Showing posts with label Butch Wynegar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Butch Wynegar. Show all posts

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bizzarre Fielding Video: The Metrodome's First Triple Play May 29, 1982

  • Six men in a box. Nettles retreats to 1st as Gaetti
    is arriving with ball. Lenny Faedo (12) wonders just what his
    role is in the play, while Ron Washington points at Murcer.

  • For you kids at home, score this one as a 1-2-5-3-1 triple play. "Holy Cow!," as Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto exclaimed (though Twins oldies like to credit Halsey Hall (sound file) with originating the phrase).

    The crazy play as seen in the video occurred on May 29, 1982 at the brand new H.H.H. Metrodome (humorously cynical Deadspin review). Minnesota and the Yankees were scoreless in the 2nd inning, with righthander Terry Felton on the mound for Minnesota. The weekend series against New York was the fourth homestand for the Twins at the new facility. They were in the midst of an inglorious 14-game losing streak.

    Baserunning Comedy

    The Yankees had put runners on first (Graig Nettles) and second (Bobby Murcer) with no outs. Roy Smalley then struck out on a wide 3-2 pitch from Terry Felton, with Murcer attempting to steal third base. Rifle-armed Sal Butera (right photo) threw to Gary Gaetti so far ahead of baserunning Bobby that he tried returning to second. Problem was, former Twin Nettles was standing on the bag by then (ooops!) as part of the hit and run play. He retreated back to first. 

  • Gaetti uselessly tagged Murcer after the rundown before throwing to Kent Hrbek to catch Nettles...then, Murcer, the smart ballplayer of many great years, inexplicably went back to third! Hrbek threw to Felton at third to complete the triple play, with zany left fielder Mickey Hatcher backing up the bag. None of this would ultimately matter, as the Yankees pulled off a 6-4 win with two runs in the ninth.

Trivial Trivia

Felton (see Michael Rand 2010 story update) was 0-8 coming into the game, and got a no-decision after Brad Havens came in to blow the lead in the sixth inning. He would lose another 5 to finish his career with an 0-16 record.

Bobby Murcer (left, BD photo)was the last of the 1960’s Mickey Mantle New York Yankees remaining on the roster. He, in fact, had been tabbed as the heir apparent to the Mick - always a “great” thing that, heaping expectations on a young player. The Oklahoman was good enough to earn 3 straight top-ten MVP finishes early in his career. He had been traded even up to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in the 70’s, and had also been a Cub; New York brought him back in 1979 as a part-time player.

Craig Nettles, playing the role of Fred Astaire in his sashay back to first, would go on to several more fine seasons. He was profiled earlier at this blog (“The One That Got Away.”). Former Twin Roy Smalley had been a Yankee for less than two months, while Butch Wynegar was in pinstripes for just over two weeks after six seasons as a Twin. Of the three, only Roy would again know the joys of playing regularly on the Dome's carpeted cement pile, the lucky guy, after his 1985 trade back to the Twins.

The young Twins of 1982 represented a completely different era from the teams that had occupied Met Stadium from 1961 to 1981. Even in losing, they were thoroughly entertaining. One could see the talent in the young Gaettis, Brunanskys, Laudners, etc., and the smoke wafting out of the runway of the dugout (pregame heaters) but one knew that growing pains would be the rule for some time out. Kent Hrbek was already the star of the team, building a case (link to stats coming into that game) for inclusion on the '82 All-Star team.

"So long, everybody!" - Herb Carneal

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Phenoms of Minnesota Twins Spring Trainings Past: Part III

            "Harold" Wynegar. 
             Let's stick to the nickname!
             1977 Topps Rookie Card
Butch Wynegar, 1976:
The Bicentennial Backstop...
[NOTE: due to monumental material for use in this post, and my aching, sentimental attachment to the subject, the sections on John Castino and Carlos Gomez will await another time for publication, to give them their just due!]

During the winter of 1975-76, Butch Wynegar was expecting nothing higher than a promotion to Triple A, or at least a Double A hop upward in the Minnesota Twins system.  So, it was with shock that he opened up the  letter from GM Howard Fox informing him of his invite to the Twins Major League camp. The needle on the Donna Summer "Love To Love You Baby" LP made a sudden skip, his mind screeching with it to a halt...

His surprise was realistic.  Even though he'd batted .315 at age 19 in 1975 for the Twins A-level Reno Silver Sox, he'd only played in 199 games over two minor league years, and that was including the 60 games he'd played previously in rookie league after being drafted #14 in the 2nd Round (38th overall) of the 1974 draft.  "I thought, 'You've got to be kidding,'  said Wynegar after he retired. "I expected to get a quick look and be sent to Triple A. I was excited being around players such as Rod Carew and Larry Hisle.  But there wasn't much pressure on me.  I had nothing to lose.  Realistically, I never thought about sticking with the club."

Of note: Dave Bergman had been drafted ahead of him in that round, while Dale Murphy (5th pick-c), Lonnie Smith (3rd pick-of), Willie Wilson (18th-of), Garry Templeton (13th-ss), Lance Parrish (16th) and Rick Sutcliffe (21st-rhp) had all been taken earlier in the first round. One of  the '70s draft bumper crops.
 Of course, the Twin were sportin' a bumper crop of lousy-hitting big league catchers, and felt they had nothing to lose promoting Wynegar. Phil Roof was 35 years old, and couldn't be expected to be anything more than a capable, defensive backup. Glenn Borgmann had proved a major bust as a big league hitter. His sickly 1975 .207 BA, .303 OBP, with more walks (45) than RBI's (33) had driven the Twins upper management to pray before the porcelain god, and Manager Frank Quilici to permanent vacation.
Photo from 1979 Twins Program & Scorecard

Butch embraced his new
Yankee status, and
Dave Rightetti too,
following no-hitter.
New Twins Manager Gene Mauch quickly became a fan of the switchhitting kid from York, PA.  The old National League skipper told reporters "Butch can turn things around for us. I know he doesn't have much experience, but he can swing the bat, catch the ball, and throw it.  There's just not much more to the game than that" (he, of course, forgot to add "have a working knowledge of hot New York night clubs" and "never ask about the epic '64 Philadelphia Phillies season-ending collapse"). That Mauch-managed team melted under the weight of a thin starting staff and general dissension. Mauch got his wish: Butch would be squatting behind home plate in Arlington, Texas on April 9th, against the Rangers.  The kid notched his first basehit that night off greasin' cheater, Gaylord Perry.  The Butch Show was on the radio, and in the air over Minneapolis-St. Paul!

If the mania for Butch Wyngar never reached the monkey scream hero-status of  Joe Mauer,  he nevertheless made an indelible impression on fans in the upper Midwest.  In a Twins TV spot legendary among Twins fans of that era, he exclaimed "I love this game so much, I'd play it for free," followed by a shot of Calvin Griffith gushing "I love that kid" (other vintage ad videos here). Of course, this didn't do much more to improve Calvin's earned reputation as a cheap, chiseling, old coot, but it was definitely a watershed moment in sports team promotions in Minnesota (see link to Calvin post at link above).

The highlights I take from that season are his home runs against Catfish Hunter in New York, and then, vividly, the one took deep off Jim Palmer at the Met on April 25. In the exhilaration of the moment,  I recall Wynegar rounding third with a smile that was akin to the one on that kid Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" who'd just received his Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas.  His batting average at one point was as high as .314, and was at .294 just before the All Star break.  The fans got behind him, and rocketed Butch onto the All-Star team on the strength of 560,000 write-in votes.

He played in the game in Philadelphia at the dirty, old concrete outhouse known as Veteran's Stadium.  He certainly didn't "shoot his eye out" or  in the foot, for that matter.  The 20-year old pinch hit for the 76-year old former Twin Luis Tiant in the top of the 7th, drawing a walk off John "The Count" Montefusco. Nicknames! The American League lost, as per custom in those years, 7-1.  The AL in the '70s had only one victory notch on their bats, that being the 6-4 win in 1971.

I look at this collection from my youth, still slack-jawed.  Damn. I'm gettin' old.
The Boy Butch is in the last row, standing, third from the right. Those White Sox unis? Hah!!!

Even before the AS game, Butch was impressing the old guard with his deftness in handling pitchers, so beyond his years.  That. and his overall defense would become his greatest contribution to his teams as time wore on. He finished the season batting (see game logs) .260, with 10 HR, 69 RBI's, a .356 OBP, numbers which compare fascinatingly to Mauer's 2005 season (as ciphered by Aaron Gleeman, 3/13/06). These stats easily outdistanced the competition on the roster, and basically equaled the league average offensive performance at catcher. He rated a WAR of just over three games for his team that year. 

Coming in second to pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych in the '76 Rookie Of The Year voting  was no shame, as he never expected to be in that position anyway.  The whole year was like one big fairy tale for him, sans the talking animals and whimsical characters (a situation left unfulfilled until Mickey Hatcher joined the Twins in 1981).  In my opinion, he never reached his potential - but what the hades do I know?  He hit in a difficult era,

Wynegar  has served as the Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach in recent years, and is employed currently in the New York Yankee minor league system, giving tutelage to their young stars. Most recently, he's been credit for his work with up-and-coming catching stud, Jesus Montero.  By the way, we'll have to cut him some slack on that Yankee thing - they were his favorite team growing up, and some guy named Mickey was his favorite player. Go figure. 

He has some interesting comments on the Twins and his first season at this Nov., 2009, YouTube video.  The Kid comes across as really pretty humble. 

As good, ol' Herb used to say:
"...and the count rides along..."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Roger Erickson, 1980 Twins Yearbook

As I posted on Twitter, Rog always looked as if he'd skipped the week's boyscout meeting to join the major league free agent draft.  By looking at this mug, you'd never guess he was in the middle of a particularly heated brawl with the excellent Angels second sacker, Bobby Grich.  Proof positive that he was boy trapped in a man's body, with all the bad judgment associated with youth.

To me, he never fulfilled his early promise.

He was traded in  May, 1982, along with Butch Wynegar to the New York Yankees (see transactions section at link).  Never pitched in the majors again after 1983.

As Herb used to say...
...And the count rides along! - TT

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ghosts of Twins Team Photos Past: The 1981 Spring TrainingTeam Picture!

Ah-ha, so the Twins Twinkler is not AWOL. Can't believe...this is my 1st December post! The rigors of snow removal, and participating in Christmas Choirs (which - SUPER BUMMER! -  never included the Win! Twins! theme song in performance) have sadly reduced my time for nurturing our little museum of Twins past.

OK, now pay attention to the prose, not the ho's!

Hopefully, this amounts to a nice exercise in beginning scanner use 101. This photo has to be counted as interesting, and telling at the same time.  Where's Hrbek? Where's Gaetti? Discoursing in the men's room on the relative merits of Jaclyn Smith versus Morgan Fairchild? Negative, as they didn't even have invites to spring training. Frank Viola wouldn't be drafted by the Twins until June 8 in the 2nd round (the 11th pick of the '81 amateur draft), Kirby Puckett wouldn't be drafted until January of '82 (in the 1st round, 3rd pick of the amateur draft), while Randy Bush was still in AA at the Twins minor league Orlando affiliate.
Back off, she-vixen.

The team leaders were Gary Ward, John Castino, Roy Smalley, Butch Wynegar, Ron Washington and 1969 World Series hero, Jerry Koosman (BTW: thank you Jerry, for lending your lovely daughter to our Patron Service Staff at Canterbury Downs, circa 1987. Good genes really stand out!).
Growlin' Gary Ward: in a sea of smiling faces, he retains his penitentiary face!
Among the reasons he was my favoite Twin. He was the Twins answer to
Don Baylor as a clubhouse enforcer long before Baylor became a Twin in '87.

"Forget ladies, I bring the Bombs, si?"
Bombo Rivera, 1979 Topps Card
You had guys on the way out ( the enigmatic Landreaux, who would surface later that fall with the eventual World Champ Dodgers), Glenn Adams, Bombo Rivera - all guys who had played for a few '70s edition Twins, plus coaches who had played or been on the Twins playing roster in the 1960's (pitching coach Podres, Manager Johnny Goryl, his successor, Billy "Shotgun" Gardner).  Recall too that Johnny Pods guru'd Sweet Music in his use of the circle change up. Those damn Brooklyn boys always stick together!

So, all in all, a '60's coaching staff, with a roster of mostly '70's guys buttressing (buttressing? Isn't that illegal in several states?) a core group of young '80's guys who would come up after the rosters expanded (Tim Laudner and Smalley are the only players who would make it to 1987, not counting coach Rick Stelmaszek). Stelmaszek, just beginning his time that spring with the Twins and now a four-decade guy, is the longest tenured member of the organization - if you completely ignore the existence of Jim Rantz

'Sall for now.  Hope you enjoyed the trip.
May Your Taters Fly Far!