Sunday, May 12, 2019

Final Card: Dan Schneider

What's this? The Topps airbrusher missed a spot on this Astros' cap!

No, by late-summer 1969, Topps had resolved their differences with the Astros, or Monsanto, or whomever that caused them to identify the Astros as "Houston" on all the 1968 and 1969 cards, and airbrush the '68 and most '69 cards into oblivion. All the late-1969 cards show the player in their full uniform, but I guess they kept the “Houston” label for continuity.

Not only is this a high-numbered card (#656), but his 1967 card was also in the high-numbered series.

I have been meaning to post Dan Schneider's card for about a year now, but there was always someone else cutting in line for one reason or another.

Schneider was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in June 1962, fresh off being named to the College All-American Team while playing for the University of Arizona. He started his pro career in triple-A, and by the following season was with the Braves, pitching 30 games beginning in mid-May.

He spent most of 1964 in the minors, but did pitch in 13 games for the Braves, mostly in June and September. (He also appeared in a 14th game as a pinch-runner.)

After playing all of 1965 in the minors, Dan found his way back to the Braves (now in Atlanta) for 14 games in June and July 1966. After the '66 season he was traded to the Astros with pitcher Tom Dukes and 2nd baseman Lee Bales for a trio of minor-leaguers.

Dan appeared in 54 games out of the Astros' bullpen in 1967, leading the staff in appearances.

Surprisingly, he spent all of the following season in the minors. Injury rehab? I don't think so – he pitched in 48 games. Oddly enough, he played for the Pirates' AAA Columbus team, and must have been on loan because he was back with the Astros for part of 1969.

Schneider only pitched 6 games for Houston in 1969, the last on April 27th. Sporting a 13.50 ERA by that time, he was quickly sent down to the minors, and at some point was traded to the Cardinals.

He never made it back to the majors after that season, retiring after 1970.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

50 Years Ago - 1969 Opening Day Lineups (AL)

Here are the opening day lineups from half a century ago. Teams are shown in order of their 1969 finish.

East Division:

After a 2-year hiatus (because of injuries to the pitching staff and Frank Robinson) the Orioles are once again kings of the American League.

The 1968 World Champs finished in second place the next year. By mid-season, Mickey Stanley was back in the outfield.

Opening Day was Tony C’s first game since getting beaned in August 1967.

The Senators had Ted Williams at the helm in 1969. At least he got Ed Brinkman to hit over .200.

The Yankees embarked on their first season without Mickey Mantle since 1950. This was Bobby Murcer’s rookie season. By mid-season, they settled on Jerry Kenney at 3B, with Murcer in the outfield.

Topps never made a baseball card for Tony Horton. This custom card is by John Hogan at the Cards That Never Were blog.

West Division:

Graig Nettles split the Twins’ left field job with Bob Allison. The next season Nettles was traded to the Indians and began a long career as a third baseman.

This was the Athletics’ second year in Oakland. Once again, the Topps photographers were caught napping.

After 2 years in Japan, Dick Stuart returned to the States to play for the Angels. After playing 22 games in the first 2 months, his career was over.

In their infinite wisdom, the American League put both expansion teams in the West division, guaranteeing that at least 1 of the 4 new teams would not finish last. The Royals' one bright spot was Lou Piniella, who won AL Rookie of the Year.


Jim Bouton’s favorite team! By mid-season, Tommy Harper moved to 3B, John Donaldson was at 2B, and rookie Wayne Comer was playing center field.  In Spring training the Pilots traded disgruntled rookie Lou Piniella to the other expansion team. (That’ll teach him to be an upstart! heh heh) All he did was win the ROY. Just one of many bad moves by the Pilots.

NL Opening Day lineups are here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

50 Years Ago - 1969 Opening Day Lineups (NL)

Here are the opening day lineups from half a century ago. Teams are shown in order of their 1969 finish.

East Division:

The Mets finished in 10th place five times and 9th place twice in their first 7 seasons, then jumped to World Series champions in their 8th season. Looks like RF Ron Swoboda had the day off.

The Cubs were in first place until the Mets passed them on September 10th.  After 3 seasons with Adolfo Phillips in center field, rookie Don Young started just over half the games there in 1969.

The Pirates started rookies at the infield corners in 1969 (rookie Al Oliver was the primary 1st baseman), and 2nd-year man Fred Patek took over for veteran Gene Alley.

The Cards were NL Champs in '67 and '68.  They replaced 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda with Joe Torre and RF Roger Maris with Vada Pinson, but finished in 4th place.

The Phillies started three rookies in 1969 (Don Money, Ron Stone, and Larry Hisle).  Money and Hisle had All-Rookie seasons.  Stone?  Not so much. The best month of his career was March 1969.  (Yes, it was Spring Training.)

Surprise!  The expansion Expos finished in last place, 48 games back but only 11 games behind the Phillies. Naturally they were mostly a collection of castoffs, but acquired Rusty Staub in a pre-season trade.

 West Division:

The Braves traded long-time catcher Joe Torre to the Cardinals for 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda, and used rookie catcher Bob Didier for most of the season. Left fielder Rico Carty missed all of 1968 with tuberculosis, but regained his starting job in June 1969 and hit .342.

The Giants' lineup was overflowing with sluggers (Mays, McCovey, Bonds, Hart).

The classic pre-Big Red Machine lineup. Pete Rose and Bob Tolan switched positions in late-June.

In his final season, Don Drysdale made his first Opening Day start since 1965. Regulars Wes Parker (1B) and Willie Davis (CF) were not in the lineup on day 1.

Unlike their fellow 1962-expansion Mets, the 1969 expansion did not help the Astros, as they finished in their customary next-to-last position. This was their regular lineup, except that Jim Wynn started 148 games in center field, with Miller and Alou on the corners.

The Padres brought up the rear.  5-time Topps Rookie Stars selection Bill Davis FINALLY made it to a starting major-league position, but it was temporary.  After 2 weeks as the starting 1st baseman, rookie Nate Colbert took over and Davis rarely played again.

AL Opening Day lineups are here.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Jim French (#199)

A few weeks ago I started watching Netflix, and now every time I get on the computer I get detoured by one show or another, and my card blogging has suffered. With the new season less than a week away, I am making an effort to get back into it. 

Jim French was a backup catcher for the Senators from 1965-71 (but mostly from 1968-70).

French was signed by the Nats in 1963, and spent part of every season from 1963-71 in the minors except for ’69 and ’70. He made his major-league debut in September 1965, but his extended MLB playing time began in late-June 1968.

 (Topps even included his stats from 1956!  LOL)

Jim played 59 games over the second half of 1968, starting 47 of them when regular catcher (and 1967 All-Star) Paul Casanova was given some rest.

French was with the Senators for all of 1969-70, and started 56 and 52 games those seasons as Casanova’s backup.

Jim started 13 games over the first month of 1971, but was sent down to the minors by late-May. Rookie Dick Billings eventually took the starting catcher’s job from Casanova by mid-season, so French was the odd man out.

He played the remainder of that year in AAA for the Nats and Braves, and was released during the last week of September.

French became an attorney after his playing days.

Friday, December 28, 2018

John Boccabella (#466)

John Boccabella played 12 seasons in the big leagues (1963-74). Most of his playing time (376 games) game with the Expos from 1969-73. Earlier, he played 146 games for the Cubs from 1963-68 (with most of that coming in 1966). He finished up his career in 1974 with the Giants.

John was signed by the Cubs in 1963, but played mostly in their farm system from 1963-68. When in the minors, he mostly played 1st base.

1966 was the only season that he spent entirely with the Cubs, and saw action in 75 games. That was also the first year he spent some time behind the plate, both with the Cubs and in the Arizona Fall Instructional League.

He was briefly claimed by the Yankees in the 67/68 off-season, but was returned to the Cubs the following April.

Check out John’s 1968 stats. He played 73 games for the Cubs’ AAA team while only playing 7 games (with 14 at-bats) for the Cubs. Cup of coffee, right? No! He was the Cubs’ #2 catcher that season! How is that possible? Well, Randy Hundley started 156 games that year, collecting 606 plate appearances. Boccabella started 4 games and played 28 innings, while 4 other backstops (Randy Bobb, Gene Oliver, John Felske, and Bill Plummer) split the remaining 40 innings. With all that leisure time in 1968, it’s amazing he even has a card in the 1969 set.

John was selected by the Expos in the October 1968 expansion draft, but so were veteran Astros’ catchers John Bateman and Ron Brand, so Boccabella didn’t really get a fresh start in his new location. Still, John managed to stay out of the minor leagues now that he was with the Expos. He was also a favorite of the PA announcer, who got to say “John Boc-a-BELLLLLLLLLLL-a” many times.

He was the #3 catcher in 1969, then was #2 behind Bateman for the ’70 and ’71 seasons.

Boccabella was the team’s starting catcher for the first 2 months of 1972, then rookie Terry Humphrey took over for 2 months. Tim McCarver (acquired in mid-season from the Phillies for Bateman) handled most of the catching over the final 2 months.

Surprisingly (to me anyway), John was the team’s #1 catcher during the 1973 season, starting 106 games. Humphrey got the odd start during the first half, until he was sent down in mid-season. John was out of the lineup for most of September, but finished up with 10 consecutive starts to close the season.

The Expos’ first-round draft choice Barry Foote was going to be the “catcher of the future”, so Boccabella was dealt to the Giants in April 1974, where he finished his career as a seldom-used backup.

The three "B"s of the 1969 Expos' catching corps:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Final Card: Luis Alcaraz

This makes 2 consecutive Royals, which I usually try to stay away from. But I’m wrapping up the remaining "final cards" in the 1969 set and over the next 20 cards to be posted, 6 are Royals, so buckle-up.

I always thought that the early Royals' uniforms looked a lot like the Dodgers' uniforms, with a similar shade of blue and the script lettering on the front. In this case, Alcaraz IS wearing a Dodgers' uniform.

Luis Alcaraz (#437) was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, and a year later was traded to the Dodgers' organization. Luis spent 10 years in the minors, never advancing above class A during his first 8 seasons. In 1967 and 1968 he played in AA and AAA ball respectively, while also playing a few games with the Dodgers in those 2 seasons.

He made his major-league debut on September 13, 1967, starting 17 of the final 18 games at 2nd base. That late-season tryout earned him a roster spot to start the 1968 season, but although he started 27 of the first 37 games at either 2B or 3B, by June he rarely played, and was back in the minors until September.

Purchased by the Royals a week after the expansion draft, he appeared briefly with KC over the next 2 seasons, but spent most of his time with their AAA team in Omaha.

He never played in the majors again after 1970, but during Spring Training 1971 he was traded to the White Sox for veteran 2nd baseman Bobby Knoop.

He subsequently played in the Braves' and Pirates' organizations in 1972, and played in Mexico from 1973-1981, finally retiring at age 40.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Final Card: Chuck Harrison

After being left out of the 1968 card set, Chuck Harrison returned for one last card (#116) – this time as a member of the expansion Kansas City Royals.

Harrison was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1963, and made his major-league debut with 12 games in September 1965.

He was the Astros' regular 1st baseman in 1966, playing in 119 games, but 9 home runs and 52 RBI aren't very much for a corner infielder.

After starting 113 games in '66, he spent much of the 1967 season on the bench, only starting 44 games, with newly-acquired Eddie Mathews replacing him at 1st base.

In October 1967 Chuck was included in the trade that sent Sonny Jackson to the Braves in return for pitcher Denver Lemaster and shortstop Denis Menke.

Harrison spent the entire 1968 season playing at triple-A Richmond. Three days after the expansion draft, the Royals purchased both Harrison and Dave Nicholson (also missing from the 1968 Topps set) from the Braves.

Chuck was with the Royals for all of 1969, but only played 75 games, as the team went with ex-Orioles prospect Mike Fiore as their first baseman.

Harrison spent all of 1970 and the first half of 1971 in the minors, before returning to KayCee in June 1971 to play his final 49 major-league games.

He hung up his spikes after playing for the Rangers’ AAA Denver team in 1972.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Brant Alyea (#48)

At age 77 and 317 days, Brant Alyea is the oldest living player from the 1965-70 era that I have not blogged about yet.

Alyea was a backup outfielder for the Senators, Twins, and others from 1965 to 1972.

He was signed by the Reds (I learned something today!) before the 1962 season, and was selected by the Senators in the minor-league draft after that season.

Alyea played 5 ½ seasons in the Senators’ farm system before getting a permanent call-up in the last week of July 1968. (He did have a cup of coffee in September 1965, and hit a home run on his first major-league pitch (the 9th player to do so). Despite that, he labored in the minors for another 2 ½ seasons. )

Brant made 33 starts at a corner outfield spot for the remainder of 1968, and was used as a pinch-hitter in another dozen or so games. (With Frank Howard, Cap Peterson, and Ed Stroud on hand as corner outfielders, playing time was hard to come by.)

He played one more season with the Senators (starting 56 games in 1969), then was traded to the Twins during Spring training in 1970 for pitcher Joe Grzenda.

Alyea was the Twins’ primary left fielder in 1970 (although only starting 73 games there) and hit .291 with 16 home runs.

In 1971 he only made 44 starts there because Cesar Tovar moved over from center field that season. Alyea ended up as the team’s fifth outfielder behind Tovar, Tony Oliva, Jim Holt, and Jim Nettles. He dropped so far in the space of 1 year that he was left exposed to the Rule 5 draft, and was taken by returned to the Athletics 2 months later.

After the season the A’s traded him again – this time to the Rangers for pitcher Paul Lindblad.

Brant played parts of 1972 and 1973 in the minors before retiring.

After baseball, he worked in an Atlantic City casino.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Dock Ellis (#286)

This is Dock Ellis’ rookie card. He pitched for 12 seasons (1968-79), the first 8 with the Pirates. After that, he bounced around to 5 different teams in his last 4 seasons, including returning to the Pirates for the last 2 weeks of his career.

While still in high school, Ellis played semi-pro baseball on a team that included future major-leaguers Bob Tolan, Reggie Smith, Bob Watson, Roy White, Don Wilson, and Dave Nelson.

Ellis was signed by the Pirates in 1964 and made his major-league debut in June 1968. He started 10 of his 26 games that year.

Dock was a fixture in the Pirates’ starting rotation from 1969 through the 1975 season. He won 19 games in 1971, and made his only All-Star team that season. He also finished 4th in the Cy Young voting.

Ellis pitched a no-hitter against the Padres in June 1970, supposedly while under the influence of LSD. (Apparently, he lost track of what day it was, and only after taking the LSD did he remember he had to pitch that day.)

He appeared in the post-season for the Pirates from 1970-72, and in 1975.

After the 1975 season he was traded to the Yankees along with pitcher Ken Brett and 2nd baseman Willie Randolph for pitcher Doc Medich. (One Doc for another!) Doc won 17 games for the Yankees in 1976, and also pitched in the ALCS and World Series.

The following April he was traded to the Athletics, and on June 15th was flipped to the Rangers. Exactly 2 years later, he was traded to the Mets, but finished that season (and his career) back with the Pirates. (He played for 3 teams in '77 and again in '79.)

Ellis was granted free agency after the 1979 season, but found no takers.

After his playing career, Ellis (who had a drug problem since high school) cleaned himself up and became a counselor to drug addicts. He also appeared in the Pittsburgh-based movie "Gung Ho" (starring Michael Keaton) in 1986.

Ellis died in 2008 at age 63.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Two Guys Named Aurelio Rodriguez?

Can there be two guys named Aurelio Rodriguez, both on the Angels?

Topps made another blunder here, although not nearly as egregious as their 1966 Dick Ellsworth mistake. (Actually, this 1969 one is comical!)

One of these is a custom card by John Hogan at the Cards That Never Were blog (who, oddly enough has not posted for 10 months).

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Pat Dobson (#231)

Pat Dobson is most-remembered as the 4th man in the Orioles’ four 20-game-winners pitching rotation in 1971, but only 2 of his 11 seasons were spent with the Orioles.

Dobson was signed by the Tigers in 1959, and pitched for SEVEN seasons (1960-66) plus 2 months of 1967 in their farm system before making his major-league debut on the last day of May 1967. He appeared in 28 games as a rookie, all but one in relief.

In 1968, he pitched 125 innings over 47 games (10 starts) and led the eventual World Champs with 7 saves. He also relieved in 3 games (4 innings) in the World Series.

In 1969 Dobson pitched 105 innings over 49 games (9 starts) and had 9 saves. However, Don McMahon led the staff with 11 saves (in only 37 innings – talk about a situational closer!)

After the 1969 season, Pat was traded to the Padres (with 2B Dave Campbell) for pitcher Joe Niekro.  Dobson only played one season for the Padres, but he compiled a 14-15 record in 40 games (34 starts) and struck out 185. That was good enough to get the attention of Orioles’ management, who rescued him from the Padres.

Dobson was traded to the O’s (with pitcher Tom Dukes) for pitchers Tom Phoebus and Al Severinsen, and shortstop Enzo Hernandez in December 1970. Pat posted a 20-8 record, 2.90 ERA, and 187 strikeouts (all career bests) in 1971.

The following season he made the All-Star team, despite finishing with a league-leading 18 losses.

In November ’72 he was traded to the Braves (along with 2nd baseman Dave Johnson, catcher Johnny Oates, and pitcher Roric Harrison) for catcher Earl Williams. Dobson was only a Brave until early-June, when he was shipped off to the Yankees in a deal where 4 other scrubs changed teams.

Pat played for 2 ½ seasons in the Bronx. In 1974, he and Doc Medich both notched identical 19-15 records, with similar strikeout numbers.

In 1975 he slipped to 11-14, and was traded to the Indians after the season for outfielder Oscar Gamble.

Dobson wrapped up his career with 2 seasons in Cleveland – 1 good (16-12, 3.48 in ’76), and 1 bad (3-12, 6.14 in ’77).

In 1979, Dobson managed the Maricaibo team in the Inter-American League. He pitched 1 inning of 1 game that season - a bad idea. His ERA was 63.00!

After his playing career, Pat was a pitching coach for the Brewers, Padres, Royals, and Orioles.   In the late-1990s he joined the Giants as a scout.

Dobson passed away in 2006 at age 64.