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A terrific innings-eater and five-time All-Star, Claude Passeau wasn’t considered a star until he was at the age of 30.  The moundsman from Moss Point, Mississippi didn’t make his first Midsummer Classic until he was 32 years old and made his final All-Star appearance at the advanced age of 37.  Best known for his work during the war years, Passeau once tossed a one-hit shutout during a World Series game.

Passeau made his Major League debut with the Pirates in 1935 and was tagged for seven hits in just three innings.  After the season he was traded to the lackluster Phillies for Al Todd.  Claude established himself as a 27-year-old rookie for the Phillies in 1936.  A basement dwelling team, Claude posted a decent 3.48 ERA that year–head and shoulders above his teammates who averaged an ERA of 4.64.  Since he was clearly their top pitcher, the Phillies worked Passeau like a pack mule in 1937 as he paced the NL with 292 innings.

In 1938, Claude’s ERA had climbed for the third straight season and he was, at an alarming degree, quite hittable.  He was tagged for 281 hits in ’38 with under 240 innings of work.  So early in the 1939 season, the Phillies decided to ship Claude off to the Windy City for pitcher Kirby Higbe and outfielder Joe Marty.  With the Cubs, Passeau would have his best years.

During the 1939 season–in which he wore the uniform of the Phillies and Cubs–Passeau led the National League in strikeouts.  At the top of his game in 1940, Claude won 20 games, finished second in ERA, strikeouts and shutouts and surrendered the fewest amount of homeruns on average in the senior circuit.  Despite all those accomplishments, Passeau didn’t make his first All-Star team until a year later.  He finished third in complete games in 1941 and second in that department in 1942.  During the latter campaign, Passeau won 19 games on a nifty 2.69 ERA.

Claude was in his mid 30s during the years of the Second World War and was thus able to remain on the ball diamond.  He was the Cubs ace throughout the war years (1942-1945) at which time he never posted a winning percentage below .550.  In 1943, he paced the Cubs in strikeouts and innings pitched and in 1944 he went 15-9 on a 2.89 ERA.  At the age of 36, Claude finally got his first taste of the World Series.  The right-hander led the National League in shutouts during the season and added another shutout in the Fall Classic.  In one of the greatest postseason games ever pitched, Passeau shutout the Tigers in his World Series debut.  He was called on to start Game 6 and when the Tigers got an early lead, Passeau was summoned from the bullpen in Game 7, but to no avail. 

When the war ended, baseball returned to normal in 1946 and the aging Passeau was passed on the depth chart.  Although he was named to his final All-Star team, the man from Moss Point  only made 21 starts and was at the end of his rope.  He appeared in 19 games for the 1947 Cubs–his last big league action.

THE NUMBERS

W 162/L 150/PCT .519/ERA 3.32/G 444/CG 188/SHO 26/IP 2,720/H 2,856/BB 728/SO 1,104

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One of the top center fielders of the Deadball Era, Paskert played in the National League and was therefore not in the immediate shadow of Cobb and Speaker.  An exceptional flychaser with an amazing arm, Paskert reached 20 outfield assists in three separate seasons and retired with 223 pegs-from-the-pasture–good for 36th on the all-time list.

An amateur star with third baseman Jimmy Austin, Paskert made his way to the Major Leagues at an advanced age with the 1908 Reds.  Already 25 when he made his debut, Dode slugged .420 in a 16 game trial during the 1907 campaign.  The Reds made him a regular in 1908 but he couldn’t sustain his high SA.  In ’08, Paskert slugged just .306 and his mark fell below .300 in 1909.  Although Dode struggled in 1908 and 1909, he enjoyed his breakout year in 1910. 

Paskert led National League center fielders in stolen bases in 1910 with 51.  He showed an enhanced batting eye as well, drawing 70 walks (compared to just 34 the year prior) which elevated his on-base percentage to .389.  Concerned that his newfound success would prove to be a fluke, the Reds packaged Paskert in a deal to the Phillies after the season with pitcher Fred Beebe and speedy infielder Hans Lobert for Lew Moren a pair of outfielders and Harvard Eddie Grant–who would later die in battle during the First World War.

It was in Philadelphia where Paskert established himself as a star.  In his first year with the Phillies, Dode led NL center fielders in runs scored.  The 1912 season was his finest as Paskert finished third in the senior circuit with 102 runs scored.  His 37 doubles paced NL center fielders and his robust .420 on-base percentage was good for fourth in the league.  That season he established career highs in runs scored, hits, doubles, walks, BA, OBP and slugging average. 

Always a fine doubles hitter, Paskert led National League center fielders in that department during the 1914 season.  He made his first World Series appearance in 1915, which the Phillies dropped to the Boston Red Sox.  The following year, Paskert was the only NL center fielder to leg out 30 doubles.  Paskert also established a career high in homeruns that year at the age of 34. 

The two-bagger was Paskert’s specialty and he paced NL center fielders in that department again in 1917.  But Dode’s other trait was his walk-drawing abilities.  He paced senior circuit center fielders with 62 free passes in 1917.  After the season the Phillies dealt their aging outfielder to the Cubs for a youngster named Cy Williams.  The trade worked well for the Cubs at first as Paskert helped them reach the World Series again, by being the only NL center fielder to eclipse 20 doubles.  Although he tied for the most RBI in the World Series, the Red Sox defeated Dode’s Cubs.

Paskert’s game fell off considerably in 1919 while Cy Williams became one of the greatest sluggers of the day for the Phillies.  Dode’s batting average fell to .196 in 1919 and his career appeared over, but then the game went through a change which allowed him to prolong his career.  A new, livelier ball was adopted and Paskert’s numbers returned to their usual ways, despite his advanced age.  His last good year was that 1920 season when he established his career high in RBI and led NL center fielders in walks.  He played briefly with the Reds in 1921 before returning to the bushes where he played on into his early 40s.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,716/R 868/H 1,613/2B 279/3B 77/HR 42/RBI 577/SB 293/BA .268/SA .361/OBP .350

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The game of baseball has been littered with bad trades: Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio, Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen… the list goes on and on.  In February of 1988, the Kansas City Royals engaged the Cincinnati Reds in a trade, sending their outfield prospect Van Snider to Cincy for young pitcher Jeff Montgomery.  Snider flamed out with the Reds while Monty went on to save 304 games–19th in baseball history. 

Not an imposing figure on the mound, Monty wasn’t quite six-feet tall nor was he in the excess of 170 pounds, but he got the job done.  Utilizing a terrific curveball, Jeff got by on his hook.  He first flashed his curveball in the Majors with the Reds in 1987.  Used in 14 games, Jeff went 2-2 with an ERA above 6.00.  Before Spring Training in 1988, Jeff was in a Royals uniform.  In what was his rookie campaign, Jeff posted a .778 winning percentage for the Boys in Blue.

Monty’s breakout year came in 1989 when he and KC bullpen stalwart Steve Farr each saved 18 games apiece.  At the top of his game, Jeff posted an amazing 1.37 ERA over 92 innings with just 66 hits allowed.  His WHIP was a terrific 0.989, as the little right-hander showed the Royals he could handle fireman duty with aplomb.  The closer’s role was his in 1990 as the Royals used Farr as Jeff’s setupman.  Montgomery used his stellar curveball to average a strikeout per inning pitched.

More than just a one-inning gunslinger, Jeff worked 94 innings in 73 games in ’90 and 90 innings in 67 1991 contests.  In top form in 1992, Monty saved 39 games on a 2.18 ERA.  Adept at getting batters to chase his curve, Jeff issued an average of just 0.735 hits per inning–better than star closer Lee Smith’s 0.827 mark. 

Jeff’s highwater mark for saves came in 1993, when he nailed down 45 saves–tied with Toronto’s Duane Ward for the American League lead.  After an off 1994 campaign, known for the Player’s Strike, Jeff was back on track in ’95 with 31 saves.  In 1996, Jeff struggled with placing his curveball on the clothesline–hanging the pitch out to be swatted 14 times in just 63 innings.  Due to his susceptibility to the gopher-ball, the Royals platooned Jeff with youngster Hipolito Pichardo in the closer’s role in 1997.

But Jeff won his job back in 1998.  With his curve kept in check, Jeff saved 36 games for the Royals.  However, the ’98 season would be Jeff’s last good campaign.  The Royals bullpen imploded in a big way during the 1999 season as Jeff posted an atrocious 6.84 ERA in his final season.  Despite his struggles, he was still one of the more reliable arms out of skipper Tony Muser’s bullpen, which over the course of the season featured eight different pitchers with earned run averages well above Monty’s mark.

THE NUMBERS

W 46/L 52/PCT .469/ERA 3.27/G 700/SV 304/IP 869/H 785/BB 296/SO 733

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When the fortunate prospect breaks into the Major Leagues, he is lucky enough to have a regular job waiting for him.  He can settle in at his position, gather plenty of playing time and make the most of his chance at the game’s highest level.  Other prospects, like Ben Oglivie, aren’t as fortunate.  Their road to everyday duty is blocked by an established Major Leaguer.  Ben’s road was blocked by a guy you may have heard of: Carl Yastrzemski.

Oglivie broke in with the Red Sox just a few years after Yaz’s amazing Triple Crown season–the last such campaign in Major League history.  Unable to flip to the other corner post in the outfield because of solid hitter Reggie Smith, Ben was relegated to reserve duty.  He played sparingly with the BoSox from 1971 to 1973 before he was traded to the Tigers for power-hitting second baseman Dick McAuliffe.  Although he was used more in Detroit than he was in Boston, he still wasn’t an everyday player in Motown.

Ben pressed the Tigers with his breakout year in 1976.  Although he wasn’t an everyday player yet, Oglivie led the club in slugging percentage which made a strong statement for his case to play everyday.  The Tigers relented in 1977 and let the Panamanian slugger play.  He blasted 21 homeruns for Detroit.

The Tigers, in desperate need of pitching, dealt Ben to the Brewers for right-hander Jim Slaton after the 1977 season.  Although Slaton led Detroit in wins in 1978, Oglivie became a star in Milwaukee.  In his first year playing in the Cheese State, Ben hit .300 for the first time and showed fine on-base skills with an OBP of .370.  His power came the following year.  Ben slugged 29 homers for the 1979 Brewers as he teamed with Gorman Thomas and Sixto Lezcano to give the Brew Crew the Majors only all .500 slugging outfield.  But Ben was just getting warmed up.

On fire throughout the 1980 season, Oglivie led the American league with 41 homeruns and 19 intentional passes.  Named to his first All-Star Team, Ben finished second in the league with 118 RBI and netted his only Silver Slugger Award.  A player’s strike impeded play in 1981 but Ben managed to pace American league left fielders in RBI.  In the year after the strike, Ben was still in top form.  He made his second All-Star Team in 1982 and his 34 homerun/102 RBI season helped carry the Brewers to the World Series.  Ben homered in both the ALCS and the World Series, but his Brew Crew lost to the Cardinals in seven games.

His last All-Star nod came in 1983 as Ben’s power numbers took a noticeable drop when he reached his mid 30s.  Ben fell from 34 homeruns in 1982 to just 13 in 1983.  He would continue in the Major Leagues until 1986 but would never again pass a dozen homeruns.  After his tour with the Brewers was up in 1986, Ben went west and played a couple of seasons in Japan before ending his playing days.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,754/R 784/H 1,615/2B 277/3B 33/HR 235/RBI 901/SB 87/BB 560/SO 852/BA .273/SA .450/OBP .336

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During his prime, Robin Ventura was an elite third baseman, capable of hitting 30 homeruns, driving in 100 runs and flashing Gold Glove caliber leather.  With Frank Thomas, he gave the ChiSox a devastating power combo that allowed the Sox to climb the American League standings.  A college star at OSU, Ventura was a first round pick who spent little time in the bushes. 

Taken as the tenth pick in the nation in the 1988 amateur draft, Robin was up in Chicago a year later, enjoying a cup of coffee with the Pale Hose in 1989.  The following year he was an everyday player, but didn’t have his breakout season until 1991.  That campaign saw Ventura win the first of six Gold Glove Awards, as the left-handed hitting third baseman coupled his superior leather with solid run-production skills.  He reached 100 RBI for the first time in ’91 (he was the only AL third baseman to drive in 100 runs) while also leading junior circuit hot corner custodians in homeruns.

An All-Star for the first time in 1992, Ventura paced American League third basemen in RBI while bringing home his second Gold Glove Award.  A complete player, Robin could hit for power, a decent average, field his position with the best of them and also owned great plate discipline.  He was the only third baseman in the Majors to draw 100 walks in 1993 as he and Thomas carried the White Sox to the Playoffs.  Although they were beat by Toronto, Robin swatted a homerun and plated five mates.

Ventura put up good numbers in the strike shortened 1994 campaign and in ’95 he posted his fourth season with 90 or more RBI.  Near the top of his game in 1996, he reached his career high with 34 homeruns while posting his second 100+ RBI campaign.  A fourth Gold Glove came his way and he eclipsed 300 total bases for the first time in his career.  Firmly established as a premier third baseman, Ventura looked forward to another solid season in 1997, but he had to wait for his campaign to start thanks to a broken leg sustained in Spring Training. 

After an injury-plagued year in 1997, Robin bounced back in 1998 with another Gold Glove and 90 RBI season.  With his contract expired, Ventura tested the free agent waters and signed a deal with the New York Mets.  The shift to the National League didn’t negatively affect his hitting–rather, he had his greatest season.  In his first year in the Big Apple, Ventura hit .301 with 32 homeruns and a career high 120 RBI.  He won his sixth and final Gold Glove Award and came in sixth in the NL MVP vote.  More importantly, leaving the White Sox enabled him to make it back to the Playoffs where his Mets were defeated in the NLCS by the Braves.

The Mets returned to the postseason in 2000 and Robin had five NLCS RBI against the Cardinals.  The Mets clipped the Redbirds wings and faced off with the Yankees in an all New York World Series.  Ventura’s Mets didn’t put up much of a fight, as he was one of just three Mets players to hit a homerun in the World Series. 

When his numbers remained low in 2001, the Mets traded him to the Yankees for David Justice in December.  The return to the American League helped Robin’s stats as he returned to his normal 90 RBI ways.  The Yankees were beat by the Angels in the Division Series and the following year he was traded to the Dodgers where he played the infield corners in a reserve role.  He ended his career after the 2004 season. 

THE NUMBERS

G 2,079/R 1,006/H 1,885/2B 338/3B 14/HR 294/RBI 1,182/SB 24/BB 1,075/SO 1,179/BA .267/SA .444/OBP .362