Mantle Moves On

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 1, 1969) – New York Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle today announced his retirement from baseball.

Mantle played 18 years in the major leagues, all with the New York Yankees. He finished with a career batting average of .298. He won the American League batting title in 1956 with a .353 average. He also won the Triple Crown that season, hitting 52 home runs and driving in 130 runs.

Mantle was selected as the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1956, 1957 and 1962. He was named to the American League All-Star team 16 times, and won the Gold Glove in 1962.

At the time of his retirement, the fabled Yankee outfielder ranked third all-time in home runs with 536, trailing only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. He led the American League in home runs four times, and in runs scored five times.

Blass from the Past

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Steve Blass

The ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff in the late 1960s, Steve Blass had a career that exemplified the shooting star, both in the height of his achievements and in their brevity. He came, he won, he faded into history, leaving behind a legacy of clutch wins and at times breathtaking performances that demonstrated why, at his best, he was among the best pitchers of his era.

In 1971, Steve Blass had one of his best seasons, going 15-8 with a 2.49 ERA and a league-leading five shutouts. He also won two World Series games.

In 1971, Steve Blass had one of his best seasons, going 15-8 with a 2.49 ERA and a league-leading five shutouts. He also won two World Series games.

Blass was signed by the Pirates in 1960 and never played for any other organization. He advanced through the Pirates’ farm system, slowly but steadily, and was successful at each level. He made his debut with the Pirates in 1964, going 5-8 with a 4.04 ERA as a spot starter and long reliever. He returned to Columbus in the International League in 1965, going 13-11 with a 3.07 ERA, and returned to the Pirates to stay in 1966 with a 11-7 record and a 3.87 ERA.

By 1968, Blass was the ace of the Pirates pitching staff, going 18-6 and leading the National League with a .750 winning percentage. His 2.12 earned run average was fifth best in the league, (teammate Bob Veale‘s 2.05 was third in the league) and his seven shutouts were third in the league behind Bob Gibson (13) and Don Drysdale (8) and tied with Jerry Koosman.

Blass won 16 games in 1969 and 10 games in 1970. The he strung together his two best seasons in leading the Pirates to back-to-back Eastern Division titles. Blass went 15-8 with a 2.49 ERA in 1971, leading the league with five shutouts. He won both of his World Series starts against the Baltimore Orioles. Blass outdueled O’s ace Mike Cuellar 5-1 in Game Three, pitching a three-hitter and striking out eight Orioles batters. Blass returned in Game Seven to pitch a 2-1 gem, allowing only four hits in winning the Series clincher for the Pirates.

In 1972, Blass was even better. He went 19-8 with a 2.49 ERA, pitching a career-high 249.2 innings. He was named to the National League All-Star team. In the National League Championship Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Blass won the opener 5-1, then pitched seven strong innings in Game Five, allowing only two runs on four hits in a game the Reds would win in the bottom of the ninth.

At age 31, Blass already had 100 career victories, 78 in the previous five seasons. He should have been at the peak of his career, but instead it was nearly at its end. He won only three games for the Pirates in 1973, and never won a major league game after that. For no explicable reason, he suddenly became plagued with chronic wildness, and never fully recovered, even during a return to the minors in 1974. He retired after being released by the Pirates that same year.

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Feigner Fans ‘Em

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(February 18, 1967) He was one of the top strikeout pitchers of the 1960s … though he never pitched in the major leagues.

And on this day he put on a pitching exhibition that supported any claim that he was the best strikeout artist ever.

“The King” Eddie Feigner

“The King” Eddie Feigner

Eddie Feigner could pitch a softball (underhanded, of course) clocked at speeds up to 104 mph (though some claimed it was more like 114 mph). Feigner barnstormed America for more than 50 years with a four-player team known as “The King and His Court.”

Just prior to spring training in 1967, Feigner pitched an exhibition at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, striking out six consecutive major league hitters.

But not just any major league hitters. Feigner fanned (in order) Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Brooks RobinsonWillie McCoveyMaury Wills, and Harmon Killebrew. All six won the Most Valuable Player Award during the 1960s. All but Wills have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

If hitters of their stature couldn’t touch a fat Feigner-launched softball, how would they have fared against a baseball?

Speed Wizard

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jose Cardenal

Jose Cardenal built an 18-year major league career on speed: bat speed, speed in the outfield, and speed on the base paths. A line-drive hitter with an accurate throwing arm, Cardenal provided solid, consistent play for nine different major league teams.

Jose Cardenal’s best season came in 1972 when he 17 home runs with 70 RBIs for the Chicabo Cubs. He batted a combined .301 for the Cubs from 1972-1976.

Jose Cardenal’s best season came in 1972 when he 17 home runs with 70 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs. He batted a combined .301 for the Cubs from 1972-1976.

Cardenal was signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1960 and made his debut with the team at the end of the 1963 season. The Giants traded Cardenal to the California Angels in November 1964, and Cardenal became the Angels’ starting center fielder in 1965, hitting .250 with 37 stolen bases (second in the American League to his cousin, Bert Campaneris). He hit .276 for the Angels in 1966 with 16 home runs and 48 RBIs.

Injuries limited his productivity in 1967, and Cardenal was traded to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Chuck Hinton. He hit .257 for Cleveland in each of the next two seasons. His 40 stolen bases in 1968 were second highest in the American League (again to Campaneris). Then Cardenal was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Vada Pinson.

Jose Cardenal stole 40 bases for the Cleveland Indians in 1968, finishing second to league leader Bert Campaneris for the second time.

Jose Cardenal stole 40 bases for the Cleveland Indians in 1968, finishing second to league leader Bert Campaneris for the second time.

Cardenal split the next two seasons between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit .293 for St. Louis in 1970, and had a career high 80 RBIs in 1971. Prior to the 1972 season, Cardinal was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he stayed for six seasons, his longest tenure with any single team. He hit .291 for the Cubs in 1972 with 17 home runs (career high) and 70 RBIs. He hit .303 in 1973, .293 in 1974, and .317 in 1975, averaging 70 RBIs per season in his first four seasons with the Cubs.

From 1978 through 1980, Cardenal played for the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals. He retired in 1980 with 1,913 hits and a .275 career batting average.

Best Day of the Weak

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Rick Monday

Coming up with the American League’s perennial also-rans in Kansas City, Rick Monday quickly established himself as one of the best players in the Athletics’ line-up and one of the best all-around players in the league.

As a rookie with the Kansas City Athletics in 1967, Rick Monday batted .251 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs.

As a rookie with the Kansas City Athletics in 1967, Rick Monday batted .251 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs.

A native of Arkansas, Monday starred for the Arizona State Sun Devils, leading the team to the 1965 NCAA championship (while playing with future teammate and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson). Monday was the first overall selection in the inaugural Major League First-Year Player Draft in 1965, taken by the Kansas City Athletics. He appeared in 17 games for the A’s at the end of the 1966 season, and then batted .251 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs in his 1967 rookie campaign.

Monday was an All-Star in 1968, when he hit .274 for the now Oakland Athletics. He batted .271 in 1969, .290 in 1970 and slipped to .245 in 1971. In November of 1971, the A’s dealt Monday to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Ken Holtzman, and Monday was to become a mainstay in the Cubs’ outfield for the next five seasons, hitting a combined .270. His best season in Chicago was 1976, when he hit .272 and had career bests in home runs (32) and RBIs (77).

In 1977 Monday was traded with Mike Garman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jeff Albert (minors), Bill Buckner and Ivan De Jesus. He spent his last eight major league seasons with the Dodgers, hitting a combined .254 and providing the team’s best center field play since the departure of Willie Davis.

Rick Monday’s best season came with the Chicago Cubs in 1976. He hit 32 home runs, drove in 77 runs and scored 107 runs – all career highs.

Rick Monday’s best season came with the Chicago Cubs in 1976. He hit 32 home runs, drove in 77 runs and scored 107 runs – all career highs.

After so many years of consistently performing well for second-division teams, Monday finally tasted World Series success as a member of the Dodgers in 1981. He was primarily a utility player when he hit the deciding home run in the National League Championship Series. Monday drilled a two-out, ninth-inning homer that proved to be the difference in a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Expos, a victory that elevated the Dodgers to the World Series where they dispatched the New York Yankees in six games.

Monday lasted for 19 big league seasons, hitting a combined .264 with 1,619 hits over his career. He was twice an All-Star, once in each league.

Keepin’ ‘em Close

 

Oh, What a Relief: Johnny Klippstein

Right-hander Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams in an 18-year major league career.

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In 18 major league seasons, Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams. He won 101 games and saved 65. In 1960, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, he led the American League with 14 saves.

He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944 and drafted, in consecutive years, by the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Chicago Cubs. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1950, going 2-9 with a 5.50 ERA. In five seasons with the Cubs, Klippstein was 31-51 with a 4.79 ERA.

Klippstein was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1954 and won 12 games for the Reds in 1956. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958. He went 4-0 out of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 1959, and won a World Series game that year, only to be purchased by the Cleveland Indians just before the 1960 season. Klippstein was 5-5 for the Indians in 1960 with a 2.29 ERA. He led the American League in saves with 14.

Following the 1960 season, Klippstein was selected by the Washington Senators in the expansion draft. After a 2-2 season with the Senators, he was traded to the Reds again, and a year later was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Klippstein’s control and pitching savvy improved with age. At 35, he was 5-6 for the Phillies with a 1.93 ERA and eight saves. He was purchased by the Minnesota Twins after the start of the 1964 season, and had several outstanding seasons working out of the Twins’ bullpen. In 1965, he was 9-3 with five saves and a 2.24 ERA.

He retired after pitching in five games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, posting a career record of 101-118 and a 4.24 ERA. Klippstein appeared in 711 games.

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