Sunday, November 17, 2013

#24 Bob Bruce

Bob Bruce signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1953. The righty pitcher took a long slow trip up the Tigers' minor league ladder and spent a year in the military before he finally debuted in September of 1959. His first appearance that year was a one inning mop up stint in which he walked two. He returned to the mound on September 27 making his first career start. It was against the White Sox at Briggs Stadium and Bruce was treated pretty shabbily, and not just by the Sox. Here is the Baseball Reference play-by-play for the top of the first:

Top of the 1st, White Sox Batting, Tied 0-0, Tigers' Bob Bruce facing 1-2-3
t10-00---CHWL. AparicioB. Bruce

Single to LF
t10-001--CHWN. FoxB. Bruce

Aparicio Steals 2B
t10-00-2-CHWN. FoxB. Bruce

Aparicio Steals 3B
t10-00--3CHWN. FoxB. Bruce

t10-001-3RCHWJ. LandisB. Bruce

Reached on E6 (Ground Ball); Aparicio Scores; Fox to 2B; Landis to 1B
t11-0012-CHWT. KluszewskiB. Bruce

Wild Pitch; Landis to 2B; Fox to 3B
t11-00-23ROCHWT. KluszewskiB. Bruce

Groundout: 2B-1B; Fox Scores; Landis to 3B
t12-01--3RCHWJ. RomanoB. Bruce

Reached on E5 (Ground Ball); Landis Scores/No RBI/unER
t13-011--OCHWA. SmithB. Bruce

t13-021--RRCHWJ. RiveraB. Bruce

Home Run (Deep RF); Romano Scores/unER; Rivera Scores/unER
t15-02---OCHWB. PhillipsB. Bruce

Popfly: SS
So Bruce gives up a hit to Luis Aparicio, allows him to steal second and third, walks Nellie Fox, gets Jim Landis to ground to short where it's booted (or thrown away), uncorks a wild pitch, coaxes a run scoring grounder out of Big Klu, gets Johnny Romano to ground to third where it's booted (or thrown away), whiffs Al Smith, gives up a home run to Jungle Jim Rivera and finally gets out of the inning on a pop up. Jimmy Dykes pulled the plug on Bruce to start the second and with the season ending a few days later Bruce had the whole winter to re-live that nightmare inning.

Another interesting thing happened later in the same game and it had nothing to do with Bob Bruce directly. Sox manager Al Lopez replaced his entire team on the field to start to bottom of the sixth. Again, here is the BR game summary:

Bottom of the 6th, Tigers Batting, Behind 2-5, White Sox' Barry Latman facing 2-3-4
Barry Latman replaces Bob Shaw pitching and batting 9th
Cam Carreon replaces John Romano playing C batting 5th
Earl Torgeson replaces Ted Kluszewski playing 1B batting 4th
Billy Goodman replaces Nellie Fox playing 2B batting 2nd
J.C. Martin replaces Bubba Phillips playing 3B batting 8th
Sammy Esposito replaces Luis Aparicio playing SS batting 1st
Johnny Callison replaces Al Smith playing LF batting 6th
Joe Hicks replaces Jim Landis playing CF batting 3rd
Jim McAnany replaces Jim Rivera playing RF batting 7th
You don't see that happening very often. Looks like El SeƱor was saving his troops for the post season. His club had clinched the pennant five days earlier.

But Bob Bruce persevered and remained with the Tigers through 1961 as a reliever and spot starter. He was traded to Houston in December of 1961 and became a solid member of the Colt 45s' starting rotation in their first season. He won 42 games for the Colts/Astros in five seasons. He was the first pitcher in that franchise's history to win 15 games (1964) and he pitched in the last game played in Colt Stadium and the first game in the Astrodome. In and April 1964 game versus the Dodgers he struck out the side on 9 pitches. He became only the twelvth pitcher to do that. Amazingly he did it the next day after Sandy Koufax had become the eleventh to do it.

Bruce finished his career in 1967 with the Atlanta Braves and retired to San Antonio, Texas where he works in the real estate business.

Little Topps quirks that amuse me department: I've been in Houston since 1967 and have never seen the city's name abbreviated as 'HSTN.' except on a Topps card.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Don Hoak (#305)

Here is Phillies’ 3rd baseman Don Hoak, who looks somewhat like Mickey Mantle in this photo, IMO.

Hoak played in the minors from 1947-53, and was a third baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1954-55), Cubs (1956), Reds (1957-58), Pirates (1959-62), and Phillies (1963-64).

His lone all-star appearance came in 1957, when he also led the NL with 39 doubles. Hoak was one of SEVEN Cincinnati players voted into the NL starting lineup for the all-star game. As a result of the ballot box stuffing, the commissioner replaced several Reds players, and took the voting away from the fans, which they did not regain until 1970.

We’ve all heard of the saying that “no team can win with 3 ex-Cubs on the roster”. The exception was the 1960 Pirates, but I once heard a funny explanation that, since Hoak was only with the Cubs for 1 season, and he hated his time there, he didn’t count toward The Curse.

Hoak spent the final 2 seasons of his career with the Phillies. He was acquired from the Pirates in November 1962 for Pancho Herrera (who had been the team’s regular 1st baseman from 1960-61, but spent 1962-74 in the minors) and journeyman outfielder Ted Savage.

Don was the Phil’s regular 3rd baseman in 1963, but at age 35, he only hit .231 in 115 games. The following season, rookie Richie Allen took over the position, and Hoak was released on May 18th, having only made 6 pinch-hitting appearances up to that point.

When I first started following the Phillies in 1967, Don was their 1st-base coach. He also managed in the Pirates’ farm system during the ’68 and ’69 seasons.

Hoak passed away in October 1969 at age 41.