This Week in 1960s Baseball
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(July 12, 1966) In St. Louis, the National League All-Stars edged the American League 2-1, in a game played at Busch Stadium in 105-degree weather. Continue reading
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(June 15, 1964) The most famous – and most productive – trade in St. Louis Cardinals history was made today when the Cardinals sent a pair of former 20-game winners, Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz, along with outfielder Doug Clemens, to the Chicago Cubs for three players: pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth, and an outfielder named Lou Brock. Continue reading
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
Glancing Back, and Remembering Ron Fairly
Ron Fairly was a “fooler.” From his stocky build you expected him to be a power hitter, and occasionally he was. But his compact swing delivered average and RBIs more than power, and his less-than-expected home run prowess did not keep Fairly from being an important run-producing cog in the Dodgers’ pennant machines of the mid-1960s.
As a sophomore at the University of Southern California in 1958, Fairly was the team’s star center fielder, hitting .348 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs in leading the Trojans to the NCAA World Series championship. He was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers that summer, and made his debut in a Dodgers uniform in September, hitting .283 in 15 games, with two home runs (his first came off Ron Kline of the Pittsburgh Pirates), and eight runs batted in.
Fairly batted .238 for the Dodgers’ 1959 World Series team, with four home runs and 23 RBIs in a part-time role. He spent most of 1960 in the minors, and played 111 games for the Dodgers in 1961, splitting his playing time between all three outfield positions and first base, while batting .322 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs.
By the start of the 1962 season, Fairly had established himself as the Dodgers’ everyday first baseman. He hit .278 that season, with 14 home runs and 78 RBIs, and followed up in 1963 by batting .271 with 12 home runs and 77 runs batted in. From 1962 through 1966, Fairly averaged 71 RBIs per season with a combined batting average of .273.
Then, inexplicably, his hitting dropped off, as his batting average felt to .220 in 1967 and .234 in 1968. In 1969, the Dodgers traded Fairly with Paul Popovich to the Montreal Expos for Manny Mota and Maury Wills. The move to Montreal seemed to revive his hitting, as Fairly batted .289 for the Expos over the rest of the 1969 season. He batted .288 in 1970 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. He hit a career best 17 home runs in both 1972 and 1973, and averaged a combined .276 in six seasons with the Expos.
Fairly was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975, where he hit .301 as a part-time player and pinch hitter. Over the next three seasons, Fairly made stops in Oakland, Toronto and closed out his playing career with the California Angels in 1978 before embarking on a long career as a baseball broadcaster.
Fairly played for 21 major league seasons, with 1,913 hits and a career batting average of .266. He was an All-Star twice, once for each league.
At the opening of the 1960s, Don Zimmer had already spent more than a decade as part of the Dodgers’ organization. An accomplished infielder with occasional pop in his bat, Zimmer was signed by the Dodgers in 1949 and made the Brooklyn squad in 1954.
His versatility as a fielder made him a valuable utility player for the Dodgers. From 1954-1957, he was the backup shortstop to Pee Wee Reese. In 1958, his only season as an everyday with the Dodgers, Zimmer took over as the team’s shortstop and delivered his best season at the plate: batting .262 with 17 home runs, 60 RBIs and 14 stolen bases for the Dodgers (now located in Los Angeles).
But in 1959, Zimmer split the shortstop duties with a young player named Maury Wills, and responded to platooning with a .165 batting average.
It would be his last season in Dodger blue.
While Zimmer’s versatility made him a valuable bench asset to Dodger manager Walt Alston, he was valued more by the Chicago Cubs. Just before the start of the 1960 season, the Cubs acquired Zimmer for $25,000 and three players: minor league outfielder Lee Handley, infielder Johnny Goryl, and a 24-year-old southpaw named Ron Perranoski.
At first, it looked as if the Cubs had gotten the best of the deal. Zimmer played all three positions on the left side of the Cubs’ 1960 infield (plus two appearances in left field), batting .258 with six home runs and 35 runs batted in. In 1961, as the Cubs’ regular second baseman, Zimmer was named to the All-Star team in a season where he batted .252 with 13 home runs, 40 RBIs and a career-best 25 doubles.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers saw little early return on the trade. None of the players acquired in exchange for Zimmer played for the Dodgers in 1960. Handley never made it to the major leagues. Goryl spent two seasons in the minors before being drafted by the Minnesota Twins (where he played for three seasons as a utility infielder).
And then there was Perranoski. He spent the 1960 season in AAA, going 12-11 with a 2.58 ERA. But after having served primarily as a starter in two seasons in the Cubs’ farm system, Perranoski was being groomed as a reliever by the Dodgers. He made the Dodgers’ roster in 1961, coming out of the bullpen for all but one of his 53 appearances, and posting a 7-5 record with a 3.04 ERA and six saves. In 1962, he appeared in 70 games, finishing 39 and saving 19 to go with a 6-6 record and a 3.35 earned run average.
Zimmer spent the 1962 season in New York and Cincinnati, selected by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft and then traded to the Reds five weeks into the 1962 season. He batted a combined .213. He would play three more seasons in the major leagues, followed by a year in Japan and an ill-fated comeback attempt in the minors in 1967. He spent the next four decades in baseball as a coach and manager, both in the minors and at the major league level.
Perranoski emerged as one of the most effective relievers of the 1960s. He was 16-3 for the Dodgers in 1963 with a 1.67 ERA and 21 saves. Over the next four seasons, he won 23 games and saved 54 with a 2.73 combined ERA. Perranoski was traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1968 and led the American League in saves in 1969 and 1970.
Zimmer’s baseball career lasted longer than the combined major league careers of the three players the Cubs surrendered to get him. But the trade for Perranoski turned out to be the biggest contribution Zimmer ever made to the Dodger organization that signed him.
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(February 18, 1967) He was one of the top strikeout pitchers of the 1960s … though he never pitched in the major leagues.
And on this day he put on a pitching exhibition that supported any claim that he was the best strikeout artist ever.
Eddie Feigner could pitch a softball (underhanded, of course) clocked at speeds up to 104 mph (though some claimed it was more like 114 mph). Feigner barnstormed America for more than 50 years with a four-player team known as “The King and His Court.”
Just prior to spring training in 1967, Feigner pitched an exhibition at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, striking out six consecutive major league hitters.
But not just any major league hitters. Feigner fanned (in order) Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey, Maury Wills, and Harmon Killebrew. All six won the Most Valuable Player Award during the 1960s. All but Wills have been enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
If hitters of their stature couldn’t touch a fat Feigner-launched softball, how would they have fared against a baseball?
Career Year: Tommy Davis (1962)
In his 1962 break-out season, outfielder Tommy Davis did everything he needed to do to claim the National League’s Most Valuable Player award.
Everything, that is, except to actually win it.
Here’s how it happened.That season’s MVP went to teammate Maury Wills. Looking back a half-century, and looking at the numbers for both players, it’s hard to justify how Davis got passed over.
Tommy Davis was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. He never batted below .300 in 4 minor league seasons. In 1959, with Spokane in the Pacific Coast League, Davis batted .345 with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs. He made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 1959 season, striking out in his only plate appearance.
Davis opened the 1960 season on the Dodgers’ roster, and gradually took over full-time duties in center field from Duke Snider and Don Demeter. He finished the 1960 season batting .276 with 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in. In 1961, Davis batted .278 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs. He played 86 games in the outfield, at all three positions, and played 59 games at third base. He was, essentially, a utility player for the Dodgers.
That would change in 1962. He opened the season as the team’s everyday left fielder, and was hitting .316 at the end of April. In May he batted .336 with five home runs and 25 RBIs, and in June Davis batted .354 with three home runs and 32 RBIs. By the All-Star break, Davis was batting .353 with 15 doubles, 15 home runs and 90 RBIs. He made his first All-Star appearance that season.
While Davis was leading the National League in hits, runs batted in and batting average, he wasn’t getting national media attention for his monster season. During the first half of the season, the media reserved their Dodger focus on a pair of pitchers – Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax – who were having outstanding seasons in leading the Dodgers to the top of the National League standings. At the All-Star break in 1962, Drysdale was 15-4 with a 2.88 ERA. Koufax, an 18-game winner in 1961, was 13-4 with a 2.15 ERA and led the major leagues with 202 strikeouts. Drysdale would go on to win the Cy Young award with a 25-9 record, while an arm injury would limit Koufax to only one more victory over the rest of the 1962 campaign.
The other media “distraction” from Davis’ season was a record-breaking performance by Dodger shortstop Maury Wills. By late July, it became obvious that Wills was on his way to breaking the single season record for stolen bases held by Ty Cobb. It would be the second consecutive year when a hallowed baseball record was under assault, as only a year before there was a media frenzy following Roger Maris’ (and Mickey Mantle’s) chase of Babe Ruth’s record for home runs in a single season.
Wills eventually caught Cobb’s record of 96 stolen bases and finished the season with 104, a season which the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants finished in a dead heat, requiring a three-game playoff which the Giants won. It was an exciting season on many fronts.
And Tommy Davis? Lost in the shuffle of a heated pennant race and outstanding individual performances, Davis led the National League with 230 hits (32 ahead of Wills and Frank Robinson), 153 RBIs (12 ahead of Willie Mays) and a .346 batting average. He also finished fourth in the league in doubles and total bases, fifth in triples and slugging (.535 percentage), and seventh in stolen bases.
In the MVP voting, Davis finished third behind Wills and Mays. Stolen bases and triples were the only offensive categories in which Wills was the league leader.
It would be the best season of Tommy Davis’ career. He would lead the National League in hitting again in 1963 with a .326 average, but his power numbers would drop to 16 home runs (compared to 27 in 1962) and 88 RBIs, down 65 from the previous season. He would suffer a broken ankle during the 1965 season that would compromise his speed for the rest of his career, though Davis would remain a steady hitter throughout his 18-year career, retiring after the 1976 season with a .294 career batting average.