Hero to the Hapless

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jack Fisher

Right-hander Jack Fisher was 86-139 during an 11-year major league career. He played for five different teams, and pitched his best for baseball’s worst team ever, the New York Mets of the early 1960s.

Jack Fisher was part of the young pitching staff that propelled the Baltimore Orioles to pennant contention in the early 1960s. As a starter-reliever for the Orioles in 1960, Fisher was 12-11 with a 3.41 ERA … the last winning season of his career.

Jack Fisher was part of the young pitching staff that propelled the Baltimore Orioles to pennant contention in the early 1960s. As a starter-reliever for the Orioles in 1960, Fisher was 12-11 with a 3.41 ERA … the last winning season of his career.

Nicknamed “Fat Jack” by Hall of Fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm, Fisher was a large man who could throw hard and could pile up quality innings, a strength that made him more valuable than his won-lost record alone. Fisher was a good enough pitcher to be in the position to lose a lot of games. The teams he pitched for were bad enough to hang losses on him despite his talent and competitive grit.

Fisher signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 1957 and made his major league debut at age 20 in 1959, going 1-6 for the Orioles. Fisher won 12 games for the Orioles in 1960 and 10 in 1961. Because he threw hard, Fisher was susceptible to giving up home runs, and he gave up two of the most famous home runs of the early 1960s. He was on the mound in Boston for Ted Williams’ last at-bat in 1960, serving up the home run pitch that launched the Splendid Splinter into retirement. A year later, it was a Fisher pitch that Roger Maris sent into the seats for home run number 60, tying Babe Ruth’s single-season record.

Jack Fisher struggled through four seasons with the New York Mets, compiling a record of 38-73 with a combined 4.12 ERA.

Jack Fisher struggled through four seasons with the New York Mets, compiling a record of 38-73 with a combined 4.12 ERA.

Following a 7-9 1962 season, Fisher was traded to the San Francisco Giants in the deal that brought Mike McCormick and Stu Miller to Baltimore. After going 6-10 for the Giants in 1963, he was drafted by the New York Mets and was a starter for those woeful Mets teams over the next four seasons, going a combined 38-73. He led all National League pitchers in losses in 1965 (8-24) and 1967 (9-18).

The Mets dealt Fisher to the Chicago White Sox in December of 1967 in a six-player deal that brought Tommie Agee and Al Weis to New York. Fisher spent one season each with the White Sox (8-13 with a 2.99 ERA in 1968) and with the Cincinnati Reds (4-4 in 1969) before retiring. His career earned run average of 4.06 would have made him a winner with a lot of teams, but not with the Mets and White Sox of the 1960s.

Jack Fisher gave up two of the most famous home runs of the early 1960s: Ted Williams’ “farewell” home run in 1960, and Roger Maris’ 60th in 1961.

Jack Fisher gave up two of the most famous home runs of the early 1960s: Ted Williams’ “farewell” home run in 1960, and Roger Maris’ 60th in 1961.

 

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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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Boffo Bonus Baby

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ray Sadecki

The era of the “bonus baby” force-fed a number of talented kids into the major leagues before they were ready, leaving more potential shattered than fulfilled. One of the exceptions was Ray Sadecki, a talented left-hander who adapted early and well to major league competition and delivered quickly on the St. Louis Cardinals‘ investment in him.
Ray Sadecki was 20-11 for the pennant-winning Cardinals in 1964.

Ray Sadecki was 20-11 for the pennant-winning Cardinals in 1964.

The Cardinals signed Sadecki in 1958 and he made his debut with the team in 1960 as a 19-year-old, going 9-9 with a 3.78 ERA and 7 complete games. In 1961 he went 14-10 with 13 complete games and a 3.72 ERA.

His major challenge was his control, as he averaged over four walks per nine innings both seasons. He spent part of the 1962 season back in the minors, going 6-8 with a 5.54 ERA for St. Louis. He finished the 1963 season at 10-10 with a 4.10 ERA.

Sadecki’s breakout season was 1964, when the Cardinals took the National league pennant. Part of a strong starting trio that included Bob Gibson and Curt Simmons, Sadecki led the team with a 20-11 record and a 3.68 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in the first game of the 1964 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Sadecki’s record slipped to 6-15 in 1965, and early in the 1966 season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Orlando Cepeda. Sadecki had a combined 5-8 record for 1966, but rebounded for the Giants in 1967 with a 12-6 record and a 2.78 ERA. In 1968, despite a 2.91 ERA, Sadecki posted a 12-18 record, tied for the most losses in the majors.
Traded to the Mets in 1970, Ray Sadecki was 30-25 with a 3.36 ERA in six seasons in New York.

Traded to the Mets in 1970, Ray Sadecki was 30-25 with a 3.36 ERA in six seasons in New York.

The Giants traded Sadecki to the New York Mets following the 1969 season. He pitched for the Mets for six seasons as a spot starter and long reliever, with a combined record of 30-25 and a 3.36 ERA. Following the 1974 season, the Mets traded him to the Cardinals for Joe Torre. From 1975 through 1977, Sadecki pitched for six different teams (including the Kansas City Royals twice and the Mets again) before retiring during the 1977 season.

He pitched a total of 18 years in the major leagues, compiling a 135-131 record and a 3.78 ERA.

Dick Stuart Takes Potent Bat – and Legendary Glove – to Philly

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(November 29, 1964) The Philadelphia Phillies today added power to their line-up with the acquisition of right-handed slugger Dick Stuart from the Boston Red Sox.

In exchange for Stuart, the Phillies gave up left-handed starting pitcher Dennis Bennett (12-14).

Dick Stuart

Dick Stuart

Stuart had posted strong back-to-back seasons with the Red Sox. In 1963, he hit 45 home runs in his first season in Boston and led the American League with 118 RBIs. He followed up in 1964 with 33 home runs and 114 RBIs.

Prior to coming to Boston, Stuart had spent five seasons at first base for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was the first major league player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season in each league.

The deal turned out better for Philadelphia than for the Red Sox. Stuart hit 28 home runs and drove in 95 runs during his only season with the Phillies. He was traded to the New York Mets before the 1966 season.

Dennis Bennett

Dennis Bennett

Bennett saw limited work with the Red Sox over the next three years, with a combined record of 12-13 with a 3.96 ERA.

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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.

Holdin’ Out for Amazin’

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Donn Clendenon

How would the baseball history of the 1960s have been changed if Donn Clendenon had reported to the Houston Astros as traded in January of 1969? Because he refused to report to Houston, Clendenon ended the 1969 season not in the Astrodome but in a New York Mets uniform, playing into October, and winning the Most Valuable Player award for the 1969 World Series.

Donn Clendenon broke into the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1961. In 1966, he batted .299 with the Pirates, hitting 28 home runs with 98 RBIs.

Donn Clendenon broke into the major leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1961. In 1966, he batted .299 with the Pirates, hitting 28 home runs with 98 RBIs.

Clendenon was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1957 and made his rookie debut in 1961. He hit .302 as a part-time player in 1962, and by 1963 had replaced the departed Dick Stuart as the Pirates’ regular first baseman, hitting .275 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs. The lanky Clendenon also had good speed for a man of his size, and had 28 doubles and 22 stolen bases in 1963.

He hit .282 in 1964, and then had a huge season for the Pirates in 1965, hitting .301 with 32 doubles, 14 home runs and 96 RBIs. He followed up in 1966 by batting .299 with 28 home runs and 98 RBIs.

Clendenon’s average slipped to .249 in 1967. His hitting improved in 1968, batting .257 with 17 home runs and 87 RBIs. But following the 1968 seasons, the Pirates elected not to protect Clendenon in the expansion draft, and he was selected by the Montreal Expos.

Three months later, the Expos traded Clendenon with Jesus Alou to the Houston Astros for Rusty Staub. Clendenon refused to report to the Astros, who were managed by former Pirate manager Harry “The Hat” Walker. Walker and Clendenon had clashed when both were in Pittsburgh, and when it became evident that Clendenon could not be persuaded to join the Astros, the deal was re-worked, allowing Staub to come to Montreal and Clendenon to stay with the Expos … for a short while. Clendenon played in only 38 games with the Expos (hitting .240) when he was traded to the New York Mets for Kevin Collins, Steve Renko and two minor league prospects.

As a member of the New York Mets, Donn Clendenon was the Most Valuable Player in the 1969 World Series, batting .357 with three home runs and four runs batted in.

As a member of the New York Mets, Donn Clendenon was the Most Valuable Player in the 1969 World Series, batting .357 with three home runs and four runs batted in.

With the Mets, Clendenon hit .252 while splitting first base duties with incumbent Ed Kranepool. He didn’t appear in the League Championship Series, which the Mets swept from the Atlanta Braves. But he did appear in the 1969 World Series between the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles … did he ever! Clendenon played in four of the five games and hit .357 with a double, three home runs and four RBIs. His performance earned him the Series MVP award.

Clendenon had a fine season for the Mets in 1970, batting .288 with 22 home runs and 97 RBIs. But now age 34, he would not match that kind of offensive performance again. He hit only .247 for the Mets in 1971, his playing time reduced in favor of Kranepool, and he was released by the Mets at season’s end. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and hit .191 in a part-time role, retiring after the 1972 season.

Clendenon played 12 major league seasons, hitting .274 for his career.

 

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Baseball’s Best One-Day Career

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 29, 1963) On the final game of the regular season, Houston outfielder John Paciorek had an outstanding major league debut as the Colt .45’s defeated the New York Mets 13-4 at Colts Stadium in Houston.

John Paciorel went three for three with three RBIs in his only major league appearance ... a 1.000 career batting average.

John Paciorek went three for three with three RBIs in his only major league appearance … a 1.000 career batting average.

Paciorek went three for three and walked twice. He scored four runs and drove in three runs. Houston catcher John Bateman also drove in three runs.

With the bases loaded in the fourth inning and Houston trailing 4-2, Paciorek got his first major league hit by singling off Mets starter Larry Bearnarth, driving in Rusty Staub and Bob Aspromonte to tie the score. He singled off Ed Bauta in the fifth inning for his third RBI of the game.

The winning pitcher for Houston was Jim Umbricht (4-3).

John Paciorek is the brother of major leaguers Jim Paciorek and Tom Paciorek. His career was limited to that single game. He remained in organized baseball through 1969, playing in both the Houston and Cleveland minor league systems. But he never made it back to the big leagues, and never had the chance to improve his career numbers beyond that single game (including his 1.000 career batting average).

One Tough Out

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Richie Ashburn

Richie Ashburn earned his Hall of Fame enshrinement during the 1950s, when the Phillies outfielder was one of the toughest outs in the National League. Seven times between 1950 and 1959, Ashburn hit .300 or better, leading the National League in batting average in 1955 and 1958.

Richie Ashburn batted .308 over 15 major league seasons. He was the National League batting champion in 1955 and 1957.

Richie Ashburn batted .308 over 15 major league seasons. He was the National League batting champion in 1955 and 1957.

Ashburn was signed by Philadelphia in 1945 and made his debut in a Phillies uniform in 1948, hitting .333 his rookie year and leading the league in stolen bases with 32.

Ashburn was as durable as he was resourceful at the plate. Starting in 1949 and through 1960, Ashburn appeared in at least 150 games per season in every year except 1955. In that time frame, he led the league in hits three times and in triples twice. Four times he led the league in walks and in on-base percentage. He was a member of the National League All-Star team four times.

After a dozen seasons in Philadelphia, where Ashburn collected over 2,200 hits on a combined batting average of .311, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs before the 1960 season for John Buzhardt, Al Dark and Jim Woods. He hit .291 for the Cubs and led the league in walks (116) and on-base percentage (.415). Following the 1961 season, Ashburn was purchased by the New York Mets. He hit .306 and led the team in walks and OBP in 1962, and retired after that season.

Richie Ashburn closed out his Hall of Fame career with the New York Mets, batting .306 in 1962.

Richie Ashburn closed out his Hall of Fame career with the New York Mets, batting .306 in 1962.

As good as he was at the plate, Ashburn was even better on defense. His great speed allowed him to range all over center field and reach fly balls most wouldn’t catch. From 1949 to 1958 (with the exception of 1955), no National League outfielder had more putouts than Richie Ashburn.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.

No Strikeout Shortage

 

Lights Out: Chris Short Strikes Out 18 in a Game He Can’t Win

When: October 2, 1965

Where:  Shea Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 4:29

Attendance: 10,371

By the 1964 season, Chris Short had arrived as a premier pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Over the next three seasons, he would be the second-best left-handed starter in the National League, looking up only to a guy named Sandy Koufax.

Chris Short pitched 15 scoreless innings against the New York Mets in 1965 but didn’t get the win as the game was called after the sixteenth inning. Short struck out 18 Mets batters

Chris Short pitched 15 scoreless innings against the New York Mets in 1965 but didn’t get the win as the game was called after the sixteenth inning. Short struck out 18 Mets batters.

Short went 17-9 in 1964 and 18-11 in 1965. He was particularly outstanding during the last month of the 1965 season, making eight starts with two relief appearances, and going 4-2 with one save and a 1.75 ERA in those 10 appearances.

In two of his best games that month, he pitched a combined 24 scoreless innings … and didn’t get the win in either game. The first game was a nine-inning shutout performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he was one-upped by Bob Veale’s 10-inning one-hitter.

The other incredible Short performance occurred on the next-to-last day of the season.

It was the second game of a scheduled twi-night double header with the New York Mets. In the opener, Jim Bunning ran his season record to 19-9 with a two-hit, 6-0 shutout. Short started the second game, and continued the frustration for Mets’ bats.

In that game, Short blanked the Mets for 15 innings, striking out 18 Mets batters. The Mets’ only scoring threat came in the bottom of the third inning, when back-to-back doubles by Ron Hunt and Joe Christopher should have produced the game’s first run had it not been for great hustle and an outstanding throw by Tony Gonzalez (playing right field that day) that held Hunt at third base. With runners at second and third and one out, Short struck out Charlie Smith, walked Jim Hickman intentionally, and then caught Danny Napoleon looking to end the inning without a score.

Short simply outmatched the Mets lineup over the next 12 innings. Unfortunately, Mets rookie starter Rob Gardner, making only his fourth major league start, matched Short’s performance inning-for-inning, allowing just five hits in 15 scoreless frames. Both Short and Gardner were gone as the game entered the sixteenth inning, and the game was called for curfew after 18 scoreless innings and 4-1/2 hours of frustration.

Chris Short pitched 15 scoreless innings against the New York Mets in 1965 but didn’t get the win as the game was called after the sixteenth inning. Short struck out 18 Mets batters

Chris Short had an outstanding month of September to close out the 1965 season. In eight starts and two relief appearances, Short was 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA. In two games, he pitched at least nine scoreless innings with no decision.

The game was replayed the next day when the Phillies swept two games from the Mets to close out the season.

Short’s amazing last month of the 1965 season included five complete games but no shutouts. Had the Phillies scored at least one run in each of the two games when Short pitched enough scoreless innings to qualify for shutouts, he would have been a 20-game winner on the season, and would not have had to wait until 1966 to achieve that milestone.

Making Papa’s Day Perfect

 

Lights Out: Phillies’ Jim Bunning Achieves Pitching Perfection

When: June 21, 1964

Where:  Shea Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 2:19

Attendance: 32,026

Jim Bunning was a pitcher with two careers. Both were of Hall of Fame caliber.

In his first season with the Phillies, Jim Bunning went 19-8 with a 2.62 ERA – and one perfect game.

In his first season with the Phillies, Jim Bunning went 19-8 with a 2.62 ERA – and one perfect game.

For the first nine of his 17 big league seasons, Bunning was one of the best right-handed pitchers in the American League, winning 118 games for mostly mediocre Detroit Tigers teams, leading the league in victories once (20-8 in 1957) and in strikeouts twice (201 in 1959 and 1960 each).

When Bunning was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1964 season, he started the year – and his second baseball career – with a vengeance. He immediately established himself as the ace of a Phillies staff that was in its first pennant race in more than a decade. In fact the Phillies were in first place by two games going into a Father’s Day matinee against the New York Mets.

For all practical purposes, the game was decided in the top of the first inning. John Briggs led off the game by working Mets starter Tracy Stallard for a walk. John Herrnstein bunted Briggs to second, and then Stallard struck out Johnny Callison for the second out. The next batter, third baseman Dick Allen, smashed the ball to left field to drive in Briggs.

It would turn out to be all the runs Jim Bunning would need on this Father’s Day.

Jim Bunning was the first player to pitch a no-hitter in each league. And he was the first pitcher to win more than 100 games in each league.

Jim Bunning was the first player to pitch a no-hitter in each league. And he was the first pitcher to win more than 100 games in each league.

Bunning struck out Mets lead-off hitter Jim Hickman, then induced Ron Hunt to ground out to Tony Taylor at second base and Ed Kranepool  to pop up to Phillies shortstop Cookie Rojas. A three-up, three-down inning for Bunning. He would have eight more before the afternoon was over.

The Phillies scored another run in the second and four more runs in the sixth, including a solo home run by Callison and a two-run single by Bunning, who allowed no Mets base runners in retiring all 27 batters he faced. He ended the game with 10 strikeouts, including two each in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Bunning’s 1964 season would turn out to be the best of his career. In 39 starts, he went 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA in 284.1 innings pitched. He completed 13 of his starts, and five were shutouts. He made two relief appearances, and earned saves in both of them.

And he was the first National League pitcher to throw a perfect game in the Twentieth Century.