Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bill Mazeroski (#210)

I led off last week’s 1968 Bob Gibson post with some comments on various superstars that I managed to overlook so far on my blogs. Since then, I was checking each blog for the number of posts per team. 

It looks like time for some team-balancing. On this blog alone, there are only 3 posts each for the Cardinals, Pirates, and Twins, while the Angels (!?!) have 10 posts. The 1968 blog: 10 Red Sox, but only 2 Braves and 3 Dodgers. On the 1969 blog, five teams don’t have any posts, while the Braves and White Sox only have 1 each. 

So, across my 1966-69 blogs, in addition to working in the stars like Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench, I’m going to catch up on the forgotten teams, and place an embargo on Phillies :(, Mets, Red Sox, Astros, and some other teams for a while. (I've also added who's "on deck" to my sidebars.) 

Bill Mazeroski was signed by the Pirates in 1954, and made his major-league debut on 7/7/1956 at age 19. He was handed the starting 2nd base job that day, and started 81 of the final 86 games that season.

Bill was a defensive wizard, winning 8 Gold Gloves between 1958 and 1967, and making 7 all-star appearances during those same 10 years. “Maz” started 138 or more games every season from 1957 to 1968 (except for 1959 (129) and 1965 (125) ), and topped 160 starts three times.

During the ’68 and ’69 seasons, the Pirates were working Freddie Patek in at shortstop, so incumbent shortstop Gene Alley made several dozen starts at 2nd base in those seasons. In September 1969, rookie Dave Cash was called up and started most of the remaining games at 2nd.

Mazeroski and Cash shared the 2nd base job 70/30 during the 1970 season, and the following season Cash took over the starting job, leaving only 3 dozen starts each for Maz and rookie Rennie Stennett.

In Bill’s final season (1972), he was relegated to a bench role, playing in only 34 games (12 starts at 2nd base).

Maz is best known for his exploits in the 1960 World Series vs. the Yankees. He hit .320 with 2 homers and 5 RBI, including a walk-off home run off of Ralph Terry with no out and nobody on in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 7. He was also a limited participant in the ’70, ’71, and ‘72 post-seasons.

Mazeroski was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2001.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bob Allison (#345)

Yes I know, back-to-back Twins, but the Twins are woefully under-represented here (2 posts). At first, I was going to post the Team Card (since they are the defending 1965 AL Champions), but I soon realized that was one of the 79 cards in the set that I don’t have. 

Next for consideration was Harmon Killebrew, but I decided to post his 1970 card instead, for reasons that will soon be apparent. That led me to Killer’s partner in batting mayhem: Bob Allison. 

Bob Allison had a 13-year major-league career, all with the Twins (and their predecessor, the old Washington Senators) from 1958 to 1970. His peak years were from 1959 (when he won the AL Rookie of the Year award) to 1968.

Allison was signed by the Senators in 1955, and played 4 seasons in the minors. After crashing 28 homers in double-A in 1958, he was called up in September (having never played at the AAA level). He started 10 of the final 11 games in center field in place of Albie Pearson, who would win the Rookie of the Year award that season.

Bob began the 1959 season in right field, but after 6 games was moved to left field. Five games later, he moved to center field and never looked back. He started 132 games in center field, made the all-star team, led the AL with 9 triples, and bashed 30 homers on his way to a Rookie of the Year season. Quite a start to his career!

1960 was an off-year for Allison (15 homers), but after the team moved to Minnesota, he rebounded with 29 homers and over 100 RBI in both the ’61 and ’62 seasons. Bob was the team’s everyday right fielder from 1960 through the 1963 season, and with Killebrew in left field during ’62 and ’63, that was a power-hitting outfield.

In 1964, it was Allison (not Killebrew, surprisingly) that moved in to first base to make room for rookie Tony Oliva in right field. Bob started 90 games at 1st base, while Don Mincher started 65 times. Allison also started 27 games in center and 13 times in right field.

Allison and Killebrew switched positions in 1965, with Bob getting 117 starts in left field, while rookie Sandy Valdespino started 38 games. Meanwhile, Killebrew split his time between 1st base and 3rd base (where he hadn’t played since 1961). Allison had another down year at the plate in 1965. After hitting 35 and 32 homers the previous 2 seasons (with 2 all-star appearances), he only managed 23 home runs (along with a .233 batting average). His production continued to fade in 1966, as he only played in 70 games that season.

He regained his starting job in 1967, hitting 24 homers while starting 136 games in left field. Bob began losing playing time in 1968, making only 110 starts in left field and 17 at first base.

Allison was a part-time player in 1969 and 1970, sharing left field with Jim Nettles and Charlie Manuel in 1969, and mostly pinch-hitting in 1970. He retired after the 1970 season.

In 1987, Allison began experiencing difficulty with his coordination. After a few years, he was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease, and eventually lost the ability to walk and talk. He passed away from the disease in 1995 at age 60.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Zoilo Versalles (#400)

So far, I've only posted one card with a number ending in '00'. Sandy Koufax (#100) was the first card posted to this blog. Today I have another of the five "hero cards" in this set.

Zoilo Versalles was the AL MVP in 1965, which explains why Topps assigned a "00" card number to a non-(future)-hall-of-famer. I didn't follow baseball in 1965, but in looking at Zoilo's stats, he led the AL with 122 strikeouts, despite hitting only 19 homers. He DID lead the AL in runs (126), doubles (45), triples (12), plate appearances (728), and at-bats (666), but only hit .273, and fell short of the magic 200 hits barrier with 182. It helped that his Twins were in the World Series that year.

Versalles was signed by the (old) Washington Senators in 1958, and played 3 seasons in the minors, while also playing a dozen or so games with the Senators in '59 and '60.

When the team moved to Minnesota in 1961, Zoilo became the starting shortstop from opening day, and started 126 games there as a rookie, backed up by José Valdivielso with 35 starts. (Hah! You probably thought "Zoilo Versalles" was going to be the most unusual name in this post!) Versalles remained the Twins' regular shortstop through the 1967 season, though he never duplicated his 1965 production.

In November 1967, he was traded to the Dodgers (with starting pitcher Jim Grant) for relievers Ron Perranoski and Bob Miller, and catcher John Roseboro. It looked like a win-win trade. Minnesota needed a catcher to replace the retired Earl Battey, and the Dodgers needed a shortstop to replace Maury Wills, who was traded away a year earlier.

After a poor season in LA (batting .196), Versalles was exposed to the expansion draft, and was selected by the Padres. To add further embarrassment, six weeks later the Padres traded Zoilo to the Indians for minor-league first baseman Bill Davis, he of FIVE Rookie Stars baseball cards in the 1960s.

After only 72 games with the Indians (where he was a part-time 2nd baseman and occasional 3rd baseman), the Tribe sold Versalles to the (new) Washington Senators, thereby making him one of only 8 players to have played for both the old and new Washington Senators. Zoilo finished out the year with the Senators, then was released the following April.

He played ball in Mexico from 1970 to 1974, although also appearing in 66 games for the Braves for the last 4 months of the 1971 season.

Versalles passed away on 6/9/1995 in Bloomington, MN at age 55.