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,,, 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.