Saturday, June 28, 2014

#690 Willie Montanez

The stern menacing face of the card camouflages his flamboyant style of play…An overachieving rookie star for the Phillies in 1971…Phillies had much higher hopes for Roger Freed whose promise promptly fizzled… Interesting career…Started in the St Louis organization but never made the big club…Did make first big league appearance for the Angels at the tender age of 18 as part of the 1966 rule 5 draft…mysteriously returned to St Louis soon after…the whole transaction amounted to a month long loan….next transaction was more unusual and historic…Was acquired by the Phillies  just prior to the 1970 season as just compensation for Curt Flood’s refusal to be traded opening the first salvo of battle to eliminate baseball reserve cause….Spent season in AAA Eugene Ore as first baseman…Called up for ’71, Willie led the team in home runs with 30 and played Centerfield….a bit deceptive for Willie was much more of line drive hitter and his next best home run season was 20….Named to Topps rookie team and was second in ROY voting…next season led NL in doubles…over time batting average improved and gradually took over his original position first base…in two of his three best offensive years he was traded to mid season…was well traveled going to Giants, Braves, Mets, Rangers, and Padres, his last stop as a regular player…subsequently was a substitute for the Expos, Pirates, and finished off career back in Philly…generally played on second division teams and never appeared in a post season…was considered a good fielder but not a follower of fundamentals with a chance of driving managers crazy…Batting style was parodied the San Diego Chicken…career figures 139 home runs, 802 RBIs, and .275 BA.   


Saturday, June 21, 2014

#691-692 In Action Curt Blefray

Not deserving of the added In Action card…a career on life support…Started in Yankee farm system….Early on had reputation as temperamental…Like Mike Epstein, he played in Oriole organization with big power numbers in AAA….Called up to the big club in 1965 and responded with ROY honors…Topps touted his versatility but in reality he was a liability in field and it cost him future work…butt of a joke by Frank Robinson who called him “Clank”…Hit over 20 hrs first three seasons with Baltimore plus a good eye at the plate…but BA declined over time…Bottomed out with a .200 in 1968…Next year was shipped to Houston for Mike Cuellar…Cuellar subsequently won over 140 games for Orioles and took an AL Cy Young award…while Curt had modest comeback numbers he lasted only one year…Traded to Yankee for flamboyant Joe Pepitone…Rumors of personal troubles abounded and playing time was cut in half and production plumented…spent next season and half on West Coast playing for Oakland and San Diego…Tried to come back with Braves in 1973 and went 1 for 20 in AAA….Died in 2001.



Extensive background and story is found on the Sabr web site:  http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/4aa82107...held many jobs during and after playing days…wanted back in baseball but less than stellar reputation preceded him… an enigma of a man.


Photo:  it is rare footage…Curt only played 12 games as catcher in 1971….what game is anybody’s guess…



Thursday, June 19, 2014

#693-694 In Action Al Gallagher

Dirty Al…possibly more for his uniform after a game than any particular behavior…Reportedly an easy going guy who likes to laugh and poke fun at himself (according to the 1971 edition of the Complete Handbook of Baseball)...A short career but holds an MLB record…Al Gallagher’s MLB record was set the day he was born….He is tied with one other MLB player with the most names…Has five middle names; Mitchell Edward George Patrick Henry….Like Rick Monday and Eddie Leon was drafted in the first round of the 1965 draft by San Francisco, his hometown…Took over at 3rd base in 1970 edging out several incumbents and Jim Davenport as Jim took over to the coaching ranks...Solid rookie season holding his own with .266 average....Strong follow up in 1971 increasing playing and all offensive figures...Line drive hitter with limited power but a good judge of the strike zone...had erratic yet powerful throwing arm...Put in poor numbers in 1972 signally the demise of his career...Traded to Angles just after the start of 1973 and hit .273...despite a fair average was not able to stick with big club for 1974....bounced around minor leagues eventually becoming a manager...was player manager in Lone Star League...tore up the league in its' only year of existence being the only player who had any MLB experience...Eventually spent last 20 years managing in independent minor leagues circuits.


In Action:  Taking a high throw at third, a Phillie slides in safe in front of many empty seats at Candlestick Park.  



Saturday, June 14, 2014

#695-696 In Action Rod Carew

AKA "Hot Rod"…Wow! Arguably the best hitter of the 70’s…HOF,ROY,MVP…A Minnesota icon on par with Killebrew, Oliva, Kaat, Puckett, Hrbek….7 time AL batting champ….named to the all star team 18 consecutive seasons…Born in Panama, grew up in NYC…signed by the Twins as amateur free agent in 1964…in 2 ½ years jumped from Florida Instructional league to Carolina League…Made the jump to bigs in 1967 adjusting seamlessly to big league pitching…hit a career low of .272 in 1968 when no one hit well…Entered into superstar status in 1969 winning the batting crown…Acquired a new skill that year, stealing home, accomplishing the feat 7 times falling one short of Ty Cobb’s record for a season…1970 Carew has fantastic start, hitting .366 on his way to possibly his best season…lost for remainder of season to a knee injury on June 22 while making a pivot on a double play…Could have ended his career….Did pinch hit in the playoffs that year in a move that was stupid and reckless given the two games and series were already decided…Rod was still in a slow recovery in beginning of 1971…seemingly played in low gear but gradually picked up steam and finished with a .307 BA….Rod returns to his former self in 1972 regaining the batting crown with a .318 figure….BA improves to an average of .350 over the years of 1973-75 collecting three more batting crowns…Becomes first player since Ty Cobb to get that many consecutive titles…A defensive liability in the 2nd becomes more apparent…At the tail end of 1975 starts playing 1st base…In 1976 has slower than normal start but battles for the batting title with George Brett and Hal McRae up to the last day…Roars back with a vengeance in 1977…Overwhelms competition with .388 mark and is leader in 6 other offensive categories…Time Magazine Cover with Ted Williams…MVP with 70% of votes …Comes back in ’78 to win his last BA crown with a seemingly pedestrian .333 mark…title almost as an afterthought…Overshadowing the season was disillusionment with Twin management and talent drain free agent departures…Demanded trade and sent to the Angels for plethora of young players …Continues All-Star performance but does not surpass production seen with the Twins…Plays 7 years with halo’s obtaining a .318 BA…Returns to ALCS two more times but never made it to the World Series…1st ballot HOF....Became a hitting coach for Angels and Milwaukee (I regret not meeting him)…Note to Adam Sandler: Rod has never converted to Judism. 


In Action shot:  Once again the assumption the photo was taken during July 21st  game…over Rod’s right should there appears to be a Yankee in the bullpen…No other distinguishing features but it is a cool shot of Carew’s intensity nevertheless.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#697-698 In Action Jerry Koosman

"Kooz"...Left handed hero of the 1969 postseason…Born in small western Minnesota town of Appleton …Moved to Morris, Mn where he went to high school and played for the local U of Mn extension….Path to majors nothing of a miracle...Was discovered while he was in military service...How Koosman avoided getting released in the low minor league story is stuff of NY Mets legend (see SABR profile)…Strong AAA season in 1967 prompted call up…Complement to Tom Seaver in NY Met’s ascendancy from obscurity …Started great gathering 19 wins with a 2.08 ERA exceeding Tom Terrific on both counts….2nd in ROY and made all star team….1969 was a strong follow up (17-9, 2.28 ERA) nearly identical in many pitching categories…Notched first Met WS win and the deciding game 5….Entered into periodic mediocrity…1970 to 1972 result in sub .500 win pct with an ERAs over 3.00 and diminished innings…His career then becomes a series of resurrections…Averages 14 wins over 1973-75…Obtained a career high 21 wins in 1976…success did not carry over and went 11-36 over his last two years as a Met…Poor team performance brought a personal demand for a change of scenery...Traded to the home state Twins in 1979 and was rejuvenated with 20 wins on a team gutted by free agency departures… team that exceeded expectations…follow up next season with 16 wins but the ERA climbed over 4.00…Poor start in ’81 prompted trade to ChiSox…had identical 11-7 records over the next two campaigns…In 1984 traded Phillies for Ron Reed…responded strong with a 14 win season and lowest ERA since 1973…hung up cleats in 1985…222 career wins and 4-0 postseason W-L record...like many Minnesotans enjoys ice fishing in the winter. 


In Action shot: Non descript..."Kooz" in mid-windup...could one of thousands of pitches he made...backside the right side of Tony Oliva face.  



Saturday, June 7, 2014

#699-700 In Action Bobby Murcer

Heir apparent to Mickey Mantle's legend…great expectations…Born and raised in Oklahoma just like Mickey…Handsome, in a Ray Liotta kind of way... Progress in majors was side tracked by military service for two year…in that time the Yankees floundered....Once free of his commitment, Bobby was a cog in the early 70’s Bronx Bombers; a bridge between the golden age of the early 60's and the first wave of free agency…Started as shortstop then third baseman but poor fielding exiled him to the outfield…As an outfielder had good speed and fine arm….Great season in 1971 raising his batting average by 80 points…In top five of several offensive categories that year…hit .331 a career best….second in hitting next to Tony Oliva….Attributed his success to not trying to hit for power, but his efforts resulted in career best HR number at the time… Named to 5 All Star games 1971 to 1975…1972 brought a personal high in home runs; 33…Spent two more season with the Yankees…Subsequent years included a two year stint with the Giants and 2  ½ with the Cubs…Very consistent with both clubs…Returned to Yankees mid season 1979 as a reserve outfielder and DH…retired in 1983…was active as a Yankee broadcaster until his death in 2008. 



Photo:  Great action shot of a slide into home…the crowd is very excited, on their feet…looks like White Sox Tom Egan at the plate…



My best guess is the first game of a double header July 18th, 1971 …Take it away Baseball Reference for the account of the game…

Bottom of the 9th, Yankees Batting, Behind 0-2, White Sox' Wilbur Wood facing 9-1-2
Pat Kelly replaces Ron Lolich playing RF batting 2nd
Horace Clarke pinch hits for Fritz Peterson (P) batting 9th

b9
0-2
0
---
NYY
H. Clarke
W. Wood
8%
15%
Single to SS
Felipe Alou pinch hits for Jerry Kenney (SS) batting 1st

b9
0-2
0
1--
NYY
F. Alou
W. Wood
14%
29%
Single to 3B; Clarke to 2B
b9
0-2
0
12-
O
NYY
T. Munson
W. Wood
-3%
26%
Bunt Groundout: 3B-2B/Sacrifice; Clarke to 3B; Alou to 2B
b9
0-2
1
-23
RR
NYY
B. Murcer
W. Wood
36%
62%
Single to RF (Ground Ball); Clarke Scores; Alou Scores
b9
2-2
1
1--
NYY
R. White
W. Wood
6%
68%
Murcer Steals 2B
b9
2-2
1
-2-
O
NYY
R. White
W. Wood
-9%
60%
Flyball: SS
b9
2-2
2
-2-
NYY
D. Cater
W. Wood
0%
60%
Intentional Walk
b9
2-2
2
12-
R
NYY
R. Swoboda
W. Wood
40%
100%
Single to RF; Murcer Scores; Cater to 3B
3 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 2 LOB. White Sox 2, Yankees 3.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

#701-702 In Action Jose Pagan

Part timer role player for the 1971 World Champion Pirates…worked the left side of the field…starting as a shortstop then third baseman…but could play anywhere…Start was in NY Giants organization…known for fielding and speed became the SF Giants regular SS in 1961…hit .253 and .259 in ‘61 and ‘62 respectively…. 1962 World Series hit .368 in the Giants losing effort…Encountered sub-par production in following years resulting in a subsequent mid season trade in 1965 to Pittsburgh…Became the top reserve infielder for the Pirates…NL best pinch hitter in 1969…on the downswing of career in 1971…but did deliver the game winning hit in game 7 of the World Series…Part of San Francisco's strong nucleus of Latino players including the Alou brothers, Juan Marichal, and Orlando Cepeda....Finished MLB career with Phillies in 1973.




Photo:  Non-descript…walking up to plate in a day game with the Giants



Sunday, June 1, 2014

#703-704 In Action Doug Griffin

Topps Rookie award for Second Base….skinny as a rail…Drafted by the Angels in 1965 and worked his way up the farm system…. In 1970 Doug came off a tremendous AAA season in Hawaii on what is considered by some as best minor leagues team history…The Islanders team made up of Angel prospects and MLB vets who wanted to exit their career in tropical paradise… team went 98-48 with the player’s ages ranging 22 to 42…In 1971 there were high hopes for the Doug who along with Ken Tatum were keys in the trade that sent fan favorite and Boston native Tony Conigliaro to the Angels*… Doug, while playing seven years with the Bosox, never quite lived up to expectations, hobbled by injuries…When healthy he was productive, fast, incredibly quick in the field, and overall very good….however suffered multiple beanings…Rookie year had career highs in ABs, HRs, SBs, Doubles and Total Bases…Finished 4th in ROY balloting…In 1972 he upped his average to .260 and won a Gold Glove but once again couldn’t stay healthy….1974 brought less playing time, a trend that would continue each season until he was released in 1977…1975 he had to share 2nd base with early-season acquisition Denny Doyle…Denny thrived and Doug's production diminished….Played in only one game and had only 1 At-Bat for both playoff and WS.    




In Action:  Standard stance with no identifying features…Yankee Catcher…so most likely taken at Yankee Stadium..





 *Tony C flopped horribly in Anaheim…Ken’s story was written earlier…