Monday, December 26, 2011

Final Card: Ron Nischwitz

Ron Nischwitz (#38) had a brief career in the early 1960s, mostly with the Detroit Tigers. He was signed by the Tigers in 1958, and assigned to the class-A Lancaster (PA) Red Roses. Among his teammates that first season were future California Angels Bob Rodgers and Bubba Morton.

Ron compiled some good numbers for his first few years in the minors, and earned a promotion to the Tigers in September 1961. Primarily a starter in the minors, Nischwitz worked out of the bullpen in Detroit. He was with the Tigers for almost all of the 1962 season, in a bullpen featuring stopper Terry Fox and veteran Ron Kline.

After the 1962 season, Ron was traded to the Indians for 3rd baseman Bubba Phillips. Although he played some in Cleveland, Ron spent most of '63 with their AAA team in Jacksonville. 1964 found Nischwitz bouncing around from the Indians' Portland team to the Braves' AAA team in Toronto.

He returned to the Tigers' organization in 1965, splitting his time between Detroit and Syracuse, making his final big-league appearance on September 19th. He wrapped up his career back in Jacksonville in 1966, this time as a Mets' farmhand, pitching in 30 games.

After retirement, Nischwitz coached college baseball for 25 years.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grady Hatton (#504)

Awhile back, I posted the Luman Harris card. Lum was the Astros' manager in 1965, but was fired in December (about 2 months AFTER most teams conduct their off-season firings!) Topps issued a 2nd manager card for the Astros in 1966. They would do the same in 1969 for the Senators.

Grady Hatton began his major-league playing career as the Reds' regular 3rd baseman from 1946-52. He kicked around with the White Sox, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Orioles from 1954-56, then became a minor-league player-coach until 1961 (which included a short stint in 1960 playing for the Cubs).

In 1962, Grady was hired as the director of player personnel for the expansion Houston Colt 45s. He followed that with 3 seasons as the manager of Houston's AAA Oklahoma City team before getting the call to the big club in 1966.

Hatton's major-league managerial career was brief. After 2 full seasons in 1966 (8th place) and 1967 (9th place), Grady was fired after 61 games in 1968, with his team in 10th place. I guess having the lowly Mets pass them in the standings was just not acceptable! He was replaced by Harry Walker, who had been fired in mid-1967 by the Pirates.

Hatton continued with the Astros as a scout until 1972. He also scouted for the Giants in the 1980s.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Al Kaline (#410)

This is the last of 5 cards donated to this blog by Deans Cards a few months ago. (Dean has also contributed some 1963 and 1970 cards to the cause.)

I first became aware of Al Kaline back in 1967, although at that time I thought his name was pronounced Al Ka-LINE (like the battery). I also knew back then that he never played in the minor leagues. Since I've started blogging here, I've learned that Sandy Koufax, Dick Groat, and Billy O'Dell also never played in the minors. (Has anyone EVER included Sandy Koufax and Billy O'Dell in the same sentence?)

One thing I DID learn recently about Kaline (while researching teammate Charlie Maxwell) is that Al spent several seasons as the Tigers' center fielder.

Kaline was signed as a bonus baby by the Tigers in 1953, and spent his entire 22-year career (1953-74) with Detroit. He appeared in 30 games as a rookie, making his debut on June 23rd. Al only started 4 games that season, and none until September 16th.

Starting in 1954, Kaline became a fixture in the Tigers' outfield, and finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting that season. He also won a gold glove 10 times between 1957 and 1967, and was an all star every season from 1955 to 1967, and again in 1971 and 1974.

As I mentioned above, I always thought Kaline played only right field during his prime. He was the team's regular in right field from 1954-58, 61-64, and 67. In 1959 and 1960, he started most of the games as the center fielder. From 1965-66, he split his time almost evenly between center and right. From 1968-70, Al played mostly right field but also started many games at 1st base. He wrapped up his career in 1974 as the Tigers' full-time designated hitter, playing 144 games there and none in the field.

Kaline played in the 1968 World Series against the Cardinals, batting .379. He finished with a .297 lifetime batting average, and led the American League in batting in 1955, finished 2nd in 1959, 1961, and 1963, and finished 3rd in 1966 and 1967.

Al was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pete Rose (#30)

Here's an early card of the Hit King, courtesy of Dean's Cards. How early? Let's see: short hair, white Reds' cap, vest-top uniform, position = 2nd base, and career hits under 1000!

Pete Rose began his career as the Reds' regular 2nd baseman in 1963. In 1965 he started all 162 games at 2nd. In 1966, he began the season as the regular 3rd baseman. (I thought he didn't move to 3rd until George Foster showed up in the 1970s.) For the first 15 games, Rose played 3rd base while rookie Tommy Helms played 2nd base. Then, after switching positions with Helms, Rose started every game at 2B for the remainder of the season, except for 4 games off between 9/23 and 9/28.

I always thought he moved to the outfield during the 1966 season, since that was the first season without Frank Robinson, and because Rose's 1967 card shows him at 2B-OF. Not so. Pete moved to the outfield to start the 1967 season, starting 140 games in left field, and 1 in center. His only action at 2B that year was during a stretch of games from 7/2 to 8/4, while shortstop Chico Cardenas was on the DL. Regular 2nd baseman Helms moved over to short, Lee May went from 1st to left, and Deron Johnson was plugged in at 1st base.

Rose was a main cog in the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, and was the player that everyone (outside of Cincinnati) loved to hate. Guess what? Once he became a Phillie, that all magically changed! Once in Philly, Rose became a 1st baseman - the 5th position he would play in an all-star game.

After 2 trips to the World Series with the Phillies, Pete was on the move again, and came full circle back to Cincinnati.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Final Card: Buster Narum

Les "Buster" Narum was born in Philadelphia in 1940. He also attended high school in Clearwater, FL. That's 2 links to the Philadelphia Phillies, although he never played for them.

Buster was signed by the Orioles in 1958, and spent 6 seasons in their farm system, mostly as a starting pitcher. Although he appeared in 7 games for the Orioles in 1963, he was traded to the Senators in March 1964 for a player to be named later (Lou Piniella).

Narum spent 2 full seasons with the Senators in 1964-65 as a key member of their starting rotation. He appeared in 84 games over that span, but compiled records of 9-15 and 4-12 (in his defense, it WAS the Senators!).

(Buster demonstrates his "Live long and prosper" grip!)

For whatever reason, his big-league career evaporated after that. He spent most of the next 2 seasons pitching for the Nats' triple-A team in Hawaii (hey, if you've gotta play in triple-A, that's the place to do it!), while making token appearances in Washington: 3 innings with a 21.60 ERA in 1966, and 2 games in 1967.

In February 1968, Buster was part of a 6-player trade with the White Sox, but spent the entire season at triple-A Buffalo (quite an adjustment from Hawaii). His final season was 1969, toiling with the Cardinals' AAA team in Tulsa, OK.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Final Card: Bob Heffner

This is the third and last card for Bob Heffner. I wonder if Bob is related to Reds' manager Don Heffner, or maybe to man-about-town Hugh Hefner? (True, Bob's name is spelled differently than Hugh's, but Topps has been known to goof up spelling players' names, such as 1965's Jim Katt, and countless Charlie/Charley mix-ups).

Heffner (Bob, not Hugh) was signed by the Red Sox, and spent 6 1/2 seasons in the minors (including playing for his hometown Allentown (PA) Red Sox in 1959 and 1960) before making his major-league debut in June 1963. As a rookie, Bob was Boston's #4 starter, but the following season he transitioned to the bullpen and was the team's #2 reliever behind closer Dick Radatz.

1965 saw Heffner's performance slip, and included a return to the minors (after staying with the Sox for all of 1964).

After the 1965 season, Bob was selected by the Indians in the Rule 5 draft, but split the 1966 season between Cleveland and the minors. After just 1 season, the Indians sold him to the Mets, who flipped him to the Angels before the start of the 1967 season. He spent all of 1967 with the Angels' triple-A team in Seattle, and only pitched 7 games for the Angels in 1968, the last coming on May 28th.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Final Card: Larry Bearnarth

This is the 4th and final Topps card for Larry Bearnarth (#464).

Larry was signed by the Mets in 1962, and after only one season at triple-A Syracuse (where he fashioned a 2-13 record as a starting pitcher), he made his major-league debut with the Mets on April 16, 1963. During his rookie season, he was one of the Mets' top 3 workhorses in the bullpen (along with Galen Cisco and Jay Hook), pitching 126 innings in 58 games.

In 1964 Larry was the #2 man in the 'pen behind one-year wonder Bill Wakefield. Over the next 2 seasons, Bearnarth again was a member of the Mets' relief corps, but his playing time decreased somewhat, and he spent a portion of both '65 and '66 in the minors.

Larry's last game for the Mets was a 1-inning appearance on August 7th, 1966 against the Cardinals. He would spend the next 4 seasons pitching for the Mets' triple-A teams in Jacksonville (1967-68) and Tidewater (1969-70) as a starter and reliever.

Although Larry's last card appeared in 1966, he did resurface in the majors in 1971 with the Brewers for 2 games. His 18.00 ERA brought a quick return to Milwaukee's triple-A team for the remainder of the season. He also pitched 3 games in 1972 for the Expos' triple-A team before retiring.

Bearnarth later became a pitching coach - I think for the Expos.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Jim Fregosi (#5)

Two posts ago, I mentioned that all the Braves' cards were hatless, since the Braves had just moved to Atlanta in the off-season. I just realized that Topps' other lavender team, the Angels, are also all hatless (or with airbrushed hats), as they had also moved from Los Angeles to Anaheim. This is ridiculous, because the Angels had moved prior to the 1965 season. TOPPS HAD ALL OF 1965 TO GET PHOTOS OF THE PLAYERS IN CALIFORNIA ANGELS UNIFORMS, BUT DID NOT!

Jim Fregosi was the last of the original Los Angeles Angels. He was their regular shortstop from 1962-1971, appearing in 6 all-star games during that time.

Jim was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1960, and after 1 season of class-D ball he was selected by the Angels in the expansion draft. Fregosi spent all of 1961 with the Angels' AAA team in Dallas-Fort Worth, and made his major-league debut on September 14th. He played 11 games with the Angels that month, starting 6 of the last 9 games at shortstop.

In 1962 he was back in triple-A for the first half of the season. His first appearance for the Angels was in both games of the July 1st doubleheader. Jim took over the Angels' starting shortstop job on August 17th, and held it until September 8th, 1971. He played the remainder of the 1971 season at 1st base.

In addition to his 6 all-star selections, Fregosi won a gold glove in 1967, led the league with 13 triples in 1968, and generally was a workhorse for the Angels, making over 640 plate appearances 7 times between 1963 and 1970.

After the 1971 season, Jim was infamously traded to the Mets for Nolan Ryan and 3 no-names. After a year and a half in New York, he was sold to the Rangers, where he was a backup corner infielder for several season, before being traded to the Pirates in June 1977.

On June 1, 1978 the Pirates gave Fregosi his release, so he could take the Angels' managerial job. He managed the Angels until midway through the 1981 season.

Next was the White Sox' manager's job, which Jim held for the second half of 1986 and all of '87 and '88.

Fregosi's longest tenure as a manager was his 6 years with the Phillies (1991-96). The Phillies won the NL pennant in 1993.

His 4th and final managerial job was with the Blue Jays from 1999-2000.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Final Card: John Herrnstein

This is the last of John Herrnstein's 4 Topps baseball cards (#304).

John was signed by the Phillies in 1958, and began his career in 1959 with the class B Des Moines Demons in the Three I (or Three-Eye, or Illinois-Indiana-Iowa) League. He remained in the Phillies farm system through the 1963 season (although playing a few games with the parent club in 1962 and 1963).

In 1964, John made the Phillies at the start of the season. He was the team's primary 1st baseman until Frank Thomas was acquired on August 7th. Herrnstein played in 125 games in his rookie season, with 61 starts at 1st base.

The following season, his playing time was cut back greatly (63 games, 12 starts at 1B), due mainly to Dick Stuart's 1-year stay with the Phillies. John was mainly used as a pinch-hitter in 1965.

Herrnstein did a lot of traveling in 1966. After only 4 games with the Phillies, he was traded to the Cubs on April 21st in the infamous Ferguson Jenkins deal. A month later, the Cubs shipped him off to Atlanta for pitcher Arnold Earley and outfielder Marty Keough. John played 17 games with the Braves, but spent the bulk of the season with their triple-A Richmond team before retiring. His last major-league game was on July 7th, 1966.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Joe Torre (#130)

Today I'm posting another disaster from the 1966 set known as an Atlanta Braves card. Because the team had moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta after the 1965 season, almost every Braves card in the 1966 set is an ugly, hatless, colorless (unless you like lavender) hack job.

Why couldn't Topps have back-loaded the Braves' players to the later series, after they had time to develop the photos (I assume) they took in spring training? I admit, this notion didn't occur to me until tonight, but then, I'm not the one on Topps' payroll heading up the planning department. They could have done the same thing in 1968 with the Athletics. I'm sure fans of these teams wouldn't have minded waiting a bit, so that they could get decent cards of their favorite players. Each of my yearly binders from the 1960s has the cards arranged by teams, and when I get to the Braves' section, it's a Rogues' Gallery at best!

Joe Torre (remember the post title?) was one of the Braves' star players during the 1960s, before going on to play for the Cardinals and Mets in the 1970s.

Joe was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1960 and spent his rookie season in the minors, with a 2-game call-up at the end of the season. In 1961 he played part of the season in the minors, but made the Braves for good that year. Although strictly a catcher in '61 and '62, Joe would play several dozen games at 1st base for the Braves from 1963-68, along with his role as the team's #1 catcher. In 1964, he split his time almost evenly between the 2 positions, as veteran Ed Bailey started over 70 games behind the plate.

After the 1968 season, Torre was traded to the Cardinals for 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda. Since the Cardinals already had an all-star catcher in Tim McCarver, Joe took over the 1st base position on a full-time basis. The following season, with Tim McCarver traded to the Phillies in the Curt Flood for Richie Allen deal, Joe moved back behind the plate. After Torre had started every game at catcher in April and May, rookie Ted Simmons began starting most of the games behind the plate, with Torre moving to a new position - 3rd base. Joe would hold down the regular 3rd base job for the 1971 and 1972 seasons as well.

Torre played in 4 straight all-star games while in St. Louis (1970-73). He also had an excellent 1971 season, winning the MVP award, while leading the league in hits (230), RBI (137), and batting average (.363).

After the 1974 season, he was traded to the Mets, and played the corner infield positions there until his release in June 1977. Immediately after his release, he was hired as the team's manager.

These days, Torre is best remembered for his managerial career, with the Mets (1977-81), Braves (1982-84), Cardinals (1990-95), Yankees (1996-07), and Dodgers (2008-10). Joe managed for 29 seasons, and won 6 pennants and 4 World Series, all with the Yankees.

I heard Torre say recently that this spring is the first since 1959 that he wasn't at spring training with one team or another. He now works for Major League Baseball.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Willie Mays (#1)

Here's the Say Hey Kid, occupying the #1 card in Topps' set. I received this card from This is the 2nd Willie Mays card I got from Deans Cards, having purchased a replacement for my lost 1969 card a few years ago. Coincidently, Topps used the same photo on both the 1966 and 1969 Mays' cards. That was no surprise, since Topps had also used the same photo from 1965 on the 1968 card. Willie seems much happier here than on his 65/68 cards.

[I wonder why Topps decided to abbreviate San Francisco on the last stat line on the back of this card, after spelling it out completely the first 7 times?]

I'm not going to rehash Mays' career here, having done it elsewhere. I'll just say that I recently watched various "Prime 9" shows on the MLB network ("Top 9 centerfielders", "Top 9 defensive plays", etc), and Mays was just an awesome player! I saw him play briefly from 1967-73 on TV, but I was too young then to appreciate what I was seeing.