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.