Wynn Packing Cannon On His Spindly Frame
by John Wilson
from The Sporting News, August 26, 1967
(Houston, TEX) Jim Wynn is Houston's Toy Cannon.
No other 168-pounder has ever swung the bat with such power. That is an all-inclusive statement, of course, but if there are any doubts, just go down the list of baseball's home-run hitters.
Wynn's weight stays at a constant 166 to 169 pounds, and he looks even smaller.
He hit one mighty blast over the scoreboard in his home town at Crosley Field. The next day, he hit one even longer, a ball that finally came to rest just short of a freeway 100 yards behind the stadium. It would have made the freeway except that it spent itself going up an embankment the last 40 or 50 feet.
Wynn drove the ball against the scoreboard in St. Louis, one of the first to gain that distinction in the new stadium. He had also been in that select company who had hit the scoreboard in the old stadium. He did that twice.
A Dandy In Pittsburgh
The Toy Cannon has boomed three prodigious shots in the Astrodome this season, one of them a towering, awesome and majestic fly. High fly balls reach the distant fences in the windless Astrodome on the rarest of occasions.
But Wynn's longest this year may be the one he hit at Pittsburgh that left the park almost directly over the 457-foot marker. Pittsburgh club officials and sports writers could remember only one other ball going out of the park at the point, a corner of the stadium so far from home plate that the batting cage is rolled out there during games. A Forbes Field security guard said the ball landed on a playground diamond 50 or 60 feet beyond the fence.
Wynn is making a bid this year for the home run and RBI titles. He made the big move during a blistering hot streak in June, a month where he knocked across 29 runs and hit 11 homers.
But Jim was struggling the last week of July and still trying to find the groove again well into August. He became stuck on 27 home runs after hitting two against the Mets on July 30. It will take another surge if Wynn is to claim one of the titles because some of his competitors will surely hit a streak.
An $8,000 Bargain
That Wynn was in the running for the two titles was unexpected. It is true he has been considered a potential big-run producer since Houston claimed him under the old $8,000 first-year draft rule during the 1962 season. However, he had not previously come close to being in the competition for one of the major championships. It was accepted he had not reached his potential but the big breakthrough wasn't expected this year, particularly because he went to spring training far from recovered from a severely broken wrist.
Wynn's previous best season in home runs and RBIs was 1965, when he knocked in 73 runs and hit 22 homers. He would have beaten that last year if he hadn't run into that fence at Philadelphia which ended his season on August 1st. He had 18 home runs and 62 runs batted in at that time.
Jim probably reached his full potential as a long-range artilleryman during June and July but Manager Grady Hatton and his coaches believe Wynn still has room for improvement in other areas.
For instance, Wynn's batting average has been in the .260s most of the season. Harry Walker, after being hired as a batting instructor by Houston, said Jim should be a .300 hitter without cutting down his home run production. The extra hits would mostly come on the at-bats that are going for strikeouts now (93 in 403 times at bat). But Walker is reluctant to offer Wynn any advice and Hatton was afraid to tamper with a bat that was producing.
James Sherman Wynn is proof that good things can come in small packages. At 5'9" and 165 lbs., the Cincinnati product did amazing feats with a bat that larger men could only dream about. He could run, he could field and he could throw but what he is best remembered for was his ability to hit the ball a long way. The 1967 season would be his most amazing.
At 25 years of age, Wynn was coming into his own with the Houston Astros. He had just seven homers throughout the first two months of the season as his team quickly fell out of pennant contention but what a marvelous summer awaited.
In June, he exploded for 11 homers, including three at the Astrodome on June 15th against the Giants, the first time in Astros history that a player had gone deep three times in one game.
Suddenly, Wynn was in the mix for the league lead in home runs and RBIs. The Astros, in their brief history, had never contended for the top rung in a major offensive category. Between Wynn and teammate Rusty Staub, the Astros now had two that ranked with the best in the business.
On September 9th, Wynn reached two milestones never before achieved by a Houston player. It came at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, normally a chamber of horrors for Houston batters throughout the decade.
Against Claude Osteen, Jimmy broke a scoreless tie when he led off the fourth inning with a drive into the left field seats, a solo homer that put the Astros ahead. As Wynn crossed the plate, he became the first player in team history to drive in 100 runs in a season.
Doug Rader's double keyed a three-run outburst in the sixth that gave Houston a 4-0 edge behind All-Star lefty Mike Cuellar.
Wynn wasn't finished yet. In the eighth, he led off again and slammed a solo shot off Bob Miller for his second homer of the night. With that blast, Jimmy became the first Astro to reach 35 homers in a season.
Wynn's two homers were the margin in the 5-3 triumph over the Dodgers as the Astros built a 1-1/2 game cushion over the bottom-dwelling Mets. The win broke a nine-game losing skid.
The two rockets put Wynn in the lead in the National League home run race. Over the next three games, Jim would belt two more to reach 37 for the year. But the Toy Cannon ran into a slump during the final weeks, finishing second in home runs with 37 behind Hank Aaron's 39 and fourth in RBIs with 107, four less than Orlando Cepeda's 111. Wynn finished 11th in MVP voting behind, among others, St. Louis infielder Julian Javier and three other Cardinals.
Jim Wynn's Houston home run record was not seriously challenged until almost 20 years later when Glenn Davis swatted 31 in 1986 and not broken until 1994 when Jeff Bagwell hit 39. The RBI record lasted 10 years until Bob Watson broke it with 110 in 1977.
Among the Astro galaxy, Jimmy Wynn was proving to be one of its brightest stars, a little man who could power the ball in any park and to any point.
HOU N 0 0 0 1 0 3 0 1 0 - 5 10 0 LA N 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 - 3 10 0
Houston Astros AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Gotay 2b 3 1 1 0 1 0 3 5 Jackson ss 4 1 1 0 0 0 2 3 Wynn cf 4 2 3 2 0 0 3 0 Rader 3b 4 1 1 1 0 1 0 5 Staub rf 4 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 Harrison 1b 4 0 1 1 0 0 9 1 Murrell lf 4 0 3 0 0 1 1 0 Brand c 4 0 0 0 0 0 8 0 Cuellar p 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 Totals 35 5 10 5 1 4 27 14
FIELDING - DP: 3.
BATTING - 2B: Rader (8,off Osteen). HR: Wynn 2 (35,4th inning off Osteen 0 on, 0 out,8th inning off Miller 0 on, 0 out). Team LOB: 4.
Los Angeles Dodgers AB R H RBI BB SO PO A Oliver ss 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 Michael ss 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 Davis cf 4 1 2 0 0 1 2 0 Johnson lf 3 1 2 2 1 0 0 0 Ferrara rf 3 0 2 0 1 1 2 0 Lefebvre 2b 4 0 0 0 0 2 5 5 Parker 1b 4 0 0 0 0 3 14 1 Bailey 3b 4 1 2 1 0 0 0 3 Torborg c 2 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 Campanis ph,c 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 Osteen p 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 Hickman ph 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 Miller p 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Hunt ph 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Totals 33 3 10 3 2 8 27 13
FIELDING - DP: 2.
BATTING - 2B: Osteen (3,off Cuellar). HR: Bailey (4,7th inning off Cuellar 0 on, 0 out); Johnson (10,8th inning off Cuellar 1 on, 0 out). SH: Oliver (2,off Cuellar). Team LOB: 6.
Houston Astros IP H R ER BB SO HR Cuellar W(13-11) 9 10 3 3 2 8 2
Los Angeles Dodgers IP H R ER BB SO HR Osteen L(15-15) 7 9 4 4 1 3 1 Miller 2 1 1 1 0 1 1 Totals 9 10 5 5 1 4 2
Umpires: Lee Weyer, Harry Wendelstedt, Bill Jackowski, Ed Sudol
Time of Game: 2:15 Attendance: 11877
Starting Lineups: Houston Astros Los Angeles Dodgers 1. Gotay 2b Oliver ss 2. Jackson ss Davis cf 3. Wynn cf Johnson lf 4. Rader 3b Ferrara rf 5. Staub rf Lefebvre 2b 6. Harrison 1b Parker 1b 7. Murrell lf Bailey 3b 8. Brand c Torborg c 9. Cuellar p Osteen p ASTROS 1ST: Gotay lined to first; Jackson grounded out (third to first); Wynn singled to right; Rader made an out to right; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Dodgers 0. DODGERS 1ST: Oliver grounded out (second to first); Davis made an out to center; Johnson walked; Ferrara singled to center [Johnson to third]; Lefebvre made an out to left; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 0, Dodgers 0. ASTROS 2ND: Staub grounded out (first unassisted); Harrison grounded out (third to first); Murrell singled to center; Brand grounded out (catcher to first); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Dodgers 0. DODGERS 2ND: Parker struck out; Bailey singled to left; Torborg grounded into a double play (shortstop to second to first) [Bailey out at second]; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 0, Dodgers 0. ASTROS 3RD: Cuellar struck out; Gotay made an out to first; Jackson grounded out (second to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 0, Dodgers 0. DODGERS 3RD: Osteen doubled to left; Oliver out on a sacrifice bunt (first to second) [Osteen to third]; On a bunt Davis singled to third; Johnson grounded into a double play (third to second to first) [Davis out at second]; 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 0, Dodgers 0. ASTROS 4TH: Wynn homered; Rader struck out; Staub was called out on strikes; Harrison made an out to second; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Dodgers 0. DODGERS 4TH: Ferrara walked; Lefebvre struck out; Parker struck out; Bailey grounded out (third to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Astros 1, Dodgers 0. ASTROS 5TH: Murrell singled to left; Brand grounded into a double play (shortstop to second to first) [Murrell out at second]; Cuellar grounded out (first to pitcher); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Dodgers 0. DODGERS 5TH: Torborg singled to center; Osteen forced Torborg (third to shortstop); Oliver grounded into a double play (second to shortstop to first) [Osteen out at second]; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 1, Dodgers 0. ASTROS 6TH: Gotay walked; Jackson singled to catcher [Gotay to second]; Wynn made an out to right; Rader doubled to right [Gotay scored, Jackson to third]; Staub grounded out (first unassisted) [Jackson scored, Rader to third]; Harrison singled to left [Rader scored]; Murrell singled to third [Harrison to second]; Brand made an out to center; 3 R, 4 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 4, Dodgers 0. DODGERS 6TH: Davis struck out; Johnson singled to shortstop; Ferrara singled to center [Johnson to third]; Lefebvre grounded out (third to first) [Ferrara to second]; Parker struck out; 0 R, 2 H, 0 E, 2 LOB. Astros 4, Dodgers 0. ASTROS 7TH: Cuellar grounded out (second to first); Gotay singled to center; Jackson grounded into a double play (third to second to first) [Gotay out at second]; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 4, Dodgers 0. DODGERS 7TH: Bailey homered; CAMPANIS BATTED FOR TORBORG; Campanis made an out to center; HICKMAN BATTED FOR OSTEEN; Hickman struck out; Oliver grounded out (third to first); 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 4, Dodgers 1. ASTROS 8TH: CAMPANIS STAYED IN GAME (PLAYING C ); MILLER REPLACED HICKMAN (PITCHING); Wynn homered; Rader made an out to second; Staub grounded out (second to first); Harrison made an out to center; 1 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Dodgers 1. DODGERS 8TH: Davis singled to center; Johnson homered [Davis scored]; Ferrara struck out; Lefebvre was called out on strikes; Parker made an out to center; 2 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Dodgers 3. ASTROS 9TH: MICHAEL REPLACED OLIVER (PLAYING SS); Murrell struck out (catcher to first); Brand made an out to second; Cuellar grounded out (shortstop to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Dodgers 3. DODGERS 9TH: Bailey grounded out (second to first); Campanis grounded out (shortstop to first); HUNT BATTED FOR MILLER; Hunt made an out to right; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Astros 5, Dodgers 3. Final Totals R H E LOB Astros 5 10 0 4 Dodgers 3 10 0 6
Game data courtesy of Retrosheet