Outgoing …

Sent four letters off today, one to a Cy Young Award winner and another to a World Series MVP. Vern Law, Ralph Terry, Jim Bolger and Lee Tate should all receive mail from me soon. Law won the Cy Young for the Pirates in 1960. Terry was the MVP of the 1962 series. Interesting to note, to me anyway, Law is the first person in Utah who I have written to. Lots of letters to Florida and California – never one to Utah, until now!

Bob Aspromonte

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1967 Topps

As promised a few days ago when we were discussing his older brother Ken, we have arrived at Bob Aspromonte. A native of Brooklyn, Aspromonte signed with his hometown Dodgers after high school, breaking into the big leagues with Brooklyn in 1956 and then playing two more seasons for the Dodgers after they relocated to Los Angeles. He did not become a starter until he joined the brand new Houston Colt .45’s after being selected in the expansion draft. Hitting leadoff, Aspromonte was the first hitter in the history of the Houston organization. He manned third base for the Colt .45’s (and later Astros) from the team’s first game until 1968. He joined Atlanta in 1969, playing in 82 games. He played one more season for the Braves before finishing his career in 1971 with the Mets.

Every once in a while a player will respond with much more information than I ever asked for and Aspromonte was one of those guys. Along with filling out the survey, he sent along a pretty interesting fact sheet.

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As noted, he also filled out the survey.

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Blind Faith Story refers to an occasion in Aspromonte’s career when a young boy from Arkansas who had lost his sight after being struck by lightning while playing Little League baseball asked Aspromonte to hit a home run for him. The boy’s name was Billy Bradley and he was in Houston to have surgery on his eyes when Aspromonte heard about him and visited him in the hospital. During the visit, Aspromonte asked Bradley if there was anything he could do for him and Bradley responded with his request for a home run. It seemed like a tall order for Aspromonte, who averaged fewer than five home runs a season, but he did just that. One year later Bradley, with his sight restored, returned to Houston for another surgery and again asked Aspromonte to hit a home run for him – this time, one that he could see. Once again, this time with Bradley in attendance, Aspromonte obliged his young fan with a home run. The entire event was documented in the Fox Sports Network series “Amazing Sports Stories” in 2008. I was unable to locate the episode anywhere online.

Bob Aspromonte – career stats

Return to sender

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That yellow sticker is always the worst thing I can see when I go to the mailbox. It means my attempt at information gathering has failed and usually puts an end to my quest to secure a survey from that particular player. Unfortunately over the past few days I have received far too many yellow stickers in the mailbox. As you can see, the one pictured above came back on a letter I had sent to Jim Rivera, an outfielder who spent 10 years in the big leagues. After further investigation I learned that Mr. Rivera now resides in a nursing home and is no longer able to write. I also figured out he was 95-years old, which probably explains a lot.

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1959 Topps

Manuel Joseph Rivera picked up the nickname ‘Jim’ somewhere along the way. He first arrived in the big leagues in 1952 with the St. Louis Browns. In 1952 he moved on to the Chicago White Sox which is where he spent the bulk of his career. Rivera led the American League in triples with 16 in 1953 and in stolen bases with 25 in 1955. That season he also led the AL in being caught stealing (16). HIs best season was 1954 when he hit .286 with 13 home runs, 18 steals, 61 RBI and 62 runs scored for Chicago. His final season in the big leagues was 1961 when he played one game for the White Sox and 64 more for the Kansas City Athletics.

Jim Rivera – career stats

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1959 Topps

There was no return to sticker on my letter to Pedro Ramos. Instead the person who received it opened it up and mailed it back to me in the enclosed SASE. Apparently Mr. Ramos now resides in Nicaragua and since it is pretty difficult to find addresses, much less guesstimate return postage from a foreign country, I will have to give up on the Washington Sentors’ hurler.

Ramos pitched for 15 years in the big leagues, starting in 1955 with the old Washington Sentors and finishing in 1970 with the new Washington Sentors. He is one of just nine players in the history of baseball to play for both incarnations of the Senators. I will let you go ahead and try and figure out who the other eight are on your own. Playing primarily for bad teams, Ramos led the American League in losses four times but also won 117 games in his career (against 160 losses). In 1956, he surrendered a home run to Mickey Mantle that almost left Yankee Stadium.

Pedro Ramos – career stats

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1959 Topps

I am going to stick this one in here although I guess technically it is not a complete loss. Gardner did sign my card although he did not fill out the survey which is always pretty disappointing. Ultimately I feel like I would rather have the complete survey back than the card as it is far more interesting, but this should make a nice addition to the archives.

Gardner broke into the big leagues in 1954, playing 62 games for the New York Giants. He managed to stay employed in professional baseball for the next 32 years. His playing career lasted 10 seasons with his best years from 1956-1960 when he was the starting second baseball for Baltimore and the Washington Senators. He remained in the game for three more seasons as a reserve infielder for the Twins, Yankees and Red Sox. Over the next 18 seasons he worked as a minor and major league coach as well as managing in the minor leagues. His first shot at managing a Major League club came in 1981 when he took over for John Goryl with Minnesota. His tenure with the Twins lasted until 1985 when he was let go mid-season. His final stint as a manager happened in 1986 when he replaced Dick Howser in Kansas City following Howser’s brain cancer diagnosis.

Billy Gardner – career stats

 

 

Julio Bécquer

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1959 Topps

A native of Havana, Cuba, Bécquer arrived in the majors in 1955, playing 10 games for the Washington Senator. While he primarily played first base, Bécquer was not a prototypical power hitting first baseman by any means. In fact, he hit just 12 home runs over his entire seven-year career. He did manage 16 triples and 37 doubles so his bat had some pop and his legs plenty of speed. Bécquer crossed the 100 games played plateau three times, all with Washington. He finished his career with a short stint with the Los Angeles Angels and then the Minnesota Twins.

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Julio Bécquer – career stats

Dom Zanni

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1959 Topps

 

Zanni pitched for three teams over seven years from 1958-1966, starting with the Giants, then the White Sox and finishing with the Reds. Primarily a middle reliever, his best season was 1962 when he pitched 44 games, winning six of them, for Chicago. Zanni’s career ERA was 3.79 and he finished with a respectable K/9 of 7.3 He won nine games in seven seasons and also picked up 10 saves.

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Dom Zanni – career stats

Ken Aspromonte

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1959 Topps

The older brother of Bob Aspromonte (who will make an appearance here in the upcoming weeks), Ken Aspromonte enjoyed seven seasons in the major leagues, playing for the Red Sox, Senators, Indians, Angels, Braves and Cubs. Mainly a reserve, Aspromonte only played over 100 games twice in his career, the first time in 1960 when he hit his career high with 121 games, split between Washington and Cleveland. He finished that season with 10 home runs which was more than half the total he hit in his entire career (19). A lifetime .249 hitter, Aspromonte scored 171 runs and drove in 124 runs in his time in the big leagues. He holds the distinction of playing in the Los Angeles Angels first ever game. Aspromonte extended his playing career with three years in Japan. He managed the Cleveland Indians from 1972-74 before being replaced by Frank Robinson.

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Ken Aspromonte – career stats

Ted Bowsfield

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1959 Topps

Bowsfield won 37 games over seven seasons with Boston, Cleveland, the Angels and the Kansas City A’s. His top year was 1961 when he earned 11 wins for the Los Angeles Angels. Bowsfield started 86 of the 215 games he pitched in during his Major League career. Primarily a ground-ball specialist, he only struck out 326 hitters in 662 and 1/3 innings, finishing with a career earned run average of 4.04.

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Ted Bowsfield – career stats

Stan Williams

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1959 Topps

Before Frank Thomas, Williams was baseball’s Big Hurt. The 6-foot, 5-inch 230-pound right hander pitched for 14 years in the major leagues, most notably for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1958-1962. His best season was 1961 when he started 35 games for Los Angeles, winning 15 of them and striking out 205 hitters in 235 innings. His strikeout total was good for second in the National League. Only teammate Sandy Koufax fanned more NL hitters that season than Williams. In his career he tallied 109 wins against 94 losses while registering 1305 strikeouts. He was named to the All-Star team in 1960 and was on the 1959 World Series champions as well. Following his on-field career, Williams served as a pitching coach for 14 years with Boston, the Yankees, Seattle, the White Sox and the Reds. He earned his second World Series ring in 1990 with Cincinnati.

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Stan Williams – career stats

Dick Schofield

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1959 Topps

The first Dick Schofield to play shortstop in the major leagues spent 19 seasons from 1953-1971 manning infield spots for seven different teams. Nicknamed Ducky, was a member of the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. He also played for the Cardinals, Giants, Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox and Brewers. Mostly a reserve, Schofield cross the 100 game threshold four times including 1963 when he played 138 games for the Pirates. He finished the season with a .246 batting average, 54 runs scored and 32 runs batted in. His son, also Dick Schofield, played shortstop primarily for the California Angels in the 1980’s and 90’s.

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Dick ‘Ducky’ Schofield – career stats