Is Don’s Record in Danger?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(June 26, 1968) On June 4, 1968, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale set a major league record with his sixth consecutive shutout. Four days later, Drysdale finally allowed a run after more than a month of shutout pitching.

He set a major league record with 58 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking Walter Johnson’s record of 55.2 consecutive scoreless innings.

Johnson’s record had lasted 55 years. As of this date, it looked as though Drysdale’s new record may not last even a month …

In June of 1968, Bob Gibson pitched five consecutive shutouts, with a streak of 47 consecutive scoreless innings.

That’s because Bob Gibson today pitched his fifth consecutive shutout, as the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0.

Gibson (9-5) allowed just four hits and struck out seven Pirate batters. He didn’t issue a walk. The shutout lowered his season earned run average to 1.14.

The Cardinals scored on Orlando Cepeda’s first-inning sacrifice fly and back-to-back doubles by Gibson and Lou Brock in the fourth inning. Ron Kline, pitching in relief of Pirates starter Al McBean (6-7), gave up a solo home run to Mike Shannon in the eighth inning.

Gibson’s shutout streak would come to an end five days later when he defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1. But he would pitch another shutout in his next outing, and two more before the end of July. Altogether in June and July, Gibson had one of the most remarkable two-month performances of any pitcher in baseball history: 12-0 in 12 starts (all complete games) with eight shutouts and a 0.50 ERA.

While Bob Gibson threatened Don Drysdale’s recent record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings pitched, Drysdale’s record lasted 20 years until it was bested (by one inning) by Orel Hershiser.

And Drysdale’s record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings would survive the summer. In fact, it would last 20 years until another Dodger pitcher, Orel Hershiser, strung together 59 consecutive scoreless innings in 1988.

 

 

 

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Follow the Bouncing Bull

 

Swap Shop: Orlando Cepeda for Joe Torre

It was a case where two teams were trying to unload what they thought was a fading talent. In this instance – and it was a rare one – both teams gained a hitter who proved he had plenty of hits left in his bat.

The key season was 1968 – not a particularly good one for Orlando Cepeda or Joe Torre. (To be fair, 1968 – the “Year of the Pitcher” – wasn’t particularly outstanding for most of the hitters in either league.)

In 1968, his last season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Orlando Cepeda batted only .248 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs. Two year later, as the Atlanta Braves’ first baseman, Cepeda pounded National League pitching for 34 home runs and 101 RBIs while batting .305.

Cepeda was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1967. As the first baseman for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, Cepeda batted .325 (the highest batting average of his career and the sixth best in the league) and led the league with 111 RBIs. His 25 home runs were his highest total since 1964 with the San Francisco Giants, where he had strung together seven outstanding seasons (averaging 32 home runs and 107 RBIs) before a chronic knee injury limited him to 33 games in 1965. He had been traded to the Cardinals 19 games into the 1966 season.

In 1968, Cepeda batted a career-low .248 with only 16 home runs and 73 RBIs. Now 30, Cepeda had the Cardinals wondering whether they had seen the best they would get from the “Baby Bull.”

The Atlanta Braves were wondering the same thing about their catcher, Joe Torre. An All-Star every year from 1963 through 1967, Torre’s best season came in 1966, when he hit .315 with a career-high 36 home runs. He drove in 101 runs while scoring 83.

Joe Torre batted .271 with only 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in 1968, his last season with the Braves. Three years later, as the St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman, Torre led the majors with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs as the National League’s Most Valuable Player.

After averaging 28 home runs and 97 RBIs from 1964 through 1966, with a combined .310 batting average, Joe Torre batted .277 with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs in 1967. The 1968 season returned even less from Torre’s bat: a .271 batting average with only 10 home runs and 55 RBIs. In addition, Torre had become a liability in throwing out base stealers. Plus his active support of the Players’ Union and Marvin Miller had estranged him from the Braves’ management.

For both the Cardinals and the Braves, the even-up swap of Cepeda for Torre seemed like a low-risk deal. That deal was made a month into spring training, on March 17, 1969.

It turned out to be a good transaction for both teams, though perhaps not immediately in the case of Cepeda. He had a good year for the Braves in 1969, batting .257 and finishing second on the team (to Hank Aaron) in home runs (with 22) and runs batted in (with 88). Then Cepeda’s bat regained some of its old juice in 1970, when he batted .305 with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs. At age 32, it would be the last time in his career when he topped 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in a season.

Torre found a home in St. Louis, and it wasn’t behind the plate. He played only 17 games at catcher for the Cardinals in 1969, and 144 games as Cepeda’s replacement at first base. Torre batted .289 with 18 home runs and 101 RBIs, and then hit .325 with 21 home runs and 100 RBIs in 1970.

But Torre’s best was yet to come. In 1971, he led the major leagues in batting average (.363), hits (230), total bases (352) and runs batted in (137). Torre was selected as the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1971.

 

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Johnny, Take Us Home!

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 7, 1964) The National League today won the All-Star game 7-4 on a walk-off home run by Phillies right fielder Johnny Callison.

Johnny Callison’s three-run homer off Dick Radatz was the game winner for the National League All-Stars.

Johnny Callison’s three-run homer off Dick Radatz was the game winner for the National League All-Stars.

Callison, who entered the game in the fifth inning as a pinch hitter for pitcher Jim Bunning, flied out in his two previous at-bats. His ninth-inning home run off Boston Red Sox reliever Dick Radatz was his only hit of the day.

The American League opened the scoring in the first inning on Harmon Killebrew’s RBI single off NL starter Don Drysdale. The NL took the lead in the fourth inning on solo home runs from Billy Williams and Ken Boyer. The Nationals added another run in the fifth inning when Dick Groat doubled off Camilo Pascual, bringing home Roberto Clemente.

The American League tied the game when Brooks Robinson tripled home two runs in the sixth inning, then took the lead on Jim Fregosi’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. The AL led 4-3 going into the bottom of the ninth, with Radatz on the pitching mound.

Juan Marichal pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the victory. Marichal was also the winning pitcher in the first 1962 All-Star Game, and had a career ERA of 0.50 in eight All-Star apearances.

Juan Marichal pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the victory. Marichal was also the winning pitcher in the first 1962 All-Star Game, and had a career ERA of 0.50 in eight All-Star appearances.

Willie Mays walked to open the ninth inning, stole second base, and then scored on Orlando Cepeda’s single, tying the game. With runners at first and second base, Radatz struck out Hank Aaron for the inning’s second out. But Callison ended the All-Star thriller with one stroke.

It would be Callison’s last All-Star appearance.

Former MVP Traded for Future MVP

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(March 17, 1969) The Atlanta Braves announced today that they had acquired the 1967 National League Most Valuable Player, Orlando Cepeda, from the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher-first baseman Joe Torre.

As a member of the Cardinals, Torre would himself be named the National League’s MVP in 1971.

After batting only .248 for the Cardinals in 1968, Orlando Cepeda was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Joe Torre. The trade revived the careers of both sluggers.

After batting only .248 for the Cardinals in 1968, Orlando Cepeda was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Joe Torre. The trade revived the careers of both sluggers.

In his three seasons with the Cardinals, Cepeda had led the team to the National League championship in 1967 and 1968. In his MVP season of 1967 (the National League’s first unanimous MVP since Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell was the unanimous selection in 1936), Cepeda hit .325 with 25 home runs and a league-leading 111 RBIs. His power numbers slipped to 16 home runs and 73 RBIs as the Cardinals repeated as National League champions in 1968, though he hit two home runs with six RBIs in the 1968 World Series against the Detroit Tigers.

Cepeda would play an integral role in the Braves’ 1969 divisional championship season, hitting .257 with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs. His best season in Atlanta would come one year later, batting .305 for the Braves with 34 home runs and 111 RBIs. In 17 seasons, the 11-time All-Star finished with 379 home runs and a career batting average of .297. Cepeda was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

The move to St. Louis recharged Joe Torre’s run production. After knocking in only 55 runs for Atlanta in 1968, Torre drove in 101 runs in 1969 and 100 runs in 1970. In his MVP season of 1971, Torre led the major leagues with 137 RBIs.

The move to St. Louis recharged Joe Torre’s run production. After knocking in only 55 runs for Atlanta in 1968, Torre drove in 101 runs in 1969 and 100 runs in 1970. In his MVP season of 1971, Torre led the major leagues with 137 RBIs.

Torre also had a strong turnaround following the trade. Moving to first base for the Cardinals, Torre would hit .289 with 18 home runs and 101 RBIs. He would also drive in 100 or more runs in the next two seasons. During his MVP season of 1971, Torre would lead the major leagues in hits (230), RBIs (137), total bases (352) and batting average (.363).

After an 18-year playing career, Torre would compile a 29-year career managing the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers. His Yankee teams would win four World Series and six American League pennants.

 

 

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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.

Spraying Rockets Around the National League

 

Homer Happy: Willie McCovey

What was most impressive about slugger Willie McCovey – beyond the career hitting statistics that earned him a place in the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility – was his consistency as a power hitter throughout his 22-season career, even though he battled injuries in nearly half of them. Twelve times he hit 20 or more home runs in a season, and in the six seasons from 1965 through 1970, he hit no fewer than 31.

From 1965-1969, Willie McCovey led the National League in home runs twice. He averaged 37 home runs and 102 RBIs during those five seasons.

From 1965-1969, Willie McCovey led the National League in home runs twice. He averaged 37 home runs and 102 RBIs during those five seasons.

His total of 521 career home runs – clearly Hall of Fame worthy – was limited by his opportunities to play during the first five years of his major league career. McCovey was signed by the New York Giants in 1955 and made his debut with the San Francisco Giants on July 30, 1959. In the remaining two months of that season, McCovey batted .354 with 13 homes runs and 38 RBIs – all in what was essentially a third of a season. He also posted a .656 slugging average, and was named National League Rookie of the Year.

As good as he was, McCovey wasn’t good enough to find a place in the Giants’ everyday lineup, a lineup that included Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou and Willie Kirkland. By the end of the 1960 season, McCovey had earned a starting spot at first base.

With only 260 official at-bats in 1960, McCovey finished the season with 13 home runs and 51 RBIs. But the first base job went back to Cepeda in 1961, and McCovey returned to the role of part-time outfielder for the next two seasons. He hit 18 home runs in 1961 and 20 in 1962.

In 1963, McCovey was tabbed to be the team’s regular left fielder, and he responded with a league-leading 44 home runs and 102 runs batted in. A foot injury limited his playing time and productivity in 1964, when he batted .220 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. He rebounded in 1965 with 39 home runs, and hit more than 30 homers in each of the next three seasons, leading the National League in home runs (36) and RBIs (105) in 1968.

McCovey’s best season came in 1969, when he batted .320 and led the National League in home runs (45), RBIs (126) and slugging average (.656). He was selected as the National League Most Valuable Player that season.

McCovey bashed 39 home runs in 1970, the most he would hit in a single season over the rest of his career. Dogged by injuries over the next few years, he managed 29 home runs and 75 RBIs in 1973. He was traded to the San Diego Padres, and after two years split the 1976 season between the Padres and the Oakland Athletics. He returned to San Francisco in 1977 and had a strong comeback season at age 39, batting .280 with 28 home runs and 86 RBIs. He hit only 28 more home runs as a part-time player over the next three seasons, and retired in 1980. He finished with a career batting average of .270.

McCovey was a six-time All-Star, and was the Most Valuable player in the 1969 All-Star game. He hit 231 home runs in Candlestick Park, the most by any player. And McCovey was the first major league player to twice hit two home runs in a single inning.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986.

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World’s Fastest Catcher?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 1, 1966) St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver hit his thirteenth triple of the season in helping the Redbirds beat the Atlanta Braves at Busch Stadium, 7-4.

Tim McCarver is still the only catcher to lead the National League in triples.

Tim McCarver is still the only catcher to lead the National League in triples.

It was the last triple McCarver would hit for the 1966 season, but it would be enough to lead the league, as McCarver edged out teammate Lou Brock, who finished the season with 12 triples.

The Memphis native became the first catcher to lead a league in three-baggers.

McCarver’s last triple came with two outs in the bottom of the third, scoring Orlando Cepeda. It was his second RBI of the game. McCarver had already driven in a run in the second inning with a single that scored Mike Shannon from second base.

Winning pitcher for the Cardinals was Steve Carlton (3-2). The losing pitcher was Dick Kelley (4-3).

McCarver, an All-Star in 1966, would finish the season batting .274 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs. His triples crown that year would mark the only time he led the league in any hitting category.

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Bullish on Slugging

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Orlando Cepeda

If you want to understand how really good a ballplayer Orlando Cepeda was in his prime, consider this: for more than six years, he kept a future Hall of Famer – who would produce 521 career home runs – out of the starting line-up.

That player was the great Willie McCovey, one of the most feared hitters in National League history, and deservedly so. But in the early 1960s, McCovey wasn’t good enough to displace Cepeda from first base in the Giants’ starting line-up.

In 1961, Orlando Cepeda led the National League with 46 home runs and 142 RBIs. From 1960 through 1964, Cepeda batted a combined .307, averaging 34 home runs and 109 RBIs per season.

In 1961, Orlando Cepeda led the National League with 46 home runs and 142 RBIs. From 1960 through 1964, Cepeda batted a combined .307, averaging 34 home runs and 109 RBIs per season.

Though remembered as a slugger himself, Cepeda (nicknamed “The Baby Bull”) was actually a well-rounded ballplayer. He was signed by the Giants in 1955, and was San Francisco’s starting first baseman by the beginning of the 1958 season. He was the National League’s Rookie of the Year that season, hitting .312 with 25 home runs, 96 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He also led the league with 38 doubles. His second season was even better, hitting .317 with 27 home runs, 105 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.

In 1961, Cepeda led the league in both home runs (46) and RBIs (142) while hitting .311. He finished second in the MVP voting to Cincinnati’s Frank Robinson. From 1960 through 1964, Cepeda batted a combined .307, averaging 34 home runs and 109 RBIs per season.

During weight training following the 1964 season, Cepeda injured a knee, and tried playing through the injury without telling team management. Knee surgery sidelined him for most of the 1965 season, and in 1966 the Giants traded Cepeda to the St. Louis Cardinals for left-handed pitcher Ray Sadecki, a 20-game winner two seasons before. The Cardinals got the better end of the deal, as Cepeda’s bat rebounded with the gradual improvement in the health of his knee. For the Cardinals in 1966, Cepeda hit .303 with 17 home runs and 58 RBIs in 123 games.

Orlando Cepeda was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1967 when he led the league with 111 RBIs.

Orlando Cepeda was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1967 when he led the league with 111 RBIs.

In 1967, Cepeda captured the National League’s Most Valuable Award as the offensive leader of the pennant-winning Cardinals. He hit .325 with 25 home runs and a league-leading 111 RBIs. His power numbers slipped to 16 home runs and 73 RBIs as the Cardinals repeated as National League champions in 1968. However, in the 1968 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Cepeda hit two home runs with six RBIs.

In the spring of 1969, Cepeda was traded to the Atlanta Braves for catcher-first baseman Joe Torre. His 22 home runs and 88 RBIs played an integral role in the Braves’ divisional championship. The following year, Cepeda had his last strong season, hitting .305 for the Braves with 34 home runs and 111 RBIs. He retired in 1974 after stops in Oakland, Boston and Kansas City.

In 17 seasons, the 11-time All-Star finished with 379 home runs and a career batting average of .297. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

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Catcher in the Wry

 

Homer Happy: Joe Torre

Joe Torre’s long and successful career as a major league manager should not have come as much of a surprise to those who knew him when he was a player. Joe Torre the catcher-first baseman was a heady player with great game instincts. He was also a heck of a hitter.

Joe Torre’s best season as a slugger came in 1966, when he hit .315 with a career-high 36 home runs and drove in 101 runs.

Joe Torre’s best season as a slugger came in 1966, when he hit .315 with a career-high 36 home runs and drove in 101 runs.

Torre was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1960. He made the big league club the following season, hitting .278 as a rookie catcher (and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year balloting to Billy Williams). By 1963, he was the Braves’ everyday catcher, hitting .293 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs. He also made his first appearance on the National League All-Star team.

In 1964, Torre hit .321 with 36 doubles, 20 home runs and 109 RBIs. In 1965, Torre’s batting average dropped 30 points, but his 27 home runs represented another career best. And that mark would last only one season.

In 1966, Torre had his best season of the 1960s. He hit .315 with a career-high 36 home runs and drove in 101 runs while scoring 83. He was named to the National League All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year.

After averaging 28 home runs and 97 RBIs from 1964 -1966, with a combined .310 batting average, Torre batted .277 with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs in 1967. The 1968 season returned even less from Torre’s bat: a .271 batting average with only ten home runs and 55 RBIs. In addition, Torre had become a liability in throwing out base stealers, and his active support of the Players’ Union and Marvin Miller made him further estranged from the Braves’ management.

So the Braves swapped Torre to the St. Louis Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda during spring training. The Cardinals already had a catcher in Tim McCarver, and simply made Torre the team’s everyday first baseman.

Joe Torre was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1971, leading the league with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs.

Joe Torre was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1971, leading the league with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs.

After nine years with the Braves, Torre responded favorably with the change of scenery, batting .289 in 1969 with 18 home runs and 101 RBIs. He would drive in 100 or more runs for three consecutive seasons while playing with the Cardinals, culminating in 1971 by leading the National league with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs. Torre was a runaway choice for NL Most Valuable Player award in 1971.

Torre played for the Cardinals through the 1974 season and then was traded to the New York Mets. He could still hit for average (including a .306 batting average in 1976), but his power numbers were declining steadily and Torre retired after the 1977 season.

Torre finished his 18-year career with 2,342 hits and a .297 batting average. His retirement as a player opened the door for a second and even longer career as a baseball manager.

Want Power? You Gotta Have Hart.

 

Homer Happy: Jim Ray Hart

Jim Ray Hart came up as one of the most promising prospects in the San Francisco Giants’ organization – which is saying a lot for an organization that produced Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Felipe Alou, Matty Alou … all on the Giants’ roster when Jim Ray Hart arrived.

From 1965-1967, Jim Ray Hart batted a combined .291 and averaged 28 home runs and 96 RBIs per season.

From 1965-1967, Jim Ray Hart batted a combined .291 and averaged 28 home runs and 96 RBIs per season.

And while he never quite lived up to the legendary standards of his Hall of Fame teammates, Hart did provide offensive firepower to an already potent lineup, and became a favorite among Bay-area fans.

Hart was signed by the Giants in 1960 and made his first appearance at Candlestick Park in 1963. In 1964 he was awarded the starting job at third base, replacing Jim Davenport, and proceeded to tear up National League pitching by hitting .286 with 31 home runs and 81 RBIs. He finished tied for second in the Rookie of the Year vote with Rico Carty as Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies claimed that season’s top rookie prize.

Hart continued his slugging ways for the Giants over the next three seasons. In 1965 he hit .299 with 23 home runs and 96 RBIs. He hit .285 in 1966 with 33 home runs and 93 RBIs. In 1967 Hart batted .289 with 29 home runs and 99 RBIs.

Then injuries started eating away at Hart’s productivity at the plate. He hit only 23 home runs with 78 RBIs in 1968, but he would never approach those power totals again. Though he would play four more years, Hart’s best season over the rest of his career would come in 1973 with the New York Yankees, when he would hit .254 with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs. He retired 10 games into the 1974 season.

Hart finished his 12-year career with a .278 batting average and 170 home runs. He ranks thirty-eighth among home run hitters during the 1960s.

Hart was a member of the 1966 National League All-Star team.

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