Monday, October 23, 2017

Tom Timmermann (#554)

Here is Tom Timmermann’s rookie card. As I have mentioned previously, I didn’t collect 1970 or 1971 cards back in the day, so I first heard of Tom when I got his 1972 card.

As with Paul Doyle’s card (2 posts ago),  I probably would not have blogged about Timmermann had he not appeared on my “Oldest living players not blogged yet” list.

Timmermann was signed by the Tigers in 1960, and it took him 9 ½ long years to work his way up to the Tigers, debuting in mid-June 1969.

Tom pitched for the Tigers from 1969-73, mostly as a reliever. He led the team with 27 saves in 1970, but also started 25 games in 1972 and 16 in 1973.

In mid-June 1973 he was dealt to the Indians for pitcher Ed Farmer. Tom started 15 of his 29 games with the Tribe over the remainder of the season.

1974 was Timmermann’s final season. He appeared in 4 games for Cleveland (the last on April 26th), then spent the rest of the season in the minors before retiring.

Hey! I found the perfect battery-mate for Timmermann:

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dissecting the 1970 Set

Today I'm wrapping up a 5-part series where I look at the players who had multiple positions listed on their cards. We have already seen the 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969 sets, now here is the 1970 set.

The 1970 Topps set had 720 cards. Team cards (24) returned after a 1-year absence. There are also 24 manager cards, 40 rookie stars cards, 12 league leader cards, a whopping 14 post-season cards (now that we have two LCS series), 20 All-Star cards, and 7 checklists. With all the additional post-season and team cards, there are no multi-player cards in the set. This leaves 579 cards of individual players.

Here is the position breakdown of the 579 player cards.
234 cards for Pitcher
57 cards for Catcher
22 cards for 1st Base
26 cards for 2nd Base
38 cards for Shortstop (38!)
29 cards for 3rd Base
18 cards for Infield
123 cards for Outfield

That's a total of 547 cards. The remaining 32 cards featured players at more than 1 position. Unlike the previous 4 sets, there are hardly any cards with opposite position combinations (for example, we have many 1B-OF, but no OF-1B). Below is a sample of each position:

The 1B-OF combination appears the most (like it always does), but this time there are ELEVEN players: Willie Stargell, Frank Howard, Ken Harrelson, Ron Fairly and Bob Bailey (both on the Expos), Joe Pepitone, Tito Francona, Curt Blefary and Pete Ward (both on the Yankees), Andy Kosco, and Greg Goossen. Jim Stewart is the only player with the INF-OF position.

Joe Torre and John Boccabella are the C-1B players, while only Orlando "Marty" Martinez checks in with C-INF.

Carl Taylor and the Yankees' Frank Fernandez have C-OF on their cards. Mickey Stanley is the only SS-OF (despite not playing very much at shortstop over the 2nd half of 1969).

This is the only position combo that is featured both ways. Dalton Jones and the Pirates' Bob Robertson have the 1B-3B position, and Harmon Killebrew is the lone player with 3B-1B.

Angel Hermoso, Ron Hansen, and Steve Huntz all show 2B-SS, although for some reason Topps is abbreviating "Shortstop" as "S.S." on Hermoso's card. There are 5 players with a 2B-3B combination: Tony Taylor, Jim Lefebvre, Dave Campbell, Wayne Garrett, and the White Sox' Rich Morales.

Rick Renick and Jose Pagan are the 2 players having the 3B-SS position. Graig Nettles is the only 3B-OF player in the set.

Weird stuff 'bout the 1970 set: 

In addition to Angel Hermoso above, Topps also decided they needed periods to abbreviate these two players' positions.

There are only 2 outfielders for the Pirates and 3 for the Cardinals, but the Cubs and Giants each have EIGHT outfielders. (Hey, I thought that extravagance was reserved for the Angels!)

With all those outfielders, there was only room for 6 Cubs' pitchers. The White Sox have 7 pitchers, while most teams have 10 or 11.

The Red Sox have FOUR catcher cards!

I also noticed that Topps misspelled Gil Garrido's name as Gill Garrido (on the front only - the back is correct), and was now calling Clay Dalrymple "Clayton".

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Paul Doyle (#277)

Here is Paul Doyle's rookie card. Doyle only had one other Topps card, found in the 1972 set.

I have no recollection of Paul from back in the day, and would probably have skipped blogging about him altogether, had he not appeared high on my "Oldest living players from 1966-1970 not blogged yet" list.

As a kid, I only collected cards from 1967-69 and 1972, and only got his 1970 card a few years ago. I DID have his 1972 card that year (having collected all the '72 cards in 1972 except for Bill Russell) but he was a virtual unknown then. (That he played for an American League team 3000 miles from Philadelphia didn’t help him enter my card-collecting consciousness.)

Doyle was signed by the Tigers in 1959, and languished in the minors for 9 seasons (hitting the Tigers', Yankees', Giants', Astros', and Braves' organizations) before making his MLB debut with the Braves in May 1969. Although primarily a starting pitcher in the minors, he was strictly a reliever in his 87 career major-league games.

He pitched in 36 games in his rookie season, then was sold to the Angels in late-November.

In 1970 he appeared in 40 games out of the Halos’ bullpen, then was sold to the Padres in late-August 1970. He only pitched 7 innings over 9 games with San Diego in the season's final weeks, and spent all of 1971 in the minors.

Reacquired by the Angels prior to the 1972 season, Paul appeared in 2 games over the first month, and that was it for his career. He didn't play in the minors during 1972, so it is unclear if he was released in early-May, or missed the remainder of 1972 due to injury.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Larry Brown (#391)

Here is Larry Brown, the Indians' starting shortstop from 1965-69. He's demonstrating the best way to lose a fingernail while bunting!

Brown played in the minors from 1958 to mid-1963, then made his big-league debut in July 1963. The Tribe had been using a trio of starting shortstops over the first half of the season (Tony Martinez, Dick Howser, Jerry Kindall), but Larry started 45 of the final 70 games there. His 45 starts were more than any of the other three players. Brown also started 20 games at 2nd base in his rookie season.

In 1964, Howser started 161 games at shortstop, while Brown found a temporary home at 2nd base, making 87 starts. This arrangement continued into the start of the next season, but by mid-July, Brown had replaced Howser at shortstop, and started 75 of the final 80 games there.

Larry remained a fixture at shortstop for the next several seasons, although his double-play partner became a revolving door.

In 1969 he only played in 132 games, although still managing to collect as many at-bats (450+) as in his earlier full seasons. He was the regular shortstop for the season's first half, then gave way to Eddie Leon. Brown started sporadically at 3B and SS for the rest of the season.

Larry was clearly a backup in 1970. The Indians cleaned house at the non-1B part of their infield, replacing Vern Fuller/Zoilo Versalles, Brown, and Max Alvis/Lou Klimchock with Eddie Leon, Jack Heidemann, and Graig Nettles at 2B, SS, and 3B respectively. Brown only started 35 games that season, spread across those 3 positions.

In April 1971 Brown was sold to the Athletics. After backing up Bert Campaneris and Dick Green in 1971, Larry was the starting 2nd baseman for 44 games in 1972 (mostly from late-April to mid-June), as 2nd base was a carousel of 5 players that season. Although Brown didn’t play in the post-season with the Athletics in either '71 or '72, he did play in the '73 ALCS for Baltimore… vs the Athletics.

Released after the 1972 season, he played very sparingly for the Orioles in 1973 (29 at-bats) and Rangers in 1974 (76 at-bats).

His brother Dick Brown was a catcher for the Indians, White Sox, Tigers, and Orioles from 1957 to 1965.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gene Brabender (#289)

Here is Pilots’ starting pitcher Gene Brabender, warming up in Yankee Stadium. I was surprised to see today that Gene only played for 5 seasons (1966-70). Although his first 3 seasons were with the Orioles (which is how I remember him), he was traded to the expansion Pilots seemingly minutes before the start of the 1969 season, and went on to lead the staff in wins, strikeouts, and most other pitching categories.

Brabender started out in the Dodgers’ chain (I also didn’t know that) in 1961. After 3 seasons as a starting pitcher (mostly in Class D and Class A), Gene lost 2 seasons to military service, then was selected by Baltimore in the post-1965 Rule 5 draft.

He made the Orioles from the get-go in 1966, making his debut in May. Brabender pitched in 31 games as a rookie, all but 1 in relief.

Gene began the 1967 season back in the minors, getting the triple-A fine-tuning he missed earlier. Recalled in late-July, he started 14 games (completing 3) over the final 2 months of the season.  

In 1967, only Dave McNally remained a top-5 starting pitcher from the previous season’s World Champion pitching staff that swept the ’66 World Series. (Injuries cut down Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker, and Steve Barber was traded away by mid-season. ) In their place were rookies Tom Phoebus and Jim Hardin, Brabender, and Pete Richert who was acquired from Washington.

Gene’s last season with the O’s was 1968. With McNally, Hardin, and Phoebus each making 35+ starts, Brabender was a swing man, only starting 15 of his 37 games.

In 1969 the Orioles acquired starting pitcher Mike Cuellar from the Astros. With Palmer once again healthy and reliever Dick Hall back from his 2-year stint with the Phillies, Baltimore’s pitching staff was not only solid, but crowded. Gene was traded to the Pilots during the final week of Spring Training for utility man Chico Salmon. Brabender led the upstart Pilots with 13 wins, 139 strikeouts, 29 starts, and 202 innings pitched. He was also one of Jim Bouton’s favorite subjects in his book Ball Four.

Gene’s final season was 1970 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Other pitchers acquired in the off-season (such as Lew Krausse, Ken Sanders, Bob Bolin, and Dave Baldwin) surpassed him, cutting his workload down from 40 games in 1969 to 29 in 1970. Of course, having a 6-15 record and a 6.02 ERA probably had something to do with it.

Brabender was traded to the Angels in January 1971 for outfielder Bill Voss. His final card is in the 1971 set (as an Angel), but he played the entire season with the Angels’ AAA team, the retired.

He passed away in 1996 at age 55.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

May I Call You?

Here's a break from the normal routine. I went through my 1966 to 1970 cards, and found over a dozen cases where three or more players have the same last name (and many more with just two). I've already done the brothers thing, so they won't be included in this series.

I started off with all the Jacksons, and now here are the (wait, I can't say "Mays", because Willie isn't here) individuals whose last name sounds like "May". (There, that oughta do it!)

(I once told the story here of how in 1967, until I got Tony Cloninger's late-series card, I thought Tony Cloninger and Tony Conigliaro were the same person. Imagine the dilemma I would have had with Lee May and Lee Maye!)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Final Card - Walt Hriniak

Here is Walt Hriniak's first solo card (#392), which is also his final card. In fact, his major-league career was over in 1969.

Hriniak began in the Braves' farm system in 1961, and played in the minors for 8 seasons, mostly as a middle infielder. He didn’t begin catching on a regular basis until 1968.

After 8 seasons as the Braves' starting catcher, Joe Torre was traded to the Cardinals after the 1968 season. Torre had shared the starts with journeyman Bob Tillman 60/40 in 1968, with Hriniak making 6 starts during his September call-up.

In 1969 the Braves seemed determined to go with 2 rookies behind the plate, as indicated by this high-numbered card in 1969:

However, with no prior major-league experience, Bob Didier won the catching job in 1969, starting 108 games while Tillman stayed on as the backup, catching 52 games. Hriniak started 2 games in early-June (showcased?), then was traded to the Padres a week later for outfielder Tony Gonzalez.

Walt started 17 games behind the plate for the Padres in 1969, and appeared in another dozen games as a pinch-hitter. It was his final season in the majors.

He spent all of 1970 with the Padres' AAA team, mostly as a 2nd baseman. Just before the start of the 1971 season he was traded back to the Braves, who released him in July. A month later he was picked up by the Expos, but played the entire season, as well as '72 and '73, in the minors.

For someone with such a short and insignificant playing career, Hriniak became a well-respected hitting coach.  He began coaching in 1974, first for the Expos, then the Red Sox. Initially a base coach or bullpen coach, by the mid-1980s, he became Boston's hitting coach, working with players like Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, and Dwight Evans.

After 12 seasons with the Red Sox, Hriniak coached the White Sox for 7 season, then opened up his own hitting school.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Born on the Same Day - 7/3/1940

Last October I started a new series called "Born on the Same Day", featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. The scope of this exercise is those players (or managers) who have cards in the 1965-1970 sets (because that's what I dooze). Ideally, I should also have their cards. 

In researching this, I found 51 pairs and 2 trios. In a few pairs both are stars, some pairs have 1 star, and other pairs are just 2 guys named Joe. In a few cases, these players were also teammates. 

I am going to post these in chronological order, and distribute them across my 1966-1970 blogs depending on which cards I have for who. This is the 16th post in the series, but the first on the 1970 blog. 

This is post #16 in the series: Coco Laboy and Cesar Tovar - both born on 7/3/1940.

After 10 seasons in the Giants' and Cardinals' farm systems, Coco Laboy made his major-league debut at age 28 with the expansion Expos in 1969. He was tied for 2nd place in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, and was named to the Topps All-Rookie team. He played 2 full seasons and parts of 3 others with Montreal, and retired after the 1973 season.

Primarily a 2nd baseman and outfielder, Cesar Tovar has played every position, and played all 9 IN ONE GAME during the 1968 season. He played for 12 seasons, his first 8 with the Twins.