Hero to the Hapless

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jack Fisher

Right-hander Jack Fisher was 86-139 during an 11-year major league career. He played for five different teams, and pitched his best for baseball’s worst team ever, the New York Mets of the early 1960s.

Jack Fisher was part of the young pitching staff that propelled the Baltimore Orioles to pennant contention in the early 1960s. As a starter-reliever for the Orioles in 1960, Fisher was 12-11 with a 3.41 ERA … the last winning season of his career.

Jack Fisher was part of the young pitching staff that propelled the Baltimore Orioles to pennant contention in the early 1960s. As a starter-reliever for the Orioles in 1960, Fisher was 12-11 with a 3.41 ERA … the last winning season of his career.

Nicknamed “Fat Jack” by Hall of Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm, Fisher was a large man who could throw hard and could pile up quality innings, a strength that made him more valuable than his won-lost record alone. Fisher was a good enough pitcher to be in the position to lose a lot of games. The teams he pitched for were bad enough to hang losses on him despite his talent and competitive grit.

Fisher signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 1957 and made his major league debut at age 20 in 1959, going 1-6 for the Orioles. Fisher won 12 games for the Orioles in 1960 and 10 in 1961. Because he threw hard, Fisher was susceptible to giving up home runs, and he gave up two of the most famous home runs of the early 1960s. He was on the mound in Boston for Ted Williams’ last at-bat in 1960, serving up the home run pitch that launched the Splendid Splinter into retirement. A year later, it was a Fisher pitch that Roger Maris sent into the seats for home run number 60, tying Babe Ruth’s single-season record.

Jack Fisher struggled through four seasons with the New York Mets, compiling a record of 38-73 with a combined 4.12 ERA.

Jack Fisher struggled through four seasons with the New York Mets, compiling a record of 38-73 with a combined 4.12 ERA.

Following a 7-9 1962 season, Fisher was traded to the San Francisco Giants in the deal that brought Mike McCormick and Stu Miller to Baltimore. After going 6-10 for the Giants in 1963, he was drafted by the New York Mets and was a starter for those woeful Mets teams over the next four seasons, going a combined 38-73. He led all National League pitchers in losses in 1965 (8-24) and 1967 (9-18).

The Mets dealt Fisher to the Chicago White Sox in December of 1967 in a six-player deal that brought Tommie Agee and Al Weis to New York. Fisher spent one season each with the White Sox (8-13 with a 2.99 ERA in 1968) and with the Cincinnati Reds (4-4 in 1969) before retiring. His career earned run average of 4.06 would have made him a winner with a lot of teams, but not with the Mets and White Sox of the 1960s.

Jack Fisher gave up two of the most famous home runs of the early 1960s: Ted Williams’ “farewell” home run in 1960, and Roger Maris’ 60th in 1961.

Jack Fisher gave up two of the most famous home runs of the early 1960s: Ted Williams’ “farewell” home run in 1960, and Roger Maris’ 60th in 1961.

 

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One HR Down, 60 To Go

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 16, 1961) Mickey Mantle’s tenth-inning home run – a two-run shot off Hank Aguirre (0-1) – propelled the New York Yankees to victory today over the Detroit Tigers in a 13-11 slugfest.

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Mickey Mantle was the hitting star of the day, with two home runs and four RBIs.

Mantle’s game-winning home run was his second of the day and seventh of the season. Mantle drove in four runs to give him 15 RBIs on the young season.

The winning pitcher for the Yankees was Luis Arroyo (1-0). Arroyo pitched the final two innings for the victory, shutting out the Tigers and striking out three.

Two Detroit players – Norm Cash and Chico Fernandez – each had three RBIs for the Tigers. Rocky Colavito hit his third home run of the season in the second inning off Yankee starter Whitey Ford.

Two Yankee batters hit their first home runs of the 1961 season. Shortstop Tony Kubek hit a solo home run off Detroit starter Don Mossi in the second inning. In the fifth inning, Yankee right fielder Roger Maris hit his first home run of the season off Paul Foytack.

The reigning American League MVP, Roger Maris finally got his first home run of the 1961 season in the eleventh game. He would hit a lot more (and repeat as MVP).

The reigning American League MVP, Roger Maris finally got his first home run of the 1961 season in the eleventh game. He would hit a lot more (and repeat as MVP).

Maris had struggled at the plate during the Yankees first 10 games of the season. He came into this game batting only .161 with no home runs and only one run batted in. His bat would warm up with the weather, hitting 11 home runs in May and 15 in June on his way to a record 61 by season’s end, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s single-season record.

Jump on the Bando Wagon

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Sal Bando

Sal Bando was a solid all-around ballplayer and one of the best American League third basemen of the 1970s. He was an integral part of the competitive resurrection of the Athletics’ franchise in the late 1960s and that team’s three-peat dominance in the early 1970s.

Sal Bando's best season with the A's came in 1969, when he batted .281 with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Sal Bando’s best season with the A’s came in 1969, when he batted .281 with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Bando was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in the sixth round of the 1965 amateur draft. He made his token debut with the club at the end of the 1966 season, and made the KC roster to stay in the second half of 1967. By 1968, the Athletics were in Oakland, and Bando was entrenched at the hot corner, replacing long-time A’s third baseman Ed Charles. In his first full season with the A’s, Bando batted .251 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs.

Bando’s breakout season came in 1969. He batted .281 with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs. He was named to the American League All-Star team that season, and finished sixteenth in the MVP voting.

From 1970 through 1976, Bando peaked as the A’s did. He averaged 22 home runs and 87 RBIs during those seasons, with his best offensive performance coming in 1973, when he hit .287 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs, leading the league with 32 doubles and 295 total bases. He was named to the American League All-Star team three times during that period, and three times finished in the top five for the MVP balloting.

After 11 years with the Athletics, Bando signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976. He played for five years in Milwaukee, averaging 10 home runs and 49 RBIs per season. He retired after the 1981 season.

Leaving Nothing to Chance

 

Career Year: Dean Chance – 1964

In 1964, the closest thing to a sure thing in baseball was that any game with Dean Chance on the pitching mound had a better-than-good chance of ending up in a shutout.

Chance threw 11 shutouts in 1964 in 35 starts. In eight other starts, he allowed only one run.

Dean Chance won the Cy Young Award in 1964 with a 20-9 record and a 1.65 ERA.

Dean Chance won the Cy Young Award in 1964 with a 20-9 record and a 1.65 ERA.

At age 23, Chance not only had a career year. He had the kind of year that baseball had rarely seen since the Dead Ball Era.

Chance was signed out of high school in 1959 by the Baltimore Orioles. He spent two seasons in the Orioles’ farm system, winning 22 games … with no shutouts. Drafted by the expansion Washington Senators in 1960 and traded to the Los Angeles Angels in the same day, Chance spent one more season in the minors before posting a 14-10 record as a rookie in 1962. He was 13-18 in 1963 for a ninth-place Angels team.

Chance opened the 1964 season as a starter, but was called on just as often out of the bullpen. He was 1-0 with two saves at the end of April, and 3-2 with four saves by the end of May. He also recorded his first shutout in May, a 3-0 three-hitter versus the New York Yankees.

He made seven starts in June, winning two of them, both with shutouts. He pitched a two-hit shutout against the Boston Red Sox on June 2, striking out 15 batters. Three days later, Chance struck out 12 Yankees in a 2-0 loss. He shut out the Yankees over 13 innings, losing in the fourteenth.

Dean Chance led the major leagues with a 1.65 ERA in 1964. His 20-9 record that season included 11 shutouts.

Dean Chance led the major leagues with a 1.65 ERA in 1964. His 20-9 record that season included 11 shutouts.

Chance was 5-1 in July, pitching three more shutouts and winning one game in relief. He was 6-1 in August with four complete games, two of them shutouts. In the season’s last month, Chance was 4-3 in eight starts with three more shutouts, giving him 11 whitewashes on a 20-9 season. He tied for the American League lead in victories (with Chicago’s Gary Peters), and his 1.65 ERA was the best in baseball.

Chance also led the league with 15 complete games and 278.1 innings pitched. He allowed only seven home runs over the entire season, and gave up only 6.3 hits per every nine innings pitched. American League batters hit only .195 against him.

Dean Chance’s sterling performance in 1964 earned him the Cy Young Award. He finished fifth in the voting for Most Valuable Player.

 

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Learning to Trust the Knuckler

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Wilbur Wood

Hall of Fame reliever Hoyt Wilhelm was not only the master of the knuckleball, but also its greatest evangelist. His promoting the pitch to bullpen teammates inspired at least two successful careers: one was the career of reliever Eddie Fisher, the other was the career of reliever-turned-starter Wilbur Wood.

Wilbur Wood had two successful major league careers – one as a reliever, the other as a starter. As a relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, Wood led the American League in appearances from 1968-1970, averaging 11 victories and 17 saves per season.

Wilbur Wood had two successful major league careers – one as a reliever, the other as a starter. As a relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, Wood led the American League in appearances from 1968-1970, averaging 11 victories and 17 saves per season.

Wood’s career was going nowhere when Wilhelm advised him to rely on his knuckleball and not simply treat it as an occasional trick pitch. Wood was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1960 and pitched in the Bosox’s minor league system for five years with only occasional stops in Beantown.

He was purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates in September of 1964 and finally won his first major league decision in 1965. He spent the 1966 season at the Pirates AAA affiliate in Columbus, going 15-8 before being traded to the Chicago White Sox for Juan Pizarro.

It was a trade that would change Wood’s career. He met Wilhelm, and listened.

He went 4-2 for the White Sox in 1967 with a 2.42 ERA. That was four times as many major league games as he had previously won in his career. In 1968 he set a major league record by appearing in 88 games, going 13-12 with a 1.87 ERA and 16 saves. In 1969 he made 76 appearances – all in relief – and went 10-11 with 15 saves. In 1970, his 77 relief appearances and 2.81 ERA produced a 9-13 record with 21 saves.

Then Wood made the last major transition of his career. He moved to the starting rotation, where the low physical stress of throwing the knuckleball allowed Wood to pitch more innings than any other starter in baseball – in fact more innings than any major league starter since the “Dead Ball” era prior to 1920. Wood went 22-13 in 1971 with a 1.91 ERA over 334 innings pitched. He averaged 21-16 with 45 starts and 348 innings per season from 1971 to 1975. And his earned run average over that period was 3.08.

As a starter, Wilbur Wood’s best season came in 1971, when he was 22-13 with a 1.91 ERA for the White Sox. He then won 24 games in each of the next two seasons.

As a starter, Wilbur Wood’s best season came in 1971, when he was 22-13 with a 1.91 ERA for the White Sox. He then won 24 games in each of the next two seasons.

 

Injury finally slowed Wood down, but it wasn’t his arm that gave out. In May of 1976, Tigers center fielder Ron LeFlore hit a vicious line drive back at Wood, shattering his knee cap. He made a valiant effort to come back, but was never the same pitcher, going 17-18 over his final two seasons and retiring after the 1978 campaign.

Wood finished with a career record of 164-156 and a 3.24 ERA. He was an All-Star selection three times.

 

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One Sweet Moose

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Moose

A Pennsylvania native, Bob Moose grew up with the dream of one day pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates. For Moose it was a dream come true, as he eventually found success both as a starter and reliever for the Pirates, the only team he played for in a 10-year major league career.

Bob Moose pitched effectively as a starter or reliever. He threw a no-hitter against the New York Mets in 1969.

Bob Moose pitched effectively as a starter or reliever. He threw a no-hitter against the New York Mets in 1969.

Moose was a sandlot legend, a strikeout specialist from Little League through high school, when he was signed by the Pirates in 1965. He made his major league debut at the end of the 1967 season, pitching a complete game for his first big league win that season.

In 1968, as a starter and reliever for the Pirates, Moose went 8-12 with a 2.74 ERA and three shutouts. His best season came in 1969, when he went 14-3 with a 2.91 ERA. His .834 winning percentage was the highest in the major leagues that year. He also pitched a no-hitter against the New York Mets.

Moose won 11 games for the Pirates in each of the next two seasons, and appeared in three games in the 1971 World Series with no decisions. In 1972, as a member of the Pirates’ starting rotation, Moose won 13 games with a 2.91 ERA, pitching a career-high 226 innings. He won 12 games in 1973.

Bob Moose averaged 12 wins per season for the Pirates from 1969-1973.

Bob Moose averaged 12 wins per season for the Pirates from 1969-1973.

In 1974 Moose experienced arm problems for the first time in his career. The cause turned out to be a blood clot that required season-ending surgery and considerable rehabilitation to rebuild his arm strength. Moose appeared in only 23 games in 1975, going 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA. He came back in 1976 as the Pirates’ closer, appearing in 53 games with 10 saves, and now 29, he appeared ready to take on the closer’s role full-time going into the 1977 season. But Moose never had the opportunity. He was killed in an automobile accident on the way to participating in a charity golf tournament.

Moose finished his career with a 76-71 record and a 3.50 ERA.

 

 

 

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Indians Trade Power for Pitching

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(April 2, 1962) The Cleveland Indians announced today that the team had acquired veteran right-handed pitcher Pedro Ramos in a trade with the Minnesota Twins.

Pedro Ramos averaged 19 losses per season from 1958-1961. He led the American League in losses each of those four seasons.

Pedro Ramos averaged 19 losses per season from 1958-1961. He led the American League in losses each of those four seasons.

In exchange for Ramos, the Twins received left-handed pitcher Dick Stigman and first baseman Vic Power, acknowledged by many to be the best defensive first baseman ever.

Ramos was signed by the Washington Senators in 1953 and made his major league debut with the team in 1955. In seven seasons with that organization (the last year in Minnesota), Ramos recorded only a single winning season (12-10 in 1956). From 1958 through 1961, he led the American League in losses, with a record of 11-20 in 1961.

Vic Power won three Gold Gloves with the Cleveland Indians before being traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1962. He won four more Gold Gloves after the trade, and was generally considered the league’s most spectacular first baseman in the in the first half of the 1960s.

To acquire the league’s losingest pitcher, the Indians parted with the league’s best first base glove … maybe of all time. Power won his third consecutive Gold Glove in 1961. He would collect seven in all during his career, as well as leading American league first basemen in assists six times.

A career .292 hitter going into the 1961 season, his average dropped to .268 in 1961. With the Twins in 1962, Power’s batting average would rebound to .290 and he would be voted the team’s Most Valuable Player.

Dick Stigman was 7-16 in his two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He was 27-20 in his first two seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Dick Stigman was 7-16 in his two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He was 27-20 in his first two seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Stigman moved into the Twins’ starting rotation, winning 12 games for Minnesota in 1962 (while leading the American League with a .706 won-loss percentage).

 

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