Theft Control

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Azcue

In a major league career that spanned the 1960s, Joe Azcue was known as a dependable catcher with a strong, accurate throwing arm. He led American League catchers in fielding percentage in 1967 and 1968. Over his 11-year career, he threw out more than 45 percent of base runners attempting to steal, and in 1966 he threw out 62 percent.

And, on occasion, he could hit.

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Base runners, beware! Over his career, Joe Azcue threw out 45 percent of runners trying to steal off him. In 1966, he threw out 62 percent of base runners attempting to steal.

A Cuban native, Azcue was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 and appeared in 14 games with the Reds at the end of the 1960 season, hitting .097. He was purchased by the Milwaukee Braves and returned to the minors for the 1961 season, and in December of 1961 was traded with Ed Charles and Manny Jimenez to the Kansas City Athletics for Lou Klimchock and Bob Shaw. He hit .229 as the Athletics’ backup catcher, and at the beginning of the 1963 season was traded with shortstop Dick Howser to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Doc Edwards.

Azcue had his best seasons, as a hitter and defensively, with the Indians. He hit .284 with the Tribe in 1963 with career highs in home runs (14) and RBIs (46). He hit .273 in 1964 and .230 in 1965, and then bounced back to hit .275 in 1966 and .280 in 1968.

In April of 1969, Azcue was part of a blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox. Cleveland sent Azcue, Vicente Romo and Sonny Siebert to Boston for Ken Harrelson, Dick Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro. Azcue appeared in only 19 games for the Red Sox, hitting .216, before being traded to the California Angels for Tom Satriano. He finished the 1969 season with a combined .223 batting average, and then hit .242 for California in 1970, his last full season in the majors. Azcue sat out the 1971 season, and then played a total of 14 games for the Angels and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1972 before retiring.

In 11 big league seasons, Azcue collected 712 hits for a .252 career batting average.

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Jump on the Bando Wagon

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Sal Bando

Sal Bando was a solid all-around ballplayer and one of the best American League third basemen of the 1970s. He was an integral part of the competitive resurrection of the Athletics’ franchise in the late 1960s and that team’s three-peat dominance in the early 1970s.

Sal Bando's best season with the A's came in 1969, when he batted .281 with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Sal Bando’s best season with the A’s came in 1969, when he batted .281 with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs.

Bando was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in the sixth round of the 1965 amateur draft. He made his token debut with the club at the end of the 1966 season, and made the KC roster to stay in the second half of 1967. By 1968, the Athletics were in Oakland, and Bando was entrenched at the hot corner, replacing long-time A’s third baseman Ed Charles. In his first full season with the A’s, Bando batted .251 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs.

Bando’s breakout season came in 1969. He batted .281 with 31 home runs and 113 RBIs. He was named to the American League All-Star team that season, and finished sixteenth in the MVP voting.

From 1970 through 1976, Bando peaked as the A’s did. He averaged 22 home runs and 87 RBIs during those seasons, with his best offensive performance coming in 1973, when he hit .287 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs, leading the league with 32 doubles and 295 total bases. He was named to the American League All-Star team three times during that period, and three times finished in the top five for the MVP balloting.

After 11 years with the Athletics, Bando signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976. He played for five years in Milwaukee, averaging 10 home runs and 49 RBIs per season. He retired after the 1981 season.

Best Day of the Weak

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Rick Monday

Coming up with the American League’s perennial also-rans in Kansas City, Rick Monday quickly established himself as one of the best players in the Athletics’ line-up and one of the best all-around players in the league.

As a rookie with the Kansas City Athletics in 1967, Rick Monday batted .251 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs.

As a rookie with the Kansas City Athletics in 1967, Rick Monday batted .251 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs.

A native of Arkansas, Monday starred for the Arizona State Sun Devils, leading the team to the 1965 NCAA championship (while playing with future teammate and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson). Monday was the first overall selection in the inaugural Major League First-Year Player Draft in 1965, taken by the Kansas City Athletics. He appeared in 17 games for the A’s at the end of the 1966 season, and then batted .251 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs in his 1967 rookie campaign.

Monday was an All-Star in 1968, when he hit .274 for the now Oakland Athletics. He batted .271 in 1969, .290 in 1970 and slipped to .245 in 1971. In November of 1971, the A’s dealt Monday to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Ken Holtzman, and Monday was to become a mainstay in the Cubs’ outfield for the next five seasons, hitting a combined .270. His best season in Chicago was 1976, when he hit .272 and had career bests in home runs (32) and RBIs (77).

In 1977 Monday was traded with Mike Garman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jeff Albert (minors), Bill Buckner and Ivan De Jesus. He spent his last eight major league seasons with the Dodgers, hitting a combined .254 and providing the team’s best center field play since the departure of Willie Davis.

Rick Monday’s best season came with the Chicago Cubs in 1976. He hit 32 home runs, drove in 77 runs and scored 107 runs – all career highs.

Rick Monday’s best season came with the Chicago Cubs in 1976. He hit 32 home runs, drove in 77 runs and scored 107 runs – all career highs.

After so many years of consistently performing well for second-division teams, Monday finally tasted World Series success as a member of the Dodgers in 1981. He was primarily a utility player when he hit the deciding home run in the National League Championship Series. Monday drilled a two-out, ninth-inning homer that proved to be the difference in a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Expos, a victory that elevated the Dodgers to the World Series where they dispatched the New York Yankees in six games.

Monday lasted for 19 big league seasons, hitting a combined .264 with 1,619 hits over his career. He was twice an All-Star, once in each league.

Remember the Louisville Athletics?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(January 6, 1964) Frustrated with dwindling attendance in Kansas City, A’s owner Charles Finley today signed an agreement that would pave the way to move his team to Louisville.

A's owner Charles Finley wanted to move his franchise to Louisville, Kentucky. The other American League owners blocked that move.

A’s owner Charles Finley wanted to move his franchise to Louisville, Kentucky. The other American League owners blocked that move.

You don’t remember the Louisville Athletics? Or even the Kentucky Colonels (a name change Finley favored in order to keep the “KC” logo on the players’ ball caps)?

There’s a good reason for not remembering. It never happened. The A’s never played a single regular season game in Louisville, as the other American League owners blocked Finley’s attempt to move his franchise.

Of course, Finley’s attempts to transplant the A’s did nothing to endear him or his team to the Kansas City fans. Attendance continued to decline over the next four years, until Finley finally convinced the other American League owners that it was in everyone’s best interest for the A’s to find a new home.

In 1968, they found that home in their inaugural season in Oakland. One year later, Kansas City replaced the A’s with the expansion Royals.

 

Quiet Production

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Norm Siebern

Tall, athletic and bespectacled, Norm Siebern was a solid hitter who “grew up” professionally in the New York Yankees organization and blossomed into an All-Star outfielder and first baseman with the Kansas City Athletics. The New York papers – and even Yankees manager Casey Stengel – occasionally made sport of his quiet demeanor, but there was no question about the quality of his production, at bat and in the field.

Norm Siebern’s best season came with the Kansas City Athletcs in 1962, batting .308 with 25 home runs and 117 RBIs.

Norm Siebern’s best season came with the Kansas City Athletcs in 1962, batting .308 with 25 home runs and 117 RBIs.

Siebern was signed by the Yankees in 1951 and, after two years in the minors and a military tour, Siebern made his debut with the Yankees in 1956, hitting .204 in 54 games. The well-stocked Yankees outfield left no room for Siebern, so he returned to the minors in 1957, hitting .349 for Denver in the American Association, with 45 doubles, 15 triples, 24 home runs and 118 RBIs. He was named Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year for 1957.

That performance earned Siebern a permanent place on the Yankees roster in 1958, and he responded with 14 home runs, 55 RBIs and a .300 batting average. Siebern won the Gold Glove for his left field play, but ironically, it was pair of errors in the 1958 World Series that sent him to the bench for most of that Series.

Siebern hit .271 in 1959, and after the season was traded with Hank Bauer, Don Larsen and Marv Throneberry to the Kansas City Athletics for Joe DeMaestri, Kent Hadley and Roger Maris. He hit .279 for the A’s in 1960 with 19 home runs and 69 RBIs. His performance was overshadowed by the MVP season that Maris had for the Yankees.

Siebern’s hitting kept improving, especially as he spent more time at first base for the A’s. He batted .296 in 1961 with 36 doubles, 18 home runs and 98 RBIs. In 1962, Siebern hit .308 (fifth highest in the American League) with 25 doubles, 25 home runs and 117 RBIs (second in the AL to Harmon Killebrew‘s 126).

Norm Siebern had an outstanding rookie season for the New York Yankees in 1958, batting .300 and winning the Gold Glove in left field.

Norm Siebern had an outstanding rookie season for the New York Yankees in 1958, batting .300 and winning the Gold Glove in left field.

Siebern’s production fell off slightly in 1963, batting .272 with 16 home runs and 83 RBIs, and after that season he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for first baseman Jim Gentile. He hit .245 for the Orioles in 1964 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs, and he led the majors with 106 walks. In 1965, the O’s, to make room for Curt Blefary and Paul Blair, moved Boog Powell from the outfield to first base, limiting Siebern’s playing time. After that season he was traded to the California Angels for Dick Simpson, whom the Orioles later packaged in the trade for Frank Robinson.

Siebern hit .247 in 1966, his only season with the Angels. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Len Gabrielson, and in July of 1967 was purchased by the Boston Red Sox. A part-time player for Boston, Siebern was released by the Red Sox in August of 1968 and retired.

Siebern finished his 12-season major league career with a .272 batting average. He had 1,217 hits and 132 home runs. He was an All-Star from 1962 through 1964.

Blue Moon Rising

 

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.

Blue Moon Odom was 16-10 with a 2.92 ERA for the Oakland Athletics in 1968. He made his first All-Star appearance that season.

His personality and pitching were both flamboyant. And with Jim Hunter, Vida Blue and Ken Holtzman, he was a member of one of the most formidable starting rotations in baseball in the 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.

In 12 seasons with the Athletics, John Odom was 80-76 with a 3.53 ERA. He was 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in postseason play.

In 12 seasons with the Athletics, John Odom was 80-76 with a 3.53 ERA. He was 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in postseason play.

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.

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Portable Power

 

Homer Happy: Deron Johnson

Hitting the ball hard was Deron Johnson’s specialty. Pete Rose said he never saw anyone hit the ball harder.

Playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Deron Johnson led the National League with 130 RBIs in 1965.

Playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Deron Johnson led the National League with 130 RBIs in 1965.

Johnson was signed by the New York Yankees in 1956, but there was no room for him in the Yankees’ powerful lineup of the late 1950s. He managed a token appearance with New York in 1960.

Thirteen games into the 1961 season, Johnson was traded with pitcher Art Ditmar to the Kansas City Athletics for pitcher Bud Daley. In 83 games with the A’s, he hit eight home runs with 44 RBIs but batted only .216. He spent most of the next two seasons in the minors and then was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds.

In Cincinnati, Johnson matured into the power hitter and run producer that he was to become.  Batting in a lineup surrounded with hitters like Rose, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Tony Perez, Johnson got to see more strikes (and fastballs), and he responded with RBIs. He hit .263 in 1964 with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs. In 1965, he led the major leagues with 130 RBIs while hitting .287 with 30 doubles and 32 home runs. In 1966, in a lineup that no longer included Robinson, Johnson hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs.

Following the 1967 season, Johnson was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Jim Beauchamp, Mack Jones and Jay Ritchie. His only season in Atlanta produced eight home runs and 33 RBIs, and he was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies, where his power hitting revived. His best season in Philadelphia was 1971, when he hit .265 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs.

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Like so many young sluggers in the late 1950s, Deron Johnson spent the early part of his career languishing in the New York Yankees minor league system. His ticket out of the Yankee farm system came in 1961 when he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics.

Over the next four seasons, Johnson played for five different teams (Philadelphia, Oakland, Milwaukee, Boston and the Chicago White Sox) and averaged 13 home runs and 51 RBIs per season. His best remaining seasons were 1973, when he hit 20 home runs with 86 RBIs for the Phillies and A’s, and 1975, when he hit 19 home runs with 75 RBIs, splitting the season with the White Sox and Red Sox. Johnson retired after the 1976 season.

In 16 big league seasons with eight different teams, Johnson hit 245 home runs and collected 923 RBIs.

 

 

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The Righty Behind Whitey

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bill Stafford

In the early 1960s, as the New York Yankees were chalking up one American League pennant after another, the leader of the Yankees’ pitching staff was clearly Whitey Ford. But in 1961 and 1962, the Yankees’ starting rotation followed up with two right-handers who piled up a bunch of innings and wins to complement Ford’s Hall of Fame ability. Those two pitchers were Ralph Terry and Bill Stafford.

Bill Stafford had back-to-back 14-9 seasons for the New York Yankees in 1961-1962.

Bill Stafford had back-to-back 14-9 seasons for the New York Yankees in 1961-1962.

Stafford was signed by the Yankees out of high school in 1957. He was called up to the Yankees at the end of the 1960 season, going 3-1 in eight starts, with two complete games, one of them a shutout, and a 2.25 ERA. He appeared twice during the 1960 World Series with no decisions. He pitched five scoreless relief innings in Game Five.

In 1961, Stafford was thrust into the Yankees’ starting rotation, going 14-9 with three shutouts. His 2.68 ERA was second best in the league (to Dick Donovan’s 2.40).

Stafford followed up in 1962 with another 14-9 record on a 3.67 ERA. He had career highs in starts (33), innings pitched (213.1) and strikeouts (109). He was also the starting pitcher of Game Three of the 1962 World Series. Stafford out-dueled the Giants’ Billy Pierce 3-2 with a four-hit, complete game performance. It would be the last World Series appearance of his career.

Stafford won 31 games over his first two-plus seasons with the Yankees. He would win only 12 more games in his career. He injured his rotator cuff early in the 1963 season, and his record slipped to 4-8, with half of his appearances coming out of the bullpen. In 1964 he was 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA, but made only one start. As a reliever that season, he finished 12 games with four saves.

Bill Stafford was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four World Series appearances.

Bill Stafford was 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four World Series appearances.

Stafford returned to a starter’s role in 1965, the first year in the decade that the Yankees wouldn’t win the American League pennant. He finished the year 3-8 with a 3.56 ERA. In the off-season, he was traded with Gil Blanco and Roger Repoz to the Kansas City Athletics for Billy Bryan and Fred Talbot.

Over the next two seasons with the A’s, Stafford would appear in only 23 games, going 0-5 with a 4.04 ERA. He retired in 1967 at age 27 with a career record of 43-40.

 

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Robbie’s Revenge

 

Career Year – Frank Robinson (1966)

Frank Robinson was not only a great baseball talent. He was also someone you didn’t want to make angry.

That’s what Cincinnati Reds general manager Bill DeWitt did when he justified the 1966 trade of Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles by calling the slugger an “old 30.”

Frank Robinson finished the 1966 season as the American League Triple Crown winner with a .316 batting average, 49 home runs and 122 RBIs

Frank Robinson finished the 1966 season as the American League Triple Crown winner with a .316 batting average, 49 home runs and 122 RBIs.

The Orioles should be forever grateful to DeWitt for not only shipping the 1961 National League Most Valuable Player to Baltimore, but also for stoking Robbie’s competitive fire with the “old” comment. Robinson tore through American League pitching from Opening Day on (he hit a home run in each of the first three games). At the All-Star break, he was hitting .312 with 21 home runs and 56 RBIs, and he hit even better in the season’s second half, finishing 1966 as the American League Triple Crown winner with a .316 batting average, 49 home runs and 122 RBIs.

Offensively, the 1966 season produced a career-best for Robinson only in the home run category. He had had better seasons in hits, doubles, runs batted in, runs scored and batting average. And in his 21-year career, he was the league leader in home runs, RBIs and batting average only once each – all in 1966.

In his 21-year career, Frank Robinson was the league leader in home runs, RBIs and batting average only once each – all in 1966.

In his 21-year career, Frank Robinson was the league leader in home runs, RBIs and batting average only once each – all in 1966.

In a game on September 21, 1966, Robinson’s performance was not only outstanding, but mostly typical for his 1966 productivity. The Kansas City Athletics had built a 6-1 lead through the fifth inning. In the top of the seventh, Robinson cut the lead to three runs with a two-run homer off the A’s ace reliever Jack Aker. In the top of the eighth, the Orioles chased Aker and the four Kansas City relievers who followed him with seven runs, capped by Robinson’s second two-run homer of the game.

The victory clinched the American League pennant for Baltimore … and, for all intents and purposes, it cemented Robbie as the American League’s MVP, the first player to win that award in each league.

 

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Kralick No-Hitter Starts with 25 Outs

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(August 26, 1962) At Metropolitan Stadium, Minnesota Twins‘ left-hander Jack Kralick threw the team’s first no-hitter since the franchise moved from Washington D.C. following the 1960 season.

Kralick’s no-no was the fifth pitched in the major leagues this season.

Left-hander Jack Kralick faced only 28 batters – retiring the first 25 – in pitching a 1-0 no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics. It was the first no-hitter ever by a Minnesota Twins pitcher.

Left-hander Jack Kralick faced only 28 batters – retiring the first 25 – in pitching a 1-0 no-hitter against the Kansas City Athletics. It was the first no-hitter ever by a Minnesota Twins pitcher.

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.

In three seasons with the Twins. Jack Kralick was 26-26 with a 3.74 ERA and four shutouts. He won 51 games for the Twins and Cleveland Indians from 1961-1964.

In three seasons with the Twins. Jack Kralick was 26-26 with a 3.74 ERA and four shutouts. He won 51 games for the Twins and Cleveland Indians from 1961-1964.

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.

It would be Kralick’s last full season with the Twins. In May of 1963, he would be traded to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Jim Perry.

 

 

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