Monday, September 1, 2014

Bobby Cox (#237)

Bobby Cox had a 2-year playing career as the Yankees’ 3rd baseman from 1968-69, then went on to much greater success as the manager for the Braves and Blue Jays from 1978 to 2010. This is his rookie card, and his only card as a player.

Cox was signed by the Dodgers in 1959. After 6 seasons as a 2B/3B in the minors, he was drafted by the Cubs in November 1964. After only 1 season in the Cubs’ system, he was traded to the Braves for outfielder Billy Cowan.

Cox was in the Braves' system for 2 seasons, then was traded to the Yankees in December 1967 for backup catcher Bob Tillman. (One year earlier, the Yankees had traded their 3rd baseman (Clete Boyer) to the Braves.)

After Mike Ferraro started the first 13 games in 1968, Cox was installed at the hot corner in Yankee Stadium, which had been a revolving door since Boyer departed. He started 129 of the remaining 151 games at 3rd base. Although showing little offensive punch for a 3rd baseman (7 homers) and batting only .229, Cox somehow retained the starting job for the entire season, and was named to the Topps All-Rookie team for 1968.

Cox was essentially a one-year wonder, as in 1969 another Bobby (Murcer) returned to the Yankees after a 2-year stint in the US Army and was handed the 3rd base job. After starting all but 1 of the first 32 games at 3rd base, Murcer was moved to the outfield on May 13th. This left Cox and rookie Jerry Kenney to platoon at the hot corner for the rest of the season, with Cox getting 55 starts to Kenney’s 74.

That was it for Cox’ playing career. After batting only .215 in 85 games, he was ticketed to the minors for all of 1970.

Bobby’s managing career began right away, as he piloted various teams in the Yankees’ farm system from 1971 to 1976. In 1978 he became the manager of the Atlanta Braves for 4 seasons, then moved on to manage the Blue Jays from 1982 to 1985.

Cox returned to the Braves’ job midway through the 1990 season, and stayed on through 2010. Along the way, he won the NL pennant in ’91, ’92, ’95, ’96, and ’99, and won the World Series in 1995.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, along with fellow managers Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hector Torres (#526)

Hector Torres was named as the shortstop on Topps’ 1968 All-Rookie team. The Astros were so high on him, that they traded the 1966 Topps All-Rookie shortstop (Sonny Jackson) to the Braves after the 1967 season to make room for Torres.

Hector was signed by the Giants in 1962, and after 4 seasons playing for the Giants’ class D, A, and AA teams, he was traded to the Angels in April 1966 for outfield prospect Dave Marshall (who we will see on this blog in 3 weeks).

Torres played the next 2 seasons for the Angels’ AAA team in Seattle, then was traded to the Astros for Jim Weaver in November 1967.

With incumbent shortstop Jackson departed for Atlanta, Torres won the starting shortstop job as a rookie, and except for the first half of May and a week in June, Hector started almost every game through the end of August.

This gave the ‘Stros a new-look infield, with Rusty Staub moving in from his outfield post to play 1st base, Denis Menke (acquired from Atlanta for Jackson) playing 2nd base since Joe Morgan missed all but the first week with injuries, and rookie Dave Rader sharing the hot corner with long-time 3rd-sacker Bob Aspromonte.

Torres racked up 128 games, 466 at-bats, and 104 hits as a rookie. It was by far the high point of his career. He wouldn’t see regular action again until 1975 with the Padres. 

With the return of Morgan in 1969, long-time Braves’ shortstop Menke moved across the diamond to shortstop, relegating Torres to the bench and to triple-A for the next 2 seasons.

After the 1970 season, Hector was traded to the Cubs for shortstop prospect Roger Metzger. Although Torres managed to stay in the majors for the entire season, he was stuck behind Don Kessinger, and only started 11 games at shortstop.

In April 1972 he was traded to the Expos, then found himself back with the Astros exactly 1 year later. Torres spent the entire 1973 season backing up Metzger in Houston. Hector was traded to the White Sox after the 1973 season, but spent all of 1974 in the minors.

Just prior to the 1975 opener, he was sold to the Padres. Torres started about 1/3 of the games at shortstop for the Padres in ‘75, and had career highs in batting average (.259) and RBI (26). He backed up Enzo Hernandez again in 1976, receiving slightly less playing time than the previous season.

Hector was traded to the Indians in December 1976, who flipped him to the Blue Jays during spring training in 1977. Torres started 55 games at shortstop for the expansion Blue Jays, more than rookie Bob Bailor or the other 3 players used there.

That was Hector’s final season in the majors. He played for the Jays’ and Pirates’ AAA teams in 1978 before retiring.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

1969 Topps Set is in the Quarter-finals!

So, Robert over at the $30 a Week Habit blog has been running a 16-set tournament, where bloggers vote for which set he should complete next. The 1969 set is now in the quarterfinals, facing off against the 1974 set. I vote for the 1969 set (surprise!), because:

The first cards for the 4 new expansion teams. Players are airbrushed in the early series, but shown in their new uniforms in the later series (Oakland A’s too!)

Passing the Torch:

The first Topps cards of Ted Williams since 1958:

45 future Hall-of-Famers are in the set, including Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Don Drysdale, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, and Bill Mazeroski, none of who are in the 1974 set.

Key players for the Miracle Mets in the 1969 World Series:

Also, the final card for 40 players are in the 1969 set, including Mickey Mantle, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres, Elroy Face, Ken Boyer, and Bill White.

Vote early (and often)!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ken Boswell (#402)

Ken Boswell was one of two 2nd basemen named to the Topps All-Rookie Team in 1968. He was the Mets’ regular 2nd baseman from 1969-1972, and played his final 3 seasons with the Astros.

Boswell was signed by the Mets in 1965, and played 3 seasons in the minors before making his major-league debut in September 1967.

He began the 1968 season as the team’s starting 2nd baseman, but shared the position with veteran utilityman Phil Linz, each making 67 starts. It appears that may Ken may have been on the DL from late June until late August, because he played in no major- or minor-league games during that time.

With Linz retiring after the 1968 season, Boswell took over as the primary 2nd baseman, starting about 90 games per season there from 1969-72. (3B/2B Wayne Garrett picked up most of the remaining games.) Ken hit .333 in the 1969 ALCS vs. the Braves and also in the World Series vs. the Orioles.

After the 1972 season, the Mets acquired 2nd baseman Felix Millan from the Braves, relegating Boswell to a bench role. Ken only started 14 games in '73 and 46 in '74.

He was traded to the Astros following the 1974 season for outfielder Bob Gallagher, and spent his final 3 seasons as a backup 3B-2B behind Doug Rader (’74), Enos Cabell (’76), and Art Howe (’77).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dave Nelson (#579)

With this post, every team has now been represented at least twice on this blog. Last October (see opening comments here), I discovered that there was a huge disparity in the representation of each team on each of my blogs (in addition to the many 1967 and 1970 Phillies’ cards). 

I set out nine months ago to balance each team on each blog. The goal of a minimum of 8 cards per team for the 1967 blog was met with the Jim Ray Hart post back in May. In the next 3 to 5 weeks, I will also meet these goals: 1966 (6 per team), 1968 (7 per team), and 1970 (1 per team).

Dave Nelson was one of two 2nd basemen named to the 1968 Topps All-Rookie team. After sharing the 2nd base job as a rookie, he spent most of 1969 on the bench, then was traded to the Senators in the off-season, where he spent 6 seasons, finally nailing down an everyday job when they moved to Texas in 1972.

Nelson was signed by the Indians in 1964. After 4 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut in April 1968.

The Tribe used 4 guys at 2nd base that season, with Nelson and Vern Fuller each starting about 50 games. Veteran utilityman Chico Salmon started most games for the first 2 months, then it was Fuller’s turn for awhile. Dave didn’t get extended playing time until mid-July, then started 50 of the final 72 games at 2nd base.

In 1969 the Indians acquired former MVP and all-star shortstop Zoilo Versalles, and the Z-man alternated at 2nd base with Fuller for most of the season, leaving Nelson with bench duty. Dave made 24 consecutive starts beginning on July 24th, but that was it.

After the season, Nelson and pitcher Horacio Pina were traded to the Senators for pitchers Barry Moore and Dennis Higgins. Dave spent parts of ’70 and ’71 in the minors, and was the Nats’ regular 3rd baseman for the 2nd half of 1971 and all of 1972.

In 1973, Dave switched back to 2nd base, and made his only all-star squad that year. He was the starting 2nd baseman for 1973, 1974, and the first 2 weeks of 1975, until he was replaced by Lenny Randle.

After the ’75 season, Nelson was traded to the Royals for Nelson (Briles, that is). Dave spent the next 2 years backing up Frank White at 2nd base, and retired following the 1977 season.

Following his playing career, Nelson was a coach for the White Sox (1981-84), and an instructor for the Athletics, Expos, Indians, and Brewers (1986-2006). Currently, he is a broadcaster for the Brewers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gary Holman (#361)

Gary Holman was the 1st baseman on the 1968 Topps All-Rookie Team. Back in the day, I considered him interchangeable with another backup short-time 1st baseman featured on a "green team".

Holman was signed by the Dodgers in 1964. After one season with LA’s class-A teams in Salisbury, NC and Santa Barbara, CA, Holman was plucked by the Senators in the first-year minor-league draft. Gary spent 2 seasons in AA followed by 1 season in single-A ball, then jumped up to triple-A in 1968.

He made his major-league debut with the Senators in late-June 1968. I wondered today why Topps anointed him the All-Rookie 1st baseman, because he only got 98 at-bats spread over 75 games, and made only 12 starts in his rookie season – 3 at 1st base and 9 in the outfield. [A quick check of gave me my answer – there were no other rookie 1st basemen in 1968 that played more than 8 games.]

Holman was back with the Senators to start the 1969 season, but with Mike Epstein starting 2/3 of the games at 1st base (and Frank Howard moving in from left field to start the rest) there was no room for Holman. After appearing in 41 games (mostly as a pinch-hitter) he was sent back to the minors in mid-June, never to return. His major-league career consisted of 51 calendar-weeks on the Senators’ roster.

Gary finished out the ’69 season with triple-A Buffalo, then retired after the season.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Johnny Bench (#95)

Johnny Bench was the catcher on the Topps 1968 All-Rookie Team, and also the 1968 NL Rookie of the Year. This is Bench’s first solo card. He previously appeared on a Reds Rookie Stars card in the 1968 set.

Bench was selected by the Reds in the 2nd round of the 1965 draft (the inaugural “Rick Monday” draft) with the THIRTY-SIXTH overall pick. He was the EIGHTH catcher selected (behind Ray Fosse, Gene Lamont, Ken Rudolph, and 4 other backstops who never made it to the majors).

Johnny played 3 seasons (1965-67) in the minors, hitting 22 homers in ’66 and another 23 in ’67. He made his big-league debut on August 28, 1967 and started 26 of the Reds’ final 32 games. In the off-season, 6-year incumbent starting catcher Johnny Edwards was traded away to clear a path for Bench, and the rest is history.

Bench made his first of 13 consecutive all-star rosters in 1968, and edged out the Mets’ Jerry Koosman by one vote for NL Rookie of the Year. He also won his first of 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards.

In 1970 and 1972, Bench led the NL in home runs (45, 40) and RBI (148, 125), and won the MVP award both seasons. He also led the NL with 129 RBI in 1974.

Johnny played in the NLCS and World Series in ’70, ’72, ’75, and ’76, and in the NLCS in ’73 and ’79. He grabbed the 1976 World Series MVP award after a .533 batting average and 6 RBI in the ’76.

In 1981, Bench was limited to just 52 games, mostly sharing 1st base with Dan Driessen, and only catching in 7 games. The following season he was the team’s regular 3rd baseman, starting 103 games at the hot corner, while only spending one inning behind the plate.

In his final season (1983), Johnny was a bench player (ha ha!), only starting 41 games at 3rd base, 29 at 1st base, and 3 behind the plate. After a 2-year absence, he made the all-star team in his final season, but it was as a symbolic gesture, as his impending retirement was announced prior to the season.

In 1986, Bench's number 5 was retired by the Reds, and he was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 with 96% of the vote in his first year of eligibility.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Stan Bahnsen (#380)

Stan Bahnsen was not only the righthander on the Topps 1968 All-Rookie team, he was also named AL Rookie of the Year. Stan appeared on Yankees Rookies cards in the 1967 and 1968 sets. This is his first solo card, and he had a card in every set through 1982.

Bahnsen was signed by the Yankees in 1965, and pitched 3 seasons in their farm system. He had a brief cup of coffee in September 1966, but didn’t return to the majors until April 1968.

He won 17 games as a rookie, as the Yankees #2 starter behind veteran Mel Stottlemyre. He also notched career-bests in strikeouts (162) and ERA (2.05) in his rookie year.

After an off-year in 1969, Bahnsen bounced back to win 14 games each in 1970 and 1971. After the 1971 season, he was traded to the White Sox for 3rd baseman Rich McKinney, and won 21 games in his first season in Chicago. Stan won 18 games the following season, but also led the AL with 21 losses.

Bahnsen pitched another year and a half for the Sox, then in June 1975 was traded to the Athletics for outfield prospect Chet Lemon. He started for the remainder of that season, but Oakland used him in relief during the ’76 and ’77 seasons.

In May 1977, Bahnsen was traded again, this time to the Expos for 1st baseman Mike Jorgensen. Stan joined the rotation that season, but was mostly a relief pitcher for his 4 full seasons in Montreal (1978-81).

The Expos released him 4 days before the season opener in 1982, and he was quickly picked up by the Angels. Stan pitched a combined 9 innings in 7 relief appearances, then was released by the Angels in mid-May. The Phillies signed him on May 31st, and he split his time between the Phillies and their AAA team in 1982. He was released after the season, and played for the Phillies’ AAA team in 1983 before retiring.

In 1992, he played for a team in The Netherlands.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jerry Koosman (#90)

Jerry Koosman was selected as the lefthanded pitcher on Topps' 1968 All-Rookie team. (My card is slightly out of register, making his name a little fuzzy.)

He played for 19 seasons, and is most-remembered for his first 12 seasons with the Mets. He came up around the same time as his Amazin’ Mets teammates Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, and although very successful early-on, fell short of Hall of Fame status.

Koosman was discovered while pitching in the Army, signed by the Mets in 1964, and pitched in the minors for 3 seasons (1965-67). In 1966, he recorded a 12-7 record while in class-A ball. In 1967, major-league teams began the season with 27 players, and didn’t need to cut down to 25 until early May. Jerry began the season with the Mets, but was sent down to triple-A in May, where he compiled an 11-10 record and 183 strikeouts in 25 games.

He made the Mets team permanently at the start of the 1968 season, and on the heels of Seaver’s Rookie of the Year performance in 1967, Koosman led the staff with 19 wins (for the 9th-place Mets, mind you) and missed out on the 1968 Rookie of the Year award by one vote (to Johnny Bench). Jerry also had a 2.08 ERA and made his first all-star team that season.

Kooz continued his excellence in 1969, going 17-9 with a 2.28 ERA and his 2nd (and final) all-star appearance. Although ineffective in the ’69 NLCS (11.75 ERA), he was 2-0 in the World Series against the Orioles.

Jerry continued with the Mets through the 1978 season (a year and a half past Seaver’s trade), winning in double figures 6 more times (including 21 wins in 1976).

In December ’78 he was traded to the Twins for pitcher Jesse Orosco. In 1979, and at age 36, Koosman was the Twins’ top pitcher, leading the team with 20 wins. The following season he was their top starter again, at 16-13.

In 1981, Koosman slumped to 3-8 during the (pre-strike) first half of the season. When the season resumed in mid-August, he was 0-1 in 7 games, and was traded to the White Sox on August 30th for 2 minor-leaguers and a guy named Randy Johnson (I thought it would be the Big Unit too, but it wasn't).

After a few appearances for Chicago in 1981, Koosman logged identical 11-7 seasons in ’82 and ’83, and in both seasons was a swingman for the only time in his long career.

The Sox traded him to the Phillies for pitcher Ron Reed in February 1984. In April he gave up Pete Rose’s 4000th hit, but posted a 14-15 record in his first season with Philly. Koosman’s final season not so good: only 6-4 in 19 games, with his last game on August 21st. He was released after the season.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Final Card: Joe Nossek

I’ve got 21 more “Final Cards” to post in the 1969 set, but haven’t done any since last October, so I’m going to squeeze one in here before I start down the path of featuring the Topps All-Rookie Team. Joe Nossek is the only one of the remaining 21 cards to have played more than 5 seasons in the majors. He finished up with 6 years of service time. 

Joe Nossek (#143) was a member of the 1961 College All-American team, along with catcher Bill Freehan, pitcher Bill Faul, and future Twins’ teammate, shortstop Frank Quilici.

Joe was signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1961 and played 4 seasons in their minor-league organization. He made his major-league debut in April 1964, playing in 7 games at the start of the season (mostly as a pinch-runner) before returning to the minors in early May.

Joe returned to the majors on a full-time basis at the start of the 1965 season. He played in 87 games during his rookie season, mostly as a pinch-hitter and backup center fielder (to Jimmie Hall). Joe also made a few starts at 3rd base. Nossek appeared in 6 games in the 1965 World Series, and was the starting center fielder for games 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 against the Dodgers’ southpaw starters. He went 4-for-20 (.200).

In mid-May 1966, Joe was sold to the Kansas City Athletics. He played in 87 games for the Athletics in both 1966 and 1967, sharing the starting center field job in 1966 with Roger Repoz and Jim Gosger, then caddying for rookie Rick Monday in 1967.

Nossek spent all of 1968 with Oakland’s AAA team in Vancouver, and was left out of the Topps set in 1968. It's surprising that he was back on Topps' radar in 1969. This is a low-numbered card, and he didn't see any playing time in the previous season.

He began the 1969 season with the A’s, but after 13 games (2 starts), he was sent down to the minors in mid-May, then traded to the Cardinals two months later for utility infielder Bob Johnson. The Cardinals called Joe up at the end of July, where he made 9 pinch-hitting or pinch-running appearances over the rest of the season.

It was back to the minors for almost all of 1970, with only one pinch-hitting appearance for the Cardinals in mid-September. It would be his last major-league game.

In February 1971 Joe was sold to the Brewers, but spent the year in triple-A before retiring.

After his playing career, Nossek was a coach for 28 seasons between 1973 and 2003, for the Brewers, Twins, Indians, Royals, and White Sox.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Earl Weaver (#516)

Here is long-time Orioles' skipper Earl Weaver. Weaver never played in the big leagues, but had a long career as a minor-league 2nd baseman with the Cardinals (1948-53), Pirates (1954-56), and Orioles (1957-60).

He eased into managing during his final seasons as a player (1956-59), then was a full-time manager in the Orioles' chain from 1961 to 1967.

Earl took over the reins in Baltimore midway through the 1968 season, replacing Hank Bauer. The Orioles had won the World Series in 1966, but struggled for the next 2 seasons, mostly because of injuries to their starting pitchers.

The O's returned to glory in Earl's first full season, winning the AL Pennant in 3 straight years (1969-71), and winning it all in 1970. Earl also guided the team to the 1979 pennant, but narrowly missed the 1983 World Championship, as his 1st tenure as manager ended after the 1982 season.

Weaver returned to the skipper's chair for most of 1985 and all of 1986, before retiring again. Earl was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

Weaver passed away on January 19, 2013 (the same day as Stan Musial's passing) while on an Orioles' cruise in the Caribbean. He was 82.  Fellow blogger John Hogan from the "Cards That Never Were" blog marked the occasion with a custom 1968 card of Weaver.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The 1969 Expos

Here is a photo of the 1969 Montreal Expos. They posted a 52-110 record in their first season, 10 games better than the expansion Mets in 1962.

It appears that the Expos started the season with a rotation of Mudcat Grant, Bill Stoneman, Larry Jaster, and rookie Carl Morton, with rookie Mike Wegener getting the odd spot start. By mid-May, rookie Jerry Robertson had replaced Morton in the rotation, and a month later, Grant and Jaster were out, replaced by Howie Reed and rookie Steve Renko. In mid-July, Gary Waslewski replaced Reed.

Bill Stoneman, Jerry Robertson, and Mike Wegener were the "Big Three" starting pitchers for the expansion Expos. In only his 3rd big-league season, Stoneman was the ace of this staff, leading the team in wins (11), starts (36), innings pitched (235) and strikeouts (185).

Robertson and Wegener were alike in many ways. Both were making their major-league debut in 1969, both had only 5 wins, and were very close in starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts. All 3 of these pitchers were also used occasionally in relief.

Dan McGinn was the team’s closer, notching 6 saves. His 132 innings were 4th on the team (after the 3 starters above). McGinn appeared in 74 games, with only 1 start.

Howie Reed (6-7) and Gary Waslewski (3-7) both had unimpressive records, and pitched in 30 games, starting half of them. Waslewski came over from the Cardinals in mid-June in exchange for Mudcat Grant.

Other key members of the bullpen were Don Shaw (65 innings in 35 games, 1 start ) and veteran Elroy Face (59 innings, 44 games, no starts) who at age 41, was in the final year of his 16-year career (which ended with his August 15th release).

Steve Renko was acquired in mid-June from the Mets in exchange for Donn Clendenon. He was 6-7 in his debut season. Other starters getting some time in on the ground floor were Larry Jaster (1-6 in 26 games, 11 starts), Mudcat Grant (1-6 in 10 starts prior to his mid-June trade), and rookie Carl Morton (0-3 in 5 starts). Morton was sent down in early May, but stormed back in 1970 to win the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Others pitching only in relief were veteran Dick Radatz (0-4 in 34 innings), Carroll Sembera (0-2 in 33 innings), native French-Canadian Claude Raymond (who was acquired in mid-August from the Braves and became a fan favorite), and Steve Shea (15 innings over 10 games).

These eight had the most playing time at each position. Ron Brand made 79 starts behind the plate, sharing the catching duties with ex-Astros teammate John Bateman. Bob Bailey started 83 games at 1st base, sharing the job initially with Donn Clendenon, then with Ron Fairly. By mid-August Bob was relegated to the bench in favor of Fairly.

Gary Sutherland went from a seldom-used utilityman in 1968 for the Phillies, to starting 138 games for the Expos in '69. Bobby Wine also came over from the Phillies, and (after Maury Wills was traded away) started 110 of the final 112 games at shortstop.

Rookie Coco Laboy started 147 games at the hot corner. Mack Jones started 120 games in left field, while smacking 22 homers. The Expos employed a carousel of 10 players in center field. Adolfo Phillips led the way with 48 starts, almost all of them in the 6 weeks following his mid-June acquisition from the Cubs.

Rusty Staub started 154 games in right field (the most by any Expo at any one position). Staub was acquired from the Astros in January in exchange for Jesus Alou and Donn Clendenon. When Clendenon refused to report, the Expos sent pitcher Jack Billingham to Houston.

Here are the 2nd-line batters. Ron Fairly came over from the Dodgers in mid-season, and started most of the games at first base afterwards, along with 18 starts in center field. John Bateman started 64 games, splitting the catching duties with Brand. Ty Cline was the team's 4th outfielder (primarily sharing center field with Phillips). After 2 seasons as the Pirates' 3rd baseman, Maury Wills started 46 of the first 50 games at shortstop, then was traded back to the Dodgers in mid-June.

Donn Clendenon was drafted from the Pirates.  He was ticketed to the Astros in the Staub deal, but refused to go.  Excellent decision, Donn! After 21 starts at 1st base and another 9 in left field, he was traded to the Mets for pitcher Steve Renko and infielder Kevin Collins. Clendenon was the MVP of the '69 World Series, batting .357 with 3 home runs.

Jose Herrera began the season in the minors, but played 47 games in the final 3 months, mostly as a LF/CF/PH. Don Bosch was the team's center fielder early-on, and after playing in 49 games he was sent to the minors in early-July, never to return to the majors. Kevin Collins arrived in the Donn Clendenon trade in mid-June, and started the 15 games at 3rd base that Laboy didn't.

Manny Mota shared the center field job with Bosch and Cline until his mid-June trade to the Dodgers. John Boccabella was the 3rd "B" in the Expos' catching corps.  He played in 40 games, with most of his 19 starts coming in May and June.

Angel "Remy" Hermoso played in triple-A most of the season.  He started 16 consecutive games at 2nd base in mid-July (presumably Sutherland was on the DL), and returned in September. Jim Fairey was selected from the Dodgers, but spent the '69 season in triple-A.  He played in 20 games during a September call-up.

Garry Jestadt pinch-hit 5 times in late September, and made his only start on 10/1. After 8 1/2 seasons with the Phillies, Gene Mauch got canned in mid-June 1968.  No matter, he scored the skipper's job with the Expos, where he stayed for 7 seasons. Jack Billingham and Jesus Alou were selected in the expansion draft, but traded to the Astros for Rusty Staub prior to the season.

Also playing in 1969 were pitchers Leo Marentette (3 games) and Bob Reynolds (1), 2B Marv Staehle (6) and outfielder Don Hahn (4).

The Expos had 3 Rookie Stars cards in the '69 set. Floyd Wicker played in 41 games, mostly as a pinch-hitter.

The back of the team card shows Rusty Staub and Bill Stoneman leading the team in most categories.

25-man roster analysis:
(There is some overlap by a few days on 1 or 2 players)

Transactions from team inception until the end of 1969:

10/14/68 expansion draft: (also here)

From the Mets: Don Shaw, Ernie McAnally (P), John Glass (P)
From the Phillies: Gary Sutherland, Mike Wegener, Larry Jackson (P)
(When Jackson retired, the Phillies sent Bobby Wine as a replacement.)
From the Pirates: Manny Mota, Donn Clendenon, Maury Wills
From the Cubs: Bill Stoneman, Garry Jestadt, John Boccabella
From the Cardinals: Jerry Robertson, Larry Jaster, Coco Laboy
From the Braves: Skip Guinn, Remy Hermoso, Carl Morton
From the Reds: Mack Jones, Dan McGinn, Jimy Williams
From the Astros: John Bateman, Jose Herrera, Ron Brand
From the Giants: Jesus Alou, Bob Reynolds, Ty Cline
From the Dodgers: Jack Billingham, Jim Grant, Jim Fairey

10/16/68 - Purchased Don Bosch from the Mets.

10/21/68 - Purchased Bob Bailey from the Dodgers.

12/02/68 - Drafted Don Hahn from the Giants in the rule 5 draft.
12/02/68 - Drafted infielder Juan Rios from the Mets in the rule 5 draft.
12/02/68 - Drafted Carroll Sembera from the Astros in the rule 5 draft.
12/02/68 - Drafted Floyd Wicker from the Cardinals in the rule 5 draft.

01/22/69 - Traded Jesus Alou and Donn Clendenon to the Astros for Rusty Staub. When Clendenon refused to report, the Expos sent Jack Billingham and pitcher Skip Guinn to the Astros to complete the deal.

03/25/69 - Sold Juan Rios to the Kansas City Royals.

04/03/69 - Purchased pitchers Leo Marentette, Howie Reed and Steve Shea from the Astros.

04/27/69 - Signed Roy Face as a free agent.

06/03/69 - Traded Jim Grant to the Cardinals for Gary Waslewski.

06/11/69 - Traded Manny Mota and Maury Wills to the Dodgers for Ron Fairly and infielder Paul Popovich.
06/11/69 - Traded Paul Popovich to the Cubs for pitcher Jack Lamabe and Adolfo Phillips. Lamabe finished out the season (and his career) in the minors.

06/15/69 - Purchased Dick Radatz from the Tigers.
06/15/69 - Traded Donn Clendenon to the Mets for Steve Renko, Kevin Collins, and 2 minor-leaguers.

08/15/69 - Released Roy Face.

08/19/69 - Purchased Claude Raymond from the Braves.

08/26/69 - Released Dick Radatz.

09/13/69 - Acquired infielder Marv Staehle from the Pilots for a player to be named (Floyd Wicker).

12/02/69 - Traded Larry Jaster to the Braves for pitcher Jim Britton.

12/03/69 - Traded Jerry Robertson to the Tigers for pitcher Joe Sparma.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Steve Carlton (#255)

Ok, after much delay, I have finally added text to this blog post. 

Steve Carlton, who is the greatest Phillies’ left-handed pitcher in their history, began his career with the Cardinals in the mid-1960s.

Carlton was signed by the Cardinals in 1963, and spent only one season in the minors (1964), compiling a 15-6 record, before making his major-league debut with the Cardinals in April 1965.

During his rookie season, he pitched in 11 games prior to the end of June, and then not again until late August, when he pitched 4 times over the season’s last 5 weeks. (I assume he was on the DL in July and August, because he has no minor-league record for 1965.)

Carlton was back in the minors to start the 1966 season, and after compiling a 9-5 record in 19 starts, he rejoined the Cardinals in late July, and pitched 9 games in the final 2 months of the season.

Steve began the 1967 season as the team’s 5th starter, and finished the season with a 14-9 record and an appearance in the World Series.

Carlton pitched for the Cardinals through the 1971 season, bouncing back from a 10-19 record in 1970 to a 20-9 record in 1971.

After the season, he was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Rick Wise. Both pitchers were involved in contract squabbles with their respective teams. (Imagine trading away a 20-game winner!)

Here is Carlton's first card as a Phillie.

Lefty’s first season with the Phillies was one for the record books. He led the NL in all these categories: 27 wins (the Phillies only won 59 games that season!), a 1.97 ERA, 310 strikeouts, 41 starts, 30 complete games, and 346 innings pitched. He also only walked 87 batters (a 310/87 strikeout/walk ratio!) All this earned Carlton his 1st of 4 Cy Young awards.

As if worn out by his 1972 feats, Carlton lost a league-leading 20 games in 1973, although he also led the NL in starts, complete games, and innings pitched. He also struck out 223 batters in ’73.

Lefty pitched for the Phillies until late-June 1986. Along the way, he won 20 or more games 4 times (’76, ’77, ’80, and ’82) winning the Cy Young award in ’77, ’80, and ‘82, and led the NL in strikeouts in ’74, ’80, ’82, and ’83. He was also a combined 6-5 in six post-seasons between 1976 and 1983.

After going 1-8 in 1985, and starting the 1986 season at 4-8, the Phillies released their long-time ace on June 24th. In a classic example of not knowing when to retire, Carlton bounced around for several more seasons with the Giants (July ‘86), White Sox (Aug-Sep ‘86), Indians (Apr-Jul ‘87), and Twins (Aug ’87 – Apr ’88) before retiring.

Carlton finished his career with a 329-244 record, 4136 strikeouts, and a 3.22 ERA. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jim Lefebvre (#140)

Today we have the 1965 NL Rookie of the Year, Jim Lefebvre. (Four years later, the Dodgers would have another 2nd baseman win the Rookie of the Year award.)

Lefebvre was signed by the Dodgers in 1962, and played 3 seasons in the minors as a 2nd baseman. He made his big-league debut in April 1965, taking over the 2nd base job from the 1964 tandem of Nate Oliver and Dick Tracewski. Jim started the first 75 games at 2nd base, and by season’s end, had started 154 of the 162 games there. He also chipped in with 12 homers, and was also named the top rookie, with 13 of the 20 votes. (The Astros’ Joe Morgan received 4 votes.)

Jim began the 1966 season as the team’s 3rd baseman, but moved back to second base in early May. Meanwhile, Nate Oliver (2b), Junior Gilliam (3b), and John Kennedy (3b) filled in around him. Lefebvre made his only all-star team in 1966. He tallied career highs in homers (24), RBI (74), and batting average (.274) in his sophomore season.

During this time, he was also one of several pro athletes to make guest appearances on a TV series. Lefebvre was one of the Riddler’s henchmen on “Batman”.

With the Dodgers’ acquisition of 2nd baseman Ron Hunt, Lefebvre spent most of the 1967 season at 3rd base, although he played 2nd base whenever Hunt was out of the lineup (which included most of August).

Hunt moved on to the Giants in 1968, but Lefebvre missed a lot of time with injuries, starting only 53 games at 2B and 17 at 3B. In 1969, he was relegated to the bench for much of the season in favor of rookies Ted Sizemore (117 starts at 2B) and Bill Sudakis (118 starts at 3B). Lefebvre only started 80 games that season, split between 2B, 3B, and 1B.

In 1970, Jim shared the 2nd base job with Sizemore, then with Sizemore having been traded to the Cardinals in the off-season, Lefebvre regained the lion’s share of playing time (97 starts) in 1971.

Lefebvre’s final season with the Dodgers (1972) was spent as a role player, since the 2nd base job was now manned by rookie Lee Lacy and 2nd-year man Bobby Valentine. Jim was released by the Dodgers and played in Japan for the 1973-76 seasons.

After his playing career, he coached for several teams, and managed the Mariners (1989-91), the Cubs (1992-93), and the Brewers (1999). He also coached teams in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hank Aaron (#100)

Today is the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record.

Here we see Hank, fresh off his 1968 season, the year he joined the 500-homer club.

Of Aaron's 755 career homers, 375 were hit in the 1960s, good for 2nd place behind Harmon Killebrew. (You can see the chart of 1960s sluggers in Killebrew's post.)

Hammerin' Hank broke the record on April 8, 1974, during the Braves' first home game of the season. It came in the 4th inning (his 2nd at-bat) off Dodgers' starter Al Downing.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Joe Niekro (#43)

Joe Niekro was one of several sets of brothers who played in the majors in the 1960s. Like his older brother Phil, Joe was a knuckleball pitcher.

Joe was signed by the Cubs in 1966, and after only one season in the minors, he made his big-league debut in April 1967. He pitched 36 games (22 starts) as a rookie, and finished 3rd in innings pitched on the Cubs’ staff, behind Fergie Jenkins and fellow rookie Rich Nye.

Niekro was a member of the starting rotation for 2 seasons, then in late-April 1969 he was traded to the Padres for pitcher Dick Selma. Joe finished out the season with San Diego, then was traded to the Tigers for pitcher Pat Dobson.

Niekro spent played for the Tigers for all of 1970-71, and part of 1972. He spent the remainder of 1972 and most of 1973 in the Tigers’ farm system.

When the Braves claimed him off waivers in early August 1973, he joined the Braves for the rest of the season (uniting him with brother Phil), and made 20 relief appearances. Joe split his time between the Braves and their AAA team in 1974, then was sold to the Astros 2 days before the start of the 1975 season.

Niekro enjoyed his greatest success during his 11 seasons with the Astros. In 1979 he led the NL with 21 wins, made the all-star team, and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting. He followed up his great 1979 season by notching 20 wins in 1980, and pitching in the NLCS against the Phillies.

Two weeks before the end of the 1985 season, Joe was traded to the Yankees for pitcher Jim Deshaies. Once again, his brother Phil was a teammate, although Phil was traded away after the season. Joe remained in the Yankees’ starting rotation until his June 1987 trade to the Twins.

Niekro pitched for the Twins for the remainder of the 1987 season (including the World Series vs. the Cardinals), but after pitching 5 games in 1988, he was released in early May, ending his 22-year career.

Niekro passed away in October 2006 at age 61.