Stan Bahnsen won 24 for the division champs.
Roy White set the table batting .297 with 21 steals.
Hoyt slammed the door a club record 39 times.
The Gaspee Fire are the 1968 Western Division champions!! After missing the playoffs for six straight years, Gaspee has won its first ever division title. They have also set a franchise record with 101 wins. The Melbourne Beach Mets will provide the competition in Round 1 of the playoffs. The Mets won 102 games but will not have home field advantage because they are a wild card team. Gaspee won 8 of 12 regular season matchups.
1968 was the year of the pitcher. Nowhere was that more evident than in Gaspee. All four starters broke the team record for wins. (Which had been 17 set by Curt Simmons in 1961) The starting rotation of Bill Hands (18), Pat Jarvis (19), Dave McNally (20) and Stan Bahnsen (24) accounted for 81 of the team's 101 wins. The bullpen also performed admirably for the Fire. Wilbur Wood (7-3, 4 sv 1.61 ERA 89.1 IP) got into 54 games and provided a strong lefty presence in relief. Wally Bunker (2-5, 4 sv 2.29 ERA 70.2 IP) was an excellent set up man for closer Hoyt Wilhelm who broke Jarvis' (36 saves in 1966) single season club record for saves with 39. The knuckleballer appeared in 61 games. (4-4, 39 sv 2.52 ERA 78.2 IP). Al Jackson (2-4, 2 sv 3.07 ERA) provided a second left hander out of the pen.
The offense was not as good as it had been in the past but it was adequate. Much of the season the team struggled to replace the output of slugger Harmon Killebrew, who had a subpar year due to nagging injuries. Ken Harrelson led the club with 27 HRs. Jimmy Wynn knocked in 85 to pace the Fire. Roy White had an excellent year in his first full season with the club. He led the club with his .297 average. The mark was also good for fourth in the league. Roy added 9 homers, 43 RBI and 21 steals from his leadoff spot. Part timers Frank Howard (.319,15 HR,49 BI in 238 AB) and Jerry Grote (.305,6 HR, 32 BI in 279 AB) provided spark off the bench. Eight players had 10 or more homeruns. Jim Fregosi may have had the must interesting year. He appeared in 160 games batting .236. He had double figures in doubles (17), triples (13), and homeruns (13). Jim also managed to knock in 57 runs from the eight hole.
Gaspee outhomered opponents (174-125) and outscored them (727-513).
The Hawk leads
Gaspee with 21 HRs.
He also caught 2
innings in a 4-3 win.
Bunker: tossed 5 innings of shutout relief.
It didn't look like it would be a good day for Gaspee. They had lost the day before in the series opener. Starter Bill Hands had given up three runs in the first, including two runs before recording an out. They were playing a very good Indianapolis club. All in all, a very poor start for the Fire.
However, Gaspee didn't give up. Frank Howard homered leading off the fourth. In the sixth, Jerry Grote singled, Frank Howard walked and Grote scored on groundouts by Wynn and Harrelson.
Hands was gone by then but he held the fort after the three run first. Jim Fregosi launched a solo blast with one out in the seventh. With the score now tied, each teams bullpen took over.
Goose-eggs flew for nine innings.
Each team had their chances, Roy White doubled in the tenth moving Duke Sims to third with one out for Gaspee but nothing came of it. Tony Perez hit a one out triple in the eleventh for the 500's, but he was out at the plate trying to score on a groundout. No runner for either team got past first until the sixteenth. By that time, Duke Sims who hit for starting catcher Jerry Grote had been injured, forcing rightfielder Ken Harrelson to catch.
Indy's Felipe Alou led off the sixteenth with a single. After Willie McCovey flew out, Alou stole second. Wally Bunker, who threw five innings of scoreless relief, was now in trouble. He got Tony Perez to fly out. Rico Petrocelli drew a base on balls. Whitey Herzog elected to stay with Bunker and he got Jose Cardenal to pop out. Gaspee went quietly in the bottom of the inning.
Wilbur Wood came out to pitch the seventeenth. He got the Drivers out in order. Jim Fregosi led off and grounded out. Denis Menke, who entered in the double switch in the top half of the seventeenth, doubled to center. Mike Andrews was unable to reach base, bringing seldom used Roger Repoz to the plate. He stepped in the box with two out and a runner on second. He seemed nervous waiting for the pitch. Maloney looked Menke back at second to keep his lead short, then delivered the pitch. It was a changeup that Repoz must have been looking for because he hit a solid single to right, Menke scored easily. Gaspee had won a hard fought game against a quality opponent. A win no one expected sixteen innings ago when Gaspee trailed 3-0.
Grote's solid hitting,
defense holds Gaspee
The Gaspee Fire are 36-24 and lead their division by 3 games. Believe it or not, the play of the team has been called disapointing by some. The pitching staff led by Dave McNally (8-4,2.21), Stan Bahnsen (9-1,3.42) and Hoyt Wilhelm (1-2,17sv,2.52) has been solid. The offense, however, has been shaky at times.
Several players are performing under expectations. Four regulars are hitting .223 or less, Norm Cash (.223,6hr,15rbi), Duke Sims(.220,2hr,13rbi), Jimmy Wynn(.218,5hr,23rbi) and Ken Harrelson (.216,11hr,26rbi). Those who see the glass as half full say that once these guys start to hit, anything is possible. Long time Fire faithful are skeptical, having not been to the playoffs since 1961.
No one disputes that the contributions of bench and platoon players have been a big part of the teams success. Jerry Grote (.307,4hr,18rbi) embodies the toughness and readiness of the Gaspee reserves. Injuries and poor hitting by Sims has opened the door for Grote to play more and he has seized the opportunity. Frank Howard (.364,9hr,24rbi) and Curt Motton(.308,2hr,7rbi) have been excellent when called upon.
There are 102 games left in the season, so anything can happen. If the whole team can "catch" the spirit of Jerry Grote, anything can happen in 1968. Even the most skeptical Fire fan would have to admit that.
Bob Gibson dominated striking out 11 Gaspee batters and Tim McCarver had 2 base hits at Busch Stadium as the North Bend Plague beat the Gaspee Fire in 14 innings 1 to 0. Dave McNally and Bob Gibson each pitched 10 scoreless innings before yielding to relievers.
The score was knotted at zero after thirteen innings. Gaspee had a chance to take the lead in the top of the 14th. Roy White hit a lead off triple. Mike Andrews made his way to the plate and surprised the crowd by laying down a bunt. North Bend wasn't surprised and got White out trying to score. With Andrews on first, Ken Harrelson singled advancing Andrew to third. Ken McMullen and Jimmy Wynn were unable to advance the runners ending the Gaspee 14th.
North Bend won the game in the 14th inning. McCarver tripled. After an out was recorded, Bill White came up and he hit a single making North Bend the victors to the delight of the home town faithful. For the game North Bend out-hit Gaspee 8 to 5.
Al Worthington(1-2) got the win allowing no runs in 1/3 of an inning. Hoyt Wilhelm(0-2) took the loss in relief. He gave up 2 hits and 1 walk in 1 and 1/3 innings.   1-0 classic boxscore
|The Gaspee Fire are 11 and 4 after fifteen games. It would seem a little early to be so excited with their start. However, you have to consider Gaspee won only 11 games in all of April last year (11-13). Frank Howard, unhappy about the platoon role he has been assigned, is taking it out on the rest of the league. He is hitting at a .478 clip with 2 homers and 8 runs batted in, while batting only 23 times. Ken "Hawk" Harrelson leads the team with 3 homers. The club is second in the USRL in hitting at .248 and leads the league with its 11 wins and 2.28 Earned Run Average.
While the hitting has been good, the teams outstanding pitching has led to their excellent start. Dave McNally and Stan Bahnsen each have three wins. McNally leads the team with an 0.60 ERA. Steve Blass and Al Jackson are yet to give up a run in seven combined appearances. Jackson has garnered two victories in his work.
Pat Dobson was selected by the Gaspee Fire today with their first round pick in the 1968 draft. Many thought the team would go for a hitter but with Bobby Bonds and Bill Melton gone in the first five picks, Dobson became the selection. Management hopes that Pat can contribute to the pitching staff for years to come. His future with the team is not certain, however, as the staff is deep for 1968 and expansion lurks after this season.
|Mike Lum is on his way to Rhode Island after being selected with Gaspee's other second round pick (20th overall). Lum almost certainly won't make the 25 man roster this season but is expected to play good defense in the outfield and improve as a hitter over the next few years. Other selections include : Carl Taylor (1b/of), Roger Repoz (of), last years pinch hitter deluxe Al Spangler (of), and left handed reliever Al Jackson. Jackson is expected to make the team as a second lefty out of the pen. Spangler should head north with the big club as a pinch hitter as he did a year ago. Repoz could be the 25th man on the roster as his hitting is a little better than Lum's at this point.|
1967 HR king
|Jimmy Wynn was named the teams Most Outstanding Player for 1967 today. The Toy Cannon led the club (and league) with 47 homers and 128 runs batted in. He also played in 157 games and batted .263. He set career highs in games,at bats,hits,homeruns,runs batted in, and unfortunately strikeouts. The award was expected to go to last years winner Harmon Killebrew in the pre-season but he faltered and Wynn was outstanding.|
32 starts in 1967
Bill Singer was named Pitcher of the Year. He sewed up the honors with his 12-8 record and 3.15 ERA. Singer made thirty-two starts and pitched 208 2/3 innings.
Mike Marshall was named Newcomer of the Year. The selection is sure to be controversial. Marshall was traded at the deadline in a deal that sent Hoyt Wilhelm to Gaspee. The deal was most unpopular with the fans. Mike made 36 appearances covering 46 innings. He had a 3-2 record with 2 saves and a 2.54 ERA.
High hopes surrounded the fine rookie year of Pat Jarvis. Bill Singer was looking good in spring training and hopes soared. The club broke camp and headed north to Rhode Island and never got going. An 11-13 April and 9-19 May crushed the hopes of Gaspee fans. The club rebounded some in June posting a 15-13 mark. The summer heat of July came and the team wilted going 9-19. August and September brought winning records (16-13 and 14-11 respectively) but it was too late.
The teams star Harmon Killebrew managed his worst season as a member of the Fire (.206 BA 34 HR 80 RBI) but again there were signs of improvement. Former first round pick (1963) Jimmy Wynn had a breakout year, leading the USRL in homeruns (47) and RBI (128). 1964 2nd rounder, Bill Singer, posted his best season to date. He took the hill thirty-two times covering 208.33 innings. Bill earned twelve wins (against eight losses) and had a 3.15 ERA.
The Fire faithful clamored for a trade to improve for the future. When the trade finally came, Gaspee fans were ready to revolt when rookie reliever Mike Marshall was traded along with closer Roy Face for veteran High Plains closer Hoyt Wilhelm. Management was roundly criticized as Wilhelm became ill and never took the mound in 1967. Wilhelm is expected to recover fully and take over the closer role in 1968.
The Gaspee fire finished another lackluster season in 1966. The team was in contention to win a division title right up to the last week but finished 3 games off the pace. The Western division has often been weaker than the East but this year it reached alarming proportions. The North Bend Plague took the division despite a 79-83 record.
The teams second straight losing season is expected to cost manager Gene Mauch his job. Mauch was also the teams General Manager. Former Gaspee player Whitey Herzog is expected to take over the reigns as manager. He immediately requested that John Romano join his staff as the bullpen coach. Romano, who had announced his retirement after the teams final game, hit 95 HRs in his Gaspee career. He appeared in 707 games as the starting catcher for the Fire in each of the franchises six seasons in the USRL. His best season was 1961 in which he hit .277 with 21 HRs and 87 RBI. No word on whether Romano accepted the post. No General Manager was named nor were any other coaches.
Star leftfielder Leon Wagner confirmed that he will not be tendered a contract by the team in 1967. "Daddy Wags" had no other comment except to say he was disapointed. Wagner hit 157 homeruns in his six seasons in Gaspee. His best season was 1965, when he hit .304 with 39 HR and 112 RBI. Wagner is the teams all time leader in batting average (.278). He is also second in on base percentage (.335) and slugging percentage (.511). He is third in such important categories as Games,Runs Scored,Hits,Homeruns and RBI. The club left open the possibility of drafting Wagner in the 1967 free agent draft saying, "We still think Leon can play some and obviously he's been one of our better players. However, we have some younger guys that we feel we need to protect from the draft."
Finally, the club announced it will have three annual awards for its players starting this year. The Most Outstanding Player award, for the best positional player, was awarded to Harmon Killebrew. Killebrew hit .278 in 160 games with 42 HR and 109 RBI. The Pitcher of the Year will be awarded annually to the teams best hurler, went to Lee Stange. Lee was 10-9 with a 3.02 ERA in 163.67 innings. He only allowed 140 hits and walked a scant 26. The Newcomer of the Year, which will be awarded to the teams finest rookie, went to Pat Jarvis. Jarvis was named the teams closer in spring training and handled the job. He was 1-4 with 35 saves compiling a 1.98 ERA. In 47 games, Pat threw 54.67 innings allowing 39 hits and 15 walks while striking out 40. He also allowed no homers.
The team is looking forward to the 1967 draft and season, hoping to hit the .500 mark this year and seriously compete for a division title in 1968. The Fire hold the 7th and 10th picks in the first round. The club is thought to want to trade up in the draft but with no GM at the moment its hard to imagine anything on the horizon trade wise.