Welcome to Wally’s World of Wins

 

Career Year: Wally Bunker – 1964

The Baltimore Orioles of the early 1960s were a fountain of young pitching talent, from the likes of Chuck Estrada, Milt Pappas and Steve Barber at the beginning of the decade to later arrivals such as Jim Palmer, for whom the 1960s were a struggle until he matured into the Hall of Fame bound ace of the O’s staff in the 1970s.

"19" was Wally Bunker's lucky number in 1964. The 19-year-old rookie won 19 games for the Baltimore Orioles and finished second in the voting for Rookie of the Year.

“19” was Wally Bunker’s lucky number in 1964. The 19-year-old rookie won 19 games for the Baltimore Orioles and finished second in the voting for Rookie of the Year.

One of the latest of the Baltimore “Kiddie Corps” was also one of the most immediately successful. Wally Bunker was a right-handed power pitcher who was the ace of the Orioles staff at age 19 and then retired from baseball by age 27.

Bunker was signed by the Orioles in 1963 and was a member of the starting rotation a year later. The 1964 season marked his career year, as Bunker was the ace of the Orioles staff, going 19-5 with a 2.69 ERA. He threw 12 complete games, second on the Orioles staff to Pappas. Bunker led the American League with a .792 winning percentage and pitched a pair of one-hitters. He finished second in the balloting for American League Rookie of the Year to the Minnesota Twins outfielder (and league batting champion) Tony Oliva.

In late September of 1964, Bunker felt something give in his right arm and was never the same pitcher, plagued by consistent arm miseries for the rest of his career. He was 10-8 for the Orioles in 1965 and 10-6 for the American League champion O’s in 1966. He was the winning pitcher in the third game of the 1966 World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 with a six-hitter and outdueling Dodger lefty Claude Osteen.

Wally Bunker closed out his major league career with the Kansas City Royals in 1969-1971. He threw the first pitch in Royals' history.

Wally Bunker closed out his major league career with the Kansas City Royals in 1969-1971. He threw the first pitch in Royals’ history.

Bunker struggled with arm problems over the next two seasons, going 3-7 in 1967 and 2-0 in only 18 appearances in 1968. He was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 1968 expansion draft, and was the Opening Day starter, throwing the first pitch in Royals history. At 12-11, he was the team’s winningest pitcher in the Royals’ inaugural season, but was only 2-11 for Kansas City in 1970. He was released by the Royals after seven appearances in 1971, going 2-3 in his final season.

Bunker pitched for nine big league seasons, posting a 60-52 record with a career earned run average of 3.51.

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Pirate Tower of Power

 

Homer Happy: Willie Stargell

For most of two decades, Willie Stargell was the most dangerous player in the Pittsburgh Pirates batting order. And one of the most popular to play in a Pirate uniform.

Willie Stargell hit 475 home runs with 1,540 runs batted in. He was an All-Star seven times and was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1979.

Willie Stargell hit 475 home runs with 1,540 runs batted in. He was an All-Star seven times and was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1979.

He was author of some of the most towering home runs in National League history. According to Don Sutton, Stargell’s strength could wipe away a pitcher’s dignity.

Stargell spent his entire 21-year major league career with the Pirates, making his major league debut in 1962. He hit 11 home runs as a part-time performer in 1963, and 21 home runs as a full-time left fielder in 1964. He would hit at least 20 home runs in 15 out of the next 16 seasons.

During his first eight seasons, the Pirates played in Forbes Field, a park whose dimension were not power-hitter friendly. The fence in left-center field was 457 feet from home plate, and home runs to dead right field had to clear a 20-foot screen that ran to right-center field. No wonder that, during the 1960s, Stargell hit no more than 33 home runs (in 1966).

When the Pirates moved to hitter-friendly Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, Stargell’s home run productivity jumped dramatically. He led the National League with 48 home runs in 1971 and 44 home runs in 1973. He hit 310 of his 475 career home runs from 1970 on.

Stargell’s one advantage during his years in Pittsburgh was the batting order hitting around him. He shared the outfield with two batting champions, Matty Alou and Roberto Clemente, who claimed five batting titles between them during the 1960s. The Pirates’ batting order in the 1960s also included Donn Clendenon, Manny Mota and Bill Mazeroski, as well as Manny Sanguillen, Al Oliver and Richie Hebner in the 1970s – the kind of bats that kept pitchers honest and consistently gave Stargell pitches he could launch.

Willie Stargell led the National League in home runs twice ... after the Pirates moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium.

Willie Stargell led the National League in home runs twice … after the Pirates moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium.

And “launch” them he did. In its 61 seasons, Forbes Field saw only 16 home runs clear the right field roof. Seven of those home runs belonged to Stargell. Only four times did home runs leave Dodger Stadium, and Stargell owned two of them. He hit the only home run to reach the upper deck of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, a blast estimated at 575 feet. When he retired, Stargell could claim the longest home runs in at least half the National League parks.

Stargell retired after the 1982 season with 475 home runs and 1,540 runs batted in. He was an All-Star seven times and was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1979. He is the Pirates’ career leader in home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits. Stargell was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.

 

 

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Boffo Bonus Baby

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ray Sadecki

The era of the “bonus baby” force-fed a number of talented kids into the major leagues before they were ready, leaving more potential shattered than fulfilled. One of the exceptions was Ray Sadecki, a talented left-hander who adapted early and well to major league competition and delivered quickly on the St. Louis Cardinals‘ investment in him.
Ray Sadecki was 20-11 for the pennant-winning Cardinals in 1964.

Ray Sadecki was 20-11 for the pennant-winning Cardinals in 1964.

The Cardinals signed Sadecki in 1958 and he made his debut with the team in 1960 as a 19-year-old, going 9-9 with a 3.78 ERA and 7 complete games. In 1961 he went 14-10 with 13 complete games and a 3.72 ERA. His major challenge was his control, as he averaged over four walks per nine innings both seasons. He spent part of the 1962 season back in the minors, going 6-8 with a 5.54 ERA for St. Louis. He finished the 1963 season at 10-10 with a 4.10 ERA.

Sadecki’s breakout season was 1964, when the Cardinals took the National league pennant. Part of a strong starting trio that included Bob Gibson and Curt Simmons, Sadecki led the team with a 20-11 record and a 3.68 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in the first game of the 1964 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Sadecki’s record slipped to 6-15 in 1965, and early in the 1966 season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Orlando Cepeda. Sadecki had a combined 5-8 record for 1966, but rebounded for the Giants in 1967 with a 12-6 record and a 2.78 ERA. In 1968, despite a 2.91 ERA, Sadecki posted a 12-18 record, tied for the most losses in the majors.
Traded to the Mets in 1970, Ray Sadecki was 30-25 with a 3.36 ERA in six seasons in New York.

Traded to the Mets in 1970, Ray Sadecki was 30-25 with a 3.36 ERA in six seasons in New York.

The Giants traded Sadecki to the New York Mets following the 1969 season. He pitched for the Mets for 6 seasons as a spot starter and long reliever, with a combined record of 30-25 and a 3.36 ERA. Following the 1974 season, the Mets traded him to the Cardinals for Joe Torre. From 1975 through 1977, Sadecki pitched for six different teams (including the Kansas City Royals twice and the Mets again) before retiring during the 1977 season.

He pitched a total of 18 years in the major leagues, compiling a 135-131 record and a 3.78 ERA.

Dick Stuart Takes Potent Bat – and Legendary Glove – to Philly

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(November 29, 1964) The Philadelphia Phillies today added power to their line-up with the acquisition of right-handed slugger Dick Stuart from the Boston Red Sox.

In exchange for Stuart, the Phillies gave up left-handed starting pitcher Dennis Bennett (12-14).

Dick Stuart

Dick Stuart

Stuart had posted strong back-to-back seasons with the Red Sox. In 1963, he hit 45 home runs in his first season in Boston and led the American League with 118 RBIs. He followed up in 1964 with 33 home runs and 114 RBIs.

Prior to coming to Boston, Stuart had spent five seasons at first base for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was the first major league player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season in each league.

The deal turned out better for Philadelphia than for the Red Sox. Stuart hit 28 home runs and drove in 95 runs during his only season with the Phillies. He was traded to the New York Mets before the 1966 season.

Dennis Bennett

Dennis Bennett

Bennett saw limited work with the Red Sox over the next three years, with a combined record of 12-13 with a 3.96 ERA.

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