Getting an “A” at Second Base

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Green

Dick Green was a sure-handed second baseman who was just was the A’s needed at the keystone in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For more than a decade – both in Kansas City and in Oakland – Green was the second baseman the team could count on in the field with a bat that provided occasional pop, just enough for a team that became increasingly more lethal offensively as Green’s career progressed.

For more than a decade, Dick Green held down second base for the Athletics. His best season came in 1969, when he batted .275 with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs.

Green was signed by the Athletics in 1960. He made his debut in Kansas City at the end of the 1963 season, getting 10 hits in the 13 games in which he appeared. He opened the 1964 season at second for Kansas City, hitting .264 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs. He finished the season with a .990 fielding average, committing just six errors in 629 chances.

His batting average slipped to .232 in 1965, but his offensive productivity improved as Green hit 15 home runs with 55 RBIs. He drove in 62 runs in 1966, and then struggled in 1967, the team’s last season in Kansas City, hitting only .198 with five home runs and 37 RBIs.

Green’s best seasons came in Oakland. He hit .275 in 1969, with 25 doubles, 12 home runs and 64 RBIs. And he hit .333 in the 1972 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. But it was his defense that kept him in the A’s lineup. In the 1974 World Series, he tied a major league record by participating in six double plays in a five-game Series, including three double plays in the third game.

Green was released following the 1974 season and retired, his entire 12-season major league career spent with the Athletics. He hit .240 for his career and retired as the A’s all-time home run leader among second basemen with 80.

Four in a Row

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Art Shamsky

Art Shamsky played eight seasons in the major leagues for four different teams. While most of his success as a hitter came while he was playing with the New York Mets, his shining moment as a major leaguer occurred during his second season, when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

St. Louis born and raised, Shamsky played baseball at the University of Missouri Columbia until he was signed by the Reds in 1959. He made the Reds’ squad in 1965, batting .260 as a part-time player.

In 1966, playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Art Shamsky hit three home runs in a game that he didn’t enter until the eighth inning (as a defensive replacement). He hit a fourth consecutive home run in his next at-bat – two days later as a pinch hitter.

He had a very productive year for the Reds in 1966, despite hitting only .231. He hit 21 home runs with 47 RBIs, while scoring 41 runs, all in only 234 at-bats. Yet what Shamsky did on August 12 and 14 of 1966 has never been topped in major league history.

With the Reds playing the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 12, Shamsky started the game on the bench and entered it in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement in a double switch. He came to bat in the bottom of the eighth and hit a two-run homer off Al McBean to put the Reds on top 8-7.

The Pirates tied the game in the ninth inning and took the lead in the tenth. Shamsky came to bat in the bottom of the tenth and homered off Roy Face to tie the game. In the bottom of the eleventh inning, with Pittsburgh on top 11-9, Shamsky blasted a two-run home run off Billy O’Dell to tie the game again. Eventually, the Pirates won the game 14-11 in 13 innings. Shamsky remains the only major leaguer to hit three home runs in a game he didn’t start.

But he wasn’t done. Two days later, in his next at-bat, Shamsky hit a two-run pinch homer to put the Reds ahead in the seventh inning. That was four home runs in four consecutive at-bats, tying a record that is shared by Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner and Stan Musial.

By the way, in his next at-bat, Shamsky only singled.

He hit only .197 for the Reds in 1967 and was traded to the Mets for Bob Johnson. Platooned with Ron Swoboda, he batted .300 during the “miracle” season of 1969, with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs. From 1968 through 1970, Shamsky batted .277 for the Mets while averaging 12 home runs and 48 RBIs per season.

As a part-time player, Art Shamsky made important contributions to the 1969 New York Mets. He batted .300 with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs … in only 303 at-bats.

Shamsky was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals but was released just prior to the start of the 1972 season. He split that season between the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics, playing a combined 23 games with 23 at-bats. He retired at age 30 after the 1972 season.

Shamsky finished his eight-season major league career with 426 hits and a .253 batting average. He hit 68 home runs.

Four are still in the record book.

 

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Dodgers Wallop Cubs 10-2; Koufax Whiffs 18

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 24, 1962) Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Sandy Koufax today tied a major league record by striking out 18 batters in a nine-inning game.

The Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 10-2 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

When Sandy Koufax struck out 18 Chicago Cubs in 1962, it marked the second time in his career that he had achieved that feat, and only the third time in the major leagues since 1901. Eighteen or more strikeouts in a nine-inning game have been reached or exceeded 19 times since (most recently by Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals, who fanned 20 in 2016).

In his complete game victory, Koufax allowed two runs on six hits and walked four batters. The victory raised his season record to 3-1.

The losing pitcher for the Cubs was starter Don Cardwell (0-4).

The hitting stars for the Dodgers were outfielders Duke Snider and Tommy Davis. Snider drove in three runs on a triple and a home run. Davis drove in four runs with a single off Cardwell in the second inning and a three-run homer in the fifth. Andy Carey also homered for the Dodgers, hitting a solo shot off Cardwell in the fourth inning.

Chicago’s runs were scored on a fourth-inning single by Lou Brock and a bases-empty home run in the bottom of the ninth by left fielder Billy Williams.

Bob Feller was the first pitcher in the Twentieth Century to strike out 18 batters in a nine-inning game. He set that record on October 2, 1938, but lost the game 4-1 to the Detroit Tigers.

In posting 18 strikeouts in a single game, Koufax — for the second time — tied the record set in 1938 when Cleveland Indians right-hander Bob Feller fanned 18 Detroit Tigers. Koufax first struck out 18 batters in a game on August 31, 1959 when he beat the San Francisco Giants 5-2.

Koufax would finish the 1962 season at 14-7. That season he would be limited to only 28 appearances due to arm problems. But Koufax pitched enough innings to claim the National League ERA title … the first of five consecutive ERA crowns he would win.

 

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Sometimes Size Counts

 

Homer Happy: Frank Howard

Frank Howard made opposing pitchers cringe. At six-foot-seven and 255 pounds, he was an imposing presence at the plate. Not even the higher mound (15 inches high until 1969) gave pitchers as much of an advantage. At his height, he could still nearly look them in the eye.

With his strength, every pitch was a potential souvenir. His last manager with the Washington Senators, the legendary Ted Williams, called Howard the strongest man in baseball. No one questioned Williams’ hitting acumen, and no one could argue his point about Howard.

In 1968, the “Year of the Pitcher” when most of major league hitting was in a coma, Howard hit home runs as if the regular season were simply extended batting practice. He launched 44 homers that season – ten of them within a single week – eight more than Willie Horton and the rest of the American League’s sluggers. He hit 136 home runs from 1968-1970, none of them cheap.

While known primarily for his size and strength, Frank Howard was also a fine all-around athlete. At Ohio State, he was an All-American in basketball as well as baseball.

What Howard brought to the batter’s box wasn’t fair. He was more than just another lumbering slugger. Matching his strength was an athletic ability practically unheard of in a hitter his size. He had been an All-American in basketball (as well as baseball) at Ohio State before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958.

His minor league career lasted only two seasons, when he butchered minor league pitchers for 37 home runs in 1958 and 43 in 1959. He was ready for the big time.

In 1960, Howard walked away with National League Rookie of the Year honors by batting .268 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs. A thumb injury limited him to only 15 home runs in 1961, but a healthy season in 1962 produced 31 home runs with 119 runs batted in.

After hitting 23 home runs as a rookie in 1960, Frank Howard led the Los Angeles Dodgers with 31 home runs and 119 RBIs in 1962.

Despite that kind of productivity at the plate, the Dodgers – and in particular, manager Walt Alston – saw Howard primarily as a platoon player. And pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium seemed more conducive to slashing hitters like Tommy Davis and to the base path speed of Maury Wills and Willie Davis. Howard just didn’t seem to fit in with the Dodgers’ offensive strategy. Plus Howard’s power output appeared to be declining: to 28 home runs in 1963 and 24 in 1964, and he drove in less than 70 runs both seasons.

So in December of 1964, the Dodgers sent Howard to the Washington Senators as part of a seven-player swap that brought Washington’s ace pitcher, Claude Osteen, to the West Coast.  Playing for the worst team in the American League and battling injuries season-long, Howard batted .289 for the Senators in 1965 and led the team with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs. After hitting only 18 home runs in 1966, he doubled that total in 1967.

The 1968 season was when Howard lifted his slugging to elite status. While the rest of the American League was hitting for a combined .230 average, Howard batted .274 and led the league with 44 home runs, 330 total bases and a .552 slugging percentage. His 106 RBIs were second best in the league (to Ken Harrelson‘s 109).

For six days in May of 1968, Frank Howard was a home run machine – hitting 10 homers in six games and only 20 at-bats. He finished the 1968 season with 44 home runs and 106 runs batted in.

This was also the season when Howard went on a home run tear in May, blasting ten home runs in six games and doing it in only 20 at-bats. Howard did even better in 1969, batting .296 with 48 home runs and 111 RBIs. Harmon Killebrew led the league in both home runs and RBIs that season, but Howard was the league leader with 340 total bases and was fourth with a .574 slugging percentage. In 1970, he would lead the league in home runs (44) and RBIs (126).

Howard retired in 1973 with 382 home runs and 1,119 RBIs. He posted a career batting average of .273 and a .499 career slugging average. At his peak as a slugger, from 1967 through 1970, Howard averaged 43 home runs and 108 RBIs per season.

 

 

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Sock for the Sox

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lou Clinton

Outfielder Lou Clinton was an important bat in the Boston Red Sox lineup in the early 1960s. He was signed by the Red Sox in 1955 and made his major league debut in 1960, batting .228 as a rookie. He spent most of the 1961 season with Seattle in the Pacific Coast league, hitting .295 with 21 home runs and 102 RBIs.

Lou Clinton’s breakout season came in 1962, his first full season with the Boston Red Sox. Clinton batted .294 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs.

That performance earned Clinton a full-time shot with the 1962 Red Sox, and he delivered. Clinton batted .294 in 1962 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs. His 10 triples were second-highest in the American League. (Gino Cimoli led the league with 15 triples.)

In 1963, Clinton’s 22 home runs and 77 runs batted in were second highest on the team (to Dick Stuart in both categories). His batting average, however, slipped to .232. Clinton batted .251 in 1964 (with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs), and during that season was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for first baseman Lee Thomas.

Clinton batted .243 for the Angels in 1965, and also played with the Kansas City A’s and Cleveland Indians that season. Prior to the 1966 season, he was traded to the New York Yankees for catcher Doc Edwards. He hit .220 for the Yankees in 1966, and retired in 1967 at age 29.

Clinton played for five different teams in his seven-year major league career. He finished with 532 hits and a .247 career batting average.

First Expo No-No

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 17, 1969) In only the tenth game of the franchise’s history, Montreal Expos hurler Bill Stoneman today pitched a no-hitter, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 7-0.

Bill Stoneman tossed a no-hitter in only the Montreal Expos’ tenth game as a major league franchise. Stoneman finished the 1969 season at 11-19 with a 4.39 ERA.

Stoneman (1-2) faced 31 Phillies batters, walking five and striking out eight. The shutout lowered his season ERA to 2.50.

The losing pitcher was Phillies starter Jerry Johnson (0-2).

The hitting star for the Expos was right fielder Rusty Staub. Staub drove in three runs on four hits, including three doubles and his third home run of the season. The Expos also got RBIs from Ty Cline and Coco Laboy.

Stoneman was selected by the Expos as the 19th pick in the 1968 expansion draft after going a combined 2-5 in two seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He would follow his no-hit performance with another shutout five days later, blanking the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 with a six hitter. He would pitch three more shutouts by season’s end.

Stoneman emerged as the ace of the Expos’ pitching staff in the team’s inaugural season. He finished 1969 with a record of 11-19 with a 4.39 ERA. Stoneman led the team in starts (36), complete games (8), innings pitched (235.2) and strikeouts (185).

 

 

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Short Among the Braves

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Johnny Logan

For a decade, Johnny Logan provided All-Star caliber shortstop play for the Milwaukee Braves. He teamed with another infield All-Star, second baseman Red Schoendienst, at the end of the 1950s, when the Braves took back-to-back National League pennants.

Johnny Logan was the Braves’ shortstop for a decade starting in 1952. A three-time All-Star, Logan was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1961.

Logan was signed by the Boston Braves in 1947. He made his debut in Boston in 1951, batting .219 in 62 games.

By 1952, Logan was the Braves’ starting shortstop, batting .283. In 10 seasons with the Braves (both the Boston and Milwaukee versions), Logan hit a combined .270. His best season offensively came in 1955, when he batted .297 with 13 home runs and 83 RBIs. He also led the National League with 37 doubles in 1955.

Logan was chosen for the National League All-Star team in 1955. He made the NL All-Star team each season from 1957 through 1959.

After a decade-long tour with the Braves, Logan was traded in 1961 to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Gino Cimoli. In Pittsburgh, Logan was relegated to a backup role, first behind Dick Groat and then Dick Schofield. In three seasons with the Pirates, Logan batted a combined .249. He retired after the 1963 season.

Logan had a career batting average of .268 over 13 major league seasons.

 

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Miracle Baby

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gary Gentry

In his first major league season, Gary Gentry pitched for a championship team: the 1969 Miracle Mets. He was an integral part of the New York Mets’ triumph that season. And pitching for a team for which no success was anticipated, Gentry’s success, so early in his career, was miraculously instant.

Pitching won the 1969 National League pennant for the New York Mets, and rookie Gary Gentry was a vital part of that staff. Gentry was 13-12 with a 3.43 ERA and combined with Nolan Ryan to shut out the Baltimore Orioles in Game Three of the World Series.

Gentry was selected by the Mets in the third round of the 1967 amateur draft after a standout college career. He won 12 games for Jacksonville of the International League in 1968 and found his way onto the Mets’ starting rotation in 1969, going 13-12 in 35 starts during his 1969 rookie season. He posted a 3.43 ERA that year, with six complete games, three shutouts and 154 strikeouts in 233.2 innings pitched. Already a workhorse at age 22, he teamed with fellow starters Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman for one of the most formidable trios of starters in the National League, one of genuine championship caliber.

In the 1969 World Series, Gentry elevated his pitching from good to clutch. He was the starter and winner of the third game of the Series, combining with Nolan Ryan for a four-hit shutout that beat the Baltimore Orioles and Jim Palmer 5-0.

Gentry would never again have such a memorable season. He was 9-9 for the Mets in 1970 with a 3.68 ERA, and was 12-11 in 1971, posting a 3.23 ERA while pitching three shutouts among eight complete games. His record slipped to 7-10 in 1972, and he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in deal that brought Felix Millan to New York. He suffered from an elbow injury in posting a 4-6 record in 1973. Over the next two seasons, Gentry appeared in only 10 games for the Braves, going 1-1. He was released after the 1975 season, and retired at age 28.

Gentry posted a 46-49 record in seven big league seasons. His career ERA was 3.56.

 

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Colts Unbeatable?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 10, 1962) At Colt Stadium in Houston, the Colt .45s, in their first ever major league game, today defeated the Chicago Cubs, 11-2.

Left-hander Bobby Shantz throws the first pitch in the first game for the Houston Colt .45s. Shantz pitched a five-hit complete game as the Colts beat the Chicago Cubs 11-2.

 

Right fielder Roman Mejias was the hitting star for the Colts. Mejias got three hits, including a pair of three-run home runs. Catcher Hal Smith doubled and hit a solo home run.

Third baseman Bob Aspromonte recorded the first hit in the Houston franchise’s history with a single to left field to lead off the game. Aspromonte scored the Colts’ first run on Al Spangler’s triple.

Aspromonte also had three hits. He recorded another franchise first when he stole second base in the eighth inning.

Former Yankee hurler Bobby Shantz (1-0) got the win. Shantz pitched a five-hit complete games, striking out four and walking one. The Cubs scored on Ernie Banks’ solo home run in the seventh inning and added another run in the eighth inning on a Lou Brock sacrifice fly.

Outfielder Roman Mejias hit a pair of three-run home runs for the Colts

The losing pitcher was Cubs starter Don Cardwell (0-1).

The Colts would sweep their three-game season-opening series with the Cubs. They would finish their inaugural month in fifth place at 7-8. The Colts would finish the 1962 season at 64-96, in eighth place ahead of the Cubs and the New York Mets.

True Pro Astro

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Aspromonte

Bob Aspromonte was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956 and appeared in one game for Brooklyn, striking out in his only plate appearance.

In 1964, as the third baseman for the Houston Colt .45s, Bob Aspromonte led the team with a .280 batting average and was second in home runs (12) and runs batted in (69).

Aspromonte lasted 12 years (and one game) in the National League by being solid in the infield (and, occasionally, in left field) while hitting enough to be a run-producing asset at the back end of the lineup. He played for four different teams, though he spent more than half of his major league career with Houston (the Colt .45s and then the Astros).

After his Brooklyn debut, Aspromonte spent the next four seasons in the Dodgers’ farm system, hitting .329 for AAA St. Paul in 1960. He appeared in 68 games with the Dodgers in 1960 and 1961, batting a combined .212, and was Houston’s third selection in the 1961 National League expansion draft. He immediately became Houston’s starting third baseman, a position he would hold for the next seven seasons.

In seven seasons in Houston, Aspromonte batted .258 and averaged 55 RBIs per season. Hi best season was 1964, when he batted .280 with career highs in home runs (12) and runs batted in (69). He hit .294 in 1967, with 24 doubles, six home runs and 58 RBIs.

In December of 1968, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Marty Martinez. Aspromonte was a utility infielder for the Braves (with occasional duty in left field), batting .253 in 1969 and .213 in 1970. The Braves then sent him to the New York Mets for pitcher Ron Herbel.  Aspromonte hit .225 as the Mets’ third baseman in 1971 with five home runs and 33 RBIs. He retired after the 1971 season.

Aspromonte finished with a career batting average of .252 on 1,103 base hits.