Wednesday, June 18, 2008

#278 Ken Retzer

Here's the grand finale of the group of cards I received from Ed, so big thanks to him once again. Ken Retzer is a guy who paid his dues. After being signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent in 1954, the catcher toured the minor leagues until 1961, when he debuted with the Senators as a 27-year-old rookie. He hit .340 in his initial exposure to American League pitching, but from there it was a case of diminishing returns, as his batting average dropped each of the next three years. He bottomed out in 1964 at .094 before being shipped to the Twins in the winter. This was Ken's last baseball card, as he never played a single game in Minnesota. It would seem that he was sent back to the minors; the Twins sent him to Houston in April of 1966 and the Astros flipped him to Cleveland early the next year, bringing him full circle in pro baseball.

In his short time in the bigs, Ken apparently let his arm do most of the talking, throwing out 38.1% of would-be base stealers (48 of 126). He was also a tough strikeout, going down without contact only 50 times in 690 total at-bats, or once every 13.8 times at the dish.

Fun fact: Ken Retzer had Milt Pappas' number, homering four times in sixteen at-bats against the former Orioles' All-Star. That's once every four times to the plate, compared to a 49.2 AB/HR ratio for his entire career.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

#268 Ken McBride

I just got three more cards from one of my readers, so let's wrap up the batch from Ed. This is the second-to-last card of that bunch, and you'll duck if you know what's good for you. Ken McBride led the American League in hit batsmen twice in his career, and plunked somebody once every 16.2 innings on average. Ouch! Fortunately, he also finished near the top of some more flattering lists.

The former Red Sox signee got his start in the big leagues with the other Sox. Since I'm always looking for a Baltimore connection, I have to mention that McBride debuted in Memorial Stadium, taking a hard-luck 3-2 loss for Chicago. He allowed three runs to the Birds in seven and one-third innings, but only one was earned and the deciding runs were allowed by his bullpen. Then again, if Ken hadn't walked seven batters (including a young Brooks Robinson twice), the outcome may not have been in doubt.

Ken never really got a long look on the South Side, but his career took off after the Angels selected him in 1960's expansion draft. He was an All-Star in each of the team's first three seasons; though he only played in the 1963 game, he did get the start that year. He allowed three runs in three innings, but did drive in the AL's first run with a single off of Jim O'Toole in the second frame. You can see some of his stats below; he finished in the top ten of the junior circuit in winning percentage (1962), WHIP (1963), K's and K/9 IP (1961), complete games (1961, 1963), shutouts (1962), and adjusted ERA (1961).

As you can see, his performance fell of dramatically in 1964, and unfortunately this would be his last card. He appeared in just eight games for the Halos in 1965, going 0-3 with a 6.14 ERA. Ken had always had a bit of a control problem, finishing in the top ten in walks allowed three times in four years in addition to his aforementioned tendency to hit batters. Maybe his wildness hastened his demise.

I just started adding Fun Facts recently, and I think I'm going to make it a habit. I'm also going to start tagging posts to indicate which team the featured player represents. I'll do it retroactively as well.

Fun Fact: Ken McBride was an August kind of guy. His first ML game, his last game, and his birthday all occurred in the first half of August.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

#192 Jim Coker

Slowly but surely, I'm plugging along with the bunch of cards that I received from Ed a while back. We've got another of Topps' Hatless Wonders, but my favorite part of this card is Mr. Redlegs, a fine logo if ever there was one. When it comes to baseball mascots, I say the more maniacal, the better.

As for Jim Coker, he was the fringiest of fringe players: his major league career consisted of 233 games spread out over nine seasons. As you can see below, he made it onto a card in 1965 despite playing in just 11 games the previous year. Then again, someone at Topps may have had a soft spot for Jimmie, as he's billed on He made their All-Rookie team in 1960 on the strength of a .214 average, 6 home runs, and 34 RBI, not eye-popping numbers by any standard.

As you can see, he showed much more promise with the bat in the minor leagues, and it's not fair to judge him on his MLB stats, considering that the aforementioned 1960 season was the only true shot he had. You may notice that his first stop in pro baseball was Mattoon, Illinois, which is also the hometown of Deadspin editor Will Leitch. Another Jim Coker fun fact: he spent one month as Oriole, in a manner of speaking. In November 1962, Baltimore purchased him from the Phillies, only to send him to the Giants with pitchers Jack Fisher and Billy Hoeft on December 15. In return, the Birds received pitchers Stu Miller and Mike McCormick and slugging catcher John "Horse" Orsino. That deal worked out pretty well for the O's!