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.