Tuesday, October 15, 2019

RIP - Bobby Del Greco


Bobby Del Greco, and outfielder for 8 teams from 1952-65, passed away on October 13, 2019 at age 86.


A native of Pittsburgh, Del Greco debuted with the Pirates at age 19 in 1952. He played in the minors every season from 1950 to 1959, but spent time with the Pirates in '52 and '56, and with the Cardinals in 1956. He also played briefly for the Cubs and Yankees from 1957-58.

Bobby was purchased by the Phillies in April 1959, and played there for all of 1960 and part of 1961, splitting the center field job with Tony Gonzalez.

Traded to the Athletics in July 1961 for Wes Covington, he was Kansas City's regular center fielder for the rest of that season, and shared the job with Jose Tartabull for the following 2 years.

Del Greco was traded to the Braves after 1963, but played in the minors for all of 1964 (Braves) and 1965-66 (Phillies), although he appeared in 8 games for the Phillies early in 1965.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary
 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

RIP - Andy Etchebarren


Andy Etchebarren, the Orioles' catcher during their late-1960s/early-1970s glory years, passed away on October 5, 2019 at age 76.


Etchebarren played a few games with Baltimore in 1962 and 1965, then was the O's starting catcher in 1966 and 1967, making the AL All-Star team in both seasons.

This is the moment the Orioles clinched their first World Series title, in 1966. Etchebarren is on the right, about to embrace Dave McNally. Four years earlier, they both made their major-league debut on 9/26/1962.


Beginning in 1968 Etchebarren shared the catching with rookie Elrod Hendricks, and the two of them were joined by Johnny Oates (1972 only) and Earl Williams (1973-74).

In mid-1975 Andy moved on to the Angels for 3 seasons. He finished his career with a few games for the Brewers in April 1978.

(Having not collected baseball cards after 1972, and with the Orioles out of the spotlight soon afterwards, I lost track of Etchebarren's career, and had no idea until recently that he played for the Angels.)

Pressbox (Orioles blog) obituary

Fox43 (York, PA television) obituary
.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

What's In a Name?


Topps had this habit of changing a player's first name sometime during their career.

This was especially annoying for the time I was using Zistle. Their search feature only finds the cards having the name you entered, and doesn't include their cards having an alternate first name. (Last-name only searches would have been ok for Clemente and Dalrymple, but you wouldn't want to do that for Taylor.)


The most famous example of this is the case of Roberto Clemente. Topps called him "Roberto" in 1955 and 1956, until switching to "Bob" for the next 13 years, before finally relenting in 1970.


Orlando Martinez had cards from 1967-72, the first two having "Orlando" before Topps changed it in 1969. (Is there a more unimaginative nickname for someone named Martinez than "Marty"?) 


Hawk Taylor cards showed up every year from 1961 to 1969 (except for 1967).  He was "Hawk" from '65 to '68, "Bob 'Hawk' Taylor" in 1961, and just "Bob" for the other years. When I hear "Bob Taylor", I think of the Flyers' backup goaltender during their Stanley Cup championship years very (very, very, very, very, very) long ago.


"Clay" was good enough for Topps every year except 1970, when they went all formal on Dalrymple.


Here, Topps just couldn't make up their mind.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Prime 9 - Chicago White Sox


The 20th and last installment in the "Prime 9" series - spotlighting the 9 best players per team from the 1966-70 time period.

For the series backstory and team rankings, click here.

The White Sox won 363 games between 1966 and 1970. It didn't help their total that they only won 56 games in 1970.



What the hell happened to the White Sox in the late 1960s? They were cruising along pretty well for most of the decade, then BAM! (And look at the attendance drop-off.)


The final indignity was finishing behind the expansion Kansas City Royals in 1969. Luckily, the Pilots didn't also pass them.  The arrival of Dick Allen in 1972 (the AL MVP) pulled them back to respectability.


One last look at the standings:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Prime 9 - Washington Senators


The 19th installment in the "Prime 9" series - spotlighting the 9 best players per team from the 1966-70 time period.

For the series backstory and team rankings, click here.

The Senators won 368 games between 1966 and 1970. It didn't help their total that they only won 65 games in 1968.

New manager Ted Williams signed on for 1969, and improved the team by TWENTY-ONE wins. Still, 2 years later they skipped town for Dallas.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

RIP - Alex Grammas


Alex Grammas, a shortstop for the Cardinals and Reds from 1954 to 1962, passed away on September 13, 2019 at age 93.


Grammas finished his playing career in 1963 with the Cubs. 

He went on to a long career as a major-league coach, notably for the Reds and Tigers from 1970-1991 (on Sparky Anderson's staffs).

He also managed the Pirates for 5 games in 1969, and the Brewers from 1976-77.

Cincinnati.com obituary

Detroit News obituary
 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Prime 9 - Houston Astros


The 18th installment in the "Prime 9" series - spotlighting the 9 best players per team from the 1966-70 time period.

For the series backstory and team rankings, click here.

The Astros won 373 games between 1966 and 1970 - last among National League teams.

Surprisingly, they finished in 8th place, ahead of the Cubs in their inaugural 1962 season. (Apparently starting a trend of an expansion team finishing ahead of a team from Chicago!)

In their first 7 seasons, they finished either 8th, 9th, or 10th. Unlike their expansion partner New York Mets, they continued their losing ways in 1969 and beyond. Not until 1979 would they finish higher than 3rd (of 6).

Saturday, September 14, 2019

RIP - Joe Keough


Joe Keough, one of the Kansas City Royals' original outfielders, passed away on September 9, 2019 at age 73.


He was selected by the Kansas City Athletics in thee 2nd round of the 1965 draft (the Athletics also took outfielder Rick Monday in the first round).

Keough played briefly with the Athletics in 1968 after their move to Oakland.

After the 1968 season, he was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft, and played in their outfield from 1969-72.  A spare outfielder in 1969, he became a starter the next season but missed the 2nd half of 1970 with a broken leg.

Keough was the team's primary right fielder in 1971, but in 1972 he missed most of April and May, only playing in 56 games that season.

He was traded to the White Sox after 1972, but played most of 1973 in triple-A before retiring.

His older brother Marty was an outfielder for the Red Sox, Reds, and others from 1956-1966.
.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

RIP - Tom Phoebus


Late-1960s Orioles starter Tom Phoebus passed away on September 5, 2019 at age 77.


Phoebus joined the Orioles at the start of 1967 and won 14, 15, and 14 games in '67, '68, and '69, which helped bridge the gap during the 2 years Jim Palmer was rehabbing in the minors, as well as covering for Wally Bunker's injuries. (In 1969 Palmer rejoined the O's and Mike Cuellar was acquired.)

Tom also pitched a no-hitter in 1968. His last contribution to the Orioles was as a trade chip that brought Pat Dobson to Baltimore before the 1971 season.

After his baseball career he became a teacher.

Baltimore Sun obituary

Obituary
.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Prime 9 - Cleveland Indians


The 17th installment in the "Prime 9" series - spotlighting the 9 best players per team from the 1966-70 time period.

For the series backstory and team rankings, click here.

The Indians won 380 games between 1966 and 1970. One or more of their 4 starting pitchers were always showing up on the American League Leaders cards in the 2nd half of the decade - especially Sam McDowell.


The Tony Horton card is a custom creation by the late Bob Lemke. (The fonts are somewhat distorted because I had to shrink the image so much to fit in with the other eight cards.)

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Prime 9 - Philadelphia Phillies


The 16th installment in the "Prime 9" series - spotlighting the 9 best players per team from the 1966-70 time period.

For the series backstory and team rankings, click here.

The Phillies won 381 games between 1966 and 1970. (16th out of the 20 teams.)

Chris Short, Tony Taylor, Johnny Callison, and Tony Gonzalez were with the team for most of the 1960s.  Jim Bunning, Turk Farrell, Tony Taylor, and Dick Allen each had two stints with the Phillies.

If only Fergie Jenkins hadn't been traded away in early-1966... but that's a story best swept under the rug.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Prime 9 - New York Mets


The 15th installment in the "Prime 9" series - spotlighting the 9 best players per team from the 1966-70 time period.

For the series backstory and team rankings, click here.

The Mets won 383 games between 1966 and 1970. Five out of nine players are sporting Topps All-Rookie trophies!

The Mets finished in 10th or 9th place every one of their first seven seasons.  In season 8, they won 100 games, an improvement of  TWENTY-SEVEN wins over their 9th-place finish in 1968.

That kind of jump should have been an embarrassment to the Phillies, Indians, Senators, and even the White Sox (who were good from 1963-67, but went into the dumper from 1968-70). What did the Phillies do to improve?  They added the likes of Lowell Palmer, Billy Champion, Barry Lersch, Ken Reynolds, and Billy Wilson to their pitching staff.  Yay!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

RIP - Al Jackson


Original Met Al Jackson passed away on August 19, 2019 at age 83.


Jackson played briefly with the Pirates in 1959 and 1961, then was selected by the Mets in the pre-1962 expansion draft.

He pitched for the Mets from 1962-65, and again from 1968-69.  During his first stint with the Mets, he was one of the team's top 3 starting pitchers each season.

Jackson was traded to the Cardinals after the 1965 season for 3rd baseman Ken Boyer. Although he was on the 1967 World Champion Cardinals, he did not play in the World Series. He also played the last half of the 1969 season (his last) for the Reds.

After his playing career he was a long-time minor-league instructor for the Mets, as well as coaching for the Red Sox and Orioles.

CNN obituary

New York Times obituary
.