Monthly Archives: September 2009

One of the top power-hitting catchers of all-time, Lance Parrish gave his pitchers a big target with shoulders so broad airplanes could land on them.  The slugging catcher enjoyed his salad years in Detroit, helping them win a World Series in 1984.

The Tigers unveiled a trio of youngsters in 1977 when they called up Lance, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker to play out the remainder of the season.  These three cats would be the core of their offense into the 1980s.  In 1978, as a rookie, Lance platooned behind the plate with Milt May and slugged fourteen homers in part-time action.  His breakout year came in 1979 when he hit .276 with 19 long balls.

An All-Star for the first time in 1980, Parrish led American League backstops in homeruns, runs, doubles, hits, triples and slugging average.  Earning a Silver Slugger Award, Lance quickly became the most fearsome catcher in the junior circuit.  After the strike shortened ’81 campaign, Lance made another All-Star appearance by swatting 32 long balls.  He was the only Major League receiver to reach the 30 homer benchmark.  Parrish hit a nifty .284 during the year (best among AL catchers) and he and Hall of Famer Gary Carter were the only backstops in the Majors to slug over .500.

Entrenched as power threat in the Tigers lineup, Lance belted 27 homers in 1983 while reaching the 100 RBI plateau–driving in 114 runs.  He was more than just a devastating offensive catcher: he was a dynamic talent on the ball diamond.  That year Lance finished second to Robin Yount with 42 doubles and won his first Gold Glove Award (he would win three Gold Glove Awards, six Silver Slugger Awards and be named to eight All-Star teams).

In Detroit’s magical 104-win 1984 season, Lance used his power to guide the Tigers to the World Series.  The brawny backstop was the only Major League catcher to swat over 30 homeruns and he paced AL backstops with 98 RBI.  In the ALCS, Lance blasted a homer and went yard again in a Fall Classic triumph over the Padres of San Diego.  Just as good in ’85, Parrish belted 28 homers and drove home 98 runs; numbers that were just behind Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. 

Injured for a portion of the 1986 season, Parrish nevertheless swatted 22 long balls in his abbreviated season.  The Tigers had a kid named Matt Nokes showing signs of stardom so Detroit allowed Lance to test the free agent waters.  Landing with the Phillies, Lance smacked 17 homers in 1987 and led NL catchers in homeruns and RBI in 1988–an All-Star season.  After the ’88 season, Philadelphia traded Lance to the Angels for a nondescript pitcher and he finished second to masher Mickey Tettleton in homers among AL catchers in ’89. 

His last great season came in 1990.  Winning is last Silver Slugger Award and named to  his final All-Star Game, Parrish led all Major League catchers in homeruns and RBI.  He slugged 19 homeruns in ’91 but his batting average sunk to an unflattering .216.  In Lance’s last four Major League seasons he played for five different clubs.


G 1,988/R 856/H 1,782/2B 305/3B 27/HR 324/RBI 1,070/BB 612/SO 1,527/BA .252/SA .440

The Staten Island Scot was the talk of the baseball world in 1951 when Russ Hodges lost his voice calling Thomson’s dramatic walkoff homerun.  Hodges blared into his microphone, “The Giants win the pennant!” several hundred times.  If you close your eyes and think back to 1951, you can still hear Hodges making the call.

As a young man in the bushes, Bobby was plucked out of the minor leagues and taken into the custody of Uncle Sam to serve his country during WWII.  When the war ended, Bobby joined the Giants’ AAA affiliate in Jersey City and received a cup of coffee at the end of the 1946 season.  He became the Giants everyday center fielder in 1947 pacing all Major League center fielders in homeruns as a rookie with 29.  Yankees Hall of Fame center fielder Joe DiMaggio swatted just 20 long balls and failed to score 100 runs like the Staten Island Scot did.  Thomson was the only Major League center fielder to score 100 runs that year.

Although Bobby couldn’t duplicate his success in 1948, he nevertheless made his first All-Star team that year.  He returned to top form in 1949, leading all center fielders with 27 homers and 109 RBI.  Thomson was the top slugging center fielder in the senior circuit while also pacing middle pasture custodians in hits, doubles and batting average.  For the third time in his four Major League seasons, Bobby reached 25 homeruns in 1950 while also driving in 85 runs.

It was in 1951 when Bobby swatted one of the most dramatic homeruns in the history of baseball.  His Giants finished in a deadlock with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the teams locked horns in a classic National League Playoff series.  With Ralph Branca on the hill, Bobby deposited a Branca offering over the left field fence and circled the bases to Russ Hodges’ elated boasting.  The famous shot became known as “The Shot Heard Round the World.” 

During that magical ’51 season, Bobby was at his best.  Although he didn’t have a set position (he was used in the outfield as well as at third base) he nevertheless had his best power season that year, swatting 32 long balls and leading the Giants with a mighty .562 slugging average.  In the World Series, Bobby did an adequate job, driving home a couple runs and walking five times without a strikeout, but the Yankees beat his club and Bobby never again made the postseason.

With Willie Mays establishing himself in center field, Bobby was given the third base job in 1952.  That year he led the senior circuit with 14 triples.  Thomson drove in 108 runs, best among third basemen, but when Mays was inducted into the Armed Forces, Thomson switched back to the outfield and manned the middle garden.  With Mays still under the employ of Uncle Sam in ’53, Bobby remained in center field and swatted 26 homers with 106 RBI (marking three straight seasons in which he eclipsed 100 RBI).

Before the 1954 season got underway the Giants, feeling comfortable that Mays could handle the center field chores now that he was out of service, dealt Bobby to the Braves for southpaw Johnny Antonelli and a couple other players.  The trade didn’t work out well for the Braves.  Bobby was limited to just 43 games due to injury.  He reached 20 homeruns again in 1956 but after a slow start in 1957 the Braves traded him back to the Giants with Ray Crone for an aging Red Schoendienst.

Just before the ’58 season began the Giants dealt Bobby to the Cubs for outfielder Bob Speake and The Staten Island Scot resurrected his career in Wrigley Field.  Manning center field again, Bobby finished second to Willie Mays in the homerun and RBI departments among center fielders.  He played two more years, ending his career with the 1960 Baltimore Orioles.


G 1,779/R 903/H 1,705/2B 267/3B 74/HR 264/RBI 1,026/BB 559/SO 804/BA .270/SA .462

The light Stu Miller did everything with a touch of delicacy.  His fastball was no faster than a pool cue rolled on the basement floor by a toddler in training pants, but the little relief pitcher had the stuff to keep Major League hitters off balance.  He used his curves and off-speed offerings to become one of the top firemen in baseball history.

Stu made quite a splash at the Major League level in 1952 with a nifty 2.05 ERA over 88 innings with Eddie Stanky’s Cardinals.  The Sophomore Jinx bites a great many ballplayers and it sank its teeth into Stu’s right arm in 1953.  He struggled in 1953 and ’54 and was then banished to the minor leagues.  After a good season in the bushes, Miller came back to the highest level in 1956.  Early in the season, St. Louis dealt the slight hurler to the Phillies with Harvey Haddix for Murry Dickson and Herm Wehmeier. 

After the ’56 season Stu was traded to the New York Giants and began to show what he was made of.  Miller posted a fine 3.63 ERA in the Giants’ last year in New York but flourished when they relocated to San Francisco.  In the ’58 season, Stu led the NL with a 2.47 ERA, splitting the season between the rotation and bullpen.  During the occupational juggling Stu tossed 182 innings for Bill Rigney’s Giants.

By 1959 the bullpen became Stu’s home.  That year he led the Giants in saves and games pitched while posting a 2.84 ERA.  In 1961 he tied Roy Face for the NL lead in saves with 17 while posting a fine .737 winning percentage.  The ’60 season was one of Stu’s finest, fanning 89 batters opposed to just 37 walks.  Despite his flutter-pitches, Miller missed a lot of bats.  The soft-tosser averaged just 0.779 hits per inning in a year of offensive exploits.

Stu finished third in saves in 1962 but after the year he was sent to Baltimore for Jim Coker and Billy Hoeft.  Miller stood AL batters on their heads his first year in the junior circuit.  The mite led the AL in saves with 27 while also topping the league in games pitched and games finished.  In stark contrast to most closers (they usually light up the radar guns) Stu still managed to rack up strikeout totals.  He and the great Dick Radatz were the only two Major League closers to average a strikeout per inning in ’63. 

Miller finished third in the saves department in 1964 then had a magnificent 1965 season.  That year Stu posted a 1.89 ERA with 24 saves and 14 wins.  His offerings still repelled wood; Miller coughed up an average of just 0.731 hits per inning.  He posted a 2.25 ERA in 1966 and had his sixth straight year of fifteen or more saves.

Stu’s last good year came in 1967 with Baltimore.  He posted a solid 2.56 ERA for Hank Bauer’s birds.  At the age of 40, the Braves bought Stu’s contract before the start of the 1968 season but he only appeared in two games for the Braves before calling it a career.


W 105/L 103/PCT .505/SV 154/G 704/IP 1,694/H 1,522/BB 600/SO 1,164/ERA 3.24

One of the finest third basemen of the 1800s, Denny Lyons spent his glory years in the now defunct American Association.  The old Association has received little respect in Hall of Fame voting.  The AA was a Major League, on par with the National League, but has been limited to secondary status over the years because it was absorbed by the NL after the 1891 season.

Lyons made his Major League debut in 1885 with the old Providence Grays but since they had a solid Jerry Denny entrenched at third, Lyons wasn’t needed.  He left the Grays the following year to cast his lot with the American Association at the age of 20.  Joining the Philadelphia Athletics, Lyons platooned at third base but was handed the regular job in 1887 and enjoyed his breakout year.  As the A’s everyday third baseman, Lyons drove in 102 runs while also scoring 128 runs in just 137 games.  He finished fourth in the league with a .367 batting average.  He also finished fourth in slugging, third in hits, third in total bases and second in doubles.

Lyons was the A’s top hitter in 1888 with a .296 batting average but he raised his average to .329 in 1889.  With Harry Stovey and Curt Welch, Lyons was one of three Philadelphia batters to score more than a run per game.  But the team only finished third because pitcher Ed Seward was unable to repeat his magic from ’88. 

Denny enjoyed his finest year in 1890, leading the American Association in on-base percentage (an unheard of .461 average) and slugging percentage.  Denny, an on-base stud throughout his career, ended his career with an amazing on-base percentage of .407.  Hall of Famers from the 1800s like Roger Connor (.397), Buck Ewing (.351) and Mike “King” Kelly (.368) weren’t of the same caliber as Lyons.

Despite enjoying one of his most productive seasons, Lyons had his contract sold to the Browns after the season and played the last year of the American Association in St. Louis, finishing second in the league with eleven homeruns while hitting .315.  When the AA was absorbed by the National League, Lyons joined the New York Giants but had an off year.  Leaving New York after the season, Denny signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and revived his career. 

With the second place Pirates in 1893, Denny exceeded 100 runs and RBI teaming in a strong lineup that also featured Hall of Famer Jake Beckley as well as stars George Van Haltren, Lou Bierbauer, Jack Glasscock, Patsy Donovan and Elmer Smith.  The Pirates fell to seventh place in 1894 but Lyons hit .323 with a robust .427 on-base percentage.  His last great year came in 1896 when he hit .307 with a fine .406 on-base percentage.


G 1,129/R 932/H 1,368/2B 237/3B 73/HR 62/RBI 755/BA .323/SA .457

* like  most 1800s ballplayers, there a varying stats out there on Lyons.  Some sources list him as a lifetime .310 hitter

With the explosion of the relief pitcher over the last few decades, starting pitchers have been given no respect in Hall of Fame voting.  Bert Blyleven, who should be in the Hall of Fame, keeps getting passed over and David Cone, an elite power-pitcher, only lasted one year on the Writer’s Ballot, gathering fewer than five percent of the vote.  What pitcher has more value, the one who can toss eight innings or the fellow that tosses one?

Cone was originally drafted by is hometown Kansas City Royals in 1981.  Used recklessly in the minor leagues, Cone blew out his arm in 1983 and didn’t make the Majors until 1986 as a relief pitcher.  In a near-sighted move, the Royals dealt David after the ’86 season to the Mets for injury prone catcher Ed Hearn.  The move was a steal.  David went on to become a star with the Mets while Hearn was out of the game a few seasons later. 

David missed some time with an injury in 1987, his first season in The Big Apple, but enjoyed his breakout season in 1988.  That year Cone made his first All-Star appearance and led the senior circuit in winning percentage, notching 20 victories and losing just three contests.  David finished second to Nolan Ryan in strikeouts while posting a tidy 2.22 ERA.  David pitched the Mets to the postseason, tossing a complete game win in Game 6 but the Mets dropped Game 7 to the Dodgers.

Cone led the National League with 233 strikeouts in 1990.  Although David never had the accuracy of say Don Newcombe, he kept batters off base by missing a ton of bats.  In the ’90 season, Cone averaged just 0.835 hits per inning.  He took his fan total up a notch in 1991, again leading the league, by sitting down 241 batters on strikes while fashioning a 3.29 ERA.

An All-Star in 1992, Cone finished the season with 261 combined strikeouts between the Mets and Blue Jays.  Near the end of the season Cone was dealt to the Jays for a young infielder named Jeff Kent.  Although Cone helped pitch Toronto to the postseason, winning Game 2 of the ALCS and fashioning a 3.48 ERA in the World Series, the Mets won the trade because Cone left the northern regions as a free agent to sign with the team that originally drafted him: his hometown Royals.

Making his way back to KC, Cone was one of the most unhittable hurlers in the Majors in ’93, averaging just 0.807 hits per inning.  He won his only Cy Young Award in the strike shortened ’94 season.  He was the only Kansas City pitcher to toss a shutout that year: he tossed three of them.  This was around the time the Royals began their youth movement (which they are still in) by dealing Cone to the Blue Jays for three minor leaguers, of which Chris Stynes was the only to make the Majors.

Not satisfied in Toronto, Cone was dealt midseason to the Yankees for a trio of nondescript minor leaguers.  He led the league in innings worked and helped guide the Yankees to the postseason.  He won the opening game of the Division Series but Seattle took the series.  Still with the Yankees in 1996, Cone, who only made eleven starts during the year, pitched in October and had a terrific 1.50 World Series ERA as his Bronx Bombers beat the Braves of Bobby Cox.  Postseason play became common for Cone in the 1990s.  He took part in postseason play every year from 1995 to 2000.

He finished third in 1997 with 222 strikeouts and tied for the AL lead in victories in 1998 with 20.  He finished fourth in Cy Young voting in ’98.  Making his last All-Star trip in 1999, David led the Yankees in strikeouts.  Helping the Yankees back to the postseason, Cone won Game 2 of the ALCS and had a perfect 0.00 ERA in seven World Series innings.  During his career, he won a World Series ring for each finger on his left hand.


W 194/L 126/PCT .606/G 450/CG 56/IP 2,899/H 2,504/BB 1,137/SO 2,668/SHO 22/ERA 3.46

The Braves of the late 1950s and early 1960s had an amazing offensive punch, employing two Hall of Fame sluggers in Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews as well as a power-hitting first baseman named Joe Adcock.  Adcock’s claim to fame was establishing the single game total bases record (which has been broken) and also ending Harvey Haddix’s marathon perfect game.

Joe was originally called up by the Reds in 1950 but was stuck behind the mammoth slugger Ted Kluszewski.  To get Adcock into the lineup, skipper Luke Sewell rotated him from first base and the outfield.  As a yearling, Adcock hit a nifty .293 but his avenue to regular duty was blocked by Big Klu’s bulging biceps.  Manager Sewell began playing Joe out of position in left field in 1951 and continued the practice in 1952. 

Before the 1953 season got underway, Joe was part of a four-team deal that sent him to the Braves (then stationed in Milwaukee).  Leaving Cincy, Adcock was able to settle in at first base for the Braves in ’53.  Joe led NL first basemen in doubles that year, playing his games under legendary first baseman Charlie Grimm.  Although Joe had established himself as a fine hitter, his breakout year didn’t come until 1954, when he slugged over 20 homeruns for the first time while finishing second among Major League first basemen in batting average. 

A broken arm kept him off the field for half of the 1955 season but he bounced back in ’56 to enjoy his highwater season for long balls.  Joe’s 38 homers topped all Major League first basemen in ’56.  The big first baseman from Louisiana finished second in the NL in slugging percentage and third in RBI.  The Braves fashioned a tremendous power attack.  Adcock teamed with Mathews and Aaron to give the Braves a combined 101 homeruns from the trio. 

Throughout Joe’s career, he never splashed on any injury bug repellent.  He only played in 63 games because of injury in 1957, suffering from a broken leg.  He was healthy enough to take part in his first World Series that year, driving in a pair of runs to help the Braves down the Yankees.  The 1958 World Series had the same cast but Joe’s Braves fell to the Yankees despite Adcock hitting at a .308 clip.

Adcock hit .292 with 25 homeruns in 1959.  Entering a new decade, Joe paced National League first basemen in RBI during the 1960 season.  He clubbed 35 homeruns in 1961, tying for the NL lead among initial sackers.  Joe also drove home 108 runs and had his sixth straight year of slugging .500 or higher.  Adcock’s batting average dipped in ’62 but he still had the stuff to send balls over the fence, swatting 29 dingers.  Despite still hitting for power the Braves dealt Joe to the Indians after the year.

Playing one year in Cleveland, Adcock then joined the Angels for Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner.  Regaining his power stroke in sunny Los Angeles, Adcock belted 21 homers in 1964.  He finished his career on-top, swatting 18 homers with a robust .576 slugging percentage in his final season: 1966.


G 1,959/R 823/H 1,832/2B 295/HR 336/RBI 1,122/BB 594/SO 1,059/BA .277/SA .485

If Frank Howard had been a movie star he’d been typecast as vikings or nightclub bouncers.  Standing at 6’7” and tipping the scales at 255 pounds, Howard was one of the largest men to make the baseball diamond his residence. 

Howard was signed by the Dodgers out of Ohio State University in 1958.  He spent most of the year in the Three-I League, swatting 37 homers, but the Dodgers brought young Frank to the Majors at the end of the season for a cup of coffee.  Los Angeles handled Hondo the same in 1959, letting him terrorize minor league pitchers with 43 combined homers between AA and AAA affiliates.  In both the ’58 and ’59 seasons, Hondo played in less than ten Major Leagues games but nevertheless swatted a tater each year.

The Dodgers gave Howard a long look in 1960 and the mammoth slugger brought home the Rookie of the Year Award, finishing second to Hank Aaron in homeruns among NL right fielders.  Despite winning the ROTY Award, the Dodgers used Hondo in a reserve capacity in 1961 and he hit .296 playing part-time.  He showed the Dodgers that he was more than a part-time piece in 1962 when he exploded with an amazing offensive line of 31 HR/119 RBI/.296 BA and .560 SA.

Hondo led the Dodgers to an NL pennant in 1963, swatting a team high 28 long balls.  In the World Series, Hondo hit .300 with a homerun in a quick sweep of the Yankees.  The big masher seemed destined for greatness, but he took a huge backslide in 1964 and the Dodgers gave up on him.  After the ’64 season, Frank was sent to the Senators in a package for Claude Osteen.  The transaction was a fine one for Washington.

Joining the Senators, big Frank earned a new nickname in The Capital Punisher.  He hit .289 for the new Senators in 1965 and .278 in 1966 but didn’t show off his power until 1967.  That year, Howard smacked 36 homeruns and drove home 89 runs.  The Capital Punisher was born.

Howard exploded the following year, clubbing a league high 44 homers.  He also led the junior circuit with a .552 slugging average and 330 total bases.  His power exploits went almost unnoticed as the Senators were the AL’s doormat.  When the Senators hired the greatest hitter of all-time to manage them in 1969, Howard became a pupil of Ted Williams and he enjoyed his finest years.  Always easy to strikeout, Williams passed on his knowledge of owning the strike zone to Hondo and he trimmed his strikeout total substantially while raising his walk total.

The 1969 season was a good one for The Capital Punisher.  Taking the teachings of Williams to the batter’s box, Frank finished second in the AL with 48 homeruns while leading the league with 340 total bases.  He tied Hall of famer Carl Yaztremski among Major League left fielders with 111 RBI.  The teaming of Howard and Williams was what the Senators needed as they guided the club to a winning record.

Howard continued to thump pitchers soundly in 1970 when he led the AL with 44 homers, 126 RBI and 132 walks.  Despite his phenomenal hitting, the Senators resorted back to their old ways and finished in the cellar.  His last great year came in 1971 when he was selected to his fourth straight All-Star game while leading the league in intentional passes.  The Senators moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972 and after a so-so start to the season his contract was sold to Detroit.  He played one final year with the Tigers in 1973.


G 1,895/R 864/H 1,774/2B 245/HR 382/RBI 1,119/BB 782/SO 1,460/BA .273/SA .499