Friday, December 13, 2013

Nolan Ryan (#533)

Look how young Nolan Ryan is on this card! This is back when he had 139 career strikeouts.

Friday, November 22, 2013

(The other) John Kennedy

Here is the “other” John Kennedy (#631). Unlike the more famous one, this John Kennedy BEGAN his career in Washington DC, and ENDED it in Boston, MA. What they have in common (besides their name) is their May 29th birthday!

Kennedy was signed by the Washington Senators in 1961 (Hmmm.. I wonder if they would have noticed him, had Richard Nixon been the president?), and played in the Nats’ system for 3 seasons, almost exclusively as a shortstop. He also played 14 games with the Senators in September 1962, and 36 games in 1963 (from late-May to early-July, and again in a September call-up).

(Well, he sure has the "Kennedy teeth"!)

In 1964, John was with the Senators for the entire season, sharing the 3rd base job with veteran Don Zimmer. Kennedy started half the team’s games there, with another 43 starts at shortstop, spelling Ed Brinkman. However, he only hit .230 with 7 homers, and struck out 119 times.

After the 1964 season, Kennedy was sent with pitcher Claude Osteen and cash to the Dodgers for slugging outfielder Frank Howard, 3rd baseman Ken McMullen, pitchers Pete Richert and Phil Ortega, and first base prospect Dick Nen.

In 1965, the Dodgers employed a carousel of 3rd baseman (I’m sure Night Owl can verify the carousel went on for years, until Ron Cey showed up). The pecking order seemed to be Junior Gilliam, Dick Tracewski, and then Kennedy. The following season, Kennedy and Gilliam each started 52 games at the hot corner, with 2nd baseman Jim Lefebvre also making a few dozen starts there. John was also Maury Wills’ backup at shortstop in 1966.

Kennedy appears as a Dodger in the 1967 Topps set, but a few days before the season he was traded to the Yankees, and served as the backup SS/3B for one season. The Yanks sent him down to the minors for all of 1968, resulting in his absence from the Topps set that year. (He had a card in all other sets from '64 to '73.)

John resurfaced in 1969 as a member of the expansion Seattle Pilots. He played 61 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter, but was also the 3rd or 4th option at shortstop and 3rd base, as the new team used 53 players that season. Kennedy split the first half of 1970 between the Milwaukee Brewers and their AAA team, then was traded to the Red Sox in mid-June.

John was a utility infielder for Boston for the next several seasons, and played his last game on June 16, 1974. He played for Boston’s AAA team for the remainder of the 1974 season, then was released in October, ending his 12-year career.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lee Maye (#595)

Here is Lee Maye’s 1969 card, where he leans in to dodge a high, hard gray circle whizzing behind his head.

I really liked this card when I got it back in the day. Was it the “windbreaker under the uniform” look? Maybe the 100-year MLB patch on his vest, or the crispness of a high-numbered card? No, I think it was because Topps finally made a card for him with a decent photo, after 2 years of ridiculous, capless photos (see below).

Maye was signed by the Braves in 1954, and played in their farm system from 1954 to 1960. He also played the 2nd half of the 1959 and 1960 seasons with the Braves. Lee started 63 games in right field in his first full season (1961) as Hank Aaron split his time between right and center fields.

The next season, he started 90 games between left and center, as Aaron continued to alternate between center and right. Maye ended up as the #3 outfielder in playing time in both ’61 and ’62.

Maye was the team’s primary left AND center fielder in 1963, and logged more playing time than all outfielders except Aaron. With rookie Rico Carty joining the club in 1964, Lee spent most of his time in center, although he was also Carty’s backup in left field. Lee never made an all-star team, but in 1964 he led the NL with 44 doubles while playing for the Milwaukee Braves.

Lee started the first 8 games of 1965 in center field, but was then relegated to the bench, and was traded to the Astros in late May for pitcher Ken Johnson and outfielder Jim Beauchamp. Maye was the Astros’ regular left fielder for two seasons, playing alongside Jim Wynn and Rusty Staub.

In January 1967 Lee was traded to the Indians for pitcher Jim Weaver, catcher Doc Edwards, and outfielder Jim Landis. Maye alternated in right field with Rocky Colavito in 1967, and was the team’s primary left fielder in 1968, although only starting 65 games there. He started 24 games in left field in 1969, until his mid-June trade to the Senators for pitcher Bill Denehy.

Maye was the Nats’ primary right fielder in ’69 and ’70, but was released in early September 1970. He was picked up by the White Sox, where he played until he was released the following July, then played for the Padres' AAA team in Hawaii for the remainder of 1971 and in 1972, before retiring.

Maye passed away in July 2002 at age 67.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Willie Crawford (#327)

Willie Crawford had a 14-year career from 1964-77 (mostly with the Dodgers), although his most productive seasons were from 1969 to 1976.

A football star at a Los Angeles high school, Crawford was signed by the Dodgers in 1964, and played in the minors from 1964 to 1968.

His major-league debut came in September 1964, and although he spent most of the 1965 season with the Dodgers (primarily as a pinch-hitter) and appeared in the 1965 World Series, he was back in the minors for all of 1966 and 1967 (except for September call-ups).

Willie was recalled by the Dodgers in mid-July 1968, and would be a regular in their outfield through the 1975 season. Crawford started 38 games in left field over the last 2 months of the ’68 season, replacing Len Gabrielson.

In 1969, Willie started the first 18 games in center field, filling in for Willie Davis, then filled in at the corner spots before assuming the regular right field job for the final 2 months. By the end of the season, he was the #2 outfielder in playing time, behind Davis and ahead of Andy Kosco, Manny Mota, and rookie Bill Russell.

The same 5 outfielders were back for 1970, although Crawford ended up sharing right field with Kosco and Russell. The following season, Dick Allen (LF) and Bill Buckner (RF) joined the team, so Willie became the primary backup at the corner outfield spots.

In 1972, Allen was out, Frank Robinson was in, and Crawford spent the season sharing left field with Manny Mota (although Mota played twice as much). Crawford was the Dodgers’ everyday right fielder in 1973 and 1974, making over 500 plate appearances each season (the most in his career). He batted .295 in both seasons, and hit 14 and 11 homers.

His production slipped in 1975, as Willie only started half the team’s games in right field. The following March, he was traded to the Cardinals for 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore. In his only season with St. Louis, Crawford hit .304 in 120 games, while starting 99 games in right field.

After the ’76 season he was traded to the Giants, who flipped him to the Astros during spring training. By mid-1977 he moved on to the Athletics, who released him after the season. Willie was re-signed by the Dodgers in February 1978, but was released during spring training. He played in Mexico during the ’78 and ’79 seasons, before retiring.

Crawford passed away in August 2004 at age 57, from kidney disease.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ferguson Jenkins (#640)

Ferguson Jenkins was one of the premier starting pitchers of the late-1960s to mid-1970s, winning 20 or more games in his first 6 full seasons with the Cubs (1967-72) and in his first season with the Rangers (1974).

1971 was his best season with the Cubs. He won the NL Cy Young award, and led the NL in wins (24), complete games (30), games started (39), innings pitched (325), but also hits allowed (304) and home runs allowed (29). Fergie also led the league with 273 strikeouts in 1969. He made 3 all-star teams, all with the Cubs.

In 1974 his record with the Rangers was 25-14, and he finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting to the Yankees’ Catfish Hunter, who had the same record. They co-led the AL in wins that season, while Jenkins led the league with 29 complete games, 6 more than Hunter.

All this was a far cry from his beginnings with the Phillies. He was signed in 1962 and made his debut in September 1965, pitching 12 innings in relief over 7 games. After making the Phillies out of spring training in 1966, he didn’t pitch until the 7th game of the season. (Apparently, the geniuses running the Phillies couldn’t fit him into a rotation that included the likes of Ray Herbert and Ray Culp!)

Jenkins’ only game with the Phillies in 1966 was on April 20th, where he pitched the 4th and 5th inning of an 8-1 blowout at the hands of the Braves. He faced 12 batters (striking out 2), but evidently did not impress the Phillies’ brass. The next day he was traded to the Cubs for a pair of veteran pitchers on the downside of their careers. Fergie pitched out of the bullpen for the Cubs until joining the starting rotation on August 25th. After that, the party started!

After 8 seasons with the Cubs, Fergie was traded to the Rangers for infielders Bill Madlock and Vic Harris. He spent 2 seasons with Texas, then pitched for the Red Sox in 1976 and 1977. After the ’77 season, he was traded back to the Rangers for pitcher John Poloni, whose major-league career consisted of TWO GAMES (what the?).

Jenkins won 18 games in 1978 and finished 6th in the Cy Young voting. What a bargain! He remained in the starting rotation for 3 more seasons, although in his last season in Texas (1981) he compiled a 5-8 record (at age 38). Jenkins returned to the Cubs’ starting rotation for his final two seasons, winning 14 and 6 games.

He was released during spring training in 1984, ending his 19-year career. Jenkins was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Final Card: Fred Newman

Fred Newman (#543) had a 6-year major-league career (1962-67), all with the Angels.

Newman was signed by the Red Sox in 1960, and after one season in the minors, was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft prior to the 1961 season. He was a starting pitcher for 3 seasons on the Angels’ farm, while also playing with the Angels in September 1962 and the final 2 months of the 1963 season.

The bulk of Fred’s playing time came as a starting pitcher from 1964 to 1966. In 1964, Newman was 2nd on the team in games started and innings pitched, behind staff ace Dean Chance. The following season, he led the team in those 2 categories. He also won in double figures both seasons.

In 1966 he dealt with arm troubles, compiling a 4-7 record, and was 4th in the rotation behind Chance, and lefties George Brunet and Marcelino Lopez.

Except for 3 games in late-July/early-August, Newman spent the 1967 season in the minors, pitching for the Angels’ triple-A, double-A, and even their class A team.

The following season he was also in the minors in AA and AAA. At triple-A Seattle in 1968, he must have felt like he was in the majors, with teammates such as Jim Bouton, Jim Coates, Jack Hamilton, Jay Johnstone, Jesse Gonder, Pete Cimino, Jim O’Toole, Larry Sherry, Orlando Pena, Hawk Taylor, and Rollie Sheldon.

This card shows him as a member of his original Red Sox team, and the late-series card back says he’s with the 1969 Louisville AAA team, but there’s no record of him playing for Louisville in 1969, nor anywhere after 1968. Sine he hadn't logged a significant amount of major-league time since 1966, I'm wondering why Topps even made a card for him.

Newman died on June 24, 1987 in Framingham, MA from an auto accident. He was 45 years old.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Final Card: Joe Schultz

This is the first and last card for Joe Schultz (#254), manager of the 1969 expansion Seattle Pilots.

Anyone who has read Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" (and has Schultz's 2 favorite expressions tattooed on their brain), probably remembers Joe as an overmatched boob (a trait somewhat reinforced by this card), but while I was watching replays of the 1968 World Series a few years ago on the MLB Network, I was reminded that Schultz was the 3rd base coach for the 3-time NL pennant-winning (and 2-time World Champion) Cardinals.

That he was in a key coaching position for a team as good as the Cardinals indicates that he had something going for him (unless the good-old-boy network was working overtime).

Joe was a backup catcher during his playing days. He played in the Cardinals' organization from 1932 to 1939, all in the minors. He was with the Pirates from 1939 to 1942, mostly in the minors, but a few games in the majors.

He played in the majors for the St. Louis Browns continuously from 1943-1948 (except for spending most of '44 in the minors).

After his playing career, Joe managed in the minors from 1950-62 (the last 5 seasons in the Cardinals' organization), then joined the St. Louis coaching staff as their 3rd base coach from 1963-68.

After his 1-year stint with Seattle, he coached 3rd base for the 1970 Royals, and the 1971-76 Tigers. He managed the Tigers for the remainder of the 1973 season following Billy Martin's firing.

Joe's father (Joe Sr.) played in the majors from 1912-25. Schultz Jr. passed away in 1996 at age 77.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Final Card: Bruce Howard

This is the last of 6 cards for Bruce Howard (#226). Howard had 4 White Sox cards (including 2 Rookie Stars), followed by an Orioles’ card in 1968, then wrapped up with this Senators’ card.

Bruce was signed by the White Sox in 1962, spent 3 seasons as a starting pitcher in the minors, and had September call-ups in both 1963 and 1964.

Howard spent 3 seasons (1965-67) in the Sox’ starting rotation. After two 9-win seasons, he had a 3-10 stinker in 1967, resulting in a trip to the minors, and a post-season trade to Baltimore. The Sox shipped him (with pitcher Roger Nelson and 2B-OF Don Buford) to the Orioles for shortstop Luis Aparicio and outfielder Russ Snyder.

After only 10 appearances, the Orioles flipped him to the Senators for outfielder Fred Valentine in June. Howard fared no better in Washington for the remainder of the season, and played his last major-league game on 9/7/1968.

He played the 1969 season in the minors with the Senators’ and White Sox’ organizations, including some time in the Florida Instructional League, and retired after the season.

His son David was an infielder for the Kansas City Royals in the 1990s.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Final Card: Dick Simpson

This is the final card for Dick Simpson (#608), a fringe outfielder for 6 teams over 7 years, and who was once traded for Frank Robinson (well, not straight-up).

Simpson was signed by the expansion Los Angeles Angels prior to their inaugural 1961 season, and played for 5 seasons (1961-65) in their farm system, working his way through class D, C, and AAA ball. He also appeared in a few games for the Angels in '62, '64, and '65.

After the 1965 season, he was traded to the Orioles for veteran 1st baseman Norm Siebern. Exactly one week later, the O's flipped him to the Reds along with 2 others for Frank Robinson. After 2 seasons as the Reds' 5th outfielder, he was traded to the Cardinals for bad-apple Alex Johnson.

I hope Simpson didn't spend too much time unpacking, because he split 1968 between the Cardinals and the Astros, then after the season was traded to the Yankees for reliever Dooley Womack. By May, the Yankees has seen enough, and sent him to the Seattle Pilots for outfielder Jose Vidal. (The aforementioned Dooley Womack would soon join him in Seattle, after the Astros dealt him for pitcher/author Jim Bouton.)

Simpson's last major-league game was on 8/27/1969. After the 1969 season, the Pilots traded him and outfielder Steve Whitaker to the Giants for pitcher Bob Bolin, but Simpson spent the next 2 seasons in triple-A, before retiring.

I'm working my way through the "Final card in 1969" list. There are 86 cards altogether, but Dick Simpson was the last one with at least 7 years in the majors.  The remaining 29 "final cards"  are either players with less than 7 years in the majors, or manager cards.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Freddie Patek (#219)

Here is the rookie card for Pirates' shortstop Freddie Patek. (Often referred to back in the day as "Pint-sized Freddie Patek", since he was five-foot-six). Wait, there's also "He put the 'short' in shortstop", and... ok, that's enough.

Patek was signed by the Pirates in 1965, and played in the minors during the '66 and '67 seasons, and the first part of 1968. Although incumbent Pirates' shortstop Gene Alley made his 2nd consecutive all-star appearance in 1968, his stats had dropped significantly from 1965-67. Patek was called up in early June, and started 49 games at shortstop over the rest of the season, including most of the games in August and September. He also played some in the outfield.

In 1969, Patek became the full-time shortstop, starting 141 games. (Alley assumed a utility role, starting 20 games at SS, 47 games at 2B, and 4 at 3B.) Patek never missed more than 2 consecutive starts all season, except for the stretch between 5/25 and 6/11.

1970 was just the opposite, with Alley regaining his old position (105 starts), leaving Patek with just 57 starts, the bulk of them coming in May. (Although Freddie had played a little outfield during his rookie season, he played nowhere but shortstop for the rest of his career, until his final season in 1981.)

After the 1970 season, Patek was traded to the Royals (with pitcher Bruce Dal Canton and catcher Jerry May) for pitcher Bob Johnson, catcher Jim Campanis, and shortstop Jackie Hernandez. Patek held down the Royals' shortstop job from opening day 1971, until he was replaced by U.L. Washington at the end of August 1979. Along the way, he teamed with 2nd basemen Cookie Rojas (1971-75) and Frank White (1976-79), and was a 3-time all-star.

Patek was granted free agency after the 1979 season, and signed on with the Angels, where he shared the starting shortstop job with Bert Campaneris in 1980, and was a little-used infield reserve in 1981.

Patek was released by the Angels on opening day 1982, ending his 14-year career.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Final Card: Fred Whitfield

This is the final card for first baseman Fred Whitfield (#518). Fred was best known as the Indians' 1st baseman from 1963-67, but also played for several other teams.

Whitfield was signed by the Cardinals in 1956, but didn't begin playing until 1958. In his 4 full seasons in the minors (1958-61) he hit 99 home runs.

Fred began the 1962 season in the minors, then made his major-league debut with the Cardinals in late May. He appeared in 73 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter, although he did start 30 games at 1B (to Bill White's 132 starts), After the season he was traded to the Indians for (future Astros' and Mets') pitcher Ron Taylor.

During his first 2 seasons in Cleveland, Whitfield shared the first base job with Joe Adcock (1963) and Bob Chance (1964). He was the regular first baseman in '65, '66, and the first part of 1967. After the Tribe acquired young Tony Horton from Boston on June 4th, Whitfield and Horton shared the post for several weeks, but by late July Fred was relegated to the bench.

He and pitcher George Culver were dealt to the Reds after the season for outfielder Tommy Harper. Fred spent the next 2 seasons as a pinch-hitter and occasional 1st baseman for the Reds, then was released after the 1969 season.

The Expos signed him just before the 1970 season, but he played most of the season at triple-A Winnipeg, only playing 4 games for the Expos.

Whitfield passed away in January 2013 at age 75.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

All-Star Cards

Here are the All-Star cards... those players selected as All-Stars in 1968 by The Sporting News. As with the All-Star cards in the 1968 set, the players getting the cards were not necessarily the starters.

In the actual game, the NL had Don Drysdale, Jerry Grote, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron starting at P, C, CF, and RF respectively. The AL lineup included Luis Tiant, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Fregosi, and Frank Howard starting at P, 1B, SS, and RF. Otherwise, the starters were those you see in the 2 large blocks of cards below.

For the NL, Curt Flood started out of position in left field. Pete Rose and Bob Gibson were on the team, but did not play. (I assume they may have been injured.) Johnny Bench only played the 9th inning, so maybe he was banged up as well. Jerry Koosman pitched the final 1/3 inning of the game.

For the AL, Carl Yastrzemski started in center field, while Ken Harrelson, Bert Campaneris, and Tony Oliva all played later in the game. Denny McLain pitched the 5th and 6th innings, and Sam McDowell pitched the 7th.

The Sporting News selected a lefty and a righty in each league. Here are the lefthanders, who didn't fit into the Brady-Bunch-style collage above.

The backs of these 20 cards formed 2 photos - Pete Rose and Carl Yastrzemski (Yaz also made the puzzle in the '68 set.) Contrary to what I would have thought, the 2 puzzles were not made exclusively from the player cards from Rose's or Yaz' own league. (My scanner bed is not large enough to hold all 10 cards, hence the cut-off tops.)

3 Cardinals
3 Reds
3 Tigers
2 Cubs
2 Red Sox
2 Twins
1 each from Giants, Mets, Athletics, Orioles, Indians

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Final Card: Dan Osinski

Here is Dan Osinski's final baseball card (#622). Dan had 7 baseball cards (1963-69), 2 each with the Angels, Braves, and Red Sox, before wrapping up with the White Sox.

Osinski was signed by the Indians way back in 1952. After 5 seasons in the Tribe's farm system, he was released, and was out of baseball for 2 years.

Dan came back in 1959 as a member of the White Sox organization. After 3 seasons with Chicago's minor-league teams, he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics, and made his big-league debut in April 1962. By mid-season, and with an ERA over 17.00, Osinski was traded to the 2nd-year Los Angeles Angels. He settled down in the second half, fashioning a 6-4 record with a 2.82 ERA in 33 relief appearances.

Dan spent two more seasons with the Angels, then one with the Braves before beginning the 1966 season with the Red Sox.

Dan pitched for the Red Sox during 1966 and 1967, and appeared in 2 games in the 1967 World Series. The Red Sox released him one week before the 1968 season.

By the end of April, he was picked up by the White Sox, but spent the remainder of the season in the minors (a place he had avoided since 1962). Osinski spent the entire 1969 season in the White Sox' bullpen, pitching in 51 games.

He was purchased by the Astros in December, but didn't make it past mid-April in the majors. After 3 games with Houston, he spent the rest of the year in triple-A (where one of his teammates was Jim Bouton) before retiring.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Final Card: Gary Geiger

After being omitted from the 1968 set, Gary Geiger returns for one final card (#278). Geiger played outfield with the Red Sox from 1959-65, then finished his career with 2 seasons each with the Braves and Astros.

Geiger was signed by the Cardinals in 1954, and played 4 seasons in their minor-league system. After the 1957 season, he was selected by the Indians in the Rule 5 draft, and started 35 games as the backup center fielder to veteran Larry Doby.

After 1 year with the Tribe, Geiger was traded to Boston (with little- used 1st baseman Vic Wertz) for center fielder Jim Piersall, who had been a regular outfielder for the Sox since day 1 in 1953.

(Geiger is incorrectly listed as a right-handed batter on this card.)

In 1959, Gary split time in center field with Marty Keough, then moved to right field the next year, where he shared the position with Lou Clinton. Geiger took over as the every-day center fielder at the start of the '61 season, a post he held until 1963, when he shared center with Roman Mejias.

Gary only played 5 games in 1964, as he was recovering from ulcer-related surgery. He also missed most of the 1965 season, due to a broken hand. After the season, he was selected by the Braves in the Rule 5 draft.

Geiger spent the next 2 seasons in Atlanta, backing up center fielder Mack Jones. He spent all of 1968 with the Cardinals' AAA team, then (after his THIRD Rule 5 selection) made a comeback (of sorts) with the Astros in 1969, playing in 93 games as a backup corner outfielder and pinch-hitter.

Gary spent most of 1970 with the Astros' AAA team, but played his last 5 major-league games in late-June/early-July. He returned to the Cardinals' organization for his final pro season (1971), playing 100 games with double-A Tulsa.

Geiger passed away at age 59 on April 24, 1996.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Final Card: Ken Johnson

Here is the final card for veteran pitcher Ken Johnson (#238).

Back in the day, the only thing I knew about Johnson was that he was "just another Braves pitcher NOT named Phil Niekro". But, he had a 16-year career dating all the way back to 1958 with the Kansas City Athletics (although his best years were 1963-67).

Johnson was signed by the PHILADELPHIA Athletics in 1952, and pitched in their minor-league system from 1952-59 (although missing the entire 1954 season).

Ken made his major-league debut in September 1958, and pitched 2 games with the A's in 1958 and 1959. Ken pitched the entire 1960 season out of the Athletics' bullpen, then was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs (an unaffiliated AAA team) in May 1961. Two months later, he was traded to the Reds for pitcher Orlando Pena.

After the 1961 season, he was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the NL expansion draft. For 3 seasons, Johnson was one of the top 2 starting pitchers (along with Turk Farrell) for the young franchise, winning 11 games in '63 and '64.

In May 1965, Ken was traded to the Milwaukee Braves (with outfielder Jim Beauchamp) for outfielder Lee Maye. Johnson joined a rotation featuring Tony Cloninger and Wade Blasingame (no, not THAT Wade Blasingame), and compiled a 13-8 record with the Braves.

In 1966, Ken and Cloninger each won 14 games and led the staff in most categories, although Johnson's ERA was almost a full point lower than Cloninger's. (Where was Phil Niekro, you say? He spent his first 3 seasons as a reliever, not joining the rotation until 6/13/1967.)

The Braves' rotation was in transition in 1967. Ace Cloninger only pitched 16 games that season, finishing at 4-7. Sophomore Pat Jarvis led the team in wins with 15, while last season's #3 starter Denny Lemaster led the staff in starts and innings pitched. Johnson won 13 games, while Niekro began the season as the closer, joining the rotation in mid-season.

Johnson had an off-year in 1968, and lost his starting job by mid-season (replaced by Milt Pappas and Ron Reed). In June 1969 he was sold to the Yankees, and 2 months later he found himself shipped off to the Cubs.

On the 2nd day of the 1970 season, Johnson was released by the Cubs and immediately signed by the Montreal Expos. Two months later, he was released, ending his 13-year career. His final game was a 2-inning relief appearance against the Cubs on April 18th.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sparky Lyle (#311)

Here is the rookie card for relief pitcher Albert "Sparky" Lyle.

Lyle made his major-league debut with the Red Sox on July 4, 1967, and appeared in 27 games over the rest of the season, as the Sox made their way to the World Series. Lyle was not included on a "Red Sox Rookie Stars" card, nor on a last-series "AL Rookie Stars" card in the 1967 set.

Even more amazing is that he was also left out of the 1968 set, despite his 1967 performance. Sparky was with Boston for the entire 1968 season, pitching in 49 games. (Other notable rookies not in the 1968 set include Reggie Jackson, Del Unser, and Bobby Bonds.)

Lyle was signed by the Orioles in June 1964, and was primarily a starter in his first season. That fall, the Red Sox selected him in the 1st-year player draft, and converted him to a reliever in 1965. He pitched 2 1/2 seasons in Boston's farm system before he was promoted in July 1967.

In his 5 seasons with Boston, Sparky pitched 260 games, all in relief. During Spring training in 1972, he was traded to the Yankees for first baseman Danny Cater and shortstop Mario Guerrero.

Lyle was the Yankees' bullpen ace for the next 7 seasons, collecting 141 saves with New York. He led the AL in saves in 1972 (35) and 1976 (23). In 1977 he led the AL in games pitched (72) and won the Cy Young award. He pitched in the post-season in '76, '77, and '78.

After the 1978 season, he was traded to the Rangers in a 5-for-5 deal that sent pitcher Dave Righetti to the Bronx. Lyle was with Texas for almost 2 years, pitching behind closer Jim Kern.

In mid-September 1980, he was acquired by the Phillies to help push them to the post-season. He compiled a 1.93 ERA in 10 games during the last two weeks of the season, but he joined the team too late to be eligible for the post-season.

Lyle remained with the Phillies until he was sold to the White Sox in August 1982. He was released after the season, ending his 16-year career.

Sparky managed in the unaffiliated Atlantic League from 1998-2001.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Curt Flood (#540)

Yesterday would have been the 75th birthday for 1960s Cardinals' outfielder /Free Agency pioneer Curt Flood. (He passed away 16 years ago tomorrow.)

This is Flood's last card as a St. Louis Cardinal, and he looks pretty weary. He was the Cards' regular center fielder from 1958-69, and teamed up with Lou Brock for his last 6 seasons there.

A 7-time gold glove center fielder, and former leadoff hitter (prior to Brock's arrival), I was surprised to see that he didn't steal that many bases, getting a season-high 12 steals in 1962.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Final Card: Mickey Mantle

Starting the new year off in style...

Replacing Billy Martin at the top of this blog is his partner in crime, Mickey Mantle (#500). Mickey and Billy were teammates from 1951 until Martin was traded during the 1957 season. Their off-field exploits are legendary. I like this story particularly.

After 14 straight years as an all-star, Mantle was left off the team in 1966. His numbers actually began to decline in 1965, and would continue to do so for his last 4 seasons.

Mickey switched to first base at the start of the 1967 season, and would play there exclusively for his last 2 seasons, appearing in 131 games each season. He also returned  to the all-star game in his final 2 years.

Mantle retired during spring training 1969, with a .298 career batting average, and having played more games than any other Yankee (later surpassed by Derek Jeter).

Having retired before the season, I don't think it was a given that he would get a card that season, and since he was given the "ultimate" card number (#500), we had to wait until well into the season before he appeared on the 5th series checklist (issued in the 4th series). I was thrilled to break open a pack in 1969 and find Mickey Mantle!

Several months after his retirement, the Yankees held Mickey Mantle Day.

Mantle passed away on August 13, 1995 at age 63. I cried that day.

Also check out Mickey on two cards in the 1968 set.