Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Are You Sure You’re Famous? (70s Version)

I’m sure you’re familiar with the “before they were famous” meme.  I hate to use that word, but there is a ton of great stuff out there on the Internets.  I’m sure you’ve seen the Springsteen high school shot, the Hilary Clinton college one, and maybe even some of those early David Bowies (they’re really cool).

So, here’s my contribution, with a definite emphasis on the ol’ National Pastime.

Incredibly cute shot of current star Jason Heyward to start you off.

It’s okay, Gary.   It won’t hurt the ball.  Really.  Swing hard!

How appropriate that Gary Carter’s nickname was “The Kid.”  I love this quote about him from sportswriter Tom Verducci:

I cannot conjure a single image of Gary Carter with anything but a smile on his face [hmm, how about this one?].  I have no recollection of a gloomy Carter, not even as his knees began to announce a slow surrender ...  Carter played every day with the joy as if it were the opening day of Little League.

On the other hand, even at a young age, everyone knew not to mess with George Foster. 

And, to my knowledge, nobody ever called him “Bananas either.  (Nor was he any relation to Leo, as far as I know.)

Groovy.  Wait a minute …  Tim McCarver played for the Sox?  Did he paint that B on his cap himself?

Everyone knows Tim McCarver as a long-time (and long-winded) announcer.  I’ll bet a lot of folks don’t realize what a great ballplayer he was. 

Over a 21-year career (as a catcher!), he got 5,500 at bats, tallied 1,500 hits, and appeared in the postseason five different years.  Probably my favorite stat of his, though, is his leading the NL in triples (triples!) in 1966.

Whoa, surfer dude!

Interestingly, Robin Yount was not from California, but from Danville, Illinois.  That appears to be in the middle of absolute nowhere, and about 800 miles from the nearest rolling breaker.

Jack White?  White Stripes?

You’ve met Sweet Lou Piniella before, where I shared his playing and managerial highlights.  But did you also know:
  • He played rec ball with Tony La Russa
  • He was the first player to come to bat in Royals history
  • He’s the only Mariners’ manager to finish above .500 for his Mariners career

Hey, it’s the kid from the gas station.  You know, the one with the Camaro.  The one with all the spackle on it.  No, no, not on him.  On the Camaro!

Is it totally obvious George Brett’s from West Virginia?

Man, he really needs that ‘stache, doesn’t he?

Yup, Eck started out with the Indians.  You may already remember that he began as a starter.  In fact, he won 20 once, was an All Star twice, and came in second in Cy Young voting one year.  And that’s all before he headed to the pen.

Man, he really needs that beard, doesn’t he?

So, what I want to know is, if this guy’s in the Hall of Fame, why isn’t Lee Smith? 

Sutter: 300 saves, 4.76 ERA, 861 Ks, five times leading the league in saves

Smith: 478 saves, 3.03 ERA, 1,251 Ks, four times leading the league in saves

And how about this cute one of bigtime headhunter and brawler Zach Greinke to close things out?

More unlikely-looking celebrities right here (from the '50s) and here ('60s)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Are You Sure You’re a Ballplayer? (‘70s Version, Youth Division)

On June 10, 1944, at the age of 15 years, 316 days, Joe Nuxhall set a record for being the youngest ballplayer in the history of the major leagues.  It wasn’t a high-pressure situation by any means – his team (the Reds) were down 13-0 in the ninth inning.

Nuxhall actually got out the first batter he faced.  He then went on to give up five walks, two hits, one wild pitch, and five runs before getting the hook.  A mere eight years later, however (and at age 23), he was back with the big club.

It’s kind of hard to believe, but the guys in this post were actually older than Joe on his debut.  In fact, I understand some of them could even drive a car legally.  Forget that voting and drinking stuff though.

Mike looks like he should be collecting baseball cards, not appearing on them.

Mike Cubbage played in the majors for eight seasons, half of those as a regular.  A long-time coach after hanging up the bat and glove, “Cubby” stepped in as an interim manager for the Mets in ‘91, finishing with a 3-4 record (that’s just one game under .500!).  He’s currently a scout for the Rays.  He probably still gets carded though.

Age at debut: 21

Are you sure you’re not the batboy?

Leo Foster may arguably have had the worst debut in major league history.  After booting the first ball hit to him, he went on to hit into a double- and a triple-play.

Overall, he got 262 at bats over five seasons, finishing with an average below the Mendoza Line (.198).

And, yes, his nickname was “Bananas.”

Age at debut: 20

Are you sure you’re old enough to drive?

Dave Cash was actually one of my favorite players as a young teen.  (Clarification: I was the young teen.  Cash was in his early twenties.)

Cash was part of the great Pirate teams of the ‘70s, taking over second base from Bill Mazeroski.  He also put up some pretty good numbers, with the Bucs and then later with the Phils and Expos.

Career highlights include:

  • Being a three-time All Star
  • Appearing in 21 post-season games
  • Leading the NL in hits and triples
  • Setting a then-record for most at-bats in a season
  • Retiring with the highest career fielding average for a second baseman
  • Being able to buy a beer

Age at debut: 21

Ah man, they snuck in the batboy again.

Butch Wynegar hit the majors with a splash, making the All Star team in his rookie season.  In fact, he was the youngest player ever to do that.  And there was no sophomore slump for Butch – he made it again in his second year.

Unfortunately, all that success ended up with his being traded to the Yankees.  He put up with them for a couple of years, then demanded to be traded.  Hey, who can blame him?

Did you notice the signature?  Yup, Harold.  Good thing he didn’t sign his middle name.  Psst, it’s Delano.

Age at debut: 20

Joe Nuxhall

Age at debut: 15

Monday, July 15, 2013

Are You Sure You’re a Ballplayer? (’70s Version)

Who are these guys?  And why are they wearing major league baseball uniforms?  It certainly can’t be because they’re major league baseball players now, can it?  I mean, can it?

Gene looks like the exchange student from Sweden who was good at math.  Hey, we’re teaching Gene how to play baseball!

If Gene’s looking a little tentative here, there’s a good reason.  Though Gene Hiser was the Cubs’ first round draft pick in 1970, his major league career was more like that of a Swedish exchange student than the college star he was at the University of Maryland.  Over five seasons with the Cubbies, he got 263 at bats, finishing with a .202 average and exactly one homer.

Gene did quite well for himself after hanging up his cleats though.  Instead of tending bar or selling used cars, he started his own financial firm, Barrett and Hiser.  So, don’t make fun of those Swedish exchange students, okay?

Hey, it’s the guy from the pizza place!

Joe Ferguson was up for 14 years and over 3000 at-bats, mostly with the Dodgers.  He played catcher primarily, but also outfield.

Joe was known especially for his arm.  In fact, his throw in the ‘74 World Series may be one of the best outfield throws ever.  You’ve got to see it to believe it.

Hmm, I might have to get my 15-year-old outfielder to start eating more pie.

 Just your basic, dorky-looking guy from the 1970s.

Sounds like Frank Duffy’s main claim to fame is being involved in lopsided trades.  He was traded pretty straight up for George Foster, and he was a throw-in when the Giants traded the ageless Gaylord Perry for Sam McDowell right before his arm fell off.

Another first round draft pick, Frank actually went sixth overall.  Once again, unfortunately, it was a little hard translating that into major league success.  Though he was good with the glove (he led the AL in fielding two years), he finished with a .232 batting average and just 26 homers in 2665 at bats.

If he looks a little nerdy, it’s because he was.  Frank is a fine Stanford University grad. 

Even more so!

This suave and debonair-looking dude has a Wikipedia entry of only 33 words.  In it, we learn his name, his birth date, his birth place, the fact that he was a baseball player, and the major league teams he played for.

Oh, a little further research tells me he was a backup catcher.  Honestly, what more is there to say?

And then some!

Eric Soderholm hit a lot better than he looked.  He was up for nine years, starting in about seven of them.  Missing all of 1976 to injury, he roared back in 1977, winning the Comeback Player of the Year award. 

Eric was also very much a man of his times.  He was a poet and was into all sorts of New Age stuff.  Today, he owns a company called Soder World, “a healing and wellness center treating both the mind as well as the body.”  Physician, heal thy look!


Just your basic, dorky-looking guy from the 1950s.  Wait a minute.  Don!  Did you realize it’s 1970?

Don Young was up for only two years in the bigs.  One of those years was 1969, where Don got involved in an incident that became a part of the Cubbies’ epic meltdown.

Turns out poor Don dropped a fly ball in the ninth to allow the Mets to win a close one.  Ron Santo then went nutzo on him.  Some people like to think that was the tipping point, when it all went inexorably downhill for the Cubs.  It also may have seriously scarred Young, who Wikipedia calls “a quiet, introspective man.” 

Chris was president of the Future Accountants of America Club at the local community college (though click here for a somewhat different look).

Another first rounder who didn’t live up to his lofty drafting spot, Chris Knapp finished with a record of 36-32 and an ERA of 4.99.  He actually had two good years (12-7, 14-8) and one really bad one (2-11, 6.11 ERA). 

I’m not thinking those lapels are helping poor Chris any here, by the way.

Are you sure you didn’t just wander over from the soup kitchen?

Dave Duncan was a pretty decent catcher and an excellent pitching coach.  As a catcher, he was known more for his glove, and especially for his ability to call a game. 

That skill suited him well in his future career as pitching coach.  He teamed up with Tony LaRussa with the Chisox in the early ’80s and stuck with him through the A’s, Cardinals, and LaRussa’s retirement.  He’s still on the Cards staff today.

The photographer asked Rich to look tough.  Rich, unfortunately, heard “constipated.”

Rich Folkers bounced around the majors for seven years, ending up with a 19-23 record.  Somehow or other, though, his bio on Wikipedia managed to go to 1,100 words.  I think his mom must have written it.

Poor Rich is probably best remembered for a line by the broadcaster Jerry Coleman, the Mrs. Malaprop of baseball announcers.  Late in a Padres game, Jerry announced that "Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen."

Mr. McLain was the music director at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church, in Biddleville, IA, for over 25 years.

Though you'd never know it from this pic, Denny McLain was actually a very good pitcher and a very interesting fellow to boot.  I touched on both of these in a previous post focusing on Denny’s choice of eyewear

Some additional McLainiana:

  • His wife is the daughter of Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau
  • He threw a no-hitter with his first professional team, the Harlan (KY) Smokies
  • He hit a home run in his first major-league start (at age 19)
  • He was out of baseball by age 29
  • He spent six years in the pokey

Or did you mean Michelle?  I think she was my date for the junior prom.

Michael Everett Arch (“Bird”) Parrot was up for five years with some woeful Seattle teams.  He finished with a 19-39 record and a 4.87 ERA. 

All that pales in comparison, however, to the 1980 season, where he went an incredible 1-16.  That’s an .059 winning percentage, folks.  I think my junior prom date could have done better than that.

I don't know. It looks like Jerry's allergies might really be acting up here.

Jerry Augustine is a lifetime Cheesehead. He was born in Kewaunee, played for the Brewers for 10 years, is a color commentator for them now, and also once coached the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Panthers. Oh, yaah, yoo betcha!

* - author has this card

Need another dose of unlikely athletes? Here are some from the '50s and '60s.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Action, Action, We Want Action!

You call that action?  How about me getting off my couch?  Would that qualify?  Look, I’m gonna get another beer.  Would that do it?  Huh?

“Huh?  Whuh?  Strike?”

Cliff Johnson was not a bad player.  He was up for 15 yrs, finishing with 196 dingers.  Rather challenged defensively, he was primarily a DH.

Cliff was an official member of the Bronx Zoo, and once put Goose Gossage on the DL for two months after a locker room brawl.

His nickname was “Heathcliff.”

“You call that a strike?”

Cesar Cedeno was a pretty decent ballplayer as well.  He had an unusual combination of power, speed, and defense.  Cesar finished with four All Star berths, five Gold Gloves, and 550 steals.

Unfortunately, Cedeno was not a very decent human being.  He once shot and killed one girlfriend, beat up another, beat up a bar patron, and wrecked a nice Mercedes.

A foul ball, right?  The guy hit a foul ball?  That’s all he did, correct?  And that constitutes action?

Chris Speier was also a pretty decent player.  He was known more for his glove though.  He was a three-time All-Star and was in the bigs for 19 years. 

Since retiring, Chris has kept busy as a major league coach.  By the way, Justin Speier is his son.

Man, I never saw a foul ball go up so far.  Now, that is impressive.

Looking at Rudy Meoli’s stats, I’m kinda thinking this foul ball may have been the highlight of his career.  I’m talking six years, 626 at bats, 2 homers, and a lifetime average of .212. 

He did, however, lead the league once – in errors committed, with 30 in 1973.  Wait a minute, that’s a bad thing, right?

Nothing like a shot of your hero striking out.

If you read this blog, you may know that Brooks Robinson is indeed one of my heroes.  In fact, my first official post talked about him – and his incredibly dorky 1958 card.

I like this photo as it shows that strange short brim that he always sported on his batting helmet.  

Here’s what Brooksie has to say about it:

Back in the early ’70s, the Commissioner’s Office made it mandatory for anyone coming into the big leagues to wear a flap on your hat.  When I got the helmet with the flap and put it on, it seemed like the bill was a little longer than my normal hat.  The flap was a little longer and consequently when I went up to hit I could see the brim and part of the flap.  It made me lose my concentration.  I took care of it by taking a hacksaw blade and cut off about 1 ½ inches off the brim and about ½ off the flap.  That’s how I got my short brim.

Part deux.  Though I do have to admit that “Sweet Lou” was never really my hero.

That said, Lou Piniella was one of those players who – like Joe Torre or Dusty Baker – was a pretty decent player and a pretty decent manager as well.

On the player side, he was AL Rookie of the Year and a one-time All Star.  Over 18 years, he finished with a very respectable .291 average.

As a manager, he actually comes in number 14 on the all-time win list.  He won a World Series in 1990 with the Reds, and tied a record for wins in one season with 116 with the Seattle Mariners in 2001.

More Piniella right here.

“Hold on, let me shake the dirt outta this thing.”

Ed Kirkpatrick was a classic handyman, hanging around for 16 years in the bigs by playing every position except shortstop and pitcher.

Ed was in a terrible car accident in 1981 that left him in a coma for half a year and paralyzed for almost 30.  He didn’t seem to let it get him down though.

Fittingly, his nickname was “Spanky.”

“Wait a minute, I got some sand or somethin’ in here.”

Another player/manager, Pat Corrales was a so-so player as well as a so-so manager.  As a player, he was pretty much your classic backup catcher (.216 career average). 

As a manager, he was at the helm for nine years, finishing with a .474 winning percentage.  He’s the only manager to be fired while his team was in first.

Here’s a better look at him.

“Wait a sec.  I got sumthin in my eye or sumthin.”

Though he sounds more like a character on Seinfeld, George Mitterwald was actually a major league baseball player.  He was up for 11 years, starting in about half of those years. 

He didn’t have a bad bat for a catcher.  Though he did finish his career with a .236 average, he also had two years where he hit 15 and 16 home runs.

His nickname was “Baron von Mitterwald” – “the Baron,” for short.

Few know it, but it’s entirely legal to punt the ball up to the plate.

It’s kinda hard to believe, but Dick Bosman was one of my heroes as a kid.  Here, let me explain …

I lived in Northern Virginia at the time, and there really wasn’t a lot to cheer for when it came to the local baseball team, the Senators.  Dick did distinguish himself, however, by leading the AL in ERA in 1969.

Dick’s other claim to fame is a no-hitter.  That one could have actually been a perfect game except for Dick’s own fielding error.

Two more shots of Dick, here and here.
Yoga position or follow-through?  You don’t have to worry about it when your nickname is “Blue Moon.”

It’s a pretty good one, isn’t it?  Hall of Fame, if you ask me.  (It was given to him in his childhood because he had a round face, BTW.)

The career meanwhile was just okay.  Odom finished with 84 wins, one win below .500.  He shined in the post-season though.  I’m talking a 3-1 record and 1.13 ERA, all with those great A’s teams of the early ‘70s.

Another fine human being, Odom was arrested for selling cocaine and for a hostage situation with his wife.

It’s okay when they pump their fists and shout, I guess.  But to laugh at you?  Even if they are Tom Seaver.  That’s just not right.

Well, I guess I don’t need to say too much about ol’ Tom Terrific.  So, here’s some trivia about him you may not know:

  • His dad was a golf pro
  • He’s the only Hall of Famer with a Mets hat
  • He’s a former Marine
  • He was originally signed by the Braves (contract voided)
  • He owns a vineyard

“Do they ever listen to me?  Huh?  I tell them they can stand up.  The ball’s goin’ to second base.  Do they ever pay any attention?  I ask you.”

Gary Matthews (the guy sliding into 3rd) was a pretty good player.  Rookie of the Year and All Star, he finished with over 200 homers, almost 1000 RBIs, over 1000 runs, and a .281 average.

Matthews was, of course, known as Sarge.  Sarge, Tom Terrific, Blue Moon, Baron Von Mitterwald …  Hey, who said the golden age of baseball nicknames was way back before WWII?