Wednesday, October 15, 2008

#466 Senators 1965 Rookie Stars: Pete Craig and Dick Nen

1965 Senators Rookies by you.
Holy airbrushing, Batman! Here's another rookie two-for-one, featuring a couple of castoffs from other organizations that were scooped up by the Senators. They also each have monosyllabic first and last names, for what that's worth (hint: not much).

If memory serves me correct, Pete Craig is the first Canadian-born player I've unearthed in this project. The native of LaSalle, Ontario pitched his college ball at the University of Detroit-Mercy and signed with the Tigers in 1963. As you can see on the card back below, he put up some good numbers in the minors, but in April 1964 the Sens were able to claim him on first-year waivers. You can see the telltale navy cap and white jersey with navy piping in the above photo, indicating his old Tigers uniform. The big league club in D.C. was dreadful (62-100), and they gave Pete a look that September. His debut was a disaster, as he faced Detroit in relief and allowed six of the nine batters he faced to reach base. Five of those six Tigers scored, three of them on a Don Demeter home run. Craig didn't get the ball again until the final game of the season. He got the starting nod against the Red Sox and lasted just two-thirds of an inning, surrendering five runs. Amazingly, he got a no-decision; Washington rallied from 7-0 to tie it at seven before falling 14-8. The grisly numbers for Pete Craig: 48.60 ERA, 7.20 WHIP.

Pete got another September callup in 1965, losing all three of his starts and getting knocked out of the box in the fourth inning in two of them. He did last seven innings against the Yankees, though. But his 8.16 ERA did not inspire confidence, and he would have to wait until the end of the following season to get one lonely relief appearance. One run allowed in two innings to lower his career earned run average to 11.50. That's where it would stay, as the righty never made it back to the majors.

Fun fact: Although he never won a game in the bigs, Pete had two hits in three career at-bats! In his first two starts in 1965, the young pitcher singled off of Sonny Siebert and Mel Stottlemyre.

First baseman Dick Nen had a more substantial career, though he was never a full-time player. The card back mentions his game-tying ninth-inning home run against the Cardinals. What it doesn't mention is that the then-Dodger rookie's big blast was his first career hit, in his second career at-bat! (He'd entered as a pinch hitter in the previous inning.) He played in just seven games in L.A. that year, and spent all of 1964 in the minors before being sent to Washington in a seven-player deal. The major names were Frank Howard and Ken McMullen (to D.C.) and Claude Osteen (to the Dodgers). In his headshot above, you can see him in Dodger blue, with the logo airbrushed away.

1965 was Nen's rookie year proper, and it was also his best performance at the major league level. He saw action in 69 games, hitting .260 with 6 HR and 31 RBI. His average slipped to .213 the following year, though the rest of his stats were eerily similar to the year before. In fact, from 1965-1967, Dick's yearly numbers were in the following range:

235-246 AB, 18-21 R, 7-8 2B, 0-1 3B, 6 HR, 29-31 RBI, 19-28 BB, 39-47 K.

Talk about consistent! It's also worth noting that Dick played in the second dead-ball era. The Senators hit just .234 in 1966, and .223 in 1967 (when Nen batted .218). But even by the lower offensive standards of his era, the first baseman bottomed out in 1968, hitting just .181 with two home runs as a Cub. Save for a six-game return to the nation's capital in 1970, that dismal performance spelled the end of his time in The Show. Dick's legacy would endure; his son is Robb Nen, former closer for the Marlins and Giants. Robb's 314 saves currently rank 16th all-time.

Fun fact: The only two pitchers that Dick Nen hit multiple home runs against were Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter and 229-game winner Luis Tiant. He socked three longballs off of each man.

1965 Senators Rookies (back) by you.

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