It’s Thursday, and that used to mean randomness was in the air. Perhaps it still is, as The Common Man used the random function of Baseball Reference.com to jump from his previous entry, Joe Smaza, to this September 12 game between the 1964 Dodgers and Mets. The game itself, an 8-0 drubbing by Los Angeles over the hapless New Yorkers, is pretty unremarkable. Pete Richert, who had struggled to establish himself in the Dodgers’ rotation, pitched a two-hit shutout against a terrible lineup that was headlined by someone named Joe Christopher and a 19-year old Ed Kranepool. The uninspiring Al Jackson got pummeled for eight runs, but took his lumps like a man, limping to a complete game loss. The game doesn’t seem all that interesting, but at least the 20,004 Dodgers fans in attendance got to go home with the W.
1964 was a poor year for the Dodgers (80-82), who finished below .500 because Sandy Koufax was limited to 28 starts (in which he had a 1.74 ERA and won 19 games), could not seem to find a serviceable 3rd starter behind Sandy and Big D (who was 18-16 with a 2.14 ERA), Frank Howard and Tommy Davis’s production dipped from MVP-esque (149 and 141 OPS+, respectively) to passable (111 and 110 OPS+) and they employed an old-looking Jim Gilliam (.228/.318/.287) at 3B for 390 PAs, and an overmatched Nate Oliver (.243/.309/.271) at 2B for 357.
The Mets, this being the early ‘60s, were understandably terrible (53-109). In addition to Christopher* and Kranepool (.257/.310/.393), the only offense to speak of on the team came from 2B Ron Hunt (.303/.357/.406) and OF Jim Hickman (.257/.319/.377). The pitching was uniformly bad. Jackson (11-16, 4.26, 83 ERA+) and Jack Fisher (10-17, 4.23, 84 ERA+) competed to see who could be the worst pitcher on a staff that only had one member with an ERA+ over 100 (22 year old reliever Ron Locke, who had a 3.48 ERA in 41 innings, but also walked 22 batters and gave up 7 unearned runs).
The game did feature a great duel of managers, however, as Walter Alston and Casey Stengel (in his second to last season at the helm) faced off. Casey probably slept through most of this one, as he was down 5-0 after the 4th, and he couldn’t have made much difference (by the way, Casey finished with a .503 winning percentage as a manager. His Mets-less percentage, however, was .543. There’s no real wisdom there, as The Common Man is glad Casey was still working, and it’s not like managing the Mets hurt his legacy, and the photos of Casey’s misery as the Mets’ skipper are hilarious. It’s just interesting.)
Unlike the Mets, the Dodgers would get better in a hurry. That winter, Richert was dealt with Frank Howard to the new Washington Senators (where he would win 29 games and make two all star teams in the next two seasons, becoming the 3rd starter the Dodgers wanted, before faltering) for Claude Osteen (who also became the 3rd starter the Dodgers wanted, winning 147 games in nine years). Koufax came back strong, as he famously finished 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA and set the new ML record for strikeouts (which still stands as the NL record). Oliver was replaced by NL Rookie of the Year Jim Lefebvre (.250/.337/.369, 109 OPS+), Gilliam bounced back strong (.280/.374/.384, 121 OPS+) at age 36, and the team produced just enough offense to deal with the losses of Howard and Tommy Davis (who broke his ankle in May) and eke out the NL pennant by two games over the Giants, before edging The Common Man’s beloved Twins in the World Series.
*Christopher himself is kind of interesting, mind you. In ’64, his first year of full time action, he put up a .300/.360/.466 line (and a 134 OPS) and finished with 16 HR and 76 RBI. Christopher never finished with an OBP above .340 again, nor a SLG above .365. He was a true flash in the pan for a terrible team and the first player born in the U.S. Virgin Islands to play in the big leagues.