Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#281 - San Francisco Giants/Giants Team Records

For some reason I cannot fathom, the Giants decided to take their team photo during a solar eclipse. Half of the team is in the light but the other half just sort of fades into darkness which was sort of how their seasons went back then: strong starts but the big fades in mid-season. '73 was no exception as Ron Bryant's fast start and perhaps the best young outfield in the league (Bonds, Matthews, and Maddox) had them in first place by early June. But weak starting pitching outside Bryant - even Juan Marichal was moved to the pen - and an injury to Chris Speier sort of sealed their doom as the Reds and the Dodgers surged past them in the summer. This is such a poor photo; I can only sort of make out just about anybody in it. Bryant helps us out by bringing his teddy bear to the first row. I bet that made the batboys feel special.

On the checklist front its pretty standard stuff. The whole starting lineup is represented as well as most of the rotation. These are generally nice signatures. A bunch of guys favor using middle names, or at least an initial. Garry and Gary have the most flair. Tito Fuentes tries to merge his whole name into one. He must have been shooting for that one name thing popular back then; like Liza or Pele.

The Giants had been around a long time at this point. Look how long John McGraw managed. There was no Series opponent in 1904 because McGraw refused to play any team from that upstart league. Let's get into these guys:

Jose Pagan almost could have had a card in this set as he played most of the '73 season with the Phillies. Signed by the Giants out of PR in '55 he moved through the minors a few seasons before putting up nice numbers as a Triple A shortstop in '59 and '60. Both seasons he also got some action up top and in '61 he settled in as the Giants' starting shortstop for the next few seasons, including the '62 pennant-winner. He got into so many games because his guys had to play LA in a playoff. Early in '65 he was sent to the Pirates for Dick Schofield as the afore mentioned Mr. Fuentes was on his way up. In Pittsburgh Jose moved to third and started there in '66. He then moved to a reserve role, backing up first Maury Wills and then Richie Hebner. He would return to the playoffs late in his career and even won a game against Baltimore in the '71 Series. He went to the Phillies on waivers before the '73 season and was released later in the year. He hit .250 for his career and .316 in 13 post-season games. After playing he did some coaching and managing, including up top for the Pirates ('74-'78) and managing in the minors for Oakland ('79-'80). In the States he was 131-158 as a manager. He was also a very successful winter league manager in PR for a number of years, winning titles with three teams. He passed away earlier this year at 76.

Jo Jo Moore was a guy I never heard of before this post but he was a hell of a player. Born in '08 he was in minor league ball a couple seasons when he was signed by the Giants in 1930. Most of his time between then and '32 was spent in A and Double A ball and he never hit below .312 during that time. He had some time up top in '30 and '31 but McGraw thought he was too small at 5'10" and about 150 pounds. Early in '32 Bill Terry replaced McGraw as manager and pulled Jo Jo up from Jersey City and immediately made him the starting left fielder and leadoff hitter. Jo Jo would occupy that spot through '41 and six of those seasons was an All-Star. He was an excellent first ball hitter and rarely walked but even more rarely struck out. In '34 he hit .331, his best season average, and the next year while his average moved down to .295 he otherwise had his best offensive season with 201 hits, 15 homers, and 71 RBIs while leading the NL in at bats. He only struck out 24 times that season. Defensively he had a gun of an arm and was an exceptionally smooth fielder earning the nickname "The Gause Ghost", Gause being his Texas home town. After the '41 season he was sold to the Reds but with the outbreak of WW II he did some induction work and spent the next two seasons at Double A Indianapolis, putting up some good numbers. For his career up top he hit .298 with 79 homers and 513 RBIs. After playing he returned to Gause and worked his ranch until he passed away in 2001 at age 92.

There is a pretty funny story tangentially involving Mr. Moore above. Frenchy Bourdagay was a colorful player in the '30's for the Dodgers, among other teams, and his manager with Brooklyn was Casey Stengel. When a long fly was hit deep in the Polo Grounds, Stengel motioned Bourdagay, who was on second, all the way home. But Moore nailed a throw to home plate that was waiting for Frenchy almost before he rounded third and so Frenchy, knowing he was out, didn't even try to slide, enraging Stengel. His next at bat, Frenchy hit a homer, and in the wake of being fined by Casey on the spot for not sliding, decided to play it safe and during his trot slid into every base including a dramatic swan dive into home.

Bill Terry was born in Atlanta in 1898 and began his professional baseball life at 16 as a pitcher in the local minor leagues. He was pretty good and by 1917 had reached the B levels with a lifetime 38-24 record and an ERA well under 3.00. But he was a practical guy and at 18, unsigned to a Major League team and with a young family, he quit ball and went to work in Memphis for Standard Oil. He played for their company team and was re-discovered by an old manager who recommended him to John McGraw. McGraw liked Bill's tenacity and signed him and so Terry returned to the minors in '22 as a pitcher/ first baseman. After putting up a 4.25 ERA in Double A that year but hitting .336 he was moved to first full time. He remained in the minors, hit .377, and was up in NY by the end of the '23 season. In '24 he backed up High Pockets Kelly at first and only hit .239 but he turned it on in the Series that year, hitting .429 against Washington. He was given first base and hit .321 in '25 but without a whole lot of power. In '26 he pissed off McGraw by holding out, lost first base back to Kelly, and only got 225 at bats. But in '27 all was good, he returned full-time to first, and he kicked off the numbers that got him in the Hall. He hit .326 that season with 20 homers and 121 RBIs. He would never hit below .300 the rest of his career and each of the next five seasons he would also top 100 RBIs. In 1930 he famously became the last NL'er to hit above .400, banging out 254 hits. During the '32 season he was given the managing job by McGraw, who moved upstairs. It would be his final season with over 100 RBIs and though he put up pretty good averages the rest of his playing career and made the new All-Star game three times, his power numbers would diminish as he concentrated on managing. He was awfully good in that role as well, taking the Giants to the Series twice. When he finished playing during the '37 season he had a .341 average with 154 homers and 1,078 RBIs, those being accrued in what amounted to eleven full seasons. He managed through '41 and had a record of 823-661. In '42 he moved to the front office but didn't enjoy it so he left baseball and returned to Memphis to trade cotton for a few years. He then moved to Jacksonville where he opened a very successful auto dealership and lived the rest of his life. He passed away there in 1989 at age 90.

Willie Mays I'll save for the Series cards.

Laughing Larry Doyle came out of mining country in Illinois to play local ball and was signed by the Giants during the 1907 season for a then-record $4,500. He went right up, but having played third base exclusively up till then in his career, lost his first game when while playing second he got confused and let a run score while holding the ball. But from there it was all good and he would be the Giants starting second baseman for most of the next 13 seasons. In '09 he led the NL in hits, in '11 in triples, and in '12 won the Chalmers award - then the MVP - by hitting .330 with 90 RBIs on the pennant winner. He went to the Series three times with NY, from '11 to '13 (hitting .237 in 19 games). In '15 he led the NL in hits, doubles, and with a .320 average. While hitting, he had to wear a string around his right wrist attached to the bat to keep him from slinging it into the dugout. Late in the '16 season he was traded to the Cubs for Heinie Zimmerman but after a season starting there he was back in NY before the '18 season. That year he was part of a pretty funny double play: on first base he was given the hit and run and was at second before the Cards' second baseman was. Rabbit Maranville had fielded the ball at shortstop and had tossed the ball to second. On reflex Larry caught it as he was running in, pivoted and threw to first, nailing his own batter. The batter was out and Larry was called out due to interference, do he recorded a double play against himself! He remained with the Giants through the '20 season, finishing with a .290 lifetime average, 123 triples, 793 RBIs, and 298 stolen bases. At the time of his retirement he had played the third most games at second. He managed in the minors in '21 and '22 and returned to Illinois to work. At some point during the '20's he contracted tuberculosis and went to Saranac Lake in NY where his old roomie Christy Mathewson was ailing also. Larry got cured eventually and when the sanatorium closed in '42 was the last resident to depart. He remained in Saranac Lake the rest of his life, passing away in '74 at age 88.

Nobody worked the short dimensions down the lines at the Polo Grounds better than Mel Ott who, despite his size - only 5'9" - was a big power hitter for 20 years. Recommended to John McGraw by the owner of the sandlot team on which he played at 17, he was signed by the Giants in '26. Mel never played in the minors, instead warming the bench a couple seasons before the sudden death of outfielder Ross Youngs eventually allowed him to take over left field in '28. That year he hit 18 homers and .322 in his first season as a regular. The next season he hit 42 and from then until '42 he would average over 30 homers and 100 RBIs a season. Along the way he appeared in three Series and that last year he would assume the manager role as well, following Bill Terry. Mel played through the '46 season and finished with a .308 average, with 2,876 hits, 511 homers - then an NL record - 1,860 RBIs, and a .418 OBA. He hit .295 with four homers and ten RBIs in 16 post-season games and was an 11-time All-Star. Mel managed through the '47 season, going 464-530. After a couple years doing admin work he managed in the PCL in '51 and '52 and then turned to broadcasting which he was actively still at when he and his wife were killed in an auto accident in '58. He was only 49. Mel was elected to the Hall in '52.

All the above guys have detailed bios by the SABR guys. On to the pitchers:

Hoyt Wilhelm came out of North Carolina and was already throwing a knuckleball before he finished high school. He kicked things off in the local minors in '42 when he went 10-3. He then missed the next three seasons to WW II where he was in the Battle of the Bulge. He returned to the North Carolina State League in '46 and the next two seasons went a combined 41-15 and was finally signed by the Giants prior to the '48 season when he was 25. After a couple years for them in the low minors, Hoyt went 26-25 in two years at Triple A in '50 and '51. The next year he moved to NY where he had a monstrous season as a 29-year old rookie. He led the NL in games and went 15-3 with 11 saves and an NL-leading 2.43 ERA entirely in relief. The next year he was an All-Star with 15 saves and in '54 went 12-4 with a 2.10 ERA for the Series champs. He stuck in NY through '56 then was traded to the Cards for Whitey Lockman. After a partial season there he moved to the Indians - where he got the first start of his career at age 35 - and then Baltimore. For the O's he joined the rotation in '59 , went 15-11, and won the ERA title with 2.19. He stayed with the O's through '62 by which time he was back in the pen, leaving behind a 2.42 ERA in five seasons. He then moved to the White Sox where he was one of the AL's top relievers, going 41-33 with a 1.91 ERA and 98 saves in six seasons, all in his Forties. From there he moved to the Angels, Braves - where he was an All-Star in '70 - Cubs, and Dodgers before he finished in '72 when he was 49 with a 143-122 record with a 2.52 ERA and 227 saves in a record 1,071 games. He managed in the minors from '73 to '75, and the was a roving pitching coach for the Yankees from '76 to '98. He was elected to the Hall in '85, the first relief pitcher so honored, and passed away in 2002 from a heart ailment at age 80.

Iron Man Joe McGinnity was another late bloomer. Born in Illinois in 1871, he played sandlot ball after high school while working in local foundries, reaching the Southern Association in 1893 where he went 15-20. After not receiving much interest he returned home to play local ball and work in a saloon. Late in the '98 season he hooked back up in organized ball, going 9-5 with Peoria. After the season he was signed by Baltimore, for whom John McGraw played, and the following season as a 28-year old rookie, led the NL with 28 wins. In 1900 the team dissolved and Joe went to Brooklyn and again won 28. In '01 he rejoined McGraw in Baltimore, now an AL team, winning 34 there in the next season-plus, before following McGraw late in '02 to the Giants. In '03 and '04 he had two of the best successive seasons by a pitcher ever as he went 66-28 in 845 innings. In '04 he led the NL with a 1.61 ERA (which should trump the Hubbell mark on the card), wins (with 35), shutouts (nine), and saves (five). In '05 he finally got to a Series and went 1-1 despite not giving up an earned run in 17 innings. In '06 he led the NL in wins for the fifth time and in '07 and '08 in saves. After finishing in the bigs at age 37 with a 246-142 record, a 2.66 ERA, 32 shutouts, 24 saves, and over 3,400 innings in ten seasons Joe returned to the minors to play and coach. Before he finished as a player - when he was 54 - he had won an additional 205 games. He coached through the '29 season when he became ill and later passed away at age 58. He was elected to the Hall in '46.

Christy Mathewson was the other half of a pretty fierce pitching duo with Iron Man above. After growing up in eastern PA, Matty went to Bucknell where he was all-everything in baseball, basketball, and football. He'd also played a season of summer ball but had a miserable run, going 2-13. Upon graduating in 1899 he played for Norfolk, went 18-2, and hit .280 while also playing the outfield, and by the end of the season was purchased by the Giants. After being selected by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft, he was traded back to NY and his career began in earnest when he won 20 in '01. After going 14-17 in '02 - but leading the NL in shutouts with eight - he put together a pretty amazing streak. He won over 30 each of the next three seasons - he and McGinnity each won at least that amount in '04 and '05 - and over the next twelve seasons his lowest win total was 22. During that time he led the NL in wins four times, shutouts three times, and ERA and strikeouts five times. In the '05 Series he famously went 3-0 while not giving up a run in 27 innings. By '14 Matty was running out of gas - possibly due to tuberculosis that had killed a younger brother that year - and the next couple seasons were very sub-par. In '16 McGraw traded him to the Reds so that he could manage and there Matty built the team that would play the Black Sox in the '19 Series. But in '18 he went to Europe for WW I and there was exposed to mustard gas and also got hit with influenza. During the '19 Series he got a gig for the NY Times and for that paper opined that things were a bit suspicious on the field which would of course turn out to be correct. After a couple years coaching for McGraw with the Giants, Matty went up to Saranac Lake, by this time in pretty bad health from the mustard gas and full-blown tuberculosis. He stayed there until he passed away in '25 when he was only 45. During his career he went 373-188 with a 2.13 ERA, 79 shutouts, 435 complete games, and over 2,500 strikeouts in nearly 4,800 innings. In the post-season he was 5-5 with a 0.97 ERA with four shutouts in eleven games. He was elected to the Hall in '36.

Luther "Dummy" Taylor was born in Kansas in 1875 and grew up there, graduating from the Kansas School for the Deaf in 1895. Called "Dummy" because of his inability to hear or speak he played local ball until '99 when he went 6-7 with Shreveport of the Southern League. The Giants signed him and brought him to NY the following year where he went 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA as a rookie. In '01 he went 18-27 for a team that only won 52 games. The next year he jumped to Cleveland in the AL for more money before jumping back to NY by the end of the season. He was a favorite for the Giants because his ability to see well and to sign made him very adept at stealing signs from other teams and he would spend a bunch of time coaching first base as well. In '04 he went 21-15 with a 2.34 ERA, his best season. He would stick in NY through '08 when his arm gave out but would be shut out of any Series appearances since those starts were monopolized by the two guys above. Dummy finished with a 116-106 record and a 2.75 ERA, 160 complete games, 21 shutouts, and three saves. He returned to the minors where he pitched and coached through '15, winning another 75 games. He then became an umpire for The House of David, among other teams, from '15 through '38. He also spent a bunch of time coaching and doing various admin work for a few schools for the deaf. He passed away in '58 at age 83.

Charles "Jeff" Tesreau was born in Missouri in 1888 where he worked in lead mines and played for local teams. He had a rifle fastball with almost no control and by 1910 had hooked up with the Texas League, going 15-14 with a 1.91 ERA. The Giants picked him up and over the next couple seasons Jeff learned and refined his new out pitch, a spitball. He came to NY in '12 and went 17-7 as a rookie, leading the NL with a 1.96 ERA. He would average over 20 wins the next four seasons and in '14 won 26 and led the NL with eight shutouts. He pitched in three Series, going 1-2 with a 3.62 ERA in six games. In '18 he was off to a 4-4 start with a 2.32 ERA when an argument with McGraw led him to quit the team. That was it for him up top and he finished at 115-72 with a 2.43 ERA and 27 shutouts. He then became Dartmouth's baseball coach from '19 to '46, going 379-264 while there. He was still the school's coach when he passed away from a stroke in '46 at age 58.

Carl Hubbell, the Meal Ticket, was also born in Missouri, but grew up in Oklahoma. After high school he worked in the oil business, played company ball, and eventually hooked up with independent teams when he was 21 in 1924. Then he was primarily a fastball pitcher but over the next couple seasons he would learn and refine a screwball. After the '25 season he was bought by the Tigers but in '26 manager Ty Cobb wouldn't let him throw his screwjie and he was sent down, eventually winning 14 that year at various levels. Sold to a Texas League team he was allowed to throw his pitch again and after an increasingly better season was sold to the Giants. He came up in '28 and after a rough start put in some good relief outings and by the end of the season was in the rotation. The next four seasons he averaged 17 wins for McGraw during the manager's last four years. In '33 He went on a five-year tear, averaging 23 wins a year while leading the NL in ERA three times, shutouts, saves, and strikeouts once each. He also won two MVP's during that run: in '33 when he went 23-12 with his 1.66 ERA; and in '36 when he went 26-6 with a 2.31 ERA. He made the first six All-Star teams - he would make nine altogether - and went to the Series three times, going a combined 4-2 with a 1.79 ERA in six games. He pitched for NY through the '43 season and finished with a record of 243-154 with a 2.98 ERA and 36 shutouts. After he played he moved to run the Giants' minor league system from '44 to '77 when he suffered a stroke. He then scouted for the Giants through his death in '88 at age 85.

All the pitchers also have great bios on the SABR site.

Finally to the '73 rundown. Back then Topps loved the Giants so I expect pretty good representation. The only missing regular is Willie McCovey but that's because he was traded to the Padres and has a card there. The pitching side has a few holes. Don McMahon went 4-0 in '73 with a 1.48 ERA in 22 games, although technically he had a card since he was a Giants coach that year (his bio is on that post). Charlie Williams - acquired the season before for Willie Mays - went 3-0 but with a 6.65 ERA and gets skipped over this year. Sam McDowell went 1-2 with SF but has a Yankees card. And then there's John Morris, who went 1-0. Including McMahon there are cards for 158 of 162 decisions, so that's pretty good. The guys with no player cards went a combined 9-0, definitely a first for this set.

To fill out music news for November, since this post took forever, in '73 a new number one hit appeared on November 24th in the U.S. It was Ringo Starr's "Photograph" and it ironically replaced John Lennon's song "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" up top. In '74 a new number one song hit the top stateside: Billy Swan's "I Can Help." It would stay there for two weeks beginning on the 23rd. On the 28th John Lennon joined Elton John onstage at Madison Square Garden in what would be the last concert appearance by Lennon. They would perform his '73 hit "Whatever ..." as well as "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There. "Lucy" would be a hit in '75 for Elton and the latter was released as a b-side to his "Philadelphia Freedom."

To make this quick, we take advantage of a very recent trade, seen later in this set:

1. Juan Marichal was on the '73 Giants;
2. Marichal and Carl Yastrzemski '74 Red Sox.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#280 - Carl Yastrzemski

Here's the first Hall of Famer in quite a while in this set. Yaz is holding what from this angle is an enormous piece of lumber in Oakland. '73 was a sort of comeback year for him as he put up his best numbers offensively since '70 and recorded his 2,000th hit during the season. And he played everywhere that year, even third base after Rico Petrocelli got hurt. I always liked Yaz even though a lot of people thought he was aloof. He came out of the NYC area and made it big in Boston which was normally anathema to both sides. I was a big Yankee fan in the Seventies and once while waiting for tickets at the window in '78 I was chatting with this stately older woman in front of me. It turned out she was Yaz's aunt and when some idiot behind me heard that he sort of accidentally hit her with his baseball cap. I then had to sort of accidentally knee the guy in the gut. Sometimes being a Yankee fan is no fun.

Carl Yastrzemski grew up on Long Island where in high school he starred in football, basketball, and baseball. There was lots of interest in him at that time but when no team would match his dad's wish for a six-figure bonus he took up a hoops and baseball scholarship offer from Notre Dame. He stayed in South Bend through the fall semester of his sophomore year when he signed with Boston for about $106,000 in '58. A pitcher and infielder in high school, he stuck to middle infield his first season in the minors, hitting .377 in B ball. In '60 he learned how to play the outfield in Triple A, hitting .339, so that he could take over left field at Fenway following Ted Williams' anticipated retirement. He came up in '61 to do exactly that and had a pretty good rookie year, even though his K totals were a little high from trying to park the ball too much. In the off-season a chat with the guy he replaced confirmed that his hitting was just fine without him trying to go yard all the time. The talk worked and his sophomore season was a significant step up and in '63 he won his first batting title and All-Star nod while also leading the AL in hits, doubles, walks, and OBA. He had also turned into an awfully good fielder and that season he won the first of what would be seven Gold Gloves. In '64 Yaz spent the bulk of the season in center, to make room in left for rookie slugger Tony Conigliaro. The next year Tony C moved to right, Yaz back to left, and the Sox went through a couple guys before they settled on Reggie Smith in center in '67. In '65 and '66 Yaz led the AL in doubles and returned to the All-Star game for the first two of what would be 15 consecutive seasons.

1967 was a huge year for the Sox as their young stars Jim Lonborg, Reggie Smith, Rico Petrocelli, George Scott, and Tony C (before he got hurt) helped propel the team to a dramatic pennant win and near World Series victory. But the big gun was Yaz. He had a monster year that just kept getting better down the stretch and in the post-season. He won the last Triple Crown - we are now abutting on year 45 - and also led the AL in runs, hits, and OBA in his big MVP year. He then hit .400 with three homers and five RBIs against the Cards. In '68 his year wasn't nearly as huge - no hitter's was - but he was the only AL guy to hit over .300 and he won his third batting title doing it. In '69 his average would finally tank a bit but he had a power resurgence and in '70 he had another MVP-caliber year, leading the AL with 125 runs and an amazing .452 OBA, the highest of his career. He also played a ton of first base that year as George Scott had to take over third. '71 and '72 were a bit rough as he missed some time for injuries but he had a nice stretch drive the later season as the Sox almost stole the division from Detroit. Then in '73 he moved mostly to first base which would be his primary position the next few seasons. The next year he again topped the AL in runs and hit .301, the last time he would top .300 in his career.

In '75 Boston had another magic but ultimately heart-breaking season. This time the big guns were a different bunch of youngsters, namely Dwight Evans, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. Yastrzemski had about the poorest power season of his career at that point with 14 homers and 60 RBIs, but he again turned it on when it counted. He hit .455 in the AL playoff sweep of Oakland and .310 with four RBIs and four walks in seven games against the Reds. He then got back to it the next few regular seasons, topping 100 RBIs in both '76 and '77. In '79 he and Lou Brock became the first guys to stroke their 3,000th hit the same season. By then Yaz's most regular spot was DH which would continue to be his through the '83 season after which he retired. He hit .285 for his caeer, with 646 doubles, 452 homers, and 1,844 RBIs. He also put up a .379 OBA and even slipped in 168 stolen bases and is currently eighth all-time with 3,419 hits. Defensively he led the AL in outfield assists seven times. His post-season totals were a .369 average with four homers, nine RBIs, and a .447 OBA in 17 games.

Yaz was elected to the Hall in '89 and since playing has occupied himself with various business interests, speaking engagements, and admin work and instructing duties with the Sox.

Topps could only fit in three short star bullets here, but they are awfully good ones. I like that "Y" in his signature; it looks like a Q. He must get a pretty good workout at autograph shows.

These two guys share colors, but little else:

1. Yaz and Ben Oglivie '71 to '73 Red Sox;
2. Oglivie and Jim Crawford '76 to '77 Tigers.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#279 - Jim Crawford

Jim Crawford's rookie card has him posing at Candlestick during a mixed season in which he'd post a high ERA but put up six saves. Jim was a very recent hot property, having been an All-American at Arizona State where he played for both Bobby Winkles, who we just saw, and his successor, Jim Brock. He did well at ASU, winning 33 during his career there, including a senior year during which he went 12-1. He was the losing pitcher in the '72 CWS against USC even though he did not give up an earned run in his 20 innings of tournament ball (he wild pitched a run home early in the game). He was a big boy of whom a lot was expected, but things didn't really go his way.

Jim Crawford was born in Chicago and moved to Arizona as a kid where he starred in baseball for Rincon High School in Tucson. A teammate there was Pat Darcy who would pitch in the mid-'70's for the Reds. Jim was drafted by the new Padres out of high school in '68 but instead went to Arizona State where he played through '72. He also pitched summers for the Glacier Pilots in Alaska for whom he ranks third in both innings pitched and strikeouts for a career. While there he pitched the Pilots to the summer series title by putting up a 0.29 ERA in over 30 innings in the team's initial year of '69 (he also won in '71). The Astros then drafted him in '72 and he kicked off his career in excellent fashion in Rookie and Double A ball that year. In '73 he played strictly in Houston before moving back to the minors for '74, going 11-10 at Triple A Denver with a 4.96 ERA. After a shutout in his first start at that level in '75 he returned to Houston, going 3-5 with a 3.63 ERA and four saves in 44 games. He was then traded to the Tigers - he had a Traded card in the '76 set - with Milt May and Dave Roberts for Leon Roberts, Terry Humphrey, Mark Lemongello, and Gene Pentz.

The Detroit team on which Crawford landed was pretty bad and while Jim would improve on his walk to strikeouts ratio and pitch a bunch more innings, he gave up too many hits and his '76 season was not so hot as he went 1-8 with a 4.53 ERA with a couple saves. He wouldn't be able to get his ERA back below 4.00 during the next couple seasons and although his record over that time improved a bit (to a combined 9-11) he would end up retiring before the '78 season was over. Jim finished with a record of 15-28 with 13 saves, a complete game, and a 4.40 ERA. He also hit .267 for his MLB career.

After playing Crawford did...what? I have been trying to track this guy down for the better part of a day and I come up with nothing. So let's just assume he happily rode off to obscurity.

Jim's got some pretty good star bullets for a guy just starting out. That second one is a big deal because nobody since has won an extra-inning game that was his first one in the majors. Jim was a pretty good hitter, actually. His career average was .267 up top and .235 in the minors.

In music, on November 20th in '73 Who drummer Keith Moon collapsed onstage when the band was touring for its amazing (that's a bit of a bias) "Quadrophenia" album. He was pretty much stoned out of his mind and rather than end the concert, the rest of the band had a 19-year old kid from the audience come up to the stage and fill in Moon's place on drums. Now that's a rock and roll fantasy come true if I ever heard one.

If I can't find Jim now at least I can find him a hook-up to Cookie:

1. Crawford and Jose Cruz '75 Astros;
2. Cruz and Rick Wise '72 to '73 Cards;
3. Wise and Cookie Rojas '64 and '66 to '69 Phillies.

Friday, November 18, 2011

#278 - Cookie Rojas

This bespectacled guy is the latest Cuban - we've seen a pretty good amount of those - in the set. Cookie here was about to embark on his best season in KC in which he reached his career high of 29 doubles, 18 stolen bases, and 69 RBIs. He's staring down the end of his bat in what looks like the Royals spring training facility while a teammate or coach seems to be nodding off behind him. My guess is that it's Galen Cisco. It's a pretty beautiful day but only one fan is out and he may even be a team executive, given the hat. Sometimes playing ball back in the early Seventies had to be a self-motivating experience.

Cookie Rojas played ball since he was a kid in Cuba and was discovered by a Reds scout while playing for the amateur Fortuna team there after high school. Signed in '56 he kicked off his career in D ball that summer and hit .275. He also collided with a catcher's shin guard that year while sliding home which resulted in blurred vision and the need to wear glasses. He wasn't much of a hitter in the minors and wound through the Reds' system pretty slowly, finally putting up a decent average - .265 - in '61 at Triple A. He began '62 at that level as well and by season's end got into a few games at second for Cincinnati. After the season he was sent to the Phillies for Jim Owens.

The Phillies would keep Rojas up top. When he was traded there Cookie thought Tony Taylor would be moved to third and he be given the starting job at second but the Phillies had also picked up Don Hoak from the Pirates to play third so in '63 Cookie warmed the bench an awful lot. '64 started off the same but when he finally got a chance to play in May he fielded pretty well and hit at an over .500 clip as the team began its big pennant run. That and his ability to play anywhere in the field got him into the lineup for good and despite the team's big fade that season, Cookie ended up hitting over .290 with only 17 strikeouts for the season. The next year he became the regular second baseman, hit over .300, and got his first All-Star nod. He continued to also play lots of outfield the next couple seasons as well as winter ball. In '67 he played almost exclusively at second and then that winter took off from ball as he would the following season. Unfortunately both those moves dovetailed with his two worst regular seasons in '68 and '69. He also injured his leg the second season and following it Cookie was part of the big trade that moved him, Dick Allen, and Jerry Johnson to the Cards for Curt Flood - who refused to report and was replaced by Willie Montanez - Joe Hoerner, and Tim McCarver. Cookie was a throw-in in the deal as the Phillies thought he was done at age 30. The Cards thought so too and after playing very little he was sent to the Royals in June of '70 for Fred Rico.

That trade turned out to be a steal for Kansas City. Until then the Royals had a revolving door at second base during their short history. But Cookie stepped in, fielded well, and hit .260, his highest average since '66. When Freddie Patek arrived the next season the two of them provided solid middle infield play for the next five seasons. In '71 Cookie was third in the AL in hitting at the All-Star break and made the squad, at the time becoming only the ninth guy to do so for both leagues. He got a hairline fracture in his leg later that season which pulled his average down to .300 before he missed the rest of the year. He would be an All-Star the next three seasons as well, his best being '73. In '75 he had his last season as a regular as Frank White replaced him at second. He stuck around as a reserve the next two seasons, finally reaching the playoffs both years. He was released by KC after the '77 season and signed with the Cubs, but didn't play, beginning his new career as a coach. Cookie hit .263 lifetime with 54 homers, 593 RBIs, and only 489 strikeouts in over 6,000 at bats. He hit .308 with two stolen bases in five post-season games.

Rojas has stayed in baseball since his playing career ended. He coached for the Cubs ('78-'81), Angels ('82-'88), Marlins ('93-'96), Mets ('97-2000), and Blue Jays ('01-'02). He also scouted from '88 to '92 and managed twice: for the Angels in '88 and the Mariners in '96 (his managing record is 76-79). Since 2003 he has been a Spanish-language broadcaster for the Marlins.

Cookie also was a '73 All-Star which is a weird thing for Topps to omit. His nickname came from his time as a baby when his mom named him "Coqui" after the native chirping frogs in Cuba.

In the music world in '73 Gary Glitter took over the top spot in the UK with "I Love You Love Me Love" which was, I suppose, a love song. Glitter had one big hit in the States with "Rock-N-Roll" in '72, the mostly instrumental song (it's only line is "Hey!") that has been a favorite at sporting events ever since. Gary would pretty famously get into a bunch of trouble later on regarding his affection toward kids. In '74 on the 17th ABBA began its first world tour, beginning the global popularity that we've been paying for ever since. That's too bad.

These guys were both Reds. but a few years apart:

1. Rojas and Hal McRae '73 to '77 Royals;
2. McRae and Gary Nolan '68 and '70 to '72 Reds.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#277 - Gary Nolan

This photo looks like it was taken the moment Mr. Nolan here realized his second start of the '73 season would be his last one for the next two years, which would indeed be the case. Gary, a one-time rookie phenom, would end up having a nasty bone spur removed from his right elbow by Dr. Frank Jobe who would go on to famously repair Tommy John's rotator cuff. The operation would be followed by an arduous year-long recovery that would ultimately be pretty rewarding for our friend here. But right now he is showing the non-plussed look of someone whose career might be in the toilet.

Gary Nolan came out of a rural California high school as the Reds' first draft choice of '66, signing for a pretty big bonus he negotiated himself. That year he went 7-3 with a 1.82 ERA in A ball with 163 strikeouts and only 30 walks in 104 innings. In '67 he got promoted all the way up and continued his magic, having a Dr. K-like rookie year with over 200 strikeouts in a season that began when he was 18, and coming in third in NL ROY voting to two other pitchers. An aggressive thrower, his only out pitch at that point was his fastball. Early in spring training in '68 he hurt his shoulder, rehabbed for a few innings in A ball and didn't make it back to the Reds until late May. After that, though, he was again good enough to lead the team in ERA. Then in '69 he popped a muscle in his right arm and missed almost three months of the season; during that time, however, he did pick up a changeup which would be huge down the road. In '70 he was finally fully healthy and he had his winningest season, getting his first post-season action, and coming in sixth in the NL Cy race. The next year most of his numbers except his record were better as the team's fortunes did an about face. Then in '72, now more of a ground ball pitcher, he had perhaps his best statistical year. He made his first All-Star team, winning 13 before the break, but shoulder and arm pain limited him to only a few games thereafter until the playoffs. Then came the nasty two-year break. By then many observers thought Gary was only truly injured in his mind and he developed a very Jay Cutler-like reputation. The only good upshot from the operation was that when Dr. Jobe took out the spearing bone chip he remarked in a conference that he couldn't imagine how anyone could pitch through that much obvious pain. Gary was vindicated but it wasn't lost on him that it took almost two seasons away from baseball to make that happen.

Nolan returned in '75, just in time to join the Reds on their two-year romp through the NL and two Series championships. He went 15-9 each season and both years led the Major Leagues in fewest walks per nine innings. In '76 he finally won his first Series game in the closer against the Yankees. It was a nice run but it ended fast. In '77 the shoulder went south again and after a 4-1 start in Cincinnati he was sent to the Angels for a minor leaguer, Craig Hendrickson. But after a few starts there in which he went 0-3 with an ERA approaching 9.00 he was released. Done before he turned 30, Gary finished with a record of 110-70, 14 shutouts, and a 3.08 ERA. In the post-season he went a combined 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA in eleven starts.

After he played Nolan took up residence in Vegas, moving up the ladder from dealer to floor operator to pit boss. He had a pretty long rift with the Reds, feeling they never appreciated the pain under which he had to operate while pitching for them. That was healed after he visited their hall of fame and saw his plaque hanging there. He has since relocated back to his California home, Oroville, where among other things, he helps coach high school baseball.

This card has some pretty good star bullets. The first one is open for discussion since more recent journalism puts his bonus number closer to $40,000. In '72 that record got him fifth place in the NL Cy race. His three out pitches were his fastball, changeup, and a curve he developed his sophomore year.

I can't count Nolan's brief time in California, so let's look elsewhere:

1. Nolan and Vada Pinson '67 to '68 Reds;
2. Pinson played for Bobby Winkles on the '73 Angels.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#276 - Bobby Winkles/ Angels Field Leaders

This is only Bobby Winkles' second Topps card but he was already a baseball legend by the time it came out. Bobby was the first head baseball coach at Arizona State and during his tenure from '59 to '71 he won three D1 NCAA World Series in '65, '67, and '69. His record while there was 524-173 and he produced a pretty good share of Major League players, among them Sal Bando, Rick Monday, and Reggie Jackson. When Bobby was named manager of the Angels prior to the '73 season it represented a rarity in that few college coaches until then had made the transition to top guy in MLB. It would be a pretty tough introductory season: despite a pretty good pitching staff that sported two 20-game winners in Nolan Ryan and Bill Singer, the unsettled status of the infield positions and catcher and particularly the injury to Bobby Valentine dragged the team to yet another losing record, though just a few games south of .500. After a worse record to kick off the '74 season Bobby, who wasn't given terribly much of a chance, was fired. I guess Anaheim was a lot farther from Tempe than he thought.

Bobby Winkles was born in Arkansas and played ball at Illinois Wesleyan University (he was inducted into their hall of fame about when this shot was taken) from which he graduated and was signed by the White Sox in '51. He began his career that summer in A ball, hitting .291 as a shortstop. In B ball the following season he got off to a similar start when he was called into the service which kept him out of ball through '53. He returned for the '54 season and hit well in A ball but had a tough time keeping a good average going at the higher levels until he batted .279 at Double A in '57. He would combine for a .215 average the next year between Double and Triple A and then quit playing to take the new ASU position. He finished with a .270 average in the minors. In '72 he moved to the Angels as a coach and then assumed the manager post in '73. After losing that job the next year he moved right to Oakland to coach which he would do through '75. He then coached the Giants for '76 until early in '77 when he replaced Jack McKeon as manager back in Oakland. After a pretty bad finish to that season he was off to a good start in '78 - 24-15 - when he was replaced by Jack McKeon. That was it for his managing days. His record lifetime was 170-213. He then coached ('78 to '82) and was minor league hitting ('84 to '86) instructor for the White Sox before coaching for the Expos ('86 to '88). He then moved into the radio booth for Montreal as the English-language color guy which he did until he retired to Florida where he still resides.

Tom Morgan grew up in California and was signed by the Yankees in '49. He got off to a good start, winning 12 that year in C ball and 17 the next in A ball, all as a starter. After winning a couple in four starts in '51 at Triple A he came up to NY, moving into the rotation, and going 9-3 his rookie year. Off to a good start in '52 he then went into the military missing the balance of that season and all of '53. In '54 he reclaimed his spot and went 11-5. The next year he was moved to the bullpen and the next two seasons went 14-10 with 21 saves. He won two rings with NY but didn't pitch terribly well in the post-season (0-1 with a 5.59 ERA) and was traded to Kansas City after the '56 season in a deal involving 13 guys. After a season there he went to Detroit in another 13-player trade. He would also pitch for the Nats before going to the Angels in a sale before the '61 season. After four years during which he was a combined 16-21 with 18 saves and a 4.13 ERA, he enjoyed a two-year comeback in California, going 13-4 with 19 saves and a 2.58 ERA in '61 and '62. After a slow start and some minor league time in '63 he was released. Tom went 67-47 with a 3.61 ERA and 64 saves at the MLB level and 35-20 with a 3.47 ERA in the minors where he also hit above .300. He then moved right into coaching: as the Angels' minor league pitching instructor ('64-'65 and '67-'68) and minor league manager ('66 and '69); Yankees scout ('70-'71); Angels pitching coach ('72-'74); Padres pitching coach ('75); back for the Yankees as a minor league coach ('76-'78) and up top ('79); and back with the Angels ('81 -'83). He passed away from a stroke in '87 when he was only 56.

Salty Parker was signed by the Tigers out of East St. Louis in 1930 and ironically began his career with the D league Plowboys (Plowboy was Tom Morgan's nickname). A shortstop, Salty would put up some decent averages but progressed slowly and by '36 was in Double A ball. He also got into a few Tiger games that year - .280 with four RBIs in 25 at bats - that would comprise his whole Major League career. Later in the season he would be part of a trade that brought Dizzy Trout to Detroit. Salty ended up in the White Sox system where he would play at various minor league levels through '43. In '39 he added managing to his resume and by the time he went into the service in '44 he had won two league titles. He returned as a player for Montreal in '45, posting probably his best season - .298 with 77 RBIs and a .405 OBA - and just missing Jackie Robinson by a few months. He would return to the White Sox system in '46, play a couple more years, and continue managing in the system through '54 before moving over to the Giants one the next three years, making it to the finals for NY each year. He hit .278 for his career in the minors. He then moved up to San Francisco as the Giants' third base coach from '58 to '61. He followed that by coaching for Cleveland ('62), California ('64 to '66), the Mets ('67), and Houston ('68 to '72), before returning to the Angels ('73 to '74). He even managed: eleven games for the Mets in '67 and a couple for the Astros in '72 (his record up top was 5-8). After another season coaching ('75) and then managing ('76) back in the Giants chain, he moved to scouting for the Angels. By then he had relocated to Houston where he was also involved coaching youth leagues until he passed away in '92 at age 80.

Jimmie Reese - born James Soloman - was born in NYC and moved to Californa as a kid. A true baseball lifer he was a batboy in the PCL from when he was 12 until he was 21, with a year off for WW I (that's the first for a coach in this set). In '24 he kicked off his playing career for Oakland in that league when he was 22 (his real birth year was 1901, not '05) and was the starting shortstop there the next five seasons, his average peaking at .337 in '29. The PCL had super long seasons back then and for four of them Jimmie played in over 180 games. In '27 he and his DP partner Frank Lary were sold to the Yankees for $125,000 but were kept at Oakland until needed. Jimmie moved to NY in '30 and had a nice rookie year, hitting .346 in 188 at bats. In '31 his average fell to .241 but he did get to room with Babe Ruth that season. Following it he was traded to the Cards' organization and came up mid-year to hit .265. That was his last season up top and Jimmie finished with a .278 average with eight homers and 70 RBIs. In '33 he returned to the PCL where through '37 he would put up very good offensive numbers. He began coaching in '38 and by '40 was done as a player (he hit .288 in the minors). After coaching for the LA Angels from '40 to '42 he went into the Army from '42 to '45 where he coached and managed service teams. He then scouted for the Braves from '45 to '46. Back in the PCL he coached for the Padres from '48 to '62. briefly serving as manager in '60. He also coached for Hawaii ('63-'64 and '69), Seattle ('65-'68), and Portland ('70), before scouting for the Expos ('71-'72). He was a rookie coach for the Angels in '73 when he was 72, and developed a reputation as a master with a fungo bat, even able to use it to catch balls returned to him from the outfield. He kept that gig until '94 when he passed away at age 92. His number was retired by the team. He has a detailed bio on the SABR site.

Johnny Roseboro had by far the most successful Major League career of this group. He was signed by Brooklyn out of Central State College in Ohio in 1952 after a year-plus there on a football scholarship. He killed his first two seasons in the low minors - .365 and .310 - before being called halfway through '53 into the military. He returned in '55 to B and A ball and then moved up the next two seasons to Triple A Montreal where he hit .273 before being promoted mid-'57 to back up Gil Hodges at first. In '58 he took over behind the plate after Roy Campanella was paralyzed and was an All-Star his rookie year, hitting .271 with 14 homers. An outstanding hustler and handler of pitchers, he would be the LA starting catcher through '67 and during his time there he won two more All-Star nods and two Gold Gloves. He also was famously hit over the head with a bat by Juan Marichal during a game. Following the '67 season he went to the Twins with Ron Perranoski and Bob Miller for Zoilo Versalles and Mudcat Grant. For Minnesota he would start for two seasons, earning another All-Star ticket, before being claimed by Washington for the '70 season. By the end of that year he was coaching and he finished his career with a .249 average with 104 homers and 548 RBIs. He also had 44 triples and hit .160 with a homer and seven RBIs in 23 post-season games, winning three Series titles with LA. He coached in DC through '71 when he moved to California as the bullpen coach from '72 to '74. He had also by then started a PR firm in California with his wife which used up most of his professional time. He would return on occasion to coach for LA. John passed away in 2002 of a stroke. He was 69.

In '74 in the music world, November 16th saw two new number one songs on both sides of the pond. In the States, ironically, John Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" began a one-week run up top. In the UK "Gonna Make You a Star" by David Essex took over the next three weeks. Essex had a big hit over here with "Rock On" in '73 but did considerably better in the UK where he was an actor as well as a singer, appearing in "Godspell", "That'll be the Day", and "Stardust", and scored hits there through the late Seventies.

Back to baseball since Winkles never made it to the top as a player, this hookup only involves him as manager:

1. Winkles managed Bill Singer in '73 and '74 on the Angels;
2. Singer and Ron Hunt '67 Dodgers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

#275 - Ron Hunt

Now this guy was a pisser when I was growing up. First of all, he was the first Mets starting All-Star ever which totally lionized him in my very young eyes. Then, when I was playing ball a few years later I had a coach who would more than occasionally tell me to "go Ron Hunt on them." I knew what that meant - go get plunked by a pitch. I used to hate it when he asked - really insisted - to do it cause it was always against a pitcher he knew I'd have trouble with, which meant a kid that threw serious heat, which meant I was probably gonna get hurt. Ah, those warm and fuzzy childhood memories. But I never forgot old Ron here because of that. Here he is back at Shea years after his days as a Met showing his hugely choked-up grip. Ron wasn't just a one-trick pony. He could actually hit, didn't strike out too much, and played pretty good D. And in '73 he recorded the highest average of his career, had only 19 strikeouts, and grabbed some MVP votes.  But, boy, those HBP's.

Ron Hunt grew up in and around St. Louis and was signed by the Braves in '59 out of high school, where he was a shortstop and quarterback. After a good start that year in the low minors (he hit .284 in developmental ball), he only hit .191 the next year in B ball though all his walks pulled his OBA above .330. He stayed at that level in '61 and improved markedly across the board, dropping his error totals at second and raising his average over 100 points. In '62 he moved up to Double A and hit .309. Although he was cementing his reputation as a hustler, the Braves generally didn't consider him Major League material and so sold him to the Mets at the end of the season on a conditional basis - the Mets could return him 30 days into the next season - for $30,000.

Hunt's first position in New York was bullpen catcher which got old fast. He told Casey Stengel he could do a better job than the early season second base incumbent Larry Burright and Casey gave "Number 33" the job. On top of his .272 average Ron led the Mets in doubles and total bases and finished second in NL ROY voting. Ironically he didn't make the Topps team because the first place guy - Pete Rose - played the same position. Then came the All-Star year of '64. In '65 he got into a nasty collision at second with Phil Gagliano that resulted in a separated shoulder and a whole lot of missed games. That was followed by another All-Star year in '66. That November the Mets, who were rather flush with young infielders, traded Ron and Jim Hickman to the Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith.

Hunt didn't like LA too much and the Dodgers took a serious tumble in '67 after their Series year. He was not crazy happy about the trade in the first place and after a middling year that included DL time he was sent to the Giants with Nate Oliver for Tom Haller. In San Francisco, despite an initial drop in average, he had a much better time, racking up higher walk totals and for the first time getting over 20 HBP's in a season. In '68 he had 25 to lead the league which he would also do for the following six seasons. In '69 he got some MVP votes and in '70 he was on his way to his best offensive season since his All-Star years when he lost more time to injuries. By then Tito Fuentes was ready to re-claim second and Ron was traded to the Expos for Dave McDonald, a deal that was a steal for Montreal.

Back in the east Hunt would really ramp up his OBA totals, averaging over .380 during his time with the Expos, including two seasons above .400. Around then he was also being challenged as to whether or not some of his HBP's were intentional which technically wouldn't allow him to go to first. In one incident catcher Bob Barton of the Padres argued so furiously that Ron pulled off his mask and popped him, setting off a fight. He was also putting the ball in play at a good clip and as he got up there in age would keep moving his hands up the bat resulting in about the six inch choke seen on his card front. After his nice '73 season in '74 he recorded another good year but at 33 was being pressed by an Expos youth movement and that September was claimed by the Cards off waivers. He finished up in St. Louis and was released the following spring training. Ron finished with a .273 average and a .368 OBA. He struck out only 383 times in over 5,000 at bats and is in the top 80 for all-time assists and putouts at second base.

Hunt had a pretty interesting life off the field while playing. For a while he drove a delivery truck for his father-in-law's business. While he would live locally during the season - in NJ and Queens while with the Mets and in LA while with the Dodgers - by his time with the Giants he had purchased a 120-acre farm near where he grew up outside St. Louis. It was a working farm on which he grew alfalfa or whatever crop the government paid him to grow there. He also owned a sporting goods store in town. When he finished playing he continued to work the farm for awhile and then turned part of it into a baseball school which he continues to run. It has a website that I have linked to here.

Obviously there is lots of HBP stuff on the card back. Ron retired with 243 for his career, a record until broken by Don Baylor and then Craig Biggio. He is currently sixth on the list all-time. He is also part Cherokee which helps explain his dark complexion.

I'm adding this one in a bit late but here goes:

1. Ron Hunt and Ron Woods '71 to '74 Expos;
2. Woods and Roy White '69 to '70 Yankees;
2. White and Fred Beene '72 to '74 Yankees.

Friday, November 11, 2011

#274 - Fred Beene

This Yankee Stadium action shot is by far the best card of Fred Beene's career. In '75 he was airbrushed and in '73 he looked positively anorexic which really used to creep me out. You can see all his cards on a site I have linked to here which gives a very detailed accounting of his career and is a source for what follows. Back in '73 Fred is looking to unleash what appears to be a slider, which was pretty much his signature pitch.

Fred Beene was born and raised in Texas and after high school continued playing ball at Sam Houston State which he helped lead to the '63 NAIA championship. He was shortly thereafter signed by the Orioles and in '64 kicked off his career by going 11-5 with a 2.22 ERA in A ball with 102 strikeouts in 77 relief innings. Pretty good for a little guy. Then he would spend the next six seasons posting very good numbers - only once did his ERA exceed 3.00 - at Double and Triple A levels in the O's chain, peaking in '69 with a 15-7 record in the rotation with a 2.98 ERA at Triple A Rochester. But back then the Birds had a famously good rotation up top and Fred couldn't crack the Major League lineup and so late in '70 he was sent to the Padres with Enzo Hernandez, Tom Phoebus, and Al Severinsen for Pat Dobson and Tom Dukes, right after Fred was hurt throwing a slider in winter ball. When the '71 season began Fred was still damaged goods so early that year he was returned to the O's for whom he finished up the season at Triple A where his numbers improved as the season progressed. In early '72 he was sent to the Yankees for a minor leaguer named Dale Spier.

Beene would be slowly worked into the Yankee pitching regimen and would eventually put up very good numbers as a long guy out of the pen. In '72 he had three saves. Then in '73 he went undefeated while posting a great ERA and a save in 91 innings. In '74 he got off to another nice start - a 2.70 ERA with a save and ten strikeouts in ten innings - when he was part of a big trade to the Indians: he, along with Fritz Peterson, Tom Buskey, and Steve Kline for Dick Tidrow, Cecil Upshaw, and Chris Chambliss. While the trade would cement the other Yankees infield corner through a couple championships - Graig Nettles was stolen from Cleveland a year earlier - the trade at the time was hugely unpopular in the Yankee locker room. Fred's ERA would jump to almost 5.00 with Cleveland and after a bunch of time on the DL in '75 he would spend the rest of his career in the minors. In '76 he played for Toledo, Cleveland's Triple A club and then during '77 move to Oklahoma City, the Phillies' top team. In '78 and '79 he would have a combined 22-10 record for them as a spot starter and long guy and then retire. He finished with a record up top of 12-7 with eight saves and a 3.63 ERA. In the minors he went 117-78 with a 3.16 ERA.

After playing Fred was a pitching coach in the Mets' system for the '80 season. He then moved to scouting which he did for the Brewers from '81 to 2001. Since then he has been running a few retail centers back in Texas that specialize in fireworks.

This feels like one of those card backs for which Topps was itching for something to say, judging by the last star bullet. Here's a good one: in '65 Fred pitched in a game that went 27 innings, then the longest game on record. He threw 12 innings, giving up only one run in what would be a 2-1 win. That would make good copy.

Skipping the checklist card, Fred gets hooked up with Paul like this:

1. Beene and Bernie Allen '72 to '73 Yankees;
2. Allen and Paul Casanova '67 to '71 Senators.

Bernie Allen was an infielder who started for the Nats in the mid to late Sixties and did back-up infield work for the Yankees in the early '70's. He made the Topps rookie team in '62.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

#273 - Checklist - Cards 265-396

Wow! Another checklist card already. While the first two were pretty much at the end of their respective groups - what had been known as Series when Topps issued cards that way - this one's right up top. That means you all get to see what's coming for over the next hundred cards or so. It sort of lets the cat out of the bag but this information could certainly be gleaned elsewhere so it's no big deal. The special group for this bunch of cards will be the All-Star cards listed on the back. They'll require a big post at the end since Topps did that puzzle thing on the back for what I believe is the last time. And I'm NOT doing a spoiler on who that will be. There's an error: Yaz's name is misspelled (#280 - they forgot the z). And this is the period during which the Washington Nat'l cards will stop being issued so we'll see the last of those for awhile. But right now I'm just filling up space so let's move to the flip side.

Nothing special about the back, so let's talk music.

In '73 on November 8th David Bowie was presented an award in the UK for selling over one million albums and singles since he signed with RCA two years prior. It was also around this time that rumors became rampant that Mick Jagger was going to star in the film version of The Who's "Tommy." That role, of course, stayed in the family and was taken by Roger Daltry. On the 10th "Keep On Truckin'" took over number one in the States. It was Eddie Kendricks' biggest hit since leaving The Temptations a year earlier. In '74 November 8th was a pretty bad day in the music world. Ivory Joe Hunter, an R+B singer in the Fifties turned county singer passed away at age 63. Much worse, singer Connie Francis was raped at knifepoint after a show out on Long Island. It was a pretty devastating event in her life and it would be about eight years before she could perform in public again. On the 9th "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet", Bachman-Turner Overdrive's ode to stutterers (for real - Randy Bachman wrote it for his brother who had a big problem in that area) took over the top spot.

Not even a degrees of separation on this one. More baseball on the next post.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

#272 - Paul Casanova

This guy's card was the first one I pulled in two sets when I was a kid - but not this one - so his name was emblazoned in my mind at a young age. In fact, being the ignorant doofus I was, I used to think the Casanova that came up on occasion in English class was Paul here which I could never quite get my arms around, although that he'd have been over 200 years old at that point really should have set me straight. What Paul was, though, was a rifle-armed defensive specialist who made everybody sit up and take notice back in the mid-'60's with the Senators before he sort of faded to back-up status later on. When he was with the Nats his back-up catcher was a guy named Jim French, which I have always thought wildly appropriate given these two surnames. Here, Paul is beaming at Shea in a posed shot in what used to pass for a sunny day out in Queens. The tarp is on the field, however, so maybe things were going to change quickly.

Paulino Casanova was born in Cuba and was apparently discovered while playing for the University of Havana in '59. Signed by the Indians, he was brought to the States in '60 and released twice before he got any real action. He then signed with the Indianapolis Clowns, the former Negro League team that moved to the independent leagues for whom he played a little over a year (he would be the second-to-last Negro Leaguer to make the majors). He was then signed and released by the Cubs, again after almost zero playing time, and he basically quit baseball to work construction for most of the '62 season. Late that year the Nats tracked him down and signed him as a free agent. He finally got things started in A ball in '63 and tore up the league in '64 with 19 homers, 99 RBIs and a .325 average. He switched leagues at that level in '65 where he continued putting up pretty good numbers - .287 with eight homers and 76 RBIs - before going all the way to DC for a few games. After a '66 kickoff in Double A he moved right into the starting spot for Washington that year and got good reviews for his defense. In '67 he was an All-Star and at the end of the year he garnered all-AL selections and even some MVP votes. Ken Harrelson that year said that he was very bipolar about rundowns and pick-offs since every throw from Paul nearly took off his hand. But '68 hit Casanova hard, pushing his average below .200 and even getting him some time in the minors. Unfortunately, though he was able to retain his spot as the team's starting catcher, his average remained in the low .200's the rest of his stay in DC. In late '71 he was sent to the Braves even up for catcher Hal King.

In Atlanta Casanova moved to a support role, first behind Earl Williams in '72 and then Johnny Oates the next two seasons. '73 would be his most active year and after a '74 in which he was more pressed for playing time due to the arrival of Vic Correll, he was released during spring training of '75. He finished with an average of .225 with 50 homers and 252 RBIs.
After he played Casanova spent a bunch of time in PR where his son Raul was born (he played for various teams from '96 to 2008) and he did some coaching. For a while now he has been running a baseball school outside Miami with Jackie Hernandez, the former Pirates shortstop. There is a video of them (linked to here) in which they both look amazingly good even though they're both smoking butts. I have also linked to another good background site here that focuses a bit on his Negro League days.

Not surprisingly, Paul gets props for his defensive play in the first star bullet. Regarding the second bullet, he definitely made the '67 team but I cannot get confirmation on the '66 one (baseball-reference doesn't have him as one of the picks). He won a championship in Venezuela in '69 and played there through at least '75.

This will be another quick hook-up:

1. Casanova and Dick Nen '65 to '67 Senators;
2. Nen and Bill Hands '68 Cubs.

Dick Nen was a back-up first baseman whose career in the majors is pretty much encapsulated above.

Monday, November 7, 2011

#271 - Bill Hands

So it's apology time. We had a crazy winter snowstorm in October resulting in lots of cleaning, no power, and no time for blogging. But now I'm back and after a last post of a recently departed - in more ways than one unfortunately - Cub, we have another player removed from a Cubs uniform by a year. Bill Hands poses in Oakland during his first season with the Twins for whom he would regrettably not reproduce the big wins he put up in Chicago. Around this time Bill only lived a couple towns away from where I grew up so he was sort of a local favorite.

Bill Hands grew up in Rutherford, NJ - which is about where the Meadowlands is/was - and was a multi-sport star in high school. His baseball and hoops got him to college and after a year at Ohio-Wesleyan and another at Fairley Dickinson in Jersey he was signed in '59 by the Giants. He struggled for a few years in the lower minors  - a combined 17-24 with a 4.90 ERA - but in '60 he had picked up a slider and in '62 he had it working well enough to go 14-12 with a 2.91 ERA in A ball. After an off '63 spent mostly in Triple A he recovered to have a good year at that level out of the pen in '64 followed by an excellent season - 17-6 with a 2.19 ERA - back in the rotation there in '65. After a couple games for San Francisco late in the season he was sent to the Cubs with Randy Hundley for Lindy McDaniel and Don Landrum in what would be a pretty good trade for Chicago.

In Chicago Hands continued his propensity as a slow starter and '66 was a more-or-less lost season but in '67 he improved nicely as a long man in the pen and spot starter, adding six saves to his record. The next year he got promoted to the rotation and had what would be sort of a signature year for him there: lots of homers given up (he led the league in '68 with 26) but for relatively little damage since he gave up very few walks. He was a groundball pitcher and the homers were generally results of non-breaking sliders. He joined Fergie Jenkins as a 20-game winner in '69, a year in which he continued to perform well down the stretch as his team collapsed around him. After a decline in innings in '72 he was sent to the Twins with Joe Decker for Dave LaRoche. In Minnesota Bill went back to being the long man/ spot starter in '73 and '74 - he had three saves each year - before he was nabbed off waivers by the Rangers late in '74. For Texas he had two excellent starts down the stretch and then a season in the rotation the following year where apparent back ailments contributed to him having only 18 starts with a 6-7 record and a 4.02 ERA. In early '76 he was sent to the Mets for George Stone but he never played again and finished with a record of 111-110 with a 3.35 ERA, 72 complete games, 17 shutouts, and 14 saves.

Hands had worked for oil companies during the off-season while he was playing which he continued to do after he retired. In '85 he bought a service station on Long Island and also started his own home delivery heating oil business, both of which did pretty well. As of 2006, according to an interview linked to here, he still showed up regularly at his station for work and has been a happy fisherman and golfer.

The two minor league seasons mentioned in the star bullets were by far Bill's best at that level. He'd better have enjoyed boating for all the fishing he did.

In 1973, on November 2 Bob Dylan began recording his first non-Columbia album. Dylan had gone free agent and the resulting album, "Planet Waves" would be his first to top the charts. In '74 on the same date, George Harrison became the first former Beatle to go on a world tour (with Billy Preston, among others). On the US charts, Stevie Wonder took over the top with "You Haven't Done Nothing."

As indicated above, these guys were both long-time Cubbies so this one's easy:

1. Hands and Ron Santo '66 to '72 Cubs.