Tuesday, September 21, 2010

PTWSW #68: The 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates

Manager: Danny Murtaugh
Record: 97-65
Ballpark: Three Rivers Stadium
Owner: John W. Galbreath
GM: Joe L. Brown
Coaches: Don Leppert, Frank Oceak, Don Osborn, Dave Ricketts, Bill Virdon

Future Hall of Famers: Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell

All-Stars: Roberto Clemente, Dock Ellis, Manny Sanguillen, Willie Stargell

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Roberto Clemente, .341
OBP: Willie Stargell, .398
SLG: Willie Stargell, .628
OPS: Willie Stargell, 1.026
2B: Al Oliver, 31
3B: Roberto Clemente, Richie Hebner, 8
HR: Willie Stargell, 48 (NL leader)
RBI: Willie Stargell, 125
BB: Willie Stargell, 83
SB: Gene Clines, 15

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Dock Ellis, 19
SO: Dock Ellis, 137
ERA: Steve Blass, 2.85
IP: Steve Blass, 240
CG: Steve Blass, 12
SHO: Steve Blass, 5 (NL leader)
K/BB: Dock Ellis, 2.17
SV: Dave Giusti, 30 (NL leader)


Oldest Player: Roberto Clemente (b. August 18, 1934)

Youngest Player: Rennie Stennett (b. April 5, 1951)

First to Leave Us: Roberto Clemente (d. December 31, 1972) Just two months after the 1972 season ended Clemente headed a relief effort for earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Clemente decided to accompany a shipment of supplies personally, but the plane was old and overloaded, and it crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff.

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Roberto Clemente (debut April 17, 1955)

Last in Majors: Al Oliver and Bruce Kison both played their final regular season games on October 5, 1985, though Oliver's final appearance in a big league contest came in Game 7 of the ALCS, on October 16. It should be noted that Kison and Oliver both announced their retirements in February 1986, while Richie Hebner, who made his final appearance on October 3, 1985, didn't retire until after he was released by the Cubs in Spring Training.

First to Play For the Franchise: Roberto Clemente (April 17, 1955)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Milt May (September 30, 1984)

Pre-union Team: The 1969 Cardinals had four: Nelson Briles, Vic Davalillo, Dave Giusti and Mudcat Grant.

Reunion Team: The 1977 Athletics (Dock Ellis, Dave Giusti, Manny Sanguillen), 1977 Cubs (Gene Clines, Dave Giusti, Ramon Hernandez), 1978-79 Rangers (Dock Ellis, Al Oliver, Richie Zisk) and 1979 Mets (Dock Ellis, Richie Hebner, Frank Taveras) each had three. Hmmm. It seems that wherever Dock Ellis went in the late '70s he found two of his former '71 Pirate teammates.


Roberto Clemente, NL Outfield Gold Glove

Season Summary

The Pirates were the best offensive team in the NL, mainly due to their proficiency at bashing the ball. They led the NL in homers, triples, slugging percentage and OPS+, and finished second in batting and on-base average. They were strong on the other side of the ball too: Their defense was second in TotalZone, and their pitching staff was fourth in ERA+. Their hurlers generally pitched to contact, as their walk and strikeout rates were low. Though they allowed more hits than average, they mimimized the damage by posting the fourth-best opponents' slugging percentage.

It was close at the top of the NL East for the first two months of the season, but the Pirates took over the lead for good in June. An 11-game winning streak in July gave them a buffer which allowed them to weather a cool spell the next month. On September 1 the Pirates made history by employing the first all-black starting lineup in a win over the Phillies. Given the diversity on their roster, it nearly went unnoticed by some players. Three weeks later Pittsburgh clinched the division title by beating the Cardinals 5-1.

The NLCS matched the Pirates up with the Giants, against whom they'd gone 3-9 in the regular season. All that record indicated was that the Pirates were due. San Francisco took Game 1, but the Pirates won the next three to take the NL pennant. If there'd been an LCS MVP it surely would've gone to first baseman Bob Robertson, who hit four homers and put up an OPS of 1.688 in the four games.

The Pirates' World Series opponent was the Baltimore Orioles, the 1970 champions playing in their third straight Fall Classic. The Orioles were riding a hot streak, winners of their last 11 regular season games and fresh off an ALCS sweep of the Oakland A's. They stretched it to 16 in a row by taking Games 1 and 2 at home. When the Series shifted to Pittsburgh the Pirates were able to get back in it. Buc ace Steve Blass pitched a three-hitter in Game 3, while backup catcher Milt May's single provided the go-ahead run in Game 4 (the first World Series contest played under the lights). Stretch run hero Nelson Briles pitched a shutout in Game 5 to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead heading back to Baltimore. The home-team winner trend continued in Game 6, as Brooks Robinson's tenth-inning sac fly knotted up the Series. Blass returned to the mound for the deciding match, and he outdueled Baltimore's Mike Cuellar for his second complete-game victory. Roberto Clemente, who hit .414 with two homers in the Series, was named MVP.

One month after the World Series ended, manager Danny Murtaugh stepped down citing health concerns. He would be replaced by coach and former player Bill Virdon.


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Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup by Bruce Markusen

Saturday, September 18, 2010

PTWSW #67: The 1970 Baltimore Orioles

Manager: Earl Weaver
Record: 108-54
Ballpark: Memorial Stadium
Owner: Jerry Hoffberger
GM: Harry Dalton
Coaches: George Bamberger, Jim Frey, Billy Hunter, George Staller

Future Hall of Famers: Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson

All-Stars: Mike Cuellar, Davey Johnson, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Frank Robinson, .306
OBP: Boog Powell, .412
SLG: Boog Powell, .549
OPS: Boog Powell, .962
2B: Brooks Robinson, 31
3B: Mark Belanger, 5
HR: Boog Powell, 35
RBI: Boog Powell, 114
BB: Don Buford, 109
SB: Paul Blair, 24

Team Leaders, Pitching

Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, 24 (AL leaders)
SO: Jim Palmer, 199
ERA: Jim Palmer, 2.71
IP: Jim Palmer, 305 (AL leader)
CG: Mike Cuellar, 21 (AL leader)
SHO: Jim Palmer, 5 (AL leader)
K/BB: Mike Cuellar, 2.75
SV: Pete Richert, 13


Oldest Player:
Dick Hall (b. September 27, 1930)

Youngest Player: Don Baylor (b. June 28, 1949)

First to Leave Us: Jim Hardin (d. March 9, 1991). Hardin was one of three people killed when a small plane he was flying crashed due to engine trouble.

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Dick Hall (debut April 15, 1952)

Last in Majors: Don Baylor (final game October 16, 1988). Baylor's last appearance was in Game 2 of the 1988 World Series, when he pinch-hit in the eighth inning.

First to Play For the Franchise: Brooks Robinson (September 17, 1955)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Jim Palmer (May 12, 1984)

Pre-union Team: No team had more than two.

Reunion Team: The 1977 Angels had four: Don Baylor, Mike Cuellar, Andy Etchebarren and Bobby Grich. Harry Dalton served as Angel GM from 1972 to 1977, and he brought in several former Orioles during his tenure. The last roster he put together in California was the most Baltimore-ish.


Boog Powell, AL MVP
Davey Johnson, AL Second Base Gold Glove
Brooks Robinson, AL Third Base Gold Glove
Paul Blair, AL Outfield Gold Glove
Frank Robinson, two grand slams in one game, June 26

Season Summary

After being upset by the Mets in the previous year's World Series, the Orioles had something to prove. In 1970, it was really never in doubt that the Orioles were the best team in the American League. Their hitters had the AL's best OPS+, and a league-leading 717 walks assured them of the best OBP. They packed some power, finishing third with 179 home runs, and weren't too shabby speed-wise either, with a fifth-best 84 steals. The Orioles also boasted an outstanding pitching staff. They finished second with a 116 ERA+ (aided by an AL-best 59 TotalZone rating), and had the league's best strikeout-to-walk differential. Overall, they both scored the most and allowed the fewest runs per game. It should be no surprise then, that this team held first place from April onward and finished the season with a 19-3 run that garnered them an astounding 108 wins.

The Orioles rode their late-season momentum through the postseason, sweeping the Twins out of the ALCS and beating the Reds in five World Series games. In three of their four World Series victories (including the deciding Game 5) the Orioles overcame a deficit of three or more runs. A three-run homer from Cincinnati first baseman Lee May in the eighth inning of Game 4 was the only thing that prevented the O's from sweeping both rounds. Brooks Robinson was named World Series MVP for his outstanding work with the glove (he made several dazzling plays at the hot corner, most notably in Game 3) and the bat (.429 average, two doubles, two homers, six RBI).


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Friday, September 17, 2010

PTWSW #66: The 1969 New York Mets

Manager: Gil Hodges
Record: 100-62
Ballpark: Shea Stadium
Owner: Joan Payson
GM: Johnny Murphy
Coaches: Yogi Berra, Joe Pignatano, Rube Walker, Eddie Yost

Future Hall of Famers: Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver

All-Stars: Cleon Jones, Jerry Koosman, Tom Seaver

Team Leaders, Batting

Cleon Jones, .340
OBP: Cleon Jones, .422
SLG: Cleon Jones, .482
OPS: Cleon Jones, .904
2B: Cleon Jones, 25
3B: Ken Boswell, 7
HR: Tommie Agee, 26
RBI: Tommie Agee, 76
BB: Cleon Jones, 64
SB: Cleon Jones, 16

Team Leaders, Pitching

Tom Seaver, 25 (NL leader)
SO: Tom Seaver, 208
ERA: Tom Seaver, 2.21
IP: Tom Seaver, 273.1
CG: Tom Seaver, 18
SHO: Jerry Koosman, 6
K/BB: Jerry Koosman, 2.65
SV: Ron Taylor, 13


Oldest Player: Ed Charles (b. April 29, 1933)

Youngest Player: Jesse Hudson (b. July 22, 1948)

First to Leave Us: Danny Frisella (d. January 1, 1977). Frisella was sadly killed when a dune buggy he was riding in overturned.

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Don Cardwell (debut April 21, 1957)

Last in Majors: Nolan Ryan (final game September 22, 1993)

First to Play For the Franchise: Al Jackson (April 14, 1962). Jackson, who was sold to the Reds in June, was the Mets' starting pitcher for the third game in franchise history.

Last to Play For the Franchise: Tom Seaver (October 1, 1983)

Pre-union Team: The 1965-67 White Sox had three: Tommie Agee, J.C. Martin and Al Weis. Agee and Weis joined the Mets as part of the same trade, and Martin was acquired that same offseason as the player to be named later from a previous trade.

Reunion Team: No team had more than two.


Tom Seaver, NL Cy Young Award

Season Summary

Since their inception in 1962 the Mets had never finished higher than ninth place in a ten-team league. 1969 was the year their core of young players blossomed into a winning team. Their philosophy was run prevention, run prevention, run prevention. The Mets' defense was the NL's best, and their pitching staff put up an ERA+ of 122, tied for first in the league. That defense was a big part of it, as the Met hurlers' strikeout and walk rates were good but not great. Young Tom Seaver was their ace, winning 25 games and the Cy Young Award, while Jerry Koosman was a fearsome number two. Offensively, the Mets were downright, well, offensive. They were second-worst with an 84 OPS+, and below-average in every offensive category despite playing in a neutral hitter's park. It didn't matter, as their pitching and defense were just that good.

The Mets started out the season as the mediocre team they were in 1968. On May 27 they were 18-23, nine games out of first. An 11-game winning streak brought them above .500 and into second place, but they were still seven games behind the first-place Cubs. Speaking of those Cubs, for most of the season it looked to be their year. They got off to an 11-1 start and held onto first place until September. The tide began to turn in the Mets' favor in mid-August. On August 13 the Mets were in third place, ten games behind Chicago (and one game behind the second-place Cardinals). They then went on a 12-1 run to get back in the running while the Cubs slumped. In early September the floundering Cubs hit a 1-11 skid while the Mets won 10 in a row to take over first place, a position they'd hold onto for the rest of the season. By the time it was over the Mets had won 100 games, finishing eight ahead of Chicago.

1969 was the first year of divisional play, and the Mets easily won the first National League Championship Series by sweeping the Atlanta Braves. It was on to the World Series, where they'd face the heavily-favored Orioles, winners of 109 games. Game 1 went according to schedule, with the Orioles' Cy Young-winning ace Mike Cuellar beating Seaver. The Mets struck back in Game 2 behind Koosman, tying it up with a 2-1 victory. Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan combined to shut out the Orioles in Game 3, but Met center fielder Tommie Agee stole the show with two sensational catches and a home run. Seaver and Cuellar matched up again for Game 4, but this time Seaver would be the winner. Right fielder Ron Swoboda made an incredible catch in the ninth, and the Mets scored the winning run in the tenth on Oriole pitcher Pete Richert's error. Everything was going the Mets' way, and their momentum continued into Game 5. Koosman earned his second win of the Series thanks to Donn Clendenon's third homer, a round-tripper from the light-hitting Al Weis and Ron Swoboda's go-ahead double. The "Miracle Mets" had pulled off a true Cinderella story, going from last-place laughingstock to World Series champions in just two years.


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Sunday, September 5, 2010

PTWSW #65: The 1968 Detroit Tigers

Manager: Mayo Smith
Record: 103-59
Ballpark: Tiger Stadium
Owner: John Fetzer
GM: Jim Campbell
Coaches: Tony Cuccinello, Julio Moreno, Wally Moses, Hal Naragon, Johnny Sain

Future Hall of Famers: Al Kaline, Eddie Mathews

All-Stars: Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Denny McLain, Don Wert

Team Leaders, Batting

Willie Horton, .285
OBP: Bill Freehan, .366
SLG: Willie Horton, .543
OPS: Willie Horton, 895
2B: Jim Northrup, 29
3B: Dick McAuliffe, 10
HR: Willie Horton, 36
RBI: Jim Northrup, 90
BB: Dick McAuliffe, 82
SB: Dick McAuliffe, 8

Team Leaders, Pitching

Denny McLain, 31 (AL leader)
SO: Denny McLain, 280
ERA: Denny McLain, 1.96
IP: Denny McLain, 336 (AL leader)
CG: Denny McLain, 28 (AL leader)
SHO: Denny McLain, 6
K/BB: Denny McLain, 4.44 (AL leader)
SV: Pat Dobson, Daryl Patterson, 7


Oldest Player: Roy Face (b. February 20, 1928)

Youngest Player: Les Cain (b. January 13, 1948)

First to Leave Us: Bob Christian (d. February 20, 1974). Christian was only 28 when he died of leukemia.

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Eddie Mathews (debut April 15, 1952)

Last in Majors: Willie Horton (final game October 5, 1980)

First to Play For the Franchise: Al Kaline (June 25, 1953)

Last to Play For the Franchise: John Hiller (May 27, 1980)

Pre-union Team: The 1966 Red Sox had four: Lenny Green, Don McMahon, Earl Wilson and John Wyatt.

Reunion Team: The 1970 Padres had three: Dave Campbell, Pat Dobson and Earl Wilson.


Denny McLain, AL MVP
Denny McLain, AL Cy Young Award
Bill Freehan, AL Catcher Gold Glove
Mickey Stanley, AL Outfield Gold Glove
Jim Northrup, two grand slams in one game, June 24
Jim Northrup, three grand slams in one month, June

Season Summary

In "The Year of the Pitcher," the Tigers won by having the American League's most powerful lineup. They led the loop in home runs and slugging percentage (both by wide margins), and their batting and on-base averages were fourth and second, respectively. They had no use for stolen bases, finishing last in the AL with a team total of only 26. Detroit also had the pitching to go with their power: The Tiger staff (led by 31-game winner Denny McLain) was third in ERA+, second in K rate and fourth in walk rate. Their defense was strong too, ranking first in fielding percentage, third in DER and second in TotalZone.

After a tight pennant race in 1967, there was no question that Detroit was the class of the AL in 1968. The Tigers were in first place almost the entire year, and a 19-4 run from late August to early September sealed the deal. With the season winding down, manager Mayo Smith made a controversial move. Shortstop had been a weak position for the Tigers all year, with Ray Oyler, Tom Matchick and Dick Tracewski providing little in the way of offense. With a four-man logjam in the outfield, he moved Mickey Stanley, the strongest one defensively, to short. Stanley's experience at the position was minimal, but Smith expressed confidence that he could handle it for the World Series, where the Tigers would face the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Cardinal ace Bob Gibson had a season for the ages in 1968 (22-9 record, 1.12 ERA), and he continued his brilliance by striking out 17 Tigers (a new World Series record) and pitching a shutout in Game 1. McLain lasted only five innings for Detroit, despite allowing only two earned runs. The Tigers bounced back in Game 2 behind Mickey Lolich, who allowed only one run in nine innings and hit his only career home run. The Cards embarrassed the Tigers by beating them in front of their home crowd the next two games, but the Bengals got a win in Game 5 to leave Detroit on a high note. The Tigers proceeded to blow out the Cardinals in Game 6 and send the Series to the maximum.

Game 7 was an exciting pitching duel between Gibson and Lolich. It remained scoreless until the seventh, when Jim Northrup hit a drive that Cardinal center fielder Curt Flood misjudged, resulting in a two-run triple. The Tigers would go on to win by a 4-1 score, and Lolich was named MVP for his three complete-game victories and 1.67 ERA. As for Stanley, he handled shortstop capably in all seven games, committing only two errors in 32 chances and turning three double plays.


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