The 2006 SABR convention in Seattle featured Jim Bouton as part of a lively Seattle Pilots panel. Jim told a story about meeting his old Pilots teammate, Tommy Davis, years after the infamous ’69 season. Jim revealed that Tommy looked at him, shook his head and said, “what a bunch of mutts.”
This is an apt description of the expansion teams prior to the free agency era. The new clubs were an assortment of veterans past their prime, players with marginal skills or unproven rookies. I have identified eight players who had the misfortune of playing on two different first-year expansion teams. Here are their “cardboard” stories.6
The first man to experience this dubious “double play” was pitcher Hal Woodeshick. The new Washington Senators acquired Hal from the old Senators (Minnesota Twins) in the expansion draft prior to the ’61 campaign. His tenure in DC was short lived, as the Senators sold him to the Tigers during the ’61 season. Subsequently, “Suitcase Hal” was sold to the new Colt .45’s in the winter of ’61. All this coming and going must have induced a sense of paranoia in Hal, as these two photos clearly document.6
Any Seattle baseball fan worth his or her salt knows that Diego Segui pitched for both the Pilots and Mariners. Diego was the most effective hurler for the ill-fated ‘69 Pilots and the opening day starter for the Mariners. The eight-year gap between Seattle appearances saw the erosion of Segui’s skills. He posted an 0-7 record and was released at the conclusion of the season.
I have always been intrigued by Diego’s ’77 card. Why is he wearing a Red Sox batting helmet-since the AL used the DH and Diego was a relief pitcher?6
Merritt Ranew is another Pilot with a resume that included two first-year expansion team stints. The ’62 Houston Colt ‘45’s drafted the young receiver from the Braves. His ’62 rookie card is an airbrushed gem. Despite Topps’ assertion on the back that Merritt “can’t miss,” most of his career was spent in the minors. Topps didn’t produce a card for him in ’69, his last season in the majors. The ‘83 Renata Galasso Pilots retrospective set does include Merritt. The back of the card states that Ranew was the only Pilot who played on two first year expansion clubs. This is incorrect.6
Ranew had a teammate that played on both the ’62 Colt ‘45s and the Pilots: George Brunet. The “flaky” lefthander was drafted from the Braves by Houston. Topps didn’t produce a ’62 card for George, but he does have a ’63. Brunet joined the Pilots in July after his release from the Angels. No Pilots card was ever produced. Very few images exist of George as a Pilot. Here is a custom card-using a poorly colorized publicity still-of the happy-go-lucky, “underwear-averse” journeyman. 6
The beloved and inept ’62 Mets picked up catcher Chris Cannizzaro from St. Louis in the expansion draft. He shuttled between AAA and the majors for most of the ‘60s before resurfacing with he infant San Diego Padres in ’69, after a trade with Pittsburgh. Cannizzaro became the starting catcher and was Padres’ lone All-Star representative. Topps issued a card of Chris on the Pirates in 69, thus ’70 is his first on the San Diego.6
Chris’ ’62 Mets teammate, Galen Cisco, found himself on the roster of the ‘newbie” Royals in ‘69. Galen’s ’62 card has him on the Red Sox, since he was purchased by the Mets late in the season. However, he does get a New York card in ’63.
Perhaps the best player of this unique group is Ron Fairly. The steady-if not spectacular-Fairly was dealt by the Dodgers to Montreal for Maury Wills in June of ’69. Expos’ fans had to wait until ’70 to collect his card on Montreal. Ron continued a successful career in the ‘70s, eventually ending up in ’76 with the A’s. In the off season, Fairly was traded to the Blue Jays, but not before Topps issued a ’77 card depicting him on Oakland. With the ’77 expansion Blue Jays, Ron had an excellent season as the DH. He served as Toronto’s first all-star selection and got a Blue Jays’ card in ‘78. 9
The only duel expansionist I can identify for the last wave of expansion in the ‘90s is Scott Aldred. The lefty pitched in five games for the ’93 Rockies and made 48 appearances for the ’98 Devil Rays. Apparently, Scott didn’t receive a ’98 or ’99 card. So, this team generated photo serves as proof that he did toil in the “Trop.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a player who almost joined this group of vagabonds. Jeff Katz’s (@SplitSeason1981) old insurance man, Marv Staehle, was in spring training with the Pilots. He was sent to AAA Vancouver and later traded to the Expos. Marv played in six games for Montreal in ’69.
20 years have past since the last expansion. It is safe to say that this exclusive club will remain as is, until MLB once again expands at least twice within a ten-year span.
If you unearth another player who saw action for two first-year expansion clubs, let me know. It is entirely possible I missed some unfortunate soul.