Saturday, September 20, 2014

Claude Osteen (#440)

Claude Osteen was a starting pitcher for 18 seasons (1957-75), primarily for the Dodgers and Senators. He compiled a career record of 196-195, and started 488 of his 541 career games. Most of his relief appearances came early in his career.

Osteen was signed by the Reds in 1957 and was assigned to their AA Nashville team. Although he pitched in the minors from 1957-59, he played a few games with the Reds in ’57 and ’59.

Claude was with the Reds for the entire 1960 season, starting 3 games but mostly working out of the bullpen. He spent most of 1961 back in the minors, then was traded to the Senators in September for pitcher Dave Sisler (brother of Phillies’ outfielder Dick Sisler).

Osteen pitched the next 3 seasons in the Senators’ rotation, his high point winning 15 games in 1964.

After the 1964 season, Claude was traded to the Dodgers (with 3rd baseman John Kennedy) for outfielder Frank Howard, 3rd baseman Ken McMullen, pitchers Phil Ortega and Pete Richert, and 1st baseman Dick Nen.

Osteen pitched for the Dodgers for the next 9 seasons, joining a rotation featuring Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and a fading Johnny Podres. Over time, Don Sutton replaced Podres and Bill Singer replaced Koufax. With the retirement of Drysdale after the 1969 season, Claude became the dean of the starting rotation.

Claude started 2 games in the 1965 World Series, and 1 game in the 1966 Series. He also won 20 games in 1969 and 1972, and was a 3-time all-star with the Dodgers. He got the win in the 1970 all-star game (thanks to Pete Rose’s walk-off steamrolling of Ray Fosse at home plate!)

1973 was Osteen’s final season with the Dodgers. He won 16 games that year, but with a fully-stocked rotation of Sutton, Andy Messersmith, Tommy John, and Al Downing, Osteen was traded to the Dodgers after the season for outfielder Jimmy Wynn.

Claude played most of 1974 with the Astros (compiling a 9-9 record in 138 innings), but moved on to the Cardinals in August in exchange for 2 minor-leaguers. He pitched in 8 games (mostly in relief) over the final six weeks, then was released the following April.

Osteen spent his final season with the White Sox in 1975, pitching 204 innings in 37 starts with a 7-16 record. (After his shabby treatment by the Cardinals in 1974, it was good to see him wrap up his long career as a workhorse!) He was released in April 1976.

After his playing career, he was a pitching coach for the Cardinals, Phillies, Rangers, and Dodgers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tom Haller (#185)

Tom Haller was a catcher for the Giants and Dodgers in the 1960s. Here we see him on his last card as a Giant. He was traded to the Dodgers prior to the 1968 season for Ron Hunt, but both players appear as Giants in the ’68 set.

After playing quarterback at the University of Illinois, Haller was signed by the Dodgers in 1958. After 3 seasons in the minors, Tom began 1961 with the Giants, but spent the 2nd half of the season back in the minors.

He platooned at catcher with veteran Ed Bailey in 1962 and 1963, then took over as the #1 catcher in 1964, a position he would hold through the 1967 season. Haller made the all-star team in 1966 and 1967, his final 2 seasons in San Francisco. He also clubbed a career-high 27 homers in 1966.

In February 1968 (with rookie catcher Dick Dietz ready for regular playing time) Haller was traded to the Dodgers for 2nd baseman Ron Hunt and utility infielder Nate Oliver. It was the first trade between the two teams since their move to California in 1958.

Tom was immediately installed as the starting catcher in LA, taking over for John Roseboro, who had been traded to the Twins 3 months earlier. Haller made his 3rd consecutive all-star squad in 1968, then continued as the #1 catcher in 1969.

In 1970 he started 91 games behind the plate, with backups Jeff Torborg and Bill Sudakis (the team’s starting 3rd baseman in 1969) splitting the remaining games.

In 1971, Tom shared the starting catching duties with Duke Sims (acquired from the Indians), with rookie Joe Ferguson also getting a few dozen starts as the 3rd-stringer.

Haller was traded to the Tigers after the 1971 season, and spent the ’72 season backing up perennial all-star Bill Freehan. By early August, Tom’s old pal Duke Sims was acquired from the Dodgers, and joined the catching mix. Haller only started 4 games after Sims’ arrival.

During one start in July 1972, Haller was catching, while his older brother Bill (an American League umpire) was working behind the plate.

The Phillies acquired Haller before the 1973 season, mostly to serve as a mentor and insurance policy for Bob Boone, who, after a cup of coffee in September ’72, would be handed the starting catching job in 1973. Haller decided to retire, rather than accept a trade to the Phillies.

Haller was the Giants’ GM from 1981-85, and the White Sox’ GM in 1986.

He passed away in November 2004 at age 67.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Orioles Team (#334)

Here is the Orioles team card. Topps did away with the superimposed yellow or red background for their team cards in 1968, but only issued cards for 13 of the 20 teams.

What a difference 1 year makes! The Orioles went from World Champions in 1966 to tied for 6th place in 1967. Why? Frank Robinson missed every game from 6/28 to 7/28 after a collision caused him to suffer from double vision.

Also, almost all their starting pitchers came down with arm injuries. The most severe was Jim Palmer, who spent most of '67 and all of '68 recuperating in the minors. Dave McNally, Wally Bunker, and Steve Barber were also ineffective, with Barber traded to the Yankees in July.

In place of Palmer and the others, rookie Tom Phoebus stepped up to lead the staff with 14 wins, 179 strikeouts, and a 3.33 ERA.

Not to worry, the Orioles would be back in 1969 (and 1970... and 1971).

Friday, August 1, 2014

Dick Williams (#87)

What a rookie season! After finishing no higher than 6th place for the previous 7 seasons (including two 9th and two 8th place finishes), the Red Sox gave Dick Williams his first big-league managing job in 1967, and he guided the team to their first World Series since 1946. Unfortunately, just as in ‘46, the Sox lost in 7 to the Cardinals.

Williams began his baseball career as an outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Signed in 1947, he played 4 seasons in the minors, then played for Brooklyn as a spare outfielder from 1951 to 1954.

Dick spent all of 1955 and part of 1956 in the minors. After only 7 games with the Dodgers in 1956, Williams was claimed off waivers by the Orioles, and became their regular center fielder for the remainder of the season.

In mid-June 1957, Williams was traded to the Indians, who then traded him back to the O’s a few days before the start of the ’58 season. After just one season back in Baltimore (this time as a swing man between 1B/3B/CF), he was shipped out to the Kansas City Athletics.

Williams played for the A’s in ’59 and ’60, starting about half the team’s games at 3rd base or 1st base. In 1961, Williams was traded on the 2nd day of the season to ... (anyone?) the Orioles! Now in his 3rd stint with the team, Dick shared the left field job with Russ Snyder, while also making the occasional start at 1st base. 1962 would be his last in Baltimore, and he was relegated to a utility role.

Williams wrapped up his playing career with 2 seasons in Boston, playing his final game on 10/1/64.


Dick immediately went into managing, piloting Boston’s AAA Toronto team to first-division finishes in ’65 and ’66. That earned him the Red Sox’ job in 1967, and what a year for the BoSox. Not only did they win the pennant, but Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown, and Jim Lonborg led the AL in wins and strikeouts while winning the Cy Young award.

Williams managed the Red Sox until his firing with a week remaining in 1969. He moved on to Oakland for 1971-73, guiding the team to 3 division titles and 2 World Championships in his 3 seasons. This was all done with players that were famous for not liking each other (or not liking Williams, I don't remember which).

Dick had less success with the Angels (1974-76) and the Expos (1977-81), then moved on to the Padres from 1982-85, including winning the NL pennant in 1984. His final manager’s job was with the Mariners from 1986-88. He later worked for the Yankees as a consultant.

In 21 seasons as a manager, Williams compiled a 1571-1451 record, with 4 pennants and 2 World Series Championships. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Williams passed away in July 2011 at age 82.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Felipe Alou (#55)

Felipe Alou played 17 seasons (1958-74) for 6 teams, mostly the Giants and Braves. Although mostly an outfielder, he played about half his games at 1st base from 1965-67 with the Braves and from 1971-73 with the Yankees.

Felipe is the oldest of the 3 Alou brothers, who all began their careers with the Giants. Felipe's son Moises also played in the majors from 1990-2008.

Alou was signed by the Giants in 1955, and played 2 ½ seasons in the minors before making his big-league debut with the Giants in June 1958. Felipe backed up rookie Willie Kirkland in right field for the remainder of the season.

1959 was more of the same for Alou, backing up Kirkland in right field. In late July, rookie Willie McCovey joined the Giants, which caused incumbent 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda to play about half his games in left field for the next few seasons. With Willie Mays in center field, all other outfielders would have to vie for playing time in right field.

In 1960 Alou was the regular left fielder for the 50+ games when Cepeda would move in to 1st base. From 1961 to 1963, Felipe was the Giants' regular right fielder, often backed up by his brother Matty. His youngest brother Jesus joined the Giants in September 1963, Felipe's last few weeks with the Giants. All 3 Alou brothers played in the same outfield only once – on September 15th.

After the season, Felipe was traded to the Braves (with pitcher Billy Hoeft, catcher Ed Bailey, and infielder Ernie Bowman) for pitchers Bob Shaw and Bob Hendley, and catcher Del Crandall. Alou began the '64 season as the Braves’ starting center fielder, but by mid-June had lost that post to Lee Maye, and spent the remainder of the season as the 4th outfielder.

Felipe began playing 1st base in 1965, and spent the next 3 seasons dividing his time between 1st, left field, and center field. He also was quite good with the stick. In 1966 he finished 2nd among NL batters with a .327 average (right behind his brother Matty). In 1968 he finished 3rd (behind Pete Rose and Matty) with a .317 average.

After Mack Jones was traded away following the 1967 season, Alou spent the next 2 seasons as the Braves' regular center fielder.

After the '69 season, he was traded to Oakland for pitcher Jim Nash. Alou only spent one full season with the Athletics. At age 35, he played in an outfield that included Rick Monday and Reggie Jackson, both 24. Felipe played in left field, and also 70 games in right (mostly when Jackson played center in Monday's absence).

Felipe started the first 2 games of the 1971 season, then at week's end was traded to the Yankees. He played the rest of '71, all of '72, and most of '73 in the Big Apple. He was a regular in 1971, playing RF/CF/1B. For the next 2 seasons he shared the first base job with Ron Blomberg.

In September 1973 Alou hit the road again, this time for Montreal. He played 19 games for the Expos during the season's final month, then was sold to the Brewers in the off-season. After 3 games with Milwaukee, he was released in April 1974.

Alou became a manager after his playing career, with stops in Montreal (1992-2001) and San Francisco (2003-06).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Playing Card Inserts (revisited)

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about these playing cards over at The Five Tool Collector blog.

A few years ago I posted the entire set on this blog, and several weeks ago I came across a stash of duplicates that I didn't know I had. I have shown 1-each of my duplicates below, although for some cards I have several (EIGHT of Gary Peters!)

If anyone is interested in these cards, I would be open to trades that would help me complete my 1966 and 1970 Topps sets, or anything else that is found on my want list. Please contact me by email (found on my profile page).

Batter up!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bob Humphreys (#268)

A few months ago, I found a page on listing the 100 oldest living ex-players. Within the scope of the 1966 to 1970 card sets, the only names listed there were 3 managers. Last week I decided to find out who were the oldest living ex-players from that time period that I haven’t yet featured on my blogs. 

As best as I can determine, they are pitchers Orlando Pena and Camilo Pascual (both 80), outfielder Russ Snyder (turning 80 tomorrow), 1B-OF Felipe Alou (79), and pitchers Bob Humphreys and Jim Perry (both 78). Nine others are 77, with Fred Gladding, Vic Davalillo, and J.C. Martin turning 78 later this year. 

Bob Humphreys was a relief pitcher for 5 teams from 1962 to 1970, most notably the Washington Senators. He pitched in 319 games during his career, all but 4 as a reliever.

Humphreys was signed by the Tigers in 1958. After 5 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut with Detroit in September 1962.

During spring training in 1963, Bob was sold to the Cardinals. He spent the next 2 seasons shuffling between the Cardinals and their triple-A team.

In April 1965, Humphreys was traded to the Cubs for 2 minor-leaguers: pitcher Hal Gilson and infielder Bobby Pfeil. He appeared in 41 games for the Cubs that season, 3rd-most among their relievers.

After only one season in the Windy City, Bob was traded to Washington for Ken Hunt, a 6-year journeyman outfielder who got most of his playing time with the expansion Angels in 1961, and whose last major-league game was in 1964.

Humphreys worked out of the Senators’ bullpen for 4 ½ seasons, his longest stint with any team.  Bob appeared in more than 45 games in each of his full seasons there.

After his release on June 13, 1970 the Brewers picked him up two days later, and Bob finished out the season (and his career) with Milwaukee. He was released in March 1971 and pitched that season with the Brewers’ AAA team.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Don Sutton (#103)

Here is future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Don Sutton, about to enter his 3rd season. His 1966 rookie season was also Sandy Koufax’ final season.

Sutton was signed by the Dodgers in 1964, and pitched only 1 season in the minors. He compiled a 23-7 combined record, pitching in A and AA ball in 1965. Don made his big-league debut in April 1966 as the #4 starter behind Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Claude Osteen. Sutton posted a record of 11-11 with 209 strikeouts and a 2.99 ERA.

With Koufax’ retirement after 1966, everyone moved up a notch in the starting rotation. Don posted 2 consecutive 11-15 seasons, then bounced back in 1969 with 17 wins and 217 strikeouts.

Sutton was one of the Dodgers’ top starting pitchers through the 1980 season, partnering first with Drysdale, Osteen and Bill Singer, then later on with Al Downing, Andy Messersmith, and Tommy John. He led the league with 9 shutouts in 1972, and with a 2.20 ERA in 1980. Don made the all-star team in ‘72, ’73, ’75, and ’77, and finished in the top 5 Cy Young voting every season from 1972 to 1975. Sutton also pitched in the NLCS and World Series in ’74, ’77, and ’78.

Don became a free agent after the 1980 season, and signed with the Astros. After 1 ½ seasons in Houston he was traded to Milwaukee in August ’82 for outfielder Kevin Bass and two others, as the Brewers geared-up for their first post-season.

Sutton went 4-1 in 7 starts for the rest of the season, and was 1-1 in 3 post-season games. He pitched for 2 more seasons in Milwaukee, then was traded to the Athletics after the 1984 season.

Don bounced around for the next 3 seasons from the Athletics to the Angels, before finishing his career in 1988 with the Dodgers. He was a starting pitcher right up to the end, finally getting his release on August 10, 1988. Sutton pitched for 23 seasons, amassing 324 wins and 3574 strikeouts.

In 1998, Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and also had his #20 retired by the Dodgers.

Sutton has been broadcasting baseball games since 1989, mostly for the Braves.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tommy John (#72)

At long last, Tommy John gets his day on this blog. This is my first-ever Tommy John card, from the coarse-burlap-grained 1st series, bought around April 1968.

John’s 1967 card is one of the 4 cards from that set that I still don’t have. It’s from the high-numbered (7th) series, and in fact is the final card in the set (#609). Popular lore says that the first and last cards in a set are the hardest to find in good condition, because kids put a rubber band around their cards and it dug into the edges of the first and last cards. To that I say bah! There’s no rubber band large enough for a 609-card stack of cards. But I digress… 

Tommy John had a 26-year career as a starting pitcher from 1963 to 1989, for six teams, most notably the White Sox, Dodgers, and Yankees. He missed the 1975 season (while out with “Tommy John” surgery – go figure!). Over his career, he started 700 of his 760 games, and compiled a 288-231 record with 2245 strikeouts. He also made 4 all-star games and appeared in 14 post-season games between 1977 and 1982.

John was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1961, and played in the minors for 3 seasons before making his debut with 6 games in September 1963. Tommy began the 1964 season in the minors, but also pitched 25 games for the Indians from early-May to mid-July, then again in late-September.

Before the 1965 season, John was sent to the White Sox in an 8-player, 3-team deal. He immediately landed in the Sox’ starting rotation along with Joel Horlen, John Buzhardt, and Gary Peters. At age 22, Tommy compiled a 14-7 record in his first season on the South Side.

In 1966 he led the team in wins (14), starts (33) and innings pitched (223), and had a 2.62 ERA. Although Tommy remained one of the White Sox’ top 3 starters for the next several seasons, he slumped to 10 wins in ’67 and again in ’68, then 9 wins in ’69. His 1967 ERA of 2.48 was 4th-best in the league. If he could have shaved it down below 2.38, the White Sox would have had the top 3 ERA leaders that season.

He bounced back somewhat in 1970 with 12 wins, and was the team’s top starter that season. (Horlen had a huge off-year at 6-16, and Peters had been traded away to Boston after 1969.) John maintained a similar record in 1971, although Wilbur Wood and his 22 wins led the staff that season.

After the 1971 season, Tommy was traded to the Dodgers for first baseman Dick Allen. John had 3 solid seasons in LA before missing the entire 1975 season following surgery that would eventually bear his name.

He bounced back and had 3 more good years with the Dodgers, including a 20-win season in 1977, followed by 17 wins in ’78. He was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1976, and appeared in the NLCS and World Series in both ’77 and ’78.

John was granted free agency after the 1978 season, and signed with the Yankees. His first 2 seasons in New York were superb, compiling 21-9 and 22-9 records. After an off-year in ’81, John was traded to the Angels in August 1982. He remained with the Angels until they released him in June 1985.

Tommy was picked up by the Athletics a month later, and finished out the season with Oakland. Granted free agency after the season, the Yankees signed him in May 1986, and he manned their starting rotation for the next 3-plus seasons, until his final release on May 30, 1989.

As mentioned earlier, John had a 26-year career, 11 ½ prior to his surgery, and 13 ½ afterwards.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Earl Wilson (#160)

Here we see Earl Wilson, coming off his first full season with the Tigers, and about to embark on a season culminating in a World Series championship!

Wilson was signed by the Red Sox way back in 1953. He pitched 4 seasons in the low minors, then lost the ’57 and ’58 seasons while in military service. He returned to the minors (triple-A) in 1959, but also played 9 games for the Sox during the 2nd half of 1959, and 13 games in the 2nd half of 1960. In 1959, Wilson became the first black pitcher to play for Boston.

After a full season back in triple-A in 1961, Wilson made the Red Sox for good at the start of the 1962 season. From '62 to '65, Earl averaged 12 wins a season, as he and Bill Monbouquette formed a 1-2 punch in the starting rotation.

With the emergence of Jim Lonborg and others, both Wilson (age 30) and Monbouquette (29) were deemed past their prime, and were dealt to the Tigers in separate deals. Monbo was traded in December ’65 for a bag of beans, and Wilson, the following June for an aging Don Demeter. Wilson was 5-5 at the time of the trade, but went on a 13-6 tear with the Tigers, to finish up at 18-11, good for 3rd best in the AL. His 200 strikeouts was also 3rd best.

In 1967 he won 22 games, tieing him with Lonborg for the most victories. The Red Sox lost the ’67 World Series by 1 game. If they had held onto Wilson, the Series outcome could have been different.

In 1968 and 1969, Earl settled back into the 12 to 13 wins bracket he was in from 1962-66. He was the Tigers’ #3 starting pitcher (behind Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich) during their World Champions season, and started game #3 in the Series. (After falling behind in the Series , the Tigers came back with their top 2 starters for games #6 and #7, winning both.)

1970 was Wilson’s last season. With his record at 4-6, he was sold to the Padres in mid-July. After a lackluster 1-6 showing with San Diego, he was released in January 1971.

Wilson died from a heart attack in April 2005, at age 70.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Al McBean (#514)

Alvin McBean was born and raised in the US Virgin Islands. He was signed by the Pirates in 1958, and pitched in their farm system for 4 seasons (1958-61). He started out as a swingman, but by 1961 he was primarily a reliever.

Al was summoned to the majors in early July, and made his first of 27 appearances for the Bucs on July 2nd. He pitched in relief except for 2 starts in mid-September.

When I was "playing" with my baseball cards back in the day, I always figured McBean to be a 2nd-tier starter behind Bob Veale and Steve Blass, and that the bullpen was headed up by Elroy Face and Pete Mikkelsen. Tonight, I’m finding out that McBean was a key member of the Pirates bullpen from 1963-67, and that my pre-conceived notion of him really only matched his 1968 season. 

In 1962 McBean was plugged into the starting rotation, and compiled a 15-10 record in 33 games, as the #2 starter behind veteran Bob Friend.

In 1963 he was back in the bullpen, and fashioned a 13-3 record along with 11 saves (2nd on the team behind veteran closer Elroy Face).

In ’64 and ’65, Al surpassed Face as the team’s save leader with 22 and 18 saves for those 2 seasons. He was also named Reliever of the Year by The Sporting News in 1964.

After 2 more seasons in the bullpen (behind a rejuvenated Elroy Face), McBean was put back in the starting rotation in 1968. By now, Bob Friend and Vern Law were long gone, with Bob Veale running the show, and Steve Blass at #2. Al was the #3 starter in his final season with the Pirates, compiling a 9-12 record in 36 games (28 starts).

After the season he was selected by the Padres in the expansion draft. After only 1 game with San Diego, McBean was traded to the Dodgers in mid-April for shortstop Tommy Dean.

Al made 31 relief appearances for LA for the remainder of the 1969 season. Al began the 1970 season with the Dodgers, but after only 1 game he was released on April 24th. The Pirates re-signed him on the same day, but after pitching only 10 innings over 7 games (and sporting an ERA of 8.10), he was released on May 18th, ending his major-league career.

I learned tonight that McBean spent the remainder of 1970, and 1971 pitching for the Phillies’ AAA team in Eugene, Oregon.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

AL Pitching Leaders (#8, #10, #12)

Here are the 1968 cards showing the previous season's American League pitching leaders in ERA, victories, and strikeouts. Like many of the mid-1960s' AL pitching leader cards, the Indians and White Sox are well represented.

Joel Horlen and Gary Peters (both frequent guests on the AL ERA leaders cards) gave the Chisox a great 1-2 punch.  Their teammate Tommy John just missed being included on this card by a 0.10 margin!  The Indians' Sonny Siebert rounds out the top three, which he also did two years earlier.

The ERA leaders cards also include a "more than 75 innings" category (primarily for relievers). Leading that group was 44-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm, with a miniscule 1.31 ERA.

Having his career year in 1967, Jim Lonborg topped AL pitchers with 22 victories. Actually, Jim shared the lead with Tigers' pitcher (and former Red Sox teammate) Earl Wilson. Wilson was traded to the Tigers during the 1966 season, and finished among the top 3 that season.

It seems like if they had kept Wilson, he could have made the difference in the 1967 World Series, which Boston lost in 7 games. The only other 20-game winner in the AL in '67 was Dean Chance, in his first season with the Twins.

Here's Lonborg again, edging out Sam McDowell by only 10 strikeouts. McDowell led the AL in strikeouts in '65, '66, '68, '69, and '70. Dean Chance finished 3rd here also, with Topps using the same photo as above. Rounding out the 200+ strikeout club were two more Twins, an Indian, and the White Sox' Peters.

Click on the "league leaders" label below to see all the other cards for this year.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Woody Woodward (#476)

News flash: I found this great site today, documenting baseball events that happened each year (game events, personnel moves, etc):

William “Woody” Woodward was a 2B-SS for the Braves from 1963 to 1968, and a shortstop for the Reds from 1968 to 1971. His greatest playing time came during 1966-67 with Atlanta.

Woodward was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1963. After playing shortstop with their triple-A Denver Bears for most of the season, Woody made his major-league debut that September.

Woodward stuck with the Braves for the entire 1964 season, backing up 2nd baseman Frank Bolling and shortstop Denis Menke.

Woody began the 1965 season with the triple-A Atlanta Crackers, but was called up to the Braves in late-May to fill in at shortstop for Menke, who was out of the lineup for 5 weeks. Even when Menke returned, Woodward remained the primary shortstop, starting 92 of the final 132 games.

1966 found Woodward back as the swing-man between 2nd base and shortstop, but this time he was the primary 2nd baseman, starting 69 games to Bolling’s 57 starts. Woody also started 67 games at shortstop. He collected a career-high 43 RBI this season.

Frank Bolling was jettisoned after the 1966 season, clearing the way at 2nd base for Woodward, but Woody had someone else to worry about now – rookie 2nd baseman Felix Millan. Woodward started 114 games at 2nd base, while Millan started 37, mostly in late-April and the final 19 games of the season. Woody also made 15 starts at SS, all in September, with Menke again out of the lineup after 9/6.

1968 brought a change in the Braves’ keystone combo. With Millan starting first 64 games at 2B and newly-acquired SS Sonny Jackson (coming from the Astros for Menke in the off-season) starting the first 35 games at short, Woodward was the odd man out.

After a few starts at shortstop in May, Woody was traded to the Reds (with pitchers Clay Carroll and Tony Cloninger) for pitchers Milt Pappas and Ted Davidson, and infielder Bob Johnson. Soon after the trade, Woodward started 16 consecutive games at SS filling in for Chico Cardenas, then settled in to a backup role.

The Reds traded Cardenas to the Twins prior to the 1969 season, and after experimenting with Darrel Chaney and Chico Ruiz for 92 games, Woodward took over the starting shortstop job on 7/25, and started the rest of the way.

In 1970 Woodward shared the SS job with rookie Dave Concepcion. (Uh-oh, can anyone guess where Woody’s career goes from here?) He also hit his only career home run in 1970.

1971 was his final season as a player. He started 65 games at shortstop, but that was 20 less than Concepcion. Woody also started 7 games each at 2B and 3B.

After his playing career, Woodward worked as a Reds’ TV commentator for a short time, then was the head baseball coach at Florida State University (where he had played before turning pro) from 1975-78.

Woody then worked in the front office for several teams. He was the Reds’ assistant GM from 1981-84, Yankees’ GM from 1985-87, Phillies’ GM for the first half of 1988, and the Mariners’ VP of Baseball Operations from July 1988 through the 1999 season.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Al Downing (#105)

Like Hank Aaron, Al Downing also achieved some notoriety 40 years ago today. As a starting pitcher for the Dodgers that season, he gave up Aaron’s 715th career home run, pushing him past Babe Ruth.

Al Downing began his career with the Yankees. He was signed by New York in 1961, and along with 12 starts at class-A Binghamton, Downing made his debut with the Yankees on July 19th, pitching 5 games with the Bombers between mid-July and mid-September.

He spent the 1962 season back in triple-A, only pitching 1 inning for the Yankees on September 30th.

In 1963 he began the season in the minors, but was called up in early June, joining a rotation of Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry, Jim Bouton, and Stan Williams. Al pitched in 24 games from 6/7 to the end of the season. He finished his rookie season with 22 starts, 10 complete games, a 13-5 record, 171 strikeouts, and a 2.56 ERA. He also pitched in one game against the Dodgers in the World Series.

The following season would be the Yankees last good season for over a decade. Downing, along with Ford and Bouton, comprised the “Big 3” in the starting rotation. Al led the league with 217 strikeouts (but also led with 120 walks).

Downing remained in the starting rotation through the 1969 season, then was traded to the Athletics for 1st baseman Danny Cater. After only ½ season in Oakland, he was traded to the Brewers (with 1st baseman Tito Francona) for outfielder Steve Hovley. (?!?)

In February 1971, the Brewers traded Downing to the Dodgers for outfielder Andy Kosco. Al pitched for the Dodgers for 6½ seasons. His best season in LA was his first – winning 20 games, leading the NL with 5 shutouts, and finishing 3rd in the Cy Young voting. He continued as a starter through the 1974 season, then became primarily a reliever in his last 3 seasons.

Downing’s last game was on July 13, 1977. He was released a week later, ending his 17-year career.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Tony Horton (custom)

Today we have an unplanned post: Indians' 1st baseman Tony Horton. Although Horton played for the Red Sox off-and-on from 1964 to early 1967, and was the Indians' starting 1st baseman from late-June 1967 to late-August 1970, Topps never made a card for him. [I found this card a few days ago on the website.]

Horton was signed by the Red Sox in 1962, and played in their farm system from 1963-66. He made his major-league debut in July 1964, and after the season the team traded away veteran 1st baseman Dick Stuart to open the position for Tony in 1965.

That plan didn't work out, as the manager decided to use veteran Lee Thomas for most of the season, with Tony spending part of '65 back in the minors.

After Horton started the first 4 games of the 1966 season at 1st base, rookie George Scott was moved from 3rd base to 1st base. Horton was sent to the bench for the rest of April, then demoted to triple-A for the remainder of the season.

Stuck behind the slugging Scott, Tony's big break came on June 4, 1967 when he was traded to the Indians (with veteran outfielder Don Demeter) for pitcher Gary Bell.

Within a month, Horton took over the first base job from incumbent Fred Whitfield, and held that post until the final game of his career on August 28, 1970.

Although missing 3 weeks in 1968 with a knee injury, Tony still led the Indians with 14 home runs and 59 RBI.

Tony's best season offensively was 1969, when he hit 27 homers and collected 93 RBI along with a .278 batting average. Horton spent most of 1969 and the first half on 1970 as the team's cleanup hitter.

Sometime in 1968, Horton began to feel the pressure of being a big-league ballplayer. His anxieties came to a head during the 1970 season. In a late-June game against the Yankees, Horton struck out on several "eephus" pitches from reliever Steve Hamilton, then threw his bat and helmet, and crawled back to the dugout.

After the slumping Horton endured heavy booing from the hometown fans, he attempted suicide after a game on August 28th, and suffered a nervous breakdown. Tony was hospitalized during the 1970-71 off-season, and by the time the 1971 season rolled around, it was apparent that he was not ready to play. Not until 1972 did the Indians realize Horton would not be returning to baseball.

Tony Horton's SABR page.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mickey Lolich (#414)

Mickey Lolich was a starting pitcher for the Tigers for 13 seasons (1963-75). He also played for the Mets and Padres, retiring in 1979. He still holds the Tigers’ record for strikeouts and shutouts.

Lolich was signed by the Tigers in 1958. He pitched in the minors from 1959 to May 1963, and made his big-league debut on May 12th (my birthday!), pitching the last 2 innings of a blowout loss to the Indians.

Beginning in his 2nd season, Mickey won at least 14 games for 11 consecutive seasons, including a league-leading 25 wins in 1971 along with 22 wins in 1972. He won 17 games during the Tigers’ championship 1968 season, but that was FOURTEEN LESS than teammate Denny McLain’s 31 wins. He also won 3 games in the 1968 World Series, including the deciding game #7 against Bob Gibson.

Lolich made the all-star team in ’69, ’71, and ’72, and finished 2nd and 3rd in the Cy Young voting in ’71 and ’72. In 1971 he also led the AL in strikeouts (308) and complete games (29).

After the 1975 season, he was traded to the Mets for Rusty Staub, and struggled to a 8-13 record in 30 starts in 1976.

He retired after the season, sitting out 1977, but came back with the Padres for 1978-79 as a reliever.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

John Purdin (#336)

John Purdin was a relief pitcher for the Dodgers from 1964-69, although his major-league playing time was mostly confined to 1968.

This is his 2nd of 4 baseball cards. After appearing on a Dodgers Rookies card in 1965, Purdin had his own Dodger card in the '68 and '69 sets. He also appears in the 1971 set as a member of the White Sox. It's odd that Topps would give him his own card in the 1968 set, after not being in the majors since 1965. The same could be said for his 1971 card.

Purdin was signed by the Dodgers in 1964. He pitched a perfect game during his first season in the minors, and made his major-league debut in September 1964, throwing a 2-hit shutout in the final week of the season.

Purdin pitched in the minors from 1964-67, while also playing for the Dodgers in ’64 (3 games) and ’65 (11 games). After no major-league appearances from 1966-67, John spent the entire 1968 season with LA, playing in 35 games (all but 1 out of the bullpen).

In 1969 he made 9 relief appearances, scattered over the first 4 months of the season. His final major-league game was on 8/1/69.

John was traded to the Angels in July 1970, and to the White Sox after the season. His time with the Angels' and White Sox' organizations was spent pitching for triple-A Hawaii.

Purdin passed away in March 2010 at age 67.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Luis Tiant (#532)

Luis Tiant was a starting pitcher for 19 seasons (1964-82). He was a member of the Cleveland Indians’ rotation during the 1960s (which is how I always identify him).

The middle (and probably more famous) part of his career was spent with the Boston Red Sox, where, in addition to having three 20-win seasons, he won 18 games in 1975 for the AL champs and was 3-0 in the post-season.

Tiant is also famous for his patented 180-degree “face the center fielder” pitching windup motion.

Luis began his pro career at age 18, pitching for the Mexico City Tigers from 1959-61. The Tigers sold him to the Cleveland Indians before the 1962 season. Tiant pitched on the Indians’ farm for 2 ½ seasons. He won 14 games in 1963 for the Tribe’s single-A team, and was 15-1 in just the first half of 1964, pitching for triple-A Portland (OR) Beavers.

Tiant was called up to the majors in mid-July 1964, and won another 10 games with Cleveland, primarily as a starter.

Except for parts of the ’65 and ’66 seasons, Luis was always a starter during his time with the Indians, which lasted through the 1969 season. In 1968 he won 21 games, and led the AL with a 1.60 ERA and 9 shutouts, while making his first all-star team.

The following year, he lost 20 games, and was dealt to the Twins after the season with pitcher Stan Williams for pitchers Dean Chance and Bob Miller, 3rd baseman Graig Nettles, and outfielder Ted Uhlaender.

Luis lasted only one season in Minnesota. He was 6-0 by the end of May, but broke a shoulder blade, sidelining him until early August. He was ineffective after returning, finished up at 7-3, and was released the following March.

Tiant was picked up by the Braves in mid-April, and assigned to triple-A. Released a month later, he was then signed by the Red Sox. Boston had him tune-up in triple-A for a month, then called him up to the Sox in early June. Luis started 10 games in his first 6 weeks with the team, then was relegated to the bullpen for the final 2 months of the season.

In 1972, he began a string of 7 consecutive seasons with 12 or more wins for the Red Sox. Luis again led the AL with a 1.91 ERA, while winning 15 games. He won 20 and 22 games in the next 2 seasons.

In the 1975 AL Championship season, he compiled an 18-14 record and led his team in starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts for the 3rd consecutive season. Tiant was 1-0 in the ALCS and 2-0 in the World Series. He played 3 more seasons in Boston, winning 21 games in 1976.

After the 1978 season, he was granted free agency, and signed with the Yankees. After one good and one so-so season in New York, free agency took him to the Pirates for the 1981 season. He spent most of the season at triple-A Portland (where he had been in 1964), and was called up to the Pirates for the last 6 weeks of the season, starting 9 games.

Tiant finished his career back where he started – playing in Mexico in 1982 and 1983. He also played 6 games for the California Angels at the end of the 1982 season.

Although Cuban, Tiant was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jim Fregosi (#367, #170)

A quick look at the cards of Jim Fregosi, who passed away on Friday.

I was a bit surprised that Fregosi was selected to the 1967 All-Star team. Luis Aparicio had the advantage of his reputation, and a 1966 World Series championship behind him, but as the back of Fregosi's base card says, he led all shortstops in 1967 with a .290 batting average.

I previously posted Fregosi's 1966 and 1967 cards to those blogs.

Rest in Peace, Jim Fregosi.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Claude Raymond (#166)

Since October, I’ve been playing catch-up with the teams that haven’t been represented as much as others on my blogs. On the 1968 blog, all teams have at least 4 posts except the Braves…until now.

Claude Raymond had a 12-year career (1959, 1961-71) as a relief pitcher. In 449 games, he only made 7 starts – all in 1965 for the Astros. A French-Canadian from Quebec, he would play his final 2 ½ seasons with the fledgling Montreal Expos, becoming the ultimate hometown favorite.

Raymond was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1955 and played in their farm system from 1955 to 1962. His minor-league stint was briefly interrupted when the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 draft in December 1958. He began the 1959 season on the White Sox roster, but after pitching in 3 games, he was returned to the Braves in May.

Claude split the 1961 and 1962 seasons between Milwaukee and triple-A, then played the entire 1963 season with the Braves. Raymond was drafted by the Houston Colt .45s in October 1963 in a “special draft”. (A few months ago, I read somewhere that the Colt .45s and Mets were allowed to select additional players after their 2nd year, in an attempt to beef up their struggling rosters.)

For 3 ½ seasons, Raymond labored in Houston’s bullpen, along with veterans Jim Owens and Hal Woodeshick. In 1966, Claude advanced to the closer’s spot, leading the team with 16 saves.

In June 1967, he was returned to the Braves in exchange for pitcher Wade Blasingame (not that one). In his only full season with the Braves (1968) he collected 10 saves, 2nd-most on the staff.

Raymond was sold to the expansion Expos in August 1969, and immediately became a fan favorite, due to his French-Canadian heritage. He led the staff with 23 saves in 1970, but in his final season (1971) he took a back seat to Mike Marshall.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Boog Powell (#381)

John “Boog” Powell was the slugging 1st-sacker for the Orioles in the 1960s and early 1970s. He played for 17 seasons, all but the last 3 for Baltimore. (I didn’t know he also played for the Indians until someone posted his “Cleveland Red Pajamas” card on their blog a year or 2 ago. I also didn’t know he played for the Dodgers until tonight!)

Boog was signed by the Orioles in 1959, and played in the minors from 1959-61, with 2/3 of his games as a 1st baseman and the rest as an outfielder. He made his major-league debut in September 1961, playing 4 games with the O’s.

Powell was inserted into the starting lineup from the get-go in 1962, but with veteran Jim Gentile at 1st base, Boog found a home in left field, starting 112 games there ahead of 1961’s incumbent left fielder, future manager Dick Williams.

In 1964, Powell hit 39 homers (which would be his career-high) and led the AL with a .606 slugging percentage.

Boog continued as the team’s regular left fielder until midway through the 1965 season. Until then, his only significant playing time at 1st base was 23 games in 1963. With rookie outfielder Curt Blefary joining the team in ‘65, Powell began making the occasional start at 1st base in early June, and by the end of the month he had replaced the veteran Norm Siebern at 1st base. His only return to the outfield was for a 2-week stretch in late August (maybe Blefary was on the DL?) It was his last outfield time in his career.

Powell completed his transition to 1st base in 1966. He played 136 games there, clubbed 34 homers, and collected 109 RBI, while finishing 3rd in the MVP voting behind teammates Frank and Brooks Robinson. (Powered by those 3 offensive stars, and their starting pitching, it must have been one big party on the way to a World Series sweep!)

Boog’s numbers declined in ’67 and ’68, but he returned in a big way in 1969 (37/121) and 1970 (35/114). After finishing as the AL MVP runner-up in ’69, he won the award in 1970. The O’s made it to the World Series both years, winning in 1970. Powell was also a 4-time all-star selection from 1968-71.

Boog played for the Orioles through the 1974 season, but never again approached the numbers he put up in ’69 and ’70.

During spring training in 1975, Powell and pitcher Don Hood were traded to the Indians for catcher Dave Duncan. Boog was the tribe’s 1st baseman for all of 1975 and half of 1976. (Cleveland used 10 players at 1st base that season, with Boog starting 83 games there – 60 more than the next guy.)

Cleveland released him near the end of spring training in 1977. A few days later the Dodgers signed him, and used him almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter in his final season. His only start at 1st base came on August 15th. He made 2 more pinch-hitting appearances, then was released on August 31st, ending his 17-year career.

Powell finished with 339 home runs and 1187 RBI.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Angels in the Outfield: Eight is Enough

Duplicating a feat from the previous year, Topps again issued cards for EIGHT Angels' outfielders. (This doesn't even include "INF-OF" Woodie Held.) The pitching staff took the hit for this, with only 7 cards. At least Topps cut back from 4 to 3 catchers this year.

Here they are in order of 1968 games played in the outfield:
Rick Reichardt (148), Roger Repoz (114), Bubba Morton (50), Ed Kirkpatrick (45), Jimmie Hall (39), Chuck Hinton (37), Jay Johnstone (29), Jose Cardenal (0).

Cardenal was traded to the Indians in the off-season for Chuck Hinton, not in time to change his 1st-series card. The Angels also acquired Vic Davalillo, who played 86 games in the outfield.