Monday, March 11, 2013

17 Jim Gosger Kansas City A's Too good for the Minors

Here is the first Athletic's card in the '67 set which was the last year to feature the team in Kansas City. The card design with it's powder blue lettering are as unremarkable looking as the team was in KC. The Atheltics started in Kansas as a AAA minor league team for the Yankees playing in the Majors. Any time that A's team developed a star (Maris), he ended up with the Yankees. Also, if the Yankees weren't quite ready to lose complete touch with a star, they sent him to KC. Enos Slaughter went from the Yankees to the A's then back to the Yankees after Rizzuto was pushed into retirement. A team like that NEVER had a chance to succeed and eventually the KC baseball fans gave up following the team. The A's were sold to owners who had no link the Yankees and they began to build for the future. Stars like Jim Catfish Hunter and Bert Campaneris were kept and off they went to win a string of World Series' in the '70s

Ironically, the photo of Gosger on this card is clearly taken in Yankee Stadium

1967 was Gosger's most stable year in the Majors. The A's used him in 134 games. His .242 avg was average but he played a good role as a utility outfielder. The A's kept him around for their their '68 move to Oakland but left him open for the Pilots to pick up in the expansion draft. Gosger was the opening day centerfielder for the Pilots but it was one of the few games he played for the one and done Seattle franchise before they let him go. While I did read Bouton's Ball Four, I do not remember what he wrote about him in the book. Wikipedia calls him being remembered as the "Yeah,sure" guy. I only remember the insane things Doug Rader did when Bouton ended up with the Astros.

Lucky for Gosger he ended up with the Mets during their miracle ascension to the world championship. Gosger didn't appear in the post season for the champs. He actually only appeared in 10 games and had 16 at bats.

Gosger went to the Expos where he appeared in 91 games and had his best year as a hitter going .263. He spent a lot of his pro career bouncing from the majors the minors. He was in the Giants farm system for part of 71 and he spent his entire '72 season in the Mets farm system before returing to the Majors again with the Mets in time to be on another NL Pennant winner. Again, he didn't appear in the post season but he was on the team. His career came to a close when he failed to hit in the minors in '74.

Gosger looked to be one of those players who was too good to be in the Minors but never good enough to be a regular starter in the Majors. This is common I'm sorry to say and you can see these players right now during the second half of any spring training game being played right now.

As I said earlier, this card was seen and forgotten almost immediately when I first saw it. I never liked the A's and I knew almost none of the players featured on the cards in this set. Just Hunter and Campaneris.

# 16 Bill Hands -Chicago Cubs. The Beginning of a great ride.

The more I work on this blog the more I'm learning. I never thought much of anything about this card because I never heard of Bill Hands. I'm 35 years old and I grew up following and loving baseball from '86 to '94 (only liking it for the first few years after Fehr killed the sport with the strike) so I never learned about short term star players from the 1960's and '70's. Now with the internet you can learn about almost anything about sports and buy almost every pieceof sports memorabilia you'd never thought you'd see to buy in your life (old baseball yearbooks, even old MLB broadcasts on DVD)

Bill Hands was a pitcher and for a time, a great pitcher for the Cubs.  His Cubs career started with him splitting time in the bullpen and starting. Pitchers who play that role don't have great records or ERA's but once Hands ERA dropped to under 2.50 in '67, he was made a starter. His starting record in '68 was an impressive 16-10 as were his 4 shut outs. This started a good string for Hands which I imagine made him a fan favorite in Chicago especially during the team's pennant run in the 1969 season.

If there is one glaring flaw in Hands' stats is the amount of home runs he was surrendering. He was giving up double digit homer the entire time he had double digit wins. This likely led to him also having double digit loses during this time.

He was a solid player until he turned 32 when the injuries began to close in on him in 1972. This started Hands downfall in his career which took him to the Twins and finishing up with the Rangers. He still threw the occasional shut out up until he retired so like his record suggests, he was a hit or miss type of  pitcher.

This is one of those interesting cards to me because it had a Cubs player on it. I have always lived in New Jersey but for some reason WGN was broadcast in my area on cable. This meant during the spring, I got to see home games at Wrigley field on TV all the time. This was before the Cubs played their first night game and Harry Caray was still around bellowing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch. How could a kid not become a Cub fan after that?

This card also looks to have mountains in the background to (it doesn't but it looked like it to me) and I always thout that was weird. You watch games on TV, see them live, you're seeing the players in the massive stadiums. This was mostly true in cards from the 80's and 90's. This set shows these same professional players looking as though they're getting ready to play in sandlots or on a junior high playground. The players looked out of their element.

Also, like the Battey card, I see a jacket under the jersey which meant to me, pitchers and catchers just reported in February for training


Earl Battey is a bit of a lost player in history. He was a solid hitter and incredible fielder. His career fielding percentage for a catcher was .990. He won three Gold Glove's, three times finished in the top ten in voting for the MVP award and was a 4 time All Star. I'm not sure if most collectors even acknowledge Battey as something other than just another common when they price his cards.

Battey started his career as an understudy to Sherm Lollar on the Chicago White Sox. Veeck traded him along with MANY other players for immediate veteran help to bolster the slugging power lacking which was lacking in the lineup of the '59 Pennant winning White Sox. The Sox remained a competitive team into the '60's but their investment didn't really pay off well because they remained a solid fielding and pitching unit and not much else.

This wasn't the case where Battey ended up. He played the last year of the Washington Senators and was a charter member of the Minnesota Twins in '61. Being traded was a blessing for Battey because the Senators didn't hesitate to make him a starter where he showed himself to be a solid hitter and fielder in 1960. His numbers improved along with the record of the team after they moved to Minnesota. His career peaked along with the team in 1965 which won the pennant and took the Dodgers to the full seven games before ultimately losing. Battey did play in all seven games but failed to achieve much at the plate. He again reflected the team which struggled mightedly at the plate against Koufax, Drysdale and Osteen. The '65 Series was the Twins last appearance in the fall classic for more than 20 years.

Battey turned 31 in 1966 and that started his rapid descent due to injuries. He made the All Star team that year but he played 20 few games than in '65 and his numbers at the plate began to drop. 1967 marked the end of his career. He saw limited action and that was all he would see in any level of professional baseball again.

Battey went on to earn a college degree and devote his time to serving the community. He made it to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2010 A fitting tribute to a man whose career grew with the fortunes of a young and hungry Minnesota Twins team. The Twins had winning records from '62 to '67. 1968, the first year after Battey's retirement, the Twins record dropped to 79-83. Their worst record since 1961.

About the card, it features Battey clearly in preseason and I argue that this picture was taken shortly after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training ahead of the rest of the team because of Battey's jacekt. That may not prove much to most but it says something to me. I also remember thinking this card was strange as a kid because how often do you see a catcher in a jacket? It happens even today with MLB pitchers on the base path (that also looked weird to me too.)

Card 14 The Famed Phil Linz, former Yankee, Met Phillie and Harp player

Back from a another hiatus. Things are what they are and life is what it is. You still can choose to beat the living shit out of life instead of having life beat the living shit out of you.

Card 14 features Phil Linz on his second to last baseball card. He appeared on a '68 Topps card in a Phillies uniform but labeled as being a New York Met which he was for part of 67 and all of '68 (his final year)

Linz is best known for an incident on the Yankees team bus in 1964. Linz was playing the harmonica near the back of the bus which really got under the skin of rookie Manager Yogi Berra who was sitting in the front. Yogi finally yelled for Linz to knock it off. Phil didn't hear wehat he said so he asked Mickey Mantle what he said and Mantle told him Yogi wanted him to play louder. Thus a folk hero was born and a little known utility player achieved a status few other utility players could achieve over the course of several careers. Linz ended up playing harmonicas in full page ads (one of which is featured on the back cover of the '65 Yankees yearbook).

Linz's career was fairly short. He was a major leaguer from '62 to '68 playing his final game at the ripe young age of 29. Linz wasn't much of a hitter but look at his fielding stats, the man played almost everywhere. He played everywhere except 1b, C, and P. He appeared in 112 games in '64 for the AL Champion Yankees (last to win the pennant for 11 years) playing mostly SS and 3B.

The Phillies picked up Linz in '66. I am assuming the source of the picture of Linz on his '67 Topps card comes from the '66 spring training. He has a road jersey with a smallish stadium in the distant background. He actually split his playing time in '67 with the Phillies and Mets. In '68 the Mets employed him exclusively as a second baseman and pinch hitter.

A lesser know fact about Linz is that in 1,518 regular season at bats, he hit only 11 home runs but in only 34 World Series at bats, he hit 2 home runs. This fact might've overshadowed the famed harmonica incident if the Yankees managed to win the '64 World Series where Linz hit his clutch homers.