Sunday, April 27, 2014

Braves Rookies: Herb Hippauf / Arnie Umbach

As cool as it is seeing Tommy Harper's thumbnail next to Vada Pinson's 1967 thumbnail on the sidebar, it's time to move on. 

Here is the 2nd Braves Rookie Stars card in the set (#518). Since it was in the last series, it is one of only 4 Braves cards showing the players in their new "Atlanta" caps (along with Hank Aaron, pitcher Chi-Chi Olivo and manager Bobby Bragan) All other Braves' cards are capless, but more than that, have ridiculous-looking poses. (Google Clay Carroll 1966 Topps for an example!)

Topps swung and missed with these two players:

Herb Hippauf's major-league career consisted of 3 games between 4/27 and 5/3/1966. Did Topps jump on his bandwagon with this late-season card? I doubt it. His ERA over those 3 games was 13.50. After 6 seasons (1960-65) in the minors, the Braves promoted him to the big club. After his poor showing, he spent the remainder of 1966 in the minors, then was out of baseball.

After his playing career, Herb was a scout for the Astros, Braves, Expos, and Rockies. Hippauf passed away from cancer in 1995 at age 56. The Rockies have an annual award bearing his name, given to the person who best exemplifies loyalty, dedication, etc toward the Rockies.

Arnie Umbach's playing career was marginally better than Hippauf's. Umbach pitched in the Braves' system from 1961-66, and made brief appearances with the Braves in 1964 (1 game) and 1966 (22 games).

After the 1966 season, he was included in the trade that sent 3rd baseman Eddie Mathews and 2nd baseman Sandy Alomar to the Astros for pitcher Bob Bruce and outfielder Dave Nicholson. After pitching for the Astros' AAA team in 1967, he pitched 2 games for their AA Dallas-Fort Worth team in 1968, and was done.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tommy Harper (#214)

Tommy Harper played in the major leagues for 15 seasons (1962-76). He spent his first 6 seasons with the Reds, then played for 6 American League teams over the rest of his career.

Harper was signed by the Reds in 1960, and played 2 seasons as a 2nd baseman with their class-B Topeka team in the Three-I League.

He began the 1962 season as the Reds’ starting 3rd baseman, but after batting .174 after 6 games, he was sent down to their triple-A San Diego Padres for the rest of the 1962 season.

Harper returned to Cincinnati to start the 1963 season. He was a starting outfielder from the get-go, but to my surprise (tonight!), he was the team’s primary RIGHT fielder, with Frank Robinson shifting over to left field, replacing the previous year’s tandem of Wally Post and Jerry Lynch. For 2 weeks in late-April/early-May, Harper inexplicably started 19 consecutive games in center field, while the regular CF Vada Pinson started those same 19 games in right field. After that stint in center, Tommy was out of the starting lineup for 2 months, relegated to pinch-running and the occasional start in right field, before regaining his right field job in mid-July.

 In 1964, Harper only played in 100 games (80 starts in left field). It appears that he was with the team for the entire season, because there are no large gaps in his playing time (indicating time on the DL) nor was he in the minors.

For the next 2 seasons, he was an everyday regular for the Reds. In 1965 he played 159 games, and led the NL with 126 runs scored, with a slash line of 18 HR/64 RBI/.257, and followed that up with 5/31/.278 in 1966. After starting 153 games in left in ’65, with the trade of Frank Robinson he moved over to right field in 1966 and started 90 games there, along with a few dozen starts at the other 2 spots.

In Tommy’s last season with the Reds (1967), he missed 7 weeks in June and July, but was otherwise the team’s regular right fielder. After the season, Harper was traded to the Indians for pitcher George Culver and 1st baseman Fred Whitfield.

In his only season with the Indians, he was the #2 outfielder behind Jose Cardenal. Harper split his time between the 2 corners, with Lee Maye, Lou Johnson, and Russ Snyder filling in around him.

After the ’68 season, Harper was drafted by the expansion Seattle Pilots, and became a regular infielder for the first time since his minor-league days. He began the season at 2nd base, but moved to 3rd base midway through the year. Although he lead the league with 73 stolen bases, he also led by being thrown out 18 times.

He stayed with the team for 2 more seasons after their move to Milwaukee, and was the Brewers’ 3rd baseman in ’70 and 3B-LF in ’71. He made his only all-star appearance in 1970.

After 1971, it was on to Boston, as Harper was part of the 10-player trade that sent George Scott, Jim Lonborg and 4 others to the Brewers for Harper and pitchers Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin.

Tommy was a starting outfielder with the Red Sox for 2 seasons, then split the ’74 season between left field and DH. He also won his 2nd AL stolen base crown in 1973 by swiping 54 bases.

After the 1974 season he was traded to the Angels to open up some outfield spots for rookies Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. All the Sox got in return was utility infielder Bob Heise :(.

Harper DH’ed for the Angels for part of 1975, then finished up the season as a bench player with the Athletics. He spent his last season (1976) on the Orioles’ bench.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tommy Davis (#75)

Here is Tommy Davis’ final card as a member of the Dodgers. This is the same photo that Topps used on his 1965 card. (Topps used the same capless photo of Davis on his 1967 and 1969 cards.)

Davis was signed by the Dodgers in 1956, and played in their farm system from 1956-1959, making his major-league debut with 1 game in September 1959.

Davis made the Dodgers out of spring training 1960, and by late-July, he took over the starting center field job from long-time Dodger Duke Snider. Tommy started 52 games in center to Duke’s 44 starts.

By the 2nd week of September, Tommy moved over to left field to make room for another Davis in center field: rookie September call-up Willie Davis. [Until a few years ago, I thought those 2 were brothers.] Tommy finished 5th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. (His teammate Frank Howard won.)

In 1961, Tommy began the season as the team’s 3rd baseman, playing 57 games there, mostly in the first 2 months. After that, he floated around the outfield, starting 31 games as Willie’s backup in center, as well as a few dozen games in the corners.

1962 and 1963 were Davis’ best seasons. He made the all-star team twice, and led the NL in batting twice (.346, .326). In 1962 he also led the league in hits (230) and RBI (153), and hit 27 homers. Davis started 100 to 120 games in left and about 30 games at 3rd base in both seasons.

In 1964 he was primarily the left fielder, starting 148 games there, and another 10 in center. He started the first 16 games in left field in 1965, then a broken leg caused him to miss the rest of the season, except for a pinch-hitting appearance in the season’s final game.

Davis was never the same after the leg injury. He played one last season with the Dodgers in 1966, but not as an everyday player.

After 8 seasons with the Dodgers, Davis spent his final 10 seasons playing for 10 different teams. He was traded to the Mets prior to the 1967 season for 2nd baseman Ron Hunt and outfielder Jim Hickman. A year later, it was on to the White Sox (with pitcher Jack Fisher) for center fielder Tommie Agee and infielder Al Weis.

The upstart Seattle Pilots selected him in the expansion draft prior to the 1969 season. He played there until late August, when he was traded to the Astros. Davis played for THREE teams in 1970 (Astros / Athletics / Cubs), then made return trips to the A’s (all of 1971) and Cubs (part of 1972).

His longest stint with any one team (post-Dodgers) was with the Orioles from August 1972 to February 1976. His 3 full seasons as Baltimore’s DH (1973-75) was his most playing time since 1969.

After his release by the Orioles, Davis was signed by the Yankees prior to spring training 1976, but they released him 2 days before the season started. In early June, he was signed by the Angels, who passed him on to the Royals with 2 weeks remaining in the season. A January 1977 release ended his 18-year career.

Davis appeared in the ’63 and ’66 World Series with the Dodgers, the 1971 ALCS with the A’s, and the ’73 and ‘74 ALCS with the Orioles.