Sunday, August 30, 2015

Meet the Brewers #12: George Lauzerique

After John Gelnar failed to get an out in four batters, leaving a runner on first, 3 runs in, and a 6-0 score in the top of the fourth inning, Dave Bristol went back to his bullpen and called on a young righty, George Lauzerique.  

Though Lauzerique was just 22 years old at the beginning of the 1970 season, it was the fourth year in a row that he saw action in the major leagues. It would also be his last season in the majors.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
George Lauzerique was born in Havana, Cuba, on July 22, 1947. I can only guess as to the reason (*cough* Castro *cough*), but Lauzerique attended George Washington High School -- a school famous for producing notable people such as Rod Carew, Harry Belafonte, Alan Greenspan, Henry Kissinger, and Moshe Arens, among others.  In fact, Carew would have been at GWHS at the same time as Lauzerique since Carew was born in 1945.

Lauzerique was selected in the 10th Round of the 1965 Draft by the Kansas City Athletics. His major league career is nothing to speak of, frankly -- 113-1/3 innings, a 5.00 ERA (5.28 FIP), 1.8 HR/9, a 1.52 K/BB ratio. But when the name George Lauzerique is raised to hardcore baseball fans from the 1960s, what comes to mind for them is the incredible farm system that the Athletics had and, in particular, the 1967 Birmingham Athletics team.

As Bill James mentioned in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, A's owner Charlie O. Finley grew up in Birmingham, so he put all of the talented players in the farm system there to put on a show. The team included two future Hall of Fame players in Reggie Jackson and Rollie Fingers, a future Hall of Fame manager in second baseman Tony LaRussa, and other notables such as Joe Rudi, Marcel Lachemann, Dave Duncan, and even, in a 2-game cameo, future A's, Padres, Reds, Angels, Red Sox, Indians, and Angels (for a second go-round) manager John McNamara (who was the manager in Birmingham).

James's book notes that, despite all those luminaries, George Lauzerique was "the star of the show."  The numbers speak for themselves: 13-4 record, 2.30 ERA, 168 innings, 120 hits allowed, 54 walks, 125 strikeouts, and, on July 6, 1967, a seven-inning perfect game against Evansville in which he threw just eighty-five pitches. 

The eighty-five pitches is notable and was mentioned in the news story about the game because the Athletics apparently were ahead of their time in protecting young arms somewhat.  The A's put Lauzerique on a pitch count of 100 to 115 pitches in an effort to force him to be more economical with his pitches and to improve his control.  In his autobiography, Don Zimmer noted that playing against Lauzerique was the first time that Zim had ever seen a pitch count come into play: 
My first experience with pitch counts was when I was managing the Knoxville club in the Southern League in 1967. We were playing Birmingham, a Kansas City A's farm team managed by John McNamara . . . . McNamara's pitcher that day was a Cuban right-handed curveballer named George Lauzerique, who was nineteen years old at the time. Well, the game is going along and we're into the seventh inning and Lauzerique is pitching a no-hitter.  All of a sudden, I look up and Johnny Mac is walking to the mound to take him out! It turned out Lauzerique had reached his quota of 100 pitches, set down by the A's front office, and Johnny Mac had no choice but to follow orders. They put pitch counts on these pitchers to supposedly save their arms.
As Zimmer mentions in his book in concluding his thoughts about Lauzerique and pitch counts, the fact was that the lowered pitch counts did not, in the end, save Lauzerique from injuries. Whether that was because the pitch count limits did not apply long enough through his career to get him through what Nate Silver and Will Carroll called "The Injury Nexus" in 2003, Lauzerique fought shoulder problems during his big-league career.  When the Brewers sent Lauzerique down to Triple-A Portland at the end of May in 1970 to make way for Dave Baldwin, it was the last time Lauzerique would get a big-league per diem.

1994 Miller Milwaukee Brewers Commemorative Set
Lauzerique attempted a comeback in the Houston system in the mid-1970s, but, despite relatively good surface statistics, he never got higher than Double-A. 

Once he gave up on being a pitcher, Lauzerique became a scout. I know this because of a couple of references.  The first came in 1983 when Jim Henneman of the Baltimore Evening Sun asked Lauzerique to provide a baseball scouting report for a football player.  You may recall that, in 1983, the Colts were still in Baltimore and owed the first-overall pick in the NFL draft. They selected Stanford QB John Elway. Elway didn't want to play for the Colts and told the Colts that. This was, according to the Mile High Report, because Colts coach Frank Kush was known to abuse his players badly during practices in college.  Elway used his baseball ability as leverage to get traded to Denver and the rest, as they say, was history.

The other notable reference to Lauzerique as a scout was due to his time as the Cleveland Indians' East Coast Scout. Lauzerique lobbied against the Indians selecting an outfielder out of his own high school alma mater, George Washington High School, due to Lauzerique's concerns about the kid's workrate and the effect that a big draft bonus would have on the boy.  The outfielder in question?  Manny Ramirez.

These days, Lauzerique lives in Palm Beach County. He went through some terrible times in the past ten years, largely due to the death of his son Anthony due to an overdose of narcotics prescribed by a "pain clinic doctor" in Royal Palm Beach named John Christensen. That doctor got charged with two counts of murder, later reduced to manslaughter, based on his activities.  According to a recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel story about another "pill mill" doctor, charges are still pending against Christensen and the trial has not yet been scheduled.

For George Lauzerique's sake, I hope that Christensen is held accountable for his actions.

Lauzerique has a total of 9 cards from his baseball career (though Trading Card Database does not list the 1970 McDonald's set.  Of those, three cards show him with the Brewers. I need that elusive Mike Andersen postcard, but otherwise have the other two cards, shown above.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Backing up the Truck

As I was envisioning this post, I thought about the sound that a truck makes when it's backing know:

And, if you watch/listen to all 60 minutes of that video, well, wow.  I've got nothing in response to that.  But, in the interest of trying to find something weirder than that, I put "beep beep beep" into Google.  It then suggested, "beep beep beep beep mexican song".  No lie, this is what came up:

Apparently, that song got included in Grand Theft Auto V by Rockstar, leading the gaming boards to make El Sonidito a big hit.  And with me typing El Sonidito so much, Google Chrome is now offering to translate this page for me into English.

Thanks, Google!

All of that is just to introduce a big box of Brewers that just appeared on my doorstep late last week from Johnny's Trading Spot.

And those are just the stacks of cards.  It took me part of Sunday -- at which point I found problems in my spreadsheets and started over -- and into yesterday to finally get everything sorted.

Let's see some of the cards that John sent my way.

Now, I didn't need this 1987 Fleer Jim Gantner. But, geez, Gumby, you went from looking like a mean SOB who flick his Marlboro Reds at kids who dared come too close to your 1978 Datsun 280Z...this one, probably:

...into the guy on that 1991 Bowman -- that's just four years, for God's sake -- who looks like the next step is to buy this blue car from the old man in the driver's seat for $450 on a $50 a month payment plan:

It's sad, really.

Before I leave Gantner, though, I have to admit that as a kid I always liked Gantner as a person but not as a player. He seemed like an automatic out at the plate when he came up with runners on base, but man, the guy loved playing for the Brewers and he made tons of time for every kid seeking autographs.

Anyway...thought I'd say something nice about him after ragging on his fashion sense and apparent installation of contact lenses later in his career in an effort to fool fans and the front office that he really was younger than he really was.

Johnny sent me some pretty cool cards other than Gantner. I mean, look at those stacks -- there has to be some cool stuff in them!

Like this Big Ben McDonald Topps Finest from 1996. I know a lot of people buy cards for investment purposes, but how did anyone keep from ripping that film off guys like Ben McDonald's card? I mean, the guy's shoulder was put together with baling wire and bubble gum by the time this card was made -- did people really think that he'd suddenly regenerate a real arm, push his ERA below 4, and suddenly turn into a 20 game winner for 10 years in a row to push himself to 250 career wins?

Yes, that's more like it.  Actually, John sent me two of these, so the one with the film still on it will go into my duplicates box and the peeled card will be displayed proudly in my Topps 1994-2009 binder (base sets only in that binder, of course).

Now, I have to admit. John sent me so many cards that I needed for my collection -- over 100 of the cards he sent were ones that are waiting currently to be sorted into the PC binders or the manufacturer collection binders I've slowly-but-surely been putting together -- that I'm almost overwhelmed to try to select cards to highlight.  So, let me go to the oddballs, because I love oddballs:

Cecil Cooper.  The man was pure style. Smooth in the field. That pause in the middle of his last practice swing that he always made -- and which that Donruss Champions card captures perfectly -- was one of the more frequently imitated batting stances in Wisconsin in the 1980s.

I started messing around with switch hitting just so I could hit left handed and swing the bat in my warm up like him.

Or, like this guy:

Oglivie always looked incredibly agitated and impatient at the plate.  This clip doesn't do it justice, but it's such a great video I want to share it...even if the game ended badly:

Such great memories of a year now 33 years in my rearview mirror. I hope I will see another Brewers' trip to the World Series in my lifetime.

Okay, one more video that has to be shared before I get to the grand finale of John's box.  It's this great video of Pete Vuckovich and the home plate umpire before Vuke's start at home in the World Series:

Now that we're all buttoned up, on to the coolest items John sent:

Bobbleheads! On the left is the Lyle Overbay commemorative bobblehead from 2005 celebrating his team record for 53 doubles in a season.  Jonathan Lucroy broke that record last year by racking up 54 doubles.

The other one looks like John Axford, but it's 10 years before the Ax got to Milwaukee and instead is a commemorative bobblehead for the Bud-Selig-tie-game-All-Star Game in Milwaukee. I swear, sometimes I think Bud could suck the fun out of a trip to Vegas. Anyway, maybe Axford saw this bobblehead around Miller Park and thought, "Damn, that bobblehead looks dope! Imma do that!"

Or not.

Funny thing, though -- these two guys are overshadowed GREATLY by the final bobblehead and ticket stub that came my way:

Yes! The Robin Yount Bobblehead from the 25th Anniversary celebration from 2007!  He may be smaller than the Ax-wanna-be or Overbay, but I much prefer Robin.  All day, every day.

Even if he is only second in team history for home runs now.

John, thank you very much for all the great cards and especially for the bobbleheads.  Admittedly, when I got back into collecting, I never expected to have a bunch of bobbleheads around. Now, though, I'm glad I do!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Gavin Breaks Up the No-Hitter

This season has been something of a lost year for the Brewers.  The team sucked immediately out of the gate. Despite this, the team rallied some and, despite being 19 games under .500 as of August 24 with a 53-72 record, they are unlikely to get the first overall pick in the draft.  

In fact, even though the Brewers are worse than every American League team (the closest one to them is Oakland, who are a game ahead of the Brewers at 54-71, despite having scored 11 more runs than they have allowed), they are better than four other National League teams: the Rockies (49-73), the Phillies (50-74), the Marlins (50-74) and the Reds (51-71).  Just a half game better than the Brewers are the Atlanta Braves at 53-71.

It's been a depressing season in that regard. Little attention is paid to wins and losses at this point. I rarely pay that much attention to whether they win or lose. It's made collecting cards a little tough too -- with little interest in the current team, I find it difficult to get enthused about going out and buying cards of Houston Astro Carlos Gomez, or St. Louis Cardinal Jonathan Broxton, or Minnesota Twin Neal Cotts.  Thankfully, that's where the Brewers being fairly ignored by Topps comes in handy. 

Another unfortunate side effect for me with the Brewers being so bad is that I really haven't paid that much attention to trading. I owe cards to a number of people -- again...just like last fall. Just like last fall, I went through a period of uncertainty in June and July, as I was trying to scrounge up business half the day and trying to bill a little bit of time so that I could pay my bills.  It was extremely stressful, and it taught me several lessons for whenever I might think about doing the solo practice thing again in the future.

Now, though, it's the other way in life.  I'm now buried in work, I'm getting home later, and I'm much more tired than before. It's a good thing to have a steady income, and it's a good firm for me to build a future -- but man it's a lot of work.

That's a long way toward saying that I've been on a bit of a cold streak in terms of trading. I sent out a bunch of packages about 6 weeks ago, but many of those were returns.  Recently, though, I stuffed an envelope full of toploaders and shipped them to Portland. Gavin was kind enough to send me a bunch of great cards back that he picked up at a card show. 

Like, lots of Bowman, for example:

Thanks to the year 1999 being spent for me working and drinking rather than working and collecting, all of these were new to me.  Oh, and the Kiefer? I was in college then. It was an experimental time for me.  

Not that Radiohead counts as being too experimental...

Anyway, Gavin also sent me three Ryan Brauns that I needed for my player collection:

Oddly, I had the Prizm parallel but not the base Prizm card for that 2013 Braun on the Milwaukee Baseball Club and dressed in black like he listens to the Cure.

Yes, I liked Better Than Ezra.  They were definitely better than that guy Ezra. Actually, I saw them play in 1996 at the 40 Watt in Athens, and they put on a fantastic show.

Sort of like how Prince Fielder always put on a big show in batting practice -- even as a kid like that one card from 2010 said:

Those Princes...there's more than two there, but that tie is what comes to mind.

I could have seen the Spin Doctors for free when I was in college, but I couldn't be bothered to walk across campus to see them. Then, the next summer, that "Two Princes" song got huge.  Oops.

Gavin found a two relics and an autograph that I needed in my collection as well.  One is a Sheets, and the other two are guys who never made it...


In Ball Four, Jim Bouton referred to guys getting sent down to the minors as guys "dying."  Well, this one's for Chad Green and Jeff Deardorff then.

Saving the best for last, Gavin sent me three Milwaukee Braves cards!

The great thing about that Mound Magicians card is that it goes into my Burdette collection. Now, I only need one more for my Braves team collection.  

The Chairman of the Board said he did it his way.  But, I can't close it out there. Gavin didn't send a note with these cards, but he e-mailed me to say what he would have said in the note.  His P.S. is especially poignant.  "P.S. The Clash Rules!"

Yes.  Yes they do.

Gavin, many thanks for the great cards! I still owe you some Reggies....

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Meet the Brewers #11: John Gelnar

I received a couple of great mailings this week, but I haven't had the chance to scan anything in yet from them or catalog them or do anything like that. So, today, I want to introduce the Brewers first-ever relief pitcher -- John Gelnar.

After Rich Rollins pinch hit for Lew Krausse, Manager Dave Bristol brought right-hander Gelnar in from the bullpen.  The appearance on April 7, 1970, would probably go down as the worst appearance Gelnar ever made in his 111-game major league career.  He was not helped by an error in center by Russ Snyder to start the inning and allow Jim Spencer to reach second, but the Angels followed that up with a double by Roger Repoz, a double by Joe "The Immortal" Azcue (whom we'll meet in 78 Brewers, as he joined the team in late 1972), and a single by Aurelio Rodriguez.

That brought Dave Bristol to the mound, and Gelnar was introduced to Milwaukee fans with a line of 0 innings pitched, 3 hits allowed, 4 runs (3 earned), no walks, and an infinite ERA. It would get better for the soft-tossing righty out of Oklahoma during the rest of 1970, since he remained with the team to right that wrong.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
Gelnar was signed out of the University of Oklahoma by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1963.  The Pirates put him at Double-A Asheville immediately after signing him, and Gelnar looked like the real deal -- 12-5 record, 3.04 ERA in 27 starts with 7.1 K/9 and a 2.0 K/BB ratio.  He pitched fairly well at Asheville in 1964 as well -- though he was hit hard in a limited exposure to Triple-A that year -- and he earned a call-up to the majors in August.

And then, it was three years in Triple-A with Columbus.  He never got a call-up to the big leagues with Pittsburgh either in 1965 or in 1966 despite facially pretty good numbers.  But it was in Triple-A that his weakness was exposed: He did not have the stuff to miss bats effectively, and he didn't strike batters out. For example, in 1965, the International League as a whole had a K/9 of 6.1; Gelnar was a full strikeout per nine innings lower at 5.1. That 5.1 K/9 was better than his K/9 than in either of the next two years in 1966 (4.8) or 1967 (4.3) or, for that matter, in 1968 (4.8).

By the time June of 1968 rolled around, when the Columbus Jets visited the Toledo Mud Hens, the Toledo Blade used its game story to talk about about how Gelnar had exhibited great patience but that Gelnar almost certainly would find himself in the majors soon -- whether in Pittsburgh or with an expansion team.  This was after Gelnar had nearly shut out the hometown Mud Hens after the Jets knocked former Red Sox "bullpen monster" Dick Radatz out of the box.

The Blade was right about expansion freeing up a spot for Gelnar in the major leagues. As soon as the 1968 season ended in October, the expansion Kansas City Royals purchased Gelnar's contract from the Pirates. Then, on the eve of the 1969 season, the Royals and Pilots pulled off a trade that would alter Pilots/Brewers history significantly -- and not for the better -- when Marvin Milkes decided he'd rather have Gelnar and outfielder Steve Whitaker instead of Lou Piniella.  In Ball Four, Jim Bouton claimed this trade was a "giveaway" that was "[b]ound to happen" because "Lou wasn't their style."

Piniella was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1969 in Kansas City before moving to the Yankees in 1974 at the age of 30 and, in the process, hitting .291/.333/.409 over 16 full seasons in the majors. Whitaker spent 1969 with the Pilots before appearing in 16 games in 1970 with the San Francisco Giants at the age of 27. Those 16 games were his last major league appearances.

1994 Miller 25th Anniversary Milwaukee Brewers
As for Gelnar, he pitched 53 times for the Brewers in 1970.  In those games, he won 4, lost 3, saved 4, and totaled 92-1/3 innings. Unsurprisingly, he struck out just 4.7 hitters per nine innings.  He came back to Milwaukee the next season and made just two appearances over 1-1/3 innings before new GM Frank Lane sent him along with Jose Herrera to the Detroit Tigers for Brewer #57, Jim Hannan. After those two games for Milwaukee in 1970, Gelnar never pitched in the major leagues again.

Gelnar's best story from Jim Bouton's Ball Four was repeated in a book called Baseball Eccentrics, though this second book got the details all wrong. Let's get these details out of the way, then get to the good part.  According to Baseball Eccentrics, Gelnar was charting hitters against the Baltimore Orioles on the day prior to his start when Manager Joe Schultz called him over to say something to Gelnar.  Baseball Eccentrics claimed that, at the time, the Pilots were a run behind late in the game and says that "Bouton and the rest of the Seattle Pilots strained to listen, assuming that Schultz was seeking some statistical information about the Orioles hitters that would give the Pilots an edge." Schultz says to Gelnar (according to Ball Four): "Up there near the Section 23 sign. Check the rack on that broad!"

Only a few problems with this: (a) Gelnar never started against the Orioles; (b) Bouton tells us in Ball Four that this story happened on July 13 during the first game of a doubleheader against the Twins, not against the Orioles; and, (c) the story happened with the Pilots losing 5-1.

Sorry, sometimes the pedant in me comes out.

The Seattle Times in 2006 said that Gelnar got into the oil business after his career ended and is now a rancher and farmer in Hobart, Oklahoma. It looks like Gelnar tried out Twitter for a little while -- mainly interacting with family -- but he hasn't tweeted on it since last September.

I have the two John Gelnar cards shown in this post. I do not have what might be one of the worst oddball photos I've seen in a long time -- Gelnar's 1970 Mike Andersen Postcard:

Man, that is brutal.  I also do not have the 1971 Dell Today's Team Stamp or his O-Pee-Chee or Topps card from 1971 either. Those cards are from that difficult-to-find-at-a-reasonable-price sixth series, card number 604.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Meet the Brewers #10: Rich Rollins

By the time that Brewers starter Lew Krausse was about to come to bat in the bottom of the third inning on Opening Day, 1970, he had allowed 4 earned runs on 3 hits and a walk in facing 13 batters. Dave Bristol watched Ted Kubiak earn a walk off Andy Messersmith and might have thought, "Geez, this might be my only chance to get a run today." If he did think that, he might have been right.

In any event, Bristol sent up pinch hitter Rich Rollins to try to help break through and score.  Rollins struck out.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
Rollins was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, but he was raised and went to school in Ohio. Fittingly for him, his entire career ended up being spent in the Midwest save for a one-year foray out to Sicks Stadium with the Seattle Pilots.  Rollins attended Kent State University and set a career record with a .383 batting average -- a mark later broken by Thurman Munson.

According to the interview at that link, Rollins did not have a scholarship for college but earned one playing as a freshman.  He even noted that he still has a letter that he sent to Munson to try to recruit him to Kent State.

After the 1960 college season ended and he graduated from college, he signed with the Washington Senators.  Rollins said that the Senators were his only opportunity to try out for a major league team. He joined a try out at old Griffin Park with (what he said were) fifty guys.  He was the only one to hit any homers in that expansive park, so the Senators signed him.  He told the Senators that he would not go to Rookie Ball and wanted to go to Class B baseball.  The Senators said no to that and sent him home.  By the time he got home, he had a message to call the Senators -- who told him that he would get to go to Wilson.

Jack McKeon was his manager, and McKeon gave him the opportunity to play. Rollins made the most of his opportunity -- slashing at .341/.421/.509 in 263 plate appearances.  According to Rollins, McKeon was told to send Rollins to Rookie league in Florida, but refused to do so -- and as you can see by those numbers, it paid off.

By mid-June in 1961, Rollins found himself in the major leagues -- in Minnesota -- for good.  He rarely played for the Twins that year. Rollins misremembered his call up slightly, in that he thought Early Wynn was the starter (Wynn pitched in relief and Don Larsen was the starter...the interviewer brought up that Larsen was the starter later; Rollins singled off Wynn for his first hit). The funniest part of the story, though, was that Rollins was known as Dick all throughout the minors. When he got to the majors, he was asked by Twins announcers "What do your parents call you at home?" His response was, "Rich" and so he was called Rich Rollins for the rest of his career.

Rollins sat on the bench too much in 1961 to still have rookie eligibility in 1962, but did the 24-year-old ever come on like a house of fire that year. Sixteen homers, 96 RBI, .298/.374/.428, eighth in the MVP race, and the starter in both All-Star games that year -- as the leading vote getter for the American League (in the last year that the players voted), backed up by some guy named Brooks Robinson.  He was voted the "Sophomore of the Year" by the Baseball Writers Association of America in what sounds like it was a regular award back in 1962.  He was even honored that year by the Cleveland Indians and by his hometown of Parma, Ohio at a game in Cleveland in July.

The rest of his career was a bit more up and down. He suffered a broken jaw in early 1963 (here's a fun photo of he and his wife sharing "dinner"), but it didn't seem to bother him too much that year. Yet, by the time 1965 rolled around, his numbered had dropped off badly.  While he hit .291/.356/.425 in his first four seasons in the majors, the rest of his career he hit just .242/.296/.347. Most of his problems came from knee problems that plagued him for many years starting in the mid-1960s.

1994 MGD 25th Anniversary Commemorative Set

After 1968 season in which the 30-year-old Rollins became a backup to Cesar Tovar, the Twins left him unprotected in the 1969 expansion draft. Indeed, the weekend after the Pilots selected him, he was supposed to have knee surgery (this is from his interview again).  He really did not know what was going to happen -- he was told that the surgery was off because the Twins had scheduled it.  In the interview, he said that really was the time that it hit home that baseball was a business.

The Pilots asked him to move to Seattle, and he sold his house and did it. He backed up Tommy Harper/played third when Harper moved over to second and pinch hit a bit, and he missed a bunch of time due to that same knee injury -- finally having the knee operation in mid-1969. Rollins said that the atmosphere was like a zoo -- no one knew who was going to play when.

He came with the team to Milwaukee for the 1970 season, but he really did not stay long. His recollection of this move was that the team bus was leaving Tempe to go to the airport in Phoenix, and the team had no idea whether it was going to Seattle or to Milwaukee. They only found out it was Milwaukee when they got to the airport.

He appeared in just 14 games and came to bat 29 times before the team decided that it needed another pitcher -- Skip Lockwood -- rather than Rollins on May 7, 1970.  When Lockwood was called up from Portland, Rollins was put on waivers and then was released. He signed for the Indians for the remainder of the 1970 season -- serving more as a coach than as a player, in his words -- and hung up his spikes at the end of that season.  Rollins blamed his knees for the early end to his career -- he'd lost a step, he was in pain, and he did not have the base to hit well any more.

After his career ended, he moved back to Cleveland. The Indians re-signed Rollins in 1972 -- to serve as a minor league instructor and scout. He did that for a couple of years. One day, though, he woke up in Reno, Nevada, thinking he was nuts for having 6 kids and seeing them twice all summer.  So, he called Gabe Paul in Cleveland and said he was done with traveling. The Indians moved him to the home office, then, and he worked for the Indians for the next 12 years.

Rollins mentioned that he gets more autograph requests now than he ever did before, but the addresses that are out in the "baseball address book" was wrong for him. But, the newer address books are right, apparently, and he will sign autographs.

Strangely, despite the fact that Rollins played just 14 games with Milwaukee, he has three cards (at least) showing him as a Brewer.  In addition to the two here, there is a 1970 Mike Andersen Postcard of him (actually, there are two for him -- one on the Indians) on the Brewers.  And, the 1970 MLB PhotoStamp of him might be a Brewers photo (though it probably isn't).

So, does anyone have a Mike Andersen Postcard of any of the Brewers from 1970?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Meet the Brewers #9: Ted Kubiak

The last starter on Opening Day, 1970, to make an impact on the game (other than, perhaps, catching the ball on cutoffs from the outfield or throwing it around the horn after an out) was starting shortstop Ted Kubiak. Kubiak fielded a grounder to throw out Aurelio Rodriguez in the top of the 3rd inning and followed it by catching a popup hit by pitcher Andy Messersmith.  Kubiak slotted into the lineup hitting 8th, just before the pitcher's spot.

1970 was the only year in his entire career that Kubiak was a major league regular. He racked up 158 appearances and 626 plate appearances during the season, hitting .252/.340/.313 with 4 HRs, 6 3Bs, 9 2Bs, and 117 singles.  Don't be fooled by that .340 OBP, either -- he was the beneficiary of 16 intentional walks thanks to hitting 8th most of the year.

1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers
For most of his career and as his SABR biography notes, Kubiak was a utility infielder. He was a switch hitter who could field adequately at every position on the infield (though he played first base in only two games for a total of 6 innings for the Padres in 1975 and 1976).  He grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey, as a Yankees fan and didn't think he was that special of a player in high school. So, he was shocked when the Kansas City Athletics had him attend a tryout camp.  He was even more surprised when they signed him for a $500 bonus -- which led him to turn down becoming an architect.

He spent 6 years in the minor leagues and began switch hitting in his third professional season. Once he made it to the major leagues in 1967, his playing time was limited. Being a middle infielder meant he was behind two similarly aged players -- John Donaldson and Bert Campaneris.  So, after the 1969 season, the A's sent him to Milwaukee with George Lauzerique in exchange for Ray Oyler and Diego Segui.

1971 Topps
Kubiak's performance in 1970 showed more that the Brewers did not have middle infield talent than it did that Kubiak earned the job.  Kubiak took over at second from Tommy Harper when Harper moved to third to supplant Max Alvis. Despite yet another "happy talk" story about him becoming a "mainstay" from the Milwaukee Journal in April of 1971, the Brewers decided to look elsewhere and traded Kubiak to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Jose Cardenal, Bob Reynolds, and Dick Schofield.

From there, Kubiak played a half season in St. Louis before being traded to Texas. He played there a half-season before going back to Oakland -- and being the utility man for the A's for their three World Series victories in 1972 through 1974.  At the age of 33 in 1975, he hadn't played much in the first six weeks of the season.  So, the A's traded him to the Padres for Sonny Siebert.  Kubiak played out the last two years of his career with the Padres, filling in for guys like Doug Rader when Rader was on the mend after a pulled thigh muscle.

The end of Kubiak's playing career came through his choice, sort of. The Padres renewed his contract for 1977 for the maximum pay cut allowable. He walked out of spring training when that happened on March 30, basically saying, "to hell with it."

1994 MGD Milwaukee Brewers Commemorative Set
When Kubiak's career as a player ended, he did not go back to college and become the architect he wanted to be.  Instead, he started in TV with the A's in 1978.  He picked up real estate again --something he'd been doing in Milwaukee in 1971 -- and got into renovations and house flipping. After doing that for a while, he got the itch to get back into baseball again.  In 1987, the A's hired him to manage their rookie league team in Southern Oregon.

That position transitioned into four years at Modesto for the A's in the California League. When Modesto became a Cleveland affiliate, Kubiak stayed with the team and switched to the Indians organization. He managed in Single-A and Double-A for the Indians, became an infield coordinator for several years, and then returned to managing again until after the 2014 season.  The Indians decided to make a change and did not renew the now-73-year-old's contract.

I have three Ted Kubiak cards of him on the Brewers, pictured above. I don't have: 1970 Mike Andersen Postcard, 1970 Milwaukee Brewers Picture Pack, 1971 Milwaukee Brewers Picture Pack, 1971 Dell Today's Team Stamps #466, or his 1971 O-Pee-Chee #516.  So, there are a few cards I could use of his.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Care Package from Too Many Verlanders

Late last week, I needed a pick-me-up. I've been working a ton, leaving very little time for me to do anything hobby related.  So, it was great to see a yellow envelope in my mailbox from Dennis at Too Many Verlanders.  The note that Dennis sent me was that he went to a recent card show and found a few Brewers to send my way.

Starting off, there was what has to be an authentic Steve Woodard autographed 1998 Score.  It has to be authentic because the only three people I can think of who would even want a Steve Woodard autograph are Jaybarkerfan, Thorzul, and me.

The vast majority of the Brewers cards that Dennis found were from 2014. First, there were a couple of those Bowman "top prospects" mini refractors from last year's Bowman offering.

Last year, Jimmy Nelson was the Brewers' top prospect and Taylor Jungmann was the number 5 prospect according to the list on the back of the cards. This year, they are both in the starting rotation at this point of the season.  Both are still young, but both may appear to be questionable choices.

Both were the types of draft picks that Doug Melvin tended to prefer -- college pitchers with slightly more limited ceilings but with a higher floor than, say, a high school pitcher. Jungmann was selected 12th overall in the 2011 draft out of the University of Texas. Disappointingly from a personal perspective, Melvin chose Jungmann 6 picks before Vanderbilt pitcher and current Oakland A's starter Sonny Gray. Well, that's not as disappointing as selecting Jed Bradley (who really doesn't look to be a prospect at this point) out of Georgia Tech four picks before Gray. 

It proves that you should never take a Yellow Jacket. 

Nelson was selected from the University of Alabama in the second round in 2010 -- 4 picks before Rays starter Drew Smyly (out of the University of Arkansas) and 6 picks before the Braves selected Andrelton Simmons.

Again, there's still a lot of time left in their careers to show that they were good selections. Perhaps they will mature into quality starters in time for the next Brewers playoff team in 2018 or 2019.

Dennis also sent me two Jean Segura cards from last year. Jean Segura is the reason that I'm taking a wait-and-see approach on adding any new player collections at this point. Segura came out like a house-of-fire his first year in the majors, making the All-Star team on the strength of that first half: he hit .326/.363/.487 before the All-Star break in 2013. 

Over the last two seasons -- 2014 and 2015 -- however, his line is .251/.287/.324, "good" enough for an OPS+ of 69 (a stat which places league average at 100 and takes the player's home ballpark into account).  In other words, he's been pretty damn awful -- basically barely above replacement level according to WAR on Baseball Reference (last year, 0.6 WAR; this year, 0.1 WAR).  Now, he's still young -- just 25 years old. But, Orlando Arcia is getting closer and closer to ready in the minors. If Segura wants to be anything more than a platoon partner for Scooter Gennett at second, Segura will need to show a LOT next year.

Okay, let's move on to some cards of guys no longer with Milwaukee.

Alcides Escobar spent parts of three seasons in Milwaukee before being traded to the Kansas City Royals with Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi in exchange for Yuniesky Betancourt and Zack Greinke.  The Brewers got two years of Greinke (well, a year-and-a-half, before the Brewers traded him to the Angels for, in part, Segura).  The Royals got two All-Stars and trade bait (with Wil Myers) for Wade Davis and James Shields. Can't complain too much about that.

One last card:

This card was definitely the highlight of the package. A Rickie Weeks/Bill Hall dual autograph card from UD Premier in 2007 serial numbered 12 of 25 -- and sorry Gavin, you're not getting this Christmas card!  It's a great addition to the Rickie Weeks player collection for me.

Dennis, thank you for thinking of me while perusing the cards at your baseball card show!