Friday, September 30, 2011

#250 - Willie McCovey

For the last double card post in a while we get a Hall of Famer. Willie McCovey gets a double card since he is airbrushed into his new team for '74 , the Padres. It's not a particularly great job but at least Willie's smiling. This would be two Traded cards in a row but that might have been a bit much - two Traded cards (a Washington and San Diego one) and a regular Giants card? It would have been nicer I think to do the Beckert thing and just have Willie in his old uniform with the Padres heading. The Washington card is the first one I purchased just for this blog since it had eluded me before.

Willie gets a serious card number in this set and while in some ways his numbers for '73 may seem undeserving, there were some special considerations. He crossed the 400 line in career homers. He had a pretty big comeback season, boosting his average by 50 points and more than doubling his homer and RBI totals from an injury-plagued '72. It was also his last year - for a while at least - as a Giant. So the honor was probably fitting.

Like some fellow HOF guys and other players in this set - Aaron, Otis, and Cleon Jones - Willie McCovey came out of Mobile, Alabama and was signed by the Giants in '55 when he was 17. In Class D ball that year he smoked pitchers for a .305 average and 117 RBI's in 107 games. After a '56 in B ball where he hit .310 with 91 RBI's he jumped the next season to Double A where he slowed a bit to .281 but still moved up to spend '58 and the first part of '59 at Triple A where he hit .372 with 29 homers and 92 RBI's in only 349 at bats the second season. He came up to San Francisco that July 30, got four hits in his debut against Robin Roberts, and won NL Rookie of the Year with a .354 average in 52 games. Willie, a first baseman, had a little competition ahead of him there in the form of the prior season's ROY Orlando Cepeda. In '60 Cepeda got moved to the outfield to make some room for Willie who returned to post the classic sophomore jinx season, his average dropping over 100 points as his weight ballooned from all the banquets he attended in his rookie year honor. While things picked up a bit in '61 Willie still wouldn't see a full season of playing time until '63 after he posted a pretty impressive half-season the prior year when he began to pick up some outfield time. A lefty, he was platooned that season and would famously hit into the last out of that year's Series. But in '63 now a more-or-less full-time outfielder, he recorded his first big power year with 44 homers and over 100 RBIs. After an off '64 when he had his first knee problems, he returned in '65 to recapture first in the wake of Cepeda's trade to the Cards. That year he recorded the first of what would be six successive years of over 30 homers. He wouldn't break the 100 mark in ribbies again until '68 when he had a great season in a tough year to do so for hitters. It was a nice prelude to his MVP season of '69 when on top of his listed stats he posted an OBA of .453 which was insane back then. His '70 was nearly as good but it would be his last full season for a while as knee and foot problems started keeping him out of the lineup. '71 was pretty good for roughly half a season and he kicked butt in the playoffs against Pittsburgh - .429 with two homers and six RBIs in four games - but '72 was a disaster and although the '73 rebound was nice, Willie, who was 35, was sent to the Padres for Mike Caldwell as the Giants pursued a younger team, also dumping Juan Marichal.

For San Diego McCovey took over first base from Nate Colbert and put up stats his first two seasons that happily resembled '73 more than they did '72. He averaged .253 with 23 homers and 65 RBI's. But in '75 his walk totals came in pretty hard and his OBA dropped from .416 to .345, setting the stage for a pretty awful '76. Willie's knees were a mess, he lost starting time to Mike Ivie, and late in the season he was sold to the A's to help down the stretch. But after hitting .208 with zero RBIs in a few games, he wasn't re-signed and he returned to the Giants as a free agent. After off-season surgery he was expected to ramp things up a bit but the year he had exceeded all expectations: .280 with 28 homers, 86 RBIs, and a .367 OBA that won him the NL Comeback Player of the Year. In his 40's Willie did the slow ease, recording his 500th homer in '78 and playing things out in '80, thereby extending his career to four decades. He finished with a .270 average, 521 homers, 1,555 RBIs, a .370 OBA, and six All-Star appearances. In the post-season he hit .310 with three homers and seven RBIs in eight games. He was elected to the Hall in '86. After playing he settled into admin roles for the Giants, played some golf, and had a million knee operations. He has been getting around mostly by wheelchair the past few years and in '03 opened a restaurant in California that has been quite successful. He has a statue at the new stadium and of course, McCovey's Cove, where Barry Bonds has hit tons of homers.

Willie's card revives the little traded print. He only has room for some brief star bullets but they're awfully good ones.

This one is easier than I thought it would be:

1. McCovey and Vic Harris '77 to '78 Giants;
2. Harris and George Mitterwald '74 to '75 Cubs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

#249 - George Mitterwald

George Mitterwald liked chaw. He has it in his right cheek on the regular card of this set, his '70 card, '77 card, and '78 card and maybe others although I can't tell. George is coming off a career year in '73, which made the below trade a bit surprising but what do I know. He sure looks like he plans to do some serious business with that bat in Oakland. That might be Rod Carew behind him adjusting his uniform.

George Mitterwald is yet another Cali kid who attended a regional college when he graduated high school. George's was Chabot, the same school Dick Tidrow attended. George was drafted by the Twins in '65 upon finishing school - he is the second draftee by the Twins in a row - and hit the ground running, tapping the ball at a .326 clip for two Single A teams. He remained at that level the following season then moved up to Double A the next year, both seasons hitting around .250, and then reached Triple A in '68, a year he played a little outfield along with catching while moving his average up to .267. He also saw a little late-season action up top. All three of those years he lost a bunch of time to military duty. He made the Twins for good in '69 when he backed up John Roseboro and then saw his first playoff action. The next two seasons he became the Minnesota starting catcher, displaying some decent power and high strikeout totals to match. In '72 George lost time to groin and shoulder injuries and his stats plummeted but in '73 he had a nice comeback, grabbing career-best numbers in pretty much all major categories. Then came the trade.

In Chicago Mitterwald would end up splitting time with a young Steve Swisher - Nick's dad - as he began his first season there pretty much in a rut despite a huge game against Pittsburgh when he posted a three-homer, eight-RBI day in one of his first starts. He'd lost the starting catching gig to his .182 average in early June but from there on rallied to hit .372 the rest of the way to finish at .251. Beginning in '75 George would also put in some time at first. That allowed him to pick up some playing time so that by '77 he was able to record the most at bats since his '73 season. After hitting around the .220 level the past couple years, he was actually putting up pretty good numbers when that June he got involved in an incident while catching. Rick Reuschel had popped Reggie Smith of the Dodgers with a pitch that sent Smith storming to the mound. George intercepted Reggie, throwing him to the ground, but in the process injured his shoulder which pretty much killed the rest of his season and then his career. He left the Cubs as a free agent and in '78 signed with Seattle. For the Mariners he would post some games at Triple A but after hitting only .162 he was done. He finished hitting .236 with 76 homers and 303 RBIs. In the post-season he hit .333 in four games.

On Mitterwald's Traded card there is very little air-brushing and if he has any chaw it's pretty well hidden. But the backdrop of Yankee Stadium makes it pretty obvious he's not in a Cubs uniform. His nickname was The Baron and here with his blue eyes and relatively short hair he does have a sort of Teutonic flair thing going.

Mitterwald would return to baseball through coaching in the minors. By '79 he was coaching in Oakland where he would stay through '82. From '83 to '85 he managed at Modesto, the A's California League Single A franchise, winning the division twice and one title. In '86 and '87 he moved to Orlando, a Twins Double A franchise. Orlando had been and still is his home base so I am not sure if he stayed local or coached after the managing gig. In '96 he began a three-year run as the manager of Duluth, an independent team. That's pretty much the last info I have on him. For a manager he has gone 475-485.

George has a nice signature - very legible. He gets some good star bullet props for his post-season work. In '70 when there was a bomb scare at the Twins' stadium George reputedly ran in full catching gear to a nearby motel where he sat out the delay. That would have been a good cartoon.

No hints on the traded back as to why the Twins sent George, apparently in his prime, to the Cubs for Hundley, who was fading fast and hit .226 the prior season. Too many strikeouts? Owner Griffith was sort of infamous locally for jettsoning what he considered high salaries. Topps does the weird thing with the narrative here, completely disregarding George's '73 stats by indicating that the ones he put up in '70 were his best. I guess they didn't believe in updating their research back then although they could have just looked at their own card!

Two Twins so this one is easy:

1. Mitterwald and Tom Hall '68 to '71 Twins.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#248 - Tom Hall

We get another Cincinnati action shot for the card of Tom Hall, about to let one go at Riverfront (I've messed up that location before). Tom was nearing the end of his role as one of the best lefty relievers in the game when this photo was taken. It was a pretty good run: 33-19 with 29 saves and way better than a strikeout an inning for four seasons. And he only weighed about 35 pounds. And he shouldn't be confused with the country singer who was big back then also. That guy's name was Tom T Hall.

Tom Hall was born in North Carolina then moved to and grew up in southern California. After he graduated high school in Riverside he attended the local college, Riverside City, which was sort of a minor league feeder back then. He was team MVP in '66 and was drafted and signed by the Twins that year. He started strongly, going 7-4 with a 1.97 ERA as a starter that year in Rookie and A ball. In '67 he went 14-5 with a 2.16 ERA in A ball and in '68 10-4 with a 1.93 ERA in a season split between Double and Triple A. Despite his size, Tom had a wicked fast ball, averaging over a strikeout an inning while coming up, and at the end of the '68 season he made it to the top, putting up excellent numbers as a spot starter and reliever. He continued in that role in '69 and saw his first post-season action that year. In '70 he became primarily a bullpen guy and started his run pretty magnificently, recording 184 K's in 157 innings. After another season with the Twins in '71 he was traded to the Reds for another bullpen ace, Wayne Granger.

Hall's first season with Cincinnati was nearly perfect, 10-1 with eight saves and a complete game. He would put up his best post-season numbers that year as well, going a combined 1-0 with a save and only one earned run against 15 strikeouts in 15 innings. In '73 he again had eight saves and an excellent record but his other numbers slipped a bit and he got bombed by the Mets in the playoffs. In '74 he went 3-1 with a save but only pitched 64 innings, probably due to an arm injury that occurred around this time and basically laid waste to his fastball. In '75 he went to the Mets early in the season for Mac Scarce and had a pretty poor year: 4-3 with a 4.75 ERA. More of the same followed in '76 in a season split between NY and Kansas City, where he got his final playoff time. After a few games for the Royals in '77 he was released and then signed with the Twins. But after putting up an ERA over 6.00 for Minnesota in Triple A he was done. Tom finished with a record of 52-33, a 3.27 ERA, 32 saves, and 797 strikeouts in 852 innings. In the post-season he went 1-1 with a save and a 3.57 ERA in 13 games. He struck out 22 in 22 innings.

After playing Tom worked as a supervisor at a company called Rohr Aero Space for a few years back in California before becoming a mailman in his old hood in '81, a job he did until he retired in '03.

Tom's given name is just that, Tom, so he is tied for others with the shortest name to date in the set. This is a great cartoon. Tom pretty much maxed out at this weight of 158 so his pitching power was pretty amazing.

Another California connection on the hookup:

1. Hall and Rod Carew '68 to '71 Twins;
2. Carew and Rick Miller '78 to '80 Angels.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

#247 - Rick Miller

This is Rick Miller's first solo card and first card with his signature 'stache. He had a clean-shaven rookie card in the '72 set. Rick would have some pretty good action shots later in his career but for the immediate future he favored the bat-on-the-shoulder pose which he does here in front of an enormous batting cage in what I'm guessing is a spring training shot. With the mustache Rick shows a passing resemblance to another Michigan State alum-to-be Kirk Gibson, but maybe I'm reaching. I will say that the old flannel he's wearing reminds me of lots of itchy uniforms from when I was a kid.

Rick Miller grew up an all-around athlete in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went on to play hoops and baseball at Michigan State. There he was a teammate of Ted Simmons and in his junior year of '69 he was drafted and signed by the Sox. Initially Boston wanted him to pitch but Rick said no thanks and took his place in the outfield where he moved from Double A to Triple A the next three seasons with gradual increases in power accompanied by excellent defensive skills. At the end of '71 he got some time up top and hit .333. In '72 he scored some time as Tommie Harper's back-up in center but still saw a lot of bench time also. In '73 he played significantly more as Reggie Smith was hurt and Yaz was pressed into infield duty. Rick upped his average almost 50 points and maintained it in '74, a year he was projected to start upon Smith's trade to St. Louis and Ben Oglivie's to Detroit. But Bernie Carbo ended up getting a lot of time which cut Rick's at bats by over a third. Then in '75 the young trio of Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans made it difficult for anyone else to penetrate the order and Rick only got up about 100 times as his average fell below .200. In '76 Lynn got hurt, Rice put in more time at DH, and Rick rebounded to get 270 at bats and upped his average to .283. After a '77 in which his playing time again declined Rick played out his contract and signed with the Angels as a free agent.

For California Miller would become the starting center fielder the next three seasons, grabbing over 400 at bats each one. In '78 he won a Gold Glove while boosting his average ten points and in '79 he hit .293 while recording his career high in OBA of .367. After one more season he was sent back to the Sox with Mark Clear and Carney Lansford for his old teammates Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson. Back in Boston Rick was the primary center fielder for two seasons - Lynn had been sent to the Angels earlier - and then in '83 got moved to backup upon the acquisition of Tony Armas. He also solidified his role as the Sox' top pinch hitter, a role he continued the next two seasons, finishing up in '85. For his career Rick hit .269 while posting a .986 fielding average. In the post-season he hit .222 in seven games.

After playing Miller did some work in the financial advisory business, then ran a company that managed autograph shows. He also managed a season in the minors in '08 and has done some college coaching and run baseball clinics for various groups, many on a volunteer basis. His managing record is 41-52.

The last star bullet is nice but one of those vague space-fillers. He also led the IL in K's in '71, his best power season. His '69 average at Michigan State was .429. Rick's baseball coach there, Danny Litwiler, passed away a couple days ago at 95. That cartoon is pretty archaic; I wonder if anyone plays paddle ball any more. Here's a tidbit: Rick is the only guy Nolan Ryan admits he threw at during his career; he hit Miller in the hip.

Here's the hookup:

1. Miller and Joe Rudi '78 to '80 Angels and '81 Red Sox;
2. Rudi was on the '73 A's.

Monday, September 26, 2011

#246 - Oakland A's/ A's Team Records

So it's been a while for which I apologize. I couldn't scan anything for a couple weeks because the damn scanner broke down. It is an HP Photosmart 309A. While it worked pretty well when it actually did work that was not for very long and the HP folks are way less than helpful on the help desk. Long story short, if you get an HP wireless printer - Apple offers them when you buy one of their computers at the store - expect the wireless part of it to break down pretty much immediately and so only get it if a wired solution works for you (you can hook it up right to your router with an ethernet cable). Any questions, feel free to ask. This ends the consumer advocacy part of the program.

Moving back to baseball, specifically during the '73 season, the A's get another color-coordinated team card (note the alternating green and gold jerseys) surrounding manager Dick Williams smack dab in the middle of the virginal white jerseys. Dick did not have a manager card for the '74 set because he resigned immediately after Oakland won the Series. Al Dark would manage Oakland for the '74 season. Dick's resignation was a fitting ending to another tumultuous yet successful A's season. After a rough April during which the team's vaunted starters were only 5-8, they worked up to .500 ball by the end of June but were six back of the surging Sox. Both Reggie and Joe Rudi were benched and everybody, particularly Reggie and coach Jerry Adair, was fighting. But Catfish was on a tear - he'd be 13-3 by the break - and a strong June got them in first by the end of the month. There were some mid-season scares - Catfish got hurt in the All-Star game; Dick Williams got sick and had his appendix removed; Billy North got hurt and would miss the post-season - but from early July on the A's were never more than a couple games out of first. A 13-1 run in mid-August sealed the deal and they won their third division title in a row before grabbing their second consecutive Series in an exciting post-season.

The front of the checklist is a good one, representation-wise. All starting position players are on it and three quarters of the starting pitchers. Reggie's signature is big and bold, no surprise. Vida Blue shuns convention and prints. William North, Kenneth D Holtzman, and Dagoburto Campaneris are the formal guys, and Mr. Tenace shows off one of the best given names ever.

That was one long run between pennants under Mr. Mack and Mr. Williams. After three straight pennants ending in '31 Connie Mack, also the A's owner, had to dismantle his team to raise money fast and keep his franchise afloat and then 41 years of pretty much misery ensued as the A's were viewed by many as a Yankees farm team. But the great run in the early '70's resuscitated things and put them back on the map in a good way. Let's check out these record holders.

Norm Siebern was signed by the Yankees out of high school in '51. His first couple seasons working through the NY system - and generally doing very well - he also was a star hoops player at Southwest Missouri State. He would miss '54 and '55 to military duty and come back to Triple A in '56 where he had a good enough season to get promoted to NY in the outfield and do some Series time. He then moved back to the minors for '57 where his stats - .349 with 24 homers and 118 RBIs - won him TSN Minor League Player of the Year. After that season it was all majors and in '58 he won a Gold Glove playing left field and returned to the Series where he had a tough time. After another season in NY Norm was one of the players traded to KC for Roger Maris. While Maris thrived in NY, at least homer- and MVP-wise, Norm did pretty well in KC, playing mostly first base and averaging 19 homers, 92 RBIs, and a .290 average over four seasons, two of which were All-Star ones. In '64 he went to Baltimore for Jim Gentile where he led the AL in walks his one season as a starter before Boog Powell took over at first. After that it was mostly back-up work for the O's, Angels, Giants, and Red Sox where he finished things in '68. For his career Norm hit .272 with 132 homers and 636 RBIs. After playing he scouted for the Braves and ran an insurance agency.

Al Simmons is a HOF outfielder who posted monster stats for a decade as probably the most famous and successful "bucket hitter", or one whose outside foot points down the baseline (in Al's case third). Al was signed by his hometown Milwaukee Brewers, then an independent farm team, in '22 out of Stevens Point Teacher's College. After a couple very successful minor seasons at various levels he was traded to the A's in '24 and immediately took off, hitting .308 with 102 RBIs. From there he only got better and the next eight seasons he would average over 200 hits, 25 homers, and 132 RBIs while hitting about .360. After the '32 season he was one of the stars Mack had to dump and he spent the next six seasons moving from the White Sox to Detroit to the Nats, averaging 17 homers, 99 RBIs, and .305. After a '39 season split between Boston and Cincinnati in '40 he returned to Philadelphia as a player/coach for a couple seasons, strictly coaching in '42. In '43 he went to Boston as a coach and was activated during the season because the Sox ran out of players. In '44 the same thing happened back in Philly for the A's. That was his last season. Al would coach through '51. He hit .334 for his career with 2,973 hits, 307 homers, and 1,827 RBIs. He was a three-time All-Star and hit .329 with 17 RBIs in 19 post-season games. He was voted into the Hall in '53 three years before Al, a big drinker, died of a heart attack at 54.

Frank "Home Run" Baker was a farm boy from Maryland who reached the minors in 1908 after a couple years in semi-pro ball. He was purchased by Connie Mack at the end of the '08 season and the next year became an immediate starter at third, hit .305 and led the AL in triples, with 19. He would lead the AL in homers each season from '11 to '14 with a grand combined total of 42, but would earn his nickname with a couple bashes during the '11 Series against the Giants. 1912 was his best season with a .347 average, ten homers, and 130 RBIs to match all those triples. Before the '15 season Frank didn't care for Mack's salary offer so he sat it out and was sold the next year to the Yankees. He stayed in NY for seven seasons - he also sat out '20 - and was a solid starter although his offensive numbers didn't approach the ones he put up in Philly. '22 was his last season and he finished with a .307 average, 96 homers, 103 triples, and 987 RBIs. In the Series he hit .363 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 25 games. After playing he managed and played in the minors for a season in '24 but mostly returned to farming in his hometown. He made the Hall in '55 and passed away of a stroke in '63 at age 77.

Everyone knows Jimmie Foxx, even people that don't follow baseball because the Tom Hanks character from "A League of Their Own" was based on him. Another Maryland farm kid, Jimmy actually got started playing in the independent leagues in '24 for Mr. Baker when he was 16. Frank turned Connie Mack on to Jimmie and by '25 he was up in Philly. Originally a catcher, he spent a good deal of time on the bench behind Mickey Cochrane. In '28 he was moved to the infield corners and got some serious at bats, hitting .328. In '29 he moved to first base pretty much exclusively and started cranking for the first of three successive pennant winners: three MVPs, a triple-crown, four home run titles, three RBI titles, two batting titles, and an enormous OBA would occur the next 11 seasons. He would be the only remaining offensive star after the '32 season as Mack did the big unload, finally going to Boston after the '35 season. For the Sox, Jimmie would continue his reign of terror, putting up excellent seasons through '41, his all-time best probably being in '38 when he hit .349 with 50 homers, 175 RBIs, and a .462 OBA. He also won his third MVP. In '42 Jimmie hit a wall. He was going through a divorce, had never got along with manager Joe Cronin, and some sinus and vision issues resulting from a beaning in '34 were escalating significantly. All contributed to a slow start that year and in mid-season he was sold to the Cubs. He retired after the season at 34. After getting re-married in '43 he returned to the Cubs to coach in '44 and played a little. He then returned to Philly, this time in the NL, for a last go-round with the Phillies. Jimmie finished with a .325 average, 534 homers, 1,922 RBIs, and a monstrous .422 OBA. In 18 post-season games he hit .344 with four homers and 11 RBIs. He also pitched a bit, grabbing a 1.52 ERA in 24 innings. He was elected to the Hall in '51. Like Simmons above, Jimmie had some alcohol issues during and after his career and found consistent work tough to come by. He coached a bit, including his one-year stint in the women's league in '52, did some broadcasting, managed the University of Miami team, worked in trucking, beer distribution, and some of his own businesses that failed. He relocated to Florida in the early Sixties where his wife passed away in '66. Heartbroken, Jimmie only made it another year. When he passed away in '67 he was only 59.

Nap Lajoie played semi-pro ball around Rhode Island, where he grew up, and Massachusetts for a bunch of years before being signed by the Fall River Indians, a B league team, in 1896. There he hit well over .400 and that season he was sold to the Phillies, where he finished that season and most of the next at first base, hitting a combined .350 with 127 RBIs his first full season. In '98 he moved to second where he would be an excellent fielder the duration of his career. He kept hitting also and stayed with the Phillies through 1900. When the AL opened in '01 Nap jumped ship and put up huge numbers in what was basically an expansion league - 232 hits, 48 doubles, 14 homers, and 125 RBIs - all which led the league along with his average, giving him the triple crown. A suit by the Phillies owner forced his trade to the Indians and disallowed him from playing in Pennsylvania for the '02 season so he missed a bunch of games. In the middle of the '03 season the sanction was lifted and Nap would go on to be one of the AL's premier second basemen - with Eddie Collins - sticking with Clevelend through the '14 season. He led the AL in average another three seasons, including the title he got in '10 in which Ty Cobb may or may not have been victimized. He also managed the Indians from '05 to '09, going 377-309. In '15, running out of gas - he was 40 - he was traded back to the A's where he played the next two seasons as a back-up and successor to Collins. Nap hit .338 for his career, with 3,242 hits, 1,599 RBIs, and 657 doubles. In '17 he was named player-manager of Toronto, and hit .380 while leading them to the league title. He pulled the same gig for Indianapolis in '18 and then returned to Cleveland where he had a farm in the suburbs, ran for office, and worked in a bunch of businesses. He retired to Florida in the Fifties and passed away there in '59 at age 84. He made the HOF in '37, a member of the second class elected.

John Wyatt was signed out of Buffalo by the Cards in '54 after a couple Negro League seasons for the Indianapolis Clowns and won 12 his first year in D ball. After a year back with the Clowns, he was drafted by the A's in '56 and put up some pretty bad numbers before missing time the next two seasons in the service. He returned in '59 and posted some OK numbers the next few seasons, almost all in relief. In '61, after a 9-3 start in A ball, he came up to KC to get a few innings. From '62 to '65 he would be a main component of the A's bullpen, getting an All-Star nod in '61 when his 81 games set a record. After a poor start to the '66 season, he was traded to the Red Sox with Jose Tartabull - Danny's dad - where he revived in a super way, becoming the closer for the '67 pennant-winners. After a middling Series, he got off to a slow start in '68, was sold to the Yankees and then the Tigers (for whom he finished pretty well but didn't get any Series time), and finished things up back with the A's in '69. John ended things with a record of 42-44, 103 saves, and a 3.47 ERA. John went 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in almost four innings of Series work. He had become a real estate investor while playing and continued in that after, building a few units in KC. He passed away in Omaha in '98 from a heart attack at age 62.

Rube Waddell is the HOF pitcher about whom it is tough to separate fact from fiction. A country kid from PA - hence the "Rube" - he played a bunch of semi-pro ball until he debuted in 1897 for Louisville, the old NL team. The Colonels loaned him out to various minor league and semi-pro teams and he returned in '99 to go 7-2 in a few games up top. The next year Louisville was booted from the league and the Pirates got the spoils, including Rube and a shortstop named Honus Wagner. Rube got loaned again, this time to Milwaukee, a Triple A team managed by Connie Mack. He pitched very well for Mack and when he was back in Pittsburgh led the league with a 2.37 ERA. In '01 after a crappy start he was sold to the Chicago Orphans for whom he finished out the season, winning 14. In '02 he signed with an independent team, Los Angeles, before hooking back up with Mack in Philly. In the final 90 games of the season Rube went 24-7 with a 2.05 ERA and led the AL with 210 strikeouts, the first of six successive seasons he would do that. Mack was the only big league manager able to corral Rube and Waddell would win over 20 the next three seasons, peaking in '05 when he went 27-10 with a 1.48 ERA and 287 K's. He set a record the prior year with his 349; that wouldn't be broken for 60 years. Although he helped Philly reach the Series Rube was shut out in post-season appearances because he was either hurt, missing, or suspended. After a couple OK but troublesome seasons in '06 and '07 he was sold to the Browns. He would win 19 his first season but then do a big fade and was out of the majors by mid-season of 1910. He hooked up with a succession of minor league teams the next few seasons - he won 20 in Minneapolis in '11 - and finished up top with a record of 193-143 with a 2.16 ERA and 2,316 strikeouts. In '11 he was helping apply sandbags to a rising river in Kentucky in the freezing cold which led to him contracting pneumonia and then tuberculosis, severely impacting his health. He passed away in 1914 at age 37. He was elected to the Hall in '46.

Colby Jack Coombs was signed by the A's in 1905 while still attending Colby College where he starred in baseball, football, basketball, and track, and earned a degree in chemistry. Colby pretty much served as Jack's minor league because he went straight to Philly upon graduating in '06, throwing a shutout his first start. He was an effective, though .500 pitcher his first few seasons, but then turned it on in '10 going 31-9 with a 1.30 ERA and a record 13 shutouts for the eventual Series winners. He won 28 in '11 even though his ERA ballooned over two runs, again for a Series winner, and 21 in '12. In '13 and '14 Jack missed pretty much the entire seasons with typhoid fever. After Philly won the pennant again in the second year, Mack did his disbanding thing, releasing Coombs, who was picked up by Brooklyn, then named the Robins. He had a big comeback in '15 winning 15 and then 13 the next season. He pitched a couple unremarkable seasons for the Robins and then retired. In '19 he coached and then managed the Phillies - he went 18-44 - and then moved on in '20 to Detroit as pitching coach and threw a couple games. Those were his last appearances and he finished 158-110 with a 2.78 ERA and 35 shutouts. He also hit .235 and killed in the post-season, going 5-0 in six games. He would go on to coach in college for Williams and Princeton before hooking up with Duke, where he was the manager for 22 seasons until he retired in '52 at age 70. He passed away from a heart attack in Texas at age 74 in '57.

Lefty Grove grew up in a mining town in Maryland and didn't start playing formal ball until he was 18. By 1920 he had hooked up with the minor leagues and by the end of that season he was in Baltimore, a Double A independent team long considered a de facto major league team. For them the next five seasons Lefty excelled, going a combined 108-36 with a 2.96 ERA. He was finally purchased by the A's in '24 and after a slow start in '25 won his first ERA title (of nine!) in '26 while winning 13. He turned it on the next seven seasons, becoming Mack's premier pitcher, averaging 25 wins and winning the ERA title four straight times, strikeouts seven consecutive seasons, pitching's triple crown twice, and one MVP (in '31 when he went 31-4 with a 2.06 ERA). In his three Series he nearly matched Mr. Coombs above going 4-2 in eight games with a 1.75 ERA. After the '33 season he was traded to the Red Sox mostly for cash. There, after a poor '34 when his fastball famously failed him, he won 20 his second season and four more ERA titles. He slowed down significantly in '40 and '41 (he was over 40 by then) and got his final win when his old friend Jimmie Foxx hit a two-run triple. Lefty finished with a 300-141 record, a 3.06 ERA, 35 shutouts, and 55 saves. He was elected to the Hall in '47 and was a six-time All-Star. He kept a pretty low profile after retiring and passed away of a heart attack in '75 when he was 75.

Scott Perry, like a few guys on this post was a reputedly big drinker who could also pitch pretty well sometimes. A big guy out of Texas he had a false start in the majors in the mid-teens with the Browns before he ended up with the Atlanta Braves in the Single A Southern League in '16. There he won 24 games before getting two wins up top with the Cubs. In '17 he ended up in semi-pro ball again and got into a couple innings with the Reds up top. Late that season the Boston Braves optioned him from Atlanta, pretty much his professional home base, but only paid them $500 of the $2,000 option price. So before the '18 season when Connie Mack came looking for a pitcher they happily signed him over. Scott then began winning big for a horrible team, causing Boston to demand him as theirs. Mack refused, the dispute went before the National Commission - the ruling body before a commissioner was appointed - and the Braves won. Mack sued, won in court, and kept Perry, who went on to go 21-19 with a 1.98 ERA for a team that only won 52 games. But the magic didn't last and the next three seasons Scott went a combined 18-48 before being released. That was it for him and he finished with a 40-68 record with a 3.07 ERA, 69 complete games, five shutouts, and five saves. He passed away in '59 at age 68 when he was working as a cook in a KC hospital. The ineffectiveness of the Commission in his case is one of the reasons a commissioner was soon named to replace it, the other, of course, being the Black Sox scandal.

Elmer Myers grew up and played semi-pro ball in York Springs, PA. He was signed by the A's in 1913 and sent down to Raleigh to pitch D ball under Connie Mack's son Earl. He pitched there for three years, winning 29 in '15 when he was deemed good enough to go up to Philly. In his first start late that year he struck out 12 Nats in a shutout, a record for a debut. He then went 14-23 his rookie year, throwing 31 complete games. He threw some out of the pen in '17 and then got 15 starts in '18 before he was whisked off to Europe for WWII. In a sad nod to Christy Mathewson Elmer was also hit by a mustard gas attack and returned stateside to recover and while away was traded to the Indians. For Cleveland he again started and relieved and had OK numbers. He started slowly in '19 and was traded to the Red Sox for whom he won nine straight and posted a 2.13 ERA. But the mustard gas pulled his weight down from over 200 to under 160 pounds and killed his fastball. In '21 he fell to 8-12 and after a horrible start in '22 he asked the Sox to send him to their farm club in Salt Lake City. He would pitch there for two seasons, in LA for two (both were Double A teams), then move down to Knoxville, a B league team, and win 49 games in two years. He took a last stab at Double A Columbus but after going 1-12 in '29 he retired. He finished up top going 55-72 with a 4.06 ERA, 78 complete games, and nine saves. He also won 165 in the minors. He returned to Philly where he sold and delivered meat, then to Atlantic City where he ran a concession stand. He then opened a tavern in Collingswood, NJ where he passed away in '76 at age 82.

Most of the above have detailed bios on the SABR site.

As returning Series champs the A's should be well-represented so let's see. On the offense side the most significant absentee is Angel Mangual, the team's fourth outfielder. He had 192 at bats. Rich McKinney had 65 at bats as a utility infielder. Allan Lewis, "The Panamanian Express", scored 16 runs as the team's first pinch runner but had zero at bats. Mike Hegan had some at bats at first and has a card with the Yankees. Angel is to the right of the guy with the suit and Lewis is the last guy in the last row. On the pitching side Chuck Dobson, former staff ace, had one loss which represents the only missing decision. I'd say that's excellent representation.

Finally Mr. Jones played these guys in the '73 Series:

1. Jesus Alou on the '73 A's;
2. Alou and Cleon Jones '75 Mets.

Friday, September 9, 2011

#245 - Cleon Jones

Now we get Cleon Jones, an iconic Met if there ever was one, in a great action shot. This swing is all power - it makes a nice contrast to the Glenn Beckert shot a few posts ago. It's so strong that his front leg came off the ground. Cleon had a huge season in '69 when the Mets won the Series. '73 wasn't quite the same. In early June he broke his wrist and was expected to miss six weeks but other injuries decimated the outfield and he had to return early which really compromised his swing. Pain in the wrist forced him to sit out some games down the stretch but he was there for what many describe as the pivotal play of the season, the "ball off the wall" play.

On September 20th, Pittsburgh was in first place, a win over .500 and the Mets were one and a half games back. The Mets had already won two from the Pirates in the series to move from fourth to second and the game was tied 3-3 in the top of the 13th inning. Ray Sadecki was pitching at Shea and Richie Zisk was on first. The batter Dave Augustine hit a long shot that had homer written all over it, but the ball nicked the top of the fence in the left field corner and bounced right into Jones' mitt. He wheeled and line drived the ball to Wayne Garrett at third who then pegged it to Ron Hodges at home, nailing Zisk for the third out. The Mets then won the game in their half of the inning and went 6-2 the rest of the way to win the division.

Cleon Jones grew up in Alabama and was a childhood - and lifelong - friend of his outfield mate Tommie Agee. Cleon grew up without a dad and a few years later a mom (check out his SABR bio here to see why) and stayed in 'Bama with his grandma where he developed into a big local football and baseball star. He continued in both at Alabama A&M University where he set a school record for touchdowns in a season but then was nearly killed in a horrible auto accident. He recovered and was signed by the Mets in '63. He had a strong start that year in A ball and got in a couple games up top. In '64 and '65 he played at Triple A Buffalo where he waffled between being a line drive and a power hitter and again got some games up top the later year. In '66 he came up for good, initially playing center and then left after Agee was acquired. Cleon kicked things off pretty well, his '66 numbers good enough for fourth place in NL ROY voting and a place on that year's Topps rookie team. In '67 he had a couple nagging injuries and his numbers came in pretty hard, but he rebounded to hit nearly .300 in a tough year to do that in '68.

1969 was all Mets and Jones enjoyed a significant role in that legendary title run. Only one Met - John Olerud - has since topped his .340 average and his 75 ribbies, a career high, were second only to his pal Agee's. He had a bang-up playoff against the Braves - .429 with a homer, four RBIs, and two stolen bases - and though he cooled off considerably against the Orioles he caught the last out of the Series. '70 was a bit of a disappointment for everybody in Mets land but in '71 Cleon put up numbers approaching his '69 stats. But '72 was a downer. Cleon got hurt early in the season and when he returned he was platooned in the outfield with John Milner. His stats took a beating and that continued into the early part of '73 before he got hurt. He rebouned pretty nicely in '74 - .282 with 13 homers and 60 RBIs - when Milner got moved to first base full time. Unfortunately that rebound was only a season long. In '75 he missed most of spring training and the first two months of the season with a knee injury and was then in Florida doing rehab work when he was busted sleeping in a van in a parking lot with a young woman. Donald Grant, the Met's GM at the time who was a true a-hole, had him come up to NY to attend a press conference at which Cleon publicly apologized to the fans. After hitting only .240 in a few games he asked for and was given his release that July. He stayed out of ball until he was signed by the White Sox at the start of the '76 season, put in a few games, and was released at the end of April. That was all for Cleon and he finished with a .282 average, 93 homers, and 524 RBIs. He also had 91 stolen bases and hit .284 in 20 post-season games.

When Jones finished playing he returned to Mobile where he worked in various positions for the city for a number of years. He has done some spring training work for the Mets and had his number retired by the team in '91. He has also appeared in Jerry Grote's fantasy camps. His son, Cleon Jr. was a star back at the University of South Carolina and played a bit in the Indoor Football League.

I like that Topps focuses on recent events for Cleon's star bullets. His line in '73 from August 31 on was .238 with 13 runs, six homers, 19 RBIs, and a .375 OBA. He was truly hot the final ten games of the season when he anted up a .278 average with four homers, eight runs, 14 RBIs, and a .472 OBA.

Cleon gets with Morton through another outfield buddy:

1. Jones and Ken Singleton '70 to '71 Mets;
2. Singleton and Carl Morton '72 to '76 Expos.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

#244 - Carl Morton

Here's Carl Morton with yet another somber face in Atlanta. Carl sported this expression on many of his cards and I remember reading way back an article in which the author suggested Carl had an issue with depression and given his photos it wouldn't surprise me. It's too bad because he was in the midst of the best run of his career and was probably the best Atlanta starter for three years outside of Phil Niekro. You'd think that would get at least a smirk.

Carl Morton was a big talented kid out of Oklahoma. When he finished high school he went to the University of Oklahoma where he did double duty as a starting pitcher and an outfielder. He also played summer ball in the Basin League, the Western Canada and Upper Plains States league where other major leaguers-to-be included Don Sutton, Duffy Dyer, Chuck Dobson, and Del Unser. In '64 Carl was an all-star outfielder for the league (Merv Rettenmund was another one) and that fall he was signed by the Braves for $60,000 as a free agent. In A ball in '65 and '66 he was almost exclusively an outfielder, hitting roughly .240 with a combined 26 homers. In '67 he moved to the mound where things got better, posting ten wins in A ball that season and going 13-5 with a 2.72 ERA in Double A in '68. That October he was selected by the Expos in the expansion draft and for them he would put up an 8-6 record with a 3.52 ERA in Triple A sandwiched between a few starts in Montreal.

In '70 Morton and his 18 victories won NL Rookie of the Year as well as TSN Rookie Pitcher of the Year. In a big, exciting year for Carl he sort of defined his pitching style. His three pitches included a fastball, slider, and change-up and he provided a lot of drama since he generally had a bunch of base runners in his games (in '70 he led the league in walks). In '71 and '72 those qualities impacted him in a negative way as he went a combined 17-31 as his ERA popped a bit and he walked as many guys as he struck out. He also incurred manager Gene Mauch's wrath for wearing his hair longer that Mauch liked. So after the '72 season Montreal sent Carl back to the Braves pretty cheaply for Pat Jarvis, a pitcher past his prime.

In '73 Morton revived in Atlanta, winning 15 while lowering his ERA half a run and picking up his K to walk ratio. He added a win each of the next two seasons as he joined Niekro as a pretty effective one-two punch in the rotation. He posted winning records both years even though his control issues were again coming to the surface. In '76 his record tanked to 4-9 as his luck seem to give out and after the season he was part of the group sent to Texas for Jeff Burroughs. For the Rangers Carl wouldn't make it through spring training and he would be picked up by the Phillies that May for whom he would pitch Triple A. Although he threw pretty well at that level - 9-13 with a 3.32 ERA - he was released. In '78 he caught on with the Pirates but that didn't last and he was done. Carl went a combined 87-92 with a 3.73 ERA, 51 complete games, and 13 shutouts. He only hit .156 but did whack seven homers and 42 RBIs.

After playing Morton returned to Tulsa where he finished his degree at Tulsa University. He'd hoped to get into broadcasting but I don't believe that ever happened. In '83 he was out jogging with his son when he collapsed from a heart attack. He passed away later that day in a hospital. He was 39.

Carl has an interesting middle name and I believe it's a family one. He gets some pretty good star bullets and, like Bill Sudakis, is another bowler. The most unusual bit of trivia regarding him is a bit dark: both he and Thurman Munson, the AL's Rookie of the Year, died in their thirties.

These two guys played for '69 expansion teams, but in different leagues:

1. Morton and Dave May '75 to '76 Braves;
2. May and Tom Matchick '71 Brewers;
3. Matchick and Bob Oliver '70 Royals.

Tom Matchick was a utility infielder who played most of his career with Detroit in the late '60's and won a ring with the '68 Tigers. In the early '70's he moved around a bit and finished things up in '72 with Baltimore.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#243 - Bob Oliver

Here's Bob Oliver in Yankee Stadium looking as if something is in the air. Bob is yet another guy who would be wearing pinstripes in the not-so-distant future. He is not related to Al or Nate or any other of his contemporaries with the same surname. He is, though, the father of Darren which I did not realize until researching this post. Darren is still hanging in there with the Rangers, enjoying a post-35 resurgence - he's 40 - that his dad never did. Over the course of his career Bob had some great cards including two action ones ('71 and '73) and a bizarre almost full split one ('72). This one isn't anything special but it's better than '75's in which he gets an airbush on his final card. Maybe that's what he senses here.

Bob Oliver was born in Louisiana and at some point relocated to and grew up in Sacramento, California. He then attended American River College, a community school in Sacramento, from which he was signed by the Pirates upon his graduation in '63. After a couple non-descript seasons of A ball in '63 and '64 at first base, Bob moved to Double A in '65, showed some power with 15 homers, and versatility as he put in time at second, third, and the outfield. He also got into his first game up top that year. He split '66 between Double and Triple A where he had a super season at the former level, spent all of '67 at Double A, and continued his itinerant work in the field. After the '67 season he was sent to the Twins for Ron Kline. For Minnesota he played at the Triple A level, where he had his best minor league season - .297 with 20 homers and 93 RBIs - before he was plucked in the expansion draft by the Royals that winter.

For the Royals Oliver stayed up top arguably becoming the team's first legitimate power threat. His rookie season of '69 Bob played in the outfield and hit OK, although he also displayed what would be career chinks in his baseball armor: not enough walks - his career OBA was under .300 - and too many strikeouts. In '70 he moved primarily to first - his best position - and also had his best season with 27 homers, 83 runs, and 99 RBIs. In '71 the Royals got Gail Hopkins from Chicago to take some time at first and Bob put in time back in the outfield, mostly as a reserve, as his stats came in substantially. Early in '72 on the wake of KC's pick-up of John Mayberry, Bob was traded to the Angels for Tom Murphy. For California Bob had a resurgence offensively the rest of the year as he won over the starting first baseman gig from Jim Spencer. Then in '73 Bob started wandering again, putting in pretty much equal time at first, third, and in the outfield. He had offensive numbers that rivaled '70's and in the winter of '74 was projected as the guy who would finally solve the Angels' third base woes. However after a bunch of games there the club brought back Paul Schaal - ironically from KC - and Bob's time at third was over. His playing time declined a bit and late in the season he was sent to the Orioles for Mickey Scott to help during the stretch drive. That December he was sold to the Yankees for whom he played sparsely, mostly as a defensive replacement at first, before being released in July. That ended Bob's time up top. In '76 he signed with the Phillies for whom he had a pretty nice half season at Triple A playing mostly first, the same position he occupied at that level for the Pirates in '77. In '78 he got with the White Sox who released him after a few games, again at Triple A, and Bob then moved way south, finishing up that year and all of the following in Mexico. '79 was his final year as a player and he finished with a .256 average, 94 homers, and 419 RBIs.

After playing Bob returned to Sacramento where he played a bunch of Senior baseball, worked for McKesson Health, managed the local independent team for a season ('99), and started his own baseball academy, a non-profit whose mission is to teach baseball skills to kids with diabetes. He also has worked for Dusty Baker's baseball school as well.

Those are pretty good star bullets. Regarding the first bullet, though, that game was in '69, not '70. Bob also had three RBIs in a game the Royals won 13-11 over California. He pulled off that second star bullet in less than a full season. I like the cartoon, especially if Bob was a painter of that type of work, not just an admirer. The term "mosaic painting" reminds me of Raymond Carver.

This gets two AL guys together, thanks to a guy already mentioned:

1. Oliver and Jim Spencer '72 to '73 Angels;
2. Spencer and Bill Gogolewski '73 Rangers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

#242 - Bill Gogolewski

This is the final card of Bill Gogolewski's career, which is a shame given the cartoon on the back. This is the first last card - that was weird - in a long while which is a good thing. Bill strikes a pose in what looks like the bullpen area of a practice complex. Given the home uniform, I am betting it's a spring training shot. I'm pretty sure it's not Arlington.

Bill Gogolewski was a pretty big boy out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He was signed by the Senators out of high school in '65 and played Rookie ball that summer where he had a good record as a starter. In '66 he moved to Single A and did pretty well again in the rotation. The scouting report on that season for him was that he needed to work on his curve but that his fastball was pretty good. In '67 he moved up again to Double A where he did well in limited action due to arm trouble. He took a while to bounce back and '68 and '69 were pretty tough. But after an excellent year in Double A in '70 he came up to DC for some late action. He then got into the rotation in '71 and had a nice season going before he again hurt his arm which contributed to two tough seasons that followed. In '72 and '73 Bill went a combined 7-17 with a 4.24 ERA. Early in the '73 season he was moved to the pen where he had six saves, including in David Clyde's first game in which he threw four innings. By the time this card came out Bill was traded to Cleveland as the player to be named later from when Texas acquired Steve Hargan. Bill spent most of '74 down at Triple A where he did OK - 10-11 with a 3.63 ERA - but only got into a couple games up top. The following February he was released by the Indians and picked up by the White Sox. But by then his back was toast and by mid-August after getting 50 innings but with an ERA over 5.00 he was done. Bill went a combined 15-24 in his career with a 4.02 ERA, six complete games, and ten saves. In the minors he was 54-41 with a 3.58 ERA.

After playing Gogolewski would return to Oshkosh where he eventually became the town's commissioner of its parks department, a position he still holds. There is a very interesting bio of him linked to here. I would encourage anyone needing a good laugh to check it out.

Poor Bill! He just bought a house in Texas and he had to split. He has a pretty cool signature; he really makes the G's stand out. His star bullets are nothing special. He did beat Nolan Ryan with a one-hitter in '72. They could have put that down.

Thanks to a league-changer this one is pretty quick:

1. Gogolewski and Vic Harris '72 to '73 Rangers;
2. Harris and Don Kessinger '74 Cubs;
3. Kessinger and Glenn Beckert '65 to '73 Cubs.

Monday, September 5, 2011

#241 - Glenn Beckert

This is one of two cards like it in the set. It pictures a player on a non-Traded traded card still in the uniform of his former team. The other player pictured this way was the other side of this trade and will be coming up shortly. This post also starts a run of a bunch of double card posts in the next ten or so. I always thought this card was pretty cool. Certainly the un-retouched uniform looks better than all the air-brushed ones. And the blue works pretty well on the Brown and gold Padres colors. It's also an excellent action shot as Mr. Beckert here looks like he was almost running before he even hit the ball at Wrigley. There is a fan behind him who looks like he's decked out in a full complement of Oakland colors. Boy is that guy in the wrong place.

Glenn Beckert grew up in Pittsburgh and then attended Allegheny College in PA where he played hoops and baseball. His sophomore season he set a scoring record in basketball and he was all-conference his three years there at shortstop. Signed by the Red Sox in '62 he exited before his senior year - though he did eventually get a degree in political science - he kicked things off that year in D ball hitting .280 with an excellent OBA. He was selected after the season in the first year draft by the Cubs and put in a year of A ball good enough to get him to Triple A in '64. Groomed to be the double-play partner of '62 ROY winner Ken Hubbs, Glenn instead came up in '65 to take his place a year after Hubbs died in a plane crash. Beckert pretty much didn't skip a beat, settling in to become a superior defender and in a season, a roughly .290 hitter who was awfully tough to fan. In '68 Glenn led the league in runs, the first guy to do so with under 100 since the dead-ball era. He also had only 20 strikeouts in 685 plate appearances and won a Gold Glove. The following season he was named to the first of four successive All-Star teams. In '71 his average popped to .342 and he came in 11th in MVP voting. But then Glenn aged pretty quickly and by '73 he was pretty much splitting time at second with Paul Popovich. After the season he was traded to the Padres with Bob Fenwick for Jerry Morales. Hence this card.

For the Padres Beckert and another old hand, Horace Clarke, backed up Derrell Thomas at second base. In '75, although he was hitting .375 in a few early season at bats, Glenn was released by San Diego and then retired. He finished with a .283 average and only 243 strikeouts for his career, or less than one every 20 at bats. He is in the top 100 of putouts, assists, and double plays recorded at second base.

In the off-season Glenn had been a partner of Ron Santo in life insurance and real estate businesses which he continued for a couple years following his retirement. He then became a commodities broker in Chicago which he did for a bunch of years. Given what happened in those markets around then, it is quite possible he is very comfortable financially.

Glenn seems to have always been outstanding defensively. Regarding the cartoon, he had a five-year run when he had the lowest strikeout ratio in the NL. He also put together two hitting streaks of over 20 games in his career.

This should work as an all-Cubs hookup:

1. Beckert and Rick - or Ricky - Reuschel '72 to '73 Cubs;
2. Reuschel and Joe Coleman '76 Cubs.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

#240 - Joe Coleman

In 1974 Joe Coleman got a "10" card on the strength of his 62 wins the previous three seasons. Joe was only 27 when the '74 season began and with 103 career wins at that point, there was some speculation that he might be on track for 300. He had good command of three pitches: fastball, curve, and forkball, an unusual trio, and could throw tons of innings without getting hurt. But Detroit quickly became a bad team and the wins sort of dropped off a cliff fast. Maybe that's what those big cumulus clouds represent building behind Joe during spring training.

Joe Coleman grew up in Massachusetts, the son of a major league pitcher also named Joe. The senior Joe had won 76 games up top by the time he finished in '55. Joe grew up worshiping Ted Williams, which would prove ironic a couple seasons into his career. Our Joe was drafted in the first round by the Senators in '65 and became the first player ever to sign who was drafted. He had a tough start in the minors, going a combined 9-32 his first three seasons in Single and Double A, although his ERA was a respectable 3.79. The first two seasons, '65 and '66 he got a few starts up top and did quite well and in '67 he came up for good, slipping into the rotation. He was the club's number two winner after Camilo Pasqual in '68 and won 12 again in '69 as the club achieved respectability under a new manager. That manager was Williams who insisted that Joe learn a slider since it was the pitch that confounded Ted the most while he was playing. Joe was resistant since he thought his three pitches were enough and quite a few slider pitchers he knew got injured throwing the pitch. It became a standoff and Joe would spend a bunch of time in his manager's doghouse, especially in '70 when the Nats resumed their losing ways and Joe got a bunch of early hooks. So when he was included in the big trade to Detroit prior to the '71 season, Joe was a pretty happy camper.

As usual, Coleman got off to a rough start - see card back - in Detroit. But things turned around fast as the wins, K's, and innings shot up, propelling Joe to his first 20-win season. '72 was just as good, especially in the playoffs when he threw a seven-hit shutout against Oakland, striking out 14. It was also his sole All-Star season. In '73 he won the most games of his career even though his ERA popped a bit. The Tigers hit the skids in '74 and Joe's win totals declined, first to 14 and then ten. He didn't help things too much as his ERA moved up around a run each season. In '76 things pretty much bottomed out as he went a combined 4-13 with Detroit and the Cubs, to whom he was sold mid-season. In '77 he went to Oakland for Jim Todd where he had quite a good season - 4-4 with a 2.96 ERA - for the felled dynasty as a spot starter and long reliever. After a nice start in '78 he went to Toronto in a sale where he wouldn't pitch terribly well although he sported a 5-0 record overall that season. In '79 he left as a free agent and signed with the Giants, for whom he would barely play, and the Pirates. For the latter team he would post great numbers in Triple A - 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA - but not good enough ones up top and he would miss the post-season. Over the next three seasons he would pitch a bit in the minors for Seattle and California but his time up top was done as a pitcher. Joe went a combined 143-135 with a 3.70 ERA, 94 complete games, and seven saves. That masterpiece in '72 was his only post-season action.

Coleman turned to coaching pretty much immediately, managing in the California chain in '83. He would remain a pitching coach in that system through '87 and then moved up to Anaheim as bullpen coach from '88 to '90. He moved to St. Louis where he was the pitching coach from '91 to '94. Then it was back to California where he got the same gig in the minors ('95 to '96) and up top ('97 to '99). He was the Durham Bulls' coach from 2000 to '06 and then moved to Lakeland, a Detroit farm team, from '07 to the present. He is 54-85 as a manager. His son Casey is currently trying to stick with the Cubs.

I already disclosed one of Joe's star bullets above. The record was broken by Mike Mussina in '97. The cartoon shows the rough start to his Tiger career.

Crossing leagues again, but this will be quick:

1. Coleman and Willie Crawford '77 A's;
2. Crawford and Bill Russell '69 to '75 Dodgers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

#239 - Bill Russell

Bill Russell gets to pose at Candlestick which must have been tough for Dodger players, but Bill doesn't seem to mind. Fresh off his first All-Star season, '73 was an interesting year for him. At the beginning of the year he was still considered as an outfielder who was only a stopgap at shortstop until a permanent solution could be found. Early in the season he had a horrible game in which he had three errors, one of which put the Reds ahead, and struck out in his final at bat with the game winner on base. He was booed at Dodger Stadium pretty mercilessly for the first time. But then he started hitting well enough to grab the All-Star nod, cut way down on his errors, and became an integral part of the new infield as the Dodgers nearly caught up to the Reds for the division. And 11 years later he was still the starting shortstop.

Bill Russell was a high school basketball star in Kansas. He only played summer baseball because his school was not big enough to field a team. He was drafted by the Dodgers in '66 and had a pretty impressive debut that summer in Rookie ball, hitting .356 as an outfielder. He then went to Kansas State and played A ball that summer, hitting only .221. Then he put in a full year of A ball in '69 and upped his average to .280. In '69, after a nice spring, he got promoted all the way up where he spent the season backing up Willie Davis and Andy Kosco in the outfield. In '70 Bill went down to Triple A Spokane where he hit .363 and played a bit of infield, all of 19 games at third base. In mid-season he was back up top, basically taking over right field from Willie Crawford. He spent all of '71 up top, again settling into a reserve role. When in spring training of '72 it became apparent that Maury Wills was running out of gas, Bill was quickly groomed to take his place. He learned the position during the '72 season, which goes a long way to explaining his 34 errors in 121 games. But he was a canny guy and smartly cozied up to veterans, particularly Claude Osteen and Chris Cannizzaro, to get the dirt on NL hitters and pitchers which helped his transition in the field and at the plate, where he bumped up his average 45 points.

Once Russell established himself during the '73 season he became recognized as one of the better fielding shortstops in the league. In '74 he got the most RBIs of his career, 65, led the league in intentional walks, and had a torrid start to his post-season days, hitting .389 against the Pirates in the NL playoffs. In '75 he got hurt and missed half the season, a big reason LA failed to repeat as division-winner. He returned in '76 to his second All-Star season and would then enjoy a nice run through 1980, his third All-Star year. That season he was hitting roughly .300 when he was hit on the hand by a pitch, missed some time, and saw his average fade a bit when he returned. He experienced one of his best offensive years in '82, grabbing his highest lifetime OBA at .357. He remained in a starting role midway through '84 when Dave Anderson took over and was by then the only remaining member of the Fab Four infield. He stuck around as a reserve guy through '86 and was done. Bill hit .263 with 293 doubles, 46 homers, and 627 RBIs. He also stole 167 bases. He picked things up in the post-season, hitting .294 with 19 RBIs in 49 games.

After playing, Russell stayed in LA, joining Tommy Lasorda's staff in '87 and retaining that position for ten seasons, with '92 to '93 off to manage in Albuquerque. In '96 Bill was named interim manager when Lasorda was sidelined by a heart ailment. He was later upgraded to full manager status and led the club to two straight second-place finishes. When he got off to a 36-38 start in '98 he was fired by new owners The News Corp. In '99 he hooked up with the Rays, winning a championship as manager in Triple A that season and coaching up top in 2000. In '01 he moved to the Giants where he managed in the minors for a season. All told he has a 173-149 record in the majors and a 260-297 tab in the minors. Since '02 he has been working with MLB's umpiring division as a supervisor.

Bill would get some better star bullets later in his career, particularly regarding the '78 post-season when he hit well over .400. The second one here is a bit generous since '72 was a tough one defensively. But he got there.

These '77 Series opponents get together like this:

1. Russell and Dick Dietz '72 Dodgers;
2. Dietz and Fran Healy '71 Giants.

Friday, September 2, 2011

#238 - Fran Healy

Fran Healy - if this is Fran Healy; see below - gets an action shot at Yankee Stadium in a night game no less (shout out to Night Owl). That's Thurman Munson sliding in safely as Healy appears to be still awaiting the throw. This is also the third catcher card - after Carlton Fisk's and Manny Sanguillen's - to get an action landscape shot. In a few years the two guys in the photo would be teammates. 

So why am I skeptical as to this card's photo? One, Topps has a history of errors on cards related to Healy (see Steve Busby's 1975 card). Two, this really doesn't look like Fran in profile. So I did a little digging. KC played two series in NY in '73, one in early May and one in July. I am assuming this photo is from the first series given the long shirts on both participants (and am also assuming it is actually from 1973). Five guys caught for KC in '73: Healy, Buck Martinez, Jerry May, Ed Kirkpatrick, and Carl Taylor. It ain't Martinez for sure - he wasn't up until September anyway - and May didn't play at all at Yankee Stadium. Kirkpatrick did but only in the outfield. So that leaves Taylor. Looking at the games, on May 3 - a night game caught by Taylor- Horace Clarke laced a single to left that scored Graig Nettles from third and Thurman Munson from second. Munson definitely would have been sliding on that play and I think that is exactly the play we are viewing. So my money is that this is Carl Taylor, not Fran Healy. And for anyone who cares, KC beat NY 4-3 and our boy Carl here went two for four with an RBI. But back to Fran...

Fran Healy's uncle - also named Fran Healy - was a member of the Gashouse Gang in the Thirties so this Fran grew up around baseball and baseball stories. Born and raised in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Fran was signed by the Indians out of high school. Cleveland's plan for him was to get his military hitch over with fast and then have Fran on his baseball way by 19. But Fran had other plans and went to Holyoke College and then American University, playing minor league ball in the summer. The Tribe was generally compliant at first as Fran wound his way over a couple seasons to Double A with not bad numbers, but when the '68 expansion draft came along, they left him unprotected and the Royals snagged him. He would finally pull his military time in the '69 to '70 year and hit close to .290 over that time in Triple A for KC. At the end of the '70 season he was traded to the Giants for Bob Garibaldi. In '71 Fran made the cut and came up as a backup: in '71 to Dick Dietz and in '72 to Dave Rader. Right before the start of the '73 season he returned to KC for Greg Minton.

In '73 and moreso in '74 Healy would assume regular catching duties for the Royals. A big target, he worked well with the young pitching staff, particularly Steve Busby, for whom he caught two no-hitters. Both seasons he had an OBA over .340. In '75 the Royals acquired Bob Stinson and Fran returned to a backup role and early in '76 when Billy Martin wanted to clean his pitching house and needed catching support for Munson, Fran went to the Yankees for Larry Gura. He had a pretty good year as a role guy for the pennant winners, hitting .267, but his real value would be the following year when he got cozy with sometimes truculent star Reggie Jackson and proved to be very adept at soothing the slugger's many moods. His playing time declined substantially in '77 - he also got zero time in either post-season - and a couple games into the '78 season he was offered a broadcasting job with the team. That was it for his playing career and he finished with a .250 average, 20 homers, and 141 RBIs.

Healy would remain as a broadcaster with the Yankees through '83 and then move cross-town where he was a Mets broadcaster for 22 years, leaving after the 2005 season to get a gig with MSG Networks, where he currently resides professionally.

Fran's card back is a bit of a yawner. In "The Bronx Zoo" Sparky Lyle had some comedic observations about Healy when he initially started broadcasting, trolling around the locker room with his portable tape recorder. Sparky wasn't totally unsympathetic, however, as he also mused about how difficult the transition must have been: after years of being a trusted sounding board for other players, Fran's status as a media guy made former cohorts suspicious and stories harder to come by.

Healy and Brett missed being teammates by a few days in '76. That will be the key year:

1. Healy and Dock Ellis '76 to '77 Yankees:
2. Ellis and Ken Brett '74 to '75 Pirates.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

#237 - Ken Brett

At the time represented by this oddly-airbrushed photo - the Pirates wore black hats in '73 and '74 - Ken Brett was the best-hitting member of the Brett family. That would change pretty quickly when younger brother George started soaking up hits, but Ken was still smack in the middle of being the best hitting pitcher in the game. This time was also his best run as a pitcher so despite the cap on his head, the source of the big smile on his face is not too much of a mystery.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Segundo California, Brett was drafted in the first round by the Red Sox in '66. Signed as a multi-use player the Sox opted to use Ken strictly as a pitcher since they had a well-stocked young outfield. In '66 he had a tough season with some control issues in Single A. In '67 he won a total of 14 split between Single and Double A, tossing 219 strikeouts in 189 innings. He was pulled up top in the final few weeks for a pretty exciting stretch drive in which at season's end only three games separated the top four teams. When Sparky Lyle got hurt, Ken took his place on the Series roster and thew a couple scoreless innings. In '68 he missed spring training due to winding up his military stint and early that season in Triple A he injured his arm in his first game back. That injury pretty much killed his fastball and it would take most of that season to recover and work his way back into the rotation, although both '68 and '69 were generally good years. He would return to Boston for a few games in '69 then have a decent year up top in '70 - 8-9 with a 4.07 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 139 innings. He also hit over .300 each season. In '71 he took a step back and following the season he was included in the big trade that brought him, Jim Lonborg, and George Scott to Milwaukee and Tommy Harper and Marty Pattin to Boston, among others. His year with the Brewers was sub-standard and after that season he went to the Phillies with Lonborg and Ken Sanders for Don Money, John Vuckovich, and Billy Champion.

Brett enjoyed his best season to date in '73, winning 13 as a prime member of the rotation with his first good season-long ERA. He also got 16 RBIs as he hit a record four homers in four consecutive starts. After the season he went to the Pirates for Dave Cash and again won 13, with a 3.30 ERA, and hit .310 with 15 RBIs. He would again experience some arm trouble in '75 and spend some time in the pen, but he posted good numbers, going 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA. In the winter he would again be part of a big trade, going to the Yankees with Dock Ellis and Willie Randolph for Doc Medich. While Ken started pretty well in limited time for NY he was then sent early in the season to the White Sox with Rich Coggins for Carlos May. In Chicago he won 10 and in '76 would end up posting his best ERA at 3.26. He remained a starter in '77 when he was sent to the Angels mid-season for a trio of young pitchers. While his record was OK - 13-14 - his ERA wasn't so hot and after a spotty '78 mostly in the pen California released him. After being signed and released by the Twins he was picked up mid-season by the Dodgers - back in the NL he hit .273 - and had a pretty good year for them as a middle reliever. But they released him during spring training in '80 and he signed later that season with the Royals, joining brother George. After a couple innings in Triple A he came up top where he pitched in small allotments that year and in '81. According to George when he made his first relief appearance for the Royals, Ken came in from the outfield with his arms spread wide like an airplane, dipping and running in either direction on the way to the mound. It was at that point George realized why Ken was traded or released nine times. Ken finished with a record of 83-83 with a 3.93 ERA, 11 saves, and 51 complete games. In five post-season games he had a 3.00 ERA. An All-Star in '74 he also hit .262 for his career with 10 homers and 44 RBIs.

After playing Ken got a Bud Light commercial gig which led to his being named manager in Utica for the '85 season. In '86 he did color commentary for the Mariners, a job he also took with California from '87 to '94. During that time he and his bothers also bought a couple minor league teams as well as a hockey one and Ken worked in management of those franchises on and off until 2003 when he passed away from brain cancer. He was 55.

Ken's rigidly upright signature belies his quirky, free-spirited nature. His nickname was Kemer, given to him inadvertently by George because the latter couldn't pronounce Ken's name correctly. Ken is still the youngest player to appear in a World Series game.

Another double, first for Schoendienst as a manager:

1. Brett and Reggie Smith on the '67 and '69 to '71 Red Sox;
2. Smith was managed by Red on the '74 to '76 Cards.

Now for Red as a player:

1. Brett and Tom Satriano '69 to '70 Red Sox;
2. Satriano and Joe Adcock '65 to '66 Angels;
3. Adcock and Red Schoendienst '57 to '60 Braves.