Sunday, April 25, 2010

#242 George Brunet

#242 George Brunet
George Brunet looks like a guy that knew how to have fun. With his sweat-slicked hair (complete with cowlick), sideways leer, and whatever that is that's sticking out from his jersey (a wayward shirt tag?), this might be the most visually intriguing portrait in this set.

Fun facts about George Brunet:

-Born in Houghton, MI, way up at the tip of the Upper Peninsula, George began pitching professionally in independent ball in 1953. He was 18 at the time. Two years later, he signed with the Athletics.

-While pitching for AA Little Rock in 1957, he was a bit lacking in run support. From June 21 to August 3, his teammates failed to score a single run while he was on the mound: a 52 and 1/3 inning drought. He lost eight straight starts but led the league in strikeouts with 235.

-Brunet debuted with the A's in 1956, but did not exceed 60 innings in a major league season until 1965. By that time, he was with the Angels, his fifth team of nine total.

-He was a decent starter for the Halos for four and a half seasons, compiling a 3.13 ERA (peaking at 2.56 in 1965) yet twice leading the league in losses.

-While with the Seattle Pilots in 1969, George alleged told teammate Jim Bouton that he never wore underwear because he didn't want to have to worry about losing it.

-He last pitched in the bigs in 1971 with the Cardinals. In parts of 15 seasons, he won 69 games and lost 93 with a 3.62 ERA.

-The lefthander returned to the minors from 1971-1973, wrapping up a minor league career in which he appeared for 16 different clubs in 15 seasons. He is believed to hold the minor league record with 3,175 strikeouts.

-At age 38, George moved to Mexico and began pitching for the club in Coza Rica. He plied his trade in the Mexican League all the way up to 1989, when he was 54 years old! He holds the Mexican League record with 55 shutouts, and he played professionally for 37 years, which it's safe to say is another record.

-George stayed in Coza Rica to teach the game to others, right up until a heart attack ended his life in 1991.

-In 1999, Brunet was posthumously elected to the Salon de la Fama, the Mexican baseball Hall of Fame.
#242 George Brunet (back)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

#241 Mack Jones

#241 Mack Jones
When I pulled this card to scan, my first thought was "Mack the Knife". Not surprisingly, that was actually Mack's nickname during his career! By the way, I love that he has his outfielder's glove stashed in his back pocket.

Fun facts about Mack Jones:

-Born in Atlanta, GA, Mack signed with the Braves at age 19 in 1958.

-He debuted with Milwaukee in 1961 and tied a modern National League record with four hits in his first game, including a single and a double in two at-bats against Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

-Hit .298 with 6 home runs and 26 RBI over his first 47 games in 1962, but slumped to .206 with four homers and 10 RBI over the next 44 games and spent the rest of the year in AAA. He wouldn't spend a full season in the majors until 1965.

-That 1965 season was a good one, as Jones slammed a career-high 31 home runs and added 75 RBI with a .262 average.

-After the Braves moved to Atlanta, Mack spent two years playing in his hometown, hitting 23 homers in 1966 despite a shoulder injury that cost him a few dozen games.

-After a one-year stop in Cincinnati, he joined the new Expos franchise. On April 14, 1969, his three-run home run in the first inning was the first longball ever hit in an MLB game in Canada.

-He was a popular player in Montreal, hitting a career-best .270 with 22 round-trippers and a personal high of 79 RBI in 1969. The left field bleachers in Jarry Park were dubbed "Jonesville" during his time there.

-Mack played for two and a half years with the Expos, wrapping up a ten-year major league career in 1971 with a .252 average, .347 on-base percentage, 133 home runs and 415 RBI.

-He coached youth football and baseball later in his life, and was selected for the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame in 2000. Back in 1964, he had narrowly missed winning the International League triple crown as a member of that city's AAA Chiefs franchise, as described on the card back below.

-Jones died at age 65 in 2004, a victim of stomach cancer.
#241 Mack Jones (back)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

#240 Bob Bruce

#240 Bob Bruce
Man, there is really nothing going on visually with these Astros cards. They're killing me.

Fun facts about Bob Bruce:

-Born in Detroit, Bob signed with the hometown Tigers in 1953 at age 20.

-It took seven years for him to break into the majors; only after leading the AAA American Association with 177 strikeouts did he finally get the call in 1959.

-Bruce pitched well enough as a rookie for Detroit, compiling a 3.74 ERA in 34 games between the rotation and bullpen. But he saw action in only 14 games the following year, and was traded to the expansion Houston club after that season.

-Spending most of 1962 in the Colt .45s rotation, Bob posted a winning record (10-9) with a 4.06 ERA and six complete games. He tied for the team lead in victories.

-On April 19, 1964, he became the 12th pitcher in major league history to strike out all three batters in an inning on nine total pitches, doing so in the eighth inning against the Cardinals. He also struck out the side in the ninth, giving him two shutout innings of relief with all six outs coming via the K.

-The 1964 season was the greatest of his career, as he won 15 games, lost nine and posted a 2.76 ERA and nine complete games. He shut out his opponents four times, thrice by the score of 1-0. This included a two-hitter against the Mets and a 12-inning five-hitter against the Dodgers in his final two starts!

-The aforementioned gem against Los Angeles was the final game in Houston's Colt Stadium. Bob also broke in the new Astrodome the following year with a hard-luck 2-0 loss.

-Despite a decent 3.72 ERA, Bruce's record cratered to 9-18 in 1965. He went 3-13 the following year, his ERA jumping by a run and a half to hasten the end of his career.

-After a dozen games with the Braves in 1967, Bob called it a career. In parts of nine seasons he was 49-71 with a 3.85 ERA.

-At last check, he was living in San Antonio, TX and had spent his post-baseball years in real estate development and residential sales.
#240 Bob Bruce (back)

Monday, April 19, 2010

#239 Doc Edwards

#239 Doc Edwards
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like Doc's mitt bears the signature of his contemporary, Pirates catcher Jim Pagliaroni. That's odd.

Fun facts about Doc Edwards:

-Born in Red Jacket, WV, Doc signed with the Indians at age 21 in 1958.

-His given name is Howard Rodney Edwards; he was dubbed "Doc" after a stint as a Navy medic.

-He debuted with Cleveland in 1962, hitting .273 in 54 games.

-Doc's first career home run tied a July 4 game against the Tigers in the bottom of the tenth. The Tribe would go on to put up four runs in the 13th to win.

-Edwards was traded to the bottom-dwelling Athletics in 1963 and was their primary catcher over the next two seasons.

-An underwhelming 1965 campaign (he hit .183 with the A's and Yankees) seemed to bring his major league career to a close, as the backstop spent the next four seasons in the minors.

-At age 33, Doc became the Phillies' bullpen coach in 1970. After injuries decimated the team's depth, he was added to the active roster and played in 35 games that summer. He held his own, batting .269.

-Overall, he hit .238 in parts of five big-league seasons with 15 home runs and 87 RBI.

-Edwards has remained in baseball since his retirement, managing in the Yankees, Cubs, Expos, Orioles, Indians, and Pirates farm systems. He was at the helm of Baltimore's AAA Rochester franchise in 1981 when the club was on the losing end of a 33-inning game with Pawtucket that took eight hours and 25 minutes to complete over two days! He's been managing in the independent leagues since 1995, and is currently the skipper of the San Angelo (TX) Colts.

-Doc also had a brief tenure as the major-league manager of the Indians, winning 173 games and losing 207 from 1987-1989. The club finished sixth in the American League East in 1988, his only full season.
#239 Doc Edwards (back)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

#237 Bernie Allen

#237 Bernie Allen
Bernie's not practicing his bunts. He's actually working at his second job: bat salesman.

Fun facts about Bernie Allen:

-Born in East Liverpool, OH, Bernie was a two-sport athlete at Purdue University, where he also played quarterback.

-He signed with the Twins in 1961 and played only 80 games in the minors before jumping to the big leagues the following year.

-As a rookie second baseman, Allen played in all but three of the team's games and set offensive marks that he would not surpass for the rest of his career: a .269 average, 12 home runs, 64 RBI, and 27 doubles. He was named to the Topps All-Star Rookie team.Link
-On May 6, 1962, his walkoff three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth gave the Twins a 10-7 win over Detroit.

-The dreaded sophomore slump struck in 1963, as he carried a .198 average in mid-August before heating up over the final weeks of the season to end the year at .240.

-A takeout slide by Don Zimmer in June 1964 tore the anterior cruciate ligament in Bernie's knee. A team-sponsored doctor misdiagnosed him, claiming that he did not need surgery.

-The infielder sought out a surgeon at his own expense and had the knee repaired, even though the ligament had shriveled in the ensuing months since the injury.

-Despite worries that his career was over, Allen did return to play 767 games over the next nine seasons. He was not quite the same player, hitting above .250 only once.

-After stints with the Senators and Yankees, he finished up with the Expos in 1973. For his career, Bernie hit .239 with 73 home runs and 351 RBI.

-He currently lives in Carmel, IN.
#237 Bernie Allen (back)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

#236 Dennis McLain

#238 Dennis McLain
You may know today's player better as Denny McLain. Go figure - Topps called Denny "Dennis", but spent years calling Dennis Martinez "Denny". Sheesh. Anyway, this is his rookie card, for those who are into that kind of thing.

Fun facts about Denny McLain:

-Hailing from Chicago, Denny signed with the hometown White Sox right out of high school in 1962.

-The Tigers claimed him on waivers the following year and called him up in September after he won 18 games at A and AA. He won two of his three starts - both complete games.

-An underwhelming 1964 was followed by a breakout the next year: 16-6, 2.61 ERA, 13 complete games, four shutouts, and 192 strikeouts.

-1966 brought Denny's first 20-win season and All-Star selection, but his ERA jumped to 3.92.

-In the Year of the Pitcher (1968), none in the American League was more dominant than McLain. He became the last pitcher to date to win thirty games (31-6), compiled a 1.96 ERA, and led the league in wins, win percentage (.838), complete games (28), innings pitched (336), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.44). He was the unanimous Cy Young and the runaway choice for A.L. MVP. He won only one of his three World Series starts, but it was a Game Six laugher that drew Detroit even with the Cardinals.

-Denny made it back-to-back Cys with a 24-9, 2.80 ERA, nine-shutout effort in 1969 that allowed him to share honors with Mike Cuellar.

-Arm troubles and a deepening gambling addiction caused his career to run off the rails after that. He was shuttled from Detroit to Washington, where he led the league with 22 losses in 1971, to Oakland, and finally to Atlanta, all in the span of three seasons.

-The Braves released McLain in March 1973, ending his major league career at age 28. By the end of the year, he was out of professional baseball altogether. In parts of ten seasons he had gone 131-91 with a 3.39 ERA and 105 complete games.

-Denny made money during and after his career by playing the organ; he even used to play at Tigers games when he was still active.

-His life has often been difficult in the decades since he hung up his spikes. He made cash as a golf hustler, and was imprisoned under drug trafficking, racketeering, and embezzlement charges (the conviction was later reversed). His daughter was killed by a drunk driver at age 26. He spent another six years in prison after a packing company that he owned went bankrupt; the charges were embezzlement, mail fraud, and conspiracy. He currently lives in Pinckney, MI with his wife Sharon.
#238 Dennis McLain (back)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

#233 Don Zimmer

#233 Don Zimmer
ZIM! This is a much more fresh-faced Don Zimmer than most baseball fans are accustomed to seeing. You can even make out his eyes.

Fun facts about Don Zimmer:

-A native Cincinnatian, Don signed with the Dodgers at age 18 in 1949.

-Nicknamed "Popeye" for his resemblance to the cartoon sailor, Zimmer suffered serious beanings in 1953 and 1956. The former resulted in holes being drilled in his skull to relieve swelling, and they were later filled with metal "buttons". This led to a false rumor that he had a steel plate in his head.

-Don broke in with Brooklyn in 1953 and was a part-timer on some very talented Dodger teams over his first four seasons. He hit 15 home runs in only 280 at-bats for the 1955 World Champs.

-In 1958, he saw time in 127 games and hit a career-high .262 with 17 homers and 60 RBI. The stocky infielder even stole 14 bases in 16 tries.

-After dipping to .165 in 1959, he played regularly for the Cubs for two seasons and earned an All-Star berth in 1961. He hit just .252 that year, but doubled 25 times.

-He was a member of the inaugural 1962 Mets. Though he played just 14 games for them, he set the tone for their hapless season by committing an error on their first play and collecting four hits in 52 at-bats (.077).

-Short stints with the Reds and Dodgers (again) were followed by a two-year run in Washington to bring his twelve-year career to a close. He hit .235 with 91 home runs and 352 RBI.

-After spending a year playing in Japan and four years as a minor league manager, he became a major league coach with the Expos in 1971. Over the next three decades, he would also coach the Padres, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Giants, and Rockies.

-Zimmer also had some good years as a manager, though he gained a reputation for coming up just short. After a tough two years in San Diego, he had three straight 90-plus-win seasons in Boston but was criticized for presiding over the team's infamous 1978 collapse (Pitcher Bill Lee called him "the Gerbil"). He didn't last long in Texas, and three-plus seasons with the Cubs (1988-1991) were notable for an NL East championship in 1989 that earned Zim a Manager of the Year award; Chicago was dispatched in the NLCS by the Giants in five games. Currently, Don is a special advisor for the Tampa Bay Rays.
#233 Don Zimmer (back)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

#229 Lou Clinton

#229 Lou Clinton
Fun facts about Lou Clinton:

-Born in Ponca City, OK, Lou signed with the Red Sox at age 17 in 1955.

-Started regularly in right field for Boston in 1960, his rookie season, but hit only .228.

-On August 9, 1960, he gave an unfortunate assist to a home run by Cleveland's Vic Power. The ball hit off the top of the fence and caromed back to Lou, who inadvertently kicked it over the wall before it touched the ground!

-After spending much of 1961 in the minors, he returned to Fenway in 1962 and was much improved. He reached career highs in average (.294), doubles (24), and triples (10 - 2nd in the A.L.). He also hit 18 homers and drove in 75.

-July 13, 1962 was a day to remember for Lou. He hit for the cycle against the Athletics and went 5-7 with a walk, four runs scored, and four RBI, culminating in a game-winning RBI single in the 15th inning! Although the teams played six extra innings, he didn't need them - he clinched the cycle with a single in the ninth.

-Finished second on the Red Sox with 22 home runs and 77 RBI in 1963, though his average plunged to .232.

-His production dropped along with his batting average the following season, and he was traded to the Angels. He stayed in L.A. for little over a year before being selected on waivers by the A's. He played a single game in Kansas City before the waiver claim was voided and he was returned to the Angels. The Indians then put in a waiver claim for him, and he lasted a full dozen games in Cleveland before being traded the following January. Makes your head spin.

-Clinton hit .220 as a reserve for the Yankees in 1966, and appeared in six games the following year before finishing his pro career at AAA San Diego. He hit .247 in parts of eight big league seasons with 65 home runs and 269 RBI.

-He moved to Wichita, KS after his retirement and owned and operated a business called Clinton Productions Corp.

-Lou passed away in 1997 at age 60.
#229 Lou Clinton (back)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

#228 Jack Sanford

#228 Jack Sanford
In case you're keeping score, this is the seventh card in a sequence, all sent as part of the huge contribution by Jamie Whyte. There's one more to come, which means that I knocked #222-229 off of my checklist all at once!

Fun facts about Jack Sanford:

-Born in Wellesley Hills, MA, Jack was signed by the Phillies as a teenager in 1948.

-Jack's ascent to the major leagues was slowed by a year-plus spent in military service. He also struggled with his control, as it pertained to both pitching mechanics and his temper. In 1954, he was suspended for ten games after refusing to give the ball to his manager as he was being removed from a game.

-He finally debuted with the Phillies at age 27 in 1956, winning his first career start on September 16 by pitching around eight walks, four hits, and a hit batter!

-Sanford was an All-Star and the runaway choice for Rookie of the Year in 1957, as he went 19-8 with a 3.08 ERA and 15 complete games. He led the National League with 188 strikeouts and a hits-per-nine-innings ratio of 7.4.

-After a sophomore slump (10-13, 4.44), he was dealt to the Giants. His first three seasons with the club were solid, as he won 40 games, lost 35, and compiled a 3.73 ERA.

-1962 was a career year for Jack. He helped San Francisco to its first pennant on the West Coast by posting a 24-7 record (including a 16-game win streak that stretched from June to September) and a 3.43 ERA. Despite a seventh-place finish in MVP voting, he lost out on the Cy Young Award to the Dodgers' Don Drysdale, who was 25-9 with a 2.83 ERA and 232 strikeouts.

-He shined in the World Series, shutting out the Yankees on three hits in Game Two before pitching into the eighth in a 5-3 loss in Game Five. He returned in the decisive seventh game and lost a heartbreaker, surrendering the lone run that made the difference in the fifth inning. His earned run average for the Series was 1.93.

-A league-leading 42 starts totaling 284.1 innings in 1963 may have been the root of arm troubles for the righty. He moved to the bullpen after that season, toiling for the Giants, Angels, and Athletics over the next four years.

-Jack retired in 1967, wrapping up his dozen years in the majors with 137 wins, 101 losses, 76 complete games, and a 3.69 ERA.

-He coached for the Indians in 1968 and 1969 and later scouted for the Red Sox. He was also a golf course director. Sanford died of brain cancer in 2000 at age 70.
#228 Jack Sanford (back)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

#227 Bobby Klaus

#227 Bobby Klaus
So much for our respite from the hatless. I have several cards of Bobby's brother Billy, a former Oriole. Those suave good looks run in the family, let me tell you.

Fun facts about Bobby Klaus:

-A native of Spring Grove, IL, Bobby attended the University of Illinois before signing with Cincinnati in 1959.

-He finally reached the big leagues in his sixth pro season but struggled, managing just 17 hits in 93 at-bats with the Reds for a .183 average.

-The Mets purchased his contract in July 1964 and the second half of his rookie season was less rocky. Receiving more regular playing time all around the infield, he hit .244 in 56 games with New York to bring his cumulative average to .225.

-Bobby's saving grace as a hitter was his ability to draw a walk. In 1965, he walked almost as often as he struck out (45 BB/49 K) to eke out a .302 on-base percentage despite hitting only .191.

-His moment in the sun was a walk-off home run on April 15, 1965, as he took Claude Raymond deep in the bottom of the tenth inning to defeat the Astros 5-4.

-The following February, he was traded to the Phillies. He spent all of the next three seasons at AAA San Diego, where he had previously played in 1962-1963 (it was a Reds affiliate back then). Ironically, he was then drafted by the new National League franchise in...San Diego, but flipped to the Pirates months later. An unsuccessful 1969 season with Pittsburgh's AAA Columbus club spelled the end of his baseball career at age 31.

-In two seasons in the majors, Bobby hit .208 with a .297 on-base percentage, six home runs, and 29 RBI.

-He was beaten by the best: in 87 at-bats against future Hall of Famers, Bobby scraped out 14 hits (.161 AVG).

-As previously mentioned, his older brother was Billy Klaus, an infielder for the Braves, Red Sox, Orioles, Senators, and Phillies (1952-1963). He was the runner-up to Herb Score in Rookie of the Year balloting in 1955.
#227 Bobby Klaus (back)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

#226 Yankees Rookie Stars: Elvio Jimenez and Jake Gibbs

#226 Yankees Rookie Stars: Elvio Jimenez and Jake Gibbs
I don't have much to say about this double-shot Yankee card, other than that it breaks up a run of three straight hatless players. As an English major, I also have to call your attention to the apostrophe abuse on the card back. C'mon, Topps!

Fun facts about Elvio Jimenez:

-Hailing from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, Elvio signed with the Yankees as a teenager in 1959.

-He climbed sure and steady through the New York organization, hitting .296 or better in each of his first seven pro seasons.

-The Yanks gave Elvio a brief look in 1964 - very brief. His first and only major league game was October 4, 1964. He singled twice against a great pair of pitchers, Luis Tiant and Tommy John. He finished his career with a .333 batting average in six at-bats.

-He continued playing in the minors for seven years after his lone big league game, and logged nine years in AAA in total. He was a .307 hitter in the minor leagues.

-Jimenez also played in the Dominican for Tigres de Licey from 1958-1976, and still coaches for the club.

-His nickname was "Mulito".

-His brother Manny Jimenez was an outfielder who hit .272 in parts of seven seasons with the Athletics, Pirates, and Cubs.

Fun facts about Jake Gibbs:

-Born in Grenada, MS, Jake signed with the Yankees in 1961 after playing collegiately at the University of Mississippi.

-He was also an All-American as Ole Miss' quarterback, and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He chose a career in baseball despite being drafted by the AFL's Houston Oilers and the NFL's Cleveland Browns. I'm sure a $105,000 bonus didn't hurt.

-Jake was sent straight to AAA Richmond, and spent the better part of four seasons there.

-He had cups of coffee with New York in 1962, 1963, and 1964 before arriving for good in mid-1965.

-After backing up Elston Howard for a few years, Gibbs took over as the primary catcher for the Yanks in 1967. Even by the offense-deficient standards of the late-1960s, he was subpar with the bat, hitting .222 and slugging .282 during his three years in the starting lineup.

-The emergence of Thurman Munson in 1970 pushed Jake back into a reserve role, but he responded by hitting a career-high .301 with eight home runs in 153 at-bats.Link
-On August 14, 1970, his home run in the bottom of the tenth won the game for the Yankees, 3-2 over the Royals.

-A .218 average in 1971 brought his career to a close at age 32. In parts of ten seasons he hit .233 with 25 homers and 146 RBI.

-He returned to Ole Miss as head coach in 1972 and his team won the SEC Championship and set a conference record for consecutive wins. He stayed for 19 seasons and a handful of his players went on to the major leagues, most notably lefty pitcher Jeff Fassero.

-Gibbs came back to the Yankee organization as the manager of the rookie-level Tampa minor league club in 1994 and 1995. He again made his mark right away, guiding the young Yankees to an 80-52 record and a Florida State League championship in his first season.
#226 Yankees Rookie Stars: Elvio Jimenez and Jake Gibbs (back)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

#225 Bo Belinsky

#225 Bo Belinsky
Pitcher Bo Belinsky had a reputation as a free-wheeling playboy...and he's certainly giving you his best smoldering gaze on this card. Let's just move along...

Fun facts about Bo Belinsky:

-A native of New York City, Bo signed with the Pirates in 1956.

-A year later, Pittsburgh sent him to the Orioles. He spent four years in the Baltimore organization before the Angels claimed him in the Rule 5 draft.

-Thrust suddenly into the Halos rotation, the 25-year-old Belinsky made headlines by no-hitting the Birds on May 5. It was his fourth major league start, and part of a five-game winning streak to begin his career. He later remarked, "If I had known I was gonna pitch a no-hitter today, I would have gotten a haircut."

-He faded down the stretch but finished 10-11 with a 3.56 ERA. He also led the league in walks with 122.

-His hot start and charismatic personality brought Bo lots of attention. He had dalliances with Ann-Margret, Connie Stevens, Tina Louise (a.k.a. Ginger), and short-term fiancee Mamie Van Doren, among others. He had two wives, the first of them former Playmate of the Year Jo Collins.

-The off-the-field carousing may have taken its toll, as he slipped to 2-9 with a 5.75 ERA in his sophomore season.

-Despite rebounding with a 9-8 record and a 2.86 ERA in 1964, Bo was shut down in August by the team after a hotel room fight with elderly L.A. Times sportswriter Braven Dyer. That was the last straw, as the Angels traded him to the Phillies that offseason.

-The southpaw never delivered on that early promise, bouncing among the Phillies, Astros, Pirates, and Reds and finally washing out of the majors in 1970 at age 33. In parts of eight seasons, he was 28-51 with a 4.10 ERA.

-He overcame a bout with alcoholism, later becoming a spokesman and counselor for the clinic in Hawaii that treated him. He also worked as an auto agency representative in Las Vegas and turned to Christianity.

-In his later years, Bo battled bladder cancer before succumbing to a heart attack in 2001 at age 64.
#225 Bo Belinsky (back)