Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Baseball Candle Flickered Out Too Quickly

TRIVIA QUESTION:  In 1961 the Chicago Cubs employed a round robin system of managing which featured four different managers. If you can name just two you are really, really good.

The 1963 Rookie of the Year in the National League was of course, Pete Rose. Two others who played in the game discussed in the most recent column were Dick Allen (1964) and Frank Robinson (1956).

 September 10, 1961 was not a special day by any means for two teams playing out the schedule, but the 7628 faithful who showed up at Wrigley Field in Ch-Town that day were given a special treat. A bright candle appeared on the scene but went out long before it ever should have.

It was the major league debut of Cubs second sacker, Ken Hubbs. Hubbs was only 19 years old when the Riverside, California native heard his name announced batting second in the order against future Hall of Fame pitcher, Robin Roberts

The Cubs were 59-79 while the hapless Phillies were 41-97 a third of the way through the final month of the season. Roberts was in the midst of his worst season ever. He would finish 1-10 with an ERA of 5.85. On the mound for the Cubbies was veteran Don Cardwell who had pitched a no-hitter in his Cubs debut. Cardwell was solid this season with a 15-14 record and leading the league in starts with 38 on his way to pitching 260 innings. It would be the former Phillies winningest season and could be considered his best.

The game started quietly enough and Hubbs faced Roberts in his first at bat ever in the big leagues in the bottom of the first. After Lou Brock led off with a single, Hubbs hit a shot which shortstop Ruben Amaro snared and fired back to first baseman Don Demeter to double up Brock. An inauspicious debut for Hubbs but at least he hit the ball hard.

In the fourth with the Cubs trailing 1-0 on a Johnny Callison home run, Hubbs led off the inning with sharp double to left. It was his first major league hit and it went for extra bases. Roberts got Ernie Banks and George Altman but Billy Williams hit a triple and Hubbs scored to tie the game. Hubbs achieved three things this inning; his first hit, his first extra base hit, and his first run scored.

In the fifth the Cubbies opened it up and Hubbs was in the middle of it. He drove home Brock with a single and later scored on a single by Altman. When the dust cleared, the Cubs led 6-1.  In the seventh inning however the Phillies reached Cardwell and reliever Barney Schultz for seven runs including a grand slam by Demeter.  The Phils now led 8-6.

In the seventh with the right handed pitching Frank Sullivan taking the mound, Hubbs was lifted for left handed hitting Richie Ashburn. Sullivan was pitching in one of the final games of his career and the USC Graduate got the aging Ashburn to ground out. 

That was it for Hubbs. His big league debut showed and impressive line, 3 at bats, 2 hits, 2 runs scored, an RBI and a double. Even though his Cubs would go on to lose 14-6, it was a strong showing for the rookie. He would appear in nine more games as the Cubs played out the string and while a new fan favorite, the rest of the season mirrored the Cubs. He had only two more hits although triple and a home run were among them. He finished the short season batting .179 but did not commit an error in 28 chances.

It was the following year where he really shined, batting .260, playing in 160 games and despite leading the league in strikeouts with 129 and grounding into double plays with 20, he won a Gold Glove and was honored as Rookie of the Year in 1962. However, 1963 was a bit of an off year and his final. Ken Hubbs was killed in a plane crash in the off season and the bright light which shown back on September 10th, 1961, was gone forever. 

Ken Hubbs was 22 years old.

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Steal Which Changed A Season

TRIVIA QUESTION: Dick Allen was only one of the Rookie of the Year players who took part in the game which is the topic of today's blog. While Allen was the 1964 ROY, who won the NL ROY the previous year; 1963?

The 1963 Washington Senators were an awful team and finished in last place again, nearly 50 games out of first. No wonder they went through three managers that season. After former slugging first baseman Mickey Vernon was let go, he was relieved on a short term basis by Eddie Yost, who was replaced by a first baseman many believe should be in the Hall of Fame; Gil Hodges. Hodges success with the Sens was limited but he did take the 1969 Miracle Mets to the World Championship.

Never before or since has one stolen base meant so much to a baseball team and a city. In 1964 the Philadelphia Phillies, led by the manager many believe should be in the Hall of Fame, Gene Mauch, were sailing along on their way to the pennant. The Phils were blessed with a dynamite ball club.

Rookie of the Year Dick Allen would provide the power along with veteran Johnny Callison. Allen, the temperamental third baseman, would blast 29 homers and lead the league with 13 triples and 125 runs scored, while batting .318. He also had 201 hits. Callison blasted 31 dingers, They also had Wes Covington, Tony Gonzalez and Cookie Rojas.

On the mound they were blessed with strong starting pitching led by Jim Bunning (19-8 2.63 ERA), lefty Chris Short (17-9 2.20 ERA) and a pair of 12 game winners in Dennis Bennett and Art Mahaffey. Out of the bullpen it was Jack Baldschun and Ed Roebuck with 33 Saves between them. Bobby Shantz and Bobby Locke contributed strong performances.

The Phillies were well in the lead in the National League heading down the home stretch. With 12 games left the Phillies led the Cardinals by 6.5 games. If they basically split the last six games they would walk into the World Series. Even if they win four of those games they likely to get in. The fates had something else in mind.

On September 21st, the Phils were at home to play the Cincinnati Reds who were also in the race. Mahaffey squared off against John Tsitouris. Tsitouris never had much of a career, winning 34 games overall and this year he would finish 9-13. He was coming off his best season, at 12-8.

The Reds were three years removed from the World Series and were still a powerful club with Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Vada Pinson, Deron Johnson, Leo Cardenas and a rookie named Chico Ruiz who played third that day.

Through five innings neither team could get a whiff of a run. Mahaffey was throwing well but Tsitouris was outstanding. He was giving the Phillies nothing and was logging one of his best games ever. Then came the top of the sixth.

Pete Rose grounded to second to start off the inning but Ruiz followed with single. When Pinson singled, Ruiz took third. However, Pinson, trying to stretch a single into a double was thrown out at second base. That left a runner (Ruiz) at third with two outs and slugging Frank Robinson at the plate. Robinson was having an average year for him, nearly 30 home runs and a .306 average. With the slugging Deron Johnson on deck, there was really no thought of walking F-Robby. He did lead the league in Intentional Walks four years running but Mahaffey soon quieted that notion when he put two quick strikes past Robinson.

So here is the situation. There is no score, two outs in the sixth and two strikes on one of the game's great sluggers. What happened next was something no one expected. On the 0-2 pitch Ruiz broke for home. Maybe Mahaffey was surprised, certainly Robinson was. In what was one of the dumbest moves ever in baseball, Ruiz tried to steal home. Shocked, Robinson luckily caught him out of the corner of his eye and backed away. Mahaffey's pitched sailed wide and catcher Clay Dalrymple could only grab it, come back and try vainly to tag Ruiz to no avail.

Ruiz scored and the Reds led 1-0. Tsitouris made it stand up. He went the distance pitching a 6-hit shutout, walking two and striking out eight. It might be argued since Robinson did get a second hit later in the game, he just might have gotten a hit when Ruiz stole, but thankfully Robinson didn't swing or Ruiz head may have ended up over the left field wall.

Either way, the die was cast. The Phillies proceeded to lose their next nine in a row before winning the final two. It didn't matter. The Cardinals the very next day began a streak, winning nine of their next 10 games and taking the 1964 pennant. At the same time the Reds won seven more in a row before losing four of their last five games to fall out of contention. The Reds and the Phillies would finish tied in second place, just one game back of the Cardinals in one of the most memorable finishes to a baseball season ever recorded.

Chico Ruiz, the only player to ever pinch hit for Johnny Bench, had his own moniker after that. His play became known to Phillie fans as the "Curse of Chico Ruiz," while other fans dubbed him something more harsh. Philadelphia, which last went to the World Series in 1950, would have to wait until 1980 to get there again.

Ruiz had a colorful career which ended way too soon. Ruiz became a U.S. citizen on January 7, 1972. Early in the morning of February 9, just before he was to join his new team, the Royals, in spring training, Ruiz was killed when he drove his car into a sign pole while driving alone outside of San Diego. Deron Johnson attended the funeral.

Mahaffey, known for losing 19 games in 1961 and winning 19 the following year, was out of baseball after two more seasons. He won three games over those two years. Tsitouris didn't fair much better. He would win only seven more games, closing out an 11 year career in 1968. 
Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.  

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Story Book Game No One Remembers

TRIVIA QUESTION: Of the three men who managed the Washington Senators in 1963, two were primarily first baseman during their careers. Who were they?

Even after completing the bizarre trade mentioned in the previous column, the White Sox still finished in second place behind Minnesota. It was the second straight year the Sox finished second.  The Kansas City A's remained dead last.

There are meaningless games across the spectrum of every season but even in those seemingly meaningless encounters there are little nuggets of history which change the course of human life. Such as the case on May 8th, 1963 in the game between the Washington Senators and the Cleveland Indians at D-C Stadium. Only 7, 047 fans were there that night and a whole lot fewer when the real excitement took place in the 13th inning. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

It was an early season game and even though hopes are high in May, the Washington Senators were pretty much already out of the race. They were 11-16 and the Indians were 10-10. The Senators would finish 56-106 in 10th place,  48.5 games behind the Yankees.

What was significant about this game is both starting pitchers pitched into the 13th inning. Jack Kralick took the mound for the Indians in what would be a 3:08 game. Don Rudolph, one of the fastest pitching mounds men in MLB was on the hill for Washington. The same Don Rudolph who was married to, by this time, retired burlesque queen; Patti Waggin

The Indians scored first when Tito Francona, leading off the second inning, drew a walk and promptly stole second. Mike de la Hoz laid down a bunt which third baseman Chuck Hinton muffed and runners were at first and third. Tony Martinez laid down a squeeze bunt scoring Francona. Indians led 1-0.

The two pitchers kept on going, matching each other pitch for pitch. The Sens finally broke through in the sixth when light hitting Eddie Brinkman doubled and Rudolph sacrificed him to third. He came home on a Jim Piersall Sac Fly to center to tie the game 1-1. 

Nine times Rudolph would face three up and three down. Kralick for his part did the same eight times. These two journeymen pitchers were pitching the games of their lives. Then came the 13th, the unlucky 13th for some folks. 

In the top of the inning de la Hoz led off with a single. With one out Johnny Romano, the slow footed catcher, belted one in the gap and ended up on third with a triple to score de la Hoz. The Indians had broken the tie, now leading 2-1. Rudolph struck out pinch hitter Al Luplow but Vic Davalillo singled to bring home Romano and it looked like the game was out of reach, 3-1. 

Rudolph got Willie Kirkland and they went to the bottom of the 13th with Barry Latman taking over for Kralick. Brinkman started the inning off with a base hit to right and Dick Phillips, pinch-hitting for Rudolph did the same. Brinkman took third and the Sens were in business. Lefty Ron Nischwitz came in to relieve Latman.

Nischwitz had come over from Detroit in a deal for Bubba Phillips in 1962. He'd spent much of his time in the minors but started this season with the Indians. The 25 year old had only one decision on the young season and he lost it. He came into face Ken Retzer who was batting for Piersall. Manager Birdie Tebbits lifted the left-handed hitting Retzer for the right handed batting Marv Breeding to face lefty Nischwitz. 

Breeding singled to right sending Phillips to third and allowing Brinkman to score, making it 3-2 Indians. Minnie Minoso hit a ground ball to third but Phillips, trying to score was thrown out at the plate. Breeding took second on the throw and that put runners at second and third with one out. They walked Chuck Hinton to load the bases and set up a double play.

I happened to be doing research for my film script on Rudolph when I spoke to Nischwitz several years ago about this game. The conversation went like this.

"I know this is one game in a career 50 some odd years ago, Ron, and I don't expect you to remember much," I asked when he suddenly jumped in.

"Bob, I remember it like it was yesterday," the retired player and college baseball coach told me. 

And in a game like this you certainly would. Right fielder Don Lock stepped to the plate. Lock had not had a hit of Kralick. With the bases loaded Nischwitz delivered and Lock connected. He sent a towering fly ball to the wall in right field. Kirkland went to the wall and timed his leap perfectly. He jumped up, grabbed the ball in his glove for what should have been the third out.

As fate, or bad luck would have it, Kirkland did catch the ball but as he was coming down with it, it rolled out of his glove and over the fence for a grand-slam home run. Ball game over, the final Senators 6, the Indians 3, and Nischwitz said he slammed his fist into his glove and had such an angry look on his face in the locker room, "no one would talk to me."

The Senators, especially Lock and Rudolph, were thrilled and while the rest of the season didn't amount to much for Washington, it turned out really sour for Nischwitz. It was a matter of a couple weeks before he was sent back to the minors. In that season he would pitch only 14 innings, giving up 12 earned runs. He would get only one more decision the rest of his career which ended back in Detroit in 1965. He won his only game that season and pitched respectfully with a 3.40 ERA in 20 games.

Nischwitz would go on to become a successful college coach at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, for 29 years before retiring in 2004. As a big league pitcher he had one very good season leading Detroit with 48 appearances out of the bullpen in 1962 and even managed a big league batting average of .278, batting .417 in 1962. 

1963 was Breedings final season in the bigs, being sent to the Dodgers before the year ended. Retzer never fulfilled his potential and despite having a decent utility player season he was out of baseball after the 1964 season. He played in 237 big league games.

Lock's you might say "had a career." He remained a steady presence in center for Washington for several years and banged some home runs but his lifetime average of .238 kept him above the radar and he was finally sent packing to Philadelphia for reliever Darold Knowles. 1963 was pretty much his best season hitting .252 with 27 home runs.

Kirkland, the key player in the game when you come right down to it, had a parallel career to Lock. They both were low average hitters with some power. Aside from a few games with Baltimore, Kirkland would spend his entire career with Washington. After the 1963 season he was traded to Baltimore for Al Smith and less than a year later the Senators purchased him back. 

As for Kralick, 1963 was arguably his finest season, finishing 14-13 with a 3.03 ERA.  He had other fine seasons winning in double figures five times ending up with a 67-65 life time record, over nine years with three clubs. He passed away in 2012 in Mexico, where he is buried. He was 77.

For Rudolph, the journey man pitcher, this was his finest game of a career which lasted more years in the minors than in the big leagues. At the age of 31 this would be a dismal year for him, finishing 7-19 with a 4.55 ERA, allowing 28 home runs. It should be noted the Senators were terrible and Rudolph, who pitched Opening Day in 1963 had his highlights. He pitched in front of President John F. Kennedy that day on what would be JFK's final opening day appearance. 

Rudolph pitched one more season in the big leagues, his sixth, mainly in relief closing with a record of 1-3. Washington wanted to send him to the minors to start the 1965 season but after breaking into baseball as a phenom in the early 1950's he decided to hang them up. He was part owner in a trucking business in California. In 1968 while driving a company truck, it is believed the brakes went out and he rolled the vehicle. He was killed on September 12, 1968 at the youthful age of 37. 

His career ended 18-32 but he was extremely well liked. Known as a practical joker the late Jim Landis once told me Rudolph convinced him to go to the local burlesque show where Rudolph's wife Patti Waggin was performing. The set up was when Patti tossed one of her pieces of clothing into the audience it would land squarely on Landis' head. It did.

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Wierdest Trade Perhaps EVER!

TRIVIA QUESTION: In the season following the trade discussed in this column, where did the White Sox and A's finish in the 1965 standings?

When Houston got its first major league team in 1962 they were the Colt .45's and played in Colts Stadium, which was known for having the biggest mosquitoes in the big leagues.

Baseball is a rather bizarre sport since like Forest Gump said when it came to a box of chocolates; "You never know what you're gonna get." That's like a paraphrase but it's true. Such was the case in January/February, 1965. Three teams were involved in a rather strange trade which would have implications far down the road.

The 1964 season finished with the White Sox in second place behind New York by one game, recording a total of 98 wins. They were hoping to push themselves over the top in 1965 as the Yankees were aging and would play in their last World Series (1964) until 1976.

The Indians finished four games under .500 in seventh place with just 79 wins and the Athletics closed out their season in Kansas City with 105 losses in last place. The A's were a fairly young ball club with potential while the Indians were a mixed bag led by Sam McDowell, Fred Whitfield, Larry Brown, Chico Salmon and a smattering of other players. Chicago was old. Led by 41 year old Hoyt Wilhelm they had 10 other players on the roster past 30.

In January 1965 the three teams pulled off a trade. The Sox sent outfielders Mike Hershberger and Jim Landis (a pair of defensive standouts) to the A's along with a Player to be Named Later. The player turned out to be pitcher Fred Talbot. Then they traded catcher Cam Carreon to the Indians. The Indians sent young center-fielder Tommie Agee, pitcher Tommy John and catcher John Romano to Chicago. In return, Kansas City shipped slugging outfielder Rocky Colavito to Cleveland.

Now if you followed all of that you probably realized there were some pretty big names there along with Cam Carreon. Carreon would play eight seasons in the big leagues hitting .264 with 11 home runs. He was out of baseball two years after the trade. He would die at the age of 50 and is buried in Colton, CA.
Landis was an outstanding defensive outfielder whose best years were clearly behind him. He would only play a couple more years, never batting better than .237. His best season was 1961 when he belted 22 home runs and hit .283. Hershberger, another defensive stalwart, retired in 1971 with a .252 lifetime average and 26 home runs.

Talbot had two decent seasons as a starter winning 10 games in 1965 and 11 the following year when midway through the season, the A's traded him to the Yankees in the deal which brought Roger Repoz to KC. He finished his career 38-56.

The other players went on to better careers. Romano's best years were also behind him but in the following two seasons with the Sox he did hit 33 homers before ending up in St. Louis where he was released after just 24 games. Colavito too had seen better days. In 1965 he led the league in RBI in leading the Indians to a fifth place finish. He played in all 162 games, banged 26 homers and hit .287 while finishing fifth in the MVP voting. He also made the AL All Star Team. The following year he hit 30 homers but his batting average dropped to .238 and he was sent packing, playing for three other teams in a minor role. He retired after playing in 39 games for the Yankees in 1968.

In 1966 Agee was named AL Rookie of the Year when he hit 22 home runs and played outstanding defensively in center. Of course his biggest years came with the Mets when he led the Amazin's to the World Series title in 1969, batting .357 in the Series. It was the White Sox who dealt him to New York. That was another strange trade; Traded by the Chicago White Sox with Al Weis to the New York Mets for Buddy Booker, Tommy Davis, Jack Fisher and Billy Wynne.

All Agee did in his career was bang out 999 hits and in 1979 was named to the New York Mets's Hall of Fame. He won a second gold glove as well.

Probably the most notable player in that trade however was Tommy John. Known to young pitchers today as the guy they get a surgery, which is named after the lefty, John's career after the trade was top notch. Over the next seven years in Chicago he won 82 games. After a 13-16 campaign he was traded to the Dodgers after the 1971 season along with Steve Huntz for Dick Allen. Allen had worn out his welcome in Los Angeles and the Dodgers needed a lefty pitcher. He did not disappoint.

In his next six seasons he won 87 games including a 20-7 record in 1977. He sat out the 1975 campaign with his "Tommy John Surgery." It was a surgery performed first by Los Angeles physician Dr. Frank Jobe and replaces a ligament with a tendon from another part of the body.

In 1978 he helped the Dodgers win the NL pennant and he beat the Yankees in Game One of the World Series, eventually won by New York in six games. At the end of the season he was granted Free Agency and signed with the Yankees. He promptly won 21 and 22 games the next two seasons.

In 1981 the Yankees and Dodgers squared off again in the Series and there was John pitching for New York. He won game Two in a 3-0 shut out with the help of closer Rich Gossage. He would go on to win in double figures four more times, including 13 wins for the Angels at age 44. He finally retired his surgically repaired left arm after the 1989 season at the age of 46. He had gone back to the Yankees who released him before the 1990 season.

He logged 288 wins in a career which spanned an unheard of 26 seasons. Despite losing 231 games, he finished second in the Cy Young voting twice. Yes, Tommy John is more than just a surgery, he was a pitcher of surgical precision.  John never did make the Hall of Fame, finishing with his best percentage, 31% in his final year of eligibility; 2009.

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


TRIVIA QUESTION: What was the name of the ballpark where the Houston Colt .45's (later the Astros) played when they came into the National League in 1962? .

When Mudcat Grant was sent to the Dodgers the deal went like this; Traded by the Minnesota Twins with Zoilo Versalles to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Bob Miller, Ron Perranoski and John Roseboro.

Since this is 2017 World Series Week, we'll be taking a look at the matching World Series games of the 1960's. Each of the blogs will deal with a corresponding game where possible. This blog deals with the seventh game of the 1967 series.

                                                                  1967 (Game Seven)
                                                                  St. Louis at Boston
                                                               Cardinals 7, Red Sox 2

 To say it was Bob Gibson's World Series is to underscore it with understatement. The Cardinals won 101 games in 1967 and Gibson won only 13, but it was in the World Series where he would shine. The 13-7 record in the regular season rates a remark here; Gibson was 10-6 when on July 15th Roberto Clemente smashed a line drive off Gibson's leg. The leg was broken but Gibson finished the inning, remarkably. He would come back toward the end of the season and pick up the final three wins.

However, it was in the World Series where he would shine. In Game One he would win 2-1 on a six hitter while striking out 10. In Game Four he tossed a five-hit shutout. When he took the mound in Game Seven, the Red Sox were hoping they would see a different Bob Gibson. They were wrong. 

Gibson squared off against 22-game winner Jim Lonborg who would also pick up the Cy Young Award. Batting third in the Red Sox line-up was Carl Yastrzemski who won the Triple Crown. Yaz hit .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI, leading the AL in most offensive categories. The Cards were led by a rejuvenated Roger Maris, a slugging Orlando Cepeda, speedy Lou Brock and Curt Flood. It was the first of two consecutive World Series appearances for the Cardinals. They were back in 1968.

Neither team could mount anything through three. When the fourth inning rolled around the Cardinals were ready. Light hitting Dal Maxvill led off with a triple and with two out scored on a Flood single, 1-0 St. Louis. Maris singled with Flood taking third and he scored when Lonborg uncorked a wild pitch. Cards led 2-0.

The game continued scoreless for the next two innings as Lonborg was matching Gibson, pitch for pitch. Then it was pitch for pitcher. With one out in the fifth Gibson, an outstanding hitting pitcher, took Lonborg deep to make it 3-0. Brock followed with a single. He then stole second and third and rode home on a sac fly by Maris to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead behind Gibson. 

The Red Sox finally broke through in the bottom of the inning when George Scott tripled and came home on a sacrifice fly. But the roof caved in on the Sox in the sixth when Tim McCarver doubled, Mike Shannon got aboard when his ground ball to second was booted by Mike Andrews and Julian Javier followed with a three run homer. That made it 7-1 St. Louis and while the Sox would score one more in the eighth, it was too much Bob Gibson to overcome.

When the dust settled Gibby had pitched a three-hitter, allowing two earned runs and struck out 10. It was his third victory in the Series and earned him his second World Series MVP (1964 was the other). For the record Gibson pitched 27 innings, 3 complete games and struck out 26 batters while allowing only 14 hits, five walks and a measly three total runs. He also homered. 

Yes, it was Bob Gibson's World Series on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Please pick up a copy of my book "Tales of My Baseball Youth; A Child of the 60's" at, or on Amazon.