Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tom Tresh (#289)

Tom Tresh was one of the Yankees' regular outfielders in the mid-1960s (along with CF Mickey Mantle and RF Roger Maris). Like Mickey Mantle before him, and Bobby Murcer after him, Tresh was a shortstop in the minor leagues, but primarily played the outfield in the majors. Later in his career (mid-1968), Tresh switched to shortstop.

He was called up to the Yankees in September 1961, and was the American League rookie of the year in 1962, while mainly filling in at shortstop for Tony Kubek (who missed much of the season due to military obligations).

In 1963, he began in his usual leftfield position, but took over centerfield from June 7th until September 2nd, while Mantle was out. He then returned to left field, and stayed there until switching over to shortstop in June 1968. (Tresh did play 3B for about 2 months in mid-1966, when the Yankees moved 3B Clete Boyer to shortstop.)

In June 1969, he was traded to the defending world champion Tigers, and was their shortstop for the remainder of the season. Tresh was released just prior to the 1970 season.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Chris Short's first card

This is Chris Short's rookie card (#395). Yes, in 1967, this veteran of 8 years, 87 wins, and 988 strikeouts finally got a Topps baseball card! I don't know the story behind it, I just assume that he never signed a contract with Topps. (The same was true for Maury Wills. 1967 was his first Topps card, although Wills appeared on a Fleer baseball card in the early 1960s.)

Back in 1967, this was my favorite Phillies card. I'm not sure why - maybe the bright red windbreaker worn under his shirt, maybe the cool swagger he had.

I thought it was odd that Short threw left, but batted right (the rarest of the throws/bats combinations).

Short was the Phillies' left-handed ace during the 1960s. His best seasons were '64, '65, '66, and '68. He only pitched 10 innings in 1969 due to a back injury, and was never the same after that. By 1971 he was used more and more as a reliever, and in his final season with the Phillies (1972), he appeared only in relief. Chris wrapped up his career in 1973 with the Brewers.

Short suffered an aneurysm in 1988, lapsing into a coma until passing away on August 1, 1991 at age 53.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ruben Amaro (#358)

Ruben Amaro primarily played for the Phillies from 1960 to 1965, where he and Bobby Wine shared the shortstop position. (Amaro also played some 1B, while Wine played some 3B.)

After the 1965 season, he was traded to the Yankees for utility infielder Phil Linz. The back of Amaro's card says that the Yankees acquired Amaro to replace the retired Tony Kubek at shortstop. If all it took to acquire Amaro was a utility infielder, I'm wondering how good he really was at that point. In any case, that plan was delayed by a year due to an injury to Amaro. Clete Boyer and Horace Clarke shared the shortstop duties in 1966.

After 3 seasons in New York, he was sold to the Angels, where he played primarily as a pinch-hitter before being released at the end of the 1969 season.

Amaro was re-signed by the Phillies and played in their minor-league system in 1970 and 1971, before becoming a coach for the Phillies.

Today, he's probably basking in his son Ruben Jr's recent success. After taking over as the Phillies GM after the 2008 season, Amaro Jr fleeced the Indians for pitcher Cliff Lee, and has the Phillies back in the World Series.

Final Card: Dick Groat

For the next several days, my 3 card blogs will take on a Phillies and Yankees flavor, as we gear up for the World Series.

Dick Groat is best remembered as the Pirates shortstop of the 1950s and early 1960s (including appearing in the 1960 World Series). He never played minor-league baseball, as the Pirates signed him right out of Duke University in June 1952, and immediately put him on the roster.

(Groat was a star basketball player at Duke. In 1952, he played for the NBA's Fort Wayne Pistons.)

After the 1962 season, he was traded to the Cardinals for pitcher Don Cardwell and infielder Julio Gotay. After 3 seasons with the Cardinals (including another World Series championship in 1964), he was traded to the Phillies along with 1B Bill White and C Bob Uecker for P Art Mahaffey, OF Alex Johnson, and C Pat Corrales.

This is Groat's final card. He spent the early part of 1967 on the Phillies' disabled list, and in late June was sold to the Giants, where he finished out the season.

Groat accumulated over 2100 hits in 18 seasons. Good thing he could hit, because his career fielding percentage was only .961, including 5 seasons of 30 or more errors.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Final Card: Smoky Burgess

When I first got this card (#506) way back in 1967, I thought "This guy looks too old and fat to play baseball!" Well, photos can be deceiving, because he's (only!) 40, and after checking his stats today, I see that he didn't really catch too often after 1964 (26 innings in 1965, 5 innings in 1966, none in 1967). He was a clutch pinch-hitter in 1965 and 1966, (but not so good in 1967, which probably explains why that was his last season).

Smoky started pro baseball in the Cubs farm system in 1944. He made several stops (including the PCL Los Angeles Angels) before making the Cubs team in 1949. In October 1951 he was traded to the Reds, and within 2 months was traded to the Phillies for (among others) catcher Andy Seminick. In early 1955 the Phillies traded him back to the Reds for (among others) Andy Seminick!

Before the 1959 season he was traded (along with 3B Don Hoak) to the Pirates for Andy Seminick OF Frank Thomas and others. Burgess played for the Pirates in the 1960 World Series.

The White Sox claimed him from the Pirates in September 1964. As I mentioned at the top, the White Sox used him almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter, not as a catcher. He was released after the 1966 season, re-signed before the 1967 season, and released again after the season.

Smoky is one of only 3 players with 1967 cards to have his MLB debut in the 1940s (along with Curt Simmons and Joe Nuxhall, although Nuxhall retired prior to the 1967 season).

He finished with a .295 batting average in 18 seasons. Not a bad career!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Final Card: Jack Sanford

Jack Sanford (#549) played minor league baseball from 1948-1954. After military service in 1955-56, he joined the Phillies in September 1956. The following year, he compiled a 19-8 record, led the league with 188 strikeouts, and won the Rookie of the Year award. Only 2 Phillies have won that award since (Dick Allen in 1964, and Ryan Howard in 2005).

After one more season with the Phillies, he was traded to the Giants, where he spent the next 6 1/2 years as a top starter. In 1962, Sanford won 24 games to lead the Giants to the World Series.

In August of 1965, he was sold to the Angels, where he remained until mid-1967. On June 15th, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics for outfielder Roger Repoz. His last game was on August 6th, and he was released on August 15th, ending his career.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ken Harrelson (#188)

I started this blog 4 weeks ago, and have featured someone from every team but the Senators, so here we go:

Ken "Hawk" Harrelson was one of a handful of players to play for 3 teams in 1967. (The others were Jim King, Jim Landis, Jack Lamabe, and John Buzhardt. Technically, Sandy Alomar played for 4 teams in 1967, but 2 of them were during spring training only.)

Harrelson began the year with the Washington Senators, but in June was sold to the Kansas City Athletics (where he also played from 1963 to early 1966). In mid-August, the Athletics fired their manager, Alvin Dark. Dark's last game as manager was also the last game that Harrelson played for the A's. Less than a week later, he was released by the Athletics. (I seem to recall that this was due to owner Charlie Finley's dislike for Harrelson's flamboyant personality, and not because of his baseball skills.)

Three days later, the Red Sox signed him to replace Tony Conigliaro (who had been beaned 10 days earlier) in right field. Harrelson helped the Red Sox get to the World Series in 1967.

Good move Hawk
, going from Washington and Kansas City, to Boston!

Harrelson continued as the Red Sox' regular rightfielder in 1968. In 1969, Conigliaro returned to the team (in RF), so after 10 games with the Sox, Harrelson was traded to Cleveland. He was the Indians' regular rightfielder in 1969, but had limited playing time (mostly at 1B) in 1970 and 1971. His last game was in June 1971.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Classic Crew Cuts (part 4)

More Classic Crew Cuts (Yankees edition):

First we have Dick Howser (#411). Dick was a serviceable shortstop, and was the regular SS for Kansas City in 1961, and Cleveland in 1964. (In 1964, he led the American League with 735 plate appearances.) He was acquired by the Yankees in December 1966. Howser was just one of many players who played for the Kansas City Athletics (affectionately known as the Yankees farm team) prior to joining the Yankees. He just made a stop in Cleveland along the way. Dick was primarily used as a pinch-hitter in 1967, with a few appearances at 2B and 3B. He wrapped up his career in 1968 as a Yankees pinch-hitter and backup 2nd baseman.

Dick is probably better known for his managing career, where he managed the Yankees in 1980 and the Kansas City Royals from 1981 to 1986.

Charley Smith (#257) had the twin misfortunes to:
1) Follow long-time Cardinals 3rd baseman Ken Boyer in St. Louis
2) Be the player for whom Roger Maris was traded

Charley started his career with the Dodgers, and made stops with the Phillies, White Sox, Mets, and Cardinals before landing at Yankee Stadium.

Like Dick Howser's card, Charley Smith's card tells us that the player will be "given a chance to win a regular job" in 1967, but for some reason, Charley's card specifies the shortstop position. Smith rarely played shortstop in his career, and played exclusively at 3B from 1965 to 1968. He was the Yankees regular 3rd baseman in 1967, but lost the starting job in 1968 to rookie Bobby Cox (the current Braves manager).

After 2 years with the Yankees, Charley finished his career in 1969 with 2 pinch-hitting appearances for the Cubs.

This is the last installment in my Crew Cut series. I'm ending it one post earlier than planned, because I've realized that the labels are more accurate if unrelated cards aren't combined in the same post. (Darold Knowles and Bob Duliba will just have to wait their turn.)

Oh... here's the wildcard crewcut:

Oops! With a name like Buzz Nutter, you would think he had to have a crew cut! Oh well, here's a compensatory pick:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Late-series NL/AL Rookies

Each year in the last series, Topps included some "AL Rookies" and "NL Rookies" cards, where players (not on the same team) were pictured. My assumption has always been that Topps waited until after the season started, then used these cards as a "catch-all" for some previously un-documented rookies.

First, we have the lone AL Rookies card, featuring Rod Carew and Hank Allen. Topps hit a homerun here, as these 2 players appeared in more games in 1967 than any other rookie not already appearing on a card.
(Since this is one of the five 1967 cards I don't own, I don't have a scan of the card back.)

Card #576 features Ramon Hernandez and Norm Gigon. After 8 years in the minors, Gigon appears to have parlayed a 3-run homer in his major-league debut into a late-season rookie card.

Card #587 features Don Shaw and Gary Sutherland. Sutherland was the backup SS/LF for the Phillies in 1967, and saw action in a lot of games. The following season, he faded into a utility/pinch-hitting role, and was claimed by the Expos in the expansion draft following the 1968 season.

Card #592 features Jim Shellenback and Ron Willis. Willis was a useful addition to the Cardinals' bullpen on their way to winning the 1967 World Series.

OK, now let's consult the chart below to see how well Topps speculated on these rookies. (Click on image to enlarge)
They were right-on with the AL Rookies card. For the NL Rookies, 4 of the 6 players had impressive rookie seasons. However, there seems to be better choices than Norm Gigon and Jim Shellenback, most notably Gary Nolan, John Donaldson, Vern Fuller, and Bob Schroder. (Gary Nolan finished 1967 as 4th in ERA and 4th in strikeouts.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Final Card: Bob Uecker

The Phillies acquired Bob Uecker (#326) from the Cardinals along with 1B Bill White and shortstop Dick Groat for pitcher Art Mahaffey, outfielder Alex Johnson, and catcher Pat Corrales. 1967 was Bob's final season. In early June, the Phillies traded him to the Braves for catcher Gene Oliver (whose bat had a little more pop than Uecker's).

Bob's real career(s) began after he retired from baseball:

1. Miller Lite commercials ("I'm in the front row!")
2. A starring role in TV's Mr. Belvedere
3. Long-time announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers
4. He was the Cleveland Indians' announcer in Major League

Friday, October 16, 2009

Final Card: Felix Mantilla

Although Felix Mantilla's card (#524) lists him as an outfielder, he played several positions earlier in his career. Felix was originally signed by the Boston Braves in 1952. He was primarily a 2nd baseman, but after being selected by the Mets in the expansion draft, he became their primary 3rd baseman.

Felix Mantilla's last game was in 1966. He was released by the Astros following the 1966 season, and signed on with the Cubs in February 1967. However, he has no major or minor league stats after 1966. (!?!)

After some further digging, I found out that he had injured his Achilles tendon in spring training, and spent the beginning of 1967 on the disabled list. The Cubs released him (ending his career) on July 6, 1967.

Who didn't get a card, but shoulda...

It's curious that these players didn't have a card in 1967:

Lenny Green
Lenny had been in the major leagues since 1957, and was a regular outfielder for the Twins and Red Sox from 1961 to 1965. In 1966, he played in 85 games for the Red Sox, then was released October 1966. The Tigers signed him before the 1967 season, and he played in 58 games for them that year. Still, Topps did not have a card for him in the later series (yet they found room for a Bruce Brubaker card!)

Tony Horton
Tony was a backup 1B-OF for the Red Sox between 1965 and early 1967. In mid-1967, he was traded to the Indians for pitcher Gary Bell. He immediately became the Indians' starting first baseman for several years, yet there was no card for him until 1970 EVER. There also was no card for any other Indians' first baseman in 1968 and 1969.

Jay Ritchie
Jay Ritchie was a reliever for the Atlanta Braves in 1967. After playing in the minors from 1956 to 1964, Ritchie finally reached the majors in 1964 with the Red Sox. He was traded to the Braves prior to the 1966 season, and played for the Braves in 1966 and 1967, before moving on to the Reds for 1968. Although he was in the majors from 1964 to 1968, his only full seasons were 1965 and 1967. He most likely doesn't have a 1967 card because most of his 1966 season was spent at triple-A Richmond. However, in 1967 he appeared in 52 games for the Braves (all in relief), the earliest appearance being April 22nd.

Astros Team
Every team but the Astros had a team card in the 1967 set. The Astros were further maligned by Topps in 1968 and 1969.

Related article: here

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jim Barbieri (#76) / Cubs Rookies (#272)

Jim Barbieri's major-league career consisted of 39 games with the Dodgers in 1966. (20 games in the outfield (17 starts), and another 19 games as a pinch-hitter.) This first-series card indicates that he was sent down to Spokane in October 1966. A check of his career stats shows that he never returned to the major leagues, and wrapped up his minor-league career in 1969. Although his card says "INF-OF", there's no evidence that he played anywhere but the outfield in LA or the minors.

Although his time in the majors was short, he did appear in the 1966 World Series. He also appeared in the 1954 Little League World Series, the first person to appear in both series. This link also tells us that his teammate on the 1954 little league team was Bill Connors (below).

Cubs Rookies (#272)

Bill Connors minor league career lasted 10 years, all with the Cubs and Mets. He had a few major-league appearances from 1966 to 1968.

Dave Dowling's career is even less impressive than Bill Connors. He kicked around the Cardinals, Cubs, and Giants farm systems from 1964 to 1968, and appeared in 2 major-league games.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Final Card: Whitey Ford (#5)

Whitey Ford made his debut with the Yankees in 1950, and after 2 years in the service, he became a fixture in the starting rotation from 1953 (or 1933, according to the back of this card!) to 1965.

After 13 consecutive seasons of winning in double figures (and better than .500 records), Whitey slipped to a 2-5 record in 1966. He pitched in 7 games (all starts) in 1967, his last being on May 21st, and he retired at the end of May.

Final Card: Joe Nuxhall (#44)

Joe Nuxhall's biggest claim to fame is that he was the youngest player to appear in a major-league game (at age 15). As with many long-time veterans, Topps did not include his minor-league stats on the card. Checking his minor-league stats, we find that after Joe's one appearance for the Reds at age 15, he continued to play minor-league ball the next year at age 16. He then "retired" at the ripe old age of 17.

Joe is one of only 3 players with 1967 cards to have his MLB debut in the 1940s (along with Smoky Burgess and Curt Simmons). He retired in April 1967, having played his last game in 1966.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

John Stephenson (#522)

John Stephenson was a backup catcher who came up with the Mets in 1964.

This year, his card is in the high-number series, so there's an updated message that he was sent down on April 10th (opening day minus 1). In fact he didn't play for the Mets at all in 1967. On June 17th, he went to the Cubs as the throw-in in the Bob Hendley for Rob Gardner trade. He was released by the Cubs in April 1968, and quickly signed by the Giants. However, he spent most of 1967 to 1970 in the minors, before making a few appearances for the Giants in 1969 and 1970, and some more regular playing time with the Angels in 1971 to 1973.

John is most remembered (in the Philly area anyway) as striking out to wrap up Jim Bunning's perfect game on Father's Day in 1964. Local myth is that he said he would "get" Bunning for that.

You can also see his 1966 card here.

Final Card: Ozzie Virgil (#132)

No Mets or Giants cards yet... Let's fix that now:

Ozzie Virgil was one of the last active players who played for the New York Giants. (Others (and their final year) were Bill White '69, Al Worthington '69, Mike McCormick '71, Hoyt Wilhelm '72, and the last (fittingly) was Willie Mays '73.)

Ozzie was not with the Giants or any other major-league team in 1967 or 1968. I was all set to include him in a series I call "Already Retired", when I discovered that he was with the Giants' AAA team in Phoenix during 1967 and 1968 as the backup 2B-C-3B-1B in 1967, and as the #1 catcher in 1968. (He split catching duties with Don Bryant in both years.) In 1969, he had one pinch-hitting appearance with San Francisco (on June 27th), and that was the end of his career.

Ozzie's son (Ozzie Virgil Jr) was a catcher with the Phillies in the 1980s.

Final Card: Jim Piersall (#584)

What can be said about Jim Piersall's career and his off-field struggles that hasn't already been said? (I'll leave that for you to Google.)

He played 8 seasons with the Red Sox, 3 with the Indians, and then bounced around for 6 more years. Here is his 1967 card. Since it's a high number card, Topps has updated it with an announcement of Piersall's retirement. They were also thoughtful enough to tell us he moved into a job with the Angels' promotion department!

As they often do with long-time veterans, Topps has left Piersall's minor league stats off the card. He played in the minors from 1948 to 1952. (From his minor-league stat page, you can link over to his major-league stats, to find that his last game was on 5/1/67. He had 5 plate appearances in his last season.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Many a Manny

The other day on another blog, there was a battle of the Pirates' Mannys: Manny Sanguillen vs. Manny Mota.
Here's my 2 cents (circa 1967):

Manny #1:
In 1964 and 1965, Manny Mota (#66) started about 1/3 of the games in center field. In 1966, Mota's former Giants teammate Matty Alou arrived in Pittsburgh and took over as starting centerfielder for the retired Bill Virdon. This development reduced Mota's starts in center field to 1/4 of the games each year from 1966 to 1968. After the 1968 season, Manny was drafted by the Montreal Expos.

Manny #2:
After a fine rookie season with the Kansas City Athletics in 1962, Manny Jimenez (#586) bounced between Kansas City and the minor leagues for a few years until the Pirates selected him in the minor league draft on November 29th, 1966. The card back tells us he was sent down on May 10th, 1967, but he appeared in 50 games for the Pirates in 1967. After spending 1968 with the Pirates, he ended his career in 1969 with 6 pinch-hitting appearances for the Cubs.

(The fellow in the background is most likely a coach. This picture was taken in early 1967, but no player wearing #6 appeared during the regular season. Numbers 7 to 39 were all used by players, and manager Harry Walker wore #3. Perhaps the coaching staff also wore the low numbers?)

Not quite a Manny:
We learn from the back of the Minnie Rojas (#104) card that while Minnie was pitching in the Mexican League in 1964 and 1965, he turned down a chance to play in the major leagues.