Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tom Haller (#185)

Tom Haller was a catcher for the Giants and Dodgers in the 1960s. Here we see him on his last card as a Giant. He was traded to the Dodgers prior to the 1968 season for Ron Hunt, but both players appear as Giants in the ’68 set.

After playing quarterback at the University of Illinois, Haller was signed by the Dodgers in 1958. After 3 seasons in the minors, Tom began 1961 with the Giants, but spent the 2nd half of the season back in the minors.

He platooned at catcher with veteran Ed Bailey in 1962 and 1963, then took over as the #1 catcher in 1964, a position he would hold through the 1967 season. Haller made the all-star team in 1966 and 1967, his final 2 seasons in San Francisco. He also clubbed a career-high 27 homers in 1966.


In February 1968 (with rookie catcher Dick Dietz ready for regular playing time) Haller was traded to the Dodgers for 2nd baseman Ron Hunt and utility infielder Nate Oliver. It was the first trade between the two teams since their move to California in 1958.

Tom was immediately installed as the starting catcher in LA, taking over for John Roseboro, who had been traded to the Twins 3 months earlier. Haller made his 3rd consecutive all-star squad in 1968, then continued as the #1 catcher in 1969.

In 1970 he started 91 games behind the plate, with backups Jeff Torborg and Bill Sudakis (the team’s starting 3rd baseman in 1969) splitting the remaining games.

In 1971, Tom shared the starting catching duties with Duke Sims (acquired from the Indians), with rookie Joe Ferguson also getting a few dozen starts as the 3rd-stringer.

Haller was traded to the Tigers after the 1971 season, and spent the ’72 season backing up perennial all-star Bill Freehan. By early August, Tom’s old pal Duke Sims was acquired from the Dodgers, and joined the catching mix. Haller only started 4 games after Sims’ arrival.

During one start in July 1972, Haller was catching, while his older brother Bill (an American League umpire) was working behind the plate.

The Phillies acquired Haller before the 1973 season, mostly to serve as a mentor and insurance policy for Bob Boone, who, after a cup of coffee in September ’72, would be handed the starting catching job in 1973. Haller decided to retire, rather than accept a trade to the Phillies.

Haller was the Giants’ GM from 1981-85, and the White Sox’ GM in 1986.

He passed away in November 2004 at age 67.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Orioles Team (#334)


Here is the Orioles team card. Topps did away with the superimposed yellow or red background for their team cards in 1968, but only issued cards for 13 of the 20 teams.


What a difference 1 year makes! The Orioles went from World Champions in 1966 to tied for 6th place in 1967. Why? Frank Robinson missed every game from 6/28 to 7/28 after a collision caused him to suffer from double vision.

Also, almost all their starting pitchers came down with arm injuries. The most severe was Jim Palmer, who spent most of '67 and all of '68 recuperating in the minors. Dave McNally, Wally Bunker, and Steve Barber were also ineffective, with Barber traded to the Yankees in July.

In place of Palmer and the others, rookie Tom Phoebus stepped up to lead the staff with 14 wins, 179 strikeouts, and a 3.33 ERA.

Not to worry, the Orioles would be back in 1969 (and 1970... and 1971).

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dick Williams (#87)

What a rookie season! After finishing no higher than 6th place for the previous 7 seasons (including two 9th and two 8th place finishes), the Red Sox gave Dick Williams his first big-league managing job in 1967, and he guided the team to their first World Series since 1946. Unfortunately, just as in ‘46, the Sox lost in 7 to the Cardinals.

Williams began his baseball career as an outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Signed in 1947, he played 4 seasons in the minors, then played for Brooklyn as a spare outfielder from 1951 to 1954.

Dick spent all of 1955 and part of 1956 in the minors. After only 7 games with the Dodgers in 1956, Williams was claimed off waivers by the Orioles, and became their regular center fielder for the remainder of the season.


In mid-June 1957, Williams was traded to the Indians, who then traded him back to the O’s a few days before the start of the ’58 season. After just one season back in Baltimore (this time as a swing man between 1B/3B/CF), he was shipped out to the Kansas City Athletics.

Williams played for the A’s in ’59 and ’60, starting about half the team’s games at 3rd base or 1st base. In 1961, Williams was traded on the 2nd day of the season to ... (anyone?) the Orioles! Now in his 3rd stint with the team, Dick shared the left field job with Russ Snyder, while also making the occasional start at 1st base. 1962 would be his last in Baltimore, and he was relegated to a utility role.

Williams wrapped up his playing career with 2 seasons in Boston, playing his final game on 10/1/64.

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Dick immediately went into managing, piloting Boston’s AAA Toronto team to first-division finishes in ’65 and ’66. That earned him the Red Sox’ job in 1967, and what a year for the BoSox. Not only did they win the pennant, but Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown, and Jim Lonborg led the AL in wins and strikeouts while winning the Cy Young award.

Williams managed the Red Sox until his firing with a week remaining in 1969. He moved on to Oakland for 1971-73, guiding the team to 3 division titles and 2 World Championships in his 3 seasons. This was all done with players that were famous for not liking each other (or not liking Williams, I don't remember which).

Dick had less success with the Angels (1974-76) and the Expos (1977-81), then moved on to the Padres from 1982-85, including winning the NL pennant in 1984. His final manager’s job was with the Mariners from 1986-88. He later worked for the Yankees as a consultant.

In 21 seasons as a manager, Williams compiled a 1571-1451 record, with 4 pennants and 2 World Series Championships. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Williams passed away in July 2011 at age 82.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Felipe Alou (#55)

Felipe Alou played 17 seasons (1958-74) for 6 teams, mostly the Giants and Braves. Although mostly an outfielder, he played about half his games at 1st base from 1965-67 with the Braves and from 1971-73 with the Yankees.

Felipe is the oldest of the 3 Alou brothers, who all began their careers with the Giants. Felipe's son Moises also played in the majors from 1990-2008.

Alou was signed by the Giants in 1955, and played 2 ½ seasons in the minors before making his big-league debut with the Giants in June 1958. Felipe backed up rookie Willie Kirkland in right field for the remainder of the season.


1959 was more of the same for Alou, backing up Kirkland in right field. In late July, rookie Willie McCovey joined the Giants, which caused incumbent 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda to play about half his games in left field for the next few seasons. With Willie Mays in center field, all other outfielders would have to vie for playing time in right field.

In 1960 Alou was the regular left fielder for the 50+ games when Cepeda would move in to 1st base. From 1961 to 1963, Felipe was the Giants' regular right fielder, often backed up by his brother Matty. His youngest brother Jesus joined the Giants in September 1963, Felipe's last few weeks with the Giants. All 3 Alou brothers played in the same outfield only once – on September 15th.

After the season, Felipe was traded to the Braves (with pitcher Billy Hoeft, catcher Ed Bailey, and infielder Ernie Bowman) for pitchers Bob Shaw and Bob Hendley, and catcher Del Crandall. Alou began the '64 season as the Braves’ starting center fielder, but by mid-June had lost that post to Lee Maye, and spent the remainder of the season as the 4th outfielder.

Felipe began playing 1st base in 1965, and spent the next 3 seasons dividing his time between 1st, left field, and center field. He also was quite good with the stick. In 1966 he finished 2nd among NL batters with a .327 average (right behind his brother Matty). In 1968 he finished 3rd (behind Pete Rose and Matty) with a .317 average.

After Mack Jones was traded away following the 1967 season, Alou spent the next 2 seasons as the Braves' regular center fielder.

After the '69 season, he was traded to Oakland for pitcher Jim Nash. Alou only spent one full season with the Athletics. At age 35, he played in an outfield that included Rick Monday and Reggie Jackson, both 24. Felipe played in left field, and also 70 games in right (mostly when Jackson played center in Monday's absence).

Felipe started the first 2 games of the 1971 season, then at week's end was traded to the Yankees. He played the rest of '71, all of '72, and most of '73 in the Big Apple. He was a regular in 1971, playing RF/CF/1B. For the next 2 seasons he shared the first base job with Ron Blomberg.

In September 1973 Alou hit the road again, this time for Montreal. He played 19 games for the Expos during the season's final month, then was sold to the Brewers in the off-season. After 3 games with Milwaukee, he was released in April 1974.

Alou became a manager after his playing career, with stops in Montreal (1992-2001) and San Francisco (2003-06).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Playing Card Inserts (revisited)

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about these playing cards over at The Five Tool Collector blog.

A few years ago I posted the entire set on this blog, and several weeks ago I came across a stash of duplicates that I didn't know I had. I have shown 1-each of my duplicates below, although for some cards I have several (EIGHT of Gary Peters!)



If anyone is interested in these cards, I would be open to trades that would help me complete my 1966 and 1970 Topps sets, or anything else that is found on my want list. Please contact me by email (found on my profile page).

Batter up!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bob Humphreys (#268)

A few months ago, I found a page on Baseball-Almanac.com listing the 100 oldest living ex-players. Within the scope of the 1966 to 1970 card sets, the only names listed there were 3 managers. Last week I decided to find out who were the oldest living ex-players from that time period that I haven’t yet featured on my blogs. 

As best as I can determine, they are pitchers Orlando Pena and Camilo Pascual (both 80), outfielder Russ Snyder (turning 80 tomorrow), 1B-OF Felipe Alou (79), and pitchers Bob Humphreys and Jim Perry (both 78). Nine others are 77, with Fred Gladding, Vic Davalillo, and J.C. Martin turning 78 later this year. 

Bob Humphreys was a relief pitcher for 5 teams from 1962 to 1970, most notably the Washington Senators. He pitched in 319 games during his career, all but 4 as a reliever.

Humphreys was signed by the Tigers in 1958. After 5 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut with Detroit in September 1962.

During spring training in 1963, Bob was sold to the Cardinals. He spent the next 2 seasons shuffling between the Cardinals and their triple-A team.

In April 1965, Humphreys was traded to the Cubs for 2 minor-leaguers: pitcher Hal Gilson and infielder Bobby Pfeil. He appeared in 41 games for the Cubs that season, 3rd-most among their relievers.

After only one season in the Windy City, Bob was traded to Washington for Ken Hunt, a 6-year journeyman outfielder who got most of his playing time with the expansion Angels in 1961, and whose last major-league game was in 1964.

Humphreys worked out of the Senators’ bullpen for 4 ½ seasons, his longest stint with any team.  Bob appeared in more than 45 games in each of his full seasons there.

After his release on June 13, 1970 the Brewers picked him up two days later, and Bob finished out the season (and his career) with Milwaukee. He was released in March 1971 and pitched that season with the Brewers’ AAA team.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Don Sutton (#103)

Here is future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Don Sutton, about to enter his 3rd season. His 1966 rookie season was also Sandy Koufax’ final season.

Sutton was signed by the Dodgers in 1964, and pitched only 1 season in the minors. He compiled a 23-7 combined record, pitching in A and AA ball in 1965. Don made his big-league debut in April 1966 as the #4 starter behind Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Claude Osteen. Sutton posted a record of 11-11 with 209 strikeouts and a 2.99 ERA.

With Koufax’ retirement after 1966, everyone moved up a notch in the starting rotation. Don posted 2 consecutive 11-15 seasons, then bounced back in 1969 with 17 wins and 217 strikeouts.


Sutton was one of the Dodgers’ top starting pitchers through the 1980 season, partnering first with Drysdale, Osteen and Bill Singer, then later on with Al Downing, Andy Messersmith, and Tommy John. He led the league with 9 shutouts in 1972, and with a 2.20 ERA in 1980. Don made the all-star team in ‘72, ’73, ’75, and ’77, and finished in the top 5 Cy Young voting every season from 1972 to 1975. Sutton also pitched in the NLCS and World Series in ’74, ’77, and ’78.

Don became a free agent after the 1980 season, and signed with the Astros. After 1 ½ seasons in Houston he was traded to Milwaukee in August ’82 for outfielder Kevin Bass and two others, as the Brewers geared-up for their first post-season.

Sutton went 4-1 in 7 starts for the rest of the season, and was 1-1 in 3 post-season games. He pitched for 2 more seasons in Milwaukee, then was traded to the Athletics after the 1984 season.

Don bounced around for the next 3 seasons from the Athletics to the Angels, before finishing his career in 1988 with the Dodgers. He was a starting pitcher right up to the end, finally getting his release on August 10, 1988. Sutton pitched for 23 seasons, amassing 324 wins and 3574 strikeouts.

In 1998, Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and also had his #20 retired by the Dodgers.

Sutton has been broadcasting baseball games since 1989, mostly for the Braves.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tommy John (#72)

At long last, Tommy John gets his day on this blog. This is my first-ever Tommy John card, from the coarse-burlap-grained 1st series, bought around April 1968.

John’s 1967 card is one of the 4 cards from that set that I still don’t have. It’s from the high-numbered (7th) series, and in fact is the final card in the set (#609). Popular lore says that the first and last cards in a set are the hardest to find in good condition, because kids put a rubber band around their cards and it dug into the edges of the first and last cards. To that I say bah! There’s no rubber band large enough for a 609-card stack of cards. But I digress… 


Tommy John had a 26-year career as a starting pitcher from 1963 to 1989, for six teams, most notably the White Sox, Dodgers, and Yankees. He missed the 1975 season (while out with “Tommy John” surgery – go figure!). Over his career, he started 700 of his 760 games, and compiled a 288-231 record with 2245 strikeouts. He also made 4 all-star games and appeared in 14 post-season games between 1977 and 1982.

John was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1961, and played in the minors for 3 seasons before making his debut with 6 games in September 1963. Tommy began the 1964 season in the minors, but also pitched 25 games for the Indians from early-May to mid-July, then again in late-September.

Before the 1965 season, John was sent to the White Sox in an 8-player, 3-team deal. He immediately landed in the Sox’ starting rotation along with Joel Horlen, John Buzhardt, and Gary Peters. At age 22, Tommy compiled a 14-7 record in his first season on the South Side.


In 1966 he led the team in wins (14), starts (33) and innings pitched (223), and had a 2.62 ERA. Although Tommy remained one of the White Sox’ top 3 starters for the next several seasons, he slumped to 10 wins in ’67 and again in ’68, then 9 wins in ’69. His 1967 ERA of 2.48 was 4th-best in the league. If he could have shaved it down below 2.38, the White Sox would have had the top 3 ERA leaders that season.

He bounced back somewhat in 1970 with 12 wins, and was the team’s top starter that season. (Horlen had a huge off-year at 6-16, and Peters had been traded away to Boston after 1969.) John maintained a similar record in 1971, although Wilbur Wood and his 22 wins led the staff that season.

After the 1971 season, Tommy was traded to the Dodgers for first baseman Dick Allen. John had 3 solid seasons in LA before missing the entire 1975 season following surgery that would eventually bear his name.

He bounced back and had 3 more good years with the Dodgers, including a 20-win season in 1977, followed by 17 wins in ’78. He was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1976, and appeared in the NLCS and World Series in both ’77 and ’78.

John was granted free agency after the 1978 season, and signed with the Yankees. His first 2 seasons in New York were superb, compiling 21-9 and 22-9 records. After an off-year in ’81, John was traded to the Angels in August 1982. He remained with the Angels until they released him in June 1985.

Tommy was picked up by the Athletics a month later, and finished out the season with Oakland. Granted free agency after the season, the Yankees signed him in May 1986, and he manned their starting rotation for the next 3-plus seasons, until his final release on May 30, 1989.

As mentioned earlier, John had a 26-year career, 11 ½ prior to his surgery, and 13 ½ afterwards.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Earl Wilson (#160)

Here we see Earl Wilson, coming off his first full season with the Tigers, and about to embark on a season culminating in a World Series championship!

Wilson was signed by the Red Sox way back in 1953. He pitched 4 seasons in the low minors, then lost the ’57 and ’58 seasons while in military service. He returned to the minors (triple-A) in 1959, but also played 9 games for the Sox during the 2nd half of 1959, and 13 games in the 2nd half of 1960. In 1959, Wilson became the first black pitcher to play for Boston.

After a full season back in triple-A in 1961, Wilson made the Red Sox for good at the start of the 1962 season. From '62 to '65, Earl averaged 12 wins a season, as he and Bill Monbouquette formed a 1-2 punch in the starting rotation.


With the emergence of Jim Lonborg and others, both Wilson (age 30) and Monbouquette (29) were deemed past their prime, and were dealt to the Tigers in separate deals. Monbo was traded in December ’65 for a bag of beans, and Wilson, the following June for an aging Don Demeter. Wilson was 5-5 at the time of the trade, but went on a 13-6 tear with the Tigers, to finish up at 18-11, good for 3rd best in the AL. His 200 strikeouts was also 3rd best.

In 1967 he won 22 games, tieing him with Lonborg for the most victories. The Red Sox lost the ’67 World Series by 1 game. If they had held onto Wilson, the Series outcome could have been different.

In 1968 and 1969, Earl settled back into the 12 to 13 wins bracket he was in from 1962-66. He was the Tigers’ #3 starting pitcher (behind Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich) during their World Champions season, and started game #3 in the Series. (After falling behind in the Series , the Tigers came back with their top 2 starters for games #6 and #7, winning both.)

1970 was Wilson’s last season. With his record at 4-6, he was sold to the Padres in mid-July. After a lackluster 1-6 showing with San Diego, he was released in January 1971.

Wilson died from a heart attack in April 2005, at age 70.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Al McBean (#514)

Alvin McBean was born and raised in the US Virgin Islands. He was signed by the Pirates in 1958, and pitched in their farm system for 4 seasons (1958-61). He started out as a swingman, but by 1961 he was primarily a reliever.

Al was summoned to the majors in early July, and made his first of 27 appearances for the Bucs on July 2nd. He pitched in relief except for 2 starts in mid-September.

When I was "playing" with my baseball cards back in the day, I always figured McBean to be a 2nd-tier starter behind Bob Veale and Steve Blass, and that the bullpen was headed up by Elroy Face and Pete Mikkelsen. Tonight, I’m finding out that McBean was a key member of the Pirates bullpen from 1963-67, and that my pre-conceived notion of him really only matched his 1968 season. 


In 1962 McBean was plugged into the starting rotation, and compiled a 15-10 record in 33 games, as the #2 starter behind veteran Bob Friend.

In 1963 he was back in the bullpen, and fashioned a 13-3 record along with 11 saves (2nd on the team behind veteran closer Elroy Face).

In ’64 and ’65, Al surpassed Face as the team’s save leader with 22 and 18 saves for those 2 seasons. He was also named Reliever of the Year by The Sporting News in 1964.

After 2 more seasons in the bullpen (behind a rejuvenated Elroy Face), McBean was put back in the starting rotation in 1968. By now, Bob Friend and Vern Law were long gone, with Bob Veale running the show, and Steve Blass at #2. Al was the #3 starter in his final season with the Pirates, compiling a 9-12 record in 36 games (28 starts).

After the season he was selected by the Padres in the expansion draft. After only 1 game with San Diego, McBean was traded to the Dodgers in mid-April for shortstop Tommy Dean.

Al made 31 relief appearances for LA for the remainder of the 1969 season. Al began the 1970 season with the Dodgers, but after only 1 game he was released on April 24th. The Pirates re-signed him on the same day, but after pitching only 10 innings over 7 games (and sporting an ERA of 8.10), he was released on May 18th, ending his major-league career.

I learned tonight that McBean spent the remainder of 1970, and 1971 pitching for the Phillies’ AAA team in Eugene, Oregon.