Friday, March 30, 2018

Senators Rookies (#11, #333, #549)

The Senators had THREE Rookie Stars cards in the 1966 set. (Topps would make up for that extravagance by having no Senators Rookies cards in the 1969 set!)

4 hits, and 2 misses - which is about average.

Brant Alyea played a few games in 1965, but primarily played for the Senators (1968-69), and Twins (1970-71), before wrapping up his career with 2 teams in 1972.

Let's add Pete Craig to the list of guys who appeared on 3 or more Topps Rookie Stars cards ('65, '66, '67).  His major-league career was 6 games, spread across 1964-66).

Joe Coleman had the best career of this 6-pack. He played for 15 seasons, for the Senators (1965-70), Tigers (1971-76), and 5 other teams from 1976-79.

Jim French was the Senators' backup catcher from 1965-71, and started a career-high 56 games in 1969.

Al Closter was a Yankees' farmhand from 1965-73, but also played 1 game for the Senators in 1966.  His only other big-league action was 14 games for the Yankees in 1971, and a game or 2 for the Yanks and Braves from 1972-73.

Casey Cox pitched 7 years for the Senators/Rangers (1966-72), before finishing up with the Yankees in 1973.  He was primarily a reliever, except for 1970.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Jeff Torborg (#257)

Jeff Torborg was a backup catcher for the Dodgers (1964-70) and the Angels (1971-73).  He never had more than 200 at-bats in a season until his final year. That was also the only season when he played in more than 76 games (102).

Torborg was signed by the Dodgers in 1963 and played only 1 season in the minors before making his debut with LA in May 1964 at age 22. (He had played college ball at Rutgers.) That year he was the team’s #3 backstop behind John Roseboro and Doug Camilli.

After the 1964 season, Camilli was shipped off to the Senators, leaving Torborg as the Dodgers’ #2 catcher for the next 6 seasons, backing up Roseboro from ’65-’67, and Tom Haller from ’68-’70. During that time, he caught Sandy Koufax’ perfect game in 1965 and a no-hitter by Bill Singer in 1970.

Jeff made no starts behind the plate after August 1970, since 3rd baseman Bill Sudakis was converting to catcher, and made all the starts when Haller took a day off.

In March 1971 Torborg was sold to the Angels. He backed up starting catcher John Stephenson in ’71 (Say what? Stephenson was once a team’s #1 catcher? How sad must that team have been?) 

In 1972 Jeff split the starting assignments with rookie Art Kusnyer. Torborg made a career-high 93 starts in his final season, this time with Stephenson and Kusnyer as HIS backups. In May, he caught the first of Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters.

After the 1973 season Jeff was traded to the Cardinals, but was released in spring training 1974.

Torborg’s 2nd career was as a manager. He piloted the Indians (1977-79), White Sox (1989-91), Mets (1992-93), Expos (2001), and Marlins (2002-03). Between his Indians’ and White Sox’ jobs, he coached for the Yankees from 1979-88.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Gerry Arrigo (#357)

Gerry Arrigo was a spot starter for the Reds from 1966 to 1969. Prior to that he pitched for the Twins. What I didn’t realize until today was that Gerry began the ’66 season with the Reds, was sold to the Mets in May, and returned to the Reds 3 months later.

Arrigo was signed by the White Sox 1960, but the selected by the Twins in the first-year draft after that season. He pitched in the Twins’ farm system from 1961-63, also making a few appearances each year for the Twins.

In 1964 he spent a full season with Minnesota, appearing in 41 games. His 12 starts ranked him 6th among the Twins’ starting pitchers that season.

After the season he was traded to the Reds for prospect Cesar Tovar. It appears he played most of the 1965 season with the Reds, except for the month of August when he pitched 9 games for their triple-A team.

As mentioned earlier, Gerry played the bulk of the 1966 season (essentially) on loan to the Mets. He pitched 42 innings over 17 games for New York, and only 3 games for the Reds.

In 1967 Arrigo appeared in 32 games, as the #4 man in the Reds’ bullpen (well behind closer Ted Abernathy).

Gerry found himself in the Reds' starting rotation for all of 1968, the only season where he was primarily a starter. He fashioned a 12-10 record in 205 innings while starting 31 games (all career highs).

1969 would be his last season with Cincinnati. He started 16 of his 20 games, but only played 1 game prior to June 1st that season.

After the ’69 season he was traded to the White Sox (also learned THAT today) for outfielder Angel Bravo. He played for the Sox during the first 2 months of 1970, but spent the rest of the season with their AAA team.

Arrigo retired after pitching the 1971 season for the Braves’ AAA team.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Ed Kranepool (#212)

Here’s an Original Met. Well, not from day 1, but from year 1.

Ed played 18 seasons (1962-79), all with the Mets. His career home run total of 118 (in 1853 games) was atypical for a corner infielder.

Kranepool was signed by the Mets in late-June 1962, and fast-tracked his way through the organization (20 games in Class D, 7 in Class A, and 14 in triple-A), making his major-league debut with 3 games against the Cubs in the final week of the season (at age 17).

Ed began the 1963 season with the Mets (playing mostly as a right fielder) but by early-July was sent down to triple-A Buffalo, returning to New York in September.

In 1964 Ed took over as the regular 1st baseman on May 31st and started 101 of the final 119 games (replacing the trio of Tim Harkness, Dick Smith, and Frank Thomas).

On the last day before his call-up, he played both ends of a doubleheader for triple-A Buffalo (18 innings). The following day he played both games of a doubleheader for the Mets. Game #2 went 23 innings, and Ed was in the lineup for the entire 2 games. In 2 days he played a total of 50 innings!

Ed continued as the regular 1st baseman from 1964-69, although he was platooned quite a bit in 1968, and gave way to Donn Clendenon for most of the final 2 months in 1969. He made his only All-star team in 1965.

1970 was an off-year for Kranepool. He was sent down to AAA in late-June due to his .118 batting average. He returned 2 months later, but only played 43 games for the Mets that season. He was back in 1971, starting 2/3 of the games to Clendenon’s 1/3.

Ed only started half of the games at 1st base in 1972. The remaining games saw a mix of 6 other players starting there, including Willie Mays for 9 games.

The final 7 years saw Kranepool in a backup role, starting a few dozen games at 1B and a few dozen in the outfield each year. However, he was the team’s primary 1st baseman from 1975-76, starting less than half the games, but just a bit more than Dave Kingman (’75) and Joe Torre (’76).

Kranepool retired after the 1979 season, and was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1990.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Born on the Same Day - 10/14/1940

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #18 in the series: Tommy Harper and Billy Sorrell - both born on 10/14/1940.

Tommy Harper came up with the Reds in 1962 and was a starting corner outfielder for them from 1963 to 1967 (leading the NL with 127 runs scored in 1965).

After 1 year in Cleveland, he was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft and was their starting 2B/3B in 1969. That season he led the AL in stolen bases (and also in times caught stealing).
He played 2 more seasons with the Brewers as their starting 3rd baseman (although by July 1971 he had moved back to the outfield).

Harper was a starting outfielder for the Red Sox from 1972-74, then strangely enough was traded to the Angels after the season for a utility infielder! He bounced to the Athletics and Orioles in late-75 and 1976 before retiring.

Billy Sorrell had a much shorter career. After playing in the Phillies' farm system from 1960-66, the Giants selected him in the Rule 5 draft (snaring Sorrell a spot on the 1967 Giants Rookie Stars card), but returned him to Philadelphia after a few weeks.

The Mets picked him up in 1968 for AAA depth, and he also played for the Royals' AAA team from 1969-71. Sorrell managed to see action in 57 games for the Royals in 1970, which is why this card exists. He finished up with 2 years in Japan (1972-73).

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Jim Merritt (#97)

Jim Merritt pitched for 11 seasons – 4 with the Twins, 4 with the Reds, and (I didn’t know this until today) 3 with the Rangers. I always think of him as a Twin because that’s where he was when I started collecting cards, but he had his greatest success with the Reds.

Merritt was signed by the Dodgers (the 2nd thing I learned about him today!) in 1961. He went 19-8 for the Dodgers’ class-D team in Erie, PA, but apparently that wasn’t enough to protect him from the minor-league draft. He was selected by the Twins after the ’61 season.

Jim spent the next 3 seasons in the Twins’ farm system, making his major-league debut in August 1965. He made 2 relief appearances in the ’65 World Series vs. the Dodgers.

Merritt was a key member of the Twins’ starting rotation from 1966-68, and was one of 6 pitchers named Jim on their staff in ’66 and ’67.

In November 1968, he was traded to the Reds for shortstop Chico Cardenas. Jim won a career-high (at the time) 17 games in 1969, and topped it the following season with 20 wins. He also made his only All-Star team in 1970, and finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting. That year he also pitched 2 games in the post-season.

As seems to be the custom with Reds’ pitchers in those days (Gary Nolan, Wayne Simpson, Wayne Granger, Jim Maloney, Sammy Ellis, etc, etc.) Merritt came down with arm troubles (in his case, an elbow injury), and compiled a horrendous 1-11 record in 1971. He was moved to the bullpen after an 0-8 start, and won his lone game in August.

Jim followed that up with a 1-0 record in only 4 games in 1972, while spending most of that season with AAA Indianapolis.

After the 1972 season he was traded to the Rangers for backup catcher Hal King. Merritt pitched 2 full seasons with Texas (5-13 in 35 games in ’73, 0-0 in 26 games in ’74) and was released in July 1975 after only 5 appearances.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tom McCraw (#141)

Here is Tom McCraw, during his last season before becoming the White Sox’ every-day 1st baseman.

Tom was signed by the White Sox in 1960 and played in the minors for 3 ½ seasons before making his major-league debut in June 1963.

In his first 4 seasons, he platooned at 1st base (initially with Joe Cunningham, then Moose Skowron) while also getting in some games in the outfield.

During the first few weeks of the 1967 season, Skowron was traded to the Angels, so McCraw was the every-day first-sacker for the next 2 seasons, starting over 110 games there each season, and a few dozen more in the outfield.

After a few seasons, Gail Hopkins and then Carlos May took over that spot, so McCraw was traded to the Senators in early-1971 for outfielder Ed Stroud (who had begun his career with the Sox a few years earlier).  On September 30th, he made the final out in the Washington Senators’ franchise final game.

McCraw played for 13 years, the first 8 with Chicago. After that, he bounced around frequently. Following only 1 season in Washington, he moved on to the Indians (1972), Angels (1973-74), and back to the Indians (July ’74).

Tom played his last game on 6/24/75, and was released a week later, ending his career.

After his playing days, he spent 23 seasons as a batting coach for the Indians, Giants, Orioles, Astros, Mets, Expos, and Nationals.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Jim Brewer (#158)

I learned something new today – Jim Brewer pitched 3-plus seasons for the Cubs before joining the Dodgers in 1964.

After 4 seasons under the wings of veteran relievers Ron Perranoski, Bob Miller, and Phil Regan, Brewer spent 6 more seasons as the top man in the Dodger bullpen.

Brewer was signed by the Cubs in June 1956. He spent 5 seasons in the Cubs’ farm system as a starting pitcher (except for his first season), and made his big-league debut with 5 games in late-July 1960.

Jim was with the Cubs for all of 1961, starting 11 of his 36 games. His 1-7 record and 5.82 ERA earned him another year in triple-A (1962). That season he only pitched in 6 games for the Cubbies. Although Brewer was a triple-A starter in 1962, when he returned to the majors for good in 1963, he would be a reliever for the rest of his career (except for part of 1967).

He was the only lefthander in the Cubs bullpen in 1963, compiling a 3-2 record in 29 games. After the season he was traded to the Dodgers for Dick Scott, a 9-year minor-league pitcher whose major-league career totaled 9 games. What a steal!

Brewer worked in the Dodgers’ bullpen behind Perranoski and Miller for the next 4 seasons. In 1966 the Dodgers added Regan, who was also ahead of Jim in the pecking order.

After the 1967 season, the Dodgers traded Perranoski and Miller to the Twins, and in early ’68 Regan was sent to the Cubs, leaving Jim as the #1 reliever. Brewer appeared in over 50 games for each of the next 6 seasons, collecting 15, 20, 24, 22, 17, and 20 saves. In ’71 and ’72 his ERA was under 2.00, and he also made his only All-Star team in 1973.

The Dodgers acquired Mike Marshall before the 1974 season, which greatly cut into Brewer’s workload. (Marshall led NL pitchers with ONE HUNDRED SIX games (all in relief), and saves (21) that season, and won the Cy Young Award.) Brewer only pitched 39 innings over 24 games, with no saves.

In July 1975 Jim was traded to the Angels for relief pitcher Dave Sells. Brewer pitched 21 games for the Angels in ’75 and 13 games in ’76, his last coming on May 24th. He retired in 1976, closing out his 17-year career.

In 1987 Brewer died at age 50, after suffering injuries in a car crash.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Jim Hannan (#479)

Jim Hannan had a surprisingly long (to me) career, pitching 9 seasons for the Senators from 1962-70, then his final 1971 season split between the Tigers and Brewers. I first became aware of him when I got his 1967 card that year, and always forgetting if his last name was "Hannan" or "Hannah".

Jim was signed by the Red Sox prior to the 1961 season, and after 1 year was lost to the Senators in the minor-league draft. (Sounds a lot like the Glenn Beckert story!)

He made his big-league debut with the Sens in April 1962.  Although spending much of May in the minors, he pitched in 42 games (all but 3 in relief) for Washington during his rookie season.

Hannan started the 1963 season with the Nats, but after 5 relief appearances, he was sent down in early-May, only returning in September.

This MLB/AAA yo-yo ride continued for most of Hannan's career. After playing the entire '64 season with the Senators (49 games, 7 starts), he spent most of 1965 in triple-A, making 30 starts for Hawaii and only 5 games (1 start) for the Senators.

1966? Jim played for the Senators the entire season, splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen. 1967 was a repeat of his 1965 season – mostly pitching for triple-A Hawaii. (Hey, if you have to be in the minors, that's the place to be!)

The 1968 season was the reverse of '67. Hannan started the season with 7 starts in AAA (this time in cold Buffalo, not sunny Hawaii), then in late-May was recalled to Washington (for good, as it turned out). Jim started 22 games for the Nats and relieved in 3 others.

He was now a regular member of the rotation for the '68 and '69 seasons. (I don’t know if he improved, or the staff in general slipped. He DID have his highest strikeout totals in those 2 years, as well as some of his lowest ERA numbers.)

With the Senators' acquisition of George Brunet prior to the 1970 season, Hannan spent most of that year in the bullpen, only starting 17 of his 42 games (most of them in July and August). He was the #2 man behind closer Darold Knowles.

After the 1970 season, Hannan was traded to the Tigers (with pitcher Joe Coleman, shortstop Ed Brinkman, and 3rd baseman Aurelio Rodriguez) for pitchers Denny McLain and Norm McRae, 3rd baseman Don Wert, and outfielder Elliott Maddox. (This deal seems like a bust for the Senators!)

Jim only lasted 5 weeks with Detroit. After only 7 games (11 innings) he was flipped to the Brewers in mid-May for pitcher John Gelnar and outfielder Jose Herrera. Hannan compiled a 1-1 record in 21 games over the rest of the season, then was released on December 31st. (Happy New Year!)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Dissecting the 1966 Set

Continuing the series I started with the 1967, 1968, and 1969 sets, here is similar information about the 1966 set. 

The 1966 Topps set had 598 cards, and curiously does not include any World Series cards. There are 20 manager cards (none for the Cubs but 2 for the Astros), 19 team cards (no Astros), 46 rookie stars cards, 12 league leaders, 5 multi-player cards, and 7 checklists. There are also 489 cards of individual players.

Here is the position breakdown of the 489 player cards. Only a few cards have the position abbreviated (mostly 2nd basemen).  The only pitcher abbreviated to "P" is Aurelio Monteagudo (naturally!)

205 cards for Pitcher
52 cards for Catcher
21 cards for 1st Base
22 cards for 2nd Base
23 cards for Shortstop
20 cards for 3rd Base
18 cards for Infield
106 cards for Outfield

That's a total of 467 cards. The remaining 22 cards featured players at more than 1 position (the least amount for any year from 1966-69). Below is a sample of each position:

As we've seen with the other sets so far, no combination of positions is more prevalent than 1B-OF, this time with 4 players: Bob Johnson, Orlando Cepeda, Wes Parker, and Tito Francona. (I was going to use Cepeda's card, but we are already Giant-heavy.)

The opposite combo of OF-1B usually has the 2nd-most players, as it does here with three (Walt Bond, Bob Chance, and the Phillies' John Herrnstein).

Jim Ray Hart is the only player at 3B-OF, while Joe Nossek and the Indians' George Banks check in at OF-3B.

Felix Mantilla (whose card I don't have) is all alone at 2B-OF, and there are none at OF-2B.  Cookie Rojas and (of course) Jim Stewart are the two INF-OF representatives.

There are only two players in the set with positions of C-1B, and they are teammates Joe Torre and Gene Oliver. Since John Boccabella doesn't have his own card yet, there are no 1B-C cards (heh heh).

Harmon Killebrew is the only player at 3B-1B, with none at the opposite position.

Al Weis and the Senators' Ken Hamlin both have a position of 2B-SS, while Roberto Pena is the only SS-2B (and wouldn't you know it - I don't have his card.) The scarcity of players at these two positions continues to amaze me.

These are the only 2 players at these positions, and there are none with the reverse combo.

This position combo is even stranger than Mel Queen's "P-OF" found in the 1967 set. "1B-INF"? Shouldn't that be "INFIELD"?

There are so many quirks in this set that I don't know where to begin:

1. Dick Ellsworth's card has a photo of Ken Hubbs, his Cubs' teammate who died 2 years earlier in a plane crash.

2. There is no card for a Cubs' manager (Leo Durocher).

3. There are 2 manager cards for the Astros. Lum Harris was fired in December 1965, and replaced by Grady Hatton. (Who fires a manager in DECEMBER?)

4. No cards for veterans Maury Wills, Chris Short, Joe Adcock, Dick Hall, Bob Lillis, Frank Bolling, Don Blasingame, Jim Gilliam, Lou Clinton, Ed Roebuck, or Wes Stock. (Here are some custom 1966 cards to fill the gap.)

5. 14 pitchers for the Astros, while most teams had 9 to 11.

6. FOUR catchers and SEVEN outfielders for the Angels, and EIGHT outfielders for the Orioles. (The Angels also have 4 catchers in 1967, and 8 outfielders in 1967 AND 1968 !)

7. No cards for Dodgers' SS, Astros' SS, Braves' 2B, or Senators' 2B (see above comments about Wills, Lillis, Bolling, and Blasingame).

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Steve Barber (#477)

Orioles' starting pitcher Steve Barber is shown about to enter his last full season with Baltimore. Barber played 8 of his 14 seasons with the Orioles, from his MLB debut in 1960 to his July 1967 trade to the Yankees. While with the O's, he was one of the few players to wear #13.

Barber and Milt Pappas held down the team's pitching staff for the first half of the 1960s, before the more well-known Dave McNally and Jim Palmer established themselves.

Steve played in the minors from 1957-1959, then made his Orioles' debut in April 1960. He was in the starting rotation for 7 1/2 seasons, winning 18 games in 1961 and 20 in 1963.

He was an All-Star in '63 and '66 (despite only winning 10 games in 1966). A bout with tendonitis not only kept him out of the '66 All-Star game, but also the ’66 World Series (not that he was needed – the other 3 starters pitched the 4-game series, including 3 complete game shutouts).

After compiling a 4-9 record in 15 games at the start of 1967, he was traded to the Yankees for backup 1st baseman Ray Barker. This trade is surprising, given the starting pitching woes the team experienced in 1967 (Palmer out all season, Wally Bunker ineffective, McNally also struggling).

Barber dealt with arm injuries for the rest of his career, bouncing around to 6 different teams in his final 7 seasons. After 1 1/2 years as a Yankees starter (replacing the retired Whitey Ford), he spent the 1969 season in the Seattle Pilots' rotation.

He was released after the 1969 season, and spent his final 5 seasons as a relief pitcher for the Cubs, Braves, Angels, and Giants. All but one of those moves were a result of him being released and signed by another team.

Barber passed away in 2007 at age 68.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ray Oyler (#81)

Here is good-field/no-hit Ray Oyler's first solo card. (And when I say "no-hit", I mean NOOOOO-hit.) Before there was the "Mendoza Line", there was the "Oyler Line" (although no one was clever enough to come up with that at the time, to my knowledge).

Ray joined the Tigers in 1965 and hit .186, which turned out to be his 2nd-highest season average. Except for an aberration where he hit .207 in 1967, he never broke the .175 barrier again (much less .200).

That was all well and good in '65 and '66 when Ray was the team's backup middle infielder, but by 1967 veteran 2nd baseman Jerry Lumpe's career was running out of gas, and he was only used as a pinch-hitter for most of his final season. Incumbent shortstop Dick McAuliffe moved over to replace him, which thrust Oyler into the starting lineup for 125 games. On the plus side, Ray boosted his average 36 points over the .171 in 1966.

With Lumpe retired, Oyler started 44 of the first 50 games at short in 1968, but by early June, manager Mayo Smith had seen enough, and switched to a tandem of veteran utility man Dick Tracewski and rookie Tom Matchick. This continued until the season’s final week, when Smith decided to fix the shortstop position by moving center fielder Mickey Stanley in there (for the first time in his career). After a 6-game warmup at his new position, Stanley played there during the '68 World Series, which essentially replaced Oyler’s bat with Al Kaline’s bat!

Oyler did get into 4 World Series games (1 plate appearance), but was exposed to the expansion draft after the season.

Ray was selected by the Seattle Pilots, and started 93 games for them in 1969, mostly in the first 4 months until younger players started getting tryouts. While in Seattle, Oyler had an unusual fan club.

After the season, Oyler and pitcher Diego Segui were traded to the Athletics for infielder Ted Kubiak and pitcher George Lauzerique. Ray's final card is in the 1970 set as an Athletic, but he didn't get a chance to play for them. He was sold to the Angels in mid-April, and finished out his final season playing only 24 games for California, while batting a career-low .083.

Ray was a player-coach in the minors during the '71 and '72 seasons, then retired.

He died in 1981 from a heart attack at age 42.