Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Best Baseball Names in the 1960a


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Scott Hitchcox of Portage, MI, who identified the answer we were looking for; Hoyt Wilhelm started three games in 1963.  The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

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ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: Hoyt Wilhelm started three games in 1963.

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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION:  Made famous in a popular film, who was the New York Giants outfielder shortly after the turn of the century who played in just one inning, but who perhaps has the greatest name in baseball history?

While the names in this story are not as colorful as some of the wildest names earlier in the century, they do meet the criteria of best baseball names. The 1960s didn't have Boots Poffenberger, Pretzel Pizullo, Bunny Brief or Pete LaCock, but there were a few who stood out. We'll single out 10.

 At the top of the list is perfection. There is no better name for a big time pitcher than Early Wynn. Wynn came to the big leagues in 1939 with Washington and closed out his career in 1963 with Cleveland. He ended up with 300 wins on the nose and five times won at least 20. The last time he did it, he was 39 years old. 

Coot Veal came up in 1958 and played his last in 1963.  He played for Detroit, Washington and Pittsburgh and only batted .231 with just a single homer. 

You gotta love a guy named Elmo Plaskett. Plaskatt was limited to parts of two seasons with the Pirates and 35 AB's, getting one home run in his seven career hits. The outfielder/third baseman was born in the Virgin Islands. 

Zoilo Versalles had one great year in which he won the AL MVP and many lesser seasons. As a slugging shortstop he banged 95 homers in 12 seasons. The 1965 season was amazing but the Twins infielder was plagued by defensive lapses.

 Cookie Rojas starred for 16 seasons mainly with the Phillies and the Royals. A competent second-sacker he averaged .263 at the plate. He twice topped the .300 mark with a .303 mark for the 1965 Phils.

Boog Powell graced the great names list and stuck with Orioles from 1961-1977 including the late 60's glory years. Booger hit 339 home runs in 17 seasons, four times belting 30 or better. 

Right up there in the best names category is Granny Hamner. A Philly in 16 of his 17 major league seasons, it ended in 1962. Strangely enough in 1959 the Indians sent him to the minor leagues after 16 seasons. He came back up for a cup of coffee in 1962 with Kansas City going Oh-for-3 on the season. 

I always thought Ty Cline was a pretty interesting name. A child almost completely of the 60's he played for six teams in nine years, basically as utility player. Despite spending most of his time (5 seasons) with the Braves, he played the most in a year with the 1969 Giants and the 1962 Indians. 

Number nine on the list is Vinegar Bend Mizell. In nine seasons he won in double figures seven times and bounced around a lot. Starting in 1952 he was 10-8 for the Cardinals and closed out his career appropriately 0-2 with the 1962 Mets, the losingest team in baseball. 

And you can't have a Top 10 without Satchel Paige. While Paige's career was established in the Negro Leagues and most of it was spent in the 1940's-1950's, he did pitch one game in the 1960's. In 1965 he tossed three scoreless innings allowing just one hit for the Kansas A's. A Charlie O. Finley stunt, it was the last game he would pitch in his illustrious career. 

The Honorable Mentions would be Smokey Burgess, Mudcat Grant, Blue Moon Odom, Catfish Hunter, Gene Freese, Bobby Wine, Pumpsie Green, Jim Lemon and Ted Savage. Who are some of your favorites?

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