Saturday, July 11, 2020

#190 Gene Woodling

Gene Woodling  Baltimore Orioles

Career: Ohio kid Gene Woodling signed with the Indians in 1940 but it took him a decade to establish himself in the majors. Along that trail to the '49 Yankees (and the first of five consecutive Series titles) Woodling led four different minors leagues in hitting. He also toured the Pacific in the Navy and played ball with Bob Feller and many others. Woodling went from the Indians' chain to the Pirates and then to the PCL's San Francisco Seals before landing with the Yanks. 

He had gotten a few looks at major league pitching but it wasn't until the Yankees stuck him into their outfield that he became an established big-leaguer.  In those five Series with the Bombers he hit .318 and added three homers.

From New York Woodling carried his potent bat (and underrated glove) to Baltimore, back to Cleveland, to Baltimore for another stay, to the Senators, and finally in 1962, to the Original Mets. That was his last season as a player. He retired with a career .284 average (he hit over .300 five times). He was still swinging well at 39 with the Mets in '62 as he hit .274 in 80 games after coming over from the Senators.

In 1960: He played every day, mainly in left, at age 37, and hit over .280 in his final season in Charm City. He even picked up a few MVP votes.

Off The Charts: He was involved in one of the biggest (in terms of numbers) trades in history in November 1954 when he was dealt to the Orioles. Here is the summary per Baseball-Reference:

November 17, 1954: Traded by the New York Yankees with players to be named later, Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Willy Miranda, Hal Smith and Gus Triandos to the Baltimore Orioles for players to be named later, Billy Hunter, Don Larsen and Bob Turley. The New York Yankees sent Bill Miller (December 1, 1954), Kal Segrist (December 1, 1954), Don Leppert (December 1, 1954) and Theodore Del Guercio (minors) (December 1, 1954) to the Baltimore Orioles to complete the trade. The Baltimore Orioles sent Mike Blyzka (December 1, 1954), Darrell Johnson (December 1, 1954), Jim Fridley (December 1, 1954) and Dick Kryhoski (December 1, 1954) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.

That's seventeen players in total. There will not be a quiz later.

Woodling coached for the Orioles through 1967 and earned a sixth ring for the 1966 Orioles' title. He later scouted for the Yanks and Indians.

Friday, July 10, 2020

#189 Don McMahon

Don McMahon  Milwaukee Braves

Career: McMahon was a Brooklyn native and after signing with the Braves in 1950, he spent five and a half years in the minors and two years in the service. He made his major league debut when called up to Milwaukee in June 1957 at age 27. He played for the Braves (1957-’62), Colt .45s (1962-’63), Indians (1964-’66), Red Sox (1966-’67), White Sox (1967-’68), Tigers (1968-’69), and Giants (1969-’74).

In 874 games (only two were starts!) Don compiled a 90-68 record (.570), with a sparkling 2.96 ERA. He made ten postseason appearances, won four pennants, pitched in three World Series (1957, ’58, ’68), and one National League Championship Series,. His numbers in those big games were impressive as well as he allowed only 10 hits in over 13 innings.

When he retired he was fourth on the list of games pitched. He is currently 35th.

In 1960: He had a very rocky year, arguably the worst of his career. After leading the league with 15 saves in 1959, he had only 10 and his ERA of 5.94 was a huge disappointment after the 2.94 he posted the previous season. 

Off The Charts: Following his playing days, he was pitching coach for the Giants (twice), Twins, and Indians; and later a scout for the Dodgers.

SABR tells us "He worked some in the offseason as a football scout for several years, helping out the Oakland Raiders even while still an active player. He and Raiders owner-coach Al Davis had both attended Erasmus Hall High in Brooklyn."

Even Further Off The Charts: My father grew up in Brooklyn not far from Erasmus High but he commuted to the Bronx High School of Science. I decided to take a look at Erasmus Hall which is now closed. The list of notable alums from Wkipedia is pretty impressive. I pulled out the more recognizable names and pasted them here:

    Bob Arum, boxing promoter.
    Tony Balsamo (1931), Major League Baseball Pitcher for the Chicago Cubs
    Jeff Chandler (Ira Grossel) (1935); actor
    Hy Cohen, Major League Baseball player
    Billy Cunningham (1961); player and coach, Philadelphia '76ers basketball team.
    Al Davis (c.1947); Oakland Raiders owner, Pro Football Hall of Fame member.
    Clive Davis (1949); Grammy Award-winning record producer; founder of Arista Records[43]
    Neil Diamond, attended Erasmus from 1954–56; singer/songwriter.
    Will Downing (1981); singer
    Mort Drucker (born 1929), caricaturist and comics artist [MAD Magazine!!]
    Norm Drucker, professional basketball official.
    Dave Getz (1957); drummer Big Brother and the Holding Company
    Jonah Goldman, major league baseball player
    William Lindsay Gresham (1909–1962), novelist and non-fiction author
    Susan Hayward (Edythe Marrenner), (1935); Oscar-winning actress
    Waite Hoyt, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Yankees and long-time broadcaster for the  Reds.
    Marty Ingels, comedian; husband of Shirley Jones.
    Ned Irish (1924); organizer of first MSG basketball tournament (1934); founder of the New York Knicks; member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
    Roger Kahn (1945); sportswriter, author of several books including The Boys of Summer.
    Lainie Kazan (Lainie Levine), (1956); actress and singer
    Dorothy Kilgallen (1930); newspaper journalist, television game show panelist and talk radio personality.
    Bernie Kopell (1953); actor
    Sid Luckman (1935); football champion with the Chicago Bears; NFL quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
    Bernard Malamud (1932); author and educator; wrote baseball novel The Natural
    Don McMahon, Major League Baseball player
    Stephanie Mills, (1975); actress/singer.
    Doug Moe, (1956); long time player and coach, ABA and NBA.
    Don Most (1970); actor
    Jerry Reinsdorf (1953); part-owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.
    Sam Rutigliano, former NFL head coach.
    Beverly Sills (Belle Miriam Silverman), coloratura opera singer,
    Mickey Spillane (Morrison Spillane) (1936); author of detective and mystery fiction.
    Barbara Stanwyck (c. 1922); stage and screen actress, dancer.
    Barbra Streisand (Barbara Joan Streisand) (1959); actress, singer, director, producer.
    Norma Talmadge (1911); silent film actress.
    Eli Wallach, (1932); actor
    Sonny Werblin (1910–1991), entertainment industry executive and sports impresario, owner of the New York Jets,
    Mae West (Mary Jane West) (1911); actress, comedian, playwright.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

#188 Dick Williams

Dick Williams   Kansas City Athletics

Career: Williams made his name as a manager who won a couple of titles and four pennants. But he was also a jack-of-all-trades player whose career lasted 13 years. He began in Brooklyn in 1951 after four seasons in the minors where he showed superior hitting skills. He bounced between the Dodgers and their high minor league teams for several years playing the outfield.

A 1956 trade to the Orioles gave him a full-time spot for the first time in his career. He played everywhere on the field except catcher and pitcher and the steady work allowed him to show off his hitting. He was never a power threat but his average and versatility seemed to make him a valuable trade piece. Williams played for Cleveland, Baltimore (again), Kansas City, Baltimore (again!!), and finally, the Red Sox. He even was dealt to the Colt .45s in the winter of 1962 by the Orioles but was then traded to Boston a few weeks later. He finished his career with a .260 average, and he had a hit in two at-bats in the 1953 World Series for the Dodgers.

In 1960: In his second year with the Athletics he upped his average to a career (as a regular) high of .288 and added a dozen home runs to the mix. He started most of his games at third but had a fair share of time in left and at first.

Off The Charts: Williams earned his Hall of Fame status as a manger. He began at the helm of the Impossible Dream Red Sox in 1967. He went on to manage for 21 years in the dugouts of the Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Padres, and Expos in addition to the Sox. Williams was involved in his fair share of controversies as a manager, but he won titles in Oakland in 1972 and '73.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

#186 Dave Sisler

Dave Sisler  Detroit Tigers

Career: A Princeton man, Dave Sisler was the youngest son of Hall of Famer George Sisler and brother of NL first baseman/outfielder Dick Sisler. After one (very successful) minor league season and a couple of years in the military, Sisler broke in with the Red Sox in 1956. His three full years with the Sox were pretty consistent as he hovered around .500 and a 4.75 ERA, mostly as a starter. He got a higher percentage of starting assignments each season. As the card notes, he struggled in 1959 and was traded to the Tigers in May.

He rebounded in Detroit, now pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. But was exposed in the expansion draft and was taken by the Senators. He was in D.C. for a season then traded to the Reds, pitching one final season in the majors and one in AAA in 1963.  He retired with 38 big league wins and became an investment broker.

In 1960: This was his best season statistically. He was 7-5 with five saves, which were not career highs, but his ERA and WHIP were easily better than he had ever posted or ever would.

Off The Charts: His obit tells us "...Sisler was a three-sport standout in high school in St. Louis, then played basketball and baseball at Princeton University, where he graduated magna cum laude. Toiling for Princeton’s Tigers in 1951, Mr. Sisler posted a microscopic earned-run average of 0.99. He was the last pitcher from Princeton to start a major league game before Chris Young did it for Texas in 2004."

Sunday, July 5, 2020

#148 Carl Yastrzemski Sport Rookie Star

Carl Yastrzemski  Boston Red Sox

Career: He was the son of a Long Island potato farmer who passed along a love of baseball. And he landed in the Hall of Fame after a remarkable career that began with him stepping into the void left by Ted Williams' retirement.

Yaz played for 23 seasons with the Red Sox and had almost 425 at-bats at the age of 43 in his final season. Here is a list of his career highlights from the Baseball-Reference Bullpen:

  • 1959 MVP Carolina League Raleigh Capitals
  • 18-time AL All-Star (1963, 1965-1979, 1982 & 1983)
  • AL MVP (1967)
  • AL Triple Crown (1967)
  • 1970 All-Star Game MVP
  • 7-time AL Gold Glove Winner (1963, 1965, 1967-1969, 1971 & 1977)
  • 3-time AL Batting Average Leader (1963, 1967 & 1968)
  • 5-time AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1963, 1965, 1967, 1968 & 1970)
  • 3-time AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1965, 1967 & 1970)
  • 4-time AL OPS Leader (1965, 1967, 1968 & 1970)
  • 3-time AL Runs Scored Leader (1967, 1970 & 1974)
  • 2-time AL Hits Leader (1963 & 1967)
  • 2-time AL Total Bases Leader (1967 & 1970)
  • 3-time AL Doubles Leader (1963, 1965 & 1966)
  • AL Home Runs Leader (1967)
  • AL RBI Leader (1967)
  • 2-time AL Bases on Balls Leader (1963 & 1968)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1965, 1967-1970, 1976, 1977 & 1979)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1967, 1969 & 1970)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1967, 1969 & 1970)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 5 (1967, 1969, 1970, 1976 & 1977)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1967 & 1970)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1989

What is there to add about this talented, consistent, and durable star?

In 1960:  Yaz was still a year away from his big-league debut. He'd torn up the league in B level ball in 1959, and he did the same when he jumped to AAA in 1960. For the Red Sox' Minneapolis Millers he batted .339 on almost 200 hits including 36 doubles. He only hit seven homers, but he was apparently saving his power for Fenway. He'd played second in his initial season but was moved to the outfield by the organization when he hit AAA.

Off The Charts: Yaz' grandson, Mike, has traveled through a few organizations but in 2019 seemed to find a home in the Giants' outfield and had a nice first big-league season. Last September he homered in his first game ever in Fenway Park. (See below)

A Carl Yastrzemski career highlight film:

The Card: This is one of the more valuable and sought-after cards in the 1960 set, definitely the prize among the rookies. My copy was a modest graded version that I freed from the slab. He's listed as a second baseman, but he was, as noted above, an outfielder in 1960.

It happens to be the last of the Sport Rookie Stars subset (they were alphabetical in the checklist).

Bonus videos...Carl and Mike Yastrzemski homer at Fenway.

Extended coverage of Mike Yaztrzemski's home run last September.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

#147 Bob Will Sport Rookie Star

Bob Will  Chicago Cubs

Career: Bob Will was a local kid who played for the Cubs for all or part of six seasons. He broke in with Chicago in 1957. In a 70 game 'trial' he didn't hit nearly as well as he had in the minors where he had put up huge numbers year after year. Will had one season as a regular in the Cubs' outfield but for the most part was a pinch-hitter. He led the NL in pinch at-bats in 1961 and had 17 pinch-hits in 1962. His career average was .247 in just over 400 games.

In 1960: This was his season as an everyday starter in right at Wrigley. He played next to former Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn and he hit .255 with six homers. In '61 Will lost the spot to George Altman as the Cubs sought much-needed power.

Off The Charts: Will attended Northwestern University in Evanston. Apropos to nothing baseball-related, my daughter lives close to that school's beautiful campus. Will held degrees from Minnesota State and the University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Banking. He loved to golf and worked in banking after his playing days. He was active with the MLB Alumni Association.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

#185 Jim Owens

Jim Owens   Philadelphia Phillies

Career: Jim Owens began his pro career as a 17-year-old deep in the Phils' organization and had a rough first year but quickly became a big winner as he climbed the ladder to the majors. He was 0-6 over a couple of short looks in Philly. But when he returned from a two-year Army obligation in 1959 he had his best overall season. He was 12-12 with an ERA of 3.21 in over 30 starts. He never again had that many wins. Or starts, for that matter.

His career played out in bars and nightclubs in NL cities, and he ended up evolving into a reliever for the Phils. Then it was on to the Reds for a year and to Houston where he pitched out of the 'pen through the middle of the 1967 season. He finished with a 42-69 record and a lot of stories.

Owens pitched his last big league game on June 20, 1967, for the Astros against the Mets in New York. Half a country away my family was that very day, moving into our first house in Houston.

In 1960: He tanked and his numbers reflect that. From 12-12 he slipped to 4-14 with an ERA of 5.04 and a terrible WHIP. He lost his rotation spot for a month beginning in July but got it back with a few decent middle relief efforts. He closed out the year as a starter but his days in the Phils rotation were numbered.

Off The Charts: Owens was a member of what was known as The Dalton Gang, a group of Phils pitchers that had a thing for nightlife and the 'fun' that goes with it. This great Sports Illustrated story from their June 13, 1960 issue contains this paragraph:

The Dalton Gang has taken a lot of liberties since its formation. [...] Owens' aftergame behavior was bad enough to warrant a special lecture on the subject by General Manager Quinn when the two discussed Owens' 1960 contract. Owens was promised a $500 bonus if his conduct this year met the club's approval. The Bear didn't even make it through spring training. He got involved in a barroom brawl in Florida, lost the bonus and was fined an extra hundred to boot. For one day he quit baseball, during which time he explained to reporters that he was that rare kind of pitcher who could stay up all night drinking and then go out and throw a shutout.
And this:
Owens comes from a broken home. "His father used to come down to breakfast and put a bottle on the table," says a man who knows him. "Jim started drinking early."
It's not a long story so it's well worth a look. For more on The Dalton Gang, check out this entry on Seamheads.

And Houston sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz, writing about his memories of the Astrodome, related this gem:

My lasting memory of the official opening night was not of the packed crowd, which included a president and a governor and the seven Mercury astronauts. It was of a scene in the Astros’ bullpen, where amid all the fanfare a pitcher named Jim Owens was stretched out on a bench, sleeping off a hangover. The uninhibited Turk Farrell gave him a shove and bellowed, “Hey, Owens, wake up. Where do you think you are, in a canoe?”