Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Mid May 50 Years Ago

TRIVIA QUESTION: While it's still rare for double headers in MLB, there were three Triple Headers in MLB history. Who played in the first one? Hint: it was1890.   

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:   Six active players died during the 1960's. In addition to the players named in last week's column, the others were Nestor Chavez (plane crash), Ken Hubbs (plane crash) and the Angel's Dick Wantz (inoperable brain tumor).

May 18th, 1969 marked a very unusual day in the annals of baseball in the 1960s. First, it was a day which had something we don't see anymore in MLB and we may never see again; the Double Header. Even more so, two Double Headers in one day.

It was a Sunday which is when most double dips were played. Teams got in those two games before one of them had to leave town. Monday was usually a travel day so playing two was not a real drawback.
The interesting thing about these two twin bills however, was that the winning teams scored a combined total of 10 runs! Four games, 10 runs total for the winners; The Yankees and the Senators. The Senators took two from the White Sox by the same scores of 3-2. New York swept the California Angels 3-1 and 1-0. It was all about Joe Pepitone that day. None of the four teams involved at the time were over .500 with the White Sox at the 50-50 mark.

In the first game, the Angels' Andy Messersmith was off to one of the worst starts of his career. The loss dropped him to 0-3 and the only runs the New Yorkers got was a three run blast in the 7th by Pepitone. It backed the eight-hit pitching of Mel Stottlemyre who went the distance to run his record to 6-3. 

In the night cap hard luck George Brunet failed to yield a run in six innings and gave way to Hoyt Wilhelm. Hurling for the Yankees was Bill Burbach who gave up only two hits in six innings before calling it a night. Steve Hamilton took over. With no score going into the bottom of the ninth, Wilhelm faced lead off hitter Pepitone, who promptly blasted his 11th homer of the young season and second of the day. And 18,000 people, or what was left of them, went home happy from Yankee Stadium.
New York swept the two games with all four runs driven in by two swings from Pepitone. Pepitone would end the season with 27 homers and 70 RBI in his final year with New York. He was sent to Houston for the 1970 season.

In the other Double Header,  an error by normally sure handed shortstop Luis Aparicio spoiled a magnificent pitching performance by Joel Horlen. With score tied at two, the Senators Hank Allen opened the 10th with a grounder which Aparicio muffed. Del Unser sacrificed him to second, an infield hit by Ed Stroud put runners at the corners before Mike Epstien drove home the winning run with a single to right. Horlen went nine innings plus giving up seven hits and took the loss.
In the nightcap it was all over pretty early. With the score tied 1-1 in the third, the Senators Allen led off with a walk. Gary Peters gave up a single to Frank Howard and after striking out Ken McMullen, Brent Alyea singled to drive in Allen. Tim Cullen singled to load the bases and then Peters did what pitchers hate; he walked the light hitting Unser to score Howard with the go ahead run. It proved to be the winning run as the Sens took the second game by the same score as the first, 3-2. Most of the 6274 fans at Comiskey Park that day, went home sad.

Unser, a career .258 hitter was the key to the twin bill wins. It was only his second season in the bigs and he finished a respectable .286. The speedy outfielder led the AL in triples with eight. 

 

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Death on the Diamond - Houston

TRIVIA QUESTION: Aside from the players named in this column, three other players died while active players in the 1960's. Who were they? 

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:  Pitcher Jack Fisher, who lost 24 games for the Mets in 1965 and who had only one winning season in the big leagues (1960 when he was 12-11) gave up two very significant home runs in his career. He gave up a dinger every 10 innings in his career and in 400 games allowed 193 of them. On September 28, 1960 in the bottom of the 8th, he gave up a home to Ted Williams. It was Teddy Baseball's last at bat ever. In traditional fashion, Fisher took the loss. Almost a year to the day later (Sept. 26), Fisher faced Roger Maris. In the third he gave up a homer to Maris, no. 60 which tied Babe Ruth for the most homers in a season and to then the only other player to reach 60 in a season .

Sad as it seems, the Houston Colt .45's seemed to be snake bit when it came to players who took to the field for the club in the 1960's and died while still active. Walt Bond, Jim Umbricht and Jay Dahl all left the diamond too soon, and all were active at the time of their death.
Bond was just 29 and had been released by Houston. He died as a Minnesota Twin from Leukemia, Umbricht was still pitching for the Astro's when cancer took his life at 33, while the 19 year old Dahl was killed in a car crash, trying to return to the big leagues with Houston.

Bond's career showed signs of brilliance but the blood disease took its toll. A rookie for the Cleveland Indians in 1960 his debut was less than spectacular. He batted .221 in 40 games, was used much less the following season but in 1962 was called up at the tail end of the year. He hit six home runs in just 54 AB and batted .380. 

1963 saw him in the US Army where he was diagnosed with the disease. His contract was sold to the Colt .45's as it seemed the disease was actually in remission. It was in 1964 he had his best season. His 20 homers and .254 BA with 85 RBI seemed to set him on his way. The following year his average improved to .263 but his power fell off to just seven dingers. It prompted teammates to wonder if the disease was back. 

He continued to slump in 1966 and was sent to the minors where he starred again. Aware of his ailment the Astros and Twins made a deal. His contract was sold to Minnesota and after only 10 games and a .310 BA he was released. He caught on with a minor league club but soon was in the hospital again and he died in September in Houston.

Umbricht came to the Pirates in 1959 and pitched only 50 non-de script innings before being selected by Houston in the 1961 expansion draft with the 35th pick. He had his best season (1962) right off the bat as a reliever with a 4-0 record and 2.01 ERA in 34 games. He Saved two.  
(Umbricht's 1964 Topps card was updated to mention his death.)
In the off season he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in his right leg. His comeback in 1963 after surgery was the stuff dreams were made of. At age 32, often pitching in excruciating pain,  he was 4-3 in 76 innings with a 2.61 ERA. His health went down hill soon and he died in a Houston hospital in April, 1964. His ashes were spread over the construction site of the Houston Astrodome. His number 32 was retired by the club and the team wore black armbands during the 1964 season.
Dahl's case was even more tragic if that can be said of anyone's death. He was just 19. Drafted right out of high school, Dahl dominated in a quick minor league stint with a 5-1 record. His only loss was a one-hitter. Perhaps for publicity and to draw in the fans, perhaps because he was such an outstanding prospect, the Colt .45's brought up the 17 year old right away and gave him his first and only big league start. It was against the Mets on September 27, 1963. 
Dahl was part of an all-rookie line up for Houston that night. It was the first time, after the very first season of major league baseball, this was done. The starting line-up consisted of Sonny Jackson, Joe Morgan, Jim Wynn, Rusty Staub, Aaron Pointer, Brock Davis, Glenn Vaughan, Jerry Grote and Dahl. Vaughan by the way was the only player in the starting line-up aside from Dahl, who only played this one major league season, playing in just eight other games.

The young pitcher never made it out of the third inning. After a scoreless first, he gave up three runs in the second and four more in the third before being removed with two out. In all, his entire major league career was that game in which he went 2.2 innings, gave up seven runs (five earned), seven hits and a wild pitch. 

Back problems caused him to sit out the 1964 season but he was back pitching for Salisbury in 1965. He was 5-0 and seemingly back on his way to the big leagues. He had just pitched his team into first place. Later that night, June 20, 1965 he was celebrating with two friends after seeing a movie. Teammate Gary Allen Marshall was driving his GTO with Dahl and a 20-year old female companion apparently at a high rate of speed. The car hit some sand on the roadway and skidded out of control, hitting a tree.

Dahl and the woman were both killed, Marshall survived but was blinded. He would go into the ministry later in his life and died at age 62. In his only minor league season he was 3-4 in 52 innings.


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Use PayPal to brillpro@prodigy.net or contact us at the same email for other payment. 


Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column.

Also: Please check out our new Western Short Film. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/iron-gun-western-feature-film/#/

 
Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues and leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you have one. Thank YOU VERY MUCH!! Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at www.bobbrillbooks.com, or on Amazon.      

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Spahn's 23 Wins at Age 42

TRIVIA QUESTION: Based on last week's column, in addition to being a 20 game loser, Jack Fisher gave up two very significant home runs in his career. Which were they?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: While Tom Seaver was the first New York Met to ever win 20 games, it was left up to teammate Jerry Koosman to become the second Met to reach the 20 win milestone, going 21-10 in 1976. Before you jump on the bandstand and call for my head, yes Tom "Terrific" did win 20 or more four times before Koosman did it once.

By the time 1960 rolled around, Warren Spahn had already won 20 or more games in a season nine times. He was 39 years old when the 1960 season began and no one could have foreseen the Braves hurler would add three more 20 win seasons to his total. No one in their right mind would expect him to match his single season record of 23 wins at the age of 42, in 1963.
The '63 season was a rather strange one for the Milwaukee Braves. The starting pitching was not bad but not spectacular, aside from Spahn. Spahn completed 22 of his 33 starts for 259 innings on his way to a 23-7 record. Overworked Denny Lemaster registered a 3.04 ERA but pitched 31 of his 46 games as a starter. His 11-14 record showed his overwork. The bullpen was a mess. 
   (Spahn's 300th win)
On the offensive side of the ledger, the usual suspects performed as usual. Hank Aaron had 44 homers again to match his uniform number, Eddie Mathews hit 23 and drew nearly as many walks (124) as hits (144).

After Aaron's .319, Joe Torre clocked in at .293 and Lee Maye hit .271, but the rest of the squad was mainly under .250.  No one on the bench batted better than .236 and most were not good defenders.

So how in the world did the ace of the staff, 42-year old Warren Spahn win 23 of his teams 84 wins. The Braves finished 84-78 in sixth place.
The Braves could score runs in bunches and while there were a couple close games early on, Spahn was 4-1 by the end of April. Included was a 4-hit shutout of the Phillies. In May he was 3-2. June saw him pick up a 4-0 record with a pair of three-hit shutouts. Again he blanked the Phillies and then shutout the Dodgers, besting Don Drysdale 1-0.

July was a little sloppy for Milwaukee but the ace still managed a 2-2 record with another shutout, this time against the Astros. He was unstoppable in August taking it to a 5-0 record. September was magnificent with a 5-2 record. There was a 3-hitter to shutout the Cubs and then on the final day of the season, with nothing hanging in the balance, he bested the Cubs and Bob Buhl just eight days after blanking the Cubs and Larry Jackson. This time it was a three hitter 2-0 in 1:38. 

He was pitching like he was double parked and ready to head on home. He did in grand fashion. Two years later he retired, having won only 13 more games, the final season with the Mets and Giants. He was 44 years old, and finished with 363-245 record. His 3.09 ERA was strong and his 363 wins is good enough for 6th all time, and of course Cooperstown.


                                                            "SPECIAL OFFER"

You can get a signed paper back copy of the above book
"Tales of My Baseball Youth - a child of the sixties"
for $15 Shipping Included 
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Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column.

Also: Please check out our new Western Short Film. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/iron-gun-western-feature-film/#/

 
Please share this blog with your friends and colleagues and leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you have one. Thank YOU VERY MUCH!! Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at www.bobbrillbooks.com, or on Amazon.