Saturday, January 30, 2021

Roger Nelson (#633)

Roger Nelson had a 9 (essentially 6) year career from 1967-76, mostly with the Kansas City Royals.
Nelson was signed by the White Sox in 1963, and played 5 seasons in their farm system, culminating with a cup of coffee for the Sox in September 1967, where he pitched 7 innings over 5 games. 
After the season Roger was included in the deal that sent Don Buford and Bruce Howard to the Orioles in exchange for Luis Aparicio, Russ Snyder, and John Matias.
Nelson was with the Orioles for the entire 1968 season, but only pitched 19 games. 
He and Wally Bunker were not only the 2 youngest pitchers on the 10-man staff, but also made the least amount of appearances as they swung back and forth between 5th starter and occasional reliever. (The O’s had Dave McNally, Jim Hardin, and Tom Phoebus at the front of their rotation, with Gene Brabender and Dave Leonard as the primary swingmen filling the 4th starter’s slot. Eddie Watt, Moe Drabowsky, and Pete Richert were the 3 primary relievers, so there wasn’t much for Nelson or Bunker to do.) 
Left unprotected in the October 1968 expansion draft, Nelson was selected by the Royals (as was his O’s teammate Bunker). Together they headed up the starting rotation for the new Royals team. (Nelson made 29 starts, and was the only one of the 16 pitchers used by KC that season who made no relief appearances.) 
Injuries limited him to 4 games in 1970 and 13 games in 1971. He returned to full-time duty in 1972, making 19 starts (3rd on the team) and 15 relief appearances while posting a 11-6 record and a 2.08 ERA. 
In November 1972 he was traded to the Reds (with outfielder Richie Scheinblum) for pitcher Wayne Simpson and outfielder Hal McRae. Roger pitched for the Reds for 2 seasons, appearing in 14 games each year as a small cog in the Big Red Machine. 
Nelson was sold back to the White Sox after the 1974 season, but he was released during spring training the following year. The Athletics took a flyer on him, but after 20 games with their AA team, he was released in early-August.
The Royals picked him up in April 1976, and he played most of ’76 and all of ’77 with their AAA team, making his final 3 MLB appearances with Kansas City in September 1976. 
Roger played for the Pirates’ AAA team in 1978, and in Mexico in 1979 before retiring. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Born on the Same Day - 9/23/1942

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 
This is post #28 in the series: Jim Rooker and Woody Woodward - both born on 9/23/1942.
Jim Rooker made his debut with the Tigers in 1968, and was a starting pitcher for the Royals in their first 4 seasons (1969-72). He was traded to the Pirates, and was in their rotation from 1973-79. Rooker missed most of the 1980 season, then was released.  
Woody Woodward was a middle infielder for the Braves and Reds from 1963-71. He was an everyday player in 1966-67 as the Braves' 2nd baseman.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Pedro Borbon (#358)

Pedro Borbon was a mainstay in the Big Red Machine’s bullpen from 1972-77, and led the team in saves in ’73, ’74, and ’77. Borbon pitched in 593 games in his 12-year career, starting only 4 games. He pitched in more games from 1970-78 than any other NL pitcher. This is his rookie card. 

Pedro was signed by the Cardinals in late 1964, but did not start playing until 1966. After 3 seasons with 3 different class-A teams, he was selected by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft in December 1968. 

Borbon played one full season (1969) with the Angels, pitching 41 innings over 22 games, then was traded to the Reds in the off-season (with pitcher Jim McGlothlin) for outfielder Alex Johnson and infielder Chico Ruiz.

He played most of 1970 and 1971 in the minors, only pitching 12 times for the Reds in the first half of 1970, and 3 games in September 1971. 

Pedro made the Reds on a full-time basis in 1972, and was 2nd to Clay Carroll in games and saves. In 1973 he posted a career-high 11 wins, while leading the staff in games and tied with Carroll with 14 saves. In 1974 he led the bullpen in games and innings pitched, and again collected 14 saves. 

For the next 2 seasons, Borbon maintained his high games and innings workload, although newcomers Rawly Eastwick and Will McEnaney picked up most of the saves. 

With McEnaney traded before the season, and Eastwick traded in mid-season, Pedro was the team’s top reliever in 1977. 

In 1978 he had a reduced role in the bullpen, although he posted an 8-2 record. In 1979 it was Borbon’s turn to go – traded to the Giants in June for outfielder Hector Cruz. 

He played for the Giants for the rest of that season, then was released just before the start of the 1980 season.  Pedro hooked on with the Cardinals at the end of Aptil, but after 10 appearances he was released at the end of May. 

Borbon appeared in 20 post-season games for the Reds from 1972-76, picking up 3 saves. 

Pedro was inducted into the Reds’ Hall of Fame in 2010. He passed away in 2012 at age 65. 

His son Pedro Jr. pitched for the Braves, Blue Jays, and others from 1992-2003.  


"Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon… Manny Mota…Mota...Mota"

Thursday, August 27, 2020

NL PItching Leaders (#67, #69, #71)

The days of one pitcher (Sandy Koufax) dominating every category are long gone.  Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, and Fergie Jenkins each appear twice among the leaders.

It's surprising to see Gibby not in the lead in any category, but he missed the strikeout crown by only 4 K's. (Bill Singer was in 3rd place, 22 strikeouts behind Gibson.)

At the end of the ERA list is a section for relievers (pitching at least 75 innings).  Tug McGraw led that bunch.

In the middle card, 5 other guys were tied with 20 wins, rounding out the nine pitchers with 20 or more.

Cardinals - 3
Cubs - 2
Giants - 2
Mets - 1
Braves - 1
Dodgers - 1

Friday, July 3, 2020

NL Batting Leaders (#61, #63, #65)

These are the 1969 NL leaders in batting average, RBI, and home runs. Willie McCovey gets 2/3 of a triple crown, and was 5th in batting average, 28 points behind Pete Rose.

I was surprised to see Lee May among the home run leaders. He finished ahead of Ron Santo and Jimmy Wynn, who are usually among the leaders (along with automatics McCovey and Hank Aaron). May's 38 were one less than his career-high in 1971. He's also 5th in RBI with a career-high 110.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Born on the Same Day - 9/21/1942

Another installment in my "Born on the Same Day" series, featuring players who were born on the same day (!) and year. 

This is post #27 in the series: Sam McDowell and Billy Wilson - both born on 9/21/1942.

Wow, has there ever been 2 players in this "Born on the Same Day" series with such different careers?

Sam McDowell was the AL strikeout king from 1965-1970. He pitched 425 games (winning 141) over 15 years, and was a 5-time All-Star.

Billy Wilson was just another Phillies' pitcher not named Steve Carlton back in the early 1970s. He pitched 83 games (all in relief) between 1969 and 1973, posting a career record on 9-15.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Dick Drago (#37)

It's April, and time for some spring cleaning on my blogs. Gone are the sidebar lists of "Oldest Living Players Not Blogged" and "Top 20 Players to be blogged". In their place are extended "On-deck" lists of who's next.

I was also reviewing what I had left to post, and found about 50 for my 1969 blog, 30 for 1970, only 12 for 1968, and only 12 combined for my 1967 (wow, I was caught napping there!), 1966, and 1965 blogs. 

So as I rotate through these blogs, the 1969 blog will take a double shift, while the 1965-68 blogs will alternate in each lap. (Those last 4 blogs have all the remaining planned posts listed in the "Final Countdown" sidebars.) Who knows, when I get to the end I may just free-lance as the spirit moves me.

This is Dick Drago's first solo card. (He appeared on a Royals Rookies car in 1969.)

Drago was signed by the Tigers in September 1964. He got into a few games that year in the Florida Instructional League, then pitched the next 4 seasons in the Tigers' farm system.

Unlike many of the youngsters on the 4 expansion teams in 1969, Drago did not get a look-see by his former team in September 1968 before being exposed to the expansion draft.

He was selected by the Royals in the draft and made his major-league debut on April 11, 1969. Drago played the next 13 seasons for various American League teams: 5 with the Royals, 2 with the Red Sox, 1 ½ with the Angels, a half-season with the Orioles, and back to Boston for 3 more years before finishing up with the Mariners in 1981.

As a rookie in 1969, Dick was the Royals' #2 starter behind the veteran Wally Bunker (actually they were both 24 years old). He started 26 games along with 15 relief appearances.

In 1970 he was the staff ace, pitching 240 innings (26 more than the next guy) although slumping to a 9-15 record. Drago rebounded in 1971 to win 17 games, and maintained his spot atop the rotation through the 1972 season.

With the arrival of Paul Splittorff in '72 and Steve Busby the following year, by 1973 Drago slipped to #3 in the rotation. After the season he was traded to Boston for pitcher Marty Pattin.

His role changed in Boston. A swingman in 1974, he converted to full-time bullpen duty in 1975 (and for the rest of his career), collecting 15 saves in 72 innings over 40 games. He also appeared in 2 ALCS games and 2 World Series games.

Drago was traded to the Angels before the 1976 season and to the Orioles in mid-1977. While with the Angels, in July 1976 he gave up Hank Aaron's 755th and final home run.

After being granted free agency in October 1977, he re-signed with the Red Sox. (Boston also signed Drago's former Royals teammate Tom Burgmeier in that off-season.)
Dick led the staff in saves in 1979, and was a setup man for Bob Stanley ('78) and Burgmeier ('80) in the other years.

Drago was traded to the Mariners the day before the 1981 season for pitcher Manny Sarmiento. After one season there he was released the following April.

Friday, March 27, 2020

50 Years Ago - 1970 Opening Day Lineups (AL)

Here are the American League opening day lineups from half a century ago. Teams are shown in order of their 1970 finish.

East Division:

Elrod Hendricks caught more games than Andy Etchebarren, but the other 7 were everyday regulars.

Danny Cater was the primary 1st baseman, with Jerry Kenney playing mostly at 3rd base.

Yaz moved in to play first base this season, with George Scott moving over to 3rd base. Billy Coniglaro was the primary left fielder.

Not pictured are the regular 3rd baseman (Don Wert) and center fielder (Mickey Stanley). Jim Northrup and Al Kaline shared the right field starts.

Vada Pinson was the regular right fielder, otherwise this was the Tribe's regular lineup. (Tony Horton custom card courtesy of the late Bob Lemke.) 

The Senators made a lot of changes, before settling on Tim Cullen at 2B, Aurelio Rodriguez (acquired from the Angels) at 3B, Ed Stroud in CF and Lee Maye in RF.

West Division:

The Twins had a fairly stable lineup, with only Danny Thompson replacing the injured Rod Carew at 2nd base.

The Athletics were the only team whose 1970 Opening Day lineup was their regular lineup all season.

The Angels traded Aurelio Rodriguez to the Senators for 3B Ken McMullen. Jay Johnstone was the regular center fielder, pushing Roger Repoz to right field.

Ed Kirkpatrick, Bob Oliver, Cookie Rojas (acquired from the Cardinals in June), and Paul Schaal were the regulars at C, 1B, 2B, and 3B. Shortstop and the outfielders were as shown above.

As you would expect from a disaster only one year removed from the Seattle Pilots, this lineup was unstable. The regulars were: C-Phil Roof, 1B-Mike Hegan, 2B-Ted Kubiak, SS-Roberto Pena, 3B-Tommy Harper, LF-Danny Walton, CF-Dave May, RF-Bob Burda.

Ahhh, those White Sox. In 1969 they finished behind the expansion Royals but ahead of the expansion Pilots. Now the Pilots/Brewers have passed them too.

Ed Herrman and Duane Josephson split the catching. 1st and 2nd base were manned by Gail Hopkins and Bobby Knoop respectively, while Ken Berry was the center fielder. Bill Melton actually played more games at 3B and also in RF that any other player.