Saturday, June 10, 2017

Larry Dierker (#498)

Here is my slightly-out-of-register Larry Dierker card. (I don’t think I've ever noticed that before today.) I also noticed today that Larry jumped to the majors after only 1 season in the low minors.

Dierker was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1964 after pitching at UC Santa Barbara. After 9 games in Rookie-league ball, Larry made his debut with the Colts on his 18th birthday in September 1964. He struck out Willie Mays in his first inning pitched.

At the start of the 1965 season, he joined the newly-renamed-Astros' starting rotation, which included veterans Bob Bruce and Turk Farrell. (In the coming years, he would be joined by Dave Giusti, Mike Cuellar and Don Wilson.)

Dierker remained one of the Astros' top starters through the 1976 season (although missing much of 1973). He was the Astros' first 20-game winner in 1969, and an All-Star in '69 and '71. He had double-digit wins in 9 of his 12 seasons with the Astros, who always finished in the bottom half during his tenure.

After the 1976 season he was traded to the Cardinals for catcher Joe Ferguson. The Cards released him after only one season, ending his 14-year career.

From 1979 to 1996, Larry was a broadcaster for the Astros.

He left the booth to manage the Astros from 1997 to 2001, and in contrast to his playing career, the team finished FIRST in 4 of those 5 seasons. He was named Manager of the Year in 1998. During the 1999 season, he suffered a seizure which required brain surgery, and several months recuperation before returning to the team.

The Astros retired his number in 2002. Dierker returned to his old broadcasting job for the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

As of this writing, Dierker still holds the Astros' team record for shutouts (25), complete games (106), innings pitched (2294), and games started (32), His 137 wins put him 3rd behind Joe Niekro and Roy Oswalt.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bill Rigney (#494)

I like the 1967 manager cards because there is a long summary of their playing and managing career on the backs (unlike the 1969 cards with their dopey caricature filling the entire back).

Before his managing career, Bill Rigney was an infielder for the New York Giants from 1946 to 1953.  He later managed the Giants from 1956 to mid-1960.

Bill was the Angels' manager from their inception in 1961 until early 1969, replaced with the team sporting an 11-28 record (despite having TWO expansion teams to beat up on in their division).

In 1970 he was hired by the Twins to replace Billy Martin.  (Bill previously managed in Minneapolis when the Giants had an AAA team there in 1954-55.) Rigney piloted the Twins to 98 wins and the AL West title in 1970, but it was downhill from there.  He was let go midway through the 1972 season.

His final managerial post was back with the Giants for one season (1976). Bill also broadcast games for the Oakland Athketics in the 1980s.

Rigney passed away in 2001 at age 83.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

50 Years Ago - 1967 Opening Day Lineups

Last year, I posted the 50th Anniversary Opening Day lineups for the National League and American League teams from 1966.

I was going to do the same for the 50th anniversary of the 1967 teams, but realized that I had already done that back on Opening Day in 2014. So I will just re-post those links for that season (my 1st following major-league baseball), and will remember not to get ahead of myself for '68, '69, or '70.

Starting pitchers for all 20 teams

NL position players

AL position players

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ty Cline (#591)

The back of this high-numbered card says "[Ty Cline will] be Atlanta's #1 left-handed pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder", but by the time this card had come out in late-summer, Ty was long gone. He was sold to the Giants in late-May, with Gary Geiger continuing in the “Atlanta’s #1 left-handed pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder” role that he had also manned in 1966.

Cline began his career with the Indians' organization in 1960, and although he played in the majors every year from 1960-66, his only full big-league seasons at that time were in 1962 (with the Indians), and 1964-65 (Braves).

After appearing in 10 games for Atlanta in 1967, he moved on to the Giants in May, filling the 5th outfielder role for the remainder of 1967.

With regular outfielder Ollie Brown missing most of the 2nd half in 1968, Cline saw more action in the outfield than he normally would have, splitting the left field assignments with 3rd-baseman Jim Ray Hart, while also filling in at the other 2 spots.

After the 1968 season, Cline was drafted by the expansion Montreal Expos, and was 1 of 9 center fielders used by the Expos in their 1st season.

Ty must have began the 1970 season on the DL, because his first game wasn't until June 10th. After a 2nd appearance 3 days later, Cline was traded to the Reds. Good for him! He went from worst-to-first, as the Reds made it to the World Series that season. Cline had 1 at-bat in the NLCS (a triple), and 3 at-bats in the Series (.333).

After one more season on the Reds' bench, Cline was released in January 1972.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ken McMullen (#47)

Here's a very intense-looking Ken McMullen. Ken was the Senators' 3rd baseman for the 2nd half of the 1960s, after coming over from the Dodgers in the Frank Howard trade after the 1964 season.

McMullen was signed by the Dodgers in 1960, and made his major-league debut in September 1962.

Ken began the 1963 season as the team's starting 3rd baseman, but it was back to the minors for most of May and June. Recalled in late-June, he regained the starting job for the month of July and again in late September. While he was out of the lineup, the Dodgers used a mix of Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, and (surprisingly) Tommy Davis at 3rd base.

Ken spent most of the 1964 season back in the minors, while Gilliam alternated with a batch of scrubs (Dick Tracewski, John Werhas, and Derrell Griffith) at 3rd base. (McMullen couldn’t beat out THOSE guys???)

After the 1964 season LA traded Ken, outfielder Frank Howard, pitchers Phil Ortega and Pete Richert, and 1st baseman Dick Nen to the Senators for pitcher Claude Osteen and infielder John Kennedy. (Oh c’mon, Osteen couldn't possibly have been worth all of that!)

McMullen settled in as the Nats' regular 3rd baseman and secondary power hitter (behind Howard) until he was dealt to the Angels in late-April 1970 for 3rd baseman Aurelio Rodriguez and outfielder Rick Reichardt.

Ken was the Angels' 3rd baseman from 1970-72, then was involved in another big trade with the Dodgers after the '72 season. He and pitcher Andy Messersmith went to LA in exchange for outfielder Frank Robinson, infielders Bobby Valentine and Billy Grabarkiewitz, and pitchers Bill Singer and Mike Strahler.

McMullen had returned to his original team, but as in his last stint, he was a part-time player. Oh, he started the first 5 games of 1973 at the hot corner, but then a rookie named Ron Cey took over for the next 10 years. Ken only played 125 games over the next 3 seasons with the Dodgers, almost all as a pinch-hitter.

Released in March 1976, he was a part-time player for the Athletics in '76 and the Brewers in '77.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Born on the Same Day - 10/7/1939

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #13 in the series: John O'Donoghue and Phil Ortega - both born on 10/7/1939.

John O'Donoghue pitched for 9 seasons, and as luck would have it, mostly for bad teams. He began with the Kansas City Athletics (1963-65), Indians (1966-67), Orioles (1968), Pilots/Brewers (1969-70), and Expos (1970-71). Only the Orioles were a "good team", and they were in a valley between their '66 and '69 peaks.

John made his only All-Star team in 1965 - surprising since he led the AL with 18 losses that season. He was a starter with KayCee and Cleveland, and a reliever thereafter.

Phil Ortega pitched for the Dodgers from 1960-64 before moving to Washington in the Frank Howard/Claude Osteen trade.

He pitched for the Sens from 1965-68, then ended his career with the Angels in 1969 - pitching 5 games in the first month of the season before he was sent to the minors. He was a starting pitcher from 1964-68.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Denver Lemaster (#288)

Denver Lemaster was a starting pitcher who played mostly for the Braves and Astros from 1962-1972.

Lemaster was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958, and after 4 ½ seasons in the minors he made his debut with the Braves in July 1962, replacing Ron Piche in the rotation.

From 1963-64, Denny notched 11 and 17 wins as the Braves' #2 starter behind Warren Spahn ('63) and Tony Cloninger ('64). He had an off-year in '65, posting a record of 7-13 for the final lap in Milwaukee.

Lemaster was back on the winning side of the ledger in 1966 with an 11-8 record.

1967 was his last season with the Braves, and it was a good one. Besides making his only All-Star team, he led the Braves' staff in starts, innings, and strikeouts. (The Braves' ace starter Cloninger had a terrible year, and Phil Niekro was a reliever until midway through the season.) 

With Niekro emerging as the staff ace, and rookies Pat Jarvis and Ron Reed joining the rotation, the Braves traded Lemaster to the Astros in the off-season (with shortstop Denis Menke) for shortstop Sonny Jackson and 1st baseman Chuck Harrison.

Denny provided a veteran presence on a staff that included youngsters Larry Dierker and Don Wilson. Lemaster was one of the top 3 starters for the next 2 ½ years, until he was replaced in the rotation by ex-Braves' teammate Wade Blasingame in July 1970.

Lemaster was a full-time reliever in 1971, with all 42 of his games coming out of the bullpen.

He joined the Expos after the 1971 season, and appeared in 13 games (19 innings) in 1972 before getting his release on July 1st.