Friday, January 23, 2009

#14 -- Phillie Rookies (Koegel, Anderson, Twitchell)

Pete Koegel (minor league record)

Generally, I didn’t like the rookie cards. I didn’t know the players and you didn’t know if they’d ever be any good. For example, Pete Koegel hit one big league homer. It came with 2 outs in the 9th off Tommy John in 1970. Sounds like potentially a big hit. Wrong. It spoiled a 5-0 shutout. Otherwise, the only thing I know about him is that he was big (6-7), hit for power, struck out a lot and was a nomad between catcher, first and the outfield. Mike Anderson and Wayne Twitchell had better careers, but neither were world-beaters. Twitchell was the Phillie All-Star representative to the 1973 game in KC. He threw a scoreless 6th, giving up a leadoff double to John Mayberry, striking out Reggie Jackson and then getting Carlos May and Bobby Murcer out.

This brought up a big question for me at first thought. Why did Sparky Anderson pick Wayne Twitchell over Steve Carlton when everybody knows Carlton was a better pitcher? In 1972 Lefty was 27-10 with over 300 K’s and a sub 2.00 ERA. Wayne Twitchell’s first half split was 8-3 2.29 ERA, 2 shutouts and 103 K’s in 137.2 innings. However, in the first half of 1973 Carlton was 7-7, 4.28 on his way to a 13-20 season with a 3.90 ERA. So, upon further review, Wayne Twitchell really was the more deserving Phillie All-Star representative in 1973. Sadly for Wayne, that was the only year he won more than 6 games or had 200 innings pitched.

Mike Anderson was a good defensive outfielder with gap power. He went on to be a solid pinch-hitter/role player with the Phillies and Cardinals. One day in 1979 the Phils had a tough day in Wrigley. They were down 11-2 in the 8th and they’d already run through a lot of their bullpen. Mike went to the mound. (I love these kind of games.) He strikes out former teammate Jerry Martin (ouch). Then he strikes out Mike Vail……looking!!! (double ouch). Steve Ontiveros and Barry Foote follow with singles. The Cubbies decide you never have enough runs in Wrigley and a 9 run lead isn’t safe, even with Bruce Sutter in the bullpen, so they send Larry Biitner to pinch-hit for Dick Tidrow. Biitner grounds to second. Threat over. Mike strikes out 2 in one inning. Despite giving up the hits, this has to be one of the best non-pitcher appearances in terms of strikeouts (Andy, maybe there’s a Stat of The Day column here somewhere……).

1972 Feature

In 1972 I thought pro wrestling on TV was real. We didn't get the WWF telecast out of New York. We got a local promotion in Missouri called the Central States. The big names there were Harley Race, Rufus R. Jones, Bulldog Bob Brown and Lord Alfred Hays. I don't think Skandor Akbar had made his presence felt yet, but he was probably the most infamous name. I couldn't believe they would allow someone as vile and anti-American as that heel Saudi (later, after Ayatollah Khomeini took American hostages, Akbar became an Iranian) on the TV. Compared to what came later, it was hokey and schlocky, even by pro wrestling standards. However, the steel chairs became imprinted with men's heads and we had the great interviews, with lines like, "______, when we come to St. Louis on Saturday night, October 12th at the Checkerdome, I'm gonna beat you like the dog that you are." They didn't bother with political correctness. Chief Frank Hill was like every other American Indian wrestler in that he had a tomahawk chop as his finishing more and his opponents referred to him as a "broke down Injun."

The company that publishes Pro Wrestling Illustrated starting giving year end awards in 1972:

Wrestler of the year: Pedro Morales
Tag Team of the year: Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher
Match of the year: Bruno Sammartino wins Los Angeles Battle Royal
Most Popular Wrestler: Jack Brisco and Fred Curry (tie)
Most Hated Wrestler: The Shiek (not the Iron Shiek)
Most Inspirational Wrestler: Lord Alfred Hayes
Rookie of the year: Mike Graham
Manager of the year: Bobby Heenan
Midget Wrestler of the year: Little Bruiser

The big promotions at the time were the NWA and the WWF. Pedro Morales was the WWF champ and Dory Funk, Jr. (Terry Funk's brother) was the NWA champion. However, the most notable development on the pro wrestling scene came in Atlanta, where an upstart UHF channel called WTCG put on a show called Georgia Championship Wrestling hosted by legendary wrestling announcer Gordon Solie. Most wrestling fans know that show grew as the upstart UHF channel went satellite as WTBS and when I was in high school, I could go to a friend's house and watch it Saturday nights from 5-7 p.m. That, along with the McMahon's taking the WWF national on the USA network took wrestling to popularity in the 1980's that was unmatched.

1 comment:

  1. I loved those rookie cards. During my autograph collecting hey-day, I would make projects out of finding those guys (like Koegel) for autographs. I liked the challenge and the players probably liked the attention or the extra cards I would send.
    Ooooh the glory days of wrestling. Even though I thought it was fake back then, I didn't know for sure and that was the fun of it.