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).



    Here are some 1972s I did that I thought you might like....

  2. Current players in 1972 form

    That is a better link. I love 1972s and I hope you liek these that I did.

  3. As a kid I grew up in Spokane and in 1969 I do rember one of Cleo's 4 homers that year as the walls @ the Fairgrounds Ballpark were 20' high and the lights were another 25' or so over the top of the wall...well Cleo sent one yard over the top of the lights in Right Center....even the Anouncer claimed it musta landed on Sprague Ave some 6 blocks south!