Cannon Power

 

Homer Happy – Jim Wynn

The early Houston teams (first the Colts, then the Astros) were easy to overlook. They weren’t the worst of the expansion teams (the Mets owned that brand). And for most of the 1960s, they were best known for their domed stadium (baseball’s first).

While the early Colts/Astros featured a handful of outstanding pitchers, their best-known player was an outfielder nicknamed “The Toy Cannon.” Jimmy Wynn was a compact power-hitting center fielder playing in a stadium that was not power friendly.

Hitting in the cavernous Astrodome, Jim Wynn still managed to rank among the National League’s top ten home run hitters five times. He led the Astros in home runs 1965-1970.

Hitting in the cavernous Astrodome, Jim Wynn still managed to rank among the National League’s top ten home run hitters five times. He led the Astros in home runs 1965-1970.

A Cincinnati native, Wynn was signed by the Reds out of Central State University in 1962. He batted .290 with 14 home runs and 81 RBIs in his first season of minor league ball, and then was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the 1962 first-year draft. He spent the first half of the 1963 season with San Antonio, batting .288 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs, and then was promoted to Houston, where he batted .244 with four home runs and 27 runs batted in over the rest of the season. He split the 1964 season between the minor leagues and the Colts, batting .224 with five home runs and 18 RBIs against major league pitching.

By 1965, Wynn was ready for full-time major league duty, and he responded by leading the team in hitting (.275), home runs (22), RBIs (73) and stolen bases (43). He was Houston’s leading home run hitter for six straight seasons from 1965 to 1970.

Wynn’s best season was 1967, when he finished second in the league in home runs (37) and fourth in RBIs (107). Both totals would be career highs while he played for Houston. He hit 26 home runs in 1968, 33 in 1969, and 27 in 1970.

Wynn slumped to seven home runs in 1971, but bounced back with 24 home runs and 90 RBIs in 1972. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1973 for pitcher Claude Osteen, and had his last big season in 1974, hitting 32 home runs for the Dodgers with a career-best 108 RBIs.

CHICAGO- 1974: Jimmy Wynn #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers before a game against the Chicago Cubs in 1974 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Jimmy Wynn was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1973 and had a big year in Dodger blue in 1974, hitting 32 home runs with a career-best 108 RBIs.

Wynn hung on until 1977 and finished with 291 career home runs. He ranked among the top ten in home runs five times, and twice led the National League in bases on balls.

Wynn remains third all-time in home runs (223) and RBIs (719) among Houston hitters. He was an All-Star three times.

Taking the Bate

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering John Bateman

Something about John Bateman inspired no-hit performances from his pitchers. He caught two no-hitters during his 10-season major league career … and both were firsts for the franchise. He caught his first no-hitter in 1963, as right-hander Don Nottebart hurled the first no-hitter in the history of the Houston Colt .45s. He caught his second no-hitter six years later, the first thrown by Bill Stoneman and the first in the history of the Montreal Expos.

Catcher John Bateman's best season came in 1964, when he batted .279 for the Houston Colt .45s with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs.

Catcher John Bateman’s best season came in 1964, when he batted .279 for the Houston Colt .45s with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs.

Bateman was signed by Houston in 1962 and was the team’s starting catcher a year later, batting .210 in his rookie season while leading the team with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs. He batted less than .200 in each of the next two seasons as he split Houston’s catching duties with Jerry Grote. In 1964, he returned to full-time catching again and responded with his best season as a hitter: batting .279 with 24 doubles, 17 home runs and 70 runs batted in.

Bateman wouldn’t match those kinds of hitting numbers again in Houston. He batted .190 in 1967 and .249 in 1968, and then was selected by Montreal in the National League expansion draft. He batted .209 for the Expos in 1969 and then had a strong season offensively in 1970 with 15 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .237 batting average. He hit .242 in 1971 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs.

In June of 1972, Bateman was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for Tim McCarver. He batted .224 in 1972 with three home runs and 20 RBIs, and retired after the 1972 season.

Bateman played for 10 years in the major leagues with 765 hits and a career batting average of .230.

Pour Me a Double (or Triple … or any RBI Hit)

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bennie Daniels

In the early years of the “new” Washington Senators franchise, there were few rewards for pitching well. One of the hurlers who pitched consistently well, with so little to show for it, was a right-hander named Bennie Daniels.

The Washington Senators’ first season was Bennie Daniels’ best. With a team that finished 61-100, Daniels was 12-11 with a 3.44 ERA.

The Washington Senators’ first season was Bennie Daniels’ best. With a team that finished 61-100, Daniels was 12-11 with a 3.44 ERA.

Daniels was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951. He advanced steadily through the Pirates’ farm system (with a two-year military service detour), winning 17 games with Hollywood in the Pacific Coast League in 1957 and 14 games with Columbus (International League) in 1958, while making brief appearance with the Pirates both seasons. He made the Pirates’ roster for a full season in 1959, going 7-9 with a 5.45 ERA. He split the 1960 season between Pittsburgh and Columbus, and in the off-season was dealt to the Washington Senators for pitcher Bobby Shantz.

In Washington, Daniels moved right into the starting rotation, going 12-11 with a 3.44 ERA for a team that finished its inaugural run in ninth place with a 61-100 record.  His record slipped to 7-16 in 1962 with a 4.85 ERA, and in 1963 he posted a 5-10 record with a 4.38 ERA. The 1964 season was something of a “comeback” for Daniels, as he went 8-10 with a much-improved 3.70 ERA. But Daniels was now 32 years old, and some of the zip had faded from his fastball. He went 5-13 for the Senators in 1965, and retired at the end of that season.

Daniels’ nine-season big league career produced a 45-76 won-lost record with a 4.44 career earned run average.

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AL Goes Coast to Coast

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(October 26, 1960) In a move designed to get a jump on the National League in the expansion race, the American League today granted new franchises to Washington and Los Angeles while giving the okay for the Washington Senators to move that franchise to Minnesota.

The “old” Washington Senators were one of the charter franchises of the American League, going back to its founding in 1901. Rumors of the team’s negotiating a move to Minnesota (and its new ballpark, Metropolitan Stadium) were circulating as early as 1958.

The idea of Washington D.C. losing its major league franchise did not sit well with Congress, which threatened to re-examine baseball’s antitrust exemption.

Film and recording star Gene Autry headed a group of investors who were awarded the American League's West Coast franchise, the Los Angeles Angels.

Film and recording star Gene Autry headed a group of investors who were awarded the American League’s West Coast franchise, the Los Angeles Angels.

A compromise was worked out that staved off congressional interference. The Senators would be allowed to become the Minnesota Twins starting in the 1961 season, and the American League would expand from eight teams to 10 by establishing a new Washington Senators franchise.

The other new franchise, to become the Los Angeles Angels, was awarded to an ownership team headed by recording and movie cowboy star Gene Autry.

The “new” Senators stayed in the nation’s capital until 1972, when the franchise moved to Arlington, Texas and was rechristened the Texas Rangers.

Stability at the Helm

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tommy Helms

Good fielding, clutch hitting, day-in day-out dependability: for 14 seasons, that was how Tommy Helms played major league baseball. He was absolutely the kind of talent you wanted at second base … unless you could trade him for a future Hall of Famer.

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As the Cincinnati Reds’ everyday third baseman, Tommy Helms as named National League Rookie of the Year in 1966. In six seasons with the Reds, he batted .267 and was an All-Star twice.

Helms was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1959 and, after a couple brief stays, made the team as the regular third baseman in 1966. He batted .284 that first season, with nine home runs and 49 runs batted in. That performance earned him the National League Rookie of the Year honors for 1966.

Helms batted .274 in 1967, the year he made the transition to second base, where he would play for the next decade. He was an All-Star in 1967 and again in 1968, when he batted .288 and drove in 47 runs. From 1966 through 1971, Helms batted .267 and drove in an average of 45 runs per season. He won the Gold Glove in 1970 and 1971.

In 1972, Tommy Helms was a key part of the blockbuster deal that sent Joe Morgan and Cesar Geronimo (among others) from the Astros to the Reds. In 1973, Helms batted .287 for the Astros with 28 doubles and 61 RBIs.

In 1972, Tommy Helms was a key part of the blockbuster deal that sent Joe Morgan and Cesar Geronimo (among others) from the Astros to the Reds. In 1973, Helms batted .287 for the Astros with 28 doubles and 61 RBIs.

Prior to the 1972 season, Helms was involved in a blockbuster deal that sent him with Lee May and Jimmy Stewart to the Houston Astros for Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke and future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. Helms had some of his most productive years as a hitter in Houston, batting .259 in 1972 with five home runs and 60 RBIs. In 1973, he batted .287 with 28 doubles and 61 RBIs. During his four seasons in Houston, Helms batted .269 and averaged 46 RBIs per season.

Helms was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1975 season, and batted .276 in a part-time role for the Pirates in 1976. He played for both the Pirates and the Boston Red Sox during the 1977 season, and retired after batting .225 in 36 games that season.

Helms hit .269 in 14 major league seasons, with 1,342 hits and scoring 414 runs. In 4,997 major league at-bats, he struck out only 301 times.

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Boswell Does Well

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dave Boswell

Sometimes a single pitch can make or break a career. For Minnesota Twins right-hander Dave Boswell, a single pitch in 1969 threw a promising career in reverse.

Dave Boswell's best season came in 1969, when his 20-12 record made him the leader of the Minnesota Twins staff.

Dave Boswell’s best season came in 1969, when his 20-12 record made him the leader of the Minnesota Twins staff.

Boswell was signed by the Minnesota Twins in 1963 and won his first two decisions for the Twins at the end of the 1964 season. He was 6-5 with a 3.40 ERA in 1965, and then led the American League with a .706 winning percentage in 1966, going 12-5 with a 3.14 ERA.

Boswell was improving gradually and steadily as a Twins starter. He went 14-12 in 1967 with a 3.27 ERA, and then slipped to 10-13 in 1968.

In 1969, Boswell helped the Twins with the West Division by going 20-12 with a 3.23 ERA. During the League Championship Series, which the Twins would lose to the Baltimore Orioles, Boswell was locked in a scoreless duel with O’s starter Dave McNally. In the tenth inning, he felt something “pop” in his shoulder on a slider thrown to Frank Robinson. The Orioles would score the game’s only run in the eleventh inning.

Boswell never fully recovered from that injury, and he was never the same pitcher that won 20 games in 1969. He was 3-7 in 1970 with a 6.42 ERA. In 1971 he was released by the Twins, and split the 1971 season between the Detroit Tigers and the Baltimore Orioles, going 1-2 with a combined ERA of 4.66. He retired after the 1971 season.

Boswell pitched only eight years in the major leagues, posting a 68-56 record with a career earned run average of 3.52.

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Hats Off to Pirates’ New Manager

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(October 19, 1964) The Pittsburgh Pirates today announced that former major league outfielder Harry “The Hat” Walker had been named to replace Danny Murtaugh as Pirates’ manager for the 1965 season.

Murtaugh, who had been the Pirates’ manager for eight seasons, was leaving the helm for health reasons. Under his guidance, the team finished in sixth place in 1964 with an 80-82 record. Murtaugh was the manager when the team won the 1960 World Series championship, beating the New York Yankees in seven games.

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Harry Walker won the National League batting title in 1947 with a .363 batting average.

This would be Walker’s second tour as a major league manager. He was an interim manager for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955. The team was 51-67 under Walker’s leadership. He was replaced at the end of the season by Fred Hutchinson.

Walker spent the next 10 years as a coach for the Cardinals and managing in their minor league system. In his first two seasons with the Pirates, Walker led the Bucs to consecutive third-place finishes, winning 90 and 92 games respectively. In 1967, with the Pirates in sixth place with a 42-42 record, Walker was dismissed and replaced by Murtaugh. In 1968 he replaced Grady Hatton as manager of the Houston Astros and managed that team for five seasons.

Walker played 11 seasons in the National League. He broke in with the Cardinals in 1940 and won the National League batting title in 1947 with a .363 batting average. He also led the league with 16 triples that season. He also played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, batting .296 for his career.

 

 

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Keystone Tough

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jerry Adair

Jerry Adair played for 13 seasons in the major leagues. He was known for his excellent defense and his toughness, especially as an out in clutch situations and as a player who was lineup-ready day in and day out.

For six seasons, Jerry Adair was the starting second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. He led the American League in fielding percentage in both 1964 and 1965, and set records in 1965 for consecutive errorless games by a second baseman (89) and consecutive chances handled without an error (458).

For six seasons, Jerry Adair was the starting second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. He led the American League in fielding percentage in both 1964 and 1965, and set records in 1965 for consecutive errorless games by a second baseman (89) and consecutive chances handled without an error (458).

Adair was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1958 off the campus of Oklahoma State University. He appeared in 11 games with the Orioles at the end of that season, batting .105, and appeared in 12 games at the end of the 1959 season, batting .314.

Adair made the Orioles’ roster for keeps in 1961, batting .264 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs. He was the Orioles’ everyday second baseman for six seasons. His best year came in 1965 when he batted .259 with seven home runs and 66 RBIs. He led American League second basemen in fielding percentage in both 1964 and 1965, and set records in 1965 for consecutive errorless games by a second baseman (89) and consecutive chances handled without an error (458).

In June of 1966, Adair was traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Eddie Fisher. He batted .243 for Chicago over the rest of that season, and a June later was traded to the Boston Red Sox for reliever Don McMahon. He was an important pickup for the Red Sox in their 1967 pennant push, batting .291 with 13 doubles and 26 RBIs in 89 games with Boston.

Adair hit .216 for the Red Sox in 1968, and then was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the expansion draft. He batted .250 for Kansas City in 1969, and drove in 48 runs, the second highest total of his career. He played in seven games for the Royals in 1970 before being released. He retired as a player after a season in Japan.

Adair batted .254 for his career with 1,022 hits. His only post-season appearance came in 1967, when he batted .125 for Boston in the 1967 World Series.

Big on Wins

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Nash

Jim Nash’s career started in a blaze of wins for a team unaccustomed to winning. But in many ways, “Jumbo’s” arrival marked a turning point in the fortunes of the Athletics’ franchise.

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Jim Nash was 13-13 in 1968 with a 2.28 ERA. His six shutouts were the second-most in the American League that season (behind Luis Tiant’s nine shutouts.)

Nash was signed by the A’s in 1963 and was successful almost immediately in the Kansas City farm system, winning 14 games in both 1964 and 1965. He started 1966 with Mobile in the Class A Southern League, going 7-4 with a 2.63 ERA when he was called up to Kansas City. He made his major league debut on July 3, 1966, going 6.1 innings to beat the Detroit Tigers 10-4.

Nash won three more decisions in July, and won his first three decisions in August before losing to the New York Yankees. It would be his only major league loss of the year, finishing that season at 12-1 with a 2.06 ERA. He was runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting to White Sox outfielder Tommie Agee.

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Jim Nash had a remarkable rookie season for the Kansas City Athletics in 1966. Called up in July, Nash was 12-1 with a 2.06 ERA over the rest of the season.

Nash followed up in 1967 with a 12-17 season and a 3.76 ERA. He posted a 13-13 record in 1968 with a 2.36 ERA (for the Oakland A’s), and finished the 1960s with an 8-8 season in 1969. By this time, the A’s had developed young arms like John Odom and Catfish Hunter, making Nash expendable. He was traded to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Felipe Alou.

Nash pitched two-plus seasons in Atlanta, with a combined record of 23-17 and a 4.49 ERA. In June of 1972, the Braves dealt Nash (with Gary Neibauer) to the Philadelphia Phillies for Joe Hoerner and Andre Thornton. He made eight starts for the Phillies, going 0-8. He was released by the Phillies following the 1972 season, and retired with a career record of 68-64 with a 3.58 ERA.

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Fairly Powerful Dodger

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ron Fairly

Ron Fairly was a “fooler.” From his stocky build you expected him to be a power hitter, and occasionally he was. But his compact swing delivered average and RBIs more than power, and his less-than-expected home run prowess did not keep Fairly from being an important run-producing cog in the Dodgers’ pennant machines of the mid-1960s.

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Ron Fairly averaged 66 runs and 71 RBIs for the Dodgers from 1963-1966. During those five seasons, the Dodgers won three National League pennants and two World Series.

As a sophomore at the University of Southern California in 1958, Fairly was the team’s star center fielder, hitting .348 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs in leading the Trojans to the NCAA World Series championship. He was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers that summer, and made his debut in a Dodgers uniform in September, hitting .283 in 15 games, with two home runs (his first came off Ron Kline of the Pittsburgh Pirates), and eight runs batted in.

Fairly batted .238 for the Dodgers’ 1959 World Series team, with four home runs and 23 RBIs in a part-time role. He spent most of 1960 in the minors, and played 111 games for the Dodgers in 1961, splitting his playing time between all three outfield positions and first base, while batting .322 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs.

By the start of the 1962 season, Fairly had established himself as the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman. He hit .278 that season, with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs, and followed up in 1963 by batting .271 with 12 home runs and 77 runs batted in. From 1962 through 1966, Fairly averaged 71 RBIs per season with a combined batting average of .273.

Then, inexplicably, his hitting dropped off, as his batting average felt to .220 in 1967 and .234 in 1968. In 1969, the Dodgers traded Fairly with Paul Popovich to the Montreal Expos for Manny Mota and Maury Wills. The move to Montreal seemed to revive his hitting, as Fairly batted .289 for the Expos over the rest of the 1969 season. He batted .288 in 1970 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. He hit a career best 17 home runs in both 1972 and 1973, and averaged a combined .276 in six seasons with the Expos.

Ron Fairly was a first-time All-Star in 1973, his fifteenth major league season. The 34-year-old Fairly batted .298 for the Montreal Expos that season.

Ron Fairly was a first-time All-Star in 1973, his fifteenth major league season. The 34-year-old Fairly batted .298 for the Montreal Expos that season.

Fairly was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975, where he hit .301 as a part-time player and pinch hitter. Over the next three seasons, Fairly made stops in Oakland, Toronto and closed out his playing career with the California Angels in 1978 before embarking on a long career as a baseball broadcaster.

Fairly played for 21 major league seasons, with 1,913 hits and a career batting average of .266. He was an All-Star twice, once for each league.

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