Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Juan Pizarro (#602)

Juan Pizarro appeared in the rare 7th series in the 1967 set. I didn’t get this card until the 1980s, so for a long time my only Pizarro cards were from 1968 (looking surly, with a hole in his shirt) and 1969 (a capless, big-head shot). I'm impressed that this isn't a capless card, since '67 was his first season with the Pirates.

Pizarro played for 8 teams over 18 years (1957-74). He was primarily a starting pitcher for his first 9 years (seasons spent with the Braves and White Sox). After that he was mostly a reliever (except for his 1971 season with the Cubs).

Juan was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1956, and after a full season in Class-A ball, he split each of the next 3 seasons (57-59) between the Braves and their AAA club. He was a swing man with the Braves, pitching behind Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, Joey Jay, and Bob Buhl in the rotation, and closer Don McMahon in the ‘pen. Pizarro pitched 1 inning each in the ’57 and ’58 World Series.

On Dec 15, 1960 the Braves traded Pizarro to the Reds (with pitcher Joey Jay) for SS Roy McMillan. On the same day, the Reds flipped him to the White Sox for 3rd baseman Gene Freese. Juan played for the White Sox from 1961-66, and had his best seasons in 1963 (16 wins) and 1964 (19 wins). He made the all-star team in both seasons.
Juan became a nomad after the 1966 season. Traded to the Pirates for pitcher Wilbur Wood, he lasted with the Bucs until June 1968, when he was purchased by the Red Sox.

In April 1969 he was traded to the Indians with pitcher Dick Ellsworth and 1B-OF Ken Harrelson for catcher Joe Azcue and pitchers Sonny Siebert and Vicente Romo. Later that season he moved on to the Athletics, and to the Angels in early 1970.

Pizarro landed with the Cubs in July 1970, and stayed there for exactly 36 months – the longest stint in the 2nd half of his career. He returned to a starter’s role with the Cubs, although he spent part of 1971 and the first half on 1973 in the minors.

Juan played the 2nd half of the ’73 season with the Astros, then was released the following spring. He played in the Mexican League in 1974, until the Pirates signed him in late August.

Released after the season, he returned to the Mexican League for the ’75 and ’76 seasons before retiring.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wally Bunker (#585)

This is my oldest Wally Bunker card, but not my first. Bunker is one of the four Orioles’ cards (along with Brooks Robinson, manager Hank Bauer, and an O’s Rookies card featuring Mark Belanger) in the high-numbered 7th series which was not sold in my area in 1967. I got his ’68 card (Orioles) and ’69 card (Royals) in those years, but it was not until the 1980s that I collected all but 5 of the '67 high-numbers.

The O’s #3 starter in 1966, Wally pitched a complete-game shutout in the ’66 World Series, but wasn’t shown on the post season cards in the 1967 set either. (Paul Blair was featured on the game #3 card.)

Bunker was one of the mid-1960s' pitching phenoms for the Orioles (along with Dave McNally and Jim Palmer). He was signed by the Orioles in 1963, and after going 10-1 with 95 strikeouts in 99 innings in class A ball, he made his major-league debut on Sept 29th.

Wally made the Orioles squad for good in the 1964 pre-season, and was the team’s ace as a rookie – winning 19 games and finishing 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting (to the Twins’ Tony Oliva).

He followed up his rookie season with two 10-win seasons, and a complete-game shutout of the Dodgers in game #3 in the World Series (sandwiched between Palmer’s complete-game shutout in game #2 and McNally’s complete-game shutout in game #4).

Wally struggled for the next 2 seasons, as sore arms swept through the O’s starting rotation (Bunker, Palmer, McNally). Bunker only won 5 games combined in 67-68, and spent much of ’67 in the bullpen, and part of ’68 in triple-A. As such, he was left unprotected for the expansion draft following 1968, and was selected (along with Orioles’ teammate Moe Drabowsky) by the upstart Kansas City Royals.

Bunker was the Royals’ first-ever opening-day starter in 1969, and led the staff with 31 starts, 222 innings, and 12 wins.

Arm troubles cropped up again, leaving him with a 2-11 record in 1970, and led to his release following his final game on 5/26/1971. He played for the Royals’ AAA team for the remainder of 1971 and part of 1972 before retiring.

In recent years, Bunker has been a writer and illustrator of childrens’ books.