Heady Hustle

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Cookie Rojas

While certainly not the most athletically talented infielder of his era, Cookie Rojas carved a 16-year career out of baseball smarts and hustle, and hitting that improved with accumulated at-bats.

Cookie Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and played two seasons with the Reds before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He led the Phillies with a .303 batting average in 1965.

Cookie Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and played two seasons with the Reds before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He led the Phillies with a .303 batting average in 1965.

Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956. He spent six years moving steadily through the Reds’ farm system, and made the team as a utility player (capable of playing any position) in 1962.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Jim Owens and started a seven-year tour with the Phillies in 1963, hitting .221 in 64 games. He got more playing time with the Phillies in 1964 (and hit .291), and in 1965 he became the Phillies’ starting second baseman and the team’s leading hitter at .303. In 1967, he led the National League with 16 sacrifice hits.

Following the 1969 season, Rojas was traded by the Phillies with Dick Allen and Jerry Johnson to the St. Louis Cardinals for Byron Browne, Curt Flood, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver. He played in only 23 games for the Cardinals, and then was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Fred Rico.

Rojas spent the next eight seasons with the Royals, as the team’s starting second baseman for six of those seasons. He hit .300 for the Royals in 1971, the first of four consecutive years when he would be named to the American League All-Star team. His best season for all-around offensive performance came in 1973, when he hit .276 with six home runs and 69 RBIs. He also had 29 doubles and 18 stolen bases, both career highs.

Rojas was released by the Royals after the 1977 season. He signed briefly with the Chicago Cubs, but never played for them, opting instead to retire to coaching and later managing and a broadcasting career.

Making Papa’s Day Perfect

 

Lights Out: Phillies’ Jim Bunning Achieves Pitching Perfection

When: June 21, 1964

Where:  Shea Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 2:19

Attendance: 32,026

Jim Bunning was a pitcher with two careers. Both were of Hall of Fame caliber.

In his first season with the Phillies, Jim Bunning went 19-8 with a 2.62 ERA – and one perfect game.

In his first season with the Phillies, Jim Bunning went 19-8 with a 2.62 ERA – and one perfect game.

For the first nine of his 17 big league seasons, Bunning was one of the best right-handed pitchers in the American League, winning 118 games for mostly mediocre Detroit Tigers teams, leading the league in victories once (20-8 in 1957) and in strikeouts twice (201 in 1959 and 1960 each).

When Bunning was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1964 season, he started the year – and his second baseball career – with a vengeance. He immediately established himself as the ace of a Phillies staff that was in its first pennant race in more than a decade. In fact the Phillies were in first place by two games going into a Father’s Day matinee against the New York Mets.

For all practical purposes, the game was decided in the top of the first inning. John Briggs led off the game by working Mets starter Tracy Stallard for a walk. John Herrnstein bunted Briggs to second, and then Stallard struck out Johnny Callison for the second out. The next batter, third baseman Dick Allen, smashed the ball to left field to drive in Briggs.

It would turn out to be all the runs Jim Bunning would need on this Father’s Day.

Jim Bunning was the first player to pitch a no-hitter in each league. And he was the first pitcher to win more than 100 games in each league.

Jim Bunning was the first player to pitch a no-hitter in each league. And he was the first pitcher to win more than 100 games in each league.

Bunning struck out Mets lead-off hitter Jim Hickman, then induced Ron Hunt to ground out to Tony Taylor at second base and Ed Kranepool  to pop up to Phillies shortstop Cookie Rojas. A three-up, three-down inning for Bunning. He would have eight more before the afternoon was over.

The Phillies scored another run in the second and four more runs in the sixth, including a solo home run by Callison and a two-run single by Bunning, who allowed no Mets base runners in retiring all 27 batters he faced. He ended the game with 10 strikeouts, including two each in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Bunning’s 1964 season would turn out to be the best of his career. In 39 starts, he went 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA in 284.1 innings pitched. He completed 13 of his starts, and five were shutouts. He made two relief appearances, and earned saves in both of them.

And he was the first National League pitcher to throw a perfect game in the Twentieth Century.

Walk to Match the Talk

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tim McCarver

A generation of baseball fans familiar with Tim McCarver as a veteran baseball broadcaster might be surprised to learn how good he really was as a catcher for more than two decades.

In 1967, Tim McCarver batted .295 with 14 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

In 1967, Tim McCarver batted .295 with 14 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

McCarver was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals out of high school in 1959 and spent the next four seasons shuttling between St. Louis and various stops throughout the Cardinals’ farm system. In 1963, his first full season with the Cardinals, McCarver hit .289 and established himself as the preferred catcher for Bob Gibson.

He remained the Cardinals’ starting catcher through 1969. He led the National League in triples with 13 in 1966, the first catcher ever to do so. His most productive year as a hitter was 1967, when he hit .295 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 69 RBIs. He was an All-Star (for the second time) that season, and finished second in the Most Valuable Player balloting to teammate Orlando Cepeda.

McCarver started the 1970s with a new team, having been traded with Byron Browne, Curt Flood and Joe Hoerner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. (Flood refused to report to his new team. St. Louis later sent Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to the Phillies to complete the trade.) McCarver played for two years in Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Montreal Expos for John Bateman.

His 13 triples in 1966 made Tim McCarver the only catcher ever to lead the league in triples.

His 13 triples in 1966 made Tim McCarver the only catcher ever to lead the league in triples.

Over the next two seasons, McCarver became the game’s vagabond catcher, playing for Montreal, St. Louis again, and the Boston Red Sox before being re-acquired by the Phillies in 1975. For the next four seasons, he served primarily as the personal catcher for Steve Carlton. He was released by the Phillies after the 1979 season, but was re-signed and appeared in six games during the 1980 season, making McCarver the twenty-ninth player in major league history to appear in four different decades.

In 21 major league seasons, McCarver had 1,501 hits and a .271 career batting average.

 

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