Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tommy Harper (#214)

Tommy Harper played in the major leagues for 15 seasons (1962-76). He spent his first 6 seasons with the Reds, then played for 6 American League teams over the rest of his career.

Harper was signed by the Reds in 1960, and played 2 seasons as a 2nd baseman with their class-B Topeka team in the Three-I League.

He began the 1962 season as the Reds’ starting 3rd baseman, but after batting .174 after 6 games, he was sent down to their triple-A San Diego Padres for the rest of the 1962 season.

Harper returned to Cincinnati to start the 1963 season. He was a starting outfielder from the get-go, but to my surprise (tonight!), he was the team’s primary RIGHT fielder, with Frank Robinson shifting over to left field, replacing the previous year’s tandem of Wally Post and Jerry Lynch. For 2 weeks in late-April/early-May, Harper inexplicably started 19 consecutive games in center field, while the regular CF Vada Pinson started those same 19 games in right field. After that stint in center, Tommy was out of the starting lineup for 2 months, relegated to pinch-running and the occasional start in right field, before regaining his right field job in mid-July.

 In 1964, Harper only played in 100 games (80 starts in left field). It appears that he was with the team for the entire season, because there are no large gaps in his playing time (indicating time on the DL) nor was he in the minors.

For the next 2 seasons, he was an everyday regular for the Reds. In 1965 he played 159 games, and led the NL with 126 runs scored, with a slash line of 18 HR/64 RBI/.257, and followed that up with 5/31/.278 in 1966. After starting 153 games in left in ’65, with the trade of Frank Robinson he moved over to right field in 1966 and started 90 games there, along with a few dozen starts at the other 2 spots.

In Tommy’s last season with the Reds (1967), he missed 7 weeks in June and July, but was otherwise the team’s regular right fielder. After the season, Harper was traded to the Indians for pitcher George Culver and 1st baseman Fred Whitfield.

In his only season with the Indians, he was the #2 outfielder behind Jose Cardenal. Harper split his time between the 2 corners, with Lee Maye, Lou Johnson, and Russ Snyder filling in around him.

After the ’68 season, Harper was drafted by the expansion Seattle Pilots, and became a regular infielder for the first time since his minor-league days. He began the season at 2nd base, but moved to 3rd base midway through the year. Although he lead the league with 73 stolen bases, he also led by being thrown out 18 times.

He stayed with the team for 2 more seasons after their move to Milwaukee, and was the Brewers’ 3rd baseman in ’70 and 3B-LF in ’71. He made his only all-star appearance in 1970.

After 1971, it was on to Boston, as Harper was part of the 10-player trade that sent George Scott, Jim Lonborg and 4 others to the Brewers for Harper and pitchers Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin.

Tommy was a starting outfielder with the Red Sox for 2 seasons, then split the ’74 season between left field and DH. He also won his 2nd AL stolen base crown in 1973 by swiping 54 bases.

After the 1974 season he was traded to the Angels to open up some outfield spots for rookies Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. All the Sox got in return was utility infielder Bob Heise :(.

Harper DH’ed for the Angels for part of 1975, then finished up the season as a bench player with the Athletics. He spent his last season (1976) on the Orioles’ bench.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tommy Davis (#75)

Here is Tommy Davis’ final card as a member of the Dodgers. This is the same photo that Topps used on his 1965 card. (Topps used the same capless photo of Davis on his 1967 and 1969 cards.)

Davis was signed by the Dodgers in 1956, and played in their farm system from 1956-1959, making his major-league debut with 1 game in September 1959.

Davis made the Dodgers out of spring training 1960, and by late-July, he took over the starting center field job from long-time Dodger Duke Snider. Tommy started 52 games in center to Duke’s 44 starts.

By the 2nd week of September, Tommy moved over to left field to make room for another Davis in center field: rookie September call-up Willie Davis. [Until a few years ago, I thought those 2 were brothers.] Tommy finished 5th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. (His teammate Frank Howard won.)

In 1961, Tommy began the season as the team’s 3rd baseman, playing 57 games there, mostly in the first 2 months. After that, he floated around the outfield, starting 31 games as Willie’s backup in center, as well as a few dozen games in the corners.

1962 and 1963 were Davis’ best seasons. He made the all-star team twice, and led the NL in batting twice (.346, .326). In 1962 he also led the league in hits (230) and RBI (153), and hit 27 homers. Davis started 100 to 120 games in left and about 30 games at 3rd base in both seasons.

In 1964 he was primarily the left fielder, starting 148 games there, and another 10 in center. He started the first 16 games in left field in 1965, then a broken leg caused him to miss the rest of the season, except for a pinch-hitting appearance in the season’s final game.

Davis was never the same after the leg injury. He played one last season with the Dodgers in 1966, but not as an everyday player.

After 8 seasons with the Dodgers, Davis spent his final 10 seasons playing for 10 different teams. He was traded to the Mets prior to the 1967 season for 2nd baseman Ron Hunt and outfielder Jim Hickman. A year later, it was on to the White Sox (with pitcher Jack Fisher) for center fielder Tommie Agee and infielder Al Weis.

The upstart Seattle Pilots selected him in the expansion draft prior to the 1969 season. He played there until late August, when he was traded to the Astros. Davis played for THREE teams in 1970 (Astros / Athletics / Cubs), then made return trips to the A’s (all of 1971) and Cubs (part of 1972).

His longest stint with any one team (post-Dodgers) was with the Orioles from August 1972 to February 1976. His 3 full seasons as Baltimore’s DH (1973-75) was his most playing time since 1969.

After his release by the Orioles, Davis was signed by the Yankees prior to spring training 1976, but they released him 2 days before the season started. In early June, he was signed by the Angels, who passed him on to the Royals with 2 weeks remaining in the season. A January 1977 release ended his 18-year career.

Davis appeared in the ’63 and ’66 World Series with the Dodgers, the 1971 ALCS with the A’s, and the ’73 and ‘74 ALCS with the Orioles.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jim Kaat (#445)

Jim Kaat pitched for 25 seasons (1959-83), as a starting pitcher through the 1978 season, before converting to a reliever. His first 15 seasons were with the Minnesota Twins and their predecessor, the original Washington Senators. He was the last active player from the “old” Senators.

Kaat was signed by the Washington Senators in 1957, and pitched in the minors for the next 4 seasons. Jim also played for the Senators in 1959 (3 games) and 1960 (13 games).

When the team moved to Minnesota in 1961, Kaat became a full-time major-leaguer. He struggled at first, leading the AL in hit batters and wild pitches in his first 2 seasons.

Kaat hit his stride in 1962, winning in double figures for the next 15 seasons. He was also a great-fielding pitcher, winning 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards (1962-77).

In the early-to-mid 1960s, Kaat was part of a formidable starting rotation that included Camilo Pascual, Jim Perry, and Jim Grant. By 1967, Pascual was out, replaced by Dean Chance.

The Twins were competive every season from 1962-67 (except for a slump in 1964). They won the AL Pennant in 1965, with Kaat tallying 18 wins (along with Grant’s 21). In 1966 Kaat led the AL with 25 wins (his only 20-win season with the Twins).

In August 1973, Kaat was claimed off waivers by the White Sox. He won 21 and 20 games in his 2 full seasons with Chicago. Surprisingly, after winning 20 games in 1975, he was traded to the Phillies for so-so pitcher Dick Ruthven (coming off a 2-2 season) and SS/OF prospect Alan Bannister. [One of you White Sox fans need to investigate how the Sox allowed this trade to happen!]

As a Phillies fan, I thought this trade was great. From 1972 to 1976, the Phillies methodically replaced “pitchers” Billy Champion, Lowell Palmer, Barry Lersch, Billy Wilson, and Ken Reynolds with Steve Carlton (’72), Jim Lonborg (’73), Ken Brett (’73), Tug McGraw (’75), Jim Kaat (’76), and Ron Reed (’76)!

Kaat was a starter for the Philles from 1976-78. In 1979 he was replaced by ex-Met Nino Espinosa, and was sold to the Yankees in May. From mid-May 1979 to late-April 1980, Jim appeared in 44 games (1 start) for the Yankees.

Kaat was purchased by the Cardinals on April 30, 1980, and played with St. Louis until getting his release in July 1983. He was a starter and reliever in ’80, but pitched mostly out of the ‘pen in his last 3 seasons.

Kaat LEGITIMATELY played in 4 decades, unlike those gimmicky frauds Tim McCarver and Minnie Minoso.

After retirement, Kaat was the Reds’ pitching coach from 1984-85, then broadcast Yankees and Twins games for 22 seasons. Since 2009, he has broadcast games for the MLB Network.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Julian Javier (#436)

When my brother and I started collecting cards in May 1967, Julian Javier was one of the few names we got wrong. As it turns out, he didn’t use the English pronunciation for his first name, nor did he pronounce his last name JAY-vee-er.

The others we missed on were Al Ka-LINE, Hank A-gwire (Aguirre), and Pete SIM-in-o. Also, until I got Tony Cloninger’s baseball card late in 1967, I thought he and Tony Conigliaro were the same person. (Until last year, I also thought Orioles’/Senators’ pitcher Frank Bertaina’s last name was Bertainia.)

Julian Javier was the 2nd baseman for the Cardinals throughout the 1960s, including the ’64, ’67, and ’68 World Series.

Javier was signed by the Pirates in 1956, and played in the minors until his May 28, 1960 trade to the Cardinals for pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell. He was thrust into the starting lineup that day, and started the remaining 119 games at 2nd base in his rookie season.

Except for missing 65 consecutive games from mid-June to late-August in 1965, Javier had a hammerlock on the Cardinals’ 2nd base job from May 1960 until mid-June 1971, when Ted Sizemore took over the position. He never won any gold gloves, but he was an all-star in 1963 and 1968, and hit a career-high 14 homers in 1967.

After the 1971 season, Julian was traded to the Reds for pitcher Tony Cloninger. He started 17 games that season as the Reds’ backup 3rd baseman (behind Denis Menke), and had several dozen pinch-hit appearances.

Javier was released after the season, ending his 13-year career.

His son Stan (named for teammate Stan Musial) was an outfielder for 8 teams from 1984-2001, most notably with the Athletics and Giants.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Harry Walker (#318)

Harry “The Hat” Walker managed the Pirates from the start of the 1965 season until midway through the 1967 season. He then managed the Astros from the 2nd half of 1968 until mid-August 1972, when he was replaced by Leo Durocher.

Walker’s baseball career began in 1937, when he was signed by the Phillies. After 3 seasons as an outfielder in their farm system, he was traded to the Cardinals, and played 2 seasons in their system, including a few games each year with the big club.

Harry played the entire ’42 and ’43 seasons with the Cardinals, as a reserve in 1942, and as the everyday center fielder in 1943. He made the all-star team in ’43, and played in the World Series both years against the Yankees.

Walker missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons while in military service, then returned to the Cardinals in 1946, where he hit .412 in the World Series vs. the Red Sox.

Harry was traded to the Phillies in May 1947, and went on to win the NL batting title with a .363 average that season. He also chipped-in a league-leading 16 triples.

Walker began the ’48 season in center field, but lost the job to rookie Richie Ashburn in early May. He spent the remainder of that season as the backup CF/LF, and pinch-hitting. He also caught 4 straight games in late-August, including both ends of a doubleheader.

He was traded to the Cubs after the 1948 season, then quickly bounced to the Reds and Cardinals.

Walker became a player-manager in the Cardinals’ minor-league system from 1951 to 1958, but also managed the Cardinals for the 2nd half of 1955 on an interim basis

After a 4-year gap, Harry returned as the Cardinals’ AAA manager for ’63 and ’64, then moved on to his 2 big-league managing gigs from 1965-72 as mentioned above.

Walker passed away in August 1999 at age 82.

Harry’s brother Dixie Walker was a starting outfielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s, and played for other teams during the 1930s.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Athletics Team (#492)

Here is the Athletics Team card. Shown on the card is the 1965 team, the not-so-proud owners of a 59-103 record, which put them 43 games behind the AL champion Twins, and 3 games behind the 9th-place Red Sox.

The '66 Athletics improved to 74-86 (7th place), but the entire league improved that season. The last-place Yankees were 70-89, 26 games behind the Orioles.

SEVENTEEN PITCHERS! That's what happens when you stink. Rollie Sheldon and Fred Talbot led the team with 10 wins each, but they would be gone by the next year.

The A's were making some headway though. Young starting pitchers Catfish Hunter, Jim Nash, Lew Krausse, John Odom, and Chuck Dobson were gaining experience. Soon, Rick Monday, Sal Bando, and Reggie Jackson would be joining the team, and in a few years they would have a dynasty.

Unfortunately for the fans of Kansas City, that dynasty would be located in Oakland, and Kay-Cee would have to endure the growing pains of the the expansion Royals for another 7 years.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Willie Horton (#20)

Willie Horton was signed by the Tigers in 1961, and played for 3 seasons (1962-64) in the minors. He made his major-league debut in September 1963, starting 9 of the final 11 games.

Horton began the 1964 season as the Tigers’ starting left fielder, but by mid-May he was sent back down, returning in September.

Willie made the starting lineup at the beginning of the 1965 season, and was the team’s regular left fielder from 1965 through 1974 (although he missed significant playing time in ’70, ’72, and ’74).
He hit .304 with 1 home run in the 1968 World Series.

Horton became the Tigers’ designated hitter beginning in 1975, replacing long-time PH/DH Gates Brown. After 2 seasons as the DH, Willie was traded to the Rangers in April 1977 for pitcher Steve Foucault. He played with Texas for only one season.

1978 was a whirlwind for Horton. In February he was traded to Cleveland. In July the Indians released him, and he was soon signed by the Athletics. In mid-August Oakland traded him to the Blue Jays for outfielder Rico Carty. In December, Horton was granted free agency.

Willie DH’ed for the Mariners in ’79 and ’80, playing his last major-league game on Oct 5, 1980. In December, he was traded back to the Rangers in an 11-player deal that also included Rick Honeycutt and Richie Zisk. For Willie, it was all moot, as the Rangers released him on 4/1/81.

In May 1981, Horton was signed by the Pirates, and played 2 seasons with their AAA team in Portland, OR, then wrapped up his career in 1983 playing in the Mexican League.

Willie finished with 325 home runs. My recollection is that he was a prolific power hitter (though not in the same tier as Harmon Killebrew or Frank Howard). I was surprised today to learn that he never hit more than 25 in a season.

After his playing career, he coached for the Yankees and White Sox. He is one of six Detroit Tigers with a statue outside their ballpark (the others are Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Hal Newhouser, and Charlie Gehringer). Horton is credited as having been a calming influence on the public during the 1967 race riots in Detroit.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lindy McDaniel (#496)

Here’s Lindy McDaniel’s card – a near mirror-image of the Joe Gibbon card we just looked at below. Giants’ pitcher? Check! Solid blue background? Check!

Lindy McDaniel pitched for 21 seasons (1955-75) for 5 teams. I identify him as a Giant because that’s where he was when I started collecting cards in 1967 and 1968, but he was only with San Francisco for 3 of his 21 seasons.

McDaniel was primarily a reliever during his career, starting only 74 of his 987 career games. He also collected 172 career saves. Lindy’s years as a starting pitcher were 1957 and 1958. After that, the bullpen was his home. From 1963 to 1972, he made only 3 starts.

McDaniel was signed by the Cardinals in 1955 as a bonus baby, and as such he went directly to the majors. He only appeared in 4 games that first season (all in September), but in 1956 he appeared in 39 games, compiling a 7-6 record.

Lindy joined the starting rotation in 1957 and fashioned a 15-9 record. He struggled in 1958, and was sent to the minors from late-August to early-September – his only time on the farm.

After starting his first 4 games in 1959 (and posting a 1-3 record), McDaniel returned to the bullpen, where he would stay for the rest of his career (except for the occasional spot start). He appeared in over 60 games each in 1959 and 1960, and led the NL in saves both years. Lindy also finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting in 1960.

After the 1962 season, he was traded to the Cubs (with pitcher Larry Jackson and catcher Jimmie Schaffer) for pitcher Don Cardwell, outfielder George Altman, and catcher Moe Thacker. Lindy led the league with 22 saves in his first season in Chicago, but was not as successful in ’64 and ’65.

The Cubs traded him to the Giants after the ’65 season (with outfielder Don Landrum) for pitcher Bill Hands and catching prospect Randy Hundley. McDaniel spent 2 ½ seasons by the Bay until he was traded to the Yankees in July 1968 for pitcher Bill Monbouquette.

Lindy was a workhorse during his 5 ½ seasons in Yankee pinstripes, posting an ERA under 3.00 in four of those seasons. He went 12-6 in his last season with the Yankees.

After the 1973 season, he was traded to the Royals for outfielder Lou Piniella. He wrapped up his long career with 2 seasons in Kansas City.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Joe Gibbon (#457)

Wow! Either Joe is pitching in front of a Blue Screen, or that was one nice day at spring training! I vote for the Blue Screen.

Joe Gibbon was signed by the Pirates in 1957, and spent 3 seasons as a starting pitcher in their minor-league system. Joe made the Pirates at the start of the 1960 season, making 9 starts and pitching 18 games in relief as a rookie, totaling 80 innings. He also pitched in 2 games in the 1960 World Series.

In 1961, Joe became a full-time starter. With veteran Vern Law limited to 11 games that season, Gibbon stepped up to the #2 spot in the rotation, behind Bob Friend. Joe led the staff with 145 strikeouts, and compiled a 13-10 record while logging 195 innings pitched.

From 1962-65 he returned to his role as a swing man, although he was primarily a starter in 1964. After the 1965 season, he was traded to the Giants (with Ozzie Virgil) for outfielder Matty Alou.

Joe played with the Giants for the next 3 1/2 seasons, primarily as a reliever, although he started 10 games in 1966 and in 1967.

In mid-June 1969, he returned to the Pirates in exchange for veteran relief pitcher Ron Kline. In 35 games for the Pirates in 1969, Gibbon compiled a 1.93 ERA. Gibbon remained with the Pirates through the end of the 1970 season, including the ’70 NLCS against the Reds.

He was released after the season, but hooked on with the Reds the following spring. The Reds and Gibbon both had off-years in 1971, and in May 1972, Joe and his 54.00 ERA (after pitching only one-third of an inning across 2 games) were given the boot.

He was picked up by the Astros 2 weeks later, but only lasted 2 months with Houston. Joe was released on July 21st, ending his 13-year career.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Al Ferrara (#487)

Here is Al Ferrara's 1966 card. I have already reviewed his career when I posted his 1967 card, so I won't go into much of that here.

I usually don't post multiple cards of the same player, but this card has such a great pose, one usually reserved for catchers watching a pop-up (sometimes referred to as "looking up to God").

Maybe Al is trying to determine if today's game will be rained out. Or maybe he's saying "Hey Skip, the Giants have sent a surveillance blimp over our practice field!" 

Ferrara played in the Dodgers farm system from 1959-65, and for the Dodgers for part of 1963, and again from 1965-68.  After missing all but 2 games in '68 with a broken leg, he was selected by the expansion Padres, and was a regular for them from 1969-70. He split the 1971 season between the Padres and the Reds, before retiring.

Al currently works in the Dodgers' community relations department.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dave McNally (#193)

Here is Dave McNally, months before leading the Orioles to their first-ever World Series championship, a 4-0 sweep of the defending champion Dodgers. In his 4th full season, McNally led the ’66 starting rotation in starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts, while compiling a 13-6 record. (2nd-year man Jim Palmer edged him out with 15 wins.)

Dave was signed by the O’s in 1960, and made his major-league debut at age 19 during the last week of September 1962, with a complete- game shutout of the Kansas City Athletics.

In 1963, McNally began the season in the bullpen, but in mid-June was promoted to the starting rotation that included veteran Robin Roberts, as well as Steve Barber, Milt Pappas, and Mike McCormick. Dave replaced Chuck Estrada, who had compiled a 9-17 record in the previous season.

McNally and Barber both had off-years in 1964, each winning only 9 games, while Roberts, Pappas, and rookie Wally Bunker all won in double figures (with 19 wins for Bunker).

In 1965 Dave won 11 games, as every starter but Roberts (who, at age 38, compiled a 5-7 record and was released at the end of July) was having a good season.

Jim Palmer joined the rotation in 1966, replacing Pappas (who was traded to the Reds for Frank Robinson). McNally, Palmer, Bunker, Barber, and closer Stu Miller, along with the batting of Frank and Brooks Robinson, propelled the Orioles to the World Series. Dave started games 1 and 4 in the '66 Series.

Here are 2 famous photos of McNally from the Series:

After an injury-filled 1967, Dave bounced back and won 20 or more games each season from 1968-71, including a league-leading 24 in 1970. He also made 3 all-star teams during that stretch, and pitched in the '69, '70, and '71 World Series, as well as the '73 and '74 ALCS.

McNally pitched for the Orioles through the 1974 season, then was traded to the Montreal Expos. He played the 1975 season without a contract, then after the season he and Angels’ Dodgers' pitcher Andy Messersmith challenged baseball’s reserve clause (as Curt Flood had done 6 years earlier). This time, McNally and Messersmith were granted free agency, the first to achieve that. However, McNally had not intended to continue playing, and retired. This story is told in more detail by blogger CommishBob near the end of this post.

Dave finished 2nd among Orioles’ starting pitchers of his era in games, innings pitched, and wins:

McNally retired to his hometown of Billings, Montana, and passed away in 2002 from lung cancer at age 60.