Saturday, March 7, 2009
This is not a good airbrush job on Fred's hat. The coloring just isn't right. The only thing I'll give the artist credit for is they made the hat on the guy in the background match the Indians' dark hats of the time. The rock in the back tells me this is an Arizona spring training site, which both the Indians (Tucson) and the Brewers (Tempe) had at the time. I'm going to say Fred's got a Milwaukee Brewer hat on because the Indians acquired him in late March 1971, so he would have spent most of 1971 in Brewers' camp. This raises an interesting question: could the guy in the background have truly an Indian in a Spring Training game between the Tribe and the Crew?
Fred was not the best "Frederick Stanley" that ever played. However, I've got to play a trick to make that statement. The best was Frederick Stanley McGriff. However, Chicken had a long and interesting career. He was a Pilot (so he goes on that checklist). In 1972 he was sent from the Indians after only 6 games to the Padres for the rest of the year. The Yankees picked him up for the 1973 season and he stayed with them through the 1980 season. He then finished up with a couple of years in Oakland.
Fred was never a regular. He got his most playing time in 1975, but only got into 117 games and had 252 at bats. In 1976 he started 87 games at short, the most games started in his career. He didn't have any real production, but the Yankees made the playoffs anyway (their appearance in the World Series was tainted by Chris Chambliss' failure to touch home plate in Game 5 of the ALCS). The next year they picked up Bucky Dent and Fred was back to the bench.
Fred only hit 10 homers, but 2 of them were grand slams (1973 off Kevin Kobel, 1978 off Mike Torrez). Fred was one of the worst "sluggers" of modern times. In 1976 he had 260 at bats and 5 extra base hits. He had a lifetime batting average of .216, slugged .263 and a career OPS of .564. That's not very good.
"Chicken" is now the director of player development for the Giants. He had a lot of years to sit on teh bench and continue working his butt off to be ready. Guys like Fred may not have been the kind of ballplayer that you'd build a team around, but every team that wins has a guy like Fred that's versatile and ready to step in and get the job done.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Hard to tell much about where this picture is. About the only place Topps was taking NL pictures with turf was Candlestick, but this doesn't have a Candlestick feel to me. The guys in the background are wearing Houston road uniforms (these were the boring uniforms before the great stripes that started around 1975). Also, I don't know why, but when I saw his photo it just screamed, "I didn't know John Schneider hit left-handed." (Disclaimer: You can now see why I'm a lawyer and not in graphic arts. I verily stinketh at photoshop/paint. That's supposed to be an Astro hat I drew on John Schneider/Rich Chiles.)
There are two other things I've found about Rich that are more interesting than his playing career. His cousin was Hall of Famer George Kelly, a first baseman with the New York Baseball Giants. I'd have to admit that would have been cool growing up to know you were going to have Christmas and Thanksgiving with a former big league ballplayer (Kelly didn't make the HOF until 1973). It also would have made a cool cartoon on the back of his card, with Rich looking at Kelly (with a pillbox style hat) and having a word balloon saying, "Hi, Cuz!" (I'll not try to draw the cartoon in Paint.)
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Back at Billy Cowan's card, we saw the halo at the top of the Anaheim Stadium scoreboard. Now we see the next level down. Maybe a little disappointing. It's advertising gasoline and, from the color scheme, I think it's some form of the Amoco company (Correction from Andy: It's Chevron). I think we'll see this again with some of the Angels, as that spot seemed to be pretty popular for the Topps photographer.
Once upon a time, pitchers had to earn their way into the rotation. A young, up and coming pitcher would work out of the bullpen and get some spot starts along the way in order to get to a point where he would make the starting rotation in a year or two. This still happens sometimes, but a lot of guys now just move right into the rotation. Clyde made his way into the Angel rotation this way.
He had 4 years of spot starts and then was put in the rotation full time in 1970. Not much was expected because he went 1-8 4.10 in 1969. He was waived and unclaimed. He learned a screwball in a Caribbean winter league and the Angels took him back, where he went 22-12 and made the All-Star team in 1970. Ray Fosse might wish he hadn't, because Clyde threw a pitch to Jim Hickman that led to
Clyde had a good year in 1972, finishing 18-11 with a 2.98 ERA that was above the league average of 2.92. He also had a good year at the plate with 2 homers (off Dick Drago of the Royals and Dave Lemonds of the White Sox), 13 RBI and a .217 batting average. However, it was his last good year. Something happened that he stopped fooling hitters as his already so-so strikeout rate plummeted and his batting average against went up. He went 11-19 and 9-20 in 1973 and 1974 before being finished after 94 innings in 1975 with Texas.
He then had a stormy course in Japan with the venerable Yomiuri Giants for 3 years, pitching and homering in the Japan Series his first year. Unfortunately, in Game 7 he gave up the game-winning homer after telling his interpreter he was tired and needed to come out. Hopefully todays Japanese pitchers over here have heard that story and make sure their interpreters understand them.
Clyde had some tough days when his career was over. But he's on top of everything now. He has run a succesful academy in Anaheim called the Clyde Wright Pitching Academy. He also had a son, Jaret Wright, that pitches in the big leagues. Although Jaret is in Pirates' camp this spring, he's unlikely to pick up the 32 wins he needs to allow he and his father to join Mel and Todd Stottlemyre as the only father-son combinations to win 100 games each.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Derrel Harrelson (good thing somebody that cared about him slapped "Bud" on him...Derrel's a good name, but that rhyming might not have worked out so well) was born on June 6, 1944. That was a hell of a day to be born.
Imagine that. You're having your 10th birthday party, a pretty big deal, and all anyone is talking about is the 10th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. I suppose we now know why he was named Derrel, but he just as well could have been David, Donald or Daniel, when your birthday is also D-Day.
Bud always had spunk and fight in him. He went all of 5'11" and 160, but he didn't back down from anybody. Just ask Pete Rose. Bud couldn't hit his way out of a wet paper bag, but he could play the field well enough to stay in the lineup. In fact, about the only thing that could keep him out of the lineup was National Guard duty. Yes, there was actually a time when ballplayers missed time for summer Guard camp. During the season, even. And Bud missed time in 1969 when he won a World Series ring. But then again, wouldn't you expect this from a guy born on D-Day?
The "action" card here is great. It's not got much to do with Bud, though, although he's nicely slapped a ball out there. I think that's an Atlanta Braves' catcher, which would make it either Earl Williams or Hal King. I'm going to narrow this down to Earl Williams on Saturday, July 3, 1971. I'll pick that over May 22, just because the crowd is more shirtsleeves. I don't know if you can make it out, but there's a gal with some bug-eyed sunglasses in the front row on the left side of the dugout looking down to get a bite of something. Just behind her there's a long-haired hippie with a tan Gilligan hat on. (You may have to click on the card and then zoom in to see them.) Looks like an episode of Life on Mars. If only No Nuts Norris were sitting back there.....
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Harmon Killebrew was one of the gentlest big men to play in the big leagues. He's 2nd all time for most AL homers. Anytime Babe Ruth is the only person ahead of you on the leaderboard, you're a stud . By this time in his career, Harmon was declining. But I'd have to say that he's still the best Minnesota Twin in their history, with only Rod Carew close by.
This makes back to back Hall of Famers. If you want to count Harmon's appearance on John Ellis' "action" card, this is 5 cards in a row with Hall of Famers. Pretty good run.
Harmon wasn't big, only 5'11". But he hit some of the farthest homers around. Legend has it that an Idaho senator tipped off Clark Griffith about this guy who was hitting .847 for a semi-pro team. That's pretty good. That's even better than I hit in my heyday of playing co-ed softball and refining my stroke to hit it to the girl in right field that didn't want to be there. Harmon signed and, under baseball's Bonus Baby rule, had to spend 2 years on the big league roster. He made his debut 6 days short of his 18th birthday. He wasn't ready. It wasn't until 1958 that he was ready to play.
OK, it's Hall of Fame time. You've got a guy with 573 lifetime homers, at the time #5 all-time (Aaron, Ruth, Mays, F. Robinson), 1 MVP award and 5 other Top 5 finishes, 11 time All-Star, lifetime OPS+ of 143 and 8 40-homer seasons. In or out? In Harmon's first trip on the ballot, he was named on only 59% of the ballots. Bob Gibson was the only inductee and future HOFers that didn't make it that year included Don Drysdale, Hoyt Wilhelm, Juan Marichal, Red Schoendienst, Jim Bunning, Nellie Fox, Richie Ashburn, Orlando Cepeda, Luis Aparicio and Bill Mazeroski. Harmon, with his credentials, didn't make it until the 4th ballot. There's no doubt that "The Killer" was a shoo-in Hall of Famer, but you can see that the voters at that time were very protective of who got enshrined in Cooperstown. I fall into that same crowd and think the HOF is for the very absolute best of the best.
The "action" card could be one of two things. Either Harmon has just nailed one that's headed for parking lot or he's popped up to the catcher. Either way, even though he wasn't a tall guy, he looks like a giant the way Topps framed this card. I think it's great. Harmon lives in the Scottsdale area now and does a lot of charity work, including a golf tournament every year in the name of his former Twin teammate Danny Thompson, who died of leukemia.
Harmon's one of those guys who isn't just a Hall of Famer ballplayer, he's a Hall of Fame person.