Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cardinals Team (#497)

In previous seasons, all teams except the Astros had team cards. In 1968, for some reason there were only 13 team cards.

Here is the team card for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Manager Red Schoendienst is front and center, flanked by 2 of his coaches on either side. Curt Flood and Orlando Cepeda (#30) are the 2 players seated on the far left. Steve Carlton (#32) is behind Schoendienst.

The back of the card shows the previous year's leader in several categories. Bob Gibson is absent from these leaders, because he missed 2 months of the 1967 season with a broken leg.

The Cardinals' started the 1967 season with Bob Gibson, Ray Washburn, Larry Jaster, and Al Jackson in the rotation, with Steve Carlton as the #5 starter. In early May, rookie Dick Hughes pushed Jaster out of the rotation. A surprise to me TODAY was that Nelson Briles didn't join the starting rotation until 7/21 (while Gibson was out with a broken leg). When Gibson returned, Briles stayed in the rotation, and both Jaster and Jackson were out.

The Cardinals 1967 World Series rotation was:
1. Gibson (CG)
2. Hughes (others in relief)
3. Briles (CG)
4. Gibson (CG)
5. Carlton (Washburn and others in relief)
6. Hughes (Briles, Washburn, and others in relief)
7. Gibson (CG)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wayne Causey (#522)

Wayne Causey was signed by the Baltimore Orioles as a bonus baby in June 1955. As such, he would remain on the Orioles roster for 2 years before spending any time in the minor leagues.

He started 56 games at third base for the Orioles, more than any of the other 5 players the Orioles used there. In 1956, he lost the starting 3B job to George Kell, who was acquired from Detroit during the season. (Kell would be replaced in 1958 by Brooks Robinson.)

After spending most of 1957 and all of 1958-60 in the minors, Causey was traded to the Athletics prior to the 1961 season, along with 4 other players for outfielders Whitey Herzog and Russ Snyder.

Wayne was the Athletics' starting third baseman in 1961, and the backup SS-3B in 1962. His best seasons in Kansas City were from 1963 to 1965, as he started more than 125 games at shortstop in each of '63 and '64, and made 40, 59, and 33 starts at 2B, SS, and 3B in 1965.

I wonder if this versatility was his ticket out of Kansas City, because in May 1966, he was traded to the White Sox for Danny Cater, who had been Chicago's regular left fielder for the previous season.

With the White Sox, Causey's playing time was diminished since Chicago's roster was already filled with non-first-base infielders (Al Weis, Don Buford, Jerry Adair, Pete Ward, Ron Hansen, Lee Elia, Gene Freese) all looking for (and getting) playing time. Wayne managed to start 40 games at 2B in 1966, and 75 games at 2B in 1967.

In mid-July 1968, Causey was traded to the Angels for infielder-outfielder Woodie Held, and 1 week later was sold to the Atlanta Braves. For all 3 teams in 1968, he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter.

Although Causey's last game was on September 20, 1968, he did have one more Topps card in 1969.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cubs Rookies: Jose Arcia / Bill Schlesinger

The 1967 Topps set included 43 rookies cards. Most teams had 1 or 2 rookies cards, with a few teams (Astros, Cubs, Athletics, Orioles, Yankees) having 3 rookies cards.

The 1968 Topps set only had 29 rookies cards. Most teams only had 1 card. The Pirates, Reds, Indians, Twins, and White Sox had 2 rookies cards, while the Orioles had 3 cards, just like the previous season (good farm system?). For some reason, the Giants did not have a rookies card in 1968.

Here is the Cubs Rookies card (#258) for 1968.

Jose Arcia was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1962, and bounced around in the minors from 1962 to 1967 with 4 organizations (Colt .45s, Tigers, Indians, Cardinals) before being acquired after the 1967 season by the Cubs.

In 1968 (as a rule 5 draftee) he remained on the Cubs roster all season as a backup middle infielder. After the season, he was drafted by the expansion Padres. In San Diego, he shared the starting second base job in 1969, and was the backup SS-2B in 1970.

After the 1970 season, he played exclusively in the minor leagues through the 1976 season, for the Padres, Angels, Twins, Royals, and Astros.

The career of Bill Schlesinger was even shorter than Arcia's. Schlesinger played minor-league ball from 1964 to 1970 for 4 organizations (Red Sox, Athletics, Cubs, Phillies). His major-league career consists of 1 game in 1965 with the Red Sox (which is when this airbrushed picture was probably taken).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Denny McLain (#40)

Denny McLain was originally signed by the White Sox, but made his major-league debut with the Tigers in 1963. He returned to the big leagues to stay in the following season. McLain had a string of 5 excellent seasons from 1965 to 1969, with the high point coming in 1968, when he won 31 games and led the Tigers to the AL pennant. McLain and Mickey Lolich pitched the Tigers to victory over the Cardinals in the World Series. Denny was also the MVP in 1968, and won the Cy Young Award in 1968 and 1969. (McLain is the only pitcher to win 30 games since 1934.)

After the 1969 season, the bottom fell out for McLain, as he had off-field problems (including a suspension for gambling). Before the 1971 season he was traded to the Washington Senators, where he proceeded to lose 22 games.

After that season, it was on to Oakland and then Atlanta. The Braves released him prior to the 1973 season, but he played in the minor leagues in 1973 before retiring.

During his playing career, McLain was a popular nightclub organ player.

More info here

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Final Card: Norm Siebern

Here is the final card for Norm Siebern (#537). I first became aware of Siebern when I got his 1967 card, where he is pictured as a first baseman for the Giants. My first (and last) thought about him then was "He's a first baseman on a team that has Willie McCovey!", and I dismissed him as an over-the-hill backup or a never-was. However, if I had examined the card back more closely then, he was an everyday player from 1958 to 1964.

Siebern was signed by the Yankees in 1951, and toiled in their farm system for a few years (missing 1954 and 1955 for military service). His major-league debut came on June 15, 1956.

At the start of the 1958 season, Norm was in the big leagues to stay. He was the Yankees' regular leftfielder in 1958 and 1959. After the 1959 season, Siebern was traded to the Athletics along with RF Hank Bauer, pitcher Don Larsen, and backup 1B Marv Throneberry for RF Roger Maris and 2 other players.

Norm played for Kansas City for the next 4 seasons, as their regular first baseman and as a backup outfielder. After the 1963 season, Siebern was traded to the Orioles for first baseman Jim Gentile.

Norm was in Baltimore for 2 seasons. He was their regular first baseman in 1964, and would split the position 50-50 with Boog Powell in 1965. (Powell played half of his games in LF, and the other half at 1B.) Siebern was traded to the Angels after the 1965 season, and had more playing time there than in his last year with the Orioles.

After only 1 year, he was traded to San Francisco. His stay with the Giants was short, as he was sold to the Red Sox in July 1967. He was used mostly as a pinch-hitter, since the Sox had George Scott at first base, with Dalton Jones as the primary backup.

After playing in only 27 games in 1968, Siebern was released by the Red Sox in early August, ending his 12-year career.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back on Topps' Radar: Hawk Taylor

Now back to my series named "Back on Topps' Radar". I planned to include three of my last 4 posts (Bob Tiefenauer, Julio Gotay, and John Tsitouris) in that series, but as it turned out, their 1968 card was also their last.

Bob "Hawk" Taylor (#52) was a career backup catcher on some bad teams. Taylor has several baseball cards in the early 1960s, but none since 1964. (He also appeared in the 1969 card set as Bob Taylor, an outfielder for the Royals.) Since he didn't have a card in 1967, this 1st-series 1968 card was my first clue of his existence.

Hawk was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1957 as a bonus baby, requiring him to be on the major-league roster for the rest of the season. His debut was in early June. Later he spent time with the Braves' minor league teams, and rejoined the Braves in 1961. Since the Braves already had Del Crandall, Joe Torre, and Bob Uecker at catcher, Taylor as used as a spare outfielder for his last 3 seasons in Milwaukee.

After the 1963 season, he was sold to the Mets. The 1964 season was Taylor's first shot at significant playing time, as he appeared in 92 games and had over 200 at-bats. The Mets' entire catching staff consisted of 3 sub-par backups: Jesse Gonder, Chris Cannizarro, and Taylor. Even with that poor competition, Taylor was still 3rd string.

Hawk spent most of 1965 with the Mets' triple-A team in Buffalo, as Cannizarro took over the starting catcher's job, and the backup roles were filled by suspects such as John Stephenson, Jesse Gonder, and Jimmie Schaffer. Even coach Yogi Berra caught a few games.

In 1965, Taylor split time between New York and their triple-A team in Jacksonville. With the Mets, he was still the 3rd string catcher, this time behind newcomer Jerry Grote, and John Stephenson. Taylor also played a few games at first base.

In early 1967, he was traded to the Angels, where he filled a now-familiar role: 3rd string catcher. He spent all of 1968 in the minors, before the Royals scooped him up in the rule 5 draft.

He played for the Royals for parts of 2 seasons, as a pinch-hitter and backup outfielder in 1969, and as a pinch-hitter in 1970. Taylor was traded to the Red Sox prior to 1971, but did not play in the majors after 1970.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Final Card: Bob Tiefenauer

Announcement: If anyone's interested in football cards, be sure to check out my new football blogs. You can find them through my profile, or on this blog's sidebar, above the baseball card blogroll. (And also here: 1967 1968 1971 1972)

Bob Tiefenauer (#269) returned to the Topps baseball card world in 1968. He previously had baseball cards in 1959, 1962, 1964, and 1965. You can't blame Topps for this one, as his career travels (below) are enough to make your head spin!

On the back of his card, we see a 4-year gap in major-league service between 1955 and 1960. As Topps often does with long-time vets, his minor league stats are omitted from the back of the card.

Bob began playing pro baseball in 1948 in the Cardinals' system. Tiefenauer had a 6-game cup of coffee (8 innings, all in relief) with the Cardinals in 1952, followed by 2 more seasons back in the minors. In 1955, he resurfaced with the St. Louis, this time for 18 relief appearances (32 innings).

In September 1955, Bob began a 5-year odyssey through oblivion that started with his trade to the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers assigned him to the minor leagues, where he remained for the entire 1956 season. After the season, he was traded to Toronto, an unaffiliated AAA team in the International League. He made over 60 appearances per season (all in relief) for Toronto in 1957 and 1958. Following the 1958 season, Toronto traded him to the Indians, but he retired, rather than play in 1959.

In 1960 he spent some time with the Cleveland Indians until his early June acquisition by the Cardinals. St Louis kept him in the minors for the rest of 1960 and most of 1961, although he appeared in 3 games for the Cardinals.

After the 1961 season, he was purchased by the expansion Houston Colt .45s, and spent the 1962 season with Houston, before being traded BACK to the Cardinals (again) just before the 1963 season.

It almost seems that the Cardinals liked to mess with him, because in mid-June of the same year, he was traded again, this time to the Milwaukee Braves. After playing for the Braves for 2 seasons, he was traded to the Yankees in June 1965. His time in New York was short, because 2 months later he found himself back with the Indians!

Bob spent all of 1966 and most of 1967 with the Indians' triple-A Portland team, pitching in only 5 games for Cleveland in 1967.

This year (1968) he didn't even play for the Indians, as he was traded to the Cubs at the end of March for pitcher Rob Gardner. Bob appeared in only 9 games for the Cubs in 1968, his last on September 21st.

He played for Chicago's triple-A team in Tacoma, WA for most of 1968 and all of 1969 before retiring.
Tiefenauer played 19 seasons in the minor leagues!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ernie Banks (#355)

Here we have Chicago Cubs superstar Ernie Banks. "Mr. Cub" never played minor league baseball, but he did play for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League from 1950 to 1953.

Banks is one of a handful of former Negro League players still playing major league baseball into the late 1960s. I guess it's common knowledge that Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were Negro League veterans, but I recently learned that Yankees catcher Elston Howard was Banks' teammate with the Monarchs. (I also discovered that early 1970s Detroit Tigers infielder Ike Brown played in the Negro Leagues. I mistakenly assumed that anyone not making the major leagues until the 1970s would have been too young to play Negro League baseball.)

Banks was signed by the Cubs on September 8, 1953, and made his major-league debut at shortstop on September 17th, playing 10 games that first season.

From 1954 to 1969, Banks was in the lineup almost every day, playing 150 or more games for 12 of those 16 seasons. Between 1954 and 1960, he led the league in games played 6 times. Banks was originally the Cubs regular shortstop, but in 1962 he moved over to first base.

Beginning with the 1970 season, the 39-year-old Banks cut back his workload, sharing the first base job with Jim Hickman. In 1971, Joe Pepitone took over the first base chores, while Banks only played 20 games at 1B. He appeared in 52 other games as a pinch-hitter.

Ernie was released by the Cubs after the 1971 season. He had played his entire 19-year major-league career with the Cubs, and retired with 512 homeruns. His 277 homeruns as a shortstop was the record until Cal Ripken came along.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Final Card: Julio Gotay

After appearing on Topps cards in '62, '63, and '65 but not in '67, Julio Gotay (#41) re-appeared in the 1968 set. Since I didn't collect cards before 1967, and this card was in the 1st series in 1968, Gotay was one of the first "new" players I discovered that year.

Gotay began in the Cardinals farm system in 1957. His major-league debut came on 8/6/60, one of 3 games he appeared in that year. He returned to the minor leagues for most of 1961, but squeezed in 10 games for St. Louis.

In 1962, Gotay became the regular Cardinals shortstop, starting 2/3 of the games, while fellow rookie shortstop Dal Maxvill started 1/3 of the games. After the season, Gotay and pitcher Don Cardwell were traded to the Pirates for Dick Groat, who took over as the Cardinals shortstop (keeping Maxvill in a backup role for a few more seasons).

Most of Julio's time with the Pirates was spent in the minor leagues, as he only played in a combined 7 games with the Pirates in 1963 and 1964. Prior to the 1965 season, he was traded to the Angels, and split the season between California and their triple-A team in Seattle. By the end of June 1966, the Angels traded him to the Astros, who kept him in the minors for all but 4 games that year.

Starting in 1967, Gotay finally returned to the majors for an extended time, as he played in over 70 games each in '67 and '68. In fact, 1968 was the only year he stayed out of the minor leagues. He split the 1969 season between Houston and their triple-A team.

1969 was Gotay's last major league season. He would continue playing in triple-A in 1970 (Astros) and 1971 (Cardinals).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Final Card: John Tsitouris

This is the final card for John Tsitouris (#523). He had cards in 1960, '63, '64, '65, and '66, but not in 1967 (so he also qualifies for my "Back on Topps' Radar" series). In 1967, he appeared in a grand total of 2 games (for 8 innings), so I also wonder "Why does he have a card?"

John began his minor-league career in the Tigers organization in 1954. His major-league debut came in June 1957 with the Tigers.

After the 1957 season, Tsitouris was traded to the Athletics in a deal which involved TWELVE other players. The most notable of those were Billy Martin and Gus Zernial, who went to the Tigers.

Prior to the 1961 season, he and pitcher John Briggs (not the Phillies outfielder) were traded to the Reds for pitcher Joe Nuxhall. However, he spent the entire 1961 season and much of the 1962 season with the Reds' triple-A team (Indianapolis in 1961, and San Diego in 1962).

John's big years with Cincinnati were 1963 to 1965, where he made 30 or more appearances each year, mostly as a starter. Near the end of the 1964 season, his 1-0 shutout of the Phillies began their 10-game losing streak which cost the Phillies the NL pennant.

From 1966 to 1968, he was used sparingly by the Reds, and spent most of those seasons in triple-A. (Strangely, in 1967 he played for the Phillies' triple-A team in San Diego, even though it appears that he was still owned by the Reds.)

His final big-league game was on April 24th, 1968. Over his entire career, he played 149 games in the majors and 196 games for triple-A teams.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Final Card: Al Worthington

Al Worthington (#473) began his minor league career in 1951 with the Cubs. A year later, he was traded to the New York Giants organization, and made his major-league debut with the Giants in 1953.

He spent most of 1954 and all of 1955 back in the minors, but from 1956 to 1958, he was one of the Giants' regular starting pitchers.

In 1959, Worthington became a relief pitcher. He made 39 relief appearances, and only 3 starts, which would be the last starts of his career.

Just before the 1960 season, Al was traded to the Red Sox. This began a few years of living out of a suitcase, as he spent 1960 with the Red Sox, their triple-A team in Minneapolis, and the White Sox. This was followed by 2 years in the White Sox farm system before returning the the major leagues in 1963 with the Reds.

Midway through the 1964 season, the Reds traded Worthington to the Twins, where he settled in as their closer until ending his career after the 1969 season. He pitched briefly in the 1965 World Series for the Twins. (In the World Series, there wasn't a lot of relief pitching for the Twins, since Jim Grant pitched 2 complete games in his 3 starts, and Jim Kaat pitched 1 complete game in his 3 starts.)

I don't know why there was no baseball card for Al Worthington in 1969. He pitched in 54 games in 1968 (leading the league with 18 saves), and went on to pitch in 46 games in his final year of 1969.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back on Topps' radar: Jerry McNertney

Here's one for WhiteSoxCards:

Jerry McNertney (#14) started his career in 1958 with the White Sox organization as a first baseman and outfielder. It wasn't until 1961 that he began catching.

"Nert" made the big club in 1964 as the 3rd string catcher. In July, catcher Cam Carreon was injured and missed 2 months of the season, giving more playing time to McNertney, as the backup to veteran
J. C. Martin.

(Jerry appeared on an "American League Rookies" card in 1964, but I guess his 186 at-bats that season weren't enough to convince Topps to keep him around, as his next card wasn't until 1968.)

It was back to the minors in 1965, as Johnny Romano was acquired from the Indians and caught about 2/3 of the games, and newly-acquired Jimmie Schaffer filled the #3 spot. In 1966, Schaffer was out and McNertney was back, but still as the 3rd-string receiver.

His status remain unchanged in 1967, though rookie Duane Josephson had replaced the aging Johnny Romano. In 1968, Jerry worked his way up to 2nd-string catcher!

Jerry's big break came following the 1968 season, as he was drafted by the Seattle Pilots (To most players and fans, that hardly seems like good news!) Nert became the undisputed starting catcher for this collection of castoffs that was documented in great detail by Pilots' pitcher Jim Bouton in his book Ball Four.

The following season, the Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers, and McNertney became the 2nd-string catcher, this time behind Phil Roof. After the season, he was traded to the Cardinals. Jerry bounced around to the Athletics and Pirates, until getting his release from the Pirates in mid-1973.

Here's a road map to the White Sox' catching department back in the day:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back on Topps' radar: Stan Williams

Stan Williams (#54) started in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1954. He made his big-league debut in 1958, the Dodgers first season in Los Angeles.

From 1960 to 1962, Stan was 1/4 of the excellent Dodgers starting rotation (along with Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Johnny Podres). After the 1962 season, Williams was traded to the Yankees for first baseman Moose Skowron.

In 1965, Williams' career hit a rough spot as he spent most of 1965-1967 in the minors, pitching over 30 games per season (mostly in relief). Although technically Indians' property, he played for 3 different triple-A teams in 3 years: Seattle (Angels), Spokane (Dodgers), and Portland (Indians). He returned to Cleveland during the 1967 season.

Needless to say, after having Topps baseball cards from 1959 to 1965, he was off their list until 1968.

Stan played for the Indians through the 1969 season, mostly in relief, but he also made a few dozen starts. After 1969, he was traded to the Twins, then the Cardinals, and finally wrapped up his 14-year career in 1972 with the Red Sox.

Back on Topps' radar: Al Spangler

Tonight I'm starting a series of cards (well actually, the already-posted Tommie Aaron and Frank Kostro belong in this series also) where the player had one or more previous cards, but did not have one last year, and now they are back in the set. There are about 25 such players in the 1968 set.

Al Spangler (#451) was a journeyman outfielder who started in the Braves organization in the late 1950s. The Houston Colt .45s selected him in the expansion draft, and he became their starting leftfielder from day 1 of the franchise until his trade to the Angels in early June 1965.

After bouncing up and down between the Angels and their AAA team in Seattle, he was released by the Angels before the 1967 season, and quickly signed with the Cubs. In 1967, he split the season between Chicago and their AAA team in Tacoma, Washington. (I wonder if he kept his old apartment in Seattle?)

No doubt, all this triple-A time in 1966 and 1967 cost him a 1967 Topps card. (Spangler had a Topps card every year from 1960 to 1966.)

He stayed with the Cubs for the latter part of his career, although 1970 and 1971 saw him released and re-signed by the Cubs several times.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Final Card: Elston Howard

Elston Howard (#167) began playing baseball in 1948 as an outfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League. There, he was a teammate of future Chicago Cub Ernie Banks. Buck O'Neill (who came to my attention in Ken Burns' excellent mini-series on baseball) was the manager of that team.

In July 1950, the Yankees purchased his contract from the Monarchs and assigned him to their farm system, where he learned to be a catcher. His first season for the Yankees was 1955. Since the Yankees already had Yogi Berra catching, and an outfield that included Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer, Howard's playing time came mainly in left field, which he shared with Norm Siebern, as well as backing up at catcher and 1st base.

In 1960, Howard finally became a regular, catching more games than Berra. From 1961 to 1963, he hit over 20 home runs per season, and won the AL MVP award in 1963.

In August 1967, Elston was traded to the Red Sox, where he was a steadying influence on their pitching staff (and I assume, a mentor for Boston's young catchers Mike Ryan and Russ Gibson). Howard played in the 1967 World Series for the Red Sox, his 10th series. He was released after the 1968 season, ending a 14-year major-league career.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Final Card: Rocky Colavito

Here is the last card for Rocky Colavito (#99), one of the great American League sluggers of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Colavito started his minor-league career in the Indians' organization back in 1951, and played in such locations as Spartanburg SC, Reading PA, and San Diego (which were all Phillies' minor-league teams by the mid-1960s). He made his major-league debut in September 1955.

He was the Indians' regular rightfielder from 1956 to 1959. (For the first 3 years, Roger Maris was his backup!) In '56 and '57, he was 2nd on the team in home runs (after 1B Vic Wertz). In '58 and '59, he crashed more than 40 homers each year, leading the team.

In April 1960, Colavito was dealt to the Tigers for outfielder Harvey Kuenn. He played 4 years in Detroit, followed by 1 season with the Athletics, before returning to Cleveland in February 1965 in a complicated 3-team deal that went this way:

Rocky Colavito - Athletics to Indians
Cam Carreon - White Sox to Indians

Tommie Agee - Indians to White Sox
Tommy John - Indians to White Sox
Johnny Romano - Indians to White Sox

Mike Hershberger - White Sox to Athletics
Jim Landis - White Sox to Athletics
Fred Talbot - White Sox to Athletics

He continued slugging homers in his 1st 2 seasons back with the Indians. In 1967, his production dropped off greatly, and he was traded to the White Sox at the end of July for outfielder Jim King. (This was King's 2nd trade of the season.)

Colavito did not play for the White Sox in 1968, having been sold to the Dodgers in spring training. (This 1st-series card was already printed and in stores by then.) After playing in 40 games, the Dodgers released him in mid-July. The Yankees picked him up a few days later, and he appeared in 39 games before being released at the end of the season, bringing his 14-year career to a close.

Rocky also pitched 3 innings in 1958 and 2 innings in 1968!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Final Card: Bill Henry

(Now that the World Series is over, I'm putting away my Yankees and Phillies cards, and will focus on players' final cards for awhile.)

In an era filled with pitchers like Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Whitey Ford, Denny McLain, Jim Kaat, and Sam McDowell, Bill Henry (#239) isn't someone I (and probably most others) ever gave a second thought about. But by the time he retired in 1969, he had put together a 16-year career as a fine relief pitcher.

Here are his minor-league stats, which Topps sometimes leaves out for space reasons. We see that Bill started in 1948 with the Class C Clarksdale Planters. Before the 1952 season, he was acquired by the Red Sox, and pitched for them for 4 seasons, as a starter and reliever.

After spending 1956 and 1957 in the minors, Bill returned in 1958 with the Cubs, as a full-time reliever. From 1959 to 1963, Henry collected double-digit saves each year. After 2 seasons with the Cubs, he was traded to the Reds for 3B/1B/OF Frank Thomas following the 1959 season.

He was traded to the Giants in May 1965. Beginning in 1966, he was pitching fewer innings per game. It seems that he was probably used as a situational lefty.

Midway through the 1968 season, the Giants sold Henry to the Pirates. He was released in August and not signed by another team. (This explains why he has no 1969 baseball card.)

After a stint in the Seattle Pilots' training camp, the Astros signed him at the end of May 1969, and released him a month later, ending his career. For his last 2 seasons, he pitched in 17 games in 1968 and 3 games in 1969.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tony Conigliaro (#140)

Tony Conigliaro was a rising star for the Boston Red Sox in the mid-1960s. This power-hitting rightfielder was the fastest player to reach 100 homeruns, and was considered to have a chance to eventually break Babe Ruth's record. He was beaned in late 1967, and was never the same after that.

Conigliaro began in class-A ball in 1963. After just 1 year, he was up to the big club in 1964. He led the league in homeruns in his 2nd year. In August 1967, Conigliaro was hit in the eye by a pitch from the Angels' Jack Hamilton, and was out for the season, missing the World Series. In fact, although this is his 1968 card, he also didn't play at all in 1968.

He resumed his career on opening day 1969, and played in 141 games in 1969 and 146 in 1970, while hitting 20 and 36 homeruns in those seasons.

After 1970, he was traded to the Angels with Ray Jarvis and Jerry Moses for Doug Griffin, Jarvis Tatum and Ken Tatum. (Never had so many guys named Jarvis or Tatum been included in the same deal!) Tony only played in 74 games for the Angels that year (hitting only 4 homers). After being released by the Angels, Conigliaro signed with Boston again in 1975, but after 21 games (all as a DH or pinch-hitter), he was forced to retire due to permanent eye damage.

Several years later, he suffered a heart attack, and then a stroke, and remained in a coma for several years until his death in 1990.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Final Card: Jim Bouton

The career peak for Jim Bouton (#562) was in 1963 and 1964. He won 21 games in 1963, and won 2 games in the 1964 World Series.

This is Bouton's last baseball card (although blogger WhiteSoxCards has thankfully corrected that situation). The reason for this may be that he spent most of 1968 in the minors. After appearing in 12 games for the Yankees, he was sent to the Angels' triple-A team in Seattle, where he spent the remainder of 1968 (going 4-7 in 27 games).

As you may know, 1968 was not Bouton's last major-league season. He stayed in Seattle, as a relief pitcher for the expansion Seattle Pilots. He made 57 appearances before being traded to the Astros in late August. Bouton documented this season in his best-selling book Ball Four. For anyone who hasn't read it, Bouton kept a daily diary of the season, and turned it into a book. His recollections of manager Joe Schultz, outfielder Wayne Comer, and the other animals in this Seattle zoo make for great reading.

Bouton continued with the Astros for most of the 1970 season, until being released in mid-August. After his book was published, he pretty much put himself on the blacklist regarding future employment.

He had a brief comeback in the late 1970s, playing A and double-A ball from 1975-78, and appearing in 5 games for the Braves in 1978.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tony Gonzalez (#245)

Tony Gonzalez was one of the Phillies' regular outfielders for most of the 1960s. After playing in the Reds minor-league system (including 1958 and 1959 in Havana), Gonzalez made the Reds team in 1960, but was traded to the Phillies in June. He immediately took over the center field position, and held either the left field or center field job through the 1968 season. Primarily the center fielder, Gonzalez was the regular in left field during 1966 and 1967.

In 1967, Tony's .339 batting average was 2nd best in the NL.

Gonzalez was selected by the San Diego Padres in the expansion draft prior to the 1969 season, He was the Padres regular leftfielder before being traded to the Braves in June 1969. The Braves outfield was already staffed by Rico Carty, Felipe Alou, and Hank Aaron, but Gonzalez was the swingman in left and center, giving Carty and Alou some rest.

Prior to the 1970 season, Alou was shipped to Oakland, so Gonzalez started 111 of the first 132 games in centerfield, before being sold to the Angels. Once in California, he took over the centerfield job that had been shared by Jay Johnstone and Roger Repoz. In 1971, Gonzalez had a reduced role for the Angels: splitting the left field job with Alex Johnson, and pinch-hitting.

1971 was the end of Tony's major-league career. In 1973, he returned to play 45 games for the Phillies double-A team in Reading, PA.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Final Card: Roger Maris

Everyone knows about Roger Maris (#330) and his 1961 season, so I won't re-hash that here.

Roger's major league debut was in 1957, with the Indians. Before that, he played minor-league ball in the Indians' system for 4 years, including a stop in Reading, PA in 1955 (then an Indians' farm club, but since 1967, the Phillies' double-A team).

In mid-1958, the Indians traded him (along with 2 other guys) to the Kansas City Athletics for infielder Woodie Held and 1st baseman Vic Power. As with most good Athletics players of that era, Maris was eventually traded to the Yankees. New York acquired Maris (and 2 other guys) for P Don Larsen, RF Hank Bauer, LF Norm Siebern, and 1B Marv Throneberry.

As you can see by the back of his card, as soon as Maris joined the Yankees, he became a homerun machine. He appeared in 5 straight World Series with the Yankees (1960-64).

Yankee outfielders in the "Maris era" (click to enlarge):

After the 1966 season, Maris was traded to the Cardinals for 3rd baseman Charley Smith. After 7 seasons with the Yankees, Roger could now be "just another guy" on a team already led by Bob Gibson, Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock, and Curt Flood. He played his final 2 seasons in St. Louis, and appeared in the World Series both years. A nice way to wrap up a career!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Final Card: Larry Jackson

Larry Jackson (#81) made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in 1955, and was a workhorse pitcher for every one of his 14 seasons. (His 2-2 record in 1956 is misleading. That year, 50 of his 51 appearances were in relief.) He was generally (and exclusively after 1958) a starting pitcher, except for the 1956 season.

After 8 seasons with the Cardinals, he was traded to the Cubs. He won 24 games in 1964, (but unfortunately for him, it was for the Cubs, and not the world-champion Cardinals).

After 3 full seasons in Chicago, he was traded to the Phillies in mid-April 1966. He won 15, 13, and 13 games in his three seasons with the Phillies as their #3 starter. Normally, this would be considered a good thing, but in Jackson's case, the 1966 trade included the Phillies parting with rookie pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, who went on to win at least 20 games for 7 of the next 8 years (twice leading the league in wins). At least the Phillies learned their lesson (until 1982, when the Cubs again fleeced the Phillies by sending SS Ivan DeJesus to Philadelphia for SS Larry Bowa and a minor-leaguer named Ryne Sandberg!)

After the 1968 season, Jackson was selected by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft. Rather than start over with a new team, Jackson retired. The Phillies sent good-field no-hit shortstop Bobby Wine to Montreal as compensation.

Joe Pepitone (#195)

For the next several days, my 3 card blogs will take on a Phillies and Yankees flavor, as we gear up for the World Series.

Joe Pepitone was the Yankees regular 1st baseman in the 1960s. Here, he looks like the Yankees answer to the Jets' Broadway Joe Namath.

He was a backup 1B-OF in his rookie year of 1962, but when 1st baseman Moose Skowron was traded away after the season, Joe took over as a regular for the rest of the decade. In 1967 and 1968, he was the Yankees regular centerfielder, as he swapped positions with Mickey Mantle due to Mantle's limited mobility. After Mantle's retirement prior to the 1969 season, Pepitone moved back to first base.

After the 1969 season, he was traded to the Houston National League Baseball Club (known outside the Topps baseball card company as "Astros") for outfielder Curt Blefary. Midway through his only season with the Astros, he was acquired by the Cubs, where he would play until May 1973. In his first season in Chicago, he was their centerfielder, then came two seasons as their first baseman. In 1973, the Cubs traded him to the Braves, who released him one month later.

In summary, Joe Pepitone came along and replaced Moose Skowron, then Mickey Mantle, then Ernie Banks!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jim Palmer (#575)

Jim Palmer was a key part of the Orioles pitching staff for almost 2 decades.

The early years:

His major-league career began in 1965. Since the rotation was already capably manned by Milt Pappas, Steve Barber, Dave McNally, and Wally Bunker, Palmer found himself as the #3 man in the bullpen behind Stu Miller and Dick Hall. He did manage to make 6 starts to go along with his 21 relief appearances.

Palmer's potential enabled the Orioles to trade Pappas to the Reds for Frank Robinson prior to the 1966 season. In his 2nd year, Palmer joined the starting rotation and made 30 appearances (all starts). He was the #2 starter in innings (behind McNally), with Bunker and Barber completing the rotation. The top-notch pitching, along with Frank Robinson's triple crown season, led the Orioles to a World Series championship.

In 1967, the wheels fell off the entire starting rotation, with Palmer affected the most. Because of a sore arm, he made only 9 starts for Baltimore in 1967. He was sent down and only played 34 innings combined in A and AAA ball. The Orioles dropped to 6th, as McNally and Bunker were also having problems.

In 1968, he wasn't on the Orioles at all, and only managed to pitch 37 innings combined for 3 Orioles farm teams. (Back then, the Orioles were my "A.L. team", and Palmer was one of my favorite players. I remember thinking at the time that Palmer was done.) Meanwhile, the Orioles rebounded to 2nd place, thanks to McNally's comeback season of 22 wins.

In 1969, Palmer was back, with 16 wins. Mike Cuellar was acquired from the Astros (for Cury Blefary - what a steal!), and posted 23 wins. McNally won 20 games, and the Orioles finished in 1st place, meeting the Mets in the World Series.

In 1970, Palmer began a string of winning 20 or more games 7 times in 8 years. The rest is well-known history.