Monday, October 29, 2012

Are You Sure You're a Ballplayer ('60s Version)

Baseball is a game of skill more than pure athleticism.  If I can make a small round object do strange things, or hit that object coming at me at very high speeds with a piece of wood, or catch that round object in a big glove-cum-leather-basket, it really doesn’t matter what I look like. 

I can look like an accountant, or a butcher, or a junior high-school kid, or my grandfather.  Maybe it’s my imagination, but even taking the A-Rods and Robertos into account, baseball players tend to look less like studs and matinee idols, and more like just plain, old you an’ me.

So, here they are …  Catcher or chiropractor?  Accountant or ace?  Pinch hitter or programmer?  Grandpa or groundball pitcher?

Are  you sure you’re not my Grampa?

Bob Nieman had a pretty decent career – 12 seasons, .296 average, 1000+ hits.  His main claim to fame was hitting homers in his first two major league at-bats. 

By the way, Bob was only 33 when this photo was shot.  I’m not sure what aged him prematurely like that.  It might have been playing with the ‘50s Orioles for four years right before moving to St. Louis.  Yup, that’d do it alright.


Hmm, are you sure you’re not my Granma?

Howie Koplitz’s career started with a bang.  After winning the Minor League Player of the Year Award for 1961 (hence the little star), he then won seven straight in the majors.

He then, unfortunately, went two for nine and that was pretty much that.  Overall, he was 9-7, had a 4.21 ERA, a 1.52 WHIP, and looked more like he should be in the kitchen baking cookies than any other ballplayer I can think of.


Are you sure you’re old enough to drive? 

Darrell Sutherland bounced around for four seasons, finishing 5-4, with a 4.78 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP.  Interestingly, all his wins were in relief, and all his losses were as a starter.

Darrell was actually 26 when this shot was taken.  Being an incredibly gangly 6’ 4” and 169 pounds undoubtedly helped him keep those youthful looks.   I would definitely have had to card him.


Are you sure you got enough muscles to lift that bat?

Charlie Dees was 6’ 1” and 173 pounds.  I think he could have taken ol’ Darrell.  Not so sure he would have been able to hit the ball out of the infield though.  Kind of makes you wonder what he was doing at first base.

Couldn’t find much on Charlie other than his stats.  And those were pretty non-descript – three years, 260 at-bats, .265 average, and three homers.  I’m pretty sure most major league teams would want their first baseman to average more than one homer per year.


And are you sure you’re not Tony, the guy down at the pizza place?

Dave Adlesh was the prototypical backup catcher.  I’m talking six years, 256 at-bats, .168 average, and five different jersey numbers.  He did catch a no-hitter though, one of Don Wilson’s two.

Who knows?  Maybe he worked at the local pizzeria in the offseason.  It certainly looks like he consumed a few in his time.

Are you sure you’re not Mr. Rollins, my high school science teacher?

You may have heard of this guy.   Rich Rollins was the Twins’ regular third baseman for seven years, getting in an All Star game one year and leading the league in triples another.  Not too bad.

Wikipedia had a great story about an incident in his minor-league career I just had to share.  Basically, Rollins was on first when he got the hit-and-run sign.  He then “ran for second, heard the bat, and saw the shortstop move over to cover the bag.  Rollins slid, then figured the shortstop had been faking and assumed the ball had gone through for a hit. He got up, dashed for third and slid in again. Only then did he figure out that the batter had popped out to first.”


Hmm.  Are you sure you’re not Mr. Duren, my social studies teacher in junior high school?

Ryne Duren actually used his poor eyesight to his advantage.  He was famous for throwing a few hard fastballs to the backstop during warm-ups, then peering in all squinty-eyed when the batter tentatively stepped to the plate.

And here's a vide at Ryne with some shades.


Hey, aren’t you Mr. Mikkelsen, my nerdy Scout leader?

Pete Mikkelsen was a steady reliever for nine seasons and five different teams.  Comparable players of a more recent vintage include Andy McGaffigan and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.  Yup, he was that good.

Would it surprise you to learn that Pete was an ex-Marine?  I don’t know about the glasses, but only an old jarhead would sport a bad crew cut like that.

Hey, Pete made it into the same post as Ryne.


And, you, are you sure you’re not the guy who shot all those people?   From that tower?

Frank Kreutzer was up and down with two teams over six separate seasons.  I’m talking 1.33 innings one year, 5 another, and 1 to finish it all off.  Maybe that’s what made him snap, I don’t know. 

He was a quiet guy, said his neighbors.


And, finally, are you completely sure you’re not Pee Wee Herman?

George Alusik was up a couple of years, so there are a number of cards of him out there.  Amazingly, in each one, he somehow managed to capture that look of the math genius about to get his ass kicked at the school bus stop. 

It’s hard to believe, but George was 6’ 4” and actually had some power.  In fact, he held the Athletics record for consecutive games with a homer (five) until Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas came along and set a new one.  Over 652 career at-bats (a little over a full season), George smacked 23 dingers.

* - author has this card

And don’t forget the dentists, accountants, mechanics, and math teachers of the 1950s and 1970s.


  1. Look at George Aluzik's neck. Its circumference exceeds that of a pencil. At Triple-A Denver in 1960, he hit 26 homers and drove in 106 on a .329 average. Okay, thin air. But he put up almost identical numbers in 1958 in the heavier Southern air of Augusta and Birmingham.

  2. Yeah, he's definitely one of those guys who you have to think should have done a lot better translating those minors numbers into some majors ones.