Friday, May 31, 2013

#550 - Sam McDowell

This is a photo of a 30-year old baseball player. Thirty year old guys could really emphasize that “old” part back then; I think Sam McDowell easily looks ten years older here. But Sam wasn’t helping himself with his widely publicized alcohol problem which was ramping up pretty significantly around the time this card came out. And ex the drinking ’73 wasn’t so hot a year for Sudden Sam anyway. ’72 was pretty much a bust as Sam was on the bad side of the big trade of him for Gaylord Perry and Frank Duffy as he only won ten while Perry won 24 to win the Cy. Then after a not great spring he only got three starts and 24 relief innings – with a couple saves – before he was sold in early June to the Yankees, who were pretty desperate for pitching help. Initially they got it from Sam as he went 5-1 with a 1.55 ERA in his first six starts for NY. But then things got ugly fast and from the end of July on he went 0-7 with a 5.89 ERA. At one point during Sam’s troubles he was diagnosed as bipolar, a condition he never believed he actually had. But sometimes his seasons sure looked like they were. Though he would pitch two more seasons up top after ’73 this is his final card.

Sam McDowell grew up a stone’s throw from old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. A big kid he could always throw a mean fastball and his senior year of high school was pretty phenomenal: 8-1 with 152 strikeouts in 63 innings with three no-hitters and an ERA of 0.00. He won the state championship 1-0 by hitting a solo homer in a game he K’d 18 kids. By then he had a lot of scouts on his tail and he opted to go to Cleveland because the Tribe allowed him to start in the low minors and work his way up, which was a condition of Sam's and his parents prior to signing in 1960. So that summer he began his career way down in D ball where he went 5-6 with a 3.34 ERA, 80 walks, and 100 strikeouts in 105 innings. In ’61 he moved all the way up to Triple A where he went 13-10 but his ERA fattened to 4.42 as he walked 152 guys in 175 innings. But that didn’t stop him from getting a September start for the Tribe in which he memorably broke two ribs while throwing a strike, ending his season. In ’62 he broke camp up top but a fat ERA had him back in Triple A by June where he went 3-2 with a 2.02 ERA before returning to Cleveland in late summer. ’63 went pretty much the same: up top through June and then back to Triple A the rest of the season. That year he went 3-6 at the lower level but his ERA was still good at 3.41 and his K to BB ration of 84 to 50 – in 87 innings – was his best to date at any level. In ’64 a great start to his season in Triple A – 8-0 with a 1.18 ERA with five shutouts and 24 walks and 102 K’s in 76 innings and nine starts – got him a one-way ticket to Cleveland.

McDowell finally put together a nice string in Cleveland once he got there for the balance of the ’64 season, throwing a couple shutouts in his 24 starts and leading the AL in strikeouts per nine innings, a harbinger of what would come. In ’65 he had his first All-Star season as he led the league in strikeouts and ERA and K’d nearly eleven guys per nine innings with that Nolan Ryan-like total. In ’66 both Sam and the Tribe started off great guns – the Indians came out 10-0 – and on May 1 he was 4-0 and just off two consecutive one-hit shutouts. But back then manager Birdie Tebbets called all of Sam’s pitches and nearly every one was a heater and Sam’s shoulder began hurting. It took him over a month to get his next win and he would miss long stretches of the season and get not much run support. Though his innings dropped by nearly 100 he still led the AL in strikeouts and with five shutouts. Then ’67 got a bit messy. Tebbets had to retire following a mid-season heart attack in ’66 and new manager Joe Adcock wasn’t so hot at calling pitches. While Sam’s innings picked up a bit, his control suffered and his homer totals climbed for him to an unusually high amount, pushing his ERA up by about a run. But things would change in a good way the next year.

In ’68 the Indians named Alvin Dark manager and one of Dark’s first tasks was to let McDowell know that Sam and his catchers would decide which pitches he threw. That may or may not have happened, depending on the source. But Sam did for sure start mixing up his pitches more and the results the next few years were quite good. In ’68 he returned to a winning record while posting his lowest ERA and beginning a three-year run as the AL strikeout leader. In ’69 his ERA shot up but was still tons better than league average and in ’70 he won 20 while again eclipsing 300 K’s in what may have been his best season. It certainly had its moments, like when Sam played second base for part of an inning so a reliever could throw to his nemesis Frank Howard, and Sam could return to the mound after that one at bat. Unfortunately during that time his drinking was also ramping up and that level of success would be short-lived. Dark was generally in charge of trades and salary negotiations by then and Sam had claimed he was entitled to some bonuses for his ’70 performance that he was never paid. So he held out during the spring and wasn’t too happy with Dark, though he did sign another bonus-driven contract. But he began the season 0-4 and then things got wiggy. Oakland wanted Sam and offered six players for him but Dark never responded. Then commissioner Bowie Kuhn outlawed all the incentives in the Cleveland contracts, including Sam’s. Then Dark got booted right after he wouldn’t allow Sam to pitch in the All-Star game because of more shoulder pain he’d been experiencing. Sam got fined for being “rowdy” – read drunk – on a team charter and in August declared his contract null because of the cancelled incentives and went back to Pittsburgh for a couple weeks. He returned but after improving his record to 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA when he walked, he only went 2-7 the rest of the way. That November he was traded to San Francisco for Perry and Duffy.

Prior to the ’72 season McDowell had acupuncture for his shoulder and the immediate results were pretty good as he started the season 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA. But then the shoulder pain returned and in June he was smashed on his pitching hand by a come-backer. He was still 8-4 at that point though his ERA had climbed a couple runs. But in early July he went on the DL for over a month for his shoulder and the end numbers weren’t too hot. After his up and down ’73 the following season resembled the downside a lot more than the up as Sam, now bedeviled by a bad back, went 1-6 with a 4.69 ERA in only 13 games. He was busted for a DUI during the season and basically quit in early September to protest his lack of use. Released in January he went to spring training with Pittsburgh in ’75, had a decent camp, and pitched well in his few games, going 2-1 with a 2.86 ERA out of the pen. But the Pirates had too many lefty relievers and mid-year he was released to make room for Kent Tekulve, ending his time as a player. Sam finished 141-134 with a 3.17 ERA, 103 complete games, 23 shutouts, 14 saves, and 2,453 strikeouts – 35th all-time – in 2,492 innings. He made six All-Star teams and ranks tenth all-time in strikeouts per nine innings.

McDowell had a rough time of things after playing. He’d gone to school part-time during off-seasons and initially did insurance work. But his drinking got nasty bad the latter half of the Seventies and he did rehab. He also changed his degree program to counseling and psychiatry in order to help him evaluate and deal with his alcohol issues. By the early Eighties he was lecturing and counseling kids and shortly thereafter founded Triumphs Unlimited, an entity through which he began counseling MLB players. He did that a bunch of years, both through the leagues and through individual teams, and eventually moved onto other sports as well. In the mid-2000’s he relocated to Florida where he established a retirement community for ex-professional athletes.

Sam gets a special card number for his final one. His painting pursuits made other cards as well. He was supposed to be a super nice guy away from the booze and in “The Curse of Rocky Colavito” – from where much of this information came – there are some amusing stories about playing in the field behind him. Apparently he had a fondness for challenging hitters he knew he could get with his fastball – like opposing pitchers – with other pitches, sometimes to disastrous results.

This exercise would have been a piece of cake with Sonny Siebert:

1. McDowell and Dave Kingman ’72 to ’73 Giants;
2. Kingman and Mike Jorgensen ’81 to ’83 Mets.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

#549 - Mike Jorgensen

In 1973 Mike Jorgensen broke the LA stranglehold for NL Gold Glove winners at first base. So it’s pretty appropriate that he get an action shot at his favorite position. This may actually be his second action shot of the set in this position since I opined way back that I believed he is the guy in the background of Mike Marshall’s card. Mike would have been in the middle of his second season in Montreal about the time this photo was taken and during his time with the Expos, his best run by far in the majors, he was known for his defense and his ability to get on base. Along with his NL-leading fielding percentage of .995, his walk total topped his strikeout one for the first time of what would be four consecutive years and his OBA added over 100 points to his average. He’d better both numbers the duration of his stay with Montreal and be one of the team’s most consistent performers the next few seasons.

Mike Jorgensen was born in Jersey and moved to Bayside, Queens, NYC, as an elementary school kid. From that age through high school he seems – according to posts on the “ultimatemets” site – to have been  a star at everything from baseball (first base), basketball (he could dunk from a standing position), track (sprinter and relay guy), and football. A star of some local travel and all-city teams he was drafted and signed by the Mets after his senior year of ’66. That summer in Rookie ball his .313/8/37 stats in 150 at bats got him on his league all-star team, as did his .295/5/41 year in A ball in ’67. Both seasons he played nearly exclusively at first. In ’68 he began losing playing time to military time and a disappointing month in Double A - .160/0/10 in 100 at bats – was followed by a revival in A ball that produced a .315/3/27 season in 213 at bats and then got him some late September looks in NY. In ’69 he missed a couple months to his military hitch but posted by far his biggest offensive season to date with .290/21/69 numbers in 359 at bats in Triple A. Again, nearly all his defensive time was spent at first. In ’70 Mike had a good spring and made the Mets roster for the season, playing first behind Donn Clendenon and Art Shamsky. He also put in some outfield time in center and did pretty well defensively but was underwhelming at the plate in his few at bats. In ’71 he began the season in Triple A, returned to NY in June and hit close to .300 his first month, went back to Triple A in mid-summer after his average tailed off, and finished the year back in NY. Ed Kranepool had returned to the line-up so nearly all Mike’s games that year up top were in center. His numbers in Triple A - .342/15/41 with a .445 OBA in 228 at bats – pretty much sealed the deal on whether or not he needed more time in the minors. After another good spring training the Mets decided they needed some more outfield offense and during the short players strike to open the season they sent Mike, Ken Singleton, and Tim Foli to Montreal for Rusty Staub.

The Montreal first base position had resembled a revolving door during the first three years of the franchise. That would be modified a bunch after the acquisition of Jorgensen and his fellow ex-Mets. Mike would pretty much split time with Ron Fairly and/or Hal Breeden the next few seasons, turning the position into one of the team’s most productive, both offensively and defensively. He got his show rolling by homering in his first at bat as an Expo and along with his excellent defense at first started 28 games in center. In ’73 he played first nearly all the time to win that Gold Glove. He maxed out offensively the next two seasons. ‘74 started oddly. Montreal had a nasty bad spring training after the promise showed in ’73 and apparently Mike was one of the goats because he didn’t even get a start until June and that was in left field since Singleton had taken over right and new acquisition Willie Davis center. He’d finished July hitting only .167 in his reserve role but his average took off pretty immediately once he got some regular time and he finished with a .310 average and .444 OBA with eleven homers and 59 RBI’s in his 287 at bats. In ’75 Fairly went to St. Louis and Mike again got the lion’s share of starts at first, putting up a .261/18/67 season with a .378 OBA in 445 at bats, a career high. But ’76 was a mess, as the slide begat by the horrible trade of Singleton and Mike Torrez to Baltimore for a couple guys who wouldn’t last the season ended in the cellar and first base was again reduced to a hodgepodge. Mike’s numbers slid as well to a .254/6/23 season in 343 at bats, though his OBA was still a relatively healthy .349. A couple games into the ’77 season he was sent to Oakland for pitcher Stan Bahnsen.

Going to the post-diaspora A’s wasn’t exactly a cure for the losing in Montreal and Jorgensen again found himself on a last place team. He’d put up a slight premium to his ’76 numbers the rest of the way and then leave via free agency for the Texas Rangers. His ’78 was a big bust and ’79 wasn’t much better, especially after a mid-season beaning by Andy Hassler put him in intensive care for a week and made him miss over a month of the season. After it ended he was sent back to the NL and the Mets for Willie Montanez, leaving behind an AL mark for his nearly three seasons of .228/15/57 in only 457 at bats. His OBA slid to .315 as well. In ’80 Mike swapped starts at first with Lee Mazilli and revived a bit offensively, with a .255/7/43 season in his 321 at bats. In ’81 NY brought back Dave Kingman and he was a safe guy in the field only at first so Mike was relegated to late inning defensive and pinch-hitting work which he’d do the rest of his career. He remained with the Mets midway through ’83, went to Atlanta for about a year, and then went to St. Louis in mid-’84 as part of a deal for Ken Oberkfell. He finished up with the Cards in ’85, his final at bats being in that year’s World Series. Mike ended with a .243 average, 95 homers, 426 RBI’s, and a .347 OBA during the regular season. In the post-season he went hitless in five at bats.
Jorgensen only played with the Cards for a bit but it was the beginning of a long relationship. After the ’85 season he was named the team's director of minor league hitting and then before the ’86 season was out was named manager of the team’s Florida State League franchise and he won a championship. He then managed in Triple A the following three seasons and during that time went a combined 248-239. Following the ’89 season he became assistant director of minor league operations and in ’92 dropped the assistant tab. He continued in that role through 2001 except for a short time in ’95 when he became the manager of St. Louis in a transition role between Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa. Mike went 42-54 in his only managerial role up top. From ’02 through ’07 he assumed various admin roles with the club and since 2008 he has been a special assistant to the general manager.

Mike gets one of the few references in this set to his winter stats in his star bullets. He also is, I believe, the first guy who gets connected to Bridge in this set. My mom used to play the newspaper version of that game all the time. Regarding the LA monopoly on Gold Gloves mentioned above, Wes Parker won it at first base every year from ’67 to ’72 and Steve Garvey turned that trick every season from ’74 to ’77. So Mike’s award really was an aberration.

Let’s use a fellow Montreal first baseman for this exercise:

1. Jorgensen and Ron Fairly ’72 to ’74 Expos;
2. Fairly and Lou Brock ’75 to ’76 Cardinals;
3. Brock and Sonny Siebert ’74 Cards.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

#548 - Sonny Siebert

There’s no telling regarding in which uniform Sonny Siebert is posing. I’m inclined to go with Boston’s since I am pretty sure the Rangers didn’t have piping on their lapels and there is for sure whited-out piping here. I guess that’s OK since Sonny seems to have been a pretty mellow and unassuming guy who didn’t hold gripes. After pitching well for the Sox for the better part of four seasons Sonny got himself in the Boston doghouse in ’72 when yet another injury undermined his pitching during the later months of the season when the Sox were in a serious run for a division title (they lost out to Detroit by half a game). So in ’73 he’d only gotten into two games in April before early in May he was sent to Texas basically for a later cash payment. For a while Sonny had a nice revival in Texas and in early July he was 6-6 for a poor team while pitching in the rotation and sporting a 2.10 ERA. Then he separated his shoulder, missed a month, and once again saw his late-season work get compromised by an injury. Shortly after the season ended he was traded to the Cards for Tommy Cruz, Jose’s brother, hence this card. Sonny’s air-brushed card and wry expression are probably more appropriate to his time in Boston than his expectations for St. Louis. He was actually pretty excited about this trade, since the Cardinals were basically his hometown team. He’d almost landed on a St. Louis team before, but that was years back and in a whole other sport.

Sonny Siebert grew up in Bayless, Missouri, where in high school he was all-state in both hoops and baseball. He got a scholarship to the University of Missouri for the former sport and his junior year led his team in scoring with a 16.7 average. That spring of ’58 he also played baseball his first year there, alternating between first base and the outfield. He led his team with eight homers, made third team All-American, and hit .460 during the CWS in which Missouri lost to USC in the championship. He was then signed by Cleveland, forgoing his senior year in both sports. His first season started late and that summer he hit a combined .242 in D and B ball while playing outfield. In ’59 a separated shoulder and broken ankle limited him to 185 at bats, but he put up 12 doubles and 45 RBI’s while hitting .238 in C ball. In Instructional League ball that fall his ankle was still a mess so he only threw batting practice, which proved a bit serendipitous when it was suggested to him to turn to pitching. While he was thinking about that he was invited to try out for the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks and he practiced with the team for three weeks. Deciding he didn’t retain enough of his hoops sense, he returned to baseball, this time as a pitcher. He picked up a fastball fast and in B ball in ’60 went 8-7 while striking out 142 batters in 149 innings with a 3.93 ERA. In ’61 he had some growing pains, going 6-8 in the rotation in A ball and then 0-1 out of the pen with 33 K’s in 28 innings of Triple A ball but at both stops had ERA’s well over 5.00. ’62 was considerably better as he went 15-8 with a 2.91 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning in A ball. In ’63 a great spring training was followed by a pretty lousy year in Triple A as Sonny went only 4-10 with a 4.83 ERA. But the following year he had another great spring, held out to negotiate his way onto the roster, and made the team, never returning to the minors as a player.

Siebert had done a nice job pretty much mastering his fastball on the fly and he would be a control specialist throughout his career. Initially he was also good at ringing up K totals and his rookie year was quite good as he worked as a swing guy with 14 starts and three saves among his 41 games. He returned for an excellent sophomore season, winning his 16 games in only 27 starts, recording over a strikeout an inning, and leading the AL in K’s per walk. He finished among AL leaders in ERA, which he would also do the next two seasons. In ’66 he put up nearly identical numbers though his K totals fell as he began relying more on his sinker and change-up. He threw a no-hitter at Washington in June and was named an All-Star despite missing some time with finger, back, and foot injuries. In ’67 and ’68, though nursing nagging injures, he continued to pitch well, putting just over a runner an inning on base and sporting excellent ERA’s, but poor run support led to a combined 22-22 record. A couple starts into the ’69 season Sonny, who was never shy about holding out to get a decent salary, was traded to Boston in a big deal that had him, Vicente Romo, and Joe Azcue going to the Sox for Dick Ellsworth, Juan Pizarro, and Ken “Hawk” Harrelson.

The trade to Boston was initially viewed badly by fans on both sides. Siebert and Azcue were fan favorites in Cleveland, though the Tribe was always looking to replace the steady Azcue behind the plate and Sonny kept pissing off management with his holdouts. The Hawk was also a fan favorite in Boston and was coming off a career season that got him named TSN’s AL Player of the Year. Boston would get the better of the deal by far as Harrelson was retired in about a year and Sonny continued pitching well even though his ERA stepped up a tad because of the shorter Fenway dimensions. His K totals also continued to drop as he became a craftier pitcher, mixing up his arsenal a bunch more and relying less on his fastball. His last couple seasons in Cleveland he’d had elbow problems which continued in ’69 and though his innings totals came down a bunch and he worked nearly as much out of the pen as in the rotation, he still won 14 the rest of the way and added five saves. His elbow was operated on after the season and though he was still hurt by a bad back the next two seasons he pitched great ball for the Sox, picking up more innings each year and dropping his ERA. The latter year he was again an All-Star. In ’72 he continued going great guns as the Sox were in contention pretty much the whole season. Through late July he was 9-5 with a 2.79 ERA when he developed tendinitis in his ankle. That pretty much killed his season – thereafter he went 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA – and got him in the BoSox management’s doghouse after they barely missed the division title.

After the two trades got Siebert back to his home state, Sonny began his NL career by throwing a shutout at the Pirates in his first start. But then the year looked very much like ’72. Through late June Sonny was 7-4 with a 2.56 ERA but was again experiencing trouble with his elbow. After two bad starts he was placed on the DL when it was revealed he again had tendinitis. He missed about a month, threw decent ball in most of his starts, and finished the season out of the pen. His most memorable game in the second half had to be a relief spot: he came into a game against the Mets in the 23rd inning and pitched two innings of shutout ball to get his last win of the season. After the season he joined a pitcher exodus as he, Alan Foster, and Rich Folkers were sent to the Padres for Ed Brinkman and Danny Breeden. Sonny got in six starts for the Padres – 3-2 with a 4.39 ERA – before going to Oakland in May for Ted Kubiak. For his third team in a row he threw shutout ball his first start and did pretty well generally, going 4-4 with a 3.69 ERA the rest of the way as a spot guy. It would be Sonny’s final season and he finished with a record of 140-114 with a 3.21 ERA, 67 complete games, 21 shutouts, and 16 saves. Not too surprisingly, he had some good moments at the plate also, hitting .173 with 12 homers and 57 RBI’s in 660 career at bats.

After playing Siebert returned to the St. Louis area where he had a Baskin Robbins franchise and was also sort of a wholesaler for local newspaper routes. In ’84 he returned to baseball as a pitching coach in the Padres chain which culminated with being the Padres coach in ’94 and ’95. From ’96 to ’98 he worked that role in Colorado Springs, an affiliate of the Rockies. Since then he has done some scouting and been mostly retired. His son Steve was a ’90 draft pick by the Padres who made it as high as A ball and has had his own coaching career.

Sonny’s second star bullet invited me to check out his defensive stats. He also led the AL pitchers in putouts in ’71 with 25. Extending the stats lines Sonny is 123rd all-time in lowest amount of hits per nine innings given up, with just over eight per nine innings. Pretty good for a one-time outfielder. Sonny is a definite improvement baseball-wise over his given name. I believe Sonny is the third cartoon bowler in the set. According to another cartoon he had about a 190 average.

We use Sonny’s final team for the hook-up:

1. Siebert and Jim Holt ’75 A’s;
2. Holt and Glenn Borgmann ’72 to ’74 Twins.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

#547 - Glenn Borgmann

Here is yet another Twin posed by a batting cage. I suppose the shot is appropriate enough since the Twins back then were always one of the best-hitting teams in the AL That Glenn Borgmann is one of the subjects at this spot lends more credence to it being a spring training site since Glenn’s appearances up top in ’73 were pretty rare. He spent nearly the whole season in Triple A as the Twins reverted to their tandem of Phil Roof and George Mitterwald behind the plate. He had a good year at both levels, making his league all-star team in Triple A while posting no errors in his games behind the plate up top. By the time this card came out Glenn was in his first season as the regular guy behind the plate after the quick burn-out of Randy Hundley, who was acquired for Mitterwald. ‘74 would be his best season up top and before long he would return to a reserve role. But he was always a go-to defensive guy and he’s from Jersey so ya gotta love him.

Glenn Borgmann was a big football and baseball star growing up in Paterson, NJ, and hit over .500 his senior year. After graduating in ’67 he went to baseball factory Miami-Dade where he had a good enough freshman/ junior year that he was drafted in the sixth round the following winter by the Giants. Glenn passed and returned to the school where he was a JUCO All-American his sophomore/senior year. He was drafted that June by Pittsburgh in the second round but again the money wasn’t good enough so he passed to go to the University of Southern Alabama. The rumor back then was that the school had indicated it would arrange for Glenn to be drafted to a high bonus but that wasn’t true. Glenn went to the school because its coach was Eddie Stanky, former New York Giant, and Glenn wanted to play for him. His senior year Glenn had a bang-up season, hitting .460 with 19 doubles, 15 homers, and 66 RBI’s, all school marks back then, and was again an All-American. He was selected in the first round by the Twins and this time signed. A ball wasn’t too much of a challenge for him that summer - .352 with a .474 OBA in 55 games – and he finished the season with good power and perfect fielding in Double A. In ’72 an excellent half-season in Triple A got him to Minnesota in July. He played good D the rest of the year but his hitting was a bit light and in ’73 it was mostly back to the minors.

Prior to the ’74 season the Twins swapped starting catchers but new acquisition Randy Hundley was pretty much done and so Borgmann stepped in as the starter. He had a pretty good season offensively, hitting .252 with 45 RBI”s in his 345 at bats, but shone defensively as his .997 fielding average led all AL catchers. In ‘75 he returned as the number one guy and while he upped his caught stealing numbers to 43%, his average slumped to .207 and his RBI total to 33 in pretty much as many at bats, though his doubles totals shot up. In ’76 Butch Wynegar was the new hot catcher in training camp and at only 19 years old he wasn’t going to sit too much. Butch had a great first year, making the Topps Rookie team, and Glenn moved to back-up and late inning defensive work. He did a nice job in that role, hitting .246 with a .417 OBA in his 65 at bats, and in ’77 was having pretty much as good a year - .256 with a .407 OBA – when he went down in June after being spiked at the plate in a nasty slide by Hal McRae. He only got into two late season games after that one. In both ’78 and ’79 Glenn continued his role and while he got over 100 at bats the former year when Wynegar slumped, both seasons he hit just north of .200. In ’78 he led the AL by gunning down 49% of would-be base stealers. After the ’79 season he went to the White Sox as a free agent. There he hit OK - .218 with 14 RBI’s in 87 at bats – and again fielded nearly flawlessly as he had no errors and threw out 48% of attempted base stealers. But it was yet another year of back-up work – mostly to Bruce Kimm – and was coupled with half a season in Triple A where he had a nice year, hitting .315 with six homers and 36 RBI’s in 213 at bats. He’d only signed a one year contract with Chicago and again he left as a free agent. This time he signed with Cleveland but after a few Triple A games for the Tribe he was done. Glenn finished with a .229 average with 16 homers and 151 RBI’s up top where he also fielded at a .989 clip and threw out 39% of attempted runners, both premiums to his peers. In the minors he hit .303 with a .409 OBA.

After playing Borgann returned to New Jersey where for about 20 years he worked in auto parts distribution and for about the past 25 years has worked at the Meadowlands. He has a recent interview by a Twins fan linked to here.

Glenn gets the college props for his star bullets. His senior year was pretty much a blip power-wise and he picked up the handle Baby Bull for his numbers. Glenn was part of an interesting draft that year. Selected ahead of him were pitchers Pete Broberg, Burt Hooton, and Steve Rogers, all of whom have cards in this set. Also selected in the first round were Archie Manning and Joe Theismann, both of whom would go on to bigger and better things in a different sport. Glenn would have another good star bullet in a couple seasons: in ’76 he started a triple play off an attempted bunt.

This one is a bit longer than recent exercises but I haven’t been able to conjure up a shorter route:

1. Borgmann and Larry Hisle ’73 to ’77 Twins;
2. Hisle and Mike Caldwell ’78 to ’82 Brewers;
3. Caldwell and Mike Corkins ’71 to ’73 Padres.

Friday, May 24, 2013

#546 - Mike Corkins

Mike Corkins gazes skyward at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. If he was looking for answers as to the state of his baseball career he likely didn’t get them since this was his final card (two of those in a row has been pretty rare). Mike was not a bad pitcher, just more a hard luck sort whose rare publicity during his time in San Diego – his only time up top – was negative. Just check out his appearance in Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” or his being the pitcher of record for Willie Mays’ 600th homer. But that was about the norm for any Padre in the early days. Plus as a designer you had to love the clash of that Padre yellow and those light blue eyes. Sometimes they could be a bit much, as Night Owl makes plain on his recent ’71 set post (but his rookie card’s even worse). Mike’s ’73 was sort of a discount to his ’72. He got some early-season starts but after going 3-4 with and ERA around 6.00 through May he was moved to the pen where his numbers didn’t improve too much until some nice middle inning stuff around the end of the year. His control went south – he came in second in the NL in hit batters – and he finished with three saves. By the time this card came out he was fighting for staff time and pretty much on his way out. Still, if his Facebook page is any reflection, things turned out pretty well for Mike in the end.

Mike Corkins grew up in Riverside, California, where in ’64 he went 16-0 his senior year at Robidoux High School. He was signed that summer by the Giants and the following summer took his big fastball to A ball where despite a high ERA he went 11-9 with 144 strikeouts – and 114 walks – in 124 innings. That pretty much would set the tone for his time in the minors. In ’66 around his military time he had 59 K’s and 66 walks in 62 innings split between A and Double A (he was better at the higher level). In ’67 it was all A ball as he went 7-13 with a 3.70 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 151 innings. In ’68 he brought those numbers – almost – to Double A where he went 8-12 with a 3.40 ERA and 140 K’s in 143 innings. Both years he compressed his walk totals a bunch. After that season he was taken by the Padres in the expansion draft.

In ’69 Mike went to Double A for San Diego and put up very similar numbers to his prior season, going 8-14 with a 3.76 ERA and 125 strikeouts in his 127 innings. He was promoted to the Padres in September and his first game against Houston prompted the “Ball Four” reference. A couple weeks later he gave up the Mays shot and it was a tough debut month. In ’70 Mike had a much better time. His ERA was a bit high on too many walks and too many homers but his control was better and he was on a pretty good roll when in late June he experienced a nasty groin pull and went down for the season except a few games of rehab in Triple A (3-1 with a 1.29 ERA and 35 K’s in 34 innings). In ’71 he continued the rehab in Triple A where he went 8-8 with a 4.63 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 138 innings. He got back to San Diego in September and in limited work put up pretty much his best streak up top. ’72 was all Padres when after a nice string of relief work – 0-2 but with three saves, a 2.52 ERA, and 29 strikeouts in 34 innings he moved into a spot role, getting eleven starts the rest of the season and finishing with by far his best numbers which included six saves. His highlight to the ’73 season may have been some of his work on offense – he hit three homers that year in only 33 at bats. In ’74 his innings moved down to 56, his ERA up to 4.79, and he finished the season in Triple A. He moved to that level for the Angels in ’75 but after a few innings there he was done. Mike finished things with a record of 19-28 with a 4.39 ERA, five complete games, nine saves, and a .202 average with five homers for his career. In the minors he finished 49-66 with a 4.13 ERA and 851 strikeouts in his 819 innings. He hit pretty well there also, with a .214 average and seven homers.

Corkins seems to have resided for a while near his Rialto home in Southern California. At some point he relocated to Lake Havasu, Arizona, where he appears to have a law practice. As mentioned above he has a real Facebook page, with lots of smiling photos, including a few from a few years back when he appears to have bulked up a bit.

There is Mike's big senior year statistics. On a prior card Topps attributed that record to a college team but Mike didn't play ball at that level. Given his later perceived career, though, he seems to have caught up on his schooling at some point. The Braves were a tough team to shut down back then. Mike's card back is a tad off center.

For the hook-up we’ll use the guy either traded or not traded for Conigliaro:

1. Corkins and Ollie Brown ’69 to ’72 Padres;
2. Brown and Dave May ’72 to ’73 Brewers;
3. May and Billy Conigliaro ’72 Brewers.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

#545 - Billy Conigliaro

The 1973 season began pretty well for Billy C. Finally acquired legitimately by Oakland – initially he was traded for Oscar Brown in June of ’72; then he wasn’t because he was on the disqualified list due to his retirement; then in November he was again as a free agent away from the Brewers; and finally in February he was reinstated on the Brewers roster and sold - a good training camp led to his winning the starting center field job from Angel Mangual and other new guy Billy North. By late April he’d started there in ten of the club’s first 14 games and was hitting .300 when a hard slide into second pinged his knee a bit and he sat a few games. He returned to do some pinch hit work but by early May it was evident something was seriously wrong and he went under the knife to repair some damaged cartilage. By the time he returned in July North had taken over in center and though this Billy got some turns in left his hitting was still affected by his tender knee. Here he poses in Oakland for what would be his final card. By the likely time of this photo his average was crashing and the fun April was far behind. He’d get some playoff and Series time and then undergo more surgery to do further repair work on his knee. He wouldn’t make it out of spring training in ’74, though, his roster spot ostensibly taken by Larry Haney, when in reality he was probably dropped to clear room for Herb Washington, Charlie O Finley’s newest pinch runner. In the end, just like with his brother Tony, injury derailed a promising career. At least he got a ring out of it. And a long happy life. Those two things eluded Tony.

Billy Conigliaro grew up in Lynn, Massachusetts where he was, like his brother, a pretty big deal football and baseball star. At Swampscott High School he was a halfback, pitcher, and outfielder. Sought after by a bunch of D-1 schools for the former sport he opted to sign with the Sox when they upped his bonus to $60,000. Generally regarded as a better fielder and faster runner than Tony but with not as much power, he hit .272 that summer in A ball. The next three seasons he lost time to the military and injuries. In ’66 he flopped a bit in Double A - .226 with 24 RBI’s in 82 games – but hit .313 in a few games back in A ball. In ’67 he only got 124 at bats between his late reporting and a broken hand and hit .274 but with 29 RBI’s in A ball. In ’68 he put up a 7/41/.238 season in Double A. His brother’s beaning in ’67 caused Tony to miss the balance of the season and all of ’68. In ’69 Billy had a super spring training, hitting north of .400 and Tony was finally ready to come back so the long-sought Conigliaro brothers outfield seemed ready to occur that season.

Going into ’69 spring training the initial thought was that Billy Conigliaro would take over his brother’s old spot in right field. Initially that seemed workable because with the loss of Joe Foy at third base to expansion, George Scott was moving to that position and Carl Yastrzemski was taking over first base. That left Billy, Reggie Smith, and other newbie Joe Lahoud the three outfield spots. But when Tony C returned earlier than expected there were suddenly four guys to share space. Billy ended up getting some starts in right and center – his natural position – to open the season and he continued his spring training onslaught, hitting .313 through early May. But for a non-power guy he was putting up a few too many K’s and with Tony having a nice comeback and Lahoud better in the power department, Billy became the odd man out. In early May the Sox picked up Don Lock from the Twins and Billy got sent to Triple A. There he had a nice year and did show some power, hitting .298 with 13 homers and 81 RBI’s before returning to Boston in mid-September for some reserve work and an occasional start at both positions. While he hit pretty well average-wise he also recorded 23 K’s in his 80 at bats. In ’70 Lock was gone and while Tony continued his comeback in right, Billy won the starting job in left with another hot spring and this time Lahoud got shut out a bunch. Billy had a mostly unfettered rookie year and his numbers were good enough to win a spot on the Topps Rookie team. While Tony posted his best year, the Red Sox powers-that-be were not totally convinced that his eyesight was back long-term and they took advantage of his big numbers to trade him to California. The Conigliaro brothers were not shy about expressing their opinions and Billy let the world know that the reason for Tony’s departure was a conspiracy headed by Yaz and Reggie Smith to get him out of town. The locker room in ’71 became pretty hostile and while Billy had a nice start to the season – he was hitting over .300 through May and was at the top of the AL in doubles after being moved to center -  his caustic attitude and open opinions began eating away at his playing time. In August he hurt his ankle which impeded his swing the rest of the year and his at bats and RBI’s declined, though his doubles totals remained high. After the season he was part of the big trade with Milwaukee in which he, George Scott, Joe Lahoud, Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett, and Don Pavletich went to the Brewers for Marty Pattin, Tommy Harper, and Lew Krausse.  

When Conigliaro went to Milwaukee he claimed he was finally free of both the conspiracy boys and of his brother’s domineering shadow. He had another good training camp and began the season as the team’s regular guy in right. But he came out slowly and didn’t get above .200 until late May. Still, Milwaukee showed a lot of patience and Billy was still starting most games through mid-June. But in a double-header towards the end of the month he saw that old nemesis Joe Lahoud – who’d also come over in the big trade from Boston – was penciled in the line-up and Billy C packed up his bags and left, retiring to return to Boston to work in a couple of businesses he and his brother had purchased. The Brewers had no idea what was going on and shortly after they arranged the initial Ollie Brown deal and then found it was voided because they also put Billy on the disqualified list to clear space. When things finally got cleaned up Billy landed in Oakland, had his brief season and was then done. He had a short comeback in ’77 when Charlie O invited him to spring training in the wake of all his free agent losses. Billy did well enough in camp to be offered a Triple A contract but he balked at a return to the minors and that was it. So his stats on the back of his card are his final ones up top. He went hitless in four post-season games and hit .264 in the minors.

Conigliaro’s time after baseball was certainly not uneventful, and a lot of tragedy was involved. While still playing in Boston he and Tony had purchased a couple business interests: a Ramada Inns franchise that was expanding in New England; and a golf course club on the water in Massachusetts. Billy and Tony were both active in their management from about ’72 on and at some point the golf club morphed into a lounge. Billy was also an avid photographer and he began his own photography business. In ’76 he made news when he was indicted for an assault at Tony’s club but nothing came of that. In ’81 he lost his house to a fire but the big tragedy came in ’82 when he was driving Tony to an audition for a local announcing gig. Tony had been having physical issues on and off since his beaning and on that trip he suffered a debilitating heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital and was in a coma for a while. He recovered a bit but never fully and he had to be in pretty much permanent care either at home or in hospitals until his death in ’90. While spending a big part of that time helping care for his brother, Billy also continued to run the brother’s businesses and opened a camera store. In the Nineties he moved into home renovation and got his contractor’s license. In 2002 he got married for the first time and shortly thereafter began to reconnect to baseball, since then appearing regularly at card shows and other events on behalf of the Sox.

Billy gets some color in the star bullets and cartoon. A big ladies man while playing and presumably after he would get about 25 letters a day from female fans during his career. Topps gives him a 5 card which is an awful big stretch for his recent work.

Those big trades help a bunch here:

1. Conigliaro and Jim Lonborg ’69 to ’71 Red Sox and ’72 Brewers;
2. Lonborg and Ron Schueler ’74 to ’76 Phillies.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

#544 - Ron Schueler

Almost every one of Ron Schueler’s cards was a variation of this shot: close up head shot with a serious, clenched mouth, and a far-away look. There is a pretty good chance this photo was taken at Shea and if so it may be before a pivotal game in the season for Ron – a two-hit shutout in which no Met got a hit until the bottom of the ninth. The whole season should have been pivotal for Ron: after doing a so-so job as a reliever – he was 2-3 with 2 saves and a fat 5.01 ERA through late June – he was put in the rotation to help ease the performance void left by the frustrating seasons of Roric Harrison and Gary Gentry. Ron did some nice work in his new role, winning his first start and adding another shutout to that Mets win down the stretch. He completed four of his games and went 6-4 the rest of the way with a 3.55 ERA as one of the Braves’ most effective starters during that run. His reward was a trade to the Phillies, memorialized by Topps with yet another serious far-off pose. On that card Ron looks like he’s in a wind tunnel in what I think is LA; maybe that woman behind him is hanging on for dear life. Ron would generally have a pretty frustrating career up top, hence the facial expression. But things would get a lot rosier success-wise after he finished playing so maybe those looks saw something ahead that was pretty good.

Ron Schueler grew up in Kansas where in high school he played hoops and pitched for both his school and in American Legion ball. Drafted in the 12th round by the Pirates after his senior year of ’66 he instead opted for school and went to nearby Fort Hays State University where he got in a year of basketball before being taken in the third round by Atlanta in the January ’67 draft. He finished his spring semester before starting his career off in A ball that summer where he’d have a mediocre season as a starter. It went that way most of the rest of his time in the minors. In ’68 he pitched at all levels between A and Triple A and his best numbers were in his two starts in the top spot. He had a pretty good year in Double A in ’69 when he pitched mostly in the pen and then had a tougher time at the same level in ’70. Both those years he did some military time as well as in ’71 when he posted good numbers in both Double A and Triple A. After a promising spring training in ’72 he was up for good.

Schueler’s rookie year started nicely as he threw scoreless ball his first five relief outings. After that he became a spot guy, getting 18 starts and some long relief work and overall having a pretty impressive season. After his ’73 turn-around and his trade to the Phillies, he had his busiest year in ’74 when he had 27 starts among his 44 games and put up over 200 innings his only season. The problem for him was the non-starts and he wasn’t too happy that when the Phillies had bullpen issues they used him to fill the gap. He went 11-16 that year with a 3.72 ERA and in ’75 began the season working from the pen but his numbers weren’t too hot. Then he didn’t do too well when he did get a start, at least until July when the Mets helped out again by giving him a complete game win. He got a couple more starts and then some bullpen time but his innings cratered from ’74 and his ERA bumped up big as he finished with a record of 4-4 with a 5.24 ERA. ’76 began pretty miserably also but a nice stretch in the summer – including no earned runs for a month – improved his numbers a ton as one of the bullpen-by-committee role players and he didn’t even get a decision until his final game in September, finishing 1-0 with a 2.90 ERA in only 49 innings. In spring training of ’77 he was sold to Minnesota.

In his first AL season Schueler’s numbers came in somewhere between his ’73 and ’75 ones. He got seven starts among his 52 games and a bunch of finishes, but the lion’s share of his work was as a set-up guy for Tom Johnson, who took over as staff bullpen ace – and did pretty much as good a job – from free agent departee Bill Campbell. Ron went 8-7 with three saves and a 4.41 ERA. He then became a free agent and signed with the White Sox and had roughly the same kind of season as the prior one, though in a lot less innings. Part of that decline in work was due to a hand injury he suffered in July during one of his rare starts. After going 3-5 with a 4.30 ERA that year a poor start and lots of new young ChiSox pitchers contributed to his being used very sparingly in ’79, and not at all after early July. It was his final season and Ron finished his career with a 40-48 record, 13 complete games, eleven saves, and a 4.08 ERA.

Schueler immediately transitioned into his next professional role, that of coach, before the ’79 season was out, becoming the White Sox pitching coach. He stayed in that role through ’82 and then assumed the same task for Oakland from ’83 to ’84. After a season as a special scout for the A’s in ’85 he returned to coaching as the Pirates’ pitching coach in ’86. He then reversed things, returning to Oakland as a special advisor to GM Sandy Alderson (’87-’90), and then Chicago as the White Sox GM (’91 to 2000). He then reverted to the special assistant role with Chicago (2001-’02); the Cubs (’03-’04); St. Louis (’05-’07); San Francisco (’08-’09); and Washington (‘09-present). Baseball evidently turned out to be a good career choice after all.

We get to see Ron’s American Legion record and his no-no in Double A in the star bullets. The cartoon indicates early access to behind-the-scenes stuff that would highlight his later career.

Topps gives us details about Ron’s trade. A big one they leave out is one from the Atlanta side in which the Braves actually thought they were acquiring Randy Lerch, a well-regarded heat-throwing 18-year old. That was the key reason they were willing to give up Ron, a pitcher with whom they were quite happy.

I wouldn’t have expected this hook-up but we get back to my favorite guy:

1. Schueler and Dick Allen ’75 to ’76 Phillies;
2. Allen and Danny Cater ’64 Phillies.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

#543 - Danny Cater

Poor Danny Cater follows an action shot with one of the more moribund photos in the set. Everything behind him looks washed out and because of his pose he has almost no identifying parts or colors on his uniform. But things were sort of rolling that way for Danny by then. ’73 was actually not all a bad season for him as he bounced his average a ton but on way less at bats. He’d been brought over from the Yankees prior to the ’72 season as a replacement at first for George Scott. Until then Danny was a pretty consistent hitter and though he didn’t have Boomer’s power, he wasn’t expected to crater into a fit of strikeouts the way Scott had a couple times in the past. But in ’72 that was pretty much exactly what happened as Danny's average fell a bunch, his K totals ratcheted up, and by the season-end division race – the Sox lost out to Detroit by half a game – he was sitting on the bench and Carl Yastrzemski had taken over first. The biggest blow, though, was that he was acquired for Sparky Lyle who in ’72 would set a saves record with the Yankees. That’s pretty tough and Danny was supposed to be a nice guy so big bummer. So in ’73 he split time at first with Yaz and Cecil Cooper, and hit that .313 but his time as a permanent starter was done and so would be his career in a couple seasons.

Danny Cater hailed from Texas where he was mainly a shortstop while hitting over .500 while playing ball in his Austin high school. He was signed by the Phillies during his senior year and had a big summer in D ball, hitting .345 with 14 homers and 68 RBI’s in only 261 at bats in ’58. In ’59 he put up a .308/11/99 season in C ball and also started expanding his position repertoire while playing half his games at second. In ’60 things slowed down a bit in A ball, where he played strictly first, with a .266/12/69 season. He got back to the big averages in ’61 at that level by hitting .343 with 16 homers and 80 RBI’s, now playing third. So Danny covered significant time at every infield spot in his four seasons. So of course in ’62, his first in Triple A, he put in half his games in the outfield (and half at third) in a .288/12/67 season. He upped his ’63 numbers at the same positions to .291/14/58 on fewer at bats. In ’64 Danny finally made the Show, getting promoted to the team that was in contention all season until the famous fade. He put in most of his time in left with occasional starts at the corner infield spots nd was hitting over .300 through late July when he went down with a broken wrist suffered in a collision at first base with Joe Torre and missed about six weeks. He still finished with a nice average and after the season was sent to the White Sox with Lee Elia for Ray Herbert and Jeoff Long.

In his first AL season Cater assumed a regular role, playing mostly left field. He did pretty well offensively for the team, finishing third in average and homers, and second in runs. Once again he narrowly missed post-season action as the Sox lost out to the Twins for the AL pennant. In ’66 a slow start and the ChiSox need for infield help prompted a trade to Kansas City for Wayne Causey in May. With the A’s Danny became more of an infielder, getting a bunch of starts at both corner positions. He finished the year with a nice average and then in ’67 and ’68 led the team in hitting, the latter year finishing second for the AL lead to Carl Yastrzemski. That year he also began concentrating on first as Sal Bando was establishing himself at third. Now based in Oakland, the A’s were trudging toward their future Series winners with their young sets of pitchers and sluggers. In ’69 Danny put up his only season of double-figure homers and topped off in RBI’s. After that year the Yankees were looking for a replacement at first for Joe Pepitone and so they picked up Danny for catcher Frank Fernandez and pitcher Al Downing. Danny didn’t disappoint, that first year putting up perhaps his best offensive season despite an early injury from a bat splintering in his hand that caused his average to flutter a few weeks. In ’71 a couple leg injuries sapped his average the first half of the season – he was hitting under .250 in June – but he rallied almost 30 points the rest of the year until a broken hand in early September robbed him of the rest of the season. He then went to Boston with Mario Guerrero for Lyle.

The Red Sox wanted Cater because he always hit well at Fenway but after the disappointment of ’72 and the relegation to back-up in ’73 he was now a utility guy. In ’74 his at bats shrunk again as he hit .246 but with a bit more power with five homers and 20 RBI’s in 126 at bats. Prior to the ’75 season he was sent back to the NL and St. Louis for a minor leaguer. With the Cards he did some work at first and pinch hit in his final season. Danny finished with a .275 average with 66 homers and 519 RBI’s.
After playing Cater took a gig working with the Comptroller’s office of the State of Texas where he was an accounts examiner through the early 2000’s when he then retired.

Danny gets some minor league props in his star bullets but Topps certainly could have pulled up some more recent stuff. His residence in Williamsport was related to the cartoon as that was where the Little League headquarters was located. I guess that was where he got the skills for the comptroller office job; I did not see that he went to school after he was drafted.

Two former Yankees get linked by a long-time one:

1. Cater and Roy White ’70 to ’71 Yankees;
2. White and Goose Gossage ’78 to ’79 Yankees.

Monday, May 20, 2013

#542 - Rich Gossage

Topps brings us back to the regular cards with an action shot of a young guy who would become a Hall of Famer. Very prescient of them as there was not terribly much about Goose Gossage’s ’73 that indicated he’d be a star. After a pretty good rookie year in ’72 too may homers and too many walks in too few innings made his ERA shoot up and got him a summer furlough to Triple A where things went much better. And when he returned in September he finished the season with nine shutout innings so it wasn’t all bad. Here he appears to be throwing against Oakland and while I do love the shot thematically, it is difficult for me to imagine what the photographer was trying to capture by sliding Goose way to the left. He sure does look like he’s about to bring some heat though.

Rick Gossage – he was named Rich by the scout who signed him and that one stuck – grew up fairly economically challenged in Colorado where by high school he was a basketball forward and was throwing hard and well enough to generate MLB interest. His dad passed away from lung cancer when Rick was a junior and the next year he was drafted and signed in the ninth round by the White Sox. That summer he was off to three quick starts in Rookie ball where things went well and then to A ball where they didn’t. But in ’71 he fixed that latter hitch with a new pitch he’d learned from Johnny Sain and Chuck Tanner, a slurve. He put up super numbers in A ball that season and in ’72 made the Sox roster out of spring training. That year between Wilbur Wood, Tom Bradley, and Stan Bahnsen finishing nearly all their starts, Rick didn’t get a ton of work in the pen and his intervals between appearances were pretty erratic. But through the end of September he had gone 7-0 with a 3.39 ERA and a couple saves in about 85 innings all in relief. On the last day of the season he was given a start and he got bombed, taking the loss and watching his ERA climb by nearly a run. It was that year that he roomed with Bradley who noticed that when Gossage looked to the catcher for a sign that he tended to crane his neck like a goose. Hence his new and permanent nickname.

After the mixed results of ’73 Gossage returned in Chicago the next year and posted better numbers of 4-6 with a save and a 4.13 ERA around some time back in the minors. In ’75 he ramped things up in a big way, going 9-8 with an AL-leading 26 saves and a 1.98 ERA in his first All-Star year. He was also AL Fireman of the Year for the first time. ’76 got weird when the Sox ran out of starters early in the year with Wilbur Woods’ injury and both Goose and bullpen-mate Terry Forster put in starting time. Goose actually did a pretty good job, completing 15 of 29 starts and posting an ERA of 3.94. But the Sox were understandably pretty shaky then and he went only 9-17. After the season he and Forster went to the Pirates in the trade that brought Richie Zisk to Chicago. While Zisk had a big year, Goose may have had a better one, going 11-9 with a 1.62 ERA, 26 saves, and 151 K’s in 133 innings. It may have been his best season and he and Kent Tekulve formed a compelling bullpen duo. Goose wanted to stay in Pittsburgh but when the Pirates produced a lame offer he became a free agent and signed with the Yankees.

The signing of Gossage by the Yankees was pretty unexpected by lots of people. NY already had a bullpen ace in ’77 Cy Young winner Sparky Lyle and running through both pitchers’ recent seasons it was apparent they both performed tons better with lots of work. So nobody was sure how The Boss and his managers were going to be able to utilize the two of them effectively. This dynamic is a huge part of “The Bronx Zoo,” Lyle’s diary of the ’78 season. An early indication of where things were heading was made in the season’s first game – I remember listening to it on the radio while doing yard work – when Goose came in to relieve Ron Guidry in the eight inning of a 1-1 game against Texas. He promptly gave up a game-winning solo shot to none other than Richie Zisk. It would go like that a little bit for Goose with Lyle not-so-quietly stewing in the background. But he got right pretty quickly and pitched pretty super ball during the August surge that pulled NY into first from 15 back. Ironically one of his worst outings during that span was the playoff game against Boston when he got his 27th save. He also went 10-11 in his fourth straight All-Star season with a 2.01 ERA before putting up decent playoff numbers and then throwing six shutout innings against LA in the Series. The balance of Goose’s time in NY was pretty eventful, though not always in good ways. In ’79 he was having a decent season when he got hurt in a clubhouse incident with Cliff Johnson that got Heathcliff exiled to Cleveland and put Goose on the DL for almost three months. He still went 5-3 with 18 saves but his outage and the death of Thurman Munson put a halt to the NY playoff streak. In ’80 Goose went 6-2 with a MLB-leading 33 saves and a 2.27 ERA as he returned to the All-Star game and Fireman of the Year status and the Yankees to the post-season. But this time Goose got bombed his only post-season appearance. In ’81 he came back during the strike year with a pretty amazing year, going 3-2 with 20 saves in just 32 games, his second successive year of over a strikeout an inning, and a miniscule 0.77 ERA. This time he followed suit in the post-season as he threw a combined 14 shutout innings with 15 K’s and six saves. In ’82 he went 4-5 with a 2.23 ERA and 30 saves and in ’83 he went Bill Campbell with a 13-5 record, 22 saves, and a 2.27 ERA. Both seasons he struck out a batter-plus an inning and during that time in NY he proved himself to be one of the best free agent signings ever. He departed the same way, signing with San Diego prior to the ’84 season.

At 32, the days of Gossage striking out over a runner an inning were pretty much behind him. But he was still huge and fierce on the mound and his seasons in San Diego would generally be only a modest discount to his ones in NY. In ’84 he came along just in time to help lead a Padre surge to the NL championship, going 10-6 with a 2.90 ERA and 25 saves. In ’85 his mound time started to decline a bit but he still had an excellent year, going 5-3 with 26 saves and a 1.82 ERA in 79 innings (after averaging over 100 all his full seasons since ’74). In ’86 his ERA popped a bunch – to 4.45 on an uncharacteristic eight homers in 65 innings – but his other stats were good with a 5-7 record and 21 saves. In ’87 his ERA dropped but so did his other numbers as he went 5-4 with a 3.12 ERA and eleven saves in 52 innings. That ended his San Diego time and he then travelled a bit, going to the Cubs in ’88 in a trade and then to the Giants and back to NY as a free agent where in both stops he did spot relief work and accrued 18 saves. In ’90 he spent part of the season in Japan, going 2-3 with eight saves. He then returned to the US, over the next four years putting in time with Texas, Oakland, and Seattle and going 11-9 with three saves during that span. He retired after the ’94 season at 42, finishing with lifetime marks of 124-107, a 3.01 ERA, 310 saves and 1,502 strikeouts in 1,809 innings. In the post-season he went 2-1 with a 2.87 ERA, eight saves, and 29 strikeouts in 31 innings in 19 games. He made nine All-Star teams and is currently 15th all time in games pitched, eighth in games finished, and 19th in saves.

Gossage made enough money while playing that when he was done he was able to return to Colorado and spend pretty much all his time contributing to and promoting youth sports in the area. In 2000 he co-wrote his autobiography, “The Goose is Loose.” He has both a SABR page and his own website. In 2008 he was – finally, according to him – admitted to the Hall of Fame. He brought Chuck Tanner and Dick Allen to his induction, both of whom he claimed were instrumental in his development as a professional. Classy move.

Despite that not great ’73 season Goose gets some pretty good star bullets. Topps didn’t include Instructional League stats on its backs back then so that second star bullet is not represented elsewhere.

This one will be pretty quick:

1. Gossage and Walt Williams ’72 White Sox;
2. Williams was on the ’73 Indians.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

#541 - Cleveland Indians/Indians Team Records/Checklist (cont.)

For the second half of the Cleveland team card we get the checklist with its abundance of signatures. We have one Hall of Famer in Gaylord Perry. All the position starters are here but only a couple pitchers, one being Dick Tidrow who I am pretty sure is not in the team photo. But another Hall of Famer is: Warren Spahn is in the first row, fourth in from the right. One other observation about that photo, which I’ll return to below concerns the guy next to Chris Chambliss, fourth from the right in the back row. He’s huge! It looks like he’s got thirty pounds on Chambliss who was pushing two bills himself back then. I think it’s Tommy Smith though I could be wrong on that. On to the pitchers.

Don McMahon was covered on the Giants manager card.

Bob Feller, like Hal Trotsy from the last post, was an Iowa farmboy who threw a mean fastball. Signed by the Indians in ’36 he went 5-3 his rookie year with 76 K’s in 62 innings and then went back to Iowa for his senior year. He never played in the minors and the next summer returned to the Tribe to go 9-7, again with over a K an inning. In his first full season of ’38 he won 17 and led the AL for the first of four consecutive seasons – seven if you just count his full ones – in strikeouts with 240. He was also an All-Star for the first of what would be eight seasons. He then went on a three-year run in which he averaged a record of 25-11 with a 2.83 ERA, five shutouts, and 255 K’s, leading the league each seasons in wins as well. In ’40 he won pitching’s Triple Crown. After Pearl Harbor he immediately signed up for the military as a Navy man and spent WW II on a battleship in the Pacific. He got back in time to go 5-3 at the end of the ’45 season and then picked up where he left off before the service, winning a combined 46 games in ’46 and ’47 with a total of 15 shutouts while again also leading the league in strikeouts. In ’48 his ERA popped a bit and his streak of 20-win seasons ended, though he won 19 and led the AL in K’s his final time. He didn’t have a great Series that year, going 0-2 with a 5.02 ERA in his two starts. Over the next four seasons he continued to average over 30 starts a year and went a combined 62-36 as his K totals declined significantly. In ’51 he led the AL with 22 wins. In ’53 and ’54 he was more of a spot starter, going a combined 23-10 those two seasons and he threw just a few starts and pitched more in relief his final two seasons of ’55 and ’56 before he retired. Bob finished with a record of 266-162 with a 3.25 ERA, 279 complete games, 44 shutouts, 21 saves, and 2,581 strikeouts. After retiring as a player Feller, who was a master negotiator, became the first president of the Major League Players Association which he did for a bunch of years. He was elected to the Hall his first shot in ’61. HaHallHe also made lots of appearances on behalf of the Indians and MLB and remained in the Cleveland area the rest of his life. He passed away in 2010 from complications of leukemia. He was 92.

Jim Bagby Sr. came out of Georgia into D ball in 1910 when he was 20. He went 5-11 that first year but the next went 22-16 at the same level and then 3-1 in A ball, both with excellent ERA’s. He then was purchased by Cleveland and though he went 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA his first five games was returned to the minors where he finished 4-6 in A ball. He then improved to eight wins in ’13, 20 in ’14, and 19 in ’15, all at the same level. He returned to the Tribe in ’16 and went 16-17 with a 2.61 ERA. The next year he went 23-13 with a 1.99 ERA. Jim threw a fadeaway and while he normally pitched well over 250 innings back then his best number in strikeouts for a season was 88, as he specialized in ground outs. After winning 17 each of the next two seasons, both with ERA’s under 3.00, he had his big year in the Series season of ’20 when he went 31-12 with 30 complete games and a 2.89 ERA. His wins led the AL and in the Series he went 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA. His win came in the game that Bill Wamsganss made an unassisted triple play. Jim also became the first pitcher to homer in a Series game in that win. He pitched in bunches, once pitching in eleven of his team’s 18 games. His ’20 season may have been a bit much as he then faded pretty quickly, going a combined 18-17 with a 5.24 ERA the next two seasons. He was traded to Pittsburgh for the ’23 season where he finished up top, going 127-89 for his career with a 3.11 ERA, 133 complete games, 16 shutouts, 29 saves, and only 450 K’s in over 1,800 innings. He was a good hitter, batting .218 with 60 RBI’s in the regular season and .333 with that homer and three RBI’s in the post-season. He finished ’23 out in the PCL and continued to pitch in the minors through 1930, when he also managed a bit in the D league. He won 70 games during that time – he went 151-131 in the minors overall – and finished pitching after his year of managing. After baseball he moved back to the Atlanta area where he ran a dry cleaning business for 14 years and then a gas station for a year. During that time his son Jim Jr. had his pitching career, going 97-96 for several AL teams. In ’41 this Jim returned to baseball as an umpire in the minors. In ’42 he suffered a stroke, which ended his umpiring days. He recovered and spent the rest of his professional time managing local department stores until his death from another stroke in ’54. He was 64. He has a SABR biography.

Johnny Allen grew up in a North Carolina orphanage after his dad died and after playing ball at Thomaston High he went to work in a local hotel. He was doing that when in ’28 when he was 23 he cadged a tryout with a Yankee scout who was staying in the hotel. Signed on the spot, he went 12-13 that summer in D and C ball. In ’29 he won 20 in B ball and after a 12-16 record in Double A the next year, he went 21-9 in ’31 at the same level. He had a nasty temper and during his time in the minors was already bitching about not playing up top. In ’32 he got his wish and went 17-4 his rookie year for NY, leading the AL in win percentage. In ’33 he went 15-7 and then in ’34 only 5-2 with a 2.89 ERA as he got on manager Joe McCarthy’s bad side with his outbursts. After going 13-6 in ’35 he was traded to Cleveland where his first year he won 15 straight before losing his final start during a season in which he missed time for an appendectomy. In ’38 a 12-1 start with an ERA below 3.00 had him on the All-Star team but an injury during the game pulled his numbers down to 2-6 with a 6.29 ERA the rest of the way. He went 9-7 the next year in the rotation and then became a swing guy the duration of his career. After going 9-8 with five saves for the Tribe in ’40 he was sold to the Browns for whom he had a crappy first half of the ’41 season and was then put on waivers. The Dodgers picked him up and over the next two seasons Johnny went a combined 18-7 for Brooklyn before going to the Giants mid-’43. He finished his career with NY in ’44 with a record of 142-75 with a 3.75 ERA – considerably better than his peers back then – with 109 complete games, 17 shutouts, and 18 saves. In the post-season he had no decisions and a 6.23 ERA in four games. He spent ’45 pitching in the Carolina League – he went 69-50 in the minors where he also hit .276 for his career there – and had relocated to St. Petersburg, FLA, during his playing career. There he had purchased a commercial building with his ’32 Series share and got into real estate. He also became an umpire in local minor leagues, rising to chief ump in the Carolina League. He retired from umpiring in ’53 to return full-time to real estate until he passed away in ’59 from a heart attack when he was 54. He too has a SABR bio.

Bob Lemon was a baseball star from Long Beach where he was primarily an infielder. He was signed by Cleveland after he graduated in ’38 and hit .307 that summer as an outfielder/third baseman in C ball. In ’39 he split time between shortstop – where he had a tougher time in the field – and the outfield and maintained his .300 average in both C and A ball. He spent most of ’40 and ’41 in A ball where he hit .255 and .301, respectively, while moving back to third. That second year he debuted in Cleveland, getting into a couple late games. In ’48 he had his big power season in Double A, again while playing third, with a .268/21/80 season that got him a couple more late looks with the Tribe. Then it was off to the Navy for WW II where, while posted in Hawaii, he fooled around with pitching a bit. He returned to the States from the Pacific in ’46 and went up to Cleveland for good, getting a few starts in center – he helped save a Bob Feller no-hitter that year – and beginning his mound career by going 4-5 with a 2.49 ERA as a spot guy. Lem would be a big ground ball pitcher, give up a bit too many dingers, but still win a ton of games. He was a lot like Catfish Hunter as a pitcher. After going 11-5 in a swing role in ’47 he broke loose in ’48 with his first 20-win All-Star season. From that year through ’56 Lem would average 21 wins a year, be an All-Star seven consecutive seasons, lead the AL in wins three times, starts three times, innings four times, complete games five times, and shutouts and even strikeouts once each. He got to the Series twice and did a bang-up job in ’48 with a couple wins and a 1.65 ERA against the Dodgers. After winning 20 in ’56 he aged fast, going a combined 6-12 the next two seasons before finishing off ’58 in the PCL. Lem went 207-128 for his career, with a 3.23 ERA, 188 complete games, 31 shutouts, 22 saves and a post-season mark of 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA in four starts. He was an understandably good hitter, batting .232 with 37 homers and 147 RBI’s for his career. He was elected to the Hall in ’76. In the meantime he stayed busy in baseball initially as a scout (’59) and coach (’60) for the Tribe. He then moved to coach for the Phillies (’61) before moving to the Angels system, first as a coach in the minors (’62-’63), then as manager at that level (’64-’66), and then as a coach up top (’67-’70). In ’69 he took a break to manage in the new Seattle chain. In ’70 the Royals hired him away to manage which he did through ’72. After a year scouting for KC he managed in the Milwaukee (’74) and Atlanta (’75) chains before hooking up with the Yankees as a coach up top (’76). He then managed the White Sox for a season-plus before being dismissed and returning to NY to manage twice (’78-’79, ’81-’82), leading the Yankees to a Series victory that first season. Between those stints and thereafter he scouted for the Yankees back in his Long Beach base. His managing records were 392-428 in the minors and 430-403 in the majors. A big drinker, Lem was in failing health much of the Nineties and he passed away in 2000 at 79.

George Uhle grew up in Cleveland and when he signed his first pro contract with the Indians in 1919 after he was discovered playing local ball he insisted on a clause that he’d go straight to Cleveland. That he did and that summer he was 10-5 with a 2.91 ERA as a spot guy his rookie year. He had a big sidearm sinker that was his out pitch. The next year his numbers tanked a bit though he did throw three shutout innings in the Series. He then went 133-109 the next eight seasons for Cleveland with a decent ERA, his best years being ’22 when he went 22-16 with an AL-leading five shutouts; ’23 when he went 26-16 and led the league in wins and complete games, with 29; and ’26 when he went 27-11 with a 2.83 ERA and again led the AL in wins and complete games. He slowed down a ton in ’27 and the next year was traded to Detroit, where over the next four-plus seasons he went 44-41 in the rotation with a 3.91 ERA. In ’33 he moved to the Giants, and after a few games there went 6-1 as a reliever for the Yankees despite a high ERA to finish out the season. He blew up a bit in ’34 in NY, finished out the season in the minors and then began coaching at that level until he was briefly called to pitch for the Tribe again in ’36, his final MLB season. George went 200-166 with a 3.99 ERA, 232 complete games, 21 shutouts, and 25 saves. Another good-hitting pitcher, he batted .289 for his career with nine homers and 187 RBI’s and was frequently called on to pinch hit. He coached in the Cleveland system in ’35 and again in ’38 and ’39 when he also pitched a bit. In ’36 and ’37 he coached in Cleveland. He then coached for the Cubs in ’40 and part of ’41 before going to the Dodgers as a coach (’41-’42) and scout (’42-’43). His last bit was as a coach for the Senators (’44) before he retired from baseball that summer with a bad back. He then became a manufacturing representative for Arrow Aluminum near Cleveland. He passed away in Ohio in ’85 when he was 86.

So in terms of actual numbers, the ’73 Indians are represented pretty well in this set. Two position guys are missing who had over 100 at bats in Leo Cardenas, who’d come over from California for a season to back up Frank Duffy at shortstop; and Ron Lolich, Mickey’s cousin, who was in his final season as an outfielder. Leo hit .215 in 195 at bats and Ron .229 in 140 at bats. The missing pitchers are Ray Lamb, a reliever who went 3-3 with a 4.60 ERA and two saves in his final season; Jerry Johnson, 5-6 with a 6.18 ERA and five saves in his sole season with the Tribe; and Steve Dunning, 0-2 with a 6.50 ERA in four games his last year in Cleveland. So not too many guys, but enough accrued stats – 335 at bats and 19 decisions – to push Cleveland towards the bottom of the list. Some of these guys are in the photo: Cardenas is in the second row, second in from the right; Lolich – I believe – is the third guy from the left in the back row next to Gaylord Perry; and Lamb is the guy with the monster handlebar mustache in the second row between Dave Duncan and Walt Williams.

For the hook-up we go through a Chicago Hit Man:

1. Oscar Gamble was on the ’73 Indians;
2. Gamble and Richie Zisk – managed by Bob Lemon – on the ’77 White Sox;
3. Zisk and Bob Robertson ’73 to ’76 Pirates.