Thursday, January 31, 2013

#493 - Joe Hoerner

I don’t think I ever saw a baseball card growing up in which Joe Hoerner didn’t have an expression in which he looked annoyed. So I always thought the guy was a sort of morose hanger-on until I did some research for this post. On his ’67 card he actually has a devilish grin which seems to be much more appropriate for the type of guy he was. Even before he was established he was a cutup, like the time in ’64 he threw a spitter by Don Drysdale just to see his reaction (Drysdale, Joe, and the umpire all cracked up over that one). But in ’73 he had reason to frown. He missed the first two months of the year to get torn cartilage removed from his knee and returned in June to post more fat ERA numbers – though he did get a couple saves – for the Braves which continued his tough time in Atlanta since his trade there in ’72. In mid-July he was sold to Kansas City where the ERA remained awfully high even though he won two and saved four without a loss in relief. All that after he’d reported some excellent numbers in the pen for the Cards and Phillies for a bunch of years. And he did that all with a heart ailment that would have kept most people from the game in the first place.

Joe Hoerner came out of Dubuque, Iowa, where he grew up on a 250-acre farm and his dad was a sheriff. He was an outfielder and a pitcher in high school and in ’54 helped pitch his team to a state title. Shortly thereafter he was in a nasty car accident in which he separated his shoulder, broke some ribs, and apparently damaged his heart. After graduating he worked locally and also played some semi-pro ball. In ’56 he was discovered by the White Sox who signed him early the next year. His start that summer in C ball was a 16-5 season with a 2.58 ERA. In ’58 he moved up to B ball where in the midst of a decent season he collapsed on the mound due to his new heart condition. In ’59 he split the year between three levels but nearly all in relief as he collapsed again a couple times and spent a bunch of the season in various hospitals. While the imaging technology of the day could find nothing specifically wrong it was theorized by Joe’s doctors that his overhand windup was somehow constricting blood flow in his heart and so from then on he became a sidearm pitcher. In ’60 he got things back together and went 11-9 with a 2.97 ERA as a swing guy in A ball. In ’61 he moved back to the rotation at the same level where despite a very good ERA he went 6-13. In ’62 it was back to the swing role which seemed to work better for him as he went 9-1 with a 2.49. Prior to that season he was taken in the minor league draft by the Colt .45’s and for them that year he threw a couple innings in Triple A. In ’63 it was all Double A as he went 11-7 with much higher K totals. He also made his debut in Houston that year with three shutout relief innings. In ’64 he again got some inconclusive work up top but in Triple A settled in nicely as a strictly relief guy, going 3-3 with a 1.31 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 62 innings. ’65 was all Triple A with similar results: 8-3 with a 1.94 ERA. After that season he was selected by the Cards in the Rule 5 draft.

For Hoerner his long road to the Major Leagues resulted in his being a rookie at age 29. His timing was pretty good, though, in that it gave him a year to establish himself in the Cards pen with a near-perfect season that included 13 saves. So when St. Louis rolled to two Series the next couple years Joe was an integral part of the bullpen, with excellent control and a total of 32 saves. He still had occasional blackouts on the mound but he always returned shortly thereafter. He didn’t throw too well in the post-season but in ’69 as most of his teammates faded a bit he still threw excellent ball, recording another 15 saves. At the end of the year St. Louis was looking to revamp things and Joe got included in a big high-profile trade: he, Byron Browne, Tim McCarver, and Curt Flood went to the Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson, and Cookie Rojas. It was the trade that got Allen out of Philly and set the wheels rolling on free agency when Flood refused to report. Joe went a more tranquil route and picked up pretty much where he left off in St. Louis as he set a personal record with nine wins and recorded as many saves despite losing time to his biggest heart-related episode in years and a broken finger late in the season. That year he made the All-Star team. ’71 was another nine saves and more nice numbers even though Philly was stinking things up back then. In ’72 a pretty good start to the season was arrested with his June trade with Andre/Andy Thornton to the Braves for Jim Nash and Gary Neibauer.

After the disappointment of the past couple seasons Hoerner posted some better numbers for Kansas City in ’74, including a 3.82 ERA and a couple saves. Immediately before the All-Star game he threw one-hit shutout ball in five innings of relief but then barely got used the rest of the year. He was released immediately after and then signed back with the Phillies. He only got into 25 games for the reviving franchise but made the most of it with a 2.57 ERA. He was then signed by the Rangers for ’76 for whom he recorded eight saves but otherwise went 0-4 with a 5.14 ERA. In ’77 he closed things down with a few innings for the Reds split between Triple A and Cincinnati. Joe finished with a record of 39-34 with a 2.99 ERA and 99 saves in 493 games. In his five post-season games he went 0-1 with a save and an 8.44 ERA.

Hoerner was a pretty busy guy in the off-seasons. For years he worked back home in construction. During his stay in St. Louis he and Dal Maxvill established their own travel agency which they both continued to do after playing. Dal tended to run the office side while Joe would lead tours around the country, especially baseball-themed ones. Joe also played in a bunch of fantasy camps and worked his farm back in Iowa. He was doing that when in ’96 he was involved in a tractor accident that proved fatal. He was 59.

That’s a pretty obvious star bullet. There were some better ones including the no-hitter he threw his first season in pro ball followed up a month later by eight innings of relief in another no-no. The reference to Wally Schirra is pretty cool. Wally was one of the original Mercury astronauts and as one was pretty much a folk hero throughout the Sixties. I was unable to find any details about their friendship though.

These two guys missed playing together by about a year. I like those ones:

1. Hoerner and Willie Montanez ’70 to ’72 Phillies;
2. Montanez and Mike Rogodzinski ’73 to ’75 Phillies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#492 - Mike Rogodzinski

Hey, it’s a rookie card! Hey, it’s a final card! Baseball careers went like that sometimes but at least Rogo –that was this guy’s nickname – gets immortalized in his Ray Ban’s. Mike gets his shot taken at Candlestick, a place he went o for five in ’73, so it probably wasn’t his favorite place to be. But ’73 was a tough year for him to wrap his arms around. After leading Phillies hitters in spring training with a .345 average and starting ’73 off nicely in Triple A Mike was a May call-up by the Phillies to replace Deron Johnson, who was traded to Oakland. By the end of June he managed to go o for 18 in the games he started but seven for 13 as a pinch hitter. He’d get a bit better hitting from a position the rest of the year but never really caught on. But Greg Luzinski must have enjoyed having him around when Mike was up top. Pronouncing Greg’s surname after giving a shot at Mike’s must have been a piece of cake.

Mike Rogodzinski grew up in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. In high school ball he was a pitcher and an outfielder and was a four-year varsity starter who was going great guns until he was injured his senior year. He still hit .416 though and then went to Southern Illinois to play. His sophomore year of ’68 was a good one as he was all-conference with ten homers and 36 RBI’s. Skip Pitlock, who would have a Topps card in ’75, was the team’s leading pitcher. He also helped take the Salukis to second place in the CWS which they lost to USC and Brent Strom. He then put in another season before being drafted in the second round by the Phillies in ’69. He returned to school for a semester and signed with Philadelphia in January 1970 and then that summer led his Double A league in triples. He also tended to generate some pretty big strikeout totals – 129 that first year. In ’71 at the same level he was an all-star though he missed a bunch of games with a broken thumb. In ’72 he got bumped up to Triple A and a pretty crowded outfield – Oscar Gamble, Joe Lis, Byron Browne, Mike Anderson, and Bill Robinson were other MLB guys sparring for time there – so his playing time shrunk a bit as his K’s ratcheted up. But so did the homers and so after that fast start in ’73 he got pushed upstairs. ’74 didn’t go crazy great for Mike in Philly with only one hit in 15 at bats and his highlight was probably a bases-loaded walk issued to him by Mike Marshall that won a game against the Dodgers. Back in Triple A his average sunk to .238 and his power ebbed a bit as well. ’75 was split between Double and Triple A as he experimented a bit as a catcher but the offensive numbers that year were pretty weak. He got his third and final call-up to Philly where he hit .263 mostly in the pinch. It would be his final season as a player and Mike finished with a .219 average with a couple homers and twelve RBI’s in 114 at bats. In the minors he hit .252 with 64 homers and 271 RBI’s.

Immediately after playing Rogodzinski stuck around the Philadelphia area where he took a gig selling furniture at Nate Ben’s Reliable, a local retail icon. He did that through ’89, which was pretty good timing since the following year the store was busted big for under-reporting its revenues and under-paying its sales taxes. Mike testified for the prosecution and was not involved in the scam but the three Ben family members who owned the place all went to jail and the store filed for bankruptcy a few years later. Since then Mike’s name has come up occasionally in local Phillies events though there is no information out there regarding his professional activities since the late Eighties. He has a Facebook page and appears to still reside in the Philadelphia area.

This is Topps' only stab at giving important info on Mike and the guys do OK, though they could have expounded a bit. Rogo made the all-tournament team in ’68 and later that summer in the Olympics he actually won the whole thing with a game-winning double in the finale.

In 1976 the Phillies submitted as their entry for that year’s baseball centennial Jim Bunning’s perfect game. That game was pitched June 21, 1964 against the Mets in the first game of a double header. It was Bunning’s second no-no as he’d thrown one for Detroit in ’58. It was an impressive game – yeah the Mets back then were terrible, but still – in that Bunning went to three balls on a batter only twice and only four Mets balls made it to the outfield. Tony Taylor turned in the big defensive gem when he speared a hot drive by Jesse Gonder between first and second in the fifth inning. He, Dick Allen, and Johnny Callison provided the offense as Bunning won 6-0 to go 7-3 on the year. He struck out ten.

1973 was the only year Rogo had decent time up top so that’s our starting point:

1. Rogodzinski and Tommy Hutton ’73 to ’75 Phillies;
2. Hutton and John Mayberry ’78 Blue Jays;
3. Mayberry and Roger Nelson ’72 Royals.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#491 - Roger Nelson

This is the penultimate card of Roger Nelson’s. I’ve been looking to use that word for some time and Roger’s post is as good as any, particularly given the season he just had. The Reds played two series at Shea during ’73, one in early May when things were going pretty well for Roger, and one in August, when they were not. In between he spent a lot of time on the DL from an elbow injury that would require surgery after the season. While his abbreviated numbers were pretty good and he’d make his post-season debut with a couple shutout innings the year was a big disappointment after his big renaissance the prior season. Still this card is a huge uptick to his ’75 one with an airbrushed close-up showing how Coke bottle-y those glasses of his truly were. But at least he went out with a smile.

Roger Nelson was born and raised in California and in high school in Covina he was a cross country runner, defensive basketball star, and a pitcher. His senior year he went 8-2 while putting up an ERA of 0.56 – two losses? – on lots of strikeouts. That year of ’63 he was signed by the White Sox and that summer in Rookie ball he continued the big K totals, with 83 in 64 innings. But he was wild also and only went 5-4 with a 4.78 ERA. In ’64 he improved his ERA a bunch in A ball to 2.62 on better control while setting a league strikeout record and in ’65 he posted his best record at that level with a 9-7 on a 3.12 ERA. In ’66 he went 6-10 in Double A with a 3.78 ERA on improving control and the next year spent all his time in the pen in Triple A where his control continued to get better but his ERA got pretty fat. He debuted for the Sox that September and gave up only a solo homer in his seven innings of work. After the season he went to Baltimore in a big trade that saw Don Buford go east with him and Luis Aparicio return to the Sox.

The plan for Nelson with the Orioles was to bring him up into the pen and let him work his way into the rotation but things didn’t quite work out that way. Roger had to do a bunch of service time and when he returned he put up some really nice numbers in swing work for the O’s. It got noticed because that winter the new Kansas City franchise made him its first pick in the expansion draft. The immediate results were pretty good as Roger threw the team’s first shutout but poor run support led to a losing record even though his ERA was way better than average. In ’70 he was expected to be one of the rotation’s top guys but things went south really fast when tendonitis completely wrecked his season. It was a slow comeback and most of ’71 was spent in Triple A where he went 2-3 in only eleven starts before putting up some not great numbers in KC. That year he was advised to learn a knuckleball to reduce the strain on his arm. But Roger, whose nickname was Spider due to his lots of flailing body parts when he pitched, was never comfortable with that pitch. So prior to the ’72 season he decided to go back to the heat and he returned to the big club, starting the season in the pen. But his work was so good that before long he was in the rotation. He nearly no-hit the Red Sox, giving up only an eighth-inning single to Ben Oglivie, and had a nice long run of shutout innings. By the time he was done he was 11-6 with a club-record 2.08 ERA that still stands. He put up a total of six shutouts and he led the AL in lowest amount of base runners per nine innings. He was named Royals Pitcher of the Year but by the time of the award dinner he’d been traded to Cincinnati with Richie Scheinblum, the other big Royals surprise in ’72, for Wayne Simpson and Hal McRae.

That trade was hugely beneficial for the Royals as both Scheinblum and Nelson would go on to have some tough times career-wise. Roger had that nasty ’73 and when he returned after his operation he had the Reds’ best pitching stats of spring training. But Roger couldn’t get too much starting time that year and he only got in a dozen of them, going 4-4 with a 3.38 ERA. Following the season he was sold to the White Sox for whom he again had an excellent spring, putting up a 1.13 ERA. But he didn’t work into Chicago’s plans and he was released before camp broke. He hooked up with Oakland and for the A’s it was strictly a Triple A year where he went 7-8 with a 3.73 ERA in twenty starts. After being released he returned as a free agent to KC where he again did the Triple A thing, this time going 6-6 with a 3.00 ERA and 16 saves, all in relief. He put in his last time up top that year, again posting a 2.08 ERA, though this time in only nine innings. In ’77 he returned to Omaha where he again recorded 16 saves while going 5-3 and in ’78 he reprised that role for Pittsburgh’s Triple A club, recording ten saves and three wins. In ’79 he threw a game in the Pittsburgh system before going to Mexico to pitch for Chihuahua. That was his last year. Roger went 29-32 with a 3.06 ERA, 20 complete games, seven shutouts, and four saves up top and 51-56 with a 3.55 ERA and 42 saves in the minors. In the playoffs he threw hitless ball in a couple innings.

Roger Nelson is a tough name to track and most sites point you to the musician Prince, whose full name is Prince Rogers Nelson. But whatever he did following baseball he retired from in 2000, so there’s a pretty good shot he was quite successful at it since he’d have only been 56 around then. In the 2005 headline from which I garnered that bit Roger indicated he and his wife Marion had been living since his retirement mostly on the road in their RV and were having a great time. It appears that these days his quasi-permanent residence is in Florida.

That first star bullet refers to a game in which Roger threw 14 innings and struck out 22 batters. Roger looks like a cross-country guy. No knock, just sayin’.

From a former Red to a fairly short-lived one, this one should be short:

1. Nelson and Pete Rose ’73 to ’74 Reds;
2. Rose and Vada Pinson ’63 to ’68 Reds.    

Monday, January 28, 2013

#490 - Vada Pinson

California had quite a few action shots in this set and I’ve always liked this one. The only complaint about it I have – and this is something sort of endemic to this set – is that it shows the subject, here Vada Pinson, on a swing and a miss, given the ball in the mitt of the catcher, who I’m guessing is Thurman Munson. That would make the venue Yankee Stadium, which looks about right. There’s a lot going on in the background. There are seven guys visible on the Angels bench but the only one at which I am going to hazard a guess on is Frank Robinson, second from the left. There appears to be a Yankee cap on a fan in the upper left but what really solidifies my guess as to the setting is that there are at least five fans who have no problem standing up in front of everyone while there is action worth watching on the field, including two guys to the right chatting away. Now that’s NYC behavior. This shot of Vada is taken during his second and final season as an Angel and by the time the card came out he was in Kansas City after a trade. By the time of the photo he was miles and years away from his prime as one of MLB’s premier center fielders. He was still a starter, though now in left field, and could still bank occasionally, but years of wear and tear on his legs sapped his speed and took away a bunch of his ability to torque his swing and therefore generate power. Still, he was a lefty and one of the nicest guys in the league and he’d be able to hang out a couple more seasons with the Royals. I just don’t get why Topps was so insistent on these cards of using strikes or popups for action shots of the hitters.

I had always thought Vada Pinson was from Latin America until I researched this post, but he was actually born in Memphis and relocated to California when his dad moved his family out there to work on the docks. He attended McClymonds High School in Oakland where Frank Robinson was three years ahead of him and Curt Flood one year. Vada was also a muscian and his baseball coach had to talk him into staying in ball. He was signed by Cincinnati upon graduating in ’56 and then hit .278 while playing first base in C ball the rest of the summer. In ’57 he upped those stats considerably by hitting .367 with 40 doubles, 20 triples and homers, 53 stolen bases, and 97 RBI’s. In ’58 he began the season on the Reds roster and started off hot but fell to .200 by May so he went down to Triple A where he hit .343 with eleven homers, 77 RBI’s, and 37 stolen bases, and by the end of the season was back up for good, reviving his average to .271.

In 1959 Pinson took over center field for Cincinnati and had an excellent year, leading the NL with 131 runs and 47 doubles. He would have given Willie McCovey serious competition for Rookie of the Year but the cutoff for the award back then was 90 at bats entering a season and Vada was over the mark by six. He was an All-Star, an honor he would repeat the following season. He was also a master at playing the outfield ramp at Crosley Field. In ’60 his 37 doubles again led the NL and he stole 32 bases. In ’61 his 208 hits led the league and he was a principal player in bringing Cincinnati its first title in a long time though he didn’t have a very good Series against the Yankees. He also won a Gold Glove and finished third in MVP voting to teammate Frank Robinson and Orlando Cepeda. In ’62 his average fell a bit but he posted his first season with 100 RBI’s and in ’63 he’d top out at that stat with 106 while also leading the league in hits and triples. ’64 was a tough year as he was restricted by leg ailments but missed almost no time. In ’65 he got back to posting double-digit stolen bases and he had his last season of 200-plus hits and .300-plus average. Prior to the ’66 season Robinson was traded to Baltimore and since the young power guys were still developing Vada did not see nearly as good an array of pitches as he’d seen his earlier years. Plus he was a pretty old 27 and those two features contributed to a slight withering of his stats. He put up pretty good averages in ’66 and ’67 and the latter year led the NL in triples. But his RBI totals were sliding and they bottomed out in ’68, a year the normally durable Vada missed a bunch of games due to a groin pull. He also got in dutch with Reds management when he asked his team members to sit out a game in honor of Bobby Kennedy who was assassinated that year. So he wasn’t too surprised when after that season he was traded to the Cards for Wayne Granger and Bobby Tolan.

Excited about going to the defending NL champs and playing with his old high school teammate Curt Flood, Pinson instead had another frustrating season as he took over right field from the retired Roger Maris. He’d hoped to bounce in his new surroundings but suffered a leg fracture that again robbed him of his speed and contributed to the Cards falling out of contention. After the season he went to Cleveland for Jose Cardenal and in ’70 had a pretty nice bounce in both his power and his average. In ’71 he got moved to the top of the order and his stolen base total of 25 was his highest in a bunch of years but all his other stats slid pretty hard, especially his RBI totals. That was also the year in which he, John Lowenstein, and Jack Heidemann all collided chasing a short outfield fly hit by John McCraw, sending all three to a hospital. After the season he was sent to California with Frank Baker and Alan Foster for Alex Johnson and Jerry Moses. For the Angels he was principally a left fielder his two years and in ’73 he separated his shoulder and missed some time. Prior to the ’74 season he went to the Royals for a minor leaguer. That year he hit .276 with 21 stolen bases while playing right and DH’ing but in ’75 his average fell to .223 in the same role. After being released following that season he was picked up briefly by the Brewers but was let go in spring training of ’76. Vada finished with a .286 average on 2,757 hits, 256 homers, and 1,170 RBI’s. He also stole 305 bases and in his only post-season hit .091 in five games. Defensively he ranks in the top thirty all-time for assists and putouts in center field.

Pinson pretty much immediately began coaching once his playing career ended. From ’77 to ’80 and ’82 to ’84 he was with the Mariners. He spent ’81 with the White Sox before returning to Seattle and was also with Detroit (’85-’91) and the Marlins (’93-’94). In ’95 he had a stroke and it was initially thought that he was not found for a few days after its occurrence which contributed to its seriousness. His family later denied that but the incident did keep him hospitalized until his death a few weeks later. He was 57.

So if we dispel with the old notion that 96 at bats did not a veteran make, how many guys got 200 or more hits his rookie year? Well, there are 15 of them and there is actually a quiz on Sporcle – linked to here – that I’m about to take right now to find out. I won’t spoil it but some of the answers are pretty surprising and the quiz disses Vada. Do it at your own peril. As for his off-season work, he did that for Kaiser Aerospace back home in Oakland, where he handled employee grievances. His son Vada III would be a pilot during the Persian Gulf conflict in the early Nineties.

Vada had a nice long career so let’s see if it helps in the double hook-up. First for Murtaugh as a manager:

1. Pinson and Freddie Patek ’74 to ’75 Royals;
2. Patek was managed by Danny Murtaugh on the ’70 Pirates.

Now with Murtaugh as a player. This one won’t be nearly as long as the last one:

1. Pinson and Gus Bell ’58 to ’61 Reds;
2. Bell and Danny Murtaugh ’50 to ’51 Pirates.

Friday, January 25, 2013

#489 - Danny Murtaugh/Pirates Field Leaders

Danny Murtaugh had one of those mugs that looked like it was always old. Here he poses in the Pittsburgh dugout during the first year of his fourth term managing the team. Danny had heart problems – in the literal but certainly not figurative sense – and had to step down from the manager gig a couple times because of them. Danny was pulled back this time after his buddy Bill Virdon was fired in September; Virdon had replaced him for a time in ’71 and then full-time after Danny resigned following that season. The Pirates were a game under .500 but only two back when the change happened. Willie Stargell was having a great year and the new outfield kids Richie Zisk and Dave Parker were stepping up but the loss of Roberto Clemente was a bummer and the sudden loss of control by staff ace Steve Blass was too much for Virdon to overcome. Danny got his team within a week into first place by a game-and-a-half. But the Mets were steamrolling then and Danny’s overall record of .500 the rest of the year wasn’t enough to fend them off. The Pirates finished third with a record of 80-82 and Danny went 13-13. My guess is that from the lack of either an armband or hint of a patch on his left sleeve that this photo is from an earlier tenure. That guy behind him could be Blass or even Virdon but it’s tough to speculate since I can’t even place the year.

Danny Murtaugh was born and raised in Chester, PA, where his high school only had a baseball team for one season so he played some industrial league and town ball during that time. In ’37 he and a bunch of his buddies headed to Maryland for a tryout by the Cards and Danny made the cut. That year and the next he played D ball, hitting .297 and .312 with lots of speed and a little power while playing second. In ’39 he hit .268 in Double A and in ’40 and ’41 he was back in Single A where he hit .299 and .317 before being sold to the Phillies in mid ’41. Philadelphia called Danny all the way up that year and he immediately took over second, impressing nobody with his .219 average, but a lot of people with his 18 stolen bases that led the league. He was a regular the next two seasons – though in ’42 he split time pretty evenly between second, short, and third – and raised his average each year to .241 and then .273. He didn’t strike out too much either and that last year put up a .357 OBA. Late that year, too, he got drafted by Uncle Sam and the next two years he would see service in both Europe and Asia in WW II, which was pretty rare. He came back in ’46 and despite a good spring training and opening game he was sold to the Cards that May. For St. Louis it was back to the minors where he hit .322. Then in ’47 he was drafted by the Braves and again stuck at Triple A mostly where this time he hit .302. After that season he was traded to Pittsburgh and in ’48 he would have his biggest season up top, claiming second while hitting .290 with 71 RBI’s, by far his highest total at that level. His average fell a bunch the next year as he lost some time to ailments but in ’50 he rallied to .294 with a lot more at bats. ‘51 was his last season in Pittsburgh and he was a reserve guy, finishing his MLB time with a .254 average with 49 stolen bases. He played a bit in the minors the next two years and finished at that level with a .297 average. In ’52 he continued his relationship with Pittsburgh by managing in the minors, which he did through ’55 when he was called up to coach the Pirates. In ’57 he replaced Bobby Bragan as manager and in ’60 took a team that lost 92 games his first year to the Series where he famously beat the Yankees. His first stint lasted through ’64 when he moved to the front office after suffering a heart ailment. He was replaced by Harry Walker and stint two for Danny was during ’67 when he replaced Walker after he was fired. Stint three came in ’70 when his health was well enough that he managed the team to the division title before again winning the whole thing in ’71. After again stepping down he took over in September ’73 and the next two years again won division titles. He retired again after the ’76 season and finished with a record up top of 1,115-950 and won Manager of the Year in both ’60 and ’70. His retirement didn’t last too long as he passed away shortly thereafter from a stroke. He was 59.

Don Leppert grew up in Indianapolis and then attended Wabash College where he played football and threw the discuss and javelin in addition – I assume – to playing baseball. I have read that he graduated and also that he only was there two years but given his career kicked off in ’55 when he was 23 my guess is the former. A catcher, he was signed by the Braves that year and hit .260 that summer in B ball. He spent the next three years in Double and Triple A where he hit around .230 but showed some good power with 20 homers in ’57. In ’59 he hit .270 in Triple A and then in ’60 hit .256 with 17 homers at the same level which prompted a sale to Pittsburgh. He began the year pounding the ball for a .386 average and was promoted to the Pirates that June. He played sparingly the next two seasons and after averaging about .267 was traded to the Senators. For the Nats Don had his biggest year in ’63, splitting starting time behind the plate and hitting .237 with six homers and 24 RBI’s in 211 at bats, his most up top. Those numbers got him named to the All-Star team but after a significant average drop in ’64 he returned to the minors. He hit .229 with 15 homers up top for his career. In ’65 he hit .338 as a backup for DC’s Triple A team and in ’66 finished as a player with Pittsburgh’s club. He finished with a .261 average at that level. He then began managing, going 61-59 for a Single A Pittsburgh club in ’67 before moving up to coach in the bullpen from ’68 to ’76. He was on the short list to succeed Murtaugh but when that didn’t happen he moved on to coach at Toronto (’77-’79) and then Houston (’80-’85) where he rejoined Bill Virdon. He then managed in the Twins system from ’86 to ’87, going a combined 128-150, before in ’88 taking over as the Twins director of minor league instruction. In ’93 he was moved to head of the team’s Florida operations. In ’97 he managed the Goldpanners in Alaska for a summer and went 38-18. I believe that since then he has been retired.

Bill Mazeroski was born in West Virginia and moved to Ohio as a young boy. There he was an all-state basketball guard as well as a shortstop. His coach got him a tryout with the Pirates and he was signed in ’54 when he was 17. He only hit .235 that year in A ball but his pivot was so amazing he was moved to second. In ’55 he hit .293 at that level and in ’56 .306 in the Pacific Coast League which leveled out somewhere between Double A and Triple A. Promoted to Pittsburgh that summer he immediately took over second base and he’d put on a defensive show until the early Seventies. Long knocked on his offense he actually turned in some pretty good numbers there as well. In ’57 he hit .283 and in ’58 .275 with 19 homers in his first year as an All-Star (he’d have seven of those) and a Gold Glove winner (eight of those). In the big Series year of ’60 he hit .273 with 64 RBI’s. In ’62 he led the NL in intentional walks and had 81 RBI’s. He topped out in ribbies in ’66 with 82. He generally stayed injury-free throughout the Sixties, missing about a month in ’65 when he tore a muscle in his throwing arm. In ’69, though, he tore a muscle in his leg and missed pretty much the whole season after June. He returned as the starter in ’70 but hit only .229 and had slowed considerably in the field. He finished the next couple seasons as a reserve behind Dave Cash. Retiring after the ’72 season he hit .260 with over 2,000 hits, 138 homers and 853 RBI’s. In the post-season he improved considerably with a .323 average, two homers, and five RBI’s in 12 games. Defensively he was a monster leading the NL nine times in assists (he is fifth all-time), five times in putouts (seventh), eight times in double plays (first), and three times in fielding percentage. He was a quasi-coach in ’72 and stayed on full-time in ’73. He quit well before this card came out to spend more time with his family. He opened and ran a golf course and restaurant back in Ohio for a number of years and started an annual fund-raising golf outing that is still ongoing. From ’79 to ’80 he coached for the Mariners and he has since then done spring training work for the Pirates. His number was retired in ’89 and he was elected to the Hall in 2001 in what became a very contentious event. In 2012 he was able to coach on the Pittsburgh bench for a game.

Don Osborn hailed from Idaho where he pitched in industrial and semi-pro leagues until 1929 when he threw a bit for a couple D level teams and then one in ’30. He then has a fat five-year blank on baseball-reference but actually pitched in the Washington-Idaho league during that time and from each year from ’33 to ’35 led his team to the pennant. In ’36 he signed with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League and went 11-9. But he fell to 2-10 the next year and then signed with Vancouver, a B level team that had a soft affiliation with the Cubs. After winning 18 games for them in ’38, 13 in ’39, and 18 in ‘40 he took over managing the team, won two titles in two years, and as staff ace went a combined 40-8. He then moved to Chicago’s PCL affiliate Los Angeles where he continued to pitch and manage the next five years, winning 18 in ’45. He continued to pitch and manage in the Chicago system through ’51, going 17-3 in ’48, and went 501-386 as a manager for them overall. From ’52 to ’57 he managed in the Phillies system, pitching occasionally, and put up a record of 465-400 for them. By then he’d picked up the handle Wizard of Oz for his ability to work with pitchers. He pitched his last game in ’54 and won over 220 games in the minors with an ERA of about 3.10 but never threw higher than Triple A. During the off-seasons of pretty much his whole career he was a stagehand in Hollywood. In ’58 he moved to the Pittsburgh system, first as a pitching troubleshooter and then as a scout. He took over various minor clubs for partial seasons in ’59, ’65, and ’67. During that time he coached Satchel Paige. From ’60 to ’62 he was a roving pitching coach which he also did in ’66-’67 and ’68-’69. In between he aped Danny Murtaugh with a bunch of stints up top as Pirates pitching coach, including ’63-’64, '70-’72, '74-’76, and ’78-’79. In ’73 he scouted for a season. Just prior to spring training of ’79 he had to step down due to illness. He passed away later that year from cancer at age 70.

Bob Skinner grew up in La Jolla, California and was signed out of high school by the Pirates late in 1950. In D ball the following summer he pounded the ball at a .472 clip before moving up to A ball where he hit .283. He then spent all of ’52 and ’53 pulling his military hitch in the Marines. When he returned in ’54 it was straight to Pittsburgh where he was moved to first base from his regular outfield position and hit .249 as a rookie. The move to first didn’t go crazy well and in ’55 Bob went back to Double A where he hit .346 around some injuries. He went back to Pittsburgh in ’56 as an outfield reserve but didn’t have a great sophomore season. That changed the next year when a hot start moved him to the regular left field job which he would retain through ’62. He hit .305 that year and then .321 in ’58 when he was an All-Star. By then he earned the nickname The Duke of La Jolla. In the Series year of ’60 he put up his biggest RBI total of 86 while hitting .273 and was again an All-Star. In ’61 he missed some time to injury but he bounced back nicely in ’62 with a .320 average, 20 homers, and 75 RBI’s. In ’63 Willie Stargell’s arrival pushed the Pirates to trade Bob to Cincinnati mid-year for Jerry Lynch. For the Reds Bob did back-up outfield work and pinch hit duty which he would continue to do for St. Louis after he was traded there during the ’64 season. That trade landed him back in the Series and he would play out his career with the Cards in ’66, finishing with a .277 average, 103 homers, and 531 RBI’s. He also hit .375 with a couple RBI’s in his six Series games. He moved into managing right away, going 116-91 in a season-plus in the Phillies system and winning a title in ’67. Midway through ’68 he moved up to Philadelphia to coach and then manage after Gene Mauch was fired in the wake of problems with Dick Allen. Philly was going through a long retrenchment then and Bob went 92-123 in a bit over a year until he resigned during ’69 after also having issues with Allen and management. He finished out the year back home announcing for the Padres. He then had a long run as a coach: for San Diego (’70-’73 and ’77); Pittsburgh (’74-’76, ’79-‘85); California (’78); and Atlanta (’86-’88). From ’89 to ’92 he managed in the Houston chain and went 276-292. Since ’93 he has been a scout for the Astros, though for the past few years on a limited basis.

The Pirates entry for the ’76 baseball centennial was alluded to above: Bill Mazeroski’s homer to win the ’60 Series. It was and remains the only walk-off homer to win the seventh game of a World Series. The first three games were offensive onslaughts by the Yankees who got 48 hits while taking a 2-1 lead. But in Games Four and Five Vern Law and Harvey Haddix gave up a combined 15 hits while winning two for the Pirates at the Stadium. A 12-0 Yankees blowout back at Forbes set up Game Seven in which NY tied things up 9-9 in the top of the ninth with a single by Mickey Mantle and a Yogi Berra groundout against Haddix, who’d just entered the game in relief. Mazersoki led off the bottom of the inning and smashed his famous shot to give Pittsburgh its first title in over 50 years.

We get to do the double hook-up since Danny played a bunch in the majors. First as manager:

1. Murtaugh managed Dock Ellis ’70 to ’71 and ’73 to ’75 on the Pirates;
2. Ellis and Doyle Alexander on the ’76 Yankees;
3. Alexander and Andy Etchebarren ’72 to ’75 Orioles.

Now as a player. This will be a long one:

1. Murtaugh and Ralph Kiner ’48 to ’51 Pirates;
2. Kiner and Ernie Banks ’53 to ’54 Cubs;
3. Banks and Milt Pappas ’71 to ’72 Cubs;
4. Pappas and Brooks Robinson ’57 to ’65 Orioles;
5. Robinson and Andy Etchebarren ’62 and ’65 to ’75 Orioles.

Friday, January 18, 2013

#488 - Andy Etchebarren

Speaking of unibrows – it came up on the former post – here is Andy Etchebarren, owner of perhaps the best eyebrow(s) ever in baseball. Andy is crouching in what I believe is the spring training facility and I have been struggling with who that might be behind him. My initial read is that the guy’s a lefty but no Oriole on the roster fills that bill except perhaps Dave McNally but he wasn’t that lean or slope-shouldered. I suppose the guy could be hitting some infield and is just waiting for the ball which opens it up to a righty. If that’s the case then my bet is it’s Jim Fuller, a rookie outfielder who was lean and carried the big muttonchops this guy’s sporting. Also this card sports what I believe is only the second photographer’s shadow of the set, which means Andy’s staring directly into the sun. Good thing he had those eyebrows.

Andy Etchebarren was of Basque decent which goes a long way explaining his look and grew up in La Puente California. A fine multi-sport athlete he was hotly pursued by a bunch of teams in high school when the Orioles nabbed him with a six-figure bonus in ’61. He finished out the summer with a few games in C ball where he hit .224 and showed good work behind the plate. In ’62 he hit .249 in A ball which was awfully good back then for an O’s catcher and he made his Baltimore debut in a couple games late that September. He then spent the next three years moving up the ladder from Single to Triple A, putting up good defensive numbers along the way but frustrating offensive ones since in an interview back then he indicated he hit above .300 the final couple months each year but only managed a .255 best during that time. In ’64 he peaked OBA-wise at Double A with a .355 and at the end of ’65 he got into a couple more games for Baltimore.

The Orioles had an excellent season in ’65, winning 94 games and that year they had a “catcher by committee” situation at that position. Pretty much equal time was put in by Dick Brown, Charlie Lau, and John Orsino. Orsino was traded right after the season to DC and the O’s went to spring training with the other two expected to switch duty. But Lau, who’d hit .295 the year before, was hurt during the spring and poor Dick Brown, not much of a hitter but pretty adept behind the plate, showed up to camp with what was shortly after diagnosed as a brain tumor that would kill him five years later when he was only 35. So Etchebarren, who was expected to return to Triple A when camp broke, was suddenly the starting O’s catcher. His rookie year was something else as he came out of the box hitting a – relative – ton and was still above .300 in early May. He was beaned, knocked out, and had his hand run over by Tommie Agee and still didn’t miss a game until it was discovered in July that his metacarpal had been separated probably since April. He did an excellent job managing the young pitching staff and saved Frank Robinson’s life when the to-be triple crown winner nearly drowned in a swimming pool. So while his .213 average didn’t look so great, the 106 strikeouts were a tad high, and the 15 passed balls led the league, more than a few teammates thought he was the key to their championship season. He was named an All-Star which he would also incur his second season. But ’67 was a bummer, both for Andy and the team, as his average fell enough that he was benched in May for Larry Haney, a .215 hitter, and the O’s put up a losing record while trying to defend their title. In ’68 Elrod Hendricks was added to the catching mix and he and Andy would form a lefty-righty duo the next few seasons.

In 1969 the Orioles added former Phillie starter Clay Dalrymple as a back-up catcher. Dalrymple wouldn’t be much of a threat to Etchebarren’s playing time but his acquisition was propitious for Andy since Clay advised him how to better hold his mitt to reduce nagging hand injuries he’d received throughout his career. That year the O’s began a nice run of three straight Series appearances with Andy and Hendricks splitting catching duties. In ’71 Andy topped out with a .270 average in 222 at bats. In ’72 Hendricks went to the Cubs for a year and Andy played behind rookie Johnnie Oates. From ’69 to ’72 he also picked off half the runners that tried to steal on him. In ’73 Hendricks returned but the next two seasons they both played behind new acquisition Earl Williams, though Andy’s at bats increased in ’74 as Williams put a bunch more time in at first base.  In ’75 the Orioles acquired Dave Duncan from Cleveland and after not playing too much Andy was sold to California that June. With the Angels he played behind Ellie Rodriguez the rest of the year, posting a .280 average in 100 at bats. In ’76 Rodriguez went to the Dodgers and Andy took over the top spot, hitting .227. In ’77 he returned to a reserve role behind Terry Humphrey and in ’78 he finished things up with a couple games for the Brewers. Andy had a .235 average with 49 homers and 309 RBI’s and hit .154 in 21 post-season games. He caught a bunch of 20-game winners and his lifetime caught stealing ratio was better than average in that run-happy time.

Etchebarren remained on the Brewers roster through ’78 though he spent most of the season on the DL because of bone chips in his elbow. He officially retired the next year and returned to California where he ran some local businesses, including a liquor store, for a couple years. He returned to Milwaukee and baseball in ’82 when he signed on as the team’s minor league catching instructor which he did through ’84 when in mid-season he took over managing their Stockton A team. From ’85 to ’91 he coached for the Brewers and then in ’92 moved to the Baltimore system where he coached in the minors (’92, 2003-‘04) and in Baltimore (’96-’97), but mostly managed in the minors (’93-’95, ’98-2002, and ’05-’07). He was a pretty colorful manager and seems to have learned a bunch from Earl Weaver given some of his YouTube moments. In 2008 he became hitting coach for the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs before leaving in mid-’09 to manage the rival York River Dogs. With York Andy won three league titles before retiring at the end of the 2012 season. His managerial record is 755-755.

Wow, a 19-inning game. That one bears investigating. Andy did not start the game – that’s a bit much to expect from any catcher – but he pinch hit for starter Vic Roznovsky in the fifth and stayed in the game thereafter and 14-plus innings behind the plate is pretty impressive. His two-run shot won the game 7-5. The interesting thing about the game is that both starters were bombed and were both out of the game by the third inning. The relievers then did some amazing work: on the DC side Dave Baldwin and Bob Humphreys combined for nearly six innings of perfect ball and Joe Coleman gave up a hit in five innings; on the Baltimore side Wally Bunker, Eddie Watt, and Eddie Fisher combined for nearly 12 innings of shutout ball before Stu Miller won it after giving up one hit with six K’s in his five innings. Andy went two for five and two guys had nine at bats in the game. It ran for five hours and 18 minutes. The cartoon is interesting because it’s based more on perception than reality. When Andy got off to his hot start in ’66 a bunch of his big hits were against Detroit who was a contender most of the year so Andy’s feats against them were magnified. But if you do the baseball-reference thing against individual pitchers nothing against the Detroit guys stands out long-term.

A lot of those Baltimore guys stayed put so let’s go the California route:

1. Etchebarren and Nolan Ryan ’75 to ’77 Angels;
2. Ryan and Ted Martinez ’70 to ’71 Mets.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

#487 - Ted Martinez

1973 was a pretty typical season for Ted Martinez. Despite the acquisition of Felix Millan – pretty much the only regular not hurt during the year – to take over second base, Ted put in time at three positions: shortstop, third base, and center field. At the beginning of September, just as the Mets were starting their climb out of last place, Ted got a rare start at third in a double-header against the Phillies and tagged Steve Carlton for four hits, including a double and a homer, and four RBI’s to support Jerry Koosman’s shutout win. It was Ted’s highlight of the season since by the time the post-season began most of the regulars were back and he was limited to late-inning defense work. Here he poses at Shea, looking remarkably like – as a poster from the Mets fan page points out – an actor from “Mission: Impossible”, a big show back then.

Teodoro Martinez grew up in the Dominican Republic and was signed by the Mets in October ’66 after being spotted in a summer league back home. In his first year of ’67 he hit .216 in Rookie ball before upping his average to .248 in A ball. In a fitting prelude to his career up top he got starting time at second, short, and third. After the season he was selected by Houston in the minor league draft but after not making the cut out of spring training the next year the Mets took him back. That year he settled at shortstop as he hit .301 between a couple Single A teams. In ’69 he moved up to Double A where he hit pretty well for a shortstop and in ’70 he had his best minor season at Triple A Tidewater with his .306, nine triples, and 13 stolen bases. That year he got his debut in NY when Ken Boswell went down for a few games with an injury. After starting off the ’71 season with a .297 in Tidewater he was promoted to the Mets that summer for good.

Martinez had an admirable rookie year in ’71 as he spelled Bud Harrelson at shortstop and Boswell at second and put up a .288 average despite limited plate time. He was a free swinger at the plate, struck out a bit much, and rarely walked, which would hurt his ability to get more time. But his versatility in the field made him necessary so in ’72 when both Boswell and Harrelson were dogged by injuries and poor averages, Ted got a bunch of starts, including some in the outfield. Offensively he led the team in triples and finished third in stolen bases and had his best year in the field with only one error in 47 games at second and three in 42 games at shortstop. After the excitement of ’73, ’74 was a big downer as there was no stretch run magic. Ted, though, got his most time in the line-up that year and though his average tumbled a bunch and his defense was not so hot, he put up by far his best RBI total with 43. After the year he was traded to the Cards for Jack Heidemann and Mike Vail.

After getting into a few games in the outfield for St. Louis, Martinez was sent to Oakland in May of ’75 for pitcher Mike Barlow and a minor leaguer. Fresh off their three straight Series titles the A’s were a bit transitional in ’75 due to the retirement of Dick Green and the loss of Catfish Hunter to free agency. Ted specialized in late-inning work across the infield and did a nice job defensively with zero errors at second and third. He then repeated that role in the playoffs. But the following May he was released and he was shortly thereafter signed by Cincinnati for whom he put in the rest of the season at Triple A where he hit .255 with 25 stolen bases while playing principally in the outfield. That December of ’76 he was plucked by LA in the Rule 5 draft and the next three years he would reprise his role with the Mets. Ted wouldn’t see too much plate time since his work backing up second, short, and third was mostly late-inning stuff. But he did a pretty good job on offense, hitting a combined .280 over that period. Twice he played on pennant winners, though he didn’t see any post-season action. He was released shortly into the ’80 season and he returned to the DR to coach the next couple seasons. Then in ’82 he began a three-year run in the Mexican League, two with Campeche and his final one with Tabasco. Ted finished up top with a .240 average and put in 282 games at shortstop, 168 at second, 97 at third, and 54 in the outfield. He got no at bats in the post-season. In the minors he hit .274.

Martinez played winter ball in the DR and in Puerto Rico during much of his career and after his playing career ended he returned home where he has since both coached and managed baseball, though I’ve been unable to find any specifics.

The parenthetical name returns as do a couple star bullets alluded to above. A funny story about Ted comes via Kiner’s Korner, the old Mets post-game show hosted by Ralph Kiner. Apparently when Ted first came up in spring training he was unaware that hotel accommodations were made for the players and he lived outside for his first few days of camp. Funny for us I guess, but not so great for him. Here is a shot of Greg Morris, the actor Ted resembled:

Minus Ted’s near-unibrow it is a pretty close resemblance.

For the ’76 baseball centennial the Mets offered the team’s ’69 World Series victory over the Orioles. That was a pretty good one considering the team’s history up to that point. Outside of any AL team at the top of the 20th century, it was the quickest a team was a Series champ in its existence. The Mets surprised the crap out of the mighty O’s, a team that had won 109 games during the regular season and then swept the Twins in the playoffs. But NY had won 100 themselves and between Donn Clendenon’s slugging (a 1.071 average), some huge outfield defensive plays (Swoboda and Agee), immaculate pitching (a 1.80 team ERA), and some luck (that J.C. Martin bunt was a killer), everything worked and the Mets were the darlings of NY for once.

Another quick hook-up results from another Hall of Famer:

1. Martinez and Willie Mays ’72 to ’73 Mets;
2. Mays and Steve Stone ’71 to ’72 Giants.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

#486 - Steve Stone

For our second double card post in a row we get a guy going the other way, from the AL to the NL. Steve Stone shows some big hair in what appears to be a dreary day at Yankee Stadium, though that may just be the exposure on the camera since there are plenty of shadows. I believe those are Yankees over his right shoulder and my guess is that’s Roy White closest to Steve. Besides the Yankees thing and the double card thing, Steve has a couple other things in common with Felipe Alou, the last post subject. He’s got the Traded card, of course, and he was also coming off a relatively short tenure with the team on his regular card. Steve’s stay with the Sox was for a full season, so it was a bit longer than Felipe’s. He’d come to Chicago from the Giants after the ’72 season with Ken Henderson for Tom Bradley. “73 worked out a bit like his two seasons with the Giants: spot work with most of his games being starts along with some middle relief. The results were a mixed bag as he put up another losing record and his ERA was a tad high, but his innings continued to increase and he finished pretty high in the AL in strikeouts per inning. The big question regarding the Traded card is: where’s all the hair? The photo Topps uses for Steve on this card is one from his Giants days so it’s at least a year older than his regular photo. I like the mop top better but both of these would pale to his ’78 one when his chest hair sort of overwhelms whatever he had on his head. So Steve’s fist stay in the AL was rather short-lived. He’d raise his profile considerably the next time.

When Steve Stone was growing up in Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, he was a star athlete at a variety of sports: volleyball, tennis (a city champ at age 12), ping pong (see card back), and obviously baseball. In ’65 he was the starting pitcher in the state’s East-West All-Star game and he romped. Playing behind him were Thurman Munson (shortstop), Gene Tenace (third), and Larry Hisle (center), so it’s not terribly difficult to figure out why. He then moved on to Kent State where his catcher and roommate would be Munson. In the summer of ’68 he played in the Cape Cod League, a year Steve was also all-conference. The next January he was drafted in the fourth round by the Giants. He would finish his degree in history in ’70 but in the meantime he took his 95 mph heater to A ball where he posted pretty good numbers, including well over a strikeout an inning. He improved things significantly the next year at Double A Amarillo and especially at Triple A Phoenix, where he posted his 1.71 ERA in eight starts. He then began his rookie year of ’71 in San Francisco where his first win was a 5-hit shutout of the Pirates. But inconsistency moved him back to Triple A for a bit and he missed the post-season.

After a decent rookie year Stone started strongly in ’72, going 3-4 with a 1.50 ERA through early June as part of the rotation. By then the Giants were in a nasty slump and had twice as many losses as wins in trying to repeat as division champs. In a game against the Pirates that had three rain delays, Steve hurt his shoulder while warming up and then sitting and worked sporadically the rest of the year, though the end results were a big uptick to his rookie ones. Still he wasn’t too happy with the Giants’ prescribed treatment for his shoulder and he asked to be traded. While with the Sox, Johnny Sain helped Steve ratchet up his strikeouts and after the season he returned to the NL in this trade. With the Cubs things got much better, at least initially. In ’74 Steve put up his first winning record, going 8-6 with a 4.14 ERA as a swing guy. In ’75 He bumped up his starts to 32 and went 12-8 with a 3.95 ERA. Then in ’76 it was shades of ’72, but much worse. Early that year he tore his rotator cuff. Again he chafed at cortisone treatment for it, this time going through his own regimen of freezing his shoulder and then exercising it at the suggestion of a non-team doctor. He played the year without a contract and after going 3-6 in only 15 starts he signed back with the White Sox as a free agent.

Stone had a pretty big I-told-you-so season in ’77. While his ERA popped a bunch to the highest of his career he lucked out signing with The Southside Hitmen and between the team’s offensive surges and his new stamina went 15-12 as the club’s leading starter. Free agent defections in ’78 turned Sox fortunes around a bit in ’78 but despite going 12-12 most of Steve’s numbers were an uptick and after the season he went free agent again, this time signing with the Orioles. By then he was throwing off-speed stuff to help assuage the damage done to his shoulder and with better defense behind him in ’79 he went 11-7 with a 3.77 ERA, over half a run better than his ’78 number. Prior to the ’80 season he developed a master plan: he’d always been tentative with his curve for fear of its effect on his shoulder, but he knew that it was a pretty good pitch and he decided to go all in at age 32 and see where it took him, potential damage be damned. It took him pretty far, to a Cy Young-winning year on the back of a 25-7 record with a 3.23 ERA and a perfect three innings as the AL starter in the All-Star game. He also got his first post-season experience, though that didn’t go nearly as well. The downside was pretty much the expected as his shoulder was permanently wrecked by the breaking stuff. After going only 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA in a strike-shortened and DL-shortened ’81 Steve retired in June of the following year. He finished with a record of 107-93 with a 3.97 ERA, 43 complete games, seven shutouts, and a save. In the post-season he put up a 9.00 ERA in a couple relief innings.

Stone rolled pretty well, having earned his degree in a relatively short time and as an ardent believer in positive energy (he took classes). While he was playing he was a published poet, book reviewer (for Oui magazine, remember that thing?), and successful restaurant owner. By the time he announced his retirement he was offered a color gig on Monday Night Baseball and then parlayed that experience to be the color guy for the Cubs from ’83 to 2004, with two generations of Caray’s. In ’04 he openly criticized the Cubs’ performance and after the season he resigned. He later hooked up with the White Sox as an announcer, a position he still holds.

Steve’s ’69 gets most of the attention on the back and was a pretty good kickoff, despite the losing record. He continued to play both volleyball and ping-pong at Kent State and was a bit of a pool hustler there as well. He lived pretty large and was a bachelor for a long time and even got a Playgirl spread in the early Eighties.

Ironically Stone had about the most meaningful career of any of these guys after the trade and he’d spend years paralleling Santo on the broadcasting side for the Cubs. Topps makes no predictions here which was probably a good thing.

I like when this exercise brings up a Hall of Famer:

1. Stone and Willie McCovey ’71 to ’72 Giants;
2. McCovey and Felipe Alou ’59 to ’63 Giants.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#485- Felipe Alou

Felipe Alou returns us to the two-card post (though I split up the last one) and may be the first guy in the set with both cards air-brushed. Both photos are from the same shoot and show him smiling in his Yankees pinstripes at the Stadium. He’s a few shades darker after the trade to Milwaukee so maybe the photographer was using in infrared bulb. At this point in his career Felipe was pretty much on the way out. After spending nearly all of ’73 splitting time at first and right field with his brother Matty and some other guys, he and Matty were pretty much dumped by new owner George Steinbrenner and Felipe was picked up by Montreal for its stretch drive. George was fond of ridding the team of older outfielders that summer and Felipe had been having a tough season anyway, with his average nearly 60 points under his lifetime one. He didn’t stay with Montreal too long as his Traded card attests and his stay with the Brewers wouldn’t be lengthy either. But in a couple years he’d be back with the Expos, just as optimistic as his photos show him, even air-brushed. Like his brother Matty, this is Felipe's last card (or cards).

Felipe Alou was one of the first Dominicans to get on the radar map of US teams. Before he was signed he was majoring in pre-med back home where he was actually a bigger track star than a baseball player. But in the summer of ’55 at that year’s Pan Am Games he was asked to switch over to the baseball team and performed well enough to garner notice and was signed later that year by the Giants. The next summer he hit the crap out of D league pitching, hitting .380 with 21 homers and 99 RBI’s. In ’57 he hit .306 with 12 homers and 71 RBI’s in A ball before he moved up a few games in Triple A. He then split ’58 between Triple A and San Francisco, hitting .319 with 13 homers and 42 RBI’s at the lower level. Back then Felipe’s principal position was center field but with Willie Mays there he was going to have to move. Plus between the older guys like Willie, Willie Kirkland, and Hank Sauer and new kids Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, and Leon Wagner, there wasn’t too much room. So Felipe played mostly in right, splitting time with the other young guys, and despite having a decent rookie year and better numbers the next couple, it wasn’t until ’61 that he established a hold anywhere. In ’62 he had right field to himself all season and he generated one of his best years offensively of his career. He was an All-Star for the first time and then hit over .300 in the three-game playoffs against LA and .269 in the Series, but blamed himself for not pushing runners along in the last inning of the last game when he missed a bunt. But his home run totals were a pleasant surprise since he was viewed as a singles guy and in ’63 he came pretty close to matching his totals. That was the season when he and his brothers Matty and Jesus all appeared in a game for San Francisco in the same outfield. But it was also the year Felipe made some noise about the treatment of Latin players by the commissioner’s office and not too coincidentally after that season he was sent to the Braves with Ed Bailey, Billy Hoeft, and Ernie Bowman for Del Crandall – who’d be his manager on the Brewers – Bob Hendley, and Bob Shaw.

Alou had a rough start in Milwaukee. A regular participant in winter ball, Felipe hurt his knee in the DR prior to ’64 spring training. It killed his power and for a while his average and then after he was getting over it, he tore his knee again playing first and it took him a little while to get back. But he had a nice bounce in ’65 and then when the team moved to Atlanta the next year he put up his biggest season, hitting 31 homers from the leadoff spot and leading the NL in runs, hits, and total bases. He also got his second All-Star nod and came in second to Matty for the batting title. In ’67 bone chips in his elbow contributed to seriously discounted numbers and would also make for a permanent power swoon, but like ’65 Felipe came back strong in ’68, leading the NL in hits and getting in his third All-Star game. In ’69 he lost time to a broken finger though his average was still quite good. But with kid outfielders Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker in the wings Felipe was sent to Oakland after the season for Jim Nash. With the A’s he took over left for a year and hit well enough but then got traded again to make way for another youngster, this time Joe Rudi. Early in the ’71 season Felipe went to the Yankees for Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski. He had a pretty good year in ’71 while playing predominantly right field for the Yankees but his numbers tailed off the next couple years as he put in more time at first base. After a few at bats for the Brewers in ’74 he was done. Felipe finished with a .286 average on 2,101 hits, 206 homers, and 852 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .259 with an RBI in eight games.

After playing Alou returned to the DR where in addition to playing and then managing winter ball he opened a sporting goods store with his brothers. But Felipe got too restless and by ’76 was back in the States coaching in the Montreal system. From ’78 to ’91 he was either managing or coaching in the Montreal system, or coaching up in Montreal (’79-’80, ’84, and ’92). During that time he was 417-426. In ’92 he got promoted to the top spot in Montreal and did a nice job generating wins and developing young talent. In ’94 he put up a .649 winning percentage and looked headed for serious post-season action before the strike hit. He won Manager of the year anyway that season. When the Montreal management started unloading the kids Felipe’s record suffered and he was dismissed during the 2001 season. In ’02 he worked as bench coach for Detroit before going back to San Francisco to manage the Giants in ’03. That year he returned to the post-season on the back of Barry Bonds and he remained as manager until he retired following the 2006 season. He was able to manage his son Moises on both teams. He has a record of 1,033-1,021 as a manager and continues to do some admin work for the team.

No room for the star bullets and Felipe eschews the parenthetical thing. His surname is actually that of his mom and his dad’s surname is his middle one. I got no idea about the pancake reference. In “the Bronx Zoo” the Alous get mentioned. According to Sparky Lyle the reason the brothers were released by King George was that they both popped up late in a game in early September which pissed George off. He ordered Ralph Houk, then the manager, to release them. But Houk, aware they’d both have to take significant pay cuts to sign with new teams, tried to trade them instead, thereby allowing them to maintain their salaries. He was able to swap Matty to St. Louis and the Expos took Felipe off waivers so his plan worked. But one or both of them got mad at Houk because they thought it was his idea to trade them. It was, but for a beneficial reason.

Topps goes nostalgic on the back of the Traded card with the whole Milwaukee connection. Felipe had all of three at bats for the Brewers in ’74 so that connection doesn’t seem to have contributed too much. That last line makes it look like he was traded in ’66 but that was just the year the Braves relocated to Atlanta. Felipe has a very detailed SABR page.

We just hooked up Carmen Fanzone to the Braves and it looks like we’re going to do it again:

1. Alou and Milt Pappas ’68 to ’69 Braves;
2. Pappas and Carmen Fanzone ’71 to ’73 Cubs;