Saturday, March 28, 2009

Modern Card Update -- Jeff Stone

I know some of you collect autographed cards. I also know some of you have the same opinion of that portion of the hobby as I did in the late 80's: why would you want to mess up a perfectly good baseball card by having someone write on it?

I got started sending cards off to get autographed on a rainy Saturday afternoon in September 1999 as something to (1) distract my 4 year old son and (2) try to give him a hook to get interested in baseball. Now, it's something I admit I do more for me than him.

Today I got these in the mail.

Jeff Stone was a pretty nondescript player who had a good half season in 1984 and was pretty mediocre thereafter. He did make somebody's top three all-time favorite Phillie list. Aside from that, Jeff's biggest claim to fame was probably a quote that was attributed to him when he was first up with the Phils and a waiter in a restaurant asked if he wanted shrimp cocktail: "No thanks. I don't drink."

Normally, I don't post my autograph successes here. That's not what this site is for, unless I post a picture of a 1972 card that's been autographed. However, I wanted to point out something unusual about these cards. I sent them to Stone in November 2001. They came back with a 34 cent stamp (I guess the post office was considering them "forevers") If this autograph request were a child, it would be finishing up first grade.

My previous long wait for a card had been a little over 3 years. At 7 years and almost 5 months, this shatters that one. Not that I think when I send a card out today, "Hmm, I'll be seeing this beaut again when the Obama Administration is history" but it does give me hope that I might see those cards I sent Cesar Cedeno in January 2000.

#83 -- Dalton Jones

Dalton Jones

Dalton was a part-time player, primarily with the Red Sox and then the Tigers. He was only in a Tiger uniform for a short time in 1972 before being sent to the Rangers. The back of the card and the sponsorship of his Baseball Reference page both discuss his proclivities as a pinch-hitter. I like the comparison to Gates Brown on the card back, but not mentioning that Brown was also a Tiger. That meant that Billy Martin had the top 2 AL pinch-hitters of all-time at his disposal.

Dalton went 0-7 as a pinch-hitter with the Tigers through the end of May in 1972, so he was sent to Texas. That wasn't a good thing in 1972, but for Dalton it meant that he played under Ted Williams, who "recruited" him to the Red Sox and was one of his idols. Dalton got those 2 pinch-hits he was shy of Gates Brown, but the 2nd came on September 4 and was the last of his career. He had 81 pinch-hits at that time, but Gates had 4 by that time to hit 85 for his career and widen the gap.

This was the end of the line for Dalton in the big leagues. The Rangers released him following the season. He went 0 for his last 20 and 2 for his last 33, so it's not hard to see why. There is no card where Ted Williams is shown tutoring Dalton on hitting. Dalton caught on with the Expos and played with their AAA team for a time in 1973, but when he was hitting .208 after 59 games he gave it up for good. (The Baseball Reference beta site has better older minor league stats!)

Dalton was not a very good fielder. He primarily played second and third and his fielding percentage and range factor fall well below league average. In 1967, he played only 30 games at third for the Impossible Dream Red Sox, but he played Games 1-4 of the World Series at third, hitting .353 in those 4 games. However, after an 0-4 in Game 4 and the Sox down 3 games to 1, Dalton was pulled for Joe Foy. Foy went 0-4 in Game 5 and 1-4 in Game 6, but the Sox won both to force Game 7. Dalton got a pinch single in Game 6 and scored the run that put the Sox ahead to stay. In Game 7, Dalton drew a walk as a pinch-hitter off a dominant Bob Gibson (who only struck out 10) and the Cards won (Go Crazy Folks!). His performance in the Series was a high water mark in his career.

If you look at Dalton's home run log, you won't see any grand slams. As a pinch-hitter, he had one that headed into the upper deck in right field in Tiger Stadium on July 9, 1970, but Don Wert took it away from him. Don Wert played third, didn't he? Dalton was a Tiger and he was teammates with Wert at the time, weren't they? So how did Wert rob Dalton of an upper deck homer? I don't think Ken Griffey, Jr. ever got up that high. The porch in right field of Tiger Stadium overhung (that's got to be poor grammar) the field and Dalton hit a high fly. Instead of going halfway, Wert was retreating to first when the ball went into the seats. As the ball went into the seats, Dalton was hitting first base and Wert was retreating. Dalton passed Wert and was called out. Wert and the other two runners on got to score, so Dalton got credit for a bases clearing 3 run single. It broke a 3-3 tie and the Tigers won. At least they didn't lose by 1.

Friday, March 27, 2009

#82 -- Ron Woods

I don't know much about Ron except that I seemed to get a lot of his cards and I was glad he didn't play for my team. I don't know what I had against Ron, but I think he just didn't look like he was confident and in control. While it's almost a "night card" it also looks like he's gazing longingly at Gene Mauch, "Put me in, skip. I'll hit it."

When I did research about Ron, I didn't find much. Many of the "hits" had to do with him being traded from the Yankees for Ron Swoboda. OK. Swoboda was at the end of his career. Many of the rest of the items I found were Yankee fans bemoaning the bad teams of the late 60's and early 70's and Ron playing centerfield was one of their arguments. He played center about half-time for a year and a half and hit .205. I feel your pain.

Playing in Montreal from 1971-1974 was the best time of Ron's career. He wasn't bad in 1971-72 and his OPS+ was actually above 100. He had his most at bats against Steve Carlton and even hit .302 against him.

There's not much else that really stands out about Ron, so he can now fade back into obscurity.....
Speaking of sinking into obscurity..... RIP 2009 Duke Blue Devils. Better luck next year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

#81 -- Mike Hedlund

I couldn't find a lot about Mike. I know he was a starter early on with the Royals, and was pretty good. What would you say now about a guy that was 15-8 with a 2.71 ERA? However, his BB/K ratio wasn't very good (76/72) and that kind of foretold a down year in 1972. It looks like he just fell off the map after that.
The photo looks like another in a long line of Royals' photos taken at the old spring training site at Terry Park in Fort Myers. The more I see these the more I'm thinking about detouring into that part of town the next time I'm there (and hoping my wife doesn't get scared out of her wits).
Most of what I found about Mike Hedlund came from this great blog post. For those of you that read 100 blogs a day and don't have the time or inclination to spend 3-4 minutes learning about Mike Hedlund, it basically says that his nickname was "Booger Red" (after his hair color) and that he just couldn't make it back in the big leagues after being sent down following the 1972 season and the emergence of Steve Busby in the Royals' rotation. He also missed time recovering from Hong Kong flu contracted playing winter ball in Venezuela after the 1969 season. The thing that impressed me about that post was that supposedly Mike himself read it, created a blogger profile and left a comment indicating it was accurate.
After his career, he spent 35 years as a VP of Human Resources for Texas Trust Credit Union and now lives in Arlington.