All Gussied Up to Hit

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gus Triandos

Gus Triandos was a solid catcher with a powerful throwing arm and a bat loaded with home runs.

Gus Triandos was a catching home run threat for the Baltimore Orioles in the late 1950s. He hit 30 home runs (with 79 RBIs) in 1958, his first season as an All-Star.

He was also the first catcher in major league history to be on the receiving end of a no-hitter in each league, catching Hoyt Wilhelm’s no-no for Baltimore in 1958 and Jim Bunning’s perfect game for Philadelphia in 1964.

Triandos was signed by the New York Yankees in 1948. He spent the next four years in the Yankees’ farm system and in military service.

His debut in pinstripes came in 1953, when he batted .157 in 18 games. He returned to the minors in 1954, batting .296 for AAA Kansas City with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs. When it became obvious that Triandos was not going to displace Yogi Berra as the Yankees’ catcher (with Elston Howard waiting in the wings), the Yankees sent him to the Baltimore Orioles with Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Willy Miranda, Hal Smith and Gene Woodling for Billy Hunter, Don Larsen and Bob Turley.

He immediately became the Orioles’ starting first baseman, batting .277 in 1955 with 12 home runs and 65 RBIs. He hit .279 in 1956 with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs, and then was inserted behind the plate as Baltimore’s everyday catcher.

In 1958, Triandos had stroked 16 home runs by mid-season and was selected as the American League’s starting catcher in the All-Star game, breaking Berra’s eight-year run as an All-Star starting backstop. He finished the season with 30 home runs and 79 runs batted in. He had 20 home runs by the All-Star break in 1959, but a hand injury in the second half of the season limited his playing time and his season total of home runs to 25 (with 73 RBIs). In seven seasons as a starter in Baltimore (from 1955 to 1961), Triandos batted .255 while averaging 19 home runs and 71 RBIs per season.

Over his 13-year major league career, Gus Triandos threw out nearly half the base runners who tried to steal on him. Here he is blocking the plate from the approaching Elston Howard.

Prior to the 1963 season, Triandos was dealt to the Detroit Tigers for catcher Dick Brown. He batted .239 with 14 home runs and 41 RBIs in his only season in Detroit, and then was traded (with Jim Bunning) to the Philadelphia Phillies for Don Demeter and Jack Hamilton. In Philadelphia, he split the catching duties with Clay Dalrymple, batting .250 in 73 games in 1964. Then Triandos was purchased by the Houston Astros midway through the 1965 season. He was released by the Astros at the end of that season and retired after a 13-year major league career in which he batted .244 with 167 home runs on 954 hits.

Triandos was never a base-stealing threat, but he had a gun of an arm for cutting down potential base stealers. He twice led American League catchers in assists and in base runners caught stealing. In 1957, he threw out base runners at a 67% success rate. Over his career, Triandos threw out 46.64% of the runners who tried to steal on his pitchers. He retired with the record for 1,206 consecutive games without being caught stealing. He stole only one base (in only one attempt) over his entire career.

Shoulda Been a Hero

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Hal Smith

When Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski blasted the first walk-off home run in World Series history in 1960, his lead-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth was possible because of what happened in the eighth inning … thanks to a reserve catcher named Hal Smith. Continue reading

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.

 

Top_10_Worst_Trades

 

 

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