Sunday, January 22, 2012

Final Card: Nick Willhite

This is the 4th and final card for Nick Willhite (249). He also appeared on a Dodgers Rookies card in 1964, in the 1965 set as a Senator, and in the 1966 set as a Dodger.

Nick was signed by the Dodgers in the Fall of 1959. He played in the minors every season from 1960 to 1970, and in the majors every season from 1963 to 1967. Only in '65 and '67 would he spend more of his time up top.

Willhite made his major-league debut with the Dodgers on June 16, 1963. During his first stint with LA (1963-64) he was a starting pitcher, but was #6 on the depth chart for both seasons.

After the 1964 season, he was purchased by the Senators, who sold him back to the Dodgers in mid-May the following season. Besides playing for both teams in '65, he also spent some time with the Dodgers' AAA team in Spokane, Washington. Willhite played most of the 1966 season in the minors, and a few games with the Dodgers.

After the 1966 season, Nick was traded to the Angels for reliever Bob Lee (a steal for the Dodgers, considering that Lee was the ace of the Angels' bullpen that season, and Willhite was pretty much minor-league filler for the Dodgers). Nick appeared in 10 games (7 starts) for the Angels in 1967 before he was sent over to the Mets on June 10th for pitcher Jack Hamilton.

Willhite's stay in New York only lasted about 5 weeks. After 4 appearances (his last on June 23rd), he spent the rest of the season with the Tulsa Oilers (the Cardinals' AAA team). The 1968-70 seasons saw him bouncing around the minor-league organizations of the Mets, Cubs, Twins, and Royals.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The 1967 Orioles

Here are the 1967 Baltimore Orioles. The team swept the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series, but would have two off-years before returning to form and winning their division 5 times between 1969 and 1974, including 3 consecutive trips to the World Series (1969-71).

Here is the starting rotation (in order of innings pitched). Why did the Orioles falter in 1967? Instead of the 1966 rotation of Jim Palmer (15-10), Dave McNally (13-6), Steve Barber (10-5), and Wally Bunker (10-6), they had Tom Phoebus (14-9), Pete Richert (7-10), a 7-7 version of McNally, and rookie Jim Hardin (8-3). (Oh, Frank Robinson also missed 6 weeks with injuries and double vision.)

Other starting pitchers included Steve Barber, Gene Brabender, rookie Bill Dillman, and Wally Bunker. Barber was in the rotation for the first half of the season, until his July 4th trade to the Yankees. Bunker also began the season in the rotation, but by May 1st was relegated to the bullpen, with only occasional starts for the rest of the season. The others did their best to fill in.

The O's bullpen was headed up by World Series hero Moe Drabowsky, young Eddie Watt, 40-year-old Stu Miller, and knuckleballer Eddie Fisher.

Other pitchers spending some time with Baltimore in 1967 (in playing-time order): Jim Palmer came down with a sore arm, and would spend much of '67 and '68 in the minors. Frank Bertaina was sent to the Senators in the Mike Epstein trade in late May. Marcelino Lopez was acquired from the Angels in mid-June for infielder Woody Held, but pitched only 4 times the rest of the way. Dave Leonhard made his major-league debut in late September.

John Buzhardt had a 1-month stay with the Orioles on his way from the White Sox to the Astros. Mike Adamson and John Miller played briefly in 1967, Roger Freed did not. Hank Bauer was the Orioles' manager since 1964. He piloted the team to a championship in '66, but the Orioles' sudden fall would cost him his job by mid-1968. He would be replaced by Earl Weaver.

The same 8 regulars returned from the '66 championship team. Andy Etchebarren returns behind the plate, while Boog Powell was their #2 power source behind Frank Robinson. Dave Johnson was the top rookie 2nd baseman in '66. Why does perennial all-star shortstop Luis Aparicio have "INFIELD" listed on his card? Only Topps knows.

Here we see Brooks Robinson in his trademark sawed-off batting helmet. Curt Blefary played his last season as the Orioles' left fielder in 1967. Paul Blair was a defensive wizard, and Frank Robinson garnered the AL Triple Crown and MVP awards in 1966. Not a bad group!

Here are the subs, in playing-time order. Russ Snyder had been an Oriole since 1961, and was the 4th outfielder in 1967, backing up all 3 spots. Mark Belanger started 33 games at shortstop and 10 at 2nd base, and would take over the shortstop job in 1968. Rookie Larry Haney started 45 games behind the plate as the #2 catcher. Sam Bowens was a pinch-hitter and corner outfield reserve.

Third-string catcher Vic Roznovsky started 22 games, rarely on consecutive days. Dave May and Curt Motton were corner outfield reserves, both spending most of the season in triple-A. Veteran utilityman Woody Held was traded to the Angels in June for pitcher Marcelino Lopez.

These guys also made token appearances for the Birds. Rookie Mike Epstein held out, demanded a trade, and was accommodated at the end of May - going to the Senators for pitcher Pete Richert. Charlie Lau was only used as a pinch-hitter in his final 2 seasons (1966-67). Utilityman Bob Johnson was sold to the Mets in early May.

Hmmm... I would have picked Powell and Frank Robinson as "Bird Bombers", but Robinson was already on "The Champs" card, so ok.

Topps did a good job with their rookie selections. Epstein and Phoebus made major contributions in 1967 (although Epstein's was with the Nats). Ed Barnowski did not play for the Orioles in 1967, but the others contributed in backup roles.

To the victors go the spoils (of additional cards in the next year's set)!

Transactions from the end of the 1966 season to the end of 1967:

12/15/66 - Traded pitcher Dick Hall to the Phillies for pitcher John Morris.

05/10/67 - Sold Bob Johnson and John Miller to the Mets.

05/29/67 - Traded Frank Bertaina and Mike Epstein to the Senators for Pete Richert.

05/31/67 - Sold Charlie Lau to the Braves.

06/15/67 - Traded Woodie Held to the Angels for Marcelino Lopez.

07/04/67 - Traded Steve Barber to the Yankees for 1st baseman Ray Barker.

08/21/67 - Purchased John Buzhardt from the White Sox.

09/25/67 - Sold John Buzhardt to the Astros.

11/28/67 - Sold Sam Bowens to the Senators.

11/28/67 - Traded Eddie Fisher to the Indians for pitcher John O'Donoghue.

11/29/67 - Traded Luis Aparicio and Russ Snyder to the White Sox for 3B-OF Don Buford and pitchers Bruce Howard and Roger Nelson.

Next team review: San Francisco Giants

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Final Card: Ron Campbell

Program Note: I recently acquired the 1969 Topps Blog from its previous owner. Be sure to check it out, and add it to your sidebars. (You may also want to add my 1963 and 1970 blogs to your sidebars, if you haven't already done so.)

This is the final card for Cubs' utility infielder Ron Campbell (#497). It also happens to be his rookie card. Ron is one of several in the 1967 set whose career ended before the 1967 season. I wonder if anyone else had their rookie card issued after their major-league career was over?

Ron was signed by the Cubs in 1960, and played 11 seasons (1960-70) in the minors, mostly with the Cubs' organization, but his last 2 seasons in the Pirates' system. In the minors, Campbell played 3rd base about 85% of the time, but also saw action at 2nd base and shortstop.

He made his major-league debut on September 1, 1964, and played about 2 dozen games with the Cubs in each of 1964 and 1966, and only 2 games in 1965. Probably the arrival of rookie infielder Paul Popovich in 1967 made Campbell's presence unnecessary on the major-league roster. Of course, with Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, and Glenn Beckert as the starters, extra infielders by any name weren't really necessary!

Check out Wrigley Wax's post on Ron Campbell.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Final Card: Larry Elliot

Here is the 2nd and final card for Larry Elliot (#23), who previously appeared on the 1964 Mets Rookies card. Elliot is one of a dozen players in the 1967 set who didn't play in the majors after 1966.

Larry was signed by the Pirates in 1958, and spent 6 seasons in their farm system, with only a handful of major-leagues appearances in 1962 and 1963. After the 1963 season, the Mets purchased his contract, and he split the 1964 season between triple-A and the Mets. In New York, he started 59 games in a center field platoon with Jim Hickman.

Elliot spent the entire 1965 season on loan to the Reds' triple-A team in San Diego, before returning to the Mets in 1966. This time around he was relegated to 4th-outfielder status, behind (among others) rookie Cleon Jones and 2nd-year man Ron Swoboda.

Larry's final major-league appearance was on October 2, 1966. In early May 1967, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics for 3rd baseman Ed Charles. He spent the 1967-69 seasons playing in triple-A for the Mets, Athletics, Angels, and Twins, before retiring.