Man-Sized Farewell

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(September 29, 1963) The final game of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1963 season was also the final game in the illustrious career of Stan Musial.

In his final major league at-bat, Stan Musial singled for hit number 3,630, the most in National League history.

In his final major league at-bat, Stan Musial singled for hit number 3,630, the most in National League history.

And he made it a “man-sized” farewell.

Musial got two hits in three at-bats during the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Dal Maxvill doubled with one out in the bottom of the fourteenth inning to drive home the game-winning run.

Musial singled in the fourth and sixth innings. His base hit in the sixth inning off Reds starter Jim Maloney drove in Curt Flood with the game’s first run. It was Musial’s last appearance in a major league game, as Gary Kolb came into the game to run for him. Kolb later scored on a Charley James sacrifice fly to put the Cardinals ahead 2-0.

The Reds tied the score when Cincinnati shortstop Leo Cardenas singled to drive in two runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.

Maloney struck out 11 Cardinal batters in the seven innings he worked. The Cardinals’ starting pitcher. Bob Gibson, also struck out 11 batters in nine innings.

Ernie Broglio (18-8) pitched the final three innings for the Cardinals to pick up the win. The losing pitcher was Joey Jay (7-18).

Musial’s two hits gave him 3,630 for his career, the most ever by a National League hitter and second all-time to Ty Cobb’s 4,189 hits. His run batted in was number 1,951 for his career, also the most by a National Leaguer.

And Musial’s two hits gave him 1,815 career hits at home, exactly the same as the number of career hits he collected on the road. Stan the Man would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.

His Season was Su-purr-b.

 

Career Year: Jim Kaat – 1966

Jim Kaat had a great baseball career – period. And one that was mostly under-rated.

Twins southpaw Jim Kaat was 25-13 in 1966, leading the American League in wins, starts, complete games and innings pitched.

Twins southpaw Jim Kaat was 25-13 in 1966, leading the American League in wins, starts, complete games and innings pitched.

Kaat’s career as a player lasted 25 seasons. He was a 20-game winner three times, and won at least 10 games 16 times. He also won 16 Gold Gloves … in a row. He was every bit the fielder on the pitching mound that Brooks Robinson and Bill Mazeroski were on the infield.

As a pitcher, Kaat was mostly a workhorse who won 283 games in his career, the second most among all eligible pitchers in the modern era who are not in the Hall of Fame, and more than the career win totals of 46 pitchers who are. (Tommy John is ahead of Kaat with 288.) He averaged 35 starts and 246 innings per season from 1962-1971.

Kaat’s best season came in 1966, when he was 27. Kaat had made his major league debut with the Washington Senators in 1959 and was 1-7 for the Senators in 1960. He moved into the starting rotation when the team moved to Minnesota and remained in that rotation for the next dozen years.

The Twins opened the 1966 season as the defending American League champions. Kaat had won 18 games in 1965, and 63 in the previous four seasons. He opened the 1966 season with three losses in his first five decisions. But by the end of June, he was 9-5 with a 2.68 ERA.

Jim Kaat won 283 games during his major league career. There are 46 pitchers in the Hall of Fame who won fewer games than Kaat.

Jim Kaat won 283 games during his major league career. There are 46 pitchers in the Hall of Fame who won fewer games than Kaat.

Kaat won five straight complete-game decisions in July, and then went 7-1 in August. He pitched his third shutout of the season on September 25 to raise his record to 25-11, then took the losses in his last two starts.

Kaat finished the 1966 season at 25-13 with a 2.75 ERA. He led the American League in victories, games started (41), complete games (19) and innings pitched (304.2). Only Sandy Koufax, at 27-9, won more games in 1966 than Kaat.

Koufax claimed the Cy Young award for 1966. It was his third and the last season in which only one pitcher would be recognized. Despite his outstanding season, Kaat failed to receive a single vote.

Under-appreciated, if not under-rated: that was Jim Kaat in his best season, if not in his remarkable career.

 

 

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Stretch for the Fences

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Willie McCovey

The name of Willie McCovey was synonymous with awesome power. The San Francisco Giants outfielder and first baseman was a power hitter who consistently made contact, and consistently inspired better pitches for the Giants batting in front of him.

Willie McCovey hit 521 home runs during his 22-year major league career.

Willie McCovey hit 521 home runs during his 22-year major league career.

McCovey hit two home runs in the 1969 All-Star Game, one of four players ever to do so. He finished his career with 18 grand slam home runs, second at the time only to Lou Gehrig’s 23.

McCovey was signed by the New York Giants in 1955, and made it to the big league club in 1959. In his debut, “Stretch” went four for four against future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. Though he played only 52 games in his rookie year of 1959, his 13 homes runs, 38 RBIs and .354 batting average won him the Rookie of the Year award.

The Giants already had an All-Star in Orlando Cepeda at first base, McCovey’s natural position. So he was platooned in the outfield, occasionally spelling Cepeda at first, and driving in only about 50 runs a year. In the Giants’ pennant-winning season of 1962, McCovey hit .293 with 20 home runs and 54 RBIs in only 229 at-bats. His vicious line drive snared by the Yankees’ second baseman Bobby Richardson to end the 1962 World Series was a fitting symbol for the frustration that typified McCovey’s career up to that point: so much talent, and yet so little to show for it.

McCovey led the National League in home runs and RBIs in both 1968 and 1969. He was the National League MVP in 1969.

McCovey led the National League in home runs and RBIs in both 1968 and 1969. He was the National League MVP in 1969.

All that ended in 1963, as McCovey, playing full-time for a full season with the Giants, led the National League with 44 home runs while driving in 102 runs. Injuries cut down his playing time and power numbers in 1964, but a healthy McCovey bounced back in 1965 with 39 home runs and 92 RBIs. When Cepeda was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1966, McCovey took over first base for the Giants and was a power-hitting fixture there for the next nine years. He closed out the 1960s as one of the most – if not the most – dangerous power hitter in all of baseball. He led the league in home runs and RBIs in both 1968 (36 and 105) and 1969 (45 and 126), when he finished fifth in the league in hitting with a .320 average. In 1969, he also led the major leagues in on-base percentage (.453) and slugging percentage (.656). He was named National League Most Valuable Player for 1969.

In all, McCovey hit 300 home runs during the 1960s. His 22 big league seasons, with the Giants, the San Diego Padres and the Oakland Athletics, produced 521 home runs and over 1500 RBIs. A six-time All-Star, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.

 

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Travelin’ Man

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Cardwell

In 14 major league seasons – all in the National League – Don Cardwell pitched for five different teams. He was frequently a key player in the trades that involved him every three years or so, and his lifetime won-loss record reflected not so much his pitching ability as it did the quality of the teams supporting –or, more often, not supporting – him.

Don Cardwell began his 14-year major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Don Cardwell began his 14-year major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The right-handed Cardwell signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1954. He found a place on the big league club by 1957, but struggled with the then-struggling Phillies, as he posted a combined record of 17-26 over three-plus seasons in Philadelphia. In May of 1960, the Chicago Cubs acquired Cardwell in a trade for Cal Neeman and Tony Taylor. (Ed Bouchee went to Chicago with Cardwell.) His first start as a Cub was particularly memorable, as Cardwell pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 13, 1960—the first (and still only) major league pitcher to toss a no-hitter in his first appearance after a trade. He went 8-14 that season with the woeful Cubs.

His best season came in 1961. Pitching for a Cubs team that would finish in seventh place, 26 games under .500, Cardwell’s record was 15-14 with a 3.82 ERA. He pitched three shutouts and led the National League in games started with 38. He was one of only two Cubs’ pitchers with winning records that season. (Reliever Barney Schultz was 7-6).

The following year, Cardwell was 7-16 for the Cubs, who traded him with George Altman and Moe Thacker to the St. Louis Cardinals for Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer. Cardwell never had the opportunity to pitch in a Cardinals uniform. The Cards in turn packaged Cardwell in a deal with Julio Gotay to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dick Groat and Diomedes Olivo.

With injuries making Vern Law’s contributions unpredictable for the 1963 season, the Pirates needed an innings-eater like Cardwell. His record was 13-13, with a 3.02 ERA in 213.2 innings. Injuries limited his 1964 season to only four appearances, but he rebounded in 1965 to 13-10 with an ERA of 3.18 in 240.1 innings. In 1966, he was 6-6 as a starter and reliever for the Pirates.

Cardwell was 5-1 down the September stretch for the New York Mets in 1969.

Cardwell was 5-1 down the September stretch for the New York Mets in 1969.

In December of 1966, Cardwell was traded by the Pirates with Don Bosch to the New York Mets for Gary Kolb and Dennis Ribant. As a starter-reliever for the Mets in 1967, he was 5-9 with a respectable 3.57 ERA. Of his five victories, three were shutouts. In 1968, as a member of the Mets’ starting rotation, Cardwell was 7-13 with a 2.95 ERA. Then in 1969, Cardwell played a major role in the Mets’ “miracle” season. He finished the year 8-10 with a 3.01 ERA, but was 5-1 down the pennant stretch.

In 1970, Cardwell was traded to the Atlanta Braves, where he saw spot duty, almost entirely in relief, and retired after that season with a career record of 102-138 and an ERA of 3.92.

 

 

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Gentile’s Fifth Slam Ties Record

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(September 22, 1961) Jim Gentile, first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, today tied a major league record with his fifth grand slam of the season.

The Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox 8-6.

Jim Gentile

Jim Gentile

Gentile’s home run, his 44th of the season, came with one out in the fifth inning. The Orioles scored seven of their eight runs in that frame on Gentile’s blast plus RBI singles by Marv Breeding and Brooks Robinson.

Gentile’s four RBIs raised his season total to 135. His five grand slam home runs tied a record established by Ernie Banks in 1955.

The winning pitcher for the Orioles was starter Chuck Estrada (14-9). Milt Pappas got the game’s last out for his first save of the season.

Chuck Estrada

Chuck Estrada

The losing pitcher was White Sox starter Frank Baumann (10-13).

It wasn’t the first time that Gentile bailed out Estrada with a grand slam. In fact, all of Gentile’s grand slams in 1961 came in games that Estrada pitched.

Suddenly, You’re Out!

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Sam McDowell

His fastball was on top of the plate before you could barely get the bat off your shoulder. The break in his curve was nothing less than wicked. And his imposing stature on the mound made his heat, and occasional wildness, all the more intimidating.

"Sudden" Sam McDowell struck out more American League batters in the 1960s than any other pitcher.

“Sudden” Sam McDowell struck out more American League batters in the 1960s than any other pitcher.

“Sudden” Sam McDowell threw as hard as any pitcher of his time. And he struck out more American League batters (1,663) than anyone else in the 1960s.

McDowell was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1959. He saw limited service with the Indians from 1961 to 1963, winning a total of six games in the majors in those three years. His breakout year was 1964. After an 8-0 start at Portland, the Tribe’s AAA affiliate, McDowell was brought up to the major league club , where he went 11-6 with 177 strikeouts in 173 innings and registered a 2.70 ERA.

McDowell was dominating in his first full season with the Indians. He went 17-11 with a fifth-place Cleveland team. McDowell led the league in strikeouts with 325, still the American League record for a left-hander. Always better known for his “stuff” than his control, McDowell led the league in wild pitches (17) and walks (132) as well. He also posted the league’s best ERA at 2.18.

Throughout the rest of the 1960s, despite consistently high strikeout totals and very respectable ERAs, McDowell was basically a .500 pitcher for the Indians. He led the league in strikeouts in 1966 (225), 1968 (283), and 1969 (279), finishing second with 236 to Jim Lonborg in 1967. In 1968 he posted a career-low ERA of 1.81 that was second best in the American League – to the 1.60 posted by teammate Luis Tiant. Despite these numbers, McDowell was only 55-51 for the years 1966 to 1969.

In 1965, his first full season with the Indians, McDowell set the American league record for strikeouts by a left-hander with 325.

In 1965, his first full season with the Indians, McDowell set the American league record for strikeouts by a left-hander with 325.

Although Mc Dowell’s only 20-victory season came in 1970, his best performance may have come a year earlier. Pitching for a woeful Cleveland club that lost 99 games during the 1969 season (one more than the expansion Seattle Pilots), McDowell was Cleveland’s one bright spot that season. He went 18-14 with a 2.94 ERA and pitched 18 complete games.

A six-time All-Star, McDowell finished his 15-year career with 141 victories and 2,453 strikeouts.

 

 

 

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Leaps Tall Fences with a Single Swing

 

Homer Happy: Rocky Colavito

From 1958-1962, no one in major league baseball hit as many home runs as Rocky Colavito. And no one in the American League drove more runs home during that five-year stretch.

Rocky Colavito averaged 40 home runs and 113 RBIs from 1958-1962.

Rocky Colavito averaged 40 home runs and 113 RBIs from 1958-1962.

In that five-year period, when Colavito was at the peak of his playing career, this outfielder (with a cannon throwing arm) batted for a combined .273 average with 40 home runs and 113 RBIs per season. He won the American League home run title in 1959 with 42, only to find himself traded before the first pitch of the 1960 season.

A New York native, Colavito was signed out of high school in 1951 by the Cleveland Indians and spent five years working his way through the Indians’ farm system. In his two seasons of AAA baseball at Indianapolis in the American Association, Colavito began to display the power he would bring to the major leagues, hitting a combined 68 home runs with 220 runs batted in. And he was still only 21 years old.

Colavito’s rookie season with the Indians came in 1956, when he batted .276 with 21 home runs and 65 RBIs. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Luis Aparicio.

Colavito improved steadily as a major league hitter. He punched out 25 home runs with 84 RBIs in 1957, and in 1958 he batted .303 with 41 home runs and 113 RBIs. He also led the American League with a .620 slugging percentage.

The 1959 season was one of firsts and lasts for Colavito. It was his first major league season to collect more than 150 hits and to reach 90 runs scored. It was his first season to finish first among the league’s home runs hitters, with 42 home runs (and he drove in 111 runs).

After one season in Kansas City, Colavito was dealt back to the Indians and led the American League with 108 RBIs in 1965 while hitting 26 home runs.

After one season in Kansas City, Colavito was dealt back to the Indians and led the American League with 108 RBIs in 1965 while hitting 26 home runs.

But 1959 was also Colavito’s last season in Cleveland. Just before Opening Day of the 1960 season, the Indians traded their star slugger to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Harvey Kuenn, the 1959 American League batting champion. The trade proved to be hard on both players. Kuenn was blamed by the fans for the loss of the popular Colavito and was dispatched to the National League after only one season in Cleveland.

Colavito had good years in Detroit, but would never be the star of a team that already belonged emotionally to outfielder Al Kaline. Colavito hit 35 home runs with 87 RBIs for the Tigers in 1960, a “down” year by his previous standards and a disappointment for Tiger fans and the local press. But even when he was outstanding in Detroit, Colavito was overshadowed and under-appreciated. He had a monster year for the Tigers in 1961, batting .290 while scoring 129 runs and hitting 45 home runs with 140 RBIs. None of those numbers led the league, and Colavito’s accomplishments were overlooked by the season of Tigers first baseman Norm Cash, who led the league with a .363 batting average and hit 41 home runs with 132 RBIs.

Colavito never again matched his 1961 numbers, and never won over the Detroit fans. He hit 37 home runs with 112 RBIs in 1962, and then saw his power numbers slip to 22 home runs and 91 RBIs in 1963. Now 30 years old, he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics in the off-season and responded in 1964 with 34 home runs and 102 RBIs.

After one season in Kansas City, Colavito was dealt back to the Indians and led the American League with 108 RBIs in 1965 while hitting 26 home runs. He hit 30 home runs in 1966, his last full season in Cleveland. Colavito spent the next two season playing for four different teams, and hitting a combined 18 home runs. He retired after the 1968 season.

Colavito spent 14 seasons in the major leagues, batting .266 with 374 home runs and 1,159 RBIs. He was an All-Star six times.

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Boy, You’re Drivin’ In a Lotta Runs

 

Career Year: Ken Boyer – 1964

Whatever the Most Valuable Player award means – and it seems to mean different things in different seasons – its meaning was certainly defined by Ken Boyer during the 1964 season.

Ken Boyer 1964 National League Most Valuable Player

Ken Boyer
1964 National League Most Valuable Player

On a talented team that had been perennial underachievers, surrounded by All-Stars at every infield position, Boyer stood out. He was clearly the leader of the St. Louis Cardinals, and by the end of the season stood alone as the National League’s leader at driving in runs.

Boyer had been a star for the Cardinals since 1956, his second year in the major leagues, when he batted .306 with 26 home runs and 98 RBIs. He had been the National League’s All-Star third baseman every year since 1959, and was the soul of consistency at the plate. From 1958-1963, he had never hit less than 23 home runs or driven in less than 90 runs. His combined batting average from 1958-1963 was .304.

The only distinction Boyer hadn’t achieved in his first nine major league seasons was playing for a pennant winner. The closest the Cardinals had come in his career had been the team’s second-place finish in 1963, when Boyer batted .285 with 24 home runs and 111 RBIs.

For the first half of the 1964 season, it didn’t look like things were going to change for Boyer and the Cardinals. After staggering through a miserable 11-18 June, the team went into the All-Star break at 39-40, in sixth place and 10 games behind the front-running Philadelphia Phillies. Boyer was having another solid season, batting .288 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs and his usual Gold Glove-caliber play at third.

In the second half of the season, all the talent pieces came together for the Cardinals, who went 54-29 the rest of the way. Boyer was one of those pieces, and he raised his game in the season’s second half, hitting .301 and driving in 65 runs in the team’s final 83 games. In September, when the Cardinals caught and passed the Phillies with a 21-8 month, Boyer posted a .532 slugging percentage and drove in 24 runs.

Boyer's 119 RBIs were the most in the major leagues in 1964.

Boyer’s 119 RBIs were the most in the major leagues in 1964.

Boyer finished the 1964 season with a .295 batting average, 24 home runs (for the fourth consecutive year), and a league best (and for Boyer, career best) 119 runs batted in. He scored 100 runs and hit 30 doubles. On the season, he batted .321 with runners in scoring position.

The only thing Boyer didn’t accomplish in 1964 was winning another Gold Glove. That went to Ron Santo. Boyer had to settle for being the league’s Most Valuable Player.

At age 33, recognition of Boyer’s value – and a Cardinals championship – had finally arrived.

 

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A Trio of Triples

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(September 15, 1960) – Talk about your triple threat …

In a game today at Connie Mack Stadium, San Francisco Giants center fielder Willie Mays tied a major league record by getting three triples in a single game.

Willie Mays tied a major league record by getting three triples in a single game.

Willie Mays tied a major league record by getting three triples in a single game.

The Giants beat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 in 11 innings.

The Giants scored the eventual winning run in the top of the eleventh inning. Second baseman Don Blasingame walked to lead off the inning, and then scored on Mays’ third triple. Two batters later, Mays scored on a Willie McCovey sacrifice fly.

Mays finished the game with five hits in six at-bats. He had two RBIs, giving him 96 for the season. Mays raised his triples on the season to 11.

The hitting star for the Phillies was second baseman Bobby Malkmus, who hit a grand slam home run off Giants starter Sam Jones in the sixth inning.

The winning pitcher was Johnny Antonelli (6-7), who pitched 4.2 scoreless innings in relief of Jones. Antonelli allowed two hits and four walks while striking out six Phillies batters.

The losing pitcher was Dick “Turk” Farrell (9-6).

Mays would hit one more triple during the 1960 season to give him a total of 12, second in the National League to Bill Bruton of the Milwaukee Braves, who had 13.

Mays would lead the National League with 190 hits in 1960.

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Orioles Add Bat Man Named Robbie

 

Swap Shop: Frank Robinson for  Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun

(December 9, 1965) The Baltimore Orioles today announced the acquisition of All-Star outfielder Frank Robinson in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds.

Frank Robinson batted .296 for the Cincinnati Reds in 1965 with 33 home runs and 113 runs batted in. A year later with the Baltimore Orioles, he won the American League Triple Crown.

Frank Robinson batted .296 for the Cincinnati Reds in 1965 with 33 home runs and 113 runs batted in. A year later with the Baltimore Orioles, he won the American League Triple Crown.

In exchange for Robinson, the 1961 National League Most Valuable Player, the Reds received two pitchers and an outfielder: starter Milt Pappas, reliever Jack Baldschun and the right-handed hitting Dick Simpson.

The 30-year-old Robinson batted .296 for the Reds in 1965 with 33 home runs and 113 runs batted in. In 10 seasons with Cincinnati, he batted a combined .303 and averaged 32 home runs and 101 RBIs per season. His best season with the Reds came in 1962, when he batted .342 with 39 home runs and 136 RBIs. That season he led the National League in doubles (51), on-base percentage (.421 and slugging average (.624). It marked the third consecutive season when Robinson led the league in slugging.

Milt Pappas was the key to the trade for the Reds. He was 30-29 with a 4.04 ERA in 2+ seasons in Cincinnati.

Milt Pappas was the key to the trade for the Reds. He was 30-29 with a 4.04 ERA in 2+ seasons in Cincinnati.

Pappas was 13-9 for the Orioles in 1965 with a 2.60 ERA. In 34 starts, he pitched 221.1 innings with nine complete games and three shutouts. In eight full seasons with the Orioles, Pappas averaged 14 wins and more than 200 innings per season. His best season for the Orioles came in 1964, when he was 16-7 with a 2.97 earned run average.

The Orioles had acquired Baldschun three days earlier in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. Baldschun was 5-8 for the Phillies in 1965 with a 3.82 ERA. He posted six saves in 65 appearances.

A week earlier, the Orioles had traded first baseman Norm Siebern to the California Angels for Simpson who batted .222 in eight games with the Angels after hitting .301 with 24 home runs in AAA ball.

Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies, reliver Jack Baldschun spent only 3 days with the Orioles before moving on to the Reds.

Acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies, reliver Jack Baldschun spent only 3 days with the Orioles before moving on to the Reds.

On paper, the trade looked like a steal for the Reds, who were rebuilding their pitching staff and had unloaded a hitter they believed was on the down-slope of his career. Robinson proved the Reds wrong. He had a career year for the Orioles, winning the Triple Crown and the American League Most Valuable Player award while leading the Orioles to their first World Series championship.

Both Robinson and Pappas had productive careers that extended into the 1970s. But Robinson was the only player in the trade to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.