Life on the California-D.C. Shuttle

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ken McMullen

Ken McMullen played 16 seasons in the major leagues. The firLos Angeles Dodgersst 14 of those seasons were spent in either California or Washington D.C., where he performed consistently as a solid third baseman with the kind of power that made him a dangerous contributor in the middle of the batting order. Continue reading

Sometimes Size Counts

 

Homer Happy: Frank Howard

Frank Howard made opposing pitchers cringe. At six-foot-seven and 255 pounds, he was an imposing presence at the plate. Not even the higher mound (15 inches high until 1969) gave pitchers as much of an advantage. At his height, he could still nearly look them in the eye. Continue reading

L.A.’s Other Southpaw Ace

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Claude Osteen

For nearly a decade, Claude Osteen was the best left-handed starting pitcher on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ staff, once a guy named Sandy Koufax had retired. He was a workhorse who averaged 261 innings pitched per season from 1963 to 1973. During that period, he pitched 121 complete games in 400 starts, with 36 shutouts and a combined earned run average of 3.13.

Claude Osteen was signed out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in 1957. He made three token appearances with the Reds in 1958, and then progressed spectacularly through the Reds’ farm system, winning 19 games in 1956 and eight in 1959 before being called up to Cincinnati. He did more sitting than pitching in 1960, and was returned to the minors in 1961, where he won 16 games before being traded to the Washington Senators.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

In Washington, Osteen finally got the chance to pitch regularly. In fact, in 1962, his first season with the Senators, his 150.1 innings pitched were more than he pitched in five previous seasons with the Reds. Osteen was 8-13 with a 3.65 ERA in 1962 for the American League’s worst team.

He quickly established himself as the ace of the Senators’ staff, going 9-14 with a 3.35 ERA in 1963 and 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA in 1964. He pitched 257.0 innings that season with 13 complete games in 36 starts, all for a team that finished the season at 62-100.

Over the winter, Osteen was involved in a blockbuster deal that sent him and infielder John Kennedy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Frank Howard, Ken McMullen, Phil Ortega, Dick Nen and Pete Richert. In his first season with the Dodgers, Osteen went 15-15 with a 2.79 ERA.  He was 1-1 in his two World Series starts with a 0.64 ERA.

Osteen flourished as the Dodgers’ number three starter behind Koufax and Don Drysdale. He followed up in 1966 with a 17-14 season on a 2.85 ERA. His only World Series appearance in 1966 – and the last of his career – was a three-hit, 1-0 loss to Wally Bunker and the Baltimore Orioles.

In nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Claude Osteen won 147 games with a 3.09 ERA. He pitched an average of 266 innings per season with the Dodgers.

When Koufax retired after the 1966 season, Osteen stepped up as the Dodgers’ ace left-hander. He won 17 games in 1967 and then went 12-18 (tied with Ray Sadecki for the league high in losses) on a 3.08 ERA. He bounced back to win 20 games in 1969, pitching 16 complete games and 321.0 innings with a 2.66 ERA. He also threw seven shutouts.

Osteen pitched four more seasons with the Dodgers, winning 66 games. His best season was 1972, when he went 20-11 with a 2.64 ERA and 14 complete games. After a 16-11 campaign in 1973, he was traded to the Houston Astros for outfielder Jim Wynn. He was 9-9 for Houston before being traded near the end of the 1974 season to the St. Louis Cardinals. He signed with the Chicago White Sox at the beginning of the 1975 season, and went 7-16 for Chicago and then retired.

In 18 major league seasons, Osteen compiled a 196-195 record with a 3.30 ERA. He was an All-Star three times.

An Extra Dose of Sweet

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Lou Johnson

“Sweet Lou” Johnson was the centerpiece of the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ offense in the mid-1960s. In those seasons, the Dodgers were winning pennants, but they were doing it primarily with the best pitching in the major leagues … with arms like those of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Podres, Claude Osteen and Ron Perranoski.

The Dodgers of 1965 and 1966 generally didn’t score a lot of runs, but they scored enough to win. Those teams manufactured runs with their legs as well as their bats. And Lou Johnson was an integral part of that “just enough” offense.

Lou Johnson spent 13 season in the minors before finally winning an everyday role with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965.

Lou Johnson spent 13 season in the minors before finally winning an everyday role with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965.

Johnson was an all-around star athlete, who excelled particularly on the basketball court. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1953.

He spent the next 13 years working his way into a full-time major league gig. His first opportunity came in 1962 with the Milwaukee Braves after brief appearances the two previous seasons with the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels. He appeared in 61 games with the Braves, batting .282.

In May of 1963, Johnson was traded by the Braves to the Detroit Tigers for shortstop Chico Fernandez. It meant another two seasons in the minors, but the turning point in Johnson’s career came just before the start of the 1964 season when Johnson was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher Larry Sherry.

Johnson spent 1964 in the minors and started the 1965 season as a reserve outfielder for the Dodgers. In early May the team’s hitting star and two-time batting champion, Tommy Davis, suffered a season-ending broken ankle. Johnson took over in left field and hit .259 in 131 games, with 24 doubles, 12 home runs, 58 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. In the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins, Johnson hit .296 with two home runs and four RBIs.

Lou Johnson’s best season with the Dodgers came in 1966, when he batted .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Lou Johnson’s best season with the Dodgers came in 1966, when he batted .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs.

He was the Dodgers’ starting left fielder for the duration of the team’s 1966 pennant-winning season. He hit .272 with 17 home runs and 73 RBIs. He followed up in 1967 by hitting .270 with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Johnson would play for only two more major league seasons. Following the 1967 campaign, the Dodgers sent Johnson to the Cubs, who traded him in June of 1968 to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Willie Smith. Johnson hit .257 in 65 games with the Tribe, and just before Opening Day of 1969 he was traded to the California Angels for outfielder Chuck Hinton. Johnson hit .203 for the Angels, playing in only 61 games that season, and retired at the end of the season at age 34.

Johnson finished his eight-season major league career with a .258 batting average.

 

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Grand Slam Debut

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(June 25, 1968) In the third at-bat of his major league career, San Francisco Giants outfielder Bobby Bonds hit a grand slam off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher John Purdin.

Bobby Bonds became the first major league player in the Twentieth Century to hit a grand slam home run in his first game.

Bobby Bonds became the first major league player in the Twentieth Century to hit a grand slam home run in his first game.

In the game, the Giants beat the Dodgers 9-0 behind the two-hit pitching of left-hander Ray Sadecki (8-9).

In hitting a bases-loaded home run in his debut game, the 22-year-old Bonds joined Philadelphia Nationals pitcher Bill Duggelby as the only other player to accomplish that feat. Duggelby hit his first-game grand slam in 1898, in his first at-bat.

For his debut game, Bonds went one for three, with the grand slam being his first major league hit. He was hit by a pitch from Dodgers starter Claude Osteen (6-10) in the fifth inning.

Bonds appeared in 81 games during his rookie season, hitting .254 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. The next year, Bonds was an everyday outfielder for the Giants, hitting .259 with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs. He also led the National League in runs scored in 1969 with 120.

 

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The Switch Is On

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(May 31, 1965) For the first time in major league history, an all-switch-hitting infield started a big league game.

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Wes Parker

In the nightcap of a twin bill, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the visiting Cincinnati Reds, 6-1. The Dodgers’ starting infield was made up entirely of switch-hitters, with Wes Parker at first base, Jim Lefebvre at second, Maury Wills at shortstop and Jim Gilliam at third.

The Dodgers infield hit for a combined .154 for the game, with two hits in 13 official at-bats. Gilliam doubled in the first inning and Wills singled in the ninth. Parker drove in the Dodgers’ only run with a sacrifice fly off Reds’ starter Joey Jay (3-1) in the ninth inning, scoring catcher Jeff Torborg.

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Jim Lefebvre

Jay pitched the complete game, giving up only three hits while striking out eight and walking no Dodgers.

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Maury Wills

Hitting stars for the Reds were catcher Jimmie Coker (a two-run double off Claude Osteen in the first inning), third baseman Deron Johnson (a pair of RBIs) and Frank Robinson, who hit a solo home run (his eighth of the season) off Osteen (3-6) in the fourth.

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Jim Gilliam

The 1965 season would be Robinson’s last in a Cincinnati uniform, despite finishing the year with a .296 batting average, 33 home runs and 113 RBIs. In 1966, he moved on to the Baltimore Orioles … and to the American League’s Triple Crown.

 

 

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Willie Passes Mel

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(May 4, 1966) In today’s 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Candlestick Park, Willie Mays became the all-time National League home run leader.

It was Giant beating Giant, as Willie Mays hit his 512th career home run, making him the all-time National League home run leader. He broke the record of former Giant outfielder <a rel=

The San Francisco Giants center fielder stroked career home run number 512 off Dodger starter Claude Osteen. It was Mays’ seventh home run of the season. He would finish the 1966 season with 37 home runs and 103 RBIs.

As the new National League career home run leader, Mays surpassed another Giant, breaking the mark of 511 home runs held by Hall of Fame outfielder Mel Ott.

Ott played for the New York Giants from 1926 to 1947. He led the National League in home runs six times, and finished with a career batting average of .304.

Mel Ott led the National League in home runs six times during his 22-year major league career, all with the New York Giants.

Mel Ott led the National League in home runs six times during his 22-year major league career, all with the New York Giants.

Ott was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951, the same year Willie Mays broke into the major leagues. Mays joined Ott in the Hall of Fame in 1979.

 

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Richert Rocks

 

Lights Out: Pete Richert Sets a Strikeout Record in His Major League Debut

When: April 12, 1962

Where:  Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California

Game Time: 3:17

Attendance: 24,570

He made his major league debut in a game that was on the verge of getting away from the Los Angeles Dodgers.  With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, the Cincinnati Reds had already scored four runs in the inning, with Cincinnati shortstop Eddie Kasko standing at second.

Pete Richert began his major league career by striking out the first 6 batters he faced.

Pete Richert began his major league career by striking out the first 6 batters he faced.

The next batter was Vada Pinson, the Cincinnati Reds center fielder who would bat .292 with 100 RBIs on the season after hitting .343 in 1961.

The inning ended with Pinson striking out swinging.

It was the first strikeout of Pete Richert’s major league career … on the first batter that the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander faced in his major league debut.

But Richert wasn’t done.

In the third inning, Richert struck out the Reds … all four of them. (First baseman Gordy Coleman reached first on a passed ball after striking out.) In the top of the fourth, Richert struck out the first hitter – outfielder Tommy Harper – for his sixth consecutive strikeout … in what was, thus far, a 6-batter major league career.

No one before Pete Richert had opened his pitching career by striking out the first six major league batters he faced. And no one else has done it since.

On that day, Richert pitched a total of 3.1 hitless, scoreless innings, striking out seven Reds batters. His brilliant debut did not go to waste. The Dodgers scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth, taking a 7-4 lead in a game Los Angeles would eventually win by a score of 11-7.

Richert’s rookie season in Los Angeles resulted in a 5-4 record with a 3.87 ERA. He struck out 75 batters in 81.1 innings. Richert would win only seven more games for the Dodgers over the next two seasons. Following the 1964 season, he was traded with Frank Howard, Ken McMullen and Phil Ortega to the Washington Senators for John Kennedy, Claude Osteen and $100,000. (First baseman Dick Nen was sent to the Senators as the player named later.) With Washington, Richert became the team’s ace starter, going 15-12 (with a 2.60 ERA) in 1965.

Early in the 1967 campaign, Richert was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Frank Bertaina and Mike Epstein. During his five-year stay in Baltimore, Richert became one of the American League’s best left-handed relievers. He also pitched for the Dodgers (again), as well as for the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies before retiring after the 1974 season.

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