Saturday, January 25, 2014

The 1969 Pilots

Here are the 1969 Seattle Pilots, the one-year wonders documented by Jim Bouton in his book "Ball Four" (shown below). I read my brother's paperback version during a cross-country bus trip in 1971, and a few years ago I found the hardback version (below) at a used book store.

More than any of the other three 1969 expansion teams, the Pilots were a collection of over-the-hill veterans and low-talent youngsters. The only diamond in the rough was Lou Piniella, and he was traded during spring training. (On second thought, Mike Marshall and Marty Pattin also had good careers, but the rest were nothing special.)

This is the only baseball card showing the Seattle Pilots team. There were no team cards in the 1969 Topps set. The Pilots were sold and moved to Milwaukee early in 1970, too late for Topps to make adjustments, so they are all shown as Pilots (not Brewers) in the 1970 set.

Before continuing, you may want to check out this post on the 1969 AL expansion that I blogged a few years ago.

There are a lot of players shown below, but many did not last the entire season. A LONG transaction list is at the end of this post.

Starting Pitchers:
Here are the starting pitchers, in order of innings pitched. Gene Brabender was acquired at the end of Spring Training from the Orioles for Chico Salmon. He led the starters in games (40), starts (29), innings pitched (202), and wins (13).

Marty Pattin, Fred Talbot, Mike Marshall, and Steve Barber each pitched in 20 or more games. They were primarily starters, but also worked out of the bullpen on occasion.

George Brunet was picked up from the Angels at the end of July, and started 11 of his 12 games. John Gelnar was primarily a relief pitcher, but also started 10 of his 39 games. Gary Bell started 11 games, then was traded to the White Sox in early June for Bob Locker.

These are the primary relief pitchers (all appearing in more than 50 games), in order of innings pitched. Diego Segui was the team's closer, leading the staff with 12 saves. He also started 8 of his 66 games. Knuckleballer Jim Bouton pitched 92 innings over 57 games, then was traded to the Astros for Dooley Womack. Bob Locker and John O'Donoghue each pitched 70+ innings over 50+ games, all in relief.

 Other Pitchers:
Whereas the first 12 pitchers in this review each played in more than 10 games and pitched more than 60 innings, all the players in this section pitched less than 35 innings, and (except for Jack Aker) in less than 10 games. They are shown by innings pitched, from Bob Meyer's 32 innings to Jerry Stephenson's 2 innings.

Aker, Dooley Womack, John Morris, and Stephenson were used strictly in relief, while Meyer was primarily a starter, and Garry Roggenburk, Skip Lockwood, and Darrell Brandon were the swing men.

The Pilots did a lot of experimenting until finding the best lineup, but these 8 played the most at their positions. Only McNertney, Mincher, and Davis played more than 100 games at a position.

Jerry McNertney went from 3rd string catcher with the White Sox to starting 109 games behind the plate for Seattle. Don Mincher was on his 3rd team in 4 years, and was the team's lone all-star representative. He led the Pilots with 25 homers. John Donaldson started 89 games at 2nd base after his mid-June acquisition from the Athletics. Ray Oyler was the regular shortstop until the final month of the season.

Tommy Harper (a corner outfielder during his years with the Reds and Indians) started 56 of the first 58 games at 2nd base, then moved to center field when Donaldson was acquired. Harper was the team's regular 3rd baseman in August and September, starting 58 games there. Tommy Davis started 103 games in left field (85 more than his backup).

In his first season as a regular, Wayne Comer hit 15 home runs and started 90 games in center field. He also started another 40 games in right field (mostly in September). Right field was a melting pot with Mike Hegan (59 starts, mostly in the first half of the season), Comer (40), and Steve Hovley (40).

 Primary Bench Players:
These are the primary reserves, in order of plate appearances (minimum 125): Steve Hovley was the 3rd outfielder, actually making more starts than Hegan, although he was split between center and right fields. Gus Gil was the backup 2B-3B, but was mostly used as a pinch-hitter in the season's final months.

Rich Rollins was the starting 3rd baseman for the first 2 months, then rode the bench when Harper shifted from 2B to 3B. Ron Clark started 29 games at shortstop as Oyler's backup.

Greg Goossen came up as a catcher with the Mets, but was the backup 1st baseman with the Pilots. He started 29 games at 1st (all in the final 2 months) as Mincher needed more rest. John Kennedy appeared in 61 games, mostly as the backup 3B-SS. He missed all of July and August.

Steve Whitaker played in 69 games as a backup corner outfielder and pinch-hitter. He was demoted to triple-A for the month of August. Veteran catcher Jim Pagliaroni wrapped up his 11-year career with the Pilots. He was acquired from Oakland in late May, and replaced Larry Haney as the backup catcher.

Other Bench Players (less than 100 at-bats):
Here are the rest of the subs, by number of at-bats. Danny Walton and Sandy Valdespino were acquired from the Astros on August 30th for Tommy Davis. Merritt Ranew played in triple-A in April but spent the rest of the year with the Pilots, mostly as a pinch-hitter. It was his last season.

Early-season backup catcher Larry Haney is shown in his infamous "left-handed catcher" pose. (His 1968 card photo was flipped.) Jim Gosger began the season as the starting center fielder, but by late April had lost his job to Wayne Comer, and was sent to the Mets in late July to complete an earlier trade.

In mid-May, Jose Vidal was traded to the Yankees for Dick Simpson. Dick started a dozen games in center field for the Pilots. Mike Ferraro made 5 pinch-hitting appearances in April, then was traded to the Orioles at month's end for John O'Donoghue.

Miguel Fuentes (26 IP) and Dick Baney (18 IP) pitched briefly for the Pilots.  Long-time Cardinals' 3rd base coach Joe Schultz got his only managing job with the 1969 Pilots. He returned to coaching in 1970. Rollie Sheldon was cut in spring training, and Chico Salmon was traded to the Orioles for Gene Brabender just before the season started.

The lone Pilots Rookies card in the 1969 set.  According to Ball Four, Lou Piniella's attitude got him traded off the team.  As a rookie, he proclaimed he wasn't going back to the minors, so the team should trade him rather than send him down.  He was traded to the Royals for Steve Whitaker, and won the 1969 Rookie of the Year award.  Marv Staehle did not play for the Pilots.

Others who played for the Pilots were shortstops Fred Stanley and Gordy Lund, catcher Freddie Velazquez, outfielder Billy Williams (not the Cubs' all-star), and pitchers Gary Timberlake, Dick Bates, and Bill Edgerton.

Long-time veteran pitchers given a look-see in spring training, but not making the team were Jim O'Toole, Bill Stafford, and Bill Henry.  (Actually, Henry made the team, but retired days before the start of the season.)

Here is the back of the 1970 team card.  It seems they could have dispensed with the last column ("year the record was set").

Transactions from the team's inception to the end of 1969:

(The Pilots made deals during the 1968 season to stock the Seattle AAA team they shared with the Angels)

04/01/68 - Purchased Marv Staehle from the Indians.

05/01/68 - Acquired Gus Gil from the Indians.

06/14/68 - Purchased Mike Hegan from the Yankees.

07/09/68 - Purchased pitcher Orlando Pena from the Indians.

09/08/68 - Sold Orlando Pena to the Royals.

09/08/68 - Purchased Jose Vidal from the Indians.

10/15/68 expansion draft:
Drafted Don Mincher from the California Angels as the 2nd pick
Drafted Tommy Harper from the Cleveland Indians as the 3rd pick
Drafted Ray Oyler from the Detroit Tigers as the 5th pick
Drafted Jerry McNertney from the Chicago White Sox as the 7th pick
Drafted Buzz Stephen from the Minnesota Twins as the 9th pick
Drafted Chico Salmon from the Cleveland Indians as the 11th pick
Drafted Diego Segui from the Oakland Athletics as the 14th pick
Drafted Tommy Davis from the Chicago White Sox as the 16th pick
Drafted Marty Pattin from the California Angels as the 18th pick
Drafted Gerry Schoen from the Washington Senators as the 20th pick
Drafted Gary Bell from the Boston Red Sox as the 21st pick
Drafted Jack Aker from the Oakland Athletics as the 24th pick
Drafted Rich Rollins from the Minnesota Twins as the 26th pick
Drafted Lou Piniella from the Cleveland Indians as the 28th pick
Drafted Dick Bates from the Washington Senators as the 30th pick
Drafted Larry Haney from the Baltimore Orioles as the 32nd pick
Drafted Dick Baney from the Boston Red Sox as the 33rd pick
Drafted Steve Hovley from the California Angels as the 35th pick
Drafted Steve Barber from the New York Yankees as the 37th pick
Drafted Wayne Comer from the Detroit Tigers as the 41st pick
Drafted Darrell Brandon from the Boston Red Sox as the 44th pick
Drafted Skip Lockwood from the Oakland Athletics as the 46th pick
Drafted Gary Timberlake from the New York Yankees as the 48th pick
Drafted John Morris from the Baltimore Orioles as the 52nd pick
Drafted Mike Marshall from the Detroit Tigers as the 53rd pick
Drafted Jim Gosger from the Oakland Athletics as the 55th pick
Drafted Mike Ferraro from the New York Yankees as the 57th pick

10/21/68 - Purchased Jim Bouton from the Yankees.

11/13/68 - Purchased John Kennedy from the Yankees.

12/02/68 - Drafted Freddie Velazquez from the Padres in the 1968 rule 5 draft.

02/05/69 - Acquired Greg Goossen from the Mets for a player to be named later (Jim Gosger 07/14/69)

03/31/69 - Traded Chico Salmon to the Orioles for Gene Brabender and shortstop Gordy Lund.

04/01/69 - Traded Lou Piniella to the Royals for John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker.

04/17/69 - Signed Jerry Stephenson as a free agent.

04/30/69 - Traded Mike Ferraro and Gerry Schoen to the Orioles for John O'Donoghue and 2 minor leaguers.

05/19/69 - Traded Jose Vidal to the Yankees for Dick Simpson.

05/20/69 - Traded Jack Aker to the Yankees for Fred Talbot.

05/27/69 - Purchased Jim Pagliaroni from the Athletics. Sold Freddie Velazquez to the Athletics.

06/08/69 - Traded Gary Bell to the White Sox for Bob Locker.

06/14/69 - Traded Larry Haney to the Athletics for John Donaldson.

06/23/69 - Purchased Garry Roggenburk from the Red Sox.

07/08/69 - Sold Darrell Brandon to the Twins.

07/11/69 - Purchased Ron Clark from the Twins.

07/31/69 - Purchased George Brunet from the Angels.

08/24/69 - Traded Jim Bouton to the Astros for Dooley Womack and pitcher Roric Harrison.

08/29/69 - Traded Fred Talbot to the Athletics for Bob Meyer and catcher Pete Koegel.

08/30/69 - Traded Tommy Davis to the Astros for Sandy Valdespino and Danny Walton.

09/08/69 - Purchased shortstop Fred Stanley from the Astros.

09/13/69 - Traded infielder Marv Staehle to the Expos for Floyd Wicker.

11/01/69 - Traded Merritt Ranew to the Senators for infielder Frank Coggins.

11/21/69 - Sold Mike Marshall to the Astros.

11/24/69 - Released Jim Pagliaroni.

12/04/69 - Traded George Brunet to the Senators for pitcher Dave Baldwin.

12/07/69 - Traded Ray Oyler and Diego Segui to the Athletics for infielder Ted Kubiak and pitcher George Lauzerique.

12/12/69 - Traded Dick Simpson and Steve Whitaker to the Giants for pitcher Bob Bolin.

Next 1969 team review: Montreal Expos

Also check out my 1967 team reviews here.


Douglas said...

As much as find fascination with the
1969 expansion, it was incredibly ill conceived. Even though the player quality was better I just don't know if the site selection was good. Seattle's stadium situation is beyond comprehension by today standards and Montreal's was not much better.

I find Ray Oyler's 5th selection as odd given he was already coming off a .135 BA. Must of been a hell of a fielder.

Sad to say Miguel Fuentes was already dead when his rookie card came out.

Stubby said...

Douglas, The 1969 expansion was rushed ahead of schedule due to threatened legal action from Kansas City after Charlie Finley deserted the town for Oakland (Seattle would later become home to the Mariners via the same method, though they actually had to go to court and not just threaten). But for the legal threat, I believe the expansion had been scheduled for 1971 or 1972. In theory, new parks would be well along by then (though Jarry Park was actually a great place to watch a game while Olympic Stadium was not; and, as it turned out, Montreal had lied about plans for a new stadium--there were none).

Seattle was chosen because the US Senator from that state chaired the Commerce Commission and, as such, could protect baseball's anti-trust exemption and reserve clause. Of course, he had no reason to do so unless his state had a major league team.

Its worth noting that the Pilots outdrew the Indians, White Sox, Phillies and Padres in 1969. Even at horrible Sicks Stadium.

Ray Oyler certainly had a rep for being a great fielder. At the time of the draft, Joe Schultz remarked that Oyler would bat .300 for the Pilots with his glove. Oyler became a fan favorite--in part due to his futility at the plate. There was the SOC IT TO ME fan club ("Slugger Oyler Can, In Time, Top Our Manager's Estimate"...and hit .300). Given the cheeky name, it's perhaps no surprise that Judy Carne of NBC's "Laugh In" was the fan club's President, though the fan club, itself, was started by a local DJ.

Seattle's problem was financing. Had the expansion proceeded according to the original schedule, the Sorianos might have been able to lay in a nest egg. They certainly could have better renovated Sicks (instead of still putting down wood bleachers as the fans came in on opening day). Who knows, they might even have gotten a TV contract in those extra two or three years.

The team might also have remained in Seattle were it not for Satan Selig, who cared little about baseball but much about an empty stadium he owned that wasn't making him any money. Once he smelled blood in the water, he swooped in and started tearing the flesh of the Pilots to shreds until it was, finally, dead.

Jim from Downingtown said...


15 of the 51 people (30%) pictured in this post have passed on, starting with Fuentes in 1970 and ending with Mike Hegan last December. That seems higher than average.

Douglas said...

Jim, I know what you mean. On my blog it is not uncommon for me to do 2-3 profiles in a row where the players have now passed on.