Left Side Savvy

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering George Brunet

George Brunet was a journeyman southpaw who finally got his chance to start regularly with the California Angels in the mid-1960s. He was a consistently effective pitcher for struggling Angels teams, and his record as a starter for California reflected his team’s struggles more than his own abilities.

A low ERA didn’t translate into victories for George Brunet. Pitching for the California Angels from 1965-1968, Brunet was 46-60 with a combined 3.03 ERA.

A low ERA didn’t translate into victories for George Brunet. Pitching for the California Angels from 1965-1968, Brunet was 46-60 with a combined 3.03 ERA. Brunet led the American League with 17 losses in 1968 – despite a 2.86 ERA.

Prior to the 1955 season, Brunet was acquired by the Kansas City Athletics from Seminole in the Sooner State League. He made his major league debut with the A’s in 1956, appearing in only 10 games over the next two seasons. He was traded to the Milwaukee Braves in 1960, winning both decisions in only 17 appearances. He pitched in only 22 games for the Braves over two seasons, and then was dealt to the Houston Colt .45s, where he was 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 17 games, including 11 starts. In 1963 he moved from Houston to the Baltimore Orioles, where he was 0-1 in 16 relief appearances. From 1956 to 1963, playing for four different major league teams, Brunet had compiled a record of 4-11 in only 73 appearances.

His break came in 1964 when he was purchased by the Los Angeles Angels and was put into the Angels’ starting rotation, going 2-2 with a 3.61 ERA over the last six weeks of the 1964 season. He made 26 starts for the Angels in 1965, going 9-11 with a 2.56 ERA and three shutouts. He was 13-13 in 1966 with a 3.31 ERA, pitching eight complete games with a pair of shutouts.

When Dean Chance was traded to the Minnesota Twins prior to the 1967 season, Brunet took over as the team’s workhorse, pitching 250 innings in 37 starts. His record was 11-19, leading the American League in losses in 1967 despite a respectable 3.31 ERA. He followed in 1968 with a 13-17 record on a 2.86 ERA, with eight complete games and five shutouts.

During the 1969 season, Brunet’s contract was purchased by the Seattle Pilots, and he compiled a combined record of 8-12 with a 4.44 ERA. He split the 1970 season between the Washington Senators and the Pittsburgh Pirates, going 9-7 with a 4.21 ERA. In January of 1971, he was traded with Matty Alou to the St. Louis Cardinals for Nelson Briles and Vic Davalillo. He was released by St. Louis after seven appearances, and retired.

Brunet finished his 15-year career with a 69-93 rhttps://baseball1960s.leadpages.co/top-10-pitchers-chance/ecord and a 3.62 ERA.

Top_10_Pitchers_Cover

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

 

Baseball’s Best One-Day Career

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 29, 1963) On the final game of the regular season, Houston outfielder John Paciorek had an outstanding major league debut as the Colt .45’s defeated the New York Mets 13-4 at Colts Stadium in Houston.

John Paciorel went three for three with three RBIs in his only major league appearance ... a 1.000 career batting average.

John Paciorek went three for three with three RBIs in his only major league appearance … a 1.000 career batting average.

Paciorek went three for three and walked twice. He scored four runs and drove in three runs. Houston catcher John Bateman also drove in three runs.

With the bases loaded in the fourth inning and Houston trailing 4-2, Paciorek got his first major league hit by singling off Mets starter Larry Bearnarth, driving in Rusty Staub and Bob Aspromonte to tie the score. He singled off Ed Bauta in the fifth inning for his third RBI of the game.

The winning pitcher for Houston was Jim Umbricht (4-3).

John Paciorek is the brother of major leaguers Jim Paciorek and Tom Paciorek. His career was limited to that single game. He remained in organized baseball through 1969, playing in both the Houston and Cleveland minor league systems. But he never made it back to the big leagues, and never had the chance to improve his career numbers beyond that single game (including his 1.000 career batting average).

Sly Fox

 

The Glove Club: Nellie Fox

No player of his era could out-hustle Hall of Fame second baseman Nellie Fox. Or out-compete him. That was true in the batter’s box or in the field, where Fox established himself over a decade as a workhorse firebrand with a glove of gold.

Nellie Fox won three of the first four Gold Gloves awarded to second basemen, starting in 1957.

Nellie Fox won three of the first four Gold Gloves awarded to second basemen, starting in 1957.

Nellie Fox signed with the Philadelphia Athletics as a 16-year-old, 5-foot 6-inch first baseman, but was moved immediately to second base, where his size and agility eventually made him one of the American League’s best. After four seasons in the minor leagues and three seasons with the A’s, where he played a total of 98 games, Fox was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1949 and was the team’s starting second baseman by season’s end, hitting .247. Over the next 13 seasons, Fox would hit for a combined .294 average, batting .300 or better six times. His best season at the plate would come in 1959, when he batted .306 with 71 RBIs. That season he was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in leading the White Sox to their first pennant in 40 years.

Fox was the toughest strikeout in baseball. He never struck out more than 18 times in any season, and led the league 12 times in at-bats-to-strikeouts ratio.

From 1952 to 1962, Fox played in an average of 155 games per season. That kind of durability is especially impressive when you consider that the American League regular season was 154 games until 1961. So it is not surprising that Fox was consistently at the top in fielding chances and outs. He led the league in assists six times and was among the top three in that category every season from 1951 to 1961. He led the league in putouts every year from 1952-1961. He was first in fielding percentage six times and the leader among second basemen in double plays five times.

Nellie Fox was the America League Most Valuable Player in 1959.

Nellie Fox was the America League Most Valuable Player in 1959.

When the major leagues initiated the Gold Glove award in 1957, it was natural that the first one would go to Fox. After Frank Bolling won the award in 1958, Fox repeated as the Gold Glove winner in 1959 and 1960.

Following the 1963 season, Fox was traded to the Houston Colt .45s and played one full season in the National League before retiring in the midst of the 1965 season. Fox was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

As Tough as They Come

 

Oh, What a Relief: Hal Woodeshick

Few players had as many “miles” on them as Hal Woodeshick piled up during first half of his career. He played for seven different teams in his 11-year major league career, and spent nine years in the minor leagues with 11 different teams … with years in the Army.

Hal Woodeshick definitely had to earn his way to a big league career. He spent nine years in the minor leagues – pitching for 11 different teams.

Hal Woodeshick definitely had to earn his way to a big league career. He spent nine years in the minor leagues – pitching for 11 different teams.

When he did finally arrive in the big leagues to stay, Woodeshick established himself as a “lights out” closer with a wicked slider and a bulldog temperament that was made for pitching his way out of crises.

Woodeshick signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1950 when he was 18 years old. He bounced around the minors for most of the next decade, arriving in Detroit in 1955 and making his major league debut in 1956 in two appearances with the Tigers. In 1958, he was traded with Jay Porter to the Cleveland Indians for Hank Aguirre and Jim Hegan. He was 6-6 for Cleveland as a spot starter in 1958, posting a 3.64 ERA. He was then acquired by the Washington Senators and won six games over the next two seasons, with intermittent returns to the minors.

When the Senators moved to Minnesota to become the Twins, Woodeshick stayed in Washington, drafted by the expansion Senators. He was 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA when he was traded to Detroit for Chuck Cottier. After going 1-1 in 12 appearances with the Tigers, Woodeshick was purchased by the Houston Colt .45s.

As part of the team’s first starting rotation (that included Turk Farrell, Ken Johnson, Bob Bruce and George Brunet), Woodeshick went 5-16 with a 4.39 ERA. In 1963, he moved to the Houston bullpen and became the team’s closer, going 11-9 with a 1.97 ERA and 10 saves. He would be a reliever for the rest of his career.

Hal Woodeshick’s best season came in 1963, when he made 61 relief appearances with the Houston Colt .45s and led the National League with 23 saves. His ERA that season was 2.76.

Hal Woodeshick’s best season came in 1963, when he made 61 relief appearances with the Houston Colt .45s and led the National League with 23 saves. His ERA that season was 2.76.

In 1963, Woodeshick emerged as one of the National League’s best closers. He appeared in 61 games and finished 48 with a league-leading 23 saves and a 2.76 ERA. In June of 1965, he was traded by the Astros with Chuck Taylor to the St. Louis Cardinals for Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor. Appearing in 78 games combined, he went 6-6 with a 2.25 ERA and 18 saves. His 1965 earned run average with the Cardinals was 1.81 in 51 appearances.

In 1966, he appeared in 59 games for the Cardinals, but lost his closer position to Joe Hoerner. Yet Woodeshick had another solid year coming out of the Cardinals’ bullpen, going 2-1 with a 1.92 ERA and four saves. In 1967, he went 2-1 with a 5.18 ERA, and retired after being released by the Cardinals after the end of the season.

Woodeshick was 44-62 in 11 major league seasons with a career earned run average of 3.56. He racked up 61 saves and was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1963.

 

Top_10_Pitchers_Cover

 

 

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

 

Where Did the Grass Go?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 21, 1966) For the first time, two major league teams played a game on an infield without grass.

In a spring exhibition game in Houston’s Astrodome, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros played the first game on artificial grass.

The heat and humidity of Houston in the summer made the construction of an air-conditioned, enclosed baseball stadium a necessity. The Astrodome was a magnificent architectural solution with one problem … you couldn’t keep grass growing in it.

The heat and humidity of Houston in the summer made the construction of an air-conditioned, enclosed baseball stadium a necessity. The Astrodome was a magnificent architectural solution with one problem … you couldn’t keep grass growing in it.

The material, which would become known as AstroTurf, was developed by Monsanto in an effort to overcome the problems encountered with trying to grow grass indoors.

With the arrival of the Houston Colt .45s in 1962, it quickly became apparent that between the heat, humidity and insects that were common discomforts for players and fans alike at Colt .45 Stadium, indoor air-conditioned baseball would be a necessity for the Houston franchise. Thus construction of the Astrodome began almost immediately and was completed in time for the 1965 season.

The world’s first domed stadium proved to be a magnificent structure. Its dome covered more than 9 acres with a clear span of 642 feet – twice that of any previous structure — and a maximum height of 208 feet. The ceiling was composed of more than 4,500 Lucite panels.

The first game in the Astrodome took place on April 9, 1965.The batter is Mickey Mantle, who hit the first home run indoors. The pitcher who served up that homer was Dick Farrell.

The first game in the Astrodome took place on April 9, 1965.The batter is Mickey Mantle, who hit the first home run indoors. The pitcher who served up that homer was Dick Farrell.

The one problem with the Astrodome was grass. It wouldn’t grow with the consistency necessary for a major league playing field. During the 1965 season, the groundskeepers even resorted to painting bare patches green (and balls hit to those spots were scuffed with green paint).

The solution turned out to be Astroturf, the trademark name that became the generic name for artificial grass used for sports and recreation.

In the Bullpen or Out, Turk Works

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Farrell

The great irony of the career of right-hander Dick Farrell is that his best pitching resulted in some of his worst seasons statistically. Those seasons came in the early 1960s when, as a member of the starting rotation for the fledgling Houston Colt .45s, Farrell posted a 46-54 records from 1962 through 1965, though his earned run average over that period was only a combined 3.20.

From 1962-1965, pitching for the second-worst team in the National League, Dick Farrell averaged 11 wins and more than 200 innings per season.

From 1962-1965, pitching for the second-worst team in the National League, Dick Farrell averaged 11 wins and more than 200 innings per season.

Much like his starting counterpart Bob Bruce (and likewise Roger Craig with the New York Mets), “Turk” Farrell pitched better than his record, but not good enough to overcome the limitations of playing for an expansion team.

Boston born and raised, Farrell was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1953 and made his major league debut in Philadelphia at the end of the 1956 season. He had an outstanding rookie season in 1957, going 10-2 out of the Phillies’ bullpen with a 2.38 ERA and 10 saves in 52 appearances. He remained a reliever in his four-plus seasons with the Phillies, going 8-9 with 11 saves and a 3.35 ERA in 1958 and then slipping to 1-6 in 1959. He bounced back in 1960 with a 10-6 record and a 2.70 ERA. That season he appeared in 59 games for the Phillies, finishing 50 and saving 11 games.

Dick Farrell broke into the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, going 10-2 with a 2.38 ERA as a rookie in 1957.

Dick Farrell broke into the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, going 10-2 with a 2.38 ERA as a rookie in 1957.

In 1961, Farrell was traded with Joe Koppe to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Don Demeter and Charley Smith. With the Dodgers, he appeared in 50 games going 6-6 (8-7 overall) with a 5.20 ERA. That next winter, he was selected by Houston in the expansion draft.

In his first five big league seasons, Farrell had gone 37-31 with a 3.70 ERA. He had made only one start (his major league debut in 1956), working strictly – and, generally, effectively – out of the bullpens for the Phillies and Dodgers. In Houston, his professional life would change dramatically. He was transformed into a starter who still worked occasionally in relief as needed, and Farrell was a workhorse for the Colts. He posted a 3.02 ERA in 1962 (seventh best in the National League), and pitched 11 complete games with two shutouts, but was only 10-20 on the season.

In 1963, he was 14-13 with an identical 3.02 ERA, and then was 11-10 in 1964 and 11-11 in 1965. During those four seasons, with the second-worst team in the National League, Farrell averaged 11 wins and more than 200 innings per season. In 1966 he went 6-10 for the Astros, and the next season he was sold back to Philadelphia, where he again became exclusively a reliever. Farrell went 9-6 for the Phillies in 1967 (10-6 overall) with 2.34 ERA.

He pitched in 100 games for the Phillies over the next two seasons, going 7-10 with 15 saves and a combined 3.73 ERA. He retired after the 1969 season.

Farrell lasted a total of 14 seasons in the majors, going 106-111 with a 3.45 career ERA. He was named to the National League All-Star team four times.

 

Top_10_Pitchers_Cover

 

 

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

Talent in Turmoil

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Bruce

It would be hard to imagine a more frustrating position in major league baseball than starting pitcher for an expansion team. Just ask Roger Craig or Al Jackson of the original New York Mets. Or ask Ken Johnson and Dick Farrell of the Houston Colt .45s.

Or ask Bob Bruce.

Bob Bruce won 15 games with the Houston Colts in 1964 with a 2.76 ERA.

Bob Bruce won 15 games with the Houston Colts in 1964 with a 2.76 ERA.

Bruce was a hard-throwing right-hander whose performance on the mound was consistently better than his won-lost record. He was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1952 and made his major league debut with the Tigers in 1959. In 1960 and 1961 he had a combined 5-9 record for the Tigers.

In December of 1961, the Tigers traded Bruce and Manny Montejo to the Colts for Sam Jones. He immediately moved into the Houston starting rotation, and at 10-9 was the only starter with a winning record (on a team that lost 96 games in its inaugural season).  In 1963 his record slipped to 5-9, but rebounded in 1964 with a 15-9 record and a 2.76 ERA. He also set team records that season with nine complete games and four shutouts.

It would be the last winning record of Bruce’s career.

Bob Bruce was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers. After three seasons working out of the Tigers bullpen, he was traded in 1961 to the Houston Colt .45s.

Bob Bruce was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers. After three seasons working out of the Tigers bullpen, he was traded in 1961 to the Houston Colt .45s.

In 1965 he went 9-18 on a still-respectable ERA of 3.72. He set personal highs that season for innings pitched (229.2) and strikeouts (145). His 3-13 record in 1966 prompted Houston to trade the right-hander to the Atlanta Braves in a deal that brought Eddie Mathews to Houston. In 12 appearances for the Braves, Bruce posted a 2-3 record with his only career save. He was assigned to the Braves AAA club in Richmond, where he went 7-2 but never again pitched in the majors.

Bruce finished his career at 49-71 with a 3.85 ERA. But in his first three seasons with Houston, he was the team’s best starting pitcher and best chance at winning, going 30-27 with a 3.43 ERA.

 

Top_10_Pitchers_Cover

 

 

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

The Anonymous Batting Champion

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Pete Runnels

Pete Runnels may well be the least-known batting champion from the 1960s. Yet he was the 1960s’ first two-time batting champion, and the first player ever to win two batting titles while playing two different positions.

Pete Runnels won two batting championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s, hitting .320 in 1960 and .326 in 1962.

Pete Runnels won two batting championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s, hitting .320 in 1960 and .326 in 1962.

Runnels broke into the big leagues as a shortstop for the Washington Senators in 1951. Over the next seven years, splitting his time between shortstop and second base, Runnels hit .274 for Washington, with a high mark of .310 in 1956. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox before the 1958 season, when he hit .322, the second highest average in the league. He also registered a career high 183 hits in his first year with Boston, fourth best in the league.

As Boston’s starting second baseman, Runnels won his first batting championship in 1960 with a .320 average. Runnels moved over to first base in 1961, hitting .317 that year. As the Red Sox first baseman in 1962, Runnels claimed his second batting title with a .326 average. In his five seasons with Boston, Runnels was one of the league’s most consistent hitters, with a combined average of .320 over that period.

Pete Runnels was the first major league hitter to win batting titles while playing different positions.

Pete Runnels was the first major league hitter to win batting titles while playing different positions.

His batting title in 1962 wasn’t enough to keep Runnels in a Red Sox uniform, as he was traded in the off season to the Houston Colt .45s for outfielder Roman Mejias. Runnels never hit for power. Mejias did.

Runnels batted only .253 in 1963, his only full season with Houston. He was released 22 games into the 1964 season, and never played again in the majors. Runnels finished his 14-year major league career batting .291 with 1,854 hits. He was an All-Star three times.

The Cat with a Quick Bat

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Felix Mantilla

Infielder Felix Mantilla came up through the Negro and minor leagues with an outfielder named Hank Aaron. Both were All-Stars who broke into the major leagues with the Milwaukee Braves.

Felix Mantilla was an All-Star in 1965, when he batted .275 with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox.

Felix Mantilla was an All-Star in 1965, when he batted .275 with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox.

Both built their reputations on home runs. Aaron hit more.

Mantilla was signed by the Braves in 1952 and was a member of the pennant-winning Braves of 1957 and 1958. After six seasons as a utility infielder with the Braves, Mantilla was selected by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. He spent the 1962 season as the Mets’ everyday third baseman, batting .275 with 11 home runs and 59 runs batted in. Following that season, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Pumpsie Green and Tracy Stallard.

In Boston, Mantilla’s potential and power were unleashed. He batted .315 in 1963 as the team’s utility infielder, and then became a starter at second base in 1965, batting .289 with 30 home runs and 64 RBIs. He followed in 1965, his All-Star season, with 18 home runs and 92 RBIs while batting .275.

In the off season, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s for shortstop Eddie Kasko. For the Colts in 1966, he batted .219 as a part-time player, and then retired at age 31.

Mantilla played 11 seasons in the major leagues. He hit .261 in his career on 707 hits, with 89 home runs and 330 RBIs.

Spahn Spawns Shutout Over Colts

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 7, 1963) The Milwaukee Braves today beat the Houston Colt .45s 4-0 behind the five-hit pitching of left-hander Warren Spahn.

Warren Spahn would lead the National League in complete games for the seventh straight time in 1963 and finish the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA.

Warren Spahn would lead the National League in complete games for the seventh straight time in 1963 and finish the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA.

Spahn (12-4) struck out five batters and walked only one in pitching his third shutout of the 1963 season. The performance lowered his season’s earned run average to 2.67.

The losing pitcher was Houston starter Jim Umbricht (2-3).

The game was scoreless through six innings. In the top of the seventh, Braves shortstop Denis Menke drove in the winning run with a triple that scored Eddie Mathews. Center fielder Mack Jones, a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, got two RBIs on a single in the eighth inning.

Center fielder Mack Jones, a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, got two RBIs on a single in the eighth inning.

Center fielder Mack Jones, a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, got two RBIs on a single in the eighth inning.

It was Spahn’s seventh complete game in a season of “sevens” for the future Hall of Famer. He would lead the National League in complete games for the seventh straight time in 1963 and finish the season at 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA. He would also record seven shutouts in 1963, second in the N.L. to Sandy Koufax.