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A moderate pitcher for the first half of his career, Stewart grew his wings so to speak when the Oakland A’s brought him to town in 1986.  He then kicked off four straight 20-win seasons in Oakland and placed in the Top Five in Cy Young voting in each of his 20-win campaigns.  Although he never garnered that elusive award, it can be argued that he was baseball’s best pitcher during the latter portion of the 1980s.

Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1975, Stewart made his Major League debut with a two-inning relief outing in 1978.  He spent the next two years toiling with the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes before LA gave the hard-thrower another look in 1981.  The Dukes used Dave as a starter but the Dodgers moved him into the bullpen and he enjoyed success as a rookie in 1981 with six saves and a 2.51 ERA.  The Dodgers saw postseason action in the strike shortened campaign and Stewart helped the Dodgers defeat the Yankees in the World Series.

The Dodgers used Dave as a long arm and spot starter in 1982 but then swapped him to Texas for southpaw Rick Honeycutt, who would spend a number of years as his teammate in Oakland.  The Rangers inserted Dave into their rotation at the end of the ’83 season and he rewarded them by posting a 2.14 ERA in eight starts.  The small dose of excellence gave Rangers fans hope for the 1984 season but he struggled with command issues and was traded to the Phillies late in the ’85 season.

After a slow start in Philadelphia in 1986, Stewart was released and picked up by the Oakland Athletics.  Like Laurel and Hardy, it was a match made in heaven.  He posted a 3.74 ERA the rest of the way for the A’s in 1986 before breaking out in a big way during the 1987 season.  Stewart led the AL with 20 wins in 1987 and showed workhorse tendencies by totaling 261 innings pitched while fanning 205 batters.  The next four years, Dave would give the A’s at least 250 innings of work each season.

Dave posted a 21-12 record for the A’s in 1988 while pacing the American League in complete games and innings pitched.  He finished fourth in Cy Young voting and received a handful of MVP votes to boot but it wasn’t until 1989 that Stewart made his first All-Star team.  A member of the World Champion A’s in 1989, Dave went 21-9 for LaRussa’s charges on a 3.32 ERA.  At his best that October, Stewart went 4-0 in the Playoffs and tossed a Game 1 shutout in the World Series.

Perhaps at the top of his game in 1990, Stewart tied for the AL lead in complete games while logging a league best 267 innings.  He trimmed his ERA to a career best (as far as starting is concerned) 2.56 mark and carried Oakland to their third straight postseason appearance.  Dynamite in October, Dave went 2-0 in the ALCS with a tidy 1.13 ERA.  His A’s took on the Reds in the World Series and although he kept his ERA down (2.77) he was still charged with a pair of losses due to poor run support.

Stewart’s run of excellence came to a sudden halt in 1991 when his ERA climbed from 2.56 in 1990 to 5.18 in ’91.  His ship returned to its proper course in 1992 when he paced Oakland pitchers in strikeouts and had a fine 3.66 ERA but the A’s decided to cut him loose after the season.

Dave signed a free agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, determined to prove A’s brass that they parted with him too soon.  All he did his first year in Canada was guide the Jays to the World Series.  In the ALCS, Dave won Games II and VI.  He made two starts in the World Series and was able to slide on his third World Series ring with his third Major League team.  After two poor years with the Blue Jays and back in Oakland, Stewart hung up his spikes after the 1995 season.

THE NUMBERS

W 168/L 129/PCT .566/G 523/CG 55/IP 2,630/H 2,499/BB 1,034/SO 1,741/SHO 9/ERA 3.95

One of the first ballplayers to make the weight room his primary residence, Brian Downing began his career as a modest-hitting catcher but redefined himself as a power-hitting outfielder by lifting that iron.  Nicknamed The Incredible Hulk because of his stout, muscular physique, Downing was a terrific on-base machine who reached 20 homeruns six times during his career.

Downing signed with the White Sox in 1969 and spent a few years in the minors before getting his first cup of coffee with the Pale Hose in 1973.  Brian saw part-time duty in 1974, backing up catcher Ed Herrmann, and walked 51 times in 293 at-bats.  His playing time increased in 1975 and he led American League backstops in stolen bases.  After the 1977 season, Chicago packaged Brian in a deal to the Angels with Dave Frost and Chris Knapp for outfielders Bobby Bonds and Thad Bosley and pitcher Richard Dotson. 

His first year in California, his home state, was a modest campaign but he broke out in 1979.  Named to the AL All-Star team, The Incredible Hulk paced Major League catchers with a .326 batting average.  His high batting average, coupled with his exceptional plate discipline, allowed Downing to post an enviable on-base percentage of .418.  Hoping to build off his breakout 1979 season, Brian spent most of the 1980 campaign on the disabled list.

In order to keep Hulk in the lineup on a daily basis, skipper Jim Fregosi moved Brian to left field in 1981.  But it wasn’t until 1982 that Downing established himself as a fearsome offensive presence.  That season, he and Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson were the only AL left fielders to score 100 runs.  Downing led Major League left fielders with 37 doubles and teamed with Fred Lynn and Reggie Jackson to give the Angels the only all 20 homerun outfield in the majors.

A broken wrist sidelined Downing in 1983 but he bounced back nicely in 1984.  That year he posted an impressive offensive line of 23 HR/91 RBI/.275 BA/.360 OB/.462 SA.  His 78 walks in 1985 paced AL left fielders while posting his fifth consecutive season with more bases on balls drawn than strikeouts taken.  In top form in 1986, The Incredible Hulk was the only player in the Major Leagues in reach 90 in runs, walks and RBI.  His Angels went to the ALCS in ’86 and Brian led all participants with seven RBI but in a losing cause.

Downing’s 106 walks in 1987 paced the American League and he reached his career high in homeruns with 29.  His on-base percentage reached the elusive .400 mark again and his 110 runs scored were good for third in the junior circuit.  Rotated to DH in 1988, Brian clubbed 25 long balls, marking his fifth straight year with 20 or more dingers.  Still the Angels everyday DH in 1989, Brian paced designated hitters in base hits.

After falling to 14 homeruns in 1989 and 1990, the Angels let the aging Incredible Hulk walk after the 1990 season.  He signed a free agent deal with the Texas Rangers in 1991 and hit .278 as a 40-year-old veteran.  He played one final year with the Rangers in 1992, and exited the game by posting his eleventh straight season with a double-digit total in homeruns.

THE NUMBERS

G 2,344/R 1,188/H 2,099/2B 360/3B 28/HR 275/RBI 1,073/BB 1,197/SO 1,127/BA .267/SA .425

www.baseball-reference.com

Named after a president, Thomas Jefferson York was one of the top flychasers of baseball’s early years.  A hard-working, hustling left fielder, York often played in every game when the schedules were far more skimpy than they are now.  The left-handed hitter made his rounds–playing in the National Association, National League and American Association during his career with eight different teams.

York broke in with the old Troy Haymakers in 1871 of the now defunct National Association.  As a yearling, he finished seventh in the league with just two homeruns–balls didn’t soar in the early days like they do now.  After the season York moved to the Baltimore Canaries and scored 66 runs in 51 games.  The Canaries finished second that season due to a stellar young offense and a fine pitching tandem of Bobby Mathews and Cherokee Fisher.

In 1873, York enjoyed his first .300 hit season for the Canaries.  Baltimore hit their way to third place, boasting a lineup with only one position player that failed to hit .300.  Tom finished fourth in the league in the homerun department and ninth in RBI.  After a rough 1874 season Tom jumped to the Hartford Dark Blues in 1875 and led the league in games played with 86.  He paced Hartford in hits, doubles, triples, batting average, slugging average and total bases.

After the 1877 season, Tom left Hartford and joined the Providence Grays.  His first year with the Grays, York led the league with ten triples and 125 total bases.  The Grays finished third with their all .300 hitting outfield of York, Paul Hines and Dick Higham.  His .465 slugging average was good for second in the league but the Grays reached the top of the standings the following year when he helped them capture the NL flag.  Tom hit .310 in Providence’s championship season in 1879 and smacked out 25 doubles in just 85 games.

York’s numbers fell drastically in 1880 and the Grays were unable to repeat as champs.  Although his offensive totals sank in the quagmire, York was still the superior defender he had always been.  Tom fashioned a remarkable fielding percentage (for the day) of .934–which was nearly 100 points above league average.  But Tom’s bat came back in a big way in 1881 when he posted his fourth .300 hit season.  Tom led the league in games played, finished third in on-base percentage, sixth in doubles, seventh in homers and ninth in RBI.

He played one final year with the Grays before leaving Rhode Island and joining the Cleveland Blues.  In his lone year in Cleveland, Tom paced the league in walks but left the National League and signed with the American Association’s Baltimore Orioles in 1884.  He played two years with the Orioles before calling it a career.

THE NUMBERS

G 963/R 743/H 1,095/2B 218/3B 89/HR 14/RBI 502/BA .273/SA .383

www.baseball-reference.com

A six-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, Frank Malzone was a stellar hot corner custodian in the late 1950s and early 1960s for the Boston Red Sox.  A fine hitter to go along with his superior leather, Malzone had four consecutive years of 30+ doubles and eight straight seasons with a dozen or more long balls.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Malzone signed his first professional contract with the Bronx Bombers’ rival Red Sox.  The Bronx beauty spent a number of years on the farm in the Red Sox organization with a stint in the military during the Korean War that interrupted his seasoning.  Signed at the age of 18, Malzone didn’t make his debut until he was 25 in 1955.  In limited action at the Majors that year, Frank hit a lusty .350.  In 1956 the Red Sox gave him a bit longer look but the lustiness of his ’55 average was gone and he hit a measly .165 in his second trial.

Undaunted by his 1956 struggles, Malzone went into the 1957 season with something to prove–and prove it he did.  In his breakout season Malzone was the only Major League third baseman to drive in 100 runs.  The BoSox basher topped American League third basemen in runs, hits, doubles and homeruns while making his first All-Star squad, winning his first Gold Glove and finishing second to Tony Kubek in Rookie of the Year voting.  The stud third baseman also finished seventh in MVP voting.

After his breakout ’57 campaign, Frank’s numbers were nearly identical in 1958.  He banged out 185 hits each season, posted 30 doubles in ’58 opposed to 31 in ’57 and his batting average was three points higher (.295) in 1958 than it was the year before.  Malzone topped AL hot corner custodians in homeruns and RBI in ’58 while making a repeat appearance on the American League All-Star team.

In 1959, Malzone clubbed 19 homeruns.  He and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew were the only two American League third basemen to reach 90 runs scored and 90 RBI.  Named to his fourth consecutive All-Star team in 1960, Malzone reached his highwater mark with 159 putouts. 

Malzone drove in 87 runs in 1961 before enjoying one of his finest campaigns in 1962.  That season Frank swatted a career high 21 homeruns and chased 95 mates across the dish.  On the field he eclipsed 300 assists for the sixth year in a row and fielded his position at a .967 clip–the league averaged .951 at third base.  In 1963, Malzone was named to his fifth All-Star team by hitting a robust .291 when pitching was making its way back to the forefront.

Malzone made his sixth and final All-Star appearance in 1964 by clubbing 13 long balls (his eighth consecutive year of a dozen or more dingers) and posting a solid .959 fielding percentage.  When his offensive production dipped in 1965 the Red Sox released him and he played one final year out west with the Angels of California.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,441/R 647/H 1,486/2B 239/3B 21/HR 133/RBI 728/BB 337/SO 434/BA .274/SA .399

www.vintagecardtraders.com

The list of players who missed action to World War II is a long one but of the many that served their country during the great conflict, few surrendered more baseball promise than McCosky.  A proven .300 hitter and batting champion threat before the war, McCosky earned MVP votes every year of his career before his military induction.

Barney was called up by the Tigers in 1939 and was immediately inserted into the everyday lineup.  The left-handed hitting and right-handed throwing Bengal led Major League middle gardeners with 120 runs scored as a rookie.  The rookie McCosky was a notch above every other center fielder in the bigs, indicated by him pacing his position peers in hits, doubles and triples as well as runs scored.  For an encore, McCosky raised his batting average from .311 in 1939 to .340 in 1940 as the Tigers took the American League flag.  Barney was the only Major Leaguer to reach 200 hits in 1940 and also paced the junior circuit with 19 three-baggers.  Among AL center fielders, McCosky was the top man in runs, doubles and walks.  In the World Series, Barney hit .304 and had an amazing .467 on-base percentage (seven walks, no strikeouts) but the Tigers lost to the Reds.

McCosky posted back-to-back seasons of .400+ on-base percentages in 1941 when he fashioned an on-base mark of .401.  His .324 batting average was second to Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio among AL center fielders.  Never much of a power threat, McCosky slapped a career high seven long balls in 1942–his last year before the war.  Inducted into the Navy after the 1942 season, McCosky lost the next three seasons to defending liberty.

When the war concluded, McCosky returned to the Tigers in 1946.  But Barney’s batting stroke was rusty.  He began the 1946 season with Detroit but after hitting .198 through 25 games, he was dealt to the Athletics for Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell.  Although Detroit got a splendid performer for McCosky, Barney wasn’t quite done.  The trade to Philadelphia jump started McCosky and he hit .354 the rest of the season for Connie Mack’s A’s. 

Moved to left field in 1947, the slap-hitting McCosky finished second to Ted Williams in hits and batting average among American League left fielders.  McCosky then topped the American League in sacrifices in 1948 while hitting at a .326 clip.  All told, in seven Major League seasons to that point, Barney hit below .310 on just one occasion. 

But McCosky’s career was essentially over.  He missed the entire 1949 season to an injured vertebrae and when he returned to the A’s in 1950, his usual lofty batting average dipped to the mortal-like clip of .240.  Early in the 1951 season the Reds purchased his contract and he served as a valuable reserve the rest of the season, which also included a stint with the Indians.  Still in Cleveland during the 1952 season, Barney served as a bat off the bench and played briefly with the Tribe in 1953 before ending his career–one beset by injury and a three-year military hitch.

THE NUMBERS

G1,170/R 664/H 1,301/2B 214/3B 71/HR 24/RBI 397/BB 497/SO 261/SB 58/BA .312/SA .414

www.vintagecardtraders.org

A star right fielder during the Deadball Era, Silent John Titus was noted for his handlebar moustache (they were no longer fashionable on the diamond when he wore his) and for always playing with a toothpick in his chompers.  An Army veteran who served during the Spanish-American War, Titus was a gifted star who posted seven consecutive seasons of 20+ outfield assists.

Born in Pennsylvania, Silent John was already long in the tooth when given his initial Major League trial with the Phillies in 1903.  Purchased from the Concord Marines in 1903 to ease the pain of Ed Delahanty and Elmer Frick’s losses to the upstart American League, Titus hit .286 as a 27-year-old rookie.  Inserted as the everyday left fielder in 1904, Silent John paced senior circuit left fielders in base hits. 

In 1905, skipper Hugh Duffy shifted Titus to right field and moved 1904 right fielder Sherry Magee to left.  Silent John was in a league to himself amongst his position peers.  The only .300 hitting right fielder in the NL during the 1905 season, Titus led NL right fielders in RBI, runs, hits, doubles (2nd in the National League), walks and slugging average.  After a breakout 1905 season Silent John regressed slightly in 1906 but was back on top in 1907.  That year Titus tied for the most doubles by an NL right fielder.

Titus hit .286 in 1908 while leading National League right fielders in runs scored.  The toothpick chomping Army vet sharpened his eyesight in 1909 when he paced NL right fielders in walks drawn.  He upped his base on balls total to 93 in 1910 which enabled him to post a flattering on-base percentage despite his lower batting average.  In that 1910 season, Silent John  teamed with Sherry Magee and Johnny Bates to give the Phillies the only all-90 runs scored outfield in the Major Leagues.

Silent John suffered a broken leg in 1911 and missed half the season.  Healthy again in 1912, John got off to a hot start with the Phillies but he was traded at the age of 36 in June for Doc Miller of the Braves.  The trade fueled Silent John and he went on a tear with the Braves.  In 96 games with Boston, Silent John hit .325 with a terrific .422 on-base percentage.  During his last Major League season, 1913, Silent John paced the Braves with a .297 batting average.  He played two final years with the Kansas City Blues of the American Association who were battling with the upstart Federal League’s KC Packers for fans.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,402/R 738/H 1,401/2B 253/3B 72/HR 38/RBI 561/SB 140/BA .282/SA .385

www.baseball-reference.com

One of the top relief pitchers of the 1990s, John Wetteland brought a World Series Championship to the Yankees in 1996 with a save in every Fall Classic game and was rewarded for his great work by getting replaced by Mariano Rivera.  Although it would seem nearsighted for a club to cut bait on the defending saves champ for a kid, Rivera became the best closer in baseball history but John flourished in Texas where he ended his career.

Drafted by the Dodgers in the second round in 1985, Wetteland enjoyed some success as a starter in the minors.  The Dodgers called up John in 1989 and he fanned 96 batters in just over 100 innings as a rookie.  Used as a long man and spot starter in ’89, Wetteland was employed in much the same fashion in 1990 with weaker results.  Sent back to the bushes in 1991, John was redefined as a closer with the Albuquerque Dukes and his career took off.

After dominating the Pacific Coast League as a stopper in 1991, the Dodgers felt his trade value had risen and packaged him in a deal with starter Tim Belcher to the Reds for five-tool star Eric Davis and pitcher Kip Gross.  Before he was in the Reds organization for a month he was shipped to the Expos for third baseman Willie Greene, outfielder Dave Martinez and lefty Scott Ruskin.  North of the border, Wetteland became a star.

With the Expos in 1992, John finished third in the senior circuit with 37 saves.  He was the only NL closer with over 30 saves to average a strikeout an inning.  An elite swing-and-miss guy, Wetteland, for his career, averaged over a strikeout per inning.  Even better in 1993, John fashioned a 1.37 ERA with 43 saves (4th in the NL).  Lights out in the strikeout department, Wetteland whiffed 113 batters in just 85 innings of work.  He followed that up with 25 saves in the strike shortened 1994 season.

Just before the start of the 1995 season, John was involved in one of baseball’s most lopsided trades when the Expos shipped him to the Yankees for power-hitting prospect Fernando Seguignol.  The prospect didn’t reach his potential but Wetteland was a wizard for the Bronx Bombers.  In pinstripes in ’95, John missed lumber at a terrific rate, issuing just 0.656 hits per inning.  The Yankees lost the Division Series to the Mariners but he led the Yankees to a World Series Championship in 1996.

Wetteland led the American League with 43 saves in ’96 and averaged over a strikeout per inning for the fifth straight season.  Lit up in the Division Series in 1995, John redeemed himself with a fine October outing in ’96.  John nailed down a pair of saves in the ’96 Division Series and saved every single Yankee win in the Fall Classic.  After the season John was granted free agency and the Yankees let him sign with the Texas Rangers since they had a kid named Rivera waiting in the wings. 

John flourished in the southern state.  His first year in Texas, John posted a 1.97 ERA with a terrific 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  An All-Star in 1998, Wetteland saved 42 games and trimmed his strikeout-to-walk ratio to an amazing 5-to-1.  He posted consecutive 40+ saves seasons with 43 tallies in 1999 (tied for second in the AL).  In his last year, 2000, John posted his sixth straight 30+ save season.

THE NUMBERS

W 48/L 45/PCT .516/SV 330/G 618/IP 765/H 616/BB 252/SO 804/ERA 2.93

www.nypost.com