Monday, September 30, 2013

#598 - '74 Rookie Outfielders

At first glance this card seems to not have the snap of the first two but on closer inspection we get our first major award winner, a guy who played forever and had some pretty good genes, and two guys who figured in the ’73 pennant race. So maybe I need to stop taking first glances.

One of the biggest plays in the NL East in ’73 was the “ball off the wall play” that I’ve discussed on a couple Mets posts. Going into the September 20th games the Pirates were a game up in the division and the Mets a game and a half out. In the top of the 13th inning of a game tied 3-3 with two outs and Richie Zisk on first Dave Augustine came up and launched a fly off Ray Sadecki that for all the world looked like a home run. But a gust of wind caught the ball and it bounced off the top of the wall directly into the glove of Cleon Jones who fired to to Wayne Garrett who in turn fired it to Ron Hodges who nailed Zisk – a notoriously slow runner – trying to score. Dave got a double but Hodges won the game in the bottom of the inning and after another win by NY the next night the Mets moved into first place for good. Dave had been a pitcher/outfielder while growing up in West Virginia and was drafted by Cleveland in a late round his senior year of ’68. He passed to go to Miami Dade and after a year there was signed by the Pirates. That summer he hit .224 with a few too many K’s in a season split between A and Rookie ball. Dave was a speedster and a top of the order guy and in ’70 A ball he improved to .309 with a .360 OBA. In ’71 at that level his average fell to .247 but he stole 36 bases to get promoted to Double A. After hitting .301 with 12 homers, 52 RBI’s, and twelve steals at that level in ’72 he moved up to Triple A Charleston the next year when he began a long residency in that city. Over the next five years Dave would average .246 in Triple A ball for Pittsburgh around his couple looks up top in ’73 and ’74. In ’77 the franchise had moved to Columbus and after that year he was traded to Houston for outfielder Jim Fuller, who will be coming up in a while. With the Astros it was all Triple A as well in their new franchise in – where else? – Charleston. This time around he hit .280 in two seasons before in ’80 splitting time at that level between Texas and Kansas City. In ’81 he re-signed with the Pirates for whom he spent the last three seasons of his career in Triple A, finishing during the ’83 season. Dave hit .207 in his 29 at bats in Pittsburgh and .257 with almost 1,300 hits and 130 stolen bases in the minors. He would return to Charleston after his playing career where he has been a long-time employee of B Stanley Gill, a furniture manufacturer.

Back in the Seventies, Ken Griffey did not need to attach a “Sr.” to his name to differentiate him from his progeny. Ken was born in Donora, PA, not terribly far from Pittsburgh and his dad had played high school ball with Stan Musial. Ken was a big deal athlete at that level as well, scoring 152 points his last two years in football, mostly as an end, and setting school game records in hoops with 40 points and 27 rebounds as his team went 21-1 his senior year of ’69. That year he tried out for the Reds and got drafted in a late round. Ken was fast – at one time he had the MLB record for circling the bases – and his first summer in Rookie ball he hit .281 while stealing eleven bases. But he had a tough time in the outfield and would have to work hard on getting his defense to match his offense the next few years. A ball in ’70 was a step back as his average fell to .244 in a shortened season that was also impacted by a hostile environment. Ken then had a huge jump in A and Double A ball in ‘71 when he hit a combined .348 with 13 triples, 29 steals, and a .425 OBA. ’72 was then all Double A where he hit .318 with 14 homers, 96 runs scored, and 31 stolen bases in 34 attempts. He didn’t lose a step the next year in Triple A where he was hitting .327 with 88 runs and 43 stolen bases before he was called up in August. For the Reds he did a nice job the remainder of the year, helping to subdue the mess in right field by hitting .384 during the pennant drive. In ’74 he began the season in a big slump, spent most of May and June back in Triple A where he hit .333, and returned in early July to boost his average 100 points the rest of the way. By then he’d settled in as Cincinnati’s every day right fielder, a role he would keep through the ’81 season. While with the Reds Ken hit .303 while scoring over 700 runs and stealing over 150 bases in a run that included three All-Star seasons. In ’82 he went to the Yankees in a trade and spent the next four-plus seasons and hit .285 while playing all outfield spots, first base, and DH. In mid-’86 he went to Atlanta until late in ’88 a slow start had him move back to Cincinnati where he did some back-up work through a mid-year trade to Seattle in 1990. There he joined his son in the Seattle outfield and finished his career in style by hitting .327 mostly as a pinch hitter his final two seasons. Ken hit .296 for his career with 2,143 hits, 152 homers, 200 stolen bases, 859 RBI’s, and a .359 OBA. In the post-season he hit .240 with eleven RBI’s and eight steals in 20 games. After playing he remained in the Seattle system as a coach through ’95 before becoming the Rockies hitting coach in ’96. He then began a long affiliation back with the Reds as MLB coach (’97-2001); admin guy and broadcaster (2002-’09); minors coach (’10); and minors manager (’11-present). He has gone a combined 193-227 in that last role. And Junior is now 44 – how old does that make you feel?

Steve Ontiveros grew up on a hay farm in Bakersfield, California where he was all-everything in baseball and drafted by the Giants after his senior year of high school in ’69. He had a tough time playing third that summer in Rookie ball but hit .278 with a .449 OBA. In ’70 he moved to A ball where he hit roughly the same and his defense improved. The next year at that level he became a slugger with a .321/18/92 season and a .445 OBA and followed it up in ’72 with a Double A year of .287/12/75 in his first season of significant outfield time. Then in ’73 he amped things up huge by hitting .357 with ten homers and 84 RBI’s in a season cut short by his call-up to San Francisco. He won the TSN Minor League Player of the Year and the duration of the season hit .242 while subbing at first and in the outfield. In ’74 he became the closest thing the team had to a regular at third and hit .265 with a .375 OBA while starting 72 games there. In ’75 he improved to hit .289 with a .391 OBA in more starts but both seasons showed limited power so in ’76 when the Giants traded for Ken Rietz, Steve was the odd man out, only seeing scattered plate time and hitting .176 in 74 at bats. After the season he and Bobby Murcer went to the Cubs for Bill Madlock and Rob Sperring. In Chicago he re-claimed his regular position in his best season as he hit .299 with 68 RBI’s and a .390 OBA. In ’78 he suffered an early shoulder injury that nagged him until he had an operation in early August that finished his season. He came back the next year after hitting .243 to raise his average to .285 with better power but then lost the starting gig the next year to Lenny Randle. This time he acted on his demotion by signing a contract to play in Japan for Seibu as the first million dollar American. He got to Japan that June and stayed through ’85, hitting .312 with a .403 OBA during his stay. His best year was ’84 when he hit .338 with 20 homers and 101 RBI’s. Twice he led Seibu to the Japanese Series crown. The ’85 season was his final one as a player and he finished with an MLB average of .274 with a .365 OBA. He returned to The States and to San Diego where he then worked in advertising and as an operations manager for a delivery service. He returned to baseball first as a volunteer coach at his kids’ high school in the late Nineties and then in 2006 as the hitting coach for the independent San Diego Surf Dogs. He continues to reside in the area. This Steve is no relation to the pitcher a few years down the road with the same name.

James Tyrone and his brother Wayne helped take the University of Texas Pan American team to the CWS in ’71, James’ senior year. He was a fleet outfielder who grew up in Texas and was drafted and signed that year by the Cubs. He would hit well in the minors, beginning that year with an A ball summer of .303 with 14 homers, a .405 OBA, and 25 stolen bases in just 238 at bats. The next year he hit .282 with 16 homers in Double A before a couple late games in Chicago. He split ’73 between Double and Triple A, hitting .261. In ’74 a .366 average at the higher level got him elevated to Chicago for most of the season during which he was then seldom-used and hit .185 in 81 at bats. He would then spend almost all the next two seasons in Triple A, hitting .301 with 73 RBI’s in ’75 and .268 with 20 homers and 17 stolen bases in ’76. Early the next season he was traded to the A’s for infielder Gaylen Pitts and after hitting .347 in Triple A his first month-plus was moved up to Oakland where he had his only significant MLB season, hitting .245 with 32 runs in 294 at bats. The next year was all Triple A where he hit .261 with 61 RBI’s and 16 steals and gave pitching a shot. He did that as well the next year when he finished his stateside career in the short-lived Inter-American League. James hit .227 up top and in the minors hit .291 with a .375 OBA and 104 stolen bases. As a pitcher he was 0-1 with a 0.75 ERA in twelve innings. Halfway through the ’79 season he did exactly what card-mate Steve Ontiveros did and went to Japan to play for Seibu. After hitting .291 the balance of that season he hit .276 with 35 homers from the top of the order in ’80 before moving to Nankai the next two years where his power declined a bit and he finished his playing career with an overall .287 average with 74 homers. He then returned to Texas in the Arlington area where he eventually hooked up with Ray Burris and ran a baseball school for many years. In 2009 he was inducted into his college’s hall of fame.

Griffey’s first real name was George. I think he made the right choice opting for Ken. Tallying up the careers of these guys we get 26 years of MLB service, the TSNMLPOY award, and three All-Star seasons. We are still on a pretty good roll.

Now for the Hook-ups. First with the former card:

1. Dave Augustine and Gene Clines ’73 to ’74 Pirates;
2. Clines and Manny Trillo ‘’77 to ’78 Cubs.

Now around the card:

1. Dave Augustine and Dave Parker ’73 to ’74 Pirates;
2. Parker and Dave Concepcion – lots of Daves – ’84 to ’87 Reds;
3. Concepcion and Ken Griffey ’73 to ’81 Reds;
4. Griffey and Champ Summers ‘’77 to ’79 Reds;
5. Summers and Manny Trillo ’75 to ’76 Cubs;
6. Trillo and Steve Ontiveros ’77 to ’78 Cubs;
7. Ontiveros and Rodney Scott ’78 Cubs;
8. Scott and James Tyrone ’77 A’s.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

#597 - '74 Rookie Shortstops

The second rookie batch is designated as a group of shortstops but Manny Trillo almost never played that position up top. But that’s just nit-picking.

Dave Chalk came out of Texas and stayed there in college for the University of Texas where he was a three-time All-American with a .368 career average. A first-round pick out of school by the Angels, he hit .253 that summer of '72 in Double A and moved up the ladder fast. After hitting .293 at that level in the first couple months of ’73 he moved to Triple A where he hit .236 while putting in his first significant time at shortstop. He then made his debut with the Angels in September, hitting .232 the rest of the way in his new position. He stayed in Anaheim thereafter and besides being a very good fielder and moderately productive batter, he was quite diverse. In ’74 he was an All-Star at shortstop while also playing third. In ’75 he was again an All-Star, this time at third base, which he played exclusively as the Angels tried a bunch of rookies at his old position. That was his best offensive year as he put up a .273/3/56 season with a .353 OBA. By ’76 it was apparent that the prior year’s shortstop experiment was pretty much a wash – though the main guy, Mike Miley, showed flashes of brilliance only to die in a car crash – and Dave returned to that position. In ’77 Bobby Grich came along as a free agent and Dave moved back to third where he posted his best average of .277. In ’78 new kid Carney Lansford moved him back to short where a pretty good year – and career – got wrecked by a late-September knee injury. He was still in recovery mode in May of ’79 when he was traded back home to Texas for Bert Campaneris. He only got into a couple games for the Rangers when at the June deadline he and Mike Heath went to Oakland for pitcher John Henry Johnson. But Dave’s mobility was severely limited that year and his average shrank 30 points. He then signed with Kansas City as a free agent and for the next two years did utility work, tasting post-season action in ’80 when in his tone appearance he walked, stole second, and scored. For his career Dave hit .252 with nearly 300 runs batted in and scored. After playing he was a scout, primarily for Seattle, and also returned to the Longhorns, where he did some coaching work. His daughter later played softball for Texas where Dave continues to reside.

John Gamble grew up in Nevada so it is hard to imagine a more appropriate surname. His parents were both educators – his dad was a dead ringer – and by high school John was a good enough shortstop to be taken by the Dodgers in the second round of the ’66 draft. He finished that summer in Rookie ball, hitting .225. He remained at that level in ’67, upping his average to .298 and then in ’68 hit .254 in A ball, all while playing shortstop. In ’69 he made some noise in A ball by hitting .297 and stealing 33 bases for a couple teams and then in ’70 at that level stole 60 bases and scored 99 runs while hitting .254, mostly as a third baseman. Following that season he was taken by Detroit in the Rule 5 draft and in ’72 he was moved up to Double A where he hit .252 with 38 stolen bases. He made his Detroit debut that September as a pinch hitter and played a game at shortstop later that month. In ’73 all his appearances up top were as a pinch runner before he was returned to Triple A for the balance of the season where he hit .291 in his dual role. In ’74 he hit .240 in a season split between two Triple A teams but only stole ten bases which may indicate an injury around this point. He rebounded to hit .288 at that level in ’75 and finished his career with a .210 season at that level in ’76. John went 0 for 3 with a run scored for Detroit and hit .264 with over 200 stolen bases in the minors. He’d obtained a degree from the University of Nevada during the early Seventies and there are some indications that he followed his parents into education but I have been unable to confirm anything since his playing days.

Pete Mackanin hails from Chicago from where he was drafted by the Senators in ’69 upon completing Brother Rice High School on the south side. He hit .231 with decent power that summer in Rookie ball while playing third base. Like Dave Chalk he would move around the infield a bit during his career and in A ball in ’70 he also played shortstop as his average slipped to .202. He bounced offensively at that level in ’71, hitting .259 with seven triples in a season in which most of his time was spent at second. The next year he played all three positions while at Double A and a bit at Triple A where his offense again got whacked pretty hard. He revived big at the higher level in ’73, hitting .302 as he played strictly shortstop, a position he continued when he made his debut for Texas late that summer. But after hitting .100 in his 90 at bats with 26 K’s, he returned in ’74 to Triple A where he had a lights-out year, hitting .291 with 28 homers and 103 RBI’s. After the season he and reliever Don Stanhouse were sent to Montreal for outfielder Willie Davis. With the Expos Pete became the regular second baseman the next two years. He had some moments, like hitting 12 homers while stealing eleven bases in ’75, but overall he hit .224, struck out a bit much, and had a few too many errors. In ’77 Montreal signed Dave Cash and Pete spent the season as a reserve guy, getting minimal plate time. He then spent ’78 back in Triple A where he had another bang-up power year while playing third and shortstop, with a .276/17/112 season before he was placed on waivers that September. Philadelphia grabbed him and he spent the balance of that year and all the next on the Phillies roster, although he almost never appeared. After the ’79 season he was traded to Minnesota for pitcher Paul Thormodsgard and for the next two years he saw a lot more action while moving between second and shortstop. In ’80 he had his best MLB season, hitting .266 with 35 RBI’s in 319 at bats and in ’81 his average dipped to .231 in his final year up top. He signed with the White Sox as a free agent, was released during spring training of ’82, and then returned to Texas where for the next two years he picked up where he left off, as a Triple A, mostly corner infield power guy. In ’82 he hit .268 with 16 homers and 73 RBI’s in 377 at bats and in ’83 he had a .269/11/91 year. In ’84 he played third base for the Cubs Triple A franchise, slowing down a bit with a .248/8/44 season in his last year. Pete hit .226 with 30 homers and 27 stolen bases in the majors and .263 with 103 homers and 624 RBI’s in the minors. He immediately moved into managing after that in the minors for the Cubs (’85-’89); Cincinnati (’90-’92); Baltimore (’93-’94); Montreal (’95-’96); and Pittsburgh (2001-’02 and ’06). In between he was an MLB coach with Montreal (’97-2000) and Pittsburgh (2003-’05). He was appointed manager mid-season twice up top: for the Pirates in ’05 and for Cincinnati – for whom he’d been scouting – in ’07. He went a combined 53-53 in those roles, and those were not great teams. In 2008 he was a scout for the Yankees before returning to coaching as the bench guy for the Phillies from 2009 trough 2012. During that time he was on the short list as manager for a few spots, including Chicago and Boston. For 2013 he has been a Yankees scout. His minor league record is 985-944 with a few championships and a TSN Minor League Manager of the Year award.

When Manny Trillo was signed by the Phillies in ’68 he had been a catcher on his high school team in Venezuela. But the team liked his arm too much and turned him into a left side infielder. He hit .261 in a short summer season that year in A ball and then .280 at the same level in ’69 before going to Oakland in the Rule 5 draft. He duplicated those numbers the next two seasons in Double A for the A’s while continuing to concentrate on the left side. In ’72 he moved to Triple A where he hit .301 while playing a considerable amount of games at second for the first time. The next year it was all second base as he was being groomed to take over from Dick Green. He hit .312 that year while knocking in 78 runs around his Oakland debut in June where he hit .250 while doing late-inning work. He stayed up top to open the ’74 seasons and got some starts at second but after not hitting too well returned to Triple A where his average slid to .253 before he returned to Oakland in September to finish the season. After it he went to the Cubs with Bob Locker and Darold Knowles for Billy Williams. Once in Chicago Manny’s MLB career took off in earnest as he was named the team’s starter at second, hit .261, and fielded well enough to come in third place in ROY voting. He remained with the Cubbies through ’78, rarely missing a game and providing pretty good offensive punch while excelling defensively. In ’77 he made his first All-Star team. After the ’78 season he returned to the Phillies in a big trade and for whom he again took over as the regular guy. His average would pop a few points as he would have an award-filled run during his four seasons there: three Gold Gloves, two more All-Star games, and two Silver Slugger awards as the NL’s best offensive second baseman. He also got a Series ring in ’80 after being named mvp of the NL Championship Series after hitting .381. In ’83 he went to Cleveland as part of the group that brought Von Hayes to Philly. He was an All-Star again before going to Montreal to finish the season. He then moved to San Francisco as the regular guy for ’84 and ’85 before returning to Chicago where he spent the next three years doing mostly infield reserve work. He ended his playing career after an ’89 season with Cincinnati with a .263 average, 61 homers, and 571 RBI’s. He hit .267 in 17 post-season games, winning two rings. Defensively he led NL second basemen in putouts twice, assists four straight years, and double plays and fielding percentage once each. Lifetime he is in the top 100 in that last stat and in the top 50 on the other ones. After playing Manny was for a few years a coach in Venezuela before returning to The States in that capacity in ’96 with the Cubs, beginning a long career. He coached in the Chicago system (’96-’98); was director of minor league development for the Phillies (’99), coached in the Yankees system (2000); coached in the Milwaukee system (2001-’03); and coached and managed in the White Sox system (’04-present). For the past few years he has also assumed admin roles for the Sox.

Gamble is the oldest guy here and Mackanin the youngest. I bet this card does pretty well in terms of MLB service also. Between these four there were 25 MLB seasons, six All-Star selections, two Gold Gloves, and two Silver Sluggers.

Now first we move between two young AL guys:

1. Dave Chalk and Leroy Stanton ’73 to ’76 Angels;
2. Stanton and Dick Pole ’77 to ’78 Mariners.

And then around the card:

1. Dave Chalk and Denny Doyle ’74 Angels;
2. Doyle and Tony Taylor ’70 to ’71 Phillies;
3. Taylor and John Gamble ’72 to ’73 Tigers;
4. Gamble and Woodie Fryman ’72 to ’73 Tigers;
5. Fryman and Pete Mackanin ’75 to ’76 Expos;
6. Mackanin and Andre Thornton ’76 Expos;
7. Thornton and Manny Trillo ’75 to ’76 Cubs.

Friday, September 20, 2013

#596 - 1974 Rookie Pitchers

This card kicks off the final special subset of the ’74 Topps baseball set. For the rookie cards of this set Topps ups the number of participants per card from three to four and adds some consistency by having each card occupied by players of the same position. This one is a pretty good kick-off since three of the four guys here went on to have significant – and by “significant” I mean at least a couple years as a regular – MLB baseball careers. Not one player here is crazy happy about appearing on his first card except Mark Littell. Let’s get to the bios.

After being all-city as a pitcher at Cohn High in Nashville for three years running Wayne Garland went to Gulf Coast Community College where he was all-state in ’69 his only year there. He was a first round pick by the Orioles that June and pitched much better that summer in A ball than in Rookie ball, going a combined 4-5 with a 3.65 ERA. In ’70 he went 7-10 with a 3.54 ERA in Double A and then in ’71 exploded at that level with a 19-5 season with a 1.71 ERA and six shutouts. In ’72 he went 7-9 with a 3.79 ERA in Triple A before going 10-11 with a 3.57 ERA at the same level in ’73, missing some time both years for his military obligation. Wayne’s big pitches by then were his slider and curve, refined under his manager Joe Altobelli. In ’73 he made his debut in Baltimore in September, going 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in a few games. He then began ’74 back at Triple A where he threw a no-hitter in his first start. He returned to Baltimore in May and went 5-5 with a 2.97 ERA the rest of the way as a spot guy, in one game taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Oakland. In ’75 Wayne didn’t sign right away and he was rewarded with all pen work that year as he went 2-5 with a 3.71 ERA and four saves as mostly a long guy. He wasn’t crazy happy about that and in ’76 he played without a contract. But the O’s needed starters that year and Wayne joined the rotation with a big year, going 20-7 with a 2.67 ERA. Still unsigned, he went to Cleveland as a free agent after signing a 10-year contract. His first spring he felt a crack in his shoulder but he pitched through pain that year to go 13-19 with a 3.60 ERA. After starting the next year 2-3 with a fat ERA it was discovered he had a rotator cuff tear and his season ended with an operation on his shoulder. But it was a career-killer and after attempted runs the next three years – he went a combined 13-26 with a 5.02 ERA -  he was released and done up top. Wayne finished 55-66 with a 3.89 ERA with 43 complete games, seven shutouts, and six saves. He threw shutout ball in an inning of post-season work. In ’82 he attempted his final comeback back in Nashville, then a Double A franchise of the Yankees. It didn’t go too well but he stuck around as a pitching coach. In ’83 he coached in the Milwaukee system before becoming the head coach at Aquinas Junior College from ’84 to ’86. He then coached in the Cincinnati system from ’87 to ’92 and the Pittsburgh one from ’93 to ’96 after which he apparently left baseball. At some point he relocated to Las Vegas where according to his Facebook page he still resides. He looks a far cry happier than the guy described as “sullen” in the book “The Curse of...” about his time in Cleveland.

Fred Holdsworth grew up in Northville, Michigan, just outside Detroit. In high school he was a big deal in the big three sports and his senior year he had signed a letter of intent to go to the University of Michigan to play quarterback and pitch on a full ride. He was a smart guy and was his high school’s valedictorian where his dad was the principal. But he was a huge Tigers fan and so when the team drafted him that June of ’70 and promised to cover his tuition when he went to school he signed fast. He got off to a great start that summer, going 5-2 with a 1.43 ERA and a K an inning in eleven starts split between Rookie and A ball. In ’71 he continued the good work, going 13-10 with a 2.51 ERA in A and Double A. He would then spend most of the next three seasons in Triple A where he went a combined 30-21 with a 3.46 ERA in the rotation around a few games each year up top. But after going 0-5 with a 5.97 ERA in just under 60 innings in Detroit, Fred spent all of ’75 in Triple A and in May was sent to Baltimore for Bob Reynolds. Between the two teams he went only 6-13 but his ERA was quite good at 3.55. After beginning the year going 5-4 with a 3.49 ERA at that level he was pulled up to Baltimore where he finally had a good experience going 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA and a couple saves out of the pen. But after a sloppy start in that role in ’77 he was sent to Montreal in July for Dennis Blair and finished the year pretty well by going 3-3 with a 3.19 ERA as a spot guy. But again his MLB success was short-lived and after a couple bad outings to start ’78 he was back in Triple A where he didn’t throw much better as a starter and was released at the end of the season. He hooked up with Detroit again and in ’79 went 13-10 with a 3.79 ERA in a year split between Double A and Triple A. He was sold to Milwaukee for the ’80 season and for them he pitched his last few innings up top inside of a 5-5, 2.67 year at its Triple A club. He threw one more year at that level for Oakland in ’81 and was done. Fred went 7-10 with a 4.40 ERA and two saves for his MLB run and 87-75 in the minors with a 3.35 ERA. He did end up going to Michigan where he got a degree in accounting. He would became a partner at Arthur Anderson and then move to the industry side with Comcast, first as a finance director, and since 2005 as the VP of Finance for the company’s Midwest operations.

Mark Littell was drafted by the Royals in ’71 from a tiny town at the bottom of Missouri where he played hoops and was an all-state pitcher. He moved fast and after going 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA that summer in Rookie ball and 10-9 with a 3.47 ERA and 199 K’s in 153 innings in A ball in ’72, had a big year in ’73. That year was spent mostly at Triple A where he went 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA as a starter. He debuted that June for KC in a start against Baltimore, giving up one run in six-plus innings, but then got bombed, returning to the minors at the end of the month. That was it up top for a while and he spent all of ’74 back in Triple A where an injury helped wreck his numbers a bunch as he went 3-9 with a 4.75 ERA in just 16 games. But he was healthy again in ’75 and went 13-6 with a 3.48 ERA at that level before doing substantially better in his late-season call-up. He got his second rookie card in ’76 when he stuck in KC and became the team closer with an 8-4 record, a 2.08 ERA, and 16 saves in his 60 games. He was named KC Pitcher of the Year even though he gave up that devastating homer to Chris Chambliss in the playoffs. In ’77 he added some spot starts while cutting back on the relief and had another good season with the same record, a 3.61 ERA, over a K an inning, and 12 saves. He then went to St. Louis with catcher Buck Martinez for Al Hrabosky, replacing Al in the Cards pen. In ’78 he went 4-8 with eleven saves and a 2.79 ERA while striking out 130 in his 106 innings. He then went 9-4 with a 2.19 ERA and 13 saves in ’79 before, like his card-mates, his pitching career came crashing down. He suffered bone chips in his pitching elbow in ’80 spring training and appeared rarely the next three seasons for St. Louis, going only 1-6 with four saves and a 5.28 ERA. After some time back in Triple A in ’82 he was released though he still received a Series ring that year. Mark finished with a record of 32-31 with a 3.32 ERA, two complete games, and 56 saves. In the post-season he was 0-1 with a 2.35 ERA in five games and in the minors 49-34 with a 3.32 ERA, 40 complete games, and four shutouts. By the end of ’82 he became a marketing exec with St. Louis with whom he remained a couple years before doing some marketing work outside baseball. In ’88 he returned to the game as a coach for the Australian national team and then for various MLB chains: San Diego (’89); Milwaukee (’92-’96 and 2000-’07); Los Angeles (’97-’98); and Kansas City (’99). In between he worked some more with the Aussies and helped bring a few guys to the Brewers from Down Under. In late 2006 he developed a product called the Nuttybuddy, a sort of larger, more encompassing, more comfortable athletic supporter (check out his YouTube promo video here – it’s hilarious) and took some time off to apply his marketing skills to getting it out there. In 2011 he did some coaching for the Diamondbacks locally and in Panama and in 2012 he signed on to coach at Dickinson College. He resides in Arizona and has a site for his product linked to here.

Ah, well, at least it’s not Dick Hurtz. This Dick also came out of a tiny town from Michigan’s upper peninsula. Up there baseball seasons were quite short and he was primarily a basketball star who got discovered while throwing a no-hitter the summer after his senior year. After a partial year at Northern Michigan University he was signed by the Sox early in ’69 and in A ball that year went 13-12 with a 3.09 ERA. He would miss some time the ensuing few years to the military which slowed him down a bit. In ’70 he went 7-9 with a 3.33 ERA in A ball and in ’71 improved to 8-7, 2.76 in Double A. Up until then a starter in ’72 he was a swing guy in Triple A, going 4-5 with a 3.82 ERA and a couple saves. In ’73 he had a big season at that level, winning the IL’s Pitcher of the Year award for his 12-9, 2.03, four shutout season. He then made a habit of getting called up to Boston when other pitchers got injured. That year after Ray Culp got put on the DL he debuted in August, going 3-2 with a 5.60 ERA. In ’74 he was recalled in June after Rick Wise went down and in two stints up top went 1-1 with a 4.20 ERA and a save, done around a not terrific year in Triple A. In ’75 he made the cut, pitched a few April games and then was not used for nearly all of May until someone got hurt. This time Reggie Cleveland missed a start and Dick threw a shutout in his place. He went on to have a decent June before in his last start that month he was nailed in the face by a comebacker from Tony Muser of Baltimore. His cheek required reconstructive surgery and his right eye was permanently damaged. But he returned in September and then saw some Series action. In ’76 he had his best year up top as he went 6-5 as a spot guy with a 4.33 ERA. After that season he was taken by the new Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft and for them he went a combined 11-23 with a 5.74 ERA in the rotation the next two years. That would finish his MLB time as a player with a 25-37 record, 5.05 ERA, eight complete games and a save. He gave up a run on two walks and no outs in Series play. In ’79 he returned to Triple A with the Pirates franchise and went 9-4 with a 4.33 ERA in the rotation. In ’80 he moved to the Detroit system and there went 7-4 with a 3.04 ERA and ten saves in the pen. He began the next year strongly in that role, going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA and three saves in seven games before he moved to Mexico where he played and coached the next two seasons. He finished 63-64 with a 3.25 ERA with 15 shutouts and 16 saves in minor league ball. He returned to The States in ’83 where he was a coach in the Cubs system before moving up to Chicago in ’88, beginning a long run as an MLB pitching coach. At that level he worked in Chicago (’88-’91); San Francisco (’93-’97); Boston (’98); California (’99); Cleveland (2000-’01); and Montreal (2002). In ’92 he coached in the Red Sox system and in 2003 he returned to the Cubbies where he stayed through 2006. From ’07 through ’09 he was Cincinnati’s pitching coach until he was released. He seems to have not joined any team since but he has had a nice run in that capacity as both Greg Maddux and CC Sabathia have credited him with making them better pitchers.

Like in ’73 there is no room for stats or any real color regarding each player on the card back. These guys are all within a couple years of each other age-wise and they are all pretty huge, averaging 6’2” and 207 pounds. Maybe we can rank the cards in terms of the MLB career performances by the players pictured. I think the best way to do that is seasons up top and I will do that by anything either 100-plus at bats or 50-plus games on the hitting side and 50 innings or 25 games on the pitching end. As a kicker I will add awards. I bet this card does pretty well. Between these four there were 23 MLB seasons but no awards.

I am going to be optimistic now and attempt to do hook-ups both inter- and intra-card. First a regular one to the first guy:

1. Wayne Garland and Bert Blyleven ’81 Indians;
2. Blyleven and Willie Stargell ’78 to ’80 Pirates;
3. Stargell and Steve Blass ’64 and ’66 to ’74 Pirates.

Now among all these card-mates:

1. Garland and Fred Holdsworth were teammates on the ’76 Orioles;
2. Holdsworth and Will McEnany ’77 Expos;
3. McEnany and Mark Littell ’79 Cardinals;
4. Littell and Bob Stinson ’75 to ’76 Royals;
5. Stinson and Dick Pole ’77 to ’78 Mariners.

I am reducing requirements a bit here because some of these guys didn’t get enough time with one team ever but this run is pretty solid. I also bet that five iterances to circle the block will be pretty good.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#595 - Steve Blass

In yet another final card action shot, Steve Blass gives a classic demonstration of his pitching form in Pittsburgh in which at the end of his motion each of his limbs was pointed in a different direction. Normally that flailing worked quite well for Steve but not in ’73 or thereafter and if this photo was taken from that year, there is really no telling where the pitch ended in relationship to the strike zone. Probably nowhere good. Steve famously lost all control that year immediately after his most successful season which sucked even more for him because he was a control pitcher. Really nothing went right for him all year and he would become the poster child for any player who inexplicably lost his ability to deliver a baseball to its intended spot. But Steve had a lot more going on than his fall from grace so let’s get to it.

Steve Blass grew up in Connecticut on the Housatonic River where he was all-state in basketball and by the time he graduated high school had thrown five no-hitters. That attracted attention from both his beloved Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh. He signed with the latter team when it offered him a bigger bonus and the chance to play right away. That summer of 1960 in D ball he had a bi-polar season, going 4-1 with one team and 1-3 with a 6.68 ERA for another. Steve was a power pitcher back then and after averaging a K an inning that year returned to that level in ‘61 to go 13-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 160 innings. In ’62 he had a season not too dissimilar to his first year when he had a huge year in B ball – 17-3 with a 1.97 ERA and 209 K’s in his 178 innings – after a 1-4 start with a 7.20 ERA in A ball. In ’63 he got moved up to Triple A where he met pitching coach Don Osborn – he has a bio on the Pirates coaches card – who was known as “The Wizard of Oz” for his ability to tutor pitchers. Osborn added a bunch of pitches to Steve’s arsenal during spring training. That first year Steve went 11-8 though his ERA was a bit fat at 4.44. The next year he was off to a nice start there before he was pulled up to Pittsburgh in May. In his first start in his second game Steve got a win against Don Drysdale. He went on to have a decent rookie year as a spot guy, recording a shutout, and in ’65 spent the full season back in Triple A, where he went 13-11 with a 3.07 ERA in his last season in the minors for a while.

In ’66 Blass returned to Pittsburgh where he spent the bulk of his time in the rotation and put up a nice sophomore year, improving his record and his ERA. But ’67 was a step back as the whole team fell into a sort of malaise and Steve moved from the rotation to the pen. Then in ’68 he had an excellent bounce as he led the NL in winning percentage, put up seven shutouts, and got some MVP votes. In ’69 his wins stayed up there but his ERA more than doubled and his pen time got him his only two saves up top. In ’70 he got in a hole by opening the season 2-8 before he went on a run that really didn’t stop until ’73. From then on he went 8-4 with a 3.01 ERA as the team’s best pitcher but got shut out of any post-season work. Then came the big Pirates Series year of ’71 in which Steve put up his best stats since ’68, led the NL with five shutouts, and after a tough playoff threw masterful ball in his two complete games wins over the Orioles. The magic continued in ’72 when Steve recorded personal bests in victories and ERA to finish second in Cy Young voting to Steve Carlton’s amazing year. But then up came the wall. ’74 would be even a worse experience than ’73 as after Steve’s first start – five runs on eight hits and seven walks in five innings – he was moved to Triple A for rehab. But it didn’t change things as he went 2-8 with an ERA above 9.00. He was done and he retired with a record essentially the same as the one on the back of his card: 103-76 with a 3.63 ERA, 57 complete games, 16 shutouts, and those two saves. In the post-season he was 3-1 with a 3.10 ERA in his six starts.

After playing Blass did some marketing work, first with a company that made class rings, and then with a beer distributorship, but he returned to baseball before too long. In ’83 he began doing color work for the Pirates on a local cable affiliate before in ’86 moving to the regular spot on KDKA, the broadcast Pittsburgh station. He has been there ever since. After a long dry run he must be pretty happy with how things are going this year.

Two good star bullets are presented here and it’s tough to imagine that career record was all done by 32. On the back of Steve’s ’71 card he is wearing some monster glasses. Maybe that is an indication as to what went wrong in ’73. He has a detailed SABR bio.

Steve’s card represents the initial one for the final ten per-cent of the set. Before we get to the stats so far for the first 90% let’s hook him up:

1. Blass and big Bob Robertson ’67 and ’69 to ’74 Pirates;
2. Robertson and Leroy Stanton ’78 Mariners.

Okay, here we go with a quick review:

Post-Season: Every post-season is represented by a player or coach present in this set from 1957 to 1990. Early outliers are ’51 and ’54 thanks to Willie Mays. Later ones are ’92 and ’95 thanks to Dave Winfield. ’73 continues to be the best-represented season with 89 participants.

Awards: There are now the following past or future award winners in the set to date: 25 MVP winners; 16 Cy Young winners; 25 Comeback Player of the Year winners; 12 Fireman of the Year winners; 22 Manager of the Year winners; 22 Rookie of the Year winners; and eight The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year winners.

Milestones: We are up to 38 members of the Hall of Fame. 62 players are represented by official or unofficial Traded cards. There have been 46 rookie cards in the set so far although that number will bounce significantly. And there are now 61 cards representing managers or players that have since passed away.

Topps Rookie Teams: Here are the representatives by year of each past – and now future – Topps Rookie All-Star teams:

’59 – 3               ’63 – 3              ’67 – 6               ’71 - 9
’60 – 2               ’64 – 4              ’68 – 6               ’72 – 9
’61 – 3               ’65 – 5              ’69 – 7               ’73 – 10
’62 – 1               ’66 – 7              ’70 – 6               ’74 – 1

Miscellaneous: There are 338 players in away jerseys and 186 in home jerseys. There have been 137 action shot cards and 43 with parenthetical names on the card back. We are up to six ugly cards and stalled at five players who served in Viet Nam.

Next up is the set’s final special subset. See ya in a couple days.

Monday, September 16, 2013

#594 - Leroy Stanton

For a guy involved in one of the biggest trades ever it can be frustratingly difficult to find information about Leroy Stanton during certain periods of time. Like his youth. But that was long ago by the time this card came along, depicting Leroy at Yankee Stadium, not terribly far from another field on which he briefly played. If that is a “6” on the back of that uniform behind Leroy, it’s Ellie Rodriguez; if it’s an “8” it’s Rick Stelmaszek. Primarily a right fielder in ’73, Leroy’s playing time took a bit of a hit that season as he split time there early on with Bob Oliver and later with Richie Scheinblum, who’d been picked up mid-year from Cincinnati. Leroy could be a pretty good power guy and though his eight HR’s that year were below expectations, he did tie a team record when he launched three in a game against Baltimore. He had a bit of trouble in the strikeout department but he could run and he had awfully good range in the outfield. He would spend the bulk of his career with the Angels, at least as a player, and he alone would have been an excellent pick-up for the guy California lost. But then there was that other guy...

Leroy Stanton was born and raised on a farm in rural South Carolina and at some point around his chores he made enough noise in baseball to get signed as a free agent by the Mets early in the summer of ’65. That first year he hit pretty well in A ball but dropped a few points when moved down to Rookie ball late in the season. He then missed all of the next two years to do his military hitch stateside which is one of the longest service requirements of the set. He returned in ’68 for a good year in A ball and then pared down his numbers a bit in a ’69 spent in Double A, a year he also stole 17 bases. In ’70 and ’71 he put up excellent numbers at Triple A Tidewater, making his debut in NY in September of the earlier year. His first three at bats were all pinch hit appearances before he got a start against Chicago on the 28th. His first at bat he rocketed a triple to the corner and rounding second his helmet came off. As he slid safely into third, the Billy Williams throw pegged him in the back of the head, ending his season. That’s a tough way to get a first hit! He got some more late looks in ’71, none nearly as dramatic as the prior year, and after the season he, pitcher Don Rose, catcher Frank Estrada, and another pitcher named Nolan Ryan were sent to the Angels for Jim Fregosi.

In ’72 Stanton was still a rookie – he shared his first Topps card with Buzz Capra and Jon Matlack – and that spring he won the starting job in right field. He started slowly and struck out once every four at bats but revived his average a bunch over the season and led AL right fielders in fielding percentage. In ’74 he won the right field slot pretty much uncontested after a great spring. He was also off to a hot start that year at the plate and was hitting .390 in late April when his left hand was shattered by a pitch. He missed a month-plus but returned to post his best season to date with .267/11/62 numbers. He upped that in an un-injured ’75 when he corralled his K numbers a bit, pretty much matched his ’74 average and upped his power numbers to 14 homers and 82 RBI’s to lead the team. He also established a new team record in outfield assists with 16; that number also led the AL. But ’76 wasn’t much fun. The Angels put up another big trade prior to that season, obtaining Bobby Bonds for Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa and Bobby took over right field as Leroy got moved to the fourth guy. As his plate time came down hard so too did his offense and he finished with a .190 average and only 25 RBI’s. After the season he was selected by the new Seattle Mariners in the expansion draft.

In his first season in Seattle Stanton had a sort of I-told-you-so year in  his biggest MLB season, hitting .275 with 27 homers and 90 RBI’s as he and Danny Meyer teamed to give the Mariners a potent power duo. But that revival was short-lived and after Leroy’s stats shriveled to a .182/3/24 season the next year he was released. In ’79 he put in a season in Japan where his line of .225/23/58 was augmented by 136 K’s in his 457 at bats. In ’80 he returned to this hemisphere and the Angels, but this time the Mexican League franchise in Puebla. That was his final season as a player and Leroy ended up with a .244 average, 77 homers, and 358 RBI’s. In the minors he hit .290.

In ’81 Stanton tried out for the Blue Jays and made the franchise, but as a coach. He remained in the Toronto system through at least the ’95 season, nearly all that time as a hitting coach. He got a couple rings when the team won the Series. After that things get a bit sticky. He’d always lived off-season in South Carolina and the author of a book about the Angels found him there driving short-haul truck routes for his own company there. He appears to still be at that line of work, at least on the ownership side.

Leroy had ten triples two years running. He also liked pool; that’s a good double. When the big trade to the Angels happened, Whitey Herzog was the director of minor league operations for the Mets. He was asked to try to get Leroy back from California after the trade. When he was told the club gave him up for Fregosi Whitey was pretty infuriated. And that was before he knew that Ryan was also in the deal.

These two guys were Mariners, but a bunch of years apart. But the Angels had a big trade following the ’72 season also:

1. Stanton and Bobby Valentine ’73 to ’75 Angels;
2. Valentine and Steve Yeager ’72 Dodgers.

Andy Messersmith works also, going the other way.

Friday, September 13, 2013

#593 - Steve Yeager

This photo finds Steve Yeager in the midst of his second season of catching in LA. After being called up in ’72 to be part of the milieu behind the plate in the wake of Tom Haller’s departure he stayed up all of ’73 to play behind Joe Ferguson and his 25 homers. It had taken Steve a while for his bat to catch up to his catching prowess and he would never be a super hitter. But he hit pretty solidly in his two seasons in LA and that would help get him into the line-up on a regular basis going forward. But ’73 had some rough spots. On June 20th Ferguson broke his thumb in a game against Atlanta, providing an opening for Steve, who was hitting .280 at the time in limited at bats. But in the 15 games he started during Joe’s absence he hit only .108. He would then sit for about a month before he returned to add over 50 points to his average down the stretch. For now he looks pretty content on a sunny day at Candlestick.

Steve Yeager grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where in high school he was a star in the big three sports and was a fourth round pick by the Dodgers in ’67. He had to finish a state tournament that summer so started his A season late but barely played because he wasn’t hitting too well. That was the theme in each of the next two seasons as lousy averages kept him on the bench a lot but his ability to call games and his toughness behind the plate kept him on the roster. That was illustrated when he played on a broken leg during ’69 and then also missed a bunch of time on the DL. In ’70 he moved up to Double A, hit much better, and got some starting time. Then in ’71 he maintained his hold on that starting spot at the same level, upping his numbers considerably. After a slightly better start in Triple A in ’72 he got called up to LA that August in the wake of Dick Dietz breaking his hand.

In ’72 the Dodgers catching situation was a bit of a hodgepodge as Chris Cannizzaro, Duke Sims, and Dick Dietz all spent time at the position. But by the end of the year Dietz got his injury, Sims followed Tom Haller to Detroit, and Cannizzaro just didn’t have enough stick so Yeager came up, got himself in a slump, and later pulled his average up to respectable. In ’74 he began the season with a hot bat as Ferguson got hit with a sophomore jinx and by the end of July Steve still had a .300 average and now the starting gig behind the plate since Ferguson could also man the outfield. Steve’s average would fade but not his defensive work as LA went 64-28 during his starts that year. And he bounced at an appropriate time in the post-season as he hit .364 in the loss to Oakland. In ’75 he fractured his knee to start the season but then had his busiest year as Ferguson too was one of many Dodgers to see DL time and though Steve’s average shrunk to .228 he upped his RBI total to 54. In ’76 he went down again after he was speared in the throat by shards off Bill Russell’s broken bat while in the on deck circle. That year Ferguson was traded to St. Louis and the following one Steve had his best offensive year with a .256/16/55 season in 359 at bats as he played ahead of veterans Johnny Oates and Jerry Grote. That was also the year LA returned to the Series and Steve was again a main offensive threat, hitting .316 with five RBI’s in six games. In ’78 a year-long slump and missed time to some cracked ribs had LA bring back Ferguson mid-season as Steve bottomed out with a .193 average in just 228 at bats. In ’79 he put up better power numbers with 13 homers and 41 RBI’s but his average only got to .216 in a big slump year for the Dodgers.

By 1980 Yeager had a nagging elbow injury that would limit his time in the field and with his average pretty much entrenched in Mendoza territory his playing time withered a bit more. That year he split time with Joe Ferguson and rookie Mike Scioscia. In ’81 Scioscia took over as the main guy and Steve barely played, racking up only 86 at bats in the strike year. But in the extended post-season he hit well and in the Series against the Yankees’ lefty-dominated rotation, he played in every game. It turned out to be an excellent fit as he hit .286 with two homers and four RBI’s to share the MVP award. In ’82 he continued in his back-up role and though he missed a month to a broken wrist, he upped his average to .245, his highest in five years. In ’83 he moved to the number one spot as Scioscia missed nearly the whole season to injury and though his average slid to .203 Steve hit 15 homers with 41 RBI’s. The next two seasons he returned to reserve work, in ’84 suffering knee damage in a plate collision. By ’85 he and Bill Russell were the only two left of the young guys who revived the franchise in the mid-Seventies. After that season he was sent to Seattle for Ed Vande Berg. He then finished his playing career in an ’86 with the Mariners in the same role. Steve wrapped things up with a .228 average with 102 homers and 410 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .252 with five homers and 14 RBI’s in 38 games. In the field he twice led the NL in picking off runners and also led once each in putouts and assists.

Yeager did some community work with the Dodgers after his playing career ended, but his main professional work was elsewhere in the LA area: as an adviser, trainer, and actor in the Major Leagues movies. He did consulting work on other sports movies as well. He also hooked up with a company called Collectibles International, for which he was a spokesperson. The company purported to be a seller of franchises by which to make money in sports collectibles, but it turned out to be a sham shop. By ’99 Steve was back with the Dodgers full-time as a coach in their system. He coached there as well from 2004-’07. From 2000-’01 he managed the independent Long Beach Breakers and then in ’08 managed the city’s new independent franchise. Beginning in 2010 he became a spring training and roving minor league catching coach for the Dodgers and this year he has had that role in LA.

These two star bullets are worth investigating. The game was only Steve’s sixth MLB one and it occurred at Riverfront. That is a ton of chances for a game, seemingly, but this one ran 19 innings and Steve was behind the plate for all of them. That’s pretty amazing. All the putouts were strikeouts: Tommy John K’d 13 guys in his nine innings; Jim Brewer six in his three; Pete Richert one in two; and Ron Perranoski two in three innings. LA gave up only eight hits and two runs and still lost the game. He also got two assists for gunning down Tony Perez (fifth inning) and Joe Morgan (ninth) when they attempted to steal second. He missed nailing Bobby Tolan on another steal later and dropped a pop fly foul by Darrell Chaney, who flied out in that at bat. I guess that makes 24 chances though I’d count the assists also. Steve was related to fighter pilot and “The Right Stuff” profilee Chuck Yeager, who famously broke the sound barrier for the first time. He was on Family Feud, danced on Solid Gold, and posed for Playgirl. Sounds like he belonged in LA.

The link here was a big free agent signee for LA but nobody likes to remember that:

1. Yeager and Dave Goltz ’80 to ’82 Dodgers;
2. Goltz and Ed Bane ’73 and ’75 to ’76 Twins.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

#592 - Ed Bane

And the back-and-forth continues as another rookie card follows a final one. Here we have Ed – or Eddie – Bane in Oakland, another big deal first-timer whose debut was anticipated nearly as much as David Clyde’s was. Ed was just coming off his senior year at Arizona State and like Clyde stepped directly onto an MLB mound without a tune-up in the minors. His July 4 debut went better than Dave's as Eddie threw three-hit, one-run ball over seven innings in his first start against Kansas City. He too threw before a full house in his home debut so that $55,000 bonus he got paid dividends right away. But the bullpen then blew that game and the Twins lost. He got bombed by NY his second start but then pitched well in his next two, which were both losses as well. He then moved to the pen himself, had a nice little run, and after eight straight hitless innings had a couple saves and a 2.86 ERA. But he had some tough outings the rest of the way and finished the season without a victory and his couple saves. Now it was time for the minors.

Eddie Bane was born in Chicago, moved to the LA area, and was a quarterback and big deal pitcher at Westminster High School there. His senior year he was 11-2 with a 0.29 ERA and he’d planned on going to local Golden West College to play both sports, not anticipating going to a big school because he was a pretty little guy. But Arizona State showed up with a big push for baseball and won him over. He went 11-2 as a freshman in ’71 and then pitched for the USA in that year’s Pan-American Games. He only lost one game each of the next two years; in ’72 it was unfortunately the final one in the College World Series, in which he went down 1-0 to USC. After again losing to USC in ’73 Eddie was a first round pick by the Twins that June and he was up in Minnesota a couple weeks later.

Bane would spend the next few seasons at Triple A Tacoma. In ’74 he went 10-8 with a 4.18 ERA and in ’75 upped that to 15-11 with a 4.03 ERA. A power guy through college he had to refine his stuff a bit in the pros. That second year he returned to Minnesota in mid-September and went 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in his four starts though he tellingly again had more walks than strikeouts. He returned to Tacoma to start the ’76 season where he went 4-5 with a 3.69 ERA as a starter before returning to the Twins in June. After a tough first start Eddie threw good ball his first month in the rotation and at the end of July was 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA. But then things cracked and he finished the year 4-7 with a 5.11 ERA in his last work up top. In ’77 it was back to Tacoma one last time where he did spot and long relief work, going 9-8 with a 4.14 ERA. He then signed with the White Sox as a free agent and for Chicago that year put in even more relief time in Triple A, improving to 7-7 with a 3.85 ERA and six saves. He then sandwiched a couple years in Mexico around a comeback attempt in the States in ’80 that didn’t go too well and finished playing after the ’81 season. His MLB mark was 7-13 with a 4.66 ERA, a complete game, and two saves. In the minors he went a combined 49-48 with a 4.22 ERA.

After playing some semi-pro ball in Alaska in ’82 Bane became a coach in the LA system in ’83. He spent the next two years managing in the Cleveland system, going a combined 74-80 with Batavia. He then had a long run as a scout with Cleveland (’84-’87) and the Dodgers (’88-’98). In ’99 he was named assistant to the GM of Tampa Bay which he did through 2003 when he returned to scouting as the Angels head of scouting from 2004 through 2010. He moved to that role for Detroit the next two years before late in 2012 signing up for another assistant to the GM role, this time for Boston.

Topps covers all Ed’s Arizona State highlights on his card back. He was signed for the school by Bobby Winkles, who also has a card in this set. Ed’s brother is the CEO of Trader Joe’s, sort of an alternative supermarket. I am not terribly sure of that company’s footprint but it sure is popular in our neck of the woods (southeastern NY). Ed has a recent interview linked to here.

Try as I might, I can’t find a shorter route. Joe Hoerner would work but not enough Atlanta innings:

1. Bane and Bert Blyleven ’73 and ’75 to ’76 Twins;
2. Blyleven and Jeff Burroughs ’76 Rangers;
3. Burroughs and Phil Niekro ’77 to ’80 Braves;
4. Niekro and Sonny Jackson ’68 to ’74 Braves.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

#591 - Sonny Jackson

There is only one fan in the Atlanta stands behind Sonny Jackson on this card but there are a few things going on here. One is that Sonny is one of a very few non-pitchers who sports glasses. Two is that he may be the first and only player in the set designated as a shortstop-outfielder. And three is that this is Sonny’s final card which has been a bit of a trend lately. Sonny had a significant mark-up in his plate time in ’71 when, in the wake of Rico Carty’s knee injury he was moved to center field as the Braves had to juggle their line-up. But the next year in the wake of Rico’s return, new young regulars – Marty Perez at shortstop and Dusty Baker in the outfield, and his own injuries, Sonny’s field time waned considerably. In ’73 he was relatively healthy but was primarily a reserve, splitting time between shortstop and left field. Sonny’s pose here looks like it is about halfway between a bunting stance and an “I’m gonna knock your head off” stance. Good thing he wasn’t looking at the photographer.

Sonny Jackson grew up outside DC and went to Montgomery Blair High School in Blair, MD, where he captained each of his big three teams his senior year, leading his baseball and football ones to a county championship and his basketball one to a state title. He was a high–scoring guard in that last sport and most of his senior year he was courted by the University of Maryland with a scholarship to play hoops and baseball. That year was 1962 and if Sonny chose to attend the school he’d have been the first black ACC athlete. Instead he signed later that summer with the Houston Colt .45’s, a choice he made because he thought an expansion team would get him up top quicker. He was right and after a big first season in ’63 in A ball hitting .297 and stealing 61 bases, he made his Houston debut in a late September game in which every starter was a rookie (Houston got destroyed by the Mets 10-3). He would also get some late-season looks each of the next two years but spent most of that time in the minors. In ’64 he hit .285 while swiping 45 bases in Double A and in ’65 in Triple A he hit .330 while stealing 52. All that time he was a shortstop and while his error totals were a tad high he made up for that with excellent range. In ’66 he made the big club out of spring training.

Jackson had a big rookie year, putting up the best average of his career – shades of recent subject Hal Lanier – while finishing second in NL ROY voting to Tommy Helms. His DP partner was Joe Morgan with whom he shared his first rookie card in ’65 (he had another one in ’66 he shared with Chuck Harrison). He made the Topps team that year but had a tough follow-up year when he missed a month from a leg injury and his average and stolen bases tumbled hard. After the season he and card-mate Harrison were sent to the Braves for Denny LeMaster and Denis Menke. Sonny’s first few seasons in Atlanta were marred by injuries as his average during that time more closely resembled his ’67 one than his ’66 one. In ’68 he missed all of August to a bad knee. In ’69 he had done a nice job resuscitating his average when he missed nearly two months in the summer, again to kee damage. Then in ’70 he got spiked hard in his leg, missing another 45 games. After his move to center in ’71 he returned to Triple A to begin the ’72 season for rehab after hurting his ankle in spring training. When he came back he put in time at center and third base before returning to shortstop in late summer to swap time with Perez. After his reserve work in ’73 he spent most of ’74 in Triple A where he hit .285 while splitting time between those three positions. He only got into a couple games that year with Atlanta and following the season was released. He signed with the Padres for ’75 and hit .255 while playing second and outfield for their Triple A club and moved to the White Sox in ’76 where he hit .273 while switching between shortstop and third base at the same level. That was Sonny’s final season and he finished with a .251 average with 126 stolen bases up top and a .291 average with 181 steals in the minors. In his sole post-season appearance he only did defensive work.

Jackson stayed close to baseball – and former teammate Dusty Baker – after his playing career ended. He spent a long time back in the Atlanta system as a coach (’77-’79 and ’84-’95) and manager (’80-’81 during which he went 121-162). He also coached for Joe Torre in Atlanta. He then moved to the Giants where he coached in the minors (’96) and in San Francisco (’97-2002). He then went with Baker to Chicago where he coached and acted as special assistant to the manager from 2003 to ’06. I run out of gas with him at that point.

It appears that Sonny used a marker for his signature. He really did have a big rookie year, didn’t he? He also led the NL in sacrifice hits with 27 that year. He is a cousin of Derrell Thomas, who was a Padre then. He is married to Corliss Jackson who may or may not be the woman that runs the business helping people get federal jobs that is pretty high-profile. They live in Florida.

Two Braves here are a few years apart:

1. Jackson and Phil Niekro ’68 to ’74 Braves;
2. Niekro and Rogelio Moret ’76 Braves.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#590 - Rogelio Moret

On just about every one of his Topps cards Rogelio Moret is bending over. It may have been because at 6’4” (minimally) it was hard for him to fit in the frame otherwise. This card is a busy one and Rogelio appears to be around third base so those are probably infielders behind him but I can't put a finger on who they are. Rogelio had what for him would be a typical multi-faceted season in ’73. Up for good to begin the season he threw shutout ball his first 15 innings, which encompassed a start and two long relief outings. He tore a ligament in that third game after getting hit covering first base and missed the next month. When he returned at the end of May the Sox brought him back slowly and he didn’t get another start until July 4, when he shut out the Yankees. Then Boston didn’t start him again until August 2 – what was wrong with those guys? – when he shut out the Yankees. Finally the Sox got smart, left him in the rotation, and by early September Rogelio was 11-0. He cooled off a tad that month but he had the best winning percentage in the AL, got a “10” card from Topps, and was set to go. Nobody was going to stop him except Rogelio. Which was – sort of – exactly what happened.

Rogelio Moret was born and raised in Guayama, Puerto Rico where he played ball in high school and then winter ball for the Santurce Crabbers where he was discovered and then signed during the ’67-’68 season by Boston. Sent to A ball that summer, Rogelio put up a nice season though his control was a bit out of whack, which would be an issue throughout his career. He remained in A ball in ’69, doubling his win total. In ’70 he pretty much matched those numbers up a rung and made his debut in Boston in three games in September, winning his only start. He then took his game to Triple A in ’71 where he again had similar numbers around a brief May call-up. He returned to Boston in mid-August, got some starts in September, and threw a shutout against the Senators in his last start. But he posted his biggest numbers that winter when he went 14-1 with a 1.82 ERA to win his league’s mvp award. The Sox were pretty excited about his ’72 season but after a poor spring contributed to by some nagging shoulder injuries he ended spring training doing rehab work in the minors and only made some token appearances in Boston. He spent most of the season back in Triple A and it wasn’t a very good one. But after a pretty good winter – back then Don Baylor, Dusty Baker, and Buck Martinez were on his team – Rogelio got the nod in ’73 and gave the Sox an excellent season.

Moret’s follow-up season to his big breakthrough was better in that he wasn’t injured but the numbers weren’t nearly as good as he again began the season as a spot and long relief guy and through June had only started four games, completing two of them. He’d had knee surgery the prior November on his right leg, the one injured the prior spring and that had been re-injured in winter ball. He then returned to the rotation full-time in July and did well enough but the overall results were middling as he went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA. In ’75 he began the season again in the pen, lost three weeks to an abdominal injury, and by late May had only gotten into a few games and had a fat ERA. But by the end of June he was 5-0 and had pulled his ERA down a couple runs when – following the script – Boston put him back in the rotation. Things generally went well from that point on as Rogelio finished the season with a 14-3 record and a 3.60 ERA. The word “generally” is used because in late August he was involved in a car accident in Jersey in which he nearly got beheaded. He was fine but after initially telling the team he was rear-ended by a semi, it later turned out he was the one that caused the accident. That and some other aberrant behavior made Rogelio expendable so even though he again led the AL in winning percentage and did some OK work in the post-season, that December he was sent to Atlanta for Tom House.

Moret’s year with the Braves was pretty messy. Again sent to the bullpen to open the season he began the year with another big ERA but this time didn’t start the year undefeated and never really came out of his funk. He got a couple starts in mid-May and then a few in June, all of which were less than spectacular, though not horribly so. But after a June 29 start he sort of disappears for pretty much the rest of the summer. He didn’t go to the minors and there is no indication he was injured but in one article written later it was mentioned that he had an “episode” that required some rehab. He would throw in a couple games in mid-September but that was it as he finished 3-5 with a 5.00 ERA. In December he was involved in another trade, this time going to Texas with Adrian Devine, Dave May, Ken Henderson, Carl Morton and cash for Jeff Burroughs.  Similar to his Atlanta time, a big chunk of Rogelio’s season goes missing as he didn’t appear in a game until the end of June and then missed three weeks in July. But the work he did do was better as he went 3-3 with four saves and a 3.73 ERA in his spot role. In ’78 his first game effort resulted in a save from four innings of very good relief. Then all hell broke loose. Before a game later in April Rogelio was found standing and holding out his arm holding a shower slipper. No big deal except it was estimated he held the pose for over 45 minutes and he either had to be sedated or coaxed into an ambulance and taken away for a few weeks. It would later turn out that Rogelio suffered from a form of schizophrenia which was reinforced by constant stress put on him by his extended family. Rogelio would return to Arlington in late May and throw in a few games but by mid-June he was done, spending the rest of the season undergoing therapy. He had a decent spring when he returned in ’79 but the Rangers released him anyway towards the end of camp. After sitting out that season he signed a contract with both Cleveland and the White Sox before being awarded to the Tribe. But for them he didn’t make it out of ‘80’s spring training either. He then went south and pitching for Mexican League teams went 9-4 with a 2.42 ERA in ’81 before falling to 4-13 with a 4.40 ERA in ’82. He also threw for Santurce through that winter in his final season. Rogelio went 47-27 with a 3.66 ERA, 24 complete games, five shutouts, and twelve saves. In the post-season he was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his four games.

Not too surprisingly, things didn’t go terribly swimmingly for Moret after he played. He was unable to get steady work back home in PR and no baseball teams in the States would touch him. And once he stopped earning a regular paycheck his family away from his mom all dumped him. By ’85 he was living with her back in Guayama. There’d been lots of rumors that his psychological problems had been initiated by a steady diet of hallucinogens which he always denied and was never proven. But early in ’86 he was busted with some pot and sentenced initially to five years in jail that was later changed to probation. In ’92 SI caught up with him still in PR where he was making ends meet with a modest disability pension while awaiting his MLB one kicking in. He has a Facebook page which seems to indicate he now resides in San Juan – it is in Spanish – and which has a couple photos. He looks quite healthy in them.

As noted above Rogelio actually won eleven straight to kick off ’73. A little more background color could have been provided with another star bullet.

He wasn’t there very long but Rogelio’s Atlanta time helps here:

1. Moret and Carl Morton ’76 Braves;
2. Morton and Boots Day ’70 to ’72 Expos.