Sunday, August 14, 2016

Max Alvis (#340)

Max Alvis was the Indians’ regular 3rd baseman from 1963 to 1968, then shared the job with utilityman Lou Klimchock in 1969.

I was going to start off this post saying "With the steep decline in Leon Wagner’s and Rocky Colavito’s home run totals in 1967, Alvis became the lead slugger for the Tribe." Today I see that this was only for 1967, as the next year Max also caught the disease. After averaging 20 homers per season from ‘63 to ‘67, he hit only 8 in 1968, and 1 in limited duty in 1969.

Alvis was signed by Cleveland in 1958, and made his major-league debut in September 1962 by starting 12 of the final 16 games at third base.

Max was installed as the team’s regular 3rd baseman at the start of 1963, replacing the veteran Bubba Phillips. Max started 158 games as a rookie and hit 22 homers.

He was a steady performer for his first 5 full seasons, hitting between 17 and 22 home runs, and made 2 All-Star teams during that time. He missed 6 weeks in 1964 with spinal meningitis, but still hit 18 homers in only 380 at-bats.

He returned to full-time status in 1965, and played 155+ games in each of the next 3 seasons. As mentioned at the top, he lead the Indians in 1967 with 21 homers, and made his 2nd All-Star team.

In 1968, Alvis’ homers (8) and batting average (.223) fell off drastically, and was out of the starting lineup for much of July. Max only started 51 games in 1969 (mostly in May and June), as the team used Klimchock and several others to fill in.

Three days before the 1970 season, Alvis and outfielder Russ Snyder were traded to the Brewers for 2nd baseman Frank Coggins and outfielder Roy Foster. Alvis started 16 of the first 18 games at the hot corner, but was then replaced by Tommy Harper and only saw spot duty for the rest of the season. He was released after the season.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jerry May (#598)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the last card in the 1968 set: #598 Jerry May! He had just completed his first season as the Pirates #1 catcher. Unfortunately for him, he would only hold that job for one more season, as Manny Sanguillen would take over the post in 1969. Jerry moved on to the Royals for 1971.

May was originally a pitcher and outfielder, and was signed by the Pirates in 1961. He was converted to catcher, and played in the minors for the next 5 seasons. (He also played some outfield in his first pro season.)

Although he made his big-league debut in September 1964, and played a few games in 1965, May didn’t stick with the Bucs until the start of the 1966 season. That year, he was the team’s 3rd-string catcher behind Jim Pagliaroni and Jesse Gonder.

In 1967, May took over the starting role in game #10, and started 61 of the next 77 games behind the plate, with Pagliaroni as the main backup. Jerry missed all the games from 7/20 – 8/9, and with Gonder having shipped out in mid-June, the catching chores were handled by the veteran Pag and rookie call-up Manny Sanguillen during May’s absence. When May returned to the lineup on August 10th, he started most of the remaining games, with Sanguillen getting 12 starts.

Manny spent all of 1968 in the minors getting the proverbial “seasoning”, so Jerry started 128 games in his final season as a regular. Pagliaroni had been dealt to Oakland in the off-season, so Chris Cannizzaro and Carl Taylor filled in behind May.

In 1969 Jerry made only 50 starts, as Sanguillen won the starting job in April. He found even less playing time in 1970, and after the season was traded to the Royals (with shortstop Freddie Patek and pitcher Bruce Dal Canton) for pitcher Bob Johnson, shortstop Jackie Hernandez, and catcher Jim Campanis.

May split the catching chores in 1971 with ex-Angels’ outfielder Ed Kirkpatrick, and was Ed’s backup in 1972. Jerry started the first 6 games in 1973, but soon lost out to the tandem of Fran Healy and ex-Pirates teammate Carl Taylor.

In mid-May he moved on to the Mets, who released him 2 months later after having played in only 4 games. The Pirates picked him up 3 weeks later and assigned him to their AAA team for the rest of the season. In January 1974 the Twins purchased his contract, but Jerry never played after 1973.

May died in a farming accident in June 1996 at age 52.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mark Belanger (#118)

Here is Mark Belanger’s first card all to himself. (He appeared on a high-numbered Orioles Rookie Stars card in 1967.)

Topps has his position as 2B-SS because that was his position during his rookie year of 1967, when he played 69 games as a backup for 2nd baseman Dave Johnson and shortstop Luis Aparicio. Once Aparicio was traded back to the White Sox in November 1967, Belanger was the team’s regular shortstop from opening day 1968 until giving way to Kiko Garcia in 1979.

Mark was signed by Baltimore in 1962, and played in the minors from 1962-66 (missing the ’63 season to military service). He played a few games with the Orioles in ’65 and ’66, then made the team for good at the start of the 1967 season.

Belanger took over the shortstop reins in 1968, winning 8 Gold Gloves in the 10 years between 1969 and 1978. He made the All-Star team in 1976, and played in the post season 6 times (’69, ’70, ’71, ’73, ’74, ’79). Always a light stick (only 20 homers in an 18-year career), he hit a home run in his first post-season series (the ’69 ALCS vs. the Twins).

After sharing the job with Garcia in ’79 and ’80, and with Len Sakata in 1981, Belanger was granted free agency in the off-season. He signed with the Dodgers and played his final season (1982) as a backup in LA. He played 44 games at shortstop, including only 12 starts behind long-time regular Bill Russell.

Mark retired with the highest fielding percentage (.977) of any AL shortstop. After his playing career, he worked for the players’ union.

Belanger passed away in October 1998 at the age of 54.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Jim McGlothlin (#493)

Jim McGlothlin pitched for the Angels, Reds, and White Sox for 9 seasons from 1965-1973.

McGlothlin was signed by the Los Angeles Angels in 1962. After 3 season in the minors (with excellent seasons in 1963 (13-5, 165 Ks) and 1965 (14-8, 180 Ks)), Jim made his MLB debut with 3 starts in September 1965.

He began the 1966 season with the Angels, but with a 3-1 record in 19 games, he was sent down in July for the remainder of the season.

Jim returned to the Angels to start the 1967 season and was among the team’s top 3 starters (with George Brunet and Rickey Clark), posting a 12-8 record while leading the league with 6 shutouts. He also made his only All-Star team that year (the game was played in the Angels’ park).

McGlothlin was near the top of the Angels’ rotation for 2 more seasons, with Brunet, Clark, and Sammy Ellis, who was acquired from the Reds prior to 1968. (For years thought the Angels had traded McGlothlin to the Reds for Ellis.) 

After the 1969 season, Jim was traded to the Reds (along with pitchers Pedro Borbon and Vern Geishert) for outfielder Alex Johnson and infielder Chico Ruiz.

In 1970, McGlothlin win 14 games as the #3 starter behind Gary Nolan (18 wins) and Jim Merritt (20 wins). He also started 1 game in the 1970 World Series.

Like the Reds’ team in general, Jim’s production slipped in 1971, compiling a 8-12 record.

In 1972 he went 9-8, and moved farther down the rotation ladder that season, while also relieving in several games. The Reds went to the World Series that year, and Jim pitched in 2 post-season games.

McGlothlin played most of 1973 with the Reds, but was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Steve Kealey in late August. The White Sox released him in March 1974.

He was stricken with cancer during the spring of 1975, and died in December 1975 at age 32.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wilbur Wood (#585)

Wilbur Wood pitched for 17 seasons (1961-1978), mostly with the White Sox. I learned today that he originally played for the Red Sox in the early 1960s.

Wood was signed by Boston in 1960, and played in their farm system from 1961-63. He also played a few games with the Sox in ’61 and ’62.

Wilbur began the 1963 season with the Sox’ AAA team in Seattle, but was recalled in early June and pitched in 25 games over the final 2/3 of the season.

Wood opened the ’64 season in Boston, but was sent back to Seattle in mid-May, where he remained until the Pirates purchased his contract in September. He made a few appearances with the Bucs in the season’s final weeks.

1965 was his last season with Pittsburgh. He pitched in 35 games (all but 1 in relief) but only compiled a 1-1 record. After little success in 1965, Wood spent the entire ’66 season with the Pirates’ AAA team, compiling a 14-8 record in 31 games as a starter. For his efforts, he was traded to the White Sox after the season for pitcher Juan Pizarro.

Upon joining the Chisox, their resident knuckleball guru Hoyt Wilhelm convinced Wilbur to throw only the knuckleball, and Wood’s career took off. He was a reliever during his first 4 seasons with Chicago (leading the league in games in ’68, ’69, and ’70, and notching double-digit saves in those 3 years.

Beginning in 1971 he joined the starting rotation. Wood won 20 or more games for 4 straight seasons, and led the AL with 24 wins in both ’72 and ’73. He also pitched more than 300 innings in each of those 4 seasons, topping out at 376 innings in 1972. Wilbur made the All-Star team in 3 of those 4 seasons, and finished in the top 3 in Cy Young voting in ’71 and ’72.

Wood was still a workhorse in 1975 (pitching 291 innings), but slipped to a 16-20 record. He missed much of the 1976 season after a line drive broke one of his knees. Wilbur returned for 2 more seasons, but without his earlier effectiveness. His final game was in August 1978.

Wood was granted free agency after the 1978 season, but had no takers.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dave Ricketts (#46)

Wait... is this guy a major-league ballplayer, or a high school science teacher?

This is my first Dave Ricketts card. His rookie card (1967) was in the high-number series, so I didn’t get that until decades later. Dave had cards every year from 1967-70, and appears very scholarly on each card (see below).

Dave Ricketts was signed by the Cardinals in 1957, and played 8 seasons in the minors (missing the ’58 and ’59 seasons while in military service). He debuted with 3 games in late-September 1963, and also played in 11 games for the Cards scattered over the 1965 season.

Ricketts made the Cardinals on a full-time basis in 1967. He was one of Tim McCarver’s backup catchers for 3 seasons, and as such, he rarely played outside of some pinch-hitting appearances. Dave started 16 games in 1967, but only 1 game in 1968. (The newly-acquired Johnny Edwards was the 2nd string backstop that year.) However, Ricketts did get 3 at-bats in the 1967 World Series and 1 at-bat in the ’68 Fall Classic.

In 1969 Edwards had moved on, but the Cardinals traded for long-time Braves’ catcher Joe Torre before the season. Torre primarily played 1st base, but also made 16 starts behind the dish when McCarver needed a rest, leaving only 7 starts for Dave.

After the 1969 season, Ricketts and pitcher Dave Giusti were traded to the Pirates for backup catcher Carl Taylor. (?!?) He filled the same role for the Pirates: a seldom-used 3rd string catcher behind Manny Sanguillen and Jerry May (14 games, 12 at-bats, no starts).

Dave was released after the season, then was a bullpen coach for many years (Pirates 1971-73, Cardinals (1974-91). He was activated by the Pirates for a few weeks in 1971 but did not play.

Dave’s older brother Dick pitched for the Cardinals in 1959.

Dave Ricketts passed away from cancer in 2008 at age 73.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Paul Blair (#135)

Paul Blair was the speedy center fielder for the Orioles during their mid-1960s to mid-1970s golden days.

Blair was signed by the METS (who had yet to field a team) in July 1961. The Orioles claimed him after the 1962 season in the minor-league draft of first-year players. (I learned something new today!) 

Paul played in the Orioles’ system for the ’63 and ’64 seasons, and made his major-league debut in September 1964, playing in 8 games as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement in center field (with only 1 at-bat).

Blair was the Orioles’ starting center fielder for the first 2 months of the 1965 season, then was in and out of the lineup during June, before missing the entire month of July. He returned to the starting lineup on August 6th, and started all the remaining games in center field.

In 1966 Blair played in 133 games, but only had 79 starts (all in center field). Although he only hit .167 in the World Series, he clubbed a home run in the O’s 1-0 win over the Dodgers in game #3.

He was the team’s regular center fielder through the 1976 season, and won 8 Gold Gloves in the 9-year span from 1967 to 1975.

After 1976, he was traded to the Yankees for outfielder Eliot Maddox. After 2 seasons as a part-time player for the outfielder-heavy Yankees, he was released in April 1979.

Blair was signed by the Reds a month later, and was a bench player for the remainder of the season, although he also made 37 starts in center field (but none after early-August).

Granted free agency after the 1979 season, Paul did not find work until the end of May 1980 when the Yankees re-signed him. After appearing in 12 games over the next month, he was released on July 1st, ending his 17-year career.

Blair passed away in December 2013 at age 69.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lee Stange (#593)

Lee Stange pitched for 10 seasons (1961-70), primarily for the Boston Red Sox.

Stange was signed by the (old) Washington Senators in 1957, and made his major-league debut with the relocated Minnesota Twins in April 1961. He pitched 2 games in April and another 5 in September, all in relief.

Lee returned to the Twins for a full season in 1962, and was used almost exclusively in relief. After the month of April 1963, he was mostly used as a starting pitcher, and finished with a 12-5 record, his only season with double-digit wins.

After 14 appearances, in mid-June 1964 Stange was traded (along with George Banks) to the Indians for pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant. In his first 1 ½ seasons with Cleveland, Lee was used as a reliever in about 2/3 of his games.

In mid-June 1966, Lee was traded to the Red Sox with veteran fireman Don McMahon for reliever Dick Radatz. Lee made 19 starts that season, and although he began the 1967 season in the bullpen, by early June the Sox made him a starter. He started 24 games the rest of the way as Boston made their way to the World Series. Stange pitched in one game in the Series.

After 1967, it was back to the bullpen for the rest of his career. He played 2 ½ more seasons with Boston, then was sold to the White Sox in June 1970. He was released after that season.

After his playing career, Stange was the pitching coach for the Red Sox, Twins, and Athletics in the 1970s and 1980s.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ted Savage (#119)

Ted Savage was the first of many young outfielders developed by the Phillies’ farm system in the 1960s:

Ted Savage (debut - 1962)
Johnny Briggs (1964)
Alex Johnson (1964)
Adolfo Phillips (1964)
Larry Hisle (1968)

All but Briggs were dealt away within a year or 2 of their major-league debut. As a result, by the early 1970s Phillies’ fans were treated to a starting outfield populated by the likes of Oscar Gamble, Roger Freed, and Ron Stone.

Savage was signed by the Phillies in 1960, and made the team at the start of the 1962 season. Ted platooned in left field with Wes Covington, starting 65 games there and 17 games at the other 2 spots. He hit 7 homers while compiling a .266 batting average.

Content to go with Covington for the next 3 seasons, the Phils dealt Savage to the Pirates following his rookie year for veteran 3rd baseman Don Hoak. (Hoak would be a 1-year stopgap player, until Richie Allen took over the hot corner in 1964.)

Savage only played for the Pirates for one season. In 1963 he was buried on the outfield depth chart behind Roberto Clemente, Bill Virdon, Willie Stargell, Jerry Lynch, and Bob Skinner. A spare part, Ted was sent back to the minors for all of 1964.

In December 1964 Savage was traded to the Cardinals, and spent most of the next 2 seasons in the minors, although he did play a few dozen games with St. Louis.

After 9 appearances (all as a pinch-hitter) in 1967, Ted was sold to the Cubs in May and became a quasi-regular for the first time since his rookie season. He split the right field duties with Lee Thomas and Al Spangler.

The remainder of Savage’s career was a series of 1-year stays with 5 teams. In April 1968 he was shipped out to the Dodgers for pitcher Phil Regan and OF-1B Jim Hickman (a steal for the Cubs!). A year later the Dodgers flipped him to the Reds for veteran backup catcher Jimmie Schaffer.

In April 1970 the Brewers purchased him from the Reds, then traded him to the Royals in 1971 for infielder Tom Matchick. Ted’s only full-time action after leaving the Cubs was his 1970 season with the Brewers.

Ted played in Mexico in ’72 and ’73, then retired from the game.

He earned a Ph.D. and spent 9 years as the athletic director for a university in St. Louis. Savage also worked in the Cardinals’ community relations department from 1987 to 2012.

At age 79, he is the oldest living player from the 1966-70 era that I had not featured on my blogs.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Phil Regan (#88)

Here’s relief pitcher Phil Regan, on his last card as an LA Dodger, a first-series card with wide-grain burlap borders.

Phil was signed by the Tigers in 1956, and pitched in their farm system for 4 ½ seasons until making his major-league debut in July 1960. Phil was a starter for the Tigers from that time on through the 1964 season, reaching a high water mark of 15 wins in 1963.

After being limited to only 16 games in 1965 (and spending some time in the minors), Regan was traded to the Dodgers after the season for utility infielder Dick Tracewski. Phil joined the Dodgers for the 1966 season, their last hurrah in the Sandy Koufax era. With the team having a starting rotation of Koufax, Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen, and Don Sutton, Regan became a full-time reliever that year, leading the NL with 21 saves. "The Vulture" also made his lone all-star team that season.

The 1967 season was not kind to the Dodgers or their fans. Koufax had just retired, Tommy Davis and Maury Wills were traded away, and the team began their only 3-season string of 2nd division finishes under manager Walter Alston.

After the 1967 season, the Dodgers began dismantling their veteran bullpen, sending Ron Perranoski and Bob Miller (along with starting catcher John Roseboro) to the Twins for pitcher Jim Grant and shortstop Zoilo Versalles. (Versalles was such a non-factor in his one season in LA that he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was scooped up by the Padres.)

In late April ’68, Regan was sent packing to the Cubs (along with spare outfielder Jim Hickman) for outfielder Ted Savage. [ What was going on here? In ’65 Regan was traded straight-up for a utility infielder, and proceeded to lead the league in saves. Two seasons later he is traded (WITH another player) for the likes of Ted Savage? Regan then went on to lead the NL again with 25 saves! Couldn’t ANYONE evaluate talent?]

Phil pitched for the Cubs until June 1972. After collecting 25 saves in ’68, he followed up with 17 saves in ’69 and 12 more in ’70. He also won 12 games in both 1968 and 1969.

Regan was sold to the cross-town White Sox in early-June 1972, and pitched in 10 games (13 innings) until getting his release 6 weeks later, ending his 13-year career. In 371 National League games, he made just 4 starts. He started 101 of his 180 AL games, all with the Tigers.

Regan later coached and/or scouted for the Mariners, Dodgers, Cubs, and Indians, and managed the Orioles for the 1995 season.