Theft Control

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Azcue

In a major league career that spanned the 1960s, Joe Azcue was known as a dependable catcher with a strong, accurate throwing arm. He led American League catchers in fielding percentage in 1967 and 1968. Over his 11-year career, he threw out more than 45 percent of base runners attempting to steal, and in 1966 he threw out 62 percent.

And, on occasion, he could hit.

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Base runners, beware! Over his career, Joe Azcue threw out 45 percent of runners trying to steal off him. In 1966, he threw out 62 percent of base runners attempting to steal.

A Cuban native, Azcue was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 and appeared in 14 games with the Reds at the end of the 1960 season, hitting .097. He was purchased by the Milwaukee Braves and returned to the minors for the 1961 season, and in December of 1961 was traded with Ed Charles and Manny Jimenez to the Kansas City Athletics for Lou Klimchock and Bob Shaw. He hit .229 as the Athletics’ backup catcher, and at the beginning of the 1963 season was traded with shortstop Dick Howser to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Doc Edwards.

Azcue had his best seasons, as a hitter and defensively, with the Indians. He hit .284 with the Tribe in 1963 with career highs in home runs (14) and RBIs (46). He hit .273 in 1964 and .230 in 1965, and then bounced back to hit .275 in 1966 and .280 in 1968.

In April of 1969, Azcue was part of a blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox. Cleveland sent Azcue, Vicente Romo and Sonny Siebert to Boston for Ken Harrelson, Dick Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro. Azcue appeared in only 19 games for the Red Sox, hitting .216, before being traded to the California Angels for Tom Satriano. He finished the 1969 season with a combined .223 batting average, and then hit .242 for California in 1970, his last full season in the majors. Azcue sat out the 1971 season, and then played a total of 14 games for the Angels and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1972 before retiring.

In 11 big league seasons, Azcue collected 712 hits for a .252 career batting average.

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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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Babe Ruth Minus 100 Pounds?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(May 25, 1965) The Cleveland Indians today defeated the New York Yankees 5-1 in front of 4,925 fans at Yankee Stadium.

The winning pitcher was Sonny Siebert (5-2), who allowed three hits and one run in five innings of work. Siebert struck out seven Yankee batters.

Sam McDowell picked up his first save of the season by allowing three hits and no runs over the final four innings. McDowell struck out five.

The losing pitcher was Jim Bouton (3-5). Bouton allowed five hits, including home runs from Vic Davalillo and Fred Whitfield.

Vic Davalillo’s three-hit performance (including a pair of home runs and five RBIs) raised his league-leading batting average to .376.

Vic Davalillo’s three-hit performance (including a pair of home runs and five RBIs) raised his league-leading batting average to .376.

Davalillo was the game’s hitting star. Cleveland’s center fielder had three hits in four at-bats with a pair of home runs and four RBIs. He hit a solo home run off Bouton with two outs in the second inning.

In the sixth inning, with the game tied 1-1, Whitfield led off the inning with his seventh home run of the season. Bouton gave up a single to Leon Wagner and walked Max Alvis before Davalillo hit his second home run of the game to put the Tribe ahead 5-1.

Davalillo’s three-hit performance raised his league-leading batting average to .376.

Davalillo would finish the season with a .301 batting average (third highest in the American League). He was fourth in the league with 26 stolen bases and third with 127 singles.

Davalillo also finished his third major league season with five home runs … three more than Babe Ruth hit in his third season.

 

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Scratching Out Wins

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jack Kralick

Jack Kralick was a slender, left-handed starting pitcher with first-division stuff … and second-division teams playing behind him. He could be dominating – even un-hittable – on occasion. He had an appetite for innings, and kept his team in the game.

As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Jack Kralick led the team in wins in both 1963 (13-9) and 1964 (12-7).

As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Jack Kralick led the team in wins in both 1963 (13-9) and 1964 (12-7).

Kralick was signed out of Michigan State University by the Chicago White Sox in 1955. He never pitched in Chicago. He was released by the White Sox in 1958 and signed immediately as a free agent by the Washington Senators, making his debut with the Senators at the end of the 1959 season. He was 8-6 as a rookie with the Senators in 1960, posting a 3.04 ERA as a starter-reliever, with seven complete games (and two shutouts) in 17 starts.

Kralick moved with the franchise to Minnesota in 1961 and went 13-11 as part of the Twins’ starting rotation. He pitched 242 innings for the Twins, posting a 3.61 earned run average with 11 complete games and two shutouts. He was 12-11 for the Twins in 1962.

In May of 1963, Kralick was traded to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Jim Perry. At 13-9, Kralick led the Tribe staff in victories (tied with Mudcat Grant) and posted a 2.92 ERA, best among the Indians’ starters that season.

He started strong in 1964, going 8-4 with a 2.60 ERA in the first half of the season, and was named to the American League All-Star team. He finished the 1964 season at 12-7 with a 3.21 ERA, leading the team in victories for the second consecutive season.

Jack Kralick pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced until a ninth-inning walk spoiled his bid for a perfect game.

Jack Kralick pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced until a ninth-inning walk spoiled his bid for a perfect game.

The 1964 season was one of transition for the Cleveland pitching staff, with the influx of young arms like those of Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert and Tommy John. Kralick, now 30, was a senior member of the staff, and faded to 5-11 in 1965, spending more time coming out of the bullpen than working in the starting rotation. He was 3-4 mopping up in relief in 1966, and appeared in only two games in 1967 before being purchased by the New York Mets. He retired rather than report to the Mets.

In his nine-season career, Kralick posted a 67-65 record with a 3.56 ERA. He pitched a 1-0 no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics on August 26, 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced before walking George Alusik in the ninth inning.

 

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Indians Trade Power for Pitching

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

(April 2, 1962) The Cleveland Indians announced today that the team had acquired veteran right-handed pitcher Pedro Ramos in a trade with the Minnesota Twins.

Pedro Ramos averaged 19 losses per season from 1958-1961. He led the American League in losses each of those four seasons.

Pedro Ramos averaged 19 losses per season from 1958-1961. He led the American League in losses each of those four seasons.

In exchange for Ramos, the Twins received left-handed pitcher Dick Stigman and first baseman Vic Power, acknowledged by many to be the best defensive first baseman ever.

Ramos was signed by the Washington Senators in 1953 and made his major league debut with the team in 1955. In seven seasons with that organization (the last year in Minnesota), Ramos recorded only a single winning season (12-10 in 1956). From 1958 through 1961, he led the American League in losses, with a record of 11-20 in 1961.

Vic Power won three Gold Gloves with the Cleveland Indians before being traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1962. He won four more Gold Gloves after the trade, and was generally considered the league’s most spectacular first baseman in the in the first half of the 1960s.

To acquire the league’s losingest pitcher, the Indians parted with the league’s best first base glove … maybe of all time. Power won his third consecutive Gold Glove in 1961. He would collect seven in all during his career, as well as leading American league first basemen in assists six times.

A career .292 hitter going into the 1961 season, his average dropped to .268 in 1961. With the Twins in 1962, Power’s batting average would rebound to .290 and he would be voted the team’s Most Valuable Player.

Dick Stigman was 7-16 in his two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He was 27-20 in his first two seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Dick Stigman was 7-16 in his two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He was 27-20 in his first two seasons with the Minnesota Twins.

Stigman moved into the Twins’ starting rotation, winning 12 games for Minnesota in 1962 (while leading the American League with a .706 won-loss percentage).

 

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Rocky Takes the Fast Lane Out of Cleveland

 

Swap Shop: Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn

It was a deal that stunned fans in two cities, as well as the American League as a whole. The trade of the reigning batting champion for the reigning home run champion defined the careers of the players involved, as well as the man who engineered it.

And baseball in Cleveland has never been the same.

Leading the American League in home runs in 1959 wasn’t enough to keep Rocky Colavito in Cleveland. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers on the eve of Opening Day in 1960.

Leading the American League in home runs in 1959 wasn’t enough to keep Rocky Colavito in Cleveland. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers on the eve of Opening Day in 1960.

Rocky Colavito was already a legend in Cleveland at the start of the 1960s. He hit 21 home runs as a rookie in 1956, and banged out 41 homers in 1958 while leading the American League with a .620 slugging percentage. To prove that performance was no fluke, Colavito led the league with 42 home runs in 1959 and finished second with 111 RBIs.

Only one man could keep Colavito from being one of the Indians’ all-time slugging greats, and that man was Frank Lane. Lane had become the Indians’ general manager in November of 1957, after spending two years in that position with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was known as “Trader” Lane for his propensity to trade any player, including an attempt to send Stan Musial to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Robin Roberts … a deal nixed by Cardinals’ owner August Busch.

Lane dealt Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder (and reigning American League batting champion) Harvey Kuenn two days before the opening of the 1960 season. The Indians were never the same. After finishing second to the Chicago White Sox in 1959, the team stumbled to a fourth-place finish in 1960, the first of five consecutive losing records for the Tribe in the 1960s. In those five seasons, Cleveland ended up no higher than its fourth-place finish in 1960, and twice finished as low as sixth place. The franchise languished in the middle of the American League pack, and didn’t see a winning season until 1965, when Colavito’s bat had been reclaimed.

(Lane was long gone by that point, as were all of the players he inherited in 1957. By the end of the 1960 season, none of the players on that team had been with the Indians when Lane arrived.)

In exchange for Colavito, the Indians got outfielder Harvey Kuenn, who had led the American League with a .353 batting average in 1959. Kuenn lasted one year in Cleveland, batting .308.

In exchange for Colavito, the Indians got outfielder Harvey Kuenn, who had led the American League with a .353 batting average in 1959. Kuenn lasted one year in Cleveland, batting .308.

Kuenn was no slouch with the lumber, and his league-leading .353 batting average in 1959 was no fluke. Over seven seasons with the Tigers, Kuenn batted .314 and averaged 192 hits per season. From 1953-1959, his batting average slipped below .300 only once (.277 in 1957), and he led the league in doubles three times over that period.

But Kuenn wasn’t the run producer that Colavito had been for the Tribe, or would be for the Tigers. Kuenn averaged only 59 RBIs for the Tigers, and scored at an average of 88 runs per season. In his only season with Cleveland, Kuenn batted .308 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs. Those weren’t the kinds of numbers that would inspire Cleveland fans to forget their beloved Colavito, or forgive Lane for letting Rocky get away. Following the 1960 season, Kuenn was traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Johnny Antonelli and outfielder Willie Kirkland.

Rocky Colavito played for four years with the Tigers, averaging 35 home runs and 108 RBIs per season. Starting in 1960, the Indians didn’t post a winning record until 1965, when Colavito was back in their lineup (and leading the American League with 108 RBIs).

Colavito had several outstanding seasons for the Tigers. In 1960, he hit “only” 35 home runs and drove in 87 runs. His runs scored dropped from 90 in 1959 to 67 in 1960 … but that was still two runs more than Kuenn scored that same season. Colavito rebounded in 1961 to bat .290 with 45 home runs and 140 RBIs. He scored 129 runs in 1961, third most in the American League.

From 1958-1962, no one in major league baseball hit as many home runs as Rocky Colavito. And no one in the American League drove more runs home during that five-year stretch.

 

 

 

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Third and Long Ball

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Max Alvis

When Max Alvis broke in with the Cleveland Indians in 1963, he seemed destined for stardom. A good-hitting, good-fielding third baseman with power, Alvis was, throughout his brief career, a true professional who could not completely overcome the virus that shortened his stay in the majors.

The Jasper, Texas native was signed by the Indians in 1958. He opened the Tribe’s 1963 season as the team’s starting third baseman, and put up solid offensive numbers: a .274 batting average, 32 doubles, 22 home runs and 67 RBIs. He led the Indians in home runs in 1963, and led all American League third basemen in putouts.

Max Alvis had a solid rookie season for the Cleveland Indians in 1963. He batted .274 with 22 home runs and 67 RBIs.

Max Alvis had a solid rookie season for the Cleveland Indians in 1963. He batted .274 with 22 home runs and 67 RBIs.

Alvis was on his way to an even-better season in 1964. By the end of June, he was batting .251 with 12 home runs and 29 RBIs. Traveling with the team to Boston, he was struck with an intense headache that only got worse with time. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with spiral meningitis. He was told that the illness had been caught in time, and upon his return in August that seemed to be the case. Alvis finished the year batting .252 with 18 home runs and 53 RBIs — in a season shortened for him by nearly six weeks.

Alvis had made a remarkable recovery, though he was never quite the same player afterward.

In 1965 Alvis hit 21 home runs and drove in 61 runs, both fourth best on the team. He was named to the American League All-Star team that season, as he would be again in 1967 when he hit 21 home runs with 70 RBIs. Then over the following two seasons, his numbers declined steadily. By 1969, he was relegated to a part-time role, batting .225 with one home run and 15 RBIs.

After eight seasons with the Indians, Alvis was traded with Russ Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Frank Coggins, Roy Foster and cash. He spent one season with the Brewers, batting .183 in 62 games, before retiring at age 32.

In nine major league seasons, Alvis batted .247 with 111 home runs and 373 RBIs. He was an All-Star twice. He ranks 59th among home run hitters in the 1960s.

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The Lefty After Whitey

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Fritz Peterson

When long-time Yankee ace Whitey Ford retired in May of 1967, his southpaw replacement was already on the roster. Fritz Peterson stepped into Whitey’s place in the Yankees’ rotation and provided solid starting pitching for the team until he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 1974.

Fritz Peterson's best season with the New York Yankees came in 1970, when he was 20-11 with a 2.90 ERA

Fritz Peterson’s best season with the New York Yankees came in 1970, when he was 20-11 with a 2.90 ERA

Peterson was signed by the New York Yankees in 1963 and advanced steadily through the Yankees’ farm system until his debut in New York in 1966. He was 12-11 for the Yankees in his rookie season, posting a 3.31 ERA and two shutouts for a team that finished last in the American League. He struggled in his second season, starting out 0-8 with a 4.35 ERA over the first three months of the 1967 season before finishing at 8-14 with a 3.47 ERA.

Peterson bounced back in 1968 to go 12-11 with a 2.63 ERA, and then went 17-16 in 1969, leading all Yankee starters with a 2.55 ERA. He had his best season in 1970, going 20-11 with a 2.90 ERA. He won 15 games in 1971 and 17 games in 1972. From 1968 through 1972, Peterson was 81-66 for the Yankees with a 2.88 ERA. In each of those seasons, he posted the lowest walk ratio in the American League (1.4 walks per nine innings over that five-year period).

After an 8-15 season in 1973, he was traded with Fred BeeneTom Buskey and Steve Kline to the Cleveland Indians for Chris ChamblissDick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw. He went 9-14 for the Indians in 1974 and bounced back in 1975 for a 14-8 season with a 3.94 ERA. He was 1-3 combined for Cleveland and the Texas Rangers in 1976, and retired after that season.

Peterson was 109-106 with a 3.10 ERA in nine seasons with the Yankees. His career totals were 133-131 with a 3.30 ERA in 11 seasons. He was named to the American League All-Star team in 1970.

 

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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.

Keepin’ ‘em Close

 

Oh, What a Relief: Johnny Klippstein

Right-hander Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams in an 18-year major league career.

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In 18 major league seasons, Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams. He won 101 games and saved 65. In 1960, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, he led the American League with 14 saves.

He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944 and drafted, in consecutive years, by the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Chicago Cubs. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1950, going 2-9 with a 5.50 ERA. In five seasons with the Cubs, Klippstein was 31-51 with a 4.79 ERA.

Klippstein was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1954 and won 12 games for the Reds in 1956. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958. He went 4-0 out of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 1959, and won a World Series game that year, only to be purchased by the Cleveland Indians just before the 1960 season. Klippstein was 5-5 for the Indians in 1960 with a 2.29 ERA. He led the American League in saves with 14.

Following the 1960 season, Klippstein was selected by the Washington Senators in the expansion draft. After a 2-2 season with the Senators, he was traded to the Reds again, and a year later was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Klippstein’s control and pitching savvy improved with age. At 35, he was 5-6 for the Phillies with a 1.93 ERA and eight saves. He was purchased by the Minnesota Twins after the start of the 1964 season, and had several outstanding seasons working out of the Twins’ bullpen. In 1965, he was 9-3 with five saves and a 2.24 ERA.

He retired after pitching in five games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, posting a career record of 101-118 and a 4.24 ERA. Klippstein appeared in 711 games.

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