Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gene Oliver (#449)

Another hatless gem from Topps. Here, Gene's most likely in a Braves uniform. Since he was only on the Phillies for half a season, surely Topps didn't find the time to photograph him!

Oliver was signed by the Cardinals in 1956, and played the next 6 seasons in the minor leagues, except for the 2nd half of 1959, when he was called up to the Cardinals in June and played 68 games (mostly in left field).

Gene returned to the majors for a few games in 1961, then was up to stay at the start of the 1962 season. Oliver was the #1 catcher in 1962, starting 88 games behind the plate.

That status was short lived, as in 1963, a 21-year-old upstart named Tim McCarver took over the Cardinals' catching job for the remainder of the decade. Oliver was traded to the Braves in mid-season for pitcher Lew Burdette. In Milwaukee, he became the team's #1 first baseman in 1963 and 1964, sharing the position with Joe Torre. (Joe was the Braves' starting catcher, but would play first base whenever the 2nd-string catcher started.)

With the Braves' acquisition of Felipe Alou in 1965, Gene was relegated to 2nd-string status at both catcher and first base, but still made 107 starts between the 2 positions.

In 1966, Gene was pushed further into the background. Although he played in 76 games, only 48 were at catcher and 5 at first base. That's a lot of pinch-hitting! (I just discovered that outfielder Rico Carty caught 17 games for the Braves in 1966! Maybe Oliver was injured for a time.)

In June 1967, Oliver was traded to the Phillies for catcher Bob Uecker. After only playing in 12 games for Atlanta, Gene started 72 games for the Phillies (70 at catcher and 2 at first base) as the righty half of Gene Mauch's catching platoon.

After the 1967 season, Oliver and pitcher Dick Ellsworth were sent to the Red Sox in exchange for young catcher Mike Ryan, a "defensive specialist". There wasn't much room for Gene in Boston, what with 2nd-year starter Russ Gibson, long-time veteran Elston Howard, and journeyman Russ Nixon also lurking about, so he was sold to the Cubs in late June 1968.

Oliver was used mostly as a pinch-hitter in 1 1/2 seasons with the Cubs. He was released on September 2nd, 1969.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Al Jackson (#503)

Al Jackson's career spanned most of the 1960s. He was primarily a starting pitcher for the Mets in the pre-Tom Seaver era.

Jackson was signed by the Pirates in 1955, and played mostly in the Pirates farm system through the end of 1961. (He played in the Mexican league for all of 1956 and part of 1957, and made a few appearances for the Pirates in 1959 and 1961.)

After the 1961 season, Al was selected by the Mets in the expansion draft. For the Mets' first 4 seasons, Jackson was a fixture in their rotation, starting over 30 games each year, and winning in double figures twice.

After the 1965 season, Al and third baseman Charlie Smith were traded to the Cardinals for third baseman Ken Boyer. Jackson became the Cardinals' #2 starter behind Bob Gibson (and ahead of Ray Washburn and Larry Jaster) in 1966.

The following season, he slipped into a swing man role, as Steve Carlton, Dick Hughes, and (later) Nelson Briles replaced him in the rotation. After the season, Jackson was sent back to the Mets as the player to be named later in the Cardinals' mid-season acquisition of pitcher Jack Lamabe.

Jackson spent 1 1/2 seasons with the Mets (pitching mostly in relief) before being sold to the Reds in June 1969. The Reds released him after the 1969 season.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jim Pagliaroni (#586)

Jim Pagliaroni was signed by the Red Sox in 1955 as a bonus baby. A 1952 rule stipulated that a player receiving a bonus of more than a $4000 must remain on the major-league roster for 2 seasons. That year, he played no minor-league ball, but appeared in 1 game for the Red Sox (on August 13th). Jim was one of 15 players in the 1950s to make their major-league debut at age 17. (Some others were Joey Jay, Claude Osteen, Mike McCormick, and Tim McCarver.)

Since he was required to be on the major-league roster for another full season, the Red Sox talked him into enlisting in military service for 2 years, so he could get it "out of the way" during a time when he wouldn't be playing much anyway.

He played for various minor-league teams from 1958 to 1960, and played in 28 games with the Red Sox in 1960, starting 15 games behind the plate. In 1961 he was the #1 catcher, making almost twice as many starts as Russ Nixon, who was 1960's primary catcher.

In 1962, he split the starting catcher's job evenly with rookie Bob Tillman. After the season, Jim was traded to the Pirates with pitcher Don Schwall for pitcher Jack Lamabe and first baseman Dick Stuart.

Jim played 5 seasons with the Pirates, and was the #1 catcher for the first 4 seasons. Injuries limited his playing time in 1967. Following the 1967 season, he was sold to the Athletics, where at age 30, he shared the starting catcher's job with 22-year-old Dave Duncan.

In May 1969, Pagliaroni was sold to the Seattle Pilots, where he finished his career before getting his release after the season. He was used mostly as a pinch-hitter, but also as the 2nd-string catcher behind Jerry McNertney.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gary Bell (#43)

Gary Bell spent many seasons toiling for the Cleveland Indians, and was finally rewarded with a trade to the 1967 Red Sox!

Bell was signed by the Indians in 1955, and spent 3 1/2 seasons in the minors before making his Indians' debut on June 1, 1958. Gary was a member of the Indians' rotation from his rookie season of 1958 through the 1961 season. From 1962-65, he moved to the bullpen, and was Cleveland's ace reliever in '62 and '65.

Bell returned to the starting rotation in 1966, and had more starts, innings pitched, and complete games than any of their other starters (Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert, Steve Hargan).

After making 9 starts for the Indians in 1967, he was traded to the Red Sox on June 4th for outfielder Don Demeter and first baseman Tony Horton. Bell came along just in time, as the other non-Jim Lonborg starters weren't having very good seasons:

In the World Series, Gary lost game 3, and saved game 6.

In 1968, Bell went 11-11, Lonborg missed time due to injuries, while newcomers Ray Culp and Dick Ellsworth each won 16 games. After the season, Bell was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft. In early June 1969, he escaped from that zoo and finished out the season with the White Sox.

Has anyone ever seen these 2 guys at the same time?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jack Fisher (#444)

Jack was a starting pitcher for 4 different teams between 1959 and 1969.

He was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1957, and played 2 seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut with the Orioles in April 1959. For most of the season he was with the Orioles, but spent some time in the minors.

Fisher latched on to one of the starter jobs during the 1960-62 seasons. This was prior to the McNally/Bunker era, when Fisher's partners in crime included Milt Pappas, Chuck Estrada, and Steve Barber.

After the 1962 season, Jack was traded (along with pitcher Billy Hoeft and catcher Jimmie Coker) to the Giants for pitchers Mike McCormick and Stu Miller, and catcher John Orsino.

After only 1 season in San Francisco, Fisher was acquired by the Mets. Jack played for the Mets for 4 seasons, and was the one constant in the starting rotation during those seasons. He got them into the "Tom Seaver era" (1967). He was the Mets' #1 starter for his first 3 seasons, before moving down to #2 in 1967, behind Seaver.

After the season, he and Tommy Davis were traded to the White Sox for outfielder Tommie Agee and second baseman Al Weis, 2 players who would have major roles for the Mets in the 1969 World Series.

Jack played only one season with the White Sox, and would move to the Reds in exchange for catcher Don Pavletich. After the 1969 season, the Reds traded him to the Angels, but he was released prior to the 1970 season.

His final card was in the 1970 set.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bill White (#190)

Bill White was signed by the New York Giants in 1953 and played with various minor league teams for 3 full seasons.

In 1956, after 20 games in the minors, Bill was called up to the Giants and started every game at first base from May 7th until the end of the season. Unfortunately for him, he missed the 1957 season due to military service, and when he returned in 1958, rookie Orlando Cepeda had replaced him at first base.

First base became even more crowded with the arrival of Willie McCovey, so White was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1959 season.

Bill spent 7 seasons as the Cardinals' first baseman, making the all-star team 5 times and winning 6 gold gloves. He also participated in the 1964 World Series.

After the 1965 season, White was traded (along with shortstop Dick Groat and catcher Bob Uecker) to the Phillies for veteran pitcher Art Mahaffey and youngsters Pat Corrales and Alex Johnson. He played in Philadelphia for 3 seasons, winning another gold glove in 1966. During the winter prior to the 1967 season, he was injured during a paddle ball game, and never fully recovered his skills. From 1959 to 1966 he played 140-160 games per season. In 1967 and 1968, he only played in 110 and 127 games respectively, and only about 80% of them were starts at first base.

He was traded back to the Cardinals during spring training 1969, but only appeared in 49 games during the season, mostly as a pinch-hitter.

After his playing career was over, Bill became a Yankees' broadcaster during the 1970s and 1980s, and was the National League president from 1989 until the position was dissolved in 1994.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bill Monbouquette (#234)

Bill Monbouquette was a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox during the early 1960s. He was traded away (to Detroit) before the Red Sox were in the 1967 World Series, and was also traded away from the Tigers before they made it to the 1968 series. What bad luck!

Bill was signed by the Red Sox in 1955. After 3 1/2 seasons in their farm system, he made his big-league debut in July 1958, making 10 appearances (8 starts) that season. The following year, he was with the team for the entire season, as a starter and reliever.

In 1960, Bill began a string of 6 seasons as one of the Sox' top starters. He was a 20-game winner in 1963. Conversely, his 18 losses in 1965 led the league in that category.

After the 1965 season, Monbouquette was traded to the Tigers for what appears to be a bag of beans. Boston got two players immediately, and a player to be named later: Second baseman George Smith played only the 1966 season in Boston (his last season in the majors). George Thomas was a serviceable backup outfielder who played with the Red Sox into the 1971 season. A year after the trade, Boston also got catcher Jackie Moore, whose major-league career consists of 21 games with the Tigers in 1965. For that collection of jetsam, Detroit got Monbouquette, who had just won 86 games in the previous 6 seasons, and pitched 65 complete games during that span. Talk about a fleecing!

Hmm... maybe it wasn't so bad. After a year and 6 weeks with Detroit, Bill was released on May 15, 1967. Later that month the Yankees signed him. In July 1968 he was traded to the Giants for pitcher Lindy McDaniel. After the season he was sold to the Astros, who then returned him to the Giants before the 1969 season. The Giants promptly released him.

After all his success in Boston, Bill went a combined 18-21 in 89 games over the last 3 years of his career, traveling from Detroit to New York to San Francisco.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Don Drysdale (#145)

Don Drysdale was one of the top pitchers of the 1960s. (If I was forming a team of 1960s' stars, my pitching staff (10-man, of course, after all this is the 1960s!) would be:
Sandy Koufax
Bob Gibson
Juan Marichal
Don Drysdale
Whitey Ford
Fergie Jenkins
Jim Kaat
Sam McDowell
Luis Tiant
Tom Seaver

Relievers? We don't need no relievers!

Where was I? Oh yes...

Drysdale was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, and played 2 seasons with their minor-league teams, including 1955 with the Montreal Royals. One of Don's teammates there was Tommy Lasorda. [Drysdale was with Montreal one year after Roberto Clemente played there. I wonder how many don't know that Clemente was signed by the Dodgers, then lost to the Pirates after one season, in the rule 5 draft. OUCH!]

Drysdale made his major-league debut in April 1956, and played his entire 14-year career with the Dodgers, retiring after the 1969 season. He won 25 games and the Cy Young Award in 1962, and won 23 games in 1965. He also led the league in strikeouts 3 times between 1959 and 1962. In 1968, he set a record by pitching 58 consecutive scoreless innings.

He even found the time to give baseball pointers to the youth of America:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Leon Wagner (#495)

Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner was the power-hitting left fielder of the expansion Angels (and later the Cleveland Indians) who, once the calendar struck 1968, couldn't buy a home run.

Wagner played one season for the Tuskeegee University baseball team in 1953, then was signed by the New York Giants in 1954. He played 3 seasons in the Giant's system before missing the 1957 season while in military service.

In 1958, he divided his time evenly between San Francisco and the minors, making his major-league debut on June 22nd. He and Hank Sauer shared playing time in left field.

In 1959 he played a full season for the Giants, but was 3rd on the left field depth chart behind Jackie Brandt and Orlando Cepeda. (Although Cepeda was the #1 first baseman, he played a lot of left field to make room for Willie McCovey at 1B). After the season, Wagner was traded to the Cardinals.

Wagner spent most of the 1960 season in the minors, then was traded to the independent triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs in October. The following April, Toronto traded him to the expansion Los Angeles Angels, where Wagner had a breakout season.

Wags hit 28, 37, and 26 homers in his three seasons with the Angels, and was a two-time all-star.

In December 1963, the Angels traded him to the Indians for pitcher Barry Latman and first baseman Joe Adcock. Wagner continued his slugging in Cleveland - this time with sidekick Rocky Colavito. In his first 3 seasons he hit 31, 28, and 23 home runs. Wags' power started to taper off in 1967, as he only knocked 15 homers.

In June 1968 he was traded to the White Sox for outfielder Russ Snyder. In December, Chicago sold him to the Reds, but Cincinnati returned him to the Sox on April 5, 1969. On the same day, he was given his release by the White Sox.

Later that Spring, the Giants signed him for pinch-hitting duties, but he only appeared in 11 games for the Giants. He spent the remainder of 1969, and all of 1970 and 1971 in the minors, before retiring.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Final Card: Larry Sherry

Here is the final card for Larry Sherry (#468). Not only does the front have a bland, hatless photo, but there is plenty of elbow room on the back. (The Topps' employee responsible for writing player commentary must have been on vacation the day Sherry's card was prepared.)

Larry was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953 and spent 7 years in their minor-league system. After a few games with the Dodgers in 1958, Sherry saw more action in 1959, splitting time between the Dodgers and triple-A.

Sherry spent 5 seasons in the Dodgers' bullpen, his best coming in 1960, as he pitched 142 innings and compiled a 14-10 record.

At the start of the 1964 season, he was traded to the Tigers for outfielder Lou Johnson. Although Larry had made occasional starts with the Dodgers, he was strictly a reliever with the Tigers. In 3-plus seasons in Detroit, he never approached the workload he had in LA.

Sherry was well-traveled in his final 2 seasons. In late June 1967, the Tigers traded him to the Astros for outfielder Jim Landis. Although he appears on this card as an (implied) Astro, he was released in spring training 1968. It wasn't until July 1st that he found his next team. The Angels signed him, but he only made 3 appearances, the last on July 7th.

Sherry spent the remainder of 1968, as well as 1969 and 1970 playing for the Angels' and White Sox' triple-A teams.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ken Boyer (#259)

Ken Boyer was the long-time star third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

He began his minor-league career in 1949 with the Cardinals' organization. After 3 seasons in the minors, he missed the 1952-53 seasons while in military service, but returned to the minors in 1954.

His major-league debut came in April 1955, and he spent the next 11 seasons as the Cardinals' everyday third baseman, never playing less than 142 games in a season. (The exception would be in 1957, when oddly enough, Boyer was the team's regular centerfielder.) Along the way, he made 7 all-star teams, won 5 gold glove awards, and was the National League MVP in 1964. The Cardinals won the 1964 World Series, defeating the Yankees, who employed Ken's brother Clete as their third baseman.

After the 1965 season, Boyer was traded to the Mets for pitcher Al Jackson and third baseman Charlie Smith. He continued as the Mets' regular third baseman in 1966.

In July 1967, Ken was traded to the White Sox (along with Sandy Alomar) for backup catcher J. C. Martin. [This trade seems like an insult to Boyer.]

The following May, he was released by the White Sox, but signed with the Dodgers a few days later. Boyer would continue with the Dodgers until the end of the 1969 season.

After his playing career Boyer stayed in the game as a manager. After managing in the minors from 1970-1978, he was the Cardinals' manager from 1978 to 1980.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Turk Farrell (#217)

Another lousy hatless photo. Farrell pitched in FIFTY games for the Phillies in 1967 since his acquisition on May 8th. Why aren't Topps' photographers EARNING their money?

Turk Farrell began his career with the Phillies way back in 1953. After 4 seasons with their minor-league teams, he made his major-league debut in late September 1956. From 1957 to 1960, Farrell led the Phillies pitchers in saves each year.

In May 1961, the Phillies traded Turk to the Dodgers for third baseman Charlie Smith and outfielder Don Demeter. After the season, he was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the expansion draft.

Farrell was primarily a starter during his 5 full seasons with Houston (1962-66), winning ten or more games in his first 4 seasons (quite an accomplishment for a bad team!)

In May 1967, he was re-acquired by the Phillies and spent the last 3 seasons of his career as the Phillies' bullpen ace. He was released by the Phillies on November 4, 1969, essentially ending his career.

In 1970, he was signed by the Braves on April 20th, but released on May 6th without having appeared in any games.

Farrell was killed in an automobile accident in Great Britain in 1977 at age 43.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Roy Face (#198)

Roy Face was a long-time Pirates reliever.

He began his minor-league career in 1949 in the Phillies' farm system. After 2 seasons, he was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers, and played in their organization for 2 additional seasons.

Prior to the 1953 season, he was selected by the Pirates in the rule 5 draft. As such, he was required to stay on the Pirates major-league roster for the entire season. After appearing in 41 games for the Pirates, he spent the following season (1954) in the minor leagues.

In 1955, Face was back with the Pirates to stay. He would be the workhorse in the Pirates' bullpen through the 1968 season. Roy led the league with 68 appearances in both 1956 and 1960. He also played in the 1960 World Series with the Pirates.

On August 31, 1968 he was sold to the Tigers, giving him another World Series appearance.

In 1969, he was released by the Tigers in spring training, and signed by the expansion Expos a few weeks later. In mid-August, he would be released again, ending his 16-year major-league career. He played minor-league ball in 1970 for the Angels' triple-A team.

Woody Held (#289)

Nothing says "jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none" better than having "INF-OF" appear on your baseball card.

Woody (a/k/a Woodie) Held was signed by the Yankees in 1951, and played in their farm system through part of the 1957 season.

Although having a cup of coffee with the Yanks in 1954, Held returned to the majors for good during the 1957 season. On June 15th 1957 Held, Billy Martin, and 2 other players were traded to the Athletics for 3 players. Exactly one year later, he and Vic Power were traded to the Indians for Roger Maris and 2 others.

Woody was the Indians' regular shortstop from 1959 to 1962, making over 100 starts there in each season. In 1963, he moved over to second base, and although he was the regular there, he also started some games in the outfield (INF-OF alert!).

With the Indians' acquisition of shortstop Dick Howser, Larry Brown (who had taken Held's shortstop job the previous season) was moved to second base in 1964, replacing Held again. Woody was now in full INF-OF mode, and would remain there for the rest of his career.

After the 1964 season, Held and first baseman Bob Chance were traded to the Senators for outfielder Chuck Hinton. A year later he was traded to the Orioles for catcher John Orsino.

Midway through the 1967 season, he went to the Angels for pitcher Marcelino Lopez. His last move was in July 1968, when he was traded to the White Sox for infielder Wayne Causey. The Sox released him after the 1969 season, ending his 14-year career.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Final Card: John Buzhardt

And now a 10-day blitz, as I wrap up most of the remaining 10-year veterans who retired in the late 1960s...

I almost hate scanning and posting these 1968 Astros cards, because every last one of them is either hatless or airbrushed. Earlier today, upon completing his tour of the entire 1969 set, Wrigley Wax noted that at some point he "hit the wall". I hit the wall every time I see one of these hatless wretches! What makes it even worse is when there is no other interesting aspect to the photo. In a few days, we'll all be treated to Buzhardt's Astros teammate Larry Sherry - an equally un-interesting hatless photo, as well as the Phillies' Turk Farrell. But I digress...

John Buzhardt (#403) was signed by the Cubs in 1954, and played in their minor-league system from 1954 to 1958. His major-league debut came on September 10th, his first of 6 appearances that year.

In 1959, John played for the Cubs the entire season. Before the 1960 season, Buzhardt was traded (along with third basemen Alvin Dark and Jim Woods) to the Phillies for outfielder Richie Ashburn.

John's two seasons in Philadelphia seem less than impressive. He compiled records of 5-16 and 6-18. Two of his 6 wins in 1961 were the games just before and just after the Phillies' infamous 23-game losing streak.

After the 1961 season, Buzhardt and third baseman Charlie Smith were sent to the White Sox for first baseman Roy Sievers. John fared better in his 5-plus seasons with the Sox than with the Phillies. (It was probably the team!) Twice he got double-figures in wins. Twice his ERA was under 3.00. For awhile, he was actually on par with Gary Peters, Joe Horlen, and Tommy John!

In 1967, Buzhardt was on the move. He was one of five players (along with Jim King, Jim Landis, Jack Lamabe, and Ken Harrelson) to play for more than 2 teams in 1967. [Hmm... 4 of these 5 played for the White Sox!] On August 21st he was sold to the Orioles. A month later he was sold to the Astros. (I'm not sure why. Houston was not on any kind of stretch drive for the last week of September!)

1968 was John's final season. He appeared in 39 games for the Astros - his most since 1961.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Walter Alston (#472)

Walter Alston was the Dodgers' manager from 1954 to 1976. This was a total of 23 seasons, all on 1-year contracts. He was followed by Tommy Lasorda from 1977 to midway through the 1996 season (another 19 1/2 years). So, for 42 1/2 years, the Dodgers only had 2 managers. Compare that with the revolving door of the past 13 years, where 5 different managers have led the Dodgers.

In Alston's first 13 seasons at the helm, the Dodgers finished in first place 6 times, including 4 World Series championships, and finished in second place 3 times.

After a 3-year slump from 1967-1969 (which included two 8th-place finishes), the Dodgers finished in either first or second place in 6 of Walt's last 7 years.

Alston was replaced by Tommy Lasorda for the final 4 games of 1976, but it must have been for health reasons, because the Dodgers were in 2nd place at the time.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Final Card: Bobby Locke

This is Bobby Locke's final card (#24). It's also his first card since 1965, so I'm going to throw him into my "Back on Topps' Radar" series.

Topps spent little or no effort on this card. They used the same photo from the 1962 card, and on the back they omitted Locke's minor-league stats.

Locke was signed by the Indians in 1953, and spent the 1953 - 1956 seasons in their minor league system.

1957 and 1958 are unaccounted for in his record. Military service is not listed, so maybe he missed 2 seasons due to injuries.

Locke pitched for the Cleveland Indians from 1959 to 1961, while also spending some time in the minors.

In November 1961, Bobby was traded to the Cubs, but he was shipped to the Cardinals a few days before the season started. Three weeks later, the Cardinals traded him to the Phillies.

Locke bounced between Philadelphia and their triple-A team for the next 3 seasons, and was sold to the Angels after the 1964 season.

Midway through the 1965 season, the Angels traded Locke to the Reds, but reacquired him in June 1966. He continued bouncing up and down with the Angels. 1968 was his final major-league season, and he spent 1969 entirely in the minors before retiring.

To tell you the truth, I'm surprised Locke even has a card in this set. 1961 was the last season that he pitched more than 20 innings in the major leagues!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rick Monday (#282)

Rick Monday was the first pick in the 1965 amateur draft - the very first draft.

He spent his first 2 seasons in the minors, making his major-league debut on 9/3/1966. He had a fine rookie season in 1967, and although he was named to the Topps' 1967 All-Rookie team, a trophy doesn't appear on his card.

After 5 seasons as the Athletics' centerfielder, Rick was traded to the Cubs for pitcher Ken Holtzman in November 1971. Monday played with the Cubs for 5 seasons, and has his best power numbers there - hitting 26, 20, and 32 homers in 3 of his 5 seasons with Chicago.

In January 1977, Monday was traded to the Dodgers with pitcher Mike Garman for shortstop Ivan DeJesus and outfielder Bill Buckner. In his first season in LA, he was the Dodgers' regular centerfielder, but year by year, his playing time was reduced, so that by his final season in 1984, he only appeared in 31 games. He was released in June 1984.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Norm Miller (#161)

Norm Miller was signed by the Los Angeles Angels prior to the 1964 season and spent the season with single-A Quad Cities. [Back in the day, I wondered where "Quad Cities " was. In 1991, I was in Quad Cities (Rock Island & Moline IL, Davenport & Bettendorf IA) on business.]

After the season, Norm was drafted by Houston, and played 11 major-league games in both 1965 and 1966. Although he would still play in the minors for parts of 1967 and 1968, 1967 was the first season where the majority of his time was spent in the majors.

In 1967, Miller split time in left field with Ron Davis. He was the Astros' primary right fielder from 1968 to 1970. (Right-field incumbent Rusty Staub moved to first base in 1968, and was shipped to the Expos in 1969.)

In 1971, outfielders Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno became everyday players, and with Jimmy Wynn already a fixture, Miller and Jesus Alou scrambled for playing time, resulting in Miller's demotion to 5th outfielder.

In April 1973, Norm was traded to the Braves for pitcher Cecil Upshaw. He lasted 2 seasons in Atlanta before being released after the 1974 season. The Dodgers signed him in February 1975, but released him prior to the season.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Giants Rookies?

Well, today my 2 virtual spinners came up "card type = rookies" and "team = Giants", but for some reason Topps didn't issue a Giants Rookies card in 1968. Was it laziness? Short-sightedness? Let's see if Topps even had anyone to pick from that year.

According to, there were 4 rookies who got some playing time with the 1968 Giants. Even if they were only cups of coffee, they could still qualify under Topps' loose interpretation of "Rookie Stars". (After all, how many times did we see George Lauzerique on a Reds or Athletics "Rookie Stars" card?)

Rich Robertson's stats aren't overly impressive, but they are at least as good as George Korince, the Tigers' farmhand that Topps wasted TWO rookie cards on in 1967:

Some other candidates:

Wait, I think there was one more rookie on the 1968 Giants. Oh yes, it was:

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Topps couldn't find two players worthy of their "Rookie Stars" interpretation, to slap onto a card in 1968?

Instead, we are treated to a Bobby Etheridge card, with a bright, shiny trophy indicating that he was Topps' selection as the 3rd baseman on the 1967 all-rookie team. In 1967, Etheridge batted a stellar .226 in 40 games, struck out 12 times, and didn't even make the team in 1968!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Russ Nixon (#515)

Russ Nixon started his career in 1953 with the Green Bay Packers Bluejays, the Cleveland Indians' affiliate in the class-D Wisconsin State League.

After 4 seasons in the minors, Nixon made his Indians' debut on April 20, 1957. He and 36-year-old Jim Hegan each caught about 1/3 of the games, with the rest handled by Dick Brown and Hal Naragon.

In 1958, Russ took over the #1 catching job, while Dick Brown was his backup. The following year, his playing time was decreased, with Brown starting more games.

In 1960, Nixon was twice traded to the Red Sox. In March, the first trade was voided when one of the players refused to report. In mid-June, a second deal involving all different players was completed.
Although not joining the team until mid-June, Nixon managed to start more games than the other Red Sox' catchers.

1960 was the high point of his Red Sox' career, as he slipped to 2nd or 3rd string behind Jim Pagliaroni and/or Bob Tillman during the 1961-1964 seasons.

In 1965, Mike Ryan arrived in Boston to further crowd the catching picture. Prior to the 1966 season, Nixon was traded to the Twins, where he continued as a backup catcher (to Earl Battey and Jerry Zimmerman).

After 2 seasons with Minnesota, Nixon returned to the Red Sox in 1968. He spent part of the season in the minors. After the season, Russ was selected by the White Sox in the rule 5 draft, but was released prior to the 1969 season, ending his 12-year career.

Nixon managed the Reds and the Braves in the 1980s.