Wednesday, June 30, 2010

#301 Birdie Tebbetts

#301 Birdie Tebbetts
I tend to agree with Bill Simmons that certain sports nicknames can and should be recycled after an appropriate period of time. "Night Train." "Catfish." I would say that there's always a room in sports for "Birdie". Tebbetts was given that moniker as a child, when his aunt remarked that his high-pitched voice was reminiscent of a bird chirping. By the by, you'll notice that Topps misspelled his last name on the back of the card, but not the front. Pretty sloppy, fellas.

Fun facts about Birdie Tebbetts:

-Born George Robert Tebbetts in Burlington, VT, he earned a degree in philosophy from Providence College in 1934 and signed with the Tigers that summer.

-Debuted with Detroit in 1936, and earned the starting catcher's job in 1939 after hitting .294 the previous season.

-While with the Tigers, he was involved in a bizarre incident. During a late 1940 game in Cleveland, a fan dropped a crate of tomatoes over the railing of his section. It landed on Birdie's head in the bullpen and knocked him out cold. When he recovered, the police brought him to the fan, who they had nabbed. With the tacit approval of the cops, the wounded catcher punched his assailant in the face.

-His .296 average and work behind the plate helped the Tigers reach the World Series in 1940, but he went hitless in 11 at-bats in the Fall Classic as the Reds eked out the championship.

-Made consecutive All-Star appearances in 1941 and 1942, but missed the following three-and-a-half seasons while serving in the Air Force.

-Was traded to the Red Sox in early 1947 and played his best ball with them despite being in his mid-thirties. Batted .287 in Beantown and added two more All-Star nods to his resume.

-Finished his playing career as a backup in Cleveland. In parts of 14 seasons he hit .270 with 38 home runs and 469 RBI.

-Tebbetts was known for being outspoken and honest to a fault. The Red Sox traded him shortly after he referred to his teammates as "moronic malcontents" and "juvenile delinquents". While scouting for the Reds in 1953, he gave the following report on a young pitcher: "Major league stuff and a great arm. Screwy in the head. Eliminate head and I recommend him. Get good surgeon."

-Had some success as a manager with Cincinnati (372-357 from 1954-1958), Milwaukee (98-89 from 1961-1962), and Cleveland (278-259 from 1963-1966). He resigned from the Indians due to health concerns following a heart attack, but stayed in the game for another 30 years as a scout for the Mets, Yankees, Orioles, and Marlins.

-Birdie passed away in 1999 at age 86.
#301 Birdie Tebbetts (back)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#299 Jerry Zimmerman

#299 Jerry Zimmerman
Jerry Zimmerman seems annoyed by the proceedings in this photo. It does look like he's trying to catch the yellow Twins pennant on the card. Maybe he's tired of clowning around with cartoons while there's a real game going on over his shoulder.

Fun facts about Jerry Zimmerman:

-Born in Omaha, NE, Jerry attended Milwaukie High School in Oregon before signing with the Red Sox in 1952.

-He toiled in the minors for Boston for nearly eight seasons before they released him. He caught on with the Orioles and played only a half a season at AAA before they released him as well.

-Jerry finally caught a break when the Reds signed him in late 1959. He went back to the minors for another year before debuting in Cincinnati at age 26. In his first full game he walked, scored twice, and singled twice.

-Though he batted just .206 and appeared in 76 games in his rookie season of 1961, Zimmerman was the primary catcher for the National League champs for the first half of the season.

-Following an offseason trade, he became Earl Battey's backup with the Twins. He would spend seven seasons in that role.

-Jerry hit only three home runs in his career. The first came in 1965, a two-run shot off of Washington's Phil Ortega. It took him four-plus seasons and 238 games to break his drought.

-Led the American League with a .997 fielding percentage behind the plate in 1965.

-Served as the unofficial bullpen coach while still active as a player in 1967.

-Appeared in only 24 games in 1968 and was released the following spring. In parts of eight seasons he hit .204 with three home runs and 72 RBI in 483 total games.

-Was on the original coaching staff of the Montreal Expos (1969-1975), and also served as Twins' bullpen coach from 1976-1980. In 1978, he umpired a game in Toronto during an umps' strike. He also did some scouting for the Orioles in the 1980s. He passed away in 1998, a few weeks shy of his 64th birthday.
#299 Jerry Zimmerman (back)

Monday, June 28, 2010

#298 Jim Stewart

#298 Jim Stewart
Oh, hey! I loved this guy in Vertigo and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington!

...What do you mean, it's not that Jim Stewart?

Fun facts about Jim Stewart:

-Born in Opelika, AL, Jimmy played collegiately at Austin Peay State University before signing with the Cubs in 1961.

-After batting .289 in his first three pro seasons, Stewart debuted with Chicago in September of 1963 and compiled a .297 average in 13 games.

-His first two major league hits came on September 10 of that year against Bob Gibson. He doubled off of the future Hall of Famer in his first trip to the plate that day!

-Jimmy came up as a shortstop but made his mark as a supersub, playing every position on the diamond except for pitcher.

-1964 was the only season in which he topped 300 at-bats. He hit .253 with 17 doubles, 33 RBI, and 49 walks in 132 games that year.

-Stewart struggled at bat in the mid-1960s and spent most of the period from 1966-1968 in the minors with the Cubs and White Sox.

-The Reds drafted him from the Pale Hose and he settled into a bench role, hitting .252 with Cincy from 1969-1971 and seeing a bit of action in the NLCS and World Series in 1970.

-His pinch three-run home run off of Tom Seaver gave the Reds a 7-5 lead in the nightcap of an August 23, 1970 doubleheader. It was the decisive blow in a Cincinnati win.

-Was traded to the Astros in the big eight-player deal that sent Lee May to Houston and brought Joe Morgan to Cincinnati; was a sub-Mendoza batter for two more seasons before calling it quits.

-In parts of ten seasons, Jimmy hit .237 with eight homers and 112 RBI.
#298 Jim Stewart (back)

Friday, June 25, 2010

#294 Tim McCarver

#294 Tim McCarver
If Tim McCarver were asked for his opinion about this card, he might say, "You know, the thing about this Tim McCarver baseball card is that it's a baseball card featuring Tim McCarver. Now a baseball card is actually a card that has a baseball player on it. A baseball player is generally on a baseball card, and not the other way around. Bob Gibson used to be on baseball cards, and I am a good friend and former teammate of Bob Gibson."

Fun facts about Tim McCarver:

-Born in Memphis, TN, Tim signed with the Cardinals fresh out of high school in 1959.

-After hitting .359 between class D and AAA in his first pro season, Tim got a late-season look from St. Louis at the tender age of 17.

-Had a few more cups of coffee before returning to the big leagues to stay in 1963. Batted .289 with 51 RBI in that first season as the starting catcher.

-Posted a .288 average for the World Champion Cards in his sophomore season, punctuating a banner year with an 11-for-23 (.478) effort in the World Series that included three extra-base hits, five RBI, and a game-winning three-run homer in the tenth inning of Game Five.

-Led the National League with 13 triples in 1966, his first of two straight All-Star seasons.

-In a career year, he hit .295 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs, and 69 RBI in 1967. Finished a distant second to teammate Orlando Cepeda in MVP voting.

-After 11 years in the St. Louis organization, Tim was traded to the Phillies for the 1970 season. He would spend parts of another nine seasons in Philly (1970-1972, 1975-1980), batting .272 and serving as Steve Carlton's personal catcher for much of that time.

-Caught two no-hitters in his career: Rick Wise in 1971 and Bill Stoneman in 1972.

-Also had stints in Montreal and Boston. Was resigned by the Phils late in 1980 so that he could play major league ball in four different decades; saw action in six games and retired for good with a .271 average, 97 home runs, and 645 RBI in a 21-season career.

-Has been a TV broadcaster for three decades since retiring. He is much-loved and much-loathed, depending on who you ask. Columnist Norman Chad famously said that if you asked McCarver the time, he would tell you how a wristwatch works. As you may have surmised from the intro to this blog post, I am not a fan of Tim's.
#294 Tim McCarver (back)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

#292 Larry Yellen

#292 Larry Yellen
Hey, here's something rare for this set! A visible jersey for a Houston player! It's a breath of fresh air after all of those bare-headed portraits. While Topps was reluctant to show players in the discontinued Colt .45s caps and home jerseys, the road jerseys that just had the city name in block letters were probably fair game. Maybe they could have gone to greater lengths to find more photos of Houstoners in gray, hmm?

Fun facts about Larry Yellen:

-A Brooklynite by birth, Larry attended the City University of New York's Hunter College campus before signing with Houston in 1963.

-Jumping straight to AA San Antonio at age 20, he went 8-5 with a 2.82 ERA in his first pro season.

-The Colts promoted Yellen to the big leagues and he made one start on September 26, 1963. He allowed four runs (two earned) in five innings and received no decision.

-Recalling his debut against Pittsburgh years later, he recalled a hard-hit ground ball by Roberto Clemente that almost knocked shortstop Glenn Vaughan into the stands. The backup infielder managed to hold on to the ball and throw Clemente out. Though the young pitcher allowed seven hits total, he held the future Hall of Famer hitless in three tries.

-Yellen, a Jewish ballplayer, delayed his scheduled debut start by one day to observe Yom Kippur. Somehow it was a much bigger deal when Sandy Koufax made a similar sacrifice.

-Larry began 1964 in the majors, but pitched sparingly and ineffectively in relief and spent much of the second half at AAA Oklahoma City. He racked up a 6.86 ERA in 21 big league innings that year.

-He returned to the minor leagues in 1965, going 3-12 between AA Amarillo and AAA Oklahoma City.

-After 1965, there is no record of Larry Yellen having pitched again, nor did I turn up any explanation for his pro career ending at age 22. He had a 6.23 ERA and no wins, losses or saves in 14 career games.

#292 Larry Yellen (back)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

#291 Jerry Lynch

#291 Jerry Lynch

This photo is almost identical to the one used for Jerry's 1966 card. He must not have wandered far from that batting cage.

Fun facts about Jerry Lynch:

-A native of Bay City, MI, he signed with the Yankees in 1951.

-Was claimed by the Pirates in the Rule V draft prior to the 1954 season and played 98 games for them as a 23-year-old rookie.

-Improved his batting average 45 points from his first season to his second (.239 to .284) and went from four doubles to 18 in the same number of plate appearances.

-After appearing in only 19 major league games in 1956, he was drafted by the Reds.

-In 1958 he topped 400 at-bats for the only time in his career and responded with a .312 average and 16 home runs and 68 RBI.

-Became known as a great pinch hitter in Cincinnati; for his career he ranks tenth with 116 pinch-hits and second all-time with 18 pinch homers.

-In 1961, he helped the Reds to win the pennant, hitting .315 and slugging .624 in part-time duty with 13 homers in just 181 at-bats. Five of his longballs and 25 RBI came in pinch situations.

-His two-run homer on September 26, 1961 broke a tie with the Cubs in the top of the eighth. It was ultimately the game-winning hit as the Reds clinched the National League crown.

-Returned to Pittsburgh in 1963, playing out his career there and retiring after being released in 1966. In parts of 13 seasons he hit .277 with 115 home runs and 470 RBI.

-Nearly half of his career homers (53) came in the seventh inning or later.

#291 Jerry Lynch (back)

Monday, June 21, 2010

#289 Gordy Coleman

#289 Gordy Coleman

I can say without hyperbole that Gordy Coleman is the most accomplished player named "Gordy" in major league history. The only other Gordy was infielder Gordy Lund, who played just 23 games in the late 1960s.

Fun facts about Gordy Coleman:

-Born in Rockville, MD, Gordy signed with the Indians as a teenager in 1953.

-In 1959, he took the AA Southern Association Triple Crown with a .353 average, 30 homers, and 110 RBI.

-Made the most of a September 1959 callup, hitting 8-for-15 (.553). He tripled off of Kansas City's Bob Grim in his first career at-bat.

-Traded to the Reds in an offseason deal that sent All-Star second baseman Johnny Temple to Cleveland, Gordy spent the first half of 1960 in the minors before being recalled in late July. He hit .271 with 32 RBI in 66 games in Cincy and was in the majors to stay.

-Tabbed as the team's starting first baseman in 1961, the 26-year-old batted .287 with 27 doubles and was the Reds' second-best producer with 26 homers and 87 RBI.

-His two-run homer off of Ralph Terry gave Cincinnati the lead in the fourth inning of Game Two of the '61 World Series. They would win the game 6-2, their only victory in that year's Fall Classic.

-Hit a career-best 28 home runs the next season and drove in 86.

-By the middle of the decade, Tony Perez had supplanted him at first base. Gordy still provided some pop for the Reds, particularly in his 1965 season (.302, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 19 2B in 108 games).

-His final big league exposure came in a four-game stint in 1967. In parts of nine seasons, he hit .273 with 98 home runs and 387 RBI.

-Gordy was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1972. In the early 1990s, he provided color commentary on Reds game broadcasts, up until his untimely death at age 59 in 1994.
#289 Gordy Coleman (back)

Friday, June 18, 2010

#286 Athletics Rookie Stars: Jim Dickson and Aurelio Monteagudo


Here's a two-for-one to make up for my recent inactivity. How do you suppose you would pronounce Aurelio's last name? MON-tay-ah-GOO-doe?

Fun facts about Jim Dickson:

-Hailing from Portland, OR, Jim signed with the Pirates in 1958 at age 20.

-He pitched in the Pittsburgh farm system for four years, never surpassing class A ball.

-After compiling a 10-4 record and 3.02 ERA at B-level Burlington in 1961, he was claimed by Houston in the minor league draft.

-Jim debuted with the Colt .45s in July of 1963. He was knocked around a bit in 13 games, but did notch two saves. His first came on July 5, as he induced a Del Crandall ground ball to strand the tying runs on base in the eighth inning and stayed on for a 1-2-3 ninth.

-Was traded to Cincinnati the following year, but pitched only four times for the Reds and was claimed by the Athletics the next offseason in the Rule V draft.

-The A's called on Jim often in 1965, as his 68 appearances ranked fourth in the league and set an AL rookie record. He performed well, compiling a 3.47 ERA that was among the lowest on the team.

-Had a 12-game streak without allowing an earned run in 1966, but was hit hard that summer and sent to the minors with a 5.35 ERA. He would hang around at AAA through the 1970 season without ever being recalled to the majors.

-In parts of four big league seasons, Dickson was 5-3 with a 4.36 ERA and three saves.

Fun facts about Aurelio Monteagudo:

-Born in Cuba, Aurelio later became a Venezuelan citizen after Fidel Castro rose to power in his native land. He was signed by the A's in 1961 at age 18.

-His father Rene was a pitcher and outfielder for the Senators and Phillies during the World War II years.

-Aurelio debuted with Kansas City in September of 1963, allowing two runs in seven innings over four relief appearances.

-He traveled often and pitched sparingly in his major league career. From 1963-1967 he appeared in only 36 total games for three clubs (A's, Astros, White Sox).

-Monteagudo didn't resurface in the majors until 1970, when he put up a 2.96 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP for the Royals in 21 games. He also collected his first win in the June 15 game, when he retired the only batter he faced to end the top of the ninth and then benefited from a three-run comeback by Kansas City in the bottom of the inning!

-It took another three years for Aurelio to get his next shot in the bigs, a second-half stint with the Angels in 1973. He saw action in 15 games to close the book on his MLB career.

-In parts of seven seasons he was 3-7 with a 5.05 ERA and four saves.

-His signature pitch was a screwball, which he used to great effect in a 20-year run in the Venezuelan winter league. He was 79-81 with a 3.37 ERA.

-Monteagudo also pitched in the Mexican league, leading in strikeouts with 222 in 1978 and tossing a no-hitter in 1979.

-In 1990, his life came to a tragic end when he was in a fatal car accident in Mexico. He was 46 at the time of his death. Eerily, the only other two players in major league history who were named Aurelio (third baseman Rodriguez and pitcher Lopez) also met a premature demise in auto accidents in the ensuing decade. More details at my other blog.

Monday, June 14, 2010

#285 Ron Hunt


Is that Yogi Berra standing behind Ron Hunt at the batting cage? Nope - Yogi didn't join the Mets as a player-coach until 1965. According to this fine website, that's probably catcher Chris Cannizzaro. If Chris isn't careful, he could get brained by Ron's backswing!

Fun facts about Ron Hunt:

-A St. Louis, MO native, Ron signed with the Braves as a teenager in 1959.

-The Mets purchased his contract from Milwaukee before the 1963 season and made him their starting second baseman. He responded by hitting .272 and leading the team with 64 runs scored and 28 doubles to finish second in Rookie of the Year balloting to Pete Rose.

-In 1964, Hunt avoided the sophomore jinx by being tabbed as the Mets' first All-Star Game starter. He batted a team-high .303.

-After a second All-Star selection in 1966 (.288 AVG), Ron was shocked when the Mets traded him to the Dodgers. He spent a single year in L.A. before moving on to the Giants.

-Chances are good that you only know the name "Ron Hunt" in conjunction with being hit by pitches. Indeed, he led the league in HBP for seven consecutive years, including a modern record of 50 in 1971! He was quoted as saying, “Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball". He retired with a modern-record 243 plunks, though Don Baylor, Craig Biggio, and Jason Kendall have since passed him.

-Hunt spent nearly four years at the end of his career with the Expos, peaking with a .309 average and .418 on-base percentage in 1973, his penultimate season.

-He struck out very seldomly - 382 times in 6,158 plate appearances and never more than 50 times in a year. His 19 whiffs in 486 trips to the plate in 1963 set a record low for the Expos franchise.

-Though he was just 33 in 1974, the end came quickly for Ron. He was waived by Montreal in September despite a .268 average (he hadn't hit a single home run in three years) and claimed by his hometown Cardinals, but hit just .174 for them in a dozen games. The following spring, the Cardinals released him before breaking camp.

-In parts of twelve seasons, he was a .273 hitter with a .368 on-base percentage, 39 homers, and 370 RBI.

-Ron's post-baseball career took him back to the St. Louis area, where he became a rancher.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

#283 Fred Whitfield


A friendly word of advice: don't try to move and blog. The good news is that I'm all settled. The bad news is that it'll be another couple of weeks before I have Internet access at home, so updates may be sporadic. But what's new?

Fun Facts about Fred Whitfield:

-Born in Vandiver, AL, Fred signed with the Cardinals in 1956 after high school.

-Was nicknamed "Wingy" due to his unusual throwing motion.

-Blocked at first base by St. Louis' All-Star starter Bill White, Whitfield did not reach the majors until 1962. He got the call in late May after having hit 99 homers in his last four-plus seasons.

-He performed well in limited duty, batting .266 with eight homers and 34 RBI in 158 at-bats to be named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team.

-An offseason trade to the Indians gave him a chance to play regularly, and he responded by swatting 21 longballs in 1963, just one off of Max Alvis' team lead.

-Hit the only walkoff home run of his career on June 16, 1963. With the Indians trailing Washington 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the first two Tribe runners reached base against pitcher Jim Bronstad. Whitfield pinch hit for second baseman Jerry Kindall and went deep to drive the home crowd wild.

-Fred's power numbers took a dip the next year, but he rebounded in 1965 to reach career highs in batting average (.293), doubles (23), homers (26), and RBI (90). He finished fifth in the American League in home runs and RBI.

-Had one last impressive year in 1966 with 27 home runs and a team-best 78 RBI.

-Was relegated to part-time duty once again in 1967, and then was traded to the Reds, where he backed up Lee May for a couple years.

-Played only four games for the Expos in 1970 to conclude his big league career. In parts of nine seasons he hit .253 with 108 home runs and 356 RBI. Despite his low batting average and a dearth of walks (a single-season best of 27), his OPS+ was still 107 thanks to his extra-base prowess and the offensively-challenged era in which he played.