Saturday, March 14, 2009

#68 -- Jim York

Jim York

Jim's pictured here at the Royals' old spring training location at Terry Field in Fort Myers. I'll occasionally hear Buck Martinez talking about that site on his XM Radio show. From the looks of some of the Florida spring training sites in this set, the teams have certainly gotten an upgrade. Those complexes (a generous word) such as pictured in Jim's card look like nothing more than today's rec league softball complexes. I'd say that only Dodgertown was better than what we see on most of these.

Jim went to UCLA and was on a team that went to the College World Series. As you can see from the stats on the back of his card he flew through the minors and rarely met any resistance. He was also a reliever all the way through. Even if a guy is projected as a reliever, a lot of teams like to have them start through the minors to give them innings, experience and build arm strength.

I hadn't known Jim was a sidearmer, but his card back says that. Funny, because the pose on the front of his card doesn't look like he's finishing a sidearm delivery. That Royals team also had Ted Abernathy, who was a sidearmer, too.

I don't really know much about Jim and wasn't able to find much. He went to the Astros before the 1972 season as the main part of the John Mayberry trade. That trade worked out very well for the Royals because they got a power hitting first baseman that anchored the lineup for most of the 70's and Jim never approached the success he had in 1971 and spent some time in AAA every year for the rest of his career. That's one of the dangers in putting too much value in a middle reliever. Most of them are very up and down from year to year.

Jim made his debut in the second game of a double header against the cellar-dwelling White Sox in Comiskey. He came into a 1-1 game in the 4th and went the rest of the way to earn the win. For some reason when I think of the Royals playing in Chicago, I think of the moron and his son that rushed the field to attack coach Tom Gamboa (No, I don't think all Sox fans are like that. In fact, I've gotten to know some pretty decent Sox fans on here.) However, there wasn't much chance of York getting bumrushed that night. There were only 674 fans in attendance. That was back in the days when they counted actual attendance, rather than the number of tickets sold.

#67 -- Red Schoendienst

I have this card autographed and it's one of my favorites. Partly because Red is hit and miss through the mail and this was my one and only attempt. But it's partly because he looks a lot like one of my grandfathers. My grandpa was a redheaded of Irish and German ancestry and he was a ballplayer growing up in the 20's and 30's. He told of going to a Cardinal tryout camp on a damp and cold day and doing well. The scout told him there'd be a place for him if he'd come back the next day. Unfortunately, his knee had gone out and he couldn't make it. The only other time his knee ever went out was at his World War II draft physical, so that knee kept him out of the minor leagues and out of the Pacific Theater.

Red became the Cardinal manager when some internal wranglings led ownership to dump Johnny Keane, who had just won the World Series in 1964. This was a tough spot to step into because of the expectations, the Cards were just in their second year in the post-Stan Musial era and they played .500 ball the first couple of years. However, Red persevered and led the Cards to a World Series title in 1967 and within a flyball misjudged by the usually sterling Curt Flood of winning the Series in 1968.

The Cards stayed competitive through the early 70's, but when Bob Gibson started fading, the rest of the team followed. By the mid-70's, Red and Lou Brock were not enough to keep the team at the top of the league and they fell into the second division. Finally, management made a change and brought in Vern Rapp for the 1977 season. The team fell further.

Most of the time when a manager is let go, they move on to other organizations. There are exceptions. Billy Martin kept coming back to the Yankees. Danny Murtaugh had 3 separate stints with the Pirates in the 60's and 70's. Cito Gaston and Bobby Cox are both currently working on their second stints with their teams. Whitey Herzog kept Red close to the action when he was brought in. Whitey was hired in 1980 and given free rein by Gussie Busch. After running the team a few weeks, he stepped aside as manager and turned it over to Red for the rest of the year so he could concentrate on evaluating the team. When Whitey decided to step down in 1990, Red was named the interim manager. Even now, Tony LaRussa keeps Red around and values his input. This link is to a video of Red helping out at Cardinal Spring Training in 2008. Here he is this Spring with the owner and GM.

Red was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the old Veterans' Committee as a second baseman. No matter how much of a Red Schoendienst fan I might be, I have to admit that he wasn't a Hall of Fame player. His OPS+ for his career was 93. That was brought down a lot by his latter years. He does have 2 World Series rings as a player (1946 and 1957) and was a 10-time All-Star. There weren't many tougher than Red, who came back from a bout with tuberculosis to resume his career. TB killed people back then and everyone thought Red was done. Red proved he wasn't done.

Red still ain't done.

Friday, March 13, 2009

#66 -- Ray Corbin

Ray Corbin

Ray's got a start on a set of eyebrows, there. He was a reliever/spot starter for the Twins who had some moderate success. There just wasn't much that stood out about Ray as a pitcher, except for one flukey stat. In each of his first 3 seasons (1971-73) he struck out exactly 83 hitters. I suppose that's consistent, but his usage was also pretty consistent as he faced 620, 657 and 622 hitters those seasons. He had to finish with a flourish in 1973 to get there, striking out 11 in his last 2 games.

In 1974 Ray was less effective, didn't pitch as much and his strikeouts fell. He had arm surgery in 1975 and never made it back. Ray was born in Florida and is living in western North Carolina now.

The big question I have is about the card photo. The inside fo the bill of the hat looks like it says "11". In 1971, Ray wore 23 and Brant Alyea wore 11. Ray continued to wear 23 and Steve Brye took over #11 in 1972. I've tried to zoom in, but it's not clear enough. This is the 1971 Twins' road uniform (no pinstripes), but with the blue sky above there's no way to tell where Ray is.

#65 -- Cesar Cedeno

Cesar Cedeno

Cesar was one of my favorite players in the 70's. The back of his card says it all, "Hailed as NL's next superstar...." He had a breakout season in 1971 and was one of the players that scouts drooled over. He had all 5 tools. He started the 1973 All-Star Game for the NL in centerfield and won 5 consecutive Gold Gloves. The Astrodome was long known as a pitchers' park and a hitters' nightmare, but the Astros of that day had quite a bit of power with Cedeno, Jimmy Wynn, Lee May and Doug Rader.

Cesar was going to be the next Willie Mays, just like Bobby Murcer was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. Unfortunately Cesar had some run-ins with the law and the Astrodome held him down. Still, despite the precipitous decline in his power numbers following the 1974 season, he still had OPS+ well above league average almost every season.

Cesar's Astro teams weren't very good. There always seemed to be something missing or the Reds and Dodgers were just too good. They had decent pitching, but no real Cy Young candidates until the late 70's. The hitting was strong in the early 70's, but then Wynn, Rader and May were traded away and not really replaced, leaving Cedeno in the lineup with Jose Cruz and Bob Watson, but it wasn't the same.

Finally the Astros improved, largely because of a monster pitching staff, and won the West in 1980. Cesar was a big part of their lineup and carried them. However, he didn't produce in the playoffs. I still think that series with the Phillies is the best post-season series I've ever seen. At this time, Cesar was still a veteran force, although in decline. He was only 29 years old.

When Cesar went to the Reds for Ray Knight, he wasn't the same. You could still see the talent, but he wasn't producing. Finally the Reds gave up on him after a subpar 1985 and let the Cardinals pick him up in late August for a minor leaguer. It looked like his last hurrah, but the Cardinals needed some firepower with Jack Clark out.

Somehow, Cesar summoned up his "next Willie Mays" talent and put the Cardinals on his back. In 28 games he had 6 homers, 19 RBI, 5/6 in stolen bases and .434/.463/.750 in average/on-base/slugging. He hit .476 in his first 22 games with the Cards as they took control of the East. His 6 homers were good for 6th on the team that year and he was only with them for about 1/8 of the season.

He cooled the last 7 games of the season and went into the deep freeze in the post-season, hitting only 4-27 with 1 RBI. He did draw a walk in the 8th inning of Game 6 to move Terry Pendleton into scoring position for Brian Harper to knock him in and give the Cards a 1-0 lead. Every Cardinal fan knows what happened after that.....

Cesar tried to come back in 1986 and had nothing in the tank. For a while in the 90's, if anyone came along with the name "Cedeno" it was thought he'd be a can't miss prospect. At least that's the only way I know to justify the hype given to the late Andujar Cedeno.

Last year Cesar was a coach for the Nationals' Gulf Coast League affiliate. He had a great career. Bill James ranked him as the #21 all-time centerfielder in baseball history. That may not be the "next Willie Mays", but Cesar had a great career and is fondly remembered.

Mailbag, featuring Bob Vila

This is about as far from 1972 as you can get. So, hop back in the DeLorean because we're about to go 88 mph and run up to the 1990's and 2000's.

Recently, Stats on the Back asked readers to comment on who was better, former Pirate lefty Bob Veale or TV handyman Bob Vila. I offered some of my smarmy comments and, because there weren't many that answered, I won a Bob Vila card and some assorted baseball players. That added 23 to my many tens of thousands of baseball cards and 1 to my collection of 1 carpenters' cards. Looks like Bob's working on some kind of small engine. Why do TV handymen wear khakis? If (no, scratch that) when grease pops out of that thing it'll go straight for the zipper and make him look like he needs to visit a urologist. Why don't they wear jeans or navy, if they have to wear something dressier?

Hey, I didn't anticipate getting to use the back of this card as a coupon. Too bad I found a deal at my Black and Decker outlet store last weekend. Well, let's see....10% off on Craftsman ought to bring them down to.... Wait, "Expires 12/31/96." I doubt I can get that past the Sears employee.

I also got some newer (for me) Cardinals and Royals cards. Here's a sampling of what was good and bad with the Royals' franchise from about 1995-2005:

Let's start with the good. In 1991, Score called George Brett The Franchise for the Royals. Sad to say, but in 2009 that's still true. This is the 40th anniversary of the first Royals' game and the face of the franchise is still a guy that hasn't played in 15 years. Johnny Damon had a chance to be the new franchise man, but he took advantage of changes in the game that gave him bargaining power the Royals couldn't match, so they had to trade him. If the rules/money had been in 1973 what they are now, I don't know who and what Score would have put on this card because I don't think the Royals would have been able to keep Brett.

There was a time the Royals developed players who were really good and consistent for a number of years. Guys like Brett, Paul Splittorff, Dennis Leonard, Frank White, Willie Wilson, and even more recently Kevin Seitzer (see, I'm stuck in the past if I think Kevin Seitzer is "more recent"). But part of the Royals' legacy from 1995-2005 has been flashes in the pan. Both of these guys were Rookies of the Year. Neither of these guys had any long term success. Hamelin was a nice guy that mashed as a rookie, but then lost his stroke which was attributed to vision problems. Berroa, well, who really knows. Let's hope guys like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Zack Grienke and Luke Hochevar wind up being more like Brett, Leonard and White than Berroa and "The Hammer."

One of the best things about the Royals' franchise continues to be the Stadium. I know most of you have never been there, but it's a beautiful place to watch a game. Unfortunately, it's all too often a good place to study for finals. I haven't made the journey to a Royals' game in 3-4 years, but I hear they really only get excited now about Opening Day and the Yankees.

There were also recent cards of the Cardinals, the other team I grew up rooting for. Let's see the differences in the fortunes of the two franchises.

Let's start with a beloved Hall of Famer. Growing up in the 70's I was all about Lou Brock and Bob Gibson. I thought Brock should have been the 1974 MVP over Garvey. Guess maybe the Cardinals should have won a few more games and made the playoffs, perhaps. But remember, the 70's valued the stolen base more than baseball does now. However, while Brock is still a hallowed figure in St. Louis, he's not still the face of the franchise.

Brock isn't still the face of the franchise partly because another beloved Hall of Famer came along within a few years of Brock's retirement. The 80's were the Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee show. Once Ozzie got to St. Louis, nobody remembered Garry Templeton's middle finger or Ozzie taking out an ad offering to do odd jobs in San Diego as a ploy to renegotiate his contract with Mrs. Kroc.

Lee Smith may make it into the Hall of Fame. He'll have a place with the other Cardinal Hall of Famers, but his career wasn't primarily in St. Louis, so it won't be as prominent. I'm just glad that nobody did a "Smith Bros." card with Ozzie like 1983 Fleer did with Ozzie and Lonnie Smith.

This is my first UD Masterpiece. I was a little blown away at Mark's generosity here. I was expecting a smattering of 90's commons and I'd have been happy with that, but these cards are fantastic. Can't you just hear Paul LoDuca there saying, "Uh-oh?" Oh, and don't think that the Kansas City Royals don't realize the Albert Pujols went to high school and junior college just a few miles from beautiful Royals Stadium. Talk about a guy who could be on the 2011 Score The Franchise card.....
I'm going to be getting rid of this card. Not that I'm ungrateful for it. Quite the contrary. This card is going in the mail with a SASE to Chris Perez for the new Cardinal closer to sign. I got to see him when he came through town with the AA Cardinals a couple of years ago. It was fun to watch Jason Motte come in throwing 98 in the 8th and Perez throwing 96 in the 9th with a wicked slider. He's got a pretty bright future and I hope he can fill the shoes of some former Cardinal relievers (Hrabosky, Sutter, Worrell, Smith, Henke, Eckersley, Isringhausen...)

That's about it for this brief interlude from funky vintage cardboard. I appreciate Mark's generosity and encourage you to visit his site if you don't already have it bookmarked into your favorites. He's on a series of his Top 3 all-time best at each position and it's a thought-provoking look at baseball history. Oh, and with the season about to open, I'm sure he'll keep us updated on the exploits of another former Royal that got away, Carlos Beltran, Johann Santana, Jose Reyes and David Wright.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

# 64 -- Pete Broberg

Pete Broberg

A few cards ago we saw the Cubs 1st round pick in the secondary phase of the 1971 draft went to the big leagues, Burt Hooton. Hooton was the #2 overall in the secondary round. Pete Broberg was the #1 overall pick in the secondary phase of the draft and he went straight into the big leagues. Other picks in that first round were Phillie shortstop Dane Iorg, Twin catcher Glenn Borgmann and Expo righthander Steve Rogers.

Like Hooton, Pete was an accomplished college pitcher, coming out of Dartmouth. There aren't a lot of good pitchers to come out of Dartmouth. The list is Broberg, Mike Remlinger and Jim Beattie. Pete and Chuck Seelbach led Dartmouth to its only College World Series appearance in 1970. Pete was the 2nd overall pick in the 1968 draft by the A's, but he chose to go to school, in part at the urging of his father, a judge in Palm Beach County, Florida. It worked out because he had a good college career and then was the #1 pick.

The Senators put Pete in the rotation right away and his first start was against the Boston Red Sox. His line in 6 1/3 innings was only 2 runs, 3 hits and struck out 7, but he walked 4. He left the game ahead 3-0 with runners on 1st and second, but Paul Lindblad let them and one other score. He ended up with a no-decision. After a rocky 1-3 start, he went on a 4 game winning streak, including a shutout over the Indians. Manager Ted Williams is supposed to have said of Pete, "He'll never pitch a day in the minor leagues." He then lost 6 of his last 7 starts of the season, although he didn't pitch poorly.

Pete didn't really pan out and Ted Williams was wrong, he did see the minor leagues. He also saw the Brewers, Cubs and A's before being released by the Dodgers in 1979 spring training. He was an expansion pick of the Mariners and has a beautiful (gag) airbrushed 1977 Mariners' card, but was traded to the Cubs before appearing in a game for the Mariners. Speaking of airburshed, you also see the "W" logo airbrushed off his hat. I'm sure looking back he wishes they'd airbrushed out those sideburns. Check out how different his 1976 card looks from a more recent photo

After his career he went back to school and earned a law degree at Nova Southeastern University. He now practices zoning law at Coe, Broberg & Austin in Palm Beach. I think that guy on the right is going to be better at going before the city council to get a zoning variance.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

1972 Topps Traded Mike Schmidt

Mike Schmidt

I haven't numbered the checklist yet, but we now have the 2nd card in this set, if I want to consider the Duke Sims a couple of posts up (I hope I can improve on it). Jeff "Huck Finn" Wolfe, the Card Junkie, sent this neat 1972 Schmidt by email. Either he's extremely talented in the art of manipulating photographs and templates or he had this on hand, because he was offering this within hours of me posting the invitation for help with this project.

He's got a great photo of Schmidt here, posing a batting stance at what looks like a Spring Training site. It's a road uniform, and the sideburns are definitely from the early 1970's. I see some guys in the background over Schmidt's hands, but can't tell who they are. There's also a red grandstand roof on the left side of the photo, but I'd like to think it's one of the old helmet golf cards that would bring relievers in from the bullpen.

Schmidt made his major league debut on September 12, 1972 against the Mets, going 1-3. He entered the game in the top of the second, replacing Don Money. He struck out against Jim McAndrew in his first at bat and then singled off McAndrew in the fifth. Mc Andrew then struck him out again in the seventh. In the 9th, with the Phils trailing 4-2 he drew a walk to load the bases, making him the tying run. He was then pinch run for by Larry Bowa. Bob Boone singled in a run and then the game ended when Deron Johnson hit into a double play.

Schmidt's batting average didn't approach .333 for the rest of the year. A few days later he hit his only homer of the year (and the first of 548 in his career) in the 7th off Balor Moore of the Expos to provide all the Phils runs in a 3-1 win. It was also 1 of only 2 game that year with multiple at bats that he didn't strike out. He struck out 15 times in 34 at bats that year.

He took over as the regular third baseman in 1973 and remained the regular third baseman for the Phils until he gave way to Charlie Hayes.

#63 -- Duke Sims

Duke Sims

That gal over Duke's shoulder in the crowd really seems to be giving the business to someone. You usually don't see the hand on one hip for nothing. Glad it's not me.

Duke had a great baseball name for a catcher. Short, tough and to the point. He started out with the Indians and platooned with Joe Azcue through the late 60's, developing some pop. However, when Ray Fosse came along, and there wouldn't be any platooning. Duke had enough power that the Indians wanted to keep him in the lineup, so they gave him at bats at first and the outfield, but Duke was built to be a catcher (how's that for being nice?).

The Dodgers traded a couple of pitching prospects for Duke in the 1971. He hit well, sharing time with Tom Haller (who also hit lefthanded). Unfortunately, he got off to a bad start in 1972 and the Dodgers waived him, since they had Chris Cannizzaro and were bringing Steve Yeager and Joe Ferguson along.

The Tigers picked him up and he went on a tear, hitting .316 in the August/September pennant race, picking up the slack when Bill Freehan went down in late September with a couple of weeks to go. In the ALCS he got his only postseason opportunity. He was behind the plate when Lerrin LaGrow hit Bert Campaneris and Campy helicoptered his bat past LaGrow's head.

Duke's 100 career homers are tops among ballplayers born in Utah. Chris Shelton, recently of the Tigers and Rangers, is second with 37. That record looks to be solid for a few more years.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

1972 Topps Traded Set

I was researching the upcoming post for Ray Corbin (card #66) when I came across a 1971 card of his that was signed on SportsCollectors.Net. I checked and Ray Corbin didn't have a 1971 card. I got in touch with the guy that got the autograph and he made the card himself. He even found a 1971 photo of Ray that had the correct uniform (changes were made to the collar in 1972). I know many of you are fantastic at doing this and I marvel at your skills. My skills are more reflective of the paint job I did on the Rich Chiles post a few back.

This got me to thinking that if Topps started its Traded set in 1971 instead of 1981, this card would have been in it. So, the logical conclusion for me was to think, "Gee, I know Topps put some "Traded" cards in the 6th Series (Carlton, Cardenal, McLain, Morgan, Frank Robinson), but if they'd had a full 132 card set, what would it have been.

So, I started on a checklist. I found about 140 possible cards to choose from. Now, I know I don't have the time, inclination or artistic ability to create this Traded set. I searched for a photo of Duke Sims with the Tigers and the only 2 I could find were a back view of him catching (which you'll see tomorrow) and his 1973 card. I suppose I could be lazy -- it was good enough for Topps with Earl Wilson, Ralph Garr and Leo Durocher (thanks, respectively to Mark's Ephemera, the Night Owl and Wrigley Wax) so perhaps it isn't so lazy.

Among the highlights would be the true rookie cards of Mike Schmidt, Rich Gossage and Rick Reuschel. Willie Mays and Yogi Berra would be with the Mets and Sparky Lyle to the Yankees. There were also players that Topps completely left out (licensing issues?) such as Rusty Staub, Luis Tiant and John Hiller. Also, like a lot of the Traded sets, there would be the "one-hit wonders" that neither you nor I had heard of and never would hear of again, like Padre Mark Schaeffer and Twin Tom Norton.

Maybe I'll play around with this a little and see what comes of it. Of course, if I can pull a Tom Sawyer and get one of you Huck Finns out there to whitewash my fence it would be much better than this:

#62 -- Angel Mangual

Angel Mangual

Angel has the big Topps Rookie Cup on his card. He also finished 3rd in the 1971 AL Rookie of the Year balloting behind Chris Chambliss and Bill Parsons. He played part time in center field for the A's that year and moved over to right and Reggie Jackson played center. He still played part time, but his production fell off.

In the 1972 World Series, the A's were behind the 8-ball a little bit because Reggie Jackson was out. They went into Game 4 up 2 games to 1, but they go into the bottom of the 9th trailing 2-1. Angel got the game-winning pinch-hit off Reds' supercloser Clay Carroll and the A's went up 3 games to 1. Good thing because the Reds won the next 2 games to force Game 7.

That was the highlight of his career. He won 3 World Series rings, but the A's released him in 1976 and that was the end of his big league career. His brother Pepe Mangual played with the Mets and Expos in the 70's.

Looks like his card is taken before a game at Oakland. It looks like the lefthander on the mound is wearing jeans or some kind of dark sweats. I see someone over at third base, so it looks like he might be one of the coaches throwing batting practice. The other thing I notice is that even though the A's didn't draw well despite winning 3 World Series, there's a good number of fans in the lower bowl for the pre-game. The upper deck is empty.

I didn't find much about Angel after his career, except for a mention that he was arrested in Puerto Rico on drug charges in 1997. Hate to see that happen, especially when he was so popular with the A's through the 70's.

Monday, March 9, 2009

#61 -- Cubs Rookies (Burt Hooton, Gene Hiser, Earl Stephenson)

The Cubbies in this set were in the beginning stages of going through a change. Ernie Banks had retired and had no card in this set. Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger would largely be gone by 1975. We've already seen Bill Bonham's rookie card and he would be in the rotation through the mid-70's. Rick Reuschel would make his debut in 1972. Jose Cardenal came to the Cubbies for the 1972 season.

Burt Hooton is another one of those changes. He was an accomplished college pitcher at Texas and was the Cubs #1 draft choice in 1971. They threw him right in with a start against the Cardinals, but he only lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up 3 runs, including a solo homer to Joe Torre. He got a couple of more September starts and shined, striking out 15 Mets in a 3-2 complete game win and shutting out the Mets a week later on 2 hits in Wrigley. His next start was on April 16, 1972 when he no-hit the Phillies. Pretty darn good stretch. He ended up 11-14, 2.80 in 1972 and was a big part of the rotation.

Hooton had good stuff, including the "knuckle-curve," but couldn't get over the hump in Chicago. His record and ERA did not improve and he was traded to the Dodgers in 1975 for Geoff Zahn and Eddie (also known as "Buddy" in the 1978 set) Solomon. That didn't work out for the Cubs. "Happy" Hooton went on be a regular part of the rotation for the Dodgers through 1981. He finished 2nd in the Cy Young in 1978, was an All-Star in 1981 and won World Series games in 1977, 1978 and 1981.

Burt is now the pitching coach for the Round Rock Express, the Astros' AAA affiliate. Unfortunately, he hasn't had much to work with lately. On a sad note, his cousin used steroids to try to get an edge in high school and committed suicide because of depression after he went off steroids. The Hooton family now runs the Taylor Hooton Foundation to raise awareness of the dangers of steroids and focused on keeping kids away from drugs.

Gene Hiser was the Cubs' #1 draft choice in 1970 and made a quick jump to the big leagues. Gene was an outfielder from the University of Maryland, but didn't have the success Hooton did. He was a pinch-hitter/defensive replacement in the outfield and never got to play much. In 1973 he appeared in 100 games, but only got 109 at bats. He hit his only homer that year, off Buzz Capra, tying a game in the 9th that the Cubs went on to win.

After his career, he founded the investment firm of Barrett & Hiser, which has now become GCG Financial. So, if anyone's interested in some investments, here's his business bio.

Earl Stephenson played his college baseball for the mighty Campbell Camels of Buies Creek, North Carolina. When I was in law school in the late 80's, Campbell was just going Division I in basketball, so we'd hear about them. I decided one day to drive by their campus. Let me just say that in the late 80's that if you got a haircut in Buies Creek, it might have been from a guy named Floyd, and you'd better watch your step or a deputy named Barney might get in your business. The best former Camel ever in the big leagues? Jim Perry.

Earl was not with the Cubs in 1972. He was part of the Jose Cardenal trade. He got his most career action for the Brewers in 1972, doing reasonably well as a spot-starter/middle reliever, going 3-5, 3.25 (league ERA was 3.01). After the season, he was sent to Philadelphia with Ken Brett and Jim Lonborg for Don Money and a couple of others. It's not Earl's fault, but he was a throw-in on a couple of trades that didn't work out for the team acquiring him......

He gave up 7 homers in his career and not a one was to a slap hitter: Dick Allen (351 homers), Lance Parrish (324 homers), Bobby Murcer (252 homers), Bobby Darwin (83 homers, but seasons of 22, 18, 25 & 13 from 1972-1975), Reggie Smith (314 homers), Willie McCovey (521 homers) & Reggie Jackson (563 homers).

Earl then bounced around the minors and got into 3 games for the Orioles in 1977 and 1978.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

#60 -- Manny Sanguillen

Manny Sanguillen

Manny Sanguillen was one of the most fun guys playing ball in the early 70's. You could tell he loved what he did because he almost always had a smile on his face and was as chatty as any catcher around. He was a good hitting catcher and came to field his position OK. He's got 2 World Series rings and was a force in 1971. If it weren't for Roberto Clemente completely taking over that Series, Manny could have been the MVP because he hit .379. He went 1-2 in the 1972 All-Star Game (grounding out against Gaylord Perry and singling off Wilbur Wood).

One thing Manny didn't do was walk. Jeff Francouer and Vlad Guerrero could aspire to be as big of a free-swinger as Manny was. He had 6 straight seasons (1969-1974) where he had over 475 plate appearances and his highest walk total was 21. Still, his OPS+ never dipped below 94. If he'd had a little more discipline his stats would look better today, but in his day, Manny was thought of, along with Johnny Bench, as an elite catcher in the NL.

After the 1972 season, Manny had some tough times. He was great friends with Roberto Clemente. He didn't go to Clemente's funeral after the plane crash. Why? He refused to believe his friend was dead and he spent that time diving in the area of the crash looking for Clemente. The Pirates had a tough choice to make in 1973 with who was going to fill the huge void in right field. Since Manny had good speed and a rocket arm, they tried him. It didn't work and by July Richie Zisk and Dave Parker started getting time there and Manny went back behind the plate.

Manny was also part of a strange trade. Danny Murtaugh stepped down (again) after the 1976 season. In November Manny was traded to the A's for manager Chuck Tanner. It worked out well for the Pirates because Tanner led them to another World Series win over the Orioles in 1979. Manny played 1 year in Oakland and was traded back to the Pirates. By that time, he was a pinch-hitter, but he was also an excellent clubhouse guy. When Tony Armas, Jr. went to spring training with the Pirates a year or two ago, the first person he sought out was Manny Sanguillen. Why? His father made his big league debut with the Pirates and when the rest of the team was hazing him a little too hard, Manny took him under his wing and he never forgot that.

Manny now has a barbecue joint in PNC Park, kind of like Boog Powell in Baltimore and Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia. I know if I ever get to go to PNC I'll be finding his spot and having that for dinner. Manny just seems like one of those guys that if you get to spend 5 minutes with him, your day is going to go better. Just look at this guy! Buy another sandwich from him, will you?!?