Coal Miner’s Son (with a Rifle Arm)

 

The Glove Club: Larry Brown

Larry Brown was an excellent infielder who rarely hit and even more rarely struck out. He made contact often enough that you could count on his bat to advance the runner, but probably not drive that runner in.

What kept Brown in the major leagues for a dozen years was his skill in the field. Continue reading

How to Spark a Batting Order

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Howser

Dick Howser was a dependable shortstop who brought an occasional sting to the batting order. His brief major league playing career proved to be a prelude to his extremely successful later career as a major league manager.

Howser was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1958 and broke in with the club as the team’s starting shortstop in 1961. He hit .280 his rookie season, with 29 doubles, 45 RBIs and 37 stolen bases. He played more games at shortstop than anyone else in the American League, and he led the AL shortstops in putouts and errors.

His batting average slipped by more than 40 points in 1962. In 1963 the A’s traded Howser and catcher Joe Azcue to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Doc Edwards and cash.

His 1963 trade to the Cleveland Indians rejuvenated Dick Howser’s bat. He hit .256 in 1964 with a career-best 53 RBIs and 101 runs scored.

His 1963 trade to the Cleveland Indians rejuvenated Dick Howser’s bat. He hit .256 in 1964 with a career-best 53 RBIs and 101 runs scored.

Howser had a strong 1964 season as the Tribe’s shortstop. He hit .256 with 23 doubles and 52 RBIs, and he put a dependable bat behind lead-off hitter Vic Davalillo. Howser scored 101 runs (second in the league behind Tony Oliva) and led the American League in plate appearances (735) and sacrifice hits (16). He also stole 20 bases. He played more games at shortstop than anyone else, and was second in shortstop putouts to Ron Hansen while finishing third in shortstop assists (behind Hansen and Dick McAuliffe).

Again, an outstanding first full season was followed by two seasons of diminishing offense, and the Indians dealt Howser to the New York Yankees. He was a utility infielder for the Yankees for two years before retiring after the 1968 season. He finished his eight-season major league career with a .248 batting average.

 

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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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Comiskey Comet

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Floyd Robinson

Fleet Floyd Robinson was a fixture in the Chicago White Sox outfield in the early 1960s. A solid hitter and sure-handed outfielder, Robinson was the offensive lynchpin for a White Sox team that, from 1963 to 1965, was the second-best American League team … to the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins.

From 1961-1964, Floyd Robinson batted a combined .301 for the White Sox. He hit .312 in 1962, with a career-best 109 RBIs and led the American League with 45 doubles that season.

From 1961-1964, Floyd Robinson batted a combined .301 for the White Sox. He hit .312 in 1962, with a career-best 109 RBIs and led the American League with 45 doubles that season.

Robinson played semi-pro and minor league baseball from 1954 through 1957 when his team at the time, San Diego in the Pacific Coast League, became the AAA affiliate of first the Cleveland Indians and then the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox brought Robinson up for the last month of the 1960 season and he remained a starting outfielder for Chicago for seven seasons. He hit .310 in his rookie campaign of 1961, finishing third in balloting for the Rookie-of-the-Year award behind Don Schwall and Dick Howser.

Robinson hit .312 in 1962, with 11 home runs, 10 triples and 109 RBIs. He led the American League with 45 doubles. His batting average slipped to .283 in 1963, but he rebounded to hit .301 in 1964.

In both of those seasons, the White Sox finished second to the Yankees. Those White Sox teams were known for excellent pitching that carried a suspect offensive lineup. Robinson’s bat was critical to that lineup, and when his hitting productivity started to decline in 1965 (.265 batting average with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs), his days in Chicago became numbered. He hit .237 in 1966 and was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for left-handed pitcher Jim O’Toole.

Robinson never regained the hitting magic from earlier in his career. He hit only .238 for the Reds in 1967 and hit for a combined .219 for the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox in 1968. He retired following the 1968 season with a career batting average of .283.