Friday, November 30, 2012

#461 - John Odom

John “Blue Moon” Odom sure had one of the best nicknames of his peers. Sometimes he also had one of the best arms. But ’73 wasn’t one of those years. Elbow problems that had nagged him on and off the past few seasons sort of came home to roost during the year and things really wouldn’t get better. A brief reprieve was the game from which this photo was shot: a 3-0 shutout by Rollie Fingers and him – Odom started – against the White Sox (all pitchers from that game – Bart Johnson and Terry Forster threw for Chicago – have action photos on their cards taken from it). Blue Moon’s record entering the game was 1-9 with an ERA over 6.00 so most of his problems during the season were front-loaded. And he would continue to pitch quite well in the post-season where, despite all his regular-season issues, he nailed some nice career numbers. And any pitching woes would pale in comparison to some events down the road.

John Odom was a big three sport star growing up in Macon, Georgia, where he would eventually excel as a pitcher, going 42-2 in high school as his team won two state championships. Back then his school was the only one in the area that accepted black students. When he graduated in ’64 John’s stats earned him a $75,000 signing bonus from Kansas City and he kicked off his career that summer in Double A where he went 6-5 as a starter before getting some time up top, making his debut at age 19. While his forays at KC weren’t too successful – outside of ’66 - the next few seasons, he did successively better work in the minors as he moved from an 11-14/4.47 season in A ball in ’65 to 12-5/3.09 in Double A in ’66 and 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA in Triple A in ’67. He moved to KC for good later that last season.

Odom’s ’67 was a bit disappointing after the promise he’d shown the prior year and was the first one in which he pitched through a sore elbow. He had a big breaking curve with a pretty good fastball that put a bunch of stress on his arm. But in ’68 the A’s moved to Oakland and the change in scenery worked like a tonic for him as he won a career-high 16 games and posted one of the AL’s top ERA’s. He also made his first All-Star team. Then in ’69 a 14-3 start to the season got him in that year’s All-Star game also before his arm went south fast. He had off-season surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow and returned late the following year. After going a combined 19-20 with an escalated ERA the next two seasons he again had some elbow work done following the ’71 season. For a while that seemed like wasted work when in January of ’72 he was shot a couple times while trying to break up a burglary back in Macon. But those wounds ended up not being too serious and he returned to post excellent numbers to help take Oakland to its first Series. In the post-season he got two wins against Detroit while shutting them out for 14 innings and put up a 1.59 ERA against Cincinnati though he went 0-1. His fade in ’73 was arrested by a 3.00 ERA in that year’s post-season but then led to his move to the pen the following season where he went 1-5 as a middle inning guy. After more shutout ball in that year’s post-season, ’75 was pretty much a car wreck. After going 0-2 as a swing guy with a super-high ERA he was sent to Cleveland in May for pitchers Jim Perry and Dick Bosman. In Cleveland he threw well, going 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in a few games, including a shutout in his only start. But he insisted the Tribe pay him more to compensate for his perceived lost post-season pay and that didn’t go over too well. So he and Rob Belloir were sent to Atlanta where Blue Moon was really blue, going 1-7 with a 7.07 ERA the rest of the way. In ’76 he pitched mostly in Triple A, first for the Braves and then for the White Sox, after he was traded for catcher Pete Varney. He threw well at both spots and that summer returned to the majors where a couple weeks later he had his last big moment when he combined with Francisco Barrios to toss a no-hitter, ironically against Oakland (he and Barrios also combined to walk eleven guys in the game). After being released the following January John hooked up with Oakland again and threw some good ball in Triple A before his release, ending his time in baseball in the States. He finished with a record of 84-85 with a 3.70 ERA, 40 complete games, and 15 shutouts. A very good athlete, he also hit .195 for his career with five homers and was used often as a pinch runner. In the post-season he went 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in ten games.

In mid-’77 Odom began pitching in the Mexican Leagues, first for the Mexico City Tigers and then, in ’78 for Tabasco. During that time he also worked at a liquor store back in Macon. He got divorced around then and relocated to the southern California area where he got work as a computer technician for Xerox in ’79. In ’85 while still employed there he was busted for selling a co-worker some cocaine and for possession (the first charge was always hearsay). It took forever for the trial to get underway and during that time he lost his job and ran out of money. At one point he became depressed and bitter and after a drinking binge barricaded himself and his wife with a shotgun inside his house. After he let his wife go he continued his face-off with the police for about six hours,. No shots were fired and after some rehab and a late-summer of ’86 trial he was released before that Christmas. He then did some drug and alcohol counseling while also starting up his own house-painting business. That got him through ’97 when his MLB pension kicked in. Since then he has been mostly retired though he does some fantasy camps and also some occasional work for the A’s. For the past few years he has been one of the team representatives at the annual first year drafts.

Just about the whole card back has been dealt with above. In addition to his high school no-no’s he took the ’66 Orioles to eight and two-third’s before giving up a hit in one of his starts. Vida Blue used to give Blue Moon a lot of crap about being an Uncle Tom-type player even asserting that Odom's nickname was coined by owner Charlie O. A bunch of people back then believed that as well but most media evidence point to a childhood friend of Odom's anointing him with that sobriquet while they were kids. Johnny Lee was pretty cut for a pitcher of his day as shown in this photo during the '72 Series when he chats up Joe Morgan (this is a great site for A's photos from that era by the way). He gets props for that.

So Oakland’s contribution to the ’76 baseball centennial smacks of the one given by Cincinnati and was Catfish Hunter’s perfect game from ’68. That instead of the three successive Series victories. But it was a pretty sweet game. On May 8, he went up against the hard-hitting Twins and shut them down, striking out eleven of them which was a big total for Catfish. Nine of the Twins outs were flyballs which was probably the only drama contributed by them in the game. That was a Catfish norm. Oakland won 4-0 on the way to their first decent season in a while. And the A’s hitting star? Catfish went three for four with three RBI’s.

These two guys just went up against each other in the ’73 AL playoffs and also played together briefly in ’75 but that shouldn’t count so here we go:

1. Odom and Larry Haney ’69 to ’75 Athletics;
2. Haney and Boog Powell ’66 to ’68 Orioles.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

#460 - Boog Powell

 Boog Powell gets an action card in this set and it appears to be a shot in Oakland with a pretty fat crowd which, as we have seen, was not the norm for that fan base. So this may be an action shot from the playoffs, which adds some appeal. Boog had a pretty good run of these cards as this year would be the second of four consecutive ones with him in motion. I think the best is the one from ’75 when it looks like he’s about to catch a whale at first base. ’73 was not his best year since between a shoulder injury and manager Earl Weaver’s platooning Boog got in just over half a season at first base. His numbers that year were just a nudge above his ones in ’67, his worst season and another one decimated by nagging injuries. Still, he was a crowd pleaser with his big body and super friendly personality. Boog grew pretty much every year and his listed 250 pounds is probably a bit generous on the low side. His ’74 season would be even more of a downtick but he’d have one more year of All-Star-type performance when his buddy Frank Robinson rescued him in ’75.

Boog Powell was born in Lakeland, Florida, where as a kid he was so big that he was initially banned from his Little League for a year. That was when he was 12 and they let him back in before the season was over, which was a good thing since as a pitcher he led his team to the Little League World Series. Boog pitched eleven straight games to get his guys there in ’54 and unfortunately those games took a toll as he went down 17-0 in the first round to the eventual champs, a team from Schenectady, NY. When Boog was a sophomore in high school his family moved down to Key West where he was all-state in football as a tackle for two years, both of which his team won the state championship. He also turned the double in baseball – in which he was now a slugging outfielder/first baseman – his senior year. He received lots of interest from colleges for his football and signed a letter of intent with one school when the Orioles came down and swooped him away to the tune of a $25,000 bonus. That was in ’59 and his first summer as a pro he claimed he was overwhelmed by the pitching in D ball, though it sure doesn’t come across in his stats: .351 with 14 homers and 59 RBI’s in only 191 at bats. In ’60 Boog moved to B ball and first base full-time and racked up a .312 average with 100 RBI’s. Then in ’61 was a big jump to Triple A by which he apparently wasn’t fazed since he hit .321 with 32 homers and 92 RBI’s. Late that year he made his debut in Baltimore.

Powell was always a big boy and pretty tough but he was awfully slow and was always getting nailed by nagging injuries. In ’62 he was kept upstairs where he played leftfield and put up good enough rookie numbers to make the Topps team despite playing through, in order: a sprained wrist; a blood clot in his leg; a beaning that took him to the hospital; and a shoulder injury. In ’63 he was relatively healthy and stepped up his power numbers significantly. Then he did that again in ’64 despite again spraining his wrist. He also put up a .399 OBA that year, by far his best in the majors up until then. In ’65 Boog split his time between the outfield and first base as it was decided his lack of speed would make him a better defender at the latter position. He actually turned out to be quite nimble there over the years and became a whiz at scooping balls out of the dirt. But he had a relative slump at the plate, ironically the one year he didn’t lose time to injury. He came back strong in ’66, so strong in fact that he won the AL Comeback Player of the Year award. He also got his first post-season action and hit .357 against the Dodgers during the surprising Orioles sweep. After his disappointing ’67 – again, no big injuries – came ’68 when Boog did an about-face from the rest of the AL and raised his numbers significantly. Big years and AL championships followed in ’69 and ’70 and the latter year he won the AL MVP.

In ’71 Powell had all his injuries in about the same place, breaking a wrist and getting hit in each of his hands. His offensive numbers came in pretty hard and continued to do so in ’72 when the nagging wirst injury made it difficult to hold the bat. Things didn’t improve in ’73 or ‘74 and after hitting .265 with 12 homers and 45 RBI’s in 344 at bats the second year he was sent after the season to Cleveland with Don Hood for Dave Duncan and a minor leaguer. Frank Robinson, who'd come to Cleveland himself late in '74, had also been named manager and he opted to give Boog first base solo which worked out pretty well as Powell hit .297 with 27 homers and 86 RBI’s to win his second AL Comeback Player award. But it was a one-season revival as ankle, shoulder, and wrist injuries would demolish his ’76 season in which his numbers fell to .215 with nine homers and 33 RBI’s in 293 at bats. After the year he was released and then picked up by the Dodgers for whom he primarily pinch hit before his August release ended his career. Boog hit .266 with a .361 OBA with 339 homers and 1,187 RBI’s. His post-season numbers were .262 with six homers and 18 RBI’s in 33 games.

After playing Powell returned to Key West where he opened a marina which he ran for a few years. In the early to mid-Eighties he made some high-profile beer commercials for Miller Light and also wrote a cookbook. In the early Nineties when Camden Yards opened Boog got together with Oriole brass and suggested opening a barbecue stand in the park under his name. The stand has been wildly successful, allowing Boog to open another one on the Baltimore waterfront and act as sort of a traveling Johnny Apleseed for barbecue foods, even getting to Tahiti in recent years. He signs lots of autographs and is still a huge – in more ways than one – fan favorite.

Boog gets a couple good star bullets and his signature barely fits in its spot. That’s some cartoon picture of him. That hat would have been actually more appropriate for China but nobody was going to that nation from MLB back then.

In 1976 the Baltimore contribution to the baseball centennial was its Series victory in 1970. No surprise there, though the ’66 one was a more dominant and surprising win. The O’s went up against the Big Red Machine and sort of beat them up, winning the Series four games to one. Baltimore hit nearly .300 as a team – only Don Gullett and Clay Carroll had any success for Cincinnati on the mound – and the O pitchers and especially Brooks Robinson helped the Machine to a .213 average. Brooks was the Series mvp with his amazing fielding.

Coincidentally we get to hook up Boog with the team he helped beat in 1970:

1. Powell and Merv Rettenmund ’68 to ’73 Orioles;
2. Rettenmund and Pete Rose (and many others) ’74 to ’75 Reds;
3. Rose was on the ’73 Reds.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#459 - Cincinnati Reds/Reds Team Records (2)

The front of the checklist card has the signatures of three Hall of Famers. I wonder if that’s a record for this set? I’ll check and get back on the next checklist post. The lack of a third outfielder is the only glaring weakness here.

While doing research on Paul Derringer I came upon as many articles indicating his propensity to fight as to play baseball so I guess he was a pretty pugnacious guy and had a fitting surname. Paul was born and raised in Springfield, Kentucky, where he starred in the big three sports and was a catcher and occasional pitcher. After attending local Georgetown College (not the DC school), he played industrial ball and in ’26 was doing so for a team in Coalwood, West Virginia, when he was signed by Danville, a Three-I B team. He went 25-19 with excellent control for Danville in ’27-’28 and was signed by the Cards for whom he went a combined 40-23 the next two seasons and was promoted to St. Louis to start the next season. His rookie year he went 18-8 to help take St. Louis to the Series, which they won though he went 0-2. In ’32 he fell to 11-14 and he began the next year 0-2 when his belligerent nature helped him wear out his welcome and he was traded to Cincinnati in the deal that got the Cards Leo Durocher. He went 7-25 the rest of the way though his 3.23 ERA was better than league average and his control was quite good. His 27 losses led the NL. In ’34 he lost 21 but in ’35 he won 22 and was named an All-Star. After winning 19 the next year and ten the year after – both with high ERA’s – he settled in for a nice three year run from ’38 to ’40 when he went 66-33 with an ERA just south of 3.00, three All-Star seasons, and two trips to the Series. He was again an All-Star each of the next two seasons though his combined record fell to 22-25. Prior to the ’43 season he was sold to the Cubs for whom he went 21-27 the next two years. In ’45 he revived to go 16-11 with a 3.45 ERA and returned to the Series. After he did poorly against Detroit he was released and hooked up with the Red Sox Triple A franchise in ’46 where he went 9-11. That was his final season and he finished with a record of 223-212 with a 3.46 ERA, 251 complete games, 32 shutouts, and 29 saves. He put up only 761 walks in 3,645 innings. In the post-season he was 2-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 53 innings. He was admitted to the Reds’ hall of fame in ’58 and the State of Kentucky’s a few years later. After baseball he became a salesman for a plastics company and then a trouble-shooter for Triple A. He passed away in ’87 at age 81.

Elmer Riddle is another guy from the south, he from Georgia. His brother Johnny, who also played in the majors, got him a tryout with his minor league team in Indianapolis. Elmer, who’d worked as a machinist and played both company hoops and baseball, was assigned to D ball and in ’36 went 14-16 with a high ERA and some wildness. He then went 13-6 in B ball in ’37 and the next couple seasons put up middling records through Double A. By then he was back in Indianapolis which was a Reds affiliate and in ’39 he made his debut in a game up top. The next year he threw pretty well in a few games from the Cincinnati pen, putting up a 1.87 ERA with two saves despite a high walk total. He also threw a shutout inning in the Series.  In ’41 he began the season in the pen again but got a couple starts when the senior guys either got hurt or tired and by mid-season was 11-0 with much-reduced walk totals. He finished the year 19-4 with a 2.24 ERA and led both leagues in winning percentage and ERA. After a downtick in ’42 he went 21-11 in ’43 to lead MLB in wins and put up a 2.63 ERA. He then missed most of the next two seasons to both injury and stateside WW II work and voluntarily retired after posting an ERA over 8.00 in ’45. He came back late in ’47 to report similar numbers and after that season was sold to Pittsburgh. For them, though his shoulder was shot, he went 12-10 with a 3.49 ERA in his last good season and after a poor ’49 he was done up top. From that year through ’51 he pitched back in Indianapolis, which was now a Pirates affiliate. He finished with a record of 65-52 with a 3.40 ERA, 57 complete games, 13 shutouts, and eight saves and in the minors was 56-52. He had that one inning in the ’40 post-season and hit .204. After playing he did some scout work for Kansas City and then returned to Georgia where he worked for the United Oil Company until he retired. He passed away at age 69 in 1984.

Johnny Vander Meer was signed out of his Jersey high school by the Dodgers in ’33. His first few years he had .500 records, high ERA’s, and control issues moving between C and A ball. In ’36 he was traded to the Reds and went 19-6 with a 2.65 ERA in B ball and the next year moved to Double A where he had a very good ERA despite a crappy record. He made his debut for Cincinnati that year and did OK work as a swing guy although his walks remained high. In ’38 he improved to 15-10 while in the rotation, had a 3.12 ERA, and famously threw two straight no-hitters. But ’39 was a big downtick – though he did some nice work in the All-Star game – and he began the next year in the minors. There he pitched well and came up in time to post some good outings and get a little Series work. He then had a good three-year run, going a combined 49-41 with a 2.75 ERA while leading the NL in strikeouts each season (and walks in ’43). He then missed the next two years for stateside WW II duty, returning in ’46 to go 19-26 the next two seasons. He had his last good year in ’48 when he went 17-14 with a 3.41 ERA and again led the NL in walks. After a weak ’49 he was sold to the Cubs where he had an OK season in the pen. He was then sold to Cleveland where he tossed a couple games before being released in ’51. He finished up top going 119-121 with a 3.44 ERA, 131 complete games, and 29 shutouts. He threw an inning of scoreless post-season ball and made four All-Star teams. He continued to pitch in the minors – mostly in the Reds system – from ’51 to ’55 and beginning in ’53 he managed at that level as well. He did that for ten years, finishing with a record of 761-719 in ’62. He then returned to NJ where he worked for a brewery before retiring to Tampa where he passed away in 1997 at age 82. 

Jim Maloney was a decade-earlier version of Don Gullett: a big guy who could throw heat but was prone to injury. He grew up in Fresno where he played the big three sports and was primarily a shortstop. He hit well over .300 his three varsity seasons in that role and got a lot of interest from MLB teams. But when bonuses offered weren’t high enough, Jim and his dad took a Cincinnati scout’s advice and went to Fresno City College to refine his pitching skills. After a year there, the Reds signed him for a six-figure bonus in ’59. Ironically his first manager in B ball that summer was Johnny Vander Meer who taught Jim a simple curve in what was otherwise a forgettable first year. In ’60 his pitching coach at Double A was Jim Turner who helped Jim refine his pitches and they were rewarded with a 14-5 season with a 2.80 ERA. Those numbers were achieved in half a season and he got moved up later that year. His first couple years were tough ones: between injuries and being a swing guy his numbers weren’t so hot. But in ’62 he went 9-7 with a 3.51 ERA. Then he took off in ’63, going 23-7 with a 2.77 ERA and all those strikeouts in only 250 innings. The next three years he won 15, 20, and 16, all with ERA’s well under 3.00, and all with over 200 strikeouts. His numbers weren’t as glamorous the next three seasons, but they were awfully good (a combined 43-26) and his record from ’63 to ’69 was a very Gullett-like 117-60. Then early in the ’70 season he ruptured his Achilles tendon and that pretty much ended his career. He was traded to California before the ’71 season but released after going 0-3 in a few games. He hooked up with the Giants in ’72 and had a nice short run for them in Triple A but couldn’t pitch without pain and retired. He finished with a record of 134-84 with a 3.19 ERA, 74 complete games, 30 shutouts, and over 1,600 strikeouts in 1,850 innings. Like Vander Meer, he threw a couple no-hiiters but Jim’s were spread a few years apart. After he played he stuck close to Fresno where he worked at his dad’s auto dealership before taking off a year to manage in the minors in ’82 (he went 50-90 for a Giants club). Shortly thereafter he went into rehab for alcohol dependency from which he emerged in ’85 divorced and homeless but with a new mission. He went back to school to get a degree as a therapist and recently retired from his last career as a drug and alcohol counselor.

Tornado Jake Weimer was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, where he played ball and worked as a cigar maker after high school. A good-looking guy, he was a bit of a ladies man and made as many headlines back then for his affairs as he did for his baseball. He is a bit of a mystery as well. According to baseball-reference he began his pro career in 1895 when he was 21 and won 24 in a year split between B and unranked ball. Then he sort of moseyed around playing irregularly until 1900 when he won 20 back in B ball. He seemed to have followed that year up with a couple decent minor seasons but there is no supporting data until 1903 when he shows up on the Cubs as a 20-game-winning rookie. That’s where it gets weird since a bunch of sites list him as the only 19-year old to win that many, putting him ten years younger than his listed age. He followed that up by winning 20 the next year, for sure becoming the first pitcher to do that. In ’05 he won 18 and after that season was sent to Cincinnati for Jimmy Sebring and Harry Steinfeldt in a trade that completed the Chicago infield and took them to the Series a bunch of times. Too bad for Jake, though he did win 20 games in his first Reds season. The reason listed for the trade was that Chicago manager Frank Chance thought Jake was getting old, which gives credence to his 1873 birthdate. Baseball-reference also gives him credit for only six shutouts that year. In ’07 his record fell to 11-14, though he set a record by hitting 23 batters. In ’08 he fell to 8-7 and he was then traded to the Giants for whom he got in one game in ’09 and was then done. Jake finished with a record of 97-69 and an ERA of 2.23 which is in the top 15 lifetime. There is another fat blank in his personal history until he shows up again in Chicago in the early Twenties as baseball coach for Loyola Academy, a local prep school. He was still working there when he passed away in 1928 at age 54 (or 44).

Fred Toney was from rural Tennessee and was discovered pitching local semi-pro ball when he was 18. He was signed by a D level team in 1908 and the next two seasons won over 20 games each at that level. After the ’10 season he was signed by the Cubs and the next few years pitched sparingly in Chicago, and more so in the minors, which he preferred since those stops were closer to home. He spent all of ’14 in Double A, where he went 21-15 and was then taken in the Rule 5 draft by Brooklyn. When he whined about reporting – again, too far from home – he was placed on waivers and nabbed by Cincinnati. He then put in three very good seasons for the Reds, going a combined 55-39 with an excellent – even for then – 2.07 ERA. In ’17 he went 24-16. Late that last year he got in big trouble for two things: avoiding the WW I draft; and shacking up with his minor-aged girlfriend which violated the Mann Act (he was 29). That helped contribute to a late and poor start to the ’18 season and during it he was sold to the Giants where he turned his season around. He then won 13, 21, and 18 the next three seasons though his ERA escalated about a run every year – from 1.84 to 3.61 – and after an under-used ’22 he was traded to Boston and then the Cards. For St. Louis he went 11-12 in ’23 and was then done, finishing with a record of 139-102 with a 2.69 ERA, 158 complete games, and 28 shutouts. He started two games in the ’21 Series against the Yankees but got bombed, lasting less than a total of three innings, though his team won the title. He retreated back home for a year before attempting a comeback with a local A team in ’25 and finished 93-62 in the minors. He then operated a local food stand for many years until WW II when he did stateside security work. After that war ended he became a court officer which he did until his death at age 64 in 1953.

I’ll always remember Hod Eller from a paper I did in high school on the Black Sox and from the movie “Matewan” when one of the principal characters said Hod was his favorite player. He came out of Muncie, Indiana, and was playing pro ball immediately after high school, winning 15 in D ball in 1913. He then moved to B ball in the Three I League, in ’15 ramping up to 19 wins with a 2.39 ERA. That got him a tryout with the White Sox which didn’t go well and he returned home, returning to his Three I team later that season. He was then taken by Cincinnati in the Rule 5 draft and had a nice rookie year in ’17, going 10-5 with a 2.36 ERA and a save, finishing an NL-leading 21 games. In ’18 he won 16 as a swing guy and in ’19 he had his best year, going 19-9 with a 2.39 ERA. He then had an excellent Series, going 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his two starts and striking out six straight at one point. In ’20 he went 13-12 and then things went south pretty fast. Hod’s reputed money pitch was his shine ball and after Judge Landis outlawed the pitch - ironically around the same time he banished the Black Sox – he effectively killed Hod’s career. He went 2-2 with a 4.98 ERA in ’21. It was his final season in the majors at age 26 and his career numbers were 60-40 with a 2.62 ERA. 52 complete games, nine shutouts, and five saves. In ’22 he returned to the minors where he pitched for and managed a D team the next two years around a partial season in Double A that didn’t go too well. He returned to Indianapolis in the off season, worked for the town, and then attempted a comeback with the local Double A team that wasn’t too bad but wasn’t going to get him back upstairs. Later in ’24 he became a cop in the city which he did until he retired in ’46. He remained in the city where, after a bout with cancer, he passed away in ’61 at age 67.

Walter “Dutch” Ruether (or Reuther) was a relatively sophisticated guy and after attending St Ignatius High School in San Francisco, moved on to the local college of the same name. While there he threw a pretty good exhibition game against the White Sox in 1913 and that got him a tryout with the Pirates who sent him to Double A to finish the summer. In ’14 he went 11-9 for a B level team and after a couple mediocre seasons at various levels went 17-9 in a ’16 season split between B and Double A. The Cubs then took him in the Rule 5 draft and the next year he made his debut in Chicago. Though he did well in limited appearances, Dutch was placed on waivers and picked up by Cincinnati. He got into a few games for the Reds the rest of the year and then missed all but a couple games in ’18 when he enlisted. He returned in ’19 to go 19-6 for the Series champs with his team-record ERA. After winning 16 in ’20 he was traded to Brooklyn for Rube Marquard. After an off year in ’21 he went 21-12 for the then-Robins in ’22 and then won 23 combined the next two seasons. He was then sold to Washington and in ’25 he went 18-7 and returned to the Series. In ’26 he got off to a 12-6 start but with a high ERA and was traded to the Yankees for whom he got his last Series action that year. After going 13-6 with a good ERA for Murderers’ Row in ’27 – but getting zero Series work – he was done. He finished up top with a record of 137-95 with a 3.50 ERA, 155 complete games, and 18 shutouts. In Series work he was 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts. He was a very good hitter, batting .258 lifetime with seven homers and 111 RBI’s and his only appearance in the ’25 Series was as a pinch-hitter. In the post-season he hit .364 with four RBI’s in seven games. In ’28 he returned to California where he continued to play in the Pacific Coast league and went 29-7 his first year. He continued pitching there through ’35 and also managed from ’34 to ’36. He then had a long career as a scout, primarily for the Cubs and Giants, until he passed away in 1970 at age 76.

Even though I split these posts, this was a pretty long one. Now we get to see how Topps did representing this set. Given Cincinnati’s run during this period of post-season appearances, it should be pretty good. Bobby Tolan, who started most of the team’s games in right, had moved on to San Diego and has a card there. Richie Scheinblum got some at bats also, but he’d moved to California during the season and has an Angels card. That leaves Ed Crosby as the most significant player in terms of playing time, and he only had 51 at bats as a back-up shortstop. That’s awfully good. On the pitching side, Jim McGlothlin had moved to the White Sox during the ’73 season and has a card there. That leaves Ed Sprague, who went 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA and a save, and Dave Tomlin, 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA and a save also, as the only guys with decisions without cards. That’s pretty good as only seven decisions are missing from the set. Sprague had been traded to the Cards during the season, ironically for Crosby. Tomlin was part of the same trade as Tolan so there is a bit of completeness to the saga of the missing cards. I don’t believe either of those guys is in the team photo.

The Cincinnati contribution to the baseball centennial festivities in ’76 is one of the odder choices I’ve seen. It was hinted at above: Johnny Vander Meer’s second consecutive no-hitter in 1938. Pretty odd, given the team’s recent successes – especially its ’75 Series title – and the fairly recent opening of Riverfront. This post has been so long I’m not going to do a deep drill on the game. In the next start he actually got into the fourth inning without giving up a hit. Here is a good descriptive link regarding the game.

Lastly, it’s hook-up time:

1. Joe Morgan was on the ’73 Reds;
2. Morgan and Jim Ray ’65 to ’66 and ’68 to ’71 Astros.

Monday, November 19, 2012

#459 - Cincinnati Reds/Reds Team Records

When the ’73 season opened the Reds had some concerns. Johnny Bench was coming back from lung surgery; Bobby Tolan from a leg injury he suffered while playing hoops for the Reds off-season team; anticipated right fielder George Foster was headed to Triple A; and the starting pitching was a bit thin. Then in his second start of the season, Gary Nolan, probably the team’s best starter, went down with an injury that took him out of action for two years. Still, they were defending NL champs and with Jack Billingham pitching his butt off they opened the season on a 100-victory pace and were hanging pretty well with the red-hot Giants and Dodgers. Then came a 13-20 June swoon that pulled them down to fourth place that highlighted their need for another starter and some offensive gaps. The Reds filled the former hole by picking up Fred Norman from the Padres and the latter – mainly at third base and right field – by delving into their farm system, with the most notable pull-up being Dan Driessen. From there they went 91-27 – stoked at least in part by Hal King’s three-run homer to beat LA July 1 - and a nice early September run took them past the Dodgers and into first for good. They never looked back and were sure to steamroll over the Mets to return to the Series. Oops.

Again, since these posts take so long I am splitting up the bios to two posts. This time there’s only one offensive record-holder not profiled (Ted Kluszewski was highlighted on the Reds coaches card and Sam Crawford on the Tigers team card) so I am including a few of the pitchers on the first post.

Before there was Babe Ruth there was Cy Seymour, who sounds more like an NYC retailer than a baseball player, but Cy was the real deal. He grew up outside Albany, NY, and at some point after high school he began playing semi-pro ball upstate for some pretty fat paychecks. He was signed by the Giants in 1896 when he was 23 and in a short season of A ball went 4-6 with a 1.47 ERA and hit .290 before debuting later that year in NY. In ’97 he won 18 while leading the NL in strikeouts and walks and then in ’98 had his big season on the mound, winning 25 with a 3.18 ERA and again doing that double leader thing. He also hit .276 while playing 35 games in the outfield. In ’99 his record fell to 14-18 as the team slid pretty hard but he raised his average to .327. In 1900 it seems a combination of fallout with management, injury, and poor performance led to an extreme contraction in playing time and after the season he jumped to the Baltimore Orioles of the new American League. There Cy hit .303 as a full-time outfielder and after starting the ’02 season with a .268 average was distributed to Cincinnati as part of the Baltimore diaspora after that club had financial problems. He hit .340 the rest of the way and followed that up with a .342 in ’03 and .313 in ’04. In ’05 he had his big year, hitting .377 with a .429 OBA. Aside from leading the NL in hitting, he also led it in hits (219), doubles (40), triples (21), RBI’s (121), and slugging (.559) and missed a Triple Crown by one homer. In ’06 after his average dipped to .257 the first half of the year he was sold to NY to be reunited with John McGraw for a then–record $12,000. He hit .320 the rest of the way and finished the year with 80 RBI’s. In ’07 he hit .294 with 75 RBI’s despite an injury and in ’08 .267 with 92 RBI’s. In ’09 at 36 he started about half the games in the outfield but hit .311 and after hitting .265 two-thirds of the way through the following year he was sold to Baltimore, now a minor league team. For them he averaged a bit over .300 the next two seasons in A and Double A. He then signed with the Boston Braves before the ’13 season but after hitting only .178 in a few games was done in the majors. He finished with a .303 average with 1,724 hits, 96 triples, 52 homers, and 799 RBI’s in about ten full-time seasons as a hitter and on the mound was 61-56 with a 3.73 ERA and 105 complete games in what amounted to about three seasons as a pitcher. From ’14 to ’18 Cy stuck around the NY area, returning to semi-pro ball and working various industrial jobs. In ’18 he began working in the shipyards of Brooklyn for the WW I effort and early the next year contracted tuberculosis while he was already in less than excellent health. He passed away from the disease later that year at age 46.

Frank “Noodles” Hahn was from the same era as Cy Seymour but was a pitcher all the way. Born in Nashville, he was playing semi-pro ball by the time he was 15 and two years later in 1896 was signed by Mobile, a Class B Southern Association team. For them he went 7-4 with a 1.44 ERA and in ’97 was flipped to Detroit, then a Class A team. In two seasons there he went a combined 29-36 in nearly 600 innings with strikeout totals near the top of his league. Prior to the ’99 season he was bought by the Reds and he made an immediate impact, going 23-8 his rookie year with a 2.68 ERA and an NL-leading 145 strikeouts. In 1900 his record fell to 16-20 but he threw a no-hitter. Then in ’01 he went 22-19 while leading the league in innings (375), complete games (41!), and strikeouts (239) for his third season in a row on the final stat. In ’02 he had what may have been his best season ex-strikeouts as he went 23-12 with a 1.77 ERA, followed up by an ’03 in which he was 22-12 with a 2.52 ERA. While Frank went 107-71 those five seasons the Reds as a team went 341-366. In ’04 he put up a 2.06 ERA but only went 16-18 and couldn’t break triple figures in K’s. Those six seasons in which he averaged over 300 innings took their toll and in ’05 he went only 5-3 in a season shortened by injury. In ’06 he hooked up with the Highlanders but was done after only six games at age 27. He went 130-94 with a 2.55 ERA with 212 complete games and 25 shutouts. He then returned to Cincinnati where he became an inspector for the federal government which he did until he retired. He also pitched batting practice for the Reds until ’46 when he was 68. Shortly thereafter he retired to North Carolina where he passed away in 1960 at age 80.

Dolf Luque (pronounced Lu-KAY) was the first prominent Latin MLB player ever. Born in Havana – his nickname was “The Pride of Havana” – he played semi-pro ball down there until 1911 when he put in a couple seasons for the national team and was then brought north by a Cuban businessman who was part owner of a D League team  in New Jersey. In ’13 Dolf went 22-5 and also hit .281 in off-days playing third base to pique the curiosity of the Boston Braves for whom he pitched a few innings the next couple years. He spent most of that time in Double A going 2-10 the first year and 15-9 the second before being sold to Louisville, another Double A team with a loose affiliation with the Reds. For that team Dolf went a combined 26-14 with a 2.41 ERA while in ’17 also playing a bunch at third again. In ’18 he came up to Cincinnati and went 6-3 the rest of the way in the rotation. In ’19 he added four wins and three saves mostly working in the pen and added five innings of shutout relief in the Series. He returned to the rotation the next two seasons, going 30-28 and then led the NL in losses in '22 with 23, though his 3.31 ERA was considerably better than league average. In ’23 he had his big season, going 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA and six shutouts, leading the majors in all three categories. The next five seasons he was a more pedestrian 63-71 and in ’25 added another ERA title with a 2.63. In ’29 he had a 5-16 season and the next year was traded to Brooklyn where he went 21-14 in a couple seasons. Prior to the ’32 season when he was 41 he signed with the Giants where he became a relief guy, his best season being ’33 when he went 8-2 with four saves and a 2.69 ERA with another excellent Series outing. He stayed with NY through ’35 and finished with a record of 194-179 with a 3.24 ERA, 206 complete games, 26 shutouts, and 28 saves. He also hit .227 with five homers and 90 RBI’s and in the post-season went 1-0 in nine shutout innings with eleven K’s. He also went 93-62 in Cuba over 22 seasons and won eight titles there as a manager from 1919 through ’54, going 565-471 during that time. In the early to mid-Fifties he also managed in Mexico during the regular season, winning a couple pennants there. He passed away in 1957 back in Havana shortly thereafter at age 66.

Bucky Walters was sort of Cy Seymour in reverse. He grew up in Philadelphia and quit high school his sophomore year to work as an electrician and played semi-pro ball as a shortstop and occasional pitcher. He got signed by a scout in 1929 to a team in Alabama and then was shipped up to North Carolina where he pitched and played third, hitting .296 for the C level team. He then chucked pitching a few seasons, moving to B ball in ’30 as an infielder and to A ball in ’31 where he hit .326 while playing third. That year he was signed by the Boston Braves and moved to their system. After a mediocre season in Double A in ’32 he moved to the Pacific Coast League and hit .376 at that level in ’33 and was then sold to the Red Sox, hitting .256 up top while playing third. Midway through ’34 Bucky got sold to the Phillies, where he hit .260 and pitched his first bit in the majors. He then took on that role full-time the next season but in the next three-plus seasons went 38-53 with an NL-average 4.48 ERA, leading the NL in losses with 21 in ’36. In June of ’38 he was traded to Cincinnati where things immediately turned around. He went 11-6 the rest of the way and lowered his ERA by almost two runs. In ’39 he won the pitching triple crown and an MVP award with 27 wins, a 2.29 ERA, and 137 strikeouts in 319 innings. In ’40 he again led the NL with 22 wins and a 2.48 ERA. In ’41 he won 19 while leading the NL in innings with over 300 for the third season in a row. After winning 15 each of the next two years he went 23-8 in ’44 in his last of five All-Star years. He pitched very well the next two seasons though his workload dropped and finished things up with the Reds in ’48, going a combined 198-160 with a 3.30 ERA, 242 complete games, and 42 shutouts. He made it to the Series in both ’39 and ’40, going 2-2 with a 2.79 ERA with a shutout in four starts. He also hit .243 lifetime. In ’48 and ’49 Bucky managed the Reds after his release as a player and went a combined 81-123. He then moved back to Boston as a Braves coach from ’50 to ’55 except in ’52 when he managed in Triple A for half a season and won a league title. He was then a coach with the Giants (’56-’57) and an administrator with the Phillies (’58-’59) before leaving baseball in ’60 to become a sales rep with the Ferco Machine Screw Company in Philly for a bunch of years until he retired. In ’77 he lost a leg and then suffered kidney failure and eventually passed away from that disease in ’91 when he was 82.

I’ll do the hook-up on the next post also.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#458 - Jim Ray

Sometimes, like with Chuck Goggin from the last post, one can get a decent amount of information on guys who barely played in the majors. Then sometimes the reverse happens: guys with fairly significant careers have nothing out there. That’s pretty much the case with this guy. Jim Ray – a contender for the shortest name in the set – was a bullpen stopper for the Astros until shortly before this card came out. He’s shown here on a nasty spring training facility that brings to mind the Houston one but Jim is in an away jersey. That warning track – my guess – looks like it may have a big hole obscured in part by Jim’s right thigh. But the card sort of matches the trajectory of Jim’s career at this point. His ’73 season was running on the same arc as the last two-thirds of his ’72 one, which was derailed apparently by a hurt arm. His control continued to go out the window as his walks outmatched his strikeouts and when the opportunity came to get him elsewhere for a lefty reliever the Astros jumped on it, resulting in the Traded card here. But he did post a winning record with six saves his final year in Houston and for four-plus years he had a nice run so one would think he’d have had some newsworthy moments. Maybe the guy really just needed a PR person.

Jim Ray was born in South Carolina and somewhere along the line he relocated to Holly, Michigan, where in high school he was a four-sport star. That usually meant the big three plus a season of track. He was signed by the Orioles upon graduating in ’63 and turned in some spanking numbers his first summer, going 5-0 in Rookie ball with 78 K’s in 50 innings and pitching a couple scoreless innings in A ball. He was then taken by Houston in the first year draft and his next year-plus had to work around his military commitment. In ’64 he moved to Double A where his numbers were pretty good though his walk totals were getting fat. In ’65 excellent numbers – a combined 9-7 with a 2.71 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 133 innings – got him his debut in Houston. ’66 was all Triple A as he finished up his military time and put up OK numbers. ’67 was a bit bipolar for Jim as he went 8-1 with a 1.30 ERA in Double A and then 3-11 with a 4.24 in Triple A, again putting up around a strikeout an inning. But those numbers were good enough to get him in Houston where he spent the better part of the next six seasons.

Ray had been a fastball and curve specialist in the minors and was primarily a starter at those levels. In his rookie year of ’68 he became a relief guy, mostly in middle innings, and pitched some nice ball, including seven shutout innings in the monster 24-inning game against the Mets. In ’69 he moved into a swing role and earned the nicknames “ray gun” and “stinger” for his strikeout total, which matched his innings. Control-wise it was his best season and in ’70 though his numbers were generally very good as he moved back to the pen full-time – he had five saves – his strikeout totals nearly halved. Houston’s pitching coach, Jim Owens, decided that this Jim was losing control throwing from the windup and had him work on throwing from the set position. Initially it worked very well and though in ’71 Jim’s K totals were less than half of his innings, his walks moved down as well, and he had his best season, winning double figures in relief and posting three saves. ’72 started off even better – a 7-0 record with a 1.85 ERA and three saves through late May. But then came a disastrous run leading up to his first loss a few weeks later during which he gave up ten earned runs and five walks in less than five innings. That run came after missing some time in the wake of experiencing some arm pain, which may or may not have been serious though it was never diagnosed and he spent no time on the DL. The rest of the year he went 3-8 with around a 4.11 ERA as the walk totals moved up. In ’73 his work load decreased and at the end of the season he and Gary Sutherland went to Detroit for lefty Fred Scherman.

Ray’s time in Detroit didn’t go too swimmingly. John Hiller was in the midst of his remarkable comeback from his heart attack and got the bulk of the Tigers relief work. Jim only got into 28 games and went 1-3 with a 4.47 ERA as his walks again topped his strikeouts. After the season he went to Pittsburgh for whom he did not play. After shoulder surgery and aborted comeback attempts with the White Sox in ’75 and with Houston in ’76 – both in the minors – he was done. He finished with a record of 43-30 with a 3.61 ERA and 35 saves; in the minors he went 38-32 with a 3.39 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning.

And that’s it. There is pretty much nothing out there on this guy. He got a couple token mentions in “Ball Four”, mostly by getting into a fight with another pitcher on the bus. And he’s a tough guy to do searches on, especially since his name is so close to the guy that assassinated MLK.

The card back is pretty simple and shows off his hot start to the ’72 season. But the cartoon doesn’t give too much information. None of his ever did so at least for this writer he was and has stayed very private.

Topps goes tongue-in-cheek on us for the trade headline. As noted above the anticipated duo never really got going. According to Jim in an interview back then he wasn’t even used the first 44 games of the season.

Houston’s big moment that it contributed to the ’76 centennial was the opening of the Astrodome on April 9, 1965. The Colt .45’s had recently been re-christened the Astros in honor of the new stadium which in turn was named for the nearby space program. Though the regular season had already begun the first game was an exhibition one against the Yankees, whose new manager Johnny Keane was a Houston native. Everyone came to the game including President Lyndon Johnson, a native Texan. The game went 12 innings and was forever tied 1-1. Mickey Mantle had put NY up top with a monster solo homer and Houston tied it on a run-scoring single. The game was won by Nellie Fox, who by then was a coach, when he lined a run-scoring single.

I’ll use a guy who actually played with both these players, but not enough with the newer one:

1. Ray and Jimmy Wynn ’65-’66 and ’68 to ’73 Astros;
2. Wynn and Sonny Jackson ’65-’67 Astros;
3. Jackson and Chuck Goggin ’73 Braves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#457 - Chuck Goggin

Two rookie cards in a row! I do believe this is the first occurrence of that in this set and this event is a bit deflated by the fact that it is also Chuck Goggin’s final card. In terms of MLB service that makes him a pretty definitive counterpoint to the Dave Winfield card. Chuck looks like he’s got the sun in his eyes at Shea but the sun shining on Chuck was pretty rare during his baseball career. Between injuries and military time the odds were pretty stacked against him getting a card at all. ’73 would be his only significant season up top as an early-season sale took him from Pittsburgh to Atlanta where he led the bench players – called “F-Troop” in the press – as Davey Johnson’s back-up at second. Chuck did pretty well in his limited time, too, as he put up a .289 average. But everything about him seems pretty prosaic until one does some digging. Then he gets pretty interesting.

Chuck Goggin came out of Pompano Beach, Florida, where he was a schoolboy baseball star and then attended Broward Community College to play ball. But he was signed by the Dodgers before he had a chance to play and that summer of '64 hit about .215 while playing for two A League teams in a season marred by some serious damage to his knee while sliding. The next year at the same level he hit much better with a relatively healthy knee. But the injury would return to haunt him: later that season when he and a few teammates – one of whom was Don Sutton – went to enlist – voluntary enlistment back then got lots of ballplayers stateside duty instead of overseas – Chuck failed his physical because of his knee. But then someone changed his status to 1-A and so he was drafted into the Marines, following his dad and uncle who were both pilots, and sent to Viet Nam after a few months of training in ’66. Over there he was an artillery guy and later in ’67 he stepped on a land mine. While he escaped crippling injuries he did get some shrapnel embedded that required operations and lots of recuperating time. Still, Chuck was a gamer and when he returned he got moved up to Double A where he split time between all infield positions but first and had his best year on the basepaths with 14 steals. Then in the late fall Instructional League he met Tommy Lasorda who turned him into a switch-hitter. The results were pretty dramatic the next year when at Triple A Chuck kicked off the season hitting .318 with some decent power. But then everything collapsed when he got a nasty ankle injury. While he was recuperating from that the Dodgers sent him to Pittsburgh for future HOF pitcher Jim Bunning.

With the Pirates Goggin had a crappy IL performance in the autumn of ’69, mostly due to the effects of the injury. In ’70 in Triple A between still coming back and his now institutionalized designation as utility player he didn’t get a whole lot of at bats. But he did put in a few games at catcher and in spring training of ’71 he offered to go back down a level if he could be the starting catcher – the Pirates had no real prospects at the Double A level at that position – and while his work defensively was serviceable he shined offensively, hitting so well at .311 hat he got moved back to Triple A mid-season and continued his torrid hitting there. In ’72 he remained at Charleston where he had another nice offensive year and returned to second base. At the end of the season he went up for his debut and got his first two hits in the same game that Roberto Clemente got his final one, his 3,000th (one of Chuck’s prized possessions is a photo of Roberto and him holding the balls from their respective hits). In ’73 after a decent spring he began the season on the Pittsburgh roster but rarely played and was returned to Triple A before he was sold to Atlanta. In ’74 with Davey Johnson moving mostly to first base, Chuck was looking forward to lots more playing time but – of course – got a nasty back injury in spring training. He was sent to Boston for catcher Vic Correll and after a few games as a Sox was sent down to Triple A where he hit .221 as the regular second baseman. By then he was 28, had reduced mobility because of his back, and was acting as a player-coach by the end of the season so he decided to retire as a player. He finished up top with a .293 average in 99 at bats and in the minors hit .262.

Here's Chuck's photo with Roberto:

Goggin coached another season in the minors in ’75 and then in ’76 became a co-manager in the Atlanta system. In ’77 he moved to the Cincinnati one for two seasons and finished in the States with a record of 161-171. He then moved to Mexico where in ’79 he won the Pacific League championship with the Navojoa Mayos, a team whose star outfielder was Ricky Henderson. He then returned to the Nashville area where he had a long career as a US marshal. His name briefly gained some national prominence when his pilot brother James was busted in Florida for transporting bundles of cocaine worth about $16 million. Chuck was still in Nashville when his brother was killed in an airplane accident in 2004. He seems to have fallen off the media radar since then.

Chuck sure has a lot of stat lines for his 98 at bats and his one star bullet regards perhaps his favorite day as a pro. He is one of only two MLB players to have been injured in Viet Nam.

Atlanta’s contribution to the ’76 baseball centennial was very timely for this set and is strongly hinted at in the first few cards of the set. It was Hank Aaron’s 715th home run which broke Babe Ruth’s record. Hank finished ’73 having hit 713 and tied Babe with a homer against Cincinnati. There was lots of drama leading up to the big bash, the nastiest part of it being the hate mail and death threats Hank received. April 8, 1974 was the Atlanta home opener against the Dodgers, who started Al Downing. Al was actually pitching a pretty good game though LA had already made three errors behind him when Hank came up for his second plate appearance – he walked in the second inning – in the fourth. With Darrell Evans on because of one of those errors, Hank tapped a pitch to deep left field that landed in the Atlanta bullpen, which made retrieving the ball a lot easier. The Braves went on to win 7-4.

Given ’73 was Chuck’s only extended stay in the majors, this one may take an extra step:

1. Goggin and Pat Dobson ’73 Braves;
2. Dobson and Clarence Gaston ’70 Padres;
3. Gaston and Dave Winfield ’73 to ’74 Padres.

Monday, November 12, 2012

#456 - Dave Winfield

These cards are always fun – a rookie card of a Hall-of-Famer. Dave Winfield looks poised and cocky at Jack Murphy Stadium probably shortly after his debut. Dave went straight from the College World Series to the Padres in ’73 and never looked back, playing not one inning of minor league ball. He had quite a busy year, jumping from the NIT’s in hoops to the baseball season to the pros, much of it related on the card back. And his rookie stats, while not overwhelming, were pretty good when one considers the team on which Dave played. But perhaps his most telling statistic, which doesn’t appear anywhere on the card, is that Dave, relatively flush with his “around $100,000” signing bonus, was already buying up groups of tickets to home games to donate to local hard-luck kids and their families. Seems Dave started being a good guy at a young age.

Dave Winfield was born and raised in St. Paul and played hoops and baseball in high school. Drafted by the Orioles upon graduating in ’69 he instead opted for a full ride for baseball at the University of Minnesota where he continued both sports (more on the back). The Padres nabbed him in the first round of ’73 and he was on the field shortly after the end of the CWS in which his guys were runner-ups to USC. Until then Dave was actually primarily a pitcher but following the Goldpanners’ lead San Diego told him he was strictly a fielder and so Dave set up shop in the outfield, the first couple seasons in left and then for the duration of his Padres years in right. He pretty much improved every year, posting his first 25-homer and 90-RBI season his first of twelve successive All-Star seasons in ’77. His best season was probably ’79 when he hit .308 with a .395 OBA, 34 homers, and 118 RBI’s and won his first of what would be seven Gold Gloves in the next nine seasons. He also ramped up his charity work, adding health care to his menu and having part of his renegotiated salary go directly to buy tickets for the kids. In ’80 his numbers came in a bit and after the season he became a free agent, signing with the Yankees.

Winfield’s timing in moving to Yankee Stadium wasn’t crazy great. His first year was the strike one and while his numbers pretty much paralleled his best back in San Diego and he won the first of his six Silver Sluggers he sort of imploded in the post-season although I will say he forever endeared himself to this fan when he asked for the ball after his lone Series hit against LA. With Reggie leaving prior to the next season the Yankees fell into a prolonged rut post-season-wise though Dave put up excellent numbers the rest of the decade, averaging about 26 homers and 104 RBI’s his seven full seasons. He was also a class act, continuing to expand his foundation and handling George Steinbrenner’s constantly berating crap with poise and humor. In ’89 he hurt his back and missed the entire season and after a slow start to the follow-up season was traded that May to the Angels for pitcher Mike Witt. The balance of that year and the next went pretty well and in ’90 he won Comeback Player of the Year. He again became a free agent after the ’91 season and signed with Toronto for whom he DH’d and won his final Silver Slugger in his last 100-RBI year. He also finally got back to the post-season and while his numbers weren’t so great, he did get some redemption by knocking in the Series-winner against Atlanta. It was a one-year gig and he signed with his – nearly – hometown Twins in ’93 at age 41, putting up 21 homers and recording his 3,000th hit. In ’94 he endured another strike year and during it was traded to Cleveland. By then his back was a hot mess and once that season started he put in a few games at DH but missed the post-season and then retired. He hit .283 for his career with 3,110 hits, 540 doubles, 88 triples, 465 homers, and 1,833 RBI’s. His OBA was .353, definitely not a HOF value, but pretty good in light of his enormous strike zone. Defensively he is currently 20th all-time in assists from right field. In the post-season he hit .208 with a couple homers and nine RBI’s in 26 games.

Winfield has remained pretty high-profile and busy since his playing days. He has broadcast for both Fox and ESPN and has had a morning radio show on the west coast. He has also done one-off narration gigs for various specials. He does speaking gigs all the time and remains actively involved with his and other athletes’ foundations. He was inducted into the Hall on his first ballot in 2001.

Dave’s card back is all college stuff so this is a good place to toss around information about his younger days. In high school both he and his brother were on two American Legion state champs. At Minnesota Dave played freshman hoops and baseball and after a sophomore year off from the former sport made the varsity team as a walk-on his junior year. He averaged 5.4 rebounds and nearly seven points per game as Minnesota won the Big Ten and made it to the second round of the NCAA’s. His senior year he upped his numbers to 6.1 rpg and 10.5 ppg as the team had a better overall record and went to the NIT”s. In baseball he made varsity his sophomore year and his first two seasons was pretty much exclusively a pitcher. In the summer of ’71 he played for the Goldpanners in Alaska where he pitched and hit well. When he returned to Alaska after his junior year in ’72 the Goldpanners decided his bat was of more value and he was made an outfielder, pitching more sparingly. His two-year stats in Alaska were 13-4 with a 3.71 ERA, five saves, and 143 strikeouts in 128 innings with a .308 average, 18 homers, and 72 RBI’s in 84 games. He was the team MVP his second year. His senior year at Minnesota he followed suit, getting lots more at bats. He didn’t disappoint, hitting .384 with eight homers and 33 RBI’s. On the mound that year he was 9-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 62 innings (the card says 82 but the 62 seems more likely for ten starts). For his career at Minnesota he hit .354 with nine homers and 42 RBI’s in 64 games. Regarding the draft bullet, the one unnamed team was the Utah Stars, who were led by Willie Wise and Ron Boone. Dave sported a pretty kicking ‘fro back then so it would have been fun to see Willie and him and their hair on the courts together. Here they are:

For San Diego’s contribution to the ’76 baseball centennial the team offered up Nate Colbert’s big day in a ’72 double-header. The games took place August 1 at Atlanta and Nate went a combined seven for nine with seven runs scored and 13 RBI’s. His first game line was 5-3-4-5 with a single and two homers. The second game line was 4-4-3-8 with all the hits being homers, one a grand slam. He raised his average 14 points that day which is an awfully tough thing to do that late in a season. Ironically Dave’s coming of age for the Padres is one thing that eventually made Nate expendable.

With two left coast guys this exercise gets pretty easy:

1. Winfield and Tito Fuentes ’75 to ’76 Padres;
2. Fuentes and Tom Bradley ’73 to ’74 Giants.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

#455- Tom Bradley

Here is an action shot of Tom Bradley pitching on a beautiful sunny day in front of a fervent crowd at Candlestick. I think there are five fans behind Tom and Chris Speier, which is pretty sad, especially if this game is from the early part of the season, when the Giants were playing good ball. Tom was the first of the ’72 trio of White Sox innings hogs to get out of Dodge, moving to San Fran for Ken Henderson and Steve Stone. His initial effort for the Giants was pretty good with 13 wins and one of only two winning records in the rotation but the damage from the prior two seasons was already in motion as his ERA moved up a run, his strikeout totals plunged, and the homers he gave up ratcheted up pretty good. The season started well with Tom opening 5-2 with an ERA around 3.00 but a nagging ankle injury – it had been broken in April and he’d missed a month – kept eating away at his numbers. Both ’74 and ’75 would be more extreme performance downticks and he’d be out of playing time in a few years, but not out of baseball.

Tom Bradley was born in North Carolina and relocated to Virginia as a kid. He played hoops and baseball in high school and despite very poor eyesight earned a scholarship to the University of Maryland. There he played with Gene Hiser of a couple posts back and like Gene was all-ACC a couple seasons, ’67 and ’68, when he went a combined 10-4 with an ACC-record 1.34 ERA. The latter year, his junior one, he was taken by California in the draft and in ’69 he got things rolling with an excellent year in which he succeeded at every level from Rookie to Double A (but didn’t do too well at Triple A or his debut up top) and went a combined 15-6 with a 2.78 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning. In ’70 he did even better, going 14-1 with a 2.42 ERA split between Double and Triple A and then had a mediocre rookie year for the Angels. After that season he, Jay Johnstone, and Tom Egan went to the White Sox for Ken Berry, Syd O’Brien, and Billy Wynne.

In ’71 Bradley immediately earned a spot in the Chicago rotation where he posted an excellent ERA, recorded over 200 strikeouts, and helped revive a team that had fallen on hard times the past few seasons. In ’72 he, Wilbur Wood, and Stan Bahnsen combined to post 130 of the team’s 154 starts as they nearly pulled off a division crown. Tom had his best season, upping his K total and posting another sub-3.00 ERA. Then with the foreseen development of the team’s young staff, Tom was moved to San Francisco after the season. He is airbrushed into a Giants hat on his ’73 card and bears a striking resemblance to Bo Hopkins, one of a few actors who was supposed to be the next James Dean. After his first year for the Giants, Tom won his first start in ’74 and by mid-May was 4-4 with a 3.08 ERA. The next game he filled in as a mop-up guy and felt his shoulder snap. He would later be diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury and from that point on his pitching career was pretty much toast. He went 4-7 with a 6.40 ERA the rest of the season. He and Ron Bryant had gone a combined 37-24 in ’73 and in ’74 fell to 11-26, which went a long way to explain the team’s losing record that year. In ’75 Tom’s numbers really didn’t improve and he was demoted to Triple A, where he went 5-3 and pulled his ERA down a couple runs. After the season he hooked up with Oakland but for that team's Triple A club he went only 5-9 with a 6.51 ERA and then retired. He finished up top with a 55-61 record with a 3.72 ERA, 27 complete games, and ten shutouts. In the minors he was 39-19 with a 3.82 ERA.

Bradley immediately became a coach, something that had been on his radar for a while. By ’72 he had completed his degree at Maryland with a BA in Latin and Greek. In ’78 he became the pitching coach at St. Mary’s College and the following season became the head coach at Jacksonville University where in twelve seasons he went 431-291-1. When the position at his alma mater became available in ’91 he jumped on it and in ten years there he went 243-306-5. In 2001 he moved back to the pros where he managed in the Toronto system and went 20-56. From 2002 to ’05 he was a pitching coach for various franchises and then in 2006 he moved to the same role in the Padres system which he did through 2010. For the past couple years he has been helping out his son Andy as pitching coach at Gonzaga High School in the DC area. 

I am not sure where Tom pitched semi-pro ball in ’66 nor that he technically did since that was a big no-no for college players back then. At least according to that third bullet he pitched for one big crowd during his career. He did that ticket gig at both Chicago and San Francisco. It was when he was with the White Sox that he gave Goose Gossage his nickname after he watched Gossage throw goose eggs during a game. Tom has a lengthy SABR bio.

Just for the heck of it and because I'm too lazy to add the HTML stuff, here is Tom's '73 card and the Bo Hopkins photo. See what I mean?

Now that San Francisco has won two of the last three Series, the team’s contribution to the ’76 centennial doesn’t seem like a big deal but in ’76 it had been a long time since the team had gotten that far. So the Giants contributed their ’62 NL pennant which took a three-game playoff to settle after the team finished the regular season tied with LA. The teams each split the first two games and the clincher was pretty ugly. San Fran was down 4-2 entering the ninth. Willie Mays knocked in one run with a one-out single, which was nice, and then Orlando Cepeda tied things up with a sacrifice fly. The Giants then scored two runs on a bases-loaded walk and an error and then LA went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. The Series was a lot better and ended when Bobby Richardson made a great stab at a Willie McCovey liner with the tying run on third.

Another pitcher helps out on the hook-up:

1. Bradley and John D’Acquisto ’73 to ’75 Giants;
2. D’Acquisto and Kurt Bevacqua ’79 to ’80 Padres.