Wednesday, June 12, 2019

1968 Indians Up and Back Down



TRIVIA QUESTION: Sudden Sam McDowell finished his career in the city where he was born. Where was that city?   

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:   While the San Francisco Giants trio of Mays, McCovey and Hart amassed 302 home runs from 1965-1967, no other team in the NL came close using the same three players during those three years. The Chicago Cubs threesome of Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ernie Banks finished second with 251 while the Braves trio of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Joe Torre were third with 246.

In 1959 the Cleveland Indians looked like a team to be reckoned with. By 1960 they were the old Cleveland Indians and for the rest of the decade, save for two seasons, they were no better than a .500 club at best. They ended the decade of the 1950's with a second place finish and 89 wins only to turn the corner into the 1960's almost into oblivion.
(The Tribe of the 60's summed up, Who's on First?)
The Tribe of the 60's was an enigma. They had power and they had pitching but never at the same time, or so it seemed. When 1968 rolled around, the year of the pitcher, it seemed the Cleveland Indians might be ready for a resurgence, or were they?
They didn't hit home runs. Led by Tony Horton's 14 and Duke Sims 11, no one else on the club hit in double figures. They finished 9th of 10 teams in dingers. They didn't hit for average resting in with non pitchers at .234 which was good for 5th in the 10 team league. They did steal bases, and were no. 2 in the league in steals. Led by Jose Cardenal's 40 and Dave Nelson's 23, they were a running team. But the adage remains; "you can't steal first base."

Pitching is where this club stood out. It's not often a team has four pitchers toss 200 innings and while the Indians didn't, they did come close. Led by Sam McDowell's 269 and Luis Tiant's 258, Sonny Siebert had 206 and Stan Williams finished with 194, the starters were innings eaters. They had to be, aside from Vicente Romo and Eddie Fisher in the bullpen, they pretty much sucked. 

They finished third in team defense which was pretty special for the time. Max Alvis at third, and the dependable Horton at first anchored the infield. The rest of the team, Chico Salmon, Dave Nelson, Cardenal, Larry Brown and Sims were adequate enough. 

This team's starting pitching however, is where it was at. They didn't need a lot of defense as Sudden Sam McDowell struck out 283 and Tiant added 264 more.  McDowell was his usual wild thing (borrow that from "Major League") by putting it "just a bit outside" a lot, issuing 110 walks. 
Tiant led the staff with 21 wins (21-9), McDowell was 15-14, Siebert 12-10 and Williams 13-11.  Young Steve Hargan (25) still showed promise despite a 4.15 ERA and a record of 8-15 in 27 starts. It was backslide for him after winning 27 games in the two previous seasons combined. McDowell and Tiant completed 30 games between them. The staff finished first in the AL in ERA 2.66, shutouts 20, strikeouts and fewest hits allowed. 

Cleveland would finish with a record of 86-75 good for third place in the AL, and just one win fewer than their best of the decade in 1965. They were victim to the 1968 Tigers and finished 16.5 games back. If they could have only beaten Detroit. The club was a dismal 6-12 against the eventual AL champs. They were just as bad against the mid-league A's at 6-12 and 7-13 against the bottom dwelling Senators.

However, even with the promise of an uptick and division play in 1969, the Indians were destined to fall back again. The new 1969 season saw them fall back to 62-99 finishing last in the AL Eastern Division.
 
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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.

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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.     

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Lots of Hart

TRIVIA QUESTION: Jim Hart, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey were the most feared middle three of the NL line-ups during the stretch of 1965-1967, with a total of 302 homers. Which team finished second behind the Giants using the same three players in all three years?   

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:   While the 1962 Detroit Tigers led the American League in home runs with 209, they just barely outpaced the San Francisco Giants who led the NL with 204.

One of the more feared hitters in the middle 1960's, Jim Ray Hart, was the third cog in the San Francisco Giants wheel behind Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. He was the model of consistency for four years, derailed only by his defensive play which eventually moved him off the position where he nearly became rookie of the year; Third Base.
 When Hart arrived on the scene in 1964, so did Dick Allen. Allen also played third base. Hart tied Rico Carty for second place behind Allen who was also know for his defensive lapses. In fact, if truth be told, all three of these players could hit, none could field above average at best.
Hart's consistency looked like this from 1964-1967:

Games played 153, 160, 156, 158
ABats 625, 649, 636, 665,
HR 31, 23, 33, 29
RBI 81, 96, 93, 99
BA .286, 299, .285, 289

His other stats for those years, Hits, Runs, OPS, OBP, Slugging, nearly everything was within a few points of exactness.

However, in one month in particular he was amazing. In July, 1967 his numbers read: .355, 13 HR, 30 RBI. The Giants were only 14-15 in July, however.

On July 7th he single handedly beat the Dodgers and Bill Singer with a two-run homer, 2-1. The next day, against the hated Dodgers, Hart banged two homers and drove in five runs in an 8-4 win. One of the blasts came off Don Drysdale. Five days later he was a one-man wrecking crew blasting two more homers and driving in three in a 5-4 win over the Astros. The following day he belted another.

A few days later in a 3-2 loss to the Cubs he hit no. 18 on the season. Number 19 came against Steve Blass of the Pirates in a loss. On the 22nd he cracked home run no. 20 on the year as they lost to the Cubs. Then he hit two off Fergie Jenkins in a 5-2 win, Hart driving in three of the five, with nos. 21 & 22. No. 23 was offered up by Joe Niekro, no. 24 was Jack Fisher's turn as Hart drove in three runs in a 5-4 Giants win over the Mets. And that was it. Hart garnered only 4 more hits the rest of the month.
Hart was far from adequate at third base and starting in 1968 began stints in the outfield. Jim Davenport was a much better defender and a key cog in the Giants arsenal as well.

Hart's career numbers after the 1968 season never again achieved what he did over the four year mid-60's span. His MLB career ended in the mid 1970's after a closing session with the Yankees, followed by a brief showing in the Mexican League.

After baseball he worked at Safeway Markets as a ware houseman in northern California, retired in 2006 and passed away in 2016. He compiled 170 homers and a lifetime .278 BA. He also had 134 errors at third base in 13 seasons for a .929 fielding average. He was a four time all-star.  

                                                               "NEW SPECIAL OFFER"
Need to get out of a baseball hitting slump, or a golf swing slump? Order my new book "Beating the Slump; An athlete's guide to a better career." See it on Amazon for only $5.99. That is for the Paperback, you can also order Kindle on that link. You can also order paperback copies directly from me via the email below for my other books.


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 
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.