Tuesday, March 31, 2015

1880's Brooklyn Grays Pitcher John Harkins at BST Auctions

I figure from time to time, when the desire strikes, I'll put up a little post featuring an old-tyme Dodger player you may not know.  It'll usually be a fellow who played over 100 years ago, and I'll be sure to share a pic of a vintage card or collectible of him, as well.  Over the years I've done this numerous times, but I plan on making it a regular occurrence.

Today's flashback is former Brooklyn Grays, the Dodger first incarnation as a part of the American Association, pitcher John Harkins.  I ran into an BST Auction of a 1887 Old Judge tobacco card of his and decided to find out more about him.  You can see a photo of the card above.  BTW, the card sold at auction a couple of weeks ago for just under $300.

Harkins was known by the nickname of "Pa" for reasons I do not know - although I'm sure it has to do with an paternal instinct.  After all, he moonlighted as a college coach at Yale, Princeton and Lehigh during his playing days.

John Harkins began playing the game in the sandlots of New Brunswick, New Jersey.  He was learned in every position on the field, but it was as a pitcher that he made his name.  In fact, his prowess at the position was something he stumbled upon.  According to a story told in an obituary reprinted on Ancestry.com, Harkins was asked to to pitch after the days hurler failed to appear.  He eventually threw a tie and became a regular pitcher from then on.

As an older lad, he attended Rutgers University as a chemistry major, but soon left to pursue a career on the diamond.  Harkins played for Trenton of the Inter-State League, was eventually sold to the Cleveland Blues of the National League and then was quickly snatched up by the Brooklyn club when Cleveland folded - going along with follow Blues players Duc Bushong and Germany Smith. 

With Brooklyn he joined the starting rotation and won a total of 39 games over three seasons.  He threw just under 800 innings during that span while completing 88 games and recording one shutout.  In 1888 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles and soon retired.  As is relayed in the obituary, he decided he could make a better living opening up a tavern and pitching intermittently for local town-ball teams.

John Harkins died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of 81.  He was a retired professional ballplayer, a former Dodger, a longtime sergeant-a-arms of the New Brunswick District Court and an entrepreneurial restaurant owner in the New Brunswick area.

When asked about his thoughts of the big leagues when he visited his last game in 1936 he said thusly:
"Yes, there's been a big change since my day. And one of those boys down there (pointing to the members of the two teams) probably is paid more than was our entire team. And the crowds nowadays are different. Here there are 50,000. When we played before 5,000 we were performing for an 'enormous throng'."
Below are a few more cards featuring John Harkins.  You will also see the photo of Harkins as an Oriole that was taken from the original 1888 Glass Plate Negative used for one of the cards below.  That negative sold in 2014 for $1,554 at Legendary Auctions.

Here are Harkins' career stats, via Baseball Reference:

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Dodgers Notes from Spring Training: Spring Game 31 / Home Game 15

Throughout Spring Training the Dodgers PR department sends out helpful daily notes from Camelback Ranch, and I am happy to pass them along.  See what they've written below.

Chicago White Sox (9-15-3) at Los Angeles Dodgers (16-8-6)
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 – 1:05 p.m. MT | Camelback Ranch

LHP Carlos Rodon (1-0, 3.65) vs. RHP Joe Wieland (0-0, 1.00)

(Autograph seekers, pic via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2015)

THANK YOU, ARIZONA: The Dodgers finish their home portion of the spring schedule today, officially saying goodbye to their seventh season at Camelback Ranch. So far this spring, Los Angeles is 7-4-3 at home, and 140,925 fans have come through the gates this March. The Dodgers sold out their games on March 13, 14, 19 and 27 and want to thank baseball fans in Arizona and Dodger fans across the country. For the Camelback finale, the Dodgers, who have the National League’s best spring winning percentage at .667, will take on the Chicago White Sox for the fourth and final time this spring. Los Angeles has taken two of three from Chicago thus far, losing the Cactus League opener, 6-4, before coming back to win on March 5 and March 26. Just a friendly reminder, Opening Day at Dodger Stadium against the San Diego Padres is in just six days.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER WIN: The Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale yesterday, 4-2, behind a strong start from left-hander Brett Anderson. Anderson moved to 2-0 in the Cactus League, tossing 6.0 scoreless innings and giving up just four hits while striking out two. The native of Texas walked one and lowered his ERA to 2.13 this spring. As of now, Anderson is slated to start his first game during the regular season on April 10 in Arizona. At the plate, Adrian Gonzalez, Kiké Hernandez, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis produced run-scoring hits.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL: Today, the Dodgers acquired minor league utilityman Elliot Johnson from the Rangers in exchange for cash considerations. Johnson appeared in seven games for the Indians last season and spent most of the season at Triple-A Columbus, hitting .236 with five homers in 87 games. In addition, the club signed right-hander Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal. Garcia pitched last season in Taiwan.  

DONNIE DODGER BASEBALL: On this date in 2011, Don Mattingly recorded his first victory as a Dodger manager, a 2-1 victory over the Giants. That game was also the first-career Opening Day start for Clayton Kershaw, who is set to make his fifth consecutive Opening Day start on April 6 vs. San Diego. Mattingly has a career record of 354-293 and his .547 winning percentage ranks fifth in franchise history among managers with at least 250 games at the helm, trailing just Charlie Dressen (.642), Burt Shotton (.603), Leo Durocher (.567) and Walter Alston (.559).

FOLLOW THE CACTUS LEADERS: The Dodgers have blasted a Major League-leading 45 home runs (four more than the Cubs’ 41) and have a .288 team batting average (3rd, NL) with a .490 slugging percentage (2nd, NL) this spring.
  • Joc Pederson continues to rank among the NL leaders this spring in batting average (.368, 7th), slugging percentage (.754, 3rd), hits (21, T-2nd), runs (13, T-2nd), total bases (43, 2nd) and home runs (6, T-2nd).
  • Justin Turner has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games and is batting .465 with six doubles, three homers and eight RBI, while posting a .489 on-base percentage and a .814 slugging percentage in 17 Cactus League games. Turner’s 20 hits this spring tie for fifth-most in the NL and his 35 total bases rank eighth.
  • Yasiel Puig ranks among the NL’s best this spring in home runs (5, T-4th) and RBI (13, T-7th); Kiké Hernandez places among the league’s best in home runs (5, T-4th) and runs scored (12, T-5th).

ON THE MOUND: RHP Joe Wieland, sporting a 1.00 ERA (1 ER/9.0 IP) in four Cactus League games, will make his first start this spring today. Wieland was optioned to the minor leagues on March 16 and figures to start the season in Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Nevada native was acquired from the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal and is 35-22 with a 3.27 ERA in 95 games (87 starts) during seven minor league seasons with the Rangers and Padres’ organizations.
  • RHP David Aardsma will see action for the ninth time this spring. The veteran reliever has held opposing hitters to a .143 batting average, while striking out nine through 8.0 innings of work.
  • RHP Juan Nicasio is expected to make his eighth appearance, including one start, of the spring this afternoon. Nicasio, who was acquired from Colorado on Nov. 24, 2014, has 11 strikeouts and just two walks in 11.1 innings this spring and has a 2.18 career strikeout-to-walk ratio in four big league seasons (294 SO/135 BB).
  • RHP Sergio Santos has tossed scoreless relief in five of eight appearances this spring, while striking out 10 in 7.2 innings. He last pitched in a big league game on Sunday against the Giants, allowing two runs in 0.2 innings of relief.
  • RHP Yimi Garcia will make his ninth Cactus League appearance today. Garcia allowed his first run of the spring in his last start on Friday against the Giants.
(Joe Wieland, pic via @Dodgers on twitter)

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Welcome to the Blue, Freddy Garcia!

I had always been a big fan of Freddy Garcia.  He developed into an frontline starting pitcher when he first came into the league with the Mariners.  Garcia threw a mid-90's fastball and hard slider that stifled opposing batters.  Heck, everyone wanted him.  In fact, he would eventually be involved in two blockbuster trades that saw him exchanged for top prospects like Michael Morse and Gio Gonzalez.

Then with the Phillies, the wear and tear of throwing seven consecutive 200+ innings finally wore on him.  The wheels fell off.  In 2007, he developed shoulder problems that would eventually lead to labrum surgery and a lost year.  On top of that, Garcia would never be the same pitcher he was before.

Garcia's velocity had diminished significantly, so he had to relearn his craft and change his game.  And that he did with some marginal success.  No longer a strike out specialist, he won 12 games for the White Sox in 2010 and recorded a WAR of 2.3.  Then the following season with the Yankees he won another 12 games with a 3.62 ERA and a WAR of 3.5.  Garcia was learning to locate his pitches and eventually developed a bevy of different pitches to deploy against batters. 

Now at 38 years old he is a journeyman pitcher.  He has bounced around; even playing in Taiwan last season for the EDA Rhinos of the CPBL (the same team Manny Ramirez would play for).

Last night, it was announced through various news sources that the Dodgers have signed Garcia to a minor league contract.  I do not expect him to be a replacement for Ryu - who will begin the season on the DL.  Instead, he'll begin his Dodger career with our AAA club in Oklahoma City, per a tweet from Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:

So he'll provide minor league depth with a possible opportunity to pitch in a pinch in Los Angeles should the need arise.  That being said, I do have a great appreciation for guys who've struggled and fought back to do the thing they love, and I have nothing but praise and well-wishes for Garcia and his future with the Dodgers. 

In celebration of Garcia's arrival to the club I made the above fantasy card for him.  I grabbed a photo tweeted by the CPBL (as a member of the EDA Rhinos) and the 1972 Topps Baseball card design.

Below are the career stats for Freddy Garcia, via Baseball-Reference:

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Blog Kiosk: 3/31/2015 - Dodger Links - MLB15, Gypsy Queen and Yasiel Puig

Guess what officially came out last night. 

MLB 15 is now available in stores and Yasiel Puig was one of the first to get a copy.  He tweeted out the above photo about an hour before the official midnight release.  BTW, Yasiel Puig and Dodger Stadium are featured prominently in the intro to the game.  Check it out directly below.

Video Link:

Below are some links to check out:
  • The Dodger Blogger Softball Tournament is scheduled for April 11th, and there are still spots open for those who want to hit the diamond.  Go here for information.  Unfortunately, I will not be attending.  I do want to point out that the fellow putting it all together at Left Field Pavilion blog, in benefit of the Los Angeles Mission, is doing yeoman's work.
  • Via u/Snaaaaaaaaaake on Reddit, "How to be a dodger fan in 42 easy steps."
42.  This is, the final step. You ready? Cut yourself (metaphorically). See what color you bleed. By now you should bleed dodger blue. It serves as a reminder, both good days and bad, that we're all a dodger inside.
Via Don Mattingly: "I think it's just part of his maturity as a player. Last year was his first full season in the big leagues, and he's still very young [24]. All we look for is him to get a little better every year."
  • Famed Baseball artist Monty Sheldon shared some of the original artwork he created for Topps' 2015 Gypsy Queen set on his Facebook.  Check them out here.  On the right is an Yasiel Puig art/relic card he made that can be found in packs.  (Hat Tip: Sports Card Info)  BTW, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monty Sheldon for this blog a couple of years ago.  You can check that out here.

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