Joe Morgan’s Six Pack

 

Lights Out! – Houston Rookie Joe Morgan Goes 6 for 6.

When: July 8, 1965

Where:  County Stadium, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Game Time: 3:40

Attendance: 2,522

The Houston Astros opened the 1965 season with a major transition in the heart of their infield. In 1964, second base was patrolled by Nellie Fox, a future Hall of Famer who came to Houston after 14 years with the Chicago White Sox. In those 14 years, Fox had been an All-Star 12 times, won three Gold Gloves, hit .300 or better six times, led the American League in hits four times, and was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1959. By 1964, Fox was near the end of his exceptional career, hitting .265 and noticeably slower in the field.

Fortunately for Houston, an infield prospect named Joe Morgan was ready to step in on an everyday basis. In two minor league seasons, Morgan had hit for a combined .316. In 1964, he led the Texas League with 42 doubles and drove in 90 runs while batting .323. On Opening Day of 1965, he was the Astros’ starting second baseman (and collected half of the team’s four hits that day against Philadelphia’s Chris Short).

With the 1965 arrival of Joe Morgan (left) and his emergence as the team’s regular second baseman, the Houston Astros replaced one future Hall of Famer (Nellie Fox – right) with another.

With the 1965 arrival of Joe Morgan (left) and his emergence as the team’s regular second baseman, the Houston Astros replaced one future Hall of Famer (Nellie Fox – right) with another.

Morgan struggled at first, but improved his batting average steadily as the season progressed.  He was hitting .226 by the end of May, but had raised his average to .249 by the end of June. As he entered the July 8 contest against the Milwaukee Braves, Morgan was hitting .259.

His average would jump up considerably after that game.

The game pitted Don Nottebart (1-6) against the Braves ace, Tony Cloninger (10-7). Neither starter made it past the fifth inning. Nottebart allowed 4 runs in his 5 innings of work, serving up solo home runs to Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and a pair of 1-run blasts to Felipe Alou. Though he would win 24 games on the season, Cloninger lasted only 4 innings today, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits, and Morgan played a big role in Cloninger’s early departure.

Morgan led off the game with his seventh home run of the season. He singled in the second inning but was caught stealing. In the fifth inning, Morgan’s eighth home run of the year sent Cloninger to the showers and put the Astros ahead 5-3. Leading off the seventh inning, Morgan doubled off reliever Dick Kelley and scored on Jim Gentile’s single. In the ninth inning, Morgan singled again and scored on a Rusty Staub hit to put the Astros on top by a score of 8-5 going into the bottom of the ninth.

It was a lead Houston couldn’t hold. Against reliever Mike Cuellar, an RBI double by Carty and a 2-run single by Mike de la Hoz tied the game at 8-8 and sent it into extra innings. Neither team scored in the tenth inning, and Morgan singled off Phil Niekro in the eleventh inning. He stole second and was stranded at third when the inning ended. Morgan didn’t have an opportunity to bat again, as the Braves scored a run in the bottom of the twelfth inning to win the game.

His best game as an Astro came in 1965, when Joe Morgan went six for six with a pair of home runs and three RBIs.

His best game as an Astro came in 1965, when Joe Morgan went six for six with a pair of home runs and three RBIs.

Morgan ended the day hitting six for six with four runs scored and three RBIs. In that single game, he raised his batting average 15 points to .274. He would finish his rookie season hitting .271 and lead the National League in bases on balls with 97.

The Astros would release Nellie Fox by the end of July, having replaced one future Hall of Fame second baseman with another.

Battle of the Titans

 

Lights Out! – 4-3 Thriller Is a Showcase for Aaron and Clemente

When: August 28, 1967

Where:  Atlanta Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Game Time: 2:38

Attendance: 8,725

Not even Hollywood could have devised a more dramatic, twisting scenario than the one that actually played out in this game.

Any discussion about the great National League outfielders of the 1960s has to begin with the mention of Willie Mays and the opposing superstars in this late-August contest: Hank Aaron of the Braves and Roberto Clemente of the Pirates. All three were multi-tool threats, complete ballplayers who excelled at every aspect of the game. 1967 proved to be another banner season for both Aaron and Clemente.

Hank Aaron His run-saving catch sent the game into extra innings.

Hank Aaron
His run-saving catch sent the game into extra innings.

At age 33, Aaron was still in the prime of his career. He led the National League in home runs (44) and runs batted in (127) in 1966. He came into this game batting .319 with 31 home runs and 87 RBIs. (He would lead the league with 39 home runs at season’s end.)

Clemente was the reigning National League MVP, having hit .317 with 29 home runs and 119 RBIs in 1966. Coming into this game, he was leading the league with a .345 batting average. (He would win his fourth batting title with a .357 average.) Clemente also had 18 home runs and 84 RBIs.

Braves catcher Joe Torre scored the game’s first run when Woody Woodward singled off Pirates starter Al McBean in the bottom of the second inning. Braves starter Pat Jarvis held the Pirates scoreless through the fourth inning. In the Pirates’ half of the fifth inning, catcher Jerry May singled and scored on Matty Alou’s triple. Jarvis balked, scoring Alou.

In the top of the sixth inning, Clemente led off with a solo home run that put the Pirates ahead 3-1. The score stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth. Rico Carty doubled with one out, and Gary Geiger went in to run for Carty. Felipe Alou singled to right field, scoring Geiger. Then back-to-back singles by Tito Francona and Aaron brought Alou home and tied the game at 3-3.

In the top of the ninth, with Jay Ritchie pitching for the Braves, Jose Pagan stroked a two-out single to right field and May walked, putting runners at first and second. With Manny Jimenez pinch hitting for Roy Face, Aaron made a circus catch of Jimenez’s liner to right to end the inning with the score still tied.

Roberto Clemente His two home runs put the Pirates ahead twice. His tenth-inning homer proved to be the game winner.

Roberto Clemente
His two home runs put the Pirates ahead twice. His tenth-inning homer proved to be the game winner.

Aaron’s saving catch went for naught. In the top of the tenth, Matty Alou led off by bunting for a base hit. Shortstop Gene Alley struck out, and with Clemente at the plate, Alou was thrown out trying to steal second. Clemente created his own go-ahead run by lining a home run over the wall in left-center field.

With two outs in the bottom of the tenth, Felipe Alou singled to left. But with the tying run at first and Aaron on deck, Francona struck out to end the game.

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.

Hits and Smiles

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Manny Sanguillen

Manny Sanguillen was not only one of the best catchers of his era, but also projected a personality that made him easy to like. He was a good catcher and outstanding hitter, one of the best “bad ball” hitters ever. And while his best seasons came in the 1970s, his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates began in the 1960s, and early on he showed what kind of impact player he would become.

Manny Sanguillen was a slashing, line drive hitter whose strike zone included any pitch he could reach. From 1969-1976, Sanguillen hit for a combined .303 average.

Manny Sanguillen was a slashing, line drive hitter whose strike zone included any pitch he could reach. From 1969-1976, Sanguillen hit for a combined .303 average.

Sanguillen was signed by the Pirates in 1964 and made his major league debut in 1967. He made the Pirates’ roster for keeps in 1969, hitting .324 as a rookie. The next season Sanguillen hit .319, third best in the National League behind Rico Carty and Joe Torre. From 1969 through 1976, Sanguillen hit for a combined .303, with a career-best .328 in 1975.

Sanguillen was a line drive hitter who rarely walked, and rarely struck out. He never hit more than 12 home runs in a season, and had his best RBI total in 1971 with 81 runs batted in. But the powerful Pittsburgh lineup of the 1970s didn’t need home runs or RBIs from their catcher. They needed Sanguillen’s solid play behind the plate, his durability, and his consistency with the bat. Sanguillen delivered all of that.

In 1976 his batting average “slipped” to .290, and Sanguillen was traded to the Oakland Athletics for manager Chuck Tanner. He spent one season in Oakland, hitting .275, and was traded back to Pittsburgh where he spent the next three seasons as a part-time player. After the 1980 season he was traded with Bert Blyleven to the Cleveland Indians for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Bob Owchinko and Rafael Vasquez. But Sanguillen never played for the Indians. He was released before the 1981 season and retired after 13 major league seasons.

A three-time All-Star, Sanguillen batted .282 in the post-season including a .379 average during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ triumphant 1971 World Series.

A three-time All-Star, Sanguillen batted .282 in the post-season including a .379 average during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ triumphant 1971 World Series.

Sanguillen collected 1500 hits with a career batting average of .296. He was an All-Star three times. In the post-season, Sanguillen hit .282 in 29 games, including a .379 average during the 1971 World Series.

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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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