300 and Counting

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(August 11, 1961) The Milwaukee Braves today defeated the 2-1 behind the six-hit pitching of Warren Spahn.

Warren Spahn's 12th victory of the 1961 season was also his 12th complete game ... and the 300th win of his career.

Warren Spahn’s 12th victory of the 1961 season was also his 12th complete game … and the 300th win of his career.

For Spahn (12-12), it marked the 300th victory of his career, and made Spahn the thirteenth pitcher in major league history to reach the 300-victory plateau. He was also the first 300-game winner in two decades, following Lefty Grove in 1941.

Spahn drove in the game’s first run in the fifth inning with a sacrifice fly that brought home catcher Joe Torre. The Cubs tied the game at 1-1 in the sixth inning. Ron Santo scored on an Andre Rodgers RBI single.

Braves center fielder Gino Cimoli hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning off Cubs starter Jack Curtis (7-7). Curtis and Spahn each allowed just six hits.

For Spahn, the victory marked his twelfth complete game of the season … and Spahn would lead the National League in complete games in 1961 for the fifth consecutive season. He would also lead the league in ERA (3.02) and victories at 21-13.

And he still had 63 victories left in his 40-year-old arm.

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Leading with Hands and Heart

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Red Schoendienst

In more than 60 years in a major league uniform (as a player, coach and manager), no individual was unanimously more respected for his talent and his heart than Red Schoendienst. He was a good hitter and a great fielder, a leader of winners whether on the field or from the dugout.

Red Schoendienst led the National League with 26 stolen bases as a rookie with the Cardinals in 1945. His .342 batting average in 1953 was second to Brooklyn’s Carl Furillo.

Red Schoendienst led the National League with 26 stolen bases as a rookie with the Cardinals in 1945. His .342 batting average in 1953 was second to Brooklyn’s Carl Furillo.

Schoendienst played 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, batting a combined .289 and was named to the National League All-Star team nine times. His best season offensively for the Cardinals came in 1953, when he batted .342 with 15 home runs and 79 RBIs.

In 1956 Schoendienst was traded by the Cardinals with Jackie Brandt, Dick Littlefield and Bill Sarni to the New York Giants for Al Dark, Ray Katt, Don Liddle and Whitey Lockman. He hit a combined .302 in 1956 and hit .309 in 1957, playing the last 93 games with the Braves after being traded to Milwaukee for Ray Crone, Danny O’Connell and Bobby Thomson. He finished the 1957 season with 200 hits, tops in the major leagues. He was a key ingredient in the Braves’ success, being named to the All-Star team for the tenth time and finishing fourth in the Most Valuable Player balloting.

Red Schoendienst led the National League with 26 stolen bases as a rookie with the Cardinals in 1945. His .342 batting average in 1953 was second to Brooklyn’s Carl Furillo.

Red Schoendienst led the National League with 26 stolen bases as a rookie with the Cardinals in 1945. His .342 batting average in 1953 was second to Brooklyn’s Carl Furillo.

Schoendienst played four seasons in Milwaukee, hitting a combined .278, and was released by the Braves following the 1960 season. He signed with St. Louis and finished his career where it started, hitting .300 in 1961 and .301 in 1962 as a part-time player. He retired six games into the 1963 season to become a Cardinal coach and, later, the team’s manager.

Schoendienst finished his 19-season career with 2,449 hits for a .289 batting average. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

 

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Shaw Me the Money

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Shaw

Right-handed pitcher Bob Shaw was a battler on the mound and, when necessary, a guy who wasn’t afraid to stand up to management in his own defense. In many ways, he was fashioned from the mold of his former Chicago White Sox teammate, Early Wynn, though not quite as talented, or nearly as irascible.

After a 5-4 rookie campaign in 1958, Bob Shaw was 18-6 for the Chicago White Sox in 1959. His .750 winning percentage was the best in the American League.

After a 5-4 rookie campaign in 1958, Bob Shaw was 18-6 for the Chicago White Sox in 1959. His .750 winning percentage was the best in the American League.

Shaw was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1953 and made his debut in Detroit at the end of the 1957 season. He opened the 1958 season with the Tigers but was demoted to the minors, and when he refused to report over a bonus payment dispute, he was traded with Ray Boone to the White Sox for outfielder Tito Francona and pitcher Bill Fischer.

It was a career-transforming move for Shaw, partly because he got the opportunity to pitch, and partly because of the influence of his roommate, the Hall of Fame bound Wynn. Shaw went 4-2 for the White Sox over the rest of the 1958 season, pitching primarily out of the bullpen.

The bullpen was where he started in 1959, but by the end of the season, Shaw was the number two starter for the American League champions behind the 1959 Cy Young Award winner, his mentor Wynn. Shaw went 18-6 with a 2.69 ERA, his .750 winning percentage the best among American League pitchers.

Shaw was 13-13 for the White Sox in 1960, and in 1961 he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics with Wes Covington in a deal that brought pitcher Ray Herbert to the White Sox. Shaw was a combined 12-14 in 1961, and after the season’s end was traded again, this time to the Milwaukee Braves in a deal that brought Joe Azcue, Manny Jimenez and Ed Charles to the A’s.

Bob Shaw split his 11-year major league career between starting and the bullpen. He was effective in both roles. In 223 starts, Shaw was 85-81 with a 3.60 ERA and 14 shutouts. In 207 relief appearances, Shaw was 23-17 with a 3.20 ERA and 32 saves.

Bob Shaw split his 11-year major league career between starting and the bullpen. He was effective in both roles. In 223 starts, Shaw was 85-81 with a 3.60 ERA and 14 shutouts. In 207 relief appearances, Shaw was 23-17 with a 3.20 ERA and 32 saves.

Shaw had an excellent season for the Braves in 1962, going 15-9 with a 2.80 ERA and 12 complete game. He slipped to 7-11 in 1963, posting a 2.66 ERA and pitching mostly out of the Braves’ bullpen. In December of 1963 he was traded with Del Crandall and Bob Hendley to the San Francisco Giants for Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey, Billy Hoeft and a player to be named later. As a relief specialist, Shaw led the Giants in appearances with 61 and saved 11 games with a 7-6 record, posting a 3.76 ERA. In 1965, he moved into the Giants’ starting rotation and went 16-9 with a 2.64 ERA.

In 1966, the Giants sold Shaw to the New York Mets, and he finished the season at 12-14 combined. His last season was 1967, split between the Mets and the Chicago Cubs. Shaw went 3-11 with a 4.61 ERA.

In 11 major league seasons, Shaw was 108-98 with a 3.52 career earned run average. He was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1962.

 

 

 

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Slugging from the Shadows

 

 

Homer Happy – Joe Adcock

There was never any controversy about Joe Adcock being only the third most dangerous slugger in the Milwaukee Braves’ lineup. With future Hall of Famers like Henry Aaron and Eddie Mathews batting in front of him, Adcock was not likely to be the Braves’ cleanup hitter.

But he was dangerous enough as a slugger to keep pitchers more honest with Aaron and Mathews … and his presence in the lineup helped assure that they would see more of the fastball strikes that would keep their slugging numbers up and Milwaukee in contention.

In 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Jow Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in.

In 10 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Jow Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 runs batted in.

Adcock was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1947. He played for the Reds from 1950 through 1952, averaging ten home runs and 51 RBIs per season. In February of 1953, Adcock was part of a four-team trade that took him to Milwaukee, where he would play for the next decade.

Adcock’s hitting numbers steadily improved once he joined the high-powered Braves lineup. He hit .285 in 1953 with 18 homers and 80 RBIs in 1953. He upped those numbers in 1954 to a .308 average with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs. Injuries shortened his season in 1955, but Adcock made a major comeback in 1956 by hitting .291 with 38 home runs and 103 RBIs. He topped 100 RBIs one other season: in 1961, when he drove in 108 runs with 35 home runs.

Adcock averaged 24 home runs and 79 RBIs per season in his ten years with Milwaukee. His overall numbers might have been better had he not missed a large chunk from each of two seasons due to injuries.

In 1962, Adcock’s batting average slipped to .248, though he still drove in 78 runs and hit 29 homers. The Braves traded Adcock with Jack Curtis to the Cleveland Indians for Ty Cline, Don Dillard and Frank Funk.

His one season in Cleveland produced only 13 home runs and 49 RBIs, and after the 1963 season the Indians sent him to the Los Angeles Angels to complete an earlier trade that brought Leon Wagner to the Indians. In three seasons with the Angels, Adcock averaged 17 home runs and 53 RBIs per season. He retired after the 1966 season.

Adcock hit .277 over 17 seasons with 336 career home runs. He was an All-Star once, in 1960.

The Power in Polo

 

Homer Happy: Frank Thomas

From their inaugural season of 1962 until 1975, the New York Mets’ single-season record for home runs belonged to a right-handed hitting outfielder who played for the Mets for only two seasons, but was a National League power threat for a decade.

With 34 home runs in 1962 – the Mets’ first year of existence – Frank Thomas held the franchise’s single-season home run record until 1975.

With 34 home runs in 1962 – the Mets’ first year of existence – Frank Thomas held the franchise’s single-season home run record until 1975.

Slugger Frank Thomas played both the outfield and first base for seven different teams in 16 years. Over that long career, he batted .266 with 286 home runs and 962 RBIs.

Thomas signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947 and made his major league debut in 1951. In 1953, his first full major league season, Thomas batted .255 for the Pirates with 30 home runs and 102 RBIs. He was an All-Star three times in his five full seasons with Pittsburgh, and had his best season in 1958 with 35 home runs and 109 RBIs.

In 1959, Thomas was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the deal that brought Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak to the Pirates. Thomas spent one season in Cincinnati (12 home runs, 47 RBIs) and then was traded to the Chicago Cubs. With the Cubs, he hit 21 home runs with 64 RBIs in 1960, and a month into the 1961 season he was traded to the Milwaukee Braves. He had a solid season for the Braves, hitting 25 home runs plus two with the Cubs. The Braves team of 1961 was loaded with power hitters, and was the first major league club to smash four consecutive home runs in a game. (Thomas hit the fourth, preceded by home runs from the bats of Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, and Joe Adcock.)

Frank Thomas broke into the big leagues in a big way. In 1953, his first full season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thomas hit 30 home runs with 102 RBIs.

Frank Thomas broke into the big leagues in a big way. In 1953, his first full season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thomas hit 30 home runs with 102 RBIs.

After the 1961 season, he was traded to the Mets for outfielder Gus Bell. He led that first Mets team with 34 home runs and 94 RBIs. His home run mark was not topped by another Mets hitter until Dave Kingman blasted 36 in 1975.

Thomas hit 15 home runs for the Mets in 1963 and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964. At this point in his career, the 35-year-old Thomas had become a part-time player and pinch hitter, batting .282 in two seasons with the Phillies. He retired in 1966 with 1,671 career hits.

How to Catch Brave Pitchers

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Del Crandall

During his prime, Del Crandall was generally acknowledged as one of the smartest handlers of pitchers among major league catchers. During the 1950s, with Crandall averaging better than 125 games caught per season, the Milwaukee Braves pitching staff consistently ranked among the best in the league in ERA, one of the reasons that the Braves enjoyed so much success in the late 1950. And for the most part, the man calling those pitches for the likes of Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette and Bob Buhl was Crandall.

In 13 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Del Crandall was an All-Star eight times. His best season with the Braves came in 1959, when he hit 21 home runs with 72 RBIs.

In 13 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves, Del Crandall was an All-Star eight times. His best season with the Braves came in 1959, when he hit 21 home runs with 72 RBIs.

Crandall was signed by the Boston Braves and made his major league debut as a 19-year-old rookie a year later. He was the Braves’ back-up back-stop his first two season, and did military service during the next two years. He returned to the Braves – now the Milwaukee edition – in 1953 as the team’s everyday catcher, hitting .272 that season with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Hitting amid a power-laden Braves lineup that included Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, Crandall’s power production increased over the next two seasons, swatting 21 home runs with 64 RBIs in 1954 and 26 home runs with 62 RBIs in 1955. In 1959, catching 146 games for the Braves, Crandall hit .257 with 21 home runs and 72 RBIs. He followed up in 1960 by hitting .294 with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs.

Shoulder problems sidelined Crandall for most of the 1961 season, and opened the door for a young Braves catcher named Joe Torre. Crandall returned to catch 90 games in 1962, hitting a career high .297, but he gradually began surrendering more playing time to the talented Torre. In 1963, his last season with the Braves, Crandall hit only .201.

 

Del Crandall batted a career-best .297 with the Braves in 1962, but split playing time with 21-year-old Joe Torre (left). He also won his fourth Gold Glove that season.

Del Crandall batted a career-best .297 with the Braves in 1962, but split playing time with 21-year-old Joe Torre (left). He also won his fourth Gold Glove that season.

In December of 1963, the Braves traded Crandall, along with pitchers Bob Hendley and Bob Shaw, to the San Francisco Giants for Felipe Alou, Ed Bailey and Billy Hoeft. In 1964, Crandall hit .231 for the Giants as a back-up for catcher Tom Haller, and was traded after the season to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Bob Burda and Bob Priddy. He spent one season in Pittsburgh and then played his final season with the Cleveland Indians. He retired in 1966.

In 16 major league season, Crandall hit .254 with 1,276 hits, 179 home runs and 657 RBIs. From 1954 through 1960, his prime years with the Braves, Crandall averaged 19 home runs and 62 RBIs per season.

But even with these respectable numbers, it was Crandall’s defense and pitch-calling ability that set him apart. He was an All-Star eight times and won four Gold Gloves. He led all National League catchers in assists six times, in fielding percentage four times, and in total putouts three times – a testament not only to his playing skills but also his durability in the game’s most physically demanding position.

Look How Far a Fastball Can Take You

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Juan Pizarro

As a major league pitcher, lefty Juan Pizarro had two careers. For the first nine years of his career, he was a starter (and occasional long reliever, as even ace starting pitchers saw occasional double duty in the 1960s). During the second half of his 18-year career, Pizarro was primarily a relief specialist, whose blazing fastball would no longer hold up for nine innings but remained effective in spot relief situations, especially against left-handed batters.

Juan Pizarro's best season as a starter came in 1963 with the Chicago White Sox. He was 19-9 with a 2.56 ERA. He also struck out 193 batters.

Juan Pizarro’s best season as a starter came in 1964 with the Chicago White Sox. He was 19-9 with a 2.56 ERA. He also struck out 193 batters.

Pizarro was signed by the Milwaukee Braves and was immediately a stand-out prospect in their minor league system, winning 23 games at Jacksonville in his first professional season. He spent the next three seasons pitching effectively in AAA but with limited success as a starter-reliever for the Braves. From 1957 through 1960, Pizarro had a combined record of 23-19 with a 3.93 ERA for Milwaukee.

In December of 1960, the Braves traded Pizarro and Joey Jay to the Cincinnati Reds for shortstop Roy McMillan. On the same day, the Reds sent Pizarro and Cal McLish to the Chicago White Sox for infielder Gene Freese. The trades that day were good for Cincinnati, as both Jay and Freese played critical roles in propelling the Reds to the 1961 National League pennant. The trades were also good for Pizarro, whose arrival in Chicago launched his career as a full-time – and highly successful – starter for the White Sox.

In 1961 for the White Sox, Pizarro achieved career highs in starts (25) and innings pitched (194.2). He struck out 188 batters on his way to a 14-7 season with a 3.05 ERA. After a 12-14 season in 1962, he followed up with 16-8 in 1963 (2.39 ERA) and 19-9 in 1964 (2.56 ERA). Pizarro and teammate Gary Peters (20-8 in 1964) were recognized as the two best left-handers in the American League. Pizarro was named to the American League All-Star team in both 1963 and 1964.

As a relief specialist from 1967 through 1974, Pizarro pitched for six different teams, going 33-39 with 20 saves in 206 appearances.

As a relief specialist from 1967 through 1974, Pizarro pitched for six different teams, going 33-39 with 20 saves in 206 appearances.

However, Pizarro’s success was starting to take a toll on his arm. All those innings, all those strikeouts, all those fastballs led to arm miseries and diminished performance in 1965 (6-3) and 1966 (8-6). The White Sox traded Pizarro to the Pittsburgh Pirates as the player to be named later in the acquisition of pitcher Wilbur Wood. Pizarro transitioned quickly to a relief role that meant more appearances – and fewer total innings – to take full advantage of his still explosive fastball.

From 1967 through 1974, Pizarro pitched for six different teams, going 33-39 with 20 saves in 206 appearances. His combined ERA for that period was 3.76. He retired after the 1974 season with a career record of 131-105.

 

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Did Hank Really Hit 756?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(August 18, 1965)  The Milwaukee Braves won their sixth straight game with a 5-3 victory in St. Louis over the Cardinals.

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Hank Aaron’s 28th home run of the 1965 season turned out to be a mirage. Aaron’s blast off Curt Simmons was disallowed when he was called out for being out of the batter’s box.

The Braves scored the winning runs in the ninth inning off Cardinals reliever Ray Washburn (8-9). A two-out, two-run, pinch homer by Don Dillard was the difference for the league-leading Braves.

It was the third home run of the game for the Braves, although only two counted. Outfielder Mack Jones hit home run number 24 on the season off Cardinals starter Curt Simmons in the sixth inning. That blast put the Braves on top 3-2. The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI-single by Ken Boyer.

An eighth-inning home run by Hank Aaron was the one that didn’t count. With one out, Aaron took Simmons long, hitting the ball on top of the pavilion at Sportman’s Park. However, home plate umpire Chris Pelekoudas called Aaron out for being out of the batter’s box.

Hank Aaron’s 28th home run of the 1965 season turned out to be a mirage. Aaron’s blast off Curt Simmons was disallowed when he was called out for being out of the batter’s box.

Braves starter Tony Cloninger stopped the Cardinals on six hits and was backed by three Braves home runs … two of which actually counted.

The winning pitcher for the Braves was Tony Cloninger (18-8), who went the distance, giving up six hits and striking out nine Cardinals. Cloninger finished the 1965 season at 24-11, his best year in the majors.

It was the Braves’ last season in Milwaukee, and the victory put their record at 69-49, a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They faded after that, going 17-27 over the rest of the season to finish in fifth place.

Aaron, finished his career as the major leagues’ all-time home run leader with 755. At least those were the ones that counted.

Taking a Healthy Cut

 

Homer Happy Mack Jones

In the mid 1960s, the Milwaukee Braves fielded one of the most potent power lineups in the National League. Spearheaded by Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, the Braves’ lineup also included stellar hitters such as Rico Carty, Joe Torre, Felipe Alou and a free-swinging left-handed hitter named Mack Jones.

Mack Jones hit 31 home runs with the Milwaukee Braves in 1965.

Mack Jones hit 31 home runs with the Milwaukee Braves in 1965.

Jones was signed by the Braves in 1958 and made the big league club as a reserve outfielder in 1961. He batted .255 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 1962, but saw only limited playing time in his first three seasons with the Braves.

In 1965, Jones was named the starting center fielder for the Braves, and responded with the best season of his career: a .262 batting average with 31 home runs and 75 RBIs. His power numbers dropped off in each of the next two seasons, hitting 23 home runs in 1966 and 17 homers in 1967.

Following the 1967 season, he was traded with Jim Beauchamp and Jay Ritchie to the Cincinnati Reds for Deron Johnson.  In his only season in Cincinnati, Jones hit 10 home runs with 34 RBIs on a .252 batting average.

Jones was the fourth selection by the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. He batted .270 for the Expos in 1969 with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs. He also matched his career high with 23 doubles. On April 14, 1969, he hit the first home run in a major league game played in Canada.

On April 14, 1969, Mack Jones hit the first home run in a major league game played in Canada. He hit 22 home runs for the Montreal Expos in that team’s inaugural season.

On April 14, 1969, Mack Jones hit the first home run in a major league game played in Canada. He hit 22 home runs for the Montreal Expos in that team’s inaugural season.

It would be his best season with Montreal. He hit .240 with 14 home runs and 32 RBIs in 1970, and played 43 games with the Expos in 1971 before being released.

Jones retired at age 32 after 10 big league seasons. He had a career batting average of .252.

Beeg Mon, Beeg Bat

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Rico Carty

Rico Carty was born to hit. He had a powerful upper body that suggested home run power, but his slashing compact swing was better suited to blistering line drives that produced plenty of runs – and one National League batting title – during his 15-year major league career.

Rico Carty had an outstanding rookie with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964, batting .330 with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs.

Rico Carty had an outstanding rookie with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964, batting .330 with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs.

Carty was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1959 as a catcher, but his limitations defensively caused him to be converted to being an outfielder, his bat being so potent that he had to be in the lineup. Carty spent four years in the Braves’ minor league system, and he made a smashing rookie debut in 1964, hitting .330 (second in the National League to Roberto Clemente) with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs. He was runner-up to Dick Allen for Rookie of the Year honors that season.

Carty hit .310 for the Braves in 1965 and followed with a .326 batting average in 1966. A shoulder injury limited his hitting to .255 in 1967, and he sat out the entire 1968 season battling tuberculosis. He came back strong in 1969 with a .342 batting average, and he followed up with his best season in 1970: leading the National League with a .366 average while blasting 25 home runs with 101 RBIs.

During the winter season in 1970, Carty severely injured his knee while playing in the Dominican League and missed the entire 1971 season. He came back in 1972 hitting .277, which would be his best performance at the plate over the next five seasons, making stops with the Chicago Cubs, the Texas Rangers and the Oakland Athletics during that period.

Rico Carty led the National League in hitting in 1970 with a .366 average.

Rico Carty led the National League in hitting in 1970 with a .366 average.

His career rebounded as he became a designated hitter with the Cleveland Indians, hitting .308 with 64 RBIs in 1975 and .310 with 83 RBIs in 1976. He split the 1978 season with Toronto and Oakland, hitting a combined .282 with 99 RBIs and a career-high 31 home runs. Carty retired after hitting .256 for Toronto in 1979.

Carty collected 1,677 hits with a career batting average of .299. He was an All-Star only once, in 1970, when he was voted into the starting outfield (along with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron) despite not even being listed on the All-Star ballot.