Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Final Card: Jon Warden

Jon Warden (#632) only pitched 1 season in the major leagues – for the World Champion Tigers in 1968. 
Warden was signed by the Tigers in 1966, and pitched in their farm system for 2 seasons, mostly as a starter. 
Jon made the Tigers’ squad at the start of the 1968 season, and was converted to a reliever. Until veterans Don McMahon and John Wyatt were acquired in mid-season, the Tigers’ bullpen was mostly rookies and 2nd-year men. 
Warden appeared in 28 games for Detroit, posting a 4-1 record. He was with the Tigers for the entire season, save for National Guard assignments. 
He only pitched once after August, as the team was battling for the AL title.  With so many relievers (including the veterans), management tried to hide him from the Kansas City and Seattle scouts, fearing he would be lost in the upcoming draft. The Tigers won the World Series, but their stashing of Warden backfired, as he was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft. 
An injury during spring training 1969 set him back, and he played all of 1969-70 for the Royals’ AAA team. 
Warden moved on to the Brewers' and Cardinals’ organizations in 1971, but never made it back to the majors. Retiring after the 1971 season, he attempted a comeback with the White Sox in 1974 but did not make the team. 
Since his playing career he has been a high school teacher and baseball coach, and a frequent attendee at the Tigers’ fantasy baseball camp. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Final Card: Ron Willis

Ron Willis was a relief pitcher for the Cardinals and others for 5 (essentially 4) seasons from 1966-70. Willis was signed by St. Louis in 1961, and was an outfielder/3rd baseman for their class-D team that season, playing 65 games but also making 3 appearances on the mound, totaling 5 innings. 

In 1962 he converted to full-time pitching, and worked his way up the organizational ladder as a starting pitcher until converting to relief in 1966. He made his major-league debut in September 1966. 


Ron made the Cardinals at the start of 1967, and was a key member of the bullpen for the next 2 seasons, pitching in 65 and 48 games as the Cardinals marched to the NL pennant in those seasons. He appeared in 3 games in each of the 2 World Series. 

In 1969 he fell out of favor, as rookies Mike Torrez and Chuck Taylor, as well as the newly-acquired Dave Giusti and Mudcat Grant received more playing time than Willis. He also spent some time in triple-A, and by early-August was sold to the Astros. 

He only pitched 2 innings for the ‘Stros in the final 2 months, and was returned to the Cardinals in November. 

Ron began the 1970 season with the Cards’ double-A team, then was purchased by the Padres in mid-June. He pitched 56 innings over 42 games in the second half, his last appearance coming on September 29th. 

That was it for his pro career – not even minor-league ball after 1970. I wonder if he was injured in 1971’s spring training. After two (‘67, ‘68) and a half (‘70) good seasons, it seems odd that he would retire at age 26. 

Willis passed away in 1977 at age 34.