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.

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