Tuesday, December 10, 2013
On the last day of the 1957 season lefty Seth Morehead became the answer to two trivia questions: "Who was the last pitcher to face the Brooklyn Dodgers?" and "Who was the last pitcher to face Roy Campanella?"
In that game on September 29th, Morehead's first career start and first win, he hurled a tidy four hitter as the Phils won, 2-1. Campy pinch hit for Dodger starter Roger Craig in the top of the eighth and flied to center. (Side note... Sandy Koufax pitched the bottom of the eighth to become the last man to throw a pitch in a Brooklyn uniform.)
Up until that point in his rookie season Morehead had pitched 33 times in relief with a loss and a save. He finished the year with an ERA of 3.68 which was down from well over 6 in mid-July. Prior to that season he had spent five seasons as a starter in the Phillies' system following his signing out of Shreveport, Louisiana in 1951.
Morehead made eleven starts for the Phillies in 1958 and was treated pretty roughly by NL hitters. His '59 numbers were trending the same way when the Phils moved him to the Cubs in May. His work that year for the Cubs produced the similar results but in 1960 he improved significantly. Although he was only 2-9 on the North Side appeared in 45 games and had his best WHIP and his ERA was below 4.00 for the first time since his rookie year.
Traded to the Braves on the eve of the 1961 season, Morehead picked up an early season relief win but he was ineffective otherwise and by late May he was in the minors. One last appearance came in September of that year and then he was back in the minors for two seasons before retiring.
After baseball Morehead completed his degree at Baylor University and was in the finance/insurance business for 36 years before he retired for good. In this book excerpt writer Willie Morris tells a good story of meeting him at a banquet many years after Morehead had fanned him four times in a Louisiana youth league championship game.
Pretty neat card with Morehead shown at Connie Mack Stadium inside a black frame.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
J. W. Porter was signed by well known scout Bobby Mattick out of Oakland, California in 1950. One of his high school teammates was Frank Robinson. He was called the best schoolboy prospect in the country. This comes from the 1951 Sporting News Baseball Guide:
Another record was set by J.W. Porter, Oakland catcher, when he captured the national batting championship for the second successive year. The 17-year-old receiver, who hit .551 in ten tourney games the previous year, produced a .488 average in 1950 national tourney play to retain the Hillerich & Bradsby trophy which is awarded annually to the leading batter … Porter, who received a bonus in excess of $50,000 for signing with the Chicago White Sox organization in December, 1950, was named the No. 1 American Legion Junior player of the year.Starting in the White Sox system Porter hit well in his first season and a half in the minors before the Sox included him in a trade to the St. Louis Brown in July of '52. He played with the Browns for the rest of that season not as a catcher but as a centerfielder. He was traded to Detroit and then spent two years in Military Service before he was ever able to play for the Tigers.
Porter played for part of the 1955 season for Detroit and then was used very sparingly in 1956 getting only 14 trips to the plate despite being on the roster all season. There was a new Tiger manager in '57 and Porter got more work but he still wasn't a starter.
Traded to the Indians in 1958 he stayed one season before being traded to the Senators and from there to the Cardinals in 1959. He caused a minor stir in Cleveland by using a first baseman's mitt to catch Hoyt Wilhelm. He never returned to the majors but spent seven years in the high minors for several organization as a C/OF. For his career Porter hit .228 with 8 home runs.
Following his active career he managed for several seasons in the Montreal Expos system. He was known as a character during his playing days and has upheld that reputation since. He does some writing for baseball blogs, a bit of which I found here. The video below (which may or may not work for you) shows him introducing Jim Kaat at a function at the Elliot Museum in Florida which had a fairly extensive baseball exhibit. In the video Porter claims to have caught 14 Hall of Fame pitchers.
Tom Owens' Baseball by the Letters blog has featured Porter and adds some career anecdotes.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Don Ferrarese won only 19 games for five different teams over the course of eight seasons. Those numbers don't knock you over but he certainly shouldn't be dismissed that easily. You see it's what Don Ferrarese has done with his life after baseball that makes him stand out. But back to the game...
... Ferrarese signed on with the Phils in 1948. He wound his way through independent ball in the PCL and was dealt to the White Sox and spent time in the service. He was traded to the Orioles and debuted briefly in 1955. He made the O's staff in '56 and then spent 1957 shuttled between the O's and AAA ball. His baseball journey took many twists and turns as he was traded several times and through 1962 he was rostered by the White Sox (again), the Phils (again) the Indians, Cards and finally the Colt 45s for whom he never played.
Through it all he appeared in 183 games including 50 starts. He had a record of 19-36 with 12 complete games, two shutouts and 5 saves. His best game came with the Orioles on May 12 of 1956 when he entered the ninth having held the Yankees hitless. He lost the no-no but won a 1-0 game on a two hitter.
He once tossed four straight shutouts with San Antonio in the Texas League and had a three double day as a hitter for the Indians in May, 1959.
When he retired he went to work running his parents deli business and then he went into the real estate business. He was very successful and established a charitable foundation that benefits, among other things, needy students in his area of California. He has raised and donated millions of dollars. His foundations' website can be seen here. A few interviews with Ferrarese are here and here. More about his foundation is found here and here.
Sometimes what you find when you look into what appears to be just another '59 card can be amazing.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Lefty Art Ceccarelli signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948 and pitched for four seasons in their minor league system and squeezed in a couple of years of military service, too. He never made the Bums roster and was sold to the Yankees in 1954 before being drafted away by the A's later that year.
He made 16 starts among 31 appearances in his rookie season of '55 for Kansas City and went 4-7 with a high ERA. He spent the next season mostly in the minors but managed to lose one decision for KC. He was traded to the Orioles and went 0-5 in 1957, pitched well in the minors in 1958, was drafted by the Cubs and spent the first part of 1959 in their system.
Ceccarelli was brought up by the Cubs in July of that year and won his first four starts, three with complete games and one on a shut-out. Then hard times hit and he finished the year 5-5. He opened the 1960 season with the Cubs but was traded to the Yanks in May and ended his career in the minors after the 1963 season. He was 9-18 for his careen with an ERA of just over 5.
After baseball Ceccarelli returned to his native Connecticut and taught and coached high school for many years and coached baseball at Southern Connecticut State University. He passed away in July, 2012.
This card uses an airbrushed version of his 1958 Topps on which he is shown in an Orioles uni.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Jersey Boy Leo Kiely had a 26-27 career mark with 29 saves over seven big league seasons, mostly in Boston. But those rather pedestrian numbers belie some interesting aspects of his baseball days. For example Kiely was the very first player with major league experience to play in the Japanese major leagues.
According to his interesting SABR bio he pitched in Japan on days off from his duties as an active serviceman in the employ of Uncle Sam. And his 100,000 yen salary was just slightly less than that of the Emperor.
Kiely was in the service despite the after effects of a near fatal accident he suffered as a 5-year-old when he was run over by a truck and fractured both knees among other serious injuries. As a result he had one shorter leg for which he wore special shoes and subsequently was classified as 3-C by his draft board and placed into military service in a non-combat role. SABR goes into detain about Kiely's rough-and-tumble early life.
Kiely's career began when he was drafted by Boston in 1948. He was playing ball in a CYO league as he had never attended high school. Hard to conceive of that happening today. He had impressive minor league numbers and debuted in Boston in mid-1951. He went 7-7 in 19 games, mostly starts. He went into the service after that and that's when he pitched Army ball as well as in the Japanese League.
Returning to the Sox he was given a spot starter's role in 1954 and he went 5-8. He pitched out of the Red Sox' bullpen for another year and a half before he went back to AAA through 1957, He won a PCL high 21 games that year.
That earned him a return to the bigs and he had two seasons in the Sox' bullpen and finished his career with the A's in 1960 following a pair of trades that sent him to the Indians and then Kansas City in the off season. He pitched well for the A's but a sore shoulder ended his season and eventually his career.
Returning to New Jersey Kiely worked several jobs and died from throat cancer in 1984 at the age of 54.
Friday, November 29, 2013
After signing with the Boston Braves in 1950 Hudson, New York native Bob Trowbridge pitched very well for a season in the low minors and then spent three full years in the military. While serving Uncle Sam Trowbridge honed his pitching skills and won 60 games while losing only six for the Nellis Air Force Base team located near Las Vegas.
He returned to the pro ranks in 1954 and was a standout in the minors. He earned a trip to the majors for a good chunk of the 1956 season and went 3-2 in 19 games for the Braves. He sported a 2.66 ERA but his numbers indicate a tendency to walk guys.
In 1957 he started well at the AAA level and again was brought up. He made 16 starts in 32 appearances and had success. He tossed a pair of gems in September of that year including his only career shutout and a five hit one run effort late in the month.
He appeared in Game Three of the World Series against the Yankees that year, He pitched the seventh inning and had a pretty rough go of it as he allowed two hits and walked three and saw each of those runners score. Tony Kubek's homer was the big blow. Trowbridge did get Mickey Mantle to fly out to end the inning. I'd give up ten years of my life to say I faced Mickey Mantle in a World Series game. It might have been a rocky outing but he got a ring that season.
He was almost exclusively a reliever for the next two seasons and didn't have the success he'd had previously. Trowbridge found himself traded to Kansas City for 1960 where he had modest numbers and pitched some in the minors. He was back in the minors briefly in 1961 before he was done with the game.
He went on to work for the Department of Corrections near his upstate New York home until he passed away at the age of only 49 in 1980.
I wouldn't swear to it but that might be Connie Mack Stadium behind Trowbridge. I think I see just enough red to make that possible. There have been enough Phillies cards showing that park for me to know that the Topps photographers did make it that far across the Hudson (and Delaware) Rivers.
Or it could be the Polo Grounds.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Look up the term 'baseball lifer' and you are likely to see a picture of Dom Zimmer or, just maybe, Bill Fischer. He was just 17 when the Chicago White Sox inked him to a pro deal out of Wisconsin and the righthander debuted as a pro with a 14-3 record in 19 starts the low minors.
He moved up the Sox' chain, spent two years in the military, pitched in the independent PCL, was re-acquired by Chicago and finally debuted with the White Sox in 1956. He made three appearances that season before being returned to the minors and then he was back in the bigs in 1957.
Over the course of the next nine seasons he pitched for four different organizations, mostly out of the bullpen but he was a part of the Washington Senators' rotation in '59 and then into 1960 before he was traded to Detroit for the second time in his career. That appears to be a Tigers' uni he's wearing in this card's picture with a drawn-in 'W' on the cap.
His career mark over those nine seasons with the Senators/Twins, Athletics, White Sox and Tigers was 45-58 with two shutouts and 13 saves. In 1962 with Kansas City he set a major league record by pitching 84 1/3 consecutive innings without a walk, a record that still stands.
From 1965 through 1968 he pitched in the White Sox chain at the AAA level and had really good numbers each of those seasons but he never again appeared in a major league game. That doesn't mean he never wore a major league uniform however.
His Baseball Reference Bullpen page gives a good account of Fischer's coaching odyssey which followed his days on the mound:
After his playing days, Fischer was a minor league pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals from 1975 to 1978, a Cincinnati Reds coach from 1979 to 1983, a minor league coach for the Royals again in 1984, and a member of the Boston Red Sox staff from 1985 to 1991. He worked in the Atlanta Braves chain from 1992 to 1999 and then was Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitching coach in 2000 and 2001. He returned to Atlanta for the period from 2002 to 2006. He has worked in the Kansas City Royals organization since 2007, serving as their Minor League Pitching Coordinator in 2009 and more recently as a Senior Pitching Advisor.
Fischer was the pitching coach for Roger Clemens when the then Red Sox ace won three of his Cy Young awards. Only Leo Mazzone, Dave Duncan and George Bamberger have coached more Cy Young winners. A year ago, according to this page on the KC Royals' site, Fischer even stepped back into his active coaching role, even if only as a fill-in for a couple of games. So since 1948, with a couple of years away serving his country, Bill Fischer has been associated with baseball. That's a 65 year stretch. That's a 'baseball life'!.