Thursday, November 21, 2013

#614 - Adrian Devine

And the balance reasserts itself as another final card is followed by a rookie one. Adrian Devine didn’t have a crazy great time at any level in ’73 but the Braves were really desperate for bullpen help that year so he got the call in late June and never went back down. Adrian was used sparingly the rest of the year and despite his high ERA managed to get four saves. It was otherwise an important year for him because while warming up for his first MLB game his shoulder popped and it would turn out to be rotator cuff damage he would have to pitch through the rest of his career. He shows his stuff in Candlestick with an expression that would grace all his cards though his second one wouldn’t occur until the ’77 set as he’d spend the bulk of the next two years in the minors. But he’s full of smiles these days.

Like Luke Walker from two posts back, Adrian Devine grew up in Texas, he in Galveston. There he played high school and American Legion ball well enough that he was a second round pick by Atlanta in the ’70 draft. That first summer as a starter in Rookie ball was a bit tough but he moved up to A ball the next year and looked to be putting together a pretty good season. But he missed the bulk of it to either injury or military time. He kept moving up though, and after a pretty good camp in ’72 he continued to throw well that year in Double A. After his ’73 season he returned to Triple A where he only got into four games the next year while rehabbing his arm. He came back strong at that level in ’75 when he went 10-6 with a 2.98 ERA as a starter before getting into a few games back in Atlanta at the end of the year. In ’76 he remained up top as a reliever and – still a rookie – went 5-6 with a 3.21 ERA and nine saves. Following the season Adrian was included in the big trade to Texas for Jeff Burroughs. He had a pretty good year for the Rangers, going 11-6 with a 3.58 ERA and 15 saves. He was then involved in an even bigger deal as he returned to Atlanta in the big four-team trade that also moved Bert Blyleven, John Milner, and Willie Montanez to various spots. Back with the Braves Adrian did his first year of spot work but only got in 65 innings as he went 5-4 with an elevated ERA. In ’79 it was all pen work again as he went 1-2 with a 3.24 ERA in about the same number of innings as his prior year. After the season he ponged back to Texas with Pepe Frias for Larvell Blanks and Doyle Alexander. He pitched very sparingly for the Rangers this time and after a few innings in ‘81 in Triple A he was released, ending his pitching career. Adrian finished 26-22 with a 4.21 ERA and 31 saves in his MLB time and was 31-30 with a 3.83 ERA in the minors.

Devine was very concerned about his next professional step in early ’82 when it was pretty apparent he was done with baseball. He appears to have remained in the Atlanta area and at some point became involved with Devine Baseball, an instructional camp and facility in suburban Atlanta that appears to be run by his son. Adrian has a Facebook page on which he appears to be quite the foodie, so perhaps that was a career choice for him at some point as well. In any case, he looks and reads as if his life post-baseball has been pretty good.

Adrian goes with his given first name for his signature on this card but on future ones he would sign with his middle one. His star bullets give us a glimpse at some of the stats that made Atlanta draft him.

Yesterday’s Watergate recap got us up through the end of February 1973. Earlier that month a couple important things happened. On February 2, Judge John Sirica, who oversaw the trial of the conspirators, indicated that he would present the Grand Jury called to further investigate charges with several other names he believed were connected to the case. On February 7 the Senate voted unanimously to set up a seven-member Select Committee to investigate Watergate and other potential political espionage in connection with the ’72 campaign. On to March:

3/19/73 – James McCord, who was found guilty of all counts in January, wrote a letter to Judge Sirica in which he indicated that he had been pressured to plead guilty and then go radio silent – as E Howard Hunt had done; that he and others had knowingly perjured themselves during the trial; that the break-in was not a CIA operation as he’d indicated during the trial; and that other unnamed government officials were involved in the conspiracy.

3/23/13 – Judge John Sirica made public the letter from James McCord. He indicated that McCord’s sentence would be delayed until June 15, 1973 as McCord was now a cooperating witness for the government and the Grand Jury. He gave the four other burglars suspended sentences until that date as well in order to compel them to become witnesses also. G Gordon Liddy was sentenced to between six years and eight months to 2 years and fined $40,000.

More next post. For the hook-up we go through the AL and a good guy who passed away way too young:

1. Adrian Devine and Toby Harrah ’77 Rangers;
2. Harrah and Danny Thompson ’76 Rangers;
3. Thompson and Dan Monzon ’72 to ’73 Twins.

I’ll be away next week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

#613 - Dan Monzon

This card took me a while to find and the reason for that will be made clear down the road a bit. It is Dan Monzon’s second and final Topps card and it memorializes his final MLB season as well. Dan looks a bit more comfortable in Oakland than he did on his ’73 card at Yankee Stadium. But Danny was from the Bronx so maybe he felt a little pressure. It looks like it’s picture day for a few teammates because Jerry Terrell behind Danny looks like he’s posing also. Like Jerry, Danny could play pretty much anywhere but unfortunately for him most of the time he was in Minnesota – he spent all of ’72 and ’73 with the Twins – he concentrated on second base. It was pretty tough back then to get in any playing time if one was Rod Carew’s back-up so Danny had a grand total of 131 at bats those two seasons. All AL up until the time of this card he would soon be going to that other league where he had a much longer run.

Dan Monzon grew up in NYC where he played at least football and baseball at James Monroe High School. The same school was attended a few years earlier by Ed Kranepool. Dan graduated in ’64 and then attended Buena Vista College in Iowa where he continued to play ball. While there Danny hit .376 with a .498 OBA and was drafted twice: by Houston in a late round in ’66; and by Minnesota in the second round in ’67. One of his teammates at the school was Larry Biitner and Danny said good-bye to Larry and the rest of his team after his junior year to turn pro. He had a nice start in A ball that summer, playing third base while leading his league in pretty much all offensive categories. But he then hit a wall at the plate that lasted the next two years at that level. By then he was playing as much outfield and second base as third but in ‘70 he moved up to Double A where he had a nice offensive bounce and improved his defense markedly back at third. In ’71 he got back in the outfield a bunch after he moved up to Triple A because Eric Soderholm was the guy at third. While Danny’s field time declined he put up his best average and got a ticket to Minnesota.

While Monzon was up his two seasons he split time both years between second and third, but not too much of it. He opened the ’74 season back in Triple A and after a few weeks went to Montreal where he continued to play at the same level, hitting .239 for the season. He spent all the next season at the same spot and then the next two years in the Houston chain where he finished as a player in ’77. His stats on the card back, then, are his final MLB ones and he hit .253 with a .375 OBA in the minors.

After playing Monzon immediately hooked up with the Mets as a minor league manager and from ‘78 to ‘82 went a combined 238-320 in that role. He then became a high level scout for the Mets (’83-’86); the White Sox (’87-‘91); the Brewers (’91-’92); the Cubs (’92-’94); and the Red Sox (’94-’96). While with the ChiSox he signed Frank Thomas. Danny was director of Latin American scouting for Boston when he was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic. He was 49.

Danny’s first pro season was something else. He also put up an OBA of .474 that year. His son, Dan, was drafted in ’85 by the Mets and then played a few years in the White Sox organization in the late Eighties to early Nineties.

Alluded to above, I had to do some work finding Danny's card. The reason why is his card number. Since I always kept my cards by team and not by number, I would use the set checklist to sort the cards numerically. But on the checklist that should have included Danny's card, there was no card 613. In its place was card 618 and in the place of card 618 was card 681, which was fun since this set only had 660 regular cards. So on top of the career winding down, Danny also got dissed by the card guys.

On to the Watergate stuff:

1/31/73 – G Gordon Liddy and James McCord are found guilty of all counts against them including conspiracy, burglary, and bugging for their acts at the Watergate Hotel. The trial lasted 16 days and was presided over by an aggressive judge John Sirica who constantly demanded information regarding other conspirators from the defendants. Liddy and McCord were the final two known conspirators to be tried. E Howard Hunt and the four other actual burglars pled guilty to all charges earlier in the trial, purportedly to keep damaging evidence from being introduced. Both Liddy and McCord had been consultants to CREEP, Liddy on the finance side, and McCord as director of security. Both had also worked for the FBI and Liddy had been a federal prosecutor and White House aide while McCord was also in the CIA. All seven conspirators faced pretty stiff sentences: up to 45 years in jail and fines of $60,000 per person. During the trial other names popped up: Alfred C Baldwin was a former FBI agent who testified that he was the one who listened to conversations at the Watergate through earlier successfully planted bugs; Dwight Chapin, Nixon’s appointments secretary, had hired attorney Donald Segretti to disrupt Democratic campaigns throughout the country; Herbert Kalmbach, Nixon’s personal attorney, paid Segretti $35,000 for those services; and Jeb Stuart Magruder, deputy campaign director for Nixon, was the person who paid Liddy about $332,000 to run the operation. The Magruder connection was made via testimony by Hugh Sloan, the CREEP treasurer. Chapin would resign during the final phase of the trial.

2/28/73 – When J Edgar Hoover died in ’72 L Patrick Gray – people used to love initials back then – became the acting head of the FBI. In February he went before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sam Ervin, as a nominee to become the permanent director of the FBI. On this date Ervin questioned Gray about leaks of FBI investigative data regarding Watergate back to the White House. Gray replied that White House councel John Dean had ordered the documentation of behalf of the President and that he – Gray – had complied. Following that sharing of information and many subsequent conversations with Dean, Gray testified that he was ordered by Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to not discuss Watergate elsewhere. Again Gray complied. He did not get the nomination.

A trade from the prior season helps in this hook-up:

1. Monzon and Rich Reese ’72 Twins;
2. Reese and Willie Horton ’73 Tigers;
3. Horton and Luke Walker ’74 Tigers.

Rick Reese could have had a card in this set - he hit below ,200 in his final MLB season split between Minnesota and Detroit. Since the mid-Sixties he split time at first base, primarily with Harmon Killebrew, and topped out in '69 when he hit .322 with some good power. He hit three pinch grand slams in his career.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#612 - Luke Walker

Luke Walker looks plenty happy showing his form in spring training while his memorial electrical tape patch dances in the wind. On good days that’s what his curve ball did as well. It could be nasty on hitters but also nasty on Luke and unfortunately for him in ’73 it was much more the latter than the former. Back then many writers thought that Luke’s pitching embodied his last name a bit too much. But it wasn’t all his fault. After his big coming out season in ’70 Luke’s career pretty much went in the wrong direction, much of it due to injury. If it wasn’t bone chips in the elbow in ’71 or the bad back that really compromised that curve in ’72 and ’73 then it was the shot to his temple off a Johnny Bench bat early in ’74 that messed up his balance the remainder of the year. So Luke was n full decline mode when this photo was shot but you couldn’t tell that by the big smile. Attitude can be a wonderful thing. The photo from his Traded card appears to be from pretty much the same location as his regular card.

Luke Walker grew up in Dekalb, Texas, a town very close to the borders with Oklahoma and Arkansas. There he played the big three sports in high school where in baseball he threw 12 no-hitters and averaged 16 strikeouts per game with his big heater and curve. After graduation he attended Paris Junior College – in Paris, Texas for you Sam Shepard fans – in ’61 and ’62 and then moved on to Texarkana College from where he was signed as a free agent by the Red Sox in ’63. That summer he pitched well in A ball but then not so hot in Double A. After that season he was taken by Pittsburgh in the first year draft and then in ’64 in Double A went 8-14 with a 3.72 ERA in the rotation. After a poor start in Triple A in ’65 he improved a ton at the lower level, going 12-7 with a 2.26 ERA and 197 K’s in 183 innings. Those numbers got him a short look up top where he remained to start off the ’66 season before returning to Triple A to go 11-11 with a 2.77 ERA. In ’67 he was off to a 3-5 start with a 2.96 ERA when the injuries began with an elbow banged up in a game that killed the rest of his season. But the Pirates had seen enough and in ‘68 he spent the season on the Pittsburgh roster where he took tentative steps back while working in the pen, posting a low ERA and adding three saves while exhibiting pretty good control. In ’69 he moved to what would become a more common role for him as a swing guy, starting 15 of his 31 games and working most of the rest as a set-up guy.

In 1970 Walker had a sort of bipolar season. He began the year in the rotation and was 3-2 by early May when he was moved to the pen. There he had a streaky run and didn’t get his first save until mid-June, though he kept getting wins in his decisions. When he won a rare start in mid-July he was 7-3 and he returned to the rotation full-time in August and threw a shutout. He won his next two, lost three straight, and then won his last five to become the team’s winningest pitcher. He followed that up with a quality start in the playoffs and was ready to win 25 in ’71. But that year the elbow issue returned with the chips and while Luke at least got to stay in the rotation the whole season the results weren’t as good and his post-season was pretty messy though he did get a ring. In ’72 the bad back led to some DL time and back to his swing role. After his messy ’73 Luke was pretty happy to get out of town in the sale to Detroit but it really wasn’t a panacea, especially injury-wise. In an early-season exhibition game against Cincinnati he got nailed in the head by a Johnny Bench line drive which sort of took the wind out of his sails the rest of the season in which he went 5-5 with a 4.99 ERA. He was released early the following season and signed with Houston for whom he went 7-7/4.33 as a starter in Triple A in his final year. Luke went a combined 45-47 with a 3.64 ERA, 16 complete games, seven shutouts, and nine saves for his MLB line and 47-52 with a 3.23 ERA in the minors. In the post-season he was 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his three games.

While playing Luke worked off-seasons on a family farm in New Boston, Texas, to which he presumably returned when done playing on a full-time basis.

1965 was probably Luke’s best season in the minors as ‘70 clearly was up top. Chuck Norris would make that surname popular in Texas a few years down the road.

Topps gets the word play going again in the headline. In ’74 Luke joined Mickey Lolich, John Hiller, and Woodie Fryman as lefties on the Detroit roster.

Since Luke doesn’t give us too much to work with post-baseball there is room for more Watergate catch-up stuff:

10/10/12  - The Washington Post released the results of FBI research into the break-in and other action associated with CREEP. The investigation revealed a few of what would become known as the “dirty tricks” enacted by both CREEP and The White House in connection with the ’72 election. Named among the tactics were the stalking of various family members of opposing candidates; the forging of documents purported to be written by opposing candidates on those candidates' letterheads; and the leaking of false information to the press. The best example of the last two was a letter released to a local paper in New Hampshire that claimed that Edmund Muskie had laughed at a derogatory term used in reference to French Canadian-Americans. It was a big deal because there were lots of them in New Hampshire and the letter was sent to the paper a week before that state’s primary. Muskie, who was actually ahead of Nixon in the polls about a month earlier, defended himself outside the newspaper office in what became known as “the crying speech” although the YouTube video doesn’t look that dramatic. The charge and his response contributed to the dismantling of his run. The Post found out that the author of the letter was a White House aide named Richard Clawson who bragged about it while trying to pick up a woman at a bar who happened to work for the paper. Though he later denied it officially the damage was done.

The Post also interviewed three attorneys from around the country who said they were contacted by a California attorney named Donald Segretti who asked them to disrupt various democratic campaigns in their home areas. Segretti was a consultant to CREEP who had also been a lawyer for the Treasury Department. He had served in Vietnam with the three attorneys, all who turned him down. He was financed by a slush fund that amounted to as much as $700,000 controlled by John Mitchell, first as Attorney General and then as the chairman of CREEP.  

That gets us back to where I got the first round.

The hook-up gets a bit tough since Rick Stelmaszek barely played. Let’s go the NL route:

1. Walker and Matty Alou ’66 and ’68 to ’70 Pirates;
2. Alou and Jose Cardenal ’71 Cardinals;
3. Cardenal and Rick Stelmaszek ’74 Cubs.

Monday, November 18, 2013

#611 - Rick Stelmaszek

If you go by the cards Topps made available for ’74 Rick Stelmaszek was the Angels starting catcher for 1973, all 26 at bats of him. That’s because Topps didn’t issue cards for Jeff Torborg – 255 at bats – John Stephenson – 122 at bats – or Art Kusnyer – 64 at bats. Rick actually did pretty well card-wise himself by Topps. He got four cards during his career, or one for every 22 MLB at bats. On each one he had a different hat: Washington in ‘70; Texas in ’73; this airbrushed one; and another airbrushed Cubs hat in ’75. This card photo may be a bit old since that appears to be a Senators cap on the guy behind Rick. Not surprisingly he moved around a bit in ’73, beginning the year as a back-up to Dick Billings in Texas before a May trade that sent Mike Epstein, Rich Hand, and him to California for Lloyd Allen and Jim Spencer. He spent the next two months in Triple A before getting back upstairs in mid-July to back-up the above trio. Rick was pretty itinerant back then but when he finally settled in one place he would stay there a loooong time.

Ray Stelmack was an outfielder signed by the Yankees in the late Thirties who didn’t hit terribly well and after doing his WW II time became a pitcher. By ‘48 he was pretty much done as a player, was living in the Chicago area, and had a son named Rick who would opt to embrace the full family name. Rick went to Mendel High, a Catholic school that rang its last bell in the Eighties. There he was all-Christian league his senior year of ’67 as a catcher before he was drafted by the Senators. He didn’t get things going until late the following spring which may have been due to military duty or some time at Depaul. That season he hit well at one A level spot and not so well at another one, though at both he had very good OBA’s which would be a hallmark in his career. In ’69 he had a nice line at that level bolstered by a .429 OBA and in ‘70 at Double A put up a .398 though his supporting stats weren’t quite as good. In ’71 his OBA remained the same, as did his average, when he moved up to Triple A in a season interrupted by a couple early summer weeks in DC. ’72 was all Triple A, part of it as a loaner to the Cincinnati chain. After his ’73 run he opened the ’74 season back in Triple A where he put up a line of .269/6/40 with a .399 OBA through July when he was sent home to the Cubs for pitcher Horacio Pina. He spent the balance of the season on the Chicago roster behind George Mitterwald and Steve Swisher, hitting .227 with a .364 OBA and seven RBI’s in his 44 at bats. ’75 was then all Triple A - .265/6/47/.376 – before an early ’76 trade sent him to the Yankees for a minor leaguer. He spent a year at Triple A Syracuse and then ’77 back in the Texas system at the same level before in ‘78 hooking up with the Twins as a player/manager back at the A level. That was Rick’s final season as a player. For his MLB time he hit .170 in those 88 at bats and in the minors .250 with an OBA above .400.

With his keen eye Stelmaszek seemed a natural for a coaching gig after he was done playing and that’s exactly what he did. He remained at the Minnesota A franchise as its manager through ’80, going 199-212 during that span and winning his league’s manager of the year award his final season. In ’81 he was promoted all the way up to Minnesota where he became the Twins bullpen coach, a job he held through 2012. In his first year away from baseball as an adult he has been semi-retired and learning to golf.

Rick had two rookie cards and two regular ones, both of which were airbrushed. He was quite good defensively and also led his league in assists and double plays in ’68. He had one of the longest single-team coaching runs ever.

Speaking of long runs, it has been a long time since I did anything about Watergate, which was ceratinly, one of the biggest news stories running the time covered by this set. As a recap, on the few posts I actually did on the subject, five men were busted attempting to plant bugging devices in the offices of the Democratic National Committee base on the sixth floor of the Watergate Hotel in June of ’72. They, along with E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy, would be indicted that September and their trial would begin the following January. Shortly into the trial Hunt pled guilty and four days later four of the five burglars pled the same. That was as far as I got and to restart this process I want to highlight some investigative stuff along the way unearthed by The Washington Post.

6/19/72 – The Post revealed that Frank Sturgis, one of the burglars, was a US “soldier of fortune” who temporarily lost his citizenship when in the late Fifties he fought alongside Fidel Castro in Cuba. Bernard Barker, another burglar, was a POW during WW II and was also a one-time ally of Castro’s and for a time worked in Cuba’s secret police. Those two and the two other native Cuban burglars had all become disenchanted with Castro and were involved in the Bay of Pigs mess. James McCord had been a security consultant for both the Republican National Committee chaired then by Bob Dole and the Committee to Re-elect the President chaired by former Attorney General John Mitchell. Both claimed a lack of knowledge regarding McCord’s involvement with the burglary.

8/1/72 – The Post reported that a bunch of money found its way to Bernard Barker’s Florida bank account. $25,000 was a cashier’s check made out to Kenneth Dahlberg, CREEP’s finance chairman for the Midwest. Dahlberg claimed he gave the check to either John Mitchell, CREEP’s chairman, or Maurice Stans, CREEP’s overall finance chairman. Stans had been Secreatery of Commerce under Nixon. Barker had also accumulated $89,000 in checks from Mexican lawyer Manual Daguerre. It would later turn out that Daguerre was a conduit for CREEP to raise money in The States that would then be filtered through Mexico so that donors could remain anonymous, thereby skirting campaign fund-raising laws. So both sources of funds were linked to CREEP. Other background revealed that Dahlberg owned a firm that made hearing aids and was Nixon’s finance chief in Minnesota during the ‘68 campaign, an important state since Nixon’s opponent in the ’68 election, Hubert Humphrey, was from Minnesota. The article also revealed that a few days earlier G Gordon Liddy was fired from a consulting post to CREEP after refusing to talk to the FBI about the break-in and that Democrats believed that Chuck Colson, an advisor to the President, was a player in the break-in since it was he who had hired E Howard Hunt. Things were getting pretty sticky.  

The Chicago connection seems the most obvious for the hook-up even though these guys were a few years apart. I wonder if they faced each other in high school?:

1. Stelmaszek and Rick Reuschel ’74 Cubs;
2. Reuschel and Dave Kingman ‘78 to ‘80 Cubs.

Friday, November 15, 2013

#610 - Dave Kingman

In the spring and early summer of ’76 this guy was a big deal in NY, my first summer working in the city. He was banging homer after homer and I am pretty sure went into the Al-Star break on a pace that was ahead of Roger Maris’s one in ’61. The tabloids loved his big homers and his big strikeouts and called him Kong. It was a big name and a big stage for a big guy who was actually pretty quiet. That was a few seasons away from this photo in which we get to see the mighty swing on what I would bet was a missed pitch. Dave had sort of arrived in ’72 with a pretty big homer and RBI total despite having less than a full season. But between playing positions at which the Giants were nominally well stocked – first base and the outfield – and his high strikeout totals, playing time was hard to come by early in ’73. His preferred position was actually third base and things should have gone Dave’s way when at the beginning of the season San Francisco had finally had enough of Al Gallagher and sent him to California. And Willie McCovey was starting to show his age at first so even though fellow young guys Ed Goodson and Gary Thomason were competent enough at those two positions, respectively, Dave should have had enough time to get in his starts. The trouble was that when he did start it didn’t go terribly well. He was uneven at best at third and by late August he was buried in a season-long offensive rut, hitting .183 with eleven homers and 27 RBI’s, including a hitless August by that point. But Dave was a streaky guy and from August 26th on he put up a line of .237/13/28 in just 114 at bats. Goodson helped him out a bunch by going down with a shattered thumb and fully half of Dave’s hits during that run were homers. When the Giants traded Willie to the Padres Dave was feeling pretty good about getting more playing time. That would happen but with a whole other club.

Dave Kingman moved around a bunch as a kid. Born in Oregon, he also lived in Colorado and California before he settled in a suburb of Chicago for high school. There Dave played hoops and baseball with Tom Lundstedt from a few posts earlier, and was a wide receiver and d-back in football. Dave was a big boy and his high school stats his senior year -  a .339/5/15 line in 19 games and a 7-4/1.60 mound line with 121 K’s (and 71 walks) in 67 innings – got him drafted the spring of ’67 in the second round by the Angels. But Dave wanted to go to school where he could ideally play hoops as well and he went to Harper College, a local two-year school. While there he got noticed by the Orioles, who drafted him in January ‘68, and by USC and its fabled coach, Rod Dedeaux. Dave turned down the O’s but not Dedeaux, who gave him the same deal he gave Tom Seaver a few years earlier: play summer ball in Alaska against some major college talent and if it works you’re good. So that summer Dave was a Goldpanner and while he didn’t do anything crazy great – he hit .154 and was 3-0 with three saves but a 5.46 ERA and many more walks than K’s – he was intriguing enough to get to Southern Cal. His sophomore year he pitched, pretty well too as he went 11-4 with a 1.38 ERA and 88 K’s in 85 innings. He also hit .250 with four homers and 16 RBI’s in his 22 games. When he returned to Alaska that summer his numbers were much better as well with a .323/6/16 hitting line and a 7-3/3.29 pitching one. His walks were still pretty high, though, and in ‘70 Dedeaux restricted Dave to offense. He was killing the ball at over .500 when he got involved in a nasty collision that broke his arm and tore ligaments in his leg. But those USC seasons were long and though Dave missed 30 games he still got into 32 in which his .353/8/26 line got him named second-team PAC-8 and first-team All-American. This time when he got drafted – again in the first round by the Giants – he signed. That summer in Double A he continued to hit at a nice clip, going .295/15/41 in 210 at bats, but with 64 K’s. That year he played both infield corners but was pretty challenged at third. Signs of things to come. In ’71 he moved up to Triple A where his line of .278/26/99 in only 392 at bats got him up to San Francisco by late July.

Though as noted above Kingman was a quiet guy, he made some noise with his bat and his second game up he hit a run-scoring double and then a grand slam in a barn-burner against the Pirates. He would spend the rest of the year primarily spelling Willie McCovey at first and got everyone excited with his big bangers. He didn’t hit too great in the playoffs but he came out of the box strong in ’72 while splitting time between his three positions. He put up six homers in April but started showing his streaky side with bouts of big hits and dry spells. His final power numbers were pretty good but not enough to get him a regular position since the Giants already had a player with fat strikeout totals in Bobby Bonds. After the ’73 experience Dave had a nearly similar ’74: lots of K’s and lots of errors – his fielding average at third was below .800  - leading to lots of bench time with bouts of big power. His line was .223/18/55. After that season he was sold to the Mets for $150,000.

When Kingman got to NY the original plan was to have him back up Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones, and Del Unser in the outfield as well as John Milner and Ed Kranepool at first. But Jones was coming back from a knee surgery that would help tank his career so Dave and Milner pretty much split left field while Milner’s time away from first gave Dave time there as well. He did his thing, setting a Mets record with 36 homers, knocked in 88, and hit .231 with 153 K’s. The next year he played the outfield much more and started on a pretty good tear with 27 homers by the end of June and 30 by the All-Star break, to which he was voted a starter. But shortly after the game Dave went down with a broken thumb and missed the next six weeks. By the end of the season his .238/37/87 line represented a new Mets homer record. Then things got weird in ’77 and started in training camp when he broke his nose and also got dinged in the foot by a pitching machine. That second one robbed him of his power and though Dave played regularly in his two spots and hit .300 the first month, he only had nine homers and 28 RBI’s when he was part of the big June purge NY enacted and went to San Diego for Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert. With the Padres he returned to form with eleven homers and 39 RBI’s in his 168 at bats but he was placed on waivers anyway when he indicated he would need major bucks to sign as a free agent. The same thing happened with California, who quickly signed him and for which he had one good game. He spent the last couple weeks with the Yankees, ending the season as the first guy to play for a team in each division and with a homer for four teams in the same season. He signed too late with NY for post-season work though.

After the ’77 season the Yankees wanted Kingman but the Cubbies got him with a four-year million dollar deal. He fit into that Chicago line-up pretty well because the team had plenty of contact hitters and was able to absorb the big K totals. Dave absorbed some of that himself because his average picked up quite a bit while there. In ‘78 his line was .266/28/79 even though he missed nearly a month with a pulled hamstring. In ’79 he was healthy all year and responded with the best line of his career with a .288/48/115 as he returned to the All-Star game and led MLB in homers. In '80 he appeared headed for the same type of numbers when he slipped on a bat in late May and damaged his shoulder when he fell. He missed a bunch of time though he did return to the All-Star game and put up a line of .278/18/57 in just 255 at bats. Following that season he returned to the Mets for Round 2 in a trade for outfielder Steve Henderson. The Mets moved Dave to first and away from Chicago his average returned to its normal submerged level. In the strike season of ‘81 his line was .221/22/59 and in a full ’82, .204/37/99, a season in which he infamously – as NL home run leader – had a lower average than Cy Young winner Steve Carlton. In ’83 he was off to a crappy offensive start when a mid-year acquisition of Keith Hernandez moved Dave to some right field and pinch-hitting duties the rest of the season. After posting a .198/13/29 line he was released. Early in ’84 he was signed by Oakland and the team put Dave in his most natural defensive spot – DH. There he had a big year, winning the AL Comeback Player award with a .268/35/118 line while bolstering a young offense. His average slipped a bit the next two years but not his power as he hit over 30 homers each season, closing with 35 in ’86, his last year. He finished with a .236 average, 442 homers, and 1,210 RBI’s. He also had 1,816 K’s – about one every 3.7 at bats - and a .302 OBA, both which seem destined to keep him out of the Hall. In the post-season he hit .111 in his four games. He is currently 38th all-time in homers and 15th in homers per at bat.

Kingman seems to have lived a pretty quiet life since he retired. He played a season in the Senior League and eventually relocated to the Lake Tahoe area where he was running his own tennis club in 2008 according to an article in The Daily News. He has since been spotted at card shows and other baseball-related events where he is widely regarded as charming and outgoing.

Dave’s only bit of MLB pitching was in ’73, in which he gave up four runs, six walks, and rang up four strikeouts in four innings of work. That homer in the cartoon broke Dave’s drought and was hit in an August game against Ray Sadecki, giving Ron Bryant his 20th win. Dave had four RBI’s in the game. He also had that monster shot at Wrigley and could hit massive pop flies and foul balls as well. A couple times at Shea he also hit balls that landed in the parking lot behind home plate. Dave has his own site at which you will find more info about his career than you could possibly want to know.

One of the bigger trades from this set helps here:

1. Kingman and Juan Marichal ’71 to ’73 Giants;
2. Marichal and Rico Petrocelli ’74 Red Sox.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#609 - Rico Petrocelli

Rico Petrocelli had some pretty good cards over his career, both front and back. In ’75 he had a fat smile on his action card and in ’76 he looked like he was going to spit a huge wad of tobacco juice. In ’67 and ’69 he had the same photo for his two All-Star seasons. This card, though, isn’t one of his best but it does a good job reflecting Rico’s ’73 season. He would play hurt all season, nursing a pretty constant elbow injury that would take him out of the line-up by mid-August and require an operation after the year ended. And he wasn’t crazy happy being with the Sox as he joined Reggie Smith later that month in asking to be traded. Reggie would eventually get his wish but Rico stayed put and a few years down the road would finish his career in Boston which is pretty wiggy considering he grew up a Yankees fan.

Rico Petrocelli grew up in a large family in Brooklyn where in high school he was accomplished in basketball and baseball. In the latter sport he was a pitcher/infielder but the former role ended during some NYC playoffs his senior year of ’61. That was when his elbow snapped and a bunch of scouts lost interest which contributed to a delay in his signing. When that did happen, it was by the same Boston scout who signed Yaz from Long Island a couple years earlier. So Rico didn’t get started professionally until ’62 when he hit .277 with 17 homers and 80 RBI’s in B ball and also led his league in errors at shortstop. The next year he put up a .239/19/78 line in Double A and though his average dropped so did his E totals as Rico was a fast learner. He also made his topside debut that September, doubling off the Green Monster in his first at bat. In ’64 it was back to the minors and that year in Triple A he recorded a .231/10/48 line that got him so frustrated he decided to become a switch-hitter and was noted as one on his ’65 rookie card. But his defense continued to improve and that next year he would be called up for good.

Eddie Bressoud had been the Boston shortstop for a few years by 1965. Eddie could hit – in ’64 his average was .293 with 15 homers – but his range was declining and the Sox were afraid his average would soon follow. So Petrocelli won the starting shortstop gig in camp that year, as a switch-hitting rookie. But some early-season Mendoza-level offensive numbers ended the two-sided experiment and over the course of the year Rico added some points to his average. His final line and some uneven fielding numbers – both in part courtesy of his still ailing elbow – weren’t over the top but were good enough to get a spot on that year’s Topps Rookie team. In ’66 he continued to be bedeviled by the elbow and even had some DL time in August, but he became the starter outright, nearly doubled his RBI totals, and improved defensively. Prior to the ’67 season two good things happened for Rico – he had an operation on his problem elbow; and his former manager Eddie Popowski got promoted to be his infield coach, among other roles. Topps embraced the news giving Rico an exclamation point on his card back in that set and it all seemed to gel pretty well as he was an important cog for the pennant winner, improved markedly on defense, upped his average over 20 points, and was named an All-Star. He also won that year’s Game 6 of the Series with two big homers. Rico began accumulating bone chips in his elbow post-operation and in ’68 he missed a bunch of time and saw his offense come down hard. But in ’69 he cut down on his calcium and went on an offensive tear, winning another All-Star nod, and setting an AL record for homers by a shortstop. Defensively he was popping as well as he set another AL record for consecutive error-less games at shortstop with 44 and put up his league’s best fielding percentage for the second straight season.

In ’69 the third base situation in Boston was pretty messy in the wake of Joe Foy’s departure. It was pretty much the same in ’70 but was a bit better in Petrocelli’s few games at the position. He also continued his offensive burst with his lifetime high in RBI’s. Those games at third would be a good prelude to the rest of his time in Boston as that winter the Sox picked up Little Looie Aparicio from Chicago to play shortstop and third became Rico’s permanent home. Over the next couple seasons his average fell a few points but he kept his RBI totals pretty high and continued his excellent defensive work. After his problematic ’73 he got his second elbow operation and returned to offensive form the next year, with a .267/15/76 line. But a beaning by Jim Slaton in September ended Rico’s season and caused him balance problems the rest of his career. In ’75 his power took a dip - .239/7/59 - but he bounced in the Series to put up good numbers against Cincinnati. In ’76 his offense continued its decline in a year he split third with rookie Butch Hobson. Rico was released at the end of spring training of ’77 and ended his career with a .251 average with 210 homers and 773 RBI’s. In the post-season he hit .241 with three homers and nine RBI’s in 17 games. Defensively he is in the top 100 shortstops in career fielding percentage.

After Petrocelli finished playing he remained in the Boston area and remained close to baseball by writing a newspaper column and through radio broadcasting, both as a color guy and a talk radio savant, which he did through the ’80 season. He then returned to the business side full-time – see below – until ’86 when he began a three year management stint in the White Sox chain. In ’89 he returned to Boston full-time to manage the sports operation side of The Jimmy Fund and would manage one more year at nearby Pawtucket, RI, in the Boston chain in ’92. His record as a manager was 257-312. He then remained with the organization through ’98 as a roving instructor and was inducted into the team’s hall of fame in ’97. Following that run he moved to New Hampshire where he established his own company with his son Mike, the Petrocelli Marketing Group. He has a SABR bio.

The star bullets are back and these ones feature some stuff covered above. The cartoon refers to Rico’s PR work for both Tulsa Oil and Gibbs Oil, distribution companies. He would do more marketing work in that field after his playing time. In a couple sequential cartoons in the Sixties Topps indicated that Rico played drums to help develop his wrists and keep his elbows loose. No idea as to whether that helped or hurt the bone chips situation.

Someone from Rico’s old stomping ground seems the best route here:

1. Petrocelli and Danny Cater ’72 to ’75 Red Sox;
2. Cater and Bobby Murcer ’70 to ’71 Yankees;
3. Murcer and Mike Wallace ’74 Yankees.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#608 - 1974 Rookie Pitchers

The final rookie card of the set gives us four NL pitchers who would have varied degrees of success during their MLB days. For one of them – probably the most hyped one initially – this would be his final card. The rest all get sunny skies, two of which appear to be in San Francisco.

Bob Apodaca was primarily an infielder while growing up in the LA area. After high school he went to Cerritos College, a local two-year school, where he was converted to a pitcher. That conversion seemed to go well because after Bob transferred to Cal State he put up two pretty good years: 10-4 with a 1.87 ERA his junior year and 8-8 with a 2.55 ERA and three saves his senior year. That second year was ’71 and after the season Bob signed as a free agent with the Mets and then went 7-1 with a 3.60 ERA in A ball as a spot guy. In ’72 he went 11-7 in a swing role in Double A with a couple saves and a 2.81 ERA. He then moved to the pen and Triple A in ’73 and went 6-3 with a 1.80 ERA and eleven saves before his call-up in September, during which he barely pitched. He would then remain in NY the next four seasons, doing most of his work out of the bullpen. In ’74 he did his spot thing, getting eight starts in his 35 games, while going 6-6 with a 3.50 ERA and three saves. In ’75 he had his best year, going 3-4 with a 1.49 ERA and 13 saves as the team’s closer. That year he missed nearly all of July after his nose was broken by a Johnny Oates comebacker. In ’76 Skip Lockwood took over as closer and Bob would suffer some nagging injuries but still pitched well: in ’76 he went 3-7 with a 2.81 ERA and five saves and in ’77 4-8 with a 3.43 ERA and five saves again. Just as spring training was closing in ’78 Bob suffered a ligament tear in his right elbow and he would not pitch at all the rest of the season. He had two attempted comebacks the next three years that didn’t go too well and he was done as a player. He went 16-25 with a 2.86 ERA, a complete game, and 26 saves in his MLB action and 25-16 with a 3.24 ERA in the minors. After playing he remained in the Mets organization as a pitching coach in the minors until promoted to NY in ’96, where he would remain through the ’99 season. He was then the Brewers pitching coach (2000-’01) before returning to a final year in the NY system (2002). In 2003 he became the Rockies pitching coach which he did until he stepped down during the 2012 season. Since then he has been a special assistant to the Colorado GM.

Dick Baney was already being scouted when he was pitching in the eighth grade in Anaheim. By the time he was done in high school he’d thrown twelve no-hitters and his senior year went 13-3 while hitting .414 all of which combined to get him tabbed in the third round of the ’65 draft by the Angels, Anaheim’s new residents. But they wouldn’t throw Dick enough money so he opted to go to Fullerton State where he threw a bit of fall ball until in January he was taken by Boston for a $50,000 bonus. He went 8-13 that summer with a 2.81 ERA in A ball and then 12-13. 3.65 the following year at the same level. In ’68 he went 14-6. 1.84 in Double A and after the season was tabbed by the new Pilots in the expansion draft. He had some nice chats with Jim Bouton in ’69 spring training that made “Ball Four” but Dick spent the first half of the season in Triple A where he went 7-8 with a 4.40 ERA. He debuted that July, gave up a homer to Harmon Killebrew, the first batter he faced, and after a few games reurned to the minors. He got back up in late September, won his only start, and got in less than 20 innings of MLB time. Then it was back to the minors for a while. In ’70 he went a combined 5-5, 5.18 in a year split between Milwaukee and Baltimore after he was involved in the trade that made Dave May a Brewer. In ’71 he went 10-4, 3.74 with another mid-season switch when he was sold to Cincinnati. In ’72 he got sold to San Diego for whom he had a 5-4, 5.67 year mostly in the pen. Then it was off to the Oakland system briefly before returning to the Reds fold in a ’73 in which he went 8-5, 3.66 before finally returning to MLB action in September. He had a nice stretch run, going 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA and a couple saves, but missed post-season action and returned to the minors to start the ’74 season. After going 4-2 with a 3.38 ERA in Triple A he returned to Cincy in June but wasn’t used too much the rest of the way, posting a win and a save and a high ERA in his last MLB work. ’75 was a bit messy back in Triple A and he was released. He attempted a comeback in ’79 in the Inter-American League and was doing pretty well, going 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA when the league folded, ending his career. Dick finished with a 4-1 record, three saves, and a 4.18 ERA up top and went 76-67 with a 3.65 ERA in the minors. He returned to California to work with his dad’s contracting business, did other sales work, and got into real estate sales and investing and has done pretty well in his endeavors. He has recently become an advocate of pre-’80 MLB players that didn’t do enough topside time to get pensions.

John D’Acquisto is the third guy on this card to come from southern California, John from the San Diego area. There he was a linebacker and big deal pitcher in high school and the Giants made him a first rounder in the ’70 draft. John was a big guy who threw heat, though with not too much control, and that summer he went 2-5 with a high ERA and way more strikeouts and walks than innings pitched in Rookie ball. He began to get things under control the next year in A ball when he went 10-13 with a 3.13 ERA and 244 K’s in 233 innings, a total that nearly doubled his walks. In ’72 his line bumped up some more at that level as he went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 245 K’s in his 209 innings.Those numbers moved him all the way up to Triple A in ’73 where he went 16-12 with a 3.57 ERA before coming up to San Francisco in September to go 1-1 with a 3.58 ERA the rest of the way. In ’74 he joined the rotation and went 12-14/3.77 to win a spot on the Topps Rookie Team. But his success faded fast when early the next season, after pitching in pain with some horrible numbers, he required an operation to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow. ’76 was not a good comeback year as his record was terrible, his ERA stayed high, and he walked nearly a batter an inning, almost twice more than he struck out. After the season he and Dave Rader went to St. Louis for Vic Harris, John Curtis, and Willie Crawford. This John would begin the ’77 season with a muscle pull in his lower leg, miss more than a month, and shortly after he was healthy again go home to San Diego with Pat Scanlon for reliever Butch Metzger. The rest of the year he would split time between the Padres and Triple A where his numbers were pretty good at the lower level but not too hot up top. In ’78 he was put in the pen and there had his best numbers, going 4-3 with a 2.13 ERA and ten saves in his 45 games. He returned to a swing role in ’79, going 9-13 with a 4.92 ERA, before moving back to the pen in ’80 where he was 2-3 with a save in 39 games before an August trade to Montreal for Randy Bass. After he threw pretty well the rest of the way he returned to the West Coast as a free agent where continued elbow problems would contribute to some not great pitching for the Angels and A’s at a few levels. More of the same came in ’82 for the Braves and the next year for the White Sox, both in Triple A. By the end of the ’83 season John was done. He finished topside with a record of 34-51 with a 4.56 ERA, seven complete games, two shutouts, and 15 saves. In the minors he was 57-58 with a 4.42 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning. After playing he returned to California where he became an investment advisor and had a pretty good thing going until he became involved in a scheme in the mid-Nineties that stole over $22 million from his clients. Initially sentenced to over five years in jail, his sentence was revoked when evidence was presented that he had been duped as well and was above board. But after that experience he got out of the business, returned to school, and eventually got a doctorate in biomechanics. With that in hand he worked for a company called Rough Edge Software and then Sorganics, which is researching alternative fertilizer products. He now lives in Arizona. He has a SABR bio that is a bit spotty in its details.

Just to shake things up, Mike Wallace was not raised in California, but in Vienna, Virginia, not too far from DC. Mike had a great run in high school, during which he was 28-4 with a 0.97 ERA and led his team to the state championship in ’68. The next June he was drafted by the Phillies and went 6-6 that summer with a 3.97 ERA and 123 K’s in 102 innings of Rookie ball. In ’70 he went 8-8/3.66 in A ball, in ’71 10-12/3.52 in Double A, and in ’72 16-7/3.46 in Triple A for a nice progression. That last year he led his league in wins. But then ’73 got a little messy. Mike began the season in Triple A where there are some indications he was dealing with an injury and his early season numbers were 6-5/4.67 with some tough control issues. But in June he was called up to Philly anyway after Larry Christenson was sent back down for a bit. Mike threw a complete game win in his first start and hung out through mid-August when he was sent down to Double A when outfielder Mike Anderson came off the DL. At the lower level he went 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in three starts before returning to the Phillies in September and finishing 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA and a save. He began the ’74 season in Philly but didn’t pitch too much before a May trade for Ken Wright to the Yankees. NY put Mike in Triple A for a bit where his numbers – 1-1 with a save and a 0.87 ERA in five games – got him back up quickly. For the Yankees he continued pitching well, going 6-0 with a 2.41 ERA as a set-up guy. In ’75 some nasty early outings got him sold in June to St. Louis and for the Cards Mike went 5-6/4.44 as a swing guy in Triple A and then 2-0/2.08 as a reliever up top. He stayed in St. Louis for all of ’76 where he returned to a set-up role and went 3-2/4.07 with a couple saves. He was traded to Texas after that season – Mike’s only two solo cards are both air-brushed (pretty badly) – where after some not great outings he returned to the minors. His ERA remained elevated that year in the Texas system and in ’78 back in Philadelphia’s. In ’79 he moved to the Inter-American League where he did excellent work as a starter, going 11-1 with a 2.27 ERA before the league folded. His manager there, Davey Johnson, helped Mike get signed by Baltimore but after he went 0-6 with a 6.34 ERA in 15 Triple A games Mike was done. He went 11-3 with a 3.91 ERA, a complete game, and three saves for his MLB work and in the minors was 71-60 with a 3.89 ERA. After playing Mike returned to the Vienna area and by the early Nineties was back in baseball. He coached at a couple colleges: William & Mary (’90-’91); and George Mason (’92-’97). He then moved on to coach in a summer collegiate league for the Vienna Senators, which he did from ’97 until the team folded in 2009. Since 2011 he has been a broadcaster for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, an independent radio network where his beat includes the Nationals.

I’d heard that there were misspellings on this card but I don’t see any. As noted above, California is pretty prevalent here. These last four give us 15 MLB seasons with a Rookie Team member. So the most successful bunch of this rookie set would be card 604 with Frank White and Andre Thornton providing most of that group’s MLB magic.

These two missed playing together by not much:

1. Frank Taveras and John Stearns ’79 to ’81 Mets;
2. Stearns and Bob Apodaca ’74 to ’77 Mets.

For our final round the card we get:

1. Bob Apodaca and Tom Seaver ’74 to ’77 Mets;
2. Seaver and Johnny Bench ’77 to ’82 Reds;
3. Bench and Dick Baney ’73 to ’74 Reds; Bench and Ken Griffey ’73 to ’81 Reds
4. Griffey and Dave Winfield ’82 to ’86 Yankees;
5. Winfield and John D’Acquisto ’77 to ’80 Padres;
6. D’Acquisto and Bobby Murcer ’75 to ’76 Giants;
7. Murcer and Mike Wallace ’74 Yankees.

So four was our quickest loop around the rookie cards and nine our longest. Back to the rest of the set.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

#607 - '74 Rookie Shortstops

This card gives us another bunch of young unhappy faces. Given that two of them are standing under a doom-filled sky and that one – Dave Rosello – appears to be standing in front of an oil pump, I sort of get why. But why Leo Foster? Perhaps he is rehashing his MLB debut from a couple years earlier. It was no fun at all.

According to a Mets site, Leo Foster was a high school star in Kentucky in the  big three sports as well as track and that certainly seemed to be seconded by the Braves, who made Leo a second-round pick in the ’69 draft. That summer he hit .229 in A ball before having a bang-up fall in the Instructional League, hitting .321 with a .397 OBA and ten stolen bases. He would then begin his military service, missing some time each of the next few years. When he showed up to training camp in West Palm in ’70, he and Dusty Baker were kicked out of a pool hall because of their color. Nice start and Leo would get a few of those. But he hit .263 with 16 stolen bases that year in Double A and the next year upped his average at that level to .296 before a July call-up to Atlanta where regular shortstop Sonny Jackson had to play the outfield due to Rico Carty’s injury. Leo’s debut was memorable, but not in a good way. On his first play at short he made an error on a Dave Cash hit, and Cash would later score. He then flew out his first at bat, hit into a double play his second, and a triple play his third for the wrong kind of cycle. He went hitless in his ten at bats and then returned to the minors, hitting .180 the rest of the way in Triple A. In ’72 he hit .233 at that level and in ’73 .210 before another few MLB at bats late in the season. In ’74 he spent the full year on the Atlanta roster, backing up Craig Robinson at short while hitting .196. After that season he was traded to the Mets for catcher Joe Nolan and for NY he would hit substantially better at the Triple A level while also branching out to play second and third. In ’75 he hit .247 with a .354 OBA, his best by far since his first year. In ’76 he hit .287 with 39 RBI’s in a bit under half a season and in ’77 .274 in his couple months at that level. He also did better up top, in ’76 hitting .203 with 15 RBI’s in just 59 at bats deep on the depth chart and in ’77 hitting .227 while again playing behind Bud Harrelson and Mike Phillips. That was his final MLB time and Leo finished at that level with a .198 average. After the ’77 season he was traded to Boston for pitcher Jim Burton. After hitting .239 for the Sox Triple A club in a reserve role he finished things up the following year in the short-lived Inter-American League, leaving behind a .248 average for his minor league time. What Leo has done since is a big mystery.

When Tom Heintzelman was born his dad had just returned stateside from his WW II duty to return to his pre-war profession as an MLB pitcher. Ken Heintzelman won 77 games, mostly as a reliever for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia from the late Thirties to the early Fifties. Tom was born in Missouri where he played third base and pitched a bit in high school before moving on to Parsons College in Iowa where he continued to play both roles. Parsons was sort of a high-profile school back then, not all for good reasons, and it would shut down in ’73. When Tom finished his four years there he was drafted by the Cards in ’68 and was then able to get a year in of Rookie and A ball, during which he hit .270, before he was drafted again, this time into the military. Unfortunately for Tom he went high and was unable to do reserve duty even though he was married with a daughter, so he did two full years of stateside service, missing all of the ’69 and ’70 seasons. When he returned in ’71 to Double A ball he had an understandably off year, hitting .219 while playing mostly second. In ’72 he improved to hit .263 with 13 stolen bases at that level and then in ’73 in Triple A he hit .284 before debuting in St. Louis in August, hitting .310 the rest of the way and helping fix the middle infield morass that was plagued by a couple burnouts by the shortstops. Tom then got some spring and summer work in St. Louis the following year backing up Ted Sizemore but only got 74 at bats in which he hit .230. Around that time he hit .258 back in Triple A before being traded to San Francisco after the season for pitcher Jim Willoughby. That first year he split time between second and third in Triple A while hitting .245. The next season he became a power guy, hitting .277 with 15 homers and 103 RBI’s and 92 runs. He maintained that pace the next year with a .266/8/85/80 season before he was moved up to San Francisco where he rarely played. He then began the ’78 season with the Giants but with Bill Madlock ahead of him at both his spots he barely played, hitting .229 in a few at bats. He spent most of the rest of that season in Triple A and all of the next, his final year as a player. Overall Tom hit .243 in his 140 MLB at bats and .259 with 57 homers and 67 stolen bases in the minors. He’d ended up putting in most of his time at Phoenix while with the Giants and it appears that is where he remained on a full-time basis after playing, with Mesa listed as his home when his dad passed away in 2000, but I have no idea what he did after playing.

Dave Rosello got signed by the Cubs after playing summer ball in his native Puerto Rico late in ’68. He didn’t hit too well his first summer in the States, hitting .189 in A ball in ’69, but he was never supposed to have a great stick. He did better in ’70 with a .243 split between A and Double A but then sank to .228 at the higher level in ’71. But then came a long residency at Triple A Wichita during which he found some offensive magic. In ’72 he hit .271 while making his league’s all-star team which he would also do two of his next three seasons. He hit .250 during his short look in Chicago during which he played shortstop, his regular position to date. In ’73 it was back to Triple A where he hit .313 with 51 RBI’s in his 367 at bats, by far his best run production. When Dave was up for his late summer time that year he played second, mostly because Glenn Beckert was declining faster than expected. Then in ’74 Dave stayed there after new guy Vic Harris sort of exploded in a not good way where the two split starting time with three other guys. By late summer it was clear that Dave wasn’t much of an improvement over Harris and while Billy Grabarkewitz was getting the most starts there Dave got back to Wichita where the last two months he hit .389. He remained there for pretty much all of ’75 where he also got back to short and put up a .259 average with 29 doubles in his busiest year. The next two years were all Chicago as he hit .242 backing up Mick Kelleher at short in ’76 and .220 while doing the same – but on a much less regular basis – for fellow ’74 rookie Steve Ontiversos at third. That December Dave went to Cleveland for a couple minor leaguers and in ’78 he had one of his best years in Triple A with a .282/9/71 season while putting in most of his time at third. The next three years were spent in Cleveland where Dave did back-up work at second, averaging .244 in just over 300 at bats. In ’82 it was back to third base and to Triple A in his final season as a player. Dave finished with a .236 MLB average and hit .258 in the minors. From what I can tell he returned to PR after he played.

Like Dave Rosello, Frank Taveras was signed as a free agent from his island home in ’68, except that Frank was Dominican, was signed by Pittsburgh, and was signed early enough to get in some games that summer. He had a bipolar first year, hitting .340 in Rookie ball, but only about .200 in A ball. In ’69 he hit .222 in A ball and then in ’70 got up to .260 with 35 stolen bases, his first season in which he concentrated on shortstop after playing mostly second until then. He split '71 between Double A and Triple A, hitting .226 with 30 steals and then spent nearly all the next two years at the higher level, averaging .244 with 29 stolen bases a season. After some short MLB looks those years he got pulled up in ’74 after Gene Alley was officially done and he and fellow rookie Mario Mendoza took over shortstop. For the next two seasons Frank got the most work of the two. His offense was a bit light but the Pirates had plenty of that and he hit better than Mendoza. In ’76 he won the position outright and both his average and his stolen base totals moved up significantly: in ’76 he hit .258 with 58 steals; in ’77 .252 with 70; and in ’78 .278 with 46. He led the NL that middle year. In ’79 he would prove that timing is everything – in a bad way for him – when early in the season he was traded to the Mets for Tim Foli. Foli went on to win a Series ring and poor Frank got to hang out with one of the NL’s sorriest teams. He hit .263 and .279 for NY the next two years as its regular shortstop and then fell to .230 in ’81 as he split time with Bob Bailor. After that year he went to Montreal where he occupied a reserve role in his final season, finishing with a .255 average and 300 stolen bases for his career. In the post-season he hit .111 in five games. Like the rest of these guys he pretty much disappeared profile-wise after he played.

Outside of Tom Heintzelman, these guys were all pretty small, no surprise given their positions. They totaled 17 MLB seasons with a stolen base title.

Some NY guys help getting from the last card:

1. Otto Velez and Mickey Rivers ’76 Yankees;
2. Rivers and Bud Harrelson ’80 Rangers;
3. Harrelson and Leo Foster ’76 to ’77 Mets.

More of the same for around the card:

1. Leo Foster and Joe Torre ’76 to ’77 Mets;
2. Torre and Ken Heintzelman ’73 to ’74 Cardinals;
3. Heintzelman and Reggie Smith ’74 Cardinals;
4. Smith and Rick Monday ’77 to ’81 Dodgers;
5. Monday and Dave Rosello ’72 to ’76 Cubs;
6. Rosello and Bill Madlock ’74 to ’76 Cubs;
7. Madlock and Willie Stargell ’79 to ’82 Pirates;
8. Stargell and Frank Taveras ’74 to ’79 Pirates.

Madlock had the good timing for that ’79 Pirates team; Taveras didn’t.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

#606 - '74 Rookie Outfielders

The next rookie card gives us four young AL outfielders, though by the time this card came out one would be over in the NL. Two of these guys appear to be at Yankee Stadium and one at Comiskey. God knows where Jim Fuller is but he sure does look tall, which is fitting because he was/is. And those mutton chops are something else.

Jim Fuller could hit the crap out of the ball. Unfortunately he could also miss the crap out of the ball and his senior year of high school in ’68 in San Diego he hit .260, not exactly a number that points to pro ball. After graduation he attended San Diego City College from where he was drafted the following year by the Dodgers but passed. He’d hit .360 that year, in part because he started taking lots of protein supplements his mom used to sell. After another good year of fall ball he was drafted in January ’70 by the Orioles in the second round and this time signed. That summer he played first base in A ball and began his hitting assault with a .247/9/64 season in 373 at bats. He also had 83 strikeouts and his big issue was that his K’s could outnumber his hits on a regular basis. In ’71 the O’s realized his arm was too good to keep at first and he was moved to the outfield where he would regularly be among league leaders in assists. In A ball that year he put up a .326/33/110 stat line with 105 runs and 129 strikeouts. He then split ’72 between Double A and Triple A, going a combined .255/34/107 with 165 K’s. He would settle into a fairly long run at the higher level beginning in ’73 when his stat line was .247/39/108/197. In his few appearances for Baltimore that year he hit .115 with 17 K’s in his 26 at bats. But he then spent most of ’74 with the O’s where he hit .222 with seven homers and 28 RBI’s in 189 at bats but also struck out 68 times. He spent most of the summer back in Triple A where he hit .278 in a slow power year. The next couple years were spent exclusively at that level where his power fell off but his strikeouts didn’t: in ’75 his line was .213/17/50/133 in 362 at bats and in ’76 .227/19/55/92 in 269 at bats. That winter he signed with Houston as a free agent and in ’77 he would see his final MLB action in a couple stints, hitting .160 with 45 K’s in his 100 at bats. His career line at that level was .194/11/41 with 130 K’s. In Triple A that year he hit .233 with eleven homers and 31 RBI’s, most of the season as a loaner to the ChiSox. He then split ’78 between the KC and Pittsburgh organizations at the same level with not too many at bats. It was his last year as a player and his final numbers in the minors were a .254 average with 170 homers, 554 RBI’s, and 919 K’s in his 2,811 at bats. Tracking Jim down since then has been tough – he has a pretty common name and is not related to the pitcher from a generation later – but he appears to now reside in Apple Valley, California. If that is the correct Jim he sadly just lost a son who was a director for “Glee”, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, and other shows.

Wilbur Howard was drafted as a pitcher by the Seattle Pilots out of his Lowell, North Carolina high school, just after leading his team to a state title in ’68. The Pilots fielded an A team that year before their MLB franchise played and Wilbur led the team in victories, going 8-5 with a 3.87 ERA. But he was a fast guy and the Pilots moved him to the outfield the following year where he hit .287 at that level with 20 stolen bases and then upped his numbers to .321 with 15 steals – on less at bats – in the fall Instructional League. In ’70 he hit .304 with 41 stolen bases and 73 runs scored in a season spent in A ball with a few late games in Triple A. Willie could obviously hit and run but he didn’t walk much and he put up a lot of K’s for a contact guy. He would then spend nearly all his time the next three years in Triple A where he averaged 72 runs, 28 stolen bases, and 111 K’s per season while hitting .240, .286, and .270. In September of ’73 he made his debut, hitting .205 in 16 games. After the season he was traded to Houston for a package that included Larry Yount, Robin’s older brother. He returned to Triple A to start off the ’74 season and after hitting .296 with 13 stolen bases at that level, came up to the Astros in June to hit .216 the rest of the way as a back-up outfielder. In ’75 the Astros went with four regular outfielders and Wilbur had his biggest season, hitting .283 in 392 at bats with 62 runs scored and 32 stolen bases. But in ’76 an early slump had him back in a back-up role which lasted the next three seasons, his best year being ’77 when he hit .257 in 187 at bats and stole eleven bases in twelve attempts. During that time he also played a little second base and even a few games at catcher. He also spent a bit of ’77 in the minors and in ’79 he spent the whole season in Triple A, hitting .241 his final season stateside. He then spent the next four years playing for Yucatan in the Mexican League, with ’83 being his final year of pro ball. Wilbur finished with a .250 average with 60 stolen bases in a bit more than 1,000 MLB at bats and a .275 average with 174 stolen bases in the minors. And then he disappears media-wise although he may be still residing in the Houston area (I guess that Astro blood runs deep).

Tommy Smith graduated from high school in ’66, having played the big three sports, and then went to NC State on a hoops and baseball scholarship. He played both sports his first two years and then concentrated on baseball when he stopped growing his junior year. Initially a pitcher in college he threw the team’s final game in its first CWS appearance in ’68, a 2-0 loss to USC. He hadn’t been used terribly much as a pitcher – the staff ace was Mike Caldwell – and his senior year of ’70 he was converted to an outfielder and responded with a .379, five home run, 33 RBI season that got him named all-ACC. It also helped get him selected by the Indians in that year’s draft. Tommy was a huge guy – check him out in the Cleveland team photo – but wasn’t particularly a big power hitter. But he could hit for average and his first year put up one of .360 with 48 RBI’s in only 200 at bats between A and Double A. He then had a couple relatively low average seasons the next two years in Double A, with a .263 average in ’71 and .277 in ’72. But in ’73 he moved up to Triple A where he rallied with a .342 with 82 runs scored before making his September debut in Cleveland and hitting .244 the rest of the way. That off-season he broke both bones in his left forearm playing a pick-up hoops game and had to have metal rods inserted to help repair them. And though he hit horribly in his short time up in ’74 with an average below .100, he did pretty well back in Triple A, putting up a .312/10/67 season in 381 at bats, the only year he’d reach double figures in homers. ’75 was nearly all the lower level, with a .302/4/63 stat line with a personal best 25 stolen bases. Then in ’76 he upped his numbers to a .335/9/54 first half before getting recalled to Cleveland. That summer would produce his biggest year up top as he hit .256 with two homers and twelve RBI’s as the team’s fouirth outfielder down the stretch. After the season he was selected by the Mariners in the expansion draft where he hit well enough in a pinch and reserve role - .259 in 27 at bats – before being sent down to Triple A, where he hit .284 the rest of the way.  Outside of a brief comeback try in the Inter-American League in ’79, Tommy was done. He put up a .232 average in his 271 MLB at bats and hit .312 in the minors. After playing he returned to the Raleigh area of North Carolina where he established his own baseball school, Diamond Stars, which he continues to run.

Otto Velez was a corner infielder when signed by the Yankees as a free agent in ’70. An admittedly horrible fielder he could bash the ball pretty well and that first summer hit .369 with seven homers, 44 RBI’s, and a .472 OBA in rookie ball. Though he didn’t hit too well in his few at bats in A ball, the next year at that level he put up a .310/16/73/.420 stat line. In ’72 he had his best fielding year in Double A but his offensive line fell a bit to .249/13/68/.371. Then in ’73 he got moved to both Triple A and the outfield and Otto responded with a .269/29/98/.450 line with 130 walks and 92 runs scored in just over 400 at bats. He came up to NY in August after the Yankees pared away the Alou brothers and hit .195 the rest of the way while playing right field. He returned to Triple A the first half of ’74 where he was moved to first base and in under half a season had a line of .310/13/35/.483 now from the top of the order, where he scored 44 runs in just 200 at bats. When new Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss went on a cold snap in mid-June, Otto was recalled, had a hot start while getting some starts that month, and then settled to .209 in a back-up role the rest of the way. In ’75 he played both corners in Triple A where his offense came in a bunch after he missed time with a broken wrist, though his OBA remained super strong at .445 while when up in NY he barely played as those two positions were handled by guys who never sat. In ’76 he had a pretty good spring, made the cut as the Yankees cleared house in the outfield, and hit .266 with a .410 OBA as the team’s fifth outfielder before seeing some post-season action. After that season he was taken by Toronto in the expansion draft and Otto began his Blue Jays career in a monster fashion, winning the April ’77 AL Player of the Month by hitting .452 with five homers and 18 RBI’s in his first 17 games. He would then miss a few weeks later in the summer and would finish his first year as a regular with a .256/16/62/.366 line and earn the nickname “Otto Swatto” in Canada. That year he had DH’d a bunch but in ’78 the Jays acquired Rico Carty to handle that spot full-time and though Otto had one of the best bats on the team, his defensive inabilities caused his playing time to come in as his line came to .266/9/38/.380 on a third less at bats. Same deal in a ’79 that produced a .288/15/48/.396 line with 21 doubles in just 274 at bats and a request to be traded. But in ’80 Otto got the DH spot outright and got off to a huge start, hitting .362 with nine homers and 29 RBI’s in his first 27 games. Then his shoulder got dinged in a near-brawl against Oakland and while he didn’t miss too much time, his offensive production came in pretty big the rest of the way as he did miss a couple weeks due to an auto accident. Still, he put up one of his best lines in his busiest season with a .269/20/62/.365 year. But in ’81 more shoulder pain helped induce a much lower average and he split ’82 between Toronto and Triple A, not getting too much plate time at either level. Following the season he went to Cleveland as a free agent and in ’83 only got into a few games for the Tribe, though in Triple A he hit .310/9/42/.435 in just 142 at bats. It was his final season in the continental US as he spent ’84 in Mexico and that year also wrapped up his winter time playing in PR. Otto finished with a .251 average, 78 homers, 272 RBI’s, and a .369 OBA for his MLB line and hit .282 with 97 homers and a .428 OBA in the minors. He went hitless in his four post-season at bats.He would return to PR to coach, his most high-profile stints being in ’92 for the Olympic team, ’94 for the Baseball World Cup team, and ’95 for the Intercontinental Cup team. He then coached a bunch at the island’s Roberto Clemente Sports Complex, which he may or may not still be doing.

These guys give us a combined 16 MLB seasons and no awards. They are another pretty big bunch, particularly Fuller, and Smith. Maybe there was something in the water in ACC territory.

The inter-card hook-up takes us through Boston:

1. Frank Tanana and Jerry Remy ’75 to ’77 Angels and ’81 Red Sox;
2. Remy and Bob Watson ’79 Red Sox;
3. Watson and Jim Fuller ’77 Astros;

This one will involve another one of those splits where one guy is used as an independent link to two other ones:

1. Jim Fuller and Wilbur Howard ’77 Astros;
2. Howard and Cesar Cedeno ’74 to ’78 Astros;
3. Cedeno and Alan Ashby ’79 to ’81 Astros;
4. Ashby and Tommy Smith ’75 to ’76 Indians; Ashby and Otto Velez ’77 to ’78 Blue Jays.

And there’s our record.