Followers

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Braves Make a Run


www.hugginsandscott.com

www.bobbrillbooks.com


We wish to welcome our new sponsor; Huggins and Scott Auctions, one of the premier sports trading card and memorabilia auctions house in the U-S.

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.
 
 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Ageless White Sox





We wish to welcome our new sponsor; Huggins and Scott Auctions, one of the premier sports trading card and memorabilia auctions house in the U-S.

TRIVIA QUESTION:  When Early Wynn retired, who became the oldest Chicago White Sox player in 1964?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: 
While his managing career covered five different franchises, Casey Stengel also played for five different franchises. He broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1912, moved to Pittsburgh in 1918, then went to Philadelphia to play for the Phillies in 1920. A year later he was playing for the Giants and finished as a player in 1924 and 1925 with the Boston Braves.

 The 1959 Chicago Sox won the American League pennant. When the decade of the 60's began, they still won more than they lost but they began a downward spiral and finished third in the AL despite drawing the most fans; 1.6 million. With basically the same team they finished in fourth the following season and saw attendance drop off as well. What Sox fans were sensing was true; the team was getting old and not just "old," but really old.

The average age of the 1960 White Sox player was 30.8 which was phenomenal by modern day standards. What's even more shocking was the fact the average age of the pitching staff was over 32 years old!  Ten of the 17 pitchers Chicago employed in 1960 were older than 30. The starting staff was led by 40 year old Early Wynn and 33 year old Billy Pierce. Gerry Staley had a good year winning 13 with an ERA of 2.42 but was 39 and Turk Lown was 36. 


Among the hitters, six of the top nine players were over 30 with the youngest over 30 players being Al Smith and Nellie Fox, who were both 32. Minnie Minoso was 34, Sherm Lollar and Ted Kluszewski were both 35.  Four bench players were past 30 with Jim Rivera leading the elder statesmen at 38. The youngest player on the team was 22 year old Cam Cameron. Lefty Gary Peters, a future star, was still far from making the grade at 23. 

Even with those baseball seniors the club was still competitive but it wasn't getting much younger. By the end of 1961 the average age dropped from 30.8 to 30.3 and the pitching staff was still over 30. Wynn 41, and Staley now 40 were still around but the club added 35 year old Hal McLish to the starting rotation coming over from the Reds. 
By the time 1962 rolled around it was evident the White Sox were in a youth movement. The average age dropped to 29.1. It was the first time since 1958 it was under 30. Staley was gone but Wynn was around at 42 and would pitch another season before retiring at 43 with 300 wins in his career.  The following season the age dropped to 27 and the Sox were back in business, finishing second with 94 wins.

Rarely does a team get to the point where the club passes the age of 30 and even more rare it stays there for years. There were only eight teams competing for players when the decade turned into the turbulent "60's and it seemed somewhat easier for older, more experienced players to hang around. 
 
It is hard to imagine in today's world a pitching staff more than 32 years old. In 2017 the Sox average age was 26 and the pitching staff was just over 24. Much of the credit must go to there being quite a difference in the Little League and youth baseball systems, with huge development in the college ranks today versus nearly 60 years ago. 

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, June 13, 2018

The Mighty Casey Bows Out

www.hugginsandscott.comwww.bobbrillbooks.com

We wish to welcome our new sponsor; Huggins and Scott Auctions, one of the premier sports trading card and memorabilia auctions house in the U-S.

TRIVIA QUESTION:  How many teams did Casey Stengel play for?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:
Pitcher Mike McCormick hit seven home runs during his major league career, including two in 1966 when playing for the Washington Senators. His average was just .156 for a career.

 Saturday July 24, 1965 was a the start of a rather strange weekend in the world. For the first time American pilots fought off Surface to Air Missiles in Viet Nam, an Archbishop was named president of Turkey and Sunday Bob Dylan would shock the music world by going "electric" at the Newport Folk Festival. It was also when Casey Stengel managed his last game. He broke a hip, which basically ended the 74 year old manager's life in baseball.

In New York it was the end of an era, sadly for baseball fans all over. It was The Old Professor's last time as manager of the Mets. He gave way to his hand picked replacement; Wes Westrum. The Mighty Casey had ushered out some of the greatest teams of all time in the 1950's and 1960 Yankees, crossed town and ushered in the worst team in baseball history, the hapless New York Mets.

For Stengel it was another year of Mets frustration. From July 7th to July 20th, the Mets lost 10 straight games. They were 29-63 and mired in their traditional last place in the National League. Then something happened. They faced Pittsburgh and Al Jackson outdueled Don Cardwell pitching a two-hit shutout to beat the Bucs 1-0. The following day they beat the Phillies 3-2 with Jack Fischer going the distance, winning in 10 innings when John Stephenson singled to drive home Ed Kranepool with the game winner.

Could the Amazin's be turning it around? Nope. Jim Bunning two hit them and Casey was forced to retire a month earlier than planned due to the hip. Under Westrum's guidance the Mets responded with an 8-1 win over Philadelphia but the euphoria was short lived. The Mets lost the next four and 16 of 18 (including the teams longest losing streak of 11 in a row that season) on their way to a 51-111 finish. Again mired in last place. 

Over 25 years as a manager, Stengel won 1905 games and lost 1842, including 404 with the Mets. He won 10 pennants and seven World Series. Aside from the Yankees and the Mets he managed the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Boston Bees and the Boston Braves. He broke into the big leagues in 1912 as an outfielder with the Dodgers and batted .316, would bat .368 in 1922 for the Giants and finished his career with a respectable lifetime BA of .284. He was a player for 14 seasons. 

Stengel, the Hall of Famer, died in 1975 at age 85. He will forever be remembered as the Pride of New York, whether he argued with an umpire or sat frustrated in the dugout, losing 120 games with the 1962 Mets or for "Stengelese." Say WHAT?! 


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.
 

 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mr. 500 - He Pitched for the Giants

www.hugginsandscott.com

We wish to welcome our new sponsor; Huggins and Scott Auctions, one of the premier sports trading card and memorabilia auctions house in the U-S.

TRIVIA QUESTION:  How many home runs did Mike McCormick hit in his major league career?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:
The four pinch-hitters who we asked about in last week's column all had one thing in commong. Jerry Lynch, Manny Mota, Vic Davalillo and Smokey Burgess all played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It could added each one of them was acquired from another team as well. Congratulations to reader Dan Taguchi for being the first one to come up with the correct answers; kudo's.

 It's not rare for a player to start with one team, move to another and then come back and retire from his original squad. It is rare for a player to have three different stints with the team which originally signed him. Such is the case of Giants pitcher Mike McCormick. As it turns out after a good start, his second time with the Giants was his best.

After arriving with the New York Giants as a 17 year old $20,000 Bonus Baby in 1956 fresh out of high school, he moved into the 1960's having already won 26 games. He was on his way to becoming a legitimate big league starter. In 1960 he completed 15 of his 34 starts for the "then" San Francisco Giants and led the league with a 2.70 ERA, adding a 15-12 record. He followed that up in 1961 by facing the same number of batters, and still averaging 250 innings despite seeing his record drop to 13-16 and his ERA rise to 3.20. Still, all in all, very respectable numbers.  
For those two seasons his consistency was remarkable. The only major difference was he allowed 15 homers in 1960 and a league leading 33 the following year! No wonder his numbers changed when it came to wins and ERA. 1962 was a disaster however. Starting 28 games he dropped to 5-5 and pitched only 98 innings wherein he gave up a whopping 18 homers. His ERA ballooned to 5.38. 

The Giants had enough. That off season they shipped him off to the American League in a major trade. On December 15, 1962: they sent him along with Stu Miller and John Orsino to the Baltimore Orioles for Jimmie Coker, Jack Fisher and Billy Hoeft

He didn't fare much better. After two lackluster seasons he was sent to Washington in a minor league deal where he seemed to regain some of his old stuff. After the 1966 season with the Senators in need of outfield help and the Giants in need of a starting pitcher, San Francisco reacquired McCormick for Cap Petersen and Bob Priddy. This time the Giants trade paid big dividends.

McCormick responded with a career year. He notched 22 wins to lead the NL, against 10 losses, with a 2.85 ERA on his way to becoming the first Giant to ever win the NL Cy Young Award. He completed 14 of 35 starts, pitched five shutouts and beat every team in the league at least once. His control was pinpoint, his homers allowed was solid and in a throwback to his previous best seasons, he faced about the same number of batters. In those three top years he faced over 1000 batters, which he never accomplished outside of those seasons. He also had a great hits-to-innings ratio. He allowed only 220 hits in 262 innings. 

One of the consistent keys to McCormick's success was his brilliant fielding. He was catlike off the mound and helped himself many times with the glove. In 1967 he was perfect in the field.
In the following two seasons his numbers fell off quite a bit but amazingly his numbers during those two seasons were again remarkably consistent right down to the games started and completed. Now the aging McCormick was sold to the Yankees, and eventually wound up with Kansas City before coming back to the Giants in 1972 where he never got the chance to pitch again. He retired in June of that year having been signed by the Giants three times.

He ended his career 134-128 and a 3.73 lifetime ERA.  Perhaps just as important was his ability to field. Four times he led the league in fielding as a pitcher; 1961, 1966, 1967 and 1969. In those four years he did NOT commit an error.

It should be noted in 1959 he pitched a five inning, rain shortened no hitter against the Phillies but due to rule changes he's not credited with a no-no. He did allow a hit in the sixth but since the game was called due to rain, that inning was removed from the books.  

The "Mr. 500" tag is because he was the player who hit the 500th home run by a pitcher in major league baseball history, and he gave up no. 500 to Henry Aaron. Now that is a feat of obscurity but I hope you were intrigued enough to stick around to read it.


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.