Glancing Back, and Remembering Joe Cunningham
Joe Cunningham was a left-handed hitting outfielder-first baseman who sprayed line drives to every field and hit .280 or better each of his first eight seasons. Continue reading
Glancing Back, and Remembering Gary Geiger
Gary Geiger was a speedy outfielder who managed to string together a 12-season major league career despite several injuries and physical ailments that limited his performance on the field. Nevertheless, he was a talented athlete with speed on the base paths, and a fan favorite wherever he played. Continue reading
Glancing Back, and Remembering Al Smith
Outfielder Al Smith was traded three times during his 12-year major league career. In the first two of those trades, to Chicago and to Baltimore, Smith had the distinction of being traded with a future Hall of Famer. He also distinguished himself as a good hitter whose legs and bat produced plenty of runs. Continue reading
Homer Happy: Norm Cash
Though he will always be remembered as the batting champion with the highest single-season batting average of the 1960s, Norm Cash was anything but a contact hitter. His forte was run-producing power, and he was one of the most consistent – yet underrated – power hitters of the decade.
“Stormin’ Norman” was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1955. After two brief trips to Chicago in 1958 and 1959, Cash was traded by the White Sox with Bubba Phillips and John Romano to the Cleveland Indians for Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese, Minnie Minoso and Jake Striker. Cash never played for the Tribe. Before the first pitch of the 1960 season, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for third baseman Steve Demeter.
Demeter turned out to be a career .087 hitter. Cash was a fixture at first base for the Tigers for the next 15 years.
His first full season in the majors, Cash hit .286 with 18 home runs and 63 RBIs. His second season, 1961, was a monster year for Cash: the American League leader in hits (193) and batting (a decade-best .361) with 41 home runs, 132 RBIs and a .662 slugging average. He would never match any of those numbers again in his career.
The next season his batting average would drop 118 points though he would still hit 39 home runs with 89 RBIs. But the rest of his career was built on day-in, day-out consistency rather than bursts of the spectacular. Over the next decade, Cash would average 27 home runs and 78 RBIs per season, and playing a solid first base for the Tigers for 143 games a year. In the 1968 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Cash hit .385 with one home run and five RBIs. He was a four-time All-Star.
Cash retired after being released by the Tigers in 1974. He hit 278 home runs during the 1960s, seventh most among major league sluggers, and finished with 377 career home runs, all but four with Detroit.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Minnie Minoso
Minnie Minoso was one of the most durable players in major league history, appearing for teams in five different decades (1940s-1980s). He lasted so long because he was an outstanding hitter and left fielder, batting .298 over a 17-year career and winning three Gold Gloves.
Minoso was already a proven hitter in his native Cuba and in the Negro League when he was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He made his debut with the Tribe in 1949, appearing in nine games. After a season in AAA ball, he started the 1951 season with Cleveland and then was traded to the Chicago White Sox, the first player of color to join the White Sox. He hit .326 in his rookie season with 10 home runs and 76 RBIs. He led the American League in triples (14) and stolen bases (31).
Minoso’s first tour with the White Sox lasted seven seasons. He hit .300 or better in five of those seasons, and led the league in stolen bases in 1952 and 1953. He also led the league in triples in 1954 (a career-high 18) and 1956. In 1954, besides leading the league in triples, Minoso batted .320 with 19 home runs and 116 RBIs.
In 1957, Minoso batted .310 with 12 home runs and 103 RBIs, and led the league with 36 doubles. Following that season, he was traded by the White Sox to the Cleveland Indians for Al Smith and Early Wynn. He hit .302 for Cleveland in 1958 with 24 home runs and 80 RBIs, and followed up in 1959 by hitting .302 again with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs.
Then it was back to the White Sox, traded with Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese and Jake Striker for Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano. He batted .311 in 1960 with 20 home runs and 105 RBIs, and also led the American League with 184 hits. He won his third Gold Glove that season, and finished fourth in the balloting for AL Most Valuable Player (won by Roger Maris).
In 1961, Minoso hit .280 for the White Sox and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman Joe Cunningham. Now 36, Minoso played in only 39 games for the Cardinals, batting .196. He was signed by the Washington Senators, batting .229 in 1963. He appeared in 30 games for the White Sox in 1964, and after his release played several years in Mexico.
Minoso made two more brief appearances with the White Sox, in 1976 and 1980, qualifying him for five decades of major league appearances. He played minor league ball in the 1990s and 2003, making him the only player to appear professionally in seven different decades.
In his prime, Minoso was one of the best and most consistent hitters in the American League. From 1951 through 1960, Minoso hit for a combined .307 and averaged 16 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He finished his career with 1,963 hits, and was an All-Star seven times.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Bubba Phillips.
When you hear the nickname “Bubba,” you automatically think of an old-school Southern boy. And John Melvin Phillips was … a Southern boy who played a powerful good third base and could occasionally hit with power.He was cool under fire and strong in clutch situations, playing 10 years in the major leagues for three different American League teams.
A multi-sport athlete, Bubba Phillips was a high school football star who led the nation in scoring as a senior and attended the University of Southern Mississippi, where he starred in both football and baseball. The Detroit Tigers signed Phillips in 1948. He made his debut in Detroit (as an outfielder) in 1955, batting .234 with three home runs and 23 RBIs in 95 games.
After one season in Detroit, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Virgil Trucks. Phillips started the 1956 season in the minors but finished the season in Chicago, batting .273. In four seasons with the White Sox, he batted a combined .269 and averaged five home runs and 31 runs batted in.
In December of 1959, the White Sox traded Phillips with Norm Cash and John Romano to the Cleveland Indians for Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese, Minnie Minoso and Jake Striker. Phillips’ best seasons came during his three-year tour with the Indians. In 1961 he batted .264 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs. In 1963, Phillips batted .258 with 26 doubles, 10 home runs and 54 RBIs. Following the 1963 season, the Indians traded Phillips to the Tigers to make room for Max Alvis at third base.
Phillips hit .246 for the Tigers in 1963, with five home runs and 45 RBIs. In 1964, his starting role at third base was won by Don Wert, and Phillips appeared in only 46 games, batting .253 before retiring. Phillips collected 835 hits during his 10-year major league career, including 135 doubles and 62 home runs. He finished with a .255 career batting average.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Early Wynn
One of the most durable pitchers in baseball history, Early Wynn cultivated an image as a ruthless intimidator whose blazing fastball was available at any opportunity to drive a batter away from the plate … or make him pay for success in his previous at-bat. On the mound Wynn was relentless and talented, just the combination for producing a 300-win, Hall of Fame career.
Wynn signed with the Washington Senators in 1937 and made his debut as a 19-year-old at the end of the 1939 season. He moved into the Senators’ starting rotation in 1942, going 10-16, and became the team’s ace in 1943 with an 18-12 record and a 2.91 ERA. He also led the American League that season with 33 starts.
Wynn won 17 games for the Senators in 1947 and after an 8-19 season in 1948, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in a deal that would turn his career around. After going 72-87 in eight seasons with the Senators, Wynn was 163-100 over the next nine years with the Indians. He had four 20-win seasons with the Tribe, pitching an average of 229 innings per season. He twice led the American League in starts and innings pitched, and posted the league’s lowest ERA (3.20) in 1950. For the 1950s, Wynn had more strikeouts (1,544) than any other major league pitcher during that decade.
In 1957, Wynn was traded with Al Smith to the Chicago White Sox for Fred Hatfield and Minnie Minoso. He won 14 games for Chicago in 1958, and in 1959 won the Cy Young award with a 22-10 record and a 3.17 ERA. He led the league again in starts (37) and innings pitched (255.2).
Wynn won 13 games for the White Sox in 1960 (and led the league with four shutouts), but he was now 40 and his fastball was losing its gas. He won a combined 15 games over the next two seasons, and was released by Chicago in 1962 with 299 career victories. He signed with Cleveland and finally notched victory 300 in 1963 before retiring.
Wynn was a good hitter, a switch-hitter with a career batting average of .214, 17 home runs and 173 RBIs. He is one of five major league pitchers to have hit a grand slam as a pinch hitter.
Wynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.