Friday, March 26, 2010

Hey Jim, you're pitching tonight!

Here's 60% of the 1967 Minnesota Twins pitching staff:

If only they also had Palmer, Hunter, Maloney, and Bunning. They could have run the table.

Imagine being the manager/pitching coach/catcher having to come up with enough nicknames to differentiate them all!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trades: Jim Bunning to the Pirates (Dec. 1967)

Today I'm starting an occasional series about some of the trades in the mid-to-late 1960s involving big (or soon to be big) names. Trades like Frank Robinson to the Orioles, Fergie Jenkins to the Cubs, Lou Brock to the Cardinals, Frank Howard to the Senators, Dean Chance to the Twins, and Jim Bunning to the Pirates.

On December 15, 1967 the Phillies traded Jim Bunning, the ace of their staff, to the Pirates for pitcher Woodie Fryman and 3 minor-league prospects (shortstop Don Money, and pitchers Bill Laxton and Hal Clem). Bunning had been acquired from the Tigers 4 years earlier, and posted 19, 19, 19, and 17 wins in his 4 seasons with the Phillies. He was also among the strikeout leaders each season. I can remember thinking "What are the Phillies doing?!?"

(For good measure, on the same day the Phillies also traded pitcher Dick Ellsworth and veteran catcher Gene Oliver to the Red Sox for young defensive catching whiz Mike Ryan, but that's a story for another day.)

Who got the better of this deal? Let's look:

Bunning was one of the top pitchers during the 1960s. In his first season in Philadelphia, he pitched a perfect game against the Mets in game 1 of a Fathers' Day doubleheader. (Rick Wise pitched the nitecap in his major-league debut.) He was the Phillies' ace during those 4 seasons.

After 2 non-descript seasons with the Pirates and Dodgers (with a combined record of 17-24), Bunning (although with diminished skills) was re-acquired by the Phillies. He closed out his career with the Phillies in 1970 and 1971, and was the opening-day starter in 1971, the Phillies' first game at Veterans Stadium. So, they didn't really lose much by Bunning's absence.

Fryman's 1966 season earned him the Topps all-rookie award among southpaws. Woodie spent 4 1/2 seasons with the Phillies, initially as a starter, but in his later seasons he began making relief appearances. After leaving the Phillies, he went on to a long career with several teams, but he was a useful addition to the Phillies, and provided a steady lefthanded presence during the time when southpaw Chris Short's sore back acted up regularly.

In the late-1960s, the Phillies were desperate for a shortstop. By 1967, Dick Groat had the mobility of a statue. Defensive specialist Bobby Wine couldn't hit a lick, and also developed a bad back, which eventually would keep him out of action for most of 1968. 1967 rookie Gary Sutherland proved to be not all that. Larry Bowa was still in the low minors, and hardly played at all in 1967.

Don Money had just played a combined 260 games for the Pirates' class-A teams in 1966 and 1967. He could be just what the doctor ordered! The Phillies rushed Money and rookie centerfielder Larry Hisle to the majors on opening day in 1968 but they both flopped. By the end of April they were both back in triple-A, but would be rookie stars in 1969. (That was a good break, because Wine, Sutherland, and 1968 fill-in shortstop Roberto Pena were all sent packing in the Fall 1968 expansion draft!) In 1970, Money slid over to 3rd base to make room for rookie Larry Bowa.

After 4 seasons with the Phillies, Don was traded to the Brewers for pitchers Jim Lonborg and Ken Brett. The Phillies needed to make room for rookie Mike Schmidt, Lonborg was a fine #2 starter behind Steve Carlton, and Brett pitched well for one season, then was swapped to the Pirates for 2nd baseman Dave Cash.

Bill Laxton was drafted out of the Phillies' organization by the Padres in the 1970 rule 5 draft, and went on to have a spotty career with several teams.

Hal Clem never made it above double-A.

The Phillies swapped Bunning for Fryman (who had several good seasons in Philly) and Money (who helped solidify the Phillies' infield, then brought Jim Lonborg and Ken Brett (and by extension, Dave Cash) in return). On top of all that, they got Bunning back for 2 more seasons.