Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Rob Gardner (#219)

This is Rob Gardner’s first card as a member of the Chicago Cubs. I first became aware of him when I got his Mets’ card in the 1967 set.

Gardner was signed by the Twins in 1963 (I did not know that.) After the ’63 season, he was selected by the Mets in the first-year draft.

Rob made his major-league debut with the Mets in September 1965. He appeared in 41 games (17 starts) for the Mets in 1966, more than twice as many games as he played in any other season. 1966 was the only year he did not spend any time in the minor leagues.

He began 1967 in triple-A, then was traded to the Cubs in mid-June (with catcher JOhn Stephenson) for pitcher Bob Hendley. Rob pitched in 18 games for the Cubs over the second half.

Gardner was traded to the Indians during Spring Training 1969 for pitcher Bob Tiefenauer. He spent most of 1968 and all of 1969 in the minors, only appearing in 5 games for the Tribe in September 1968.

He was traded to the Yankees in June 1969 for catcher Johnny Orsino, but only played 1 game for the Yanks in September 1970.

New York traded Ron to the Athletics in early-April 1971 for Felpie Alou, but 6 weeks later he was traded back to the Bronx for Cury Blefary. He played 20 games for the Yankees in ’72, but spent most of ’71 and ’72 in the minors.

After the 1972 season he was traded BACK to Oakland, this time for MATTY Alou.

He was sold to the Brewers in May 1973, but after 10 games was returned to the A’s in July.

Gardner played for the Tigers’ AAA team in 1974 and the Yankees’ AAA team in 1975 before retiring.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Ron Herbel (#333)

Ron Herbel looks determined to not finish with a 4-5 record for the 3rd straight year. (He didn't – his 1968 record was 0-0! He did get back to 4 wins in 1969 though.)

Herbel was signed by the Giants in 1958, and made his major-league debut in September 1963. He was a member of the Giants’ rotation from 1964-67. His best season was 1965, posting career highs in wins (12) and strikeouts (106).

(Why would Topps abbreviate San Fran one way on 4 lines, then change to another way?) 

Ron shifted to bullpen duty for the Giants in 1968 and 1969, but only pitched 43 innings in 1968.

After the 1969 season he was traded to the Padres with catcher Bob Barton and 3rd baseman Bobby Etheridge for pitcher Frank Reberger. Ron notched 9 saves with San Diego, then on September 1st he moved on to the Mets. He led the National League in 1970 with 76 appearances.

In December he was flipped to the Braves for 3rd baseman Bob Aspromonte. Herbel was the 11th man on Atlanta’s pitching staff in 1971, and was released the following spring.

He was picked up by the Twins but spent 1972 playing for their AAA team, never to return to the majors.

A notoriously bad hitter,  his .029 career batting average is the lowest in major-league history for a player with at least 100 at-bats.

Herbel passed away in 2000 at age 62.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dick Kelley (#203)

Dick Kelley was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, and made his major-league debut on April 15, 1964. In that game he had the misfortune of giving up 4 earned runs while facing 5 batters (2 hits, 3 walks) but recording no outs, so his zero innings pitched resulted in the dreaded ERA of "infinity".

He spent the rest of the 1964 season in triple A, then returned to pitch 2 innings on the final day of the season. His no-hit/no-runs/no-walks performance LOWERED his ERA for the season to 18.00.

Aside from the rocky 1964, Kelley pitched 6 more seasons in the majors (1965-71). In 1966 and 1969 he was primarily a starter, and a reliever for the other years. (He missed the 1970 season.)

Kelley divided his time between the Braves and their AAA team in '65 and '66.

He pitched 98 innings for the Braves in both 1967 and 1968, but that was not enough of an impression to keep him off the expansion draft list. The Padres selected him in the post-1968 draft.

Dick started 23 of his 27 games for the Padres in 1969, and posted career-highs in innings (136) and strikeouts (96). He must have been injured in 1970, because he did not play for the Padres, and only played 1 game for their triple-A team.

Kelley returned to the Padres in 1971 as a reliever, and made 48 appearances (a career high) in his final season.

He pitched 9 games for the Rangers’ AAA team in 1972, before retiring.

Kelley passed away in 2001 at age 51.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ed Stroud (#31)

This is Ed Stroud’s first solo card.  He previously appeared on a White Sox Rookies card (with Walt Williams) in the 1967 set.

Stroud began his career in the White Sox organization in 1963. His nickname of “Streak” was due to his stealing 74 and 72 bases in his first two minor-league seasons! After 4 seasons in the minors, he made his Sox debut in September 1966.

In mid-June 1967 he was traded to the Senators for veteran outfielder Jim King. (The first of King's two trades that season.) It was a good move for Stroud, who was stuck behind Tommie Agee, Ken Berry, Pete Ward, and rookie Walt Williams in the Sox’ outfield.

Ed played 79 games in center field over the 2nd half of the ’67 season, sharing the starts with Hank Allen.

In 1968, rookie Del Unser took over the center field job, so Stroud moved over to the right field mix with Cap Peterson, Fred Valentine, and others. Ed led the pack with 52 starts. He also played in left field occasionally when Frank Howard was at first base.

The arrangement in 1969 was much the same as in ’68, except now Ed had Lee Maye above him in the pecking order.

1970 was a career year for Stroud. Unser was limited to 100 or so games, and half of them were in right field for some reason. Ed was the primary center fielder that year, starting 95 games. He had career highs in hits (115) and stolen bases (40).

All that quality play in 1970 got him a ticket out of Washington, as he was traded back to the White Sox for 1st baseman Tom McCraw during spring training in 1971. Stroud played in 50+ games over the first half (rarely starting) and by midseason he was back in the minors, and retired after the season.

Stroud passed away in 2012 at age 72.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Steve Whitaker (#383)

Here is outfielder Steve Whitaker, in his last season as a Yankee.

Whitaker was one of a long line of Yankees' outfielders (along with Roger Repoz, Bill Robinson, Roy White, Bobby Murcer, and Jerry Kenney) who were touted as, if not the next Mickey Mantle, then the next Roger Maris or surely the next Tom Tresh. (Only White and Murcer panned out for the Yankees. )

Whitaker was signed by the Yankees in 1962, and played in the minors from 1962-65. He bashed 27 homers in ’64 and 24 in ’65. He also hit 20 homers in 1966 before his August call-up to the Yankees.

In 1967 he started 108 games in the outfield (mostly in right field, replacing the traded Maris), but only hit 11 home runs while batting at a .243 clip.

Steve split the 1968 season between the Yankees and triple-A, then was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft.

During spring training in 1969, he was traded to the Seattle Pilots for disgruntled rookie Lou Piniella (who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award). Whitaker didn’t fare as well as Piniella. He couldn’t find regular work with the expansion team, and was used mostly as a pinch-hitter, while also spending all of August back in triple-A.

After the 1969 season he and outfielder Dick Simpson were traded to the Giants for pitcher Bob Bolin. He only played 16 games for the Giants (the last on May 9th) and played the remainder of 1970 for the Giants’ AAA team.

Whitaker played for the Padres’ AAA team in Hawaii in '71 and '72 before retiring.


Having not collected baseball cards in 1970 or 1971, I lost track of Whitaker's career after 1969 until today, because by the time I was buying cards again in 1972, Steve had retired. His final card is in the 1971 set.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Men Without Hats II

To date, I've only made 8 posts here about the Athletics, fewest of any team. So I was planning to post their 1968 team card, but I just led off my last 1967 post with the team card, so I decided to call an audible and revisit some of the awesomeness that was Topps in 1968.

For the 2nd time in 3 years, Topps screwed over an American League team from California. NOT ONE CARD in this set has an Athletic in their new Oakland uniform. Even the first-year Atlanta Braves got a few decent cards in the 1966 7th series, and in 1969 Topps was able to include new cards for FOUR expansion teams in the later series.

But Topps really half-assed the 1968 set. Even the total number of cards dropped from the previous set, from 609 in ’67 to 598 in ’68. This despite adding TWENTY All-Star cards, which they did not have in 1967. They also curiously decided to dispense with team cards altogether halfway through the season, so 7 teams were without a team card that year.

Sure, we were expecting the Astros not to have one, because Topps never made a Colt 45s/Astros team card until 1970, but six other teams also? (That’s another thing – someone’s always giving the Astros the shaft. If it’s not Topps, then it’s the dope in the commissioner's office.)

So here are the 1968 Athletics – “Men Without Hats” (or in some cases, “Men With Bad Hats”):

(And what's with having FOUR catchers?)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Jack Hiatt (#419)

Jack Hiatt was a C/1B who played for 9 seasons (1964-72), five of them with the Giants.

He was signed by the Los Angeles Angels in 1961 and played in their farm system from 1961-64 as a catcher and outfielder. Jack made his major-league debut with the Angels in September 1964.

After the season he was traded to the Giants for outfielder Jose Cardenal. (D'oh! Another fleecing of the Giants' front office!) For most of 1965-66 he played for the Giants’ AAA teams in Tacoma and Phoenix, but also played a few dozen games with the Giants.

Hiatt made the majors to stay in 1967.  With rookie catcher Dick Dietz joining the team to back up Tom Haller, Hiatt only started 3 games behind the plate, but started 31 games at 1st base to give Willie McCovey some rest.

Haller was traded to the Dodgers after the season so Hiatt was elevated to #2 catcher in 1968, starting 56 games (with Dietz starting 80 and Bob Barton (of 1972's "In-Action" card fame!) picking up the other 27 games).

This arrangement continued in 1969 with the Dietz/Hiatt/Barton trio starting 69/57/33 games.

On Opening Day 1970 he was sold to the Expos. Jack played 17 games (10 starts) with Montreal, then was traded to the Cubs for outfielder Boots Day in mid-May.

He played 66 games (58 starts) for the Cubs in his only season with Chicago. He was the starting catcher every day from May 16th to July 3rd (except for the 2nd game of doubleheaders) while Randy Hundley was out of the lineup.

Before the 1971 season he was sold to the Astros. Jack started 57 games that season as Johnny Edwards’ backup.

In July 1972 he came full-circle back to the Angels.  He played 22 games (10 starts) with most of his starts coming in September.

Hiatt was released during Spring Training in 1973, and played that season with the Padres’ AAA team in Hawaii. He also played for the Cubs’ AAA team in 1974, and for 1 game in 1975.

He was a minor-league manager for 5 different teams off-and-on from 1977-88.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Blogroll Blog

A few months ago I set up a blogroll blog (for reasons mentioned in the blog).

Since then, it has been lurking as "Master Blogroll" on the sidebars of my 1963 to 1970 blogs, just above the "Vintage Year Blogs (1951-80)" section, so some of you may have found it already.

 For those that haven't, here it is: https://jd-blogroll.blogspot.com/

I have included all the blogs I could find for baseball and football cards, as well as some non-card-related baseball blogs.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Russ Gibson (#297)

Russ Gibson was the Red Sox' starting catcher for 1968-69, basically keeping the gear warm until the arrival of Carlton Fisk.

Russ was signed by the Red Sox in 1957. After ten seasons in the minors, he finally made his major-league debut (at age 27) in 1967, starting 13 of the team's first 17 games. He soon settled in as the Sox' #3 catcher, only making 37 starts behind Mike Ryan (74 starts) and the Bob Tillman / Elston Howard tandem (51 starts).

After the off-season trade of Ryan to the Phillies, Gibson shared the #1 catcher job with Howard, who was in his final season. Each started 60+ games, with Russ Nixon picking up the scraps at #3.

Gibson rose to the top of the pile in 1969, his last season with Boston. He started 78 games (mostly in the first half). The Red Sox were also working rookie Jerry Moses into the lineup, along with Tom Satriano, who was acquired from the Angels in mid-June.

Three days before the 1970 season he was purchased by the Giants, and spent the next 2 years as a little-used backup to Dick Dietz. In 1972 the Giants used rookie Dave Rader behind the plate. Gibson only played 4 games in May and one in September for the Giants, spending much of the '72 season in triple-A.

He passed away in 2008 at age 69.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Cecil Upshaw (#286)

Cecil Upshaw was the Braves’ top relief pitcher from mid-1967 through the 1972 season.

Upshaw was signed by the Braves in 1964, and made his major-league debut on October 1, 1966.

In 1967, he was recalled from the minors when closer Phil Niekro moved to the starting rotation in mid-July. Upshaw remained in the closer role through the end of the 1972 season, except for missing the entire 1970 season with an injury.

In 1970 he tore ligaments in his hand in a freak accident. I had always heard that his ring finger got caught in a basketball net while attempting to dunk the ball, but on Wikipedia it says he and some teammates were walking down a sidewalk, and jumping up to touch overhanging awnings. Then his ring got caught on the awning and that was that.

In any case, Upshaw led the Braves in saves every season from '68-'72 except for 1970. In each season prior to the injury, his ERA was under 3.00, and he won a career-high 11 games in 1971.

After the 1972 season, the Braves acquired reliever Danny Frisella from the Mets, and the following April Upshaw was traded to the Astros for outfielder Norm Miller.

Cecil played just one season (1973) with the Astros, then was traded to the Indians in November for pitcher Jerry Johnson.

By late-April 1974 he was shipped out to the Yankees in a 7-player deal that saw Fritz Peterson and Chris Chambliss change teams. Upshaw played 1 season in the Big Apple, as the #2 reliever behind Sparky Lyle.

He was traded to the White Sox before the 1975 season. He manned the #10 spot on a 10-man staff in his final season, and was released during Spring Training in 1976.

Upshaw passed away in 1995 at age 52, of a heart attack.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Born on the Same Day - 6/9/1939

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

A few days ago, I just happened to find 4 other players who shared (2) common birthdays (Dick Egan/Bob Tillman, and Doug Clemens/Julio Gotay).

This is actually the 24th post in the series, but since it comes chronologically after Milt Pappas and Frank Quilici, I'm going to call it post #11.5: Doug Clemens and Julio Gotay - both born on 6/9/1939.

(There are discrepancies on Gotay's date of birth between his 1968 card, Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Wikipedia, but I'm going with 6/9/39, which Baseball-Reference and Baseball-Almanac agree on.) 

Doug Clemens played for the Cardinals, Cubs, and Phillies from 1960 to 1968, He was in the majors continuously from 1964-1967, but only had one Topps card (1967).

Julio Gotay was mostly a journeyman infielder for the Cardinals, Pirates, Angels, and Astros from 1960 to 1969, except for 1962, when he was the Cardinals' regular shortstop. He started a career-high 105 games that season. (His next highest number of starts was 35, with the 1968 Astros.)

These two were teammates on the 1960-62 Cardinals.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Tom Phoebus (#97)

Tom Phoebus was the first of a “second wave” of starting pitchers to come up through the Orioles’ farm system in the late 1960s.  This group included Jim Hardin (who we just looked at in the previous post on this blog) and Dave Leonhard, and came a year or 2 after the Dave McNally / Wally Bunker / Jim Palmer group.

Phoebus really stepped up for the Orioles in his rookie season of 1967, leading a pitching staff decimated by injuries to McNally, Bunker, and Palmer. (Hardin would join the team by mid-season.)

A Baltimore native, he was signed by the Orioles in June 1960 and played in their organization until making his major-league debut in September 1966. Phoebus pitched shutouts in his first 2 major-league starts, only the 4th AL pitcher to have done so.

Tom led the team with 14 wins in 1967 – the only pitcher with double-digit wins. He was named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1967. He also won 15 games in ’68 and 14 games in ’69.

1970 saw him slump to a 5-5 record, but by that time McNally had returned to his old form (leading the AL with 24 wins in 1970 and in the middle of a 4-year 20-game win streak). The O’s also had Mike Cuellar on board now, who won the AL Cy Young award in 1969 and whose 24 wins in 1970 co-led the AL with McNally. Even Jim Palmer was back on top, beginning a streak of four 20-win seasons in 1970. My point is, Phoebus had done his job from 1967-69, holding down the fort until the big guns arrived.

Phoebus played for 2 more seasons after 1970, but never won more than 3 games again. In December 1970 he was traded to the Padres in a 6-player deal that brought pitcher Pat Dobson to Baltimore (we all know how THAT turned out).

In late-April 1972 he was sold to the Cubs, where he pitched unremarkably for the remainder of his final season.

That October he was traded to the Braves for infielder Tony LaRussa. Phoebus pitched for the Braves’ AAA team in 1973 before retiring.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Jim Hardin (#222)

Jim Hardin pitched for the Orioles from 1967 to 1971. Early-on, he and Tom Phoebus backfilled a rotation decimated by injuries to Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker. After a few years, Palmer recovered and returned to the Orioles’ rotation, and Mike Cuellar was acquired from the Astros. Having served his purpose, Hardin moved on to the Yankees.

Hardin was signed by the Mets, and played in their farm system from 1962-1965. After the ’65 season the Orioles acquired him in the minor-league draft.

He made his Orioles’ debut in June 1967, after the above mentioned injuries decimated the starting rotation (also including Dave McNally).

Jim was 8-3 as a rookie, and won 18 games in 1968 as the O’s #2 starter behind a fully-recovered McNally, who won 22 games.

He slipped to 6-7 in 1969, but by then was the #5 starter behind Cuellar (23 wins), McNally (20), Palmer (16) and Phoebus (14).

Hardin pitched one more full season with the Birds (1970), and although they won the World Series, it was a down season for him personally, posting a 6-5 record. He and Phoebus (5-5) were the forgotten members of the rotation, as the Big Three all won 20+ games and made 40 starts each.

Jim was traded to the Yankees in May 1971, and after another bad season was released the following April. He was picked up by the Braves a few weeks later and pitched 26 games (mostly in relief) in his final season.

After his playing career, Hardin became a small aircraft pilot. He was killed in 1991 when his 6-seat plane crashed in Key West, FL. He was 47.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Vern Fuller (#71)

This is the rookie card for Vern Fuller, the Indians' starting 2nd baseman for most of 1967-1969.

Fuller was signed by the Indians before the 1963 season out of Arizona State University (just before the Athletics started using that school as their farm system, producing Rick Monday, Sal Bando, and Reggie Jackson!)

After a season in the minors, Vern missed almost all of 1964 with injuries, playing no minor-league ball and only 2 games with the Tribe in September.

He played all of '65 and '66 back on the farm, save for a September call-up in 1966.

Fuller was up and down between Cleveland and triple-A for the first half of 1967, but was recalled in mid-July and started 62 of the final 73 games at 2nd base, replacing the floundering tandem of Gus Gil, Pedro Gonzalez, and Chico Salmon.

In 1968 Vern split the 2nd base duties with Chico Salmon for the first half of the season, and with rookie Dave Nelson in the second half.

Surprisingly, even though Nelson was named Topps all-rookie 2nd baseman in 1968, he only started 30 games in 1969, mostly from late-July to mid-August. Meanwhile, Fuller started 72 games, with newly-acquired bust Zoilo Versalles playing some games there as well.

Rookie Eddie Leon took over in 1970, relegating Fuller to just 33 at-bats in 29 games for the season. He only made 1 appearance between 6/12 and 8/18, and spent no time in the minors, so maybe he was injured for a good chunk of the season? Anyway, he retired after the season.