Saturday, July 11, 2009

One Good Turn.....

My wife needed a long weekend, so we're in Kansas City shopping. Just for fun I check Beckett's show calendar and there's a mall show in K.C. It is not the mall she likes to hit, but she's a good sport. Hopefully I'll find some high numbers and other assorted goodies.

Mixed bag of success for me. I found no 1972 cards to finish off this set. I did, however, find a few 57 and 58's in a dollar box that will work for TTM autographs (e.g., Virgil Trucks, John O'Brien, et. al.). My big haul was to eliminate about 70 of the cards on my 1970 want list. I'm up to 61% complete, which is very misleading because I still need a lot of the high dollar cards on that set.

I did save some money. One seller had just bought a complete 1956 set and a 1957 set missing only 5 cards. He priced the '57 to me at $2000 and I passed it up. I told my wife we saved $2000 and she was incredibly impressed with me. I think she'll be getting a nice dinner tomorrow night to show my appreciation for her patience while I dug through old ball cards.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

#129 -- Charlie Fox

How old does Charlie look here? To me he looks like he'd have to be in his mid-60's. However, assuming it was taken in Spring Training 1971 (or in front of the bleachers at a high school football stadium), he hadn't had his 50th birthday yet. Johngy left a comment earlier about how a lot of the players looked older in this set than they do now.

Charlie was a lifelong Giant. He grew up in New York City and wanted nothing more than to be a Giant. His Baseball-Reference page doesn't list when he was signed by the Giants, but he was brought up to play 3 games in late September 1942 for the Giants as a 20 year old. He was a catcher and had a .429 lifetime batting average (3 singles in 7 at bats). It might be worth keeping track of that and see if he turns out to have the highest lifetime big league batting average of anyone in this set. He's certainly set the bar high.

His minor league career doesn't pick up again until 1946, so I'd say he spent his early 20's fighting for America's freedom. He was a backup catcher in the low minors (B and C leagues) through the 50's and never sniffed the big leagues again. He scouted until the mid-60's and then either coached with the Giants or managed in the minors until named as manager of the Giants in May of 1970.

The Giants made it to the playoffs once between 1962 and 1987, that being when Fox led them to the West Division in 1971. However, it's not like they were abject failures. They finished 2nd to the Cardinals or the Dodgers most years in the 60's. But, despite McCovey, Mays and Marichal they just couldn't get over the hump despite having the most consistent run.

The Giants crashed hard in 1972. Charlie had a tough year with the Giants finishing 5th. McCovey and Marichal were injured, Mays was finally showing his age and young players like Chris Speier, Dave Kingman and Garry Maddox weren't ready yet. They bounced back somewhat in 1973, but when they got off to a bad start in 1974, Charlie found himself not employed by the Giants for the first time in over 30 years.

He had a couple of other stints with the Expos (as a GM) and as an interim manager for the Cubs. He had a fiery temper, but he was a lifetime baseball man. There are a lot of guys out there like Fox who never have the chance to manage in the post-season or even make it to the big leagues. The thing that sets Fox aside is that 1971 season when he won the West.

P.S. I was googling Charlie Fox and came across a reference on Urban Dictionary. I've never heard his name used that way, however.

1972 Feature

July 8, 1972 was a Saturday. There were a lot of low-scoring games. The Dodgers lost to the Mets 4-1, due in part to 4 Dodger errors. Man, what with Charlie Fox being a long-time Giant and 4 Dodger errors, this post can't end too early for one Night Owl. Juan Marichal raised his record to 3-10, but he only went 6 innings allowing 1 unearned run against the Expos as poor Ernie McAnally fell to 1-11. The Angels held the Red Sox scoreless over the last 15 innings of their 17 inning game and then scored to win 4-3.

The Game of the Day is one that we just don't see any more. The Yankees took on the Twins in the Met. Mel Stottlemyre went for the Yankees against Bert Blyleven. The Twins pinch-hit for Blyleven in the bottom of the 10th. Wayne Granger relieved and gave a homer to light-hitting Bernie Allen leading off the 11th. Stottlemyre came out for the 11th and gave up a leadoff single to Danny Thompson.

Rod Carew was next up. Ralph Houk went to the bullpen for Sparky Lyle. Carew hits a dribbler to Lyle that gets Thompson to second with the tying run. Slugger Harmon Killebrew was up next. Today, there would be thought given to walking him. However, in that time managers would have even pitched to Albert Pujols instead of purposely putting the winning run on base. Lyle struck out the Killer and then fanned pinch-hitter Steve Brye. That was a 1-0 11-inning game where the starters went 10 innings. I suppose this is one of the games the Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame Club (of which I'm not a member) cite that could have been one of the wins that would have gotten him to 300. Instead, it looks to me like a well-pitched game that a good pitcher, Mel Stottlemyre, won.

By the way, I've tried to purposely post this at 12:34:56 PM on 7/8/09. Big Deal.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

#128 -- Eddie Watt

Eddie Watt

In the stretch when the Orioles were at the top of the American League from 1969-1971, there was no better reliever in baseball than Eddie Watt, but nobody's ever heard of him. That's partly because the Orioles threw so many complete games they really didn't need a reliever. They'd carry a 9 man pitching staff and 1 of those guys would usually pitch less than once a week. Contrast that with today's game where some managers are considering carrying 13 pitchers.

In that stretch of 1969-1971, Eddie still appeared only 48 games and 55 innings on average. The Oriole bullpen also had Dick Hall, Dave Leonhard and Pete Richert all pitching effectively during that period. I mentioned the Orioles threw a lot of complete games. From 1969-71 their complete game totals were 50, 64 and 71, well over 1/3 of the total games played.

Eddie pitched 8 years for the Orioles and they went to the World Series 4 of them. He was a rookie on the 1966 championship team and was a vital cog on the 1970 championship team as well as the 1969 and 1971 AL Championship teams. After the 1973 season he was sold to Philadelphia. The O's seemed to be going through a change and there were a lot of players in a rich minor league system that were coming up. Eddie slipped a little more with the Phillies. They released him and after a few games with the Cubs in 1975 his career was over.

Eddie wasn't like today's closers. He didn't come in to great fanfare and entry music. He was more quiet and unassuming. He grew up in Iowa on a farm and never saw a major league baseball game until he saved one for the Orioles on April 12, 1966. One week later he pitched in his second game and got his first win. One week later he notched his first major league win.

His stats today don't look like they'd be good enough to make an all-star team, but Eddie was one of the best in his time.

1972 Feature
On July 5, 1972 Nolan Ryan was at it again. He threw 9 shutout innings at the Brewers and it wouldn't have been enough if Winston Llenas, pinch-hitting for Ryan, hadn't knocked in the winning run with a single in the bottom of the 9th off Earl Stephenson. Stephenson had been matching him zero for zero, but gave up the winning hit. Marty Pattin of the Red Sox and Dave McNally of the Orioles also had 5-hit shutouts.