Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lew Krausse (#104)

Lew Krausse Jr. was signed right out of high school to a $125,000 bonus contract with the Athletics. A week after signing in June of 1961, he pitched a six-hit shutout against the Angels. That must have made the scout who signed him doubly proud. That scout was his dad, Lew Krausse Sr. The elder Krausse pitched for the Philadelphia A's in the early 30's and had a long minor league career.

Lew, Jr. ran into rough times the remainder of that rookie season as he lost five straight before ending his year with his second complete game win in September. Arm issues and wildness kept him off the Athletics staff for four years with the exception of a few brief looks by the big club.

But Krausse returned with a vengeance in 1966 as he won 14 games with a sub-3 ERA. He remained in the A's rotation with varying degrees of success through the 1969 season. He had an interesting relationship with A's owner Charles Finley. The franchise was in free fall late in 1967 when Finley fined Krausse for 'misconduct' on a team flight. The whole thing escalated until Finley ended up firing manager Alvin Dark and releasing outfielder-first baseman Ken Harrelson who went on to help the Red Sox nail down their AL title.

The A's moved to Oakland the following year and Krausse was unable to reclaim the effectiveness he had in '66. Over the winter following the 1969 season he was dealt to the expansion Seattle Pilots who moved to Milwaukee just days before the season opened. Krausse was the 'Brewers' Opening Day starter and he won 21 games in the two seasons he spent in their rotation.

Krausse spent the final four years of his career bouncing between the Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves and getting a couple of more shots in the A's minor league chain before he retired after 1975. He owned and operated a business in Kansas City after his playing days.

Krausse was also known as the victim of one of prankster/pitcher Moe Drabowsky's best tricks. From Krausse's SABR page:

(In 1966) Krausse found his way into baseball lore as one of the victims of a prank pulled in Baltimore by Orioles pitcher Moe Drabowsky. A former Athletic, Drabowsky dialed the Kansas City bullpen and told coach Bobby Hofman to “get Krausse hot!” Hofman complied, and moments later, the phone rang again: “Okay, sit him down.” To the guffaws of his teammates, Drabowsky repeated this procedure with the compliant Hofman. On the third call Drabowsky asked for Krausse and inquired, [Are y]ou warm, Lew?” Recognizing the voice of his friend and former teammate, Krausse realized they’d been spoofed, and the story made the major-league rounds to the embarrassment of both.
This card has the look of being a 'paint-enhanced' photo. Topps used the same photo on Krausse's 1964 card:

Here are the images, side by side:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dick Hall (#526)

One of the unsung heroes of the great Orioles teams of the 60's and early '70s, relief pitcher Dick Hall actually began his career as a light hitting outfielder in the Pirates chain in 1952. He was a semi-regular patrolling the Forbes Field outfield in 1954 but he spent the next two seasons transitioning into a pitching role. The Pirates had already tried to find him a home as an infielder when his hitting didn't support his taking up an outfield spot.

On the mound beginning in 1955 Hall pitched in all or part of four seasons going 6-13. Hall was obviously just learning his craft in those days and looking at his numbers confirms this. His 1959 season in the minors showed he'd adapted well (18 wins) and after a trade to Kansas City he had a respectable year in the A.L.

A trade to the Orioles for '61 really paid off for Hall (and the O's) He started 13 games that season and pitched well but his career blossomed when he moved to the bullpen full-time in 1962. Over the course of the next five years he went 44-26 with 44 saves. He won a World Series ring in '66 although he never left the bullpen during the Orioles four game sweep.

Traded to Philadelphia after the '66 Series he pitched two years there before the Phils released him. He re-signed with the Orioles and proved he had something left as he was a part of three Orioles AL championship clubs through 1971. After establishing himself as a pitched he showed great control. According to Baseball Reference in his last 7 seasons, he issued only 23 unintentional walks in 462 innings. He threw only one wild pitch in his entire

In addition to another World Series ring Hall had the honor of winning the very first American League playoff game. I was there in 1969 as the O's beat the Twins in 12 innings on their way to a sweep. In the top of the 12th inning that day Hall relieved Marcelino Lopez with the bases loaded and one out. He fanned Leo Cardenas and got Johnny Roseboro to fly out to kill the threat. The Orioles won with a squeeze bunt by Paul Blair in the bottom of that inning.

In five postseason games, all with Baltimore Hall had a pair of wins and as many saves. He also had a single in three at bats showing he hadn't forgotten his days as a position player. After he retired Hall worked as a CPA. In this Baltimore Sun interview from 2009 Hall discusses how his usual pitching delivery led to his unusual nickname of 'Turkey' and his post career life.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Final Card: Bob Oldis

This is the final card for backup catcher Bob Oldis (#404). Bob had cards in the 1953-55 sets, then again from 1960-63.

Bob was signed by the Washington Senators in 1949, and played in the minors for 4 seasons before making his major-league debut in April 1953. Bob only played in 7 games with the Sens that year, and spent most of the season in the minors.

He was with the big club for all of 1954, but as the 3rd-string catcher only played in 11 games, and did not play at all from mid-June to mid-August. He began the ’55 season with the Senators, but was sent down in early June, having only played in 6 games.

Oldis spent the next 4 seasons in the minors, with the Senators (1956) and Yankees (1957-59).

After the ’59 season, he was selected by the Pirates in the Rule 5 draft, and was the Bucs’ 3rd-string catcher in 1960, behind Smoky Burgess and Hal Smith. He played in 22 games during the season, and was a defensive replacement in 2 games in the World Series, although he did not have any plate appearances. Bob was back in triple-A for most of 1961, then was sold to the Phillies after the season.

His final 2 seasons (at age 34 and 35) was where he saw the most playing time of his career. In 1962 he caught 30 games (23 starts) as the 3rd-stringer behind Clay Dalrymple. In 1963 he finally advanced to the #2 catcher’s slot, catching in 43 games (19 starts) behind Dalrymple and ahead of ex-Angels’ backstop Earl Averill.

Bob retired after the 1963 season, and stayed on with the Phillies as a coach from 1964 to 1966. He also coached for the Twins (1968) and Expos (1969). Oldis was later a scout for the Phillies and Expos, and since 2002 has been a scout for the Marlins.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Roy Sievers (#283)

Some time ago, I posted every player appearing for the Phillies from 1966-1969 across my various blogs. I think the only key player* for the Phillies from 1963-69 that I haven’t blogged about yet is Roy Sievers, who was their 1st baseman for 1962, 1963, and part of the 1964 season.

Aside from being an ex-Phillie, Sievers’ name popped up for me two other times. He was one of the last active players from the St. Louis Browns, and he was one of only 8 players to have played for both Washington Senators’ franchises.

Sievers was signed by the St. Louis Browns in 1944, but didn’t begin playing until 1947. He played in their farm system from 1947 to 1948, then made his major-league debut with the Browns in April 1949. Roy was the Browns’ starting right fielder in his rookie season, batting .306 with 16 homers and 91 RBI. He also won the AL Rookie of the Year award.

In 1950, although Sievers started more games in center field than any of his teammates, he ended up with the 4th-most playing time among the outfielders. He also started 21 games at 3rd base, as the team rotated more than 5 players through the hot corner.

Shoulder injuries limited his playing time for the next few seasons. In 1951 he only played in 31 games for the Browns, having been sent to the minors in mid-June. After missing most of the 1952 season, he returned to the Browns in 1953, sharing the starting 1st base assignments with Dick Kryhoski.

The Browns moved to Baltimore before the 1954 season, but not Sievers. He was traded to the Senators in February, and became the Nats' regular left fielder for the next 5 seasons. Along with the increased playing time (over 500 at-bats each season) came a power surge, as he crashed 24, 25, 29, 42, and 39 homers during those years, along with 102, 106, 95, 114, and 108 RBI. His 1957 totals of 42 homers and 114 RBI led the AL, while he also hit .301 that season.

1959 was his last season in Washington. Roy only played in 115 games, collecting 19 homers and 49 RBI. After the season he was traded to the White Sox for catcher Earl Battey and 1st baseman Don Mincher.

In his 2 seasons as the White Sox’ 1st baseman, Sievers was recharged, bouncing back with over 25 homers and 90 RBI each season. He also made his last of 4 all-star teams in 1961.

In November 1961, the Sox moved him to the Phillies for pitcher John Buzhardt and 3rd baseman Charley Smith. Roy was the Phils' regular 1st sacker for all of 1962 and 1963. In 1964 Sievers shared the 1st base job with rookie John Herrnstein through mid-July.

On July 16th he was sold to the (new) Washington Senators, where he was used mostly as a pinch-hitter until they released him in May 1965.

Sievers was a coach for the Reds in 1966, then managed in the minor leagues from 1967-70 for the Mets and Athletics.

* Well, there's also pitcher Ed Roebuck, who played for the Phillies from 1964-66, but Topps didn't make a card for him in 1966, so...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Curt Simmons (#22)

I posted Curt Simmons’ final card on my 1967 blog several years ago, but it was part of a multi-card post about the players’ crew cuts, and didn’t get into their playing careers, so Curt is back for a 2nd look.

Curt Simmons had a 20-year career (1947-67) playing for 4 teams, mostly for the Phillies, and later the Cardinals.

Simmons was signed by the Phillies in 1947, and pitched that season for the Wilmington (DE) Blue Rocks, the Phillies’ class-B team. He compiled a 13-5 record, then made his major-league debut with the Phillies at age 18 during a September call-up.

In 1948, southpaw Curt joined 21-year-old righthander Robin Roberts in a rotation that also included 39-year-old Dutch Leonard and 38-year-old Schoolboy Rowe, both of who began their careers in 1933.

By 1950, Roberts and Simmons were the Phillies’ #1 and #2 starters, leading them to their first post-season since 1915. Curt missed the final month of the 1950 season and the World Series, due to his call-up to active military service during the Korean War.

Curt was a solid member of the team’s starting rotation from 1950 to 1957 (except for missing all of 1951 due to military service). He also made the All-Star team in ’52, ’53, and ’57.

Simmons had an off-year in 1958, and came down with a sore arm in 1959, spending part of that season in the minors. The Phillies released him in mid-May 1960, after only 4 starts.

Simmons was picked up by the Cardinals three days later, and spent the next 6 years in their starting rotation. He won a career-high 18 games in 1964, and together with Bob Gibson’s 19 wins and Ray Sadecki’s 20 wins, they twirled the team to a World Championship.

He experienced another off-year in 1965, and with a slow start in 1966, he was sold to the Cubs in late June. Simmons pitched for the Cubs just over 1 calendar year before moving on the the Angels in early-August 1967.

He was released after the season, ending his 20-year career. He finished with a career record of 193-183, with 1697 strikeouts.

Simmons and White Sox’ catcher Smoky Burgess were the last 2 players to retire that had played in the 1940s.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hoyt Wilhelm (#108)

I'll admit that my love of the Orioles will color my view on this card but.....ain't it a beauty? The colors, the pose, the terrific 'turn of the decade' Orioles uni, the spring training background. Good stuff for sure.

Anyway, Hoyt Wilhelm is a Hall of Fame pitcher who garnered his fame by mastering the infernal knuckleball. He pitched for nine different clubs over a 21 year career and was 49 years old when he made his last big league appearance. He pitched for the Orioles from late 1958 through 1962 spending the 1959 and some of 1960 as a starter. He no hit the Yankees in September of '58.

Wilhelm's dancing knuckleball was responsible for one of the games more notable equipment controversy, the giant 'Elephant glove' pioneered by Oriole manager Paul Richards in 1960 and worn by Hoyt's personal catcher, Joe Ginsberg.

Notable Achievements (from Wilhelm's Baseball Reference Bullpen page):

  • 5-time All-Star (1953, 1959, 1961, 1962 & 1970)
  • 2-time League ERA Leader (1952/NL & 1959/AL)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (1954)
  • 2-time NL Games Pitched Leader (1952 & 1953)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 2 (1952 & 1959)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1959)
  • Won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1954
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1985

His Hall of Fame bio:
Hoyt Wilhelm didn't make his Major League debut until the age of 28, but he got off to a fast start by hitting a home run in his first at-bat. Twenty years and a then-record 1,069 games later, he had never homered again; but it was on the mound that he distinguished himself as the game's premier reliever. The knuckleballer won 143 games, including a record 124 out of the bullpen. In a rare start for the Orioles in 1958, he no-hit the Yankees.

Here is a extremely cool video of Wilhelm's technique with commentary by catcher J. W. Porter, a pretty interesting character in his own right. You have to love Ol' Hoyt's Carolina drawl.

Monday, January 20, 2014

1963 Rookie Stars (Reds / Phillies)

In 1963, Topps began issuing multi-player Rookie Stars cards. These were weird “floating head” cards that featured players from multiple teams. (Beginning in 1964, Topps switched to team-specific Rookie Stars cards, featuring 2 to 3 “normal” photos of players from the same team.)

What’s unusual about this card is that it features 2 sets of teammates.

I have already featured all 4 of these players on other blogs, so I’m just going to link them here:

Sammy Ellis played from 1962-69, primarily for the Reds as a starting pitcher.

Ray Culp debuted with the Phillies in 1963. After 4 seasons there and 1 with the Cubs, he played 6 seasons for the Red Sox.

Jesse Gonder played for 5 teams from 1960-67, but got most of his playing time with the Mets and Pirates from 1963-67.

John Boozer bounced between the Phillies and their farm system from 1962-69, as a long reliever and spot starter.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dodgers' Big Three (#412)

The Rangel, Ralph Houses of Manhattan's Coogan's Bluff are visible through the Polo Grounds' ironwork as a special trio of pitchers pose for this 1963 Topps card. Johnny Podres, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax were indeed the Dodgers' Big Three that season as they led the club to a World Series sweep of the Yankees. The three pitched all but 2/3 of an inning of the Series as the staff held the Yanks to a .207 average.

The three players represent 522 wins, 6317 strike outs, 17 All Star selections, and 4 Cy Young Awards between them. Koufax and Drysdale of course are Hall of Famers. Many of the Dodger clubs they pitched for after the franchise's move to Los Angeles were light hitting teams that relied on pitching and defense. They were so much dependent on pitching that Don Drysdale, away from the club on family business, is said to have asked "Who won?" when he was told that Koufax had pitched a no-hitter in his absence.

Podres had his last double digit win total (14) in '63. In fact he never again won more than 7. Drysdale won 19 as he came off his Cy Young season of 1962. His 251 whiffs were actually 19 more than his league leading total of the previous season. They were both very good, but Koufax was so dominant in 1963 that he was chosen as the NL's MVP.
"I can see how he won twenty-five games. What I don't understand is how he lost five." - Yogi Berra talking about Sandy Koufax.
This card has been on my radar for ages. I picked up this less than sterling copy recently. It's creased within an inch of it's life but I'm glad to have it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Robin Roberts (#125)

Here we have Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts looking resplendent yet somewhat odd in his orange and black Orioles' cap. Although he pitched three plus years for my Birds and some for the Astros I still have a hard time thinking of him as anything but a Philadelphia Phillie.

For a six year stretch across the first half of the 1950s Roberts was the dominant right hand pitcher in the National League. From 1950 through 1955 he led the league in wins four times, starts six times, innings pitched five times and strikeouts twice.

Roberts was a three sport star playing baseball, football, and basketball for Lanphier High School in Springfield, Illinois. Roberts attended Michigan State on a basketball scholarship, but he also pitched for the Spartans' baseball team. He was signed by the Phillies for a $25,000 bonus, pitched for half a season in the minors, then made his debut for Philadelphia in June 1948.

He was a Phillie for 14 seasons and went 286-245 for teams that more often than not finished well below the .500 mark. He was instrumental however in the Phils' Whiz Kids pennant winning season of 1950. It was his second full season in the majors and he won 20 games for the first time, a feat he'd accomplish six consecutive seasons.

He started Game Two of the 1950 Series against the Yankees and in typical Roberts fashion he pitched all ten innings dueling Allie Reynolds and lost 2-1 when Joe DiMaggio reached him for a home run in the top of the tenth. He pitched one inning of Game Four but never again reached the post-season. He might have had more chances he not been released by the Yankees in May of 1962 after having been purchased in the off-season.

While he was still a productive inning-eater for Philadelphia, Roberts numbers slowly declined over the course of the second half of the decade. A 1-10 record in 1961 brought about his sale to the Yankees who thought his experience would benefit the staff and had several starters who were subject to military call-ups in '62. Rain and open dates and lack of opportunities kept Roberts off the mound and he was released late in April. He had offers from Japan and the Reds but only the Orioles met his salary requests and he signed and pitched for the Birds for three and a half seasons while putting up surprisingly good numbers for a guy with so much wear and tear on his arm.

He was released by the Orioles in mid-season 1965 and moved on to the Astros for whom he pitched a year before finishing with the Cubs in 1966.

From Baseball Reference:

Notable Achievements

  • 7-time NL All-Star (1950-1956)

  • 4-time NL Wins Leader (1952-1955)

  • 5-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1951-1955)

  • 2-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1953 & 1954)

  • 5-time NL Complete Games Leader (1952-1956)

  • NL Shutouts Leader (1950)

  • 15 Wins Seasons: 10 (1949-1956, 1958 & 1959)

  • 20 Wins Seasons: 6 (1950-1955)

  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1952)

  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 14 (1949-1960, 1963 & 1964)

  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 6 (1950-1955)

  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1976

Roberts' Hall of Fame bio:

Robin Roberts was the ace of the Phillies staff for most of his 14 years in a brilliant 19-season Major League career. The durable workhorse with a superior fastball and pinpoint control won 286 games and compiled six consecutive 20-victory seasons. In 1950, he paced the Phils to their first flag in 35 years with a 20-11 record. A tough competitor, he was a frequent league leader in victories, innings pitched, complete games, shutouts and strikeouts, topping the National League in wins from 1952-55.