Friday, July 1, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM Omitted Bios (Chapter 13 Los Angeles Dodgers 1963-19660

The light-hitting, pitching-rich club that inhabited Chavez Raine during the  1960s bore little resemblance to the "Bums" who had endeared themselves to generations of fans in Brooklyn. Though most of the iconic favorites (such as Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson) were long gone, the new-look Dodgers managed to win three pennants and two World Series titles in a four-year span. In the final edit, I ended up dropping two bios from this chapter--outfielder Ron Fairly and pitcher Bob Miller. Though each made significant contributions to the team's cause, their statistics appeared somewhat ordinary in the final analysis.  

BET RECORD: (99-63/ 1963)
HALL OF FAMERS: Walter Alston (MGR), Sandy Koufax (P), Don Drysdale (P)

Bob Miller
            Born Robert Lane Gemeinweiser, Miller’s altered name was so common; he shared it with three other major league pitchers. While playing for the Mets in 1962, he was assigned to a room with Robert G. Miller. Explaining the arrangement, traveling secretary Lou Niss joked: “That way, if somebody calls for Bob Miller, he’s bound to get the right one.” Robert L. Miller (the subject of this thumbnail bio) picked up the handle “righty” to distinguish him from his left-handed teammate. An amazing coincidence, it has been observed that he bore a vague resemblance to the Bob Miller who pitched for the Phillies from 1949-1958.
            Miller spent his formative years in St. Louis and was signed by the Cardinals fresh out of high school. He attended Beaumont High, the same school that had sent slugger Roy Sievers to the majors. With no minor league experience, Miller fared poorly in his 1957 St. Louis debut. From ‘58-‘60, he honed his skills on the farm while making sporadic appearances with the Cardinals.
            Traded to the Mets in ’62, he suffered through the worst season of his career, winning just 1 of 13 decisions on one of the lousiest ball clubs of all time. His 0-12 start was the worst record of any pitcher from the beginning of a season (a mark that stood until 1993). Finally, on September 29, the Mets spotted him 12 runs—ten more than he would need in a 12-1 blowout win.
            Miller was liberated from New York in a November trade that sent him to L.A. The Dodgers found him quite useful in ’63, starting him twenty-three times while adding nineteen relief assignments. The right-hander won 10 games and reduced his ERA by 200 points from the previous year. Over the next four seasons, the Dodgers would hand him the ball no fewer than forty-six times per year. No longer used as a starter, he saved 23 games between 1964 and ‘66 while keeping his earned run average below the 3.00 mark throughout.
            Miller made three World Series appearances with the Dodgers and Pirates during his long career. All six of the games he pitched in were losing causes, though only one defeat was a direct result of his performance. With the Dodgers in ‘65/’66, he worked 4.1 scoreless frames.
            Miller made the rounds during his big league tenure, spending time with ten different teams. His most successful campaign outside of L.A. came in 1971, when he won 8 games and saved 10 while posting a 1.64 ERA for three different National League clubs. He closed out his career with 69 victories, 51 saves and a respectable 3.37 earned run average.
            After his playing days, he was the Blue Jays’ first pitching coach, serving for three years in that capacity. He later coached and scouted for the Giants. In August of 1993, he was driving with his mother when their car collided with another vehicle in Rancho Bernardo—an affluent community in San Diego. Miller was killed and his mother sustained serious injuries. The retired hurler was only fifty-four years-old.  

Ron Fairly
            Born in Macon, Georgia, Fairly’s father was a career minor-leaguer in the International League and American Association. Young Ron moved to southern California when he was only three months old. At David Starr Jordan High School in Long Beach, he established himself as a man of multiple talents, earning a basketball scholarship with UCLA. He opted for baseball at USC instead, helping the school to a college World Series title in 1958.
            Fairly enjoyed a long major league career that spanned twenty-one seasons. He spent time with six teams along the way. His longest stint was with the Dodgers from ‘58-‘69. He learned how to play right field under the tutelage of Carl Furillo, who was finishing up a highly successful run at the position when Fairly arrived.
            Fairly was converted to a first baseman in 1962 and held the job for three full seasons. In 1965, he was moved back to the outfield to make room for Wes Parker. Fairly was competent at both positions, claiming a fielding title at first base in ‘63. In right field, he finished among the top five in assists four times and led the league in double plays during the ‘68 slate.
            Fairly was somewhat erratic as a hitter. In nine seasons as a full-timer in L.A., his batting average ranged from .322 (in 1961) to .220 (in ’67). He had moderate power, collecting no fewer than 10 homers on six occasions. His best all around season with the Dodgers came in 1965, when he reached career-best marks for hits (152) and doubles (28). In the World Series that year, he was the club’s most productive hitter, gathering 5 extra-base hits (two of them homers) with 6 RBIs. He scored a run in all seven games. The Dodgers won three of the four Fall Classics Fairly appeared in.
            In June of 1969, Fairly was traded to the Expos, earning an All-Star appearance in ’73. Four years later, he ended up with the other Canadian team and received a second All-Star nod. Fairly led the Blue Jays in doubles, homers, RBIs and slugging percentage during the ’77 slate. When his playing days were over, Fairly worked as a broadcaster for many years, calling games for the Angels, Giants and Mariners in five different decades.

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