Friday, March 30, 2012

#359 - Brent Strom

This guy was one of the best college pitchers around in the late Sixties but at Oakland Stadium in '73 that must feel like ages ago. Brent Strom was in the midst of a pretty bad 2-15 run to kick off his MLB career when this photo was taken and in '74 he would do zero time at the top level. His highlight for the '73 season was probably his second win, in which he took a no-hitter against the Yankees into the seventh inning. But pitching for Cleveland that year was no fun for anybody. Things would improve for Brent in a while, but not for terribly long.

Brent Strom grew up in the San Diego area and went to USC on a baseball scholarship after an excellent high school career in hoops and as a pitcher. Before he even played freshman ball he was drafted by the Giants in the second round in January '67. Brent stayed in school, played basketball and baseball and then was drafted by the Angels but he passed again. He did go up north in the summer to play for the Goldpanners for whom he went 9-3 with a save and a 1.85 ERA. He returned to USC where back then the Trojans were alternating CWS titles with Arizona State. Brent would spend two more summers in Alaska - where his pitching teammates included Dave Kingman, Jim Barr, and Rich Troedson - and in his three years he totalled a 21-9 record with a 1.96 ERA with almost a K an inning. Back in California he would win two CWS titles in '68 and '70 and make All-America teams in '69 (second) and '70 (first). He was drafted and signed by the Mets in June of '70, hopefully to follow in the footsteps of fellow alum Tom Seaver. He had a pretty good rest of the summer in Single A with over a strikeout an inning. '71 was another quite good season split between Double and Triple A. After a good early start to '72 at the higher level he moved up to NY that July, pitching both relief and starting, but not terribly well. After the season, with the Mets pretty convinced he wasn't the next Seaver, Brent was traded to the Indians for reliever Phil Hennigan.

Strom spent '74 in Triple A, first for the Indians, for whom he went 3-4 with an ERA over 5.00. The Tribe then sent him to the Padres for pitcher Steve Arlin, but things didn't get much better as he went 3-7 with a nearly 7.00 ERA the rest of the way in Hawaii. After '75 spring training he was sent down again but this time things went extremely well: an 8-3 record with a 1.50 ERA in 12 starts. That got him promoted to home base San Diego where he went 8-8 with a 2.54 ERA and a couple shutouts the rest of the way. He followed that up with a 12-16 record with a 3.29 ERA in '76, pretty good for a Padres pitcher. When '77 spring training opened Brent was listed as number two starter in the rotation behind 22-game winner Randy Jones. But he got off to a terrible start and was moved to the pen before being sent back to Hawaii. There he threw significantly better but in extreme pain. That June he had surgery on his pitching elbow. It turned out that not only did he have big calcium deposits there but his elbow was in such bad shape he had Tommy John surgery to repair it, missing the rest of the season and all of the following one. During the '79 season Brent was able to hook up with the Astros organization and in his 23 games pitched at three levels he went 10-7 with a 3.68 ERA. He improved that mark in Triple A in '80 to 11-6, but with a pretty high ERA and more walks than strikeouts. While the won-loss record was pretty good, his pitching had never really recovered and after a short '81 season in the Dodgers chain he was done as a pitcher. Brent finished up top with a record of 22-39 and a 3.95 ERA. In the minors he went 61-45 with a 3.78 ERA.

Strom soon moved into coaching and would be a pitching coach in the LA organization from '81 to '89. He then moved over to the Astros organization where he was the Tucson coach from '90 to '95 before moving up to Houston for '96. After a successful year at Houston he moved to be the Padres roving minor league coach for a season. He then served the same role in the Expos organization for two seasons before becoming the Royals pitching coach from 2000 to '01. He then returned to the minors, first back with the Montreal/Washington franchise from '02 to '06 and since 2007 for the Cards. He also has a Tucson-based pitching school he runs in the off-season. It's home page is linked to here.

So not surprisingly Brent's star bullets focus on his excellent college career. If you add his summer stats he went a combined 56-15 in three years. He got his undergrad degree in his four years at USC and then a Masters one from San Diego State while he was playing. Despite the arm blowup he's managed to have an awfully long baseball career.

Since I won't be posting over the weekend let's knock off the rest of the March music news, such as it is. In '73 on March 31 a new number one succeeded Slade's "Cum on Feel the Noize", Donny Osmond's "Twelfth of Never." Boy, that's a slap in the face to the heavy metal set. In '74 John Denver's "Sunshine on my Shoulder" took over the top spot in the States. I'll take John over Donny any day.

Lots of guys played for the Padres and the Cards but not in Dal's era:

1. Strom and Bobby Tolan '75 Padres;
2. Tolan and Dal Maxvill '65 to '68 Cards.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

#358 - Dal Maxvill

I liked Dal Maxvill. I really did. But in this photo with that big 'stache on his skinny body he looks like an adult film star. I guess that was part of the look back then but most guys in this set with facial hair look pretty good. Dal just looks creepy. I guess he was allowed. Carrying a .215 average throughout your career couldn't have been easy so if growing a bush on your face helped, why not. In '73 after being in and around St. Louis his whole baseball career he continued his recent itinerant ways, going to Pittsburgh early in the season after it was apparent Dick Green WOULDN'T retire (this time) and the Pirates were in need of a stopgap after Gene Alley ran out of juice a bit earlier than expected. Dal had some pretty good cards in his career - especially his '71 action shot - but this wasn't one of them. That's a shame because it's his last one.

Dal Maxvill grew up in Granite City, Illinois, across the river from St. Louis. A defensive whiz at shortstop in high school, he continued playing ball at Washington University where he graduated in four years with a .301 career average and a degree in electrical engineering. Signed by the Cards in '60 he hit .257 that summer in C ball. He split the next season between C and Triple A - quite a jump - where the average came in but not hugely so. In '62 he was hitting .348 (!) in Double A and showing good power - 35 RBI's in 178 at bats - when he was called up to St. Louis. There he got a serious look as Julio Gotay's back-up and did pretty well in the field. Then in '63 St. Louis acquired All-Star shortstop Dick Groat and Dal barely played. Same deal in '64 and for a big part of the season he was back in Triple A where he hit .235 for a couple teams. But late in the year second baseman Julian Javier got hurt and Dal came up to take his place including in all seven Series games. In '65 it was back to the bench.

In '66 Groat was traded to the Phillies and Maxvill got his shot at a regular gig. Luckily for him he would go on a relative offensive tear the next three seasons - hitting about .241 - while his defense was awfully good. In '68 he won a Gold Glove. Twice he returned to the Series, winning in '67 and posting an 0 for 22 in '68 as the worst offensive display in Series ball ever. But for Dal it was just a portent of things to come as he had two of the worst offensive seasons ever the next two years. He pulled the average up the following two seasons as the regular guy and late in August '72 he was sent to Oakland for two minor leaguers. One thing Dal did have was a knack for getting in the post-season and in '72 he filled in at short in the AL playoffs after Bert Campaneris got tossed for throwing a bat at the mound. After going to the Pirates in '73 he did a turnaround as he was picked up off waivers by Oakland in '74 and saw action in both the playoffs and the Series. After sticking with Oakland as a coach during the '75 season he was reactivated for a few games to plug some infield holes. That was his last bit as a player. Though he finished with a .217 average, he is 48th all-time in fielding percentage at short. Plus he has four rings as a player. I'd probably take that trade.

After his career ended Dal did a few things. While playing he worked off-season both for a firm called Bussman Fuse in St. Louis where he plied his engineering degree and then at Cardinal Travel, a travel agency he founded with reliever Joe Hoerner. He kept his hand in the latter business forever. In baseball he coached a season in the Oakland system and then in '78 worked up top for the Mets. He then moved to St. Louis from '79 to '80 before moving to the Braves system the following year. From '82 to '84 he coached in Atlanta. In '85 he took over as Cards GM. He had some pretty good initial success, going to the Series that year and in '87 but after a pretty dry spell he was replaced in '94. He then scouted for a couple seasons for the Yankees. Since the late Nineties his principal vocation has been the agency.

There's the Gold Glove year in the star bullet. He has a pretty cool middle name and home city.

Lots of music news to catch up on because I've been running behind. Let's start with '73. March 23 was the day the INS told John Lennon he had to vacate NYC in 60 days. Nobody knew yet that Lennon was on Nixon's hit list which was behind the demand. On the 24th, Lou Reed got bit on the butt by a guy while performing in Buffalo on a tour stop to promote his "Transformer" album (the one with "Walk on the Wild Side"). On the same date in the States the O'Jays' Love Train took over the top spot. On the 29th Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show made the cover of Rolling Stone. That was a big deal because their most recent hit was "The Cover of Rolling Stone."

In '74 on March 23rd, Cher's "Dark Lady" hit Number One in the US. On the 26th the song "Then Came You" was cut in Philly by Dionne Warwicke and The Spinners. She wasn't a big fan of the song and had to apologize to the producer when it became a big hit. On the 28th Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup passed away at age 68. Big Boy wrote "That's All Right" and "My Baby Left Me" which were later big hits for Elvis. Like a lot of blues singers from his day he lived and died in poverty.

The St. Louis link for these two guys should work pretty good:

1. Maxvill and Jerry McNertney '71 to '72 Cards;
2. McNertney and Buddy Bradford '66 to '68 White Sox.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#357 - Buddy Bradford

Buddy Bradford looks cold posing in Oakland, a few miles north of where he was a big deal player as a kid in Pacoima, California. While in '73 he would be joined in the majors by another player from his block - Gary Matthews - it wasn't such a fun year for him. A shoulder injury would get him some DL time and though he hit eight homers in limited at bats, it seemed clear that his career was winding down rather than ratcheting up. Were it not for Dick Allen going down himself with an injury it is likely Buddy never would have been called up from Triple A that year even though his numbers at that level - 14 homers in 225 at bats - were pretty good. Too many injuries contributed to a derailed career. But at least he had his other one on which to fall back.

Buddy Bradford was born in Mobile, Alabama, pretty much in the same area that another Sox center fielder to be - Tommie Agee - was born. By the time he was four his dad had passed away and the family relocated to the Pacoima area where he would grow up. In high school he ran track, was a halfback, and played ball. He also played for ex-Negro Leaguer Chet Brewer's teams in the area. By his senior year he'd received some interest and signed with the White Sox after graduating in '62. His start in D ball that summer was pretty crappy but in '63 and '64 he would hit .285 with over 70 RBI's each season in A ball. In '65 his averages fell back as he moved to Double A (.248) and Triple A (.224). Then in '66 he ratcheted things up with a .299, 13 homers, and a .381 OBA in a little over half a season at the lower level. That year - and the next - he got some short looks in Chicago. In '67 he had perhaps his best season in the minors with a .271 average, 17 homers, 24 stolen bases, and 66 RBI's in Triple A. For the weak-hitting Sox that was good enough to get him on the roster for good the following spring.

Big things were expected of Bradford in Chicago when the '68 season opened. He was viewed by many as the heir apparent in center field to Tommie Agee, recently sent to the Mets. Buddy had an excellent arm - he led his league in assists twice in the minors - some power and speed. But between coming up during the Year of the Pitcher and playing in Comiskey half the year his numbers were on the light side offensively. Then in '69 he was having a much better year when he went down with a hip injury. Both years he played primarily in right as Ken Berry was the main guy in center. In '70 he split time with Berry in center but the Sox were miserable that year and Buddy wasn't helping with his .187 average. That June he was sent to Cleveland with Tommie Sisk for Bob Miller and Barry Moore. For the Indians the average didn't get much better but the power did and he finished up as the regular guy in center. On top of that he missed time that season to military duty. In '71 another bad start got him sent to the Reds for Kurt Bevacqua and he spent the rest of the season as a late-inning replacement. After the season Cincinnati sold him back to the Sox.

Buddy's second round in Chicago began for the most part back in Triple A where he hit .277 with 12 homers. In his few games up top he hit pretty well but it was back to the minors to start '73. In '74 he had a bang-up spring and was hitting .333 when he smashed into the wall attempting to catch a Ray Fosse fly and broke his collarbone, pretty much killing his season. In early '75 he hurt his hamstring and was only hitting .155 - but with 15 RBI's in only 58 at bats - when he was sent to the Cards for Bill Parsons. Back in the NL in another reserve role he did better this time, hitting .272 in 81 at bats. After the season he was traded back to Chicago for Lee Richard. In round three for the Sox he hit .219 in 160 at bats before being released that July. That was finally it for Buddy and he finished with an average of .226 with 52 homers and 175 RBI's and a telling 411 strikeouts in just over 1,600 at bats.

In '77 Bradford attempted to revive his career in Japan for the Kintetsu Buffaloes but it was a short-lived comeback as he tore up his hamstring sliding. He returned to the States and worked for a year as a marshall in LA and then coached for the Cubs in the minors. After a few years in security work, he took a more active role investing. He started a company called C&P Investments and through it did a bunch of local real estate building and investing which had him sitting pretty at the time of a '94 interview linked to here. Since then there is nothing out there on Buddy although it appears he still resides in the same neighborhood.

'64 was a pretty big season for Buddy and may give an idea how things would have gone without injuries. The second star bullet is a bit vague but I guess his 24 steals led the league. Cute cartoon - I guess that was his first real estate investment.

Ok, so I noticed this while doing research on Buddy. If you take his cards in sequence, specifically the '74, '71, '70, '76, and '69 in that order - although I guess you could switch '70 and '71 - you get his whole swing. I stole photos of those cards from the net (I was too lazy to scan them all) and here is the progression:

Pretty cool, right? Or just the result of some late-night insomnia. But I tried. And I do like those old blue Sox uniforms.

So for the hook-up we get together two guys who saw very little of each other even though they both played for the Sox:

1. Bradford and Ken Henderson '73 to '75 White Sox;
2. Henderson and Willie Mays '65 to '72 Giants;
3. Mays and Jerry Koosman '72 to '73 Mets.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#356 - Jerry Koosman

Jerry Koosman is another Met who had a roller-coaster ride of a season in '73. Jerry began the year by going 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA and was a big reason the Mets were able to play .500 ball with zero hitting. Then came a horrible 3-14 run that lasted through mid-August and the team in sixth place, nine games back. But from then on Jerry went on a 6-1 tear that included almost 32 straight shutout innings. Judging by his expression here, this photo was probably snapped at Shea during the bad middle streak. Maybe if he pitched from the mound instead of just off the on-deck circle he'd have done better. From wherever he pitched he would go on to have a pretty good post-season and in the end nearly win the whole thing.

Jerry Koosman was a farm boy from Minnesota who took a long road to the majors. A pitcher since a young kid he was playing semi-pro ball while still in high school. He then briefly attended the University of Minnesota but left when he realized the school didn't have a baseball team and transferred to a school in North Dakota called the State School of Science. At both schools he worked toward a degree in engineering. Then before the season began he was drafted into the Army in '62 and was stuck on a stateside base the next two years. When he got a chance to play on an Army team he was spotted by a Mets scout and signed with them in late '64. He had a big fastball and his first season in '65, split between A and Double A, he fanned over a batter an inning but otherwise went 5-11 with a high ERA. Prior to the '66 season he was taught a slider which he picked up fast and back in A ball that year he went 12-7 with a 1.38 ERA and again over a strikeout an inning. In '67 he moved back up to Double A, went 11-10 with a 2.43 ERA, and got in a couple games in NY with less than impressive results.

Koosman kicked off the '68 season by getting a Topps rookie card on which he was pictured with Nolan Ryan. I have not checked but I have to believe that the pair's 544 career wins are the most represented on a rookie card ever. The card would be a good omen for Jerry as his 19 wins and 2.08 ERA got him a spot on the All-Star roster and named TSN Rookie Pitcher of the Year. The next season was pretty much just as good and was punctuated by an excellent Series in which he won both starts. In '70 he missed a few starts after getting whacked in the face with a line drive but still had a nice record and in '71 a back muscle tear put him on the DL for a while also. In the '72 season the loss of manager Gil Hodges hit Jerry hard and he needed to spend some time in the pen to get his rhythm back. Then after his up-and-down '73 he won 15 for a pretty poor team and 14 the next year, both seasons posting very good ERAs. Then in '76 he had maybe his best season, going 21-10 with 200 strikeouts and a 2.69 ERA, finishing second in NL Cy Young voting to San Diego's Randy Jones. But then things hit the skids. Fast, the Mets got horrible, and though Jerry would post a pretty good ERA the next two years his combined record over that time was 11-35. After the '78 season he went to the Twins for Greg Fields and Jesse Orosco. He was the last player traded away from the '69 Series team (Ed Kranepool would retire the following year).

Back home in Minnesota Kranepool experienced a revival, going 20-13 with a 3.38 ERA in '79. He won 16 in '80 and then between some back pain and down time from the strike was off to a 3-9 start in '81 when he was traded to the White Sox that August for Randy Johnson - no, not THAT one - and a couple minor leaguers. He then went only 1-4 the rest of that year but did pull his ERA down nearly a run. In '82 and '83 he went 11-7 both seasons for Chicago before he was traded prior to the '84 season for fellow old guy - and '69 playoff opponent - Ron Reed. Jerry went 14-15 with a 3.25 ERA for Philly his first year and then 6-4 his second after which he was released. At 42 he was done and he finished with a 220-209 record, a 3.36 ERA, 140 complete games, 33 shutouts, over 2,500 strikeouts, and 17 saves. In the post-season he was 4-0 with a 3.79 ERA in seven games. He has a great bio on the SABR site.

Shortly after Koosman retired he founded an organization called America's Best that was intended to represent young baseball players but was never given authorization by MLB, which was to be the group's selling point. When that failed he became more active at an engineering company in which he bought a stake while playing, Mesa Technologies. Eventually he bought out a bunch of other investors and moved the company to Wisconsin. He has remained affiliated with the firm ever since and worked there through 2008, except for parts of 1991 and '92 when he did some pitching coach work for the Mets organization. In 2009 shortly after appearing at Citi Field for a '69 reunion he served six months for tax evasion after he got caught up in the big anti-tax movement that also nailed actor Wesley Snipes.

Jerry gets some props for his Series work in his star bullets. Regarding the cartoon, his catcher in service ball was a Queens native whose dad was head usher at Shea. The dad had a good relationship with Mets management and turned them on to Jerry. When a scout went down to see him they offered him $4,000 on the spot. Jerry shot the guy down after his friends told him to hold out for more money. The Mets ended up signing him for about $1,900. That experience should have kept him away from the advice of those anti-tax guys.

This one uses an ex-Pirate to help:

1. Koosman and Gene Clines '75 Mets;
2. Clines and Jeff Burroughs '76 Rangers;
3. Burroughs and Dave Nelson '71 to '75 Senators/Rangers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

#355 - Dave Nelson

Dave Nelson brings us back to the action shots as he looks heavenward in the on-deck circle in what may be Oakland. Dave had a pretty nice season in '73. He hit around .300 in the first half of the season even though he was fighting for playing time with five other guys at third including a rookie named Bill Madlock. Later in the season he pretty much took over second and would accumulate 43 stolen bases as well as his first and only All-Star appearance. It would be his best season as an ankle injury would restrict him a bit in the big turnaround by the Rangers in '74.

Dave Nelson was born on an army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His dad was a sergeant and Dave moved around pretty much as a kid, finally settling in Gardena, California where he was a baseball and track - 9.7 in the 100-yard dash - star. After graduating he stayed local and attended Compton Junior College where he was an All-American JUCO player. In '64 he was drafted by the Indians where he immediately established himself as a base-stealing second baseman, posting decent averages while advancing through the system. He stole 58 bases and 41 bases his first two seasons in A ball, 59 in '66 in Double A, and 30 in Triple A in '67 when he missed some time due to an injury. Dave was a bit more suspect on defense, having an understandably good range but also high error totals. In his off-seasons back then he continued his education at California State College, eventually earning a degree in sociology which he used in his other off-season activity, working with inner-city kids.

In '68 Nelson came up to Cleveland and got enough time in at second and shortstop to steal 23 bases and get a nod for the Topps Rookie Team that year which he split with Ken Boswell of the Mets. In '69 his average took a tumble as he was again one of four guys to get serious starting time at second. Following the season he was traded to the Senators with Horacio Pina in a pretty good deal for the Nats since the two guys they lost barely played up top. Dave spent a significant amount of the next two seasons at Triple A Denver where he hit .369 and .307 respectively while putting in far more time at third. His average up top wasn't too hot the first year but in '71 he was eventually able to wrangle the third base gig from flop Joe Foy and did a nice job offensively, also stealing 17 bases in half a season. That got him an uncontested shot at third in '72 where he got some props from manager Ted Williams. His average took a hit as the team hit a new low offensively but his speed sure didn't as he stole 51 bases to narrowly miss leading the league. After his big '73 season he was again slated to take over second as a perfect Billy Martin-type player. But early in the '74 season he hurt his ankle, robbing him of his speed and pulling his average down 50 points. Things didn't get better in '75 as he re-injured the ankle and hit .213 in only 80 at bats. Before the '76 season he was traded to the Royals for Nelson Briles. With KC Dave did back-up work at second and DH the next two seasons before being released during spring training in '78. That finished up his playing career and he exited with a .244 average, 340 runs and 187 stolen bases. He went o-fer in his only at bat in the post-season.

Nelson wasted little time in reviving his baseball career once his playing days were over. By 1980 he was coaching for TCU and he then joined the White Sox staff from '81 to '84. In '85 he was a roving minor league coach for the Sox then moved to director of instruction for the A's ('86-'87), color commentator for the Cubs ('88-'89), and minor league instructor for the Expos ('90-'91). He then returned to Cleveland for the rest of the Nineties, first on the admin side ('92-'97) and then back in the booth ('98-'99). He then hooked up with the Brewers, again making the rounds from admin (2000-'02), coaching ('03-'06), and broadcasting ('07-present). He is also still using his sociology degree, being actively involved in a foundation he co-founded that helps kids whose parents have AIDS in South Africa.

Dave's card back gives us the dirt on his stolen bases and - surprisingly - his defense in the minors. His cartoon refers to his time in the minors with Cleveland when he picked up switch hitting but then dropped it around 1970 when it wasn't doing anything good for his average.

Dave gets to partake in the double exercise as well. First for Whitey Lockman as a manager:

1. Nelson and Fergie Jenkins '74 to '75 Rangers;
2. Jenkins was managed by Whitey Lockman from '72 to '73.

Then for Whitey as a player:

1. Nelson and Jeff Burroughs '71 to '75 Senators/Rangers;
2. Burroughs and Gaylord Perry '75 to '76 Rangers;
3. Perry and Willie Mays '62 to '71 Giants;
4. Mays and Whitey Lockman '51 to '52 and '54 to '58 Giants.

Friday, March 23, 2012

#354 - Whitey Lockman/ Cubs Field Leaders

This happy guy is Whitey Lockman and if this photo is taken early enough in '73 he had reasons to smile. Whitey had been with the Cubs a few years when he was named successor to Leo Durocher in July of '72. A nice change from Leo's berating, the mellow Whitey led the Cubs to a 39-26 finish and to a pretty good early-season run in '73 and by the end of June they were seven up in the division. But the big averages of veterans Ron Santo, Glenn Beckert, and Billy Williams faded as the team showed its age. First base was pretty much a mess and while the team had some promising young pitchers, they weren't yet ready to drag the team to a good finish. The club went 6-17 after the All-Star break to lose any real hope of competing for the division. In '74 three quarters of the infield would be new and a not great start - they didn't finish too hot either - would get Whitey pushed back upstairs where he would have a mighty long career for Chicago and some other teams. Maybe that smile worked wonders.

Whitey Lockman came out of North Carolina to be signed by the NY Giants at age 16 in 1943. His age kept him out of the military and that summer he got things rolling in A ball by hitting .325 before being promoted to Double A Jersey City where he would reside the next three seasons. In mid-’45 after showing some unusual power and hitting .317 he got called up to NY where the rest of the way he hit .341. As in the minors he played in the outfield his rookie year, establishing early his very good contact-hitting low-strikeout abilities. In ’46 he did his military hitch, missing the season. When he returned in ‘47 he got hurt in his first game and missed the rest of that year as well. When he returned in ’48 he took a regular spot in the outfield which he held through ’50. In ’51 a kid named Willie Mays came up and Whitey moved to first. That October he knocked starter Don Newcombe out of a playoff game, setting up Bobby Thomson’s big homer. He then had a pretty good Series against the Yankees. He continued at first through ’54, his other Series season. In ’55 and the first half of ’56 he returned to the outfield. Midway through ’56 he went to the Cards in a big trade that brought Red Schoendienst to the Giants. He returned to NY and first base for Hoyt Wilhelm in ’57. That was his final year as a regular. The rest of his career he moved to a back-up role at first for the Giants, Orioles and Reds, finishing in 1960. He had a .279 average with 114 homers, 563 RBIs, and 862 runs. He had over 1,600 hits, a .342 OBA, and only 382 strikeouts, or about one every 18 at bats. He was an All-Star once and hit .186 in ten post-season games. Whitey then moved immediately into coaching, joining the Reds staff in ’61. From ’62 to ’64 he joined old teammate Al Dark back with the Giants. From ’65 to ’70 he managed in the Cubs chain, going 353-377. He also performed some admin roles including director of player development. He took over the manager job in ’72 and retained it midway through ’74 when he returned to the admin side. His MLB managing record was 157-162. He remained with the Cubs in positions related to player development through ’89. He then took on similar roles with Montreal (’90 to ’92) and the Marlins (’93 to 2001). He retired to Arizona where he passed away in 2009 at age 82.

Hank Aguirre was of Mexican descent (his name was pronounced ah-GEAR-ah) and grew up in California where he worked at his dad’s taco business. He didn’t stick in baseball until he went to college, graduating from East Los Angeles Junior College in ’51. There he picked up a rudimentary screwball which he later refined in the minors, beginning his first season that summer in Duluth, an independent C League team. He was then picked up by the Cleveland system, where he spent the better part of the next six seasons working up the ladder as a starter while working out some control issues and twice winning 14 games. From ’55 to ’57 he would also get into a few games in Cleveland as both a starter and reliever, and do pretty well, going 6-6 with a 3.84 ERA. Before the ’58 season he was traded to Detroit. For the Tigers the next few years he would work primarily out of the pen, mostly as a set-up guy although he did get ten saves in ’60, his best season to date. In ’62, injuries to the Tigers pitching staff pushed Hank into the rotation and he had a bang-up year, going 16-8 and leading the majors with a 2.21 ERA. He stayed in the rotation the next three seasons, going a combined 33-35 with a 3.66 ERA. In ’67 he returned to the pen and the next year he was traded to the Dodgers, unfortunately missing Detroit’s big Series year. After an excellent year – a 0.69 ERA – Hank went to the Cubs for the next two seasons, his last as a player. He finished with a record of 75-72, with a 3.25 ERA, 44 complete games, and 33 saves. He then took over the Cubs pitching coach job which he kept through ’74. In ’75 he managed in the minors for a season, going 72-71 for Triple A Tucson in the Oakland system. In off-seasons he had continued to live around Detroit and beginning in ’76 he got involved in the auto industry. In ’79 he opened his own business, Mexican Industries, and became a supplier of parts to Volkswagen, employing many Latin workers and growing the business rapidly. He became a revered local businessman and was widely eulogized when he passed away in ’94 at age 62 from prostate cancer.

Jim Marshall was born in Illinois and raised in Long Beach, California where he attended Long Beach State after graduating high school. He was signed by the White Sox in ’50 and took a while to wind through the minors even though he had three seasons with over 100 RBIs at various levels, all while playing first base. By the time he made it up he was traded to the Orioles with whom he debuted in ’58. Before the season was over he was sent to the Cubs for whom he had nearly as much RBI’s in less than half as many at bats, hitting .272 after a .215 for the O’s. That got him in the starting lineup in ’59 but after hitting only 11 homers with 40 RBI’s as a semi-starting first baseman his remaining career role as back-up was established. He would play for the Giants, Mets, and Pirates the next three seasons and be out of the bigs by ’62, finishing with a career average of .242. He hit .275 with over 200 homers in the minors. From ’63 to ’65 he played for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan, compiling a .268 average with 78 homers and 252 RBI’s during those three seasons. In ’66 he returned to the States and after a couple seasons coaching was managing in the Cubs chain by ’68 which he did through the ’73 season, racking up a 425-397 record. In ’74 he was named a coach and he assumed the manager spot that July when Whitey Lockman was moved upstairs. Jim managed the cubs through ’76, going 175-218 and was dismissed after that season. He then managed for two seasons at Triple A levels: for the Expos in ’77 (71-65); and for the A’s in ’78 (74-65). In ’79 he managed Oakland to a 54-108 record before he was removed to make way for Billy Martin. He then returned to Japan to coach through ’83. He returned to the States in ’84 where he managed (’84, ’86) and coached (’85, ’87-’89, ’91-’95) in the minors, managed in the Senior League (’90) and scouted and consulted in and on the Pacific rim for Arizona (’96 to present). He is still in baseball at age 80.

JC Martin was signed out of high school in Virginia by the White Sox in ’56. In school he starred in hoops, track, football, and as an infielder. His first few years in the minors he played exclusively first base and took a while to get his stroke going. In ‘59 and ’60 he put up two solid seasons in Triple A while spending much more time at third base. Both years he got short looks up top and in ’61 he spent the season exclusively in Chicago. While his offensive numbers were nothing special he did make the Topps Rookie Team that year at first. It was then decided that since his offense wasn’t good enough for a corner infielder he should become a catcher. He returned to A ball to learn his new position under its manager Les Moss, a former MLB catcher. JC excelled both offensively and defensively and the next season became the starting Chicago catcher, a position he hung onto more or less the next five seasons. While his offense was never super productive – very few ones were on the team back then – he became an expert at handling knuckle balls as the ChiSox staff was always awash in those pitchers. Before the ’68 season he went to the Mets and the next two years he would alternate with Jerry Grote behind the plate. He saw limited action in the ’69 post-season but most of his appearances were big deals. In the playoffs he knocked in two runs in one of his two at bats. In the Series he famously got hit with the ball while running to first, allowing Rod Gaspar to score from second base with the winning run in Game Four. After that season he went to the Cubs where he backed up Randy Hundley the next three seasons. He did some coaching as well in ’72 and then spent ’73 both playing and coaching at the Triple A level. That year was his last as a player and he finished with a .222 average along with his .500 post-season one. ’74 would be his only season as strictly a coach. In ’75 he joined Harry Caray behind the mike in a less than pleasant experience. After that year he moved to North Carolina where he worked locally, eventually owning his own cleaning business, and still resides.

Al Spangler was another recent retiree to coach the Cubs. Born in Philadelphia he had a heart ailment as a kid and couldn’t play sports until high school. A fast outfielder he then went to Duke University where he played until his junior year – hitting .383 and .406 his two varsity seasons – when he was signed by the Braves in ’54. He hit pretty well the rest of the summer and then in ’55 in A ball hit .287 with an over-.400 OBA. He was slated to make the Braves off a strong spring training in ’56 but then got drafted into the military and lost all of the next two seasons. When he returned in ’58 it was to two years of Triple A in which he averaged over .290. He got a short look up top the latter year and then spent ’60 and ’61 as a back-up outfielder in Milwaukee. He was then drafted by the Colt .45’s in the expansion draft and spent the next three seasons as the team’s most successful hitter while starting in the outfield. In ’65 after a slow start he was sent to California where he played a reserve role the next season-plus and then spent most of ’66 back in Triple A. During spring training of ’67 he signed with the Cubs where for the next three seasons he would platoon in right. In ’70 and ’71 he mostly pinch-hit while also coaching. In ’72 he became a coach exclusively ending his playing career with a .262 average and .347 OBA. In ’72 and ’73 he managed for the Cubs at the Double A level, going a combined 132-145. He joined the staff up top for ’74. He then coached a few more seasons in the minors before returning for good to the Houston area where he worked for an investment firm. In ’84 he took a job as baseball coach and algebra teacher – he finished his Duke degree in math during the ’58 off-season – at Huffman Hargrave High School in Huffman, Texas and did that through ’96. He then retired and still lives in the area.

Big post. Looking at the careers on the back of the card I would say that in total the Cubs coaches had about as long a run in the majors as any team's. They wouldn't stay together very long though.

We get to do a double hook-up here since Whitey had such an impressive playing career. First with him as manager:

1. Lockman managed Milt Pappas on the '72 to '73 Cubs;
2. Pappas and Boog Powell on the '61 to '65 Orioles;
3. Powell and Rich Coggins on the '73 to '74 Orioles.

Now with Whitey as a player:

1. Lockman and Stu Miller '57 to '58 Giants;
2. Miller and - what the hell - Boog Powell '63 to '67 Orioles;
3. Powell and Rich Coggins '73 to '74 Orioles.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#353 - Rich Coggins

Sometimes things happen in bunches in this set and this is one of those times. Like the subject of the last post, Rich Coggins spent some time in Montreal, although he wasn't nearly as successful as Bill Stoneman was there. Like Dwight Evans from two posts back, this card represents Rich's first solo one from Topps. And like Dan Driessen from a few posts ago, Rich is a member of the Topps Rookie All-Star Team for '73. That after a gap of over 100 cards. Rich was an interesting choice for this designation since his fellow outfielder Al Bumbry was AL Rookie of the Year and got left off the Topps team. At least Rich kept the award in the O's family. So '73 was obviously a pretty good year for this kid. On top of other achievements visible on the stats line he also stole 17 bases and set an Oriole rookie record - later tied - by hitting in 15 straight games. He sported a .363 OBA and went on to hit over .400 against Oakland in the playoffs. Rich was on a pretty good roll but it wouldn't last too long. Here he demonstrates his fondness for pine tar at Yankee Stadium.

Rich Coggins was born in Indianapolis and had a pretty itinerant high school career, attending three on the way to graduating from Garey High in Pomona, California in '68. That year he was drafted by the Orioles in the 21st round and started off that summer in A ball where he hit pretty well at the top of the order. In the minors he was primarily a center fielder. There is some literature indicating that he attended Mt. San Antonio College - the same school at which Bill Stoneman kicked off his college career - at around this time but if he did he sure didn't play ball there. What he DID do in '69 was steal a total of 30 bases on two Single A and one Double A team. Then in '70 he boosted his average 75 points at the higher level to get promoted to Triple A the last third of the season. He lost none of his juice at the higher level and in '71 he had a big year with 20 homers and 107 runs in the top spot. Then in '72 he pulled his average up 40 points and by the end of the season he was in Baltimore.

For the Orioles in late '72 Coggins got off to a pretty hot start, filling in for injured Merv Rettenmund and showing off his speed. He finished with a .333 average in limited appearances - he got hurt - and the next season returned for his big rookie year. He split time in right with Rettenmund as part of Earl Weaver's platoon system and also played a bunch in center. In '74 both he and Bumbry had sophomore jinx seasons and Rich lost about 75 points off his average although he did steal 26 bases. Then after a poor playoff series against the A's he was sent to the Expos with Dave McNally and Bill Kirkpatrick for Mike Torrez and Ken Singleton.

The trade that sent Coggins to Montreal has long been regarded as one of the worst ever. Singleton went on to have an All-Star career with Baltimore and Torrez won 20 in his only full season with the O's. In the meantime Kirkpatrick never made it out of the minors, McNally retired after a poor start, and Rich went down with a weird thyroid ailment that spring, requiring hospitalization for liver and kidney damage. When he returned in early June he hit .270 in a few games but the Expos, possibly looking to put the horrible trade behind them, sold him to the Yankees before the month was over. New York had problems of its own with incumbent right fielder Lou Piniella having a tough time coming back from his own injury and Rich was acquired as insurance and to add a bit more speed to the lineup. He hit .224 the rest of the way, actually playing a bunch more in center than in right, but with only three stolen bases in over 100 at bats he wasn't exactly the runner the club had anticipated. Early in the '76 season after some token at bats he and Ken Brett were sent to the White Sox for Carlos May, another former Topps Rookie Team member. In Chicago Rich got more time but only hit .156 and in July he went to the Philles for Wayne Nordhagen. For them Rich went down to Triple A where he hit .252 with a .330 OBA, good enough to get called up that September. But he refused to report to the Phillies and after the season was disqualified. At age 25 he was done in baseball. Rich had a .265 average with 50 stolen bases. In the post-season he hit .200 in five games.

And that's it. There is zero out there on what Coggins did after baseball. There is a truck driver in South Carolina with the same full name but there is no way to tell if it is the same guy.

Now Topps has some interesting commentary in Rich's star bullets. In the first one the word "incredible" is employed about a pretty prosaic achievement. I'd have loved to have a 16-game hitting streak at any baseball level but I would think if they opted for that word it should have at least been used for his streak in '73. 15 games at the MLB level is a lot more impressive than 16 in Triple A. Those two doubles were emblematic of his start as he posted four that year in only 39 at bats. The hand injury is what took him out of action late that season.

So we have two Expos who were a couple years apart. No problem:

1. Coggins and Earl Williams '73 to '74 Orioles;
2. Williams and Mike Jorgensen '76 Expos;
3. Jorgensen and Bill Stoneman '72 to '73 Expos.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

#352 - Bill Stoneman

Before Steve Rogers emerged as the ace of the Montreal staff there was this guy, who looks quite cheerful despite standing in front of one of those nasty buildings at the Expos spring training site. Though Bill Stoneman had an off year in '73 - and they wouldn't get any better - he'd already thrown two no-hitters as an Expo and owned most season and career pitching marks for the team when this card came out. But prior to the '73 season he got into a contract dispute with management - ironic considering his future career - and when he tried to make up for lost pitching time in spring training, he hurt his back. He never really recovered as a pitcher and by the time this card hit the stands he was already playing for the Angels. But he'd be back

Bill Stoneman was born outside Chicago but moved to California as a kid and developed into a high school pitcher in West Covina, from where he graduated in '62. He then went to Mt. San Antonio college, a local two-year school, and then the University of Idaho, from where he graduated with a bachelors degree in PE in '66. Drafted by the Cubs that summer he moved through some military time and three leagues to record a 1-2 record with a 2.70 ERA in only 40 innings. He then spent the early part of '67 mostly at Triple A and went 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA before being called up to Chicago that July. He did a pretty nice job pitching mostly out of the pen and got four saves. In '68 more military time interrupted his summer as did some time back in Triple A when his ERA inflated a couple runs. In the off-season he was selected by the new Expos in the expansion draft.

Montreal was no easy place to pitch with a generally sub-par defense for its first few years. Stoneman wouldn't help himself either by giving up too many walks. But his first April north of the border he threw his first complete game in '69. It would also be his first no-hitter. After leading the team in wins he returned to have a not so great second season. But in '71 he put together a fine year, winning 17 and leading the NL in starts while also finishing among league leaders in innings and strikeouts. The next season his win total would drop but his ERA improved and he won an All-Star nod. On the last day of the season he pitched his final complete game. Just to keep things consistent, it was also his final no-hitter. But then came the horrible '73 followed by a sale to the Angels and an even worse '74 - 1-8 with a 6.14 ERA. He was released after that season and done as a pitcher. Bill finished with a record of 54-85 with a 4.08 ERA, 46 complete games, 15 shutouts, and five saves.

Stoneman was a busy guy. While still playing he got a Masters degree in PE from the University of Oklahoma. He also was something of a financial expert and almost immediately upon ending his playing career got a managerial job at Royal Trust, first in Montreal and then in Toronto. In '83 he returned to Montreal and the Expos as an accounting manager and was then elevated to the front office the following season. He stayed there through '98 and the following season was hired by the Angels as GM. He had a nice run in California, winning a Series in 2002 and making the playoffs in four seasons during his residence though 2007. After stepping down following that season he became and has remained a consultant to the front office.

All the back of the card stuff has been covered above. He has some middle name.

Bill gets the hook-up with the younger Dwight through a league-hopper:

1. Stoneman and Mike Torrez '71 to '73 Expos;
2. Torrez and Dwight Evans '78 to '82 Red Sox.

Monday, March 19, 2012

#351 - Dwight Evans

Back in the AL we move from an older vet to a younger kid. This is Dwight's first solo card and he poses in Oakland during his first year as a regular in the Boston outfield. While his offensive display in '73 wouldn't get him on anyone's radar, Dwight was already building a reputation as an outstanding fielder in the tough Fenway outfield. In a few seasons his offense would catch up and by the time he finished in Boston he would be revered nearly as much there as Bob Gibson was in St. Louis.

Dwight Evans was born in California and would return there as a kid in time to learn to play baseball. A small kid in high school he had to bust to make his varsity team and by his senior year he was league mvp and actively scouted. That summer he was signed by Boston in the fifth round of the '69 draft. An infielder/outfielder and pitcher in high school, he was exclusively an outfielder in pro ball and the next three summers gradually improved his hitting at various Single A spots. In '72 he was bumped up to Triple A where he turned on the ribbie power as he excelled under manager Darrell Johnson. By the end of the season he was in Boston for good, seeing some late-inning work and even some starts. In '73 he was given the starting right field job over a bunch of other young guys and he would hold onto it more-or-less for the next 17 years.

In '74 Evans boosted his average to .281 and more than doubled his RBI totals. In '75 he put up similar stats and after a not great playoff against Oakland had an excellent Series including a showman catch of a Joe Morgan hit that saved Game Six for the Sox until Carlton Fisk could win it long innings later. In '76 there was a bunch of pre-season noise about moving him to third base but the emergence of Butch Hobson and the offensive slowdown of Fred Lynn and Bernie Carbo kept Dwight in the outfield, where he won his first Gold Glove. In '77 he was having his best offensive season when he got hurt. The next three years saw him regularly top 20 homers a season, add two more Gold Gloves, and a first All-Star appearance in '78. Then in '81 began the second arc of his career as a legitimate substantial power hitter. That season he led the AL in homers and walks and put up his first .400-plus OBA. From '82 to '89 during his healthy seasons - he got hurt in '83 and missed about 30 games - he would average 28 homers, 102 RBI's, over 100 walks, and about a .390 OBA. During that time he won four more Gold Gloves and in '87, probably his best season - .305 with 34 homers, 123 RBI's, and a .417 OBA - he won a Silver Slugger and another All-Star nod. He returned to the playoffs three more times with the Sox, reaching the Series again in '86, again putting up great numbers. In 1990 his offense slowed down a notch as he played exclusively DH. After that season he left Boston as a free agent and signed for his final year with Baltimore. After hitting .270 in a bit over half a season with the Orioles back in the outfield he retired. Dwight finished with an average of .272 with 385 homers and 1,384 RBI's. He also had over 2,400 hits and a .370 OBA. In the post-season he hit .239 with four homers and 19 RBI's in 32 games. He did considerably better in Series play with a .300 average, three homers, 14 RBI's, and a .397 OBA in 14 games. He is surprisingly high in some lifetime stats including 49th in career extra base hits. Defensively he ranks among the top ten right fielders in putouts and assists.

After playing Evans coached in the White Sox system ('92-'93) before hooking up with the Rockies for whom he coached up top ('94). He then returned to the Red Sox, first as a roving coach ('96 -2001) and then as the hitting coach in Boston ('02). Since then he has worked for the Sox as a roving hitting coach at several minor league levels.

Dwight gets a few star bullets from his young career. The first bullet refers to his senior year ('69). He actually settled in at 6'2" and about 180 to 190 pounds so either Topps got some numbers wrong or Dwight went on a pretty serious diet.

No substantive music news and I'm too lazy to update the Watergate goings-on so let's keep it just baseball and do the hook-up. We use the same guy:

1. Evans and Rick Wise '74 to '77 Red Sox;
2. Wise and Bob Gibson '72 to '73 Cards.

Friday, March 16, 2012

#350 - Bob Gibson

This is NOT Bob Gibson's last card. They would come in '75. But it is his last card memorializing a good year although it wasn't all smooth running. When the Cards were having a tough time early in '73, so was Gibby, starting off at 2-5 but with a healthy 3.34 ERA. He then went 4-1, pulled his ERA below 3.00 and was looking to get a win total to match '72's when he went down in late July with a knee injury. He missed about ten starts, effectively killing St. Louis' chance for a division title, but returned in late September to win his final game. Here he looks warm before a sparse crowd at Candlestick. Bob had absolutely zero problem throwing at hitters and I am pretty sure that being on the receiving end of that stare could be an intimidating place to be. Even in '73.

Bob Gibson was raised in housing projects in Omaha, Nebraska. His dad passed away before he was born and he had an older bother Josh - not the Negro League catcher - help look after him. He was a small kid most of his time in high school but ended up being a superior baseball and basketball player. The Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues attempted to sign him but his brother pushed him into college and Bob won a hoops scholarship to nearby Creighton University and was the school's first black player in both sports. When he graduated in '57 he signed with both the Cardinals and the Harlem Globetrotters. When the Cards scouted him in Omaha every other MLB scout was there for the CWS to see a kid from USC named Ron Fairly. The two would be teammates in Bob's last season. That summer he threw so much heat in A ball that he was bumped all the way up to Triple A - Omaha of course - where his manager was Johnny Keane. He was having a tough time finding the plate though and in '58 he pitched for two teams at the higher level, going a combined 8-9 with a 2.84 ERA. In '59 he started the season in St. Louis but between too many walks, an inability to get a regular spot in the rotation, and a less than great relationship with manager Solly Hemus, he was sent back down to Triple A. There he went 9-9 with a 3.07 ERA. After a few games there in '60 he was back up top for good.

Gibson and his manager his first few years, as noted above, didn't get along too well. Most of the black guys on the Cards thought Hemus was a racist, and none of them had a super relationship with him. For Bob's first couple seasons he caught as much pen as starting time and his inconsistent appearances didn't give him much time to work on his control. But with Gibson at 2-6 through the early part of the '61 season, Hemus was fired and replaced by Johnny Keane, a manager with whom Bob had an excellent relationship. Keane stuck Gibby in the rotation and he went 11-6 the rest of the way. He then improved his strikeout to walks ratio markedly in '62 as he won 15 and made his first All-Star team. A mostly better '63 followed in part because the strike zone was expanded. Then in '64 he capped an awesome season with an even better Series, winning the clincher in Game Seven. Then came the big years: in the next six seasons came six All-Star games, six Gold Gloves (he would get nine of those in a row), two Cy Young awards, and an MVP. The only season in that time he didn't win 20 he was injured in '67 and that year he had one of the most dominant Series ever, seemingly purely on spite, when he went 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA. In '68 he had his amazing MVP year that inluded what I still think is one of the wiggiest stats I've ever seen: nine losses in a year in which his ERA was only 1.12. No wonder they lowered the mound the next season. In '70 he nabbed his second Cy and the next season most of his streaks ended as nagging elbow pain pulled his wins south by a few games. After a nice bounce in '72 came his last Gold Glove season. In '74 the elbow issues were compounded by serious knee issues - they would be drained 22 times the next two seasons - and an 11-13 '74 was followed by a 3-10 '75. That last season his knees were so out of whack that he pulled some pen time which didn't work for Bob and he opted to retire before the season was over. Gibby finished with a record of 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA, 255 complete games, 56 shutouts, and six saves. In the post-season he went 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA in nine starts in which he totalled 92 strikeouts in 81 innings. When he was done Bob had several team and other records including most wins as a Cardinal (251), most NL strikeouts (3,117), most strikeouts in a Series game (17), most seasons with 200 or more strikeouts (nine), most consecutive starts (303), and most complete games in the Series (seven). No surprise he was elected to the Hall in '81, his first year of eligibility.

After Gibson retired he traveled the country a bit and then returned to Omaha where he served on a bank board and opened his own restaurant. He returned to baseball in '81, coaching for old friend Joe Torre on the Mets and then the Braves ('82-'84). He then did radio announcing for the Cards ('85-'89) and color for games on ESPN ('90). He would do a bit of instructional work for St. Louis for a few years before a one-year gig as a coach proper in '95. He would start an annual golf tournament in '97, put out two autobiographies, and from about '95 on has been actively involved with The Baseball Assistance Team.

Bob never passed Walter Johnson on that list but he was the first NL guy to top 3,000 strikeouts. He also threw a no-hitter in '71. I remember his commercials as a kid. The one that stands out the most is his one for an asthma product, an ailment he picked up in the housing projects.

Bob and John rarely crossed paths but a pitcher will help:

1. Gibson and Rick Wise '72 to '73 Cards;
2. Wise and John Vukovich ''70 to '71 Phillies.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

#349 - John Vukovich

This is an interesting shot of John Vukovich on a sunny day in Oakland. It appears that everyone in the stands is looking towards the outfield and when I say everyone I mean the 70 or so people evident in yet another sparse A's crowd. Then there is that red thing along the first base line that appears to be a couch someone dropped on the field so Joe Rudi or Gene Tenace could get a rest. It's probably a service cart. John is in the midst of his first AL season, having come over from the Phillies in a big trade to help clean up the mess at third base for the Brewers. Unfortunately for him his teammate Don Money came over in the same trade and won the starting gig, leaving John to continue his role of perennial back-up guy. Here he shows his tough guy face. Maybe it's the same one he used when he hit his first major league homer in '73, one of his favorite career moments.

John Vukovich grew up in the Sacramento area and played youth baseball against future teammate Larry Bowa. In high school he was an infielder who excelled defensively, a trait he would continue throughout his career. When he graduated he went to American River College, a JUCO school from which he graduated with an Associates Degree in PE. He was drafted by the Phillies in '66 and that summer went to A ball where he played third base and led his league in fielding. He remained at that level the next two seasons, showing some pop with his bat as well. In '69 he moved up to Double A where he again won a fielding title. Then in '70 he had his big season at Triple A, turning into a power hitter while picking up another fielding crown. After a couple late-season games in Philly, he returned to Triple A to hit .308 and then was brought back up when Money was stumbling a bit at the plate. John wasn't exactly the answer offensively with his .166 average but he did field well. After then returning to Triple A for all of '72 he was sent to the Brewers with Money - and money - and pitcher Billy Champion for Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, Ken Sanders, and Earl Stephenson.

In '74 Vukovich repeated his back-up work, posting time at second and short as well as third. He hit a bit better, with three homers and eleven RBI's in only 80 at bats. Following the season he was traded to the Reds for Pat Osburn. In Cincy he was opening day starter at third but that didn't last and he was returned to the minors as Pete Rose took over the position. Unfortunately that year John dragged his majors average with him - he hit .177 that season at Triple A - and in August he was sent back to the Phillies for Dave Schneck. While he got a few token at bats in Philly the next four years he spent the bulk of his time in Double and Triple A from '76 to '79. In '80 he returned full-time to Philadelphia where he was a late-inning defensive specialist and bench presence. He hit .161 in 62 at bats and while he was shut out of post-season play he did get a full share of the booty. After spending almost all of '81 on the bench he was released that August and was finished as a player. John hit .161 in 559 career at bats. He hit .259 with 1,050 career hits in the minors.

Vukovich had no problem finding employment after he played, joining old manager Dallas Green in Chicago as a Cubs coach from '82 to '87. He then returned to Philadelphia for the final time as a coach from '88 to 2004, the longest-tenured coach the team has ever had. In 2001 he had a triumphant battle with brain cancer. After the '04 season he moved to the admin side. In late '06 his cancer unfortunately returned and after a second battle he passed away from it in 2007. John was 59.

Vuk gets a star bullet for his big power display in April. He hit the homer off Sparky Lyle. He put his hunting skills to good use when he was a member of the Delaware National Guard while playing (no, he didn't shoot anyone).

Since John is a league-crosser this should be pretty short:

1. Vukovich and Dave May '73 to '74 Brewers;
2. May and Pete Richert '67 to '70 Orioles.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#348 - Pete Richert

These are the final cards of Pete Richert's career. They are both taken at Shea, possibly during the same photo session since the cloud formation in the back looks exactly the same. But I guess that could just be smog which back then didn't move around too much. Pete was finishing up a short but pretty good run for the Dodgers, his original team. He and Jim Brewer were the elder statesmen on a young aggressive team that had been revitalized through excellent draft choices in the late Sixties. Pete had a solid year with his seven saves, second on the team to Brewer. Still primarily a fastball pitcher he also had a slow curve that balanced his out pitch well. At the end of the season he received his Southern Association Rookie of the Year trophy a tad late. He won it in 1960.

The Dodgers of the '73/'74 off-season were not a static bunch. In each of the two prior seasons they had taken a serious run at the title and while in '72 it seemed to be done with smoke and mirrors, in '73 it was due to the building of a cohesive young nexus about which the club would have great success the rest of the decade and into the Eighties. But there were some missing pieces. Both Brewer and Richert were getting on in years and while Charlie Hough was establishing himself he was deemed as a one-pitch guy. They also hadn't had a serious outfield power threat since Frank Howard went to the Senators a decade ago. So Willie Davis went to Montreal for Mike Marshall, a go-to fireman if there ever was one. That made Pete expendable since Brewer would be moved to a support role and the former guy got sent to St. Louis to bring in Tommie Agee to replace Davis in center. At least for a day. Pretty soon thereafter they grabbed Jimmy Wynn from the Astros in a very good move. All Pete got out of it was this horribly airbrushed new cap. The red over blue thing just doesn't work. And neither he nor Tommie would finish out the year in their new homes. Tommie's old one was Shea and I am pretty sure that's an ex-teammate of Tommie's behind Pete: either Wayne Garrett or Bud Harrelson.

Pete Richert came out of Floral Park, NY, in the borough of Queens, pretty much a stone's throw from Shea. When he graduated in '58 he was the last player signed to a contract by the Brooklyn Dodgers. In C ball that summer he went 10-13 with a high ERA but the next year in B ball he was 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA. Both years he struck out more than a batter an inning. In '60 he moved to Double A and had a big year, going 19-9 with a 2.76 ERA and 251 K's in 225 innings to garner that ROY trophy and set a league strikeout record. He spent '61 in Triple A where he had an off season after being injured but after a good spring training in '62 he made the Dodgers. For the next three seasons Pete would be a spot starter on some teams with awfully good pitching and would generally only get some starts when one of the big guys like Koufax or Drysdale was hurt. While he pitched pretty well and impressed with his heater, he couldn't get a regular gig and he would spend most of the '64 season back in Triple A. That winter he would be involved in a big trade that sent him, Frank Howard, Phil Ortega, Ken McMullen, and Dick Nen to the Senators for Claude Osteen and John Kennedy.

When Richert got to DC he was finally able to take a regular spot in a rotation and he made the most of it, becoming the staff ace the next two seasons while recording a better than .500 winning percentage on a losing team. He also nabbed All-Star berths each year. In '65 he made a run for the ERA title and in '66 he finished fourth in AL strikeouts. After a slow start in '67 he was an instrumental part of his next big trade, going to the Orioles for Mike Epstein and Frank Bertaina. He finished out the year for Baltimore mostly as a starter and did well, pulling his ERA below 3.00 and winning seven. But after that year it was all relief. He missed a bunch of games in '68 when he got called up for reserve duty back in DC to quell potential riots after the King assassination. But he still got six saves and had a winning record. He then put up a couple excellent seasons in the pen for the pennant winners, getting 12 saves in '69 and 13 in '70. And he finally got to the post-season after being shutout his years in LA. Unfortunately although he pitched well enough, he was directly involved in a Series play that contributed to a Mets win. The only batter he faced, J.C. Martin bunted with no outs and two on. Pete fielded the ball even though catcher Elrod Hendricks called for it. Being a lefty, Pete had to make a full turn to throw to first and when he did he hit Martin on the arm, allowing Rod Gaspar to score what would be the winning run. The play was controversial as well because the O's contended - rightfully so - that Martin had run inside the baseline to first and was therefore out. But the ump let the play stand and the loss gave the Mets a 3-1 Series lead. But the next year Pete won a ring. In '71 nagging injuries brought his saves total down to four and boosted his ERA. That December he participated in his last big trade, going with Frank Robinson back to LA for Doyle Alexander and other players.

After the trade here Pete actually had a pretty good though brief run in '74. He had a 2.38 ERA and a save in 13 games for the Cards and after being sold to the Phillies went 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA the rest of the way. But Philly released him after the season and Pete was done. He went 80-73 with a 3.19 ERA, 22 complete games, three shutouts, and 51 saves for his career. In the post-season he pitched scoreless ball - the Gaspar run was unearned - over four games and got a save. He did pretty well in a couple lifetime pitching categories, currently ranking 30th in hits per nine innings and 84th in strikeouts per nine innings all-time.
After he finished playing Richert did some fantasy camp work and by the late Eighties was coaching. From '88 to '98 he was pitching coach at the higher levels of the Oakland minor league system. He then moved to Fresno in the Giants system from '99 until at least 2001 when he then went radio silent. I have read that he is still residing in California.

Pete gets a couple good star bullets. Regarding the second one, what Topps doesn't mention is that those strikeouts were part of six in a row - the first six batters Pete faced in his MLB career. He tied a rookie record with that feat that was ironically broken by Sammy Stewart, an Oriole who turned the trick in '77.

The back of the Traded card is kind of a yawner. Let's get to the hookup.

The subject of another big trade gets these two guys together:

1. Richert and Andy Messersmith '73 Dodgers;
2. Messersmith and Sandy Alomar '69 to '72 Angels.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

#347 - Sandy Alomar

I always liked this card because the faded colors made it look like Sandy Alomar was playing ball somewhere on a beach. Where he actually is I can't quite tell but I am pretty sure he's the first guy in the set who prominently has a batting glove on under his mitt. He is also the second guy in this set - after Bob Boone - to have two sons have significant MLB careers after him. '73 was a bit of a tough year for Sandy. His consecutive-game streak ended in May at 640 games and he let a shallow fly drop for a hit in August that would turn out to be the only one in Nolan Ryan's third attempt at a no-hitter for the season. But The Iron Pony was a happy guy - just check his '75 card - and he rebounded after his '74 trade to the Yankees.

Sandy Alomar was discovered playing ball in Puerto Rico when he was 16 by a Braves scout and signed on the spot for $10,000, a pretty good bonus in 1960 for Latin players. His brothers all played pro ball in PR but Sandy left for the States that year and played some D ball. He would return home in off-seasons to play winter ball. In '61 he returned to D ball and hit .278 as an error-prone shortstop. In '62 he moved up to C ball, hitting .329 and then to Double A the next year where he hit .292. The error totals stayed fat however, and in '64 he lost some points off his average as he concentrated on his fielding after being moved up to Triple A. It worked as he dropped his error totals by a third and continued to do so when he was called up to Milwaukee the last month of the season. He started up top the next year but was sent back to Triple A when the team said he needed to work on his hitting, even though he had one of the best averages at the time for NL shortstops. The rest of that season and '66 he stayed at that level where he hit .243 both seasons. That second year he began playing more at second where he was less error-prone than at short (most of his errors were throwing ones). At the end of the season he was traded to the Astros and then the Mets in the trade that brought Eddie Matthews to the former team. He then bottomed out offensively for NY in Triple A, hitting .209 and in August he was sent to the White Sox with former MVP Ken Boyer for Billy Southworth. Finally for Chicago he stuck in the majors even though he didn't see too much action the rest of the season.

In '68 Alomar became the primary second baseman for the Sox. He'd learned to switch hit during minor and winter ball the previous year and his new talent was able to get him a home in the lineup. He kicked off '69 in the same role and that May was traded to the Angels for Bobby Knoop, the guy he would replace at second base in California. Initially the trade was unpopular but Sandy, who was five years younger than Knoop, won over fans with his speed and his better average and didn't miss a game the rest of the season. In '70 he improved most of his numbers and stole 35 bases in an All-Star season. Then in '71 he stole 39 and put up the best offensive numbers of his career while leading the AL in assists. In '72 he had a bang-up start and was hitting .300 in late June with his streak very much alive even though he'd suffered shoulder, knee, and ankle injuries. He faded down the stretch as some of those caught up to him. '73 would be his last regular year in Anaheim as the next year he gave way to newly-acquired Denny Doyle. That July he was sold to the Yankees where he took over the regular gig and stabilized second after the mess there that succeeded the trade of Horace Clarke to San Diego. He hit .269 the rest of the way and continued as the regular guy in '75. In '76 he backed up rookie Willie Randolph and got his first post-season action. That off-season he was traded to the Rangers for Brian Doyle and Greg Pryor and the next two seasons would back up the infield. He was released following the '78 season. Sandy batted .245 with 558 runs and 227 stolen bases. He went hitless in his only playoff at bat. Defensively he is in the top 100 all-time for putouts and double plays at second.

Alomar turned to coaching immediately after his playing career ended, starting with the Puerto Rican National Team which he did from '79 to '84. He then returned to the States to coach the new Charleston franchise of the Padres in '85. From '86 to '90 he coached in San Diego and was around to see the debuts of both his sons, Sandy Jr. and Roberto. He then moved to the Cubs system, coaching ('91 to '93 and '97 to '99) and managing ('94 to '96) in the minors and coaching up top from 2000 to 2002. He then moved to the Rockies ('03 to '04) and the Mets ('05 to '09). In 2010 he managed the Gulf Coast team for NY. He has gone 100-73 as a manager.

Sandy's star bullets focus on his '70 season. Dominoes is pretty much a national pastime in Puerto Rico, as it is in my old neighborhood of Upper West Side NYC.

Sandy and Ron Reed were nearly a foot apart in height but we can get them closer than that here:

1. Alomar and Jay Johnstone '69 to '70 Angels;
2. Johnstone and Ron Reed '76 to '78 Phillies.

Monday, March 12, 2012

#346 - Ron Reed

We have had a bunch of guys who played both hoops and baseball in high school and a few who went on to have significant college years in both sports. But Ron here is the only guy in this set to go on to have careers in both the NBA and MLB. Here he seems to be expressing his full 6'6" height at Shea. '73 was a bummer of a season for him as a couple losing streaks early in the season and elbow pain that worsened through the year produced by far the worst record of his career. He was on the shelf by early July which given his role as a starter was one of the reasons Atlanta could never take advantage of its big power surge that year. By that summer he was probably wishing he was back on the court.

Ron Reed grew up in basketball-crazy La Porte, Indiana, a pretty quick drive from Notre Dame. In high school he pitched pretty well but hoops was his game and he went to South Bend on a scholarship for it. By the time Ron was done in '65 he had built a career that allowed him to be ranked one of the top 25 ND hoops players of the 20th Century. He was an especially good rebounder and a pretty good scorer, ranking third all-time for the school in the former and in the top 25 in the latter. He was drafted that year by the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons also got him a tryout with the Braves to appease their future star. Ron had only played his senior year at ND in baseball and the Detroit GM knew the Milwaukee one and the tryout went well. He got in a few games that summer in A ball and did well, going 3-2 with a 1.47 ERA. After an off-season in Detroit he returned in '66 to pitch excellent ball at three levels in the minors: 5-2 with a 1.76 ERA in A ball; 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA in Double A; and 5-2 with a 3.52 ERA in Triple A. At the end of the year he got a couple starts in Atlanta and threw pretty well. The Braves then wanted Ron to throw winter ball but instead he returned to the Pistons where he didn't play as much as he liked and after his last game - in which he scored 22 off the bench - he told player-coach Dave DeBusschere - one of the very few guys who pulled off the double himself - that he was going baseball full-time. After his late spring training start he spent the bulk of the season back in Triple A, going 14-10 with a 2.51 ERA. When he got called up later in the season, it was pretty much for good this time.

In '68 Reed joined the Atlanta rotation and pitched well enough to get an All-Star nod. The next year he upped things by winning 18 on the division-winners. He got bombed in his only start against the Mets but was slotted as the number two guy for '70 when he broke his collarbone in a spring training game. He missed a bunch of the season and pretty much took the rest of the year to get going. In '71 he nearly doubled his win total and he then remained in the rotation through '74, when he won 10 and improved his ERA by a run. In '75 he was off to a so-so start when he was traded to the Cards for Ray Sadecki and Elias Sosa. In St. Louis he improved things markedly, winning nine the rest of the way and losing a run off his ERA. Following the season he was traded to the Phillies for outfielder Mike Anderson.

When he got to Philadelphia, Reed was told he would be moving to the bullpen, about which he initially wasn't too happy. But he settled in nicely to the team's effective bullpen by committee and became a significant producer the next eight seasons, averaging around 60 games, over 100 innings, and double figures in saves each year. He also improved his ERA significantly and right away experienced an almost annual return to the post-season. He went 57-38 in Philly and won 13 in '79 and finally won a ring in '80 when he pitched shutout ball in the Series. After the '83 season he was traded to the White Sox for Jerry Koosman, the guy he faced in his first post-season game back in '69. After a pretty good year for Chicago - 0-6 but with 12 saves and a 3.06 ERA - he was released the following spring and retired. He finished with a record of 146-140 with a 3.46 ERA, 55 complete games, eight shutouts, and 103 saves. He is one of very few pitchers to win and save over 100 games. In the post-season he went 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA and a save in 22 games. He could also be a pretty good hitter, batting .217 during his years in Philly.

I have read conflicting accounts of what Reed has done since playing. One has said that he returned to Indiana and taught there for many years. Another that he moved back to the Atlanta area to work in finance. One thing for sure is that since the late Nineties he has been associated with a company called Team MVP, whose site I link to here.

Ron gets a couple good early-career star bullets. He was pretty much a success right off the bat in baseball which led him to quit hoops. With the Pistons he averaged eight points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his two seasons as the sixth or seventh man.

We can use North's only LA season to hook up these guys:

1. Reed and Johnny Oates '73 to '75 Braves and '76 Phillies;
2. Oates and Bill North '77 Dodgers.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

#345 - Bill North

Now these are some serious muttonchops. And this was a serious guy. Bill North had such an up and down season in '73 that it is small wonder he had some incidents the following year. Traded from the Cubs following the '72 season - a trade about which he was initially dejected - Bill went straight into the Oakland lineup, initially as DH, and then as the regular center fielder, a position that had Reggie Jackson putting in the most time the prior season as the development of Angel Mangual pretty much stalled. Bill hit the ground running. And fighting, as in his first game hitting against Doug Bird he punched the Royal pitcher in the face as revenge for getting hit twice in a minor league game back in '70. His average and his spot in the lineup moved all over the place but he could get on base - he would post a .376 OBA that year - and he did love to run. He had 53 stolen bases by mid-September when he twisted his ankle stepping on first base. He wound up losing the stolen base title by one to Tommy Harper and then missing the whole post-season. And then Charlie O wouldn't even let him sit in the dugout during the Series. Shades of Reggie's Series experience the prior year. But even though their experiences were parallel, Bill and Reggie WOULD cross each other in '74.

Bill North grew up in Seattle where he was admittedly not a great baseball player. In high school he played primarily second and his senior year, hitting .364, made third team all-Metro, which he said was like kissing your sister. He was still small back then and he would then move on to Central Washington State College where he was a point guard and an infielder/ outfielder. His sophomore season he hit .455 and that was upped to .476 his junior year when he was all-NAIA first team. That spring of '69 he was drafted by the Cubs in the 12th round and in Rookie ball that year would play exclusively outfield. As would be characteristic he had a nice OBA number and he split '70 between A ball where he hit well and Double A where he didn't. He fixed that the following year when he hit .291 with a .394 OBA and then hit well in a few games in Chicago. That winter he learned to switch hit and then had a great spring training in '72 and was set to play center field. But then the Cubs acquired Rick Monday - ironically creating the hole for Oakland in center Bill would fill in a year - and that coupled with sliding into Leo Durocher's doghouse led to limited time in the field and a demotion to Triple A. There Bill hit silly good with a .351 average and a .431 OBA and so was pulled back to Chicago. Later that season after Whitey Lockman became manager Bill assumed a regular job in the outfield backing up center and right. After the season he was traded to the A's for Bob Locker.

After North's coming out season for Oakland he got healthy for '74. He started stealing bases right off the bat but his hitting was light. A bit of a ball-buster in the locker room that June he was giving Reggie some noise when Reggie objected enough that the two were ultimately rolling around on the floor. Reggie hurt his shoulder a bit and missed a couple games but the real damage was to Ray Fosse who hurt his neck breaking up the fight and missed a significant part of the rest of the season. But the fight helped turn around North's year and he hit significantly better the rest of the way, finishing with a .260 average. He also won the stolen base title with 54 and saw his first post-season action. He didn't hit terribly well but Oakland won its third title anyway. In '75 he improved across the board offensively except for a big drop in stolen bases due to bone spurs in his feet. In '76 his feet were healthy again and he led the AL in stolen bases with 75. He also led in being caught with 29, which brings up the knock on him that he didn't have a great ratio. His response to that was that usually Bert Campaneris hit behind him and Bert wasn't too fond of taking pitches when Bill was running. He actually would swing away a bunch not only leading to Bill getting caught but also missing a bunch of steals due to balls being fouled off. Then in '77 after just about every integral part of the team left via free agency so the offense took a dive. Bill also suffered hand and foot injuries and the season was pretty much a wash. Then a few games into '78 after he had played very little he was traded to the Dodgers for future Billy Martin favorite Glenn Burke.

When North moved to LA he got the starting center field gig and resuscitated his season, hitting only .234 but with a .371 OBA and 27 stolen bases in about half a year. He also returned to the post-season, a feat that eluded most of his ex-Oakland teammates. In '79 he moved to the Giants as a free agent where he stole 58 his first season and 45 his second as the team's regular center fielder. While he got along with his first two managers Joe Altobelli and Dave Bristol, he didn't hit it off with his third, Frank Robinson, who took over in '81. That year Bill moved behind Jerry Martin in center and the following season was not offered a contract. He was done at age 33 and finished with a .261 average, 395 stolen bases, and a .365 OBA. Bill was also excellent defensively and led the AL twice in putouts and once in assists. He also killed in various range factors and is highly ranked career-wise in all those categories. In the post-season he had a tough time, hitting .051 with a couple steals in 20 games.

After playing North pretty much turned his back on baseball and became a financial planner first in the San Francisco area and then back near his hometown, in Kirkland, Washington.

Bill's star bullets were discussed above. He also had an unassisted double play in the minors when he caught a fly in short center and ran down the runner who was trying to return to second. He had some serious wheels. He also has a bio on the SABR site that is very informative. It is linked to here.

Since I missed a week due to vacation there is a bunch of music news to recap. Let's start with '73. On March 3, Slade hit Number One on the UK charts with "Cum On Feel the Noize" which would later be a big hit for Quiet Riot. The original version was produced by Chas Chandler, the former Animals bassist who discovered Jimi Hendrix. On the same date that year the Grammys were held. George Harrison's "The Concert for Bangladesh" won Album of the Year. On March 7, Bruce Springsteen had a performance at Max's Kansas City in the Village at which the guy that signed him to Columbia records, John Hammond, had a heart attack. Hammond later said he got too excited from the show for his own good. Then on the 9th Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, keyboardist for The Grateful Dead, died of alcohol poisoning at age 27.

In '74 on March 1 Queen kicked off its first ever headlining tour to support its new album "Queen 2." On the 2nd were that year's Grammys and Stevie Wonder had a field day with his "Innervisions" capturing Album of the Year and a couple singles, "Living For the City" and "Superstitious" won awards as well. Record of the Year went to Roberta Flack for the second year in a row. She followed up "Killing Me Softly With His Song" with "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." They really liked long titles back then. On that date also the proto-punk band Television made its NYC debut. The group would later go on to be the first house band of the iconic club CBGB's. Lastly on the same date Terry Jacks hit Number One in the US with "Seasons in the Sun," setting popular music back a notch. On March 9, the new Number One in the UK was by Alvin Stardust and called "Jealous Mind." Definitely a must-see video, Stardust looks like a thin Elvis stuffed into a rubber suit who sings in falsetto. Also on that side of the pond the band Bad Company made its debut.

Back to baseball for the hook-up. Billy and Mike were neighbors for years:

1. North and Sal Bando '73 to '76 A's;
2. Bando and Mike Caldwell '77 to '81 Brewers.