No Idle Hands Here

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bill Hands

Bill Hands was a workhorse for the Chicago Cubs pitching staff in the late 1960s. From 1968 through 1971, he averaged 266 innings and 16 victories per season, with a combined 3.10 ERA over those four seasons.

Bill Hands was a workhorse in the Chicago Cubs’ starting rotation. He averaged 16 victories and 266 innings pitched from 1968-1971.

Hands was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1959 and spent the next seven years progressing through the Giants’ farm system, winning 17 games for AAA Tacoma in 1965 to earn a trip to a big league debut with the Giants at the end of that season. In December of 1965, the Giants traded Hands with Randy Hundley to the Chicago Cubs for Don Landrum and Lindy McDaniel.

Hands went 8-13 in his first season in Chicago, and was 7-8 in 1967. He was used primarily as a reliever in both of those seasons, and was promoted to the starting rotation for the 1968 season. Hands blossomed as a starter, going 16-10 in 1968 with a 2.89 ERA. He pitched 258.2 innings in 1968, with four shutouts and 11 complete games.

In 1969, Hands produced a 20-14 season with a 2.49 ERA. He pitched 300 innings with 18 complete games in 41 starts. It would be his best season in the major leagues. He followed up in 1970 with an 18-15 record, and slipped to 12-18 in 1971, though pitching with a still-respectable 3.42 ERA.

With each passing season, his number of starts and innings pitched declined. He went 11-8 in 1972, his last season in Chicago, and was traded to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Dave LaRoche. He was a combined 11-15 in a season and a half for the Twins. He was acquired by the Texas Rangers at the end of the 1974, and retired at age 35 after posting a 6-7 record with the Rangers in 1975.

Hands was 111-110 in 11 major league seasons. His career ERA was 3.35.

 

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Trust the Law

 

Career Year: Vern Law – 1960

Vern Law was a lanky right-hander whose fortunes as a pitcher improved steadily throughout the 1950s … just as his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (his only major league team over a 16-year career), clawed its way out of the bottom of the National League standings by the close of the 1950s.

Pitching for weak Pirate teams in the early 1950s, Vern Law struggled to a 40-57 record in his first five seasons.

By 1960, the Pirates had improved all the way to World Series champions. And in 1960, the best season in Law’s distinguished career, he was acknowledged as baseball’s best pitcher.

After two seasons in the minors, Law joined the Pirates in 1950. In his first five seasons, he was 40-57 with a 4.56 ERA. He registered his first winning season at 10-8 in 1957, with a seventh-place team. When the Pirates finished second in 1958, Law was 14-12 with a 3.96 ERA. When the Pirates finished fourth in 1959, Law emerged as the team’s ace at 18-9 with a 2.98 ERA. It was the best season of his career, so far …

Law’s first start of the 1960 season came in the season’s second game. At Cincinnati, he shut out the Reds on seven hits, backed by five RBIs from Roberto Clemente and four RBIs from Bill Mazeroski, for a 13-0 waltz. He made only two more starts in June, winning both with complete games.

Vern Law’s 1960 season was the best of his career: 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA. He also won two World Series games and was the winning pitcher in the second All-Star game.

Law made seven starts in May, winning four and losing one with three more complete games. He was 4-2 in June with another three complete games. At the All-Star break, Law was 11-4 with a 2.52 ERA. He retired Brooks Robinson and Harvey Kuenn in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve a 5-3 win for the National League and teammate Bob Friend. In the second All-Star game four days later, Law was the starter (and winner), allowing no runs and one hit in two innings as the National League won 6-0.

Law won his last two starts in July, and then won six straight decisions in August. He finished August at 19-5 with a 2.84 ERA. The Pirates led the rest of the National League by 5.5 games.

After being so strong, so consistent, Law faltered in September. In six starts, he was 1-4 with a 4.43 ERA. The Pirates finished five games ahead of the second-place Milwaukee Braves. And Law had a new best season: 20-9 with a 3.08 ERA. Law led the National League with 18 complete games. His 271.2 innings pitched were fourth most in the league.

Law capped off a fine 1960 season by winning a pair of World Series games with a 3.44 ERA. And though he finished third in the league in victories (Warren Spahn and Ernie Broglio each won 21 games.), Law won the Cy Young voting handily over Spahn, Broglio and Lindy McDaniel.

Despite leading the National League in only one pitching category – with 18 complete games – Vern Law won the Cy Young Award as baseball’s best pitcher in 1960.

Law wouldn’t have another season like that in the seven seasons he had remaining. He would win 17 games in 1965, and finish with a career record of 162-147 with a 3.77 ERA.

 

 

 

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Rebel Yell

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Randy Hundley

Randy Hundley set the standards for a workhorse catcher in the late 1960s. From 1966 through 1969, he caught no less than 144 games in a season. His backstop abilities made him an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, and his leadership and abilities as a handler of pitchers made him one of the best Cubs catchers since Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett.

A Virginia native (hence his nickname, “Rebel”), Hundley was signed by the San Francisco Giants in 1960. He played in only eight games with the Giants before being traded with Bill Hands in 1965 to the Chicago Cubs for Don Landrum and Lindy McDaniel.

Randy Hundley’s best season with the Chicago Cubs came in 1969. He batted .255 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs. He was also a member of the National League All-Star team.

For the next four years, he was the Cubs’ starting catcher and virtually the only Cub playing that position. He averaged 153 games per season with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs. He batted .246 over that period.

The wear and tear of so many innings behind the plate began to catch up with his body, and injuries limited Hundley to a total of 82 games from 1970 to 1971. He returned to everyday catching duties in 1972, though not at his earlier level, and not with the same offensive impact. Hundley batted .218 in 1972 and .226 in 1973.

After eight seasons with the Cubs, Hundley was traded to the Minnesota Twins for George Mitterwald. He batted .193 in a part-time role, and signed with the San Diego Padres for the 1975 season, batting .206. He signed with the Cubs for 1976 but played in only 15 games over the next two seasons, and retired in 1977.

Hundley played in 1,061 games during his 14-year major league career, catching in all but 35 of those games. He had 813 hits and a career batting average of .236.

All the Way

 

Career Year: Larry Jackson (1964)

For the first and only time from 1962 to 1966, the winningest pitcher in baseball in 1964 was not a Dodger.

And for the only time from 1962-1966, the pitcher with the most victories in 1964 was not the Cy Young Award winner.

And yet, for Larry Jackson, the 1964 season proved to be the high point of a stellar pitching career for one of the game’s most durable starters.

Pitching for the eighth-place Chicago Cubs in 1964, Larry Jackson led the major leagues with 24 victories.

Pitching for the eighth-place Chicago Cubs in 1964, Larry Jackson led the major leagues with 24 victories.

It was the season when Jackson won more games than any other pitcher in baseball, by doing what he had done best his entire career – piling up starts and innings and complete games – for a team that won only 52 games without him.

From 1957 through 1963, Jackson was the poster child for dependability in the starting rotation. In those seven seasons – the first six with the St. Louis Cardinals – he pitched an average of 241 innings per season, and slipped below 200 innings pitched only in 1958 (when he pitched 198 innings). Even a line drive that fractured Jackson’s jaw in spring training of 1961 shelved him for only a month. He still started 33 games after his return and pitched 211 innings – his lowest total during the 1960s.

Following a 16-11 campaign in 1962, the Cardinals traded Jackson (along with Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer) to the Chicago Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker. In his first season with the Cubs, Jackson managed only a 14-18 record despite a 2.55 ERA. In 16 of Jackson’ starts during the 1963 season, the Cubs scored two runs or less, and Jackson’s record in those starts was 2-13. In games when the Cubs scored at least three runs behind Jackson, his record was 12-5.

During his 24-11 season in 1964, Larry Jackson finished third in the National League in games started (38) and complete games (19). He was second in the league in innings pitched, and second in the Cy Young voting (to Dean Chance).

During his 24-11 season in 1964, Larry Jackson finished third in the National League in games started (38) and complete games (19). He was second in the league in innings pitched, and second in the Cy Young voting (to Dean Chance).

Things would change for the better in 1964, especially as the weather warmed up. Jackson was 2-1 in April and 6-4 at the end of May with a 3.58 ERA. He was 7-5 during the months of June and July, but he was 4-1 in August with a 2.70 ERA for the month. He was even better in September, going 7-1 with a 2.42 ERA in the season’s final month.

For the 1964 season, Jackson was 24-11 with a 3.14 earned run average. He led all major league pitchers in victories, and his 297.1 innings pitched was second only to Don Drysdale’s 321.1. Jackson was third in the National League in games started (38) and in complete games (19).

All of this was accomplished with a 1964 Cubs team that finished in eighth place with a 76-86 record. Yet the Cubs gave Jackson better run support than he had received in 1963. In 30 of his 38 starts, Jackson’s Cubs scored at least three runs, and his record in those games was 21-5.

Despite his career year, Jackson finished second in the balloting for the 1964 Cy Young Award to Dean Chance of the Los Angeles Angels.

The 1965 season would not be as kind to Jackson, as he would go from a 20-game winner to 20-game loser. He finished the 1965 season at 14-21 with a 3.85 ERA. In 18 of his 39 starts, the Cubs scored less than three runs, and Jackson’s record in those starts was 2-15. When the Cubs managed to get him three runs or more, Jackson was 12-6.

Frustration was a way of life for Chicago Cubs’ starting pitchers during the 1960s.

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Lasting Relief

 

Oh, What a Relief: Lindy McDaniel

The 1960s were the baseball decade that witnessed the emergence of the relief specialist. And among the outstanding relief pitchers who toiled during the 1960s, few could claim a more brilliantly consistent career than that of Lindy McDaniel.

Lindy McDaniel led the National League in saves in 1959, 1960 and 1963.

Lindy McDaniel led the National League in saves in 1959, 1960 and 1963.

He pitched for 21 seasons, from 1955 to 1975. Among relievers, only Hoyt Wilhelm could match his record for longevity.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed McDaniel as a free agent in 1955. His minor league career lasted only six games (4-1 with a 3.64 ERA) as he joined the big league club at the end of 1955. He took turns as both a starter and reliever for the Cardinals in 1957, going 15-9 with a 3.49 ERA.

Gradually, McDaniel did less starting and more relieving for the Cards. In 1959 he went 14-12 and led the major leagues with 15 saves (in the days when starters were expected to pitch complete games). McDaniel had an outstanding season in 1960, with a 12-4 record and a 2.09 ERA. His 26 saves that season were again best in the majors, and earned McDaniel the first Fireman of the Year award as baseball’s best reliever. (He would win that award again in 1963.)

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Following the 1962 season, McDaniel was traded with pitcher Larry Jackson and catcher Jimmie Schaffer to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder George Altman, pitcher Don Cardwell and catcher Moe Thacker. For the Cubs in 1963, he won 13 games (all in relief) and saved 22 more (NL best). In his three seasons in Chicago, McDaniel averaged 64 relief appearances per season with a 3.06 ERA.

McDaniel spent two seasons with the San Francisco Giants, and then was traded to the New York Yankees in 1968 for pitcher Bill Monbouquette. In six seasons with the Yankees, McDaniel appeared in 265 games with a combined ERA of 2.89. His best season in New York was 1970, when his record was 9-5 in 62 appearances, with 29 saves and an ERA of 2.01. He closed out his career with the Kansas City Royals, retiring after the 1975 season.

In 21 major league seasons, McDaniel won 141 games and saved 174 with a 3.45 career earned run average. He was an All-Star in 1960.

 

 

 

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Saving Precious Leads

Oh, What a Relief: Don Elston

Once he was moved full-time into the bullpen, Don Elston emerged as one of the National League’s most effective relief pitchers at the end of the 1950s. While overshadowed statistically by the Pittsburgh PiratesRoy Face, Elston brought a day-in, day-out consistency to protecting leads for the Chicago Cubs, a team that had precious few leads to protect.

Between 1960-1964, Don Elston averaged 55 relief appearances per season, with a 3.90 ERA and 32 saves.

Between 1960-1964, Don Elston averaged 55 relief appearances per season, with a 3.90 ERA and 32 saves.

Elston was signed by the Cubs in 1947 and toiled in their farm system for nearly a decade. He won 18 games in 1952 and 17 games in both 1954 and 1955, but didn’t find a permanent spot on the Cubs’ pitching staff until 1957, and he earned his place via the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had acquired Elston in a trade for Don Hoak, Russ Meyer and Walt Moryn. He appeared in one game for the Dodgers and then was traded back to Chicago, where he was 6-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 29 appearances, 25 as a reliever.

In 1958, Elston was used exclusively as a reliever, appearing in 69 games (tops in the National League) and finishing 39. He was 9-8 with 10 saves and a 2.88 ERA for a Cubs team that finished the season at 72-82. His nine victories tied him with Moe Drabowsky for second on the team after Glen Hobbie (who had 10 victories).

Elston followed up in 1959 by leading the league in both appearances (65) and games finished (49). He completed the 1959 season at 10-8 with a 3.32 ERA and 13 saves. In 1960, Elston was third in the National League in appearances (behind Face and Lindy McDaniel) with 60, finishing 33 games and saving 11. His record in 1960 was 8-9 with a 3.40 ERA.

In nine major league seasons, Don Elston appeared in 450 games, 449 with the Chicago Cubs and one with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In nine major league seasons, Don Elston appeared in 450 games, 449 with the Chicago Cubs and one with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

From 1960 through 1964, Elston was 24-30 with a 3.90 ERA. He appeared in an average of 55 games per season. His best season in the 1960s was 1963, when he was 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 51 appearances.

Elston retired after the 1964 season with a career record of 49-54 and a 3.69 ERA. He appeared in 450 games and saved 63. Elston was a member of the 1959 National League All-Star team.

Travelin’ Man

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Cardwell

In 14 major league seasons – all in the National League – Don Cardwell pitched for five different teams. He was frequently a key player in the trades that involved him every three years or so, and his lifetime won-loss record reflected not so much his pitching ability as it did the quality of the teams supporting –or, more often, not supporting – him.

Don Cardwell began his 14-year major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Don Cardwell began his 14-year major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The right-handed Cardwell signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1954. He found a place on the big league club by 1957, but struggled with the then-struggling Phillies, as he posted a combined record of 17-26 over three-plus seasons in Philadelphia. In May of 1960, the Chicago Cubs acquired Cardwell in a trade for Cal Neeman and Tony Taylor. (Ed Bouchee went to Chicago with Cardwell.) His first start as a Cub was particularly memorable, as Cardwell pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 13, 1960—the first (and still only) major league pitcher to toss a no-hitter in his first appearance after a trade. He went 8-14 that season with the woeful Cubs.

His best season came in 1961. Pitching for a Cubs team that would finish in seventh place, 26 games under .500, Cardwell’s record was 15-14 with a 3.82 ERA. He pitched three shutouts and led the National League in games started with 38. He was one of only two Cubs’ pitchers with winning records that season. (Reliever Barney Schultz was 7-6).

The following year, Cardwell was 7-16 for the Cubs, who traded him with George Altman and Moe Thacker to the St. Louis Cardinals for Larry Jackson, Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer. Cardwell never had the opportunity to pitch in a Cardinals uniform. The Cards in turn packaged Cardwell in a deal with Julio Gotay to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dick Groat and Diomedes Olivo.

With injuries making Vern Law’s contributions unpredictable for the 1963 season, the Pirates needed an innings-eater like Cardwell. His record was 13-13, with a 3.02 ERA in 213.2 innings. Injuries limited his 1964 season to only four appearances, but he rebounded in 1965 to 13-10 with an ERA of 3.18 in 240.1 innings. In 1966, he was 6-6 as a starter and reliever for the Pirates.

Cardwell was 5-1 down the September stretch for the New York Mets in 1969.

Cardwell was 5-1 down the September stretch for the New York Mets in 1969.

In December of 1966, Cardwell was traded by the Pirates with Don Bosch to the New York Mets for Gary Kolb and Dennis Ribant. As a starter-reliever for the Mets in 1967, he was 5-9 with a respectable 3.57 ERA. Of his five victories, three were shutouts. In 1968, as a member of the Mets’ starting rotation, Cardwell was 7-13 with a 2.95 ERA. Then in 1969, Cardwell played a major role in the Mets’ “miracle” season. He finished the year 8-10 with a 3.01 ERA, but was 5-1 down the pennant stretch.

In 1970, Cardwell was traded to the Atlanta Braves, where he saw spot duty, almost entirely in relief, and retired after that season with a career record of 102-138 and an ERA of 3.92.

 

 

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How Luis Arroyo Opened the Door for Closers

 

Oh, What a Relief: Luis Arroyo

During the 1961 season, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s hallowed home run record. But it was a left-handed reliever named Luis Arroyo who changed the game forever.

Luis Arroyo elevated the role of the closer thanks to his spectacular 1961 season with the New York Yankees.

Luis Arroyo elevated the role of the closer thanks to his spectacular 1961 season with the New York Yankees.

Arroyo didn’t invent the save. And he didn’t invent the role of closer. What he did – through his spectacular season of 1961 – was demonstrate what a dedicated closer could be for a pennant contender: indispensable.

Elevating the Role of Reliever

At the beginning of the 1960s, the measure of a pitcher was how effective he was as a starter: how many wins, how many innings, how many complete games. Aces pitched complete games, and occasionally relieved. And while baseball in the early 1960s had its share of successful relief specialists such as Hoyt Wilhelm, Roy Face, Stu Miller and Lindy McDaniel, any reliever could be used at practically any point in the game for as many innings or outs as needed.

The closer just happened to be guy who got the last out.

Arroyo more than any other pitcher changed that, and set baseball on the course where single-inning set-up pitchers and single-batter specialists became as integral as they are in today’s game. Arroyo’s spectacular dominance during the 1961 season established the prototype for the “closer,” the relief pitcher whose job was to get the critical final outs that preserved victory. The closer became a strategic pitching weapon rather than a late-inning after-thought.

Out of the Bullpen, Out of Nowhere …

Arroyo won 11 games as a St. Louis Cardinals rookie in 1955. He won only seven more games over the next four seasons.

Arroyo won 11 games as a St. Louis Cardinals rookie in 1955. He won only seven more games over the next four seasons.

Little in Arroyo’s career prior to 1961 suggested that his pitching in that season would be so effective and game-changing. He toiled in the minor leagues for 6 seasons. In his first 4 major league seasons – pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds – Arroyo posted a combined record of 18-22 with a 4.42 ERA and only one save in 117 appearances. Eleven of those victories came as a Cardinals rookie in 1955.

On July 20 of 1960, Arroyo was purchased by the New York Yankees. Both his effectiveness as a reliever, and his career, improved dramatically with that change of franchise. Over the second half of the 1960 season, Arroyo appeared in 29 games for the Yankees – all in relief – going 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA and seven saves.

In 1961, Arroyo was 15-5 with a 2.14 ERA and set a major league record with 29 saves.

In 1961, Arroyo was 15-5 with a 2.14 ERA and set a major league record with 29 saves.

The 1961 season was when Arroyo showed the baseball world what the role and value of a closer could be. Arroyo pitched in 65 games and finished 54 of them, the most in the major leagues in both categories. Arroyo also set a major league record with 29 saves, while compiling a 15-5 record with a 2.19 ERA. He finished sixth in the balloting for Most Valuable Player.

Arroyo’s Legacy

Arroyo’s stay in excellence would be short-lived. He developed a sore arm during the next spring and was limited to only 27 appearances in 1962 and six in 1963 before retiring. He finished with a career record of 40-32 with a 3.93 ERA.

Prior to 1960, the major league record for saves in a season was 27, shared by Joe Page (1949) and Ellis Kinder (1953). Major league pitchers had posted 20 or more saves in a season only nine times, with McDaniel (26) and Face (24) both accomplishing the feat in 1960. After Arroyo, the floodgates were opened. Through the rest of the 1960s, 39 times pitchers recorded seasons of 20 or more saves. Ted Abernathy cracked the 30-save barrier in 1965 when he notched 31.

Arroyo’s record lasted only four seasons. His impact remains greater than ever.

 

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So Many Innings with Ne’er an Error

 

The Glove Club: Larry Jackson

Throughout his career, Larry Jackson was one of the best defensive pitchers in the National League. On four different occasions, he finished a season with no errors. In 1964 he set a major league record for pitchers with 109 total chances without an error, a mark that stood until 1976.

Larry Jackson had 4 separate seasons when he played the entire year without committing an error.

Larry Jackson had four separate seasons when he played the entire year without committing an error.

In addition to his mound quickness that made him so effective defensively, Jackson was the poster boy for innings workhorse. Jackson averaged 250 innings per season from 1957 through 1968, his last year in the majors. Even in his final big league season, at age 37, Jackson still piled up 243.2 innings, a total which would have led the National League in half the seasons from 2001 to 2010.

Jackson was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1951 and had a spectacular minor league season in 1952, going 28-4 for Fresno with a 2.85 ERA in 300 innings pitched. He made his debut with the Cardinals in 1955, going 9-14 with a 4.31 ERA … and pitching a career-low (as a starter) 177.1 innings. The next year he became the Cardinals’ closer, finishing 26 of his 51 appearances and saving nine games while starting only one game.

In 1957-58 he averaged only 22 starts per season, coming out of the bullpen in half his appearances for a combined record of 28-22 with three shutouts and nine saves. From then on Jackson’s role would be in the starting rotation, going 14-13 with a 3.30 ERA for the 1959 season. In 1960 he led the National League in starts (38) and innings pitched (282) with an 18-13 record, his best season in St. Louis. He would win 14 games for the Cards in 1961 and 16 games in 1962 before being traded with Lindy McDaniel and Jimmie Schaffer to the Chicago Cubs for George Altman, Don Cardwell and Moe Thacker.

Jackson’s three-plus seasons in Chicago were a roller coaster challenge to the consistency he had demonstrated  in St. Louis. Despite a 2.55 ERA and four shutouts, Jackson finished 14-18 for the Cubs in 1963. He pitched 275 innings and had a career-best 153 strikeouts.

He had a career season in 1964. Jackson’s 24-11 record led the major leagues in victories. That season he finished second in the National League in innings pitched (297.2), and third in both games started (38) and complete games (19). He finished second to Dean Chance in the Cy Young voting, and finished twelfth in the voting for NL Most Valuable Player.

Then the Cubs roller coaster carried Jackson the other way. He finished the 1965 season at 14-21 with a 3.85 ERA. In 39 starts, he pitched 257.1 innings and tossed four shutouts.

Jackson opened the 1966 season by losing his first two starts for the Cubs. He was then traded with Bob Buhl to the Philadelphia Phillies for John Herrnstein, Ferguson Jenkins and Adolfo Phillips. Jackson went 15-13 for the Phillies with a 2.99 ERA and pitched a league-best five shutouts. Over the next two seasons, Jackson went a combined 26-32 with the Phillies, and retired after the 1968 season.

Larry Jackson was an All-Star four times, and retired with a record of 194-183, making him the winningest National League 20th century right-hander to never play for a pennant winner.

 

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