Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Andy Carey, 1931-2011; Don Mueller, 1927-2011
My thanks to David Lippman for informing me of the death of Andy Carey this past December 15 -- I didn't know until tonight.
I was at Old-Timers' Day in 1991, and saw him taking pictures with an old-style 35mm camera. But the last few times I'd seen him, he was in a wheelchair and looked pretty bad.
That was not the case for most of his career. Born on October 18, 1931 -- 2 days before his teammate Mickey Mantle -- in Oakland, California, he was one in a long line of Yankees from the San Francisco Bay Area that stretched back to Tony Lazzeri in 1926, included the great Joe DiMaggio, and continues to CC Sabathia today.
He had "cups of coffee" with the Yankees in 1952 and '53, succeeded Gil McDougald as the starting 3rd baseman in '54 (Gil was moved to shortstop as Yank management cruelly forced out Phil Rizzuto), '55 and '56, was hurt for much of '57, was the starter again in '58, then gave way to Tony Kubek in '59 and was traded in '60 -- and if you're familiar with the late Fifties Yankees, you can probably guess to which team he was traded: The Kansas City Athletics.
He hung on for another couple of years, going to the Chicago White Sox in mid-'61 and finishing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in '62, playing his last major league game at age 30. He never played in the minors after that, and I can find no explanation as to why.
Carey, who wore Number 6 for most of his time with the Yankees, played in 4 straight World Series, 1955 through '58, winning rings in '56 and '58. He is best known for a game in which he made one great play and couldn't make another. In Game 5 of the '56 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the top of the 2nd inning, Jackie Robinson hit a line shot off his glove. Fortunately for the Yankees, it caromed over to McDougald at short, and his throw nipped Robinson oh-so-slightly. (The photo proves the umpire got the call right.) In the top of the 8th, he snared a Gil Hodges liner to further preserve what became Don Larsen's perfect game, still the only no-hitter in World Series history -- and the only postseason no-hitter pitched later than Game 1 of a Division Series. (Thanks for messing up a great distinction, Roy Halladay.)
Oh yeah: Unlike any of the Dodgers, Carey got a hit that day, a single in the bottom of the 6th, and he scored on a Hank Bauer single, combining with Mantle's 4th-inning homer to make the score Yankees 2, Dodgers 0, which remained the final.
Interestingly, when the A's traded him to the White Sox in mid-1961, one of the players they traded with him was Larsen. The A's got some good players, too, outfielder Wes Covington and pitchers Bob Shaw and Gerry Staley. When the Yankees sent him to the A's in the first place, it was one of the many Yanks/A's transactions involving Bob Cerv, who seemed to be the "special relationship" between the teams in a nutshell.
Statistically, Carey's best season was 1958: He batted .286, hit 12 homers with 45 RBIs and an OPS+ of 136 -- not bad at all for a righthanded hitter with only 365 plate appearances in the pre-renovation original Yankee Stadium.
With Carey's death, the only 2 men who played in the perfect game, 55 years and 3 months later, are Larsen and Yogi Berra. None of the Dodgers who got into the game are still alive. Still living but not playing in the game are: Yankees Cerv, Whitey Ford, Jerry Coleman, Johnny Kucks, Norm Siebern, Bob Turley and George Wilson; and Dodgers Don Zimmer, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Roger Craig, Randy Jackson (not the Jackson 5 singer or the American Idol panelist) and Ed Roebuck.
Also dying in the, well, dying days of 2011 was Don Mueller. Born in 1927 in St. Louis, he played for the New York Giants from 1948 to 1957, and was the starting right fielder on their 1951 National League Champions and their 1954 World Champions. Known as "Mandrake the Magician" after a comic-strip character, he was a career .296 hitter, 3 times batting over .300, peaking at .342 in the Jints' '54 title season, leading the NL with 212 hits.
Unfortunately, he's best known not for his great World Championship season or for his magical nickname, but for an injury. In the bottom of the 9th of the Bobby Thomson Game (you know: "The Giants win the Pennant!"), he singled, then was knocked over to 3rd by Whitey Lockman (1926-2009), but broke his ankle sliding into the base, and had to leave the game. Clint Hartung pinch-ran for him and scored when Thomson hit the homer.
His father, Walter Mueller, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1920s. Until the 1980s and the arrivals of Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds, most of the father-son combinations in Major League Baseball had the fathers as the more successful half. The Muellers turned out to be an exception, although Walter did hit a home run in his first major league at-bat. Unfortunately, he spent the Pirates' entire 1925 World Championship season in the minors and was gone from the majors for good before they won the 1927 Pennant.
With Mueller's death, the survivors from that game, now over 60 years ago, are: Giants Willie Mays, Monte Irvin and Alvin Dark; and Dodgers Ralph Branca, Don Newcombe and Andy Pafko. Just 6 left. Giant pitcher George Spencer did not appear in the game, but was on their roster and is also still alive; so are Dodger reserves Carl Erskine, Rocky Bridges, Tommy Brown and Wayne Terwilliger.
Just in the last three years, the following players from that day have died: Giants Mueller, Thomson, Lockman, Hartung, Larry Jansen, Davey Williams, Jack Lohrke and Artie Wilson; and Dodgers Duke Snider, Preacher Roe, Gene Hermanski, Don Thompson, Clyde King, future legendary manager Dick Williams, and Johnny Schmitz, who I (when I covered this game on its October 3, 2011 60th Anniversary) had as still alive, not knowing he'd died 2 days before.