Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sal Bando (#120)

Sal Bando is often obscured by Reggie Jackson’s shadow when we remember the A’s teams of this era. This is Bando’s first card appearing as an Oakland A. He was on an Athletics Rookie Stars card in 1967, followed by 2 capless photos in ’68 and ’69 as the Athletics relocated to Oakland.

Bando was drafted in the 6th round by the Athletics in 1965 (5 rounds after selecting his college teammate Rick Monday) and played 3 seasons in the minors. He also appeared briefly for Kansas City in September 1966 and in 1967 from mid-May to mid-June, and again in September.

When veteran Ed Charles was traded to the Mets in May 1967, Bando got his first shot at the 3rd base job. A month later he returned to the minors while the A’s filled in with Danny Cater and Dick Green, but Sal returned in September and locked down the 3rd base job starting on September 8th.

Bando was a fixture at the hot corner for the next 9 seasons, starting 159, 162, 150, 153, 151, 159, 141, 160, and 155 games there over the next 9 seasons. During that time he was the team’s captain, a 4-time all-star, and finished 2nd in the AL MVP voting in 1971. The Athletics appeared in the post-season every year from 1971 to 1975, winning 3 World Series titles. In 39 post-season games with the A’s, Bando hit 5 homers and collected 12 RBI.

Granted free agency after the 1976 season, Bando signed with the Brewers and played 5 additional seasons there – the first 3 as their regular 3rd baseman.

Bando retired after the Brewers lost the ALDS playoffs to the Yankees in 1981. Playing in 2,019 games over 16 years, he finished with 242 home runs and 1,039 RBI. Sal was the Brewers’ GM from 1991-99.

His brother Chris was a catcher for the Indians in the 1980s.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dave Leonhard (#674)

A few months ago, I offered up some 1968 Topps Playing Card inserts in trade for something on my want list (which is mostly made up of 1966 and 1970 high numbers). 

To date I have had one response, from blog reader Dave of Middletown, MD. Dave sent me four 1970 high-numbered cards in excellent condition, in return for a handful of 1968 playing cards. Here is the first of those four cards.

Dave Leonhard had a six-year career (all with the Orioles) from 1967 to 1972. I consider him to be in the “2nd tier” of Orioles’ starters of that era (along with Tom Phoebus and Jim Hardin), behind the “1st tier” of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, and even Steve Barber. (Let’s make Wally Bunker tier 1-A, losing points for lack of longevity.)

Leonhard was signed by the Orioles in 1963, and played 5 seasons in the minors. After winning the International League Pitcher of the Year award in 1967, he made his major-league debut in September.

Dave was a starter in the minors, and also during the 1968 season when the O’s were short on quality starters. (Palmer missed all of 1968 with a sore arm, Bunker was ineffective, and Cuellar had not yet arrived from Houston.)

With the return of Palmer and the acquisition of Cuellar for 1969, Dave was relegated to the bullpen, where he remained for the next 4 seasons. After pitching 94 innings over 37 games (3 starts) in 1969, Leonhard was limited to just 28 innings (over 23 games) in 1970, compiling a 0-0 record with a 5.08 ERA, and was rarely used during the second half.

That bought him a trip back to the minors in 1971, where he was once again used as a starter. Dave didn’t return to Baltimore until July 10th, and played in only 10 games for the Orioles that year.

In 1972 he played in only 14 games. His games were scattered throughout the season, and he didn’t play in the minors that year. It seems like he either spent a lot of time on the DL, or the last seat in the bullpen.

Dave’s final big-league game was on September 20, 1972. In June 1973 he was traded to the Angels for utility man Jim Hutto. Over the next 4 years, Dave bounced around from the Angels to the Cubs to the Expos, playing in AAA in ’73 and ’74, and in AA in ’75 and ’76.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ray Fosse (#184)

Ray Fosse caught for the Indians, Athletics, and others from 1967 to 1980, but is most remembered for being run over at home plate by Pete Rose on the final play of the 1970 All-star game.

Fosse was drafted by the Indians with the 7th overall pick in the first-ever 1965 amateur draft (6 picks behind Rick Monday and 29 picks ahead of Johnny Bench).

After a few cups of joe in ’67 and ’68, Ray made the Indians in 1969, playing 26 games in the first 2 months, before shipping out to AAA in mid-June. He returned in September to start 11 games in the final weeks.

In 1970 Ray took over the starting catching duties from the departed Joe Azcue, starting 120 of the first 136 games, but did not play after September 3rd. Fosse made the all-star team as a rookie, and despite being bulldozed by Charlie Hustle, Ray hit .307 for the season, with 18 homers and a Gold Glove award.

In 1971 he started 119 games behind the plate, but various injuries caused him to miss the last 3 weeks in July (including the all-star game). However, he won his 2nd Gold Glove award and hit .276.

1972 was Fosse’s last season with the Tribe. He was the #1 catcher again, starting 121 games behind the dish, but his offensive production fell off from his first 2 seasons.

After the season, he was traded to Oakland for catcher Dave Duncan and outfielder George Hendrick. Ray played for the Athletics for 3 seasons. He was the starter in ’73, shared the position with Gene Tenace in ’74, and was Tenace’s backup in ’75. Ray did appear in the post-season each year with the A’s (something he had no chance for with Cleveland back then).

After the 1975 season, Ray was sold back to the Indians, where he shared the starting catching duties with Alan Ashby (in ’76) and Fred Kendall (in ’77). In September 1977, he was traded to the expansion Mariners for pitcher Bill Laxton.

Fosse became a free agent after the 1977 season, and signed with the Brewers, but was injured during spring training and missed the entire 1978 season. He played sparingly in 1979, and was released during spring training in 1980.

Since 1986 he has been a broadcaster for the Athletics.

(With this post, every team is now represented at least once.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gene Michael (#114)

Gene "Stick" Michael played shortstop (mostly for the Yankees) from 1966 to 1975. After his playing career, he worked for the Yankees as a coach, manager, general manager, and vice-president in charge of scouting.

Michael was signed by the Pirates in 1959, and played in their minor-league system for 8 seasons from 1959-66, mostly as a shortstop. He also pitched in 16 games (53 innings) in 1963.

Blocked from a big-league job by the Pirates’ Gene Alley, Stick finally made his major-league debut with the Pirates in July 1966. He played in 30 games over the 2nd half of the season, mostly as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

With Alley going nowhere, Michael was shipped out to the Dodgers (with 3rd baseman Bob Bailey) for shortstop Maury Wills, who would be the Bucs’ 3rd baseman for the ’67 and ’68 seasons. Gene played only one season in LA, sharing the starting shortstop job with veteran Dick Schofield.

After the 1967 season, Michael was sold to the Yankees, where he would play for the next seven years. Gene was the Yanks’ starting shortstop from 1969 through the end of the 1973 season. In 1974, Michael was relegated to the bench as the Yankees went with Jim Mason at shortstop. After one season as the backup SS-2B, Stick was released by the Yankees.

The Tigers picked him up for the 1975 season, where he played sparingly in a bench role. After his 2nd straight off-season release, Michael signed with the Red Sox in February 1976, but he was released in early-May, not having played a game that season.

After his playing career, Gene coached for the Yankees, and later managed them in 1981 and part of 1982. Michael managed the Cubs for parts of 1986 and 1987, then returned to the Yankees as their general manager.

He was the GM from 1991 to 1995, signing most of the great players of the late-1990s dynasty. Unfortunately, George Steinbrenner was his boss, so Gene was fired before the good times began.

Michael has been a Yankees’ executive VP since 2000, early-on as Director of Scouting, then as a senior advisor to the GM.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jim Wynn (#60)

Jim Wynn played outfield for 15 seasons from 1963 to 1977. His first 11 seasons were with the Astros, then he moved around to 4 other teams in his final 4 seasons.

"The Toy Cannon" was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1962 (I did not know that), and after his first season was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the 1st-year draft. Wynn played in the minors for all of 1962, and parts of ’63 and ’64. He was mostly an infielder in the minors, playing 3B-OF in 1962, SS-3B in 1963, and OF-3B in 1964.

Wynn made his major-league debut with the Colt .45s in mid-July 1963. He started 13 consecutive games at shortstop, then moved out to center field for 9 games, before settling in as the regular left fielder for the final 2 months of the season, replacing Al Spangler.

Jim began the 1964 season as the team’s starting center fielder, but after starting 34 of the first 36 games, he was benched in mid-May, only to be sent down to the minors 3 weeks later, returning in September.

Wynn became a regular outfielder for the Astros from 1965 to 1973, mostly in center field, although he played in left field for parts of ’68 and ’70, then moved to right field permanently midway through the 1971 season, to make room for Cesar Cedeno in center field.

For a small guy, Jim was a power hitter (hence his nickname) and collected 291 career home runs, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize he played most of his career in the huge Astrodome.

After the 1973 season, he was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Claude Osteen. In his 2 seasons with LA, Wynn regained a starting center field job, and made the All-Star team both years. He also played in his only post-season in 1974.

In November 1975, Wynn was part of a 6-player trade with the Braves that sent outfielder Dusty Baker to the Dodgers. Jim played one season with Atlanta (playing left and center fields), but when the Braves signed Gary Mathews as a free agent in November 1976, they sold Wynn to the Yankees 2 weeks later.

Unfortunately for Wynn, the Yankees also acquired Reggie Jackson and Paul Blair in the same off-season, and with Roy White, Mickey Rivers, Lou Piniella, and Carlos May already on the roster, there was no room for the Wynn. After playing in only 30 games, he was released in mid-July 1977, and picked up by the Brewers 2 weeks later.

Wynn DH-ed in 15 games and made 17 starts in center field for the Brewers, then was released after the season, ending his 15-year career.

The Astros retired Wynn’s #24 in 2005. He also worked as a post-game analyst for the Astros.

Monday, July 14, 2014

All-Star Cards

Here are the All-Star cards, those players selected as All-Stars in 1969 by The Sporting News. As with the 1968 and 1969 all-star cards, the players on the cards were not necessarily the starters in the game.

In the actual game, the NL had Steve Carlton and Cleon Jones starting at P and LF respectively. The AL lineup included Mel Stotlemyre, Sal Bando, and Frank Howard starting at P, 3B, and LF. Otherwise, the starters were those you see in the 2 large blocks of cards below. Reggie Jackson started out of position in center field.

The Sporting News selected a lefty and a righty in each league. Here are the lefthanders:

I thought it was odd that the AL roster only included 7 pitchers: Mel Stottlemyre, Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Sam McDowell, Dave McNally, John Odom, and Darold Knowles.

The NL brought 9 pitchers: Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Phil Niekro, Bill Singer, Larry Dierker, and Grant Jackson (the Phillies' lone representative).

3 Orioles
2 Giants, Reds, Braves, Cubs, Tigers, Red Sox
1 Pirates, Mets, Twins, Athletics, Indians
0 Phillies, Cardinals, Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, Senators, White Sox, Angels


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Joe Torre (#190)

I posted Joe Torre's 1966 card previously, but a baseball lifer like Torre deserves better than the capless, lavender dreck that was the 1966 Braves (and Angels) cards. Here, Joe has a new team AND a new position.

Like his brother before him, Joe began his career with the Milwaukee Braves. Joe was the team's regular catcher for most of his time with the Braves, and was a 5-time all-star.

After the 1968 season, he was traded to the Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda. Torre played mostly 1st and 3rd base for St. Louis, as they had Tim McCarver (and later Ted Simmons) behind the plate. In 1971, Joe led the NL in hits (230), RBI (137), and batting average (.363) and won the MVP award. He also made another 4 all-star teams while with the Cards.

After the 1974 season he was trade to the Mets for pitchers Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore. Joe played for the Mets for 2 1/2 seasons, then took over as the team's manager in June 1977.

Joe managed the Mets through the 1981 season, then managed his other 2 former teams (Braves from 1982 to 1984, Cardinals from 1990 to 1995).

His greatest success as a manager was with the Yankees. He managed there for 12 years (1996 to 2007), never finishing lower than 2nd place. During his tenure, the Yankees won the division 10 times, the AL pennant 6 times, and the World Series 3 times.

Torre managed the Dodgers from 2008 to 2010, and now works in the league office. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame (as a manager) in 2014.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Gil Hodges (#394)

Gil Hodges was the long-time slugging first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After his playing career, he managed the Senators and the Mets, including the Miracle Mets of 1969. Surprisingly, he is NOT in the Hall of Fame.

Hodges was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943. He played only 1 game that season (the Dodgers’ final game), then lost 2 seasons while in military service. (He was an anti-aircraft gunner in the Pacific.) In 1946, he played his only season in the minors.

Gil joined the Dodgers in 1947, and was a backup first baseman and catcher that season. He began the 1948 season as the regular catcher, then on June 29th, he moved to first base (with rookie Roy Campanella taking over behind the plate) and the Dodgers had their 1st-sacker for the next decade plus. He was an 8-time all-star, and topped 40 homers twice.

After the 1961 season, the Mets selected Hodges from the Dodgers in the expansion draft. At age 38, Gil was a role player in New York. Hodges’ final game as a player was on May 5, 1963. Two weeks later he was traded to the Senators for outfielder Jimmy Piersall and retired to become Washington’s manager, replacing Mickey Vernon.

Hodges managed the Senators though the 1967 season (finishing 10th, 9th, 8th, 8th, and 6th in his 5 seasons there). In October 1967 he was traded to the Mets for pitcher Bill Denehy. (Does this make him the first manager traded TWICE for players? I know that Chuck Tanner was traded once for a player.)

Gil managed the Mets for 4 seasons, before his untimely death in 1972. Hodges had the good fortune of coming to the Mets at the start of the Tom Seaver-Jerry Koosman era, and guided the team to a World Series championship in 1969.

Hodges passed away following a heart attack suffered just after a round of golf with other Mets’ coaches during spring training 1972. He was 47.

Why is he not in the Hall of Fame?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jim Qualls (#192)

Before researching Jim Qualls for this post, I assumed he was a 4th outfielder or possibly a platoon center fielder with the Cubs for a few seasons. What I found is that he played much less than that: a few months in 1969, and some cups of coffee in ’70 and ’72 for 2 other teams. If I hadn’t already scanned his card, I would have just moved on the the next guy. 

Jim Qualls was signed by the Cubs in 1964, and worked his way up the minor-league ladder for 5 seasons before making his major-league debut in April 1969. He made a few pinch-hitting appearances, then was sent down in mid-April.

He returned to the Cubs in June, and was the starting center fielder for most of July, taking over for rookie Don Young. By August, Young had regained the starting role, and Qualls was on the bench. He didn’t play at all after August 22nd.

The following spring he was traded to the Expos for infielder Garry Jestadt. Qualls spent most of the season in the minors, only getting 9 at-bats over 9 games with Montreal in April and May 1970.

In March 1971 he was traded to the Reds, but spent the entire season in the minors. Qualls’ final card is in the 1971 set, as a Cincinnati Red. I’m wondering why he got a card, since he only had 9 at-bats in the previous season.

In December the Reds traded him to the White Sox, and again, he saw limited action (11 games) in April and May 1972 before another trip to the minors.

Qualls wrapped up his career in Japan from 1972-73.