Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bill Butler (#377)

Bill Butler burst onto the scene in 1969, as a member of the Royals’ starting rotation. After a fine rookie season, his career began to sputter, and was over in a few years.

Butler was drafted by the Tigers in 1965, and spent 4 seasons in their minor-league system. After the 1968 season, Bill was the 11th player selected by the Royals in the expansion draft.

He made his major-league debut by starting the 5th game in Royals’ history in April 1969. By the end of that first season, he had made 29 starts, tied with Roger Nelson for 2nd place behind Wally Bunker’s 31 starts. Butler also led the staff with 156 strikeouts (26 more than the veteran Bunker).

In 1970 Butler (and Bunker) had off-years, with Butler slipping to 4-12 and only 75 strikeouts, while walking 87. The following season, he played 14 games for Kansas City and 13 games for their triple-A team in Omaha.

In July 1972, Bill was sold to the Indians, and spent most of ’72 and all of ’73 in the minors. In October 1973, he was dealt to the Twins.

Bill pitched out of the Twins bullpen during the ’74 and ’75 seasons, but spent all of 1976 and most of 1977 in the minors.

Butler was traded to the Dodgers after 1he 1977 season, and spent all of 1978 as a reliever for the Dodgers’ AAA team in Albuquerque, before retiring.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Recapping the Bat Rack Team

Before I head off down the path of the 1969 Topps All-Rookie team, one last look at the 1970 cards featuring players hanging out at the bat rack:

Tony Taylor and Del Unser each had 2 stints playing for the Phillies. Their first was as a starting player, and their second was as the team's go-to pinch-hitter.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Coco Laboy (#238)

Jose "Coco" Laboy is our 3rd baseman on the “Hangin’ at the Bat Rack” team. (He's also the perfect transition to my next several posts on the Topps All-Rookie Team.)

Laboy was signed by the Giants in 1959, and played 4 seasons in their farm system, mostly as a shortstop. After the Giants released him prior to the 1963 season, he was signed by the Cardinals and played another 6 seasons in the minors at 3B/2B, including 1965-68 in triple-A.

Laboy was selected by the Expos in the expansion draft, and was the Expos’ starting 3rd baseman during his (and the Expos’) first 2 seasons. Coco hit 18 home runs as a 29-year-old rookie, and finished tied for 2nd in the NL Rookie of the Year award.

After 2 seasons as the starting 3rd baseman, Laboy injured his knee while playing winter ball, and for 1971 he switched places with Bob Bailey (his backup in 1970). That arrangement continued through the 1972 season.

After 9 starts at 3rd base in late-April 1973, Laboy was relegated to the bench, playing his last major-league game on May 16th. He spent the remainder of the 1973 season in the minors.

After his baseball career, Laboy returned to Puerto Rico and worked for the government for 27 years, eventually becoming the director of athletics for Puerto Rico.