Monday, November 25, 2013

Bob Oliver (#567)

Bob Oliver is the left fielder for our “Hangin’ at the Bat Rack” team. This is Bob’s 2nd card, as he appeared on one of the 4 Royals Rookie Stars cards in the 1969 set. He looks deep in thought, probably choosing a weapon to go yard on a sub-par Pilots' pitcher!

Bob was signed by the Pirates in 1963, and played 5 seasons in their farm system, mostly as a first baseman, but he also played a significant amout in the outfield, and at 3rd base and 2nd base. His major-league debut came with 3 games during a September 1965 call-up with the Pirates.

After the 1967 season, he was traded to the Twins for veteran reliever Ron Kline. After a full season with Minnesota’s triple-A team in Denver (playing almost exclusively as an outfielder), Oliver was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the October 1968 expansion draft.

Bob began the 1969 season with the expansion Royals. He was the starting right fielder for the first 2 games, then was out of the lineup for 2 weeks – perhaps a short trip to the minors. He also missed a week or so in August, but otherwise was a regular for the ’69 team. He started 44 games in center, 41 games in right (he and Pat Kelly made most of the starts in both center and right). Bob also started a half-dozen games each at 1B, 3B and left field.

The following season, he moved to the infield. After starting 46 of the first 58 games at 3rd base, on June 16th Oliver moved across the diamond and started all but 3 games at 1st base for the remainder of the season. Bob hit a career-high 27 homers in 1970.

In 1971, he started 39 of the first 50 games at 1st base, but made only 5 starts there for the rest of the season, Instead, he was moved out to right field, which he shared with Joe Keough during the second half of the season.

Bob was the team’s right fielder for the first 16 games of 1972, then was traded to the Angels on May 5th for pitcher Tom Murphy. Oliver started 124 games at 1st base for the Angels that season, replacing 3-year regular Jim Spencer. This was the 2nd and last time he reached the 20-homer plateau.

Oliver had a full workload in 1973 (544 at-bats), but he split his time between 1B, 3B, and RF, but was not the primary fielder at any position.

In 1974 he was a part-time 1st and 3rd baseman, sharing 3rd base with Paul Schaal and Dave Chalk, and 1st base with John Doherty. Bob didn’t start more than 45 games at either position. In mid-September he was traded to the Orioles for pitcher Mickey Scott.

He was purchased by the Yankees after the ’74 season, and only played 18 games for them prior to his July 1975 release, ending his major-league career.

Bob was on the sidelines for the rest of 1975, then spent the 1976-78 seasons in the Phillies’, Pirates’, and White Sox’ organizations. Oliver also played in Mexico during 1978 and 1979.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jerry Moses (#104)

Jerry Moses was a catcher for the Red Sox and several other teams. Since our “Hangin’ at the Bat Rack” team already has a catcher, and the DH is still 3 years off, let’s just say he is batting for the pitcher.

Moses was signed by Boston in 1964, and played in the minors for five seasons, while also playing 4 games with the Sox early in 1965, and 6 games in September 1968.

In 1969, Russ Gibson was the Sox’ #1 catcher. Moses started 6 straight games in mid-April, but when Boston acquired catcher Joe Azcue from the Indians on 4/19, Moses was relegated to 3rd-string catcher for the remainder of the season, even after Azcue was swapped to the Angels on 6/15 for C-3B Tom Satriano.

In 1970, Gibson was sold to the Giants 3 days before opening day, paving the way for Jerry to be the #1 catcher. He started 85 of the first 127 games (with Satriano catching the others), and made the AL all-star team. However, he did not play after August 28th.

After the 1970 season, Moses was included in the trade that sent outfielder Tony Conigliaro and pitcher Ray Jarvis to the Angels for 2nd baseman Doug Griffin, pitcher Ken Tatum, and outfielder Jarvis Tatum. (recap: that’s 1 guy named Jarvis, 1 guy named Tatum, and 1 guy named Jarvis Tatum.)

Moses played for 6 teams (Angels, Indians, Yankees, Tigers, Padres, White Sox) in the next 5 seasons, all as a backup. In his final season (1975) he only played in 15 games, the last coming on August 9th.

He was released by the White Sox on 9/11/1975.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Andy Etchebarren (#213)

Orioles’ catcher Andy Etchenbarren is also the catcher on our “Hangin’ at the bat rack” team. I was surprised to learn today how little he played for the O’s after 1967.

Andy was signed by the Orioles in 1961, and worked his way up their minor-league ladder from 1961 to 1965. His major-league debut came during the last week of September 1962, when he caught 2 games for Baltimore. He also played 5 games for the Birds in September 1965.

Etchebarren finally made the team at the start of the 1966 season. He was the starting catcher from day 1, replacing 1965’s trio of Dick Brown, Johnny Orsino, and Charlie Lau. Andy started 118 games behind the plate as a rookie, which would be his career high. Backups Vic Roznovsky and rookie Larry Haney started 25 and 15 games, respectively.

1967 was the only other season where he would play in over 100 games for the Orioles. He started 94 games that season, with Haney starting 45 games, and Roznovsky 22 times. Andy also made the all-star team in 1966 and 1967.

The arrival of rookie catcher Elrod Hendricks in 1968 put a serious crimp in Etchebarren’s playing time. Andy’s starts plummeted to 56 games (still ahead of Hendricks’ 45 starts). Also in the catching mix was outfielder Curt “Clank” Blefary. With the newly-acquired Don Buford installed in left field, Blefary started 38 games behind the plate, despite having never played the position before. (I thought defensive butchers only played catcher in school-yard pickup games!)

From 1969 to 1974, Andy played 2nd fiddle to a variety of catchers (Hendricks, Johnny Oates, Earl Williams), but started about 60 games each season.

1975 was the beginning of the end for Etchebarren’s career. He started 3 of the first 5 games, but then rode the bench until his mid-June trade to the Angels. Andy took over the starting job in late August, and in 1976 saw his playing time reach 102 games, his highest total since 1967. He and 1976's backup catcher Terry Humphrey switched places in 1977. Although Andy caught 80 games, only 44 were starting assignments.

Prior to the 1978 season, he was sold to the Brewers. He only played 4 games that season, the last on April 20th.

After his playing career, Etchebarren managed off-and-on in the Orioles’ farm system from 1984 to 2007. He also managed an independent Atlantic League team from 2009-2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Harmon Killebrew (#150)

I posted Harmon Killebrew’s 1967 card several years ago, as part of a post about Topps messing up their own color scheme, and used 6 of his cards in an obituary post more recently. Now Harmon is back as the first baseman for the “Hangin’ at the Bat Rack” team.

Killebrew bashed more home runs (393) during the 1960s than any other player, and although he is most often thought of as a 1st baseman, he also played a lot at 3rd base, and even a few seasons in left field, as the Twins moved him around in an effort to get him and fellow sluggers Bob Allison and Don Mincher all into the same lineup.

“Killer” was signed by the (old) Washington Senators as a bonus baby in 1954. That meant keeping him on the major-league roster from day 1 of his pro career. As such, he spent his first 2 seasons with Washington, although only playing in 9 games in ’54 and 38 games in ’55 as a pinch-hitter and backup 3rd baseman (with a few games at 2nd base).

Killebrew finally got his minor-league seasoning from 1956 to 1958. He split his time between Washington and class-A Charlotte in 1956, then spent most of the next 2 seasons in the minors. He hit 29 homers at double-A Chattanooga in ’57 and another 19 dingers in 1958.

In 1959, Harmon was brought back to the majors to stay. In his first season of fulltime play, he led the AL with 42 homers (something he would repeat 5 more times in the next 10 seasons). He also made his first of 11 all-star appearances. Harmon started all but 5 games that season at 3rd base, taking over from last year’s regular, Eddie Yost.

1960 was the team’s final season in the nation’s capital, and Killebrew found himself beginning the season as the 3rd baseman, with rookie Don Mincher at 1st base. By mid-season, Killer was moved to 1st base (a new position for him), and ended up starting 71 games there. Harmon remained at 1st base for most of 1961, although also starting a few dozen games at 3rd. He clouted 46 homers, but was a distant 3rd behind Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54).

The following season he led the AL with 48 homers and 126 RBI (and 142 strikeouts), and found a new position (left field). He started 150 games in left, after the Twins acquired veteran 1st-sacker Vic Power from the Indians a few days before opening day. The next 2 seasons were carbon-copies of 1962. Harmon led the league with 45 and 49 homers, and was the team’s everyday left fielder.

Following knee surgery, Killebrew returned to the infield starting in 1965. That season, he was limited to 113 games and only 25 home runs, missing all of August and most of September with a dislocated elbow (from a collision with a baserunner). He returned on 9/21, just in time to play against the Dodgers in the World Series. He bat .286 with 1 homer in the post-season.

When Mincher was traded to the Angels after the 1966 season, Killbrew primarily played 1st base for the rest of his career, although he was back at 3rd base for most of 1969 and 1970. Killer again led the AL in home runs in 1967 (44) and 1969 (49). In 1969, he also led the league with 140 RBI and won the MVP award.

In his last 2 seasons (1974-75) he was primarily used as a DH. He was released by the Twins in January 1975, and played his final season with the Royals.

Killebrew was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. In 2010 he was diagnosed with cancer, and died in 2011 at age 74.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Final Card: Juan Rios

In the last post, I commented that Juan Rios’ card also had an “at the bat rack” pose, because I could see that card in my mind’s eye, since it was one of the few cards from this set that I had back in 1970. 

When I went to my 1970 binder to pull the card for this follow-up post, I noticed a total of NINE players (including Tony Taylor) who Topps snapped at the bat rack. That’s enough for an entire lineup, so… since you’ve already met the 2nd baseman (Taylor), here now is Juan Rios, the shortstop for the “Hangin’ at the Bat Rack” team! 

Juan Rios (#89) had a brief major-league career – 87 games for the 1969 expansion Royals, to be exact. By the time this card came out, Juan was back in the minors, where he would stay until retiring after the 1974 season. This is his final baseball card.  He also appeared on a Royals Rookie Stars card in 1969.

Rios was signed by the Mets in 1965, but didn’t begin playing until 1966. He was a shortstop in the Mets’ chain for 3 seasons, until he was selected by the Montreal Expos in the December 1968 Rule 5 draft.

The following March, he was sold to the Royals. Juan was with Kansas City for the entire season, as the backup middle infielder behind 2nd baseman Jerry Adair and shortstop Jackie Hernandez. Rios managed to start 43 games (2B-30, SS-10, 3B-3), and played in another 44 as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement.

In 1970, that role was filled by rookie Rich Severson, so Rios returned to the minors, where he played for the Royals’, Brewers’, Yankees’, Twins’, and White Sox’ organizations. He also pitched in 3 games during the 1973 season.

Rios passed away in August 1995, at age 53, in his birthplace of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tony Taylor (#324)

"Tony Taylor at the bat rack". I always liked this card, a very unusual shot for back in the day. Tony may spend a lot of time browsing the bat rack, but he didn't spend much time at the helmet rack. He was one of the few players of that time that wore the inside-the-cap protector, rather than a batting helmet.

This was also around the time when Taylor was morphing from a regular 2nd baseman to a utility infielder.

Tony was signed by the New York Giants in 1954. After 4 seasons on their farm, he was selected by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft following the 1957 season. Taylor became the Cubs' regular 2nd baseman from the beginning of the 1958 season, starting 128 games there as a rookie, and 148 games in 1959.

After starting the first 19 games in 1960, he was traded to the Phillies for pitcher Don Cardwell and 1st baseman Ed Bouchee. For the next 5 years (5/13/60 - 5/31/65) Taylor started most of the games at 2nd base for Philadelphia. While the other 3 infield positions were revolving doors during that time, 2nd-sacker Tony started at least 140 games each season (except for missing much of the 2nd half of 1961).

In June 1965, Cookie Rojas transitioned from jack-of-all-trades to starting 2nd baseman, and they each finished with 78 starts. Even with losing his 2nd base job, Taylor still played as much as any regular.

In 1966, 3rd baseman Richie Allen missed most of May, and upon his return spent 6 weeks playing in left field, with Taylor starting 42 games at 3rd base during this time. He also started 63 games at 2nd, spelling Rojas.

The following season, 1st baseman Bill White missed all of April and May with an off-season injury. Tony started 43 games at 1st base that season, without ever having played the position previously. When Allen went down with a hand injury in late August, Taylor started the final 40 games at 3rd base.

Allen returned to the Phillies in 1968, but with the hand injury on top of his already-suspect defense, he played that season as the regular left fielder, with Taylor at the 3rd base spot for 137 games.

In 1969 the Phillies added 3B/LF Deron Johnson, subtracted Bill White, and moved Richie Allen to 1st base. This left Taylor as a swing man between 2B (when Rojas got time off) and 3B (when Johnson was playing left field).

Tony continued as the backup 2B-3B in 1970, although he got much less playing time than the previous season, now that the starters were youthful upstarts Denny Doyle and Don Money. He was traded to the Tigers in mid-1971, and played 2 1/2 seasons there as Dick McAuliffe's backup at 2nd base.

After he was released by the Tigers, the Phillies brought him back for the 1974 - 76 seasons as their pinch-hitter extraordinaire. His old pal Dick Allen even rejoined the team for the '75 and '76 seasons.

After his playing career was over, Taylor coached for the Phillies for many seasons.

Taylor's late-1960s baseball cards showed his hometown as Yeadon, PA. That was next to the town I grew up in, and whenever we drove through Yeadon, we always hoped to see Tony walking down the street somewhere, but it never did happen (surprisingly enough!)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Maury Wills (#595)

Here is Maury Wills' first Topps card as a Dodger. Although Wills made his major-league debut on June 6, 1959 and was the Dodgers' regular shortstop from 7/4/1959 to 12/1/1966, Topps did not issue a card for him until the 1967 set, and by then he was the Pirates' 3rd baseman.

Maury was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers before the 1951 season. says that he played for the Hornell, NY Dodgers in 1951, as well as in 1952. As such, he was in the Dodgers' system several years before future Pirates' teammate Roberto Clemente.

What I didn't know until today is that Wills spent the 1957 season as a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization (playing for Seattle in the PCL), and was traded to the Tigers and back to the Dodgers during the 1958-59 off-season.

Wills took over the Dodgers' shortstop job from Don Zimmer midway through the 1959 season, and went on the lead the NL in stolen bases every season from 1960-65, including 104 in 1962 and 94 in 1965. He also led the league in triples in 1962, and was named the NL MVP that season.

After the 1966 season he was traded to the Pirates for shortstop Gene Michael and 3rd baseman Bob Bailey. After two seasons in Pittsburgh, he was drafted by the Montreal Expos. Wills was the expansion team's regular shortstop for the first two months, then was traded back to the Dodgers (with outfielder Manny Mota) for outfielder Ron Fairly and infielder Paul Popovich.

He reclaimed the starting shortstop job, which in the 2 1/2 seasons he was away, was manned by such luminaries as Gene Michael, Dick Schofield, Nate Oliver, Tommy Dean, Zoilo Versalles, Ted Sizemore, and Billy Grabarkiewitz. Maury remained the starter until he was replaced by Bill Russell in late-April 1972.

Wills was released after the 1972 season, ending his 14-year career. He later managed the Seattle Mariners for parts of 1980 and 1981.