Sunday, November 15, 2015

Final Card: Bob Christian

Bob Christian (#51) had a brief career with the White Sox in 1969 and part of 1970.

Christian was signed by the Yankees in 1964 as a 3rd baseman, then after that season was selected by the Tigers in the minor-league draft. Bob played in the Tigers’ farm system for the next 4 seasons (playing mostly 3rd base, then moving to 2nd base due to a sore arm), culminating with a 3-game cup of coffee with the Tigers in September 1968.

After the ’68 season, he was purchased by the White Sox and split the 1969 season between the White Sox, their AAA team, and the National Guard. Bob played 39 games with the Sox that season, briefly in June, then was recalled in early August, and started almost every game in left field during September.

Instead of picking up where he left off, the 1970 season was a bust. Christian only played 12 games for Chicago, all in April and May, and almost all as a pinch-hitter. He played the final 4 months of that season in the minors, then was released.

Bob played in Japan for the 1971 and 1972 seasons.

He passed away in February 1974 from leukemia, at the age of 28.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jim Hickman (#612)

Here is Cubs’ 1B-OF Jim Hickman, about to enjoy his finest season in 1970. It was his 9th season, but his 1st and only all-star appearance. He also hit a career-high 32 homers.

Hickman was signed by the Cardinals in 1956, but languished in the minors until he was selected by the Mets in the expansion draft prior to the 1962 season. Jim was the Mets’ primary (though not everyday) center fielder for his first 4 seasons, sharing the post with Richie Ashburn in ’62, Jim Piersall in ’63, Larry Elliot in ’64, and Johnny Lewis in ’65. He also started over 40 games at third base in 1963.

In 1966 the Mets promoted rookie Cleon Jones and acquired veteran Al Luplow from the Indians, so the outfield was crowded from the start of the season. Hickman was the starting center fielder for the first week, until Jones took over. Jim missed all games from mid-May to mid-August, and when he returned, could only find spot starts in left and right fields. Hickman wound up as the 6th outfielder, behind Jones, Ron Swoboda, Luplow, Elliot, and Lewis.

Now expendable, Jim was included in the trade that sent 2nd baseman Ron Hunt to the Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith in October 1966. In an outfield already manned by Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Al Ferrara, and Lou Johnson, Hickman only managed to start 16 games in his lone season with the Dodgers, with most of his appearances as a pinch-hitter. He also pitched the last 2 innings on June 23rd vs. the Giants.

In late-April 1968 Jim and pitcher Phil Regan were traded to the Cubs for outfielder Ted Savage (seems like a steal for the Cubs). Although Hickman had a hard time breaking into the lineup in 1968 (and spent part of the season in the minors), he found new life with the Cubs, playing 6 seasons in Chicago.

In 1969 (his 1st season as a regular since 1965) he was the starting right fielder, and hit 21 homers, the most since hitting 17 as a sophomore.

1970 was his career year. With the off-season acquisition of Johnny Callison, Hickman began the season in center field. By late-May he began alternating at 1st base with the veteran Ernie Banks, while also continuing to play center when he wasn’t at 1st base. He reached a career-high 613 plate appearances, 32 homers, and 1156 RBI. His RBI total was double his previous mark. He also made the all-star team that year and was 8th in the MVP voting [Jim Hickman?]. 

With Banks’ career fading and Joe Pepitone getting the majority of playing time at 1st base, Hickman split his time between right field and 1st base in 1971. His numbers (19/60) were way down from the previous year.

Jim played 2 more season as the Cubs’ 1st baseman, then was traded to the Cardinals during spring training in 1974 for pitcher Scipio Spinks. The Cards had Joe Torre at 1st base and Lou Brock, Bake McBride, Reggie Smith, and Jose Cruz in the outfield, so there wasn’t much for Hickman to do. He was released in July, ending his 12-year career.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chuck Taylor (#119)

This post is about Chuck Taylor, not Chuck Taylors, But as long as I have your attention, behold the Holy Grail of sneakers from back in the day:

We always referred to these as "Converse All-Stars", not "Chuck Taylors" or "Chucks" as is done these days. I also recall that all the "cool kids" had these as early as elementary school, while the rest of us didn't catch up until jr. high (having been saddled with "sensible" sneakers like Keds or PF Flyers prior to that). The other thing I remember is that the only style that "mattered" was black hi-tops. Having white Converse sneex, or black low-tops just wasn't the same.

Oh yes, Chuck Taylor:

This is Chuck Taylor's rookie card, the first of his 6 consecutive cards.  He pitched for 8 seasons (1969-76), mostly for the Cardinals and Expos. Although he started half his games as a rookie, he was a reliever for the rest of his career.

Taylor was signed by the Cardinals in 1961, and pitched 8 seasons in the minors before making his MLB debut with the Cardinals in May 1969.

Prior to the 1964 season, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s (with outfielder Jim Beauchamp) for outfielder Carl Warwick. Midway through the following season, Houston returned him to the Cardinals (with pitcher Hal Woodeshick) for pitchers Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor.

After a few games in AAA in 1969, Taylor was called up to St. Louis in late May. After spending 2 months in the bullpen, he joined the rotation and made 12 consecutive starts from late-July to the end of the season. Chuck appeared in 56 games in 1970 – all in relief except for 7 starts in June and July. He also led the team with 8 (!) saves that season.

During the 1971/72 off-season, he was part of a 4-for-4 trade with the Mets that included Beauchamp going to New York, and Jim Bibby and Art Shamsky going to St. Louis. Taylor split his time in 1972 between the Mets, their AAA club, and the Brewers.

The Brewers released him in spring training 1973, but he was quickly snapped up by the Expos. Chuck pitched for Montreal for 3 full seasons and part of 1976, also playing for the Expos’ AAA team for part of 1976.  He retired after the season.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sal Bando (#120)

Sal Bando is often obscured by Reggie Jackson’s shadow when we remember the A’s teams of this era. This is Bando’s first card appearing as an Oakland A. He was on an Athletics Rookie Stars card in 1967, followed by 2 capless photos in ’68 and ’69 as the Athletics relocated to Oakland.

Bando was drafted in the 6th round by the Athletics in 1965 (5 rounds after selecting his college teammate Rick Monday) and played 3 seasons in the minors. He also appeared briefly for Kansas City in September 1966 and in 1967 from mid-May to mid-June, and again in September.

When veteran Ed Charles was traded to the Mets in May 1967, Bando got his first shot at the 3rd base job. A month later he returned to the minors while the A’s filled in with Danny Cater and Dick Green, but Sal returned in September and locked down the 3rd base job starting on September 8th.

Bando was a fixture at the hot corner for the next 9 seasons, starting 159, 162, 150, 153, 151, 159, 141, 160, and 155 games there over the next 9 seasons. During that time he was the team’s captain, a 4-time all-star, and finished 2nd in the AL MVP voting in 1971. The Athletics appeared in the post-season every year from 1971 to 1975, winning 3 World Series titles. In 39 post-season games with the A’s, Bando hit 5 homers and collected 12 RBI.

Granted free agency after the 1976 season, Bando signed with the Brewers and played 5 additional seasons there – the first 3 as their regular 3rd baseman.

Bando retired after the Brewers lost the ALDS playoffs to the Yankees in 1981. Playing in 2,019 games over 16 years, he finished with 242 home runs and 1,039 RBI. Sal was the Brewers’ GM from 1991-99.

His brother Chris was a catcher for the Indians in the 1980s.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dave Leonhard (#674)

A few months ago, I offered up some 1968 Topps Playing Card inserts in trade for something on my want list (which is mostly made up of 1966 and 1970 high numbers). 

To date I have had one response, from blog reader Dave of Middletown, MD. Dave sent me four 1970 high-numbered cards in excellent condition, in return for a handful of 1968 playing cards. Here is the first of those four cards.

Dave Leonhard had a six-year career (all with the Orioles) from 1967 to 1972. I consider him to be in the “2nd tier” of Orioles’ starters of that era (along with Tom Phoebus and Jim Hardin), behind the “1st tier” of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, and even Steve Barber. (Let’s make Wally Bunker tier 1-A, losing points for lack of longevity.)

Leonhard was signed by the Orioles in 1963, and played 5 seasons in the minors. After winning the International League Pitcher of the Year award in 1967, he made his major-league debut in September.

Dave was a starter in the minors, and also during the 1968 season when the O’s were short on quality starters. (Palmer missed all of 1968 with a sore arm, Bunker was ineffective, and Cuellar had not yet arrived from Houston.)

With the return of Palmer and the acquisition of Cuellar for 1969, Dave was relegated to the bullpen, where he remained for the next 4 seasons. After pitching 94 innings over 37 games (3 starts) in 1969, Leonhard was limited to just 28 innings (over 23 games) in 1970, compiling a 0-0 record with a 5.08 ERA, and was rarely used during the second half.

That bought him a trip back to the minors in 1971, where he was once again used as a starter. Dave didn’t return to Baltimore until July 10th, and played in only 10 games for the Orioles that year.

In 1972 he played in only 14 games. His games were scattered throughout the season, and he didn’t play in the minors that year. It seems like he either spent a lot of time on the DL, or the last seat in the bullpen.

Dave’s final big-league game was on September 20, 1972. In June 1973 he was traded to the Angels for utility man Jim Hutto. Over the next 4 years, Dave bounced around from the Angels to the Cubs to the Expos, playing in AAA in ’73 and ’74, and in AA in ’75 and ’76.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ray Fosse (#184)

Ray Fosse caught for the Indians, Athletics, and others from 1967 to 1980, but is most remembered for being run over at home plate by Pete Rose on the final play of the 1970 All-star game.

Fosse was drafted by the Indians with the 7th overall pick in the first-ever 1965 amateur draft (6 picks behind Rick Monday and 29 picks ahead of Johnny Bench).

After a few cups of joe in ’67 and ’68, Ray made the Indians in 1969, playing 26 games in the first 2 months, before shipping out to AAA in mid-June. He returned in September to start 11 games in the final weeks.

In 1970 Ray took over the starting catching duties from the departed Joe Azcue, starting 120 of the first 136 games, but did not play after September 3rd. Fosse made the all-star team as a rookie, and despite being bulldozed by Charlie Hustle, Ray hit .307 for the season, with 18 homers and a Gold Glove award.

In 1971 he started 119 games behind the plate, but various injuries caused him to miss the last 3 weeks in July (including the all-star game). However, he won his 2nd Gold Glove award and hit .276.

1972 was Fosse’s last season with the Tribe. He was the #1 catcher again, starting 121 games behind the dish, but his offensive production fell off from his first 2 seasons.

After the season, he was traded to Oakland for catcher Dave Duncan and outfielder George Hendrick. Ray played for the Athletics for 3 seasons. He was the starter in ’73, shared the position with Gene Tenace in ’74, and was Tenace’s backup in ’75. Ray did appear in the post-season each year with the A’s (something he had no chance for with Cleveland back then).

After the 1975 season, Ray was sold back to the Indians, where he shared the starting catching duties with Alan Ashby (in ’76) and Fred Kendall (in ’77). In September 1977, he was traded to the expansion Mariners for pitcher Bill Laxton.

Fosse became a free agent after the 1977 season, and signed with the Brewers, but was injured during spring training and missed the entire 1978 season. He played sparingly in 1979, and was released during spring training in 1980.

Since 1986 he has been a broadcaster for the Athletics.

(With this post, every team is now represented at least once.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gene Michael (#114)

Gene "Stick" Michael played shortstop (mostly for the Yankees) from 1966 to 1975. After his playing career, he worked for the Yankees as a coach, manager, general manager, and vice-president in charge of scouting.

Michael was signed by the Pirates in 1959, and played in their minor-league system for 8 seasons from 1959-66, mostly as a shortstop. He also pitched in 16 games (53 innings) in 1963.

Blocked from a big-league job by the Pirates’ Gene Alley, Stick finally made his major-league debut with the Pirates in July 1966. He played in 30 games over the 2nd half of the season, mostly as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

With Alley going nowhere, Michael was shipped out to the Dodgers (with 3rd baseman Bob Bailey) for shortstop Maury Wills, who would be the Bucs’ 3rd baseman for the ’67 and ’68 seasons. Gene played only one season in LA, sharing the starting shortstop job with veteran Dick Schofield.

After the 1967 season, Michael was sold to the Yankees, where he would play for the next seven years. Gene was the Yanks’ starting shortstop from 1969 through the end of the 1973 season. In 1974, Michael was relegated to the bench as the Yankees went with Jim Mason at shortstop. After one season as the backup SS-2B, Stick was released by the Yankees.

The Tigers picked him up for the 1975 season, where he played sparingly in a bench role. After his 2nd straight off-season release, Michael signed with the Red Sox in February 1976, but he was released in early-May, not having played a game that season.

After his playing career, Gene coached for the Yankees, and later managed them in 1981 and part of 1982. Michael managed the Cubs for parts of 1986 and 1987, then returned to the Yankees as their general manager.

He was the GM from 1991 to 1995, signing most of the great players of the late-1990s dynasty. Unfortunately, George Steinbrenner was his boss, so Gene was fired before the good times began.

Michael has been a Yankees’ executive VP since 2000, early-on as Director of Scouting, then as a senior advisor to the GM.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jim Wynn (#60)

Jim Wynn played outfield for 15 seasons from 1963 to 1977. His first 11 seasons were with the Astros, then he moved around to 4 other teams in his final 4 seasons.

"The Toy Cannon" was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1962 (I did not know that), and after his first season was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the 1st-year draft. Wynn played in the minors for all of 1962, and parts of ’63 and ’64. He was mostly an infielder in the minors, playing 3B-OF in 1962, SS-3B in 1963, and OF-3B in 1964.

Wynn made his major-league debut with the Colt .45s in mid-July 1963. He started 13 consecutive games at shortstop, then moved out to center field for 9 games, before settling in as the regular left fielder for the final 2 months of the season, replacing Al Spangler.

Jim began the 1964 season as the team’s starting center fielder, but after starting 34 of the first 36 games, he was benched in mid-May, only to be sent down to the minors 3 weeks later, returning in September.

Wynn became a regular outfielder for the Astros from 1965 to 1973, mostly in center field, although he played in left field for parts of ’68 and ’70, then moved to right field permanently midway through the 1971 season, to make room for Cesar Cedeno in center field.

For a small guy, Jim was a power hitter (hence his nickname) and collected 291 career home runs, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize he played most of his career in the huge Astrodome.

After the 1973 season, he was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Claude Osteen. In his 2 seasons with LA, Wynn regained a starting center field job, and made the All-Star team both years. He also played in his only post-season in 1974.

In November 1975, Wynn was part of a 6-player trade with the Braves that sent outfielder Dusty Baker to the Dodgers. Jim played one season with Atlanta (playing left and center fields), but when the Braves signed Gary Mathews as a free agent in November 1976, they sold Wynn to the Yankees 2 weeks later.

Unfortunately for Wynn, the Yankees also acquired Reggie Jackson and Paul Blair in the same off-season, and with Roy White, Mickey Rivers, Lou Piniella, and Carlos May already on the roster, there was no room for the Wynn. After playing in only 30 games, he was released in mid-July 1977, and picked up by the Brewers 2 weeks later.

Wynn DH-ed in 15 games and made 17 starts in center field for the Brewers, then was released after the season, ending his 15-year career.

The Astros retired Wynn’s #24 in 2005. He also worked as a post-game analyst for the Astros.

Monday, July 14, 2014

All-Star Cards

Here are the All-Star cards, those players selected as All-Stars in 1969 by The Sporting News. As with the 1968 and 1969 all-star cards, the players on the cards were not necessarily the starters in the game.

In the actual game, the NL had Steve Carlton and Cleon Jones starting at P and LF respectively. The AL lineup included Mel Stotlemyre, Sal Bando, and Frank Howard starting at P, 3B, and LF. Otherwise, the starters were those you see in the 2 large blocks of cards below. Reggie Jackson started out of position in center field.

The Sporting News selected a lefty and a righty in each league. Here are the lefthanders:

I thought it was odd that the AL roster only included 7 pitchers: Mel Stottlemyre, Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Sam McDowell, Dave McNally, John Odom, and Darold Knowles.

The NL brought 9 pitchers: Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Phil Niekro, Bill Singer, Larry Dierker, and Grant Jackson (the Phillies' lone representative).

3 Orioles
2 Giants, Reds, Braves, Cubs, Tigers, Red Sox
1 Pirates, Mets, Twins, Athletics, Indians
0 Phillies, Cardinals, Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, Senators, White Sox, Angels