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#45 Milt Pappas

08/31/2009

45 Milt Pappas45 Milt Pappas back

Although Pappas was only 25 years old at the time of this card, he was already a six-year veteran of the big leagues. That’s why this is considered just a common card, and it is very abundant since it’s from the first series. A NM example lists for $8 in SMR. Mine is solidly in the EX range, and with better centering would probably grade out as EX-MT.

Milt Pappas was a pretty good pitcher for a long time. He debuted at age 18 in 1957 with the Orioles, and pitched his first full season in 1958. Pappas made at least 23 starts every year between 1959 and 1973, and was a key part of the 1962 and 1965 AL All-Star teams. He started the 1965 game.

A player like Pappas would never exist in today’s game. He was promoted from the minors after only three games and never went back. He was signed by Baltimore on the suggestion of Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser, who had seen Pappas throw in high school in Detroit.

Over his 17-year career, Pappas posted a 209-164 record and a 3.40 ERA. His stats compare favorably to Hall of Famers Don Drysdale and Catfish Hunter, but Pappas never had any dominant seasons on which to build a case for the HOF. His best year was probably 1972, when he was 17-7 with a 2.77 ERA (137 ERA+) for the Cubs. He also threw a no-hitter that year, which was the most recent Cubs no-hitter until Carlos Zambrano did it last year.

Pappas spent the first nine years of his career with the O’s, and while they had some good years there, they never won the American League pennant. He was traded after the 1965 season, along with Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson, to the Reds in exchange for superstar Frank Robinson. Robinson promptly had the best year of his HOF career in 1966, and Baltimore went on to win the World Series.

Pappas was a bit of a dud with the Reds, partly because the fans in Cincinnati never embraced him. He had the worst ERA of his career in 1966, and while he was better in 1967, the Reds decided to trade him to Atlanta in 1968 (although that was largely because he butted heads with management and Reds legend Joe Nuxhall). He spent parts of three years in Atlanta before heading to Chicago, where he pitched until he retired at the age of 34.

Pappas pitched in the postseason just once — the 1969 NLCS with the Braves. His legacy is unfortunately tarnished by being part of the lopsided trade for Robinson, which is widely considered to be one of the worst transactions of all time. But for close to two decades, Pappas was a reliable arm who posted above-average numbers.

Pappas, however, did have a reputation as being a bit difficult to get along with. Leo Durocher, who managed him in Chicago, said that Pappas was a “cancer” on the team despite being a good pitcher. Nuxhall claimed that Pappas didn’t give a full effort and skipped starts when he wasn’t really hurt. Some 35 years after Pappas’ no-hitter, umpire Bruce Froemming was still the subject of verbal attacks from Pappas. Pappas was one out from a perfect game that day, but walked the 27th batter on a 3-2 pitch. To this day, Pappas is enraged that Froemming didn’t call the last pitch a strike, saying that it was much too close to call a ball to end a perfect game bid.

Pappas also endured some personal tragedy after his career. His wife disappeared in 1982, and it was later assumed that she was murdered by a satanic group. Five years later, however, her car was found in a lake near their home, with her inside. She apparently drove into the lake and drowned.

Pappas is currently 70 years old and is said to be living in Illinois.

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