26 October 2014

sunday morning target dodgers - the spy who played baseball edition

here are 15 cards from a sheet in the 1990 target dodger 100th anniversary set.  some pretty interesting stories here, starting with this guy - moe berg
berg was an ivy-leaguer (he attended princeton and columbia) who spent his first year in the majors (1923) with the brooklyn robins.  he hit only .186 as a 21-year old infielder, but later found a niche in the big leagues with other teams as a backup catcher.  he also improved at the plate, and was able to carve out a 14-year major league career with four american league clubs following his one year in brooklyn.  the most interesting part of berg's story, however, is that he was a spy.  berg was fluent in several languages, and was added to the connie mack all-star team that was to make a tour of japan in 1934.  berg may have seemed out of place on such a team that featured babe ruth, lou gehrig, and others, but he was there to spend some time doing some recon for the us government.  other missions berg completed included a trip to switzerland to assess the germans' likelihood of developing the atomic bomb.

dolph camilli
i don't know that i've seen camilli's name spelled with an 'f' instead of the 'ph' before.  anyway, camilli (father of future dodger doug camilli) played for the dodgers from 1938 until july of 1943 when he was traded to the giants (in true rivalry fashion, he refused to report to the club).  during his dodger days, camilli was a two-time all-star and led the league in home runs and rbi in 1941, earning the national league's mvp award - the first dodger to win the award since dazzy vance in 1924.

chuck essegian
essegian had the good fortune to be traded to the dodgers during the 1959 season.  as a result, he was able to appear in the 1959 world series against the white sox, and he made the most of his appearances. after striking out as a pinch-hitter in the dodgers' game 1 loss, he hit a game-tying solo home run in the 7th inning of game 2 which the dodgers went on to win.  essegian pinch-hit again in game 5, drawing a walk in a losing effort, but came up big with his second pinch-hit home run of the series (hitting for duke snider of all people) in the 9th inning of the dodgers' 9-3 series clinching game 6 victory.

chico fernandez
fernandez was signed by the dodgers in 1951 and worked his way through the minors to the point where some thought the good fielding shortstop would eventually replace pee wee reese at the position for the dodgers.  fernandez was called up and debuted in july of 1956 and finished the season with a .227 batting average in 34 games.  the dodgers decided to deal fernandez following the season, and he became the phillies regular shortstop after they acquired him for elmer valo and a few other players.  he went on to play for the tigers, too, before they traded him to the braves on may 8, 1963.  later that same day, the braves dealt fernandez to the mets and he finished out his big league career that year with new york.

ned garvin
garvin joined the superbas late in the 1902 season, earning a win and a loss in his two starts for the club that year.  in 1903, he was 15-18 for brooklyn, and in 1904 he had a record of 5-15 (despite a 1.68 era) before he was picked up on waivers by the new york highlanders with whom he finished out the season.  bill james recognizes garvin as perhaps the "hard-luck pitcher of all-time" due to his consistently poor record and low era.

gail hopkins
local boy hopkins attended pepperdine and ucla in the 1960's but was signed by the white sox rather than the dodgers in 1965.  following a total of six seasons spent in the majors with the chisox and kansas city a's, hopkins joined the dodgers during the 1974 campaign.  he only appeared in 15 games for the 1974 national league champs, hitting .222 with 4 singles in 18 at bats.  he went on to play in japan for a couple of seasons and returned to the states to earn an m.d. and ph.d and practiced medicine in california and illinois for many years. his card features the left field pavilion of dodger stadium in the background, which is nice.

jim lindsey
lindsey had pitched for the indians, cardinals (in two different stints), and reds before joining the dodgers in 1937.  he pitched in 20 games for brooklyn, amassing a record of 0-1 with a 3.52 era.  that was the end of his big league career, although he continued to pitch in the minors for many more seasons.

jesse orosco
orosco had two stints with the dodgers, including that glorious 1988 season.  he is the all-time leader in games pitched with 1,252.  the only active pitcher with at least 1,000 games pitched is latroy hawkins who is right at the 1,000 mark.

phil regan
regan pitched for the tigers, often as a starter, from 1960 through 1965 when he joined the dodgers via trade prior to the 1966 season.  walter alston moved regan to the bullpen, and the pitcher responded with a tremendous season.  regan pitched exclusively in relief, appearing in 65 games and earning a record of 14-1 with what would have been a league-leading 21 saves had that been an official statistic back then.  regan was an all-star that year, as well as the comeback player of the year and reliever of the year, and he wound up pitching in two games of the world series as well.  regan's 1967 season was not quite as spectacular, and he was traded to the cubs just a few games into the 1968 campaign.  he did return to the dodger organization following his retirement as a scout and later as manager of the triple-a dukes in 1996.

packy rogers
rogers hit .189 in 23 games for the 1938 dodgers which was the only time he appeared in the major leagues.  he returned to the minors and eventually managed there for a few seasons following his service during world war ii.

sherry smith
smith had a record of 69-70 over his 7 seasons with the brooklyn robins spanning from 1915 into the 1922 campaign (he did not pitch in 1918 for some reason), but his era as a robin was 2.91 and he twice won 14 games in a season.  he was a big part of the robins' pennant winning teams of 1916 and 1920, and he threw 13.1 innings in game 3 of the 1916 fall classic only to surrender the winning run and take the loss opposite the bosox starting pitcher, babe ruth.  smith was 1-1 in the 1920 series against cleveland, giving up just one earned run in 17 innings of work in the robins' losing effort.

mike strahler
i think of strahler as one of the other guys on charlie hough's 1972 rookie card.  he pitched in parts of three seasons for the dodgers - 1970 through 1972.  in total, he appeared in 31 games as a dodger, earning a record of 2-3 with a save and an era of 2.76.  he made 2 starts for los angeles (both in 1972), one of which turned out to be a complete game victory for strahler in his final dodger appearance.  after  the '72 season ended, strahler was traded to the angels in the frank robinson for andy messersmith deal, and the halos traded him soon after that to the tigers.

dick stuart
stuart could hit. he hit .272 with 192 home runs in his first seven seasons, which were spent with the pirates and red sox between 1958 and 1964.  in fact, stuart led the american league in rbi in 1963 while with the red sox, and drove in 114 the following year.  unfortunately, he was not the best fielder.  in fact, stuart led his league in errors by a first baseman in each of those same seven seasons mentioned above.  after a down year with the phillies in 1965 (in which he finished second with 17 errors and hit just .234), stuart joined the mets for the start of the 1966 season, which is where the photo used on his card above comes from.  he was ultimately released by the mets during the season and was signed by the dodgers.  stuart hit .264 with 3 homers in 38 at bats for the dodgers, and even managed a couple of plate appearances for them in the 1966 world series.

lee walls
walls joined the dodgers following the 1961 season in a deal that sent charlie neal to the expansion mets.  he spent three non-descript seasons with the dodgers as a utility player/pinch-hitter, although i found his final big league appearance to be fairly interesting.  on the final day of the 1964 season, walter alston replaced his starting catcher (john roseboro) following the first inning with rookie jeff torborg.  roseboro had reached base, stolen third, and scored on a wild pitch prior to being removed from the game, but i don't know if his removal had to do with an injury or if it was just because it was the last game of the year and the dodgers were leading the colt .45's 5-0 after one inning of play.  anyway, torborg played through the eighth inning, but was replaced at catcher by walls for the 9th.  it was the first (and only) time walls had caught in a big league game, and it was also the last time he wore a big league uniform - the dodgers released him 10 days later.

robert wilson
wilson joined the dodger organization in 1950, but spent only two days in 1958 on the field in the big leagues.  he may have been up with the dodgers for longer than that, but his actual playing career consists of 3 games over 2 days in saint louis in may of 1958.  on saturday, may 17, wilson made his debut when he pinch-hit for stan williams against the cardinals' larry jackson and stroked a single.  he was replaced at the start of the following inning in the lineup by don drysdale.  the next day, in the first game of a doubleheader, wilson again pinch-hit (this time for clem labine), but struck out against the cards' billy muffett.  in the nightcap, wilson got the start in right field, but was replaced late in the game by gino cimoli following an 0 for 3 performance at the plate.  and that was that for wilson's big league career.

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