Sunday, October 19, 2008

#505 Ray Culp

Ray Culp by you.
We've arrived at the penultimate card in my trade with Brandon, and in case you're curious, "penultimate" is the $64 million word of the day on this blog. The youngster pictured is pitcher Ray Culp, who is keeping warm in Spring Training with his Phillies-red windbreaker underneath his jersey.

After struggling for the first three years of his pro career, Ray went 13-8 with a 3.20 ERA in the Eastern League in 1962. It was a sign of things to come, as he would spend the following year in Philadelphia frustrating National League hitters. He won 14 games, posted a 2.97 ERA, finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting (Pete Rose was the winner), and was the only rookie hurler in the All-Star Game. He fell off to eight wins in 1964, largely because manager Gene Mauch overreacted to a tight pennant race by switching to a three-man rotation and squeezing Culp out of the picture. In case you're wondering how that worked out, let's just say that the '64 Phils were synonymous with "collapse" until the 1978 Red Sox (and 2007 Mets) came along to keep them company.

Culp rebounded with 14 more wins in 1965 and cut his earned run average by nearly a run (4.13 to 3.22). He continued to yo-yo the next year, pitching primarily in relief as his ERA ballooned over five. That rough year ended his time in Philadelphia, and after a one-year cameo with the Cubs (8-11, 3.89), he landed in Boston, where he would turn things around in a big way. The righty set a new career high with 16 wins (against 6 losses) in 1968, and his 2.91 ERA was also a personal best. He would top himself with 17 wins the next year, earning his second All-Star nod. He'd notch another 17 victories in 1970, while completing 15 games. Though 1971 would be his second-ever losing season (14-16), it still concluded an impressive four-year run in which Ray tossed 47 complete games.

After being so durable for a number of years, Culp's career wound down in a hurry. He pitched just 25 games over the final two seasons of his career, and he was finished at age 31 in 1973. In his post-baseball life, he made a living in real estate in his native Texas. He named his company after his career batting average: 123, Inc.

Fun fact: Ray's only career save came on April 13, 1966, as he struck out the side in the twelfth inning of a 3-2 Phillies win over St. Louis. His victims were Pat Corrales, Lou Brock, and Julian Javier.
Ray Culp (back) by you.

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