Friday, June 29, 2012

#391 - Billy Champion

Still in the AL, we get recent transferee Billy Champion looking wary in Oakland. After a few years of posting some horrible records in Philly, Billy – or Bill – came over to the Brewers in a big trade following the ’72 season (he was airbushed on his ’73 card). He put in by far his best season to date moving between the rotation and the pen, earning a save with his posted stats. He attributed his relative success to work he did with Bob Shaw, the Milwaukee pitching coach who quit mid-season. In this photo Billy looks like he’s ready for the photographer to throw something at him. Who knows? But he did get an awfully nice ’74 thrown his way.

Billy Champion hailed from Shelby, North Carolina, where he played high school ball on a pretty good team. In his junior year of ’64 they were state champs and in his senior year – one in which Billy went 10-3 and once struck out 22 batters in a seven-inning game – were the regional champs. That year he was drafted by the Phillies in the third round and threw very well in A ball posting a 7-3 record with a 1.20 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 75 innings. But he would stay at that level the next three seasons, generating pretty good records and improving ERA’s and throwing just under a strikeout an inning. He peaked in ’68 when he was 15-5 with a 2.03 ERA Those numbers finally got him pushed up to Triple A in '69 and after going 7-1 with a 1.66 ERA in nine starts at that level he moved up to Philly that June.

Champion’s debut up top didn’t go exactly as planned. His pitching repertoire back then consisted of a slider and a fastball, both thrown with a three-quarter motion. But pitching coach Al Widmar – ironically the guy who would replace Shaw with the Brewers in ’73 – wanted to see more movement on the fastball and had Billy drop his arm to full sidearm delivery, pretty much like staff ace Jim Bunning’s. It did give the fastball more movement but killed the slider, leaving Billy with one pitch and resulting in the 5-10 record and 5.01 ERA. The next year he would spend most of his time in the minors but the damage was done as he went 10-12 with a 4.90 ERA split between Double and Triple A, along with the nasty numbers up top. In ’71 he dropped the sidearm delivery and put up his best season in Philly as he tentatively returned as a swingman, starting a few games and pitching middle relief. Then in ’72 he got back in the rotation but the Phillies were terrible that year – outside of Steve Carlton, the guys in the rotation went 10-47 – and after the season he, along with Don Money and John Vukovich, went to the Brewers for Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, Ken Sanders, and Earl Stephenson.

After Champion’s ’73 season, which mirrored his ’71 but with better numbers, he put together by far his best season in the majors in ’74 when he got twice as many starts and responded with an 11-4 record and a 3.62 ERA. As a reward he was given the opening day start in ’75, which he won, but that would prove to be the highlight of that season as a nagging elbow injury forced him to undergo surgery before the year was over. That injury would be a career-killer as he only got into a couple games up top in ’76 and was released mid-year. He then spent the rest of that year and all of ’77 back in the minors where he went a combined 5-9 with a 6.36 ERA for Atlanta and Philadelphia. He finished with a 59-44 record and 3.69 ERA in the minors and went 34-50 with a 4.69 ERA with 13 complete games, three shutouts, and two saves up top.

Champion, who had been a lineman for a local cable company back in North Carolina a bunch of off-seasons returned to NC after he was done playing. He worked for a trucking company through ’81 when he became a local scout for the Cubs. When Chicago restored an old franchise in nearby Pikeville, Kentucky in ’83, Billy also was the team’s first pitching coach. Around ’92 he moved to the Rockies to become a pitching coach full-time in their system which seemed to last until around ’97. In 2000 he moved to the Braves system as coach of its Greenville franchise through spring training of 2003. He then jumped to the High Desert Mavericks of the Brewers for that season until he retired mid-season to take care of family issues after his mom died. Nothing on him until he is mentioned as the pitching coach for the Uni-President 7-11 Lions, a baseball team located in Taiwan, which he did for at least the 2010 season.

So Topps tries to help Billy out with that last star bullet with one of its qualitative statements. I guess so, but at this point in his career his walk and strikeout totals were nearly even and that wouldn’t change. He also had a drag racing cartoon on his ’70 card. And I love that first name. I think it would have been a much better one for the announcers up top than Billy.

This hook-up employs one of my favorite Phillies:

1. Champion and Bill Robinson ’72 Phillies;
2. Robinson and Roy White ’67 to ’69 Yankees;
3. White and Lou Piniella ’74 to ’79 Yankees.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

#390 - Lou Piniella

It’s Sweet Lou saying “Aw, shucks” just after he misses a pitch. He’s probably really saying something else and one can foresee him storming off the field if this was strike number three. This is a great action shot and may occur at Comiskey since the only other shots of Royals in the old road uniforms are taken there. Lou is the third ROY in the past seven posts and after this trade would join his follow-up in the AL, Thurman Munson. Add Chris Chambliss in another year and the Yankees had a lock on these guys. It’s nice to see Lou looking so svelte. He probably was able to stay that way back then wearing these flannels in the middle of the summer. This photo is actually pretty emblematic of the ’73 season for Lou. While he kept his power stats pretty constant, he got into a hitting rut early in the season – by the end of May he was hitting around .235 – and after challenging Rod Carew for the batting title in ’72 dropped over 60 points from his average. Back then poor Lou was still always trying to prove himself and his slump was deemed one reason to let him go as was a not great relationship with manager Jack McKeon. Though he didn’t know it at the time of this photo Lou would get the last laugh.

Lou Piniella grew up in Tampa and after his high school days as a baseball and basketball – 30 ppg his senior year – star he went to the University of Tampa for a year where he played both sports. In summer ball during and after high school he played in a local league with Tony LaRussa and Ken Suarez. After his time at Tampa he was signed by the Indians in ’62 and spent that summer in D ball where he hit .270 with 44 RBI’s in 70 games. That November he was selected by the Senators in the first year draft and in ’63 would go on to produce a .310 season with 16 homers and 77 RBI’s even though he missed some time with a pulled shoulder. He also had one of his Lou moments that season when he punched out the top of his baseball hat in a fit and had to play the rest of the game with basically a visor. Then in the ’64 season Lou sort of screwed himself by not handling his deferment papers correctly and instead of serving after the season like a lot of players were allowed to do, he had to put in his military time during it. So that year, while he got his first Topps rookie card, he barely played and in August was traded to Baltimore for pitcher Buster Narum. For the O’s he got his only playing time, including an at bat up top. In ’65 he spent the season in Double A where he did OK power-wise but his average slipped to .249. After the season he was shipped back to Cleveland for catcher Cam Carreon. For the Indians Lou would put together three good seasons at Triple A Portland – a .303 average over that time - and in ’68 get five at bats up top. It is believed that his temper kept him from being promoted since there was definitely room back then for him in the Indians outfield. He also had his second rookie card in ’68 on which he was teamed with Richie Scheinblum who would be a fellow All-Star in Kansas City in ’72. After the ’68 season Lou was selected by the Pilots in the expansion draft.
’69 did not start off terribly well for Piniella. While he did get his third rookie card from Topps – on each of those cards he was with a different team  - and hit around .400 in spring training he was not going to make the cut to be with Seattle on opening day. According to Jim Bouton in “Ball Four” Lou was a red ass to which management wasn’t particularly cozy. Not unexpectedly shortly before the ’69 season began he was traded to the other AL expansion team – the Royals – for Steve Whitaker and John Gelnar. Lou would pay immediate dividends for KC as he got the team’s first hit and scored its first run Opening Day. He went on that year to win the AL Rookie of the Year award, possibly setting a record for the largest gap between having a rookie card and winning that award. Then to top off the good part of that year he graduated from Tampa to which he'd returned during off-seasons. He then put up an excellent follow-up season in ’70 in which nearly all his offensive totals increased. In ’71 he broke his thumb early in the season and never really got his timing back. While his average was pretty respectable his power stats slid hard as Lou, always a free swinger, got behind in counts an inordinately large amount of the time. He worked on that in the off-season and returned in ’72 to challenge Carew and Scheinblum for the batting title and play in the All-Star game for the only time. Then came his ’73 letdown and the trade to NY.

Piniella’s trade to the Yankees was not a popular event back in KC and it became less so when Lou hit .305 with 70 RBI’s as New York's everyday left fielder. Lou liked NY – he was too cool not to – and he was great for sound bytes so the media took to him right away. ‘75 was sort of a disaster: an inner ear infection destroyed his balance at the plate and caused him to miss a bunch of games, resulting in a .196 average and the loss of starting claim to left field back to Roy White. In ’76 the Yankees went crazy with trades and the outfield got crowded with four potential starters: Lou, White, Oscar Gamble, and Mickey Rivers. The solution was lots of moving around for Lou between the outfield corners and some DH work. That would be the rule pretty much the rest of his time in NY. He didn’t dig not having a regular spot but he wasn’t exactly over-burdened with it either as he generally turned in really good work, hitting as high as .330 (’77) and getting as much as 69 RBI’s (’78 and ’79) in way less than full seasons. On the plus side beginning in ’76 he regularly got to experience post-season action and he did a pretty good number on his old team, hitting .305 in ALCS games against KC. By ’81 Lou started to get less work at the plate and though his at bats were less frequent he sure kept hitting: .307, .291, and .302 his last three seasons. After the ’84 season he retired as a player with a .291 average, 102 homers, and 766 RBI’s. He hit .305 in the post-season with three homers and 19 RBI’s in 44 games, winning two rings.

Piniella immediately returned to baseball as the hitting coach for the Yankees in ’85. He then took over managing the club in ’86 and ’87. After the latter season he was replaced by Billy Martin on his final go-around with the team. Lou was named GM and when Billy ran out of gas mid-season Lou returned as manager. In ’89 he became a broadcaster for the team but George wouldn’t let him go to the Blue Jays during the season as their manager so after his contract was up Lou walked. He took over managing the Reds and won the Series. He remained with Cincinnati through ’92 and when he couldn’t handle Marge Schott any more took the same gig with Seattle. Lou stayed with the Mariners through 2002, taking them to the post-season four times – once beating the Yankees – and winning 116 games in ’01. He won AL Manager of the Year that year and in ’95. He then took over as manager of the Devil Rays and in ’04 won a team-record 70 games. But he had run-ins with management over its parsimonious ways and split after the ’05 season. After a year back in the booth in ’06 he returned to the NL to manage the Cubs and did a nice job reviving things there, winning 97 in ’08 and another MOY award. In 2010 his mom got very ill back in Tampa and Lou left late in the season to take care of her. To date his managing record is 1,835-1,713 and he has fulfilled his wish to be the third guy with 1,700 hits and 1,700 managerial wins. Since 2011 he has been a consultant to the Giants. His mom passed away earlier this year.

As for the Traded card, it isn’t exactly ugly. Lou was too good-looking to get that tag. But the air-brush job makes it look like he played for the Highlanders in 1902. This card is definitely one of the worst art jobs in the set.

Lou gets his star bullet props and they’re pretty good. That Peninsula year was his first for the Nats and the doubles category would be the only league-leading stat he had except for grounding into double plays one year. Joe Girardi likes to play chess also. I guess it’s a thing with Yankee managers.

Actually Lou wasn’t too crazy about the deal initially as he and his family had settled into life in KC. The rest of the card back they got right. The Yankees obviously got the better of this deal. On the pitching side alone they made out as Wright would get traded from NY in May to the Phillies for Mike Wallace, who went 6-0 with a 2.41 ERA the rest of the way. It was one of KC’s worst trades, especially given that they were normally big winners (Amos Otis and John Mayberry).

This one needs an extra step:

1. Piniella and Paul Schaal ‘69 to ’73 Royals;
2. Schaal and Aurelio Rodriguez ’67 to ’68 Angels;
3. Rodriguez and Gates Brown ’71 to ’75 Tigers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

#389 - Gates Brown

Here we have Gates Brown channeling John Amos – remember that guy? – from “Good Times” in Detroit. Gates gets a Designated Hitter card since in ’73 he was exactly that, finally getting to experience a position tailor-made for him. That year he would split the DH role with Frank Howard and on average those guys must have been the biggest DH’s in the league. For most of his career, though he was usually designated as outfielder, the more apt position for Gates would have been Pinch Hitter, a role he specialized at quite handily for a bunch of years. This is his second to last card as the new position came along a bit too late for Gates to fully capitalize. But he had a bunch of years left as a Tiger.

Gates Brown had an interesting run of things before his baseball career got rolling. A big football star in high school in Crestline, Ohio, he was on target to be grabbed by a D-1 school in that sport. But shortly after he graduated in ’57 Gates went to a different institution nearby, the Mansfield State Reformatory, after being busted for B&E to top off the list of a bunch of trouble that came his way. More of a prison than a reform school – anyone who has seen “A Shawshank Redemption” has seen the place – it would help turn around Gates’ life through baseball. The place participated in a kind of rec league in that sport and by ’58 the coach had convinced Gates to play. He was initially a catcher and he hit .313 with six or seven homers that first year. The coach there promised Gates he could get some scouts in to see him and the next year did exactly that, which was good because Gates responded by hitting about .500 with eight homers. At the scouts' suggestions he also began playing outfield so they could gauge his speed. By the end of the year the Tigers were able to get him probation and the following winter they signed him. That first season in C ball he hit .293 with ten homers, 68 RBI’s, and 30 stolen bases. In ’61 he went south to Durham – not too fun – but hit .324 with 15 homers and 75 RBI’s to get promoted the last month to A ball where he hit .250 with 19 RBI’s the rest of the way. In ’62 he got promoted to Triple A and hit .300 from high in the order and also moved to left field since Detroit had a guy named Al Kaline who was a fixture in right. The next summer he got moved up top after hitting .258 but with 13 homers and 43 RBI’s in 221 at bats at Triple A Syracuse.

Brown started his Detroit MLB career off the right way – a homer in his first at bat. He spent the rest of the season playing a bit in left field but mostly pinch-hitting. In ’64 he enjoyed a one-year reign as the starting left fielder and put up personal highs in just about every offensive category except average. In ’65 new kid Willie Horton took over left field and though Gates would get some starts there, his time in the field would decline pretty significantly until the early Seventies. But he had a nice little franchise building at the same time with the pinch hitting. He peaked in the Series year of ’68 with that .370 average with a .442 OBA and only four strikeouts. That was the season he also had his famous hot dog incident (that one’s all over the web).  In ’71 and ’72 Horton missed a bunch of games and Gates upped his time in the field a bunch, posting excellent numbers that first year including another .400-plus OBA. After his year splitting DH he backed up Al Kaline in that role in ’74 and then retired after a few at bats in ’75. He finished with a .257 average with 84 homers and 322 RBI’s and went hitless in 3 at bats in the post-season. When he retired he was the AL leader in just about every lifetime pinch-hitting stat.

In ’76 and ’77 Brown did some scouting work for the Tigers. He then became their hitting coach up top from ’78 to ’84, helping to develop Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, and Kirk Gibson, among others. In ’85 he split to become a salesman for a plastics firm he later purchased as part of a group. The firm was moved to Detroit and sort of fell apart, leading to some trouble with the IRS. Since then Gates has done some community work for the Tigers as well as appearances at a bunch of fantasy camps. He has a SABR bio.

Those homers were both against Boston and the second was a big deal since it won the game in the bottom of the 14th inning. I guess that cartoon is closely linked to what Gates did at least part of the time down the road.

We hook up two guys with long years in the AL:

1. Brown and Jim Perry ’73 Tigers;
2. Perry and Phil Roof ’71 to ’72 Twins.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

#388 - Phil Roof

Phil Roof is another batter who prefers the one-glove route. Here he shows us a practice swing in his old home in Oakland. But Phil’s a few years from his starting days for the A’s and is in the middle of his third backup year for the Twins. Phil wasn’t too much of a hitter but he did solid work behind the plate and was generally pretty good at keeping runners from stealing bases. He’s got a teammate behind him but no way am I going to be able to figure out who it is.

Phil Roof was drafted by the Braves out of high school in Kentucky in ’59. He finished that summer in D ball and after a couple years in B ball it was apparent he was never going to be a hitter (his lifetime minor league average was .228 with lots of strikeouts). But he was excellent with pitchers and pretty good behind the plate so his fourth season he jumped all the way to Triple A. He spent most of his time at that level the next year after getting into a game in Milwaukee. He only had one error all season behind the plate at Triple A but after hitting .188 was traded to the Angels following the ’64 season.

By ’65 Roof was pretty much done with the minors. But the Angels that year were flush with young catchers so Phil didn’t get too much playing time at all. In June he went to Cleveland for Bubba Morton and there got shoved behind Joe Azcue and Duke Sims, who would be the regular guys the rest of the decade. After the season he and a minor league outfielder named Joe Rudi were traded to KC for Jim Landis and Jim Rittwage.

In ’66 Roof got the starting nod over incumbent Bill Bryan, a much better hitter but sub-par defensive guy. Phil improved things behind the plate and did a real nice job handling young pitchers Catfish Hunter, Jim Nash, Blue Moon Odom, and Chuck Dobson around whom the franchise would be built. He retained that spot in ’67 and then in ’68 things were a bit of a mess. Now located in Oakland, the A’s acquired Jim Pagliaroni from Pittsburgh to add some hitting behind the plate. Phil then went down with a strained left arm for about a month and then when Pagliaroni broke his wrist Oakland brought up Dave Duncan to take his place. Between the injury and all the moving parts Phil only got 64 at bats in ’68. But Pags would go to the new Pilots and Duncan ended up not being able to hit too well up top so Phil recaptured the starting gig in ’69. In two years Oakland had gone from a cellar dweller to second place in the new division driven largely by their young pitching. But despite his involvement in getting them there, it was the end of the road for Phil in Oakland as after the ’69 season he, Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse, and Ken Sanders went to the Pilots for Don Mincher and Ron Clark.

In ’70 Roof took over starting for Milwaukee and had his best offensive season, hitting .227 with 13 homers and 37 RBI’s. It was a short-lived relationship, though, as in the middle of the ’71 season he was sent to the Twins for their back-up guy Paul Ratliff. Phil would then settle into a back-up role of his own, first behind George Mitterwald and then in ’74 and ’75 behind Glenn Borgmann. Ironically he was traded to Minnesota shortly after being hospitalized after being hit in the head by a Bert Blyleven pitch. That same year he was also knocked unconscious after being bowled over by Thurman Munson at the plate. In ’76 rookie Butch Wynegar took over behind the plate and after barely playing Phil was released in July and picked up by the White Sox. The Sox grabbed him after Brian Downing had been injured and when Downing returned they sent Phil down to Triple A to finish the season. Prior to the expansion draft he was sent to the new Toronto club for Larry Anderson who the Sox would receive after the draft. Phil got into a couple games for the Blue Jays and that was it. He finished with a .215 average.

Roof got busy pretty much right away in his new baseball career of coaching and in ’78 became bullpen coach for the Padres. He would have that gig as well for the Mariners (’83 to ’88) and the Cubs (’90 to ’91). In between he took some time off to return to Kentucky and work in cattle farming but his primary role was managing at various levels in the Minnesota system which he did from ’82 to ’83, ’89 to ’90, ’92 to 2000, and 2003 to 2005. He actually had to take a leave of absence early in the ’05 season to care for his ailing wife who would pass away later that year from cancer. Since then he has been mostly retired and has done some spring training work. For a short time early in the 2011 season he took the Twins bullpen role while regular guy Rick Stelmaszek was ill. To date he is 1,165-1,116 as a manager.

Like our last post subject Phil gets star bullet time for his defensive work. He actually had four brothers play pro ball at some level including his younger brother Gene who got some time up top in the early Eighties. Gene also has three kids who have played minor league ball. Lots of Roofs have played baseball.

Time to get these two defensive specialists together. It helps that they both played in the AL:

1. Roof and Jim Kaat ’71 to ’73 Twins;
2. Kaat and Carlos May ’73 to ’75 White Sox;
3. May and Rich Morales ’69 to ’73 White Sox.

Monday, June 25, 2012

#387 - Rich Morales

Lots of “lasts” for this post. This is the last Topps card for Rich Morales as a player. It is also the last solo Washington Nat’l card of the set. Shortly after this card went to print it became apparent that the Padres were not moving to DC and Topps reverted to the regular Padres cards including re-issuing the older Nat’l ones as Padres. (There will be one more Washington Nat’l designation but it is a multi-player card.) Rich here is in the midst of his first NL season after a bunch with the White Sox. He was acquired early in the season to help salve some infield turmoil in San Diego. Incumbent second baseman Dave Campbell was on the way out and newby Derrell Thomas had to play a bunch at shortstop. Also heralded rookie Dave Hilton pretty much bombed so Rich ended up getting the most starting time at second. Defensively he delivered with only five errors in 81 games. It should have been a good thing for him but that .164 average sure didn’t make anyone happy. He would barely play in ’74 and after the season he was released.

Rich Morales grew up in the Pacifica region of California and after high school attended the College of San Mateo, a JUCO school from which he graduated in ’62. He was signed early the following year by the White Sox and then put in a couple seasons in A ball to let his fielding come around, though his first season he did have 69 RBI’s. In ’65 he moved to Double A where his errors dropped to half what they were his first season. While he was a light hitter (.215 that year) he put the ball in play and was on a good run to the top. That got arrested in ’66 when he broke his leg early in the season and missed pretty much the rest of the year. But he returned to post decent numbers in a ’67 split between Double and Triple A and then peaked offensively in a ’68 spent exclusively at the higher level: .264 with 24 doubles and 58 RBI’s. In both ’67 and ’68 he got short looks up top. After another good start in Triple A in ’69 he was called up to Chicago.
The ’69 White Sox were sort of a hot mess. The Sox were very dependent on their pitching for success and their two aces – Joe Horlen and Gary Peters – were in decline modes. They only had two real offensive threats in young guys Carlos May and Bill Melton. And their defense was wrecked by injuries. When Morales came up into that morass he was placed at second even though he had been pretty much exclusively a shortstop until then. He did pretty well defensively and that coupled with his new ability to play anywhere in the infield was what kept him on the roster the next bunch of years. ’70 pretty much mirrored ’69 as Rich spent equal time at shortstop and third. In ’71 and ’72 he spent most of his time at short where the latter year he was the de facto starter. Then in ’73 the Sox had a new hot rookie in Bucky Dent to take over shortstop, Jorge Orta and Bill Melton were pretty much entrenched at second and third and so when San Diego came calling for infield help Rich got sold to the Padres. After his short tenure there he was done. He finished with a .195 average.

Rich trolled around a bit as a coach in the minors after playing. In ’79 he managed in the Oakland system and from ’80 to ’82 in the Cubs’ one. From ’83 to ’85 he was a scout for the White Sox and he then came up top as the Braves bullpen coach from ’86 to ’87. Then it was back to managing: in the Seattle system (’88 to ’90) and then the independent Pioneer League (’91). By then his lifetime record was 447-449. He also coached in that league in ’92 and ’94 and then sort of goes missing. At some point during the Nineties it appears he returned to coach in his old Pacifica hood at Terra Nova High School which after a couple years off he was doing as recently as last year. Some sites also have him working as a scout for the Orioles since 2006 but I think that may be a younger guy with the same name.

Rich’s props are all for his defense; no surprise there. He also enjoyed gardening on his ’73 card so at least he was consistent in his hobbies.

This is a short post so it’s a good one to catch up on some music news. On June 21, 1973 the group Bread performed their last gig, a concert at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. The group was big with the mellow hits like “Make It With You” and split up because its two song writers were in disagreement about which songs should be released as singles. On the 23rd new group 10CC scored a Number One in the UK with its first single “Rubber Bullets.” The group, whose biggest hit would be “I’m Not In Love” in a couple years, actually had a hit in ’70 under the name Hotlegs called “Neanderthal Man.” And on June 22, 1974 a new Number One in the UK belonged to Gary Glitter and his “Always Yours.” The song is on YouTube and features Gary and his band parading around in their sequined uniforms. It all looks harmless enough but it gets a little creepy when his future Jerry Sandusky-type habits got revealed.

Let’s get the old guy with the new one through someone who always acted like a kid:

1. Morales and Derrell Thomas ’73 to ’74 Padres;
2. Thomas and Gary Matthews ’75 to ’76 Giants.

Friday, June 22, 2012

#386 - Gary Matthews

This is a great card. First off it is a true action shot with 1973 NL Rookie of the Year Gary Matthews sliding into third at Shea with coach John McNamara cheering him on while Wayne Garrett waits for the ball. It’s a panoramic shot with all identifiable characters which has been very rare in this set. You have an iconic NY advertiser – Manufacturers Hanover – visible in the background. Okay, that’s all great. It really is. What really intrigues me now is why is Gary sliding? Maybe he just launched a triple. That or he was just advanced by another batter. Either way, Wayne isn’t anywhere near ready to take a throw. Since he’s looking into the outfield the shortstop is either covering second or taking a relay throw but if the latter he’s out there pretty deep since we don’t see him. That means the short shadow to the right is probably the pitcher’s and that means there is nobody backing up at home. So why isn’t he at least rounding the bag? Let’s see if baseball-reference can help us here. Gary came up too late in ’72 for any Shea games so this shot is from ’73. That year on two occasions did Gary make a stop at third base. On June 12 he advanced to second on a single by Chris Speier and to third by an error by Garrett. I am guessing it wasn’t that play since Wayne is gazing to left-center and there’s no way that’s where he threw the ball. So that leaves August 25 when Gary went to third on a single to left by Tito Fuentes. That looks about right. The play occurred in the top of the fifth on two outs with the Giants up 1-0 so I still don’t get why he’s not rounding the bag at least. I think McNamara blew that one. But the 1-0 score held so I guess it’s no biggie. Still, as a Little League coach I gotta shake my head on that one.

1973 was pretty huge for Matthews. Finally up top with Bobby Bonds and Garry Maddox, the trio would form the best young outfield of its day. They all hit over .300 for a significant part of the season. They played the tough Candlestick outfield well. And they were all bad asses. This Gary moved from the six spot to the top of the lineup by the end of the year to take advantage of his aggressive playing. He was a few years away from his “Sarge” nickname but it already applied. It was sort of a shame that these guys only had two seasons together. Gary romped pretty well in the ROY voting over an awfully good rookie class (Steve Rogers, Ron Cey, Dan Driessen, Bob Boone, and Davey Lopes to name a few) on his kinetic game and take charge attitude. He’d go on to a solid career.

Gary Matthews was a big deal athlete at San Fernando High School in LA where he averaged 20 points a game as a senior in hoops and was all-county in both that sport and baseball. As a kid he had played baseball on the same block as Buddy Bradford and in the spring of ’68 he was a first round pick by the Giants. He had a nice start the next summer in A ball and followed it up with another good season at that level in ’70. He then managed to pick up his stats each of the next two seasons as he moved up a level and in late ’72 got in some September games in San Francisco. Prior to the ’73 season the Giants sent outfielder Ken Henderson to the White Sox to free up a place for Gary.

After his big rookie season Matthews had a nice follow-up year increasing all his stats pretty significantly as he moved lower in the lineup except his average (he hit .287 with 82 RBI’s). In ’75 he got off to a pretty good start and had 24 RBI’s by the end of May when he broke his thumb fooling around with Derrell Thomas. He missed six weeks and the interruption hurt his power stats and didn’t make management too happy. He would have a strained relationship thereafter even though he returned in ’76 to post a pretty good season of .279 with 20 homers and 84 RBI’s. After that season he moved to Atlanta as Ted Turner’s first big plunge into the free agent market. Unfortunately for Ted the results weren’t immediately apparent in the team’s records. Gary did well enough – his first two seasons he averaged .284 with 18 homers, 63 RBI’s, and 82 runs. In the second season he moved to right field from his normal spot in left. He also lost a bunch of time the second year with a dislocated shoulder. But he wasn’t the big power generator he was probably imagined to be. That changed a bit in ’79 as he put together his best season to date: .304 with 97 runs, 27 homers, and 90 RBI’s. Those stats got him his first All-Star nod. After another year in Atlanta in ’80 that was a bit of a downtick, Gary was traded to Philadelphia for pitcher Bob Walk.

Matthews didn’t have the best timing as he joined the Phillies the year after they won it all. He was actually supposed to go to Cincinnati for Dave Collins but that deal fell through. In the Philly outfield he returned to left field and rejoined Garry Maddox. Gary put up an excellent year during the strike season of ’81 and then hit .400 against Montreal in his first playoff action. '82 was a good year as well and the one in which he earned his “Sarge” sobriquet from Pete Rose. ’83 would be tough because he broke a wrist and his offensive stats slid as did his playing time. But he again had a great NL playoff, torching LA pitching at a .429 clip with eight RBI’s in four games. He then hit .250 in a Series loss to the Orioles. After that season he was on the move again, this time to the Cubs with Bob Dernier for Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz. While by this time after three seasons on the artificial turf in Philly his knees were going south Gary put up a big season for the Cubbies, hitting .291 with 14 homers, 82 RBI’s, 101 runs, and a .410 OBA to lead the NL. He was also a big locker room presence and a fan favorite, helping rally the team to a division title. But in ’85 and ’86 knee injuries significantly limited his time and after an ’87 split between Chicago and Seattle he was done. Gary hit .281 for his career with 234 homers and 978 RBI’s and a .364 OBA. In the post-season he hit .323 with seven homers and 15 RBI’s in 19 games.

Matthews took off a bunch of years to pursue some business interests and then returned to baseball in the mid-Nineties. His first gig was as the Cubs’ minor league hitting instructor from ’95 to ’97. He then moved to Toronto as their hitting coach (’98-’99) and then broadcaster (2000-’01). In between he may or may not have coached for Milwaukee. In ’03 he returned to Chicago and was a Cubs coach through ’06. Since ’07 he has been a radio announcer for the Phillies.

Gary gets a star bullet for each of his full minor league seasons to date. It looks like he signed his signature on something moving. We get another dancing cartoon in which the artist tries to portray these guys as Fred Astaire.

Nothing like recycling old hook-ups:

1. Matthews and Chris Chambliss ’80 Braves;
2. Chambliss and Don Gullett ’77 to ’78 Yankees.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

#385 - Don Gullett

Why does Don Gullett look so concerned? He’s at Shea but I don’t believe this is before a playoff game. He is in the midst of an excellent bounce back from what had been the worst year of his career. He was still a couple seasons away from the arm problems that would permanently derail that career. None of those. Don always looked that way, thanks to those sloping eyebrows that sort of enhanced that “aw shucks” image of his while on the mound. At least until batters saw his 96 MPH heater.

Don Gullett grew up in Kentucky, not terribly far from Cincinnati. He was in a large family and was an excellent athlete. His senior year in high school he scored 72 points in a football game, 47 points in a hoops game, and struck out 20 of 21 batters in a perfect game from the mound. Signed by the Reds as a first-rounder in ’69 he pretty much toyed with the batters that summer in A ball. The Reds had seen enough and by the end of spring training in ’70 he was up for good.

In 1970 the Reds were stocked with young pitchers and two of them – Gary Nolan and Wayne Simpson – were already in the rotation so Gullett was put in the pen. There he did a pretty nice job putting up a K an inning while picking up six saves. He then had an excellent post-season, giving up one earned run in ten innings. In ’71 Simpson sort of fell apart and Don moved seamlessly into the rotation to lead the NL in winning percentage even though the Reds fell hard from the prior year. ’72 was a bit of a bummer since early in the season a bout of hepatitis sapped Don’s strength and led to a season-long slump that resulted in his only losing record ever. He had a tough playoff against Pittsburgh but rallied in the Series against Oakland. In ’73 he augmented his rotation time with some pen work and put up his biggest season in terms of wins and games though his ERA was still relatively toppy. In ’74 he went 17-11 while lowering his ERA half a run and topped out in innings and strikeouts, with 243 and 183 respectively. Then in ’75 he got hit by a comebacker from Larvell Blanks and broke his thumb on his pitching hand, missing nearly half the season. Too bad because his 15-4 record and 2.42 ERA meant he had come all the way back from his ’72 infection. This time he won his only playoff start against the Pirates also grabbing three RBI’s in the game. He then started three games in the Series and won his first ring. In ’76 he began experiencing some shoulder issues and also saw his workload diminished a bit as he was involved in protracted contract talks with management. But like in ’75 he maxed out his mound time, going 11-3 and had another excellent post-season both on the mound and at the plate. Then after the contract talks officially broke down he went to Series rival New York as a free agent.

With the Yankees in ’77 Gullett had a season similar to his ’76 as shoulder problems limited his rotation time. But he went 14-4 to lead the AL in winning percentage and was happily part of his third Series winner in a row. But this time he struggled badly in the post-season as he got bombed by Kansas City and wasn’t too effective against LA. He did a bit of off-season rehab work and got off to a nice start in ’78 but that spring his arm popped and it would eventually turn out that his rotator cuff had significant damage that had been accruing for the past few seasons. It would be a career-killer. Don had it operated on but he was never able to return to the mound and he was formally released after the ’80 season. At only 27 he had gone 109-50 with a 3.11 ERA, 44 complete games, 14 shutouts, and eleven saves. In the post-season he was 4-5 with a 3.77 ERA in 20 games. He did pretty well as a hitter, posting a .194 average with 36 RBI’s in the regular season and .292 with six RBI’s in the post-season. He has the seventh best winning percentage of guys with 100-plus decisions of all time.

Gullett was pretty demoralized about what happened to his baseball career and so after he stopped playing he returned to work his farm back in Kentucky and also ran a trucking business. A big smoker he suffered a heart attack in ’86 when he was only 45 and then had a triple bypass performed in ’90. Around then he got back into baseball in the Cincinnati system, putting in three seasons as a minor league pitching coach before moving up top in ’93. He held that gig until dismissed during the 2005 season. Since then he has been actively involved in running a baseball camp with his son and splintering that out to form a youth league based in Cincinnati called the Fury.

At the time of this card Don was only 23 and had already put up numbers that many thought would take him to the Hall. His star bullets are pretty impressive and I’m pretty sure the sentiment in the cartoon was shared by lots of people.

We have moved back to the NL but this one’s easy:

1. Gullett and Chris Chambliss ’77 to ’78 Yankees.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

#384 - Chris Chambliss

In the midst of a big NL run we get Chris Chambliss posing mellowly at an empty Yankee Stadium. This would be his last card in a Cleveland uniform as early in ’74 he was traded to the Yankees. ’73 was a mixed year for Chris. After fighting off an early injury the prior year and then rallying to put up his best average, Chris and the Tribe rode Gaylord Perry’s coattails to a pretty improved record in ’72. So hopes were high for ’73. But their side of the Graig Nettles trade flopped, the pitching sort of fell apart, and though Chris was finally healthy for a full season, not too many guys got on base ahead of him. So although he put up a 19-game hitting streak and had his best power year he only knocked in 53 runners. Part of what led to the ’74 trade was the Tribe’s desire for more power at first so they opted to replace Chris with John Ellis, acquired a year earlier in another one-way Yankees-Indians trade. Oops.

Chris Chambliss moved around a bunch as a kid as his dad was a pastor for military bases. By the time he reached high school he was in Oceanside, California, where he played shortstop and first base, as well as football and basketball. He then went to Mira Costa College, a local two-year school where he played football and baseball. He was drafted by the Reds after his first season there and then after claiming all-league honors in both spots was drafted by Cincinnati again in ’68 in a much higher round. This time Chris opted for UCLA where in his one season he hit .340 with 15 homers – then a school record – and 45 RBI’s. He then played summer ball in Alaska and was the MVP in that year’s series. Those stats prompted Cleveland to make him the number one pick in the ’70 winter draft and this time he signed. He went right to Triple A Wichita where he put up excellent numbers. He also put up more time in the outfield than at first since Ken Harrelson was set as the first baseman. At the end of the season he did some military time and then in ’71 spring training hurt his leg so he remained in Wichita to start the season. But after Harrelson slumped big to open the year he retired to play golf and Chris was called up to take his spot.

When Chambliss got healthy he pretty much became the regular at first base in mid-June. An excellent fielder, he also kicked things off well hitting-wise and at season’s end not only made the Topps rookie team but was the AL Rookie of the Year. In ’72 a pulled hamstring had him out for a month and contributed to a slow first half. He rebounded to post a higher average than in ’71 but his power stats suffered a bit. After a pretty good start to the ’74 season – he was hitting .328 – Chris was included in a big trade to NY: he, Cecil Upshaw, and Dick Tidrow for Fritz Peterson, Tom Buskey, Fred Beene, and Steve Kline. It was a hugely unpopular trade in Yankee land as NY gave up two guys in their rotation and Chris was booed for a while shortly after the trade. He only hit .243 the rest of the way which didn’t help too much. But he provided excellent defense and as the Yankees made a run for the division he was embraced. In ’75 he had his biggest year to date: .304 with nine homers and 72 RBI’s. Then in the pennant-winning seasons of ’76 to ’78 Chris had his best years, averaging .284 with 15 homers and 92 RBI’s. The most memorable game of his career was probably his walk-off homer to win Game 5 of the ’76 AL Championships. That year he was an All-Star and in ’78 he won a Gold Glove. In ’79 his average and homer stats of .280 and 18 pretty much matched his prior seasons but without Thurman Munson ahead of him for half the year his RBI total dropped to 63. After the season he was sent to Toronto with Damaso Garcia and Paul Mirabella for Rick Cerone, Pat Underwood, and Ted Wilborn. About a month later he went to the Braves in another big trade.

In Atlanta Chambliss took over first base and put together two solid seasons in ’80 and ’81. In ’82 he had his biggest power season in four years as he hit 20 homers with 86 RBI’s and was a big contributor to the division-winner. He followed that up in ’83 with an even better year – 20 homers and 78 RBI’s with a .280 average in about 100 less at bats. In ’84 his hitting tailed off a bit and he lost some starting time to Gerald Perry. His time in the field declined more significantly the next two seasons as first Perry and then Bob Horner took over first. After the ’86 season – in which he hit .311 – he retired. Chris finished up top with a .279 average, 185 homers, and 972 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .281 with three homers and 15 RBI’s in 30 games. Defensively he ranks in the top twenty for assists at first base and in the top thirty for putouts there.

In ’87 Chambliss returned to NY as the Yankees’ minor league hitting director. In ’88 he coached for NY up top which he also did from ’96 to 2000. In between he managed in the minors, first for Detroit (’89-’90) and then Atlanta (’91-’92) and also coached in St. Louis (’93-’95). In ’02 he coached for the Mets and from ’04 to ’06 for the Reds. He also managed in the Florida chain (’01) and in the White Sox chain (’09-’10) after coaching in the Atlanta one (’07-’08). His record to date as a manager is 506-490. Since 2011 he has been the hitting coach for the Mariners.

Chris isn’t too hurting for star bullets. Regarding his wife, Audry, she was a model and cabaret singer who sang the national anthem before at least one Series game and also wrote a regular piece in one of the local NY papers about being a player’s wife. Chris’ son also played pro ball, topping out in ’99 in A ball.

There is a bunch of music news to nail down so here we go. In ’73 June 16 saw a new Number One in the UK: Suzi Quatro’s “Can the Can.” A beat-heavy throwaway it is a bit reminiscent of the mid-Eighties hit “Jungle Boy” by John Eddie. In ’74 the new top song in the US on June 8 was “Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney and Wings. Paul was now toting the title of his band around more openly and the title track to his big album was on top for a week (I thought it was a lot longer). Also on that date back in the UK keyboardist Rick Wakeman left the group Yes to pursue his solo career, which got off to a pretty good start when his album “Journey to the Center of the Earth” topped the charts. On June 15 “Band...” got replaced in the States by “Billy Don’t be a Hero” by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, who thankfully didn’t enjoy a lot of chart success. At least the new top song in the UK “The Streak” by Ray Stevens had a sense of humor.

Still keeping it all-NL on the hook-up:

1. Chambliss and Gary Matthews ’80 Braves;
2. Matthews and Mike Schmidt ’81 to ’83 Phillies;
3. Schmidt was on the ’73 Phillies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

#383 - Philadelphia Phillies/Phillies Team Records

Ah, another team card. That means another gigantic post which delayed things a bit. Here we have the 1973 version of the Phillies. The year was certainly no bell-ringer for the team as they were pretty much the only NL East bunch not in the run for the division. The Phillies went 71-91 in ’73, no great shakes, but it was an uptick to ’72 when only Steve Carlton saved them from breaking the Mets record for futility. New outfielder Del Unser got off to a hot start and early in the season was 100 points over his career average. So did Bill Robinson who was beginning to resuscitate his career. And the Phillies had a good young base: Bob Boone, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, and Larry Bowa were forming a great nucleus for future division-winners. Wayne Twitchell and Dick Ruthven had a lot of potential in the rotation. They beat Atlanta in a 20-inning game and new pitcher Ken Brett hit four homers in four consecutive starts. But a host of injuries – Bill Robinson broke a thumb, Bowa a leg, and Ruthven got mono – arrested any sustained good fortune. Both Bowa and Cesar Tovar asked to be traded, and they again finished in last place. Poor Danny Ozark must have been getting frustrated. But Dave Cash would prove to be an excellent pick-up and the young guys would get rolling in ’74 so it wouldn’t be long before they were contenders.
Regarding commentary on this card, I will say the photo is nice in that every player is pretty clear. But it looks like it was taken in the darkest and most depressing part of the stadium. And the hair invites a comment: just about everyone has a part on the left side but look at that head of hair on top of Ray Rippelmeyer (number 4 in the first row). What a great advertisement for a buzz cut.

On the checklist front we get pretty good representation position-wise. Lots of long signatures and only one – Cash – by a guy not with the team in ’73. These guys all have style. Every signer looks like he really paid attention in penmanship class.

Lots of bios coming so let’s get to it:

Johnny Callison was born in Oklahoma and moved to California as a kid. He was signed by the White Sox in ’57 out of high school. After ripping through a season of C ball that summer he jumped to Triple A where the damage was nearly as high. After another excellent season at that level in ’59 he came up to Chicago for good later that season and put in some time for the AL champs in the outfield, but didn’t hit terribly well. After the season he got sent to the Phillies for Gene Freese. Johnny had a gun for an arm and after moving around all three outfield spots his first few seasons he settled into right field in ’62 where he put up his first big season, hitting .300 with 23 homers, 107 runs, and 83 RBIs, as well as an NL-leading ten triples. He would post his best overall season in the big year of ’64 where despite the big fade he hit .274 with 31 homers, 101 runs, and 104 RBI’s to finish second in MVP voting. After peaking the next season with 16 triples and 32 homers, his power numbers shrunk significantly the next four seasons as the best he could muster was 16 homers and 64 RBI’s. After the ’69 season he went to the Cubs for Oscar Gamble and Dick Selma. After a pretty good ’70 his numbers tanked the next season and he went to the Yankees for Jack Aker. His average bounced a bunch in ’72 as he split time in right with Ron Swoboda and Rusty Torres. Then in ’73 NY acquired Matty Alou so Johnny’s time in the field declined significantly as did his average. He was released that August after putting up a lifetime .264 with 226 homers and 840 RBI’s. In fielding he is 22nd all-time for right fielders in putouts and eighth in assists. Johnny’s health declined fast from when he was about 30 on – check out his ’73 card vs his ’70 one – and before he was 50 he suffered from bleeding ulcers and had a heart attack. He also moved around a bunch professionally, selling cars, real estate, and working as a bartender. He eventually got a pacemaker and finally succumbed to lung cancer in 2006 at age 67.

Richie Ashburn was another mid-western kid, he from Nebraska. Signed by the Phillies in ’45 he switched from catcher to outfielder and sandwiched two excellent seasons in A ball – combined average .342 – around a year in the military in ’46. In ’48 he had a great rookie season and finished third in ROY voting to Al Dark and Gene Beardon, who won 20 games. That year he set the model for what would be his career: lots of singles, pretty high average and OBA, and excellent defensive work. In the Whiz Kid season of ’50 he hit .303 with an MLB-leading 14 triples. He would spend twelve seasons in Philly during which he averaged .311 with a .394 OBA and 185 hits while making four All-Star teams. He led the NL in average twice, hits three times, walks three times, and triples twice. After the ’59 season he got sent to the Cubs, ironically for Al Dark and a couple other guys. In Chicago he had another NL-leading season in walks and OBA in ’60 before his playing time decreased a bit the following year. After that season he was sold to the Mets and was that team’s first All-Star selection its initial year, hitting .306. But Richie didn’t dig losing three-quarters of his games so he retired after the season. He finished with a .308 average with 2,574 hits and a .396 OBA. He hit .176 in his four Series games. He is second all time in putouts in center field and seventh in assists. He immediately moved into broadcasting for the Phillies which he did from ’63 to 2007. In 1995 he was elected to the Hall by the Veterans Committee. He had a heart attack after a game against the Mets his last year and shortly thereafter passed away. He was 70.

Granny Hamner was a contemporary of Richie Ashburn’s. He was signed by the Phillies out of Virginia and went straight to the majors at age 17. After some token at bats that summer he returned to the minors and pretty much followed Ashburn’s path – ’45 and ’47 in A ball surrounding a year-plus in the service. He too came up in ’48 and that year played primarily second before settling in as the starting shortstop the next four seasons. A pretty good hitter and fielder, he had some decent power for a middle infielder. In the ’50 Series he hit .429. In ’52 he was an All-Star, a status he maintained the next two seasons even though he switched to second base in ’53 (he became the first player to start at two different positions in the game). In ’53 he put up his biggest power numbers with 21 homers and 92 RBI’s and in ’54 he topped out with a .299 average. Suffering a back injury in ’55 his power went south pretty big that season and in ’58 he busted up his knee which pretty much killed his career as a fielder. Early in ’59 he was sent to Cleveland for whom he barely played the rest of the season. After being released at the end of that year he hooked up with the Yankees and for them he played a bunch of games at third for his home-town team Richmond, their Triple A club. In ’61 he moved to KC where for them he played nearly the whole infield, managed, and pitched – he began fooling around with a knuckle ball in ’56 – for an A league team. In ’62 he continued to manage and exclusively pitched – those two seasons he went a combined 15-8 with a 2.60 ERA in 245 innings – until he was briefly called all the way up to throw a couple innings for the A’s. That ended his time as a player and he finished with a .262 average with 104 homers and 708 RBI’s, along with over 1,500 hits. As a pitcher he was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 13 innings. He was excellent in the clutch with an over-.300 average with runners in scoring position. He returned to Philly the rest of his career where he was a scout, coach, and manager (’76-’77 and ’88) in their system. He was 240-315 as a manager. He was attending a card show during the ’93 playoff drive in Philadelphia when he passed away from a heart attack. He was 66.

Chuck Klein came out of Indianapolis where he pitched and played the outfield in high school. He then went to work in a steel mill and began playing company ball. Spotted in ’27 he signed with Evansville of the independent Triple I (Indiana/Iowa/Illinois) League for whom he hit .327 in a few games before breaking his ankle. He was then sold to Fort Wayne, a B team affiliated with the Cards, and hit .331 with 26 homers in 359 at bats. The team was then moved to the Philly system and Chuck joined the Phillies the summer of ’28 and hit .360 in 64 games. He then went on a five-year tear that has rarely been matched, averaging .360 with 36 homers, 131 runs, 224 hits, 46 doubles, 138 RBI’s, and a .415 OBA. During that time he led the NL in runs three times; hits, doubles, and RBI’s  twice; homers four times; and even stolen bases once. He won an MVP award, finished second twice, and was a triple crown winner in ’33. But he was one of the only stars on the team and after the ’33 season he was traded to the Cubs in part to raise some cash. Due to a hamstring problem and outside the cozy confines of The Baker Bowl – the rightfield line was only 280 feet – his numbers came in quite a bit. After averaging .297 with 19 homers and 75 RBI’s in a bit over two seasons with the Cubs he returned in ’36 to the Phillies. This time around he hit well over .300 his first couple seasons but his power numbers continued to slide. After a short stop with Pittsburgh in ’39 he came back to Philly for a final round, this time barely cracking .200 and stayed there until he was done in ’44. Chuck finished with a .320 average with 300 homers, over 1,200 RBI’s, a .379 OBA, and 2,076 hits. He was also an excellent fielder and is sixth all-time in assists from right, including a record 44 in ’30. Chuck hit .333 with two RBI’s in the ’35 Series. He coached a bit his last couple years in Philly and then opened a bar near the stadium. His health declined pretty quickly, mostly due to drinking, and he suffered a stroke in ’47 from which he never really recovered. He also had a central nervous system illness and passed away in ’58 from a cerebral hemorrhage at 53. He was elected into the Hall in 1980.

Lefty O’Doul grew up in San Francisco where he pitched and played infield in high school. After he graduated he worked in a slaughterhouse and played company ball. He was signed by the independent San Francisco Seals of the PCL in 1917 and went a combined 8-6 for their A and Double A teams that summer. In ’18 he went 12-8 at the higher level and then served some time in the Navy at the end of WW I. He was picked up by the Yankees and spent all of ’19 and ’20 in NY where he only pitched in five games over the two seasons. He was optioned back to the Seals for ’21 and there went 25-9 with a 2.39 ERA. He then returned to NY, again barely played, and after the season was traded to the Red Sox in a deal that brought NY Joe Dugan. He went 1-1 with a 5.43 ERA in 23 games, including one in which he gave up 13 earned runs. Back in the minors in ’24 and with a hurt shoulder he decided to give up pitching and converted to the outfield. The next four seasons in the PCL he hit about .370 with some significant power. After the ’27 season he was drafted by the Giants and in ’28 for them hit .319 as the left fielder. In ’29 he went to the Phillies and had two excellent seasons: .398 on a record 254 hits with 32 homers, 152 runs, and 122 RBI’s in ’29; and .383 with 22 homers and 97 RBI’s in ’30. Like Chuck Klein he was traded to raise cash and the next two seasons hit .336 and .368 for Brooklyn. He split ’33 between the Dodgers and back with the Giants and then hit .316 for NY before being released – he was 37 – in ’34. That ended his time up top and in his short time as a hitter he hit .349 with 113 homers and a .413 OBA. He returned to the Seals after his release this time as a manager and over the next 23 years for them and other teams compiled a record of 2,094-1,970. After his final season in ’57 he retired to open a lounge restaurant in San Francisco which is still there. He passed away there at age 72 in 1969.

Elmer Flick played a bunch of sports while growing up in Bedford, Ohio. He began playing for the local semi-pro team while in high school and in 1896 signed with Youngstown, a C league team. After hitting .438 in a short season he moved to Dayton of the same league the next year and put up super numbers. He then signed with the Phillies in ’98 where he spent four seasons in the outfield, peaking in 1900 when he hit .367 with an MLB-leading 110 RBI’s. After the ’01 season he joined Nap Lajoie in jumping to the AL but shortly into the season they were banned from playing in PA so they both moved on to Cleveland. By ’04 he was hitting over .300 again and racking up triples and stolen bases, the next four seasons averaging 19 and 38 respectively. He led the AL three times in triples, twice in stolen bases and once in average. Then in ’08 his health declined due to an unspecified ailment and his numbers tanked as he hit about .255 in only 350 at bats the next three years. In ’11 he signed with Toledo, then a Double A team closer to home, hit .326 his first season, .262 his second and then retired. Up top he hit .313 with a .389 OBA, 164 triples, 756 RBI’s, and 330 stolen bases. After baseball he returned to Bedford where he farmed, raised horses, and got involved in all aspects of real estate. He was elected to the Hall in ’63 and passed away in ’71 at age 94.

Sherry Magee came from rural Pennsylvania and was signed by the Phillies after a year of local ball following high school. He went straight to the majors and became an outfield fixture for the next eleven seasons and during that time led the NL in RBI’s three times and runs, hits, doubles , and average once each. His best season was 1910 when he led the NL in runs (110), RBI’s (123), and a .331 average. He was a feisty guy and frequently got into fights with umpires. After the ’14 season he was traded to the Boston Braves where his average slumped the next two-plus years due to injuries. In mid-1917 he went to Cincinnati where he pulled his average up almost 65 points the rest of the year. He again led the NL in RBI’s in ’18 with 76 and was able to stick around in a reserve role the next season and get to his first Series (he went one for two against the Black Sox). He then moved to the minors where he hit .326 over the next seven seasons before retiring at 41. In the majors he hit .291 with 166 triples, 425 doubles, 83 homers, and 1,176 RBI’s. After he finished as a player he ironically returned to baseball as an umpire which he did for two seasons in the minors. In 1929 he caught pneumonia from which he passed away at age 44.

Jim Konstanty was from upstate NY and went to Syracuse where he played ball and earned a degree in physical education in 1939. After graduating he went to work near his hometown as a gym teacher and after a couple years signed with Springfield, an A team in the Eastern League. He went 4-19 as a starter and then late the next year – he continued to teach – moved to Syracuse, a Double A team in the Reds chain. There he picked up a bit during the war years of ’43-’44 – he went 16-18 with a 3.35 ERA - and made it to Cincy later that summer where he went 6-4 with a 2.80 ERA split between the rotation and the pen. In ’45 he enlisted for WW II and when he returned in ’46 he was traded to the Braves. After a quick exit after a couple games in Boston that season Jim was sold to Toronto of the International League, a team that pretty much changed affiliations on an annual basis. Over the next three seasons Jim refined his pitches and learned a new one – the palmball – while going 27-32 with a 3.75 ERA. By ’48 Toronto was in the Philly system and later that season Jim returned to the top to put together two good seasons of relief work. In ’50 it all came together as the Phillies won the pennant and Jim was their bullpen ace, going 16-7 with a 2.66 ERA and a then-record 22 saves, earning an All-Star nod and the NL MVP award. He then started the first Series game against the Yankees and put up good stats – 0-1 with a 2.40 ERA in three games – as Philly was shut out. Then ’51 was a pretty complete tunaround as he went 4-11 and saw his ERA balloon to 4.05. He remained in the Philly pen the next two-plus seasons – except ’53 when he also started a bunch of games – and late in ’54 went to the Yankees for the pennant drive, putting up excellent numbers though they were beat out by Cleveland. He had another nice year in ’55 – 7-2 with a 2.32 ERA and eleven saves – but got shut out of any Series action. He split '56 between NY and the Cards and was then done, going 66-48 with a 3.46 ERA, 14 complete games, two shutouts, and 74 saves. He then became a pitching coach in the Cards chain which he did through ’68 when he left to become athletic director at Hartwick College in NY. He also opened and ran a sporting goods store nearby. He did both until the early Seventies after which he retired. He passed away in ’76 in Oneonta, NY after a battle with cancer. He was 59.

Chick Fraser was born in Chicago in 1873 and played local ball after finishing high school there. In 1894 he went 12-18 with a high ERA for a couple Western League Class A teams and the next year went 26-23 at the same level with a much lower ERA. That season got him sold to Louisville, the old NL team, where for the next three seasons he pitched in the rotation. But he was pretty wild, twice leading the NL in wild pitches, and went a combined 34-63 with a high ERA before being traded to the Cleveland Spiders late in the season. After not improving there too much he was sold to the Phillies before the ’99 season and went on his best run, going 21-12 and 15-9 with an ERA of 3.28 the next two years. In ’01 he jumped to the A’s and went 22-16 but returned to the Phillies the following year. This time – despite throwing a no-hitter in ’03 – his record wasn’t as good, as he went a combined 38-54 the next three years. In ’05 he went to Boston where he lost 21 and in ’06 to Cincinnati where he lost 20, both despite better than league average ERA’s. In ’07 he went to the Cubs where as a spot starter the next two seasons he went 19-14 with a 2.28 ERA and won a Series ring the second year. He was released early in the ’09 season, finishing up top with a record of 175-212 with a 3.67 ERA, 342 complete games, 22 shutouts, and six saves. He hit 219 batters, threw 146 wild pitches, and walked a bunch more guys than he struck out. In ’09 he returned to his farm in Iowa to grow alfalfa and then in ’11 returned to play some minor league ball, first for New Orleans, and the next season for Decatur of the Three I League where he also managed. In ’13 he managed Pittsfield in the Pittsburgh system and then became a scout and sometime coach for the Pirates through 1930. He managed one more season in ’31 and then became a scout for the Dodgers and the Yankees. He was still at it in the late Thirties when he lost a leg to diabetes. He then became sick again with the disease and passed away in 1940 at age 66.

Robin Roberts was another kid from Illinois who would be a star on the Whiz Kids. Robin went to Michigan State on a hoops scholarship after he took a year off at the tail end of WWII. He too got a degree in physical education and excelled in basketball and eventually got pretty good in baseball as well after he moved to pitcher from the outfield. He also played summer ball in Vermont and was spotted there and signed with the Phillies in ’48. After a quick run-through in the minors – 9-1 with a 2.06 ERA in ten Class B games – he moved up to Philadelphia where he went 7-9 the rest of the summer in the rotation. After winning 15 in ’49 he took off the next year and through ’55 he won at least 20 every season, going a combined 138-78 during that time with an ERA around 3.00. He led the NL in starts every year, innings five times, complete games four times, and was an All-Star every season. His best year was ’52 when he went 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA and finished second in MVP voting. In ’56 he was again an All-Star and went 19-18 with an inflated ERA to lead the NL in losses. He did that again the next year when he went 10-22. He came back a bit the next three seasons, winning as much as 17, but then bottomed out in Philly in ’61 when he went 1-10. He was then sold to the Yankees who released him early in ’62 after never using him. By then Robin had been a player rep and was instrumental in bringing in Marvin Miller to advocate for the union so his releases may have been about more than just his pitching. He caught on with the Orioles and for them over three-plus seasons went 42-36 in the rotation with a 3.09 ERA. In mid-’65 he went to Houston where he went 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA the rest of the way. But ’66 wasn’t too hot and after going to the Cubs mid-year he was released. Robin finished with a record of 286-245 with a 3.41 ERA, 305 complete games, 45 shutouts, and 25 saves. He was a control specialist and only walked 900 batters in nearly 4,700 innings. After playing he worked in investment banking for a bunch of years and briefly did some radio work at a Philly station. In ’76, the year he was elected to the Hall, he became baseball coach at the University of South Florida, which he did through ’86. After that he pretty much retired to Florida where he played golf and attended card shows. He passed away there in 2010 at age 83.

Earl Moore went 22-11 for Dayton, a B league team in 1900 with whom he signed after playing local ball in and around Columbus, Ohio, where he grew up. Those numbers got him signed by Cleveland of the new American League in 1901. Earl was one of the team’s best pitchers the next couple years as he put up better than average ERA’s even though he walked more guys than he struck out with his bizarre sidearm delivery. In ’03 he had an excellent year, going 20-8 with an AL-best 1.74 ERA and more than twice as many K’s as walks. In ’04 and ’05 he was a roughly .500 pitcher with still excellent ERA’s but that stopped fast when early the next season he was nailed by a shot back to the mound, injuring his foot. Over the next two seasons he only went 4-8 in 20 games as the rehab was long and painful. Along the way he got traded to the Highlanders. Late in the ’07 season NY sold him to Jersey City, an A league team where he was able to revive things. He put up a 2.19 ERA the rest of that season and went 13-12 with a 2.46 ERA in ’08 before he was sold to the Phillies. For them late that summer Earl went 2-1 in three starts without giving up a run – since he started all his games I don’t know how he got the loss – and then put up two of his best seasons: 18-12 with a 2.10 ERA in ’09 and 22-15 with a 2.58 ERA and an NL-leading six shutouts and 185 strikeouts in ’10. In ’11 and ’12 his record deteriorated a bit though his ERA was still quite good and in ’13 he only got into a few games split between the Phillies and the Cubs. In ’14 he jumped to Buffalo of the Federal League where he went 11-15 his final season. In all Earl went 163-154 with a 2.78 ERA, 230 complete games, and 34 shutouts. He returned to Ohio after playing where he sold oil and real estate and passed away at age 84 in 1961.

Claude Passeau was one of a million kids born to a family in Mississippi. He attended local Millsaps College where he lettered all four years in football, basketball, baseball, and track. During college he also played summer ball in the States and in Mexico under assumed names. He could hum the ball pretty well and was signed by Detroit upon graduating in ’31. The next year he went 10-9 with a 1.92 ERA in a season split between D and B ball. In '33 his ERA popped a bit as he moved up a couple levels but he fixed that the next couple seasons as he went 12-11 with a 2.96 ERA and then 20-11 in A ball in ’35. But Detroit then released him and Pittsburgh picked him up and moved him to the top at the tail end of the season and then traded him to the Phillies. For them Claude would have a tough time in their tiny Baker Bowl and while he put up an NL-average ERA of 4.15 and led the NL in starts, innings, and strikeouts once each, he only went 38-55 during his time there. Early in the ’39 season he went to the Cubs for three guys and it was there Claude blossomed. He perfected his new slider pitch, won 20 his first full season, made four All-Star teams, and went a combined 124-94 over nine seasons with a 2.96 ERA. His crowning moment was a one-hit shutout he threw against Detroit in the ’45 Series. He played with the Cubs through ’47, did a season back in the minors the next year and was done. He finished with a record of 162-150 with a 3.32 ERA, 188 complete games, 26 shutouts, and 21 saves. He went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three Series games. After he finished playing he moved back to Mississippi where he had a business selling farm equipment. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 94.

So on the offensive side Topps does a very good job representing this team. Jose Pagan, the former Pirates infielder who finished things up with this team in ’73 is the only guy with more than a couple at bats without a card. Jose had 80 at bats backing up rookie Schmidt and is in the team photo, number 16 in the first row. Deron Johnson got some at bats before he left for Oakland, with whom he has a card. Deron is in the  fourth row, third from the right. On the pitching side, twelve decisions are missing, which is pretty good also. Ken Brett has a card with the Pirates. Those missing cards are: Bucky Brandon went 2-4 with a couple saves his last season (he would later teach Orel Hershiser how to pitch); Bill Wilson went 1-3 with four saves in what was also his final season; Dick Selma went 1-1 in only eight innings. All three are in the team photo: Brandon and Wilson are the third and fourth guys in the fourth row; Selma is the fifth guy in the second row.

Finally we get to the hookup. Let’s use the traded guy on the checklist card:

1. Greg Luzinski was on the ’73 Phillies;
2. Luzinski and Dave Cash ’74 to ’76 Phillies;
3. Cash and Bob Moose ’71 to ’73 Pirates.

Friday, June 8, 2012

#382 - Bob Moose

Just to prove Oscar Gamble didn’t have a monopoly on the whole big hair thing, Bob Moose airs out his ‘do a few feet from the mound. Like a few of his teammates Bob took a step back performance-wise in ’73 as the Pirates were trying to get it together following the death of Roberto Clemente. But he did do a pretty good job bouncing back from a very dispiriting final game in ’72. In Game 5 of the NLCS against Cincinnati, Bob entered the game in the ninth inning with runners on first and second and no outs. After getting two quick outs he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed George Foster to score from third base, ending the series. But Bob rolled pretty well. He had to in ’74 when after a tough start to the season his arm swelled to twice its normal size and he was found to have a blood clot under his right shoulder that could have migrated to his heart. The poor guy certainly wasn’t hurting for drama. Nor for hair.

Bob Moose was a big deal athlete who grew up a stone’s throw from Forbes Field in PA. A halfback in football he was wooed by a bunch of division one schools, including Penn State and Clemson. Instead he opted for baseball, mainly – according to him – because he barely graduated high school. The Pirates were swayed enough by his six no-hitters to draft him in ’65 and send him to Rookie ball where he rewarded them by going 8-2 with a 1.95 ERA.  Then, just cause he liked delivering on his promise he went 11-5 in A ball in ’66 and 10-3 in Double and Triple A in ’67. Late in that last year he got into a few games for the Pirates.

In ’68 Moose had an awfully nice rookie season, splitting time between the rotation and the pen and putting up an excellent ERA. Pittsburgh wasn’t ready yet, though, and some lame run support led to a losing record. In ’69 he turned it on big and despite missing time for the military and a groin injury turned in the best winning percentage in the majors as well as a no-hitter against the champion Mets. Bob would miss more time for his military commitment each of the next couple seasons and in ’70 despite spending all his time in the rotation his numbers took a tumble. That continued into ’71 as the ERA kept inching higher. Both years he got some playoff action with variable success. In ’72 Bill Virdon took over as manager and Bob had his most successful season as strictly a starter, lowering his ERA by over a run. Then the blood clot issue in ’74 pretty much killed that season – 1-5 with a 7.57 ERA in seven starts – and required some minor league rehab in ’75. But he returned to Pittsburgh that summer to put up some pretty good numbers and then in ’76 served as sort of the transitional bullpen ace – 3-9 with ten saves and a 3.68 ERA – between Dave Giusti and Kent Tekulve. Then that October out driving to his birthday celebration he had a fatal car accident. He had just turned 29. Bob left behind a record of 76-71 with a 3.50 ERA, 35 complete games, 13 shutouts, and 19 saves. In the post-season he was 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in seven games.

Bob gets lots of notice for that excellent ’69 season. And he was known for his pick-off move; many other pitchers back then made mention of it.

Bob gets with someone from the other side of the plate like this:

1. Moose and Charlie Sands ’71 to ’72 Pirates.

Yeah, Charlie only had 26 at bats as a Pirate, but look at his career.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

#381 - Charlie Sands

You gotta admire eternal optimism. Charlie Sands has a big smile on his face even though he only got a whopping 33 at bats in ’73. Plus he is air-brushed into an Angels uniform, presumably  from a Pirate one. But he hit a homer in his first Angel start and it was a big year in the minors and it would seem that his stats there - .302 with 22 homers, 71 RBI’s, and a .444 OBA – would have been enough to have elevated him to the top. California in ’73 wasn’t exactly awash in great catchers; in fact the three guys who got the most time would be out of the majors in ’74. But Charlie wouldn’t. In fact though he was yet again relegated to third-string, he’d get his most time behind the plate that year. Plus he had to love the guys at Topps. Like Vicente Romo, a pitcher from many posts back, Charlie was in a good run with cards per at bats at this point in his career. He had two to represent his 60 at bats. And he’d get another one in ’75.

Charlie Sands was a big kid out of Newport News, Virginia where he played football and baseball in high school. In ’65 he was drafted and signed by Baltimore but then had to do some military time. He came back in ’66 and hit .245 in A ball. After that season Lee MacPhail, who had been with the O’s, moved to the Yankees and had Charlie taken with that year’s Rule 5 draft. That meant he had to stay all the next year on the NY roster which he did, getting one at bat and zero time in the field, even though NY was pretty hurting for catchers. In ’68 he was able to return to the minors and he went back to A ball where though he missed some time with a broken hand he hit .268 with 37 RBI’s in 261 at bats. In ’69 more pain came in the form of appendicitis and a shattered kneecap so Charlie only got into 40 games split between Double and Triple A. By ’70 he was relatively healthy and he hit .226 – but with a .374 OBA – again spread between the two leagues. After that season he was traded to Pittsburgh in a minor league trade.

The 1971 Sands experienced was not terribly different from his ’67. Coming off an excellent spring training – he would specialize in those – he made the Pirates roster as the third-string guy behind Manny Sanguillen and Milt May. Though in his second and third at bats that year he hit pinch-homers, he got almost zero playing time. He did get a Series at bat though – he struck out – and a ring. In ’72 May got more time but Charlie didn’t up top and he spent most of the season putting up nice numbers back in Triple A: .283 with 12 homers, 44 RBI’s, and a .443 OBA in 219 at bats. Before the start of the ’73 season he was traded to Detroit for pitcher Chris Zachary and two weeks later went to California for pitcher Mike Strahler. After another excellent Triple A year in ’73 he spent all of ’74 with the Angels, now behind Ellie Rodriguez and Tom Egan. In 83 at bats he got four homers and 13 RBI’s and had an OBA of .370 but only hit .193. Given that he also DH’d that last stat didn’t work too well and in spring training of ’75 he was released. He hooked up with Oakland and spent nearly all the next two seasons at Tucson, their Triple A club. Combined those years he hit .287 with 37 homers, 124 RBI’s, and a .472 OBA in 536 at bats. He was released after the latter season which is a bit of a mystery given the hodgepodge Oakland’s ’77 catching became. Charlie finished with an average of .270 in the minors with 87 homers and 300 RBI’s in just over 2,000 at bats and a .385 OBA. Up top he hit .214 with a .372 OBA.

After he finished playing Charlie moved back to Virginia where by ’78 he started his own Charley’s Restaurant. It did pretty well and beginning in ’80 he began adding more sites to an expanding chain. The most successful of them seems to be in Lynchburg where it has been in continuing operation for over 30 years.

I believe the game mentioned in Charlie’s first star bullet remained the longest uninterrupted game in history. It’s a wonder he was able to play at all after that one.  Charlie had a brother Paul who pitched in the minors for five seasons in the early to mid-Seventies who had a similar career although he never cracked a Major League roster.

So Charlie played with Wayne Garrett’s brother but that doesn’t help here. Let’s see what does:

1. Sands and Nolan Ryan – duh! – ’73 to ’74 Angels;
2. Ryan and Bud Harrelson ’68 to ’71 Mets.