Saturday, June 25, 2011

Camilo Pascual: Pitching For The Prez in the Twins' Pleistocene Era

I enjoy the flavor of these videos (see 2 linked below!) involving Camilo Pascual and the old Washington Senators, the ancestors of the Twins.  President Dwight Eisenhauer attends the Washington Senators home opener against the Boston Red Sox on April 18, 1960 (box score, Baseball Ref.). Besides the President, you also get the VP Richard "Milhouse" Nixon, Senators and future Minnesota Twins team president Calvin Griffith, plus managers Cookie Lavagetto (Senators) and  Billy Jurges of the Sox.  Washington baseball had been in a sad state: the Senators had not reached the postseason since 1933 (season summary), and had climbed no higher than second place just twice, in 1945 and 1943.

That said, they had the distinction and honor of playing in the nation's capitol, before the Leader of the Free World with a smidgeon of pomp and circumstance against this backdrop of mediocrity.

1957 Topps
The great curveballer, Camilo Pascual, is seen in perfect profile as he delivers the first pitch of the season.  Ted Williams is captured stroking a drive out of the yard, to the deepest reaches beyond center field.  This newsreal film is notable in that you get to see not only Pascual's delivery, but also the layout of Griffith Stadium on a beautiful spring afternoon!

It was the first home playground for the nucleus of what would become the Minnesota Twins: Bob Allison, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Lemon, Zoilo Versalles (did not arrive until September call up from AAA Charleston), Lenny GreenEarl Battey, and, of course, Pascual. Also not seen in the video is Al Worthington, future closer for the Twins in their 1960's glory years. Old "Red" was on the Red Sox roster that year, and pitched four innings in relief of starter Tom Sturdivant that day.

Everybody's just plumb happy. The President brushed back
 somebody in the first row by the dugout, I'm pretty sure (4/18/60).
1959 AL Rookie of the Year Bob Allison towers above  the 
other mortals in this vignette (see Jan. 11, 2011 post on Bob).

The following 1957 film (box, April 15, 1957) is interesting and similar as well. Here, Pres."Ike" Eisenhauer is flanked by VP Dick "Don't Call Me Slippery" Nixon, Calvin, Senators Mgr. Chuck Dressen, and Orioles Mgr. Paul Richards. When Ike throws out the first ball, watch what happens: instead of the orderly, choreographed ceremony that you would witness at a modern game, a near-scrum develops among the Senators squad over who'll get the ball! You'll see Oriole 2B and future Twins Manager Billy "Slick" Gardner ripping a basehit off the Senators Bob Chakales to open the season.  Pascual came on in relief in this game, and was tagged with the loss by giving up one measley run in 4 innings. He had started the 1956 Senators Opener, followed up by the '57 and '60 openers with President Eisenhauer.

Yes, by 1960 this pitching for the Commander-in-Chief thing may have lost its glamour for him. But I doubt it.

Eisenhower At Baseball Game - 1957

A nice time capsule piece revealing the Twins as they were constitued in the warm, fuzzy 1950's. 
As Herb Carneal would say "...and the count rides along." - TT

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jim Perry: One For The Twins Hall Of Fame

Check out the description of this game and box for the September 11, 1967 game at 
Baseball Ref. Trust me - you'll love reading the names of the Twins who took the field that day! Click photo for a bigger version.
Perry postulating pitching points with Pistol Packin' Dave Boswell.

Jim Perry was one of the finest people ever to pitch for the Minnesota Twins. Today, he was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame before a wonderfully pitched game by Scott Baker, who beat the Texas Rangers 8-1 (box). That's a circumstance befitting the legacy left by Perry, though it's somewhat disappointing it took so long for him to be nominated for this honor. Still, it's a great thing that it's been consumated.  You'll do yourself well by reading Charley Walter's column on Jim in the Thursday, June 8 edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The genuine appreciation Perry has for the honor is really very heartwarming for me.  His was the first pitching performance I can ever remember seeing at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, many moons ago. The story of that day will be posted shortly... 
Box from game 1, July 29, 1969
doubleheader at Met Stadium.

Jim striking out Josh Hamilton with his
sharp-breaking yellow hammer during
pregame batting practice.  Just for kicks.

Meanwhile, kudos to Mr. Jimmy - what a student of the game, what a good man!

It can be easily argued Jim was among the ten most important Twins pitchers of the 1960's and '70s (names like Jim Kaat, Camilo Pascual, Al WorthingtonRik Albert Blyleven, Jim Grant, Bill Campbell, Dean Chance, Ron Perranoski, and Dave Boswell all come to mind). He split duties as an important long reliever and starter with great effectiveness for seven years before Billy Martin made him a full-time starter in 1969.  

That year, he won 20 games and led the Twins into the playoffs against the Orioles in the first year of divisional play. 1970 became his encore, with him taking home the Cy Young Award as the AL's best pitcher. He went 24-12 that year.  Besides being a great teammate, he was also became the first roommate and mentor for a certain teenager who came up to take injured Luis Tiant's place in the rotation, kid by the name of Bert Blyleven.  And we know how that worked out for Bert...btw, you might want to check out Jim's name in the list of the 25 all-time best pitched Twins games I posted a while back, plus this photo essay from a few months ago. It was great to see him honored today, as it was a pleasure to see him come back for the "50 Greatest Twins" Weekend last year, and also for the 2005 celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the 1965 Twins American League Championship Team.

Jim pitching to Ted Williams at Fenway as a 
member of the Cleveland Indians, ca.  1960
Checkout the February, 1979 article below from Baseball Digest (p. 45)  on Jim and his brother Gaylord.  There's a nice chart within containing a list of the winningest pitching brothers* in baseball history. I dare you...guess who came in at #1?? Interesting stuff, plus the photo of Jim sporting porkchop sideburns is a must-see. How about the line "...Gaylord was often accused of throwing a spitball." What? Honest injun? All he did was write a book that fully described his dabbling in the dark arts!! Gaylord, in a macabre, Machiavellian way, was the ying to Jim's yang....
*Or, at least until Phil & Joe Niekro combined for 539 through 1987, the Brothers Perry were tops.  They ended with 529 W's, Gaylord posting 315 in his HOF career, Jim 214. Cy Young and his 511 wins can eat his heart out.
Meanwhile, lets end with some words from old Herb Carneal;