Replaying the 1957 American League

Can You Manage?




By Glenn Guzzo


            This story begins the same way as that for the 1957 National League: If you have enjoyed re-living Strat-O-Matic’s past seasons by replaying the champs, but felt a bit guilty about taking the best team, the 1957 season will allow you a guilt-free experience. Both the New York Yankees in the AL and Milwaukee Braves in the NL have rosters that require excellent juggling skills, despite winning their leagues by 8 games each.


With the exception of another exceptional season by Mickey Mantle, the defending Triple Crown champ who was .365-34-94 in 1957, the Yankees are much better collectively than individually.


Offense: Only utility IF supreme Gil McDougald (a 2 at 2B, 3B and SS) had even 500 AB. Other than Mantle, only 1B Bill Skowron (.304-17-88) hit .300 and only C Yogi Berra (.251-24-82) hit 20 HR. And yet, the Yanks led the AL in runs (723), batting (.268), slugging (.409), OPS (.748) and triples (54).


Pitching: Only the Yankees and 7th-place Kansas City have no asterisk starting pitchers. Six New York SPs won more than two-thirds of their decisions and four of them had ERAs below 2.75, but only Tom Sturdivant (16-6, 2.54 in 28 starts) is a pure starter or was allowed to start more than 23 times. This was a hallmark of Yankees GM George Weiss, who did not want to pay what 20-game winners would expect and who offered to cut Mantle’s salary for a .365-34-94 season in 1957 because he did not repeat his 1956 Triple Crown. And yet, the Yankees led the AL in ERA (3.00), and allowed nearly 100 hits fewer than any other team in the majors.


Can you mix-and-match the Yankees talents against opponents as well as Manager Casey Stengel did? You may gain as much appreciation for The Old Professor as you do for the Yankees dynasty.


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Individually, we’ve seen great Ted Williams cards before, but this could be his best. It’s his best power card for sure with automatic homers at 1-4, 1-5 and 1-6 vs. RHP and more power than usual vs. LHP. The .526 on-base average contributes to a 1257 OPS that trails only the 1268 on his 1941 card, which lacked the lefty-righty power balance. And his 420 AB are more than some other impressive-looking cards based on 300-something AB.


            The only blight on Williams’ card is the -13 in the clutch. Somehow, the man who led the league in batting (.388) and was second in homers (38) drove in only 87 runs. That can’t compare with Williams’ clutch production in 1941, 1948, 1954 and 1955.


Over a 15-season span, Williams hit .342 or better 13 times. This was the last of them, as the 38-year-old Splendid Splinter’s .388 denied the batting title to Mantle and the Triple Crown to Washington’s Roy Sievers, who led the American League with 42 HR and 114 RBIs.


Ballparks: Detroit one true power park (19/16, with 14 singles)

CLE (16), KC (15), WAS (16) all favor RH power.


Baltimore (1-7/3) and Chicago (4-6) are pitcher’s parks, though lefty power useless in Washington and righty power goes only to the warning track in Yankee Stadium (1).


New York (98-56, 1st place) The pitchers walk too many (more than any AL team but Cleveland) to have exceptional cards, but it’s a deep staff that collectively should be the league’s best. 6-rated closer Bob Grim isn’t dominant, but he had 19 saves, 12 wins and a 2.63 in a pure relief role that gives the Yankees a clear advantage over most AL teams in that role … A sure sign that this was a down year for AL rookies: The rookie-of-the-year award went to the Yankees’ Tony Kubek, who hit .297-3-39 in a five-position utility role. His defense is needed in LF (2), not in the infield (4) … With McDougald at SS and Kubek in LF, the Yanks field two 1s (RF Hank Bauer and 3B Andy Carey), five 2s and only one 3 (1B Skowron). The arms are especially strong with Mantle and Bauer at -3 and Berra -2 behind the plate.

Playing tip: Because teams will want to use LH hitters in Yankee Stadium, try to get most of Johnny Kucks and Bobby Shantz’ 44 starts at home and most of Don Larsen and Art Ditmar’s 31 starts on the road. Berra’s card, heavy with ballpark diamonds against all pitching, should be used in all home games and in Detroit and Boston.


Chicago (90-64, 2nd place) New York has strong defense, but Chicago’s is even better. Combining fielding ratings with the percentage of the time that each defender plays, the White Sox have the best team defense since SOM starting calculating it that way 16 years ago, says Strat-O-Matic’s past-season researcher, Steve Barkan. The Sox have 1s at SS (Luis Aparicio), 2B (Nellie Fox), C (Sherm Lollar) and LF (Minnie Minoso). And the arms are -2 for Minoso, -4 for CF Larry Doby, -3 for RF Jim Rivera and -3 for Lollar. Off the bench, Jim Landis can match Minoso’s 1(-2) in LF and Doby and Rivera’s 2 in CF and RF. No team made fewer errors.

            Minoso’s latest card underscores his place as one of the finest all-around players of the 1950s, despite being overshadowed in the most outfielder-rich decade (Mantle, Williams, Doby, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Duke Snider, Stan Musial, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Richie Ashburn are all in the Hall of Fame). Minoso’s .310-12-103 season with .408 on-base, a league-best 36 doubles and 18 steals translates into a beautifully balanced card that includes +9 clutch hitting, 1(-2) defense and 1-17 running. Minoso was equally brilliant in 1953, 1954 and 1956, with strong seasons every year from 1952-60.

            Two years before they became known as the Go-Go Sox, these White Sox define small-ball success: Doby and Rivera’s 14 HRs led the team and the Sox were 8th in the AL in slugging. But they led in walks, hit batsmen and on-base average, then ran the bases better than anyone. Running ratings are three 1-17s, two 1-16s, two 1-15s and two 1-14s. Aparicio led the AL in SB (28), while Minoso and Rivera (18 each) were next on the leader board. Only five other AL players had double-figure steals. The Sox more than doubled every other team’s SB totals except Baltimore and succeeded 68 percent of the time compared to the rest of the league’s 51 percent. Result: Chicago trailed only the Mantle- and Williams-driven offenses in runs. The 3-4-5-6 lineup spots all go up nicely in the clutch: 1B Earl Torgeson/Walt Dropo (both +5), Minoso (+9), Doby (+2) and Lollar (+9/+10).

            The Sox pitchers allowed the fewest walks, were second in ERA and had the sterling defense behind them. Billy Pierce (20-12, 3.26, -2 hold), Dick Donovan (16-6, 2.77, 9 endurance) and reliever Gerry Staley (5-1, 2.06, 3-rated closer, -3 hold) are the quality pitchers.

            Playing tip: Let Aparicio (an *19-15) steal 50 or more bases if he can, including 3B. Run asterisk stealers Rivera, Landis and Torgeson when you can. Take more risks to get the extra base on hits. This team will not slug their way to runs, but it can turn walks into extra bases and getting those guys into scoring position lets the Sox use their clutch hitting for extra RBIs.


Boston (82-72, 3rd place) The core starters will carry this team more than most. The role players just aren’t there. The Red Sox’ lineup is a donut hole – solid in the middle and empty all around it. Ted Williams’ great card is backed up by the strong clutch-hitting cards behind him – 1B Dick Gernert (+10), twin 103-RBI men Jackie Jensen (0) and Frank Malzone (+13) and 2B Ted Lepcio/Gene Mauch (both +7). Yet only Williams and Jensen are significantly above the league averages in on-base and slugging …The defense is equally schizophrenic: A trio of 1s (3B Malzone, RF Jensen and CF Jimmy Piersall), plus C Sammy White, a 2(-2)e2, but only 4s at 2B and SS, plus Williams’ 4(+2) … SP Frank Sullivan (14-10, 2.73 w/1 fielding, -3 hold, 8 endurance and A bunting) has the one excellent pitching card. SPs Tom Brewer (16 wins), Mike Fornieles and Willard Nixon can get by, but Ike Delock (3.83, 45 walks and 11 HR in 94 IP) is the best of a very bad lot in the bullpen.

            Playing tip: Keep the SPs in until fatigued. The bullpen won’t help. Sullivan and Brewer have 8 endurance; Nixon and Fornieles 7. Nixon is a 5 hitter and the others can bunt, so they’re not disasters when it’s their turn to bat.


Detroit (78-76, 4th place) – Like Boston, Baltimore and Cleveland – the other .500ish teams in the race for third place – Detroit has win-some, lose-some qualities. Unlike most teams, the Tigers have no sure outs in the lineup, and the great-hitting ballpark (1-14 singles and 1-19/1-16 homers) add to their card production. But there are no hitting stars. OFs Al Kaline (.295-23-90) and LF Charley Maxwell (.276-24-82, .859 OPS) led in the main categories … CF Bill Tuttle, who drove in all of 47 runs (but did it on a .251 average and only 21 extra-base hits) is +6, but the only man on the team who had at least 175 AB who isn’t a disaster in the clutch. Wear dark glasses when you look at this (vs. RHP): SS Harvey Kuenn: -17; 2B Frank Bolling: -15; IF/OF Dave Philley: -13; C Frank House: -10; C Red Wilson: -9; RF Kaline: -9; LF Maxwell: -5; 1B Ray Boone: -4 … The defense has three 1s (Kaline, Tuttle and Bolling), but no 2s. The starters at SS, 3B, 1B and LF are 4s.




            Very uncharacteristically for a Tigers team, the strength of this squad is its pitching. SPs Jim Bunning (20-8, 2.69 in his first full season), Paul Foytack (14-11, 3.14), Duke Maas (10-14, 3.28) and Billy Hoeft (9-11, 3.48) all have decent cards. Lefty hitters take Bunning deep too often and Foytack is too wild, but this is a group that should keep the Tigers in most of their 111 starts. Unfortunately, 35-start Frank Lary has his worst card of workhorse years and the bullpen is useless … The team that yielded the fewest stolen bases in the majors (33) probably owes that to playing in the season’s best offensive park. But the pitchers benefit: None of the Tigers’ 154 starts will have a plus hold on the mound; 122 will have minus holds.

Playing tip: Use Lou Sleater, who homered three times in 20 AB while pitching exclusively in relief, as a pinch-hitter. He’s a 7N. It’s doubtful he’d get his 20 AB in 69 relief IP anyway.


Baltimore (76-76, 5th place) – A pitching staff that got all but 58 IP from pitchers with sub-4.00 ERAs will have to carry this team. Offensively, well, the Orioles sure can bunt.

The team with the fewest homers in the majors (87) and the most sacrifices (110) will be desperate for runs. Lefty-hitting Bob Boyd is a fine No. 2 hitter with his team bests of .318 batting and .388 on-base and he’s one of the team’s five A bunters (there are 5 Bs among the batters, too). But he’s the first baseman who hit only 4 HR and 16 doubles. C Gus Triandos (.254-19-72) and LF Bob Nieman (.276-13-70) are the only Orioles to crack double figures in HR or exceed 55 RBIs. Only 2B Billy Gardner, who tied for the league lead with 36 doubles, hit more than 21.

Other than Nieman’s LF-5(+1), the defense is strong. But the two 1s – SS Willie Miranda and CF Jim Busby – are sure outs in the lineup as well. Miranda’s .194 batting, .204 slugging (only 3 extra-base hits in 314 AB!) and .294 on-base, will have him sacrificing so that SP Ray Moore (a 7N hitter) can try to drive in the run. With -7/-8 clutch to boot, Miranda’s offensive card ranks with the worst of all-time for batters with 300-plus AB. He’s got a pathetic 3 single chances vs. LHP and 5 vs. RHP in the clutch. Busby’s .238 BA, .284 OBA and .323 slugging is better only by comparison. At least Miranda’s a shortstop.

The pitchers, aided by the AL’s most pitcher-friendly ballark (HR 1, SI 1-7/1-3), yielded the fewest HR and the fewest walks per 9 innings, while compiling the league’s third best ERA. Connie Johnson (14-11, 3.20) has the top card, but Billy Loes (12-7, 3.24) is not far behind, Moore is tough vs. righty hitters and Billy O’Dell is tough vs. lefties. There’s help in the bullpen with RHP George Zuverink (10-6, 2.48) and LHP Ken Lehman (8-3, 2.78). But you know the offense is horrible when O’Dell’s 2.69 ERA earned him a 4-10 record.

Playing tip: This team is the best bet to under-perform its record. When in the field, you’ve got to save every run possible. Get the sure outs, but throw for the men at the plate.


Cleveland (76-77, 6th place) – “The Curse of Rocky Colavito” holds that once Cleveland traded their young home run champion for aging singles hitter Harvey Kuenn after the 1959 season, it was all downhill for the Indians. True. But the seeds of destruction were sown in 1957. After a record 111-win season in 1954 and two straight second-place finishes, the Tribe slipped to sub.-500 in ’57. The team had aged seriously and was trying to rebuild around the 23-year-old Colavito, 22-year-old rookie OF Roger Maris and 24-year-old pitching sensation Herb Score. That strategy collapsed in Score’s fifth start of 1957 when Gil McDougald’s line drive rocketed into Score’s eye, ending the 1955 and 1956 major-league strikeout king’s season with an un-carded/computer-only 36 IP, 39 strikeouts and only 18 hits allowed. He was never the same again.

            Maris showed some power and on-base ability (14 HR and 60 walks in 358 AB) and a strong arm (-2), but hit only .235. When he was hitting .225 after 51 games in 1958, he was traded to Kansas City. By 1960, Maris was the AL MVP (for the Yankees), Colavito was on the way to being an All-Star (for Detroit) and Score was barely hanging on in Chicago, seldom used and less-seldom effective. To make matters worse, Cleveland picked up Hoyt Wilhelm very late, used him (effectively) in 2 games, then decided I mid-1958 that the 35-year-old reliever just added more age and shipped him to Baltimore. Wilhelm led the AL in ERA as a starter in 1959, then had ERAs below 2.00 four times while becoming the most consistently excellent reliever in baseball history through 1970. Wilhelm went into the Hall of Fame and the Indians went into a slide that, for 35 more years, would rarely see them emerge from the AL’s second division.

            These ’57 Indians are a mess. The hitters – Colavito (25 HR), LF Gene Woodling (.321-19-78) and 1B Vic Wertz (.282-28-105) – are all 4s defensively. They’ve all got 2-fielding replacements, but then there will be no offense. When Colavito and Woodling are playing, 2-fielding SS Chico Carrasquel is the only fielder better than a 3 who had at least 150 AB. Eleven other catchers and infielders combined for only 34 homers. Meanwhile Tribe batters struck out more than any other AL team.


On the mound, the former Big Three of Bob Lemon (6-11, 4.60), Early Wynn (14-17, 4.31) and Mike Garcia (12-8, 3.75) each gave up more hits than IP. 24-year-old lefty Bud Daley, called up to replace Score, couldn’t – he was 2-8, 4.43, allowing 139 base runners in 87 IP. These four’s control troubles led the Tribe to walk more batters than any other AL pitching staff. The best of the staff is modest enough: Lefty Don Mossi came out of the bullpen, where he was effective for years, and went 11-10, 4.13 for the season after 22 starts. Ray Narleski made 15 starts, had 16 saves (a 6-rated closer) and went 11-5, 3.09, while Cal McLish went 9-7, 2.74 in 7 starts and 144 IP.


Kansas City (59-94, 7th place) – How to win only 59 games: Lead the American League in home runs (166), but finish last in the majors in scoring (563 runs). How? A .295 team on-base average. Five regulars and four reserves have sub-.300 OBAs. Only two players exceeded the league average of .326 (Hector Lopez at .357 and Hal Smith at .328)

The Athletics’ best player is a catcher Smith, whose .303 batting is tops among AL catchers, but who is a 4(+1) behind the plate. Their best fielder is at 1B (Vic Power, a 1). Their best slugger (Gus Zernial) hit .236 and is a LF-5(+2)e16 but his 27 HR and 69 RBI are needed because the only teammate with even 15 HR or 45 RBI is .239-hitting CF Woodie Held (20 HR, 50 RBIs). This is the only team where every regular (and all but two of the seven subs) goes down in the clutch … Still, every regular hit double-figure homers except SS Joe DeMaestri, who had 9.

SOM’s Barkan reports that the Athletics batted their pitchers 8th – except for Mickey McDermott, who batted 7th – until the A’s got Billy Martin in a mid-season trade with the Yankees to replace 2B Billy Hunter, who hit .191-8-29 in half a season and batted 9th. McDermott hit .245-4-7 in 49 AB. He and Alex Kellner are 7N hitters for their 25 starts and Jack Urban is a 5 for 13 starts.

The Athletics have no asterisk pitchers and no pure relievers. Ned Garver (tops among carded pitchers with 23 starts) is the only pure starter. Playing in a home run park (1-15 for righty hitters, 1-6 for lefties), eight of the 10 pitchers have at least 4 diamonds on one side of their cards. Their 59 diamonds overall make this staff the most generous in the league.

Playing tip: Live for the days that the opponent is foolish enough to start a lefty pitcher in Kansas City. In ballpark with 1-15 homers for righty hitters, the A’s can answer with three 8-diamond hitters, and others with 7, 6 and 4 diamonds. Of course, it probably won’t happen: All four of the A’s lefty batters are subs and only Bob Martyn (.267-1-12 in 131 AB) hit above .214. The A’s saw only about 12 percent lefty pitchers for the season.


Washington (55-99, 8th place) – How to finish below Kansas City: Have the league leader in homers and RBIs (Roy Sievers, 42 and 114) and still finish 6th in the league in homers and runs scored. Get ou-homered by 38 – more than twice as bad as the next worst team in the league. And have the slowest team in history. Reserve 1B Julio Becquer’s 3 SB led the team, which stole only 13 all season, a distant 8th in a year when teams didn’t run much. And LF Bob Lemon’s 1-14 is the best running rating on the team.

            The ace of the 10-card pitching staff is 95-IP reliever Bud Byerly, whose 6-6 record makes him the only carded Senator without a losing record and whose 3.13 ERA makes him the only one with a sub-4.00 ERA. His card really is credible. Used carefully, Dick Hyde can retire righty hitters and Tex Clevenger and Evelio Hernandez can get out lefties. Alas, there is no good news for the starting pitchers, which include the league’s only 20-game loser (Chuck Stobbs 8-20, 5.36, 315 base runners in 212 IP), a 17-game loser (Camilo Pascual) and a 16-game loser (Pedro Ramos). Ted Abernathy (2-10, 6.78) has the worst card of them all. Although Pascual was 8-17, 4.10, there are signs of his future success: He has the best IP/H ratio on the team, allowed few HR is a 1 fielder and an A bunter. His shaky control did him in this early in his career.

Most of the time, Washington will start 4s defensively at 2B, LF and RF, no 1s and two 2s (CF, 3B). With three plus-armed catchers, the Senators will be able to hold runners effectively only when Russ Kemmerer is getting his 26 starts. Good thing then: Kemmerer yielded 292 base runners in 176 IP.

Playing tip: Ramos is the team’s big winner with 12, but it’s unclear how he will get them. He’s got only 6 endurance and his major-league-worst 43 homers allowed translates into 8 ballpark diamonds vs. lefty hitters. Those are outs in Washington, where it’s HR 1 for left handed hitters, but there’s the matter of those automatic homers at dice rolls 6-8 and 6-9 and the HR 1-8 at 5-7. So Ramos’ best chance would seem to be against heavily righty lineups in Baltimore and Chicago, where his 3 diamonds against righties are likely outs (in Washington they are HR 1-16). With his good control, Ramos yields only about 21 on-base vs. righties in Baltimore and Chicago.