Rookie of the Year in 1949. Four times an All-Star. Cy Young and MVP Award winner in 1956. 149 wins. But Don Newcombe was more than just a good pitcher. He was a good hitter, too.
Often used as a pinch hitter during his career, Newk racked up 15 homers and 108 RBI in his 10-year career. In 1955 alone, he knocked the ball out of the park seven times on his way to a 2.5 oWAR score for the season. His batting average was .271, with 238 hits in 878 at-bats.
The Dodgers foolishly traded Newcombe during the 1958 season to the Redlegs for four players: Steve Bilko, Johnny Klippstein, Art Fowler, and Charlie Rabe. He continued his hitting display during three seasons with the Reds, pounding out 58 hits in 201 at-bats. That’s a .289 average!
The Reds sure could use a bat like Newcombe’s on the bench this year…or any year. He was an underrated player during his career, and while the Dodgers do a good job of recognizing his greatness, he is still overlooked by many fans.
He will be entering his first professional season outside of the Cincinnati Reds organization in 2015. The question is, will he be with the Dodgers or in the minor leagues? Chris Heisey is only batting .074 this spring—that’s 2 hits in 27 at-bats. One of those hits was a home run, but that really doesn’t do much to help his cause in an already crowded Los Angeles outfield. I was disappointed when the Reds let Heisey walk away; he was a valuable bench player over the past five seasons in Cincinnati. I hope he is able to get out of this slump and succeed with LA…as long as he doesn’t hit the Reds’ pitchers too hard.
A picture is worth one thousand words, so here are ten thousand nineteen (including these words, but not the title)…
Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2015
Following excellent books about Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, the latest subject of a Matt Tavares children’s baseball biography is new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Tavares tells young readers the story of a young boy who grew up watching his brother Ramon Martinez pitch in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of playing together in the major leagues. The author and illustrator follows Pedro’s journey pitching with his brother in Los Angeles, to becoming the best pitcher in baseball in Montreal, to a World Championship in Boston.
Tavares is in top form as his illustrations help tell the story of one of the greatest pitchers of the past thirty years. The book is aimed toward 8-12 year olds, and the text is certainly written on that level, but the artwork can be appreciated by baseball fans of any age. Tavares’ illustrations perfectly depicts Pedro’s intensity.
The Dodgers needed a pinch-hitter/sixth-string outfielder, and the Reds needed another pitcher that likes to allow the other team to score (6.51 ERA in six major league starts). Matt Magill was roughed up in the bigs, but he didn’t fare much better in the minors, posting a 5.21 ERA at AAA Albuquerque. Of course, Chris Heisey‘s .222 batting average isn’t much to get excited about either, regardless of how nice a guy he is.
TWJ contributor Patrick e-mailed these 1974 Topps “Traded” cards to me last night to post on the blog today. They look great, though I would like to learn how to airbrush the logos rather than Photoshop to make it more faithful to the original style. They are great cards though, and I wish Heisey the best of luck in Los Angeles.
(November 3, 1956 – June 9, 2014)
Two-time All Star and 1990 Cy Young Award winner, Bob Welch has died at the age of 57. No pitcher has won more than 25 games since Welch’s 27 in 1990. In 17 major league seasons, he compiled a 211-146 record with a 3.47 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics.
(January 17, 1931 – June 4, 2014)
An infielder for the Dodgers, Cubs, Senators, Mets, Reds and Toei Flyers in the 1950s and 1960s, Don Zimmer passed away Wednesday at the age of 83. Zimmer also managed for several years and led the Chicago Cubs to a 1st place finish in 1989.
The first no-hitter of the 2014 season was thrown by Josh Beckett, who shut down the Philadelphia Phillies on May 25 in Philadelphia. The Dodgers won the game 6-0. Beckett walked three and struck out six batters; this is the fifth time a Dodgers pitcher has no-hit the Phillies.
Congratulations, Josh Beckett.
Special card, unnumbered, Josh Beckett “NO-HITTER”
See more at TWJ cards on tumblr.
Sadly, I haven’t been writing much lately. I don’t just mean for the blog, I mean in general. I’ve been going through the motions for the past several weeks, and can’t seem to get out of this funk that I’m in.
Today I turned my attention towards baseball again. Inspired by a 1996 Chicago Cubs team issued card posted by Wrigley Wax earlier today, I retooled the design a bit and came up with my own 2014 TWJ cards. Different fonts, and my players don’t jump out of the borders, but the basic elements are there. Here is my Jay Bruce card:
And to make the comparison more direct, here’s Travis Wood of the Chicago Cubs:
I suppose I’ll fire up the old TWJ cards on tumblr pretty soon. It has been dormant since July. Be sure to follow or subscribe or whatever you’re supposed to do on tumblr (I can’t keep them all straight anymore). In the meantime, here’s one more…2013 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw:
Today is Steve Garvey‘s 65th birthday, and in a shameless attempt to see his cards posted on baseball card blogs everywhere, the Garvey Cey Russell Lopes blog is giving away a 1952 Topps card to someone at random. So of course I’m going to post a card, because I don’t have any 1952 Topps cards yet.
The Garvey card pictured above is from the 1986 Donruss All-Stars set. These big cards (3.5 x 5) first appeared in 1983, and lasted in this oversize variety through 1987. In 1988 the company decided to shrink them to “normal” baseball card size (2.5 x 3.5). 1986 Donruss doesn’t get much love these days, but I loved them as a kid. It was difficult to keep your cards looking mint with those non-white borders. but I loved them anyway. The main difference between the regular set and the All-Stars (other than the ginormosity of them) was the stripes. Instead of horizontal, the blue and black went from top to bottom.
Flipping to the back, we see that Garvey had a fairly impressive All-Star career. 1985 was his tenth and final All-Star game and he managed to belt out a .393 average in those contests. His 1974 campaign was especially impressive, being elected as a write-in and winning the MVP. In 1970, Rico Carty became the first player ever elected as a write-in; Garvey followed him in 1974. Has there been another since?
Of his ten All-Star appearances, Garvey started in nine games. In 1981, Pete Rose of the Phillies received more votes. Rose also won the fan vote in 1982, while Al Oliver won in 1983; Garvey was not selected as a reserve either of those years. In 1984, however, the former Dodgers first baseman rose back to the top and was selected to start over Keith Hernandez. In 1985, Rose and Jack Clark sat on the bench while Garvey took the field for the first four and a half innings.
I always thought Steve Garvey would be inducted into the Hall of Fame when his playing days are over, and while I would still like to see him get a plaque in Cooperstown, the truth is the numbers just don’t add up. He wouldn’t be the worst player in the Hall, but his selection would probably be seen by rabid baseball fans and historians as a mistake. Regardless, he was a great baseball player.
Happy birthday Steve Garvey.
Now go visit Garvey Cey Russell Lopes.
I do! Our good friend over at Garvey Cey Russell Lopes wants to see as many Steve Garvey cards on the blogosphere as possible on Sunday in honor of the Garv’s 65th birthday, and is bribing all of his friends with 1952 cards to make that happen. One person will be randomly selected to choose from fifteen possible cards to add to his collection. Of course, if I win, I’ll take the Cincinnati Reds card.
What is GCRL going to do with the rest of the cards? Who knows…maybe more contests are coming down the pipe, or maybe he’ll offer them up for trade, or maybe he’ll charter a boat and dump them in the ocean. But as for the current contest, click here to see the rules and regulations.
I will be posting a card or two on Sunday, but in the meantime, here’s a “fun card” of Steven Patrick Garvey in the style of 1952 Topps.
Since his retirement, future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza has been involved in coach for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. I don’t know enough about the former catcher to form an opinion about his abilities on the sidelines, so I’m asking you…do you think Mike Piazza would be a good major league manager or coach?
The card above is from the 2013 TWJ series that is being posted daily on tumblr. This past week has been a mixture of cards from the WBC (including Brandon Phillips, Robinson Cano, and Miguel Cabrera) and players in spring training (including Troy Tulowitzki and Gavin Floyd). There is even a special WBC card immortalizing the Canada/Mexico feud. Feel free to follow (I almost always follow back) and let me know if you have any requests for future TWJ subjects!
by Mike Piazza with Lonnie Wheeler
Simon & Schuster, 2013
Spring training is underway, and new baseball books are starting to hit the store shelves. Mike Piazza released his highly anticipated memoir Long Shot a couple of weeks ago, and in it he tells of his upbringing, relationship with Tommy Lasorda, and love for the city of New York. He deals with some of the big stories of his career, including the steroid suspicions, homosexuality rumors, the Roger Clemens incident, and breaking Carlton Fisk’s record for most home runs by a catcher. The first eight chapters, which focus on Piazza’s early life through the minor leagues, capture the catcher’s personality best as he tells of meeting Ted Williams and convincing his college coaches to let him catch instead of play first base. Once he makes the big leagues in chapter nine, however, the story becomes a bit dry. We do see the evolution of the innocent, sheltered Pennsylvania boy into a hardened, cynical Californian and later New Yorker (granted, that evolution began in the minor leagues, but became much more pronounced as he was ushered out of Los Angeles). But Piazza’s recollection of specific games, at-bats, and even pitches can be a bit tedious.
Many players make a big splash by publishing “tell-all” biographies, exposing the shortcomings of former teammates and coaches. While he does take a few jabs at Pedro Martinez and Clemens, for the most part Piazza shies away from such an approach. Unfortunately, that makes the major league portion of the book more difficult to get through. There are interesting stories here and there, but the best part of Long Shot is definitely found in the first eight chapters.
Does Mike Piazza belong in the Hall of Fame? Only 57.8% of the voters showed support in his first year on the ballot, despite his staggering offensive numbers. That number is expected to rise in the coming years, and Piazza himself believes he belongs. “Election to the Hall of Fame would, for me, validate everything.” One look at his statistics, coupled with the fact that he has never been accused of steroid usage by any reputable source, answers the question quite clearly. The man worked hard for what he achieved, accomplishing great things despite the odds. If you are not familiar with his career, Long Shot is a good recollection. For those who remember his career well, read the first eight chapters and skim the rest.
Let me say this upfront: I don’t hold Zack Greinke‘s salary against him. It was offered, and anyone with half a brain would accept what the Dodgers threw his way. This is not a post about the insane amounts of money athletes make (although, you have to admit, it is insane that athletes are paid that much money).
What I don’t understand is this: it’s Zack Greinke. The guy is a modern-day Alex Fernandez. Good at what he does, but far from an elite player. The highest-paid players should be those who are truly great, not #2 or #3 starters. Josh Hamilton I understand. Alex Rodriguez, cheater though he is, I get it. These are guys who produce runs and win ballgames. Greinke isn’t that guy.
Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Buster Posey of the Giants are both in the conversation for their respective league’s Most Valuable Player awards, and they are playing against each other in the World Series. Surely it’s not a rare occurrence for the MVP winners to both appear in the World Series, is it?
The above “fun cards” originally appeared on the TWJ cards tumblr; new cards are being posted every day.
In 1965, Leo Durocher was hit on the head by a baseball that was hit from a park eight blocks away. The ball was launched by the resident of 1313 Mockingbird Lane: Herman Munster. Durocher was very excited and invited Herman to try out for the Dodgers. After the try-out, however, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley declined to offer Herman a contract because it would cost too much to repair the stadium after each game, and the insurance premiums would go through the roof with him on the field.
When someone asks you, “Who is the greatest hitter of all-time?”, your answer should be, “Someone who never got the chance to play in the big leagues.” No, not Josh Gibson. Herman Munster was the man’s name.
“Herman The Rookie” aired on April 8, 1965. Purchase The Munsters: The Complete Series.
Still a ladies’ man at 63 years old, Steve Garvey gets a peck on the cheek from supermodel Chrissy Teigen.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Baseball’s Greatest Games
Collector’s Edition DVD boxed set
New Video, 2011
11 discs; 29 hrs., 56 mins. total + extras
What are the greatest baseball games ever televised? While every baseball fan may give a different answer, there are a few games that will certainly appear on the majority of lists. In this 11-disc collection, New Video makes available ten of the greatest games ever played, dating back to the 1960 World Series and coming into the 21st century with playoff games between the Yankees and Red Sox.
Let’s make one thing clear: these videos are not “highlight reels” of the featured games interspersed with interviews. No, these are the actual games as they were originally televised (minus commercials), complete with the original television announcers and graphics associated with the broadcasts. The number of Hall of Famers that played in these games is astounding, from Roberto Clemente and Mickey Mantle to Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor. Couldn’t get any better, could it?
Actually, yes it could…and it does. Perhaps there is a television announcer that you do not like. What do you do? Mute the TV and watch in silence? You could do that, or you could go to the “audio set-up” of the DVD and choose “radio call” to hear the game as hometown fans heard it, such as the legendary Jack Buck on the 1985 NLCS game (Cardinals vs. Dodgers, featuring Ozzie Smith‘s bottom of the 9th homer), synced up to the action on the screen.
The ten games featured in this collector’s edition include nine playoff games (five of those from the World Series) and one regular season game.
- 1960 World Series Game 7 (Pirates vs. Yankees, Bill Mazeroski‘s walk-off homer to win the Championship)
- 1975 World Series Game 6 (Red Sox vs. Reds, Carlton Fisk waving it fair in the bottom of the 12th)
- 1979 Wrigley Field Slugest (Cubs vs. Phillies, a regular season game with a final score of 23-22, multiple home runs from both Mike Schmidt and Dave Kingman)
- 1985 NLCS Game 5 (Cardinals vs. Dodgers, Ozzie’s walk-off)
- 1986 World Series Game 6 (Mets vs. Red Sox, Mookie Wilson‘s dribbler that went in between Bill Buckner‘s legs to send the Series to a seventh game)
- 1991 World Series Game 7 (Twins vs. Braves, proof that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall of Fame)
- 1992 NLCS Game 7 (Braves vs. Pirates, amazing come-from-behind win sending Atlanta to the World Series)
- 1993 World Series Game 6 (Blue Jays vs. Phillies, Joe Carter‘s dramatic bottom of the 9th blast)
- 2003 ALCS Game 7 (Yankees vs. Red Sox, the 11-inning nail-biter featuring Aaron Boone‘s heroic blast)
- 2004 ALCS Game 4 (Red Sox vs. Yankees, the beginning of Boston’s historic comeback after losing the first three games of the ALCS)
In addition to these complete broadcasts is an eleventh disc featuring interviews from players and coaches, many of them involved in the contests. Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Mazeroski, Fisk, Gary Carter, Kirby Puckett and Rickey Henderson, as well as legends Pete Rose, Fred Lynn, Tug McGraw, and Dave Stewart are included in these interviews.
This boxed set is a fantastic addition to any baseball lover’s video collection, highly recommended to those who love to relive the classic moments from baseball’s history.
You will never be able to convince me that Steve Garvey should not be in the Hall of Fame.
This wraps up the “Taco Cards”…hope you enjoyed them.