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Thursday, November 24, 2016

New York Yankees Catcher Elston Howard


Elston "Ellie" Howard was one of the best catchers in storied history of the New York Yankees. Following in the footsteps of a the great Yogi Berra. In his career with the Yankees, he would be on four World Series champion teams. His career started in the Negro Leagues with the famed Kansas City Monarchs under Buck O'Neill.  Where he would be the roommate of a future member of the baseball Hall of Fame, a kid named Ernie Banks. In 1950, he was signed by the New York Yankees. Howard was signed as an outfielder, and it wasn't until the spring training of 1954.

In 1955, he made his debut with the Yankees.  He would spend his first three seasons playing between outfield, and serving as the backup catcher. In his first season, he hit .290/.336/.477 slash line with 10 home runs, with 43 RBI, in 305 plate appearances. On April 14, 1955, he became the first black player to wear the uniform of the New York Yankees. 

During the course of his career, he was a 12 time all-star in as a member of the New York Yankees. 1963 was his best season, he hit 28 home runs with 85 RBI, and a slash line of .287/.342/.528. He would be named Most Valuable Player in the American League, and becoming the first black player to win the award in the junior circuit. He also was the Gold Glove award winner that season, and would capture the award again in 1964. 

He finished his playing career with the Boston Red Sox. After his playing days, he would return to the Yankees as a coach for two seasons, and being a part of the staff on the World Series champions in 1977 and 1978. Tragically Howard would die at the young age of 51 of heart failure after being diagnosed with myocarditis. His #32 was retired by the Yankees. 

The Alou Brothers



They were three brothers that all escaped poverty in the Dominican Republic, and were each signed by the San Francisco Giants.  The Alou brothers were the first set of three siblings to play in the outfield together on September 15, 1963. They were also the first set of three siblings to bat in the same half inning only 5 days earlier. They never started a game together in the outfield.
Jesus Rojas Alou at the time of his signing the Giants considered him the best prospect of the three brothers. The Giants signed him for $4,000. July 10, 1964 was the best game of his career going 6 for 6 with a home run and five singles. He never developed the power the Giants expected. He had a career high of 9 home runs in  1965. 1970 with the Houston Astros was his best offensive season slashing .306/.335/.384, but with only one home run his was traded to the Oakland Athletics. In Oakland, he would be part of the 1973-1974 Oakland A's World Series Champions. Always a solid outfielder, he had a long career with 15 seasons in the Major Leagues.
Mateo "Matty" Rojas Alou made his Major League debut for the Giants on September 26, 1960.  His career was wasting away in San Francisco as platoon player. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and under the instruction of Harry "The Hat" Walker his career was revived. In his first season with the Pirates in 1966, he won the National League batting title hitting .342/.373/.421. It was the start of a four-year stretch where he hit .330 or above. He was a National League all-star in 1968-1969. He was also a member of the 1972 Oakland A's World Series Champions. He closed out his career with the Cardinals, Yankees, Padres, and a three-year stint in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Felipe Rojas Alou signed with the Giants in 1955 for$200. When he made his debut in 1958, it would be the start of a 17-year career in Major League Baseball. It wasn't until 1961 that he started to get enough playing time for his power to blossom. He hit 18 home runs that season, he would hit 25 and 20 respectively before being traded to the Milwaukee Braves. In 1966, he enjoyed the best season of his career hitting 31 home runs with 74 RBI. He topped the National League in runs scored (122), hits (218), and had the best slash line of his career .327/.361/.533/.894. 1968, he again led the NL in hits with 210 hits, but at 33 his power was tapering off at a rapid rate. He would bounce between the Oakland A's, New York Yankees, Montreal Expos, and Milwaukee Brewers to close out his career. He was 3-times all-star (62, 66, and 68). He served as manager of the Montreal Expos from 1992-2001, and was National League Manager of the Year in 1994. He also managed the San Francisco Giants from 2003-2006. In 2015 he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, and 2016, Alou was elected to the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame.

Monday, November 21, 2016

.The Cleveland Indians Sudden Sam McDowell


Sam McDowell was 6-5 southpaw with a nice easy motion when he delivered the ball to plate gave rise to the nickname Sudden Sam. McDowell broke in with the Cleveland Indians as an 18-year old. When in his only appearance he walked five, and fanned 5 hitters in a 6.1 innings of work. It was an omen of things to come for McDowell.  in 1962 & 1963, he struggled to find his spot on the pitching staff. 
1964 was to be McDowell's break out season. He finish with a won-loss record of 11-6 with an ERA of 2.70, he walked 100 batter, while striking out 177, in 173.1 innings of work.  In 1965, he would go 17-11 with a league leading ERA of 2.18. He would lead the league in strike outs with 325, walks 132, and 17 wild pitches. Effectively wild?  Five of the next six seasons he would lead the American League in strikes outs.  Five of the next seven seasons, he would lead the league in walks.  1970 would be his only 20 win season of his career, and after that season his numbers began to tail off. 
After the 1971 season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants where he won 10 games in 1972. McDowell would make stops at the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates before calling it a career. He was six time American League all-star (1965, 1966, 1968-1971).  His won loss record was 141-134 with an ERA of 3.17, and finished with 2,453 strike outs.

Remembering Gil Hodges


It is a mystery to many why Gil Hodges isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Hodges was key member of the great Brooklyn Dodger teams of the late 1940's and 1950's. He hit 20 or more home runs in 11 consecutive seasons for the Dodgers, including six seasons of 30 or more home runs.
Hodges made his Major League debut at 19 in 1943, but he would miss the 1944-1945 due to military service in World War II, and didn't make it back to Brooklyn until 1947. 1949 was his break out season, when Hodges hit 23 home runs and knocked in 115 runs.  His slash line was .285/.360/.453.  He would drive in over 100 runs in seven consecutive seasons.  He wasn't just a slugger, but also considered to be one of the best defensive first basemen in the game during his career. 1957-1959, he was award the Gold Glove. On August 31, 1950, he would hit four home runs in one game against the Boston Braves. He would play his last two seasons with the hapless New York Mets. After his playing career was over he managed the Washington Senators and New York Mets. He died while playing golf at the age of 47 on April 2, 1972.
Hodges was an eight-time all-star, he part of two World Series champions. The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, and the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1969, he would manage the Amazing Mets to the World Series championship. During his career he hit 370 home runs with 1,274 RBI. His #14 has been retired by the New York Mets, and he is a member of the New York Mets Hall of Fame.

St. Louis Cardinal Ken Boyer


Ken Boyer was only the second third baseman to cross the 250 home runs mark (Pie Traynor was the other at the time). He was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1949, and made his major league debut in 1955.  He would hit 18 home runs and knock in 62 runs in his rookie campaign, and would solidify the third base position for the Cardinals for 10 of the next 11 seasons (In 1957, he played centerfield).
From 1958-1964, he would hit over twenty home runs. Seven time he would drive in 90 or more runs in a season. Including a league leading 119 in 1964.  He would finish his career with 282 home runs and 1,141 RBI. He was the 1964 National League Most Valuable Player.  Boyer was a National League All-Star eleven times, was a member of the 1964 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. He was a five-times Gold Glove winner.
In October 1965, St. Louis traded him to the New York Mets, where played until be traded to the Chicago White Sox. Boyer signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in May of 1968 after being released by the White Sox. Boyer would retire after the 1969 season. He managed the St. Louis Cardinals 1978-1980. Tragically, he would die from cancer at the age of 51, and the St. Louis Cardinals retired his #14. He is also a member of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, but didn't get enough support for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Detroit Tigers Mickey Lolich



In the 1968 World Series southpaw Mickey Lolich registered three complete game wins, and walked away with the MVP trophy. He sparked the Tigers to comeback from a 3 games to 1 deficit to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals.  He his three complete game victories haven't been matched in World Series play since. It wasn't until 2001, when another southpaw Randy Johnson would get three World Series wins. In game two of the World Series (8-1 Tiger win), he would hit the only home run of his career.
Lolich would sign with the Detroit Tigers out of high school and toiled in their farm system for five seasons until making his major league debut in the fifth season in 1963, when he went 5-9 splitting time between being a starter and reliever. It all changed in when he had a won-loss record of 18-9, tossed six shutouts finished with an ERA of 3.26.  Lolich would be a consistent starter for the Tigers, he won 14 or more games in 11 consecutive seasons.  From 1969 through 1974, Lolich would strike out 200 or more in six consecutive seasons. His best season would be in 1971, when he would lead MLB with 25 wins, 308 strike outs, 45 starts, 29 complete games, 376 innings pitched. He was an American League all-star three times in 1969, and 1971-1972. He would follow up the 1971 with 22 wins in 1972, and sending the Tigers into postseason as the American League East champions.
Lolich would be traded after the 1975 season to the New York Mets. He went 8-13 with a 3.22 ERA, and retired at the end of the season. After sitting out the 1977 season, he signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres pitching two seasons making only seven starts in 47 appearances. 
He retired with a career won-loss record of 217-191 with an ERA of 3.44, and 2,832 strike outs. 

The Baltimore Orioles Boog Powell



Boog Powell has a storied career for the Baltimore Orioles. He made his debut as a 19 year-old appearing four games in 1961, and in his first full season in 1962, he clubbed 15 home runs, a glimpse of the power that was to come for the slugger. He started off playing both leftfield, and first base. By 1966, when the Orioles won the World Series, he was the every day first baseman. At 6-4, 230 pounds Powell was an intimidating presence in the batters box.
Powell would hit 20 or more home runs in 9 seasons, and in four of those season, he would hit 30 or more. No easy feat with most of his early career when pitching dominated Major League Baseball. He hit 25 home runs with 82 RBI in 1963, and he followed it up with 39 home runs and 99 RBI, and end that season with a line of .290/.366/.606. 
The Orioles would sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966 in the World Series, and in that season Powell had his best to date, hitting 34 home runs and 109 RBI. He put together another good line .287/.372/.532. The Orioles dominated the American League, and the American League Eastern division beginning in 1969. The Orioles won the World Series in 1966 and 1970. 1969 and 1971, the Orioles won the American League pennant.  Powell hit 37 home runs with 121 RBI in 1969, followed by 1970 season 35 home runs with 114 RBI.  It would be the last time he would hit over 30 home runs in a season, and have over 100 RBI.
Earl Weaver's use of a platoon system started costing Powell playing time during the 1973-1974 seasons. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where in 1975, he responded with a 27 home runs and 86 RBI, and line of .297/.377/.524. He would play one more season in Cleveland. His number dropped dramatically. In 1977, his final season, he ended his career with the Los Dodgers used as a pinch-hitter.
He finished his career with .339 home runs with 1,187 RBI with a slash line of .266/.361/.462. Powell was an American League all-star from 1968-1971. He was the American League Most Valuable Player, and he is a member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.

The Controversial Dick Allen



Dick Allen's rookie season gave Philadelphia fans their first glimpse of power that they hadn't seen since Jimmy Foxx or Chuck Klein. Phillies scout John Ogden stated in an article in the Philadelphia Bulletin on June 1, 1969, that Dick Allen was the only player saw hit the ball as hard as Babe Ruth. Allen would be the National League Rookie of the Year in 1964. He hit 29 home runs with 91 RBI with a slash line of .318/.382/.557. He led the league in with 13 triples, and striking out 138 times. It would be the first of the 9 straight seasons with 20 plus home runs.
In the racially charged 1960's Allen became a source of controversy. He was known as Dick most of his life, but the local media referred to him as Richie, a name Allen felt belonged to a boy, and not a man. He was involved in an incident with teammate Frank Thomas when Thomas hit Allen with a bat. The incident was covered up by the team with threats of fines iif the players spoke of the incident. Thomas was released the next day. He started wearing a battling helmet in field field as he was often showered with thrown objects and racial slurs in his home park in Philadelphia. Allen missed a double header in 1969 when he couldn't get to the ballpark being stuck in traffic. He had spent the day at a race track causing him to be suspended. 
Controversy seemed to follow Allen. Before the 1970 season, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Curt Flood. Flood refused to report, and sued baseball attempting to overthrow the reserve clause. The Cardinals would send first baseman Willie Montanez to the Phillies as compensation. Montanez would end up breaking Allen's rookie record for home runs by hitting 30 in 1971.  In St. Louis, he would hit 34 home runs with 101 RBI and slash .279/.377/. 560 Allen spent only one season in St. Louis before being traded to the Los Angeles. His numbers dropped for the Dodgers, by Allen's standards anyway. He hit 23 home runs with 90 RBI with a line of 295/.395/.468. He was traded after the 1971 season to the Chicago White Sox.
Chuck Tanner was the manager of the White Sox at the time, and decided to not move Allen around. Various teams had played him at third base, first base, and outfield. Some feel this contributed to his perceived poor defense, and rash of injuries he had suffered over the years. He rewarded Tanner by leading the American League in home runs (37), RBI (113), on base percentage (.420), slugging percentage (.603) and an outstanding 1.023 OPS.  He was named American League Most Valuable Player.  A fractured fibula cut short his 1973 season, where he had only 288 plate appearances.  1974 would be the last of the great seasons for Allen. He hit 32 home runs with 88 RBI, his slash line of .301/.375/.563, he slugging percentage led the American League. He feuded with Ron Santo (in his only season with the White Sox) and left the team two weeks before the end of the season.
Allen's contract was sold to the Atlanta Braves for $5,000, he refused to report and retired from the game. The Phillies talked him out of retirement, and we spend two seasons a shadow of his former self, and close out his career with the Oakland A's in 1977. 
Allen's career numbers of .292 batting average 351 home runs, and 1,119 RBI make him one of the most prolific hitters in the game that isn't in the Baseball Hall of Fame. He missed (along with Tony Olivia of the Minnesota Twins) being selected for the Hall of Fame by one vote in 2014  by the Golden Era Committee,  which votes every three years.

The Baltimore Orioles Dave McNally


Dave McNally is now remembered as being part of the 1975 Seitz decision, which ushered in the free agent era, but from 1968-1971, he was one of those most dominating pitchers in baseball. He won 20 games or more in each of the four seasons. Including the best season of his career in 1970, when he led American League in wins with 24, and had a 3.22 ERA in 40 starts.
He made his debut as a 19 year-old with the Baltimore Orioles in 1962.  In 1963, he would become a starter for the Orioles, and would pitch for them for 13 seasons. He would finish with 181 wins and 113 losses as a Baltimore Oriole. He was 184-119 with a career ERA of 3.24. At one point between the end of the 1968 season, and a 15-0 start to the 1969 season winning 17 straight decisions.
He pitched for the 1966 and 1970 World Series champion Baltimore Orioles.  In game 3, of the 1970 World Series, McNally became the only pitcher in Major League history to hit a grand slam in a World Series game.  The Orioles would also win the American League pennant in 1969, and 1971.
McNally was a 3 time all-star in 1969, 1970, and 1972.  In 1971, he was part of the Orioles staff that produced four twenty game winners (Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson and Jim Palmer were the other three). McNally would die from lung cancer on December 1, 2002.

The Toy Cannon: Jimmy Wynn


The Toy Cannon hit this shot over the 58 foot scoreboard at Crosely Field with the ball bouncing onto Interstate 75.  It occurred in the 8th inning on June 10, 1967, only five days later he would become the first Houston Astro to hit three home runs in one game. He would go on to hit total 37 home runs with 107 RBI in 1967, losing the home run crown in the last few games of the season to Hank Aaron of the Braves, who would finish with 39.
Wynn's first two trips  to the major leagues were unremarkable. He hit only nine home runs and had 45 RBI total in his first 468 at-bats.  The Colt .45s stuck with their young power hitting outfielder, and in 1965 at only 23 years old, Wynn produced his break out season hitting 22 home runs with 73 RBI. He was no slouch on the bases swiping 43 that season in 47 attempts. His slash line for that season was .275/.371/.470.
Before the 1974 season the outfielder was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Claude Osteen.  In his first season in LA, he 32 home runs with 108 RBI with a slash line of .271/.387/.497. Shoulder problems in the 1975 necessitated a move from centerfield to leftfield for Wynn. The Dodgers traded him to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Dusty Baker after the 1975 season. Wynn would be make brief stops with the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers to finish his career.
In his career he would hit 20 or more home runs in eight seasons.  Three times he would hit thirty or more home runs. He was named as a National League all-star three times 1967, 1974 and 1975.  He would hit 291 home runs in his career with 964 RBI. Playing in the Astrodome no doubt suppressed his home run totals. I would have enjoyed seeing what damage he could at the current Astros home at Minute Maid Park with the short leftfield fence.  His #24 has been retired by the Houston Astros.

The Big Bopper: Lee May



Lee May left his mark on Major League baseball by hitting 20 or more home runs, and driving in 80 runs in 11 consecutive seasons.  During his streak he played for the Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, and Baltimore Orioles.   In 1969, he would hit 38 home runs which was good for third in the National League, and he established a career high for home runs by blasting 39 in 1971. 
The Cincinnati Reds included May in a blockbuster trade to the Houston Astros. The Reds sent first baseman Lee May,  second baseman Tommy Helms, and utility player Jimmy Stewart. The Reds would obtain future Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, outfielder Cesar Geronimo, and Jack Billingham.  The three players would become significant pieces on the Big Red Machine teams of the mid-70's. 
May continued produced the long ball despite playing in the Astrodome in Houston, one of the hardest places in Major League baseball to hit home runs. He had 29, 28, and 24 before being sent packing to the Baltimore Orioles.  In 1976, he led the American League in RBI with 109, to go with his 24 home runs.  In 1979, at age 36, his streak of 11 consecutive seasons with 20 plus home runs came to a close when he hit only 19. He would hit only 10 more over the course of the next three seasons, and finished his career with the Kansas City Royals.

Fernando Valenzuela: A Look Back At Fernandomania



He made his debut out of the bullpen the Dodgers.  In 1981, he earned a spot in the Dodgers rotation which would set off in Los Angeles in what is remembered as Fernandomania. He won his first eight starts in the major leagues, and a remarkable five of those were shutouts. In the strike shortened season of 1981, he would make 25 starts, 8 shutouts, and 11 complete games, and finished a won-loss record of 13-7.  He was the first to win the Cy Young award, and Rookie of the Year award in same season. The Dodgers won the World Series, 
He was a six-time National League all-star, in 1986, he would win the Gold Glove. A good hitting pitcher, Valenzuela would earn Silver Slugger awards in 1981 and 1983. On June 29, 1990, Valenzuela would toss his only no-hitter in beating the St. Louis Cardinals.  1986 was the only season he was a twenty game winner, winning 21 that season. 
The Dodgers would release him after a power showing in spring training 1991. After a brief appearance with the California Angels, and spent time in the Mexican league before returning to the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles. He would never enjoy the same success as he did in Los Angeles. He would finish career 173-153 with an ERA of 3.54. He was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. 

Bob Feller: The Heater From Van Meter


Bob Feller was only 17 years old when he broken into the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians in 1936. The hard throwing right-hander also known as Bullet Bob and Rapid Robert. Arguably the hardest throwing pitcher of his era. He was the youngest pitcher to win 24 games in a season, he accomplished the feat at age 20, going 24-9. He would win 20 plus games 1939-1941, he led the league in wins each season.  His won loss record was 76-33, and was only 22 years of age. 
When the United States entered World War II, Feller's career was interrupted by four years of service in the U.S. Navy.  He was the first professional athlete to enlist for military service during the war. He attained the rank of Chief Petty Officer serving aboard the USS Alabama. Where he was awarded six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.
He is the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter on opening day, he accomplished the task against the Chicago White Sox in 1940. He would toss three no-hitters in his career, and 12 one-hitters. Feller was part of the last Cleveland Indians World Series champions in 1948. 
He finished his career with a won-loss record of 266-162 and 3.25 ERA with 2,581 strikeouts. An eight time American League All-Star. He led the American League six times in wins, and seven times in strikeouts. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. His #19 has been retired by the Cleveland Indians.

Roberto Clemente Baseball Star And Humanitarian


April 17, 1955. Roberto Clemente begins his Hall of Fame career with a single off Johnny Podres of the Dodgers. Clemente would bang out 2,999 more hits before he tragically lost his life in a plane crash on December 31, 1972. Clemente was bringing relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua when the plane he was in crashed. His career slash line was .317/.359/.475 with 240 home runs and 1305 RBI. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in1973 via of a special election.
Clemente was an All-Star 12 times in 18 seasons of play, and saw action in 15 games . He was the National League MVP in 1966, and World Series MVP in 1971, 12 times he won the Gold Glove award from 1961 to 1972.  He won four batting titles in 1961,  1964,  1965,  and 1967. His number #21 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
He will be remembered not only for his play on the field, but his charity work that participated in the off-season. 

The Pirates Willie "Pops" Stargell


1979 was a banner year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and slugger Willie Stargell. Stargell would be named National League MVP, NLCS MVP, and World Series MVP in winning the three awards he became the only player to take home the awards. More remarkable he did it at age 39. He hit 32 home runs and had 82 RBI.
Overcoming racial prejudices in the minors leagues Stargell, he would make his debut with the Pirates in 1962 with his official rookie season in 1963. He spent 21 seasons with the Pirates. He hit 475 home runs and had 1540 RBI. After his award winning career in 1979, Stargell career went into decline. When Stargell retired in 1982, the Pirates retired his #8. 
Stargell was a seven-time National League all-star. The Pirates would win the World Series championship in 1971 and 1979. In 1971, he would hit a league leading 48 home runs with 125 RBI both would be career highs. In 1988 he would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Mark Fidrych A Brief Memorable Career


His career was like a shooting star, bright and brief pitching only parts of five major league seasons. As a long haired teenager with a mop of hair similar to the Mark "The Bird" Fidrych  made his debut talking to the baseball, manicuring the pitching mound with his hands. This bit of insanity made me an immediate fan. 
Fidrych took the American League by storm in 1976. Not expected to make the Tigers roster, he earned his place on the team as a non-roster invitee to spring training. He would wouldn't get a start until May 15, in era of four man rotations, and quality pitchers went the distance in games opportunities had been few. In his first outing he pitched six no-hit innings before allowing a single, and went the distance in a 2-1 game. It would be the first of twenty-nine starts that season. He would complete 24 of them. By comparison in today's era of specialization with pitching staffs the San Francisco Giants led all of major league baseball with 10 complete games as a staff.
Fidrych would go 9-1 in his first ten decisions,  which included a seven game winning streak. He did his pitching with cunning, he allowed only 7.8 hits per nine innings, and 1.9 walks, and 3.5 strike outs per nine. He would finish the season with a won-loss record of 19-9, and he would finish second to Jim Palmer in the Cy Young balloting. He was named Rookie of the Year, and led the American League in ERA 2.34.  He would be an all-star in both 1976 and 1977. He would only make 27 more starts in his career.
In 1977, he would begin the season by tearing cartilage in his knee during spring training. He was just as effective upon his return, but in July of that year he tore his rotator cuff in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. It was an injury that wouldn't be diagnosed by doctors until 1985, and was to bring about treatments that are remarkable today. He turned down his all-star invitation due to injury.  He would finish his injury riddled career with a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. In 2009, he would die in a tragic accident on his farm.

The Cleveland Indians Lou Boudreau


When the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series in 1948, Lou Boudreau was the starting shortstop, and manager. He also won the American League batting title. That season he would hit 18 home runs and drive in 106 runs, a career high. In 676 plate appearances he struck out only nine times. He finished with a slash line of .355/.453/.534, and was the American League MVP.
He would spend 15 seasons in the major leagues, 13 seasons with the Cleveland Indians and part of two seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Boudreau managed the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Athletics, and Chicago Cubs. He would go on to serve as play-by-play announcer for the Chicago Cubs.
In 1970, the eight time all-star was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The same year the Cleveland Indians retired his #5. Boudreau died in 2001. 

Jim "Mudcat" Grant


Jim "Mudcat" Grant made his Major League debut in 1958 with the Cleveland Indians. He was given the nickname Mudcat by roomate Larry Doby. Who claimed he was "ugly as a Mississippi Mudcat." The name stuck, and Grant won ten games in his rookie season winning, in which he made 28 starts and 14 appearances out of the bullpen.

Grant would write his own chapter into baseball history by becoming the first black pitcher in the American League to win twenty games. He did it in 1965 with the Minnesota Twins, when he went 21-7 with an ERA 3.30. His 21 wins were the best in the American League, along with a league leading 6 shutouts in the leading the Twins to the American League pennant. In the World Series, he would become the first black pitcher to win a World Series game, and in game six of the series he launched a three run homer, making him only the second pitcher from the American League history in accomplish the feat.  He was honored by The Sporting News that season as their Pitcher of the Year.
Grant was an American League all-star in 1963 and 1965. After 1966, he worked out of the bullpen, and as with many relief pitchers it was have arm will travel.  He made stops with the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Montreal Expos, Pittsburgh Pirates and two tours with the Oakland Athletics.  He finished with a won-loss record of 145-119 with a career ERA of 3.63. He earned 54 saves along the way.
Grant wrote a book titled The Black Aces: Baseball's Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners. Featuring a chapter on each of the African-American pitchers who have accomplished the feat.  A book I can recommend.

Big Klu: Ted Kluszewski



​The restrictions on travel during World War II denied the Cincinnati Reds the opportunity to train in sunny Florida. They were relegated to training at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  The groundskeeper at the time for the Reds, a man named Marty Schwab watched as a big strong hammered baseballs up and over an embankment that players on the big league club weren't doing in training camp that spring.
The Reds had discovered Ted Kluszewski, standout tight end on the Indiana University football team. The Reds anxious to sign the lefthand hitting first baseman were initially rebuffed.  Big Klu didn't want to give up his college eligibility.  He waited to sign with the Reds in 1946, and after two dominating seasons in the minor leagues he got the call to the show.
He went to play 15 seasons in the major leagues, his best four stint was 1953-1956, where was named a National League in each season. In 1954, he hit 49 home runs with 141 RBI, he put together a slash line that season of .326/.407/.642.  Finishing second in the MVP voting to a guy from the New York Giants named Willie Mays. 
He would play 15 years in the major leagues and finish with a career slash line of .298/.353/.498 with 279 home runs and 1028 RBI. He walked 492 times with only 365 strikeouts in 6469 plate appearances. On heard of numbers by today's standards. Injuries took their toll on Big Klu after the 1956 season, and his numbers diminished as a result.  He was the hitting coach for the Big Red Machine teams of the 1970's under Sparky Anderson.
Known for cutting off the sleeves of his shirts to fit his huge biceps, the slugging first baseman was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1962. His #18 was retired by the Reds.


Tony Oliva: A Bright And Shining Star



Tony Oliva exploded onto the American League scene during his rookie year of 1964. Where Oliva would win the batting hitting .323, adding 32 home runs and 94 RBI, and led the league in doubles with 43,  217 hits, and 109 runs scored. It was the first of back-to-back batting titles for the rightfielder. He would be named the American League Rookie of the year at the conclusion of the season. 
It was a career that almost wasn't for Oliva. Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba in 1938. He arrived in the United States in the spring of 1961, and managed to play in the Twins final three games showing exceptional hitting going 7 for 10. The knock was on his defense, and with minor league rosters set the young outfielder was released. While working out in North Carolina with a friend in the Twins farm system at Charlotte, North Carolina, general manager Phil Howser convinced the front office of the Twins to re-sign Oliva, and the rest as they say is history.
Oliva displayed his offensive prowess during era that was dominated by pitching, and referred by many as the second dead ball era of baseball. He would be an all-star eight consecutive seasons until the ravages of knee, leg and shoulder problems put a damper on this can't miss Hall-of-Fame career. 
A career that included three batting titles (1964-65, and 1971), and a Gold Glove in 1966. He ended his career with 220 home runs, 947 RBI, and a slash line of .304/.353/.476. He only struck out only 664 times in 6880 plate appearances. In 2014, he narrowly missed being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee by one vote.  Always popular in Minnesota with the Twins fans and media. Oliva's #6 was retired by the Minnesota Twins, and 2011 a statue of Oliva was unveiled at Target Field.