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.