Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vada Pinson (#550)

Here is Vada Pinson’s 1967 card – a high-number card that I didn’t get until the 1980s, well after I had his ’68 and ’69 cards. Only a few months ago did I realize that there is a piece of tape on the top edge.

Pinson was signed by the Reds in 1956, and played 3 seasons in the minors as an outfielder. He also pitched in 3 games. Pinson made his major-league debut in April 1958, at age 19. He began the season as the Reds’ starting right fielder, but was sent back to the minors in mid-May, where he remained until September.

Vada was the team’s starting center fielder for the next 10 years, and played in 154 or more games each season from 1959-67. In both 1959 and 1960, he led the NL in plate appearances (over 700), at-bats, and doubles (47, 37), and made the all-star team twice. He also led the league in runs scored in 1959 with 131. Pinson also led the NL in hits in ’61 (208) and ’63 (204), and in triples in '63 (14) and ’67 (13).

After his long run in Cincinnati, Pinson was traded to the Cardinals in October 1968 for outfielder Bobby Tolan and pitcher Wayne Granger. He replaced the retired Roger Maris in right field, then moved on to the Indians (in exchange for outfielder Jose Cardenal) after only one season in St. Louis.

Vada spent 2 seasons in the city by the lake as their starting right fielder (’70) and center fielder (’71), then he was on the move again. This time he was traded to the Angels for his old Reds’ teammate Alex Johnson. (Wow, the similarities between Pinson’s later career and Johnson are eerie. They both played for the Reds, Cardinals, Indians, and Angels, and both players moved around frequently.)

Pinson played for the Angels during the 1972 and 1973 seasons, where he was their primary left fielder but also started a few dozen games at the other 2 spots.

Vada played right field for the Royals in ’74 and ’75, then was released in December 1975. The Brewers signed him in January 1976 but released him 4 days before the start of the season, ending his 18-year career.

Pinson finished with a .286 career average, 256 home runs, 1169 RBI, and (surprisingly) only 1 Gold Glove (1961).

After his playing career ended, he was a coach for the Mariners (1977–80, 1982–83), White Sox (1981), Tigers (1985–91), and Marlins (1993–94).

He passed away in October 1995 after suffering a stroke, at age 57.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sam McDowell (#295)

After being bumped 5 times (for Al Dark, Red Schoendienst, and 3 opening-day posts), Sam McDowell finally gets his turn. 

“Sudden” Sam McDowell was a hard-throwing strikeout artist who pitched for 15 seasons from 1961 to 1975, the first 11 seasons with the Cleveland Indians.

McDowell was signed by the Indians in 1960, and after one season in class-D ball, he jumped to triple-A in 1961. Sam made his major-league debut in 1961, pitching one game on September 15th.

In 1962, he played 25 games with the Indians, but spent most of June and July back in triple-A. McDowell was in the Indians rotation for most of ‘63 and ’64, except for a stint in AAA from July ’63 to May ’64.

Topps re-used the same photo in the 1969 set:

1965 was the beginning of a 6-year stretch where Sam was a dominant pitcher in the American League. He led the AL in strikeouts every season from ’65 to ’70, except for 1967, when he finished 10 strikeouts behind Jim Lonborg. Sam was also the ERA leader in 1965 (2.18), and won 17 games that season. He also won 18 in 1969 and 20 in 1970, and was a 6-time all-star.

After the 1971 season, McDowell was traded to the Giants for pitcher Gaylord Perry and shortstop Frank Duffy. After starting for the Giants in 1972, he worked out of the bullpen in 1973 until he was sold to the Yankees in early June.

Sam started for the Yankees for the remainder of that season, but was back in the ‘pen in 1974. Released after the season, he hooked on with the Pirates for his final season in 1975. After 14 appearances, he was released in late June, ending his career.

During his final 4 seasons, he never came close to the success he had with the Indians.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, what are 5 pictures worth?
(He missed the top spot in 1967 by 10 strikeouts) 

McDowell also hobnobbed with the ERA leaders from time to time:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's Opening Day! - AL starters

I'm wrapping up this 3-post Opening Day exercise with a look at the American League opening day starters in 1967. The teams are shown in order of their 1967 finish.

The only "Hey!  Where's so-and-so?" moments here are the absence of Tigers' left fielder Willie Horton, and the Athletics' rookie center field phenom Rick Monday. Rick started 105 games in center as a rookie, but none until game #10.

Except for Jose Tartabull, the other seven were the AL champs' regular position players.  Rookie Reggie Smith started the first 6 games at 2nd base before moving out to center field.

With last year's shortstop Dick McAuliffe moving over to play 2nd base, the Tigers had their choice of 2 weak-hitting shortstops (Dick Tracewski, Ray Oyler), and gave the opening day nod to the Weasel. Also, Gates Brown was the opening day left fielder?  Where's Willie Horton?  If not him, then where's Mickey Stanley?

Rookie phenom Rod Carew started 131 games at 2nd base in 1967 (even while missing 17 straight games in early August), pushing Cesar Tovar to center field.

The big surprise here is that 3rd-string catcher Jerry McNertney got the opening-day nod.  I would have thought rookie Duane Josephson was behind the dish.

The Angels' opening-day lineup included the newly-acquired Don Mincher and Jimmie Hall, both coming from Minnesota in exchange for pitcher Dean Chance.  Rick Reichart was a fixture in left field, and Jose Cardenal and Hall were the best of the SEVEN other outfielders on the Angels' roster.

Doug Camilli was the opening-day catcher?  Where was Paul Casanova? Frank Howard is listed as 6'-7" and 255 lb.  That must have been a scary sight watching him lumbering around in left field!

This opening-day starting 8 remained intact from the 1966 World Series champions.

This is pretty much the lineup I would have expected.  The Indians didn't have a viable 2nd baseman for the first half of the season, so Gus Gil was no worse than the other available options.

The Yankees lineup is as I would have expected, except at shortstop.  John Kennedy was acquired from the Dodgers one week before the season opener, and started the first 24 games at short, before Ruben Amaro took over for the remainder of the season.  Due to his limited mobility, Mickey Mantle swapped positions with Joe Pepitone in '67 and '68.

The big surprise here is in left and center fields.  I thought Joe Rudi wasn't due for another year? Also, first-ever #1 overall draft pick (in 1965) Rick Monday rode the bench for the first 8 games.  After 2 starts in left field, he assumed the center field job on April 23rd.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's Opening Day! - NL starters

Continuing with the theme of the previous post, here are the opening day starting eight for each NL team, in order of the each team's 1967 finish.

Unlike the starting pitchers in the last post, I made no attempt to guess who the starters were here. (Too many players!)

Conspicuous by their absence are Dodgers' centerfielder Willie Davis, Phillies' 1st baseman Bill White, Cubs' catcher Randy Hundley, Mets' 1st baseman Ed Kranepool, and to a lesser extent, Giants' rightfielder Ollie Brown and Astros' leftfielder Ron Davis.

I know that White was injured, and I would have to assume the same for Willie Davis.  Maybe the others as well.

No surprises here.  These were the starting 8 all year, all the way to winning the World Series.

I would have suspected that Ollie Brown was the right fielder, instead of Henderson.

Dick Bertell?  This veteran didn't even have a card in the 1967 set. I would have assumed Randy Hundley would be the opening day starter, since he was the Topps All-Rookie catcher in 1966.

This is a solid group of starters, who, if I recall correctly, spent the first 2/3 of the 1967 season in first place.  Rookie 1st baseman Lee May wasn't the starter until later.

Bill White missed the first month of the season due to injury, so super-sub Tony Taylor filled in at 1st base.

No surprises here, although I would have guessed Jerry May or Jim Pagliaroni was behind the plate, instead of Gonder.

These 8 Braves were the season-long regulars, although Woodward shared 2nd base with rookie Felix Millan.

The league-leader of interchangeable parts doesn't disappoint! The absence of center fielder Willie Davis moves Parker from 1B to CF, Fairly from RF to 1B, Lou Johnson from LF to RF, with Bob Bailey inserted into left field.

Veteran ex-Braves' 3rd baseman Eddie Mathews was the Astros' primary 1st baseman in 1967, while rookie Aaron Pointer (on his only card) was the left fielder for the first week or so, until Ron Davis took over.

I was surprised to see that regular right fielder Ron Swoboda was the opening-day 1st baseman instead of Ed Kranepool. Cleon Jones slid over to right field, with rookie Don Bosch in center.

 Next post: AL starting eight