Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mike Shannon (#293)

Here is Mike Shannon, in his final season as the Cardinals’ regular right fielder. After the 1966 season, the Cardinals traded for Yankees’ right fielder Roger Maris, paving the way for Shannon’s move to third base.

Mike is a native of St. Louis, and was a baseball and football star both in high school and at the University of Missouri. He left college to sign with the Cardinals in 1958, and played in the minors for several seasons before making his big-league debut in September 1962.

Shannon began the ’63 season in the minors, then was called up in July and used primarily as a pinch-runner and backup corner outfielder.

In 1964 Mike played with the Cardinals for the season’s first month, then was sent down to triple-A. He returned in late-July and was the starting right fielder for 59 of the final 83 games, and in the ’64 World Series. He collected 6 hits, 1 homer, and 2 RBI against the Yankees as the Cardinals won the Series.

Shannon was the starting right fielder for the first week of 1965, but spent much of the season on the bench due to a prolonged batting slump. He started 45 games in right field and another 11 games as Curt Flood’s backup in center field. Mike also caught a few games due to injuries to both catchers.

He returned to the starting lineup in mid-May 1966, starting 110 games in right field that season. Mike reached career highs in home runs (16) and batting average (.288) in 1966.

As mentioned at the top, Shannon moved in to 3rd base at the start of the 1967 season, and remained there for the final 4 seasons of is career. Mike appeared in 2 more World Series (’67, ’68), homering in each.

In 1970 the Cardinals alternated Shannon and Joe Torre at 3rd base (with Torre also spending time behind the plate). Mike only played in 55 games that season, his last coming on August 12th.

A kidney disease ended his playing career in 1970, but he moved to the broadcast booth in 1971 and has been calling Cardinals’ games ever since. In 2014 he was inducted into the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Jim Lonborg (#93)

Here is future Red Sox’ ace Jim Lonborg, fresh off his rookie 1965 season where he went a disappointing 9-17 in 31 starts. No matter, after a 10-10 season in ’66, Jim had his career year in 1967.

He posted a 22-9 record (leading the AL in wins), also led the league with 246 strikeouts (interrupting Sam McDowell’s 5-year dominance in that department), won the Cy Young Award, and led the Sox to the World Series. Against the Cardinals in the Series, Lonborg was 2-1 in 3 starts with 1 shutout.

Lonborg tore knee ligaments while skiing in the off-season, and was never the same with Boston. After the 1971 season he was traded to the Brewers (with 1st baseman George Scott, pitcher Ken Brett, catcher Don Pavletich, and outfielders Billy Conigliaro and Joe Lahoud) for Tommy Harper and pitchers Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin.

After only 1 season with the Brew Crew, he and Brett were forwarded to the Phillies in exchange for 3rd basemen Don Money and John Vukovich, and pitcher Billy Champion.

After the Phillies’ shambles of a 1972 season (where Steve Carlton had 27 of the team’s 59 wins), the Phillies began assembling a REAL pitching staff to help Carlton, adding Lonborg and Brett in ’73, Tug McGraw in ’75, and Jim Kaat and Ron Reed in ’76.

Jim pitched for the Phillies from 1973 to 1979, highlighted by winning 17 games in 1974 and 18 in 1976.

I recall Lonnie running out of gas in his later seasons with the Phillies and was released in June 1979, ending his 15-year career.

After baseball, Lonborg became a dentist.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fred Talbot (#403)

Here's Fred Talbot, with the Kansas City Athletics – the 2nd of his 4 teams. For fans my age (specifically if you weren’t a Yankees or A's fan), Talbot is most remembered as one of the zany characters in the 1970 book "Ball Four".

I haven't read the book since 1971, but I remember that Talbot did not get along with author/pitcher Jim Bouton. I can’t remember if Fred was the one that Bouton seemed to be afraid of, and went out of his way to avoid, or if that was Wayne Comer.

Talbot was signed by the White Sox in 1959, and after making his major-league debut with 1 game in September 1963, he was back in the minors to start the 1964 season. Recalled in June, he pitched 17 games (12 starts) for the Pale Hose.

After the 1964 season, Talbot was part of this 3-team blockbuster. He was the Athletics' #1 starter in 1965, leading the staff in starts (33) and innings (198).

In 1966 Kansas City had a youth movement going on, with most of their pitching staff (and all of their starters) aged 23 or younger. I guess Talbot was either considered expendable, or the Yankees were just making another call to their unofficial farm team, but in June Fred and catcher Bill Bryan were traded to the Bronx for pitchers Bill Stafford and Gil Blanco, and outfielder Roger Repoz.

At first Talbot was a starter with the Yankees, but by June 1968 he was relegated to the bullpen for the rest of the season. His 1-9 record may have had something to do with that.

In May 1969, the Yankees traded him to the expansion Seattle Pilots, putting him squarely in the journalistic cross-hairs of his ex-Yankees teammate Bouton.

After 25 appearances with that zoo, Fred was returned to the Athletics (by now in Oakland) in August. He pitched 12 games (mostly in relief) for the A's in '69.

Talbot's final season was 1970, He only pitched 1 game (in mid-June) for Oakland, while pitching 25 games for their AAA team.

Talbot passed away in January 2013 at age 71.