Monday, May 23, 2022

#47 John Ellis #48 John Ellis In Action

Big John....In Cleveland was known as Moose....played with zeal and desire....a happy warrior..... Started in the bigs starting 1970 based on an excellent spring training campaign.....Slated to compete with the legendary Thurmond Munson to backstop vacancy never truly addressed since the departure of Elston Howard ....but Munson's ironman presence as the iconic backstop left Ellis searching for another position....In his career Ellis never really settled in any one position on any team....often split catcher, 1st base, and later the designated hitter titles...  After being acquired by the Tribe for 1973, put together a solid body of work at the plate establishing the pattern of the more he played the better his yield.....injuries set him back starting in 1975 onward as Ellis moved on to Texas.....lost for most of 1976 putting his sparkling .412 start to naught....wasn’t able to reach 300 at bats until 1979 when he was mostly a DH....was able to hang on a part time basis until 1981, his last season....In the mid-1970s, Ellis joined the Spalding Sporting Goods Advisory Staff and .....In 1987 he founded the Connecticut Sports Foundation Against Cancer....passed away April 7, 2022

Monday, May 16, 2022

#49 Willie Mays #50 Willie Mays In Action

What to say?  GOAT and Say Hey.....Maybe the best of best.....So many milestones past on the way to first ballot HOF.....Last name nearly symbolic with the position of Centerfield.....The marquee name carried along as baseball moved to the west coast circa 1958…. The legend spans over 23 seasons....Plucked from the Birmingham Black Barons.... After a storied slow start in 1951 caught fire enough to earn ROY honors in the Giant’s NL Pennant winning drive.... After a hiatus for military service for the most of two years, Mays comes back with a vengeance and become a icon of NY lore along with Mantle and Duke Snyder...... a Centerfielder roamed  large tracks of the  483 feet from home plate to dead center at New York’s Polo Grounds…..used almost every inch of that distance to catch Vic Wertz drive in the 1954 World Series….iconic moment was considered “the greatest catch” of all time….effectively stonewalled the juggernaut Cleveland Indian into swept away mortals….......The patron saint of the five tool players everywhere.....named to all star games 20 straight times although it could be argued that the last two he was grandfathered in....within that space of time 12 consecutive Gold Gloves....and 2 MVP awards with a multitude of runner up positions in the voting..... Rare was an offensive category that Mays did not take top honors (never led the NL in doubles)....Took or tied for the top spot in 23 out of a possible 276 positive offensive categories while playing ….Was considered the frontrunner to take over Babe Ruth’s HR record but home runs became more rare after 1966...didn’t stop the press from pressing the issues  for several years after.... Even though by the 1971 year his superstar days were well gone was able to lead the NL in on base % and walks in 1971...but had trouble catching up to pitches resulting in career high 123 Ks ....much like Harmon Killebrew.....Would have been a one team player but traded to NY Mets in his twilight days of 1972.....did get his first Met HR against the Giants but Mays remaining skills eroded....Did stay another year and had his last at bat in game 3 of the 1973 Fall Classic.....tallied 660 home runs but amazing struck out very little for such as high total.

Monday, May 9, 2022

#51 Harmon Killebrew #52 Harmon Killebrew In Action

A Minnesota icon.....while not originally from Minnesota nevertheless he  fit perfectly into the state's personality of quiet reserve, politeness, and gentlemanly niceness.... was shy too but came out of shell enough to host a pre game show for a local Twin City television station....franchise player stood head and broad shoulders, the power leader based on 8  40+ home run campaigns starting in the late 50’s...only Babe Ruth had more....reached or exceeded that mark 8 times, 6 times leading the AL circuit....terminus accumulated 573 home runs for a ticket to the HOF...his HR total is presently 12th best all time....his at bat to HR ratio is 7th all time (3rd all time if post PED era players are removed).....Know for mammoth clouts causing Future Home Run Champion Hank Aaron to quip "When I hit a home run its in row 2, 3, or 4.  When Harmon hits a home run you need a telescope to find it! home run was the longest ever at Metropolitan Stadium which is currently memorialized by a single stadium chair mounted high on wall at Mall of America......only thing that stopped the Killer was injuries....subpar seasons started in 1972 with his lowest BA as an everyday player....lost for most of 1973 and suffered a steady decline thereafter....released by the Twins and picked up by KC Royals in 1975 alienating faithful Twins fans with age 33 was the 1969 AL MVP with his best career numbers; 49 HR, 149 RBIs, .427 OBP.....Also finished second, third {twice} and fourth in MVP votes....Eleven time all star and mysteriously passed over in 1962 when he led the AL in HRs and runs driven second half of career numbers were augmented by leading his circuit in walks.....Parlayed his TV show  experience into going into the broadcast booth for Twins, A’s, and Angels.....Harmon died of cancer in 2011....Recent player Jim Thome was often compared to Harmon in style of play and personality.... MLB career almost didn’t happen.... Grew up in Idaho off the road from traditional baseball breeding grounds.....only introduced by an appeal of Idaho’s Senator to Washington’s owner Cal Griffith to give him a look....impressed the franchise.....adding to the Killebrew folklore.....never the less needed five cups of coffee starting in 1954 to become a starter.....good thing for the patience paid off....tallied 573 times going yard.   

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

#53 Bud Harrelson #54 Bud Harrelson In Action

Cast a wispy shadow but was highly combative...especially when provoked....just ask Pete Rose....Prior to Harrelson the NYM shortstop position was an assortment of well past prime veterans or undistinguished cast offs....Harrelson started out in development during the Mets sophomore year  mid-1963.....a great glove man, any hitting above .240 was pure profit in his stock and trade....was able to snatch all star honors twice.....a nadir of power, notoriously so, went over 1000 at bats between home runs....went yard 7 times in over 5,500 plate appearances.....resume reads two cups of coffee 1965 and 66, taking over full time in 1967.... won the gold glove in 1971.....reached a career high of 42 runs batted in 1970, his runner up number was 32 the following year....Injuries periodically interrupted performance....called up to stay in 1966 despite only hitting .221 in AAA that declined 1974 and beyond eventually becoming a bit player with Phillies and then Texas.....Hit well in limited actions during his brief stays....With his longstanding relationship with Mets, returned to coach and manage in both minor and then with the parent club 1990-91....Sadly has been diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease a few years ago.    

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

#55 Clyde Wright

In a major surprise was AL comeback player of the year in 1970 with 22 victories....add a no hitter and the season was near perfect.....the back story was Clyde was at the nadir of his career with a W-L of 1-8 in 1969.....offered up on waivers, no other team took interest....enter teammate Jim Fregosi who was going to start his managerial career during Winter ball....Wright took the offer on advisement....worked on a screwball and change up to bolster his pitching arsenal....such high yield could make 1971 and ‘72 somewhat of a letdown but he still a consistent force with an ERA still under three runs a game....His game ground down in 1973 with a sizeable jump in ERA and losing a disproportional number of games; 19 defeats over victories 11......A change of scenery to Milwaukee brought further unraveling going 9-20....An unsuccessful test trial in Texas in 1975 spelled his exit from the big leagues.....Played overseas in Japan until 1978, a tumultuous period intermingled with culture clashes ala Tom Selleck’s movie Mr. Baseball....opposite of Hollywood ending  struggled with alcohol to masking his isolation in the far east...once retired, was able to overcome his addition.....A small college star, the lefty began career out with a straight fastball/curveball assortment....while some success was derived (10 wins in 1968) in his first three years....but never could establish himself in a particular role on the Angels staff.....Like one time teammate Bob Oliver opened an instructional school and had a son who was successful player, Jared who won 68 MLB games....still active in Angel activities.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

#56 Rich Chiles

Mostly a farmhand....Only true employment occurred after being picked up by the Twins as a Rule 5 draft pick for 1977....two seasons exclusively in Minnesota with almost identical results....BA a tad above .260....released by Twins before 1981.....Considered a standard line drive hitter and not much else....weak arm, mediocre speed.....Made a career in the MLB a reach....platoon player at best which came late in his career....Once Chiles put in his 120 at bats in 1971, he only appeared in 22 MLB games over the next five seasons continuing in Houston, then New York Mets, and return ticket to Houston...had a stint in the Padre farm system  falling short of making the club....after his time as a Twin returned to AAA for a couple of seasons.....turned to being a batting coach at the university and minor league level......owns a .254 career BA based on 157 hits, 37 of which were doubles. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

#57 Bob Oliver

Maybe the Royal player with the most impact who was obtained from their expansion draft (note ROY Lou Pinella was acquired from the Seattle Pilots)...passed along Twins and Pirates before finding a home in KC....was able to become a regular outfielder over a cattle call of contenders....set franchise firsts: hit the initial  grand slam and going 6 for 6....1970 moves over to be KC’s primary 1st baseman with the arrival of rookie outfielder Amos Otis and the failure of second year player Mike Fiore....Oliver responds with career year, establishing team high marks with 27 dingers, 99 RBI’s.....Oliver’s play downgrades in 1971, causing the Royals to take a chance of promising slugger John Mayberry....No longer an outfielder was odd man out Oliver and rather than ride the bench he is exchanged to Angels....Oliver returns to prominence on his new team easily leading the way with 70 RBIs and in going yard 19 times despite being tardy in joining the Halos...was an easy going clubhouse presence.....King Olly brought a wind of change from the controversies from the year prior.... improved runs driven in the following year.....started to tail off in 1974 along with some of his Anaheim peers..... from sent packing to Baltimore in late stages as California cleaned house....while the birds were playoff bound Oliver was not used....picked on waiver by NYY for 1975 also resulted little use and an anemic BA ending his MLB days by the all star break....did not directly give up on baseball, put together strong minor league seasons in AAA and then the Mexican League....but in the mid-30s a return to MLB did not materialize....Once Oliver hung up his spikes did some managing and established a baseball teaching academy....Father of Darren Oliver a MLB pitcher who logged in 20 seasons....jostled around third and first and outfield, did best when assigned to one steady position....resided in Sacramento most of his life until passing away in 2020.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

#58 Ernie McAnally

Outfielder turned pitcher....A Met farmhand established in 1966 and a change of position after two stints in the low minors....lackluster hitting the culprit (as is many times the case).....Never a high draft choice, showed enough promise in his first year in the newly found position to be selected by the Expos in 49th round in expansion draft....worked a taxed AAA farm club becoming the team leader in wins (which were few and far between)....earned an opening day roster spot in 1971.....a slow start going 1-7 which included a demotion to AAA....once back was able to turn his venture around and become a minor Montreal sensation with 10-5 finishing record....the steadfast Expo went 19 wins with 37 defeats in next three years.....despite record had an output ERA near 4 runs a game.....The Skip Lockwood of the NL sans Skip's longevity.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

#59 Fred Stanley

The last Seattle Pilot....journeyman infielder....well traveled, landing anywhere he could get playing time....anemic with a bat, but a very good glove assured his employment through the 1982 season.....Career BA of .216....never exceeded 260 at bats in a MBL season...feeble power going over the fence 10 times over 1650 chances .....resume trajectory reads;  developed in Astro system, sold to Pilots for their only season.....tags along briefly to Milwaukee, sold to Cleveland early 1971, traded to Padre early 1972 in a one for one deal....then shipped to the Yankees for an extended stay and career capped in Oakland for two seasons ending 1982....survived eight summers in the Bronx Zoo watching many skippers interchanged....nickname was Chicken....doesn’t quite instill a fear in the opposition....Note:  Topps got very lazy with image....a horrible air brush of a Cleveland cap even though he was an Indian the year prior.....the large butte in background suggests that the image was taken at either one of the two Seattle Pilots training camps.

Monday, March 28, 2022

#60 Manny Sanguillen

If not for a backstop named Bench, would have the apex of the catching position of the 70's.....played a different game than Bench....hitting for average which he did excelled not for swinger, never took a pitch be didn’t like...somewhere there may be rare footage of Manny getting a walk.....brought in other assets, strong defensively, a robust arm, great work ethic, positive energy, and speed, unusual for the position......A Panamanian, early liability was his language barrier with the English, but in time adapted and overcame....earned praise as a non-verbal communicator....infectious smile.....a brief tryout in 1967 showed promise but showed a need for seasoning....returning in 1969 wrestled starting spot from Jerry May finishing with a .303 BA....Onward and upwards, Manny improves each of the next two consecutive years with +.300 average....arguably the best NL catcher in 1971, edging Bench who had an off year....Crowning achievement was game management as the Bucs upset the favored Orioles in the Fall Classic.....Manny cools off a bit in next few years but remains near the top of his peers with a BA always above .280....returns to +.300 mark with a .328 accomplishment in 1975 reaching highs in OBP and SLG.....was traded to Oakland for 1977 in a typical swap involving the rights to manager Chuck Tanner.....steady body of work in light of a team gutted by free agency....returned to Steel City in a reserve role for next three last blaze of glory circa 1979.....a walk off hit in game 2 bringing home his replacement Ed Ott as the Pirates repeat another WS victory over the Orioles....Traded to Cleveland for 1980 but was released in spring training.....A Pirate icon hitting .299 over 12 years in the gold and black....personal opinion Manny is the GOAT of Pirate backstops.....still active with the franchise reminding the faithful of better days.