This Week in 1960s Baseball
Glancing Back, and Remembering Al Smith
Outfielder Al Smith was traded three times during his 12-year major league career. In the first two of those trades, to Chicago and to Baltimore, Smith had the distinction of being traded with a future Hall of Famer. He also distinguished himself as a good hitter whose legs and bat produced plenty of runs. Continue reading
Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Shaw
Right-handed pitcher Bob Shaw was a battler on the mound and, when necessary, a guy who wasn’t afraid to stand up to management in his own defense. In many ways, he was fashioned from the mold of his former Chicago White Sox teammate, Early Wynn, though not quite as talented, or nearly as irascible.
Shaw was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1953 and made his debut in Detroit at the end of the 1957 season. He opened the 1958 season with the Tigers but was demoted to the minors, and when he refused to report over a bonus payment dispute, he was traded with Ray Boone to the White Sox for outfielder Tito Francona and pitcher Bill Fischer.
It was a career-transforming move for Shaw, partly because he got the opportunity to pitch, and partly because of the influence of his roommate, the Hall of Fame bound Wynn. Shaw went 4-2 for the White Sox over the rest of the 1958 season, pitching primarily out of the bullpen.
The bullpen was where he started in 1959, but by the end of the season, Shaw was the number two starter for the American League champions behind the 1959 Cy Young Award winner, his mentor Wynn. Shaw went 18-6 with a 2.69 ERA, his .750 winning percentage the best among American League pitchers.
Shaw was 13-13 for the White Sox in 1960, and in 1961 he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics with Wes Covington in a deal that brought pitcher Ray Herbert to the White Sox. Shaw was a combined 12-14 in 1961, and after the season’s end was traded again, this time to the Milwaukee Braves in a deal that brought Joe Azcue, Manny Jimenez and Ed Charles to the A’s.
Shaw had an excellent season for the Braves in 1962, going 15-9 with a 2.80 ERA and 12 complete game. He slipped to 7-11 in 1963, posting a 2.66 ERA and pitching mostly out of the Braves’ bullpen. In December of 1963 he was traded with Del Crandall and Bob Hendley to the San Francisco Giants for Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey, Billy Hoeft and a player to be named later. As a relief specialist, Shaw led the Giants in appearances with 61 and saved 11 games with a 7-6 record, posting a 3.76 ERA. In 1965, he moved into the Giants’ starting rotation and went 16-9 with a 2.64 ERA.
In 1966, the Giants sold Shaw to the New York Mets, and he finished the season at 12-14 combined. His last season was 1967, split between the Mets and the Chicago Cubs. Shaw went 3-11 with a 4.61 ERA.
In 11 major league seasons, Shaw was 108-98 with a 3.52 career earned run average. He was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1962.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Cal McLish
Cal McLish had enough names to fill more than half a batting order, and enough pitches and moxy to be a consistent starting pitcher. He was a late bloomer, winning all but eight of his 92 major league victories after the age of 30.
Born Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish, he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944. With the war-lean major league rosters, McLish became an immediate starter-reliever for the Dodgers, posting a 3-10 record with a 7.82 ERA.
He obviously needed minor league seasoning. After serving in the military in 1945, McLish spent the next four seasons in the minors, winning 20 games for the Los Angeles Angels (the Pacific Coast League affiliate for the Chicago Cubs) in 1950, and spent the 1951 season with the Cubs, going 4-10 with a 4.45 ERA. McLish was sent back to the minors for four more seasons, winning 56 games during that period. Following the 1955 season, he was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Indians. Now 30 and with a major league record of 8-30, McLish’s career was finally about to turn around with the Tribe.
McLish spent the 1956 season working out of the Cleveland bullpen, with little room for him in a starting rotation that included two future Hall of Famers (Bob Lemon and Early Wynn) and Herb Score (all 20-game winners that season). McLish was 2-4 as a reliever for the Indians in 1956, and 9-7 in that role in 1957.
McLish moved into the starting rotation for Cleveland in 1958, and responded with a 16-8 season with a 2.99 ERA. He was 19-8 for the Indians in 1959, only to be traded with Gordy Coleman and Billy Martin to the Cincinnati Reds for Johnny Temple. McLish went 4-14 for the Reds in 1960, and was dealt with Juan Pizarro to the Chicago White Sox for Gene Freese.
With the White Sox in 1961, McLish went 10-13 with a 4.38 ERA. He was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies just before the start of the 1962 season, and went 11-5 for Philadelphia. He had one of his best all-around seasons in 1962 at age 37, going 13-11 with a 3.26 ERA. That season he threw 10 complete games and pitched 209.2 innings, his highest totals in both categories since 1959. He retired in 1964 after making only two appearances.
McLish was 92-92 over his 15-season career with a 4.01 ERA. During his best seasons – from 1958 through 1963 – he was 73-59 with a 3.70 ERA.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Mossi
For most of his career – at least until his arm finally gave out – Don Mossi was effective as a starting pitcher or reliever, depending on his team’s needs at the time.
When the outstanding starting rotation of the Cleveland Indians of the 1950s kept the young Mossi in the Tribe’s bullpen, he excelled there. When he had the opportunity to become a regular starter, first in Cleveland and then with the Detroit Tigers, he had his finest seasons.
Mossi was signed by the Indians in 1949 and spent five seasons progressing through Cleveland’s farm system as a starter. His rookie year was 1954 with Cleveland’s American League championship team … a team with established starters such as Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia and Early Wynn. Working mostly out of the bullpen, Mossi was 6-1 with a 1.94 ERA and seven saves. Over the next two seasons as an Indians’ reliever, Mossi was a combined 10-8 with 20 saves, appearing in 105 games with a 3.03 earned run average.
In 1957, Cleveland needed Mossi as a spot starter, and he started in 22 of his 36 appearances. He was 11-10 in 1957, and then returned to a reliever’s role in 1958, going 7-8 with a 3.90 ERA.
In November of 1958, the Indians traded Mossi with Ossie Alvarez and Ray Narleski to the Tigers for Al Cicotte and Billy Martin. As a starter for the Tigers, Mossi went 17-9 in 1959. His ERA was 3.36 with 15 complete games and three shutouts. Injuries limited his effectiveness in 1960 to 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA, and then Mossi had his best all-around season in 1961 as part of a dynamic starting rotation that included Frank Lary and Jim Bunning. Mossi went 15-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 12 complete games. He pitched 240.1 innings, which would be his career high. He also had the league’s lowest rates of bases on balls per nine innings (1.88) and the league’s best strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.91).
Time was starting to take its toll on Mossi’s left arm. He could pitch only 180.1 innings in 1962, his record slipping to 11-13 and his ERA growing to 4.19. Arm problems limited Mossi to 16 starts and a 7-7 record in 1963, and he was sold to the Chicago White Sox, where he was 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 1964. He finished his career with the Kansas City A’s, going 5-8 in 1965 with a 3.74 ERA.
Mossi had a 12-year career record of 101-80 with 50 saves and a 3.43 ERA. He was an All-Star in 1957.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(January 3, 1961) The Kansas City Athletics today announced that Frank ‘Trader’ Lane had been named the team’s the general manager and executive vice president.
Lane had been the general manager for the Cleveland Indians since November of 1957. During his three seasons at the helm of the Cleveland franchise, he guided the Tribe to a pair of fourth-place finishes and a second-place finish in 1959. He also engineered one of the most infamous trades in Indians’ history, dealing American League home run champion and fan favorite Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn after the 1959 season.
He was known as “Trader Lane” for his propensity to deal star players. During his career as a baseball executive (that included tours with the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals before Cleveland), Lane made over 200 trades that included players such as Jim Busby, Norm Cash, Roger Maris, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, and Early Wynn. He reportedly tried to trade Stan Musial, but Cardinals’ owner August Busch nixed the deal.
While in Cleveland, Lane once even traded managers – Joe Gordon for Detroit Tigers skipper Jimmy Dykes.
Lane would not have much time to make trades for the A’s. Lane was ousted from his position in August 1961 as a result of a lingering feud with Kansas City owner Charles Finley. The dispute resulted in a lawsuit that would not be settled until 1965.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Minnie Minoso
Minnie Minoso was one of the most durable players in major league history, appearing for teams in five different decades (1940s-1980s). He lasted so long because he was an outstanding hitter and left fielder, batting .298 over a 17-year career and winning three Gold Gloves.
Minoso was already a proven hitter in his native Cuba and in the Negro League when he was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He made his debut with the Tribe in 1949, appearing in nine games. After a season in AAA ball, he started the 1951 season with Cleveland and then was traded to the Chicago White Sox, the first player of color to join the White Sox. He hit .326 in his rookie season with 10 home runs and 76 RBIs. He led the American League in triples (14) and stolen bases (31).
Minoso’s first tour with the White Sox lasted seven seasons. He hit .300 or better in five of those seasons, and led the league in stolen bases in 1952 and 1953. He also led the league in triples in 1954 (a career-high 18) and 1956. In 1954, besides leading the league in triples, Minoso batted .320 with 19 home runs and 116 RBIs.
In 1957, Minoso batted .310 with 12 home runs and 103 RBIs, and led the league with 36 doubles. Following that season, he was traded by the White Sox to the Cleveland Indians for Al Smith and Early Wynn. He hit .302 for Cleveland in 1958 with 24 home runs and 80 RBIs, and followed up in 1959 by hitting .302 again with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs.
Then it was back to the White Sox, traded with Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese and Jake Striker for Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano. He batted .311 in 1960 with 20 home runs and 105 RBIs, and also led the American League with 184 hits. He won his third Gold Glove that season, and finished fourth in the balloting for AL Most Valuable Player (won by Roger Maris).
In 1961, Minoso hit .280 for the White Sox and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman Joe Cunningham. Now 36, Minoso played in only 39 games for the Cardinals, batting .196. He was signed by the Washington Senators, batting .229 in 1963. He appeared in 30 games for the White Sox in 1964, and after his release played several years in Mexico.
Minoso made two more brief appearances with the White Sox, in 1976 and 1980, qualifying him for five decades of major league appearances. He played minor league ball in the 1990s and 2003, making him the only player to appear professionally in seven different decades.
In his prime, Minoso was one of the best and most consistent hitters in the American League. From 1951 through 1960, Minoso hit for a combined .307 and averaged 16 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He finished his career with 1,963 hits, and was an All-Star seven times.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Early Wynn
One of the most durable pitchers in baseball history, Early Wynn cultivated an image as a ruthless intimidator whose blazing fastball was available at any opportunity to drive a batter away from the plate … or make him pay for success in his previous at-bat. On the mound Wynn was relentless and talented, just the combination for producing a 300-win, Hall of Fame career.
Wynn signed with the Washington Senators in 1937 and made his debut as a 19-year-old at the end of the 1939 season. He moved into the Senators’ starting rotation in 1942, going 10-16, and became the team’s ace in 1943 with an 18-12 record and a 2.91 ERA. He also led the American League that season with 33 starts.
Wynn won 17 games for the Senators in 1947 and after an 8-19 season in 1948, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a deal that would turn his career around. After going 72-87 in eight seasons with the Senators, Wynn was 163-100 over the next nine years with the Indians. He had four 20-win seasons with the Tribe, pitching an average of 229 innings per season. He twice led the American League in starts and innings pitched, and posted the league’s lowest ERA (3.20) in 1950. For the 1950s, Wynn had more strikeouts (1,544) than any other major league pitcher during that decade.
In 1957, Wynn was traded with Al Smith to the Chicago White Sox for Fred Hatfield and Minnie Minoso. He won 14 games for Chicago in 1958, and in 1959 won the Cy Young award with a 22-10 record and a 3.17 ERA. He led the league again in starts (37) and innings pitched (255.2).
Wynn won 13 games for the White Sox in 1960 (and led the league with four shutouts), but he was now 40 and his fastball was losing its gas. He won a combined 15 games over the next two seasons, and was released by Chicago in 1962 with 299 career victories. He signed with Cleveland and finally notched victory 300 in 1963 before retiring.
Wynn was a good hitter, a switch-hitter with a career batting average of .214, 17 home runs and 173 RBIs. He is one of five major league pitchers to have hit a grand slam as a pinch hitter.
Wynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.