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.


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.