Monday, December 28, 2015

Jack Aker (#287)

Nicknamed “The Chief” due to his American Indian heritage, Jack Aker was signed by the Kansas City Athletics as an outfielder in 1959, and after 1 season was converted to a pitcher.

He made his major-league debut in 1964, but played part of that season and the next in the minors before returning permanently to the bigs in July 1965. Jack pitched for 11 seasons, and pitched every one of his 495 games in relief.

In 1966 he led the AL with 32 saves, and in games finished with 57. Aker was the Top Dog in the A’s bullpen for 3 seasons (1966-68), then at age 27, was inexplicably left unprotected in the expansion draft, and was selected by the Seattle Pilots.


Jack began the 1969 season with the Pilots, but in May was traded to the Yankees for pitcher Fred Talbot. (This reunited Talbot with his old Yankees’ teammate Jim Bouton, providing fodder for Bouton’s book “Ball Four”.) 

Aker teamed up with the veteran Lindy McDaniel and others in the Yankees’ bullpen for the next 3 seasons. In May 1972, he was traded to the Cubs for outfielder Johnny Callison. After 1 ½ seasons with the Cubs, Aker split his final season (1974) between the Braves and the Mets.

He managed in the minor leagues after his retirement, and was the Indians' pitching coach in the mid-1980s. For 20 years beginning in 1988 he ran a youth baseball camp.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tommie Sisk (#441)

Tommie Sisk played for 9 years (1962-70), mostly as a starting pitcher for the Pirates.

Sisk was signed by the Pirates in 1960, and was a starting pitcher in their farm system for 3 seasons. He also played a few games with the Pirates in late July, and again in late-September 1962.

In 1963 and 1964, Tommie worked out of the Bucs’ bullpen, along with Al McBean and the veteran Elroy Face. Sisk appeared in 57 and 42 games over that span.


He began the 1965 season in the bullpen, but by late-July Sisk was moved to the starting rotation, replacing Joe Gibbon. His final 12 games that season were all starts.

Tommie was primarily a starting pitcher for his final 3 seasons in Pittsburgh. By this time, veterans Bob Friend and Vern Law were winding down, and Bob Veale had taken over as the staff ace. Veale, Sisk, Steve Blass, and rookie Woodie Fryman formed the core of the rotation. Sisk won 10 games in ’66 and 13 in ’67 (with 11 complete games), but an off-year in 1968 probably made him expendable, and the following March he was traded to the expansion San Diego Padres.

After 1 season in the Padres’ bullpen, Sisk was traded to the White Sox. He played in 17 games with the ChiSox through mid-June, then was traded to the Indians for pitchers Bob Miller and Barry Moore.

Tommie’s last major-league action was with the Sox, as the Indians assigned him to their triple-A team for the rest of the season. Sisk pitched for the Expos’ AAA team in 1971 before retiring.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dick Schofield (#474)

Here is Giants’ shortstop Dick Schofield. Back in the day, he went by the nickname “Ducky”. Current Washington Nationals’ outfielder Jayson Werth simply calls him “Grandpa”. (Many grandfathers try to impress kids by pulling a quarter out of someone’s ear. Schofield takes it to the next level by pulling a baseball out of his ear.)

Schofield played for 19 seasons (1953-71), mostly as a backup shortstop although he was his team’s regular SS from 1963 to 1965.


Dick was signed by the Cardinals in 1953 as a bonus baby, requiring him to stay on their roster for the entire season. He was with the Cards for all of ’53 and ’54, but seldom saw playing time. Schofield spent the bulk of the ’55 and ’56 seasons in the minors, getting the all-important “seasoning”.

He returned to the Cardinals in 1957, and finally got enough playing time to lose his rookie eligibility. Schofield was the team’s backup shortstop, behind Alvin Dark.

In June 1958 Schofield was traded to the Pirates for 3rd baseman Gene Freese and SS-P Johnny O’Brien. Dick spent the next 4 ½ seasons backing up Bill Mazeroski at 2B and Dick Groat at SS.

After the ’62 season the Pirates traded Groat, opening a full-time job at short for Schofield. Dick began a 3-year string as the starting shortstop – 2 seasons with the Pirates, and following a May 1965 trade to the Giants for infielder Jose Pagan, a 3rd season, which would be his last year as an every-day player.

Schofield began the 1966 season with the Giants, then played 4 months with the Yankees until winding up with the Dodgers for the season’s final 2 weeks. The following year he and another ex-Pirate (Gene Michael) alternated at shortstop as the Dodgers tried to find a way to replace the departed Maury Wills.

The Dodgers released him after the ’67 season, then he bounced from the Cardinals (1968) to the Red Sox (1969-70) before winding up his career in 1971 with the Cardinals and Brewers.

Besides his grandson Jayson Werth, his son Dick Schofield played shortstop for the Angels (and others) from 1983-96.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Ron Fairly (#330)

Ron Fairly was a slugging outfielder / 1st baseman for the Dodgers during the 1960s.

A 21-year veteran, he played his first 11 seasons with the Dodgers before moving on to the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969. After 6 years there, he bounced around for his final 4 seasons. Primarily an outfielder early in his career, he was the Dodgers’ regular 1st baseman from 1962-64, and moved back to 1st baseman after leaving the Dodgers (except for 1973).

Fairly was signed by the Dodgers in 1958, and hitting 14 minor-league home runs that season earned him a late-season call-up to Los Angeles that year.


In 1959 he spent the entire season as the Dodgers’ 4th outfielder, but after hitting only 4 homers, he was back in the minors for most of 1960. He returned for all of 1961, again backing up the 3 outfield regulars.

After the 1961 season, both of the Dodgers’ 1st basemen were lost in the expansion draft (Gil Hodges to the Mets, Norm Larker to the Colt .45s), paving the way for Fairly to become the full-time 1st sacker for the next 3 seasons. He collected over 70 RBI each of those seasons, while hitting 10 to 14 homers.

In 1965, young Wes Parker took over the 1st base job, moving Fairly to right field for his remaining years in LA, although Ron would occasionally spell Parker at 1st base. With the Dodgers, Fairly played in the Fall Classic in ’59, ’63, ’65, and ’66.

After a complete loss of power (4,43) in 1968, Fairly was traded to the Expos in mid-1969 for shortstop Maury Wills and outfielder Manny Mota. Fairly regained his power stroke in Montreal, reaching the mid-teens in homers for his 6 seasons north of the border. He held down 1st base for a few seasons, before moving to the outfield beginning in 1973. Ron also made his 1st All-Star team in 1973.

Fairly played all of 1975 and part of ’76 with the Cardinals, and finished out the year with the Athletics. He was traded to the expansion Blue Jays during spring training in their inaugural 1977 season. After 1 season in Toronto, he played his final season (1978) with the Angels.

Following retirement, Fairly was a broadcaster for 27 years with the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, and Mariners.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dick McAuliffe (#495)

Here's Dick McAuliffe in his last season as the Tigers' shortstop. He was a regular infielder for them from 1963 to 1973.

He was signed by the Tigers in 1957 and played in the minors for 4+ seasons. Dick made his major-league debut in September 1960, but returned to the minors to begin the 1961 season.

McAuliffe was called up to the Tigers in late-June 1961 and started 70 of the final 98 games, either at shortstop or 3rd base.


In 1962 Dick started 67 games at 2nd base and 47 games at 3rd base, sharing the positions with Jake Wood (2b) and Steve Boros (3b).

In 1963, after starting 14 of the first 15 games at 2nd base he took over the starting shortstop job in early-May, starting almost every game there for the remainder of the season. He remained there for all of 1964 (159 starts).

McAuliffe was the starting shortstop for 107 of the first 120 games in 1965 until missing the final 40 games of the season. Good-field/no-hit Ray Oyler filled in for the remainder of the season, and also for a few weeks in mid-1966 when McAuliffe was out of the lineup.

Dick became the every-day 2nd baseman at the start of the 1967 season, remaining there through the end of the 1973 season (although Tony Taylor started 1/3 of the games at 2b in 1973).

While with the Tigers, McAuliffe made 3 consecutive all-star teams (1965-67). In 1964 he hit 24 home runs and 66 RBI, both career-highs. He also led the AL with 95 runs scored in 1968.

In October 1973 he was traded to the Red Sox for outfielder Ben Oglivie. Dick started 70 games for the Sox in ’74, backing up 2nd baseman Doug Griffin and shortstop Rico Petrocelli, then was released in October 1974.

McAuliffe began the 1975 season as the Red Sox' double-A manager, but was re-signed as a utility infielder in August. He played in 7 games, then was released at season’s end.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nelson Briles (#243)

This is the first solo card for Nelson Briles (he also appeared on a Cardinals Rookies card in 1965). He pitched for 14 seasons – the first 6 with the Cardinals. I knew Briles had moved on to the Pirates, but until today did not know that he also played for 3 other teams.

After only one season in the minors, Briles made his debut with the Cardinals in April 1965. He was primarily a reliever during his rookie season, then became a spot starter the next year.


He began the 1967 season as a reliever, then moved into the rotation when Bob Gibson broke his leg in July. Nelson remained in the rotation upon Gibby’s return, fashioning a 14-5 record and leading the NL in winning percentage (.737). He also pitched a complete game in game #3 in the World Series – the only Cardinals’ pitcher not named Bob Gibson to do so.

Briles followed that up by winning 19 games in 1968, and was the team’s #2 starter behind Gibson, who won 22. Nelson won 15 games the following season, with Steve Carlton moving ahead of him in the rotation.

After a 6-7 season in 1970, Briles and outfielder Vic Davalillo were traded to the Pirates for outfielder Matty Alou and pitcher George Brunet. (Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t blogged somewhere already about the well-traveled Brunet! I’ll have to get on that.) Nelson was mostly a reliever for his first year in Pittsburgh, but won 14 games each in ’72 and ’73 as a starter. He also pitched in the post-season in ’71 and ’72.

After the 1973 season he was traded to the Royals, and 2 years later to the Rangers, but he never repeated the success he had with the Cardinals and Pirates. In late-September 1977 the Orioles purchased his contract, and he finished out the season and 1 more year with Baltimore, then was released in January 1979.

Briles passed away in 2005 at age 61.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Don McMahon (#133)

Don McMahon had Topps cards every season from 1958 to 1972 (also in 1973, if you count his appearance as a coach on the Giants’ manager’s card). This is his last card as an Indian, and his last card wearing a cap until the 1970 set. (McMahon began his career with 6 seasons with the Braves, and ended it with 6 seasons with the Giants, but in-between he bounced around to 5 other teams for about 1 ½ years in each location.)

He was signed by the Boston Braves in 1950, and made the Milwaukee club in 1957 at age 27. His one all-star appearance came in 1958. He also pitched in the ’57 and ’58 World Series for the Braves, finishing 3 games in each series.


In May 1962 McMahon was sold to the expansion Houston Colt .45s. This began a series of short-term stints with a number of clubs. On the final day of the 1963 season, he was sold to the Indians, where he remained until June 2, 1966. On that day he was traded to the Red Sox for reliever Dick Radatz, and on the same date in 1967 moved on to the White Sox for 2nd baseman Jerry Adair. He missed out on Boston’s appearance in the ’67 World Series, but the following July he was traded to the Tigers for pitcher Dennis Ribant, and so was able to play in the 1968 Fall Classic.

In August 1969 Don made his last move – a trade to the Giants. He manned the bullpen there until his release following the 1972 season.

Topps’ 1973 managers cards also feature thumbnails of the coaching staff, and Don was on the Giants’ card as their pitching coach. He was re-activated in late June, and released following the ’73 season. This process repeated itself in 1974, although he gained his final release in early July, just 5 weeks after being reactivated.

He retired at age 44 as the oldest player in the majors. Don pitched for 18 seasons (1957-74) and appeared in 874 games, all but 2 as a reliever. At that time, only Hoyt Wilhelm, Lindy McDaniel, and Cy Young had pitched in more games.

McMahon passed away in July 1987 at age 57.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Donn Clendenon (#375)

Donn Clendenon had a 12-year career as a first baseman, spending the first 2/3 of his career with the Pirates, before moving on to other teams, including the 1969 Miracle Mets, where he was named the World Series MVP.

Donn was signed by the Pirates in 1957, and played five seasons in the minors as a first baseman and outfielder. He also pitched two games in 1957.

Clendenon made his major-league debut in September 1961. In 1962, Donn made 41 starts at first base (mostly in August and September) and 17 starts in left field. He finished 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Cubs’ 2nd baseman Ken Hubbs (19 votes to 1 vote).

After the 1962 season, the Pirates traded their long-time first-sacker Dick Stuart to the Red Sox for catcher Jim Pagliaroni, paving the way for Clendenon to play fulltime at 1B. He started 146 games there in 1963, and never played another position for the Bucs (save for 2 innings at 3rd base in 1965).

Donn was the Pirates’ regular 1st baseman for the next 6 years, hitting between 12 and 28 homers per season, but also leading the NL in strikeouts in ’63 and ’68.


With young first basemen like Al Oliver and Bob Robertson waiting in the wings, Clendenon was left exposed to the expansion draft after the 1968 season, and was selected by the Montreal Expos with the 11th pick. Three months later, he was flipped to the Astros with Jesus Alou for Rusty Staub. When Clendenon refused to report to the Astros (word is that he didn’t like ex-Pirates’ and current Astros’ manager Harry Walker), the Expos kept Staub and Clendenon, and sent pitchers Jack Billingham and Skip Guinn to complete the deal.

Topps issued 2 cards for Clendenon that year (both #208), in a forerunner to their "traded" subsets that would begin in 1972.


After a brief holdout, Clendenon rejoined the Expos in mid-April, then was traded to the Mets in mid-June for pitcher Steve Renko and 3rd baseman Kevin Collins. Talk about a lucky break! Donn went from an expansion team to the eventual World Champions. He alternated at 1st base with Ed Kranepool for the remainder of the season, and although he didn’t play in the NLCS, he hit .357 (5 for 14) with 3 homers and 4 RBI in 4 World Series games, and was named the Series MVP.

In 1970, Donn started 96 games at first base, with outfielder Art Shamsky starting another 55 (Kranepool missed several months). This would be Donn’s last season as a regular. Kranepool returned in 1971 and started 2/3 of the games, leaving 1/3 for Clendenon.

Donn was released by the Mets after the ’71 season, and was picked up by the Cardinals that December. He only started 31 games in his final season, mostly from May to July. His last game was on August 5th, and he drew his release 2 days later.

After his playing career, Clendenon earned a law degree and practiced law in Ohio. Later in life he battled drug addiction and leukemia. He passed away in September 2005 at age 70.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bert Campaneris (#175)

Bert Campaneris had a 19-year career (1964-83), and was the Athletics’ shortstop for his first 13 seasons.

Although he famously played all nine positions during one game in 1965, he was mostly a shortstop. He did play a few dozen games in the outfield during his first 2 seasons, and in his final 2 seasons was a backup at 3B and 2B, but otherwise was found at shortstop for 94% of his career 19,123 innings played.

Bert was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1961, and made his major-league debut with Kansas City in July 1964. "Campy" shared the shortstop job with Wayne Causey for the 2nd half of the season, while also starting 27 games in left field. Bert was named to the Topps All-Rookie team in 1964.


In 1965 he started 103 games at shortstop and 37 in left field. That year, Campaneris led the AL in triples (12) and stolen bases (51). In fact, he would lead the league in stolen bases for the '65, '66, '67, '68, '70, and '72 seasons. He stole a career-high 62 bases in both 1968 and 1969, and also led the league with 177 hits in 1968.

Campaneris made the AL all-star team 5 times with the Athletics ('68, '72 – '75). He also played in the post-season 5 consecutive years (1971-75).

Campy became a free agent after the 1976 season, and signed with the Rangers. He had a good first year in Texas, making the all-star team for the final time in his career. He began the 1978 season as the starting shortstop, but was relegated to the bench for the final 2 months.

In May 1979, he was traded to the Angels for infielder Dave Chalk. Campaneris played the next 3 seasons with the Angels, sharing the shortstop job with others for 2 seasons, then becoming the backup 3rd baseman for the 1981 season.

Bert was granted free agency after the 1981 season, but with no takers, he played the 1982 season in Mexico. He returned to the American League for his final season in 1983, dividing his time between the Yankees and their triple-A team.

Bert's cousin is outfielder Jose Cardenal.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

NL Rookies: Bart Shirley / Grant Jackson

Here is one of the multi-team rookie cards that Topps put in their 7th Series in the mid-to late 1960s. Normally, these rookie stars cards have 2 to 3 players from 1 team, but in the last series, Topps had these "catch all" cards to pick up random rookies not already featured. (The Rod Carew rookie card in 1967 is another example.)

Bart Shirley was a utility infielder briefly for the Dodgers in the 1960s. This is his rookie card, but he also appears on a Mets Rookies card in 1967 and on his own card (as a Dodger) in the 1969 set.

Shirley was signed by the Dodgers in 1961 and played every season from 1961-70 in their farm system, mostly at SS/2B. Bart had brief call-ups to LA for a dozen or so games in 1964 and 1966.

After the '66 season he was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 draft, but after 6 games with New York, he was returned to the Dodgers in mid-May. He was immediately assigned to the minors, and only saw major-league action again during the last 2 months of the 1968 season, playing in 39 games.


This is also Grant Jackson's rookie card, but unlike Bart Shirley, Jackson went on to a long career with the Phillies, Orioles, and Pirates. He appeared on a Phillies Rookies card in the 1967 set, then had his own card in every set from 1968 to 1982.

Jackson made his major-league debut with the Phillies in September 1965. After 2 games in 1966, he made the Phillies for good at the start of 1967. After long stints with the Orioles and Pirates, he played briefly with the Expos and Royals before retiring after the 1982 season.

You can read more about Jackson here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jesus Alou (#242)

Jesus Alou is the youngest of the 3 Alou brothers. He was the last to join, and to leave the Giants. He played for 15 seasons, mostly for the Giants and Astros.

Alou was signed by the Giants in 1958, and made his major-league debut in September 1963. Since his oldest brother Felipe left the Giants after the 1963 season, there was only 1 game where Jesus, Felipe, and Matty all played in the same outfield.

Jesus played 5 full seasons with the Giants (1964-68) and was always the #2 or #3 outfielder (behind Willie Mays) in terms of playing time. In his first 2 seasons he was the primary right fielder. In his final 3 seasons, he split his time between right and left field, as the Giants also worked in 3rd baseman Jim Ray Hart in left, and Ollie Brown (and in 1968, Bobby Bonds) in right.


After the 1968 season Alou was selected by the Expos in the expansion draft, and two months later was forwarded to the Astros (with Donn Clendenon) for Rusty Staub.

For 3 seasons (1969-71) things continued the same as in San Francisco: Alou was the #2 outfielder, and split his time between the 2 corners.

Things began to change during the 1971 season with the addition of outfielders Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno. Those two, combined with long-time Astro Jimmy Wynn resulted in a reduced role for Alou.

In 1972 Alou was relegated to a bench role, starting just 14 games that season. He was sold to the Athletics in July 1973, and was a part-time player with them through the end of 1974. Jesus also played in the and World Series in ’73 and ’74.

Alou was released by Oakland during spring training 1975, but was signed by the Mets in mid-April. He rode the bench for New York in 1975, and was released the following spring.

Jesus was out of baseball in 1976 and 1977, then re-signed with the Astros in November 1977. He played for Houston for the next 2 years, and was a player-coach in 1979.

After retiring following the 1979 season, Alou became a scout for the Expos. He later headed up the Marlins’ Dominican operations, and since 2002 has held the same post with the Red Sox.