Sunday, October 11, 2015

Johnnie Wyatt (#376)

John Wyatt was a Cardinals signee in 1954 following work in the Negro Leagues. He spent a year in their system, another year in the Negro American League (as best as I can determine) and then passed through the Braves organization briefly before landing with the Athletics.

His journey to the majors was sidelined by two years in the military, a year in the Mexican Leagues and he finally debuted with the A's in September of 1961. He won ten games in 1962 while making some spot starts but mostly working out of the bullpen. After '61 he never made another start in the majors. He led the league in appearances in 1964 and made the AL All Star squad and pitched one (bumpy) inning. He pitched for Kansas City until a trade in June of 1966 sent him to Boston.

He got his only World Series experience with the '67 Sox. He pitched a couple of innings in Game One and did his job, holding the Cards off the scoreboard as the Red Sox tried (unsuccessfully) to mount a late rally versus Bob Gibson. And then he was the winning pitcher in Game Six after blowing the save opportunity.

His career wound down over the next couple of seasons as he pitched briefly for the Yankees, Tigers and A's again before retiring following the 1969 season.

Some random bits and pieces about Wyatt.....

From Baseball Reference:
Wyatt holds the all-time single-season record for most home runs given up by a relief pitcher. For the Kansas City A's in 1964, he gave up 23 homers while making no starts. No other pitcher has ever given up at least 20 home runs while making three starts or fewer.

From SABR:
Wyatt finished his big league career with a 42–44 record, 103 saves, and a 3.47 ERA. During his playing career, he had begun work as a real estate developer in Kansas City, Missouri, in the off-season. Wyatt’s mother had owned some property in Buffalo and made a living off the rent, so John resolved to do the same. He saved $7,000 over his first seven years in pro ball and built a 12-unit apartment building on East 29th Street in Kansas City. “No one had ever built a new housing facility in Kansas City for Negroes,” he told Will McDonough. “It was a long shot, but I’m a long shot player…you can’t win if you never take the chance.…The proudest day of my life came with the construction of that building. In one day, I sold three apartments and got a citation from the president [Lyndon B. Johnson].”
John Wyatt died in 1998 at the age of 62.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Final Card - Billy Klaus

Here is the final card (#551) for infielder Billy Klaus. Billy was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1946, and played 9 minor-league seasons in the Indians’, Cubs’, Braves’, and Giants’ organizations.

He made his major-league debut with the Boston Braves in April 1952, playing 7 games before returning to the minors for the rest of the season. He also played 2 games with the Milwaukee Braves in 1953.

After his 1954 minor-league season, the Giants traded him to the Red Sox, and he was in the majors to stay beginning in 1955. Billy was the BoSox’ regular shortstop in 1955, finishing 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year voting (to Indian’s pitcher Herb Score).

Klaus moved over to 3rd base the following season to accommodate rookie shortstop Don Buddin, but returned to shortstop in 1957 when Buddin lost the season to military service. Buddin returned in 1958, and with 1957 rookie sensation Frank Malzone entrenched at 3rd base, Klaus was relegated to the bench. Billy only played in 61 games that season – mostly as a pinch-hitter.

Klaus was traded to the Orioles after the 1958 season, and spent 2 years as the backup SS-3B behind Ron Hansen and Brooks Robinson. The expansion Washington Senators drafted him before the 1961 season, but he only managed to fill a backup role with the first-year team.

Billy’s last stop was the Phillies, manning their bench for all of 1962 and the first 2 months of 1963 before getting his release on May 24th. He finished the 1963 season in Japan, then played for the Senators’ AA team in 1965-66.

Klaus passed away in 2006 at age 77. His brother Bobby was also an infielder for several clubs in the 1960s.