Posts Tagged ‘Billy Pierce’

RIP Billy the Kid

July 31, 2015
Billy Pierce

Billy Pierce

Just saw that Billy Pierce, a lefty ace for the Chicago White Sox of the 1950s died today. He was 88. Pierce played a couple of years in Detroit, before becoming a bigtime pitcher for the ChiSox in 1949. He ended up with the Giants in the early 1960s and got into the 1962 World Series. For his career he went 211-169 with a3.27 ERA.

RIP, Billy the Kid.

2015 Veteran’s Ballot: the Pitchers

November 10, 2014

And now the final installment of my take on the 2015 Veteran’s Ballot. Today I look at the pitchers. As with the other two posts, the disclaimer about me seeing all of them play is still in effect.

Jim Kaat

Jim Kaat

Jim Kaat arrived in the Major Leagues in 1959 as a left-handed pitcher with the Washington Senators. He moved with them to Minnesota and became their lefty ace. He made the All Star team twice, won 20 games once with the Twins (a league leading 25 in 1964) and was a member of the 1965 pennant winning team. He went to Chicago (the White Sox) in mid-1973, stayed through 1975 (and made the All Star team that season), then went to Philadelphia where he helped the Phillies to a couple of division titles. In 1979 he moved to the bullpen becoming a relief specialist. He won a World Series with the Cardinals in 1982 becoming in the process the oldest pitcher to appear in a World Series game (I’m not sure if that’s still true). He retired in 1983 at age 44 and as the last active Washington Senators player. He went into broadcasting and has done both the World Series and the College World Series. For his career he was 283-237 (.544%) with 2461 strikeouts (1.259 WHIP) and an ERA of 3.45 (ERA+ of 108). His Baseball Reference.com WAR is 45.3 with a peak of 7.8 in 1975. Part of his problem with receiving Hall of Fame consideration is that his most famous game is the seventh game of the 1965 World Series. He lost it 2-0 to Sandy Koufax. It’s tough to be considered great when your most famous game is one you lost.

Billy Pierce

Billy Pierce

Billy Pierce was an 18-year-old phenom when he arrived in Detroit in 1945. He got into five games, then went back to the minors for 1946 and 1947. He was back in Detroit for 1948 and remained in the big leagues through 1964. He stayed with Detroit through ’48, then was sent to Chicago (the White Sox not the Cubs) in 1949. There he became a seven time All Star, winning 20 games twice. He led the AL in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and losses once each. In 1959 the ChiSox made the World Series for the first time since 1919. He pitched in three games, all in relief, without giving up a run (Detroit had also made the Series in 1945, but Pierce did not pitch). The Sox lost in six games. In 1962 he was traded to the Giants where he promptly won 16 games and helped lead the team to its first ever West Coast World Series (and the team’s first since 1954). He lost one game (3) and then won game six against Whitey Ford to set up the final game, which San Francisco lost. He pitched two more years then retired. For his career he was 211-169 (.555%) with 1999 strikeouts (couldn’t you gotten just one more, Billy?), and an ERA of 3.27 (ERA+ of 119). His WAR is 53.1 with a peak of 7.1 in 1952 (a year he did not make the All Star team). He was considered an innings eater (averaging 225 with Chicago) who could occasionally come out of the bullpen (he has 32 saves, 12 in years where he did his major work out of the bullpen).

Luis Tiant

Luis Tiant

Luis Tiant is the son of a major Cuban pitcher of the 1940s. Tiant, Sr. joined Minnie Minoso as one of the stars of the 1947 New York Cubans Negro World Series champions. So the son was destined to be a pitcher. He hit Cleveland in 1964 and had his breakout year in 1968 when he led the American League in ERA. Then his career tanked for three years. He led the AL in losses and in walks with 129 (the only time he had more than 82 walks). He wandered through Minnesota to Boston, where things turned around in 1972 when he picked up his second ERA title. He won 20 games three times in Boston (once in Cleveland), made the All Star team in 1974 and 1976 (and in 1968), led Boston to its first AL pennant since 1967, and picked up two wins in the 1975 World Series.  He started to slide in 1978 and was finished in 1982 at age 41. For his career he was 229-172 (571%) with 2416 strikeouts, an ERA of 3.30, and an ERA+ of 114. His WAR is 66.1 with a peak of 8.4 in 1968. Today he is probably most famous for his unorthodox delivery which saw him turn his back to home plate as he wound up and for the 1975 performance. Unfortunately, he’s also got that three year gap that is difficult to explain. He apparently got hurt, but taking three years to recover certainly harms his Hall chances. Although this should not effect his Hall chances one way or the other, during the off season Tiant played in the Venezuelan League throwing a no hitter and pitching well enough to make the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

So, my take. By this point I’ve got one vote left (remember the Vet’s Committee people get 5 votes each). Frankly, I’m not certain any of these deserve Hall of Fame induction. If someone put a gun to my head and told me I had to vote for one, I guess I’d take whichever one the guy with the gun insisted upon, but wouldn’t be overly happy about it.

Shutting ’em Down in Game 7: Terry’s Redemption

September 29, 2014
Ralph Terry

Ralph Terry

Ralph Terry was never Whitey Ford, but he was a good pitcher for the New York Yankees. In 1960 he was 0-1 when he was brought into game seven of the 1960 World Series. There were two outs in the bottom of the eighth and he got out of the inning. Then he made two pitches in the ninth. The second one went over the fence in left field to make Pittsburgh world champs. In 1961, the Yankees won the World Series, losing only one game to Cincinnati. The losing pitcher in that one game? You guessed it, Ralph Terry. In 1962 the Yanks were back in the Series, this time against San Francisco. By game seven Terry was 1-1 and was tasked with winning the final game.

It was Ralph Houk’s second New York pennant winner. He’d taken over as manager from Casey Stengel after the 1960 loss and kept the Yankees winning. It was a very different team from the great 1950s New York squads. Moose Skowron was at first, while Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek covered the center of the diamond and slick fielding Clete Boyer held third. Newcomer Tom Tresh was in left field and one year removed from their great home run race Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were the other two outfielders. Yogi Berra was relegated to the bench while Elston Howard did most of the catching.

He caught an aging pitching staff. Five pitchers, including Ford and closer Marshall Bridges were over 30. Terry was the ace that season going 23-12, and was only 26. Bill Stafford and Jim Bouton were both kids.

After six games and a five-day rain delay, the two teams were tied three-three with the final game in San Francisco. Terry had lost game two, but won game five. The long rain delay allowed him to pitch game seven.

He faced a formidable Giants lineup. Orlando Cepeda was at first, Chuck Hiller at second, Jose Pagan at short, and Jim Davenport at third. The outfield consisted of Felipe Alou, Willie McCovey, and Willie Mays. Harvey Kuenn, Matty Alou, and Manny Mota were available off the bench.

Tom Haller caught a staff of Jack Sanford, who came in second to Don Drysdale in the Cy Young Award voting, Juan Marichal, and lefties Billy O’Dell and Billy Pierce. Sanford, like Terry, was 1-1 in Series play and was tabbed for game seven.

Sanford walked a man in the first but got out of it on a fly out by Mantle. In the top of the third the Yanks put two men on, but again Sanford got out of it, this time on a grounder to second. By the top of the fifth, Terry still hadn’t given up a hit and New York finally found a run. Consecutive singles put men on first and third, then a walk loaded the bases. Kubek then rolled one out to short and Skowron scored as the Giants opted to complete a double play.

In the sixth, Terry finally gave up a hit, but no run. With two outs in the seventh, McCovey tripled, but died at third when Cepeda struck out. With the bases loaded in the eighth, Billy O’Dell relieved Sanford. A force at home and a double play later, the Yanks were still ahead 1-0. Consecutive ground outs and a strikeout brought the Giants to their last three outs. On a bunt single, Matty Alou made first. Then Terry struck out both Felipe Alou and Hiller. Mays doubled sending Matty Alou to third and bringing up McCovey. “Stretch” smoked a liner that Richardson snagged to end the inning, the game, and the Series.

For both teams it was something like an ending. The Giants despite good hitting and decent pitching couldn’t get passed the Dodgers and Cardinals and didn’t get back to a World Series until the 1980s. The Yankees won the next two American League pennants, but they, like the Giants, couldn’t get passed the Dodgers and Cardinals before things collapsed in 1965. They would wait until 1976 to make it back to a World Series.

But for Terry it was a shining moment. He was named Series MVP and much of his reputation for failure in the clutch went away. He had one more good year in New York, then a down year and was traded. He was through in 1967. But his work in game seven of 1962 solidified him as a genuine Yankees hero, at least for one World Series.

 

 

Go-Go

May 5, 2011

Minnie Minoso, Jim Landis, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox in 1959

There are those times I look at a baseball team and wonder, “How the heck did this team win?”  Sometimes it’s obvious, other times obscure. For a good case of obscure I give you the 1959 Chicago White Sox, the “Go-Go Sox”.

First, a brief review of the players is in order. The infield consisted of, from first around to third: Earl Torgeson, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, and Bubba Phillips. During the year both Torgeson and Phillips had problems and by the World Series Billy Goodman was doing the bulk of the work at third while Ted Kluszewski had come over from Pittsburgh to hold down first. The outfield consisted of four players doing the bulk of the work: Al Smith, Jim Landis, Jim McAnany, and Jim Rivera (I always wondered how “Al” got into that mix). The catcher was Sherm Lollar. Norm Cash did much of the pinch-hitting work and stopgapped at first, Johnny Callison was the other outfielder, and Sammy Esposito did the back up work at second, short, and third.

How’d they do? well, they ended up sixth in runs (in an eight team league), sixth in hits, fourth in doubles, dead last in home runs, sixth in batting average, seventh in slugging, and sixth in OPS. The did finish first in steals and triples, and third in OBP. They ended up with an OPS+ of 91. Lollar led the team with 22 home runs and had the team high of 451 in slugging, a .796 OPS, and an OPS+ of 118. Aparicio led the American League in steals (56), and Fox hit .306, led the team in OBP (380), had 191 hits, and won the AL MVP award.

OK so the hitting wasn’t all that great so it has to be the pitching, right? Well, sort of. The team finished first in ERA and saves, runs and earned runs, which is good. It’s ERA+ was 155. But they gave up a lot of hits and were fifth in walks and fourth in strikeouts, which isn’t so good. In total, those aren’t bad numbers, but they are, at best, a mixed bag. The starters who gave the team these numbers were Early Wynn who led the team in wins and strikeouts and picked up the Cy Young Award that season (there was only one Cy Young Award in 1959). Bob Shaw, Dick Donovan, and the immortal Barry Latman completed the right-handed starters, and Billy Pierce was the sole lefty among the regulars. The bullpen was pretty good, especially for the era. Turk Lown led the team in saves (which wasn’t a stat yet), with Gerry Staley right behind. Ray Moore and lefty Rudy Arias were the only other pitchers with more than 25 games.

All this, plus a league leading  fielding  percentage, got them a five game victory over Cleveland, manager Al Lopez’s old team. I’m not sure how much credit goes to Lopez. He’d been there three years, finished second twice, then broke through. But then the Chisox had finished third the year before Lopez arrived.

They got to the World Series, won game one, lost the next three, won game five, then lost the Series in six games to a Los Angeles team that, frankly, wasn’t a lot better than they were. Kluszewski had a great Series hitting .391, driving in 10 runs, hitting three home runs, and tying (with Fox) for the team lead in hits with nine. Wynn and Shaw both won a game and Wynn led both teams with 19 strikeouts, but  posted an ERA over five. By way of trivia, game five had the largest crowd in World Series history (The LA Coliseum will do that for you), so more people watched the Sox win a World Series game (1-0) than any other team.

It was the high point for them. By 1961 they were back to fourth and didn’t make a World Series again until 2005. Today they are noted mostly for having “invented” the modern running game. In doing so they showed both leagues the advantages and disadvantages of that style game. Aparicio had 56 steals, but scored only 98 runs, and had the second lowest OBP of the starters. Those 98 runs would have led only two other teams in the AL, sixth place Baltimore and seventh place Kansas City (and he would have tied for the lead with last place Washington). But their defense, of course, was that they won. Other teams tried it, a few succeeded, but the power game coupled with good pitching still dominates.

As the above should tell you, I’ve never been a big fan of this team. Aparicio and Fox were good up the middle and Wynn had one last good season, but there’s not a lot else going for them. Kluszewski is old, Callison will hit his stride with Philadelphia. Cash will have a good year in 1961 but will do it with Detroit. All in all, I rate them one of the weaker teams to win a pennant in the modern era.

An aside before anyone asks. Minoso, pictured above, was with Cleveland in 1959. He came to Chicago in 1960. The picture is of the fielding awards ceremony in 1960 (making the date of the caption wrong—sorry).