Friday, June 19, 2009
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.
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
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.
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
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
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.
Monday, June 15, 2009
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.
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).