Monday, July 13, 2009

#130 -- Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson and Lou Brock were my first favorite players. As such I still have a soft spot in my heart for Gibby. In fact, I'm currently passing time on my treadmill (no, not as I write this, but during this time period) watching Game 1 of the 1968 World Series. Gibby doesn't really look as intimidating as I remember, but I don't see a lot of Tigers getting good swings, either.

Gibson went to college at Creighton in his native Omaha, playing basketball and baseball. I have no doubt that he would have been top of the line in football, volleyball, lacrosse or any other sport he chose to master. When he was a kid, no one would have imagined a career as an intimidating Hall of Fame pitcher, college basketball player and Harlem Globetrotter. Gibson was sickly. He had ricketts, asthma, pneumonia and a heart murmur. Still, he was as dominating in high school and college as he would be in the National League.

His Wikipedia page said he was one of the stars of the late 50's Globetrotters. I don't know how correct that is, but it says he could hammer down backhanded dunks. I do believe the line that says he left the Globies because he got tired of the clowning. Gibby is a competitor and there's no competition in beating the Washington Generals night after night while running tricks.

When initially called up, he butted heads with Cardinal manager Solly Hemus, but Gibson made the starting rotation and stayed there for the duration of his career. I was surprised to see that he only has 251 career victories. He had several years where he just didn't get the wins commensurate with his level of pitching. For example, he was having a good 1967 going into July 15 game against the Pirates. He was 10-6, 3.52 with 119 strikeouts in 138 innings. Roberto Clemente led off the 4th inning with a smash back to the box. It hit Gibson in the lower leg and Clemente got a single out of it. He then walked Willie Stargell, got Bill Mazeroski on a fly ball and walked Donn Clendenon before they figured out Clemente's liner had broken his freaking leg! I guess Gibby was human with a broken tibia. He came back in early September and went 3-1, 0.96 in 5 starts where he allowed 2 runs once. He then went 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA and a home run against the Red Sox in the Series. Wow.

However, his stretch from 1968 (actually you could have begun it after the July 15, 1967 game against the Pirates....he was 6-1, and an ERA under 1 in 8 starts) through 1970 is similar to what Sandy Koufax had done a few years earlier and what Greg Maddux did in the mid-90's. He was 65-29, 2.13 ERA and 811 strikeouts in 913 innings in 103 starts those 9 years. That means he averaged 8.86 innings per start in a 3 year period. He had 20 shutouts in those 103 starts and 79 complete games.

In 1968 he had a stretch where he completed 19 out of 20 games. The game he didn't complete, he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning of a 13 inning loss. I know. You've got to be thinking, "What a wuss. Suck it up and give a little of yourself." I'd say Red Schoendienst had a lot of guts to pull him. In that stretch of 20 starts, he had 12 shutouts (5 in a row) and gave up 17 earned runs in 182 innings. His 1968 season was absolutely stupid and part of the reason now we have lowered mounds, juiced ballparks, juiced balls and juiced bats.

I'll put my respect and admiration for Gibson this way: The first National League game I ever got to see was Sunday, September 26 against the Expos. A fellow in my small town would take charter buses to St. Louis or Kansas City for a baseball game for about $15/head. My dad took me on a lot of those. This one was a big deal because it was my first Cardinal game and Bob Gibson was going to pitch. I was really hyped up. When we got to the Stadium, they announced the starting pitcher would be Darryl Patterson. Who? Dad, why isn't Bob Gibson pitching? Something about the Cardinals being out of the race. I was so PO'd about not getting to see Bob Gibson pitch that when I got home I found Darryl Patterson's 1971 card and promptly wadded it up. I'll have to look to see if I still have it and post a scan. I guess I had a little bit of Gibby's temperment as a 7 year old.
1972 Feature
July 13, 1972 was a Thursday and a light night on the schedule. In 6 games there were 4 shutouts. Gibson didn't pitch for the Cardinals, but Reggie Cleveland threw a 2-hitter at the Braves and won 2-0.
The Game of the Day was division leaders Pittsburgh (with Steve Blass coming in at 10-2) going against 12-2 Gary Nolan and the West division leading Reds. Cesar Geronimo got the Reds' first run with a 5th inning homer. Pittsburgh hadn't done much to that point, but they started getting with it. They loaded the bases, but Nolan struck out Richie Hebner to strand 3 in the 6th. Nolan then struck out Stargell and Hebner in the 8th to leave a couple on base. Bobby Tolan got a sacrifice fly in the 8th to give Nolan a little bit of breathing room. Clay Carroll pitched around a 9th inning single to close it out.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One Good Turn.....

My wife needed a long weekend, so we're in Kansas City shopping. Just for fun I check Beckett's show calendar and there's a mall show in K.C. It is not the mall she likes to hit, but she's a good sport. Hopefully I'll find some high numbers and other assorted goodies.

Mixed bag of success for me. I found no 1972 cards to finish off this set. I did, however, find a few 57 and 58's in a dollar box that will work for TTM autographs (e.g., Virgil Trucks, John O'Brien, et. al.). My big haul was to eliminate about 70 of the cards on my 1970 want list. I'm up to 61% complete, which is very misleading because I still need a lot of the high dollar cards on that set.

I did save some money. One seller had just bought a complete 1956 set and a 1957 set missing only 5 cards. He priced the '57 to me at $2000 and I passed it up. I told my wife we saved $2000 and she was incredibly impressed with me. I think she'll be getting a nice dinner tomorrow night to show my appreciation for her patience while I dug through old ball cards.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

#129 -- Charlie Fox

How old does Charlie look here? To me he looks like he'd have to be in his mid-60's. However, assuming it was taken in Spring Training 1971 (or in front of the bleachers at a high school football stadium), he hadn't had his 50th birthday yet. Johngy left a comment earlier about how a lot of the players looked older in this set than they do now.

Charlie was a lifelong Giant. He grew up in New York City and wanted nothing more than to be a Giant. His Baseball-Reference page doesn't list when he was signed by the Giants, but he was brought up to play 3 games in late September 1942 for the Giants as a 20 year old. He was a catcher and had a .429 lifetime batting average (3 singles in 7 at bats). It might be worth keeping track of that and see if he turns out to have the highest lifetime big league batting average of anyone in this set. He's certainly set the bar high.

His minor league career doesn't pick up again until 1946, so I'd say he spent his early 20's fighting for America's freedom. He was a backup catcher in the low minors (B and C leagues) through the 50's and never sniffed the big leagues again. He scouted until the mid-60's and then either coached with the Giants or managed in the minors until named as manager of the Giants in May of 1970.

The Giants made it to the playoffs once between 1962 and 1987, that being when Fox led them to the West Division in 1971. However, it's not like they were abject failures. They finished 2nd to the Cardinals or the Dodgers most years in the 60's. But, despite McCovey, Mays and Marichal they just couldn't get over the hump despite having the most consistent run.

The Giants crashed hard in 1972. Charlie had a tough year with the Giants finishing 5th. McCovey and Marichal were injured, Mays was finally showing his age and young players like Chris Speier, Dave Kingman and Garry Maddox weren't ready yet. They bounced back somewhat in 1973, but when they got off to a bad start in 1974, Charlie found himself not employed by the Giants for the first time in over 30 years.

He had a couple of other stints with the Expos (as a GM) and as an interim manager for the Cubs. He had a fiery temper, but he was a lifetime baseball man. There are a lot of guys out there like Fox who never have the chance to manage in the post-season or even make it to the big leagues. The thing that sets Fox aside is that 1971 season when he won the West.

P.S. I was googling Charlie Fox and came across a reference on Urban Dictionary. I've never heard his name used that way, however.

1972 Feature

July 8, 1972 was a Saturday. There were a lot of low-scoring games. The Dodgers lost to the Mets 4-1, due in part to 4 Dodger errors. Man, what with Charlie Fox being a long-time Giant and 4 Dodger errors, this post can't end too early for one Night Owl. Juan Marichal raised his record to 3-10, but he only went 6 innings allowing 1 unearned run against the Expos as poor Ernie McAnally fell to 1-11. The Angels held the Red Sox scoreless over the last 15 innings of their 17 inning game and then scored to win 4-3.

The Game of the Day is one that we just don't see any more. The Yankees took on the Twins in the Met. Mel Stottlemyre went for the Yankees against Bert Blyleven. The Twins pinch-hit for Blyleven in the bottom of the 10th. Wayne Granger relieved and gave a homer to light-hitting Bernie Allen leading off the 11th. Stottlemyre came out for the 11th and gave up a leadoff single to Danny Thompson.

Rod Carew was next up. Ralph Houk went to the bullpen for Sparky Lyle. Carew hits a dribbler to Lyle that gets Thompson to second with the tying run. Slugger Harmon Killebrew was up next. Today, there would be thought given to walking him. However, in that time managers would have even pitched to Albert Pujols instead of purposely putting the winning run on base. Lyle struck out the Killer and then fanned pinch-hitter Steve Brye. That was a 1-0 11-inning game where the starters went 10 innings. I suppose this is one of the games the Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame Club (of which I'm not a member) cite that could have been one of the wins that would have gotten him to 300. Instead, it looks to me like a well-pitched game that a good pitcher, Mel Stottlemyre, won.

By the way, I've tried to purposely post this at 12:34:56 PM on 7/8/09. Big Deal.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

#128 -- Eddie Watt

Eddie Watt

In the stretch when the Orioles were at the top of the American League from 1969-1971, there was no better reliever in baseball than Eddie Watt, but nobody's ever heard of him. That's partly because the Orioles threw so many complete games they really didn't need a reliever. They'd carry a 9 man pitching staff and 1 of those guys would usually pitch less than once a week. Contrast that with today's game where some managers are considering carrying 13 pitchers.

In that stretch of 1969-1971, Eddie still appeared only 48 games and 55 innings on average. The Oriole bullpen also had Dick Hall, Dave Leonhard and Pete Richert all pitching effectively during that period. I mentioned the Orioles threw a lot of complete games. From 1969-71 their complete game totals were 50, 64 and 71, well over 1/3 of the total games played.

Eddie pitched 8 years for the Orioles and they went to the World Series 4 of them. He was a rookie on the 1966 championship team and was a vital cog on the 1970 championship team as well as the 1969 and 1971 AL Championship teams. After the 1973 season he was sold to Philadelphia. The O's seemed to be going through a change and there were a lot of players in a rich minor league system that were coming up. Eddie slipped a little more with the Phillies. They released him and after a few games with the Cubs in 1975 his career was over.

Eddie wasn't like today's closers. He didn't come in to great fanfare and entry music. He was more quiet and unassuming. He grew up in Iowa on a farm and never saw a major league baseball game until he saved one for the Orioles on April 12, 1966. One week later he pitched in his second game and got his first win. One week later he notched his first major league win.

His stats today don't look like they'd be good enough to make an all-star team, but Eddie was one of the best in his time.

1972 Feature
On July 5, 1972 Nolan Ryan was at it again. He threw 9 shutout innings at the Brewers and it wouldn't have been enough if Winston Llenas, pinch-hitting for Ryan, hadn't knocked in the winning run with a single in the bottom of the 9th off Earl Stephenson. Stephenson had been matching him zero for zero, but gave up the winning hit. Marty Pattin of the Red Sox and Dave McNally of the Orioles also had 5-hit shutouts.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

I'll take my turn to editorialize. A few years ago in my church, we were having a celebration of freedom in America and they were playing the National Anthem. For some reason, I tried to put myself in the shoes of Francis Scott Key while he wrote the song.

Imagine. You're detained on a British boat in Baltimore harbor at night while your fledgling country is being attacked and invaded by the greatest power on the earth at that time. You can hear blasts and see explosions all night and you don't know what's going on.

You ask someone near sunup, thinking about seeing things were OK when the sun went down last night...

O, Say can you see

By the dawn's early light.

What so proudly we hailed

At the twilight's last gleaming.

You're worried about the flag at Fort McHenry, but you can only try to catch a glimpse over the sides of the boat every now and then because it isn't safe to put your head up.....

Whose broad stripes and bright stars

Through the perilous fight

O'er the ramparts we watched

Were so gallantly streaming.

In the darkness, you can't see if the Fort is holding or not. Every now and then when there's an explosion, it gives you a burst of light to see what's going on.....

And the rockets red glare,

The bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night

That the flag was still there!

And as long as our flag is still there, the Fort is holding and everything is OK! With the raising of the flag over Fort McHenry he knew we'd held off the Brits. Imagine the relief and joy every time Francis sees Old Glory still waving on shore.

Then, Francis Scott Key poses a question and a challenge from that boat to you and me, almost 200 years in the future......

Oh, Say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave,

Over the land of the free

And the home of the brave?

There was a time that I'd be at a ballgame and I couldn't wait for the National Anthem to be over so I could join the umpire in a hearty "Play Ball." Now, when the National Anthem is over, I'll give Francis Scott Key a quiet answer to his question: "Yes, the flag still waves over the greatest country the earth has ever known." Somehow, I think he's in a place now where what's going on here doesn't matter to him, but I'd like to think that he'd take some peace knowing everything is still OK.

That being said, I love Det. Frank Drebin as Enrico Palazzo butchering the song. While I am absolutely reverent about it at the ballpark (and think what Roseann Barr did to it absolutely sucks), I can have a good laugh at "The Naked Gun."

#127 -- Duffy Dyer

Duffy Dyer

Somehow I think Duffy disqualified himself from making the backup catcher Hall of Fame by starting over half his team's games in 1972 and 1977. However, he spent much of his career in the bullpen warming up guys like Tug McGraw, Grant Jackson and Dale Murray, and putting on the shin guards and mask to warm up a pitcher between innings when Jerry Grote, Ed Ott or Gary Carter had been on base at the end of an inning. What does a backup catcher do? One thing they don't do is grab headlines.

Duffy, however, would be one of the more famous backup catchers, partly because of his nickname and partly because of being a long-time Met. Duffy was a first round draft pick (secondary phase) out of baseball factory Arizona State in 1966 as the 9th pick. The 2nd overall pick in the regular phase was teammate Reggie Jackson.

Duffy didn't have quite the career that Reggie did. He was a rookie on the 1969 Amazin' Mets, but was at best a 3rd string catcher behind Jerry Grote and J.C. Martin. He did get one at bat in the Series without getting a hit. In 1972 he had his career highs in games, at bats, hits home runs (8), RBI and strikeouts. He didn't play as much in 1973 and didn't play in the post-season at all.

Duffy had some occasional pop in his bat, but too often he didn't make contact. Then again, the backup catcher rarely has time to get his full batting practice in, as he's busy catching guys that need to get some work in on the side. Certainly in Spring Training the backup catcher's role is purely catching and has nothing to do with hitting. He got traded to the Pirates and spent 4 years there as a backup, getting to appear in the 1975 long enough to draw a bases loaded walk off Rawly Eastwick in the bottom of the 9th to tie up Game 3. The Reds promptly scored twice in the 10th to close out the sweep. He then bounced on to Montreal and Detroit to close his career.

He's been involved in baseball all his life. He's now the catching coordinator for the Padres, but he's been a minor league manager at several different levels. One thing that's bugging him now is that he's lost his 1969 World Series ring. He had to be in the Dominican last summer and thinks someone stole it out of his locker. If anybody sees it at a show or on ebay, give Duffy a call.

I love this card because it shows a young Duffy in the classic catching pose. This looks like a spring training shot with somebody else's catching mitt lying behind him and the cool (yeah, right) windbreaker sleeves on.
1972 Feature
July 4, 1972 had a full slate of games. Many were low scoring, with 7 runs by the Expos over the Dodgers being the biggest offensive barrage. A lot of these games were well-pitched. Lynn McGlothen of the Red Sox threw a 3-hit shutout for his first big league win. Pat Dobson gave up a Dick Allen homer in the first, but coasted to a 3-hitter in a 2-1 victory over the White Sox. Dick Tidrow of the Indians and Roger Nelson of the Royals each threw 4-hit shutouts. In the National League, Larry Dierker had to scatter 8 hits to shut out the Pirates.

The Game of the Day is Tom Seaver and the Mets against the Padres in the first game of a doubleheader. Clay Kirby only lasted 2 2/3 innings for the Padres. He only gave up 2 runs and 3 hits, but he walked 4 in the 3rd, forcing in 2 runs. When you hit as poorly as the Padres and you're facing Tom Seaver you can't afford to walk guys with the bases loaded. The Mets didn't get anything else the rest of the day.
But with Tom Terrific pitching you don't usually need much. Seaver struck out 11, walked 4 and gave up only a single to Leron Lee with 1 out in the 9th. That was a problem because Big Nate Colbert represented the tying run on deck. He also represented the end of the game because he rolled into a 6-4-3 double play. Seaver threw a wonderful game here.

Also on this day was a game I remember watching on TV as an 8-year old. It was an afternoon game between the Reds and the Cardinals. Scipio Spinks was a sensation for the Cardinals that year and entered the game 5-4. He also had character, as he had a stuffed monkey he carried around for luck that he called Mighty Joe Young. I remember the Cardinals had a feature on the pre-game show about it. Joe let Scipio down that day as the Reds scored 5 off him in the bottom of the 2nd. In the 3rd, the Cardinals got a rally going and Scipio was on 1st with 1 out. Luis Melendez doubled and Scipio ran through a stop sign at 3rd and tried to score. He was safe, but on his slide into Johnny Bench, he tore ligaments in his knee and was never effective again. (The play-by-play on Retrosheet even mentions the torn ligaments.) He missed the rest of the year. I still remember the announcer (I can't remember if it was Jay Randolph or Mike Shannon) bemoaning the fact that he ran. It was something to the effect of, "When you're down by 5 in the 3rd, there's no reason for you to have your pitcher trying to score with 1 out." Makes sense to me. I guess Chien-Ming Wang wasn't the first pitcher to have his career severly interrupted by a baserunning effort.

(Oh, yes. I can also hear my wife in the background, "How can you remember that detail from a baseball game 37 years ago, but you can't remember to mail in the cable bill?" I hope I'm not the only one with that type of memory.)

Friday, July 3, 2009

#126 -- Bart Johnson

Bart Johnson

The 1970's was a decade of a lot of things. Bell bottoms, hippies, tube socks, lava lamps and the White Man's Afro. Bart Johnson had a White Man's Afro and it seemed to work for him. There's a lot of information on Bart in this interview of him and it also shows all of his baseball cards. See as the decade went along that Bart seemed to aspire to become the albino Oscar Gamble.

Bart had a heck of a lot of athletic talent. He went to BYU and, in the days before freshman eligibility on the varsity basketball team, averaged 28 a game for the freshman team. John Wooden unsuccessfully recruited him for UCLA. Bart said he picked baseball over basketball because he had Cy Young stuff pitching, but would have "only" been a solid NBA player. He'd have given Randy Denton a run for his money on the hair front. (Here's a coincidence...I was looking at Johngy's blog to see if he'd interviewed Bart and I found this Youtube interview of the Ultimate White Man's Afro, Randy Denton!)

Bart had a blazing fast ball and had a great 1971 season. He had a lot of promise and thought he'd take off in 1972, but he hit like a thud. He gave up 8 runs in an extra inning game (written up here in the 1972 Feature). He'd hurt his knee playing basketball in the off-season, told the Sox about it and they said he'd "be fine." However, they didn't want him to shelve it, so he ended up playing outfield (and batting .316) in the Sox A and AA teams.

He came back to pitch in 1973 and was so-so, probably still recovering. He got into it with the Sox in Spring Training of 1974 because they wanted him to go to the minors. He threatened to quit and work publicity for the World Football League's Chicago Fire. He even had a tryout with the Seattle Super Sonics that summer, but nothing came of it. He finally decided to go back to pitching and had a great 1974 second half where he started to fulfill his potential. From July 7 to the end of the year he was 10-4, 2.74 and had back to back shutouts in late August.

He's going to make a top of the rotation pitcher in 1975 to combine with Wilbur Wood and Jim Kaat, right? No. He herniated a disc in his lower back during a spring training game because he slipped on a wet mound. They weren't able to do much back then and he missed the whole season. He was in the rotation all year in 1976 (along with Goose Gossage) and didn't do well. By 1977, he'd lost a lot on his fast ball and it was over.

Bart's been a scout since his playing days wrapped up. He's working for the Nationals now and, from what I've seen on other message boards, he can be spotted in establishments near his Oaklawn, IL home.

1972 Feature
Lots going on July 3, 1972. Hank Aaron had a big day with a homer, double, single, 2 walks and was hit once in a 13-9 win at Houston. Rick Wise got a complete game 4-2 victory over the Reds and hit a 2-run homer. The Orioles pasted Detroit 15-3, and had a 6 run inning and a 7 run inning in the game. They had 21 hits, 16 of them were singles. The Phillies got to Don Carrithers of the Giants for 4 runs and 5 hits in the first inning. They got nothing -- no runs and no hits -- the rest of the way, but it was enough because they Steve Carlton getting his 10th win. Willie Stargell hit a 2-run walk-off homer to power the Pirates past the Cubs.

My Game of the Day is in Disneyville, where Catfish Hunter of the A's had a pitching duel with Rudy May of the Angels. The A's had pushed across a run in the 7th. The Angels hadn't gotten anything off Hunter. Bert Campaneris singled to lead off the 8th and Joe Rudi was safe when Rudy May made an error on his sacrifice bunt attempt.

Now we get the big situation of the game. A's ahead 1-0 in the top of the 8th. Nobody out. Good speed at second with Campeneris and Rudi on at first. Coming to the plate is the A's best hitter and biggest slugger, Reginald Martinez Jackson. He does something that would never be done in today's game. He lays down a sacrifice bunt. Successfully. Can you imagine Tony LaRussa asking Albert Pujols to do that? If Joe Girardi asked Alex Rodriguez to sacrifice, could he get the bunt down? However, Big Ego Reggie moved the runners along. Captain Sal Bando was walked intentionally and Mike Epstein knocked a 2-run single to break the game open. A couple of batters later Dave Duncan got another 2-run single and the A's held on to win the game 5-0. Catfish had a 2-hitter.

I had to look it up. Reggie had 4 sacrifices in 1972 and 13 for his career, but after 1972 he only got down 1 sacrifice bunt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

#125 -- Dave Cash

Dave Cash

I always liked Dave Cash. He had a lot of style, as you can see in this card. He's got the wristbands, the hat's cocked just right and he's got just the hint of an arrogant sneer as he pretends to look at the pitcher that's going to throw him a pitch. I always think of him as a Pirate, although he had his best success with the Phillies.

Dave came up and got some playing time in 1970 filling in for Bill Mazeroski. In 1971 he played half-time at second and some at third, still getting over 500 at bats. However, Rennie Stennett was coming up and Cash had to split time with him.

In 1974 Cash was part of a straight up trade within the division to the Phillies for Ken Brett. It worked out for both teams, more so of the Phillies than the Pirates. Cash teamed up with Larry Bowa to anchor the middle infield and had over 200 hits twice (and 189 the other year).

Cash retired with the highest fielding percentage for a second baseman. For a time in the 1970's, he held the record for most at bats in a season, which means he led off, played every day, played for a team that scored a lot and he didn't walk. But he didn't strike out either. He's somebody that you'd think would have good speed, but wasn't a good base-stealer, stealing 120 and being caught 74 times, just over 60%, which wasn't good for a 1970's leadoff hitter.

I always thought Dave Cash was cool. I also saw that he was part of the 1st all-black starting 9 in the majors on September 1, 1971. It's probably happened a few times since.

1972 Feature
Nolan Ryan continued his assault on July 1, 1972, by striking out 16 A's in a 5-3 win. He gave up 3 runs on only 5 hits, but also walked 3, hit Sal Bando and Bill Voss in the 7th and threw his 9th wild pitch of the year.

The Game of the Day is going to be in Fenway. Going into the top of the 9th the Red Sox have a 5-3 lead, but the Brewers scored 2 in the 8th and have momentun. All of the Red Sox runs have come on home runs, two by Ben Oglivie and one by former Brewer pitcher Marty Pattin. Don Newhauser came in to relieve in the 9th and got a grounder to short. Since Luis Aparicio had not been hitting well, the Sox were trying out rookie Juan Beniquez at short. Beniquez had a much better bat, but was a woeful shortstop. In 1971 he played 15 games at short, made 6 errors and fielded .895. He was better in 1972. In 27 games he made 14 errors, but his fielding percentage improved to .900. It's hard to field under .900. Juan never played shortstop again until a 1 inning emergency for the Angels in 1985.

Anyway, an out and a walk later and the tying run is on base. The Sox bring Luis Tiant in to face Ron Theobald. We've seen Theobald's card. He's not menacing looking and he hit like he was borrowing Eddie Gaedel's bat. Theobald did make some solid contact on Tiant, however. He did the right thing and hit a grounder to Juan ".900" Beniquez, but Beniquez handled it cleanly and it turned into a 6-4-3 game-ending double play. Theobald hits it hard, but that turns it into a double play when Beniquez fields it cleanly. Sometimes guys go against what they would normally do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

#124 -- Yankee Rookies (Closter, Torres, Hambright)

Alan Closter

The Yankee farm system of the 1990's was what got them their late-90's success by developing guys like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. That same farm system helped continue the playoff success through the early part of the 2000's by causing other teams to overvalue Yankee prospects because they were Yankees. The Yankee farm system of the 40's and 50's (including the Kansas City A's) was responsible for the success in the 50's and early 60's, largely because there was no draft and the Yankees could send out superscouts like Tom Greenwade out with suitcases full of money to sign guys like Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard and Bobby Murcer.

That led to the institution of the Amateur Player Draft. The Yankees didn't adjust well for a long time. As a result, their farm system really sucked in the late 60's and 70's. This card is an example. None of these three guys were major contributors, but they were Yankees....
Al Closter was signed in 1965, but drafted and sold before he made his big league debut with the Senators in 1966. He wasn't ready, as he came late into the O's blowing out the Senators. He gave up a double, walked 2 (including pitcher Moe Drabowsky) and got light-hitting Luis Aparicio on a fly to deep center. The Senators let him go back to the Yankees rather than keep him on the roster. He came back in 1971 and had his most time, going 2-2, 5.08 in 1 start and 13 relief appearances. He gave 5 runs on 5 hits (including homers to Mickey Stanley and Norm Cash) in his only start. In 1972, he only got into 2 games and didn't come up to the Yankees in 1973. Late in the season, he was the Player to be Named Later in the deal that brought Pat Dobson to the Yankees from Atlanta. The Braves decided to put him on the expanded roster to see what they got. After 4 games, 4 1/3 innings and 7 earned runs, they decided they'd seen enough. Al pitched at AAA in 1974 and 1975 before giving it up. But, Al's in the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame and I'm not.

Rusty Torres had the best career of these 3. He was signed at age 18 and slowly worked his way along until things clicked for him in the minors when he turned 20. He had a cup of coffee in 1971 that led to all kinds of great predictions because he hit .385 in 26 at bats over 9 games. He struck out looking in his first game against Pat Dobson (1 of 3 strikeouts that day). Rusty never fulfilled that promise. He was a journeyman that hit .212 in parts of 9 seasons in the bigs.

Rusty, however, appeared in three of the oddest and most infamous American League games of the 1970's. On September 30, 1971, he was the Yankee right fielder in the last Washington Senator game before they moved to Texas. Rusty was 1/4 in the game. He was also walking to the on-deck circle when the fans rushed the field with 2 outs in the 9th causing a forfeit.

Fast forward to June 4, 1974. Rusty is a bench player for the Indians and comes to pinch-hit in the 9th. The Indians are at home and trailing the Rangers 5-4 when Rusty is summoned to bat. He singles and moves Ed Crosby to 2nd with 1 out. Alan Ashby follows with a single to load the bases. Crosby then scored on Johnny Lowenstein's sac fly and Rusty was the winning run on 2nd with 2 out and Jack Brohamer coming up to face Steve Foucault. He never got to bat. Fans, likely affected by Cleveland's Ten Cent Beer Night promotion, stormed the field, stole MVP Jeff Burroughs' glove and the game was forfeited to the Rangers. This link has a great description of the night, complete with Ranger manager Billy Martin ordering the team to arm themselves with bats to storm centerfield to save their comrades. Think I'm kidding? Check out the picture showing some of Billy's Batwielders escorting Burroughs to safety. (That's Jim Spencer on the left and I don't know who's on the right.)

Guess what happened July 12, 1979? Rusty is now with the White Sox who are hosting a doubleheader against the Tigers. Rusty goes 1-3 and scores the lone run as the Sox lose to Pat Underwood. Here's the link to Game 2. Rusty didn't play. Nobody played. Comiskey became unplayable between games because it was Disco Demolition Night. The Wikipedia account is kind of funny, especially noting that Sox broadcasters Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall were commenting in Game 1 about strange people roaming the stands. Stranger than the ones in the press box?

I wouldn't be surprised if Rusty hadn't been in Comiskey a few years ago when that redneck and his son jumped Royal coach Tom Gamboa.

Roger Hambright had a much more sedate career than Torres, but had more substance than Closter. Hambright was up most of the second half of 1971 pitching out of the bullpen. He went 3-1 with 2 saves and a 4.39 ERA that wasn't very good back then. He got off to a good start, with 3 scoreless innings and a win in his first 2 appearances. In his 3rd, the Yanks took a 1 run lead in the top of the 12th, so he was positioned to get another win. The White Sox tied the score and had a runner on 2nd with 2 out and Carlos May coming up. Ralph Houk decided to walk May to get to Bill Melton. Anybody remember Bill Melton on a card so far in this set? A three-run homer later and Hambright has his first big league loss. Roger had a couple of more good years in the bullpen in the minors before not doing well in 1974 (arm trouble, perhaps?) and ending his career at the ripe old age of 25.

No 1972 feature here. I think I've brought up enough 1970's culture here!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

#123 -- Ed Acosta

Ed Acosta

Here's a guy that I just don't remember at all. When I think of an Acosta, I think of Cy Acosta of the White Sox, but they're no relation. Ed only played in part of 1970 with the Pirates, part of 1971 and then was up the whole year in 1972 with the Padres and that was it.

The shutout mentioned on his cardback was an 8-hitter against the Phillies in his first appearance for the Padres in 1971. Of his 6 starts in 1971, 3 of them were complete game victories, which kind of makes you wonder why they didn't keep him in the rotation. It looks like he was primarily used in a mop-up role in 1972 and then he vanished. Baseball-Reference doesn't record a release, sale to the Rangers or any other kind of banishment. Perhaps he went back home to Panama to open a baseball academy to tutor young men that would turn into closers for the Yankees. Perhaps he went to play in another league in Latin America. I don't know where Ed Acosta went, but he was a big guy and did reasonably well.

1972 Feature
Five doubleheaders dominated the baseball schedule on June 25, 1972. Ed Acosta went out to pitch the 9th of a 3-3 tie with the Giants and allowed 2 runs. Fortunately for him, Garry Jestadt hit a 2-run homer to bail him out and send the game to extra innings, where the Giants won in dramatic fashion. Garry Maddox hit a 1-out double in the 14th. Ed Goodson grounded out to third. According to what I see in the box score, it looks like Maddox was running and kept going. First baseman Nate Colbert was credited with an assist and catcher Pat Corrales an error, so I would suppose that Maddox bowled Corrales over and injured him, as it relates that Fred Kendall replaced Corrales behind the plate. What a gutsy move and it paid off in a 14-inning 6-5 win for the Giants.

Lynn McGlothen made his debut with the Red Sox this date. I remember him as being the "anchor" of the Cardinal staffs once Bob Gibson retired and before Bob Forsch took over. Wow, the Cardinals really did suck in the mid-70's.

Also, happy 37th birthday to Carlos Delgado of the Mets, who was born on June 25, 1972. Anyway, as happy a birthday as you can have on the disabled list watching Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals beat Johann Santana and your team in CitiField (hopefully for me) this afternoon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

#122 -- Larry Biittner

Larry Biittner

For a long time in the 70's I misspelled Larry's last name. I'm sure I wasn't the only person that didn't put in the second "i". On Google, there are about 5,640 results for "Larry Biittner" and about 1,100 results for "Larry Bittner". I don't know if there are very many other ballplayers with such a large percentage of hits for the wrong spelling.

Larry, or "Butch" as he's supposedly known (story to follow), was a solid contact and average hitter that didn't have a lot of pop. He had 2-3 years when he played full time, but was usually a part-time player and pinch-hitter. Believe it or not, but at 3, 31 .259, he was one of the Rangers' best hitters in 1972. He hit .315 in 1975 for the Expos and .298 for the Cubs in 1977, but never hit more than 12 homers and never had an OPS+ over 117.

Biittner had his only 2-homer game in a Cubs 23-6 win over the Padres in May 1977. On July 4 of 1977, in the 1st game of a doubleheader in Chicago against his former teammates, the Expos, he took to the mound in a game the Cubs were trailing 11-2. He promptly gave up a 3-run homer to Larry Parrish. He also got taken deep by Ellis Valentine and Andre Dawson, none of which would be an embarrassment. I don't know what he was throwing, but of the 4 outs he got, 3 of them were strikeouts. He struck out pitcher Jackie Brown after Parrish homered. OK, he's a pitcher, big deal. Well, he also struck out Del Unser and Larry Parrish to end the game.

I don't know how to run the report (Andy.....), but I can't believe there are very many non-pitchers who have struck out more than 3 in a game in the last 40 years. For all Biittner did with the Cubs and Reds, this has to be one of his most unusual accomplishments. However, this is a guy that really loved playing ball. In doing my Google search, I found this article about a softball player that marvelled at the "old" guy playing 3rd base next to him and homering often...finding out it was Larry "Butch" Biittner.

1972 Feature
Friday, June 23, 1972 was a big day on the schedule. Steve Arlin followed up his June 18 2-hitter by throwing a 1-hitter at the Giants, beating them 4-1. The only hit came on Garry Maddox' 1-out triple in the 2nd and he scored on a sacrifice fly.

Nolan Ryan threw a 2-hitter at the A's, beating them 2-1. The A's only hits were a 1st inning solo homer by Reggie Jackson and Dave Duncan's 7th inning single. However it took an 8th inning Bob Oliver homer to win the game for the Angels. This win set Ryan on a 5 game winning streak where he didn't allow more than 3 runs or 6 hits in any of those games. None of those were the no-hitters, but I have a feeling we may see him again in this section.....

This date also became a big day in the Watergate saga. It was on June 23, 1972 when President Nixon and H.R. Haldeman were taped formulating a plan to cover up the break-in. The tape didn't come out until August 1974, but it was enough to put the final shovel of dirt on the Nixon Administration. I'm sure they didn't know it at the time, but it's a good lesson. If there's something going on bad, you might as well fess up, because someone will find you out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

#121 -- Ed Sprague

Ed Sprague

Every team has a scouting story about how they found this guy or that guy which is out of the ordinary. Ed would be one of those stories for the Cardinals. Of course, it might have been a better story if he'd made more of an impact on the big league level. Ed couldn't have been scouted the conventional way. Like Sidd Finch, he didn't play high school baseball or college baseball. Somehow a Cardinal scout found him pitching in the Army in Germany and signed him as a free agent in 1966.

OK. That is an unusual story. So the Cardinals get this raw, hardthrowing pitcher and stash him in the low minors to get some seasoning. First year in the minors he gets some innings under his belt and walks a lot of guys. Second year in the minors he pitches a full season at A-ball (California League) and goes 11-7 with a 3.12 ERA and gets the walks under control (the ERA is artificially low as he gave up 83 runs, but only 54 earned....what? was this a team full of scatterarms?). He's looking at a promotion, right? The A's take him in the Rule 5 draft and he spends 1968 learning in the big leagues. He goes a respectable 3-4, 3.28, but his BB/K ratio is 1.0 and he has 6 wild pitches in 68 innings. Still, 4 years removed from an Army base with no baseball background and he's in the big leagues, giving up a homer to Brooks Robinson in his debut (although he did get the other 6 guys out that he faced).

Ed split 1969 between the minors and A's and was then sold to the Reds. He was in the minors in 1970 and came up for a cup of coffee in 1971. He bounced from the Reds to the Cardinals (he only pitched 8 games, but as a young, impressionable Cardinal fan I remember him vividly as one of the guys who couldn't do anything right in the early 70's) and then on to the Brewers. He was off to a 7-2 start in 1974 when he had a knee injury in Comiskey. That messed him up. He came back in 1975 to go 1-7, but what was really telling was walking 40 and only striking out 21 in only 67 innings. He got in 8 innings in 1976 and got shelled. That was it for Ed Sprague in the big leagues until Ed Sprague (his son) made it with the Blue Jays (later to make it in the Mitchell Report).

Remember how the A's noticed him in the California League? After his career was over he went back to California and owned the Stockton franchise.

1972 Feature
A couple of teams went wild on June 19, 1972. Roberto Clemente had 3 RBI on 2 doubles and a homer as the Pirates made up for the previous day's shutout, cuffing the Dodgers 13-3. Reggie Smith homered twice to lead the Red Sox to a 12-0 blasting of the Rangers. But the Game of the Day will feature a couple of hot teams.

The Mets come in having won 3 out of 4 and hanging on to first place in the East by a half-game. A month before they had a 6 game lead, so they need to get things going again. The Astros have won 6 out of 7 and are only a game and a half behind the Reds (who were shut out by Bill Stoneman and the Expos).

We're set up for a pitching duel with Jon Matlack going against Larry Dierker and the game is in the Astrodome. These pitchers don't disappoint. Matlack gets out of a couple of early jams by striking out Jimmy Wynn in the 1st and 3rd. The Astros keep getting guys on base and Houdini Matlack keeps squirming off the hook (like the mixed metaphor?). Finally, in the 7th, the Astros break through for a couple of runs and tack on another in the 8th. What had the Mets been doing? Nothing. Duffy Dyer singled to start the 3rd, but he was erased in a double play. Dierker walked leadoff man Willie Mays a couple of times, but he never got past first and Dierker stops the Mets on a 1-hitter.

Pretty special. Pretty amazing stretch for Astro pitching when you look to see that the day before, Jerry Reuss didn't allow a hit until Larry Bowa doubled to lead off the 9th. It's not like a Johnny VanderMeer thing, but it's not very common for a team to pitch back to back 1-hitters.

With this loss, the Mets fell out of first place and would not again hold sole possession of 1st in 1972.

One other item from June 19, 1972. The Cubs saw the beginning of a long career this day. Rick Reuschel made him big league debut, relieving Billy Hands in the 4th and striking out Bobby Bonds. He was then lifted for a pinch-hitter, but he would go on to win 10 games that year and 214 in a long career. He went on to strike out Bonds 11 more times, but Bobby got the best of it, hitting .350 with 3 homers in his career off Rick.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

#120 -- Bill Freehan

Bill was one of the AL's best catchers in the era between Yogi Berra/Elston Howard and Thurman Munson/Carlton Fisk. He was good for a 20, 70, .265 season every year. He made 10 straight All-Star games (11 overall) and won 5 Gold Gloves. I didn't realize this, but his value to the Tigers is reflected in the fact that he was 3rd in AL MVP voting in 1967 and 2nd in 1968. That's not for the Tigers' team MVP, but the league MVP. In 1967 he was a distant 3rd behind Yaz' Triple Crown and Harmon Killebrew's 44 homers. In 1968, however, he was a solid 2nd, behind teammate Denny McLain's 31 wins and unanimous MVP.

Still, Freehan's stats don't really jump out and grab me and maybe that's because I've lived through the era of guys like Todd Hundley hitting 40 homers and that numbs me to good hitting catchers. It was a lot more rare in the 1960's.

Bill's a Detroit man through and through. He was a baseball and football star for the Big Blue and returned to coach the baseball team at the University of Michigan in the early 90's (just after the Jim Abbott era). The Tigers signed him in the days before the amateur draft. I'm sure Freehan never thought about signing with anyone else. He made his debut in 1961, but didn't stick until 1963. He was the Tigers' starting catcher through the 1975 season. In 1976 he played part time, but hit 5, 27, .270 in 71 games. The Tigers released him after the season (I guess deciding the future was now with Johnny Wockenfuss and Bruce Kimm) and he retired.

Bill was also involved in a couple of oddities in his career. He liked to crowd the plate. Apparently, on August 16, 1968, Jim Lonborg wanted to pitch inside because he hit Bill in the 2nd, 4th and 7th, three consecutive plate appearances. No indication of any riots. Fortunately for Bill, Lee Stange had relieved Lonborg when he came up in the 8th. Bill quietly flied to left.

An even more odd play really showed off Bill's behind-the-plate skills. I'll let you know I've never heard of a play like this and I'd love to see the video of it. On July 5, 1969, the Tigers are in Baltimore and, despite being 43-33, they're 11 games behind the Orioles already. Speedy Paul Blair led off the 3rd with a triple. According to Baseball Library, Frank Robinson swung and missed and the bat flew out of his hand. Apparently Blair had strayed too far away from the bag and wasn't paying attention (looking at the bat, perhaps?) and Freehan the catcher tagged him out. Unassisted. Speed demon Blair run down by a catcher. That's a play for the archives.

1972 Feature
On June 18, 1972, there were a few good individual performances. Skip Lockwood (who we saw a few cards ago) threw a 5-hit shutout at the Royals. Vida Blue finally won his 1st game of the season after winning 24 in 1971. Vida was 14-2 by this time in 1971. San Diego's Steve Arlin made a 1st inning run stand up and threw a 2-hit shutout at the Pirates. Cesar Cedeno showed off his all-around talent with 2 doubles, a single, a homer and a steal of 3rd in a 10-0 win over the hapless Phillies.

The Game of the Day will be in Riverfront Stadium where Tom Seaver goes against Ross Grimsley. Cincinnati leads the West by 1.5 over the Astros and the Mets enter the day a half-game behind the Pirates. The Reds get a run in the 1st. Seaver walked Rose and Morgan. He then got a force at 2nd and struck out Johnny Bench with runners at 1st and 3rd for the 2nd out before Tony Perez singled in Rose. The Mets got that run back in the 4th on a Duffy Dyer double.

Seaver was dominant after the 1st. The Reds had a little rally in the 7th, but Seaver struck out pinch-hitter Ted Uhlaender and then got Rose on a fly ball with runners on 1st and 2nd. Seaver became the Player of the Day and won his 9th game of the year when he homered off Grimsley in the 7th to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. It was Tom Terrific's 2nd homer of the year and if he hadn't hit it they might still be playing. Neither team was hitting that day. This game, coupled with the Pirates shutout loss, put the Mets in first in the East.

By the way, that win I mentioned that Vida Blue got? It was also Charlie Finley's Mustache Day in Oakland that launched the great handlebars of Rolllie Fingers. The link explains how this was all a ploy to try to get Reggie Jackson to shave the mustache he started in Spring Training, but nobody gets one over on Reginald Martinez Jackson.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

#119 -- Marty Perez

I think I was pretty impressionable as a young baseball fan. If I ever heard something good about a player, that's what they were forever. That explains why I still can't believe Mike Rogodzinski, Tom Heintzelman or Stan Papi didn't make it big. Anyway, I must have heard something good about Marty Perez somewhere along the line because I grew up thinking he was a mid-level shortstop. He wasn't a Dave Concepcion or Bud Harrelson, but I always thought he was on a par with guys like Chris Speier or Tim Foli.

Imagine my shock when I grew up a little more and ran across his stats in the Baseball Encyclopedia. Marty was a full-time shortstop from 1971-1977 for the Braves, mostly, spending 1976 with the Giants and 1977 with the A's. But he hit .240 with no power, didn't steal bases, didn't walk a lot, and was an average to below average shortstop. But somehow he was a big league starter for most of 7 seasons. Of course, so was Mike Tyson. This just goes to show how the position of shortstop has undergone a transformation in the last 40 years. His career OPS+ was 70, hitting a high of 81. Since I don't like to use the word "suck" when I teach Sunday School, I'd have to say as a hitter, Marty verily stinketh.

He did hit lefty starters fairly well, as long as they weren't Hall of Famers. He hit over .340 against guys like Geoff Zahn, Doug Rau, Dave Roberts, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack. Good righthanders overpowered him. He was 0-for-John Montefusco and hit under .150 against Fergie Jenkins, Don Wilson and hard-throwing Tom Phoebus.

Not much else to say about Marty except that I'll forever link him with his double play partner, Felix Millan.

1972 Feature

Now, after all that about Marty, I'm going to write something much more complimentary. He played a big part in our June 17, 1972 Game of the Day. The Expos were in Atlanta to play the Braves and Ernie McAnally took a 2-0 lead into the 9th for the Expos. Ernie got Mike Lum to ground out and struck out Rod Gilbreath (making his big league debut). However, Marty worked a 2-out walk. Lum Harris sent Jim Breazeale (winner of the 2008 Cardboard Junkie Baseball Card Tournament) up to pinch-hit for Phil Niekro. He hits it out. Game goes to the 10th.

In the 10th, Ralph Garr singles to lead off against McAnally. After a passed ball on Terry Humphrey, McAnally wisely walks Hank Aaron. Mike Marshall comes in to relieve and Rico Carty singles in the winning run. All because Marty Perez worked a 2-0ut walk in the 9th. Way to go, Marty!

While this was going on, a security guard found some tape over a door lock. He took it off, but noticed it was back a few hours later and called the police. He had no idea how much that one phone call would change politics and journalism. That tape was in the Watergate Office Complex in Washington, DC, where future NBA Commissioner and 1972 Democratic National Committee Chairman Lawrence O'Brien had an office. Arrested that night were 5 men who worked for the Commitee to Re-Elect the President.

I remember the aftermath well, but nobody really remembers the break-in. President Nixon swept to one of the largest electoral and popular vote margins of all time. That's what's ironic. They didn't have to try to get the Democrats' secrets because they didn't stand a chance anyway. The 1972 election was decided the day Senator Ted Kennedy dropped Mary Jo Kopechne in the Chappaquiddick pond in 1969.

Instead of letting a special prosecutor deal with this, President Nixon decided to cover it up. The same paranoia that led his operatives to break in and look for secrets led him to try to cover it up. I guess he must have been gone the week they taught in Sunday School that your sins will find you out.

I liked President Nixon. I may have only been 8 in 1972, but I was a big Nixon guy. I got a poster in 1973 in the school book order and hung it in my room. It was still hanging in my room 10 years later when we were trying to sell our house (that was a good point for the folks that ended up buying it). However, for all the forward thinking in the Nixon/Kissinger foreign policy, he missed it big. Because of this, people mistrust politicians now, because he looked in the camera and said, "I am not a crook."

What's also ironic is that in 1968, Nixon was elected largely on a "law and order" platform that resonated with middle America, especially after the Democrat's convention in Chicago where anarchy broke out on national TV.

It would be nice if America could remember June 17, 1972 for Jim Breazeale's dramatic pinch-homer, but, unfortunately, this date will be inextricably linked with Nixon and company.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New 1972 Cards!!

There are new 1972 cards being produced!! There's a link in the comments section of the Cleo James card to a new blog featuring great photoshops of current players on 1972 designs. The site is 1972 Topps Redone.

He's taken some current player pictures and put them into the 1972 format. So far we've got Yadier Molina in get-up that Gerry Cheever (1972 Boston Bruin goalie) would have laughed at...without a mask on. Joe Torre is signing a baseball for a fan (without the mutton chops you'll see here along about card #500). Tim Lincecum is taken out of a game (looks about as happy as a 1972 starter was to leave a game). Finally, Johan Santana, in a Spring Training shot that reminds me of a Sports Illustrated cover.

I'll be looking forward to more of these and adding this blog to my list on the right for easy access.

#118 -- Skip Lockwood

Skip Lockwood

This Brewers Spring Training photo includes a photo of one of the rocks that you see in the Arizona shots. If 1972 baseball cards were sent to Neptune and the inhabitants tried to figure us out from this set (scary thought, isn't it?) they'd get out the topographical map and wonder where all the mountains in Wisconsin are.

Skip also looks very 70's in this shot. He's got the sideburns coming way down and up towards his mouth. That took a lot of grooming back then. It's also a lot different from the bookish version of Skip we see in later cards with the Mets.

Skip signed with the A's as an 18 year old out of high school and was brought up in 1965. Those stats aren't on the back of his card because he hit .121 as a 3rd baseman. I guess he didn't scare Sal Bando too much. Looks like after a couple more years of trying to make it as a hitter he started pitching in 1968. For some reason, the Pilots took a flyer on him and drafted him in the expansion draft. After going 6-2 in 10 starts in AA ball, the Pilots brought him up in 1969, with just over a year's pitching experience in the minors.

He finished a couple of blowouts, giving 2 runs in 2 innings, not looking too impressive. The runs came on solo homers to Elrod Hendricks of the Orioles and Ike Brown of the Tigers, not exactly thought of as big time sluggers. However, they let him start 3 games in September and he did great. Since he was with the Pilots, he went 0-1, but he had a 2.70 ERA. He went 7 innings and gave 1 run in a 1-1 tie with the Angels, lost 2-1 to the White Sox and left after 7 against the Twins tied at 3 in a game the Pilots won in 14.

He earned a spot in the rotation from 1970-1973, but was mediocre, going 28-54 (ouch) despite a 3.70 ERA over that time. He was traded to the Angels and didn't get much work there in 1974. He was traded to the Yankees in the off-season, but was released at the beginning of 1975. The A's picked him up, but he was stuck at AAA Tucson, pitching so-so between the rotation and bullpen. The Mets purchased him for bullpen depth and he found his niche. He was a big part of the Mets bullpen in the late 70's before arm trouble shut him down in 1979. He tried to come back with his beloved Red Sox (native of Massachusetts) but he wasn't the same. The Sox released him in the last cuts before the 1981 season started. He tried to hang on with Montreal's AAA team in 1981, but that was it for his baseball career.

But that wasn't all for Skip Lockwood. He's done some baseball analyst work, but he's had a really interesting post-baseball career. He has a Master's degree from MIT in 1983, shortly after his baseball career ended. That's a pretty big accomplishment, especially given that he went from high school to baseball and he had to pick up a bachelor's degree somewhere along the way. Skip is only one of three MIT grads to have played in the big leagues with Art Merewether (1 at bat for the Pirates in 1922) and Jason Szuminski (7 games in 2004 for the Padres) are the others.

Skip is currently the CEO of a company called PACE 360, a company involved in sales and marketing.
1972 Feature
On June 16, 1972 there were 6 shutouts in the 11 games played. Joe Coleman of the Tigers threw a 3-hitter at the Angels, Jim Palmer needed Grant Jackson to get the last out with the bases loaded to preserve a 3-0 win over the Twins, the A's got 4 in the 1st and Ken Holtzman scattered 7 Indian hits to win 5-0, Ron Reed gave the Expos only 7 hits in the 2nd game of a doubleheader in Atlanta, Cub rookie Burt Hooton stopped the Dodgers on 6 hits, and the Game of the Day is in the Houston Astrodome.

The Phillies absolutely sucked in 1972. Except when Steve Carlton took the mound. They were 59-97 overall, but Carlton was 27-10. The Phillies were 29-11 when he pitched, meaning they were 30-86 when he didn't pitch. You've got to wonder how they only threw him out there 40 times. Carlton went to the mound on June 16 against Don Wilson of the Astros and they put on a pitching duel. Wilson was taken out of the scoreless game in the 7th. Don Money had singled to start the inning and Larry Bowa bunted him to second. Supposedly that would be so the next hitter had a chance to knock him in. At this point, the Astros decided to get a fresh pitcher in to face that hitter, so Tom Griffin came in. Carlton was the batter. He flied to center and the game stayed scoreless.

In the 9th, the Phillies put runners at 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. Carlton was the scheduled hitter. The Phillie bullpen was so solid that he was left in to hit and struck out. Good thing. In the bottom of the 9th Cesar Cedeno led off with a double and the meat of the lineup is coming up. Carlton intentionally walked Jimmy Wynn. Then he struck out Lee May, got Bob Watson to line out to left. He walked Doug Rader to load the bases, but the less formidable Tommy Helms came up and flied to center.

In the 10th, the Astros again got a runner to 2nd on a balk with nobody out. They bunted him to third with one out, but Carlton struck out Roger Metzger and got Cedeno to ground out and end another threat. The Phils got their leadoff man on in the 11th and bunted him to 2nd. Larry Bowa then popped up, meaning Carlton would be coming up with a man in scoring position and 2 out, just like the 9th. This time they lifted him for Oscar Gamble. Gamble singled, but the run couldn't score. The next batter groundd out. Dick Selma relieved and Jimmy Wynn promptly led off the bottom of the 11th with a homer. Sounds to me like that game was going to last as long as Carlton would.

Monday, June 15, 2009

#117 -- Cleo James

Sometimes there's a card comes up where the player or the subject (like the Billy Cowan "halo" card or the Billy Martin "finger" card) has been written about enough that there's just nothing fresh to write. Sometimes there's a card comes up of someone I could write for hours on end how great they are, like Willie Mays. Sometimes I'll research a lesser known player and find a lot of stuff that's interesting for me.

Then sometimes there's a guy comes up like Cleo James where it's hard to find anything. Cleo didn't have a long or distinguished career, but he was obviously talented and kept at it. I couldn't find anything on what Cleo did after baseball (which I usually find interesting). But for every All-Star like Jim Fregosi or Hall of Famer like Harmon Killebrew, there are dozens of guys like Cleo James that get more than just a taste of the big leagues, but don't do enough to really leave memories. Here goes...

Cleo made the Dodgers' Opening Day roster in 1968 as a 27 year old rookie. He'd had 2 years at A, AA and one year at the AAA affiliate in Spokane for seasoning. His debut was to pinch-hit for Tom Haller against Bob Veale of the Pirates, who was a tough lefthander. Cleo struck out. His first hit came in his next at bat, almost a week later, against Al Jackson of the Mets. He only got one start that year, striking out in 3 at bats against the Reds. He was back in the minors by May 10 and was later dealt to the Cubs.

He came back to the big leagues with the Cubs in 1970, playing some centerfield and pinch-hitting. He hit his first homer off Bruce Dal Canton of the Pirates, and ended up with 5 for his career (all-time leader for big leaguers named "Cleo.") Oh, and like the cartoon on the back shows, he liked to play ping pong.

1972 Feature

June 15, 1972 had a light schedule, with only 6 games on the schedule, including the Pirates sweeping a doubleheader from the Giants in Pittsburgh. The Giants won the West last year and with this doubleheader loss they have the worst record in baseball. Things don't get better for them

The Game of the Day is in Anaheim. Vince Colbert threw a gem. He was matched up against Clyde Wright of the Angels. Colbert came in 0-4 and Wright was 5-3. However, Colbert shut the Angels down on 5 hits and 3 walks. Graig Nettles knocked in Ray Fosse with a 4th inning double and that was the only scoring through the 9th. The Angels threatened in the bottom of the 9th. With 1 out they've got Ken Berry on 1st and Vada Pinson on 3rd. Rookie Leroy Stanton, acquired in the Jim Fregosi trade, came up.

Colbert, however, met his best friend once again that day. Stanton grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, one of 3 the Indians turned that day which allowed Colbert to finish off the shutout. Today, he'd never have been allowed to make it that far, but here he was allowed to pitch through the jams.

Born on June 15, 1972 were 3 big leaguers: Ramiro Mendoza (who had a good couple of years and then flamed out), Tony Clark (who seems to have had a better career as a part-timer than a starter) and Andy Pettitte (still a big-time contributor with the Yankees).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

#116 - Ed Farmer

Ed Farmer

Ed Farmer was a so-so reliever through the early 70's. He made it up with the Indians in 1971 and pitched middle relief. He stayed in the same role through 1974. He had a mid 4.00's ERA and had as many walks as strikeouts. I'm surprised he made it in the big leagues that long.

When he went to the minors, he spent 1974, 1975 and 1977 in the starting rotation. He didn't do any better, but must have gotten hurt in 1975. He had a 7.00+ ERA in 13 starts in 1975 and didn't pitch in 1976. However, in 1978 the Brewers put him in the bullpen in AAA Spokane. He still had an ERA of 6.00, but he got a shot in the big leagues and did well.

In 1979, however, he was traded to the White Sox in mid-season and everything finally clicked. I don't know if he made a deal with Louis Cypher or not (like Sully said about Brad Lidge in a great post) but he started doing the job when put into "game" situations. He sure went into the right place because his competition for the closer's role with the White Sox was Mike Proly and Randy Scarbery.

In 1980, Ed made the All-Star team. He came into a pressure situation in the 6th. The NL had just tied the score 2-2 and Dave Winfield is standing at the plate with runners on 1st and 3rd with only 1 out. He got Winfield to hit a grounder to 2nd (potential double play?), but Willie Randolph made an error and the go-ahead run scored. Keith Hernandez then beat out a dribbler near the mound before Farmer got Pete Rose to ground into an inning-ending double play.

He came into the All-Star break with a 6-3 record, 17 saves in 21 chances and a 3.00 ERA. After the break he was 1-6 with 13 saves in 20 chances and a 3.80 ERA. Not quite the same. His 1981 season looked like his early 70's seasons and he signed with the Phillies as a free agent after the season. He didn't do anything good with the Phillies or A's and was done in 1983.

Farmer is most known now for being the play-by-play voice of the White Sox. Before that, he was known for a feud with Al Cowens. On May 8, 1979, he started a game for the Rangers against the Royals. He hit leadoff hitter Frank White and broke his hand. In the 4th, he hit Al Cowens in the jaw. Each missed at least 30 games, which may have something to do with why the Royals didn't win the Western Division that year. Al Cowens had a long memory. In June of 1980, He faced Farmer in Chicago, hit a grounder and ran it out.....right to the mound and sucker punched Farmer from behind. Farmer decided to press charges and Cowens had to get the heck out of Dodge. They later buried the hatchet. Al Cowens wasn't someone you'd want to have looking to get even with you.

1972 Feature
The Game of the Day is going to be in Oakland. Bobby Grich hit a leadoff homer in the top of the 10th off Catfish Hunter to give the Orioles a 2-1 win. Dave McNally and Hunter both pitched complete games in this one. You don't see pitchers going 10 innings anymore and here's 2 that did. Earl Weaver didn't feel the need to bring Eddie Watt in to pitch the 10th; he figured McNally was pitching well so he left him in.

What's also remarkable about this game was that it was finished in 2 hours and 2 minutes. That gets you into the 6th inning now. It's not like there weren't baserunners, either. The Orioles had 6 hits and the A's had 4. Hunter had the only 3 walks of the game (imagine a pitcher going 1o innings now without walking someone). There were 5 hours in the game. Still, they finished the game in just over 2 hours. What a concept......

Saturday, June 13, 2009

#115 -- Jim Fregosi

Jim's gone through a lot of different phases of his career. He was one of the first California Angel wonderboys. Starting in 1972 his career went south and he became more of a utility guy and wandered around the league. Then he was a manager for several years. Now he's more of the wise old sage.

However, this makes two guys in a row who're not known for their All-Star years or other accomplishments. Instead, they're known for a single failure in their career. In Fregosi's case, it wasn't even his fault. The Mets chose to give up Nolan Ryan to pick up Fregosi to be their third baseman. In fact, as I mentioned in Gary Gentry's post, the Angels would have been fine with either Ryan or Gentry, but I think the Mets were reluctant to part with Gentry because he was more of a World Series hero. However, in some respects, this Ryan-for-Fregosi trade would have been the equivalent of the Braves trading Edgar Renteria a couple of years ago to the Orioles for Daniel Cabrera. You've got a good-hitting veteran shortstop for a talented, hard-throwing, yet erratic pitcher. Ryan could just have well turned out like Daniel Cabrera has (so far).

The Angels brought up Fregosi as a fresh-faced 19 year old in their expansion year of 1961. By August 1962 he was their starting shortstop. He was a 6-time All-Star through 1970 and was hitting for some pop. It was unusual for a shortstop to be hitting 15-20 homers a year in the 60's, but Jim was good for that. In 1971 he tailed off, largely because of a tumor that was found on his foot. He was traded to the Mets and struggled with a broken thumb in 1972. By mid-1973, the Mets had all they could take and they sold Fregosi to the Rangers. While it was kind of an insult to be sold, it might have been more of an insult to Fregosi to have been traded for any of the sack of you know what the Rangers had (Jeff Burroughs excluded).

He settled in as a backup with the Rangers into 1977 and then finished his career in Pittsburgh in 1978. He never really recaptured what he had with the Angels in the 60's, but he finished his playing career on his own terms. He retired in May to take the job managing Nolan Ryan and the Angels. He led the Angels to their first playoff appearance in 1979. He also managed the White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays. Most remember him with the Phillies in the 1993 World Series, probably wondering why he had to put Mitch Williams out there.

1972 Feature
I've learned that when I put these dates into Google, I can get a lot of stuff. In addition to posting the Game of the Day from Major League Baseball, I can be posting highlights from transcripts of the White House tapes (tune in on card #119 for something on that), the concert tour of Led Zeppelin and Elvis Presley, and there's even a website that shows wrestling results for Superstar Billy Graham (the man who inspired Hulk Hogan's biceps and Jesse Ventura's wardrobe). However, I'm letting you off the hook (unless I see something interesting with the King or the Superstar).

The MLB Extra Innings package would have been worth having on June 13, 1972. The Angels overcame 5 errors to beat the Indians 3-2 in 11 innings. Wilbur Wood of the White Sox and Pete Broberg of the Rangers each threw 3-hit shutouts. The Braves had another come from behind victory over the Mets, 6-5 in 10 innings, tying the game with 3 in the 8th.

My Game of the Day will be in Fenway, where the Red Sox drew all of 12,000 fans against the Royals on a Tuesday night. You can't get into Fenway now unless you know someone that knows someone that knows someone (which is how my wife and I got to see a game in May 2006). Marty Pattin had the Royals shut down and, after getting help from Bill Lee to escape a jam in the 8th, the Red Sox were leading 2-0. In the top of the 9th, rookie Rick Miller is a defensive replacement for Yaz in left field, suggesting the Sox were about to salt one away.

However, Freddie Patek got a 2-run double off Lee and Amos Otis followed with a 2-run single off Bobby Bolin to give the Royals a 4-2 lead. The Royals could have tried to add to that, but Otis was made the 3rd out at 3rd base, trying to go from 1st to 3rd on a single to left by pitcher Bruce Dal Canton. Richie Scheinblum was coming up next and he was a .300 hitter.

In the 9th a Freddie Patek error and a Carlton Fisk double put the tying runners in scoring position. But Tom Burgmeier came in and got pinch-hitter Phil Gagliano and Tommy Harper out to end the game. Pretty tight finish. The Royals and Red Sox were both 5 games under .500 and floundering, but the Red Sox would get things going later on.

Friday, June 12, 2009

#114 -- Bill Buckner

Bill Buckner

This is one of my favorite cards in the set. He's holding the bat in a "coming at you" pose and it intersects neatly with his Topps All-Rookie Team cup of gold. You can see under the hat he's got a full head of black hair, with long sideburns and heck of a set of eyebrows crawling over his eyes. So far we've had Buckner and Andy Etchebarren with the eyebrows. I remember there being more. Has something happened in the last 35 years? Have some of those chemicals Al Gore rails against caused guys to have thinning in their eyebrow hair? Or have some of those chemicals Bud Selig rails against caused eyebrows to thin? I just don't see thick bushy eyebrows on today's player and (except for Eric Byrnes) don't tell me they sit around and tweese or wax them.

Buckner was a good all-around player when he came up. He played first and the corner outfield spots well. He didn't remind anybody of Maury Wills, but he stole 15-30 bases a year. He had doubles power and hit for average. Then he had a horrific ankle injury and that slowed him down. Later in his career, he just didn't move around well. However, he was still a .280-.300 hitter and didn't strike out (although he didn't take a walk, either).

Buckner isn't known for having 2700 career hits, a batting title, holding the record for assists by a first baseman or an All-Star appearance. Nope. He's known for something he supposedly did wrong. We all know what it is and I don't want to go there. That seems to be all we remember. The Sox actually waived him in 1987 while he was hitting .276 with 2 homers and 42 RBI. Yep. Didn't want anything for him, all so they could bring in future Hall of Famer Sam Horn. Acutally, that was probably more of a mercy thing for Billy Buck because Boston fans can be harsh. He went on to hit over .300 for the Angels after they grabbed him up. He struggled in 1988 and 1989 with the Angels and Royals. His 1988 card still shows he had quite the head of hair.

Buckner ended up going back to the Red Sox to finish his career in 1990. He didn't do well and was released in early June. However, before he was released, he hit his last career homer in Fenway Park. Was it an opposite field shot over the Monster? Did he curl one in around Pesky's Pole? Did he pour everything he had and lay into one and hit it out to the Triangle? Nope. This 41 year old with bad ankles managed an inside the park homer. The play-by-play says it went down the right field line, which is the shortest part of the park, but has some tough angles. Claudell Washington was playing right field that day and you have to wonder if he wasn't stricken with a nasty case of something for him to mess around with the ball long enough for Buckner to circle the bases. Or maybe it was like the end of the Bad News Bears movie when the opposing team's pitcher held the ball while Tanner (?) rounded the bases. If I remember right, he was mad at his Marinovich-like father. In any event, Buckner's last homer had to be his most improbable.

Sorry Mets fans (and I know some of you admit to it). I'm not going to show the video.

1972 Feature
June 12, 1972 was a light day on the schedule. There were only 6 games in the big leagues as half the teams had the day off. There was 1 blowout, 1 slugfest and 4 pitchers' duels. Maybe that's why I still appreciate the baseball of the day.

The best of the pitchers' duels would have been Pat Dobson and the Orioles hanging a 1-0 loss on Vida Blue (0-3 now after his dual Cy Young/MVP season). However, I'm going with the slugfest down on Peach Tree Street in Atlanta for my Game of the Day.

This starts out as a pitching duel between Gary Gentry of the Mets and Phil Niekro of the Braves. After 6, the Mets are up 2-1. The only scoring has come on solo homers by John Milner and Wayne Garrett of the Mets and Earl Williams of the Braves.

In the 7th the Mets loaded the bases with 1 out. The play account says Duffy Dyer hit a grounder to Niekro and he forced the runner at the plate. I'd want to know why they weren't able to get Dyer, a catcher, to complete the 1-2-3 double play and get out of the inning. Gentry then stepped up with a 2-run single to left and, after an error, Buddy Harrelson singled in another. The Braves came back with 3 in their half of the 7th on singles by Dusty Baker and Mike Lum.

In the 8th, Buzz Hardin replaced Niekro (who'd been lifted for a pinch-hitter) and he was promptly greeted with a solo homer by Rusty Staub. That was enough and Cecil Upshaw came in and gave up a 1-out homer to Ken Boswell and the Mets were up 7-4.

The Braves then took the lead in the bottom of the 8th off Faith Hill's father-in-law. With nobody out, Rico Carty knocked in a run. Next, two runs scored to tie the game on a wild throw by Met third baseman Wayne Garrett and Darrell Evans made it to third as the go-ahead run, still with nobody out. He wasn't able to score on Earl Williams' grounder to third. He was able to score when centerfielder Tommie Agee couldn't catch Dusty Baker's fly ball (he still got credit for a sac fly). Upshaw then put down the Mets 1-2-3 and that was the end to a wild game.