Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Kitten; More than a One Trick Pony

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TRIVIA QUESTION:  Harvey Haddix actually had two World Series rings. With what team did he get his second?
 
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: In 1964 when the Cubs Larry Jackson finished second in the Cy Young Award voting with 24 wins on the year, the man who beat him out was Dean Chance of the Angels. At the time the award was given to the best pitcher in baseball, not in each league. Sandy Koufax finished third behind Jackson. 


Few fans of the sport would ever dispute Harvey Haddix' name is synonymous with hard luck in giving probably the greatest effort ever made by a pitcher. He tossed a perfect game into the 12th inning and eventually lost as the Braves beat the Pirates 1-0, in 1959. However, Haddix was no one-trick pony. In his last appearance in 1964 as an outstanding relief pitcher, Haddix showed off some old brilliance.
Haddix was long past his prime, or most baseball historians would have you believe, when he was pitching for the Orioles at age 38. In actuality it was his best year ever as a reliever. A few years past his starter status (he had a 20 win season in the 1950's), he had bounced around to a number of teams. Most folks remember him as a Pirate (and a member of the 1960 World Series Championship team) but he'd also played for the Cardinals, the Reds, the Phillies and his only AL team; the Orioles. 

On October 2nd with the O's firmly entrenched in third place in the AL, 37 year old Robin Roberts took the mound against the Tigers Joe Sparma and 4,359 fans at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Tigers were in fourth, 10 games behind Baltimore. Both teams were playing out the string on the next to the last day of the season. No one could blame them if they were thinking of the off season and where they were going to be next, let alone the fall and winter months of vacation.

This was 1964 though and a time we like to think players had more pride than that. Harvey Haddix certainly did. With the Orioles leading 9-4 manager Hank Bauer had seen enough of his aging starter. Roberts had given up four earned runs in five innings and despite Roberts coming off a three-hit shutout against Cleveland just days before, Haddix was called in. Haddix had pitched well two days previous, going two scoreless innings against Washington.

To say Harvey Haddix flashed "days of old" would be an understatement.  He opened the sixth inning by striking out Gates Brown looking at a called third strike. He put down the side in order. He opened the seventh by striking out both Bill Freehan and Dick McAuliffe also looking at called third strikes. A single by Al Kaline was followed by a ground out for Willie Horton to end the inning.

The O's picked up a run in the bottom of the inning to make it 10-4 and Haddix was settled in. He mowed the Tigers down in order in the eighth getting the dangerous Jim Northrup to look at a third strike. In the ninth, after a two out single to Freehan, McAuliffe came to the plate again. Again he couldn't do anything with the 38 year old pitchers tosses. Handcuffed again, he looked at number three and Haddix walked off with an amazing four inning save, where he struck out five, didn't walk a batter and gave up but two hits.

The beautiful thing about this outing was he had five strikeouts against five tough hitters and each one was bedazzled, striking out looking. Nary a swing put them down. This was the mastery of the little lefty they called "The Kitten." 

Haddix finished the season with 90 strike outs in 89 innings over 49 games. A record of 5-5 with nine saves, he registered a 2.31 ERA. The last save of the season handed Roberts his 13th win of the year.  
Haddix pitched one more season and was limited to 33 innings after injuring his arm, but still managed to run his record to 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA. He finished with 136-113 record, and was 2-0 against the Yankees in the 1960 Series. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 when Bill Mazeroski homered to win it. Haddix died in 1994.

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. 

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!!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Larry Jackson's Amazing 1960 Cardinals Streak

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TRIVIA QUESTION:  in 1964 when Larry Jackson finished second in the Cy Young Voting playing for the Cubs, who finished first?
 
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Manager Gene Mauch's record in the post season was like his career managing record; below .500. He went to the post season twice with the Angel and finished 5-7. In 1982 the Angels lost in five games to the Brewers, and in 1986 they lost to the Red Sox in seven. Mauch never made it to the World Series. 
On Sunday May 15th, 1960 the Cardinals Larry Jackson went on a streak and while his St. Louis teammates would not enjoy a trip to the World Series, Jackson would make it to the All-Star Game. Jackson, in his few short years in the big leagues had become a remarkably consistent pitcher. He was on his way to his second best year in a long career.
On that Sunday in May Larry J was coming off another loss in what was a 1-5 record. The Cardinals were not a very good team. Filled with aging players who were cast offs and a few stars in waiting, St. Louis was wrapping up a series with the Cubs in Wrigley. It was Jackson versus Dick Drott.

Neither team could score a run until the fifth when Jackson himself led off the inning with a triple and Ken Boyer promptly took Drott deep to give the Cards a 2-0 lead. In the sixth the Cards loaded the bases with a pair of singles from Joe Christopher and Daryl Spencer. After Hal Smith walked, Alex Grammas hit a sac-fly to make it 3-0. Jackson again to the rescue with a single up the middle to drive home two more. Cardinals 5, Cubbies 0.
In the eighth the Cubs finally broke through when a walk to Richie Ashburn turned into a run, but that was all Chicago could manage. Boyer's second homer of the game in the ninth, his ninth of the season, finished the scoring. Cardinals 6, Cubs 1.
For Jackson's part he went the distance pitching a four-hitter, giving up five walks and striking out four. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a run scored and two RBI. He was now 2-5. 

This was just the start. Five days later he beat the Reds 6-1 in just 2:17. It was a six-hitter and he struck out seven. He also drove in a run. His next start he went the distance again, beating the Braves on a nine-hitter, 5-3. Working on just three days rest he took on the Giants and won again. Again he pitched the distance in a five inning rain shortened game. Cardinals 4, Giants 1.
On June 2nd, he beat the Giants again with a little help from Lindy McDaniel who pitched the ninth in a 4-3 win. Four days later he put down Philadelphia. In the nine innings complete game Jackson gave up seven hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out nine. On June 10th he struggled but pitched five, and well enough to beat Pittsburgh with help from McDaniel again and Bob Duliba, 9-6. A couple of homers to Don Hoak and Smokey Burgess didn't help.

On the 14th he beat Cincinnati again, 6-3. He tossed a five-hitter and gave up an unearned run. However, on June 18th although he pitched well going six and allowing only six hits and two runs, his teammates could not muster a single run against Lou Burdette and the Braves. Jackson's streak came to an end at eight wins in a row. His next start saw the same result as the Cards failed to score again.  
The interesting thing about his first loss after eight wins was, it was only the second time in nine starts Jackson himself failed to hit safely.  During the eight game winning streak he went 8-for-26 with four runs scored, and he drove in three. For the season he hit .211 with 20 hits. It was the only time in his career he batted over .200. 
As a pitcher he finished 18-13 with a league leading 38 games started and also led the NL in innings pitched with 282, as well as 277 hits allowed. He only gave up 22 homers. In 1964 he went on to win 24 games for the Cubs, finishing second in the Cy Young voting. He lost 21 the following year.  Overall Larry Jackson made the All-Star team four times, and finished with 194 wins and 183 losses, just six wins away from the magical 200 career win record.

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. 

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, July 4, 2018

The Best of the Fourth

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TRIVIA QUESTION:  What was Gene Mauch's record in the post season?
 
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: In 1969 the Atlanta Braves lost in the playoffs to the eventual World Series winners; The Amazin' New York Mets.  

July 4th, 1964 could not have been more memorable for the Philadelphia Phillies. They were sailing along with a half game lead atop the National League standings and their best pitcher was on the mound. To say Jim Bunning was brilliant is an understatement. Bunning may have been at his best on holidays, as just a few days earlier he tossed a perfect game on Father's Day against the Mets. It was a marvelous day, and on this holiday it was hard to imagine for Phillie fans the things which were to come.


The game started evenly enough against the second place Giants. In the top of the first at San Francisco, rookie Richie Allen doubled to score Johnny Callison from first after the strong armed Phillie's outfielder managed a two out walk. The Phils were off and running against Jack Sanford, or so they thought.  

In the bottom of the first, Giant third sacker, Jim Ray Hart singled to left. Batting second in the order was the aging former Dodger and Met, Duke Snider. Snider took Bunning deep to right field for his fourth homer of the year and no. 407 in his career. It would be his last home run in the big leagues. With Hart scoring ahead of him, the Giants now led 2-1.

And that was all the scoring until the Phils pushed over a run in the sixth when, with Billy Pierce on in relief of Sanford, Allen drew a two out walk. Wes Covington singled to right. Snider came up with the ball and with Allen running on contact, the "Duke" attempted to throw him out. The throw was wild and Allen came around to score the tying run on Snider's error. Clay Dalrymple followed with a single which likely would have plated Allen, so the run was earned. Future Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry came in to relieve Pierce.

Bunning was masterful but Perry matched him pitch-for-pitch. Not a man reached base until the 10th inning when Bunning himself singled up the middle with one out. Perry got Tony Gonzalez to bounce into a double play to end the threat. 

In the bottom of the 10th the Giants threatened. With two out Jose Pagan singled but didn't get anywhere before Bunning retired the side. In the 11th the tide turned.

Leading off the 11th, little known John Herrnstein, having his best season and who started at first base before moving to left field later in the game, opened it up with a single to right. After Callison popped out, Allen again did the damage. Rookie of the Year for 1964, the slugging third baseman drilled a Perry pitch deep to right-center field for a triple scoring Herrnstein with the go-ahead run. Wes Covington put the game out of reach by blasting his 8th homer of the year deep to right field as the next batter up. The Phillies led 5-2 and the game was over. It left manager Gene Mauch with a big smile on his face.
Jack Baldschun took over for Bunning in the bottom of the inning and the Giants went down in order. He struck out Hart and Snider and got Willie Mays to fly out to center. Bunning was incredible as he was all year. He was 9-2 with the win, giving up only six hits, walking one and striking out nine. Just over 30,000 people saw the Giants fall in Candlestick that day. The win moved Philadelphia to 1.5 games up over the Giants in the NL. The Cardinals were still 10 games back and were yet to make their move.

The Phils would beat the Giants the following day and the Reds the day after that. Then they fell into a short tailspin losing six of their next seven. However, it was nothing like what would happen just a few short months later.

On September 21st, leading the NL by 6.5 games with only 12 left in the season, they lost the first of three to Cincinnati followed by nine straight losses. On the 27th they fell to the Braves 14-8 and dropped out of first place for good. Losing the next three to the Cardinals in St. Louis assured one of the greatest collapses in MLB History. They won the final two games, but by then the Cards had clinched and the Phillie slide was in the books. 

Snider hung them up at the end of the season, Allen would go on to a strong career finishing his 15 years with a .292 lifetime average, 351 homrs and twice led the AL in homers with the White Sox. Bunning, the future US Senator from Kentucky, went to the Hall of Fame with a 224-184 record, a lifetime 3.27 ERA and having pitched no-hitters in both leagues. Amazingly the great pitcher only won 20 games once (20 wins in 1957) but came close several times, winning 19 in four different seasons, including 19-8 in 1964 including the Perfecto. He never pitched in the post season. 

Manager Mauch won 92 games that season and finished in second place. In 26 seasons he won 1902 games but lost 2037, having never won a World Series. He deserved better, but he will always be remembered for the Phillies collapse of 1964.

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. 

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!!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Braves Make a Run


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TRIVIA QUESTION:  Who did the Atlanta Braves lose to in the National League Playoffs in 1969?
 
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: 
When Early Wynn retired as a member of the Chicago White Sox in 1964, Hoyt Wilhelm became the oldest White Sox player at age 41. Wilhelm joined the Sox in 1963.  

 If you can say anything about the Braves of the 1960's, it was the team was consistent. Only once from 1960-1968 did they fail to win 80-plus games, and that year (1967) they won 77. And they were almost always floating around the middle of the pack. From 1962 to 1968 they never finished higher than fifth. Then with the arrival of Divisional Play in 1969 they catapulted to the top and took the National League West (despite being in Atlanta), before losing in the divisional round. They jumped from 81-81 to win 93 games in 1969. It didn't last long. The decade of the 70's saw the Braves return to mediocrity finishing over .500 only twice and mostly mired in bottom half of the division.  
Why then did all of a sudden this team emerge to become something different? A key move may have been the arrival of Orlando Cepeda. Just two  years removed from his MVP season with the Cardinals, the former Giant slugger was traded to the Braves for future Hall of Famer, Joe Torre. Torre, with the Braves from the start, was a catcher with diminishing skills behind the plate which did impact his skills alongside the plate. 

The Braves needed a first baseman to replace Deron Johnson and Cepeda was available. It was a great trade for both teams. Torre went on to become a batting champion with the Cards and Cepeda slugged 22 homers in the Braves run to the Division title. Teaming with Henry Aaron who blasted 44 homers again and Rico Carty's .342 season, Atlanta would put some huge games together. Carty made the All-Star team despite not being on the ballot. Gillette, the sponsor, left him off and in a Gillette commercial a spokesman said "Congratulations Rico on getting all those write in votes," to which Carty responded "Thank you Gillette for making it all necessary."
Lum Harris managed a strong bench and worked his magic. He maneuvered the likes of Tony Gonzalez (.294), Bob Tillman (12 homers) and Tito Francona (.295), who along with starters Sonny Jackson, Felix Milan, Clete Boyer and Felipe Alou, gave the Braves a formidable offense. 

The club was third in the league in homers, hits and batting average while finishing fifth in runs scored. Of course weakened pitching due to expansion helped those numbers along but then, all the non-expansion teams had the same advantage. Perhaps one of the keys to the Braves success at the plate was their lack of strike outs. Not a man on the club struck out 100 times. Boyer led them with 87 in 144 games. Five of the starters K'd less than 40 times and Aaron only whiffed 47 times. The teams 665 K's was the lowest in the league. 

When it came to pitching, HOF knuckle-baller Phil Niekro spent the first of three seasons with knuckle-baller Hoyt Wilhelm, and he won 23 games with a 2.56 ERA. He completed 21 of his 35 starts. He even Saved one game. He tossed four Shutouts and "Finished" four games which means he relieved five times that season. 

Ron Reed won 18, Pat Jarvis and George Stone picked up 13 wins each. Aging Milt Pappas contributed six more and the emergence of Cecil Upshaw was key. The Braves' closer saved 27 games while pitching in 62 and posting a 2.91 ERA in 105 relief innings. Paul Doyle pitched in nearly 40 games with a 2.08 ERA and while Wilhelm at 46 was limited, he did contribute. In 12 innings his ERA was 0.73.

It was also a year future stars were getting their starts. A 20 year old Dusty Baker, 23 year old Ralph Garr and 22 year old Darrell Evans were playing a role in the teams success as well. 

You could say they owed their success to a hot start and a lack of a losing streak. They won 9 of their first 11 and by May 22nd, they were 25-11. At the All Star Break they were 56-42 but only up by a game. Their longest losing streak was five games and they clinched it by winning 10 straight before losing the last game of the regular season. By then it did not matter, they won the West by going 20-6 in September.

Another key was they were 40-14 against three teams in their division, Houston, Cincinnati and San Diego while they were even with both the Dodgers and Giants at 9-9.  They only teams they played under .500 were the Cubs and the Mets. It was an amazingly consistent year for the Atlanta Braves as they were never under .500 during the season.

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. It has been appreciated. 

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.