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Monday, January 20, 2020

To the Moon Gaylord and Back Again!


TRIVIA QUESTION:  Gaylord Perry and brother Jim combined for 529 major league wins. Which of the two brothers had a better post season record?

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Don Demeter was a well traveled player and in 1963 after two of his better seasons, the Phillies shipped him off to Detroit in search of pitching. In the off season they traded him with Jack Hamilton to the Detroit Tigers for Jim Bunning and Gus Triandos.

On May 25, 1961, in a speech before Congress, President John F. Kennedy predicted the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade; the 1960's. We did that when Neil Armstrong took that Giant leap for Mankind onto the moon's surface on April 20, 1969. So what does this have to do with baseball?
Funny you should ask. It was 1963 when San Francisco Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry predicted "They'll put a man on the moon before I hit my first home run" in the big leagues. Perry's quote withstood the test of time.

He was an outstanding pitcher who pitched into the 1980's and for eight other clubs after the Giants gave up on the future Hall of Famer. While he was, as it turned out a great pitcher, he was never much of a hitter. Throwing in the American League in the 1970's was a blessing. He didn't need to hit because the AL instituted the Designated Hitter Rule. 


It wasn't he was a bad hitter. He just wasn't a good one. He actually hit well in his early days. He hit .231 and .222 in 1962 and 1963. When he became a full time starter in 1964 however, the hitting became very, very secondary. That season he hit .054 with only three hits in 46 AB's. Aside from a couple seasons where he flirted with .186 and in the .155 range, he had a lot of years flirting with .100 or less. In the 1960's he never approached .200 again.

But there was that prediction. A man on the moon before his first homer. Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon on July 20, 1969 at 20:17 UTC. It was about the same time the Giants were facing the Dodgers (who else) at Candlestick Park. Perry was on the mound up against an old nemesis, Claude Osteen. It was a familiar match up.

Osteen was marvelous for a short while. In the first he retired Bobby Bonds, Ron Hunt and Willie Mays in order. In the second he got Willie McCovey, Jim Davenport walked and Ken Henderson bounced into a double play. Meanwhile, Perry gave up three runs in the first and was trailing 3-0 when the third inning came around.

Hal Lanier led off the third followed by Bob Barton and both went down easily, bringing Perry to the plate, still homer-less in his career. He must have been waiting for this moment because just three hours earlier Armstrong set foot on the moon. It was Perry's first time at the plate after the moonwalk and he promptly took an Osteen pitch deep into the seats for his first home run ever. The prediction was sealed. 

It didn't matter what the rest of the game looked like although Perry would resume his old ways, grounding out and then striking out twice. The fact of the matter was, he was the Old Garylord Perry on the mound. He went the distance beating the Dodgers 7-3, giving up seven hits, striking out six and walking just two.

For the rest of his career, Perry despite a low average did hit five more homers over the next 12 years, including one each of the next three seasons. His final dinger came in 1981 while pitching for Atlanta. He had a career high that season batting .250. He closed out his career batting .131, with six homers and 47 RBI. 

Fortunately he was paid to pitch and not hit. Perry finished his career with 314 wins and a 3.11 ERA over 22 seasons. Neil Armstrong never went back to the moon. We're sure he remembered the day like it was yesterday. The same could be said for a fellow named Gaylord.
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"
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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

1962 Phillies Improve by 34 Games! How?

TRIVIA QUESTION: In December, 1963 the Phillies acquired all-star pitcher Jim Bunning for the 1964 season. They traded Don Demeter and Jack Hamilton to Detroit for the future HOFer and one other player. Who was the other player?
  
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:  For whatever reason, despite batting left handed and getting a better start out of the box, Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski always grounded into a lot of double plays. Only three times in 23 years did he NOT reach double digits in banging into twin killings. He led the league twice, topping out at 30 in 1964. Two years earlier he did it again with 27. 


It was not worst to first but improving by 34 wins from one season to the next is a pretty remarkable achievement. Such were the 1961 and 1962 Philadelphia Phillies. Both teams managed by one of the men considered by many to be a great manager; Gene Mauch. In 1961 the Phils finished in last place with a 47-107 record. The following year they improved to 81-80, while moving up to 7th place. Maybe it had something to do with Telstar!


Two things of note here. In 1961 they played 154 games and there were eight clubs in the National League. The following season the Mets and Astros arrived and there were ten teams playing 162 games. So you can judge for yourself if eighth place among eight teams is much worse than 7 out of 10. Before we jump to any conclusions here and say winning 34 more games is quite an accomplishment, we need to also point out 36 of the 162 were against the Mets and the Astros. In 1962 each team played every other team 18 times which translates to 36 against the expansion teams.

The last three teams in the NL won only 163 games and lost 304! They were the Astros, Cubs and Mets in that order. 

The 1961 Phillies were led by Don Demeter's 20 home runs in a limited role, while regular players such as Pancho Herrera hit 13 followed by 12 for Tony Gonzales. No regular batted better than Gonzales .277. The club was 7th in the NL in homers and 8th in almost every other hitting category.
On the pitching staff only 24 year old Jack Baldschun at 5-3 and Turk Farrell 2-1 were over .500. The lead starters were 31-85. Art Mahaffey led the team in wins and was 11-19. John Buzhardt was 6-18, Frank Sullivan 3-16 and Chris Short (a future 20 game winner) was 6-12. Long time starter and future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts was 1-10 with a 5.85 ERA. The club finished last in ERA at 4.61.

In 1962, Herrera and Roberts were gone, Demeter was healthy and an influx of youngsters bolstered a weak line-up and led the club's surge. Demeter played in 153 games and belted 29 home runs. He also hit .307 to lead the club. Gonzalez improved to .302 and newcomer Johnny Callison provided spark on offense and defense, with a .300 average and 23 homers.
Gonzalez added 20 dingers, Roy Sievers, acquired in the off season from the White Sox for Buzhardt and Charlie Smith, hit 21. He also drove in 80 runs. Frank Torre hit .310 in a limited role and rookie Bobby Wine provided great defense at short. His .244 BA was welcomed.

Pitching definitely improved, too. Adding youngster Clay Dalrymple behind the plate helped. The 25-year old also hit .276 aside from being a fine defensive catcher. 

Mahaffey turned it around going 19-14, young Jack Hamilton arrived on the scene and went 9-12, Cal McLish was 11-5 while Short was 11-9. Baldschun was 12-7 with 13 Saves out of the bullpen. They were eighth in almost every pitching category and still gave up an average of 4.28 runs per game. However, the improvement of the offense to 4th in homers in the NL and 6th in BA made up for much of the lapses in pitching. 
It was Mahaffey's best season and he was a work horse, pitching 274 innings. He would pitch four more seasons ending his career at 28. He would only win 22 more games over the final four years. It was also Demeter's best year. He would never again come close to .300 or 29 homers and retired after the 1967 season in Cleveland hitting .207.  He played 11 years.

Gonzales would remain a Phillie for many seasons but 1962 saw him top out in homers and the following year he did hit .306. In 1967 he came close to winning the batting title at .339. Callison's career was steady, hitting homers in double figures for nine straight years, twice hitting more than 30. He hit 226 in his 16 year career.

Chris Short perhaps went on to the best of the 1962 Phillies in their careers. Over the rest of his MLB seasons he won 17, 18, 19, and 20 games to finish 135-132 in 15 seasons. In 1965 he pitched 297 innings and for several years hovered at 200 innings. He died at the young age of 53 in 1991. 
As for Mauch, aside from the 1964 Phillies Collapse where his club finished 2nd, he never finished in first until 1986 as manager of the California Angels. He lost in the post season to Boston in the ALCS 4 games to 3. He finished his career 646-684.

 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. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Yaz; One Great Year Among Many!

TRIVIA QUESTION: In is career Carl Yastrzemski twice led the AL in the number of double plays grounded into. What was the most he had to lead the league?
  
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:  One of strangest cases involving losing pitcher stats came in 1966 when the Pittsburgh Pirates (who had some of the worst pitching in the NL that season) had only two pitchers on the roster who finished with a losing record. Bob Purkey and Luke Walker both finished the season 0-1.


Every once in a while a position in sports is filled by just a few people over a long period of time. Earle Combs patrolled center field for the Yankees from 1924-1935 giving way to Joe DiMaggio who was there until Mickey Mantle took over in 1952. From 1968 to present day the Pittsburgh Steelers have had only three coaches (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin) and in Boston Ted Williams ruled left field (minus time off for the military) from 1940 to 1960 when Carl Yastrzemski took over. Actually Williams became a regular for Boston in 1939 but moved from right to left permanently the following year. Yaz was there basically until Jim Rice came along.

There was a lot of pressure on Yaz following in the footsteps of Williams. He was up to it, but never as much as in 1967. It was the year of the Impossible Dream with the Sox making it to the World Series. While they didn't win it, it wasn't because Yaz didn't try. It was his Triple Crown season and the second time he won the AL batting title. He would win three.

It was a stretch of 23 games in August in which the Sox needed his help the most and he performed. It began with the Sox three games back of first place on August 15th. The streak of 17 wins out of 23 games began with a 4-0 shutout of the Detroit Tigers. It ended with with a September first pounding of the White Sox 10-2. The Red Sox were now in first place, half a game up. 


In that run was a seven game winning streak over the Angels and Senators including a double bill where Yaz homered in each game (no's 30 & 31). During the win streak Yaz hit .278, scored 23 runs, drove in 17 more and belted eight homers. After going 0-17 late in the streak he started the game on the bench only to come in and hit home run no. 35 in two at bats late in the game. It was a 2-1 win over the Yankees in New York to put the Sox up by 1.5 games.

Perhaps his biggest moment on the stage was at the end of the season with the pennant on the line. It was the final two games of the regular season. Facing the Twins in the final battle for first place Yaz went seven for eight with six RBI as the Red Sox took the final two games 6-4 and 5-3. In the finale the Sox left fielder went 4-4. 


He ended the season with Triple Crown numbers of .326/44/121. He and Harmon Killebrew tied in the Home Run race with 44. Yaz would end his career after 23 seasons with a lifetime .285 average, 452 homers, three batting titles (including the record low of .301 during the year of the pitcher in 1968),  and six seasons drawing over 100 walks, five with 100 or better RBI.
 
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.