Saturday, December 30, 2017

Final Card - Frank Bolling

At age 85, Frank Bolling is the oldest living player from the 1965-70 time period that I have not yet blogged about.

This is Frank’s final card (#269), even though he continued to be the Braves’ starting 2nd baseman for part of the 1966 season (a job he held since the start of the 1961 season).

Bolling was signed by the Tigers in June 1951. He played in the minors for the rest of that season, and all of 1952-53.

He made his major-league debut in April 1954, taking over the starting 2nd base job that was manned in ’53 by Johnny Pesky and others.

After missing 1 year (1955) in military service, Bolling returned to the Tigers as their regular 2nd baseman for the next 5 seasons, and had more than 640 plate appearances in 2 of those seasons. Frank also won a Gold Glove award in 1958.

In December 1960, Bolling and outfielder Neil Chrisley were traded to the Milwaukee Braves for pitcher Terry Fox, catcher Dick Brown, 2nd baseman Chuck Cottier, and center fielder Bill Bruton.

Frank matched his season-high home run total with 15 in 1961, and was an All-Star in his first 2 seasons with the Braves. He was the regular 2nd baseman through the 1965 season, starting 141 games in his final season as a regular.

In 1966 he only started 57 games, since shortstop Woody Woodward was splitting his time between shortstop and 2nd base, and the Braves were also working rookie Felix Millan into the lineup.

Bolling’s last game was on 9/15/1966, and he was released after the season, ending his 12-year career. In 12 seasons he played 12,983 innings, and all at 2nd base!

Frank’s brother Milt was an infielder for the Red Sox in the 1950s.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Final Card - Bill Virdon

Here is the final card for long-time Pirates' center fielder Bill Virdon (#69).

Although mostly known as Pirate, Virdon was signed by the Yankees in 1950, and began his major-league career in 1955 with the Cardinals (having been traded for Enos Slaughter). Bill hit .281 in 144 games and won the Rookie of the Year award in 1955.

After 2 full seasons with the Cards, Virdon was traded to the Pirates in May 1956 for pitcher Dick Litlefield and outfielder Bobby Del Greco. (Whaaaaat? I never heard of Littlefield, but his record seems to indicate he was a journeyman starter/reliever whose career was winding down, and Del Greco was a young outfielder, but only progressed to so-so role player for bad teams like the Phillies and Athletics.)

Meanwhile, Virdon put in 10 solid seasons as the Pirates' every-day center fielder, playing alongside Roberto Clemente every year.

Virdon retired after the 1965 season, and became a coach for the Pirates. During the 1968 season he was activated for 6 games in July. One of our fellow bloggers has made a custom card documenting Virdon's 1968 season, which can be found in this collection of 1968 custom cards.

Bill also managed 4 teams, beginning in 1972. He manage the Pirates in '72 and '73. They won the NL East but lost the NLCS to the Reds. The following season he was replaced by 4-time Pirates' manager Danny Murtaugh in the final month. He moved on to the Yankees for 1974 and the first 100 games of 1975, until meeting the fate of many Yankee managers.

His longest managerial stint was wit the Astros. Hired in the final weeks of the '75 season, he stayed on until midway through 1982.  Along the way, his team won the NL West in 1980 (losing to the Phillies) and won the second half of the strike-split 1981 season, losing to the Dodgers in the playoffs.

Virdon's final manager job was with the Montreal Expos (1983-84). Since then, he coached off-and-on for the Pirates, and more recently is a spring training instructor for the Pirates.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Final Card - Frank Lary

For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to post a card for the oldest living players from the 1965–1970 time period who I have not blogged about yet.

I thought I had topped out with those at ages 77 or 78, but recently I found that several with final cards in the 1965 set (Wally Moon, Frank Lary, Bill Virdon, Frank Bolling) are in their mid-80s. So here we go… 

Frank Lary (#127) was signed by the Tigers in 1950, after playing for the University of Alabama for 2 seasons and pitching in the College World Series. He played in the minors in 1950, then missed the next 2 seasons while in military service. He returned in 1953 for 2 seasons in triple-A (winning 17 and 15 games), and made his debut with Detroit in September 1954.

Frank was a fixture in the Tigers’ starting rotation from 1955 to 1962. In 1955, Lary (age 25) and Billy Hoeft (age 23) were the Tigers’ top 2 starting pitchers.

In 1956 Frank led the AL with 21 wins, and also starts (38) and innings (294). He led the AL in complete games in ’58, ’60, and ’61.

Jim Bunning joined the rotation in 1957, and with Bunning as the ace, Lary, Hoeft, and Paul Foytack formed the rotation’s backbone for several seasons (with Bunning and Lary all the way to 1963).

Frank was selected for the All-Star team in ’60 and ’61, and also won a Gold Glove award in 1961. The same year, he won 23 games and finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting.

After 7 seasons as a workhorse, Lary missed some time in '62 and '63. Shoulder problems caused him to spend 2 months on the DL in 1962, and he was rehabbing in the minors for May and June 1963. He rejoined the team in July, but compiled a 4-9 record in only 16 games.

Lary’s final 2 seasons (1964-65) were spent bouncing from the Tigers to the Mets, Braves, Mets again, and White Sox. His combined record for those 2 seasons was 5-8 in 46 games (28 in relief).

He was released by the White Sox after the 1965 season, ending his 12-year career. He later coached and scouted for several teams.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Final Card - Wally Moon

Here is the final card for outfielder Wally Moon (#247). Wally played for 12 seasons (1954-65), the first 5 with the Cardinals and the last 7 with the Dodgers.

Moon played in the minors from 1950-53, then made his debut with the Cardinals in April 1954. Wally hit .304 in 151 games as a rookie, winning the Rookie of the Year award that season.

Moon was an every-day player for the Cards in his 1st 4 seasons. Initially the center fielder, he moved to 1st base for the 2nd half of 1955 and the 1st half of 1956, before finishing the ’56 season as the team’s right fielder (swapping positions with Stan Musial). Wally was named to his first All-Star team in 1957.

In 1958, his playing time decreased when rookie Curt Flood took over the center field job, leaving everyone else to compete for time at the corners. After the ’58 season Moon was traded to the Dodgers for outfielder Gino Cimoli.

Wally was the Dodgers’ regular left fielder from 1959-61, batting .302, .299, and .328 in those seasons. He made the All-Star team again in ’59 and won a Gold Glove in 1960.

Moon was relegated to backup status in his last 4 years with Los Angeles. With Tommy Davis, Willie Davis, and Frank Howard in the outfield, there was not much playing time left for Wally. He filled in at the corner outfield spots and at first base occasionally, and in 1962 did find increased playing time at the corners, although the Dodgers still used the same 3 starting outfielders through the 1964 season.

Frank Howard was traded away prior to the ’65 season, but that just opened a spot at 1B for young Wes Parker (with Ron Fairly moving to right field). By this time, Moon’s career was coming to an end, only appearing in 53 games in his final season.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Final Card - Duke Carmel

Like Jim Duffalo, Duke Carmel (#261) had a much shorter career than I realized. (I thought he was similar to Bob Cerv.)

Carmel played minor-league ball in the Cardinals' organization from 1955 until he was traded to the Dodgers in June 1960. In September 1959, he appeared in 10 games for the Cards.

Between June 1960 and the start of the 1962 season, Duke went back-and-forth between the Cardinals and Dodgers FOUR TIMES, and then to the Cleveland Indians! A year later, Cleveland returned him to the Cardinals. (He wasn’t so much a baseball player as he was a professional traveler.)

Not sure why this card says "Duke is a long ball threat" when he only hit 4 homers in 104 games 2 years earlier, and wasn't even in the majors in 1964! 

Carmel got his first extended major-league time in 1963, with the Cardinals. He played 57 games during the first 4 months of the season, then was traded to the Mets at the end of July and played 47 games over the rest of the season.

After playing the entire 1964 season in the minors, Duke was selected by the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft. (By the way, why does he even have a card in the 1965 set?) After 6 games with the Yanks, he was returned to the Mets and spent the rest of 1965 and all of 1966-67 in the minors before retiring.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Final Card - Jim Duffalo

Here is the final card for pitcher Jim Duffalo. I was surprised to see that he had such a short career. I did not follow baseball before 1967, but for some reason I had always assumed his career was similar to that of guys like Bill Stafford, Bob Duliba, or Wes Stock. (In hindsight, I have no basis for that assumption.)

Anyway, Duffalo pitched in the minors for the Pirates (1955-58) and Giants (1958-60) before making his major-league debut in April 1961. He was with the Giants for the first 2 months (relieving in 20 games), then spent the summer back in AAA, until he was recalled in September, making 4 starts in the final month.

Jim pitched mostly out of the Giants’ bullpen from 1962-1964. Although with the team for the entire 1962 season, he did not play in the World Series.

He began the ’65 season with the Giants (2 games), but was traded to the Reds in early May for pitcher Bill Henry. He pitched 22 games for the Reds, and another 20 games in the minors.

From 1966 to 1972 he bounced around in the minor leagues with the Reds, Dodgers, Astros, Giants, and Cubs.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Final Card - Ken McBride

Ken McBride was one of the top starting pitchers for the Los Angeles Angels in their first 3 years in the league. He was the team’s #1 starter in their inaugural season, and would later be joined by Bo Belinsky and Dean Chance.

McBride began his pro career in the Red Sox’ chain in 1954. After 5 seasons in the low minors, he was purchased by the White Sox in 1959, and made his major-league debut in August, pitching in 11 games over the final 2 months (mostly in relief).

Ken was back in triple-A in 1960, but returned to Chicago in September, pitching in 5 games.

McBride was drafted by the Angels in the December 1960 expansion draft, and spent the next 3 seasons in their starting rotation, winning in double-figures each season for the new team.

He was also selected for the All-Star team 3 times (1961-63). Although he didn’t play in the ’61 or ’62 games, he was the AL’s starting pitcher in the 1963 game, pitching 3 innings.

McBride has an off-year in 1964, compiling a 4-13 record. (Teammate Dean Chance picked up the slack by going 20-9 and winning the Cy Young award.)

McBride pitched sporadically in 1965 - only 1 game in May, 3 in June, and 2 each in July and August. With a record of 0-3 and a 6.14 ERA, he seemingly just ran out of gas.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Final Card - Leo Burke

Here is the final card for Leo Burke, one of the many “INF-OF” employees that littered the Cubs’ roster in the mid-1960s.

Burke played in the Orioles’ chain from 1957 to 1960, and saw action in a few games for Baltimore during September call-ups in ’58 and ’59.

After playing all of 1960 with the Orioles’ AAA team, Leo was drafted by the expansion Washington Senators in December, but a few weeks later was sold to the other expansion team – the Los Angeles Angels.

Burke only played 6 games for the Angels that year. Actually, he played primarily in the minors for his entire career (1957-65), except for ’63 and ’64 when he stuck around on the major league roster for the entire season.

Leo was purchased by the Cardinals in March 1963, but by late-June was traded to the Cubs for pitcher Barney Schultz. His most playing time came in 1964 with the Cubs – breaking the 100 at-bat level for the only time in his career.

After playing in 12 games in April and May 1965, he was relegated to the minors to finish out his last pro season.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Final Card - Ken Retzer

Ken Retzer was a catcher for the Senators from 1961 to 1964. By the time this card came out, his major-league career was over.

Ken was signed by the Indians in 1954, where he worked his way up the ladder from 1954-61. In September 1961 Retzer was traded to the Senators, and got his feet wet with 15 starts that month, in place of regular backstop Gene Green.

In 1962, Ken split the catching duties with Bob Schmidt, starting 91 games (to Schmidt’s 71).

In the off-season the Nats acquire catcher Don Leppert from the Pirates, and even though Retzer started 95 games to Leppert’s 55 starts, somehow Leppert was named to the All-Star team.

Retzer began the 1964 season as the starter, but by game #6 was replaced by rookie Mike Brumley. Ken only managed 6 more starts over the remainder of the season, spending most of the season with triple-A Toronto.

He played in the minors from 1965-67 seasons. After 1964, Washington traded him to the Twins, who flipped him to the Astros in April 1966 for Walt Bond. In January 1967 he returned to the Indians’ organization, traded with outfielder Lee Maye for outfielder Jim Landis, catcher Doc Edwards, and pitcher Jim Weaver.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Final Card - Don Lee

This is the final card for pitcher Don Lee (#595). He had a card every year from 1957-65, except for 1958. Although he already had a card in the 1957 set as a Tiger, his 1959 card was a Sporting News Rookie Stars card.

Lee was signed by the Tigers in 1956, and played in the minors from 1956-59, while also appearing in 11 games for Detroit in '57 and one game in '58.

During the 1959-60 off-season, he was traded to the Braves, then selected by the Senators in the Rule 5 draft. He made the majors for good at the start of 1960, and pitched in 44 games (20 starts) while logging the 2nd-most innings of any Sens’ hurler that year. (Not bad for a Rule 5 pickup!)

The team careened to a 73-81 finish in their last season before moving to Minnesota. In September 1960, Red Sox' slugger Ted Williams hit a home run off of Lee. Teddy Ballgame had also hit a homer off Lee’s father in 1939, thus becoming the only player to go yard against a father and a son.

Don pitched mostly out of the Twins' bullpen in 1961, and in May 1962 was traded to the Angels. Lee remained with the Angels through June 1965. Initially a starter, by 1964 he was mostly a reliever.

The Angels traded Lee to the Astros in June 1965 for outfielder Al Spangler. One year later, he was flipped to the Cubs. He appeared in 25 games (but only 37 innings) in 1966, his final season.

He pitched in the minors in '66 and '67 before retiring.