Monday, December 28, 2009

Final Card: Steve Ridzik

Steve Ridzik (#294) began and ended his career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

He spent 7 seasons in the Phillies farm system (1945-51) with only 1 appearance in Philadelphia in September 1950. In 1952, Steve joined the Phillies as a reliever and spot starter, a role that he would maintain for 3 full seasons.

In late-April 1955, Ridzik and catcher Smoky Burgess were traded to the Reds for catcher Andy Seminick and 2 other players. He only made 13 appearances in Cincinnati, along with 15 appearances for triple-A San Diego.

After the 1955 season, he was purchased by the Seattle team in the Pacific Coast League, but a month later the New York Giants selected him in the rule 5 draft. He appeared in 56 games with the Giants during 1956-57 (mostly in relief), and another 21 games with the Giants' triple-A team in Minneapolis during 1957.

Steve's travel plans kicked into high gear after 1957, as he switched teams every year for awhile. He was purchased by the Indians in April 1958, but spent most of the season in the minors. The Cubs purchased him in May 1959, but he spent the entire season in triple-A.

In April 1960, Toronto (International League) purchased him from the Cubs. He spent 4 seasons (1960-63) with triple-A Toronto, before resurfacing in the majors with the Senators in 1963. He also played with the Senators fulltime in 1964 and 1965.

Prior to the 1966 season, he returned to the Phillies, and appeared in 2 games for them, the last on May 10th. He spent the remainder of the 1966 season with the Phillies' triple-A San Diego team.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Final Card: Bob Skinner

This is the final player card for Bob Skinner (#471). Bob began his career in the Pirates' system in 1951. After 2 years in the military, Skinner made his major-league debut in April 1954. As a rookie, he was the Pirates' regular first baseman, starting 116 games there.

The following season, he was back in the minor leagues. I wonder if this was injury/rehab related, because he only played 98 games, it was in double-A, and the next season (1956) he was back in Pittsburgh.

In 1956, Bob was used primarily as a pinch-hitter, but also saw some action at first base and corner outfield. The following season, he became the Pirates' primary left fielder, starting about half the games, with Frank Thomas and several others getting the remaining starts.

Bob took over as the everyday left fielder in 1958, starting 141 games there, while making only 3 pinch-hitting appearances. Coincidently, he also started 141 games in 1959, while starting 140 in 1960. With the exception of one game at first base in 1959, after 1957 he played exclusively in left field for the Pirates.

In 1961, Bob's playing time dropped off, as he only started 96 games, while making about 20 pinch-hitting appearances. He came back in 1962 to play almost 140 games in left, which by now was a standard season for him.

In May 1963, Skinner was traded to the Reds for outfielder Jerry Lynch, a former Pirate. A year later, he moved on to the Cardinals, where he played until being released after the 1966 season.

Bob went on to manage the Phillies' triple-A team in San Diego during the 1967 and 1968 seasons. This put him in position to assume the Phillies' managerial job for the last 100 games in 1968, following Gene Mauch's firing. He also managed them for the first 100 games in 1969, before he was also fired. Here is his 1969 card:

I found this on Skinner's Wikipedia page, regarding who was to blame for the Phillies' poor showing in 1969:

"Nonetheless, Skinner's personal responsibility for the Phillies' pathetic performance is much in doubt, as the alleged baseball club sank to even greater depths under Myatt, Frank Lucchesi, Paul Owens and Danny Ozark in the 4 years after his departure, with rosters made up of also-rans whose only competition was between indifference of attitude and inability to hit at even AA levels of proficiency."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Final Card: Vic Power

Vic Power (#192) was released by the Angels on April 1, 1966, so although this is his final card, his final season was 1965.

Power began his minor league career in 1949 with an independent team in Drummondville, Quebec. Following the 1950 season, Vic was acquired by the Yankees, and spent the next 3 seasons playing for the Yankees' triple-A teams (including 1952 and 1953 in Kansas City).

After the 1953 season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics, in a deal involving ten other players. For the 1954 Athletics, Vic was 4th in at-bats, but his playing time was spread out over all 3 outfield spots, and first base. The Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955, and Power moved to the regular first baseman's job, which he held until mid-1958.

("1B-INF" is a weird position combination for a baseball card!)

In June 1958, Power and utilityman Woodie Held were traded to the Indians for outfielder Roger Maris and 2 other players. He was the Indians' regular first baseman for 3 1/2 seasons, except for starting 40 games at third base in 1958.

A week before the 1962 season, the Indians traded Vic to the Twins for pitcher Pedro Ramos. In his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota, he was the regular first baseman, and started a few games at 2B.

In June 1964, Power was involved in a 3-team, 5-player trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Angels. He didn't get too settled, because 3 months later he was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Marcelino Lopez. After the 1964 season, the Phillies sold him back to the Angels, so in essence, he was a 3-week rental for Philadelphia's failed 1964 stretch drive.

In his final year with the Angels (1965), Power played 107 games at first base, but only started 30 of them. The primary first baseman was Joe Adcock who, like Power, was also 37 years old. (I suspect that Power may have been a defensive replacement for Adcock.)

(Wow! Adcock, Malzone, and now Power. The Angels were really amassing a collection of old-timers that year!)

Also check out this link

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Final Card: Don Mossi

Small children...avert your eyes!

Don Mossi (#74) was a relief pitcher, primarily for the Indians and Tigers.

Topps failed to include his minor-league stats, which tell us that he began playing in 1949. After playing for Indians' minor-league teams for 4 seasons, he inexplicably played for a Cincinnati Reds' farm team in 1953, before making his major-league debut in April 1954 with Cleveland.

Mossi spent 5 seasons with the Indians, primarily as a reliever. He pitched in the 1957 all-star game (the only season with Cleveland where he made more than 5 starts).

After the 1958 season, Don was traded to the Tigers for second baseman Billy Martin. With the Tigers, he was mostly a starting pitcher. Mossi, Jim Bunning, and Frank Lary all won 17 games in 1957. Those 3 would form the nucleus of the Tigers' rotation for the next 5 years, as others such as Phil Regan, Hank Aguirre, and Mickey Lolich would also join the rotation.

After the 1963 season, Bunning and Mossi would leave the Tigers. In his final 2 seasons (1964 and 1965), Don was strictly a relief pitcher. Mossi was sold to the White Sox in March 1964, but was released after the season.

After being out of baseball for a few months, the Athletics picked him up at the end of May 1965, and he made 51 relief appearances for Kansas City, with his final game coming on October 1, 1965.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Final Card: Frank Malzone

Here we have the last card for Frank Malzone (#152). After 11 seasons with the Red Sox (whose uniform he's wearing here), Frank wrapped up his career in 1966 with the Angels.

Malzone began his career in the Red Sox organization in 1948. He missed the 1952 and 1953 seasons due to military service. His major-league debut with the Red Sox was on September 17, 1955. In 1956, Frank divided his time between Boston and their triple-A team in San Francisco.

Frank took over the full-time third base job from opening day in 1957. (Billy Klaus, the 1956 regular third baseman, moved over to shortstop.) He finished 2nd in the rookie of the year voting in 1957, and played in over 140 games (all at third base) in every season from 1957 to 1964.

In 1965 (at age 35), time finally caught up to Malzone, as he shared the third base job 50-50 with 2nd-year man Dalton Jones. He was released by the Red Sox on November 30th, and signed by the Angels on the same day.

In 1966, Malzone played in 82 games for the Angels - 35 at third base, and the rest as a pinch-hitter. He was released after the 1966 season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Final Card: Roger Craig

Roger Craig (#543) was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950. He played 2 years in their farm system before missing the 1952 and 1953 seasons due to military service. Once out of the military, he was back in the minors for another year and a half.

Craig made his major-league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on July 17, 1955. During his 7 seasons with the Dodgers, he was both a starter and reliever, but was primarily a starter during the 1956 season.

After the 1961 season, Roger was selected by the Mets in the expansion draft, and was their #1 starter in 1962 and 1963. He led the league in losses both years (24, 22) but I suppose that wasn't hard to do, given the number of games the Mets lost in those seasons.

After the 1963 season, he was traded to the Cardinals, but only pitched in one season for them. Craig was the Cardinals #4 starter, but also made 20 relief appearances.

In December 1964, he was traded to the Reds, but was released just before the start of the 1966 season. The Phillies signed him on the same day, and he pitched for the first 3 months of 1966 until being released in mid-July.

Roger went on to manage the San Diego Padres in 1978 and 1979, and the San Francisco Giants from 1985 to 1992.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final Card: Joe Cunningham

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Joe Cunningham (#531) was an outfielder and first baseman for 3 teams, primarily for the Cardinals in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Joe started playing in the Cardinals farm system in 1949, then missed the 1952-53 seasons due to military service.

Joe made his major-league debut on June 30, 1954. After appearing in 85 games with the Cardinals in 1954, he spent all of 1955 and most of 1956 with their triple-A team in Rochester, NY.

In 1957, Joe was back in the major leagues to stay. He played in 122 games, but was primarily the backup to first baseman Stan Musial and rightfielders Del Ennis and Wally Moon. (He did manage to start 22 games at first, and 42 games in right.)

1958 was much of the same for Cunningham, backing up Musial, Ennis, and Moon. Joe played in 131 games, starting 91 at first, left, and right.

1959 was a breakout season for Joe, as he took over the rightfield job, making 104 starts there, in addition to another dozen starts in left. He played a few games at first base, but not many since Musial had a new backup: Bill White, who was acquired from the Giants in the off-season. Cunningham made the all-star team as a reserve.

Joe continued as the regular rightfielder in 1960 (108 starts). Over at 1st base, the pecking order was now Bill White, followed by the 39-year-old Stan Musial, and then Cunningham (14 starts).

In 1961, Cunningham was still the Cardinals' primary rightfielder, but only made 76 starts there. Maybe he was injured for part of the year? After the season, he was traded to the White Sox for outfielder Minnie Minoso.

1962 was Joe's last season as an everyday player. He switched over to first base (making 142 starts there) while playing only 5 games in right field. In 1964, rookie Tom McCraw took over at first base, and Joe was the backup first baseman until July 1964, when he was traded to the Senators for 1st baseman Moose Skowron.

Joe shared the Senators' first base job with Dick Phillips in 1964, and with Bob Chance and Dick Nen in 1965.

Since this baseball card is a late-season high-number, we see that Topps was able to add a note that Cunningham was released by the Senators on April 25, 1966. Joe had started 3 of the Senators' first 4 games at first base, then didn't play again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Final Card: Jerry Lynch

Jerry Lynch (#182) began playing minor-league baseball in 1950 for the Greenville (MS) Bucks, an unaffiliated class-C team. Before the 1951 season, the Yankees purchased his contract, but he spent the 1951 and 1952 seasons in the military. After the service, he played for the Yankees' class-B team in Norfolk, Va in 1953.

After the 1953 season, the Pirates selected him in the rule 5 draft, meaning he had to stay on the major-league roster. In 1954, Lynch was part of a 3-way left field platoon with Dick Hall (who would later pitch for the Orioles and Phillies) and Frank Thomas. Lynch also played in right field.

In 1955, rookie Roberto Clemente joined the team and took over right field. Frank Thomas started 81 games to lead all Pirates left fielders. Thomas also started 55 games in center field, so Lynch played left field for 30 of those games, as well as spelling Clemente in right field for 30 games.

Lynch must have been injured in 1956, because he only appeared in 19 games that year, and only 1 game in the field. After the season, he was selected by Cincinnati in the rule 5 draft.

Jerry played for the Reds from 1957 until May of 1963, when he was traded back to the Pirates for outfielder Bob Skinner. In 1957, Lynch was a backup to regulars Frank Robinson, Gus Bell, and Wally Post. Before the 1958 season, Post was traded to the Phillies, which opened up right field for Lynch.

In 1959, the lineup was Lynch in LF, rookie Vada Pinson in CF, and Gus Bell in RF. Hey, I learned that for most of 1959 and half of 1960, Frank Robinson played first base! In 1960, Jerry's playing time got squeezed, as Robinson moved back to the outfield, and Post was reacquired from the Phillies for rookie outfielder Tony Gonzalez.

Cincinnati's outfield continued to be crowded in 1961, as Robinson and Post would mix-and-match as the starters in left and right, with Lynch backing up in left and Bell backing up in left and right. (Pinson was a fixture in center.) This same dynamic continued in 1962, except that Marty Keough replaced Gus Bell.

In 1963, Lynch returned to the Pirates, and for 2 years became Pittsburgh's regular left fielder (alongside Bill Virdon and Roberto Clemente), although he had rookie Willie Stargell breathing down his neck. In 1965, Stargell took over as the regular, with Jerry backing up.

1966 was Lynch's last season, and he was relegated to pinch-hitting duty, appearing in 64 games, only 4 of them in the field.