Monday, January 25, 2016

Countdown to 2016 Topps #9: He Saved El Tiante's Career

I racked my brain (unsuccessfully) to remember if today's card had been one of the "Awesome Night Cards" featured on Night Owl Cards. Then a little birdie (or owl?) told me to go over to his blog and check under the tabs. Bingo- Number 17. At that time it was his favorite night card. I wonder if it still is? The comment section in the post also answered my (and Greg's) question of whether or not this was the first night card. We're still counting down to 2016 Topps...

We're all aware of 1968 being the 'Year of the Pitcher' and today's featured player was a member of one of the better pitcher staffs of not only that year, but, according to Bill James, of all time. The 1968 Cleveland Indians staff featured 'Sudden' Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert and Stan Williams- each of whom recorded double digits in Wins and sub-3.00 ERAs. Of the four, Williams had the least amount of innings pitched that year, coming just 5.2 innings from hitting the 200 IP plateau.

Stan struggled the following season after the pitching mound had been lowered and the strike zone had been shrunk. Cleveland traded Williams and Tiant (who also struggled mightily that season) to Minnesota following the 1969 season and Stan bounced back strong as a reliever in 1970, helping lead the Twins to the division championship. His success in Minnesota would be short, however, as he saw his walks per 9-innings skyrocket to 5.1 and his strikeout/walk ratio drop to 1.07. The Twins would trade Stan to St. Louis on September 1, 1971 and he would finish the year having success in only 10 games for the Cards.

Williams then found himself unemployed, as he was released by St. Louis prior to the 1972 season. The Angels would sign the tall righty, but then released him about five weeks later. Two weeks later, Stan would be reunited with his dear friend Luis Tiant in Boston, where he would pitch in his final three major league games. Following his release from Boston in September of 1972, Stan Williams would retire and sit out a year before going back into the game as a manager for the BoSox AA club in Bristol, Connecticut.

One thing of interest: After the Twins released Tiant in March of 1971, Stan, convinced that El Tiante still had some milage left on his arm, reportedly called every major league team, hoping to convince them to get him a shot. Atlanta agreed to give him a 30-day contract, but then released him at the end of the thirty days. Boston swooped in, signing him two days later. 

And just think, had Williams not helped get Tiant a second chance, we may never have had an opportunity to watch Carmen Ronzonni imitating Luis Tiant's pitching motion. Thank you, Stan Williams.

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