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.


  1. The error version of this card has "Apodaco" on the front.

  2. You've gotta be glad to be finished with the 4-player rookie cards