Thursday, March 28, 2013

#523 - Cecil Cooper

Like JR Richard, Cecil Cooper had a rookie card in ’72 and then nothing in ’73, pretty much for the same reasons as JR. And while Coop didn’t come out of the MLB gate as quickly as JR did, he sure made his mark down the road. He had a typically very good year at Triple A Pawtucket in ’73 when late that August he was summoned back to The Show to play first base. That move was mandated by an injury to Rico Petrocelli that required both Carl Yastrzemski and Danny Cater, the regular guys at first base, to move to third to cover Rico’s absence. Cecil’s resulting .238 (baseball-reference) or .242 (Topps) average didn’t drive anyone too crazy but the glove work was pretty good and he really didn’t have anything left to prove in the minors so it would be Cecil’s final time at that level. That looks like either Tommy Harper or Reggie Smith taking cuts in the spring training cage behind him.

Cecil Cooper grew up in Brenham, Texas, where he attended an all-black high school called Pickard where he twice won state titles. He then went to integrated Brenham High where he graduated in ’68 and was taken by the Red Sox in the sixth round. He wasted little time in establishing himself as a hitter, batting .452 that summer in A ball. He spent the next two-plus years at that level where he put up great averages but it took a while for the Sox to get used to a line-drive hitting first baseman. About a third of the way through ’71 Cecil moved up to Double A Pawtucket where he turned up the power a notch before he made his debut in Boston. He hit quite well in his few September games and then spent ’72 in Triple A Louisville where he continued to maintain his newfound power. In ’73 at that same level he moved to the middle part of the line-up, cut his strikeouts nearly in half, and maintained his RBI numbers in a bunch less at bats. When things got messy in the Boston infield that summer he got called up for good.

By the mid-Seventies Carl Yastrzemski was making first base his primary position so when Cooper took his spot in the line-up, it was in the DH role as much as it was at first. His first season in Boston he pretty much reprised what he did in the minors: pretty good averages with not too much power. In ’74 he hit .275 with 43 RBI’s in 414 at bats. In ’75 Cecil got a lung infection during spring training and missed enough time to allow rookie Jim Rice to take over the DH spot. But when Rice got hurt in September – he missed the post-season – Cecil took over first while Yaz moved to the outfield. In about half a season Cooper hit 14 homers with 44 RBI’s while batting .311. He then torched Oakland at a .400 clip in the playoffs but cooled down in the Series. In ’76 he hit .282 with 78 RBI’s in 451 at bats split between first and DH. After the season the Sox went looking for a power guy to try to keep up with the Yankees, who’d signed Reggie Jackson. So Boston got George Scott and Bernie Carbo back from the Brewers in a deal for Coop.

Cooper’s first season with the Brewers began pretty well as the team had a hot start in April and was still right around .500 – a big uptick to its last couple seasons – at the end of June. But the summer was a disaster and Cecil, looking to fill Boomer’s old role, pressed a bit at the plate, recording over 100 strikeouts the only time in his career. Still, he finished with his best season to that point: .300 with 20 homers and 78 RBI’s in 160 games. With Milwaukee it was all first base and in ’78 the Brew Crew got a new manager in George Bamberger who turned things around fast. The team was going gangbusters in mid-June when Coop, hitting .313 at the time, broke his leg after a collision with Bob Bailor. He finished the season at .312 but the power took a big hit as his RBI total dropped to 54 in just over 100 games. But the Crew was winning now and nobody from that point on would be more emblematic of the team’s fortunes than Cecil. In ’79 he hit .308 while leading the AL with 44 doubles. He hit 24 out and had 106 RBI’s and was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner for the first time. In ’80 he upped things to .352/25/122, his RBI totals leading the league. He also put up his best OBA of .387 and won his first of three successive Silver Sluggers. In the strike year of ’81 he hit .320 and again led the AL with 35 doubles. The Crew went to the playoffs the first time that year and Cecil got three RBI’s in the five games. In the Series year of ’82 he hit .313 with his season-best 32 homers and 121 RBI’s and then hit .286 with six RBI’s against the Cards. In ’83 he was pretty much the only guy on his team to maintain his offense as he hit .307 with 30 homers and an MLB-best 126 RBI’s. He slowed down a ton in ’84 as the Brewers continued to slide, hitting .275 and nearly halving his RBI total. After a nice bounce in ’85 - .293 with 99 RBI’s – he put in another year in ’86 as the regular guy at first and then finished things up in ’87 as a DH. Coop hit .298 for his career with over 2,000 hits, 415 doubles, 241 homers, and 1,125 RBI’s. He hit .302 as a Brewer and still has a couple team hitting records. In the post-season he hit .211 with 15 RBI’s in 25 games. He won two Gold Gloves, the three Silver Sluggers, and was an All-Star five times.

Cooper was a busy guy both in the off-season and after he played. He went to local schools early in his career to get a degree and did lots of community work in Boston and Milwaukee. In ’84 he won the Roberto Clemente Award for humanitarianism. After he retired in ’87 he became a sports agent with his former agency, Coordinated Sports Management, based in Chicago. He did that through ’96 and then returned to the Brewers fold where he scouted and was minor league hitting director. In 2002 he coached up top for the Brewers and from ’03 to ’04 managed in the Milwaukee system, going 130-156. In ’05 he went to Houston where he was a coach under Phil Garner and then succeeded Garner as manager in late ’07. He kept that gig through late ’09 when he was let go after going 171-170. In 2010 he interviewed for the Mariners manager job and since then may or may not have reunited with his old agency boss, who took him to the 2012 winter meetings. I do not believe he is currently affiliated with any team.

Coop’s career numbers are pretty huge once it hits home that he played at around 165-170 at 6’2”. That’s awfully thin for a power guy. In late ’70 the Cards nabbed him in the Rule 5 draft but then released him prior to the ’71 season back to Boston. That qualifies as an “oops.” He has another interesting middle name.

An Astro hurler and an Astro manager get hooked up here:

1. Cooper and Don Sutton ’82 to ’84 Brewers;
2. Sutton and Jose Cruz ’81 to ’82 Astros;
3. Cruz and J.R. Richard ’75 to ’80 Astros.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#522 - J.R. Richard

JR is back. JR Richard had a rookie card in the ’72 set but then got shut out in ’73 because he spent just about all the previous year in the minors. And he comes back strong with an action card. After spending the first month-plus of the ’73 season in Triple A JR – I am eschewing the periods – came up in June and had a pretty good run that summer in the rotation, going 5-1 through mid-August with an ERA under 3.00. He got roughed up a bit his next two games and then his season ended in early September after he got in a motorcycle accident. That event was the last straw for manager Leo Durocher, who’d already admitted he had a tough time with “modern” ballplayers, and shortly after he resigned, effective at season’s end. But JR was just beginning and after a couple middling seasons he’d become one of the dominant NL pitchers the last half of the decade before becoming one of baseball’s tragic figures.

James Rodney Richard was a big basketball and baseball star at Ruston High School in Louisiana. He was set to go to Southern University on a hoops scholarship but when the Astros threw him big money as a number one pick after a senior year in which he went 7-0 with 89 K’s in 43 innings – 21-0 his whole career – he opted for baseball. JR threw heat and could be wild so that first summer in Rookie ball was a bit sloppy. In A ball in ’70 his record was ugly but it sure wasn’t his fault as he reined in his walks and threw a couple shutouts and improved his ERA by four runs. He followed that up with a similar year in Triple A in ’71 in which his record nearly reversed itself and he maintained his well over a K an inning ratio. That summer he made a high-profile debut up top – more on the back – and threw some good ball the rest of the way.  In ’72 things in Houston weren’t as pretty and he returned to Oklahoma City where he had another good season. After his injury to end the ’73 season he did ’74 time in Double A and Triple A – 4-0 in four starts and 33 shutout innings – before he settled in at Houston in mid-July and did spot work the rest of the way, going 2-3 with a 4.18 ERA.

In ’75 Richard made the rotation full-time and went 12-10 with a 4.39 ERA on a pretty crappy team. He led the NL with 138 walks and again led the league in ’76. But that year he also went 20-15 with 214 K’s and a 2.75 ERA. At 26 he had become the dominant pitcher Houston hoped he’d be. In ’77 he went 18-12 with the same number of strikeouts and a 2.97 ERA. In ’78 he went 18-11 with a 3.11 ERA and a Nolan Ryan-esque 303 K’s to lead both leagues. In ’79 he went 18-13 with an NL-leading 2.71 ERA and 313 strikeouts while shaving his walk totals by a third. Each year JR was getting better and in ’80 a 10-4 start with a 1.90 ERA got him named to his first All-Star game.

And that was it. Shortly before the ’80 All-Star game, Richard had experienced pain in his shoulder and light-headedness. When he had to come out of his first start early following that game he complained of the same ailment. Back then despite his big numbers and never missing a start he was viewed by some in management and the local press as being lazy – some thought that perception was a racial thing – and that he was in no real pain. He was also a recreational drug user, which was an open secret. But the non-pain theory got slammed when during a practice in Houston JR collapsed from what turned out to be a stroke. It had also turned out he probably suffered a few of them and they were never diagnosed. While the stroke primarily affected his non-throwing side, his balance suffered and he wasn’t able to react fast enough on the mound to hits up the middle. He attempted a couple come-backs – none above the minor level – and after his final attempt in ’83 he was done. He finished with a record of 107-71 with a 3.15 ERA, 76 complete games, 19 shutouts, and 1,493 strikeouts in 1,606 innings. He is 24th all-time in strikeouts per nine innings.

Richard had a rough go of things after baseball. He did a gig selling cars but went through a ton of money in bad investments, did some drugs, got divorced, and lost his home. He remained based in the Houston area for most of that time and by ’95 was homeless and living under a local bridge. That discovery went national, the Astros and some local civic and religious leaders got involved, and JR was helped back to his feet. Since then he has done work with local religious groups and non-profits. He also does community work with the Astros on an irregular basis.

There's JR's big first start against San Francisco in '71. The other star bullets are pretty good as well. 

So let’s get JR with Ken the manager:

1. Richard and Enos Cabell ’75 to ’80 Astros;
2. Cabell and Milt Wilcox ’82 to ’83 Tigers;
3. Wilcox was managed by Ken Aspromonte on the ’72 to ’74 Indians.

Now for Aspro as a player:

1. Richard and Tommie Agee ’73 Astros;
2. Agee and Ken Berry ’66 to ’67 White Sox;
3.  Berry and Leon Wagner ’68 White Sox;
4. Wagner and Ken Aspromonte ’61 Angels.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

#521 - Ken Aspromonte/Indians Field Leaders

Ken Aspromonte is looking off to his right in Cleveland. He probably should have been looking over his shoulder because by the end of the ’74 season GM Phil Seghi and new player Frank Robinson were about to run him over to make history. ’73 was the second of three years Ken would run the Indians, only “running” was sort of a relative thing with Ken since in the clubhouse he ceded control to Gaylord Perry and his goon, John Ellis. The Indians had been on a downward spiral before Ken got there and in ’73 it was pretty much more of the same. They had some good young players in Chris Chambliss, Buddy Bell, and Charlie Spikes. And Perry was having a nice run as staff ace. But after him and young Dick Tidrow the rotation didn’t have much going for it. Defense was spotty and Perry wouldn’t let certain guys play behind him, including Spikes. That was too bad because Charlie was the RBI leader on the team and he didn’t get to play for Perry’s 40 starts. Plus the Yankees were sneaking in every couple years or so to raid the team of its talent, like when they got Graig Nettles right before the ’73 season and came back in a year to get Chambliss. That made things tough, even if Ken kept control of the clubhouse. His middle year the Indians went 71-91, a step back from ’72. Things would improve a bit in ’74 but history was coming.

Ken Aspromonte grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where he and his brother Bob played baseball at Lafayette High, the school that also produced Sandy Koufax. Ken got signed out of school by the Red Sox in ’50 and hit .295 that summer in D ball as a middle infielder. In ’51 and ’52 he put up comparable numbers in C ball and B and Double A ball respectively before hitting .243 in Triple A as a second and third baseman in ’53. He then spent the next two years in the service where during the Korean War he was a radio operator. When he returned in ’56 he went out west to join the San Francisco Seals its last two years, hitting .281 and .334 with 35 doubles each year. In September of ’57 he made his debut in Boston as a second baseman and hit .269 the rest of the way. In ’58 Pete Runnels took over second so Ken wasn’t going to play much and early that year he went to DC. For the next two seasons he split time at second, hitting .233 in 482 at bats. Early in ’60 he went to Cleveland for Pete Wisenant and had his best season, hitting .290 with ten homers, 48 RBI’s, and a .364 OBA in 459 at bats. He then got plucked by the new Senators in the expansion draft before getting traded to the other expansion team, the Angels, on the same day. He was traded for a guy named Coot Veal. His average faded to .223 as the early regular guy at second for LA and by July he was on the road back to Cleveland where he did back-up and pinch hit work the rest of the way. He occupied that role in ’62 with the Tribe and the Braves and then in ’63 with the Cubs. That finished his time up top where he had a .249 average and .330 OBA in just under 1,500 at bats. After finishing ’63 in Triple A for Chicago (.236 in 64 games), he moved to Japan where over the next three years he played for Chunichi and Taiyo and hit .273. He hit .281 in the minors stateside. He returned to the US in ’67 to coach and then manage in the Cleveland chain. From ’69 to ’71 he went 205-215 in the minors and prior to the ’72 season was elevated to the Indians.

Bolstered by Perry’s big ’72 Cy Young season, Aspromonte had a decent first year, going 72-84 and improving about 15 games on the prior year. But things kind of middled out in ’73 and then got a little exciting in ’74 when Perry went on a 15-game winning streak that helped put the Tribe at better than .500 into September. But a 6-15 finish ironically happened right after the team acquired a new DH in Robinson. By the time the season ended Ken had resigned in the wake of rumors that Robinson would take over the team as MLB’s first black manager. By ’76 Ken had relocated to the Houston area where he and his brother began what would become a very successful Coors distributorship and Burger King franchise business. According to a news report that business was sold off in 2000 but current business listings still have the brothers associated with Coors so maybe they bought it back or started a new one. Either way, it seems things in Houston worked out a lot better than things in Cleveland.

Clay Bryant grew up in Alabama where he was a pitcher in high school. In 1930 after he graduated he threw pretty well in a few innings in both D and A ball for local teams. He returned to throw semi-pro near home and then signed in ’32 with Cleveland, going 6-6 for its D level franchise. In ’33 he won 15 in C ball and in ’34 went 16-10 with a 3.48 ERA in B ball. Towards the end of that season he was sold to the Cubs and in’35 he debuted in Chicago, going 1-2 with a couple saves and a high ERA, also putting in some innings in the minors. In ’36 he went 1-2 again with a 3.30 ERA and then in ’37 went 9-3 in a swing role with a shutout and three saves. In ’38 he had his big year, going 19-11 with a 3.10 ERA and leading the NL in both walks and strikeouts. He got a Series start against the Yankees but lost the game. Early the next year he hurt his arm and his back and by ’40 he was out of the majors. Up top he went a combined 32-20 with a 3.73 ERA, 23 complete games, four shutouts, and seven saves. He was a good hitter, hitting .266 with 28 RBI’s and 48 runs in 192 at bats. His post-season record was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA. He returned to the minors to pitch, but despite going 4-4 with a 1.70 ERA in a few starts in ’42 his arm was toast. He finished at that level 51-45 with a 2.99 ERA and a .283 batting average. He moved into managing in ’44 in the Browns chain and then began a long run in the Dodgers one from ’45 to ’64, except for ’61 when he was a coach for LA, and ’63 when he was a scout. In ’65 he moved to the Cleveland system where he was a roving coach, manager (’66, ’68-’69, and ’72), scout (’70 –’72), and Indians coach (’67 and ’74). He won over 1,800 games as a manager. He was dismissed when Robinson took over as manager and then scouted for a few different teams before settling in Florida. His son Chuck was a big deal football player in Ohio who still holds some Ohio State receiving records and played a year in the NFL. Clay passed away in Fort Lauderdale in ’99 at age 87.

Antonio Pacheco was born outside Havana, Cuba, and began his playing career in the US in ’49, when he was 21. Antonio was a second baseman and his first two seasons in D ball he hit .246 and .293. He got picked up by the Senators in ’51 and spent the next three seasons with their Havana franchise, a B level team. The best he hit at that level was .233 and in ’53 he got into a couple Triple A games, but that was as far up as he got. He hit .250 at that level in ’54 in a few games but spent the rest of his playing career in the lower minors and was done by ’56. He finished with a .236 average. His last year he began coaching and by ’58 was managing in the Cincinnati system, which he did through ’59. He then scouted for the Reds (’60-’61) and the Astros (’62-’65). He then managed in the Houston chain from ’66 to ’72 and in the Cleveland one in ’73 and ‘75. Like Clay above, Antonio had a one-year run in ’74 with the Indians before Robinson dropped him. He then returned to Houston where he coached for the Astros (’76-’79 and ’82) and scouted for the team (’80-’81 and 83-’86). Late in the ’86 season he became ill – I cannot tell with what since the newspaper accounts are all in Spanish – but it was quite serious as he passed away the next year at age 59.

In the book “The Curse of...” there are a couple chapters devoted to the time immediately before and after Frank Robinson’s time as manager. In it Robinson indicated that one of the reasons he got rid of the coaching staff – which included Larry Doby, who nearly beat him in being named manager – was that he noticed in the locker room that the team seemed to segregate itself along racial lines. Doby would sit at one end with the black players and Aspromonte and the other guys would sit at the other end of the clubhouse. Robinson thought the coaches should all sit with the manager regardless of ethnic background. I guess that was New Age thinking back then. Ken also had the luck of being the Cleveland manager during the ten-cent beer night fiasco and he and his players had to arm themselves with baseball bats to help try to rescue the Texas Rangers from the Cleveland fans’ beer-inspired ire. That must have been fun.

So we return to the double hook-up. First for Ken Aspro as manager:

1. Aspromonte managed Oscar Gamble on the ’73 to ‘74 Indians;
2. Gamble and Tim McCarver ’70 to ’72 Phillies.

Now for Ken as a player. The above connection just gets extended:

1. Aspromonte and Jim Perry ’60 Indians;
2. Perry and Oscar Gamble ’74 Indians;
3. Gamble and Tim McCarver ’70 to ‘72 Phillies.

Friday, March 22, 2013

#520 - Tim McCarver

Lots of people know this guy, even ones who weren’t around when this card came out. There are very few regular watchers of baseball over the past 30 years or so who don’t have a strong opinion of Tim McCarver, and that opinion is probably pretty balanced between like and dislike. I’m probably in the former camp, but I’ve always been happy to hear someone talk baseball who knows more about it than I do. And Tim is and has certainly been a talker. Even back in ’73 he was always good for a sound byte. He spent that year back in St. Louis for the first time in a few years after being spirited away by the Phillies in ’70. This time around Ted Simmons was the regular guy behind the plate so Tim put in most of his time at first with Joe Torre. He put up his best numbers since his old Cards days but his stay this time wouldn’t be crazy long as he’d be moving on again before ’74 was out. Tim shows his lefty batting stance at Candlestick. It’s an appropriate pose because a big Lefty would help extend Tim’s career for a while.

Tim McCarver grew up in Memphis where he was a big deal football and baseball star at Christian Brothers High School. He got lots of D-1 offers for full rides in the former sport but when the bonus numbers got big – he signed for either $65,000 or $75,000 depending on the source – he opted to sign with the Cards in ’59. He then hit .360 in D ball and .357 in a few games in Triple A before making his debut that September in St. Louis when he was only 17. He’d put in a few more games up top the next couple seasons but put in most of his time in the minors. In Double A in ’60 he hit .347 and then in ’61 and ’62 came down to earth a bit in Triple A with a .229 and .275 respectively, though the second season he added a bit of power with eleven homers and 57 RBI’s. After that year he was ready to go topside for good.

McCarver pretty much stepped into the starting role in ’63, replacing Gene Oliver as catcher. He put up some pretty good offensive numbers starting that season but what really ingratiated him to his teammates was his work behind the plate. Soon after getting his regular spot – and according to the book “October 1964” with some tutoring regarding his Good Ole Boy ways – he became tight with Bob Gibson which could be a tough thing to do back then. After hitting nearly .290 his first couple years he went to the Series in ’64 where he hit .478 with a game-winning homer against the Yankees. In ’66 he had his first All-Star year and led the NL in triples, a first for a catcher. In ’67 he had his highest average as he returned to the All-Star game and came in second in MVP voting to teammate Orland Cepeda. St. Louis also returned to the Series that year and the next and while Tim didn’t hit too well the first year, he did win another ring. He hit .333 in the ’68 loss to Detroit. In ’69 he put up better regular season numbers and then was part of the big trade between St. Louis and the Phillies in which Dick Allen became a Card and Curt Flood a Phillie, but not for long.

McCarver’s time in Philadelphia didn’t start off too well as a broken hand early in the season pretty much wrecked his year and had the Phillies scrambling to find replacements. He came back to start in ’71 and got into a mid-season fight with ex-teammate Lou Brock. In ’72 after starting off as the regular guy, he was traded to Montreal in June for John Bateman and the rest of the way caught and played a bit in the outfield for the Expos. After the season he returned to the Cards for Jorge Roque, a young outfielder. In ’74 Tim’s playing time contracted significantly after Torre moved to first full-time and Simmons rarely sat. After hitting .217 in just over 100 at bats, he was sold to Boston in September to help fill in for the injured Carlton Fisk. While hitting .250 for the Sox down the stretch it was rumored he was also next in line for the Boston manager gig when Darrell Johnson was having a tough time. But after hitting .381 as a pinch hitter in ’75 and with the Sox making their big pennant run, Tim was released in June. He was picked up by the Phillies shortly thereafter and in pretty much the same role hit .254 the rest of the way.

Beginning in ’76 McCarver took on the role that he would have the duration of his playing career as Steve Carlton’s personal catcher. Tim and Carlton had been in the same battery in both St. Louis and earlier in Philadelphia and for the next four years most of Tim’s starts would be when Lefty was on the mound. The first couple years Tim would make the most of the opportunity offensively as well, posting a .300 average with an over .400 OBA while putting up 59 RBI’s in 324 at bats in ’76 and ’77. Both seasons Philly made the playoffs as well as in ’78, when Tim’s average slipped to .247. After hitting .241 in ’79 he retired – during their time together Carlton went 77-41 – until he was brought back for a couple games in ’80 so he could be a four decade guy. Tim finished with a .271 average on 1,500 hits, 97 homers, and 645 RBI’s. He stole 61 bases and had a .337 OBA. Defensively he led the NL in assists once and fielding percentage twice. In the post-season he hit .273 with two homers and 12 RBI’s in 28 games.

McCarver began his broadcasting career while playing – it was in his contract – doing some spot work for the Phillies in ’78 and ’79.  He then stayed with the Phillies full-time through ’82 before moving on to the Mets (’83-’98) and Yankees (’99-2001). During that time he also did post-season work for all the networks and since 2002 has been working games for Fox. He has won three Emmy’s as a sportscaster and was inducted into the Hall as one in 2012.

Tim gets a good star bullet and an irrelevant cartoon. He stayed in Memphis a lot longer than I’d have expected. In that “October 1964” book Tim is described as an eager guy with a temper. In a few instances teammates had to talk to him about keeping a cool head during his first couple seasons.

How about using a guy for whom McCarver was traded:

1. McCarver and Dick Allen ’75 to ’76 Phillies;
2. Allen and Bill Sharp ’73 to ’74 White Sox.eHHeHYeHJh

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

#519 - Bill Sharp

I always liked this action shot of Bill Sharp. I liked it even more a couple years later when I realized it was a dead ringer for one of my favorite all-time cards, Fred Lynn’s ’76 card. This is Bill’s rookie card and his swing looks great as Jerry Hairston watches on deck in Chicago. Bill had been in town more-or-less since May when he was called up to help fill in after Ken Henderson got hurt. Bill would get starting time when Henderson was down and did the expected good defensive work in center field. By the end of August he was hitting .224. But the rest of the way he hit about .380 and got everyone excited and helped pull Chicago back above .500 the first week of September. Then he was about the only offensive performer the rest of the way as they finished the year 5-14. It was a nice way to end his first season and most of those fans look pretty happy with the result of this swing, an apparent liner to right. It also looks good on a rookie card.

Bill Sharp grew up in Lima, Ohio where he starred in three sports: as a guard in hoops; an outfielder in baseball; and an all-state quarterback. After graduating in ’68 he got a full ride to Ohio State in that last sport and got to play under Woody Hayes. He was a QB his freshman year but broke a rib in an inter-squad game and didn’t see too much action. His sophomore year he moved to punter and safety and made some noise at both positions but thereafter decided to concentrate on baseball. That he did, and his junior year of ’71 he was all Big Ten and third team All-American after hitting .345. That year he was drafted by the Sox in the second round and got things going that summer in Double A where his average was light but he did nice work in center. In ’72 he pulled his military hitch – he said basic training was a lot easier than playing under Woody – and started the season super late but did push his average up 60 points at the same level. In ’73 he was playing in Triple A and putting up comparable numbers when he was called up in the wake of Henderson’s injury and the sale of Rich Morales to San Diego.

After the big finish in ’73 Sharp spent ’74 toggling between Triple A Iowa, where he hit .333, and Chicago, where he played primarily in right since Henderson was healthy that year. While splitting time in that position with Pat Kelly Bill hit .253 with 24 RBI’s in 320 at bats. After kicking off ’75 in the same role, he was traded to the Brewers for outfielder Bob Collucio in early May and spent the rest of the season swapping starts in center field with Gorman Thomas. Bill hit .255 the rest of the way with 34 RBI’s. In ’76 the Brewers split center between Thomas and new guy Von Joshua and Bill got moved to right to back up Sixto Lezcano. Between his new role and a knee injury his at bats tailed off to just over half of his ’75 total and at the end of spring training of ’77 he was opted to Triple A Spokane. But he re-injured his knee early in the season after hitting .211 in a couple games and retired by the end of the year. He finished up top with a .255 average and in the minors hit .277.

And that’s pretty much it for Mr. Sharp. He apparently returned to Ohio State to finish his degree and also did some work in community relations for Interlake Steel in his off-seasons while playing. In 2009 his number in high school was retired by his school but outside of that tidbit there is precious little out there on Bill. It appears he shows up for golf tournaments and old-timers days so he is alive and well. But nothing more specific than that.

Topps gives us about the longest star bullet regarding a single play I have seen in this set. Bill hit .366 in September for the Sox.  Below I show the ’76 Lynn card; the hands are a bit lower but you can see what I mean.

Sharp and Hegan played together but he and Thomas didn’t. But let’s try this:

1. Sharp and Von Joshua ’76 Brewers;
2. Joshua and Derrel Thomas ’75 to ’76 Giants.eHHeHYeHJh

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

#518 - Derrel Thomas

Derrel Thomas looks like he’s the only guy on the field at Riverfront. That makes this photo a pretty good representation of its subject since over the course of his career Derrel put in time at every position outside of pitcher. In his sophomore year of ’73 he put in most of his time at shortstop after playing mainly second his rookie year. In ’74 he’d start some games at second and for the Giants a couple years later he put in his first considerable amount of time in the outfield. In his return trip to San Diego later in the decade he’d do his first base time and a few years later during his long stay in LA he gave catching a shot. That flexibility kept Derrel in the game a long time, which was a good thing since things fell apart for him a bit when he finally left his playing career behind. But right now it’s ’73 and while offensively it was a bit of a step back from his rookie year he did up his stolen base total. He also didn’t get into as much trouble so he was seen as a bit of an anchor for the middle defense. At least for a little while.

Derrel Thomas grew up in LA where he played the big three sports and in baseball was a pitcher, shortstop, and first baseman. His senior year he hit .520 and he was made the first pick by Houston in the ’69 winter draft. He hit pretty well that summer in A ball and then upped his average when moved to Triple A. The same thing happened in a ’70 split between Double A and Triple A, though the averages weren’t quite as high and he began the season at the higher level. Those two years he played mostly at shortstop. In ’71 he moved primarily to second, had a very good year at Triple A, and made his debut in a late game in Houston. After the season he, Bill Greif, and Mark Schaeffer went to San Diego for pitcher Dave Roberts.

With the Padres Thomas was immediately placed on the big league roster and his rookie year he was primarily based at second. He was considered a bit of a showboat but had a pretty solid rookie season and made the Baseball Digest rookie team as its shortstop (Dwain Anderson, one of Derrel’s back-ups in ’73, was the Topps guy). But his real notoriety came via some of the trouble he got into with management: he complained loudly when he was briefly sent down to Triple A; and he refused to wear his seatbelt during a flight, nearly getting the whole team kicked off the plane. Things settled a bit in ’73 and in ’74 the Padres got Glenn Beckert to play second, initially relegating Derrel to understudy status. Beckert was hurt at the beginning of the season though, and with new teammate Bobby Tolan helping to corral his negative energy, Derrel had a strong offensive start to the season, hitting over .300 well into May. Then when Beckert came back he didn’t have his offensive pop any more, so Derrel continued as the de facto starter at second and also filled in at third when the bats of Dave Hilton and Dave Roberts went cold. He had a much better year offensively - .247 with 24 doubles and 41 RBI’s – but after that season he was traded to San Francisco for Butch Metzger and Tito Fuentes. In ’75 Derrel replaced Fuentes at second and had his best offensive year, hitting .276 with 99 runs scored and 28 stolen bases. In ’76 the Giants got Marty Perez from Atlanta and between that acquisition and some down time from a thigh injury, Derrel’s stats pretty much halved and his average slid 40 points. In ’77 he bounced to over 500 at bats and his stats all revived to close to where they were in ’75 along with ten triples. That was also the season he had over half of his starts in the outfield, primarily center. After that year he returned to San Diego for Mike Ivie. For the Padres this time he was super-sub, getting over ten starts at first, second, third, and center, but only hitting .227 for the season. After that year he left as a free agent.

Thomas became only the second free agent signed by the Dodgers – the first was Terry Forster – and his signing was primarily to replace Lee Lacy, who had moved on to Pittsburgh. He would stay in LA the next five seasons, where he played varying amounts each season. The most was his first season of ’79 when he became the starting center fielder due to injuries to Rick Monday and Reggie Smith. He hit .256 with 44 RBI’s and 18 stolen bases in 406 at bats in what was by far his biggest offensive year there. In ’80 he got into some games at catcher but played mostly center and the infield. He hit .266 that year and then .248 in ’81 for the Series winners. He got into all three post-season series that year and also made headlines when a boat he was piloting was seized by the FBI coming into the harbor in San Diego (it belonged to Harold Smith, a boxing promoter who’d embezzled a bunch of money). In ’82 he missed about half the season after breaking a leg colliding with coach Danny Ozark while rounding third base. After the ’83 season he left as a free agent, dogged by an accusation that he was one of the players caught up in the drug investigation going on then, which was later rescinded. He hooked up with Montreal for the ’84 season for whom he played shortstop and left field before being sold to California in September for the stretch drive. In ’85 he hooked up with the Miami Marlins, an independent A team, before being sold to the Phillies in May where he played things out. Derrel finished with a .249 average with 140 stolen bases and in the post-season hit .263 in 15 games.

In ’86 Thomas played in Mexico, for the Tabasco Ganaderos, before returning to The States. In ’87 he managed the independent Class A Boise Hawks but after a 9-29 start he was let go. In ’88 and ’89 he managed at Leuzinger, an LA high school, but that experience didn’t go terribly well and resulted in the team quitting on him. During his time there he also managed a strip club, which he continued to do until he returned to Dorsey, his alma mater, to manage the team in ’92. Shortly thereafter he got busted in a sting operation for trying to sell cocaine. He pleaded no contest, served a little time, and got back into ball by umpiring local high school games beginning in ’94. He got back into coaching and in ’97 managed the Billings Mustangs, a Reds rookie team, going 39-32. That ended when he was again accused of possessing cocaine. In ’98 he managed the Tri-City Posse, an independent team with a loose affiliation with the Devil Rays. He was then a roving minor league coach for a few years before hooking up as a scout for the Rays (2002-’05), and then Oakland (’06) and LA (’06-present). He also began a foundation a few years ago that is baseball-based and seeks to inspire kids through the game.

Derrel’s star bullets are all one-liners from ’72. He was an all-city wide receiver.

These two guys never faced each other:

1. Thomas and Bobby Murcer ’75 to ’76 Giants;
2. Murcer and Mike Hegan ’73 to ’74 Yankees.

Monday, March 18, 2013

#517 - Mike Hegan

Mike Hegan looks rather blasé at Yankee Stadium. That look mirrored the ones a lot of Yankees fans had back then. Mike just got back to NY during the season in a sale. An odd aspect of Mike’s travels was that he twice played for former teams. Another one is that his transactions were always for cash, never for another player. Things were a bit crowded at first for Oakland and a little messy there in NY so Mike returned mid-August with his excellent defense and streaky bat. Earlier in the year his error-less game streak ended at 178 in a call many thought was incorrect. He got the lion’s share of at bats the rest of the way since as a lefty he played against the right handers. He upped his average about 100 points and closed out Yankee Stadium as the last batter for a couple years while renovations were being done. His short run was a tad more successful than his last time in pinstripes before expansion whisked him away in the late Sixties. And this stay in NY wouldn’t be terribly long either as he’d be moving on and back to plenty of baseball elsewhere.

Mike Hegan grew up in baseball. Real baseball since as a kid he shagged flies for the Indians while his dad was a long-time catcher with the team. Mike went to St. Ignatius High School in the city where he starred in the big three sports and hit better than .500 his senior year. He got lots of looks from various colleges and opted for Holy Cross where he played football and baseball on scholarship in ’60-’61. After hitting .520 that year he was signed by the Yankees later that summer, too late to play pro ball that year. He returned to school for a semester and then got things going with a nice year in D ball hitting .306 with 18 stolen bases and a .438 OBA. In ’63 he cranked up the power in A ball with a .328 average, 28 homers, and 98 RBI’s. In ’64 he moved up to Double A but had a really tough time with the pitching, his average falling to .233 and his K totals outnumbering his hits. But he also made his NY debut that September, getting some pinch hit looks smack dab in the middle of a pennant race. He also made the post-season roster and got a couple plate appearances against St. Louis. In ’65 he went down to Triple A but after hitting only .179 returned to Double A where his .220 average wasn’t much better. Still, his defensive props were pretty compelling and in ’66 he recorded a much better season in Triple A, hitting .265 with a .393 OBA with a bit more power. He then got a second bunch of late season looks in NY.

’67 was a bit tough for Hegan. Ready to get promoted to The Show for real he instead had to do his military hitch and missed all of spring training and a bunch of the early season. When he did get to NY he did a back-up bit to Mickey Mantle at first. He didn’t hit terribly well and in ’68 he was bounced back to Triple A where he spent the year when he wasn’t doing his reserve work and there hit .304 with 17 stolen bases and a .418 OBA. Early that season he became one of the first official Seattle Pilots in a sale that allowed him to remain in the NY chain until the season ended. With the Pilots in '69 Mike stayed up and he began the season on an explosive tear, hitting the first Pilots home run and keeping his average north of .300 the bulk of the first half. Don Mincher was the regular guy at first so Mike played right field and that summer was the first Pilot/Brewer to be named an All-Star. Just before the game, though, Mike injured a hamstring and his presence in the line-up would be sporadic the rest of the season, though he finished with a huge .427 OBA. In ’70 the team moved to Milwaukee and Mincher was traded to Oakland so Mike was able to resume his regular role at first base where he got by far the most at bats of his career. In ’71 he platooned there with Johnny Briggs and a bunch of other guys to start the season before in June he followed Mincher to Oakland and spent the rest of the year as a late-inning guy and pinch hitter. He also made it back to the post-season and got an appearance against Baltimore. In ’72 he performed the same role again in pretty nice fashion as he hit .329 with a .375 OBA in limited at bats. He also got some decent Series time and even saved a win at first base by spearing a Cesar Geronimo shot down the line. And that came just after Joe Rudi made an awesome catch in left field to stop a home run by Denis Menke.

After his bi-team experience of ’73 Hegan began the ’74 season at Shea as part of a platoon at first base with Bill Sudakis. That arranement lasted until about a month into the season when the Yankees acquired Chris Chambliss from Cleveland. Shortly thereafter Mike was sold to Milwaukee in his second career round-tripper. There the Brewers had a mainstay at first base in George “Boomer” Scott and while Mike got a bit of time in the outfield, his most at bats were as a designated hitter. He did pretty well in the RBI department with 41 in 243 at bats for the year. In ’75 new acquisition Hank Aaron took most of the DH at bats and Mike split time between left field and first. In ’76 he got more time at DH as Aaron was winding down. Both years Mike hit around .250 in a bit over 200 at bats each season. That second year he hit for the cycle against Mark Fidrych. After getting very little time in the field to kick off the ’77 season he asked for his release and was done. Mike finished with a .242 average with a .341 OBA and hit .125 in 13 post-season games.

Hegan was a productive guy, finishing his degree in his first few off-seasons and then putting in some time as an announcer. He moved into that role full-time shortly after his release and continued calling games for the Brewers through the ’88 season. He then moved back to Cleveland where he has been calling games since ’89.

Mike gets some good color on the back. His dad played 15 years, almost all of them with Cleveland, and became a Yankee coach shortly after he retired. A few years ago I saw one of the ’72 Series games on ESPN Classics and Mike hit a grounder to third base. He nearly beat the throw; the guy had some serious wheels. And in “Ball Four” he comes across as a thoroughly likeable guy who is one of the few who is consistently nice to Jim Bouton, the book’s author. He also has about the best line in the book. When the Seattle players were asked the question about the toughest thing to do in baseball, Mike’s response was: “Explaining to your wife why she has to take a shot of penicillin for your kidney infection.”

Mike and Horacio actually played together in ’73 but Mike never got a lot of Oakland at bats so let’s make it stickier:

1. Hegan and Catfish Hunter ’71 to ’73 A’s;
2. Hunter and Horacio Pina ’73 A’s.  eHHeHYeHJh

Friday, March 15, 2013

#516 - Horacio Pina

Now in a continuation of mini-streaks we get the second of two parenthetically-named post subjects in a row. Horacio Pina bears down on a sunny day in Oakland. He stayed there for only one season as evidenced by the Traded card but did enough good work to earn a full Series share. He’d come to the A’s in a trade for Mike Epstein who’d curried disfavor with owner Charlie Finlay after going o-fer in the ’72 Series. Horacio put up one of his best seasons for Oakland, keeping his walk totals relatively low while getting eight saves. While he had some trouble in the post-season, officially he ended up with five shutout innings of work. And the ring of course. On the Traded card he appears to be out in the Oakland outfield and my bet is that the airbrush job is of one of his Ranger uniforms since on his regular card he looks a bit tanner.

Horacio Pina was a soccer player as a kid who didn’t start playing ball for real until he was about 15 (lots of this color comes from his SABR site). He then played some semi-pro ball in Mexico for a bunch of years before Cleveland signed him early in ’67. He’d gone 4-6 with some wildness and a high ERA in ’65 but modified that a bunch in ’66 when he went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 28 K’s in 24 innings of pro ball. Both years he also pitched in his local semi-pro league as well. In ’67 he went 16-11 with a 3.28 ERA as a starter in Mexico, 1-0 with excellent control in a few games in A ball, and 14-7 back in Mexico in winter ball. In ’68 he didn’t pitch as much but he put up better numbers: 9-6 with a 2.21 ERA in Mexico and 3-1 with a 0.69 ERA in Triple A. That August he made his debut for the Indians and the resulting season was quite good, with a couple saves in his 12 games. In ’69 his record was good but he was back on the wildness kick and his ERA ballooned. After the season he was traded to the Senators with Ron Law and Dave Nelson for Barry Moore and Dennis Higgins.

In DC Pina got in tight with manager Ted Williams which was a pretty unusual thing for a pitcher to do. Horacio threw sidearm against righties and over the top against lefties so he was a bit bi-polar in his delivery. But he did generally as he was told and his time with Ted went pretty swimmingly. By the time he got to Washington he was strictly a reliever and in ’70 he got six saves and in ’71 he added two. While his control was still an issue he was one of the team’s most consistent guys on the mound. In ’72 when the team moved to Texas, Horacio did just fine in the arid air, recording 15 saves. After the season he went to Oakland where he did his bit and then after this trade he moved to Chicago. His time in the NL was a little sloppy – 3-4 with a 3.99 ERA and four saves – and didn’t last the season as in July he was sent to California for catcher Rich Stelmaszek. Back in the AL he fired a 2.31 ERA in his few innings of work. Despite that comeback Horacio got cut during spring training in ’75 and he returned to Mexico where he spent the next four years throwing quite good ball for the Aguascalientes franchise. In ’78 he returned briefly to The States to throw a few shutout innings for the Phillies but outside of that it was all Mexican ball through 1980 when he went down with a torn rotator cuff that finished his career. Horacio went 23-23 with a 3.25 ERA and 38 saves up top in The States. He did those five innings of shutout ball in the post-season and went 100-68 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 shutouts during his time in Mexico.

After playing Pina coached a couple seasons in Mexico and then returned to his hometown where he opened and operated a cantina, fished, and lives off his baseball pension.

That second star bullet occurred during ’67. He also tossed a couple no-hitters during his Mexican ball days. Horacio’s English wasn’t the best and in a video of the ’73 Series he kind of messes up when he gets introduced and then breaks up laughing. When he got to Oakland pitching coach Wes Stock changed his delivery so that he threw the same way to guys on both sides of the plate.

Horacio was traded for Bob Locker who was promised a return deal when he went to Chicago the prior year. Ironically Locker was another sidearm guy. He wouldn’t throw for Oakland at all after this trade.

These guys may have met in winter ball and a little bit in ’74:

1. Pina and Deron Johnson ’73 A’s;
2. Johnson and Willie Montanez ’70 to ’73 Phillies.eHHeHYeHJh

Thursday, March 14, 2013

#515 - Willie Montanez

Two action shots in a row has been pretty rare lately. While the two most recent subjects Paul Schaal and Willie Montanez had a few obvious differences – opposite corners of the infield and different leagues – they also have a couple things in common: both played for the Angels; and both have these action shots. This one of Willie is a great one because it goes a long way in describing its subject. Willie was a brash guy with a pretty wide repertoire of bat spins, wrist flicks, holster impersonations, and general commentary. Even here, where he appears to have either fouled one off or just plain missed – my choice given that Chris Speier hasn’t moved from his pre-pitch stance – he is maxing out the drama with what appears to be commentary about his own swing. Willie had another open-mouthed action shot in ’75. In fact, Willie had lots of action shots: six of the twelve cards issued during his career fell into that category. By ’73 his playing style was as hard to define as his antics were colorful: was he a power hitter or a line drive guy; was he a first baseman or a center fielder; was he an entertainer or did all that stuff just cover up some inferiorities? The answers, except for that last one, were both. ’73 was a bit of a temporary nadir for him. After tapping 30 homers as a rookie, and then an NL-leading 39 doubles in ’72, his total bases bottomed out in ’73, his first season with a significant amount of games at first base. But his strikeouts came down too and Willie was fine with not being a power guy. And the fans loved him. He certainly wasn’t morose like the last star guy they had there, Dick Allen. On the day of the Veterans Stadium unveiling he came into the outfield dribbling a basketball to show how springy the turf was. And he was always deemed a bargain since in the deal that brought him to town he was sort of a throw-in to make up for that other guy.

Willie Montanez grew up in Puerto Rico where he was discovered playing that island’s version of Babe Ruth ball and was signed by the Cardinals when he was only 16. After hitting .234 in a very short season of Rookie ball in ’65, he was taken by California in the Rule 5 draft, which meant he had to stay on the Angels roster the whole following season or they could lose him. Willie went to Anaheim, got into a couple mid-April games, and then by the end of the month was returned to the Cards. The rest of the season he hit well in A ball, hitting .281 with eleven homers and 49 RBI’s in about half a season. At that same level in ’67 he hit .269 with 17 triples and twelve stolen bases and 61 RBI’s while playing excellent ball at first. He lost most of the next season to his military commitment in the National Guard, and hit .299 in only 174 A level at bats. In ’69 he was off to a great start in Triple A - .375 with four doubles in 56 at bats – when he broke his ankle and missed the rest of his season. After that year the Phillies finally worked out a deal whereby they got rid of their brooding star Allen: he, Cookie Rojas, and Jerry Johnson went to St. Louis for Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner, Tim McCarver, and Curt Flood. When Flood refused to report to the Phillies, opening up a case that begat free agency, St. Louis offered Willie as compensation.

For the Phillies Montanez picked up where he left off with the Cards – in Triple A. There in ’70 he hit .276 with 16 homers and 80 RBI’s before getting a late season look up top. In ’71 he made the roster out of spring training as the center fielder, a position previously manned by Larry Hisle, who was having a tough time with big league pitching. Willie went on to have his big rookie year and his 30 homers and 99 RBI’s took him to second place behind Earl Williams in ROY voting as he landed a spot in the Topps Rookie outfield. In ’72 the Phillies sort of bottomed out and Willie’s offense came in pretty good except for that doubles total. After his move to first during ’73 he settled into the position nicely and the next year put up a .304 average while continuing to drop his K totals and adding 33 doubles and 79 RBI’s. In ’75 Willie was off to another good start, hitting .286 with eight doubles and 16 RBI’s in his first 21 games, when the Phillies decided on a big personnel shift. They were having some problems replacing his successor in center Del Unser, who’d gone to NY in the off season. They also had a hankering to return Dick Allen to first and he was available cheap. So they picked up Allen from Atlanta and sent Willie to San Francisco for Garry Maddox, who was off to a slow start on the left coast.

’75 was the year when Montanez, relatively settled in Philly for four-plus years, became truly itinerant. The rest of the year he hit very well, raising his Giant average to .305 and adding 24 doubles and 85 RBI’s to bring his season totals to 34 and 101, respectively. Ironically, the speedster also led the NL in double plays into which he hit. In ’76 he kept the average cranking, hitting .309 in his first 60 games, when another mid-season trade had him on the road again. This time he went to Atlanta with Craig Robinson for Darrell Evans and Marty Perez. With the Braves he hit .321 the rest of the way and finished the season at .317 with 206 hits and 84 RBI’s. He stayed with Atlanta for the ’77 season, his only All-Star one, and hit .287 with 20 homers and 68 RBI’s. After that year Willie was part of a huge four-way trade in which he ended up with the Mets and the Braves got pitchers Tommy Boggs and Adrian Devine from Texas (Pittsburgh was the other team involved in the trade). Poor Willie was yet again on a crappy team but he made the most of it, using a mid-season surge to get him 17 homers and 96 RBI’s. But that magic didn’t extend into ’79 and when two-thirds of the way into the season he only had five homers and 47 RBI’s, along with a .234 average, Willie went to Texas for Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen. For the Rangers he finished big with a .319 average, eight homers, and 24 RBI’s in 38 games. Prior to the ’80 season Willie went to San Diego for Gaylord Perry and Tucker Ashford where for the Padres he hit about his lifetime mark: .274 with 63 RBI’s until a late-season deal to Montreal for its stretch run (the Expos gave up Tony Phillips). Willie hit .211 that September in mostly a pinch-hitting role. He played that part again in ’81 for Montreal and Pittsburgh and in ’82 for the Pirates and the Phillies, a season he also put in some time in Triple A. That was Willie’s last year and he finished with a .275 average, 279 doubles, 139 homers, and 802 RBI’s. He got shut out of any post-season work.

I am not terribly clear on what Montanez did immediately after baseball. He had moved to Caguas PR while he was playing and played winter ball for its team which he did for a good deal of his career. He settled there full time after playing and since ’92 has been a scout for the Phillies on his home island.

Willie’s star bullets are pretty good but you think Topps could have come up with a better cartoon about a colorful guy. It looks like he barely squeezed his signature in that spot. He used to tell Mike Schmidt that he got pneumonia from all the cold air currents Schmidt produced when he struck out.

The Angel connection doesn’t really work here but this does:

1. Montanez and Andy Hassler ’79 Mets;
2. Hassler and Paul Schaal ’74 Angels.eHHeHYeHJh

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#514 - Paul Schaal

There are a few things to like about this action shot. Yes, it’s blurry. But it’s also the final card of Paul Schaal’s career and I always like when Topps sends guys out with an action shot. It also looks like Paul is adjusting mid-swing to a pitch in Comiskey, and it’s always good to see a pro being resourceful. Lastly, I believe that’s Chicago manager Chuck Tanner in the background on the step of the dugout. Chuck’s got his hands on his head, as if he’s saying “Geez, you just threw him THAT pitch?” Makes me wonder what the outcome of this at bat was. The outcome of a lot of at bats for Paul in ’73 was pretty good as he raised his average 60 points from the prior year. Unfortunately for Paul, the biggest event of his season career-wise may have been when, after a couple weeks trying to play himself back in the line-up after he hurt his ankle, the Royals put him on the disabled list in early August and called up a kid from Omaha. That kid turned out to be George Brett and though Paul hit over .300 on his return, the stars were sort of aligned against him. But before and after then he was a lot better than a trivia answer so let’s flesh him out.

Paul Schaal – yeah, it rhymes – was born in Pittsburgh but played high school ball and hoops in Compton, which means he either played with or against Roy White of the Yankees. His senior year he hit .405 while leading his team to the state championship. Still, he wasn’t signed until after a summer of American Legion ball put him on the Angels’ radar and they gave him a $4,000 bonus. His first season of ’62 he had a good year in D ball, hitting .278 with 73 RBI’s and a .400 OBA. Paul would have a knack for getting on base that would follow him to the majors. In ’63 he moved up to A ball, hit .328, and ironed out his fielding a bit. In ’64 he moved all the way to Triple A, hit .271 with 53 RBI’s, and put more games in at second base than at third. In his few late season looks in LA that season he put in time at both positions as well.

In 1965 the Angels moved from LA to Anaheim and they took a new third baseman with them. Schaal got in the line-up on his defense and stayed there on that and some timely hits. His rookie year he came in third in assists and fielding percentage for AL third basemen and provided enough offense to get named to the Topps Rookie team that year. In ’66 he upped his average 20 points and, in putting up a nice reversal in his BB to K ratio, his OBA by over 50 points. But with California suffering a power drought – Bobby Knoop led the team in RBI’s – Paul’s RBI numbers were pretty miniscule. In ’67 Paul’s offense tumbled hard and in an attempt to fix things offensively at the position he returned to Double A where he hit .311 with a .408 OBA in a bit over a month. In the meantime the Angels tried a bunch of other guys at the position including Aurelio Rodriguez, Johnny Werhas, and catcher Tom Satriano. But none of those guys added any real value so when ’68 opened Paul was back at his spot. By June he was playing every day, was having a great defensive year, and while hitting only .212 he seemed to be recovering his stroke. But in a game against Boston he got nailed right above the ear by a Jose Santiago fastball, collapsed, and was taken to the hospital. He had a skull fracture and while damage wasn’t as bad as initially feared he lost some hearing in his left ear and had some serious balance issues as a result. He attempted to come back during the year but just getting to first base made him dizzy. After the season he was left unprotected and he was selected by Kansas City in the expansion draft.

When the Royals did their draft they also grabbed Joe Foy of Boston and with Foy's bigger stats to that point there was little doubt as to who the starting third baseman would be. So Schaal spent ’69 shuttling between Kansas City and Triple A. He had a bang-up season in the minors - .374 with a .468 OBA, 40 RBI’s, and nine stolen bases in 222 at bats – and upstairs had a nice bounce in his average. His power was a bit iffy because he was still feeling the effects of the beaning which also continued into ’70. Prior to that season Foy was dealt to the Mets for Amos Otis and Paul got the starting gig, giving some time away to Bob Oliver and Billy Sorrell. In ’71 he had his biggest year, playing every game and posting by far his biggest offensive season, including an OBA of .387. ‘72 was a big downer as his average tumbled and by the end of the year he was giving away starts to Kurt Bevacqua. After his nice bounce in ’73 got interrupted by his injury a slow start to the ’74 season got him traded back to California for former Royal Richie Scheinblum. While Paul upped his average a bunch in Anaheim and put in more time than anyone at third, he was released at the end of the season, ending his time in baseball. He hit .244 for his career with a .341 OBA. In the minors he hit .297 with a .392 OBA.

While Schaal left baseball after playing he did not walk away from a physically active career. After initially continuing working in real estate, which he did while he was playing, he moved into chiropractic care. He returned to the KC area where he has run his own wellness center for nearly thirty years.

’62 was a big year in the minors for Paul. In ’66 he hit an inside-the-park home run. He was quite skilled at pool and according to one report was considering  it as a potential career choice after baseball.

It’s about time for another easy one:

1. Schaal and Jim Campanis ’69 to ’70 Royals.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

#513 - Jim Campanis

In a nod to nepotism, Topps offers us the final card of Jim Campanis’ career. Jim’s dad was Al, long the GM of the Dodgers. It was with his dad’s team that Jim’s career began a decade earlier. By now, though, it had been years since Jim played for LA or any of its franchises and he was still around, so maybe I’m just being cheap (as in shot). Jim’s last look at MLB as a player wasn’t much – just one hit in six at bats. But he had a pretty good year in Triple A, hitting .304 with 18 homers and 64 RBI’s. But Jim was 29 now, with – as he’d admit years later – “hands of stone” behind the plate. And that feature, coupled with an MLB average that aspired to be Mendoza-worthy, did not contribute too readily to a long career.

Jim Campanis grew up in Fullerton, California. He was a big kid and played linebacker as well as catcher in high school. He hit .420 his senior year. He pretty much grew up in Dodger training camps so when they signed him in ’62 upon graduating it just seemed like a natural evolutionary step. That year in D ball he hit .234 while actually having a fine defensive season. In ’63 he hit .302 in A ball with nine homers. In ’64 he hit .301 with 16 homers and 50 RBI’s and then .240 in a few games in Double A. He upped that to .255 in ’65 at the higher level with about the same amount of power. ’66 was all Triple A – except for his one at bat up top – and he did pretty well with a .284 average and 52 RBI’s. In ’67 Jim spent the whole year with the Dodgers backing up John Roseboro, but he got few at bats and even fewer hits. In ’68 Roseboro was traded to the Twins and there was some noise about Jim getting more work behind the plate. But LA picked up Tom Haller from the Giants and he and Jeff Torborg crowded Jim all the way back to Triple A where he hit .259 with 50 RBI’s in half a season. After that year his dad did something that was probably pretty tough: he traded his kid for future considerations to the new Kansas City Royals.

Jim split the first two years of the KC franchise between the Royals and the minors. He hit .244 in Triple A the first year and .288 in Double A the second, moving down a notch so Buck Martinez could get some seasoning at the higher level. Following the ’70 season he was traded to Pittsburgh with pitcher Bob Johnson and infielder Jackie Hernandez for Bruce Dal Canton, Jerry May, and Freddie Patek. It was pretty rare to see three of the exact same positions traded for themselves. For his run with the Pirates it was pretty much all minor leagues for Jim. In ’71 he hit .273 in Double A but fell to .206 in Triple A. In ’72 he had a .293/16/76 season at the lower level and in ’74, in what would be his last season as a player, a .277/18/76 year in Triple A. Jim finished with a .273 average with 125 homers in the minors, as well as the MLB numbers on the back of his card.

After playing Jim did lots of community relations work for the Dodgers and got rings for the ’81 and ’88 Series championships. He also managed a car dealership back in Fullerton for a number of years and has his own restaurant, Mini Gourmet, which is in Placentia, which is a letter away from being an inappropriate – or appropriate, depending on how New Age-y you are – town in which to have an eatery.

So despite Jim’s self-effacing comment it looks like he did have some good times on defense. Those two seasons from that first star bullet were in ’62 and ’65. Jim’s dad ended his LA career when he made his infamous comment about managing abilities by different ethnicities. Shortly thereafter both Jim’s and Bob Boone’s sons were in a race to see who would represent his family first as the third generation baseball player. Bret and Aaron Boone won that race.

Jim and Joe both played for the Royals as did the guy who comes next:

1. Campanis and Bill Singer (they shared a rookie card) ’67 to ’68 Dodgers;
2. Singer and Joe Lahoud ’74 to ’75 Angels.