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.