Soxy Swinger

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dave Nicholson

Dave Nicholson was a hard-swinging outfielder who was long on power but short on contact.

He blasted 35 home runs in the minor leagues in 1959 and debuted with the Baltimore Orioles in 1960, batting .186 in 54 games with five homes runs and 11 RBIs. He was traded in 1963 with Ron Hansen, Pete Ward and Hoyt Wilhelm to the Chicago White Sox for Luis Aparicio and Al Smith. Continue reading

What’s the Catch?

 

The Glove Club: Del Crandall

If you were going to “build” the catcher you needed in the 1950s, you couldn’t have worked from a better prototype than Del Crandall.

His defense was superb. He was mostly head-and-shoulders above his National League counterparts during the 1950s and into the 1960s. Continue reading

Graceful Glider

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ed Charles

Ed Charles was a graceful, even acrobatic, third baseman who hit with some sting in his bat. Charles paid his dues with nine years in the minor leagues, and for his effort was rewarded with a major league career that was spent mostly with two of the worst teams of the 1960s, only to be rescued at the end of his career by a “miracle.” Continue reading

Warren and Christy … Together at Last

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 8, 1963) Pitching a nine-hit complete game, Warren Spahn raised his season record to 20-5 as the Milwaukee Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.

It was the thirteenth time in his career that Spahn won 20 or more games. That tied him with Christy Mathewson for the most 20-vistory seasons in the major leagues.

The 1963 season was the thirteenth 20-victory season in the career of Warren Spahn. It was the seventh straight season when Spahn led the National League in complete games.

The 1963 season was the thirteenth 20-victory season in the career of Warren Spahn. It was the seventh straight season when Spahn led the National League in complete games.

For the 42-year-old Spahn, it was his nineteenth complete game of the 1963 season. He would finish the season with 22 complete games, the most in the majors. Spahn recorded no strikeouts or walks during the game.

The Braves scored in the first inning when lead-off batter Lee Maye singled and advanced to second on an error by Phillies starter Dallas Green. Frank Bolling sacrificed Maye to third, and Maye scored on Hank Aaron’s groundout to Phillies second baseman Tony Taylor. It was Aaron’s 117th RBI of the season.

The Braves’ lead held up as Spahn pitched a shutout through six innings. Tony Gonzalez led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a triple and scored on a Roy Sievers sacrifice fly.

In the eighth inning, Green walked Eddie Mathews, who scored on Gene Oliver’s sixteenth home run. Spahn pitched a scoreless eighth inning and allowed a solo home run by Don Demeter in the ninth. Don Hoak doubled to put the potential tying run in scoring position, but Spahn retired Bob Oldis and Wes Covington to end the game.

The losing pitcher was Green (5-4).

Shown in an undated photo is Christy Christy Mathewson was the first major league pitcher to win 20 or more games 13 times. (Warren Spahn was the second.) Mathewson finished his career with 373 victories, third most in major league history (tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander) and 10 more than Spahn.

Christy Mathewson was the first major league pitcher to win 20 or more games 13 times. (Warren Spahn was the second.) Mathewson finished his career with 373 victories, third most in major league history (tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander) and 10 more than Spahn.

Spahn’s 1963 season was one of the best of his career, as he finished the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 earned run average. It was also his seventh straight season leading the National League in complete games, and he pitched seven shutouts, tying his season high and the second most in the league (behind 11 Sandy Koufax shutouts).

Though he tied Mathewson for most 20-win seasons, Spahn fell short of matching Mathewson’s 373 career wins. Spahn retired after the 1965 season with 363 victories, the most by any left-hander in baseball history.

Slugging from the Shadows

 

 

Homer Happy – Joe Adcock

There was never any controversy about Joe Adcock being only the third most dangerous slugger in the Milwaukee Braves’ lineup. With future Hall of Famers like Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews batting in front of him, Adcock was not likely to be the Braves’ cleanup hitter.

But he was dangerous enough as a slugger to keep pitchers more honest with Aaron and Mathews … and his presence in the lineup helped assure that they would see more of the fastball strikes that would keep their slugging numbers up and Milwaukee in contention.

In 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Jow Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in.

In 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Jow Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in.

Adcock was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1947. He played for the Reds from 1950 through 1952, averaging ten home runs and 51 RBIs per season. In February of 1953, Adcock was part of a four-team trade that took him to Milwaukee, where he would play for the next decade.

Adcock’s hitting numbers steadily improved once he joined the high-powered Braves lineup. He hit .285 in 1953 with 18 homers and 80 RBIs in 1953. He upped those numbers in 1954 to a .308 average with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs. Injuries shortened his season in 1955, but Adcock made a major comeback in 1956 by hitting .291 with 38 home runs and 103 RBIs. He topped 100 RBIs one other season: in 1961, when he drove in 108 runs with 35 home runs.

Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 RBIs per season in his ten years with Milwaukee. His overall numbers might have been better had he not missed a large chunk from each of two seasons due to injuries.

In 1962, Adcock’s batting average slipped to .248, though he still drove in 78 runs and hit 29 homers. The Braves traded Adcock with Jack Curtis to the Cleveland Indians for Ty Cline, Don Dillard and Frank Funk.

His one season in Cleveland produced only 13 home runs and 49 RBIs, and after the 1963 season the Indians sent him to the Los Angeles Angels to complete an earlier trade that brought Leon Wagner to the Indians. In three seasons with the Angels, Adcock averaged 17 home runs and 53 RBIs per season. He retired after the 1966 season.

Adcock hit .277 over 17 seasons with 336 career home runs. He was an All-Star once, in 1960.

The Power in Polo

 

Homer Happy: Frank Thomas

From their inaugural season of 1962 until 1975, the New York Mets’ single-season record for home runs belonged to a right-handed hitting outfielder who played for the Mets for only two seasons, but was a National League power threat for a decade.

With 34 home runs in 1962 – the Mets’ first year of existence – Frank Thomas held the franchise’s single-season home run record until 1975.

With 34 home runs in 1962 – the Mets’ first year of existence – Frank Thomas held the franchise’s single-season home run record until 1975.

Slugger Frank Thomas played both the outfield and first base for seven different teams in 16 years. Over that long career, he batted .266 with 286 home runs and 962 RBIs.

Thomas signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947 and made his major league debut in 1951. In 1953, his first full major league season, Thomas batted .255 for the Pirates with 30 home runs and 102 RBIs. He was an All-Star three times in his five full seasons with Pittsburgh, and had his best season in 1958 with 35 home runs and 109 RBIs.

In 1959, Thomas was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the deal that brought Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak to the Pirates. Thomas spent one season in Cincinnati (12 home runs, 47 RBIs) and then was traded to the Chicago Cubs. With the Cubs, he hit 21 home runs with 64 RBIs in 1960, and a month into the 1961 season he was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. He had a solid season for the Braves, hitting 25 home runs plus two with the Cubs. The Braves team of 1961 was loaded with power hitters, and was the first major league club to smash four consecutive home runs in a game. (Thomas hit the fourth, preceded by home runs from the bats of Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, and Joe Adcock.)

Frank Thomas broke into the big leagues in a big way. In 1953, his first full season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thomas hit 30 home runs with 102 RBIs.

Frank Thomas broke into the big leagues in a big way. In 1953, his first full season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thomas hit 30 home runs with 102 RBIs.

After the 1961 season, he was traded to the Mets for outfielder Gus Bell. He led that first Mets team with 34 home runs and 94 RBIs. His home run mark was not topped by another Mets hitter until Dave Kingman blasted 36 in 1975.

Thomas hit 15 home runs for the Mets in 1963 and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964. At this point in his career, the 35-year-old Thomas had become a part-time player and pinch hitter, batting .282 in two seasons with the Phillies. He retired in 1966 with 1,671 career hits.

Taking a Healthy Cut

 

Homer Happy Mack Jones

In the mid 1960s, the Milwaukee Braves fielded one of the most potent power lineups in the National League. Spearheaded by Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, the Braves’ lineup also included stellar hitters such as Rico Carty, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou and a free-swinging left-handed hitter named Mack Jones.

Mack Jones hit 31 home runs with the Milwaukee Braves in 1965.

Mack Jones hit 31 home runs with the Milwaukee Braves in 1965.

Jones was signed by the Braves in 1958 and made the big league club as a reserve outfielder in 1961. He batted .255 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 1962, but saw only limited playing time in his first three seasons with the Braves.

In 1965, Jones was named the starting center fielder for the Braves, and responded with the best season of his career: a .262 batting average with 31 home runs and 75 RBIs. His power numbers dropped off in each of the next two seasons, hitting 23 home runs in 1966 and 17 homers in 1967.

Following the 1967 season, he was traded with Jim Beauchamp and Jay Ritchie to the Cincinnati Reds for Deron Johnson.  In his only season in Cincinnati, Jones hit 10 home runs with 34 RBIs on a .252 batting average.

Jones was the fourth selection by the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. He batted .270 for the Expos in 1969 with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs. He also matched his career high with 23 doubles. On April 14, 1969, he hit the first home run in a major league game played in Canada.

On April 14, 1969, Mack Jones hit the first home run in a major league game played in Canada. He hit 22 home runs for the Montreal Expos in that team’s inaugural season.

On April 14, 1969, Mack Jones hit the first home run in a major league game played in Canada. He hit 22 home runs for the Montreal Expos in that team’s inaugural season.

It would be his best season with Montreal. He hit .240 with 14 home runs and 32 RBIs in 1970, and played 43 games with the Expos in 1971 before being released.

Jones retired at age 32 after 10 big league seasons. He had a career batting average of .252.

Mathews Reaches 500

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 14, 1967) At Candlestick Park, batting against San Francisco Giants ace Juan Marichal, Eddie Mathews hit home run number 500 as the Houston Astros beat the Giants 8-6.

After hitting 493 career home runs with the Braves, Eddie Mathews launched number 500 in 1967 with the Houston Astros.

After hitting 493 career home runs with the Braves, Eddie Mathews launched number 500 in 1967 with the Houston Astros.

Prior to the 1967 season, Mathews had been traded by the Atlanta Braves with a player to be named later and Arnold Umbach to the Houston Astros for Bob Bruce and Dave Nicholson. A nine-time All-Star in 15 seasons with the Braves, Mathews had hit 493 homers playing for the franchise in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. His seventh round-tripper of the 1967 season made him the seventh major leaguer to reach the 500 home run plateau.

Mathews’ home run came in the sixth inning with two runners aboard. It was not Marichal’s best day. The Giants went into the sixth inning leading 4-3, but the first two Astros batters, Jim Wynn and Rusty Staub, opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Mathews came up and homered to put the Astros on top 6-4.

Marichal then walked Norm Miller (who had hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning) and gave up a single to Bob Aspromonte before being relieved by left-hander Joe Gibbon. Marichal left the game after allowing seven earned runs in five innings. The loss brought his season record to 12-8.

As a member of the Braves, Eddie Mathews hit home runs in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta over a 17-year career. He led the National League in home runs twice: in 1953 and 1959.

As a member of the Braves, Eddie Mathews hit home runs in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta over a 17-year career. He led the National League in home runs twice: in 1953 and 1959.

The winning pitcher was Dave Giusti (6-8), who allowed nine hits and five earned runs in seven innings, including a two-run homer by Giants third baseman Jim Davenport. The Giants also got a solo home run from Jim Ray Hart in the eighth inning. That home run came off Larry Sherry, who picked up his second save of the season.

Mathews would end the 1967 season with the Detroit Tigers. On the season, he would hit 16 home runs with 57 runs batted in. He would retire after the 1968 season with 512 career home runs, and he would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978.

Brave Slugger

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Eddie Mathews

For more than a decade, Eddie Mathews was the slugger’s slugger. From 1953 through 1960, he averaged 39 home runs per season, leading the National League in that category twice with 47 in 1953 and 46 in 1959.

Eddie Mathews led the National League twice in home runs, with 47 in 1953 and 46 in 1959.

Eddie Mathews led the National League twice in home runs, with 47 in 1953 and 46 in 1959.

Mathews signed with the Boston Braves in 1949 and made the big league club in 1952, hitting 25 home runs and finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Joe Black and Hoyt Wilhelm. In his sophomore season, Mathews pounded 47 home runs (with 135 RBIs), a team record that was matched by Hank Aaron in 1971 and finally eclipsed in 2005 when Andruw Jones hit 51.

During the next two seasons, Mathews topped 40 homers and 100 RBIs each year. By the close of the 1950s, Mathews was the Braves’ all-time home run leader with 299 (Aaron had hit only 179 at that point).

During the 1960s, his power production gradually declined, but his numbers would still be envied by most hitters. From 1960 through 1965, Mathews averaged 30 home runs and 93 RBIs per season. A career .271 hitter, Mathews hit for a career-best .306 in 1961.

Eddie Mathews’ best season during the 1960s came at the opening of the decade. He batted .277 in 1960 with 39 home runs (third in the National League) and 124 RBIs (second in the league to teammate Hank Aaron).

Eddie Mathews’ best season during the 1960s came at the opening of the decade. He batted .277 in 1960 with 39 home runs (third in the National League) and 124 RBIs (second in the league to teammate Hank Aaron).

A shoulder injury in 1962 seriously hampered his swing for the rest of his career, which included stops in Houston and Detroit. He retired after the 1968 season with 512 home runs and 1,453 runs batted in.

A nine-time All-Star, Mathews was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978.