Swings and misses

Got three letters back over the weekend. Unfortunately none of them answered the survey. All of them signed my cards, so I suppose that’s something.

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1959 Topps

Fairly slugged 215 home runs in a career that spanned 21 years and six different teams. Interestingly, he never hit 20 or more home runs in a season. Perhaps even more interesting is that his career high in home runs came in 1977 when he was 38-years old and smacked 19 during his one season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He consistently delivered double digits in the power category though, hitting 10 or more home runs 15 times, including in the final year of his career. Fairly was twice an all star (1973 and 1977) and played on three of the Los Angeles Dodgers World Series winning teams (1959, 1963 and 1965). Following his playing career, he worked as broadcaster for the Angels, Giants and Mariners. For more on Fairly, click here.

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Veal spent six years in the big leagues, four of them with Detroit and one each with the Senators and the Pirates. A career .231 hitter, Veal never had more than 218 at bats in a season and never played more than 77 games. Considered a solid defender, Veal got into 77 games for the 1959 Detroit Tigers, but only had 104 plate appearances and just 89 at bats. I’m not that great at math, but even I can see that translates to just one about at bat per game played. Coot Veal – career stats.

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1959 Topps

A three-time all-star, Bell was a solid pitcher for the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox from 1958-1968. During that span he won 10 or more games eight times, with his best season coming in 1959 when he was 16-11 for the Tribe. While not a big time strikeout pitcher, Bell did manage 194 K’s in 254 innings for the 1966 Indians. He went 11-11 for the Red Sox in 1968, earning his final all-star game appearance in the process. His career concluded with one season pitching for the Seattle Pilots and one more with the Chicago White Sox. Overall, Bell won 121 games in his big league career. The roommate of pitcher/author Jim Bouton, Bell is featured in Bouton’s famous baseball memoir Ball Four. Gary Bell – career stats.

Barry Bonnell

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1979 Topps

I actually remember when I got this card. Picked it up at the 7-11 across Broadway Boulevard from our house on Cumberland Drive in Garland, Texas sometime in 1979. It was never worth enough money for me to lose it playing poker with my friends in high school and my mother is not the type of person to ever throw anything away. So, when I was looking for cards to send to players, I was happy to find it in a box that I had carried around with me for most of my adult life. It is an interesting journey the card has been on. From Garland, all around Texas to Oregon and California and then back to Texas. It eventually ended up in the hands of the man pictured on it and then it was returned to me in a different part of Texas.

But enough about me, let’s talk about Barry Bonnell because he is an interesting person. Bonnell played for three teams over a 10-year career that saw him come up with Atlanta in 1977 and stick around the big leagues until 1986 when his career concluded in Seattle. He played more than 100 games in seven of his 10 MLB seasons and finished with a lifetime average of .272. He hit more than 10 home runs in a season three different times and he stole more than 10 bases in a season three times. Twice he drove in more than 50 runs and two times he scored more than 50 runs.

According to his Wikipedia page, Bonnell’s career was cut short by “valley fever” which he contracted during spring training in 1984. This would certainly explain the dramatic drop off in games played as he appeared in 110 for the Mariners in 1984, then just 65 over parts of the next two seasons. Following his playing career he became an airplane pilot and then eventually an author. As noted on his survey, he wrote Enchanted Notions which is described as an ‘urban fantasy.’ It is available here. I told you he was interesting!

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Barry Bonnell – career stats

For more on Bonnell check out his site

Ted Beard

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1952 Topps

A reserve outfielder for seven seasons, Beard played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox from 1948-1957. He came up with Pittsburgh in 1948 and spent the five seasons as a reserve for the Pirates. The most action he ever saw came in 1950 when he played in 61 games, getting 177 at bats and hitting .232 which was the highest average he ever posted in the majors. Beard ended up in the minor leagues following the 1952 season and stayed there for the next five years. He returned to the majors in 1957 and played his final two years for the White Sox.

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Ted Beard – career stats

Glenn Borgmann

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1979 Topps

Borgmann spent the majority of his nine-year career as a backup catcher for the Minnesota Twins. He had two years where he was the main man behind the dish for Minnesota and hit a respectable .252 with 45 RBI over 128 games in 1974. The following season his average dipped to .207 in 125 games, relegating Borgmann to backup duties for his final five years in the majors.

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Glenn Borgmann – career stats

Ike Delock

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1959 Topps

Delock won 84 games in his 11-year career. He pitched every one of those seasons for Boston, save his final year, 1963, which he spent with the Baltimore Orioles. Delock was one of the Red Sox better pitchers through the latter half of the 1950’s. He won more than 10 games three times for Boston during this period with his best year being 1958 when he went 14-8 with a 3.38 ERA. Interestingly, Delock started and worked out of the bullpen in almost every year of his career. The lone exception being 1961 when he appeared in 28 games, all of which he started.

There’s a good chance you never heard of the guy Delock listed as his favorite player when he was growing up. Detroit Tiger outfielder Barney McCosky is hardly a familiar name to anyone except the most hardcore baseball history buff. McCosky played 11 seasons for four different teams from 1939-1953. His career was interrupted by World War 2, so he did not play at all from 1942-45. He led the American League in hits and triples in 1940. You can read more about him here. The only link I can find between the two players is that Delock is from Michigan and McCosky played for the Tigers. This would make sense as far as why he was his favorite player although that is just speculation on my part.

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A second thing that jumps out at you is that Delock, who was a pretty good pitcher, said Nellie Fox was the toughest hitter he ever faced. A Hall of Famer certainly, Fox is usually regarded as a better glove man than a hitter, but the fact of the matter is Fox hit .288 in his career and crossed the .300 mark six times in his career. It’s true, he didn’t have much pop. He hit just 35 home runs in a 19-year career, but Fox was a good enough hitter that he made Delock remember his name when he could have chosen from a plethora of talented hitters in the American League like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra or Al Kaline. Of course Delock did benefit from the fact that the best hitter in baseball, Ted Williams, was his teammate for almost his entire career.

Ike Delock – career stats

Outgoing

Today’s batch – Don Pavletich, Bob Blaylock, Dick Tomanek, Alex Grammas and Dick Stigman. Two interesting facts – Pavletich was Johnny Bench’s backup when Bench arrived in the majors and Stigman made the American League all-star team as a rookie in 1960. Hopefully I’ll have much more on the quintet in the weeks to come, when their letters come back.

Jim Barr

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1979 Topps

Barr pitched for 12 seasons, almost all of them with the San Francisco Giants, from 1971-1983. He won 101 games in the major leagues, finishing with a career ERA of 3.56. His best season was 1976 when he won 15 games with a 2.89 ERA for San Francisco. Barr was not much of a strikeout artist. His career K/9 was just 3.2. The lack of swings and misses did not prevent him from winning 10 or more games six times in his career. In addition to pitching for the Giants, Barr spent two seasons with the California Angels. Following his career in the big leagues, Barr was the pitching coach at Sacramento State University.

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Jim Barr – career stats

Frank Baumann

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1958 Topps

Baumann enjoyed 11 years in the big leagues, coming up with Boston, where he pitched for five seasons and then pitching another five with the Chicago White Sox. His best year was 1960 when he went 13-6 with the ChiSox. He led the American League in ERA that year with a 2.67 mark. He also saved four games which was a career high. The following season, Baumann won 10 games, against 13 losses, for the White Sox. He was primarily deployed from the bullpen over the rest of his time in the majors. He finished his major league career in 1965, pitching four games for the Chicago Cubs.

You may notice the questionnaire is a bit different than the other ones I’ve posted. That’s because it is an earlier version of the project. As some point the final two questions disappeared and the favorite teammate question was added in an effort to make it a little more streamlined.

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Frank Baumann – career stats

Matt Batts

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Photo courtesy Matt Batts

Going back into the archives for this one. Batts played 10 seasons for five different teams from 1947-1956. He spent his first four and a half seasons serving as a backup backstop in Boston. In 1953 he played 116 games for Detroit, which was the high-water mark for games played in his career.

Batts’ questionnaire is one of my favorites. A native of San Antonio, he notes this and points out that he played high school football against Austin High, which is actually a school I have covered during my days as a CenTex sports writer. These personal touches are what really make the correspondence special and as you can see, Batts does not disappoint.

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Batts sent a few autographed photos back as well as the card I had sent him. One of them is pictured at the top of this post. Here’s the second one.

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Photo courtesy Matt Batts

Batts spent a season with the St. Louis Browns and another with the Chicago White Sox. His final two years in the majors were with the Reds when he played just a handful of games in 1955-56. He spent one more season in the minor leagues (1957) before officially calling it quits.

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1952 Topps

Following his playing career, Batts relocated to Baton Rouge. He died at his home there in 2013.

Matt Batts – career stats

Jerry Augustine

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1979 Topps

Augustine pitched for 10 years in the majors, spending all of them with the Brewers. He began his career as a starter and won 12 games in 1977 and 13 in 1978. In 1979 he moved to the bullpen but still managed to pitch 85 innings for Milwaukee. He was a member of the Brewers only World Series team, pitching in 20 games for the 1982 squad that lost to St. Louis in the Fall Classic. After retiring in 1984, Augustine coached baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and currently serves as a broadcaster for Brewers’ games on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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Jerry Augustine – career stats