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.