Sunday, January 25, 2015

I Didn't Know He Played For: New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have some of the most famous names in baseball history on their all time roster.  There are names that are synonymous with baseball and define the Yankees historic organization.  Ruth.  Gehrig.  DiMaggio.  Dickey.  Berra.  Mantle.  Maris.  Munson.  Mattingly and Jeter.  Just like every other organization there are players that are usually identified with another organization, yet have made a pit stop in the Bronx.  Here are a few players who spent some time in pinstripes that might surprise you.

Rube Oldring
When Connie Mack built his first dynasty, reaching the World Series in 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914, the $100,000 infield is usually the first mentioned aspect of the dynasty.  If it is not the infield then it may be the pitching of Chief Bender, Andy Coakley, Jack Coombs and Eddie Plank.  Often overlooked is outfielder Rube Oldring.  Not a Hall of Fame player, Oldring patroled the outfield for 12 years for Mack's white elephants.  It is clear to say that Oldring played a pivotal role in the success of the A's.  But before he played for Philadelphia he started with the New York Highlanders in 1905.  In October of that year the A's selected Oldring as part of the Rule 5 draft and Mack cheaply added an important cog of the machine.  As Mack's finances took a dip following the 1915 and 1916 seasons his powerful group was slowly dismantled.  Oldring was released in July of 1916 and quickly signed by the New York Yankees where he finished the season.

Ira Thomas
Just like Rube Oldring, Ira Thomas was an under rated part of Connie Mack's dynasty. As the A's were dominating the American League, Thomas was behind the plate controlling the pitchers.  Thomas played 7 years for Mack but before he became an Athletic he started with the Yankees.  In 1906 and 1907 he was the backup Catcher to Red Kleinow.  He was sold to the Tigers for the 1908 season where he backed up Boss Schmidt.  He was then sold to the A's where he made his name as one of the best Catcher's in the league.

Joe Gedeon

Joe Gedeon had a relatively short career. He played only 7 years in the major leagues, his final three with the St. Louis Browns.  He was an average player, his final season being his best.  What he is remembered for most is the reason that 1920 was his final season.  It seems that the year before, say around October, Gedeon was given some "advice".  He was told by a good friend, Hal Chase, that it would be wise to bet against the Chicago White Sox in the World Series of 1919.  He was given some specific details why he should bet that way and as a result he made some extra money.  When Charles Comiskey offered a reward for any information regarding the rumors of a fix, Gedeon stepped forward hoping to get the reward.  His reward was that he was banned from the game the same as Chase and the Black Sox.  Before he became the Browns' starting second baseman Gedeon played the 1916 and 1917 seasons with the Yankees.  Gedeon was the starter for New York during 1916 but was replaced by Fritz Maisel for the 1917 season.  He was traded to the Browns in 1917 along with Nick Cullop, Maisel, Les Nunamaker and Urban Shocker in exchange for an older Eddie Plank and Catcher Del Pratt. The key man in the deal was Urban Shocker who the Yankees would regret giving up. Eventually they would get him back in time to be a part of the first Yankee dynasty.

George Halas

George Halas was born and raised in Chicago.  He came to be identified with that city as much as Mayor Daley or Michael Jordan.  Before he became famous in Chi-Town he played 12 games for the Yankees in the 1919 season.  The Yankees were starting to field a competitive team in 1919, they would actually be in the pennant race the next year.  During his 12 games Halas would go 2-22  (.091) at the plate with 8 strikeouts.  After his failed season with the Yankees he went back home to Chicago where he played and coached the Decatur Staleys in the NFL.  Two years later they would change their name to the Chicago Bears.  Halas would coach and own the team and become known as "Papa Bear".  Halas passed away in 1983 but his initials GSH were worn for several years on the sleeves of the Bears uniforms.

Dixie Walker
Dixie Walker is best remembered as a Brooklyn Dodger, for many reasons.  Walker was the fan favorite in Brooklyn (he was known in Brooklyn as "the people's cherce") and played a key part in the Dodgers 1941 and 1947 World Series teams.  He is also known as the man who started the petition to keep Jackie Robinson off the Dodgers' roster.  Before he became the fan favorite in Brooklyn he played in the Bronx.  Walker played 2 games for the Yanks in 1931 but became a regular in 1933, Babe Ruth's final year in pinstripes.  As Babe Ruth and Earl Combs started to age the Yankees needed new blood and they found it in the deep south with new outfielders Walker and Ben Chapman.  The two outfielders were close friends and roommates during Walker's 5 years in New York.  When the Yankees signed DiMaggio, Walker became expendable.  He would eventually wind up with the Dodgers. His time in New York at the end of Ruth's time there and in Brooklyn at the beginning of Robinson's made him the only player to have played with both Hall of Famers.

Paul Waner
Paul Waner had a Hall of Fame career spent mostly with the Pirates.  In Pittsburgh he helped the Pirates reach the World Series in 1927 only to be swept by the Yankees team that some consider to be the greatest team of all time.  As Waner aged, his talents started to decline.  As Waner tried desperately to hold on to his career, teams were looking for anyone to fill out their rosters while the stars were overseas fighting World War II.  Waner started the 1944 season with the Dodgers but was released in September.  Fighting to keep their run of pennants going, the Yankees took a chance on Waner and signed him.  He played a total of 9 games for the 1944 Yankees who failed to make the World Series for the first time since 1940.  He would hit only .143.  He would make his final appearance in 1945 with the Yankees as a pinch hitter when he drew a walk.

Sherm Lollar
Sherm Lollar would become a two time Gold Glove winning catcher, a 7 time All Star and an annual MVP candidate for the Chicago White Sox and was a favorite of manager Al Lopez.  Before he made it to the White Sox he had a chance to be the Yankees catcher.  Originally signed by the Indians, he was traded to the Yankees before the 1947 season with Pitcher Gene Bearden being the key piece returned to the Tribe.  The Yankees needed a Catcher as they searched for a permanent replacement to Bill Dickey.  As the Yankees steam roller moved on Lollar split time with Aaron Robinson and Yogi Berra.  Eventually Berra won out but Lollar went on to a strong career in Chicago.

Sal Maglie
Sal the Barber was hated in Brooklyn for years.  As the intimidating ace of the Giants during the early 1950's he frustrated the likes of Furillo, Snider, Reese and Robinson.  When his numbers fell off the Giants sent him to Cleveland who, over staffed with young arms, had him sitting on the bench.  In 1956 Maglie joined the enemy in Brooklyn where he famously was on the losing end of Don Larsen's perfect game.  The 1957 season, the last in Brooklyn, did not go well for the Dodgers.  They lost the pennant to the Milwaukee Braves.  As the season limped into September Maglie was released and signed by the Yankees.  Maglie would pitch in 6 games for New York and would go 2-0 in three starts for the team.  He would not appear in the 1957 World Series, won by the Braves in 7 games, and would only appear in 7 games for the 1958 Yankees before finishing up his career with 10 games for the Cardinals that same year.

Rocky Colavito

Rocky Colavito was a beloved Cleveland Indian.  When he was traded to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn fans of the Tribe were devastated.  Some in my own family still refer to it as the worst trade in baseball history.  Although he played several years for the Tigers and even returned to Cleveland at one point, the trade still lingers.  But did you know that the final 39 games of Rocky's career were in pinstripes in 1968.  Colavito started the year with the Dodgers but was released in July.  The Yankees, at the beginning of one of their darkest periods as an organization, were looking for stars and a miracle.  In his 39 games there Colavito hit just .220.

Ken Brett
Unfortunately, Ken Brett has come to be known as "George Brett's brother" which ignores the fact that Ken was a pretty good pitcher.  He was known mostly as a member of the Red Sox, Angels and Pirates.  He became a bit of a journeyman pitcher, a fill in on depleted staffs.  After the 1975 season with the NL East winning Pirates, the Bucs traded Brett along with Dock Ellis and Willie Randolph to the Yankees.  Ellis stuck around for awhile.  Randolph became an All Star and a fan favorite.  Brett pitched in all of 2 games for the Yankees before moving on to the White Sox.  He was traded along with Rich Coggins for Rudy May.

Luis Tiant

The 1975 and 1978 Red Sox teams are legendary in New England.  Some might even say as legendary as the 2004 edition.  While the great grandfathers of modern Red Sox Nation could recall the pain of seeing Babe Ruth and Duffy Lewis in pin stripes and current fans can recall the horrible sight of Johnny Damon, Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens in the Bronx, the end of the 1970's had the same situation for Red Sox fans.  Luis Tiant was the ace of the staff.  He had been cast off by the Indians and Twins, discarded as finished and resurrected in Boston.  He was like found gold for the Sox.  He symbolized the Red Sox.  They were of the people, not like the rich spoiled Yankees.  After the 1978 season, the one where Bucky Dent destroyed the hopes of New England, Tiant was granted free agency.  He chose the Yankees as his new home.  Tiant pitched two years in New York and went 21-17 (although the best part of that was the 13-9 season in 1979). After the 1980 season he was again granted free agency, ending the odd sight of Tiant in New York.

Jim Kaat
Jim Kaat played 25 years in the Major Leagues.  He is remembered mostly for playing with the Twins, Phillies and Cardinals, helping each of those teams reach the post season.  Lesser known in his career is that part way through the 1979 season the Phillies released Kaat and the Yankees signed him.  Kaat went just 2-3 for New York that year but did well enough to resign for 1980.  Kaat pitched in 4 games for the Yanks that year going 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA.  Kaat's contract was then sold to the Cardinals where Kaat finished out his career, even helping the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series.

Otis Nixon
The 1980s were not kind to the Yankees.  As the team traded young talent for over the hill veterans in the hopes of regaining the magic of the 1970s, the fans watched their prospects blossom elsewhere.  Otis Nixon would become known as the base stealing threat at the top of the Braves lineup during their almost dynasty.  Most know that he spent quite a bit of time in Cleveland and Montreal before making his way to the Braves but he was almost a Centerfielder in pinstripes.  He started his career in the Majors in 1983 with 13 games in the Bronx at the end of that season. In the offseason he was dealt, along with Pitcher George Frazier, to the Indians for Toby Harrah and a player to be named later.

Jose Rijo

Jose Rijo was an All Star and World Series MVP for the Reds.  Some will remember that Rijo won the World Series MVP by beating the A's, his former team. Others may remember him as the son in law of Juan Marichal.  But Rijo was actually once a Yankee.  Rijo appeared in 24 games (5 starts) for the 1984 Yankees and went just 2-8 with a 4.76 ERA. On December 5th of that year Rijo was sent to the A's along with Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell, Stan Javier and Eric Plunk.  In exchange the Yankees received Bert Bradley and superstar Rickey Henderson.

Doug Drabek

As the Pirates became the dominant team in the AL East behind the offense of Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke and Barry Bonds, their pitching was often overlooked.  In fact, their pitching staff was just as big a reason for their success.  Starters John Smiley and Neil Heaton were sucessful but Doug Drabek was the clear ace of the staff.  Drabek won 92 games in six seasons with the Pirates. In 1990 he went 22-6 with a 2.76 ERA and won the Cy Young.  Before dominating the National League Drabek was a Yankee.  He played for the 1986 team and went only 7-8 with a 4.10 ERA in 21 starts.  On November 26, 1986 the Yankees sent Drabek to the Pirates with Pitcher Brian Fisher and minor league Pitcher Logan Easley.  In exchange the Yankees received Pat Clements, Cecilio Guante and Rick Rhoden.

Steve Trout
Steve Trout was the son of Tigers' star Dizzy Trout and a fan favorite for the Cubs in the early 1980's.(Ironic considering dear old dad helped the Tigers win the 1945 World Series.  That would be the one that began "the curse of the Billy Goat".)   When the Cubs won the National League East in 1984, Trout played a big role. Never an ace or an All Star, Trout was considered a pitcher with great potential and the Cubs fans loved him. On July 13, 1987 the Yankees were in first place by three games but wanted some extra pitching.  To get the veteran starter they needed they sent Rich Scheid, Bob Tewksbury and Dean Wilkins to the Cubs in exchange for Trout.  Trout started 9 games for the Yankees that year going 0-4 with a 6.60 ERA.  The Yankees finished in 4th place, 9 games behind the Tigers.

J.T.  Snow
Jack Thomas Snow is the son of former Los Angeles Rams legend Jack Snow.  J.T. made a name or himself in the majors by becoming a star first baseman with the Angels and Giants.  Snow helped  revitalize the Angels franchise as part of their young crop of talent in the mid 1990s and helped the 2002 Giants reach the World Series for the first time since 1989 (where they lost to his former team the Angels).  Yet before he was a young Angel, Snow was a Yankee.  Snow was a late September call up for the 1992 Yankees where he appeared in 7 games hitting .143 with no Home Runs.  On December 6, 1992 the Yankees sent Snow along with Russ Springer and Jerry Nielsen to the Angels in exchange for Pitcher Jim Abbott.

Pete Incaviglia
Better (or more easily) known as Inky, Pete is usually remembered for his time with the Rangers and for his big contributions to the 1993 Phillies team as well as the help he gave to the Orioles playoff teams of 1996 and 1997.  As the 1997 Orioles jumped out to a decent lead in the East and had a crowded outfield, they released the strikeout prone Inky in July.  The Yanks, at that time prone to add any veteran Steinbrenner liked that week, added Incaviglia on July 25.  He was used in 5 games where he hit .250 but did not show the power the Yankees had hoped for.  On August 15 he was released ending his brief stay in the Bronx.

Ted Lilly
Ted Lilly made his name as a Pitcher mostly with the A's, Blue Jays and Cubs.  He recently ended his career with the Dodgers.  Lilly spent part of 1999 in the majors with Montreal but was sent to the Yankees as the player to be named later to complete the Hideki Irabu trade.  In parts of three seasons with the Yankees Lilly was 8-12 with a 4.65 ERA.  Lilly would finish his career at 130-113.  Except for an 0-1 record in Montreal Lilly would have a winning record in every other stop of his career except the Bronx.  On July 5, 2002 the Yankees traded Lilly as part of a three way deal that included Oakland and Detroit. The Tigers ended up with Franklyn German, Carlos Pena and a player to be named later (Jeremy Bonderman).  The A's ended up with Lilly, Jason Arnold and John-Ford Griffin.  The Yankees got Jeff Weaver.

Rickey Henderson was traded by the Athletics to the Yankees just before the start of the 1985 season.  Henderson played for the Yankees until the middle of the 1989 season when he was  traded back to the Athletics.  One of the players included in the original trade from the Yankees to the A's was also included in the second trade sending Henderson from the Yankees back to the A's.  Who was it?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Byung Hyun Kim entered the 8th inning of Game 4 in 2001 replacing Curt Schlling. Kim got a 1-2-3 8th inning, preserving a 3-1 lead.  To start the 9th Derek Jeter bunted for an out.  Paul O'Neill singled but Bernie Williams struck out putting the Diamondbacks one out away from the win.  Tino Martinez then homered to tie the game.

In the bottom of the 10th Kim came back out for the Diamondbacks who had failed to score in the top of the 10th.  Kim got Scott Brosius and Alfonso Soriano to fly out.  The next batter was Derek Jeter who hit a Home Run to give the Yankees the Game 4 victory.

The next night, in Game 5, The Diamondbacks were ahead again, this time 2-0.  Kim was brought on again to close it out.  Jorge Posada doubled to start the inning but Kim got Shane Spencer on a groundball and Chuck Knoblauch swinging.  With two out Scott Brosius hit a two run Home Run to tie the game.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I Didn't Know He Played For: Boston Red Sox

This is the third article in the series "I didn't know he played for..."  Don't forget to check out the first two articles in the series:  Reading, PA and the Baltimore Orioles.

The Boston Red Sox are one of the most successful teams in the history of the game.  Starting with their win in the first ever World Series through their stunning 2013 win the Red Sox are essential to telling the history of the game.  Along with that healthy history comes an association of key players wearing the Red Sox uniform:  Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz and many more.

Here are some players throughout the history of the organization you may have forgotten or never knew they wore the crimson hose:

Fred Mitchell:
As the Tinker, Evers and Chance era in Chicago ended, Fred Mitchell took over.  Each of the famous double play combo had taken a chance at the top of the team but only Chance was truly successful as a manager.  In 1917, Fred Mitchell took over as manager ending the most successful era of Cubs baseball officially.  Mitchell would manage the Cubs for four years, including an appearance in the 1918 World Series.  Before he became a manager Fred Mitchell  was a mediocre (to be kind) pitcher, his best year coming in 1903 with the Phillies (11-16, 4.48).  His professional career started with Boston in the newly formed American League.  Boston finished 6 games behind the White Sox in that first AL year and Mitchell went 6-6.  Apparently Boston thought little of his potential since after just 1 appearance (0-1, 11.25 ERA) he was "loaned" to the Philadelphia Athletics for the rest of the season.

Nick Altrock:
Nick Altrock came to be known as the "Clown Prince" of baseball for the comedy acts he would perform at stadiums around the American League after he retired.  Before that he was known as the White Sox ace on the staff of their first World Series winner in 1906.  Altrock had three straight tremendous years pitching for the Pale Hose but first he wore socks of a different color.  Altrock pitched in a total of four games for Boston (3 in 1902 and 1 in 1903).  In July of 1903 his contract was sold to the White Sox. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series based on the pitching of their stars Bill Dinneen and Cy Young.  Altrock would go on to help the "Hitless Wonders" of Chicago beat the powerful crosstown Cubs.

Eddie Cicotte:
Eddie Cicotte, in the words of the Three Amigos, is "more than famous, he's infamous".  Cicotte will forever be known as the ace of the Black Sox staff.  He was one of the leaders of the World Series fix and one of the few who were known to have gotten paid what they asked.  But before his socks where white or black they were crimson.  Cicotte played four full seasons and part of a fifth in Boston before moving on to Chi-town.  He left Boston with a 52-46 record and 2.69 ERA.  In July of 1912, as the Red Sox rode the arm of Smokey Joe Wood to a pennant, they sold Cicotte to the White Sox where he would meet up with his co-conspirators.

Bill Wambsganns

Known to his teammates as "Wamby" for obvious reasons, Bill Wambsganns did something in the 1920 World Series that no one before or after him accomplished.  He turned an unassisted triple play.  But Wamby's career was more than that.  He was the double play partner of Ray Chapman.  He was a base stealing threat for the Indians first World Series Champions.  And, what few remember, he played for the Red Sox.  Wamby played 13 years in the league, 10 of those in Cleveland.  In January 1924 as Cleveland started to look for a younger group, Wamby was sent to the Red Sox along with Dan Boone, Joe Connelley and Steve O'Neill.  In exchange the Tribe received George Burns, Chick Fewster and Roxy Walters.  He played two full years with Boston but with the team still reeling from the fire sale to the Yankees there was little success.

Joe Judge:
When the Washington Senators were finally able to overcome that old joke about Washington (First in War, First in peace and Last in the American League) and win the American Leaue pennant two straight years, Joe Judge was their power hitting First Baseman in the middle of the lineup.  As that group of players started to age the Senators went with a youth movement and Judge was dispensed with.  He landed in Brooklyn for part of 1933 before being released.  After playing 2084 games in the Nation's capital and 42 in Brooklyn, Judge finished his career with 45 games in Boston (35 in 1933 and 10 in 1934).

Nels Potter:
As the Red Sox started to build their young team around Williams, Doerr, Pesky and DiMaggio, pitching always seemed to be the missing element.  Turns out they may have had it and let it get away.  Nels Potter was 22-41 in his five seasons with the Athletics but the record was partially a reflection of the terrible team behind him in Philadelphia.  The Red Sox purchased Potter's contract during the 1941 season where he went 2-0 in finishing 6 games.  He was sent to AA Louisville for the 1942 season and before returning to the Red Sox was chosen by the St.Louis Browns in the Rule 5 draft.  In 1944 as the Browns were charging to their first (and only) pennant, Potter was the ace of the staff winning 19 games.

Ken Keltner:
Ken Keltner had a long and successful career.  He is known as the man who stopped Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak.  He made 7  All Star Games and when the Indians won the 1948 World Series Keltner was the lineup's power.  He played 1526 games in his career.  1513 of those were with the Tribe.  As the Indians groomed young Al Rosen to take over at Third Base Keltner's playing time dipped.  At the end of the 1949 season Keltner was released and Rosen named the full time Third Baseman.  Keltner signed with the Red Sox who were looking for one last piece to put them ahead of the Yankees (they had lost to the Yanks on the final day of the 1949 season). He saw action in only 13 games.  He hit .321 in that time but his power was gone.  He had 0 Home Runs and drove in only 2.  By June 6 Keltner was released and gone from the game as a player.

Bobby Thomson
Bobby Thomson hit one of the most famous Home Runs in history, certainly the most famous in the Dodgers-Giants rivalry.  After leaving the Giants he played several years with the Braves in Milwaukee.  At the end of his time there he was sent back to the Giants for Red Schoendienst, who jump started the Braves to their only World Series title in Milwaukee.  Thomson then spent some time with the Cubs before being sent to the Red Sox before the 1960 season.  He played 40 games for Boston that year before being released in June.  He hit .263 there that year with 5 Home Runs but the Red Sox were starting to move toward a youth movement as Williams got ready for his final year.

Wilbur Wood

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Wilbur Wood was the face of the Chicago White Sox.  The team was not very competitive as the AL West was dominated by the A's and Royals (and even the Twins for a while).  For four straight years (1971-1974) Wood won more than 20 games.  He finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting three times and made three All Star Games.  Before he became a star in Chicago, he was starting his career in Boston.  From the end of the 1961 season to the middle of the 1964 season Wood wore Red Sox not White Sox.  In his four years in Boston, Wood had a total record of 0-5.  In September of 1964 his contract was sold to the Pirates who would eventually trade Wood to the White Sox.

Tim McCarver
Tim McCarver is of course known today as the play by play announcer for FOX over the last several decades (and ABC before that).  Before heading into the broadcast booth McCarver was known for being an All Star Catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals when they dominated the mid 1960s and later for the Phillies in the mid 1970s. What few know is that after leaving the Cardinals he made a stop in Boston.  After leaving St.Louis he was sent to Philadelphia who then sent him to Montreal and a brief stop back in St. Louis.  In September 1974 the Red Sox purchased McCarver's contract as an insurance policy for an often injured Carlton Fisk.  He played in 11 games that year and stayed with the team to start 1975 and played 12 games with the team before being released.  He was signed by the Phillies where he would end his career.

Juan Marichal
The Hall of Famer Dominican Dandy made nine All Star Games, won 242 games and was the first Giants' ace on the west coast.  As the Giants offensive stars of Mays, McCovey and Cepeda moved on the talent level at Candlestick needed a revamp.  Marichal became expendable.  In December of 1973 the Giants sold Marichal's contract to the Red Sox.  Marichal pitched in 11 games for the Sox and went 5-1 but was released in October of that year.

Jack Clark:

Jack Clark played for the Giants at the time Frank Robinson was the manager and was known for being in Frank's doghouse.  He was an All Star Firstbaseman and went on to be an All Star for the Cardinals in the late 1980s.  He had a well known big contract from the Yankees who were less than pleased with his results and shipped him to San Diego.  What few people remember is that he finished his career with the Red Sox.  Clark signed as a free agent for the 1991 season but couldn't help the Red Sox repeat as AL East Champs.  He hit only .249 but did blast an impressive 28 Home Runs.  Clark stuck around for the 1992 season but hit only .210 with 5 Home Runs.  His playing time dripped to 80 games as Boston got ready for their new young star, Mo Vaughn.

Frank Viola:
Frank "Sweet Music" Viola pitched the Twins to the 1987 World Series.  Two years later the Twins were looking to rebuild.  They traded Viola to the Mets in a shocking blockbuster trade that netted Minnesota Rick Aguilera, David West and Kevin Tapani.  Viola would be part of a dysfunctional, expensive and underachieving Mets team that imploded.  After the 1991 season Viola became a free agent and signed with the Red Sox.  During the 1992, 1993 and 1994 seasons Viola was 25-21 but this was the era of the Blue Jays and the Sox were not able to make the playoffs.  Viola left for Cincinnati following the strike year but was never able to pitch another full year.

Byung Hyun Kim

The press had a field day with Byung-Hyun Kim.  Their jokes were constant.  When Kim gave up game winning Home Runs in back to back games during the 2001 World Series he was devastated and it was seen by the entire world.  The headlines were brutal.  "Byung Hung a Curve", "There's No Crying in Baseball". Although the Diamondbacks went on to win the World Series over the Yankees, his career was remembered for two pitches.  But did you remember that Byung-Hyun Kim actually continued on a fairly successful career afterwards?  He stayed with Arizona through 2002 and the first part of 2003.  In late May 2003 with the Red Sox looking for a closer, they sent infielder Shea Hillenbrand to Arizona in exchange for Kim.  Kim would have a decent year working out of the pen going 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA.  Kim would appear in the ALDS for the Red Sox against the A's and would throw 2/3 of an inning.  Heading into the bottom of the 9th in Game 1 with a 4-3 lead Kim was brought in to protect the lead.  He faced four batters.  The first batter flew out to left field.  He then walked the second batter, hit the third with a pitch and struck out Mark Ellis.  With two out he was replaced by Alan Embree who gave up a run scoring single to tie the game.  The run was charged to Kim.  Kim stayed with Boston for 2004 but appeared in only 7 games.

Hanley Ramirez
Hanley Ramirez is a supestar in this league without question.  He was the 2006 Rookie of the Year, three time All Star, a batting champion, two time Silver Slugger winner and has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times (finishing second to Albert Pujols in 2009). Ramirez has done most of this with the Marlins (where he wore out his welcome and forced a trade) and the Dodgers.  This season he signed with the Red Sox, although it could be called a return, as Ramirez was once a member of Red Sox nation.  As a late season call up from the minor leagues in 2005, Ramirez appeared in 2 games.  He went 0-2 with 2 strikeouts in those two games.  In November of 2005 the Red Sox sent Ramirez, along with Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia and Anibal Sanchez to the Marlins.  In exchange they got Guillermo Mota, Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett.  Despite the way Beckett's time in Boston ended most Red Sox would likely say the trade was a success, with Lowell and Beckett both playing a big role in the 2007 World Series title.

Justin Masterson

Over the last few seasons Justin Masterson had developed into the ace of the Indians' pitching staff.  As the tribe began to rebuild they did so with Masterson in mind (until they traded him at the deadline this year).  Just as they have with Hanley Ramirez, Boston has brought Masterson back in to the fold, resigning him this offseason. Masterson debuted with the Red Sox in 2008 and appeared in a few post season games for the Sox.  Masterson even won Game 5 of the ALCS in relief against Tampa Bay.  As the Red Sox tried to make a push for the playoffs in 2009, they were looking for offense.  They sent Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price to the Indians in exchange for Victor Martinez.  It didn't quite work out the way Red Sox fans had planned.  They missed the 2009 post season.

Byung Hyun Kim gave up Home Runs in Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series against the Yankees.  These three famous Home Runs were hit by three key members of the Yankees dynasty and allowed the Yankees to take a 3 games to 2 lead in the Series.  What three Yankee legends hit these Home Runs?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
The Orioles traded for First Baseman Glenn Davis before the start of the 1991 season.  Davis hurt his back before ever playing a game for the Orioles and due to the injury was never truly effective.
The players given up by the Orioles went on to strong careers.

Curt Schilling made 6 All Star Games (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2004) and was a member of World Series teams with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox.

Pete Harnisch, at one point considered the best player given up in the trade, made only one All Star Appearance in 1991, although he pitched in the league for another ten years.  Harnisch had several very strong years with the Astros, Mets and Reds but only made the All Star team once.  He did not reach a World Series.

Steve Finley made an impact in every city he played and was one of the most under rated outfielders of his time.  Finley would play in the post season with the Padres, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Angels and hit one of the biggest Home Runs in Dodgers history.  He was a member of the 1998 Padres World Series team and the 2001 Diamondbacks World Series team.  Finley was a tremendous defensive outfielder and won 5 Gold Gloves.  Surprisingly, he only made two All Star teams in 1997 and 2000.

That gives us 6 for Schilling, 2 for Finley and 1 for Harnisch.  Davis had made two All Star Games (1986 and 1989) before being traded to Baltimore.  He made 0 after the trade.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Didn't Know He Played For: Baltimore Orioles

Last week we started a look at a new series called "I didn't know they played for..." with a look at the minor league history of my home town, Reading, PA.  This week we take a look at the major league history of the Baltimore Orioles organization.

The Baltimore Orioles started as the St. Louis Browns.  (Of course you knew that because I'm sure you vividly recall the well written, exhilarating article about the history of team names).  The Browns did not have the greatest history but they did have quite a few recognizable names play for the team including George Sisler, Don Gutteridge and Pete Gray.

The team moved to Baltimore in 1954 (which you of course also knew because you read this blog every week, right?) Since moving to Baltimore the Orioles team has become one of the key identifying features of the city.  The fresh crab cakes from the inner harbor, the historical ships and the great shopping district are just as identifiable for the area.

The Orioles teams have had some of the greatest players of all time represent their team proudly.  Frank and Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken are the most identifiable.  Every organization has players that come through town on the way to making their mark some where else.  Sometimes the player is near the end of their career and are trying to make one last playoff run or World Series appearance.  These players are often remembered as a member of another organization but nevertheless appeared as a Brown or Oriole at some point.  Here are some of the players that you may not remember as having played for the Browns or Orioles.

Jiggs Donahue:
The name Jiggs Donahue may not resonate through the history of the game today but he played a very big part in one of the greatest upsets of all time.  The 1906 Cubs are still considered one of the greatest teams of all time.  They breezed through the National League before they ran into the crosstown rival White Sox, lovingly referred to that year as the "Hitless Wonders".  They were anything but hitless in the World Series.  Donahue was a driving force in that series playing like a man possessed.  A man who had only 25 extra base hits all year long ended up with two doubles and a triple in the upset win and drove in 5 runs.  In all Donahue played six years with the White Sox, his best being 1905.  Before he was a White Sox he was a member of the St.Louis Browns. Or more precisely, the original Milwaukee Brewers of 1901 who moved to St. Louis in 1902.  One of the contract jumpers from the National League at the start of the American League, Donahue signed with Milwaukee for 1901 and hit .316 in 37 games.  He played with the team in St.Louis in their first year there but appeared in only 30 games and hit .237.  In 1903 he was sent to the minors but resurfaced with the White Sox for 1904.

Bill Dinneen:
The first World Series in 1903 featured some of the greatest names of all time: Jimmy Collins, Fred Clarke, Tommy Leach, Honus Wagner and Cy Young.  The man who made the difference among all these  legends was Bill Dinneen.  Dinneen won three of the five games needed by the Red Sox to capture their first ever World Series title.  He continued to pitch for the Sox until 1907.  In June 1907, as the Sox were retooling for what would become the 1912-1918 dynasty, they sent their former pitching hero to the Browns for Beany Jacobson and $1500 dollars.  Dinneen would play two and a half years with the Browns before retiring.  He would go 27-24 with a 2.57 ERA in St.Louis.  Not bad considering how terrible most of those Browns teams were. Actually, the 1908 Browns also featured Rube Waddell, the former A's star, and put up a fight in the close American League race. Dinneen would go on to be a successful Major League umpire for many years after his playing days.

Charlie Root:
Despite not having won a World Series title since 1908 and not having reached a World Series since 1945, the Cubs were regularly in contention between 1908 and 1945.  Charlie Root was the ace of the Cubs' pitching staff on 4 World Series teams (1929, 1932, 1935 and 1938).  Despite being known as the man who gave up Babe Ruth's called shot, Root had a very good career, ending with a 201-160 record.  Root started with the Cubs in 1926 but before he was a Cub he was a Brown.  Root appeared in 27 games for the 5th place Browns in 1923, going 0-5 with a 5.70 ERA.  Obviously the Browns needed pitchers who could win so Root was sent back to the minors where he resurfaced three years later.

Jim Bottomley:

As hard as it may be for modern fans to believe, the St.Louis Cardinals were once the doormat of the National League.  As they came out of the darkness and into contention Jim Bottomley and Rogers Hornsby were the keys to the offense.  Bottomley even won an MVP award in 1928 as the Cardinals returned to the World Series.  But as always happens, the years go on, age catches up with the players and younger players come along.  When it was time for Bottomley to give up the first base bag he was not done with his career.  The Cardinals traded Bottomley to the Reds and after a few years finished his career with the lowly Browns.  In 2 years there he hit .285 (not bad but well below his .310 career average) and drove in 107 runs (less than what he used to accomplish in just one year with the Cardinals). Bottomley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.

Dizzy Dean:

Dizzy Dean is synonymous with the St.Louis Cardinals "Gashouse Gang" of 1934.  Dean was later a legendary broadcaster and was always known for his goofy persona.  What few people know is that the great Dean tried a come back in 1947.  He pitched 1 game for the Browns in 1947.  In 4 innings he allowed three hits and a walk but no runs and did not get a decision.

Eddie Lopat:
The Yankees, who dominated the game in the late 1940s and 1950s are mostly remembered for their offensive names like DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Bauer, Gordon and Rizzuto.  Often forgotten are their three aces of Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat.  In the 8 years that Lopat pitched in the Bronx, the Yankees won 5 World Series.  As the Yankees went for the 1955 AL pennant Lopat's record sat at 4-8.  The Yankees sent Lopat to the Orioles for pitcher Jim McDonald.  Lopat would pitch in only 10 games for the O's and went 3-4.  At the end of the season Lopat was released and retired.

Dizzy Trout:
Dizzy Trout worked with Hal Newhouser to lead the Tigers pitching staff of the 1940s.  Trout pitched in the World Series for the 1940 and 1945 for the Tigers and, although not as successful as Newhouser he was a fan favorite.  What few remember is that Dizzy, father of Steve Trout, ended his career with the birds.  Trout disappeared from the game after the 1952 season but resurfaced in Baltimore at the age of 42 in 1957.  Trout appeared in 2 games for the O's  and retired only one of the five batters he faced.  He allowed 4 hits and 3 runs in 1/3 of an inning for an ERA of 81.00.

Whitey Herzog:

Whitey Herzog was a Hall of Fame manager mostly with the Royals and Cardinals though he also spent time with the Rangers and Angels.  As with almost all managers, they had to be players somewhere before they became managers.  Herzog played for several teams but he played more in Baltimore than for any other team.  Herzog played two seasons (1961 and 1962) with the Orioles and hit .280 in his time there

Harvey Haddix:
Harvey Haddix was an All Star, Gold Glove winner and famously pitched 12 perfect innings before losing the game in the 13th.  He saw a lot of success with the Cardinals and Pirates, even winning a World Series title with the Pirates in 1960.  What few remember is where Haddix ended up.  In 1964 and 1965 Haddix pitched in Birdland.  After the 1963 season as the Pirates were looking for a youth movement Haddix was sent to Baltimore. He went 5-5 in 1964 and 3-4 in 1965.  His contract was sold to the Braves after the 1965 season.  Too bad.  Had he hung on one more year in Baltimore he would have gotten another World Series ring.

Enos Cabell:
Enos Cabell is one of the all time great players in the history of the Astros organization.  As Cabell matured as a player, the Astros matured as a team.  Before Cabell became an Astros legend he helped the Orioles make the playoffs.  He first appeared in the majors for three games in 1972.  His playing time increased to 30 games the next year and 80 games in 1974.  When the O's took on the A's in the 1974 ALCS Cabell saw action in three games although the A's went on to their third straight World Series win.  In December of that year Cabell was traded with Rob Andrews to the Astros in exchange for Lee May and Jay Schlueter.  It worked out for Cabell. The Astros would eventually retire his number.

Rick Burleson:
The name Rick Burleson may not stand out to casual fans, but Red Sox Nation certainly remembers him and the fans of the Angels should remember him too.  He played a big part in the success of both organizations.  The Rooster came up with the Red Sox in 1974 and finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting (he was behind Mike Hargrove, Bucky Dent and George Brett).  In 1975 the feisty Burleson combined with Denny Doyle as the middle infield in the Red Sox first World Series team since 1967.  After his time in Boston he went on to help the Angels organization for 5 years, even playing a big part in the  classic 1986 ALCS between the Halos and the Red Sox.  Burleson became a free agent after the 1986 season.  The Orioles hadn't quite figured out what direction they were heading and despite having a young Bill Ripken in their minor league system they signed Burleson.  In 1987 Burleson would play 62 games and hit .209.  He would retire after the 1987 season.

Dwight Evans:
Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Fred Lynn.  It's a hell of an outfield but it didn't leave room for one of the most important pieces of the 1975 Red Sox.  Dewey Evans was too good to sit on the bench so Yaz moved to First Base to make room.  From 1972-1990 Evans patrolled the Fenway outfield and was there for every near victory and painful defeat.  He made one of the most unbelievably spectacular catches in the 1975 World Series.  When the Reds rallied in 1975 Game 7 Dewey watched it.  When Buckner let the ball trickle through Dewey saw it.  And when McGwire, Canseco and the Bash Brothers destroyed the Red Sox Dewey was there.  He played 2505 games in a Red Sox uniform.  After 19 years of service in the Boston organization the Red Sox were ready to move on with Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks and Tom Brunansky.  After the 1990 season the Red Sox released Evans.  He felt he still had something left to contribute so he went to Baltimore, who experts felt were close to a big rebirth.  Instead 1991 was the tipping point downward for Baltimore.  Prior to the season they had sent three minor leaguers (Pete Harnisch, Steve Finley and Curt Schilling) to Houston for Glenn Davis.  Davis played in only 49 games that year.  Evans managed to play in 100 games and finished with a respectable .270 but his RBI (38) and Home Runs (6) were way below his standards.  Evans retired at the end of the season.

Lonnie Smith: 
Everywhere Lonnie Smith went World Series appearances (usually wins) would follow.  Philadelphia (1980), St. Louis (1982) Kansas City (1985), Atlanta (1991, 1992). Everywhere except Baltimore.  Smith had signed with the Pirates in  1993 after a successful stay in Atlanta.  At the trade deadline, with the Orioles feeling they might still catch the Blue Jays,  the Orioles sent 2 minor leaguers to the Pirates for Smith.  It wasn't a Glenn Davis bad trade (the two minor leaguers never made an impact in the majors) but Smith only played in 9 games for the O's that year.  They did not catch the Jays.  Smith played in 35 games for the O's in the strike shortened 1994 season.  When the game returned in 1995 Smith did not.  He retired.

Sid Fernandez:
Doc Gooden, Ron Darling and David Cone got the headlines as the stars of the pitching staff for the Mets of the 1980s,.  Sid Fernandez quietly succeeded.  Fernandez pitched 10 years for the Mets and won just short of 100 games for the Mets, not including the post season.  When his contract with the Mets ended after the 1993 season, Fernandez signed with Baltimore.  Sid finished at 6-6 with a 5.15 ERA in his first AL year.  He started the next season at 0-4 with a 7.39 ERA and was released on July 10, 1995.

Joe Carter:

For a short while, a very brief period, there was a nice little rivalry brewing between the O's and Jays in the AL East.  From 1989 to 1993 the Orioles and Jays were fighting for the top perch.  Fans in Baltimore hated their northern neighbors and Joe Carter was the leader, the icon of that group.  After the 1997 season Carter was a free agent and he signed with the Orioles.  His stay was brief, only 85 games, and he hit only .247 but he did hit 11 Home Runs.  At the trade deadline, with the Orioles' inflated payroll and reduced results, Carter was traded to the Giants for a minor league prospect.

Ozzie Guillen:
The Orioles in the mid/late 1990s were so close to winning.  They had come up just short in 1997.  The off season of 1997-1998 was a disaster.  Their manager, an organizational legend as a player who had just won Manager of the Year, left.  With the front office realizing that their team was old and with a small window left to win the Orioles decided to mortgage the future and bring in as many veteran stars (regardless of age) as possible.  Joe Carter and Doug Drabek were signed.  Looking for a Short Stop that would allow Cal Ripken to move to Third Base, the Orioles signed Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie played all  of 12 games for the O's in 1998(mostly as a backup for Mike Bordick) and hit .083 in just 18 plate appearances. Guillen was released by the Orioles on May 1 and signed with the Braves.

Casey Blake:
Casey Blake developed into a strong defensive third baseman and good middle of the lineup hitter for the Indians and Dodgers.  When Cleveland nearly reached the 2007 World Series, Blake was at the hot corner.  When the Dodgers lost back to back NLCS to the Phillies in 2008 and 2009, Blake played a big part.  Blake's road to success was not quite that easy.  Along the way he passed through the Phillies, Tigers, Yankees and Blue Jays systems eventually ending up with the Twins.  After a short stay there Blake was waived by the Twins and on September 21, 2001 the Orioles took a chance.  Blake played in 6 games for the O's  He had 2 hits in 15 At Bats (.133) but one of those two hits was a Home Run.  Blake also stole two bases.  At the end of the year Blake was waived by the Orioles and reclaimed by the Twins ending his tenure with the O's.

The Glenn Davis trade mentioned today was one of the worst trades in baseball history.  Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley were sent to the Houston Astros.  How many All Star Appearances did these three combine for and how many times did they  play on a World Series team?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
It is often said that the Dodgers purchased the Reading team for Carl Furillo and the air conditioned bus.  The team was not overloaded with great talent but the 1941 Reading Brooks did send a few players (other than the obvious Furillo) to the Major Leagues:
Al Campanis: Played 7 games in 1943 for the Dodgers.
Paul Cheverinko: Had already spent his time in the majors by 1941.  He played a combined 42 games in 1937 and 1938 for the Dodgers.
Buck Etchison: Would not play for Brooklyn but spent 1943 and 1944 in Boston with the Braves.  This included 109 games in the war reduced ranks of the Major Leagues.
Heinie Heltzel: Played 29 games for the 1943 Braves and 11 games for the 1944 Phillies.
Lyle Judy: Similar to Cheverinko, Judy had already played in the majors.  He spent all of 8 games with the Cardinals in 1935.
Joe Walsh: Pitcher Joe Walsh had also already spent his time in the Majors by 1941.  He appeared in 8 games for the Boston Braves in 1938.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Didn't Know He Played For: Reading

To many people living outside of Pennsylvania, the city of Reading, Pennsylvania may only be known for being featured as part of the original Monopoly board game as the "Reading Railroad" location.  Since the decline of the railroad industry the city of Reading has become known more for the signature Pagoda that sits on top of Mount Penn or for the reality T.V. show couple Jon and Kate.

I grew up in the greater Reading area and I can tell you personally what a great city it is.  There is of course the pretzels.  There are great family diners (Arner's and Paolo's) and the summer festivals ( Mifflin Days but my favorite was always Apple Dumpling Festival).  I can't leave out the Farmer's Markets where you can go and get Shoo-Fly Pie for a great price.  Reading from top to bottom is a great area.

One of the greatest traditions of Reading that many overlook is the Reading baseball team.  Since 1967 the team has been associated with the Philadelphia Phillies, however, prior to that they were also associated with the Red Sox, Indians and Dodgers.  The history of the Reading minor league franchise dates back to 1883 when the Reading Actives played in the Interstate League.  Since then they have been known as the Coal Heavers, Pretzels, Coal Barons, Aces, Keystones, Red Sox, Brooks, Chicks, Indians, Phillies and (currently) Fightin' Phils.

Throughout the tradition some big names have come through the city and gone on to big time baseball fame.  Names like Roger Maris, Earl Averill, Herb Score, Mudcat Grant, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Schmidt, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and many other legends that everyone associates with the team's rich history.  Today's article will be the start of an ongoing series to point out some of the people you never knew or may have forgotten made their way through the organizations of baseball.  We start with the great area known as Reading, PA.:

Morrie Rath:

Morrie Rath made his major league debut for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics in 1909.  Having attended Swarthmore College,just 11 miles outside Philadelphia, Connie Mack would have had the inside track on finding him.  Mack had a great scouting system (especially for local talent), spent money when needed (the cross town Phillies rarely did) and loved signing college bred players (most other managers over looked these players). Rath split the 1908 season between the East Carolina League and the Virginia League before moving on to Reading, PA for the 1909 season.  While there he would play in 114 games and end the year with a .315 average.  It was good enough for a call up to the big leagues with Mack's Athletics.  Rath was not an All Star calibre player but would spend six seasons in the big leagues.  After 2 years with the A's, Rath was sent to the Indians during the 1910 season.  He landed in Chicago with the White Sox for 1912 and 1913.  While there he would play with six playes who would later be a part of the infamous 1919 season.  This would  be a connection oddly overlooked conisidering his claim to fame came as a member of the 1919 Reds team.  When the eight (or seven if you take out Buck Weaver) Black Sox agreed to throw the World Series, the gamblers needed a sign that they were going to go through with the plan.  The decided sign to the gamblers was that Eddie Cicotte would hit the first batter.  That batter, who took a fast ball to the middle of his back, was Morrie Rath.  Rath would play just one more year in the major leagues.

Dixie Walker:
Ewart Gladstone Walker, better known as Dixie, was actually born in Brownsville, PA.  Brownsville is a small town in southwest Pennsylvania in Fayette County.  He made his major league debut in September of 1909 and played parts of four Major League seasons, all with the Senators.  As a team mate of the great Walter Johnson, Walker  finished his major league career with a 25-31 record and a 3.52 ERA (fairly high for the dead ball era). After his final days in Washington Walker bounced around the minors playing a part of one season with the Albany Senators who shifted midseason 1916 and joined the Reading Pretzels.  Walker played a total of 43 games that year going  25-18.  Walker's career may not have been tremendous but baseball was a family business.  His brother Ernie played three years (1913-1915) with the St.Louis Browns.  He also had two sons that made large impacts on the Major Leagues.  His son Harry "the Hat" Walker was a big part of the St.Louis Cardinals' dynasty during the 1940's and would go on to manage for nine years.  His other son adopted the father's nickname of Dixie and would have a long successful career.  He would be the only player to spend time on the field with both Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson and he would be forever remembered as the player who led the petition against Jackie Robinson.

Steve O'Neill:

Steve O'Neill was born and raised in Minooka, PA, a small town just south of Scranton, in the heart of mining country. O'Neill would have a long Major League career spent mostly with the Indians.  As the Catcher for the Indians from 1911-1923 he became very close friends with Shortstop Ray Chapman and was one of the most devastated when Chapman was killed.  As his career was winding down O'Neill started to become a journeyman moving from city to city trying to keep the baseball career rolling.  O'Neill moved to the Red Sox for 1924.  O'Neill played for the Reading Keystones for 34 games in 1925 before being picked up by the Yankees to end the year.  He did not help greatly as the Keystones finished 4th that season.  O'Neill would go on to a very successful managerial career with the Indians, Tigers, Red Sox and Phillies.  His most successful managerial year was 1945 when he led  the Tigers to a World Series title.   O'Neill would also be a long time popular broadcaster for the Indians.

Everett Scott:

The minor leagues are sometimes a book end to a career. They can sometimes launch a player onto the national baseball stage and can sometimes be the cushion at the bottom when that career starts coming back to earth.  Everett Scott was a great player in the major leagues, mostly with the Red Sox and Yankees.  Scott played on the great Red Sox teams in the 1910's and was one of the many players shipped to the Yankees in the early 1920's which gave the Yankees their start of dominance.  Scott was good enough to play in 1307 consecutive games.  That would be a record until a guy named Lou Gehrig passed him.  Gehrig and Scott were actually team mates until mid 1925.  On June 17 of that year, just over two weeks after Gehrig started his streak, Scott was released by the Yankees and signed by the Washington Senators.  He would spend the 1926 season with the White Sox and Reds.  Trying to hang on Scott would play for Toledo in 1927.  He rounded out his career in 1928 and 1929 in Reading, who were at that time Chicago Cubs affiliates.  Reading would finish 6th in 1928.  Scott did fairly well hiting .316 with 156 hits in 131 games, including 39 doubles.  His numbers dropped dramatically in 1929, his final year in professional ball.  He hit only .287 with 54 hits (18 of them doubles). One reason for his lack of playing time in 1929 may have been the presence of Shortstop Billy Jurges, future star short stop for the Chicago Cubs.

Whitey Witt:

Whitey Witt had an interesting career. Of course he did! otherwise we wouldn't bother reviewing his brief stop in Reading here would we?  Witt started with the Philadelphia Athletics just as the Connie Mack dynasty in the early 1900s was being dismantled.  Instead of playing with the $100, 000 infield he played on one of the worst teams of all time.  From 1916-1921 Witt witnessed some of the worst baseball imaginable.  With this being an article about players in Reading you would think  his career would have started there.  It didn't.  Witt went right from the campus of Bowdoin College (the college where Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a professor) to Connie Mack Stadium.  Desperate for cash to keep the A's profitable, Mack sold one of his few stars to the Yankees before the 1922 season.  Witt joined a team that was just starting to become THE YANKEES.  It was a tough job.  He was joining an outfield with Bob Meusel and Babe Ruth and replacing popular power hitter Ping Bodie.  Witt would play a big part in that early Yankee success and was a key member of the Yankees first World Series team.  Midway through the 1925 season Witt was released.  His replacement would be Earle Combs, the next great Yankee Center Fielder.  Witt's career in the major leagues would end after the 1926 season with the Brooklyn Robins.  He would go on to play two years in the minors, the final one in 1929 with the Reading Keystones.  He would play in only 30 games but had 30 hits and batted .330.

Phil Cavarretta:

Cavarretta had a 22 year career with three All Star appearances and an MVP award.  He was the team leader for the Cubs for many years and was the star on the 1935, 1938 and 1945.  Cavaretta spent part of the 1934 season with Reading playing 85 games and hitting .308 with 4 Home Runs.  Cavarretta also spent three years as the Cubs Manager, never finishing higher than 5th.  He would continue to manage in the minor leagues until 1971 and had a one year managerial stint with the Lancaster Red Roses in 1960.

Joe Altobelli:

Joe Altobelli played parts of three seasons in the majors and had a mostly forgettable career.  He played 42 games for the 1955 Indians, 83 games for the 1957 Indians and 41 games for 1961 Twins. He spent much more time bouncing around the minor leagues, 18 seasons to be exact.  Two of those years were spent with the Reading Indians in the Eastern League.  Altobelli's mark on baseball was left more as a manager.  He managed the Giants for three seasons, never finishing higher than 4th.  In 1983 Altobelli took over for a retiring Earl Weaver in Baltimore and led the Orioles to their third (and so far last) World Series.

Rico Petrocelli:

In the early to mid 1960's the Boston Red Sox had a strong farm system that started to produce quite a few talented players including Tony Conigliarro and Carl Yastrzemski.  Another important piece of that young group was the man known as "Petro".  Petrocelli was a product of Brooklyn, NY and started his minor league career in 1962 with the Winston-Salem Red Sox. After one year in Winston-Salem he was moved to the Red Sox AA team in Reading.  He spent the 1963 season with the Reading Red Sox and played 137 games.  He hit only .237 but showed good power with 19 Home Runs.  He would play the 1964 season in Seattle before being called up to Boston for good in 1965.  A two time All Star, Petrocelli helped lead two of the most famous Red Sox teams of all time: the 1967 "Impossible Dream" team and the 1975 Red Sox.

Ray Fosse;

Ray Fosse's major league career started ramping up in 1967 with the Indians but took off in full flight in 1970.  In his first full season with Cleveland he was an All Star and a Gold Glove winner at Catcher.  Fosse would make the All Star team again in 1971 and would be injured in an infamous collision with Pete Rose at the end of that game.  He would go on to help the A's win back to back championships in 1973 and 1974 (he was not there for the first of the three straight World Series) and is still an announcer for the Oakland Athletics.  But before all that, in 1965, Fosse played 55 games for the Reading Indians.  He hit only .219 but his defense helped him move along in the minor league ranks.

Dallas Green:

Dallas Green grew up in Delaware, not far from Phillies territory.  In 8 Major League seasons with the Phillies, Senators and Mets, Green was 20-22 as a pitcher.  Similar to Joe Altobelli, Green's claim to fame came as a manager.  Under Green's leadership the Philadelphia Phillies won their first ever World Series in 1980.  Green would also manage the Yankees for one year and the Mets for several seasons.  Green spent ten seasons in the minor leagues working his way up to the majors.  His final stop as a player was in Reading in 1967. Green started 8 games for the Reading Phillies that year and went 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA.

Stump Merrill:

Stump Merrill was a career minor leaguer. He did spend six seasons in the Phillies organization bouncing around their minor league ranks from 1966-1971. He made two stops in Reading.  The first was in 1968 where he played 42 games and hit .189.  He was then sent to the Phillies' San Diego affiliate (one year before the birth of the Padres) to finish the season.  Merrill then was sent back to Reading for the 1969 season. He played in 80  games that year and hit .252. He never reached the majors.  So who the hell is he?  Stump Merrill went from a minor league player to a minor league manager and spent a large amount of time in the Yankees minor league system.  At the end of the 1989 season Bucky Dent replaced Dallas Green as Yankees manager.  Near the end of the 1990 season, with the Yankees struggling again, Stump Merrill was named manager of the New York Yankees.  Merrill would manage the end of 1990 and all of 1991.  At the end of the year Merrill was replaced by Buck Showalter as Yankes manager.

Andre Thornton:
Andre Thornton was a highly under rated player in the 1970s and 1980s. Thornton spent most of his 14 year career with the Indians, not the best place to play in the 1980s.  He also spent time with the Cubs and Expos.  In 1565 career games Thornton made two All Star Games, won a Silver Slugger award and three times received MVP votes but he never played in a post season game.  Thornton played 116 games with the 1971 Phillies where he hit only .267 but he hit 26 Home Runs.  So if he was in the Phllies organization why did he end up with the Cubs?  On June 15, 1972 Thornton and Joe Hoerner were traded to the Atlanta Braves.  The Braves then traded Thornton to the Cubs in exchange for Joe Pepitone.  Midway through the 1976 season he was shipped to Montreal who then sent him to Cleveland in the offseason of 1976-77.  Thornton would play 10 years in Cleveland and would make a major impact on their organization.

Mike LaValiiere:

Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates know Mike LaValliere better as "Spanky", the gritty Catcher for the Bucs during their stretch of success in from 1990-1992.  Spanky got his start in the Phillies organization in 1981 and he steadily moved his way up the organizational chart.  By 1983 he landed in Reading. He played in 83 games there the first year playing some at Third Base but also splitting time behind the plate with Darren Daulton.    When the Phillies signed Lance Parrish a few years later and decided on Daulton as their Catcher of the future, LaValliere was expendable and released. He signed with the Cardinals where he played during the 1985 and 1986 seasons.  Before the 1987 season the Pirates traded Andy Van Slyke, and Mike Dunne along with LaValliere to the Pirates for Catcher Tony Pena.  LaValliere would be a sometimes overlooked key in the Pirates' three straight division titles.  He worked with Don Slaught, the Pirates other Catcher, to direct the Pirate pitchers.  LaValliere moved on to the White Sox in 1993 where he gave veteran presence to a White Sox team who made the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Gio Gonzalez:

Gio Gonzalez is currently a star pitcher for the Washington Nationals.  He landed in the nation's capital in 2012 and helped the Nationals to their first ever playoff appearance.  The Nationals obtained Gonzalez from the A's.  In fact, Gonzalez's path to stardom was one of constant movement.  Gio was drafted in 2004 by the White Sox.  On November 25, 2005, just after the White Sox had won the World Series, the Phillies sent Jim Thome to the White Sox for minor leaguer Daniel Haigwood, star outfielder Aaron Rowand and a player to be named later.  Gonzalez was the player to be named later.  He spent the 2006 season in Reading where he pitched 154 2/3 innings with a 7-12 record.  Among his teammates in Reading that year were Michael Bourne and J.A. Happ.  In December 2006 Gio was sent back to the White Sox along with Gavin Floyd for Pitcher Freddy Garcia.  Before he could make it to the Majors with Chicago he was traded to the Oakland Athletics and it was on to stardom from there.

The Reading Franchise had a one year affiliation with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  During the 1941 season the team was known as the Reading Brooks.  How many players from that 1941 team went on to play in the Major Leagues?

Answer to Last Week's Questions:
Hank Greenberg first played in the Major Leagues in 1930 but since he made only one appearance and there was no All Star Game we will leave that out as a year in the trivia question.  In total Greenberg made four All Star Games (1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940).  Of course he lost all but 19 games of 1941, all of 1942, 1943, 1944 and a significant amount of 1945 to the war.

Greenberg often made reference that he felt he had been snubbed in no being chosen for All Star Games so here is who made the team in his place, starting with the first All Star Game in 1933 (excluding the years he was out of the league for the war:
1933- Lou Gehrig (NYY), Jimmie Foxx (PHA)
1934- Lou Gehrig (NYY) (no other first basemen were on the roster)
1935-  Lou Gehrig (NYY) (no other first basemen were on the roster)
1936-Lou Gehrig (NYY), Jimmie Foxx (PHA)
1946- Mickey Vernon (WAS), Rudy York (BOS)
1947- Johnny Mize (NYG), Stan Musial (STL)
(1947 was Greenberg's final year in the league spent with the Pirates)