Wednesday, April 18, 2012

#366 - Larry Hisle

In a very odd and somewhat sad coincidence, Topps has given us the second of two cards in a row of players whose career ended due to the same physical ailment - a torn rotator cuff. Larry here enjoyed a bit of a longer run than that of Mr. Busby but he was knocked out in his prime as well. Larry is toting a big bat and an even bigger smile in Oakland and from research done for this post it seems his smile was pretty constant. Larry was pretty much universally liked so everyone was probably pretty happy to see him back in the bigs in '73. He took a long road back: three trades in a little over a year, time in both leagues and the minors, and finally putting in enough time up top to beat his rookie numbers for the first time in four years. He would also turn into quite a slugger the next five seasons so pretty soon the only people not smiling would be the opposing AL pitchers.

Larry Hisle was born and raised in Portsmouth, Ohio. His dad died when he was about a year old and his mom passed away from a kidney ailment when he was ten so he was actually an orphan. He was then taken in for a bit by a friend of his mom's before being adopted by a family, the Fergusons, who raised him through high school. There Larry was a big deal as a hoops star - he was all-state twice and all-American once - and baseball player and his senior year after averaging 25 a game in basketball and playing stellar defense as a point guard he signed a letter of intent to go to Ohio State on scholarship. Then the Phillies came along and really pressed Larry to go the baseball route and when they offered him too much cash to turn down he signed right when he started at OSU in August of '65. Since he was now a pro athlete he couldn't play hoops but he stayed in school - he'd been an honor roll student in high school - through his first year. That meant a late start to the '66 season but he made it work, hitting .433 with three homers and 13 RBI's in 20 games in A ball. In '67 he put in a full season at the same level and hit .302 with 23 homers. In '68 he jumped all the way to Philly and hit .364 before being sent back down to Triple A. There he hit .303 but his power numbers were compressed significantly because of a hepatitis infection. After resting back home in Portsmouth the balance of the season he returned to the Phillies for the next season.

In '69 Hisle was still feeling the effects of his illness but he was able to wrangle the starting center field gig and with 20 homers, 18 stolen bases, and a .266 average came in fourth in NL ROY voting and earned a spot on the Topps rookie team. He struck out a ton, finishing near the top of the NL with 152 K's. He also suffered a concussion running into the outfield wall trying to rein in a Wayne Garrett triple. In '70 his average slid a bunch but the strikeouts didn't and when in '71 the Phillies got a new rookie center fielder in Willie Montanez, Larry was the odd man out. Most of his time up top was spent on the bench and he spent the better part of the season back in Triple A where he hit .328 with nine homers and 30 RBI's in 186 at bats, but he also struck out 51 times. Since the Phillies thought they were now set in the outfield they dealt Larry to the Dodgers for Tommy Hutton and Hisle spent all of '72 in Triple A for his new team where he hit .325 with 23 homers and 91 RBI's and pulled his strikeouts down a bunch. Those numbers should have made someone excited in LA but they didn't - I would have loved to have seen him with Jimmy Wynn in the outfield for the '74 run - and after the season Larry was traded twice, first to St. Louis for a couple minor leaguers and then to the Twins, essentially for reliever Wayne Granger.  The Twins brought him up to take over center and he did the job. In '74 he cut back on the strikeouts a bit and upped his stats across the board to 19 homers, 79 RBI's, and a .286 average. Then in '75 he ramped things up significantly in the first half of the season by hitting .318 with eleven homers, 51 RBI's, and 17 steals before being shelved in July with a hurt elbow that necessitated an operation and ended his season.

In '76 Hisle got healthy and became one of the premier power guys in the AL. That year he hit .272 with 14 homers and 96 RBI's. In '77 he topped his prior season with a .302, 28 homers, and an AL-leading 119 RBI's. That season he spent a lot of time back home with his high school coach's ailing son who told Larry what his hitting goals should be. After the season he signed a big contract with the Brewers as a free agent and he continued his binge with numbers of .290, 34 homers, and 115 ribbies. Larry was an All-Star in both '77 and '78. Then in '79 came the fall. After a couple dings to his right shoulder the past few seasons he tagged it for real early in the season and missed the remainder of the year. It turned out to be a damaged rotator cuff and that was it for Larry. He attempted comebacks each of the next three years but he couldn't muster any more than 87 at bats in any of them. In early '83 he gave up the ghost and retired. He finished with a .273 average with 166 homers and 674 RBI's. He also stole 128 bases, more than twice as many as times he was caught. He had a .345 OBA.

After his playing career ended, Hisle took up one as a hitting coach. He started out in the Milwaukee system ('83-'89) and then moved to Toronto's ('90-'91), before coming up to the Blue Jays for four seasons ('92-'95). That means he spent a bunch of time with Cito Gaston, the subject two posts ago. During that time the team won its two Series and in '93 Larry was hitting coach to the top three hitters in the AL: John Olerud (.363), Paul Molitor (.332), and Roberto Alomar (.326). For the '96 season he returned to the minors for Toronto. In '97 former teammate Cecil Cooper hired him to return as Milwaukee's minor league hitting coach which he did through 2002. In '03 he began his current gig as a community rep which builds on the work he has been doing all along working with sick and troubled kids. He sounds like a pretty stellar guy.

The second and third star bullets point out an interesting circumstance. Larry was named to the Topps Triple A All-Star team three years after he was named to the Topps Rookie All-Star team. I wonder how many times that one's happened? On the rookie team one of his teammates was Al Oliver, also a teammate of his in high school. That's another pretty cool double. I believe he continued going to Ohio State during his early career. I do not know if he ever finished.

So Larry gets to share his post with music news from the first half of April '74. The sixth was a pretty big day with new chart toppers in the US and the UK. In the States Blue Suede's partly comic rendition of "Hooked on a Feeling" took over on top. The song was originally a hit for BJ Thomas in '69. In the UK "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks hit the top about a month after it did so in the US. Also on that date ABBA won a big award in Europe for their song "Waterloo", expanding their renown (yuck). But there was better news. In California on that day the Jam Festival occurs with performances by Rare Earth, The Eagles, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Black Oak Arkansas, ELP, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. It is the first big gig for some of those bands. Lastly, Eric Clapton gets a party thrown for him in London by Robert Stigwood for whom EC has decided he will finally record again. On the 13th in the US Elton John hits the top with his latest Number One, "Bennie and the Jets", the latest chart topper from his huge double album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."

Larry keeps us in the AL so let's see if that helps for the hook-up:

1. Hisle and Buck Martinez '78 to '80 Brewers;
2. Martinez and Steve Busby '73 to '76 Royals.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

#365 - Steve Busby

Now this guy was a hard-luck pitcher. Not when he was on the mound because that tended to go pretty well. It was off the mound this guy had problems, exclusively the medical kind. Back in '73 Steve Busby was just making his presence felt with his workhorse innings on the way to a short reign as staff ace. He is the final pitcher in the set to throw a no-hitter during the season, only his second, though he was technically still a rookie. In his next start against the Brewers he threw no-hit ball for six-plus innings, going the deepest to two straight no-no's since Johnnie Vander Meer turned the trick in '38. Outside that stretch he didn't have a great start to his season and he was 4-9 halfway through. But then he was a juggernaut, going 12-6 the rest of the way. He came in tied for third place for AL Rookie of the Year, although he got shut out on both the Topps and Baseball Digest teams to the NL guys. But for a couple years his star would burn the brightest of all those guys. Speaking of bright, this is one sunny spring training day on which Steve had his photo taken. The field looks like pretty much any town field that even I've played on. They really went all out back then, didn't they?

Steve Busby was an excellent high school baseball and football payer at Fullerton High School in California, the same school Walter Johnson attended. Steve was prone to injury and his senior year he hurt his knee in a football game. During his senior season in baseball in '67 the Giants drafted him but Steve injured the knee again in a  game and after San Francisco reduced his signing bonus a bunch he opted to go to USC. The expectations were that he'd do the double again in both football and baseball, but he got shut out in the former sport. He did go on to a nice baseball career - Brent Strom was a teammate the first couple seasons and Fred Lynn later - and was an All-American in '71 when he won the CWS title game. He was drafted that June by KC and this time he signed. He continued to kick butt the rest of the summer at Single A San Jose and then in '72 moved up to Triple A where he posted a losing record but with a nice ERA and continued with over a strikeout an inning. His pitches pretty much included only a fastball and a slider but he was able to mix up his speeds pretty well. By the end of '72 he was up in KC.

Busby had a nice short season in Kansas City in '72, going 3-1 in his five September starts with a 1.50 ERA. He also hit a grand slam in one of them that was called back because someone had inadvertently called time out (Paul Splittorf would later admit to being the culprit). In '74 Steve had a super sophomore season, going 22-14 with a 3.39 ERA. He made the All-Star team and threw his second no-hitter, again surrounding it with other hitless innings so that his streak again reached 15 innings. This time he set an AL record by retiring 33 men in a row between the two games. In '75 he went 18-12 with a 3.08 ERA, including a 12-inning complete game win against the Angels that many suspected of causing the injury - he later denied that - that pretty much defined the rest of his career: a torn rotator cuff. If that was the case the injury didn't really manifest itself until '76 when he had to have his shoulder operated on after going 3-3. The operation and its rehabilitation forced Steve to miss almost the entire '77 season - he threw one game in the minors - and mandated a slow comeback in '78. That year he had a couple good starts in Rookie ball but the results in Triple A - 3-7 with a 5.45 ERA - and in KC where he had an ERA above 7.00 were not so hot. In '79 he went 6-6 in twelve starts with a decent 3.63 ERA but his control was shot as he walked a bunch more guys than he struck out. In '80 he threw well in Triple A but again not so great up top. After the season he was released. He then signed with the Cards but he walked away. Steve finished with a 70-54 record with a 3.72 ERA, 53 complete games and seven shutouts. It's a shame since he seemed to be the real deal.

Around the time of his injury and then moreso in his retirement Busby got some radio work with the Royals. In '82 he began a 15-year gig with the Rangers where he provided both radio and television color commentary. He has done some broadcasting for Fox and other networks and since '98 has been running his own baseball school in Texas. There is a pretty lengthy interview with him from 2007 that is linked to here.

Busby was a streaky guy and promise was all over the place via these star bullets. I would imagine the construction work he did was back in California but haven't been able to confirm that. My guess is that the broadcasting gig was a lot more fun.

I'm going to catch up on the music news on this and the next post. I'll review '73 on this one. Both sides of the pond saw new Number One hits on April 7. In the States "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" began a two week run. The song was sung by Vicki Lawrence who until then was more famous for being a cast regular on The Carol Burnett Show than anything she did as a singer. In the UK Gilbert O'Sullivan surprised people with his peppy "Get Down." His song enjoyed a two week run as well. O'Sullivan was the singer and author of the big '72 hit "Alone Again Naturally" which had a much more somber tone.

Gaston and Busby sounds like a law firm but let's get them together in baseball:

1. Busby and Kurt Bevacqua '73 to '74 Royals;
2. Bevacqua and Dave Winfield '79 to '80 Padres;
3. Winfield and Clarence Gaston '73 to '74 Padres.

Monday, April 16, 2012

#364 - Clarence Gaston

The second double card post in a row brings us to a star-gazing Clarence - later Cito - Gaston. Maybe he is looking back at his wonderful '70 season. Or maybe he's looking ahead at his World Series success in twenty years. Whatever he's looking at, he appears to be doing it at home in Jack Murphy Stadium. This would be the last year Clarence gets to show us his Padre threads on a card. In '75 he gets one of the all-time worst air-brush jobs for his trade to the Braves. '73 was a mixed season for Clarence. It was bad because he was still in San Diego and because even though his power numbers rebounded significantly from the year before, his average took a hit and by now it was apparent that his '70 numbers would never be repeated. It was good because it was his last season as a regular. In '74 the acquisition of Bobby Tolan and the continuing emergence of Dave Winfield would crimp his time in right field and eventually force the trade. And moving to Atlanta wasn't exactly a salve for all the losing. Clarence would just have to wait a while to be on a winner.

Clarence Gaston was born in rural Texas and moved around a bit before ending up at Holy Cross High School where he was a quarterback and a pitcher, as well as a hoops star. When he finished high school he began working as a truck driver - like his dad - and a garbage collector. He also played local work league ball at which he was spotted by a Braves scout and soon signed in '64. His start that year wasn't exactly meteoric as he hit .235 for a couple Single A teams with a homer. In '65 he fell to .188 at the same level. But in '66 he got inspired - his family was very religious - and hit .330 with 28 homers and 104 RBI's to win his A league's MVP award. It also earned him a late promotion to Double A where he continued to hit .300. At the latter level in '67 he kept it up and after a .305 season he got his look in Atlanta for a few games. In '68 he hit .273 between Double and Triple A. After that season he was selected by the Padres in a late round of the expansion draft.

In San Diego's first spring training camp, Gaston was seen as something of an unknown since his performance in the minors was sort of inconclusive. But over the winter he won the batting crown in Venezuela by hitting .383. He won the Padres starting center field gig but didn't put up terrific offensive stats. The next winter he again won the batting title - this time with a .360 - and when he returned to San Diego for the '70 season he brought his mojo with him. That year he had pretty much the best offensive line of a Padre - .318 with 29 homers and 93 RBI's - until Tony Gwynn came along. He was an All-Star that year. Then in '71 he had one of the biggest falls ever as his average plunged 90 points and his power tanked. Always a free swinger, the chink in his '70 armor was a high strikeout total of 142. His OBA cracked 100 points in '71. In '72 new acquisition Johnny Jeter took over center and Clarence moved to right. Jeter was a bust but Clarence's power kept sliding. In '74 he backed up in right and left as the new guys took over the regular spots. After the season he was traded back to Atlanta for Danny Frisella.

For the Braves over the next four seasons Gaston continued as a backup, seeing a little time at first as well as in the outfield. He put up some good numbers in '76 - .291 with 25 RBI's in 134 at bats - and '77 when he hit .271 with 21 RBI's in only 85 at bats. After the average fell to .229 in '78 he was sold to the Pirates in September for the stretch run in which he was employed as a pinch hitter. That was his last season in the States as a player and Clarence wound things up with a .256 average with 91 homers and 387 RBI's.

In '79 Gaston continued to play ball, first for the Inter-American League where he hit .324 before it folded, and then in Mexico where he hit .337 for Leon. He again played for Leon in '80 but his average tumbled a bunch and he retired. In '81 old roommate Hank Aaron got Cito a job coaching in the Atlanta system and in '82 Gaston moved to Toronto's. He was hitting coach of the Blue Jays in '89 when manager Jimmy Williams was fired with the team 12-24. Cito was asked to be the interim guy - he initially said no because Williams was a close friend - and took the team to a 77-49 finish. After that record Toronto dropped the interim from Cito's title. He remained as Blue Jay manager through '97, going all the way in '92 and '93, becoming the first black manager to win a Series title. After the team faded in the late Nineties he was released. He then took some time off although he interviewed for managing gigs in Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago. He also maintained ties with Toronto, working informally as a hitting coach and also doing some admin work. In 2008 he again stepped in as manager after a medicre start, going 51-37 after the team started 35-39. He remained there through the 2010 season when he stepped down to be a consultant. His managerial record is 894-837.

There's his first big season in '66 plus a couple game-winners in '72. The Cito name came from an old Mexican wrestler who was popular in Texas when Gaston was a kid. The cartoon is the same as on his '70 card so the girls all stayed healthy for three years. I find it hard to believe he never won Manager of the Year.

I'd love to do the hookup through Matty Alou or Horace Clarke but neither of them played much for San Diego. Then I remembered this guy:

1. Gaston and Pat Dobson '70 Padres;
2. Dobson was on the '73 Yankees.

Friday, April 13, 2012

#363 - New York Yankees/Yankees Team Records

This happy bunch of guys is the 1973 version of the NY Yankees. My guess is this photo was shot sometime around mid-season due to the absence of outfielders Johnny Callison and Ron Swoboda who were both released after not great starts to the season. Plus Pat Dobson and Sam McDowell are both here and they weren't picked up until June. If that is the case then these guys should have been smiling. Bobby Murcer's typical All-Star season was abetted by hot starts from Ron Blomberg, who was still hitting .400 in early July, and Graig Nettles, who had an OBA of .500 in late June. The new pitchers were working out, especially Sudden Sam, who tossed two shutouts in a week, and at the break they were in first with a 59-45 record. But then things sort of fell apart. The team went 2-6 after the break, '72 surprise Steve Kline went on the DL, and pretty much everyone except Murcer and Thurman Munson stopped hitting. Eight straight losses at the end of August took them out of contention and by the end of September both Alou's were gone and manager Ralph Houk retired. The Yankees finished in fourth place with a losing record. But they'd be back in contention in '74. And Ralph would be back, but not with the Yankees.

The checklist front is dominated by pitchers. This is about the smoothest bunch of signatures so far and all these guys were actually on the team in '73. And who would have picked Thurman Munson's signature to have so much flair?

Now this is a loaded card back. Love or hate the Yankees, they are the only team in the set where just a listing of their Series wins almost pushes the team record stats off the card. By now it had been ten years since they were in a Series so precious few of these guys had team records. This will be a long one so let's get it going.

Bobby Richardson was the immediate precedent at second base to the guy in this set, Horace Clarke. Bobby was a South Carolina boy signed by the Yankees out of high school in '53. The Yanks won him over ten other teams and a couple D-1 schools. He didn't waste too much time. A .412 average in D ball got him pushed to B ball before the season was over. He then hit .310 in A ball in '54 and .296 in '55 at Double A before moving to Triple A - .280 - and then for a quick look to NY. In '56 a .328 season with 102 runs got him a one-way ticket to NY where he finished out the year as a back-up. In '57 the aging out of Jerry Coleman and the trade of Billy Martin got him significant starting time at second and he was an All-Star. Then in '58 Tony Kubek's emergence pushed Gil McDougald back to second and Bobby was a reserve again. But he was too good to keep on the bench and the next few seasons he would be the primary guy at second, teaming with Kubek to form a superior middle infield. In '61 Ralph Houk took over as manager which meant no more platooning and Bobby rarely missed a game the next six seasons. Each one he was an All-Star and five of those years he won a Gold Glove. He did a nice job on offense as well, rarely striking out, and twice hitting over .300, leading the AL with 209 hits in '62. He gassed it up in the Series, especially in '60 when he had 11 hits and 12 RBI's. He was ready to retire after '65 but Kubek beat him to it so Bobby hung out a year to ease the transition, signing a five-year contract. He played in '66 then quit as a player, doing consulting work with NY per his contract. He finished with a .266 average, and hit .305 with 15 RBI's in 36 Series games. In '70 he returned to South Carolina full-time and took over as coach of the University of South Carolina baseball team. He set in motion an excellent program in his seven years there and took the team to the CWS twice. He finished there with a 221-92-1 record. In '76 he ran for the House at the urging of Gerry Ford and barely lost. He then took a gig managing highway safety for the state through '80 when he moved to do pr work for Columbia Bible College - he was and is a big Christian speaker - through '84. He then coached at Coastal Carolina ('85-'86) and Liberty University ('87-'90), going a combined 61-38. He then retired although he remains an active speaker.

Babe Ruth was put in a boy's home at a young age by his saloon-owner dad because he was deemed incorrigible. It was there he learned to play baseball and excelled at all positions so that he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles - then a minor league team - in 1914 when he was 19. He went 22-9 that year and was subsequently sold to the Red Sox. He went 2-1 the rest of the season and then a combined 65-43 the next three as the sox won the Series the first two years and Babe took the AL ERA title in '16 with a 1.75. Perhaps the most amazing thing about his career is that if he remained a pitcher he had a decent shot at the Hall as well. In '18 the Sox could no longer ignore his outstanding hitting and they switched him between pitcher, first, and the outfield and he won the homer title. In '19 he set a record with 29 homers, led both leagues with 114 RBI's, hit .322 and still won nine games. Then came the infamous sale to the Yankees. There he became an institution and despite off years in '22 - injury - and '25 - too fat - he put up amazing numbers, averaging .349, 44 homers, 132 RBI's, 131 runs, 124 walks, and a .484 OBA. During that time he led the AL in runs seven times, homers ten times, ribbies five times, walks eleven times, average once, and OBA nine times. He led NY to seven Series, winning four. When his legs got old and the Yankees got tired of his carousing and wouldn't give him a coaching gig they sold him to the Boston Braves in '35 where he put in a few games before retiring to coach. Babe hit .342 with his 714 homers, 2,174 runs, 2,213 RBI's, 2,873 hits, 2,062 walks, and an incredible .474 OBA. As a pitcher he went 94-46 with a 2.28 ERA. In the post-season he hit .326 with 15 homers and 33 RBI's in 41 games. He put up a 3-0 record with a 0.87 ERA in the Series as well. He was elected to the Hall in '36. After his short time coaching he got gigs as a public speaker but pretty much retired. In '46 he was diagnosed with cancer from which he would pass away in '48 when he was 53.

Earle Combs was Kentucky all the way and went to Eastern Kentucky University where he was a major multiple-sport star, hitting over .500 his senior year. He earned a degree in education and began teaching locally, playing ball on the side. In '22 he signed to minor league team Louisville where he played for manager Joe McCarthy, who would manage him later on the Yankees. After hitting .344 in '22 and .380 in '23 with plenty of speed, he was traded to the Yankees for Elmer Smith and some cash. He jump started his career by hitting .400 his first few weeks as a rookie but then fractured his ankle and missed the rest of the season. The next year he stepped back in as the team's regular center fielder, a position he would keep for ten seasons. During that time he recorded over 200 hits three times and over twenty triples three times, leading the AL in the latter stat each of those years. His best season was '27 when he led the AL with 231 hits and 23 triples and hit .356 while scoring 137 runs for Murderers Row. He went to the Series four times and won three. In '34 he ran into the wall at the Stadium and fractured his skull, missing a significant part of the season. He returned in '35 but broke his collarbone and decided he'd had enough. Earle finished with a .325 average with 154 triples, 1,186 runs, 1,866 hits, and a .397 OBA in 12 seasons. In the Series he hit .350 with 17 runs and nine RBI's in 16 games. Earle began coaching for the Yankees during the '35 season and remained there through '44, his pet project being his successor in center, Joe Dimaggio. He then coached for the Browns ('47), the Red Sox ('48-'52), and the Phillies ('54). He then retired back home to Kentucky where he did some work at his old college and a bunch of community work. He was elected to the Hall by the Veteran's Committee in '70. He passed away in '76 at age 77.

Wee Willie Keeler was a local kid from Brooklyn who played semi-pro ball for factory and other company teams because he made more money ball-playing than working in the actual jobs. Eventually he got smart and stuck to baseball. By 1892 he was with a semi-pro team in Binghamton, NY where he hit .373 and was then sold to the Giants for $800. He played sparingly, broke his leg, and when he returned two months later was sold to Brooklyn - then the Grooms - for $800. There he hit well enough but was a mess of a fielder at third and ended the season back in the minors. He was then traded to Baltimore with Dan Brouthers in a lopsided deal and began his hitting onslaught. He had at least 200 hits in each of the next eight seasons, moved to the outfield, and specialized in infield hits, especially bunts and the "Baltimore Chop", an intentionally hard hit ball into the ground that fielders couldn't handle until the batter was on first. He also stole a ton of bases. He stayed in Baltimore through '98 and those five seasons averaged .388 with 220 hits and 48 stolen bases. His best season was '97 when he hit .424 with 237 hits. When the Baltimore and Brooklyn teams did that weird merger thing in '99 Willie returned to his home team. Now the Superbas, for them he again averaged over 200 hits while hitting over .350. After the '03 season he jumped ship to the Yankees. He stuck with them through '09 and still posted pretty good numbers although due to declining speed, at a discount to his earlier years. After a short 1910 back with the Giants he was done up top with a .341 average 2,932 hits, 1,719 runs, 810 stolen bases, and a .388 OBA. He then put in a partial season with Toronto of the Eastern League. He then returned to Brooklyn to coach for the Surperbas ('12-13) and the Federal League Tip-Tops ('14-'15). He then made some investments that went south and by the Twenties was living in a boarding house in Brooklyn and contracted tuberculosis. He spent the early part of the decade broke and in poor health and passed away in '22 from heart disease brought on by the tuberculosis. He was 50. Willie was elected to the Hall in '39.

Lou Gehrig was another local kid, he from Manhattan. After growing up very poor and graduating high school he attended Columbia University where when he was younger he helped his mom clean frat houses. At Columbia he played football but was suspended from his first year of baseball because he played a few games with Hartford of the Eastern League the prior summer. He was able to play his sophomore year, hit over .400 with seven homers in 19 games and was signed by the Yankees that spring. He would spend most of the next two seasons back in Hartford as the NY line-up was pretty stoked, hitting a combined .345 with 61 homers. In '25 he was backing up in the outfield and first when poor Wally Pipp decided to take a day off and The Iron Horse took over. Over the next 14 seasons in NY Lou would lead the AL in every major hitting category - even triples - at least once. Pretty much every one of his seasons was amazing and his best was probably his triple crown year of '34 when he hit .363 with 49 homers, 165 RBI's, a .465 OBA, and only 31 strikeouts. He won two MVP's, was an All-Star seven times, and went to seven Series, winning six. He played through early '39 when he finally had to sit due to early effects of what would later be diagnosed as ALS. He finished with a .340 average, 493 homers, 1,995 RBI's, 2,721 hits, and a .447 OBA. In Series games he hit .361 with ten homers and 35 RBI's in 34 games. He was elected to the Hall upon retirement in '39. He passed away from the disease in '41 at age 37.

Unlike the last couple guys, Roger Maris was a country kid. Born in Hibbing, Minnesota - the same town that produced Bob Dylan - he moved to North Dakota as a kid where he was a high school football and baseball star. After a brief stab at college he was signed by Cleveland in '53 and that summer hit .325 in C ball. The next year he hit .315 with 32 homers in B ball and in '55 19 homers in A ball. After a '56 in which he hit .293 with 17 homers in Triple A he was promoted to the top. In '57 he had an OK rookie year with 14 homers in 358 at bats. He was going at a similar pace the next year when he was traded early in the season to Kansas City in the deal that brought the Indians Vic Power and Woodie Held. For KC he improved his power and he finished the season with 28 homers and 80 RBI's. In '59 he hit 19 out with 72 RBI's and went to his first All-Star game. The Yankees then arranged one of those horribly lopsided trades where they got Roger and others for a bunch of aging players and he went on to have his most productive seasons. In '60, despite missing a bunch of late-season games to have his appendix taken out, he hit 39 homers, an AL-leading 112 RBI's, and .283 to win his first MVP. He also won a Gold Glove. Then came the big '61 season in which he and Mickey Mantle chased The Babe's home run record in what would be a very stressful year for Roger. He won the crown with his big 61, led both leagues with 132 runs and the AL with 141 RBI's and won his second MVP. In '62 he had his last big season with 33 homers and 100 RBI's. In '63 injuries reduced his playing time to half a season, though he hit 23 out with 52 ribbies. In '64 he put in a full season but his power was waning - 26 homers and 71 RBI's - though he did hit .281. The rest of his time in NY was injury-filled and following the '66 season he was sent to the Cards for Charley Smith. Roger's timing was pretty good as he returned to the Series both years with St. Louis as their regular right fielder, providing clutch hitting and excellent numbers in the '67 post-season. After the '68 season he retired, leaving behind a .260 average, 275 homers, and 850 RBI's, along with a .345 OBA. In the Series he hit .217 with six homers and 18 RBI's in 41 games. Upon retirement he was given a Budweiser distributorship in Florida by St. Louis owner Busch which Roger was able to turn into a thriving business. He was having a nice post-career run when in the mid-Eighties he was diagnosed with lymphoma from which he passed away in '85. He was 51.

Luis Arroyo had a long trip to the major leagues. Born in Puerto Rico, he played semi-pro ball down there after graduating high school and won a sponsored trip to Phil Rizzuto's baseball school in Florida in '47. He was then signed to the independent Greenville team and between there and a C league team in Greensboro won 14 games. The next year the latter team moved up to B status and Luis moved up for them as well, going 21-13. He then signed with the Cards and posted some fat ERA's the next couple years in Triple A. He also pitched winter ball and was hurt in '52. The Cards put him on injured reserve the next two seasons though he continued to pitch in the winter. He returned in '54 and went a combined 16-9 with a 2.40 ERA in Single and Double A. That got him promoted to St. Louis in '55 where as a 28-year old rookie he went 11-8 with a 4.19 ERA in the rotation and was an All-Star. Manager Fred Hutchinson thought he was a loafer though - he wasn't - and pushed him back to the minors to start '56 and then traded him to Pittsburgh. For the Pirates Luis would go a combined 6-14 the next two seasons with a high ERA mostly in the pen but 8-5 in the minors. In '58 he learned a screwball and that turned things around. In '58 he went 10-3 in Triple A with his new pitch and then was traded to the Reds. He began the season in Cincinnati but when new manager Hutch realized who he was he sent him back down. Back at Triple A he went 8-9 but with a 1.15 ERA as the bullpen ace. He got sold to the Yankees, went 9-7 with a 2.27 ERA for their Triple A team, and finished the season in NY, going 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA and getting seven saves. In '61 he had his big year, going 15-5 with 29 saves and a 2.19 ERA as he made his second All-Star game and got some MVP votes. He was probably pretty happy beating the Reds in the Series. After that his arm went south fast and he was out of baseball by 'mid-season of '63. Luis finished with a record of 40-32 with a 3.93 ERA, 44 saves, and ten complete games up top. In the minors he went 95-67 with a 3.30 ERA. In the Series he went 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in three games. He was also a .227 hitter. After he finished playing he managed a few years and scouted for the Yankees into the early Eighties. He has since retired and still resides in Puerto Rico.

Pedro Ramos was a farm kid from Cuba who was signed by the Senators in '53. After a lame first season in D ball he went a combined 19-6 in C and B ball in '54 and made it to DC in '55. For the Nats his rookie year he went 5-11 with 5 saves and a 3.88 ERA. The next year he went 12-11 but the ERA popped. The next five years he was in the rotation and went a combined 61-91 and led the AL in losses four consecutive seasons as well as in homers given up twice. He was an All-Star once - in '59 - and around then took on the image of a cowboy, frequently wearing a loaded gun to the park. Right before the '62 season he was traded to Cleveland for Vic Power and Dick Stigman. For the Indians he went a relatively respectable 26-30 the next two-plus seasons though he kept giving up a bunch of gopher balls. Late in '64 he went to NY for Ralph Terry and some cash. The Yankees threw him in the pen and he had a nice stretch run but was ineligible for the Series. He had his big season in '65, going 5-5 with a 2.92 ERA and 19 saves. After an OK '66 - 3-9 with 13 saves - he was sent to the Phillies for whom he went almost immediately to the minors. He moved around to a bunch of teams the next six seasons and was done in the majors by '70. He finished up top with a record of 117-160 with a 4.08 ERA, 73 complete games, and 55 saves. He was a decent batter and hit 15 homers himself during his career. After being done in the States he continued to play a bit in Mexico and Latin America. He settled into the Miami area and in the Seventies and early Eighties was involved in the drug trade and served a bunch of time. He also hung out a lot in Nicaragua where he started his own cigar company where he apparently liked to brag about all the people he shot. He sounds like a winner.

Dooley Womack grew up in South Carolina and was signed by the Yankees after high school in 1958. He spent a while moving up the chain while posting middling seasons as a reliever. In '64 he won ten in Double A and in '65 the same amount in Triple A, both years with excellent ERA's. He had a nice rookie year for a pretty bad team in '66, going 7-3 with a 2.64 ERA and four saves. In '67 he ramped things up with a 5-6, 2.41 ERA, and 18 saves. In '68 he lost his closer role to Steve Hamilton and Lindy McDaniel and the next year he was traded to Houston for Dick Simpson. He was having a pretty good year as a setup guy when he was sent to the Pilots for Jim Bouton mid-year (he gets a couple mentions in "Ball Four"). He did pretty well for them as well but in a limited role. He then went back to Houston, was quickly flipped to Cincinnati, and for the Reds had a nice year in Triple A. At the end of the season he was traded to Oakland for whom he made his final appearances up top. In '71 he was having a decent year for the A's in Triple A when he went down with a torn rotator cuff that ended his career. Dooley went 19-18 with a 2.95 ERA and 24 saves in the majors and 65-55 with a 3.18 ERA in the minors. After he played he returned to South Carolina where he worked a bit selling men's suits. He then moved into the carpet business and spent a bunch of years in the flooring business before he retired.

Jack Chesbro was born in Massachusetts and played semi-pro and pro ball there and in New York after high school. In 1895 he hooked up late in the year with independent Springfield. The next two years he pitched B ball and had an excellent ERA despite a losing record. In '98 he went 23-15 at the same level and was signed by the Orioles but then dropped during its crazy merger with Brooklyn. He went 17-4 to start the year in the minors and was sold to Pittsburgh mid-season. For the Pirates he had a not great finish to the season but then over the next three years he would become the staff ace, in '02 leading the NL with 28 wins and eight shutouts. In '03 he was basically assigned to the Highlanders and he did well enough his first year, going 21-15. Then prior to the '04 season he learned the spitter and then went an amazing 41-12 with a 1.82 ERA in 454 innings. In '05 he won 19 and in '06 23, both with better than league-average ERA's. He would continue to post good ERA's but the next couple years his arm ran out of gas and he went 14-20 in '08. After that season his arm was toast and he was out of the majors by the end of the '09 season. He finished 198-132 with a 2.68 ERA, 35 shutouts, and 260 complete games. He would play semi-pro ball on and off until his early fifties, coached UMass a couple years, and spent most of his time working his farm back home in Massachusetts. He passed away there in '31 of a heart attack when he was 57. He was inducted into the Hall in '46.

Al Orth graduated from DePauw University after growing up in Indiana. He hooked up with independent Lynchburg and went 24-7 with a 2.41 ERA in 1895 and was sold to the Phillies before the season was over for $1,000. For seven seasons in Philly he had a nice run, going 100-72 with a 3.49 ERA. He was a good hitter as well and during that time hit .294 and put in a few games as a position guy. He then moved to the Senators where he won 19 his first year but went 10-22 his second. Both seasons he had relatively high ERA's. Al was a control pitcher whose nickname was The Curveless Wonder and whose pitches were generally off-speed versions of a fastball. While he could place them very well, the humid DC air weighed them down too much and made them easier to hit. Midway through his third year with the Nats he was traded to the Highlanders and for them he had an immediate turnaround, winning 11 the rest of the way in '04 and 18 in '05. He had his best season in '06 when he went 27-17 with a 2.34 ERA and led the AL in wins and complete games, with 36. In '07 he again had a nice ERA - 2.61 - but went 14-21. After a 2-13 '08 he returned to Lynchburg where he had bought the team and renamed it the Shoemakers in honor of his dad. He spent the rest of '08 and '09 there playing for and managing the team. After a brief comeback attempt in '09 for NY he was done. Al went 204-189 with a 3.37 ERA, 324 complete games, and 31 shutouts. He only averaged less than two walks per nine innings. He hit .273 with 12 homers and 184 RBI's. He settled back in Lynchburg where he ran his team for a bunch of years and where he passed away at age 76 in '48.

Joe Lake was an excellent all-around baseball player out of Brooklyn. For a bunch of years after high school he played semi-pro ball for the Loughlin Lyceum, a Catholic League team for whom he played the outfield and pitched through 1904. In '05 he played for a professional team in Peekskill, NY and then he moved to independent Newburgh in '06 for whom he exclusively played the field and hit .321. In '07 he moved to Jersey City, an A league team and switched gears, pitching his way to a 25-14 record. That got him purchased by the Highlanders and in '08 Joe went 9-22 - which would actually give him sole title to the loss record - with a 3.17 ERA. He improved to 14-11 with an excellent 1.88 ERA in '09 and was then traded to the Browns. In St. Louis Joe went 22-39 but with a 2.88 ERA the next two-plus years and midway through '12 he was sold to Detroit where he went 17-18 through '13. That ended things up top where Joe went a combined 62-90 with a 2.85 ERA and 95 complete games. He moved to the minors the second half of the '13 season and then went 16-13 in '14 while also hitting above .330 while getting some position time as well. He was released in '15 ending his baseball career. There is no further info out there on Joe. He passed away in Brooklyn in 1950 at age 69.

Russ Ford was born in Manitoba, Canada and moved to Minnesota as a kid. He played local ball and was in B ball by 1905 where he won 16 for Cedar Rapids when he was 22. The next year he won 22 for the same team and the next three seasons averaged 15 wins a year in A ball. At the end of '09 he was signed by the Highlanders. Over that winter he picked up what would be his money pitch, an emory ball, which he discovered by accident. In his rookie year of 1910 he went 26-6 with a 1.65 ERA with his new pitch. In '11 he won 22, but in '12 he went 13-21 as batters began figuring out his pitch. After a 12-18 season in '13 - but with a 2.66 ERA - he moved to the Federal League. In '14 he won 21 for Buffalo with a 1.82 ERA. The next season, though, the league outlawed his pitch and he fell to 5-7 with a high ERA, ending his time in the majors. Russ finished going 99-71 with a 2.59 ERA and 126 complete games. He pitched a couple more seasons in the minors, winning 16 in '16. He then settled in and around New York and in Rockingham, North Carolina where he was involved in banking, shipping, and hotel management. He passed away at age 76 in 1960.

Sad Sam Jones was born in Woodsfield, Ohio and pretty much stayed there his whole life. He worked in a grocery store and played some semi-pro ball after high school until he hooked up with the B league Zanesville team in 1913. In '14 he went a combined 15-6 in the D and Double A leagues which got him sold to Cleveland late that year. After another uneventful season for the Indians he was sent to the Red Sox in the trade that brought Cleveland Tris Speaker. For Boston he'd only get in 21 games the next two seasons due to the Sox' excellent staff, including Babe Ruth. Then in '18 he got in the rotation and led the AL in winning percentage with a 16-5 mark. He remained in the rotation the next three years, losing 20 in '19 and winning 23 in '21. That earned him a trade to NY where that pattern repeated itself: he won 21 in '23 and lost 21 in '25. He pitched for NY one more year, for the Browns for a season, the Nats for three, and the White Sox for four. When Chicago released him after the '35 season he was 42. He finished with a record of 229-217, a 3.84 ERA, 36 shutouts, 250 complete games, and 31 saves. In the post-season he went 0-2 but with a 2.05 ERA in six games. A homebody, he coached and managed a bit - and even played - in the minors a couple years but spent most of his time back in Woosdsfield where he coached local ball and was the chairman of the board for many years at a bank. He passed away there in '66 at age 73. He was one of the players interviewed in the early Sixties for the book "The Glory of Their Times."

Whitey Ford - no relation to Russ - was another local kid, he from Queens. Signed by the Yankees out of high school, he went 13-4 in B ball in '47. He won 16 each of the next two seasons as he moved up the ladder and at Triple A Kansas City in '50 was 6-3 with a 3.22 ERA when he was promoted to NY. He then had a great run to start his career, winning his first nine games before going 9-1 to come in second in AL ROY voting. He then spent '51 and '52 in the Army and returned in '53 to resume a career in which he would have one of the best ever winning percentages. In his 16 seasons in NY he lost ten or more games only twice. He led the AL in wins three times, winning percentage three times, ERA twice, complete games once, and shutouts twice. He was an All-Star eight seasons and won a Cy in '61 when he went 25-4. He ran out of gas due to a bad shoulder that led him to retire early in the '67 season. He went 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA, 156 complete games, and 45 shutouts. In the Series he went 10-8 with a 2,71 ERA that included his record 33-plus innings of consecutive shutout ball. He was voted to the Hall in '74. He has done some regular season coaching and lots of spring training work but professionally spent most of his time in public appearances and earning money from his investments, including restaurants.

Tommy Byrne grew up in Baltimore and then went to Wake Forest where he played outfield and pitched. When he graduated he was signed by the Yankees in 1940 and he had a rough start the next two years at Double A Newark when he walked a guy at least every other inning. There in '42 he went 17-4 with a 3.10 ERA to win league MVP. He went up to NY in '43 where he was 2-1 but with a 6.54 ERA and 35 walks in 31 innings. He was called into the Navy during the season and served on a destroyer in the Mediterranean the next three years. He returned to NY at the end of the '46 season but was still crazy wild and he spent nearly all of '47 back in the minors, going 12-6 for Triple A Kansas City. In '48 he finally got some starting time and in '49 and '50 he won 15 each year in the rotation while leading the AL in walks. He was an All-Star in '50. He led the league again in walks in '51 and was traded early in the season to the Browns. He would stay in St. Louis through '52, pitch for the White Sox and the Senators - for neither team very successfully - and be back in the minors to open the '54 season. That year he bounced at Triple A with a 20-10 record for independent Seattle. The Yankees bought him back before the season ended. In '55 he went 16-5 in his best season up top, winning Comeback Player, and leading the AL in winning percentage. He stuck in NY two more seasons, mostly out of the pen, and was done. He finished 85-69 with a 4.11 ERA. Earning his Wild Man nickname he recorded 1,037 walks, 766 strikeouts and hit 85 batters. He was also a very good hitter and hit .238 up top with 14 homers and 98 RBI's in 601 at bats. Among his hits were 80 pinch hits. In the post-season he went 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in six games and hit .300 with two ribbies in ten at bats. In the minors he went 62-38 and hit .290. After his playing career Tommy returned to Wake Forest where he coached his college team a couple years and moved into the oil, real estate, and retail industries. He was mayor of the town of Wake Forest from '73 to '87 when he more-or-less retired. He passed away there in 2007 at the age of 87.

Spud Chandler was born in Georgia and went to the University of Georgia where he played football - as a halfback - and baseball on his way to a degree in agriculture. He was signed by the Yankees upon graduating in '31. The next year he had a nice start by going 12-1 in B and A ball. He spent the next three years going a combined 20-25 in Double A with a high ERA. After a '36 in which he went 14-13 with a 3.33 ERA he was promoted the next season to NY where he went 7-4 with a 2.68 ERA as a spot starter. His next season he went 14-5 and then posted pretty good records the next couple seasons though he was hurt a bunch. He won ten in '41 and 16 in '42 before he had his MVP year in '43, going 20-4 with a 1.64 ERA and five shutouts. After a start in '44 he enlisted in WW II - at 36 - and returned at the end of the '45 season. In '46 he picked up where he left off, going 20-8 with a 2.10 ERA. In '47 he went 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA as he had to rest his arm a bunch because of injuries. That would be his last season and he finished with a 109-43 record with a 2.84 ERA, 109 complete games, and 26 shutouts. He has the highest winning percentage ever of any pitcher who won 100 or more games. In the Series he went 2-2 with a 1.62 ERA in six games. After playing he coached a few years in the minors, managed in '54 and '55 in the Cleveland system - he went 150-107 - and coached for Kansas City from '57 to '58. He then became a scout for many teams, including the Yankees, through his retirement in '84. He passed away in Florida in '90 when he was 82.

That's a lot of posting.

Finally we get to the card back. The most prominent missing position guy was mentioned above: Johnny Callison hit .176 in 136 at bats but he was released during the season. Swoboda was also, but he only had 43 at bats. Bernie Allen, who backed up at second, was traded late in the season to Montreal and had 57 NY at bats. That's it for the position guys as the Alou brothers had cards with other teams in this set: Matty with the Padres and Felipe with the Expos (in the team card Matty is third from the right in the first row and Felipe is immediately behind him). On the pitching side Tom Buskey and Jim Magnuson get shut out. They each went 0-1 and Buskey is on the team card, third from the right in the last row. Mike Kekich had a card with Cleveland. So we get 160 out of 162 decisions and all but 236 at bats. That's pretty good.

Too tired to do any music news so I'll catch up on a future post.

We have to get a journeyman catcher hooked up with this team. Let's do this:

1. Mel Stottlemeyre was on the '73 Yankees;
2. Stottlemyre and Clete Boyer '64 to '66 Yankees;
3. Boyer and Hal King '70 to '71 Braves.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

#362 - Hal King

Now this guy's definitely got one of the shortest names in the set. Everything about this set is short for Hal King: his career as this is his final card; his stat line - only 43 at bats; his ability to smile - in not one photo I found while researching for this post is there one with even a hint; and apparently his batting helmet as it can't fit over his afro at Candlestick. But in some ways Hal's '73 was a big deal. His first three hits in the season were all homers and of his eight hits for the year half were four-baggers. The big one came on July 1. When the game that day began the Reds were only a few games over .500 and eleven back from the division-leading Dodgers. LA was up 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth when Hal pinch hit with two on and two outs. He popped a Don Sutton pitch over the wall for a 4-3 win. From that game on the Reds were 60-26 and the homer was viewed as a catalyst for the run. Hal had two other game-winners down the stretch so the one thing he wasn't short on that season was late-inning dramas.

Hal King hailed from Oviedo, Florida where he played pretty much every position on the field. He'd have been done with high school in '62 but he wasn't signed until '65 when the Angels picked him up as a free agent. It seems he didn't go to college so what he did during the intervening years is a mystery, but it certainly got him noticed in baseball. That summer he played outfield and even pitched a bit in A ball, hitting .241. In '66 he served some time in the military and had a short season at catcher split between a couple Double A teams. After the season he was selected by the Astros in the minor league draft. Houston was pretty desperate for catchers and after Hal had a big offensive year in A ball - .288 with 30 homers and 87 RBI's - he was pushed all the way up for a late-season look. For the '68 season he was named the starting catcher but after a poor start he returned to the minors and split the year between Double and Triple A, hitting .253 with not nearly as much power as he showed in '67. He nearly ended the career of Billy Grabarkewitz in a collision that summer at home plate. In '69 spring training he went to the Red Sox for another minor leaguer.

For Boston, King put together a nice season in Triple A, batting .322 with a .421 OBA and some decent power. But that December the Sox, flush with young catchers, left Hal unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and the Braves nabbed him. Hal was lucky enough to get there in the window of opportunity between Joe Torre and Earl Williams and in '70 he had his busiest season in the majors, putting up pretty good offensive numbers. While he got nearly as many at bats in '71 his stats came down pretty hard and after the season he went to Washington/Texas for Paul Casanova, another catcher. Manager Ted Williams was impressed enough with Hal in training camp but when his average stayed below .200 during the early part of the season he was sent back down to Triple A. After the year he went to the Reds for former 20-game winner Jim Merritt.

In Cincinnati King's career took its familiar arc. Sent in spring training to the minors, he returned in late June to hit his well-placed homers. He went one for two in the playoffs against the Mets. '74 would be pretty much the same deal with a lot more time in the minors and no homers up top. It would be his last year of play in the States. Up top Hal hit .214 with 24 homers and 82 RBI's in what amounted to just over a full season. He had a .325 OBA. In the minors he hit .270 with 72 homers and a .360 OBA.

In '75 King was sold to Cordoba in the Mexican League. He would do pretty well south of the border, hitting at or above .300 each of the next four seasons with some pretty good power. In '79, which may or may not have been his final season there, he played for Saltillo, a team that went 95-40 and was led by former Orioles outfielder Andres Mora. For Saltillo that year Hal hit .320 with 19 homers, 85 RBI's, and a league-leading 124 walks. Since then there is virtually no news out there on Hal except wistful notes about his '73 homers. Back in his hometown of Oviedo there is a Hal King Power Washing business that also performs other home-related services. It's probably not a stretch to think this may be the same guy.

Hal may have the most room I've yet seen in the top name plate since he has no middle name. There are his homers. That cartoon is an interesting tidbit but that's one of the worst drawings of Texas I've ever seen.

Since we are on our third NL guy in a row this may be short:

1. King and Don Stanhouse '72 Rangers;
2. Stanhouse and Don Carrithers '75 to '76 Expos.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#361 - Don Carrithers

1973 was a pretty typical season for Don Carrithers. He started and relieved. He had a losing record and a high ERA. His strikeouts and walks ran neck-and-neck. He spent time on the DL. And that last bit was pretty much the problem. Don got hurt a lot - nearly every season - so even when things were going well for him it didn't last. About the only bad thing that didn't happen to him in '73 was that he avoided the minors. Here he gets a profile shot in the Arizona desert during spring training.

Don Carrithers was an all-county pitcher out of Lynwood, California when he was drafted by the Giants in '67. While he got off to a rough start that summer in Rookie ball - 4-5 with a 4.58 ERA - he did get a bunch of strikeouts, including 17 in one game. He had a pretty good pitch assortment - fastball, curve, and slider - and they all moved pretty good. In '68 he improved markedly at two Single A stops, going 13-6 with a 2.50 ERA and getting bumped to Triple A the following year. There he really hit a bump, going 3-12 with an ERA over 6.00. He fixed that in '70 when his 9-1 and 2.15 ERA at the same level earned him time up top. While he went 2-1 with a shutout in his first start that 7.36 ERA didn't impress anyone and he was back in Triple A to kick off '71. After going 7-3 in the rotation there in the first half he came back to San Francisco in time to participate in the pennant run.

Carrithers went 5-3 the second half of '71 as he spot started and relieved down the stretch. He saw some post-season work but didn't do too well, giving up 3 runs without getting an out. In '72 he would give up Willie Mays' first non-Giant homer and toss three wild pitches on the way to the DL with shoulder pain. Then after the '73 season he was sent to the Expos for fellow former California schoolboy star John Boccabella. The change in scenery helped as Don split the next two years between Triple A and Montreal. He went a combined 10-11 with a 2.40 ERA at the lower level and 10-5 with a 3.18 ERA up in Canada. When he settled in up top for all of '76, though, he didn't perform too well. While he threw 140 innings, by far his most in the majors, he went 6-12 with a 4.43 ERA and more walks than strikeouts. In the off-season he was sold to the Twins.

While some ex-Expos did well in Minnesota - think Mike Marshall and Jose Morales - Carrithers wouldn't be one of them. Out driving late at night with fellow pitcher Mike Pazik, they were struck by someone going the wrong way on a highway ramp and both required hospitalization. Don broke his leg and arm while Pazik broke both legs and they each missed the remainder of the season. Don would move back to the Giants organization where in '78 and '79 he pitched for Triple A Phoenix. He did OK but control issues persisted and after the '79 season he was released. He finished with a record of 28-32 with a 4.45 ERA, eleven complete games, three shutouts, and three saves in the majors and 60-50 with a 3.69 ERA in the minors.

While playing Carrithers had begun a roofing business in the San Mateo area of California. After the '79 season he returned to it full-time and even employed other ball players there during the '81 strike. He remained in the roofing business for at least the next 20 years. During that time he was also actively involved in the Senior Baseball League where he played principally for Sacramento alongside former big leaguers including Jim Barr and Ron Brand.

Don gets props for two 17-strikeout performances in '67, one in the pros. I didn't realize handball was a big thing on the left coast. I thought just NYC guys played it.

My guess is Don wasn't too successful against The Bull but let's get them together anyway:

1. Carrithers and Garry Maddox '72 to '73 Giants;
2. Maddox and Greg Luzinski '75 to '80 Phillies.

Monday, April 2, 2012

#360 - Greg Luzinski

On the eve of the 2012 season we come to The Bull, who looks appropriately at home in a dugout somewhere actually away from home. Greg was one of the young guys who would help turn the Phillies franchise around from its moribund early Seventies ways. In '73 he continued his promising slugging, topping 90 RBI's for the first time and had a streak of five homers in five games. He also had a run of two games in which his shots hit the upper deck in Veterans Stadium, something which had only happened ten times total after he did it since the stadium opened in '71. It wasn't all good, though. Greg suffered a pretty nasty slump early in the season and by the end of May was only hitting .211 with 14 RBI's. Then after hitting well over .300 the rest of the way he got nailed in the face with a Bailor Moore pitch in late September that forced him to leave the game. But The Bull was back in the lineup the next day. Once Mike Schmidt got established in the year of this set, the two of them would have a few years of being a pretty powerful slugging duo. That's why Greg's resting up in the dugout.

Greg Luzinski grew up in the Chicago area where when he got to Notre Dame High School he was a 500-foot hitting catcher and a sought-after fullback/linebacker in football. He'd already signed a letter of intent to go to Kansas in the latter sport and when he was negotiating with a Phillies scout both USC and Notre Dame - the university - called to recruit him. That pushed the Phillies offer up to $45,000 and Greg signed as a first rounder in '68. That summer he hit 13 homers with 43 RBI's in 57 games of A ball for his first manager Dallas Green, who would also be his last manager in Philly. He also suffered a horrible beaning that put him in the hospital after blood started coming out his ear. The next year, again in A ball, he moved to first base while torching league pitching. He did that the next two seasons while moving up a rung each year. In '70 he got a short look up top and then in '71 hit .300 while backing up Deron Johnson at first. In spring of '72 he made the Phillies for good.

When Luzinski came up for good, Deron Johnson was still the man at first so Greg was converted to an outfielder. Never a premier defenseman he became the regular guy in left where good friend Larry Bowa could help him out by taking a lot of fly balls to shallow left. Philly was pretty awful in '72 and outside of Steve Carlton's magical year there were few bright spots. The Bull provided one when he hit the facsimile Liberty Bell in center field with a homer, a shot estimated to have traveled over 550 feet. After the big uptick in '73 his '74 season was pretty much killed when he tore a ligament in his right knee while chasing a foul ball. That put him out of action for a couple months and his power fell off to seven homers and 48 RBI's. But Greg would make up for that huge the next three seasons as Philly became a contender: from '75 to '77 he averaged .305 with over 31 homers and 115 RBI's in thee All-Star seasons. In '76 and '77 - his best season with a .309 average, 39 homers, and 130 RBI's - he helped lead the team to the playoffs. He would hit pretty well in those post-season games but famously dropped a fly ball in a loss to the Dodgers in '77. But that season, in a little-publicized move, he renegotiated his contract to have over $22,000 retained by the Phillies each year. The money was used each season to buy under-privileged kids tickets to Phillies games. In '78 he continued his All-Star ways by tagging 35 homers and 101 RBI's but the average fell to .265. That year was widely considered a slump and in '79 he showed up a bunch of pounds lighter. Then that year things got worse as leg ailments pulled the numbers down a bunch more - 18 homers and 81 RBI's. While there were some physical ailments, a telling stat - he hit .303 on the road and .187 at home - indicated that the always friendly Phillies fans booing were making an impact. Greg was viewed by many as the principal reason the club faded down the stretch. By '80 his knees were going south, he was losing starting time in left to Lonnie Smith and Greg Gross, and his stats all bottomed out: .228 with 19 homers and 56 RBI's in 368 at bats. After the Phillies won the Series he asked for a trade back home to Chicago where he could be a DH and rest his knees. He was sold to the White Sox the following March.

In Chicago Luzinski did DH and the rest impacted his stats nicely. In the strike year of '81 he boosted his average nearly 40 points and picked up across the board. In '82 he posted over 100 RBI's for the first time in four seasons and in '83 he hit 32 homers with 95 RBI's. Late in that season he put in some games at first base since the ChiSox were on the way to winning their division and there would be no DH in that year's Series. But the work in the field was short-lived after they lost to Baltimore in the playoffs. Greg returned for the '84 season, played out his contract, and retired. He finished with a .276 average, 307 homers, 1,128 RBI's, and a .363 OBA. In the post-season he hit .244 with five homers and twelve RBI's in 23 games.

Luzinski had done a nice job investing while he played which allowed him to step things down a bit income-wise and coach both baseball and football at his son's high school in Jersey, Holy Cross. His son was one of his successes and went on to play minor league ball for eight seasons. Greg coached there through '92 and then went to join old manager Tony LaRussa in Oakland from '93 to '95. He then coached with the Royals from '96 to '97 after which he relocated to Florida. Since then he has played golf on his artificial knee and has had an eponymous food concession stand at the Phillies new ballpark.

Greg gets some excellent star bullets about his time in the minors. The semi-pro ball was in the summer following his junior year in high school when he was only 16.

Bobby Tolan comes in handy again:

1. Luzinski and Bobby Tolan '76 Phillies;
2. Tolan and Brent Strom '75 Padres.