Saturday, June 28, 2014

Gil Hodges (#394)

Gil Hodges was the long-time slugging first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After his playing career, he managed the Senators and the Mets, including the Miracle Mets of 1969. Surprisingly, he is NOT in the Hall of Fame.

Hodges was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943. He played only 1 game that season (the Dodgers’ final game), then lost 2 seasons while in military service. (He was an anti-aircraft gunner in the Pacific.) In 1946, he played his only season in the minors.

Gil joined the Dodgers in 1947, and was a backup first baseman and catcher that season. He began the 1948 season as the regular catcher, then on June 29th, he moved to first base (with rookie Roy Campanella taking over behind the plate) and the Dodgers had their 1st-sacker for the next decade plus. He was an 8-time all-star, and topped 40 homers twice.

After the 1961 season, the Mets selected Hodges from the Dodgers in the expansion draft. At age 38, Gil was a role player in New York. Hodges’ final game as a player was on May 5, 1963. Two weeks later he was traded to the Senators for outfielder Jimmy Piersall and retired to become Washington’s manager, replacing Mickey Vernon.

Hodges managed the Senators though the 1967 season (finishing 10th, 9th, 8th, 8th, and 6th in his 5 seasons there). In October 1967 he was traded to the Mets for pitcher Bill Denehy. (Does this make him the first manager traded TWICE for players? I know that Chuck Tanner was traded once for a player.)

Gil managed the Mets for 4 seasons, before his untimely death in 1972. Hodges had the good fortune of coming to the Mets at the start of the Tom Seaver-Jerry Koosman era, and guided the team to a World Series championship in 1969.

Hodges passed away following a heart attack suffered just after a round of golf with other Mets’ coaches during spring training 1972. He was 47.

Why is he not in the Hall of Fame?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jim Qualls (#192)

Before researching Jim Qualls for this post, I assumed he was a 4th outfielder or possibly a platoon center fielder with the Cubs for a few seasons. What I found is that he played much less than that: a few months in 1969, and some cups of coffee in ’70 and ’72 for 2 other teams. If I hadn’t already scanned his card, I would have just moved on to the next guy. 

Jim Qualls was signed by the Cubs in 1964, and worked his way up the minor-league ladder for 5 seasons before making his major-league debut in April 1969. He made a few pinch-hitting appearances, then was sent down in mid-April.

He returned to the Cubs in June, and was the starting center fielder for most of July, taking over for rookie Don Young. By August, Young had regained the starting role, and Qualls was on the bench. He didn’t play at all after August 22nd.

The following spring he was traded to the Expos for infielder Garry Jestadt. Qualls spent most of the season in the minors, only getting 9 at-bats over 9 games with Montreal in April and May 1970.

In March 1971 he was traded to the Reds, but spent the entire season in the minors. Qualls’ final card is in the 1971 set, as a Cincinnati Red. I’m wondering why he got a card, since he only had 9 at-bats in the previous season.

In December the Reds traded him to the White Sox, and again, he saw limited action (11 games) in April and May 1972 before another trip to the minors.

Qualls wrapped up his career in Japan from 1972-73.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ike Brown (#152)

Here is Ike Brown’s rookie card. He also appeared in the 1971 to 1974 sets.

One thing that I learned about Ike a few years ago while researching somebody for these blogs (maybe Elston Howard or Ernie Banks) was that Ike Brown also played in the Negro Leagues. This surprised me, because although I had his 1972 card back in the day, I knew he wasn’t in the 1967 to 1969 Topps sets, so I assumed he would have been too young.

Brown is the last player from the Negro Leagues to have made it to the major leagues. To recap, in addition to the well-known alumni to have played in the majors in the 1960s (Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Elston Howard, Minnie Minoso), others were Junior Gilliam, George Altman, John Wyatt, Sam Bowens, Al Smith, and Ike Brown.

After Brown played for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1961, he was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1962 and spent 7 ½ years in their farm system as a shortstop and third baseman, before making his major-league debut in June 1969.

Brown remained with the Tigers for the rest of the 1969 season, and all of 1970 to 1973. In ’69 and ’70, he was the team’s backup 2nd baseman (behind Dick McAuliffe). After 1970, he was primarily used as a pinch-hitter.

1974 was Brown’s last season in baseball. He played 2 games with the Tigers in early spring, then spent the rest of the season in the minors.

When he retired after 1974, only Aaron remained among active ex-Negro League players.

Brown passed away in May 2001 from cancer, at age 59.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Final Card: Paul Edmondson

Here is the only Topps baseball card for pitcher Paul Edmondson (#414). By the time this card was issued, Edmondson was already deceased, a victim of an automobile accident.

Paul Edmondson was signed by the White Sox in 1965 out of Cal State Northridge. He pitched in the low minors in 1965, then missed the 1966 season while in military service.

Paul returned to the Sox in 1967, pitching in the low minors, including the Florida Instructional League. In 1968, Paul was pitching in the FIL, but also in double-A and triple-A.

He began the 1969 in the minors, but was promoted to the White Sox in June, making his major-league debut against the Angels on June 20th. What a debut! He pitched a 2-hitter, winning 9-1. Edmondson pitched in 14 games during his rookie season, making 13 starts.

On Friday February 13, 1970, Edmondson was driving in the rain along the California coast near Santa Barbara, when his car crashed into oncoming traffic, killing him and his passenger. He was 27.