Monday, May 15, 2017

Baseball Update (1971)

After an ultimately-unhappy-for-the-home-crowd Cap Night in Anaheim, May 14, 1971, here are your major-league standings, per the May 15, 1971, Chicago Tribune:

Maybe we'll have to talk about Phil Roof on the next podcast:

Or maybe we'll just spend the podcast learning to sing the Angels' fight song:


  1. So, following up on some of the stuff we talked about with regard to MLB71 in Ninth Podcast

    — One issue for the Reds is that they are playing without Bobby Tolan because of an achilles-tendon injury. The AP brief that the Chicago Tribune ran on May 9 describes the center fielder as “a main cog in Cincinnati’s National League pennant drive in 1970.” On May 16, Cincinnati lost to Montreal, 9-3, and its center fielder was Buddy Bradford, whom the Reds traded for on the same day it learned that Tolan would be having surgery. Bradford had been hitting .158 as a backup outfielder with the Indians. Tolan hit .316 and stole a National League-high 57 based in 1970. Tolan finished 16th in voting for National League most valuable player last season, behind, in order, Reds catcher Johnny Bench, Cubs outfielder Billy Williams, Reds third-baseman Tony Perez, Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson, Dodgers first-baseman Wes Parker, Pirates pitcher Dave Giusti, Reds outfielder Pete Rose, Cubs outfielder Jim Hickman, Giants first-baseman Willie McCovey, Braves outfiedler Rico Carty, Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen, Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente, Mets first-baseman Donn Clendenon, Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry and Pirates outfielder Willie Stargell. Braves outfielder Hank Aaron placed 17th, and Mets pitcher Tom Seaver finished 29th.

  2. Another thing going on with the Reds in 1971 vs. 1970 is the absence of Wayne Simpson. Rory Costello's bio for the Society for American Baseball Research has superb detail around Simpson's ascension (he won 13 of his first 14 major-league starts and made the N.L. All-Star team as a rookie in 1970) and devastating rotator-cuff tear in July of that season. As of May 18, 1971, Simpson is back slogging it out in the minors. He is coming back to Cincinnati to finish 4-7 and 4.76 in 1971 (and then play in four other major-league seasons). But, at age 22, Wayne Simpson's baseball career has peaked, and that obviously must've thrown a wrench into the Reds' plans to defend their 1970 National League pennant.

    By the way, before you let your Thursday get all bummed out to start, you must know that Rory Costello's terrific SABR bio of Simpson ends happily:

    As of 2011, Wayne and Carolyn Williams Simpson made their home in Carson, California. They took up residence in this city (also in L.A. County, southwest of Compton) in 1979. They were married on November 14, 1970. The Simpsons had two sons, Jason and Drew. “They have their own families now,” said Wayne. “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, serving as an elder in the congregation.” Although possessing marked intelligence, he never went back to school. However, computers -- Simpson is an iPhone user -- have helped him cope with the hand problems.

    Despite all he has endured, Wayne Simpson is a cheerful man who laughs easily. He reaffirmed in 2011 what he had said 30 years before about how things turned out. “I’m happy with it. At first, I was bitter. Athletes today know -- and I know now -- it’s not just a game, it’s a business too. But I enjoyed baseball. I enjoyed the guys I played with. I enjoyed the teams.”

    Grateful acknowledgment to Wayne Simpson for his memories (telephone interview, February 22, 2011).

  3. The Reds on May 17, 1971, lost at home, 3-2, to Philadelphia. Johnny Bench, age 23, logged his 100th career home run, but then the Phillies' catcher, Mike Ryan, homered to break a 2-2 tie late. Phils starter/Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Southgate) improved to 2-6.

    N.L. West (as of morning of May 18, 1971)
    Giants 27-10
    Braves 18-18, 8.5 games back
    Dodgers 18-19, 9
    Astros 17-19, 9.5
    Reds 13-22, 13
    Padres 10-25, 16

    N.L. East
    Mets 21-12
    Pirates 21-14, 1
    Cardinals 20-15, 2
    Cubs 18-17, 4
    Expos 13-14, 5
    Phillies 11-22, 10

    Oakland (25-14) had last night 1971 off and holds a 4.5-game lead on the Twins in the A.L. West, and Boston (21-11) leads Baltimore by 2.5 in the A.L. East.

  4. Gullett on May 18, 1971, went six and a third for a 4-3 Reds victory over the Phillies. The Giants beat the Cubs, 7-3, so Cincinnati still trails the N.L. West by 13 games. Gullett improved to 3-2 on the season.

    The SABR bio on Don Gullett is another terrific read. A rotator-cuff injury did in Gullett's career, too. Interesting to think how much larger the Big Red Machine might've loomed over the second half of the 1970s had Simpson and Gullett enjoyed the careers their early seasons seemed to portend.

  5. So the 1971 Giants have a bunch of very good young players and a handful of aging superstars, and I wonder if the age gap was simply too large for San Francisco to bridge one good roster to the next with gradual replacements.

  6. The Giants lost the 1962 World Series, four games to three, to the New York Yankees. One of San Francisco’s top starting pitchers that season was 24-year-old Juan Marichal, who went 18-11 with a team-best 3.36 earned-run average; 23-year-old Gaylord Perry was also part of the pitching staff. The star of the team was 31-year-old center-fielder Willie Mays (.304, 49 home runs, 141 runs batted in and 18 stolen bases); 24-year-old Willie McCovey contributed a .293 average and 20 homers as a part-timer.

    These SABR bios are so great. Here’s a paragraph from Mark Armour's on Willie McCovey:

    In Game 7, facing Terry again, he tripled to deep center field in the seventh but had the biggest at-bat of his career in the bottom of the ninth. Trailing 1-0 with two out and runners at second and third, McCovey strode to the plate. Yankee manager Ralph Houk came to the mound to talk to Terry, and many observers felt that he would walk McCovey to face the right-handed Cepeda, who had been battling a knee injury the previous few weeks. Houk chose to pitch to Willie, who hit a long foul ball, and then hit a bullet directly to second baseman Bobby Richardson, who squeezed it for the final out and the World Series title. Two months later this at-bat was immortalized by Giants fan Charles Shultz in his daily Peanuts comic strip. After three identical frames show Charlie Brown and Linus sitting dejectedly on a curb, the final frame shows Charlie Brown wailing to the heavens: “Why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?”

  7. The Giants kept right on being pretty good throughout the rest of the 1960s. After finishing third and then fourth in 1963 and ’64, San Francisco placed second in the National League four straight seasons. In 1969, the leagues were broken into divisions, and again the Giants finished second—this time in the N.L. West.

    Last year, San Francisco dropped to third and went through an in-season managerial change—from Clyde King to Charlie Fox. But on the morning of May 20, 1971, the Giants own baseball’s best record : 28-11 (.718, 7.5 games up in the division), even after a 9-5 loss to the Cubs yesterday.

  8. Here's the batting order of position players that Manager Fox most frequently goes with so far in 1971:

    Bobby Bonds, right field
    Tito Fuentes, second base
    Willie Mays, center
    Willie McCovey, first
    Ken Henderson, left
    Dick Dietz, catcher
    Alan Gallagher, third
    Chris Speier, shortstop

  9. We talked about Mays in Eighth Podcast. Having just turned 40 on May 6, 1971, he's still a stud. When the Chicago Tribune most recently published league leaders, on May 18, Mays was ranked third in the National League with a .364 average, and he was tied for third in RBI, with 26.

  10. We also talked in that Xth Podcast episode how William Leggett in the season-preview issue of Sports Illustrated had identified McCovey as the league's top slugger. Indeed, the 31-year-old has just run through three All-Star seasons in which he hit 36, 45 and 39 home runs and led the Naitonal League in slugging percentage each season.

  11. So both of those studs from the 1962 N.L. pennant winners are still studs, and yet neither is the Giants' best position player in 1971. That's 25-year-old Bonds. In his first two seasons, Bonds has been a homer-hitting (32 and 26), base-stealing (45 and 48) and striking-out (league-high 187 and 189) wonder. In MLB71, he's going to go for 36 homers and 26 steals but strike out only 137 times. That's still a lot, but it represents about a fifth of the leadoff hitter's plate appearances compared to a fourth in each of his first two years. Bonds is going to finish fourth in N.L. MVP voting, and he's to break Roberto Clemente's 10-year hold on the N.L. Gold Glove for right fielders. I don't have a clue what goes into Baseball-Reference's "Wins Above Replacement" statistic, but I like that site so much that I've decided to standardize on it as the most illuminative of baseball players' relative value. Bonds is going to lead all of the 1971 Giants in WAR and finish seventh in all of the National League (just ahead of Mays).

  12. Bonds, 25, is one of several budding talents among the Giants:

    -- Left-fielder Henderson, as previously noted in The Sporting News, at age 24, is another.

    -- I didn't know much about the 25-year-old third baseman, Gallagher, but Baseball-Reference says, at this age, Gallagher's career has been similar to Hubie Brooks, and I do know something about 25-year-old Hubie Brooks was pretty darned good, so that's saying something.

    -- George Foster and Dave Kingman are both 22-year-old Giant reserves.

  13. And the youngest Giant of them all is the shortstop, Speier, just 20. He was the only different opening-day starter from 1970 to 1971. Norm King, writing at fantastic SABR:

    “Chris Speier began his campaign for Hal Lanier’s shortstop job long before spring training opened,” wrote Jack Hanley in The Times of San Mateo California. “In early January he reported daily to Candlestick Park to run wind sprints. Construction workers giving Candlestick a new look thought he was some kind of nut.”4

    Speier obviously didn’t care what others thought because that work led to a marvellous training camp and the starting shortstop job at the age of 20 and with only one year of professional ball behind him. He not only hit well and played solid defense, he infused the team with a youthful enthusiasm that even affected jaded veterans such as Willie Mays.

    “It’s easy to lose interest when the club isn’t going well,” the Say Hey Kid said, “but I’ll tell you I’m all excited this year and I have to say it’s all because of the kid shortstop. What I like best about him is that he isn’t cocky.”5

    Giants’ manager Charlie Fox was just as effusive in praising his young shortstop.: “Speier is making plays we haven’t been able to make before,” Fox said. “Lanier has played outstanding shortstop for us over the years. But Speier has tremendous range and skill and throwing ability…This kid reminds me of Pee Wee Reese, who was one of the best.”

  14. Pitchingwise, the Giants' top starters are ’62 World Series holdovers Marichal (18-11 and 2.94 at age 33) and Perry (16-12 and 2.76 at 32). The other most frequent San Francisco starters were 24 (9-6/2.92 John Cumberland), 23 (7-10/3.79 Ron Bryant and 5-9/4.15 Steve Stone) and 21 years old (5-3/4.03 Don Carrithers).

  15. So, anyway, those are the Giants. And they are tops in baseball through May 19, 1971. Here are the N.L. West standings ...

    Giants 28-11
    Braves 20-18, 7.5 games back
    Dodgers 19-20, 9
    Astros 18-20, 9.5
    Reds 14-23, 13
    Padres 11-26, 16

  16. Meanwhile, the Mets lost their fourth straight and fell out of first …

    N.L. East
    Pirates 23-14
    Mets 21-14, 1 game back
    Cardinals 21-16, 2
    Cubs 19-18, 4
    Expos 13-16, 6
    Phillies 12-23, 10

    Vida Blue pitched a three-hitter for his fifth shutout and ninth win (against one loss), 3-0 over Milwaukee …

    A.L. West
    A’s 27-14
    Twins 20-18, 5.5 games back
    Royals 19-19, 6.5
    Angels 19-21, 7.5
    Brewers 14-20, 9.5
    White Sox 13-21, 10.5

    A.L. East
    Red Sox 23-11
    Orioles 21-14, 2.5 games back
    Tigers 17-19, 7
    Yankees 16-18, 7
    Senators 15-22, 9.5
    Indians 14-21, 9.5

  17. One of the things I really appreciate about 1971 A’s manager Dick Williams is that he subs very infrequently. A couple of weeks ago, Oakland traded veteran first basemen with the Senators—Don Mincher (and others) for Mike Epstein (and others)—and, since then, Williams has pretty much rolled with the same lineup:

    Bert Campaneris, shortstop
    Joe Rudi, left field
    Reggie Jackson, right
    Epstein, first base
    Sal Bando, third
    Rick Monday, center
    Dave Duncan, catcher
    Dick Green, second

    You get a Steve Hovley in center here or a little Larry Brown at second there, but, pretty much, those are the Williams guys.

    Plus, it isn’t just Vida Blue who throws long starts. Against the Brewers on May 20, 1971, the starting pitcher was Chuck Dobson, in his third start after opening the season on the disabled list. The A’s opened a 6-0 lead on the Brewers, and Williams kept Dobson in there chucking. Milwaukee got a run in the top of the eighth, which the A’s matched in the bottom half. Dobson came back out and gave up two runs to pull the Brewers within 7-3, and that’s when Williams finally decided to make his first sub of the game. Ron Klimkowski came on in place of Dobson and threw three outs, and that was the end of that.

    All of this lightens the load on all of us middle-aged A’s fans out here today who are scrambling to re-arrange our baseball cards based on the last-night-1971 boxscores before we have to get to Sunday school in 2017. Thank you (and rest in peace), Dick Williams (1929-2011).

  18. John "Blue Moon" Odom, in only his second start of the season and in recovery from an elbow surgery, was shelled May 21, 1971, by the second-place Minnesota Twins, the only division champion the American League West has ever known. Odom's share of the 10-1 loss was only two-thirds of an inning. The Twins also hit relievers Rollie Fingers, Jim Roland and Darold Knowles hard, while Bert Blyleven, just 20 years old, limited Oakland's usually stout batting order to four hits and a run.

    I learned from SABR today that Blue Moon Odom attended the same Macon, Georgia, high school as Little Richard and Otis Redding! SABR has solidly claimed one of the VHF channels on my Internet TV set.

  19. Here are some other things I've enjoyed learning about MLB71:

    -- Tiny Tim was quite a big Dodgers fan, big enough that he got in early on the talents of young San Diego outfielder Clarence "Cito" Gaston and was the one who tipped off Chicago Tribune baseball writer Robert Markus to keep an eye on the obscure Padres prospect. Man, what was the deal with Tiny Tim?

    -- One of the reasons for the Cubs' slow start is almost certainly the absence of Randy "Rebel" Hundley. This guy played all the way until 1977, and I always had a sense of him as a career backup catcher. No, he was actually a peer and rival to Johnny Bench. In 1966, he finished fourth in National League rookie-of-the-year voting. In '67, he got the last N.L. catching Gold Glove before Bench seized control of the award. In both '67 and '69, Hundley got MVP votes (though fewer than Bench). But, in 1970, Hundley injured a knee and played in only 73 games. He was still sidelined in recovery at the start of MLB71. He came back in May, under doctor's orders to catch no more than five innings in a game in the early going. He caught only five in his first game back, but he convinced Manager Leo Durocher to let him go the whole nine in his second. The Chicago Tribune had an item that "Durocher said he would take full blame for any adverse effects suffered by Randy Hundley because of his nine-inning catching stint Wednesday night in Philadelphia." Well, within just a couple more days, there was a picture on the Tribune sports front of Cubs teammates carrying Hundley off the field and then daily updates on Hundley's timeframe to return from his aggravated knee injury. Hundley ends up playing only nine games all of MLB71--and only twice more plays 114 games or more in any season.

  20. -- There are rumors that Senators manager Ted Williams flipped his lid with the team owner over the trade that sent Mike Epstein to Oakland. Washington just slipped into last place in the A.L. East.

    -- Mike Shannon, who missed much of last and all of this season with a kidney ailment, has joined the Cardinals' promotion and sales department. He and the doctors plan to huddle in the winter on the question of resuming his playing career.

  21. -- The Twins, in part because of the emergence of Blyleven, who debuted last summer at age 19, cut two former 20-game winners at the outset of the season: Dave Boswell and Luis Tiant. Boswell latched on with Detroit. Atlanta picked up Tiant but then also cut him. Boston recently signed the 30-year-old and assigned him to the minor-league Louisville Colonels.

  22. Oakland bounces back with 5-1 and 3-1 victories over Minnesota on Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23, 1971. Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue throw complete-game victories.