50 Years in 50 Days: 1968

Fifty years ago, Appleton Professional Baseball joined the Midwest League. As part of 50 Years in 50 Days, Rattler Radio is counting down to April 5 with a look back at each season of Appleton Professional Baseball team since 1962 (with a lot of help from MWLGuide.com and baseball-reference.com). The countdown to Opening Day, 2012 has reached 44.

44 Years Ago:
The 1968 Appleton Foxes went for three straight MWL Pennants.

Cover of the 1968 Appleton Foxes program

FOXES INFORMATION:
Team Name: Appleton Foxes
MLB Affiliate: Chicago White Sox
Manager(s): Gary Johnson (1st year) was replaced by Stan Wasiak (2nd year) after 86 games.
1st Half Record: 26-32 (7th)
2nd Half Record: 31-29 (4th)
Overall Record: 57-61

FUTURE MLB PLAYERS:
Pitcher Ken Frailing (5-3, 3.30ERA) 15 games, 14 starts (3rd season in Appleton)
Outfielder Ken Hottman hit .189 with a homer in 59 games
Pitcher Bart Johnson (3-5, 2.69ERA) 12 games, 10 starts
Catcher Art Kusnyer hit .248 with five homers in 99 games (2ns season in Appleton)
Pitcher Dan Neumeier (0-0, 6.00ERA) in 2 games, 2 starts
Outfielder Scott Northey hit .262 with three homers in 47 games
Second Baseman Rich Severson hit .292 with four homers in 97 games

CATEGORY LEADERS:

Average: Curtis Fontenot – .315
Homers: Fontenot – 16
RBI: N/A
OPS: N/A
SB: N/A

Wins:  Dick Jones – 12
ERA: Steve Kokor  – 3.52
Innings Pitched: Jones – 165
Strikeouts: N/A

Manager Switch Stat:  Wasiak, who had been the Foxes manager in 1966, started the 1968 season managing the Evansville White Sox in the Southern League.  Wasiak was 40-62 with Evansville.  Gary Johnson played in the White Sox system from 1958 to 1967 and became the Foxes manager for 1968.  On July 30, 1968, the White Sox flipped their managers with Johnson going to Evansville and Wasiak returning to Appleton.

Stan the Man Stat: Wasiak went 18-14 in the final 32 games of the 1968 Foxes season.  He was no stranger to Northeastern Wisconsin and not just because he was the Foxes manager in 1966.  Wasiak was a player-manager for the Green Bay entry in the Three-I League in 1959 and 1960.  Wasiak managed in the minor leagues until 1986 and – probably – still holds the record for minor league managerial wins with 2,530.  If you look at Stan’s baseball-reference page, he is noted as King of the Minors!

Welcome Back Stat:  Frailing made one start in 1966 and spent all of 1967 and 1968 with the Foxes.  He was a 5th round pick of the White Sox in the 1966 draft.  In three seasons for the Foxes, he went 9-11 in 31 games (30 starts) and pitched 196 innings.

On, Wisconsin Stat: Oh, by the way, his baseball reference page notes that Frailing is from Wisconsin.

FOXES ALUM OF NOTE: Ken Frailing of Marion, Wisconsin

Marion, Wisconsin native Ken Frailing. From SABR.org

SABR.org has this bio of Frailing that is well worth the read.  I don’t want to take too much out of there so you’ll need to click to learn about the injuries that cut his career short.  But, here is this:

Born in 1948 and raised in Marion, Wisconsin, a town of 1,000 about 120 miles north of Madison, Frailing grew up loving sports, particularly baseball. He came of age in the early 1960s, when baseball was still considered the national pastime. Reflecting on his youthful experiences in a 2001 interview, he remembered that most of the kids he knew had limited choices for entertainment. As a result, they would get together and play ball:

“Baseball was a big deal at Marion High. But considering our cool weather, in a good year we’d get in maybe 20 games. But we also had American Legion ball. There would be nights that we would draw 800 people in a town of 1,000 to a game. I was a pitcher in high school, but I played the outfield, too.”

The former big leaguer was modest. Playing for a high school with 200 students, Frailing, at 6-feet and 190 pounds, became an all-around athlete who starred in the three major team sports of the era, football, basketball, and baseball. He earned all-conference honors in all three sports during his senior year of 1965-66. Speaking in a 2001 interview, John Bartelt, who coached Marion High’s baseball team for 41 years, called Frailing “pleasant, conscientious, hard-working, talented—the type of kid you want to coach.”

Midwest League 1968:
Appleton Foxes, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Cardinals, Clinton Pilots, Decatur Commodores, Dubuque Royals, Quad Cities Angels, Quincy Cubs, Waterloo Hawks, Wisconsin Rapids Twins.

Dubuque switched from the Packers to the Royals.  They also switched their affiliation from the Dodgers to the Royals and a co-op team.

1968 MWL All-Star Game:
The Quad Cities Angels hosted a team of MWL All-Stars on July 8, 1968 because they won the first half title.  The All-Stars won 5-1 (MWL Guide.com boxscore)  Curt Fontenot (1-for-2, RUN, RBI, SB) and Dick Jones (IP, 0H, 0R) were the only Foxes to play in the game.

1968 MWL Postseason:
Quad City beat Decatur 2-1 in a best-of-three championship series.

MWL ALUMNI OF NOTE (Hitting): Carlton Fisk – Waterloo Hawks

Carlton Fisk in Waterloo, 1968. From baseballlibrary.com

Yes. That Carlton Fisk:

Game Six Game Winner in 1975 World Series. From SI.com

Fisk also hit a home run in the 1968 MWL All-Star Game.  As a 20-year-old he hit .338 with 12 homers in 62 games for Waterloo.  He’d make it to the big leagues to stay in 1972 and to Cooperstown in 2000.

MWL ALUM OF NOTE (Pitching): Vida Blue – Burlington Bees

Vida Blue on the Cover of Time Magazine for August 23, 1971

Vida Blue went 8-11 with a 2.49ERA in 24 starts for the Burlington Bees in 1968 at the age of 18.  In 1971, his first full season in the majors, Blue went 24-8 with a 1.82ERA and eight shutouts.  He was an All-Star, the AL Cy Young Award Winner, and the AL MVP in 1971. He spent 17 seasons in the big leagues with Oakland, San Francisco, and Kansas City and won 209 games.  Blue was a 6-time All-Star and got his start in the Midwest League.

Opening Day, 2012 is April 5. Get here soon!

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