Dazzlin’ Maz

 

The Glove Club: Bill Mazeroski

He was so good at his position that other players stopped what they were doing to watch him practice. He was an artist whose materials were horse-hide and leather. The keystone was his canvas.

Winner of 8 Gold Gloves, Bill Mazeroski holds more defensive record than any other player in major league history.

Winner of 8 Gold Gloves, Bill Mazeroski holds more defensive records than any other player in major league history.

You can’t talk about the great second baseman unless you include the man who did it better and longer than just about anyone else. That was Bill Mazeroski.

With shortstop Dick Groat, Mazeroski turned the double play into his own private possession. Groat was a first-rate shortstop, but even after he moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals, Mazeroski would keep turning double plays with whomever would get him the ball. He is the only second baseman in major league history to have participated in more than 1700 double plays. (Nellie Fox’s 1,619 is second all-time to Maz’s 1,706.)

Winner of eight Gold Gloves, Mazeroski holds more defensive records than any other player in major league history.

He also wasn’t a bad hitter, finishing his 17-year career (all with the Pittsburgh Pirates) with more than 2,000 hits and a .260 lifetime batting average. Of course, it wasn’t his glove but his last at-bat in the 1960 World Series that made Maz a household name. Leading off in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 9-9 Game Seven, Mazeroski sent a Ralph Terry fastball over the left-field fence to make the Pirates world champions and send Casey Stengel, ultimately, to the National League (as the fired New York Yankees’ manager reborn as the inaugural field manager of the expansion New York Mets). It was the first World Series to end with a walk-away home run, and perhaps it was somewhat ironic that it wasn’t one of the Pirates sluggers but their defensive whiz who torpedoed the Yankee juggernaut with one swing. However, it wasn’t Mazeroski’s only display of power. He hit as many as 19 home runs in a season (1958), and finished his career with 138 homers, seventeenth all-time among second basemen … none of whom could match him in the field.

The high point in Mazeroski’s Hall of Fame career: He is about to score after hitting the home run that won the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mazeroski retired 34 games into the 1972 season. He’s fifth in Pirate history in games played (2,163), sixth in career at-bats with the team (7,755), and eighth in career hits (2,016). A seven-time All-Star, Mazeroski was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

 

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Bean There, Done That

 

Oh, What a Relief: Al McBean

Al McBean was the first native of the Virgin Islands to play in the major leagues. He was effective as either a starter or reliever. While never overpowering, he kept batters off-balance with a variety of delivery styles, and at his peak was practically unbeatable.

From August 22, 1963 through August 15, 1964, Al McBean appeared in 51 consecutive games without a loss.

From August 22, 1963 through August 15, 1964, Al McBean appeared in 51 consecutive games without a loss.

McBean was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1958 and made his major league debut with the Bucs in 1961. He was a member of the Pirates’ starting rotation in 1962, going 15-10 with a 3.70 ERA. He opened the 1963 season as a starter but was moved to the bullpen, where he complemented long-time Pirate relief ace Roy Face. McBean finished the 1963 season at 13-3 with a 2.57 ERA and 11 saves. From August 22, 1963 through August 15, 1964, McBean appeared in 51 consecutive games without a loss.

With Face struggling from a shoulder problem in 1964, McBean became the Pirates’ bullpen ace and responded with an 8-3 season, with a 1.91 ERA and 22 saves. He was selected as National League Fireman of the Year.

Face returned to form in 1965, limiting McBean’s appearances and save opportunities. He finished the 1965 season at 6-6 with a 2.29 ERA and 18 saves. In 1966 he made only 47 relief appearances, going 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA and only three saves. In 1967 he returned to the dual role of reliever and spot starter, going 7-4 with a 2.54 ERA and five complete games in eight starts. In 1968 he made 28 starts, finishing 9-12 with a 3.58 ERA.

In 1968 McBean was tabbed by the San Diego Padres as the fiftieth selection in the expansion draft. He pitched only one game for the Padres in 1969 before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 2-7 working strictly as a reliever. He was released by the Dodgers after a single appearance in 1970 and was signed by the Pirates. He made seven appearances for the Pirates with no decisions before being released and retiring.

McBean finished his 10-season big league career with a 67-50 record and a 3.13 ERA.

 

 

 

 

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Walking Tall

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Eddie Yost

Slick-fielding Eddie Yost had a knack for getting on base without making contact. He led the American League in walks six times in his career. And he led American League third basemen eight times in putouts, seven times in double plays, three times in assists and twice in fielding percentage.

Eddie Yost The "Walking Man" led the American League in bases on balls 6 times.

Eddie Yost
The “Walking Man” led the American League in bases on balls 6 times.

The “Walking Man” signed with the Washington Senators in 1944 and made his major league debut as a 17-year-old later that same year. After fulfilling his military obligation, Yost’s first full season was 1948, when he batted .238.

Yost spent 14 years with the Senators, hitting for a combined .253. His best season in Washington came in 1951 when he batted .283 with 12 home runs and 63 RBIs. He also led the American League that season with 36 doubles.

In 1958 he was traded to the Detroit Tigers. In 1959 he batted .278 with a career-best 21 home runs and 61 runs batted in. His mastery at working opposing pitchers for walks helped Yost lead the American League in on-base percentage in both 1959 (.435) and 1960 (.414).

In 1960, he was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft and played his last two major league seasons as a part-time player for the Angels, batting a combined .215 over those two seasons. For his career, Yost batted .254 with 1,215 hits and 1,614 bases on balls, the fourth-highest total all-time when he retired and still the eleventh highest total today. He was named to the American League All-Star team in 1952.

Robin’s Ultimate Win

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

Robin Roberts' 3-2 win over the San Francisco Giants turned out to be his last for the 1961 season. and his last as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Robin Roberts’ 3-2 win over the San Francisco Giants turned out to be his last for the 1961 season. and his last as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.

(June 5, 1961) After opening the 1961 season with seven consecutive losses, Robin Roberts today notched his first victory of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the San Francisco Giants 3-2 at Candlestick Park.

It would be Roberts’ last victory in a Phillies uniform.

Roberts (1-7) pitched a six-hit complete game. He walked two and struck out two batters.

The Giants took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Harvey Kuenn singled and Chuck Hiller homered. Roberts blanked San Francisco on four hits over the last seven innings.

The Phillies took the lead in the third inning on Pancho Herrera’s 3-run homer off Giants starter Mike McCormick (5-5)

Roberts would finish the 1961 season with a 1-10 record and a career-worst 5.85 ERA. This was his 234th win for Philadelphia, the most by a right-hander in franchise history.

Pancho Herrera's 3-run homer provided the margin of victory for Robin Roberts and the Phillies.

Pancho Herrera’s three-run homer provided the margin of victory for Robin Roberts and the Phillies.

Over the winter, he would be purchased by the New York Yankees, released without appearing for the Yankees, and then signed by the Baltimore Orioles. Roberts would win 42 games in four seasons with the Orioles, and finish his 19-year major league career with 286 victories. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.

Muscles to the Max

 

Homer Happy: Ted Kluszewski

Awesome strength made Ted Kluszewski a slugging star in the National League for more than a decade.

Ted Kluszewski came close to a Triple Crown in 1955, leading the majors in RBIs (141) as well as home runs (49). His .326 batting average was fifth-best in the National League.

Ted Kluszewski came close to winning a Triple Crown in 1955, leading the majors in RBIs (141) as well as home runs (49). His .326 batting average was fifth-best in the National League.

His barrel biceps and short sleeves were his trademarks, as were the tape-measure home runs he sprayed around National League parks through most of the 1950s. By the time baseball entered the 1960s, age and injuries had taken their toll on Kluszewski, but he remained a dangerous power hitter with his transition to the American League.

Kluszewski was signed by the Cincinnati Reds out of college in 1946. He needed only two seasons of minor league ball, batting .352 in 1946 and .377 in 1947.

Klu made the Reds’ roster in 1948 and won the everyday first base position by the end of that summer. He hit only a total of 20 home runs in his first two major league seasons, but the strength started to kick in by 1950, when he hit 25 home runs with 111 runs batted in. He blasted 40 home runs in 1954, 49 (best in the majors) in 1955, and 47 in 1956. He came close to a Triple Crown in 1955, leading the majors in RBIs (141) as well as home runs. His .326 batting average was fifth-best in the league. From 1953 through 1956, Kluszewski averaged 43 home runs and 116 RBIs.

He was never that player again, as back and leg injuries limited him to an average of 85 games per season from 1957 through 1960. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1958 and, in August of the 1959 season, was traded to the Chicago White Sox.  Kluszewski played a major role in helping the White Sox clinch the 1959 American League pennant. In 31 games, he collected 30 hits, batting .297 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. In the 1959 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he batted .391 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in.

He batted .293 as a part-time player for the White Sox in 1960, and was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 1960 expansion draft. Kluszewski batted .243 for the Angels in 1961, with 15 home runs and 39 RBIs. He retired after that season with a .298 career batting average and 279 home runs. He was an All-Star four times while playing for Cincinnati.

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Making a Short Stop in Slugville

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Woodie Held

Coming out of an era when “good field, no hit” was the acceptable standard for most major league shortstops, Woodie Held was the American League best power-hitting shortstop, surpassed among his major league contemporaries only by Ernie Banks. He was the first Cleveland Indians shortstop to hit 20 or more home runs in three consecutive seasons. He hit more than 10 home runs in seven consecutive seasons.

From 1959 through 1964, Woodie Held averaged 21 home runs and 66 RBIs as the Cleveland Indians’ shortstop.

From 1959 through 1964, Woodie Held averaged 21 home runs and 66 RBIs as the Cleveland Indians’ shortstop.

Held was originally signed by the New York Yankees in 1951 and spent more than six years in the Yankees’ farm system, making only token appearances in New York. In June of 1957, he was traded (with Billy Martin and Ralph Terry) to the Kansas City Athletics. Held moved into the starting center fielder role, batting .239 with 20 home runs and 50 RBIs.

He stayed in Kansas City for one season, traded (with Vic Power) to the Cleveland Indians in the deal that brought Roger Maris to the A’s. Held moved to shortstop for the Tribe and struggled at the plate, hitting a combined .204 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 1958. His hitting improved dramatically in 1959, batting .251 with 29 home runs and 71 RBIs.

Held blasted 21 home runs in 1960 and 23 home runs with 78 RBIs in 1961. From 1959 through 1964, he averaged 21 home runs and 66 RBIs as Cleveland’s shortstop.

Following the 1964 season, the Tribe traded Held and Bob Chance to the Washington Senators for outfielder Chuck Hinton. He batted .247 with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs in his only season in Washington, and then was traded again, this time to the Baltimore Orioles for John Orsino. He was used sparingly in Baltimore (82 games in two seasons) and was dealt to the California Angels in a trade that included pitcher Marcelino Lopez. Now in his late 30s, Held was strictly a utility infielder for the Angels and, finally, the Chicago White Sox, his team in 1968 and 1969. He retired after being released by the White Sox following the 1969 season.

In 14 major league seasons, Held posted a career batting average of .240 with 179 home runs and 559 RBIs.

All Bases Covered

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Chico Salmon

A talented utility infielder, Chico Salmon played every position in the majors except pitcher and catcher.

Chico Salmon batted .307 in his 1964 rookie season with the Cleveland indians, with 17 doubles, 4 home runs and 25 RBIs in only 283 at-bats.

Chico Salmon batted .307 in his 1964 rookie season with the Cleveland Indians, with 17 doubles, four home runs and 25 RBIs in only 283 at-bats.

The Panamanian native was signed by the Washington Senators in 1959 and was acquired, in turn, by the San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Braves until he was traded in 1963 to the Cleveland Indians for Mike de la Hoz. He batted .307 in his 1964 rookie season, with 17 doubles, four home runs and 25 RBIs in only 283 at-bats.  Salmon spent five seasons in Cleveland, batting .252 over that period. He played full-time in 1966, batting .256 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs, the latter both career highs.

In 1969 Salmon was selected by the Seattle Pilots in the American League expansion draft. Before he could play for Seattle, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Gene Brabender and Gordy Lund.  He batted a combined .237 in Baltimore, but was increasing used as a defensive replacement. He retired after being released by the Orioles in 1972.

Salmon finished his nine-year career with a .249 batting average and 415 hits.

 

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The Designated Hitter Was Made for His Bat (and Glove)

 

Homer Happy: Dick Stuart

Dick Stuart was notorious for being the worst first baseman of his era … maybe anybody’s era. He set error records that have never been matched.

He was the perfect candidate for the designated hitter role, except he retired as an active player four years before the DH was adopted by the American League in 1973.

Dick Stuart was the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in both major leagues.

Dick Stuart was the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in both major leagues.

He would have been a good DH, because Stuart could hit with power. Managers put up with his deficiencies in the field for nearly a decade because, in his prime, his bat was so lethal.

Stuart was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951 and set home run records at nearly every stop as he made his way through the Pirates’ minor league system. He hit 31 home runs in 1952, his first full season of professional baseball, then spent 2 years in military service. Stuart came back in 1955 to blast 32 home runs, then walloped Western League pitching for 66 home runs in 1966. He hit 45 home runs for three different minor league teams in 1956, and then spent all of the 1957 season in Triple-A ball, hitting “only” 31 home runs with 82 runs batted in.

Stuart was ready for major league pitching.

He made his debut with the Pirates in 1958, hitting .268 with 16 home runs and 48 RBIs in only 267 at-bats. He hit 27 home runs in 1959, and during the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960, Stuart launched only 23 home runs but drove in 83 runs.

Stuart had a beast of a year for the Pirates in 1961, hitting 35 home runs with 117 RBIs while batting .301. His power numbers slipped to 16 home runs and 64 RBIs in 1962, and over the winter he was traded with Jack Lamabe to the Boston Red Sox for Jim Pagliaroni and Don Schwall.

Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field was a large ballpark not especially conducive to producing home runs, which made Stuart’s power displays with the Pirates all the more impressive. On the other hand, Boston’s Fenway Park was made for right-handed power hitters, and Stuart’s hitting flourished in a Red Sox uniform. In 1963, he hit 42 home runs (second in the American League to Harmon Killebrew’s 45) and led the league with 118 runs batted in. He was the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in both major leagues.

Stuart followed up in 1964 with 33 homers (and 114 RBIs), but his career was beginning its decline. He was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Dennis Bennett, and hit 28 home runs with 95 RBIs for the Phillies in 1965. It was his last season as an everyday player. Stuart played for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966, hitting a combined seven home runs with 22 RBIs. After 2 seasons in the minors and a brief comeback with the California Angels in 1969, Stuart retired with a career batting average of .264 and 228 home runs.

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Nottebart’s No-Hitter Is Houston’s First

 

From This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(May 17, 1963) At Colt Stadium, Don Nottebart today made baseball history by throwing the first no-hitter in the history of the Houston franchise. The Colt .45s beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1.

It is the 197th game the Houston Colts had played since the team’s inception in 1962.

Don Nottebart's no-hitter in 1962 was the first in the history of the Houston franchise.

Don Nottebart’s no-hitter in 1962 was the first in the history of the Houston franchise.

Nottebart (5-1) faced only 31 batters, striking out 8 and walking 3. The Phillies scored in the fifth inning when the lead-off batter, Don Demeter, was safe on a ground ball error by Houston shortstop J.C. Hartman and made it to second base on the play. Demeter moved to third base on Clay Dalrymple’s successful sacrifice bunt and scored on Don Hoak’s sacrifice fly to center field. That tied the game at 1-1.

Howie Goss had the game-winning hit with a 3-run homer in the sixth inning off Phillies starter Jack Hamilton (2-1).

Nottebart would finish the 1963 season at 11-8 with a 3.17 ERA. It would be his highest win season in a 9-year career. Nottebart recorded two shutouts in 1963, but wouldn’t get one on this day due to the Colts’ defense.

He had to settle for the no-hitter.

 

First in Flawless

 

The Glove Club: Bobby Knoop

On the defensive side of the performance ledger, no second baseman in the 1960s had more chances with fewer errors than Bobby Knoop. There was no question about his offense: it barely existed. But his defensive prowess made him the friend of every Angels pitcher who worked in front of him.

Bobby Knoop collected 3 Gold Gloves.

Bobby Knoop collected 3 Gold Gloves.

Knoop was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1956 and spent seven seasons in the Braves’ minor league system before being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in 1963. In 1964, he started all 162 games for the Angels at second base, hitting just .216, but forming a formidable double play combination with the Angels’ All-Star shortstop Jim Fregosi.

Knoop played a “deep” second, which gave him exceptional range, backed by an arm capable of throwing bullets … and from virtually any position. “Acrobatic” does not do justice to the way Knoop played second. “Sensational” does.

Knoop was the Angels’ starting second baseman from 1964 through 1968. In those five seasons, he never hit higher than .269 (1965), though his best season with a bat was actually 1966, when he hit only .232 but set career highs in home runs (17), RBIs 72), and hits (137). He also led the American League with 11 triples, the only time he would lead the league in any hitting category. Overall, Knoop hit .240 in five-plus seasons with the Angels, and won three Gold Gloves.

A month into the 1969 season, Knoop was traded by the Angels to the Chicago White Sox for Sandy Alomar and Bob Priddy. He spent two years in Chicago, and then two more with the Kansas City Royals before retiring in 1972. In his career, Knoop hit .236 with 56 home runs and 331 RBIs.