A Moment In Time – 5/20/69

177153345

Tuesday, May 20, 1969, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, a battle against the eventual participants of the inaugural ALCS that fall, and the Twins’ Bob Allison congratulates Harmon Killebrew for going deep (#406 career), a solo shot off of the Orioles’ Dave McNally in the 4th inning to open the scoring, as catcher Andy Etchebarren looks on. Runs would be at a premium most of the night as the Orioles tied it 1-1 in the 7th when McNally was done, and then two things from the It-Would-Never-Happen-Today Dept.: Kaat went 12+ innings, allowing only one earned run, and after the Twins scored in the top of the 13th to go ahead 2-1, with men on first and third Kaat stayed in the game to bat, and hit a sac fly for another run. The run was needed as Paul Blair homered off Kaat in the bottom of the 13th to make it 3-2, but Kaat finally gave way to Perranoski for the save, giving Kaat the well-earned victory. The win would move the Twins to within a 1/2 game of the Oakland A’s, while the Orioles already had a 3 game lead in the East en route to 109 wins.

kaat

Jim Kaat

McNally got revenge by winning Game 2 of the ALCS against Minnesota to go up 2-0 in the series. While Twins owner Calvin Griffith directed manager Billy Martin to start future HOFer Jim Kaat at home for Game 3, a general distrust of Kaat (?) led Martin to go with long man Bob Miller, who got knocked around, as the Twins were swept and the O’s moved on to the World Series. Martin was then fired shortly after by Griffith after only one season at the helm, but with disagreements with ownership far from over in his managerial career.

martin

Advertisements

A Moment In Time – 6/27/59

75610017a

Saturday, June 27, 1959, Briggs Stadium, Detroit. Orioles in town for the third game of a four game set. Tiger C Red Wilson awaits the pitch as SS Rocky Bridges waits on deck. Gus Triandos is the O’s catcher.

T2eC16FHJGkE9no8f0HgBP-qw6GyQ60_35A part-time catcher, Red made the most of his start this day, going 3-for-3 with a HR and 3 RBIs, raising his average to a season high .333, but would eventually tail off and ended the season at .263. He came close to .300 the previous year, finishing at .299, but would never have a .300 season. And the HR was a rare feat – he only hit 4 that year, and 24 in his 10 year career. His biggest claim to fame may be catching Jim Bunning’s first career no-hitter in 1958 against the Red Sox (Bunning’s second and last would be the 1964 perfect game at Shea Stadium against the Mets on Father’s Day).

Wilson, 30 years old in 1959, was at the tail end of his career, and was traded to the Indians in July of the following season, along with none other than Rocky Bridges, his teammate on deck above (both were traded for C Hank Foiles, who only lasted a half season in Detroit and was then shipped off to the Orioles). Red was then selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft for 1961, but instead chose to retire from baseball. He still lives in his hometown of Milwaukee, where he was a star football player for the Wisconsin Badgers (he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1950, but chose baseball instead).

65028Rocky Bridges, 1-4 that day, was also nearing the end of a fairly long career. He had his best year with the Senators in the previous campaign, earning his only career All-Star appearance. He had a fine year in 1959 for the Tigers, but was befelled by injury in 1960 and would only play 10 games for Detroit until being shipped off to Cleveland with Wilson, above. He then only played 10 games for the Indians and was dealt to the Cardinals, played 3 games and was then released after the season. Another parallel to Wilson is that the Angels also came calling for Bridges, but as a free agent – and unlike Wilson, Bridges took them up on their offer, making Los Angeles the 7th team of his career.

Rocky had a fair season for the expansion club in his typical utility infielder role, and then retired, becoming an Angels coach and then minor-league manager in their organization, as well as others, and would actually manage over 2,600 minor league games through 1989. In fact, the early beginnings of Rocky’s managerial career was the subject of an SI article in 1964, which was eventually included in Jim Bouton’s book of baseball essays under the same name, “I Managed Good, But Boy Did They Play Bad”.

65014Gus Triandos (who went 1-2 and came out in the 7th inning) was probably the most successful of our spotlighted trio, being a 3-time All-Star catcher for the Orioles (including in this 1959 season). And like Red Wilson, was in the right place at the right time for another first-time no-hitter, this time catching the first and only one thrown by Hoyt Wilhelm, also in 1958 – and it still remains the last no-hitter thrown by one pitcher against the Yankees to this day, over 50 years later. Triandos also had some pop – after a career peak of 30 HRs in ’58 (which tied Yogi Berra’s AL record for HRs by a catcher), Gus was off to the races in 1959, having 18 HRs by late June (above), and may have had a spring in his step before or definitely after the game pictured – the ballot results were announced the very same day, June 27th, and Gus was voted in for the second year in a row as the starting catcher in the (what would be the first of two in 1959) All-Star Game. However, a hand injury would slow his bat, he finished with only 25 HRs and a meek .216 average at season’s end, and would never fully regain his slugging prowess.

Jim Bunning

Gus would rebound somewhat in ’60 and ’61, but with his power primarily behind him, he was traded to the Tigers in 1963. After a fine season, he was involved in what probably turned out to be one of the best trades the Phillies ever made, Triandos and Jim Bunning for slugger Don Demeter and Jack Hamilton (Demeter would have two decent seasons for the Tigers, but Hamilton would be a complete bust as Bunning went on to dominate the NL). And how about the kicker to tie this all together? The traded twosome were the battery for Bunning’s perfect game at Shea noted above – so Red Wilson caught Bunning’s first, and Triandos, Bunning’s second, and last, “no-hitter”. And with that, Gus also became the first player to catch no-hitters in both leagues. By 1965, however, he had mostly lost his hitting stroke, and after being traded to the Astros mid-year, retired at the end of the season.

But back in Briggs/Tiger Stadium on a beautiful, sunny, early summer Saturday afternoon (oddly enough before only 10,856 fans), Red Wilson’s 3-for-3 helped pace the Tigers to a 12-2 thrashing of the Birds of Baltimore. A 25-year old Al Kaline would hit one out. Tiger Gus Zernial would hit two more. Billy Hoeft, the Oriole pitcher who got knocked out of the box in the third inning, was just traded from Detroit to Baltimore, and maybe the Tiger batters knew the weaknesses of their old teammate. And at day’s end, the Tiger faithful went home happy, Detroit creeped back over .500 at 36-35, only 3 games behind the Indians, the Orioles held steady only 1 game back, and the rest of the last summer of 1950’s baseball had yet to be played; perfect games, long managerial careers and even hometown retirements would have to wait.

Veeck – as in wrecked?

I’ve already had an earlier post about the crazy genius Bill Veeck in this blog’s youth, and I expect to have a few more. This was probably one of his better promotions, which seemed to get a little crazier as he got older.

Veeck made the Cleveland Indians a quick success after becoming owner of the club in 1946 (first AL black player, Larry Doby, in 1947, and a championship in 1948), but it would be short-lived; after getting divorced in 1949, he had to sell the Tribe to fund the settlement, but wouldn’t stay on the sidelines for long.

Veeck remarried in 1951, and then promptly purchased 80% ownership in the St. Louis Browns. The Browns would be a tough test for the budding marketing whiz, as the Cardinals shared the same park, and were far more popular. His first moves were to hire legendary Cardinals Rogers Hornsby (as manager) and Dizzy Dean (as an announcer), although Veeck fired Hornsby by June.

Thinking of more ideas to get fans into the ballpark, Veeck held a “Drink On The House” Night at Sportsman’s, July 1951. In a press photo below, Veeck is seen himself passing out free brews to the surprised Browns’ faithful. Somehow, I can’t imagine Fred Wilpon coming down the aisle at Citi Field to hand me a free Brooklyn Lager any time soon.

veeck51_zps1a670e2ebeer

It was actually a good way to get the word out about one of the local beer sponsors, Falstaff, St. Louis’ own. Below, a Falstaff beer ad with ol’ Diz.

dizzyfalstaff

Either way, it seems to have worked out better than future Veeck promotions, which grew increasingly unusual. Only a month later was the famous Eddie Gaedel game, in which Veeck used the services of a “little person” to go up for an at-bat for the Browns (he walked).

Unfortunately, Veeck’s grandstanding would have little effect, and he himself would be largely responsible for the demise of the St. Louis Browns. When beer giant Anheuser-Busch purchased the Cardinals in 1952, with endless resources, Veeck knew the writing was on the wall, and looked to bidders to move the franchise. Milwaukee was the first choice, but the Boston Braves beat them to it, so the next choice was Baltimore – and Veeck planned on remaining majority owner, but the other owners were not very keen on it, and voted him down, so he sold the team anyway, and the Orioles were born.

Landis ShortsVeeck would go on to bring success to the Chicago White Sox (during two tenures), but also more unusual ideas, both good and bad, including introducing the famous exploding scoreboard in Comiskey Park and putting players’ names on their uniforms for the first time, both in 1960, and later the infamous “shorts” uniform from the 1970’s, the beginning of Harry Caray (then White Sox announcer) singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game, and last but not least, Disco Demolition Night in 1979, in which disco records were blown up on the field, and resulted in a near riot and the forfeit of the second game of a doubleheader by the White Sox.

Veeck finally sold the White Sox in 1981 and retired from baseball, passing away in 1986. He is responsible for many of the craziest things that have happened on a baseball field, and I’d have to admit, baseball history would be a lot less interesting without him.