Thursday, October 31, 2013

#605 - 1974 Rookie Pitchers

This next rookie card is the second one that gets an honor number designation, which is unavoidable due to the choice by Topps to issue the rookie cards sequentially. One pitcher on the card was worthy of the designation pretty much right of the bat, but we get to him last. One pitcher for sure gets photographed in a city that would be his stomping grounds years down the road. As usual, there are very few smiles; rookie jitters perhaps.

Vic Albury was a first baseman and pitcher when he was drafted by the Indians in ’65. He had helped lead his high school team from Key West, FLA, to its state championship in ’63 and two summers later began his pro career by hitting .233 in A ball while playing first. Then it was off for three full years (?!!) of military duty; that sounds a bit long to me and I have a hunch that he left baseball for a bit before reappearing with his hometown team in ’69, an A franchise of San Diego’s. Vic had a nice year, going 12-10 with a 2.32 ERA before a bit of a rough ’70 split between Triple A and A ball, going a combined 7-10 with a 5.83 ERA. He was then drafted by the Twins for whom he turned things around big in Double A, going 12-7 with a 1.73 ERA and 13 saves as a reliever and hitting .354 with 17 RBI’s in only 65 at bats that included some during a few games back at first. Unfortunately that was followed by a ’72 – during which Vic had his first rookie card – in which he hurt his elbow in spring training enough that surgery was mandated and he didn’t get on the mound until August and would only see 18 innings of Triple A ball. In ’73 he went 8-11 in the rotation with a 3.99 ERA before he was called up in August. He did surprisingly well in his 23 MLB innings, going 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA, given his walks outnumbered his strikeouts, which would become a running theme. His true rookie year of ’74 he would be mostly in the rotation with 22 starts of his 32 games, and go 8-9 with a 4.12 ERA. In ’75 his ERA elevated a bit as he took on more of a swing role, going 6-7 with his only save. In ’76 it was all relief as he went 3-1 with a 3.58 ERA in his final season up top. He went a combined 18-17 at that level with a 4.11 ERA, six complete games, a shutout, and that save. He put up 220 walks against 193 K’s. In ’77 he pitched for Syracuse, then the Yankees’ Triple A team, going 9-9 with a 5.13 ERA and a couple saves in a swing role. He was apparently on loan because after the season he declared free agency as a Twin. He pitched in Mexico in ’78 before in ’79 throwing for Puerto Rico of the short-lived Inter-American League and then signing with Cleveland the rest of the way. He went a combined 6-4 with a 3.80 ERA that year which would be his last as rotator cuff problems helped to end his career. In the minors he went a combined 54-53 with a 3.72 ERA, 29 complete games, and 19 saves. By ’82 Vic was coaching in the Cleveland system, which he would do through early ’85. At some point he appears to have returned full-time to Key West where a street and baseball field were named in his honor. According to one local chat site a Vic Albury did get back and fall on bad times and then pass away but I do not know if it is our boy here as according to baseball-reference he is still around.

Ken Frailing grew up in Marion, Wisconsin, where the baseball seasons were short and he also played football and basketball in high school. He finished his hoops career with 1,000 points and his senior year went 13-0 with a 0.17 ERA for a team that went 16-0 overall. That spring of ’66 he was drafted in the fifth round by the White Sox. That first summer was a bit tough as he went 1-6 with a 5.07 ERA split between Rookie and A ball. He then spent the next three seasons in A ball, going a combined 14-14 with a 2.97 ERA around his military time while throwing for some pretty bad teams. In ’67 only 28 of his 51 runs were earned. In ’70 he moved up to Double A where his 4-9 record was a lot more indicative of his team than him as his ERA was only 2.71. He then spent the next two years at Triple A Tucson where the dry air elevated his ERA to a combined 5.27 as he went 14-19 before his September debut in Chicago. He then had his best year in ’73, going 11-3 with a 2.86 ERA in Triple A before some more late-season MLB action. When he left the Sox for the Cubs in the Ron Santo trade the following winter he was 1-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his 14 games. With the Cubs, Ken used his lefty status as a way to lever himself into the mix as a swing guy and his rookie year of ’74 he went 6-9 with a save and a 3.88 ERA. He remained in Chicago in ’75 but early in the season suffered shoulder issues and his work was reduced to all middle relief as his line fell to 2-5 with a 5.43 in less than half as many innings. He split ’76 between Chicago – 1-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 19 innings – and Triple A where he was 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA around lots of down time. In ’77 he got his shoulder operated on and he put in a few innings but was released while in rehab. He signed with the Sox for ’78 which he spent in Triple A as a player-coach in his final season, during which he went 8-5 with a 3.11 ERA and eleven saves. Ken went 10-16 with a 3.96 ERA, a complete game, and a couple saves during his MLB time and 55-61 with a 3.73 ERA in the minors. A pretty good hitter, he hit for over a .220 average at both levels. In ’79 and ’80 he coached in the KC system before later that latter year relocating to Sarasota, FLA, where he began a new career selling insurance. He has a very nice SABR bio.

Kevin Kobel attended a Catholic high school outside Buffalo, NY, and while there made a couple all-Catholic state teams in baseball. Nabbed by the Brewers in the ’71 draft at 17 he started fast by going 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA in A ball. The reality of being in the Brewers system set in the next year when he went 3-15 with a 4.31 ERA in Double A San Antonio – more dry air – before things got back on track in ’73 with a 12-8/3.40 year at the same level. In his few games in Milwaukee that year his run wasn’t too impressive but he remained on the Milwaukee roster all of ’74, going 6-14 with a 3.99 ERA in the rotation. Though his record wasn’t too hot, he owned the Yankees, going 3-1 against them giving up just one run per in the three wins. In ’75 a tough spring training followed up by a bad shoulder sent him to Triple A where he only got in seven games but went 3-2 with a 2.40 ERA in them. He remained at that level nearly all the next two years, going 7-12 in ’76 with a 5.50 ERA and then in ’77 though the ERA didn’t drop much, his record reversed itself as he went 12-6. He got some topside work the former year but it wasn’t very good and after the ’77 season he was sold to the Mets. In ’78 a nice start in the pen in Triple A brought him up to NY in May where some initial tentative usage produced good results in the same role. With an ERA still under 1.00 in July he became a spot guy the rest of the way and finished the year 5-6 with a 2.91 ERA. In ’79 he joined the rotation full-time, going 6-8 with a 3.51 ERA for another horrible NY team. But in ’80 the shoulder pain and bad numbers returned en force and at the trade deadline he was sent to Kansas City for Randy McGilberry. That finished Kevin’s MLB time with a record of 18-34 with a 3.88 ERA, five complete games, and three shutouts. He didn’t pitch terribly well either for KC’s Triple A club and he was released by the end of the season. He then spent ’81 and ’82 pitching in Mexico before a late season tryout with the Pirates went nowhere and he was done with a 46-47 record in the minors with a 4.27 ERA. According to his Facebook page he is back in the Buffalo area where he looks pretty happy.

When Frank Tanana graduated Catholic Central High School in Detroit in ’71 he had scored over 2,500 points in hoops and had a 32-1 record as a pitcher with a 0.30 ERA. He was widely recruited by D1 schools in both sports but signed with the Angels after being the team’s first round pick that June. After briefly attending Cal State Fullerton he began his career in A ball in ’72, going 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA. In ’73 he went 16-6 with a 2.71 ERA in Double A, 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts in Triple A, and 2-2 with a 3.08 ERA after being called up to Anaheim in September. In his rookie season of ’74 he went 14-19 but with a 3.12 ERA and four shutouts to get a spot on the Topps rookie team. He followed that up with an excellent three-year run that cemented him as the best young pitcher in the game. His stat lines - 16-9 with a 2.62 ERA and 269 strikeouts in ’75; 19-10/2.42/261 in ’76; and 15-9/2.54/205 in ’77 – were all for losing teams and got him two All-Star appearances, the AL strikeout lead in ’75, and the AL ERA and shutouts – with seven – lead in ’77. In ’78 he went 18-12 but experienced some shoulder pain that led to an elevated – for him – 3.65 ERA and a dramatic drop in strikeouts. That September his teammate, outfielder Lyman Bostock was shot and killed and Frank, before then a pretty hard partyer, became a devout religious guy as a result. In ’79 he would miss over ten weeks to a shoulder operation which would limit the range in his left arm and force him to become a control pitcher. He went 7-5 but the tiny ERA’s and big strikeout totals were behind him. In ’80 he went 11-12/4.15 before being traded to Boston with Joe Rudi for Steve Renko and Fred Lynn. After a horrible season for the Sox – 4-10/4.01 – he went to Texas as a free agent and had an even worse ’82 as he went 7-18 with a 4.21 ERA to lead the AL in losses. During the next two seasons he improved to go a combined 22-24 with a 3.21 ERA before a weak start to the ’85 season got him sent to Detroit for a minor leaguer. Frank went 10-7 the rest of the way and settled in for a long Tigers run during which he went a combined 96-82 with a league-average 4.08 ERA. He won the division-clincher in ’87 and remained with the team through ’92 before spending his final season with both NY Teams. He went 240-236 for his career with a 3.66 ERA, 143 complete games, 34 shutouts, a save, and 2,773 strikeouts. He made three All-Star teams and in the post-season was 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts. Since his playing time he has been very active in fantasy leagues and on the lecture circuit as well as with various baseball and Christian charities.

The pitchers on this card put in a collective 28 seasons with four All-Star appearances and a Rookie team membership, mostly thanks to Mr. Tanana. All these guys were still residing in their home towns at this point in their careers.

The inter-card hook-up is a quick one:

1. Frank White and Jerry Terrell ’78 to ’80 Royals;
2. Terrell and Vic Albury ’73 to ’76 Twins.

Around the card takes a little longer:

1. Vic Albury and Rod Carew ’73 to ’76 Twins;
2. Carew and George Mittyerwald ’68 to ’73 Twins;
3. Mitterwald and Ken Frailing ’74 to ’75 Cubs;
4. Frailing and Jerry Morales ’74 to ’75 Cubs;
5. Morales and Doug Flynn ’80 Mets;
6. Flynn and Kevin Kobel ’78 to ’80 Mets;
7. Kobel and Andy Hassler ’79 Mets;
8. Hassler and Frank Tanana ’73 to ’76 and ’80 Angels.

Monday, October 28, 2013

#604 - '74 Rookie Infielders

As has been the recent trend, on this infielders card we get a couple guys who had significant MLB careers and a couple who didn’t stick around terribly long. Andy(?) Thornton looks like he’s up on a mountain somewhere and appears to be in his Braves uniform which I only know about pre-research because he was on the Atlanta team card. Two of these guys appear to be smiling and Frank White actually seems to be suppressing a laugh which would make this by far the most jovial of the rookie cards to date.

Terry Hughes grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina where he was a local basketball and baseball legend and had been scouted in the latter sport since he was in eighth grade. Given what was generally viewed as “can’t miss” status, he was playing high school ball that year and during his HS Career hit .288, .321, .400, and .615. He only has four seasons because during his junior year he was suspended from both his hoops and baseball team (I do not know why). He also played American Legion ball in the summers and hit .415 prior to his senior year in that league. Apparently every team scouted him and in the ’67 draft the Cubs made him the second pick after Ron Blomberg (and before Bobby Grich). Terry eschewed another American Legion season to play Rookie ball and hit .278 at that level. In ’68 he moved around a bit and in A ball that summer hit .283 while on loan to Boston, .221 back in the Chicago system, and .328 with a .424 OBA in a month of Double A ball. ’69 was all Double A around some military time and was the first year he played principally at third as he had specialized in shortstop until then. In an off year he hit .249 but in ’70 he bounced to hit .286 in Triple A and made his MLB debut in September. The next two seasons were spent strictly in Triple A and both years he missed some time to injury. In ’71 he hit .255 while playing mostly in the outfield and in ’72 he had his best offensive season, hitting .302 with a .385 OBA and 13 homers as he returned to third base. Just prior to the start of the ’73 season he was sold to the Cards for whom he also played in Triple A, hitting .289 with 51 RBI’s before being called up in August to do late inning work the rest of the season. That year he also had his first Toops rookie card and so, like Sergio Robles on the prior post, this card isn’t technically Terry’s rookie one. After the season he was involved in a big trade, going to Boston with Reggie Cleveland and Diego Segui for John Curtis, Lynn McGlothen, and Mike Garman, another heralded ’67 draft pick. In ’74 Terry spent all of the season on the Boston roster, putting in time at third behind Rico Petrocelli and Dick McAuliffe. In ’75 he was the last guy cut in spring training and he returned to Triple A where he hit .253. He then put in a partial season back with the Cards at that level in ’76 and was done. Terry hit .209 in 54 games up top and .269 in the minors. By the early Seventies he was taking college classes and he eventually got a degree in education. After playing he returned to South Carolina where since 1989 he has been a baseball coach and teacher at Boiling Springs High School.

John Knox is listed here as a third baseman but he would play nearly exclusively at second for Detroit; Ron Cash from a few cards back was listed as a second baseman but he played both corner infield positions. With Reggie Sanders from Ron’s card the whole infield was covered almost so Detroit was sure in overhaul mode at the time of this card. John was born in Newark, NJ, but by the time he was in high school had relocated to Ohio and then went on to Bowling Green State University there where he graduated with a degree in education and finished as the school record holder with 107 career hits. He was drafted by Detroit in ’70 and that summer hit .315 in A ball with a .437 OBA. The next year he put up .271/.368 numbers in Double A before spending most of the next two seasons as a Triple A Toledo Mud Hen. He had pretty similar seasons, posting a .294/.374 year in ’72 and .274/.367 numbers in ’73. He made his Detroit debut the former year in August and then in ’73 hit .281 while playing sparingly, both years behind Dick McAuliffe and Tony Taylor. He then spent all of ’74 and ’75 on the Detroit roster where he hit a combined .287 while playing behind light-hitting Gary Sutherland. The knock on John back then was that he wasn’t a great fielder and in ’76 when Detroit had a bunch of younger infielders in the wings, he was sent back to Triple A. Early that year he was sold to Cincinnati – not exactly an open book at second – and for them stuck at the Triple A level. In ’77 he stopped playing to sell real estate and life insurance in the Toledo area and after a failed comeback in ’78 he was done. He finished with an MLB average of .274 in 219 at bats and a minor league average of .276 and did an inning of late defensive work in the ’72 playoffs. It has been hard to track this guy since then but he was later admitted to his school’s hall of fame and he does some work with a greyhound rescue group down in Texas so that may be where he now resides.

Andre Thornton would hold onto the “Andy” tag on his Topps cards through the ’76 set. Born in Alabama, he and his family relocated to a suburb of Philadelphia where in high school Andre was a big three sports star. He was also a bit of a pool hustler and when he was signed it was in a pool hall, by the Phillies in the late summer of ’67. He only hit .182 in a few games in A ball that year but upped it in ’68 at the same level to .249 with 31 RBI’s in 185 at bats. In ’69 he missed a bunch of time for his National Guard military hitch but hit .251 with 13 homers and a .373 OBA around that in the year he became deeply religious. In ’70 he was off to yet another A team but his at bats went south by about 100 as he missed time to both The Guard and to a broken hand. In ’71 he had a strong bounce. Finally up to Double A he hit .267 with a .399 OBA, 26 homers, and 76 RBI’s. He had one ten-game streak during which he hit nine homers. That got him promoted to Triple A the next year where Andre continued his improvement with a .290/20/65 season in just 300 at bats for two teams since he was traded mid-year to Atlanta with Joe Hoerner for Jim Nash and Gary Neibauer. He remained at that level to start the ’73 season but after a poor start he was sent to the Cubs for Joe Pepitone where he would have a huge slugging binge the next two months, putting up a .289/17/45 run with a .484 OBA in just 135 at bats. That prompted his late July call-up to Chicago where he hit .200 in the few games in which he saw action the rest of the way. In ’74 he split time at first base while putting up a .261 average with ten homers, 46 RBI’s, and a .368 OBA. The next year he got more starts there and responded with a .293/18/60/.428 year that seemed to solidify his hold on the spot after he missed the first month-plus with a broken wrist. But a poor start in the ’76 season got him benched and then traded to Montreal for Larry Biitner and Steve Renko where his slump continued. After that season he was sent to Cleveland for pitcher Jackie Brown. A famously slow starter Andre was hitting only .150 and had been benched in favor of Bill Melton at first when he got back in the line-up and went on a tear, putting up a .286/25/65/.400 stat line in the last 100 games. From there he didn’t look back and over the next two seasons he would average .248 with 30 homers and 99 RBI’s as the club’s leading slugger while providing excellent defense at first. Amazingly those seasons came after a horrible accident in the ’77 off-season in which his wife and daughter were killed and Andre and his son badly injured. In spring training of ’80 he suffered a knee injury which required two operations and caused him to miss the whole year. Then, between the strike and a broken hand, ’81 was pretty much a hot mess. But in ’82 Andre recorded probably his best season, putting up a .273/32/116/.386 stat line while winning the AL Comeback Player of the Year award. By now mostly a DH, Andre would record four more pretty good power years  - in ’84 he won a Silver Slugger - before retiring during the ’87 season. He finished with a .254 average with 253 homers, 895 RBI’s, and a .360 OBA and was twice an All-Star. By that time he was in wide demand as a speaker and he also owned a string of Applebees restaurants for a time after playing. After he sold his chain to the parent company he founded GCI, a logistics company. That firm merged with ASW, a supply chain management company, in 2007 and since then Andre has been the firm’s CEO. He has a SABR bio and a whole chapter devoted to him in Terry Pluto’s “The Curse of...”

When Ewing Kauffman founded the Royals in the late Sixties, one of the first things he did was establish the Royals Baseball Academy, a team-run institution that took select local kids to Florida each year and would teach them a higher level baseball they would otherwise have not been able to access. In the first class of ’70 Frank White was a member, having played ball in high school and even a bit at a local JUCO before the family ran out of money. After a year in the Academy he went to Rookie ball as a shortstop in ’71 where he hit .247 and then moved fast. He split ’72 between A and Double A, hitting .267 with 12 homers and 24 stolen bases. In ’73 he moved up to Triple A, began putting in most of his time at second base, and hit .264 around two stints up in KC where he did support work at short and second and hit .223. Technically he wasn’t a rookie in ’74 because he got into too many games in ’73 and his second year he also put in some time at third, producing roughly the same numbers. He did one more year of reserve work in ’75 when his average took off to .290 and early the next season established himself as the regular second baseman, a position he would then hold for 14 years. He would be middling on offense for a bunch of years and his OBA was never very high, but he didn’t strike out too much, and he would occasionally do pretty well, hitting .275 in ’78, stealing 28 bases in ’79, and hitting .298 in ’82. Frank’s forte was his defense and beginning in ’77 he would win six consecutive Gold Gloves and during that time make four All-Star teams. In ’83 he was moved up in the line-up and that year he had 77 RBI’s. In ’84 he hit 17 out and he then became an outright slugger, the next three years averaging 20 homers and 77 RBI’s. In the ’85 Series he batted in the clean-up spot and in ’86 and ’87 won two more Gold Gloves while also returning to the All-Star game and winning a Silver Slugger the first season. He remained with KC through the ’90 season, finishing with a .255 average, 160 homers, 886 RBI’s, over 2,000 hits, and 178 stolen bases. Defensively he is 12th all-time in assists and putouts at second base and ninth in double plays. In the post-season he hit .213 with 16 RBI’s in 42 games. After a year off in ’91 he became the first black manager in the Boston chain when he manged the Rookie franchise in ’92. He then coached a year in the minors before moving up to Boston from ’94 to ’96. From there he returned to KC as a coach (’97-2001); assistant to the GM (2002-’03); manager of the team’s Double A franchise (’04-’06); and director of player development and community relations (’07-’10). That last year the Royals got real miserly with his salary and he quit the community relations role and after the 2011 season he was fired from his part-time announcing role because the team claimed he was too critical. Since 2012 he has been a coach for the independent Kansas City T-Bones and a sales representative for a roofing company.

This group raises the bar pretty high with 34 MLB seasons between them, as well as seven All-Star games, eight Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and a Comeback Player award. Reading their last names in succession sounds like an amusing headline: “Hughes Knox (Knocks) Thornton White.” I guess it would have worked if Andre was a pitcher.

Pitchers come in handy getting from the last card to this one:

1. Sergio Robles and Jim Palmer ’72 to ’73 Orioles;
2. Palmer and Dick Drago ’77 Orioles;
3. Drago and Terry Hughes ’74 Red Sox;

Then we get a pretty efficient ‘round the card:

1. Terry Hughes and Dick McAuliffe ’74 Red Sox;
2. McAuliffe and Willie Horton (watch this guy) ’64 to ’73 Tigers;
3. Horton and John Knox ’72 to ’75 Tigers; Horton and Andre Thornton ’78 Indians;
4. Thornton and Pete LaCock ’73 to ’76 Cubs;
5. LaCock and Frank White ’77 to ’80 Royals.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#603 - 1974 Rookie Catchers

At the other side of the battery we get four catchers, one of whom had a solid career, one of whom had a couple good seasons, and two who get represented just on rookie cards, and that right here.

Barry Foote played all over the infield and outfield in high school in Smithfield, NC. A first round pick by the Expos in the ’70 draft, the team immediately turned him into a catcher and in Rookie ball that summer he hit .266 with some power and a .379 OBA. While mastering his position he would put up some high error totals but he was very aggressive and normally led his league in assists and double plays. In A ball in ’71 his average fell to .230 as his strikeouts ratcheted up but he continued to impress behind the plate and in ’72 in Double A he turned on the power with a .253/16/75 line. ’73 was all Triple A where he put up a .262/19/65 season prior to his September debut during which he hit .667 in his few at bats. In ’74 he would take over as starting catcher and his .262/11/60 season would get him on the Topps Rookie team. Unfortunately it would also be his best year. While his freshman season was good enough to keep Gary Carter in the outfield most of the next couple seasons, Barry's sophomore jinx year was pretty terrible as his stat line fell to .194/7/30 on just a few less at bats. He rebounded a bit to hit .234 in ’76 but by the end of the year Carter had claimed the starting role and he would retain it to start the ’77 season. After getting only a few at bats, Barry would get traded to the Phillies at the '77 deadline with pitcher Dan Warthen for catcher Tim Blackwell and pitcher Wayne Twitchell. Through ’78 he would be the third-string guy behind Bob Boone and Tim McCarver and get very little plate time. Prior to the ’79 season he would join Ted Sizemore, Jerry Martin, and a couple minor leaguers in a trade to the Cubs for Greg Gross, Dave Rader, and Manny Trillo. That trade got him back into a starting role and he responded with his best numbers since his rookie year with a .254/16/56 season. But Barry then began experiencing some extreme lower back pain and the next year he lost his starting role, ironically to Blackwell, and hit .238 in just over 200 at bats. In ’81 young Jody Davis supplanted Blackwell, Barry slid to third on the depth chart, and another mid-season trade had him on the move, this time to the Yankees, where he had more activity the second half but hit only .208. In ’82 his injury and the depth chart kept his time minimal and he did a few games in Triple A in his final season. He hit .230 for his career, with 57 homers and 230 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .333 in five games. Defensively he led the NL in assists once and double plays twice and picked off 38% of runners that ran on hm, a pretty good premium to the league average. He remained in the NY system as a coach in the minors before managing in the team’s chain from ’84 to ’86, winning his league championship one year. From ’87 to ’89 he managed in the Toronto chain, again winning a championship. He then coached up top for the White Sox (’90-’91) and the Mets (’92-’93). During that time he also started up Tri-State Homes, a construction company that built homes in North Carolina. He then stayed busy locally, helping to establish the Carolina Mudcats, build an oil and gas exploration company that was a player in Alaska, and do cell spectrum work for the National Wireless Network. Since the mid-2000’s he has been running his two companies: Streamer Video, which teaches lay people how to watch baseball games; and F2 Technologies, a wirelss communications company.

Tom Lundstedt played the big three sports in high school outside Chicago in Illinois. In all three sports one of his teammates was Dave Kingman. Tom was selected in a late round by the Dodgers in ’67 but instead went to the University of Michigan on a basketball scholarship. He averaged over 20 points a game for his freshman team and then played his sophomore year with Dan Fife and Rudy Tomjonavich. After that year he switched his scholarship to baseball which he’d also been playing all along. He was then taken by the Cubs in the first round of the ’70 draft and though he fielded well that summer in A and Double A, he hit terribly and spent the ’71 season in A ball where he hit considerably better, with a .266 average and a .410 OBA. In ’72 he returned to Double A where he hit .255 and the next year moved up to Triple A where he maxed out with a .295/11/57 stat line in 322 at bats with a .402 OBA. He made his MLB debut that September and then remained in Chicago in ’74 where he was behind George Mitterwald and Steve Swisher and only got into a few games before knee surgery ended his season in June. Prior to the ’75 season he was traded to the Twins for Mike Adams. That year he moved back and forth between Minnesota and Triple A where he hit .264 but considerably lower up top. It was his final season and he finished with a .092 average in 65 MLB at bats and .256 with 30 homers in the minors. After playing he finished his business degree at the University of Minnesota and then fell into commercial real estate in the Twin Cities area. He then started doing seminars on real estate investing which he continues to do from his own shop.

Charlie Moore was drafted by the Brewers upon graduating high school in Birmingham, Alabama in ’71. He hit .297 that summer in A ball and .259 the next at the same level. In ’73 he combined for a .269 season with 15 homers and 70 RBI’s between Double A and Triple A – he hit better at the higher level – before making his September debut. He then spent the next three seasons backing up Darrell Porter behind the plate and initially doing some DH work. In ’75 Charlie hit well to open the season – he would hit .290 on the year – so the team also had him play in the outfield to keep his bat in the line-up. But Charlie had a tough time out there and in ’76 his average fell 100 points, partly in response. In ’77 Porter was traded to Kansas City and Charlie got the starting catcher role, upped his average nearly 60 points, but had a bad defensive season – he led the AL in errors and passed balls – as his skills seemed to have left him while he was in the outfield. In ’78 Buck Rodgers began to work with Charlie on restoring his defense and while that year he would lose his starting status to Buck Martinez, his catching improved markedly as did his offense, as he hit .269, .300, and .291 the next three years. He also recaptured the starting role in ’79 and ’80. Prior to the ’81 season the Brewers picked up Ted Simmons in a huge trade and though Charlie hit .301 he played behind Simmons and also did some outfield work. He was far more successful in that role than earlier and for the next three seasons he would play primarily in right where he shone defensively, once leading the AL in double plays, and once in putouts. He hit .254 in ’82 and .284 the following year and in between had an excellent post-season in the Series run. He missed time in ’84 to a knee injury and in ’85 returned to the starting role behind the plate. He split time in that role in ’86 and then finished out his career with Toronto in ’87 doing his dual thing. Charlie hit .261 for his career with 43 triples, 36 homers, and 408 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .354 in 16 games. Following his playing career he returned to the Birmingham area where he has since been a salesman in various industries.

This is technically not the rookie card of Sergio Robles as he had another one in the ’73 set. Sergio was a pretty little guy and a big deal catcher in his native Mexico. Signed by the Dodgers after being scouted playing for state teams below the border in ’68 he spent the next three seasons in A ball where he hit a combined .264 and was an excellent fielder. In ’71 he moved up to Triple A where he hit .265 before being traded to Baltimore as part of the package that moved Frank Robinson to LA. He hit .266 in ’72 before making his MLB debut that August but fell to .207 in ’73, the year he saw his most action in Baltimore. He then spent ’74 playing in Mexico City before being sold to St. Louis prior to the ’75 season. After hitting .217 in Triple A that year he spent ’76 in both the St. Louis and LA organization, and put in his final MLB time that year for the Dodgers. He then returned to Mexico where he would continue to play ball year-round for the next ten years. He finished in The States with a .095 MLB average and hit .251 in the minors. He has managed and coached in Mexico for much of the time since. He has s SABR bio.

We get 21 MLB seasons out of this group and that parenthetical name of Sergio’s looks familiar but I do not believe he and Fernando are related. Lundstedt was certainly tall for a catcher.

Let’s see how we do for the hook-up. From the last card we start with the ’74 Twins:

1. Rod Carew was on the ’74 Twins;
2. Carew and Jose Morales or Bombo Rivera ’78 Twins;
3. Rivera and Morales and Barry Foote ’74 to ’76 Expos.

Each of Lundstedt and Robles only got tiny MLB at bats but we make them count:

1. Barry Foote and Andre Thornton (coming up) ’76 Expos;
2. Thornton and Tom Lundstedt ’74 Cubs;
3. Lundstedt and Larry Hisle ’75 Twins;
4. Hisle and Charlie Moore ’78 to ’82 Brewers;
5. Moore and Bill Travers ’73 to ’80 Brewers;
6. Travers and Bobby Grich ’81 and ’83 Angels;
7. Grich and Sergio Robles ’72 to ’73 Orioles.

Monday, October 21, 2013

#602 - 1974 Rookie Pitchers

Back to the pitchers, we get a couple guys who had decent careers and a couple we’d never hear from again, at least in Topps world. They all get sunny skies though.

Glenn Abbott was a big boy from Arkansas who was drafted by Oakland his first year at the University of Central Arkansas in ’69, but then missed playing that summer for military time. He returned early enough the following summer to go 8-3 with a 3.83 ERA in A ball and followed that up with an 11-10/2.72 season at that level in ’71. In ’72 he went a combined 9-16 in Double A and Triple A but with 13 complete games and a 2.96 ERA. In ’73 he led the PCL in wins as he went 18-8 with a 3.50 ERA and got a save in his only non-start. He made his debut that year in a July start, returned to Triple A, and then finished the year in Oakland with a win in a five-hitter against Kansas City and a 3.86 ERA for the year. He then began ’74 back in the minors, going 6-2 in eleven starts, before he returned to Oakland in June to finish the season as the A’s fifth starter, going 5-7 with a 3.00 ERA. In ’75 he moved to more of a swing role, going 5-5 with a 4.25 ERA and spending a few mid-summer weeks back in Triple A (2-2 in four starts with a 3.60 ERA) before in his final game of the regular season combining with Vida Blue, Paul Lindblad, and Rollie Fingers to throw a no-hitter. In ’76 his numbers continued to slide as he went 2-4/5.49 in just 19 games. After the season he was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft and in ’77 he led the Mariners in victories while going 12-13 with a 4.45 ERA. The next two years were pretty miserable for Glenn stats-wise as he went a combined 11-26/5.23 before he had a pretty good bounce in ’80 going 12-12 with a 4.10 ERA. In ’81 he lost a bunch of time to an elbow ailment and his record slid to 4-9 as his ERA improved to 3.94. That off-season he had surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow but while recovering came down with viral meningitis, lost 30 pounds and some of his hearing, and missed the whole season. While recovering early in ’83 he got tendinitis in his pitching shoulder which contributed to not great rehab numbers in Triple A (0-2/6.08). But he was called up anyway and in his first start in June threw a five-hit one run complete game against the Royals. By mid-August he was 5-3 though his ERA had fattened to nearly 5.00 and he was sold to Detroit for whom he would have a nice stretch run, going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in seven starts. But his follow-up in ’84 wasn’t so great and after some time back in Triple A he was released, missing the big Series run. Glenn finished with a record of 62-83 with a 4.39 ERA, 37 complete games, and five shutouts. He threw a hitless inning in the post-season and was 55-48 with a 3.45 ERA in the minors. After playing he immediately went into minor league coaching: for the Mets (’85-’89); Oakland (’90-2002); Texas (2003-’05); San Diego (’06-’10); and back with the Mets (’11- present). He has been in professional ball non-stop for the past 44 years.

Rick Henninger is another big boy from not too far away in Nebraska. After being drafted by Cincinnati and passing in ’66, Rick went to the University of Missouri from where he was drafted his sophomore year in the first round by the Senators. Rick had a big curve and would later add a palmball and a screwball and began things the following summer by going 4-6 with a 3.22 ERA in Double A. A big target, Rick was a horrible hitter – he would go 2 for 120 in the minors – but he moved quickly on the mound. In ’70 he went a combined 12-10 with a 3.28 ERA in Double A and Triple A but he was then beset by injuries which pretty much killed his numbers the next year, going a combined 4-7/5.97 at the same levels. In ’72 he bounced at the higher level, going 9-8 with a 2.87 ERA, and in ’73 he was 12-5 with a 3.81 ERA when he was called up to Arlington. He would get in six games in September, going 1-0 with a 2.74 ERA in his only MLB action. In ’74 his record fell to 7-9/ 4.99 in Triple A and in ’75 he moved to the Cleveland franchise where he went 3-7 with a 5.64 ERA before being released. After a season in Mexico in ’76 Rick’s pitching career was done. In the minors he went a combined 51-52 with a 4.00 ERA. After playing he remained in Texas where he has since had a long career in the oil exploration field.

Craig Swan went to Arizona State after a standout baseball career in Long Beach, California. While there he went 47-9 with a 2.25 ERA and 459 strikeouts and in ’72 was on the CWS all-star team. That same year he was drafted as a third-rounder by the Mets and he then matched his ASU ERA while going 7-3 in Double A. He then spent most of the next three years at Triple A where, while he was healthy, he threw excellent ball and went a combined 22-15 with a 2.66 ERA. In ’74 he lost a bunch of time to tendinitis but he bounced in ’75 to win his league’s pitcher of the year award.During that time he also pitched a bit in NY But that didn’t go so well as over those three seasons he went 2-7 with a 5.81 ERA as a spot guy. He got untracked in ’76 when he went 6-9 with a 3.54 ERA in the rotation for a pretty good team. In ’77 the team got bad fast and Craig went 9-10 with a 4.23 ERA as he worked to resolve some control issues. That he did, and after an excellent spring training in ’78 he went 9-6 in 28 starts while leading the NL with a 2.43 ERA. Despite his achievements on the mound it was a frustrating season: he was 1-5 to start even though his ERA was 2.67; in nine games in which he got a no-decision he went at least seven innings and only gave up 14 earned runs (his ERA in those games was 2.17). Then in ’79 he went 14-13 with a 3.29 ERA for another horrible team. Then in ’80 he began the season 5-4 with a 2.21 ERA when the tendinitis returned in his shoulder. That was followed by a lower back ailment and finally a small rotator cuff tear that ended his season in August at 5-9 with a 3.58 ERA. He rested and stretched the shoulder and after a pretty optimistic training camp returned to the mound. In his second start he was nailed in the back by a Ron Hodges throw trying to nail a runner going to second. Craig missed the rest of the pre-strike season and then all the post-strike one when the shoulder pain returned. In ’82 he had a nice bounce when he went 11-7 with a 3.35 ERA and came in second to Joe Morgan for the NL Comeback Player award. But by ’83 the rotator cuff issue was back and a downward spiral never abated as Craig went a combined 3-9 with a 6.15 ERA which included some brief ’84 time with California. That was his final season and he finished with a record of 59-72 with a 3.74 ERA, 25 complete games, and seven shutouts. At the tail-end of his career, some of his therapy was the Rolfing technique and Craig really took to it, so much that he became a practitioner, opening his own shop in CT where he is still going strong.

Dan Vossler played at least basketball and baseball while growing up in Portersville, California. In the former sport he appears to have put up a record 39 points in a game and in the latter he was good enough to be drafted by the Twins coming out of high school in ’66. Instead he opted to play ball at USC- Riverside where he set a record one year with a 1.80 ERA though his other stats are elusive. His junior year of ’69 he was drafted again by Minnesota and this time he signed, beginning his career the next summer by going 5-3 with three saves and a 2.83 ERA in A ball. He went 10-10/3.04 at that level in ’71 and then was a league all-star at Double A in ’72, going 10-8 with a 2.11 ERA and five saves. He then spent the next two years in Triple A but a combined 10-21 record and 4.97 ERA over that time got him away from the game following the ’74 season. He never made it to the Major Leagues and finished his career with a 35-42 record, a 3.52 ERA, and ten saves. And that’s it. For a big guy he has been impossible to find.

Look at how big these guys were! These personal dimensions would have been as fitting on NBA rookie cards as they are here. We get 18 seasons and that ERA title out of these guys which doesn’t work out to that much per inch.

I guess for the hook-up we bypass Vossler. To keep it fair, let’s just get to the ’74 Twins. From the last card we get:

1. Glenn Abbott and Sonny Siebert ’75 A’s;
2. Siebert and Bake McBride ’74 Cardinals.

For the round the card trip we get:

1. Glenn Abbott and Paul Lindblad ’73 to ’76 A’s;
2. Lindblad and Dick Billings ’71 to ’72 Senators/Rangers;
3. Billings and Rick Henninger ’73 Rangers;
4. Henninger and Elliott Maddox ’73 Rangers;
5. Maddox and Craig Swan ’78 to ’80 Mets;
6. Swan and Jerry Koosman ’73 to ’78 Mets;
7. Koosman and Bob Randall ’79 to ’80 Twins;
8. Randall and Steve Braun ’76 Twins;
9. Braun was on the ’74 Twins.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

#601 - '74 Rookie Outfielders (part 2)

These guys are generally older than the ones on past cards and McBride was 25 when he won his Rookie of the Year award. Armbrister has a great full name. These four provide us with a total of 31 MLB seasons, two All-Star games, and that ROY award. This will be a tough card to beat.

From the last card an old pitcher helps:

1. Ed Armbrister and Woody Fryman ’77 Reds;
2. Fryman and Reggie Sanders ’74 Tigers.

Around the card may go pretty quickly:

1. Ed Armbrister and Don Gullett ’73 to ’76 Reds;
2. Gullett and Thurman Munson ’77 to ’79 Yankees;
3. Munson and Rick Bladt ’75 Yankees;
4. Bladt and Ed Hermann ’75 Yankees;
5. Hermann and Brian Downing ’73 to ’74 White Sox;
6. Downing and Jim Kaat ’73 to ’75 White Sox;
7. Kaat and Bake McBride ’77 to ’79 Phillies.

Or not.

#601 - '74 Rookie Outfielders

On this card we get two decently-long careers and a guy who probably still causes hand-wringing in Boston. One guy is a bit out of position on this card, at least for this part of his career, and not one of them looks terribly happy. This card kicks off the final eleventh of the set so let’s get to know these guys. The long delay on this one is partly because the text got lost. Now I have to publish this post in two parts because Blogger won't let me publish it in one. That always sucks.

Ed Armbrister was a happy guy pretty much all the time, despite his look here. Born and raised in the Bahamas as a kid he took advantage of the relative baseball craze that swept his nation when its first native came stateside to play MLB ball. Ed was spotted by a Houston scout in ’67 and signed in time to get in a full season in A ball, where he hit .211. He upped that by 50 points the next year and then in ’69 showed off his speed by stealing 26 bases while hitting .271. He then spent the next two years in Double A, hitting .238 in ’70 – while apparently not walking once in 442 plate appearances! – and upping it to .298 with 16 stolen bases in ’71. Following that season he was included in the big deal to the Reds and would then spend the bulk of the next three years in Triple A. He got his first rookie card that first year (and would have another one in ’75) and over that time would average .300 with nine triples, 16 stolen bases, and 63 RBI’s per year. He made his debut in late August of ’73 and worked the balance of the year in some occasional starts in center as well as pinch running and late inning work, hitting .216 before getting some playoff action. ’74 was nearly all in the minors and he would then spend the next three years strictly up top as the late-inning back-up guy. In ’75 he raised his profile huge when in the Series he put down the bunt that Carlton Fisk threw into center field after he got tangled up with Ed in front of the plate. He would hit .295 in ’76 and .256 in ’77 but the most at bats he got any of those three years up was 78. In ’78 he returned to Triple A for a year, hitting .276 with 32 steals his final stateside season. He then played in Mexico the next couple years, putting up a .291/13/62 line in ’79 but fading to .135 the next year, his final one as a player. For his career Ed hit .245 and .143 in his ten post-season games during which he garnered two rings and in the minors .273 with over 150 stolen bases. After playing he returned to the Bahamas where for years he was a croupier at local casinos and then worked in various local government roles. He has recently started an eponymous baseball league there and was donated a bunch of equipment by the Reds. He has a SABR bio.

Rick – or Rich, as Topps likes to designate him – Bladt was a Cali kid signed out of Foothill College (where he may or may not have played ball) by the Cubs in ’66. A speedy outfielder, he hit .294 in Rookie ball that year and .267 in A ball in ’67. In ’68 he improved to .293 at that level and then in ’69 he wrapped a .312 season in Triple A with 18 stolen bases around a few games in the summer in Chicago when Ron Santo was injured. After that year he and another minor leaguer went to the Yankees for outfielder Jimmie Hall and Rick would then spend the next five seasons as an outfield regular at Syracuse, the NY Triple A franchise, during which he averaged a stat line of .256/9/47 with 70 runs and 12 steals a year. His highs during that span were a .276 average with 12 homers in ’72, and 97 runs and ten triples and 19 stolen bases in ’73. In ’74 he bottomed out with a .226 average. But in ’75 he’d raised his average 40 points when Elliott Maddox tore up his knee at Shea and NY pulled up Rick that August to replace him. After a couple scattered starts he would become the everyday center fielder from early September on and hit .222 during that time. In ’76 NY picked up Mickey Rivers and Rick returned to Syracuse where he had his best year with a .285/9/60 line with 81 runs and a .385 OBA. That year he was also famously involved in a situation in which the ball from a hit he was chasing was lost in the outfield grass and had to be ruled a double. After that season he and Maddox were sent to Baltimore for Paul Blair and Rick spent his final year hitting .226 in Triple A. He finished with a .215 average in 62 MLB games and a .268 average with over 100 steals and a .350 OBA in the minors. After playing he moved to Oregon where he had a long career in construction as a carpenter and continues to reside.

By the time this card came out Brian Downing had just obtained his driver’s license which he needed to go on his first-ever date. A very shy guy who was obviously a late-bloomer, Brian’s baseball story is a great rags-to-riches one. He didn’t make his high school team in Anaheim until his senior year and then he never played. He then went to Cypress College, a local JUCO school, where he played a semester and happened to be seen by a White Sox scout in a game in which he lined a shot off future MLB reliever Al Hrabosky. When the scout heard Brian was hitting .333 he signed him up for a tryout not knowing that was his only hit of the season. Brian did well at the tryout and was signed that May. He kicked off that summer of ’70 in Rookie ball, where he hit .219 while catching. He then moved up a rung each year, hitting .246 in A ball as a catcher/third baseman in ’71 and .278 with 15 homers in Double A in ’72 when he added outfielder to his positions. He got on base at a pretty good clip - .370 in the minors – and in ’73 after hitting .246 in Triple A he was moved up to Chicago at the end of May. On his first play at third he caught a pop-up before falling down the dugout steps and dislocating his knee, missing the next two months. He returned to hit .178 while splitting time between his three positions. In ’74 he backed up Ed Hermann while hitting .225 and then Brian was the starting catcher the next two years, hitting .240 and .256. But he missed significant time both years – to an elbow injury in ’75 and a broken hand in ’76 – and in ’77 lost the starting catching gig to Jim Essian, though his numbers when he did play - .284 with 25 RBI’s and a .402 OBA in 169 at bats – were his best in Chicago. They would remain that as after the season ended he and pitchers Chris Knapp and Dave Frost went to California for Bobby Bonds, Thad Bosley, and Richard Dotson. His first season in ’78 he became the Angels’ starting catcher, hitting .255. Then in the off-season he worked on two things: weight training and opening his stance. They both worked huge and in ’79 he put up a .326/12/75 stat line with a .418 OBA and made the All-Star team. He was rolling in ’80 in the same role - .290 with 25 RBI’s his first 93 at bats – when he broke his ankle and missed the rest of the year. California then decided they liked his bat enough to put him in a safer place – he still had nagging shoulder and elbow pain – and opted for left field. Over the next ten years he would average a .267/20/70 stat line which included missed time in ’81 for the strike and in ’83, ’88, and ’90 for injuries. In his healthy seasons he averaged .275 with 25 homers and 85 RBI’s. He also put up a .370 OBA during that span and helped California reach the post-season two more times. After the ’90 season he was not re-signed and he went to Texas as a free agent where he DH’d – a role he performed primarily since ’87 – the next two years, averaging .278 with a .390 OBA. Brian finished playing at 41 with a .267 average, 275 homers, 1,073 RBI’s, and a .370 OBA. In the post-season he hit .197 with eight RBI’s in 16 games. He remained in Texas after his baseball career was over on a working farm in the small town of Celina. He was very bitter toward the Angels about his release from the team and would not show up for invitations to team events until 2000 when he was included on the franchise’s all-time team. He was inducted into the team’s hall of fame in 2009. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t make the cut in high school.

Bake McBride’s dad was a Negro League pitcher and Bake played baseball, basketball, and ran track in high school in Missouri before doing the same thing at Westminster College. Hoops was his first love, followed by track – he still holds his school’s record in the 200 – but after a shoulder injury pretty much killed his basketball ambitions he tried out for the Cardinals during his junior year and was then selected in the 37th round (!!!) of the ’70 draft. After hitting .423 in Rookie ball that summer, he hit .294 with nine steals in only 85 at bats in A ball. In ’71 at the higher level he hit .303 with 40 steals while scoring 85 runs and in ’72 hit a combined .322 with 42 stolen bases and 92 runs scored in a season split between Double A and Triple A. After beginning the ’73 season hitting .289 with 23 stolen bases by July he was called up to St. Louis. He would spend the rest of the year getting a few outfield starts and pinch hitting and put up a .302 average. In ’74 he was named starting center fielder and he then put together an NL ROY year with his .309 average, 81 runs, and 30 stolen bases. Late that season he and Lou Brock – going for the teammate record for steals – were mailed death threats on a regular basis and required police protection. In ’75 Bake hit .300 and stole 26 bases, though he missed his first significant time to injury, this one a shoulder impairment. In ’76 he was gunning along with a .335 and an All-Star selection when his season was ended in July by knee surgery. That year he finished his degree at Westminster (he would be inducted into the school’s hall of fame). A somewhat slow comeback in ’77 and an issue with new manager Vern Rapp – Rapp wanted Bake to lose his afro - pulled down his average to .262 and restricted his playing time a bit and wound up partly forcing the deadline trade of Bake and Steve Waterbury to the Phillies for Tom Underwood, Rick Bosetti, and Dane Iorg. Bake turned it up the rest of the way, hitting .339 with 27 steals down the stretch. Bake would move to right in the Philly outfield and in ’78 he hurt his wrist which resulted in his average slipping a bunch to .269 and his being platooned with Jerry Martin. But he bounced when given the everyday gig in ’79, hitting .280 with twelve triples and in ’80 he turned on the power a bit with 33 doubles and 87 RBI’s as he spent a bunch of time in the fourth spot and hit .309 and got some significant MVP votes. In ’81 more knee injuries pulled his numbers down and after the season he was traded to Cleveland for reliever Sid Monge. In ’82 he was off to another excellent start - .365 in his first 27 games – when the injury bug really nailed him as a bad contact lens solution gave him conjunctivitis and he pretty much couldn’t see from that point on. He returned in ’83 for another injury-plagued season during which he hit .291 in 70 games. After he wasn’t signed he hooked up with Texas for whom in ’84 he hit .296 in Triple A. But at 35 his knees were toast and he retired after that seaon. He finished his MLB career with a .299 average with 548 runs and 183 stolen bases. In the post-season he hit .244 in 22 games. He returned to the St. Louis area where he has gone underground professionally but has had some relatives in the media: his son Bake is a personal trainer with a local hospital and has a YouTube video; a nephew Travis McBride was recently a local baseball star; and another nephew Joe McBride is a big deal jazz pianist.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

#600 - '74 Rookie Infielders

So what’s special about this card? Well it’s a milestone number which is pretty odd in that it is being used for a Rookie card. Nothing against any of these guys and one of them would certainly have some years that came close to justifying his appearance of a card of this stature, but at the time of this set there were certainly many other viable and worthy candidates for card number 600. I find it hard to believe that Topps’ intention was to give this group that number and that it was an oversight. But who knows? Maybe everything was so crazy with Watergate – I gotta get back to that – and inflation that the boys making bubble gum just said the hell with it and let the chips fall. And here are the chips...

Ron Cash had an interesting run of things before he even got to the professional level. A star third baseman in high school in Atlanta, he was drafted in ’67 in a low round by the Dodgers but instead decided to go to Manatee Junior College in Florida. He played ball there the next two years even though he was drafted each semester by, successively, the Orioles, the Braves, the Padres, and the Twins. He hit .335 his freshman year and .346 his sophomore one and made all-state both years but his biggest moment was probably a horrible car crash in October ’68 in which he nearly lost his life and did lose his spleen. After rejecting the Twins in June of ’69 he continued school at Florida State and over the next two years hit .342 with 76 RBI’s and a .451 OBA. In ’70 he helped take the team to the CWS with teammates Mac Scarce and Johnny Grubb and in ’71 he was all-Southeast. That year he was finally nabbed by Detroit and he hit .333 the rest of the summer while playing primarily left field in A ball. He would continue to do outfield time the next couple seasons and also move back to third during that time as well. In ’72 he hit .286 in a season split between A and Double A ball. Then in ’73 he split time between Double A and Triple A, hitting .303 with 73 RBI’s before a September call-up to Detroit. He hit the game-winner his first start and .410 during his MLB time while playing third. During a good ’74 spring training it was decided to move Ron to first where he could give aging starter Norm Cash – no relation – a run since third was occupied by a much younger Aurelio Rodriguez. There he continued to hit, opening the ’74 season with a .353 average, before beginning April 15 he missed a month due to “mental exhaustion.” After he returned in mid-May his average dipped a bit and early in June he was sent back to Triple A where he hit .246 while splitting time at first and third. He returned to Detroit in September but by season-end his average was down to .226 and he then spent all of ’75 and ’76 in Triple A playing both infield corners, averaging .262 in diminishing seasons. He was released after the latter season, ending his playing time, and finished with a .297 average and eleven RBI’s in his 34 games up top and a .289 average with a .366 OBA in the minors. He then seems to have returned to the Southeast where he resided in his native Georgia and then Florida before passing away in 2009 at age 59. His nephew, Kevin Cash, followed Ron to Florida State and then had a few years in the majors as a back-up catcher. He is currently the Indians’ bullpen coach.

Jim Cox played hoops and baseball at the University of Iowa after excelling in the same sports in high school in Illinois. He also got his early degree in microbiology while there, and during that time turned down two draft choices: by the Senators in ’68 (to go to school); and by the Indians in the first round in ’71 (not enough money). Since his studies were done by January of his senior year he signed with Montreal when drafted in ’72 and then hit .255 with some power in Double A. While there he worked on his D a bunch – particularly his double play pivot – and had a great spring training in ’73 before hitting .267 in Triple A. He made his Montreal debut that July but his hitting was light in his few games and by early August he was back in the minors. In ’74 he had another great camp and was named the Opening Day starter, pushing incumbent Ron Hunt to third base. Jim did pretty well defensively and was the everyday guy through early June, though he was hitting only .224. He then suffered a broken hand after being hit and after a month on the DL returned to Triple A, where he hit .252, before returning up top to finish his season. He spent nearly all of ’75 at Triple A because fellow young guy Pete Mackanin – from a few posts back – arrived to take over second and Jim hit .267 with 67 RBI’s at that level, and .259 during spare usage up top. In ’76 it was pretty much the same deal as he played behind Mackanin and Wayne Garrett in Montreal but upped his average to .274 on the right side of the infield in Triple A. ’76 would be his final MLB season and he spent the next three years solely at Triple A Denver where his stats got successively better as he put more and more time in at third: .287/4/39 in ’77; .299/10/64 in ’78; and .305/12/77 in ’79 his final year as a player. He finished with an average of .215 up top and hit .277 with 66 homers and 403 RBI’s in the minors. Then, like a lot of guys, he becomes impossible to chase, though in the early 2000’s he resurfaced a bit news-wise as an inductee into the Hawkeyes hall of fame.

Bill Madlock was born in Memphis and after being dumped by his parents was raised by a grandmother in Decatur, Illinois, a bit outside Chicago. He played the big three sports at Eisenhower High School there and as a football halfback – he once rushed for 300 yards and scored five touchdowns in a game – and shortstop he was all-county. He was drafted by the Cards when he graduated in June ’69 but he passed because he didn’t want to get stuck behind Dal Maxvill and so went to Southwestern Iowa Community College from where he was drafted in January ’70 by the Senators. He didn’t hit too well right away, putting up a .269 average in A ball that summer and a .234 the next year in Double A, the season he moved to third. But he did steal some bases and had some good camps and after a bad start in ’72 in Triple A he went back down a level and did two things that would be emblematic of his career: he hit .328 but did so in only 131 at bats because he was suspended a bunch of the season after getting into trouble on the field. He would split that year and the next between second and third and in ’73 he broke out to post a .338/22/90 season in Triple A before being called up to Texas in September, finishing with a .351 MLB average. After the season he and Vic Harris went to the Cubs for Fergie Jenkins. Bill became the regular third baseman for Chicago, hit .313 his rookie year to make the Topps team, made an All-Star team, and won batting titles the next two seasons. After he asked for more pay he was traded following the ’76 season with Rob Sperring to San Francisco for Bobby Murcer and recent post subject Steve Ontiveros. Bill played third his first Giants season and then primarily second the next year-plus, hitting over .300 each of his first two years. In ’79, after his average dipped to .261, he was sent to Pittsburgh in a June trade and promptly hit .328 the rest of the way to help his new team reach the playoffs and then win the Series. He would remain in Pittsburgh through ’85 and during that time won two batting titles, got into two All-Star games, had a big ’82 as a power guy after Willie Stargell went down – 19 homers and 95 RBI’s – and was famously ejected, fined, and suspended for pushing his mitt in the face of an umpire. In ’84 he missed two months for an operation to remove bone chips from his elbow. He again started slowly the following year and after another mid-season trade – this time to LA – again rallied down the stretch, this time hitting .360 to help another team get post-season action. He remained with the Dodgers through part of the ’87 season when shoulder surgery and then a release got him to Detroit and his last playoff push. He would finish as a player after that season and had a .305 average with 163 homers, 860 RBI’s, 174 stolen bases, and a .365 OBA. Defensively he is in the top 75 third basemen all-time in assists and double plays and in the post-season he hit .308 with twelve RBI’s and a .375 OBA in 17 games. In ’88 he went to play in Japan where he put up a .263/19/61 season and then retired. After he finished playing Bill did the Senior League thing, ran some investments he’d made while playing, and did some coaching and rep work for some Far East teams. That got him through the Nineties and from 2000 to 2001 he was Detroit’s hitting coach. In ’02 he worked in the commissioner’s office and from ’03 to ’04 he managed the Newark Bears, an independent team. He then coached a bit in Latin America and has since the mid-2000’s has run his own hitting school in Las Vegas.

This Reggie Sanders has been tough to pinpoint because of the other Reggie Sanders who played in the Nineties and 2000’s and is no relation. This Reggie was born in Birmingham, Alabama and during high school relocated to LA where he was a big baseball and football star and the A’s were so high on him when they drafted him during his senior year that there were some improprieties and the pick was voided. So Oakland snapped him up the following January of '68 and that summer Reggie, an infielder/outfielder, hit .264 with 22 homers in A ball. The next year at that level he bumped his homers to 25 with 75 RBI’s but only hit .235 with 154 K’s. In ’70 he moved up to Double A, cut his strikeouts in half, and had an otherwise comparable season. By then he was concentrating on first base and ’71 was a nearly identical season at the same place. In ’72 he bumped his average up a ton – he would hit .338 in Double A that year – but Oakland sent him mid-season to Detroit for pitcher Mike Kilkenny. He spent the final month of the year in Triple A where he would also spend all of ’73, hitting .246. In ’74 Reggie had his biggest year, hitting .292 with 14 homers and 88 RBI’s before being called up to Detroit early that September and starting at first the rest of the way, batting .273. He homered in his first at bat and generally had a decent short run but after the season was sent to Atlanta for other first baseman Jack Pierce. For the Braves Reggie resided for two seasons in Triple A where he averaged .269 with 15 homers and 73 RBI’s per season. In ’77 he went to Mexico to play, which he would also do in ’79 around a season in Double A for the Orioles in ’78. When the Seventies ended so did Reggie’s career and he finished with minor league numbers of .265 with 156 homers and 677 RBI’s. His ’74 work with Detroit was his only time up top. After that Reggie goes missing media-wise until 2002 when he passed away in Los Angeles. He was 52.

We get two guys from Decatur but in different states. Both Cox and Sanders would also have Rookie cards in ’75. Madlock would befriend teammate Steve Greenburg, Hank’s son, in his first year in pro ball and Steve would go on to be Bill’s agent after he finished playing. He then worked for the commissioner – it was he who actually enforced George Steinbrenner’s brief ban from baseball – and then moved into investment banking where, among other things, he helped engineer the Astros sale a couple years ago. We both worked at the same shop. MLB service-wise we get 15 seasons, three All-Star games, four batting titles, and a Topps Rookie Team member, nearly all from Mr. Madlock. All pretty good, but not enough to warrant the waste of a “100” card.

Now for hook-ups. A pretty good catcher helps big with the first one:

1. Ron Cash and Willie Horton ’73 to ’74 Tigers;
2. Horton and Tom Haller ’72 Tigers;
3. Haller and Steve Garvey ’70 to ’71 Dodgers;
4. Garvey and Greg Shanahan ’73 to ’74 Dodgers.

Here we go around the card. Couldn’t they put Cash and Sanders together?:

1. Ron Cash and Willie Horton ’73 to ’74 Tigers;
2. Horton and Tom Walker ’75 Tigers;
3. Walker and Jim Cox ’73 to ’74 Expos;
4. Cox and Steve Renko ’73 to ’76 Expos;
5. Renko and Bill Madlock ’76 Cubs;
6. Madlock and Willie Stargell ’79 to ’82 Pirates;
7. Stargell and Luke Walker ’65 to ’66 and ’68 to ’73 Pirates;
8. Walker and Reggie Sanders ’74 Tigers.

That’s our longest one yet.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

#599 - 1974 Rookie Pitchers

Now we get to a card with more than one unrecognizable name on it. But though this card may not do as well as the prior ones in showcasing future MLB career longevity winners, it does have something all its own to offer and that is the final “Washington Nat’l” card of the set. There is apparently a third rendition of this card – the large-type version of which I am pretty sure I am without and will most likely remain.

Ron Diorio was a high school basketball star in Waterbury, CT, and moved gradually into pitching after beginning his time as a catcher. He then attended Central Connecticut State before transferring to New Haven College where he continued to play both sports. In hoops there he was a center and averaged 8.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg. His pitching line was better as he went 24-3 with a 1.57 ERA and 262 strikeouts in 235 innings. He was briefly a teammate of Joe Lahoud and was an All-American his senior year of ’69 when he was also drafted by the Phillies. For them he would do almost exclusively pen work as he moved up the chain. In ’69 he went a combined 7-11 with six saves and three complete game starts with a 2.57 ERA split between Rookie and A ball. In ’70 he went 1-3 with three saves and a 1.84 ERA at the higher level. ’71 was a combined 6-2, 2.38 with nine saves split between A and Double A. The next year was 8-4, 3.03 with eight saves at the higher level and ’73 may have been his best season with a 5-1, 1.71 ERA, eleven saves year at Triple A before he was called up in early August. He did nice relief work in Philly, getting a save and posting a 2.33 ERA in his 19 innings. After pitching winter ball he threw a couple games early in ’74 before being sent down to Double A where he went 3-3, 2.67 with four saves through June. He was then promoted to Triple A but his first game his dad passed away. Ron’s family was close and his numbers showed the effect as he went 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA the rest of the way and was then released. In ’75 he hooked up with the Montreal organization for whom at Triple A he went 2-5, 2.44 with three saves. Then it was on to the Yankees where in ’76 he was 3-3, 1.55 with seven saves in Double A and in ’77 6-4. 4.59 with eight saves in Triple A. Released again, he would spend ’78 pitching in Mexico where he went 1-2 with a 3.13 ERA. Ron finished with a record of 42-36 with a 2.86 ERA and 62 saves in the minors and a 3.15 ERA on no decisions in 25 games up top. He had become involved in real estate back in CT in off-seasons while he played and then took a job as Waterbury’s Fair Housing Officer when he was done, which he continued to do through ’86. That year he took a job with the Nocera Company, rose to partner in ’96 and still resides professionally. He also refs local hoops games. Just about all the background comes from his SABR bio.

Like Ron Diorio, Dave Freisleben (pronounced freeze-le-ben with the accent on the first syllable) played both hoops and baseball in high school, but Dave did it a few notches south, in Pasadena, Texas. Grabbed by the Padres out of high school in ’71 he moved fast through the system and that summer went 7-3 with a 2.97 ERA and four shutouts in his 13 A ball starts. He then went 17-9, 2.32 in Double A in ’72 and in Triple A the next year 16-8 with a 2.82 ERA. In ’74 he went 2-1 in his first three starts before moving up to San Diego in late April. Again he went out strong, winning his first three starts and throwing a shutout in his sixth game. By mid-June he was 6-2 and he still had a winning record by late August. Earlier that month he threw 13 shutout innings at Cincinnati but didn’t get the decision. Later that month he worked into the 12th inning of a loss. But he fell prey to the team’s lack of hitting, losing nine in a row and finished 9-14 with a 3.66 ERA. ’75 was a tough sophomore season as he went 5-14 with a 4.28 ERA. Part of Dave’s problem was control and over his MLB run his walks would match his strikeouts. Part of it, too, at least according to Padres management, was his waistline. Dave began ’76 back in Triple A and returned to San Diego in late May where he had a nice bounce when he posted his best numbers with a 10-13, 3.51 year. But then ’77 started ugly as he went 0-4 in April with an elevated ERA. He returned to Triple A where he went 4-4, 3.94 until he returned in late June. From July through year-end he improved to 6-4, 3.87 as a swing guy and went 7-9, 4.61 on the year. By then Dave was apparently suffering from recurring injuries and his ’78 was pretty nasty: after an 0-3, 6.08 start as a little-used spot guy he went to Cleveland in June for pitcher Bill Laxton. He did just as bad in the AL, going 1-4, 7.11 in ten starts for the Tribe who placed him on waivers after the season. He was picked up by Toronto and in ’79 went 2-3 with three saves and a 4.95 ERA as a long guy before he was released, ending his playing time. Dave finished 34-60 with a 4.30 ERA – also his strike and walk total – 17 complete games, six shutouts, and four saves. In the minors he was 48-28 with a 2.95 ERA and 13 shutouts. After playing Dave got a degree in law enforcement at San Jacinto college and became a police officer back in Pasadena. He then became a golf pro and currently appears to run a fishing service out of San Leon, according to his Facebook page.

Frank Riccelli grew up near Syracuse where he was a good enough pitcher – three-time all-state – to be picked by the Giants as a first rounder in the ’71 draft. Like Dave Freisleben he moved quickly and that summer he went 7-3 with a 2.56 ERA as a starter in Rookie ball. He had heat that year and struck out 116 batters in his 88 innings. He continued throwing hard in ’72 in Double A, going 9-9, 3.18 with 183 K’s in 164 innings. His first couple seasons in Triple A were a bit tougher and the K’s came way down. In ’73 he went 10-11 with a 4.25 ERA and in ’74 fell to 3-7, 6.16 in far less innings so he may have been injured. But in ’75 he returned to Double A, putting up a 14-6, 3.26 year before in ’75 returning to the higher level. He still could not match his success in Triple A and over the next two seasons he went a combined 17-20 with a 5.64 ERA around a few brief innings in San Francisco in ’76 during which he went 1-1 with a high ERA. Immediately after the latter season he was sold to St. Louis where he threw considerably better, going a combined 12-10, 2.86 between two Triple A teams.  That second team was a Houston affiliate and in ’78 Frank got a couple innings up top before spending all of ’79 with the Astros. That year he went 2-2 with a 4.09 ERA as a seldom-used spot guy and he had a big day at the plate when he knocked in three runs against Cincinnati in a game. After being released during spring training of ’80 – he had his second Topps card that year, a big gap with six years – he appears to have taken the year off before attempting a few comebacks over the next three years with affiliates close to his home base of Buffalo (Pittsburgh) and Syracuse (Toronto), none of which lasted too long. Frank was done after the ’83 season with a record of 3-3 with a 4.39 ERA up top and 72-68 with a 4.17 ERA in the minors. He has been tough to track since then but seemed happy and healthy in 2012 when he was inducted into the Christian Brothers hall of fame.

Greg Shanahan was born and raised in Eureka, California and after graduating high school attended UC-Santa Barbara and then nearby Humboldt State University where he played with Dane Iorg and from which he was drafted by the Dodgers in ’70. In A ball that summer he went 5-5 with a 3.66 ERA while striking out a batter an inning. At the same level in ’71 he went 8-10, 4.01 while leading his league with 182 K’s (in 164 innings). He split ’72 between A and Double A, going a combined 10-8, 3.12 with 187 K’s in 171 innings. In ’73 he went 12-12, 4.18 in Triple A while again leading his league in K’s before he got his September debut in LA. He struck out the first batter he faced, Willie McCovey, and in 16 innings posted a 3.45 ERA with a save. He then spent nearly all of the next two seasons in Triple A where his combined numbers were messy at 13-24, 4.64, though he again threw pretty well in his few innings in ’74 up top. Greg was released in spring training of ’76 and spent that year pitching in Mexico before returning to The States in ’77 when he went 11-11 with a 2.54 ERA for Kansas City’s Triple A franchise. That was his final season and Greg put up a 3.57 ERA and a save in his eleven MLB games and went 62-70 with a 3.81 ERA in the minors. In off-seasons he’d returned to the Eureka area to work in insurance and in ’78 he got his license and shortly thereafter opened his own shop, which he still has. In ’96 he established the Humboldt Crabs, an entry in a Far West summer league for college and post-college players and was its GM through 2008.

So like on all the other cards although it says Washington on the front the back continued to denote the team the San Diego Padres, which would of course be the correct designation. Here we are a bit more challenged in terms of MLB service as these guys combined for seven years and no awards. At least the hook-ups should be challenging. Here we go with those:

1. Ron Diorio and Mike Schmidt ’73 to ’74 Phillies;
2. Schmidt and Dick Allen ’75 to ’76 Phillies;
3. Allen and Jim Tyrone ’77 A’s.

Now around the card:

1. Ron Diorio and Mike Schmidt ’73 to ’74 Phillies;
2. Schmidt and Bobby Tolan ’76 Phillies;
3. Tolan and Dave Freisleben ’74 to ’75 Padres;
4. Freisleben and Derrell Thomas ’74 Padres;
5. Thomas and Frank Riccelli ’76 Giants;
6. Riccelli and Von Joshua ’76 Giants;
7. Joshua and Greg Shanahan ’73 to ’74 Dodgers.

That wasn’t too bad.