Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Felipe Alou (#55)

Felipe Alou played 17 seasons (1958-74) for 6 teams, mostly the Giants and Braves. Although mostly an outfielder, he played about half his games at 1st base from 1965-67 with the Braves and from 1971-73 with the Yankees.

Felipe is the oldest of the 3 Alou brothers, who all began their careers with the Giants. Felipe's son Moises also played in the majors from 1990-2008.

Alou was signed by the Giants in 1955, and played 2 ½ seasons in the minors before making his big-league debut with the Giants in June 1958. Felipe backed up rookie Willie Kirkland in right field for the remainder of the season.

1959 was more of the same for Alou, backing up Kirkland in right field. In late July, rookie Willie McCovey joined the Giants, which caused incumbent 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda to play about half his games in left field for the next few seasons. With Willie Mays in center field, all other outfielders would have to vie for playing time in right field.

In 1960 Alou was the regular left fielder for the 50+ games when Cepeda would move in to 1st base. From 1961 to 1963, Felipe was the Giants' regular right fielder, often backed up by his brother Matty. His youngest brother Jesus joined the Giants in September 1963, Felipe's last few weeks with the Giants. All 3 Alou brothers played in the same outfield only once – on September 15th.

After the season, Felipe was traded to the Braves (with pitcher Billy Hoeft, catcher Ed Bailey, and infielder Ernie Bowman) for pitchers Bob Shaw and Bob Hendley, and catcher Del Crandall. Alou began the '64 season as the Braves’ starting center fielder, but by mid-June had lost that post to Lee Maye, and spent the remainder of the season as the 4th outfielder.

Felipe began playing 1st base in 1965, and spent the next 3 seasons dividing his time between 1st, left field, and center field. He also was quite good with the stick. In 1966 he finished 2nd among NL batters with a .327 average (right behind his brother Matty). In 1968 he finished 3rd (behind Pete Rose and Matty) with a .317 average.

After Mack Jones was traded away following the 1967 season, Alou spent the next 2 seasons as the Braves' regular center fielder.

After the '69 season, he was traded to Oakland for pitcher Jim Nash. Alou only spent one full season with the Athletics. At age 35, he played in an outfield that included Rick Monday and Reggie Jackson, both 24. Felipe played in left field, and also 70 games in right (mostly when Jackson played center in Monday's absence).

Felipe started the first 2 games of the 1971 season, then at week's end was traded to the Yankees. He played the rest of '71, all of '72, and most of '73 in the Big Apple. He was a regular in 1971, playing RF/CF/1B. For the next 2 seasons he shared the first base job with Ron Blomberg.

In September 1973 Alou hit the road again, this time for Montreal. He played 19 games for the Expos during the season's final month, then was sold to the Brewers in the off-season. After 3 games with Milwaukee, he was released in April 1974.

Alou became a manager after his playing career, with stops in Montreal (1992-2001) and San Francisco (2003-06).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Playing Card Inserts (revisited)

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about these playing cards over at The Five Tool Collector blog.

A few years ago I posted the entire set on this blog, and several weeks ago I came across a stash of duplicates that I didn't know I had. I have shown 1-each of my duplicates below, although for some cards I have several (EIGHT of Gary Peters!)

If anyone is interested in these cards, I would be open to trades that would help me complete my 1966 and 1970 Topps sets, or anything else that is found on my want list. Please contact me by email (found on my profile page).

Batter up!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bob Humphreys (#268)

A few months ago, I found a page on listing the 100 oldest living ex-players. Within the scope of the 1966 to 1970 card sets, the only names listed there were 3 managers. Last week I decided to find out who were the oldest living ex-players from that time period that I haven’t yet featured on my blogs. 

As best as I can determine, they are pitchers Orlando Pena and Camilo Pascual (both 80), outfielder Russ Snyder (turning 80 tomorrow), 1B-OF Felipe Alou (79), and pitchers Bob Humphreys and Jim Perry (both 78). Nine others are 77, with Fred Gladding, Vic Davalillo, and J.C. Martin turning 78 later this year. 

Bob Humphreys was a relief pitcher for 5 teams from 1962 to 1970, most notably the Washington Senators. He pitched in 319 games during his career, all but 4 as a reliever.

Humphreys was signed by the Tigers in 1958. After 5 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut with Detroit in September 1962.

During spring training in 1963, Bob was sold to the Cardinals. He spent the next 2 seasons shuffling between the Cardinals and their triple-A team.

In April 1965, Humphreys was traded to the Cubs for 2 minor-leaguers: pitcher Hal Gilson and infielder Bobby Pfeil. He appeared in 41 games for the Cubs that season, 3rd-most among their relievers.

After only one season in the Windy City, Bob was traded to Washington for Ken Hunt, a 6-year journeyman outfielder who got most of his playing time with the expansion Angels in 1961, and whose last major-league game was in 1964.

Humphreys worked out of the Senators’ bullpen for 4 ½ seasons, his longest stint with any team.  Bob appeared in more than 45 games in each of his full seasons there.

After his release on June 13, 1970 the Brewers picked him up two days later, and Bob finished out the season (and his career) with Milwaukee. He was released in March 1971 and pitched that season with the Brewers’ AAA team.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Don Sutton (#103)

Here is future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Don Sutton, about to enter his 3rd season. His 1966 rookie season was also Sandy Koufax’ final season.

Sutton was signed by the Dodgers in 1964, and pitched only 1 season in the minors. He compiled a 23-7 combined record, pitching in A and AA ball in 1965. Don made his big-league debut in April 1966 as the #4 starter behind Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Claude Osteen. Sutton posted a record of 11-11 with 209 strikeouts and a 2.99 ERA.

With Koufax’ retirement after 1966, everyone moved up a notch in the starting rotation. Don posted 2 consecutive 11-15 seasons, then bounced back in 1969 with 17 wins and 217 strikeouts.

Sutton was one of the Dodgers’ top starting pitchers through the 1980 season, partnering first with Drysdale, Osteen and Bill Singer, then later on with Al Downing, Andy Messersmith, and Tommy John. He led the league with 9 shutouts in 1972, and with a 2.20 ERA in 1980. Don made the all-star team in ‘72, ’73, ’75, and ’77, and finished in the top 5 Cy Young voting every season from 1972 to 1975. Sutton also pitched in the NLCS and World Series in ’74, ’77, and ’78.

Don became a free agent after the 1980 season, and signed with the Astros. After 1 ½ seasons in Houston he was traded to Milwaukee in August ’82 for outfielder Kevin Bass and two others, as the Brewers geared-up for their first post-season.

Sutton went 4-1 in 7 starts for the rest of the season, and was 1-1 in 3 post-season games. He pitched for 2 more seasons in Milwaukee, then was traded to the Athletics after the 1984 season.

Don bounced around for the next 3 seasons from the Athletics to the Angels, before finishing his career in 1988 with the Dodgers. He was a starting pitcher right up to the end, finally getting his release on August 10, 1988. Sutton pitched for 23 seasons, amassing 324 wins and 3574 strikeouts.

In 1998, Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and also had his #20 retired by the Dodgers.

Sutton has been broadcasting baseball games since 1989, mostly for the Braves.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tommy John (#72)

At long last, Tommy John gets his day on this blog. This is my first-ever Tommy John card, from the coarse-burlap-grained 1st series, bought around April 1968.

John’s 1967 card is one of the 4 cards from that set that I still don’t have. It’s from the high-numbered (7th) series, and in fact is the final card in the set (#609). Popular lore says that the first and last cards in a set are the hardest to find in good condition, because kids put a rubber band around their cards and it dug into the edges of the first and last cards. To that I say bah! There’s no rubber band large enough for a 609-card stack of cards. But I digress… 

Tommy John had a 26-year career as a starting pitcher from 1963 to 1989, for six teams, most notably the White Sox, Dodgers, and Yankees. He missed the 1975 season (while out with “Tommy John” surgery – go figure!). Over his career, he started 700 of his 760 games, and compiled a 288-231 record with 2245 strikeouts. He also made 4 all-star games and appeared in 14 post-season games between 1977 and 1982.

John was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1961, and played in the minors for 3 seasons before making his debut with 6 games in September 1963. Tommy began the 1964 season in the minors, but also pitched 25 games for the Indians from early-May to mid-July, then again in late-September.

Before the 1965 season, John was sent to the White Sox in an 8-player, 3-team deal. He immediately landed in the Sox’ starting rotation along with Joel Horlen, John Buzhardt, and Gary Peters. At age 22, Tommy compiled a 14-7 record in his first season on the South Side.

In 1966 he led the team in wins (14), starts (33) and innings pitched (223), and had a 2.62 ERA. Although Tommy remained one of the White Sox’ top 3 starters for the next several seasons, he slumped to 10 wins in ’67 and again in ’68, then 9 wins in ’69. His 1967 ERA of 2.48 was 4th-best in the league. If he could have shaved it down below 2.38, the White Sox would have had the top 3 ERA leaders that season.

He bounced back somewhat in 1970 with 12 wins, and was the team’s top starter that season. (Horlen had a huge off-year at 6-16, and Peters had been traded away to Boston after 1969.) John maintained a similar record in 1971, although Wilbur Wood and his 22 wins led the staff that season.

After the 1971 season, Tommy was traded to the Dodgers for first baseman Dick Allen. John had 3 solid seasons in LA before missing the entire 1975 season following surgery that would eventually bear his name.

He bounced back and had 3 more good years with the Dodgers, including a 20-win season in 1977, followed by 17 wins in ’78. He was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1976, and appeared in the NLCS and World Series in both ’77 and ’78.

John was granted free agency after the 1978 season, and signed with the Yankees. His first 2 seasons in New York were superb, compiling 21-9 and 22-9 records. After an off-year in ’81, John was traded to the Angels in August 1982. He remained with the Angels until they released him in June 1985.

Tommy was picked up by the Athletics a month later, and finished out the season with Oakland. Granted free agency after the season, the Yankees signed him in May 1986, and he manned their starting rotation for the next 3-plus seasons, until his final release on May 30, 1989.

As mentioned earlier, John had a 26-year career, 11 ½ prior to his surgery, and 13 ½ afterwards.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Earl Wilson (#160)

Here we see Earl Wilson, coming off his first full season with the Tigers, and about to embark on a season culminating in a World Series championship!

Wilson was signed by the Red Sox way back in 1953. He pitched 4 seasons in the low minors, then lost the ’57 and ’58 seasons while in military service. He returned to the minors (triple-A) in 1959, but also played 9 games for the Sox during the 2nd half of 1959, and 13 games in the 2nd half of 1960. In 1959, Wilson became the first black pitcher to play for Boston.

After a full season back in triple-A in 1961, Wilson made the Red Sox for good at the start of the 1962 season. From '62 to '65, Earl averaged 12 wins a season, as he and Bill Monbouquette formed a 1-2 punch in the starting rotation.

With the emergence of Jim Lonborg and others, both Wilson (age 30) and Monbouquette (29) were deemed past their prime, and were dealt to the Tigers in separate deals. Monbo was traded in December ’65 for a bag of beans, and Wilson, the following June for an aging Don Demeter. Wilson was 5-5 at the time of the trade, but went on a 13-6 tear with the Tigers, to finish up at 18-11, good for 3rd best in the AL. His 200 strikeouts was also 3rd best.

In 1967 he won 22 games, tieing him with Lonborg for the most victories. The Red Sox lost the ’67 World Series by 1 game. If they had held onto Wilson, the Series outcome could have been different.

In 1968 and 1969, Earl settled back into the 12 to 13 wins bracket he was in from 1962-66. He was the Tigers’ #3 starting pitcher (behind Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich) during their World Champions season, and started game #3 in the Series. (After falling behind in the Series , the Tigers came back with their top 2 starters for games #6 and #7, winning both.)

1970 was Wilson’s last season. With his record at 4-6, he was sold to the Padres in mid-July. After a lackluster 1-6 showing with San Diego, he was released in January 1971.

Wilson died from a heart attack in April 2005, at age 70.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Al McBean (#514)

Alvin McBean was born and raised in the US Virgin Islands. He was signed by the Pirates in 1958, and pitched in their farm system for 4 seasons (1958-61). He started out as a swingman, but by 1961 he was primarily a reliever.

Al was summoned to the majors in early July, and made his first of 27 appearances for the Bucs on July 2nd. He pitched in relief except for 2 starts in mid-September.

When I was "playing" with my baseball cards back in the day, I always figured McBean to be a 2nd-tier starter behind Bob Veale and Steve Blass, and that the bullpen was headed up by Elroy Face and Pete Mikkelsen. Tonight, I’m finding out that McBean was a key member of the Pirates bullpen from 1963-67, and that my pre-conceived notion of him really only matched his 1968 season. 

In 1962 McBean was plugged into the starting rotation, and compiled a 15-10 record in 33 games, as the #2 starter behind veteran Bob Friend.

In 1963 he was back in the bullpen, and fashioned a 13-3 record along with 11 saves (2nd on the team behind veteran closer Elroy Face).

In ’64 and ’65, Al surpassed Face as the team’s save leader with 22 and 18 saves for those 2 seasons. He was also named Reliever of the Year by The Sporting News in 1964.

After 2 more seasons in the bullpen (behind a rejuvenated Elroy Face), McBean was put back in the starting rotation in 1968. By now, Bob Friend and Vern Law were long gone, with Bob Veale running the show, and Steve Blass at #2. Al was the #3 starter in his final season with the Pirates, compiling a 9-12 record in 36 games (28 starts).

After the season he was selected by the Padres in the expansion draft. After only 1 game with San Diego, McBean was traded to the Dodgers in mid-April for shortstop Tommy Dean.

Al made 31 relief appearances for LA for the remainder of the 1969 season. Al began the 1970 season with the Dodgers, but after only 1 game he was released on April 24th. The Pirates re-signed him on the same day, but after pitching only 10 innings over 7 games (and sporting an ERA of 8.10), he was released on May 18th, ending his major-league career.

I learned tonight that McBean spent the remainder of 1970, and 1971 pitching for the Phillies’ AAA team in Eugene, Oregon.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

AL Pitching Leaders (#8, #10, #12)

Here are the 1968 cards showing the previous season's American League pitching leaders in ERA, victories, and strikeouts. Like many of the mid-1960s' AL pitching leader cards, the Indians and White Sox are well represented.

Joel Horlen and Gary Peters (both frequent guests on the AL ERA leaders cards) gave the Chisox a great 1-2 punch.  Their teammate Tommy John just missed being included on this card by a 0.10 margin!  The Indians' Sonny Siebert rounds out the top three, which he also did two years earlier.

The ERA leaders cards also include a "more than 75 innings" category (primarily for relievers). Leading that group was 44-year-old Hoyt Wilhelm, with a miniscule 1.31 ERA.

Having his career year in 1967, Jim Lonborg topped AL pitchers with 22 victories. Actually, Jim shared the lead with Tigers' pitcher (and former Red Sox teammate) Earl Wilson. Wilson was traded to the Tigers during the 1966 season, and finished among the top 3 that season.

It seems like if they had kept Wilson, he could have made the difference in the 1967 World Series, which Boston lost in 7 games. The only other 20-game winner in the AL in '67 was Dean Chance, in his first season with the Twins.

Here's Lonborg again, edging out Sam McDowell by only 10 strikeouts. McDowell led the AL in strikeouts in '65, '66, '68, '69, and '70. Dean Chance finished 3rd here also, with Topps using the same photo as above. Rounding out the 200+ strikeout club were two more Twins, an Indian, and the White Sox' Peters.

Click on the "league leaders" label below to see all the other cards for this year.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Woody Woodward (#476)

News flash: I found this great site today, documenting baseball events that happened each year (game events, personnel moves, etc):

William “Woody” Woodward was a 2B-SS for the Braves from 1963 to 1968, and a shortstop for the Reds from 1968 to 1971. His greatest playing time came during 1966-67 with Atlanta.

Woodward was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1963. After playing shortstop with their triple-A Denver Bears for most of the season, Woody made his major-league debut that September.

Woodward stuck with the Braves for the entire 1964 season, backing up 2nd baseman Frank Bolling and shortstop Denis Menke.

Woody began the 1965 season with the triple-A Atlanta Crackers, but was called up to the Braves in late-May to fill in at shortstop for Menke, who was out of the lineup for 5 weeks. Even when Menke returned, Woodward remained the primary shortstop, starting 92 of the final 132 games.

1966 found Woodward back as the swing-man between 2nd base and shortstop, but this time he was the primary 2nd baseman, starting 69 games to Bolling’s 57 starts. Woody also started 67 games at shortstop. He collected a career-high 43 RBI this season.

Frank Bolling was jettisoned after the 1966 season, clearing the way at 2nd base for Woodward, but Woody had someone else to worry about now – rookie 2nd baseman Felix Millan. Woodward started 114 games at 2nd base, while Millan started 37, mostly in late-April and the final 19 games of the season. Woody also made 15 starts at SS, all in September, with Menke again out of the lineup after 9/6.

1968 brought a change in the Braves’ keystone combo. With Millan starting first 64 games at 2B and newly-acquired SS Sonny Jackson (coming from the Astros for Menke in the off-season) starting the first 35 games at short, Woodward was the odd man out.

After a few starts at shortstop in May, Woody was traded to the Reds (with pitchers Clay Carroll and Tony Cloninger) for pitchers Milt Pappas and Ted Davidson, and infielder Bob Johnson. Soon after the trade, Woodward started 16 consecutive games at SS filling in for Chico Cardenas, then settled in to a backup role.

The Reds traded Cardenas to the Twins prior to the 1969 season, and after experimenting with Darrel Chaney and Chico Ruiz for 92 games, Woodward took over the starting shortstop job on 7/25, and started the rest of the way.

In 1970 Woodward shared the SS job with rookie Dave Concepcion. (Uh-oh, can anyone guess where Woody’s career goes from here?) He also hit his only career home run in 1970.

1971 was his final season as a player. He started 65 games at shortstop, but that was 20 less than Concepcion. Woody also started 7 games each at 2B and 3B.

After his playing career, Woodward worked as a Reds’ TV commentator for a short time, then was the head baseball coach at Florida State University (where he had played before turning pro) from 1975-78.

Woody then worked in the front office for several teams. He was the Reds’ assistant GM from 1981-84, Yankees’ GM from 1985-87, Phillies’ GM for the first half of 1988, and the Mariners’ VP of Baseball Operations from July 1988 through the 1999 season.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Al Downing (#105)

Like Hank Aaron, Al Downing also achieved some notoriety 40 years ago today. As a starting pitcher for the Dodgers that season, he gave up Aaron’s 715th career home run, pushing him past Babe Ruth.

Al Downing began his career with the Yankees. He was signed by New York in 1961, and along with 12 starts at class-A Binghamton, Downing made his debut with the Yankees on July 19th, pitching 5 games with the Bombers between mid-July and mid-September.

He spent the 1962 season back in triple-A, only pitching 1 inning for the Yankees on September 30th.

In 1963 he began the season in the minors, but was called up in early June, joining a rotation of Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry, Jim Bouton, and Stan Williams. Al pitched in 24 games from 6/7 to the end of the season. He finished his rookie season with 22 starts, 10 complete games, a 13-5 record, 171 strikeouts, and a 2.56 ERA. He also pitched in one game against the Dodgers in the World Series.

The following season would be the Yankees last good season for over a decade. Downing, along with Ford and Bouton, comprised the “Big 3” in the starting rotation. Al led the league with 217 strikeouts (but also led with 120 walks).

Downing remained in the starting rotation through the 1969 season, then was traded to the Athletics for 1st baseman Danny Cater. After only ½ season in Oakland, he was traded to the Brewers (with 1st baseman Tito Francona) for outfielder Steve Hovley. (?!?)

In February 1971, the Brewers traded Downing to the Dodgers for outfielder Andy Kosco. Al pitched for the Dodgers for 6½ seasons. His best season in LA was his first – winning 20 games, leading the NL with 5 shutouts, and finishing 3rd in the Cy Young voting. He continued as a starter through the 1974 season, then became primarily a reliever in his last 3 seasons.

Downing’s last game was on July 13, 1977. He was released a week later, ending his 17-year career.