Glancing Back, and Remembering Charlie James
This Week in 1960s Baseball
(October 11, 1964) In Game Four of the World Series, Ken Boyer‘s sixth inning grand slam off Yankee starter Al Downing gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees. The St. Louis third baseman is the second National Leaguer to hit a post-season bases-loaded round-tripper.
The Cardinals’ victory tied the Series at two games apiece.
Boyer, who would be named the National League MVP for the 1964 season, got only one hit in the game, but it was the one that counted. Downing, the Yankee left-hander who went 13-8 during the regular season and led the American League with 217 strikeouts, had shut out the Cardinals over the first five innings, allowing only one hit.
The Cardinals loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Carl Warwick and Curt Flood, and an error by second baseman Bobby Richardson that allowed Cardinals shortstop Dick Groat to reach base safely. Boyer, the National League RBI champion for 1964, promptly launched a Downing fastball deep into the left field seats, putting the Cardinals ahead for good.
Boyer wasn’t the only hero for the Cardinals that day. Cardinals starter Ray Sadecki lasted only a third of an inning, allowing four consecutive hits and two runs before being replaced by Roger Craig. Craig was the Cardinals’ pitching star that day, allowing a third run on an Elston Howard single (run charged to Sadecki) before shutting down the Yankees’ bats, pitching 4.2 scoreless innings and striking out eight batters.
Craig was the pitcher of record when Boyer hit the game-winning home run. Ron Taylor shut out the Yankees over the final four innings for the save.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Dick Farrell
The great irony of the career of right-hander Dick Farrell is that his best pitching resulted in some of his worst seasons statistically. Those seasons came in the early 1960s when, as a member of the starting rotation for the fledgling Houston Colt .45s, Farrell posted a 46-54 records from 1962 through 1965, though his earned run average over that period was only a combined 3.20.
Much like his starting counterpart Bob Bruce (and likewise Roger Craig with the New York Mets), “Turk” Farrell pitched better than his record, but not good enough to overcome the limitations of playing for an expansion team.
Boston born and raised, Farrell was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1953 and made his major league debut in Philadelphia at the end of the 1956 season. He had an outstanding rookie season in 1957, going 10-2 out of the Phillies’ bullpen with a 2.38 ERA and 10 saves in 52 appearances. He remained a reliever in his four-plus seasons with the Phillies, going 8-9 with 11 saves and a 3.35 ERA in 1958 and then slipping to 1-6 in 1959. He bounced back in 1960 with a 10-6 record and a 2.70 ERA. That season he appeared in 59 games for the Phillies, finishing 50 and saving 11 games.
In 1961, Farrell was traded with Joe Koppe to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Don Demeter and Charley Smith. With the Dodgers, he appeared in 50 games going 6-6 (8-7 overall) with a 5.20 ERA. That next winter, he was selected by Houston in the expansion draft.
In his first five big league seasons, Farrell had gone 37-31 with a 3.70 ERA. He had made only one start (his major league debut in 1956), working strictly – and, generally, effectively – out of the bullpens for the Phillies and Dodgers. In Houston, his professional life would change dramatically. He was transformed into a starter who still worked occasionally in relief as needed, and Farrell was a workhorse for the Colts. He posted a 3.02 ERA in 1962 (seventh best in the National League), and pitched 11 complete games with two shutouts, but was only 10-20 on the season.
In 1963, he was 14-13 with an identical 3.02 ERA, and then was 11-10 in 1964 and 11-11 in 1965. During those four seasons, with the second-worst team in the National League, Farrell averaged 11 wins and more than 200 innings per season. In 1966 he went 6-10 for the Astros, and the next season he was sold back to Philadelphia, where he again became exclusively a reliever. Farrell went 9-6 for the Phillies in 1967 (10-6 overall) with 2.34 ERA.
He pitched in 100 games for the Phillies over the next two seasons, going 7-10 with 15 saves and a combined 3.73 ERA. He retired after the 1969 season.
Farrell lasted a total of 14 seasons in the majors, going 106-111 with a 3.45 career ERA. He was named to the National League All-Star team four times.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Bruce
It would be hard to imagine a more frustrating position in major league baseball than starting pitcher for an expansion team. Just ask Roger Craig or Al Jackson of the original New York Mets. Or ask Ken Johnson and Dick Farrell of the Houston Colt .45s.
Or ask Bob Bruce.
Bruce was a hard-throwing right-hander whose performance on the mound was consistently better than his won-lost record. He was signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1952 and made his major league debut with the Tigers in 1959. In 1960 and 1961 he had a combined 5-9 record for the Tigers.
In December of 1961, the Tigers traded Bruce and Manny Montejo to the Colts for Sam Jones. He immediately moved into the Houston starting rotation, and at 10-9 was the only starter with a winning record (on a team that lost 96 games in its inaugural season). In 1963 his record slipped to 5-9, but rebounded in 1964 with a 15-9 record and a 2.76 ERA. He also set team records that season with nine complete games and four shutouts.
It would be the last winning record of Bruce’s career.
In 1965 he went 9-18 on a still-respectable ERA of 3.72. He set personal highs that season for innings pitched (229.2) and strikeouts (145). His 3-13 record in 1966 prompted Houston to trade the right-hander to the Atlanta Braves in a deal that brought Eddie Mathews to Houston. In 12 appearances for the Braves, Bruce posted a 2-3 record with his only career save. He was assigned to the Braves AAA club in Richmond, where he went 7-2 but never again pitched in the majors.
Bruce finished his career at 49-71 with a 3.85 ERA. But in his first three seasons with Houston, he was the team’s best starting pitcher and best chance at winning, going 30-27 with a 3.43 ERA.
This Week in 1960s Baseball …
The Cardinals would be Craig’s third major league team. After seven seasons with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers – the team that signed him in 1950 – the right-hander was selected by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft and was the team’s leading starter in its first two seasons. As the best pitcher on baseball’s worst team, Craig was a combined 15-46 with a 4.14 earned run average for the Mets.
Craig had been 49-38 with a 3.73 ERA as a starter and reliever for the Dodgers. His best season with the Dodgers came in 1959, when he was 11-5 with a 2.06 ERA and led the National League with four shutouts.
Craig led the National League in losses for both of his seasons with the Mets. During one stretch of the 1963 season, Craig lost 18 consecutive games.
He would fare better pitching for the Cardinals. Returning to the role of starter-reliever, Craig’s versatility played an important role in the Cardinals’ successful pennant run. He would finish the 1964 season at 7-9 with a 3.25 ERA. He would pitch three complete games and record five saves.
He would also be the winner in the fourth game of the 1964 World Series. In that game, Craig tossed 4.2 innings of scoreless, two-hit relief, striking out eight New York Yankees batters.
Craig would finish his 12-year major league career with a record of 74-98 and a 3.83 ERA. Take away his Mets years, and Craig’s career numbers were 59-52 with a 3.69 ERA.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Al Jackson
While Roger Craig may have been the poster child for the futility of being a pitcher for the New York Mets in the early 1960s, he was not the only hurler to suffer undeserved defeats by toiling for baseball’s least competent team.
Left-hander Al Jackson was selected by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955, Jackson had appeared in only 11 games for the Pirates with a 1-0 record.
With the Mets in 1962, Jackson posted a team-best 4.40 ERA while going 8-20 in 33 starts. He also pitched 12 complete games and four shutouts, the Mets’ only shutouts in the team’s inaugural season.
From 1962 through 1965, Jackson was 40-73 with a 4.24 earned run average and 10 shutouts. He remained the Mets’ career leader in wins and shutouts until his totals were eclipsed by Tom Seaver.
After the 1965 season (Jackson’s second 8-20 record in four years), he was traded with Charley Smith to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ken Boyer. He was 13-15 for the Cardinals in 1966 with a 2.51 ERA, sixth best in the National League. He followed up in 1967 with a 9-4 season, working primarily out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.
Jackson returned to the Mets in 1968, going 3-7 with a 3.69 ERA. In 1969 he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. He was 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA for the Reds, and retired after the 1969 season.
In 10 major league seasons, Jackson compiled a 67-99 record with a 3.98 ERA. In 184 career starts, he pitched 54 complete games and 14 shutouts.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Bob Purkey
While the best knuckleball pitchers of the 1960s, namely Hoyt Wilhelm and Eddie Fisher, were used almost exclusively in relief, Bob Purkey was primarily a knuckleball starter. His success with that hard-to-tame pitch paved the way for knuckleball starters such as Wilbur Wood in the 1970s and the Niekro brothers in the 1980s.
A Pittsburgh native, Purkey was signed by his hometown Pirates in 1948 and appeared in his first big league game in 1954. In four seasons with lackluster Pirate teams, Purkey himself struggled to a combined record of 16-29, used mostly as a reliever. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds after going 11-14 in 1957.
With the Reds, Purkey was used primarily as a starting pitcher, and had his most successful seasons in that role. In 1958, he was 17-11 with a 3.60 ERA, completing half of his 34 starts. He slipped to 13-18 in 1959, and bounced back in 1960 with another 17-11 campaign, and another 3.60 ERA.
In 1961 the Red won their first National League pennant in two decades, and Purkey was an integral part of that team’s success. He went 16-12 that season, completing 13 games with a 3.73 ERA.
His best season was 1962, when he posted a 23-5 record for a major league-leading .821 winning percentage. Again he finished almost half his starts (18 out of 37), and recorded a 2.81 ERA in 288.1 innings pitched. He was named to the All-Star team for the third time in his career that season.
Purkey struggled over the next two seasons, going 17-19 for the Reds with a combined ERA of 3.25. In both seasons, his number of innings pitched dropped below 200 for the first time since 1957. After the 1964 season, the Reds traded Purkey to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Roger Craig and outfielder Charley James.
With the Cardinals, Purkey found himself being used more and more as a reliever, and finished the season 10-9 with a 5.79 ERA. In 1966, he closed out his career where it began, in Pittsburgh. In his final major league stop, Purkey was 0-1 with a 1.37 ERA, making only 10 appearances before he was released by the Pirates.
Over a career that spanned 13 seasons, Purkey posted a 129-115 record with 793 strikeouts and a 3.79 ERA in 386 appearances, including 276 starts, 92 complete games, 13 shutouts, and nine saves.