Slugging from the Shadows

 

 

Homer Happy – Joe Adcock

There was never any controversy about Joe Adcock being only the third most dangerous slugger in the Milwaukee Braves’ lineup. With future Hall of Famers like Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews batting in front of him, Adcock was not likely to be the Braves’ cleanup hitter.

But he was dangerous enough as a slugger to keep pitchers more honest with Aaron and Mathews … and his presence in the lineup helped assure that they would see more of the fastball strikes that would keep their slugging numbers up and Milwaukee in contention.

In 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Jow Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in.

In 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Jow Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in.

Adcock was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1947. He played for the Reds from 1950 through 1952, averaging ten home runs and 51 RBIs per season. In February of 1953, Adcock was part of a four-team trade that took him to Milwaukee, where he would play for the next decade.

Adcock’s hitting numbers steadily improved once he joined the high-powered Braves lineup. He hit .285 in 1953 with 18 homers and 80 RBIs in 1953. He upped those numbers in 1954 to a .308 average with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs. Injuries shortened his season in 1955, but Adcock made a major comeback in 1956 by hitting .291 with 38 home runs and 103 RBIs. He topped 100 RBIs one other season: in 1961, when he drove in 108 runs with 35 home runs.

Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 RBIs per season in his ten years with Milwaukee. His overall numbers might have been better had he not missed a large chunk from each of two seasons due to injuries.

In 1962, Adcock’s batting average slipped to .248, though he still drove in 78 runs and hit 29 homers. The Braves traded Adcock with Jack Curtis to the Cleveland Indians for Ty Cline, Don Dillard and Frank Funk.

His one season in Cleveland produced only 13 home runs and 49 RBIs, and after the 1963 season the Indians sent him to the Los Angeles Angels to complete an earlier trade that brought Leon Wagner to the Indians. In three seasons with the Angels, Adcock averaged 17 home runs and 53 RBIs per season. He retired after the 1966 season.

Adcock hit .277 over 17 seasons with 336 career home runs. He was an All-Star once, in 1960.

What’s the Man Really Worth?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(January 21, 1960) It’s something you haven’t seen in a half-century … and will likely never see again.

The first National League player to make $100,000 in a season, Stan Musial believed he was being overpaid and insisted on a $20,000 pay cut for the 1960 season.

Stan “The Man” Musial today told the St. Louis Cardinals that he was being overpaid and insisted on a $20,000 pay cut for the 1960 season.

Musial believed that he actually was overpaid for 1957 (.351 for his seventh National League batting title, 29 home runs, 102 RBIs) and 1958 (.337, 17 home runs, 62 RBIs), as well as for his 1959 performance (.255, 14 home runs, 44 RBIs in only 114 games).

In 1958, Musial became the first National League player to sign a contract for $100,000. But his poor (for Musial) productivity in 1959 compelled the 20-time All-Star to ask for the pay cut. His hitting numbers rebounded somewhat in 1960 (.275, 17 home run

Even as his batting skills may have been on the decline in the 1960s, you couldn’t knock Musial’s integrity.

No wonder he was “The Man.”

 

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Smoking Cigars and A.L. Hitters

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Luis Tiant

You would never mistake Luis Tiant for any other pitcher in baseball. From his unique pitching style that often included turning his back to the batter, to his “Fu Manchu” mustache, to his smoking victory cigars in the shower, Tiant was truly one of a kind. He was also, at his best, one heck of a pitcher.

Luis Tiant's best season during the 1960s came in 1968 when he was 21-9 and led the American League with a 1.60 ERA.

Luis Tiant’s best season during the 1960s came in 1968 when he was 21-9 and led the American League with a 1.60 ERA.

Tiant’s best years came in the 1970s, when he won 15 or more games each year for the Boston Red Sox from 1972 through 1976 (including a trio of 20-win seasons). But he also pitched consistently well for the Cleveland Indians in the 1960s, including one year (1968) when he recorded the lowest earned run average by an American League pitcher since 1919 (when Walter Johnson posted a 1.49 ERA for the Washington Senators).

The Indians purchased Tiant from the Mexico City Tigers in 1962. He won 36 games in two-plus seasons in the Indians’ farm system. In 1964, he was called up to the Tribe after going 15-1 for their AAA affiliate, Portland, striking out 154 batters in 137 innings. Debuting in the big leagues on July 19, 1964, he proved quickly that his performance at Portland was no fluke, going 10-4 for Cleveland the rest of that season with a 2.83 ERA.

The next three years Tiant went 35-31 with a 3.03 ERA, striking out an average of 8.2 batters per nine innings pitched. Had he played for better Cleveland teams, Tiant should have won more games. And when Cleveland had its best showing in the 1960s, finishing third in 1968, Tiant turned in an outstanding season. He went 21-9, leading the American League in shutouts (9) and ERA (1.60), allowing only 5.3 hits for every nine innings pitched. He was the starter (and loser) in a 1-0 All-Star Game, which turned out to be a fitting symbol for the “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968, as the game’s only run was unearned.

Cleveland’s strong showing in 1968 was followed by the team’s total collapse in 1969, finishing with the worst record in the American League. Likewise, Tiant’s numbers slid from his masterpiece season of 1968, as he went from 20-game winner to 20-game loser, finishing 9-20, though with a respectable 3.71 ERA. In 1969, Tiant led the American League in both walks allowed (129) and home runs allowed (37). Those 37 home runs are still a Cleveland team record, and the only Cleveland team record Tiant holds.

Following the 1969 season, Tiant was traded to the Minnesota Twins in the deal that brought Dean Chance and Graig Nettles to the Indians. He struggled in Minnesota, due partly to injuries, and was released by the Twins in 1971 (and by the Atlanta Braves that same year) prior to his resurrection in Boston.

During the 1960s, pitching for mostly lackluster Cleveland teams, Tiant won 75 games in six years with a fine 2.84 combined ERA. A three-time All-Star, he retired in 1982 after winning 229 games.

 

 

 

 

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Remember the Louisville Athletics?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(January 6, 1964) Frustrated with dwindling attendance in Kansas City, A’s owner Charles Finley today signed an agreement that would pave the way to move his team to Louisville.

A's owner Charles Finley wanted to move his franchise to Louisville, Kentucky. The other American League owners blocked that move.

A’s owner Charles Finley wanted to move his franchise to Louisville, Kentucky. The other American League owners blocked that move.

You don’t remember the Louisville Athletics? Or even the Kentucky Colonels (a name change Finley favored in order to keep the “KC” logo on the players’ ball caps)?

There’s a good reason for not remembering. It never happened. The A’s never played a single regular season game in Louisville, as the other American League owners blocked Finley’s attempt to move his franchise.

Of course, Finley’s attempts to transplant the A’s did nothing to endear him or his team to the Kansas City fans. Attendance continued to decline over the next four years, until Finley finally convinced the other American League owners that it was in everyone’s best interest for the A’s to find a new home.

In 1968, they found that home in their inaugural season in Oakland. One year later, Kansas City replaced the A’s with the expansion Royals.