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 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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Orioles Team (#348)

Here is the Orioles' team card for 1966. The 1966 cards were similar to the '67 cards except that they included the team's 1965 finish at the bottom. The Orioles went on to win the World Series in 1966.

(Orioles' pitchers in 1965 include aging veterans Harvey Haddix, Don Larsen, and Robin Roberts.) 

Brooks Robinson led in most offensive categories in 1965, but it seems strange to see Curt Blefary's name as the home run leader.

Prior to 1966, the O's acquired Frank Robinson, who won the Triple Crown in 1966. He also led the Orioles with 182 hits so it was a clean sweep. (We're going to ignore the fact that Luis Aparicio also had 182 hits for the O's, much like everyone ignores the fact that Harmon Killebrew tied Carl Yastrzemski with 44 home rums in 1967, while bestowing the 1967 Triple Crown on Yaz.)


Steve Barber and Milt Pappas were the pitching leaders in 1965, but look at Stu Miller's record - 14 wins as a reliever! In 1966, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer emerged as the top 2 pitchers, with Palmer leading the staff with 15 wins.

Only 4 Oriole hurlers would participate in the 1966 World Series.  Palmer, McNally, and Wally Bunker each pitched a complete game shutout.  McNally also started game #1, and was relieved by Moe Drabowsky, who no-hit the Dodgers for the final 6 2/3 innings while striking out 11.