Brooklyn’s Finest, Mets’ First

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gil Hodges

An eight-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner with the Dodgers, first baseman Gil Hodges was the second most prolific home run hitter of the 1950s. His 310 home runs were second only to Dodger teammate Duke Snider’s 326.

During the 1950s, only teammate Duke Snider hit more home runs and drove in more runs than Gil Hodges.

During the 1950s, only teammate Duke Snider hit more home runs and drove in more runs than Gil Hodges.

Hodges also drove in 1,001 runs during the 1950s … more than Stan Musial and Yogi Berra. More than Mantle and Mays. More than any major league player except Snider.

As good as Hodges was as a slugger, he was even better as a manager. After returning to New York in the twilight of his career as the Mets’ first baseman, Hodges retired as a player following the 1963 season. He became the manager of the Washington Senators and led that expansion team to a franchise-best sixth-place finish in 1967. The Mets acquired Hodges for pitcher Bill Denehy and $100,000 following the 1967 season.

The 1968 Mets, in their first season under Hodges’ direction, had their best finish at 73-89.

They would finish 27 games better in 1969, winning the National League East Division by 8.0 games, sweeping the Atlanta Braves in the league’s first Championship Series, and then stunning the baseball world – and the American League champion Baltimore Orioles – by taking the World Series in five games.

Why isn’t this gentleman in the Hall of Fame … as a manager, or as a player, or both?

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A Flurry of RBIs

 

Lights Out: Boog Powell’s 11-RBI Day

The turning point in Boog Powell’s career came on December 9, 1965. That was the day when the Baltimore Orioles acquired Frank Robinson from the Cincinnati Reds.

Boog Powell drove in 11 runs in a double header with the Kansas City Athletics in 1966.

Boog Powell drove in 11 runs in a double header with the Kansas City Athletics in 1966.

The 1965 season had been a disappointment for Powell. After hitting 39 home runs and driving in 99 runs at age 22 in 1964, Powell’s home run output slipped to 17 in 1965. His 72 RBIs were his lowest run production since his rookie season.

In 1965, Powel had been the lone power threat in the Orioles line-up that had ever produced as many as 30 home runs in a season. (Curt Blefary led the team in 1965 with 22 home runs.) But that would change in 1966. The presence of Robinson’s right-handed bat meant Powel was likely to get more respect and more fastballs. He did, and he delivered.

He started slowly in 1966. He batted .171 in April and had raised his average only to .232 by the end of May. But Powell caught fire in June, when he batted .384 with 8 home runs and 31 RBIs in 32 games. He was just getting started.

Coming into a double header with the Kansas City Athletics on July 6, 1966, Powell had raised his season’s batting average to .296 with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. The Orioles took the first game of the twin-bill by a score of 11-0. Powell was one for four but had four runs batted in on a bases-loaded double in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

In the second game, Powell drove in the first run with a double in the third inning, and scored on Frank Robinson’s RBI single. That lead lasted only until the fourth inning, when Kansas City’s Larry Stahl tied the game with a two-run double.

When Powell came up to bat again in the fifth inning, he found the bases loaded … and cleared them with his seventeenth home run of the season. In the seventh inning, he lined out to right fielder Mike Hershberger.

The Athletics rallied for six runs in the eighth inning to take an 8-6 lead. The A’s bullpen ace, Jack Aker, pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Powell came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and Luis Aparicio at first base. He launched his second home run of the game to tie the game at 8-8 and send it into extra innings.

Stahl’s second double of the game in the eleventh inning put the Athletics back on top 9-8. Aker came out to pitch the bottom of the eleventh, his fourth inning of work. (That’s what bullpen aces were expected to do in the 1960s.) Paul Blair and Vic Roznovsky grounded out, and Blefary came on to pinch hit for Orioles pitcher John Miller. Blefary singled to center field, bringing Aparicio to bat with Powell in the on-deck circle.

Powel never got his chance for more heroics, as Aparicio hit a grounder back to Aker to end the game. Powell finished with three hits in five at-bats, a double and two home runs, with three runs scored and seven runs batted in. For the double header, he was four for nine with 11 RBIs.

He was on his way to a season that would legitimize him as a premier power hitter, and put a World Series ring on his finger.

Lights Out!

 

 

 

Excerpt from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age.

 

 

Outs at any Second

 

The Glove Club: Jerry Kindall

Of all the major league players since 1920 to accumulate 2,000 or more at-bats, none has had a lower career batting average than infielder Jerry Kindall. While his .213 career average puts him at the bottom of the ladder, he lasted nine seasons in the big leagues. His range, his glove and occasional power kept him there.

Jerry Kindall’s glove, range and occasional power kept him in the major leagues for 9 seasons, despite a career .213 batting average.

Jerry Kindall’s glove, range and occasional power kept him in the major leagues for 9 seasons, despite a career .213 batting average.

Kindall was one of baseball’s “bonus babies,” players who signed for a substantial bonus but were then required to spend at least 2 years on the team’s major league roster … ready or not. An All-American shortstop for the University of Minnesota, Kindall was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1956 and appeared in 32 games that season, batting .164 but proving to be solid in the field. He appeared in 72 games in 1957, hitting .160, and was sent to the minors in 1958 as soon as he was eligible, with the Cubs hoping that he would get the delayed seasoning he needed and raise his hitting to the level of his fielding. He rejoined the Cubs in 1960 as a part-time infielder, hitting .240 in 1960 and .242 in 1961.

The Cubs traded Kindall to the Cleveland Indians for Bobby Locke, and he was immediately inserted into the Tribe’s infield as its starting second baseman. Kindall batted .232 in 1962, but also hit 13 home runs with 55 RBIs to go along with his consistently solid play at second. It would be his only season as a full-time player.

Midway through the 1963 season, he was replaced at second base by Larry Brown, and ended up hitting .205 on the season with five home runs and 20 RBIs. In June of 1964, he was involved in a three-team trade that sent second baseman Billy Moran to the Indians, brought Kindall and the Los Angeles Angels’ Frank Kostro to the Minnesota Twins, and sent Lenny Green and Vic Power from the Twins to the Angels. He hit only .148 for the Twins for the rest of the 1964 season (.183 combined for Cleveland and Minnesota), and batted .196 for the 1965 season, splitting second base duties with Frank Quilici. He also had six home runs and 36 runs batted in, but by the end of the season he had lost the second base assignment to Quilici, and failed to make an appearance in the 1965 World Series.

Kindall was released by the Twins at the beginning of the 1966 season. He became a successful college-level coach, winning multiple NCAA championships.

 

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Spahn Spawns Shutout Over Colts

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 7, 1963) The Milwaukee Braves today beat the Houston Colt .45s 4-0 behind the five-hit pitching of left-hander Warren Spahn.

Warren Spahn would lead the National League in complete games for the seventh straight time in 1963 and finish the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA.

Warren Spahn would lead the National League in complete games for the seventh straight time in 1963 and finish the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA.

Spahn (12-4) struck out five batters and walked only one in pitching his third shutout of the 1963 season. The performance lowered his season’s earned run average to 2.67.

The losing pitcher was Houston starter Jim Umbricht (2-3).

The game was scoreless through six innings. In the top of the seventh, Braves shortstop Denis Menke drove in the winning run with a triple that scored Eddie Mathews. Center fielder Mack Jones, a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, got two RBIs on a single in the eighth inning.

Center fielder Mack Jones, a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, got two RBIs on a single in the eighth inning.

Center fielder Mack Jones, a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, got two RBIs on a single in the eighth inning.

It was Spahn’s seventh complete game in a season of “sevens” for the future Hall of Famer. He would lead the National League in complete games for the seventh straight time in 1963 and finish the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA. He would also record seven shutouts in 1963, second in the N.L. to Sandy Koufax.

Tearing Through A.L. Lineups

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ralph Terry

Drama on the diamond seemed to follow Ralph Terry. He pitched in two dramatic World Series seventh games, winning one and losing the other. Those two games are the best-remembered highlights of Terry’s career as a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees and four other major league teams.

Ralph Terry’s 1962 season was the best of his career. He went 23-12 with a 3.19 ERA and led the American League in victories, games started and innings pitched.

Ralph Terry’s 1962 season was the best of his career. He went 23-12 with a 3.19 ERA and led the American League in victories, games started and innings pitched.

Terry was signed by the Yankees in 1953 and made his major league debut at the end of the 1956 season, going 5.2 innings for a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox. He made the Yankees staff for keeps in 1957, but then was traded with Woodie Held, Billy Martin and Bob Martyn to the Kansas City Athletics for Ryne Duren, Jim Pisoni and Harry Simpson. Terry had a combined record of  5-12 as a starter with a 3.33 ERA. In 1958, he was 11-13 for the A’s with a 4.24 ERA. He led the team in games started (33) and innings pitched (216.2).

Two months into the 1959 season, Terry was returned to the Yankees. He and Hector Lopez were sent to New York for Johnny Kucks, Jerry Lumpe and Tom Sturdivant. He had a combined record of 5-11 for 1959 with a 3.39 ERA.

Terry began to hit his stride with Casey Stengel’s Yankees. He went 10-8 in 1960 with a 3.40 ERA. In the 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he lost Game 4 to Vern Law 3-2, and then was the loser in relief in the seventh game, giving up Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

In 1961, Whitey Ford’s 25-4 record earned him the Cy Young award, but Terry also had an outstanding season for the Yankees, going 16-3 with a 3.15 ERA. In the 1961 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, he lost Game 2 to the Reds’ ace, Joey Jay, the Yankees’ only loss in the five-game series.

Terry’s 1962 season was the best of his career. He went 23-12 with a 3.19 ERA. He led the American League in victories, games started (39) and innings pitched (298.2), as well as in home runs allowed (40). He also had a career-best 176 strikeouts. In the 1962 World Series against the San Francisco Giants, Terry kept his 1962 mojo going. He lost Game 2 by a score of 2-0 to San Francisco ace Jack Sanford and off a first inning home run by Willie McCovey. But Terry came back and beat Sanford 5-3 in the fifth game, and then Terry won the seventh game in dramatic fashion by a 1-0 score, again outdueling Sanford. The Giants had Willie Mays and Matty Alou in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when McCovey hit a blistering line drive that was snared by second baseman Bobby Richardson, retiring any ghosts from the 1960 World Series.

Terry was signed by New York, but made a detour to Kansas City before becoming a dominant Yankee pitcher in the early 1960s,

Terry was signed by New York, but made a detour to Kansas City before becoming a dominant Yankee pitcher in the early 1960s,

In 1963, Terry had a 17-15 campaign with a 3.22 ERA. He again led the American League in games started (37), but he also led in complete games (18) and pitched 268 innings. But Terry’s workload started to show in his performance. His 1964 record slipped to 7-11 with a 4.54 ERA, as arm problems limited him to 14 starts and 115 innings pitched.

In October 1964, the Yankees shipped Terry to the Cleveland Indians to complete a deal that earlier had brought Pedro Ramos to New York. Terry had a good year for a lackluster Cleveland team, going 11-6 with a 3.69 ERA. Despite continuing arm problems, he managed 26 starts for the Indians, and pitched 165.2 innings. But he had little left. Just before the start of the 1966 season, the Indians traded Terry to the Kansas City Athletics for pitcher John O’Donohue. He won only one game for the A’s, and was acquired in August by the New York Mets. Terry was 0-1 for the Mets in 11 appearances, and he retired after being released by the Mets in 1967.

Terry was a member of the 1962 American League All-Star team. In 12 big league seasons, he compiled a record of 107-99 with 75 complete games and 20 shutouts. His career ERA was 3.62.

 

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Southpaw Assembly Line

 

Lights Out: Whitey Ford Drives Home Eighth June Victory

When: June 30, 1961

Where:  Yankee Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 1:56

Attendance: 28,019

For the first 11 years of his Hall of Fame career, Whitey Ford was the most consistent winning pitcher in baseball.

The Yankee ace remains the only pitcher in American League history to win 8 games in June.

The Yankee ace remains the only pitcher in American League history to win 8 games in June.

Playing for the New York Yankees (the only team he played for), Ford compiled a 133-59 record from 1950 to 1960 – a winning percentage of .693. He led the American League in victories once (with 18 in 1955) and posted the lowest ERA in the major leagues in 1956 (2.47) and 1958 (2.01). For those 11 seasons, his combined ERA was a dazzling 2.70.

The one thing Ford did not do was win 20 games in a season, which he finally accomplished in 1961 when his 25-4 record earned him the Cy Young Award.

The month of June in 1961 was particularly productive for Ford. He entered the month with a record of 6-2. Starting June 2, and pitching every fourth day thereafter, Ford mowed down 7 straight opponents to raise his record to 13-2. In none of those starts did he pitch less than 7 innings.

When Ford faced the Washington Senators on June 30, he had an opportunity to do what no major league pitcher had ever done: win 8 games during the month of June. Ford squared off against the Senators’ best starter, Dick Donovan, who had a 3-7 record despite the fact that his ERA entering the game was only 2.99. The Senators scored first. The second Washington batter, shortstop Billy Klaus, tripled and scored on a throwing error by Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek. That unearned run was the only one Ford would allow, but it looked like it might be enough to derail Ford’s winning streak as Donovan shut out the Yankees through the fifth inning.

Dick Donovan took the loss, lowering his record to 3-8. At season’s end, Donovan would post the American League’s lowest ERA at 2.40.

Dick Donovan took the loss, lowering his record to 3-8. At season’s end, Donovan would post the American League’s lowest ERA at 2.40.

The Yankees got all the runs they and Ford would need in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson singled and then stole second, advancing to third base on Kubek’s sacrifice fly.  A ground-rule double by Roger Maris scored Richardson, and then an inside-the-park home run by Mickey Mantle put the Yankees ahead 3-1. A 2-run single by Maris in the eighth inning increased the Yankees’ lead to 5-1, and Ford retired the Senators in order in the ninth to complete his eighth victory in the month of June.

Ford went on to win six more consecutive decisions before losing 2-1 to the Chicago White Sox on August 15.

 

Lights Out!

 

 

 

Excerpt from Lights Out! Unforgettable Performances from Baseball’s Real Golden Age

 

At Home at Second

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tony Taylor

Tony Taylor was an All-Star in 1960 when he batted .284 with 25 doubles and 44 RBIs.

Tony Taylor was an All-Star in 1960 when he batted .284 with 25 doubles and 44 RBIs.

Throughout the 1960s, Tony Taylor was a fixture at second base for the Philadelphia Phillies. Always dependable in the field, Taylor could also be counted on to make contributions at the plate. And until the very end of his 19-year major league career, you could count on him to be ready every day. Taylor appeared in an average of 137 games per season from 1958 through 1970.

A Cuban native, Taylor was signed by the New York Giants in 1954 and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1957. He became the Cubs’ starting second baseman in 1958, batting .235 his rookie year and .280 in 1959. In 1960, he was traded with Cal Neeman to the Phillies for Ed Bouchee and Don Cardwell. He spent the next 11 seasons as the Phillies’ starting second baseman, and occasionally playing all four infield positions (and the outfield) when needed.

Taylor was an All-Star in 1960 when he batted .284 with 25 doubles and 44 RBIs. He also stole 26 bases that season, third highest in the National League (behind Maury Wills and Vada Pinson). He batted .281 in 1963 and had his best season in Philadelphia in 1970, when he batted .301 with 26 doubles, nine triples, nine home runs and 55 RBIs.

In 1971 the Phillies traded Taylor to the Detroit Tigers for a pair of minor league players. He hit .287 for the Tigers in helping that team with the division title, and batted .303 in 1972. He signed with the Phillies after the 1973 season and spent three more years as a part-time infielder before retiring at the end of the 1976 season.

In his 19 years in the big leagues, Taylor collected 2,007 hits for a .261 career batting average. He also had 298 doubles and 86 triples.

The One. The Only. The Man.

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Stan Musial

3-Time National League MVP Stan Musial

3-Time National League MVP Stan Musial

For more than two decades, Stan Musial epitomized consistent excellence for the St. Louis Cardinals, the only major league team he ever played for. Musial hit for average (with seven batting titles to his credit), hit for power (with 475 career home runs), drove in runs (with 100 or more RBIs in 10 different seasons), and drove National League pitchers nutty. He played for three World Series champions, and won the National League Most Valuable Player award three times.

Musial started his professional baseball career as a pitcher, signed by the  Cardinals while still in high school in 1938. He suffered a shoulder injury in the minors that ended his career as a pitcher and nearly ended his baseball career. But he made his debut in St. Louis as a 20-year-old outfielder in 1941, batting .426 over the last 12 games of that season. In his 1942 rookie season, he batted .315 with 10 home runs and 72 RBIs. He followed up in 1943 by hitting a league-leading .357, also leading the National League in hits (220), doubles (48) and triples (20). That performance earned him his first MVP award. He batted .347 in 1944, finishing second to Brooklyn’s Dixie Walker in hitting.

Musial missed the 1945 campaign by serving a tour in the Navy, and returned in 1946 to claim his second batting title (.365) and second MVP, while leading the Cardinals to their third World Series championship in five years. He won his third batting title in 1948 with a career-best .376 average. He led the NL again in hits (230), doubles (46), triples (18), runs batted in (131) and slugging percentage (.450). He also won his third Most Valuable Player award in five years.

As dominant as Musial was in the 1940s, he performed at nearly the same consistently high level throughout the 1950s. He won four more batting titles and hit for a combined .330 during the 1950s, averaging 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 108 RBIs per season.

Stan Musial won 7 batting titles while collecting 3,630 hits.

Stan Musial won 7 batting titles while collecting 3,630 hits.

He played four seasons into the 1960s, hitting .330 in 1962 (at age 41) with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs. In 1963, Musial batted .255 in his final campaign, the lowest batting average of his 22-season career. He finished with 3,630 hits – amazingly, with identical hit totals of 1,815 at home and on the road. He finished with a career batting average of .331, and held or shared 17 major league records, 29 National League records and nine All-Star Game records (including the most All-Star appearances, tied with Willie Mays at 24).

Musial was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

 

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Rock Around The Clock

 

Lights Out: Rocky Colavito Goes 7-10 in a 22-Inning Game

When: June 24, 1962

Where:  Tiger Stadium, Detroit, Michigan

Game Time: 7:00

Attendance: 35,368

It started out like any other Yankees-Tigers match-up on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But after Tigers starter Frank Lary threw the first pitch to Yankee shortstop Tom Tresh, little did either team – or the 35,000 Tigers fans in attendance – know that the outcome was seven hours away.

Tigers outfielder Rocky Colavito collected 7 hits in a 22-inning game with the New York Yankees.

Tigers outfielder Rocky Colavito collected 7 hits in a 22-inning game with the New York Yankees.

Or that Detroit Tigers outfielder Rocky Colavito would put on an unforgettable hitting display in 22 innings of baseball.

Lary had a reputation for being a “Yankee killer.” A 23-game winner in 1961, the Tigers ace struggled against the Yankee bats on this day, allowing 7 runs in the first 2 innings, all earned, including the three-run homer Lary surrendered to Yankee third baseman Clete Boyer. The Tigers scored 3 runs of their own in the bottom of the third off Yankees starter Bob Turley with a three-run homer off the bat of right fielder Purnal Goldy (it would be one-third of his career total).

The Tigers added three more runs in the bottom of the third off Jim Coates with an RBI single by shortstop Chico Fernandez and a two-run double by catcher Mike Roarke. The Tigers tied the game at 7 in the bottom of the sixth. Colavito singled off Bill Stafford to score Bill Bruton. And that’s the way it stayed until inning 22.

In all that day (and into the evening), Colavito would hit five more singles, plus a triple, going 7-10 with a walk through 22 innings. Known primarily for his power (45 home runs and 140 RBIs in 1961), Colavito could also hit for contact. He collected 1,730 hits during his 14-year career.Jim_Bouton_1963_2

Colavito’s performance went for naught in the win column. The slugfest of the first six innings turned into a relief pitching duel, as both teams were shut out for 15 consecutive innings. In the top of the twenty-second inning, Jack Reed’s two-run homer off Phil Regan finally broke the scoreless streak. In the bottom half of that frame, Jim Bouton retired the first two Tigers before Colavito collected his sixth single of the game. But Bouton got Norm Cash to fly out to John Blanchard in left field to end the game. Colavito was stranded at first, one of 22 Tigers left on base in the course of that marathon loss.

 

 

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More Than Meets the Eye

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Stigman

Left-hander Dick Stigman won only 46 games in seven major league seasons, but it wasn’t for any particular lack of ability or drive on his part. Stigman was a tough competitor and a hard thrower whose won-lost record belied his effectiveness on the mound. Injuries and a lack of timely run support were the biggest challenges he faced in his all-too-short career.

Dick Stigman went 12-5 in 1962, posting a 3.66 ERA and leading the American League with a .706 winning percentage.

Dick Stigman went 12-5 in 1962, posting a 3.66 ERA and leading the American League with a .706 winning percentage.

A Minnesota native, Stigman was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1954. He made his major league debut with the Tribe in 1960, and was selected to be part of the American League All-Star team as a rookie. He finished his first season at 5-11 with a 4.51 ERA as a starter and reliever. He started 18 games and finished 16 in relief, with nine saves.

Injuries limited him to 22 appearances and a 2-5 record in 1961. The Indians traded Stigman (with Vic Power) to the Minnesota Twins for Pedro Ramos. Stigman went 12-5 in his first season with the Twins, posting a 3.66 ERA and leading the American League with a .706 winning percentage. In 1963 he went 15-15 with a 3.25 ERA and a career-high 241 innings pitched. His numbers for 1963 don’t tell the whole story about his pitching that season. Seven of his 15 losses were one-run decisions. The Twins were shut out four times when Stigman started, and the team scored less than three runs for Stigman in seven other starts. With a little more support (from a team known for its offensive firepower), Stigman could have easily won 20 games in 1963.

In 1964, his record slipped to 6-15 with a 4.03 ERA. But again, the Twins’ bats seem to go silent when Stigman pitched. They were shut out during five of his starts, and scored less than three runs in 11 Stigman starts.

Injuries limited Stigman to a 4-2 record in 1965, and in the following off-season he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Russ Nixon and Chuck Schilling. He was 2-1 for Boston as a starter-reliever in 1966, and then was dealt with Rollie Sheldon to the Cincinnati Reds. He would never pitch for Cincinnati, or for any other major league team.

Stigman finished his career with a 46-54 record and a 4.03 ERA.

 

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