Nothing Got By Bobby

The Glove Club: Bobby Shantz

Bobby Shantz was one of the best-fielding pitchers of the 1950s and 1960s. He won eight consecutive Gold Gloves from 1957 to 1964, and was the first player to win that award in both leagues. He also won 119 games (against 99 losses) in a 16-year major league career.

The American League MVP in 1954, Bobby Shantz was the first player to win a Gold Glove in both leagues.

The American League MVP in 1954, Bobby Shantz was the first player to win a Gold Glove in both leagues.

Shantz was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1948 and was pitching in the major leagues a year later, going 6-8 with a 3.40 ERA as a rookie in 1949. He was 18-10 for the A’s in 1951, and was 24-7 in 1952, leading the American League in wins and capturing the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

He was plagued by injuries over the next three seasons and was traded to the New York Yankees in 1956, going 11-5 for the Yankees in 1957 and leading the American League with a 2.45 ERA. Over the next three seasons, Shantz made the transition from starter to the bullpen, where he would work throughout the 1960s.

In 1960 Shantz was selected by the Washington Senators in the expansion draft, and then was traded almost immediately to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Harry Bright, Bennie Daniels and R C Stevens. After going 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA for the Pirates in 1961, Shantz again was selected in an expansion draft, this time by the Houston Colt .45s. He split the 1962 season between the Houston Colt .45s and the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a combined record of 6-4 with a 1.95 ERA.

In 1964, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs as part of the deal that brought Lou Brock to the Cardinals. Shantz closed out his career pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1965. He finished with a career earned run average of 3.38. Shantz was a three-time All-Star.

 

 

 

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Knuckle Out of Trouble

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Eddie Fisher

Eddie Fisher was one of a handful of pioneering relief specialists whose success in the 1960s paved the way for the ultra-specialist relievers so prominent in baseball today. His success was built on one pitch and advice he received from a future Hall of Famer.

In 1965 Eddie Fisher led the American League in appearances (82) and games finished (60). He won 15 games in relief while saving 24.

Fisher was signed by the San Francisco Giants off the campus of the University of Oklahoma. In 4 minor league seasons, Fisher went 47-28 as both a starter and reliever. He made three short stays with the Giants from 1959 to 1961, appearing in only 35 games with a 3-8 record over those three seasons.

Fisher’s first real opportunity came when, in November of 1961, he was traded with Bob Farley and Dom Zanni to the Chicago White Sox for Don Larsen and Billy Pierce. The trade turned out to be significant for both teams. Pierce had a 16-6 season for the Giants that included outstanding pitching in the stretch run. He and Larsen accounted for both of the San Francisco playoff victories that boosted the Giants into the World Series.

But during his first tour with the White Sox, Fisher blossomed into one of the best relievers in baseball. In 1962 and 1963, Fisher split his appearance between starting and relieving, with a combined record of 18-13 with a 3.44 ERA. During those two seasons, he had four complete games with two shutouts, and five saves.

Fisher also spent time in the Chicago bullpen with future Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm. It was time well spent. Fisher perfected the art of the knuckleball under Wilhelm’s tutelage, and mastered it over those two seasons. By 1964, Fisher started in only two of his 59 appearances, but finished 30 games and saved nine while going 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA. In 1965 Fisher led the American League in appearances (82) and games finished (60). He won 15 games in relief while saving 24. His 2.40 ERA was second in the league to Cleveland’s Sam McDowell (2.18). For the season, Fisher was selected to the American League All-Star team, and finished fourth in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.

Fisher started the 1966 season with the White Sox, but was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in June for Jerry Adair and John Riddle. He anchored the bullpen for the pennant-winning Orioles, leading the league again in appearances (67) while finishing second in games finished (50). His 19 saves (13 with Baltimore) were fifth best in the league, and Fisher completed the season with a combined ERA of 2.52. He spent one more season in Baltimore (4-3, 3.61 ERA, 1 save) and one season in Cleveland (4-2, 2.85 ERA, four saves). The Indians dealt Fisher to the California Angels, where he pitched for the next four years (21-19, 3.22 ERA, 17 saves). He closed out his career with fractions of seasons with the White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

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Mahaffey Mows Down 17

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 23, 1961) Striking out at least one batter in each inning, Philadelphia Phillies hurler Art Mahaffey today set a new club record with 17 strikeouts.

Art Mahafey set a Phillies team record by striking out 17 batters in a 9-inning game.

Art Mahafey set a Phillies team record by striking out 17 batters in a 9-inning game.

Mahaffey (1-1) and the Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs 6-0. Mahaffey allowed only four hits and a walk. Mahaffey struck out the side in the second inning and the sixth inning. Four Cubs batters – Don Zimmer, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Frank Thomas – struck out three times each.

The hitting star for the Phillies was outfielder Johnny Callison. Callison drove in four runs with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a three-run home run in the fifth inning off Cubs starter Bob Anderson (0-2). Mahaffey would finish the 1961 season at 11-19 with a 4.10 ERA.

O’s Infield Anchor

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dave Johnson

As the Baltimore Orioles dominated American League play for most of the late 1960s and early 1970s, second base was commanded by the superb fielding and timely hitting of Dave Johnson. His arrival (as well as that of Frank Robinson) coincided with the team’s ascendancy.

Dave Johnson was an a steady force at second base for the powerful Baltimore Orioles teams of the late 1960s.

Dave Johnson was an a steady force at second base for the powerful Baltimore Orioles teams of the late 1960s.

Johnson was signed by the Orioles in 1962 and made his debut with the major league club at the end f the 1965 season. He opened the 1966 season as Baltimore’s starting second baseman, hitting .257. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year balloting behind Tommie Agee and Jim Nash. Johnson hit .286 in the 1966 World Series, as the Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 1967, Johnson hit .247 with 10 home runs and 64 RBIs. He also hit 30 doubles that season, fourth highest in the American League. He followed up with a .242 batting average in 1968, and then had three strong offensive seasons for the Orioles, batting .280 in 1969 (with 34 doubles, seven home runs and 57 RBIs) and hitting .281 in 1970 (with 27 doubles, 10 home runs and 53 RBIs).

Johnson’s best hitting season with Baltimore came in 1971, when he batted .282 with 26 doubles, 18 home runs and 72 RBIs. After batting only .221 in 1972, Johnson was traded to the Atlanta Braves, where he had his best season as a hitter: batting .270 with 43 home runs and 99 RBIs. He hit .251 for the Braves in 1974, and then was released at the beginning of the 1975 season. He played in Japan for two seasons, and then signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1977. He hit .321 as a part-time player for the Phillies, and hit two pinch-hit grand slams for Philadelphia in 1978 before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He finished the 1978 season with the Cubs, hitting .306 for Chicago in limited action, and retired to pursue a long career as a major league manager. He was an All-Star four times and won three Gold Gloves.

Johnson hit .261 over 13 major league seasons, with 1,252 hits and 136 home runs.

 

Fergie Flees Philly for Hall of Fame Career

 

Swap Shop: Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl for Fergie Jenkins

The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 1966 season with the expectation of being a genuine pennant contender. After the nightmare collapse of 1964, the team finished sixth in 1965, 11.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but nine games over the .500 mark.

Larry Jackson Veteran RHP was traded to the Phillies for Ferguson Jenkins.

Larry Jackson
Veteran RHP was traded to the Phillies for Ferguson Jenkins.

At the end of spring training, the team was looking to solidify an already formidable starting rotation. And the Chicago Cubs were ready to accommodate that need. The Cubs offered two proven veteran pitchers, a pair of work-horses who would provide a strong complement to a staff that already featured Jim Bunning (19-9, 2.60 ERA in 1965) and Chris Short (18-11, 2.82).

The Cubs were willing to part with Larry Jackson (14-21, 3.85) and Bob Buhl (13-11, 4.39). Between them, Jackson and Buhl already had 313 major league wins.

Ferguson Jenkins blossomed into one of the best pitchers in the National League after being traded to the Cubs.

The Phillies jumped at the opportunity to grab Jackson and Buhl, especially since their acquisition would cost the Phillies only three prospects: outfielders John Herrnstein and Adolfo Phillips, and an unproven, hard-throwing relief pitcher named Ferguson Jenkins.

The Phillies fell short of the pennant again in 1966, finishing fourth in the National League at 87-75. Jackson and Buhl were a combined 21-21.

Even at that, it looked as though the Phillies got the better of the deal. The Cubs’ 1966 season turned out to be a disaster. The team finished dead last at 59-103. Phillips became the Cubs’ everyday center fielder, batting .262. Herrnstein appeared in only nine games, and Jenkins was 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA. His 60 appearances were the most on the Cubs’ staff. He finished 22 games with five saves, and started only 12 games.

Bob Buhl

Bob Buhl

All that, of course, would change in 1967. Used almost exclusively as a starter, Jenkins was 20-13 and led the National League with 20 complete games. He would win 20 or more games per season for six straight years, and seven out of the next eight seasons. He would win 284 games during his 19-year major league career that eventually took him to Cooperstown.

After winning 15 games in 1966, Jackson would win 13 for the Phillies in both 1967 and 1968 before retiring. The six games Buhl won in 1966 would be the last of his career.

 

 

Beast for a Year

 

Career Year: George Altman – 1961

George Altman’s career lasted nine seasons – all in the National League – and he was an everyday player for six of those seasons. As an everyday outfielder, Altman batted a combined .276 and averaged 15 home runs and 60 runs batted in. But in 1961, he rocked Wrigley Field and the rest of the National League as the most potent bat in the Cubs’ batting order … a batting order that included three future Hall of Famers.

Signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1955, Altman spent three of the next four seasons in the Cubs minor league system and one year in military service. He joined the Cubs’ roster in 1959 as a 26-year-old rookie, batting .245 with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs. He was still a part-time player in 1960 when he batted .266 with 13 home runs and 51 RBIs.

 

George Altman finished the season at .303 with 27 home runs and 96 RBIs. He also had 28 doubles and led the National League with 12 triples.

George Altman finished the season at .303 with 27 home runs and 96 RBIs. He also had 28 doubles and led the National League with 12 triples.

The 1961 season put Altman in the Cubs’ everyday lineup gradually. He appeared in only four games in April, a pinch-hitter who was 0 for 4 for the month. He found his way into 21 games in May, batting .351 in 75 at-bats with two home runs and 12 RBIs. His bat would keep him in the lineup for the rest of the season.

Altman’s productivity at the plate exploded in June, as he batted .355 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. During that month, he had seven multi-hit games and four games with three or more runs batted in.

He slowed down somewhat after a torrid June, batting .275 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs over the rest of the summer. He finished the season at .303 with 27 home runs and 96 RBIs. He also had 28 doubles and led the National League with 12 triples.

In a batting order that featured future Hall of Famers Ernie BanksRon Santo and a rookie Billy Williams, Altman in 1961 was the team’s most productive clean-up hitter, batting .303 with runners in scoring position. On the season, Altman led the team in hitting, RBIs and triples. He finished second on the team in runs (77), hits (157), doubles and stolen bases. Of course, one can only speculate what Altman’s numbers might have been if he had played a full season instead of making just four plate appearances in the team’s 16 April games.

Altman finished fourteenth in the voting for 1961 Most Valuable Player, and he was a member of the 1961 All-Star team. He would also be an All-Star in 1962, when he would hit .318 with 22 home runs and 74 RBIs. But he would never again approach the power numbers he put up in 1961. From 1962 on, he would never hit more than nine home runs or drive in more than 47 runs in a season.

Altman spent seven of his nine major league seasons with the Cubs, with single-season stops with the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets in between his two tours in Chicago. He started the 1967 season with the Cubs but spent most of that season in the minors. He played in Japan from 1968 through 1975.

 

Seaver Wins His First

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 20, 1967) Today rookie hurler Tom Seaver got his first major league win when the New York Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1.

In his second major league start, “Tom Terrific” went 7.2 innings, giving up eight hits and one run. He struck out five Cubs batters and did not issue a walk. He was relieved in the eighth inning by Don Shaw, who finished the game to garner his first save of the season.

The Cubs scored first. Don Kessinger singled in the third inning and scored on a Billy Williams triple. Seaver and Shaw shut out the Cubs the rest of the way.

The Mets tied the game in the fourth inning on Tommy Davis’ solo home run off Cubs starter Curt Simmons. The Mets scored again in the sixth inning on Ken Boyer’s RBI single and a Ron Swoboda sacrifice fly. The Mets added three more runs in the eighth inning.

Seaver finished the 1967 season at 16-13 with a 2.76 ERA. He was an All-Star for the first time, and was named Rookie of the Year. His 16 victories would be the most by a Mets pitcher, a mark that would be surpassed by Jerry Koosman’s 19 wins in 1968 and Seaver’s 25 victories in 1969 (still the single-season best for a Mets pitcher).

 

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A Third Sacker with Sock

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Frank Malzone

For a decade from the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s, Frank Malzone gave the Boston Red Sox solid play at third base while providing batting average and power in the middle of the Red Sox batting order. He was a Boston institution whose hitting contributions were generally under-valued as he played in the shadows of future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

Six-time All-Star third baseman for the Boston Red Sox

Six-time All-Star third baseman for the Boston Red Sox

Born in the Bronx, Malzone was signed by the Red Sox in 1947. After serving his minor league apprenticeship and two years of military service, he played his first full season with Boston in 1957, hitting .292 with 31 doubles, 15 home runs and 103 runs batted in. He was runner-up to Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek for Rookie of the Year honors. He followed that performance by batting .295 in 1958 with 15 home runs and 87 RBIs, and hit .280 in 1959 with 19 homers and 92 RBIs. His 34 doubles were second in the American League (to Harvey Kuenn of the Detroit Tigers).

From 1960 through 1963, Malzone was the model of consistency for the Red Sox, batting .278 and averaging 16 home runs and 83 RBIs per season. His best season in the 1960s came in 1962, when he batted .283 with 21 home runs and 95 RBIs.

There was a sharp decline in Malzone’s power numbers after the 1963 season. In 1965, he was released by the Red Sox and signed with the California Angels. He appeared in 82 games with the Angels in 1966, hitting .206 with 2 home runs and 12 RBIs. He retired following the 1966 season.

In 12 big league seasons, Malzone batted .274 with 1,486 hits, including 239 doubles and 133 home runs. He was named to the American League All-Star team six times, and was a three-time Gold Glove winner. 

 

Who’s Your Daddy Wags?

 

Homer Happy: Leon Wagner

Leon Wagner was signed by the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1954, and joined the big league club for 74 games in the 1958 season, batting .317 with 13 home runs and 35 RBIs in only 221 at-bats.

Leon Wagner and Mickey Mantle were All-Star teammates in 1963.

Leon Wagner and Mickey Mantle were All-Star teammates in 1963.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, it wasn’t that hard for a talented ballplayer – especially one who could hit with power – to get lost in the San Francisco Giants outfield. When Wagner joined the Giants in 1958 after spending the previous six years in the minors and in the Army, he saw the likes of Willie Mays, Felipe Alou, Jackie Brandt and even a youngster named Willie McCovey ahead of him. There was no room in the lineup on a team loaded with power, and no room in the outfield for a player who occasionally had trouble judging fly balls.

Wagner was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1960, but there was little opportunity to break into an outfield that featured Stan Musial, Curt Flood and Joe Cunningham.

Wagner’s break came in 1961. Traded by the Cardinals to Toronto in the International League, he was then dealt to the expansion Los Angeles Angels for outfielder Lou Johnson. As the everyday left fielder for the Angels, Wagner hit .280 with 28 home runs and 79 RBIs in 1961. He followed up in 1962 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs as the Angels surprised the baseball world by finishing third in the American League. In 1963, Wagner hit .291 for the Angels with 26 home runs and 90 RBIs, making the All-Star team for the second consecutive year.

Following the 1963 season, the Angels traded Wagner to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Barry Latman and first baseman Joe Adcock. Wagner had his best seasons with the Tribe, hitting 34 home runs with 100 RBIs in 1964. In 4-plus campaigns with Cleveland, Wagner averaged 24 home runs and 75 RBIs per season. In 1968, Cleveland dealt Wagner to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Russ Snyder. He served mostly as a pinch hitter for the White Sox in 1968 and for the San Francisco Giants in 1969, retiring after the 1969 season.

A fan and media favorite throughout his 12-season career, “Daddy Wags” batted a career .272 with 211 home runs and 669 RBIs.