Wednesday, February 13, 2019

1968 Dodgers - Who Were They?

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TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the player who drove in the run which ended Don Drysdale's scoreless inning streak?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Minnie Minoso finished in the Top Four in MVP Voting four times in his career; 1951, 1952, 1954 and 1960. He garnered MVP votes an additional four seasons.

If there was ever a team of cast offs, has beens and never-were-to-be's, it was the 1968 Dodgers. Just two years earlier they were in the World Series. Sandy Koufax had retired, Maury Wills was gone, Jim Gilliam had said goodbye and the lone holdover from the Brooklyn club which moved to L-A was Don Drysdale. Big D was the lone bright spot in what was a dismal year, which if it had not been for his 58 1/3 controversial scoreless innings streak, the 1968 team would have been a forgotten cast of characters.
A look at the players who were basically closing out their careers or were within a wisp of it, players who had been stars or close to it, were as follows; Ken Boyer, Rocky Colavito, Zoilo Versalles, Tom Haller, Len Gabrielson, Ted Savage, Mudcat Grant, Hank Aquirre and Phil Regan. 
Players who would make contributions to the club but who really were either journeymen were; Paul Popovich, Willie Crawford, Jim Fairey, Luis Alcaraz, Bill Sudakis, Bart Shirley, Jim Campanis, Cleo James, John Purdin and Alan Foster.

In the group however, were several players who would make their mark in the few following years. They included Bob Bailey, Al Ferrara, Mike Kekich and Jack Billingham.
The guys known as "Dodgers" who were just hanging on at the time; hold overs from the World Series year of 1966; Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Jim Lefebvre, Jeff Torborg, Wes Parker, Claude Osteen, Bill Singer, Jim Brewer and Joe Moeller. Don Sutton was still with the club and would go onto a Hall of Fame career.

The Dodgers finished in seventh place, 12 games under .500. It was a season in which Fresco Thompson was promoted to General Manager during the season and died a few months later. 

The club home run leader was Gabrielson, the Giants' cast off, who smacked 10 homers. He was the only player to reach double figures. The club finished next to last in homers hit with 67! And, Mudcat Grant hit one of those. The Team BA was .230 with a lowly .289 OBP and a .319 Slugging Percentage. 

When it came to pitching four of the five starters won in double figures but only Drysdale won more than he lost, 14-12. He had to pitch eight shutouts to get to that point. Looking deeper, the pitchers did throw 20 shutouts (third best in the NL) with Singer getting six. 
The pitching staff was amazing when you take a solid look. The top four starters were all under 3.00 in the ERA department with Osteen's 3.08 being the worst. Drysdale finished at 2.15. The bullpen was solid. In a combined 336 innings, allowed only 264 hits, with 8 homers. ERA's looked like this; Brewer 2.49, Grant 2.08, Billingham 2.14, Aquirre 0.69 and Purdin 3.07. Brewer led the team in Saves with 15.

To be sure it wasn't only 1968. In 1969 the club improved in the hitting department with 30 more homers and raising the BA by 24 points. The cast of characters changed and the results were better at 87-75, moving up to 4th in the new divisional set up. Drysdale fell off to 5-4 in  his final season. 
While the club sent away veterans Colavito, Ferrara and Bailey they did bring in aging vets Jim Bunning, Manny Mota and Al McBean. The year 1969 did lay the groundwork for the future however. A solid crop of rookies arrived on the scene. Among them Steve Garvey, Ted Sizemore, Billy Grabarkawitz, Bobby Valentine, Bill Buckner and Von Joshua. Joshua would have his best years elsewhere.

As for the 1968 move on's; Ferrara would become a regular and solid player in San Diego, Kekich would perform well for the Yankees, Bailey would join the ranks of the elite sluggers in Montreal finally achieving the success expected when he signed as Pittsburgh's bonus baby and Billingham would win 142 games (he won 145 overall) in other places including two 19-win seasons with the Reds.


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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The 1960 White Sox - What Happened?

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TRIVIA QUESTION:   How many times did Minnie Minoso finish in the top FOUR in MVP Voting over his career?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:  While Phil and Joe Niekro were the winningest brothers to ever take the mound in the major leagues with 539, the Niekro family banged 25 big league homers. However, 17 of those were by Joe's son Lance, who spent four seasons with the Giants. Daddy Joe hit one in 22 years, while Uncle Phil hit seven in 24 seasons.


 Every once in a while a championship team gets better and finishes worse. This might be said of the 1960 Chicago White Sox. Statistically, the 1960 White Sox were better hitters, stole more bases and were as good on the mound than their 1959 pennant winners. But, instead of first, the club finished third, 10 games back of the Yankees and two back of Baltimore. 

It can be argued, the Sox, who spent 31 days in first place in 1960 and were in it until the closing weeks of the season, were still pretty good. Maybe it was the Yankees who just got that much better. 

You might think the "Go-Go White Sox" who ran their way into the 1959 World Series, may not have lost that speed in 1960. When you look at the numbers however, the 1960 club stole more bases 122-113, and scored more runs 741-669 than the previous year. The 1960 club had a better team batting average, .270 to .250, and hit more home runs 112-97.

Other key figures show the following. In 1959 the Sox had an on-base percentage of .327. A year later it was .345. Walks were about the same although the 1959 team had 13 more bases on balls during the season - pretty much a wash.
Key players in 1960 were Roy Sievers with 28 homers, 93 RBI and .295, and 34 year old Minnie Minoso with 20 dingers, 105 RBI while batting .311. In all five players in 1960 banged at least 10 homers and no one else had more than seven. The previous "Go-Go" season only Sherm Lollar with 22 and Al Smith with 17 had more than nine HR and no one approached 100 RBI. Lollar led the team with 84.

Pitching? There are some differences, but were they enough to make the Sox lose seven more games in 1960 than the previous year? The team ERA went from 3.29 to 3.60 which did not help. The home runs allowed were a difference of 2, the walks a difference of 8, but the key indicator, the WHiP went from 1.278 in 1959 to 1.355 in 1960. 
The starters? Early Wynn a 22 game winner in 1959 with an ERA of 3.17 dropped to 13-12 3.49. Billy Pierce was 14-7 to 14-15 with identical ERA's of 3.62. Bob Shaw dropped from 18-6 2.69 to 13-13 with a ballooned ERA of 4.06. Reliever Jerry Staley headed up the bullpen both years with amazingly close stats; 116 inning to 115 and ERA from 2.24 to 2.42. The rest of the 1959 pen was somewhat better than the 1960 club.
So where did the 1960 club go wrong? A losing streak in June didn't help. They lost 10 of 14 but even then they still managed to regain first place later in the season. 

Maybe the answer lies in the front office. The Sox were an aging team with five of the eight 1959 players in the starting line-up over 30 years old. The team, for whatever reason, chose to trade off several young future stars before the start of the 1960 season.

At the end of the 1959 season they picked up Minoso in a deal with the Indieans: with Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese and Jake Striker with the Chicago White Sox giving up future sluggers Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano. 

Then they sent a young Johnny Callison to the Phillies for Gene Freese. Days before the season began they opted to send future star catcher Earl Battey to the senators with future slugger Don Mincher and $150,000 for Roy Sievers. The other bungled trade was sending key reliever Barry Latman to the Indians for aging Herb Score. Score would go 5-10 in 1960 for Chicago.

It left Sox fans wondering for years what a line up which inlcuded Callison, Mincher, Cash, Minoso and Battey would have looked like? A year later add Pete Ward and they still had steady Nellie Fox with Tom McCraw coming on.

And on top of all that; The Yankees got better. New York went from 79 wins to 97 before losing to Pittsburgh in the World Series.
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for $15 Shipping Included 
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. It has been appreciated. 

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.