This Week in 1960s Baseball
Glancing Back, and Remembering Jack Kralick
Jack Kralick was a slender, left-handed starting pitcher with first-division stuff … and second-division teams playing behind him. He could be dominating – even un-hittable – on occasion. He had an appetite for innings, and kept his team in the game.
Kralick was signed out of Michigan State University by the Chicago White Sox in 1955. He never pitched in Chicago. He was released by the White Sox in 1958 and signed immediately as a free agent by the Washington Senators, making his debut with the Senators at the end of the 1959 season. He was 8-6 as a rookie with the Senators in 1960, posting a 3.04 ERA as a starter-reliever, with seven complete games (and two shutouts) in 17 starts.
Kralick moved with the franchise to Minnesota in 1961 and went 13-11 as part of the Twins’ starting rotation. He pitched 242 innings for the Twins, posting a 3.61 earned run average with 11 complete games and two shutouts. He was 12-11 for the Twins in 1962.
In May of 1963, Kralick was traded to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Jim Perry. At 13-9, Kralick led the Tribe staff in victories (tied with Mudcat Grant) and posted a 2.92 ERA, best among the Indians’ starters that season.
He started strong in 1964, going 8-4 with a 2.60 ERA in the first half of the season, and was named to the American League All-Star team. He finished the 1964 season at 12-7 with a 3.21 ERA, leading the team in victories for the second consecutive season.
The 1964 season was one of transition for the Cleveland pitching staff, with the influx of young arms like those of Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert and Tommy John. Kralick, now 30, was a senior member of the staff, and faded to 5-11 in 1965, spending more time coming out of the bullpen than working in the starting rotation. He was 3-4 mopping up in relief in 1966, and appeared in only two games in 1967 before being purchased by the New York Mets. He retired rather than report to the Mets.
In his nine-season career, Kralick posted a 67-65 record with a 3.56 ERA. He pitched a 1-0 no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics on August 26, 1962. He retired the first 25 batters he faced before walking George Alusik in the ninth inning.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Blue Moon Odom
John (Blue Moon) Odom was one of the young Kansas City Athletics pitchers who paid his dues on the mound in the 1960s and contributed mightily to the emergence of the Oakland Athletics in the early 1970s.
The right-handed throwing Odom was signed as a 19-year-old amateur free agent by the Athletics in 1964. He made his major league debut with the A’s later that season, going 1-2 with a shutout. Odom spent most of the next two seasons in the minors, and went 12-5 with AA Mobile in 1966. He joined the A’s for keeps midway through the 1967 season, finishing at 3-8 with a 5.04 ERA.
In 1968, the A’s first season in Oakland, Odom worked his way into the team’s starting rotation, going 16-10 in 31 starts with nine complete games, four shutouts and a 2.45 ERA. He followed that performance in 1969 with a 15-6 record and a 2.92 ERA. He was named to the American League All-Star team in both 1968 and 1969.
Odom won nine games in 1970 and 10 in 1971, then showed flashes of his former brilliance again in 1972 when Oakland won its first World Series championship. Odom finished the season at 15-6 with a 2.50 ERA. He was 2-0 in the League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, shutting out the Tigers 5-0 in Game Two and then clinching a berth in the World Series by winning the fifth game 2-1. In the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, Odom appeared in two games, going 0-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 11.1 innings.
The 1972 season would be Odom’s last as a dominant pitcher. His record slipped to 5-12 in 1973 with a 4.49 ERA, and he was relegated to the bullpen in 1974, going 1-5 with a 3.81 ERA. He pitched only two more seasons with four different teams (including another tour with Oakland), winning a total of four games.
He was traded three times during the 1975 season, first to the Cleveland Indians for Dick Bosman and Jim Perry, then two weeks later was dealt to the Atlanta Braves, who traded him after another week to the Chicago White Sox. Odom was released by the White Sox in January of 1977, and retired with a career record of 84-85 and a 3.70 ERA.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Gaylord Perry
Gaylord Perry was a great pitcher partly because he was also a great mound psychologist.
Notorious for being the last great spitball pitcher (a pitch outlawed four decades before Perry’s career began), he deftly used the uncertainty of that pitch to keep batters thinking about it rather than concentrating on his “stuff,” which was considerable … wet or dry.
Perry was signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1958 and made his debut with the team at the end of the 1962 season. He was used primarily as a long reliever and spot starter during his first three seasons with the Giants, but gradually moved into the Giants’ starting rotation and posted a 21-8 record with a 2.99 ERA in 1966.
Perry was always an “innings eater” and, from 1967 through 1975, never pitched less than 280 innings in a season. He pitched more than 300 innings six times in his career. He won 50 games for the Giants from 1967 through 1969, and led the National League in victories with a 23-13 record in 1970 (the same year that brother Jim Perry led the American League with 24 wins and won the American League Cy Young award).
Perry went 16-12 in 1971 with a 2.76 ERA, and over the winter the Giants dealt Perry and shortstop Frank Duffy to the Cleveland Indians for Sam McDowell. Perry responded with the best season of his career: a 24-16 record (one-third of the Indians’ 72 victories), a 1.92 ERA over 342.2 innings pitched, and 29 complete games, including five shutouts. He was named American League Cy Young award winner for the 1972 season.
Perry won 19 games for the Tribe in 1973 and 21 games in 1974. He pitched 57 complete games over those two seasons. During the 1975 season, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Jim Bibby, Jackie Brown, Rick Waits and $100,000. He won a combined 18 games that season, and followed up with a pair of 15-win campaigns over the next two seasons. Then Perry was traded to the San Diego Padres, and posted a 21-6 record with a 2.73 ERA in 1978 – good enough to claim his second Cy Young award. Perry was the first pitcher to win that award in each league.
He hung on for five more years, pitching for Texas, the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals. He closed out his 22-year career with a 314-265 record and a 3.11 ERA. He pitched 5,350 innings over his career, the sixth highest total in major league history.
A five-time All-Star, Perry was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
Kralick’s no-no was the fifth pitched in the major leagues this season.
Kralick (10-8) faced only 28 batters in pitching the 1-0 shutout over the Kansas City Athletics.
The Twins southpaw retired the first 25 A’s batters he faced before a walk to George Alusik ended his bid for a perfect game. Stranding Alusik at first, Kralick retired the next two batters to complete the no-hitter, facing only one batter more than the minimum. Kralick struck out three and walked one in pitching the no-hit gem.
The Twins scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the seventh inning off the A’s starter Bill Fischer (4-6). Second baseman Bernie Allen opened the inning with a single to right field, and moved to second base when Zoilo Versalles was safe on a bunt and fielder’s choice. Kralick bunted the runners to second and third, and center fielder Lenny Green lofted a fly ball to deep center field, scoring Allen on the sacrifice fly.
Kralick would finish the 1962 season at 12-11 with a 3.86 ERA. His no-hitter against the Athletics would be his only shutout of the season, and one of seven complete games.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
The game was over by the end of the first inning. The Twins pounded Cleveland starter Barry Latman and reliever Jim Perry for 11 runs. Included among those runs were grand slam home runs by Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew.
Allison’s bases-loaded blast came off Latman, and followed an RBI single from third baseman Rich Rollins. Catcher Earl Battey followed Allison’s slam with a solo homer. With the score 6-0, Perry replaced Latman and gave up a single to second baseman Bernie Allen before retiring Zoilo Versalles and Twins pitcher Dick Stigman. But then Bob Tuttle walked and Vic Power’s single drove in Allen. A walk to Rollins loaded the bases for Killebrew, who hit the inning’s second grand slam, putting the Twins in front 11-0.
It marked the first time since 1890 that two grand slams had been hit by the same team in one inning. It’s been done five times since.
Stigman (4-2) allowed three runs on six hits to pick up the complete game victory. He struck out 11 Indians batters.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Bosman
Dick Bosman was a solid starting pitcher who occasionally showed flashes of brilliance. Not overpowering, he relied on consistent control and a herky-jerky pitching motion to make his pitches difficult to “pick up” by opposing batters.
During his 11-year playing career (followed by many years as a major and minor league pitching coach), Bosman pitched a one-hitter and a no-hitter that was nearly perfect … and he had no one to blame for missing out on that perfect game but himself.
Bosman was signed in 1963 by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He pitched in the farm systems for both the Pirates and the San Francisco Giants until he was selected by the Washington Senators in the 1964 minor league draft. After three brief stays with the Senators, Bosman made the big league club for keeps in 1968, appearing in 46 games (all but 10 as a reliever) and compiling a 2-9 record with a 3.69 ERA.
In 1969 Bosman moved into the Senators’ starting rotation and responded by winning 14 games and leading the American League with a 2.19 ERA. He followed that performance with two “mirror” seasons, going 16-12 in 1970 (including a one-hit, 1-0 shutout of the Minnesota Twins) and 12-16 in 1971. He slipped to 8-10 in 1972 and was traded to the Cleveland Indians during the 1973 season, which produced a combined record of 3-13.
Bosman went 7-5 for the Indians in 1974, including a no-hit victory against the Oakland Athletics. His throwing error allowed the A’s their only base runner during the game and deprived him of the distinction of a perfect game, making Bosman the only pitcher in major league history to miss a perfect game due to his own fielding error.
Two months into the 1975 season, the Indians traded Bosman and Jim Perry to the A’s for Blue Moon Odom. Bosman pitched well for the pennant-winning A’s, the only contender he would ever play for. He went 11-4 with a 3.52 for Oakland, including a 3-1 record in September. He pitched one more season for Oakland and retired with an 82-85 record and a 3.67 career ERA.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Chuck Estrada
He was a shooting star of a pitcher, bursting upon the American League as its winningest pitcher and then fading away almost as quickly. But in his first two major league seasons, Chuck Estrada showed a Hall of Fame promise that injury and wildness would never allow to become fulfilled.
Estrada was signed out of high school by the Milwaukee Braves in 1956. He had an outstanding first professional season, winning 17 games for Salinas in the California League.
Acquired by the Baltimore Orioles, Estrada spent two seasons in the Orioles’ farm system before making his major league debut with two innings of one-hit relief (and five strikeouts) on April 21, 1960. He quickly worked his way from the Orioles’ bullpen to the starting rotation, and finished the 1960 season tied for the American League lead in wins (18, tied with Cleveland’s Jim Perry). In 25 starts, he pitched 12 complete games and finished with a 3.58 ERA. He also led the league with the fewest hits per nine innings (7.0)
Estrada followed up in 1961 with a 15-9 season and a 3.69 ERA. Again he led the league with the fewest hits per nine innings (6.8) but also led the league in bases on balls (132). Teamed with left-hander Steve Barber (18-12 in 1961), Estrada anchored one of the best young pitching staffs in the league, one expected to allow the Orioles to challenge the New York Yankees for years to come.
It wasn’t to be.
Two problems would plague Estrada for the rest of his abbreviated career: elbow miseries, and the inability to consistently throw strikes in crucial situations. Estrada’s record slipped to 9-17 in 1962, as he led the league in losses though his ERA rose only to 3.83. However, in 1963 and 1964, Estrada appeared in only 25 games, going 6-4 with a combined ERA of 5.02.
He spent a year in the minors trying to recover his pitching magic. Then Baltimore sent him to the California Angels, who promptly returned him to Baltimore two months later, without having thrown a pitch for the Angels. He spent part of the next two seasons with the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets, and then retired as a player in 1967 with a record of 50-44.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Perry
No pair of pitching brothers has more combined strikeouts (5,110), shutouts (85) and Cy Young awards (3) than Jim and Gaylord Perry. Their combined 519 major league victories is second only to Phil and Joe Niekro (who won 539 games between them).
Older brother Jim broke into the majors in 1959 with the Cleveland Indians, going 12-10 with a 2.65 ERA as a starter and reliever. He was second in the Rookie of the Year balloting to the Washington Senators’ Bob Allison. He started the 1960s by leading the American League in victories (18, tied with the Baltimore Orioles’ Chuck Estrada), games started (36) and shutouts (4). In the next two years, pitching for a weak Cleveland team, Perry went 22-29, and was traded to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Jack Kralick.
Perry spent the next five years with the Twins shuttling between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Despite posting consistently solid ERAs, the most games he won for the Twins came during their pennant-winning season of 1965, when Perry went 12-7 with a 2.63 ERA. That record included a streak of seven consecutive victories – all for a team that, earlier in the year, had put him on waivers!
His career seemed locked in mediocrity until Billy Martin was appointed as the Twins manager for 1969. Martin promptly made Perry his #1 starter. Perry responded with his first 20-victory season, going 20-6 with a 2.82 ERA and leading the Twins to a division championship. He topped that performance in 1970 with a 24-12 season that earned him the American League Cy Young award. He remained a durable starter for Minnesota, and later for Detroit and Cleveland, before retiring in 1975 with a career record of 215-174 with a 3.45 ERA.
A three-time All-Star, Perry was also a good hitting pitcher, batting .199 over his 17-year career with five home runs and 59 RBIs. He finished his career with 32 shutouts.