Friday, February 15, 2013

#526 Athletics Rookie Stars: Rene Lachemann, Johnny Odom, Skip Lockwood, and Jim Hunter

#526 Athletics Rookie Stars: Rene Lachemann, Johnny Odom, Skip Lockwood, Jim Hunter
Yikes! The way I've been procrastinating on these last few posts, you'd think that I was drawing things out so that the blog wouldn't have to end. As sentimental as I am, I do want to wrap things up here for closure's sake. So here we are at the penultimate stop on this collecting journey, and this one comes from Max. You probably know Johnny Odom and Bill Hunter as "Blue Moon" and "Catfish", respectively. This is one of the more valuable cards in the set, which is undoubtedly due to the runaway popularity of Rene Lachemann.

Fun facts about Rene Lachemann:

-A native of Los Angeles, Rene played collegiately at the University of Southern California (that's USC to you) before signing with the Athletics in 1964.

-He was only 20 when he debuted with Kansas City in 1965. His first career hit was a pinch-hit home run against Chicago's Gary Peters on May 13.

-As the primary backup to Billy Bryan, Lachemann hit .227 (the overall team average was just .240) with 9 home runs and 29 RBI in 235 plate appearances.

-On September 8, 1965, he replaced Bert Campaneris behind the plate in the tenth inning of a game against the Angels. That was, of course, the game in which Campy played all nine positions as a stunt. Rene singled twice in a losing cause.

-Rene spent most of 1966 at AA Mobile and had a double in five big league plate appearances that season.

-His only other taste of the big leagues came in 1968, when he batted .150 in a 19-game stint in Oakland.

-In parts of three major league seasons, Rene had a .210 average, 9 home runs, and 33 RBI.

-Continued playing with the Athletics' AAA club through 1972, finishing with a minor league stat line of .250/.316/.415 and 104 home runs in 8 seasons.

-Though he was just 28 at the time, Lachemann went straight into managing when his playing career was through. From 1973 through 1980, he skippered in the Oakland and Seattle organizations, then took over as Mariners manager in midseason 1981 following Maury Wills' termination. He had a 140-180 record when the club fired him in 1983. Next came a single, 94-loss campaign helming the Brewers. Rene spent the subsequent decade coaching for Boston and Oakland before being tabbed as the first manager of the Florida Marlins in 1993. It was more of the same there, as he was relieved of his duties in mid-1996 with a 221-285 overall mark. In the ensuing years, he's coached for the Cardinals, Cubs, Mariners, Athletics, and Rockies.

-His older brother Marcel pitched for the Athletics from 1969-1971, compiling a 3.44 ERA in 102 innings of relief. He has been a pitching coach for several big league teams, and worked on Rene's Marlins staff in 1993 and 1994. Marcel also got a brief tenure as Angels manager, 1994-1996. A third brother, Bill, was a catcher in the Dodgers' farm system in the late 1950s and also had a lengthy career as a coach and minor league skipper.

Fun facts about Johnny Odom:

-Johnny was born in Macon, GA and signed with Kansas City out of high school in 1964.

-The talent-poor A's gave the young pitcher five starts at the end of the 1964 season. In his second-ever appearance, he scattered six walks and two hits in blanking the Orioles 8-0. However, the teenager was knocked out of the box in his other four starts and finished with a 10.06 ERA.

-Odom stuck in the majors for good in 1966, when he went 5-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 14 starts despite walking 53 men and striking out just 47.

-He was an All-Star in both 1968 (16-10, 2.45 ERA, 113 ERA+) and 1969 (15-6, 2.92 ERA, 117 ERA+).

-Johnny was more fleet of foot than most pitchers, and was used as a pinch runner 105 times. He was only 6-for-11 stealing, though, and he made the final out of Game 5 of the 1972 World Series on a reckless dash home from second base. Joe Morgan gunned him out, but the A's won the Series in seven.

-That 1972 season was also Odom's last as an effective pitcher. He went 15-6 with a 2.50 ERA (115 ERA+) for the World Champs and allowed only three runs (two earned) in 25.1 postseason innings.

-From 1973 through the end of his career in 1976, Johnny posted a sorry 10-28 record with a 5.04 ERA for the Athletics, Indians, Braves, and White Sox. He was finished at age 31.

-His last big-league win was July 28, 1976, a 2-1 White Sox victory over the A's. Odom held his former team hitless for five innings, but walked nine and allowed an unearned run on a Jim Essian throwing error. Francisco Barrios cleaned up the mess with four innings of no-hit relief. How many guys can say that their final 'W' in the majors was a no-hitter?

-In a career that spanned 13 seasons, Johnny had a record of 84-85 with a 3.70 ERA.

-Odom was arrested in 1985 for selling cocaine. On December 11, while facing a trial on the drug charges, he had a six-hour standoff with police while holding his then-wife Gayle captive with a shotgun. Ultimately, he spent six weeks in rehab for alcohol addiction and served a 55-day prison sentence. By all accounts, he turned his life around; he later remarried and owned a house-painting service for some time. He was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 and is now retired.

Fun facts about Skip Lockwood:

-Skip (born Claude Edward Lockwood) was born in Roslindale, MA, and lettered in basketball, track, and baseball in high school. He batted .416 and won 22 games as a pitcher in his senior year, convincing the Athletics to meet his demand of a $135,000 signing bonus.

-Due to bonus baby rules, the 18-year-old made Kansas City's big league roster in 1965. The would-be third baseman collected just 41 plate appearances in 42 games, batting a mere .121 with no extra-base hits.

-Lockwood continued to struggle as a hitter and lost some time to service in the Army Reserve. In late 1967, the Athletics converted him to pitching in hopes that they could slip him through the Rule V draft and then continue developing him as an infielder. But the Astros claimed him and let him pitch, and he stuck with it even after being returned to the A's.

-The Seattle Pilots nabbed Skip in the expansion draft and he pitched in six major league games in 1969, sporting a 3.52 ERA in 23 innings.

-He spent parts of the next four seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers (the relocated and rebranded Pilots). In 1971, he had his best year as a starter, going 10-15 with a 3.33 ERA for a 92-loss Brewers club.

-On May 30, 1972, Lockwood one-hit the Yankees in a 3-1 win. He also walked six batters, but a sixth-inning single by Rusty Torres was the only safety that New York managed.

-After one season with the Angels, Skip came to the Mets in 1975 and had some success as a reliever. 1976 saw him go 10-7 with a 2.67 ERA and a team-high 19 saves. He also struck out 108 men in 94.1 innings. It was the first of four straight seasons that he led the Mets in saves.

-Lockwood finished his career with the Red Sox in 1980, as shoulder problems hastened his exit from the game. In parts of 12 seasons as a big league pitcher, he was 57-97 with a 3.55 ERA and 68 saves.

-Though he began his baseball career straight out of high school, Skip continued his education throughout the years. He has a B.S. in speech from Emerson College, a master's degree in business and industrial communication from Fairfield University, and a second master's in finance and economics from MIT. He also did some Ph.D. coursework in sports psychology, but did not complete the degree.

-Lockwood and his wife Kathy have five children. He is currently working as a motivational speaker, and according to his website, he is working on a book about his baseball career.

Fun Facts about Jim (Catfish) Hunter:

-Jim was born in Hertford, NC. After compiling a 26-2 record at Perquimans High School, he signed with the A's in 1964 for a $75,000 bonus.

-His nickname was bestowed upon him by the marketing-conscious Athletics' owner, Charles O. Finley. "Charlie O" concocted a story about the pitcher catching a large catfish as a boy, and the moniker stuck.

-In 1965, he made 20 starts and a dozen relief appearances as a 19-year-old for Kansas City and held his own, going 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA.

-On May 8, 1968, he threw the first perfect game by an American League pitcher in 46 years, blanking the Twins 4-0 while striking out 11. The notoriously stingy Charlie Finley gave his starter a $5,000 bonus on the spot.

-Catfish's many accomplishments included 8 All-Star appearances and the 1974 American League Cy Young Award (25-12, 2.49 ERA, 23 complete games). He was also the last A.L. pitcher to win 20 or more games in 5 consecutive seasons, which he did from 1971 through 1975.

-Hunter was one of the better-hitting pitchers of his time, batting .226 with 6 homers and 51 RBI in 710 career plate appearances. In 1971, he rapped out a .350 average (36-for-103) with a home run and 12 RBI.

-He was a member of five World Series champions, and he particularly excelled in his three Fall Classics with the A's. From 1972-1974, he had a 4-0 record in five Series starts, and even earned a save in the opener of the 1974 championship. In that span, his World Series ERA was 2.19.

-By 1974, Hunter became embroiled in a contract dispute with Finley, who had failed to make agreed-upon payments to a life insurance fund for the player. Arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled that Finley had indeed breached the contract, and declared Hunter a free agent. The decision effectively nullified baseball's reserve clause, and after a spirited bidding war, the righthander signed with the Yankees for a then-record five years, $3.75 million.

-Though his Yankee career started phenomenally (23-14, 2.58 ERA, league-leading 30 CG and 1.01 WHIP in 1975), the effects of diabetes and years of heavy workload soon showed, and he retired when his contract expired at the end of the 1979 season. In a 15-year career, he was 224-166 with a 3.26 ERA and 181 complete games.

-Hunter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Athletics retired his #27 in 1991. His plaque in Cooperstown features no insignia on the cap, since he preferred not to choose either one of his teams over the other. He spent his retirement on his farm in Hertford, and was only 53 when he died in 1999 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
#526 Athletics Rookie Stars: Rene Lachemann, Johnny Odom, Skip Lockwood, Jim Hunter (back)