Friday, July 31, 2020

#204 Ryne Duren

Ryne Duren  New York Yankees

Career: Duren battled poor eyesight, wildness, and a drinking problem but overcame them all to forge an All-Star career and a post-playing life dedicated to helping teens and ballplayers with their own issues. He banged around the minors as a starting pitcher through several organizations for eight years before finding his niche in the Yankees' bullpen in 1958.

Duren led the league in saves that rookie year and was second in the RoY race. He pitched for the Yanks for four seasons and in two World Series. He had a save in the '58 Series that was very typical of him...two innings, no hits, three walks. His Yankee star faded after 1959 before moving on through several more clubs including the Angels in 1961.  That year he made his third AL All-Star team (after a trade from the Yanks in May) in a season he had a 5.19 ERA.

His final season in pro ball was in 1965 but by then his life had slid off a cliff, and he found himself without a payday. His path soon took even darker turns until nearly two years of being institutionalized changed him. He spent the rest of his days as an addiction counselor. 

In 1960: Coming off two excellent seasons Duren had problems in 1960 and didn't pitch well, or often. He had only eight saves and posted an ERA close to 5.

Off The Charts: Duren wrote two books about his career and life. His SABR bio is highly recommended.

Mt father loved Ryne Duren. He delighted in telling me that Duren would throw warm-up pitches to the backstop and squint at the catcher's signs to scare hitters. I don't recall ever seeing either but it sure tickled my Dad.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

#203 Sammy White

Sammy White  Boston Red Sox

Career: White held down the Red Sox catchers job from 1952 through 1959. He was a career .262 hitter with exceptional skills behind the plate. He had spent three years in the Sox' system before his rookie year when he hit .281 and was third in the AL RoY voting in a very close race with 15-game winner Harry Byrd of the A's and fellow catcher Gus Triandos of the Browns.

White played briefly and sparingly for the Braves and Phils to close out his career in 1961/62. He then ran his bowling center and was a golf pro in Hawaii.

In 1960: He was traded to the Indians in March but rather than report to Cleveland's spring camp, White 'retired', and spent his year at his business. He was talked out of retirement by the Braves the following summer to fill in for an injured Del Crandall.

Off The Charts: White's SABR bio has this to say about his defensive abilities: Casey Stengel, who managed the New York Yankees to six American League pennants and four world championships during White’s tenure as the regular Red Sox catcher, was one of Sammy’s biggest fans. Stengel got to see White in action up to 22 times each year under the old 154-game schedule, and he used to shake his head at Sammy’s ability to “frame” a pitch. “He [White] steals more strikes from umpires than anyone else,” Stengel would tell anyone who would listen. “I’m not being critical,” Stengel would add, “I’m just bowing to his skill.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

#236 Dick Ricketts

Dick Ricketts  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: Dick Ricketts (and fellow big leaguer brother Dave) were basketball and baseball stars from Pottstown, Pa. Dick went on to excel in hoops at Duchesne University and was the #1 overall pick in the 1955 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks. For a few years, Ricketts spread his talents over two pro sports. He pitched in the Cards' chain while also playing in the NBA. Ricketts played three seasons for the Hawks and Royals before turning to baseball fulltime.

Ricketts had a decade-long minor league career as a pitcher in the systems of the Cards and Phils. He made the majors with St. Louis in the middle of 1959 and appeared in a dozen games, nine being starts. He went 1-6 and his other numbers were no better. That six-week run was the extent of his big league career.

In 1960: Ricketts had spent his last days as a major league player at this point. He spent the season with Rochester of the International League, a Cardinals' AAA club. In 30 starts he went 9-13 with an ERA over 4.30 and was pitching his way out of the Cards' organization.

Off The Charts: While his brother Dave was a catcher for the Cardinals, the two were never a battery for the team. In fact, Dave was serving in the military during Dick's brief St. Louis run. But they were both in Rochester with the AAA RedWings in 1957 and 1960. Dave, newly signed and arriving in June of that '57 season, was behind the plate for Dick's near no-hitter on the 12th. In that game, Dick had a two-out, two-strike situation in the ninth when he allowed that one hit. Dave Ricketts reached the majors in 1963.

Wikipedia tells us that "[Dick] Ricketts is one of 13 athletes to play in both the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. The 13 are: Danny Ainge, Frank Baumholtz, Gene Conley, Chuck Connors, Michael Jordan, Dave DeBusschere, Dick Groat, Steve Hamilton, Mark Hendrickson, Cotton Nash, Ron Reed, Dick Ricketts and Howie Schultz."

The Card: Dick Ricketts had his rookie baseball card in 1959:

But prior to that, he had a card in the Topps hoops set from 1957:

#202 Fred Kipp

Fred Kipp  Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: Fred Kipp began his run with the Dodgers in Brooklyn when he signed in 1953. He had a really good year with a couple of their Class B clubs and then spent time with the US Army. He had some up and down results as a starter over three seasons in the minors before sticking with the Dodgers as a knuckleballing reliever in 1958. His numbers were not good.

Kipp was back in the minors in '59 and got a late call-up but wasn't on their World Series roster. The next three years were spent mostly at the top levels of the Yankees' system.

In all, he had a career mark of 6-7 in 47 games in the majors.

In 1960: Kipp was traded (at his request) to the Yankees on the eve of the season's opening. He made four appearances in pinstripes through the end of May and then was sent down to AAA Richmond where he had a fine year out of the bullpen.

Off The Charts: Kipp pitched (ever so briefly) on consecutive Series-winning staffs, the '59 Dodgers, and '60 Yanks. He totaled six games and seven innings.

Kipp has a website for the 2018 book he co-wrote with his son entitled The Last Yankee Dodger. The title comes from his being the last living player to have been a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, The LA Dodgers, and the Yankees.

I had forgotten about his 1959 card and dug up my old post from that blog. Another Memorial Coliseum shot.

Some notes from that post...

Kipp is a member of the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame (don't laugh, Walter Johnson is in there, too. So is Ralph Houk) and attended Emporia State. I had a good friend who went there after we graduated high school in Jersey. Never really told me why.

Monday, July 27, 2020

#201 Larry Osborne

Larry 'Bobo' Osborne  Detroit Tigers

Career: Bobo (or just 'Bo') Osborne must have loved baseball because he spent a lot of time riding the busses through the minors both before and after his major league career. He had passed up a football scholarship at Auburn and signed with the Tigers in 1953. He fought his way up the ladder and finally won a job with the Tigers in 1959. The Georgia native played about half the games that year, mostly at first.

He returned to the Tigers after another minor league season and spent '62/'63 as a bench piece who didn't see much playing time. A trade to the Senators saw him get a full-time spot for the first and only time in the bigs. He played in 125 games for the Nationals, struggled at the plate, and then returned to the minors where he stuck it out for six more years. He was later a scout for the Giants.

In 1960: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution summed it all up in his obit in 2011:

In 1960, Mr. Osborne enjoyed what might have been the highlight of his baseball career. Playing for Denver, the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate, he battled Carl Yastrzemski, a Red Sox prospect with Minneapolis at the time, for the American Association batting title. It was decided over the last two games of the season, with Mr. Osborne winning with a .342 batting average to Yastrzemski’s .339. With 34 home runs and 119 RBIs, Mr. Osborne also was the league triple crown winner that season.

Off The Charts: Bobo's dad, Tiny, was a pitcher for the Cubs and Dodgers in the 20s. That is mentioned with the cartoon on the back.

The Card: I haven't noticed a lot of Tiger Stadium shots in this set. But this is one of them. I'm happy that the checklist has progressed back to the cream-colored card backs. The gold/cream/black backs rank up there with my all-time favorites. Nice color combo on the front, too.

EDITED TO ADD: Since I have mostly completed my research into the set's color combos I have found that Osborne's card is the first one in the checklist that has red as the first color in the name. Up until this point every one-player card had the name printed with yellow or black as the first letter.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

#200 Willie Mays

Willie Mays  San Francisco Giants

Career: We all know the Willie Mays legacy. Here is a look at the summary from Baseball-Reference's Wiki page:

Notable Achievements...
  •     1951 NL Rookie of the Year Award
  •     20-time NL All-Star (1954-1973)
  •     2-time NL MVP (1954 & 1965)
  •     1963 All-Star Game MVP
  •     1968 All-Star Game MVP
  •     12-time Gold Glove Winner (1957/ML-CF, 1958-1960/NL-CF & 1961-1968/NL-OF)
  •     NL Batting Average Leader (1954)
  •     2-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1965 & 1971)
  •     5-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1954, 1955, 1957, 1964 & 1965)
  •     5-time NL OPS Leader (1954, 1955, 1958, 1964 & 1965)
  •     2-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1958-1961)
  •     NL Hits Leader (1960)
  •     3-time NL Total Bases Leader (1955, 1962 & 1965)
  •     3-time NL Triples Leader (1954, 1955 & 1957)
  •     4-time NL Home Runs Leader (1955, 1962, 1964 & 1965)
  •     NL Bases on Balls Leader (1971)
  •     4-time NL Stolen Bases Leader (1956-1959)
  •     20-Home Run Seasons: 17 (1951, 1954-1968 & 1970)
  •     30-Home Run Seasons: 11 (1954-1957, 1959 & 1961-1966)
  •     40-Home Run Seasons: 6 (1954, 1955, 1961, 1962, 1964 & 1965)
  •     50-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1955 & 1965)
  •     100 RBI Seasons: 10 (1954, 1955 & 1959-1966)
  •     100 Runs Scored Seasons: 12 (1954-1965)
  •     200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1958)
  •     Won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1954
  •     Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1979

In 1960: Mays led the NL with 190 hits, had 29 homers (slightly below his peak seasons average), drove in 103, hit .319, won a Gold Glove, finished third in the MVP race.

Off The Charts: Mays has a new book out this spring. In it, he discusses how close he was to signing with the Boston Red Sox when he was playing for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1950. The Sox' scout had a deal in place but was overruled by their front office. Mays in Center, Ted Williams in Left. Hmmmm.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

#199 Dick Donovan

Dick Donovan  Chicago White Sox

Career: Dick Donavan's career was a series of peaks and valleys. His first peak came in the second half of the 50s when he was a front-line starter for the White Sox and earned All-Star recognition. He averaged about 15 wins a year over a four-year span and in 1957 was second in the Cy Young voting. He also pitched very well in the '59 Series versus the Dodgers in a losing cause.

Donavan's second peak came with the Senators and Indians in the early 60s when again he was an All-Star and he had a 20-win season for the Tribe. He also won an ERA crown in the AL.

In 1960: In between those peaks came this valley. With a sore arm, Donavan pitched only 79 innings and was hit hard in pretty much all of them. It was bad enough that he was left exposed in the expansion draft and he ended up with Washington in 1961. That move led to his resurgence, his early 60s peak.

Off the Charts: According to Wikipedia...His friend Wyatt gave him the idea to sell insurance, and Donovan had a home business selling insurance during his MLB career. In 1963, he earned his stockbroker's license and joined the Boston-based firm Eastman & Dillon. After his baseball career, he served as the executive vice president for Bache & Co. In 1980, he opened a real estate appraisal office in Quincy, which he ran until 1994. Additionally, Donovan served as a distributor with Earth Care Products, a Quincy company that makes products out of recycled plastic.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

#198 Jerry Lynch

Jerry Lynch  Cincinnati Reds

Career: Jerry Lynch was the game's premier pinch-hitter for a number of years in the late 50s and early 60s. His career spanned 13 seasons, with two nearly equal runs in Pittsburgh bracketing a six-plus season stint with the Reds. He had a few seasons where he was a 'nearly-everyday-starter', but a lot of his time was as a platoon guy and lefty off the bench.

His pro career began at 19 with a season at the Class C level on an independent team in the Cotton States League in 1950. Uncle Sam had him for two years, and then he signed with the Pirates, debuting in 1954.

According to Wikipedia Lynch 'had 116 pinch hits during his career, which ranks him 10th on the all-time list. Lynch is third on the all-time pinch-hit home run list (he was first when he retired) with 18, with five of those coming during the 1961 season while driving in 25 runs.'

In the 1961 World Series, he was hitless in four trips but his homer on September 28 in the eighth inning versus the Cubs was the blow that clinched the pennant for the Reds.

In 1960: This was one of his 'primarily a pinch-hitter' seasons. He hit .289 with six homers in 102 games and 159 at-bats.

Off The Charts: In his New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James made a case for Lynch being named MVP for his 1961 heroics.
 "He hit over .400 as a pinch hitter with power and played 44 games in the outfield. His slugging percentage of .624 and 50 RBI in 181 at-bats was a far better rate than Roger Maris had that same season, hitting 61 home runs," James wrote. "More than that, Lynch had big, big hits; game after game, when the Reds were in danger of falling short, Lynch came up with the big hit to put them back in front, and the Reds, picked to finish sixth, won the pennant."
Lynch and former teammate Dick Groat operated a golf course after their playing days.

The Card: Lynch also appears on a special, multi-player "Cincy Clouters" card with Gus Bell and Frank Robinson in this set that was posted back in 2016.

Monday, July 20, 2020

#197 Ron Kline

Ron Kline  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: Ron Kline was a Western Pa. kid who was signed by the Pirates after a try-out in Forbes Field in 1950. He went on to pitch for 17 major league seasons, eight of them for the Bucs. He made the roster in 1952 and stayed busy for half the season but was 0-7 and did some minor league time that year as well. Kline served two years in the Army and returned to the Pirates in 1955.

Kline was primarily a starter at this point and remained one for the rest of the decade with mixed results. He had some decent numbers but pitching for bad teams caused him to lead the NL in losses twice. After a year with the Cardinals, Kline made himself over as a reliever. Other than a four-year run with the Senators, he bounced around the majors with short stays with the Angels, Tigers, Red Sox, Pirates (again), Twins, Giants, and Braves.

In 1960: His only year in St. Louis proved to be a disaster. He made 17 starts (all before July 4) and an equal number of relief appearances to the tune of a 6+ ERA. The Cards cashed out by selling him to the fledgling Angels just before Opening Day, 1961.

Off The Charts: Kline returned to his beloved Callery, Pennsylvania after his playing days. He was a car salesman (he had earlier co-owned a dealership), ran a bar, and served as a baseball coach and the mayor.

The Card: A second Cardinal pitcher within a couple of spots in the checklist is a sure sign of a guy who was traded too late to finagle the list. Topps was able to include the trade on the back of the card. I will sometimes try to figure out what '59 'Season's Highlight' was bumped to include the trade notation. In Kline's case, I'd bet on an 11-inning complete-game five-hit win over the Reds on July 5. A notoriously bad hitter, Kline even had a hit and two RBIs in that game!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

#196 Andy Carey

Andy Carey  New York Yankees

Career: Andy Carey's best days came as the regular (or mostly regular) third-baseman with the Yankee teams of the mid-50s. Coming out of St. Mary's College of California, Carey spent a season and a half in the minors and a season and a half on the Yankees' bench before taking over at third in 1954. He got the job (rather than 'won' the job) because of military service requirements and injuries among Yankee infielders. Carey never really had the confidence of manager Casey Stengel, but he held the spot, sometimes tenuously, through 1959. His above-average glove at third helped quite a bit.

Carey played on four Yankee pennant winners and won titles with the '56 and '58 clubs. He moved on to three other teams after his Yankee career and retired after the 1962 season. Carey finished with a .260 average and 64 homers.

In 1960: On May 19, having only gotten three at-bats and been deemed expendable by the emergence of Clete Boyer, Carey was fired off to the Athletics for Bob Cerv. He was handed the 3rd base job and played there as the regular the rest of the season. He hit only .233, but he hit 12 homers which matched his season-high. This was his last season to play in at least a hundred games and began a tour of a few new clubs (the White Sox in '61, the Phils, to whom he refused to report, and Dodgers in 1962) which finished off his career.

Off The Charts: Carey's life off the field was as turbulent as it seemed to be on it. He married numerous times. His first was to Hollywood fringe starlet Lucy Marlow. He worked in insurance after retiring, buried a son shot by police following an armed robbery gone bad, and was severely injured in a fall down some stairs later in life. He never fully recovered from that fall and developed dementia. He died at age 80 in 2011.

Friday, July 17, 2020

#195 Lindy McDaniel

Lindy McDaniel  St. Louis Cardinals

Career: Lindy McDaniel pitched 21 seasons in the majors in a career that lasted from 1955 to 1975. He worked in 987 games, 913 in relief. He pitched only eight games in the minors and those came after a rough patch in 1958 and the demotion marked the end of his time as a starter. That period came primarily in 1957. He was back in the bigs after that short 'cooling-off' and found a home in the bullpen.

The Oklahoma native played for the Cardinals through 1962. Having seen his effectiveness decrease after twice leading the league in saves, they dealt him to the Cubs, and he rebounded nicely. In '63 he won his second Top Reliever Award and again led the NL in saves. He called Wrigley home for three years, spent a couple of seasons with the Giants, and then was an effective middle innings guy (and sometimes stopper) for the Yankees for six more. McDaniel finished up with two years in KC as a Royal.

In his career, he won 141 games against 199 losses and racked up 174 saves. It's almost hard to believe that he spent so much time playing in the majors for teams with so many combined league titles, and yet he never once pitched in a post-season game.

Baseball-Reference lists every player's 'Similarity Scores', a list of guys who have numbers that are close to the numbers of the player being profiled. On the list they have for Lindy McDaniel the top five are Ron Reed, Hoyt Wilhelm, Tom Gordon, Goose Gossage, and Stu Miller. Wilhelm and Gossage are in the Hall. I'm not saying McDaniel was a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher, but I would have thought he'd have picked up more than the couple of votes he got in the two years he was on the ballot.

In 1960: In a long and accomplished career, this season stands out as McDaniel's best. Cards manager Solly Hemus called on him 65 times, all but two in relief. McDaniel responded with brilliance. Pitching 116 innings he allowed only 85 hits and fanned 105. He made the NL All-Star team (surprisingly for the only time) and picked up the save in the 2nd of the two ASGs. He was 12-4 with a 2.09 ERA, led the league with 27 saves, had a WHIP below 1.0, and finished third in the Cy Young race and fifth in the MVP voting. McDaniel won the very first Fireman Of The Year Award as well. Hell, I have no idea what Win Probability Added is, but he led the league in that, too!

Off The Charts: I usually don't port over chunks from my other blogs but I thought I'd do so for this one. Here is part of what I wrote for McDaniel's post on my 1958 blog. It contains some links to McDaniel mentions on my Five Tool blog.

I've collected most if not all of McDaniel's Topps cards. He's been a favorite of mine for a long time. I've related several times the two 1970 games in which he participated that are among my most memorable ever. I wrote to him a few years ago and asked him about both games. Here is the letter with his responses:

He also sent along several of his own signed items with the cards I sent. He remains a good TTM signer and accepts donations to his Christian ministry.

Finally, a few tidbits about Lindy McDaniel. He had two brothers who played pro baseball. One of them, Von McDaniel, has a card in this 1958 set. His cousin is longtime University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal. He homered for the Yankees in 1972 and that's the last home run hit by a Yankee pitcher. When he retired in 1975 his 987 appearances were second all-time only to Hoyt Wilhelm. He's since been bypassed in that category by many others and currently ranks 17th. (Wilhelm is now 6th). 2020 edit: those numbers hold true.

And when I posted his '59 card on that set's blog I included this account of the game I mentioned in that letter:

One of the best regular-season games I ever saw involved Lindy McDaniel. I watched the Orioles and Yankees on July 8 of 1970 with my Dad on t.v. My O's were starting to put the Yanks in their rearview mirror and were coming off a dramatic 10th inning win the previous night. Brooks Robinson's bottom of the 10th grand slam had beaten, yup, Lindy McDaniel. I'd listened to that one on the Orioles radio network which, if I turned my portable Panasonic the right way, came in pretty darn clear in the kitchen of our house on the central New Jersey coast.

But the game in question was even better. The Orioles jumped out to an early lead with a three-run first in Memorial Stadium. Don Buford had led the game off with a homer and Frank Robinson had driven in a run with the first of what would be four hits on the night.

The Yanks tied it and took a lead of 4-3 quickly enough, the highlight of the comeback a three-run shot by Thurman Munson off Dave McNally. But the seesaw tilted back when Boog Powell and Frank Robinson blasted back-to-back shots in the bottom of the fourth! Jump ahead to the top of the 8th and the Yanks had edged back to trail only 6-5 and then broke out with homers from John Ellis and ex-Bird Curt Blefary. Now it's 8-6 New York in front and I'm pissed.

Lindy McDaniel is working his second inning on his second straight night in a tight game. Frank Robinson, never one to let a tense situation slip away without doing something special, drills his second homer of the evening to lead off the 9th and it's a one-run game again. Then Brooks Robinson and Dave Johnson single and I remember that I cannot sit down any longer. With Bobby Grich running for Brooks, Andy Etchebarren walks to load 'em up!

Now Terry Crowley steps up to pinch-hit and McDaniel buckles down. He fans Cro on three pitches. Ellie Hendricks pinch hits for the pitcher and McDaniel FANS HIM ON 3 PITCHES! So Don Buford steps up hoping to end the game just like he started it, with a bang. McDaniel gets him down 0-2 and now has gone from a bases-loaded jam to just needing one damn strike with 8 straight strikes. Holy crap. Then, dramatically, Buford strokes the next pitch into right field, Grich and Etch score and the neighbors can't figure out why I'm screaming. Birds win, 9-8.

That's a long, involved story but one I love telling. I brought the game up to Earl Weaver in a conversation I once had with him and after about a sentence and a half Earl took over the re-telling in his unique and colorful style. Good times.

Now, in 2020, re-reading my letter and his responses I realize I asked him to comment on two tough losses. Maybe I should have asked about a win or two!

McDaniel is now 85 and, at last report, is still signing thru the mail via his webpage for a small fee. 

The Card: The orange/green/yellow/white works fine together, especially when it has the help of the great Cardinals' jersey and the Seals Stadium background. This is a favorite of mine.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

#193 Dick Hyde

Dick Hyde  Washington Senators

Career: Signed in 1949, Dick Hyde spent six seasons in the Senators' system with a couple of years off in the service of Uncle Sam. He got his shot in 1957 as a middle reliever and did well enough to earn the stopper's role in '58. That year he led the AL with 19 saves. Bear in mind that came on a 61-win team. His 1.75 ERA was matched by a 1.134 WHIP and a 10-3 record. It all earned him enough MVP votes to finish 12th in the balloting.

He only had six other saves in a career that lasted through 1961. His '58 year was really lightning-in-a-bottle.

In 1960: Hyde had been roughed up just a bit through the end of May (0-1, 4.15 in 9 appearances) and was soon sold to the Orioles. He spent the rest of the season with the Os' top farm team in Miami. There he posted an 0-5 record with an inflated ERA over 34 innings of relief. 

Off The Charts: Hyde passed away just a few months ago, in April 2020, at the age of 91. In 1959, Hyde was included in deal-gone-bad between Washington and the Red Sox. On June 11, Hyde and Herb Plews were sent to Boston for Murray Wall and Billy Consolo. When the Sox found that Hyde had a sore arm, he and Wall were returned to their original teams.

The Card: The cartoon and the blurb on the back of the card refer to his career-topping 1958 season.

Yes, this card really is this miscut.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

#192 Danny O'Connell

Danny O'Connell  San Francisco Giants

Career: The Braves sent six players and $100K to the Pirates for O'Connell in 1954. They were hoping he was the piece of the puzzle they needed to jump to the top of the NL. O'Connell had been big stuff in the Brooklyn organization and played very well for the Pirates in his two big-league seasons He was third in RoY voting in '53 and garnered some MVP votes in '54. But he was never the player the Braves had hoped for (and had paid such a big price for) and he was sent on to the Giants after three seasons of diminishing returns in Milwaukee.

His production was no better in San Francisco, and he made his own deal to play for the expansion Senators where he spent his final seasons in the majors. He was a player/manager for the Nats' top farm club for a year and then spent a couple of seasons coaching with the Senators.

In 1960: Coming off a season with the Giants during which he got into only 34 games, O'Connell was not in the majors. He played for the Giants' Tacoma farm club in the PCL and hit a robust .312, paving the way for his signing in Washington.

Off The Charts: O'Connell was from the same Essex County area of New Jersey where I spent many years as a kid. He died in a truck crash caused by his heart attack in 1969. He was only 40.

Monday, July 13, 2020

#191 Johnny Klippstein

Johnny Klippstein  Los Angeles Dodgers

Career: Klippstein pitched professionally from 1944 through 1967. He signed his first contract after attending a Cardinals' tryout camp on a whim at the age of 16. He was, at that point, the grizzled veteran of one season of high school ball. His big-league debut came with the Cubs in 1950. He'd spent five seasons in the minors, been drafted into the Army, and been drafted twice more,,, by the Dodgers from the Cards and by the Cubs from the Dodgers.

Klippstein went on to pitch for eighteen seasons for eight clubs. Through most of the fifties, he jumped from a starter's role to a reliever's one for the Cubs and Reds. Cincy moved him to the bullpen in 1958, and he was a bullpen guy for the rest of his career. He threw hard but was plagued by wildness as a starter. He claimed that pitching more frequently out of the bullpen helped him gain more control of his pitches. Klippstein pitched in two World Series, first with LA in '59, and then with the Twins in 1965. He threw 4.2 scoreless innings over those two Classics.

In 1960: He was sent to the Indians on the eve of Opening Day and, being told he would be the team's closer, had one of his best years. He tied for the league lead with 14 saves, easily a career-high. 

Off The Charts: A funny story from his SABR bio: In one of the most memorable games of his career, Klippstein relieved Bob Purkey to start the 11th inning in a 0-0 game against the Houston Colt .45’s at Colt Stadium [in 1962]. In the top of the 13th, Klippstein hit his fifth career home run, a solo shot, and then pitched his third consecutive scoreless inning to give the Reds a 1-0 victory, the first time a National League pitcher had won a 1-0 game in extra innings with a home run. Circling the bases, Klippstein said, “I looked to Bob Aspromonte who was playing third base, I said, ‘If you think you’re surprised, imagine how I feel?’

After retirement, Klippstein was a loyal Cubs fan and season ticket holder.  He was also active in their Old Timers Association.

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?”

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

#184 Gary Geiger

Gary Geiger  Boston Red Sox

Career: Geiger played for four clubs in a 12-year career but got most of his work during a seven-season hitch with the Red Sox. He had been a Cardinals pitching prospect but was drafted away by the Indians and debuted with Cleveland in 1958 as a speedy outfielder with a touch of power and otherwise average offensive skills. He was traded to the Red Sox and was their regular center fielder for five years beginning in 1959 (when he could stay on the field).  Geiger's career was pockmarked with ulcer problems, concussions, broken bones, and other assorted ailments.

Beginning in 1966 he bounced around from the Braves to the Astros while making several separate appearances in the Cardinals chain. How that all worked I can't say.

In 1960: He missed about half the season due to an operation to correct a collapsed lung. In 77 games he hit .302 and his homer and RBI totals were on track to meet or surpass his career season highs.

Off The Charts: In 1955, deep in the Cardinals' system with Hamilton of the PONY league, Geiger was a 20-game winner on the mound.

Wikipedia reports that Geiger wore false teeth after his own, too soft to take fillings, had all been extracted by age 22.

He died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 59. It was likely a result of his drinking habit which he used to overcome his fear of flying during his career.

The Card: The b/w 'action' shot on this card was re-used for his 1962 Topps cards (in color, of course).