Monday, February 28, 2011

#43 Mike Shannon

#43 Mike Shannon
We take a break from our regularly scheduled Max Marathon to present the fruits of the biggest all-1965 Topps trade I've conducted. This deal went down May of 2009, and my partner in crime was Kris Shepard of Cards in the Attic. I sent him 11 doubles that I'd acquired from Jamie (whose gargantuan contribution was featured on this blog in recent months), and in return he sent the 11 cards that I'll be posting over the coming weeks. We start today with Mike Shannon's uncorrected error card. His name is in red letters, whereas the rest of the Cardinals had yellow lettering. In my opinion, it looks cooler than the yellow-on-black motif.

Fun facts about Mike Shannon:

-Mike was born in St. Louis, MO and seemed poised to be a football star at the University of Missouri before the Cardinals enticed him to play pro baseball with a contract in 1958.

-He made his big league debut at age 22 in September 1962, collecting two singles and a walk in sixteen trips to the plate.

-Shannon fared better in an extended tryout during the final two months of the 1963 season, batting .308 as a late-inning replacement.

-During the Cardinals' championship season in 1964, he was sent back to the minors in May, but returned for good in July. Overall he started 59 games in left field and hit .261 with 9 home runs and 43 RBI.

-Mike played every inning of the seven-game 1964 World Series against the Yankees, a feat he would replicate in the 1967 and 1968 Fall Classics. In the sixth inning of Game One, he hit a game-tying two-run homer off of Whitey Ford, touching off a four-run rally that gave the Cards the lead for good.

-His first full season as an everyday player was 1966. That year he achieved career highs in average (.288), OPS (.801), and home runs (16). He also drove in 64 runs. Only Orlando Cepeda (17) hit more home runs that year for St. Louis.

-The outfielder hit the Cards' final home run at the original Busch Stadium (aka Sportsman's Park III) on May 8, 1966. Then he hit the team's first home run at the second Busch Stadium on May 13, 1966!

-He switched to third base in 1967. A year later, his personal-best of 79 RBI led the Cardinals. He also achieved a new high with 29 doubles and placed seventh in MVP voting.

-Mike's career was prematurely halted in 1970 when the 30-year-old was diagnosed with nephritis, a rare kidney disease. In parts of 9 seasons he batted .255 with 68 home runs and 367 RBI.

-Shannon has been one of the radio voices of the Cardinals since 1972. After longtime partner Jack Buck's passing in 2002, the former player was named the lead radio broadcaster. He also owns a restaurant within walking distance of Busch Stadium. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
#43 Mike Shannon (back)

Friday, February 25, 2011

#300 Sandy Koufax

#300 Sandy Koufax
It should go without saying that this card is one of the crown jewels of my 94% complete 1965 set. A number of the big-ticket players (Aaron, Clemente, Mantle) are still missing, but Max was good enough to pass Sandy Koufax along to me. I love the pose in this photo, too; it looks like he's staring down a batter and receiving signs from Johnny Roseboro.

Fun facts about Sandy Koufax:

-A native of Brooklyn, NY, Sandy briefly attended the University of Cincinnati. He tried out for the Giants and Pirates before signing with the Dodgers for a $14,000 bonus in 1954.

-As a "bonus baby", he had to go straight to the majors at age 19 in 1955. The Dodgers used him sparingly, but he did grab attention with a pair of shutouts for his first two big league wins. The first of these was a spectacular two-hitter on August 27 in which he struck out 14 Cincinnati batters.

-Early in his career, Koufax struggled to harness his gifts. In three of his first four full seasons, he struck out more than ten batters per nine innings, yet he was also routinely among the top five in the league for most walks allowed. Through the 1960 season, his record was a mediocre 36-40 with a 4.10 ERA and 5.3 walks per 9 innings.

-In 1961, the 25-year-old emerged with an 18-13 record, a 3.52 ERA, 15 complete games, and league-leading marks in strikeouts (269), fewest hits per nine innings (7.5), strikeouts per nine innings (9.5), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.80). He was also a National League All-Star for the first of six consecutive seasons.

-A finger injury in 1962 limited Sandy to 26 starts, but he captured the first of five straight ERA titles with a 2.54 mark. He was 14-7, and struck out 216 men in only 184.1 innings with a league-best 1.03 WHIP.

-Fully healthy in 1963, the lefty entered the stratosphere, winning both the Cy Young and MVP awards with N.L.-leading numbers including wins (25-5), ERA (1.88), shutouts (11), strikeouts (306), WHIP (0.88), hits per nine (6.2), and strikeouts-to-walks (an absurd 5.28). He kept the good times rolling with complete-game victories in both of his World Series starts against the Yankees, including a 2-1 win in the sweep-clinching Game Four. He earned Series MVP honors with an overall ERA of 1.50 and 23 strikeouts in 18 innings.

-Koufax captured his second Cy Young in 1965, thanks to career highs of 382 strikeouts, 27 complete games, an 0.86 WHIP, 5.8 hits per nine, and 5.38 strikeouts to every walk issued. He also topped the league with 26 wins, a 2.04 ERA, and 10.2 K/9. He also repeated as World Series MVP with two shutouts of the Twins and an 0.38 ERA in the Fall Classic; he allowed a single earned run in six innings in a Game Two loss before blanking Minnesota in Games Five and Seven.

-He twirled four no-hitters in his career, a record since broken by Nolan Ryan. The most impressive of these may have been a perfect game on September 9, 1965 in which he struck out 14 Cubs. The game was notable because the Dodgers had only one hit and three base runners themselves, and they scored the only run off of unfortunate Cubs starter Bob Hendley via a throwing error by catcher Chris Krug.

-Sandy stunned the baseball world by retiring at age 30 after the 1966 season, another superlative year in which he won his third Cy Young with a 27-9 record and 1.73 ERA (both personal bests). He also struck out a league-best 317 batters and was runner-up in MVP voting for the second year in a row. However, arthritis in his pitching arm was causing him constant agony, so he got out while he could.

-In 12 seasons, Koufax was 165-87 with a 2.76 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and 2,396 strikeouts in 2,324.1 innings. The Dodgers retired his #32 in 1972, the same year that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a first-ballot honoree.
#300 Sandy Koufax (back)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

#155 Roger Maris

#155 Roger Maris
Perhaps you've heard of this guy. In my ongoing attempt to catch up, I've moved to another small batch of cards that Max sent ages ago. By now I can't remember what was sent when, and what I sent in return. But this card (and its partner to be posted tomorrow) are proof that good things come in small packages.

Fun facts about Roger Maris:

-He was born Roger Maras in Hibbing, MN to Croatian immigrants. He grew up in Fargo, ND and was a high school football star. After a semester at the University of Oklahoma, he left school and signed with the Indians in 1953.

-The young player changed his name to "Maris" in the minors, where hecklers were known to taunt him as "Mare-Ass". He let his bat do the talking, hitting .303 and slugging .509 in four seasons in the bus leagues.

-Roger made the big league squad at the beginning of the 1957 season. Playing the majority of the Tribe's games in center field, the 22-year-old batted only .235 but walked 60 times for a .344 on-base percentage. He also hit 14 home runs and drove in 51.

-He split his sophomore season between the Indians and Athletics. Though his on-base percentage dipped under .300, but doubled his home run output and boosted his RBI total to 80.

-After making his first All-Star Game in 1959, Maris was acquired by the Yankees in a lopsided trade. 1960 was his breakout year, as his 39 home runs were only one shy of teammate Mickey Mantle for the league lead. Roger did capture the American League RBI (112) and slugging (.581) crowns, and batted a career-high .283. He squeezed past the Mick by just three points to capture the A.L. MVP, and won a Gold Glove for his handiwork in right field.

-Though his first MVP season established Roger's bonafides as a power hitter, his performance in 1961 was still stunning. With offense around the league boosted by the addition of two expansion teams, Maris and Mantle spent the season trading home runs and challenging the 34-year-old record of Babe Ruth. The introverted Maris grew weary of the scrutiny from media and from hostile fans who deemed him unworthy of breaking a hallowed mark set by a larger-than-life figure. An injured Mantle stalled at 54, but Roger hit the record-breaking 61st home run off of Boston's Tracy Stallard on the last day of the season. Commissioner Ford Frick overstepped his bounds by declaring that the new record would be branded with an asterisk, since it had been achieved in a 162-game schedule, compared to the 154-game slate that Ruth had played in 1927. An official action was never taken, but Maris was still hurt by the criticism. Nonetheless, he repeated as A.L. MVP, as his 141 RBI earned a share of the league lead with Jim Gentile. He also topped the junior circuit with 132 runs scored and 366 total bases.

-Roger stuck around for seven seasons after his outstanding 1961 campaign, remaining a productive contributor to strong Yankee squads in 1962-1964 before an injury-plagued 1965 spurred New York to trade him to the Cardinals, where he finished his career as a role player for a pair of pennant-winning squads.

-He participated in an impressive seven World Series during his career: five with the Yankees and a pair with the Cardinals. He batted only .217 in 41 postseason games, but totaled 6 home runs and 18 RBI. His clubs won it all in 1961, 1962, and 1967.

-Maris retired after the 1968 season at age 33. In parts of 12 seasons, he hit .260 with 275 home runs and 850 RBI.

-After retirement, St. Louis owner Gussie Busch set Roger up with a Budweiser distributorship in Gainesville, FL. He coached baseball at nearby Oak Hall High School. In 1983, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. The Yankees retired his #9 the following season, and he passed away in December 1985 at age 51. In 1998, both Mark McGwire (70 HR) and Sammy Sosa (66 HR) broke his home run record, and Barry Bonds hit 73 three years later. Subsequent revelations about performance-enhancing drug use have led to some stubborn fans insisting that Maris is still the true single-season record holder.
#155 Roger Maris (back)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#586 Tommy McCraw

#486 Tommy McCraw
It's interesting to note that Topps went with "Tommy" for McCraw's 1964 and 1965 cards. Subsequently, they switched to "Tom". For what it's worth, Baseball Reference goes with "Tommy".

Fun facts about Tommy McCraw:

-A native of Malvern, AR, Tommy attended high school in Culver City, CA before signing with the White Sox in 1960.

-In 1962, he jumped from Class C to AAA and hit .326 with a .408 on-base percentage for the Indianapolis Indians.

-McCraw was 22 when he debuted in the majors in June 1963. He started 69 games for Chicago at first base, batting .254 and tying for the team lead with 15 steals. It was the first of eight seasons in which he recorded double-digit steals.

-Though he batted just .236 in 1967, he did set career highs with 55 runs scored, 18 doubles, 11 home runs, and 24 steals.

-Three of Tommy's 1967 homers came in one game on May 24. He took Twins starter Dean Chance deep with one aboard in the fourth and again with two on in the seventh, and added another three-run shot against Jim Kaat in the ninth. Add it up, and you've got eight RBI, a personal best.

-He was one of the top defensive first baseman in the league, leading in range factor for three years straight and placing top-five in total zone runs five times.

-His ninth-inning home run off of Oakland's Fred Talbot on September 14, 1969 broke an 8-8 tie and gave the Pale Hose a wild walk-off win.

-Joined the Senators in 1971 for their final season in Washington. His RBI pinch single on September 30 was the last hit in Sens history. Two batters later he was caught stealing on the final offensive play in team history. He then stayed in the game at first base and recorded the last putout. It was only the second out of the ninth inning, but the fans at RFK Stadium rushed the field. Although the home team was winning 7-5, the umpires declared a forfeit and the Yankees won.

-Tommy spent the tail end of his career with the Indians and Angels, and was the first designated hitter ever for the Halos. He hit .294 and slugged .442 in a part-time role with both teams in 1974. He played his final game the following year. In parts of 13 seasons, he hit .246 with 75 home runs, 404 RBI, and 143 steals.

-McCraw jumped right into coaching, serving as Frank Robinson's batting instructor in Cleveland. Over the next three decades, he also held the same post with the Giants, Orioles, Astros, Mets, Expos, and Nationals.
#486 Tommy McCraw (back)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

#486 Angels Rookie Stars: Tom Egan and Pat Rogan

#486 Angels Rookie Stars: Tom Egan and Pat Rogan
There's a creepy ethereal quality to the background of Pat Rogan's picture. It looks like the wainscoting of the heavens.

Fun facts about Tom Egan:

-A native of Los Angeles, Tom signed with the Angels as a teenager in 1964.

-He debuted with the Halos in May 1965, just short of his 19th birthday. He played sparingly, but hit .263 in 38 at-bats.

-Tom didn't spend a full season in the majors until 1969. Backing up Joe Azcue, he batted just .142 with 5 home runs. However, two of his homers came off of Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter.

-He threw out 43.6% of attempted base stealers in 1969, fifth-best in the American League.

-Had a career day on September 20, 1970, with four hits in five at-bats (including two doubles) as the Angels walloped the White Sox 9-2.

-Egan was traded to the White Sox after the 1970 season. The following year, he played in a career-high 85 games and had a .239 average, a .320 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, and 34 RBI.

-After dipping back below the Mendoza line in 1972, the catcher spent all of 1973 at Chicago's AAA Iowa affiliate. This allowed the Angels to bring him back via the Rule 5 draft.

-On September 28, 1974, he had the thrill of catching Nolan Ryan's third no-hitter, a 4-0 victory over the Twins.

-Tom's final season was1975, when he hit .229 in 28 games. In parts of 10 big league seasons, he had an average of .200 on the nose with 22 home runs and 91 RBI.

-He became a minor league manager at the tender age of 30, spending two unsuccessful seasons at his post in the low minors of the Mets organization.

Fun facts about Pat Rogan:

-Right away, I have to tell you to bear with me. Pat never made it to the big leagues, so there's not much information available.

-Pat was born on November 29, 1943 and appears to have been signed by the Angels circa 1962.

-At age 18, he held his own at Class C San Jose with a 12-9 record, 8 complete games, and a 3.92 ERA.

-The Angels may have pushed him too far too soon, as he scuffled at AAA Hawaii in 1964 (9-11, 4.53)  and was even worse the following year at AA El Paso (5-10, 5.53).

-Back down at Class A San Jose, Rogan had a good 1966: 10-4, 2.84 ERA.

-Set a career high in 1967 with 13 wins while pitching for San Jose and El Paso.

-He was out of organized baseball after splitting the 1968 season among California's top three farm teams and combining to go 10-7 with a 3.08 ERA. Just 24 at the time, Pat finished with a minor league record of 66-57 and a 3.98 ERA in 7 seasons.
#486 Angels Rookie Stars: Tom Egan and Pat Rogan (back)

Monday, February 21, 2011

#482 Bob Priddy

#482 Bob Priddy
Given the sophomoric humor that is often associated with baseball players, I imagine that it couldn't have been easy being a pitcher named Priddy.

Fun facts about Bob Priddy:

-Bob was born in Pittsburgh and signed with the Pirates out of high school before the 1959 season.

-He debuted in the majors at age 22 on September 20, 1962, earning the win with a ninth inning of scoreless relief. He had entered with the Bucs trailing 3-1, and notched the victory when Bob Bailey hit a walkoff two-run double off of Cincinnati's Bill Henry.

-Priddy spent all of the 1963 season and all but two months of 1964 in the minors before being traded to the Giants. He allowed 2 runs in a 10.1 inning cameo in San Francisco in 1965.

-In 1966, he went 6-3 with a save and a 3.96 ERA out of the Giants bullpen in his first full big league season.

-The following year, Bob was traded to the Senators and set career bests with a 3.44 ERA and 4 saves in 46 games.

-His first career complete game came on August 23, 1967, as he five-hit the Red Sox at Fenway in a 3-2 Washington win.

-He was traded yet again in 1968, winding up in a swingman role for the White Sox. He took his lumps, compiling a 3-11 record and a 3.63 ERA in 114 innings.

-On June 19, 1968, Priddy hit his only career home run, a solo shot off of Luis Tiant of the Indians. It was the only run Tiant allowed in a 3-1 Tribe victory.

-After bouncing from Chicago to California to Atlanta in 1969, he finished his career with two so-so seasons in the Braves bullpen. In parts of 9 seasons he was 24-38 with 18 saves and a 4.00 ERA.

-His 18 saves are the most all-time for a native Pittsburgher.

#482 Bob Priddy (back)

Friday, February 18, 2011

#478 Wilbur Wood

#478 Wilbur Wood
If you grew up in the 1970s, you probably find it hard to believe that Wilbur Wood was ever this young. Looking at the cards from his White Sox years, you'd probably assume that he sprung to life fully formed as a 40-year-old man.

Fun facts about Wilbur Wood:

-A native of Cambridge, MA, Wilbur signed with the Red Sox out of high school in 1960.

-He debuted with Boston in 1961 at age 19, but totaled only 159.2 in his first five seasons in the big leagues. He finally earned his first win on August 29, 1965 in his 67th career game.

-In October 1966, the Pirates traded Wilbur to the White Sox, where his career finally took off after he switched exclusively to throwing the knuckleball. From 1968-1970, he led the American League in games pitched each season, including a then-record 88 appearances in 1968. He also led Chicago with 16, 15, and 21 saves, respectively and vultured 32 total wins with a 2.50 ERA.

-Skipper Chuck Tanner moved the knuckleballer to the starting rotation in 1971. Though Wood initially resisted, his low-stress delivery made him a dominant workhorse. That year he made the All-Star team for the first time and went 22-13 with 22 complete games and 7 saves. His 1.91 ERA translated to a league-leading 189 ERA+. Not bad for 334 innings of work!

-In 1972 he became the last pitcher to start 49 games in a season, and would have reached 50 if not for a lockout that shaved a few games off of the schedule. He went 24-17 to lead the A.L. in wins, posted a 2.51 ERA, and reached a career high of 376.2 innings pitched. In addition to a second straight All-Star selection, he also missed out on the Cy Young by a narrow margin to Gaylord Perry (24-16, 1.91).

-The following year, Wood achieved another statistical anomaly by both winning and losing 20 games (24-20). He again led the league in wins, starts (48), and innings (359.1). However, his 3.46 ERA was his highest in a full season.

-Showcasing his durability, he earned a pair of wins on May 28, 1973. The day began with the resumption of a suspended game from two days prior between Chicago and Cleveland. Wilbur pitched the last five innings and allowed a single unearned run, and a Dick Allen three-run homer in the bottom of the 21st clinched it. The tireless pitcher then got the start in the regularly scheduled game and tossed a four-hit shutout!

-The lefty had another unusual day on July 20, 1973. He started the first game of a doubleheader with the Yankees, but failed to retire a batter and was yanked after allowing six runs. The Sox ran him back out to start the nightcap, and he didn't fare much better, allowing 7 runs (5 earned) in 4.1 innings. That's how you lose two games in a single day.

-As he continued to devour innings in 1974-1975, his ERA climbed and his wins dropped. However, it was an unfortunate accident in May 1976 that threatened his career. A comebacker by Detroit's Ron LeFlore shattered his left kneecap and ended his season.

-Wilbur rehabbed faithfully but was inconsistent upon his return in 1977. He retired a year later with 164 wins, 156 losses, 114 complete games, and 57 saves in parts of 17 seasons. His ERA was 3.24.

#478 Wilbur Wood (back)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#435 Willie Davis

#435 Willie Davis
Apparently Kenny Rogers wasn't the first ballplayer to assault a cameraman. Willie Davis looks like he's following through on a mighty clout after Topps' shutterbug got too close for comfort. Of course, I'm being facetious. Willie was a convert to Buddhism, and probably wished photographers no ill will.

Fun facts about Willie Davis:

-Willie was born in Mineral Springs, AR, but grew up in Los Angeles, where he starred in baseball, basketball, and track and field at Theodore Roosevelt High. The Dodgers signed him out of high school in 1958.

-After hitting .349 and slugging .561 in two minor league seasons, Willie was promoted to the Dodgers in September 1960 at age 20. He made a good first impression with a .318 average and 10 extra-base hits in 22 games.

-In 1961, he was given the unenviable task of replacing Duke Snider in center field. He proved able, holding down the position for 13 seasons and winning three Gold Gloves (1971-1973). He was named to the All-Star Team in 1971 and 1973.

-1962 was one of Davis' better seasons, as he hit .285 with a career-high 21 home runs. He also drove in 85, led the National League with 10 triples, and stole 32 bases. He would swipe at least 20 bags 13 times, including 11 straight years (1962-1972).

-He participated in three World Series with the Dodgers, ending up on the winning side in 1963 and 1965 and on the losing end in 1966. Though he had an overall average of just .167 (9-for-54) in these games, his two doubles and two RBI were crucial in a Game Two win over the Yankees in 1963. In Game Five of the 1965 Series, he stole three bases, including one in which he stumbled but crawled safely into second base as the pitcher hesitated before throwing to the base!

-From August 1-September 3, 1969, he set a franchise record with his 31-game hitting streak, breaking Zach Wheat's 53-year-old mark of 29.

-"3-Dog" (a nickname derived from his uniform number) drove in 93 runs and paced the N.L. with 16 triples in 1970. He also hit .305 and stole 38 bases.

-He was traded four times in less than two calendar years, going from the Dodgers to the Expos (for future Cy Young-winning reliever Mike Marshall) to the Rangers to the Cardinals to the Padres from December 1973 to October 1975. When San Diego released him in January 1977, he spent two seasons in Japan before concluding his career as a part-timer with the Angels in 1979. In parts of 18 seasons, he hit .279 with 2,561 hits, 154 home runs, 849 RBI, and 335 steals.

-In true fashion for a Californian, Davis was bitten by the acting bug. He appeared in guest roles on Mr. Ed, The Flying Nun, and Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law. He also costarred with Jerry Lewis in the 1970 comedy Which Way to the Front?

-Willie died of natural causes in his burbank home in March 2010. He was 69 years old.
#435 Willie Davis (back)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#426 Milwaukee Braves Team

#426 Milwaukee Braves Team
If something about this card looks a little off to you, you're right. The inner border is black, whereas the rest of the Braves in 1965 Topps had green borders. Someone done goofed!

Though the Braves' 88-74 record in 1964 put them just 5 games behind the pennant-winning Cardinals, they finished fifth in the top-heavy National League. In his second season at the helm, manager Bobby Bragan oversaw a four-win improvement. Attendance was lukewarm at County Stadium, with a total of 910,911 fans putting the club sixth out of ten N.L. clubs in their penultimate season in Milwaukee.

The Bravos carried some big sticks, finishing first in the Senior Circuit with 803 runs scored, 274 doubles, and an overall batting line of .272 AVG, .333 OBP, and .418 SLG. The club also hit 159 home runs, trailing only the Giants' 165. Five Braves hit 20 home runs, though none topped 24. A star-studded outfield featured Rico Carty (.330/.388/.554, 22 HR, 88 RBI), Lee Maye (.304, 44 2B, 74 RBI), and Hank Aaron (.328/.393/.514, 24 HR, 95 RBI). The Hammer was an All-Star reserve, while catcher Joe Torre (.321/.365/.498, 20 HR, 109 RBI) was the lone Milwaukee starter in the Midsummer Classic.

It was pitching that stunted the Braves' progress in 1964. They were next-to-last with a 4.12 ERA, and they allowed a league-worst 160 home runs as a staff. The only regular with an ERA+ better than league average was reliever Bobby Tiefenauer (13 SV, 3.21 ERA, 111 ERA+, 73 IP). 23-year-old Tony Cloninger was the de facto ace (19-14, 15 CG, 3.56 ERA). Denny Lemaster (17-11, 4.15 ERA) led the team with 185 strikeouts. 43-year-old Warren Spahn (6-13, 5.29 ERA) showed his age in his Braves swan song.

As alluded to earlier, the Braves relocated to Atlanta prior to the 1966 season. They captured the first-ever N.L. West title in 1969 but were swept out of the playoffs by the Amazin' Mets. The team then plunged into laughingstock status in the mid-1970s under the ownership of the brash Ted Turner before Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz built a club that captured 14 straight division titles and made 5 World Series from 1991 through 2005. Even still, the Braves have had their share of disappointment with only one World Championship (1995) to show for that string of postseason appearances.
#426 Milwaukee Braves Team (back)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#416 Jim Brewer

#416 Jim Brewer
There's something really simple and appealing about the plain blue "Los Angeles" script on Jim Brewer's road jersey.

Fun facts about Jim Brewer:

-Jim was born in Merced, CA and attended high school in Oklahoma before signing with the Cubs in 1956.

-He debuted with the Cubs in July 1960 at age 22, but was put out of commission in his fifth game. After a brushback pitch to Cincinnati's Billy Martin, the short-tempered infielder threw his bat at the rookie. When Brewer attempted to calmly hand Martin the bat, Billy punched him in the eye, breaking his cheekbone and hospitalizing him for two months. Jim pressed charges, and Martin was finally ordered to pay his victim several thousand dollars in damages in 1969.

-After struggling in four seasons in Chicago, a trade to the Dodgers invigorated Brewer. He quickly became an ace reliever, relying on a screwball to baffle right-handed hitters. In 1964, he had a 3.00 ERA in 93 innings in his initial season in L.A. His rate of 7.6 hits allowed per nine innings would actually be his worst mark in 11 full seasons with the team.

-Jim pitched once in each of three separate World Series with the Dodgers (1965, 1966, 1974), allowing one run in three and one-third innings.

-Led the Dodgers in saves for six consecutive years (1968-1973), averaging 7 wins and nearly 20 saves a season in that span.

-On September 16, 1969, he earned wins in both ends of a doubleheader by throwing a combined five innings of shutout ball against the Reds. He allowed only two hits and struck out five.

-He was at his best in 1972, going 8-7 with a miniscule 1.26 ERA, 17 saves, and 41 hits allowed in 78.1 innings (4.7 H/9 IP).

-In a true display of hindsight being 20/20, Jim was named to his only N.L. All Star team in 1973, a good enough season (6-8, 3.01 ERA, 20 SV) that was dwarfed by his superlative effort in the previous year.

-He spent the final year and a half of his career with the Angels, retiring in 1976 with a 69-65 record, 3.07 ERA, and 132 saves in parts of 17 seasons. His career hits-per-nine innings-pitched ratio of 7.7 is still 62nd-best all-time.

-Brewer got into coaching after hanging up his spikes, spending three years as the Expos' pitching coach followed by eight years at Oral Roberts University. In 1987, he coached in the Dodgers farm system. In November of that year, he was killed in a head-on car crash in Tyler, TX the day before his 50th birthday.
#416 Jim Brewer (back)

Monday, February 14, 2011

#412 Bob Bailey

#412 Bob Bailey
With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, it's only right that we peek at the Pirates' 1960s Grapefruit League digs. Back then, they trained in Fort Myers, FL. They've been in Bradenton since 1969. Thankfully we've got our first warm day in weeks here in Baltimore, so I'm not too bitter about all of the Florida-and-Arizona-bound players.

In less welcome news, former outfielder Gino Cimoli, who was featured on this blog just last month, passed away on Saturday at age 81. My thoughts go out to his family.

Fun facts about Bob Bailey:

-Bob was born in Long Beach, CA and was a top prep player at Woodrow Wilson High. The Pirates signed him in 1961 for an attention-grabbing $135,000 bonus.

-He jumped to AAA Columbus in his second pro season and had a batting line of .299/.406/.535 with 109 runs scored, 31 doubles, 28 home runs, and 108 RBI. He was named Minor League Player of the Year by The Sporting News and was promoted to the majors in September 1962 at age 19.

-Bailey spent four full seasons in Pittsburgh and failed to live up to the lofty expectations, peaking in 1966 with a .279/.360/.447 mark and 13 home runs and 46 RBI in 433 plate appearances.

-After a disappointing two-year stretch with the Dodgers (1967-1968), Bob was sent to Montreal for a nominal fee. On April 8, 1969, he doubled in two runs in his first at bat to record the first hit and RBIs for the Expos franchise in an 11-10 victory over the Mets.

-After gaining momentum with a .265 average and 53 RBI in 405 plate appearances in 1969, he had a career year with the 1970 Expos. Splitting time between left field and third base with an occasional start at first base, he led the team with a .407 on-base percentage and .597 slugging percentage. His 28 home runs and .287 average were personal bests, and he drove in 84 runs.

-In all, Bob was a regular for the first six years of his seven-year tenure in Montreal. In 1973, he led the team with 26 home runs and drove in a career-high 86. The following year, he walked 100 times to pace the squad with a .396 on-base percentage.

-A renewed organizational focus on speed and defense left the slow-footed, lead-gloved Bailey relegated to the bench in 1975. He had 279 plate appearances in 106 games that year, his lightest load yet for a full season.

-He spent his final three years as a pinch hitter for the Reds and Red Sox, retiring in 1978 with a .257 average and .347 on-base percentage in parts of 17 seasons. He totaled 189 home runs and 773 RBI, and was a member of the 1976 World Champion Reds (though he did not appear in postseason play).

-His final career home run was a solo shot off of Paul Lindblad that hit the upper deck facade in left field at Yankee Stadium on August 3, 1978.

-Bob managed in the minors for six seasons with the Expos (1979-1981), Astros (1984), and White Sox (1986-1987).
#412 Bob Bailey (back)

Friday, February 11, 2011

#395 Jim Hart

#395 Jim Hart
For some reason, I'm really drawn to the bright blue sky behind Jim Hart. There aren't many cards in this set with such a clear backdrop.

Fun facts about Jim Hart:

-Jim Ray Hart was born in Hookerton, NC and signed with the Giants at age 18 in 1960.

-He debuted with San Francisco in mid-1963 but had a rude initiation. In his second game, a Bob Gibson fastball broke his shoulder blade. He missed more than a month, and then was beaned by Curt Simmons in his fifth game back and missed the balance of the season!

-His second season in the big leagues went more smoothly. He finished a distant second to Dick Allen in Rookie of the Year voting with a .286 average, 31 home runs, and 81 RBI.

-Jim avoided the sophomore slump in 1965, leading the team with 30 doubles. He also boosted his average to .299. Although he dropped to 23 home runs, his 96 RBI trailed only Willie Mays for the team lead.

-His only All-Star selection came in 1966, when he clouted a personal-best 33 home runs and drove in 93 runs with a .285 average.

-A fourth straight standout year saw Jim hit 29 home runs and achieve career highs of 98 runs scored, 99 RBI, and a .373 on-base percentage in 1967. He paced the Giants in runs and RBI.

-Hart had a game for the ages on July 8, 1970 against the Braves. In just his second game after missing the first half of the season with injuries, he hit for the cycle in a 4-for-5 effort and drove in 7 runs as the Giants romped 13-0.

-He struggled with his weight and shoulder injuries in his late twenties, both of which hampered his already-suspect defense and cut into his playing time. He totaled only 131 games from 1970 through 1972.

-Jim closed his career out in 1974 with the Yankees, and was only 32 at the time. In parts of 12 seasons he hit .278 with 170 home runs and 578 RBI.

-Hart worked as a warehouse man for Safeway Stores in California until his retirement in 2006.
#395 Jim Hart (back)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

#386 Cubs Rookie Stars: Paul Jaeckel and Fred Norman

#386 Cubs Rookie Stars: Paul Jaeckel and Fred Norman
Sheesh, more rookies? I never realized there were so many of these cards in the 1965 Topps set. Neither of these guys look like they have started shaving.

Fun facts about Paul Jaeckel:

-Paul (referred to as "Jake" on Baseball Reference) was born in East Los Angeles and signed with the Cubs out of high school in 1960.

-In 1963, he posted a 15-9 record and a 3.11 ERA at class A Wenatchee.

-Despite struggling at AAA Salt Lake City in 1964 (10-18, 5.05 ERA, 129 K/125 BB), he received a September callup to the Cubs at age 22.

-On September 24, 1964, Jaeckel earned a win in his second big league game. He relieved starter Dick Ellsworth to begin the eighth inning with the Cubs trailing the Dodgers 3-1. The rookie allowed a single hit in two scoreless innings, though he made things interesting by throwing two wild pitches in the ninth before catcher Jimmie Schaffer picked Maury Wills off of third base. The Cubs picked up a run in the eighth and two more in the ninth, with Ron Santo's sacrifice fly scoring Jimmy Stewart to clinch the victory.

-A week later, Jake got his first career save in his next outing, another 4-3 win over L.A. This time, he bailed out starter Cal Koonce in the eighth inning. Koonce had allowed three straight singles, plating a run and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. Jaeckel entered with nobody out and induced an RBI groundout that plated the third Dodger run. He retired the next two batters to quell the threat, then escaped a jam in the ninth. Leadoff hitter Tommy Davis had doubled, but was gunned out at third by catcher Vic Roznovsky. The young pitcher slammed the door on the home team by striking out Willie Crawford.

-His impressive major league stat line consisted of a win, a save, and a spotless ERA comprising four two-inning stints of scoreless relief.

-Jake never made it back to the major leagues, spending two more seasons in the Cubs farm system and an additional year split between the Cardinals and Angels' AA squads before hanging it up in 1967. His unimpressive minor league record was 49-70 with a 4.28 ERA.

Fun facts about Fred Norman:

-Fred hailed from San Antonio, TX and signed with the Athletics as a teenager in 1961.

-He debuted with the A's at age 20 in 1962. Although he spent portions of 5 seasons in the majors between 1962 and 1967, he totaled only 15 big league games pitched before the 1970 season.

-The Dodgers finally gave Fred an extended look in 1970, when he was 27 and in the midst of his tenth pro season. He put up a bloated 5.23 ERA in 62 innings, and was dispatched to St. Louis late in the year.

-The Cardinals dealt the southpaw to the Padres in June 1971, and he proved he belonged in the National League with a 3.32 ERA in 20 games (18 starts). Of course, you wouldn't be able to tell that by looking at his 3-12 record for the 100-loss Friars.

-Norman led San Diego with 6 shutouts in 1972 and went 9-11 with a 3.44 ERA. Remarkably, he allowed only 2 runs in 73 innings in his wins - a 0.25 ERA!

-On September 15, 1972, he struck out 15 Reds batters in a 1-0 victory. Every Cincy batter, including pinch hitters Julian Javier and Hal McRae, fanned at least once.

-A mid-1973 trade to the Reds allowed him to experience the joys of run support. Only 1-7 at the time of the deal, he went 12-6 in his 24 starts for Cincinnati. He would spend 6.5 seasons with the club, winning between 11 and 14 games each year (85-64 total) with an aggregate ERA of 3.43.

-Fred earned World Series rings with the Reds in 1975 and 1976, despite struggling in his Fall Classic appearances in both years. He did earn a win in Game Two of the 1975 NLCS by holding the Pirates to a single earned run in six innings.

-Loved to face: Chris Speier (.121/.239.207 - 7-for-58, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Hated to face: Bob Watson (.346/.386/.679 - 28-for-81, 6 2B, 7 HR, 18 RBI).

-He retired after spending the 1980 season in Montreal. In parts of 16 big league seasons, he was 104-103 with a 3.64 ERA and a 99 ERA+. You could say that he was almost perfectly average.
#386 Cubs Rookie Stars: Paul Jaeckel and Fred Norman (back)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

#374 Angels Rookie Stars: Jose Cardenal and Dick Simpson

#374 Angels Rookies: Jose Cardenal and Dick Simpson
You're not fooling anyone, Jose Cardenal. We all know that's a Giants uniform. Why do you think Dick Simpson is smirking at you?

Fun facts about Jose Cardenal:

-A native of Matanzas, Cuba, Jose signed with the Giants in 1960 when he was only 16.

-He moved quickly through the San Francisco farm system, hitting .312 with 36 home runs and 35 steals at AA El Paso in 1963. The Giants gave him a few brief looks in 1963 and 1964, but he managed a single hit in 20 at-bats.

-The Angels acquired Cardenal and made him their starting center fielder in 1965. Though his on-base skills were lacking (.250 AVG/.287 OBP), he was a rangy and strong-armed defender. His 37 steals were the second-highest total in the American League behind his cousin, Bert Campaneris of the A's.

-From 1967-1972, Jose played for five teams in a six-year span: the Angels, Indians, Cardinals (yep, Cardenal was a Cardinal), Brewers, and Cubs.

-He tied a major league record by executing two unassisted double plays as an outfielder in 1968. The first was on June 8, and the second was on July 16.

-With the Cubs, the quirky outfielder enjoyed a productive prime. While playing primarily on the corners (where he was said to have chewed on the ivy that hung on Wrigley Field's wall), he batted .296 with a .363 on-base percentage and 129 steals in a 6-year span.

-In 1975, Jose batted a career-high and team-leading .317 with a .397 on-base percentage. He also paced the Cubs with 30 doubles and 34 steals.

-On May 2, 1976, Cardenal was instrumental in a 14-inning 6-5 Cubs win over the Giants. Playing the whole game, he went 6-for-7 with a home run, a double, a stolen base, and 4 RBI. His single off of Gary Lavelle plated the winning run in the final inning.

-He spent the final three seasons of his career as a part-timer for the Phillies, Mets, and Royals and retired with a .275 average, 138 home runs, 775 RBI, and 329 steals in parts of 18 seasons.

-He spent a decade as a big league coach with the Reds, Cardinals, Yankees, and Devil Rays, and later worked as a senior advisor to the Nationals' general manager.

Fun facts about Dick Simpson:

-Dick was born in Washington, DC and attended high school in California before signing with the Angels in 1961.

-He was only 19 when he made his big league debut on September 21, 1962 with an RBI pinch single off of Mudcat Grant of the Indians.

-Simpson never did break into the Angels' lineup, totaling 35 major league games before being traded to the Orioles for first baseman Norm Siebern in December 1965. Just a week later, he was flipped to the Reds along with Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun in the famous trade that brought Frank Robinson to Baltimore.

-Though he appeared in 92 games with the Reds in 1966, Dick totaled just 99 plate appearances and started 16 games. He batted .238 with a .333 on-base percentage, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI.

-After batting .259 in a scant 54 at-bats in 1967, he split the following season between the Cardinals and Astros. In a career-high 267 plate appearances, he managed a paltry .197 average and .292 on-base percentage with 6 home runs and 19 RBI.

-1969 proved to be Simpson's final season in the majors, as he combined to hit .194 in 32 games with the Yankees and Pilots.

-His last home run as a big leaguer was on June 9, 1969. He took Detroit's Mickey Lolich deep as the first batter of the game. Lolich went on to strike out 16 Seattle hitters and did not allow another run, but departed after nine innings with the game tied. The Pilots won 3-2 in 10 innings.

-In parts of 7 seasons, he batted .207 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI. Though he was considered one of the fastest players of his era, he stole only 10 bases in 20 career attempts.

-He briefly played in the minors for the Giants and Padres in 1970-1971.

-Dick is currently thought to be living in Venice, CA.
#374 Angels Rookies: Jose Cardenal and Dick Simpson (back)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

#348 George Banks

#348 George Banks
I bet George Banks had to get up pretty early in the morning to give his hair that perfect squared-off look. I still think it looks better than the currently fashionable "faux-hawk", however.

Fun facts about George Banks:

-George was born in Pacolet Mills, SC, and signed with the Yankees at age 18 in 1957.

-He showed prodigious power in the minors, belting 89 home runs in his first four full seasons as a pro. At Class A Binghamton in 1961, he batted .296 with 110 runs scored, 30 home runs, and 108 RBI, and had an on-base percentage of .414.

-The Twins must have been thrilled to claim him in November 1961's Rule 5 draft. He made his major league debut on April 15, 1962, popping out to second base as a pinch hitter.

-Banks appeared in 63 games with Minnesota as a rookie, batting .252 in 103 at-bats with 4 home runs and 15 RBI. He drew 21 walks, boosting his on-base percentage to .372.

-A terrible 3-for-31 start (.097) caused him to spend much of the 1963 season back in the minors. A scant improvement in a September callback brought his final stats to .155 with a .259 on-base percentage, 3 home runs, and 8 RBI.

-George totaled only 18 MLB games for the rest of his career: 10 with the Twins and Indians in 1964, and 4 games each for the Tribe in 1965 and 1966.

-His final home runs in the majors came on September 22, 1964. It was the only run allowed by Hall of Famer Whitey Ford in an 8-1 Yankee victory.

-In parts of 5 big league seasons he hit .219 (.340 OBP) with 9 home runs and 27 RBI.

-He remained active in the minors until 1968, totaling 223 homers in parts of 11 seasons. His peak was 35, for the 1965 Portland Beavers.

-Unfortunately, Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) took George's life at age 46 in 1985. He was buried near his birthplace in South Carolina.
#348 George Banks (back)

Monday, February 07, 2011

#327 Denis Menke

#327 Denis Menke
Look at the palm tree behind Denis Menke. It makes me wish that I were going south with pitchers and catchers next week.

Fun facts about Denis Menke:

-A native of Bancroft, IA, Denis signed with the Braves as a teenager in 1958 for a $125,000 bonus.

-He made Milwaukee's opening day roster as a 21-year-old in 1962. He hit just .192 in 50 major league games, but his first home run was a grand slam off of the Pirates' Earl Francis on May 15.

-Throughout his career, Menke played regularly at all four infield positions, but most often at shortstop.

-In 1964, he achieved career highs with 29 doubles and 20 home runs while slugging .479. He was only 4 home runs behind Hank Aaron for the team lead in 46 less plate appearances.

-Following an October 1967 trade to Houston, Denis had his most productive years. He made the All-Star team in both 1969 and 1970, and led the Astros in RBI in both seasons (90 and 92, respectively). He achieved personal bests with a .304 average and .392 on-base percentage in 1970.

-On July 30, 1969, an 11-run ninth innings spurred the Astros to a 16-3 rout of the Mets. Both Menke and Jimmy Wynn hit grand slams in the inning.

-He joined the Reds in the Joe Morgan trade prior to the 1972 season and played third base for back-to-back N.L. West Division Champions. Though he managed to bat a scant .191 in 1973, he had a keen batting eye and drew 69 walks, giving him an on-base percentage of .368!

-In Game Five of the 1972 World Series, he hit a solo home run off of Catfish Hunter in a 5-4 Reds win over the A's.

-His career came to a close with a return engagement in Houston in 1974. In parts of 13 seasons he hit .250 with a .343 average, 101 home runs, and 606 RBI.

-Denis served as a minor league manager for the Brewers and Blue Jays, compiling a 198-220 record from 1977 through 1979. He went on to spend the next two decades on the big league coaching staffs of the Jays, Astros, Phillies, and Reds. He's currently retired and living in Florida.
#327 Denis Menke (back)

Friday, February 04, 2011

#321 Rusty Staub

#321 Rusty Staub
Is there anything better than a Friday? How about a Friday with an early-career card of Le Grand Orange?

Fun facts about Rusty Staub:

-Born Daniel Joseph Staub in New Orleans, LA, Rusty signed with the Colt .45s straight out of high school in 1961.

-The young Houston team gave him 513 at-bats in 150 games in his rookie season of 1963. He became the second player in MLB history to play 150 games before age 20, but hit only .224 with a .309 OBP.

-Staub steadily improved and made his first All-Star team in 1967, when his .333 average was fifth-best in the league and his .398 on-base percentage ranked fourth. He also led the N.L. with 44 doubles.

-In 1969, he joined the new Montreal club in the would-be Donn Clendenon trade (more information here). In addition to his great on-field play (he was an All-Star in all three years of his Expos tenure and holds the franchise record with a .402 on-base percentage), the local fans embraced him for the effort he took to learn French. His number 10 jersey was retired by the club.

-Another trade sent him to the Mets in 1972 for Mike Jorgensen, Tim Foli, and Ken Singleton. Rusty was crucial to New York's 1973 pennant-winner with a team-leading 76 RBI, 36 doubles, and .361 on-base percentage.

-In his only postseason experience, Staub powered the Mets past the Reds in the 1973 NLCS with three home runs, five RBI, and a game-saving catch in the eleventh inning of the deciding fourth game. He injured his throwing shoulder crashing into the fence, robbing him of arm strength for the duration of the World Series. Nonetheless, the big redhead gave the victorious A's all they could handle with a .423 average (11-for-26) with a pair of doubles and a home run in the seven-game Fall Classic.

-After setting a Mets record (broken by Darryl Strawberry in 1990) with 105 RBI in 1975, Rusty was shipped to Detroit and became a full-time designated hitter. He was an All-Star for the sixth and final time in 1976, and batted .283 with 93 doubles, 61 home runs, and 318 RBI in his three full seasons as a Tiger. 1978 brought a fifth-place MVP vote, due largely to his 24 home runs (his highest total since swatting 30 in 1970) and career-high 121 RBI.

-He split 1979 between the Tigers and Expos, and made a one-year stop with the Rangers before concluding his long and productive career with a five-year stint back with the Mets. He became a valuable pinch-hitter and player-coach in New York, tying an N.L. record with eight straight successful pinch hits in 1983 and equaling an MLB record that same year with 25 pinch-hit RBI.

-Staub retired in 1985 at age 41. In parts of 23 seasons he hit .279 with a .362 on-base percentage, 499 doubles (52nd all-time), 292 home runs, and 1466 RBI (54th). His 2716 career hits are still 57th-most in major league history.

-He has worked in TV broadcasting for the Mets and his interest in culinary arts and wine has led to ownership and operation of two restaurants: Rusty Staub's and 1271 Third Avenue. He also established a namesake charitable foundation and a benefit fund for children and widows of New York police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. In 25 years, the foundation has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. He's a member of the Mets and Texas Baseball Halls of Fame, and his high school (Jesuit High in New Orleans) annually gives the Rusty Staub Award to the leader of the varsity baseball team.
#321 Rusty Staub (back)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

#269 Frank Bolling

#269 Frank Bolling
Frank Bolling sort of fits one of my favorite adjectives: "lantern-jawed". Good, hardy stock.

Fun facts about Frank Bolling:

-Born in Mobile, AL, Frank attended his hometown's Spring Hill College and signed with the Tigers in 1951.

-His uncle Jack played first base for the Phillies (1939) and Dodgers (1944). Brother Milt was an infielder with the Red Sox, Senators and Tigers (1952-1958).

-Frank hit .299 in three minor league seasons before becoming Detroit's starting second baseman as a rookie in 1954. He batted .236 with 6 home runs and 38 RBI that year.

-After missing all of 1955 and the first two months of the 1956 season due to military service, he returned to bat a career-high .281 with a .354 on-base percentage and .434 slugging in 102 games.

-In 1958 Bolling won a Gold Glove and was joined on the Tigers by brother Milt. He showed some power, cracking 25 doubles, 14 home runs, and a personal-best 75 RBI. He also led the team with 91 runs scored.

-In December 1960, Frank was traded to the Braves in the Bill Bruton deal. He would be selected to the National League All-Star team in each of his first two seasons in Milwaukee, boosted in part by the 15 home runs he hit in 1961 to tie a career high.

-On September 22, 1965, he hit the penultimate home run of his career in the Braves' last-ever home game in Milwaukee. It was also his only grand slam, and the only grand slam allowed by the great Sandy Koufax during the last four years of the lefty's Hall of Fame career!

-After losing his starting job with the Braves in 1966, Bolling retired. In parts of 12 seasons he hit .254 with 106 home runs and 556 RBI.

-In 10 of his 11 full seasons, he was top-four in his league in fielding percentage at second base, and retired with a .982 overall mark. He never played a single inning at any other position.

-He became involved in charity work back in Mobile and founded the Frank Bolling Adaptive Baseball League, the first Little League for mentally and physically challenged children.
#269 Frank Bolling (back)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

#267 Washington Senators Team

#267 Washington Senators Team
Wow. This card looks like Christmas threw up on it.

Anyways, you probably know the old saw about Washington: "First in war, first in peace, last in the American League." Well, thanks to a six-game improvement and the wretchedness of the Kansas City A's, Gil Hodges' Senators narrowly escaped the cellar in 1964 with a 62-100 record. I'm sure that was small consolation, as they finished 37 games behind the pennant-winning Yankees and a full 10 games back of the 8th-place Red Sox. The Sens were still last in the league in attendance, with 600,106 stubborn fans paying their way into RFK Stadium.

Washington's offense was missing in action, pushing across 578 total runs; only the Angels (544) scored fewer. The club had an A.L.-worst .231 average and .299 on-base percentage. The only statistical category in which they placed higher than seventh was strikeouts - with 1,124 whiffs, the Senators fanned more often than any other team. Center fielder Don Lock led them in on-base percentage (.346), slugging (.461), runs (73), home runs (28), and RBI (80). Left fielder Chuck Hinton was the only All-Star, as he paced the club in batting (.274), doubles (25), and triples (7). Right fielder Jim King finished a distant second on the squad with 18 homers and 56 RBI.

When assigning blame for the Sens' 100-loss season, there's plenty left for the pitchers. They were dead-last in the A.L. with 26 saves and 794 strikeouts, and third-worst with a 3.98 ERA. As you might imagine, it was not a stable pitching staff. An unfathomable 15 different men started at least one game, and only Claude Osteen and Buster Narum took the baton more than 24 times. The 24-year-old Osteen (15-13, 3.33 ERA, 13 CG) was the only starter with a winning record. Fireman Ron Kline (10-7, 2.32 ERA, 14 SV) was the glue that held the bullpen together.

In their decade in D.C. (1961-1971), the second incarnation of the Senators played losing baseball in every season but one. Ted Williams was hired as manager in 1969 and temporarily gave the club's hitters a boost, engineering a 21-win jump to an 86-76 record. Even that was good for only fourth place in the six-team A.L. East. In 1972, owner Bob Short moved the team to Texas, where they became the Rangers and continued to sputter. It would take until 1996 for the franchise to make its postseason debut, and they did not win their second-ever playoff game until 2010, when they finally advanced to the World Series only to lose in five games to the Giants. Washington went without a baseball team of any caliber until 2005, when the Expos left Montreal and became the Nationals, the third team in MLB history to call the nation's capital home. That team, of course, has five last-place finishes and a fourth-place finish to its name. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
#267 Washington Senators Team (back)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

#259 Tigers Rookie Stars: Jim Northrup and Ray Oyler

#259 Tigers Rookies: Jim Northrup and Ray Oyler
Pro tip: if you're going to airbrush a logo onto somebody's cap, make sure you're not placing the photo right next to a picture of someone wearing the real thing.

Fun facts about Jim Northrup:

-A native of Breckinridge, MI, Jim was a five-sport athlete at nearby Alma College (baseball, football, track, basketball, and golf). He turned down contract offers from the NFL's Bears and AFL's Titans (now the Jets) to sign with the Tigers in 1961.

-He debuted with the Tigers in late 1964, when he was 24 years old. His only hit in 12 at-bats was a double off of Milt Pappas.

-In 1966, Northrup got regular playing time and found his stroke, placing second on the team with 24 doubles while batting .265 with 16 home runs and 58 RBI.

-He was a big contributor to Detroit's World Championship season of 1968. His 153 hits, 29 doubles, and 90 RBI were all tops on the club, and he batted .264 (the team average was .235). Of his 21 home runs, 4 were grand slams; he became the first player ever to hit 3 in a single week.

-The outfielder saved his best for the 1968 World Series, slugging .536 and driving in 8 runs. His Game 4 home run off of Bob Gibson accounted for the only run the Cardinals ace allowed in his first 24 innings in the series. A third-inning grand slam in Game 6 fueled a 13-1 Detroit romp. Finally, his two-out, two-run triple off of Gibson in Game 7 broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning, setting the stage for a 4-1 Tigers victory in the clincher.

-Jim achieved several career highs in 1969: runs scored (79), doubles (31), home runs (25), and slugging percentage (.508). His .295 average was also a personal best at that juncture.

-On August 28, 1969, he became the first Detroit player since Ty Cobb to go 6-for-6 in a game. The final two hits came in extra innings, with the capper a walk-off two-run homer that downed the A's 5-3.

-Billy Martin took over as Tiger manager in 1971, and the mercurial skipper feuded with Northrup. He pinch hit for the outfielder with the tying run on base in the deciding at-bat of 1972 ALCS (Northrup had hit .357 in the series), a move that did not pay off. The following year, Martin limited him to 119 games (his fewest since his rookie year) despite a .307 batting average.

-He was dealt from the Tigers to the Expos and the Expos to the Orioles in 1974, and finished his career the next year with a .273 average as a part-timer in Baltimore. In parts of 12 seasons he batted .267 with 153 home runs and 610 RBI.

-Jim and ex-Tigers teammate Norm Cash spent a few years playing for the Detroit Caesars, a professional slow-pitch softball team owned by future Tigers boss Mike Illitch. He provided color commentary on Tigers games from 1985 through 1994, and is now the CEO of Jim Northrup and Associates, a Michigan-based manufacturer's representative firm.

Fun facts about Ray Oyler:

-Ray was born in Indianapolis and served in the Marines before signing with the Tigers in 1960.

-After hitting .240 in five minor league seasons, he joined the Detroit club in 1965 at age 26.

-Oyler had a reputation as a talented defensive shortstop, and he would have had to have been. His major league batting averages by year: .186, .171, .207 (this was 1967, when his OPS+ was a career-best 60), .135, .165, .083.

-Believe it or not, Ray was a career .286 hitter (8-for-28) against Tommy John.

-The Seattle Pilots grabbed him with the fifth overall pick of the 1968 expansion draft. Inspired by local disc jockey Bob Hardwick, an excited throng of 15,000 Seattle fans joined the Ray Oyler "S.O.C. I.T. T.O. M.E. .300 Club." The mnemonic stood for "Slugger Oyler Can, In Time, Top Our Manager's Estimate". The club provided the shortstop with a car and apartment for the season, and celebrated with horns and confetti when he came to bat for the first time at home. He responded to this adoration with a go-ahead home run in the following home game, one of seven he hit that year; his previous career total had been eight!

-Pilots teammate and Ball Four author Jim Bouton asserted that Oyler's nickname was "Oil Can Harry", because "he always looks as though he had just changed a set of rings."

-His major league career ended with an ugly 24-game stint with the Angels in 1970. In parts of six seasons, he hit .175 with 15 home runs and 86 RBI.
-Ray was a player-coach for the AAA Salt Lake City Angels in 1971 and Hawaii Islanders in 1972.
-After retiring, Oyler settled in the Seattle area. He too played slow pitch softball for a time, and also worked for Safeway, a bowling alley, and Boeing.
-He died of a heart attack at age 42 in January 1981. Some think that a battle with alcoholism affected his career and shortened his life.

#259 Tigers Rookies: Jim Northrup and Ray Oyler (back)