Gentle Man, Brutal Bat

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron had so many ways to beat National League pitchers that his prowess as a home run hitter was nearly overlooked until he passed Babe Ruth in career home runs in 1973.

But he was the second most productive home run hitter in the 1960s, and of course, he was the most productive home run hitter in the Twentieth Century. Continue reading

How Dick Groat Got His Wings

 

Swap Shop: Cardinals Trade Don Cardwell for Dick Groat

Dick Groat was a fine all-around shortstop – one of the best in the majors at the beginning of the 1960s. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1952, he had been the Bucs’ everyday shortstop since 1955. He had a career season in 1960, hitting .325 to win the National League batting title and being named National League Most Valuable Player.

Groat’s batting average fell 50 points to .275 in 1961, but he rebounded in 1962, batting .294. After nine seasons with the Pirates, the 31-year-old Groat fully expected to finish his playing career in Pittsburgh.

It was not to be. Continue reading

NL All-Stars Turn Up the Heat; Perry Prevails

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(July 12, 1966) In St. Louis, the National League All-Stars edged the American League 2-1, in a game played at Busch Stadium in 105-degree weather. Continue reading

Dodgers Wallop Cubs 10-2; Koufax Whiffs 18

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(April 24, 1962) Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Sandy Koufax today tied a major league record by striking out 18 batters in a nine-inning game.

The Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 10-2 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Continue reading

Dodgers’ Broom Sweeps Yankees Done

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(October 6, 1963) The Los Angeles Dodgers today completed a four-game World Series sweep of the New York Yankees as Sandy Koufax won his second game of the Series, 2-1.

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A six-hit pitching performance by Sandy Koufax clinched the 1963 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers as they beat the New York Yankees 2-1. In the Series, Koufax was 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA to earn MVP honors.

Koufax, who was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the 1963 World Series, allowed one run on six hits with eight strikeouts. For the Series, Koufax struck out 23 Yankee batters in 18 innings pitched.

In Game Four, Frank Howard led the Dodger offense with a home run and a single, the only two hits Whitey Ford gave up. The Dodgers scored the decisive run in the seventh inning when New York first baseman Joe Pepitone lost a thrown ball in white-shirted crowd. Junior Gilliam scored on the error.

The Yankees scored their only run in the top of the seventh inning on Mickey Mantle’s solo home run. It was the fifteenth World Series home run of Mantle’s career, and his only RBI in this Series.

 

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L.A.’s Other Southpaw Ace

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Claude Osteen

For nearly a decade, Claude Osteen was the best left-handed starting pitcher on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ staff, once a guy named Sandy Koufax had retired. He was a workhorse who averaged 261 innings pitched per season from 1963 to 1973. During that period, he pitched 121 complete games in 400 starts, with 36 shutouts and a combined earned run average of 3.13.

Claude Osteen was signed out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds in 1957. He made three token appearances with the Reds in 1958, and then progressed spectacularly through the Reds’ farm system, winning 19 games in 1956 and eight in 1959 before being called up to Cincinnati. He did more sitting than pitching in 1960, and was returned to the minors in 1961, where he won 16 games before being traded to the Washington Senators.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

Traded to the Washington Senators in 1961, Claude Osteen emerged as a solid starting pitcher and the team’s ace.

In Washington, Osteen finally got the chance to pitch regularly. In fact, in 1962, his first season with the Senators, his 150.1 innings pitched were more than he pitched in five previous seasons with the Reds. Osteen was 8-13 with a 3.65 ERA in 1962 for the American League’s worst team.

He quickly established himself as the ace of the Senators’ staff, going 9-14 with a 3.35 ERA in 1963 and 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA in 1964. He pitched 257.0 innings that season with 13 complete games in 36 starts, all for a team that finished the season at 62-100.

Over the winter, Osteen was involved in a blockbuster deal that sent him and infielder John Kennedy to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Frank Howard, Ken McMullen, Phil Ortega, Dick Nen and Pete Richert. In his first season with the Dodgers, Osteen went 15-15 with a 2.79 ERA.  He was 1-1 in his two World Series starts with a 0.64 ERA.

Osteen flourished as the Dodgers’ number three starter behind Koufax and Don Drysdale. He followed up in 1966 with a 17-14 season on a 2.85 ERA. His only World Series appearance in 1966 – and the last of his career – was a three-hit, 1-0 loss to Wally Bunker and the Baltimore Orioles.

In nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Claude Osteen won 147 games with a 3.09 ERA. He pitched an average of 266 innings per season with the Dodgers.

When Koufax retired after the 1966 season, Osteen stepped up as the Dodgers’ ace left-hander. He won 17 games in 1967 and then went 12-18 (tied with Ray Sadecki for the league high in losses) on a 3.08 ERA. He bounced back to win 20 games in 1969, pitching 16 complete games and 321.0 innings with a 2.66 ERA. He also threw seven shutouts.

Osteen pitched four more seasons with the Dodgers, winning 66 games. His best season was 1972, when he went 20-11 with a 2.64 ERA and 14 complete games. After a 16-11 campaign in 1973, he was traded to the Houston Astros for outfielder Jim Wynn. He was 9-9 for Houston before being traded near the end of the 1974 season to the St. Louis Cardinals. He signed with the Chicago White Sox at the beginning of the 1975 season, and went 7-16 for Chicago and then retired.

In 18 major league seasons, Osteen compiled a 196-195 record with a 3.30 ERA. He was an All-Star three times.