Left Side Savvy

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering George Brunet

George Brunet was a journeyman southpaw who finally got his chance to start regularly with the California Angels in the mid-1960s. He was a consistently effective pitcher for struggling Angels teams, and his record as a starter for California reflected his team’s struggles more than his own abilities.

A low ERA didn’t translate into victories for George Brunet. Pitching for the California Angels from 1965-1968, Brunet was 46-60 with a combined 3.03 ERA.

A low ERA didn’t translate into victories for George Brunet. Pitching for the California Angels from 1965-1968, Brunet was 46-60 with a combined 3.03 ERA. Brunet led the American League with 17 losses in 1968 – despite a 2.86 ERA.

Prior to the 1955 season, Brunet was acquired by the Kansas City Athletics from Seminole in the Sooner State League. He made his major league debut with the A’s in 1956, appearing in only 10 games over the next two seasons. He was traded to the Milwaukee Braves in 1960, winning both decisions in only 17 appearances. He pitched in only 22 games for the Braves over two seasons, and then was dealt to the Houston Colt .45s, where he was 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 17 games, including 11 starts. In 1963 he moved from Houston to the Baltimore Orioles, where he was 0-1 in 16 relief appearances. From 1956 to 1963, playing for four different major league teams, Brunet had compiled a record of 4-11 in only 73 appearances.

His break came in 1964 when he was purchased by the Los Angeles Angels and was put into the Angels’ starting rotation, going 2-2 with a 3.61 ERA over the last six weeks of the 1964 season. He made 26 starts for the Angels in 1965, going 9-11 with a 2.56 ERA and three shutouts. He was 13-13 in 1966 with a 3.31 ERA, pitching eight complete games with a pair of shutouts.

When Dean Chance was traded to the Minnesota Twins prior to the 1967 season, Brunet took over as the team’s workhorse, pitching 250 innings in 37 starts. His record was 11-19, leading the American League in losses in 1967 despite a respectable 3.31 ERA. He followed in 1968 with a 13-17 record on a 2.86 ERA, with eight complete games and five shutouts.

During the 1969 season, Brunet’s contract was purchased by the Seattle Pilots, and he compiled a combined record of 8-12 with a 4.44 ERA. He split the 1970 season between the Washington Senators and the Pittsburgh Pirates, going 9-7 with a 4.21 ERA. In January of 1971, he was traded with Matty Alou to the St. Louis Cardinals for Nelson Briles and Vic Davalillo. He was released by St. Louis after seven appearances, and retired.

Brunet finished his 15-year career with a 69-93 rhttps://baseball1960s.leadpages.co/top-10-pitchers-chance/ecord and a 3.62 ERA.

Top_10_Pitchers_Cover

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

 

A Fox in the ‘Pen

 

Oh, What a Relief: Terry Fox

Terry Fox came to the Detroit Tigers in 1960 in a multi-player trade that sent Dick Brown, Bill Bruton and Chuck Cottier to Detroit in exchange for Frank Bolling and Neil Chrisley (named later) going to the Milwaukee Braves.

Terry Fox was third in the American League with 16 saves. He was 3-1 that season with a 1.71 ERA.

Terry Fox was third in the American League with 16 saves in 1962. He was 3-1 that season with a 1.71 ERA.

Fox turned out to be the “steal” in the deal. Over the next five seasons, he developed into a consistently effective reliever for the Tigers, a bullpen ace who posted winning records in each of those seasons and led the team in saves four out of those five years.

Fox was acquired by the Braves some time before 1956 and toiled in their farm system for four years before making his major league debut in 1959. He pitched in five games with no decisions and a 4.52 earned run average in his rookie season.

In 1960, his first season in Detroit, Fox went 5-2 in 39 appearances, with a 1.41 ERA and 12 saves. In 1962 he went 3-1 in 44 games, with 16 saves (third in the American League) and a 1.71 ERA.

In 1963, Fox led the Tigers in pitching appearances (46) and saves (11), while his 8-6 record made him fourth on the team in wins. In 1964, he became the “forgotten” man in the Tigers’ bullpen with only 32 appearances as Larry Sherry and Fred Gladding took over as the team’s closers. Fox went 4-3 with a 3.39 ERA and only five saves in 1964. He was 6-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 1965, again leading the team with 10 saves.

After making four appearances at the start of the 1966 season, Fox was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched for one season in Philadelphia, going 3-2 with a 4.47 ERA and four saves.

He retired after the 1966 season with a career record of 29-19 with a 2.99 career ERA. He appeared in 248 games in a 7-year major league career, closing 145 games with 59 saves.

Top_10_Tigers_Cover

 

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

Prince of Promise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Alex Johnson

Throughout most of his career, the incredible hitting instincts of Alex Johnson – and how easily and extensively those instincts could impress baseball people observing him – meant that he carried with him the baggage of potential that could never really be realized. When you watched the young Alex Johnson, it was not enough to be impressed simply with what he could do with a bat … which was impressive enough. Johnson’s skills made you wonder how good he could be – how good anyone could be. His potential was that great.

Alex Johnson was the American League batting champion in 1970, batting .329 for the California Angels.

Johnson was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1961. Over the next three years, he progressed steadily through the Phillies’ farm system, joining the parent club for 43 games at the end of the 1964 season. Johnson hit .303 in limited action, and he was slated to start the 1965 season in left field, platooning with Wes Covington. Johnson hit .294 in 1965, and was traded with Art Mahaffey and Pat Corrales to the St. Louis Cardinals for Dick Groat, Bill White and Bob Uecker.

A dreadful hitting drought to open the 1966 season sent Johnson back to the minors, where he hit .355 over the rest of that season. He spent the 1967 season platooning in right field with Roger Maris, and didn’t make an appearance in the 1967 World Series.

Despite his potential as a hitter, Johnson also brought with him serious liabilities in the field (three times he would lead his league’s outfielders in errors committed). He would also drive managers crazy with spells of concentration problems and a lack of consistent commitment to running out every batted ball with maximum effort. He could also be contentious and even nasty, with teammates in the clubhouse just as much as with the pitchers he faced.

Alex Johnson batted .288 in 13 major league seasons.

Alex Johnson batted .288 in 13 major league seasons.

It was Johnson’s hitting that kept him in the major leagues, and he was just beginning to realize his potential at the plate. The Cardinals traded Johnson to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Dick Simpson, and he responded to playing every day by hitting .312 for the Reds in 1968, the fourth highest batting average in the National League that season. Johnson hit .315 in 1969 with 17 home runs and 88 RBIs, and then was traded to the California Angels.

With the Angels in 1970, Johnson won the American league batting title with a .329 average. He also had 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 86 RBIs. But he would never reach quite that level again, his average slipping to .260 in 1971. He was traded with Jerry Moses to the Cleveland Indians for Frank Baker, Alan Foster and Vada Pinson. He hit .239 for Cleveland in 1972, and was dealt to the Texas Rangers. He hit .287 for Texas in 1973 and hit .287 again in a 1974 season split between the Rangers and the New York Yankees. He hit .261 for the Yankees in 1975, and then hit .268 for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, his last season in the major leagues.

Johnson played 13 seasons for eight different major league clubs. He ended his career with 1,331 hits and a .288 batting average. He was a member of the American League All-Star team in 1970.

top_ten_cardinals_cover

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

Base Sweeper

 

Homer Happy: Don Mincher

When the Minnesota Twins of the early 1960s were loaded with slugging bats, the unsung slugger in the Twins lineup belonged to a left-handed-hitting outfielder and first baseman named Don Mincher. In seven seasons with the Twins, Mincher had more than 400 at-bats only once, yet averaged 19 home runs and 56 RBIs per season from 1963 through 1966.

Don Mincher was part of the devastating lineup that propelled the Minnesota Twins to the American League pennant in 1965. Mincher batted .251 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Don Mincher was part of the devastating lineup that propelled the Minnesota Twins to the American League pennant in 1965. Mincher batted .251 with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs.

Mincher was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1956. Just before the start of the 1960 season, he was traded with Earl Battey to the Washington Senators for first baseman Roy Sievers. He made his major league debut with the Senators in 1960, appearing in 27 games with two home runs and five RBIs.

He split the 1961 season between the Minnesota Twins and their AAA affiliate in Buffalo, hitting 24 home runs in Buffalo and five homers in 35 games for the Twins. He appeared in 86 games for the Twins in 1962, hitting nine home runs with 29 RBIs. In 1963, appearing in only 82 games (half the Twins’ schedule), Mincher still managed to club 17 home runs with 42 RBIs … heavy numbers for a half season of production.

During the Twins’ pennant-winning 1965 season, Mincher combined with Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Tony Oliva, Jimmie Hall and American League MVP Zoilo Versalles for one of the most dangerous slugging lineups of the 1960s. Mincher contributed 22 home runs and 65 runs batted in from only 346 at-bats.

Don Mincher’s best season came with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. He led the team with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

Don Mincher’s best season came with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. He led the team with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

Following the 1966 seasons, the Twins traded Mincher and Hall to the California Angels in the deal that brought pitcher Dean Chance to Minnesota. Mincher got 487 at-bats as the Angels’ everyday first baseman, and responded by batting .273 with 25 home runs and 76 RBIs. After a “down” year in 1968 (shared by most batters in the American League that season), Mincher was the second pick in the 1968 expansion draft, being the first player selected by the Seattle Pilots. Mincher had one of his best seasons for the Pilots, hitting .246 with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

In January of 1970, Mincher was traded again, with Ron Clark, to the Oakland Athletics for Mike Hershberger, Lew Krausse, Phil Roof and Ken Sanders. He hit .246 for the A’s in 1970 with 27 home runs and 74 RBIs, and the next spring was dealt to the Washington Senators in a swap that brought Mike Epstein and Darold Knowles to Oakland. He batted .280 combined for Oakland and Washington in 1971, with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs. He split the 1972 season, his last as a player, between the Texas Rangers and Oakland, hitting six home runs with 44 RBIs.

Over his 13-season career, Mincher batted .249 with 200 home runs and 643 RBIs. He was a member of the American League All-Star team twice, in 1967 and in 1969.

Top_10_Twins_CoverJPG

 

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

Comiskey Comet

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Floyd Robinson

Fleet Floyd Robinson was a fixture in the Chicago White Sox outfield in the early 1960s. A solid hitter and sure-handed outfielder, Robinson was the offensive lynchpin for a White Sox team that, from 1963 to 1965, was the second-best American League team … to the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins.

From 1961-1964, Floyd Robinson batted a combined .301 for the White Sox. He hit .312 in 1962, with a career-best 109 RBIs and led the American League with 45 doubles that season.

From 1961-1964, Floyd Robinson batted a combined .301 for the White Sox. He hit .312 in 1962, with a career-best 109 RBIs and led the American League with 45 doubles that season.

Robinson played semi-pro and minor league baseball from 1954 through 1957 when his team at the time, San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, became the AAA affiliate of first the Cleveland Indians and then the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox brought Robinson up for the last month of the 1960 season and he remained a starting outfielder for Chicago for seven seasons. He hit .310 in his rookie campaign of 1961, finishing third in balloting for the Rookie-of-the-Year award behind Don Schwall and Dick Howser.

Robinson hit .312 in 1962, with 11 home runs, 10 triples and 109 RBIs. He led the American League with 45 doubles. His batting average slipped to .283 in 1963, but he rebounded to hit .301 in 1964.

In both of those seasons, the White Sox finished second to the Yankees. Those White Sox teams were known for excellent pitching that carried a suspect offensive lineup. Robinson’s bat was critical to that lineup, and when his hitting productivity started to decline in 1965 (.265 batting average with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs), his days in Chicago became numbered. He hit .237 in 1966 and was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for left-handed pitcher Jim O’Toole.

Robinson never regained the hitting magic from earlier in his career. He hit only .238 for the Reds in 1967 and hit for a combined .219 for the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox in 1968. He retired following the 1968 season with a career batting average of .283.

McLain Fans 14 … in Relief

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(June 15, 1965) – Denny McLain today set a single-game record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher as the Detroit Tigers scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to edge the Boston Red Sox 6-5.

Denny McLain shut down the Boston Red Sox first-inning rally by striking out the two batters he faced … and the next five he would face.

Denny McLain shut down the Boston Red Sox first-inning rally by striking out the two batters he faced … and the next five he would face.

McLain struck out 14 batters in 6.2 innings of relief work. He also struck out the first seven batters he faced, setting a major league record.

The Red Sox scored three runs in the first inning off Tigers starter Dave Wickersham. Wickersham lasted only one-third of an inning before giving way to McLain, who proceeded to strike out Eddie Bressoud and Bob Tillman to end the inning.

McLain fanned the Red Sox in order in the second inning, and then struck out Carl Yastrzemski and Felix Mantilla in the third inning before retiring Lee Thomas on a ground out.

Willie Horton’s 14th home run in the bottom of the eighth inning – a three-run blast – capped the Tigers’ 6-5 comeback victory over the Boston Red Sox.

McLain allowed a pair of runs in the fifth inning, which put the Red Sox ahead of the Tigers by a score of 5-2. The Tigers scored four runs in the eighth on Gates Brown’s RBI single and Willie Horton’s three-run home run off Red Sox reliever Dick Radatz (4-4). Fred Gladding (2-1) pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings for the Tigers and picked up the victory. Gladding allowed no hits and struck out four batters.

The 21-year-old McLain would finish the 1965 season at 16-6 with a 2.61 ERA. He struck out 192 batters in 220.1 innings pitched.

 

Top_10_Pitchers_Cover

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

Invest in Utility

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Cesar Tovar

Cesar was a multi-talented, multi-purpose ballplayer who could play any position in the field – and in one game, did everything a fielder could do.

cesar_Tovar_TWINSPICPACK_69

As the Minnesota Twins starting center fielder in 1971, Cesar Tovar batted .311 and led the American League with 204 hits.

With the bat, Tovar did one thing: make contact. Tovar was no slugger, but he was a contact hitter who batted .278 over a 12-season major league career and twice hit better than .300.

A native of Venezuela, Tovar was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs as a teenager in 1959. He toiled in the Reds’ farm system for five years, advancing steadily but ultimately was blocked from starring in Cincinnati by players like Pete Rose at second and Vada Pinson in centerfield.

Tovar’s break came in December of 1964 when the Reds traded the outfielder/infielder to the Minnesota Twins for left-handed pitcher Gerry Arrigo. Tovar hit .328 for the Twins’ AAA team in Denver in 1965, and by 1966 he was the Twins’ starting center fielder, hitting .260 in his rookie season with Minnesota. In 1967, Tovar set an American League record by appearing in 164 games.

On September 22, 1968, Tovar became the second major league player (after the Athletics’ Bert Campaneris) to assume all nine field positions in a single game. Facing the A’s, Tovar was the game’s starter and threw a scoreless first inning, striking out Reggie Jackson.

Tovar raised his batting average in successive seasons with the Twins, hitting .267 in 1967, .272 in 1968, .288 in 1969, .300 in 1970 and .311 in 1971. He led the league in doubles and triples in 1970, when he scored a career-best 120 runs. Tovar led the league with 204 hits in 1971.

Tovar’s batting average slipped to .265 in 1972, and after eight seasons in Minnesota, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies. After one season in Philadelphia (hitting .268), Tovar spent the next three seasons with Texas, Oakland and the New York Yankees. He retired after the 1976 season.

In 12 major league seasons, Tovar collected 1,546 hits with a .278 career batting average. He also stole 226 bases, averaging 37 steals per season from 1968-1970.

Top_10_Twins_CoverJPG

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

Just Wild About that Fastball

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Sparma

A hard-throwing right-handed hurler, Joe Sparma came to the major league with great pitching tools and great expectations. He also had a personality that tended to defy authority, and a fastball that tended to defy the strike zone. That combination led to some dazzling performances, and a major league pitching career whose longevity fell short of its potential.

Joe Sparma was 16-9 with the Detroit Tigers in 1967.

Joe Sparma was 16-9 with the Detroit Tigers in 1967.

An Ohio native, Sparma played quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1961 and 1962. He was a passing quarterback on a Woody Hayes team that preferred the run to the pass, and after two seasons he signed with the Detroit Tigers.

In the minors, Sparma was known for strikeouts and walks … a high ratio for both for every nine innings pitched. He continued that trend when he reached the major leagues in 1964, going 5-6 with a 3.00 ERA in 21 appearances. In 84 innings, Sparma struck out 71 batters and walked 45. In 1965, as a member of the Tigers’ starting rotation, Sparma went 13-8 with a 3.18 ERA.

A spring training injury to his index finger derailed Sparma’s 1966 season, which he finished at 2-7 with a 5.30 ERA. He bounced back in 1967 with his best season, going 16-9 with a 3.76 earned run average. He also posted career highs in games started (37), complete games (11), shutouts (5), innings pitched (217.2) and strikeouts (153).

Joe Sparma attended The Ohio State University and was the football team’s starting quarterback in 1961-1962. He signed with the Tigers in 1963.

Joe Sparma attended The Ohio State University and was the football team’s starting quarterback in 1961-1962. He signed with the Tigers in 1963.

But Sparma ran into personal problems with Tigers manager Mayo Smith, who continued using the right-hander less and less. Plus Sparma’s wildness, once seemingly under control, had re-emerged with a vengeance and was seriously limiting his effectiveness as a pitcher. Sparma went 10-10 with the Tigers in 1968 and was only 6-8 (in 23 appearances) in 1969. He was traded to the Montreal Expos following the 1969 season, and went 0-4 in six starts with Montreal before being sent down to the minors. He never pitched in the major leagues again, and retired from baseball at age 29.

In seven major league seasons, Sparma posted a 52-52 record with a 3.94 career ERA.

 

Top_10_Tigers_Cover

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download