All Gussied Up to Hit

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gus Triandos

Gus Triandos was a solid catcher with a powerful throwing arm and a bat loaded with home runs.

Gus Triandos was a catching home run threat for the Baltimore Orioles in the late 1950s. He hit 30 home runs (with 79 RBIs) in 1958, his first season as an All-Star.

He was also the first catcher in major league history to be on the receiving end of a no-hitter in each league, catching Hoyt Wilhelm’s no-no for Baltimore in 1958 and Jim Bunning’s perfect game for Philadelphia in 1964.

Triandos was signed by the New York Yankees in 1948. He spent the next four years in the Yankees’ farm system and in military service.

His debut in pinstripes came in 1953, when he batted .157 in 18 games. He returned to the minors in 1954, batting .296 for AAA Kansas City with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs. When it became obvious that Triandos was not going to displace Yogi Berra as the Yankees’ catcher (with Elston Howard waiting in the wings), the Yankees sent him to the Baltimore Orioles with Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Willy Miranda, Hal Smith and Gene Woodling for Billy Hunter, Don Larsen and Bob Turley.

He immediately became the Orioles’ starting first baseman, batting .277 in 1955 with 12 home runs and 65 RBIs. He hit .279 in 1956 with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs, and then was inserted behind the plate as Baltimore’s everyday catcher.

In 1958, Triandos had stroked 16 home runs by mid-season and was selected as the American League’s starting catcher in the All-Star game, breaking Berra’s eight-year run as an All-Star starting backstop. He finished the season with 30 home runs and 79 runs batted in. He had 20 home runs by the All-Star break in 1959, but a hand injury in the second half of the season limited his playing time and his season total of home runs to 25 (with 73 RBIs). In seven seasons as a starter in Baltimore (from 1955 to 1961), Triandos batted .255 while averaging 19 home runs and 71 RBIs per season.

Over his 13-year major league career, Gus Triandos threw out nearly half the base runners who tried to steal on him. Here he is blocking the plate from the approaching Elston Howard.

Prior to the 1963 season, Triandos was dealt to the Detroit Tigers for catcher Dick Brown. He batted .239 with 14 home runs and 41 RBIs in his only season in Detroit, and then was traded (with Jim Bunning) to the Philadelphia Phillies for Don Demeter and Jack Hamilton. In Philadelphia, he split the catching duties with Clay Dalrymple, batting .250 in 73 games in 1964. Then Triandos was purchased by the Houston Astros midway through the 1965 season. He was released by the Astros at the end of that season and retired after a 13-year major league career in which he batted .244 with 167 home runs on 954 hits.

Triandos was never a base-stealing threat, but he had a gun of an arm for cutting down potential base stealers. He twice led American League catchers in assists and in base runners caught stealing. In 1957, he threw out base runners at a 67% success rate. Over his career, Triandos threw out 46.64% of the runners who tried to steal on his pitchers. He retired with the record for 1,206 consecutive games without being caught stealing. He stole only one base (in only one attempt) over his entire career.

No-Hit Catcher

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Pagliaroni

Jim Pagliaroni was strictly a 1960s catcher. All but one game of his decade-long career was played in the 1960s, where he toiled for four teams with defensive prowess, occasional pop in his bat, and a cool head that helped two pitchers toss no-hitters, and one do so perfectly. Continue reading

Bullpen Survivor

 

Oh, What a Relief: Jim Brewer

Though his best seasons came in the 1970s, Jim Brewer was a consistently effective and versatile reliever for the Los Angeles Dodgers for most of the 1960s. And unlike most of baseball’s relief specialists, whose dominance lasts only a year or two until their arms flame out, Brewer got better as he matured. Continue reading

‘Frisco’s Solid at Third

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Davenport

Jim Davenport spent his entire 13-season major league career with a single team: the San Francisco Giants. He played every position except the battery at the major league level, though he played roughly 90 percent of his more than 1400 games at third base, where his dependable play and timely hitting made him a Candlestick Park fixture during the 1960s. Continue reading