He had the kind of scary power that made scouts drool and pitchers cringe.
He also brought with him the kind of defensive liabilities that made his own pitchers cringe. Continue reading
Glancing Back, and Remembering Bill Monbouquette
Bill Monbouquette was clearly the best starting pitcher in the Boston Red Sox rotation when the Red Sox were at their worst: during the first half of the 1960s. Then, as Red Sox fortunes turned suddenly to produce a pennant in 1967, Monbouquette had faded into the pitched-out twilight of his too-brief career, and had moved on to other teams. Continue reading
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.
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.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(December 1, 1961) Red Sox freshman hurler Don Schwall today was selected as the American League Rookie of the Year.
The 25-year old right-hander, who managed to get on the All-Star team despite making his big league debut with the Boston Red Sox when the season was already five weeks old, compiled a 15-7 record for a team which finished 10 games under .500.
Schwall made his debut on May 21, 1961, starting and winning the second game of a double header with the Chicago White Sox. He won his first five starts and was 6-1 when he was named to the American League All-Star team. He finished his rookie season with a 3.22 ERA and 10 complete games in 25 starts, pitching a pair of shutouts and recording 91 strikeouts in 178.2 innings.
Schwall beat out Dick Howser and Floyd Robinson for Rookie of the Year. He finished fourteenth in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.
Career Year – Don Schwall (1961)
During a seven-year major league career, right-hander Don Schwall won 49 games with three different teams. He won 15 games, nearly a third of his major league total, in his rookie season of 1961.
The Boston Red Sox signed Schwall in 1958 off the campus of the University of Oklahoma. He soared like a rocket through the Red Sox minor league system. He was 23-6 in 1959 and jumped to AAA ball in 1960, going 16-9 with Minneapolis in the American Association. He started the 1961 season with Seattle in the Pacific Coast League, and in five starts he was 3-1 with a 3.60 earned run average.
At that point, he was called up to Boston, where he made his debut on May 21, 1961, starting and winning the second game of a double header with the Chicago White Sox. Schwall went eight innings in the 4-1 win, allowing six hits and one earned run, striking out four White Sox batters.
Schwall won his first five starts with the Red Sox, and was 6-1 when he was named to the American League All-Star team. In July he went 5-1 for a record of 11-2 going into August. He finished his rookie season at 15-7 with a 3.22 ERA and 10 complete games in 25 starts. Schwall pitched two shutouts and recorded 91 strikeouts in 178.2 innings. He was selected as the America League Rookie of the Year for 1961 (beating out Dick Howser and Floyd Robinson), and finished fourteenth in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.
While many were dusting off a place in Cooperstown for Schwall, he wouldn’t have another season that would come close to approaching his performance in 1961. He slipped to 9-15 in 1962 with a 4.94 ERA, and was traded with Jim Pagliaroni to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Lamabe and Dick Stuart. In three seasons with the Pirates, his best performance came in 1965 when he went 9-6 with a 2.92 ERA. He was 6-5 for the Pirates and the Atlanta Braves in 1966, and faced just two batters before being released by the Braves in 1967. He finished his seven-season major league career with a 49-48 record and a 3.72 ERA.
Homer Happy: Dick Stuart
Dick Stuart was notorious for being the worst first baseman of his era … maybe anybody’s era. He set error records that have never been matched.
He was the perfect candidate for the designated hitter role, except he retired as an active player four years before the DH was adopted by the American League in 1973.
He would have been a good DH, because Stuart could hit with power. Managers put up with his deficiencies in the field for nearly a decade because, in his prime, his bat was so lethal.
Stuart was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1951 and set home run records at nearly every stop as he made his way through the Pirates’ minor league system. He hit 31 home runs in 1952, his first full season of professional baseball, then spent 2 years in military service. Stuart came back in 1955 to blast 32 home runs, then walloped Western League pitching for 66 home runs in 1966. He hit 45 home runs for three different minor league teams in 1956, and then spent all of the 1957 season in Triple-A ball, hitting “only” 31 home runs with 82 runs batted in.
Stuart was ready for major league pitching.
He made his debut with the Pirates in 1958, hitting .268 with 16 home runs and 48 RBIs in only 267 at-bats. He hit 27 home runs in 1959, and during the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960, Stuart launched only 23 home runs but drove in 83 runs.
Stuart had a beast of a year for the Pirates in 1961, hitting 35 home runs with 117 RBIs while batting .301. His power numbers slipped to 16 home runs and 64 RBIs in 1962, and over the winter he was traded with Jack Lamabe to the Boston Red Sox for Jim Pagliaroni and Don Schwall.
Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field was a large ballpark not especially conducive to producing home runs, which made Stuart’s power displays with the Pirates all the more impressive. On the other hand, Boston’s Fenway Park was made for right-handed power hitters, and Stuart’s hitting flourished in a Red Sox uniform. In 1963, he hit 42 home runs (second in the American League to Harmon Killebrew’s 45) and led the league with 118 runs batted in. He was the first player to hit 30 or more home runs in both major leagues.
Stuart followed up in 1964 with 33 homers (and 114 RBIs), but his career was beginning its decline. He was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Dennis Bennett, and hit 28 home runs with 95 RBIs for the Phillies in 1965. It was his last season as an everyday player. Stuart played for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966, hitting a combined seven home runs with 22 RBIs. After 2 seasons in the minors and a brief comeback with the California Angels in 1969, Stuart retired with a career batting average of .264 and 228 home runs.