Thursday, December 26, 2013

#626 - Pittsburgh Pirates/Pirates Team Records

Here we get a team card that is pretty clear, the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three River Stadium. Just about everyone in this photo is recognizable though I admit I’m mystified as to the identity of that tall guy in the middle of the back row. Some notable faces are missing, particularly Richie Hebner and Dave Cash. Dave Parker is not here as well, which indicates to me this is an early-season photo. ’73 was a tough year emotionally for these guys. Roberto Clemente had been killed over the winter break and lots of spring training was spent determining who would take his spot. Initially it was his best friend on the team, catcher Manny Sanguillen, and while the team came out strong at 7-1, it wasn’t because of Manny’s defense. Next up was Gene Clines, who’d been an excellent hitter, but whose numbers went quickly south after an injury. Then came the kids, Zisk and Parker, and these two would step pretty seamlessly into the everyday roster. So the outfield turned out OK. But shortstop was pretty messy, the team had one too many second basemen, and the pitching was tough, especially the implosion of Steve Blass. Pittsburgh had a pretty good pen and some decent front line guys but none could replace Blass’s 19 wins from the prior season, and for most of the year the Pirates were up or down a couple games from .500. But so was just about every other team in the division and the team went on a nice run in mid-September to take over first place for just over a week. Then they lost that damn “ball off the wall” game to the Mets and NY ended up with the division title, as the Pirates slid to third, just two-and-a-half games back.

This will be a two-part post because there are lots of guys requiring bios. So let’s get started:

Kiki Cuyler was really named Hazen, a pretty cool given name in its own right. Kiki rhymed with eye-eye and was given Hazen because he frequently stuttered when pronouncing his last name. There was a bit less sensitivity back then. He was born in 1898 in Michigan where he was a multi-sport star in school and then played football at the US Military Academy, where he was enrolled a couple years. Near the end of WW I he got factory work in Flint but saw his hours tumble in the post-war recession and decided to give baseball a shot. He hooked up with a local team in Bay City and hit .258 in 1920. After hitting .317 with 16 triples – Kiki was fast - for the B level team the next year he was sold to the Pirates and made his debut in a couple games late that season. He would get short looks each of the next two years as well while spending most of his time in the minors. In ’22 he hit .309 with 15 triples in B ball and in ’23 he ratcheted it up to .340 with 39 doubles and 17 triples in A ball. Up for good the end of that season he had a big rookie year in ’24 with a .354/9/85 line with 16 triples, 32 stolen bases, and a .409 OBA. He then had a huge ’25, leading the NL in runs and triples while posting a line of .357/18/102/26/41/.423. It was that year he had all those total bases, not ’29. Those numbers got him second place in NL MVP voting and in ’26 he again led the NL in runs – with 113 – and steals and put up a line of .321/8/92/15/35/.380. His power submerged a bit in ’27 but his other numbers were still good in a year in which he did not get along with manager Donnie Bush, so his playing time came in big and he missed the Series, which seems pretty stupid. Lloyd Waner would take over his spot in center field. Kiki was then sent to the Cubs for Sparky Adams and Pete Scott and once again became an everyday player, except in ’33 when he was injured. For his full seasons Kiki averaged a line of .325/11/92/10/26/.391 and had some big individual years, breaking out big in the power department in ’30 when his line of .355/13/134/17/37/.428 was joined by 50 doubles and 155 runs. He led the NL once in doubles and three times in stolen base while with the Cubbies and went to the Series twice with the team. He played with them through the middle of ’35 when he was released and signed with Cincinnati. For the Reds he had a last big year with a .326/7/74/11/16/.380 line in ’36 when he was 37. He put in another season in Cincy and a year with Brooklyn and finished his MLB time with a .321/128/1,065/157/328/.386 line and hit .281 with five doubles and 12 RBI’s in his 16 Series games. In ’39 he returned to the minors as a player/manager with Chattanooga of the Washington system and continued managing there the next two years. He then came up to coach for the Cubs from ’41 to ’43 before returning to manage at Atlanta in the Southern Association from ’44 to ’48. Back up top with the Red Sox as a coach in ’49 he was still with the team in ’50 when he passed away from a heart attack. He was only 51. He was elected to the Hall in ’68.

 Paul “Big Poison” Waner grew up in Oklahoma where he was a pitcher/outfielder. After graduating high school he enrolled at East Central State Teachers College in nearby Ada where his second year he went 23-4 with a 1.70 ERA and that summer of ’22 signed a contract to play for an A team in Missouri. But he opted to finish school instead and by ’23 had been sold to the PCL’s San Francisco Seals. There he hurt his arm right away and was moved to the outfield full-time. Over the next three years in that league’s long seasons he hit the crap out of the ball – a .380 average – and piled on the assists. In ’25 he hit .401 with 280 hits. Following that season he was sold to Pittsburgh and with the Pirates Paul stepped right into the starting right field spot and never stopped hitting, at least not for the next twelve seasons. His rookie year he led the NL with 22 triples and hit .336. In ’27 he led Pittsburgh to the pennant with his MVP stat line of .380/9/131, leading the NL in hits, triples (18), total bases (342), average, and RBI’s. In ’28 he led the NL with 142 runs and 50 doubles while hitting .370. In ’32 he hit 62 doubles. In ’34 he led the league with 122 runs, 217 hits, and a .362 average and in ’36 he led in that last stat with a .373. From ’26 to ’37 he averaged a line of .348/8/86 with 40 doubles, 15 triples, 101 runs, and a .417 OBA. In ’38 his average slipped to .280 and then in ’39 bounced to .328. In ’40 he missed half the season with an ankle injury as his average slipped to .290. In ’41 he was sent to Brooklyn and then the Boston Braves, where he remained through ’42. He returned to Brooklyn in ’43 where he hit .311 and then played out his career the next couple seasons with Brooklyn and the Yankees. He finished with a .333 average on 3,152 hits with 605 doubles, 191 triples, and a .404 OBA. He made four All-Star teams and hit .333 with three RBI’s in his four ’27 post-season games. While playing he was both a big drinker and very near-sighted but attempts to fix both of those resulted in worse play on the field so Paul was left alone. In ’45 he joined a goodwill tour to India during the tail end of WW II and in ’46 managed a C level team in Miami for which he also played a bit, hitting .325 at age 43. He opened a batting cage business outside Pittsburgh, coached a bit for the Phillies, Cardinals, and Braves, and retired to Florida in the late Fifties. In ’52 he was inducted into the Hall. There he passed away in ’65 from complications from emphysema. He was 62. He has a lengthy SABR bio.

Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner was born three years after his brother and was actually bigger – Lloyd was 5’9” and Paul was 5’8”. Lloyd pretty much followed in Paul’s footsteps, attending East Central State as well, though he didn’t pitch there. He came out of the school in ’25, joined his brother’s PCL team, but only hit .250 in his few games. Paul convinced the Pirates to purchase him anyway and in ’26 Lloyd hit .345 for the team’s B level franchise. In ’27 he came up to Pittsburgh, displaced Kiki Cuyler in center, and hit .355 while leading the NL with 133 runs. During his first twelve seasons he put up numbers that were a slight discount to Paul’s, with an average line of .323/2/46 with 89 runs scored and a .360 OBA. He didn’t walk terribly much but he didn’t strike out either and he averaged only 12 K’s per season on an average of 556 at bats. He was hurt twice during that run, in ’30 missing over half the season due to appendicitis and in ’36 he missed time to pneumonia. Still those two seasons he hit .360 and .321 respectively. During that time he also led the NL in hits and triples once each. He also was quite fast and he was regularly a league leader in putouts, assists, and double plays from center. After his only All-Star season in ’38 his average dipped to .285 in ’39 and he lost the starting gig in ’40 and the next two seasons did reserve work for the Braves, the Reds, and the Phillies. He was traded to the Dodgers prior to the ’43 season but missed all of it due to stateside wartime work and then finished his career the next couple years in Brooklyn and back in Pittsburgh. Lloyd hit .316 with 2,459 hits – he and Paul hold the record for brothers – 118 triples, and only 173 strikeouts in over 8,000 plate appearances. He hit .400 in his only Series in ’27. After playing he scouted - and managed in the minors for half a season - for the Pirates from ’46 to ’49. He then did municipal work in Oklahoma City from ’50 until he retired in ’67, the same year he got into the Hall. Like Paul, Lloyd was a big drinker and his health after playing wasn’t too hot. But he hung out a bit longer, passing away in his home state in ’82 at age 76.

Owen “Chief” Wilson was born and raised on a ranch in Texas and was a pitcher through school and into his first few seasons of semi-pro ball. After hurting his shoulder he hooked up with a couple teams in the C-level Texas League in ’05 as an outfielder, hit roughly .250 at age 21, and impressed everyone with his arm. In ’06 he upped his average to .265 at that level and in ’07 to .286 in C ball and then .323 in about a third of a season in A ball before being sold to Pittsburgh on the recommendation of pitcher Babe Adams. In ’08 he became a starter in the outfield but hit only .227 with zero power. But his fielding was good enough to keep him in the line-up and in ’09 he upped his average to .272 with twelve triples. After a similar ’10 season he had a breakout ’11 year with twelve triples again and a .300/12/107 stat line while leading the NL in RBI’s. In ’12 he set a triples record, hit .300 again, and drove in 95 runs. He tapered off to 14 triples and a .266/10/73 line in ’13 before being traded to the Cards in a big deal that included six other guys. For St. Louis he put up a ’14 season nearly identical to the prior year and then spent the next two years sharing all three outfield spots in his last two seasons. He finished his MLB career with a .269 average and 114 triples in nine seasons and hit .154 in his only post-season. He put in a season in B ball back home in ’17 and then retired as a player to resume ranching full-time in his Texas hometown. He passed away in ’54 there at age 70.

Ralph Kiner was born in New Mexico and relocated to California as a kid after his dad passed away. He embraced baseball at a young age and was signed out of high school by the Pirates in ’41. He hit .279 with eleven homers that year in A ball and .257 with 14 homers at the same level the next. After a slow start in Double A in ’43 he was inducted into the Navy for WW II duty and didn’t return until ’46 when he went straight to Pittsburgh and left field. His rookie year he led the NL with 23 homers and he would continue to lead the league in that category the next six consecutive seasons. In ’47 he put up a .313/51/127 line with a .417 OBA. In ’49 he had his biggest year with a line of .310/54/127 with a .432 OBA. In ’51 it was .309/42/109 with a .452 OBA with 124 runs scored and 137 walks. By then his relationship with Pittsburgh GM Branch Rickey was pretty brittle and early in the ’53 season he was sent to the Cubs in a big trade and he finished with 35 homers. By then, too, his lower back was problematic and after another season in Chicago he was traded to Cleveland for pitcher Sam Jones. After a discounted season with The Tribe Ralph was done as a player at age 32, finishing with a .279 average with 369 homers, 1,015 RBI’s, and a .398 OBA in his ten seasons, and made six consecutive All-Star teams. He then became the GM of the PCL San Diego franchise and did some occasional announcing for the team as well. In ’61 he was hired by his old friend Hank Greenberg to announce for the White Sox. In ’62 he became one of the new Mets initial announcers with Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy, a trio that remained intact through ’79. While Ralph hasn’t had a regular gig for a couple seasons he still broadcasts on occasion for the Mets at age 91. He was admitted to the Hall in ’75 and also has a SABR page.

Arky Vaughan was born in Arkansas – hence that first name – and also relocated to California as a kid, Arky up by the San Francisco area. He then moved to Fullerton where he was a multi-sport star in high school and then played semi-pro winter ball after he graduated in ’30. Spotted by the Pirates he was signed and in ’31 sent to A ball where he put up a .338/21/81 line with 43 stolen bases as a shortstop. He came up to Pittsburgh the next season and settled into that spot as well, hitting .318 as a 20-year old rookie. Initially he’d be a bit challenged in the fielding department and would lead the NL in errors but he got those under control after the team brought in Honus Wagner as a coach and would eventually lead the league in fielding at his position. Meanwhile he continued to hit like Honus. In ’33 he led the NL with 19 triples and had a .314/9/97 line. In ’34 his line was .333/12/94 with 115 runs, 41 doubles, and a .431 OBA as he led the NL in that stat and walks. In ’35 he had his monster year with a .385/19/99 line with an insane .491 OBA. In ’36 he  led the NL with 122 runs, 118 walks – third year in a row – and a .453 OBA while hitting .335. In ’37 he missed over a month due to an injury but still hit .322 and led the NL with 17 triples. He remained at or above .300 each of the next four seasons, including ’40 when he led the league in runs and triples, and ’41 when he missed a bunch of time due to a spike wound and a concussion. It was his last season in Pittsburgh as he was traded to Brooklyn for a bunch of guys. With the Dodgers his first season he fell to .277 but he bounced the next year to lead the NL with 112 runs and 20 stolen bases and hit .305. He was not a fan of manager Leo Durocher and when Leo publicly called out pitcher Bobo Newsom, Arky led a mid-season protest in which he had the whole team sit out a game. He returned to the field but at the end of the season retired at age 31 because he didn’t want to play for Durocher any more. He was a very principled guy and went back to California to work his cattle ranch the next three years. In ’47 Branch Rickey coaxed him out of retirement to help new kid Jackie Robinson and Arky did that while hitting .325 in a reserve role and getting his first Series action. He stuck around for another year before leaving to play closer to home in ’49 and hit .288 that year with the PCL San Francisco team. That was his final season as a player and Arky finished with a .318 average with 128 triples, 96 homers, 926 RBI’s, and a .406 OBA. He went one for two with a double and a walk in his three Series plate appearances and made nine consecutive All-Star teams. In ’50 he returned to his ranch which he worked and was a devoted fisherman. But his life after baseball was short: in ’52 he was fishing in a volcanic lake in California when his boat capsized and he drowned trying to save his buddy who couldn’t swim. Arky was only 40. He was admitted into the Hall in ’85 and he, too, has a SABR bio.

That’s a lot of baseball. In Watergate news most of the focus was on testimonies in front of the Senate Committee:

6/10/73 – Bernard Barker testifies. One of the five burglars caught a year earlier breaking into the Watergate complex, he essentially confirmed already-known details of the break-in already laid out by James McCord. He also uttered his famous “I wasn’t there to think” line, which really didn’t help his case too much.

6/25-6/29/73 – John Dean testifies before the Committee. He begins with a seven hour (!!) opening statement in which he lays out his role in the whole campaign as well as the roles of several other individuals, including the President. In that statement he is pretty much on the money with what the Washington Post said he would testify earlier in the month. The hearings had been put on hold about a week while Nixon met with USSR Premier Leonid Brezhnev in DC. As indicated in the Post article Dean’s only evidence was his recollection of conversations and other events and he presented no written documentation. His testimony centered on conversations regarding national security and tactics to enforce it prior to the break-in with senior White House staff members; and conversations regarding covering up White House involvement with the break-in and other events that included those staff members as well as the President after the break-in. Dean was grilled pretty extensively and outside of Jeb Stuart Magruder no testimony offered by any witness before the Committee corroborated Dean’s. During his opening statement his famous advice to Nixon of “a cancer on the Presidency” was heard and in later testimony he indicated the possibility of a White House taping system. Later review of those tapes would verify Dean’s recollections almost to the letter.

The rest of the bios and the hook-up will be on the next post.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#625 - Ollie Brown

We get away from the final cards with this post but not the air-brush ones as Ollie Brown shows us what may be a smile at what may be Shea Stadium. Ollie’s new uniform, courtesy of the Topps artists, is one in which he never played as he had been sold to Houston before ’74 spring training ended. And if I am correct about the stadium designation then this is another photo at least two years old. Regardless, though Ollie looks reasonably happy, ’73 was a mixed year for him. In his second season with Milwaukee he was named the Opening Day DH and so was one of the first guys to ply that trade. He had a couple of good early games but by mid-May his average had tailed off to Mendoza levels. Then, though his average began to bounce, he was platooned the rest of the way with Joe Lahoud and Darrell Porter. From early June to season’s end he hit well over .300 but continued to be used in only about half the games. After the season he joined Lahoud, Skip Lockwood, and Ellie Rodriguez in a trade to the Angels for Steve Barber, Ken Berry, Art Kusnyer, and Clyde Wright. Ollie joins just about all those guys in being air-brushed into a non-Traded traded card for his new team.

Ollie Brown was born in Alabama but grew up in Long Beach, California, where he was the middle child of three who had professional careers: Willie, after playing at USC, was a running back and returns specialist in the NFL; and Oscar was an outfielder for the Braves. Ollie was a guard/forward in hoops in high school and in ’60 led his school to the California state championship in that sport. In baseball he was a pitcher and an outfielder and the summer after he graduated he was signed by San Francisco and assigned to a D team in Salem, Virginia. But Ollie wasn’t too happy that on that team’s first road trip he and his black teammates couldn’t stay in the same hotel as the white guys so he asked the team to move him. Pretty gutsy move for a kid not hitting terribly well, but the Giants complied and moved him to Decatur, another D team in the Midwest League. There Ollie hit better, raising his average to .230 from .167, and banged out ten homers in 235 at bats from the leadoff spot. In ’63 Decatur became an A-level team and there Ollie moved to the mound, going 9-8 in the rotation, but with high walk totals – over a BB an inning – and a high ERA. He hit better though too, posting a .304 average, and in ’64 he moved out to Fresno, the club’s California League A team, and back to the outfield. Good move by the Giants as Ollie put up a line of .329/40/133 and led his league in just about every offensive category. That was the year he earned the nickname “Downtown” since that’s where a lot of the balls he hit seemed to want to go. In ’65 he moved up to Triple A where he put up a line of .293/27/81 with 15 stolen bases. He led his league in outfield assists as well and then made his MLB debut. In ’66 the trade of Matty Alou helped Ollie stay in San Francisco and he got a bunch of starts in right but when his offense got a bit thin he returned to Triple A for about a month in the summer. After a line of .343/9/29 in just 103 at bats he returned to the bay. Ollie had a huge arm and he came in third that year in assists from right field. In ’68 the emergence of young outfielders Bobby Bonds and Dave Marshall helped push Ollie to a reserve role and some time back in Triple A but the run at the lower level was a big discount to his one in ’66. After the season he was the first pick by San Diego in the expansion draft.

Brown immediately stepped into the starting spot in right field for the Padres and was one of the team’s first most consistent hitters. In ’69 he set PR’s in just about every offensive category and in ’70 he topped nearly all of them as he teamed with Clarence Gaston and Nate Colbert to give San Diego a serious offensive trio. In ’71 Gaston crashed and Ollie, who batted ahead of Gaston, put up discounted power numbers, though he topped out in OBA with a .346. Then in ’72 a slow start at the plate contributed to a May trade to Oakland for Curt Blefary and others. With the A’s Ollie initially got some starts in center and then moved to right as his power depletion continued. In June he was sort of traded to Milwaukee for Billy Conigliaro – check out that card to see that transactional mess – and rediscovered his stroke while platooning in right with Joe Lahoud the rest of the way. The next year he became the first Brewers DH, went to California, and the following spring to Houston. With the Astros Ollie did some reserve work in right while hitting .217 in 23 games. Then he was on the move again, this time to Philadelphia off waivers in late June. With the Phillies Ollie initially got some work in left field, hitting .242 the rest of the way. He then settled in for a three-year run as the team’s fourth or fifth outfielder. In ’75 he had a line of .303/6/26 in 145 at bats and in ’76 .254/5/30 in 205 at bats. His plate time diminished a bunch in ’77, his final season. Ollie finished with a .265 average, 102 homers, and 454 RBI’s and got a walk in his five post-season plate appearances. Defensively he is in the top 100 for assists from right field and twice led his league in double plays from that position.

Brown did some real estate work after he played in southern California. He also formed a marketing company with his wife but was admittedly semi-retired once his playing time was over. He gets some face time in a 2009 interview I managed to find (yes Matt, the Google news feature is pretty much shut down) in which he looks pretty healthy while riding around the Padres field in a convertible with Dave Winfield.

Ollie’s cards’ narratives frequently included mention of his pitching gem and his big ’64 season. He and his brothers attended the same high school later attended by the Gwynns.

Since there are only 35 cards left in the set I think it’s time to pick up the Watergate stuff. By this point in the recap the televised hearings had been going on for a few weeks and much of the testimony was by role players asserting – or not – many allegations made by James McCord earlier in the hearings.

5/22/73 – President Nixon gives a televised statement specifically in regard to Watergate. In it he categorically denies his involvement in any activities related to the break-in and subsequent events related to it. But he then hedges his bets a bit by indicating his involvement in a few activities put in motion to safeguard “national security” including authorizing the group of plumbers established to undertake the suppression of information leaks. He also admitted his involvement in several wire-tapping activities, all of which he declared were legal. He named people involved in plumbers’ activities, none of whom was terribly surprising at this point: Liddy, Hunt, Erlichman, Haldeman, and Dean. He didn’t exactly throw them under the bus – except for Dean – but he didn’t exactly take responsibility for their exploits either. He also initially denied CIA involvement in the whole affair but then rambled on about how one – one meaning he – might have believed the CIA was at the heart of the matter. If the speech was meant to throw off the wolves, it really didn’t do a very good job.

6/3/73 – The Washington Post reports that John Dean was planning on testifying that President Nixon was deeply involved in the cover-up of Watergate and participated in around 35 meetings with Dean and others subsequent to the break-in. Dean did not indicate that Nixon had any knowledge of the break-in prior to the event itself and also indicated all his evidence was authored by himself and was therefore limited to his actual testimony. He also indicated he was never actually asked to run his own investigation of the Watergate affair and that he frequently also met with John Erlichman and H.R. Haldeman with and without the President. The reports came from a few independent sources of Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s and also included Dean’s pronouncement to Nixon in April that to save the presidency, he (Dean), Erlichman, and Haldeman needed to come clean regarding their activities to the various investigative bodies. Initially Dean believed the others agreed with that notion; when Erlichman and Haldeman subsequently shot it down Dean believed he would become the scapegoat for the operation and began plans to work out a deal of immunity in exchange for his testimony. He would appear before the Watergate Committee later in June.

This is an easy hook-up because of all of Miller’s travels:

1. Brown and Bob Miller ’71 Padres.

A team card is next up which means a big delay in posts. Everyone who is celebrating have a great Xmas and a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

#624 - Bob Miller

There is a lot to say about this card. First of all it is the third card in a row that represents the subject's final Topps card as a player. Bob Miller had at this point had a pretty long run that began in the Fifties and, especially recently, had covered a whole bunch of teams. Secondly, this is a damn ugly card, which we have happily been without for a long time. Nothing against Mr. Miller, who in younger years was a good looking guy, but he is all of 33 years old at the oldest (see below) in this photo and he looks 20 years older. Plus this must be about the nastiest air-brush job in the set, with Bob’s Pirates uniform being compromised into a Mets one. The neck line is horrific and the hat looks like a pile of atomic waste. Third, the newest this card is is from ’72 and it may even be much earlier because the background is very Forbes Field-ish and that park closed in ’70. So it’s probably a spring training shot. Lastly, and best-ly (I know that’s not even a hyphenated word but you get the drift) it has Roberto Clemente in the background, which is awfully nice and pulls the card back to respectability. Don Leppert appears to be there also over Bob’s right shoulder, but I’m no good with the rest of those guys. ’73 was an all too-typical year for Bob in the Seventies: lots of traveling conjoined with some pretty good pitching. He actually went through nearly all of spring training with Pittsburgh, only to get released right at the end of it. Immediately picked up by the Padres he got off to a pretty good start in relief until some messy outings in May pushed up his ERA. Unfortunately, too, in not one of the San Diego games in which he pitched did the team record a win. So after 18 games he was placed on waivers from which he was again snatched pretty quickly, this time by Detroit. Bob won two of his first three games with the Tigers, threw generally good ball, and added a save through late September. He was then sold to NY for a very short stretch drive, especially for him since he only threw one inning. So Topps really didn’t get much of an opportunity to not airbrush Bob. But it would be nice if they did a better job.

Bob Miller grew up in St. Louis where at Beaumont High School he went 22-1 during his career and 12-0 as a senior. He also led his team to the American Legion national championship and in ’57 was signed as a bonus baby by St. Louis out of high school. Like most players signed under that umbrella Bob rarely played his first year and after the rule associated with those kinds of signings was changed in ’58 he went to the minors. After beginning the year in Triple A with a bit of a fat ERA he moved to Double A where he went 8-11 with a 3.54 ERA in the rotation. The next year he pretty much matched those numbers in Triple A – 8-12 with a 3.50 ERA – before he returned to St. Louis that August, winning his first game in his first start. He threw well the rest of the way but then had an injury-filled ’60 during which he missed most of the middle part of the season and did some Double A rehab time. In ’61 he moved to a reserve role and saw a spike in his ERA – but everybody did that year – and recorded his first three saves. After that season he was one of the early round picks by the new Mets in the expansion draft.

Miller spent most of the ’62 season in the NY rotation but probably wished he didn’t. He lost his first 12 games and didn’t put up his first win of the season until late September. Mercifully he was traded after the season to LA for Larry Burright and Tim Harkness, two infielders. Bob’s timing was pretty good and his first year he worked as a swing guy for the Series winners, getting a save in his relief work. After being shut out of any post-season work he was pretty much strictly a reliever the next few seasons. In ’64 he led the NL with his 74 appearances and recorded nine saves. He hit that save total again in ’65 and then put up five in ’66. Both those years he threw shutout ball in the Series. In ’67 the Dodgers did a fast fade and Bob went right with them as both his record and his ERA deteriorated and he was shut out in the saves department. In ’68 he went to Minnesota in a big trade with Johnny Roseboro and Ron Perranoski for Mudcat Grant and Zoilo Versalles. With the Twins Bob basically did set-up work for Perranoski and over the next two years garnered five saves for himself. In ’69 he added some spot starts which bumped up his innings and returned to the post-season. Then with the beginning of the Seventies came the real onset of his travels. Three years during that decade he played for three teams, beginning in ’70 when prior to the start of the season he was involved in another big trade, going to Cleveland with Dean Chance, Graig Nettles, and Ted Uhlaender for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams. It wasn’t a great year for Bob: as a swing guy for The Tribe, a starter for the White Sox (he went there in June for Buddy Bradford), and a reliever for the Cubs (a sale in September), his work was below par and his ERA escalated quite a bit. But in ’71 after a lousy start for the Cubbies he went to San Diego after being released in May and did some excellent work in the pen, recording seven saves with his miniscule ERA. He continued that after an August trade to Pittsburgh for Ed Acosta and Johnny Jeter. After posting three saves for the Pirates he again got some post-season work, winning another ring. In ’72 he stayed put for a change, adding another three saves, before he did the three team thing again in ’73. In ’74 he finished his MLB time with pen work for the Mets, going 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA and a couple saves in 58 games. Bob finished with a record of 69-81 with a 3.37 ERA, seven complete games, and 51 saves. In his post-season work he was 0-2 with a 3.07 ERA in nine games.

In ’75 Miller returned to the Padres as a player/coach for the team’s Triple A Hawaii franchise. He went 0-1 with three saves in his 15 games and the following year got a straight-up manager gig, going 81-54 for the team’s Double A franchise. In ’77 he was named pitching coach of the new Toronto Blue Jays – so he got a card that year – and retained that role through the ’79 season. After a year off in ’80 he joined the Giants as a minor league pitching instructor from ’81 to ’84 and then returned to The Show with an ’85 stint in San Francisco. After the whole staff was canned following a disappointing season Bob became a scout for the club. He was still doing that when he was killed in a car accident outside San Diego in August of ’93. He was 54.

Bob has zero room for star bullets, mostly because of his travels in the Seventies. Sixteen different managers, huh? Dare I name them? Why not:

Fred Hutchinson (’57 Cards);                                Don Gutteridge (’70 White Sox);
Solly Hemus (’59 -’61 Cards);                               Leo Durocher (’70 –’71 Cubs);
Johnny Keane (’61 Cards);                                    Preston Gomez (’71 Padres);
Casey Stengel (’62 Mets);                                     Danny Murtaugh (’71 Pirates);
Walt Alston (’63 -’67 Dodgers);                            Bill Virdon (’72 Pirates);
Cal Ermer (’68 Twins);                                          Don Zimmer (’73 Padres);
Billy Martin (’69 Twins and ’73 Tigers);               Joe Schultz (’73 Tigers);
Al Dark (’70 Indians);                                           Yogi Berra (’73 –’74 Mets).

Bob also famously roomed with another Bob Miller on the ’62 Mets which was memorialized by a Topps card.

Bob played with everybody apparently except this guy:

1. Miller and Lindy McDaniel ’57 and ’59 to ’61 Cardinals;
2. McDaniel and Celerino Sanchez ’72 to ’73 Yankees.

Friday, December 13, 2013

#623 - Celerino Sanchez

Back at Yankee Stadium we get a clear shot of the 50th anniversary patch worn by its home team in ’73 on the arm of Celerino Sanchez, back-up third baseman. Ironically the Stadium would be out of operation the next couple seasons while a refurbishing was being undertaken, just as would be Celerino’s MLB career as this card was his final one. That’s too bad because he was a pretty exciting third baseman who was often mentioned in the same breath as his countryman Aurelio Rodriguez. But Celerino’s timing wasn’t too great and his sophomore season with NY happened to be the same one during which an eventual icon in the form of Graig Nettles was beginning his long reign at the hot corner. By the time this card came out Celerino was back in Mexico playing ball and his significant contributions to a late ’72 division run were a distant memory. Nettles was an iron man at third and that coupled with Celerino’s fat DL time in ’73 probably both contributed equally to his departure. But he looks good here, showing his stance while some infield practice takes place behind him.

Celerino Sanchez had played school and semi-pro ball in Veracruz, Mexico, and was 20 when he began his professional career there in ’64. He spent the next three years ripping the cover off the ball in Mexico’s minor leagues – he topped out at .448 in ’66 – and seemed to do the same for the Mexico City Tigers during his short looks but could never crack the line-up. In ’67 after a not great start for the Tigers he came to The States in a sale and spent the summer playing for Asheville, then a Single A franchise for the Astros. He moved over to Greensboro, another Houston A franchise, and seemed to be hitting at a nice clip when he moved back to Mexico City, where his average increased each of the next four years and his power started picking up. It later turned out that the reason he returned to Mexico was that his grandmother had passed away to whom Celerino was very close. When the Houston organization wouldn’t give him any time to return home for the service, he returned on his own, permanently. After the ’71 season Celerino was traded to the Yankees for Ossie Chavarria, a one-time reserve infielder for Kansas City/Oakland in the late Sixties.

For the Yankees Sanchez had a super spring training in ’72 and the plan was to keep him on the Opening Day roster. After Clete Boyer left for Atlanta in ’67 third base in NY was a bit ugly. Bobby Cox – yeah, that Bobby Cox – and Jerry Kenney had about a good season and a half between them and Celerino was looking like a pretty good upgrade. But then NY traded for Bernie Allen and Rich McKinney so Celerino was sent to Triple A where he was putting up some pretty good numbers. But Allen and McKinney were really converted second baseman and neither made a very graceful transition so Celerino came up in June and pretty much took over the position the rest of the way. He made a lot of fans when he won a couple games in August in a series against Detroit that pulled NY into second place and he provided exciting fielding at third while his offense was an uptick to Kenney’s in ’71. But then came the annual robbing of the Cleveland roster before the ’73 season and Celerino was on the bench. Back in Mexico Celerino put in three good seasons, averaging .288 with about a .365 OBA and some decent power.  He hit .273 in ’77 as his walk totals declined, didn’t play in ’78, and finished things off with a .264 in ’79. His MLB stats were the ones on the card back and he hit just over .300 in the Mexican Leagues with a .375 OBA.

Sanchez did some coaching and apparently some scouting back in Mexico after he played. He died in a car crash there in ’92. He was 48.

Celerino’s silver bat was the result of his having the highest average in organized baseball in ’66. He was apparently hitting over .500 in the fourth spot when he was moved to the top spot to get enough at bats to try for his league’s batting title. He was pitched around a ton in that spot and rarely saw any good pitches so chased the bad ones, dropping his average. But he got enough plate appearances to qualify and had a sick OBA, estimated to be nearly .600. Luis Tiant was the best man at Celerino’s wedding. They must have met in winter ball.

This hook-up will really bring up some ghosts:

1. Sanchez and Mel Stottlemyre ‘72 to ’73 Yankees;
2. Stottlemyre and Roger Maris ’64 to ’66 Yankees;
3. Maris and Phil Gagliano ’67 to ’68 Cardinals.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#622 - Phil Gagliano

By this point in his career Phil Gagliano’s position – despite what the card says – was pinch hitter. During the Seventies Phil had made himself a bit of a franchise in that role and in his 41 pinch at bats during the '73 season he hit .300 with six RBI’s and a .480 OBA. But Phil was no liability in the field. In fact he put in time at every infield and outfield position during his career. Phil had come to Cincinnati before the season with outfielder Andy Kosco for pitcher Mel Behney, a one-time big deal draft pick out of Michigan State who never really made it. Both Phil and Andy would serve as excellent role players for the division winners in ’73 in their penultimate seasons. Phil had a fat grin on just about every one of his Topps cards so it’s too bad that this would be his final one.

Phil Gagliano was born and raised in Memphis and at Christian Brothers high school, where he was all-state as a senior in hoops, he was teammates with Tim McCarver. Phil was signed by St. Louis just before his 18th birthday in ’59 and got things rolling the right way the next year with a .290 average in D ball and a .315 in Double A ball during which he was primarily a shortstop. In ’61 he moved up to Triple A and over to second base where for the next three years he averaged a .263/7/43 stat line while regularly finishing among league fielding leaders. After a short debut early in ’63 he returned to St. Louis for the first half of the ’64 season where he backed up Julian Javier at second before moving back to shortstop and hitting .262 in Triple A the rest of the way. In ’65 Phil returned to The Show and demonstrated his versatility while starting a bunch of games at second, third, and right field, and putting up a decent RBI total in the process. He would fill a reserve role in those positions the balance of the Sixties, getting his primary starts at third in ’66 and at second the rest of the way. He won another Series ring in ’67 and returned to the championship in ’68, getting some reserve work in both Series. Early in the ’70 season he was traded to the Cubs for pitcher Ted Abernathy.

With the Cubs Gagliano presaged his pinch hitting ability by lofting a two-RBI double in his first Chicago at bat. He spent the balance of the season doing back-up work at second before a trade to Boston after the year for infielder Carmen Fanzone. With the Sox Phil got some occasional outfield starts but his specialty was his pinch work: in ’71 he put up a .333/0/8 stat line with a .481 OBA in his 22 at bats and in ’72 his line improved to .346/0/10/.438 in his 26 pinch at bats. He then moved to Cincinnati and one last post-season before playing things out in ’74 in more reserve work. Phil finished with a .238/14/159 line for his MLB work and was a career .269 hitter in the minors. He went hitless in his seven post-season at bats.

Gagliano had made St. Louis his permanent home while playing with the Cards and after his playing time was over began his post-baseball life there. For two years he worked as a salesman for Paramount Liquors, a local wholesaler. He then moved to a firm called Durbin Durco, an industrial hardware company, and during a 17-year stay there moved from sales to become its head of operations. He then did other work until he retired in 2002 and relocated to the small town of Hollister, MO. A couple of his grandkids, Kyle and Conner Mach, have done some recent time in the Giants and Yankees systems, respectively.

Topps uses the same theme I have for this blog in the star bullets. That hobby was usually associated with a New York guy but maybe I'm being too provincial. SABR has a bio on Phil but you have to buy a book to read it.

To keep things rolling I am going to forgo the Watergate stuff for a bit. For this hook-up Phil and Bernie just missed each other and had a bunch of teams in common:

1. Gagliano and Bob Gibson ’63 to ’70 Cardinals;
2. Gibson and Bernie Carbo ’72 to ’73 Cardinals.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#621 - Bernie Carbo

I want to start this post with a few words about Baseball-Reference since it has been pivotal in making it difficult for me to post. BR was always a great site and obviously an excellent source of data for lots of people, including me. But I cannot go on that site any more without their damn advertising search engines doing a “Big Brother” on me so it can put up ads on the site as I peruse it that are apparently tailor made for me. If I am on the site I have to shut down my browser after about five minutes because all the searches chew up all my memory and make it nearly impossible to do anything. I don’t know when those guys got so greedy but it really is a pain in the butt and makes me want to go elsewhere to look up stats. If anyone else out there regularly uses the site and has the same issues you have my sympathy. I’d recommend getting AdBlock or a similar program which seems to help a bit. And to anyone just doing random fly byes of it you’ve been warned. Now back to real baseball.

For Round 2 or possible Round 3 of baseball players who look like adult film stars, we have Bernie Carbo and his mustache which I think ranks behind only Dal Maxvill’s combo. Bernie is a lot more serious than Dal was as he gazes skyward at what appears to be San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium. Topps got him in one of those “looking up” poses and we know what that means: yup, Bernie was traded. That’s why he’s on an AL card in an NL stadium. Bernie and pitcher Rick Wise had been sent to Boston from St. Louis for outfielder Reggie Smith and reliever Ken Tatum and all those guys except for Tatum would have air-brushed cards in this set but not Traded ones. Bernie probably had mixed feelings about going to the Sox. A mid-western kid, after a rough start to the ’73 season he was hitting only .180 halfway through the year, he had a nice bounce beginning July 4, going .329 with a .433 OBA the rest of the way. So things were working out pretty well with the Cards as he seemed to recover fully from his nasty sophomore season. But Boston gave up one of its stars – albeit an unhappy one who wanted out – to get Bernie so he probably figured he was in for a bunch of starting time at Fenway. He was right about that and it would also be where he’d have the game of his career.

Bernie Carbo was a big sports star in Livonia, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, while growing up and as a senior in high school hit 13 homers while playing a mean third base. But Bernie had an unhappy home life with a disapproving abusive dad and by the time he was 16 was already an alcoholic. Still, the Reds made him a first rounder in the first ever draft of ’65 and that summer, while Bernie turned in an excellent year at third in A ball, he only hit .219 with no homers. He improved substantially at that level in ’66 with a .269/15/57 line but then fell to a .201/2/27 stat line in ’67 in Double A, a year he missed a bunch of time to military duty. Meanwhile a guy drafted behind him named Johnny Bench was going crazy and about to win Rookie of the Year when in ’68 Bernie got a new manager in Double A named Sparky Anderson who rode him pretty hard but also showed him attention and got nice numbers out of the kid. Bernie had a .281/20/66 season with 16 stolen bases and a .411 OBA in a year in which he re-established himself as a prospect. In doing that he also began spending significant time in the outfield since Tony Perez was blocking him at third base. Bernie had a monster arm and would generally be among league leaders in assists from his new position. In ’69 he bumped things up a bunch with a .359/21/76 line with a .452 OBA in Triple A. His numbers were still compressed a bit due to his missing games for military work – that would continue through ’72 – but he made his debut late that year and was up for good in ’70.

In 1970 the Reds were on the cusp of some big things. In the late Sixties they built an impressive infield but outside of Pete Rose they hadn’t had too much outfield stability and their pitching was always questionable. Prior to the ’70 season they landed speedster Bobby Tolan and got some good role players to fill some outfield gaps. They also got a new manager in Sparky Anderson and a couple exciting kids in Hal McRae and Bernie Carbo from the minors. Bernie took over left field for Cincinnati and while he continued to miss some time his numbers – which included a monster .454 OBA - got him second place in NL ROY voting and a place on the Topps Rookie team as well as TSN’s Rookie of the Year. But then a post-season in which he went o-fer presaged a bad ’71 in which too much pressure to help fill the gap left by the injured Tolan contributed to a definitive sophomore jinx year. By ’72 Bernie was reduced to a pinch hitting role and had minimal plate appearances before a May trade sent him to St. Louis for first baseman/outfielder Joe Hague. In St. Louis Bernie moved across to right field where he got starts after Matty Alou had to move to first to replace Hague and Donn Clendenon, who was in retirement mode. His average got a nice boost but his power numbers stayed low and he became more of a contact guy while with the Cards. In ’73 he split time in right with Luis Melendez and Jose Cruz, who did a mid-year swap between right and left. After the ’73 revival Bernie moved to Boston.

In ’74 Carbo stepped into the mix of young Boston outfielders Rick Miller, Dwight Evans, and Juan Beniquez and put in corner outfield time with the above and veteran Tommy Harper. His K totals were a bit high and his average slipped to .249 his first year in the AL but in only 338 at bats he put up twelve homers and 61 RBI’s. In ’75 Bernie realigned his K’s and walks, moved up in the order, and had a hot start to the season, still hitting around the .300 level in early July. But then he went into a slump and the Sox now had two new full-timers in rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice so playing time was whittled down over the course of the year. In September he mostly pinch hit. Still he put up another pretty solid year with a .259/15/50 line with 64 runs and an OBA that again reached the far side of .400 in only 319 at bats. He got shut out of any playoff time and then only got pinch hit roles in the Series. But he maxed those out big time. In Game 2 he hit one to deep left that got caught on the track. In Game 3 he homered off Clay Carroll in the seventh inning. In Game 6 he launched the homer that tied the game Carlton Fisk would win innings later. In Game 7 he hit a double and overall he put up ten total bases and a walk in his eight plate appearances. Good stuff but in ’76 he was on the bench nearly the whole first half and got only 55 at bats before a June trade to Milwaukee for outfielder Bobby Darwin and pitcher Tom Murphy. Bernie split the rest of the year as a right fielder/DH for the Brewers but it wasn’t a pretty season. After that year he was involved in a big trade when he and George Scott returned to the Sox for Cecil Cooper. Bernie got some stepped up outfield time that season and in his 228 at bats put up a .289/15/34 line with a .409 OBA. But he also had 72 K’s and he was now permanently enmeshed on the wrong side of his BB/K ratio. ‘78 then resembled ’76 in that he moved to another team in June, this time Cleveland, though his numbers were considerably better with a .282 average in his 220 at bats. For ’79 he signed with St. Louis as a free agent and was primarily a pinch guy, with a .281/3/12 line in 64 at bats. He split his final MLB season with the Cards and the Pirates before signing a Triple A contract with Detroit in ’81 and then getting released. In ’82 he played his final season in Mexico. Bernie finished with a .264 average with 96 homers, 358 RBI’s, and a .387 OBA for his MLB numbers. In the post-season he hit .143 with two homers and four RBI’s in his ten games.

Carbo would later reveal that he was pretty much drunk or stoned during just about his whole professional career. Immediately after he completed a degree program in cosmetology and opened his own hairstyling place, which he ran for a number of years. He also did some work at some local baseball schools but his life was in a downward spiral that bottomed out in ’93 after his mom committed suicide and his own family fell apart. Former Sox teammates Bill Lee and Fergie Jenkins turned him on to the Baseball Assistance Team that year and Bernie took control of his substance abuse issues and shortly thereafter started his Diamond Club Ministry which makes presentations about baseball, religion, and substance abuse worldwide. He returned to baseball formally when in 2004 and 2005 he managed the independent Pensacola Pelicans, going a combined 108-80. He has a SABR page and quite a few YouTube appearances.

Topps sticks with the minor league stuff for Bernie’s bullets. Bernie was a colorful guy and was well-liked. Before the ’75 Series a bunch of his former teammates on Cincinnati, including Clay Carroll, sent him a signed team photo wishing him well. But after his first homer off the pitcher Carroll apparently went to Bernie’s locker and tore up the photo. When he was on deck for the second homer he was pretty sure Sparky would bring in another reliever to face him and that he’d be pulled for Juan Beniquez, a righty. But that didn’t happen and the results worked out pretty well for Bernie.

Shortly after the resignation and firing of various White House staff members at the end of April, the Senate Watergate Committee was named. Chaired by Sam Ervin, Senator of North Carolina, the committee decided to hold its hearings publicly since there had been so many Grand Jury leaks regarding various testimonies. The hearings would be televised by PBS and a rotation of the national networks ABC, NBC, and CBS.

5/18/73 – A day after the committee officially began its proceedings James McCord, a Watergate burglar, was called to testify. His testimony verified leaks from Grand Jury testimony attributed to him in which he indicated that various White House staff members knew beforehand and in fact helped plan the bugging of the Watergate Democratic Headquarters as well as other establishments. Those named by McCord included John Mitchell, John Dean, E. Howard Hunt, and G. Gordon Liddy

5/19/73 - Archibald Cox, a Harvard law professor, is named Special Prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the Watergate affair. Cox, a Democrat, was Solicitor General under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations before leaving to teach. He was named by newly-appointed Attorney General Elliott Richardson as his appointee after Richardson interviewed several candidates for the position including Warren Christopher, who would be a Secretary of State in the Clinton administration.

These two guys played for Milwaukee, but years apart:

1. Carbo and Tommy Harper ’74 Red Sox;
2. Harper and Al Downing ’70 Brewers.

Monday, December 9, 2013

#620 - Al Downing

This guy is the first black Yankees starting pitcher, which is crazy since he was still active at the time of this set. The Yankees were pretty slow to embrace the whole Jackie Robinson thing that was going on across town and was one of the last to integrate their team, pretty surprising given the stars the two other NY teams picked up once that went down. Al Downing was a big power pitcher when he came up with NY and at the time of this card he was pretty much moving from a starting role to a relief one that would take him to the end of his career in LA. It was very likely that by the time this card came out Al had given up Hank Aaron’s 715th homer which would help to immortalize him – Al – for a while in not a great way. But he was a lot more than a one trick guy anyway. Here he shows his follow through at a very lush spring training site.

Al Downing grew up playing baseball in Trenton, NJ, where as a teenager he helped take his Babe Ruth team to a national championship. After high school he helped establish a local PAL team that won a state championship and did some national touring. He also attended Rider College at that time and after his first year there, late in 1960, he was signed by the Yankees. He pitched well in A ball the following summer, going 9-1 with a 1.84 ERA in twelve starts and earned a call-up to NY that July, just after his 20th birthday. He didn’t pitch terribly much, though, and in ’62 he spent the season in Triple A were he worked out some control issues while going 9-13 with a 4.10 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 169 innings. He tossed a no-hitter that year. In ’63 a strong start at that level – 3-2 with a 2.68 ERA and 64 K’s (with 45 walks) in 57 innings – got him promoted to The Bronx for good. He had a pretty excellent rookie year, leading the AL both in least amounts of hits and most strikeouts per nine innings and made his Series debut in the loss to the Dodgers. In ’64 Al pulled a Nolan Ryan by leading the AL in both walks and strikeouts and recorded a couple saves in his only two relief appearances. In ’65 and ’66 he pitched well for a couple teams in fast decline mode, but his K totals were waning a bit as he was beginning to have shoulder and elbow soreness. He then posted his best NY season in ’67 as he made the All-Star team, put up four shutouts, and recorded his best wins and season-long ERA as a Yankee. But things got tough early in ’68 when he began having severe elbow issues, missed a bunch of games, and did some rehab work in the minors. A visit during the season to the Mayo Clinic resulted in an odd diagnosis: Al suffered from narcolepsy – he had always had trouble sleeping at night and keeping awake in the afternoon – and when he fell asleep in odd positions it was nearly always on his left elbow. It was from this point on that he stopped being a power pitcher and became a control guy, specializing in a curve and a change-up. In ’69 he was able to put in a full season as a spot guy, getting 15 starts in his 30 games. After the season he was sent to Oakland for first baseman Danny Cater.

Downing’s first year away from NY wasn’t exactly rosy. Still dealing with arm issues, his walks and ERA were a bit fat and in May he was on the move again, this time to Milwaukee with Tito Francona for Steve Hovley, an outfielder who received considerable coverage in “Ball Four.” With the Brewers, Al’s ERA was impressive but the walks stayed high and the resulting record was pretty ugly. He then hit the road again, moving to LA for outfielder Andy Kosco. Good trade for the Dodgers as Al put together his best season as he led the NL in shutouts and his off-speed stuff took him to 20 wins, third place in the NL Cy Young voting, and his league’s Comeback Player of the Year. He remained in the rotation the next two seasons, became a spot guy in ’74 and ’75, and closed things out with two more years of long relief work, finishing in ’77 with a 123-107 record, 3.22 ERA, 73 complete games, 24 shutouts, and three saves. In the post-season he was 0-3 with a 4.87 ERA in six games.

Downing remained in the LA area and the Dodger family for a considerable time after he played. He became a radio and television broadcaster, most of the time for the Dodgers. From ’78 to ’91 he broadcast either radio or cable games for the team. He then spent three years hosting DodgerTalk on KABC Radio before hooking up with CBS to do games nationally from ’94 to ‘97. He returned to do radio work for a couple years before announcing for the Braves in 2000. Than it was back to LA, initially to take over a post-game show while the regular announcer, Ross Porter, recovered from sinus surgery. Al then did some radio show work until he returned to color work in 2005 and then retired from announcing in 2006. Since then he has remained affiliated as part of the LA speakers bureau and he has done a bunch of community and baseball camp work. 

Al’s signature sort of falls apart at the end there, doesn’t it? The game referred to in the star bullet was against Cleveland and was a complete game win in which he struck out twelve batters. Al had a 1-2-3 inning in the first as well so the three batters he struck out – Tony Horton, Don Demeter, and Duke Sims – were the heart of the Indians’ order.

All that April Watergate stuff noted in the past few posts led up to this:

4/30/73 – H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman, and Richard Kleindienst resigned from their positions on the White House staff and John Dean was fired. President Nixon made these announcements while declaring himself to be responsible for any Watergate activity that emanated from the White House and indicating that nobody was above the law, though later actions would pretty much repudiate his thoughts on both of those statements. Nixon gave both Erlichman and Haldeman sterling reviews for their actions while on his staff and, as Dean had predicted earlier, basically through Dean under the bus. Elliott Richardson, who was the Secretary of Defense, was named to fill Kleindienst’s spot as Attorney General and was immediately charged with finding “the whole truth” about Watergate. Leonard Garment was chosen to replace Dean as Special Counsel to the President. Gordon Strachan also resigned as Special Counsel to the United States Information Agency; Strachan had been Haldeman’s assistant during Nixon’s first term. These resignations came immediately after some other high-profile ones in recent days: Jeb Stuart Magruder as deputy campaign director of CREEP; Dwight Chapin as presidential appointments secretary; and Chuck Colson, another Special Counsel to the President. Colson was probably the most interesting character amongst the resignees. He was heavily involved in lobbying interests, both those initiated and received from various constituencies in the White House. Privately, he was known as Nixon’s “hit man”, and would both author and become heavily involved in campaigns to discredit or harm – sometimes physically – deemed White House opponents (John Kerry was an early target).

Back in baseball, a HOF cusp guy gets us the hook-up:

1. Downing and Dick Allen ’71 Dodgers;
2. Allen and Mike Anderson ’75 Phillies.

Friday, December 6, 2013

#619 - Mike Anderson

In the early Seventies the Phillies had some serious sluggers on the team’s Triple A roster. A few of them – Greg Luzinski, Mike Schmidt, and Larry Hisle – went on to duplicate those feats in their MLB careers. And then there were guys like Mike Anderson here who never really replicated their excellent lower level work up top. In ’73 Mike was ratcheting himself into the Phillies line-up as a fourth outfielder behind Del Unser, Luzinski, and Bill Robinson. Mike was a very good defender with an excellent arm and in ’74 he would succeed Robinson as the regular guy in right but when the power failed to climb and the Phillies picked up better-hitting outfield role players like Ollie Brown and Jay Johnstone his starting time became short-lived. Here he brings back the action shot via a pensive gaze in an away stadium.

Mike Anderson grew up in South Carolina where in high school in Timmonsville he was a big three sports guy. As a QB in football he participated in the ’68 Shrine Bowl, an annual game between the best HS players of North Carolina and South Carolina. In baseball he was a first baseman and pitcher and in ’69 was a first round pick by the Phillies. He began his assault on minor league pitching right away with a big summer in Rookie ball that included a .425 OBA. In A ball the next year he moved to the top line-up spot so his RBI total slipped but he kept the OBA level up there with a .429.  In ’71 he didn’t lose a bit when he jumped to Triple A and posted his biggest numbers while maintaining his OBA. He debuted that August and remained the balance of the season in Philly. In ’72 he was initially viewed as one of a young starting outfield group with Greg Luzinski and Willie Montanez with Mike in right field. But after a poor offensive start he was returned to Triple A in late May and played out the rest of the season at that level. After spending all of ’73 with the Phillies he put up a stat line of .251/5/34 in his 395 at bats in his regular role in ’74. In ’75 he alternated in right with Jay Johnstone while posting a line 0f .259/4/28 in 247 at bats. While Mike was putting up a slugger’s strikeout total he wasn’t hitting like one, and after the season he was traded to St. Louis for pitcher Ron Reed.

In ’76 Anderson hit pretty well, posting a .291 average and a .371 OBA, but with almost zero power and in only 200 at bats as a reserve corner guy. In ’77 he quadrupled his homer total but his average collapsed by 70 points and shortly after the beginning of the ’78 season he signed as a free agent back with the Phillies and began the season in Triple A, hitting .313. with 34 RBI’s in 49 games. But he was released in June anyway and was immediately signed by Baltimore, with whom he spent the rest of the season but got minimal at bats as a late-inning defensive guy. He was released after the season and again signed with Philadelphia. Again he began the season in Triple A but by late April he was back in Philly for whom he again did the late inning thing and hit .231 in 79 at bats. In ’80 he returned to Triple A where he hit .327 in half a season before moving to the Mexican Leagues for the second half of the year. In ’81 he put in a partial season with the Pittsburgh Triple A franchise and then was done. Mike hit .246 in his MLB action and .320 in the minors with over 100 homers and a .413 OBA.

And that’s it on Mr. Anderson. He’s got another name on which it’s very tough to do a search and there is pretty much no profile on him at all since he played.

Mike has a nice signature and gets deserved props for his two biggest minor league seasons. He pitched a bit in the pros as well, throwing a scoreless inning for the Phillies in ’79 and posting a 1.12 ERA in five Triple A games in ’80.

In Watergate new things were getting heady as accusations were flowing all over the place:

4/26/73 – L. Patrick Gray resigned as acting head of the FBI after John Erlichman, a White House aide, reported he had seen John Dean, a White Hose attorney, give Gray Watergate-related documents that Gray later destroyed. Whether the documents were the same ones that Gray handed over to Dean earlier was not known. Reports of what the documents actually were were pretty varied: there were indications they included forged State Department cables implicating JFK in the assassination of South Viet Nam premier Ngo Dinh Diem in ’63 as well as documentation regarding Edward Kennedy’s car accident in ’69 in which a young woman was killed. Erlichman had been testifying before the Grand Jury and, while admitting some involvement with Gray and in the Robert Vesco case, denied any wrongdoing.

The Vesco case involved a Detroit native, Robert Vesco, who was a self-made financier who initially made most of his money in the mid-Sixties by acquiring and then aggressively expanding a company called International Controls Corporation (“ICC”). He grew ICC through debt-financed takeovers and by the early Seventies decided he wanted to move over to the investment side, seeking to leverage his controlling stake in ICC to acquire a much bigger company. His eventual target was a mutual fund firm called Investors Overseas Service Ltd. (“IOS”) whose founder was in dutch with the SEC and was looking for a rescue, but because of his regulatory problems nobody legit would touch him. Along came Vesco who engaged in a hostile takeover battle and eventually won control of the $1.4 billion fund. But Vesco soon began pilfering investor funds and stole over $200 million by ’72, now bringing an SEC investigation on himself. He and an attorney who was close to President Nixon’s nephew Donald arranged a fat $200,000 donation to CREEP for which Vesco expected help from then Attorney General John Mitchell in getting the SEC off his back. There was never any significant evidence that any Nixon cabinet members intervened on behalf of Vesco but by the time the Watergate details began receiving high-profile attention a separate Grand Jury was called to investigate the White House’s ties to Vesco and the accepted donation – illegal in its own right – was enough to make many assume automatic guilt in aiding him. Vesco would flee the country in early ’73 initially setting up shop in Costa Rica with his $200 million bankroll and buying off that country’s President who in turn established a law that Vesco could not be extradited to The States. When Vesco lost favor with the succeeding President he then moved to Cuba where by the late Eighties he became involved in drug smuggling and was later incarcerated there. He passed away in 2007.

Let’s close this post on a lighter note and get Mr. Anderson with Mr. Mason:

1. Anderson and Tom Underwood ’74 to ’75 Phillies and ’77 Cardinals;
2. Underwood and Lou Piniella ’80 to ’81 Yankees;
3. Piniella and Jim Mason ’74 to ’76 Yankees.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

#618 - Jim Mason

We’ve been doing a sort of back and forth between Traded cards and final cards and this card completes that loop, at least for a while. Jim Mason was pretty much the poster boy for light-hitting shortstops, even more so than the guy who’d be synonymous with that designation in a couple years. Here he strikes a tough pose in Oakland but I don’t think too many people were fooled. In ’73 he had his busiest MLB season to date, spelling Toby Harrah at shortstop and Dave Nelson at second. He would top that in ’74 in his first and only season as a downright starter before reverting to his backup role down the road. On his Traded card, which appears to be from the same day, Jim gets another nasty pinstripe airbrush job in one of those “looking up” photos. It seems Topps took those shots in case of that instance which may have grated a bit on the card subjects since there was an implication Topps knew something they didn’t. Jim sure does have a worried look on his face on that card, though he needn’t have been so concerned. In fact, Jim was able to wrangle a decent career out of not much wood despite a bit of traveling

Jim Mason came out of Mobile, Alabama, like a few other guys in this set. Jim was a good enough baseball player to be taken in the second round of the ’68 draft by the Senators. He’d also played basketball and football in high school and after graduating attended the University of Southern Alabama but didn’t play ball there. That first summer he didn’t hit too well but he fielded well enough to get up to Triple A in ’69, a season he missed a considerable part of due to military duty. In ’70 and ’71 he remained at the higher level, gradually getting more lineup time while his average escalated. His OBA both seasons was quite good at .377 in ’70 and .390 the following year. That September he made his debut in DC and was lucky enough to be on the field for the last ugly game there for a bunch of years. He began ’72 back in Triple A where he had his best offensive run before coming up to Arlington in late July on the heels of an injury bug to the Rangers. He spent a month-plus taking over the shortstop role and when Toby Harrah was healthy again spent the last couple weeks as the regular guy at third. In ’73 he was about the only infielder who didn’t spend time at the hot corner before he was sold to the Yankees in December.

New York had been having a pretty long run of light-hitting shortstops since pretty much Tommy Tresh’s rookie year. The latest of those was Gene Michael and in ’74 Michael ran out of gas a bit sooner than expected. So Mason stepped into the starting role and was a pleasant surprise on the offensive side when he hit .250. He was even more so of one when he rapped four doubles in one game early in the season. In ’75 he was expected to fill the starter role again but when his average tanked by almost 100 points Fred Stanley took over that role as he also did in ’76 when Jim hit .180. He did, though, have a rather surprising post-season that second year when he became the only Yankee to go yard against Cincinnati in his only Series at bat. In the winter he went to Toronto in the expansion draft. After hitting .165 in 80 at bats he then returned to Texas in a May trade with pitcher Steve Hargan and some cash for third baseman Roy Howell. Jim did a bit better the rest of the way for the Rangers, hitting .218 behind Bert Campaneris. He remained in that  role all of ’78 before closing things out with Montreal – he is one of few guys to play for both Canadian franchises – in ’79. Jim hit .203 up top and .252 in the minors.

I have no idea what Mason did once his career ended. Earlier this year a James Percy Mason was married near his hometown of Mobile, so if it is either this Jim or a junior one he apparently returned to his roots at some point.

I’d indicated a couple times that shortstops tended to be small during the time of this set, but outside of Luis Aparacio, that doesn’t actually appear to have been true. Look at Jim’s numbers: 6’2” and 185 isn’t too bad. That he worked for a moving company probably underlines my redaction.

Again Topps dispenses with the details of Jim’s acquisition. I wonder how immediate all that speculation was? I doubt this deal was a front-pager.

We are on the cusp of some big stuff in the whole Watergate scandal. Here are some more lead-ins:

4/23/73 – It was on this date that a third secret slush fund was disclosed. This time the fund was managed by President Nixon’s personal attorney, Herbert Kalmbach, and was reported to hold as much as $500,000. From Florida – maybe the White House staff was on spring break? – a release came that Nixon had no prior knowledge of the Watergate buggings before they occurred. Also on this date a new Grand Jury was convened to investigate news leaks purported to be coming from the sitting Grand Jury.

4/24/73 – The White House directly denied that any payoff or other offer had come from within its confines or from its staff to any of the five Watergate burglars, E. Howard Hunt, or G. Gordon Liddy in return for their silence. Both this and the above denial responded to earlier testimony from James McCord, one of the burglars.

4/25/73 – In what would become a pretty ironic development, especially given his own issues with credibility, Vice-President Spiro Agnew declared with “full confidence” that President Nixon had no involvement with Watergate and would find a way to resolve the Watergate “crisis.” Meanwhile John Mitchell let everyone know that his “conscience is clear” which, from everything out in public about the guy at that point, meant absolutely nothing.

So while Jim had at one time been in the DC area as a Nat, he was now down in Texas just looking for a hook-up with Mr. Ford, another name that would have a big DC profile in the near future. This one’s easy:

1. Mason and Ted Ford ’72 Texas Rangers.