50 Years in 50 Days: 1971

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 41.

41 Years Ago:
The 1971 Foxes are about to go full GOOSE.

Safe or out?

Team Name: Appleton Foxes
MLB Affiliate: Chicago White Sox
Manager: Joe Sparks (1st Year)
1st Half: 43-19 (1st, North Division)
2nd Half: 36-25 (1st, North Division)
Overall: 79-44

Future MLB Players:
Shortstop Bucky Dent hit .231 with a home run in 83 games
Catcher Brian Downing hit .246 with three home runs in 99 games
Outfielder Sam Ewing hit .363 with eight home runs in 82 games
Pitcher Rich Gossage (18-2, 1.83) with 187 innings pitched over 25 games – 24 starts
Second Baseman Jerry Hairston hit .268 with no homers in 121 games
First Baseman Lamar Johnson hit .269 with 18 homers in 119 games
Catcher Bruce Kimm hit .167 with two homers in 54 games

Category Leaders
Sam Ewing – .363
HR: Lamar Johnson – 18
RBI: Johnson – 97
SB: Ross Sapp & Jerry Hairston – 14
OPS: Ewing – 1.009
WINS: Rich Gossage – 18
ERA: Gossage – 1.83
IP: Gossage – 187
SO: Gossage – 149
SAVES: Gene Koon – 5

Good with the Bad Stat: Stephen Spanich appeared in two games for the Foxes in 1971.  He allowed seven runs on five hits and eight walks in two innings.  He also went 1-for-1 with a walk in two plate appearances for an OBP of 2.000.

He’s NOT Frank Burns Stat: This Larry Linville was a 24 year old outfielder who hit .269 with three homers in 69 games with the Foxes in 1971.  This Larry Linville appeared in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (among other acting roles) in 1971.  He was one year away from debuting as the incompetent surgeon from Fort Wayne, Indiana on a TV show about the Korean War.

Break the Stats Down Stat: Baseball-Reference has “mostly” complete stat categories for 1971.  So, let’s take a look at Sam Ewing’s year for the Foxes.  In 82 games, Ewing had 343 plate appearances (292 At Bats).  He collected 106 hits (23 doubles, four triples, and eight homers).  Ewing scored 49 runs, drove in 56, stole five bases, drew 51 walks, and struck out 57 times.

Four Horsemen Stat:  Dent, Downing, Gossage, and Johnson are all in the Appleton Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 1971 Foxes

1971 or The Year of The Goose:

Goose Gossage closed down the 1984 All-Star Game for the National League. From si.com

I could write about the incredible 1971 season that Richard Gossage had for the Appleton Foxes.  But, Kevin T. Czerwinski beat me to it by four years:

Gossage tossed 15 complete games, including seven shutouts, led the league in ERA, wins and winning percentage and was named the circuit’s Most Valuable Player. Based on that season and his work with Tanner and Sain, Gossage earned an invitation to Major League Spring Training in 1972. Though it would take several more seasons before he’d become known as one of the game’s most feared relievers, it was in 1971 in a tiny Wisconsin town that he began his journey down one of the most dominating paths in baseball history.

“It was just one of those seasons,” Gossage said. “Johnny had shown Chuck Tanner a few things to show me, and Chuck came down and worked with me one day on the side early in the year. It was the first time I had an off-speed pitch to go with my fastball.

“I picked it up immediately and that’s where my career took off. I had certainly thought about a breaking ball before that, but I had never been taught one. He [Sain via Tanner] taught that slurve that was bigger than a slider and not as big as a curve, and it was just a nasty, nasty pitch. That changeup got me to the big leagues. I could not have gone to the big leagues had I not picked it up.”

At one point in the season, Gossage went 15-0 over a 17 game stretch.  That’s ridiculous.  And it was his time  in Appleton that started him on his road to Cooperstown.

1971 MWL Season:
The MWL split into two divisions with five teams in Appleton, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Wisconsin Rapids, & Waterloo in the North and Burlington, Danville, Decatur, Quincy, & Quad Cities in the South.

Clinton became a Tigers affiliate and Danville became a Brewers affiliate for the 1971 season.

1971 MWL All-Star Game:
Danville hosted the MWL All-Stars on July 12, 1971.  The Warriors hosted the game due to a better first half record than the Foxes.  Appleton was 43-19 (.694).  Danville was 42-17 (.712).  In the game, the All-Stars won 5-1 in front of 1,510 fans.  Recognizable Brewers farmhands in the game for Danville were Gorman Thomas and Darrell Porter.  The Foxes were represented by Lamar Johnson, Joe Talley, and Gossage.  Gossage was the starting pitcher for the All-Stars, worked two scoreless innings. (MWLGuide.com boxscore)

1971 MWL Postseason:
The first two tier playoffs for the Midwest League since the Foxes joined the league in 1962.  Appleton won both halves in the North and received a bye into the Championship Series.  Quad Cities beat Danville in a one-game playoff to get into the Finals as the representative from the South division.

Unfortunately, the Foxes lost Game One with Gossage being tagged with the loss.  The Foxes won game two, but Quad Cities picked up the Championship with a victory in Game Three for a win in the best-of-three series.

1971 MWL Alum of Note:
Gorman Thomas (Danville Wariors – .245 with 31 homers and 83RBI in 121 games):

Stormin' Gorman!

There are a lot of great choices from 1971, but in the end, I had to go with Stormin’ Gorman.  In the era of Bambi’s Bombers and Harvey’s Wallbangers, Gorman Thomas was the guy.  I remember an old Sport magazine article about the Brewers and Gorman Thomas was quoted as saying that people wanted to see him hit a home run, run into a wall, or strike out.  Yeah, those Brewers teams had Paul Molitor and Robin Yount.  But, fans of the Brewers seemed to be more upset when Gorman Thomas was traded to Cleveland than they were when Molitor left for Toronto via free agency.

Oh, one more

Phil Garner (Burlington Bees – .278 with 11 homers and 70 RBI in 116 games):

The mustache alone was worth 10 wins a year.

Scrap Iron!

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

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