Saturday, May 31, 2014

Senators Saturday - Brant Alyea, 1970.

Wow, I'm not sure what happened to this scan of card number 303 in the 1970 Topps set. It looked a lot better in the scan preview and in person than it does here. The corduroy lines aren't on the card. Maybe the computer just doesn't like Brant Alyea.

Whatever the reason you can still see Brant showing off the red uniform of the late stage Washington Senators. He wouldn't be wearing the uniform during the 1970 season however.

Washington dealt Alyea to the Minnesota Twins on March 21, 1970. In return the Senators picked up Joe Grzenda and Charlie Walters. The trade was probably a wash for the Senators. Grzenda had one great season for them before they traded him and Walters never appeared in the Majors after the trade. Meanwhile Alyea had a decent 1970 season for the Twins before watching his numbers drop and being relegated to part-time roles for the rest of his career. He bounced around a bit and was out of the Bigs after the 1972 season.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Odds and ends.

Worked midnights last night and am supposed to go in this afternoon so this post is pre-scheduled since I figured I might not write well in a sleep deprived state.

Got a pretty much random post to go along with today's random Rangers game-used card. Get to see Hank Blalock on card number BF-L of the 2004 Donruss Elite Back to the Future set. The card features a piece of Hank's bat and is numbered 3/200. Somehow I ended up with lots of Hank Blalock game-used and autographed cards but I think this one is among the nicest looking.

As promised a couple of weeks ago, I have updated my links. I checked all the blogs listed and they appear to still be active. I will be keeping my eye on a couple to make sure they aren't slowly fading out but all still seem to be being updated at least occasionally. I also added three links to the set tours list: 1963 Topps, 1969 Topps, and 1970 Topps. I was a little let down that I was unable to add to the team blogs lists. Hopefully you will find the new additions entertaining.

On a final note, Spiff Jr and I are contemplating a trip to Duane's Sportscards in Arlington sometime next week. Due to a schedule change at work I have four days off between June 2nd and June 5th. Got called for jury duty on the 2nd so that's likely out. We haven't decided between the other days though. If anyone would like to try and meet up for a face-to-face trade or just to visit be sure and drop me a note. I know there's at least a couple of other Duane's customers who occasionally read here and I have yet to meet any other collectors since making the move to the area.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Royal delivery.

Got a text message from a friend of mine the other day. Always good to hear from Mark O and get his thoughts on the current baseball happenings. Mark's a rare find in the baseball world - a true blue dyed in the wool Kansas City Royals fan. He's why I have very few Royals cards to trade.

Mark wanted to let me know he sent me a few cards from my Rangers wantlist. That was a pleasant surprise. I have a couple of cards put back for Mark but haven't sent him anything in awhile.

I got the box yesterday and found Mark deceived me. I consider the 60 or so cards in the box to be more than a few. All but three or four filled holes in my Rangers wantlist. Took over an hour to update the wantlist and file the cards away.

One of the cards included in the lot was card number 183 of the 1992 Donruss Triple Play set. Rafael Palmeiro was the last card I needed to complete the set. Mark also finished off two other team sets for me.

Thanks a ton for the great package Mark, it really made my day. A word to the wise, if Mark O the Royals fan ever contacts you about a possible trade you would be best served to take him up on the offer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

1978 Topps - Doyle Alexander.

Doyle Alexander appears on card 146 of the 1978 Topps set to kick off the 1978 team set. Before we get to Doyle, I have a quick note I wanted to throw out there.

You can see a mourning band on Alexander's left sleeve. There are several other players in the team set with similar such bands visible. Because most of the photos featured on these cards were taken in 1977, I turned to the 1977 Texas Rangers Media Guide to answer the obvious question.

Turns out the Rangers acquired a player named Danny Thompson on June 1, 1976 from Minnesota in the Bert Blyleven trade. Thompson was apparently an all-around likable guy and quickly became popular with his teammates and the media. Danny lost his battle with Leukemia on December 10, 1976. The 1977 media guide was dedicated to his memory and the team donned mourning bands with Thompson's number 4.

Doyle Alexander was coming into his second season with Texas in 1978 and was working on solidifying his reputation as a strong starter down the stretch. The Rangers were hoping for a repeat of 1977 with a few less walks.

What Texas got from Alexander in 1978 was 31 appearances and 28 starts. That made him the third most used starter. Over the 191 innings he pitched he compiled a 3.86 ERA and a 1.408 WHIP. He struck out 81 opposing batters and issued eleven fewer free passes than the year before. For his trouble he ended the season with a 9-10 record.

Texas was going to be keeping an eye on Doyle Alexander. His totals in ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched all moved the wrong way from the 1977 campaign. He was still a solid starter and consistent stretch competitor but he could stand to improve a little in 1979 if he wanted to move into the top end of the Rangers rotation.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Minor League Monday - Jack Peel, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

First let me start off by saying thank you to all the families of those who have fallen in defense of our country and the freedoms we enjoy. We should never forget those brave men and women or the sacrifices they made. I hope all remembered this as they enjoyed this Memorial Day.

I ended up spending a fair amount of my day at various ballparks. In San Francisco and Houston as Spiff Jr's Phillies and Pirates took on the Giants and Colt .45's in our 1964 Strat-O-Matic season replay. At Elysian Fields as Spiff Jr and his 2004 Rangers played exhibition games against the 1954 Giants and 1962 Senators. Perhaps the most enjoyable, at Field #4 as the family traveled down to the local park for some outside time. Spiff Jr and his team have tournament coming up so he went through his paces behind the plate while his sisters rode scooters alongside the field.

I think I probably had almost as much fun as Jack Peel is having on this severely mis-cut copy of card #20 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set. I have no idea why the scanner read the border the way it did, it's actually a dark blue like the rest of the set.

Jack Peel started his professional baseball career in 1986 with the White Sox organization. I'm not sure how he moved over to the Rangers but by 1990 he had yet to play above Single A and Chicago gave up on him.

Peel spent the 1990 season with the A+ Charlotte Rangers, appeared in 87 games for Charlotte, and did indeed spend most of his time in the outfield as indicated on the front of his card. He committed two errors out there and ended the season with a .982 fielding percentage. Jack also appeared in one game each at first base and as a pitcher. He gave up a hit and a walk along with an earned run in one inning pitched to end the season with a 9.00 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP.

Jack made 299 trips to the plate in 1990 and posted a .229 batting average and a .291 on-base percentage. He did hit 14 doubles, two triples, and eight home runs but struck out 43 times while walking just 20.

Unfortunately for Jack Peel, his offensive numbers actually dropped from his 1989 totals back into the neighborhood of his 1988 numbers. Apparently Texas decided they would stay there and they had seen enough of Jack Peel. 1990 would be Peel's last season in professional ball.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Senators Saturday - Darold Knowles, 1967.

I am guessing that the hatless Darold Knowles is appearing in his Phillies uniform on card number 362 of the 1967 Topps set. Washington got Knowles from the Philadelphia in exchange for Don Lock on November 30, 1966. They were looking for some help in the bullpen and Darold was pretty highly regarded.

The back of Darold's card says he was figuring to become the big man in the Senators bullpen in 1967. He almost did. Knowles appeared in 61 games for Washington in 1967, all but one of them in relief. He tossed a bullpen best 113.1 innings. His 2.70 ERA was a full run behind the best mark in the pen but still good enough for second. His 1.262 WHIP was about average among Washington relievers. Darold also notched 14 saves, most in the pen, as he split closer duties with Dave Baldwin.

All things considered, Darold Knowles had impressed in his first season with the Senators and made the Don Lock trade look like the right move. As long as Knowles could keep it up he shouldn't have any difficulty keeping his spot in the bullpen in 1968.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Delayed game report.

Time for an overdue write-up. Spiff Jr and I were offered free tickets to the Rangers game last Sunday (May 18th) by a friend in our church. Needless to say, we took up the offer.

I have to admit, preparing for the game I felt like I did in the late 80's and early 90's. The team was riding a four game losing skid and I did not expect them to come out of it. I was still excited about going, I just didn't expect a win.

We got to the ballpark around 1245 for a 1400 game time. Took all of 15 minutes to get parked and walk up to the park. The parking lots were packed and it seemed like there were people everywhere. I wondered if I was the only fan who had the memo on how far out of first the fourth place Rangers were. As we got in line just over an hour before game time the gate staff announced they were out of the Prince Fielder bobblehead giveaways. That meant at least 15,000 folks were already through the gates.

Once inside we decided to take a stroll around the park before finding our seats. The stroll turned into more of a slow walk due to the thick crowds but was still a pleasant experience. Looked at a few kiosks, picked up a program, and reviewed the look of the concourse before deciding it was time to head for our seats.

We sat up on the third deck with an excellent view of the field, shade, and a nice breeze. On a day that touched 90 we didn't even break a sweat. Those in the really pricey seats roasted I heard later from someone who was down close to the field. The folks around us were pleasant and there didn't appear to be many empty seats in the house. When the attendance of 43,671 was announced I believed it. Made me think of Josh Hamilton's comments about Rangers fans being spoiled and not willing to support the team when things get rough. Over 43,000 folks paying to see a team well under .500, not in the race, and with a ton of injuries seems like support through rough times. Maybe Josh needs to clarify his remarks a little.

Prince Fielder was out with his neck issues so Mitch Moreland, shown here on a signed 2011 Topps Heritage card, got the start at first base. That proved to work out well for Texas. The teams traded zeros for the first three innings with Nick Martinez giving the Rangers a strong start. Toronto got to him for a run in the top of the fourth with a solo shot from third baseman Juan Francisco. Alex Rios put the Rangers on top with a two run triple in the bottom of the frame. The Jays tied the game up with another solo home run in the sixth, this one from Edwin Encarnacion. In the bottom of the seventh Rios reached on a Francisco error to bring up Moreland with a runner on. Mitch snuck one over the right field fence. That ball probably had green paint on it from the top of the wall but it counted and put Texas on top for good. The Rangers managed to add two more runs in the bottom of the eighth on a pair of doubles (one from Moreland) and two singles. Joakim Soria finished the ballgame up with a shaky but scoreless ninth.

All in all a great day at the park. Got to spend some time with Spiff Jr and see the Rangers break their losing streak. Also got to see the new replay rules in action on an unassisted double play in the seventh that ended up going against the Rangers. A day at the ballpark is always a good one. A win makes it better. Many thanks to Chuck for the tickets.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Senators Saturday - Johnny Orsino, 1966.

Johnny "Horse" Orsino appears in his Baltimore Orioles uniform on card 77 of the 1966 Topps set. The Senators obtained John from the O's in exchange for Woodie Held in an October 12, 1965 trade.

Although Topps lists Orsino as a catcher, he could also play first base. With most of Washington's catching being done by Paul Casanova and Doug Camilli, Johnny ended up as the third alternative. He caught just four innings in two appearances. Except for allowing one stolen base he was flawless. Orsino saw a little more time at first base. Over five games he played 31 innings and handled 27 chances without a misstep. Since John appeared in just one game for Double A York in 1966 it sure looks like he was spending a lot of time on the bench.

Johnny did some pinch-hitting in addition to his time in the field. He appeared in 14 games total for Washington and made 23 trips to the plate. The results were less than encouraging. Orsino's batting average tallied to .174 with his on-base percentage being identical. While he didn't walk he struck out seven times. A lonely double was his only extra base hit. John wasn't going to win more glove time with his bat.

Maybe it was the bench time or perhaps there was another factor but it was clear that Johnny Orsino was struggling. He had to bring his bat around if he wanted to carve out a spot for himself on the Washington roster in 1967.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ups and downs.

Got a random auto for you today with this 1996 Leaf Authentic Signature card of former Rangers pitcher Kevin Gross.

Well, it's been a week of contrasts. Last weekend the family and I went up to Branson, Missouri to celebrate my sister's graduation from The College of The Ozarks with her degree in nursing. She starts her first job as a registered nurse on June 1st. That was great. The whole family got together for the first time in years. We always enjoy it but there are quite a few of us so it doesn't happen often. Kind of a watershed as well. My sister is the youngest of my siblings and the last to graduate. Probably no more college graduations until Spiff Jr gets there.

While I was off in Missouri having a good time, the wheels were coming off for the Rangers. They are now at a game under .500, in fourth place, and well behind the front-running A's. There's not a lot of light at the end of the tunnel either. The injury bug is chewing this team up.

Pitcher Pedro Figueroa underwent Tommy John surgery on April 30th so he's gone for the season. Kevin Kouzmanoff is recovering from back surgery earlier this month. Donnie Murphy hit the Disabled List with a neck strain on the 8th. Yesterday came the most crushing blows. Martin Perez has a partially torn UCL in his left elbow. He may be looking at Tommy John surgery. Even if he isn't, he won't be back anytime soon. Matt Harrison left Tuesday's game with back pain and the outlook isn't good. It seems highly likely that he will need back surgery again. This time a spinal fusion that could end his career all together.

Needless to say, the injuries put a real damper on the season. The rest of the schedule could be a real long road. With the entire rotation except Yu Darvish being sidelined, the outlook is pretty grim. As Eric Nadel said during last night's game, the Ranger ship is listing 20 degrees to port and taking on water.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

1977 Topps - Mike Wallace.

As is indicated by his airbrushed cap, Mike Wallace was something of a traveling man in his short Major League career. The Rangers sent minor leaguer John Sutton to the Cardinals for Wallace on October 22, 1976. Texas was Mike's fourth team since his Big League debut in 1973. He had been a Phillie and a Yankee prior to landing in St. Louis. He had yet to spend a full season in the Majors.

Wallace started the 1977 season with the Rangers. Working out of the bullpen, he had five appearances with 8.1 innings pitched by May 1, 1977. His 7.56 ERA and 2.400 were not calculated to inspire confidence. Having seen enough, the Rangers sent Wallace to Triple A Tuscon to finish out the season.

That was the end of Mike Wallace's career as a Ranger and as a Major League pitcher. He made his way back to the Phillies organization and spent the 1978 Season at Triple A in their system. The start of the 1979 season saw Mike at Triple A in the Baltimore system but he wouldn't finish out the season there.

Mike Wallace ended his pro career pitching for the Miami Amigos of the Inter-American League in 1979.

Mike Wallace finishes up the 1977 Topps Rangers team set. The next Topps Tuesday will see us moving into 1978.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Senators Saturday - Nick Willhite, 1965.

Nick Willhite, shown here on card #284 of the 1965 Topps set, was still somewhat of an unknown factor when he came to the Senators. Willhite arrived in Washington on October 15, 1964 after the Senators purchased his contract from the Dodgers. Nick had spent parts of the 1963 and 1964 seasons with Los Angeles but had yet to spend an entire season in the Bigs.

By early May Willhite had appeared in five games and pitched 6.1 innings for Washington. His ERA was a terrible 7.11 and his WHIP 2.211. Both were much higher than anything he posted with L.A.

Apparently the Senators decided Willhite was not adjusting well to the American League. The Dodgers agreed to buy Nick's contract back on May 11, 1965. Off he went to the west coast and the National League where he promptly dropped both his ERA and WHIP. The Nick Willhite experiment in Washington was over almost before it began.