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.

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