Monday, October 19, 2009

#4 - '74 Highlights, Al Kaline

Card fact: This is the last card of Al Kaline issued during his playing career. Topps did not issue a separate card of Kaline in the '75 set. I'm not alone in wondering how Topps goes about deciding whether a player at the end of his career gets a card the following year. Does it depend on when the player announces his retirement? I don't know when Kaline did that. I do know that in 1974 he had a fine season. He played in 147 games, had 146 hits at age 39. It wasn't like he was in decline, although his '73 season was probably his worst (he did have injury issues throughout his career). He also ended one home run short of 400.

But maybe it's best he retired when he did. The 1975 Tigers team was atrocious.

What I thought about this card then: OK, we finally have a card that I saw a lot of as a kid. My brother had this card. I remember thinking how old this dude Kaline looked. Kaline was probably just shy of 40 when the photo was taken, but to a 9-year-old, that's pretty damn old. Also, I thought he had an old person's teeth. I remember that vividly. Poor Kaline. All throughout his career, he was considered the boy wonder -- making the major leagues at 18 years old -- and the only thing some dufus boy in upstate New York thought was that Kaline was an ancient dude with bad teeth.

What I think about this card now: What a young-looking fellow that Kaline is! He has such a nice smile.

Other stuff: The guy was known as "Six" throughout his career. Couldn't Topps have given him the No. 6 for his last card? I guess only the great and powerful Mantle deserves that treatment.

Back facts: It's pretty cool that one of Baltimore's most famous native athletes recorded his 3,000th career hit in Baltimore.

Other blog stuff: I upgraded several 1975 Topps cards at the card show this weekend. So that's about 15 or 20 fewer scruffy cards you have to view!


Kevin said...

When I visited the Sports Legends Museum next door to Camden Yards last winter, I got to see one of Kaline's youth team jerseys. Pretty cool!

CaptKirk42 said...

Ah that was one of my first '75 cards I remember having. I'd have to search through some of my boxes or maybe binders to see if I still have it.

Keep up the good work on this archiving of one of the most memorable baseball card sets.

Jim from Downingtown said...

The only card I remember as a 'retirement card' back in the late 60s/early 70s was Mickey Mantle's 1969 card. He retired during spring training 1969. Topps already has his card setup, they just added a note about his retirement.

(Jim Piersall's 1967 card has a similar note, but he DID play a little in early 1967.)

(Visit my new 1966 Topps blog!)

Brian said...

I didn't know who Kaline was until a neighbor gave my best friend an Al Kaline Model Bat somewhere along around '82. Then we looked him up and were properly impressed with his resume.