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).

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Joe Coleman (#127)

Joe Coleman Jr. was a starting pitcher for the Senators (1965-70) and Tigers (1971-76), then spent his last 2 ½ years bouncing around to 5 different teams.

Coleman (whose father pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics and others from 1942-55) was the Senators’ 1st-round pick in the June 1965 draft. He made his major-league debut that September, with 2 complete-game wins at age 18.


After spending much of 1966 back in the minors, Joe made the Senators on a permanent basis in April 1967. He started 22 games and posted 8 wins in his rookie season.

Coleman won 12 games in 1968 and 1969 – not bad for a perennially bad team. He also had an identical 3.27 ERA both years, and struck out 139 and 182 batters.

After an off-year in 1970, Joe was part of an 8-player trade with the Tigers. Coleman, along with shortstop Ed Brinkman, 3rd baseman Aurelio Rodriguez, and pitcher Jim Hannan were exchanged for pitchers Denny McLain and Norm McRae, 3rd baseman Don Wert, and outfielder Elliott Maddox. With McLain’s career crumbling, the Tigers got the better of that deal.

Joe put in 5 full seasons with Detroit, including winning 20, 19, and 23 games from 1971-73. He also struck out over 200 batters each of those seasons, and made the All-Star team in 1972.

In June 1976 he was sold to the Cubs, which started the slow unwinding of his career, as he bounced from the Cubs to the Athletics, Blue Jays, Giants, and finally the Pirates in 1979.

Coleman has been a minor and major-league pitching coach for the Angels, Cardinals, Rays, Tigers, and Marlins since 1980.

Joe Jr was the middleman in 3 generations of ballplayers. His son Casey pitched for the Cubs and Royals from 2010 to 2014.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Born on the Same Day - 4/18/1942

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #25 in the series: Steve Blass and Chuck Taylor - both born on 4/18/1942.


Steve Blass played for the Pirates from 1964 to 1974, and was their ace from 1968 to 1972. In 1972 he won 19 games and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting.

The following season he mysteriously lost his ability to control the ball, and his strikeout/walk ratio plummeted. It became known as "Steve Blass disease".


Chuck Taylor was a reliever for the Cardinals and Expos from 1969 to 1976.
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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dave Campbell (#639)

About 5 years ago (wow, has it been that long?) a blog reader sent me four cards from my 1970 want list in exchange for a handful of 1968 Topps playing cards. Those cards were Dave Leonhard, Dalton Jones, Bob Allison, and Dave Campbell (all high numbers). 

Dave Campbell (whose nickname is "Soup") was a utility infielder who played for the Tigers and Padres, but he did have 2 seasons (1970-71) as a regular for the Padres.

Campbell was signed by the Tigers in 1964, and played in their farm system for several years, initially as a first baseman until switching to 2nd base in 1966. He made his major-league debut with 2 games in September 1967.


Campbell returned to the minors the following season, except for a 9-game stint with Detroit in June.

In 1969 he played 32 games for the Tigers, spread across the entire season, although it appears he was back in the minors for much of mid-May to mid-July.

In December 1969 Dave was traded to the Padres (with pitcher Pat Dobson) for pitcher Joe Niekro. This was Campbell’s big break, as he was San Diego’s regular 2nd baseman in 1970, replacing 1969’s trio of Jose Arcia, John Sipin, and Roberto Pena. Dave reached career-highs in games (154), at-bats (581), runs (71), hits (127), doubles (28), homers (12), and RBI (40). The only blemish was his paltry .219 batting average.

In 1971 the Padres acquired 2nd baseman Don Mason from the Giants, so Campbell alternated between 2B (with Mason) and 3B (with Ed Spiezio). In late-May Gary Jestadt was acquired from the Cubs, and joined the 2B/3B mix. Campbell started 68 games at 2B and 31 at 3B. By late-August, the team had settled on Mason at 2B and Jestadt at 3B, so Campbell rarely played after that.

Dave started 30 of the first 35 games at 3rd base in 1972, but then Jestadt reclaimed the job, and Campbell was shipped off to the Cardinals. He played sparingly for St. Louis, and in August was traded to the Astros for outfielder Tommie Agee.

He played 9 games for Houston in 1973, and 35 games in 1974. In his final season he was used mostly as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.

In the late-1970s he started doing play-by-play for the Padres. This led to a 20-year career at ESPN (1990-2010).

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Gates Brown (#98)

I have made 1321 posts to my 1963 - 1970 baseball card blogs since 2009, and only now am I getting around to Gates Brown. Sorry, Tigers’ fans.

William James "Gates" Brown spent his late-teen years in prison on a burglary charge, and while playing ball for the prison team, he was spotted by a Tigers' scout and was signed in 1960. After 3 ½ seasons on the farm, he made his major-league debut in June 1963.

Brown was the ideal player for the designated hitter position, but unfortunately that didn't exist until his career was winding down. Except for 1964, Gates was used mostly as a pinch-hitter and backup left fielder during his first 10 seasons. In '64, he was the Tigers' regular left fielder, starting a career-high 106 games there after Rocky Colavito was traded away the previous winter.

Willie Horton joined the Tigers on a fulltime basis in 1965, taking the left field job away from Brown for good (clubbing 25+ home runs and 100+ RBI in each of his first 2 seasons). Horton also made his first of 4 All-Star teams as a rookie.


Brown was relegated to pinch-hitting and occasional play in left field through the 1972 season, although he did start 56 games in '71 and 72 games in '72.

There's a funny story that, since Gates spent a lot of time on the bench, he had his fair share of in-game hot dogs. From Wikipedia:

On August 7, 1968, Brown wasn't in the starting lineup, and decided to grab two hot dogs from the clubhouse. He was ordered by manager Mayo Smith to pinch hit, so he stuffed the hot dogs in his jersey to hide them from his manager. 

"I always wanted to get a hit every time I went to the plate. But this was one time I didn't want to get a hit. I'll be damned if I didn't smack one in the gap and I had to slide into second—head first, no less. I was safe with a double. But when I stood up, I had mustard and ketchup and smashed hot dogs and buns all over me. The fielders took one look at me, turned their backs and damned near busted a gut laughing at me. My teammates in the dugout went crazy." 

After fining Brown $100, Smith said, "What the hell were you doing eating on the bench in the first place?" Brown replied, "I decided to tell him the truth. I said I was hungry."

The DH was instituted in 1973, suiting Brown just fine. Unfortunately, that would last only 1 season, as veteran Al Kaline became the DH in 1974, and with Ron LeFlore playing fulltime in 1975, Horton slid over to the DH role that season.

Brown whiled away his final 2 years on the bench, seeing action in 120 games over that 2-year span, all as a pinch-hitter.

He was the Tigers’ hitting coach from 1978-1984.

Brown passed away in 2013 at age 74.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Bill Stoneman (#398)

In just his 3rd big-league season,  Bill Stoneman became the first big star for the expansion Montreal Expos pitching staff.

Stoneman was signed by the Cubs in June 1966, and after two half-seasons in the minors, he made his major-league debut in July 1967. (Stoneman was so fresh that Topps didn't even have him on a Cubs' Rookies card in the 1967 set.) He pitched 63 innings over 28 games for the remainder of the season, picking up 4 saves.

In 1968 he only played 18 games for the Cubs, while pitching 6 games in triple-A. That doesn't add up to a full season, so maybe he spent time on the DL. After that season Bill was left unprotected in the expansion draft, and was selected by the Expos with the 19th pick.


He began 1969 as the #2 starter behind veteran Mudcat Grant, and in only his 5th start he pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies. By early-June, Grant was dispatched to the Cardinals while Stoneman became the team's ace, leading the staff with 36 starts (9 more than the next guy), 235 innings (56 more than the next guy), and 185 strikeouts (52 more than the next guy).   His 11 wins made him the only Expo hurler with double-digit wins (although he also lost 19 games).

Stoneman had an off-year in 1970, but teammate Carl Morton had an even better season than Bill's 1969,  winning 18 games and the NL Rookie of the Year award.

Stoneman bounced back to lead the staff in '71 and '72. In both seasons he led the team in starts, innings, and strikeouts, with half of his 1971 starts being complete games (19). He also had 13 complete games in 1972, tying him with newcomer Mike Torrez. Bill made his only All-Star team in 1972, and also pitched his 2nd no-hitter in his final game that season (Oct 2nd).

The wheels came off in 1973, as he only started 17 games while his ERA ballooned to 6.80 and only struck out 48 batters. By August he was replaced in the rotation by Steve Rogers, who would finish 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

Stoneman was sold to the Angels the day before the 1974 season opener, but by the end of June his record was 1-8 with a 6.14 ERA. He was released 2 weeks later, ending his career.

He began working in the Expos' front office in 1983, and was eventually named their GM. Stoneman was also the Angels' General Manager from 1999-2007.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jimmie Price (#129)

Jimmie Price was the Tigers' backup catcher from 1967-1971. (Backing up Bill Freehan meant you didn't get much playing time.) 

Price was signed by the Pirates in 1960, and played in their farm system for 7 seasons (the last 3 at triple-A). Four days before the 1967 season, he was purchased by the Tigers (after already appearing on a 2nd-series Pirates Rookies card that year).


Jim spent 5 seasons as the Tigers' #2 catcher behind Freehan. His most playing time came in 1969, when he had career-highs in games (72), starts (49), complete games (44), and at-bats (192). Price also had 2 at-bats in the 1968 World Series.

The Tigers acquired Tom Haller from the Dodgers in December 1971 to back up Freehan in '72, spelling the end of Price’s career.

Jim has been broadcasting Tigers' games since the 1970s.