A Paige of History

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 25, 1965) The Boston Red Sox tonight defeated the Kansas City Athletics 5-2 on the slugging of first baseman Lee Thomas and outfielder Tony Conigliaro.

What made this game memorable was the debut of the Athletics’ new pitcher … who was also the oldest player on the field.

25 Sep 1965, Kansas City, Missouri, USA --- Satchel Paige Pitching for Kansas City Athletics --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

At age 59, Satchel Paige was the starting pitcher for the Kansas City Athletics on September 25, 1965. He pitched three scoreless innings, but didn’t figure in the decision.

The A’s starter was none other than the legendary Satchel Paige, making his first major league appearance in more than a dozen years. At age 59, Paige was the oldest player ever at the major league level. And tonight he pitched as if he still belonged. In three innings, Paige faced 10 batters and retired all but one, allowing a first-inning double to Carl Yastrzemski. Paige registered one strikeout, fanning Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette in the third inning.

Monbouquette (10-18) was the game’s winner with a seven-hit complete game.

The Red Sox got Monbouquette all the runs he would need on two-run homers by Thomas (his twenty-first) and Conigliaro (his thirty-first). The Red Sox scored another run in the eighth inning on a John Wyatt wild pitch.

Kansas City scored its runs on RBI singles by Bill Bryan and Dick Green. The losing pitcher was Don Mossi (5-7).

Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 after a professional career that spanned 29 seasons over five decades.

Smooth Operator

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Roy McMillan

For nearly the entire 1950s, Roy McMillan was the everyday shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, and one of the best-fielding shortstops in all of organized baseball during his prime.

McMillan was signed by the Reds in 1947 and made his way to the big league roster in 1951, hitting .211 in 81 games that season. He hit .244 as the Reds’ starting shortstop in 1952, and held that position in the Reds’ infield through the 1960 season.

Roy McMillan --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Shortstop Roy McMillan was an All-Star in 1956 and 1957. He won three consecutive Gold Gloves in the 1950s.

McMillan was named to the National League All-Star team in 1956, when he hit .263 for the season with a career-high 62 RBIs. He followed up with another All-Star season in 1957, batting .272 with 25 doubles and 55 RBIs. He also won the first of three consecutive Gold Gloves in 1957.

In 10 seasons with the Reds, McMillan hit a combined .243. Following the 1960 season, the Reds traded the 30-year-old shortstop to the Milwaukee Braves for pitchers Joey Jay and Juan Pizarro. In three-plus seasons with the Braves, McMillan batted .237.

After 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Roy McMillan spent the 1960s playing first for the Milwaukee Braves and then the New York Mets.

After 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Roy McMillan spent the 1960s playing first for the Milwaukee Braves and then the New York Mets.

In May of 1964, the Braves dealt McMillan to the New York Mets for pitcher Jay Hook. He batted .242 for the Mets in 1965 with 19 doubles and 42 RBIs as the team’s starting shortstop. He lasted one more season with the Mets, batting .214 in 1966, and retired after the end of the season.

In 16 years in the major leagues, McMillan batted .243 with 1,639 hits.

L.A.’s Other Southpaw Ace

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Claude Osteen

For nearly a decade, Claude Osteen was the best left-handed starting pitcher on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ staff, once a guy named Sandy Koufax had retired. He was a workhorse who averaged 261 innings pitched per season from 1963 to 1973. During that period, he pitched 121 complete games in 400 starts, with 36 shutouts and a combined earned run average of 3.13.

Claude Osteen was signed out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in 1957. He made three token appearances with the Reds in 1958, and then progressed spectacularly through the Reds’ farm system, winning 19 games in 1956 and eight in 1959 before being called up to Cincinnati. He did more sitting than pitching in 1960, and was returned to the minors in 1961, where he won 16 games before being traded to the Washington Senators.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

In Washington, Osteen finally got the chance to pitch regularly. In fact, in 1962, his first season with the Senators, his 150.1 innings pitched were more than he pitched in five previous seasons with the Reds. Osteen was 8-13 with a 3.65 ERA in 1962 for the American League’s worst team.

He quickly established himself as the ace of the Senators’ staff, going 9-14 with a 3.35 ERA in 1963 and 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA in 1964. He pitched 257.0 innings that season with 13 complete games in 36 starts, all for a team that finished the season at 62-100.

Over the winter, Osteen was involved in a blockbuster deal that sent him and infielder John Kennedy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Frank Howard, Ken McMullen, Phil Ortega, Dick Nen and Pete Richert. In his first season with the Dodgers, Osteen went 15-15 with a 2.79 ERA.  He was 1-1 in his two World Series starts with a 0.64 ERA.

Osteen flourished as the Dodgers’ number three starter behind Koufax and Don Drysdale. He followed up in 1966 with a 17-14 season on a 2.85 ERA. His only World Series appearance in 1966 – and the last of his career – was a three-hit, 1-0 loss to Wally Bunker and the Baltimore Orioles.

In nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Claude Osteen won 147 games with a 3.09 ERA. He pitched an average of 266 innings per season with the Dodgers.

When Koufax retired after the 1966 season, Osteen stepped up as the Dodgers’ ace left-hander. He won 17 games in 1967 and then went 12-18 (tied with Ray Sadecki for the league high in losses) on a 3.08 ERA. He bounced back to win 20 games in 1969, pitching 16 complete games and 321.0 innings with a 2.66 ERA. He also threw seven shutouts.

Osteen pitched four more seasons with the Dodgers, winning 66 games. His best season was 1972, when he went 20-11 with a 2.64 ERA and 14 complete games. After a 16-11 campaign in 1973, he was traded to the Houston Astros for outfielder Jim Wynn. He was 9-9 for Houston before being traded near the end of the 1974 season to the St. Louis Cardinals. He signed with the Chicago White Sox at the beginning of the 1975 season, and went 7-16 for Chicago and then retired.

In 18 major league seasons, Osteen compiled a 196-195 record with a 3.30 ERA. He was an All-Star three times.

Yankee Super Sub

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering John Blanchard

It was John Blanchard’s misfortune to play for some of the best New York Yankees teams of all time, in positions stocked with MVPs and Hall of Famers. As a catcher, he played back-up to HOFer Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, who collected four MVP awards between them. As an outfielder, he was competing with HOFer Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (five MVPs between them) as well as Tom Tresh and Berra.

John Blanchard’s best season came in 1961, when he batted .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

John Blanchard’s best season came in 1961, when he batted .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Never a strong defensive player, in the outfield or behind the plate, what Blanchard could do was hit with power. Given enough at-bats, he fully demonstrated his hitting ability, especially as a pinch hitter, and especially in clutch situations. He was an integral part of the Yankees’ success in the early 1960s, even with limited playing time.

Blanchard was signed by the Yankees in 1951 and had an outstanding season for Joplin in 1952, hitting .301 with 30 home runs and 31 doubles. He spent the next two years in military service and made his first appearance in a Yankees uniform in 1955. From 1956 through 1958, he hit well in the Yankees’ farm system, and was promoted to the big league club for good in 1959.

He spent more time sitting than playing in New York, never appearing in more than 93 games in any single season. He hit .242 in 99 at-bats in 1960, with four homers and 14 RBIs. He got more playing time and more at-bats in 1961, responding with the best season of his career: a .305 batting average with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs. Four of his homers came as a pinch hitter. That season the Yankees set a major league record with 240 team home runs, and six different players hit 20 or more round-trippers. During the 1961 World Series, Blanchard appeared in four games, hitting .400 with a double, two home runs and three RBIs.

In 1962, Blanchard’s batting average slipped to .232 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs. He hit 16 homers with 45 RBIs in 1963, but his role was delegated more and more to pinch hitting, at which he was always a threat. In 1964 he produced seven home runs and 28 RBIs in only 161 at-bats.

In May of 1965 the Yankees traded Blanchard with pitcher Rollie Sheldon to the Kansas City Athletics for catcher Doc Edwards. Blanchard appeared in only 52 games for the A’s before being sold to the Milwaukee Braves in September. He retired after the 1965 season.

In eight big league seasons, Blanchard hit .239 with 67 home runs and 200 RBIs. Blanchard appeared in five World Series with the Yankees, hitting a combined .345. He holds the major league record with 10 World Series pinch-hit at-bats.

Warren and Christy … Together at Last

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 8, 1963) Pitching a nine-hit complete game, Warren Spahn raised his season record to 20-5 as the Milwaukee Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.

It was the thirteenth time in his career that Spahn won 20 or more games. That tied him with Christy Mathewson for the most 20-vistory seasons in the major leagues.

The 1963 season was the thirteenth 20-victory season in the career of Warren Spahn. It was the seventh straight season when Spahn led the National League in complete games.

The 1963 season was the thirteenth 20-victory season in the career of Warren Spahn. It was the seventh straight season when Spahn led the National League in complete games.

For the 42-year-old Spahn, it was his nineteenth complete game of the 1963 season. He would finish the season with 22 complete games, the most in the majors. Spahn recorded no strikeouts or walks during the game.

The Braves scored in the first inning when lead-off batter Lee Maye singled and advanced to second on an error by Phillies starter Dallas Green. Frank Bolling sacrificed Maye to third, and Maye scored on Hank Aaron’s groundout to Phillies second baseman Tony Taylor. It was Aaron’s 117th RBI of the season.

The Braves’ lead held up as Spahn pitched a shutout through six innings. Tony Gonzalez led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a triple and scored on a Roy Sievers sacrifice fly.

In the eighth inning, Green walked Eddie Mathews, who scored on Gene Oliver’s sixteenth home run. Spahn pitched a scoreless eighth inning and allowed a solo home run by Don Demeter in the ninth. Don Hoak doubled to put the potential tying run in scoring position, but Spahn retired Bob Oldis and Wes Covington to end the game.

The losing pitcher was Green (5-4).

Shown in an undated photo is Christy Christy Mathewson was the first major league pitcher to win 20 or more games 13 times. (Warren Spahn was the second.) Mathewson finished his career with 373 victories, third most in major league history (tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander) and 10 more than Spahn.

Christy Mathewson was the first major league pitcher to win 20 or more games 13 times. (Warren Spahn was the second.) Mathewson finished his career with 373 victories, third most in major league history (tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander) and 10 more than Spahn.

Spahn’s 1963 season was one of the best of his career, as he finished the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 earned run average. It was also his seventh straight season leading the National League in complete games, and he pitched seven shutouts, tying his season high and the second most in the league (behind 11 Sandy Koufax shutouts).

Though he tied Mathewson for most 20-win seasons, Spahn fell short of matching Mathewson’s 373 career wins. Spahn retired after the 1965 season with 363 victories, the most by any left-hander in baseball history.

Clutch Master

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Hickman

As a hitter, Jim Hickman specialized in both power and good timing. During his 13-year major league career, Hickman became more dangerous in the batter’s box in the game’s waning innings, when big hits counted most and Hickman consistently came up big.

Signed originally by the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jim Hickman broke into the majors with the New York Mets. He was the Mets’ leading home run hitter in 1963.

Signed originally by the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jim Hickman broke into the majors with the New York Mets. He was the Mets’ leading home run hitter in 1963.

Hickman was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956 and toiled in the Cardinals’ farm system until he was selected by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. He hit .245 in his (and the Mets’) first season, with 13 home runs and 46 runs batted in. In 1963, Hickman was the Mets’ top home run hitter, with 17 homers and 51 RBIs. In five seasons with the Mets, Hickman batted a combined .241 and averaged 12 home runs per season.

In 1966 the Mets traded Hickman with Ron Hunt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Darrell Griffith. In his only season with the Dodgers, Hickman batted .163 with no home runs and only 10 RBIs.

At the beginning of the 1968 season, the Dodgers sent Hickman and pitcher Phil Regan to the Chicago Cubs for Jim Ellis and Ted Savage. He spent most of the 1968 season with the Cubs’ Triple-A team in Spokane, and in 1969 batted .237 in Chicago with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Hickman had a career season in 1970 with the Cubs. He batted .315 with 33 doubles, 32 home runs and 115 RBIs. He made his only All-Star appearance and drove in the game-winning run. He was also named National League Comeback Player of the Year for 1970.

Jim Hickman had his best season in 1970 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Hickman batted .315 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs.

Jim Hickman had his best season in 1970 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Hickman batted .315 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs.

Hickman never again had a season that would approach his productivity in 1970. He hit .272 in 1972 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs. He played one more season in Chicago and was traded to the Cardinals in 1973. He batted .267 in 1974, used primarily as a pinch hitter, and retired after the 1974 season.

Hickman retired with a career batting average of .252. He collected 159 home runs and 560 RBIs during his 13-year career. But in his prime he was one of the most effective clutch hitters in the National League.  He hit several walk-off hits in his career for both the Mets and the Cubs. He was also responsible for many hitting “firsts” for the fledgling Mets, including the first Met to hit for the cycle, and the first Met to hit three home runs in a single game (off Ray Sadecki of the Cardinals). His was the last home run hit in the Polo Grounds (off Chris Short of the Philadelphia Phillies), and he was the first Met batter to earn a walk and to be hit by a pitch in Shea Stadium.

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Joe Morgan’s Six Pack

 

Lights Out! – Houston Rookie Joe Morgan Goes 6 for 6.

When: July 8, 1965

Where:  County Stadium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Game Time: 3:40

Attendance: 2,522

The Houston Astros opened the 1965 season with a major transition in the heart of their infield. In 1964, second base was patrolled by Nellie Fox, a future Hall of Famer who came to Houston after 14 years with the Chicago White Sox. In those 14 years, Fox had been an All-Star 12 times, won three Gold Gloves, hit .300 or better six times, led the American League in hits four times, and was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1959. By 1964, Fox was near the end of his exceptional career, hitting .265 and noticeably slower in the field.

Fortunately for Houston, an infield prospect named Joe Morgan was ready to step in on an everyday basis. In two minor league seasons, Morgan had hit for a combined .316. In 1964, he led the Texas League with 42 doubles and drove in 90 runs while batting .323. On Opening Day of 1965, he was the Astros’ starting second baseman (and collected half of the team’s four hits that day against Philadelphia’s Chris Short).

With the 1965 arrival of Joe Morgan (left) and his emergence as the team’s regular second baseman, the Houston Astros replaced one future Hall of Famer (Nellie Fox – right) with another.

With the 1965 arrival of Joe Morgan (left) and his emergence as the team’s regular second baseman, the Houston Astros replaced one future Hall of Famer (Nellie Fox – right) with another.

Morgan struggled at first, but improved his batting average steadily as the season progressed.  He was hitting .226 by the end of May, but had raised his average to .249 by the end of June. As he entered the July 8 contest against the Milwaukee Braves, Morgan was hitting .259.

His average would jump up considerably after that game.

The game pitted Don Nottebart (1-6) against the Braves ace, Tony Cloninger (10-7). Neither starter made it past the fifth inning. Nottebart allowed 4 runs in his 5 innings of work, serving up solo home runs to Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and a pair of 1-run blasts to Felipe Alou. Though he would win 24 games on the season, Cloninger lasted only 4 innings today, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits, and Morgan played a big role in Cloninger’s early departure.

Morgan led off the game with his seventh home run of the season. He singled in the second inning but was caught stealing. In the fifth inning, Morgan’s eighth home run of the year sent Cloninger to the showers and put the Astros ahead 5-3. Leading off the seventh inning, Morgan doubled off reliever Dick Kelley and scored on Jim Gentile’s single. In the ninth inning, Morgan singled again and scored on a Rusty Staub hit to put the Astros on top by a score of 8-5 going into the bottom of the ninth.

It was a lead Houston couldn’t hold. Against reliever Mike Cuellar, an RBI double by Carty and a 2-run single by Mike de la Hoz tied the game at 8-8 and sent it into extra innings. Neither team scored in the tenth inning, and Morgan singled off Phil Niekro in the eleventh inning. He stole second and was stranded at third when the inning ended. Morgan didn’t have an opportunity to bat again, as the Braves scored a run in the bottom of the twelfth inning to win the game.

His best game as an Astro came in 1965, when Joe Morgan went six for six with a pair of home runs and three RBIs.

His best game as an Astro came in 1965, when Joe Morgan went six for six with a pair of home runs and three RBIs.

Morgan ended the day hitting six for six with four runs scored and three RBIs. In that single game, he raised his batting average 15 points to .274. He would finish his rookie season hitting .271 and lead the National League in bases on balls with 97.

The Astros would release Nellie Fox by the end of July, having replaced one future Hall of Fame second baseman with another.

How to Spark a Batting Order

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Howser

Dick Howser was a dependable shortstop who brought an occasional sting to the batting order. His brief major league playing career proved to be a prelude to his extremely successful later career as a major league manager.

Howser was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1958 and broke in with the club as the team’s starting shortstop in 1961. He hit .280 his rookie season, with 29 doubles, 45 RBIs and 37 stolen bases. He played more games at shortstop than anyone else in the American League, and he led the AL shortstops in putouts and errors.

His batting average slipped by more than 40 points in 1962. In 1963 the A’s traded Howser and catcher Joe Azcue to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Doc Edwards and cash.

His 1963 trade to the Cleveland Indians rejuvenated Dick Howser’s bat. He hit .256 in 1964 with a career-best 53 RBIs and 101 runs scored.

His 1963 trade to the Cleveland Indians rejuvenated Dick Howser’s bat. He hit .256 in 1964 with a career-best 53 RBIs and 101 runs scored.

Howser had a strong 1964 season as the Tribe’s shortstop. He hit .256 with 23 doubles and 52 RBIs, and he put a dependable bat behind lead-off hitter Vic Davalillo. Howser scored 101 runs (second in the league behind Tony Oliva) and led the American League in plate appearances (735) and sacrifice hits (16). He also stole 20 bases. He played more games at shortstop than anyone else, and was second in shortstop putouts to Ron Hansen while finishing third in shortstop assists (behind Hansen and Dick McAuliffe).

Again, an outstanding first full season was followed by two seasons of diminishing offense, and the Indians dealt Howser to the New York Yankees. He was a utility infielder for the Yankees for two years before retiring after the 1968 season. He finished his eight-season major league career with a .248 batting average.

 

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