Monday, June 11, 2018


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Tim Nathan of Berkley, MI, who correctly answered Gaylord Perry was the on the mound when Tommy Davis broke his ankle. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

NEW TRIVIA CONTEST:  By answering the TRIVIA QUESTION CORRECTLY you are automatically entered into a weekly drawing for a Starbucks Gift Card.  YOU MUST ENTER VIA THE EMAIL AT THE END OF THIS COLUMN. Don't forget to put your mailing address in with the answer so if you win we can send you the gift card in the mail.

Just a note to add; If you look at the top right hand corner of the side bar you will see a link to daily sports scores. We made an agreement with Baseball 24 in a mutual sharing situation. Hope its helpful to fans of several sports.

NEW TRIVIA QUESTION:   When the Angels sent Dean Chance to the Twins for Mincher they also got two other players. Who were they? 
ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: 
Gaylord Perry was on the mound when Tommy Davis broke his ankle.

In the mid-1960's the Los Angeles Angels were desperately searching for their first baseman of the future. In 1965 they were sort of content to hang on through the season with a pair of 37 year old aging veterans while the search continued. Joe Adcock and Vic Power were at the end of their careers. Both had long track records and good ones, but the Angels were a team hoping to make a move and with developing youngsters and a solid pitching staff the club wanted to improve and develop. All three came with impeccable credentials. All three would fail miserably with time out for a hot streak or two. 

Costen Shockley, one of the cooler names in MLB, was a school boy wonderkid who at 6'2", 200 pounds came to the Angels via a trade with the Phillies. The deal sent playboy Bo Belinksy (a player who had more fun, than wins at the major league level) to Philadelphia for the left handed slugging Shockley.

In the minors Shockley batted .360, .335 and in 1964 smashed 36 minor league home runs. The Phils thought he was ready. He started seven games but hit only .207 with one home run and was shipped back to the minors. At the end of the season he was sent to the AL.

In 1965 he started 30 of the 40 games he played but again failed to hit, batting only .187. He came to the plate 107 times registering 20 hits. The Angels wanted the youngster to go back to the minors for more seasoning and were sticking with Adcock and Power. Shockley refused and instead retired from the game. He went back home to Delaware, worked in construction, coached youth baseball and raised his family. 

His 28 MLB hits included two doubles, three homers and 19 RBI. It wasn't enough to get him to stick in the bigs, but it was enough to get him inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 1998. 

Before Shockley the Angels tried a player who was seven years older; Charles Henry Dees. Dees came out of Alabama and was also a left-handed thrower and batter like Shockley. At 6'1" he was much lighter at 173 pounds. He came out of the Negro Leagues were he played in 1957 before signing with San Francisco.
Another stalwart in the minors, he had three .300 plus seasons and led the Texas League in 1962, batting .348 with 23 homers and 115 RBI. A TL All-star he was sold to the Angels. The Giants already had Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda competing for time at first base and there was no room for Dees. 

The Big Club called him up early in the 1963 season and on May 26th in his first at bat he smacked a double off the A's Orlando Pena, picking up an RBI when Billy Moran came around to score. Over the next 20 games it looked like the Angels found their first sacker. He hit .382 and became the starter at first. It didn't last long. He fell into a long slump and by the end of July was back in the minor leagues. He was hitting .281 when they sent him back down.

He was back up again in September and again went on a hot streak. He had six games with at least two hits and four times had three-hit games. He would finish his rookie campaign .307 in just over 200 at bats.

The 1964 season however was a complete turnaround. Starting less than a handful of games and used as a pinch-hitter the first couple of months he had only a pair of hits, batting .077. He was sent on loan to the Houston organization. He ended up back in the Angels system where he had his biggest success and took off again. He hit .377 at El Paso of the TL, and got another chance to return to the big leagues. After 12 games and a .156 BA he was sent back down where his career ended in 1966.

From the time Moose Stubing signed as an 18 year old first baseman back in the mid 1950's, it was clear he could hit. By the time the Angels called him up in 1967, he had slugged 192 minor league homers with a lifetime BA of .283. In 1964 in the friendly confines of the ballpark in El Paso, he slugged 35 homers, drove in 120 and batted .316. The Angels were salivating over the prospects of the 26 year old. By 1967 he was ready, or so it seemed.

The 1967 season was a big one for the Halo's who were in contention right down to the wire. However, by now they had found their slugging first baseman; Don Mincher. You can see Mincher's career in the video below. Mincher would hit 25 homers during the season but they hoped Stubing would provide some insurance down the stretch.

The Moose came to bat five times and struck out four, failing to register a hit. His major league career was over at age 29. At least as a player. Years later he was offered a chance to manage in the Angels system and was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 1982 and won the championship in 1984. In 1988 he got the chance to manage the big club when Cookie Rojas was fired. He managed the final eight games of the season, losing all eight.

Stubing became a scout for the Angels and later the Nationals. He died January 19, 2018. Don Mincher's career is seen in the video below.

TRIVIA CONTEST; After reading this column you can enter the weekly trivia contest for a chance to win a Starbucks Gift Card. Enter via the following email. Send 1) your answer to the trivia question at the top of the column, 2) your name, address and email so where we know where to send the card if you win 3) any comment you have on the column. One winner will be selected at random each week based on correct answers with the odds being based on the number of correct entries.  Please cut and paste or enter the following email into your email system.
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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mr. 500 - He Pitched for the Giants

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

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!!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Swinging Gates Brown

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TRIVIA QUESTION:  Of the four pinch-hitters named in paragraph two below (Lynch, Mota, Davalillo and Burgess) what did these four players have in common?  

In 1966 Don Mincher, Jimmy Hall and Pete Cimino were traded to the Angels for a package of players which included star pitcher Dean Chance, a future 20-game winner.

Their names read like a who's who of non-position players. Indeed, they officially don't even have a position - at least not in the official annals of baseball, but they do exist. And, they are among the most important players in the game. They are the "pinch-hitters." The guys whose only role is to bat for someone the manager feels, at the moment, is the lesser option to do what the team tries to do; win.

The likes of slugger Jerry Lynch of Cincinnati, high average Manny Mota of the Pirates and Dodgers, Vic Davalillo, Smokey Burgess, Bubba Morton of the Angels, all made their mark in the 1960's. It was said Mota could get out of bed on a Sunday morning and get a hit for someone else. However, there was one guy who had a marvelous year. So much so, he became what may have been the first player to ever have the designation by position as "Pinch-hitter" on his Strat-O-Matic Baseball Card; Gates Brown.

Brown was an awesome player when it came to coming off the bench cold and cranking out a hit. He broke into the big leagues with Detroit and in an auspicious debut, his first appearance was as a pinch-hitter on June 19th at Boston's Fenway Park. He came up to bat for Don Mossi in the fifth inning of a game the Red Sox were winning 4-1. He promptly smashed a Bob Heffner pitch over the wall for a home run in his first at bat in the bigs.

The following year Brown got the chance to play regularly and while still being used in the pinch, he did find time to bat over 400 times on his way to hitting .272 with 15 homers.
He could always hit and was used in various ways throughout the years but in 1968 he became a valuable part of the Tigers run to the pennant. He hit .370 in 92 at bats, smashing seven doubles, a pair of triples and six homers while driving in 15 and drawing a dozen walks. Brown was extraordinary. More importantly as a pinch hitter he batted .450 on the season! He appeared only 18 times in the field in his 67 games.

In the 1968 post season he only batted once and did not get a hit, but in later years he continued to bat well. In his career, Brown collected 107 hits batting for someone else, including 16 homers. The slugger holds the record for the most at bats in the AL by a pinch hitter with 414.

Brown died of a heart attack at the age of 74 and did some coaching before then with his beloved Tigers where he spent his entire career, finishing in 1975 with a .257 lifetime average. He will always be remembered for a great 1968 season when the Tigers took it all and Swingin' Gates Brown played a key role.

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!!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Double Figure Twins

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TRIVIA QUESTION:  IN 1966 Don Mincher, Jimmy Hall and Pete Cimino were traded to the Angels for a package of player which included which star pitcher?  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Mel Queen's amateur teammate who later became the pitcher's brother-in-law was Red Sox 22 game winner, Jim Lonborg

It is unusual for an entire starting line up for a major league team to reach double figures in home run, but when you include every starting pitcher in the regular rotation ending up in double figure Wins, you have the 1962 Minnesota Twins. 

In 1962 the Twins were a team really in transition. It was only the club's second year in Minnesota, having moved from Washington in 1961 when the new Washington Franchise became the expansion club. Confusing but the idea was to keep a team in the nation's capitol at least until it moved again; to Texas.

All that aside, in 1961 the Twins lost 90 games but the following year they moved up to finish in second place with 91 wins. A complete reversal from the previous season. 

The Twins were loaded with aging players. Vic Power, Hal Naragon, Lenny Green, Bill Tuttle, Jim Lemon and five pitchers who were well over 30 years old. Rising stars were Zoilo Versalles, Don Mincher and Tony Oliva, along with Jim Kaat, and all were ready to bust out. In the middle of the mix was established slugger Harmon Killebrew, catcher Earl Battey and the powerful Bobby Allison. These players would form the heart of the team which in 1965 went on to win the AL pennant.

Up and down the line-up the 1962 Twins had power. Killebrew smacked 48 dingers while Allison was a distant second with 29. Versalles had 17, while clocking in with 16 each were Power and Rich Rollins. Green, Battey and Bernie Allen also reached double figures. Mincher, a part-time player added nine more. The team finished with 185 homers for third best in the AL. 

Of those eight players none of them played fewer than 144 games and no one outside the group batted more than 157 times (Mincher). Same Mele put the same eight guys out there day after day and it worked.

On the mound Camilo Pascual won 20, Kaat had 18, Jack Kralick posted 12 as did Dick Stigman. The bullpen was truly a by-committee proposition. 

The following year it was more of the same with the addition of outfielder Jimmy Hall who cranked 33 homers in his rookie season. Allison belted another 35 and Killebrew added 45. The emergence of Oliva in 1964 batting .323 with 32 home runs, solidified the team for the run at the pennant in 1965. It was however, the 1962 season which put the Twins onto the road of change and a place in baseball history.

Killebrew would finish his career with 573 homers and easily made it into the Hall of Fame. Versalles would be named MVP in 1965 leading the league in seven offensive categories. Kaat won 283 games in his career and Allison eclipsed 20 home runs in a season eight times. Mincher and Hall would be traded to Los Angeles a few years later after helping Minnesota get to the Series in "65. Mincher found a new home in California where he starred for the Angels.

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, or on Amazon.