Saturday, September 7, 2019

Final Card - Carl Willey

Carl Willey had a 6 year career with the Milwaukee Braves and New York Mets.

He was signed by the Boston Braves way back in 1950. After pitching in the minors from 1951-57 (except for missing the '53 and '54 seasons due to military service), Carl made his debut with Milwaukee in April 1958. That was his best season, posting a 9-7 record with a 2.70 ERA. He also pitched one inning in the World Series.

Carl was mostly a starter during his first 4 seasons with the Braves, pitching behind Warren Spahn, Lou Burdette, Bob Buhl, and Joey Jay.

Willey moved to the bullpen in 1962, making room in the rotation for youngsters like Tony Cloninger, Bob Hendley, and Denver Lemaster. After a disappointing season (2-5), he was sold to the Mets during spring training in 1963.

Carl was the Mets' #3 starter in '63, but posted an awful 9-14 record (though not nearly as bad as #1 starter Roger Craig's 5-22 record!)

As the back of this card states, he took a line drive to the face early in 1964, and the remainder of his career reflects that. He only pitched 30 innings in '64 and 28 innings in '65 before hanging it up.

After his playing career he scouted for the Phillies.

Willey passed away in 2009 at age 78.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Final Card - Don Blasingame

This is the final card for Don Blasingame, strange because he was the Senators' regular 2nd baseman in 1965, collecting 449 at-bats in 129 games, and was their primary 2nd baseman for the first half of 1966.

Blasingame was signed by the Cardinals in 1953, and played 3 seasons in the minors.

He was the team's regular shortstop for the first two months of 1956. In mid-June the Cards acquired shortstop Al Dark from the Giants, so Blasingame moved over to 2nd base to replace Red Schoendienst, who had departed in the Dark trade.

Don was a fixture at 2nd base for the next 3 seasons, starting every game in 1957, 133 games in '58, and 148 in '59. He also made the 1958 All-Star team.

After the 1959 season he was traded to the Giants for veteran shortstop Daryl Spencer and outfielder Leon Wagner. Blasingame played one season with the Giants, then was traded to the Reds in April 1961.

Don was Cincinnati's everyday 2nd baseman in '61 and '62. He started 9 games in April 1963, but was replaces by a young upstart named Pete Rose. After riding the bench for the first half, Don was traded to the Senators on July 1st for pitcher Jim Coates.

As mentioned at the top, he was the Nats' 2nd baseman through the start of the 1966 season. In the first half he split time at 2nd base with Ken Hamlin. By mid-season the team decided to play Rule 5 pickup Bob Savarine regularly in the 2nd half, so Don was sold to the Athletics in early-August. He was released a month later.

Blasingame played in Japan from 1967-69.

He passed away in 2005 at age 73.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Final Card - Mel McGaha

Mel McGaha (#391) never played major-league baseball, but he did play NBA basketball for the New York Knicks during the 1948-49 season.

He was an outfielder in the Cardinals' organization from 1948-52, and the Indians' organization from 1953-58.

He managed in the Indians' farm system from 1954 to 1960. He was also the head basketball coach at Arkansas A&M in 1953-54 and 1954-55.

Mel joined the Indians as a coach in 1961, then was promoted to manager for the 1962 season. He was fired 2 games before the end of the season. (Why do teams do that? It’s not like they are going to start a turnaround in the final week of the season.)

McGaha was hired as an Athletics' coach in 1963, and became the team's manager in June 1964, with the A's mired in last place. They improved slightly, but still finished the year in last place. After a 5-21 start in 1965, he was canned by owner Charlie Finley.

Mel moved on the the Astros, as a minor-league manager in 1966-67, and a base coach from 1968-70.  I first became aware of McGaha during his time with the Astros.

McGaha passed away in 2002 at age 75.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Final Card - Don Zimmer

Most people now remember Don Zimmer as the lovable, roly-poly coach for Joe Torre's Yankees, but he was an infielder for the Dodgers and others from 1954-1965. This is his final card as a player.

Zimmer was signed by Brooklyn in 1949, and after 5 ½ years in the minors he made his major-league debut in July 1954. (The serious beaning referred to on the back of his card led to brain surgery.  It was the event that caused MLB to adopt batting helmets.) He backed up Pee Wee Reese through the 1957 season, then finally landed the starting shortstop job in 1958, the team’s first season in Los Angeles.

Don's time as a regular was short-lived, as a young upstart named Maury Wills made his debut in June 1959, pushing Zimmer to the bench.

In April 1960, Don was traded to the Cubs for pitcher Ron Perranoski and infielder Johnny Goryl. What dumb luck! Zim started the first 19 games at 3rd base, but another rookie (Ron Santo) arrived in June to once again take a job away from Zimmer. This time though, he just moved across to 2nd base.

Zimmer was the Cubs' regular 2nd baseman in 1961, starting 108 games while collecting a career-high 512 plate appearances. He was also selected to both All-Star games that season. What was his reward for such a fine season? He was selected by the Mets in the October 1961 expansion draft. (The Cubs had rookie Ken Hubbs on deck for 2nd base, so Zim was expendable.)

Don only lasted 1 month in New York, and spent the rest of the '62 season with the Reds. He returned to the Dodgers before the 1963 season, but was sold to the Senators in late-June.

Don was the Nats' starting 3rd baseman for the remainder of that year, split the job with John Kennedy in 1964, and backed up Ken McMullen in 1965.


After playing in Japan in 1966, Don began his managing career in 1967. He was a player/manager in 1967 for a Reds' farm team in 1967, before strictly managing the following season. He managed in the Padres' organization in '69 and '70, then skippered the San Diego club in '72 and '73.

Don was also the Red Sox’ manager from 1976-80, where the team won more than 90 games from 1977-79. The next stop was the Texas Rangers in ’81 and ’82.

He was hired by the Cubs before the 1988 season, but fired 37 games into the 1991 season. His final stop as manager was with the Yankees, filling in for Joe Torre for 36 games.

Between 1971 and 2014, when he wasn’t managing, he was coaching for the Red Sox, Cubs, Giants, Yankees, and Rays.

Zimmer passed away in June 2014 at age 83, in his 11th season as a Rays' coach.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Final Card - Jay Ritchie

This is Jay Ritchie’s first and last baseball card (#494). Topps cut him loose after 1965, even though he played in 44 games in ’65, 22 games in ’66, 52 (yes, FIFTY-TWO!) games in ’67, and 28 games in ’68. He was with his team at the end of each of those seasons, so should have had a card in ’66, ’67, and ’68.

Ritchie was signed by the Red Sox way back in 1955, and toiled in the minors for 9 years (1956-64) before making his major-league debut in August 1964. In the minors he was mostly a reliever, except for in 1957 and 1962.

Jay appeared in 21 games over the final 2 months in 1964. The following season, he pitched in 44 games, 3rd most among the team’s relief pitchers. 1965 was the only season he managed to stay out of the minor leagues.

After the season he was traded to the Braves with pitcher Arnold Earley and 1B-OF Lee Thomas for pitchers Dan Osinski and Bob Sadowski. Ritchie played 2 years with the Braves (unbeknownst to Topps, apparently).

He was in the minors for the first half of 1966 (should not have affected his Topps status, because their card set was determined by 2 things: 1. Was he on a team’s roster in the off-season, and 2. Did he have significant major-league playing time in the previous season), but pitched 22 games in the second half.

 In ’67 he appeared in 52 games, tops among the entire staff. He also posted a 3.17 ERA, lowest among the relievers. What did he get as a reward for his stats? Two weeks after the season he was shipped off to the Reds with Mack Jones and Jim Beauchamp in exchange for 1st baseman Deron Johnson.

Like in 1966, Jay spent the first half of 1968 in the minors, but pitched 28 games in the 2nd half – the #11 man on a 10-man pitching staff. His final appearance came on September 4th.

Ritchie played in the minors in 1969 and 1970. He retraced his career steps by returning to the Braves organization in July 1969 and the Red Sox in May 1970.

He passed away in 2016 at age 79.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Final Card - Dick Smith

Here is the final card for baseball short-timer Dick Smith (#579). Smith's last major-league game was on May 2, 1965. After 10 games, he was sent down (as this late-series card tells us on the back).

Smith was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1957, and he played for 6 seasons in their farm system before he was acquired by the Mets in October 1962.

He played most of the next 2 seasons with the Mets' AAA team in Buffalo, but did play in a few dozen games for New York each season.

The Dodgers reacquired him after the 1964 season for pitcher Larry Miller, but as said above, he only played 10 games before returning to the bushes.

After 2 seasons at triple-A Spokane, the Dodgers traded him to the Twins in April 1967 for pitcher Jerry Fosnow (recently seen on this blog). Smith played a full season for the Twins' AAA Denver team in 1967, and 53 games for the Senators' AA team before retiring.

 He passed away in 2012 at age 72.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Final Card - Gus Triandos

Here is the final card for long-time catcher Gus Triandos (#248). He was the Orioles' #1 catcher from 1956-1962, but to a then-youngster like me he was just the guy who came over from the Tigers with Jim Bunning before the 1964 season. I'm sure CommishBob has some Gus Triandos stories to tell!

Triandos was signed by the Yankees way back in 1948, and after 4 seasons in the minors and a year in the service, Gus made his big-league debut in August 1953 for the Yankees.

After the 1954 season, Triandos was part of a SEVENTEEN PLAYER trade with the Orioles. That deal included pitchers Don Larsen and Bob Turley going to New York.

Triandos was Baltimore's 1st baseman in 1955, then was the starting catcher for the next seven seasons. He made the All-Star team from 1957 to 1959, and in 1958 hit a career-high 30 home runs.

After the 1962 season he was traded to the Tigers with outfielder Whitey Herzog for catcher Dick Brown. Gus started 90 games for the Tigers in 1963 (Bill Freehan's rookie season), then was traded to the Phillies (with Jim Bunning) after the season for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Jack Hamilton.

Gus spent 1 1/2 seasons as the Phillies' backup catcher, then was sold to the Astros in June 1965.  By late-August he was released, ending his 13 year career.

Triandos passed away in 2013 at age 82.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Final Card - Jerry Fosnow

This may be the only time this has ever happened on my blogs, but today is Jerry's birthday! (Completely coincidental, as I didn't realize this until I checked for some career history. And, I just made it by 1 minute!) Happy 78th, Jerry!

Not only is this Jerry's final card, but it's also his rookie card (#529).

Fosnow signed with the Indians in 1959, and was dealt to the Twins before the 1962 season.

Jerry made his major-league debut in June 1964, pitching 7 games as a rookie.

The following season he appeared in 29 games, but none after mid-July. He was sent down to the minors, never to return.

Fosnow continued pitching in the Twins' system through the 1966 season, and for the Dodgers' AAA team in 1967 before retiring.

SABR biography