Sunday, March 8, 2015

Wehmeier, Stu Miller handcuffed Clemente

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too. 

Last time (March 8) I detailed Bob Purkey's effectiveness against Roberto Clemente, limiting him to a .195 average in 94 plate appearances.

This time, I'm going to highlight two other pitchers who, as they used to say in the sports pages, had the Indian sign on the Pirates' slugger.

Like Purkey, both Herm Wehmeier and Stu Miller were principally junk-ball pitchers. Each faced Clemente 40 or more times in their careers.

Wehmeier pitched in the National League for 13 seasons with Cincinnati (1945, 1947-54), Philadelphia (1954-56) and St. Louis (1956-58), before ending his big league days with Detroit for seven games in mid-1958.

His lifetime record was 92-108 with a 4.80 ERA. Over 361 games, major leaguers hit him at a .261 clip. 

Yet, from the time Clemente came into the league in 1955, Wehmeier held him to just a .150 average over 40 plate appearances. Clemente's six hits included a double and a triple, producing five RBIs. Wehmeier never walked Clemente and struck him out 10 times.

Three fun facts about Herm Wehmeier . . . 

  • At the other end of the scale, Wehmeier faced Stan Musial 43 times and The Man hit him at a .500 rate.
  • In 1956, Wehmeier was traded in a five-player deal to St. Louis, against whom he was 0-14 in his career. Coming from the Cardinals to the Phillies in that deal was another Clemente-killer, Stu Miller.
  • Wehmeier died on the witness stand in Federal Court in Dallas on May 21, 1973, at the age 46. He was testifying for the government in an embezzlement case.

Nearly as effective against Clemente was Stu Miller, who passed away Jan. 4 of this year. 

Miller faced Clemente 42 times, giving up seven hits for a .184 mark. Two of Clemente's hits were doubles and he had two RBIs. Miller walked Clemente four times (two were intentional) and fanned him six times.

Miller pitched for 16 seasons in the major leagues. He debuted with the Cardinals in 1952. He was traded to the Phillies in that five-pitcher deal on May 11, 1956. After the 1956 season he was traded to the N.Y. Giants, and moved with them to San Francsico.

After the 1962 season he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He ended his major league career with two games for the Atlanta Braves in 1968.

Miller is best remembered for balking during the first 1961 All-Star Game at Candlestick Park when the wind knocked him off balance (he was a slightly built 5'11", 165 lbs.). He blew the save during his 1.2 IP in relief, but got the win when Clemente singled in the bottom of the 10th inning, driving in the winning tally.

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