Wednesday, July 30, 2008

#356 Bill Spanswick

Before I get started on the first of three cards I acquired in a trade with reader Bobby, I'd like to bring your attention to a couple of links that "The Commish" dug up on Ken Retzer, the subject of our last card. Great stuff, including Ken's meeting with John F. Kennedy and his claim to fame: he caught the first pitch of the 10,000th game in MLB history! Thanks, Bob.

Alright, from Bob back to Bobby, who proposed a 3-for-3 trade. I sent him three Orioles: a 1991 Donruss #23 Gregg Olson (Diamond King), a 1989 Donruss #44 Pete Harnisch (Rated Rookie), and a 1984 Topps #240 Eddie Murray. First we're going to deal with Bill Spanswick, who has an excellent Dickensian sort of name. If he had been born in Nineteenth Century London, he might have been a cockney bootblack or a pickpocketing tramp, but it was his good fortune to be born in 1938 in Springfield, Massachusetts (home of the Basketball Hall of Fame and birthplace of Dr. Seuss and Kurt Russell).
spanswick by you.
Bill was a one-year wonder, and that's being kind. His 6.89 ERA in 65 and one-third innings in Boston leave little doubt as to why the 1964 season was his first AND last in the majors. Perhaps he should have given things a try at another position, though: he swatted 4 hits in 14 at-bats that year, driving in two and walking twice for a .286 batting average and a .375 on-base percentage.

Spanswick may have spent six seasons down in the minor leagues before getting the call to Fenway Park, but he had some share of glory in those years. He led his league in strikeouts at least twice (Nebraska State League in 1958 and Pacific Coast League in 1963). With Lexington in 1958, he struck out 22 batters in a one-hitter, and later topped that total with a 24-K, 14-inning effort!

Fun fact: Bill got his second (and final) win without breaking much of a sweat. In Game One of a doubleheader against the Indians, starter Jack Lamabe gave up a two-out double in the seventh inning to Dick Howser, scoring Al Smith with the go-ahead run. Spanswick came in to relieve Lamabe, and got Vic Davalillo to ground the ball back to him for the final out of the frame. Russ Nixon singled to lead off the home half of the seventh. With Spanswick due up, manager Johnny Pesky sent Chuck Schilling to pinch-hit. Schilling bunted the runner to second, and two batters later Felix Mantilla put the Red Sox ahead with a two-run home run. Dick Radatz shut the door with two hitless innings and added an RBI single to boot!
spansback by you.


  1. The internet is kind of a cool place, no? I noticed the Nebraska State League you mentioned and since I'm a minor league geek and since my son goes to school up there now I have a passing interest in things Husker-ish. So I googled it and found a very (for me) interesting site . Poking around I found a blurb on our friend Bill Spanswick on the 1958 Lexington Red Sox page:
    The best pitcher in the league was Bill Spanswick. On August 21, 1958, he struck out 22 while pitching a one hit, 13-0 victory over Superior. Earlier in the year the twenty year old southpaw struck out 24 in a 14 inning game. He attended Enfield High School where he is a member of their Sports Hall of Fame. He attended Holy Cross College for one year then signed with the Red Sox. In 1963 he played for Seattle and was the "AAA" player of the year. The Springfield MA native made his major league debut in 1964. He played for the Red Sox for one season and appeared in 29 games.
    I also found a reference to a book about minor league ball in Nebraska that I have ordered thru Amazon.

    Funny where a 1965 Topps will take ya.

  2. Bob, glad you're getting some enjoyment out of this. It's a good project for me, since I'm learning a lot about a whole cast of players who were a few decades before my time.

    (I'm also glad that someone's still reading, since I started the Spanswick entry a month ago and got sidetracked! Oh well, at least one of my two blogs is updated on a regular basis.)