Chief of Relief

 

Oh, What a Relief: Ed Roebuck

For 11 major league seasons, Ed Roebuck was a stellar relief pitcher for three different teams. In 460 big league appearances, he made only one start (in 1957).

A mainstay in the Dodgers’ bullpen in the early 1960s, Ed Roebuck was 10-2 with nine saves in 1962.

A mainstay in the Dodgers’ bullpen in the early 1960s, Ed Roebuck was 10-2 with nine saves in 1962.

Roebuck was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. He spent six years in the Dodgers’ farm system, finding moderate success as a reliever before pitching as a starter and reliever at the AAA level, winning 15 games in 1953 and 18 games in 1954.

When Roebuck was promoted to the Dodgers’ pitching staff in 1955, he began his major league career in relief, going 5-6 with a 4.61 ERA. He appeared in 47 games for the Dodgers, finishing 27 with 12 saves (second in the National League). He pitched in the sixth game of the 1955 World Series, tossing two innings of scoreless, one-hit relief. He was 8-2 with a 2.71 ERA in 1957, and was 0-1 with a 3.48 ERA and five saves in 1958.

In 1959, Roebuck was sent back to the minors, where he pitched exclusively as a starter at St. Paul in the American Association. He went 13-10 with a 2.98 ERA in 28 starts. Then he found himself back on the Dodgers’ roster in 1960, going 8-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 58 appearances … all in relief. He made only five appearances in 1961, but teamed with left-hander Ron Perranoski to form one of the most effective relief tandems in baseball in 1962. As the right-handed half of that pair, Roebuck appeared in 64 games with a 10-2 record and a 3.09 ERA. He finished 22 games and saved nine. Together, Roebuck and Perranoski combined for a 16-8 record with 29 saves.

In 1963, Roebuck opened the season with the Dodgers but was traded at the end of July to the Washington Senators for Marv Breeding. Roebuck was a combined 4-5 with four saves and a 3.69 ERA for 1963.

Ed Roebuck was 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 12 saves for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.

Ed Roebuck was 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 12 saves for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1964.

In April of 1964 Roebuck was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies and went 5-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 12 saves for the Phillies. He was 5-3 with three saves in 1965, and appeared in six games in 1966 before being released by Philadelphia. He caught on with San Diego in the Pacific Coast League for a season and a half before retiring as a player after the 1967 season.

Roebuck finished his major league career at 52-31 for a .627 winning percentage. His career ERA was 3.35 with 62 saves.

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Prince of Promise

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Alex Johnson

Throughout most of his career, the incredible hitting instincts of Alex Johnson – and how easily and extensively those instincts could impress baseball people observing him – meant that he carried with him the baggage of potential that could never really be realized. When you watched the young Alex Johnson, it was not enough to be impressed simply with what he could do with a bat … which was impressive enough. Johnson’s skills made you wonder how good he could be – how good anyone could be. His potential was that great.

Alex Johnson was the American League batting champion in 1970, batting .329 for the California Angels.

Johnson was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1961. Over the next three years, he progressed steadily through the Phillies’ farm system, joining the parent club for 43 games at the end of the 1964 season. Johnson hit .303 in limited action, and he was slated to start the 1965 season in left field, platooning with Wes Covington. Johnson hit .294 in 1965, and was traded with Art Mahaffey and Pat Corrales to the St. Louis Cardinals for Dick Groat, Bill White and Bob Uecker.

A dreadful hitting drought to open the 1966 season sent Johnson back to the minors, where he hit .355 over the rest of that season. He spent the 1967 season platooning in right field with Roger Maris, and didn’t make an appearance in the 1967 World Series.

Despite his potential as a hitter, Johnson also brought with him serious liabilities in the field (three times he would lead his league’s outfielders in errors committed). He would also drive managers crazy with spells of concentration problems and a lack of consistent commitment to running out every batted ball with maximum effort. He could also be contentious and even nasty, with teammates in the clubhouse just as much as with the pitchers he faced.

Alex Johnson batted .288 in 13 major league seasons.

Alex Johnson batted .288 in 13 major league seasons.

It was Johnson’s hitting that kept him in the major leagues, and he was just beginning to realize his potential at the plate. The Cardinals traded Johnson to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Dick Simpson, and he responded to playing every day by hitting .312 for the Reds in 1968, the fourth highest batting average in the National League that season. Johnson hit .315 in 1969 with 17 home runs and 88 RBIs, and then was traded to the California Angels.

With the Angels in 1970, Johnson won the American league batting title with a .329 average. He also had 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 86 RBIs. But he would never reach quite that level again, his average slipping to .260 in 1971. He was traded with Jerry Moses to the Cleveland Indians for Frank Baker, Alan Foster and Vada Pinson. He hit .239 for Cleveland in 1972, and was dealt to the Texas Rangers. He hit .287 for Texas in 1973 and hit .287 again in a 1974 season split between the Rangers and the New York Yankees. He hit .261 for the Yankees in 1975, and then hit .268 for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, his last season in the major leagues.

Johnson played 13 seasons for eight different major league clubs. He ended his career with 1,331 hits and a .288 batting average. He was a member of the American League All-Star team in 1970.

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Invest in Utility

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Cesar Tovar

Cesar was a multi-talented, multi-purpose ballplayer who could play any position in the field – and in one game, did everything a fielder could do.

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As the Minnesota Twins starting center fielder in 1971, Cesar Tovar batted .311 and led the American League with 204 hits.

With the bat, Tovar did one thing: make contact. Tovar was no slugger, but he was a contact hitter who batted .278 over a 12-season major league career and twice hit better than .300.

A native of Venezuela, Tovar was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs as a teenager in 1959. He toiled in the Reds’ farm system for five years, advancing steadily but ultimately was blocked from starring in Cincinnati by players like Pete Rose at second and Vada Pinson in centerfield.

Tovar’s break came in December of 1964 when the Reds traded the outfielder/infielder to the Minnesota Twins for left-handed pitcher Gerry Arrigo. Tovar hit .328 for the Twins’ AAA team in Denver in 1965, and by 1966 he was the Twins’ starting center fielder, hitting .260 in his rookie season with Minnesota. In 1967, Tovar set an American League record by appearing in 164 games.

On September 22, 1968, Tovar became the second major league player (after the Athletics’ Bert Campaneris) to assume all nine field positions in a single game. Facing the A’s, Tovar was the game’s starter and threw a scoreless first inning, striking out Reggie Jackson.

Tovar raised his batting average in successive seasons with the Twins, hitting .267 in 1967, .272 in 1968, .288 in 1969, .300 in 1970 and .311 in 1971. He led the league in doubles and triples in 1970, when he scored a career-best 120 runs. Tovar led the league with 204 hits in 1971.

Tovar’s batting average slipped to .265 in 1972, and after eight seasons in Minnesota, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies. After one season in Philadelphia (hitting .268), Tovar spent the next three seasons with Texas, Oakland and the New York Yankees. He retired after the 1976 season.

In 12 major league seasons, Tovar collected 1,546 hits with a .278 career batting average. He also stole 226 bases, averaging 37 steals per season from 1968-1970.

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Making 20 Wins a Habit

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ferguson Jenkins

During the late 1960s, Ferguson Jenkins did something no Chicago Cubs pitcher had done in more than half a century: string together one 20-win season after another.

From 1967-1972, Ferguson Jenkins averaged 21 victories, 23 complete games and 306 innings per season for the Chicago Cubs.

From 1967-1972, Ferguson Jenkins averaged 21 victories, 23 complete games and 306 innings per season for the Chicago Cubs.

From 1967 through 1972, Fergie Jenkins had no less than 20 victories per season, pitched no less than 289.1 innings per season, pitched no less than 20 complete games each season, with a combined ERA of 3.00 for those six seasons, all the while pitching about half his games in that hitter’s paradise known as Wrigley Field.

It was one of the most amazing – and largely overlooked – pitching performances of his era. He was the Three-Finger Brown of the 1960s, only with a livelier ball and much less run support.

Jenkins was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1962. After four seasons in the Phillies’ farm system, Jenkins was traded with John Hernnstein and Adolfo Phillips for two proven starting pitchers – Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. What the Cubs got was a future Hall of Famer.

After an undistinguished season spent mostly in the bullpen, Jenkins was converted to a full-time starter for the 1967 season and never looked back. He went 20-13 for the Cubs with a 2.80 ERA and led the majors with 20 complete games. In 1968 he went 20-15 with a 2.63 ERA. He lost five 1-0 games that season. With a little more run support, he could have easily been 25-10.

Ferguson Jenkins was 20-15 in 1968 with a 2.63 ERA. Five of those losses came on 1-0 defeats.

Ferguson Jenkins was 20-15 in 1968 with a 2.63 ERA. Five of those losses came on 1-0 defeats.

Jenkins’ best season with the Cubs came in 1971, when his 24-13 record (with a 2.77 ERA) led the National League in victories. He also led the league in games started (39), complete games (30), innings pitched (325) and strikeouts-to-walks ratio (7.11). He was selected as the National League Cy Young Award winner for that season.

After six consecutive 20-victory seasons, Jenkins slipped to 14-16 in 1973. The Cubs shipped the 30-year-old pitcher to the Texas Rangers for Vic Harris and Bill Madlock. Jenkins responded with a 25-12 season for the Rangers, pitching six shutouts and 29 complete games with a 2.82 ERA.

In a sense, the Cubs had been right, as Jenkins “declined” from phenomenal in the late 1960s-early 1970s to simply very good in the late ‘70s and early 1980s. The Cubs simply missed out on the 135 wins that Jenkins accumulated after being traded.

Jenkins finished his 19-season Hall of Fame career with 284 victories and a 3.34 ERA. He pitched over 4500 innings with 3,192 strikeouts, and was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1991.

 

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Heady Hustle

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Cookie Rojas

While certainly not the most athletically talented infielder of his era, Cookie Rojas carved a 16-year career out of baseball smarts and hustle, and hitting that improved with accumulated at-bats.

Cookie Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and played two seasons with the Reds before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He led the Phillies with a .303 batting average in 1965.

Cookie Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds and played two seasons with the Reds before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He led the Phillies with a .303 batting average in 1965.

Rojas was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1956. He spent six years moving steadily through the Reds’ farm system, and made the team as a utility player (capable of playing any position) in 1962.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Jim Owens and started a seven-year tour with the Phillies in 1963, hitting .221 in 64 games. He got more playing time with the Phillies in 1964 (and hit .291), and in 1965 he became the Phillies’ starting second baseman and the team’s leading hitter at .303. In 1967, he led the National League with 16 sacrifice hits.

Following the 1969 season, Rojas was traded by the Phillies with Dick Allen and Jerry Johnson to the St. Louis Cardinals for Byron Browne, Curt Flood, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver. He played in only 23 games for the Cardinals, and then was traded to the Kansas City Royals for Fred Rico.

Rojas spent the next eight seasons with the Royals, as the team’s starting second baseman for six of those seasons. He hit .300 for the Royals in 1971, the first of four consecutive years when he would be named to the American League All-Star team. His best season for all-around offensive performance came in 1973, when he hit .276 with six home runs and 69 RBIs. He also had 29 doubles and 18 stolen bases, both career highs.

Rojas was released by the Royals after the 1977 season. He signed briefly with the Chicago Cubs, but never played for them, opting instead to retire to coaching and later managing and a broadcasting career.

Keepin’ ‘em Close

 

Oh, What a Relief: Johnny Klippstein

Right-hander Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams in an 18-year major league career.

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In 18 major league seasons, Johnny Klippstein pitched for eight different teams. He won 101 games and saved 65. In 1960, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, he led the American League with 14 saves.

He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944 and drafted, in consecutive years, by the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Chicago Cubs. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 1950, going 2-9 with a 5.50 ERA. In five seasons with the Cubs, Klippstein was 31-51 with a 4.79 ERA.

Klippstein was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1954 and won 12 games for the Reds in 1956. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958. He went 4-0 out of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 1959, and won a World Series game that year, only to be purchased by the Cleveland Indians just before the 1960 season. Klippstein was 5-5 for the Indians in 1960 with a 2.29 ERA. He led the American League in saves with 14.

Following the 1960 season, Klippstein was selected by the Washington Senators in the expansion draft. After a 2-2 season with the Senators, he was traded to the Reds again, and a year later was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Klippstein’s control and pitching savvy improved with age. At 35, he was 5-6 for the Phillies with a 1.93 ERA and eight saves. He was purchased by the Minnesota Twins after the start of the 1964 season, and had several outstanding seasons working out of the Twins’ bullpen. In 1965, he was 9-3 with five saves and a 2.24 ERA.

He retired after pitching in five games for the Detroit Tigers in 1967, posting a career record of 101-118 and a 4.24 ERA. Klippstein appeared in 711 games.

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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.

Batters Busted

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Cal McLish

Cal McLish had enough names to fill more than half a batting order, and enough pitches and moxy to be a consistent starting pitcher. He was a late bloomer, winning all but eight of his 92 major league victories after the age of 30.

CALVIN COOLIDGE JULIUS CAESAR TUSKAHOMA MCLISH: Cal McLish, baseball player ORG XMIT: 0704152350281456

Right-hander Cal McLish won 92 games for seven major league teams over a 15-year career.

Born Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish, he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944. With the war-lean major league rosters, McLish became an immediate starter-reliever for the Dodgers, posting a 3-10 record with a 7.82 ERA.

He obviously needed minor league seasoning. After serving in the military in 1945, McLish spent the next four seasons in the minors, winning 20 games for the Los Angeles Angels (the Pacific Coast League affiliate for the Chicago Cubs) in 1950, and spent the 1951 season with the Cubs, going 4-10 with a 4.45 ERA. McLish was sent back to the minors for four more seasons, winning 56 games during that period. Following the 1955 season, he was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Indians. Now 30 and with a major league record of 8-30, McLish’s career was finally about to turn around with the Tribe.

McLish spent the 1956 season working out of the Cleveland bullpen, with little room for him in a starting rotation that included two future Hall of Famers (Bob Lemon and Early Wynn) and Herb Score (all 20-game winners that season). McLish was 2-4 as a reliever for the Indians in 1956, and 9-7 in that role in 1957.

Cal McLish had his best season in 1959 with the Cleveland Indians, going 19-8 with a 3.63 ERA.

Cal McLish had his best season in 1959 with the Cleveland Indians, going 19-8 with a 3.63 ERA.

McLish moved into the starting rotation for Cleveland in 1958, and responded with a 16-8 season with a 2.99 ERA. He was 19-8 for the Indians in 1959, only to be traded with Gordy Coleman and Billy Martin to the Cincinnati Reds for Johnny Temple. McLish went 4-14 for the Reds in 1960, and was dealt with Juan Pizarro to the Chicago White Sox for Gene Freese.

With the White Sox in 1961, McLish went 10-13 with a 4.38 ERA. He was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies just before the start of the 1962 season, and went 11-5 for Philadelphia. He had one of his best all-around seasons in 1962 at age 37, going 13-11 with a 3.26 ERA. That season he threw 10 complete games and pitched 209.2 innings, his highest totals in both categories since 1959. He retired in 1964 after making only two appearances.

McLish was 92-92 over his 15-season career with a 4.01 ERA. During his best seasons – from 1958 through 1963 – he was 73-59 with a 3.70 ERA.

 

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Holding Down First

 

The Glove Club: Bill White

For a dozen seasons, Bill White matched All-Star talent with relentless consistency as a first baseman for the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. He was a heads-up player who was a solid runs producer and Gold Glove defender at first.

In eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bill White averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He was an All-Star five times.

In eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Bill White averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He was an All-Star five times.

White was signed by the New York Giants in 1953. His rookie season came in 1956, when he hit .256 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs for the Giants. Military service put his baseball career on hold in 1957 and 1958, and just before the 1959 season he was traded with Ray Jablonski to the St. Louis Cardinals for Don Choate and Sam Jones.

It was in St. Louis where White blossomed into one of the league’s most accomplished first basemen. He hit .302 in his first season in St. Louis, with 12 home runs and 72 RBIs. He hit .324 in 1962, with 20 homers and 102 RBIs. In 1963, he drove in a career-best 109 RBIs on 27 home runs and a .304 batting average. In eight seasons in St. Louis, White hit .300 or better four times. He averaged 20 home runs and 90 RBIs per season as a Cardinal.

Following the 1965 season, White was traded with Dick Groat and Bob Uecker to the Philadelphia Phillies for Pat Corrales, Alex Johnson and Art Mahaffey.  He had a strong season for the Phillies in 1966, with 23 home runs and 103 RBIs while collecting his seventh consecutive Gold Glove award. However his batting average slipped to .276, the lowest since his rookie season but the highest it would be for the rest of his career. His numbers declined dramatically over the next two years, and the Phillies shipped him back to St. Louis, where White played one more season before retiring in 1969.

Bill White won seven consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966.

Bill White won seven consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1966.

Following his playing career, White was a sportscaster calling New York Yankees games on both radio and television. From 1989 to 1994, he served as President of the National League.

In 13 big league seasons, White hit for a career average of .286 with 202 home runs and 870 RBIs. And no other National League first baseman could match his glove work. While he doesn’t have Hall of Fame numbers for his career, White nonetheless may be the best first baseman not in the Hall of Fame.

 

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