Howard to the Rescue

 

Career Year: Elston Howard – 1963

For four straight seasons, from 1960 to 1963, the New York Yankees won the American League pennant. Nothing unusual for those Yankee teams.

In those four seasons, the Yankees also fielded the American League’s Most Valuable Player, starting with Roger Maris in 1960 and 1961, then Mickey Mantle in 1962. Injuries would strike down the mighty M&M duo for much of the 1963 season, but the Yankees finished at the top in both the regular season standings and in the MVP sweepstakes.

The single everyday player most responsible for the Yankees’ success in 1963 – and for extending the Yankees’ MVP streak – was one of the most unlikely of Yankee superstars. Continue reading

The Fabulous 50-50 Club

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 3, 1961) – The New York Yankees today defeated the Detroit Tigers 8-5, scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on home runs from Mickey Mantle and Elston Howard.

The winning pitcher was Luis Arroyo (13-3).

The Yankees took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning on home runs from Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. New York added another run in the fifth inning on Bobby Richardson’s two-out RBI single. Continue reading

Going Goo Goo

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gary Geiger

Gary Geiger was a speedy outfielder who managed to string together a 12-season major league career despite several injuries and physical ailments that limited his performance on the field. Nevertheless, he was a talented athlete with speed on the base paths, and a fan favorite wherever he played. Continue reading

Two Yanks Named Joe

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(May 23, 1962) Joe Pepitone homered twice to become the second player in Yankee history to hit two home runs in the same inning. The Bronx Bombers score nine times in the eighth inning of a 13-7 rout of the Kansas City Athletics. Continue reading

Yankee Super Sub

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering John Blanchard

It was John Blanchard’s misfortune to play for some of the best New York Yankees teams of all time, in positions stocked with MVPs and Hall of Famers. As a catcher, he played back-up to HOFer Yogi Berra and Elston Howard, who collected four MVP awards between them. As an outfielder, he was competing with HOFer Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (five MVPs between them) as well as Tom Tresh and Berra.

John Blanchard’s best season came in 1961, when he batted .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

John Blanchard’s best season came in 1961, when he batted .305 with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Never a strong defensive player, in the outfield or behind the plate, what Blanchard could do was hit with power. Given enough at-bats, he fully demonstrated his hitting ability, especially as a pinch hitter, and especially in clutch situations. He was an integral part of the Yankees’ success in the early 1960s, even with limited playing time.

Blanchard was signed by the Yankees in 1951 and had an outstanding season for Joplin in 1952, hitting .301 with 30 home runs and 31 doubles. He spent the next two years in military service and made his first appearance in a Yankees uniform in 1955. From 1956 through 1958, he hit well in the Yankees’ farm system, and was promoted to the big league club for good in 1959.

He spent more time sitting than playing in New York, never appearing in more than 93 games in any single season. He hit .242 in 99 at-bats in 1960, with four homers and 14 RBIs. He got more playing time and more at-bats in 1961, responding with the best season of his career: a .305 batting average with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs. Four of his homers came as a pinch hitter. That season the Yankees set a major league record with 240 team home runs, and six different players hit 20 or more round-trippers. During the 1961 World Series, Blanchard appeared in four games, hitting .400 with a double, two home runs and three RBIs.

In 1962, Blanchard’s batting average slipped to .232 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs. He hit 16 homers with 45 RBIs in 1963, but his role was delegated more and more to pinch hitting, at which he was always a threat. In 1964 he produced seven home runs and 28 RBIs in only 161 at-bats.

In May of 1965 the Yankees traded Blanchard with pitcher Rollie Sheldon to the Kansas City Athletics for catcher Doc Edwards. Blanchard appeared in only 52 games for the A’s before being sold to the Milwaukee Braves in September. He retired after the 1965 season.

In eight big league seasons, Blanchard hit .239 with 67 home runs and 200 RBIs. Blanchard appeared in five World Series with the Yankees, hitting a combined .345. He holds the major league record with 10 World Series pinch-hit at-bats.

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.

top_ten_cardinals_cover

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

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.

 

Top_10_Pitchers_Cover

 

Free Report

Click Here for Instant Download

One HR Down, 60 To Go

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 16, 1961) Mickey Mantle’s tenth-inning home run – a two-run shot off Hank Aguirre (0-1) – propelled the New York Yankees to victory today over the Detroit Tigers in a 13-11 slugfest.

mickey_mantle_AS_62

Mickey Mantle was the hitting star of the day, with two home runs and four RBIs.

Mantle’s game-winning home run was his second of the day and seventh of the season. Mantle drove in four runs to give him 15 RBIs on the young season.

The winning pitcher for the Yankees was Luis Arroyo (1-0). Arroyo pitched the final two innings for the victory, shutting out the Tigers and striking out three.

Two Detroit players – Norm Cash and Chico Fernandez – each had three RBIs for the Tigers. Rocky Colavito hit his third home run of the season in the second inning off Yankee starter Whitey Ford.

Two Yankee batters hit their first home runs of the 1961 season. Shortstop Tony Kubek hit a solo home run off Detroit starter Don Mossi in the second inning. In the fifth inning, Yankee right fielder Roger Maris hit his first home run of the season off Paul Foytack.

The reigning American League MVP, Roger Maris finally got his first home run of the 1961 season in the eleventh game. He would hit a lot more (and repeat as MVP).

The reigning American League MVP, Roger Maris finally got his first home run of the 1961 season in the eleventh game. He would hit a lot more (and repeat as MVP).

Maris had struggled at the plate during the Yankees first 10 games of the season. He came into this game batting only .161 with no home runs and only one run batted in. His bat would warm up with the weather, hitting 11 home runs in May and 15 in June on his way to a record 61 by season’s end, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s single-season record.