Friday, December 23, 2011
Vintage Fridays: Mike Blyzka, 1954 Topps #152
1. He was actually born Michael Bliska, according to Baseball Reference. I don't know why or when the name change came about. If his family joined the witness relocation program, they were probably too subtle about it.
2. His birthplace was Hamtramck, MI, an oddly-named locale five miles north of Detroit. Four other Hamtramckers (Hamtramckites?) have played in the major leagues, the most recent being 1970s-1980s journeyman catcher Bill Nahorodny.
3. Mike, like many players of his era, served in the U.S. military during the Korean War. This explains the gap in his playing career from 1951-1952.
4. He debuted with the Browns in 1953 at age 24, going 2-6 with a 6.39 ERA in 33 games (including 9 starts). His totals of 56 walks and just 23 strikeouts indicates that his record was well-earned.
5. Blyzka followed the team to Baltimore in 1954, and made 37 appearances out of the bullpen. He had a 1-5 record, a single save, and a 4.69 ERA. With 51 walks and 35 strikeouts, he still wasn't fooling many batters.
6. His lone win as an Oriole came on June 8, 1954, when he relieved Bob Chakales in the seventh inning of a 3-3 game at Fenway Park and allowed a run on 5 hits over the final 3 innings. The O's bats boosted him with a pair of runs in each of the final two innings. He also singled off of future Oriole Hal "Skinny" Brown in the ninth inning for one of his two career hits.
7. After the 1954 season was through, the Birds sent Blyzka to the Yankees as part of the massive 17-player trade that delivered Gus Triandos, Gene Woodling, and Willy Miranda to Baltimore and Bob Turley and Don Larsen to the Bronx. Mike spent the next two seasons in the Yankee organization without getting the call back to the majors, and finished his pro baseball career with the Giants' AAA Minneapolis club in 1957.
8. His minor league record was 63-60 with a 4.18 ERA.
9. He lived in Denver for some time, and spent the last 32 years of his life in Cheyenne, WY. For several years he was the manager and bartender of a VFW post in the area.