Friday, August 19, 2011

#502 Don Cardwell

#502 Don Cardwell
Look at that, I'm back sooner than expected! I have Ed to thank for this one. He emailed me last week to let me know that he found Don Cardwell, and then called me on his way home Wednesday night to let me know that said card was burning a hole in his pocket and he would be by shortly. I saw him pull up and popped down to the street, where he handed me the card through his car window. As I told him, it was the first drive-by card acquisition I've ever completed!

Fun facts about Don Cardwell:

-Don was born in Winston-Salem, NC and lettered in baseball, basketball, and football in high school before signing with the Phillies in 1954.

-He debuted with the Phillies in 1957, earning a save with three innings of competent relief against the Giants in his debut. On April 26, his first big league start was also his first career win, a four-hit shutout against those same Giants. He finished the year 4-8 with a 4.91 ERA.

-After a few more uneven seasons, Cardwell was traded to the Cubs in May 1960. He got his first starting assignment in the second game of a doubleheader vs. the Cardinals in Wrigley, and became the first (and to date, only) pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his team debut! Alex Grammas, the second batter of the game, drew a walk; that was the only blemish on Don's record that day.

-He was a workhouse for a bad Chicago club in 1961, going 15-14 with a 3.82 ERA and career highs of 13 complete games and 259.1 innings pitched. The Cubbies finished with 90 losses, and no other pitcher on the team topped 10 wins.

-After losing 16 games for the second time in 3 years in 1962, Don was traded twice that offseason: from the Cubs to the Cardinals and then to the Pirates. He rebounded nicely, posting a 3.07 ERA that put the lie to his 13-15 record. (The 74-88 Pittsburghers scored 3 runs or less in 20 of his 32 starts.)

-Arm troubles sidelined the righthander for most of the 1964 season, but he returned in 1965 with a 13-10 mark and a 3.18 ERA for the Bucs. It was his second and final big league season with a positive win-loss total.

-Don spent the later years of his career as an elder statesman on the burgeoning Mets staff after the Pirates dealt him in December 1966. His contributions to the 1969 "Miracle Mets" included an 8-10 mark and a 3.01 ERA as a swingman, and he posted a career-best 121 ERA+.

-Cardwell retired after getting knocked around for both the Mets and Braves in 1970. In parts of 14 seasons, he was 102-138 with a 3.92 ERA.

-He was no slouch with the bat, totaling 15 home runs in his career. His best individual season was 1960, when he batted .208 and slugged .416 with 5 homers and 9 RBI.

-After baseball, Don made his home back in North Carolina, working for Parkway Ford and excelling at golf with a handicap that was as low as single digits at one time. He passed away in January 2008 at age 72.
#502 Don Cardwell (back)

Monday, August 08, 2011

#471 Billy Hoeft

#471 Billy Hoeft
Believe it or not, this is the LAST card I have in the hopper to post! It could be a while before I get ahold of those 17 elusive cards that stand between me and completion, so the updates are going to be less frequent than they have been in recent months. However, I'm thinking that I might go back and give the first few card posts a re-do, since it took a while for me to focus more in-depth on each individual featured player. So this isn't goodbye, it's just "smell ya later".

Anyhow, this finely rounded card comes from Ed. Billy Hoeft is hatless player number 1,345 (an approximate guess) in the set, having gone from the Braves to the Tigers in the offseason. By the time the card was in stores, it was already outdated; Detroit released Hoeft before the season started, and he joined the Cubs in May 1965. Whoops!

Fun facts about Billy Hoeft:

-Billy was born in Oshkosh, WI and signed with the Tigers out of high school in 1950.

-He was only 20 when he made it to the majors in 1952. He earned his first career save and each of his first two wins in games vs. the Yankees, and finished 2-7 with 4 saves and a 4.32 ERA.

-On September 7, 1953, he went the distance in a 4-2 win over the White Sox. He scattered eight hits and performed a rare feat by striking out the side (Jim Rivera, Mike Fornieles, and Chico Carrasquel) on just nine pitches in the top of the seventh inning!

-After taking his lumps for a few years, the light went on for Hoeft in 1955. He led the American League with 7 shutouts en route to a team-best 16-7 record, 2.99 ERA, and 133 strikeouts. He also made the only All-Star team of his career.

-Despite seeing his ERA jump to 4.06 in 1956, Billy won 20 games against 14 losses.

-He hit two of his three career home runs on July 14, 1957, driving in three runs to help his own cause in a complete game 10-2 win over Hal Brown and the Orioles.

-He was unable to build on his early successes, and found himself working mostly out of the bullpen for three teams in 1959, going from Detroit to Boston to Baltimore.

-Billy's most successful campaign as a reliever came in 1961, when he went 7-4 with 3 saves, a 2.02 ERA, and 100 strikeouts in 138 innings in 35 games (12 starts) for the Orioles.

-He also spent time with the Giants, Braves, and Cubs, retiring in 1966 after 15 years in the big leagues. He had a career record of 97-101 with 33 saves and a 3.94 ERA.

-After baseball, Hoeft sold printing equipment. He died of cancer at age 77 last year.
#471 Billy Hoeft (back)

Friday, August 05, 2011

#282 Giants Rookie Stars: Dick Estelle and Masanori Murakami

#282 Giants Rookie Stars: Dick Estelle and Masanori Murakami
I told you this was a Giants-centric week! (Sorry, Night Owl.) Ed performed his '65 Topps wingman duties well again, picking up this fine card for $5 at a card show in Virginia back in July. Dick Estelle is another extremely airbrushed-looking player, but Masanori Murakami appears to be the real deal.

Fun facts about Dick Estelle:

-A native of Lakewood, NJ, Dick signed with the Giants at age 18 in 1960.

-In 1964, he struck out 167 batters in 152 innings at AAA Tacoma to earn a September callup to San Francisco.

-After taking a hard-luck loss while pitching into the tenth inning in his second start, Dick earned his first career win on September 22, 1964 with eight innings of one-run ball against Houston. Incidentally, Murakami earned his first career save by relieving the starter in the ninth and stranding two inherited runners.

-In 41.2 innings in 1964, Estelle went 1-2 with a 3.02 ERA. He struck out 23 and walked 23.

-After returning to AAA in 1965, he earned another look in September. Making 5 relief appearances and a start, he allowed 6 runs (5 earned) in 11.1 innings for a 3.97 ERA.

-Dick never pitched again in the big leagues. He stayed active in the minors through the 1972 season, finishing with a 102-123 record and a 3.67 ERA in parts of 13 minor league seasons.

-His career big league record was 1-2 with a 3.23 ERA.

-Estelle was inducted into the Lakewood High School Hall of Fame in 2006. In his senior year, he had gone 11-2 with an 0.38 ERA.

Fun facts about Masanori Murakami:

-Masanori was born in Otsuki, Japan. His father wanted him to become a doctor, and only permitted him to play baseball if he agreed to continue studying diligently. He appeared briefly for the Nankai Hawks in 1963 before being sent to the Giants as part of a development deal between the two clubs.

-Working out of the bullpen at Class A Fresno, Murakami appeared in 49 games in 1964, going 11-7 with an excellent 1.78 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. The Giants promoted him to the big leagues in September.

-The 20-year-old became the first Japanese player in the major leagues and endeared himself quickly to fans and teammates, bowing to his fielders when they made good plays behind him. He strung together eight scoreless appearances to begin his career. He picked up the aforementioned save in Dick Estelle's only career win, and added a win of his own with three innings of one-hit relief against Houston on September 29. He allowed his only 3 runs in his final appearance on the year, finishing with a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings.

-Though the Giants expected to have his services again in 1965, the Hawks insisted that he had only been loaned to the American club and the two teams and their respective leagues engaged in a war of words. An agreement was finally brokered that allowed Murakami to return to San Francisco in early May.

-Masanori pitched reasonably well in 45 games, going 4-1 with 5 holds, 8 saves, and a 3.75 ERA. The Giants won 95 games and finished just 2 back of the first-place Dodgers.

-At the insistence of his father, he returned to Japan and the Hawks in 1966. He struggled under high expectations and was criticized for supposed bad "American" habits. He pitched in Japan through the 1982 season, finishing his career with a 103-82 record (largely on the strength of an 18-4, 2.38 ERA season in 1968) and a 3.64 ERA.

-He attended spring training with the San Francisco Giants in 1983, but did not make the team at age 38 and chose to go back to Japan. This left his major league record at 5-1 with 9 saves and a 3.43 ERA.

-Masanori later broadcast games for the Japanese NHK network.

#282 Giants Rookie Stars: Dick Estelle and Masanori Murakami (back)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

#4 NL Home Run Leaders: Willie Mays, Billy Williams, Johnny Callison, Orlando Cepeda, and Jim Ray Hart

#4 NL Home Run Leaders: Mays, Williams, Callison, Cepeda, and Hart
Wow, not only is this a crowded league leaders card, it's also continuing a very Giants-centric week here on the ol' blog. Ed picked up this card for me a few weeks back, and as you can see if you scroll down, I'm dealing with a little paper loss on the back. So I'll be looking to upgrade sooner rather than later.

In 1964, Willie Mays continued his display of sustained excellence by clouting 47 home runs, thereby winning his third of four career National League crowns. The 33-year-old Giant had won his first homer title a full decade earlier, going deep 51 times in 1955. He would surpass that previous career high in 1965, leading the Senior Circuit one last time with 52 big flies. He retired in 1973 with 660 home runs, then the third-highest total in history. He was of course bumped down to fourth by the current home run king, his godson Barry Bonds.

Sweet Swingin' Billy Williams was a distant runner-up with 33 round-trippers, a new career high for the 26-year-old Cub. It was the fourth in an impressive string of 13 consecutive 20-homer seasons for Williams. He never captured a home run title, but peaked with 42 homers in 1970. He collected 426 four-baggers in an 18-year career.

The three-man logjam on the bottom row of this card represents a three-way tie for third in homers in the National League. Johnny Callison's 31 dingers were one shy of the career high he'd establish in 1965; he never even hit 20 afterward, but wrapped up his career in 1973 with 226 total. For Orlando Cepeda, 31 was actually his lowest HR output since 1960. However, he also missed 20 games early in the season. He peaked at a league-leading 46 in 1961 and wound up with 379 in a Hall of Fame career. Jim Ray Hart's 31 longballs were the first 31 of his career, earning him a second-place Rookie of the Year finish. He topped out at 33 in 1966, but his prime was short; he played 1,125 games lifetime and accumulated 170 homers.

If you could see the card back, you'd find the top 24 power hitters of 1964 in the N.L., all the way down to Willie McCovey with 18. The grand slam rundown is also provided, with only Bob Aspromonte and league MVP Ken Boyer hitting two grannies. The two most surprising names on the list (in my opinion) are Charlie Smith with 20 HR, and Billy Cowan with 19.
#4 NL Home Run Leaders: Mays, Williams, Callison, Cepeda, and Hart (back)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

#545 Jesus Alou

#545 Jesus Alou
A few weeks ago (yes, weeks! I'm four cards away from being caught up!), reader George DeVerges and his father sent me this extra Jesus Alou card they found in their collection. Thanks, guys!

There's a joke based on the old Christian slogan "Jesus is the answer". It suggests that the question must be, "Who is Felipe and Matty's brother?".

Fun facts about Jesus Alou:

-Jesus was born in Bajos de Haina, in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. He signed with the Giants as a teenager in 1958.

-He was the youngest of the three baseball-playing Alou brothers, and is the uncle of Moises Alou and Mel Rojas.

-After a September 1963 callup, Alou became a regular in the San Francisco outfield in 1964. He batted .274 as a rookie, but seldom walked or hit for power. In his entire career, he would top 100 in OPS+ in only two seasons, both as a part-timer.

-On July 10, 1964, he went 6-for-6 with a home run in a 10-3 win over the Cubs.

-Jesus played in a career-high 143 games in 1965, hitting .298 with 9 home runs and 52 RBI.

-He was taken by the Expos in the 1968 expansion draft, but was traded to the Astros prior to the 1969 season. In 1970, he hit .306 with a personal-best 27 doubles for Houston.

-In his 30s, Jesus became a pinch hitter and bench player with some positive results. He batted .312 in 102 trips to the plate for the Astros in 1972.

-He was a member of the Athletics' World Series-winning clubs in 1973 and 1974.

-After spending the 1975 season with the Mets, Jesus was released the next spring and did not return to the majors until Houston resigned him for the 1978 season. The 36-year-old rewarded them with a .324 average in 152 plate appearances, including a .364 mark (16-for-44) as a pinch hitter. He retired after serving as a player-coach for the club in 1979. In parts of 15 seasons, he hit .280 with 32 home runs and 377 RBI.

-Alou worked as an Expos scout in the 1980s and 1990s, and has been director of Dominican operations for both the Marlins and Red Sox.

#545 Jesus Alou (back)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

#176 Willie McCovey

#176 Willie McCovey
Whaddaya know, it's Stretch! This card set me back a cool five bucks, thanks to the bargain-hunting talents of Ed. If you're paying attention to the sidebar, you'll have noticed that I am now just 17 cards shy of a completed set, which brings with it several exciting signposts. For instance, I have completed the Giants team set, 30 cards in all. That's a big deal to me in itself, but especially considering that it includes five future Hall of Famers.

Fun facts about Willie McCovey:

-Willie was born in Mobile, AL and was only 17 when he signed with the Giants in 1955.

-He put up impressive numbers at every stop in the minors, and was hitting .372/.459/.759 with 29 homers and 92 RBI in 95 games at AAA Phoenix when the Giants called him up to the majors in the summer of 1959. His first game was a sign of things to come, as he went 4-for-4 with 2 triples, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored against Robin Roberts.

-He kept up the pace in his first look at the major leagues, putting up a line of .354/.429/.656 with 13 homers and 38 RBI in just 52 games in San Francisco. He was the unanimous winner of the National League Rookie of the Year award despite playing just one-third of the season!

-Despite his prodigious power and on-base skills, McCovey found it hard to get into an everyday lineup that included Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Felipe Alou, and Harvey Kuenn. He did not top 106 games in a season until 1963. That year, he made the first of 6 All-Star teams, leading the league with 44 home runs and driving in 102 runs (trailing only Mays' 103 for the team high). He also batted .280 and scored 103 runs.

-He edged out Tom Seaver in MVP voting in 1969, when he reached career highs (and league-leading totals) of 45 home runs, 126 RBI, a .453 on-base percentage, .656 slugging, and a 209 OPS+. His .320 average was also a personal best, and ranked fifth in the N.L.

-Willie batted .429 (6-for-14) with 2 home runs and 6 RBI in a losing effort in the 1971 NLCS. His two-run homer off of Steve Blass in Game One gave the Giants the eventual winning runs in their only victory over the Pirates in the Series.

-He punished fellow Hall of Famer Don Drysdale, batting .336/.437/.680 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI in 151 plate appearances lifetime. This prompted Drysdale's former teammate Don Sutton to say that Mac was the only batter who was able to physically intimidate the great pitcher.

-Willie won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1977, when he hit .280 with 28 homers and 86 RBI and boosted his OPS by 262 points at age 39.

-McCovey stayed in the majors for an astonishing 22 seasons, retiring at age 42 in 1980. He spent 3 years late in his career with the Padres, played 11 games with the Athletics, and returned to San Francisco for his last 4 years. He had a lifetime batting line of .270/.374/.515 with 521 home runs (still 18th all-time) and 1,555 RBI.

-Among his post-retirement honors, his #44 was retired by the Giants, and the club erected a statue in his likeness across from AT&T Park. The body of water beyond the right-field fence has been named McCovey Cove, as the lefthanded slugger used to deposit home runs beyond the right field bleachers in old Candlestick Park. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1986, and he currently works as a senior advisor for the Giants.
#176 Willie McCovey (back)

Monday, August 01, 2011

#335 Mickey Lolich

#335 Mickey Lolich
The last of the recent three-spot of cards from Ed is this gently used Mickey Lolich. I'll probably look to upgrade this one when I can. Lolich is the author of one of my favorite quotes. The overweight hurler once said, "All the fat guys watch me and say to their wives, 'See, there's a fat guy doing okay. Bring me another beer'."

Fun facts about Mickey Lolich:

-A Portland, OR native, Mickey was naturally right-handed but learned to throw lefty after breaking his left arm as a child and performing exercises to strengthen the previously immobilized muscles. He signed with the Tigers in 1958 for a $30,000 bonus.

-He finally got the call to the big leagues at age 22 in 1963, after learning to command his pitches rather than just relying on throwing hard. He earned his first win with a 3-1 decision over the Angels on May 28. He went the distance, scattering eight hits that day.

-Lolich took a great leap forward in 1964, going 18-9 with a 3.26 ERA and leading Detroit with 6 shutouts, 12 complete games, a 1.12 WHIP, and 192 strikeouts.

-After contributing to the Tigers' American League championship in 1968 with a 17-9 mark and a 3.19 ERA, Mickey practically carried them to a World Series win over the Cardinals. He hurled complete game victories in each of his three starts, outdueling Bob Gibson in a 4-1 win in the Game Seven clincher. In all, he allowed 5 earned runs in 27 innings (1.67 ERA), striking out 21 batters and walking only 6 to earn Series MVP honors. He even hit his only career home run in the third inning of Game Two to push his lead to 2-0!

-He had a pair of 16-strikeout games in 1969, baffling the Angels on May 23 and shutting down the Pilots two starts later on June 9.

-The lefty was a three-time All-Star, including a career year in 1971: 25-14, 2.92 ERA. He led the American League in wins and also led with 29 complete games, 376 innings pitched, and 308 strikeouts (the latter a team record). He finished second to Vida Blue in Cy Young voting. Blue was 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts, but pitched 64 fewer innings.

-Mickey was excellent in 1972 as well, going 22-14 with a 2.50 ERA, 23 complete games, and 250 strikeouts in 327.1 innings. He helped the Tigers capture the A.L. East crown, but did not pick up a win in either ALCS start against the Athletics. He pitched into the 11th inning in the opener, but was pulled with a 2-1 lead after allowing a pair of singles. Reliever Chuck Seelbach allowed both runs to score on a Gonzalo Marquez single, and Lolich was saddled with the loss. In Game Four, he helped the Tigers stave off elimination with nine innings of one-run ball (leaving his career postseason ERA at 1.57), but left with the scored tied. Seelbach (that guy AGAIN) surrendered two runs in the top of the tenth, but the Tigers rallied with three of their own in the bottom of the inning. Detroit lost a 2-1 heartbreaker in Game Five to miss out on the World Series.

-Detroit's fortunes plummeted in the mid-1970s, and Lolich was saddled with 39 losses in 1974 and 1975. The Tigers swapped him to the Mets in December 1975 for Rusty Staub, but his fortunes were no better: he went 8-13 in 1976 despite a 3.22 ERA. He butted heads with his trainer and pitching coach, and sat out the second year of his contract in 1977.

-Mickey ended his career with a two-year stint in San Diego, retiring in 1979 with a career record of 217-191 in parts of 16 seasons. He had a 3.44 lifetime ERA, and struck out 2,832 batters, still 18th-most in history.

-He ran a donut shop in the suburbs of Detroit for several years before selling his business and retiring with his wife Joyce. He splits his time between Oregon and Michigan, and his hobbies include biking, archery, shooting, and ham radios. He remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for the full 15 years of eligibility, peaking with 25.5% of the vote in 1988. He has been a Veterans' Committee finalist three times in recent years, but failed to draw enough votes for enshrinement.
#335 Mickey Lolich (back)