Gaylord’s Older Bro

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Perry

No pair of pitching brothers has more combined strikeouts (5,110), shutouts (85) and Cy Young awards (3) than Jim and Gaylord Perry. Their combined 519 major league victories is second only to Phil and Joe Niekro (who won 539 games between them).

In 1960, as a member of the Cleveland Indians' starting rotation, Jim Perry tied for the most wins in the American League with 18.

In 1960, as a member of the Cleveland Indians’ starting rotation, Jim Perry tied for the most wins in the American League with 18.

Older brother Jim broke into the majors in 1959 with the Cleveland Indians, going 12-10 with a 2.65 ERA as a starter and reliever. He was second in the Rookie of the Year balloting to the Washington Senators’ Bob Allison. He started the 1960s by leading the American League in victories (18, tied with the Baltimore OriolesChuck Estrada), games started (36) and shutouts (4). In the next two years, pitching for a weak Cleveland team, Perry went 22-29, and was traded to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Jack Kralick.

Perry spent the next five years with the Twins shuttling between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Despite posting consistently solid ERAs, the most games he won for the Twins came during their pennant-winning season of 1965, when Perry went 12-7 with a 2.63 ERA. That record included a streak of seven consecutive victories – all for a team that, earlier in the year, had put him on waivers!

Jim Perry's finest season came with the Minnesota Twins in 1970, when he won the Cy Young award with a 24-12 record.

Jim Perry’s finest season came with the Minnesota Twins in 1970, when he won the Cy Young award with a 24-12 record.

His career seemed locked in mediocrity until Billy Martin was appointed as the Twins manager for 1969. Martin promptly made Perry his #1 starter. Perry responded with his first 20-victory season, going 20-6 with a 2.82 ERA and leading the Twins to a division championship. He topped that performance in 1970 with a 24-12 season that earned him the American League Cy Young award. He remained a durable starter for Minnesota, and later for Detroit and Cleveland, before retiring in 1975 with a career record of 215-174 with a 3.45 ERA.

A three-time All-Star, Perry was also a good hitting pitcher, batting .199 over his 17-year career with five home runs and 59 RBIs.  He finished his career with 32 shutouts.

 

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Loaded with Special K

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Veale

Bob Veale stood tall and especially intimidating on the higher pitching mound that prevailed for most of the 1960s. And much like left-hander Randy Johnson three decades later, Veale’s fastball was as intimidating as his stature. He threw very hard, and was just wild enough (with such overpowering stuff) that he kept batters thinking as much about their heads as they were about pitch location.

Bob Veale led the National League with 250 strikeouts in 1964.

Bob Veale led the National League with 250 strikeouts in 1964.

Veale was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates off the campus of Benedictine College in 1958. After four seasons in the Pirates’ minor league system, Veale made his debut in Pittsburgh in 1962 at age 26. He went 2-2 with one save in 11 appearances, including two complete games. He also struck out 42 batters in 45.2 innings.

He started the 1963 season in the Pirates’ bullpen, appearing 27 times in relief. He closed out 10 games, saving three of them with an 0.70 ERA. Veale was given his chance to start at the end of the year and went 4-2 as a starter with two shutouts. He finished the 1963 season with a 1.04 ERA.

Veale picked up in 1964 where he left off at the end of 1963. He went 18-12 with a 2.74 ERA. He led the National League both in strikeouts with 250 (something he would do only once in his career) and in walks with 124 (something he would do four times during his career). He followed in 1965 with a 17-12 season. He had seven shutouts and 14 complete games with a 2.84 ERA. He also recorded a career-best 276 strikeouts, still the highest total for any Pirate pitcher in the Twentieth Century.

Veale won 16 games in both 1966 and 1967, and then had back-to-back 13-14 seasons in 1968 and 1969. He was 10-15 for the Pirates in 1970, his last season as a starter. Now 35, Veale and his fading but still K-potent fastball were limited to spot relief situations, and he posted a 6-0 record with a pair of saves in that role in 1971, his last full season with the Pirates. He was sold to the Boston Red Sox in 1972. In 2+ seasons with Boston, Veale went 4-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 15 saves.

In a 13-season career, Veale posted a 120-95 record with a combined ERA of 3.07. He struck out 1,703 batters and pitched 20 shutouts. A two-time All-Star, he is second to Bob Friend among all Pirate pitchers in career walks and strikeouts.

 

 

 

 

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On-Base Expert

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tito Francona

Tito Francona could flat-out hit. He wasn’t known for big power numbers. But he knew how to get on base, move base runners, and make runs happen.

Tito Francona had the American league's highest batting average in 1959 at .363, but fell 34 plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title.

Tito Francona had the American League’s highest batting average in 1959 at .363, but fell 34 plate appearances short of qualifying for the batting title.

Francona was signed by the St. Louis Browns in 1952. He spent only 3 years in the minors (plus time out for military service), hitting a combined .292, and made his major league debut in 1956 with the Baltimore Orioles, hitting .258. He was runner-up in the Rookie-of-the-Year balloting to Chicago’s Luis Aparicio.

After the 1957 season, Francona was traded to the Chicago White Sox as part of a seven-player deal, and in June of 1958 he was dealt again, this time to the Detroit Tigers. He played sparingly for the Tigers, hitting only .246, and was traded for a third time in a little more than a year, this time to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Larry Doby.

Getting the chance to play every day, Francona blossomed for the Indians. He had a monster year in 1959, hitting .363 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs, but fell short of the number of official at-bats needed to qualify for the batting title. (Harvey Kuenn officially led the American League in hitting in 1959 with a .353 average.) But Francona’s contributions to Cleveland’s third-place finish that season did not go unnoticed, as he finished fifth in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.

In 1960, Francona followed up with a .292 batting average, leading the American League with 36 doubles. In 1961, he hit .301 with career highs in hits (178), triples (8) and RBIs (85). He was also a member of the All-Star team that season. He hit .272 in 1962 with 14 home runs and 70 RBIs.

Then, inexplicably, his hitting tailed off dramatically. He hit only .228 in 1963 and .248 in 1964. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased Francona following the 1964 season, and he hit a combined .236 in his 2 seasons with St. Louis.

Over the next three seasons, Francona played for four different teams. As a part-time player, he hit .286 for Atlanta in 1968 and hit for a combined .318 for Atlanta and Oakland in 1969. He finished his 15-year major league career with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970.

Francona had 1,395 hits and a .272 career batting average.

A Cy in St. Louis

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(October 28, 1968) Right-handed pitcher Bob Gibson, who posted the lowest National League earned run average in 62 years on his way to winning 22 games for the St. Louis Cardinals, today won the National League Cy Young award for the 1968 season.

In 1968, Bob Gibson became the first major league player to win the Cy Young award, the Gold Gove and the Most Valuable Player award in the same season.

In 1968, Bob Gibson became the first major league player to win the Cy Young award, the Gold Glove and the Most Valuable Player award in the same season.

The 32-year-old Gibson was a unanimous choice, collecting all 20 votes.

During the regular season, Gibson led the National League in earned run average (1.12), shutouts (13) and strikeouts (268). His ERA was the lowest among National League pitchers since 1906, when Mordecai Brown of the Chicago Cubs posted a 1.04 ERA. Gibson finished second in the National League in games won (22), third in innings pitched (304), and allowed the fewest hits per nine innings (5.85). Gibson also won the Gold Glove for his fielding as a pitcher, his fourth in a row. (He would win five more.)

Gibson won two games during the 1968 World Series, striking out 35 Detroit Tigers batters in 27 innings. Gibson set a World Series record with 17 strikeouts in pitching a 4-0 shutout to win Game One. He was the loser in Game Seven, his first World Series loss seven straight wins.

It was also Gibson’s last World Series appearance.

Gibson would retire after the 1975 season with a career record of 251-174 and an earned run average of 2.91. He would win a second Cy Young award in 1970, and would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

 

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Born to Hit

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tony Oliva

The 1964 season featured the debuts of two outstanding young sluggers, each of whom led his respective league in more than one offensive category. Dick Allen paced the National League in runs scored, triples and total bases while blistering the league’s pitchers for 29 home runs.

Tony Oliva was the first player to win the league bating title in both of his first two seasons.

Tony Oliva was the first player to win the league batting title in both of his first two seasons.

Tony Oliva’s impact on the American League was just as immediate and even more dominant. As a rookie in 1964, Oliva led the American League in five different offensive categories: hits (217), runs (109), doubles (43), total bases (374) and batting average (.323). He was easily the American League Rookie of the Year, and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player balloting. His 374 total bases in 1964 is still the major league record for a rookie (tied with Hal Trotsky of the Cleveland Indians).

A Cuban native, Oliva was signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1961. In the minors, he struggled at first with fielding fly balls at night and with the fact that he spoke no English. But he didn’t struggle in the batter’s box. Oliva batted .410 in Class D ball in 1961, hit .350 in 1962, and then leapt to AAA baseball in 1963, and made that transition with ease, batting .304 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs.

His bat was ready not only for American League pitching, but for major league stardom. His outstanding rookie season in 1964 included 32 home runs and 94 RBIs. His .557 slugging percentage was third highest in the league.

Oliva followed up his great debut season by repeating as batting champion in 1965 with a .321 average. He also led the league again in hits, as he would do two more times in his career. His home run output dropped to 16 (he would not hit more than 30 home runs again as he did in 1964), but his RBIs increased to 98.

Oliva was the first player ever to lead the league in batting in each of his first two seasons.

In 1966, Oliva batted .307 and led the league in hits for the third consecutive season. He was runner-up to Frank Robinson for the batting title. He led the league in doubles in 1967 while hitting .289, a batting average he would repeat in 1968. In 1969 and 1970, Oliva would raise his batting average back over the .300 mark (.309 in 1969, .325 in 1970), while leading the league in hits and doubles both seasons.

Oliva won his third batting title in 1971, with a career-best .337 average. He would also top American League hitters with a .546 slugging percentage that season.

Oliva spent all of his career with the Minnesota Twins. He seemed destined for a place in Cooperstown until knee injuries severely limited his effectiveness. In six full seasons during the 1960s, Oliva hit a combined .308 with 1,087 hits. After he injured his knee in 1972, Oliva’s numbers for the next four years were significantly lower: a .277 average with 446 hits.

After 15 major league seasons, Tony Olica retired in 1976 with three batting titles and a .304 batting average.

After 15 major league seasons, Tony Olica retired in 1976 with three batting titles and a .304 batting average.

An eight-time All-Star, the Twins outfielder won his only Gold Glove in 1966. During the 1960s, Oliva averaged 22 home runs and 88 RBIs as a full-time player.

Oliva retired in 1976 after 15 major league seasons that produced 1,917 hits and a .304 career batting average. He hit 329 doubles, 220 home runs and drove in 947 runs.

 

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So Many Home Runs, and So Much More

Homer Happy: Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron had so many ways to beat National League pitchers that his prowess as a home run hitter was nearly overlooked until he passed Babe Ruth in career home runs in 1973. But he was the second most productive home run hitter in the 1960s, and of course, he was the most productive home run hitter in the Twentieth Century.

Twice in the 1960s, Hank Aaron led the National League in home runs and runs batted in: in 1963 (44, 130) and in 1966 (44, 127). He also led the league in slugging percentage in 1963 (.586) and in 1967 (.573).

Twice in the 1960s, Hank Aaron led the National League in home runs and runs batted in: in 1963 (44, 130) and in 1966 (44, 127). He also led the league in slugging percentage in 1963 (.586) and in 1967 (.573).

The fact that he was so skilled in so many facets of the game, so complete a hitter, and so quietly consistent throughout most of his 23-year major league career, probably contributed to his lack of promotion by the sports press as a home run hitter in the class of Mays and Mantle and Killebrew. But NL pitchers knew better.

The numbers don’t lie.

Aaron averaged 37.5 home runs per season during the 1960s. He led the National League three times both in home runs and in runs batted in during that decade. Altogether, he drove in more runs during the 1960s than any other major league player.

After showcasing his talent briefly in the Negro League, the 18-year-old Aaron was signed by the Boston Braves in 1952. He was nothing short of spectacular during his two seasons in the minor leagues, and made his debut with the now Milwaukee Braves in 1954, batting .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBIs. He led the National League in hitting with a .328 average in 1956, and would win a second batting title in 1959 with a .355 batting average.

Entering the 1960s, Hank Aaron already had hit 179 home runs … and he was only 25.

Entering the 1960s, Hank Aaron already had hit 179 home runs … and he was only 25.

Aaron led the National League with 44 home runs and 132 runs batted in to win the Most Valuable Player award in 1957. Surprisingly, it would be the only MVP of his career. At the close of the 1950s, he had already accumulated 179 home runs, and he was only 25 years old. As a slugger, he was just getting warmed up.

Aaron hit 40 or more home runs five times during the 1960s. He drove in more than 100 runs six times, his lowest total during the decade coming in 1968 when he managed “only” 86 RBIs. His most productive season during the 1960s – amid so much productivity at the plate – came in 1963. He batted .319 and led the National League in home runs (44), RBIs (130), runs scored (121), total bases (370) and slugging percentage (.586). Despite those “Ruthian” statistics, Aaron finished third in the MVP voting behind Sandy Koufax and Dick Groat.

As talented and productive as he was, Aaron was under-appreciated (and even under-rated) by the press. He was too quiet, too polite and too lacking in controversy to garner sustained media attention. And he played for a Braves team that finished middle-of-the-pack for most of the 1960s. He was so good, so consistently, that it was easy to take him for granted. Aaron was simply a gentle man, with a brutal bat.

Of course, by the end of his career, Aaron had racked up career records for home runs, RBIs and total bases, and ranked in the top ten in nearly every hitting category. His numbers define his legacy.

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Excerpt from Legends of Swing: The Home Run Hitters of the 1960s. Available in paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon.

Rubber-Armed Ace

Oh, What a Relief: John Wyatt

John Wyatt’s major league career spanned the 1960s. He came up with the Kansas City Athletics in 1961, and retired after a brief tour with the Oakland A’s in 1969. In between, he was one of the American League’s busiest relief pitchers, and for most of the 1960s, one of the most effective.

Pitching for the lowly Kansas City Athletics, John Wyatt led the major leagues with 81 appearances in 1964. His 20 saves were fourth in the American League.

He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 after pitching as a teenager in the Negro Leagues. Wyatt bounced around the minors for seven years (including a couple more Negro League stops). Kansas City purchased Wyatt in 1956 and brought him up for 5 games in 1961.

In 1962, as a 27-year-old rookie, Wyatt immediately established himself as the closer for the A’s, appearing in 59 games and completing 30 of them with 11 saves. He was 10-7 for the ninth-place Athletics.

In 1963, Wyatt pitched in 63 games, all in relief, finishing 53 of them. He was 6-4 with 21 saves and a 3.13 ERA. In 1964, he set what was then a major league record with 81 pitching appearances, the first pitcher in the modern era to appear in at least half of his team’s games. Wyatt was 9-8 that season with 20 saves and a 3.59 ERA. He was also a member of the American League All-Star team in 1964.

Wyatt pitched one more season in Kansas City, going 2-6 in 1965 with 18 saves and a 3.25 ERA. In 1966 he was traded with Rollie Sheldon and Jose Tartabull to the Boston Red Sox for Jim Gosger, Guido Grilli and Ken Sanders. He had an outstanding season with Boston in 1967, playing a major role in the team’s pennant-winning performance. Wyatt was 10-7 with a 2.60 ERA, finishing 43 games in 60 appearances. (It was the sixth consecutive season when Wyatt appeared in 60 or more games.) He had 20 saves during the regular season, and was the winning pitcher in Game Six of the 1967 World Series.

Acquired by the Boston Red Sox in 1966, Wyatt had an outstanding season for Boston bullpen in 1967. He was 10-7 with 20 saves and a 2.60 ERA.

Acquired by the Boston Red Sox in 1966, Wyatt had an outstanding season for Boston bullpen in 1967. He was 10-7 with 20 saves and a 2.60 ERA.

Wyatt split the 1968 season between the Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. He pitched in only four games for Oakland in 1969 before being released and retiring.

Wyatt helped solidify the role of the closing specialist, appearing in 389 games from 1962 through 1967, finishing 269 of them and recording 100 saves during those six seasons. He ended his nine-season career at 42-44 with a 3.47 ERA.

 

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Fast Going Back

The Glove Club: Paul Blair

Paul Blair had turbo speed on balls that initially looked to be over his head. But he was not only faster than most of the outfielders of his era; he was faster than most balls hit to the outfield – even those that got a head start on him.

A dynamic center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul Blair won eight Gold Gloves from 1967-1975.

A dynamic center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul Blair won eight Gold Gloves from 1967-1975.

Blair played center field almost as if he were a fifth infielder. He played so shallow because he knew he could catch up to anything hit over his head. And he usually did.

Blair was signed by the New York Mets in 1961 and acquired by the Baltimore Orioles in the first-year draft in 1962. He made his major league debut at the end of the 1964 season and opened the 1965 campaign as the Orioles’ starting center fielder. He would patrol center field for the Orioles for the next dozen seasons.

In addition to his defensive magic, Blair distinguished himself at the plate, complementing a power-laden Orioles lineup. He led the American League with 12 triples in 1967, when he batted .293. His best season in the batter’s box came in 1969, when he batted .285 with 32 doubles, 26 home runs and 76 runs batted in. He batted .250 over his 17-year major league career.

Blair led the American League with 12 triples in 1967.

Blair led the American League with 12 triples in 1967.

But with Blair, producing runs was a bonus. It was what he could do in the outfield to keep runs from happening that made him so valuable to the Orioles. He led all American League center fielders in putouts in 1967 and 1969, and won eight Gold Gloves from 1967-1975. He was selected for the American League All-Star team in 1969 and 1973.

Yankees Can Casey

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(October 18, 1960) Five days after losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game Seven of the World Series, the New York Yankees today fired Casey Stengel as the team’s manager.

In his first five seasons as manager, Casey Stengel guided the New York Yankees to five consecutive World Series championships.

In his first five seasons as manager, Casey Stengel guided the New York Yankees to five consecutive World Series championships.

Stengel had managed the Yankees since 1949. During that 12-year period, his teams won 1,149 regular season games, 10 American League pennants and seven World Series championships.

The Stengel-led Yankees dominated baseball in his first five seasons as manager, winning the World Series each year from 1949-1953. The Yankees were also World Series champions in 1956 and 1958.

After finishing third in the American League in 1959, the Yankees rallied at the end of the 1960 season, winning their final 15 games of the regular season and taking the pennant by eight games over the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees lost the World Series 4-3 despite outscoring the Pirates 55-27.

There was a general feeling that, because of his age, Stengel had lost touch with the players. Stengel turned 70 during the 1960 season.

A few days after his dismissal, the “Old Perfessor” quipped, “I’ll never make the mistake of being seventy again.”

A Winner for Teams that Couldn’t

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Donovan

Dick Donovan was a pitcher’s pitcher. He was a four-way threat on the mound – fastball, curveball, slider, control – who pitched with his head as much as with his right arm. According to Mickey Vernon, his manager with the Washington Senators, Donovan “has every pitch planned.”

Pitching for the lowly Washington Senators in their inaugural 1961 season, Dick Donovan went 10-10 and led the major leagues with a 2.40 ERA.

Pitching for the lowly Washington Senators in their inaugural 1961 season, Dick Donovan went 10-10 and led the major leagues with a 2.40 ERA.

Donovan was signed by the Boston Braves in 1947 and spent the next six seasons (minus two years in military service), trying to find himself as a professional pitcher. His break came when he was acquired by the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1955 season. Inserted into the White Sox starting rotation, Donovan responded with a 15-9 record and a 3.32 ERA, tying for the team lead in victories with Billy Pierce. He pitched 11 complete games with five shutouts in 1955.

Donovan was 12-10 in 1956, and then went 16-6 in 1957. His victory total in 1957 was third best in the American League (behind 20-game winners Pierce and Jim Bunning), and his .727 winning percentage led the league. He tied Pierce for the league lead in complete games with 16, and he averaged only 1.84 walks per 9 innings, posting the second lowest average in the league (for the third year in a row). He finished second in the Cy Young voting to Warren Spahn.

Donovan went 15-14 with a 3.01 ERA in 1958, this time leading the league with 1.9 walks per 9 innings. (He would lead the American League in that category two more times in his career.) In 1959, the year the White Sox broke the New York Yankees’ lock on the American League pennant, Donovan suffered from shoulder problems that limited his effectiveness and produced a 9-10 record with a 3.66 ERA. In the 1959 World Series, Donovan made three appearances, losing Game Three but picking up the save in Game Five. The 1959 World Series would be his only post-season appearance.

Lingering concerns about his arm limited Donovan’s workload in 1960, as he made only eight starts in 33 appearances. Donovan finished the season at 6-1 with a 5.38 ERA. The White Sox left him unprotected for the expansion draft, and the fledgling Washington Senators plucked Donovan for their own starting rotation. He responded with a 10-10 record in 1961, leading the majors with a 2.40 ERA.

Donovan was 20-10 for the Cleveland Indians in 1962.

Donovan was 20-10 for the Cleveland Indians in 1962.

Donovan spent only one season in Washington. Immediately after the 1961 season, he was traded with Gene Green and Jim Mahoney to the Cleveland Indians for Jim Piersall. In his first season with the Tribe, Donovan had the best record of his career: 20-10 with a 3.59 ERA. He pitched a career-high 250.2 innings with 16 complete games and a league-leading five shutouts.

Now 35, Donovan struggled through the 1963 season, going 11-13 with a 4.24 ERA. In 1964, the Indians’ staff was transitioning to younger pitchers like Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and Sonny Siebert. Donovan’s record slipped to 7-9 in 1964, and he was released by Cleveland after going 1-3 in 1965.

A good hitter, Donovan batted .163 during his career with 15 home runs and 64 RBIs. As a pitcher, Donovan compiled a 122-99 record with a 3.67 ERA. He was a three-time All-Star.

 

 

 

 

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