Monday, June 29, 2020

#146 Ted Wieand Sport Rookie Star

Ted Wieand  Cincinnati Reds

Career: Originally in the Cardinals chain, Wieand spent seven seasons in the minors before he got a one-game taste of the majors with Cincinnati at the tail end of the 1958 season. He had come to the Reds the previous winter in the deal that sent Curt Flood to St. Louis. Other than another short trial with the Reds two years later, Weiand played out his career at the AAA level with the Reds and Yankees before he retired after the 1962 season. In his six total games, his only decision was a loss in his second game in '60.

In 1960: Wieand made the Reds' roster out of Spring Training but was knocked around in five shots out of the pen and was demoted to AAA.

Off The Charts: Wieand gave up a homer to the first batter he faced in the majors, Milwaukee's Frank Torre. And he gave up a homer to the last batter he faced in the majors, the Phils' Jimmie Coker.

Wieand's father was unemployed when young Ted was born in 1933, the last of 10. Grateful for President Franklin Roosevelt's WPA, which gave him an income in hard times, the elder Mr. Wieand named his newborn Franklin Delano Roosevelt Wieand. According to Ted, some in his family were not as enthusiastic about FDR as his father, and they took to calling him 'Teddy' as in Republican icon Teddy Roosevelt.

This came from a 2014 interview that was posted on Soundcloud. I'm unsure if the show (John Pielli's Passed Ball Show) was part of a podcast series or a local radio thing.

One of Franklin Delano Roosevelt 'Ted' Wieand's teammates on that 1960 Reds club was Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma 'Cal' McLish. I figured you'd want to know.

The Card: Neat cartoon and Wieand looks like somewhat of a badass on this, his only Topps card, no?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

#144 Al Stieglitz Sport Rookie Star

Al Stieglitz  San Francisco Giants

Career: Stieglitz spent six years in the minors after the Giants signed him in 1953. He made it as far as AAA for one injury-shortened season (a broken leg in 1959) and never appeared in a big-league game. He was a .283 hitter for his career in the minors and had some power. But he wasn't able to make enough progress to stick with the Giants. As the card notes, he spent two years in the Navy in the middle of his baseball career. Baseball-Reference has him listed as a Georgia Bulldog but their latest media guide doesn't show him as a letterman.

In 1960: This was the end of the trail for Al. He came back from his broken leg to find himself in AA ball. After hitting .243 in 98 games in the Texas League, he hung up his shin guards.

Off The Charts: I'd like to report that Al Stieglitz married a starlet, was elected to Congress, or even shot a man in Reno (just to watch him die). Best I could come up with, after an eight-page dip into Google, was a reference from a card-related book that he once had a beer with Willie McCovey, Hobie Landruth, and Sy Berger of Topps. So there's that.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

#183 Eli Grba

Eli Grba  New York Yankees

Career: Grba was originally a Red Sox signee and he pitched for four years in their system before Uncle Sam called and he spent two years in the Army. When he returned in 1959 he was promptly traded to the Yankees and he was called up to debut in June. He had a bumpy ride and was back in the minors to start 1960.

The Angels drafted him as their first-ever player for 1961. He spent a couple of years in their rotation and finished his career with a year in the Mexican League and the minors. His career, and life immediately afterward, was marked by alcoholism which he beat later in life. He was able to get back into baseball as a scout in the 1980s.

In 1960: He got off to a terrific start in AAA at Richmond (7-1 2.83) and was called up to the Yanks in June. He went 6-4 in 25 games including nine starts. He appeared in the World Series as a pinch-runner when Elston Howard was hit in the hand by a pitch in the second inning of Game Six. He didn't get to pitch in the Series.

Off The Charts: Grba was the first player taken by the Angels in the AL expansion draft in December 1960. He was selected on the recommendation of his former Yankee manager Casey Stengel who had turned down a managerial offer from the team but was serving as an informal advisor.

The Card: It's been mentioned here and elsewhere...some of the photos used for the set were weirdly cropped with the subject crowded off to one side of the photo on the card. This is one of those. But other than that the red/blue/yellow/white combo is a nice one.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

#182 Glen Hobbie

Glen Hobbie  Chicago Cubs

Career: Hobbie spent all but 13 of his 284 big league games with the Cubs from 1957 through 1964. He was 62-81 in his career with 42 of those wins coming when he was in his early 20s, from 1958 to 1960. He was a spot starter and reliever in his first full season before becoming a part of the rotation in 1959 and remaining there through 1963. After a rocky couple of months in 1964, he was traded to the Cardinals for Lew Burdette. He was traded again and then spent the '65 season, his last as a pro, in the minors for the Tigers.

In 1960: He pitched in 46 games, 36 of them starts. He went 16-20 for a terrible (64-90) Cubs club. His stat line wasn't much different from the previous couple of seasons and the 16 wins matched his career-best. It was the last season for him to rack up as many as ten wins.

In late August he hooked up with Vinegar Bend Mizell of the Pirates in a pitching duel that was 1-1 at Wrigley in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Hobbie was allowed to bat(!) by skipper Lou Boudreau. Hobbie proceeded to launch his first (of four) career homers into the left-field stands to win his own game.

Off The Charts: In April 1959 Hobbie pitched a one-hit shutout over the Cardinals. He had a no-hitter until Stan Musial roped a single in the 7th inning. His post-game quote: “The first thing I said to myself when Stan got the hit was, ‘I’m glad he didn’t hit a lollipop; he hit my best pitch.’ ”

After retiring from baseball, Hobbie worked as a supervisor for the Roller Derby Association. I kid you not.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

#181 Billy Loes

Billy Loes  San Francisco Giants

Career: Loes was signed by the Dodgers in 1949 as a local kid from Long Island. He spent only one season in the minors before serving in the military and then jumping into a regular role with the powerhouse Dodgers of the era. Loes won double-digit games in each of his four seasons and had 50 wins for Brooklyn. He pitched in three World Series.

After one disastrous start in 1956 he was sold to the Orioles. In 1957 he had his best season since his rookie year and made his only All-Star team (three scoreless innings, btw). He finished up his career with the Giants and retired after the 1961 season.

In 1960: He made 31 relief appearances for the Giants and nailed down six saves and a 3-2 record. But while he pitched only 45 innings, the lowest of his career, he pitched well enough to earn a spot as a starter in '61.

Off The Charts: Loes is best described as 'eccentric' but to fully appreciate him you need to read his SABR bio. He was a strange guy, no doubt. A sample: On the eve of the 1952 World Series, Loes found himself in a mini-controversy when reporters asked him to clarify his prediction that the New York Yankees would beat his Dodgers in six games. Claiming that he was misquoted, Loes responded, “I never told that guy the Yanks would win it in six. I said they’d win it in seven.”

The Card: There is nothing attractive about this card. Not even the nifty Yankee Stadium locale can save it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

#143 Al Spangler Sport Rookie Star

Al Spangler  Milwaukee Braves

Career: After four minor league seasons and two years in the service, Al Spangler made the Braves in 1960 and spent a few years as a spare outfielder. His career got a boost with NL expansion and being drafted by the Colt .45s. His time in Houston, from 1962 through June 1965, was his only spell as an everyday player.

He spent the rest of '65 with the Angels, was farmed out for much of '66, and was released. He signed with the Cubs and played in Chicago until 1971 with a few more minor league stretches thrown in. Spangler had little power, hitting just 21 career homers in almost a thousand games, but he maintained a decent average, was fast, and was a good defensive player.

In 1960: He saw duty in over 100 games but managed only 122 at-bats. Much of his play came as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or defensive late-inning guy. He hit .267 but went without a homer and had six RBIs.

Off The Charts: Spangler was a graduate of Duke University where he was a baseball All-American (as the cartoon notes). He completed a degree in mathematics. After a year or two as a coach with the Cubs' organization in the 70s, Spangler became a coach and AD at Hargraves (Huffman, Tx) High School, not far up the road from me.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

#142 Bill Short Sport Rookie Star

Bill Short   New York Yankees

Career: Six seasons, six teams. Short took a long time to make his way up through the Yankees system. He signed in 1955 and debuted out of Spring Training in 1960. His first game was a win over the Orioles as he went seven innings in a 3-2 win. He dodged a few bullets by allowing five hits and walking six. But a debut win is a debut win.

He was back in the minors in 1961 and was taken by the Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft and pitched for them in 1962 and 1966. In between, he was banging around the Orioles chain. He was traded to the Red Sox in August 1966 and missed out on a shot at pitching in the Series.

From there it was a tour of the NL with stops in Pittsburgh, back in NYC with the Mets, and finally with the Reds in 1969.  His career mark was 5 wins and 11 losses.

In 1960: Game logs for 1960 indicate that he came and went between the Yanks and AAA all season. He was with the team through May but after that he was he got the call to make spot starts and had decent enough results. He took a tough 2-1 loss to the Orioles the week after his debut but his problem was as before: six walks. He finished 3-5 with an ERA of 4.79 in 47 innings.

Short was much better with Richmond. His work there was curtailed a bit by elbow issues, but he had a fine stat line.

Off The Charts: Hard to pin down exactly how this timeline falls, but on his SABR page we find this: Short wrote, “Paul Krichell, scout of the Yankees, signed me after I finished high school, but before I signed I had to go to Watertown, N.Y. to play a year of semi-pro.” That's Night Owl's hometown.

The Card: Love the first line of the write-up on the back...'Bill looks a little like Whitey Ford...'. Really? Then I look a little like Elston Howard.

Seriously, this is another "I remember this card" card. In 1960 I was just branching out from under my Dad's 'umbrella' and finding my own teams. But I was, well, not a 'fan' exactly, but a Yankee 'follower' since they were all over every sports page, and we got three newspapers and listened to Stan Lomax every night before dinner. It was hard NOT to know everything about them. Not to mention that getting a Yankee on a card was a big deal among the couple of friends I had in the year or two we lived on Long Island.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

#189 Harry Simpson

Harry Simpson  Chicago White Sox

Career: Much traveled Negro League vet, 'Suitcase' Simpson had played three seasons for the Philadelphia Stars before signing with the Indians in 1949. He was an outfield staple for three seasons in Cleveland beginning in 1951. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist in 1954 and the team farmed him out when he was healthy so he missed out on their 111 win season and AL title.

He was traded to Kansas City where he was an All-Star in 1956 and then on to the Yankees where he got to play in the 1957 Series. He was dealt back to the Athletics during 1958 and missed winning a Series with the Yanks. He finished his career with a couple of stints in Chicago sandwiched around a short run with the Pirates in 1959.

In 1960: Simpson was finished with the majors, but not with baseball. He spent the year in San Diego with the Sox' AAA club. Didn't have a particularly good season (.222) but he played two more full years with better numbers.

Off The Charts: He played in Mexico in 1963/64 before retiring to work as a machinist in the aircraft industry. He died at only 57 years of age.

SABR sez: He picked up his nickname during his Negro League days. Harry wore a size 13 shoe, and a sportswriter dubbed him “Suitcase” Simpson, based on a character by that name with feet as large as suitcases, in the comic strip “Toonerville Folks.

He said he didn't like the nickname, but eventually got used to it. It ended up on his gravestone.

The Card: One of my favorites in this set. Comiskey batting cage shot earns big points. And these unis, with the red outlined S-O-X logo is great. This is, IMHO, the White Sox' best look.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

#179 Rip Coleman

Rip Coleman  Baltimore Orioles

Career: Coleman was a 1952 Yankee signee, labeled as "The Next Whitey Ford" by some. He never lived up to that billing in the majors. He had his moments as a minor leaguer and in a few interviews I came across he said he was just more comfortable in the minors. His early results in New York were decidedly mixed and he was one of many Yankees traded to the Athletics in the mid-50s. He had limited success in KC, never harnessed his talent, never overcame his wildness. He finished with the Orioles in 1960 and his big league numbers were 7-25 with a 4.58 ERA.

In 1960: He'd come to the Orioles late in 1959 and pitched a few innings and made the team in the Spring of 1960 but was shelled in four appearances including a start in Yankee Stadium in which he was lifted in the first. He was let go in May and went to Toronto to play for the Indians AAA club there and in typical fashion had a very good year.

Off The Charts: Coleman tells a story of being assured that he wasn't going to be used in the '55 Series games in Brooklyn. Then he found himself on the mound in Ebbets Field in Game Four, and he struggled in the spotlight. He helped write his ticket out of New York the next year when he chose to throw a ball into centerfield rather than hand it to Casey Stengel when Casey came to relieve him in favor of Tom Morgan. Coleman said he was tired of Morgan blowing up his leads.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

#141 Jim Proctor Sport Rookie Star

Jim Proctor  Detroit Tigers

Career: Proctor, who played briefly for the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns, was supposed to be the player to integrate the Tigers' big league roster in 1958, but he was derailed by arm problems and a military stint. He'd begun his pro career with a short stay in West Palm Beach in the D level Florida State League in 1955. He was lucky to have caught the eye of the Tigers and pitched extremely well in their system.

Proctor got a September call-up in 1959 and had two appearances. One was a start in which he was knocked out in the second inning and was tagged with the loss. He never pitched in the majors after that short look. He was out of the game after another few seasons in the minors.

In 1960: He pitched for Victoria, the Tigers' AA team, a few hours down the Texas coast from me. He won 15 games but his overall stats, while good, were not as showy as they had been before his arm woes occurred.

Off The Charts: There isn't much info available about Jim Proctor. I did find a mention of him in interviews with his West Palm teammate, Gil Black. Black mentions being released in this article in the Stamford (CT) Advocate:
Due to the strong segregation laws that existed at that time in Florida, it was extremely difficult while on the road to find hotels and restaurants that would accommodate blacks.
This became so much of an inconvenience to the team that after just a few games, "myself and fellow player Jim Proctor, who was also black, were released," said Black
Black was a bit more descriptive of their treatment in this story in the same paper, a year later:

Black and the other black player on the team, Jim Proctor, led separate lives in a sense from their teammates, because they had to stay in different hotels.
One day, the manager said, "You black guys are too much trouble," and sent them home.
Proctor attended Maryland State University, now Maryland Eastern Shore. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

#140 Julio Navarro Sport Rookie Star

Julio Navarro  San Francisco Giants

Career: The New York Giants signed Julio Navarro out of Puerto Rico in 1955. He pitched exceptionally well in their system waiting for a shot that didn't come. The Giants dealt him to the Angels on September 2, 1962 and the very next day he was on the mound in a game at Yankee Stadium. He pitched three innings in a win for the Angels and was back out there the net day to record his first win with another relief appearance.

He had a 12 save season in 1963, his best overall campaign. He was traded to Detroit in April of '64 but never put together another good season. He returned to the minors and was a starter in the Braves system for a number of years and made a final big league cameo in 1970.

In 1960:  Navarro spent the season in AAA with teams affiliated with both the Giants and the Orioles. I have no idea how that stuff worked. He went 5-12. Most of his 1960 stats for that year (and the next) are not recorded on Baseball-Reference.

Off The Charts: He's the father of Jaime Navarro who had a 12-year career as a starting pitcher with the Brewers, Cubs, White Sox, and, for a few games, Indians. Jaime won 116 big league games, 109 more than his Pops. The Navarros were the first father and son to each record a major league save.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

#178 Woody Held

Woody Held    Cleveland Indians

Career: Woody (aka Woodie) Held played fourteen years as a versatile and dependable infielder/outfielder. He spent half his career with Cleveland and split the rest among six other AL clubs. He never hit for average, and he had a tendency to strike out, but he had power and a locker full of gloves that made him a valuable guy to have around. Held had a high of 29 homers for the Indians in '59 during a run of seasons when he was an everyday member of their infield.

Held got a ring with the '66 Orioles although he didn't appear in the Series. His career had started with the Yankees, and he first saw the majors in 1954, He was dealt off to the Athletics as part of a package of players in June 1957.

The deal was sparked by the infamous Copacabana brawl involving several Yankees, chiefly Mickey Mantle, Hank Bauer, and Billy Martin. Yankee brass blamed Martin for the whole thing and wanted to get rid of him. Held just happened to be a convenient throw-in to balance it all out. A year later he was traded to Cleveland in the Roger Maris deal and that's where Held got his career on track.

In 1960: Held was leading the Indians in homers and RBI when he broke a finger in July. He missed six weeks of the season. He finished with 21 dingers and it's possible he would have come close to his career-high of 29 had he played the whole year.

Off The Charts: Held was in the Yankees farm system for six and a half years before getting traded to KC. He lived on his Wyoming ranch after his playing days and passed away in 2009.

The Card(s):  Topps insisted on using 'Woody' on his cards although 'Woodie' was how he signed autographs. Scrolling through the Trading Card Database shows a mixed bag on paper items through the 50s and 60s. Topps actually switched to '-ie' in 1961 and then reverted to calling him 'Woody' until he got '-ie' on his last card in 1969.

Friday, June 12, 2020

#176 Vada Pinson

Vada Pinson  Cincinnati Reds

Career: When I hear someone reference 'The Hall of the Very Good' (guys who are just a notch or so below HoF worthy) I think of Vada Pinson, Speed, power, defensive ability...he really was good at everything. Consider that he led the NL in hits, doubles, and triples twice each, and led the league in runs scored once. He was Top Five in stolen bases seven times. Pinson won a Gold Glove at a position played by Willie Mays. He was durable, too. He led the NL in at-bats twice. Pinson finished his 18-year career with more than 250 homers, more than 300 steals, and a .286 average.

He spent 11 years with the Reds and then a couple each with the Indians, Royals, Angels and a solo campaign with the Cardinals. And right up to his final season he was a solid player. After his playing days, he coached for several clubs through 1994. He passed away after a stroke in 1995 at the age of 57.

In 1960: His numbers fell off just a bit from his terrific sophomore year of 1959. But even so, he led the league in doubles, hit .287, one point off his career mark, and made the All Star team for the second time. 

Off The Charts: Hey, what's SABR got to say?
Apparently, Pinson was so talented musically that he seriously considered making the trumpet his career choice. However, the legendary coach at McClymonds, George Powles, who had been instrumental in developing Pinson's future major league teammates Frank Robinson and Curt Flood as well as basketball superstar Bill Russell, recognized Pinson's raw athletic ability. Powles helped the youngster to understand and realize his potential as a professional baseball player.

His 1971 card uses a shot taken on a day I was at Yankee Stadium in June 1970. It was an amazing day of baseball that I've referenced several times on my other blogs. If you care to take a look at the story on my Five Tool Collector site.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Indians Team Trio #174 #216 #460

 The Indians finished fourth in the AL, a couple games under .500. 21 games behind the pennant-winning Yankees, and never really a factor. They had the youngest pitching staff in the league and that crew issued the most walks and gave up the most homers of the eight clubs. Not a recipe for success. Only Jim Perry had more than 8 wins (he had 18) and Johnny Klippstein was the closer. Don Newcombe, whose career was about to end was the elder statesman. I was surprised to see him on the roster. I never think of him with this club.

Their hitters combined for the second-best batting average and collected the most hits of any AL team but finished fifth in runs scored. When Woody Held leads your club in homers and WAR it's time to re-think your approach. They had traded Rocky Colavito before the season for Harvey Kuenn, a HIGHLY unpopular trade. They missed him.

Again I 'cheaped out' with a marked checklist. I live life with no regrets.

Joe Gordon had a Hall of Fame playing career but never approached that as a manager. In 1960 he was in his third season of managing the Indians. He had led them to a second-place finish in '59 but the team was headed nowhere 95 games into the year when he was traded(!!) to the Tigers for their manager, Jimmy Dykes. The backstory can be found here, among a dozen other sites.

For those interested, Gordon nor Dykes had any success in their new dugouts that year. Dykes, at least, got rehired in Cleveland, although he was canned during the following year.  Gordon was let go by the Tigers and landed in Kansas City where he was fired a couple of months into the '61 season. I hope he hadn't signed long-term leases anywhere.

Mel Harder was an outstanding pitcher for the Indians through the 30s and well into the 40s. He also was never beaten as a manager. He was 3-0 over two interim gigs in 1961 and '62. Bob Lemon followed Harder into Cleveland and won 207 games on the way to a Hall of Fame nod. He managed the Royals, White Sox, and Yankees between 1970 and 1981. His Yankees club won the 1978 World Series. 

Red Kress was a solid hitting infielder for several AL clubs from 1927 through the beginning of WWII. He had three 100+ RBI seasons. He coached for many years after his playing days and for a while had hopes of a comeback as a pitcher. Kress actually got into a game on the mound for the Giants in 1946. Jo-Jo White was an outfielder for several clubs in the 30s and 40s. He was a long-time coach and minor league player and manager. Interestingly he went to the Tigers with Joe Gordon when the trade for Jimmy Dykes occurred. Luke Appling, who had coached for Dykes, came over to Cleveland. So the trade actually was a swap of managers AND coaches.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

#137 Lou Klimchock Sport Rookie Star

Lou Klimchock  Kansas City A's

Career: Klimchock was a pinch-hitter and spare infielder who played in parts of (literally) twelve seasons between 1958 and 1970. His busiest and best season by far was 1969 in Cleveland when he was a semi-regular who appeared in 90 games and hit .287 with 6 home runs. Other than that year he had only one (1961 in KC) in which he played in as many as 50 games or had 100+ at-bats.

In 1960: Klimchock spent the month of July with the Athletics, played in 10 games, had 10 at-bats, got three hits. He spent the rest of the season with Shreveport of the AA Southern Association. He has middling stats for the season.

Off The Charts: His first big league hit was a homer when he was 18 on the final day of the 1958 season in Comiskey Park. The opposing pitcher was 19-year-old Stover McIlwain of the White Sox. Both players were making in their second big league game. It was the first time in modern baseball history that a teenager homered off a teenager. McIlwain, who gave up only that one run in going four innings, never got another chance in the majors.

Klimchock played in 12 major league seasons. He spent time in the minors in each and every one of those 12. I have no idea if that's a record but it certainly is worth noting.

He's the third most famous native of Latrobe, Pa. which was also home to Mr. Rogers and Arnold Palmer.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

#136 Jim Kaat Sport Rookie Star

Jim Kaat  Washington Senators

Career: Contrary to popular belief, Jim Kaat did NOT pitch to Babe Ruth AND Mike Trout. It only feels like that. He actually began his pro career in 1957 after playing for Hope College. He spent a few seasons in the Senator's system before getting a quick look in 1959, making the team (for a while) in 1960, and breaking through with the Twins in 1961. Over the span of four decades* Kaat won 283 games, won 16 Gold Gloves, made three All-Star squads, and was elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame in 2015 by one of the Vet committees. As was pointed out in the comments...he is not a HoFamer. I must have been dreaming that.

He made three starts for the Twins in the 1965 Series, winning one and losing two. He did get a WS ring, though. He claimed it in 1982 with the Cardinals when he was working out of their pen, a year from retirement.

Following his active playing days, he was a color commentator for numerous organizations including the Yankees (WPIX, YES/MSG), NBC, CBS, ESPN, and the MLB Network.

In 1960: Kaat began the season in the Nats' rotation and had a good start in April including his first career win with a 7-inning, three-hit performance at Yankee Stadium on the 27th. Then things went bad for the rookie, and he lost five of his next seven starts. He was sent to the bullpen and then to AAA where he wasn't very impressive but was good enough to get a September recall to the majors.

Off The Charts: OK, this is nuts. If you're a golfer you understand the significance of 'shooting your age'. It's a feat that only players who maintain their skills into their retirement years accomplish. Kaat has reached that links milestone...left-handed AND right-handed. Color me impressed.

*=I played intramural softball in four decades at the University of Houston. I'm in the UH IM Hall of Fame. Other than that I have nothing in common with Jim Kaat.

Friday, June 5, 2020

#175 Pedro Ramos

Pedro Ramos  Washington Senators

Career: Ramos was known as the 'Cuban Cowboy' for his habit of wearing a 10-gallon hat and boots. (During his time with the Yankees my father called him 'Pistol Pete' for some reason…ironic given Ramos' later life). He had a long, much-traveled career which was largely spent with the Senators/Twins and Indians as a starting pitcher in the late 50s/early 60s. He led the league in losses for four consecutive seasons which was probably a product of his being durable and playing with the AL's cellar-dwellers.

An All-Star selection in 1959, he was also a pretty solid hitter with 15 career homers and a .155 lifetime average. 

Ramos became a huge hit in New York late in 1964 when he was nabbed by the Yankees in a trade with the Indians. He appeared in relief (he'd become a bullpen guy by then) in 13 games and racked up 8 saves with 21 K's and no walks in 21 innings. But he wasn't eligible for the World Series because the trade had been made after the deadline.

In 1960: He was 11-18 while leading the league in starts and batters faced. His stats reflect a much better year than his W-L. This was also the year he was involved in baseball only All Cuban Triple Play. SABR tells the tale better than I:

[A pitch to] Whitey Herzog resulted in a delectable tidbit of 1960s trivia — an all-Cuban triple play. The setting was Washington’s Griffith Stadium, the teams involved were the hometown Senators and the visiting Kansas City Athletics, and the date was July 23, 1960. In the top of the third inning, with Washington holding a 3-1 lead and Kansas City threatening to cut the gap, outfielder Herzog stood at the plate with a full count, Jerry Lumpe rested on first, and Bill Tuttle was the baserunner at second. Herzog lined the next pitch straight into the glove of pitcher Ramos (one out); Ramos whirled and heaved to first baseman Julio Becquer (doubling up Lumpe for out number two); Becquer then tossed down to second where shortstop José Valdivielso tripled up the slow-footed Tuttle. Presto, a big-league feat never before or since duplicated, an all-Cuban triple play.

Off The Charts: He's one of the players whose 'off the Charts" section could easily run long enough for a book. His SABR bio paints a picture of a 'colorful' but troubled soul. He was convicted on gun and drug violations on more than one occasion during his post-career days. He was finally sent to prison after his third strike (pun sort of intended).

Here's a sample from his bio:
The fateful pitch to Mickey Mantle resulted in one of the most memorable blasts among the considerable list of Mantle tape-measure shots. The setting was the first game of a May 30, 1956, Yankee Stadium twin bill in which Mantle faced and terrorized two of his favorite victims, Ramos (12 career homers) and Camilo Pascual (11 lifetime blasts).1 Struck by an errant Ramos fastball in his first trip, Mantle stepped up a second time with the Yankees on the short end of a 1-0 score. He quickly knotted the count with a shot that came within approximately 18 inches of being the first ball ever to exit the cavernous ballpark on the fly.

I also enjoyed this tidbit from a site called the Cuba News:
Ted Williams makes a swing at the ball, but cannot find it. It is the third strike and while the best batter in history walks to the dig-out, the man who just dominated him, Pedro Ramos, amidst the excitement, asks the batboy to tell Ted to sign the ball for him.
The fearsome Boston slugger, was pleased, but won’t forget the insult. The night is young and a couple of innings later he takes revenge with a homerun by a mile
As he does a lap of the square, after passing third base, he shouts to the pitcher: “hey, Pedro, find that, I’ll sign it too.”

#173 Billy Martin

Billy Martin  Cincinnati Reds

Career: Billy Martin had a reputation as a battler that he carried with him through both his playing and managerial careers. He was also part of Mick's Clique when he played in NYC with the Yankees. He played for 11 seasons, the first seven with the Yankees beginning in 1950 after a single minor league season. Martin hit .257 with a touch of power. He hit 15 dingers in 1953 and 65 in his career.

Over his final five years, he played for seven different teams which has to be close to a record. His ninth-inning single in Game Six of the 1953 Series won the title for the Yankees. Martin won four titles as a player and added one as Yankees manager in 1977.

In all he managed 16 years for the Twins, A's, Tigers and, famously, the Yankees. His relationship with George Steinbrenner (and numerous hirings/firings) is well known. His SABR bio will keep you entertained for days.

In 1960: This was his next to last season and his only one with the Reds. He played just over 100 games at second, hit .246 and had his contract sold to the Braves at seasons end.

Off The Charts:
SABR on his playing skills:  [Casey Stengel was]  asked why he thought so highly of Martin as a player, Stengel replied, “If liking a kid who never let you down in the clutch is favoritism, then I plead guilty.”

SABR on his managerial skills: Martin commanded respect as a manager. In 1987, in a poll of 600 former players, he ranked eighth among some heavyweights – behind Stengel, Joe McCarthy, Walter Alston, John McGraw, Connie Mack, Earl Weaver, and Al Lopez, and ahead of Whitey Herzog, Sparky Anderson, and Tommy Lasorda.

SABR on his eulogy, etc: At Martin’s viewing in a New York City funeral home, thousands filed in to pay their last respects. The funeral took place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Cardinal John O’Connor delivered the eulogy. More than 500 attended, including former President Richard Nixon, numerous baseball executives, and many players and ex-players.

This video, less than five minutes long, consists of comments from players he played with and managed recorded in the wake of Martin's Christmas Day 1989 death in a car accident at the age of 61,

Thursday, June 4, 2020

#135 Ken Johnson Sport Rookie Star

Ken Johnson  Kansas City Athletics

Career: Ken Johnson's pro career stretched over 18 years. He was a Philadelphia A's signee and pitched in their system for a couple of seasons before spending a year in the service in 1954. He returned to baseball and continued in the minors for most of the decade. He made the majors for good the year this card was issued and stuck around for a decade pitching for multiple clubs. Johnson's best seasons came with Houston and Milwaukee/Atlanta from 1963 through 1967. He won 65 games over that stretch. His last appearances came in 1970 with the Expos.

Johnson had a quick, two-out appearance for the Reds in the last game of the '61 World Series when they lost to the Yankees. It was his only postseason experience. 

In 1960: He'd had a few looks previously but this was his first full year. He pitched in 42 games (his highest total ever), all but six out of the bullpen. He went 5-10 but his stats suggest he was better than that mark. His 4.26 ERA was actually the highest he had in any full season.

Off The Charts: Johnson is the only pitcher to have lost a nine-inning no-hitter. It came in April of 1964. In addition to a standard player bio, Johnson's tough luck loss get's a SABR write-up worth reading.

Also from SABR... "Johnson was actually born left-handed but his father, out of habit, put Ken’s baseball glove on his left hand and taught him to throw right-handed. Johnson eats and writes as a lefty but pitched professional baseball right-handed for 19 seasons."

The Card: Yes, it's just as washed out as it appears in the scan.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

#134 Deron Johnson Sport Rookie Star

Deron Johnson  New York Yankees

Career: I think of a lot of different teams when I remember Deron Johnson, the Yankees are NOT one of them. But here he is. Johnson signed with the Bombers in 1956 out of high school and in five minor league seasons put up these home runs totals: 24, 26, 27, 25, 27. That's steady.

He got a peek at the majors at the end of 1960 and opened 1961 with the Yanks but, despite being tabbed as 'The Next Mickey Mantle' by some, he struggled and in June was dealt to the Athletics. He didn't hit much for them either as he had his playing time interrupted by stints in the military. The A's sold him to the Reds and thus began a trip that took him to eight different franchises over sixteen years.

He was truly a 'corner' guy as he played left, right, first and third before becoming a DH late in his career. He had 245 career homers and won a Series ring with the '73 Athletics. His best year was 1965 with the Reds when he led the NL with 130 RBIs and finished fourth in the MVP race.

In 1960: As mentioned, he got a brief look by the Yanks in September and got into six games. He had a couple of hits in four trips. The bulk of his year was spent at AAA Richmond. It was his third full season there. Breaking through to the Yankees roster in those days wasn't easy.

Off The Charts: Johnson was a baseball and football star in high school in San Diego. His SABR bio states:

Johnson played end, linebacker, kicker, and punter for San Diego High School. [...] Pursued by several colleges, Johnson was offered numerous football scholarships, including one from Notre Dame, but Johnson turned down the Fighting Irish and the other schools. Upon graduation from high school in 1956, having been also sought by the Yankees, Braves, Red Sox, Indians, and Pirates, Johnson signed with New York Yankees scout Gordon “Deacon” Jones to a Class-D contract for $1,000 a month.

The Card: We've seen this before...Topps using the same photo for multiple cards of the era. Johnson had designated  'rookie' cards in 1959 and 1961.

I thought I'd found the original photo that was the basis for these but there are some subtle differences, more of his uniform number visible, etc.,. I'm thinking the picture is from the same photo session but not exactly the same shot. Opinions welcome.

Monday, June 1, 2020

#172 Willie Kirkland

Willie Kirkland  San Francisco Giants

Career: Kirkland was a minor league stud in the Giants' chain after signing in 1954. He had power to burn and moved up through the system. He spent 1957 in the Army and came back to open the 1958 season in the Giants outfield. He was even slotted as their clean-up hitter on Opening Day. But he struggled and was sent to the minors for part of the month of June. When he returned he homered in his first game and raised his average 40 points from the .218 he was hitting when demoted.

He displayed good but not great power for three seasons as the club's right fielder but was traded to the Indians and had a fine year in 1961. Things went mostly downhill from there, and he was dealt to the Orioles in 1964. The Birds moved him to Washington late that summer, and he stayed in DC through 1966. His numbers had taken a tumble and he played AAA ball in 1967 before trying his luck in Japan where he had a nice run as a power hitter and popular star for several years.

In 1960: This was his third and final year on the West Coast. His slash line of 21/65/.252 wasn't good enough to hold off the other young talent in the Giants' system. With Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, and the Alou Brothers in the picture the Giants moved Kirkland for a 30-year-old Harvey Kuenn who lacked Kirkland's power but was more consistent and experienced. 

Off The Charts: Kirkland played in Japan for six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers. I found this Tigers English News page about Kirkland and it features a video of the 1973 Japan World Series won by the Tokyo Giants over Kirkland's Tigers. Kirkland appears at about 1:10 when he whiffs to end the game and the Series.