Sunday, December 31, 2017

Denis Menke (#518)

Denis Menke was primarily a shortstop for the Braves and Astros from 1962-71, then was the Reds' 3rd baseman in their early "Big Red Machine" days.

I recall this card being issued late in 1967, maybe in the 5th series. I kept my cards grouped (and rubber-banded) by teams, and by then I already had most of the Braves’ lineup (Aaron, Carty, Torre, Boyer, Jones, Oliver).

Menke played 4 seasons in the minors (1958-61), and made his debut with the Braves in April 1962. He divided his time that season between Milwaukee and their AAA team in Toronto, backing up at 2B, SS, and 3B while with the Braves.

In 1963 he split the shortstop position with veteran Roy McMillan, and also started 47 games at 3rd base in August and September, while Eddie Mathews was moved out to left field.

After the first week of the 1964 season, Menke took over the shortstop job on an everyday basis (with McMillan soon traded to the Mets). He started 124 of the first 143 games at short, then moved to 2nd base for the season’s final 2 weeks while rookie Sandy Alomar got a tryout at shortstop.

Denis was back at shortstop for the first 23 games in 1965, but was out of the lineup for a month. When he returned in late-June, he was mostly used as a defensive replacement, pinch-hitter, and backup at shortstop, 3rd base, and 2nd base.

Menke was reinstated as the regular shortstop for 1966 and 1967, although he started 47 games at 3rd base in 1966 when Mathews was out of the lineup.

After the 1967 season, Menke was traded to the Astros with pitcher Denny Lemaster for shortstop Sonny Jackson and 1st baseman Chuck Harrison. Denis played 2nd base for most of 1968 (due to Joe Morgan’s injury), then spent the next 2 seasons as the Astros’ everyday shortstop. He made the All-Star team in ’69 and ‘70.

He was moved to 1st base for the 1971 season, replacing the Joe Pepitone/John Mayberry/Bob Watson tandem.

Menke was part of the big Reds/Astros trade after the 1971 season that saw him, Joe Morgan, pitcher Jack Billingham, and outfielders Cesar Geronimo and Ed Armbrister shipped to Cincinnati for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart. Denis was the Reds’ 3rd baseman for the next 1 ½ seasons.

By June 1973, Dan Driessen had replaced him in the lineup, limiting Menke’s playing time for the remainder of the season. He returned to the Astros before the 1974 season, and played 30 games through mid-July.

After his playing career, Menke was a minor-league manager from 1977-79, and coached for the Blue Jays, Astros, Phillies, and Reds from 1980-2000.

He also appeared on the Braves' multi-player card in 1967.
(I thought it was odd that a non-pitcher was referred to as an "ace".)


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hank Aguirre (#263)

As I work my way through the top 30 players not yet blogged (on this blog’s sidebar), it seems that Hank Aguirre is the dean of that group, having made his big-league debut in 1955.

Aguirre is one of the few players whose name my brother and I mispronounced when we started collecting baseball cards in 1967. To us, this guy was surely named Hank AAY-gwire.
(Others were the Cardinals’ Julian JAY-vee-er (pronouncing both J’s), the Tigers’ Al ka-LINE, the Braves' Orlando mar-tin-EZZ, and Angels’ 2nd baseman Bobby NEWP.)

Hank began playing minor-league ball in 1952, and the following year was acquired by the Cleveland Indians. After 3 seasons on their farm, Aguirre made his Indians’ debut in September 1955.

He split both the ’56 and ’57 seasons between Cleveland and their AAA team, then was traded to the Tigers (with catcher Jim Hegan) for pitcher Hal Woodeshick and C/OF Jay Porter.

Except for playing most of 1959 in triple-A, Hank spent the next decade (1958-67) with the Tigers. He led the Tigers with 10 saves in 1960, and although he had been mostly a reliever, for most of 1962-66 Aguirre was in Detroit’s starting rotation.

Hank’s career year was 1962 when he notched 16 wins, led the AL with a 2.21 ERA, and made his only All-Star team. With the Tigers’ acquisition of Earl Wilson in mid-1966, Aguirre was moved back to the bullpen.

A few days before the start of the 1968 season Aguirre was traded to the Dodgers. He compiled a 1-2 record in 39 innings that season, and was released in December.

He played his final 2 seasons with the Cubs. Appearing in 45 games in 1969, his playing time dropped off significantly the following season. He only pitched 14 innings over 17 games (the last on June 24th) before he was released in early-July 1970.

After retirement, he coached for the Cubs from 1972-74.

Aguirre passed away in 1994 at age 63.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

John O'Donoghue (#127)

John O'Donoghue is the oldest living player from the 1966-70 era that I have not blogged about yet.

I think of him as a Cleveland Indian, but he played more games for the Pilots/Brewers and Athletics than he did with the Tribe. After 2 seasons as a front-line starter with Kansas City, he became a supporting player for the remainder of his career.

John was signed by the Athletics in 1959, and made his major-league debut in 1963 (on Sept 29th!)

O’Donoghue was a starter for the Athletics for the next 2 seasons. In 1964 he won 10 games as a 24-year-old rookie, and was the youngest of the 3 primary starters (after Orlando Pena and Diego Segui) on the staff. (In 1965, 19-year-old rookie Catfish Hunter claimed that title.)

Meanwhile, in '65 John led the AL with 18 losses. He did have 9 wins, which was 1 less than the leader for this bad Kansas City team. He also made the All-Star team, despite his eventual 9-18 record.

John got a reprieve in 1966 as he was traded to the Indians in early-April for pitcher Ralph Terry. During his 2 seasons with the Indians he was the infrequently-used #5 starter, behind a strong rotation of Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert, Steve Hargan, and Gary Bell / Luis Tiant.

After the 1967 season he moved on to the Orioles, in exchange for knuckle-baller Eddie Fisher. After leaving the Indians, John was used almost exclusively in relief for the remainder of his career.

He played for triple-A Rochester in August 1968 and April 1969, then was traded to the expansion Pilots in late-April, where he joined his old teammates Segui, Bell, and Fred Talbot in Seattle. John appeared in 55 games for the Pilots, and another 25 games for the Brewers in 1970, before his mid-June trade to the Expos.

He split the 2nd half of the 1970 season between Montreal and their AAA team. After 13 appearances in 1971, the Expos released him at the end of June, ending his 9-year career.

His son (also named John) pitched for the Orioles in 1993.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bob Priddy (#26)

Bob Priddy is one of the very few players who I always forget is in the 1967 Topps set. (The others are ….. oops, I forgot !) *

Priddy was traded to the Senators (along with Cap Peterson) for pitcher Mike McCormick in December 1966 – too late for Topps to correct the first-series cards for Priddy and McCormick (see below), but still time to include a “traded” note on the back of the 2 cards.

Actually there are 2 versions of these 2 cards – with and without the note on the back. (I think the “with” cards are more common.) Peterson’s card was in the 5th series, so there was time to portray him as a Washington Senator.

Bob was signed by the Pirates before the 1958 season as a 3rd baseman. He played in 46 games at the hot corner, and a dozen each at shortstop and the outfield (but no pitching).

In 1959 he became a pitcher exclusively, and for the next 5 seasons (1959-63) he pitched his way up the Bucs’ minor-league ladder. Priddy also had a 2-game cup of coffee with the Pirates in September 1962.

He split the 1964 season between the Pirates (19 games from mid-June to mid-July) and triple-A (21 games).

In February 1965 Bob and 1st base prospect Bob Burda were traded to the Giants for catcher Del Crandall. Priddy pitched most of the ’65 season in the minors, except for 2 early-season games and 6 in the final month.

1966 was Bob’s first full season in the majors, and also his last with the Giants. He appeared in 31 games (all but 3 in relief), slotted behind rookie closer Frank Linzy and the veteran Lindy McDaniel in the bullpen. Those 3 righthanders were joined by veteran southpaws Bill Henry and Joe Gibbon. (Take a moment to click on those other 4 relievers' names.  There sure was a lot of blue sky at the Giants' training camp!)

Priddy moved on to the Senators in 1967, picking up 4 saves in 110 innings over 46 games.

After just 1 season in Washington, it was on to the White Sox, joining pitcher Buster Narum and shortstop Tim Cullen in exchange for shortstop Ron Hansen and pitchers Dennis Higgins and Steve Jones. Priddy reached career highs in starts (18) and innings (110), but also fashioned a 3-11 ERA in 1968.

The following May he was shipped off to the Angels (with 2nd baseman Sandy Alomar) for 2nd baseman Bobby Knoop.

Bob’s stay with the Angels was the shortest of his career. Less than 4 months after arriving, he was flipped to the Braves (with 47-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm) for outfield prospect Mickey Rivers. He only played 1 game with the Braves in 1969, but relieved in 40 games for each of the next 2 seasons.

Priddy retired after the 1971 season, finishing up with 249 games in a 9-year career played for 6 teams.

*The others tend to be Dennis Higgins, Chico Salmon, Marcelino Lopez, Sandy Alomar, and (surprisingly enough) Mike Cuellar.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Pete Richert (#590)

Here is Pete Richert’s high-numbered 1967 card. The 1967 7th-series cards were not sold in my area, so I had no idea who Pete was (other than that he was traded to the Orioles for Mike Epstein and Frank Bertaina in early 1967) until getting his 1968 card the following year.

Pete was signed by the Dodgers in 1958, and after 4 years as a starting pitcher in the minors he made his Dodgers’ debut in April 1962, setting a record by striking out the first 6 batters he faced.

From 1962 to 1964, he was up-and-down between the Dodgers and their triple-A team (first in Omaha, and later Spokane).

After the 1964 season, Richert was part of the 7-player deal with the Senators that saw Frank Howard, Ken McMullen, Phil Ortega, Dick Nen, and Richert headed to Washington in exchange for Claude Osteen, John Kennedy, and cash. (I wonder if any of these guys was ever called "Old 5-for-2"?)

Richert made an immediate impact with the Senators. In 1965 he led the staff in wins (15), strikeouts (161, almost double the next guy), ERA (2.60), innings (194), starts (29), and complete games (6).

He was the Sens' #1 pitcher in 1966 also, leading the team in wins (14), strikeouts (195), innings (245), and starts (34). His 3.37 ERA was the lowest among the starters. Pete made the All-Star team in both seasons.

You would think Richert would be a keeper, but after a 2-6 start in 1967, in late-May he was traded to the Orioles for a much-needed slugging 1st baseman (Mike Epstein). Richert was a starter for the Orioles for most of the season, but had an off-year (as did most of the Orioles in ’67), only going 7-10 in 26 games (19 starts) with 90 strikeouts.

The Orioles rebuilt their starting rotation in 1968, so Richert was relegated to the bullpen that season, and stayed there for the remaining 7 seasons of his career. In '68 he was the only southpaw in the ‘pen.

In 1970 Richert led the team with 13 saves, and had an ERA of 1.98 while pitching 54 innings across 50 games. In 1971 the team acquired lefty Grant Jackson from the Phillies, pushing Richert down on the bullpen ladder.

Pete pitched in 3 consecutive World Series for the Orioles (1969-71), but after the '71 season, he returned to the Dodgers in the Frank Robinson trade. For 2 seasons with the Dodgers, he was just another reliever not named Jim Brewer.

Richert spent his final season (1974) with the Cardinals and Phillies. The Dodgers traded him to St Louis for Tommie Agee, then in mid-season he was sold to the Phillies.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Born on the Same Day - 7/21/1940

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #17 in the series: John Bateman and Denis Menke - both born on 7/21/1940.

John Bateman caught for the Astros from 1963 to 1968. Selected by the expansion Expos, he played in Montreal from 1969 to early-1972. Bateman finished his career in 1972 with the Phillies. Traded in mid-season for Tim McCarver, Bateman was on-hand to witness his battery-mate Steve Carlton win 27 games.

Denis Menke played for the Braves from 1962-67, and the Astros from 1968 to 1971. Both of his All-Star selections came while a member of the Astros. After the 1971 season, Denis accompanied Joe Morgan and others to the Reds in a blockbuster deal. He finished his career back with the Astros in 1974.

Bateman and Menke were teammates during the 1968 season.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Turk Farrell (#190)

Ok, after last week's make-over for Larry Sherry, now it's "Richard" Farrell's turn.

We last saw Turk Farrell here, but come on now, what kind of a card is that? Topps did a pedestrian job with many of the 1968 photos. They also gave Farrell ANOTHER capless photo in the 1969 set. It seems they have no excuse, since he was with the Phillies several years earlier (and it was not beyond Topps to use old photos).

Farrell returned to the Phillies in May 1967, so by the time I got his card that year he was already with the Phillies. (At the time, I assumed he was swapped for Bo Belinsky, since Bo was with the Phils in '66 and Astros in '67, but they were separate deals.)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dissecting the 1967 Set

The 1967 Topps set had 609 cards. This included 19 team cards (no Astros), 20 managers, 43 rookie stars cards, 12 league leaders cards, 5 World Series cards, 7 checklists, and 13 multi-player cards. This leaves 490 cards of individual players. Today's post will look at the position breakdown of those 490 cards.

208 cards for "PITCHER" or "P"
47 cards for 'CATCHER" or "C"
21 cards for "1B"
23 cards for "2B"
22 cards for "SS" or "SHORTSTOP"
18 cards for "3B"
12 cards for "INFIELD" or "INF"
99 cards for "OUTFIELD" or "OF"

That's a total of 450 cards. The remaining 40 cards featured players at more than 1 position (which is the REAL purpose of this blog post). Below is a sample of each position:

The most common combination of positions is 1st base and outfield. Five players are featured with a position of 1B-OF (Felipe Alou, Joe Pepitone, Wes Parker, Tito Francona, and Lee Thomas).
Four players have the reverse combo (Bob Tolan, Ron Fairly, Jim Beauchamp, and Tommie Reynolds).

There are also five cards with a position of 3B-OF (Richie Allen, Jim Ray Hart, Mike Shannon, Bob Bailey, and Derrell Griffith.)
Cap Peterson is the only player with the reverse OF-3B combination.

The rest of these combinations feature fewer players:

Jack Hiatt and Gene Oliver are the only C-1B players.
John Boccabella is the only 1B-C.

Even more rare is the catcher/3rd base combo.  These two are the only players with these positions.

You would think that middle-infield types would be more common, but these are the only 2 cards with a 2B-SS or SS-2B position.

Phil Gagliano is the only player with a 2B-3B designation.  The opposite is a little more common (Jim Lefebvre, Tommy Helms, Don Buford, Rich Rollins).

Wayne Causey is the only SS-3B in the set, but there are 3 of the opposite combo (Jim Davenport, Dick Schofield, Ron Campbell).

The 1967 set has 12 players with a position of "INFIELD" or "INF", and none is more puzzling than Luis Aparicio. Looie played only at shortstop, and was an All-Star to boot! Why would Topps have him labelled as a (utility) infielder?
Same for Deron Johnson - there are 4 cards showing players as "INF-OF", and the other three (Woodie Held, Jim Stewart, Jim Barbieri) ARE utility types, but Johnson was a front-line player.  He was a regular at 1B, 3B, and LF in 3 consecutive seasons, so I guess Topps couldn't fit 1B-3B-OF on the card.

I put these two together because surprisingly, there are no cards with their opposite combination (3B-1B, OF-2B). Killer has this one all to himself, while Pete Rose, Cookie Rojas, and Chico Salmon all show 2B-OF.

Here is the most unusual combination of all. Mel Queen came up as an outfielder, and was transitioning to pitching in 1966. All his cards after 1967 show him as a pitcher.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Larry Sherry (#571)

I have already posted about Larry Sherry on my 1968 blog (so I won’t repeat myself here), but the cap-less photos in that set (especially the Astros and the Athletics) are hideous, so I felt I owed it to Larry and his fans to come up with something better.

Although he was a long-time reliever for the Dodgers, I don’t have any of his Dodgers’ cards, but here is a nice high-numbered card from 1967 showing him with the Tigers.

Sherry worked out of the Dodgers’ bullpen from 1958-63 (including having his brother Norm as a battery-mate from 1959-62), then played for the Tigers from 1964 to June 1967. He finished the ’67 season with the Astros, then played for the Angels in 1968.

(I will be re-posting some other players that had their "awesome" 1968 cap-less cards already posted, notably Turk Farrell and John Buzhardt.)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Johnson & Johnson (& Johnson & Johnson & Johnson & Johnson)

Here's a break from the normal routine. I went through my 1966 to 1970 cards, and found over a dozen cases where three or more players have the same last name (and many more with just two). I've already done the brothers thing, so they won't be included in this series.

I started off with Jackson and May, now meet the Johnsons:

Not a relative in the bunch!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Wes Parker (#218)

Wes Parker played for 9 seasons (1964-72) and all for the Dodgers. He was the regular 1st baseman every season from 1965-72, making over 495 plate appearances every year (705 in 1970!) and won the Gold Glove award in his last 6 seasons.

I wonder why he retired after 9 seasons, at age 32? It seems he was still going strong. Maybe Night Owl knows the answer.

Parker was signed by the Dodgers and played only 1 season (1963) in the minors (split between A and AA). He debuted with the Dodgers in April 1964 and played in 124 games as a rookie, although only starting 47 games (28 at 1st base, 19 in the outfield).

In 1965, Wes began his 8-year stint as the Dodgers’ regular 1st baseman, with incumbent Ron Fairly moving to right field. Parker started the majority of the games there over that span (including every game in 1970). He also occasionally started in the outfield, with Fairly or others filling in at first base.

Parker won the Gold Glove award in his final 6 seasons, but curiously was never an All-Star. The fact that he was a corner infielder whose season-high homerun output was 13 probably affected his All-Star chances. He was named to the All-time Gold Glove team in 2007.

After retiring following the 1973 season, he broadcast Cincinnati Reds’ games for a year, then played in Japan in 1974.

Returning from Japan after 1 season, he began an acting career, appearing on (of course) The Brady Bunch and other TV shows. He returned to broadcasting from 1978-83.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Hank Bauer (#534)

Hank Bauer managed the Orioles for 4 ½ years. Hired prior to the 1964 season, he piloted the team to two 3rd-place finishes before steering them to the team's first World Championship in 1966.

The O's fell to 7th place in 1967, due to multiple injured starting pitchers and Frank Robinson’s absence from the lineup for a while due to injury. After 80 games into the 1968 season, Bauer was replaced by Earl Weaver.

As the manager of the defending World Champs, Bauer also appeared on 2 other cards in the 1967 set.

Card #1:

With game #4 winner Dave McNally:

Bauer also managed the 1969 Oakland Athletics, but was fired by the ever-intelligent Charley Finley after the A’s finished in SECOND place. (Bauer had also managed the Athletics in 1961 and 1962, when they were in Kansas City. The team finished in 9th place both times.)


Prior to his baseball career, Bauer was in the Marines during World War II.  He was awarded 2 Bronze Stars and 2 Purple Hearts while stationed in Guadalcanal and Okinawa.

Bauer had a 14-year career as an outfielder for the Yankees and Athletics. After making his major-league debut in September 1948, he was the Yankees’ regular right fielder from 1949 through the 1959 season. Hank was a 3-time All-Star (1952-54) and passed the 20-homer mark twice (’55, ’56).

Traded to Kansas City in December 1959 (with pitcher Don Larsen, OF/1B Norm Siebern, and 1st baseman Marv Throneberry) for outfielder Roger Maris and shortstop Joe DeMaestri, Hank shared the right field job with Russ Snyder in 1960 and was a player/manager in 1961.

Bauer passed away in 2007 at age 84.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dennis Higgins (#52)

Here is the first solo card for reliever Dennis Higgins. Currently, Higgins is the oldest living player from the 1966-70 period that I have not yet blogged about.

When I mentally run through the players in the 1967 Topps set (yes, I’m enough of a card geek that I do that occasionally), Higgins is invariably one of the players that I forget about (along with Sandy Alomar, Bob Priddy, Willie Smith, and surprisingly, Mike Cuellar).

Dennis was a relief pitcher from 1966-72 for the White Sox, Senators, Indians, and Cardinals.

Higgins began his career with a 6-year stint in the White Sox’ farm system (1958-65), then debuted with the ChiSox in April 1966, appearing in 42 games that season (all but 1 in relief). He picked up 5 saves over 93 innings, and sported a 2.52 ERA.

He missed part of the 1967 season, only pitching 9 games for Chicago and 6 games in triple-A.

In Spring Training 1968 he was traded to the Senators with shortstop Ron Hansen and pitcher Steve Jones for pitchers Bob Priddy and Buster Narum and shortstop Tim Cullen. Higgins pitched over 50 games in each of his 2 seasons with the Nats, and won a career-high 10 games in 1969.

Before the 1970 season, he and pitcher Barry Moore were traded to the Indians for 2nd baseman Dave Nelson and pitcher Horacio Pina. (In 1970, 5th-place Cleveland was a slight upgrade from 6th-place Washington.)

Higgins only spent one season with the Tribe, but led the team with 11 saves in 58 games as their closer.

He was in the minors for almost all of 1971, during which he transferred to the Athletics’ and then the Cardinals’ organizations. He pitched in 3 games for the Cardinals that year.

Dennis split his final season (1972) between triple-A and the Cardinals, pitching only 15 games for the Cards. In the season’s final month he was sold to the Padres, but never played a game with them.

Higgins is a cousin of White Sox’ 2002-2008 3rd baseman Joe Crede.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bob Miller (#461)

During his 17-year career, Bob Miller played for 10 of the 24 MLB teams, tying a modern-day record (since broken). He also played for 3 teams in the same season THREE TIMES!

Miller began his pro career in June 1957 as a bonus baby, pitching for the Cardinals (with no prior minor-league experience). After pitching 9 innings over 5 games that season, it was back to the minors for all of 1958.

He split the ’59 and ’60 seasons between the Cardinals and their minor-league teams. Bob was back in the majors to stay in 1961, pitching in 34 games (5 starts) in his final season with the Cardinals.

Prior to the 1962 season, Miller was selected by the Mets in the expansion draft. (Bob was one of 2 pitchers named Bob Miller on the ’62 Mets. ) After compiling a 1-12 record for the wretched expansion team, he was traded to the Dodgers in the off-season for first baseman Tim Harkness and 2nd baseman Larry Burright.

Bob really got his career on-track during his 5 seasons with the Dodgers. Mostly a reliever, he also started 23 games in 1963 and a few more over the next 4 seasons. In ’63 he reached a career-high 10 wins (pretty good for a reliever) and in ’64 he led the NL with 74 appearances. His ERA was also under 3.00 in each of his first 4 seasons.

Miller closed out 2 games in the 1965 World Series vs. the Twins, and also pitched 3 innings in a game vs. the Orioles in the ’66 World Series.

With Jim Brewer emerging as a fine reliever, the Dodgers traded both Miller and Ron Perranoski (along with starting catcher John Roseboro) to the Twins after the 1967 season for shortstop Zoilo Versalles and pitcher Mudcat Grant.

The Dodgers were trying to plug the hole they created at shortstop by trading Maury Wills a year earlier, but that trade was a disaster. Roseboro had 2 solid seasons with the Twins and made the All-Star team in 1969, Perranoski led the AL in saves in ’69 and ’70, and Miller went on to pitch for 7 more seasons. Meanwhile Versalles was a bust after leaving Minnesota - after batting .196 in 1968, he was selected by the Padres in the expansion draft, but quickly flipped to the Indians for minor-leaguer Bill Davis (he of the 5 Rookie Stars cards). What a waste, eh Night Owl?

After two seasons in Minnesota (including an appearance in the 1969 ALCS), Miller spent the final 5 years of his career bouncing around to 7 teams: Indians (’70), White Sox (’70), Cubs (’70-’71), Padres (’71), Pirates (’71-’72), Padres again (’73), Tigers (’73), and back to the Mets (’73-’74).

Bob also pitched in the ’71 and ’72 post-season for the Pirates, and closed 2 games in the 1972 World Series.

After his playing career, Miller was the pitching coach for the Toronto Blue Jays during their first 3 seasons (1977-79) and later was a coach and scout for the Giants.

He passed away in August 1993 from a car accident at age 54.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Larry Dierker (#498)

Here is my slightly-out-of-register Larry Dierker card. (I don’t think I've ever noticed that before today.) I also noticed today that Larry jumped to the majors after only 1 season in the low minors.

Dierker was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1964 after pitching at UC Santa Barbara. After 9 games in Rookie-league ball, Larry made his debut with the Colts on his 18th birthday in September 1964. He struck out Willie Mays in his first inning pitched.

At the start of the 1965 season, he joined the newly-renamed-Astros' starting rotation, which included veterans Bob Bruce and Turk Farrell. (In the coming years, he would be joined by Dave Giusti, Mike Cuellar and Don Wilson.)

Dierker remained one of the Astros' top starters through the 1976 season (although missing much of 1973). He was the Astros' first 20-game winner in 1969, and an All-Star in '69 and '71. He had double-digit wins in 9 of his 12 seasons with the Astros, who always finished in the bottom half during his tenure.

After the 1976 season he was traded to the Cardinals for catcher Joe Ferguson. The Cards released him after only one season, ending his 14-year career.

From 1979 to 1996, Larry was a broadcaster for the Astros.

He left the booth to manage the Astros from 1997 to 2001, and in contrast to his playing career, the team finished FIRST in 4 of those 5 seasons. He was named Manager of the Year in 1998. During the 1999 season, he suffered a seizure which required brain surgery, and several months recuperation before returning to the team.

The Astros retired his number in 2002. Dierker returned to his old broadcasting job for the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

As of this writing, Dierker still holds the Astros' team record for shutouts (25), complete games (106), innings pitched (2294), and games started (32), His 137 wins put him 3rd behind Joe Niekro and Roy Oswalt.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bill Rigney (#494)

I like the 1967 manager cards because there is a long summary of their playing and managing career on the backs (unlike the 1969 cards with their dopey caricature filling the entire back).

Before his managing career, Bill Rigney was an infielder for the New York Giants from 1946 to 1953.  He later managed the Giants from 1956 to mid-1960.

Bill was the Angels' manager from their inception in 1961 until early 1969, replaced with the team sporting an 11-28 record (despite having TWO expansion teams to beat up on in their division).

In 1970 he was hired by the Twins to replace Billy Martin.  (Bill previously managed in Minneapolis when the Giants had an AAA team there in 1954-55.) Rigney piloted the Twins to 98 wins and the AL West title in 1970, but it was downhill from there.  He was let go midway through the 1972 season.

His final managerial post was back with the Giants for one season (1976). Bill also broadcast games for the Oakland Athketics in the 1980s.

Rigney passed away in 2001 at age 83.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

50 Years Ago - 1967 Opening Day Lineups

Last year, I posted the 50th Anniversary Opening Day lineups for the National League and American League teams from 1966.

I was going to do the same for the 50th anniversary of the 1967 teams, but realized that I had already done that back on Opening Day in 2014. So I will just re-post those links for that season (my 1st following major-league baseball), and will remember not to get ahead of myself for '68, '69, or '70.

Starting pitchers for all 20 teams

NL position players

AL position players

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ty Cline (#591)

The back of this high-numbered card says "[Ty Cline will] be Atlanta's #1 left-handed pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder", but by the time this card had come out in late-summer, Ty was long gone. He was sold to the Giants in late-May, with Gary Geiger continuing in the “Atlanta’s #1 left-handed pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder” role that he had also manned in 1966.

Cline began his career with the Indians' organization in 1960, and although he played in the majors every year from 1960-66, his only full big-league seasons at that time were in 1962 (with the Indians), and 1964-65 (Braves).

After appearing in 10 games for Atlanta in 1967, he moved on to the Giants in May, filling the 5th outfielder role for the remainder of 1967.

With regular outfielder Ollie Brown missing most of the 2nd half in 1968, Cline saw more action in the outfield than he normally would have, splitting the left field assignments with 3rd-baseman Jim Ray Hart, while also filling in at the other 2 spots.

After the 1968 season, Cline was drafted by the expansion Montreal Expos, and was 1 of 9 center fielders used by the Expos in their 1st season.

Ty must have began the 1970 season on the DL, because his first game wasn't until June 10th. After a 2nd appearance 3 days later, Cline was traded to the Reds. Good for him! He went from worst-to-first, as the Reds made it to the World Series that season. Cline had 1 at-bat in the NLCS (a triple), and 3 at-bats in the Series (.333).

After one more season on the Reds' bench, Cline was released in January 1972.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ken McMullen (#47)

Here's a very intense-looking Ken McMullen. Ken was the Senators' 3rd baseman for the 2nd half of the 1960s, after coming over from the Dodgers in the Frank Howard trade after the 1964 season.

McMullen was signed by the Dodgers in 1960, and made his major-league debut in September 1962.

Ken began the 1963 season as the team's starting 3rd baseman, but it was back to the minors for most of May and June. Recalled in late-June, he regained the starting job for the month of July and again in late September. While he was out of the lineup, the Dodgers used a mix of Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, and (surprisingly) Tommy Davis at 3rd base.

Ken spent most of the 1964 season back in the minors, while Gilliam alternated with a batch of scrubs (Dick Tracewski, John Werhas, and Derrell Griffith) at 3rd base. (McMullen couldn’t beat out THOSE guys???)

After the 1964 season LA traded Ken, outfielder Frank Howard, pitchers Phil Ortega and Pete Richert, and 1st baseman Dick Nen to the Senators for pitcher Claude Osteen and infielder John Kennedy. (Oh c’mon, Osteen couldn't possibly have been worth all of that!)

McMullen settled in as the Nats' regular 3rd baseman and secondary power hitter (behind Howard) until he was dealt to the Angels in late-April 1970 for 3rd baseman Aurelio Rodriguez and outfielder Rick Reichardt.

Ken was the Angels' 3rd baseman from 1970-72, then was involved in another big trade with the Dodgers after the '72 season. He and pitcher Andy Messersmith went to LA in exchange for outfielder Frank Robinson, infielders Bobby Valentine and Billy Grabarkiewitz, and pitchers Bill Singer and Mike Strahler.

McMullen had returned to his original team, but as in his last stint, he was a part-time player. Oh, he started the first 5 games of 1973 at the hot corner, but then a rookie named Ron Cey took over for the next 10 years. Ken only played 125 games over the next 3 seasons with the Dodgers, almost all as a pinch-hitter.

Released in March 1976, he was a part-time player for the Athletics in '76 and the Brewers in '77.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Born on the Same Day - 10/7/1939

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #13 in the series: John O'Donoghue and Phil Ortega - both born on 10/7/1939.

John O'Donoghue pitched for 9 seasons, and as luck would have it, mostly for bad teams. He began with the Kansas City Athletics (1963-65), Indians (1966-67), Orioles (1968), Pilots/Brewers (1969-70), and Expos (1970-71). Only the Orioles were a "good team", and they were in a valley between their '66 and '69 peaks.

John made his only All-Star team in 1965 - surprising since he led the AL with 18 losses that season. He was a starter with KayCee and Cleveland, and a reliever thereafter.

Phil Ortega pitched for the Dodgers from 1960-64 before moving to Washington in the Frank Howard/Claude Osteen trade.

He pitched for the Sens from 1965-68, then ended his career with the Angels in 1969 - pitching 5 games in the first month of the season before he was sent to the minors. He was a starting pitcher from 1964-68.