Saturday, December 30, 2017

Darrell Brandon (#26)

I learned today that Darrell Brandon was not always a pitcher.

He was signed by the Pirates in 1959, but was traded to the Cardinals and played for their class-D team in 1960, as a 3rd baseman and outfielder.

After being out of baseball for the 1961 season, he resumed his baseball career as a pitcher. Darrell played in the Houston Colt .45s' farm system from 1962-65, then was traded to the Red Sox for pitcher Jack Lamabe in September 1965.

Brandon made the majors at the start of the 1966 season, and was with the Red Sox for all of ’66 and ’67. He both started and relieved during his first 2 seasons with Boston, but developed arm problems during 1967 that caused him to spend most of 1968 in the minors, although he did pitch 8 games for the Sox that season.

After the ’68 season he was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft. Brandon only played 8 games for the Pilots, and by mid-July was sold to the Twins. He also played for both organizations’ triple-A clubs in 1969.

Released by the Twins in April 1970, he was quickly signed by the White Sox, but played the entire ’70 season for their AAA club.

Darrell returned to the majors in 1971 with the Phillies, following a January trade for infielder Rick Joseph. Brandon pitched out of the Phillies’ bullpen (behind Joe Hoerner and Dick Selma) for the next 3 seasons, appearing in 130 games (only 6 as a starter).

In 1972 he compiled a 7-7 record. His 7 wins was 2nd on the team after Steve Carlton’s 27 wins. (Such was the sad state of the Phillies’ pitching staff that year.)

Darrell was released by the Phillies after the 1973 season. He played for their AAA team in 1974 before retiring.

Fun Fact: Brandon wore #32 for the Phillies in 1971, before switching to #30 with the arrival of Steve Carlton in 1972. Carlton’s number was subsequently retired by the Phillies.

It’s odd that both and refer to him as “Bucky Brandon”. I don’t ever remember seeing his baseball cards without “Darrell” as his name. Although Baseball-Reference will redirect “Darrell Brandon” queries to their Bucky Brandon page, Wikipedia has no knowledge of a “Darrell Brandon”. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Len Gabrielson (#357)

Len Gabrielson was a corner outfielder for 5 teams in the 1960s.

He was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, and made his major-league debut for the Braves with 4 games in September 1960.

After that brief cup of coffee, it was back to the minors until 1963. That season he played 46 games with the Braves (mostly as a pinch-hitter or 1st baseman) in April, May, and September, while spending the middle of the season in the minors.

Len finally became a permanent major-leaguer in 1964. He played in 24 games for the Braves, then was traded to the Cubs in early June for catcher Merritt Ranew. Gabrielson started 71 of the Cubs’ final 84 games that year, taking over the right field job vacated with the trade of Lou Brock to the Cardinals.

In 1965, Doug Clemens (one of the players acquired for Brock in 1964) took over Gabrielson’s starting right field job, so after a handful of games Len was traded to the Giants in late May (along with catcher Dick Bertell) for pitcher Bob Hendley, catcher Ed Bailey, and outfielder Harvey Kuenn. Willie Mays and Jesus Alou had the CF and RF spots sewn up, so Len had to fight for playing time in left field with Matty Alou, Cap Peterson, and others. He did start 88 games there, more than any of the others.

Rookie Ollie Brown joined the Giants in 1966, further eating into Gabrielson’s playing time. After the season he was traded to the Angels for backup first baseman Norm Siebern.

This is where I jumped on the baseball bandwagon. My first knowledge of Gabrielson is his 1967 baseball card showing him as an Angel, but he only played 11 games for them before he was flipped to the Dodgers in May ’67 for utility player John Werhas.

Len was a corner outfield backup for most of his time with the Dodgers. His playing time spiked up in 1968, when Al Ferrara was lost for the season with a broken leg after just 2 games. Surprisingly, Gabrielson led the Dodgers with all of TEN home runs in 1968.

In Len’s final season (1970), he appeared in 43 games, all but 3 as a pinch-hitter.

His father (also Len) played briefly with the Phillies in 1939.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Joe Hoerner (#227)

One of the all-time Rule 5 success stories, Joe Hoerner went from barely hanging on with a bad 4th-year team in 1965 to heading up the bullpen for the 2-time NL champion Cardinals from 1966-69).

Hoerner was signed by the White Sox in 1957, and after 5 seasons in their farm system he was selected by the soon-to-join-the-NL Houston Colts .45s in November 1961.

Primarily a starter for his 1st 2 seasons in the minors, he was a swing man for his final 3 minor-league seasons. In the majors, every one of his 493 games was as a reliever.

During his years with Houston (1962-65), Joe mostly played in the minors, but appeared with the Colt .45s for 1 game in ’63 and 7 games in ’64.

Selected by the Cardinals in the November 1965 Rule 5 draft, he immediately rose to bullpen star status. Joe appeared in 45 or more games in each of his 4 seasons with the Cardinals, while fashioning ERAs of 1.54, 2.59, 1.47, and 2.87. He led the team in saves for all 4 seasons as well.

Hoerner also pitched in 2 games in the ’67 World Series and 3 games in the ’68 Fall Classic.

After the 1969 season, Hoerner accompanied Curt Flood, Tim McCarver, and Byron Browne to Philadelphia in exchange for Dick Allen, Cookie Rojas, and Jerry Johnson. The Phillies’ relief corps had been headed up by Turk Farrell and Dick Hall for the past few seasons, but by 1970 both were gone, with Hoerner and Dick Selma (acquired in the 69-70 off-season for Johnny Callison) in their place.

My recollection of Hoerner’s time with the Phillies is that he was their bullpen ace for 2 seasons, but as I am typing this, I see in that he had the fewest innings pitched of the 5 relief pitchers, and his 9 saves were well behind Selma’s 22 saves. However, Hoerner did make the All-Star team that season (his only time), so maybe he was the situational lefty specialist (pitching 57 innings in 44 games).

He also had 9 saves in 1971, which was good enough to lead the team that season.

In June 1972 the Phillies made another of their bad trades, sending Hoerner and 1st base prospect Andre Thornton to the Braves for pitchers Jim Nash and Gary Neibauer. (Nash went 0-8 for the Phillies, to close out his career. Neibauer pitched 18 innings for the Philles, then returned to the Braves the following season. Meanwhile Thornton hit 250 home runs over the next 14 seasons with the Cubs and Indians!) 

Hoerner pitched for the Braves and Royals for the next 2+ seasons, then returned to the Phillies for the 1975 season. He was just a supporting player in his 2nd stint with Philly, as they now had Tug McGraw and Gene Garber heading up the bullpen.

Joe spent his final 2 seasons with the Rangers (’76) and Reds (’77) before retiring.

 In October 1996 he was killed in a farming accident at age 59.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bob Bailey (#580)

Here is the only card showing Bob Bailey in a Dodgers' uniform. Bailey played for the Dodgers only for 1967 and 1968 (traded from the Pirates for Maury Wills). His 1967 card is a capless number showing him in a Pirates' uniform. After the 1968 season, he moved on to the expansion Montreal Expos, and his 1969 card ALSO shows him capless in a Pirates’ uni. So Dodgers' fans: this is it for Bob Bailey!

Bailey played in the Pirates' minor league system for 2 seasons (1961-62) before making his major-league debut with the Pirates in September 1962. He started 12 of the final 15 games at 3rd base, replacing the veteran Don Hoak.

With Hoak traded to the Phillies in the off-season, Bailey became the starting 3rd baseman for the Pirates from day 1 of the 1963 season. He started 153 games at the hot corner in his rookie season.

The Pirates picked up veteran Gene Freese in 1964, and he shared the 3rd base job with Bailey that season (with Bob getting 60% of the starts at 3B, and another few dozen in left field). Bob was back to full-time status at 3rd base the following season, making 133 starts (to Freese's 17).

In Bailey's final season with the Bucs, he shared the 3rd base job with utility man Jose Pagan, with both starting about half the games. Bob also saw some playing time in left field on Willie Stargell's days off. After collecting over 500 at-bats in his first 3 seasons, Bob’s workload was reduced in 1966, only having 380 at-bats in 126 games.

After the '66 season, the Pirates sent Bailey and shortstop prospect Gene Michael to the Dodgers in return for shortstop Maury Wills. (With Gene Alley set at shortstop, Wills played 3rd base for the Pirates for the next 2 seasons. He would join Bailey in Montreal at the start of the 1969 season.)

Bob didn't have a full-time spot for his 2 seasons in LA. He had 322 at-bats in both seasons, playing less than 120 games each year. The Dodgers had also acquired 2nd baseman Ron Hunt in the same off-season, so their former ROY Jim Lefebvre moved over to 3B for many games, leaving only 65 starts there for Bailey. (He did start 23 games in left field.)

The following season Hunt was gone (freeing up 2nd base for Lefebvre), but Bob only started 88 games there, and none in the outfield.

Selected in the expansion draft, Bob was the Expos' 1st starting 1st-sacker. He started 83 games then gave way to ex-Dodger Ron Fairly in the 2nd half of the season. That was his only season with significant playing time at 1st base.

Bailey played for the Expos for 7 seasons (1969-75). After backing up young Coco Laboy in 1970, Bob regained full-time status from 1971-74, mostly at 3rd base, but at 3B and LF in 1974.

After the 1975 season he was traded to the Reds for pitcher Clay Kirby. Bob rode the bench in Cincinnati for 2 seasons, then played his final season (1978) with the Red Sox, mostly as a DH or pinch-hitter.

When his playing career was over, Bailey managed in the minor-leagues for several organizations from 1979 to 1987.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dissecting the 1968 Set

Well, my recent post about the 1967 set was so much fun to do, that I'm doing the same here for the 1968 set. I will also have similar posts for the '66, '69, '70, (and maybe '65) sets, but not this week.

The 1968 Topps set had 598 cards, 11 fewer than in 1967. This included 13 team cards, 20 managers, 30 rookie stars cards, 12 league leaders cards, 8 World Series cards, 20 All-Star cards, 7 checklists, and 3 multi-player cards. This leaves 485 cards of individual players.

Topps issued 20 All-Star cards which they didn't do in the previous year. How did they add 20 cards and still have a smaller set than the previous year? They short-changed other areas:
 - Only 30 Rookie Stars cards (43 in 1967)
 - Only 3 multi-player cards (13 in 1967)
 - Inexplicably, only 13 team cards (19 in 1967)
All that corner-cutting, and there were still 5 fewer player cards (485) than in the previous set.

Here is the position breakdown of the 485 player cards:

205 cards for "PITCHER"
50 cards for "CATCHER"
24 cards for "1st BASE"
19 cards for "2nd BASE"
22 cards for "SHORTSTOP" or "SS"
18 cards for "3rd BASE"
12 cards for "INFIELD"
95 cards for "OUTFIELD"

That's a total of 451 cards. The remaining 34 cards featured players at more than 1 position. Below is a sample of each position:

These are the only 2 players having a C-1B or 1B-C position.

Once again, Tom Satriano is the only C-3B in the set.  Teammate Ed Kirkpatrick is the only OF-CATCHER.  (There are no 3B-C or C-OF in the set.)

Felipe Alou appears again as a 1B-OF (along with Lee Thomas, Clarence Jones, and Mike Hegan).  His teammate Tito Francona has the opposite position, as does Chuck Hinton.

Chico Salmon is one of two 2B-OF in the set (along with Bob Savarine).  I wonder why Topps chose not to abbreviate Salmon's and Alou's positions, like they did with the others?  Jim Hart and Danny Cater are the only two with 3B-OF.

In the 1967 set, Topps botched Orioles' shortstop Luis Aparicio's position, naming him as "INFIELD".  This year, they did it again to the Orioles' shortstop.  Mark Belanger was the starting shortstop all season (with Aparicio having been traded), yet they have him as 2B-SS.  (No other Orioles' player was designated as 'SS'.)

In the last set, there was only one player with this position, but now there are 6 (Belanger, Phil Gagliano, Nate Oliver, Tim Cullen, Frank Quilici, Wayne Causey). As in the previous set, Dick Tracewski is the only SS-2B.

Like Alou and Francona, teammates share the opposing positions here.  Jerry Adair, Don Buford, and Bernie Allen have a 2B-3B position, while Dalton Jones, Jim Lefebvre, and Chuck Hiller have 3B-2B.

These are the only two players in the set with these positions.

And now the miscellaneous grouping.  In the '67 set, there was only 1 player with 1B-3B (Harmon Killebrew)  and none with 3B-1B.  Now, there are no 1B-3B cards, but 2 (Ed Mathews, Pete Ward) for 3B-1B.

There are 3 players having the dreaded INF-OF position (Gary Sutherland, Woodie Held, and Frank Kostro.)  Topps missed the boat here.  Sutherland was a semi-regular at both shortstop and left field in 1967, and played no other positions.  Topps could have had a rare "SS-OF" position if they were paying attention.

I noticed a few other things about this set while I was gathering the above information.  I have already railed about the uneven distribution of cards among the teams in this set, as well as the absence of a Giants Rookie Stars card.

I found that there is no card for an Indians' 1st baseman (because Topps refused to make any cards for Tony Horton), and also no 2nd baseman for the Giants (nor anyone remotely close, like an infielder or a combined position).  Tito Fuentes seems like a candidate for that card, but he is missing from the set.

I also found that the Astros have FOURTEEN pitchers, while most other teams have 9 to 11. Topps also went overboard with FOUR catchers for the Athletics, while everyone else has 2 or 3.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Robinson Crew (So?)

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, May, and Johnson. Now post #4 - The Robinsons: