Posts Tagged ‘1985’

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Schoolboy Rowe/Chris Pittaro

pittarpobpittarpfrlontWe’ve grown lazy as a society…it’s clear. Just look at what we call athletes and celebrities who are dating one another, you can see it in the inventiveness (or lack there of) of our nicknames. We’ve had two LTs in the last 20 years and typically just shorten names to V-Jax, or D-Jax, etc.

Quite simply (and I think I’ve written this before), I long for the days of players like Schoolboy Rowe who liquefied greenies and chewed tobacco. In short, when men were men and pitchers hit like Babe Ruth (well not exactly). According to Wikipedia, Rowe got the nickname while playing for a men’s team as a 15-year-old. Now that is how your earn a nickname!

You have to admire the back of Chris Pittaro’s card for more than just Lynnwood Thomas Rowe’s nickname. We get a nice factoid on Rowe’s career and the history of the Detroit Tigers as Rowe was the first Tigers pitcher to hit a grand salami.

Rowe was actually a very good hitter by non-Micah Owings-standards. Rowe hit 16 HRs – that’s tied for the 15th most all time with Jim Kaat and Jim Tobin.

He wasn’t just Ryan Howard with the bat, he had a little Ichiro in him — only 56 pitchers have ever won 20 games and also hit over .300 in the same season. Rowe is one of them. He did it in 1934, and, while that is a looooong time ago, most of the seasons occurred before 1900. In fact, the feat has only happened 11 times since Rowe did it — most recently by Mike Hampton in 1999.

Speaking of the number 16 — Rowe once tallied 16 consecutive wins in 1934, which is tied for the 12th longest streak of consecutive wins. Not surprisingly, Old Hoss Radburn had 18 consecutive victories in 1884. Meanwhile Clemens had 20 consecutive wins from 1998-1999. I don’t remember this being a big deal at the time, perhaps because I was an Orioles fan and hated Clemens, but it is pretty cool and one underrated Clemens non-bat throwing/country music singer mistress factoid. When you look at win streaks that were contained in just one year, Rowe’s streak is the 7th longest in history.

Schoolboy really lived up to his name as his best seasons happened while he was relatively young. During the 1934-1936 seasons, Rowe was 24-26-yeards-old respectively and averaged 20 complete games, a 3.87 ERA, and 1.28 WHIP. He would win 62 games over those three seasons. Unfortunately, like many of his generation, he missed significant time during peak years for World War II. In the season directly before the war, Rowe pitched 199 innings and posted a 2.94 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. In the season after his military service, Rowe pitched 136 innings and posted a 2.12 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.

No longer a schoolboy, Rowe would call it quits three years later at the age of 39 and would die at 50. His life in professional baseball spanned some 24+ years, his life outside of baseball about 26 years.

As for Chris Pittaro, he was an infielder who had less HRs than Rowe. In fact he never hit a major league HR. He’d only play one year in Detroit and get 68 major league plate appearances in 1985. He was traded to Minnesota the following year and would play sparingly over the next two seasons before leaving major league baseball for good. If only he had an Edna on his side…

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Gene Nelson/Jack Salveson

gene nelson backgene nelson frontBy all Wikipedia accounts, eyeglasses were invented several hundred years ago by the Chinese or Italians. By all MLB accounts, the Chicago White Sox played their first professional game in 1901.

So, for some reason, it took the organization 34 years before it employed a player who used corrective lenses. Jack Salveson would only pitch for part of the 1935 season for the Sox — going 1-2 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.53 WHIP spread over 20 appearances and 66.2 innings. That’d be the last season he’d pitch in for awhile, and it’s a shame how unlucky he was (62% strand rate).

Still, that wouldn’t be the last baseball heard from him. He resurfaced eight years later in 1943 with Cleveland and pitched parts of that season and then parts of the 1945 season. For the Indians, he would post a 3.46 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over 130 innings.

While his professional career was pedestrian – he put together quite the Crash Davis-esque minor league numbers. Over 18 seasons, Salveson won 224 games, pitched 3,526 IPs, and threw 124 complete games. He really compiled the innings and apparently did so efficiently. According to his obituary, “when he was in form, most of his games were under two hours and once he finished his business in an hour and 20 minutes.” There is no evidence that he wore garters while mastering his craft.

As for Gene Nelson, he’d have a far more productive (if not memorable) career than Salveson. Throughout his 13-year career, he was a part of three trades, most notably for flip-sider Shane Rawley and Donnie Hill. Oddly enough ’85 would be his most productive season and one of only two seasons that he would start more than nine games. Nelson would finish up a career as a useful World Series winning reliever with a lifetime line of 4.13 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 6.1 WAR and 1.37 WHIP.

Still, the most interesting aspect of Nelson’s career is his 1985 Topps, which gives us the curious tale of minor-league wunderkind Jack Salveson who introduced the Chicago White Sox to eyeglasses.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Steve Bedrosian

bedrosian back bedrosian frontJudging by his awesome facial hair and hobbies, Bedrosian seems to be the consummate flame-throwing good ole boy (never mind that he was born in Massachusetts). To me, four wheeling and breeding dogs screams hunter — of course, I’m not a hunter, so I might be completely wrong. Either way, given these three things: awesome beard, four-wheeler and breeds dogs, you would absolutely agree that he is capable of 120+ IPs in (predominantly) relief in back-to-back years.

Bedrosian did accomplish that feat and so much more. Outside of 1985, Bedrosian was basically a relief pitcher. It’s kind of odd because in ’85, he threw 206.2 innings and posted a 3.83 ERA. Of course he had a 4.14 FIP and recorded just 5.84 K/9 compared to the 8.71 rate he posted in the previous season. Another reason he’d start zero games for the rest of his career after posting 37 starts for the Braves? The organization would trade him and Milt Thompson to the Phillies for Pete Smith and Ozzie Virgil. The Phillies saw his ability to strike guys out in relief and kept him there permanently.

It’d turn out to be a pretty smart move. Bedrosian finished his career with the 34th most relief wins all time with 65 — one more than Al Hrabosky, he of the awesomest facial hair ever. Of course, on the flip side, Bedrosian has the 31st most loses (61) in relief in MLB History — tied with Bob Stanley and one ahead of Mike Stanton.

You add up that career and durability and you get the pitcher with the 46th most innings pitched in relief in MLB history — just 2.1 innings behind José Mesa (seriously – what? I’m as confused as you are).

However, the most surprising/confusing aspect of Bedrosian’s career would be the 1987 season. He did post a 2.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 7.5 K/9 and lead the league in saves with 40. Not surprising you’d say? A pretty average/above average year? Well, he won the Cy Young that year, yet had only a 2.0 WAR and only 89 IPs. Sure his win was by no means unanimous as he received just 9 first place votes (out of 24). The problem is no one could see through records and recognize the dominance of Orel Hershiser (16-16, 264 IPs, 3.06 ERA, 190 Ks, 1.21 WHIP).

Relievers are often a different breed – fiery and eclectic as always. Bedrosian, while not really remembered and with his Cy Young completely forgotten, is one of the more underrated useful relievers of all time. Plus, you can’t ignore that beard, ahem Brian Wilson.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Max Venable

venable bvenable f

As you likely know, this series started because I bought a bunch of cheap 1987 Topps packs off the internet, opened them and found good cards but, more importantly, interesting nuggets of info on the backs. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I didn’t start with the 1986 set. Man it is totally George Blanda — if there is info, it is usually such-and-such ballplayer collected his first hit on such-and-such date – yuck.

Occasionally there are some “Talkin’ Baseball” sections which seem to be the precursor to SCOOTER, i.e., they are inane. The one you see on the back of Venable is actually not the only one to reference player’s names and palindromes – apparently that was a set-wide motif.

So why did I choose this one out of the myriad of boring palindromes captured forever in the 1986 set? Because Max just happens to be Will Venable’s father. Will got his first full-time action this year for the San Diego Padres in his age-27 season and performed kind of well. In fact, I believe he had a truly bizarre, yet effective season. Sure his 0.1 WAR would suggest otherwise, but he did hit 13 HRs and swipe 29 bases. Maybe he is more of a roto, specifically h2h, player, then real-life, but I see a guy who, if he could stay healthy for 162 games, would put up a 20-30 season. His average and OBP aren’t great, but they aren’t as bad as some other regulars people trot out there.

Still Will will likely have a shorter major league career than his pops. Max played in parts of 12 seasons, finishing with a .241/.302/.345 slash line predominantly for the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. He only once played in over 100 games and would hit just 18 HRs in his career.

The oddest thing about the father/son combo? They both drew the attentions of the Baltimore Orioles but never played for the organization. In February of 1988, the Orioles signed Max, but released him in March of the same year. On June 7, 2004, the Orioles drafted Will in the 15th round, but would not sign him.

As for old palindrome Eddie Kazak? He’d play parts of five seasons, mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals before being traded to the Reds along with Wally Westlake for Dick Sisler and Virgil Stallcup. Talk about some interesting (old-timey) names. Kazak would appear in just 13 games for the Reds and bat .067. Those were the last hacks he took in the big leagues. Oddly enough, Dick is the son of baseball legend George Sisler.

Baseball is often described as the great bridge between fathers and sons. It’s also a game where just showing up can land you in the (obscure) record books…just ask Kazak who was a Red for 13 games.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.