Life on the California-D.C. Shuttle

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ken McMullen

Ken McMullen played 16 seasons in the major leagues. The firLos Angeles Dodgersst 14 of those seasons were spent in either California or Washington D.C., where he performed consistently as a solid third baseman with the kind of power that made him a dangerous contributor in the middle of the batting order. Continue reading

L.A.’s Other Southpaw Ace

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Claude Osteen

For nearly a decade, Claude Osteen was the best left-handed starting pitcher on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ staff, once a guy named Sandy Koufax had retired. He was a workhorse who averaged 261 innings pitched per season from 1963 to 1973. During that period, he pitched 121 complete games in 400 starts, with 36 shutouts and a combined earned run average of 3.13.

Claude Osteen was signed out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in 1957. He made three token appearances with the Reds in 1958, and then progressed spectacularly through the Reds’ farm system, winning 19 games in 1956 and eight in 1959 before being called up to Cincinnati. He did more sitting than pitching in 1960, and was returned to the minors in 1961, where he won 16 games before being traded to the Washington Senators.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

In Washington, Osteen finally got the chance to pitch regularly. In fact, in 1962, his first season with the Senators, his 150.1 innings pitched were more than he pitched in five previous seasons with the Reds. Osteen was 8-13 with a 3.65 ERA in 1962 for the American League’s worst team.

He quickly established himself as the ace of the Senators’ staff, going 9-14 with a 3.35 ERA in 1963 and 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA in 1964. He pitched 257.0 innings that season with 13 complete games in 36 starts, all for a team that finished the season at 62-100.

Over the winter, Osteen was involved in a blockbuster deal that sent him and infielder John Kennedy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Frank Howard, Ken McMullen, Phil Ortega, Dick Nen and Pete Richert. In his first season with the Dodgers, Osteen went 15-15 with a 2.79 ERA.  He was 1-1 in his two World Series starts with a 0.64 ERA.

Osteen flourished as the Dodgers’ number three starter behind Koufax and Don Drysdale. He followed up in 1966 with a 17-14 season on a 2.85 ERA. His only World Series appearance in 1966 – and the last of his career – was a three-hit, 1-0 loss to Wally Bunker and the Baltimore Orioles.

In nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Claude Osteen won 147 games with a 3.09 ERA. He pitched an average of 266 innings per season with the Dodgers.

When Koufax retired after the 1966 season, Osteen stepped up as the Dodgers’ ace left-hander. He won 17 games in 1967 and then went 12-18 (tied with Ray Sadecki for the league high in losses) on a 3.08 ERA. He bounced back to win 20 games in 1969, pitching 16 complete games and 321.0 innings with a 2.66 ERA. He also threw seven shutouts.

Osteen pitched four more seasons with the Dodgers, winning 66 games. His best season was 1972, when he went 20-11 with a 2.64 ERA and 14 complete games. After a 16-11 campaign in 1973, he was traded to the Houston Astros for outfielder Jim Wynn. He was 9-9 for Houston before being traded near the end of the 1974 season to the St. Louis Cardinals. He signed with the Chicago White Sox at the beginning of the 1975 season, and went 7-16 for Chicago and then retired.

In 18 major league seasons, Osteen compiled a 196-195 record with a 3.30 ERA. He was an All-Star three times.

No Compromise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Andy Messersmith

Andy Messersmith will always be remembered primarily for his role in helping bring down baseball’s “reserve clause” that effectively bound a player to a particular team for life … or until the team decided to trade or release him. When Messersmith took the Los Angeles Dodgers to arbitration and won free agent status, it created the free agent opportunity that every major league player can enjoy today. It culminated in the final dismantling of teams’ stranglehold on players, a dismantling that began with Curt Flood in 1969.

Andy Messersmith won 130 games in the major leagues. He was also the first player to test the reserve clause successfully and win the right to negotiate as a free agent.

Andy Messersmith won 130 games in the major leagues. He was also the first player to test the reserve clause successfully and win the right to negotiate as a free agent.

Part of the reason that Messersmith’s case was so high profile was that, as a starting pitcher, Messersmith himself was high profile. He was one of the best right-handers of his generation, and at his best was one of the game’s most dominant pitchers.

Messersmith was selected by the California Angels with the twelfth overall pick in the 1966 amateur draft. The hard-throwing Messersmith was pitching out of the Angels’ bullpen four years later, and was a member of the team’s starting rotation by 1969, when he went 16-11 and posted a 2.52 ERA. He went 11-10 in 1970, and won 20 games for the Angels in 1972, with four shutouts and 14 complete games in 38 starts.

Messersmith slipped to 8-11 in 1973, and was traded with Ken McMullen to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Billy Grabarkewitz, Frank Robinson, Bill Singer, Mike Strahler and Bobby Valentine. He went 14-10 in his first season with the Dodgers, and followed that with a 20-6 season in 1974, posting a 2.59 ERA.

Messersmith had requested a no-trade clause be included in his 1975 contract, which the Dodgers refused. Messersmith in turn refused to sign a new contract, and played the 1975 season without a contract under the reserve clause. He went 19-14 with a 2.29 ERA. He led the National League in games started (40), innings pitched (321.2), complete games (19) and shutouts (7). He also won his second consecutive Gold Glove that season.

Messersmith was granted his free agency and signed with the Atlanta Braves. But he was never the same pitcher again. He was 11-11 with the Braves in 1976, and went 7-11 over the next three seasons with the Braves, the New York Yankees and the Dodgers. He retired after being released by the Dodgers in 1979.

Messersmith was an All-Star four times during his 12-year career. His career record was 130-99 with a 2.86 ERA. He had 27 shutouts in 295 starts.

 

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