Sometimes Size Counts


Homer Happy: Frank Howard

Frank Howard made opposing pitchers cringe. At six-foot-seven and 255 pounds, he was an imposing presence at the plate. Not even the higher mound (15 inches high until 1969) gave pitchers as much of an advantage. At his height, he could still nearly look them in the eye. Continue reading

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.


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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Hawk on the Wild Side


Homer Happy: Ken Harrelson

“Free spirit” would be an understatement when describing Ken Harrelson. An All-Star talent combined with steel-like independence, Harrelson put up outstanding power hitting numbers at his best, and walked away from his playing career while still near its peak … because he felt like it.


Ken Harrelson led the league with 109 RBIs in 1968. His 35 home runs were third most in the American League, and he finished third in the race for MVP.

Harrelson was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in 1959 and made his debut in an A’s uniform four years later. In between, he tore up minor league pitching, hitting .301 at Visalia with 25 home runs and 114 RBIs in 1961, and then hitting 38 home runs with 138 RBIs at Binghampton in 1962. Against AAA pitching in 1964, Harrelson batted only .232 but also hit 18 home runs with 52 RBIs in 77 games before being called up to Kansas City.

His first full major league season came in 1965, when he led the Athletics with 23 home runs and 66 RBIs. He was traded to the Washington Senators in June of 1966, and was purchased back by the A’s a year later.

His second tour in Kansas City lasted only two months. When A’s owner Charles Finley fired manager Alvin Dark, Harrelson went public to protest Dark’s dismissal, calling Finley “a menace to baseball.” Finley released Harrelson outright, which turned out to be a career break for the outfielder. As a free agent, he signed a lucrative contract with the Boston Red Sox and was a key addition to Boston’s successful 1967 pennant drive, hitting three home runs with 14 RBIs down the stretch for the Red Sox.

After leading the American League with 109 RBIs in 1968, Ken Harrelson was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 1969. He retired two years later.

After leading the American League with 109 RBIs in 1968, Ken Harrelson was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 1969. He retired two years later.

In 1968, Harrelson had his best season, hitting 35 home runs and leading the majors with 109 RBIs. He started well in 1969, but after ten games was traded surprisingly with pitchers Dick Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro to the Cleveland Indians for Joe Azcue, Vicente Romo and Sonny Siebert. He finished the 1969 season hitting 30 home runs with 92 RBIs playing for the team with the worst record in the American League.

During the following spring training, Harrelson suffered a broken leg while sliding into second base. He sat out most of the season with the injury, returning only for the final 17 games and hitting only one home run. When he returned for the 1971 campaign, he found Chris Chambliss firmly entrenched as the Indians’ first baseman with an outfielder’s glove awaiting him. He played in 52 games for the Tribe that season, hitting five home runs and driving in 14 runs, and then abruptly retired to pursue a career as a professional golfer.

In nine major league seasons, Harrelson hit 131 home runs while batting .239. He was an All-Star in 1968.

Cleveland’s Mc-Complement


Glancing Back, and Remembering Sonny Siebert

During the mid-1960s, the Cleveland Indians had not only the most prolific strikeout pitcher in Sam McDowell, but also the league’s most lethal strikeout tandem. Sonny Siebert was the other half of that duo, and the right-handed complement to Sudden Sam.

Sonny Siebert averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 1965, when he went 16-8 with a 2.43 ERA.

Sonny Siebert averaged 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 1965, when he went 16-8 with a 2.43 ERA.

Siebert was signed by the Indians out of the University of Missouri and pitched in Cleveland’s farm system for five seasons. He was a .500 pitcher until 1962, when he won 15 games for Charleston in the Eastern League. After a 7-9 rookie season in 1964, Siebert moved into the Indians’ starting rotation and stayed there for four seasons.

Clevelands’s young starting rotation of McDowell, Siebert and Luis Tiant was one of the best in the American League in terms of “stuff.” Unfortunately, that trio didn’t have the supporting talent to turn them into consistent winners. Of the three, Siebert seems to have fared the best at first. In his first season as a full-time starter, Siebert went 16-8 with a 2.43 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 188.2 innings pitched. He finished the season fourth in the American League in strikeouts, second in strikeouts per nine innings (9.1) and third in ERA. (Teammate McDowell led the league in all three categories.)

Siebert repeated his 16-8 campaign for 1966, increasing his innings pitched to 241 while keeping his ERA at a low 2.80. His 161 strikeouts were tenth best in the league (led again by McDowell). No other team in the American League had as potent a 1-2 strikeout punch.

On June 10, 1966, Sonny Siebert pitched a 2-0 no-hitter against the Washington Senators. He struck out seven and walked only one batter.

On June 10, 1966, Sonny Siebert pitched a 2-0 no-hitter against the Washington Senators. He struck out seven and walked only one batter.

Over the next two seasons, Siebert was a combined 22-22 for Cleveland despite a combined ERA of only 2.69. At the beginning of the 1969 season, Siebert was traded with Joe Azcue and Vicente Romo to the Boston Red Sox for Dick Ellsworth, Ken Harrelson and Juan Pizarro. He won 14 games for the Red Sox in 1969, 15 games in 1970, and 16 games in 1971. After a 12-12 season in 1972, Siebert was traded to the Texas Rangers. He played for four different teams over the next three seasons, posting a combined 22-26 record. He retired after the 1975 season.

During his 12-year career, Siebert won 140 games with a career ERA of 3.21.





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