Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Joe Azcue (#176)

Here is Indians' #1 catcher Joe Azcue. I didn’t realize until looking at the back of the card today that Joe played for the Reds and Athletics before joining the Tribe. (Odd that Baseball-Reference.com uses a photo of Joe in an A’s cap. He played 594 games with Cleveland, while only 74 with Kansas City.) 

Azcue was a catcher in the Reds' farm system from 1956 to 1960, also playing 14 games with Cincinnati in the final 2 months of 1960. He was purchased by the Braves in December 1960, but spent the entire '61 season in the minors.

One year after coming to the Braves, he moved on to the Athletics (with 3rd baseman Ed Charles and outfielder Manny Jimenez) for pitcher Bob Shaw and infielder Lou Klimchock.

Azcue shared the Athletics' starting catcher job with veteran Haywood Sullivan in 1962, then was traded to the Indians in May 1963 (with shortstop Dick Howser) for catcher Doc Edwards and $100,000.  
Wait… Azcue AND Howser for DOC EDWARDS? Who was the Athletics' GM? No wonder they were so bad for so long!

Joe was the Indians' top catcher for the next 6 seasons (1963-68). For most of that time he platooned with Johnny Romano (and later Duke Sims), but managed to start more games than any other catcher each year. He made the All-Star team in 1968, his last full season with Cleveland.

With rookie Ray Fosse transitioning into a starting role in 1969, Azcue was traded to the Red Sox two weeks into the season. The Indians obtained pitchers Dick Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro, and 1B/OF Ken Harrelson in exchange for Azcue and pitchers Sonny Siebert and Vicente Romo.

After only 2 months (and 19 games) with Boston, Joe was flipped to the Angels for backup catcher Tom Satriano. Azcue replaced the tandem of Satriano and Tom Egan as the team's #1 catcher, starting 75 of the remaining 108 games in 1969.

In 1970 he started 2/3 of the games, to Egan’s 1/3. After sitting out the entire 1971 season with a contract dispute, he returned in 1972 but by then the Angels had moved on to John Stephenson.  
(Oh please… I’m trying to keep a straight face as I typed that!) Azcue only played 3 games with the Angels in 1972, while spending most of that season’s first half in the minors.

In late July 1972 he and infielder Syd O'Brien were traded to the Brewers for catcher Paul Ratliff and infielder Ron Clark. Joe only appeared in 11 games for the Brewers in the season's final 2 months, then played for the Indians’ double-A team in 1973 before retiring.

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