Thursday, January 27, 2022

#70 Mike Cuellar

So good in his prime and unlikely success story....a true late developer aided greatly by the addition of a screwball to his pitching arsenal.....The Cuban born lefthander started in AAA Havana Sugar Kings then the Reds top affiliate....advanced employment was based on early press notices while he pitched for the President Batista Army of the last players out of the country with the onset of the Castro regime, part of in 1960 AAA team forced to relocate mid season to Jersey City due to government travel restrictions  ....then majority of his 20’s were spent riding various buses of minor league teams (he was also loaned out to several other organizations)....strong stints in AAA Jacksonville gave Mike truncated service with the St. Louis Cardinals....exceeded rookie status in 1964 but excluded from WS play....Settled in with Houston 1965....put together decent years on the mound but mostly performed in obscurity.... high lights were finishing second in ERA 1966 and 16 wins good for 5th circa 1967....Joining the Bird Hill Aces for 1969 was revelation to his notch coaching and excellent run support....Ascends as a Junior Circuit elite being the champion in 23 decisions and shares the Cy Young with Denny McClain.....Goes one win better in 1970 with 24......became the O’s workhorse....40 games started and 2 1/3 inning from 300....roll call of success goes as follows;  In 1971 collects 20 triumphs, 1972 and 73 twin 18 victories, 1974 a return to 20+ win status.....The Cuellar's career erosion starts in 1975 with 14 game tallies....completely empty in 1976 with 4-13 record complete with relegation to bullpen and a layoff for month of Sept....released; at age 40 tried a quick resurfacing as California Angel....shelled and immediately shelved after 3 innings.....Probably one of the most superstitious pitchers of all time....avoided stepping on the base line going into the Orioles dugout to name one....a more extensive list idiosyncrasies is in his SABR bio....second highest number of wins for left hander from 1969-74 falling one short to Fergy Jenkins.....settled in both Puerto Rico and Florida, continued with coaching and off the grid pitching appearances....passed away from stomach cancer in 2010.    

Thursday, January 20, 2022

#71 California Angels

Hopes were high on the wings of Angel’s strong showing in 1970 going 86-76....1971 resulted in an inverse record of 76-86 and a documented cancerous clubhouse debacle.....Trailblazer of AL westward expansion circa 1961....better than average records out of the gate for an expansion team (3rd place and 10 GB for pennant)....but after the early stars burnt out the franchise fell behind the AL pack.....became known as being pitching strong, hitting deficient....The traces of the early aces show up on the backside....Dean Chance’s 1.65 ERA and shutout marks still stand today but the bulk of team pitching marks are the making of the soon to be 1972 import, Nolan Ryan....Other Angel record holdovers are Clyde Wright 22 wins in 1970 (subsequently tied with Ryan)....Sandy Alomar still holds at bats in a season mark along with being tied with several others for most games....All other team leader marks are set by players after the year 2000.....Angels fortunes have been enhanced by the advert of free agency.....but the team has also endured more than its share of tragic deaths, Chico Ruiz, Mike Miley, Lyman Bostock, Donnie Moore, Dick Wanz, and Nick Adenhart.....Angels are a tough go in playoffs, only one World Series win to show in ten post season appearances.....Sixty one years of activity the franchise’s cumulative W-L record continues to hover at or near the .500 mark.....Team has had five name changes with Los Angeles Angels being used twice, at the team's inception in 1961 and the present day....most significant position player, Mike Trout.....most team career wins Chuck Finley.

Friday, January 14, 2022

#72 Bruce Kison

Youngest pitcher in 1971 October classic...and possibly its most clutch performer....took over for a hapless Luke Walker in game 4....unfazed did not allow a run in 6 innings allowing the Bucs to come back....Stayed in Steel town through the 1979 season, collecting another championship ring.... not effective in this fall classic with ERA of 108.00 but was very helpful in the effort to take the NL East chipping in 13 wins for the “We are family” crew..... swan song for the Bucs, leaves for free agency....departed with an excellent ERA of 3.49 over nine summers....Lands with the Halos for 4 seasons....Curtailed by injuries first two years, was able to reach 10 wins in the next two....did stellar work in the 1982 AL playoff in a losing effort.... last year in Anaheim was and final year was spent in Boston....both were truncated affairs of insignificant work.... tall and slender, effective if healthy but output was diminished by being continually hurt......body of work shows 115 wins versus 88 defeats... personal best was 14 victories....  seasons usually were north of a .500 win % over the course of a 15 year career.....once fought Mike Schmidt on the field...bit of a mismatch....give him points for bravery.....went into coaching after leaving the mound....hobbies in the off season included stamp collecting....passed away of cancer in 2018.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

#73 Steve Huntz

Well traveled utility Infielder.....could hit for some power but struggled with sustaining an acceptable batting average at the MLB level....bandied about, employers include Orioles who originally signed him, Giants who kept him over a winter, White Sox twice, Dodgers serving two years in AAA, Cardinals with whom he made his debut, and two stints with the Padres representing the bulk of his MLB work....went yard 16 times at baseball highest level but yielded only a .206 BA.....most homers in one season 11 for the Padres in 1970....finished baseball playing with two years on the shores of Hawaii in AAA.  

Sunday, January 2, 2022

#74 Cecil Upshaw

The first ten years of the Atlanta Braves were difficult to gage....big swings in wins and losses plus a career altering injury....but the good years are highly correlated with the fortunes of this solid submarining fireman who improved each year from his debut in was family affair, teammate George Stone was a cousin.....a driving force in the 1969 Braves edging out the Giants for a berth in the first NLCS saving 27 games....Then it the very start of the 1970, Cecil had a freak index finger injury on a basketball hoop....unnecessarily Upshaw was demonstrating roundball skills that made him a two sport star.....result severe thumb damage; amputation was considered and the season was lost....Infused with determination came back for 1971....a 17 save effort allowed the Atlanta Tribe to inch above .500....1972 was more difficult, as the Braves’ player union representative, he was focused negotiations in the early season strike....wins, saves, ERA regressed....1973 started even worse and was ushered out of Atlanta for Houston (being traded was the usual fate of many early 1970’s player representatives) culminating his worst seasons a pro.....1974 found Cecil plying his trade on the shores of Lake Erie for the tribe and in Yankee pinstripes....result was an odd juxtaposition, lowered ERA by nearly 2 runs a game but only had one win next to six loses....after four cities in two years, settles into the Southside of Chicago for his last season in a diminished role, mostly mop up for lost games....released before 1976 season.....  While he found success in the plastics industry post baseball, Upshaw was pivotal in extending pension benefits for players....also pressed for changes in scoring of saves helping his own cause....Passed away at young age of 52.