Fregosi’s Cycle Spins Angels’ Win

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(July 28, 1964) – During a 3-1 victory over the New York YankeesJim Fregosi of the Los Angeles Angels today became the first player to hit for the cycle during the three-plus years of existence of the expansion franchise.

Jim Fregosi was the first player for the Los Angeles Angels to hit for the cycle.

Jim Fregosi was the first player for the Los Angeles Angels to hit for the cycle.

Fregosi, batting .313 on the season, scored two runs and drove in two runs, going four for four on the day. Fregosi doubled in the first inning, homered in the third inning, and tripled in the sixth inning, all off Yankee starting pitcher Stan Williams (1-3).

Fregosi completed the cycle by hitting a single off reliever Hal Reniff in the eighth inning.

The Yankees scored their only run on Mickey Mantle’s twentieth home run of the season off Angels starter Dean Chance. Chance (10-5) pitched his seventh complete game of the season, allowing 2 hits and striking out 8.

Dean Chance (10-5) was the benefactor of Fregosi's hitting, pitching a 2-hit complete game.

Dean Chance (10-5) was the benefactor of Fregosi’s hitting, pitching a 2-hit complete game.

The 1964 season would be Fregosi’s break-out season. He was named to the All-Star team for the first time. (He would be a six-time All-Star for the Angels.)

Fregosi would finish the season batting .277 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs, leading the team in batting average and runs batted in.

The Los Angeles shortstop would hit for the cycle one more time … in 1968.

How the Phillies Put the Freese on Chicago

 

Swap Shop: Johnny Callison Goes to Philadelphia

Johnny Callison thought he had a bright future in Chicago. The White Sox thought so too.

Johnny Callison made his major league debut in 1958 with the Chicago White Sox.

Johnny Callison made his major league debut in 1958 with the Chicago White Sox.

The White Sox signed Callison out of high school in 1957, and the lanky outfielder showed promise in his first two minor league seasons. He batted .340 in 86 games in the California League in 1957. In 1958, moving up to AAA ball, Callison batted .283 with 29 home runs and 93 runs batted in. The White Sox brought Callison up at the end of the 1958 season, and he batted .297 in 18 games.

But he struggled in 1959 with the White Sox, batting only .173 and hitting just three home runs in 104 at-bats. He returned to the minors for the rest of the 1959 season, batting .299 but hitting only 10 home runs. The White Sox were convinced that, in Callison, they had a contact hitter with a great arm but questionable power.

So on December 9, 1959, the White Sox traded Callison for power in the form of third baseman Gene Freese. The 25-year-old Freese had pounded 23 home runs with 70 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, and seemed on the verge of becoming a star. It was a straight-up swap, and one the Phillies would never regret.

Callison was second in the voting for National League Most Valuable Player in 1964.

Callison was second in the voting for National League Most Valuable Player in 1964.

Freese spent only one season in Chicago, batting .273 in 1960 with 17 home runs and 79 RBIs. In the off-season he would be traded again, this time to the Cincinnati Reds for a pair of pitchers, Cal McLish and Juan Pizarro. The Reds would be Freese’s fifth team in five years.

Callison would become a right-field fixture for the Phillies and an icon for their fans. After a pair of so-so seasons, he would bat .300 in 1962 with 23 home runs and 83 RBIs. He also led the National League with 10 triples that season and was named to the National League All-Star team. He would hit 31 home runs in 1964 (and finish second to Ken Boyer in the MVP voting) and 32 home runs in 1965, driving in more than 100 RBIs both seasons. He would stay in right field for the Phillies for the rest of the 1960s, until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs following the 1969 season.

Callison retired in 1973 after 16 major league seasons. He hit 226 home runs, 185 coming during his decade with the Phillies.

Freese hit only 115 home runs in a 12-year career that was marred by injuries.

Banking on Power

 

Homer Happy: Ernie Banks

When Ernie Banks broke into the major leagues at the end of the 1953 season, he didn’t look like a shortstop. And he certainly didn’t swing the bat like one.

Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks

Shortstops weren’t supposed to be power hitters. They were in the lineup for their arms and gloves and their ability to cover plenty of space on the left side of the infield.

Banks could do all that. He could also produce runs the way no shortstop had done since Honus Wagner at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

Banks hit 19 home runs as a rookie in 1954, and then blasted 44 home runs a year later. No shortstop had ever hit that many. (And only one other shortstop – Alex Rodriguez – has hit more.)

Banks hit 40 or more home runs in a season five times, the last being 1960 when he launched 41 homers and drove in 117 runs. He also won the Gold Glove in 1960, the first player to win it while leading the league in home runs.

A Chicago Cub for all 19 of his major league seasons, Banks finished with 512 career home runs and a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bru-ing with Speed

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bill Bruton

Bill Bruton’s stock in trade was his speed. A 12-year major league veteran, Bruton delivered lead-off speed and defensive reliability for the Milwaukee Braves and Detroit Tigers, providing the run-scoring complement to the powerful bats that followed him in both teams’ lineups.

Bill Bruton

Bill Bruton

Bruton was signed by the Boston Braves in 1950 and by 1953 was the Braves’ starting center fielder. He hit .250 his rookie year and led the National League in stolen bases, something he would do in each of his first three seasons.

Bruton hit .284 in 1954 and in 1955 scored 106 runs while batting .275. In seven seasons with the Braves from 1953 through 1959, Bruton batted .274 while averaging 20 doubles and 74 runs scored per season.

Bruton’s best season with the Braves came in 1960, when he batted .286 with 12 home runs and 54 runs batted in. He also hit 27 doubles and led the National League with 13 triples and 112 runs scored. Following that season, he was traded with Dick Brown, Chuck Cottier and Terry Fox to the Detroit Tigers for a player to be named later (Neil Christy) and All-Star second baseman Frank Bolling.

In Detroit, Bruton provided the perfect speed and run-scoring complement to a lineup that included the powerful bats of Al Kaline, Norm Cash and Rocky Colavito. He batted .257 in 1961 while scoring 99 runs. He also hit 17 home runs with 63 RBIs. His offensive numbers got even better in 1962, batting .278 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs while scoring 90 runs. He added another solid season in 1963, batting .256 while scoring 84 runs. Bruton played one more season in Detroit, batting .277, and then retired at the age of 38.

In his 12 major league seasons, Bruton had 1,651 hits and a career batting average of .273.

 

 

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Jackie Robinson Enshrined

 

From This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(July 23, 1962) Jackie Robinson has done it again.

Just as he broke baseball’s “color line” in 1947, Robinson established another cultural breakthrough today as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first former player of color to be enshrined in the Hall.

Jackie Robinson was the first player of color to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jackie Robinson was the first player of color to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Robinson was joined in this Hall of Fame class by pitcher Bob Feller, infielder-manager Bill McKechnie and outfielder Edd Roush.

Jackie Robinson was a 28-year-old rookie when he made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, batting .297, scoring 125 runs and leading the league with 29 stolen bases. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year.

Two years later, in 1949, Robinson was the National League’s Most Valuable Player when he led the league with a .342 batting average and 37 stolen bases. In 10 major league seasons, Robinson batted .311.

Bob Feller

Bob Feller

Feller was 266-162 in 18 major league seasons, all with the Cleveland Indians. He was a 20-game winner six times and led the American League in strikeouts seven times. His career totals were impacted by three years of military service while he was in his prime.

Edd Roush

Edd Roush

Roush was a major leaguer for 18 seasons, batting .323 and winning National League batting titles in 1917 and 1919. McKechnie played in the major leagues for 11 seasons but was inducted for his 25 years as a major league manager, leading his teams to four pennants and winning the World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925 and the Cincinnati Reds in 1940.

Bill McKechnie

Bill McKechnie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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The Man Who Put the Knuckleball into the Hall of Fame

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Hoyt Wilhelm

It’s probably the most unhittable pitch in baseball (with apologies to any pitch ever thrown by Sandy Koufax). And it may be the most unpitchable.

During the 1960s, Hoyt Wilhelm won 75 games and saved 152 more, with an ERA of 2.19 for the decade.

During the 1960s, Hoyt Wilhelm won 75 games and saved 152 more, with an ERA of 2.19 for the decade.

The knuckleball is slow, it doesn’t rotate, and it doesn’t offer many clues as to where it will end up.  But one pitcher, more than any, is associated with the knuckleball, and was such a master of its unpredictability that it floated him all the way to Cooperstown.

Hoyt Wilhelm broke into the major leagues with the New York Giants in 1952 – as a 29-year-old rookie. That year he led the National League in winning percentage (.833 on a 15-3 record), in games pitched (71, all in relief) and in earned run average (2.43). In his first major league at-bat, he hit a home run (the only one of his career).

For more than two decades thereafter, Wilhelm remained one of the game’s most durable and productive relievers. He entered the 1960s in the middle of a five-year stretch with the Baltimore Orioles. After a brief stint as a starter for the Orioles (in his fourth major league start, he pitched a no-hitter), Wilhelm recorded 33 saves over the next two years, second best in the American League to Luis Arroyo’s 36. Then he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in the deal that brought Luis Aparicio to the Orioles. In six years with Chicago, Wilhelm appeared in 361 games for the White Sox, all but three as a reliever. He saved 98 games, with an ERA of 1.92 for the six years combined. Wilhelm closed out the 1960s by splitting the 1969 season between the California Angels and the Atlanta Braves, with a total of 14 saves and a combined ERA of 2.19.

Throughout the 1960s, no relief pitcher was as consistently effective as Wilhelm. During those 10 years, he won 75 games and saved 152 more, with an ERA of 2.19 for the decade. His career lasted two years beyond the 1960s, with his retirement after the 1971 season at age 48. His 1,070 career appearances were the major league record at the time Wilhelm called it quits.

Today Wilhelm still ranks fifth in most career games by a pitcher. He remains the all-time major league leader in career wins in relief (124) and career innings pitched in relief (1,871). Opponents’ career batting average against Wilhelm was only .216, lower than batters’ career averages against fellow Hall-of-Famers Tom Seaver (.226), Catfish Hunter (.231) and Rollie Fingers (.235).

 

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Juan-derful Debut

 

Lights Out: Juan Marichal Begins His Hall of Fame Career with a One-Hit Masterpiece

When: July 19, 1960

Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California

Game Time: 2:07

Attendance: 13,279

Granted: the Phillies-Giants game on July 19, 1960 would not have much impact on that season’s pennant race. The Philadelphia Phillies (34-51) started the game in seventh place, 17 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates. The San Francisco Giants (42-40) were in fifth place, 7.5 games out of first. Neither team would finish the season any closer to first place.

Twenty-two-year-old Giants rookie Juan Marichal kicked off his Hall of Fame career with a one-hit shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Twenty-two-year-old Giants rookie Juan Marichal kicked off his Hall of Fame career with a one-hit shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies.

While not significant in the 1960 pennant race, the July 19 game between Philadelphia and San Francisco was significant in baseball history … as the dazzling debut of future Hall of Famer Juan Marichal.

Marichal started the game by striking out Phillies shortstop Ruben Amaro. He then retired Tony Taylor and Johnny Callison for a perfect first inning. He retired the Phillies in order again in the second inning, and the third. Marichal’s pitching stayed perfect through the sixth inning … 18 Phillies batters, 18 Phillies outs.

That perfect game evaporated in the seventh inning. After striking out Amaro, Marichal allowed his first base runner of the game as Taylor reached first on an error by Giants shortstop Eddie Bressoud. A wild pitch that advanced Taylor to second base was followed by a walk to first baseman Pancho Herrera. The runners were stranded as Joe Morgan flied out to Willie Mays in center field.

Meanwhile, the Giants had already given Marichal all the runs he would need. In the second inning, an RBI single by third baseman Jim Davenport scored Orlando Cepeda. Willie Kirkland’s single in the fifth inning drove in Mays with the game’s second and final run.

Marichal retired the first two batters in the eighth inning before allowing a single by pinch hitter Clay Dalrymple. Tony Gonzalez fouled out to end the inning with Dalrymple still at first. Then Marichal retired the Phillies in order in the ninth.

That’s how to start a baseball career: Retire the first 17 batters you face, and finish the game with a one-hit shutout, 12 strikeouts and only one walk. Phillies starter John Buzhardt deserved better in the loss, allowing only two runs over seven innings. But when you’re pitching against the man who would win more games in the 1960s than any other major league pitcher, you’d better bring Hall of Fame stuff.

 

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How Luis Arroyo Opened the Door for Closers

 

Oh, What a Relief: Luis Arroyo

During the 1961 season, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s hallowed home run record. But it was a left-handed reliever named Luis Arroyo who changed the game forever.

Luis Arroyo elevated the role of the closer thanks to his spectacular 1961 season with the New York Yankees.

Luis Arroyo elevated the role of the closer thanks to his spectacular 1961 season with the New York Yankees.

Arroyo didn’t invent the save. And he didn’t invent the role of closer. What he did – through his spectacular season of 1961 – was demonstrate what a dedicated closer could be for a pennant contender: indispensable.

Elevating the Role of Reliever

At the beginning of the 1960s, the measure of a pitcher was how effective he was as a starter: how many wins, how many innings, how many complete games. Aces pitched complete games, and occasionally relieved. And while baseball in the early 1960s had its share of successful relief specialists such as Hoyt Wilhelm, Roy Face, Stu Miller and Lindy McDaniel, any reliever could be used at practically any point in the game for as many innings or outs as needed.

The closer just happened to be guy who got the last out.

Arroyo more than any other pitcher changed that, and set baseball on the course where single-inning set-up pitchers and single-batter specialists became as integral as they are in today’s game. Arroyo’s spectacular dominance during the 1961 season established the prototype for the “closer,” the relief pitcher whose job was to get the critical final outs that preserved victory. The closer became a strategic pitching weapon rather than a late-inning after-thought.

Out of the Bullpen, Out of Nowhere …

Arroyo won 11 games as a St. Louis Cardinals rookie in 1955. He won only seven more games over the next four seasons.

Arroyo won 11 games as a St. Louis Cardinals rookie in 1955. He won only seven more games over the next four seasons.

Little in Arroyo’s career prior to 1961 suggested that his pitching in that season would be so effective and game-changing. He toiled in the minor leagues for 6 seasons. In his first 4 major league seasons – pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds – Arroyo posted a combined record of 18-22 with a 4.42 ERA and only one save in 117 appearances. Eleven of those victories came as a Cardinals rookie in 1955.

On July 20 of 1960, Arroyo was purchased by the New York Yankees. Both his effectiveness as a reliever, and his career, improved dramatically with that change of franchise. Over the second half of the 1960 season, Arroyo appeared in 29 games for the Yankees – all in relief – going 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA and seven saves.

In 1961, Arroyo was 15-5 with a 2.14 ERA and set a major league record with 29 saves.

In 1961, Arroyo was 15-5 with a 2.14 ERA and set a major league record with 29 saves.

The 1961 season was when Arroyo showed the baseball world what the role and value of a closer could be. Arroyo pitched in 65 games and finished 54 of them, the most in the major leagues in both categories. Arroyo also set a major league record with 29 saves, while compiling a 15-5 record with a 2.19 ERA. He finished sixth in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.

Arroyo’s Legacy

Arroyo’s stay in excellence would be short-lived. He developed a sore arm during the next spring and was limited to only 27 appearances in 1962 and six in 1963 before retiring. He finished with a career record of 40-32 with a 3.93 ERA.

Prior to 1960, the major league record for saves in a season was 27, shared by Joe Page (1949) and Ellis Kinder (1953). Major league pitchers had posted 20 or more saves in a season only nine times, with McDaniel (26) and Face (24) both accomplishing the feat in 1960. After Arroyo, the floodgates were opened. Through the rest of the 1960s, 39 times pitchers recorded seasons of 20 or more saves. Ted Abernathy cracked the 30-save barrier in 1965 when he notched 31.

Arroyo’s record lasted only four seasons. His impact remains greater than ever.

 

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Willey the Wily

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Carl Willey

Carl Willey signed with the Boston Braves in 1951. The right-hander pitched in the Braves’ organization until he was called up in 1958 after going 21-6 at the AAA level in 1957.

Carl Willey

Carl Willey

Willey played an important role in the Milwaukee Braves’ successful pennant drive in 1958, posting a 9-7 record with a 2.70 ERA in 19 starts. He led the National League with four shutouts in 1958.

It would be his last winning season in the major leagues.

Over the next four seasons with the Braves, Willey was 19-33 combined, and was purchased after the 1962 season by the New York Mets. As a member of the Mets’ 1963 starting rotation, Willey went 9-14 with a 3.10 ERA and 4 shutouts. Over the next two seasons, he was a combined 1-4 in 27 appearances. He retired after the 1965 season with a career record of 38-58.

 

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Brooklyn’s Finest, Mets’ First

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gil Hodges

An eight-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner with the Dodgers, first baseman Gil Hodges was the second most prolific home run hitter of the 1950s. His 310 home runs were second only to Dodger teammate Duke Snider’s 326. Continue reading