Archive

Monthly Archives: November 2009

This Cuban southpaw was a star hurler for the Baltimore Orioles dynasty of the late 1960s and early 1970s, teaming in a stellar rotation with Hall of Famer Jim Palmer and fellow lefty Dave McNally, the trio gave stumpy Earl Weaver three go-to guys in the rotation.  Mike was a late-bloomer who didn’t stick in the Majors until his 27th birthday, but once he was stuck he never became unglued.

Cuellar made a forgettable debut with the Reds in 1959, posting an ERA above 15.00.  He spent the next few years bouncing around the minor leagues–even seeing action in Mexico–before the Cardinals gave him another trial in 1964.  After the ’64 season he was traded to the Astros for Hal Woodeshick and his career gained steam.

In Texas, Mike became a reliable pitcher for the Astros.  His breakout year came in 1966 when he led the Houston staff in strikeouts, complete games and innings pitched on a terrific 2.22 ERA.  He followed that up with a 16-win All-Star season in 1967.  That year, Mike finished fifth with 203 strikeouts but the Astros had little talent outside of Mike and finished in ninth place.  The Astros lack of talent hit Mike hard in 1968 when he posted a losing record despite fashioning a tidy 2.74 ERA.

Saved from the Astros in 1969, Mike was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in a lopsided deal for outfielder Curt Blefary.  All Mike did for the Orioles was post three straight 20-win seasons after coming over from Houston.  Supplying Mike with more support than he ever received with the Astros, Mike won 23 games (2nd in AL) his first year with Baltimore.  Cuellar was phenomenal all year, posting a 2.38 ERA, striking out 182 batters and averaging just 0.732 hits per inning; better than Hall of Fame peers Catfish Hunter (0.850), Tom Seaver (0.740) and Ferguson Jenkins (0.913).  For his exceptional season, Mike was voted the Cy Young Award winner.  But more importantly, he led the Orioles to the World Series.  In the 1969 Fall Classic, Mike won his only decision and posted a 1.12 ERA but the Mets beat Baltimore in their magical season.

Mike came close to repeating as the Cy Young winner in 1970 when he led the American League in wins, winning percentage, and complete games.  An All-Star, Cuellar and his 190 strikeouts helped the O’s reach the postseason again.  Teaming with Palmer and McNally, Mike gave Earl Weaver an uncommon three-man 20-win rotation.  Although Mike got battered around by the Twins in the ALCS, he was back on form in the World Series.  Mike won the deciding game in the World Series over the Reds, brining a championship to Baltimore.

Another 20-win season was in the cards for Mike in 1971.  Weaver, who liked to ride his trio, handed Mike his third straight 290 inning workload in ’71 which enabled Baltimore to return to the postseason.  He owned the A’s in the ALCS, out-pitching Catfish Hunter in Game 2.  His pitching helped make the Orioles AL champs three years running, but he lost two contests in the World Series and the Orioles fell to the Pirates.

Cuellar still had it in 1972, winning 18 games on a 2.58 ERA but the Orioles finished in third place due in large part to off years by many position players.  He had another 18-win season in 1973 and the Orioles returned to the postseason.  Mike lost his only ALCS decision, dropping an extra-inning pitchers duel with Ken Holtzman. 

An All-Star again in 1974, Mike led the AL with a .688 winning percentage.  Pacing the Baltimore moundsmen in shutouts, Mike guided the Orioles to the postseason again in ’74, splitting two decisions in an ALCS loss to Oakland.  Mike fell to 14 wins in 1975, which was his last effective season.  He went 4-13 in 1976 and then pitched briefly with the Angels in 1977.

THE NUMBERS

W 185/L 130/PCT .587/G 453/CG 172/IP 2,807/H 2,538/BB 822/SO 1,632/SHO 36/ERA 3.14

www.camdenchat.com

 

A terrific hitter in the 1920s, Bing Miller was an exceptional component to the powerhouse Philadelphia A’s during their heyday at the end of the 1920s and the early 1930s.  With Jimmy Dykes and Mule Haas, he gave the A’s three classic needlers who had a knack for getting the opposition’s goat.  But Bing was more than a man with a hatful of zingers–he was a solid batter who hit with authority.

Originally called up by the Senators in 1921, Bing led Washington in homeruns as a rookie.  In a near-sighted move, Washington traded Bing to the A’s for Jumpin’ Joe Dugan and he became a fixture in the outfield for Connie Mack’s Athletics.  Placed in center field by Mr. Mack in 1922, Bing led AL center fielders in homeruns.  Bing and Hall of Famer Ty Cobb were the only American League center fielders to reach 90 runs scored and 90 RBI.

Bing reached his highwater mark in batting average during the 1924 season when he hit a solid .342.  Although Bing showed power early in his career, it evaporated and his last year with at least ten homers was 1925, when only he and Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann reached double-digit figures in all the extra base hit departments among AL right fielders.

During the 1926 season, Connie Mack traded Bing to the Browns for an aging Baby Doll Jacobson and quickly saw his blunder.  Bing hit .325 in 1927 for the Browns and netted some MVP votes.  Watching Bing hit for authority in St. Louis irked Mr. Mack and he quickly reacquired Miller for the 1928 season, sending the Browns pitcher Dolly Gray in exchange.  Mr. Mack inserted Bing into center field and he paced AL center fielders in batting average, slugging average, homeruns and RBI.

Philadelphia finally had another dynasty in 1929 when the A’s won the first of three straight pennants.  In the A’s championship season of 1929, Miller finished third in triples and stolen bases while hitting .331.  Bing wore out Cubs pitchers in the World Series, hitting baby bear hurlers to the tune of a .368 batting average.  The A’s repeated as World Champs in 1930 with Bing driving home 100 runs during the regular season.  They copped their final AL pennant in 1931 with Bing leading the team with 43 doubles.  They lost the World Series to the Cardinals and then fell to second place in 1932.

Connie Mack then began the fire sale, breaking up the last good team the Philadelphia A’s ever had.  Bing was kept by Mr. Mack through 1934, and was used strictly as a reserve given his advanced age.  Bing joined the Red Sox in 1935 at the age of 40 and hit .305 as a backup.  He played one final year with Boston before hanging ’em up.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,820/R 946/H 1,937/2B 389/3B 96/HR 116/RBI 990/BB 383/SO 340/SB 128/BA .312/SA .461

www.findagrave.com

 

A lifelong Washington Senator, Bluege was a sensational defender with soft hands and a strong, accurate arm.  Ossie had two years of 300 plus assists but was more than just a vacuum cleaner at the hot corner.  Bluege was a gifted situational hitter who rests high in the career sacrifice hits department.

Bluege got his first taste of Major League duty in 1922.  Handed the starting third base job in 1923, Ossie missed some action with an injury playing under skipper Donie Bush.  He, like the Washington Senators, enjoyed a breakout season in 1924 when he hit .281 during the regular season.  His Senators went to the World Series and beat the Giants of New York in one the greatest Fall Classics ever played.

Ossie led all third basemen with 16 steals in 1925 as his Senators repeated as American League champs.  Bluege hit a respectable .278 in the World Series, but the magic of boy wonder, skipper Bucky Harris, ran out and his squad lost to the Pirates.

Bleuge smacked out ten triples in 1927 and then led the league in getting plunked in ’28.  Although Bluege was the junior circuit’s favorite model for target acquisition, he gave the Senators a bit more than a silhouette for pitchers to aim at.  Ossie tied for the most runs scored by an AL third baseman that season.  All the bruises caught up with Bluege in 1929 and he was limited to just 64 games in 1929.  Healthy again in 1930, he hit a swell .290 for Washington with a career high 27 sacrifices.

In 1931, Ossie had his highwater mark for RBI with 98.  Showcasing solid wheels, Ossie led AL third basemen with 16 steals that year as well.  Always owning a fine batting eye, Bluege honed it to perfection in 1932 when he led Major League third basemen with 83 walks.  He only fanned 41 times, giving him the respectable title of a man who walks twice as much as he strikes out.  The following year, Ossie drove in 71 runs but when the Senators signed prodigy Cecil Travis, his days as a regular were over.

Even though Bluege lost his starting gig to the young Georgian, Bluege took it in stride and became a mentor for the hot-hitting kid.  Bluege simply changed his mindset and became a valuable reserve.  He platooned with Red Kress at shortstop in 1935 and then hit .288 bouncing around the infield in 1936.  He ended his playing days in 1939 and later took over as Senators manager in 1943.  He won the Manager of the Year Award in 1945, guiding the Senators to a second place finish.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,867/R 883/H 1,751/2B 276/3B 67/HR 43/RBI 848/BB 724/SO 525/SB 140/BA .272/SA .356

www.vintagecardtraders.com

 

A longtime Los Angeles Dodger, Bill Russell–no relation to the superstar basketball player of the same name–played a sound shortstop for many years in LA.  Teaming with Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Ron Cey, Russell gave the Dodgers a long-running infield the likes of which will probably never be seen again… thanks to free agency and such.

Bill Russell took an unusual path to the Major Leagues.  Many minor leaguers go through a transformation, learning to play a new position, but most of those players move from a demanding position to one less demanding.  Such wasn’t the case for Russell.  Signed as an outfielder, Bill was converted to shortstop at the Major League level.  He spent several years bouncing around the outfield and middle infield for Los Angeles until he took Maury Wills’ shortstop job in 1972.  That year he was the second best hitting shortstop for average in the National League.

Bill settled in at shortstop in 1973 and played in every game for the Dodgers.  An All-Star, Russell turned in the excess of 100 double plays and led all Major League shortstops in doubles.  The Dodgers won the NL West in 1974 with Bill chipping in a .269 batting average.  In the NLCS, Bill’s bat was red hot: he hit .389 and was the only player to triple in the World Series.  In the Fall Classic Bill hit .222 but his squad fell to repeat champion Oakland A’s. 

An injury limited Russell in 1975, but when he regained his health he made his second trip to the All-Star Game in ’76.  He and the Reds’ Dave Concepcion were the only two National League shortstops to hit over .270 that season.  The Dodgers returned to the postseason in 1977 with Bill hitting .278 during the regular season.  He hit an equal .278 in the NLCS, helping guide the Dodgers to another World Series but like they did in ’74, the Dodgers fell again. 

Bill reached his highwater mark in two-baggers during the 1978 season with 32.  With a torrid bat, Bill carried the Dodgers in the postseason, hitting .412 in the NLCS and an even better .423 in the World Series, but the Yankees had their number and sent the Dodgers home as World Series losers once again.  Determined to get that elusive World Series ring in 1981, Bill hit .313 in the NLCS and led the Dodgers to a Fall Classic showdown with the Yankees once again.  This time, Russell and the Dodgers bested the Bronx Bombers and took home the title.

His last great year came in 1982 when he had an amazing 2-to-1 walk to strikeout ratio.  His numbers fell in ’83 but the Dodgers went to the postseason and Bill hit a nifty .286 against the Phillies in a losing cause.  His days as a regular were over in 1984 when the Dodgers went with youth and placed Bill in a platoon with Dave Anderson.  He retired after the 1986 season.  The Dodgers, once noted for their faith in managers, named Bill as Tommy Lasorda’s successor but he didn’t last long on the job, piloting the Dodgers for pieces of three seasons.

THE NUMBERS

G 2,181/R 796/H 1,926/2B 293/3B 57/HR 46/RBI 627/BB 483/SO 667/SB 167/BA .263/SA .338

A slugging second baseman of baseball’s earlier years, Jimmy Williams was a solid infielder during The Deadball Era.  Purchased by the Pirates from the minor league Kansas City Blues in 1899, Jimmy put up rookie numbers that few freshmen have ever matched.  As a rookie with the Pirates in 1899, Jimmy led the league with 28 triples.  His numbers were exceptional across the board, indicated by his .355 BA/.417 OB%/.535 SA and 116 RBI and 126 runs scored. 

Like many red-hot rookies, Williams was a sophomore bust.  Reeling from a poor season, Jimmy jumped the Pirates and cast his lot with the newly formed American League, signing on with the rough and rowdy Baltimore Orioles of John McGraw.  The change in scenery worked swimmingly for Williams who led the new circuit with 21 triples.  Jimmy and Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie were the only American League second basemen to slug over .410.

A three-bag captain, Jimmy again paced the AL with 21 triples in 1902 while pacing his position peers in hits, runs and RBI.  A heavy-hitter in Baltimore, Jimmy and Lajoie were the only two middle infielders in the Major Leagues to slug over .500.  After the 1902 season the Orioles relocated to New York and became the Highlanders; the original New York Yankees.  The move to the Big Apple signalled an end to Jimmy’s days as a high society slugger; he never again posted a slugging average over .400.

With Nap Lajoie running away with numerous offensive awards, all Jimmy could hope for was to finish his groomsman in those categories.  In 1903, Jimmy was second to The Frenchman in doubles, triples and RBI among American League second basemen.  Williams and Lajoie were the only two Major League second basemen to reach 30 doubles in 1904.  After a poor 1905 season, Jimmy rebounded in 1906 to lead AL second basemen in homeruns.

Jimmy legged out eleven triples in 1907; best among American League middle infielders.  With 63 RBI, Jimmy tied Lajoie for most runs driven in by a junior circuit second baseman.  After the season he was traded to the Browns for Charlie Hemphill and two other players and spent his last two Major League seasons in St. Louis.  Jimmy’s last good year came in 1908 when he led AL second basemen in triples and walks.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,457/R 775/H 1,504/2B 243/3B 138/HR 49/RBI 796/SB 159/BA .275/SA .396

www.wikipedia.com

 

Many Hall of Fame players have had brothers that played at the Major League level.  George Brett had brother Ken, Tony Gwynn’s brother Chris played outfield for the Dodgers and Joe Sewell’s brother Luke had a lengthy career as player and coach.  Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry and his brother Jim make for one the greatest sibling tandems in baseball history: think the Waners on the mound and you’ll have an image of the Perry boys.

Jim enjoyed immediate success at the Major League level, winning a dozen games on a tidy 2.65 ERA for the 1959 Indians.  He finished second to Senators slugger Bob Allison in Rookie of the Year voting.  Although his ERA climbed in his sophomore season Jim still tied for the American League lead in wins and shutouts in the offensive year of 1960.  Offense across the board was up substantially in 1961 and Jim, like many pitchers, struggled in the brawny game that was played that year, but nevertheless made his first All-Star appearance.

Early in the 1963 season Jim was dealt to the Twins for Jack Kralick.  It was in Minnesota where Perry enjoyed his finest years, posting two 20-win seasons and winning a Cy Young Award in the northern state.  Bouncing between the rotation and bullpen in 1965, Jim posted a fine 2.63 ERA on a .632 winning percentage.  Used predominately in the rotation during the 1966 season Perry fashioned an 11-7, 2.54 worksheet during the season.  An adequate strikeout pitcher during his salad years, Jim averaged 0.663 whiffs per inning during the ’66 season; better than Hall of Fame peer Catfish Hunter’s 0.582 average.

Perry had a fine 1968 season–again rotating between starting and relief duties–while posting a terrific 2.27 ERA.  Jim honed his accuracy to  near perfection, issuing a low average of 0.187 walks per inning.  He elevated his game in 1969, posting his first 20-win season.  His winning percentage was a solid .769 and he kept his ERA at a tidy 2.82.  His Twins won their division and Jim pitched in Game 1 of the ALCS but received a no decision against Baltimore. 

Jim’s finest year came in 1970 when he led the AL with 24 victories and 40 starts.  He tied for second in shutouts while making the Twins repeat AL West champions.  For his work, Jim was named the Cy Young Award winner but he failed to halt the Orioles in the ALCS and was denied a shot at the World Series for the second straight year.  Jim followed up his Cy Young season with a 17 win, All-Star season in 1971.

Although his record was of the losing variety in 1972, Jim’s ERA was a respectable 3.35.  He won 14 games in 1973 and then fashioned a fine 17-12, 2.96 worksheet in 1974 before the bottom fell out in 1975.  In his last Major League season, Jim split time with the Indians and A’s at the age of 39.

THE NUMBERS

W 215/L 174/PCT .563/G 630/CG 109/IP 3,287/H 3,127/BB 998/SO 1,576/SHO 32/ERA 3.45

www.vintagecardtraders.com

 

When Luzerne Blue was at the top of his game, there was always some other first baseman that was a bit better.  Not many people can name Lu Blue when great first basemen are mentioned because he played during the heyday of the greatest first baseman of all-time: Lou Gehrig.  But Blue was a valuable ballplayer, noted for his exceptional on-base percentages.

Blue made his professional debut with the Martinsburg Blue Sox of the old Blue Ridge League; quite a bit of blue in that last sentence, huh?  After two years with the Blue Sox Lu entered the military during World War I and missed some minor league seasoning time to the war effort.  When he returned from the colors, Blue spent a couple more years in the bushes before getting his first look with Ty Cobb’s Tigers in 1921.  As a rookie, Blue finished second to Hall of Famer George Sisler in batting average among first basemen.  He was the AL’s runner-up in his speciality, the drawing of walks.  The freshman drew 103 free passes during the year.

Blue’s keen eye allowed him to reach base often and when a man reaches base he has a better chance of scoring runs.  Lu finished second in the American League with 131 runs scored in 1922 which enabled him to finish tenth in MVP voting.  He kept on drawing walks in 1923–finishing third in the league–and enabled him to be the lone Major League first baseman to score over 100 runs.

With vision akin to that of a hawk, Blue was a tremendous judge of pitched balls.  The switch-hitter never had a year in which he struck out more than he walked.  But vision was not all Blue was good for; he could also run.  In 1925, Blue led junior circuit first basemen in walks and stolen bases.  In only two Major League seasons did Blue fail to reach ten steals.  Although his speed was solid, it was his judgment of pitched balls that Lu excelled at.  In 1926, Lu drew 90 walks while only striking out 18 times.

In 1928 Blue had his highwater mark for homeruns, drilling 14 long balls, and kept accepting free passes issued by opposing pitchers.  Although he wasn’t a physically imposing man in the batter’s box, only Babe Ruth walked more than Lu in ’28.  He and the great Lou Gehrig were the only first basemen in the AL with double-digit totals in all the extra base hit departments, achieving the feat his first year with the St. Louis Browns.

Lu was a terror in 1929, drawing 126 walks opposed to just 32 strikeouts.  He lashed out 40 doubles, scored 111 runs and posted an amazing on-base percentage of .422.  After an unusually poor 1930 season the Browns sold his contract to the White Sox and Blue had a terrific rebound year.  His 127 walks were good for second in the league in 1931.  He tied Gehrig for the most triples by an AL first baseman and only he, Gehrig and Hall of Famer Bill Terry reached 100 runs scored among Major League first basemen.

Blue slumped mightily in 1932 as he entered his mid-30s.  He had one at-bat for the Dodgers in 1933 spending most of the year with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League.  He ended his career with an astounding .402 on-base percentage; higher than his slugging average.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,615/R 1,151/H 1,696/2B 319/3B 109/HR 44/RBI 692/BB 1,092/SO 436/SB 150/BA .287/SA .401

www.vintagecardtraders.com