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.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bobby Tolan (#409)

Bobby Tolan played for 5 teams over his 13-year career (1965-79). His greatest success came during his time with the Reds (1969-73).

Tolan began with the Cardinals, debuting in 1965 at age 19. The Cards primarily used him as a backup to 1st baseman Orlando Cepeda and center fielder Curt Flood, (which is to say he spent a lot of time as a pinch-hitter!) With the departure of Alex Johnson after the 1967 season, Tolan became Roger Maris' backup in right field for 1968.  Bobby played in the World Series in both '67 and '68.

After the '68 season, Tolan was traded to the Reds (with pitcher Wayne Granger) for center fielder Vada Pinson. Bobby was the Reds' everyday center fielder in 1970 and 1972, and split his time between center and right fields in '69 and '73.

In 1969 he reached career highs in home runs (21) and RBI (93) while batting .305. The following year his power numbers dropped but his batting average peaked at .316. Tolan also led the NL with 57 stolen bases in 1970.

After missing the entire 1971 season due to injury, be returned for 2 more laps with the Reds, but with all his numbers steadily declining from year-to-year. While with the Reds, he appeared in the post-season in 1970 and 1972, and hit .417 in the 1970 NLCS.

Tolan was traded to the Padres after the 1973 season for pitcher Clay Kirby. He was the team's primary right fielder in 1974. In 1975 he was the primary left fielder, but also started a few dozen games at first base and right field.

The Padres released him in February 1976, but he was picked up by the Phillies in spring training, and spend the season as Dick Allen's backup at first base, starting 40 games there in addition to a few dozen starts in the outfield.

Tolan was released by the Phillies in late-May '77, but caught on with the Pirates a few weeks later.

After the 1977 season, he was granted free agency, but got no takers for more than a year. He played in Japan during the 1978 season, then the Padres re-signed him in July 1979, where he finished up the season (and his career) playing 22 games (all but 1 as a pinch-hitter).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bill Robinson (#23)

This may just be my favorite Bill Robinson card (or at least of his non-Phillies’ cards). Just look at the intensity as he keeps his eye on the (virtual) ball. Plus, there’s the Yankee Stadium frieze in the background!

Robinson began his career in the Milwaukee Braves’ organization in 1961. His major-league debut came with Atlanta in September 1966.

After the season, he was traded to the Yankees for veteran 3rd baseman Clete Boyer. Robinson spent the next 3 seasons trying to fill the shoes first of Roger Maris (who was traded to the Cardinals in the same off-season), and Mickey Mantle (who retired after 1968). He appeared to be overmatched, having almost no pop in his bat, and batting under .200 in 2 of those 3 seasons.

Bill spent the entire 1970 season with the Yankees’ AAA team, then was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Barry Moore. Robinson spent another full season (1971) in triple-A, then was traded to the Phillies after the season for a minor-leaguer.

Here is where my interest in Bill Robinson began back in the day. After starting the ’72 season in AAA, Bill was brought up to Philadelphia in late June, and played in 82 games over the rest of the season. Although initially used in a right field mix of suspects, Bill was the team’s everyday centerfielder for the final month, after Willie Montanez moved in to 1st base following Deron Johnson's season-ending injury. I remember being happy for Robinson, that the Phillies had rescued him from the minors and his career was back on track.

In 1973 he started 55 games in right field, and 40 games in center field (spelling the newly-acquired Del Unser). He also made 11 starts at 3rd base, presumably to give Mike Schmidt and his .196 rookie-year batting average a rest on the bench. I can remember at the time Robinson hating to play the infield, because he was making too many errors and felt he was embarrassing himself. Mercifully, that experiment soon ended. Despite being moved around defensively, he clubbed a surprising 25 homers that season and hit .288 – finally achieving the potential the Yankees had hoped for several years earlier.

In 1974 he had similar results as in '72 and ’68 – single-digit home runs, and a sub.240 batting average. Robinson was a swing man in the outfield, but his larger problem was that in 1974 the Phillies had reclaimed another ex-big league outfielder from the minor-league scrap heap – Jay Johnstone. Johnstone would be the team’s regular right fielder from mid-1975 to mid-1977.

With Robinson expendable, he was traded to the Pirates during spring training 1975. Bill played for the Pirates for the next 7 1/2 seasons. I thought he was the Pirates' regular left fielder for a number of seasons, but it appears he was a backup outfielder for most of his time in Pittsburgh. In 1977 he split the 1st base starts with Willie Stargell, and was the primary left fielder in 1978.

By 1981, both Robinson and Stargell were bench players/pinch-hitting specialists. As aging veterans, they spent a lot of time sitting together in the dugout. I remember watching a Phillies/Pirates game in mid-1982 just after Robinson was traded back to the Phillies. The TV camera zoomed in on the Pirates’ dugout, and there was Stargell waving to Robinson across the diamond, an empty seat next to him that he left open for his old buddy, should he want to stroll over there for another chat.

Robinson played sparingly for the Phillies for the 2nd half of 1982, and the first half of 1983, then was released in mid-June ’83, ending his 16-year career.

He later coached for the Mets, Marlins, Yankees, and Phillies.

Robinson passed away in 2007 at age 64.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Cesar Tovar (#25)

Here is Cesar Tovar, the Minnesota Twins' jack-of-all-trades. Tovar has played all 9 positions, including every position in a game on 9/22/1968. (The Twins were in 7th place, 26 games behind, so a publicity stunt was in order.) Tovar began the game as the pitcher, then moved around the diamond in sequence (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF) playing 1 inning at each position.

That was the only time he played at P, C, and 1B, but he has played more than 75 games at each of the other positions. He was primarily a 2nd baseman until the arrival of Rod Carew in 1967, then moved to 3B and  the outfield.

Tovar was signed by the Reds in 1959. After 6 years in the minors he was traded to the Twins in December 1964 for pitcher Gerry Arrigo.

Tovar made his big-league debut in April 1965, but after 9 games was sent back to the minors for the rest of the season. He was recalled in September and saw action in 9 more games.

Cesar made The Show for good in April 1966. After riding the bench for the first 2 months, he started 73 games at 2nd base and 27 at shortstop as a rookie.

Rod Carew joined the squad in 1967, so that season Tovar split his time between center field (60 starts) and 3rd base (56 starts), as well as some time at 2B (31 starts).

In 1968 he was all over the diamond, but was the team’s primary 3rd baseman, with 68 starts there. Tovar had more plate appearances in 1969 than all but four other Twins, but was not the main player at any one position.

After the 1969 season, center fielder Ted Uhlaender was traded to the Indians in a 6-player deal, opening up a regular spot for Tovar in the 1970 lineup. Cesar continued as one of the Twins' top 3 outfielders in '71 and '72.

He was traded to the Phillies prior to the 1973 season for 3 suspects, and started 39 games at the hot corner for the Phillies that year, easing Mike Schmidt into his rookie season.

After only 1 season in Philly, Tovar spent his final 3 seasons bouncing around between the Rangers, the Athletics, and the Yankees.

He played in Mexico in '77 and '78, and for his hometown Caracas, Venezuela in the Inter-American League in 1979.

Tovar passed away in Caracas in 1994 at age 54. He was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rickey Clark (#586)

Rickey Clark was a teammate of previous blog subject Marty Pattin with the 1968 Angels. Despite Clark's contributions to the 1967 Angels, this is his first Topps card.

Clark was signed by the Tigers in 1965, and after 2 seasons in the minors, he was selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft. This means automatically making the team the following season. Not only did he make the team in '67, he was their #3 starter as a 21-year-old rookie, compiling a 12-11 record in 32 games (30 starts).

Unfortunately, his first season was his best season. In 1968 he crashed and burned with a record of 1-11 in 21 games, only pitching half the innings he did as a rookie. Clark spent most of 1969 and all of 1970 in the minors.

He returned to the Angels for part of 1971 (11 games over the 2nd half of the season). His final big-league season was 1972, appearing in 26 games for the Angels, while staying out of the minors for the first time since 1968.

The Phillies purchased his contract in January 1973, and he played 29 games for their AAA team before retiring.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Marty Pattin (#31)

Marty Pattin was the Opening Day starter in the Seattle Pilots' only season of 1969 (despite what Topps says on the 1970 cards). Pattin had a card in every set from 1969 to 1981. He now has a 1968 card (see below), thanks to John Hogan at the Cards That Never Were blog.

Marty began his career with the Angels, having signed with them in 1965. He made his major-league debut in May 1968, and appeared in 52 games that season (48 in relief).

Pattin was selected by the Pilots in the expansion draft following the ’68 season, and was their Opening Day starter. He finished 2nd in starts, innings, and strikeouts to Gene Brabender, who was acquired from the orioles on March 31st.

After 3 seasons with Seattle/Milwaukee, he was traded to the Red Sox with outfielder Tommy Harper and pitcher Lew Krausse for first baseman George Scott, pitchers Jim Lonborg and Ken Brett, catcher Don Pavletich, and outfielders Billy Conigliaro and Joe Lahoud. (SEVEN for THREE – what a steal!)

Marty played only 2 seasons in Boston, but had his highest win totals (17, 15) there.

After the 1973 season, it was on to the Royals in exchange for pitcher Dick Drago. Pattin played his final 7 seasons in Kansas City. He appeared in the ALCS in ’76, ’77, and ’78, and also pitched 1 inning in the 1980 World Series against the Phillies.

After the 1980 season he was granted free agency, but found no takers. He was the head baseball coach for the University of Kansas from 1982 to 1987.

Monday, December 12, 2016

John McNamara (#706)

Here is Athletics’ rookie manager John McNamara, sporting the white cap that the coaching staff always wore.

This was McNamara’s first full season as a major-league manager, and the Athletics’ 3rd manager in the three years since they moved to Oakland in 1968!

John never played major-league ball, but was a minor-league catcher for the Cardinals, Giants, and Phillies from 1951 to 1957, save for missing 1953-54 while in military service.

In 1958 he joined the Athletics’ organization, and was a player-manager from 1959 to 1966 (although he played very little after 1963). He also pitched in 14 games between 1960 and 1963.

McNamara was a major-league coach for the A's in '68 and '69, then took over the reins for the last 13 games on the ’69 season after Hank Bauer was fired.

He only lasted one full season in Oakland. After an 89-73 record, he was replaced by Dick Williams, who led the team to three straight post-season appearances, including World Championships in ’72 and ’73. (In 1974, Al Dark returned to the A’s (having managed them in ’66 and ’67) and added a third consecutive World Championship that season.)

John also managed the Padres (1974-77), Reds (1979-82), Angels (1983-84), Red Sox (1985-88), Indians (1990-91), and back with the Angels as an interim manager for 28 games in August 1996.

His teams made the post-season twice: The Reds won the NL West in 1979, and the Red Sox won the AL pennant in 1986.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Final Card: Jose Tartabull

Here is the final card for outfielder Jose Tartabull (#481). Jose is back on the team he began his career with, after 3 seasons with the Red Sox.

Tartabull was signed by Giants in 1958. After 4 seasons in the low minors, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in December 1961 and was immediately promoted to the big leagues at the start of 1962. (I’m guessing the 1962 Athletics were a much worse team than the 1962 NL Champion Giants, so opportunities abounded for a prospect!) 

In 1962 and 1963 Tartabull shared the center field job evenly with aging veteran Bobby Del Greco.

Del Greco moved on after 1963, so you would think Tartabull would be upgraded to full-time center fielder. Wrong! Ex-Cubs backup Nelson Matthews was acquired in the off-season and started 150 games in the center garden, relegating Jose to just 9 starts in 1964 (none after 7/31). He spent most of the season as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement in left or center.

1965 was more of the same, except that this time it was long-time White Sox’ outfielder Jim Landis imported to man center field. Tartabull started 51 games that year, but also played in triple-A for almost 100 games.

From 1963 to 1966, the Athletics employed a revolving door in the outfield, with 11 different players getting the most innings at the 3 outfield slots. Only Mike Hershberger held a position more than 1 season (RF: '65-'66).

It seemed like Tartabull found a home in 1966, starting every game in through May 20th. Not so fast – after a few weeks on the bench he was traded to the Red Sox (with pitcher John Wyatt) for pitcher Ken Sanders and outfielder Jim Gosger. Jose’s time in Boston was highlighted by a throw that gunned down a runner at home plate in a late August 1967 game, preserving a Red Sox win. (The Sox won the AL pennant by one game that year.)

After 2 ½ seasons as the Sox’ 4th outfielder, he was traded back to the Athletics in May 1969. Jose played parts of ’69 and ’70 and all of ’71 in the minors, then retired after playing in Mexico during 1971.


Tartabull’s son Danny played for various teams for 13 seasons beginning in 1984 (14 seasons, if you count the 3 games for the Phillies at the start of the 1997 season, before he milked a season-long stay on the disabled list with a stubbed toe!)

Here's something currently on Danny Tartabull's Wikipedia page (apparently his gold-bricking was not limited to 1997!):

"Tartabull is currently a fugitive from justice. A warrant was issued for his arrest on May 12, 2012 after he failed to appear for a 180-day jail sentence, and is on the Most Wanted List for Los Angeles County Child Services Department. He has been named the top deadbeat dad in Los Angeles after allegedly failing to pay more than $275,000 in child support for his two sons."