Cubs Go to College

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(December 21, 1960) The Chicago Cubs set a baseball precedent with the announcement that next season’s manager would be … no one.

The Chicago Cubs entered the 1961 season without a field manager … but with a “college of coaches.”

The Chicago Cubs entered the 1961 season without a field manager … but with a “college of coaches.”

Owner Phil Wrigley declared that rather than leaving the managing duties to a single individual, the Cubs would utilize a rotating “college of coaches” to run the team on the field.

The announcement followed a 1960 season when the Cubs finished 60-94 with Lou Boudreau as field manager. It was the Cubs’ fourteenth straight second-division finish.

According to Wrigley, “Managers are expendable. I believe there should be relief managers just like relief pitchers.”

The experiment lasted two seasons. The Cubs finished seventh in 1961 (64-90) and ninth in 1962 (59-103). Attendance at Wrigley Field both seasons was down by more than 20 percent compared to 1960.

After two dismal seasons without a manager, the Cubs named Bob Kennedy to that post for the 1963 season.

After two dismal seasons without a manager, the Cubs named Bob Kennedy to that post for the 1963 season.

The college of coaches strategy was abandoned for the 1963 season, when Bob Kennedy was named manager. The team’s record in 1963 improved to 82-80, their first winning season since 1946. That record was still good only for seventh place in the National League.

Second Time’s a Charm

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Mike McCormick

As outstanding as he could be, Mike McCormick never quite lived up to the promise of his youth, when he was signed by the New York Giants as a “bonus baby” in 1956 and led the National League in ERA by age 21. But when it seemed that his career was ready to fade into the sunset, he made a remarkable comeback during his second tour with the Giants … a comeback that made him the first National League Cy Young Award winner.

In 1960, at age 21, Mike McCormick led the National League with a 2.70 ERA. He was 15-12 that season with 15 complete games and four shutouts.

In 1960, at age 21, Mike McCormick led the National League with a 2.70 ERA. He was 15-12 that season with 15 complete games and four shutouts.

McCormick went from the sand lots to the big league Giants without the benefit of minor league seasoning. He became a member of the Giants’ starting rotation in 1958, winning 11 games that year and 12 the next. In 1960, pitching for the fifth-place San Francisco Giants, McCormick won 15 games and led the National League with a 2.70 ERA.

He slipped to 13-16 in 1961 (with a 3.20 ERA), and during the Giants’ pennant-winning season of 1962, arm problems caused McCormick to become the forgotten man on a strong pitching roster. He finished that year 5-5 with a 5.38 ERA in only 15 starts. That winter, the Giants shipped McCormick (along with with reliever Stu Miller and catcher John Orsino) to the Baltimore Orioles for catcher Jimmie Coker and pitchers Jack Fisher and Billy Hoeft.

The Orioles were no doubt hoping that McCormick would regain his 1960 form, but it wasn’t to be. In his two years in Baltimore, McCormick’s arm troubles continued as he pitched for a combined 6-10 record with a 4.40 ERA in only 29 appearances (23 starts). Just prior to the 1965 season, Baltimore traded McCormick to the Washington Senators for a minor leaguer and cash. In two seasons with the Senators, McCormick went 19-22 with a 3.42 ERA.

Mick McCormick's best season came in 1967, on his second tour with the Giants. His 22-10 record earned him the National League Cy Young Award.

Mick McCormick’s best season came in 1967, on his second tour with the Giants. His 22-10 record earned him the National League Cy Young Award.

The Giants re-acquired McCormick prior to the 1967 season, and it turned out to be a smart acquisition. McCormick led the league with a 22-10 record. He tossed five shutouts and posted a 2.85 ERA. He became the first National League Cy Young pitcher.

McCormick never matched that performance again, going 23-23 for the Giants over the next two years. He retired in 1971 with a 134-128 record and a career ERA of 3.73.

 

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Mets Add Ashburn to Outfield

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(December 8, 1961) The New York Mets today added a former National League batting champion and four-time All-Star to their outfield line-up.

Richie Ashburn batted .306 in his only season with the Mets. He retired after the 1962 season with a .308 career batting average.

Richie Ashburn batted .306 in his only season with the Mets. He retired after the 1962 season with a .308 career batting average.

The Mets purchased Richie Ashburn from the Chicago Cubs. Ashburn was National League batting champion in 1955 (.338) and 1958 (.350), both seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. As an outfielder with the Phillies from 1948 through 1959, Ashburn led the NL in hits four times, in triples twice, and hit a combined .311 in his 12 seasons in Philadelphia.

Ashburn was traded to the Cubs prior to the 1960 season. In his two seasons with the Cubs, Ashburn batted .279.

In his only season as a Met, Ashburn would lead the team in hitting with a .306 average. He was the franchise’s first All-Star. Ashburn retired following the 1962 campaign, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.

 

Phillies Fire Fighter

 

Oh, What a Relief: Jack Baldschun

As baseball entered the 1960s, the National League’s worst team (pre-expansion) was indisputably the Philadelphia Phillies. The National League champs in 1950, the Phillies had fallen to the bottom of the standings by 1958 and stayed there through 1961, spared in 1962 only by the arrival of the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s, as well as the decline of the Chicago Cubs.

The 1961 Phillies set a record with a won-lost log of 47-107, a record for futility eclipsed mercifully the next season by the 40-120 inaugural campaign posted by the Mets. The only pitcher on the 1961 Phillies staff with a winning record was a 24-year-old rookie reliever named Jack Baldschun with a 5-3 record. He was also second on that team in ERA (3.88) and saves (3) while making the most appearances of any Phillies pitcher (65, tops in the National League).

From 1962 to 1964, Jack Baldschun was the ace of the Philadelphia bullpen, winning 29 games and saving 50 with a combined 2.79 ERA.

From 1962 to 1964, Jack Baldschun was the ace of the Philadelphia bullpen, winning 29 games and saving 50 with a combined 2.79 ERA.

Over the next three seasons, Baldschun would emerge as one of the league’s best closers, an emergence that coincided with Philadelphia’s steady rise in the standings.

Baldschun was originally signed in 1956 by the Washington Senators, and toiled in the Senators’ farm system for five years until he mastered the screwball that proved to be his ticket to the majors. He was drafted by the Phillies in the 1960 Rule 5 draft. His success as a rookie in 1961 proved to be no fluke, as Baldschun appeared in 67 games for the Phillies in 1962, all in relief, finishing 49 games for the club. He won 12 games in relief and saved 13 more with a 2.96 earned run average.

Baldschun was even better in 1963. He went 11-7 in 65 relief appearances with a 2.30 ERA. He finished 44 games for the Phillies and saved 16, tied for third-best in the league with Roy Face.

Baldschun’s 21 saves in 1964 were again third-best in the league, but his ERA rose to a still-respectable 3.12 while his won-lost record slipped to 6-9. The 1964 season will be remembered in Philadelphia as the one that got away, as the Phillies lost 10 straight games down the stretch and saw a 6.5 game lead on September 20 evaporate completely. Phillies manager Gene Mauch lost confidence in Baldschun as his closer (even though he finished 51 games in 71 appearances that season) and Baldschun saw no action as the pennant slipped away from Philadelphia.

Baldschun was never the same pitcher after that. His record in 1965 slipped to 5-8 with a 3.82 ERA and only six saves in 65 appearances. After the 1965 season, Baldschun was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Jackie Brandt and Darold Knowles. Three days later, the Orioles packaged Baldschun with pitchers Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson in the deal with the Cincinnati Reds that brought Frank Robinson to Baltimore. Baldschun went 1-5 for the Reds with no saves and a 5.49 ERA. In 1967, he appeared in only nine games for the Reds before being sent down to AAA ball to re-discover his former effectiveness, but mostly he struggled at that level. The Reds released Baldschun after the 1969 season, the last remnant of the infamous (for Cincinnati fans) Frank Robinson trade.

Balschun signed with the San Diego Padres and appeared in 65 games for San Diego in 1970. His record was 7-2, but he registered only one save with a 4.79 ERA. The Padres released him at the beginning of the 1970 season.

Baldschun’s nine-year career produced a 48-41 record with a 3.69 ERA. He appeared in 457 games and finished 267 with 60 saves – all but one of those saves with the Phillies. Even though he pitched only 5 seasons with Philadelphia, Baldschun’s 333 appearances still rank him eighth all-time in games pitched among Phillies hurlers.

Battling Buz’

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering John Buzhardt

Right-handed pitcher John Buzhardt was a human book-end for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1961. Pitching for the National League’s worst team (one season before the arrival of the expansion New York Mets), Buzhardt tossed a complete game 3-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on July 28, 1961. It would be the last game the Phillies would win in nearly a month, as the team reeled off a major league record 23 consecutive losses. The pitcher who finally snapped that streak was Buzhardt, who beat the Milwaukee Braves 7-4 on August 20.

Buzhardt was 6-18 for the Phillies in 1961, his second and last season in Philadelphia (he was 5-16 for the Phillies in 1960). He was traded with Charley Smith to the Chicago White Sox for Roy Sievers, and had his best seasons as a starter in Chicago.

John Buzhardt spent six seasons with the Chicago White Sox. His best season came in 1965, when he was 13-8 with a 3.01 ERA.

John Buzhardt spent six seasons with the Chicago White Sox. His best season came in 1965, when he was 13-8 with a 3.01 ERA.

Buzhardt began his major league career with Chicago’s other team. He was signed by the Cubs in 1954 and made his debut in Chicago in 1958, going 3-0 in six appearances. He pitched in 31 games for the Cubs in 1959, mostly in relief, and posted a 4-5 record with a 4.97 ERA. That winter he was traded to the Phillies in the deal that brought Richie Ashburn to the Cubs. Buzhardt returned to Chicago two years later in a White Sox uniform.

He was used almost exclusively as a starter for the White Sox, filling out an outstanding rotation that included Ray Herbert, Juan Pizarro, Joe Horlen and, later, Gary Peters. Buzhardt was 8-12 in 1962 and 9-4 in 1963, that season posting a 2.42 ERA. In 1964 he was 10-8 with a 2.98 ERA, and in 1965 he had his best season, going 13-8 with a 3.01 ERA.

Buzhardt slipped to 6-11 in 1966 and was 3-9 for the White Sox in 1967 when he was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles. He was purchased by the Houston Astros at the end of the 1967 season, and went 4-4 for the Astros in 1968 with a 3.12 ERA. He retired after the 1968 season.

Buzhardt pitched in the major leagues for 11 seasons and posted a career record of 71-96 with a 3.66 lifetime ERA. As a member of the Cubs, he pitched a one-hitter against the Phillies in 1959.

Jack of All Bases

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jackie Brandt

Jackie Brandt was a multi-talented outfielder who played for five different teams during his 11-year major league career. His best seasons came with the Baltimore Orioles, where he was an All-Star in 1961.

Brandt was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953 and made his debut with the team in 1956. After 27 games with St. Louis, he was traded (with Red Schoendienst) to the New York Giants, batting .299 in 98 games for the Giants with 11 home runs and 47 runs batted in. He spent 1957 and most of the 1958 season in military service, and then hit .270 for the Giants in 1959. He also won a Gold Glove that year.

Jackie Brandt was a member of the American League All-Star team in 1961. That season, he batted .297 with 16 home runs and 72 RBIs.

Jackie Brandt was a member of the American League All-Star team in 1961. That season, he batted .297 with 16 home runs and 72 RBIs.

Following the 1959 season, Brandt was traded with Gordon Jones and Roger McCardell to the Baltimore Orioles for Billy Loes and Billy O’Dell. He batted .254 with the Orioles in 1960, and then had his best season at the plate in 1961, hitting .297 with 16 home runs and 72 RBIs. That summer he was named to the American League All-Star team.

Brandt batted .255 in 1962, with career highs in doubles (29), home runs (19) and RBIs (75). In his six seasons with the Orioles, Brandt hit a combined .258 and averaged 14 home runs and 57 RBIs per season.

In December of 1965, Brandt was involved in the first of two trades that would transform the Orioles from perennial also-rans to World Series champions. First Brandt traded with  pitcher Darold Knowles to the Philadelphia Phillies for that team’s bullpen workhorse, Jack Baldschun. While Brandt found a new home in Philadelphia, Baldschun’s stay in Baltimore lasted only a few hours. The next day, Balschun was packaged with pitcher Milt Pappas and dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for an outfielder … one Frank Robinson. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now 32, Brandt appeared in only 82 games with the Phillies in 1966, batting .250 with one home run and 15 RBIs. He split the 1967 season between the Phillies and the Houston Astros, batting .213 in 57 games. He retired after the 1967 season.

Brandt had a career batting average of .262 on 1,020 hits, including 175 doubles and 112 home runs.

Tresh Trashes R-O-Y Competition

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(December 2, 1962) Tom Tresh, the New York Yankees shortstop and left fielder, was selected today as the American League’s Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association.

Tom Tresh’s outstanding 1962 season earned him American League Rookie of the Year honors.

The 24-year old son of former major league catcher Mike Tresh, Tresh got 13 of the 20 votes cast by the writers, with Bob Rodgers (4), Dean Chance (1), Dick Radatz (1) and Bernie Allen (1) also receiving consideration.

New York signed Tresh off the campus of Central Michigan University in 1958. He played mostly shortstop throughout his four seasons in the minors, batting .315 for AAA Richmond in 1961.

Tony Kubek’s departure for military service opened the door for Tresh to start at shortstop on Opening Day in 1962. He hit .286 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs, providing excellent defense while surpassing Kubek’s offensive marks.

When Kubek returned in late summer, Tresh moved seamlessly to left field, where he continued his high level of performance in September and throughout the World Series (batting .321 with one home run and four RBIs).

It would be 34 years before another rookie opened the season as the Yankees shortstop. That was accomplished by Derek Jeter in 1996. Like Tresh, Jeter also was selected as the American League Rookie of the Year.

First Angel Ace

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ken McBride

Ken McBride’s sinkerball is what got him to the major leagues. It made him one of the best pitchers in the American League in the early 1960s.

Ken McBride was the ace of the Los Angeles Angels’ starting rotation in the team’s inaugural season. In 1961, he won 12 games with a 3.65 ERA, and led the Angels’ staff in games started, complete games and innings pitched.

Ken McBride was the ace of the Los Angeles Angels’ starting rotation in the team’s inaugural season. In 1961, he won 12 games with a 3.65 ERA, and led the Angels’ staff in games started, complete games and innings pitched.

Born in Alabama but raised in Cleveland, McBride was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1954. He found success almost immediately in the Red Sox farm system, winning 18 games in 1954 and 10 in 1955.

Despite his success (and the mediocrity of Boston’s pitching in the late 1950s), the Red Sox couldn’t find a place for McBride and sold him to the Chicago White Sox in 1959. He made his major league debut that year, going 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA pitching for Chicago in its pennant-winning stretch drive. After token appearances for the White Sox in 1960, the Los Angeles made him the thirteenth pick in the 1960 American League expansion draft.

McBride’s career turned around with the move to L.A. In the Angels’ first season, he led the team with a 12-15 record and a 3.65 ERA. In 36 starts, he pitched 241.2 innings with 11 complete games and a shutout.

In 1962, McBride went 11-5 with a 3.50 ERA. He set a team record with 10 consecutive victories, including four shutouts, when a cracked rib sidelined him for the rest of the season. He came back in 1963 to go 13-12 with a 3.26 ERA. He was the starting pitcher for the American League in the 1963 All-Star game.

Ken McBride was the American League’s starting pitcher in the 1963 All-Star game.

In less than two seasons, McBride would go from All-Star starter to out of baseball. A sore arm limited him to a 4-13 season in 1964 with a 5.26 ERA. He appeared in only eight games for the Angels in 1965, going 0-3 with a 6.14 ERA before being sent down to the minors. He pitched three games and retired … at age 29

McBride’s major league career lasted seven seasons. He compiled a 40-50 record with a 3.79 career earned run average.

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