Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#718 Del Rice

An organizational guy promoted to skipper…Took over the reins with the Angels after the tumultuous 1971 season as part of a house cleaning… Del had a long establish bond with his employing club…In 1961, He finished his career with expansion Halos wrapping up his 17 year career as a catcher …played as a starter with St. Louis Cardinals and then the Milwaukee Braves in back up role eventually being released at the end of 1959….Had an odd year in 1960 playing for three teams, starting with the Chicago Cubs but only appearing in one game for both  Baltimore and the Cardinals…MLB career included .237 avg., 79 HRS, 441 RBI… After his Angels playing days were over, began four year service as a Halo’s Coach (plus a one year stint in Cleveland in 1967)….Started 1972 with strong albeit short, minor league managerial pedigree, establishing winning records in San Jose, El Paso, and Salt Lake City over the course of four seasons….1970 El Paso was interesting because of duties outside manager…had 3 official  at bats, two hits, one RBI, pitched in 2 games, over 3 innings gave up  no runs, and won a game….Was SN Minor League Manager of the year for his stint at SLC….His single season with Angels did not yield a significant improvement from the previous year although they may have more harmonious group…Highlight of 1972 was the emergence of Nolan Ryan on his way to being the all time strikeout  and no hitter leader….was replaced by Bobby Winkles and did not manage again…Passed away in 1983.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

#719 Cesar Geronimo

Future complimentary player in the second coming of the Big Red Machine…Houston included the Dominican Republic outfielder in Joe Morgan deal…adding to lopsidedness of the transaction….Started in the Yankee organization ….Was obtained by Houston as a Rule 5 draft pick…spent the year of 1969 with the big club but only appeared 28 games mostly as defensive replacement…Cesar stayed with the Astros organization continuing the a most defensive role…Showed almost no power in the minors, but had occasional pop in the bigs….The trade to the Reds resulted in over double the plate appearences for the year when compared to his career at that point…played outfield from 1972 to 1980….Excellent defensive player winning 4 consecutive gold gloves….Best season was 1976 with career highs of .307 BA (21 points higher than next best season) and 22 steals, 11 triples...even gathering some MVP votes…Played 9 years for the Red Legs, finishing off as a part timer with KC for 3 seasons….Career stats were .258 BA, 51 HRs, 392 RBIs.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

#720 Sam McDowell

Suddenly, a man on a decline…. imposing, intimidating, overpowering, wild, and formidable star in Cleveland topping 300 K’s twice…was coming off one of his best campaigns in 1970 where he reached 20 wins…got the honor of playing infield twice during the year because of the creative mind of manager Alvin Dark….It goes like this according to SABRA bioproject.
July 6, 1970…. As the game moved to the eighth inning, Cleveland was holding on to a 6-4 lead. Washington center fielder Eddie Stroud led off with a single to right field and, one out later, shortstop Eddie Brinkman also singled. McDowell struck out Tom Grieve, but uncorked a wild pitch in the process, and Stroud and Brinkman moved up a base. Up stepped first baseman Frank Howard, a nemesis of McDowell’s, who already was 2-for-2 with two walks (one intentional) and a run scored. 

Indians manager Alvin Dark made his way to the mound. He made his plans clear. He told McDowell: “I think I’m going to put you on second base, move Eddie Leon to third and bring in (Dean) Chance to pitch to Howard.” Big Sam gulped, blinked his eyes, and agreed to the move. Later, he recalled, “When I could talk, I said, ‘That’s fine. . . . I can handle it.’” The 11,950 spectators buzzed as McDowell moved over to second, keystone sacker Leon replaced Graig Nettles at third base, and Dean Chance came in to face Howard.   Chance walked Howard intentionally to load the bases, the strategy being that perhaps Washington skipper Ted Williams would send a left-hander up to pinch-hit for the right-handed hitting Rick Reichardt and southpaw McDowell could return to the mound. But Williams let Reichardt hit, so everyone stayed at their positions.   Chance got Reichardt to hit to third, where Leon threw low to a kneeling McDowell at second base.   “I lost the ball momentarily in the crowd when Eddie threw but I knew it was coming in low,” McDowell recalled. “That’s why I went down on my knees for it.   Jack (Shortstop Jack Heidemann) kept telling me to make sure I covered second base on a ball hit on the ground.”   McDowell returned to the mound in the ninth and earned his 12th victory of the season by striking out the side, giving him 15 K’s for the game.   It was the eighth time he had achieved ten or more strikeouts in a game thus far that season.   
…Sam's started decline in 1971….a losing record and strikeout tally dropping to the lowest level since 1964, while most retaining the dubious title of most walks surrendered…The trade to the Giants is considered a failure especially since Gaylord Perry had a Cy Young year for the tribe…went 10-8 with a paltry 122 SO….one more win in SF and was eventually shipped Yankees in early 1973....then exiled to limited starter status and near complete disappearance....finished with Pirates circa 1975…. 6 time all star…5 time strikeout leader… and same number of walks too… Career strikeouts total of 2451 would have been larger if his career was not cut short by injuries and alcoholism…eventually entered rehabilitation and became an AODA counselor employed by various sport teams.

Jim in Downingtown covers his early career nicely in a recent post.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#721 Eddie Leon.

Member of a score of tribe middle infielders for 1970-71 seasons…colleagues include Larry Brown, Jack Heidemann, Chuck Hinton, Kurt Bevacqua, John Lowenstein, Vern Fuller, and even Sam McDowell (more on that next card) to name a few…Eddie mostly played 2nd with an occasional appearance at shortstop….Selected by the Twins in  the first amateur draft 1965 from U of Arizona where earned All American honors…thought signing bonus offer of $6500 was too low so he spurred them…eventually signed by Cleveland in 1967…by virtue of college resume he was able to start at the AA level…was a mid-July call up to the Tribe in 1969 taking over as regular shortstop for the remainder of the year… Career high water mark in most offensive categories was 1970...had 10 hrs that year…1971 saw less playing time but his highest batting average with a .261 mark…eventually was traded to the White Sox for the 1973 season….resulted in more At Bats but his strikeouts were high and batting average was sub average…. Had one At Bat for the Yankees in 1975….favorite hobby is golf…sported a heavy duty mustache (associated with the adult film industry) in later years…resides in the Tucson area and worked in real estate development.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

#722 Bill Sudakis

Infielder convert to Catcher and a bit of a misnomer….the conversion is rarely successful, due to poor defense ….the move did not result in significant playing longevity for Bill and in reality only started 60 games at the position for his career…Tall and blonde, Bill came up in the Dodgers organization in a seemingly type cast situation… Was on the Cover of May 10th 1969 Sporting News…and was able to bypass AAA Spokane en route to Southern California….In a platoon with Jim Lefebvre they replaced an aging Ken Boyer and Bob Bailey who was lost to expansion….was second in team HR and had a career high for RBIs, but BA dropped over the course of the season….next year was bumped by one year wonder Billy Garbarkewitz fast start, initiating his transient relationship with a permanent position….Split time in 1970 at catcher and 3rd mostly…off season moves for 1971 effected him greatly, his return to 3rd was blocked by Dick Allen and rookie Steve Garvey and his claim to incumbency at catcher by newcomer Duke Sims and Tom Haller…1971 was a lost season mostly battling hitting slumps and injuries…. finished his season most as PH ...1972  waived by LA after spring training…picked up by the Mets but 1972 was similarly wasted including a stint in the minors….enjoyed a slight comeback with the awful 1973 Texas Rangers…Exploits were chronicled in the book “Seasons in Hell” about the 1973-75 Texas Rangers….Last significant playing time was with Yankees… Finished out mlb time with the Angels and Indians in 1975.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

#723 Al Santorini

Man looking for a win….At the time of photo was taken Al was In the midst of a two year victory drought that stretched from 4/13/1970 (as a Padre) to 4/17/72 (with the Cardinals)… Suffered  consecutive 12 loses in between…Only player with last name Santorini ever in professional baseball….Santorini is also a Greek island… Started in Atlanta organization…was selected in expansion by San Diego…lots of work for the rookie who was 21 in 1969….Good news:  tied for team victories leader and sub 4.00 ERA. Bad news: It was only 8 wins coupled with 14 losses…1970 was by all rights, nightmarish with a ballooning ERA and demotion to AAA….despite the poor outing makes the 71 Padres roster….was involved in a strange incident 5/26/71 starts the first game of double header vs. Houston…Get first batter out and then taken out of game….Returns to start the second game going 6 innings…stunt was for naught because Stro’s swept the Friars….traded to Cards in June 71 and despite some good starts poor run support  failed to bring a win…1972 was a comeback of sorts, once he won again pressed into 5th starter role in May….Moved up in the rotation when Scipio Spinks went down for the season…did OK in this role lowering his ERA and compiling a 6-8 record and improving over the season….Ineffective in 1973 and traded Royals ending his time in the show….was 1-11 in AAA that year…figures.

Monday, April 7, 2014

#724 AL Rookie Stars

Make that AL East Rookie Pitchers... John Curtis, Mickey Scott, Rich Hinton ....A three player mixed bag…One journeyman starter whose career went into the mid 80’s… Two obscure pitchers who were able to hang on into the later part of the 70’s….All slated to be part of the AL East Division
 Rich Hinton: Tucson native and AU drafted five times from the years 1965 to 1969…. Even though Topps perceived him as rookie 1971 Hinton already had a 3-4 record for the White Sox….The first of three separate occasions the incredibly well traveled (15 transactions) lefty played for the Southsiders….1971 also represented a career high in wins…acquired by Yankees for 72 …. pitched 16 innings for the bombers…but mostly played in AAA and then Texas….then a series of trades too numerous to list interspersed with minor league demotions …Last big club was Seattle in 1979…Finished career 9-17, 4.87 ERA
 John Duffield Curtis…bespectacled, literate fellow…came into 1972 with  2-2 record in Red Sox fall call up…In 1972, After a short time in AAA performance for Rouge Hose was above par, 11-5 a starter replacing hurlers like the aging Ray Culp and Gary Peters in the rotation…The his rookie debut along with Carlton Fisk and resurgence of Luis Tiant accounted largely for the Red Sox contention into the East  pennant race….Raised his win total to 13….plus ranked 4th in AL shutouts…Traded to the Cards for the next season starting 9 years in the NL….later stops included 3 year stints for Giants, Padres, and Angels….Did not exceed 10 wins in mostly in 5th or spot starter roles…Did compliment a few bullpen corps  but only had 11 career saves mostly in …finished with 89 wins and 3.97 ERA
 Mikey Scott ….Real name was Ralph Robert … Began pro ball in the Yankee organization as a starter…traded to White Sox for the 1970 season but wound up the season in Baltimore’s AAA Rochester club starting a exclusive relief role…Orioles must liked what they saw and obtained outright for 1971…His career was buoyed by a 9-1 record there and he was called up to the big club in 1972….a situational reliever at best….most active year was 1975 when he made 50 appearances for the Angels working as a mop up man in losing efforts...end of career was 8-7 3.72 ERA.  

Special note:  Just received a copy of the 1971 Complete Handbook of Baseball for a bargin $5 on Ebay...so I'll be mining some information from this source.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

#725 Dick McAuliffe

Long time Detroit Tiger mainstay infielder…probably best known for his high leg kick bat swing that was apparently reminiscent of HOF Mel Ott or Japan’s home run leader Sadaharu Oh…On the field, was hard-nosed, scrappy style of play…Had better than average power for a middle infielder of the time, averaging 18 HRs per 162 game season….Established himself as a part timer in the big leagues in 1961…Increased playing time in the next two seasons but was given one position finding stints at 2nd, short, and 3rd….1964 he was established as the Tiger’s regular shortstop… achieved the first of three consecutive All Star game appearances in in ’65…1966 was his best offensive season but was asked to make a switch to 2nd base the following year even though he hadn’t played that position since 1963…Was not considered fast but had an incredible knack for avoiding to hit into double plays and a consistent league leader in triples…both attributes associated as indicators of speed…In 1968, he led the AL in runs scored, finished 7th in MVP voting (but oddly not an all star)…1968 was also exceptional in that he did not hit into a double play in 570 ABs… Almost repeated the task in 1970, hitting in one DP in 530 Abs…Hit into a total of five over a four year period encompassing 1928 ABs…hit a home run in both of his postseason appearances WS 1968, ALCS 1972....1971 was an off year with a .208 BA…bounced back statistically the following two years but was losing playing time as Tigers started to go with more youth…traded to Boston for 1974 season and hung up his spikes the following year.