Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What's Eating Don Gullett?

Get it?  I was going to say “worrying,” or “bothering,” or something like that.  But I just couldn’t pass it up. Get it? Eating? Gullet?

Forgive me.  

Whatever it was, it was a problem even back then. Yup, this is Don’s first card.  

1971. Pretty good rookie season. Don went 5-2, with a 2.43 ERA.

Gullett was a huge high school star, by the way. He actually started pitching for the high school team in eighth grade. He also once pitched a perfect game, striking out 20 of 21 batters. Don was also a football star, scoring 72 points once in a single game. The Reds picked him in the first round, number 14 overall.

It’s okay, Don. Really.

1972.  You’d never know it from this shot, but Don had a great sophomore year. He went 16-6 (for a league-leading .727 winning percentage), and with a 2.65 ERA.

Here, have some Tums.

1974. Another great record, at 18-8. 

Or maybe a lil’ Xanax.

1976. Another incredible winning percentage (15-4, .789), though somehow or other, Al Hrabosky beat him out to lead the league (13-3, .813).

So, what happened to Don’s signature?  It’s not that he’s no longer “Donald Edward” so much, but that it looks like it was done by a completely different person.  Funny.  His expression’s the same though.

1975.  17-11, 3.04 ERA, and 183 strikeouts (a personal best for that last one).

Hmm, moving to the Yankees didn’t help, did it?  But, then again, I would think that would simply make any problem you’re dealing with even worse.  Good to see Don’s totally “normal” in that way.

1977. Don went 11-3 with a 3.00 ERA before heading over to the Bronx. With the Yankees, he went 18-6 over two year, leading the league in his first year in – you guessed it – winning percentage (14-4, .778).

Unfortunately, Don also blew his arm out with the Yankees.  (And, yes, Billy “Burnout” Martin was his manager.)  Poor Don was all washed up at age 27.

Overall, Gullett was up for nine years, finishing with a 109-50 record (.686) and a 3.11 ERA. BTW, that winning percentage is seventh all time (and fourth for players in the modern era). Don was also in an amazing six World Series (four times as champ) in those short nine years. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

You Know, I Don’t Feel So Good (‘70s Version)

I’m assuming these guys weren’t all coming down with something. What I’m guessing here is that the photographer needed to take more than just … one … shot. 

I mean, honestly, people blink, they forget to smile, they look away, they do all sorts of things to screw up your shot. And the camera will capture them all. Whatever your subject happened to be doing in that 1/250 of a second will now forever be captured in time.

So, what most photographers do (even amateur photographers) is take a couple of shots. The idea is that, if one shot doesn’t work out, chances are another will. Makes sense, right?

I guess, though, that’s something never occurred to the fine folks at Topps.

Hal King was a backup catcher who played with four teams over seven years. He totaled almost 700 at bats, with a respectable 24 homers, but a .214 average. After MLB, Hal went to the Mexican League, where he was a proud Saltillo Sarapero. If you happen to live in Oviedo, FL, you can give Hal a call and have him pressure-wash your deck.


George Brunet’s been here before, where we made fun of his hair and shared some of his stats. Turns out George was quite a character. The favorite story told about him – from Jim Bouton’s Ball Four – is about his never wearing underwear.  “Hell, the only time you need them is if you get into a car wreck,” explained George. “Besides, this way I don’t have to worry about losing them.”

Bob Barton’s another backup catcher. Bob was up for ten years, playing with three different teams. In just over 1,000 at bats, he managed only nine homers and a .226 average. 

He was, though, a pretty decent catcher. His lifetime caught stealing rate was 41%, and he gave up only nine passed balls in his ten-year career. In his one year as a starter – 1971, with the Padres – he led the league in runners caught stealing and in caught stealing percentage.

Don Buford was a pretty good leadoff hitter – great OBP, a little pop, and very speedy. Over a relatively short ten-year career, Buford nabbed 200 bases and scored 718 runs. He actually owns the lowest GIDP rate of all time (one in every 138 at bats). Don is actually in three separate halls of fame – USC’s (he played baseball and football there), the International League, and the Orioles.

After retiring, Don kept in baseball as a minor league manager and a major league coach. His son Damon also made the bigs. Another son is an orthopedic surgeon, and another a lawyer. Sounds like he and his wife must have been doing something right.

Maury: “It only hurts when I grip the bat.”
Doc: “Well, then don’t grip the bat.”

Maury Wills was one of the greatest base stealers of all time. He is often given credit for “reinventing” the stolen base. His 51 steals in 1961 were the most that anyone had stolen in the NL since 1923. His 104 in 1962 set a modern record that had stood since Ty Cobb stole 96 way back in 1916.

Over his 14-year major league career, Wills stole not quite 600 bases, and also got over 2,000 hits and 1000 runs. He was a seven-time All Star, three-time World Series champion, two-time Gold Glove winner, and won the NL MVP in 1962.

Ellie: “It only hurts when I squat.”
Doc: “Well, then don’t squat.”

Like Don Buford, Elrod (“Ellie”) Hendricks was on some of those great Oriole teams of the ‘60s and ‘70s. In particular, he split catching duties with Andy Etchebarren, and was involved in more than his share of dramatic postseason plays. 

He might best remembered for a play at the plate in the 1970 World Series. Hendricks tagged Bernie Carbo with an empty glove, but umpire Ken Burkhart, who had gotten tangled up in the play, called Carbo out. A famous photo clearly shows Hendricks holding the ball in his other hand. Like any good umpire, Burkhart never reversed his call or admitted he was wrong.

Feeling ill or feeling blue?

We’ve met Tim Corcoran before, where we found him blasting one out of the park. I shared some of his stats in that post.

Couldn’t find much else on ol’ Tim. Seems there are just so many Tim Corcorans out there – a pitcher, a Vermont legislator, an Irish politician, an Irish Jesuit scholar of the Gaelic language – that our Tim just seems to get lost in the shuffle. 

So sad, so sad.  Sometimes, he feels so sad.

Poor Al Santorini. His Wikipedia entry goes to only 44 words. No wonder he looks so sad. We do learn, however, that Al was a pitcher, was up for six years, and played for three teams. You can get more details though – and an even sadder tale – right here.  

Feeling ill or just desperate confusion?

Earl Williams’ look on this card may actually reflect something very real. Though quite gifted offensively (he hit 33 homers as the NL Rookie of the Year in 1971), he also was forced to play catcher, a position he had never played before reaching the majors and a position he was only marginally good at. 

For some reason, though he played with several different teams, it never dawned on anyone that Earl might be a little more comfortable elsewhere. And that resulted in a major attitude problem for Earl, who fought with teammates, fans, and management. As a result, he was out of the bigs before age 29. Sad indeed.
Clyde may be getting a sign from the catcher here.  Alternatively, he may be simply getting ready to hurl.  And I don’t mean “pitch” when I use that word.

Clyde Mashore was actually an outfielder, so I’m not totally sure what’s going on in this card. Clyde was actually not much of an outfielder. Over five years, he got just over 400 at bats, finishing with a .208 average.

Clyde’s son Damon also played in the majors. Damon was something of a chip off the old block. Over three years, Damon got almost 500 at bats, hit a marginally more impressive .249, and “clubbed” the same number of homers – eight – as his old man. Mediocrity. It runs in the family!

Getting a sign or just a little winded and taking a breather?  “Whew!  Just a sec, guys …”

Rick Waits was up for 12 years, primarily as a starter with the Indians. Overall, he finished under .500 (79-92) and with an ERA over 4.00 (4.25). His best year was 1979, when he went 16-13. His worst was 1982, when he went 2-13.

After retiring, Rick has played in the Senior League and coached. He’s done the latter in the minors, the majors, and in Italy.

"Coach, I really gotta go."

Bobby Tolan was a pretty good player. He had a couple of years where he got over 600 at bats, and led the league once in steals. His best year was 1969, when he batted .316, hit 21 homers, and knocked in 93 runs.

You can’t tell from this card, but Tolan had one of those great high-hands stances – kind of like Craig Counsell or Carl Yaztremski (um, Yaztermwski … unh, Yastremzki … you know who I mean). Check out Bobby's ‘72 Topps for a good view of that.


So that explains it.  No wonder Bobby was feeling so poorly. 

Bobby Darwin had a very lengthy major-league career, from 1962 to 1977. What? Never heard of him? Well, that may be for good reason.

Bobby made his debut in 1962 as a 19-year-old pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. That didn’t go so well. He popped up again for another cup of coffee in 1969. That wasn’t so great either.

The next time Bobby made an appearance, in 1971, he was an outfielder. Now, that did seem to stick. He would play – as an outfielder – for six more years. And in two of those years he would hit more than 20 home runs. Unfortunately, he would also show his true colors by also leading the league in strikeouts three times. 

* - author has this card

More guys on the DL right here - '50s and '60s.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Back from the Shadows Again

One of the most basic things the average photographer learns is to not try and take a picture at high noon. Causes all sorts of problems with shadows. Especially when people are wearing hats. Like these guys here …

Ken was known as “The Chin.”  Ken “The Chin” Reitz.

Actually, Ken’s real nickname was “The Zamboni” – because of his skills at scooping up hot shots at the hot corner. In fact, he led the league in fielding no less than six times. Ken was a Golden Glover and an All Star as well. He finished an 11-year career with almost 5,000 at bats and over 500 RBIs.

Interestingly, he was picked in the 31st round – overall, the 732nd player chosen. 

Steve “Right Side of the Face” Rogers.

Not to be confused with Captain America, Steve Rogers pitched for 13 long years with the Montreal Expos. Not a bad pitcher, he finished with a 158-152 record, 3.17 ERA, and over 1,600 strikeouts. He was a five-time All Star, and led the league in ERA once and shutouts twice. 

Oddly, he has a degree in petroleum engineering.

Rennie “Lips” Stennett.

Rennie Stennett was the Pirates’ second baseman through most of the ‘70s. A decent hitter who could also steal a base, he was pretty handy with the glove as well. He signed with the Giants after the ’79 season, but turned out to be one of the first free agent busts.

Amazingly, Stennett’s one of only three MLB players who went 7-for-7 in a single game.

Mike “The Jaw” Anderson.

Mike Anderson was basically a backup outfielder, though I see he was also a pitcher as well. Currently, he is the head basketball coach for University of Arkansas (he formerly was head baseball coach at Nebraska). 

I see he also played in the NFL (as well as the CFL), is a well-known curler, and is pretty handy with the skateboard. Rounding out his renaissance man resume, Mike also moonlights as director of the The Simpsons.

Wow, the things you learn on Wikipedia!

Joe “The Nose” Torre

We’ve met Joe before, at the beginning of his major league career. There, I shared some of his playing stats. Though he was quite a decent player, he’s in Cooperstown mainly because of his managing prowess. To summarize:

  • 29 years
  • 2,326 wins (#5 all time)
  • 6 pennants and 4 World Series titles
  • 2 Manager of the Year awards

Pete “Raccoon Face” Redfern.

Pete Redfern’s been here too, in a post where he sported a very ‘70s perm. Some things I forgot to mention there:

  • He was a first-round pick
  • He’s come back from being paralyzed in a diving accident
  • He seems to be a genuinely great guy

The title? It’s from an old Firesign Theatre song:

Back from the shadows again
Back where an Injun’s your friend
Where the vegetables are green
And you can pee right into the stream
(And that’s important!)
Back from the shadows again

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hiding in Plain Sight

Maybe they were just shy. Maybe the photographer was just incredibly incompetent. I don’t know. How else to explain all these major league baseball players who appear to be doing all they can to avoid eye contact?

Ronald Wayne Garrett, huh? Is that the way you signed all your baseballs and programs? Did it make your fingers hurt after awhile?

Wayne Garrett was up for ten years, six of those as the Mets’ starting third baseman. Overall, though, he finished with a mere 61 homers and a measly .239 average over 3000-some at bats. That may explain why the Mets traded away both Amos Otis and Nolan Ryan to try and replace him (ouch!).

Wayne did get to play in two World Series. And that included some highlights – three homers – as well as some lowlights – a .179 average, tying a then single Series record by striking out 11 times, and making the final out in the ’73 Series by popping up to the infield.

Fun facts about Wayne:
  • He had two brothers who also played professional baseball 
  • All three brothers went by their middle names (?!?!)
  • Wayne’s nicknames were “Red” and “Huckleberry Finn”
  • He was once on The Dating Game

Something’s telling me this wasn’t a double in the gap.  Something’s telling me Jerry has hit a weak grounder to second.  Something’s telling me shame is a thing Jerry Grote has to deal with on a daily basis.  

Jerry Grote was actually not a bad player – at least for a catcher.  He was up for 16 years, got in over 1400 games, and was a two-time All Star. He was also first in some fancy SABRmetric stuff – range factor, total zone runs – that I don’t even pretend to understand.

Jerry has his own website, though it appears to have only a single page. Other fun facts about Jerry:
  • He was in a tornado as child 
  • He caught a no-hitter that resulted in a loss
  • He was into Transcendental Meditation
  • He was once on What’s My Line

I believe that’s a person. He appears to be on his knees. In the middle of the desert. Or perhaps the beach. A well-groomed beach. Or a well-groomed desert. That’s all I can say.

B. Robinson is actually Brooks Robinson. You may have heard of him. In fact, you may have heard of him in this particular World Series. I watched it on TV as an 11-year-old, and still remember it to this day. Actually, not only did he seem to make a play like this once every inning, he also batted .429 with a couple of homers and six RBIs. One of the most obvious World Series MVPs there’s ever been – and one of my boyhood heroes as well.

More Brooks here, here, and here.

Is Willie the guy on the right?  With the big butt?  No, wait a minute, he plays for the Phils.  Must be the guy on the left.  The guy with the P on his shirt.

Though probably not well-remembered today, Willie Montanez was a pretty darn good player. He hit 30 homers and drove in 99 runs in his rookie year, coming in second in RoY voting. He was also a one-time All Star, and once had three consecutive years batting over .300. 

He had a reputation as a real hot dog though, which may explain why he played for nine teams in 14 years. By the way, he was once traded for Garry Maddox (see above).

I think I’d hide too, with a haircut like that.

Roy Smalley was a College All-American and is also in the College Baseball Hall of Fame. He played 13 years in the bigs, mostly as shortstop for the Twins, where he played for his uncle, Gene Mauch. Roy was a one-time All Star, and wielded a pretty potent bat (at least in those pre-Ripken days) as well as a good glove.

You can find Roy’s dad, also named Roy, right here.

Ron “The Man in the Iron Mask” Pruitt

Ron Pruitt was actually quite a versatile fellow. In addition to catcher, he also played outfield, third base, and first base. For some reason, though, his baseball cards always had him either catching or batting. 

Ron was another All-America. Unfortunately, he was no Roy Smalley. Over nine years, he totaled not quite 800 at bats, getting over 200 at bats in a season only once.

Currently, Ron runs a baseball academy in Akron.

Ted, over here!  Ted!

Ted’s been here before, where we found him to be a long-haired hippie freak. In that post, I made an argument for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Here are some other highlights from Ted’s career:
  • One Silver Slugger award
  • Seven seasons hitting over .300
  • Two no-hitters (um, catching them, that is)

Ted’s also been a GM, director of player development, scout, and coach.