Previously, I looked at the careers of players drafted by Cedric Tallis and the Royals in the 1968 expansion draft who never made much of an impact with the big-league club. In this piece, we’ll look at the careers of players on that 1969 team who were acquired by trade or free agency and never developed into key cogs in the Royals plan. Some of these players were youngsters who never panned out while others were aging veterans looking for one more day in the sun.
A native of Puerto Rico, Alcaraz was signed as an 18-year-old free agent by the Boston Braves in 1959. He appeared in one game that summer for McCook, the Braves Class D team in the now defunct Nebraska State League. Over the winter, the Braves sold Alcaraz to the Los Angeles Dodgers and he spent most of the next ten seasons riding the rickety buses of minor league life while playing in Orlando, Artesia, Salem, Keokuk, Santa Barbara, Albuquerque and Spokane. His persistence paid off and he made his Major League debut for the Dodgers on September 13, 1967 at the age of 26. Alcaraz started the game and collected a single in his first at bat.
Alcaraz got into 17 games that year and 41 more in 1968 before the Dodgers sold him to the Royals. He spent most of the 1969 season in Omaha before the Royals recalled him on September 1st. Kansas City installed him as their starting second baseman and he went two for four in his first game, giving them hope that they’d found a player. Alcaraz hit .253 in those final 22 games which earned him the starting nod at second base when the 1970 season opened. Unfortunately, the Alcaraz magic would not last. By June 7th, he was only hitting .167, which is about what he weighed. The Royals optioned him to Omaha before shipping him to the White Sox before the start of the 1971 season in exchange for another 2nd baseman, Bobby Knoop. Alcaraz never played another game in the majors. The Atlanta Braves picked him up from the White Sox in the Rule 5 draft in November of 1971 before selling him to the Pirates in August of 1972. Alcaraz played in Tucson, Richmond and Charleston, all AAA outposts before joining the Mexican League for the 1973 season. He played in Mexico until the age of 40, before hanging it up for good.
Cisco has led an interesting life. He accomplished more in athletics before the age of 22 than most people do in an entire lifetime. He was a two-sport star at St. Mary’s (OH) High School before attending The Ohio State University, where he was not only a standout baseball player, but also an All-American football player for Woody Hayes and the Buckeyes. Cisco was a captain for the 1957 Buckeye team that won the Rose Bowl and the National Championship.
From that point on, Cisco couldn’t seem to catch a break. He signed with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 1958 season. These were the post-Ted Williams Red Sox and they were not a very good team. Cisco bounced around the Sox’s minor league system with stops in Raleigh, Corning, Allentown, Waterloo, Minneapolis and Seattle before making his major league debut on June 11th, 1961 against the Twins. He appeared in 17 games that season, with 8 starts.
He opened the 1962 season in the Red Sox rotation but after a 4-7 start with a 6.72 ERA, the Sox put him on waivers whereupon he was claimed by the New York Mets. The 1962 Mets were a glorious band of misfits who stumbled and bumbled their way to a 40-120 record under manager Casey Stengel. The Mets didn’t have high expectations for Cisco, but over the next four seasons he was arguably their best pitcher, going 18-43 with a 4.04 ERA for teams that lost an astounding 452 games over four seasons. Mercifully, the Mets released Cisco on June 4, 1966 and he almost immediately re-signed with the Red Sox.
Cisco spent all of 1966 at the AAA level before getting another shot with the Red Sox in 1967. This was the Impossible Dream Sox and Cisco got into 11 games but was left off their post-season roster. Cisco refused to give up and after spending the 1968 season with AAA Louisville, the Sox sold him to the expansion Royals. Cisco got into 15 games for the Royals, all in relief. He spent the 1970 season in Omaha as a player/coach and upon his retirement, immediately became the Royals pitching coach under Bob Lemon.
The soft-spoken Cisco ended with a career record of 26-56, so being a pitcher coach makes sense, right? Cisco seemed to find his calling as a pitching coach, mentoring Steve Busby and Dennis Leonard among others. He also convinced Paul Splittorff to hang in there and not quit the game. As pitching coach of the Toronto Blue Jays from 1990 to 1995, he helped guide the Jays to three consecutive American League East championships and two World Series titles. Cisco retired after the 2000 season and now lives in Ohio.
Jim was the son of Al Campanis, the first Greek player in baseball history, who got a seven-game cup of coffee with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1943, but was best known as the General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he won World Series titles, traded his own son and was one of the first people to cancel himself in a Nightline interview about race.
Jim Campanis had been signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent before the 1962 season. He paid his dues, progressing up the minor league ladder over the next four seasons. He made his debut with the Dodgers on September 20th, 1966, getting one at bat and catching Sandy Koufax for the last two innings of his 25th win. He got into 41 games for the Dodgers in 1967, but only hit .161. He spent most of 1968 at AAA Spokane before his father traded him to the expansion Royals.
Campanis made the opening day roster as a backup catcher and got a pinch hit single and RBI in the Royals inaugural game. Campanis appeared in 30 games for Kansas City in 1969 and 31 more in 1970, hitting .146 over 127 at bats. Campanis then became part of one of the biggest trades in Royals history, as Cedric Tallis sent him, Bob Johnson and Jackie Hernandez to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Bruce Dal Canton, Jerry May and Freddie Patek. Campanis spent the entire 1971 and 1972 seasons in the minors, but he did get six more games for the Pirates late in the season. He played the 1974 season at the Pirates AAA affiliate in Charleston before calling it a career at the age of 30.
Harrison was a native of Abilene, Texas and attended Texas Tech University, where he was a baseball standout for the Red Raiders. He was the first Red Raider to play in the majors and was elected to the Tech athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
After graduating, he was signed by the Houston Colt 45’s as a free agent. He started his career in 1963 at Class A Durham and hit well enough that Houston promoted him to AA San Antonio. He spent all of 1964 at San Antonio and had a monster season, hitting .298 with 40 home runs and 119 RBI.
Harrison spent most of 1965 playing for the Oklahoma City 89’ers, the now named Astro’s AAA affiliate and once again put up significant numbers: .270/.340/.531 with 34 home runs and 105 RBI. This production earned him a late season call-up. He made his major league debut on September 15th, 1965. Harrison started out slowly, but on September 26th, he electrified the hometown crowd when he hit a three-run walk off jack off Bill McCool of the Cincinnati Reds. The Astros thought they had a budding star on their hands and given his minor league production, it’s easy to see why.
Harrison saw action in a career high 119 games in 1966 and hit .256 with 9 home runs. He saw action in another 70 games in 1967 but only hit .243. The Astro’s were heavy with young first basemen during these years which made Harrison expendable. The Astros shipped him to Atlanta in October of 1967 as part of a four-player swap. Harrison spent the entire 1968 season at the Braves AAA affiliate in Richmond, where he once again put up decent numbers: .251 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI.
The expansion Royals, always on the lookout for undervalued assets, picked up Harrison and his world class Elvis sideburns, from the Braves in October of 1968 in a cash transaction.
Harrison was in the lineup Opening Day, playing first base and batting fifth. He stroked a single in the 10th inning for his first Royal hit. A feared power hitter in college and the minors, Harrison could never find the juice in the big leagues. He hit his first Royals home run on May 21st off Cleveland’s Mike Paul. The sweet fielding Harrison split time at first with Mike Fiore and Bob Oliver. Harrison played in 12 games over the ’69 and 1971 seasons, but only hit .219 with five home runs and 39 RBI. Harrison spent all of the 1970 season in Omaha and was given his release after the 1971 season ended. He hooked up with the Texas Rangers, but never again appeared in the big leagues. He played 46 games for the Rangers AAA team in Denver but after hitting .238 with only one home run, he called it quits at the age of 31.
Harrison had a terrific glove at first, handling 2,464 chances with only 22 errors, a sterling .991 fielding percentage.
Of all the players listed here, it’s probably most unfair to list Buck Martinez. After all, he played 8 of his 17 years with the Royals, 361 games to be exact. He’s been a baseball lifer as a player, coach, manager and announcer plus he’s dabbled in Hollywood. He’s had a helluva life.
John Albert “Buck” Martinez was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent in May of 1967, not long after Buck graduated from Elk Grove, California high school. The Houston Astro’s grabbed him from the Phillies in December of 1968 in the Rule 5 draft. Two weeks later, Houston sent him to the fledgling Royals as part of a four-player trade. The timing was perfect for Martinez, as the expansion Royals were looking for players, especially catchers. After only 170 minor league games, Martinez made his major league debut for the Royals on June 18, 1969 at the tender age of 20. He collected his first hit later that day, a fifth inning single off Blue Moon Odom. Ten days later he stroked his first home run, a solo shot off Minnesota’s Dave Boswell. Martinez appeared in 72 games that first season and hit .229.
Martinez was always a defensive master but unfortunately his bat never caught up. During his Kansas City tenure, from 1969 to 1977, Martinez slashed .222/.277/.322 with 15 home runs and 104 RBI over 1,073 plate appearances. He did provide the Royals a competent backstop until Darrel Porter arrived on the scene.
In December of 1977, thinking they were just a good closer away from the World Series, the Royals sent Martinez and Mark Littell to St. Louis in exchange for the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky. Martinez never got a chance to play for the Cardinals. St. Louis sent him to Milwaukee, later the same day, for pitcher George Frazier. Buck played in Milwaukee for three seasons before being shipped to Toronto, where he closed out his career with six more years of service.
Martinez was involved in one of the more memorable home plate collisions in baseball history on July 9th, 1985 when he was steamrolled by the Mariners Phil Bradley. Martinez held onto the ball, but the collision broke his leg. Gorman Thomas, whose base hit to right field started this sequence, tried taking third on the injury. The prone Martinez sailed the throw past third into left field. George Bell alertly fired it home and Martinez, still on the ground and in pain, somehow managed to catch the ball and tag out Thomas, completing one of the more unusual 9-2-7-2 double plays in history. Buck came back to play 81 games for Toronto in 1986, but after hitting only .181, elected to hang up the cleats.
He moved to the broadcast booth in 1987, a position he has held nearly every year since, except for a two-year stint managing the Jays.
Martinez has also authored three books and was associate producer for the 2017 sci-fi film “The Landing”.
Nicholson was one of the more colorful personalities of 1960’s baseball. Nicholson went 6’2, 215 pounds in his playing days, earning the nickname Big Nick, and was reportedly strong as an ox. He once turned off the shower nozzle so tightly after a game that a plumber had to be called in to loosen it.
Nicholson was a St. Louis native who signed with the Baltimore Orioles as an amateur free agent in January of 1958, in what was reportedly one of the largest bonuses ever paid. The Orioles were so impressed by his power (35 home runs and 115 RBI at Class C Aberdeen in 1959) that they promoted him to the big leagues for the 1960 season. He made his debut on May 24th, 1960 as a 20-year-old. He hit his first big league home run on June 25th off Johnny Kucks of the Kansas City Athletics in a game at Municipal. The home runs were infrequent while the strikeouts began to pile up. In fact, over his seven-year career, Nicholson whiffed 573 times in 1,419 at bats, an astounding 40% rate that is still the highest in major league history. His 175 strikeouts in 1963 was a Major League record until Bobby Bonds relieved him of it with his 187-whiff season in 1969.
Big Nick played for the Chicago White Sox from 1963 through the end of the 1965 season and on May 6th, 1964 provided one of the signature moments in old Comiskey Park history when he jacked a pitch from Moe Drabowsky of the Kansas City Athletics over the left field roof and onto the street below, a shot estimated at 573 feet. Nicholson hit three dingers in that double header, another shot off Drabowsky and the third off Aurelio Monteagudo. In a strange coincidence, all three of those players would spend time with the Kansas City Royals.
The expansion Royals purchased Nicholson from the Houston Astros in October of 1968. Big Nick never appeared in a regular season game for Kansas City (though he did get a card in the 1969 Topps set). Instead he spent the season in Omaha, playing in 75 games. He hit .250 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI, but even AAA pitchers found a way to slip the ball by him, as he recorded 75 strikeouts in 250 at bats.
Unfortunately for Nicholson, he was a player ahead of his time. In todays game, which values the home run (and the walk), Nicholson would have made millions. He was a better than average outfielder with a strong arm, recording 10 assists in 1963 and 11 in 1966 in limited action.
Fred Rico was born on July 4, 1944 in the Arizona mining town of Jerome. Jerome has a soft spot in my heart. It’s got kind of a hippie, Grateful Dead vibe. One year in the mid-90s my wife and I were visiting my former college roommate Don, and his wife in Phoenix. We took a day trip to Jerome, where at lunch Don was talking a line of smack about how he could beat me in a footrace. So, we lined it up on the streets of Jerome. A small crowd gathered. Someone said go. Don jumped the gun, but by 40 yards I had caught him and was passing when he pulled up lame with a torn hammy. Good times.
I tell you this because there isn’t a lot to write about Fred Rico. Rico was originally signed by the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 1964 season. Always an excellent glove man, he struggled with the bat and spent the first five plus years of his career bouncing around the Orioles and Royals minor league system. The Royals picked up Rico in the December of 1968 Rule 5 draft. He got into 12 games for Kansas City at the tail end of the 1969 season, which included seven starts. He got 6 hits in his 26 at bats and picked up 9 walks for a sterling .429 OBP. He got a hit in his first major league at-bat, a single off Detroit’s Mike Kilkenny. He handled 31 chances in the field without an error. Nice work by Mr. Rico.
Rico was playing in Omaha in 1970 when he got word that he had been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for aging Cookie Rojas. The trade ended up being one of the most pivotal in the young history of the Royals as Rojas assumed a leadership role with the team and helped infuse a toughness that was needed.
Rico never played another inning in the majors. The Cardinals sent him to Tulsa, where he had a monster season: .296/.387/.494 with 19 home runs and 101 RBI in 139 games. He toiled at the AAA level for the Cardinals, Twins and Pirates from 1971 to 1973 before hanging it up at the age of 28.
Rios, a native of Puerto Rico, was an infielder capable of playing nearly every position. He was an oddity for his day, standing 6’3 and almost 190 lbs. Most middle infielders of the ‘60’s were slight of stature, while the bigger guys played corner outfield or first base.
Rios was originally signed by the New York Mets prior to the 1965 season. By his third season, he had jumped to the AAA-level for the Mets. In December of 1968, the Montreal Expos selected Rios from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft. Before he could ever play a game for Montreal, they sold him to another expansion team, the Royals. Rios made the Royals Opening Day roster and got his first Major League at bat in the second game of the season, collecting an infield single off Minnesota’s Jim Kaat. Rios got into 87 games for the Royals in the summer of 1969 and even hit one home run, a first inning, lead off shot off Washington’s Frank Bertaina in a June 2nd game at Municipal.
As far as middle infielders go, Rios was what we’ve come to expect and gotten used to in Kansas City: .224/.262/.276 with an OPS+ of 51. His fielding wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either, - .959 while spending time at short, second and third.
Rios spent the 1970 season in Omaha and Elmira and never again set foot on a major league field. In September of 1970, the Royals sold him to the Milwaukee Brewers. One thing about Rios, he didn’t quit. He bounced around the minor league systems of Milwaukee, Minnesota, Chicago White Sox and the Yankees until 1974, when he finally said enough at the age of 31.
Interestingly, Rios with service for the Mets, Expos, Royals and Brewers (formally Pilots) very nearly made the complete circuit of expansion teams, only missing the San Diego Padres. In retirement, he returned to his home in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico where he passed away on August 28th, 1995 at the too-young age of 53.
George Spriggs is one player I’ve been looking forward to writing about. I remember getting his 1970 Royals card and wondering “who is this guy?” Turns out, “this guy” has some interesting history. Spriggs was the only alumni of the Negro Leagues to ever play for the Royals.
Spriggs was born May 22, 1937 in Jewell, Maryland, a suburb of the Washington, D.C. area, not far from the Chesapeake Bay. Spriggs graduated from Wiley Bates High School in Annapolis and as a young man signed with the Kansas City Monarchs. After spending two years in Germany with the US Army, Spriggs played for the Detroit Stars of the Negro Leagues. All records indicate his last appearance with the Stars occurred in 1962. The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Spriggs as a free agent prior to the 1963 season. He was assigned to Class A Reno, where he acquitted himself well, hitting .319 with a .452 OBP. Either the Class A pitchers were crazy wild or Spriggs had a pretty decent eye, as he drew 107 walks in 133 games. Of course, he was 26 at the time and would have been more polished than most of his teammates and opponents, having spent time playing better competition in the Negro Leagues.
The Pirate bumped him to AA Ashville for the 1964 season and he responded with the 2nd highest batting average in the league at .322. He also led the Southern League with 33 stolen bases.
He started 1965 at AAA Columbus. He only hit .240 but got a late season callup to the big leagues. He made his debut on September 15, 1966 against the St. Louis Cardinals. He picked up his first hit on September 20th, an 8th inning single against the Mets Carl Willey. 1966 was more of the same, he spent most of the season in Columbus, followed by another late season cup of coffee with the Pirates. Spriggs started 1967 with the Pirates, who used him primarily in a pinch hitting, pinch runner role. He stayed with the big club until late June when he was optioned back to Columbus.
The Boston Red Sox selected Spriggs in the November 1967 Rule 5 draft but returned him to the Pirates when Spriggs didn’t make the Sox roster out of spring training. He spent the entire 1968 season at Columbus and had a fine season, hitting .274 and stealing 46 bases.
The expansion Royals, working to stock their system, purchased his contract from the Pirates in October of 1968. Spriggs opened the 1969 season in Kansas City and saw his first action on April 11th. He collected his first hit as a Royal on April 13th, a 6th inning single off another Negro League alum, John “Blue Moon” Odom. Hitting only .158, the Royals optioned Spriggs to Omaha, where he took out his frustration on AAA pitching, slashing .311/.382/.471.
Spriggs, now 33, again made the Royals Opening Day roster in 1970. Spriggs was hitting .261 in limited action when Kansas City optioned him to Omaha. He once again put up terrific numbers: .301/.374/.500 which were good enough to be named the American Association MVP. The Royals brought him back on August 15th and he stroked his first and only big-league home run on September 21st against the White Sox Joe Horlen in a game played in Chicago.
Spriggs appeared in a career high 51 games in 1970. In March of 1971, the Royals, now flush with younger outfield talent, sold Spriggs to the New York Mets.
Knee injuries limited Spriggs to four games with Tidewater in 1971 and he came back and played 41 more games in the 1972 season at the age of 35. He never again appeared in the major leagues.
In retirement, George returned to his ancestral home in Maryland. There’s a baseball field behind his house. The field has special meaning to George. The field was home to the Chesapeake Twins, now the Tracey Twins, an Independent League team that George was affiliated with. The Twins played on Geno’s field, named for George’s son, who once played in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system. Tragically, Geno died in a car accident. Often, in the beautiful fading summer daylight, just a couple of long home runs from the Chesapeake Bay, you can find George tending to his own Field of Dreams.
Metropolis, Illinois was the hometown of Superman. It was also the hometown of Robert “Hawk” Taylor. Taylor was a can’t miss prospect, who hit .650 his senior year of high school. He picked up the nickname Hawk from being a fan of the movie series “Hawk of the wilderness”.
Just hours after graduating from high school, Taylor signed a deal with the Milwaukee Braves for a reported $119,000 bonus, the richest bonus ever paid to a baseball rookie at the time.
The bonus rules of the day stated that a “bonus baby” like Taylor would have to spend the first two seasons on the big-league roster. The bonus money made Taylor an instant celebrity around Metropolis, where he reportedly had six marriage proposals.
Taylor made his debut on June 9th, 1957 in a game against the Pirates. Those 1957 Braves went on to win the World Series. They had some serious talent: Red Schoendienst, Eddie Matthews, Joe Adcock, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette and a young Hank Aaron. Taylor got into seven games, primarily as a pinch runner. Of the World Series win, Taylor said, “Right out of high school, I was rubbing elbows with a team that had four Hall of Famers. Guys that I had posted on my bedroom wall. It was just a dream come true.”
The bonus rule was rescinded in 1958 and the Braves immediately sent Taylor to Class B Cedar Rapids for seasoning. In 1959 he joined the Atlanta Crackers and as a 20-year-old, had a terrific season, hitting .297. By 1960, he was in AAA at Louisville and in 1961 he was back in Milwaukee. A stint in the Army limited him to 20 games in both 1961 and 1962.
Taylor got off to a hot start in 1963 and looked like he was ready to cash in on his immense potential when a freak injury sidelined him. Late in spring training, playing third base, Taylor took a hard grounder off the shoulder, breaking his collarbone. The injury was slow to heal and the lingering effects limited him to just 16 games.
In the off-season Taylor’s contract was sold to the New York Mets. Taylor played in New York for four seasons, reaching a career high in games (92) during the 1964 season. In July of 1967, the Mets sent Taylor to the California Angels in a trade. He remained an Angel until the expansion Royals plucked him off the Angels roster in the 1968 rule 5 draft.
Taylor platooned for the Royals in 1969 and 1970, appearing in 121 games and served as a valuable utility man, getting reps in right and left field, at catcher and first base.
Taylor was an early star for the Royals. On Sunday April 20th, 1969 in front of 31,872 fans at Municipal, the Royals were trailing the Oakland A’s 5-4. Taylor came to the plate and greeted reliever Lew Krausse with a three-run shot into the left field stands. The blow gave the Royals a 7-5 victory over the despised A’s.
Taylor did it again barely two weeks later, this time in Detroit with the big blow being a two-out ninth inning three run jack off Dick Radatz, which gave the young Royals a 7-6 victory.
Taylor had one more big game that summer: July 20, 1969 – the moon landing game. In the first game of a doubleheader in Chicago, Taylor went 3 for 4 with a walk and drove home five runs leading the Royals to an 8 to 6 victory. Part of Taylor’s outburst was a three-run dinger off Gary Peters. The game was stopped in the middle of the 7th inning when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon and the organist played “America the beautiful” while the scoreboard shot off fireworks.
Taylor hit three home runs in 1969 and each of them was memorable.
Taylor appeared in 57 games in 1970 but couldn’t recapture the magic of 1969. In fact, the home run off Peters was the final home run of his big-league career. What a day to hit it on.
In February of 1971, the Royals traded Hawk to the Red Sox for pitcher Billy McCool. Taylor spent part of 1971 at the Sox AAA affiliate in Louisville begore he retired at the age of 32.
McCool? He appeared in 16 games for Omaha before being released. He too retired after the 1971 season. Taylor closed his career by playing in three different decades.
In retirement, the genial Taylor coached high school and college baseball. He battled health problems for many years, before passing away in 2012 at the age of 73.
Dave Wickersham holds the distinction of being just one of four players to play for both the Kansas City Athletics and the Kansas City Royals. At the time of this writing, he was also the oldest living Royal, at the age of 84.
Wickersham, an Erie, PA native, played college ball at Ohio University. The Pittsburgh Pirates signed him to a contract prior to the 1955 season. He knocked around the Pirates minor league system for five seasons before the Athletics selected him in the 1959 minor league draft.
He made his major league debut with the Athletics on September 18th against the Indians and pitched in relief five times that season.
He split the 1961 season between the Athletics and their AA affiliate, the Shreveport Sports. He was up to the Athletics for good in the 1962 season and had a terrific summer, appearing in 30 games and going 11-4. The .733-win percentage was tops in the American League.
He appeared in 38 games for Kansas City in 1963, which included 34 starts. His record dropped to 12-15, which is understandable as those Athletics lost 89 games and finished 8th in the American League.
In November of 1963, Kansas City shipped Wickersham to Detroit in a blockbuster five player deal that brought slugging Rocky Colavito to the Athletics. This was in Charlie Finley’s “home run” phase.
As it so often happened, Wickersham blossomed in Detroit. He appeared in 40 games, got 36 starts and threw 254 innings while putting up a career best 19-12 record and picked up some MVP votes. He lost a chance at 20 wins when he was ejected from a game late in the season that the Tigers eventually won. The umpire who gave Wickersham the boot, Bill Valentine, later regretted the ejection.
Wickersham put up four solid seasons in Motown, going 40-34 with a 3.40 ERA from 1964 to 1967. In November of 1967, the Tigers traded Wickersham back to the Pirates for a young pitcher named Dennis Ribant, who coincidently also ended up in Kansas City. Ribant had a rough go, getting traded six times and sold another three times in a six-year career. Wickersham appeared in 11 games for the Pirates in 1968, which had to be tough as his former Detroit teammates went to the World Series.
In October of 1968, the expansion Royals purchased Wickersham from the Pirates. He made his first appearance on opening day and threw five innings of four hit relief to keep the Royals in the game against the Twins, which they eventually won in 12 innings. Moe Drabowsky got that win, but Wickersham deserved it.
Wickersham appeared in 34 games, all in relief before being optioned to Omaha in early August. After the season ended, the Royals traded Wickersham to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Ron Tompkins. Wickersham never appeared in a game for Atlanta, and retired at the age of
Tompkins, coincidently, had made his major league debut with the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, appearing in five games. The Royals shipped him back to Atlanta before the 1970 season. He spent the next five years in the minors before reappearing with the Chicago Cubs for the 1971 season, in which he appeared in 35 games. He never threw another major league inning after that.
For Wickersham, his ten-year career total was 283 games, 1,123 innings pitched and a 68-57 lifetime mark with a 3.66 ERA. Not bad at all.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Zachary was a solidly built (6’2 205 lbs.) pitcher from Knoxville, Tennessee who signed with the Houston Colt 45’s after graduating from high school. Enamored by his fastball, which was described as “imposing”, Houston had Zachary skip the minors. His first game as a professional, at any level, came on April 11th, 1963 against the San Francisco Giants. The 19-year-old Zachary entered the game in the top 9th, with the Colt 45’s trailing 4 to 1. The first batter he faced was Willie Mays. He walked Mays. The second batter he faced was Willie McCovey. McCovey laced a hard single to right. The third batter he faced was Orlando Cepeda. Understand, in those days Cepeda was a beast. Only 25, Cepeda was already on his way to his fifth all-star appearance and had finished 2nd in the 1961 MVP vote. Who knows what Zachary threw? Probably a fastball. Cepeda didn’t miss many fastballs in those days and he didn’t miss this one, depositing it deep into the left field bleachers at Colt Stadium. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. Manager Harry Craft stuck with Zachary, and he got the next three batters to end the inning. Who knows what kind of psychological damage that did to Zachary? Facing Mays, McCovey and Cepeda as your first three batters as a 19-year-old? Wow.
Zachary’s best outing of the year came on September 15th when he pitched six innings of scoreless relief against the Mets, only allowing three hits.
From 1964 to 1967, Zachary shuttled between Houston and AAA Oklahoma City. He spent the entire 1968 season in Oklahoma City, battling arm troubles. In October of 1968, the expansion Royals, always on the lookout for reclamation projects, purchased Zachary from Houston.
Zachary spent most of 1969 in Omaha, appearing in 20 games and posting an 11-6 record. That earned him a callup to Kansas City. He made his Royal debut August 2nd in a game against Cleveland at Municipal. He gave up five hits and four runs in four innings of work. He appeared in 8 games but was largely ineffective, sporting an ERA of 7.85.
Zachary stated the 1970 season in Omaha. On July 1st, the Royals traded him to St. Louis for aging reliever Ted Abernathy, which was a good swap for the Royals.
Zachary pitched in 23 games for St. Louis before being traded to Detroit. Detroit later swapped him to the Pirates, who in turn later flipped him to the Phillies. His last major league appearance came on September 29th, 1973 when he threw two scoreless innings against the Montreal Expos. He got the last batter he faced, Larry Lintz, on a strikeout. Not a bad way to finish your career.
Zachary did get one appearance in the postseason, with the 1972 Tigers in the ALCS against Oakland. Zachary came on in the 5th inning in relief of Woody Fryman and faced Joe Rudi. He promptly uncorked a wild pitch, allowing a run to score, before walking Rudi. And that was it. Zachary spent all of 1974 at AAA Toledo and after the season ended, called it quits at the age of 30.
The stoic and humble Zachary had once described himself as “a pretty decent 10th man on a 10-man staff.” Upon retirement, he returned to his native Knoxville, where unfortunately he died young from cancer, in April of 2003 at the age of 59.