Sunday, February 28, 2010

Phil Ortega (#595)

Here's a 10-year veteran whose major-league career ended in the 1960s, that I missed in my earlier posts:

Phil Ortega was signed by the Dodgers in 1959, and spent most of the next 5 seasons (1959-63) in their farm system. He made a few brief appearances with the Dodgers in '60, '61, and '63, and spent most of 1962 in the Dodgers' bullpen.

After spending most of 1963 in the minors, Ortega joined the Dodgers' starting rotation in 1964, making more starts (25) than any pitcher not named Koufax or Drysdale.

Following the 1964 season, Phil was traded to the Senators (along with outfielder Frank Howard, third baseman Ken McMullen, pitcher Pete Richert, and first baseman Dick Nen) for pitcher Claude Osteen, infielder John Kennedy, and $100,000. (Frank Howard and 4 others sounds like a lot to give up, but Osteen won 147 games for the Dodgers over the next 9 seasons.)

In Washington, Ortega was a member of the starting rotation for the next 3 to 4 seasons, and led the staff in starts and innings pitched in 1967. In 1968, he became a swingman, starting only about half of his appearances, and posted a 5-12 record.

In early April 1969, Phil was sold to the Angels, but his time there was short. After his last major-league game on May 4th, Ortega spent the remainder of 1969 and all of 1970 with the Angels' triple-A team in Hawaii. His final baseball card was in the 1969 set.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Final Card: Floyd Robinson

Here is the final card for the other "F. Robinson" (#404).

Floyd Robinson was a starting outfielder for the White Sox in the early-to-mid 1960s. He's also a cousin of Tommie Reynolds (an outfielder for the Athletics and Mets in the mid-1960s).

Robinson began his career playing for unaffiliated teams in the low minors in 1954 and 1955. In each of those seasons, he made brief appearances with the unaffiliated San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League. In 1956 San Diego became an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, so Robinson's contract was acquired by the Indians.

After 2 full seasons with San Diego, Floyd missed the 1958 and 1959 seasons due to military service. In 1959, Robinson (and in fact, the entire San Diego team) was acquired by the White Sox. After one more season in the minors, Floyd made his major-league debut with the White Sox on August 10, 1960. Chicago's outfield in 1960 consisted of Minnie Minoso in left, Jim Landis in center, and Al Smith in right. Robinson started the final 11 games of the season in right field.

In 1961, Floyd took over the right field job, making 102 starts (to Smith's 55) and finishing 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 1962, he alternated between left field (84 starts) and right field (70 starts).

From 1962 to 1965, Robinson was a workhorse in the White Sox' outfield, making more than 600 plate appearances each season. His 45 doubles in 1962 were tops in the AL.

In 1963, the Sox acquired Dave Nicholson from the Orioles to play left field, so it was back to right field for Robinson, starting 117 games there and 16 in left. 1964 was more of the same (regular right fielder, primary backup in left) for Robinson.

After starting 138 games in right field during 1965, Robinson's playing time fell off in 1966, as he made only 87 starts there.

After the 1966 season, he was traded to the Reds for pitcher Jim O'Toole. Floyd's time in the NL only lasted 1 season, as he was shipped to the Athletics for pitcher Ron Tompkins. After a short time with the A's, Floyd was sold to the Red Sox on July 31st. He was released after the season, ending his 9-year career.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Back on Topps' Radar: Diego Segui

I haven't posted any of these recently. Diego Segui (#517) had baseball cards in every season from 1963 to 1975 except for 1967.

Segui was signed by the Cincinnati Reds prior to the 1958 season, but released in early April. He caught on with the Tucson Cowboys, an independent team in the class-C Arizona-Mexico league. At the end of the 1958 season, he was acquired by the Kansas City Athletics.

Diego spent the next 3 seasons in the Athletics' farm system before making his major-league debut in April 1962. For his first 2 seasons, he was a starter and reliever. In 1964, he was primarily a starter. His 35 starts led the Athletics staff. Unfortunately, his 17 losses was the most in the American League. In 1965, he returned to a combined starting/relieving role.

(at least Topps used green to airbrush his cap!)

Two days after the 1966 opener, Segui was sold to the Washington Senators. By the end of July (after 21 appearances), the Nats traded him back to Kansas City for pitcher Jim Duckworth. However, he was relegated to triple-A for the rest of the season (hence, no 1967 baseball card!)

In 1967 Diego started 7 games in triple-A, and appeared in 36 games for Kansas City (only 3 starts). Segui was strictly a reliever in 1968, making 52 appearances as the #2 man in the bullpen behind "closer" Jack Aker.

Segui was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the 1969 expansion draft. (Later in the draft, the Pilots also plucked Aker from the A's bullpen.) Segui led the Pilots in saves (12), games (66), winning percentage (.667), was second in wins (12) and 1st among relievers in innings (142). His fine performance earned him a ticket out of Expansionville as he was traded back to the Athletics in December 1969 (along with shortstop Ray Oyler) for infielder Ted Kubiak and pitcher (and frequent Topps' "Rookie Star") George Lauzerique.

After winning 10 games for the Athletics in each of 1970 and 1971, Segui was shipped to the Cardinals midway through the 1972 season. After 1 1/2 seasons in St. Louis, Diego moved on to Boston in a 6-player deal.

He spent the 1974 and 1975 seasons in the Red Sox' bullpen, and was released in spring training in 1976. The Padres signed him, but kept him in triple-A all season.

Segui wrapped up his 15-year career in 1977 with the Mariners.

His son David played for the Orioles and other teams from 1990-2004.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Final Card: Sam Bowens

Sam Bowens (#82) was primarily a backup outfielder in the mid-to-late 1960s, for the Orioles and Senators. Just as in his life (he was born and died in Wilmington, NC), his baseball career never strayed far from 1 spot.

Here we have his final card (with the ugly 1st-series burlap borders). By the time this card was issued, Bowens was already with the Senators.

Bowens played for the Nashville Giants in the Negro Leagues in 1957 and 1958, then was signed by the Orioles in 1960, and spent 4 seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in September 1963.

In 1964, he spent the entire season with Baltimore as their regular right fielder. He started 116 games in right, along with 16 games in left field.

Rookie Curt Blefary cut into Bowens' playing time in 1965. When Boog Powell moved in to 1st base, Blefary would move over to left field, and Bowens played in right. Otherwise, Bowens was the odd man out. He also spent 24 games at triple-A Rochester.

In 1966, Bowens was relegated to backing up Curt Blefary in left field and Frank Robinson in right field. After the 1967 season, he was sold to the Senators. His time in Washington was more of the same - pinch-hitting and backing up in the outfield.

Bowens' last major-league game was on July 26, 1969. He spent part of the 1968 and 1969 seasons with the Senators' triple-A team in Buffalo. In 1970, he played minor-league ball with the Braves and Pirates.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Final Card: Fred Valentine

Since starting this blog on 9/28/09, there have been 63 posts, representing every team except the Washington Senators, so...

Fred Valentine (#248) was an outfielder in the mid-1960s for the Senators and Orioles. He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1956, and spent 8 seasons in their farm system, including 5 seasons in triple-A. During this time, he had brief appearances with the Orioles in 1959 (12 games) and 1963 (26 games).

After the 1964 season, he was sold to the Senators. In his first season with the Senators, Fred was the 4th outfielder behind Don Lock (CF), Chuck Hinton (LF), and Jim King (RF). Fred played all 3 positions, and was also frequently used as a pinch-hitter.

After acquiring outfielder Willie Kirkland in August 1964, and Frank Howard from the Dodgers before the 1965 season, the Senators' outfield became very crowded, so Valentine spent all but 12 games in triple-A that season.

In 1966, Fred was back in the big leagues, and played more games in the Senators' outfield than anyone. He started 55 games in center and 64 games in right, alternating with Don Lock and Jim King, respectively.

After the 1966 season, Don Lock was traded to the Phillies, 5th outfielder Willie Kirkland was sent to the minors, and in June 1967, Jim King was traded to the White Sox. However, a new batch of outfielders (Cap Peterson, Hank Allen, Ed Stroud) came on board, competing with Valentine for playing time. Fred started about a third of the games in center field (with Allen and Stroud evenly starting the rest), and started 50+ game in right field, where Peterson was the regular. Valentine was also occasionally used as a defensive replacement for Frank Howard in left field.

1968 was the end of the line for Valentine. 23-year-old rookie Del Unser (10 years younger than Valentine) took over the center field job, starting 154 games. Valentine started 24 of the first 56 games in right field, then was traded back to the Orioles on June 15th for pitcher Bruce Howard.

With the Orioles, Fred's situation declined, as the O's had 7 other outfielders, all getting more playing time than him. Fred was used mainly as a pinch-hitter and late-inning outfield sub.

His last major-league game was on September 24th, 1968. He spent the 1969 season with the Orioles' triple-A team in Rochester.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Final Card: Phil Linz

This is the last baseball card for Phil Linz (#594), a utility infielder in the 1960s for the Yankees, Phillies, and Mets. Here he looks just as much like an astronaut, or one of those jump-suited fighter jet mechanics as he does a baseball player.

Phil was signed by the Yankees in 1957, and after 5 seasons in the minors, finally made his big-league debut in April 1962. He played for the Yankees for 4 seasons, and was primarily a backup 3B-SS, although he saw action in a few games at 2nd base and the outfield.

His big seasons with the Yankees were 1964 and 1965, when he started just over 80 games each season, because of injuries to Tony Kubek. (Recently, I was watching the 1964 World Series on the MLB Network, and I learned that Linz had played all 7 games in place of the injured Kubek. I was shocked to see that Linz batted leadoff in every game, since I had known him to be the weak-hitting infield scrub on the 1966-67 Phillies.)

After the 1965 season, "Mr. Laffs" was traded to the Phillies for shortstop Ruben Amaro. He lasted 1 1/2 seasons in Philly, before being sent back to New York (this time to the Mets) for infielder Chuck Hiller in June 1967. With the Mets, Phil played in 21 games, mostly at 2nd base.

In 1968, Linz and rookie Ken Boswell shared the second base job, each making 67 starts. Phil retired after the season.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Final Card: John Wyatt

John Wyatt (#481) was signed by the Cardinals way back in 1954, and played one season for their class-D team in Hannibal, MO before being released the following spring.

John played all of 1955 and part of 1956 with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League. During 1956, he also pitched for minor-league teams in the Braves' and Athletics' organizations.

1957 and 1958 are unaccounted for in his records (possibly back in the Negro Leagues?), but after spending the 1959-1961 seasons in Kansas City's farm system, he made his major-league debut in September 1961.

In 1962, John began a string of 4 seasons as the Athletics' closer. He led the league with 81 games pitched in 1964.

(Wow, there's a lot of wasted space on the back of this card!)

In June 1966, after 19 relief appearances he was traded to the Red Sox in a 6-player deal. John made 42 more appearances for the Red Sox that season, then in 1967 took over Boston's closer role from the departed Don McMahon. With Boston, he won game 6 in the 1967 World Series.

John's last 2 seasons were lived out of a suitcase. In May 1968 he was sold to the Yankees. A month later the Yanks sold him to the Tigers. Although John pitched in 22 games for the Tigers, he did not play in the 1968 series. (Nine pitchers appeared in the World Series for the Tigers, none named Wyatt.) The Tigers released him in spring training 1969. A few days later the Athletics signed him, but they released him at the end of May.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dave Wickersham (#288)

Dave Wickersham was signed in 1955 by the Pirates. For 5 seasons, he pitched in the Pirates minor-league system before being selected by the Athletics in the November 1959 minor-league draft.

After spending most of 1960 with the Athletics' double-A team in Shreveport, he made his major-league debut on September 18th. 1961 found him back in Shreveport for 57 games, but he also pitched in 17 games (all in relief) for the Athletics.

In 1962 Dave was in the big leagues fulltime. He compiled a record of 11-4 while pitching in 30 games (2/3 of them in relief). In 1963 he was their #1 starter, leading the team in wins, starts and innings pitched, while posting a record of 12-15.

Fortunately for Dave, his 1963 exploits was good enough to earn a ticket out of Kansas City. In November 1963, he was traded to the Tigers with second baseman Jerry Lumpe and pitcher Ed Rakow for outfielder Rocky Colavito and pitcher Bob Anderson.

Dave pitched for the Tigers for 4 aseasons, In 1964, he was the Tigers' #1 starter, leading the staff with a 19-12 record, and tops in starts and innings pitched. After 1964, each season he started less and relieved more, so that by 1967, only 4 of his 36 appearances were starts.

Unfortunately for Wickersham, he was traded to the Pirates after the 1967 season for pitcher Dennis Ribant, so he missed the Tigers' world championship season of 1968. Instead, he divided his 1968 season between the Pirates and their triple-A team in Columbus, Ohio.

After one season with the Pirates, Dave was sold to the expansion Kansas City Royals, and spent most of the 1969 season pitching out of their bullpen. He also pitched 10 games for the Royals' triple-A team in Omaha.

Well, that wraps up the 1968 cards for veterans with 10 or more years who retired in the late 1960s. You can see the entire list here.