Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Tale of Five Johnsons

A Tale of Five Johnsons (Not a dirty story).

Starting in 1965, The Baltimore Orioles employed David Allen Johnson (aka Davey Johnson) as a second baseman and sometimes shortstop. Davey proved to be a good employee by making the All-Star squad and leading his team into first place three years in a row and into the World Series twice. After the 1972 season, the Orioles decided to trade Davey to the Atlanta Braves.

Was it a good move for the O's? I guess not. Davey proceeded to whack 43 home runs, only one behind Willie Stargell who topped the NL with 44.

How did the Orioles deal with Davey's success after the 1973 season? They introduced a rookie player named....Dave Johnson. David Charles Johnson pitched for Baltimore for two years before being sold to the Mariners.

Fast forward to 1986. Our old friend Davey Johnson, as manager of the New York Mets, led his team to a World Series victory. In 1988, he again lead his Mets into the NLCS where they lost a heartbreaker four games to three to the Dodgers.

Can anyone guess what player move the Baltimore Orioles pulled off following that 1988 season? "No they didn't," you say. Well, yes they did. Those clever Orioles extracted a pitcher from Houston by the name of Dave Johnson. David Wayne Johnson labored for three years as an Oriole, actually winning thirteen games in 1990. He also sat atop the leader board in homers allowed in the AL (30). Too bad Davey wasn't around anymore to hit one of those thirty homers.

Okay. That takes care of three Johnsons, but what about the other two. We turn to our beloved Phillies to finish our tale.

In 1934, the Phillies made a pretty savvy trade with the Cincinnati Reds and picked up veteran pitcher Syl Johnson. Johnson had won 36 games in a three-year span for the Cardinals. He performed well enough for the woeful Phillies to stick with the team through 1940.

Prior to the start of the 1940 season, the Phillies brass assessed the team and concluded that they did not have enough "Johnson-power." The answer, of course, was to pick up Si Johnson from St. Louis in the Rule V draft. So Si and Syl went to the hill for the Phils in 1940.

How good was that staff? Hugh Mulcahy's name appeared in the newspaper so many times as Losing Pitcher that he gained the sobriquet, Losing Pitcher Mulcahy. And Walter Beck heard so many of his pitches bang and boom off the metal right field wall, that he became known as Boom-Boom Beck. You can look it up.


The following players have three things in common: Lefty O'Doul, Harvey Kuenn, Dutch Leonard, Dolph Camilli, Lou Burdette*, Claude Passeau, Vic Power, Bobby Shantz, Roy Sievers, Davey Johnson, Fernando Valenzuela, and Whit Wyatt.

1. All of the above had successful careers and were named at least once to the All-Star team.
2. All played for the Phillies
3. All were NOT on the Phillies during their All-Star seasons.
Most joined the Phillies at the end of their careers (when they became affordable?).

FYI. Three more HOF players who spent time with the Phillies: Kid Nichols, Hack Wilson and Eppa Rixey.

*Selva Lewis Burdette Jr. is officially known as Lew Burdette yet all of his baseball cards autographed baseballs read "Lou" Burdette.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Famous Phillies

During the latter part of the 1920's and most of the 1930's Philadelphia baseball fans had the double treat of watching Jimmy Foxx with the Athletics and Chuck Klein with the Phillies. After spending 1936 to 1944 with the Red Sox and Cubs, Foxx "came home" to Philadelphia and took a victory lap with the dreadful 1945 Phillies before ending his great career.

Foxx was not the only famous player who spent time with the Phils. In 1919, the Phillies traded a player named Possum Whitted to Pittsburgh for an outfielder named Charles Dillon Stengel aka Casey Stengel. Stengel did not appear in a Phillies uniform until 1920 when he had a very productive year. Midway through the 1921 season, Casey packed his bag and move on to the New York Giants.

Stengel was voted into the Hall Of Fame as a manager in 1966.

Dave "Beauty" Bancroft debuted with the 1915 pennant winning Phillies. He was traded to the New York Giants in 1920 where he blossomed into a Hall of Famer.

The great A's pitcher Chief Bender jumped to the new Federal League in 1915 and joined the Baltimore Terrapins. The struggling Terrapin franchise sold Bender to Phillies in 1916. He spent his last two seasons (except for a one-game comeback in 1925) back in Philadelphia where he performed adequately but not up to his high water mark with the Athletics.

Bender was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953.

In a side note, Bender attended the Carlisle Indian School and later Dickinson College also in Carlisle.

Napolean "Nap" Lajoie was so good that the Cleveland franchise changed their name from the Bronchos (sic) to the Naps in 1903. After Cleveland sold him to the A's in 1915 they had to rename the team. They chose the name Indians, and therein lies another tale for later. Lajoie first played with the Phillies from 1896 until 1900. Naturally the Phillies somehow let him become a free agent and lost his services.

Lajoie was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937.

More tomorrow on famous players that you may not realize spent time as a Phillie.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Richie Ashburn and Uniform #1

In 1979, the Philadelphia Phillies honored future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn by retiring his uniform number (#1). For all intents and purposes, the number had been retired for many years. Ashburn was traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 1959 season for Alvin Dark, Jim Woods and Johnny Buzhardt.

When the 1960 season began, Al Dark donned uniform #1. Dark was traded to the Braves in mid-season for Joe Morgan (not THAT Joe Morgan), who "inherited" #1 from Dark.

Six weeks later Morgan was sold to the Cleveland Indians. From the day Morgan left the City of Brotherly Love, no one has stepped into the Phillies dugout with #1 on his back.

Richie Ashburn burst on the MLB scene on April 20, 1948 and assumed uniform #1. Prior to Whitey's rookie year the Phillies did not place any great significance on numero uno, at least judging by the star-quality of the wearer. During the two previous years, Johnny Wyrostek held the honor. In 1945, it was worn by Bitsy Mott, a name befitting a child's doll more so than a professional baseball player. Going back one more year we find #1 on the back of Moon Mullen, who was nicknamed for a cartoon character.

Following the trail backward one more year, we find Danny Murtaugh wearing #1 in 1943. This brings me to tomorrow's topic, famous names you may not realize were Phillies.