What It Meant to Be a Met

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Christopher

In many ways, outfielder Joe Christopher epitomized the early editions of the New York Mets. After years of struggling to find a home in the major leagues, Christopher landed in the Polo Grounds with the worst team in major league history and found little space between fame and notoriety. Continue reading

Tiger Tough

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Earl Wilson

Earl Wilson was a solid starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers during the 1960s. He also played a prominent role in baseball’s transition to full integration during the 1950s.

With his major league debut in 1959, Earl Wilson became the first African-American pitcher to play for the Boston Red Sox … and in 1962 became the first black pitcher in the American League to pitch a no-hitter.

With his major league debut in 1959, Earl Wilson became the first African-American pitcher to play for the Boston Red Sox … and in 1962 became the first black pitcher in the American League to pitch a no-hitter.

A 6-foot-3, 215-pound pitcher who relied on sliders and fastballs, Wilson was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1953. The Red Sox were the last American League team to break the color barrier when infielder Pumpsie Green made the club in 1959. Wilson made his major league debut with the Red Sox on July 31, 1959, as their first black pitcher. Wilson joined the team’s starting rotation in 1962 and averaged 11 victories per season from 1962 through 1965. Wilson threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels in 1962, the first black American League pitcher to do so.

Midway through the 1966 season, Wilson was traded (with outfielder Joe Christopher) to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Julio Navarro. Wilson enjoyed his best seasons with the Tigers, winning 13 games over the rest of the 1966 season to finish 18-11 with a 3.07 ERA (2.59 with Detroit). He followed in 1967 with a 22-11 campaign, tying him for the league lead in victories with Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg.

Earl Wilson won 22 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, tying him with Boston’s Jim Lonborg for the American League lead in victories.

Earl Wilson won 22 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, tying him with Boston’s Jim Lonborg for the American League lead in victories.

Wilson won 25 games for the Tigers over the next two seasons, and closed out his career after splitting the 1970 season with Detroit and the San Diego Padres. He finished his career at 121-109 with a 3.69 ERA.

Wilson started his baseball career as a catcher before switching to the pitching mound. He was one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, swatting 35 career home runs (33 as a pitcher, fifth all time among major league pitchers). He hit more home runs during the 1960s than any other pitcher in baseball.

 

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Hot Bat in Philly

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Demeter

Don Demeter’s well-traveled major league career had plenty of ups and downs. His best “ups” ranked him among the most productive hitters in baseball.

Don Demeter broke into the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was a key player in the Dodgers’ successful 1959 pennant run, batting .256 with 18 home runs and 70 runs batted in.

Don Demeter broke into the major leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was a key player in the Dodgers’ successful 1959 pennant run, batting .256 with 18 home runs and 70 runs batted in.

Demeter was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953. He finally broke into the Dodgers’ lineup as a regular in 1959, hitting 18 home runs with 70 RBIs for that season’s World Series champions.

At the start of the 1961 season, the Dodgers traded Demeter with Charley Smith to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Turk Farrell and infielder Joe Koppe. In Philadelphia, Demeter came into his prime, hitting 21 home runs with 70 RBIs for the 1961 season.

In 1962, Demeter batted .307 with 29 home runs and 107 RBIs. His power numbers slipped slightly in 1963, as Demeter finished the year with 22 home runs and 83 RBIs.

In December of 1963, the Phillies traded Demeter and pitcher Jack Hamilton to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Jim Bunning and catcher Gus Triandos. It may be the best trade the Phillies ever made. Bunning, who had already won 100 games in the American League, went on to become the first 100-game winner in both leagues en route to a Hall of Fame career.

With the Philadelphia Phillies in 1962, Demeter hit .307 with 29 home runs and 107 RBIs. He finished 12th in the voting for National League MVP.

With the Philadelphia Phillies in 1962, Demeter hit .307 with 29 home runs and 107 RBIs. He finished 12th in the voting for National League MVP.

Demeter, the centerpiece of the trade for Detroit, went on to hit 22 home runs for the Tigers with 80 RBIs in 1964. His offensive numbers would never be that strong again. Demeter slipped to 16 home runs and 58 RBIs in 1965, and in 1966 he was involved in a trade for another starting pitcher, going to the Boston Red Sox for Earl Wilson. Wilson blossomed into a 20-game winner for the Tigers, while Demeter’s offensive stats continued to decline.

Demeter spent a little over one season with the Red Sox, and closed out his career with the Cleveland Indians in 1967, batting .207 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 51 games.

Demeter finished his major league career with a .265 batting average and 163 home runs. From 1961-1964, Demeter averaged 24 home runs with 85 RBIs.

 

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Who Needs Hits?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 30, 1967) — In the first game of a double header, the Detroit Tigers today edged the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

What was remarkable about the Tigers’ win was that it was accomplished without any hits. This game marked the first time that two pitchers – Steve Barber and Stu Miller – combined to throw a nine-inning no-hitter.

Steve Barber (left) and Stu Miller combined to no-hit the Detroit Tigers in a game that the Baltimore orioles lost 2-1. It was the first no-hitter involving more than one pitcher.

Steve Barber (left) and Stu Miller combined to no-hit the Detroit Tigers in a game that the Baltimore Orioles lost 2-1. It was the first no-hitter involving more than one pitcher.

The Orioles’s starter Steve Barber (2-1) pitched 8.2 innings, striking out 10 batters and walking three.

All three walks issued by Barber came in the ninth inning. Norm Cash opened the inning by walking and was replaced by pinch-runner Dick Tracewski. Then Barber walked Ray Oyler and Earl Wilson bunted, sacrificing the runners to second and third. Pinch-hitting for Dick McAuliffe, Willie Horton fouled out. Barber uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Tracewski to score the game’s first run. Mickey Stanley walked and Oyler scored the second run of the inning on an error by Mark Belanger. Reliever Stu Miller retired Al Kaline – the only batter he faced – on a ground out to end the ninth inning.

Tigers’ starter Earl Wilson (2-2) allowed two hits in eight innings. He struck out four and walked four. The Orioles’ only hits came on a third-inning single by catcher Andy Etchebarren and a single by Frank Robinson in the seventh inning.

The Orioles scored in the eighth inning following walks to Curt Blefary, Charlie Lau and Barber. A Luis Aparicio fly ball to right field scored Blefary.

Fred Gladding was brought in by the Tigers to pitch the bottom of the ninth. He retired Frank and Brooks Robinson on fly balls and struck out Mike Epstein to end the game.