For this John it would prove a beneficial move as he got away from high expectations and fan disappointment in NY and setltled in to manager Chuck Tanner's busy platoon system, splitting time in the outfield with Bill Robinson, and backing up Willie Stargell at first. In '78 his numbers were nothing special but in '79 he tapped the ball pretty well, hitting .276 with 16 homers and 60 RBIs in 326 at bats. In the Series that year he hit well against Baltimore and had an OBA over .450. In '80 his stats retreated a bit and after an injured and not much used start to the '81 season he was traded to Montreal, ironically for Willie Montanez. There he backed up at first down the stretch and then finished things up in '82 playing rarely for the Expos and then back with the Pirates. For his career John hit .249 with 131 homers and 498 RBIs and a .344 OBA. In the post-season he hit .231 with a .367 OBA.

When Milner finished playing he returned to Georgia and for a couple seasons appeared in both Pirates and Mets old-timers games. But his low profile was interrupted when in '85 he was called to testify at the Pittsburgh drug trials where he revealed details of his cocaine and other drugs usage. Granted immunity, he was not punished, but his testimony did serve to sort of blackball him in the baseball world and he went back to East Point where he again went under the radar. He was generally not heard from again on a national scale until 2000, the year he passed away after years of battling lung cancer. He was 50.

In '70, John posted a .422 OBA. He could definitely jack the ball. A lean, muscular guy, John crowded the plate and had very quick wrists. On a Mets fan site, there are remembrances of him hitting one out that was still rising when it hit the scoreboard. There are also lots of posts indicating he was was very willing to give autographs and chat with fans. It seems that despite his issues he was a generally nice guy.

Let's use a fellow first baseman for the hookup:

1. Milner and Dave Kingman '75 to '77 Mets;
2. Kingman and Jim Barr '71 to '74 Giants.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#233 - Jim Barr

I've always liked this card of Jim Barr. On the back it says he was a wrestler in high school and here he looks like he's getting ready to get down on the mat. Other than that Candlestick in this shot looks completely sterile. In '73 Jim worked his way into the San Fran rotation and despite posting a losing record, put up his first of what would be five consecutive seasons of double-digit wins. Like Fritz Peterson, Jim was a big guy with a decent fastball whose real specialty was control (he averaged only two walks per nine innings). He also had an excellent move to first. I just hope the Giants on occasion had some fans in the seats to appreciate all that.

Jim Barr is yet another Cali kid who played very hard to get. While he attended USC he was drafted by and shot down in order the Angels, Phillies, Yankees, Pirates, and Twins. He was finally drafted and successfully signed by the Giants in the third round upon his graduation in '70. While at USC Jim won two College World Series and was teammates with Dave Kingman and Bill Lee. He won the Series game in '70 with eight innings of shutout relief and was 14-2 for the season. From '67 to '69 he also spent summers playing ball for the Alaska Goldpanners for whom he went a combined 19-3 (here is his Goldpanner page), the team's best all-time record. So Jim was a pretty hot property when he went to the minors. He did well his first two seasons, joining the Double A rotation in '70 and relieving at Triple A in '71. That second year he got called up to SF, threw very well and even got some playoff action. In '72 he had a losing record despite an excellent ERA in a season split between the rotation and the pen.

In '74 Barr would better his record by ten wins, drop his ERA over a run, and post a career-best five shutouts. After going 13-14 in '75 with another very good ERA he put up his best season in '76 when he went 15-12 with a 2.89 ERA in 37 games. In '77 Jim began to have injury issues - I believe it was his shoulder or elbow - and his ERA ballooned as his '76 record reversed itself. His ERA returned to earth in '78, his final season as a Giant. While with the Giants - both times - Jim was another guy who posted very different stats in alternate seasons. In odd years he went a combined 42-51 with a 3.93 ERA; in even years his record was 48-45 with a 3.01 ERA. Go figure (well, I guess we just did).

In '79 Barr signed as a free agent with the Angels. That year he went 10-12 as mostly a starter but with some time in the pen as well. His injuries really influenced his time on the mound as he missed the playoffs that year and then most of the '80 season which was otherwise pretty horrible (1-4 with a 5.56 ERA). He was released by the Angels at the end of spring training in '81 and a few months later signed with the White Sox for whom he pitched a couple months in Triple A before he was again released. Prior to the '82 season Jim returned to the Giants where he put up two pretty decent years, mainly in relief. The Giants cut him loose in early '84 and he hooked up for a bit with the Orioles' Triple A Rochester club. But that didn't go too well and he stepped down after a few weeks. Jim recorded a record of 101-112 with a 3.56 ERA, 64 complete games, 20 shutouts, and 12 saves. In the post-season he had a 9.00 ERA in one inning.

After playing Barr would pitch in the MSBL, a senior league for players 40-plus, from '88 to 2005. Since '94 he has been the pitching coach at Sacramento State College. Both his daughters played professional soccer in the States.

Jim's one star bullet takes up a lot of space and it's a good one. It is still the record in the NL - in 2009 Mark Buehrle pulled off 45 innings for the White Sox - and Bernie Carbo hit a double in the second game to break it up. Jim is so far tied with Tim Foli for the shortest name on the blog.

Barr's couple seasons in the AL help here:

1. Barr and Rod Carew '79 to '80 Angels;
2. Carew and Steve Brye '70 to '76 Twins.

Monday, August 22, 2011

#232 - Steve Brye

On another card shot in Oakland we have Steve Brye, center fielder for the Twins. Steve was in the middle of the two busiest seasons of his career when this card came out. After spending the first half of the season as a little-used back-up with a sub-.200 average, Steve was given the center job in late June as Larry Hisle moved to the corner spots and Jim Holt to first base to help make up for the loss of Harmon Killebrew. It worked pretty well for Steve as he played very good defense and pushed his average up a bunch. Like a couple subjects of recent posts Steve was involved in a little bit of controversy but his would not occur for a couple seasons. In a tribute to George Brett, another player in that little drama, Steve swings a bat in this photo loaded up with pine tar.

Steve Brye grew up in Oakland and attended Merritt College there - he also may have attended Portland Community College in Oregon - from where he was drafted as a first rounder by the Twins in '67 as a third baseman. He hit well right off the bat that year in Rookie ball and the next season split between military duty and A ball. In '69 his average slid 100 points but he revived with two big years in '70 - when he was the batting leader in the Double A Southern League - and in '71 at Triple A Portland. It was during that time that he converted to an outfielder. He was pulled up for good later in '71 and did his backup thing behind Bobby Darwin, Tony Oliva, Larry Hisle, Cesar Tovar, and Jim Holt the next two-plus years. In '74 he returned as the starting center fielder - replacing Hisle again - and while he did quite well defensively and hit .283 he wasn't the power source Minnesota felt it needed from that spot. In '75 and '76 he returned to the fourth outfielder role, primarily due to the emergence and stardom of Lyman Bostock. '75 was probably Steve's most productive year offensively with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 246 at bats.

In '76 Brye was playing right field the last day of the season and became - unwittingly or wittingly depending on one's point of view - a factor in that year's AL batting race. In George Brett's final at bat that season he lofted a fly ball that Steve failed to catch and became an inside-the-park home run. It was ruled a hit and got Brett the batting title over his teammate Hal McRae who accused Steve of intentionally letting the ball fall in so Brett would win. Steve probably didn't help his cause by stating that Brett was more deserving of the title since he was an on-field guy that season and McRae was primarily a DH. But all Brye's teammates rushed to his defense, including Rod Carew and Bostock, both black - like McRae - and both also in line for the title themselves (that year only ten points separated the four players and only two points Brett, McRae, and Carew). MLB did an investigation and found nothing to the charge.

In '77 Brye was sold to the Brewers where he again did a reserve thing and was released after the season. He signed with the Pirates for '78 as a free agent then left the same way following the season, unfortunately missing being part of the big '79 year. That year he signed with the Padres for whom he played in Triple A and then retired. Steve hit .258 for his career with 30 homers and 193 RBIs. He is in the top 75 all-time for outfield fielding percentage.

At some point after playing Brye returned to California where he has been relatively low-profile, at least on the web. He has recently played some ball for the Greenwood Ridge Dragons, a senior baseball team based in Sonoma and owned by a local vintner that has done well in national tournaments. He even has a card for that team linked to here. That's all I got.

For the most part Steve was quite a banger in the minors where he finished hitting .296 with an OBA in the .370 area. He never returned to third base in the majors. In '72 he hit .455 in the pinch with a triple in eleven at bats. That would seem to qualify for top guy.

All AL. I could cut this using Jimmy Wynn but he barely played for NY:

1. Brye and Eric Soderholm '71 to '76 Twins;
2. Soderholm and Willie Randolph '80 Yankees;
3. Randolph and Dick Tidrow '76 to '79 Yankees.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

#231 - Dick Tidrow

Here is big Dick "Dirt" Tidrow on what I believe is his last card sans mustache. Unlike many current Indians and Yankees to be he gets his shot taken at Oakland. Off his big '72 season, Dick produced a sophomore '73 year that outside of a much higher ERA was a pretty close duplicate. Dick appears quiet and serene in this photo, a stark contrast to his pitching motion. In the mid-'70s it was interesting to watch a Yankee game where Dirt would set up Sparky Lyle. Lyle had a very smooth, almost poetic motion while Dick looked like he was shot mid-pitch. But for almost five years they were a very effective team.

An aside - or two - is worth mentioning here. I have long been curious about the identity of the player behind Tidrow. It is definitely a Cleveland guy but that number 64 is awfully high. Normally those numbers went to guys trying to make cuts but this is for sure not a spring training photo. It could also be a coach but frankly, this guy looks too fit to have occupied that role. He has a bat in his hand so my guess is that he's not a pitcher. According to baseball.reference nobody listed on its page used that number during the '73 season. My only thought regarding a younger guy would be Tommy Smith, who was huge, which would seem to fit for the guy here. But Tommy didn't come up until September and Cleveland's two series in Oakland happened in April and July. So I am only left with a mid-year call-up who saw no action.

The other aside is that while looking at the games played during those series, in one of them Darold Knowles of the A's got a blown save (and the win) in a game in which he gave up no hits or walks and got out the only two guys who batted against him. Curious to see how that happened, I checked out the box score. In the top of the ninth, singles by Jack Brohamer and Charlie Spikes sandwiched a Chris Chambliss sacrifice to get runners on first and third. Those all happened off starter Catfish Hunter. In came Knowles and with Oakland up 2-1 he got both John Ellis and Dave Duncan to fly out to center. But Ellis' fly scored Brohamer, tying up the game. Hence the blown save. Oakland won it in the bottom of the inning when Bert Campaneris drove in pinch runner Blue Moon Odom. And the Tribe intentionally walked Ted Kubiak - Ted Kubiak? - to get to Campy. One final note: our boy Tidrow here won the prior game with a two-hit shutout.

Dick Tidrow came out of Haywood California's Chabot College - George Mitterwald attended there as well - drafted by the Indians in '67. Dick was a big fastballer and had been drafted by the Senators, Giants, and Reds after high school but opted for a couple seasons at Chabot. In his first two seasons in the minors, '67 to '68, he only pitched a combined 43 innings so he was either hurt or spent time in the military. In '69 he had a great year in Single A going 15-6 with a 2.65 ERA and over a K an inning. He then spent the next two seasons split between Single and Triple A, enjoying only moderate success at the higher level. Then in '72 he had a very good training camp and he began the season in Cleveland and stayed for good.

'72 would be a good rookie season for Tidrow as he became the second most reliable starter behind Gaylord Perry on a pretty bad team, going 14-15 with a 2.77 ERA. His performance got him on most rookie teams and nabbed him TSN Rookie Pitcher of the Year.  In '74 after a couple bad starts he was included in the deal that brought him, Chris Chambliss, and Cecil Upshaw to the Yankees for Fred Beene, Fritz Peterson - of just two posts ago - Tom Buskey, and Steve Kline. Dirt pretty much justified the trade as a solo performer, winning 11 over the balance of the season. In '75 he then took over the role as chief set-up guy for Sparky and did well in that position, going a combined 16-12 with an ERA under 3.00 and 20 saves the next three seasons. In '77 he went 5-0 in seven spot starts and in '78 he spent most of the year in the rotation due to injuries to Catfish, Don Gullett, and Andy Messersmith. Then, much like in '74, after posting a high ERA his first few games in '79, he was traded, this time to the Cubs for Ray Burris. The Cubbies got the better of that one.

Tidrow rallied for Chicago in '79, going 11-5 with a 2.72 ERA, all in relief. He then led the NL with 84 games in '80 and posted his best strikeouts to innings pitched ratio. '81 would be a big step back as his ERA popped to above 5.00 but in '82 he pretty much reversed his record and his ERA came back to earth. In '83 Dick moved across town in a big trade, continuing in relief for the Sox and getting his last post-season time. In '84 he signed with the Mets as a free agent - he is one of only a few guys to play for both Chicago and both NY teams - but his arm was toast and he was released early that season. Dick finished with a 100-94 record, a 3.68 ERA, 32 complete games, and 55 saves. In the post-season he was 1-0 with a 4.01 ERA in 13 games.

After playing Tidrow took his varied skills to management, becoming a scout for the Yankees ('84 to '92) and moving to the front office for the Giants ('93 to present). He has received a great deal of credit for putting together and helping to develop the 2010 Series-winning pitching staff.

Dick gets some notice for his schoolboy achievements. He is the second guy in a row to be on a Topps rookie team. When playing he was a pretty good mentor and got lots of credit from Ron Guidry and Dave Righetti in helping them learn to pitch in the majors. I guess that skill came in handy later.

Let's use another league switcher to hook these guys together:

1. Tidrow and Alex Johnson '72 Indians and '74 Yankees;
2. Johnson and Tony Perez '68 to '69 Reds.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

#230 - Tony Perez

Tony Perez is in the midst of a '73 season that would be his final one of hitting .300 with over 100 RBI's. Tony, a generally happy guy as a player looks sort of pissed here. Or maybe he's just smirking. Maybe he just got back from a fantastic winter in PR and it's too early to be posing for baseball cards. Maybe I should just write the narrative.

Tony "Doggy" Perez grew up worshiping Minnie Minoso in Cuba where he was headed to life in the sugar cane fields until a Reds scout saw him in a company game. He was then signed for pretty much nothing - about two bucks - and whisked away to D ball in upstate NY in '60 when he was 18. He was originally a shortstop and was pretty thin at only about 160 pounds. That year he did ok playing around the infield but he had almost zero knowledge of English and had a tough time. He stuck in D ball in '61, making third base his home, and banging the ball, hitting .348 with 27 homers. He then moved up, not missing a beat, until his '64 season in Triple A where, splitting time between third and first, he hit 34 out with 107 RBIs while batting .309. Along the way he ran into minor league manager Dave Bristol - who would also later manage Tony up top - who put him on an all meat and beans diet, cranking his weight up above two bills.

In '65 after a couple games up in late '64 Perez came up for good, splitting time at first base and putting up good enough numbers to make the Topps rookie team. After a couple seasons of finding his stroke he broke out in '67, becoming the first official member of the Big Three by belting 26 out and posting the first of 11 straight 90-RBI seasons. It was also his first season where he played primarily third up top, as Tommy Helms had moved to second and Pete Rose to the outfield. By '68 the other two members of the Three - Lee May and Johnny Bench - had joined him as full timers and as a combo they would peak in '70 with 119 homers and 371 RBIs between them. Tony himself was a one-man wrecking crew early that season, with 27 homers and 79 RBIs by the end of June. All that power carried them to the Series as Tony saw his first post-season action. '71 would start off horribly for him as two hurt hands impeded his swing and he needed a strong second half to keep his RBI streak alive. He rallied in '72 as he moved to take May's place at first after the big trade and the Reds returned to the playoffs. The three years following '73 would be All-Star ones - he was named to seven overall - as the last two of those seasons Tony and the Reds would win the whole thing.

Prior to the '77 season Perez would get traded to the Expos in a very unpopular move with Will McEnaney for Woody Fryman and Dale Mitchell. It was both a cost-cutting move and one designed to free up starting time for Dan Driessen at first. Tony went to Montreal and his first season there did as well as he'd been doing in the stronger Cincinnati lineup, hitting .283 with 91 RBIs. The next two years in Montreal the streak ended but he still put up pretty good offensive numbers. After the '79 season he went to Boston as a free agent and had a great 1980, batting .275 with 105 RBIs. After a steep drop in the strike year, Tony's last season in Boston was spent backing up Dave Stapleton at first and as a DH. For the next few seasons he followed old teammate Pete Rose, first to Philly where he had his last stab at the post-season and then back to Cincy where he spent three years backing up first, finishing in '86 at age 44. Tony hit .279 with 379 homers and 1,652 RBIs in 22 seasons. He also hit .238 with six homers and 25 RBIs in 47 post-season games. He was elected to the Hall in 2000.
Perez moved into coaching right away with Cincy in '86 and even managed for a bit in '93. That season he moved to the Marlins organization where he has coached, managed, and currently works as an assistant to the general manager. His record as a manager is 74-84.

'67 was Tony's first All-Star game and he won the damn thing. His best Series may have ironically been '75 when he hit only .179. He did have three homers in his five hits that year with seven RBIs in the seven games. Plus he got to be there for Game Six, although I don't think it resonated for him the same way as it did for a lot of folks. His 30th birthday was during the '72 season, which to a degree was pretty tough for him. Lots of fans thought that he should have been the guy to go to the Astros instead of Lee May, especially due to his poor first half in '71. Guess he proved them all wrong.

I can't even believe this guy was playing back then. We're all getting old:

1. Perez and Dennis Eckersley '80 to 82 Red Sox;
2. Eckersley and Fritz Peterson '75 Indians.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#229 - Fritz Peterson

Fritz Peterson gets an action shot in Baltimore that is strangely reminiscent of Nolan Ryan's card earlier in the set. Like Nolan, Fritz is bearing down here but these pitchers couldn't be more different style-wise. Nolan was all heat while Fritz was a control specialist, never walking more than 50 batters a season. '73 would be a tough year for him. On the heels of his very public family swap with Mike Kekich, Fritz was roundly booed during the season at various stadiums and put up his lowest win total in six years. It would be unfortunately the beginning of the end for his career.

Peterson grew up on the outskirts of Chicago and then attended Northern Illinois University from which he was signed by the Yankees upon graduating in '63. After a slow start in Rookie ball that season he went on to produce excellent stats his next two seasons in the minors - 26-13 with a 2.21 ERA - ending the '65 season in Double A. He also hit over .300 during that span. In '66 he went to NY and had a fine rookie year, winning 12 with a 3.31 ERA. After a back-pedaling '67 he went on a very nice run the next five seasons with a combined record of 81-66 with a 2.88 ERA. Every season during that run he led the AL - and three times both leagues - in fewest walks per nine innings. He peaked in '70 when he was an All-Star and won his 20th game on the season's last day in Boston, a tough place for lefties. After his tough '73 Fritz in early '74 was included in a big trade to Cleveland: he, Fred Beene, Tom Buskey, and Steve Kline all went to the Indians for Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, and Cecil Upshaw. The trade would prove to be hugely one-sided in NY's favor and Fritz had another bumpy ride in '74, improving by a win over his '73 numbers but also adding nearly half a run to his ERA. In '75 he had a pretty good comeback year, going 14-8 despite an ERA pushing 4.00. But by then his arm was pretty shot and in '76 after a crappy start in Cleveland he was sent to the Rangers for Stan Perzanowski. For the Rangers he went 1-0 in four starts but then sat out most of the season on the DL and was released the following winter. It would be his final season. Fritz put up a record of 133-131 with a 3.30 ERA, 90 complete games, 20 shutouts, and a save. He had some good moments at the plate, three seasons hitting better than .200. His lifetime ERA at Yankee Stadium is 2.52, the best on that field of anyone.

Peterson had a pretty turbulent existence after baseball, reportedly losing a bunch of money in various business deals. He was a blackjack dealer at an Illinois casino for a long while and then made some better business investments and seems to have recovered quite a bit financially. He has been twice diagnosed with prostate cancer which he has dealt with both traditionally and experimentally. As a result of his brushes with mortality in 2009 he published a book entitled "Mickey Mantle is Going to Heaven" in which he spends a chapter each on various past players - Mantle, Thurman Munson, and Bobby Murcer to name a few - including some inside dirt on each and then surmising where they will spend the afterlife. Fritz had become a born-again Christian after several discussions with Danny Thompson while both were in Texas in '76 led him to re-evaluate his life and get religion. There is an '09 interview with him linked to here. It's a long one and most info disclosed is already known but Fritz is engaging and happy and not really preachy at all.

Fritz gets props for his Single A run the first half of the '65 season and then for his '70 season. Lindy McDaniel pitched Fritz out of a jam in that 20th win in Boston, the third time he bailed out a pitcher for the starter's 20th. Per the cartoon only 37 stolen bases occurred during Fritz' time on the mound for his career and 54% of attempted steals were caught. In '75 75% of guys who attempted to run on him were nabbed. I'd say that qualifies for outstanding.

Fritz was involved in a bad trade. Let's use a participant in another one to hook up these two:

1. Peterson and Danny Cater '70 to '71 Yankees;
2. Cater and Ted Kubiak '67 to '69 A's.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#228 - Ted Kubiak

Yet another mustached Athletic is Ted Kubiak, shown here looking a little pissed at home. That might be because in '73 Ted got to be part of a grand experiment at second. Charley Finley in away games would insist on the second baseman batting at the top of the order but have a pinch-hitter hit in that spot. Starter Dick Green would then come in to play the field and in a subsequent at bat another pinch hitter would be used. It used up all the team's pinch hitters in the early innings and not so surprisingly was a bust. Playing for Charley O must have been a blast. But Ted got some extra at bats out of it, so for him the whole thing should have been about a push.Ted was a pretty lucky guy, returning to the Bay area just in time to be a part of three Series winners, so I think he should have been a little more welcoming. Maybe he's just practicing his game face.

Kubiak was raised in Jersey and was signed by the KC A's in '61. He kicked things off that year in D ball, moving gradually up the ladder and posting his best all-around season in Double A in '65 where he hit .281 with an OBA of .384. Back then Ted was viewed as a generally superior shortstop to the other young guy in the system, Bert Campaneris, and after a '66 at Triple A he came up in '67 to challenge for the job.

While Kubiak was still being seasoned in the minors, Campaneris worked hard on his D so that by the time Ted got up top, Bert wasn't going to be moved. Ted settled in a utility role, putting in more time at second and third than he did at shortstop. He was a decent contact hitter for that type of player, only striking out once every ten at bats. After a couple seasons of sparse use - partly because of time off for military duty - in '69 Campy missed some time on the DL and James Donaldson had gone to the Pilots in the expansion draft so Ted got more at bats than the two prior seasons combined. He then went to the Pilots/Brewers with George Lazerique for Ray Oyler and Diego Segui. In 1970 in Milwaukee Ted saw starting time at both second and shortstop playing by far the most of any season in his career. He did OK offensively, posting a .340 OBA, and helped solidify the middle infield, at least for a season. In '71 Ted continued his double duty thing, losing some time at second to Ron Theobold, and then in late July went to the Cards for Jose Cardenal, Bob Reynolds, and Dick Schofield. But those last two months he only got into about half the games as a reserve and over the winter he was sent to Washington/Texas - Ted seemed to favor going to teams in flux - for Joe Grzenda. After a middling start in '72 for the Rangers, Ted returned to Oakland with Don Mincher for Vic Harris, Marty Martinez, and Steve Lawson. The return would turn out nicely for Ted.

In '72 incumbent second baseman Dick Green had been injured, missing almost the entire season. Ted was one of four guys - Tim Cullen, Larry Brown, and Dal Maxvill were the others - employed to fill the gap. Ted didn't hit terribly well during the season, but he did in the post-season, batting .429 as a late-inning replacement in eight games. After his fun '73 in '74 Ted got more plate time as Green was re-injured and sort of re-retired. But that year Ted got hurt as well before the playoffs and got zero post-season time. Early in the '75 season he was traded to the Padres for Sonny Siebert. He put in two years in San Diego playing mostly in a reserve role at third base. '76 was his last season and he finished with a .231 average in the regular season and .250 in 15 post-season games.

After playing Kubiak moved through a couple businesses before settling into real estate in San Jose in the mid-'80s. By '89 he was back in baseball, managing the Modesto team in the Oakland system. He then moved to the Cleveland organization where he managed various franchises from '94 to 2003. He then became the minor league defensive coordinator for the team from '04 to '08 before moving back to managing. He won a title last year with the Lake County Captains. Lifetime as a manager he has over 1,200 wins with a winning record.

Ted gets props for both parts of his game in the star bullets. He also had a game in '70 in which he had seven RBIs. He managed for a while in the NY-Penn league. That's a good place to be for someone who wants to hunt down antiques.

Another crossover guy helps with the connection:

1. Kubiak and Frank Tepedino '71 Brewers;
2. Tepedino and Mike Lum '73 to '74 Braves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#227 - Mike Lum

Mike Lum shows us his fielding chops at home in Atlanta. That's some crowd they got there. The ink ran on this one while the card was being pressed making it all dirty on the bottom. After an offensive setback in '72 Mike rallied to put up his best career numbers in the States in '73. He also put in a bunch of time at first base which had been and would continue to be a bit of a hodgepodge in the early to mid '70s for Atlanta after Orlando Cepeda's big season there in '70. Mike's homer total would allow his inclusion in the record setting infield for home runs, with a total of 108. Mike was one of the first Asian guys to play in the majors and one of the first Hawaiians. He was a pretty good player but was always dogged by people to show them his birth certificate. Wait... that was another guy from Hawaii.

Mike Lum played baseball and football equally well in high school in Honolulu. He would go to Brigham Young on a football scholarship but gave that up after his first year when he was signed by the Braves in '63. By '64 he was showing some pretty good power in A ball - 18 homers with a .307 average - and then put up some middling seasons the next three as he moved up to Triple A by '67. In the minors he was strictly an outfielder who was initially prone to some errors, but got that ironed out by his last season. He would come up to Atlanta the end of '67, putting up a few games in center.

His first couple seasons Lum would play back-up in left field and in '69 he enjoyed a 40-point boost to his average. He also pinch-hit for Hank Aaron that year, becoming the first player to do that. In his first post-season play that fall he batted 1.000 with a double in two at bats. In '70 Felipe Alou went to Oakland allowing Mike to get more starting time and in '71 Rico Carty had to sit out the entire season so Mike was a full-timer and responded with his best offensive year until then. When Carty returned in '72 Mike's plate time came in and his average even more. After his big '73, in '74 and '75 Mike's numbers would tumble as he lost playing time at first - to Davey Johnson in '74 and Darrell Evans in '75 - and a lack of 40-homer guys meant he wasn't seeing as good a pitching assortment and pitchers were staying in longer against him. After the '75 season he was sent to the Reds for Darell Chaney.

For Cincinnati the next three seasons Lum would play a little outfield but his primary role was as a pinch hitter, and he enjoyed his best success in that position in '78. In the meantime he got his first Series ring in '76 after making a sole appearance in the NL playoffs. In '79 Mike would return to Atlanta as a free agent, playing some back at first in addition to pinch hitting. He was released early in the '81 season, finished the year up with the Cubs, and was done in the States. In '82 he went to Japan to play for the Taiyo Whales where, according to one site, he had a monster season - over .300 with 40 homers and 120 RBIs - but I cannot confirm that elsewhere. But he was not invited back for '83 - hard to believe if those stats are accurate - and was done as a player. Stateside Mike hit .247 with 90 homers and 431 RBIs. His post-season average was .667.

After playing Lum jumped into coaching, enjoying a long career as a hitting coach. He began things with the Braves, invited by old friend Hank Aaron to do some coaching in the Atlanta system. In '85 he moved up top to the White Sox, and then became the team's minor league instructor from '86 to 2005 with a couple seasons in KC for the Royals in '88 to '89. In '05 he had hip replacement surgery, resumed coaching in '06 with the West Virginia Power, worked in the Brewers system for '08 to '09, and then moved to the Pirates system where he continues to work.

Mike's big '70 game gets star bullet treatment. The game was against the Padres and he walked in his fourth plate appearance with the bases loaded. With winning the Series it was his favorite moment in baseball. While Mike was in Japan he was present at perhaps the most violent incident in its history when two coaches for the opposing team, the Hanshin Tigers, objected to a call and beat up the umpire, even kicking him in the groin. Their excuse? Temporary insanity, which allowed them to only be suspended a couple weeks.

All NL here as Mike gets hooked up with the '73 Padres:

1. Lum and Clarence Gaston '75 Braves;
2. Gaston on the '73 Padres.

Monday, August 15, 2011

#226 - San Diego Padres/Padres Team Records

This post should set a record for the most attached photos for the blog since the individual Padres cards had no official Traded companion cards in this set. That's too bad since there isn't too much to say about this team, except that probably no team had to deal with as stacked a deck against them as these guys did.

The '73 Padres' best record was 2-0 and then they promptly dropped five straight. In early June a 1-13 streak pretty much eliminated them before the season was half over. They would finish 12th in hitting and eleventh in team ERA. That all adds up to another dead last finish in the NL West. On top of that they had to contend with rumors all season that they were moving to DC or even being folded. On the positive side they did have three rookies - Randy Jones, Rich Troedson, and Johnny Grubb - make various rookie all-star teams. New kid Dave Winfield was someone to get excited about and young players Dave Roberts, Jerry Morales, and Fred Kendall were developing nicely. But in the end they would tumble to another 100-loss season, chase after some old guys to amp things up, and set the stage for continued morose baseball. At least they got to stay in sunny San Diego.

There's nothing much going on with the team card. Certainly the yellow uniforms stand out but due to the blurriness it's hard to tell who most of the players are. The Washington card is actually much clearer than the San Diego one. It would have been cool if the back of the Washington team card had the new team name in the header but it just had the same back as the San Diego card, shown below. In the photo, that looks like Don Zimmer in the manager seat and Winfield could be the guy in the back right - he certainly seems tall enough - but he looks too dark and Dave didn't really have a fu. Maybe it's Leron Lee. On the checklist we have a lot of signatures from guys not on the '73 team: Willie McCovey, Glenn Beckert, Matty Alou, and Bobby Tolan. As for the rest, most of the team's better players are represented. I think Clarence Gaston has the nicest signature.

Thankfully only two team record holders do not have cards in this set. They are both pitchers:

Frank Reberger was born in Idaho and attended the University of Idaho where he played basketball and baseball. He was signed by the Cubs as a free agent in '66 and put up a 6-5 record with a 2.91 ERA in Rookie ball that summer. He moved to Single A in '67 and did poorly but then went 4-2 with a 2.60 ERA when moved up to Double A. In '68 he went 7-5 with a 3.79 ERA in Triple A and put in a couple innings in Chicago. Prior to the '69 season he was selected by the Padres in the expansion draft and as one of their primary relievers went 1-2 with a 3.59 ERA and six saves his rookie year. He was then traded to the Giants for Bob Barton, Bobby Etheridge, and Ron Herbel. For San Francisco he was a spot starter and long reliever the next three seasons, going a combined 13-12 with a 4.70 ERA. He also pitched a bunch for the Giants' Triple A club. His last season up top was '72 and he finished with a 14-15 record and a 4.52 ERA with eight saves. He pitched in the minors through '74 going 29-29 with a 4.03 ERA combined at that level. After baseball he returned to Idaho where he owned and ran a fishing lodge until 1980 when it was wrecked by soot from the Mt. Saint Helen's eruption. He relocated to the Caribbean to coach, which he did in PR and DR the next couple seasons. He then moved to the Angels system to coach, reaching the top in '91. He moved to the Marlins for '93 to '94 and then coached and managed in the Giants system the next few years before moving to independent ball. Beginning in '08 he has been the pitching coach of the 7-11 Lions.

Jack Baldschun came out of Ohio and went to Miami (of Ohio) University. Upon being signed by the Senators in '56, he went 20-25 the next two years in C ball. After an off season he went 6-2 in B ball in '59 and 12-9 in A ball in '60 and then went to the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft. By then he had learned a screwball, which would become his signature pitch. In '61 he led the NL in games as a rookie with 65, going 5-3 for an awful team. he would then spend the next three years as the Phillies' closer, going a combined 29-23 with 50 saves. He occupied that role for much of the '64 season before manager Gene Mauch rather publicly lost confidence in him and didn't pitch Jack at all during that year's big swoon. After an OK '65 season he was traded to the Orioles for Darold Knowles and Jackie Brandt and then a couple days later was included in the deal that brought Frank Robinson to Baltimore. For the Reds Jack floundered, going 1-5 with a 5.20 ERA over the next two seasons, spending time in the minors, and getting released in the winter following the '68 season. He was signed by the Padres before the '69 season, got in 61 games, primarily as the middle guy, and went 7-2 with a 4.79 ERA. He would pitch a couple innings in San Diego in '70, then hang out in the minors through '71. He finished with a record of 48-41 with a 3.69 ERA and 60 saves. After playing Jack ran a carpentry business with his brother back in Ohio and then worked as a rep for a lumber firm. He is now retired.

Given the swath of new players on the front of the checklist it is likely the Padres fall short in player representation in this set but let's see. On offense, Jerry Morales had a card with the Cubs - in his Padre uniform - and Dave Campbell with the Astros. That leaves Gene Locklear, an outfielder (with a .240/3/25 line in 154 at bats); Dwain Anderson, shortstop (.121/0/3 in 107 at bats); and Dave Marshall, another outfielder (.286/0/4 in 49 at bats); as the only players with over 25 at bats not represented. Locklear's absence is a mystery but Anderson, who was the shortstop on Topps' '72 rookie team (for the Cards), and Marshall were at the end of the line. I am pretty sure the first two are on the team card with Anderson the first player in the second row and Locklear, who was tiny, the fourth player in that same row. Looking closely at the card, I believe Winfield is four over from Locklear. He must be kneeling down. As for the pitchers, Fred Norman went to the Reds mid-season (where he did a wonderful job), Mike Caldwell is horribly air-brushed into a Giants uniform, and Bob Miller less horribly into a Mets one. That leaves Gary Ross, who went 4-4 with a 5.42 ERA in relief and a guy with the great name of Frank Snook, 0-2 and 3.62 with a save, as the only pitchers with records who were card-less. I believe Frank and Gary are the second and third guys in the last row. So we miss 310 at bats and ten decisions. I guess that's not so bad.

Let's get Mr. Splittorff and these guys together:

1. Dave Winfield on the '73 Padres;
2. Winfield and Doug Bird '81 Yankees;
3. Bird and Paul Splittorff '73 to '78 Royals.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#225 - Paul Splittorff

Paul Splittorff should have an action card. He got a "5" card by winning 20 in '73 but it's pretty blase with him just standing there in his warmup jacket in Oakland. The photo makes you think the guy was kind of a yawner. But he actually had a dramatic pitching motion, employing a big kick in his delivery. Paul was a Royal before there were any Royals and he continued his affiliation with the team, after he finished playing for them for 16 seasons, as their color guy for 27 years. He sadly passed away earlier this year from melanoma at age 64. In doing research for this post everything I read about Paul indicated he was a great guy.

Splittorff came out of Indiana to Morningside College in Iowa where he continued to play baseball and hoops. The KC scout assigned to check him out his senior year didn't even see him pitch because the game was rained out, but recommended him anyway and Paul was drafted in '68 in a late round. He was sent to the Corning Royals of the NY-Penn league, who technically weren't even affiliated with the Royals yet, and won eight games in half a season as a starter. He then spent the next two seasons at Omaha, KC's Triple A club, and made a late appearance in '70. In '71 he got off to a nice start at Omaha and was then pulled up for good, winning eight with a nice ERA. He finished fifth in AL ROY voting that year. Paul was not a power pitcher despite the big kick. He had a sinking fastball, his out pitch for righties, and a big curve which wreaked havoc on lefties. He enjoyed another nice season in '72 and then had his big year in '73, even though his ERA spiked by almost a run.

In '74 Splittorff had his first off season, nearly reversing his record to go 13-19 with a 4.10 ERA. In '75 he put some time in the pen to work through stuff and dropped his ERA a run and by the end of the season was back in the rotation full-time. In '76 he returned to a winning record as one of a very strong staff of starters that would take the Royals to the AL playoffs the next three seasons. He won 16 in '77 and 19 the next season and pitched well overall in the playoffs, accumulating a 2-0 record in five games. He won 14 in '80, the year KC finally beat the Yankees, and got his first Series action in relief since manager Jim Frey left him out of the rotation. After a couple mediocre seasons, he led the Royals staff with 13 wins in '83. He then got off to a slow start in '84 and with the next round of premium pitchers arriving he retired during the season, pretty much moving right into broadcasting. Both sides of his 166-143 record are team records. He also had a 3.81 ERA with 88 complete games, 17 shutouts, and a save. In the post-season he was a combined 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in seven games.

Paul gets notice for his defense - he was also pretty good up top - and his '69 season, despite the high ERA that year. I don't know what he did for the dairy but I'm sure he was much happier with his career choice after playing. He was a talented sportscaster, also calling college hoop and local football games.

We get to cross leagues with just one guy here:

1. Splittorff and John Mayberry '72 to '77 Royals;
2. Mayberry and Roger Metzger '71 Astros.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#224 - Roger Metzger

This is the first time we have had two action shots in a row in a mighty long spell. Here Roger Metzger looks like he is taking a sign from the dugout before he steps in. That's Dave Rader behind the plate and I assume a ballboy in the background. It's a busy sunny day at Candlestick which leads me to believe it is early in the season when these two teams were in contention.  Roger wasn't much of a hitter but he was fast, and in '73 he led MLB in triples for the second time in three years, picked up a Gold Glove, and was named team MVP. Roger has a mouth full of something which I assume is chaw. If so he is the first guy in the set noticeably displaying chewing tobacco. And boy is he skinny. I went about 5'11" and 150 when I played which would be smaller than Roger here. That must have been nasty.

Roger Metzger played ball growing up in Fredericksburg Texas and then attended St. Edward's University in Austin where he was an All-American shortstop his senior year. There he got a degree in math which he would later use. He was drafted by the Cubs as a first rounder in '69 and finished out the year at Triple A Tacoma, helping that team to the league title. After a full season at Tacoma in '70 during which he pulled his average up over 30 points, he got into a game up top for Chicago. After the season he went to Houston for utility infielder Hector Torres.

Metzger was immediately named the starting shortstop for the Astros, pushing incumbent Denis Menke to the infield corners. Roger would be a classic good-field no-hit guy, turning very acrobatic double plays. In his rookie year he would hit .235 and lead the NL in triples, securing a place on Baseball Digest's rookie all-star team (Chris Speier was on the Topps one). He then put up the most at bats of his career in '72 before having perhaps his best all-around season in '73. He would continue as the Houston starter the next three seasons. In '77 Roger would still get the bulk of playing time at short but Alex Gonzales, a better-hitting rookie, put in a bunch of time and the club had hot - or so they thought - Mike Fischlin in the wings. In mid-78 Roger was sold to the Giants.

For San Francisco over the next season-and-a-half Metzger would post his highest averages, hitting in the mid-.250's while continuing to play excellent defense. He would finish up '78 as the primary guy and then in '79 split time with Johnny LeMaster. Then in the '79 off-season Roger had a horrible accident at home, slicing off parts of four fingers while building a treehouse for his sons. He came to camp anyway and hit over .300 that spring. But when the '80 season got underway he really couldn't establish a groove and after his release that August he retired. Roger hit .231 for his career, with 71 triples, 453 runs scored, and two fielding titles.

Metzger would finish out '80 as a coach for the Giants and then return to Texas where he ran a store with his wife for a bunch of years and also taught math at a local high school. He then moved on and became head of procurement for the Brenham State School, a position he still holds.

Lots of props for Roger's defense in the star bullets and the cartoon. He is one of the few guys in this set who used his degree after playing, although there have been some other good ones, Mike Marshall and Garry Maddox two of the most productive.

This one will have to be all-NL:

1. Metzger and Vic Harris '78 Giants;
2. Harris and Jeff Burroughs '72 to '73 Rangers.

Or not.

Friday, August 12, 2011

#223 - Jeff Burroughs

I always loved this action shot of Jeff Burroughs at Oakland. We would get it back in '75 as part of the MVP set and I thought this card and the Garvey one looked great together. When this photo was taken Jeff was a rising power hitter in a difficult park, but there was no indication he was heading into an MVP year. He had returned full-time to the MLB level in '73, reined in the big K totals a bit, and got everyone very excited with his homer and RBI numbers. He went on a mid-season power binge, hitting three grand slams in ten days. Jeff was the number one draft choice in '69 so it's fitting that he's only a couple cards removed from Tim Foli, the number one choice of '68. This seems a more representative card of Jeff; in his earlier shots he was always sporting blonde hair like the California surf dude he may have been back home.

Per the recent trend Burroughs was a multi-sport star in Long Beach, California. He then attended Long Beach City College and it was from there he was drafted by the Senators. He killed that year in Rookie ball, hitting .355 with eight homers and 47 RBIs in under 200 at bats. He also drew rave reviews from Senators manager Ted Williams. Jeff then jumped up to Triple A Denver where he had a pretty good power year and a lot of strikeouts. But Jeff wasn't a free swinger, like most power guys. In fact he was a very selective one and would frequently get two called strikes while waiting for his pitch which meant he wasn't even swinging until he got deep into the count. He would improve on his offensive numbers the next couple seasons at Denver, wrangling his K's a bit, and putting up good OBA numbers (his lifetime in the minors was about .390). In '71 he enjoyed a bunch of time up top for his rookie season and did OK, but the strikeouts were an issue so he spent most of '72 back at Denver.

1974 would be Burroughs' shining moment as he won MVP based on his .301 average, 25 homers, 118 RBIs, and .397 OBA. He continued as the offensive leader on a team that challenged Oakland for the division down to the last couple days of the season. Only 23, he was being compared to Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and other HOF-bound sluggers. Then frustration set in. Arlington Stadium was a notoriously nasty place to hit homers in, especially to right-center, Jeff's preferred alley. There was a very strong wind that blew from right to left field and many shots that might be homers there just became long outs. It was estimated that even in '74 Jeff hit 13 there that would have been over the fence elsewhere. In '75 Billy Martin's magic wore off and Texas did not perform nearly as well. Those two factors, combined with Jeff's selectivity at the plate, forced him to try to become a pull hitter to compensate with not so great results the next two seasons. While he averaged 24 homers and 90 RBIs in '75 and '76 his strikeouts zoomed in the first year to an AL-leading 155 and his average plunged to .232 with a .315 OBA. After the '76 season the Rangers gave up and sent him to Atlanta for Adrian Devine, Ken Henderson, Dave May, Carl Morton, and cash.

For the Braves Burroughs revived. Finally in a hitters' park with no winds to battle, he upped his average to .271 with 41 homers and 114 RBIs. The Braves were pretty dreadful back then and while '77 was a pretty high strikeout year - 126 - in '78 the pitchers wised up and threw around him. Jeff also obliged management by becoming more of a line drive hitter. It paid off as he was leading the NL in hitting by the All-Star break - he was selected - and finished the season with a .301 average and a league-leading 117 walks and .432 OBA. The next two seasons Jeff spent a bunch of time on the DL and his average came way down. Before the '81 season he went to Seattle for Carlos Diaz. There he DH'd for a season before leaving as a free agent to go to Oakland. For the A's he enjoyed two pretty good years - .274 with a .355 OBA - as their regular DH before injuries took him out of pretty much all the '84 season. He then spent most of '85 in Toronto for his final season. Jeff finished hitting .261 with 240 homers, 882 RBIs, and a .355 OBA. He got into a game as a pinch-hitter in the '85 AL playoffs. He also was selected to two All-Star teams.

After playing Burroughs rather famously became a Little League coach back in California, also publishing books on coaching kids. In '92 and '93 he won the Little League World Series with a team on which his son Sean was a star pitcher and hitter. They became the first father-son duo to win that Series as Jeff had done so as a Pony League player as well. Sean would also go on to be a first rounder, put up a couple good seasons for the Padres in the early 2000's and then get into some serious drinking and other problems. He later revived and put some time in this year in Arizona and is currently playing for their Triple A club. In the meantime Jeff continued coaching - I cannot find out what else he has done professionally - and this year threw out the first pitch at opening day for the Rangers.

Big bonus for a big guy. Jeff is the second guy who would list watching TV in his cartoon - Jim Holt was the other - both of whom would later have weight issues while playing. That's a message for the kids out there.

Surprisingly this one goes through the AL:

1. Burroughs and Gene Clines '76 Rangers;
2. Clines and Ramon Hernandez '71 to '74 Pirates.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#222 - Ramon Hernandez

Ramon Hernandez was around 33 when this photo was taken at Candlestick during the '73 season. Or he wasn't. Like Luis Tiant Ramon had a pretty wiggy pitching motion. Like Luis, he also had a bunch of people who thought he was quite a bit older than his stated age. Regardless, Ramon was in the middle of a pretty good run as the setup guy/closer in the Pirate bullpen. In '73 on top of another excellent ERA he recorded eleven saves. He also gives us a clear look at the circled number 21 on his sleeve in honor of his countryman Roberto Clemente. It looks a lot better than the electrical tape a bunch of other Pirates wore.

Hernandez took a circuitous route to the majors after being signed by the Pirates in '59. He pitched a couple seasons for them in the low minors, sat out '61 and was then sold to the Angels. In their system he would advance, showing some success as high as the Double A level but none higher. In late '66 he went to the Braves in the Rule 5 draft. After a season in Atlanta during which he pitched not too badly he moved to the Cubs in the same draft. He stayed up top in Chicago, but without much action, and went to the Cards in a mid-season sale in '68, finishing out the year poorly at Triple A. In '69 back down in Double A he had his best season, going 10-10. He was then released by St. Louis, spent '70 with the Mexico City Reds, and was sold to the Pirates before the '71 season. After a pretty good year as a reliever - 2-3 with a 4.02 ERA at Triple A - he came up, this time for good.

Hernandez only got into a few innings for the eventual Series champs, but wowed everyone with his array of pitches and motions. His money pitch was a pretty wicked screwball which he could throw from three angles. In ten games in '71 he had four saves with a 0.73 ERA. He was then made Dave Giusti's setup guy and would have lots of success in that role the next four seasons, going a combined 16-9 with a 2.45 ERA and 32 saves. His ERA floated up to the mid-3.50 level in '76 and he was sent to the Cubs late in the season in a sale. He then had a horrible start to the '77 season, was traded to the Red Sox for Bobby Darwin, and finished things up in Boston. Ramon went a combined 23-15 with a 3.03 ERA and 46 saves in 337 games. He put in playoff time three seasons while with the Pirates and generally did pretty well, posting an 0-1 record with a 3.24 ERA in eight innings.
A quiet guy when he played, Hernandez moved back to PR and went underground. He passed away in 2009 at age 68, if his official data is to be believed.
 As mentioned above Ramon had his best minor league season in '69 and gets mention of it in his first couple star bullets. I have no idea from where Topps pulled his '69 MLB data: Ramon really went 0-2 that season in Atlanta with a 4.18 ERA with five saves in 51 innings. He was a switch hitter which is pretty amusing since he couldn't hit well at all. He did have some good fielding stats, getting double figures in assists a bunch of times and going almost three seasons in a row without an error. In the minors lots of times he would carry a gun which never made his managers terribly happy.

Ramon missed playing for Chuck Tanner by a season, but let's see how they hook up. For Tanner as manager:

1. Hernandez and Dave Parker '73 to '76 Pirates;
2. Parker was managed by Tanner on the '77 to '83 Pirates.

Now for Chuck as a player:

1. Hernandez and Paul Popovich '74 Pirates;
2. Popovich and Ernie Banks '64 to '67 and '69 to '71 Cubs;
3. Banks and Chuck Tanner '57 to '58 Cubs.

I love the retreads.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

#221 - Chuck Tanner/White Sox Field Leaders

Chuck Tanner looks moderately happy in this photo so I am guessing it is taken early in the season, possibly spring training. If I am correct on that last bit then it was a warm spring since that guy right over Chuck's left shoulder has no shirt on. That's too bad for us since that guy is nastily doughy. Maybe Chuck is just happy that he is in much better shape; he HAD to be.

Much like their cross-town friends the Cubbies, the White Sox in '73 were looking to build on the momentum of a promising '72. Dick Allen was fresh off his MVP year, Tanner had been AL Manager of the Year, and Bill Melton was healthy, plus they had some exciting young pitchers. They came out of the gate like gangbusters, led by Wilbur Wood who was pitching - and pretty much winning - every third day and on top of their big three - Allen, Melton, and Carlos May - doing well, Pat Kelly was smacking the crap out of the ball. In early June they were still above .600. But then Allen got steamrolled by Mike Epstein and was done for the year; the pitching would turn out to be only so-so after Wilbur and Cy Acosta; and everything pretty much collapsed as the Sox stuck around .500 from late June to early September when a late swoon took them all the way down to fifth place.

Chuck Tanner is one of those guys who was born old. In this photo he was only 44. He grew up in New Castle PA, not terribly far from Allen's hometown of Wampum, which would prove hugely helpful for the relationship between the two men. Chuck was signed by the Boston Braves in '46 out of high school. After a slow start that year he would move up the ladder from D ball to Double A over the next eight seasons hitting well over .300 at each stop except for a few games in Triple A. He established a reputation as a good-fielding speedy outfielder and would post a .313 average for his minor league career. In '55 he made it to the top as Milwaukee's fourth outfielder. He would then barely play in '56 and was grabbed by the Cubs early in '57 off waivers. For Chicago he would hit .286 as his only time as a starter. In '58 he was back to reserve duty. In '59 he moved to Cleveland for whom he would have a very good Triple A year but play rarely up top. In '61 he was sold to the new Angels for whom he would again play mostly in the minors. By '62 he was done in the majors, finishing with a .261 average with a .323 OBA and 21 homers.

Beginning in '63 Tanner would manage in the Angels chain, moving up through successive leagues until '70 when he won 98 with Triple A Hawaii. He was then picked to be the White Sox manager very late in that season. He had a laid back approach and a reputation for handling pitchers well, allowing him to move the team from last to second place in just over two years. He helped turn Terry Forster and Goose Gossage into effective relievers and was the most successful manager of Allen and his moods until late in '74 when Dick "retired", again killing a revived team. Chuck stayed in Chicago through the following season and then moved to Oakland in '76, right after the team sent Reggie and Ken Holtzman to Baltimore. Despite those losses, Chuck nearly managed to win the division as he turned the team into a basepaths-eating machine as the club stole a record 341 bases. Following that season he was mercifully traded to the Pirates for Manny Sanguillen. In Pittsburgh he would do his magic again, giving the vets room and working the pitching staff well, averaging 92 wins his first two seasons. He then won the whole thing in '79 with the "We Are Family" Pirates. Then Pittsburgh got old fast and disappointed the next year. Chuck would stick there through a couple good years into a disastrous '85. In '86 he went to Atlanta where things didn't go so well and he was released in '88. He then did admin work for the Brewers, Indians, and back with the Pirates. His lifetime MLB managerial record was 1,352-1,381 and in the minors 561-537. He passed away earlier this year in PA at age 81.
Joe Lonnett was another rural PA kid who was signed by the Phillies in '47. In a recent interview with him he mentioned that he played American Leqion ball after high school and also did military time which explains his being 20 when signed. By '50 he moved up to A ball and showed decent power and good defense behind the plate. He would lose the next two years to military duty - odd if he really also did it as a teenager - returning in '53 to put in three years at Triple A, the best in '54 when he tapped 21 homers with 63 RBIs in only 350 at bats. After a short year there in '55 he came up to Philadelphia in '56 and spent the next four years there as a backup. He never really got things going up top hitting only .166. By '58 he was spending most of his time back in the minors where he continued to play until '62, finishing with a career .261 average at that level. He then both scouted and coached in the Phillies organization from '63 to '70, somewhere along the line meeting Mr. Tanner. In '71 he became the third base coach of the Sox which he did through '75. He then joined Tanner in Pittsburgh, assuming the same role from '77 to '84. He would then manage a bit in the minors for the Blue Jays, going 41-36, before essentially retiring in '89. He is currently residing back in PA.

Jim Mahoney was signed out of Jersey by the Phillies in '53 as a pitcher. Midway through his first season in D ball as a reliever he was sent to Boston and finished a combined 0-5. But he hit well over .300 so he was turned into a shortstop. He then hit nearly .300 with 23 homers in '54 and by '56 was up to Triple A where he hit .228. Jim then missed the next two seasons for military duty returning in '59 to his former level plus some games up top in which he almost exclusively pinch ran and played late-inning defense. He would then move around a bunch: Washington, Pittsburgh, the Angels, Cleveland, the Braves, and to Houston where he played his last ball up top in '65 and put in multiple seasons for their Triple A clubs. He was a .229 hitter in 225 career at bats in the majors. He continued playing in the minors and by '69 landed in the White Sox system where in '70 he was a player-coach. In the minors he hit about .245. He then moved up to Chicago from '71 to '76, followed by managing stints for the Pirates and White Sox organizations from '77 to '83, during which time he went 412-408. He coached for the Mariners from '85 to '86 and then did some work in the Twins system for an indeterminate amount of time. He is also still around.

Alex Monchak was another middle infielder from Jersey who by '37 was in the low minors of the Dodgers system. The next couple years he would move around and while he would post .300-plus averages at the lower levels really couldn't get it going at Single A or higher. In '43 WWII called and Alex would spend the next three years in the military. He returned in '46 for a year of A ball in the Milwaukee system and was then released. He then played a bunch of independent ball from '48 to '53 before putting in a few years in the Cleveland and Milwaukee systems. When he was done in '57 he left behind a .274 average in the minors. In his brief stop up top with Philly he hit .143 in 14 at bats. From '49 to '61 he managed in the minors, first for independent leagues, then for the Braves. During that time he won four league championships while going 787-669. From '62 to '70 he would scout and do admin work for the Angels, where he met Chuck Tanner. He then joined Chuck for a few tours: the Sox ('71-'75); Oakland ('76); Pittsburgh ('77-'84); and Atlanta ('86-'88). He then retired and is still hanging out at 94.

Johnny Sain was one of the best pitching coaches ever. Signed by Detroit out of a tiny town in Arkansas in '36, he spent the next four seasons in D ball after which, although he won 34 games from '38 to '39, he was released. He then signed a minor league contract with a Dodgers affiliate where he threw for two seasons before being purchased by the Braves prior to the '42 season. His debut in the majors wasn't fantastic - 4-7 as a reliever with six saves - but he and manager Casey Stengel hit it off. Johnny would miss the next three seasons as a Navy pilot during WWII and then return to Boston where he would be one of the NL's best pitchers the next three seasons, winning a combined 65 games and leading the Braves to the '48 Series. Early in '49 his arm got hurt and although he won 20 in '50 his combined record of 35-43 with a high ERA got him traded to the Yankees midway through the '51 season to be reunited with Casey. He was an immediate success - he fixed his arm through radiation therapy - going a combined 27-14 as a spot starter and reliever for the next three Series winners. In '54 he led the AL in saves with 22. He then faded fast, finishing his career in '55 with the A's. Johnny went a combined 139-116 with a 3.49 ERA,140 complete games, 16 shutouts, and 53 saves. He made three All-Star teams and finished second in MVP voting in '48. He was an excellent hitter as well, batting .245 and only striking out 20 times during his career. In KC he became a pitching coach, sticking with the A's through '59. In '60 he joined the Yankees where he turned Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry, and Jim Bouton into 20-game winners. He asked for and was released after the Yankees wouldn't give him a raise after the '63 season. Johnny was rather famous - or infamous if one was in management - for being his own guy: he didn't believe in pitchers running; didn't believe in catchers calling games; would teach his pitchers unpopular pitches; and was very big in preparing his pitchers mentally and emotionally. He went to the Twins in '65 where he helped them win a pennant and turned Mudcat Grant and Jim Kaat into 20-game winners, but only lasted through '66. In '67 he went to Detroit where he turned his magic to Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain, and Earl Wilson, helping the team win the '68 Series. He got canned in '69 and then worked in the Angels system. He came to the White Sox in '71 and turned that team around, moving Wilbur Wood to the rotation, reviving Jim Kaat, and getting 20 wins out of Stan Bahnsen. He stuck in Chicago through '75 and then went to the Braves organization where he put in a few seasons up top ('77 and '85-'86) but more importantly developed guys like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. Johnny retired after the '89 season and passed away in 2006 at age 89.

Since Chuck played up top we get a double hook-up. First as manager:

1. Tanner managed Tommy John on the '70 to '71 White Sox;
2. John and Don Sutton '72 to '78 Dodgers.

Then as player:

1.Tanner and Ernie Banks '57 to '58 Cubs;
2. Banks and Paul Popovich '64 to '67 and '69 to '71 Cubs;
3. Popovich and Don Sutton '68 to '69 Dodgers.