Thursday, March 31, 2011

#463 Manny Mota

#463 Manny Mota
"Now batting for Pedro Borbon...Manny Mota...Mota."

Fun facts about Manny Mota:

-A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Manny was 19 when he signed with the Giants in 1957.

-He never batted lower than .289 in a minor league season, and made it to the majors in 1962 with San Francisco. He appeared in 47 games, batting .176 before returning to the minors at the end of July.

-Mota was traded twice in the following offseason, going from San Francisco to Houston to Pittsburgh. He would stay with the Pirates for seven seasons, though.

-He broke out in 1966 with career highs of .332 AVG/.383 OBP/.472 SLG.

-Manny developed a reputation as a player who could lash line-drive singles with regularity; his batting average topped .300 in seven seasons (minimum 100 AB).

-After a two-month stint in Montreal, he was dealt to the Dodgers; he would spend the rest of his career there, encompassing 13 seasons. In L.A. he became a pinch-hit specialist, breaking Smoky Burgess' record for career pinch hits when notching #146 in 1979. Fellow longtime Dodger Lenny Harris passed Mota in 2001.

-He made his lone All-Star team in 1973, when he batted .351 in the first half at age 35.

-Manny joined the Dodgers' coaching staff in 1980, and remained the team's batting instructor for ten seasons. The club even activated him briefly during the 1980 and 1982 seasons!

-In parts of 20 big league seasons, he batted .304 with 31 home runs and 438 RBI.

-Four sons played professional baseball, with two making it to the majors; Andy played in 27 games for the Astros in 1991, and Jose played briefly for the Padres (1991) and Royals (1995).
#463 Manny Mota (back)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#431 Cardinals Rookie Stars: Nelson Briles and Wayne Spiezio

#431 Cardinals Rookie Stars: Nelson Briles and Wayne Spiezio
Hey, wouldja lookit that? In Nellie Briles, we have yet another ballplayer who shares my birthday. As happenstance goes, Night Owl just wrote about Nelson in his 1975 Topps blog. Small world, eh?

Fun facts about Nelson Briles:

-Nelson was born in Dorris, CA and attended Santa Clara University before signing with the Cardinals in 1963.

-He went from college to AA to the majors in the span of two years, going north with the Redbirds in 1965 at age 21. He put up a 3.50 ERA while working out of the Cards bullpen in his rookie year.

-The righthander took his lumps as a sophomore, going 4-15 with 6 saves despite a fine 3.21 ERA. Notably, he had drastically different results home vs. road. In 21 games at Busch Stadium, he was 4-5 with a 1.79 ERA. Compare that to an 0-10 mark with a 5.55 ERA in 28 road games!

-When Bob Gibson broke his leg in 1967, Briles took his place in the St. Louis rotation and picked up the slack. He won his final nine decisions of the season, pitching to a 1.49 ERA in that span. Overall he was 14-5 with 6 saves and a scant 2.43 ERA. His .737 winning percentage topped the National League.

-Beginning in 1967, he established himself as a strong postseason pitcher, earning a complete-game win in the third game of the World Series by holding Boston to two runs on seven hits. In six career postseason games encompassing 37.1 innings, he compiled a 2.65 ERA. It's also worth mentioning that he sang the National Anthem before a game in the 1973 Fall Classic!

-1968 represented Nellie's first full season as a starting pitcher, and he set career highs with 19 wins, 13 complete games, and 4 shutouts.

-He spent three seasons with the Pirates (1971-1973) following a trade from the Cardinals, and amassed a 36-28 record and a 2.98 ERA in Pittsburgh. His most notable game as a Pirate came in Game Five of the 1971 World Series, as he shut out the Orioles on two hits to give the Bucs a 3-2 series lead.

-Briles spent the last five years of his career in the American League with the Royals, Rangers, and Orioles, finishing up in Baltimore in 1978. In parts of 14 seasons, he was 129-112 with a 3.44 ERA.

-Nellie worked in the Pirates' organization as a broadcaster, a sales director, and the director of the annual fantasy camp. He also did some broadcasting work for the Mariners.

-Sadly, he suffered a fatal heart attack during the Pirates' annual alumni golf tournament in Orlando in February 2005. He was 61 years old.

Fun facts about Wayne Spiezio:

-You probably know him better as Ed Spiezio (Wayne was his middle name). He was born in Joliet, IL and attended the University of Illinois as well as Lewis University (Romeoville, IL) before inking a deal with the Cardinals in 1963.

-He was 22 years old when he debuted with St. Louis in July 1964. He collected 4 hits in 12 big-league at-bats that year, including a single off of Lew Burdette for his first career hit on August 4.

-In parts of five seasons with the Cards, Ed played sparingly, topping out at 55 games and 113 plate appearances in 1967. He hit only .210 that year.

-He was traded to the fledgling Padres prior to the 1969 season, and was the club's primary third baseman for their first three years of existence. In his initial season in San Diego, he batted just .234 but set career highs with 13 home runs and 43 RBI. He also finished first in the National League in range factor at his position.

-On April 8, 1969, he had the first hit, home run, and run scored in Padres history. All three came on a fifth-inning solo home run against the Astros' Don Wilson.

-Another notable home run came on August 6, 1969. He led off the bottom of the ninth with a tie-breaking shot off of Steve Carlton, allowing San Diego to walk off a winner.

-In 1970, Ed hit a personal-best .285 and paced the Pods with a .373 on-base percentage.

-His career ended abruptly in 1972 when he was 30 years old. He split that season between the Padres and White Sox, hitting .229 with only two home runs.

-In parts of 9 seasons, Spiezio batted .238 with 39 home runs and 174 RBI.

-His son Scott was an infielder for the Athletics, Angels, Mariners, and Cardinals, 1996-2007.
#431 Cardinals Rookie Stars: Nelson Briles and Wayne Spiezio (back)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#421 Twins Rookie Stars: Gary Dotter and Jay Ward

#421 Twins Rookie Stars: Gary Dotter and Jay Ward
MORE Twins rookies? What is this madness?

Fun facts about Gary Dotter:

-Gary was born in St. Louis, MO and signed with the hometown Cardinals in 1960. He was 17 at the time.

-After his first pro season, he was claimed by the Twins in the minor league draft.

-The youngster went 14-8 with a 3.08 ERA at Class B Wilson in 1961.

-Dotter got a September callup from the Twins and was the fourth-youngest player in the American League in 1961. He was hit hard (6 ER in 4 IP) in a mop-up relief appearance in his debut, but turned in a couple of scoreless innings in his second try.

-He returned to the minors for the next two years and had strong numbers at Class A Charlotte (9-13, 2.95 ERA) and AAA Dallas-Fort Worth (9-7, 3.58).

-In another cup of coffee with Minnesota in September 1963, he added two more scoreless innings of relief to his resume.

-The Twins summoned him for the third and final time in September 1964, and he appeared in three more games, allowing a single run in four and one-third innings pitched.

-In parts of three big league seasons he did not factor in any decisions. His lifetime ERA was 5.11 in 12.1 total innings, and he walked 7 batters and struck out 10.

-Gary continued to pitch in the minors through 1967, finishing with a 55-40 record and a 3.33 ERA in parts of seven seasons.

Fun facts about Jay Ward:

-A native of Brookfield, MO, Jay signed with the Yankees at age 17 in 1956.

-Much like Dotter, Ward changed teams via the first-year minor league draft, going from the Yankee organization to the Athletics.

-After jumping from Class C to AA in 1959, he showed decent power; in three different seasons he achieved a personal best of 22 home runs. However, he did not hit for high averages and didn't walk frequently in most years.

-He continued moving, via a 1961 trade to the Dodgers and another swap in 1962 to the Twins.

-Minnesota promoted Jay to the majors in May 1963. He was apparently overmatched, as a two-run double on May 10 was his only hit in 15 at-bats that year.

-He performed a bit better in a September 1964 trial, batting .226 (7-for-31) with a .351 on-base percentage. But most of that production came in his first two games, when he reached base six times in eight trips to the plate against the Orioles.

-Ward spent the 1966 season in Japan playing for the Chunichi Dragons.

-He returned to the U.S. in 1967 and played out the string with a five-year tour of AAA ballparks. In parts of 15 minor league seasons he batted .259 with 241 home runs and 741 RBI.

-Jay did have a final glimpse of the bigs in May 1970, when he appeared in six games and went 0-for-3 with a pair of walks for the Reds.

-In parts of three big league seasons he batted .163 with a .293 on-base percentage and 4 RBI.
#421 Twins Rookie Stars: Gary Dotter and Jay Ward (back)

Monday, March 28, 2011

#287 Gary Kolb

#287 Gary Kolb
This card is a doozy, and is in the running alongside Bob Gibson as the most battered, well-worn card in my 1965 set. I wonder if it was someone's lucky card, and sat inside that person's wallet for years. Or maybe it was used as a bookmark in dozens upon dozens of books.

Fun facts about Gary Kolb:

-A native of Rock Falls, IL, Gary attended the University of Illinois before signing with the Cardinals in 1960.

-After playing only 84 minor league games, and none above Class B, the 20-year-old got a Septemeber callup in his first pro season. He appeared in nine games, mostly as a pinch runner, and went hitless in three at-bats.

-Gary went 5-for-14 in another late-season trial in 1962, and appeared in 75 games with St. Louis the following year. In his capacity as the club's fifth outfielder, he batted .271 with a .403 on-base percentage in 119 trips to the plate. He totaled 5 triples, 3 home runs, and 10 RBI.

-On July 13, 1963, he went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a pair of runs scored in a losing effort; the Braves bested the Cards 7-5.

-At the beginning of the 1964 season, he had the distinct honor of being traded (along with Jim Coker) to the Braves for Bob Uecker. Kolb didn't fare too well in Milwaukee, batting .188 in 36 games. He split the 1965 season between the Braves and the Mets, and in 64 games total he matched that lowly .188 mark of the previous year.

-He spent the entirety of 1966 and 1967 at AAA for the Mets and Pirates, resurfacing in the National League with Pittsburgh in 1968. His .218 average in 119 at-bats was no great shakes, but it was a slight improvement over his recent performance.

-Gary's final shot at the majors came with the Bucs in 1969; he was just 3-for-37 at the plate (.081) to leave his final career average at .209. He totaled 6 home runs and 29 RBI in parts of 7 big league seasons.

-Kolb played wherever he was needed, making appearances at every position except pitcher and shortstop in the majors. He actually did play all nine positions in the minor leagues, and had a 4.20 ERA in 41 games pitched (75 IP).

-He played for Pittsburgh's AAA clubs in Columbus and Charleston from 1970-1973 before retiring with a .260 average in parts of 11 minor league seasons.

-His cousin is Danny Kolb, who was a reliever for the Rangers, Brewers, Braves, and Pirates from 1999-2007.
#287 Gary Kolb (back)

Friday, March 25, 2011

#201 Twins Rookie Stars: Sandy Valdespino and Cesar Tovar

#201 Twins Rookie Stars: Sandy Valdespino and Cesar Tovar
Wow, somebody went overboard in airbrushing Sandy Valdespino's pitcure.

Fun facts about Sandy Valdespino:

-A native of San Jose de las Lajas, Cuba, Sandy signed with the Senators in 1957.

-The diminutive outfielder stood just 5'8" tall and weighed 170 pounds. He got his nickname (he was born Hilario Valdespino) from a minor-league manager, who likened him to the similarly-small ex-Dodger Sandy Amoros.

-He finally got the attention of the big league club in his eighth pro season, when he batted .337 with 51 extra-base hits for the AAA Atlanta Crackers in 1964.

-Sandy reached the big leagues in 1965 at age 26. Each of his first 13 appearances with the Twins came in a pinch-hit capacity, and he reached base in his first four plate appearance. His first start came on May 19, 1965; he went 3-for-6 with a double and scored one of Minnesota's two 12th-inning runs in a 3-1 win over the Angels.

-The rookie appeared in a career-high 108 games for the American League champs, compiling a .261 average and driving in 22 runs. He appeared in five of their seven World Series games, going 3-for-11 at the plate with a single and a double against Don Drysdale and a pinch single off of Sandy Koufax.

-Both his playing time and his performance waned after that debut season, but teammates later recalled an excellent defensive play he made on June 18, 1967. Jim Kaat took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but the Indians chased him with a pair of run-scoring singles. With two outs and the bases loaded, skipper Cal Ermer pulled a double-switch, inserting Ron Kline to pitch and sending Valdespino to left field. Batter Larry Brown crushed a drive to left, and Sandy sprinted to the fence with his back to the field. He leapt (still not facing the field), dug his spikes into the wall, and snagged the ball over his shoulder in midair to quell the Cleveland rally. Kline closed the game out with a perfect ninth inning.

-The Braves claimed him in the Rule 5 draft after the 1967 season, and he moved frequently for the rest of his career, spending small portions of the following four seasons with the Braves, the Astros and Pilots, the Brewers, and the Royals.

-His final big league exposure was with Kansas City, where he hit .317 in 18 games in 1971. In parts of 7 seasons he batted .230 with 7 home runs and 67 RBI.

-Sandy's final big league home run, on September 13, 1971, tied a game with the Athletics at 1-1 in the fourth inning and spoiled a shutout bid by Catfish Hunter. The future Hall of Famer would have to pitch 10 innings that day to earn his 20th win of the season by a 2-1 margin.

-At last check, the now-72-year-old Valdespino was living in Las Vegas, NV.

Fun facts about Cesar Tovar:

-Cesar was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and signed with Cincinnati as a teenager in 1959. He would later become the ninth Venezuelan to debut in MLB.

-Though he hit for average and power and drew walks in the minors, he was blocked at the major-league level by several talented young Reds. A December 1964 trade to the Twins for pitcher Gerry Arrigo was his big break.

-He had a few brief trials in Minnesota in 1965, and became a super-utility player the following year, batting .260 in 134 games and seeing significant time at second base, shortstop, and center field, with an occasional appearance in left field. The following year he set a big league record by playing in all 164 Twins games (including two ties), and batted .267 with 32 doubles, a team-best 19 steals, and 98 runs scored. He denied A.L. Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski a unanimous MVP vote, as Minneapolis sports writer Max Nichols cast a lone first-place vote for the versatile Tovar.

-Cesar gained notoriety by becoming the second player to ever log time at each of the nine defensive positions in a single game. He performed the feat on September 22, 1968, in a 2-1 win over the A's. He pitched the first inning, and coincidentally faced Bert Campaneris (his predecessor in the 9-in-1 club) to lead off the game. He retired Campy on a foul popup, and followed with a strikeout of Reggie Jackson. He pitched a scoreless inning, working around a walk to Danny Cater. At bat, he went 1-for-3 with a walk, a steal, and a run scored. Check out the box score to see all of the manuevering done by Cal Ermer, including appearances by Rod Carew at shortstop and Graig Nettles in center field!

-May 18, 1969 saw Tovar and Carew set a major league record with five stolen bases in a single inning. Tovar led off the bottom of the third by drawing a walk from Mickey Lolich, distracting him sufficiently to take second on a balk, and then stealing third and home. Carew walked, took second as part of a double-steal on the Tovar swipe of home, and then stole third and home with Harmon Killebrew at the plate. Lolich and Tigers catcher Bill Freehan got the last laugh, keeping Minnesota off the scoreboard for the rest of the game and winning 8-2.

-His career year was 1970, when he led the American League with 36 doubles and 13 triples and batted .300. He paced the Twins with 30 steals and 120 runs scored, and also set career highs with a .356 on-base percentage and .442 slugging.

-Cesar built upon his successes by topping the A.L. with 204 hits in 1971, accumulating a .311 average.

-He showed a flair for the dramatic on September 19, 1972. Batting in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, a runner on first, and the game tied at three, he needed a home run for the cycle. Tovar deposited a Paul Lindblad pitch into the seats for a walkoff two-run homer! Only four other players have hit a game-ending home run to complete the cycle: Ken Boyer, George Brett, Dwight Evans, and Carlos Gonzalez.

-At the tail end of his career, he spent time with the Phillies, Rangers, Athletics, and Yankees. New York released him in 1976, capping his big league numbers at a .278 average, 46 home runs, 435 RBI, and 226 steals in parts of 12 seasons.

-Cesar returned to Venezuela after his retirement and later managed his home country in 1990's Baseball World Cup, but they lost seven of their eight games in the tournament. He died of pancreatic cancer at age 54 in 1994, and was posthumously inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
#201 Twins Rookie Stars: Sandy Valdespino and Cesar Tovar (back)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#198 Smoky Burgess

#198 Smoky Burgess
The contest is over. I'm officially declaring Forrest Harrill "Smoky" Burgess to be the oldest-looking player in this set! Heck, if it weren't for Bill Rigney and Casey Stengel, ol' Smoky might be the oldest-looking person in the entire set. Assuming this photo was taken during the previous year, he would have been a spry 37. Compare him to Harold Reynolds, who was 47 when this photo was taken and looks no different today at age 50!

Fun facts about Smoky Burgess:

-Smoky was born in Caroleen, NC, and signed with the Cubs as a teenager in 1944.

-After winning batting titles at Class B Fayetteville in 1947 (.387) and AA Nashville the following year (.386), he spent most of the 1949 season in the majors as a pinch hitter, batting .268 with a home run.

-A trade sent him to the Phillies for the 1952 season, where he hit .316 with a .393 on-base percentage in three-plus seasons as part of a catching platoon with Stan Lopata.

-Burgess made his first All-Star team in 1954, as he had a career-high .368 average and .432 on-base percentage. As he played in just 108 games, he was not eligible for the league lead in those categories.

-After being traded to the Reds in early 1955, he found his power stroke and reached personal bests with totals of 21 homers and 78 RBI while batting .301. He made his second straight All-Star Game.

-On July 29, 1955, he punished the Pirates with three home runs and nine RBI as Cincinnati romped to a 16-5 win.

-Smoky was dealt to the Pirates prior to the 1959 season. He made the All-Star team in each of his first three seasons in Pittsburgh, compiling a .298 average in that span. He started five games at catcher in the 1960 World Series, batting .333 (6-for-18) with three multi-hit games as the Pirates squeaked by the Yankees.

-He was acquired by the White Sox late in the 1964 campaign and spent the last three-plus years of his career as a pinch hitter for them. He set a major league record with 145 career pinch hits, later broken by Manny Mota in 1979.

-Burgess retired after the 1967 season as a career .295 hitter in parts of 18 seasons. He totaled 126 home runs and 673 RBI, and he and pitcher Curt Simmons were the last two players active in the 1940s to retire.

-He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1975 and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1978. Smoky spent several years as a scout and instructor in the Braves organization. He was 64 years old when he passed away in 1991.
#198 Smoky Burgess (back)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#122 Bill Pleis

#122 Bill Pleis
Say, did you know that Bill Pleis was born on August 5? He has excellent taste in birthdays. (NOTE: A certain card blogger shares this birthdate.)

Fun facts about Bill Pleis:

-A native St. Louisian, Bill pitched with the independent Orlando Seratomas in 1956, going 11-12 with a 2.75 ERA at age 18.

-Late that season, he was dealt to the Senators for two unnamed players and $250.

-He earned a win in his big league debut on April 16, 1961. The Twins (in their first season in Minnesota after leaving D.C.) coughed up a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth to the host Orioles, but Pleis relieved Ray Moore and stranded inherited runners on the corners. He then retired the O's 1-2-3 in the 10th, and a solo home run by Zolio Versalles in the 11th gave him the victory. Chuck Stobbs picked up the save.

-Six days later, he picked up the team's first home win in Minneapolis under similar circumstances, entering in the ninth inning of a 4-4 contest against the Senators and tossing two scoreless frames. Versalles won it again, this time with a sac fly to score Earl Battey in the home half of the 10th.

-Bill endured some bumps in his rookie year, going 4-2 with a couple of saves and a 4.95 ERA in 56.1 innings of relief. He walked 34 and struck out only 32.

-Though he totaled just 281 major league innings, Pleis did participate in 1964's All-Star Game. Back then, active pitchers were often chosen to throw batting practice before the game, and he was selected to do the honors.

-After four so-so seasons in the Twins' bullpen, he made a fine contribution to the 1965 American League champs. Appearing in 41 games, he was 4-4 with 4 saves and a 2.98 ERA and allowed only 3 homers in 51.1 innings.

-The lefty last pitched in the majors in 1966, allowing a pair of earned runs in 9.1 innings. He spent the rest of the year at AAA Denver, and continued playing in the minors through 1968.

-In parts of 6 MLB seasons, Bill was 21-16 with 13 saves and a 4.07 ERA.

-He spent a few years working as a scout for the Dodgers.
#122 Bill Pleis (back)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#80 Turk Farrell

#80 Turk Farrell
Ah, here's a sight for sore eyes: a player in an un-airbrushed Houston Colt .45s hat on a 1965 Topps card.

Fun facts about Turk Farrell:

-Turk was born in Boston and signed with the Phillies in 1953 after completing high school.

-After losing in his major league debut in September 1956, he spent the entire 1957 season with the Phils and served as the bullpen ace. He led the club with 10 saves and a 2.38 ERA, and went 10-2 in relief.

-Farrell made his first All-Star team in 1958 and placed third in the National League with 11 saves.

-He had a forgettable 1961, putting up a career-worst 5.20 ERA and changing teams twice. Philly traded him to the Dodgers that May, and after an ineffective season he was unprotected and chosen by Houston in the expansion draft.

-The Colts used Turk in the rotation, giving him 29 starts among his 43 appearances in their inaugural season. He was an All-Star and one of the best pitchers in the N.L., ranking second with a 1.097 WHIP and seventh with a 3.02 ERA. He struck out 203 batters, the fourth-most in the senior circuit. Unfortunately he also placed second with 20 losses against just 10 wins.

-He had better luck in 1963, scraping together a 14-13 record while matching the previous year's 3.02 ERA and completing a personal-best 12 games.

-Farrell added two more All-Star seasons to his resume in 1964 and 1965, and had a cumulative ERA of 3.20 in his first four seasons in Houston.

-The Phillies reacquired him in May of 1967 and returned him to the bullpen. He gave them 92 innings with a 2.05 ERA and collected 9 wins and 12 saves.

-After being released by the Phillies at the end of the 1969 season, Turk caught on with the Braves but was cut without ever throwing a pitch for them in the regular season. In parts of 14 big league seasons, he was 106-111 with a 3.45 ERA and 83 saves.

-He reportedly emigrated to Great Britain and worked on an offshore oil rig in the North Sea after he was finished in baseball. He was killed in an automobile accident in Yarmouth, England in June 1977 and was 43 at the time of his death.

#80 Turk Farrell (back)

Monday, March 21, 2011

#72 Tony Gonzalez

#72 Tony Gonzalez
There's a lot more crowd action in the background of Tony Gonzalez's photo than you usually see on 1960s cards. If you're reading this and you recognize yourself as one of those blurry faces, pipe up and leave a comment.

Fun facts about Tony Gonzalez:

-A native of Central Cunagua, Cuba, Tony signed with the Reds (then known as the Redlegs) in 1957.

-After hitting 55 home runs in 3 minor league seasons, he made the major leagues at the outset of the 1960 season. In his April 12 debut, the 23-year-old helped Cincinnati erase a 4-0 deficit and win 9-4. He singled off of Robin Roberts in his first at-bat and scored on a Jerry Lynch double, and later added a two-run home run off of Roberts.

-Despite his initial success, Gonzalez fell into a slump and was traded to the Phillies in mid-June with a .212 average. He got acclimated quickly, hitting .299 in 78 games with a .485 slugging percentage. Overall, he hit .274 as a rookie.

-His performance was one of the few bright spots for the 1961 Phils, who lost 107 games. He led the team's regulars with a .795 OPS and 15 steals, and only Don Demeter topped his 58 RBI.

-Tony slammed a career-high 20 home runs in 1962 and boosted his average to .302 while playing errorless ball in center field.

-He ranked in the top ten in hit-by-pitch in eight different seasons, and is credited as the first major leaguer to wear a helmet with a molded earflap.

-Gonzalez's best overall season was 1967, when he ranked second in the National League with a .339 average and fifth with a .396 on-base percentage.

-After being chosen in the expansion draft, he began the 1969 season with the Padres but was traded to the Braves in June. He hit .294 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI in 89 games to help Atlanta win the first N.L. West title, and then batted .357 (5-for-14) in a losing effort in the NLCS. In Game 1, he homered, doubled, and drove in two runs against Tom Seaver.

-Tony's final major league season was 1971 with the Angels. In parts of 12 seasons he batted .286 with 103 home runs and 615 RBI.

-He played in Japan for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 1972 and returned to the Philly organization in 1973, batting .345 in 45 games for AA Reading before finally hanging up his spikes.
#72 Tony Gonzalez (back)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

#53 Dick McAuliffe

#53 Dick McAuliffe
And so we jump from one care package from Max to the next! Today's card (and the next 10 as well) were sent in June of 2009. In return, he was rewarded handsomely with some various Mets and what have you.

Fun facts about Dick McAuliffe:

-Dick was born in Hartford, CT and signed with the Tigers out of high school in 1957.

-Detroit promoted him to the big leagues in September 1960. He debuted as a pinch hitter on September 17, and got his first start on September 20. In the latter game he went 3-for-5 with a triple and an RBI, with all three hits coming against Indians starter Jim Perry.

-Dick had an unusual batting stance. Per Bill James: "[H]e tucked his right wrist under his chin and held his bat over his head, so it looked as if he were dodging the sword of Damocles in mid-descent. He pointed his left knee at the catcher and his right knee at the pitcher and spread the two as far apart as humanly possible, his right foot balanced on the toes, so that to have lowered his heel two inches would have pulled his knee inward by a foot. He whipped the bat in a sort of violent pinwheel which produced line drives, strikeouts, and fly balls, few ground balls, and not a lot of pop outs."

-He made three straight All-Star teams, 1965-1967. His best all-around year was 1966, when he batted .274 with a .373 on-base percentage, 23 home runs, and 56 RBI.

-McAuliffe was a top-ten player in the American League in several categories in 1967: Wins Above Replacement (4.8 - 9th), OBP (.364 - 9th), runs scored (92 - 5th), triples (7 - 3rd), home runs (22 - 8th), walks (105 - 3rd), and hit by pitch (7 - 9th). He was among the league leaders in triples eight times in a nine-year span.

-In the Tigers' championship season of 1968, Dick led the American League with 95 runs scored and also reached career highs of 24 doubles and 10 triples. As the everyday second baseman, he committed only nine errors. Incredibly, he did not hit into a single double play the whole year. In Game Two of the World Series, his two-run single off of Steve Carlton gave Detroit a 5-0 lead in the sixth inning.

-He infamously incurred a five-day suspension late in the 1968 campaign. On August 22, White Sox pitcher Tommy John buzzed the infielder with two high pitches in the same at-bat. After the second incident, McAuliffe charged the mound and drove his knee into John's shoulder, separating it and putting the pitcher out of commission for the year.

-Prior to the 1974 season, he was traded to the Red Sox for Ben Oglivie. After batting just .210/.310/.320 in 100 games, he accepted a managerial post with Boston's AA Bristol team for the 1975 season. The club went 81-57 under his guidance, and in late August, the Red Sox added the 35-year-old to the major league roster. Appearing in seven games, he went only 2-for-15 at bat and made three errors at third base. The Sox soon deactivated McAuliffe, and released him after the World Series to bring an end to his career.

-In parts of 16 seasons he batted .247 with a .343 on-base percentage, 197 home runs, and 697 RBI.

-After retiring, Dick operated some baseball schools. He also owned a business that installed and repaired coin-operated washing machines and dryers.
#53 Dick McAuliffe (back)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#385 Carl Yastrzemski

#385 Carl Yastrzemski
You know you're a diehard baseball fan when you can spell "Yastrzemski" from memory. I love this photo of Yaz, but I'm not really sure how raising his throwing arm up in the air helps him catch fly balls.

Fun facts about Carl Yastrzemski:

-Carl was born in Southampton, NY and briefly attended Notre Dame on a basketball scholarship before signing with the Red Sox in 1958.

-He spent only two years in the minors before replacing the great Ted Williams as Boston's starting left fielder in 1961. The 21-year-old batted .266 with 80 RBI and led the Sox with 31 doubles as a rookie.

-His third season (1963) was a year of firsts for Yaz: first batting title (.321), on-base percentage crown (.418), doubles crown (40), and first Gold Glove and All-Star selection. He would be a 7-time Gold Glover and 18-time All-Star when all was said and done.

-Carl's greatest season was the 1967 "Impossible Dream" campaign, when he was a near-unanimous MVP (some joker gave a first-place vote to Cesar Tovar and his .691 OPS) and led Boston from a ninth-place finish the year before to the American League pennant. He captured the most recent hitting Triple Crown to date with a .326 average, a career-high 44 home runs, and 121 RBI. He also topped the A.L. with 112 runs scored, a .418 OBP, .622 SLG, and 360 total bases. With the Red Sox battling the Tigers, Twins, and White Sox in a four-way race down the stretch, he hit .523 (23-for-44) with 14 runs, 4 doubles, 5 home runs, 16 RBI, and 8 walks in the final dozen games of the regular season.

-In a losing cause in the 1967 World Series, he batted .400 (10-for-25) with a .500 OBP and 3 home runs against the Cardinals. He powered Sox wins in Game Two (3-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI) and Game Six (3-for-4, HR, BB).

-In the notoriously pitcher-dominant 1968 season, he captured his third batting crown with a .301 average, as no other American League regular topped .300. He also was the leading on-base man in the A.L. at .426; it was the fourth of his five OBP titles.

-The Red Sox, in the midst of their much-lamented 86-year championship drought, made the World Series only twice during Carl's career. He hit .350 during the 1975 postseason but flew out to Cesar Geronimo in center field for the final out of the deciding Game 7 of that year's World Series. Three years later, his foul pop to Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles stranded the tying and winning runs in the Bucky Dent game, giving the Yanks the A. L. East title. When the Sox finally captured the World Series in 2004, they had Yaz and Johnny Pesky raise the championship banner the following April.

-Yaz was remarkably durable, playing 23 full seasons in Boston (only Brooks Robinson had as long a career with just one team) and turning in an OPS+ under 100 just twice: as a rookie in 1961 and at age 41 in the strike-shortened 1981 season. The latter year was the only one in which he failed to play 100 games.

-He retired after the 1983 season with a .285 career average, .379 on-base percentage, and .462 slugging. He totaled 452 home runs and 1,844 RBI. Carl is still in the top ten all-time in defensive WAR (19.9 - 7th), games played (3,308 - 2nd), hits (3,419 - 8th), total bases (5,539 - 8th), doubles (646 - 8th), walks (1,845 - 6th), and assists by a left fielder (177 - 1st - it is often said that no one played the ball off of Fenway's Green Monster better than him).

-Yaz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989, his first year of eligibility. That summer his #8 was retired by the Red Sox.
#385 Carl Yastrzemski (back)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#308 Mets Rookie Stars: Cleon Jones and Tom Parsons

#308 Mets Rookie Stars: Cleon Jones and Tom Parsons
Firstly, sorry for the absence of a post yesterday. I've been in a good groove in recent months of posting every weekday, but I'm juggling a lot of things right now and had to skip. But today we jump to another handful of cards sent my way by Max. This first one features his favorite team, the Mets. Tom Parsons is presumably airbrushed out of a Pirates cap.

Fun facts about Cleon Jones:

-Cleon was born in Plateau, AL. He played both baseball and football at Alabama A&M University and signed with the Mets in 1963.

-He debuted with New York in September of 1963, skipping AA and AAA, but had only 2 hits in fifteen at-bats. One of those hits was a single off of Sandy Koufax.

-In 1966, his first full season in the majors, Cleon batted .275 and led the team with 74 runs scored and 16 steals. He finished fourth in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting.

-Was the Mets' leading hitter in 1968 with a .297 average and .452 slugging. Also hit a team-best 29 doubles, scored 63 runs, and swiped 23 bags. His 14 homers and 55 RBI were both second-best in a lean offensive season.

-Jones followed up that strong year with a career-best effort in 1969. He was tabbed for the All-Star Game after batting .341 with 10 homers and 56 RBI in the first half. Injuries sidelined him for most of the season's final month, but he still finished with personal highs in AVG/OBP/SLG (.340/.422/.482), runs (92), and RBI (75). No other Met would top his batting average until John Olerud hit .354 in 1998.

-After posting a .429 average (6-for-14) in the NLCS sweep over the Braves, Cleon struggled against the Orioles in the 1969 World Series, batting just .158 (3-for-19). But his fingerprints and shoeprints were all over the clinching Game 5. He led off the bottom of the sixth with the O's leading 3-0. A Dave McNally pitch skipped into the dirt at home plate and skittered away, and umpire Lou DiMuro denied Jones' claim that the ball hit him. But manager Gil Hodges retrieved what was allegedly the ball in question and showed DiMuro that there was a shoe polish stain on the surface. The outfielder was awarded first base and scored one batter later on a Donn Clendenon home run. The Mets tied it in the seventh, and Jones set the table again in the eighth with a leadoff double off of reliever Eddie Watt. He scored the go-ahead run on a Ron Swoboda double, and capped the Series the following inning by snaring a Davey Johnson fly ball.

-1971 was his last truly healthy season. He led the Mets in practically every offensive category: .319/.382/.473, 63 R, 6 3B, 14 HR, 69 RBI. His 24 doubles trailed team leader Jerry Grote by one.

-Renowned for his strong throwing arm, he totaled 64 career outfield assists, including 10 each in 1966 and 1970.

-The Mets released him halfway through the 1975 campaign. The combination of a knee injury, disagreements with manager Yogi Berra, and an arrest for indecent exposure combined to exhaust the team's patience with him. He caught on with the White Sox the following year, but saw action in just a dozen games before receiving his release on April 30. In parts of 13 seasons he batted .281 with 93 home runs and 524 RBI.

-He was chosen for the Mets Hall of Fame in 1991, and has also been honored by the Alabama and Mobile Sports Halls of Fame.

Fun facts about Tom Parsons:

-Tom hails from Lakeville, CT. He signed with the Pirates in 1957 out of high school.

-His best minor league season was likely 1960, when he was 12-7 with a 3.19 ERA for AAA Salt Lake City. He led the Bees in wins, ERA, and innings pitched.

-Parsons debuted in Pittsburgh with a start on September 5, 1963. The 23-year-old was chased in the fifth inning, allowing six runs (four earned) to the Braves on seven hits and two walks. He was saddled with the loss as Milwaukee's Bob Sadowski blanked the Bucs. The crucial blow was a three-run homer by future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.

-A June 1964 trade to Houston was dissolved that September, after which the Pirates sold Tom to the Mets. He spent the rest of the season in the big leagues and earned his first win on October 3. He relieved Dennis Ribant in the fourth inning with the Mets leading 8-4 and the Cardinals having loaded the bases. He snuffed out that rally and allowed a single run for the remainder of the game. New York piled on the runs and took it by a 15-5 final.

-Though he spend the entire 1965 season in the majors, the righthander probably wished he hadn't. Appearing in 35 games (including 11 starts) for the 50-112 Mets, he went 1-10 with a 4.67 ERA.

-His only 1965 win also happened to be the only shutout of his career, a six-hitter against the Cubs on July 5. As coincidence would have it, he also singled in his first at-bat that day for his lone big league hit!

-Tom never pitched in the majors again after 1965, finishing his MLB tenure with a 2-13 record and a save in parts of three seasons. His ERA was 4.72.

-Of the 19 home runs he allowed, 7 were to Hall of Famers. Eddie Mathews hit three. Much like Cooperstown enshrinee Jim Palmer, Parsons never surrendered a grand slam.

-The Astros acquired him for catcher Jerry Grote in the 1965-1966 offseason, and he spent the next three seasons at AAA Oklahoma City before concluding his career with the AA Pittsfield Red Sox in 1969. He was 95-98 with a 3.97 ERA in 12 minor league seasons.
#308 Mets Rookie Stars: Cleon Jones and Tom Parsons (back)

Monday, March 14, 2011

#507 Sammy Ellis

#507 Sammy Ellis
Geez, I realize Sammy Ellis was one of the junior members of the Reds, but they could have at least found him a cap that fit!

In other news, this card wraps up my super-late recap of the multi-card trade with Kris Shepard. Thanks again, Chris!

Fun facts about Sammy Ellis:

-A native of Youngstown, OH, Sammy signed with the Reds in 1961 after a brief time at Mississippi State University.

-He had a sterling 34-19 record in his first three seasons in the minors.

-Had a few brief stints in Cincinnati in 1962. He was 21 years old when he won his first game on April 24, a 7-3 decision over the Mets. He allowed only 1 hit in 5 innings, but walked 11!

-In his true rookie season of 1964, he served as the Reds' bullpen ace (10-3, 2.57 ERA). He was the club leader in appearances (52), saves (14), strikeouts per nine innings (9.2), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.46).

-A move to the rotation in 1965 was an instant success, as Sammy went 22-10 with a 3.79 ERA. He was Cincy's wins leader and also paced the team with 15 complete games en route to an All Star selection.

-Outdueled Sandy Koufax on July 28, 1965, allowing four hits in a complete game victory over the Dodgers. Ellis permitted a single run and struck out 12, one off of his personal best.

-His good fortune ran out the following year, with a 12-19 record that was closely tied to a sky-high 5.29 ERA. The righthander also gave up 35 home runs, the most in the league.

-Arm problems crept in in subsequent years, and Ellis was out of the major leagues by 1969 and finished as a pro pitcher two years after that. He put in a season each with the Angels and White Sox and finished 63-58 with a 4.15 ERA in parts of 7 seasons.

-How did Sammy fare against Hall of Famers? Pretty good vs. Roberto Clemente (.216/.259/.431, 12K in 51 AB). Not so good against Hank Aaron (.421/.439/.974, 7 HR in 38 AB).

-He has been a pitching instructor for several organizations, and served at various times on the major league staffs of the Yankees, White Sox, Cubs, Mariners, Red Sox, and Orioles.
#507 Sammy Ellis (back)

Friday, March 11, 2011

#495 Joe Christopher

#495 Joe Christopher
Maybe it's a trick of perspective, but my goodness that bat looks tiny. Was Joe hitting fungoes?

Fun facts about Joe Christopher:

-Joe was born in Frederiksted in the Virgin Islands. He signed with the Pirates in 1955.

-Became the first native-born Virgin Islander to play in the majors when he debuted at age 23 on May 26, 1959. That game became famous for Harvey Haddix's 12-inning perfect game.

-On September 27, 1960, Joe played all 16 innings of a 4-3 win over the Reds, going 5-for-7 with a walk and a run scored.

-After three seasons as a backup to the likes of Bob Skinner, Bill Virdon, and Roberto Clemente, he was the fifth selection of the Mets in the expansion draft prior to the 1962 season.

-Played 119 games for the miserable 1962 Mets. Though he hit only .244, his .338 on-base percentage was topped only by Elio Chacon (.338) and Richie Ashburn (.424) among regulars.

-A famous anecdote has the bilingual Christopher teaching center fielder Ashburn to say "Yo la tengo" ("I got it") to call off shortstop Chacon on fly balls. The first time Ashburn uttered the phrase in a game situation, burly left fielder Frank Thomas ran him over. Thomas got up and said, "What the heck is a yellow tango?".

-Became the first everyday Mets player to bat .300 when he did so in 1964. Also set career highs that year with 78 runs scored, 26 doubles, 8 triples, 16 home runs, and 76 RBI. Got on base at a .360 clip.

-His final major league season was 1966, when he appeared in a dozen games for the Red Sox. In parts of eight seasons he hit .260 with 29 home runs and 173 RBI.

-Played in the minors through 1968, retiring with an average close to .300.

-Joe worked in an ad agency in New York for some time, and later moved to Baltimore. His passion is drawing.
#495 Joe Christopher (back)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

#477 Cardinals Rookie Stars: Fritz Ackley and Steve Carlton

#477 Cardinals Rookies: Fritz Ackley and Steve Carlton
Whoa! Lefty is almost certainly my biggest rookie card "get" from this set thus far. I'm still chasing down Phil Niekro, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and Catfish Hunter. Of course none of those other cards feature a unibrow as lush and rich as the one sported by Mr. Fritz Ackley.

Fun facts about Fritz Ackley:

-A native of Hayward, WI, Fritz was 17 when he signed with the White Sox in 1954.

-He was in his ninth year of pro ball when he finally made it to AAA Indianapolis. It was worth the wait, as the righty earned International League Pitcher of the Year honors with an 18-5 record and a 2.76 ERA.

-Ackley earned a September callup and made two starts for Chicago. In his debut on September 21, he allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings and departed trailing 3-1. The Pale Hose tied it in the eighth before falling 4-3. The rookie singled off of Denny McLain (also making his debut) for his first career hit.

-He won his first and only career game in his second start, September 27, 1963. The 26-year-old held the Senators to one run on two hits and four walks in seven innings, striking out seven. He won 7-1, as the Sox picked up four runs of insurance in the eighth inning. Hoyt Wilhelm earned the save.

-Fritz allowed six runs in six and one-third innings spanning three appearances in early 1964. The White Sox demoted him to AAA, and he never did return to the majors.

-In his only two plate appearances in 1964, he walked and hit a run-scoring double against Minnesota's Jim Roland on May 4.

-His cumulative big league record was 1-0 with a 4.19 ERA.

-The Cardinals acquired Ackley that offseason, and he remained in the minors until calling it quits in 1967. In parts of 13 minor league seasons, he won 95 games.

-Fritz returned home to Wisconsin and operated the Chip-a-Flo Lodge for 13 years. He later became a salesman for North Country Business Products.

-He passed away in 2002 at age 65.

Fun facts about Steve Carlton:

-Steve was born in Miami, FL and signed with the Cardinals as a teenager in 1963 for a $5,000 bonus.

-He debuted in St. Louis in 1965, putting up a 2.52 ERA in 15 appearances, mostly in relief.

-By 1967, Carlton was a regular in the Cards rotation. He went 14-9 with a 2.98 ERA for the World Champs. The following year, he was named to the All-Star Team for the first of 10 times. His finest season with the club was 1969, when he was 17-11 with 210 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA; only Juan Marichal's 2.10 mark was better in the entire National League.

-Steve won 20 games for the first time in 1971; the following spring, owner Gussie Busch tired of contract disputes with the pitcher and had him dealt to the Phillies for Rick Wise. The newest Phillie worked like a man possessed, going 27-10 for a last-place club to lead the league in wins. He was also tops in ERA (1.97), starts (41), complete games (30!), innings pitched (346.1), strikeouts (310), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.56-to-1). He received his first Cy Young Award in a clean sweep of first-place votes. With only 59 wins total, the Phils relied on their ace for 46% of their victories on the season!

-He remained an elite pitcher for more than a decade, winning three more Cy Youngs (1977: 23-10, 2.64 ERA; 1980: 24-9, 2.34 ERA; 1982: 23-11, 3.10 ERA). He became the first pitcher to win the award four times.

-An excellently-conditioned athlete, Carlton completed at least 10 games in each of his first 16 full seasons. He used a number of training methods considered unorthodox at the time: karate, distance running, weight training, and kneading his pitching hand through a tin of uncooked rice.

-He pitched in the postseason eight times over his career, but was at his best in 1980 as the Phils captured their first World Series. He put up a 2.19 ERA in the NLCS victory over Houston, winning the opener with one run allowed in seven innings. He won both of his Fall Classic starts, including the deciding Game Six, while striking out 17 batters in 15 innings.

-Late in his career, he and Nolan Ryan jockeyed for the all-time strikeout record. In 1983, Ryan was the first to break Walter Johnson's previous record of 3,509, but Steve caught Johnson within a month and passed Ryan by season's end. Carlton led as late as September 4, 1984, but Nolan eventually outlasted him and retired with an incredible 5,714 whiffs.

-The Phillies released Carlton in June 1986, and he stubbornly soldiered on with a number of teams in short succession, also pitching for the Giants, White Sox, Indians, and Twins over the next three years. Minnesota released him in 1988, and he finally retired the following spring after failing to catch on with another club. In parts of 24 seasons he was 329-244 with a 3.22 ERA, 254 complete games, and 55 shutouts. His 4,316 strikeouts were second-best in history at that time; he has since been passed by Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson.

-He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1994. The Phillies retired his #32 in 1989 and erected a statue in his likeness outside of Veterans Stadium. The statue was transported to Citizen's Bank Park when that stadium opened in 2004.
#477 Cardinals Rookies: Fritz Ackley and Steve Carlton (back)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

#460 Richie Allen

#460 Richie Allen
Chances are good that you know this man as "Dick" Allen, the mercurial, bespectacled, facial-hair-clad slugger of the 1970s. There's almost a three-dimensional aspect with the placement of the rookie trophy in front of Allen's body.

Fun facts about Dick Allen:

-Dick was born in Wampum, PA and signed with the Phillies in 1960 while still a teenager for a $70,000 bonus.

-His older brother Hank was an outfielder with the Senators, Brewers, and White Sox (1966-1973). Younger brother Ron had a seven-game cup of coffee with the Cardinals in 1972.

-After hitting .306 and slugging .531 in four minor league seasons, he debuted with the Phillies in September 1963, batting .292 in 10 games.

-As the Phils' starting third baseman in 1964, Dick won Rookie of the Year honors. He led the National League with 125 runs scored, 13 triples, and 352 total bases and hit .318 with 38 doubles, 29 home runs, and 91 RBI.

-He was a seven-time All-Star, including a 1966 season in which he set career highs with 40 home runs and a league-leading slugging percentage of .632. He also topped the senior circuit with a personal best 1.027 OPS.

-During his initial six-plus year tenure in Philadelphia, his outspoken nature made him a target of fan abuse. He was so frequently pelted with projectiles while on defense, he took to wearing a batting helmet at first base.

-Allen played for four different teams from 1969-1972: Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, White Sox. In his first season in Chicago, he captured the American League MVP by virtue of league-leading efforts in home runs (37), RBI (113), walks (99), on-base percentage (.420), and slugging (.603). His .308 average put him in a third-place tie with teammate Carlos May, 10 points behind Rod Carew. If he had gotten just one more hit per month, he would've taken the Triple Crown.

-A productive three-season stint with the Pale Hose was marred by a broken leg suffered in June 1973 and a walk-out late in the 1974 season.

-Dick finished his career with a two-year return engagement in Philly followed by one last season in Oakland in 1977. In parts of 15 seasons, he hit .292/.378/.534 (156 OPS+) with 351 home runs and 1,119 RBI. In 14 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, he never exceeded 18.9% of the vote, but many (including sabermatrician Bill James) still champion his cause.

-During his career, he moonlighted as the lead singer of the Ebonistics, an R&B group that enjoyed minor success.
#460 Richie Allen (back)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

#186 Billy Cowan

#186 Billy Cowan
Billy Cowan looks perplexed, like maybe he's troubled by the fact that his pinstripes don't match up at the shoulder seam.

Fun facts about Billy Cowan:

-A native of Calhoun City, MS, Billy briefly attended the University of Utah before signing with the Cubs in 1961.

-A year after totaling 35 homers, 122 RBI, and 27 steals and putting up a .307/.351/.612 line between Class B Wenatchee and AA San Antonio, he earned the 1963 Pacific Coast League MVP award with a .315 average, 40 doubles, 25 home runs, 120 RBI, and 31 steals at Salt Lake City.

-Cowan debuted with Chicago on September 9, 1963, delivering a pinch single against Curt Simmons in his first at-bat.

-The Cubs made him their starting center fielder in 1964. He flashed his power with 19 home runs and drove in 50, and led the club with a dozen steals. However, the rookie’s plate discipline was lacking; he walked 18 times and struck out 128 and batted .241 with a .268 on-base percentage.

-Billy was traded twice in 1965: a January swap sent him to the Mets for George Altman, and in August New York dealt him to the Braves. His performance was dismal: .180/.202/.301 with 3 homers and 9 RBI in 189 plate appearances. He was still swinging at everything, as evidenced by totals of 4 walks and 54 strikeouts.

-He spent the entirety of both the 1966 and 1968 seasons in the minors, as well as a portion of 1967. In between, he continued to scuffle in a 34-game stint with the Phillies.

-Cowan finally found his role as a part-timer with the Angels in 1969. After beginning the season with a disastrous tenure for the Yankees, he was sold to the Halos and batted .304 (17-for-56) with 4 home runs, 10 RBI, and 10 runs scored.

-His 12th-inning home run against Wilbur Wood on September 6, 1969 gave California a 2-1 walkoff win against the White Sox.

-Billy remained productive in 1970-1971, batting .276 in each season while getting most of his at-bats against left-handed pitchers (he was a righty).

-After appearing in three games, he was released by the Angels in May 1972, bringing his career to a close. In parts of eight seasons he hit .236 with 40 home runs and 125 RBI.
#186 Billy Cowan (back)

Monday, March 07, 2011

#144 Ed Kranepool

#144 Ed Kranepool
I'm going to start this post with a reminder that you can track my progress in completing this set by peering at the left sidebar. Now that I'm so close to the finish line, I've decided to take matters into my own hands. If I see a card that I still need and the price is right, I'll plunk down some cash for it. With a few such purchases over the weekend and another small trade, I now have 570 of the 598 cards. This puts me over the 95% mark...I can barely believe it! Thanks to everyone who's helped out, even if you just stopped by to read my words and offer a few remarks of encouragement.

Fun facts about Ed Kranepool:

-Ed was born in New York City and signed with the fledgling Mets at age 17 in 1962.

-He bolted through three levels of the farm system and debuted in New York on September 22, 1962; he was the youngest player in the majors at the time.

-Despite a couple of midseason demotions to AAA Buffalo, Kranepool was the Mets' most frequent starter at first base in 1964. He batted .257 with a .310 on-base percentage and .393 slugging. Among starters, only Ron Hunt and Joe Christopher topped his 100 OPS+ for the lowly club.

-A great first half in 1965 (.287, 18 2B) earned Ed his only All-Star selection. However, a second-half slump dropped his average to .253.

-In 1966, his team-leading 16 home runs represented a career high. Ken Boyer (61 RBI) was the only Met to surpass the first baseman's 57 runs driven in.

-He was not one of the stronger hitters on the 1969 "Miracle Mets" club, and Donn Clendenon got most of the starts at first base in that year's World Series. However, Ed's solo home run capped the scoring in a 5-0 victory over the Orioles in Game Three of the Fall Classic.

-After a disastrous 1970 season (.170 AVG, no extra-base hits in 43 games, a demotion to AAA), Kranepool rebounded the following year with a line of .280/.340/.447, 14 homers, and a personal-best 58 RBI.

-Near the end of his career, he settled into more of a supporting role. From 1974-1977, he batted .299/.349/.419 overall and had a .447 average (42-for-94) as a pinch hitter. His 17-for-35 performance (.486) in 1974 was the best-ever mark for a pinch hitter with 30 or more at-bats.

-Ed retired after the 1979 season having played for the Mets in each of their first 18 seasons of existence. He had a .261 career average, 118 home runs, and 614 RBI. His 1,853 games played are still a franchise record. David Wright currently stands at 1,004, and will have to remain healthy and stay in New York for six more years at least to top Kranepool.

-He has been a stockbroker and restaurateur in his post-baseball days, and was selected to the Mets Hall of Fame in 1990.
#144 Ed Kranepool (back)

Friday, March 04, 2011

#140 Dean Chance

#140 Dean Chance
I firmly believe that names are important. A guy with a name like "Dean Chance" just seems to have a much better chance of being a successful baseball player than "Micah Hoffpauir", don't you think?

Fun facts about Dean Chance:

-A native of Wooster, OH, Dean signed with the Orioles in 1959 out of high school.

-After going 22-12 with a 3.07 ERA in his first two pro seasons, he was chosen by the Senators in the expansion draft. They immediately traded him to their first-year counterparts (the Angels) for Joe Hicks, an outfielder who would hit .217 for Washington. Chance debuted with Los Angeles in September 1961, but was hit hard.

-The Halos kept him on the big league roster for the entire 1962 campaign, and he saw action in 50 games (24 starts). Dean led the club with a 14-10 mark and a 2.96 ERA, and his 8 saves were one off of the team lead. He received a single vote out of the 20 cast for A.L. Rookie of the Year. The winner was New York's Tom Tresh (.286/.359/.441, 20 HR, 93 RBI). If this vote played out today, bloggers and analysts would be howling over the four votes given to Angels catcher Buck Rodgers (.258/.309/.372, 6 HR, 61 RBI).

-Poor run support doomed Chance to a 13-18 record despite his 3.19 ERA in his sophomore season. But he took matters into his own hands in 1964 with league-leading totals in ERA (1.65), complete games (15), shutouts (11), innings pitched (278.1), and home runs per nine innings (0.2/9). Incredibly, he surrendered just seven home runs all season; you could certainly forgive him for being taken deep once each by Norm Cash, Mickey Mantle, and Brooks Robinson. Dean also went 20-9 to top the A.L. in wins, and earned an All-Star nod and the Cy Young Award. The latter was no mean feat, as only one award was given for the entire major leagues that year. He left the Cubs' Larry Jackson (24-11, 3.14 ERA) and the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax (19-5, 1.74) in his wake.

-The effectively wild right-hander never quite matched that dominant 1964 effort, but remained effective for two more years in Los Angeles before being traded to the Twins for Pete Cimino, Jimmie Hall, and Don Mincher. Dean was an All-Star in his Minnesota debut in 1967, as he went 20-14 with a 2.73 ERA and topped the A.L. with 18 complete games. He was named Comeback Player of the Year, but his season ended in disappointment. His 5-3 loss to the Red Sox in the final game decided the American League pennant.

-On August 25, 1967, he no-hit the Indians in the nightcap of a doubleheader. It was a 2-1 squeaker, with the Tribe manufacturing a first-inning run on two walks, an error by third baseman Cesar Tovar, and a wild pitch. Tovar scored the winning run in the sixth inning when Cleveland starter Sonny Siebert balked with runners on the corners!

-His last strong year came in 1968, when he set a career high with 234 strikeouts and turned in 15 complete games and a 2.53 ERA. His 16-16 record was hampered by poor Twins hitting; 17 times in his 39 starts the offense gave him less than three runs of support.

-After a sore shoulder held him to 15 starts in 1969, Dean changed teams frequently. He split an ineffective 1970 season between the Indians and Mets, and tossed only 89.2 innings for the Tigers in 1971. They released him in October and he called it a career.

-In parts of 11 seasons, he was 128-115 with 23 saves and a 2.92 ERA. His career rate of 0.44 HR/9 IP is the lowest in Angels franchise history, and only Andy Messersmith (2.78 ERA) had a lower earned run average in his Angels tenure than Chance's 2.83.

-In 1969, Dean became a boxing promoter and manager. He founded the International Boxing Association in the 1990s and is president of IBA to this day. It's a professional sanctioning body, and its titles are viewed as a stepping-stone to greater honors. Notable former IBA champs include Oscar de la Hoya, Roy Jones, Jr., James Toney, George Foreman, Arturo Gatti, Sugar Shane Mosley, and Antonio Tarver....not to mention Eric "Butterbean" Esch!

#140 Dean Chance (back)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

#138 World Series Game Seven: Gibson Wins Finale

#138 1964 World Series Game Seven
Hey, Bob Gibson’s back again! After going the distance in a 10-inning, 13-strikeout win in Game 5, the Cardinals ace sat by and watched the Yankees take the next game, 8-3. That set the stage for a winner-take-all Game 7 on Thursday, October 15 at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium in front of 30,646 fans.

The pitching matchup was a reprise of Games 2 and 5, with Gibson and Mel Stottlemyre both coming back on two days’ rest. The contest began much like the last meeting between these two pitchers, with neither permitting a run through the first three innings. The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the second, but unfortunately had gone through the lineup. Stottlemyre struck out to blunt the threat.

St. Louis broke out on top in the home half of the fourth in unconventional fashion. Ken Boyer and Dick Groat reached with nobody out, and Tim McCarver hit a grounder to first baseman Joe Pepitone. Pep fired to shortstop Phil Linz to force Groat at second base, but Linz’s return throw to first was wild. McCarver was safe at first, and Boyer scored on the error. Mike Shannon singled to put runners on the corners, and the Cards executed a double steal with their catcher sliding home safely for run number two. Light-hitting shortstop Dal Maxvill delivered an RBI single to make it 3-0 before Stottlemyre rallied to retire Gibson and Curt Flood. The Yankee starter’s day was done, though.

The Redbirds broke it open in the next inning. Al Downing relieved Stottlemyre and failed to retire a batter. Lou Brock greeted him with a home run to right-center field, and consecutive hits by Bill White and Boyer put two runners in scoring position. Rollie Sheldon retired the next three hitters, but Groat and McCarver’s productive outs plated both runners and the National League champs had a 6-0 lead after five innings with a fiercely competitive 19-game winner on the hill.

In the span of three batters, New York rebounded and chopped the deficit in half. The sixth inning began with singles by Bobby Richardson and Roger Maris, and Mickey Mantle crushed a three-run homer to left-center field. It was the legendary slugger’s third home run of the Series, and the 18th and final postseason home run of his storied career. Gibson recovered and kept it at 6-3. Ken Boyer gave St. Louis some more breathing room by pulling a solo home run to left field against Steve Hamilton in the bottom of the seventh. That made it 7-3, and it stayed that way through the eighth as well.

Trying for his second straight complete game, Gibson came right after the Yankee hitters in the top of the ninth. He struck out Tom Tresh, then surrendered a solo homer to Ken Boyer’s younger brother Clete. The sequence repeated, as a Johnny Blanchard strikeout (Gibson’s ninth of the game and 31st of the Series) was followed by a Phil Linz round-tripper. Now it was a two-run game, but the Cards’ hurler quickly ended the drama, the game, and the World Series by inducing a Bobby Richardson pop fly to Dal Maxvill. Cardinals 7, Yankees 5.

The home crowd jumped for joy (presumably), and the players, coaches, and other team personnel spilled out of the dugout to celebrate the franchise’s first World Championship since 1946. Gibson was named the Series MVP for holding the Yanks to 11 runs (9 earned) in 27 innings. Though St. Louis would return to the Fall Classic in 1967 (beating Boston) and 1968 (losing to Detroit), it was the end of an era for the Bronx Bombers. They fired Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra as their manager, replacing him with Johnny Keane, the man who had bested him in the Series. Aging and retiring stars, flopped prospects, and mismanagement conspired to keep the Yankees for the next 11 years, practically a lifetime for that bombastic club.
#138 1964 World Series Game Seven (Back)

#136 World Series Game 5: 10th Inning Triumph

#136 1964 World Series Game Five
Hey look, it's Mike Shannon again! Long time, no see. From left to right, we have Shannon, Bill White, Dick Groat, home plate umpire Vinnie Smith, and Tim McCarver in the moment's following Timmy's go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the tenth inning. It's so energizing to talk about an action photo after dozens upon dozens of headshots and poses.

This was a Monday afternoon game at Yankee Stadium, taking place October 12, 1964. The two teams entered Game Five tied at two wins apiece and they were greeted by 65,633 ardent baseball fans. Starting pitchers Bob Gibson and Mel Stottlemyre traded zeroes for the first four innings. The Cardinals left the bases loaded in the first, as Stottlemyre struck out Tim McCarver to escape the jam. Gibson returned the favor an inning later, fanning Clete Boyer and Stottlemyre with the sacks packed.

St. Louis manufactured a pair of runs in the fifth to take the advantage. Gibson singled, Curt Flood reached on an error by Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson, and Lou Brock singled his pitcher home. Bill White scored Flood on a fielder's choice. Through seven innings, the score remained 2-0 in favor of the visitors. At that point, Stottlemyre exited having allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks. He struck out six batters. Gibson showed no signs of slowing down, having pitched around four hits, two walks (one intentional) and a hit batter. He'd struck out 11 New York batters. Hal Reniff and Pete Mikkelsen kept the Redbirds off the board in the eighth and ninth frames, setting up a last gasp for the home team.

The Bronx Bombers got a reprieve in the bottom of the ninth when St. Louis shortstop Dick Groat booted a Mickey Mantle grounder to lead off the inning. Gibson rallied to strike out Elston Howard, and a Joe Pepitone comebacker left the Yanks with one last hope. Tom Tresh, a powerful outfielder and two-time All-Star, touched off a raucous celebration in the stands with a game-tying home run to right-center field. Gibson rallied to retire Pedro Gonzalez on a popout to send the game to extra innings.

Mikkelsen, who had been New York's leading fireman as a rookie in 1964 (7-4, 3.56 ERA, 12 saves), took the mound for his third inning of relief. The Cards put together a tenth-inning threat via a Bill White leadoff walk, a Ken Boyer bunt that the pitcher could not field, and a steal of third by White. Groat bounced into a force play that retired Boyer at second, and catcher Tim McCarver struck the crucial blow. His three-run home run to deep right field gave the Cardinals a 5-2 lead. They won by that same score as Gibson set down the Yankees in the bottom of the tenth, allowing only a two-out single to Richardson. The fearsome St. Louis hurler earned the win in a ten-inning complete game, totaling six hits allowed and two walks while fanning 13 batters. As a result of Groat's error, both Yankee runs were unearned.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how the Series ended!
#136 1964 World Series Game Five (back)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

#120 Frank Robinson

#120 Frank Robinson
That's right, it's the baddest mamma-jamma to ever hike his stirrups up extra-high. This is Robby's last card as a member of the Reds; he was somewhat famously traded to Baltimore in the following offseason and appeared hatless and assigned to the Orioles in 1966 Topps.

Fun facts about Frank Robinson:

-Frank was born in Beaumont, TX but attended McClymonds High School in Oakland, CA. He was on the same high school basketball team as Celtics legend Bill Russell, and the McClymonds baseball team featured an outfield of Robinson, Curt Flood, and Vada Pinson. The Reds signed all three young players, including Robinson in 1953.

-He made short work of the minor leagues, and earned the nod as Cincy's left fielder in 1956 at the age of 20. He was the unanimous choice for National League Rookie of the Year with a league-leading 122 runs scored. The first-year player also led his team with 38 home runs and a .558 slugging percentage and batted a robust .290 with a .379 on-base percentage. He was an All-Star for the first of 12 seasons, and finished 7th in MVP voting.

-In 1961, Frank led the Reds to the N.L. Pennant and was named MVP in a rout. He paced the league with a .611 slugging percentage and 1.015 OPS and batted .323 with a .404 on-base percentage, 37 home runs, and 124 RBI, not to mention 22 steals. Unfortunately the Yankees bested Cincinnati in a five-game World Series as Frank batted .200 (3-for-15) with three walks, two doubles, a homer, and four RBI.

-As incredible as it seems, he was even better in 1962 as the top National Leaguer in runs (134), doubles (51), OBP (.421!), SLG (.624), and of course OPS (1.045). He batted .342 with 39 home runs and a career-high 136 RBI, and the Reds finished third despite 98 wins. He finished fourth for the MVP, which was won by Maury Wills (104 SB, .720 OPS) in a ridiculous consensus. Willie Mays and Tommy Davis were 2-3,  and they each had their own case for the award.

-After averaging 32+ home runs and 101 RBI in 10 seasons in Cincinnati, Robinson was shocked to be traded to the Orioles for a package headlined by Milt Pappas. Reds' owner Bill DeWitt famously explained the trade by asserting that the outfielder was "an old thirty". Frank got the last laugh, winning the Triple Crown in his 1966 American League debut (.316 AVG, 49 HR, 122 RBI). He also topped the A.L. in OBP (.410), SLG (career-high .637), runs (122), and total bases (367). His OPS+ was 198, meaning that he was practically twice as good as the average player in the league. He became the first (and to date, the only) player to win MVP awards in each league, and added the World Series MVP as well. He slugged .857 in the Birds' shocking four-game sweep of the Dodgers, setting the tone with a two-run homer off of Don Drysdale in the first inning of the first game and bookending the Series with a home run off of Drysdale to account for the only run in the clincher. It's fair to say that the O's would have won the trade even if he retired after that first season.

-One more milestone from the 1966 season: In the second game of a May 8 doubleheader against Cleveland, he hit a two-run homer off of Luis Tiant. It was the only fly ball to ever leave Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, and was marked with a flag that simply said "HERE".

-But Frank remained productive in Baltimore for another five seasons, although injuries and age brought his numbers closer to Earth. The Orioles won four pennants during his tenure, and won another World Series over his former team in 1970. He added two more home runs to his ledger in that Series, and ultimately finished his career with 10 home runs in 35 postseason contests.

-The aging slugger was traded three times in a three-year span near the end of his career, going from the Orioles to the Dodgers to the Angels and finally to the Indians. Prior to the 1975 season, Cleveland appointed him player-manager, making him the first African-American manager in major league history. During his final season on the active roster, he inserted himself into a June 11, 1976 home game against the White Sox. It was the bottom of the 13th, and Chicago led 4-3 with two outs and Larvell Blanks on first base. Manager Robinson pulled the right strings, sending up pinch-hitter Robinson to deliver a walk-off two-run home run against reliever Terry Forster!

-Frank hung up his spikes after 21 seasons with a batting line of .294/.389/.537. His 586 home runs were fourth-best all-time (now ninth-best), and his 1,812 RBI are still #20 on the list. His uniform number (also #20, incidentally) has been retired by the Orioles and the Reds, and he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer along with Hank Aaron in 1982.

-In addition to the Indians (1975-1977), he managed the Giants (1981-1984), Orioles (1988-1991), Expos (2002-2004), and Nationals (2005-2006). He was named Manager of the Year in 1989 after the Orioles improved from 54-107 to 87-75 in one season and came within two games of the AL East crown. He has also worked in the Orioles front office and the commissioner's office.
#120 Frank Robinson (back)