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.