Too Good to Double Up

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Buford

Don Buford combined speed and bat control to end his 10-year major league career as the player least likely to hit into a double play – among all players in major league history. In 4,553 official at-bats, Buford grounded into double plays only 34 times in his career. He averaged 1 GDP for every 138 at-bats. Continue reading

Speed Wizard

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jose Cardenal

Jose Cardenal built an 18-year major league career on speed: bat speed, speed in the outfield, and speed on the base paths. A line-drive hitter with an accurate throwing arm, Cardenal provided solid, consistent play for nine different major league teams.

Jose Cardenal’s best season came in 1972 when he 17 home runs with 70 RBIs for the Chicabo Cubs. He batted a combined .301 for the Cubs from 1972-1976.

Jose Cardenal’s best season came in 1972 when he 17 home runs with 70 RBIs for the Chicago Cubs. He batted a combined .301 for the Cubs from 1972-1976.

Cardenal was signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1960 and made his debut with the team at the end of the 1963 season. The Giants traded Cardenal to the California Angels in November 1964, and Cardenal became the Angels’ starting center fielder in 1965, hitting .250 with 37 stolen bases (second in the American League to his cousin, Bert Campaneris). He hit .276 for the Angels in 1966 with 16 home runs and 48 RBIs.

Injuries limited his productivity in 1967, and Cardenal was traded to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Chuck Hinton. He hit .257 for Cleveland in each of the next two seasons. His 40 stolen bases in 1968 were second highest in the American League (again to Campaneris). Then Cardenal was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Vada Pinson.

Jose Cardenal stole 40 bases for the Cleveland Indians in 1968, finishing second to league leader Bert Campaneris for the second time.

Jose Cardenal stole 40 bases for the Cleveland Indians in 1968, finishing second to league leader Bert Campaneris for the second time.

Cardenal split the next two seasons between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit .293 for St. Louis in 1970, and had a career high 80 RBIs in 1971. Prior to the 1972 season, Cardinal was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he stayed for six seasons, his longest tenure with any single team. He hit .291 for the Cubs in 1972 with 17 home runs (career high) and 70 RBIs. He hit .303 in 1973, .293 in 1974, and .317 in 1975, averaging 70 RBIs per season in his first four seasons with the Cubs.

From 1978 through 1980, Cardenal played for the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals. He retired in 1980 with 1,913 hits and a .275 career batting average.

Double-Digit Productivity

 

Lights Out: Reggie Jackson Drives in 10 Runs

When: June 14, 1969

Where: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts

Game Time: 3:23

Attendance: 22,395

 

For one inning, it was a contest. After that, it became a showcase for the Oakland Athletics’ bats, which on that day were as productive as they were merciless against Boston Red Sox pitching.

Reggie Jackson mauled Boston Red Sox pitching for five hits – including two home runs – and 10 RBIs. He raised his season batting average by 20 points in this one game.

Reggie Jackson mauled Boston Red Sox pitching for five hits – including two home runs – and 10 RBIs. He raised his season batting average by 20 points in this one game.

Mostly, the game became an RBI showcase for a 23-year-old A’s outfielder with All-Star aspirations … and a Hall of Fame future.

Reggie Jackson came into the game batting .246 with 20 home runs and 35 runs batted in. By the end of the game, Jackson had raised his batting average by 20 points to .266. He had five hits in six at-bats, including two home runs and a double. He also walked once and scored two runs.

He single-handedly destroyed Red Sox pitching that day, and tattooed the craggy dimensions of Fenway Park, all on a day when his incredible output meant almost nothing in terms of the game’s outcome.

Jackson came to bat in the top of the first inning with one out and Bert Campaneris at second base. Jackson hit a ground-rule double for his first RBI of the day. Carl Yastrzemski tied the game in the bottom of the first with a solo home run, but a Dick Green RBI single in the second inning put the A’s back on top. Jackson hit a two-run homer in the third inning, hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning, and then struck out with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning. It was Jackson’s only out of the day.

Reggie Jackson finished the 1969 season with 47 home runs and 118 RBIs. He led the American League that season with 123 runs scored and a .608 slugging average.

Reggie Jackson finished the 1969 season with 47 home runs and 118 RBIs. He led the American League that season with 123 runs scored and a .608 slugging average.

He singled in two runs in the seventh, and then came to back in the eighth with the bases loaded. This time he launched a fly ball that cleared the wall in center field, ending the day with five hits – three for extra bases – and 10 RBIs. The Athletics really didn’t need Jackson’s production, as the team won 21-7. Jackson’s 10 RBIs didn’t account for half of his team’s runs.

The beneficiary of this firepower was John “Blue Moon” Odom, who won his eighth game of the season.

The 1969 season would be Reggie Jackson’s “breakout” year and his career season in most offensive categories. He finished the 1969 season batting .275 with what would be career-bests in home runs (47) and RBIs (118). He would lead the American League in runs scored with 123, and with a .608 slugging percentage.

 

Man of Many Positions

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bert Campaneris

The Kansas City (and later, Oakland) Athletics had few bright spots during the 1960s. Six times during that decade, the A’s lost at least 90 games, and three times lost more than 100. Prior to the introduction of divisional play in 1969, the Athletics’ best finish was sixth in 1968, the first time in the 1960s that the A’s finished above .500.

In 1965, Bert Campaneris became the first major league player to play all nine field positions in a single game.

In 1965, Bert Campaneris became the first major league player to play all nine field positions in a single game.

The only real bright spot for the franchise during the 1960s was the acquisition and development of a stable of young, talented players who would jell at the end of the 1960s and spur the Oakland Athletics’ championship years in the early 1970s. One of the first of those foundation players was a fleet Cuban native named Dagoberto Campaneris.

“Bert” Campaneris came up with the A’s as their shortstop in 1964, hitting a home run in his first at-bat and two homers in his first game. As an indication of things to come, that performance was misleading, as Campaneris’ primary offensive weapon was speed, not power. Starting in 1965, Campaneris led the league in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons and in six out of his first eight years with the A’s. When Campaneris led the American League with 51 stolen bases in 1965, he ended Luis Aparicio’s nine-year reign as AL base-stealing champ (1956-1964).

Campaneris led the league in triples in 1965 (12) and in hits in 1968 (177). During the 1960s, he batted a combined .264 with 292 stolen bases.

Starting in 1965, Bert Campaneris led the American League in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons.

Starting in 1965, Bert Campaneris led the American League in stolen bases in each of his first four seasons.

Campaneris was the A’s shortstop and lead-off for a dozen years. However, he was talented enough to play every position and, on September 8, 1965, Campaneris did just that. In a night game against the California Angels, he became the first major league player to field every position, giving up one run in the inning he pitched in a 5-3 loss. (Campaneris did not figure in the decision). His only error in that nine-position game occurred in right field. He was error-free in six chances at other positions and, ironically, had no fielding chances during the inning he played his everyday position, shortstop.

A five-time All-Star, Campaneris is still the Athletics’ career leader in games (1,795), at-bats (7,180) and hits (1,882).

Make Mine a Mc-Thirty

 

Lights Out: Denny McLain Becomes Baseball’s Last 30-Game Winner

When: September 14, 1968

Where:  Tiger Stadium, Detroit, Michigan

Game Time: 3:00

Attendance: 33,688

 

Only one man on earth knows what it feels like to be a 30-game winner. That man is Denny McLain, and that feeling came to him in a game he nearly gave away.

Denny McLain was 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA in 1968. He pitched 28 complete games, six of them shutouts.

Denny McLain was 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA in 1968. He pitched 28 complete games, six of them shutouts.

McLain was a bulldozer all season long, the league’s best pitcher pitching for the league’s best team. His first two starts resulted in no decisions, but he won his next five starts, was 8-1 at the end of May and 14-2 at the end of June. McLain went 7-1 in July to become a 20-game winner before August 1, and was 5-2 in August to enter the season’s final month with a 26-5 record.

He won his first three starts in September, and the Oakland Athletics came to Detroit on September 14 to face McLain with his 29-5 record and a 1.95 ERA. A’s starter Chuck Dobson and McLain traded zeroes over the first three innings. The A’s scored two runs in the top of the fourth with Reggie Jackson’s twenty-seventh home run of the year. Then the Tigers chased Dobson in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run home run by Norm Cash.

The A’s came back in the top of the fifth, as Bert Campaneris singled in Dave Duncan to tie the score at 3-3. Jackson put the A’s back on top in the sixth inning with his twenty-eighth home run, and the game remained 4-3 through the eighth inning.

McLain retired Sal Bando, Jackson and Dick Green in order in the top of the ninth, throwing a third strike past Green for his tenth strikeout of the game. In the bottom of the ninth, Al Kaline led off with a walk. Dick McAuliffe hit a pop foul to Bando, and then Mickey Stanley singled off A’s pitcher Diego Segui, sending Kaline to third.

Denny McLain was the epitome of balanced productivity during his Cy Young season in 1968. He was 14-2 through June, and 17-4 during the second half of the season.

Denny McLain was the epitome of balanced productivity during his Cy Young season in 1968. He was 14-2 through June, and 17-4 during the second half of the season.

The next batter, Jim Northrup, smashed a hard grounder to Danny Cater at first.  Cater fielded the ball and threw to third to keep Kaline from scoring, but the ball got by Bando, allowing Kaline to score the tying run and advancing Stanley to third. Willie Horton singled to drive in Stanley with the winning run, the run that made Denny McLain the first 30-game winner in the American League in 37 years, and the last man to do it in the Twentieth Century.

 

 

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