Friday, May 27, 2011

#30 Jim Bouton

#30 Jim Bouton
This is the first of two 1965 Topps cards that I acquired via trades on Topps' Million Card Giveaway site, last year's version of the Diamond Giveaway. I entered a code card that was pulled from a pack of 2010 Topps, and was awarded a 1964 Topps Wade Blasingame. Since I already had Wade's 1965 card and the drab '64 design is one of my least favorite, I offered it up for trade for various 1965s that I needed. Someone took the bait, and I got Jim Bouton in return! I waited until the March 2011 deadline to order shipping on the batch of cards that I had unlocked and/or traded for, and they arrived six weeks later. As you can see, this one isn't in great shape, but it's certainly not the worst-kept specimen in my set.

Fun facts about Jim Bouton:

-Jim was born in Newark, NJ and attended Western Michigan University before signing with the Yankees in 1959.

-The young pitcher, known as "Bulldog", went 13-7 with a 2.97 ERA at AA Amarillo in 1961 and earned a spot on the big league team the following spring. As a rookie, he made 16 starts and 20 relief appearances, going 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA and 2 saves. He did not appear in the World Series vs. San Francisco.

-1963 was a breakout year for the sophomore, as he went 21-7 with 12 complete games and team bests in ERA (2.53) and shutouts (6). He took a hard-luck loss in Game 3 of the World Series, dropping a 1-0 decision to Dodger star Don Drysdale.

-Bouton followed up with an 18-13 mark and a 3.02 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 1964. He dazzled in the World Series, winning both of his starts and allowing 4 runs (3 earned) in 17.1 innings for a 1.56 ERA.

-His intellectual, sarcastic, and iconoclastic behavior frequently made him conspicuous in the clubhouse, and arm troubles in the mid-1960s made him expendable in the eyes of the Yankees. While pitching for AAA Seattle in 1968, he began throwing a knuckleball in order to be effective. He was to spend much of the 1969 season in the Pacific Northwest, but this time with the Pilots, a first-year club in the American League. Used mostly in relief, he went 2-1 with a save and a 3.91 ERA. He was traded to Houston for the stretch run and had a 4.11 ERA in 30.2 innings for the Astros.

-Of course, Bouton kept a running diary of that 1969 season, and it was published as "Ball Four". It was a best-seller and a groundbreaking look inside major league clubhouses. The "old-boys" network in baseball was furious, with players and executives alike feeling that he had abused trust and privacy and painted the sport and its people in an unflattering light. He put up a 5.40 ERA in 29 games with the Astros in 1970, and following the publication of his book, could not latch on with another team.

-Throughout the 1970s, Jim continued pitching in semipro ball. He got a minor league deal from Bill Veeck in 1977, and the following year the similarly free-thinking Ted Turner signed the knuckleballer. He made it all the way back to the big leagues in September 1978, making 5 starts for a bad Braves team. The 39-year-old went 1-3 with a 4.97 ERA, earning his only win with a single unearned run allowed in 6 innings on September 14 against the Giants.

-In parts of 10 seasons, he was 62-63 with 6 saves and a 3.57 ERA.

-He's had a varied and fascinating life outside of the lines. He wrote several more books, both fiction and non-fiction, and during the 1970s he dabbled in acting, co-starring in the 1973 film The Long Goodbye and co-writing and appearing in a short-lived 1976 sitcom based on "Ball Four". He also spent a few years as a sportscaster in New York and invented  several products including Big League Chew, bubble gum that was shaped and packaged like chewing tobacco.

-You can read more about Jim at his official website. By the way, he reconciled with Mickey Mantle shortly before the slugger's death in 1995, and the Yankees finally welcomed him back to Old Timers' Day in 1998.
#30 Jim Bouton (back)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

#266 Bert Campaneris

#266 Bert Campaneris
Campy! Rookie Trophy! Did you know that his birth name is "Dagoberto"? That's pretty awesome. This sharp-looking card comes from Pirates fan Dan M. He also sent me some unmarked checklists as upgrades, and a few vintage Orioles to fill some needs. Thank you muchly, Dan!

Fun facts about Bert Campaneris:

-A native of Pueblo Nuevo, Cuba, Bert was a teenager when he signed with the Athletics in 1961.

-Bert had quite a debut on July 23, 1964, homering off of Jim Kaat in his first and fourth at-bats to become the second player ever to go deep twice in his first major league game. He finished 3-for-4 with 3 RBI, a steal, and a walk.

-The young Campaneris made a stronger impact in his sophomore season, hitting .270 and leading the American League with 12 triples and 51 steals. It was the first of 6 stolen base crowns for him, and the first of 11 seasons with at least 34 swipes.

-On September 8, 1965, he became the first player to see time at all nine positions in a single game, as part of an attendance stunt. He pitched the eighth inning, alternating throwing lefty and righty depending on the handedness of the batter. He allowed a run on one hit and two walks and struck out Bobby Knoop. In the ninth, he moved to catcher with the A's trailing 3-1. Ed Kirkpatrick walked, stole second on Campy, and advanced to third on a fly ball. With two outs, Kirkpatrick and Tom Egan tried a double steal. On the relay back home, the ersatz catcher tagged the runner out, but was banged up in the resulting collision and left the game. K.C. rallied to tie the game, but lost 5-3 in 13 innings. Overall, Bert recorded putouts at first base, catcher, left field, and center field, muffed a flyball in right field, and walked, stole a base, and scored a run in four trips to the plate.

-Made the first of six All-Star teams in 1968, when he achieved career highs and league-best totals of 177 hits and 62 steals.

-In Game Two of the 1972 ALCS, he had three hits, two steals, and two runs. Detroit pitcher Lerrin LaGrow hit him on the ankle with a pitch in the seventh inning, and he responded by throwing his bat at LaGrow. Campy was ejected, and tussled with Tigers manager Billy Martin in the ensuing melee. He was fined and suspended for the duration of the series as well as the first seven games of the following season, but was permitted to play in the 1972 World Series.

-He surprisingly stole only 6 bases in 37 career postseason games. Was a part of the "Swingin' A's" that won three straight World Series, 1972-1974. In the 1972 Series win over the Mets, he batted .290 (9-for-31) with 6 runs scored, a triple, a homer, 3 RBI, and 3 steals.

-Bert spent a few seasons each with the Rangers and Angels late in his career, and retired after batting .322 in a reserve role with the Yankees in 1983. In parts of 19 seasons, he hit .259 with 79 home runs and 646 RBI. He once ranked 7th with 649 career steals, and is still 14th all-time today.

-He coached in Japan for the Seibu Lions in 1987 and 1988, and the club won championships in both seasons. He returned to the U.S. and played for the Gold Coast Suns of the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989-1990, batting .291 with 16 steals in 60 games in his mid-40s.

-Bert now lives in Scottsdale, AZ, enjoys golf, and remains active with the MLB Players Alumni Association.
#266 Bert Campaneris (back)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

#207 Pete Rose

#207 Pete Rose
Uh-oh, Mad Max is back with another Hall of Famer! Frankly, I'm just happy to get back to one player per card. I've been stretching myself awfully thin, don't ya know. If you're keeping track of my progress in posting, this card arrived from Max in November 2009. But I really am closing the gap.

Fun facts about Pete Rose:

-Pete signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds as a teenager in 1960.

-He won the Reds' starting second base job to begin the 1963 season and was named NL Rookie of the Year despite a somewhat tepid stat line: .273/.334/.371 (101 OPS+), 6 HR, 41 RBI, 13 of 28 success rate on steals. He did score 101 runs, and that was enough to beat out an underwhelming rookie crop headed by Ron Hunt (.272/.334/.396, 10 HR, 42 RBI).

-Nicknamed "Charlie Hustle" for his all-out style of play, he soon established himself as one the premier contact hitters in the game. In 1965 he batted .312/.382/.446 with 35 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers, and 81 RBI and led the league with 209 hits, the first of seven hit titles in his career. He was also named to the All-Star Game for the first of 17 times.

-Other league-leading totals for Pete included runs scored (4x), doubles (5x), batting average (3x), and on-base percentage (2x). He even won a couple of Gold Gloves for his play in right field in 1969 and 1970. He also tied Wee Willie Keeler's National League record with a 44-game hitting streak in 1978.

-His most famous (and infamous) on-field escapade came in the 1970 All-Star Game, when he raced around the bases on a Jim Hickman single and plowed into Indians catcher Ray Fosse to jar the ball loose and score the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Many fans and pundits hyperbolically claim that this incident stunted the 23-year-old Fosse's career, but that seems a bit much. Though he never again matched his numbers from that year (.307/.361/.469, 18 HR, 61 RBI), he did play for the rest of the decade and even picked up another All-Star nod and Gold Glove in 1971.

-Rose had five top-five finishes in MVP voting, and won the award outright in 1973 when he hit a league-best .338 with 115 runs scored for the National League West champs.

-He was a member of six World Series teams, ending up on the losing side in 1970 and 1972 with the Reds and 1983 with the Phillies. His teams won it all in 1975 and 1976 (Reds) and 1980 (Phillies). He had a career postseason average of .321, which includes a .370 mark in the 1975 Fall Classic. He also reached base in that Series at a .485 clip and earned MVP honors.

-Pete joined the Expos in 1984, but an August trade allowed him to return to the Reds as a player-manager. While writing himself into the lineup on a regular basis, he was able to catch and pass Ty Cobb for the all-time hits record, breaking through with #4,192 on September 11, 1985 - a single off of San Diego's Eric Show. He retired as a player in 1986, having racked up 4,256 hits in parts of 24 seasons. He batted .303/.375/.409 with 160 home runs and 1,314 RBI, and his 746 doubles are second all-time to Tris Speaker's total of 792. His managerial record was 412-373 (.525) in parts of 6 seasons.

-Rose's son, Pete Jr., played pro baseball for an astonishing 21 years, finally retiring in 2009 with 1,877 hits and a .271 average in the minor leagues. However, his entire major league career consisted of an 11-game stint with the Reds in 1997. He went 2-for-14 with a pair of walks.

-Pete continued managing the Reds until being suspended by commissioner Bart Giamatti in 1989. A lengthy investigation (the Dowd Report) had revealed that Rose had been gambling on several sports, including baseball. He accepted a lifetime ban from the game in exchange for MLB not formally finding him guilty. He remains banned to this day, and is therefore ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Even his confessions of guilt in subsequent years have been conditional (i.e., he's never admitted to betting on his own team, despite evidence to the contrary) and have been dismissed by many as self-serving and insincere. However, the WWE inducted him into the celebrity wing of their Hall of Fame in 2004, in recognition of his recurring appearances as a sacrificial lamb to hulking wrestler Kane at various Wrestlemania events. So he's got that going for him.
#207 Pete Rose (back)

Monday, May 23, 2011

#3 AL Home Run Leaders: Harmon Killebrew, Boog Powell, and Mickey Mantle

#3 AL Home Run Leaders: Harmon Killebrew, Boog Powell, and Mickey Mantle
I received this card as part of a generous gift from Dean of Dean's Cards. He also sent along some vintage Orioles that I needed, and all he asked for in return was a link exchange. You can check out his blog here. Thanks, Dean!

This is a bittersweet posting, coming the week after Harmon Killebrew's cancer-related death. But at least it allows us to celebrate his skills as a power hitter. In 1964, Harmon led the American League for the fourth time in his great career and the third straight season. He set a career high with 49 longballs, 30 of them coming before the All-Star break. He was hottest in May (12 HR in 26 games) and June (14 HR in 30 games). With 24 homers coming with runners on base, nearly half of his total four-baggers put crooked numbers on the board. He feasted on Boston pitchers, victimizing them 9 times in 18 games. Before all was said and done, he would win a fifth home run crown in 1967 (44) and a sixth in his MVP year, 1969 (49), retiring in 1975 with 573 career HR.

Orioles slugger Boog Powell was a distant runner-up with 39 homers, but that total represented a career high. He did lead the American League with a .606 slugging percentage in 1964, and probably would have given Harmon a run for his money if he hadn't missed 28 games with injuries in mid-June and late August. He made the most of the 21 games he did play in June, going deep 12 times that month. He drove in other runners with 18 of his homers, but somehow went hitless in 10 at-bats with the bases loaded. He feasted on the arms of the lowly Senators, clouting 10 round-trippers in 18 games against Washington. Boog retired after failing to hit a home run in 1977 with the Dodgers; still, he amassed 339 HR in his career. He reached double digits in homers in 14 straight seasons - every year in which he played at least 100 games.

The third-place finisher was Mickey Mantle with 35 homers; it was the last time he topped 30 in his legendary stint with the Yankees. With years of wear and tear beginning to take their toll, the 32-year-old played in 143 games, finishing with 115 less plate appearances than Killebrew. A four-time home run king, Mantle was remarkably consistent in 1964. He hit 16 balls over the fence at Yankee Stadium and 19 on the road. 17 came in the first half and 18 in the second half. After going homerless in eight April games, his totals for the following months were eight, seven, five, eight, and seven. 17 longballs came with the bases empty, and 18 with men on. His most frequent whipping boys were the Kansas City Athletics, whom he clobbered 7 times in 16 games. The Mick retired in 1968 with 536 career home runs, but there's no telling how many he would have hit with better health.

Topps did something neat with the leaderboard on the back, listing each of the 25 American Leaguers who hit at least 20 home runs, and then accounting for all of the grand slams hit in 1964. As you can see, Boston's Dick Stuart and Chicago's Pete Ward tied for the lead with three grannies apiece. Surprisingly, Red Sox catcher Bob Tillman and A's center fielder Nelson Mathews were the only others to hit more than one grand slam.
#3 AL Home Run Leaders: Harmon Killebrew, Boog Powell, and Mickey Mantle (back)

Friday, May 20, 2011

#597 Twins Rookie Stars: Joe Nossek, Dick Reese, and John Sevcik

#597 Twins Rookies: Joe Nossek, Dick Reese, and John Sevcik
And so we come to the penultimate card in the 1965 Topps set, which also happens to be the last card in the awesome bundle sent by Max. Thanks again, Max! Looking forward, I have less than 40 cards waiting in the queue to be posted. Believe it or not, that's a great deal of progress! I might even be caught up by the end of the summer...

Fun facts about Joe Nossek:

-A Cleveland native, Joe attended Ohio University and signed with the Twins in 1961.

-His Minnesota teammates called him "Coffee and Juice" because he ate so sparingly.

-Made the Twins' Opening Day roster in 1964 at age 23, but was sent back to the minors in May after seeing action in seven games, with six coming as a pinch runner or defensive replacement.

-Joe spent the entire 1965 season in the big leagues, hitting .218 in 87 games as a reserve with 2 home runs and 16 RBI.

-He started five out of seven World Series games for the Twins in 1965, manning center field in place of All-Star Jimmie Hall. Went 4-for-20 (.200), which includes a pinch single off of Don Drysdale in Game Four.

-Nossek was traded to the Athletics in May 1966 and appeared in 87 games for K.C., hitting .261 with a home run and 27 RBI.

-His average fell to .205 in 1967, and he played only 22 big league games afterward, including one final at-bat in 1970 for the Cardinals. In parts of 6 seasons he hit .228 with 3 home runs and 53 RBI.

-After hanging up his spikes, Joe managed the Brewers' Class A Danville Warriors in 1972. The club went 73-52 and won the Midwest League championship.

-He spent a few decades coaching for the Brewers (1973-1975), Twins (1976), Indians (1977-1981), Royals (1982-1983), and White Sox (1984-1986, 1990-2003). He has also done scouting for the Astros.

-Also got a brief run as interim manager of the White Sox in early 2000 when regular skipper Jerry Manuel was indisposed.

Fun facts about Dick Reese:

-Better known as "Rich", Reese was born in Leipsic, OH and signed with the Tigers in 1962.

-Debuted with the Twins in September 1964, weeks shy of his 23rd birthday. Totaled only 27 games in his first three major league seasons.

-Set personal bests in 1969 with a .322 average, .513 slugging percentage, 24 doubles, 16 home runs, and 69 RBI.

-Had five different games with four hits in 1969. Went 4-for-4 with a pair of home runs on August 13 in a 5-2 win over the Yankees, and followed with singles in each of his first three at-bats in the next game before flying out to center field in his final trip to the plate.

-Also reached double-digit homers in 1970 and 1971, but his peripheral numbers slipped, with his average plunging to .219 in the latter year.

-Tied a big league record with three pinch hit grand slams in his career. The first of these came on August 3, 1969 in the bottom of the seventh against Baltimore's Dave McNally. It came with the Twins trailing 1-0, and was the decisive blow in halting McNally's 17-game winning streak.

-He was on the other end of history as well. On May 8, 1968, he struck out looking as a pinch hitter for the last out of Catfish Hunter's perfect game. On September 27, 1973, he was the record-breaking 383rd strikeout victim of Nolan Ryan in the Angel hurler's final appearance of the season.

Split the 1973 season, his last, between the Tigers and Twins. In parts of 10 seasons he hit .253 with 52 home runs and 245 RBI.

-His birthday is September 29. The only two players born on that day with more career home runs are Rob Deer (230) and Warren Cromartie (61).

-Got into the distilling business, retiring in 2003 as CEO of Jim Beam Brands, headquartered in the Chicago area.

Fun facts about John Sevcik:

-A native of Oak Park, IL, John attended the University of Missouri before signing with the Twins in 1964.

-His twin brother James was an outfielder who also signed with the Twins in 1964. He played pro ball for four seasons, never rising above Single A.

-After batting .284 with a .385 on-base percentage at Class A Wisconsin Rapids in his first pro season, John made the big leagues as Minnesota's third catcher. He appeared in a dozen games, collecting a single hit in 16 at-bats (.063).

-That lone big-league hit was a double off of the Orioles' Wally Bunker on September 28, 1965.

-Sevcik played out the rest of his pro career in the minor leagues, hanging on for six more years and finishing with a minor league average of .266 and 22 homers and 196 RBI.

-As of 2005, he was living in San Antonio and working as an executive for Jim Beam. I wonder if Rich Reese got him in?
#597 Twins Rookies: Joe Nossek, Dick Reese, and John Sevcik (back)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

#577 American League Rookie Stars: Darold Knowles, Richie Scheinblum, and Don Buschhorn

#577 American League Rookies: Darold Knowles, Richie Scheinblum, and Don Buschhorn
I'm pretty sure this is the only three-team rookie card in the set.  Topps was clearly trying to fill out the set by the time they got to the seventh and final series.

Fun facts about Darold Knowles:

-Darold was born in Brunswick, MO and attended the University of Missouri before signing with the Orioles in 1961.

-He appeared in five games with Baltimore in 1965, but was hit hard.  Was vastly improved in 1966, when he went 6-5 with a 3.05 ERA and a team-leading 69 appearances and 13 saves for the Phillies.

-Knowles was traded to the Senators prior to the 1967 season. In four full seasons in Washington, he never posted an ERA higher than 2.70.

-Made his only All-Star team in 1969, when he went 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA and 13 saves in 53 relief appearances.

-Had an odd statistical season in 1970, posting a 2-14 record out of the bullpen with a 2.04 ERA. He ranked third in the American League with 27 saves, a career high.

-Posted a personal-best 1.37 ERA for the 1972 Athletics while serving as a setup man for Rollie Fingers, and also notched 11 saves. A late-season thumb injury kept him out of the World Series.

-Despite starting only eight games in his career, he did hurl a shutout: on August 14, 1973 he scattered six hits and five walks to blank the Red Sox despite striking out just one batter. The A's won 1-0 on a sixth-inning squeeze by Dick Green that was mishandled by hard-luck Boston starter Bill Lee.

-Pitched in his only Fall Classic in 1973, but made it count. He became the only pitcher in major league history to appear in seven games in a single World Series, notching two saves and only allowing one unearned run in six and one-third innings as the A's outlasted the Mets.

-Also pitched for the Cubs, Rangers, Expos, and Cardinals in the late 1970s. He retired after being released by St. Louis in May 1980. In parts of 16 seasons he was 66-74 with 143 saves and a 3.12 ERA.

-Darold has coached for the Cardinals (1983) and Phillies (1989-1990). In recent years, he's been a minor league pitching instructor in the Pirates and Blue Jays organizations.

Fun facts about Richie Scheinblum:

-A native of New York City, Richie attended Long Island University's C.W. Post Campus and signed with the Indians in 1964.

-Had a very brief cup of coffee with the Indians at age 22 in 1965, and also had short stints with the Tribe in 1967 and 1968.

-Began the 1969 season on the Cleveland roster, but endured an 0-for-34 start to the year. He finished the season with a .186 average and 13 RBI, spending most of the year as a pinch hitter.

-Spending most of the 1971 season at AAA Denver, Richie was named the American Association MVP. He hit .388/.490/.725 with 25 home runs and 108 RBI.

-Joined the Royals in 1972 and became the team's everyday right fielder. It was his only season as a regular, and he made the All-Star team by hitting .300 with a .383 on-base percentage.

-He began the 1973 season relegated to the Reds bench, but gained the Angels' starting right field job following a June trade and hit .328 with a .417 on-base percentage in 77 games in California.

-Reached base all six times he came to the plate on July 28, 1973, going 5-for-5 with an intentional walk, a double, 3 runs scored, and 2 RBI as the Angels romped to a 19-8 win over the Royals.

-Scheinblum split the 1974 season between the Angels and Royals, and finished with a six-game run with the Cardinals. He hit only .183 in what would prove to be his final big league season. In parts of 8 seasons, he batted .263 with a .343 on-base percentage, 13 home runs, and 127 RBI.

-Capped his career with a two-year stint with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, batting .295/.349/.468. He was the first player to homer from both sides of the plate in one game in the Japanese league.

-After his baseball career ended, Richie opened a jewelry store in Anaheim. Eventually he settled in Palm Harbor, FL and worked for a company that applied logos to clothing items.

Fun facts about Don Buschhorn:

-Don was born in Independence, MO and signed with the Athletics out of high school in 1964.

-After pitching only 15 minor league games, he was promoted to the big leagues, making his debut on May 15, 1965 against the Twins. He got the start, gave up two runs in five innings, and was saddled with the loss in a 2-0 game.

-Buschhorn stayed in the majors until early August, appearing in 12 games with a 4.35 ERA in 31 innings. It was his only exposure to the major leagues.

-He pitched in the minors for the Athletics through 1969, going 21-27 with a 4.11 ERA.
#577 American League Rookies: Darold Knowles, Richie Scheinblum, and Don Buschhorn (back)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#574 Roy Sievers

#574 Roy Sievers
There's a little snow on the mountain for venerable veteran Roy Sievers, who would have been 37 when this photo was taken. Bonus fun fact: Roy was only two and a half years younger than his manager in Washington, Gil Hodges!

Fun facts about Roy Sievers:

-A St. Louis, MO native, Roy signed with the hometown Browns as a teenager in 1944.

-Made the major leagues in 1949 at age 22, and won Rookie of the Year honors with a team-best .306/.398/.471 batting line and 91 RBI. He also belted 16 home runs.

-He struggled mightily in his sophomore season, later claiming that Browns coaches had tried to tinker with his swing. He barely played over the next two seasons due to injury, and was traded to the Senators after hitting .270 with 8 home runs in 92 games in 1953.

-Though Sievers batted just .232 in 1954, he walked 80 times and paced the Senators with 24 home runs and 102 RBI. It was the first of nine consecutive 20-homer seasons for him.

-Had his career year in 1957, batting .301/.388/.579 with a league-leading 42 home runs and 114 RBI. He made the second of his four All-Star teams, and was third in MVP voting. He later joked to Ted Williams that the "Splendid Splinter" had cost him the Triple Crown; Williams had outhit him by a mere 87 points.

-Roy hit 10 walk-off home runs in his career; only six players have ever had more.

-Among his brushes with fame: He was Tab Hunter's batting double in the movie version of "Damn Yankees", and during his time with the Senators was then-Vice President Richard Nixon's favorite player.

-He is one of four players to hit pinch grand slams in both the American and National Leagues. Went deep off of Cleveland's Johnny Antonelli on June 21, 1961 in a 15-3 White Sox rout; two years later, he victimized Cincinnati's Bill Henry in a 10-4 Phillies victory. The rest of the unlikely list: Jimmie Foxx, Kurt Bevacqua, and Glenallen Hill.

-Was also a member of the White Sox and Phillies in the second half of his career, and returned to Washington late in 1964. The Sens released him the following year. In parts of 17 seasons, he hit .267 with a .354 OBP, 318 home runs, and 1,147 RBI.

-Spent the 1966 season coaching for the Reds, and then managed for four seasons in the minors for the Mets and Athletics. He later worked for Yellow Freight Company in St. Louis, and has been enjoying retirement since 1986. He wore a Browns uniform in old-timers' games for several years.
#574 Roy Sievers (back)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#570 Claude Osteen

#570 Claude Osteen
You don't see many Claudes in baseball. The last was Claude Jayhawk Owens, a catcher for the Rockies in the mid-1990s. However, he went by Jayhawk, or simply "J". It's the same story for Blue Jays pitcher Claude Lee "Butch" Edge (1979), and Mets and Brewers pitcher Claude Edward "Skip" Lockwood (1969-1980). In fact, Claude Osteen was the most recent major leaguer to go by that name. This has been "Know Your Claudes".

Fun facts about Claude Osteen:

-Claude was born in Caney Springs, TN. He signed with Cincinnati in 1957 before his 18th birthday.

-The Redlegs gave him a couple cups of coffee in his first pro season, and he allowed one run in three relief appearances.

-Osteen never did crack the Cincinnati rotation, and was traded to the Senators in late 1961. Still in his early twenties, he became a dependable starter for the bottom-dwelling Washington club. In three-plus seasons in D.C., he went 33-41 with a 3.46 ERA; that included a team-leading 15-13 record with a 3.33 ERA and 13 complete games in 1964.

-He was dealt to the Dodgers prior to the 1965 season, with Frank Howard heading to the Senators. The lefty wasted no time entrenching himself in the L.A. rotation, putting up sub-3.00 ERAs (2.79, 2.85) and a total of 34 wins in his first two years with the club. He would ultimately post double-digit wins in each of his nine seasons as a Dodger.

-Claude one-hit the Giants on June 17, 1965, permitting only a Jack Hiatt single in the second inning. He did walk 5 batters, but retired 11 in a row to end the game.

-Was a hard-luck pitcher in World Series play. In Game Three of the 1965 Series, he blanked the Twins on five hits to help Los Angeles begin its climb from a 2-0 Fall Classic deficit. Three days later, he had a chance to clinch the title, but exited after five innings trailing 2-0, with one run unearned as a result of a Dick Tracewski error. He was tagged with a loss, as the final was 5-1 Twins. A year later, he again got the ball in Game Three with the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole. This time he allowed only three Orioles hits in seven innings, but one of those was a solo home run by Paul Blair. It was the only run of the game, with the O's winning 1-0 en route to a sweep. So Osteen has a 1-2 Series record with a 0.86 ERA!

-Claude was a three-time All-Star: 1967 (17-17, 3.22 ERA), 1970 (16-14, 3.83), and 1973 (16-11, 3.31).

-His finest season was 1969, when he went 20-15 with a 2.66 ERA and career highs of 16 complete games and 7 shutouts.

-The Dodgers traded him to the Astros prior to the 1974 season in exchange for Jimmy Wynn, who powered L.A. to the World Series in '74. Osteen split the year between Houston and St. Louis, and concluded his career with the White Sox in 1975. In parts of 18 seasons, he was 196-195 with a 3.30 ERA.

-After retiring, he served as a pitching coach for several major and minor league teams, including the Cardinals, Phillies, Rangers, and Dodgers.
#570 Claude Osteen (back)

Monday, May 16, 2011

#553 Astros Rookie Stars: Dan Coombs, Jack McClure, and Gene Ratliff

#553 Astros Rookies: Dan Coombs, Jack McClure, Gene Ratliff
Yipes, it's a three-for-one! That's what I get for waiting around while Blogger righted itself over the weekend. Worth noting: I believe this is the first appearance of the Astros' cap logo in this set.

Fun facts about Dan Coombs:

-Dan was born in Lincoln, ME and starred in baseball and basketball at Seton Hall University. He signed with the Colt .45s in 1963.

-Houston called the 6'5" lefty up to the big leagues in September 1963 after he won 10 games in Single-A. He appeared in one game, giving up a run in one-third of an inning.

-After six appearances as a long reliever with the Colts in 1964, Coombs started a game during the team's final series of the season in Los Angeles. On October 2, he scattered 6 hits and 2 walks in 5 scoreless innings to earn his first career win.

-Had a so-so season out of the Houston bullpen in 1965, putting up a 4.79 ERA in 26 games. Appeared in only eight games total over the following two seasons.

-Dan appeared in a career-high 40 games for the Astros in 1968, going 4-3 with 2 saves and a deceptive 3.28 ERA. It was the famous "Year of the Pitcher", so he actually came in higher than the leaguewide mark of 2.99. While he didn't give up many runs, he allowed 10 hits per 9 nine innings and had an underwhelming 1.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

-After getting hit hard in an eight-game cameo in 1969, the southpaw was dealt to the Padres. San Diego utilized him chiefly as a starter, giving him 27 turns in the rotation in 1970. He had a career year, going 10-14 with a team-low 3.30 ERA (121 ERA+) and completing 5 games. He allowed 12 home runs in 188.1 innings.

-Twirled his only career shutout on May 9, 1970, two-hitting the host Expos in a 6-0 Friars win. In that game, he did not allow a hit over the final five innings.

-He was not much of a hitter, averaging .140 at the plate in the majors. He struck out six times in seven at-bats against Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, but made the last one count. On April 16, 1971, he doubled in his team's only run against Gibson. Unfortunately, St. Louis touched up Coombs for 6 runs in less than 3 innings and he took the loss.

-The Padres shipped Coombs back to the minors in 1971 after a rocky start, and it ultimately marked the end of his big league career. In parts of 9 MLB seasons, he was 19-27 with a 4.08 ERA.

-After his playing days, Dan coached baseball at G.C. Scarborough High School in Houston, TX.

Fun facts about Jack McClure:

-This one's a quickie; Jack played three minor league seasons and never made the majors.

-He was born in Asher, OK, and as near as I can tell, he signed with Houston in 1964 at age 18.

-His nickname was "Kid".

-McClure split his first pro season between Single-A Modesto and AA San Antonio, hitting .258 in 66 games with a .342 slugging mark.

-At Single-A Durham and AA Amarillo in 1965, he hit a cumulative .267, again with little power (2 HR, 2 3B, 12 2B). However, he was boosted to .284 with a .401 OBP in 58 games at Amarillo.

-The last record of Jack as a pro is a 10-game stint at Class A Cocoa in 1966; he went 2-for-32 (.063).

-In parts of 3 seasons, he hit .252 and slugged .322 in 176 games.

Fun facts about Gene Ratliff:

-A native of Macon, GA, Gene signed with the Colt .45s in 1964 out of high school.

-Believe it or not, Gene played even fewer pro games than Jack McClure, totaling 106 in the minors and 4 in the majors.

-In 3 seasons of Rookie and Class A ball, Ratliff batted .199 and slugged an anemic .268.

-Improbably, he did have two cups of coffee with the Astros in 1965. In two pinch-hit appearances in May and another two in August, he was 0-for-4 with a golden sombrero: four strikeouts. He can take heart in knowing that he's not even close to the career hitless record for a non-pitcher: that goes to ex-Indian Larry Littleton (1981) and former Cardinal Mike Potter (1976-1977), each of whom went 0-for-23 in the big show.

-However, Gene is believed to hold the record for most at-bats by a non-pitcher, all resulting in a strikeout.
#553 Astros Rookies: Dan Coombs, Jack McClure, Gene Ratliff (back)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

#527 Jeff Torborg

#527 Jeff Torborg

I scheduled this card to post on Thursday, but it got lost in the ether during the Terrible Blogger Outage. Please excuse its lateness...I'm sure it's just an optical illusion, but the left side of Jeff Torborg's chest protector looks much wider than the right.

Fun facts about Jeff Torborg:

-Jeff was born in Plainfield, NJ and attended Rutgers University, then signed with the Dodgers in 1963. It's been reported that his signing bonus was a lofty $100,000.

-His .537 batting average and 1.032 slugging percentage in 1963 set Rutgers school records. They retired his #10 in 1992.

-He played only 64 minor league games before debuting with Los Angeles in May 1964. He saw action in only 28 games as a rookie third-string catcher behind Doug Camilli and starter Johnny Roseboro, and hit .233 with 4 RBI.

-He was best-known as a player for catching three no-hitters: Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965, Bill Singer's 10-strikeout gem in 1970, and Nolan Ryan's first career no-no in 1973. Only current Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek (with four) has caught more in major league history.

-Jeff drove in a career-high four runs on July 30, 1970, fueling a 7-3 win over the Expos. His three-run homer off of Dan McGinn was the only round-tripper the catcher hit that year, and he added a run-scoring single later in the game.

-He probably didn't mind riding the bench when Jim Kaat was pitching, having gone 0-for-12 against the 283-game winner.

-Torborg spent seven seasons as a part-timer in L.A., and another three years with the Angels. He batted only .214 for his ten-year career (1964-1973), never topping .240 in a season. He totaled 8 home runs and 101 RBI.

-He got into coaching, serving on the big league staffs of the Indians and Yankees. More recently, he was a TV analyst for MLB games on FOX and the Braves' regional broadcasts.

-Jeff got his first crack at managing when he was tapped to replace Frank Robinson as Indians skipper in 1977. He went 157-201 in parts of three seasons before being supplanted by Dave Garcia in July 1979. After spending a decade as a Yankee coach, he took the helm of the White Sox in 1989. A year later, he oversaw a huge turnaround from 69-92 to 94-68, finishing in second place behind the juggernaut Athletics. Jeff was named 1990's American League Manager of the Year. Chicago slipped to 87 wins in 1991, after which the Mets lured the manager to the N.L. He lasted little more than a year, as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy" lost 90 games in 1992 and dropped 25 of their first 38 the next season before the ax fell. He also posted losing records as the Expos' interim manager in 2001 (47-62) and in a brief tenure with the Marlins in 2002-2003 (79-83, 16-22). Overall his managerial record was 634-718, a .469 winning percentage.

-His son Dale has the most interesting resume in the family. He played first base at Northwestern University and for parts of two seasons (1994-1995) in the low minors with the Mets. He spent the rest of the decade as a professional wrestler with the encouragment of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage, and was best known for a stint in the now-defunct WCW as the Kiss Demon. After suffering a knee injury, he returned to baseball as a trainer for his father's teams in Montreal and Florida, and has been the minor league conditioning coordinator for the White Sox since 2004.
#527 Jeff Torborg (back)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

#497 Giants Rookie Stars: Ken Henderson and Jack Hiatt

#497 Giants Rookie Stars: Ken Henderson and Jack Hiatt
As I rifle through my baseball card collection, I find a very different-looking Ken Henderson another decade or so down the line from his rookie card. 1970s cards really are the gift that keeps on giving.

Fun facts about Ken Henderson:

-Ken was born in Carroll, IA, but attended high school in San Diego before signing with the Giants in 1964.

-Despite struggling greatly in his first pro season (.191 AVG/.268 SLG), he was jumped from Rookie ball to A to AAA in short order that year.

-San Francisco was sufficiently enamored with Henderson to keep him on the big league roster for the whole 1965 campaign, but used the 19-year-old sparingly. He batted .191 with a .277 on-base percentage in 83 trips to the plate. In a rare start on August 17, he went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a two-run double to account for all of the Giants' runs in a 3-2 victory over the Mets.

-In 1970, he became a regular in the San Fran outfield and hit .294 with 17 home runs and 88 RBI. He achieved career highs of 104 runs scored, 35 doubles, 20 steals, 87 walks, and a .394 on-base percentage.

-Joined the White Sox (along with Steve Stone) in a deal for pitcher Tom Bradley. Injuries cost him half of the 1973 season, but he rebounded to play all 162 games a year later. Ken hit .292 that year with 20 homers and a team-high 95 RBI while leading the American League in putouts by a center fielder.

-A switch-hitter, Henderson homered from both sides of the plate in a 4-2 victory over the Orioles on August 29, 1975. He got to lefty Ross Grimsley in the first inning, and victimized righty Wayne Garland in the eighth.

-He became a journeyman in the later period of his career, suiting up for the Braves, Rangers, Mets, Reds, and Cubs from 1976-1980. He retired as a .257 hitter in parts of 16 seasons, with a .343 on-base percentage, 122 home runs, and 576 RBI.

-On September 2, 1978, he hit a three-run pinch home run in the top of the 12th inning to lead the Reds to a 6-3 win over the Cardinals. It was one of five pinch homers in Ken's career.

-His cousin Kerry Dineen was an outfielder who played 16 games with the Yankees and Phillies, 1975-1978.

-Ken has worked in sales and marketing since hanging up his spikes, rejoining the Giants last year to sell luxury box suites at AT&T Park. He is married with four children and five grandchildren.

Fun facts about Jack Hiatt:

-Jack was a Bakersfield, CA native who signed with the Angels as a teenager in 1961.

-He was a very strong minor league hitter, compiling a career average of .299 and routinely reaching base above a 40% clip.

-The Angels called him up for the first time in September 1964, on the heels of a 23-homer season at AAA Hawaii. He notched 6 hits and 2 walks in 18 trips to the plate, including a walkoff pinch single off of Boston's Bob Heffner in his debut on September 7.

-Was traded prior to the 1965 season, going to the Giants in exchange for Jose Cardenal. Got very little playing time in San Francisco, totaling 290 plate appearances in 131 games from 1965-1967. Performed well in those limited opportunities, with a .280 average and .390 on-base percentage.

-Assumed the starting catcher's role in 1969 when Dick Dietz suffered a hand injury from a foul tip. In a four-game stretch from April 24-27, he hit .313/.421/1.063 (5-for-16) with 4 home runs and 12 RBI. He had the game of his life in a wild extra-inning affair April 25 vs. the Astros: a two-run homer in the first inning to give the Giants the lead, an RBI single in the eighth to tie it, and a walk-off grand slam in the 13th! That's 3-for-7 with 3 runs scored and 7 RBI if you're counting. Unfortunately, he couldn't keep it up and finished the year at .196 with 7 homers and 34 RBI.

-Jack spent the last three years of his big league career (1970-1972) as a part-timer with the Expos, Cubs, Astros, and Angels, finishing with a .251 average and .374 on-base percentage in parts of 9 seasons. He totaled 22 home runs and 154 RBI.

-Had a good track record against Claude Osteen (.371/.463/.486 in 41 PA) and Steve Carlton (.333 AVG, .394 OBP in 34 PA). Struggled against Gary Nolan (.111/.190/.167 in 21 PA).

-Hiatt was a talented pinch hitter, batting .296/.402/.426 in 127 tries over his career.

-Continued playing in the minors through the 1974 season.

-Worked in baseball for several decades after he quit playing. Was a minor-league manager for the Cubs (1975-1980), Angels (1982), Astros (1983), and Giants (1988). Also served as a big-league coach for the Cubs in 1981 and spent a number of years in the Giants front office, retiring as Director of Player Development in 2007.

#497 Giants Rookie Stars: Ken Henderson and Jack Hiatt (back)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#481 Cleveland Indians Team

#481 Cleveland Indians Team
We have a team card! Man, as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of this set is, these team cards with their loud single-color backgrounds and grainy photos are the pits. This one looks like the Indians are being engulfed by a giant marshmallow Peep, like the Stay-Puft Man coated in yellow granulated sugar. Mmmm...

So yes. The 1964 Cleveland Indians. They were a perfectly ho-hum 79-83, good for a sixth place tie with the Twins in the 10-team American League, 20 games in the rear view of the pennant-winning Yankees. It extended a remarkable run of mediocrity for the Tribe, whose won-lost records since 1957 went as follows: 76-77, 77-76, 89-65 (the one outlier), 76-78, 78-83, 80-82, 79-83, 79-83. In '64, the Indians won and lost at about the expected pace: their Pythagorean record (based on runs scored and allowed) was 81-81 for the second straight year. This sort of win-one, lose-one pace did not electrify the local fans, as Cleveland Stadium housed only 653,293 spectators all year for an eighth-place rank in the A.L. Manager Birdie Tebbetts suffered a heart attack in April, and George Strickland posted a 33-39 record in his stead. Tebbetts returned in midseason, faring slightly better at 46-44.

The Tribe bats were thoroughly middle-of-the-pack: fourth in runs scored (689), sixth in batting average (.247), seventh in on-base percentage (.312), sixth in slugging (.380), fourth in home runs (164). Seven players reached double digits in home runs, with left fielder Leon Wagner leading the way with 31 homers and 100 RBI. He batted just .253, however, and reached base at a .316 clip. First baseman Bob Chance led the regulars with a .279 average and drove in 75 runs in 120 games. Catcher Johnny Romano topped the team with an .806 OPS, partially due to his 19 home runs. Utility man Chico Salmon chipped in with a .307 average in 286 at-bats. The Indians did lead the league in stolen bases with a total of 79, as Dick Howser (20 SB) and Vic Davalillo (22 SB) did most of the work.

The Cleveland pitchers were uninspiring on the whole, totaling 693 runs allowed to place seventh in the league. Their 3.75 ERA was sixth-best, and the only category they topped was strikeouts, with 1,162. The bright spots were 21-year-old flamethrower "Sudden Sam" McDowell, who went 11-6 with a 2.70 ERA and a team-best 177 punchouts, and 29-year-old Jack Kralick, who was the team's only All-Star with his 12-7 mark and 3.21 ERA. Luis Tiant made his debut in midseason and went 10-4 with a 2.83 ERA. More impressively, he completed 9 of 16 starts and fanned 105 batters in 127 innings. The bullpen was anchored by veteran Don McMahon: 6-4, 2.41 ERA, 16 saves. He struck out 92 batters in 101 innings across his 70 appearances.

Sadly, the Indians are still looking for their first World Series championship since 1948, having lost in the Fall Classic in 1954, 1995, and 1997.They endured a frustrating stretch from 1995 through 2001 that saw them win 6 out of 7 A.L. Central titles without a single Commissioner's Trophy to show for it all. Of course they've come out of nowhere to win 22 of their first 33 games in 2011, taking command of a lackluster division. Is it finally "next year" in Cleveland? Time will tell.
#481 Cleveland Indians Team (back)

Monday, May 09, 2011

#453 Dodgers Rookie Stars: Willie Crawford and John Werhas

#453 Dodgers Rookies: Willie Crawford and John Werhas
The two-for-one rookie cards that feature one guy who made it in the big leagues and another who never gained a foothold are a bit cosmically cruel. I guess it serves as a reminder that prospecting is a crap shoot.

Fun facts about Willie Crawford:

-Willie was a Los Angeles native who signed with the Dodgers out of high school in 1964. The scout who signed him was none other than Tommy Lasorda, and Crawford signed for a $100,000 bonus.

-Due to bonus baby rules, he debuted with L.A. in 1964, a week after his 18th birthday. In limited action, he hit .313 (5-for-16).

-After four years of very little playing time, Crawford saw action in 61 games in 1968. He batted .251 with a .335 on-base percentage, 12 doubles, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI.

-On May 16, 1969, he batted in the bottom of the ninth inning against Pittsburgh's Ron Kline. With one out, a runner on first, and the Dodgers trailing 3-2, Willie hit a game-winning home run.

-In 1973, he set a career high by playing in 145 games. It also proved to be his most productive year, as he achieved personal bests with 75 runs scored, 26 doubles, 14 home runs, 66 RBI, a .295 average, .396 OBP, and .453 SLG.

-Willie repeated his .295 batting average in 1974, and produced similar power numbers: 23 doubles, 11 homers, 61 RBI.

-He went 2-for-6 in the 1974 World Series, including a ninth-inning home run off of Rollie Fingers in Game 3. His blast narrowed Oakland's lead to 3-2, but the Dodgers could get no closer.

-After spending parts of a dozen seasons in Los Angeles, Crawford was dealt to the Cardinals for the 1976 season. He responded with a .304 average, 9 home runs, and 50 RBI in 120 games.

-He retired after splitting the 1977 campaign between Houston and Oakland. In parts of 14 seasons, he hit .268 with 86 home runs and 419 RBI.

-Willie was only 57 years old when he died of kidney disease in 2004.

Fun facts about John Werhas:

-John was born in Highland Park, MI but attended high school in San Pedro, CA. He went on to the University of Southern California, where he was an All-American third baseman, and signed with the Dodgers in 1960.

-Had a breakout season with AAA Spokane in 1963, hitting .295 with 17 home runs and 96 RBI.

-John earned the Dodgers' starting third base job in the spring of 1964, and singled off of Ernie Broglio in his first career at-bat on April 14.

-Unfortunately, the hits proved to be few and far between. He was demoted to Spokane in early June with a .193 average, no home runs, and 8 RBI in 29 games.

-Werhas had only a September cup of coffee with L.A. in 1965, going hitless with one walk in four plate appearances.

-Spent a fifth consecutive year at AAA in 1966, batting .306 with a .403 on-base percentage, 15 home runs, and 80 RBI at Spokane.

-Began the 1967 season in the big leagues, and was traded from the Dodgers to the Angels in early May for former college teammate Len Gabrielson.

-John batted a miserable .159 in 56 games that year, with a pair of home runs and 6 RBI. He was through as a major leaguer, with a cumulative .173 average and .276 on-base percentage in parts of three seasons.

-He continued playing in the minors through the 1973 season, spending most of his time at AAA Hawaii - not bad work if you can get it! He also spent the 1971 season in Japan with the Taiyo Whales, and was traded back to Hawaii for Clete Boyer. It was said to have been the first trade between an American team and a Japanese team.

-After retiring, John became a pastor, spending several years at Yorba Linda (CA) Friends Church.
#453 Dodgers Rookies: Willie Crawford and John Werhas (back)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

#377 Willie Stargell

#377 Willie Stargell
Okay, one last Hall of Famer in this great batch from Max! Being a younger collector, it's always a neat contrast to see much older cards of players whose primary image comes from their veteran years, like Willie Stargell or Gaylord Perry. After all, Willie was popularly known as "Pops".

Fun facts about Willie Stargell:

-A native of Earlsboro, OK, Willie attended high school in California before signing with the Pirates in 1958.

-He debuted with Pittsburgh in September 1962, and made the National League All-Star team for the first of seven times in 1964, his first season as a regular starter. He hit .273 that year and led all Pirates with 21 home runs. His 78 RBI trailed only Roberto Clemente (87) for the team lead.

-Stargell hit a career-high .315 in 1966 with 30 doubles, 33 home runs, and 102 RBI. Overall, he drove in 100 or more runs in five different seasons.

-Finished second to Joe Torre in 1971 MVP balloting despite a batting line of .295/.398/.628 with personal bests of 48 homers (most in the N.L.) and 125 RBI for the World Champion Pirates.

-Willie's career year was 1973, when he paced the Senior Circuit with 43 doubles and 44 home runs (the first player to lead his league in both categories since Hank Greenberg in 1940), as well as 119 RBI, a .646 slugging percentage, a 1.038 OPS and a 186 OPS+. All that, and he still got edged out for the MVP by Pete Rose. Rose outhit him .338 to .299, but had only an .838 OPS.

-Late in his career, the outgoing Stargell became "Pops", the key on-field leader of the strong Pittsburgh clubs of the late 1970s. He gave out small yellow star patches to reward teammates for good play, and the stars were affixed to the team's black pillbox caps. He was also responsible for the adoption of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" as the team's rallying song in the 1979 championship season. (As an Orioles fan, I'm glad I wasn't around for that.)

-He finally won his MVP award in 1979, sharing the honor with Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez. Willie hit .281 that year with 32 homers and 82 RBI. Ironically, it was one of his least impressive seasons statistically. Of course, he was undoubtedly rewarded for his role as a team captain, and for producing those numbers at age 39. He capped the year off with a .455 average (5-for-11) with two homers, two doubles and six RBI in an NLCS sweep of the Reds, followed by a .400 mark (12-for-30) with four doubles, three homers, and seven RBI in the seven-game World Series victory over the Orioles. He was named NLCS MVP and Series MVP, with his Game Seven performance (4-for-5, 2 2B, the eventual game-winning 2-run HR) cinching his Fall Classic honors.

-He retired after the 1982 season, his 21st in a Pirates uniform. The team immediately retired his #8 jersey. His career totals included a .282 average, .360 on-base percentage, .529 slugging percentage, 475 home runs, and 1,540 RBI. He is Pittsburgh's all-time leader in career home runs and RBI.

-He was famous for not just the frequency of his home runs, but also the sheer magnitude. He hit 7 of the 16 balls to ever leave Forbes Field, and often reached the upper deck in Three Rivers Stadium. He holds the distance records at Dodger Stadium (507 feet), Veterans Stadium (unknown), and Olympic Stadium (535 feet). As Don Sutton once said, "He doesn't just hit pitchers, he takes away their dignity."

-Stargell spent several years as a Braves coach, and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1988.  Later in life, he suffered from kidney trouble, and died at age 61 on April 9, 2001. That same day, the Pirates opened their new stadium, PNC Park, and dedicated a statue in his likeness on the premises.
#377 Willie Stargell (back)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

#361 Checklist 5th Series

#361 Checklist 5th Series
Ooh, the ever-elusive unmarked checklist! At first glance, a checklist would seem to be as far removed from our recent run of Hall of Famers as you could get. However, you'll notice that there are actually SIX Hall of Famers featured on this card: Orlando Cepeda, Willie Stargell, Carl Yastrzemski, Harmon Killebrew, Luis Aparicio, and Al Lopez. What do you mean it's not the same?

This is the sixth checklist I've featured (out of seven total), and it encompasses the fifth series of 1965 Topps: cards #353-429. Of course "Killer" gets the hero number of 400. In addition to the Cooperstown enshrinees listed above, other notables in this series include Vada Pinson, Tommy Davis, Rocky Colavito, and Curt Flood. How many Series Five cards do I have? Holy cow...76 of 77! That's 98.7%! Flood is the only card missing. He can run, but he can't hide...
#361 Checklist 5th Series (back)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

#260 Don Drysdale

#260 Don Drysdale
Do you believe it? Another Hall of Famer! I hope you don't mind going back to the Gary Geigers and Ron Brands next week.

Fun facts about Don Drysdale:

-Don was born in Van Nuys, CA. A high school teammate of actor Robert Redford, Drysdale signed with the Dodgers as a 17-year-old in 1954.

-He held his own as a rookie with the 1956 Brooklyners, going 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA. He earned a complete game victory in his first start, a 6-1 win over the Phillies on April 23.

-The first of his eight All-Star seasons was 1959, when he went 17-13 with a 3.46 ERA and topped the National League with 4 shutouts and 242 strikeouts.

-Drysdale won the 1962 Cy Young Award with a 2.83 ERA and league-best numbers in wins (25-9) and strikeouts (232).

-He pitched in five total World Series in his career, going 3-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 7 games, striking out 36 and walking 12 in 39.2 innings. The standout performance of his postseason career came in 1962, as he held the Yankees to three hits and struck out nine in a 1-0 win in Game Three of the World Series.

-He was one of the better-hitting pitchers of his era, batting .186 with 29 home runs. In 1965, he hit .300 (39-for-130) and slugged .508 with 4 doubles, a triple, 7 home runs, and 19 RBI. His homer output that season tied Don Newcombe for the National League's single-season record for pitchers. Amazingly, none of his position player teammates batted above .286 that year!

-In 1968, Don set a record with six straight shutouts from May 14-June 4. His run of 58.2 straight scoreless innings was also a record until fellow Dodger Orel Hershiser blanked the opposition for the last 59 innings of the 1988 season. Despite the streak and an overall ERA of 2.15, "Big D" was only 14-12 in 1968.

-A shoulder injury caused Drysdale to retire in August 1969 just weeks after his 33rd birthday. In parts of 14 seasons he was 209-166 with a 2.95 ERA and 2,486 strikeouts.

-Don was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984, enduring a ten-year wait on the ballot most likely due to his relatively short career. That season, the Dodgers retired his #53. It's been said that the title character/car from Disney's "Herbie the Love Bug" was given #53 in honor of the great pitcher.

-He had a lengthy career in broadcasting, doing team broadcasts for the Expos, Rangers, Angels, White Sox, and Dodgers. He also spent nearly a decade doing national work for ABC and dabbled in Rams football games in the mid-1970s. Drysdale's love of the camera also led him to guest roles on a number of TV shows, including The Brady Bunch, The Greatest American Hero, The Donna Reed Show, Leave It To Beaver, The Rifleman, The Millionaire, and You Bet Your Life.

-In July 1993, he was found dead of a heart attack in his hotel room in Montreal, where the Dodgers were playing a road series. He was 56 when he died.

#260 Don Drysdale (back)

Monday, May 02, 2011

#220 Billy Williams

#220 Billy Williams
Just like that, we're back to the Hall of Famers. As a younger(ish) baseball fan, Billy Williams seems to be a great player who's become overshadowed. Even on his own team, he was dwarfed by larger-than-life personalities like Ernie Banks and Ron Santo. Thoughts?

Fun facts about Billy Williams:

-A native of Whistler, AL, Billy was a teenager when he signed with the Cubs in 1956.

-He had brief trials in Chicago in 1959 and 1960 before earning the regular left field job in 1961. That year he became Rookie of the Year thanks to a .278 average, 25 home runs, and 86 RBI. More impressively, his 115 OPS+ would turn out to be the second-lowest of his long career.

-Williams earned his first All-Star nod in 1962, when he batted .298 and was second on the Cubs with 22 home runs and 91 RBI. He also led the team with 94 runs scored and 70 walks.

-He set a National League record by playing in 1,117 consecutive games between 1962 and 1971. Steve Garvey eventually surpassed his mark in 1983.

-Claimed another Senior Circuit record by hitting five home runs over the span of two games, Sept 8 and Sept 10, 1968. Remarkably, Leo Durocher replaced him in left field with Jose Arcia in the eighth inning of the latter game; it became moot, as Williams' spot in the batting order did not come up again before the end of the contest.

-In 1970, Billy led the National League with 137 runs scored and 205 hits. He batted .322 and set personal bests with 42 home runs and 139 RBI, but was a distant second to Johnny Bench in MVP voting.

-April 6, 1971 saw the Cubs and Cardinals put on an Opening Day classic. Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson dueled into the tenth inning with the score tied 1-1. In the bottom of the tenth, Williams won the game with a solo home run off of Gibson, one of ten career homers he hit off of the St. Louis ace.

-His greatest all-around year was 1972, when he topped the N.L. with a .333 average, .606 slugging percentage, and 348 total bases. He also clubbed 37 homers and drove in 122. Once again, Bench bested him in the MVP race, but by a closer margin (263 points to 211).

-Williams spent the final two years of his career as a designated hitter in Oakland, participating in the 1975 ALCS for his only postseason experience. He retired in 1976 with a .290 average, .361 on-base percentage, and .492 slugging. He totaled 426 home runs and 1,475 RBI.

-Billy coached for the Cubs (1980-1982, 1986-1987, 1992-2001) and Athletics (1983-1985). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, having to wait until his sixth year on the ballot to gain entry. The Cubs retired his #26 that same year.
#220 Billy Williams (back)