The Glove Club: Bill Virdon
The Glove Club: Del Crandall
If you were going to “build” the catcher you needed in the 1950s, you couldn’t have worked from a better prototype than Del Crandall.
His defense was superb. He was mostly head-and-shoulders above his National League counterparts during the 1950s and into the 1960s. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
The Glove Club – Johnny Edwards
For more than a dozen years, Johnny Edwards was one of the best defensive catchers in the National League.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.