Friday, March 27, 2020

50 Years Ago - 1970 Opening Day Lineups (AL)

Here are the American League opening day lineups from half a century ago. Teams are shown in order of their 1970 finish.

East Division:

Elrod Hendricks caught more games than Andy Etchebarren, but the other 7 were everyday regulars.

Danny Cater was the primary 1st baseman, with Jerry Kenney playing mostly at 3rd base.

Yaz moved in to play first base this season, with George Scott moving over to 3rd base. Billy Coniglaro was the primary left fielder.

Not pictured are the regular 3rd baseman (Don Wert) and center fielder (Mickey Stanley). Jim Northrup and Al Kaline shared the right field starts.

Vada Pinson was the regular right fielder, otherwise this was the Tribe's regular lineup. (Tony Horton custom card courtesy of the late Bob Lemke.) 

The Senators made a lot of changes, before settling on Tim Cullen at 2B, Aurelio Rodriguez (acquired from the Angels) at 3B, Ed Stroud in CF and Lee Maye in RF.

West Division:

The Twins had a fairly stable lineup, with only Danny Thompson replacing the injured Rod Carew at 2nd base.

The Athletics were the only team whose 1970 Opening Day lineup was their regular lineup all season.

The Angels traded Aurelio Rodriguez to the Senators for 3B Ken McMullen. Jay Johnstone was the regular center fielder, pushing Roger Repoz to right field.

Ed Kirkpatrick, Bob Oliver, Cookie Rojas (acquired from the Cardinals in June), and Paul Schaal were the regulars at C, 1B, 2B, and 3B. Shortstop and the outfielders were as shown above.

As you would expect from a disaster only one year removed from the Seattle Pilots, this lineup was unstable. The regulars were: C-Phil Roof, 1B-Mike Hegan, 2B-Ted Kubiak, SS-Roberto Pena, 3B-Tommy Harper, LF-Danny Walton, CF-Dave May, RF-Bob Burda.

Ahhh, those White Sox. In 1969 they finished behind the expansion Royals but ahead of the expansion Pilots. Now the Pilots/Brewers have passed them too.

Ed Herrman and Duane Josephson split the catching. 1st and 2nd base were manned by Gail Hopkins and Bobby Knoop respectively, while Ken Berry was the center fielder. Bill Melton actually played more games at 3B and also in RF that any other player.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

50 Years Ago - 1970 Opening Day Lineups (NL)

This season is temporarily on hold, but 50 years ago next week was Opening Day 1970.

April 6, 1970 featured the traditional opening games in Cincinnati and Washington. All other teams began the following day. (Cincinnati always hosted the NL's first game, because it is the oldest NL team. Washington hosted the AL's first game so that the president could throw out the first pitch.)

Here are the National League opening day lineups from half a century ago. Teams are shown in order of their 1970 finish.

East Division:
The Pirates won the division with this regular lineup, except for Manny Sanguillen (C ) and Bob Robertson (1B).

Randy Hundley did most of the catching. Jim Hickman replaced Ernie Banks at 1st base, and Joe Pepitone came over from the Astros to play center field.

Donn Clendenon and Ken Boswell were the regulars at 1B and 2B, otherwise those above were the regulars.

Joe Torre split his time between catcher and 3rd base, with rookie Ted Simmons catching many games. Dick Allen was the primary 1st baseman in his only season with the Cardinals. Leron Lee and Joe Hague shared right field.

The Phillies were assembling a good infield, but their pitching and corner outfielders were still sub-par. Johnny Briggs was the primary left fielder, while Byron Browne and others played right field.

John Bateman was the #1 catcher, and Mack Jones took over the left field job.

West Division:

The Reds had most, but not all of their "Big Red Machine" parts together. Dave Concepcion and Woody Woodward split the shortstop duties.

These were the everyday 8 starters except for Bill Grabarkiewitz (3B), Manny Mota (LF), and Andy Kosco (RF).

These were the everyday players all season except for 2nd base, where Ron Hunt split time with Tito Fuentes.

Bob Watson was the primary 1st baseman this season. By mid-season, the outfield was Jim Wynn in left, rookie Cesar Cedeno in center, and Jesus Alou in right.

Bob Tillman caught more games than Bob Didier, and Sonny Jackson shared the shortstop job with Gil Garrido.

This was the Padres' regular lineup all season, except for Ed Speizio at 3B and Al Ferrara in left field. (Van Kelly custom card courtesy of the "When Topps Had (Base)Balls" blog.) 

Tomorrow: The AL starters

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Angel Bravo (#283)

Angel Bravo is the oldest living player (with a card in the 1966-70 sets) that I have not yet featured on a blog.

He had a very brief major-league career with the White Sox (1969), Reds (1970-71), and Padres (1971).

He was signed by the White Sox in 1963, and played in the minors every season from 1963 to 1972, except for the 1970 season. He also played in the Mexican League from 1973-76, and the Inter-American League in 1979.

After 3 seasons in class-A ball, he advanced to AA in 1966. He played at the AA and AAA levels in '67 and '68. In 1969 he led the Pacific Coast League with a .342 batting average.

Angel made his major-league debut with the White Sox in June 1969, and started 2 dozen games in center field, mostly in late-June and mid-September. After the season he was traded to the Reds for pitcher Gerry Arrigo.

Bravo spent the entire 1970 season on the Reds' roster (his only season not in the minors). The Reds lineup being what it was, Bravo rarely got any playing time, starting only 6 games in center field (to Bobby Tolan's 146 starts), and was the team's 8th outfielder (behind even Johnny Bench and Jimmy Stewart). Although only playing parts of 22 games in the field, he did get into 43 other games as a pinch-hitter.

In mid-May 1971 he was traded to the Padres for OF Al Ferrara. Once again he was mostly a pinch-hitter, since the Padres had Cito Gaston and Ollie Brown as everyday outfielders, along with Larry Stahl, Leron Lee, and Ivan Murrell all sharing left field. Bravo’s last major-league games came in September 1971.

He played all of 1972 for San Diego's AAA team in Hawaii, then played in Mexico for 4 seasons. In 1979 he played 15 games in the ill-fated Inter-American League before it folded.


The Inter-American League lasted only 3 months in 1979. It planned to play 130 games, but 2 teams (Panama and Puerto Rico) dropped out in mid-June. Two weeks later the league folded.

The standings at that time were:
1. Miami (72 games played)
2. Caracas (64)
3. Santo Domingo (67)
4. Maricaibo (67)
5. Panama (51)
6. Puerto Rico (55)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Dan McGinn (#364)

Dan McGinn was the Expos’ first closer. He was the Reds’ 1st-round pick in 1966, and made his major-league debut with 14 games (12 innings) in September 1968.

McGinn was selected by the Expos with the 27th pick in the October 1968 expansion draft. He appeared in 74 games as a rookie in 1969 (30 more than the next guy) and led the Expos with 6 saves. He also hit the first home run in Expos’ history.

In 1970 he pitched in 52 games, but unlike the previous year he spent some time in the rotation, making 19 starts (compared to 1 in 1969). He ended up with the same 7-10 record as in 1969, and with similar innings pitched (130 vs. 132). On the down side, his ERA ballooned from 3.94 in ‘69 to 5.44 in ’70.

The wheels began to fall off in 1971, as McGinn began the season in AAA, rejoining the Expos in mid-May to pitch in 28 games (posting a 1-4 record).

A week before the start of the 1972 season he was traded to the Cubs for 1B Hal Breeden and SS Hector Torres. (P Bill Kelso was later sent to the Cubs as part of the deal.) Dan pitched 42 games for the Cubs in 1972, but that would be his last season in the majors.

He spent the 1973 season with the Cubs’ and Cardinals’ AAA teams before retiring.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Jim Rooker (#222)

This is Jim Rooker's first solo card, and one of the many nice cards from the '69 and '70 sets featuring the new Royals' uniform.

Although the expansion 1969 Royals pitching staff was led by ex-Oriole veterans Wally Bunker and Moe Drabowsky, Rooker was one of several youngsters (along with Roger Nelson, Dick Drago, Bill Butler, and Tom Burgmeier) forming the foundation of a solid pitching staff.

Rooker was signed by the Tigers in 1960, and was an outfielder in their minor-league system from 1960-64. He has also pitched 10 innings in 1962, but by 1964 was pitching on a regular basis.

In 1965 he pitched 115 innings in 28 games, collecting 95 strikeouts but only compiling a 2-11 record. After another 2 1/2 seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut with the Tigers in mid-1968, pitching 2 innings on June 30 and 2 more on July 6th, before returning to the minors.

The day after the season was over, he was sent to the Yankees as payment for the earlier acquisition of pitcher John Wyatt. 2 weeks later, he was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft.

Jim was the team's #5 starter the first year, then jumped to #2 in 1970. He was moved to the bullpen in 1971, and spent parts of ’71 and 72 in triple-A. Upon his return to Kansas City in 1972 he was back in the starting rotation.

After the 1972 season he was traded to the Pirates for pitcher Gene Garber. He put in 7 solid seasons (1973-79) in the Pirates' starting rotation, and for the first few years was one of their top 3 starters (along with Jerry Reuss and John Candelaria) He played in the post-season in '74, '75, and '79.

Rooker only pitched 4 games in 1980 (the last on May 2nd) and was released after the season, ending his 13-year career.

After his playing career he was a broadcaster for the Pirates from 1981-1993, and for ESPN from 1994-97.

From Wikipedia:

Rooker's most famous moment as a broadcaster came on June 8, 1989, during a Pirates' road game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium. The Pirates scored 10 runs in the top of the first inning, including three on a Barry Bonds home run. 

As the Pirates' cross-state rivals came to bat in the bottom of the first, Rooker said on the air, "If we don't win this one, I don't think I'd want to be on that plane ride home. Matter of fact, if we don't win, I'll walk back to Pittsburgh." 

Both Von Hayes and Steve Jeltz hit two home runs (the latter would hit only five during his Major League career) to trigger a Phillies comeback. In the eighth inning the Phillies, now trailing only 11–10, scored the tying run on a wild pitch, then took the lead on Darren Daulton's two-run single and went on to win 15–11. 

Rooker had to wait until after the season to make good on his "walk home" promise, conducting a 300-mile-plus (480 km) charity walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. 

He now writes childrens' books.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Willie Smith (#318)

This is "Wonderful" Willie Smith, on his last decent-looking baseball card. Willie had a card every year from 1965 to 1971, but Topps didn’t make much of an effort on his cards. He was capless in '66, '67, '68, and '71, and airbrushed in 1969. The same photo was used in '67 and '68. 

Here's a surprising fact I just learned today while researching Smith's career. He began as a pitcher in the Tigers' organization from 1960 to 1963, including pitching 11 games for the Tigers in 1963.

( also shows that he played Negro League baseball in 1946 and 1948 (pitching 6 innings in '46 and 4 innings in '48), but that must be a mistake because he would have been 7 and 9 years old. Maybe it was an Eddie Gaedel-type stunt?) 

In April 1964 he was traded to the Angels for pitcher Julio Navarro, and was converted to an outfielder to get his bat in the lineup. He responded with a .301 average! Smith also pitched 19 games for the Angels that year. Willie was the backup left and right fielder, but was 2nd overall in innings played (717) among Angels' outfielders. Not bad having never played outfield before!

In 1965 he was the regular left fielder, playing 122 games there, but still #2 overall – this time behind rookie center fielder Jose Cardenal.

Willie's playing time decreased greatly in 1966. Young Rick Reichardt took over the left field job, and with rookie Jay Johnstone also joining the team, Smith spent a lot of time on the bench – only starting 40 games. After the season he was traded to the Indians for 3rd baseman George Banks (who never played in the majors after 1966).

Smith spent most of 1967 in triple-A, only appearing in 21 games for the Indians, mostly as a pinch-hitter in April and September.

He began the 1968 season with the Tribe, but again was used only as a pinch-hitter, playing in 33 games until his late-June trade to the Cubs for outfielder Lou Johnson. He had more success in Chicago, starting 36 games in left field (with Billy Williams moving over to right field on those days). The fact that Smith only played left field (or pinch-hitter), and moved a star like Williams out of position, makes me think Willie was either a defensive butcher or had a candy arm.

In 1969 he started 30 games in left field (again moving Williams to right field, not giving him a day off. Because Williams NEVER took a day off). Smith also made 16 starts at 1st base when Ernie Banks took a breather. Willie played more games that year (103) than any season since 1965.

His final lap in Chicago was 1970, but he only played 2 innings in the outfield all season. Rather, he was the 3rd-string 1st baseman (behind Jim Hickman and Banks), with 43 games (32 starts).

In November he was traded to the Reds, and split the 1971 season between Cincinnati (31 games) and their triple-A team (77).

Smith also played in Japan in 1972 and 1973.

He passed away in 2006 at age 66.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Tom Hilgendorf (#482)

This is Tom Hilgendorf's rookie card. On the back, it shows that he made his major-league debut in 1969, pitching only 6 games (and 6 INNINGS!) To which I say "Why does he have a card?" Surely he only rates half of a Cardinals Rookie Stars card?

I'm also labeling this post as "new to me", because back in the day I only collected cards from 1967-69, and also in 1972. Either he wasn't in the 1972 set, or I wasn't paying attention to relievers on teams I didn't follow. So I was not aware of Tom for many years. I got this card just a few years ago as I was building the 1970 set prior to starting this blog.

Truth be told, my first awareness of him was when I got his 1976 Phillies card sometime in the 1980s, while I was completing my 1964-present run of Phillies cards. Still, although I followed the Phillies closely from 1967 to the mid-1980s, I have absolutely no recollection of him pitching 53 games for Philly in 1975. (Surprising, because I DO remember many forgettable appearances by Phillies' relievers Mike Wallace, Dave Wallace, Ron DiOrio, Frank Linzy, John Montague, Ed Farmer (in his 1st go-round), Jesus Hernaiz, Pete Richert, and George Culver.)

Anyway, Tom began his career in the Cardinals' organization way back in 1960. After 6 seasons on the farm, he missed the '66 and '67 seasons.

Hilgendorf returned to the Cards' organization in 1968 and made his major-league debut in August 1969. In both 1969 and 1970, he played for the Cardinals and for their AAA team.

After the 1970 season, he was traded to the Royals but played all of 1971 in the minors.

Tom began the '72 season in the minors but was traded to the Indians in mid-June. He pitched 19 games for the Tribe in the second half. From 1973 to 1975 he managed to stay out of the minor leagues. Tom was the Indians' top man in the bullpen in 1973, leading the relievers in innings pitched and saves (6). In '74 he dropped to the #4 reliever slot.

During spring training in 1975, he was traded to the Phillies for a minor-leaguer and spent his final MLB season pitching 96 innings (all in relief) slotted behind Tug McGraw and Gene Garber.

The Phillies released him the following April, and although he was picked up by the Pirates, he played the 1976 season in triple-A before retiring.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Doug Rader (#355)

This is Doug Rader’s 3rd solo card, but anyone familiar with vintage Topps cards will know that the '68 and '69 Astros cards are not much to look at.  Rader also appeared on an Astros Rookies card in 1967.

Rader was signed by the Astros before the 1965 season. After just 2 ½ seasons, he made his major-league debut in July 1967.

He played a bit at 3rd base, but was mostly used at 1st base during his rookie season, starting 33 games there during the 2nd half. (In early-August, the Astros traded veteran Eddie Mathews to the Tigers, opening up 1st base for Rader.)

Rader was back on the bench at the start of 1968, but with long-time regular (and original Colt .45) Bob Aspromonte out of the lineup for a month beginning in mid-June, Doug began a streak of 32 starts at 3rd base. Even after Aspro’s return, Rader played most of the time.

Aspromonte was traded away after the ’68 season, so Rader was the full-time 3rd baseman, starting almost every game until early-September 1975.

Doug also won the Gold Glove award every season from 1970 to 1974.

In December 1975 he was traded to the Padres for pitchers Larry Hardy and Joe McIntosh. He started 136 games at the hot corner in 1976, an improvement over the 7-man committee playing there in 1975. 

He started 47 of the first 55 games in 1977, then was sold to the expansion Blue Jays in early-June.

Rader played 96 games with Toronto that year, split between 3B and DH. He was released during spring training in 1978.

After his playing career he became a manager. He coached for the Padres in 1979, then managed their AAA team from 1980-82. He also managed the Rangers (1983-85), White Sox (1986), Angels (1989-91), and Marlins (1993-94).