Sunday, June 9, 2019

Final Card: Larry Shepard

This is the 2nd and final card for Pirates' manager Larry Shepard.

Shepard only had a 2-year managing career, from 1968-69 with Pittsburgh. The Bucs finished in sixth place in 1968, and third (of 6) in 1969. He was let go with 5 games remaining in the 1969 season.

I first became aware of Shepard in 1967, the year I started following major-league baseball. He was the Phillies' pitching coach for that one season. (I wonder if he had any input into the trade that sent Jim Bunning to the Pirates in the 67/68 off-season?)


Larry never played major-league ball, but he pitched in the minors in 1941 and from 1946-58. He started out with the unaffiliated class-C Three Rivers (Quebec) Renards, then after missing 4 seasons during World War II, he hooked on with the Brooklyn Dodgers and pitched in their farm system from 1946-51. He was also the team's manager from 1948-51.

He moved on to the Pirates' organization, pitching for their various class-A teams from 1952-56, while also serving as manager from 1953-56.

He was out of baseball in 1957, but returned as the Pirates' triple-A manager from 1958-66, with his team finishing in first place 3 times. Shepard never played above class-A until pitchng in 18 games in 1958, his last as a player.

After a season as the Phillies' pitching coach, he returned to the Pirates for 2 seasons as the big club’s manager.

Shepard was also Sparky Anderson's pitching coach for the Big Red Machine from 1970-78, and for the Giants in 1979.

He passed away in 2011 at age 92.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Final Card: Ramon Webster

This is Ramon Webster's 3rd and final Topps baseball card (#618). He did not have as much playing time with the Athletics as I had expected before writing this.

Ramon was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1963. After 4 seasons in the minors he made his major-league debut in April 1967.

There were no Athletics' first basemen included in the 1967 Topps set, except for the two featured on Athletics' Rookies Stars cards (Webster and Randy Schwartz). Schwartz had cups of coffee in September 1965 and 1966, but was never heard from again. Webster had no prior major-league experience until appearing in April 1967.


The Athletics began the '67 season with Webster alternating at first base with Danny Cater. In June they reacquired Ken Harrelson (who was their 1st-sacker for much of 1965-66) from the Senators. When manager Al Dark was canned in late-August, Harrelson soon followed, and Webster had the position to himself for the rest of the season.

Ramon started 49 games in the first half of 1968, but played the 2nd half of the season in triple-A, only returning to Oakland in September.

He faded further in 1969, only starting 9 games while most of his 64 games were pinch-hitting appearances. He also played in the minors for most of May.

During Spring Training in 1970 he was traded to the Padres for shortstop Roberto Pena. After playing 95 games for the Padres in 1970, bizarre things started happening. He was sold back to the Athletics in October 1970, only to be repurchased by San Diego in April 1971, who then returned him to Oakland 3 weeks later.

The following month he was acquired by the Cubs, and played in 16 games (all but 1 as a pinch-hitter), the last coming on 8/21/71.

Webster played for the Athletics' AAA team from 1972-75, and in Mexico during 1976. After not playing for 2 years, he played briefly for Panama in the Inter-American League in 1979.

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.


YOU FINISHED BEHIND AN EXPANSION TEAM, MAN!


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.