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.