Wednesday, March 28, 2018

50 Years Ago - 1968 Opening Day Lineups (AL)

Here are the opening day American League lineups from half a century ago. Teams are shown in order of their 1968 finish.

Pitching aces Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich must have been resting up for their big seasons ahead.  1st baseman Norm Cash is missing too.

Tom Phoebus stepped up as a rookie in 1967 to fill the void when 1966 pitching stars Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, and Wally Bunker all went down with injuries, and was rewarded with the Opening Day nod in 1968. Mark Belanger missed the opener, so Dave Johnson slid over to shortstop.  And why is "Clank" in right field, having swapped positions with Frank Robinson? Hiding bad outfielders in right field is a little league ploy!

Just like the Tigers, the Indians are without their #1 pitcher (Sam McDowell) for Opening Day. Everyone else here was a regular in 1968.

1967 ace Jim Lonborg blew out a knee during an off-season skiing trip, so the Opening Day starting nod goes to .... Dick Ellsworth????  What about Gary Bell?  Dalton Jones and Joe Lahoud are filling in for Joe Foy and Ken Harrelson.

Wow!  I'm surprised to realize the Yankees finished as high as 5th place in 1968. Jake Gibbs, Bobby Cox, and Andy Kosco were the regulars at C, 3B, and RF, but not on Opening Day.

Here are the Athletics in their first season in Oakland, and only Bert Campaneris returns from 1967's Opening Day lineup. Nice mix of airbrushing and capless shots, Topps!  I wonder if any geniuses at Topps ever thought to back-load the Athletics' cards to the later series, after they had time to develop their Spring Training photographs?

The Twins were in the hunt until the last week of 1967, but fell off to 7th place in 1968. They seemed to have good pitching and a good everyday lineup (except at shortstop).

Just like the Twins, the White Sox really bombed in 1968.  After finishing in 4th place (3 games back) in 1967, they finished 8th (36 games back) in '68. They acquired Luis Aparicio and Tommy Davis, but lost Tommie Agee and Don Buford. 

This was the Angels' regular lineup for most of the season, with a few exceptions: Paul Schaal missed the 2nd half of the season following a beaning; Vic Davalillo was acquired in mid-season to play center field; right field was a carousel of 5 different starters.

Ahhh... the Senators.  They finished in 10th place in 1968, but the following year Teddy Ballgame would coax them to 4th place, instilling new life in them just in time for their move to Texas! Bernie Allen was the regular 2nd baseman in '68, and right field was shared by Ed Stroud and Cap Peterson, but the rest of these guys were 1st string.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

50 Years Ago - 1968 Opening Day Lineups (NL)

Here are the opening day lineups from half a century ago. Teams are shown in order of their 1968 finish.

The complete starting lineup for the 1967 World Champs is back on Opening Day 1968.

After trading catcher Tom Haller to LA for Ron Hunt in the off-season, the Giants used 2nd-year Dick Dietz as their regular catcher, but not on Opening Day. Jim Hart’s defensive shortcomings finally pushed him to the outfield.

Did pitcher Fergie Jenkins and 2nd baseman Glenn Beckert miss the team bus?

Johnny Bench started 139 games in 1968, but none until game #6. Alex Johnson was acquired from the Cardinals in the off-season, and won his first every-day job. After 1969 he would be on the move again, in keeping with his career-long pattern of wearing out his welcome every 2 years.

Deron Johnson spent 1 season in Atlanta between his stints with the Reds and Phillies. Rookie Mike Lum replaced Rico Carty (who missed the ’68 season with tuberculosis) in left field.

Jim Bunning was acquired from the Phillies in the off-season and was named Opening Day starter, ahead of Bob Veale. Like Bunning, Veale was usually among the NL strikeout leaders, but was already on the Bucs’ staff for a few years. I guess they had to justify the 4-for-1 trade for Bunning. The rest of these guys were the season-long regulars.

With Bunning traded away to the Pirates, Chris Short became the team’s ace. In his 1st season with Philly, Mike Ryan shared the catching duties with Clay Dalrymple. Rookies Don Money and Larry Hisle were handed the SS and CF jobs in spring training, but flopped in April and were sent back to the minors for a year. As you can see, they both won Topps All-Rookie awards a year later. Dick Allen returned to the lineup after missing the last 6 weeks of 1967 with a hand injury, but played left field in 1968.

For the 2nd straight year, Don Drysdale did not pitch on Opening Day. The Dodgers traded away veteran catcher John Roseboro to the Twins for shortstop Zoilo Versalles, who was a bust in his 1 year in LA. New backstop Tom Haller cost them their 1967 regular 2nd baseman Ron Hunt. I wonder why Jim Lefebvre didn’t play 2B on opening day?

Where are catcher Jerry Grote and left fielder Cleon Jones? Aside from J.C. Martin and Art Shamsky, this is the Mets’ regular lineup that took them to their first post-season a year later. (Robert Barone was probably glad to see Shamsky in the starting lineup!)

The Astros’ regular catchers were John Bateman and Ron Brand, but rookie Hal King got the Opening Day nod. Joe Morgan started the first 6 games, then missed the rest of the season with injuries. For some reason, Jimmy Wynn was the left fielder for the first 2 months, before moving back to center field.