Monday, April 15, 2013

#252 Pete Richert

#252 Pete Richert photo richert_zpsbb15e1eb.jpg
Topps does its capless thing again with Pete Richert, since he'd just been traded from the Dodgers in the big seven-player trade that also sent Frank Howard and Ken McMullen to DC. Los Angeles only got two players (and $100,000 cash, which ain't nothing), but one of those men was Claude Osteen, so they did alright. Anyhow, I'd appreciate a little less zoom on Pete. There's something about his spiky crew cut and big, toothy grin that's a bit unsettling to me. But maybe I'm off-base here.

Fun facts about Pete Richert:

-A native of Floral Park, NY, Pete signed with the Dodgers as a teenager in 1958.

-He debuted with the Dodgers on April 12, 1962, earning the win with 3.1 innings of scoreless relief after starter Stan Williams was chased in the second inning. In Richert's first full inning, he set a big league record with four strikeouts, victimizing Frank Robinson, Gordy Coleman, Wally Post, and Johnny Edwards. Coleman reached base when catcher Johnny Roseboro committed a passed ball on strike three, enabling the rare feat. Overall, the rookie struck out seven and allowed no hits or walks.

-Jockeying for mound time on a staff that boasted Koufax, Drysdale, and Johnny Podres, Pete totaled 194 innings in three seasons in L.A. He posted a middling 4.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, then was dealt to the Senators.

-In his two full seasons in Washington, Richert made the only two All-Star teams of his career. In 1965, he led the Senators with a 15-12 record and a 2.60 ERA (fifth-lowest in the American League), and struck out 161 batters in 194 innings. In a career-high 245 innings the following year, he was again the club's best starter with a 14-14 mark and a 3.37 ERA.

-On April 24, 1966, the southpaw struck out seven straight Detroit batters and whiffed 12 overall in six innings. He also took the loss, as Bill Monbouquette tossed a shutout for the Tigers.

-The injury-plagued Orioles acquired Pete in May of 1967, and he put up a 2.99 ERA in 26 games (19 starts) for his new club. Those would be the last 19 starts of his career.

-Richert thrived with the Orioles after switching to relief full-time. In 1969, he he seven wins, a dozen saves, and a 2.20 ERA for the American League champs. He struck out 54 batters in 57.1 innings, and allowed only 56 baserunners. The next season, he was just as good if not better: 7-2, 13 saves, a 1.98 ERA, 66 strikeouts in 54.2 innings, and a 1.10 WHIP.

-Pete was unscored upon in the postseason, appearing in the 1969 ALCS and the 1969, 1970, and 1971 World Series. For whatever reason, he was also barely used, facing just nine batters total and accumulating two innings of work. But he did earn a save in the opener of the 1970 Series, replacing Jim Palmer with two outs in the ninth and the tying run on first base in the form of Pete Rose. The reliever induced a liner to shortstop off the bat of Bobby Tolan, and the stage was set for Baltimore's five-game triumph over the Reds.

-Richert finished his career with a three-year stint in the National League, returning to the Dodgers for 1972-1973 and splitting the 1974 campaign between the Cardinals and Phillies. In 13 major league seasons, he was 80-73 with 51 saves and a 3.19 ERA.

-He spent more than a decade as a minor league pitching coach in the Oakland and San Francisco organizations.
#252 Pete Richert (back) photo richertb_zps7c01cb22.jpg

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

#246 Tom Butters

#246 Tom Butters photo butters_zps75b39ac7.jpg
When I hear the name "Butters", I think of the earnestly naive character from South Park. Given the grimace on Tom Butters' face as he completes his delivery in this photo, I could easily hear him muttering, "Aww hamburgers".

Fun facts about Tom Butters:

-Tom was born in Delaware, OH, and grew up following Lou Boudreau's successful Indians teams. He signed with the Pirates as a 17-year-old in 1957, and attended Ohio Wesleyan University for one semester each year, ultimately graduating with a degree in religion and physical education.

-He didn't reach the majors until 1962, in large part due to control issues; he walked at least 5.3 batters per nine innings in each of his first four years in pro ball.

-Butters made his big league debut on September 8, 1962 with two innings of scoreless relief against the Dodgers. He struck out three batters: opposing pitcher Pete Richert, Ron Fairly, and soon-to-be batting champ Tommy Davis. In four relief appearances that month, the rookie allowed a single run in six innings.

-He spent much of the 1964 season as a low-ranking member of the Pirate bullpen, starting four games and relieving in 24 others. He split the decisions in those four starts, going 2-2 with a solid 2.38 ERA for the year. He still wasn't very precise, striking out 58 and walking 37 in just 64.1 innings.

-While driving through Fayetteville, NC en route to spring training in 1965, Butters' car was struck from the rear by another driver. The collision caused Tom to suffer from severe whiplash, and he dealt with lingering headaches and nausea. He tried to pitch through his maladies, but gave up seven earned runs in nine innings out of the Pittsburgh 'pen and was released in midseason.

-Tom saw the writing on the wall and retired, finishing with a 2-3 record and a 3.10 ERA in parts of four major league seasons.

-He briefly took an admissions job at his alma mater before hiring on at Duke University in the development office. When the head baseball coach died suddenly, Butters was selected for that post at the suggestion of his ex-teammate (and Duke alumnus) Dick Groat. The Blue Devils had an overall record of 43-53-1 in three seasons under the former big leaguer, but were hamstrung by a lack of athletic scholarships.

-Tom's superlative fundraising efforts earned him several promotions, leading to his appointment as athletic director in 1977. His most notable achievement in that role was the 1980 hiring of Mike Krzyzewski as men's basketball coach; 33 years and four national championships later, "Coach K" is still at the school.

-Butters retired from Duke in 1998, and was elected into the university's Sports Hall of Fame a year later. The Schwartz-Butters Athletic Center, the capstone project of Tom's tenure, was dedicated in 2000.

-He still spends most of his time in Durham, NC with Lynn, his wife of more than 50 years. The couple have two children.

(The source for much of this blog post is Rory Costello's SABR biography of Tom Butters, which is rich in detail even though it tends to verge on Duke University boosterism.)
#246 Tom Butters (back) photo buttersb_zpsd212edbb.jpg

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

#196 Ron Fairly

#196 Ron Fairly photo fairly_zpsdbaa703f.jpg
Is Ron Fairly the only player in the 1965 Topps set whose surname is an adverb? I can't think of any others, but my brain is a bit fried from juggling Easter week celebrations with moving my girlfriend into my house. The ball is in your court, dear readers.

Fun facts about Ron Fairly:

-A native of Macon, GA, Ron moved to southern California at a young age and starred at USC before signing with the Dodgers for a $75,000 bonus in 1958.

-His father Carl played minor league ball for 11 seasons, roaming the infield. His best year came at Class B Macon in 1938, the year Ron was born; he batted .302 for the Peaches.

-Though still shy of his 20th birthday, Fairly was promoted to the majors after slugging .528 in only 69 minor-league games. In a 15-game trial with L.A., the youngster hit .283/.350/.415 with a pair of homers.

-A crowded Dodgers outfield and a stint in the Army Reserves slowed Ron's meteoric rise, but he batted .322/.434/.522 as a part-time player in 1961 and found a new home at first base. The following year, he led the club with a .379 on-base percentage.

-Fairly played in four World Series with the Dodgers, winning championships in 1959, 1963, and 1965 and bowing to the Orioles in 1966. In 1965, he started all seven games against the Twins and batted .379 with a .690 slugging percentage. He hit safely in 11 of 29 at-bats, homered twice, and drove in six runs. Perhaps most impressively, he struck out only once.

-A late-20's decline that Fairly attributes to a change in Dodger Stadium groundskeeping (post-Koufax, the team grew the infield grass longer, which slowed down hard ground balls) spurred Los Angeles to trade him to the Expos in June 1969. L. A. reacquired Maury Wills and Manny Mota in the deal.

-Though Ron wasn't happy playing for an expansion team far from home, his performance did rebound in Montreal. His OPS+ was 115 or greater in each of his half-dozen seasons as an Expo, and he was an All-Star for the first time in 1973. That year he had a .298 average and career highs of 17 home runs and a .422 on-base percentage.

-After two seasons split between St. Louis and Oakland, Fairly became the only player ever to appear in All-Star Games as a member of both Canadian teams. He batted .279 and reached base at a .364 clip for the Blue Jays in their inaugural 1977 season, leading the team with 19 home runs.

-He retired after spending 1978 back in southern California with the Angels. In parts of 21 seasons, he hit .266/.360/.408 with a 117 OPS+, 215 home runs, and 1044 RBI.

-Ron spent nearly 30 years broadcasting games for the Angels, Giants, and Mariners before retiring in 2006.
#196 Ron Fairly (back) photo fairlyb_zps54ae5315.jpg