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

Taking the Bate

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering John Bateman

Something about John Bateman inspired no-hit performances from his pitchers. He caught two no-hitters during his 10-season major league career … and both were firsts for the franchise. He caught his first no-hitter in 1963, as right-hander Don Nottebart hurled the first no-hitter in the history of the Houston Colt .45s. He caught his second no-hitter six years later, the first thrown by Bill Stoneman and the first in the history of the Montreal Expos. Continue reading

World’s Fastest Catcher?

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball

(September 1, 1966) St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver hit his thirteenth triple of the season in helping the Redbirds beat the Atlanta Braves at Busch Stadium, 7-4.

Tim McCarver is still the only catcher to lead the National League in triples.

Tim McCarver is still the only catcher to lead the National League in triples.

It was the last triple McCarver would hit for the 1966 season, but it would be enough to lead the league, as McCarver edged out teammate Lou Brock, who finished the season with 12 triples.

The Memphis native became the first catcher to lead a league in three-baggers.

McCarver’s last triple came with two outs in the bottom of the third, scoring Orlando Cepeda. It was his second RBI of the game. McCarver had already driven in a run in the second inning with a single that scored Mike Shannon from second base.

Winning pitcher for the Cardinals was Steve Carlton (3-2). The losing pitcher was Dick Kelley (4-3).

McCarver, an All-Star in 1966, would finish the season batting .274 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs. His triples crown that year would mark the only time he led the league in any hitting category.

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Dodger Destroyer Strikes Again

 

Lights Out: Larry Jaster Blanks Los Angeles for the Fifth Time … in One Season

When: September 28, 1966

Where:  Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

Game Time: 2:27

Attendance: 16,146

Pitcher Larry Jaster won 35 games during his seven-year major league career. Five of those victories came in a single season, against a single team: the team that would claim the National League pennant.

Larry Jaster was 11-5 with a 3.26 ERA for the Cardinals in 1966. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers that season, Jaster was 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He struck out 31 Dodgers in 45 innings pitched.

Larry Jaster was 11-5 with a 3.26 ERA for the Cardinals in 1966. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers that season, Jaster was 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He struck out 31 Dodgers in 45 innings pitched.

The left-handed Jaster was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1962 and made his debut with the Cardinals in 1965, pitching a scoreless inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game St. Louis lost 3-2.

Jaster made three starts after that initial appearance, going 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA. The Dodgers were the only team Jaster faced but didn’t beat in 1965. That would be rectified – repeatedly – in 1966.

Jaster was 1-1 when he first faced the Dodgers in 1966, beating them 2-0 on a seven-hit shutout, striking out seven batters and walking none. He faced the Dodgers again on July 3, and shut them out again on three hits.

On July 29, Jaster faced the Dodgers again and pitched another shutout, winning 4-0 on a five-hitter. When Jaster faced the Dodgers for the fifth time that season, they were still fighting off the Pittsburgh Pirates for the National League pennant. The Dodgers started 12-game winner Don Sutton against the Cardinals and Jaster, who was 10-5 coming into his final start on the season. Both teams were scoreless after three innings. Jaster retired the first 11 Los Angeles batters.

Larry Jaster’s mastery over the Dodgers lasted only one season. Take away his 1966 performance, and Jaster was only 4-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 20 career appearances (13 starts).

Larry Jaster’s mastery over the Dodgers lasted only one season. Take away his 1966 performance, and Jaster was only 4-5 with a 4.21 ERA in 20 career appearances (13 starts).

In the bottom of the fourth, Curt Flood reached base on an error and Tim McCarver walked. Two outs later, both runners scored on Ed Spiezo’s double. Jaster retired the Dodgers in order in the fifth and sixth innings. In the top of the seventh, Jaster gave up two singles, but struck out Al Ferrara to notch another scoreless inning. In the top of the eighth, Jaster gave up a walk but no runs. In the top of the ninth he retired the Dodgers in order.

Jaster’s four-hitter was his fifth shutout of the Dodgers that season: five starts, 45 innings, no runs. Over the rest of his career, which would last only five more seasons, Jaster would be 4-5 with a 4.21 ERA against the Dodgers.

The Dodgers survived Jaster to win the 1966 National League pennant by 1.5 games over the San Francisco Giants.

Catcher in the Wry

 

Homer Happy: Joe Torre

Joe Torre’s long and successful career as a major league manager should not have come as much of a surprise to those who knew him when he was a player. Joe Torre the catcher-first baseman was a heady player with great game instincts. He was also a heck of a hitter.

Joe Torre’s best season as a slugger came in 1966, when he hit .315 with a career-high 36 home runs and drove in 101 runs.

Joe Torre’s best season as a slugger came in 1966, when he hit .315 with a career-high 36 home runs and drove in 101 runs.

Torre was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1960. He made the big league club the following season, hitting .278 as a rookie catcher (and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year balloting to Billy Williams). By 1963, he was the Braves’ everyday catcher, hitting .293 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs. He also made his first appearance on the National League All-Star team.

In 1964, Torre hit .321 with 36 doubles, 20 home runs and 109 RBIs. In 1965, Torre’s batting average dropped 30 points, but his 27 home runs represented another career best. And that mark would last only one season.

In 1966, Torre had his best season of the 1960s. He hit .315 with a career-high 36 home runs and drove in 101 runs while scoring 83. He was named to the National League All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year.

After averaging 28 home runs and 97 RBIs from 1964 -1966, with a combined .310 batting average, Torre batted .277 with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs in 1967. The 1968 season returned even less from Torre’s bat: a .271 batting average with only ten home runs and 55 RBIs. In addition, Torre had become a liability in throwing out base stealers, and his active support of the Players’ Union and Marvin Miller made him further estranged from the Braves’ management.

So the Braves swapped Torre to the St. Louis Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda during spring training. The Cardinals already had a catcher in Tim McCarver, and simply made Torre the team’s everyday first baseman.

Joe Torre was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1971, leading the league with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs.

Joe Torre was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1971, leading the league with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs.

After nine years with the Braves, Torre responded favorably with the change of scenery, batting .289 in 1969 with 18 home runs and 101 RBIs. He would drive in 100 or more runs for three consecutive seasons while playing with the Cardinals, culminating in 1971 by leading the National league with a .363 batting average and 137 RBIs. Torre was a runaway choice for NL Most Valuable Player award in 1971.

Torre played for the Cardinals through the 1974 season and then was traded to the New York Mets. He could still hit for average (including a .306 batting average in 1976), but his power numbers were declining steadily and Torre retired after the 1977 season.

Torre finished his 18-year career with 2,342 hits and a .297 batting average. His retirement as a player opened the door for a second and even longer career as a baseball manager.

Walk to Match the Talk

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Tim McCarver

A generation of baseball fans familiar with Tim McCarver as a veteran baseball broadcaster might be surprised to learn how good he really was as a catcher for more than two decades.

In 1967, Tim McCarver batted .295 with 14 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

In 1967, Tim McCarver batted .295 with 14 home runs and 69 runs batted in.

McCarver was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals out of high school in 1959 and spent the next four seasons shuttling between St. Louis and various stops throughout the Cardinals’ farm system. In 1963, his first full season with the Cardinals, McCarver hit .289 and established himself as the preferred catcher for Bob Gibson.

He remained the Cardinals’ starting catcher through 1969. He led the National League in triples with 13 in 1966, the first catcher ever to do so. His most productive year as a hitter was 1967, when he hit .295 with 26 doubles, 14 home runs and 69 RBIs. He was an All-Star (for the second time) that season, and finished second in the Most Valuable Player balloting to teammate Orlando Cepeda.

McCarver started the 1970s with a new team, having been traded with Byron Browne, Curt Flood and Joe Hoerner to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. (Flood refused to report to his new team. St. Louis later sent Willie Montanez and Jim Browning to the Phillies to complete the trade.) McCarver played for two years in Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Montreal Expos for John Bateman.

His 13 triples in 1966 made Tim McCarver the only catcher ever to lead the league in triples.

His 13 triples in 1966 made Tim McCarver the only catcher ever to lead the league in triples.

Over the next two seasons, McCarver became the game’s vagabond catcher, playing for Montreal, St. Louis again, and the Boston Red Sox before being re-acquired by the Phillies in 1975. For the next four seasons, he served primarily as the personal catcher for Steve Carlton. He was released by the Phillies after the 1979 season, but was re-signed and appeared in six games during the 1980 season, making McCarver the twenty-ninth player in major league history to appear in four different decades.

In 21 major league seasons, McCarver had 1,501 hits and a .271 career batting average.

 

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Curt Simmons’ Nerves of Steal

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

Cardinals left-hander Curt Simmons was the last major league pitcher to steal home.

Cardinals left-hander Curt Simmons was the last major league pitcher to steal home.

(September 1, 1963) The St. Louis Cardinals today defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 for their third consecutive victory.

The star of the game for the Cardinals was starting pitcher Curt Simmons (12-7).

Simmons pitched a six-hit complete game, striking out four and walking one. In notching his twelfth win of the season, Simmons already had recorded his highest victory total since 1957.

But Simmons’ performance on this day went beyond his pitching. In the second inning, Tim McCarver led off for the Cardinals with a single, and scored when Simmons hit a triple off Phillies starter Chris Short (5-11). That RBI put the Cardinals ahead 1-0, but Simmons wanted more. With Julian Javier at the plate, the 34-year-old Simmons stole home to put the Cards up 2-0.

It was the second stolen base of Simmons’ career. And it would be his last.

Simmons drove in a second run with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly. McCarver had two hits and two RBIs. Ken Boyer hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, his twentieth of the season.

Considered washed up when he was released by the Phillies in 1960, Simmons would finish the 1963 season at 15-9 with a 2.48 ERA.

And thus far, he is still the last major league pitcher to successfully steal home.

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Power Pulse

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Gene Oliver

Gene Oliver was a decent catcher with better-than-average power and speed. He had a strong arm and a strong presence behind the plate, and was particularly effective at blocking home plate from oncoming runners.

Gene Oliver's best season came with the Braves in 1965 when he batted .270 with 20 doubles and 21 home runs (both career highs).

Gene Oliver’s best season came with the Braves in 1965 when he batted .270 with 20 doubles and 21 home runs (both career highs).

In his prime, he had the tools to be an everyday catcher for many teams, but had the misfortune of playing behind All-Star catchers such as Tim McCarver and Joe Torre, limiting him to a backup role where his contributions were valuable but limited.

Oliver was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956. He hit 18 home runs for the Cardinals’ AAA team in 1958 and had 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 46 games at Rochester in 1959 when he was called up to St. Louis. He batted .244 over the rest of the 1959 season, with six home runs and 28 RBIs in only 172 at-bats. Oliver found himself back in AAA ball in 1960. In 1961, playing for Portland in the Pacific Coast League, Oliver batted .302 with 36 home runs and 100 RBIs. It was his ticket to a more permanent residence on the Cardinals’ roster.

In 1963, Oliver started games as the Cardinals’ catcher (as well as occasionally playing in the outfield and at first base), batting .258 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. In 1963, the Cardinals traded him with Bob Sadowski to the Milwaukee Braves for Lew Burdette. In five seasons with the Braves, Oliver hit for a combined .251 batting average. His best season with the Braves came in 1965 when he batted .270 with 20 doubles and 21 home runs (both career highs).

In 1967, the Braves traded Oliver to the Philadelphia Phillies for Bob Uecker. As the backup to Clay Dalrymple, Oliver hit .224 for the Phillies with seven home runs and 34 RBIs. In the off-season, he was traded with Dick Ellsworth to the Boston Red Sox for Mike Ryan and cash. He appeared in only 16 games for the Red Sox, and then was purchased by the Chicago Cubs. He retired after the 1969 season after appearing in only 31 games for the Cubs over two seasons.

During his 10-year major league career, Oliver had 546 hits, including 111 doubles and 93 home runs, and compiled a career batting average of .246.

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Eye of the Storm

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Curt Flood

With the exception of Babe Ruth, no individual player has had more of an impact on the way major league baseball is played than Curt Flood. Just as the Babe’s potent bat transformed baseball offensive strategy in the 1920s, Flood’s fight for independence from club owners and against the Reserve Clause that bonded a player irrevocably to a team was the gateway to player free agency in the 1970s. It is the greatest single difference between baseball today and baseball as it was played in the 1960s and earlier, and Flood’s off-the-field battle with baseball was the beginning of that change.

As the center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, Curt Flood won 7 Gold Gloves.

As the center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, Curt Flood won 7 Gold Gloves.

In addition, Flood was a dynamic hitter and fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1960s, playing a pivotal role for a team that won three National League pennants and two World Series during that decade.

Flood was signed by the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1956 and made his major league debut at the end of that season, striking out in his only plate appearance. In December of 1957 he was traded to the Cardinals as part of a five-player deal, and immediately became an everyday outfielder for the Cards. His breakout season was 1961, when he hit .322. He batted.311 for the Cardinals’ 1964 pennant-winning team, leading the National League with 211 hits. From 1961 through 1968, Flood hit a combined .304, with a career-high .335 in 1967.

Flood’s speed was well utilized in the Cardinals’ outfield, where he won seven consecutive Gold Gloves. From 1965 through 1967, he set a National League record for consecutive errorless games (226) and a major league record for consecutive errorless chances in the outfield (568).

Following the 1969 season, the Cardinals sent Flood with Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Philadelphia Phillies for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson and Cookie Rojas. Flood refused to report, and sued major league baseball to overturn the reserve clause and have the freedom to choose the team he would play for. The suit eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided in major league baseball’s favor. However, Pandora’s box had been opened as Flood had given major league players (and their labor union) a glimpse at what was possible. The reserve clause eventually was struck down in 1975, four years after Flood retired.

Flood never played for the Phillies. He was traded to the Washington Senators in 1970, and played in 13 games for the Senators in 1971 before retiring with 1,861 career hits and a .293 lifetime batting average.