Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Before There Was Dentistry (‘60s Version)

My younger son was born without lateral incisors, on either side. It’s actually some genetic defect that I can blame my wife’s side of the family for. 

Poor guy. It’s an endless round of dentists, orthodontists, retainers, fake teeth – and lots of big bills for dad, too. It also gives him an unfortunate look that belies his incredible smarts.

So, I can definitely feel for these guys here. That said, I think I can still step up the plate and be my ol’ snarky self.  I’m a real gamer that way. Never say die – that’s me, alright.

“Unnhh, what’s up Doc?”

I always remembered Pete Ward as the starting third baseman for the Chisox in the ‘60s, as well as a pretty decent ballplayer. In fact, he was in the top ten in MVP voting for two of those years, ’63 and ’64.

Looks like things didn't change much for Pete in the '70s, unfortunately.

More Bugs.

You met George before, where we made fun of his hair.

One thing I didn’t mention there was that George was quite the character.  He plays a major role in Jim Bouton’s Ball Four.  In fact, he’s the guy who never wore underwear. 

And here's another shot of ol' George - this time, looking a tad hungover.


They called him “the Count.”

Though shown as a Dodger, Phil Ortega actually made his mark with the Washington Senators.  In fact, he was something of their ace (if, indeed “ace” and “Washington Senators” can be used in the same sentence). 

The Dodgers tried to sell him as the Great Latino Hope, to their growing Spanish-speaking audience.  Turns out he was a Yaqui Indian from Arizona who didn’t even speak Spanish.

His teammates actually called him “Chief” and “Kemo” (after “Kemosabe”)  Things were real PC back then.

Hank was so proud of his new teeth.

Hank Aguirre was up for 16 years, with one really great year.  In 1962, he led the AL in ERA and WHIP, and represented Detroit in the midsummer classic.

Hank may well have been one of the worst hitters ever.  He finished with an .085 average and went 0 for the season in ’55, ’57, ’59, ’61, 68, and ’70.

Check out a much younger looking Hank right here.

Joe, meanwhile, forgot to put his in that day.

You might have heard of Joe Niekro’s brother, Phil.  Turns out Joe had a pretty decent career himself.  He was up for 22 years and recorded 221 wins.

He’s most famous, though, for getting caught on the mound with an emery board in his back pocket.  See the whole thing right here.

Word had it Johnny could spit a watermelon seed 30 feet through those things.

You’ve seen Johnny before, where I discussed his heroics – and his later swift downfall – with the Yankee powerhouses of the mid ‘50s.  But did you know he was the last pitcher to face Jackie Robinson – and that he struck him out!?


And Carlton could spit a small watermelon through his.

Carlton Willey’s career was as ugly as his dentition.  I’m talking a 38-58 record, for a .win-loss percentage under .400.  Pitching for the early ‘60s Mets for three years certainly didn’t help things any.

I'm kinda thinking Carlton should have had his own post. Here he is looking goofy and with an oddly elongated chin. Truly, a man of many talents.

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Oh, and let’s not forget these teeth from the ‘50s.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hey Skip!

It’s tough being the manager.  All the players get to make like they’re striking out the side, or hitting the walk-off home run, or getting ready to spear that line drive and save the game in the bottom of the ninth.

So, what do you get to do?  Basically, it’s arms folded or arms akimbo.  Oh, want to get really creative?  Try that pose on the top steps of the dugout.  Now, we’re talkin’!

Well, there was one other possibility.  It’s not for the shy though.  You ready?  Okay, pretend you’re yelling something to one of your players out there on the field.  Oh, I don’t know.  He’s in the wrong spot, or he needs a little encouragement, or his fly’s open.  Whatever.

Okay, here we go now.  First, cup your hands.  Now, open your mouth.  That’s it!  You got it!

That’s it?  C’mon, Harry.  You’re gonna need to get into it a little more than that.

Poor Harry Craft.  Managing the KC Athletics, late 50s Cubs, and Colt .45s is not going to do wonders for your won-lost record now, is it?  Poor bugger never finished above seventh.  Maybe that explains his distinct lack of enthusiasm here.

As a player, Harry was a starting outfielder for the Reds in the late 30s and early 40s, getting in a couple of World Series (though hitting only .083 there).  His nickname was “Wildfire.”  That’s irony, right?  Please tell me that’s irony.

Marginally better, Chuck.  But, really guys.  We’re gonna have to step it up here.

Chuck Dressen was manager of the Boys of Summer.  He skippered the Bums from 1951 through 1953, winning the pennant twice.  He also managed the Reds, Senators, and Braves, as well as the Tigers.  Overall, he won over 1000 games. 

As a player, he was a starter at third for the Reds in the late ‘20s.  Not many people know it, but he also was a quarterback in the NFL, in its very earliest days.


Now, that’s more like it.  Get your hand a little closer to your face, though, Gene.  It looks like somebody maybe just stepped on your toes or something.

Gene Mauch won the most games without ever snagging a pennant.  He came within one game of doing so no less than three times.  His 1,902 victories put him at number twelve all time.  Not too shabby.

As a player, Gene was nowhere near as accomplished.  He bounced around for nine years, getting only 737 at bats and five homers, and finishing with a .237 average.

Oh, almost forgot – he was known for a really nice tan.


I like it, I like it.  It’s like you’re trying to yell something out to the left fielder.  Move him over a little, huh?  Maybe tell him to pay attention?  Tell him he forgot his glove?

Poor Wes Westrum took over the hapless Mets of the early ‘60s from Casey Stengle.  He got a chance to manage again, with San Fran in 74 and 75, but it wasn’t enough to get the old won/lost percentage above .415 lifetime.

Wesley Noreen (Yup, Noreen) Westrum was a decent catcher, starting regularly for the Giants in the early 50s.  He never hit for average (his lifetime mark was .217), but he could swat the long ball (he hit over 20 twice).  He was a two-time All Star and batted .250 in two Fall classics.  Wes ranks ninth all time in caught stealing percentage.


Now we’re talkin’.  See guys.  That’s what I mean.  Love it, Johnny!

Johnny Keane managed for six years, finishing with a respectable 398-350 record.  His main claim to fame is winning the ‘64 series with the Cards, then switching the next year to the team he defeated, the Yankees.  He never played in the majors. 

Perfect!  Absolutely perfect.

Sam Mele was a pretty decent manager.  He managed seven years, all with the Twins, and finished 524-436, with one World Series appearance to his credit.

As a player, Sam bounced around for ten years, with six different teams.  He actually started for seven of those years, and retired with over 1000 games, 500 RBIs, and 400 runs.

His real first name was “Sabath.”  “Sam” came from his initials.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Separated at Birth ('60s Version)

You read about this every once in awhile in the newspaper.  You know, two guys who last saw each other in the maternity ward 40-some years ago are made aware of each other through some odd circumstance, bond instantly at the airport where they meet, then stay up all weekend discovering how alike they are.  It invariably turns out that they both work, say, in law enforcement, are married to women named “Trixie,” root for the Packers, drink PBR, and named their kids “Crystal” and “Travis.” 

In all seriousness, twin studies like these have actually contributed tons to real research on the old nature vs. nurture question.  There is actually an international society, an academic journal, and multiple research programs devoted to twins in general and “twins reared apart” in particular.   And, yes, they really do find all sorts of interesting coincidences.

Now, I’m not sure how much our twins share apart from their uncanny resemblances, but if you want to get a paper published, I’m not about to stand in your way (just make sure you include me in the “thanks” section).  You’re welcome!


Positively uncanny.

Ray Washburn pitched ten years, all but one of those as a starter for the Cards.  His best year was 1968, when he went 14-8, had a 2.26 ERA, tossed a no-hitter, and pitched in the World Series.

Don Lee bounced around for nine years and five clubs.  You’ve met him before, where we made fun of his lips.


Downright eerie.

Fred Gladding was a fairly decent reliever. He too has made his mark in this blog – namely, for those totally awesome glasses.

Danny Coombs (as he was typically known) was best known for being 6’5” and from Maine.  His actual baseball career was pretty forgettable.


Out-and-out bizarre.

Faye Throneberry (brother of Marv) was a backup outfielder for seven years.  Upon retirement, he “became a successful professional trainer of bird dogs. He handled Miller's Miss Knight, a pointer, to victory in the 1973 National Bird Dog Field Trial Championship” (Wikipedia)

Clint Courtney was a starting catcher for most of the ‘50s.   Overall, he got in 3000 at bats in over 11 years.  He’s generally regarded as the first major league catcher to wear glasses.  Interestingly, he was quite the brawler, and his nickname was “Scrap Iron.”


I’m sorry to do this to you, John.  But if you were in a police lineup for this guy, I’m afraid you’d definitely be the guy I’d pick.

You’ve met John Bateman before, where we made fun of his headwear, and also shared his stats.  I’ll hold off on citing the other guy’s stats.


Honestly, I really don’t have a thing for serial killers.  Put a swastika on Vic’s forehead, though, and these two are the same guy. 

Vic Davalillo (the guy on the left) was only 5’7” and 150 lbs.  Charles Manson (the guy on the right) was a mere 5’2” and 130 lbs.  I still think ol’ Charlie coulda taken him though.

More Vic here and here.


See, it’s not all about serial killers (though Spuds McKenzie was a pit bull … and pit bulls are known for attacking people … and killing them …).

Kevin, at his 1965 Topps blog, points out that there aren’t enough Bubbas in MLB history – a mere eight.  I couldn’t agree more.

Now, I’ve given you one as a freebie.  How many more can you name?  (answers at bottom of page) 


Well, yes, one of Peter Lorre’s most famous roles is the serial killer in Fritz Lang’s M.  He was in some other roles too, though, you know.

Would you believe you’ve met Hank before as well?  Don’t you remember? He was looking a little peaked?

I shared his basic stats there.  Wikipedia gives us a little more insight by saying that “his repertoire included a hard fastball, a solid curve and an excellent slider.” Hey, way to break out the ol’ thesaurus, Mr. Wikipedia author.


As far as I know, Shrek never killed no one.

“Al Schroll.”  Rhymes with “troll.” ‘Nuff said. 

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Can’t get enough?  Here are some more from the ‘50s and '70s.

The remaining seven Bubbas are: Floyd, Harris, Morton, Trammell (hey, I got one right!), Carpenter, and Crosby.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Major League Pinheads

Zippy the Pinhead is without a doubt the strangest comic I have ever read.  Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, has called it “nothing but a clown with a small head who says random things.”  Wikipedia points out its use of “literary nonsense, including a near-absence of either straightforward gags or continuous narrative,” as well as plenty of “philosophical non sequitur" and “verbal free association.”  My guess is it has something to do with someone taking a lot of drugs in the 1960s.  I’m amazed it’s still in syndication.

Par exemple

  • He wears a yellow muumuu with large red polka dots; puffy, white clown shoes; and a bow on top of his head
  • His wife is named Zerbina and his children Fuelrod and Meltdown
  • His favorite foods are taco sauce and Ding Dongs
  • He is the source of the quote “Are we having fun yet?”

What does this have to do with baseball?  Apart from the random physical resemblance between Zippy and these guys?  Absolutely nothing.

Not too bad.  The crew cut sure doesn’t help any, though, does it?

Bob “Hawk” Taylor was one of the bigger bonus baby flops.  He set a then record for signing bonus in 1957 with the Milwaukee Braves.  He subsequently went 0 for 7 for them for that year. 

The rest of his 11-year career wasn’t much better.  Overall, he finished with a 218 average and got over 100 bats only twice, both with the early Mets.


I’m thinking a little bigger hat might have helped here.

Chuck Hiller was a light-hitting middle infielder who played for four teams over eight years.  Somehow or other, though, he managed to hit the first NL grand slam in World Series history, with the Giants in ’62.  That year and the following one were the only years he could really be considered a starter.  Upon retirement, he had a long career as a coach and minor league manager.

Also, nice zombie eyes!

And any kind of hat would definitely have helped Dick.  Maybe even a hairpiece.  Seems like most of these pinheads are getting a little thin upstairs.

Dick Gernert was not a bad ballplayer.  He was up for 11 years, getting in almost 2500 at bats and hitting just over 100 dingers.  He made someone’s top 100 Red Sox, coming in at #92

Dick was also involved in the first official interleague trade, on November 21, 1959.  Boston sent him to the Cubs for first baseman Jim Marshall and pitcher Dave Hillman. 

Love the sneer. 

Not too much on ol’ Mel out there.  Here’s his Wikipedia entry, in its entirety:

Melvin Frederick Nelson (born May 30, 1936, in San Diego, California) is a former professional baseball player who played six seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, and Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball.


I’m assuming this is a shot from below.  If not, we’re really in trouble.

Jose Vidal, unlike Mel, had a much less distinguished career, but somehow or other got 420 words out of it on Wikipedia.  As for the career, I’m talking four years, 146 at bats, and a .146 averages.  As for the verbiage, we learn that:
  • His nickname was “Papito”
  • He played in Japan for a year
  • He led his league three times in errors in the minors
  • His first and last big league hits were both triples


This shot seems pretty straight on.  Which I’m finding a little disturbing.

Ken McMullen was probably the best third baseman the expansion Washington Senators ever had (and I’m including Aurelio Rodriguez in that estimate!).  Overall, he was up for 16 years, got over 5100 at-bats, and clubbed 156 homers.  He probably would have gotten some Gold Gloves in there too, but unfortunately played at the same time as some guy named “Robinson.”

More Ken here and here.

Zippy. Note the resemblance.

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