Glancing Back, and Remembering Andre Rodgers
Andre Rodgers was a shortstop and utility infielder who batted .249 over an 11-year major league career. Continue reading
Glancing Back, and Remembering Wally Moon
Wally Moon burst onto the National League in 1954, ready-made as one of the league’s most accomplished hitters. While his subsequent 12-season career did not quite live up to the promise of his rookie season, Moon was a solid hitter who knew the strike zone and could drive the ball with power to all fields. Continue reading
Lights Out: Jim Maloney Pitches a 10-Inning No-Hitter for the Second Time this Year
When: August 19, 1965
Where: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
Game Time: 2:51
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jim Maloney had the kind of stuff that made every start a potential no-hitter. Continue reading
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(April 10, 1962) At Colt Stadium in Houston, the Colt .45s, in their first ever major league game, today defeated the Chicago Cubs, 11-2. Continue reading
The Glove Club: Joe Pepitone
When the New York Yankees were looking to bolster their starting rotation following the 1962 season, they considered Bill Skowron expendable because of a first sacker they had waiting in the wings: Joe Pepitone. By trading Skowron to the Los Angeles Dodgers for starting pitcher Stan Williams, the Yankees opened the door to the left-handed hitting Pepitone, who brought a better first-base glove to the Yankee infield while expected to provide the same level of run production that the Yankees had gotten from “Moose” Skowron the previous five seasons.
Pepitone was signed by the Yankees in 1958 and made his debut in New York 4 seasons later, hitting .239 in 63 games. In 1963, he inherited Skowron’s first base position on a full-time basis, and responded by batting .271 with 27 home runs and 89 RBIs. In 1964, Pepitone’s batting average slipped to .251, but his power numbers increased to 28 home runs and 100 RBIs.
The 1964 season also was the one when Pepitone emerged as one of the American League’s premier first basemen. He led the league in putouts, assists and double plays at first base. He won the Gold Glove in 1965, 1966 and 1969. A versatile athlete, Pepitone moved to the Yankees’ outfield as needed, and played more games in the outfield than at first base in 1967 and 1968.
From 1963 through 1969, Pepitone averaged 23 home runs and 75 RBIs per season.But his decline in run productivity coincided with the Yankees’ decline in the standings. After hitting a career-best 31 home runs in 1966, he hit only 28 home runs combined over the next two seasons. His bat revived in 1969, as Pepitone returned to first place full time, hitting 27 home runs and winning hit third Gold Glove.
Following the 1969 season, the Yankees traded Pepitone to the Houston Astros for outfielder Curt Blefary. He hit .251 in 75 games for Houston before being purchased by the Chicago Cubs, where he replaced Ernie Banks at first base. His combined batting numbers for 1970 included 26 home runs and 79 RBIs.
Pepitone played three more seasons in Chicago. He hit .307 for the Cubs in 1971 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs. In 1973 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Andre Thornton, but played in only three games for the Braves before retiring at age 32.
Pepitone finished with a career batting average of .258. He had 1,315 hits and 219 home runs. He was a member of the All-Star team three times.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Rico Petrocelli
While lighter-hitting shortstops were the norm in the 1960s (once Ernie Banks moved from shortstop to first base), the Boston Red Sox had a shortstop who bucked that trend with power and RBIs. Rico Petrocelli was the most lethal offensive threat among American League shortstops in the late 1960s.
Petrocelli was signed by Boston in 1961 and played his entire major league career with the Red Sox. As a rookie in 1965, PetroceIli hit .232 with 13 home runs and 33 RBIs – numbers that would have been considered adequate for a shortstop of Petrocelli’s defensive abilities.
He increased his home run production to 18 in 1966 and, in Boston’s pennant-winning season of 1967, Petrocelli hit .259 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs. He was selected for the American League All-Star team in 1967, and finished seventeenth in the MVP voting at the end of that season.
Petrocelli’s best season came two years later when he set an American League record for home runs by a shortstop with 40. He also drove in 97 runs and had career highs in hits (159) and batting average (.297). He followed that campaign with two more strong seasons, hitting 29 home runs (with 103 RBIs) in 1970 and 28 homers (with 89 RBIs) in 1971. Petrocelli moved to third base in 1971 to accommodate the arrival of Luis Aparicio in Boston. He remained the Red Sox starting third baseman for the next six seasons, averaging 14 home runs and 61 RBIs per season.
Petrocelli was known for his offense, which over-shadowed his considerable defensive skills. He led all American League shortstops in fielding percentage in 1968 and 1969, and led all AL third basemen in fielding percentage in 1971.
Petrocelli retired after the 1976 season, his thirteenth in a Boston uniform. A two-time All-Star, Petrocelli finished with 210 career home runs, 127 as a shortstop (sixteenth most all-time). His 40 home run season as an AL shortstop has been surpassed only by Alex Rodriguez.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
During the Cubs’ double header sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, Hubbs stroked eight singles in 10 trips to the plate at Connie Mack Stadium. Hubbs scored twice and drove in two runs as the Cubs won both ends of the twin bill, 6-4 and 11-2.
In the first game, the Phillies lost despite getting home runs from the bats of Tony Taylor, Johnny Callison and Clay Dalrymple. Cubs left fielder Lou Brock drove in four runs for winning pitcher Cal Koonce (2-0).
In the nightcap, home runs by Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and George Altman – in addition to Hubbs’ five for five hitting performance – spurred the Cubs to an 11-2 victory. Bob Buhl (2-2) pitched a complete game for the win.
At the end of this doubleheader, Hubbs was batting .307. He would finish the season – his first full season in the big leagues – batting .260 and winning the Gold Glove for his play at second base.
He would also be named Rookie of the Year for 1962.
The Glove Club: Ron Hansen
Ron Hansen was hardly the prototype for the 1960s shortstop. The shortstops of that era tended to be physically compact and quick, with sure hands and a bat loaded mostly with singles. That was the prescription for the shortstops of that era, led notably by the likes of Luis Aparicio, Tony Kubek, Dick Groat and Roy McMillan. (The glaring exception, of course, was Ernie Banks, the game’s best slugging shortstop since Honus Wagner.)
Hansen stood out from that group, both physically and as a hitter. He was huge by shortstop standards, standing six-foot, three inches and weighing nearly 200 pounds. And he could hit with power. He hit 22 home runs with 86 RBIs in 1960, when he was an All-Star and the American League Rookie of the Year. Both marks proved to be career bests for Hansen, who was plagued by back problems throughout his baseball career. From 1963 through 1965 – the only consecutive full seasons he could manage in a 15-year major league career – he averaged 13 home runs and 66 runs batted in.
But any hitting was a bonus. Hansen’s strength was his defense. And it was formidable.
He was graceful, almost fluid, as a shortstop, and quicker than he appeared. He had great range and a great arm. He made any infield a better defensive unit, and made pitchers better with his presence in the field.
As a rookie with the Baltimore Orioles in 1960, Hansen led American League shortstops in putouts. He led the league again in putouts in 1964 as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He led American League shortstops twice in double plays and four times in assists. Inexplicably, he never received a Gold Glove for his consistently outstanding fielding.
In 1965, Hansen set a record for handling 28 chances at shortstop in a double header. Playing for the Washington Senators in 1968, he completed the first unassisted triple play in the American League in 41 years.
When he first saw Hansen play as a rookie, New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel remarked to the press, “That kid looks like he was born at shortstop.”
Maybe he was.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Billy Williams
The Chicago Cubs of the 1960s were something of an enigma: all that talent – especially in the heart of the line-up, and so little to show for it. (Of course, the same thing might also be said about the Cubs of the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s.)
How did the Cubs, with the likes of Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Ron Santo playing nearly every day, consistently have to struggle so hard to reach .500, much less contend? And add a Billy Williams to that equation, and the Cubs of the 1960s become all that much more puzzling.
Because out of that trio of offensive superstars, Billy Williams might just have been the best of the three during the 1960s.
Williams was consistent, not spectacular. His swing was so compact, so smooth and sweet, that it’s somewhat surprising he won only a single batting title during his 18-year career. He never led the league in home runs or RBIs, and led only once in runs and hits (both coming in 1970). But between 1961 and 1973, William never had fewer than 20 home runs or 84 RBIs.
All told, during those 13 seasons, he averaged 28 home runs with 98 RBIs, batting a combined .298. He batted over .300 five times during that period. He ranks twelfth among home run hitters during the 1960s.
All three of those great Cub players were also three of the most durable in the National League, but no one was more durable than Williams. From 1962 through 1970, Williams averaged 162 games per season, appearing in more than 162 games for three of those seasons. He set the league record for consecutive games with 1,117 in 1970, a record that stood for more than a dozen years.
Williams was Rookie of the Year in 1961 and an All-Star six times. He was a Cub for all but the last two seasons of his career, when he was a designated hitter for the Oakland A’s (and made his only post-season appearance in the 1975 American League Championship Series, going hitless in seven at-bats). He finished his career with more than 400 home runs and over 1,400 RBIs. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.