Tuesday, July 28, 2009

#391 Mel McGaha

#391 Mel McGaha
It must be hard to look pleasant in that garish gold and kelly green uniform, especially standing in front of that dingy-looking concrete and painted brick dugout. But if you're a young manager who never even played in the big leagues, I suppose you would just be happy to be there.

Fun facts about Mel McGaha:

-Born in Bastrop, LA, Mel attended the University of Arkansas and played one year in the NBA for the New York Knicks (1948-1949), scoring 3.5 points per game.

-He signed with the Cardinals in 1948 and jumped from C-level ball all the way to AA in his first season, hitting .359.

-After hitting .290 at AAA Columbus in 1949, Mel couldn't maintain his performance and never made it to the majors.

-Played several positions in the minors, including pitcher! He threw 23 innings, allowing 13 earned runs and winning one game.

-Became a player-manager at age 27, and grabbed attention by winning 100 games and the International League pennant with the AAA Toronto Maple Leafs in 1960.

-In 1961, the Indians promoted McGaha from AAA to the major league coaching staff, and the following year tabbed him to replace Jimmy Dykes as manager. Mel was just 35 at the time.

-The quick-trigger Tribe fired Mel with two games remaining in his first season at the helm, with the club in sixth place at 78-82.

-After a season and a half on Kansas City's coaching staff, McGaha replaced Ed Lopat as manager of the Athletics in June 1964. The team went 40-70 under him, and finished dead last in the American League.

-After a 5-21 start in 1965, Mel was fired and succeeded by Haywood Sullivan. His final mark as a big league manager was 123-173 (.416). He would go on to manage in the minors (1966-1967) and coach in the majors (1968-1970) for the Astros.

-He died in Tulsa, OK, at age 75 in 2002.
#391 Mel McGaha (back)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

#380 Rocky Colavito

#380 Rocky Colavito
Ayyy, Rocky! By virtue of the multiple creases criss-crossing its front, the astounding discoloration of the back, and the paper-thin texture (take my word on this one), this card is the shabbiest in my 1965 Topps set. Don't mistake my tone; I see it as a badge of honor. Forty-five year-old cards shouldn't be immaculate.

Fun facts about Rocky Colavito:

-A New Yorker by birth, Rocky signed with the Indians in 1950 when he was just 16 and had a slow-but-sure five-year climb through the minors, belting 150 home runs in 718 games.

-Made an impact as a rookie with 21 home runs and a .372 on-base percentage. It was the first of eleven straight 20-homer seasons for him. He soon became popular with Cleveland fans for his booming hits, strong throwing arm, and good looks and friendly personality.

-Had his best all-around year in 1958, leading the league in slugging (.620) and clouting 41 longballs with 113 RBI to finish third in A. L. MVP voting.

-Surprisingly, only topped the A. L. in home runs once (42 in 1959). He made the All-Star Game for the first of six years. He also tied a record by going deep in four straight at-bats on June 10, 1959. The feat was more impressive than it seemed, as he accomplished it in spacious Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

-Was surprisingly traded to the Tigers after the 1959 season, in a straight-up "challenge trade" for singles-hitting shortstop Harvey Kuenn. The latter struggled and lasted one season with the Tribe. Meanwhile, Rocky reached career highs of 45 HR, 140 RBI, and 129 runs scored with Detroit in 1961. However, he was highly scrutinized in Motown and moved on to Kansas City for the 1963 season.

-The Indians compounded their original mistake of trading Colavito by giving up too much to reacquire him in a three-team trade with the A's and the White Sox. Gone from Cleveland were youngsters Tommie Agee and Tommy John, both of whom you may know.

-Rocky did have two more solid years in his second trip through Cleveland, topping the league in RBI (108) and walks (93) in 1965 and bashing 30 homers the following year.

-In his final two years in the majors, the slugger bounced from the Indians to the White Sox to the Dodgers to his childhood favorites, the Yankees. With the Yanks, he actually earned a win with two and two-thirds scoreless innings of relief against the Tigers on August 25!

-Retired with 374 home runs in 13-plus seasons, as well as 1,159 RBI and 951 walks. At that time, he ranked third in the American League with 371 total HR. He trailed only Jimmie Foxx (524) and Harmon Killebrew (397 as of 1968).

-Rocky currently lives in Berks County, PA and was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame in 2006.
#380 Rocky Colavito (back)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

#312 Joe Nuxhall

#312 Joe Nuxhall
I'm not entirely sure why Joe Nuxhall is wearing a Hefty bag over his undershirt and under his vest. Maybe it was the fashion of the time.

Fun facts about Joe Nuxhall:

-A Hamilton, OH native, Joe holds the modern major league record as the youngest player, having made his debut at age 15! In 1944, rosters were depleted by the ongoing World War II, and Nuxhall was big for his age (6'2", 190 lbs.), threw hard, and had some semipro experience. So the Reds, losing 13-0 to St. Louis, pushed the youngster into action to mop up...with gruesome results: two-thirds of an inning, five walks, two hits, one wild pitch, and five runs allowed. That was the end of Joe's first season in the bigs.

Joe Nuxhall Tribute

-After regaining his amateur status, Joe finished high school and then came back to the Reds organization. It would be 1952 before he'd see the major leagues again, at the ripe old age of 23.

-He pitched effectively in a variety of roles in Cincinnati, exceeding thirty starts only twice and doing whatever the team asked of him. His 3.22 ERA (mostly in relief) as a rookie was one of the lowest marks of his career.

-Was selected as an All-Star in back-to-back seasons (1955-1956), going a combined 30-23 with a 3.58 ERA and 6 saves. He led the National League with five shutouts in 1955.

-Tied a record on August 11, 1959, by striking out four Braves in the sixth inning (Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, Del Crandall, and Johnny Logan). Catcher Dutch Dotterer dropped the third strike to Crandall, who then reached first base safely.

-Began to suffer arm trouble in 1960, and spent the next couple years bouncing from the Reds to the Athletics to the Orioles to the Angels. Things got so bad that Nuxhall, a career .198 hitter with 15 home runs, considered reinventing himself as a pinch hitting specialist.

-Turned things around after coming back to the Reds in late 1962, going 5-0 in a dozen games and setting the stage for his 15-8 record with a 2.61 ERA and 14 complete games the following year.

-Retired at age 37 before the 1967 season as the Reds' all-time leader in games pitched (484, later surpassed by Clay Carroll). In parts of 16 seasons, he went 135-117 with a 3.90 ERA, and was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame a year after hanging up his spikes.

-Gained even more popularity in his second career as a member of the Reds' radio and TV broadcast team (1967-2004). He spent most of those years paired with play-by-play man Marty Brennaman, and his trademark signoff was, "This is the old left-hander, rounding third and heading for home".

-Joe died two years ago after suffering from cancer and pneumonia. The Reds honored him by all wearing his #41 on Opening Day, 2008 and continued to wear black "Nuxy" patches on their jerseys for the entire season.
#312 Joe Nuxhall (back)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

#290 Wally Bunker

#290 Wally Bunker
This is what card collecting is all about. An Oriole, a Rookie Cup, and an impressively miscut piece of cardboard. Oh yeah.

Fun facts about Wally Bunker:

-Originally from Seattle, Bunker signed with the Orioles in 1963.

-Went 10-1 with a 2.55 ERA at A-level Stockton in his first pro season to earn a September promotion to Baltimore. He was just eighteen at the time!

-Made the big league club out of Spring Training in 1964 and had an incredible rookie season, leading the O's with a 19-5 record, a 2.69 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP. His .792 win percentage led the American League. It's hard to believe that he finished a distant second in Rookie of the Year balloting, but winner Tony Oliva's .323 average, 32 home runs, and 94 RBI were pretty persuasive. However, Wally was The Sporting News' AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year.

-Wally was known for a sharp sinker; Mickey Mantle said that it was a pitch "you could break your back on". The Mick went 2-for-9 (.222) with one RBI vs. the young righty.

-Unfortunately, he came up with a "sore arm" (likely torn tendons or ligaments that went undetected) in 1965, and injuries would severely affect his career thereafter. He did win 10 games in that season and the following one, but his earned run average climbed steadily.

-Wally had one last moment in the sun with the Orioles in the 1966 World Series, twirling a 1-0 shutout of the Dodgers on six hits. He struck out six batters in the second of three consecutive whitewashes by the young Baltimore pitchers, who stunned the favored L.A. team in a four-game sweep.

-After health woes limited Bunker to 159 innings combined in 1967 and 1968, the Birds left him unprotected in the expansion draft. He was claimed by the Royals, and threw the first pitch in team history the following April.

-Staying on the mound for a full season for the first time in years, Wally led Kansas City with a 12-11 record and 3.23 ERA in 1969.

-In 1969, Bunker tossed the last of three career one-hitters. However, there wasn't much drama in those games. Jay Johnstone's single to lead off the seventh in the September 11, 1969 game was the deepest that Wally went into one of his gems without surrendering a hit.

-He suffered through another injury-marred campaign the following year (2-11, 4.22), and threw his last pitch in the majors at age 26. For his career, he won 60 and lost 52 with a 3.51 ERA in parts of nine seasons.
#290 Wally Bunker (back)

Friday, July 17, 2009

#164 Al Spangler

#164 Al Spangler
Whoa! Check out the pompadour on Al Spangler. Do you think he used pine tar as a pomade? That's some impressive hold.

Fun facts about Al Spangler:

-Hailing from Philadelphia, Al played college ball at Duke University before signing with the Braves in 1954.

-Played sparingly for the Braves between 1959 and 1961 but played well, batting .276 and getting on base at a great .398 clip.

-Claimed by Houston in the 1961 expansion draft and was the Colt .45's' leading hitter in each of their first two seasons with OPS+ marks of 117 and 120. His nine triples in 1962 and 25 doubles in 1963 were both tops on the club, and he walked 120 times against just 84 strikeouts.

-Drove in the first run in Colts/Astros history with an RBI triple on April 10, 1962, plating Bob Aspromonte.

-On April 14, 1965, Spangler stole home in the top of the 11th to give the Astros the eventual winning run in a 7-6 victory against (who else?) the Mets.

-Jack Hamilton was probably not his favorite pitcher; Al went 0-for-15 with three walks against Hamilton in his career!

-Despite a reputation as a slap hitter, six of his 21 career home runs led off a game.

-After a brief stay with the Angels, returned to the National League as a bench player and sometimes coach for the Cubs (1967-1971).

-Had a career day on June 12, 1969, going 3-for-5 with 4 RBI and his only two-homer game in the Cubs' 12-6 win over Atlanta.

-Retired in 1971 with a .262 career average and .347 on-base percentage in parts of 13 seasons.
#164 Al Spangler (back)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

#162 Russ Nixon

#162 Russ Nixon
Since it's been a couple of weeks since I last regularly updated this blog, I just wanted to remind you that the currently featured batch of cards came from Don, one of the trusty readers that help to make this blog what it is. Thanks again, Don!

Fun facts about Russ Nixon:

-Born in Cleves, OH, Russ signed with the Indians as a teenager in 1953.

-Played with his twin brother Roy (who never made it to the majors) in the minors.

-After batting between .319 and .387 in four minor league seasons, he joined the Indians in 1957 and hit .281 as a rookie.

-Hit a career-high .301 with 9 home runs and 46 RBI in his sophomore effort.

-Was traded from the Tribe to the Red Sox twice in 1960! The first trade, in March, was voided when Sammy White refused to report to the Indians. The two teams finally worked out a new deal in June.

-On August 31, 1965, Russ tied a major league record by hitting three sacrifice flies in one game.

-Catchers are not traditionally fleet of foot, but Russ holds the major league record for most career games without a stolen base. In 906 contests, he went 0-for-7, and did not so much as attempt a theft in his final seven seasons. Cecil Fielder stole his first base in his 1,097th game, returning Russ to the top of the heap (or bottom).

-Retired in 1968 as a .268 career hitter in twelve seasons.

-Found a second career as a manager, managing in the minors for sixteen total seasons and briefly holding the major league helm in Cincinnati (101-131 in 1982-83) and Atlanta (130-216 in 1988-90). In Atlanta, he was replaced by Bobby Cox, who's still there twenty years later!

-Is still active in baseball, currently serving as a roving instructor in the Texas Rangers organization.
#162 Russ Nixon (back)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

#156 Bob Sadowski

#156 Bob Sadowski
Wow, it's been three weeks! I didn't intend to take a lengthy break from this blog, but to be fair, I was on vacation for one of those weeks with very limited Internet access. Anyway, let's get back on the horse with Bob Sadowski. That's a very interesting backdrop behind Bob. I think that's a stadium overhang, and to my untrained eye it looks like Chavez Ravine. But as always, I welcome any corrections you may have to offer.

Fun facts about Bob Sadowski:

-A Pittsburgh native, he signed with the Cardinals in 1958 at age twenty.

-Baseball was the family business: his brothers Ed and Ted and nephew Jim all played in the majors as well.

-Was traded to the Braves along with Gene Oliver in exchange for Lew Burdette in 1963.

-Had a strong rookie season in 1963, posting a 2.62 ERA and 1.10 WHIP despite a 5-7 record.

-Twirled his only career shutout on September 5, 1963, blanking the Pirates on eight hits and striking out a dozen.

-Was useful in his sophomore season as a swingman, going 9-10 with a 4.10 ERA, five saves, and five complete games.

-Tied a major league record by striking out in all five at-bats on April 20, 1964.

-Started the last ever home opener for the Braves at Milwaukee's County Stadium, beating the Cubs 5-1 on April 15, 1965.

-Held Willie Stargell to one hit in 13 career at-bats (.077 AVG).

-Struggled in eleven games for the Red Sox in 1966, his final season in the majors. Finished with a 20-27, 3.87 pitching line in four seasons.
#156 Bob Sadowski (back)