Thursday, January 29, 2009

# 20 -- Don Wilson

Don Wilson

I like to see Don Wilson smiling. You see baseball gave him a lot to smile about. He was the ace of the Astros staff. He threw 2 no-hitters and was working on a third in 1974 when lifted for a pinch-hitter trailing 2-1 (walks and an error in the 5th). After that game, Don only pitched 4 more times, his last start a 2-hit shutout over the Braves.

There are some cards I hate to write about. This is the first. That's because Don's career ended when he was found dead in the passenger seat of his Thunderbird in the garage with the engine running. Cause of death was officially listed as accidental. As if this isn't enough, another tragic note to the story is that the garage was attached to the house and the carbon monoxide killed his son and put his daughter in a coma. Their bedrooms were above the garage. He was one of the first ballplayers I was familiar with that died during his career. I remember thinking the 10-11 year old equivalent of "Damn."

Don had several more good years left. One can only imagine what the Astros could have done if Don had been around to tandem with J.R. Richard through the late 70's and early 80's........There would have definitely been a lot of smiling.

1972 Feature
Harry Truman may be the most famous person from Missouri, unless you're a big fan of Yogi Berra, Samuel Clemens, Walt Disney or Bob Barker. He's certainly had the most historical significance of any Missourians. He ended World War II by having the guts to make a tough decision to drop the A-bomb on Japan, forcing their surrender.
He was the last President who didn't have a college education. Can you imagine that happening now. His education came in working under a political machine in Kansas City and rising through the ranks. There would usually be two reasons you'd rise through the ranks. One would be because you were talented. Just like today, the other reason would be because you were an obsequious butt kisser.
Truman died in 1972 at his home in Independence, Mo. The Truman Library is still a big tourist attraction in the K.C. area. I've been there and heartily recommend it to anyone in the area with even a passing interest in history. I do have to admit it's not as cool as the Ronald Reagan Library, where you can tour an actual Air Force One.
I remember watching Truman's funeral when I was a kid and listening to the commentary. Lyndon Johnson died in early 1973, so there were two big state funerals in a short time, but after that we didn't have any presidential funerals until President Nixon died. However, watching Truman's funeral fascinated me and the memory of it was enough to make me want to tune in to watch the funerals of Nixon, Reagan and Ford. When the next happens (it could be a while...although we have 2 ex-Presidents in their 80's, both Bush and Carter appear to be very strong and active. Clinton may be the most vulnerable, but that would be more because of a jealous husband's shotgun instead of his heart), tune in and watch, not just for the fawning and respect shown to whatever that President did, but to see the pagentry and respect given to the Office of the President of the United States.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

#19 -- Billy Cowan

Billy Cowan

Billy wasn't the best ballplayer out there. Only once did he get 200 plate appearances in the big leagues. In 1964 he was the regular centerfielder for the Cubs as a rookie. Even though his batting average was only .241, hitting 19 homers was pretty good for that day and very good for a rookie. He stole 12/15 bases that year, which was a good clip. So why didn't he ever get 200 plate appearances again?
The answer might be hiding in the fact that in 1965, despite getting 183 at bats for the Metropolitans and Braves, he didn't get 200 plate appearances. In fact, he really wasn't close. In that year he had 4 walks, got hit once and had 1 sacrifice bunt...189 plate appearances. He struck out 54 times. Go back to that rookie season where he played regularly, hit .241 and had 19 homers. He had 497 ABs, 18 walks and 128 Ks. Thats a line of .241/.268/.404 for an OPS+ of 84. That 1965 season had an OPS+ of 42. For comparison, Bob Gibson's lifetime OPS+ was 49.
Billy is very appropriately posed with the scoreboard halo over his head. Although he had a decent 1971 as a part-time leftfielder and pinch-hitter, he was about to enter Baseball Heaven. In 1972 the Angels gave some playing time in the outfield to Leroy Stanton and Jim Spencer and Andy Kosco came in to take Billy's spot. Billy's last 3 plate appearances were in 1972: foul pop to the catcher off Dave LaRoche, struck out by Paul Lindblad, and struck out by Lindblad again, both times to end a game with the tying run on. (Career against Lindblad he was 0-7, 3 Ks)
But Billy's famous for this photo of him entering the pearly gates of the California Angels....

1972 Feature
"Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC's Wide World of Sports!"

I listened to those words most every week when I was a kid. There might be a ballgame on another network that I liked, so I didn't watch every week. But many weeks I'd have to see what Jim McKay was doing next. There was such a variety of sports.....and sport-like events. You know, it's been years since I've seen barrel jumping on ice skates. For those of you younger than 40 you might find it hard to believe that such a thing exists, but one of the annual staples of ABC's Wide World of Sports was the world barrel jumping championships. You'd have a rink (or a pond somewhere). "Athletes" in speed skating suits were out there. Then they'd bring in barrels that looked like kegs with numbers on the outside. I remember these Evel-Knievels-on-ice-skates jumping 12-13 barrels. But when they'd crash it was good.

This link is to the 1952 Barrel Jumping Championships. It's not Wide World of Sports, but it's the kind of thing you'd get to watch. It's also cool because of a certain Baseball Hall of Famer who is spotlighted in the stands watching. I would never in a million years have equated this particular Hall of Famer with barrel jumping.

I'll come back to more Wide World of Sports "sports" like demolition derby, etc. I'll leave you with my favorite reference to this long running ABC show at about the 1:17 point of the clip. Any offensive material is courtesy of the wit of Mel Brooks.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

#18 - Juan Pizarro

Juan Pizarro

Juan debuted with the 1957 Braves. What a team to get started with. He won a World Series ring his rookie year and went back the next year when the Yankees got revenge on the Braves. He didn't sniff the post-season again until 1974, when he got 2 outs in a playoff game for the Pirates against the Dodgers.

As you can see from the back of his card, he had a lot of stops. I couldn't find anything to say for sure, but it looks like he hit some arm trouble in the mid-60's and never was the same. Juan was a good lefty starter, going 19-9 in 1964 for a punchless White Sox team and was a 2-time All-Star. His 1965 season was cut short and he was mostly out of the pen after that. In 1972 he was a part-time spot starter for the Cubs.

In September 1971 he beat Tom Seaver 1-0, with the only run being his homer in the 8th. He hit 8 homers and had a lifetime batting average of .202, so he could take care of himself. Today, in a scoreless tie, would a starter (1) be allowed to work in the 8th inning and, if so, (2) would he be allowed to bat for himself? How things change.

1972 feature

The 1972 Winter Olympics were held in Sapporo, Japan. Sapporo was supposed to host the Winter Olympics in 1940, but had to resign that because of this little matter of invading China. Then the whole 1940 Olympics was called off.

I don't remember much of this Olympics, if anything. Our "darling" of the ice skating rink was Janet Lynn. She couldn't match Peggy Fleming's 1968 gold and took bronze. She also couldn't match the crush I had on Dorothy Hamill in 1976. The real star of figure skating in that Olympics was Soviet Irina Rodnina. She won the first of her golds. Her more famous gold came later when she paired with Alexander Zaitzev, even skating without music when there was a technical glitch in the 1973 World Championships.

The Damn Commies won the most total medals (16) and most gold (8) of this Olympiad. We only won 8 medals, 3 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze. Our ice hockey team (with Robbie Ftorek and Mark Howe) took silver, but Canada didn't send a team in protest of the professionals used by the Soviets. We also took 2 gold a silver and a bronze in women's speed skating.

We kind of sucked at this Olympics. I'll have several posts about the Summer Olympics, but the Winter Olympics that year were pretty much a big dud all the way around.

Monday, January 26, 2009

#17 -- Dave Duncan

Dave Duncan

This obviously isn't the prettiest card I own. I scanned this card because it was autographed. It still shows a babyfaced Dave Duncan, especially compared to the more "seasoned" pokerfaced guy we see sitting in the Cardinal dugout now. Dave's almost got a smile going in this card. He usually shows no emotion in the dugout now. The pose is the traditional catcher's pose and we'll see more of this later. He's obviously not from the Johnny Bench school of catching because he's got his throwing hand exposed.

As you can see from the card back, Dave came through the minors as a slugger. I think his 46 homers in 439 ABs in 1965 is still 2nd in the California League record books, even though the Cal League is thought of as a hitters' league. He still had a slugger's mentality when he came to the big leagues, but his secondary numbers weren't strong. I was surprised he went 3/6 stealing bases for Cleveland in 1973. Must have went to his head because he was 0/4 the next year.

Dave was a 1971 American League All-Star. He was 11 27 .245 at the end of the first half, not hardly All-Star numbers. A little more investigation and I see he was an injury replacement for Ray Fosse (who may have not wanted to go back after what happened in 1970). Duncan didn't play (Bill Freehan and Thurman Munson were the AL catchers), but had a front row seat for Reggie's titanic blast off Dock Ellis.

His teams typically had better batting average against with him catching, except for 1972 when his was slightly higher than Gene Tenace. After being swept out of the playoffs by the Orioles in 1971, Dave and the A's got that World Series championship in 1972. However, that was the end of the line with the A's. The A's made a curious move. Gene Tenace emerged in the Series and the A's traded Dave and George Hendrick to the Indians for Ray Fosse and Jack Heidemann. Heidemann was nothing more than infield depth and didn't last. Fosse wasn't an All-Star again, but Hendrick went on to blossom.

Dave's known now for all the great reclamation projects he done with pitchers, from Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Todd Stottlemyre, Jeff Weaver and Kyle Lohse. Now that Leo Mazzone is retired, he's known as one of the top pitching coaches around. His sons, Shelley and Chris, are following in his footsteps somewhat as one dimensional power hitters, although Dave was far superior to either of them in the field. Dave now has a condo on a quiet part of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Mo. As a Cardinal fan, I sure hope you've got more tricks up your sleeve this year.

1972 Feature
I've looked back through some of 1972's movie titles and I don't think I went to a movie that year. If I had, it would have been to the drive-in. I don't think my folks took me to see Shaft's Big Score, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things or Play it Again, Sam.

I do remember around that time really liking the Planet of the Apes movies. I've looked and the original with Charlton Heston came out in 1968 ("You blew it up.....Damn you all to hell!!"). In 1972 the 4th out of the 5 Ape movies came out, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes." It was pretty unremarkable. This is the one where the apes were slaves and Cornelius (son of the "good apes" Charlton Heston would encounter later...come sort of time travel thing) started a revolt to overthrow the humans. By the way, even though this movie was set in the futuristic world of 1991, I don't remember any references to the Bash Brothers, Wide Right or that dang Saddam.

The storyline was kind of cool on the surface, especially seeing all these apes hopping around. There was some shoot-em-up and action. However, I can kind of remember even as an 8 year old getting sick of the preachy message of "The apes are better than the humans, until the apes start acting like the humans."

CBS had a short-lived TV series based on the first movie that came out later. I think I may have even had a Planet of the Apes action set. I didn't watch the remake movie that came out. I've seen a few of those and have been disappointed. I've kept my memories of the originals of Planet of the Apes, Brian's Song, Rollerball and Death Race 2000.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

# 16 -- Mike Jorgensen

Mike Jorgensen

Mike is very appropriately shown in a fielding pose. His glove was his greatest baseball weapon. His card even talks about him being valuable as a centerfielder. I had to look that up to make sure it was right. Sure enough, the Mets usually trotted him out to start in center 20-25 games/year. Usually a first baseman has to take a corner outfield spot (think Willie Stargell or Greg Luzinski), but there are rare guys like Jorgensen and Wes Parker that can play center. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Carlos Delgado or Albert Pujols in center, but I could see the Dodgers put James Loney out there in a pinch.

Jorgensen was an adequate hitter, but not good enough for a regular first baseman. He found himself on several teams, mostly with the Mets and Expos. Just as the 1972 season began, he was traded to the Expos with Tim Foli and Ken Singleton for Rusty Staub. The Expos sure plugged a few holes with that trade. Jorgenson played first allowing Ron Fairly to move into Staub’s old position in right field; Foli replaced .200 hitting Bobby Wine and Singleton replaced a revolving door in left field. Mike missed out on being a part of the 1973 Mets team that went to the Series, but was a bit player on the 1985 Cardinals team that went to the Series. Since his retirement, he’s been a part of the Cardinals front office, working with the guy on the next card.

1972 Feature

There are many reasons I prefer baseball to football. One of the sillier is that baseball is the only major professional team sport (sorry World Team Tennis and Major League Soccer) that has their entire season in the same calendar year. When I think about the NFL in 1972, I obviously think about the Dolphins perfect record. That occurred, but the Super Bowl was in 1973. The 1972 Super Bowl, or Super Bowl VI, was for the 1971 season.

The 1972 Super Bowl was the first one I remember. I may have watched a previous one, but I don't remember it. This one had the Dallas Cowboys against the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys seemed to be the Red Sox of the NFL. They could get to the championship game, but they hadn't won. They made it to the previous Super Bowl, only to lose to the Colts on the last second field goal of Jim O'Brien. They made it back the next year and they were loaded. The Dolphins were making their second run to the playoffs under Don Shula.

The Dolphins finished 10-3-1 in 1971, losing 2 of their last 3. To make the Super Bowl they had to outlast the Chiefs in double overtime in the longest game in NFL history (I watched that game on the black & white TV in my bedroom on Christmas night.....I learned to hate tie salesmen named Yepremian) and a rematch with the Colts who'd beaten them down the stretch. Paul Warfield caught a couple of bombs from Bob Griese, who threw only 8 passes in the conference championship. The Dolphins strength was a backfield of Jim Kiick, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris.

The Cowboys had a 10-3 regular season, winning their last 7. They got to the Super Bowl stuffing the Vikes and the 49'ers. They were led by Roger Staubach, in his second year at quarterback, with Craig Morton as a backup. They had a solid rushing game with Duane Thomas, Walt Garrison and Duke All-American Grant Hill's daddy.

What really defined the Cowboys was their defense. Jethro Pugh, Bob Lilly, Chuck Howley, LeeRoy Jordan, Herb Adderly, Mel Renfro and Cliff Harris. They were brutal. In the Super Bowl they held the Dolphins to 80 rushing yards and forced Griese to chuck it 23 times. I know, those numbers don't make any sense in today's game. The Cowboys won decisively 24-3. They punctuated the game with Mike Ditka catching a TD pass. They ran for 252 yards. The one play I can remember from the game was Bob Lilly chasing Griese all over the field and finally sacking him for a 29 yard loss. Yep, you read that correctly.

Facts from that Super Bowl:
  • Coach Landry said the Dolphin defense concerned him, but he didn't know the names of any of the players, leading to the famous nickname "No Name Defense"

  • Dolphin safety Jake Scott had a broken left hand. During the game he broke his right wrist, but wouldn't come out. Later, having casts on both hands, he realized that "You find out who your true friends are when you have to go to the bathroom."

  • President Nixon called Coach Shula after the win over the Colts and gave him a play. Shula used it late in the first half, but the pass was broken up.
Finally, if you put "super bowl vi" into YouTube, you'll find a couple of cool videos, one showing interviews with some hippies to see who they thought would win and the other has game film, showing goalposts on the goal line, linemen who went about 260 and straight on kickers.