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.