Thursday, October 28, 2010

#420 Larry Jackson

#420 Larry Jackson
Is "Larry Jackson" the most ordinary name of any player in this set? Ron Reed, Charlie Smith, and Bob Miller, to name a few, would certainly give him a run for his money. But he certainly wasn't an ordinary man.

Fun facts about Larry Jackson:

-Born in Nampa, ID, Larry attended Boise State University and signed with the Cardinals in 1951.

-In 1952, he dominated the Class C California League with a 28-4 record for the Fresno Cardinals. He had a 2.85 ERA and struck out 351 batters in 300 innings to take home the league's MVP award.

-St. Louis took their time with Jackson, promoting him to the majors in 1955 at age 24. He did not become a full-time member of the starting rotation until his fifth season, but by then he was already a two-time All-Star.

-The aforementioned All-Star seasons were 1957 (15-9, 3.47 ERA) and 1958 (13-13, 3.68).

-His best season with the Cards was 1960, when he posted an 18-13 record and a 3.48 ERA and completed 14 of his league-leading 38 starts. He was also chosen to the All-Star team for a third time.

-Larry was traded to the Cubs for the 1963 season, and received a fourth All-Star nod as he compiled a career-best 2.55 ERA in spite of a 14-18 record for the seventh-place club.

-Jackson received credit for nearly one-third of the Cubs' 76 wins in 1964, leading the majors with 24 victories against just 11 losses. He completed 19 of 38 starts and his 3.14 ERA was the lowest on the team. He finished...second in Cy Young voting, as there was only one award given for all of MLB and it went to the Angels' Dean Chance (20-9, 1.65 ERA, 11 shutouts). Hardly seems fair.

-He had the rare and dubious distinction of losing 20 games a year after winning 20, as the Cubs slipped to 72 wins in 1965 and Larry's ERA jumped to 3.85, leaving him with a rocky 14-21 mark.

-Larry spent the following three seasons with the Phillies, doing some of his best work in his mid-30s (2.95 cumulative ERA). Following the 1968 season, he was drafted by the new Montreal club but chose to retire. In 14 seasons he won 194 games (a record for a pitcher who never played on a pennant winner), lost 183, completed 149, and had a 3.40 ERA.

-He stayed busy after hanging up his spikes, making his mark back in Boise. He was a sportswriter, an insurance agent and lobbyist for paper manufacturers, and a four-term member of the Idaho State Legislature. He died of cancer in 1990 at age 59.
#420 Larry Jackson (back)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#419 Ruben Amaro

#419 Ruben Amaro
Ruben Amaro's expression seems to say, "If Bunning calls me 'Ruben Sandwich' one more time, I'm pegging him in the mouth with this ball."

Fun facts about Ruben Amaro (Senior):

-Hailing from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, Ruben signed with the Cardinals in 1954.

-His father Santos was a star in the Cuban and Mexican baseball leagues in the 1930s and 1940s, and was also a successful manager. He and Ruben were the first father-son duo to be inducted into the Salon de Fama, the Mexican Hall of Fame.

-He debuted with St. Louis in 1958 and doubled off of Warren Spahn for his first career hit. In 40 games that year he batted .224.

-That offseason he was traded to the Phillies, and soon established himself as a versatile infielder. In 1961, he played in a career-high 135 games and hit .257 with a .351 on-base percentage and nine triples.

-In 1964 he was named the National League's Gold Glove winner at shortstop, and also reached personal bests in batting average (.264), home runs (4), and RBI (34).

-Later in his career, Ruben played with the Yankees and Angels. He retired in 1969 as a .234 hitter, with 8 home runs and 156 RBI in parts of 11 seasons.

-He had a perfect day on August 13, 1967, with four hits and two walks in six plate appearances. He doubled twice and drove in two runs as the Yankees outslugged Cleveland 15-11.

-His son Ruben, Jr. was an outfielder for the Angels, Phillies, and Indians in the 1990s and is currently the general manager of the Phillies.

-Ruben, Sr. has stayed active in baseball as a scout, minor league manager (for the Phillies, Tigers, and Cubs), and coach (1980-1981 Phillies, 1983-1986 Cubs), and he managed the Venezuelan Aguilas del Zulia team to the 1984 Caribbean Series title.

-Amaro is currently a board member for the Baseball Assistance Team, a non-profit organization that helps retired professional baseball players who are in need of financial and medical assistance.
#419 Ruben Amaro (back)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#418 Johnny Edwards

#418 Johnny Edwards
Judging from the small crowd in the tiny bleachers behind Johnny Edwards, I assume this is a spring training photo. Either that, or Crosley Field was a lot more intimate than I realized.

Fun facts about Johnny Edwards:

-A native of Columbus, OH, Johnny starred at Ohio State University before signing with the Reds in 1959.

-He debuted with the Reds in June 1961 and served as their backup catcher for the remainder of the season. He struggled offensively (.186), but started three games in the World Series and contributed 4 hits in 11 at-bats, including a pair of RBI in Cincy's Game Two win.

-Edwards took over as Cincinnati's starting backstop in his sophomore season, and by 1963 he was recognized with an All-Star spot and a Gold Glove. That year he batted .259 with 11 home runs and a career-high 67 RBI. Behind the plate, he paced the National League in fielding percentage, range factor, and total putouts, and gunned down 46% of would-be base stealers.

-A second straight All-Star and Gold Glove campaign followed, as Johnny boosted his average to .281 in 1964.

-In 1965, he had a power surge, belting 17 homers and making the All-Star team for the third and final time. Five of his home runs came against future Hall of Famers.

-He caught two no-hitters in his career: Jim Maloney's 10-inning no-no on August 19, 1965 and Ray Washburn's gem on September 18, 1968.

-Johnny's batting average dipped below .200 in 1966 as he lost playing time to Don Pavletich. He continued to struggle the next year, and with Johnny Bench ready to take the reins in 1968 the veteran was traded to the Cardinals. He backed up Tim McCarver as St. Louis captured the N.L. pennant.

-After one season with the Cards, he was dealt to Houston, where he regained his status as an everyday player. His offense never rose to the level of his early years (.237 for his Astros tenure), he did remain an elite defender. He topped the N.L. in fielding percentage from 1969-1971, and threw out at least 42% of would-be base stealers in each of those three years.

-Edwards remained with Houston through the 1974 season before retiring. In 14 seasons he batted .242 with 81 home runs and 524 RBI.

-During his playing career, he found work in the offseason as an engineer in research and development in nuclear fuel elements for General Electric. As Baseball Digest's Bill Bryson noted, it certainly bucks the notion of "tools of ignorance"!

#418 Johnny Edwards (back)

Monday, October 25, 2010

#417 Ed Brinkman

#417 Ed Brinkman
How about that! The first blog post after the Rangers clinch their first trip to the World Series features a player from the Rangers' previous incarnation in Washington.What are the odds? About 1 in 20, I suppose.

Fun facts about Ed Brinkman:

-Ed was born in Cincinnati and attended Western Hills High School with Pete Rose. He hit .460 and won 15 games as a senior and was thought to be a superior player to the future "Charlie Hustle". The Senators signed him and gave him a $75,000 bonus in 1961.

-His younger brother Chuck was a seldom-used catcher for the White Sox and Pirates from 1969-1974.

-Ed got a quick look in 1961 before joining the Senators to stay in June 1962. By the following season, he was the everyday shortstop. He set the tone for his career by playing airtight defense to counteract a weak bat (.228 AVG, .276 OBP), and did manage to tie for the club lead with 20 doubles.

-For his career, he set a record with seven seasons of at least 400 at-bats, fewer than 15 home runs, and a batting average below .230.

-In the 1969 and 1970 seasons, Brinkman received a boost under the tutleage of Washington manager and Hall of Fame outfielder Ted Williams, posting career highs in batting average (.266 and .262, respectively).

-On May 23, 1970, he drove in a career-high three runs, with two doubles among his four hits in a 6-5 Senators win over the Tigers. He helped rally the team from a 5-1 sixth-inning deficit and ultimately drove in the winning run with a ninth-inning single.

-After the 1970 season he was traded to the Tigers in the deal that brought Denny McLain to the Sens. His skills at shortstop were finally more widely noticed, thanks in part to a record-setting 72-game errorless streak in 1972. That year he had a .990 fielding percentage (well above the league average of .967 for shortstops) and won his only Gold Glove, and the Tigers captured the A.L. East crown. The local media named him "Tiger of the Year", and he finished ninth in A.L. MVP voting...this despite a .203/.259/.279 batting line!

-1973 brought Ed's lone All-Star nod, though he had a better overall year in 1974. In the latter season he obliterated his previous high in home runs (8) with a total of 14 longballs and also set a personal best with 54 RBI. His first five homers that season came off of an impressive roll of pitchers: Juan Marichal, Jim Kaat (2), Frank Tanana, and Fergie Jenkins!

-In a little less than six months (November 1974-June 1975) he was shipped from Detroit to San Diego to St. Louis to Texas to the Yankees. It foretold the end of his career, as he played just 73 games in 1975 and was released by New York the next spring. In parts of 15 seasons he hit .224 with 60 home runs and 461 RBI.

-Ed stayed in baseball for nearly thirty years following his retirement, coaching at the major league level for the Tigers, Padres, and White Sox and managing in the Detroit farm system, where his Montgomery Rebels won a Southern League championship in 1977. He also scouted for the White Sox until 2000. In September 2008, he died of lung cancer at age 66.
#417 Ed Brinkman (back)

Friday, October 22, 2010

#409 Astros Rookie Stars: Jim Beauchamp and Larry Dierker

#409 Astros Rookie Stars: Jim Beauchamp and Larry Dierker
If you're thinking that Larry Dierker looks especially young in this picture, that's probably because he was only 17...that would be 30 years younger than Jamie Moyer is today!

Fun facts about Jim Beauchamp:

-A native of Vinita, OK, Jim signed with the Cardinals in 1958 at age 18.

-He struggled to find his swing in the minors, finally putting things together in 1963. In his fourth stint at AA Tulsa, he won the Texas League MVP award. He batted .337 with 35 doubles, 10 triples, 31 home runs, and 105 RBI. He received a September cup of coffee from St. Louis as well.

-An offseason trade sent him to the Astros. Spending much of the year at AAA Oklahoma City, he walloped 32 doubles and 34 homers. In 23 games with Houston he batted only .164.

-Beauchamp continued to scuffle in limited looks at the majors with the Astros and Braves, and didn't stick in the bigs until he was acquired by the Reds in 1968. The 28-year-old hit .256 in a two-year tenure as a reserve outfielder, first baseman, and pinch hitter with Cincinnati.

-In 1970, Jim had return engagements with both the Astros and Cardinals. The following year he reached career highs of 77 games played and 175 plate appearances with St. Louis and hit .235.

-He finished his career as a Met, batting .254 overall in the 1972-1973 seasons. On August 21, 1972, he had his only career two-homer game, driving in all of New York's runs in a 4-2 win over the Astros. His two-run shot off of Jim Ray in the bottom of the ninth broke a tie and sent the Shea Stadium crowd home smiling.

-In parts of 10 seasons, he hit .231 with 14 homers and 90 RBI.

-After hanging up his spikes, Jim spent sixteen years (1975-1990) managing in the minors for the Astros, Reds, Blue Jays, and Braves. He won league championships with the AAA Charleston Charlies in 1977 and the AAA Richmond Braves in 1989.

-He then spent nearly a decade as Bobby Cox's bench coach in Atlanta and later served as the Braves' minor league outfield coordinator.

-On Christmas Day 2007, Beauchamp lost his life to leukemia at age 68. The Braves honored him with a sleeve patch bearing his nickname ("Beach") for the duration of the 2008 season. His high school baseball field in Grove City, OK still bears his name, as it has since 2002.

Fun facts about Larry Dierker:

-Hollywood-born Larry Dierker was a highly coveted prep pitcher out of Taft High School when he signed with Houston in 1964.

-He pitched only nine minor league games before making his MLB debut on his 18th birthday. He was knocked out in the third inning of his only start (after having the thrill of striking out Willie Mays in the first), but ended the year on a high note with six scoreless innings of relief in two October appearances.

-Pitching in 26 games in 1965, Larry went 7-8 with a 3.50 ERA. During his career, his earned run average exceeded 4.00 in only one full season.

-The 22-year-old Dierker had a career year in 1969, posting a 20-13 record with a 2.33 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 20 complete games, and 232 strikeouts...all career bests. He was selected for the All-Star team.

-A second All-Star nod came in 1971. Though he made only 23 starts that year, he was excellent when he was able to pitch (12-6, 2.72 ERA).

-After several close calls, Larry finally pitched a no-hitter on July 9, 1976, striking out eight Expos in a 6-0 win.

-His 13-year tenure with the Astros ended after the 1976 season when the club traded him to the Cardinals. He pitched for St. Louis 11 times, going 2-6 with a 4.58 ERA. He was released the following March, bringing an end to his career at age 31.

-Overall, Larry was 139-123 with a 3.31 ERA and 106 complete games in 329 starts. He is third all-time in wins for the Astros franchise with 137, trailing only Joe Niekro (144) and Roy Oswalt (143). His 25 career shutouts are a club record.

-He returned to Houston in 1978 in a front-office role, and moved to their broadcast booth shortly thereafter. He's had two stints as the Astros color commentator totaling more than 25 years.

-In 1997 he was hired as the Astros' manager, a surprise choice to say the least. Despite his lack of coaching experience, Dierker guided the team to four N.L. Central championships in his five years at the helm. He also survived a medical scare in 1999, when he suffered a grand mal seizure in the dugout during a game. He was diagnosed with dislodged blood vessels in his brain and missed 27 games, but made a full recovery and returned to the team in time to lead them to the postseason. Unfortunately, his Astros never won a playoff series, and he was fired after the 2001 season and replaced by Jimy Williams. Houston held a ceremony to retire Larry's #49 on May 19, 2002.
#409 Astros Rookie Stars: Jim Beauchamp and Larry Dierker (back)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

#407 Lee Maye

#407 Lee Maye
Let's set things straight from the get-go: Lee Maye (who played in MLB from 1959-1971) and Lee May (1965-1982) were two separate people. Their careers overlapped for a few years, which had to be confusing. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your opinion) they were never teammates.

Fun facts about Lee Maye:

-Born in Tuscaloosa AL, Lee attended Jefferson High School in Los Angeles before signing with the Braves in 1954.

-He was a line-drive hitter who compiled gaudy batting averages at every minor league stop, hitting .309 and slugging .522 in parts of nine minor league seasons.

-When the Braves called him up from AAA Louisville in July 1959, the 24-year-old was hitting .339 with 17 homers and 79 RBI in 94 games. He hit safely in five straight games to begin his career, and his average in 51 major league games that year was an even .300.

-After appearing in only 41 games in his sophomore season, Lee hit a career-high 14 home runs in 1961.

-On April 15, 1963, he entered a game vs. the Mets as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning and flied out. He remained in the game, replacing starting left fielder Denis Menke. Given another at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, he delivered a walkoff win with a two-out, two-run home run off of Tracy Stallard.

-Maye's best season was 1964, when he led the N.L. with 44 doubles and also reached career highs with 96 runs scored, 74 RBI, and a .304 average.

-He was dealt to the Astros in early 1965 and spent two seasons in Houston. In 1966, he batted .288 and trailed only Sonny Jackson (.292) for the team lead.

-After leaving Houston, Lee spent two and one-half seasons with the Indians, where he played part-time. In 1968, he hit .281 when the league average was only .230.

-Maye also played for the Senators (1969-1970) and White Sox (1970-1971) at the end of his career. Overall, he hit .274 with 94 home runs and 419 RBI in a career that spanned 13 seasons.

-During and after his baseball career, Lee moonlighted as a doo-wop singer, recording on more than a dozen labels with groups billed as the Crowns, "5" Hearts/Rams, the Jayos, and Country Boys and City Girls. He also had several solo albums. His 1964 album "Halfway Out of Love" sold more than a half-million copies. Maye later worked for Amtrak. He died from pancreatic cancer in July 2002 at age 67.

#407 Lee Maye (back)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

#406 Ralph Terry

#406 Ralph Terry
Whaddaya know? It's another hastily assembled Yankees-to-Indians card. It's a good thing that Topps didn't give Ralph Terry the Stan Williams treatment, otherwise we would have been denied the sight of his luscious mop of hair.

Fun facts about Ralph Terry:

-A native of Big Cabin, OK, Ralph signed with the Yankees in 1953 at age 17.

-New York called him up to the big leagues in August 1956, in just his third season of pro ball. He won his major league debut against the Red Sox, but was knocked around in all three of his starts and sent back to the minors.

-By the following year, Terry was in the bigs to stay. Unfortunately for him, a midseason trade to Kansas City left him with a 5-12 record despite a 3.33 ERA. He led the A's with just 80 strikeouts.

-He endured two more consecutive losing seasons, but was reacquired by the Yankees in 1959 and went 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA in the proceeding season. However, he also had the misfortune of losing two games in the World Series. The second loss went down in baseball history, as he served up Bill Mazeroski's walkoff, Series-deciding home run.

-Ralph shook off his role in the Yanks' Fall Classic failure, rebounding to post a 16-3 record with a 3.15 ERA and 1.08 WHIP to earn a regular slot in the team's rotation in 1961. Though he was again uneven in the postseason, New York bested the Reds to claim the world championship.

-1962 was an immensely successful year for Terry. He received his only All-Star nod and led the A.L. in wins (23, against 12 losses) and innings pitched (298.2). He was third in strikeouts with 176 and fourth in complete games with 14. Even with such a heavy workload, his 3.19 ERA was eighth-best in the league, the third straight season he landed in the top ten. He also shone at last in the Fall Classic, winning World Series MVP honors for three great starts. He lost a 2-0 heartbreaker to Jack Sanford in Game Two, went the distance in a 5-3 win in Game Five, and outdueled Sanford in a 1-0 classic in Game Seven. The Yankee hurler held the Giants to four hits and won by a razor-thin margin when second baseman Bobby Richardson speared Willie McCovey's line drive with two runners in scoring position to end the game and the series.

-He was just as good if not better the next year, posting a 3.22 ERA and leading the league with 18 complete games and a 1.06 WHIP. But when he was good, he was great (1.53 ERA in his wins) and when he was bad, he was terrible (6.24 ERA in his losses), contributing to a mediocre 17-15 record.

-Ralph's struggles became more acute in 1964, and he eventually lost his place in the starting rotation. This jump-started the itinerant phase of his career, as he played for three teams in the final three years of his career: Indians (1965), Athletics (1966), and Mets (1966-1967).

-In parts of 12 seasons, he was 107-99 with a 3.62 ERA. He completed 75 of 257 starts and also saved 11 games.

-After retiring from baseball, Terry became a pro golfer. He was a PGA of America Sectional Champion, which qualified him to play in four PGA Tour events spanning 1981 and 1982. He joined the PGA Senior Tour in 1986, and his best result was a tenth-place finish at the 1989 Showdown Classic.
#406 Ralph Terry (back)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#404 Stan Williams

#404 Stan Williams
Even by Topps' low standards of obfuscation for players with midseason or off-season team changes, this photo is a gem. You can see where they just filled in the Yankees logo on Stan Williams' hat, and the logo on the left breast of his jersey is partially visible as well, to say nothing of the blurry Yankee teammates in the background. I think the card-back notation about his March 1965 acquisition by the Indians is more excuse than explanation.

Fun facts about Stan Williams:

-A native of Enfield, NH, Stan attended high school in Denver, CO before signing with the Dodgers in 1954.

-Standing at 6'4", weighing 225 pounds, and pitching inside to hitters with an overpowering fastball, he earned the nickname "Big Daddy".

-Debuting with the Dodgers in his fifth pro season, Williams received 21 starts and went 9-7 with a 4.01 ERA. In his first big league start and second overall appearance, he two-hit the Cubs on June 1 for a 1-0 victory.

-Was an All-Star for the first and only time in 1960, when he was 14-10 and ranked fourth in the N.L. with a 3.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. His 175 strikeouts were sixth-best.

-After winning 43 games in a three-year span, Stan was traded to the Yankees in late 1962 for Moose Skowron. He put together a 3.21 ERA in 29 games (21 starts) in his first season in the Bronx.

-His major league career hit a speed bump after the Indians acquired him in early 1965 - he pitched only three games with them that year and none the following year and spent a majority of his time from 1965-1967 at AAA. Rebounded to go 13-11 with a 2.50 ERA and nine saves for Cleveland in 1968.

-The Twins received Williams and Luis Tiant in a trade in the winter of 1970 and moved the former to the bullpen full-time. He had an incredible season, winning 10 of his 11 decisions with a 1.99 ERA and 15 saves.

-Could not replicate his success in 1971 and was traded to the Cardinals in midseason. Pitched only three times for the Red Sox the following year and that was it for his major league career. In parts of 14 seasons he was 109-94 with a 3.48 ERA and 43 saves.

-He pitched in three postseason series (1959 and 1963 World Series, 1970 ALCS) and did not allow a run in four appearances totaling 11 innings. Allowed three hits and three walks and struck out eight.

-After managing the Bristol Red Sox in 1974, he was a big league coach for several years with the Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees, Reds, and Mariners. He later scouted for the Devil Rays and is now an advance scout for the Nationals.
#404 Stan Williams (back)

Friday, October 15, 2010

#403 Boston Red Sox Team

#403 Boston Red Sox Team
You know what's odd? This team card doesn't match the color scheme of the Red Sox player cards in this set. Those have green borders and yellow names, whereas this has a black border and white text. Someone fell asleep on the job.

The 1964 season was smack dab in the middle of a sustained drought for the Red Sox. They finished eighth out of the ten American League teams with a 72-90 record (27 games behind the Yankees), the sixth consecutive season that they landed in the second division. They would bottom out in ninth place in each of the following two seasons before staging a remarkable turnaround in 1967. The '64 club was managed by former Boston infielder Johnny Pesky, who was relieved of his duties with two games left and replaced by third base coach Billy Herman. The total home attendance for the year was 883,276. Despite drawing less than a million fans to Fenway, the Sox were fifth in the A.L. in attendance.

The BoSox finished fifth in runs scored with 688, a disappointment when you consider their other offensive statistics. They were first in batting average (.258), on-base percentage (.322), and doubles (253), and second in slugging (.416) and home runs (186). Eight players hit at least 13 homers, led by first baseman Dick Stuart (33 HR, 114 RBI) and outfielder/second baseman Felix Mantilla (a career-high 30 HR). Of course, no player other than Stuart even had as many as 70 RBI. 19-year-old Tony Conigliaro (.290 AVG, .883 OPS, 24 HR in 111 games) had a great rookie season in left field and center fielder Carl Yastrzemski (.289 AVG, .374 OBP) was productive despite missing the All-Star Game for the only time in a 17-year stretch of his career. Speaking of the Midsummer Classic, shortstop Eddie Bressoud (.293 AVG, .372, OBP, 41 2B) and third baseman Frank Malzone (.264, 13 HR, 56 RBI in the beginning of a decline phase) made the squad as reserves.

The Red Sox pitching was not a pretty sight in 1964. Second-to-last in ERA (4.50), complete games (21), and hits, walks, and runs allowed (793 R). Pitching in Fenway couldn't have helped, but no one on the staff had a winning record save for All-Star closer Dick Radatz (16-9, 2.29 ERA, 29 SV). Top starter Bill Monbouquette dropped from 20-10 in 1963 to 13-14, despite a negligible change in ERA (up from 3.81 to 4.01). He had five of the team's seven shutouts. Earl Wilson led Boston with 166 strikeouts, but was 11-12 with a 4.49 ERA. Manager Pesky gave Jack Lamabe a career-high 25 starts, and he responded with a disastrous 5.53 ERA...though it was better than his 8.14 mark in 14 relief appearances.

By 1964, Boston's infamous world championship drought had reached 46 years. They hadn't even won an American League pennant in 18 seasons. But after three straight years with 90 or more losses, they almost realized "the Impossible Dream" in 1967, scraping by the Twins and Tigers to capture the A.L. crown with 92 wins and enduring a heartbreaking World Series loss to the Cardinals in seven games. They would also drop seven-game Series to the Reds in 1975 and the Mets in 1986 before snapping their lengthy skid at 86 years with an incredible eight-game winning streak in the 2004 postseason. Now everyone is sick to death of them. ;)
#403 Boston Red Sox Team (back)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

#401 Carl Willey

#401 Carl Willey
I wonder what reason Carl Willey could have for looking so glum. As the palm tree in the background indicates, he's in the tropical climate of Florida!

Fun facts about Carl Willey:

-Born in Cherryfield, ME, Carl signed with the Boston Braves in 1951.

-Like many players of his generation, Willey's pro career was interrupted by military service. In 1957, his third year back, he got untracked and won the AAA American Association's MVP award. He was 21-6 for the Wichita Braves, leading the league in victories, and completed 17 of his 32 starts with a 3.24 ERA.

-There was a lot of buzz surrounding the 27-year-old righthander as he began the 1958 season in the Braves bullpen, but he pitched sparingly and was sent back to the minors in May. He returned to Milwaukee several weeks later and shut out the Giants in his first career start, holding them to six hits while striking out seven.

-Remaining in the rotation for the rest of the season, Carl compiled a 9-7 record and a 2.70 ERA, buoyed by a league-leading four shutouts. He added one flawless inning of relief in the World Series, striking out Moose Skowron and Gil McDougald and inducing a flyout from Tony Kubek.

-He spent four more seasons with the Braves but failed to duplicate his early success and never received more than 22 starts in a season. His best year of the four was 1961, and even then his ERA was a mediocre 3.83 and his .333 winning percentage (6-12) was worst on the team.

-Traded to the Mets in 1963, Willey showed improvement during a season that was far from dull (more on that later). He matched his career high with nine wins (but lost 14) and turned in a team-best 3.10 ERA and four shutouts.

-Carl pitched the game of his life on June 23, 1963, holding the Phillies to three base runners (two hits and a hit batter) in a 5-0 victory. However, he was upstaged by eccentric teammate Jimmy Piersall, who celebrated his 100th career home run by circling the bases backward!

-He hit two home runs in his career, and the second one helped to earn him a win. On July 15, 1963, Carl faced Houston and gave up two runs in the top of the second inning to put the Mets in a hole. They mounted a rally in their next at-bat, and Joe Hicks' one-out double made it a 2-1 game. With one out and two runners in scoring position, the Colt .45s chose to intentionally walk shortstop Larry Burright to bring Willey (who would hit .099 for his career) to the plate. He tagged opposing starter Ken Johnson for a grand slam to give himself a 5-2 lead! The unlikely slugger ended up making it through just five innings while allowing four runs, but the Mets broke the game open and triumphed 14-5.

-Carl lasted only three seasons with the Mets, pitching in 27 games total during his final two years. He was hampered by a sore arm and also lost time due to a Gates Brown line drive that fractured his jaw in the spring of 1964. In parts of eight seasons he was 38-58 with a 3.76 ERA and 11 shutouts.

-He returned home to Maine after retiring, and later scouted for the Phillies. He died of lung cancer in July 2009 at age 78.
#401 Carl Willey (back)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#397 Jerry Buchek

#397 Jerry Buchek
It appears as if Jerry Buchek is situated behind the bleachers in this photo. It seems that the St. Louis veterans played an awful mean trick on Jerry, convincing him that the real playing field was "over there".

Fun facts about Jerry Buchek:

-Jerry was a home town boy, having been born in St. Louis, MO and signing with the local major league club in 1959 at age 17.

-The Cards sent him directly to AA Tulsa for his first pro assignment in 1960, and he hit .333 to earn a promotion to AAA Rochester after just 36 games.

-After improving from .226 to .277 and rapping out 53 extra-base hits in his second try at AAA, Buchek earned a couple trials at the big league level in July and September of 1961. The 19-year-old was overmatched, striking out 28 times in 90 at-bats and recording only 12 hits (.133 AVG).

-He earned a roster spot with the Cardinals in 1964 following a few more years of seasoning and hit .200 as a utility infielder. That October he appeared in four of the club's seven World Series games, being inserted as a late-inning defensive replacement and/or pinch runner. In game six, he singled off of Jim Bouton in his only career postseason at-bat.

-Jerry's playing time increased each season from 1963 through 1967, culminating in a career year in his initial go-round with the Mets: .236 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI in 124 games.

-He had a flair for the dramatic in that 1967 campaign, hitting four game-tying or go-ahead homers in the eighth inning or later. This total includes a walkoff solo homer off of Houston' Claude Raymond to lead off the ninth inning; a two-out game-tying pinch homer off of Atlanta's Dick Kelley in the bottom of the ninth (the next four batters all reached and the Mets won on a walkoff walk issued by - who else - Claude Raymond); and...hold on, the last two deserve their own bullet point...

-On September 22, 1967, Jerry carried the Mets offense in the second half of a doubleheader vs. the Astros. With New York trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, his two-out, three-run homer off of Carroll Sembera gave the home team a 5-4 lead. Jack Fisher allowed Houston to tie in the ninth, setting the stage for Buchek to deliver again in the bottom of the tenth. Once again stepping to the plate with two out and two on, he delivered a walkoff three-run home run against Tom Dukes. His two homers and six RBI were both personal bests for a single game.

-He bottomed out in 1968, batting only .182 with a single home run in 73 games. The Mets dealt him back to St. Louis in December and the Phillies acquired him the following April, but he spent all of 1969 at AAA Eugene. It proved to be Jerry's final year as an active player, and he was only 27.

-In parts of seven major league seasons, he hit .220 with 22 home runs and 108 RBI.

-Taking a cue from the old Elias Baseball fact books and 1990s Studio cards:

Loved to face: Mike McCormick (.412, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB); Juan Marichal (.364)
Hated to face: Don Drysdale (0-for-17, 8 K!); Jim Bunning (.100)
#397 Jerry Buchek (back)

Friday, October 08, 2010

#396 Frank Bertaina

#396 Frank Bertaina
This is one of those photos in this set that is just full of fun quirks: the great 1960s Orioles road uniform, the mysterious background lurker, the positioning of Frank Bertaina's glove (do you think that anyone actually opens their glove up that quickly after delivering a pitch?). I even like that you can see the veins protruding from his pitching hand - the veins on my arms bulge kind of like that. More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.

Fun facts about Frank Bertaina:

-A native San Franciscan, Frank signed with the Orioles at age 17 in 1961.

-He shot through the minors, debuting with the O's in August 1964 in his third pro season. That year he had gone 11-4 with a 1.99 ERA at AA Elmira and struck out 121 hitters in 131 innings.

-The 20-year-old pitched in only six games for the Birds in his first taste of the majors, but he did earn his first career win in memorable fashion. On September 12, 1964, the lefty held Kansas City to a single hit, a fifth-inning leadoff double by Doc Edwards. He scattered five walks and struck out seven men to blank the A’s, 1-0. Incredibly, the Birds managed only one hit themselves, a John Orsino double in the bottom of the eighth. Bertaina bunted him to third and Jackie Brandt delivered the winning run with a sacrifice fly to make K.C.’s Bob Meyer a hard-luck loser. The Orioles actually set a record that day for the fewest official at-bats in a nine-inning game. Because they were home, they did not bat in the ninth. They had just one hit and one walk, and the walk was erased on a double play. Taking into account three sac bunts and the sac fly, the O’s were credited with only 19 at-bats!

-Despite some early success, Bertaina found it difficult to crack a rotation that included Wally Bunker, Milt Pappas, Steve Barber, and Dave McNally (to say nothing of Jim Palmer, who arrived in 1965). All told, he spent parts of five seasons at AAA Rochester, long enough to compile a 44-20 record. In 1965 he led the International League with 188 strikeouts in 181 innings, contributing to his Red Wings-record 501 career K's. He is a member of the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame.

-Splitting the 1966 season between Baltimore and Rochester, he won 9 of his 11 minor league starts with a 2.33 ERA and had a 3.13 ERA in 63.1 big league innings. Though the O's won the World Series, he did not pitch in the postseason.

-Frank had a reputation as an eccentric fellow; teammate and fellow pitcher Moe Drabowsky dubbed him "Toys in the Attic".

-In May 1967, the Orioles traded him to Washington. He had his most sustained success that season, going 7-6 with a 2.99 ERA overall and topping all Senators pitchers with four shutouts.

-He struggled in 1968, going 7-13 for the Sens with a 4.66 ERA and leading the American League with 17 wild pitches. Over the following two seasons, he had short stints back in Baltimore and in St. Louis, and he was through as a big leaguer at age 26. In parts of seven seasons he had a 19-29 record and a 3.84 ERA.

-Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle batted just .111 (2-for-18, 3 BB) against Bertaina with a single home run and RBI.

-Frank suffered a fatal heart attack at age 65 last March in Santa Rosa, CA.
#396 Frank Bertaina (back)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

#394 Jim Hannan

#394 Jim Hannan
Judging from the photos in this set, the 1964 Senators led the league in ill-fitting caps.

Fun facts about Jim Hannan:

-Jim hailed from Jersey City, NJ and attended the University of Notre Dame before signing with the Red Sox in 1961.

-In his first pro season, he led the New York-Penn League with 254 strikeouts in just 196 innings.

-Claimed by the Senators in the expansion draft, he spent most of the 1962 season in the Washington bullpen. He struggled with his control, walking 49 and striking out only 39 in 68 innings. But he did eke out a 3.31 ERA, lowest among the team's relievers. Did not allow a run in 13 straight games, July 4-August 10.

-Hannan earned his first career win on June 20, 1962 with three and two-thirds scoreless innings of relief.

-Bounced between the majors and minors in the five seasons following his rookie campaign, putting up a forgettable 4.40 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in the big leagues in that span.

-Working mostly as a starter, he had a solid season in 1968, with a 10-6 record for a Senators team that lost 96 total games. His 3.01 ERA was a career best.

-A brutal hitter even for a pitcher, he struck out in 13 consecutive at bats in 1968 to set an American League record.

-Jim closed out his Sens career with a 16-17 record and a 3.80 ERA in the next two seasons.

-1971 was Jim's swan song, and he split that year between the Tigers and Brewers. In parts of ten seasons, he was 41-48 with a 3.88 ERA.

-He had a mind for business, serving as a player representative and even writing a master's thesis on baseball's pension plan. Players' union pioneer Marvin Miller used this thesis to further his own knowledge of the subject. Hannan returned to Washington after his playing career ended and worked as a stockbroker.
#394 Jim Hannan (back)

Monday, October 04, 2010

#388 Johnny Blanchard

#388 Johnny Blanchard
Over the weekend I was watching some of MLB Network's filler programming. They were counting down great World Series moments, and went into detail on the wild Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, which featured several swings in momentum and ended with Bill Mazeroski's walkoff homer. Johnny Blanchard was interviewed for the piece, and even though he went on to win two championships with New York, you could tell that he was still stung by this one that got away. He was 5-for-11 in that series with two runs and two RBI, but was behind the plate when Maz went deep.

Fun facts about Johnny Blanchard:

-Johnny was born in Minneapolis, MN and signed with the Yankees for a $20,000 bonus in 1951 after finishing high school. He was also offered an NBA contract by the hometown Lakers.

-His early career was full of starts and stops. He spent his age 20 and 21 seasons serving in the military, then returned and led the Class A Eastern League with 34 home runs in 1955. He was promoted to New York in September, but played a single game before returning to the minors for another three years.

-Blanchard played sparingly with the Yanks in 1959 and 1960, serving mostly as a pinch hitter. He did not seemed suited to this role, as he batted only .118 (6-for-51, 4 BB) in pinch situations in that span.

-Appearing in 93 games in 1961, Johnny found his batting stroke. He hit .305 with a .382 on-base percentage and .613 slugging percentage, and walloped 21 home runs while driving in 54. His home run total tied for fifth-best on the club, but his ratio of a home run every 11.6 at bats trailed only Mantle and Maris, who were kind of good that year. He even improved his pinch hitting, batting .269 (7-for-26) with four home runs and 12 RBI.

-From July 21-26, 1961, he homered in four consecutive at-bats: a game-winning pinch grand slam off of Boston's Mike Fornieles, a game-tying pinch solo shot off of Boston's Gene Conley, and solo home runs in each of his first two at-bats against Chicago's Ray Herbert.

-He kept the good times rolling in the 1961 World Series, reaching base in half of his twelve plate appearances, homering as a pinch hitter in Game Three, and reaching base five out six trips to the plate (including a two-run homer) in the deciding Game Five.

-Blanchard remained a power bat off of the bench for the following two seasons (13 HR in 1962, 16 in 1963), but could not reach base at the same rate as he had in his career year (.228 AVG, .307 OBP in 1962-1963).

-In 1965, the Yankees stunned Johnny by trading him to the Athletics. Supposedly Mickey Mantle found him crying in the clubhouse and attempted to console him by telling him that he'd have more opportunities to play in Kansas City. As the story goes, Blanchard replied, "Hell, I can't play Mick, that's why I'm crying."

-That season proved to be his last, as he totaled 12 games with the Yanks, 52 with the A's, and 10 more with the Braves. In parts of eight seasons, he had hit .245 with 67 home runs and 200 RBI.

-In his post-baseball life, Johnny successfully overcame alcoholism and moved back home to Minnesota where he worked in real estate and auto sales. He was also a salesman for a producer of heavy-duty cranes and a printing company. He passed away at age 76 from a heart attack in March 2009.
#388 Johnny Blanchard (back)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

#384 Johnny Klippstein

#383 Johnny Klippstein
As a fellow member of the prematurely gray club, I really dig Johnny's salt-and-pepper look.

Fun facts about Johnny Klippstein:

-A native of Washington, D.C., Johnny signed with the Cardinals in 1944 before he even turned 17.

-During his five years in the minors, he was claimed by two other teams, going from the St. Louis organization to the Dodgers and finally to the Cubs, with whom he made his big league debut in 1950. The youngster struggled mightily as a rookie, going 2-9 with a 5.25 ERA and walking 64 batters while striking out only 51 in 104.2 innings. He would have control issues throughout his career (1.18 K/BB ratio), leading some to dub him "The Wild Man of Borneo".

-Klippstein never really had much success in Chicago, going 31-51 with a 4.79 ERA in five seasons before being dealt to Cincinnati. In 1955, he had a strong first year with the Reds, pitching to a 3.39 ERA that belied a 9-10 record.

-In 1956, he received a career-high 29 starts and went 12-11 with a 4.09 ERA and 11 complete games. Of course he also led the National League with 10 hit batters and had to be pulled from his start on May 26 after seven hitless innings due to seven walks allowed. The following season, he lost his chance at a no-no on a eighth-inning two-out single by Bob Hazle of Braves.

-An unremarkable year-plus with the Dodgers did culminate in a 1959 World Series victory. He saw action in Game One, shutting out the White Sox in two innings of relief.

-He tied for the American League lead with 14 saves in 1960, his lone season with the Indians. He was also 5-5 with a 2.91 ERA.

-On August 6, 1962, he won a game the hard way, tossing three scoreless innings against the Astros and hitting a solo home run in the 13th inning to deliver a 1-0 victory for the Reds.

-After a pair of poor seasons with the Senators and Reds, Johnny had a career year as a member of the 1963 Phillies. The 35-year-old had a 1.93 ERA and eight saves as the #2 man in the Phils bullpen.

-He was a vital reliever for the 1965 Twins club that won the American League pennant, winning nine of 12 decisions with a 2.24 ERA. He also posted a personal-best 1.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and turned in a pair of scoreless relief appearances in the Fall Classic.

-He concluded his career with a five-game cameo for the 1967 Tigers. In parts of 18 seasons, he was 101-118 with a 4.24 ERA and 66 saves. Johnny passed away in Elgin, IL in 2003, a week shy of his 76th birthday.


Friday, October 01, 2010

#383 Felipe Alou

#383 Felipe Alou
As someone who became a baseball fan in the 1990s when Felipe Alou was the wizened old manager of the Expos, it's hard for me to imagine him as a younger man. Yet here he is.

Fun facts about Felipe Alou:

-Born in Haina, Distrito Nacional, Dominican Republic, Felipe signed with the Giants in 1955.

-He debuted with New York on June 8, 1958, singling, doubling, and hitting a sac fly against the Reds. The 23-year-old saw action in 75 games; his playing time would increase in each of the next four seasons as he became the first Dominican to play regularly in the major leagues.

-After batting .289 with 18 home runs in 1961, Alou broke out the next year with a .316 average, 96 runs scored, 30 doubles, 25 home runs, and 98 RBI. He made the All-Star team for the first time, and batted .269 (7-for-26) in the Giants' seven-game World Series loss to the Yankees.

-In 1963, Felipe had the pleasure of playing with brothers Jesus and Matty for San Francisco. On September 22, the club fielded the only all-Alou outfield in major league history!

-He was traded to the Braves in 1964, giving him the rare honor of sharing real estate in the outfield with both Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in his career. In 1966, he had a career year: .327 with a league-leading 122 runs and 218 hits, 32 doubles, 31 home runs, and 74 RBI. He was an All-Star for the second time and finished fifth in MVP voting.

-Though 1966 proved to be his last big-power year, Felipe continued to be a skilled contact hitter. In 1968, he led the N.L. once more with 210 hits, batting .317 when the overall league average was .243. He received a third and final All-Star nod.

-He hit seven home runs in his career against the great Sandy Koufax, more than he hit against any other pitcher. The only other batters to homer seven times against Koufax were Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and Ernie Banks.

-Late in his career, he had short stays with the Athletics, Yankees, Expos, and Brewers. At age 36, he batted .289 and drove in 69 runs as New York's regular right fielder.

-After Milwaukee released him in April of 1974, he retired with a .286 batting average in parts of 17 seasons. He hit 206 home runs (including 20 to lead off games) with 852 RBI.

-Alou soon got into managing in the Expos farm system, winning two championships and a Florida State League Manager of the Year award in 12 seasons. His loyalty to the organization paid off when he was named Montreal's manager in May of 1992. He helmed the club for a decade, becoming the winningest manager in Expos history and getting the opportunity to manage son Moises (a career .303 hitter with 332 home runs) and nephew Mel Rojas (126 career saves). He later served as the Giants' skipper (2003-2006), leading the club to an N.L. West title in 2003.
#383 Felipe Alou (back)