Monday, July 24, 2017

George Brunet (#645)

Here is George Brunet’s 1969 card (using the same photo as his 1967 card). Brunet played for NINE teams during his major-league career, and switched teams so often that from the 1963 to 1970 sets, he only appeared wearing a cap in the 1968 set, and THAT one was airbrushed!

He did play for the California Angels from 1965-69, so there doesn’t seem to be any excuse why Topps couldn’t get a decent photo of him in an Angels’ cap from 1967 to 1969.

Brunet began his career in 1953 with the Shelby (NC) Clippers in the Tar Heel League. After 5 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut with the Kansas City Athletics with a few games in September 1956. Brunet was back in the minors for most of ’57, all of ’58, and most of ’59.

George began the 1960 season with the Athletics, but by mid-May was traded to the Braves. In May 1962, Brunet was traded to the Houston Colt .45s, 6 weeks into their inaugural season.

He must have felt like a yo-yo, because in July 1963 he was sold to the Orioles, who returned him to Houston the following May. Before he could get settled in back with the Colt .45s, he was sold to the Los Angeles Angels in August 1964. I am surprised today to see that George pitched part of each season from 1960 to 1964 in the minors.

Brunet’s longest stint anywhere was with the Angels, from August 1964 to July 1969. It was also with the Angels that he managed to stay with the big club for the entire season, every season.

From 1965-68 George was a workhorse for the Angels, pitching in 41, 41, 40, and 39 games per season, most of them starts. The Angels were a bad team back then, so he did lead the AL with 19 losses in ’67 and 17 losses in ’68. Still, he remained in the lineup, so I have to think it wasn’t him.

Brunet began the 1969 season in the Angels’ rotation, but was sold to the expansion Pilots at the end of July. He never made it to Milwaukee the following season, as the team traded him to the Senators in December for pitcher Dave Baldwin.

George split the 1970 season between Washington and Pittsburgh, then was traded to the Cardinals before the 1971 season (with outfielder Matty Alou) for pitcher Nelson Briles and outfielder Vic Davalillo. Brunet appeared in only 7 games for the Cards, and was released in early-May 1971.

He played the remainder of the 1971 season, and all of ’72 for the Padres’ AAA team in Hawaii. In 1973 he pitched for the Phillies’ AAA team.

While some American players go to Japan to extend their career, Brunet went to Mexico. He played in Mexico from 1974 to 1989, finally retiring at age 54, having pitched professionally for 36 years.

Brunet died in 1991 at age 56. In 1999 he was elected to the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don Kessinger (#225)

Don Kessinger was one of the best shortstops in baseball during the late-1960s and early-1970s, making 6 All-Star teams in a 7-year span.

Kessinger made his pro debut with the Cubs' double-A team in 1964, and made his major-league debut that same year with 4 games in September.

He began the 1965 season in triple-A, but was recalled in mid-June, starting 104 of the final 115 games at shortstop. (Journeyman Roberto Pena had started the first 49 games there.)

Kessinger was the Cubs' regular shortstop from mid-June 1965 through the end of the 1975 season. Along the way, he was named to the All-Star team every season from 1968-72 and again in 1974. Although his highest batting average was .274 and had virtually no power, he was very good defensively, winning the Gold Glove award in '69 and '70.

After just over a decade with the Cubs, Don was traded to the Cardinals after the '75 season for reliever Mike Garman. Kessinger started 105 games at shortstop in his first season with the Cards, but in early August that job was turned over to rookie Garry Templeton.

Don slid over to 2nd base, starting 29 games there during August, until other rookies were given late-season tryouts at THAT position. In 1977, Kessinger hung on as a utility player until he was traded to the White Sox in August for a minor-leaguer.

Don got his feet wet in the AL by backing up Alan Bannister at SS and Jorge Orta at 2B for the remaining 2 months, then in 1978 he put in a full season (almost) as the ChiSox' regular shortstop. After starting 117 games through the first week of September, he once again fell victim to the "September prospect tryout", this time it was someone named Harry Chappas.

In 1979 Kessinger was named player-manager for the Sox. He managed the team to a 46-60 record, then was fired at the start of August, replaced by Tony LaRussa. Not surprisingly, that was also the end of Don’s playing career.

Kessinger managed the University of Mississippi baseball team for 6 seasons in the 1990s.

His son Keith played briefly for the Reds in 1993.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Ex-players with cards

Awhile back, I posted the players having 1967 cards whose MLB career was already over before that season, either through retirement or a return to the minor leagues.

Here are the 10 players in the 1969 set who did not play in the majors after 1968:

Signed by the Cardinals in 1958, Dick Hughes labored in the minors for many years before finally making the Cardinals' squad in 1967 at age 29. After 2 seasons (and 2 World Series), his career was over.

Dave Adlesh kicked around in the Astros' chain from 1963-68, while also playing some games with Houston every season. Traded to the Cardinals in the Fall of 1968, he was subsequently traded to the Braves (March '69) and Angels (April '69) but played all of 1969 and 1970 in the minors before retiring.

Lee Elia was a farmhand for the Phillies (1959-64), White Sox (1965-67), and Cubs (1967-69), whose MLB career consisted of 80 games for the ChiSox in '66 and 15 games for the Cubs in '68.

Rollie Sheldon pitched for the Yankees from 1961-64 and Yankees-West (Kansas City Athletics) from 1965-66, but played all of 1967 to 1970 in the minors.

Dave Nicholson was a starting outfielder for the White Sox in 1963-64. He then bounced to the Astros ('66) and Braves ('67), but played most of '67 and all of 1968-69 in the minors.

Jon Warden's only major-league experience was 28 games in relief for the Tigers in 1968. Selected by the Royals in the expansion draft, he played 1969-71 in the minors.

Jesse Gonder played for the Mets from 1963-65, and was their #1 catcher in 1964. He was with the Pirates in 1966-67, his last major-league appearance coming in June 1967. He retired after 2 more seasons in the minors.

Minnie Rojas was a Giants' farmhand in the early 1960s, then played in Mexico from 1964-65. After 3 seasons with the Angels (1966-68) he returned to the Mexican League.

Wayne Causey was a starting infielder for the Kansas City Athletics from 1961-65, and the White Sox from 1966-67. He split the 1968 season between the White Sox, Angels, and Braves.

Saving the best for last!

This may be Topps' first intentional "career-capper" card. Mickey Mantle retired during spring training in 1969. Since this was a late-series card, there was time to add a footnote to the back of his card. Nice that they didn't replace this card with that of another current player.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dal Maxvill (#320)

Dal Maxvill was a shortstop for 14 seasons, primarily the Cardinals starting SS from 1962-72. He appeared in 3 World Series with the Cardinals (’64, ’67, ’68) and 1 with the Athletics (’74). He also played in the ALCS in ’72 and ’74.

Maxvill was signed by the Cardinals in 1960, and played 2 ½ seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in June 1962. He alternated with incumbent starter Julio Gotay for a while, then became the primary shortstop in the season’s closing months.

Before the 1963 season, the Cardinals acquired veteran shortstop Dick Groat from the Pirates. Groat started 157 games in ’63, while Maxvill only managed 51 at-bats in 53 games as the backup. He started 5 games at short and 4 at 2nd base.

Dal returned to the minors for most of 1964, but was back in the majors for good to start the 1965 season. With Groat established at shortstop, Maxvill actually played more at 2nd base in ’65, but started very few games at either keystone position.

Good news for Maxvill in 1966! Groat was traded to the Phillies in the off-season, opening up a starting position. Dal was the Cardinals’ regular shortstop from April 1966 until the end of August 1972. He also won a Gold Glove in 1968.

Maxvill was traded to the Oakland Athletics at the end of August 1972, just in time to make their post-season roster. He had 8 at-bats in 5 games against the Tigers in the ALCS.

Dal began the 1973 season with the A’s, but was sold to the Pirates in July, then started 73 of the final 80 games for the Bucs at SS. The following April he was released, and picked up by the A’s a month later. He played 60 games in ’74 and 20 games in ’75 as the backup to Bert Campaneris.

After his playing career, he was a coach for the A’s, Cardinals, Mets, and Braves. He was also the Cardinals’ GM from 1985-1993.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Born on the Same Day - 2/25/1940

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

This is post #14 in the series: Ron Santo and Danny Cater - both born on 2/25/1940.

Ron Santo was the Cubs' regular 3rd baseman from 1960 to 1973. Along the way, he finished 4th in ROY voting, was an All-Star in 9 of his final 11 seasons with the Cubs, won 4 Gold Gloves, led the NL in walks 4 times and triples once, topped 30 homers 4 times, and 100 RBI 4 times.

He played his final season (1974) for the White Sox, dividing his time between DH and backing up 2B and 3B.

Danny Cater began his career with the Phillies in 1964 as a part-time left fielder and pinch-hitter. He was a regular for the next 6 seasons with the White Sox (1965-66), Athletics (1966-69), and Yankees (1970). In 1971 Cater divided his time between 1B and 3B for the Yankees, backing up John Ellis and Jerry Kenney.

He moved on to the Red Sox for 3 more seasons, before wrapping up with the Cardinals in 1975. Cater's last significant playing time came in 1972, when he started 82 games at 1st base (essentially whenever Carl Yastrzemski moved out to left field). That role would be filled by youngster Cecil Cooper beginning in 1973.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Final Card: Jim Weaver

Here is the final card for Angels' pitcher Jim Weaver (#134). The Angels had a lot of young pitchers come up in 1967, but unlike Clyde Wright, Marty Pattin, Tom Burgmeier, and Rickey Clark (all ultimately with longer careers than Weaver), Topps managed to include Weaver in a card set prior to 1969. He shared an Angels' Rookies card in the 1968 set.

Weaver was signed by the Indians in 1958, and pitched in their minor-league system from 1958-66 (missing the '62 and '63 seasons while in military service).

In 1967 he was traded twice, first to the Astros in January (with catcher Doc Edwards and outfielder Jim Landis) for outfielder Lee Maye and catcher Ken Retzer. After 24 starts for Houston's AAA team, in August he was sent to the Angels for shortstop Hector Torres. Weaver made his major-league debut with the Angels in August 1967. He appeared in 13 games (2 starts).

Jim split the 1968 season between the Angels and their AAA team. He pitched in 14 games (all in relief), the last coming on June 29th. That was his last game in the bigs.

The back of his card indicates he was assigned to the minors in November 1968, where he would play the entire 1969 season. He also played for a double-A team in 1970 before retiring.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Final Card: Al Lopez

Here is the final card (#527) for White Sox manager Al Lopez. It looks like this photo was taken during the same session as his 1965 card. He also had a card in the 1953 set as the Indians’ manager, and in the 1961 to 1965 sets as the White Sox' manager.

Lopez was a catcher and played in the minors from 1925 to 1929. He had a 3-game cup of coffee with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1928, before returning to the minors the following season.

Al was the Dodgers' catcher from 1930-35, and made the All-Star team in 1934. He played for the Boston Braves from 1936-40, and the Pirates from 1940-46, although his last 2 seasons with Pittsburgh were as a backup. Al made his 2nd and last All-Star team in 1941.

He played his last big-league season (1947) with the Indians. Retiring after the '47 season, his 1,918 career games caught was a record that stood until Bob Boone broke it 40 years later.

Lopez was a minor-league manager from 1948-50, also serving as his team's backup catcher in 1948.

He managed the Indians from 1951-56, winning the AL pennant in 1954.

Lopez was also the White Sox manager from 1957 to 1965, and won the AL pennant in 1959. His 2 pennants (’54, ’59) were the only times the Yankees DIDN’T win the AL pennant from 1949-64.

After the '65 season he was kicked upstairs to the front office, but returned as field general after Eddie Stanky's firing during the 1968 season.

Soon after that he became ill, forcing him to miss much of the remainder of the '68 season. He returned as manager at the end of the season, managing a total of 47 games in his 2 stints that year. He began the 1969 season as the team's manager, but failing health forced him to retire after 17 games.

Al was inducted into HOF as a manager in 1977.

He passed away in October 2005 at age 97, five days after the White Sox won the World Series (their first championship in 88 years). Lopez was the last living MLB player from the 1920s.

Monday, December 12, 2016

AL / NL Rookie Stars (#598, 624, 641, 658)

In the 2nd-half of the 1960s, Topps set aside a few Rookie Stars cards in the high-numbered 7th Series where players from different teams were shown on the same card. There were either "AL Rookies", "NL Rookies", or Major-League Rookies" (if they couldn't find 2 players from the same league).

It has always been my contention (although not having definite information) that these were adhoc cards, where the subjects were not firmed up until the season already began. Then Topps would see which productive rookies they overlooked in their already-formatted Series 1 to 6. (How else to explain Norm Gigon's inclusion in the 1967 set, while players like Gary Nolan and Don Wilson were nowhere to be found?)

By far, the jewel in this dozen is Rollie Fingers. Pitched in 944 games over 17 seasons, Cy Young and MVP winner, and Hall of Famer.

Bob Floyd?  Played parts of 7 seasons as a backup with the Orioles and Royals.  Even less for Larry Burchart - 29 games with the Indians in 1969, then he was done.

After Fingers, Tom Hall is the only other player here with a decent career.  10 seasons with the Twins/Reds/Mets/Royals.  Most of his 358 games were in relief.

Bill Burbach pitched for the Yankees in 1969 and parts of the next 2 seasons.  I sure hope he wasn't touted as "The Next Whitey Ford". Jim Miles pitched 13 games over parts of 2 seasons with the Senators.

In 1970, the Reds had to decide if Darrel Chaney or Dave Concepcion was going to be their shortstop.  They made the right choice. Chaney was a backup for 7 years in Cincinnati and 4 in Atlanta.

Duffy Dyer's extremely big head reminds me of those costumed marchers in the Mardi Gras parade.  (Or those fools providing between-inning entertainment at Milwaukee Brewers' games.)

Terry Harmon was the Phillies' utility infielder from 1969-77. Harmon is one of only 3 Phillies (with Mike Schmidt and Larry Christensen) to play at least 10 years and only for the Phillies.

Looks like this was almost a "Dodgers Rookies" card! Bobby Darwin was a minor-league pitcher for the Angels, Orioles, and Dodgers from 1962-69. He was converted to an outfielder in 1971 and played for the Twins, Brewers, and Red Sox from 1972-77.

John Miller played 6 games for the Yankees in September 1966, and 23 games for the Dodgers in 1969 (mostly as a pinch-hitter).

Tommy Dean played 12 games for the Dodgers in September 1967, then resurfaced in 1969 as the Padres' shortstop.  He played 2 more seasons as a backup with San Diego.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mike Hershberger (#655)

Mike Hershberger was a starting outfielder for the White Sox and Athletics through most of the 1960s. On Opening Day 1968, Mike lost his starting job to Reggie Jackson, and would be a backup for his final 4 seasons.

Hershberger was signed by the White Sox in 1959, and after 3 seasons in the minors was called up to the Sox in September 1961.

In 1962 Mike started 106 games as a rookie, mostly in right field. He shared the starting job there with Floyd Robinson, who was the starter in 1961. (Robinson played mostly left field in ’62, replacing the departed Minnie Minoso.)

In ’63 and ‘64 he was one of the Sox’ top 3 outfielders in terms of starts and playing time, but since he split his time between center and right fields, shows him as a non-starter.

In January 1965 he was traded to Kansas city in a 3-team, 8-player trade, and was the Athletics’ starting right fielder for the next 3 seasons, rarely playing the other 2 spots in those years.

Reggie Jackson joined the Athletics during the 1967 season, and was installed as the starting right fielder at the start of the 1968 season, relegating Hershberger to spot-start duty for a few dozen games in right and left field.

With Rick Monday and Jackson established in center and right fields, and Rule 5 pickup Tommie Reynolds starting half the games in left field, there was even less playing time for Mike in 1969 than in the previous year.

The following January he was traded to the Brewers (with pitchers Lew Krausse and Ken Sanders, and catcher Phil Roof) for 1st baseman Don Mincher and infielder Ron Clark. Mike lasted only 1 season in Milwaukee, filling the dubious role of 7th outfielder.

He was released after the 1970 season, and hooked on with the White Sox for 1971. He played more in his final season than he had since 1968, starting 25% of the games in center field behind Jay Johnstone.

Hershberger passed away in 2012 at age 72.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Final Card: Larry Miller

Here is the final card (#323) for Larry Miller, who I just discovered a few days ago to be the oldest living player (at age 79) having a card from 1966-70 not yet appearing on one of my blogs.

He is also "Back on Topps' Radar", with his first card since the 1965 set. (Miller spent most of '66 and all of 1967-68 in the minors.)

Miller was signed by the Dodgers in 1959, and played in their organization for 3 ½ seasons (plus a 2-year break for military service) before making his major-league debut in 1964. He pitched in 16 games over the second half of the season. He was 4-8 in 14 starts.

After the season he was traded to the Mets for OF-1B Dick Smith. Miller split the 1965 season between the Mets and their AAA team in Buffalo.

Larry was back in AAA for the 1966 season, followed by 4 late- September appearances for the Mets.

He was in triple-A for all of 1967-69, and was traded to the Giants' organization in mid-1967. Since his last big-league game was in 1966, I'm wondering "Why does he have a card?"

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Born on the Same Day - 12/17/1936

Recently I started a new series called "Born on the Same Day", featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. The scope of this exercise is those players (or managers) who have cards in the 1965-1970 sets (because that's what I dooze). Ideally, I should also have their cards. 

In researching this, I found 51 pairs and 2 trios. In a few pairs both are stars, some pairs have 1 star, and other pairs are just 2 guys named Joe. In a few cases, these players were also teammates. 

I am going to post these in chronological order, and distribute them across my 1966-1970 blogs depending on which cards I have for who. The series began on my 1968 blog

This is post #8 in the series, and the first on the 1969 blog: Jerry Adair and Roland Sheldon - both born on 12/17/1936.

Jerry Adair played for the Orioles, White Sox, Red Sox, and Royals from 1958 to 1970, and was the Orioles' regular 2nd baseman from 1961-65.

Rollie Sheldon went 11-5 as a rookie for the 1961 Yankees. He played for New York until midway through 1965, then made stops with the Athletics and Red Sox. He was in the Seattle Pilots' training camp in 1969 but did not make the team.