Tuesday, December 30, 2008

#182 Mike de la Hoz

delahoz by you.
Tonight we're up close with Havana-born infielder Mike de la Hoz. As you might have guessed, his name is Spanish for "Mike of the Hoz". Or not. My Spanish is a tad rusty. (It's actually "of the sickle".)

Signed by the Indians in 1958, Mike hit at nearly every stop, earning his way onto a major league roster by his third professional season. He was a true utility player, totaling 129 career games at third base, 119 at second base, and 108 at shortstop. The Cuban import never exceeded 81 games or 200 at-bats in any year, and 40% of his career appearances were in a pinch-hit capacity. After four seasons in Cleveland, he joined a talented Braves team that included Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Joe Torre. 1964 was his best year, as he hit .291 with a .346 on-base percentage. In total, Mike also spent four years as a Brave, which would be the balance of his career except for one at-bat with the Reds in 1969. In an eight-year career, he hit .251 with 25 home runs.

Fun fact: July 8, 1965 was a banner day for de la Hoz. Pinch hitting to lead off the eighth inning, he homered off of Dave Giusti of the Astros to bring the Braves to within 6-5. He remained in the game, but Houston scored two insurance runs in their half of the inning. Milwaukee fought back to within one run, setting the stage for Mike to tie the game at 8 with a two-out single in the ninth. The game ground on into the twelfth inning, at which point he led off with a single, advanced to second base on Felipe Alou's bunt, and scored the winning run on Frank Bolling's single!

delahozb by you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

#92 Dick Howser

howser by you.
Dick Howser is modeling his batting stance, the form made him the first Florida State University alum to play in the major leagues. The Miami native and two-time All-American was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1958, and debuted with the club in a big way in 1961. He played in 158 of the team's 161 games, leading the A's in runs scored (108), hits (171), walks (92), and steals (37). His .280 average and 29 doubles would be career highs as well. The 25-year-old was selected to both All-Star Games that year and The Sporting News Rookie of the Year. He was also runner-up to Red Sox pitcher Don Schwall for the BBWAA top rookie honors.

Howser had trouble building on his initial performance, and spent the next two years fighting for playing time while his average stalled in the .230s. A mid-1963 trade to Cleveland gave him a spark, as he pulled his average up from a putrid .195. The next year, the Indians made him their full-time shortstop and he played all 162 games at that demanding position. He scored 101 runs and walked 76 times to lead the Tribe, and drove in a career-high 52 runs. But Howser lost his starting job again in 1965, and spent the final four seasons of his career as a part-timer with the Indians and Yankees.

After his retirement in 1968, Dick spent ten years as third base coach and winter league instructor for the Yankees, and then returned to Florida State in 1979 to coach the baseball team for which he once starred. The next year, George Steinbrenner enticed him to replace Billy Martin as the manager of the Bronx Bombers. Despite winning 103 games as a rookie skipper, Howser was subjected to constant meddling by King George. Shortly after falling in the ALCS to the Royals and refusing to fire third base coach Mike Ferraro, the man who had led New York to its most wins since 1963 was shown the door.

Howser was back in a major league dugout midway through 1981, returning to Kansas City to replace Jim Frey as manager of the Royals. The club won 20 of 33 games under its new boss, finishing first in the A.L. West for the second half of the season. Under special split-season rules put in place because of the midsummer players' strike, KC advanced to the Division Series, where they were swept in three games by Oakland. After second-place finishes the next two years, Dick brought home a West division crown in 1984. Another clean sweep out of the playoffs (at the hands of the rampaging Tigers) left his charges hungry, and they responded by winning 91 games and returning to the playoffs in 1985. This time, the Royals got over the hump, outlasting the Blue Jays in a seven-game ALCS to advance to the World Series. In an intrastate matchup, they spotted the Cardinals a three-games-to-one lead before staging a big comeback and winning the championship in seven games.

During the All-Star Break in 1986, disaster struck. Howser seemed out of sorts at times while managing the American League All-Stars, and admitted that he had been feeling ill. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and stepped away from his duties with Kansas City. After undergoing aggressive treatment, he returned to the helm in Spring Training the next year, but quickly found that he was not physically up to it and left the club once more. On June 17, just a month after his 51st birthday, Dick passed away.

Following his death, the tributes were numerous. His jersey number (10) was the first to be retired by the Kansas City Royals. The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce established the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball's answer to the Heisman Trophy. Florida State University renamed their baseball stadium in his honor, and placed a bust of Howser on stadium grounds.

Fun fact: Dick's only home run in 1965 came on July 2 against a rookie Orioles reliever who was mopping up with the Indians leading 7-0. That pitcher? None other than future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.
howserb by you.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

#90 Rich Rollins

Rich Rollins by you.
I wonder if the Twins led the major leagues in bespectacled players in 1964. So far I've covered Zoilo Versalles and Don Mincher, and I would go so far as to say that Rich Rollins' horn-rimmed frames put him in the lead for most fashionable four-eyed Twins player. Thanks largely to his glasses, Rich also bears a strong resemblance to actor Jack Coleman, who plays Noah Bennet on the TV series "Heroes". But I digress.

Coming from Mount Pleasant, PA, "Red" Rollins (so nicknamed for his brightly colored hair, which is hidden by his hat in the above photo) matriculated from Kent State University and signed with the Senators in 1960. He was something of a phenom, hitting .341 in his first pro season and debuting with the just-relocated Twins late the following year. He earned the full-time third base job in 1962 and led Minnesota in hitting and on-base percentage with marks of .298 and .374. He also drove in 96 runs and scored another 96 for a club that finished just five games back of the Yankees. The young man's instant success earned the respect of his peers, who voted him into both All-Star Games that summer with the highest vote total of any American League player!

Despite an offseason workout regimen that was ahead of its time, Rich went into his sophomore spring training feeling sluggish. Early in the season, he suffered a broken jaw, which led to a four-day hospital stay, some weight loss, and an 0-for-25 stretch. Remarkably, he recovered to lead his team in batting once more at .307 and matched his previous year's totals of 23 doubles and 16 home runs.

For some reason, Rollins' performance slipped after reaching such great heights in his first two seasons. He hit .270 in 1964, though he set career highs with 25 doubles and a league-leading 10 triples. In Minnesota's pennant-winning 1965 campaign, he fell to .249 with 5 homers and 32 RBI. He appeared in three games in the World Series, going 0-for-2 with a walk. Rich stuck around with the Twins for three more years as a part-timer, continuing to hit in the .240 range. He joined the woebegone Seattle Pilots for 58 games in 1969 before being shut down with a knee injury. After a similarly short 1970 season that was split between Milwaukee and Cleveland, the one-time rookie star was finished at 32. He hit .269 for his career, though his last six seasons came in below that mark.

In the Life After Baseball department, Rich later worked in the front office of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, at one point serving as the public relations director for both the Cavs and the Richfield Coliseum that they called home.

Fun fact: Rich successfully fielded a ground ball by Rick Reichardt of the Angels and threw him out at first base to close out the first win in the history of the Seattle Pilots.
Rich Rollins (back) by you.

Friday, December 26, 2008

#78 Dal Maxvill

maxvill by you.
Hey kids, it's time to play America's Favorite Guessing Game, "Name That Background Teammate"! If you said that the player standing behind Dal Maxvill was Cardinals pitcher Barney Schultz, you're probably correct! Of course, if you were also wondering why Dal was fielding grounders in what looks like the on-deck circle, I don't know what to tell you.

Dal Maxvill was your quintessential all-field, no-hit infielder. Hailing from Granite City, just over the Illinois border from St. Louis, he stayed close to home by attending and graduating from Washington University. The Cardinals signed the local boy in 1960, and he made the big time just two years later. As I've suggested, he wasn't exactly a big-time bat; he hit .217 for his career and never topped .253 for a season. After hitting a three-run home run off of Al Jackson of the Mets in his 46th game as a rookie, Dal would not go deep again for five years. His career total of six longballs in 14 seasons paled in comparison to teammate (and pitcher) Bob Gibson's total of 24. No wonder Cards fans used to call for Gibson to bat ahead of Maxvill in the order!

In 1964, Dal spent three months at midseason back in the minors, but contributed to the eventual world champions with his strong glove at the beginning and end of the season. In thirty games (mostly at second base and shortstop), he committed just one error. He played in all seven World Series games, batting .200 with a double and an RBI. It would be his high-water mark as a postseason hitter. He returned to the Fall Classic with St. Louis in 1967, and again they were victorious in seven games. Maxvill batted a robust .158.

1968 represented both a high and a low in Dal's career. He had his best all-around season, hitting .253 with 52 walks in a pitcher-dominated year and earning a Gold Glove for his play at shortstop. He appeared far down the MVP ballot, as teammate Bob Gibson won the honor comfortably. The Redbirds hoped to repeat as world champs, but Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich had other ideas. He won three games, and Detroit downed St. Louis in seven. Maxvill wore a pair of goat horns, going 0-for-22 to set a new record for World Series futility.

The infielder seemed to carry his offensive struggles with him into the 1969 campaign, when he hit .175 in 372 at-bats. The following year, he set another dubious mark by managing only 80 hits, the fewest for a position player in 150 or more games. He barely topped the Mendoza line (.201) by virtue of his somewhat-limited 399 at-bats. Maxvill did rebound somewhat from 1971-1972, hitting .225 and .224.

The last few years of his career (1972-1975), Dal bookended a stint in Pittsburgh with two separate stays in Oakland. He won two more World Series with the A's (1972 and 1974), but did not bat once in either series. In fact, former Athletics manager Dick Williams instituted a bizarre platoon for the 1972 pennant race. He had four men on his roster who were quite capable of playing second base (Maxvill, Tim Cullen, Ted Kubiak, and Dick Green), but none of them were very strong hitters. So he would start one of them at second base, and pinch hit for him with a more skilled batsman like Don Mincher. The next time Oakland took the field, another second baseman would pick up his glove. Williams often cycled through all four infielders in the course of one game! Question his tactics if you like, but the skipper is a Hall of Famer.

Maxvill remained in baseball, first as a coach for the A's, Cardinals, Mets, and Joe Torre's Braves, and later as the general manager of the Redbirds (1985-1994). The team won two National League pennants (1985 and 1987), falling in hotly contested World Series to the Royals and Twins, respectively.

Fun fact: Despite totaling a half-dozen round-trippers for his career, Dal hit the first MLB home run in Canada. It was a grand slam off of the Expos' Larry Jaster on April 14, 1969.
maxvillb by you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

#64 Lou Burdette

BURDETTE by you.
First things first: Merry Christmas to all my readers. Depending on your beliefs, I'd also like to wish you an enjoyable Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and so forth. We've got another good one today, "Lou" Burdette, more commonly known as Lew. He's the very definition of a grizzled veteran, looking every one of his thirty-eight years and then some. I'm not sure what the building is over his right shoulder; perhaps it's the team hotel.

After graduating from high school in his hometown of Nitro, West Virginia, 17-year-old Lew entered the Armed Forces in 1944 in the midst of World War II. After returning home and spending one year at the University of Richmond, he signed with the Yankees in 1947. He climbed steadily through the New York organization, posting his best minor league season in 1948, when he went 16-11 with a 2.02 ERA for the Quincy Gems. The Yankees finally gave him a brief look in 1950, but sent him to the Pacific Coast League the following year. From there, they traded him to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain, tossing in $50,000 for good measure.

In his first two full seasons with the Braves (spanning the club's 1953 move to Milwaukee), Lew was an effective reliever, posting earned run averages of 3.61 and 3.24, and even won 15 games in 1953 as the team began giving him more starts. The following year the Braves moved him to the rotation, and he spent the next decade using impeccable control, a variety of offspeed pitches with late movement (including a spitball, according to popular belief), and the occasional brushback pitch to become one of the best pitchers of his generation. After winning 15 and 13 games in his first two full seasons as a starter, Burdette really broke through in 1956, going 19-10 with 16 complete games and a league-best 2.70 ERA. He received a bit of MVP consideration as the Bravos won 92 games.

1957 was a banner year for Lew. His regular-season performance was a bit off the pace of his totals for the prior year, but he was selected to his first All-Star Game. Milwaukee made it to the World Series, where the righty showed the Yankees first-hand what they were missing. He went the distance three times, including back-to-back shutouts in a three-day span (he stepped up when Warren Spahn was stricken with the flu). For holding the Bronx Bombers to 21 hits in 27 innings and crafting an 0.67 ERA in the Braves' seven-game Series win, Burdette was named MVP of the Fall Classic. The following year was probably his best all-around effort: 20 wins, 10 losses, 19 complete games, and a 2.91 ERA, followed by a return trip to the World Series. This time New York figured Burdette out, beating him in Game Five and Game Seven to take the trophy.

1959 brought 21 wins and two more All-Star Games for Lew, as well as one unforgettable game. On May 26, he outdueled Harvey Haddix of the Pirates by twirling a 13-inning, 1-0 shutout. While Burdette scattered 12 hits, his counterpart defined the hard-luck loss by pitching twelve perfect frames before faltering. An error and an intentional walk brought Joe Adcock to the plate, and he hit Haddix's final offering for a three-run home run. A jubilant Adcock passed Hank Aaron at second base and was ruled out, his homer changed to a ground-rule double. The Braves' first hit of the game was the only one they needed.

Burdette pitched his own no-hitter in 1960 against the Phillies, plunking Tony Gonzalez to deny himself a perfect game. He won 19 games that year and 18 the following season before slipping to 10-9 with a 4.89 ERA in 1962. The following year was his thirteenth as a Brave, but he would finish it as a Cardinal. This signaled the nomadic phase of Lew's career. Leading up to his retirement at age 40 in 1967, he also played for the Cubs, Phillies, and Angels. He finished with 203 wins and 144 losses, including 179 with the Braves. He completed 158 games, and his 1.84 walks per nine innings rank him fifth among all pitchers since 1920 (minimum 3,000 IP). After wrapping up his playing career, Lew worked as a scout and then as a Braves coach before becoming a public relations specialist for an Athens, Georgia cable company. He passed away in 2007 at age 80, a victim of lung cancer.

Fun fact: Lew set a record by allowing no walks in his nineteen appearances in 1967.
burdetteb by you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

#41 White Sox Rookie Stars: Bruce Howard and Marv Staehle

White Sox Rookies by you.
Believe it or not, the next bunch of cards that I'm featuring came from Max - and there's more where these came from! Today we've got another two-player rookie card, this one featuring the brightest of the young White Sox. Bruce Howard almost seems to be staring at Marv Staehle in disgust, as if Marv just cracked a lousy joke. Some people are so difficult to please.

Howard hailed from Salisbury, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He signed with Chicago in 1962, and was debuting in the Windy City just a year later. He beat another rookie pitcher in an exhibition, leading the White Sox to keep him and release the other hurler, one Dennis McLain. Bruce posted strong earned run averages over ten games with the Pale Hose in 1963-64 (2.65 and 0.81) before landing a regular spot on the club in 1965. He went 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 148 innings.

The following season was Howard's best as a major leaguer; he won nine, lost only five, and posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. He slumped to 3-10 in 1967, but his 3.43 ERA was still solid. After heading to Baltimore along with Don Buford in an offseason trade, the righthander struggled with his control, walking 49 and striking out 42 while putting up a career-worst 4.74 ERA for the Orioles and Senators. At the age of 25, Bruce's time as a big leaguer was abruptly over, despite a tidy 3.18 career earned run average. His son David had a longer career, lasting nine years (1991-1999) as a utility player for the Royals and Cardinals.

Fun fact: Bruce allowed three of his 45 career home runs to the Orioles, and all three were hit by Curt Blefary.

Among card collectors, Marv Staehle may be best known as a guy who appeared on three of these Rookie Stars cards: this one, a 1966 card that he shared with Tommie Agee, and a 1969 Seattle Pilots card that he occupied alongside Lou Piniella (neither appeared in a single game for Seattle). He was also the Player To Be Named Later in the 1967 trade that brought Rocky Colavito to Chicago. The second baseman played just 53 games from 1964-1967 with the Pale Hose, totaling one extra-base hit and five RBI. He got his only significant playing time as a major leaguer with the second-year Expos in 1970, batting .218 with a massive .252 slugging percentage in 104 games. In 1971, he went 4-for-36 with the Braves to cap off his major league career.

Fun fact: Marv's only big league home run came on September 21, 1969, as an eighth-inning solo shot off of the Phillies' Lowell Palmer gave Montreal a 7-6 win.
White Sox Rookies (back) by you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

#355 Vada Pinson

Vada Pinson by you.
I've finally made it to the last card of this batch from Ed, and it's a pretty fine player. Vada Pinson has a nice big smile, even though part of his face is obscured on my version of this card. Let's just pretend that some clouds are drifting by in front of him. They're low-hanging clouds, to boot. I love the billboards on the outfield fence, giving the photo away as having been taken in Spring Training.

Pinson was originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and signed with the then-Redlegs in 1956. He made it to the big leagues in his third professional season, after having an MVP year in 1957 at Visalia in the California League (.367, 40 2B, 20 3B, 20 HR, 97 RBI) and hitting .343 the next year at Seattle of the Pacific Coast League. 1959 would be his first full season with Cincinnati, and he was an instant All-Star, hitting .316 with a rookie record of 205 hits and a league-leading 131 runs and 47 doubles. He hit 20 home runs, the first of nine straight years with 16 or more, and placed in the top five in stolen bases for the first of seven seasons. Right from the beginning, he was a versatile offensive threat. Vada was an All-Star again in 1960, though it was the last time he would receive that honor. He grabbed another doubles crown (37), and had 69 extra-base knocks in all.

1961 was Vada's best all-around season, as he hit .343, topped the N.L. with 208 hits, won a Gold Glove in center field, and placed third in MVP balloting behind teammate Frank Robinson and Giants slugger Orlando Cepeda. The Reds were National League Champions, but Pinson struggled in what would be his only postseason series, managing just two hits in 22 at-bats as Cincy fell in a five-game World Series vs. the Yankees. Unbowed, the outfielder responded with back-to-back 100-RBI seasons, including another hit title (204) and his first triples crown (14) in 1963. He continued as one of the league's top hitters for his final five seasons in Cincinnati, hitting between .266 and .305 and leading the league once more in triples (13 in 1967). Adhering to their philosophy of trading players too early rather than too late, the Reds dealt Vada to St. Louis at the end of the 1968 season.

After one substandard season with the Cardinals, Pinson went to Cleveland and rebounded, hitting .286 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI. He played five more seasons in the American League, starting at least part-time right up until his retirement in 1975. His career statistics are impressive: a .286 average, 2,757 hits, 485 doubles, 256 home runs, 1,170 RBI, 305 stolen bases.

After his playing career, Vada became a coach for several teams, including the Mariners, White Sox, Tigers, and Marlins. He passed away in 1995 after suffering a stroke, having fallen short of selection to the Hall of Fame. He missed out on the big, round numbers (3,000 hits, 1,500 runs, etc.), which seems to have hurt his cause. Nonetheless, he remains on the Veterans' Committee ballot.

Fun fact: Vada is the all-time hits leader among Memphis natives, ranking ahead of Bill Madlock (2,008) and Tim McCarver (1,501).
Vada Pinson (back) by you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

#288 Jack Hamilton

Jack Hamilton by you.
Pitcher Jack Hamilton was the unwitting instigator of one of the most tragic on-field scenes in baseball history when he beaned Tony Conigliaro in 1967. Prior to that event, he was best known as a pitcher who struggled with his control, but had shown signs of effectiveness as a reliever.

Born and raised in Burlington, Iowa, the righthanded Hamilton was signed by the Cardinals in 1957. Though he no-hit the Kingsport Orioles in his first pro season, he often had trouble spotting his pitches, twice leading his minor league in walks. He lingered in the St. Louis system for four years before being drafted by the Phillies. One year later, he was in the major leagues.

As a rookie in 1962, Jack went 9-13, but led the National League in walks and wild pitches and put up a 5.09 ERA. Over the next three years, he bounced between the majors and minors with the Phils and Tigers, with poor results in the bigs. The Mets gave the righty a shot in 1966, and he became a valuable swingman. He won six games and saved thirteen with a 3.93 ERA (though again he was top five in walks and wild pitches). The following season was the greatest of his career, performance-wise. Beginning as a reliever in New York and moving on to start for the Angels, Jack went 11-6 with a 3.35 ERA. But one bad pitch would write the story for his entire body of work.

On August 18 in Fenway Park, young Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro stepped to the plate and dug in, crowding the plate. Jack let a fastball fly, and it went off course. Tony was unable to move quickly, and the ball hit him squarely on the cheek. Blood spilled from every opening of the hitter's head as he dropped to the ground. Conigliaro suffered a fractured cheekbone, a dislocated jaw, and a cyst behind his left eye. He was lucky to survive, but he missed the next year and a half due to blurred vision. Though Tony courageously returned in 1969, he was never the same.

As for Hamilton, he lasted only two more seasons himself, retiring with a 4.53 ERA. He now owns a restaurant in Branson, Missouri and tends to avoid talking about the pitch that he still maintains was an accident. You can read more about Jack, Tony C, and the beaning here.

Fun fact: On May 20, 1967, Jack hit his only career home run, a grand slam off of Al Jackson of the Cardinals. He couldn't stick around to enjoy it, leaving after three innings in an eventual 11-9 loss.

Jack Hamilton (back) by you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#256 Tito Francona

Tito Francona by you.
Of all of the "altered" cards I have from 1965, indeed from all sets, this is one of the funniest. I'm guessing that some Phillies fan, or a fan in general who was just itching to have an up-to-date card, got a hold of Tito Francona during the portion of the 1967 season that he spent in Philadelphia. No worries; it's a hatless closeup, so all you have to do is cross out "Cardinals" and write "Phillies". But I guess our anonymous artist was especially possessive of Tito, and felt the need to scrawl his new team's name across the outfielder's forehead! Yipes!

John "Tito" Patsy (yes, Patsy) Francona had a long and colorful history in baseball, beginning with his signing with the St. Louis Browns in 1952. His career was interrupted by military service in 1954 and 1955, meaning that when he made his major league debut in 1956, the team had a new city, name, and colors! Tito didn't seem terribly rusty, as he played 139 games for the now-Orioles and hit .258 with 9 home runs and 57 RBI. He was second on the team in walks (51) and led them in steals with a whopping 11. Despite this strong start, the young outfielder saw a drop in playing time over the next two years, as he bounced from Baltimore to Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland. If he was looking for an encouraging sign during this time, he was twice traded for future Hall of Famer Larry Doby!

It was during his six years as an Indian that Francona became a fan favorite. It certainly didn't hurt that in his first season for the Tribe (1959) he finished fifth in MVP voting, hitting a huge .363 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI in 399 at-bats. He reached double digits in homers in five straight seasons in Cleveland, including his lone All-Star year of 1961, when he hit .301 with 16 longballs and 85 RBI. He also led the American League with 36 doubles in 1960. After he hit .228 in 1963, a 30-year-old Tito had to share time in right field with Chico Salmon, Al Smith, and Bob Chance the following year. He drove in just 24 runs in 270 at-bats and was sent to St. Louis.

Tito spent the last six years of his career much like the first few: with his bags constantly packed and ready to go. His itinerary took him from St. Louis to Philadelphia to Atlanta to Oakland to Milwaukee, as he assumed the role of journeyman reserve. He did get 346 at-bats in 1968 with the Braves, and hit .286. The following year he batted .318 with 42 RBI in just 173 at-bats. In all, Francona's career spanned 15 seasons (1956-1970); he hit .272 with 125 home runs. In 2001, he was named to the Indians' Top 100 roster.

If Tito seems familiar, it's undoubtedly because of his son Terry. The younger Francona was a reserve outfielder and first baseman for a decade, hitting .274 but with much less power than his dad. He's made a name of his own by winning two World Series as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Fun fact: The Franconas can be linked by pitcher Grant Jackson, who was briefly a teammate of Tito with the 1967 Phillies and of Terry with the 1981 Expos.
Tito Francona (back) by you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

#168 Dick Green

Dick Green by you.
Back-to-back Dicks? It may sound like the punch line to a dirty joke, but that's the way the cards are being dealt. Today's special is second baseman Richard Larry Green, who spanned two very different eras as an Athletic. As you can see, he also has a healthy amount of self esteem: he is damned certain that he is #1, and he's gone so far as to iron a number one on his sleeve to make sure that everyone else knows. Good for you, Dick!

Iowa-born Dick Green signed with the Kansas City A's in 1960, and debuted with the big club in 1963. In 13 games, he managed 10 hits, including his first big-league home run. It was a two-run shot off of Boston's Jack Lamabe in front of 909 ravenous fans at Fenway Park! The following year Dick earned the starting second base job and acquitted himself well, batting .264 with 11 home runs. Defensively, he made only six errors, fielding .990! Though his power numbers increased in 1965 (15 HR, 55 RBI), his average dropped to .232. His .250 mark in 1966 wasn't too much better, but he proved resilient elsewhere, boosting his 1966 totals to 24 doubles and 62 RBI, both new personal bests. The year after that was a disaster, however; Green dipped below the Mendoza Line (.198) and couldn't even top .300 in slugging average. Perhaps he was distracted by a move to third base, where he logged over half of his games played in 1967.

1968 brought a fresh start for both Dick and the Athletics as a whole, as the team moved west to Oakland. In their first season in California, the A's added 20 wins to their total and Green, now the backup at second base to John Donaldson, added 35 points to his batting average. It was a small gain in the big picture, but even better things were around the corner. The next year, he regained his starting job with a .275 average, 12 homers, and career highs in doubles (25) and RBI (64). He even received an MVP vote as Oakland surged to second place in the West.

Unfortunately, Dick's roller coaster raged on in 1970. He bottomed out at .190 with four home runs. Nevertheless, the A's trusted his steady glove at second base and he was still the starter for their division championship club in 1971. He also managed a .244-12-49 line. Green played only 38 games in the ensuing season, but a dozen of them were in the postseason. He hit .333 in the team's first of three straight World Series wins. He played on all three of those championship clubs, and went out on top; his final season was 1974, when he won the BBWAA's Babe Ruth Award for outstanding play in the World Series despite going 0-for-13 at bat. That should tell you just how valued his defense was! He turned the pivot on a dazzling eighth-inning play to nail Bill Buckner at third base, helping to preserve Oakland's one-run lead in the clinching Game Five. He retired as the A's all-time leader in home runs by a second baseman, having socked 76 in his 12 seasons in green and gold. Currently, Mark Ellis is right behind him with 68.

Fun fact: Dick Green was part of the Athletics' color guard in 1971-1972, along with Larry Brown, Vida Blue, and Johnny "Blue Moon" Odom.

Dick Green (back) by you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

#165 Dick Ellsworth

Dick Ellsworth by you.
It seems to me that Dick Ellsworth had an itch that he just had to scratch, right between his eyes. He scratched so hard and so long that he took the bridge of his own nose clean off! Despite this customized oddity, this is not the strangest card of this player by a longshot. His 1966 Topps issue features his name, biography, and stats, but the photo is of second baseman Ken Hubbs, who had died in a plane crash in 1964. Eerie.

Like his contemporary Jim Maloney, lefthander Dick Ellsworth played high school ball at Fresno High School. Unlike Maloney, Ellsworth did not go on to college, signing with the Cubs at age eighteen. He debuted with Chicago right away, getting chased in the third inning in a loss to the Reds on June 22, 1958. The southpaw would be back for good in 1960, and despite losing 13 of his 20 decisions, his league-average 3.72 ERA was a sign that he was well on the way to becoming one of the best Cubbie pitchers of the decade. A 10-11, 3.86 effort in 1961 was followed by a disastrous 20 losses and 5.09 ERA in Dick's third season, but he would turn it around in a big way the very next year.

Just 23 years old, Ellsworth won 22 games and lost only 10 while completing a whopping 19 of his starts in 1963. His ERA and WHIP were a miniscule 2.11 (second in the NL to that Koufax guy) and 1.02, respectively. His 185 strikeouts were a career high, as he led the team for the second of third straight years in whiffs. Unfortunately, the lefty came back down to earth in the three subsequent seasons. Stuck on lousy Cubs teams, he posted three more losing records (including a whopping 22 losses in 1966) despite earned run averages that stayed consistently below 4.00. At least he made an All-Star team in 1964! At this point the baseball gods took mercy on Dick, and he was traded to the Phillies for Ray Culp. Despite only being with the club for the first seven years of the decade, Ellsworth led all 1960s Cub pitchers in wins, complete games, and innings pitched.

After a forgettable year in Philly, Dick went to the American League and had one more great season. He went 16-7 with the 1968 Red Sox with a 3.03 ERA. Boston thanked him by trading him two weeks into the following season, sending him to the Indians in a six-player deal. The Tribe began transitioning him to the bullpen, as he was showing signs of wearing down (he barely averaged three strikeouts per nine innings). Splitting 1970 between the Indians and Brewers, Ellsworth came out of the 'pen for all but one of his 43 games. He struggled for 11 games the following year with the Brew Crew, and his late June release brought an end to his career at age 31.

In 1988, Dick's son Steve started seven games for the Red Sox, but lost six of seven decisions. It was the entirety of his major league exposure.

Fun fact: Just how bad were the Cubs during Dick's time in the Windy City? If you neutralize his stats (converting to a generic team that scores an average of 4.42 runs per game), his career won-lost record jumps from 115-137 (.456 win percentage) to 119-113 (.513)! He would never have lost more than 16 games in a season under those circumstances.

Dick Ellsworth (Back) by you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

#161 Frank Baumann

Frank Baumann by you.
"Yeah, I'm hatless", Frank Baumann seems to say. "Big whoop. Wanna make somethin' of it?" A quick check of the pitcher's vitals shows that he has at least 40 pounds on me, so...no. I don't want to make something of it. I'm trying to decipher the scrawlings in ink on the card front. It looks like someone serial numbered this card themselves: 09 of 14. There's also a 38, which seems to have been his jersey number with the White Sox (1960-1964). I have no idea what is written on the photo: "OH HO"?

In 1952, Frank Baumann (pronounced BOW-men) was a bonus baby, signing with the Red Sox for $90,000 and receiving the nickname "Beau" from owner Tom Yawkey. Early on in his career, he was touted as "Herb Score with control", lofty praise to be sure. After an excellent 10-1 record and 2.55 ERA for AA Louisville in his second pro season, Frank spent all of 1954 serving in the military as part of the Korean War effort. He debuted with the BoSox in 1955 as a 21-year-old, and made sporadic appearances for the club over the next four years. He finally gained a foothold in 1959 and started 10 of the 26 games in which he pitched, winning six and losing four with a fair-to-middling 4.05 ERA.

Frank changed Sox in 1960 thanks to an offseason trade to the Windy City. He had an undefined role on the pitching staff, which speaks greatly to his versatility. With the White Sox the lefty racked up double-digits in both starts and games finished for three consecutive years, including his great 1960 campaign, when he went 13-6 and led the league with a 2.67 ERA. Shockingly, Baumann went on to top the A.L. in 1961 by allowing the most earned runs, thanks to the 249 hits he yielded in 187 and two-thirds innings. His earned run average more than doubled to 5.61. He would rebound nicely the next year in an increasingly bullpen-focused role. With 30 of his 40 appearances coming in relief, Frank pitched to a 3.38 ERA. He saw much less action in the following two seasons, and his ERA again jumped, from 3.04 to 6.19. At that point, the Pale Hose shipped him across town to the Cubs for reserve catcher Jimmie Schaffer. 1965 was the southpaw's final season in the majors, as he gave up three runs in three and two-thirds innings and even visited the minors for the first time since 1958.

Since his retirement, Baumann has kept busy in his native St. Louis as a salesman, an ice rink manager, and an employee of the Missouri State Lottery Commission.

Fun fact: Frank earned a win in relief in his major league debut on July 31, 1955. Leading off the ninth inning of the nightcap to a doubleheader, Jimmy Piersall hit a walkoff home run to deliver the victory for the rookie hurler.
Frank Baumann (back) by you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

#154 Bob Humphreys

humphreys by brotz13.
It's a good thing that the hypnotic death glare of reliever Bob Humphreys is not fixed directly into the camera; otherwise, there is no telling how many impressionable children in the 1960s would have been mesmerized into becoming the Artful Dodgers to Bob's Fagin. (NOTE: To my knowledge, Bob Humphreys was not the ringleader of a band of child pickpockets.)

A college boy, Humphreys was signed by the Tigers out of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Utilizing a "side-saddle" delivery, which I would love to find a picture of, he put together a decent minor league record in five seasons. He could not replicate those results in his first two callups to the majors, with Detroit (1962) and St. Louis (1963). But the Cardinals recalled him in July of 1964, and he was a reliable bullpen arm down the stretch as the Redbirds chased down the Phillies. He struck out 36 batters in 42 and two-thirds innings, posting a 2.53 ERA. Bob added a scoreless inning of relief in the Cardinals' World Series triumph over the Yankees.

The following April, Bob was dealt to the Cubs. Though his strikeout rate dipped, he was still effective, twirling to the tune of a 3.15 ERA. The grateful Cubbies traded him once more, this time to the Senators for washed-up outfielder Ken Hunt. Fortunately, Washington held on to the reliever for a few years. He placed in the top ten in the league for games pitched in both 1966 and 1968, and his earned run averages ranged between 2.82 and 4.17 in his four full seasons as a Senator. After being released in June of 1970, Humphreys caught on with the Brewers and finished what would be his final big league season with a 2.92 ERA. In parts of nine seasons, he finished 116 games (but saved only 20) with a 3.36 earned run average that was just a hair above the overall league average for his career (3.40).

Bob returned to his home state as a coach for the Virginia Tech baseball team from 1974 through 1978.

Fun fact: Bob gave up one inside-the-park home run in his career. The batter was Bert Campaneris, the runner who scored ahead of him was Dick Green, and their runs were the difference in a 4-3 Athletics win over the Senators on August 2, 1966.
humphreysb by brotz13.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

#124 Tom Satriano

Tom Satriano by you.
This is an especially pensive shot of young utility player Tom Satriano, whose cap bill seems inordinately large; there's a lot of red showing there. Maybe he's worrying about whether he will hit enough to stay in the major leagues.

Tom was a rapid riser after being signed away from the University of Southern California in 1961. He made the jump straight to the majors at age 20, and hit a home run in his first at-bat. Unfortunately, the game was called off due to rain, and the clout was wiped out of the record book. He hit just .198 in 35 games as a rookie while playing all around the infield. He spent most of 1962 at Hawaii and slugged 21 home runs. The following year he pinged between Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Nashville, with no tangible results.

1964 was the first year that Tom spent entirely in the majors, playing 108 games. He added to his versatility by learning to catch, logging 25 games behind the plate, but still didn't do much with the bat (.200 with 1 HR). After three more seasons of sub-average offensive production, he ironically had his best performance in a year that was dominated by pitchers. While the rest of the league was hitting a collective .230, Satriano hit .253 in 1968 with 8 homers and 35 RBI, all career highs. I suppose the Angels sold high, trading him to Boston the following June for veteran catcher Joe Azcue. 1970 proved to be Tom's last year in the major leagues, as he hit .236 in 59 games.

In a more unique example of a baseball family, Tom's daughter Gina pitched for the Colorado Silver Bullets, a women's professional baseball team that traveled in the mid-1990s and challenged mens' teams to exhibition games.

Fun fact: Nine of Tom's 21 career home runs were hit off of pitchers named Jim! He victimized Perry, Bouton, and Hardin twice each.
Tom Satriano (back) by you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

#112 Derrell Griffith

griffith by you.
The sun must have been signing especially brightly for Derrell Griffith's photo shoot, which would account for his nearly closed eyes. Or perhaps the photographer caught him blinking, and Topps used the photo anyway because they really liked his good-natured smile. The future certainly looked bright for Derrell, though looks would be deceiving in his case.

Born in Anadarko, Oklahoma, Derrell Griffith signed with the Dodgers in 1962 and shot through the minor leagues, hitting .313 with 54 extra-base hits in his first swings at pro pitching. After driving in 98 runs and banging another 63 XBH at Albuquerque in 1963, the 19-year-old was viewed as a can't-miss prospect. He was batting .318 at AAA Spokane in 1964 when the Dodgers called him up in June. Derrell made an early impact with his bat, carrying a .300 average midway through September and finally settling at .290 with 16 doubles. (It's odd that the cartoon on his card back says ".294"!) Of course, Derrell didn't look quite so polished in the field. He held his head above water in the outfield, committing two errors in 29 games, but Frank Howard and the Davises (Tommy and Willie) were established out there. So the Dodgers used the rookie at third base, and...ugly doesn't begin to tell the story. In 35 games, he committed 21 errors for a .769 fielding average. It makes one wonder if he was given a left-hander's glove as an elaborate hazing ritual.

Whether it was his misadventures at the hot corner or just a sense that he wasn't quite ready, the Dodgers used Griffith sparingly in 1965 and 1966, shuttling him back to the minors a few more times. He hit just .143 (8-for-56) in those two seasons, though Los Angeles was at least smart enough to keep him in the outfield when he did play. Following the 1966 season, they traded the youngster and All-Star Tommy Davis to the Mets for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. The Mets turned around a few months later and dealt Derrell to the Astros for Sandy Alomar, and though he was just 23 years old, the once-promising Dodger phenom never played another game in the major leagues. Our glimpse of Derrell Griffith ends here, as he seems to have eased into anonymity in the ensuing four decades.

Fun fact: Derrell owned Bob Gibson, touching him up for 5 hits in 9 at-bats, including a ninth-inning home run to spoil a shutout bid by the St. Louis ace in August 1964!

griffithb by you.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

#108 Don Mincher

Don Mincher by brotz13.
Sorry for the slow-down in posting this week. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything, you know? Anyway, we're still in the middle of a batch from Ed, and here's beefy Alabamian Don Mincher. It's somewhat surprising how many players in this set have glasses, compared to contemporary players. Then again, we are pre-dating contact lenses in the mid-Sixties. Soft lenses didn't hit the U.S. market until 1971, as Wikipedia tells it. But I digress.

Originally signed by the White Sox in 1956, Don had his best year in the minors two seasons later when he hit .330 with 23 home runs and 97 RBI for the Davenport DavSox. In 1960, Chicago traded him along with catcher Earl Battey and $150,000 cash for veteran Senators first baseman Roy Sievers. Mincher would eventually become the only player to suit up for both Washington franchises, as well as their relocated reincarnations (the Twins and Rangers). He showed flashes of power and patience in short stints and part-time play from 1960-1962, then announced himself with 17 home runs in 225 at-bats in 1963. He also batted .258, which would actually be on the high end of his career range.

As Mincher's playing time gradually increased in 1964-1965, he delivered back-to-back 20-homer seasons for the Twins. In the latter year, he struggled in the Twins' seven-game World Series loss to the Dodgers, hitting just .130 with a single home run. The roundtripper did come against Don Drysdale in a Game One win, at least. After slumping to 14 dingers in 1966, "Minch" was dealt to the Angels in a package for pitcher Dean Chance. He rebounded, turning in his finest all-around effort with a .273 average (tenth-best in the A.L. in a pitching-heavy year), 25 homers (fifth-best), and 76 RBI. Selected to his first All-Star Game, he also had a pinch single off of Bob Gibson. After another down year in 1968 (.236-13-48), Don was exposed in the Expansion Draft and chosen by the Seattle Pilots.

Much of that lone season with the dreadful Pilots was preserved expertly in Jim Bouton's Ball Four. He spoke of his initial prejudice toward the drawling, Johnny-Cash-loving Mincher, but also admitted that his first impression was wrong. The first baseman was depicted as a good-natured, All-American guy; in one anecdote, he frets about his mother seeing him play and fussing over the lack of a protective earflap on his helmet. He was also apparently a good teammate, serving as team representative in the players' union and engaging in much of the horseplay in the locker room. Like most players, he wasn't thrilled with Bouton's airing of the team's private moments, but the worst dirt on Mincher consists of a few conversations about amphetamine use and a story about him punching out outfielder Wayne Comer for taking a homo-erotic game of chicken a little too far. On the field, Don was the team's only All-Star, again bashing 25 longballs and driving in a career-best 78 runs.

Traded by the Pilots just after they'd moved to Milwaukee, Mincher reached a personal best with 27 home runs for the 1970 Oakland Athletics. The following season he hit .280, another high-water mark, but socked just 12 HR in 415 at-bats with the A's and the new Senators club. He followed the team from DC to Texas for 1972, but was traded back to Oakland in July. His final game was Game Five of the 1972 World Series; he finished his career as a World Champion when the A's topped the Reds in seven games. For his career, Don hit exactly 200 home runs.

After retirement, Mincher opened a sporting goods store back in Alabama and also served as president and general manager of the Huntsville Stars of the AA Southern League from 1985-2001. In 1994, he and a group of investors purchased the team to keep it local. He sold his stake in the Stars in 2001 to become the permanent president of the Southern League. Just a few months ago, he was elected to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and had his #5 retired by the Stars.

Fun fact: Don hit two home runs in his first partial season in the majors. The pitchers were Milt Pappas and Whitey Ford. Not bad for your first pair of four-baggers!
Don Mincher (back) by brotz13.