Saturday, February 7, 2009

#25 -- Bill Singer

Bill Singer

Bill was a good middle of the rotation starter. He had a couple of 20 win seasons, but he was still the second banana to Don Sutton and Claude Osteen with the Dodgers and Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana with the Angels. 1972 was a down year, with only a 6-16 record. In 14 of his 25 starts he got 2 runs or fewer of support and he won 2 of those games. However, moving down I-5 to Anaheim in the offseason did him a lot of good, winning 20 and throwing 315 innings in 1973.

Bill had quite an interesting and up and down career. He threw a no-hitter in 1970, striking out 10 and walking nobody. He could have had a perfect game if he hadn't hit Oscar Gamble in the 1st and made a throwing error on a Don Money grounder. A few weeks before that he had a no-hit bid spoiled by Clete Boyer of the Braves with 2 out in the 8th. He had the 2 20-win seasons and 2 All-Star Games. He also had a season interrupted when he had to have surgery to repair a circulatory problem.

I kind of remembered the save became an official stat in 1969. It was unofficial before that and statisticians have gone back and credited pitchers in prior years. Bill is usually thought of as a starter, but he was credited with the first official save on April 7, 1969. That's one of those things that makes you sit there and say "Hmmmm." I have to wonder, however, if relief pitchers would be used as they are today if the save was not an official statistic. I hate hearing announcers talk about "this is a save situation" or "that hit by Damon just put the Yankees ahead by 4, so it is no longer a save situation for Rivera. He'll sit down in the bullpen and Bruney will loosen." BFD.

Finally, Bill was the first starting pitcher for the Blue Jays. He was eminently forgettable as a Jay, his ERA never dipping below 5.90 that season.

Friday, February 6, 2009

#24 -- Ted Ford

Ted Ford

Imagine being a Cardinal fan (like I am) and hearing that prospects Colby Rasmus and Bryan Anderson are going to be in Iraq. Indian fans find out Matt LaPorta is being deployed as are David Price of the Rays, etc. It wasn't until more recently that the story of Pat Tillman of the Arizona Cardinals became unusual. Athletes don't serve in the military any longer. Ted Williams did. Twice. Ted Ford not only served our country in Vietnam, he was in a troop that saw real action (according to B-R Bullpen). It sounds like it wasn't one of those assignments where he was the captain of the Army baseball team. Tip of the hat, Ted.

This is another of the large number of Yankee Stadium photos, as seen by the fa├žade in the outfield foul area down the left field line. I also like Ted’s pose with the bat as if he’s swinging and he’s got his eye on the imaginary ball getting ready to rocket off his bat. 1972 was the only year Ted didn’t play for the Indians. The Rangers gave up Roy Foster and Tommy McCraw to get Ted. Ted had the best year of his career, hitting 14 homers. But he only hit .235, so the Rangers sent him back to Cleveland, where he didn’t play much.

I also got interested about the note on the back of his card about brother Lambert Ford (sounds like a car dealership). Lambert was a 1st round pick of the Indians in 1968, but didn't sign. He eventually was drafted and signed with the Astros. He didn't make the big leagues, but was described in a book about a Williamsport minor league team he was on as a speedy centerfielder. It looked like he was also taken to play in the Mexican League at Jalisco.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

#23 -- Ted Kubiak

Ted Kubiak

Check out Ted’s flowing hair. Another Spring Training shot. Those look like blue chaise lounges in the background on the hillside. Ted was one of the rotation of second basemen in Oakland, along with Tim Cullen, Dick Green and Larry Brown. Dick Williams would sometimes start one of them and then pinchhit every time the second baseman came up, even requiring Gene Tenace to put on a fielders mitt and play second. Ted couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag, his best slugging percentage only being .337. But he could play the field….

Most of the Rangers don't have a logo on their hats because Topps didn't want the Senators' logo on there. Ted, however, is showing off his thick rug because he finished 1971 with the Cardinals, coming to the Rangers for Shaky Joe Grzenda. Hard to tell if that's a photo taken with the Cardinals in late '71 or the Brewers in '70 or early '71. I'm going with the Brewers. I also found out in my research that he married the daughter of Irv Noren, a good 1950's outfielder and early 70's A's coach.

Ted was absolutely horrid with the stolen base. His best overall hitting season was 1970 with the Brewers, where he finished in the Top 10 in the AL in triples, sacrifice bunts, being difficult to strike out and intentional walks. They didn't list it, but I'm sure he was also Top 10 in lowest stolen base percentage (minimum 10 attempts). He was 4/13. For his career he was 13/35. That's below the Bill James line of 67%.

Ted wished Ed Phillips stayed in the big leagues longer than the 23 innings in 1970. Ted faced him 3 times, going 2-3 with a solo shot and a grand slam to right-center in Fenway. That was Ted's only 4-run homer and it came in a game that he had 4 hits and 7 RBI. He wasn't much at the plate, but he had hair! He's now the minor league defensive coordinator for the Indians.

The only other fun fact I could dredge up on Ted is that he has the same pose for his 1971 and 1976 cards (except for the cool, mid-70's mustache), shown below. I also got a much cooler signature on my 1972 card than appears as a facsimile on his 1971 card.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

#22 -- Rob Gardner

Rob Gardner

New York must love Rob. He played for the Mets and the Yankees on several occasions. However the only thing New York must love more than Rob Gardner is an Alou brother. On two occasions, Rob was traded by the Yankees to the A’s for an Alou (Felipe in 1971 and Matty in 1972). I guess by the time the A’s acquired Jesus, the Yankees didn’t have Rob to trade for him.

That transaction line is funny. In April 1971 the Yankees send Rob and pitcher Ron Klimkowski to the A's for Felipe Alou. At the end of May, the A's send Rob back to the Yankees for Curt Blefary. Rob's a Yankee then for all of 1972, but after the season, the Yanks send him and Rich McKinney to the A's for Matty Alou. 1973 wasn't any less weird for Rob. In May the Brewers purchase his contract for the A's. Six weeks later the sale was "voided" and the player returned to the A's. He didn't pitch again in the big leagues. It's almost like the Brewers called up and said, "Look, we've got our receipt. Rob pitched 12 2/3 innings for us, but he walked 13 and gave up 17 hits, for an ERA of 9.95. (Somehow, he got a win and a save with those stats....) We'd rather send Kevin Kobel out there than Rob. We want our money back." In terms of the law, a contract that is voided is as if it never existed.

1972 was by far Rob's best year. He went 8-5 for the Yankees with a 3.06 ERA. Looking at the volume of stats on the back, it appears he was one of those AAAA pitchers....too good for AAA, but not for the majors. If he pitched now with 30 teams instead of 24, he'd have a long, Ron Villone-esque career as a lefty specialist. But whenever I think of him, I always think there's got to be an Alou around somewhere.

(Postscript: This card looks suspiciously close to a Night Card. However, I think it would have to be classified as a Dusk Card.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

#21 -- Atlanta Braves Team

Atlanta Braves
The shot here looks like a Spring Training facility. This was a team that had been fairly strong and had a 3rd place finish in 1971. But they were headed into a brick wall in 1972.

Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews came in to manage toward the end of the year. That didn’t help. They had Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Phil Niekro. That didn’t help. They had the 1971 NL Rookie of the Year Earl Williams behind the plate. That didn’t help. Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker both hit over .320 in the outfield. That didn’t help.

They finished last in the NL in pitching. That sure didn’t help. The only thing that did help is that the injury-decimated Giants and the expansion Padres were in their division so they only slipped to 4th. They had an odd year. They split with division-winning Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, but were a combined 10-19 against the Padres and Expos.

In addition to Williams, Aaron, Garr and Baker, the lineup had Darrell Evans, Mike Lum and Rico Carty, so there was plenty of pop. The middle infield of Felix Millan and Marty Perez were weaker than average at the plate. Millan was strong in the field, winning a Gold Glove, but Perez wasn't. The pitching staff was horrible that year. They were last in ERA, last in shutouts, last in strikeouts and 8th (of 12) in walks allowed. I know the Launching Pad of a stadium they played half their games in had something to do with it, though. Niekro and Ron Reed were the only decent starters they had, and Reed was below league average that year. After Niekro and Reed, 8 other guys got at least 5 starts. That's not a good thing.

Hank Aaron started the All-Star Game in right field, but that was all the Braves had. This was the start of a long descent. They finished above .500 in 1974, but then had 4 last place finishes to round out the '70's and then in the late '80's finished last 4 out of 5 years. They did manage to fit in 3 winning seasons in the glory days of Dale Murphy, but that was short lived.

1972 feature
I was having fun with this, but it's getting time consuming. I've recently (and unexpectedly) had some big time commitments come up. This is going to be an intermittently recurring feature and I'll focus more on the baseball aspect of the cards, players and teams involved.