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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Elrod Hendricks (#277)

Here is Orioles’ catcher Elrod Hendricks’ rookie card. Hendricks played from 1968 to 1979. Although mostly an Oriole (in 3 separate stints), he also spent some time with the Cubs and Yankees.

Hendricks was initially signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, but was released after the 1960 season. More than a year later, the Cardinals signed him, but also released him in June 1963. After a stint in the Mexican League, Ellie found his way into the Angels' organization in August 1966.

After the 1967 season, the Orioles selected him in the Rule 5 draft. As a Rule 5 pick, Hendricks was guaranteed a spot on the major-league roster, and made his big-league debut in April 1968. He started 45 games behind the dish as the #2 catcher, working with incumbent Andy Etchebarren and OF-C Curt Blefary.

With Blefary traded away in the off-season, Ellie became the #1 catcher for the next 3 seasons, starting half the games, while Etchebarren and Clay Dalrymple divvied up the rest. Hendricks played in 17 post-season games for the O's from 1969-71, including 6 in the '71 World Series.

Rookie Johnny Oates joined the team in 1972 and caught most of the games that year. In August, Hendricks was traded to the Cubs for Tommy Davis, but after the season was returned to the Orioles.

1973-74 saw Hendricks relegated to #3 catcher behind Earl Williams (acquired in the off-season for Oates) and Etchebarren.

In 1975 Rod moved up a notch to #2 catcher, starting 64 games – 2 dozen less than newly-acquired Dave Duncan.

Hendricks alternated with Duncan for the first 6 weeks of the 1976 season, but was part of a 10-player trade in June that saw pitchers Ken Holtzman, Grant Jackson, and Doyle Alexander accompany him to the Yankees in return for catcher Rick Dempsey and pitchers Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, and Dave Pagan.

After a season and a half of inactivity (the Yankees DID have someone named Munson catching!), including much of '77 in triple-A, Hendricks was granted free agency and signed with ….. the Orioles!

Hendricks only saw action in 12 games in 1978 (mostly as a pinch-hitter), and was released the following Spring.

He was the Orioles' bullpen coach for 28 years (1978-2005), and was activated for 1 at-bat in September 1979.

Hendricks passed away in 2005 at age 64. Since his death, no Oriole has worn his #44.

I think it's comical that lists him as a "catcher and relief pitcher". Over his 12-year career, he caught 4573 innings, played 1st base for 36 innings, and pitched only 2 innings. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dick Green (#515)

Dick Green was the Athletics’ starting 2nd baseman from 1964 to 1974. He played for 12 years – all for the Athletics. I really like these 1969 Athletics’ cards – quite a change from the 1968 models! 

Green was signed by the Kansas City Athletics before the 1960 season, and played 4 years in their farm system. In 1960 he played shortstop for the Sanford (FL) Greyhounds in the class-D Florida State League. For the next 2 seasons he was primarily a third baseman.

In 1963 he switched to 2nd base while playing a full season in AAA ball, followed by a September call-up to Kansas City. He played a few games for the A’s at SS and 2B in the closing weeks of 1963.

With the off-season trade of incumbent 2nd baseman Jerry Lumpe to Detroit, Green became the starting 2nd baseman from Opening Day 1964, and would hold that job through the end of the 1974 season, except for a time during 1967-68.

Dick began the 1967 season as the starter, but by mid-June rookie John Donaldson had taken over the starting job. Green rode the bench for a while, but then started most games at 3rd base in July and August. Once rosters were expanded in September, he lost that job to rookie call-up Sal Bando.

With Donaldson still entrenched at 2B in 1968, Green was used mostly as a pinch-hitter for the first half of the season (while also missing the entire month of June), but then regained his old 2nd base job in early August.

After playing in only 76 games in 1968, it was smooth sailing for Green for the next 3 years, playing more than 130 games in each season while nailing down the 2nd base job.

1972 was the low point of Dick’s career. He started the first 7 games of the season, then was out with injuries until mid-August. The Athletics filled in with Larry Brown, Tim Cullen, Dal Maxvill, and Ted Kubiak during that time. Green only started 15 of the 50 remaining games after his return, with Maxvill making most of the starts by then.

Dick regained a starting job for the 1973 season, but 1974 was a different story. He started 95 games at 2B in ’74 (50 more than the next guy), but most of them were in June to August.

Rookie Phil Garner would be taking over the 2nd base job in 1975, so Green was released in early-March, ending his 12-year career.

Green played 36 post-season games for the Athletics from 1971-74, but hit a composite .155.

I remember for a few games in the early 70’s, when the Athletics were the visiting team, their starting lineup would consist of the 8 other players, and another good hitter in the lineup, nominally as the "2nd baseman". This batter (a DH-type, I think maybe Gonzalo Marquez) would bat in the top of the 1st inning, then when the A’s took the field in the bottom of the first, Green would enter the lineup as the 2nd baseman. The whole scheme was to get the light-hitting Green one less at-bat per game.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Born on the Same Day - 9/29/1941

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #21 in the series: Jeff James and Rich Reese - both born on 9/29/1941.

(Although the backs of their cards show them as born exactly a year apart, I'm going with the more accurate information.)

Jeff James pitched for the Phillies in 1968 and in September 1969. He began as a starter, but as other players joined the team (notably Jerry Johnson), James was moved to a relief role, and then back to the minors for all of 1969 except for a September call-up. He had cards in the 1969 and 1970 sets.

Rich Reese joined the Twins in 1967, essentially filling the role previously manned by the traded Don Mincher - which was to play 1st base whenever Harmon Killebrew was moved over to third base. Reese was a regular player for the Twins from 1968 to 1972, then finished up in 1973 with the Tigers (and back to the Twins for a month).

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Born on the Same Day - 6/29/1941

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #20 in the series: John Boccabella and Larry Stahl - both born on 6/29/1941, one day after Al Downing and Fred Talbot.

John Boccabella played for 12 seasons, mostly as a 3rd-string catcher and backup 1st baseman.  After 6 seasons wth the Cubs (1963-68), he joined the expansion Montreal Expos, and played 5 seasons in Canada.  In 1973 he was the team's primary catcher, starting over 100 games for the only time in his career.  He wrapped up with the Giants in 1974.

Larry Stahl played for the Athletics, Mets, Padres, and Reds from 1964-73.  Most of his major-league playing time came in 1966 (with the Athletics) and 1971-72 (with the Padres), the only 3 seasons he managed to stay out of the minor leagues.