Thursday, December 30, 2010

#530 Jim Maloney

#530 Jim Maloney
If there is any player in this set who would have benefited from an action photo, it would have to be Jim Maloney. It seems a shame for such a hard thrower to have a posed picture.

Fun facts about Jim Maloney:

-A native of Fresno, CA, Jim signed with the Reds (well, Redlegs) in 1959.

-After going 14-5 with a 2.80 ERA at AA Nashville, he debuted with Cincinnati in July of 1960. He won only two of his eight big league decisions that year, but impressed with a four-hit shutout of the Phillies on September 24. In that game, he struck out a season-high 11 hitters.

-1963 was a great year for the 23-year-old Maloney, as he went 23-7 with a team-best 2.77 ERA and career highs in wins, shutouts (six), and strikeouts (265) and topped all National League pitchers with 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings.

-Jim was an All-Star for the only time in his career in 1965, when he went 20-9, set a personal best with a 2.54 ERA, and struck out 244. He did not factor in the Cy Young voting in either of his 20-win seasons, as an out-of-his mind Sandy Koufax was a unanimous winner in both years.

-He lost a 1-0 heartbreaker on June 14, 1965, no-hitting the Mets for ten innings before Johnny Lewis led off the eleventh with a home run. He struck out an eye-popping 18 hitters and walked just one. He got a bit of redemption on August 19, when he no-hit the Cubs at Wrigley Field for ten innings and Chico Cardenas helped him out with a solo home run in the top of the tenth. That performance was a little less artful, as he nearly matched his 12 strikeouts with 10 walks, but all's well that ends well.

-In 1966, Maloney went 16-8 with a 2.80 ERA and 216 whiffs, and tied for the league lead with 5 shutouts. It was his fourth straight 200-K season, and the fourth in a series of six straight years with 15+ wins.

-On April 30, 1969, he hurled his second official no-hitter, striking out 13 Astros in a much more comfortable 10-0 Reds victory.

-A decade of wear and tear (including a severed Achilles tendon) took its toll on Jim. He appeared in just 20 games total between the 1970 and 1971 seasons, allowing 38 runs in 47 innings for the Reds and Angels and walking twice as many as he struck out. California and St. Louis both released him within three months in early 1972, and he retired in June after he couldn't regain his strikeout form with the Giants' AAA Phoenix club.

-In parts of a dozen seasons, he was 134-84 with a 3.19 ERA. The Reds inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 1973.

-In 1982, Maloney managed the Giants' single-A club in his hometown of Fresno. It didn't go so well: the team was 50-90 and the 42-year-old skipper allowed 4 runs in a 1.1 inning cameo appearance.
#530 Jim Maloney (back)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#528 George Altman

#528 George Altman
George sure looks like he worked up a sweat taking his hacks in batting practice.

Fun facts about George Altman:

-George was born in Goldsboro, NC and attended Tennessee State University before signing with the Cubs in 1955. He was the first player in Tigers history to make it to the majors, beating college teammate Fred Valentine by a few months.

-He missed all of 1957 and part of the 1958 season due to military service, but hit .325 at Class A Pueblo upon his return and made the Cubs' opening day roster in 1959 at age 26.

-"Big George" showed some pop early in his career, batting .245 with 12 homers as a rookie and improving to .266 with 13 homers the following year. He boosted his slugging percentage by 72 points from one season to the next. On the defensive side of things, he was also a gifted outfielder as a younger player.

-1961 was his breakout year. He made the first of two All-Star teams and led the National League with 12 triples. He also belted 27 home runs and paced the Cubs with 96 RBI and a .303 average.

-A few highlights from that 1961 season: On August 4, he became the first player to hit two home runs off of Sandy Koufax in the same game. In the first of that year's two All-Star games, he hit a pinch homer off of Mike Fornieles to give the N.L. a 3-1 lead in a game they won 5-4.

-George's power numbers dipped a bit in 1962 (22 HR, 74 RBI), but he boosted his average to .318 and ranked fourth in the league with a .393 on-base percentage. He even stole a team-high 19 bases while repeating as an All-Star.

-Traded to the Cardinals in a six-player deal, Altman had a disappointing 1963: .274 AVG, .740 OPS, 9 HR, 47 RBI in 135 games.

-After slipping further the next season with the Mets (.230 AVG, .594 OPS, 9 HR, 47 RBI in 125 G), he spent 1965-1967 back with the Cubs as a part-time player. Chicago demoted him to AAA Tacoma for much of the 1967 season, his last in American professional baseball. He then signed with the Lotte Orions of the Japanese League.

-George was rejuvenated in Japan, batting .309 with 205 homers in eight seasons with the Orions and Hanshin Tigers and retiring at age 42.

-In parts of nine MLB seasons, he was a .269 hitter with 101 home runs and 403 RBI.
#528 George Altman (back)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

#524 Dave Giusti

#524 Dave Giusti
The caption for this photo? "Daww, you guys!"

Fun facts about Dave Giusti:

-Seneca Falls, NY native Giusti pitched for Syracuse University before signing with the Colt .45s in 1961.

-He made Houston's major league roster in 1962 at age 22, and earned his first career win on May 30 with nine innings of three-hit, no-run relief. He entered the game in the sixth with the Cubs leading 6-5 and kept Chicago off of the scoreboard while the Colts tied the game and finally won the thing in the 14th!

-The highlight of his Houston years was a 15-win season in 1966 (15-14, 4.20 ERA), but he was actually better in 1968 (11-14, 3.19 ERA, career-high 12 complete games and 186 strikeouts).

-The aforementioned 1966 season included a three-hit shutout of Cincinnati, a one-hitter against the Giants, and an 11-0 win in which he six-hit the Reds and helped his cause with a pair of bases-loaded doubles for six RBI!

-After one season in St. Louis, Dave joined the Pirates in 1970 and was converted to relief by manager Danny Murtaugh. He took to it well, going 9-3 with a 3.06 ERA and team-high 26 saves, the first of four straight 20-save seasons for him.

-Was selected as the league's top reliever in 1971, when he paired a 2.93 ERA with a National League-high 30 saves.

-Continued his mastery in the 1971 postseason, shutting out the opposition in four NLCS appearances and three World Series games. His totals: 10.2 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 7 K, 0.75 WHIP, and of course a World Series Champion's ring.

-Was a relief ace for Pittsburgh for six straight seasons, highlighted by a 1.93 ERA in 1972 and his lone All-Star appearance in 1973 (9-2, 20 SV, 2.37 ERA). Though his performance slipped in his seventh and final season with the Pirates, his record in black and gold included a 47-28 record, a 2.94 ERA, and 133 saves (still fourth-most in franchise history).

-Split his farewell 1977 season between the Cubs and Athletics, finishing with a 100-93 record, 3.60 cumulative ERA, and 145 saves in parts of 15 seasons.

-Dave worked as a corporate sales manager for American Express, and has since retired to Upper St. Clair, PA.
#524 Dave Giusti (back)

Monday, December 27, 2010

#521 Phillies Rookie Stars: Dave Bennett and Morrie Steevens

#521 Phillies Rookie Stars: Dave Bennett and Morrie Steevens
Check out the wild difference between Dave Bennett's youthful, pimply face and the sallow, scarred cheeks of Morrie Steevens. It's like a before and after.

Fun facts about Dave Bennett:

-A native of Berkeley, CA, Dave signed with the Phillies as a teenager in 1963.

-The precocious right-hander went 9-6 with a 3.56 ERA in his first pro season and 12-5, 3.18 at two levels in 1964.

-His brother Dennis pitched for the Phillies, Red Sox, Mets, and Angels between 1962 and 1968. We visited with him on this blog last year.

-Dave made his first and only major league appearance on June 12, 1964, allowing one run in an inning of mop-up relief. Older sibling Dennis started for Philly that day and was knocked out early. The younger Bennett was one of two 18-year-olds to take the mound for the Phils that day. The other was Rick Wise, who had a much longer career.

-He pitched in the minors for another decade after his lone big league game, retiring with a 92-68 record and a 3.41 ERA in a dozen minor league seasons with the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh organizations.

-Dave's son Erik was a relief pitcher for the Angels and Twins in the mid-1990s, and has been a minor league pitching coach for the past decade.

Fun facts about Morrie Steevens:

-Born in Salem, IL, Morrie signed with the Cubs out of high school in 1958.

-He won 55 games in his first five professional seasons, and debuted with the Cubs in early 1962 at age 21.

-Despite allowing 11 walks and striking out only 5 in 15 innings, Steevens posted a low 2.40 ERA in relief in his rookie season. On September 27, 1962, he struck out a pair of Phillies in three perfect innings. One of his strikeouts was opposing pitcher Dennis Bennett, who shut out the Cubs that day!

-He was acquired by the Phillies prior to the 1964 season and made four appearances in September, allowing three runs (one earned) in two and two-thirds innings. His first outing of the season (September 19) did not go smoothly. Summoned in the bottom of the 16th inning in a tie game against the Dodgers, he pitched to Ron Fairly with runners on second and third and two outs. Willie Davis stole home and the Phils lost without Morrie having officially faced a batter.

-Steevens pitched in six big league games in 1965, his final season in the majors. He allowed five runs in two and two-thirds innings for a 16.88 ERA.

-In parts of three seasons, Morrie was 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA in 22 games. His last season in the minors was 1967; in ten seasons his minor league record was 86-80 with a 4.00 ERA.

#521 Phillies Rookie Stars: Dave Bennett and Morrie Steevens (back)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

#520 Tony Cloninger

#520 Tony Cloninger
Well, I hope you've enjoyed the holiday weekend. Here's a badly miscut card, which doesn't bother me much. I'd rather have an off-center card than one that's bent in half or scribbled all over.

Fun facts about Tony Cloninger:

-Born in Lincoln County, NC, Tony signed with the Braves out of high school in 1958 for a whopping $100,000.

-He endured a nine-game losing streak with a 9.59 ERA at Class B Cedar Rapids in his second pro season, and was in the majors to stay at age 20 in 1961.

-1964 was his first season as a full-time starter and he led his club with a 19-14 record and a 3.56 ERA.

-Cloninger tossed a pair of one-hitters in his career: April 29, 1964 against the Pirates and September 11, 1965 at the Mets.

-Tony's greatest season was 1965, when he led Milwaukee with a 24-11 record. He also had a career-low 3.29 ERA. However, he did lead the N.L. with 119 walks and 22 wild pitches, and would do so again in 1966.

-He was a dangerous hitter throughout his career, batting .192 with 11 home runs overall. On July 3, 1966, he became the first National League player to ever hit two grand slams in a game and set a record for pitchers with nine RBI as the Braves crushed the Giants 17-3. Oh yeah, he also earned a complete-game victory.

-In mid-1968 Tony was traded to the Reds. He received his only postseason exposure with Cincinnati in 1970, starting the Game Three NLCS clincher but getting no decision (2 ER, 5 IP). The Orioles beat him  in Game Three of the World Series (incidentally, pitcher Dave McNally's grand slam off of Wayne Granger broke it open), and he allowed a run in two innings of relief in Game Five as the O's clinched.

-Cloninger split 1972, his final active season, between the Cardinals and Atlanta's AAA Richmond squad. In parts of 12 big league seasons he was 113-97 with a 4.07 ERA.

-He spent a decade (1992-2001) as the Yankees' bullpen coach, and was the Red Sox' pitching coach in 2002-2003. He is now a player development consultant for Boston.

-Funny note: Tony was ejected from a game once during his 12 seasons as a player, and three times in 12 seasons as a coach!

#520 Tony Cloninger

Thursday, December 23, 2010

#516 Al Weis

#516 Al Weis
In one of the packages that reader and commenter Max has sent me over the past few years, there was a fantastic customized version of this card. Some mischievous young collector had taken pen to cardboard and covered Al Weis with bruises and stitches and what-have-you, making him look like some sort of Frankenstein's Monster. I don't know exactly where that masterpiece is at the moment, so I'll share another artful card that Max was kind enough to bestow upon me. I don't have another copy of Walter Alston's card yet, so for the time being this beauty is in the set binder.

Fun facts about Al Weis:

-A native of Franklin Square, NY, Al signed with the White Sox in 1959.

-He debuted with Chicago at age 24 late in the 1962 season.

-As a part-time middle infielder with the 1963 White Sox, he batted .271 and tied for the team lead with 15 steals to earn a selection to the Topps All-Rookie Team.

-Though his average dipped to .247 in his sophomore season, he split time at second base with Don Buford and stole a team-best 22 bases. Only Luis Aparicio swiped more bags in the American League.

-Weis' playing time waned from 1965-1967. During the 1967 season, he was put out of commission after breaking his leg in a collision with Frank Robinson, who barreled into him at second base to break up a double play.

-Following a trade to the Mets, Al's bat completely abandoned him; he batted only .191 in parts of four seasons in New York.

-He did have a shining moment or two during the 1969 World Series. He drove in the winning run with an RBI single off of Dave McNally in the ninth inning of Game Two, and he tied Game Five with a solo home runs in the seventh against McNally. Overall, Weis hit .455 (5-for-11) with four walks and three RBI as the Mets upset the Orioles in five games. When a guy with a .553 career OPS puts up a 1.290 in the Series, you're living a charmed life.

-Unfortunately for Al, the good times stopped there. After batting .207 in 130 at-bats in 1970, he appeared in 11 games for New York the following season before the team released him in July to end his career. In parts of 10 seasons he was a .219 hitter with 7 home runs and 115 RBI.

-If you're looking to cherry-pick stats, he was a career .292 hitter with a .792 OPS in the fourth inning.

-One feather in his cap: his final career hit was a two-run homer off of future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton on September 3, 1970.

#516 Al Weis (back)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

#512 Cap Peterson

#512 Cap Peterson
You are not going to believe this, but for the second consecutive day we're featuring someone whose nickname is comprised of his initials. Charles Andrew Peterson was commonly known as "Cap". I would go by a similar moniker, but it's hard to pronounce "Kmb".

Fun facts about Cap Peterson:

-Born in Tacoma, WA, Cap signed with the Giants right out of high school in 1960 for a $64,000 bonus.

-He was named MVP of the AA Texas League in 1962, when he hit .335 with 34 doubles, 29 home runs, 130 RBI, and a 1.013 OPS for the El Paso Sun Kings. He debuted with the Giants that September, shortly after his 20th birthday.

-Cap hit .259 in a few short stints totaling 22 games in 1963. The highlight was a May 30 game against Cincinnati in which he went 3-for-5 with the first two extra-base hits of his career, a home run and a double.

-He spent the next three seasons as a backup outfielder for the Giants, batting .233 in that span while Willie Mays, the Alous, and Len Gabrielson got the lion's share of playing time.

-A trade to the Senators allowed Peterson to play in a career-high 122 games in 1967. He hit .240 (the league average was .236 and the Sens batted .223 as a team) with 17 doubles, 8 home runs, and 46 RBI.

-May 30 must have been Cap's lucky day: four years to the day that he had hit his first double and home run, he hit his only career walk-off home run. It came on May 30, 1967, in the second game of a doubleheader against the A's. With two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, Cap took Jack Aker deep for a 4-3 Senators victory.

-Two weeks later, the outfielder went 4-for-9 with two homers and three RBI against the White Sox in a game that Washington pulled out in 22 innings(!). Both home runs came in the early stages of the game, and both were hit against Joel Horlen, who would go 19-7 with a league-best 2.06 ERA that season. In the 22nd inning, Peterson singled in the midst of the game-winning rally; Mike Epstein came up after him and was intentionally walked to load the bases, at which point Paul Casanova singled to end the 6 hour, 38 minute slog.

-Peterson slumped to .204 in 1968 and finished his big league career as a part-timer in Cleveland the following year. He spent the next three years hanging on in the minors before walking away for good in 1972. In parts of eight seasons he had a .230 average, 19 home runs, and 122 RBI.

-After baseball, Cap joined his family's construction business.

-He died tragically young, succumbing to kidney disease in 1980 when he was only 37.
#512 Cap Peterson (back)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#506 Sam Mele

#506 Sam Mele
So now we come to one of the best photos in the entire set, right alongside Bob Uecker's devilish grin and Casey Stengel's recumbent shrug. Sam Mele is not a household name, but this card assures his place in baseball history.

Fun facts about Sam Mele:

-Sabath Anthony Mele (he got the nickname "Sam" because of his initials) was born in Astoria, NY, and was a star basketball player at New York University. He served in World War II and then signed with the Red Sox in 1946.

-Sam spent only one season in the minors, leading the class A Eastern League with a .342 average and 18 triples for the Scranton Red Sox.

-As a rookie outfielder, he started alongside Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio with the 1947 Red Sox, batting .302 with 12 home runs and 73 RBI.

-Following a trade to the Senators, Mele co-led the American League with 36 doubles in 1951. He also batted .274 and led the team with 94 RBI despite hitting only 5 homers.

-He also played for the White Sox, was the first starting left fielder for the Orioles, returned to the Red Sox, and finished his career with short stints in Cincinnati and Cleveland. In parts of 10 seasons (1947-1956) he hit .267 with 80 home runs and 544 RBI.

-A few years after retiring, Sam rejoined the Senators as a coach. When the club moved to Minnesota in 1961, he replaced manager Cookie Lavagetto on an interim basis in mid-June and was hired full-time shortly thereafter.

-With an influx of talented young players, Mele guided the Twins to a pair of 91-win seasons in 1962 and 1963. A tumble to sixth place (79-83) in 1964 led many to speculate that he would be replaced by new third base coach Billy Martin.

-The Twins retained their skipper for the 1965 season and it seemed to work out. They stormed to 102 wins, taking the American League pennant by a full seven games. Mele was named Manager of the Year as Minnesota took the pitching-rich Dodgers to the limit in the World Series before Sandy Koufax outdueled Jim Kaat in a 2-0 Game Seven.

-The cracks really began to show for Sam in 1966 as the Twins won 89 games and finished a distant second to the 97-win Orioles. The manager feuded with bullpen coach Hal Naragon and renowned pitching coach Johnny Sain, and both coaches were let go in October to the dismay of star pitcher Kaat. When the club got off to a 25-25 start in 1967, Mele was fired and replaced by minor league coach Cal Ermer.

-Mele stayed in baseball, working for the Red Sox as a scout for 25 years. He is now 88 years old and still kicking in Quincy, MA.
#506 Sam Mele (back)

Monday, December 20, 2010

#503 Phil Gagliano

#503 Phil Gagliano
Wow, what is that building behind Phil Gagliano? It looks like an oceanfront hotel. Very impressive.

Fun facts about Phil Gagliano:

-A native of Memphis, TN, Phil signed with the Cardinals at age 18 in 1959.

-His brother Ralph was an infielder in the Indians farm system. He appeared in one game for Cleveland as a pinch runner in 1965. His only card was #501 in the 1965 set, putting him on the same page as Phil in my binder.

-After a ten-game debut with the Cards in 1963, Phil appeared in 40 games the following year, batting .259  in the majors before spending the second half in the minors.

-He saw time at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions in 1965, appearing in a career-high 122 games and batting .240 with 8 home runs and 53 RBI.

-From 1963-1969, he was reunited with Tim McCarver, a former high school teammate at Christian Brothers High in Memphis.

-Gagliano hit 14 career home runs, and the only pitcher he victimized twice was Hall of Famer Juan Marichal!

-After spending parts of his first eight big league seasons in St. Louis, Phil was traded to the Cubs in mid-1970 and then to the Red Sox a few months later. In 1971, he batted .324 overall in 68 at-bats for Boston, including .364 (8-for-22) with five runs and seven RBI as a pinch hitter.

-He continued his pinch-hitting excellence in 1972 with a .346 average (9-for-26) in those situations, with 10 RBI.

-Switching leagues in 1973, Gagliano went 15-for-41 with 10 walks as a pinch hitter for a .366 average and .490 on-base percentage. Oddly enough, these three seasons were statistical outliers, as he batted only .201 (with a .322 on-base percentage) in 333 career pinch-hit situations.

-The Reds released Phil in October 1974 to bring an end to his career. In parts of 12 seasons he hit .238 with 14 home runs and 159 RBI.
#503 Phil Gagliano (back)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

#499 Stu Miller

#499 Stu Miller
Assuming this photo was taken in the spring of 1964, Stu Miller would have been 36 years old. He doesn't look a day over 50.

Fun facts about Stu Miller:

-Stu was born in Northampton, MA and signed with the Cardinals in 1949.

-St. Louis promoted him to the majors in August 1952. The 24-year-old made an immediate splash by completing five of his first six starts, including a six-hitter against the Cubs in his debut and a four-hitter against the same team a few weeks later. Overall he was 6-3 with a 2.05 ERA in a dozen games.

-Poor results in his second and third seasons relegated him back to the minors, but Miller regained his footing after the Giants acquired him in 1957. A year later, he led all National League pitchers with a 2.47 ERA in 41 games (20 starts).

-Teammates and opponents alike seemed baffled by his success. Stu was only 5'11" and weighed between 150 and 165 pounds during his career. Milt Pappas said that he had three speeds for his pitches: "Slow, slower, and slowest". Frank Robinson claimed that he didn't know how Miller's soft tosses reached home plate. Orioles teammates sarcastically dubbed him "Bullet".

-In 1961, Miller made his only All-Star team by crafting a 14-5 record and a 2.66 ERA in relief and pacing the N.L. with 17 saves. He picked up the win on his home field in the Midsummer Classic, but his appearance was notable because he committed a balk due to the notorious high winds at Candlestick Park! Contrary to popular belief, he was not "blown off the mound". Instead, a strong gust caused him to jerk his shoulders while in the set position.

-Following the 1962 season, he joined the Orioles in a six-player trade and delivered immediate results. In his first season in Baltimore, he led the American League with career highs of 71 games pitched and 27 saves. His 2.24 ERA was the best on his team as well.

-At age 37, he had a career year in 1965: 14-7, 24 saves, and a 1.89 ERA and 0.997 WHIP. He was rewarded with a seventh-place finish in MVP balloting.

-In five years with the O's at the end of his career, he had an incredible 2.37 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, and an even 100 saves. Of course there was also the one that got away: on April 30, 1967, he relieved Steve Barber in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie game against Detroit. Barber had allowed no hits but walked ten, and Miller inherited runners on the corners with two out. He induced a grounder to short by Don Wert, but Mark Belanger could not handle the throw to second base cleanly and the winning run scored. Al Kaline followed with a groundout, but the Birds came up empty in their final at-bat and Barber and Miller combined for a losing no-hitter. He also made dubious history two weeks later by surrendering Mickey Mantle's 500th career home run - the only time the Mick took him deep in 18 career meetings.

-Miller closed out his career with two games in 1968 for the Braves. In parts of 16 seasons he was 105-103 with 154 saves and a 3.24 ERA.

-Stu currently lives in Cameron Park, CA. He owned a liquor store for several years after his playing days, and he and his wife Jane have six children (four sons, two daughters).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

#498 Gene Stephens

#498 Gene Stephens
Though Gene Stephens' career overlapped with All-Star infielder Vern Stephens, they were not related. They were briefly teammates with the 1952 Red Sox, and both played at different times for the Orioles and White Sox. It probably means something; what that could be, I have no clue.

Fun facts about Gene Stephens:

-Gene was a native of Gravette, AR. He signed with the Red Sox at age 18 in 1951.

-After earning an All-Star selection at Class D High Point-Thomasville (.337 AVG, 32 2B, 10 3B, 22 HR), the teen began the 1952 season in Boston. He batted .226 in 21 games, with a few short stints in the majors bookending a season largely spent in the minors.

-Stephens spent much of 1953 with the Red Sox but didn't do much to distinguish himself. His shining moment came on June 18, when he became the first major leaguer in the modern (post-1900) era to collect three base hits in a single inning. He singled, doubled in two runs, and singled in another run in Boston's 17-run seventh inning as they romped over the Tigers 23-3. Another BoSox player matched the feat decades later: Johnny Damon.

-Gene spent much of the 1950s as a backup outfielder, sometimes snidely referred to as "Ted Williams' caddy". He did bat .293 in 157 at-bats in 1955, and did even better in his limited starts (.322 in 29 G).

-Boston traded center fielder Jimmy Piersall after the 1958 season, seemingly paving the way for Stephens to play more regularly. However, a wrist injury suffered while making a diving catch cost him seven weeks in May and June of 1959. He did recover, batting .294 in 78 games (51 starts) after his return.

-He was a Baltimore Oriole for almost precisely a calendar year. Boston traded him to the O's on June 9, 1960 and the Birds dealt him to Kansas City on June 8, 1961. He was traded for a pair of characters: first Willie Tasby (who once played center field in his socks because he refused to wear metal cleats during a thunderstorm) and later "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry.

-Three years of poor results and injuries saw Gene land with the White Sox' AAA Indianapolis club in 1963. He regained his stroke, batting .305 with 17 home runs and 72 RBI to earn a late-season look.

-He finished his big league career as a part-timer in Chicago in 1964, though he competed back in the minors for two subsequent seasons. In parts of 12 seasons, he was a .240 hitter with a .325 on-base percentage, 37 home runs, and 207 RBI.

-Three of his career homers were hit off of Detroit's Frank Lary, his most against any opposing pitcher. They included his only inside-the-park home run (a pinch-hit HR no less), his only longball to lead off a game, and a two-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning to give the Orioles the lead in a game they won 3-1 (box score here).

-Gene was later employed for 21 years as a district manager at the Kerr-McGee Refining Company, an Oklahoma company that was the largest offshore driller in the United States. He then retired to Grandbury, TX.

#498 Gene Stephens (back)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#494 Jay Ritchie

#494 Jay Ritchie
As much as this Orioles fan hates to admit it, I like the Red Sox uniforms. That thin red piping is a great understated touch and a nice contrast to the navy blue hats. Naturally, they've gone and cocked it up in the past few years by adding red caps and jerseys that are about as subtle as a heart attack.

Fun facts about Jay Ritchie:

-Jay was born in Salisbury, NC and signed with the Red Sox as a teenager in 1955.

-Patience must have been one of his virtues. Boston did not summon him to the major leagues until August 1964, by which time he was 27 and in his ninth year of pro ball.

-Ritchie had a baptism by fire in his August 4, 1964 debut. Starter Bill Monbouquette had been knocked out after allowing five runs in two innings to the Twins, and the 27-year-old rookie came out to start the third inning...facing Harmon Killebrew. "Killer" greeted him with a single, but the righthander bore down and tossed four shutout frames. He left with the BoSox trailing by a single run, but the rest of his 'pen mates coughed up seven runs as Minnesota romped.

-Jay appeared in 21 games for Boston as a rookie, compiling a 2.74 ERA and 35 strikeouts and 14 walks in 46 innings.

-He was summoned from the Red Sox bullpen 44 times in 1965, posting a team-low 3.17 ERA and a pair of saves.

-Prior to the 1966 season, Jay was dealt to the Braves. He spent the first four months of the season in the minors before Atlanta recalled him. His 4.08 ERA in 22 games was unimpressive, but he did record saves in four straight appearances in early September.

-1967 was a more rewarding campaign for Ritchie. He led all Braves pitchers with 52 appearances and matched his 3.17 ERA of two seasons prior. From May 5 through May 16, he retired 28 straight batters spanning four games - the equivalent of a 9.1 inning perfect game!

-He was traded to the Reds for the 1968 season and once more spent a chunk of the year in the minors. During the three months he spent in the bigs, he racked up a career-worst 4.61 ERA in 28 games.

-Jay pitched in the minors through the 1970 season, but 1968 was his last taste of the majors. In parts of five seasons he was 8-13 with 8 saves and a 3.49 ERA.

-At last check, he still lives in his hometown of Salisbury.
#494 Jay Ritchie (back)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

#489 Gene Mauch

#489 Gene Mauch
Considering that this set was released after the 1964 season, Gene Mauch has already taken a beating on this blog several times over. I'll make amends by examining his career as a whole now...

Fun facts about Gene Mauch:

-A native of Salina, KS, Gene signed with the Dodgers in 1943 and debuted the following year at the tender age of 18.

-Mauch served in World War II and played for six teams (Dodgers, Pirates, Cubs, Braves, Cardinals, and Red Sox) in nine seasons. He was a utility infielder and a career .239 hitter with a .333 on-base percentage, 5 home runs, and 62 RBI. In 1957, his final season in the majors, he hit .270 in a career-high 222 at-bats.

-He got his first crack at managing in 1953, when the Braves employed him as player-manager of their AA Atlanta Crackers. The 27-year-old batted .268 and slugged .432 in 340 at-bats and led his club to an 84-70 record, just three games out of first place in the Southern Association.

-Gene resumed his managing career in 1958 as the skipper of Boston's AAA Minneapolis Millers. He led the Millers to two straight American Association championships, posting a 177-138 record.

-The Phillies hired Mauch as manager in 1960, and he endured a pair of miserable seasons (including a 23-game losing streak and a 47-107 record in 1961) before delivering the City of Brotherly Love's first winning season in nearly a decade in his third year on the job.

-Philadelphia had six straight seasons above .500 under the young skipper, but fired him early in 1968 with the team standing still at 27-27. His overall record in Philly was 646-684, dragged down by his early struggles. His best season with the Phils was also the most painful, as the 1964 club won 92 games but missed out on the pennant by a single game. They spent 132 days in first place but were undone by a 10-game losing streak in late September that erased a 6.5 game lead. Mauch received the blame for leaning too heavily on Chris Short, Jim Bunning, and Dennis Bennett, continually starting his top three pitchers on short rest as the skid worsened.

-Gene was next tabbed to be the first manager of the Montreal Expos, a post he held for seven years (1969-1975). He never did quite get the team over the hump, peaking with 79 wins apiece in 1973 (when he won his only Manager of the Year award) and 1974. He had a 499-627 record north of the border.

-Again, Mauch was not unemployed for long. The Twins hired him in 1976 and saw the club improve from 76 wins to 85 in his first season. He led them to a winning record in three of his first four seasons, but never climbed past third place and was fired in late August of 1980 with a 54-71 record. That disappointing season dragged his Minnesota record to 378-394 in four-plus seasons.

-Gene's last stop as a manager was with the California Angels. He replaced Jim Fregosi 47 games into the 1981 season and one short year later guided his players to 93 wins and the American League West crown. They won the first two games of the best-of-five ALCS before losing three straight to the Brewers, at which point owner Gene Autry hastily fired Mauch. He came to regret the move as the Halos floundered under John McNamara, and Mauch was rehired in 1985. For an encore, he oversaw a second place finish (90-72) and then piloted the club to 92 wins and another ALCS appearance in 1986. Once again, his team was poised on the brink of the World Series when the bottom fell out. California led the Red Sox three-games-to-one and had a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning of Game Five when starter Mike Witt tired. Mauch made the right moves on paper, but closer Donnie Moore surrendered a go-ahead home run to Dave Henderson and Boston went on to win in 11 innings. The shellshocked Angels were blown out in Games Six and Seven, and the rest was history. The Angels tumbled to seventh place in 1987, and their manager retired the following spring due to health concerns. He had a 379-332 record with California and a 1902-2037 mark overall in 26 years as a big league manager. He's 12th all-time in managerial wins. Assuming that Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre will all soon be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Mauch would become the winningest skipper left out of Cooperstown.

-Mauch continued to work in the Angels front office for several years. He died of cancer in August 2005 at age 79.
#489 Gene Mauch (back)

Monday, December 13, 2010

#488 Ted Wills

#488 Ted Wills
Looking at Ted Wills' jersey made me wonder if the Reds have always worn "Cincinnati" across their chests on the road. According to the "Dressed to the Nines" uniform database, they have done so since 1961, so they've got a 50-year streak going. Prior to that, they switched things up a lot. Check out these unusual threads from 1936!

Fun facts about Ted Wills:

-Ted was born in Fresno, CA and attended the California State University campus in Fresno before signing with the Red Sox in 1955.

-He debuted with Boston in 1959 at age 25. On May 30, he went the distance to beat the Orioles 8-3 in his first career start, scattering 11 hits in the process.

-Overall, Wills took his lumps as a rookie, allowing 68 hits (including 9 home runs) in 56.1 innings and walking 24 while striking out 24 as well. His ERA was 5.27.

-Ted spent the second half of the 1960 season with the Red Sox and struggled even more, pitching to a 7.42 ERA in 30.1 innings. He did earn his first save on July 3 by slamming the door on the A's with 2.1 perfect innings. It's not often that a pitcher is credited with a save in a 13-2 game; it was 4-2 when Ted was summoned in the seventh, and Boston scored eight runs in the bottom of that inning and tacked on another in the eighth!

-He opened the 1961 season in Beantown but posted an ugly 11-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19.2 innings, contributing to a 5.95 ERA. He didn't pitch after June 24.

-The Red Sox finally gave up on Wills early on in 1962 and sold him to the Reds. He improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio to a career-best 2.52-to-1 in 26 appearances, but was still hittable (61 hits and 12 HR in 61 innings) and finished with a 5.31 ERA for Cincy.

-He was shunted to the minor leagues in 1963, where he won 27 games during the next two seasons with Cincinnati's AAA San Diego club.

-The White Sox aquired Ted in 1965 and kept him on the major league roster for the first two months of the season. Pitching in relief, he had a tidy 2.84 ERA, two wins, and a save, but a closer look shows that he just got lucky. He was still giving up plenty of hits (17 in 19 innings) and walks (14), and 7 of the 13 runners that he inherited (54%) scored on his watch. He spent the rest of that year in the minors and never pitched in organized ball again.

-Perhaps he was miscast as a pitcher. He notched 11 hits (including 3 doubles) in 44 career at-bats for a .250 average.

-For his career, Wills was 8-11 with 5 saves and a 5.51 ERA in parts of five years.
#488 Ted Wills (back)

Friday, December 10, 2010

#487 Woody Woodward

#487 Woody Woodward
It truly is a shame that Woody Woodward didn't stick around long enough to be signed by 1970s Cubs GM Salty Saltwell. It's also too bad that the Braves couldn't find larger letters to stitch onto the back of Woody's jersey.

Fun facts about Woody Woodward:

-Miami, FL native Woody Woodward attended Florida State University before signing with the Braves for a $50,000 bonus in 1963.

-He made his major league debut at age 20, less than three months after signing. The young shortstop played in 10 games at the end of the season, mostly as a defensive replacement.

-After batting .208 in part-time duty in 1964 and 1965, Woody hit a career-high .264 with 23 doubles in 1966. It would be the only season in which he batted more than 500 times.

-Woodward joined the Reds via a trade in mid-1968 and lost out on the starting shortstop job twice - first to Darrel Chaney, and later to Dave Concepcion.

-He hit his first - and only - career home run on July 10, 1970 off of Ron Reed. It came in his 684th career game. Afterward he quipped, "If I hit one home run per every seven seasons, it will take me 4,998 seasons to catch Babe Ruth."

-Woody retired after the 1971 season as a .236 hitter in parts of 9 seasons. In addition to his single career homer, he totaled 148 RBI.

-He is the first cousin of Academy Award-winning actress Joanne Woodward, the longtime wife of Paul Newman.

-After briefly broadcasting Reds' TV games, Woodward returned to Florida State as head coach from 1975 through 1978.

-Woody settled into a two-decade career as a baseball executive, serving first as an assistant GM in Cincinnati (1981-1984) and with the Yankees (1985-1986) before serving brief tenures as the general manager in New York (1987) and Philadelphia (1988). The Mariners hired him as GM in July 1988, and he served in that role until retiring in 1999. He had presided over the first winning season (1991) and playoff appearance (1995) in team history. He now works as a part-time scout for the M's.

-Player moves Woody would like you to remember: using consecutive first-round picks in 1993 and 1994 on Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek; acquiring Randy Johnson from the Expos in the Mark Langston trade; swapping Darren Bragg to the Red Sox for Jamie Moyer. Some trades he wishes you'd forget: Bill Swift, Mike Jackson, and Dave Burba to the Giants for Kevin Mitchell and Mike Remlinger; Mike Hampton and Mike Felder to the Astros for Eric Anthony; Omar Vizquel to the Indians for Felix Fermin and Reggie Jefferson; Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir, and Jeff Nelson to the Yankees for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock; and most infamous of all, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to the Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb. Ouch!
#487 Woody Woodward (back)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

#483 George Smith

#483 George Smith
Whoa...check out the ears on George Smith! Given the intrinsic cruelty of ballplayers, I'm surprised he didn't acquire a nickname like "Dumbo".

Fun facts about George Smith:

-George was born in St. Petersburg, FL, and attended Michigan State University. He signed with the Tigers in 1958.

-Prior to catching on with Detroit, he played in the Negro Leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns.

-Smith debuted with the Tigers in August 1963 and served as the team's regular second baseman for the final two months of the season. He batted just .216 with a .298 on-base percentage and 17 RBI.

-George did play an instrumental role in a 10-1 romp over the Red Sox on August 6, in his second career game. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple, two runs scored, and three RBI.

-He saw action in only 37 major league games over the next two seasons, spending most of his time at AAA Syracuse.

-In October 1965, he was one of three players traded to Boston for pitcher Bill Monbouquette. The Red Sox subsequently dealt away incumbent second baseman Felix Mantilla, which paved the way for George to start the lion's share of games at that position. Again he didn't do much with the bat (.213/.283/.340), but he at least showed a bit more power with 8 homers and 19 doubles. Several defensive metrics also indicate that he was one of the American League's top glovemen at second base as well.

-On July 10, 1966, he hit a walkoff grand slam off Chicago's Juan Pizarro with one out in the bottom of the tenth inning. Boston won 10-6 to sweep a doubleheader.

-Smith tore cartilage in his knee in spring training in 1967 and never played another game in the majors,though he did spend some time in the minors in 1967 and 1968.

-In parts of four seasons he batted .205 with 9 home runs and 57 RBI. He was also 9-for-9 as a base stealer.

-George died in June 1987 in St. Petersburg. He was only 49 at the time.
#483 George Smith (back)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

#480 Joel Horlen

#480 Joel Horlen
Is it just me, or does Joel Horlen look like Orel Hershiser in this photo? A little less nerdy, maybe.

Fun facts about Joel Horlen:

-A native of San Antonio, TX, Joel was a second-team All-American at Oklahoma State University, where he led the Cowboys to the College World Series in 1959 before signing with the White Sox.

-He earned the win in his big league debut (September 4, 1961) with four innings of shutout relief against the Twins. In the game, he wore a jersey with no number on the back, as it was the only spare road top available!

-Staked a claim to Chicago's starting rotation with an 11-7 record and a 3.27 ERA in 1963.

-Horlen took a leap forward in 1964, leading the American League with an 0.93 WHIP and 6.1 hits allowed per 9 innings. His 1.88 ERA trailed only Dean Chance of the Angels, yet he had only a 13-9 record to show for his efforts as the Pale Hose bats produced only 2.84 runs per start for him.

-Low earned run averages and disappointing win-loss records were the theme from 1964-1968. In that five-year span, Joel had a miniscule mark of 2.32 and a WHIP of 1.06 but his record was an underwhelming 67-56.

-His standout season was 1967, when he got a bit more support and started 8-0 en route to a 19-7 record and league-leading marks in ERA (2.06), shutouts (6), and WHIP (0.95). He made his only All-Star team but finished a distant second in Cy Young voting to Jim Lonborg, whose 22-9 record and 246 strikeouts for the pennant-winning Red Sox obscured an inferior 3.16 ERA.

-Also of note that year was Joel's September 10, 1967 no-hitter against the Tigers. Only a third-inning walk of Bill Freehan and a fifth-inning error by Ken Boyer kept him from perfection.

-Though he lost some effectiveness as the 1970s dawned, it is worth noting that the White Sox did not release him until the spring of 1972, two weeks after the players had voted unanimously for a labor strike. Horlen had been the team's representative in the players' union.

-He finished his major league career with a 3.00 ERA in 32 games (26 in relief) for the 1972 World Champion Athletics. He spent a brief stint with Cleveland's AA team in his hometown of San Antonio the following year. In parts of 12 big league seasons, Joel was 116-117 with a 3.11 ERA.

-He's spent years coaching and scouting for the Giants organization, and is an avid golfer. He also briefly returned to the mound at age 52 with the St. Lucie Legends of the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989. There is an extensive interview with Horlen at White Sox Interactive.
#480 Joel Horlen (back)

Monday, December 06, 2010

#474 Cookie Rojas

#474 Cookie Rojas
Of all of the bespectacled players in this set, I think Cookie Rojas' frames are the most stylish. In unrelated news, fellow blogger dayf, a.k.a. Cardboard Junkie, has dedicated three and a half blog posts to the ridiculous trade offers he's received for his 1971 Topps Cookie Rojas card on the Million Card Giveaway site. See for yourself.

Fun facts about Cookie Rojas:

-Cookie hails from Havana, Cuba and signed with Cincinnati in 1956.

-He made the Reds' Opening Day roster as a 23-year-old in 1962 and played in 39 games, batting .221. His first big league hit was a single off of Sandy Koufax.

-Rojas was traded to the Phillies prior to the 1963 season. After hitting .291 in 1964, he became the team's everyday second baseman and earned his first trip to the All-Star Game in 1965 (.303, 25 2B).

-He was regarded as a skilled defender at the keystone, leading his league in fielding percentage three times and topping the loop once each in range factor and putouts. But he was also versatile, playing all nine positions at least once during his career. If you're curious, his lone pitching performance was a scoreless ninth inning in a 12-3 Phillies loss to the Giants on June 30, 1967. He allowed a hit to Tom Haller, but retired Willie Mays on a flyout to end the inning.

-Was traded to the Cardinals in October 1969, but played until 23 games in St. Louis in 1970 before being dealt to Kansas City.

-After hitting .234 in the previous three seasons, Cookie revived his career with the Royals with four straight All-Star appearances beginning in 1971 (.300 AVG, career-high .763 OPS). In 1973 he achieved personal bests with 29 doubles and 69 RBI.

-In the 1972 All-Star Game, his eighth-inning two-run homer off of Bill Stoneman was the first home run by a foreign-born player for the American League team in Midsummer Classic annals.

-Rojas spent his last few seasons in K.C. filling in at third base, first base, and designated hitter after Frank White displaced him at second. His final year in the majors was 1977, and he retired with a .263 average in parts of 16 seasons. He totaled 54 home runs and 593 RBI.

-Cookie has stayed in baseball ever since, working as a coach for the Cubs, Marlins, Mets and Blue Jays and as a scout, front office employee and manager for the Angels (he went 75-79 in a partial season in 1988). He has been a Spanish-language broadcaster for the Marlins since 2003.

-His sons Mike and Victor both played minor-league baseball. Mike also managed in the minors for a dozen years and is now the Tigers' Minor League Field Coordinator. Victor has worked as a broadcaster for the Diamondbacks, Rangers and Angels and is now an anchor for the MLB Network.
#474 Cookie Rojas (back)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

#469 Don Nottebart

#469 Don Nottebart
Should you be wondering which team's uniform is being obscured by the bottom frame of this card, that would be the...Colt .45s. I actually had to double-check - forgot about the Great Houston Rebranding Caper!

Fun facts about Don Nottebart:

-Born in Newton, MA, Don signed with the Braves in 1954 after completing high school.

-Won exactly 18 games in four out of five minor league seasons, but did not debut with Milwaukee until 1960. The 24-year-old earned his first win with 3.2 scoreless innings of relief on July 3.

-Led the Braves with 39 relief appearances in 1962, putting up a tidy 3.23 ERA.

-Moved to the rotation following a trade to Houston and went 11-8 with a 3.17 ERA in 1963, setting a career high in wins and notching nine complete games.

-On May 17, 1963, Don threw the first no-hitter in team history in a 4-1 win over the Phillies, striking out eight batters. His shortstop J.C. Hartman committed an error that led to the lone Philly run. The pitcher claimed later that he had abandoned his curveball and threw only a sinking fastball and slider during the gem.

-He struggled mightily in his second and third seasons with the Colts/Astros, with a cumulative record of 10-26 and a 4.29 ERA.

-On September 13, 1965, he surrendered Willie Mays' 500th career home run just five days after allowing Mays' 497th.

-Re-established himself with two good years in the Cincinnati bullpen, including a 3.07 ERA and 11 saves in 1966 and a career-best 1.93 ERA the next season.

-Curiously, Nottebart spent two of the final three seasons of his career in the minor leagues, sandwiching a subpar 24 innings split between the Yankees and Cubs in 1969. Overall, his major league record was 36-51 with a 3.65 ERA and 21 saves in parts of nine seasons.

-Don spent the post-baseball phase of his life operating a service station and a carpet and flooring business. He spent his last few years in poor health and died in December 2007 at age 71.
#469 Don Nottebart (back)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

#465 Tom Haller

#465 Tom Haller
I like the green-painted gates and the red-clad ushers behind Tom Haller in this photo. Can any of you eagle-eyed readers help me figure out which ballpark this is?

Fun facts about Tom Haller:

-Tom was born in Lockport, IL and played quarterback at the University of Illinois. He signed with the Giants in 1958.

-He debuted with San Francisco in 1961, but an April 12 home run against Vern Law was one of just 9 hits in a 30-game introduction to the majors. He batted .145 and spent the rest of the year at AAA Tacoma for seasoning.

-Returning to the bigs in 1962, Haller established himself as the Giants' primary catcher with a .261 average, .384 on-base percentage, 18 home runs and 55 RBI in 99 games. He started four games in the World Series that year and went 4-for-14 (.286). His two-run homer off of Whitey Ford in the second inning of Game Four gave his team an early lead in a contest they would win 7-3.

-On May 31, 1964, he caught all 23 innings of the Giants' 8-6 win over the Mets! He was 4-for-10 at the plate with a triple and an RBI.

-Tom made the All-Star team in three consecutive seasons: 1966 (career-high 27 HR, 67 RBI), 1967 (117 OPS+), and 1968 (.285 AVG, 27 2B, 128 OPS+ in his first season with the Dodgers).

-Throughout his career, he had a reputation as an adept defensive catcher. His overall fielding percentage was .992, and he led the National League in runners caught stealing with 48 in 1968. That was also the year that he set an N.L. single-season record with 23 double plays turned as a catcher.

-Haller hit two game-winning pinch homers in 1970. The first was a two-out, seventh-inning grand slam off of Montreal's Claude Raymond on July 22 to turn a 10-7 deficit into an 11-10 lead for Los Angeles. The other was a three-run shot with nobody out in the top of the tenth on September 13; Jerry Johnson of the Giants was the victim as the Dodgers won 5-3.

-Imagine how the Royals felt on July 14, 1972 when they saw Tom catching for the Tigers while his older brother Bill (an American League umpire from 1963-1982) served as home plate umpire! If the latter showed preferential treatment to his kin, it didn't show up in the box score; K.C. won 1-0. It was the only instance in Tom's lone season in the A.L. that both were behind the plate, but naturally Earl Weaver complained to league president Joe Cronin about the general possibility of bias.

-He hit .207 in spot duty with the Tigers and retired at the end of the 1972 season. In parts of 12 years in the majors, he hit .257 with 134 home runs and 504 RBI.

-Haller stayed with the Giants long after retiring, wearing the mantles of coach (1977-1979), farm director (1980-1981), and general manager (1981-1985). In 1986, he served a brief tenure as assistant GM for the White Sox. He passed away at age 67 in November 2004 after battling a viral infection.
#465 Tom Haller (back)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

#462 Lew Krausse

#462 Lew Krausse
Topps chose a severely off-center photo of Lew Krausse; his left arm is barely in the shot at all. Maybe they wanted to make sure that the groundskeeper's house in the background made it onto the card.

Fun facts about Lew Krausse:

-His father, Lew Sr., pitched for the Philadelphia A's in 1931-1932, going 5-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 23 games. He was the youngest player in the American League when he made his debut at age 19 on June 11, 1931.

-Born in Media, PA, Lew Jr. signed with the Athletics for a whopping $125,000 bonus out of Chester High School in 1961.

-Like father, like son: Lew was the youngest player in the league on June 16, 1961, when the 18-year-old made his first start for Kansas City. He walked five Angels that day, but allowed only three hits in a 4-0 shutout victory.

-He spent 1962, 1963, and much of the two subsequent seasons honing his craft in the minors before becoming a full-fledged member of the A's staff in 1966. The team's patient approach paid off: Pitching in 36 games (22 starts), Krausse led the club in wins (14-9 record) and finished ninth in the A.L. with a 2.99 ERA. His ratio of 0.4 home runs allowed per nine innings was tops in the league.

-Lew fell to Earth in 1967 with a 7-17 record, 6 saves, and 4.28 ERA. He was one of three Athletics to lose exactly 17 games - Jim Nash and Catfish Hunter were the others - and George Brunet and Steve Barber were the only American Leaguers to lose more than that.

-He rebounded to some degree with a 10-11 record and a 3.11 ERA in 1968, but his performance is less impressive when you consider that the league average ERA was 2.98 that year.

-Krausse was traded to the Seattle Pilots in January 1970. By Opening Day they had become the Milwaukee Brewers, but the new city and nickname did not change the fortunes of the team or the player. The Brewers lost 97 games and Krausse went 13-18 with a 4.75 ERA. Only Mickey Lolich (19 L's) outlost him.

-Lew reversed his fortunes in 1971 with a career-best 2.94 ERA that was the lowest among Milwaukee's ERA title qualifiers (minimum 162 IP). His W-L record was 8-12.

-The righthander also pitched for the Red Sox (1972), Cardinals (1973), and Braves (1974) in the mid-1970s. Curiously, he spent portions of the 1973-1975 seasons back in the Athletics organization, but never pitched a big league game for them in those years. He finished his career 68-91 with an ERA of 4.00 and 21 saves.

-Krausse is a member of the Delaware County (PA) Sports Hall of Fame.
#462 Lew Krausse (back)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#459 Frank Kostro

#459 Frank Kostro
It's all in the details when it comes to this card: Yankee Stadium in the background, an unidentified Twins teammate taking practice swings, and the great old Twins logo patch on Frank Kostro's left sleeve.

Fun facts about Frank Kostro:

-A native of Windber, PA, Frank signed with the Tigers in 1956 after attending Forbes High School in Pittsburgh.

-He spent parts of 13 seasons in the minor leagues and hit for average everywhere he went, posting a cumulative mark of .303. This apprenticeship includes six seasons with the Denver Bears, for whom he holds franchise records with 516 total hits and 101 doubles.

-Detroit gave Kostro a look in September 1962. The 24-year-old third baseman hit a pinch double off of Jim Kaat on September 7 for his first career hit.

-He split the 1963 season between the Tigers and Angels, batting .225 with a pair of home runs and 10 RBI in 151 at-bats. In addition to third base, he also played some first base, left field, and right field.

-Frank joined the Twins the following season and it was his most productive effort as a major leaguer: .272 with 3 homers and 12 RBI in 103 at-bats. He added second base to his defensive repertoire.

-He continued to ply his trade as a utility player in Minnesota until 1969, when he appeared in his last two big league games. In parts of seven seasons, he batted .244 with 5 home runs and 37 RBI.

-Frank spent the 1970 season in Japan playing for the Hankyu Braves before retiring.

-Loved to face: Jack Kralick (1.462 OPS, 2 HR in 13 plate appearances), Whitey Ford (5-for-11, .455 AVG), George Brunet (5-for-10). Hated to face: Gary Peters (0-for-10), Jim Bouton (0-for-9), Eddie Fisher (0-for-8).

-Frank has participated in some celebrity golf tournaments and claims that he's frequently been asked if he played baseball with Harmon Killebrew (he did): "...One day I had to ask Harmon if people ever approached him and asked 'Did you play with Frank Kostro?'."

-After his career ended, Kostro got into the insurance business in Colorado. According to this 2008 article, he is also an avid handball player and feels that he realized his life's wish by reaching the major leagues.
#459 Frank Kostro (back)

Monday, November 29, 2010

#458 John Buzhardt

#458 John Buzhardt
There's nothing like a good closeup to ruin the effect of pinstripes. This photo puts the seam where torso and sleeve meet on full display. Of course, pinstripes are best used in moderation. In the 1990s, every team and their mother was shoehorning pinstripes into their uniform designs. The monstrosities that Disney foisted upon the Angels still give me night terrors.

Fun facts about John Buzhardt:

-John was born in Prosperity, SC and signed with Cubs in 1954 out of high school.

-He made his major league debut in September 1958, pitching well in four relief appearances before beating the Dodgers in back-to-back starts. The 21-year-old allowed five hits in each start, twirling a complete game in the first and falling two outs shy of repeating the feat in the second. He finished 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA in six games.

-Batted only .135 (60-for-445) in his career, but singled off of Sandy Koufax for his first big-league hit.

-He pitched a gem on June 21, 1959, allowing only a second-inning walk to Wally Post and a third-inning single to Carl Sawatski and shutting out the Phillies 4-0. With Post erased via a double play, Buzhardt faced only one batter above the minimum.

-In January 1960, he was one of three players traded to the Phillies for Richie Ashburn. He did not pitch badly in his two seasons in Philadelphia (4.18 cumulative ERA), but the club was atrocious. Their total record was 116-202, and John was saddled with an 11-34 mark.

-On July 28, 1961, Buzhardt five-hit the Giants in the second game of a double header and the Phillies won 4-3. On August 20, he gritted out another complete-game win in the second half of a twinbill, beating the Braves 7-4. In between those two games, the Phils set a modern MLB record by losing 23 straight!

-His fortunes changed in November 1961 when he was traded to the White Sox. After a so-so first season with his new club, the righthander combined for 32 wins, 20 losses and a 2.84 ERA from 1963-1965.

-John slipped to 6-11 with a 3.83 ERA in 1966. Curiously, four of his six wins were shutouts.

-After being passed from Chicago to Baltimore to Houston throughout the second half of the 1967 season, he concluded his career with a 4-4 record, a 3.12 ERA, and 5 saves pitching mostly in relief for the Astros in 1968. Overall, he was 71-96 with a 3.66 ERA in parts of 11 seasons.

-Buzhardt returned home to Prosperity and eventually became a foreman for the Kodak Company. He died in June 2008 at age 71, several years after suffering a stroke.
#458 John Buzhardt (back)

Friday, November 26, 2010

#454 Ed Rakow

#454 Ed Rakow
It's been a while since I've mentioned where these cards are coming from, and that's because there have been a ton from one source. It's probably a good time to remind you that Jamie Whyte filled some huge holes in my set. Thanks again, Jamie!

Fun facts about Ed Rakow:

-Pittsburgh native Ed "Rock" Rakow played semipro football for the Bloomfield Rams after high school, but lost his quarterback job to Johnny Unitas, who had just been cut by the Steelers! Ed switched to semipro baseball, and made enough of an impression to sign with the Dodgers in 1957.

-He won 55 games in his first four minor league seasons.

-At age 25, Ed debuted with Los Angeles in 1960. Appearing in nine games (two starts), he allowed 18 earned runs in 22 innings for a 7.36 ERA.

-He was traded to the Athletics on the eve of the 1961 season and pitched in 45 games, primarily in relief. Though his 4.76 ERA was subpar, he did have a few standout games. Most notable was his first complete game, an 8-3 win over the Senators on July 14.

-In 1962, Rakow started a career-high 35 games for Kansas City and led the American League with 17 losses. However, he did top all A's pitchers with 14 wins, 11 complete games, 2 shutouts, and 159 strikeouts. His 4.25 ERA was close to league-average.

-The following year, he continued to show improvement with a 9-10 record (for a K.C. team that was just 73-89 overall) and a 3.92 ERA. His first start of the year was his best, as he two-hit the Twins on April 12.

-A trade to the Tigers in 1964 coincided with a shift back to relief work; Ed posted an 8-9 record and a career-best 3.72 ERA that season.

-After putting up a 6.08 ERA in six games in 1965, he was demoted to the minors, where he would spend most of the next four seasons. He returned to the majors for one last time with the Braves in the second half of 1967, allowing 23 runs in 39.1 innings for a 5.26 ERA.

-In parts of seven big league seasons he was 36-47 with a 4.33 ERA.

-Ed passed away in August of 2000 at age 65 in West Palm Beach, FL.
#454 Ed Rakow (back)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#449 Mets Rookie Stars: Jerry Hinsley and Gary Kroll

#449 Mets Rookie Stars: Jerry Hinsley and Gary Kroll
Could there be a bigger difference in appearance between these two guys? Jerry Hinsley looks like he's posing for his middle school yearbook photo, and Gary Kroll doesn't look a day over 40.

Fun facts about Jerry Hinsley:

-Jerry was born in Hugo, OK and went to high school in Las Cruces, NM before signing with the Pirates in 1963.

-As noted on the card back, the Mets claimed Jerry in the first-year player draft in December 1963.

-He opened the 1964 season on the major league roster, making his big league debut at age 19 on April 18. He allowed two runs in relief, followed up with back-to-back scoreless appearances, and then allowed multiple runs in five of six games to leave him with an 8.22 ERA. He was sent to AAA at the end of May.

-Hinsley spent the rest of that year and the following three seasons in the minors, resurfacing for a September callup in 1967. He gave up two runs in two relief innings in his first appearance, and salvaged things with three scoreless innings in his next game, which would prove to be his last in the majors.

-His MLB totals, such as they were, included an 0-2 record and a 7.08 ERA.

-He continued pitching in the minors until the 1971 season, finally calling it a career with a 44-61 record and a 3.95 ERA in eight minor league seasons.

-If you're looking for a silver lining in Jerry's brief big league career, he struck out four future Hall of Famers: Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock, and pitchers Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson.

Fun facts about Gary Kroll:

-A native of Culver City, CA, Gary signed with the Phillies in 1959.

-He was an imposing presence on the mound, standing 6'6" and weighing 220 pounds. He pitched two no-hitters in the minors and struck out scores of batters, including 309 in 257 innings in the California League in 1960.

-Kroll debuted with Philadelphia in July 1964, but pitched only two games before being traded to the Mets in the deal that brought Frank Thomas to the Phils.

-In his first start for New York, Gary set a career high with eight strikeouts in six innings, but dropped a 3-2 decision to the Cubs.

-He pitched in 32 games in 1965, going 6-6 with a 4.45 ERA and a save.

-His only career game was a rain-shortened 7-1 win over the Giants on April 18, 1965. Gary pitched seven innings, striking out eight and allowing only four hits.

-Following a January 1966 trade, Kroll made ten relief appearances for the Astros, compiling a 3.80 ERA and striking out 22 in 23.2 innings.

-He did not return to the majors until 1969, when he put up a 4.13 ERA in 19 games for the Indians. He allowed earned runs in only five of those games, including a whopping five runs in one inning in his final appearance on July 12. Unfortunately, that was the final big league game of his career.

-In parts of four seasons, Gary was 6-7 with a 4.24 ERA. He struck out 138 runs in 159.1 innings.

-Like Jerry Hinsley, Kroll continued pitching in the minors until 1971, finishing with a 72-67 record and a 3.61 ERA.

#449 Mets Rookie Stars: Jerry Hinsley and Gary Kroll (back)