Friday, June 29, 2012

Gary Nolan (#196)

This is Gary Nolan's rookie card. I've always wondered why he wasn't included on a Reds Rookies card in the 1967 set. Checking his minor-league stats tonight, I found that he was the Reds' #1 pick in the 1966 draft, and played that season in the class-A Northern League. Ok, Topps probably doesn't rush to include players with only low-level minor-league experience on their cards, I get that.

But, he made the Reds' starting rotation from the beginning of the '67 season, struck out 12 Dodgers in his 2nd big-league game, and by the end of April, had pitched 4 games, striking out 33 while walking only four. Didn't Topps consider bumping someone off a yet-to-be-issued 7th-series "NL Rookies" card in favor of Nolan? What about the dubious Norm Gigon?

Gary finished his rookie season with a 14-8 record over 226 innings, with 206 strikeouts and 62 walks. He came in 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Tom Seaver and Cardinals' pitcher Dick Hughes.

Although he mostly played for the Reds in '68 and '69, he spent some time in the minors (including a stint in single-A in 1968) with arm issues. Nolan was back to full speed in 1970, going 18-7 in 250 innings as the Reds' ace, on a staff that also featured 20-game winner Jim Merritt.

1971 and 1972 were also fine years for Gary, as he again sat on top of the rotation, along with rookies Don Gullett ('71) and Ross Grimsley ('72). In 1972 Nolan compiled a 15-5 record and a 1.99 ERA, although mid-season injuries forced him to miss some time, including the all-star game. He missed almost all of the next 2 seasons with injuries, pitching 2 games for the Reds in '73 and 2 games in the minors in '74.

Gary staged a comeback in 1975, compiling identical 15-9 records in '75 and '76, and pitched in his 3rd and 4th World Series. After getting off to a slow start in 1977, he was traded to the Angels in June. Injuries cropped up again, limiting him to only 5 games with the Angels.

California released him in January 1978, and the next month he was picked up by the Brewers, who also released him a month later, ending his 10 year career.

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