Man Mauls Mets … and Cardinals Soar

 

Lights Out: Stan Musial Demolishes New York Mets’ Pitching

When: July 8, 1962

Where:  Polo Grounds, New York, New York

Game Time: 2:47

Attendance: 12,460

When the National League’s oldest player came up against its youngest team, the result was devastating to the arms on the New York Mets’ pitching staff. Continue reading

Prince of Promise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Alex Johnson

Throughout most of his career, the incredible hitting instincts of Alex Johnson – and how easily and extensively those instincts could impress baseball people observing him – meant that he carried with him the baggage of potential that could never really be realized. When you watched the young Alex Johnson, it was not enough to be impressed simply with what he could do with a bat … which was impressive enough. Johnson’s skills made you wonder how good he could be – how good anyone could be. His potential was that great.

Alex Johnson was the American League batting champion in 1970, batting .329 for the California Angels.

Johnson was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1961. Over the next three years, he progressed steadily through the Phillies’ farm system, joining the parent club for 43 games at the end of the 1964 season. Johnson hit .303 in limited action, and he was slated to start the 1965 season in left field, platooning with Wes Covington. Johnson hit .294 in 1965, and was traded with Art Mahaffey and Pat Corrales to the St. Louis Cardinals for Dick Groat, Bill White and Bob Uecker.

A dreadful hitting drought to open the 1966 season sent Johnson back to the minors, where he hit .355 over the rest of that season. He spent the 1967 season platooning in right field with Roger Maris, and didn’t make an appearance in the 1967 World Series.

Despite his potential as a hitter, Johnson also brought with him serious liabilities in the field (three times he would lead his league’s outfielders in errors committed). He would also drive managers crazy with spells of concentration problems and a lack of consistent commitment to running out every batted ball with maximum effort. He could also be contentious and even nasty, with teammates in the clubhouse just as much as with the pitchers he faced.

Alex Johnson batted .288 in 13 major league seasons.

Alex Johnson batted .288 in 13 major league seasons.

It was Johnson’s hitting that kept him in the major leagues, and he was just beginning to realize his potential at the plate. The Cardinals traded Johnson to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Dick Simpson, and he responded to playing every day by hitting .312 for the Reds in 1968, the fourth highest batting average in the National League that season. Johnson hit .315 in 1969 with 17 home runs and 88 RBIs, and then was traded to the California Angels.

With the Angels in 1970, Johnson won the American league batting title with a .329 average. He also had 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 86 RBIs. But he would never reach quite that level again, his average slipping to .260 in 1971. He was traded with Jerry Moses to the Cleveland Indians for Frank Baker, Alan Foster and Vada Pinson. He hit .239 for Cleveland in 1972, and was dealt to the Texas Rangers. He hit .287 for Texas in 1973 and hit .287 again in a 1974 season split between the Rangers and the New York Yankees. He hit .261 for the Yankees in 1975, and then hit .268 for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, his last season in the major leagues.

Johnson played 13 seasons for eight different major league clubs. He ended his career with 1,331 hits and a .288 batting average. He was a member of the American League All-Star team in 1970.

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Holding Down First

 

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.

In eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bill White averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He was an All-Star five times.

In eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bill White averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He was an All-Star five times.

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.

Bill White won seven consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966.

Bill White won seven consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966.

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.

 

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Half of Cardinals’ Infield Disappears

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(October 27, 1965) The St. Louis Cardinals today traded two of their mainstays, sending first baseman Bill White and shortstop Dick Groat to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Alex Johnson, pitcher Art Mahaffey and catcher Pat Corrales. St. Louis also threw in catcher Bob Uecker.

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(Left to right) Dick Groat, Bill White and Bob Uecker went to the Philadelphia Phillies in a 1965 trade that broke up the St. Louis Cardinals’ All-Star infield.

Only a year earlier, this was the Cardinals infield that led the team to its first World Series championship since 1946.

The Cardinals traded for White prior to the 1959 season. He hit a combined .299 during his seven seasons in St. Louis, averaging 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. As a member of the Cardinals, White was named to the All-Star team five times and won six Gold Gloves. (He would claim his seventh Gold Glove in his first season with the Phillies.)

Groat was acquired by the Cardinals prior to the 1963 season in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Don Cardwell and Julio Gotay. The National League batting champion and Most Valuable Player in 1960, Groat brought a solid glove and bat to the Cardinals, hitting a combined .289 during his three years with the Cardinals and leading the National League in doubles with 43 in 1963.

(Left to right) Pitcher Art Mahaffey, outfielder Alex Johnson and catcher Pat Corrales went to St. Louis in the deal that brought Dick Groat and Bill White to Philadelphia.

The trade not only eliminated half of the Cardinals’ starting infield, but also broke up what had been the starting infield for the National League in the 1963 All-Star game. The NL’s All-Star starters that season included third baseman Ken Boyer and second baseman Julian Javier as well as Groat and White.

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Silent Anchor in a Sea of Stars

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Julian Javier

From 1964 through 1968, no National League team was more dominant than the St. Louis Cardinals. No team had more stars at more positions.

Julian Javier spent 12 seasons as the St. Louis Cardinals’ second baseman, batting .258 and scoring an average of 60 runs per season.

Julian Javier spent 12 seasons as the St. Louis Cardinals’ second baseman, batting .258 and scoring an average of 60 runs per season.

In the midst of all those stars was a steady second baseman – a singles hitter who was a first-rate bunter and heads-up baserunner – who held the infield together defensively and provided several clutch hits that were critical to the Cardinals’ success.

That second baseman was Julian Javier, who in 1964 combined with third baseman Ken Boyer, shortstop Dick Groat and first baseman Bill White to field an all-Cardinals starting infield for the All-Star game. It was the first of two All-Star appearances for Javier.

Javier was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent four years in the Pirates’ minor league system until he was traded in 1959 with pitcher Ed Bauta and infielder Dick Gray for pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell. Javier stepped right into the Cardinals’ everyday lineup, hitting .237 as a rookie in 1960 and improving his batting average to .279 the next season.

His offensive productivity increased steadily. In 1964, though his batting average slipped to .241, he hit 19 home runs with a career-best 65 runs batted in. In 1967 he had his best all-around season offensively, hitting .281 with 14 home runs and 64 RBIs. His performance that season earned him votes in the Most Valuable Player race, finishing ninth in the balloting.

Julian Javier’s three-run homer in the seventh game of the 1967 World Series sealed the Series for the Cardinals.

Julian Javier’s three-run homer in the seventh game of the 1967 World Series sealed the Series for the Cardinals.

Due to his bat control, Javier was an excellent hit-and-run man. And though he never won a Gold Glove, he was considered one of the better defensive second basemen in the league.

After 12 seasons in St. Louis, Javier was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Tony Cloninger in 1972. He retired after the 1972 season, his only season in Cincinnati, with 1,469 hits and a career batting average of .257. In 19 World Series appearances, he hit a combined .333. His three-run homer in the seventh game of the 1967 World Series sealed the victory for pitcher Bob Gibson and the Series for the Cardinals.

 

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Too Much Talent to Hide

 

Career Year: Vada Pinson – 1963

Vada Pinson was such a solid player for the Cincinnati Reds in the first half of the 1960s that it is actually something of a challenge to pick a career year. But 1963 proved to be the most productive season overall for the Reds’ center fielder. And it proved to be another season when Pinson’s excellence was overshadowed by a fleet of future Hall of Famers who patrolled the outfield as his contemporaries – including one on his own team.

During the early 1960s, Vada Pinson strung together one outstanding hitting season after another. The best all-around season was 1963, when he batted .313 and led the majors with 204 hits.

During the early 1960s, Vada Pinson strung together one outstanding hitting season after another. The best all-around season was 1963, when he batted .313 and led the majors with 204 hits.

“Overshadowed” aptly applied to the best years of Pinson’s 18-season career. Called up by the Reds for the last month of the 1958 season, he claimed the center field job in his 1959 rookie season and promptly led the major leagues in runs scored (131) and doubles (47). He batted .316 as a rookie with 20 home runs and 84 runs batted in, and was named to the 1959 All-Star team.

Rookie of the Year for 1959? Unfortunately, in 1959 a player had to have fewer than 75 official at-bats to keep his rookie status. Pinson had 96 at-bats in 1958, and thus didn’t qualify (though he would have under today’s rules).

He hit .287 in 1960 and led the league again in doubles with 37. In 1961, he batted .343 and led the major leagues with 208 hits. He also won his only Gold Glove that season, finishing third in the balloting for Most Valuable Player (won by teammate Frank Robinson).

From 1960-1965, Vada Pinson batted a combined .301 and averaged 192 hits, 33 doubles, 21 home runs and 89 RBIs per season.

From 1960-1965, Vada Pinson batted a combined .301 and averaged 192 hits, 33 doubles, 21 home runs and 89 RBIs per season.

All terrific seasons, and Pinson would have more. But none of his seasons was more “complete” as a hitter than the performance he turned in for 1963. Pinson batted .313 (seventh in the National league) and again led the majors in hits with 204. He appeared in all 162 games, tying him for first with Bill White and Ron Santo. His .514 slugging average was fifth in the league. He finished third in total bases (335), second in doubles (37), first in triples with 14, eighth in singles (131), third in stolen bases (27) and fourth with 106 runs batted in.

 

 

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Playing in the Shadows

 

Homer Happy: Vada Pinson

Vada Pinson was as complete a ballplayer as you could hope for. He could hit for average and hit for power. He played fast and smooth in center field, with a strong throwing arm. He turned singles into extra bases. He played with five tools and the heart of a lion.

When the Cincinnati Reds were winning the National League pennant in 1961, Vada Pinson led the team with a .343 batting average, and led the league with 208 hits.

When the Cincinnati Reds were winning the National League pennant in 1961, Vada Pinson led the team with a .343 batting average, and led the league with 208 hits.

Pinson had the talent and dedication to be a genuine superstar. The only thing he lacked while playing for the Cincinnati Reds was a spotlight.

In Cincinnati in the early 1960s, that spotlight belonged to Frank Robinson.

A native of Oakland, California, Pinson was signed by the Reds in 1956. In 1958, he batted .343 for Spokane in the Pacific Coast League, which earned him a month’s stay in Cincinnati (batting .271 in 27 games) and a shot at the center field job in 1959.

Pinson captured that center field job and refused to let it go. He batted .317 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs with a .509 slugging percentage. He led the National League with 648 at-bats, 131 runs scored and 47 doubles.

In 1960 he repeated as the league leader in at-bats and doubles. Batting .287 with 20 home runs and 61 RBIs, Pinson also stole 32 bases and scored 107 runs. He batted .343 in 1961, leading the league with 208 hits. His was a potent bat hitting third in the Reds’ pennant-winning lineup, with 16 home runs and 87 RBIs in addition to scoring 101 runs. He finished third in the race for Most Valuable Player behind Robinson and Orlando Cepeda.

After batting .292 in 1962 (with 23 home runs and 100 RBIs), Pinson gave what probably was his best all-around hitting performance in 1963. He batted .313 (seventh in the National league) and again led the majors in hits with 204. He appeared in all 162 games, tying him for first with Bill White and Ron Santo. His .514 slugging average was fifth in the league. He finished third in total bases (335), second in doubles (37), first in triples with 14, eighth in singles (131), third in stolen bases (27) and fourth with 106 runs batted in.

Over the next five seasons, Pinson remained a solid hitter for the Reds, with and (after the trade with the Baltimore Orioles) without Frank Robinson hitting behind him. From 1964-1968, Pinson batted a combined .284 while averaging 17 home runs and 74 RBIs. He led the National League with 13 triples in 1967.

Following the 1968 season, and after 11 years with the Reds, Pinson was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Wayne Granger and outfielder Bobby Tolan. Pinson’s only season in St. Louis was the worst of his career, as he batted .255 with ten home runs and 70 RBIs.

In 18 major league seasons, Vada Pinson batted .286 with 2,757 hits. He led the National League twice in hits and twice in triples.

In 18 major league seasons, Vada Pinson batted .286 with 2,757 hits. He led the National League twice in hits and twice in triples.

An off-season trade to the Cleveland Indians revived Pinson’s bat in 1970. He batted .286 with 24 home runs and 82 RBIs. At age 31, it would also be Pinson’s last season as a major hitting threat. From 1971-1975, playing for the Indians, the California Angels and the Kansas City Royals, Pinson hit for a combined .261 average with seven home runs and 41 RBIs per season. He retired at age 36 after hitting .223 in 1975.

Pinson lasted 18 seasons in the major leagues, batting .286 with 2,757 hits (#53 all time in career hits), 485 doubles, 256 home runs and 1,169 RBIs. Pinson scored 1,365 runs during his career.

Pinson was an All-Star twice.

 

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