Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mike Ryan (#591)

Today we have Phillies' backup catcher Mike Ryan. Although 1970 was Mike's 3rd season with the Phils, it was his first card featuring him in a Phillies uniform. It seems like Topps took it's time getting new photos for players that changed teams, preferring to stick with hatless photos well beyond their expiration date:

1967 Bob Buhl
1967 Bob Uecker
1967 Don Lock*
1968 Don Lock
1969 Don Lock
1968 Woody Fryman*
1969 Woody Fryman
1968 Turk Farrell
1969 Turk Farrell
1968 Mike Ryan*
1969 Mike Ryan
1968 Rick Joseph
1969 Rick Joseph

* These could be excused as their first season with the Phils, except that Topps was able to get Dick Hall in a Phillies uniform in 1967, his first season with the team.

But I digress....

I first became casually aware of Mike Ryan by his 1967 card while a member of the AL champion Red Sox. After the season, the Phillies acquired him in exchange for pitcher Dick Ellsworth and catcher Gene Oliver. (The same day, they also traded Jim Bunning for 4 players, including Woody Fryman and Don Money.)

Great! I thought. After plodding along the previous season with a platoon featuring aging veterans Clay Dalrymple, Bob Uecker, and Gene Oliver, we're finally getting a young, up-coming catcher. Not so fast... Ryan platooned with Dalrymple for the '68 season, then took over as the regular backstop in 1969 when Dalrymple was traded to the Orioles. Although a great defensive catcher, Ryan couldn't hit a lick. (I guess that's implied when someone is referred to as "a great defensive catcher").

After one season at the controls, Mike returned to the bench in 1970, since former all-star and 2-time World Series champion Tim McCarver was acquired in the Dick Allen trade prior to the season. However, Ryan got a break when McCarver broke his hand on a Willie Mays' foul tip on May 2nd. Mike actually DID get a "break" later that same inning: breaking HIS hand while applying a tag at home plate. (The Phillies used 2 minor-league catchers and a hastily-reactivated bullpen coach to fill in for the next few months.)

Ryan caddied for McCarver through June 1972, then played behind John Bateman for the remainder of that season. In 1973, rookie Bob Boone took over as the #1 catcher. The team had acquired veteran Tom Haller from the Tigers to mentor Boone, but when Haller refused to report, they kept Ryan on for one more season.

After playing for the Pirates in his final season (1974), Mike returned to the Phillies as a minor-league coach for a few seasons, then as their major-league bullpen coach from 1980-1995.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Deron Johnson (#125)

In case you haven't noticed, I've recently been using my blogs to present a card for each of the 66 players (having a card) who played for the Phillies from 1966-1969. I'm about 2/3 of the way there, with most of the remaining cards to be posted on the '69 and '70 blogs. (The 1970 Phillies cards have more players in Phillies' caps than the 1969 set.)  

Deron Johnson was acquired by the Phillies in 1969. His big bat was the reason Phillies' 1st base prospect Greg Luzinski moved to left field when he came up in 1971.

On the first Deron Johnson card I got (1967), his position was listed as "INF-OF", a designation usually reserved for utility schmoes like Jim Stewart, Frank Kostro, and Jim Barbieri. Johnson was clearly not a utility player, but was a regular at 3 different positions (1B-3B-LF) in rapid succession, and led the NL with 130 RBI in 1965.

Johnson was signed by the Yankees in 1956 and played 5 seasons in their minor-league system, the last 3 in triple-A. Deron started as an outfielder, but in his last 2 minor-league seasons, played as much at 3rd base as in the outfield. He made his major-league debut in September 1960, and played a half-dozen games at 3rd base that season.

Johnson began the 1961 season with the Yankees, but after only playing in 13 games (3 starts) by mid-June, he was traded to Kansas City (as many Yankees were in those days) with veteran pitcher Art Ditmar for pitcher Bud Daley. Johnson spent the remainder of 1961 as a swing man between LF, RF, and even some 3B, playing in 83 games for the Athletics. He missed most of the 1962 season while in military service, playing only 17 games that season (almost all in August).

The Cincinnati Reds purchased Johnson in April 1963, and he spent the entire season at triple-A San Diego (maybe for a refresher course on "good baseball" after almost 2 years in Kansas City?). Anyway, he led the PCL with 33 home runs and was the league's all-star 1st baseman.

Beginning in 1964, Johnson turned in 4 solid seasons as a regular with the Reds. Playing 1st base for all of '64, 3rd base in '65, and left field for '66, he appeared in 140+ games per season, and had a monster year in 1965, leading the NL with 130 RBI in 159 games. 1967 was his last season with the Reds. With Tony Perez, and now Lee May joining the team, Johnson's playing time slipped to 108 games as he shuttled between 1st base and 3rd base.

After the season he was traded to the Braves for a bag of beans pitcher Jay Ritchie and outfielders Mack Jones and Jim Beauchamp. After one season in Atlanta, he was sold to the Phillies.

With Dick Allen already at 1st base, Johnson alternated between left field and 3rd base, before taking over at 1st base following Allen's off-season trade. Deron had two excellent seasons in '70 and '71, clubbing 27 and 34 home runs along with 93 and 95 RBI.

Injuries limited him to 96 games in 1972, and in May 1973 he was traded to Oakland for a minor-league catcher. Johnson played 4 seasons in the American League as the designated hitter and sometimes first baseman for Oakland, Milwaukee, Boston, and Chicago before being released in June 1976.

He later coached for several teams, including the Phillies and Angels. Johnson died of lung cancer in 1992 at age 53.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jim Bunning (#403)

Jim Bunning returned to the Phillies in 1970, after a 2-year hiatus. He was the team's opening-day pitcher in 1971, the first-ever game at Veterans Stadium.

Bunning was signed by the Tigers in 1950 and pitched in the minors for 7 seasons (1950-56). In those last 2 seasons, he also pitched 15 games for the Tigers.

1957 was Jim's first full season in the majors, and he marked the occasion by winning 20 games, leading the AL with 267 innings pitched, and making his first of 7 all-star appearances. Bunning starred for the Detroit for 6 more seasons, twice leading the AL with 201 strikeouts.

After the 1963 season he was traded to the Phillies with catcher Gus Triandos for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Jack Hamilton.

Jim was the Phillies' ace for the next 4 seasons, winning 19 games 3 times. During his 1st season in Philly, he pitched a perfect game against the Mets on Fathers' Day. He won 17 in his final season, then moved on to the Pirates for 4 players, including pitcher Woody Fryman and shortstop prospect Don Money.

After two off-years in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, Bunning returned to the Phillies for 2 seasons before retiring after the 1971 season at age 39. (The Phillies would acquire Steve Carlton months later.)

Bunning spent some time managing in the Phillies' farm system before entering politics. He was a congressman, then a US Senator from Kentucky from 1987 to 2011.

With this post, all Phillies' planets are aligned:

Normal orbits will resume shortly, except for this 1970 blog, which will feature Phillies for the next few posts.