One of my favorite rock anthems is Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page” from 1973. It just might be the ultimate road song of the era and never fails to grab your attention even 45+ years later.
The title got me to thinking about baseball fans and how they view the game differently than in 1973. Very seldom, do we actually “turn the page” to get our baseball information. For Fantasy players, the transition is even more consequential. When we started this silly game in the mid-80’s, stats were still found in the mid-week editions of USA Today. Today, your Internet stat service site will provide you with “live scoring” while games are still in progress. Dozens of websites tout their expertise and offer projections of every major league player using advanced analytics and algorithms.
As a young baseball fan, the most authoritative publication I could find each year was the Street & Smith’s Official Yearbook. It described itself as the “most complete – most informative” baseball publication. Fortunately, the Old Duck has saved many of the editions from the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s, so lets’ see what the writers predicted in the 1973 edition…the one with the A’s Reggie Jackson on the cover. By the way, there were full-page ads for table games Strat-O-Matic, APBA & Major League Baseball…more than a decade before Rotisserie Baseball became mainstream.
> Joe Trimble wrote the American League preview and was right on target, as he predicted the A’s to win the West (they won 94 games) and the Orioles to win the East (97 victories). The main topic, however, was the introduction of the Designated Hitter for the first time. Some AL teams had to react quickly if they didn’t have an aging hitter ready to step in the role and one was the Red Sox, who signed 35 year-old Orlando Cepeda. The future Hall of Famer had been released in November, but the DH rule gave him a new lease on life and he hit .289 with 20 HR’s & 86 RBI’s to help the BoSox to a 2nd place finish.
> Richard Dozer’s National League preview had the Reds winning the West (which they did with 99 Wins), but the East was another story. The Pirates were picked to win but couldn’t muster even a .500 record (80-82). In fact, the Division winning Mets were only 82-79 and no other team had a winning record. The lead story, however, was the sad recounting of the deaths of Mets Manager Gil Hodges and Pirates legend Roberto Clemente.
> Bob Addie wrote an article about Fireman (relief pitchers) and chronicled the career of Hoyt Wilhelm, who retired after the ’72 season. He was 49 years old and had pitched in over 1,000 big league games. Only two hurlers had over 30 Saves in 1972…Clay Carroll of the Reds (37) & Sparky Lyle of the Yankees (35).
> A short piece on P. 72 recapped the hitting feat of the Padres Nate Colbert, who had five HR’s & 13 RBI’s in a double-header the previous August.
> Other non-byline articles included Nolan Ryan & Steve Carlton both joining the 300-strikeout club and another on “tape-measure” Home Runs.
> In the back of the magazine, following all the rosters and previous season’s statistics, there’s an article by Bill Reddy titled “The Minor Leagues, Key to the Majors”. Can you imagine today’s fan waiting until P. 115 to read about prospects? Here are some of his AL picks for 1973…
* Orioles, Al Bumbry – Won the AL Rookie of the Year Award by hitting .337 with a league leading 11 Triples.
* Red Sox, Dwight Evans – Only hit .223 as a rookie, but never looked back and had an outstanding 20-year career…also won eight Gold Gloves.
* Angels, Doug Howard – Led the PCL with 109 RBI’s, but never succeeded at the major league level. Hit .212 in 217 lifetime AB’s.
* White Sox, Jorge Orta – Hit .266 in his rookie season and had a 16-year MLB career…made two All-Star teams.
* Indians, Charlie Spikes – Hit 45 HR’s in his first two seasons for the Tribe and then faded away.
* Tigers, Smokey Robinson – The Bengals 1st pick in the ’68 Draft, he had 28 HR’s and 94 RBI’s in the Southern League but never made it to “The Show”. His given first name was Murray.
* Royals, Gene Garber – This RH Pitcher had a cup of coffee with the Pirates but after being traded to KC, he had 9 Wins and 11 saves in his first full season. Pitched in the majors until 1988.
* Brewers, Howard Wilbur – Led the American Association in hits, but never made an impact at the big league level. Played parts of six seasons in the 70’s and hit .250. He did steal 32 bases for the Astros in ’75.
* Twins, Joe Decker – This RH Pitcher won 10 games in ’73 and then 16 in ’74, but the 248 IP workload that year did him in…only won 3 more games in the majors.
* Yankees, Mike Pazik – This LH Pitcher won 10 games at AAA Syracuse in ’72 and then 13 more for the same squad in ’73. Never made it to New York and after being traded to the Twins, had only 1 Win in the big leagues.
* Athletics, Bill North – This speedy OF was acquired from the Cubs and swiped 53 bases for the World Champion A’s. Led the AL in stolen bases twice in the 70’s.
* Rangers, Jeff Burroughs – This power-hitter burst on the scene with 30 HR’s & 85 RBI’s. The following year, he was the AL MVP.
Moving to the NL prospects…
> Braves, Andre Thornton – Never made it with the Braves but was an impact bat for the Indians in the late 70’s & early 80’s and ended up with 253 lifetime HR’s.
> Cubs, Pat Bourque – Was the MVP of the AAA American Association in 1972, but only had 405 MLB AB’s with a .215 BA over four seasons.
> Reds, Gene Locklear – Led the American Association in hitting with a .325 BA, but was traded to the Padres in June of ’73 and only had 595 AB’s in five seasons.
> Astros, J.R. Richard – Became one of the most dominant Pitchers in the game striking out over 300 batters in two different seasons. His career was cut short at age 30 after suffering a stroke during the 1980 season.
> Dodgers, Tom Paciorek – MVP of the Pacific Coast League in ’72, but never had a big impact in the Dodger line-up. Did end up playing parts of 18 seasons in the big leagues with a lifetime BA of .282.
> Expos, Pepe Mangual – Led the AAA International League with 91 Runs & 39 SB’s. Had one very productive campaign with Montreal in 1975 when he scored 84 Runs and swiped 33 bags, but by 1977 he was out of the game.
> Mets, Dave Schneck – Hit 24 HR’s in the minors in ’72, but never found a groove in the big leagues. Hit .199 in 413 lifetime AB’s.
> Phillies, Bob Boone – Stepped in as the regular Catcher in ’73 and had a 19-year major league career with seven Gold Gloves to his credit.
> Pirates, Richie Zisk – Hit .324 in his rookie season and went on to play 13 years with over 200 HR’s and two All-Star appearances.
> Cardinals, Ray Busse – The Redbirds thought they had their SS of the future after acquiring him in November of ’72, but it never happened. Had 155 lifetime AB’s with a .146 BA.
> Padres, Randy Elliott – Another top prospect who never fulfilled the promise, he hit only .215 in parts of four seasons.
> Giants, John D’Acquisto – Spent one more season in the minors and then was the NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year in ’74. To close the circle on this reflection, John & I have become friends over the last few years and he works for MLB in Arizona on the pace-of-play project. Yes, it is a small world.
Hope you enjoyed this trip to 1973…we’ll utilize the time machine again in the near future.