A Flood of Flawless Fielding

 

The Glove Club: Curt Flood

From 1963 through 1968, the National League Gold Glove Awards for outfielders were won by three players. The same three outfielders. Year after year.

Roberto Clemente. Willie Mays. Curt Flood.

The fact that two of these outfielders are center fielders should not go unnoticed. No left fielder could approach Mays and Flood in the field. (Clemente, of course, owned right field in the National League during the 1960s.) Any team would find room for both in the outfield.

No one could argue with the inclusion of Mays. He was among the first Gold Glove winners when the award was initiated in 1957. He won a Gold Glove every year through the 1968 season. And he probably would have won a half-dozen more in the 1950s if the Gold Glove had been offered.

Was Mays the best center fielder of all time? Maybe. But defensively, Flood could give Say Hey a run for that title. His prowess in the outfield was clearly comparable to that of Mays. And in some fielding aspects, Flood surpassed Mays.

For instance …

Curt Flood’s consistency in center field was unmatched by any other outfielder of his era (including Willie Mays). Flood set a record for errorless games (226), playing the entire 1966 season without making an error.

Flood had the speed to cover the center field space. And for the most part (more than any other center fielder before – even Mays), he covered it flawlessly. He went through the entire 1966 season – making 394 putouts and six assists – without committing an error.

From September 3, 1965 through June 4, 1967, Flood ran an errorless games streak of 226, setting a National League record.  During that streak, Flood fielded 568 total unerring chances, setting a major league record.

During the 1960s, Flood led all National League center fielders in putouts four times and in assists three times. He led NL center fielders in fielding percentage three times, including his “perfect” 1966 season. Altogether during the 1960s, Flood won seven Gold Gloves.

Along with his fielding, Flood brought a potent bat. He batted .300 or better six times during the 1960s, with a combined batting average of .297 for the decade. He led the league in hits with 211 in 1964, and finished in the top ten in hits five times, in doubles four times and in triples once.

Offensively, maybe Flood couldn’t match the amazing Mr. Mays. But with his range and dependability in the field, Flood was a match for any center fielder who ever played the game.

 

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Glove Is a Many Splendored Thing

 

The Glove Club: Wes Parker

Wes Parker was a good hitter who was one of the best defensive first basemen in Dodgers history.

Wes Parker won six consecutive Gold Gloves from 1967-1972. His .9957 career fielding average is twelfth highest among major league first basemen.

Parker was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1963 and was playing in L.A. a year later, batting .257 as a rookie in 1964. Starting in 1965, he was the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman for the next eight seasons.

Parker won the Gold Glove for his play at first base every season from 1967 through 1972. In 1968, he committed only one error in 1,009 chances at first base for a .999 fielding percentage. Parker also played in the outfield as needed.

A switch-hitter, Parker was at first base when the Dodgers fielded an all-switch-hitting infield in 1965. The other members of that switch-hitting infield (the only one in major league history) were Jim Lefebvre at second, Maury Wills at shortstop and Jim Gilliam at third.

Parker’s best season as a hitter came in 1970, when he batted .319 with 10 home runs and 111 RBIs. That season he led the National League in doubles with 47 and in games played with 161. He also posted career highs in on-base percentage (.392) and slugging average (.458). His highest home run output came in 1969, when he hit 13 dingers.

Parker was released by the Dodgers after the 1973 season, and spent one season in Japan before retiring as a player. In nine major league seasons, all with the Dodgers, Parker posted a career batting average of .267 with 1,110 hits.

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The Mark of a Master

 

The Glove Club: Mark Belanger

By all human logic, it would seem to be impossible to stand out as a defensive player in an infield that featured the greatest defensive third baseman who ever played the game. But Mark Belanger did. He joined the Baltimore Orioles infield in 1967, and spent most of his major league career playing shortstop beside the incomparable Brooks Robinson.

But stand out, Belanger did. The rail-thin shortstop had great range, a great arm and a black glove that sucked up horsehide like a dog gobbling popcorn kernels. Robinson and Belanger made the left side of the Orioles’ infield virtually impenetrable.

Mark Belanger won his first Gold Glove in 1969. He would win seven more during the 1970s.

Belanger stepped into the shortstop position replacing Luis Aparicio, a seven-time Gold Glover in his own right, who was traded back to the Chicago White Sox after the 1967 season. As great as Aparicio was in the field, no one asked why the Orioles replaced him with Belanger.

Belanger’s hitting isn’t what kept him in the lineup. And he was no Aparicio at the plate. In 17 seasons with the Orioles, Belanger batted .227. He hit better than .230 only three times.

But Belanger didn’t have to hit. He saved runs, snared potential hits and killed rallies. Between 1969 and 1978, he won eight Gold Gloves, and led American League shortstops in assists and fielding percentage three times each. He finished his career with a .977 fielding percentage, the highest ever for an American League shortstop.

 

 

 

Pep at First

 

The Glove Club: Joe Pepitone

When the New York Yankees were looking to bolster their starting rotation following the 1962 season, they considered Bill Skowron expendable because of a first sacker they had waiting in the wings: Joe Pepitone. By trading Skowron to the Los Angeles Dodgers for starting pitcher Stan Williams, the Yankees opened the door to the left-handed hitting Pepitone, who brought a better first-base glove to the Yankee infield while expected to provide the same level of run production that the Yankees had gotten from “Moose” Skowron the previous five seasons.

As the New York Yankees’ first baseman for most of the 1960s, Joe Pepitone won three Gold Gloves.

As the New York Yankees’ first baseman for most of the 1960s, Joe Pepitone won three Gold Gloves.

Pepitone was signed by the Yankees in 1958 and made his debut in New York 4 seasons later, hitting .239 in 63 games. In 1963, he inherited Skowron’s first base position on a full-time basis, and responded by batting .271 with 27 home runs and 89 RBIs. In 1964, Pepitone’s batting average slipped to .251, but his power numbers increased to 28 home runs and 100 RBIs.

The 1964 season also was the one when Pepitone emerged as one of the American League’s premier first basemen. He led the league in putouts, assists and double plays at first base. He won the Gold Glove in 1965, 1966 and 1969. A versatile athlete, Pepitone moved to the Yankees’ outfield as needed, and played more games in the outfield than at first base in 1967 and 1968.

From 1963 through 1969, Pepitone averaged 23 home runs and 75 RBIs per season.But his decline in run productivity coincided with the Yankees’ decline in the standings. After hitting a career-best 31 home runs in 1966, he hit only 28 home runs combined over the next two seasons. His bat revived in 1969, as Pepitone returned to first place full time, hitting 27 home runs and winning hit third Gold Glove.

Joe Pepitone averaged 23 home runs and 75 RBIs for the Yankees from 1963-1969. His best season as a Yankee came in 1964, when he hit 28 home runs with 100 RBIs and led American League first basemen in putouts, assists and double plays.

Joe Pepitone averaged 23 home runs and 75 RBIs for the Yankees from 1963-1969. His best season as a Yankee came in 1964, when he hit 28 home runs with 100 RBIs and led American League first basemen in putouts, assists and double plays.

Following the 1969 season, the Yankees traded Pepitone to the Houston Astros for outfielder Curt Blefary. He hit .251 in 75 games for Houston before being purchased by the Chicago Cubs, where he replaced Ernie Banks at first base. His combined batting numbers for 1970 included 26 home runs and 79 RBIs.

Pepitone played three more seasons in Chicago. He hit .307 for the Cubs in 1971 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. In 1973 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Andre Thornton, but played in only three games for the Braves before retiring at age 32.

Pepitone finished with a career batting average of .258. He had 1,315 hits and 219 home runs. He was a member of the All-Star team three times.

Johnny Clutch

 

The Glove Club – Johnny Edwards

For more than a dozen years, Johnny Edwards was one of the best defensive catchers in the National League.

Johnny Edwards was the National League’s Gold Glove catcher in 1963 and 1964. He led the league in fielding percentage four times.

Johnny Edwards was the National League’s Gold Glove catcher in 1963 and 1964. He led the league in fielding percentage four times.

Edwards was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1959 after playing in college for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He was called up to Cincinnati in 1961, batting .186 in 52 games as the backup to Jerry Zimmerman. By 1962, he was Cincinnati’s starting catcher, hitting .254 with eight home runs, 50 RBIs and a career-best 28 doubles.

From 1962 through 1965, Edwards averaged 130 games per season and batted a combined .265. He also averaged 11 home runs and 56 RBIs per season, while appearing in three All-Star games. He also won the Gold Glove in 1963 and 1964.

His best season with the Reds came in 1964. Edwards batted .281 with seven home runs and 55 RBIs.

In February of 1968, the Reds traded Edwards to the St. Louis Cardinals for Pat Corrales and Jimy Williams. In his lone season in St. Louis, Edwards batted .239 with three home runs and 29 RBIs. Then he was dealt to the Houston Astros for Dave Adlesh and Dave Giusti. In his six seasons in Houston, Edwards batted a combined .237 while averaging four home runs and 33 RBIs.

What kept Edwards in the lineup was not his bat as much as his durability and his defense. He averaged 126 games from 1969 through 1972, and during that period he led the league twice in assists and in putouts in 1969. Edwards led the league in assists four times during his career and once more in putouts (1963).

Edwards retired after the 1974 season with a .242 career batting average.

 

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Holding Down First

 

The Glove Club: Bill White

For a dozen seasons, Bill White matched All-Star talent with relentless consistency as a first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. He was a heads-up player who was a solid runs producer and Gold Glove defender at first.

In eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bill White averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He was an All-Star five times.

In eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bill White averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He was an All-Star five times.

White was signed by the New York Giants in 1953. His rookie season came in 1956, when he hit .256 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs for the Giants. Military service put his baseball career on hold in 1957 and 1958, and just before the 1959 season he was traded with Ray Jablonski to the St. Louis Cardinals for Don Choate and Sam Jones.

It was in St. Louis where White blossomed into one of the league’s most accomplished first basemen. He hit .302 in his first season in St. Louis, with 12 home runs and 72 RBIs. He hit .324 in 1962, with 20 homers and 102 RBIs. In 1963, he drove in a career-best 109 RBIs on 27 home runs and a .304 batting average. In eight seasons in St. Louis, White hit .300 or better four times. He averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season as a Cardinal.

Following the 1965 season, White was traded with Dick Groat and Bob Uecker to the Philadelphia Phillies for Pat Corrales, Alex Johnson and Art Mahaffey.  He had a strong season for the Phillies in 1966, with 23 home runs and 103 RBIs while collecting his seventh consecutive Gold Glove award. However his batting average slipped to .276, the lowest since his rookie season but the highest it would be for the rest of his career. His numbers declined dramatically over the next two years, and the Phillies shipped him back to St. Louis, where White played one more season before retiring in 1969.

Bill White won seven consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966.

Bill White won seven consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966.

Following his playing career, White was a sportscaster calling New York Yankees games on both radio and television. From 1989 to 1994, he served as President of the National League.

In 13 big league seasons, White hit for a career average of .286 with 202 home runs and 870 RBIs. And no other National League first baseman could match his glove work. While he doesn’t have Hall of Fame numbers for his career, White nonetheless may be the best first baseman not in the Hall of Fame.

 

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Boston Boomer

 

The Glove Club: George Scott

George Scott was a slugger who, at one point in his career, the most productive – and at another point, the least productive – first baseman batting in the American League.

George Scott was the premier American League first baseman of his era. He won eight Gold Gloves between 1967 and 1976.

George Scott was the premier American League first baseman of his era. He won eight Gold Gloves between 1967 and 1976.

He was also an amazing defensive presence at first base, toting a vacuum cleaner of a glove he nicknamed “Black Beauty.”

Scott was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1962 and spent the next four seasons progressing through the Boston farm system. In 1965, he won the Eastern League Triple Crown, leading the league with 25 home runs, 94 RBIs and a .319 batting average. That performance earned Scott a shot at the Red Sox roster, and he stayed in the major leagues for the next 14 years.

Scott hit .245 as a rookie in 1966 with 27 home runs and 90 RBIs. He followed up in 1967 with a .303 batting average, hitting 19 home runs and driving in 82 run. He had a disastrous 1968, batting only .171 with three home runs and 25 RBIs, but rebounded in 1969 by hitting .253 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs.

Scott was the American League’s best defensive first baseman from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. He won eight Gold Gloves within that decade, and led the league’s first basemen three times in both putouts and assists.

George  Scott’s best season as a hitter came with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975. That season, “Boomer” batted .285 and led the league with 36 home runs (tied with <a rel=

George Scott’s best season as a hitter came with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975. That season, “Boomer” batted .285 and led the league with 36 home runs (tied with Reggie Jackson) and 109 RBIs.

Scott’s most productive period as a hitter came in the 1970s. He hit .296 for the Red Sox in 1970, and batted 24 home runs with 78 RBIs in 1971. Following the 1971 season, he was traded with Ken Brett, Billy Conigliaro, Joe Lahoud, Jim Lonborg and Don Pavletich to the Milwaukee Brewers for Pat Skrable, Tommy Harper, Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin.

In five seasons with the Brewers, Scott hit a combined .283 and averaged 23 home runs and 93 RBIs per season. His best season came in 1975, when he hit .285 and led the American League with 109 RBIs. His 36 home runs also tied for the league lead with Reggie Jackson.

Before the 1977 season, Scott was traded back to the Red Sox (with Bernie Carbo) for Cecil Cooper. He hit .269 for Boston that season, with 33 home runs and 95 RBIs. He hit .233 for the Red Sox in 1978, and split the 1979 season with the Red Sox, the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees, hitting a combined .254 with six home runs and 49 RBIs. He retired after the 1979 season.

In 14 big league seasons, Scott batted .268 with 271 home runs. He was named to the American League All-Star team three times.

Sly Fox

 

The Glove Club: Nellie Fox

No player of his era could out-hustle Hall of Fame second baseman Nellie Fox. Or out-compete him. That was true in the batter’s box or in the field, where Fox established himself over a decade as a workhorse firebrand with a glove of gold.

Nellie Fox won three of the first four Gold Gloves awarded to second basemen, starting in 1957.

Nellie Fox won three of the first four Gold Gloves awarded to second basemen, starting in 1957.

Nellie Fox signed with the Philadelphia Athletics as a 16-year-old, 5-foot 6-inch first baseman, but was moved immediately to second base, where his size and agility eventually made him one of the American League’s best. After four seasons in the minor leagues and three seasons with the A’s, where he played a total of 98 games, Fox was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1949 and was the team’s starting second baseman by season’s end, hitting .247. Over the next 13 seasons, Fox would hit for a combined .294 average, batting .300 or better six times. His best season at the plate would come in 1959, when he batted .306 with 71 RBIs. That season he was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in leading the White Sox to their first pennant in 40 years.

Fox was the toughest strikeout in baseball. He never struck out more than 18 times in any season, and led the league 12 times in at-bats-to-strikeouts ratio.

From 1952 to 1962, Fox played in an average of 155 games per season. That kind of durability is especially impressive when you consider that the American League regular season was 154 games until 1961. So it is not surprising that Fox was consistently at the top in fielding chances and outs. He led the league in assists six times and was among the top three in that category every season from 1951 to 1961. He led the league in putouts every year from 1952-1961. He was first in fielding percentage six times and the leader among second basemen in double plays five times.

Nellie Fox was the America League Most Valuable Player in 1959.

Nellie Fox was the America League Most Valuable Player in 1959.

When the major leagues initiated the Gold Glove award in 1957, it was natural that the first one would go to Fox. After Frank Bolling won the award in 1958, Fox repeated as the Gold Glove winner in 1959 and 1960.

Following the 1963 season, Fox was traded to the Houston Colt .45s and played one full season in the National League before retiring in the midst of the 1965 season. Fox was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Go Get ‘Em.

 

The Glove Club: Jim Landis

During his 11-year major league career, Jim Landis was an outstanding center fielder who could also hit (enough) for average and occasional power.

Jim Landis collected five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960-1964. His .993 fielding percentage in 1963 topped all American League outfielders.

Jim Landis collected five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960-1964. His .993 fielding percentage in 1963 topped all American League outfielders.

He was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1952 and spent the next five years working his way through the White Sox farm system (after two years of military service). He debuted with the White Sox in 1957 at the age of 23, batting .212 in 96 games.

He became the White Sox regular center fielder in 1958, batting .277 with 15 home runs and 64 RBIs. From 1958 through 1963, Landis batted a combined .258 while averaging 13 home runs and 61 RBIs per season. His most productive season offensively came in 1961, when he batted .283 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. He also won his second of five consecutive Gold Gloves that season.

After eight seasons in Chicago, Landis was sent to the Kansas City Athletics (with Mike Hershberger and Fred Talbot) in a three-team deal that brought Tommie Agee, Tommy John and John Romano to the White Sox and sent Rocky Colavito to the Cleveland Indians. He hit .239 for the A’s in 1965, and then was traded to the Indians for Phil Roof and Joe Rudi.

Jim Landis’ most productive season offensively came in 1961, when he batted .283 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs.

Landis batted .222 for Cleveland in 1966, and spent 1967 playing for three teams. He was traded by the Indians with Doc Edwards and Jim Weaver to the Houston Astros for Lee Maye and Ken Retzer. Then in June he was traded by the Astros to the Detroit Tigers for Larry Sherry. The Tigers released Landis in August and he signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox. He spent a week in Boston, and then was released. He hit a combined .237 for the 1967 season.

Landis retired after 11 major league seasons with a career batting average of .247. He was a member of the American League All-Star team in 1962.

A Rifle in Right

 

The Glove Club: Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente earned his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame with an outstanding career as a hitter: 3,000 career hits and a .317 batting average over 18 seasons, with four National League batting championships. A 12-time All-Star, Clemente was arguably the best right fielder of the 1960s, with little room for real argument.

A more meaningful discussion might be whether Clemente was in fact the best right fielder of all time. He might have been.

Clemente won the Gold Glove every year from 1961 until 1972, 12 times altogether. His career 256 assists in right field are the most in major league history.

Clemente won the Gold Glove every year from 1961 until 1972, 12 times altogether. His career 256 assists in right field are the most in major league history.

Clemente made his major league debut in 1955 with the only team he would ever play for at the major league level, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Clemente spent only one season in the Dodgers’ farm system before being acquired by the Pirates. He batted .255 as a rookie and then, in his first full season in 1956, batted .311. He batted .300 or better 13 times in his career, and hit for that average every years in the 1960s except 1968, when he “slumped” to .291. His highest batting average came in 1967, when he hit .367. He led the league in hits twice and in triples in 1969.

His play in right field was just as consistently dazzling as his work in the batter’s box. Spectacular plays were commonplace for Clemente, who won the Gold Glove every year from 1961 until 1972, 12 times altogether.

He had a powerful throwing arm that let him reach any base with laser accuracy. As a right fielder, Clemente led the league in putouts three times and in assists six times. His career 256 assists in right field are the most in major league history. Twice he led all National league outfielders in double plays.

Clemente was voted Most Valuable Player in 1966.

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