Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lou Johnson (#184)

Here we see the hatless "Sweet Lou" Johnson, joining the Cubs after several seasons with the Dodgers.

Johnson was signed by the Yankees way back in 1953, but didn't make his major-league debut until April 1960, with the Cubs. In between, he spent several seasons with the Yankees' and Pirates' organizations, and played one season with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues, until the Cubs acquired him in 1956.

Lou only played 35 games for the Cubs in his rookie season, spending most of that season with the Cubs' triple-A Houston Buffs team. On April 1, 1961 the Cubs traded him to the Los Angeles Angels. After one game with the Angels, he was traded to the triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs (an independent team in 1961) for outfielder Leon Wagner.

In 1962 Toronto became affiliated with the Milwaukee Braves, and Lou spent some time playing in Milwaukee. Johnson was back in the minors for all of 1963, first as Braves' property, then after May 8th, as a Tigers' farmhand.

Just before the start of the 1964 season, the Tigers traded Lou to the Dodgers for pitcher Larry Sherry. After playing for triple-A Spokane for the entire 1964 season, Johnson got his big "break" in early 1965, when the Dodgers' left fielder Tommy Davis broke his leg. Lou would be the Dodgers' primary left fielder for the next 3 seasons. His playing time slipped somewhat in 1967, due to an early-season ankle injury. The Dodgers brought in outfielder Len Gabrielsen to share the outfield load with Al Ferrara.

After the 1967 season, Lou was traded to the Cubs for infielder Paul Popovich and minor-league outfielder Jim Williams. Midway through 1968, it was on to the Indians in exchange for "Wonderful" Willie Smith.

After half-seasons in Chicago and Cleveland, Lou spent his final season (1969) back with the Angels. His last game was on September 6, 1969. His final baseball card was also in 1969.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Danny Frisella (#191)

This is the rookie card for Danny Frisella, a relief pitcher for the Mets and others from 1967 to 1976.

Frisella was signed by the Mets in June 1966. During his time in the Mets' minor-league system (1966-1970) he was a starting pitcher. He compiled a record of 11-5 during the first half of 1967 (in A and AAA ball), and then made his major-league debut on July 27th, starting 11 of his 14 games during his rookie season.

In 1968, he started 7 games in triple-A, and appeared in 19 games with the Mets, this year mostly in relief. Danny spent most of 1969 in the minors, so he missed all the "Amazin' Mets" hoopla. (I don't know if he was on the post-season roster. The Mets only used 6 pitchers in the NLCS, and 6 pitchers in the World Series, and he wasn't one of them.)

Frisella started 13 games for the Mets' triple-A team in 1970, and rejoined the Mets' bullpen, where he appeared in 30 games as the setup man for closers Ron Taylor and Tug McGraw. He won 8 games in each of 1970 and 1971, and became the right-handed closer in 1971, leading the team with 12 saves.

In 1972, his record slipped to 5-8, and his saves dropped to 9, as lefty Tug McGraw picked up most of the team's saves that season. After the season, Danny was traded to the Braves (with pitcher Gary Gentry) for 2nd baseman Felix Millan and pitcher George Stone.

Frisella spent 2 seasons in the Braves' bullpen, and was traded to the Padres for outfielder Cito Gaston in the off-season.

He was the Padres' closer in 1975, and although he compiled a 1-6 record, he led the team with 9 saves. After only one season, he was traded to the Cardinals on April 8, 1976. Two months later, after only 22 innings pitched, he was shipped to Milwaukee, where he became the Brewers' closer, again leading his team in saves.

On January 1, 1977 Danny Frisella was killed in a dune buggy accident in Arizona at age 30.

Here is a message board on the Ultimate Mets Database site, where fans (and Frisella's widow) have posted their comments.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Playing Card Inserts

Here are the 1968 Topps inserts - a deck of 33 playing cards. These cards measure 2 1/4" x 3 1/4". I don't remember which series these were inserted in. Unlike the 1969 deckle-edge insert cards, these cards aren't included on one of the checklists.

If I remember correctly, I got all these cards in 1968, but the Carl Yastrzemski card has not yellowed like all my others have, so maybe I got that one much later.

Notable stars of that time missing from this set are Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, and Lou Brock.

8/30/2013 edit:

Break-down by team:
3 - Pirates, Red Sox, Twins
2 - Phillies, Cardinals, Giants, Astros, Braves, Orioles, Tigers, White Sox
1 - Cubs, Dodgers, Reds, Yankees, Senators, Indians, Athletics, Angels
0 - Mets (Tommy Davis was traded to the White Sox in December '67)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back on Topps' Radar: Roy White

Here is the first "full" card for Roy White (#546). White appeared on a Yankees Rookies card in 1966, but did not have a card in 1967, despite having 356 plate appearances for the Yankees in 1966. C'mon Topps, why was White left out of the 1967 set, while this guy (who had exactly ZERO major-league games played prior to this card being issued, and whose subsequent major-league career consisted of 2 games) gets his own card?

White was signed by the Yankees in 1961, and played 4 seasons in the minor leagues as a 2nd baseman, before making his Yankees debut (as an outfielder) in September 1965. He spent the entire 1966 season with the Yankees, and started 66 games in left field that season (when Tom Tresh, the Yankees' regular left fielder, would move in to play 3rd base).

In 1967, Roy didn't start a game for the Yankees until July 19th, when he started 15 of the next 18 games at 3rd base. After spending all of 1966 with the Yankees, White played 84 games with triple-A Spokane (a Dodgers' farm team) playing exclusively at 3rd base. My theory is that the Yankees (who had traded long-time 3rd baseman Clete Boyer to the Braves in the off-season) were trying to convert White to a 3rd baseman. That experiment seems to have lasted 3 weeks at the big-league level, because by August, he was in right field, and would never play 3rd base again during his career.

White was the Yankees' regular left fielder from 1968 to 1973, and was all-star in 1969 and 1970. In 1970, he started 161 games in left, and in 1973 he started 162 games in left.

In 1974, he split his time between LF and DH, before returning to full-time left field duty from 1975-77. Beginning in 1978, Lou Piniella took over in left field, relegating White to backup status. He would play for the Yankees until retiring after the 1979 season.

Roy White was the Yankees' one link between the Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson eras.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bob Hendley (#345)

Although Bob Hendley's last major-league game was on September 3, 1967, Topps would issue cards for him in 1968 and 1969.

Bob was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958. After 3 1/2 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut on June 23, 1961, pitching 7 innings in a loss to the Cubs. Hendley started 13 of his 19 games during his rookie season.

In 1962, Bob advanced to #3 starter behind veterans Warren Spahn and Bob Shaw, and ahead of Lew Burdette. In 1963, Bob Shaw became the team's closer, but Hendley was still the #3 starter, as Denny Lemaster (in his 1st full season) leapfrogged over Bob in the rotation.

After the 1963 season, Bob was part of a big trade with the Giants, as he, pitcher Bob Shaw, and catcher Del Crandall went to San Francisco in exchange for pitcher Billy Hoeft, catcher Ed Bailey, outfielder Felipe Alou, and infielder Ernie Bowman. With the Giants in 1964, Bob joined a rotation that included Juan Marichal, Jack Sanford, and 3 others that started and relieved (Gaylord Perry, Bob Bolin, Ron Herbel). Except for the aging Sanford (35), all the starters were either 25 or 26 years old.

Bob only appeared in 8 games for the Giants in 1965, before being traded to the Cubs on May 29th (along with catcher Ed Bailey and outfielder Harvey Kuenn) for catcher Dick Bertell and outfielder Len Gabrielsen. He was used in a swingman role with the Cubs, as their top 3 starters were Larry Jackson, Dick Ellsworth, and Bob Buhl (all future Phillies).

In 1966, Hendley pitched mainly in relief, and led the team with (a paltry!) 7 saves. 1966 also was the rookie season of catcher Randy Hundley, so the Cubs fielded a Hendley/Hundley battery for a year and a half, until Bob's June 1967 trade to the Mets.

In New York, Bob spent the closing months of his major-league career making 13 starts and 2 relief appearances.

Hendley spent the 1968 and 1968 seasons with the Mets' triple-A team, making 27 appearances in each season.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Final Card: Sandy Valdespino

Sandy Valdespino (#304) appeared on Topps cards in 1965 and 1966, but since he spent most of 1966 in the minors, he didn't have a card in 1967. Now he's back for one last card.

Sandy was signed by the (old) Washington Senators in 1957. He spent 8 seasons in Senators'/Twins' minor-league system (including the last 5 in triple-A) before making his major-league debut with the Twins on April 12, 1965.

In his rookie season, Valdespino was 10th in at-bats among Twins players, which was tops among non-starters. (For all practical purposes, the Twins had 9 "starters" that season, because of the triangle of Don Mincher at 1B, Rich Rollins at 3B, and Harmon Killebrew at 1B-3B.) Valdespino was used primarily as a pinch-hitter and backup left fielder.

In 1966, Sandy's value to the team plummeted, as rookies Ted Uhlaender, Cesar Tovar, and Andy Kosco all found more playing time than Valdespino. In fact, he played more games at triple-A Denver (72) than he did with the Twins (52).

Sandy spent the entire 1967 season with the Twins, but was relegated to the bench. Although he played in 99 games, only 9 of them were outfield starts. The rest were pinch-hitting appearances or backup duty in left field. After the season, the Braves selected him in the rule 5 draft.

1968 was his only season with the Braves, but he played 2/3 of his games that season with triple-A Richmond. After the season, Atlanta traded him to the Astros for pitcher Paul Doyle, a 10-year minor-league veteran with no major-league experience.

After splitting the season between Houston and triple-A Oklahoma City, Sandy was traded to the Seattle Pilots on August 30, 1969 (with Danny Walton) for Tommy Davis. Valdespino played 20 games with the Pilots at the end of 1969, and although he played 8 games with the relocated Milwaukee Brewers in 1970, he spent most of that season in the minors, first in Portland Oregon, then in Omaha (after being sold to the Royals in July).

Sandy saw some brief action with the Royals in 1971, but spent most of that season and all of 1972 with the Royals' triple-A team in Omaha.

His final major-league games was on September 28, 1971, but he never appeared on a baseball card after 1968.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Back on Topps' Radar: Jim Roland

Jim Roland (#276) had cards from 1963-1965, but missed out in 1966 and 1967. Here he resurfaces to begin a string of 5 seasons on a baseball card.

Jim was signed by the Twins in 1961, and spent only 2 seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in September 1962. He spent the following 2 seasons with the Twins. Being a swingman, Baseball-Reference.com doesn't list him as being among the team's top 10 pitchers, but in 1963 he was 9th in innings pitched (49), and in 1964 he was 6th in innings pitched (94).

Roland spent the entire 1965 and 1966 seasons in the minors, rehabbing from arm injuries. He pitched about 30 games each season, mostly as a starter.

Jim returned to the Twins in 1967, and took his place alongside all the other Jims on the Twins' pitching staff. In 1967, he appeared in 25 games (all in relief) with 35 innings pitched. (I guess he was the "situational lefty".) The following season he made 4 starts and relieved in 24 games, but he was no longer the senior southpaw in the bullpen, as Ron Perranoski had been acquired from the Dodgers in the off-season.

In February 1969, Roland was sold to the Athletics, where he joined rookie Rollie Fingers and veterans Lew Krausse and Paul Lindblad in Oakland's bullpen.

After 3 seasons with the A's, Jim was sold to the Yankees in April 1972. At the end of August, the Yanks traded him to the Rangers for pitcher Casey Cox. With Texas, Roland pitched 5 games (a total of 3.1 innings), and fashioned an 8.10 ERA. That was enough to call it a career after the season.

Jim Roland died at age 67 on March 6, 2010 in Shelby, North Carolina, about 90 miles from his birthplace of Franklin, NC.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Final Card: Jack Lamabe

This is the final card for Jack Lamabe (#311).

Jack was signed by the Phillies in 1956. After one season with their class-D club in the Carolina League, he was released and subsequently picked up by the Pirates. Lamabe spent 5 seasons in the Pirates minor-league organization before making his major-league debut with the Pirates in April 1962.

After just one season in Pittsburgh, he was traded to the Red Sox (along with 1st baseman Dick Stuart) for pitcher Don Schwall and catcher Jim Pagliaroni. In his first season with Boston, Jack was the #2 man in the bullpen behind Dick Radatz. In 1964 Lamabe joined the rotation, compiling a 9-13 record. He spent most of 1965 with Boston's triple-A team in Toronto, then was traded to the Astros in September for pitcher Darrell Brandon.

Jack only played 3 games for the Astros. In December he was traded to the White Sox for outfielder Dave Nicholson and catcher Bill Heath. Lamabe made 17 starts and 17 relief appearances for the Sox in 1966.

He was one of baseball's big travelers in 1967, as one of 5 players to play for 3 teams that season (along with Jim King, Jim Landis, Ken Harrelson, and White Sox teammate John Buzhardt). In April he was shipped to the Mets, and 3 months later he had the good fortune of being traded from the lowly Mets to the eventual world champion Cardinals. He pitched in three games in the 1967 World Series (pretty much all the games that were not complete games by Bob Gibson).

All good things must come to an end however, and for Jack that was April 1968, when the Cardinals traded him to the Cubs. He finished his major-league career in 1968 with the Cubs, and spent the 1969 season in the minors, both with the Cubs' and Expos' organizations.