Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tim Cullen (#209)

Moving around the horn, we come to Tim Cullen, the Topps all-rookie shortstop in 1967.

Cullen was signed by the Red Sox in 1964 out of Santa Clara University, and reported directly to triple-A Seattle. After his first season (as a 3rd baseman), he was drafted by the Senators, and played another season and a half in triple-A (now as a shortstop), before he was called up in early August 1966. Tim played 18 games with the Sens over the rest of the season.

Tim made the Senators at the start of 1967, and was a spot-starter at 2B and 3B early in the season. On July 5th, he wrested the starting shortstop job away from light-hitting Ed Brinkman, and started 62 of the final 84 games there.

That was good enough to snag the Topps All-Rookie post, but prior to the 1968 season, Cullen was traded to the White Sox (with pitchers Bob Priddy and Buster Narum) for shortstop Ron Hansen and pitchers Dennis Higgins and Steve Jones.

Chicago had also re-acquired shortstop Luis Aparicio from the Orioles in the off-season, so Cullen was installed at 2nd base. Tim held a regular job from day 1 until mid-June, then was relegated to the bench in favor of Sandy Alomar.

By early August, Cullen was returned to Washington in exchange for Hansen. (Cullen and Hansen are the only 2 players to ever be traded for each other twice in the same season.) For the remainder of 1968, and for 2 more seasons, Tim shared the starting 2nd base job with Bernie Allen.

In 1971, he split his starts between 2nd base and shortstop, as the Senators were easing rookies Lenny Randle (2B) and Toby Harrah (ss) into the starting lineup. Cullen followed the team to Texas in 1972, but was released by the Rangers in spring training.

A month later, the Athletics picked him up, and he began his final season in triple-A, before the A's recalled him in late June. Tim and ex-Indians' shortstop Larry Brown split the 2nd base job for the bulk of the season, as veteran A's 2nd-sacker Dick Green missed most of the '72 season.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rod Carew (#80)

I've already posted 1st baseman Lee May's all-rookie card, so let's skip ahead to 2nd base.

Rod Carew checks in as the 2nd baseman on Topps' 1967 All-Rookie team (which makes sense, since he was the AL Rookie of the Year). This was my first Carew card, as to this day Rod's 1967 rookie card is one of 4 cards I need to complete that set.

Carew was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1945, but grew up in New York City. He was signed by the Twins in 1964, and played a half-season in rookie ball in '64, then 2 seasons in class-A ball before making his major-league debut at the start of the 1967 season. (Carew hit .303 in his 1st season in class A. I wonder why the Twins didn't promote him to double A for 1966. Maybe it was his 28 errors at 2nd base?)

Rod assumed the starting 2nd base job on opening day 1967, and started 131 games there (missing 17 consecutive games in mid-August). Carew was a slam-dunk for Rookie of the Year, getting 19 of the possible 20 votes (Red Sox' center fielder Reggie Smith received 1 vote). He also made his first of 18 consecutive all-star teams.

Carew played his first 12 seasons with the Twins. During that time, he led the AL in batting 7 times, and hit over .330 in 2 other seasons.

He switched to 1st base in 1976, and continued his torrid hitting. Rod was the AL MVP in 1977, while leading the league in runs, hits, triples, batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. He also collected 100 walks that season.

In February 1979, Carew was traded to the Angels for pitchers Paul Hartzell and Brad Havens, catcher Dave Engle, and outfielder Ken Landreaux. His league-leading days were over, although he hit over .300 in his first 5 seasons in California, including .339 in 1983.

Injuries limited him to 93 games in 1984, although he hit .295 that season. Carew's final season was 1985, the only year he didn't make the all-star team.

Rod appeared in the post-season 4 times: '69 and '70 with the Twins, and '79 and '82 with the Angels.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, with 90% of the vote.