Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jose Martinez (#8)

This is Jose Martinez’ rookie card. Having not collected baseball cards in 1970, I first became aware of Martinez while he was a first-base coach. If I recall correctly, it was for the Kansas City Royals, in the 1980 World Series against the Phillies.

It’s not surprising that he slipped through the cracks back then, because he only had a 2-year career (1969-70). Martinez was signed by the Pirates in 1960, and worked his way up the ladder, playing in triple-A in ’65 and ’66. After missing the 1967 season, he found himself back in double-A in 1968.

Jose made his major-league debut in April 1969. That season, he played in 42 games as a utility infielder, and started 35 games at 2nd base (mostly during June and July).

Martinez began the 1970 season with the Bucs, but after only 19 appearances (mostly pinch-hitting or pinch-running), he was sent down in late-May, never to return to the show. He remained with the Pirates’ AAA team through the end of the 1971 season.

Jose was sold to the Royals in March 1972, and played 3 seasons with their AAA club in Omaha, Nebraska, then was released in April 1975. He also pitched 4 innings in 1974.

After his playing career, Martinez worked for the Royals as a minor-league manager and major-league coach from 1980-88, then coached with the Cubs from 1988-1994. In 1995 he began working in the Braves’ front office as a special assistant to the GM, where he remained until his death in 2014.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Frank Lucchesi (#662)

Early-1970s Phillies’ manager Frank Lucchesi never played in the majors, but was a minor-league outfielder from 1945 to 1956, playing mostly in the Yankees’ chain.

As the back of his card shows, he was also a minor-league manager for 19 seasons (and in the Phillies’ organization since 1956) before finally getting a major-league job in 1970.

The Phillies had fired long-time manager Gene Mauch in mid-1968, and after starting the 1969 season with Bob Skinner, he was also let go in mid-season. The Phillies then turned to their long-time organizational soldier Lucchesi to pilot the new-look Phillies. The 1970 Phillies were to have a new stadium (construction delays pushed it to 1971), new uniforms, and new players (Curt Flood, Larry Bowa, Tim McCarver, Joe Hoerner, Dick Selma, Denny Doyle).

Unfortunately, none of that translated into better results. The Phillies had won only 63 games in 1969. Their win totals for the next 3 seasons were 73, 67, and 59. (Yes, FIFTY-NINE! And 27 of those were won by the newly-acquired Steve Carlton. I can’t imagine the disaster that team would have been without Lefty.)

Anyhoo, good old Frank was shown the door 76 games into his 3rd season at the helm. On 6/3/1972, the Phillies fired long-time GM John Quinn, replacing him with farm director Paul Owens. A month later, Owens had seen enough, and after pulling the plug on Lucchesi, managed the team himself for the rest of the season, so he could “see who can play and who can’t”.

Frank later managed the Texas Rangers from mid-1975 to mid-1977, including the infamous incident where Rangers’ infielder Lenny Randle punched his lights out in a dispute over playing time.

Lucchesi also managed the Cubs for the final 25 games of the 1987 season.