Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Ageless White Sox

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

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. 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Mighty Casey Bows Out

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

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, or on Amazon.


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!!

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