Thursday, October 26, 2017

Joe Christopher Revisited

This time we revisit an earlier subject, former Mets outfielder Joe Christopher.

We covered a previously unrecorded transaction sending him to Richmond here.

Now we are going way back to the start of his career.

Christopher's Baseball-Reference page lists his first transaction as:

Before 1955 Season: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent.

But we have found an article that contradicts that. Christopher started his pro career in the Orioles organization, in Phoenix, a Class C team for them at the time. Partway through the 1955 season he goes to the Pirates system. Turns out he was involved in a trade that included former major leaguer Earl Smith.

From the Arizona Republic of July 12, 1955:

"Earl Smith, slugging outfielder from last year's champion Stars, was returned to Phoenix yester day along with Howard Padgett.


But it was no bargain basement deal for the Stars, who had to sell Outfielders Joe Christopher and Gene Stair to Lincoln, Neb of the Western League in order to complete the deal."

Lincoln was a Pirates Class A team, and except for a stint in Mexico City, Christopher stayed in the Pirate chain until his major league debut.

The deal was not on Smith's Baseball-Reference page.

Still have to find a few deals involving Christopher, so we will keep looking. 




Christopher pic from eBay.
Smith stolen from BaseballHappenings.net




Monday, October 16, 2017

Howie Koplitz? Fine, Thank You!

Howie Koplitz not only had a great name, but had a great AA season for himself in 1961, going 23-3 for Birmingham in Detroit's system, He continued winning pitching in a late season callup with the Tigers, going 2-0 with a complete game. That made him 25-3 on the season!

He didn't stick around in the bigs, though, a 3-0 record in 1962 was accompanied by an-over-5 ERA. So he was available for a Rule 5 pickup by the Senators in 1963 as noted on his Baseball-Reference page.

He finished his career with the Senators and their minors, but I always wondered about a small detour he took in 1964, where he was bounced to the minors and to Tacoma in the Giants' system. No mention about the transaction on his B-R page, so I went on the search. I found this from the Kane (PA) Republican of May 14, 1964:



“WASHINGTON Sold pitcher Howie Koplitz to Toronto of the International League and optioned catcher Ken Retzer to the same club on 24 - hour recall.”

Toronto had shared affiliation between the Senators and Braves...but this was a straight out sell to the team, not an option.

This was re-affirmed by the deal that sent Koplitz way out west.  From the Post-Crescent of Appleton WI of Aug. 12,1964:

"The Leafs also sold pitcher Howie Koplitz to Tacoma of the PCL, and placed pitcher Marshall Bridges on the 30-day disabled list."

So Toronto, who held the rights to Koplitz, sold him to the Giants' minors. Koplitz was back in the Senators system the next season, belonging to Hawaii. I cannot find the deal that sent him there, but I did find the deal that brought Koplitz back to the majors. From the Corpus Christi Caller Times of May 23, 1965:

 "The Senators purchased right hander Howie Koplitz from Hawaii of the Pacific Coast League and lefthander Barry Moore from York of the Eastern League They also optioned catcher Joe McCabe to Hawaii.."

Not a recall on option, a sale. So Koplitz was; sold to Toronto outright by Washington; sold to Tacoma by Toronto; went from Tacoma to Hawaii in an UNKNOWN TRANSACTION; and then sold to Washington from Hawaii.

If someone can fill in that Tacoma-Hawaii gap, let me know!

Koplitz lifted from comc.com.

 





Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gene Leek for Bob Roselli

The last several posts we've been heading back to the twenties to forties to add a few transactions to the historical record...this time we run back forward to the sixties.

Bob Roselli was a third-string catcher for the Braves and White Sox in the fifties and early sixties. He came up behind Del Crandall with Milwaukee, and behind Sherm Lollar with the White Sox, so despite being an o.k. hitter and decent fielder, there was no playing time to be had there.

Gene Leek was an infielder, mostly at third base, with Cleveland in the fifties and the original Angels in the early 1960's. Never much of a hitter, his bat kept him from a lot of major league action.

Roselli was on the White Sox in 1962, and Leek on the Angels the same year. The NEXT season, Leek shows up at Indianapolis, a White Sox affiliate, and Roselli finishes his career in Hawaii, the Angels' PCL club. No explanation for the moves is given on either player's Baseball-Reference page.

Well, Roselli had been outrighted to Indianapolis, according to the Oct. 16, 1962 Cuero (TX) Record:



“The Chicago White Sox today announced the outright sale of three players to Indianapolis of the American Association to cut the roster to 38 and make room for minor league players to protect them from the draft.

Sold to Indianapolis were catcher Bob Roselli, infielder Bob Sadowski and pitcher Verle Tiefenthaler.”

Roselli didn't ever play for Indy, and was traded even-up for Leek. From the Indianapolis Star of March 30, 1963:

"Gene Leek, 25-year-old infielder who received a $100,000 bonus in 1959 to join the Cleveland baseball organization, will report tomorrow to the Indianapolis Indians' training camp here. Leek was acquired yesterday from the Los Angeles Angels of the American League in a deal that sent Tribe catcher Bob Roselli to Hawaii, the Angels' Pacific Coast League farm outlet."

That explains that!

Roselli didn't hit well in Hawaii and his career ended in 1963. Leek continued to not hit well and  went down to AA during the season. He would pop around on and off in the minors until 1969, never quite getting his bat to come around.


 



 Roselle form Amazon and Leek from Pinterest.







Thursday, September 14, 2017

Two 1938 Dodgers: Fred Sington and Pete Coscarart

The 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers weren't particularly good, finishing 69-80, but they did have some interesting players.

Fred Sington was an outfielder on the team who had a gaudy .358 batting average and a near-.500 on-base percentage in just 68 plate appearances. His major league career started with the Senators in 1934 and ended with the Dodgers in 1939, a short career despite a very respectable .271 lifetime batting average and a near-.400 lifetime OBP mark. His Baseball-Reference page only lists the transactions that sent him from Washington to Brooklyn and an "assignment:" from Brooklyn to the Red Sox. But how did the Senators get him?

The Wilson Daily Times of Sep. 8, 1934 tells us:

"Fred Sington, slugging outfielder of the Albany Senators of the International League, has been sold to Washington of the American League for cash and three players, the club announced yesterday. The amount of cash was not disclosed."

Albany was an independent team at the time. And we find out more about the "assignment" to the Red Sox system from a 1939 post-season article in the Louisville Courier-Journal of Dec. 10, 1939:

"the only thing wrong with Fred Sington's batting last season was his average of .254. Homeliness in batting averages, as in looks, frequently is only skin deep; beneath the unattractive batting mark, as well as beneath the ugly mug, redeeming qualities frequently shine. That's why the Colonels have abandoned intentions of selling Big Fred if they had a chance of recouping all or most of the $10,000 they paid Brooklyn for him last season."

So that was a sale rather than just an "assignment."
Sington finished his career in Louisville in 1940. He was better known as a college football star for Alabama, and according to Wikipedia. had a song written about his football prowess.

---
Pete Coscarart was just getting his major league career started in 1938, and the useful middle infielder would be traded to Pittsburgh for 1942 and would be out of the majors in early 1946. Quite likely that was due to his support for a baseball player's union at the time.

His Baseball-Reference page doesn't list the deal that sent him from the Pirates out west to independent PCL San Diego, but we found an interesting article from the June 2, 1946 Chicago Tribune:

"The Pittsburgh Pirates today (June 1) announced the sale of Pete Coscarart to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League..."

The article goes on to say that Coscarart was threatening to jump to the Mexican league rather than go to San Diego. The article says that Coscarart thought he could still play in the majors at age 30. Baseball-Reference has him at 33 at the time of the deal.

He DID go to the Padres, and then to Sacramento and Yakima before ending his career.
Sington from Getty Images, Coscarart from www.vintagecardprices.com


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jack Wisner Tied to Fitzsimmons Deal and More

Jack Wisner was a pitcher in the National League for the Pirates and Giants for at least part of four seasons 1919-20 and 1925-26. His Baseball-Reference page doesn't list any transaction for him, but not only did he have may of them, one involved a fairly big future star of the era.

Let it be said that Wisner put up some good numbers in his relatively short Major League experience: 3.221 ERA and a WHIP just above 1.1...as a reliever and starter.

His 22-10 record at Saginaw at age 19 bought him a ticket to the majors and the Pirates that year, where he impressed...4 games, 0.96 ERA, one complete game. Here's how he got there, from the Morning Oregonian of August 19, 1919:



“The Pittsburg club has purchased Pitcher Jack Wisner from Saginaw of the Michigan-Ontario league.”

And yes, they spelled it without the H at the end.

Wisner was OK with the Pirates the next season, 1-3 3.43 ERA in just 17 games, but the Pirates sent him to Rochester for 1921, and released him unconditionally to that club in early 1922. From the Pittsburgh Press of Feb. 19, 1922:

"Jack Wisner was turned loose last week, and it is believed that others are to follow."

From an article about the Pirates shaking up their roster before training camp. Wisner stayed with Rochester thru 1924, and the Giants picked him up on a conditional basis for Spring Training. Excerpt from the Evening News from Harrisburg (PA) of April 6, 1925:

"Big Jack Wisner, the Rochester recruit, is not touring the provinces with the Giants. He was taken by John McGraw on the conditional agreement that if the Giants' manager considers he has the goods. $25.000 will be Paid."

Wisner stuck with the club thru the season and part of 1926, again putting up some decent numbers, including 2 complete games in just 5 Giants games in 1926 before being involved in a complicated deal. From the  Indianapolis Star of May 18, 1926:

"The Indianapolis baseball club and the New York Giants were involved In an important trade yesterday which will send Paul "Pepper" Florence, catcher, to the National League team, and bring a new battery to Ownle Bush's Indians Grover Hartley, catcher, and Jack Wisner, pitcher. Florence originally was obtained from McGraw after being signed by the Giants following a successful college career at Georgetown university. He has been catching regularly for the Tribe this season with Eddie Ainsmith out of the lineup owing to an injury to his shoulder sustained at the Hot Springs (Ark.) training camp of the Indians early this spring."

"Wisner comes to the Indians in final payment for Fred Fitzsimmons who was sold to the Giants last season."

"Fat Freddie" Fitzsimmons would go on to have a very good career in the majors, but what does his Baseball-Reference page say about that deal?

August 8, 1925: Traded by Indianapolis (American Association) to the New York Giants for 2 players to be named.

No mention of Wisner at all. Grover Hartley's Baseball-Reference page of his extensive career makes no mention of this deal at all, and neither does the Paul Florence Baseball-Reference page.

Wisner had one good year for Indianapolis before holding out the next season and being sent to Toledo. From the San Antonio Light of April 24, 1927:

"JACK WISNER BOUGHT BY TOLEDO MUDHENS TOLEDO, Ohio....Toledo Mudhens of the American Association (??) their (??) corps Saturday (Apr. 23) with the acquisition of  Jack Wisner formerly of the New York Giants. Wisner, who was with Indianapolis the greater part of the season is expected to be a big winner with the local club."

He went to Reading for the next year, then Baltimore and New Haven to round out his career by the age of 29.



Wisner pic from Baseball-Reference.com
Pepper Florence from starsofthediamond.com
Hartley and Fitzsimmons pics stolen from the good folks at sabr.com



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Play Mandy Brooks for Me, Then Trade Him

We are going to go back a bit further than normal for this post's subject.

Mandy Brooks was a half-season wonder for the Cubs in 1925. In 90 games, the outfielder had 46 XBH, 72 RBI and a .281 average as a rookie centerfielder. The Cubs acquired Hack Wilson for 1926 and Brooks was an afterthought. Aftger 57 PA and a sub-.200 BA he was gone from the majors, never to return.

Brooks' Baseball-Reference page lists NO transactions for Brooks, which is not surprising. Baseball worked in a different way back then, as teams frequently bought and sold and traded players from and to independent minor league teams. We were able to find a few for Brooks, though, including his entry and exit from the Cubs!

Brooks had joined the Cubs mid-season from the Columbus AA team, an independent squad. This deal was covered by the Courier-Journal from Louisville Kentucky of May 27, 1925:

 "John ("Mandy") Brooks, an outfielder with the Columbus American Association Club, has been sold to the Chicago Nationals for $33,009, an outfielder and a pitcher, it was announced here today. Brooks, who has been batting better than (??), will report to the Chicago team Friday. He came to Columbus from Peoria in the Three Eye League. Outfielder (??) will be one of the Chicago nlers who will come to Columbus."

The (??) mark indicates garbled text. We can certainly pull out from this that the Cubs sent cash and two players to Columbus for Brooks.

Brooks' Baseball-Reference page is not complete when it comes to his minor-league career. In 1926 the Cubs optioned him to Minneapolis, but that record is not represented. From Minneapolis, the Cubs sold him to Louisville for 1927. From the Courier-Journal from Louisville Nov. 18, 1926:

"Mandy Brooks will wear the uniform of a Louisville Colonel next season. He comes to the Louisville club from the Chicago Cubs in part payment for Earl Webb. Brooks finished the 1926 season with Minneapolis after starting the year with Joe McCarthy's team."

This transaction is not listed on Earl Webb's page, either.  

Brooks' Louisville career isn't covered on his page either, just a stop at Waterbury (perhaps on option from Louisville). He goes to Nashville early in 1927: from the July 12, 1927 Tennessean from Nashville:

"Mandy Brooks, who was bought a week ago today from Louisville, joined the club yesterday down in Memphis and It filled the Vol roster."

So that was a cash deal. We found one more Brooks transaction that involved a (then) future major league player. In 1928 Brooks goes to the PCL in a deal outlined in the San Bernardino Sun of June 13,1928:

"A mild housecleaning in the Oakland baseball club today swept one regular out, while a veteran and three youngsters swirled in on the back stroke of the broom. Al Bool, one of the catching mainstays of last year's pennant winning team, was the victim. , He and a chunk of cash (amount unknown) went to the Nashville club of the Southern association in a trade for John "Mandy" Brooks, husky outfielder. Brooks, a right-hander all around, was with the Chicago Nationals in 1925 and 1926. To date this season, he has hit nine home runs and batted .534 for Nashville. He will report at once."

So we were able to not only add some transactions to the Mandy Brooks file, but fill in a couple stops on his baseball resume!



Brooks from pinterest, Webb from comc.com and Bool from the great Trading Card Database site.
 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jim Kirby's Adventure in the Majors: Three Games

Jim Kirby was an outfielder during the World War II years that had a very brief stay with the 1949 Cubs, one hit in two at bats over three games without playing in the field.

He had a long career in the minors, starting in 1942, skipping three years for the war, then coming back to C ball in Tyler, Texas. He graduated to AA independent Shreveport in 1947 and 1948 with a couple nice years, good enough to be drafted to the Cubs for 1949, according to his Baseball-Reference page.

After his short major league stay, the Cubs optioned him to their AA Nashville club (Kirby's hometown) and then to independent AA Dallas later in that year. Baseball-Reference lists no further deals for Kirby, be we were able to uncover a few.

Kirby stayed at Dallas for 1950, having been purchased by the club, according to the Nashville Tenneseean from Sept. 7, 1949:

"The Dallas club of the Texas league yesterday announced the purchase of Outfielder Jim Kirby from the Chicago Cubs. Kirby played here this season but was with Dallas on option."

Dallas became a Cleveland affiliate for 1951 and Kirby started the season there. Partway through the season, he was dealt to the Reds' AA Tulsa affiliate. From the Times from Shreveport, LA for July 29, 1951:

"The Shreveport Sports sold Third-baseman Vern Petty to the Dallas Eagles last night after the game in Dallas, and the Eagles promptly traded him to the Tulsa Oilers along with Outfielder Jim Kirby for Outfielder Eddie Knoblauch. Shreveport peddled Petty for an unannounced amount of cash and another player to be named later. If the Eagles do not part with a player for the Sports. Shreveport will receive an additional amount of money, Club President Bonneau Peters announced."

Petty and Knoblauch never made the majors. Kirby was optioned by Tulsa to B-league Gainesville after a less-than stellar performance at Tulsa, and a succeeding poor performance at Tulsa in 1952 sent him to independent B and A ball (except for a short stay in the Red Sox system in 1958 at age 35) for the rest of his career.

Kirby pic stolen from the www.findagrave.com website.