Thursday, December 31, 2020

RIP - George Spriggs

George Spriggs, a part-time outfielder the Pirates and Royals in the late-1960s, passed away on December 22, 2020 at age 83. 
Spriggs was one of a handful of players who appeared on 3 or more Topps Rookie Stars cards in the 1960s. After showing up as a Pirate rookie in '67, a Red Sox rookie in '68, and a Royals rookie in '69, he finally received his own card in the 1971 set:
After playing in the Negro Leagues, Spriggs was signed by the Pirates in 1963 and had 9-game stints at the tail end of the '65 and '66 seasons. Most of his playing time with the Pirates was in the first half of 1967, until he was sent down for the second half and all of 1968. 
Resurfacing with the expansion Royals, he played 30 games in parts of 1969 (mostly as a pinch-hitter), then returned in 1970 to get his most playing time - 51 games in April, August, and September, including starting most of the September games in right field (in place of the injured Joe Keough). 
Spriggs played 2 seasons (1971-72) with the Mets' AAA team before retiring. 

RIP - Billy Harris

Billy Harris, a reserve infielder for the Indians in 1968, passed away on December 20, 2020 at age 77. 
Harris was signed by the Indians in 1966 and played for Cleveland in the 2nd half of 1968, starting 28 games at 2B or 3B. 
Selected by the Royals in the expansion draft, he mostly played for their AAA Omaha team from 1969-70, but appeared in 5 games for Kansas City as a pinch-hitter. 
He played for the Reds' AAA team in 1971 before retiring.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

RIP - Phil Niekro

Phil Niekro, a knuckleballer who pitched mostly for the Braves, passed away on December 26, 2020 at age 81.
Niekro pitched for the Braves from 1964-1983, but did not become a starter until midway through the 1967 season.  That year, he led the NL with a 1.87 ERA.
He had a career-best 23 wins in 1969, and led the NL in wins in 1974 (20) and 1979 (21). Niekro also had a league-high 262 strikeouts in 1977, and won 5 Gold Gloves between 1978 and 1983.
After 20 seasons with the Braves, he was (incredibly) released after the 1983 season.  The Yankees quickly signed him and he reeled off two 16-win seasons with them, including his 5th trip to the All-Star game.

Niekro played the final 2 seasons of his 24-year career with the Indians, Blue Jays, and Braves.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. He is the 7th member of the Hall to pass away in 2020. 


RIP - Bill Spanswick

Bill Spanswick passed away on December 2, 2020 at age 82.
Spanswick was a starting pitcher in the Red Sox' organization every season from 1958 to 1966, although only playing for the major-league club in 1964. He was primarily a reliever that year, while also making 7 starts.

He finished his career with the triple-A teams of the Angels, Senators, and Phillies in 1966 and 1967.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

RIP - Phil Linz

Phil Linz, an infielder for the Yankees, Phillies, and Mets, passed away on December 9, 2020 at age 81. 
Linz was a bench player throughout his career, but received quite a lot of playing time in 1963 and especially 1964. That year, he started 31 consecutive games at 3rd base in mid-season, and also made 50 starts at shortstop, including the final 14 games since Tony Kubek did not play after Sept 20th. 
Due to Kubek's absence, Linz played every inning of the 7-game 1964 World Series, and was in Kubek's usual leadoff spot (instead of batting 8th - more suited to Linz' offensive prowess). Still, he hit 2 homers in the series, 2nd only to Mickey Mantle's 3. 
He is best remembered for the "harmonica incident"  on the Yankees' team bus following a loss. 
Linz moved to the Phillies in 1966 in exchange for Ruben Amaro, and to the Mets in 1967 for Chuck Hiller. He retired after the 1968 season, missing the Miracle Mets team. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

RIP - Denis Menke

Denis Menke, an infielder for 3 NL teams, passed away on December 1, 2020 at age 80.
Menke played for the Braves (1962-67), Astros (1968-71, 74), and Reds (1972-73). He was a starter every season from 1964-73, except for missing much of the 1965 season. Primarily a shortstop, he played 3rd base during his two seasons with the Reds. 
Menke was part of the blockbuster trade between the Astros and Reds that saw Joe Morgan head to Cincinnati. 
After his playing career, Menke was a coach for the Blue Jays, Astros, Phillies, and Reds.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

RIP - Dick Allen

December has been a bad month for Phillies' alumni. Only 10 days in and we've already lost Dick Allen, Phil Linz, and coaches Billy DeMars and Denis Menke. Let's start with Allen... 
Dick Allen passed away on December 7, 2020 at age 78. 
Allen was one of the most feared sluggers of the mid-1960s to early-1970s. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1964, while leading the NL in runs and triples, and also batting .318! He was among the league leaders in home runs, RBI, and batting average from 1964-66. 
After well-documented issues with team management and the fans, Allen was traded after the 1969 season.
Following brief stops in St. Louis and LA, he wound up with the White Sox in 1972, where he regained his dominant style of play, winning the AL MVP that season while leading the AL in homers, RBI, walks, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. 
Allen returned to the Phillies in 1975 and 1976.  Although his skills had diminished somewhat by then, players like Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa, and Greg Luzinski have cited Allen's value as a mentor to them.  The team finally made the playoffs in 1976.
It's been said that Allen is one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame. After falling one vote short in the last veterans' committee election, the committee's dithering had postponed this year's election until next year. (Too late, dopes!) 
As a consolation, this summer the Phillies had finally retired his number and inducted him into their Wall of Fame (albeit without any fans attending the games this year).