Thursday, September 25, 2014

Johnny Edwards (#202)

Here is my 220th post on this blog - 5 years to the day after my first post. I first stumbled upon the Google blogging community a day earlier, when I found and commented on this post on the 1969 Topps blog, which was formerly owned by Pack Addict (now known as SociallyAwkwardJellyFish). 

I began this 1967 blog on 9/25/2009 with two posts. Three days later I published FIVE posts! Within that first week I also started the 1960s Baseball and 1968 Topps blogs, and a few weeks later, the 1966 Topps blog. The 1970 and 1963 Topps blogs came along about a year after that. In January 2012 I took over the 1969 Topps blog (from Pack Addict), which had been idle for almost 2 years. 

Along the way, I have learned something about a lot of these players (especially the pre-1967 players, which was before my card-collecting time as a kid), and also “met” a lot of interesting bloggers, starting with Jim @ The Phillies Room, Paul @ Wrigley Wax, Steve @ White Sox Cards, CommishBob @ 1959 Topps, and Matt @ 1976, 77, 78 Topps, to name but a few. 

Anyway, it’s been a great 5-year ride. 

Johnny Edwards had the distinction of keeping the Reds’ catching gear warm for another Johnny (Bench) from 1962 thru Bench’s debut in September 1967. Edwards had a 14-year major-league career: 7 seasons with the Reds, 1 with the Cardinals, and 6 with the Astros.

Edwards was signed by the Reds in 1959, and after 2 1/2 seasons as a starting catcher in the minors, he was promoted to the Reds in late-June 1961, and shared the staring assignments with incumbent Jerry Zimmerman (who was also in his rookie season). Johnny hit .364 with 2 doubles in the 1961 World Series.

Zimmerman was traded to the Twins after the season, paving the way for Johnny to become the full-time catcher in 1962. He started 124 games in ’62, his first of 6 consecutive seasons as the Reds’ #1 catcher. Edwards made the all-star team every season from 1963-65, and won 2 Gold Gloves during that span. The high point in playing time was his 141 starts in 1963, after which he shared the catching load with Don Pavletich (his minor-league teammate in 1961).

Always a top defensive catcher, Johnny put up good offensive numbers until breaking a finger during spring training 1966. Edwards started 84 games that season, with Pavletich starting 46 and Jimmie Coker 30. 1967 was Edwards’ last in Cincinnati. He and Pavletich both started 57 games, but Johnny Bench was called up in late August and started 26 of the final 32 games. The Bench Era had started.

Edwards was traded to the Cardinals after the 1967 season for backup catcher Pat Corrales and minor-league infielder (and future manager) Jimy Williams. After one season backing up Tim McCarver (and appearing in the 1968 World Series), Edwards was traded to the Astros (who had lost both their incumbent catchers (John Bateman and Ron Brand) to the Expos in the expansion draft) for pitcher Dave Giusti and catcher Dave Adlesh.

Johnny spent the next 4 seasons (1969-72) as the Astros’ #1 catcher. By 1972, ex-Reds teammates Lee May and Tommy Helms joined Edwards in Houston, via the Joe Morgan deal.

Edwards began the 1973 season as the #1 catcher, but by mid-June had given way to 2nd-year catcher Skip Jutze, who played the majority of games in the 2nd half. 1974 was Johnny’s final season, and he was relegated to the bench, in favor of ex-Pirates’ backstop Milt May.

One of the SABR gurus has rated Edwards as the 2nd-best defensive catcher in baseball history.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hey Arnold!

After a 3-week absence, Robert over at the $30 a Week Habit blog is resuming his 16-set tournament, where bloggers vote for which set he should complete next. The Final Four is down to the 1959, 1963, 1967, and 1974 sets.

Besides all the reasons given in the previous round, how can you NOT vote for a set with this card?

(I discovered today that this was Earley's only Topps card, despite having played full seasons for the Red Sox from 1962 to 1965.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fred Gladding (#192)

Fred Gladding was a relief pitcher from 1961 to 1973. He played his first 7 seasons with the Tigers, and the last 6 with the Astros. In 450 career games, he only made one start. At age 78, he is the oldest living player from the 1966-70 era that I haven’t featured on my blogs yet.

Gladding was signed by the Tigers in 1956, and pitched in their farm system from 1956 to 1960, mostly as a starting pitcher. Fred also spent most of the ’61 and ’62 seasons in the minors, but was used more and more as a reliever.

Fred made his major-league debut in July 1961, making 8 appearances in July and August. He also played 6 games early in 1962 before returning to the minors.

He returned to the Tigers for good in late-July 1963, and manned Detroit’s bullpen for the next 4 ½ seasons. Gladding was always behind either Larry Sherry or Terry Fox (or both) until 1967, when he led the team with 12 saves. (Wow, that seems low by today’s standards!) He also had a 1.99 ERA that season.

Fred missed out on the Tigers' 1968 championship team, as he was sent to the Astros after the 1967 season to complete an earlier trade for Eddie Mathews.

Gladding missed all but 7 games in 1968, but returned the following season to head up the Astros’ bullpen. At age 33, he was the oldest player on the roster, and managed to lead the NL with 29 saves.

Although he never again duplicated his 1969 numbers, he continued to lead the Astros in saves from 1970 to 1972.

Fred began the 1973 season where he left off in ’72, but after pitching in 16 games by early June, he spent the 2nd half of the season in the minors, and was released in October.

From Wikipedia:
“Gladding has the distinction of having the lowest non-zero lifetime batting average in major league history. For his career he batted .016 (1 for 63).”

Friday, August 15, 2014

1967 Topps Card Set Vying for the Final Four

Robert over at the $30 a Week Habit blog has been running a 16-set tournament, where bloggers vote for which set he should complete next. Last week, the 1969 set fell short by a few votes, so I'm hitting the campaign trail again, this time for the 1967 set.

This set includes the final baseball card for Hall of Fame catcher broadcaster Bob Uecker!

Wait, what? That's not enough for you? I suppose you could continue reading then...

There's also the final card for 76 other players, including Whitey Ford, Curt Simmons, Lou/Lew Burdette, Joe Nuxhall, Smoky Burgess, and Jim Piersall.

The final Topps appearance for Sandy Koufax:

41 future Hall of Famers are in the set, including Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Roberto Clemente, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew, and Eddie Mathews, none of who are in the 1976 set.

THIRTEEN multi-player cards, the most for any year in that era:

In addition to the well-known high-number rookie cards for Tom Seaver and Rod Carew, the set also includes the rookie cards for Chris Short and Maury Wills (both 8-year veterans by then) and Ken Holtzman. Also, there are more than 40 Rookie Stars cards, the most in any set.

Here are some other guys in the set:

.                            (That's one heck of a sunrise behind Tony C.!)

Vote now! Don't let Robert have to deal with hanging chads at the last minute.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Vic Davalillo (#69)

Vic Davalillo (currently age 78) is one of the 2 oldest living players from 1966 to 1970 that I have not yet featured on one of my blogs. He played for the Indians and five other teams in his 16-year career from 1963 to 1980.

Vic was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1958. After 4 seasons in their minor-league organization (mostly as a pitcher), he was purchased by the Cleveland Indians and converted to an outfielder.

After playing in the minors in 1962, Vic made his major-league debut with the Tribe in April 1963, starting every game in center field through June 12th. By that time he was hitting .304 and was a front-runner for AL Rookie of the year, but was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken wrist. He didn’t return to the lineup until mid-August, and finished his rookie season with a .292 batting average.

Davalillo was the Indians’ starting center fielder for the next two seasons, then shared the position with Chuck Hinton in ’66 and ’67. Back then, I didn't give Davalillo a second thought (probably because he was on the Cleveland Indians, and not named Sam McDowell), but he was 3rd in AL batting in 1965:

When the Indians acquired Jose Cardenal from the Angels prior to the 1968 season, Vic moved to right field, starting 43 games there until his mid-June trade to the Angels for outfielder Jimmie Hall. Davalillo started 66 games for the Angels, mostly in July and August. By September he was relegated to the bench.

In May 1969, Vic moved on to the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Jim Hicks. With Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and Vada Pinson manning the Redbirds’ outfield, there was little for Davalillo to do. Even the famous departure of Flood after the ’69 season didn’t help him, as the Cards acquired Jose Cardenal, who had taken away Vic’s playing time in Cleveland 2 years earlier. Davalillo rode the bench for his 1 ½ seasons in St. Louis, made 2 appearances as a relief pitcher, but also began his 2nd career as a go-to pinch-hitter.

In January 1971 he and pitcher Nelson Briles were traded to the Pirates for outfielder Matty Alou and pitcher George Brunet. He also played for the Athletics from August 1973 until his release in May 1974. Vic had played in the ’71 World Series with the Pirates, and also in ’73 with the A’s.

He then played ball in Mexico for the rest of 1974 and also in 1975-77. Normally, Mexico or Japan signals the end of the line for someone’s career, but that was not the case for Davalillo.

The Dodgers signed him in August 1977, and was a key pinch-hitter for them for the next 3+ seasons. The Dodgers were well-stocked with pinch-hitters during this time: Davalillo from the left side and Manny Mota (.313 with the Dodgers) from the right side. Vic hit .297 in 158 at-bats for the Dodgers (almost all as a pinch-hitter). Vic hit .333 in both the ’77 and ’78 World Series.

He was released after the 1979 season, and played part of 1980 back in Mexico before the Dodgers re-signed him in July 1980. After his final release following the 1980 season, he once again played in Mexico for the 1981 season.

Vic's older brother Yo-Yo Davalillo played briefly for the Senators in 1953, and for the Reds' AAA team in Havana from 1955-60.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Billy Williams (#315)

Billy Williams was one of the Cubs’ 3 key position players (along with Ernie Banks and Ron Santo) all through the 1960s.

Williams was signed by the Cubs in 1956, and played in the minors for all of 1956-58 and most of 1959 and 1960. Billy made his big-league debut in August 1959, and played in 18 games over the final 2 months of the season. He also appeared in 12 games for the Cubs during late-September 1960.

Billy made the Cubs for good at the start of the 1961 season, and took over the left field duties from the tandem of Ernie Banks (!) and Richie Ashburn. Beginning on June 26th, Williams started the final 100 games in left field. He clubbed 25 homers as a rookie, and won the NL Rookie of the Year award, with 10 of the 16 votes.

He made his first 3 all-star squads early in his career (’62, ’64, and ’65), another in ’68, then two more times late in his career (’72, ’73). Williams hit over .300 five times, including a career-high .333 in 1972, which led the National League. He also led the league in runs (137) and hits (205) in 1970.

Billy was the Cubs’ regular left fielder from 1961 to 1964, then after 2 seasons in right field he returned to his familiar left field post from 1967 to 1973, although he worked in 19 starts at 1st base in ’73. The following season (at age 36) he split his time 60/40 between 1st base and left field.

After the 1974 season, he was traded to the Athletics for pitchers Darold Knowles and Bob Locker, and 2nd base prospect Manny Trillo. Williams spent his final 2 seasons in Oakland as their designated hitter.

In ’75 he also started 5 games at 1st base, but was strictly the DH (and occasional pinch-hitter) in 1976. However, he did play 2 innings in left field that season (on August 27th, for old-times’ sake I guess). Billy played in the ALCS in 1975, but never made it to the World Series in his 18 seasons.

Williams was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987. The Cubs retired his #26 the same year.

Billy was well-known for playing almost every game for 8 to 10 years in the 1960s. I decided to research this to see if it was fact, folklore, or just an impression. From 1962 through 1973, Williams played in 1920 of the Cubs’ 1941 games, including 1117 consecutive games from 9/22/63 to 9/2/70.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Matty Alou (#10)

Matty Alou (the middle of the 3 Alou brothers) played the outfield for 15 seasons, mostly for the Giants and Pirates.

Alou was signed by the Giants in 1957, and played 4 seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in the final week of the 1960 season, 2 ½ years after his brother Felipe joined the team.

Matty spent the next 4 seasons as the Giants’ 5th outfielder, behind Willie Mays, brother Felipe, whichever of Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey wasn’t playing 1st base, and the veteran Harvey Kuenn.

After Felipe was traded away following the 1963 season, it looked like things would open up for Matty, but his younger brother Jesus joined the team that year and jumped ahead of him in the outfield mix.

Not until 1965, when Cepeda missed most of the season to injuries and Kuenn moved on did Alou get a starting position. (Actually, he shared left field with Len Gabrielsen, but Matty’s time as a backup at the other 2 spots pushed him up to #3 in overall playing time.)

After the 1965 season, he was traded to the Pirates for pitcher Joe Gibbon and catcher Ozzie Virgil. Although Alou batted .310 and .292 in part-time duty in ’61 and ’62, it wasn’t until he got to Pittsburgh that his bat exploded (maybe due to the influence of manager Harry Walker?).

Alou was immediately installed as the Pirates’ center fielder, and collected over 575 plate appearances in each of his five seasons with the Pirates. His batting average soared, reaching .342 (NL best), .338 (2nd to Pete Rose), .332, .331, and .297 for those 5 seasons. Alou also made the all-star team in 1968 and 1969, and led the NL in hits (231), doubles (41), and plate appearances (746) in 1969.

Matty’s final games as a Pirate were in the 1970 NLCS. With young Al Oliver waiting in the wings, the Pirates dealt Alou while he was at the top of his game, sending him to the Cardinals (with pitcher George Brunet) for pitcher Nelson Briles and outfielder Vic Davalillo prior to the ’71 season.

Alou started 144 games for the Cardinals in 1971, dividing his time between center field and 1st base. The following season he was the primary first baseman (while also playing in right field) until his August trade to the Athletics. Matty finished out the rest of that season (including the ALCS and World Series) with Oakland, then was traded to the Yankees in the off-season.

Alou played most of 1973 with the Yankees, sharing the first base and right field starting assignments with his brother Felipe. In September Matty was sold back to the Cardinals, who flipped him to the Padres after the season.

Matty played 48 games for the Padres in 1974 before his release in mid-July. He then played in Japan from 1974 through 1976.

Alou passed away in November 2011 at age 72.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Orlando Pena (#449)

Orlando Pena (age 80) is the oldest living player from his era that I have not yet featured on my blogs. (This card has his birth year as 1935, but Baseball-Reference and Baseball-Almanac have it as 1933.)

He began his professional career in 1955, playing for the unaffiliated Daytona Beach Islanders in the class-D Florida State League for one year before he was acquired by the Cincinnati Reds. After a season in class-B ball, the Reds assigned him to their triple-A team in Havana, Cuba (his home country) for the next 2 years.

He made his major-league debut with 9 games in the final 5 weeks of the 1958 season. Pena played the entire 1959 season with the Reds, and was their #2 man in the bullpen in games and innings pitched, and 2nd in saves.

In 1960, Orlando was back in triple-A for most of 1960. He began the season in Havana, then the Reds moved the team to Jersey City, NJ due to the Cuban embargo. Pena also played 4 games with the Reds in the last half of September.

Pena began the 1961 season back in Jersey City, then was traded to the unaffiliated Toronto Maple Leafs in the triple-A International League in mid-July for pitcher Ken Johnson. After the season, Toronto (and Pena) became part of the Milwaukee Braves’ organization.

After spending all of 1961 and most of 1962 in the minors, Orlando was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in August for pitcher (and future umpire) Bill Kunkel.

Pena joined the Athletics and made 12 starts and 1 relief appearance over the final 2 months of the season. Pena was a starter for Kansas City during the '63 and '64 seasons, winning 12 games each season, but leading the AL with 20 losses in 1963.

After moving on to the Tigers in June 1965, Pena reverted back to his role as a reliever. With Detroit, he appeared in 30 games in 1965 and 54 games in 1966, all in relief.

After only 2 appearances, Orlando was sold to the Indians in May 1967 and was the Tribe's closer, pitching in 48 games and collecting a team-high 8 saves.

Pena spent the next 2 seasons in the minors, with the Indians', Pilots', and Royals' organizations. The Royals released him during spring training 1970, and it took until mid-June for him to catch on with another team. He worked out of the Pirates’ bullpen for 2 months, until getting his 2nd release of the year in late August.

Orlando played most of 1971 and all of 1972 in the Orioles’ farm system. He pitched 5 games for the O's in mid-season 1971, and another 11 games at the start of the 1973 season.

The Cardinals purchased his contract in June 1973, and he pitched 42 games for them in 1973 and another 42 games in 1974, until his trade to the Angels in September.

Pena wrapped up his career with 11 games in 1975. The Angels released him 4 days after his final game in early May.

In 1979 and at age 45, Pena pitched 1 game for the Miami Amigos in the short-lived Inter-American League.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Russ Snyder (#405)

A few months ago, I found a page on listing the 100 oldest living ex-players. Within the scope of the 1966 to 1970 card sets, the only names listed there were 3 managers. Last week I decided to find out who were the oldest living ex-players from that time period that I haven’t yet featured on my blogs.

As best as I can determine, they are pitchers Orlando Pena and Camilo Pascual, and outfielder Russ Snyder (all age 80), 1B-OF Felipe Alou (79), and pitchers Bob Humphreys and Jim Perry (both 78). Nine others are 77, with Fred Gladding, Vic Davalillo, and J.C. Martin turning 78 later this year. 

Happy 80th birthday today to Russ Snyder! Russ played outfield for 12 seasons from 1959 to 1970, and is best remembered as the Baltimore Orioles’ 4th outfielder from 1961 to 1967.

Snyder was signed by the Yankees in 1953, and played in their farm system through the 1958 season. Three days into the 1959 season, he was part of yet another trade between the Yankees and the Kansas City Athletics.

Snyder made his big-league debut as a pinch-hitter in mid-April 1959, then was sent to the minors. He was recalled in mid-July, and became the Athletics’ starting left fielder from late-July to mid-August, before moving over to center field for most of September.

In 1960, Russ was part of a 3-way tandem in right field (along with Hank Bauer and Whitey Herzog) who replaced the departed Roger Maris.

After the 1960 season, Snyder and Herzog were traded to the Orioles for 4 players, including infielder Wayne Causey and catcher Clint Courtney. Except for being limited to 56 games in 1964, Snyder was the Orioles’ 4th outfielder and got the most at-bats of the non-regulars every season from 1961 to 1967.

Russ bounced around in his last 3 seasons. Traded to the White Sox with Luis Aparicio for Don Buford and others in November 1967, Snyder was flipped to the Indians in mid-season for outfielder Leon Wagner.

After a year and a half in Cleveland, he played his final season (1970) with the Brewers. Snyder was released by the Brewers during spring training in 1971.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NL Pitching Leaders (#234, 236, 238)

Here are the National League pitching leaders for the 1966 season. These cards made a cameo appearance on my first 1966 blog post.

Sandy Koufax won the pitching triple crown in his final season. Because of his dominance in the early-to-mid 1960s, MLB created a Cy Young Award for each league beginning in 1967, instead of one overall award.

Koufax was the only qualifying starting pitcher with an ERA below 2.00. Joining him is the Astros' Mike Cuellar, who would be traded to the Orioles after 1968, and Juan Marichal. In the relievers' category, Joe Hoerner and Phil Regan both came in under 2.00.

It's Sandy Koufax again! Marichal was joined by his teammate Gaylord Perry in the 20-win club in 1966. Bob Gibson's 21 wins tied with Perry for 3rd place.

Jim Bunning checks in at 2nd place with 252 strikeouts, a whopping 65 behind Koufax. Bunning also finished 4th in ERA and 6th in wins that season. The Pirates' Bob Veale was a regular among the top strikeout artists in the late 1960s. Gibson and Marichal were not far behind in 1966.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The 1967 Braves

Here is the Braves' team card. It's the only Topps team card prior to 1968 that included the actual background in the photo.

The Braves began the season with a starting rotation of Denver Lemaster, Ken Johnson, Tony Cloninger, Pat Jarvis, and Dick Kelley. This rotation remained somewhat intact through mid-June, although for various stretches, Johnson and Cloninger missed starts and were replaced by Bob Bruce and Wade Blasingame.

By mid-June, Phil Niekro joined the rotation (replacing Kelley), and those 5 carried on through the rest of the summer, the only change being Clay Carroll replacing Cloninger beginning in early August. Ed Rakow got the extra start now and then when doubleheaders cropped up.

Lemaster led the staff in starts (31) and innings pitched (215) but only managed a 9-9 record. Johnson (the dean at age 34) and Jarvis were the other 2 rotation mainstays, winning 13 and 15 games respectively. The veteran Cloninger missed all of May and only pitched 3 times after July. When he did play, he was ineffective, pitching only 76 innings over 16 starts and compiling a hefty 5.17 ERA.

Niekro began the season as the team’s closer, collecting a team-high 9 saves. He joined the rotation in mid-June and started 20 games the rest of the way, fashioning a 11-9 record, with a 1.87 ERA. Others used primarily in relief were Dick Kelley and Clay Carroll, although Kelly started for the first 2 months, while Carroll started for the last 2 months.

Pitchers used strictly in relief were Jay Ritchie and rookie Ramon Hernandez, a Rule 5 pickup from the Angels. Rookie Cecil Upshaw was called up from triple-A in mid-July, and took Niekro’s old job as the bullpen hammer.

Veteran Ed Rakow (who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 1965) was recalled in mid-July and pitched in 17 games, including 3 spot starts. This was to be his last big-league action. Another guy in his final season was Bob Bruce. The 34-year-old was acquired from the Astros in the off-season for Eddie Mathews, started a few games early-on, and made his last appearance on June 24th. He finished out the season in triple-A.

Wade Blasingame began the season as a reliever and spot starter, then was traded to the Astros on June 15th for Claude Raymond, who had been with the Braves from 1961-63. Raymond relieved in 28 games in the 2nd half. Rookies Ron Reed and Jim Britton made a few appearances in late-September.

Here are the starting eight. Except for Clete Boyer (acquired in the off-season from the Yankees), this group had been together for a while. Joe Torre started 102 games behind the plate, and another 21 at 1st base. Felipe Alou started 83 games at 1st base and 53 in the outfield. Woody Woodward made 114 starts at 2nd base - almost every game except for mid-April to mid-May, and the final 2 weeks. He also started 15 games at shortstop in late September. Denis Menke was the starting shortstop until mid-September.

Boyer started 148 games at the hot corner in his first NL season. Rico Carty, Mack Jones, and Hank Aaron were the primary outfielders. For some reason, they shuffled it up for a dozen games in mid-August, with Jones in left, Aaron in center, and Carty in right. Everyone but the middle infielders hit 15 or more homers, with Aaron (an NL-best 39), Boyer (26), and Torre (20) leading the way.

Here are the bench players, in order of playing time. Tito Francona was purchased from the Phillies in mid-June, and was a pinch-hitter and backup first baseman for the rest of the season. He also started long stretches at 1st base while Alou was backfilling in the outfield. Bob Uecker was acquired from the Phillies for Gene Oliver on June 6th. After starting 19 straight games (with Torre out of the lineup), Ueck settled into the role of knuckleballer Niekro's personal catcher for the remainder of his final season.

Also in his final year (save for 1 game in 1969), Mike de la Hoz was used as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter at 3rd base. He was also the backup 2nd baseman for most of the season. Rookie Felix Millan started most of the games at 2nd base from mid-April to mid-May, then was sent down until September. He reclaimed the starting job in the season's final 2 weeks.

Gary Geiger was the team's 5th outfielder (behind Alou) and played mostly in center field. Seeing his first major-league action since 1962, Orlando "Marty" Martinez was the Braves' backup shortstop and emergency catcher. Veteran Gene Oliver was used sparingly by the Braves prior to his 6/6 trade to the Phillies. Charlie Lau was also in his final season. Strictly a pinch-hitter in his last 2 seasons, he was purchased from the Orioles on 5/31.

And the cup-of-coffee guys: Dave Nicholson was acquired in the Eddie Mathews trade, and spent the season in the minors. He played 10 games in a September recall. It would be his last big-league action (although he also had a card in the 1969 set). Another September callup was rookie shortstop Remy Hermoso, who would later surface with the 1969 Expos and 1974 Indians. Also given a brief September look-see were outfielders Cito Gaston and Mike Lum. Gaston would not return to the majors until 1969, with the expansion Padres.

Ty Cline played in 10 games (mostly as a pinch-hitter), then was sold to the Giants in late May. Why does Jim Beauchamp have a card? He was in the minors for all of 1966, and only played 4 games with the Braves in early 1967, before returning to the sticks. George Stone pitched a combined 7 innings over 2 games in late September. 1961 AL Rookie of the Year Don Schwall pitched 2/3 of an inning on April 12th for the Braves, then 6 games in the minors in his final pro season.

Denis Menke and Tony Cloninger were featured on the Braves' multi-player card. Both had off-years in 1967. Billy Hitchcock took over the Braves with 51 games remaining in 1966, and was fired with 3 games remaining in 1967. The Braves responded by losing their final 3 games. Charles Vaughn did not play for the Braves in 1967.

25-man roster analysis:

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

Oct 1966 - Released 2nd baseman Frank Bolling.

10/13/66 - Released catcher Ed Sadowski.
10/13/66 - Traded pitchers Dan Schneider and Tom Dukes, and 2B Wesley Bales to the Astros for Ed Pacheco, John Hoffman, and Gene Ratliff.

11/19/66 - Traded outfielder Ethan Blackaby to the Angels for catcher Del Bates.

11/28/66 - Selected Ramon Hernandez from the Angels in the rule 5 draft.
11/28/66 - Selected Orlando Martinez from the Twins in the rule 5 draft.

11/29/66 - Traded pitcher Chi-Chi Olivo and outfielder Bill Robinson to the Yankees for Clete Boyer.

12/02/66 - Released pitcher Joey Jay.

12/07/66 - Traded catcher Chris Cannizzaro and 1B John Herrnstein to the Red Sox for pitchers Julio Navarro and Ed Rakow.

12/31/66 - Traded 3B Eddie Mathews, pitcher Arnold Umbach, and a player to be named (2B Sandy Alomar 2/25) to the Astros for pitcher Bob Bruce and outfielder Dave Nicholson.

Jan 1967 - Signed Angel Hermoso as a free agent.

05/31/67 - Sold Ty Cline to the Giants.
05/31/67 - Purchased Charlie Lau from the Orioles.

06/01/67 - Sold 2B Marv Breeding to the Astros.

06/06/67 - Traded Gene Oliver to the Phillies for Bob Uecker.

06/12/67 - Purchased Tito Francona from the Phillies.

06/15/67 - Traded Wade Blasingame to the Astros for Claude Raymond.

06/20/67 - Released Don Schwall.

10/06/67 - Released Bob Uecker.

10/08/67 - Traded Denny Lemaster and Denis Menke to the Astros for SS Sonny Jackson and 1B Chuck Harrison.

10/10/67 - Traded Mack Jones, Jay Ritchie, and Jim Beauchamp to the Reds for 1B/3B Deron Johnson.

11/27/67 - Released Charlie Lau.

11/28/67 - Lost Ramon Hernandez to the Cubs in the rule 5 draft.
11/28/67 - Selected outfielder Sandy Valdespino from the Twins in the rule 5 draft.

12/07/67 - Traded 3B Bobby Cox to the Yankees for catcher Bob Tillman and pitcher Dale Roberts.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hoyt Wilhelm (#422)

Hoyt Wilhelm was one of the all-time great relief pitchers in baseball. He pitched in 1070 games, while only starting 72 games (mostly between 1958-60). He was best known as a knuckleball pitcher, which contributed to his long career. He finished his career with the most wins as a reliever (124), and was the first pitcher to reach 200 saves and 1000 games.

Wilhelm began his minor-league career in 1942 at age 20. After one season in class-D ball, he missed the next 3 years while in military service during World War II. He returned from the war to pitch another 6 seasons in the minors, the first two with the same class-D team from 1942, before working his way up to the triple-A level.

Wilhelm finally made the New York Giants in 1952 at age 30. In his rookie season, he compiled a 15-3 record (all in relief), and led the NL in winning percentage, ERA (2.43), and games (71). He finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting to Brooklyn’s Joe Black.

In 1953, he again led the league in games pitched (68), and made his first all-star team. Wilhelm continued to head up the Giants’ bullpen through the 1956 season.

Hoyt was traded to the Cardinals before the 1957 season for Whitey Lockman. He pitched in 40 games for the Cards, then was claimed off waivers by the Indians in the final weeks of the season. Wilhelm remained with the Indians for most of 1958, primarily relieving but making a few starts as well.

In August he was claimed by the Orioles. Wilhelm pitched for the Orioles from August 1958 through the 1962 season. 1959 was his only season as a full-time starting pitcher. He compiled a 15-11 record that season, along with posting a league-best 2.19 ERA and making his 2nd all-star team. While an Oriole, he also made the ’61 and ’62 all-star squads.

In January 1963, Hoyt (at age 40) was traded to the White Sox (along with shortstop Ron Hansen, 3rd baseman Pete Ward, and outfielder Dave Nicholson) for shortstop Luis Aparicio and outfielder Al Smith. Except for 3 random starts in 1963, Wilhelm switched back to being a reliever for the remainder of his career. He pitched the next 6 seasons for Chicago, and posted an ERA under 2.00 in each of his last 5 seasons with the Sox.

After the 1968 season, Wilhelm was drafted by the expansion Kansas City Royals, but quickly traded to the Angels for OF/C Ed Kirkpatrick. That September, California shipped him (and pitcher Bob Priddy) to the Braves for outfield prospect Mickey Rivers.

Hoyt pitched for the Braves for the remainder 1969 and most of 1970, until he was claimed by the Cubs late in 1970. After the season, Chicago traded him back to the Braves, essentially renting him for their failed stretch run against the Pirates.

Wilhelm began the 1971 season with the Braves, but with an ERA of 15.43 after 3 games, and at age 48, he was released on June 29th. Two weeks later the Dodgers picked him up, and used him in 25 games between mid-1971 and July 10, 1972. He was released 2 weeks later, 5 days before his FIFTIETH birthday.

Wilhelm was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

He passed away in August 2002 at age 80.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jim Ray Hart (#220)

Jim Ray Hart played 3B/LF for the Giants from 1963 to 1973, and was their #3 power source behind Willie McCovey and Willie Mays during his best seasons (1964-68).

Hart was signed by the Giants in 1960, and played in their farm system from 1960 to 1963. He was primarily a 3rd baseman, but played only shortstop and outfield in 1961. In 1963, Hart was called up to the Giants twice: he started both games of a doubleheader on July 7th, and also started 5 consecutive games in mid-July.

Jim made the Giants’ squad at the start of the 1964 season. He took over the starting 3rd base job from veteran Jim Davenport, who had been the team’s regular 3rd-sacker from 1958 to 1963. As a rookie, Hart started 145 games at third, banged 31 homers, and collected 81 RBI along with posting a .286 batting average. That was good enough to finish a distant 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting (garnering 1 vote to Dick Allen’s 18 votes).

From 1964 to 1966, Hart remained the regular 3rd baseman, starting 145, 141, and 137 games over that 3-year span. Although his home runs dipped to 23 in 1965, he bounced back with 33 the following season. Jim also made his only all-star roster in 1966.

In 1967, his defensive short-comings came to a head. Although Hart began and ended the season at the hot corner, during July and August he was moved out to left field (forcing Jesus Alou to co-exist in right field with Ollie Brown) while the Giants worked out the veteran Davenport and rookie Bobby Etheridge at 3rd base. The defensive shuffling didn’t affect his bat, as he finished with more than 90 RBI for the 3rd consecutive season, while clubbing 29 homers.

His career began to wane in 1968. Jim split his time between his 2 positions that season, then only started 71 of his 95 games in 1969 – surprising since the Giants had lost outfielders Alou and Brown in the expansion draft.

Hart continued to lose playing time over the next several seasons, and spent the first half of the 1970 and 1971 seasons, and most of 1972 in the minors. He began 1973 with the Giants, but after 1 game was sold to the Yankees. Now in the AL, Hart was able to DH (which he did for 104 games). The Yankees assigned him to the minors in 1974, then released him in early June.

Jim played in Mexico for the remainder of 1974, and all of ’75 and ’76.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Phil Roof (#129)

This was one of the first cards I remember getting in 1967. As card #129, this was in the 2nd series, issued about the time I began collecting baseball cards (May 1967).

I remember that the first time I saw this card, I asked my brother if the “Athletics” were maybe a minor-league team, because I hadn’t heard of that team before. (Most likely, because the Athletics were not found on one of the baseball jackets my brother and I had back in the day.)

Phil Roof was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, and played in their farm system for 6 seasons (1959-64). During that 6-year span, his only big-league action with the Braves was 1 game in April 1961, and 1 game in May 1964.

After the 1964 season, the Braves traded him to the Angels for pitcher Dan Osinski. Roof played in the majors for the entire 1965 season, but only lasted with the Angels until mid-June.

After only playing 9 games as Bob Rodgers' backup, Phil was shipped to the Indians for outfielder Bubba Morton. He finished out the season with Cleveland, mostly as a pinch-hitter and 3rd-string catcher.

In December 1965, Roof was traded to the Kansas City Athletics (with outfield prospect Joe Rudi) [I learned something new today!] for veteran outfielder Jim Landis. Phil became the Athletics’ regular backstop for 1966 (119 starts) and 1967 (107 starts).

He missed most of the 1968 season due to a torn shoulder muscle, and was replaced by Jim Pagliaroni and Dave Duncan.  Phil returned to the starting job in 1969, starting 83 games behind the plate (to Duncan’s 40).

Prior to the 1970 season, Roof was traded to the Brewers with pitchers Lew Krausse and Ken Sanders, and outfielder Mike Hershberger, for 1st baseman Don Mincher and utility infielder Ron Clark. Roof was the team’s #1 catcher in 1970, but after losing that spot in May 1971, he was traded to the Twins in July.

Roof then spent 5 seasons as the Twins’ backup catcher. (In 1974, he didn’t play in his first game until June 4th!) In August 1976 he moved on to the White Sox, playing in a few games with Chicago that season, and 3 games for the Blue Jays in 1977.

After his playing career, Roof was a bullpen coach for several teams from the late 1970s to early 1990s.  He later managed in the Twins' farm system for 16 seasons, until retiring in 2005.