Red Sox Announce Williams’ Replacement

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 19, 1961) The Boston Red Sox today announced that rookie Carl Yastrzemski will start the regular season in left field, succeeding the legendary Ted Williams.

The Boston Red Sox replaced one Hall of Fame player with another when Carl Yastrzemski succeeded Ted Williams as the team’s starting left fielder.

The Boston Red Sox replaced one Hall of Fame player with another when Carl Yastrzemski succeeded Ted Williams as the team’s starting left fielder.

Williams closed out his Hall of Fame career in Boston by hitting a home run in his last major league at-bat.

Yastrzemski joined the Red Sox after two seasons in the Boston farm system, hitting a combined .356 over those two seasons. As a rookie, he would hit .266 in 1961 with 11 home runs and 80 RBIs. By 1963, he would win the first of three batting titles during the 1960s.

As a rookie in 1961, Carl Yastrzemski batted .266 with 11 home runs and 80 RBIs. He would finish his 23-year career in Boston with 3,419 hits – ninth most all-time.

As a rookie in 1961, Carl Yastrzemski batted .266 with 11 home runs and 80 RBIs. He would finish his 23-year career in Boston with 3,419 hits – ninth most all-time.

Yastrzemski would remain a fixture in the Red Sox’s lineup for the next 23 years and be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

12/13 Perfect, and Pretty Solid Otherwise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Harvey Haddix

Left-hander Harvey Haddix will always be remembered best as the pitcher who carried a perfect game into the thirteenth inning in a May 25, 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … a game Haddix eventually lost 1-0. Surrounding that game was a solid 14-year career as a starter and reliever for five different teams.

As a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, Harvey Haddix was 20-9 and led the National League with six shutouts.

As a rookie for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, Harvey Haddix was 20-9 and led the National League with six shutouts.

Haddix was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947 and made seven appearances with the big league club in 1952. In 1953, the 27-year-old rookie went 20-9 for the Cardinals. His 3.06 ERA that season was fourth best in the National League, and his six shutouts led the league. He followed up in 1954 with an 18-13 record (3.57 ERA), and then slipped to 12-16 in 1955.

In May of 1956 the Cardinals sent Haddix to the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-player deal. He was 22-21 in two seasons with Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Cincinnati Reds (for outfielder Wally Post) where he posted an 8-7 record in 1958.

Prior to the 1959 season, Haddix was traded with Smoky Burgess and Don Hoak to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton, John Powers and Frank Thomas. All three players going to Pittsburgh would play major roles in the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960.

Haddix went 12-12 for the Pirates in 1959, including his near-perfect game, which was one of the losses. In 1960, Haddix was 11-10 with a 3.97 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in two games of the 1960 World Series, including the epic seventh game won by the Pirates over the New York Yankees 10-9 on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings in a 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … only to lose 1-0 in the thirteenth inning.

Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings in a 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … only to lose 1-0 in the thirteenth inning.

Haddix pitched three more seasons for the Pirates, going 22-16 with a 3.99 ERA. During that period, he made the transition from starting pitcher to reliever. He was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles following the 1963 season, and in the next two seasons made 73 appearances for the Orioles, all in relief, going 8-7 with 11 saves and a combined ERA of 2.63. He retired after the 1965 season with a career record of 136-113 and a lifetime ERA of 3.63.

A three-time All-Star, Haddix was one of the best defensive pitchers of his era. He won three consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1958 to 1960.

 

 

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How a Traded Manager Brought the Mets a Miracle Center Fielder

 

Swap Shop: Tommie Agee’s Path to New York

He was a hot prospect during his rise through the Cleveland Indians’ farm system. And with the Chicago White Sox, he was the American League’s best rookie in 1966.

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But Tommie Agee will always be remembered best as the kid in center field who propelled the New York Mets to their first National league pennant, and then to the miracle that was the 1969 World Series.

Here’s how he got to New York:

Agee was raised in Mobile, Alabama and grew up with future Mets teammate Cleon Jones. He won a baseball scholarship to Grambling University, and was signed in 1961 by the Indians.

For five years he toiled in the Indians’ farm system, making short trips to the Cleveland roster, but hitting only .200 in a combined 53 at-bats for the Tribe. On January 20, 1965, Agee was traded with pitcher Tommy John and catcher John Romano to the White Sox in a three-team deal that sent outfielder Jim Landis to the Kansas City Athletics and brought Rocky Colavito back to Cleveland. After one more season in the minors, Agee had his breakout in 1966 with the White Sox. He batted .273 with 22 home runs and 86 runs batted in. He finished third in the American League in both runs scored (98) and stolen bases (44). He won the Gold Glove for his work in center field, and was a member of the All-Star team.

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Gil Hodges made acquiring Agee his first priority on joining the Mets in 1967 as the team’s new manager.

Agee came back to earth in 1967, batting .234 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs. It would be his last season in Chicago.

Actually, two trades brought Agee to the Mets. The first involved former Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges, for the previous five seasons the manager of the Washington Senators. Following the 1967 season, the Mets sent pitcher Bill Denehy and $100,000 to the Senators for Hodges to manage in New York. One of the first areas for improvement that Hodges wanted for the Mets was in center field. Hodges wanted defense and power. He specifically wanted Agee.

The Mets accommodated their new manager. On December 15, 1967, less than a month after Hodges joined the club, the Mets sent four players (including outfielder Tommy Davis and pitcher Jack Fisher) to the White Sox for Agee and infielder Al Weis. Both would play pivotal roles in the Mets’ 1969 World Series triumph.

One of Agee’s “miracles” in center field during the 1969 World Series.

One of Agee’s “miracles” in center field during the 1969 World Series.

 

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How to Shave Batting Averages

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Steve Barber

Strong left-handed starting pitching was a characteristic of the Baltimore Orioles staff throughout the 1960s. For the first half of that decade, that banner was carried by Steve Barber.

Steve Barber was 21-13 for the Baltimore Orioles in 1963.

Steve Barber was 21-13 for the Baltimore Orioles in 1963.

Barber was signed by the Orioles in 1957. In 1960, he joined a strong Oriole staff as the only left-handed starter, going 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA in helping contribute to the Orioles’ second-place finish. Barber also led the league in walks with 113.

Barber became the Orioles’ ace in 1961 with an 18-12 record and a 3.33 ERA. He led the American League in shutouts with eight, and led the Orioles in starts (34) and innings pitched (248). Injuries limited Barber to a 9-6 record in 1962, but he bounced back in 1963 with his best season, going 20-13 with a 2.75 ERA and a career-high 180 strikeouts.

During the next three years, Barber won 34 games for the Orioles. He was traded to the New York Yankees after the start of the 1967 season. He pitched for five more teams over the next seven seasons, retiring in 1974 with a career record of 121-106 and a career ERA of 3.36.

From 1960 to 1966, Barber was one of the best left-handers in the American League, winning 91 games with a 3.07 ERA. He pitched in two All-Star games, and still ranks seventh all-time among Baltimore pitchers with 918 strikeouts.

 

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Reds Rookie Debut Nets 2 For 2

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 10, 1963) A highlight of today’s Cincinnati RedsChicago White Sox spring exhibition game was the two-hit debut of an unheralded rookie second baseman.

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Pete Rose got a pair of hits in his Reds debut during spring training in 1963.

Pete Rose went into the game as a last-minute replacement for an injured Don Blasingame, the Reds starting second baseman. Rose went two for two in his first appearance against big league pitching.

It was a fitting debut for the man who would retire 21 seasons later as the most prolific batsman in major league history with 4,256 hits.

By the end of spring training, Rose would win the starting job at second. By the end of the 1963 season, Rose would be named National League Rookie of the Year.

 

 

 

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Too Much Talent to Hide

 

Career Year: Vada Pinson – 1963

Vada Pinson was such a solid player for the Cincinnati Reds in the first half of the 1960s that it is actually something of a challenge to pick a career year. But 1963 proved to be the most productive season overall for the Reds’ center fielder. And it proved to be another season when Pinson’s excellence was overshadowed by a fleet of future Hall of Famers who patrolled the outfield as his contemporaries – including one on his own team.

During the early 1960s, Vada Pinson strung together one outstanding hitting season after another. The best all-around season was 1963, when he batted .313 and led the majors with 204 hits.

During the early 1960s, Vada Pinson strung together one outstanding hitting season after another. The best all-around season was 1963, when he batted .313 and led the majors with 204 hits.

“Overshadowed” aptly applied to the best years of Pinson’s 18-season career. Called up by the Reds for the last month of the 1958 season, he claimed the center field job in his 1959 rookie season and promptly led the major leagues in runs scored (131) and doubles (47). He batted .316 as a rookie with 20 home runs and 84 runs batted in, and was named to the 1959 All-Star team.

Rookie of the Year for 1959? Unfortunately, in 1959 a player had to have fewer than 75 official at-bats to keep his rookie status. Pinson had 96 at-bats in 1958, and thus didn’t qualify (though he would have under today’s rules).

He hit .287 in 1960 and led the league again in doubles with 37. In 1961, he batted .343 and led the major leagues with 208 hits. He also won his only Gold Glove that season, finishing third in the balloting for Most Valuable Player (won by teammate Frank Robinson).

From 1960-1965, Vada Pinson batted a combined .301 and averaged 192 hits, 33 doubles, 21 home runs and 89 RBIs per season.

From 1960-1965, Vada Pinson batted a combined .301 and averaged 192 hits, 33 doubles, 21 home runs and 89 RBIs per season.

All terrific seasons, and Pinson would have more. But none of his seasons was more “complete” as a hitter than the performance he turned in for 1963. Pinson batted .313 (seventh in the National league) and again led the majors in hits with 204. He appeared in all 162 games, tying him for first with Bill White and Ron Santo. His .514 slugging average was fifth in the league. He finished third in total bases (335), second in doubles (37), first in triples with 14, eighth in singles (131), third in stolen bases (27) and fourth with 106 runs batted in.

 

 

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Saving Face

 

Oh, What a Relief: Roy Face

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ march to the National League pennant in 1960 was driven by solid pitching throughout the season. The team featured four dependable starters in Vern Law (the Cy Young winner at 20-9), Bob Friend (18-12), Vinegar Bend Mizell (13-5) and Harvey Haddix (11-10), a rotation that completed its starts in nearly half of the team’s victories (47 complete games in 95 wins).

Roy Face was Pittsburgh’s bullpen ace when the Pirates won the National League pennant in 1960. That season, he was 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA.

Roy Face was Pittsburgh’s bullpen ace when the Pirates won the National League pennant in 1960. That season, he was 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA.

The bullpen for the 1960 Pirates was equally effective, registering 33 saves, second-highest in the league to Cincinnati’s 35. (These save totals may seem modest compared to the save totals today, but when was the last time a major league team finished with 47 complete games in a season – and that wasn’t even best in the National League?)

The leader of that bullpen was Roy Face, a diminutive pitcher with a wicked split-fingered fastball (known then as a forkball). Face was a spot starter and reliever when he joined the Pirates to stay in 1955. He led the league in appearances (68) in 1956 and in saves (20) in 1958. His career season came in 1959, when Face set the major league record for winning percentage (.947) on an 18-1 record.

The year the Pirates won the pennant, Face went 10-8 with 24 saves and a 2.90 ERA on a league-leading 68 appearances. He led the league again in saves in both 1961 (17) and 1962 (28). In 1962, he also had the lowest ERA of his career (1.88). Face continued pitching for Pittsburgh through the 1967 season, and pitched for Detroit and Montreal before retiring toward the end of the 1969 season.

Roy Face holds the major league record for relief wins in a season, going 18-1 in 1959.

Roy Face holds the major league record for relief wins in a season, going 18-1 in 1959.

In his 16-year career, Face posted a respectable 3.48 ERA while accumulating 193 saves pitching in 848 games.

 

 

 

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A Dilly of a Southpaw

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Billy O’Dell

Billy O’Dell was a talented left-handed pitcher who was an integral part of the superb pitching staff that helped propel the San Francisco Giants to the 1962 National League pennant.

Billy O’Dell was 19-14 for the National League champion San Francisco Giants in 1962.

Billy O’Dell was 19-14 for the National League champion San Francisco Giants in 1962.

O’Dell was a star at Clemson University when he was signed as a bonus baby by the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. He pitched in seven games for the Orioles that season, going 1-1 with a 2.76 ERA.

O’Dell’s career was temporarily derailed by two years of military service, and resumed in 1957 when he went 4-10 for the Orioles, primarily as a reliever, despite an excellent 2.69 earned run average. The next season he was 14-11 with a 2.97 ERA, and led all major league pitchers with a 2.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 1959, his won-lost record slipped under .500 despite an ERA again under 3.00. Following that season, the Orioles traded O’Dell to the Giants for (along with pitcher Billy Loes) for Jackie Brandt, Gordon Jones and Roger McCardell.

With the Giants, O’Dell worked both as a starter and as a reliever, and was successful in both roles. He had a combined record of 13-18 in his first two seasons with the Giants, and in 1962 pitched primarily out of the Giants’ starting rotation that included Jack Sanford, Juan Marichal and Billy Pierce. As a starter, O’Dell had his best season in 1962, going 19-14 in 39 starts and achieving career highs by pitching 280.2 innings and striking out 195 batters. He followed up in 1964 with a 14-10 record, and then 8-7 in 1964, used primarily in short relief.

From 1964-1967, Billy O’Dell was used almost exclusively as a relief pitcher. His best season out of the bullpen came in 1965 with the Milwaukee Braves, when he went 10-6 with a 2.18 ERA and 18 saves.

From 1964-1967, Billy O’Dell was used almost exclusively as a relief pitcher. His best season out of the bullpen came in 1965 with the Milwaukee Braves, when he went 10-6 with a 2.18 ERA and 18 saves.

Following the 1964 season, O’Dell was traded to the Milwaukee Braves for catcher Ed Bailey. As the Braves’ closer in 1965, he appeared in 62 games, finishing 42 games with 18 saves. He won 10 games and lost six, with a 2.18 ERA. In 1966, he pitched for both the Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates (traded for pitcher Don Schwall in June) and had a combined record of 5-5 with 10 saves and a 2.64 ERA. He was 5-6 for the Pirates in 1967 and retired after that season.

Twice an All-Star, O’Dell ended his 13-season career with a record of 105-100 and a 3.29 career ERA.

 

 

 

 

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Where Did the Grass Go?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 21, 1966) For the first time, two major league teams played a game on an infield without grass.

In a spring exhibition game in Houston’s Astrodome, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros played the first game on artificial grass.

The heat and humidity of Houston in the summer made the construction of an air-conditioned, enclosed baseball stadium a necessity. The Astrodome was a magnificent architectural solution with one problem … you couldn’t keep grass growing in it.

The heat and humidity of Houston in the summer made the construction of an air-conditioned, enclosed baseball stadium a necessity. The Astrodome was a magnificent architectural solution with one problem … you couldn’t keep grass growing in it.

The material, which would become known as AstroTurf, was developed by Monsanto in an effort to overcome the problems encountered with trying to grow grass indoors.

With the arrival of the Houston Colt .45s in 1962, it quickly became apparent that between the heat, humidity and insects that were common discomforts for players and fans alike at Colt .45 Stadium, indoor air-conditioned baseball would be a necessity for the Houston franchise. Thus construction of the Astrodome began almost immediately and was completed in time for the 1965 season.

The world’s first domed stadium proved to be a magnificent structure. Its dome covered more than 9 acres with a clear span of 642 feet – twice that of any previous structure — and a maximum height of 208 feet. The ceiling was composed of more than 4,500 Lucite panels.

The first game in the Astrodome took place on April 9, 1965.The batter is Mickey Mantle, who hit the first home run indoors. The pitcher who served up that homer was Dick Farrell.

The first game in the Astrodome took place on April 9, 1965.The batter is Mickey Mantle, who hit the first home run indoors. The pitcher who served up that homer was Dick Farrell.

The one problem with the Astrodome was grass. It wouldn’t grow with the consistency necessary for a major league playing field. During the 1965 season, the groundskeepers even resorted to painting bare patches green (and balls hit to those spots were scuffed with green paint).

The solution turned out to be Astroturf, the trademark name that became the generic name for artificial grass used for sports and recreation.

A Fine Handler of Outs

 

The Glove Club: Bill Freehan

Bill Freehan played for 15 major league seasons, all for only one team: the Detroit Tigers. From 1964 to 1971, he was the Tigers’ everyday backstop, catching an average of 133 games over that eight-season run.

Bill Freehan won five Gold Gloves during his 15-year major league career, all with the Detroit Tigers.

Bill Freehan won five Gold Gloves during his 15-year major league career, all with the Detroit Tigers.

He could also hit. Freehan batted .300 in 1964, his second full season and his first as an All-Star. (He would make the American League All-Star team 10 more times.) In 1968, playing for the American League champs, Freehan batted .263 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs, a performance that earned him the runner-up spot in the voting for Most Valuable Player.

The MVP in 1968 was Denny McLain, the 31-game winner. Freehan caught 138 games that season.

As a catcher, Freehan was superb. He won five consecutive Gold Gloves at that position, from 1965 to 1969. He led American league catchers in putouts each of those seasons, as well as in 1971. He participated in 15 double plays in 1968, the most in the league. His fielding percentage as a catcher slipped below .990 only once, in 1972 when he recorded a .989 percentage. He led the league in that category three times.

Bill Freehan was the most valuable non-pitcher in the American League in 1968. He batted .263 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs and finished second in the MVP voting to teammate Denny McLain.

Bill Freehan was the most valuable non-pitcher in the American League in 1968. He batted .263 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs and finished second in the MVP voting to teammate Denny McLain.

His only “weakness” as a catcher came from his arm, which was just better than average. He led the league in stolen bases allowed five times, though he led the league in caught stealing in 1968 with 38 runners gunned down. In 1964, he threw out 53.1 percent of base stealers, tops in the American League. Not much of a “weakness,” unless compared to all the other aspects of his catching arsenal.

Freehan retired after the 1976 season with 200 home runs, 758 runs batted in and a .262 career batting average.

 

 

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