No Idle Hands Here

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bill Hands

Bill Hands was a workhorse for the Chicago Cubs pitching staff in the late 1960s. From 1968 through 1971, he averaged 266 innings and 16 victories per season, with a combined 3.10 ERA over those four seasons.

Bill Hands was a workhorse in the Chicago Cubs’ starting rotation. He averaged 16 victories and 266 innings pitched from 1968-1971.

Hands was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1959 and spent the next seven years progressing through the Giants’ farm system, winning 17 games for AAA Tacoma in 1965 to earn a trip to a big league debut with the Giants at the end of that season. In December of 1965, the Giants traded Hands with Randy Hundley to the Chicago Cubs for Don Landrum and Lindy McDaniel.

Hands went 8-13 in his first season in Chicago, and was 7-8 in 1967. He was used primarily as a reliever in both of those seasons, and was promoted to the starting rotation for the 1968 season. Hands blossomed as a starter, going 16-10 in 1968 with a 2.89 ERA. He pitched 258.2 innings in 1968, with four shutouts and 11 complete games.

In 1969, Hands produced a 20-14 season with a 2.49 ERA. He pitched 300 innings with 18 complete games in 41 starts. It would be his best season in the major leagues. He followed up in 1970 with an 18-15 record, and slipped to 12-18 in 1971, though pitching with a still-respectable 3.42 ERA.

With each passing season, his number of starts and innings pitched declined. He went 11-8 in 1972, his last season in Chicago, and was traded to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Dave LaRoche. He was a combined 11-15 in a season and a half for the Twins. He was acquired by the Texas Rangers at the end of the 1974, and retired at age 35 after posting a 6-7 record with the Rangers in 1975.

Hands was 111-110 in 11 major league seasons. His career ERA was 3.35.

 

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Jump Ball, Fastball

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gene Conley

Gene Conley was the first athlete to play for World Champions in two different major sports: for the Milwaukee Braves as a pitcher in 1957, and as a member of the NBA’s Boston Celtics from 1959 to 1962.

A talented athlete, Gene Conley played professionally in both baseball and basketball.

A two-sport All-American at Washington State University, the six-foot-eight-inch Conley was signed by the Boston Braves in 1951. He was outstanding from the start of his professional baseball career, winning 20 games his first minor league season, and then going 11-4 for Milwaukee in the American Association before being called up to Boston at the end of the 1952 season … and promptly losing his first three major league starts.  He spent the 1953 season in the minors, winning 23 games at the AAA level.

In 1954, he stepped right into the Braves’ starting rotation and was 14-9 in his rookie season, with a 2.96 ERA, fifth best in the National League. Conley was named to the All-Star team, and finished third in the voting for Rookie of the Year, won in 1954 by Wally Moon (Ernie Banks finished second … and Hank Aaron fourth).

Gene Conley was a National League All-Star in his 1954 rookie campaign. He was 14-9 with a 2.96 ERA.

Conley was 11-7 in 1955, and then didn’t win more than nine games in a season until 1959 when, as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, he went 12-7 with a 3.00 earned run average. He was 8-14 for the Phillies in 1960, and then was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Frank Sullivan. He was 11-14 for the Red Sox in 1961, finishing third on the team in victories behind Don Schwall and Bill Monbouquette. In 1962, his 15-14 record tied him with Monbouquette for the team lead in wins.

Conley appeared in nine games for Boston in 1963, going 3-4 with an ERA of 6.64. He was released by the Red Sox and signed the next day with the Cleveland Indians, but never pitched in an Indians’ uniform, retiring in June at age 32.

Gene Conley’s best season with the Boston Red Sox came in 1962. He was 15-14 with a 3.95 ERA.

In 11 major league seasons, Conley posted a 91-96 record with a career ERA of 3.82. He struck out 888 batters and pitched 13 shutouts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaning Left

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Denny Lemaster

For more than a decade, Denny Lemaster was a southpaw who showed tantalizing flashes of brilliance but not the consistency of a true staff ace. Thus he pitched well frequently and was over-powering on occasion, but was never quite as good as his lively left arm suggested he could be.

Denny Lemaster’s best season came in 1964 for the Milwaukee Braves. He was 17-11 with a 4.15 ERA. He also led the team with 185 strikeouts.

Lemaster was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958. He made his major league debut in 1962, going 3-4 in 17 games (12 starts and four complete games) with a 3.01 ERA. Lemaster started the 1963 season in the bullpen but finished in the Braves’ starting rotation, ending the season at 11-14 with a 3.04 earned run average.

His best season came in 1964. Lemaster was 17-11 with a 4.15 ERA, including nine complete games and three shutouts. His record slipped to 7-13 in 1965, but he rebounded in 1966 to go 11-8 with a 3.74 ERA and 10 complete games, including three shutouts. In 1969, he went 9-9, including a one-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1967 Lemaster was traded with Denis Menke to the Houston Astros for Chuck Harrison and Sonny Jackson. Lemaster went 10-15 for the Astros with a 2.81 ERA in 1968, and followed with a 13-17 record in 1969. He transitioned back to a bullpen role in 1970, with a 7-12 record and a 4.56 ERA. He appeared in 42 games in 1971, going 0-2 with a 3.45 ERA.

He was purchased by the Montreal Expos in 1971, and he appeared in 13 games for Montreal in 1972, going 2-0 with a 7.78 ERA. He was released in July and finished with a career record of 90-105 with a 3.58 ERA.

 

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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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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.

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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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.

Nothing Minor About This Kiddie

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jerry Walker

Precocious only begins to describe the brief career of pitcher Jerry Walker. At age 20, he was the youngest player ever to start an All-Star game. By age 26, he was retired.

Jerry Walker was 7-3 at the All-Star break in 1959, and was the American League’s starting pitcher … at age 20, the youngest ever.

Walker was signed by the Baltimore Orioles in 1957 and found a spot immediately in the Orioles’ bullpen, with no stops in the minor leagues. He was 1-0 as an 18-year-old rookie, with a 2.93 ERA. His only decision was a 10-inning, four-hit shutout of the Washington Senators.

He appeared in only six games in 1958, and then started out 7-3 in 1959, garnering the starting assignment in that year’s All-Star game. He finished the 1959 season at 11-10 with a 2.92 ERA.

The Orioles entered the 1960s with what was considered one of the best young starting rotations in baseball. Their “Kiddie Corps” included Walker, Milt Pappas, Chuck Estrada and Steve Barber. Unfortunately for Walker, he would be the first to be removed from the group.

After going 3-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 1960, Walker was traded with Chuck Essegian to the Kansas City Athletics for Dick Hall and Dick Williams. In his first season in Kansas City, Walker won eight games for an Athletics team that finished ninth at 61-100. He won eight more games in 1962, and then was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Chuck Essegian … the same Chuck Essegian who accompanied him on the trade from Baltimore to Kansas City.

Walker went 6-6 for the Tribe in 1963, with all but two of his 39 appearances coming in relief. He retired after six appearances in the 1964 season. He was only 25 at the time he retired.

Walker finished with an eight-year career record of 37-44 and a 4.66 ERA.

 

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