Friday, May 16, 2014

Sonny Siebert (#197)

Sonny Siebert was one of the top starting pitchers in the American League for a few seasons in the mid-1960s.

Siebert was signed by the Indians in 1958, and spent 6 seasons (1958-63) in their farm system. Although usually a starting pitcher, he played exclusively in the outfield (hitting 5 homers and collecting 45 RBI in 61 games) during his 1959 season with the Tribe’s class-C team in Minot, North Dakota.

In 1960 Siebert returned to the mound, and eventually made his major-league debut with the Indians in April 1964.

The 27-year-old rookie spent most of his 1st season in the Tribe’s bullpen, behind veterans Don McMahon and Ted Abernathy. Meanwhile, the starting rotation featured veterans Dick Donovan and Pedro Ramos, a young Luis Tiant, and a pair of 21-year-olds named Sam McDowell (already in his 4th season) and Tommy John. Sonny started 14 of his 41 games that season.


In 1965, John was traded to the White Sox, so Siebert joined McDowell and Tiant in giving Cleveland a solid top-3 in the starting rotation. Sonny had a great sophomore season, finishing 3rd in the AL in ERA, and missing 3rd place in strikeouts by just one K. (His teammate McDowell finished 1st in both categories.) Sonny also notched 16 wins, 5th-best in the league and one behind McDowell for the team lead.

Siebert won 16 games again in 1966, 4th-best in the league. His 2.80 ERA was also in the top 10, though well behind the 2.48 posted by teammate Steve Hargan. Sonny no-hit the Senators on June 10th, and made his first of two all-star teams in ’66.

In 1967 his record dropped to 10-12, but he also lowered his ERA to 2.38, which returned him to the #3 slot on Topps’ ERA leaders card he occupied two years earlier.

Siebert’s ERA shot up to 2.97 in 1968. That sounds respectable, but in the Year of the Pitcher, that was only 22nd-best in the AL. Too bad – if he had snared 3rd-place again, the Indians would have nailed the trifecta on Topps’ ERA leaders card that also featured Tiant and McDowell. Anyway, he reversed his won-lost record to 12-10, but that would be his last full season with the Indians.

In mid-April 1969, Sonny was traded to the Red Sox (with catcher Joe Azcue and pitcher Vicente Romo) for veteran pitchers Dick Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro, and outfielder Ken Harrelson. Siebert spent the next 4 seasons in the Sox’ rotation, and made his final all-star team in 1971.

After 4 seasons in Boston, Sonny was on the move again. In May 1973 he was traded to the Rangers, then moved on to the Cardinals for the 1974 season. His final season (1975) was split between the Padres and Athletics. Although he bounced around a lot in those last 3 seasons, he remained a starting pitcher until the end.

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