Thursday, September 21, 2017

Paul Doyle (#277)

Here is Paul Doyle's rookie card. Doyle only had one other Topps card, found in the 1972 set.

I have no recollection of Paul from back in the day, and would probably have skipped blogging about him altogether, had he not appeared high on my "Oldest living players from 1966-1970 not blogged yet" list.

As a kid, I only collected cards from 1967-69 and 1972, and only got his 1970 card a few years ago. I DID have his 1972 card that year (having collected all the '72 cards in 1972 except for Bill Russell) but he was a virtual unknown then. (That he played for an American League team 3000 miles from Philadelphia didn’t help him enter my card-collecting consciousness.)


Doyle was signed by the Tigers in 1959, and languished in the minors for 9 seasons (hitting the Tigers', Yankees', Giants', Astros', and Braves' organizations) before making his MLB debut with the Braves in May 1969. Although primarily a starting pitcher in the minors, he was strictly a reliever in his 87 career major-league games.

He pitched in 36 games in his rookie season, then was sold to the Angels in late-November.

In 1970 he appeared in 40 games out of the Halos’ bullpen, then was sold to the Padres in late-August 1970. He only pitched 7 innings over 9 games with San Diego in the season's final weeks, and spent all of 1971 in the minors.

Reacquired by the Angels prior to the 1972 season, Paul appeared in 2 games over the first month, and that was it for his career. He didn't play in the minors during 1972, so it is unclear if he was released in early-May, or missed the remainder of 1972 due to injury.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Larry Brown (#391)

Here is Larry Brown, the Indians' starting shortstop from 1965-69. He's demonstrating the best way to lose a fingernail while bunting!

Brown played in the minors from 1958 to mid-1963, then made his big-league debut in July 1963. The Tribe had been using a trio of starting shortstops over the first half of the season (Tony Martinez, Dick Howser, Jerry Kindall), but Larry started 45 of the final 70 games there. His 45 starts were more than any of the other three players. Brown also started 20 games at 2nd base in his rookie season.

In 1964, Howser started 161 games at shortstop, while Brown found a temporary home at 2nd base, making 87 starts. This arrangement continued into the start of the next season, but by mid-July, Brown had replaced Howser at shortstop, and started 75 of the final 80 games there.


Larry remained a fixture at shortstop for the next several seasons, although his double-play partner became a revolving door.

In 1969 he only played in 132 games, although still managing to collect as many at-bats (450+) as in his earlier full seasons. He was the regular shortstop for the season's first half, then gave way to Eddie Leon. Brown started sporadically at 3B and SS for the rest of the season.

Larry was clearly a backup in 1970. The Indians cleaned house at the non-1B part of their infield, replacing Vern Fuller/Zoilo Versalles, Brown, and Max Alvis/Lou Klimchock with Eddie Leon, Jack Heidemann, and Graig Nettles at 2B, SS, and 3B respectively. Brown only started 35 games that season, spread across those 3 positions.

In April 1971 Brown was sold to the Athletics. After backing up Bert Campaneris and Dick Green in 1971, Larry was the starting 2nd baseman for 44 games in 1972 (mostly from late-April to mid-June), as 2nd base was a carousel of 5 players that season. Although Brown didn’t play in the post-season with the Athletics in either '71 or '72, he did play in the '73 ALCS for Baltimore… vs the Athletics.

Released after the 1972 season, he played very sparingly for the Orioles in 1973 (29 at-bats) and Rangers in 1974 (76 at-bats).

His brother Dick Brown was a catcher for the Indians, White Sox, Tigers, and Orioles from 1957 to 1965.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Gene Brabender (#289)

Here is Pilots’ starting pitcher Gene Brabender, warming up in Yankee Stadium. I was surprised to see today that Gene only played for 5 seasons (1966-70). Although his first 3 seasons were with the Orioles (which is how I remember him), he was traded to the expansion Pilots seemingly minutes before the start of the 1969 season, and went on to lead the staff in wins, strikeouts, and most other pitching categories.

Brabender started out in the Dodgers’ chain (I also didn’t know that) in 1961. After 3 seasons as a starting pitcher (mostly in Class D and Class A), Gene lost 2 seasons to military service, then was selected by Baltimore in the post-1965 Rule 5 draft.


He made the Orioles from the get-go in 1966, making his debut in May. Brabender pitched in 31 games as a rookie, all but 1 in relief.

Gene began the 1967 season back in the minors, getting the triple-A fine-tuning he missed earlier. Recalled in late-July, he started 14 games (completing 3) over the final 2 months of the season.  

In 1967, only Dave McNally remained a top-5 starting pitcher from the previous season’s World Champion pitching staff that swept the ’66 World Series. (Injuries cut down Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker, and Steve Barber was traded away by mid-season. ) In their place were rookies Tom Phoebus and Jim Hardin, Brabender, and Pete Richert who was acquired from Washington.

Gene’s last season with the O’s was 1968. With McNally, Hardin, and Phoebus each making 35+ starts, Brabender was a swing man, only starting 15 of his 37 games.

In 1969 the Orioles acquired starting pitcher Mike Cuellar from the Astros. With Palmer once again healthy and reliever Dick Hall back from his 2-year stint with the Phillies, Baltimore’s pitching staff was not only solid, but crowded. Gene was traded to the Pilots during the final week of Spring Training for utility man Chico Salmon. Brabender led the upstart Pilots with 13 wins, 139 strikeouts, 29 starts, and 202 innings pitched. He was also one of Jim Bouton’s favorite subjects in his book Ball Four.

Gene’s final season was 1970 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Other pitchers acquired in the off-season (such as Lew Krausse, Ken Sanders, Bob Bolin, and Dave Baldwin) surpassed him, cutting his workload down from 40 games in 1969 to 29 in 1970. Of course, having a 6-15 record and a 6.02 ERA probably had something to do with it.

Brabender was traded to the Angels in January 1971 for outfielder Bill Voss. His final card is in the 1971 set (as an Angel), but he played the entire season with the Angels’ AAA team, the retired.

He passed away in 1996 at age 55.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

May I Call You?



Here's a break from the normal routine. I went through my 1966 to 1970 cards, and found over a dozen cases where three or more players have the same last name (and many more with just two). I've already done the brothers thing, so they won't be included in this series.

I started off with all the Jacksons, and now here are the (wait, I can't say "Mays", because Willie isn't here) individuals whose last name sounds like "May". (There, that oughta do it!)

(I once told the story here of how in 1967, until I got Tony Cloninger's late-series card, I thought Tony Cloninger and Tony Conigliaro were the same person. Imagine the dilemma I would have had with Lee May and Lee Maye!)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Final Card - Walt Hriniak

Here is Walt Hriniak's first solo card (#392), which is also his final card. In fact, his major-league career was over in 1969.

Hriniak began in the Braves' farm system in 1961, and played in the minors for 8 seasons, mostly as a middle infielder. He didn’t begin catching on a regular basis until 1968.

After 8 seasons as the Braves' starting catcher, Joe Torre was traded to the Cardinals after the 1968 season. Torre had shared the starts with journeyman Bob Tillman 60/40 in 1968, with Hriniak making 6 starts during his September call-up.



In 1969 the Braves seemed determined to go with 2 rookies behind the plate, as indicated by this high-numbered card in 1969:


However, with no prior major-league experience, Bob Didier won the catching job in 1969, starting 108 games while Tillman stayed on as the backup, catching 52 games. Hriniak started 2 games in early-June (showcased?), then was traded to the Padres a week later for outfielder Tony Gonzalez.

Walt started 17 games behind the plate for the Padres in 1969, and appeared in another dozen games as a pinch-hitter. It was his final season in the majors.

He spent all of 1970 with the Padres' AAA team, mostly as a 2nd baseman. Just before the start of the 1971 season he was traded back to the Braves, who released him in July. A month later he was picked up by the Expos, but played the entire season, as well as '72 and '73, in the minors.

For someone with such a short and insignificant playing career, Hriniak became a well-respected hitting coach.  He began coaching in 1974, first for the Expos, then the Red Sox. Initially a base coach or bullpen coach, by the mid-1980s, he became Boston's hitting coach, working with players like Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, and Dwight Evans.

After 12 seasons with the Red Sox, Hriniak coached the White Sox for 7 season, then opened up his own hitting school.

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.