Sunday, February 18, 2018

Final Card: Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley (#289) was a career minor-league infielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, having played for one of their farm teams every season from 1961 to 1970.

Along the way, he played in 18 games for the Dodgers in September 1964 and 12 games in early-1966.

After the 1966 season, the Mets selected him in the Rule 5 draft, which was the sole reason for this appearance:

After playing only 6 games for the Mets in April 1967, he was returned to the Dodgers in mid-May, and was promptly assigned to the minors.

Shirley resurfaced one last time for the Dodgers during the final 2 months of the 1968 season, appearing in 39 games (24 starts) at SS or 2B. It was to be his last major-league action, but was enough to have Topps issue his 1969 card, the only solo card during his career.

Bart played 2 more seasons for the Dodgers’ AAA team, then wrapped up his career in Japan in ’71 and ’72.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Tug McGraw (#601)

At last, we get to Frank “Tug” McGraw, the bullpen ace for 2 world championship teams (1969 Mets, 1980 Phillies). This is Tug’s high-numbered 1969 card – issued just a month or 2 before the Mets’ amazing World Series victory.

Tug was signed by the Mets in June 1964, and made his major-league debut the following April (not just a cameo September call-up). He pitched in 37 games as a rookie, making 9 starts.

The following season he played part of the season in the minors, but did pitch in 15 games for the Mets, mostly as a starter. He also spent some time in the National Guard.

He spent most of 1967 and all of 1968 in triple-A, only seeing action in 4 games for the Mets in ’67, while compiling a 0-3 record with a 7.79 ERA.

Tug was back with the Mets full-time in 1969, and was the go-to lefthander in the bullpen, pitching 100 innings (tops among relievers) over 42 games, with a 2.24 ERA. His 12 saves were 1 less than Ron Taylor's 13. He picked up a post-season save in 1969, and 2 more in 1973.

He was a One-Man Army in the Mets' bullpen from 1972-73, collecting 27 and 25 saves in those years. Tug also made his first of 2 All-Star teams in 1972.

After an off-year in 1974, he was traded to the Phillies for outfielder Del Unser and catching prospect John Stearns.

McGraw anchored the Phillies' bullpen from 1975 through 1981. He made his 2nd All-Star team in his first season in Philly ('75) and in 1980 collected his Phillies’-career-high 20 saves, to go with his career-low 1.46 ERA. Tug also had 4 saves in the 1980 post-season.

Tug pitched for the Phillies through the 1984 season, but his final 3 seasons were in a reduced role, behind relievers like Ron Reed and Al Holland.

I just learned today that he made a comeback (of sorts) years later, pitching 1 game in each of the 1989 and 1990 seasons for the single-A Gastonia Rangers.

While working as a Spring Training instructor for the Phillies in 2003, McGraw was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After surgery he was diagnosed as "cured" but it was later learned the surgery was incomplete. The cancer spread and he died in January 2004 at age 59.

In September 2003 he attended the closing ceremonies at Veterans Stadium (which I watched on TV and recorded) along with long-time Phillies’ GM Paul Owens, who also died in the same '03/'04 off-season.

Country music singer Tim McGraw is Tug’s son.