Sunday, January 31, 2010

#101 - Expos/Gene Mauch

Card fact: In 1975, Gene Mauch was entering his seventh and final season as the Expos franchise's first manager. This would be his last card appearance as the Expos manager.

What I thought about this card then: Team card. No thoughts.

What I think about this card now: I did not know Evel Knievel was a member of the Expos' organization (middle row, last guy on the right).

Other stuff: Not much to say, so I'll show you the back of the mini card that I pulled in 1975:

Notice that I filled in the boxes rather neatly for a 9-year-old. But that's because I wasn't 9 when I did that. A couple years after the set came out, I went back to my old cards and checked off any player for which I had a card, whether it was from the '75 set or not. So I didn't really have the '75 card for a number of those players back then.

Back facts: You can see the beginnings of progress in the Expos with the listing of Gary Carter, who was in his first year in 1974, and pitcher Steve Rogers. But they didn't achieve a winning record until 1979.

Other blog stuff: Let's see if Topps left out anyone key from the Expos.

Montreal used 41 players in 1974. Topps featured 28 of its players, including two guys airbrushed into their new teams -- Ron Hunt (Cardinals) and Jim Northrup (Orioles).

The most prominent player that wasn't pictured in the 1975 set was probably Larry Parrish. But he was just up from the minors with only 69 at-bats, so collectors wouldn't expect Topps to have a card of him (it was a different world in 1975 as far as rookies).

So the closest thing to a key player being left out is second baseman Jim Cox, who started more games at the position than anyone else for the Expos in 1974. He played in 77 games and had 236 at-bats but didn't get a card. Cox wasn't really considered a starter and played in just 24 more games the rest of his major league career, so Topps might have taken that into account. But that would have been Cox's best opportunity to be on a Topps baseball card. He never appeared on one. (Johngy points out Cox was on one of those 4-in-1 rookie cards in 1974).

Here is where the Expos stack-up with the other teams featured so far:

1. Tigers 78.37% of players featured
2. Royals 70.59%
3. Expos 68.29%
4. Phillies 62.5%

Saturday, January 30, 2010

#100 - Willie Stargell

Card fact: As anyone who collected Topps cards during the the 1970s knows, cards with century numbers -- 100, 200, etc. -- were reserved for the superstars of the day. Topps kind of follows that formula today, but it's not nearly as strict as it was during the '70s and '80s.

What I thought about this card then: I never held it in my grubby, Pop-Rocks-stained hands.

What I think about this card now: "Pops" seems positively svelte here. I'm more accustomed to the late '70s, beefy "Pops."

Other stuff: I loved the Pirates Fam-i-lee teams. I rooted for the team vigorously in 1979. But I hated that Stargell has hit two of the four home runs hit completely out of Dodger Stadium. One off Alan Foster and one off Andy Messermith. Average home run length of the two? 499 1/2 feet.

Stargell died of stroke-related complications at age 61 in 2001.

Back facts: The cartoon doesn't tell you why Billy Meyer or the 1952 Pirates are significant. Meyer managed that 1952 team to a 42-112 record. They were god awful. The thing I find funny is the Pirates have retired Meyer's number.

Other blog stuff: OK, it's time to take inventory after 100 cards. Let's see what's going on in the various categories.

1. COLOR COMBINATIONS

There are 18 color combinations. Orange-brown leads the way on the strength of the Highlights cards, which were the first seven cards of the set. But green-light green has pulled within one thanks to the Stargell card. (By the way, I am not including the All-Stars in the yellow-red category. I'll keep them separate).

Orange-brown: 11
Green-light green: 10
Green-purple: 8
Pink-yellow: 8
Yellow-light blue: 7
Light blue-green: 6
Brown-orange: 5
Orange-yellow: 5
Purple-pink: 5
Yellow-green: 5
Green-yellow: 4
Red-blue: 4
Red-orange: 4
Red-yellow: 4
Yellow-red: 4
Blue-orange: 3
Brown-tan: 3
Tan-light blue: 2

2. POWDER-BLUE UNIFORMS

Thirteen, so far. A lot of Brewers, Royals and Twins.

3. LOOKING UP

Five cards of players contemplating the sky. I would've thought there would have been more.

4. DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY

Only two guys that I thought looked like chicks when I was a youngster. That will definitely change as the set progresses.

5. DECEASED

With the addition of Stargell, 11 players are no longer on this earth. Manager Danny Ozark has also passed.

6. CHAW

Sadly, only one guy (Joe Coleman) featuring a chaw. That is so disappointing.

7. MLB SONS

Five players thus far have had kids who played in the majors, too.

8. ROOKIE CUP/ALL-STARS

One/two

9. MOST POPULAR FIRST NAME

Dave, by a landslide. Eleven players, so far, are named Dave/David.

10. MINIS

Of the first 100 cards, I have 17 in mini form. That's about one-fifth, which is around what I have for the entire set.

OK, enough looking back. Time to move ahead. Next up: a team that doesn't exist anymore.

Friday, January 29, 2010

#99 - Mike Hegan

Card fact: The photo on this card is also used in the Father & Son subset in the 1976 Topps set, pairing up Hegan with his father, Jim, who caught for the Indians.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. But I can't recall thinking much about it.

What I think about this card now: Hegan has a few cool cards, although this isn't one of them. I like his 1972 Topps card a lot, when he's in the batting cage. The first card of his I saw was the '76 card, where he's holding out his first baseman's mitt with the ball in it.

Other stuff: Hegan was a member of the Seattle Pilots and hit the first home run in Pilot franchise history. His claim to fame in the "Ball Four" book is his response to a public relations questionnaire that asked "what's the most difficult part of being a major leaguer." Hegan said, "explaining to your wife why she needs a pencillin shot for your 'kidney infection.'"

Hegan has been an announcer ever since his playing career ended in 1977. He's been the announcer for the Indians on the radio for quite awhile.

(EDIT: Hegan died on Christmas morning, 2013, at age 71).

Back facts: You can see by the stats that Hegan was a lifetime backup, yet he lasted 13 years in the majors and was a member of three World Series teams.

Other blog stuff: Card No. 100 is coming up tomorrow. Every 100 cards I will update where I stand with the various categories I'm tracking. You know, just in case you have no life.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

#98 - Rich Folkers

Card fact: Voted the 1975 card "most likely to be made fun of by card bloggers" in a nationwide poll of collectors in 2007. (Shhh!! I want somebody to think that's a real fact!)

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But I guarantee I would have been suitably horrified if I did.

What I think about this card now: Geez, Topps, put some distance between the camera and the subject, will ya? ... Also, it took me an abnormally long time to get a card of Folkers in respectable shape.

Other stuff: OK, I've had my fun with Mr. Folkers (insert "Meet the Fockers" joke here). The truth is he was a highly coveted pitcher in the late 1960s. The Mets, who had a bit of success with selecting pitchers during that period (see Seaver, Koosman, Matlack), made him their No. 1 pick in 1967.

Folkers had some promising years in the minors, but couldn't continue that success in the majors. He skipped around from the Mets to the Cardinals to the Padres to the Brewers to the Tigers, and was done by 1978.

Back facts: Um, if you get hit in the back of the head with a batted ball, like this cartoon guy, they're calling the paramedics stat.

Other blog stuff: I am tempted to call this color combination the "Cleveland Browns" design.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

#97 - Earl Williams

Card fact: Earl Williams is one of three players in the set with the last name of Williams. The others are Billy Williams and Charlie Williams.

What I thought about this card then: The first Earl Williams card I saw was his 1976 Topps card. I remember liking that card quite a bit.

What I think about this card now: One of those damn photos taken in Yankee Stadium. The only consolation I can take is that at the particular moment that the photo was taken, the Yankees had gone nine years without being in a World Series.

Other stuff: Earl Williams was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1971 on the strength of hitting 33 home runs for the Braves. He was so valued that the Orioles traded Pat Dobson, Roric Henderson, Davey Johnson and Johnny Oates to get him in 1972.

But after two years of declining numbers, he was traded back to the Braves for a guy I've never heard of, Jimmy Freeman. After a continuing decline, his career ended in 1978 with the A's.

Also, for a period in the early 1970s, Williams was the only African-American catcher in the major leagues.

EDIT: Williams died on Jan. 28, 2013.

Back facts: The cartoon drew my attention immediately. I figured that the Red Sox and Yankees alone had broken the time record for a 9-inning game on about 30 occasions. They do hold the current record for a nine-inning game (4 hours, 45 minutes). The Dodgers and Giants still hold the record for the National League, but it's for a game that took place in 2001.

Other blog stuff: I am going to go with the "primary colors" name for this color combination. I can always change the name if something better comes along.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

#96 - Mike Cosgrove

Card fact: This is Mike Cosgrove's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card, but I didn't give it much thought other than that it was so cute (the card, not the guy). But this card horrified me. What a change!

What I think about this card now: I'm not sure where Cosgrove is in relation to the distant basepath and backstop in the background. He may be way out in the outfield somewhere. A perfectly logical place to throw a pitch. Oh, and the grass needs watering.

Other stuff: Cosgrove had a brief four-year career for the Astros. He has just three Topps cards. He was drafted away from the Astros by the Indians in the Rule 5 draft and then was acquired by the Blue Jays through the ominous-sounding "unknown transaction." But he never did play for anyone other than the Astros.

Also, Cardboard Gods did a nice examination of the contrast between Cosgrove's '75 and '76 cards.

Back facts: Topps kind of faked out collectors with the cartoon trivia question. A little cheap, if you ask me. Wearing numbers on baseball uniforms was sporadic until the 1920s and didn't catch on with every single team until the 1930s.

Other blog stuff: Nothing bloggy today. The No. 1 song in the country on this date in 1975 was "Please Mr. Postman" by the Carpenters. Yeah, really.

Monday, January 25, 2010

#95 - John Mayberry

Card fact: OK, I did some digging around. This card marks the third of seven straight Topps cards in which John Mayberry is wearing a powder-blue uniform. Even after he joined the Blue Jays, he was pictured wearing a powder-blue uni on his 1979 card. I hope you will use that information wisely.

What I thought about this card then: No knowledge of it. However, Mayberry's 1976 Topps card was a personal favorite of my friend Jeff's. Jeff had moved to New York from Kansas and was a huge Royals fan. I got to know the Royals quite well during the brief period that I knew him.

What I think about this card now: Mayberry smiles often on his cards. I like that.

Other stuff: People wonder why Yankees fans irk me so much. Well, there are many reasons, but here is one of them:

A long time ago, but still quite awhile after Mayberry had retired, his name came up in a discussion with some people I knew. Some Yankees fan, no doubt relying on his vast baseball knowledge, said, "Oh, yeah, the first baseman for the Yankees."

I don't remember where I was at the time I heard this, but say we were walking down the street. It took everything in my power not to rip the nearby light standard off its concrete moorings and beat him senseless with it while yelling, "You. IDIOT. Mayberry. Played. One. SEASON. For. The. Yankees. In. The. Last. Year. Of. His. Career. And. He. SUCKED. He's. A. Royal. Dammit. A. ROYAL. Got. It?"

Sorry. I just hate it when Yankees fans get all parochial.

Back facts: Notice Mayberry's stats for the Astros. He did not do well, to put it mildly. I read a book as a youngster about Mayberry's struggles with the Astros and how everyone was giving up on him. Then he was traded to the Royals for pitcher Jim York and became a masher.

Other blog stuff: Since so many players in the first 100 cards of the set have had kids who played major league ball, I decided to keep track of it in the labels. Mayberry's son is playing for the Phillies, so I've added Mayberry to the "MLB son" link.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

#94 - Jim Lonborg

Card fact: I have no facts for you. But I do have a guess: I'm going to guess that this card photo features more bats than any other card in the set.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't have it. My first memory of Lonborg is his 1976 Topps card.

What I think about this card now: The man peering out from behind the dugout is a little unsettling.

Other stuff: Lonborg has several interesting cards. I am partial to the 1969 Topps card that advertises Gilbey's Gin in the background. But there is also that hellacious back-to-back airbrushed combo from 1972 and 1973 Topps. Two of the worst airbrushed caps ever.

Of course, Lonborg is most known for his 1967 season with the Red Sox when he went 22-9, and the ensuing skiing injury that damaged his knee and put a major dent in his career. Lonborg retired to Massachusetts after the 1979 season and has been a dentist for years.

Back facts: They couldn't have saved the southpaw question for a left-hander?

Other blog stuff: There were some interesting name ideas for the brown-tan combo. I'm going to mull those over some more.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

#93 - Dave Lopes

Card fact: This is the first card to feature Lopes' trademark mustache. In his '74 card, Lopes has this scruffy thing going. But from the 1975 card until his final card in 1988, that 'stache is there every step of the way.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But when I was a teenager and had some money to blow on cards, I tracked down some of the '75 Topps Dodgers, including this card.

What I think about this card now: I love the photo background. The palm trees are awesome. I don't care where the Dodgers hold spring training now. Long live Vero Beach.

Other stuff: I took a lot of pride in Lopes' stolen base prowess when I was growing up. The Dodgers were a good offensive team in the 1970s, but they were rarely at the peak of the statistical categories. Lopes was the only guy who could get to the top on a consistent basis, winning the stolen base title in back-to-back seasons.

I was especially proud of Lopes' major league record of 38 straight stolen bases without getting caught. And I was not happy when Vince Coleman broke the mark in 1989.

Back facts: Not much to say -- probably because Topps didn't feature a stolen base column on its card backs in the '75 set.

Other blog stuff: Brown and tan is found a lot in fashion, and is also a common color combination for dogs. But for some reason, I think of food when I see this color combo. I don't know why. Everything reminds me of food, I guess. I haven't come up with a name combination yet. But I'll figure it out. (Edit: The Lopes card does not have brown & tan borders but brown & orange borders. The borders on this particular card are faded).

Friday, January 22, 2010

#92 - Cecil Upshaw

Card fact: OK, all together now: This is the final card of Cecil Upshaw issued during his career. Wow, Topps was killing careers left and right with the 1975 set.

What I thought about this card then: I thought Upshaw was wearing a bandage on his chin. The photo annoyed me. Now that I look at it, I think it's just the sun shining on Upshaw's chin.

What I think about this card now: They certainly made Yankees nerdy in the '70s, didn't they? No wonder they didn't win for the first part of the decade.

Other stuff: I wrote about this on my other blog, but accounts of Upshaw's career point to a moment in 1970 when he was with the Braves. While walking down the street with teammates, he was bet that he couldn't leap and touch an overhead awning. Upshaw did touch the awning, but a ring on his pitching hand caught and he tore ligaments in his hand -- derailing his career.

Upshaw died in 1995 of a heart attack.

Back facts: I wasn't aware that Upshaw was 6-foot-6. ... Also, we'll see George Stone later in the set.

Other blog stuff: I haven't shown the mini card next to the regular-sized card for awhile. So, Upshaw gets to do the honors:

Doesn't that make you happy? It does me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

#91 - Dick Green

Card fact: This is the final card of Dick Green issued during his career. I've been saying that a lot lately. And it's particularly sad here because Green's mustache was reaching its glorious peak. Cut down in its prime.

What I thought about this card then: I know I liked this card a lot because of the mustache. But I also liked it because you can't get more BRIGHT than a guy wearing green and gold on a card framed in hot pink and sunburst yellow.

What I think about this card now: When I have a lot of time on my hands (ha!), I should look to see if Oakland's stadium is featured more on the '75 set than any other stadium. I wouldn't be surprised.

Other stuff: Green held the A's record for career home runs by a second baseman until Mark Ellis passed him at the end of this last year.

Also, Green went his entire career, which spanned 12 Topps cards, and never had his name printed in green on his card. How is that possible? His last name is Green, he plays for a club with green in its team colors. This should be a no-brainer.

That's about as close as he got. I counted four times when his name was printed in yellow. But his name isn't "Dick Yellow."

Back facts: It's rare to see a member of the Swingin' A's feature stats all with one team. Most of the guys -- Vida Blue, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace, Rollie Fingers -- took advantage of the early free agency years or were traded off.

Oldie but goodie: There is the original Dick Green card I had at 9 years old. Thirty-five years doesn't diminish the brightness, does it?

Other blog stuff: In 1975, ABC debuted "Welcome Back, Kotter." It was the first sitcom I ever watched. I don't remember the name of my baby-sitter, but I thank her for getting me hooked on mindless half-hour comedies for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

#90 - Rusty Staub

Card fact: This card image got overexposed or something. Staub doesn't really feature quite that rosy of a glow on his card.

What I thought about this card then: I believe one my friends had this card. Almost all of the Mets cards seemed cool to me. The Mets were king in 1975, at least where I lived.

What I think about this card now: Staub is doing a very convincing job of making believe he just hit a titan blast.

Other stuff: This is just Staub's second card since patching up his rift with Topps. After appearing on Topps cards from 1963 through 1971, he disappeared from the set for two years, emerging with a 1974 card. Apparently he would not sign a contract with Topps those two years. I've never heard why.

If you watch the Mets TV broadcasts featuring Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, Rusty Staub gets brought up a lot. There is one story about Rusty's "meat wagon" that I hope I never hear again.

Back facts: Staub could hit everywhere he played. These stats don't include his later stops in Detroit and Texas, but he hit there, too.

Regarding the cartoon and Dark using a black bat -- well, isn't that cute? Dark? Black? Get it? I guess that why he ended up being a manager.

"Daniel Staub" doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Other blog stuff: How about a birthday? On this date in 1975, scrappy, gutty, gritty, (insert overused broadcaster cliche here), David Eckstein was born.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

#89 - Jim Ray

Card fact: This is the final card of Jim Ray issued during his career. That makes two cards in a row for that sad fact.

What I thought about this card then: Did not see it. However, Jim Ray is the subject of the first 1971 Topps card I ever saw. I like the 1971 set a lot, so that is quite the big honor for Mr. Ray, whether he knows it or not.

What I think about this card now: That's a nice view of Oakland's stadium.

Other stuff: So far, there have been just two cards in the set to feature the tan-light blue color combo. And both of them have been Tigers cards.

Back facts: It is a little bit freaky that I am featuring the card of someone named James Frances Ray the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I'm glad his middle name isn't Earl, or I have a feeling someone might confiscate my blog rights.

Also, Ray did not play beyond 1974, so you're looking at his full stats there. This card, according to gcrl, would be a Final Tribute card.

I'm ignoring the cartoon. I suggest you do, too.

Other blog stuff: This could be the color combo that goes without a name the longest. I have no idea what to call it. Tan and light blue? Anybody?

Monday, January 18, 2010

#88 - Tom Egan

Card fact: This is the final card of Tom Egan issued during his career.

What I thought about this card then: This was one of the cards my friend Jennifer had. My lingering memory of the card was how atrocious his batting statistics were.

What I think about this card now: I miss the posed catcher's crouch on card photos. I suppose it's still around, but not nearly as much as it once was.

Other stuff: Egan's claim to fame is that he caught Nolan Ryan's third no-hitter. It was in the final week of the 1974 season. Ryan struck out 15 Twins to win his 22nd game, which was nearly one-third of the wins the Angels had in 1974.

Back facts: Look at those batting averages! Yikes. Do you think Topps put a cartoon about Joe Garagiola -- a famous poor-hitting catcher -- on the back of Egan's card on purpose?

Also, five chances in one inning doesn't speak well of Garagiola does it? I would assume he had an error or two in that inning.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song on this date in 1975 was "Mandy," by Barry Manilow. ... And now I'm instantly sorry I brought that up.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

#87 - George Foster

Card fact: One of three players with the last name of Foster in this set. None are related.

What I thought about this card then: I freakin' loved it. One of my favorite cards from the set. Keep in mind that this is a couple of years before Foster hit 52 home runs in a season. Not a single fan knew that kind of home run explosion was ahead.

But still, I loved this card. There are two reasons why I liked it that are hard to reconcile, except in the mind of a 9-year-old child. The first is that I thought Foster was standing in the desert. Now, it's obvious that he isn't. But that's what I thought. The second is I thought he looked like The Grinch from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Again, I was 9 years old.

What I think about this card now: Foster's a member of the "I'm Badass and You're Not" Club, so it's obvious that I still enjoy this card.

Other stuff: It's very strange that I should like Foster, because until his final season with the White Sox, he never played for a team I liked. I guess that's a testament to his bad-assity.

Back facts: As you can see by his stats, Foster had yet to blossom into the feared home run hitter that he became between 1976 and 1983. He is merely "a valuable ingredient in Reds' outfield alignment." That is a very roundabout way to say "bench player."

Other blog stuff: Players in this set who have birthdays today are Darrell Porter (#52), Denny Doyle (#187) and the always famous Pete LaCock (#494).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

#86 - Joe Lis

Card fact: We have an airbrushed photograph here. Lis is painted into an Indians cap, but he is actually wearing a Twins cap and uniform. He played for the Twins in 1973 and 1974, until he was purchased by the Indians in June of 1974. That's right, the Indians actually WANTED someone who had never hit above .245 at that point.

What I thought about this card then: We hated this card as youngsters. This was one of the cards that would be snuck into a friend or brother's card stack only to have him discover the card and shriek in horror.

I remember my brother being particularly disturbed by this card. I'm not sure if it was Lis' sweaty hair or his abnormally short name. Who knows what goes through the head of an 8-year-old. But he did not like this card.

What I think about the card now: I'm wondering if Topps having to airbrush this card has anything to do with the team order changing. Perhaps it really wasn't the Bill Bonham card's fault. Perhaps it was Joe Lis all along! See? My brother was onto Lis.

Other stuff: Lis filled in for an injured Harmon Killebrew during the 1973 season. That was basically his big break. But he didn't get to capitalize on it for long. He only lasted until the 1977 season, barely played in the majors and ended with a .233 lifetime average.

Back facts: The cartoon misspells teammates as "teammakes."

Other blog stuff: I'm surprised I got this post done. The blogger upload feature was acting very strangely tonight. But I persevered. You're welcome.

Friday, January 15, 2010

#85 - Bill Bonham

Card fact: This is the card that shakes up the team rotation forever. With the exception of the Barry Bonds card, the team order has been the same, from the Red Sox to the Giants. But it goes haywire with the inclusion of this Bonham card.

According to the team order, this card should have been an Indian. But we won't see the Indians card until tomorrow. I don't know why Topps swapped those two teams.

But even after this card and the next card, the team order doesn't revert to its former pattern. It continues to flop around.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it.

What I think about this card now: Well, isn't it obvious? It's a trouble-maker. It's messing with the harmony of the set.

Other stuff: Bonham's hair gets progressively longer from the 1972 set through the 1978 set. Line them all up and it's like your own little cardboard Chia Pet.

Back facts: That is one hellacious gum stain. Perhaps the best one in the set. ... Bonham led the league in losses with 22 in 1974. His stats for the Cubs were not good. Eventually he got traded to the Reds and things improved for a few years.

Other blog stuff: I think I'm going to call this color combo the "primary colors" combination. Red, yellow and blue is just too obvious a combination not to use that name.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

#84 - Enzo Hernandez

Card fact: It's more of a player fact than a card fact, but Mr. Hernandez is the only player in major league history with the first name of "Enzo."

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. Other than that, I didn't think much about it, except I knew Hernandez was a lousy hitter. However, Hernandez holds a proud place in my collecting career. His 1977 Topps card was my first double ever. What a freaky day that was, to be looking at two of the same card for the first time.

What I think about this card now: I never noticed as a kid how many players wore their jersey over their warm-up jacket in card photos. It was practically a way of life in the 1970s.

Other stuff: Hernandez is another one of those shortstops of the '70s who probably never would have had a long major league career if he played today. He barely hit, yet he played in 147 games for the Padres in 1974.

Hernandez actually finished his career with the Dodgers, with four games played in 1978.

EDIT: Hernandez died, reportedly from suicide, on Jan. 13, 2013.

Back facts: Hernandez didn't come close to living up to his idol. But he gets the honor of being the subject of the trivia cartoon. Only the second time that's happened in the set so far.

Other blog stuff: Birthday time: There are three players included in this set that are celebrating birthdays today: Sonny Siebert (#328), Derrel Thomas (#378) and Terry Forster (#137).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

#83 - Jim Merritt

Card fact: This is Jim Merritt's last card of his playing career. It's also the only card of him in which he's wearing a mustache. Just thought you should know.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. This was another one of those cool Rangers cards from my childhood. I think I just liked them because they all seemed like gunslingers, and they were nicknamed the "Rangers." It fit.

What I think about this card then: Merritt looks like he's tilting along with background. Probably trying to keep his balance.

Other stuff: Merritt got a lot of mileage out of a relatively short career. In his first major league season in 1965, he was pitching in the World Series for the Twins. Then, five years later, he was pitching in the Series again for the Reds.

He also had two quality seasons in 1969 and 1970, winning 17 and 20 games respectively. Then he dropped off drastically, going 1-11 in 1971 and barely pitching in 1972. An arm problem that developed during his 20-win season apparently was to blame. Merritt was released by the Rangers the same year his final card appeared.

Back facts: I actually learned the "bunting-with-two-strikes" rule from the back of this baseball card. ... Nice gum stain.

Other blog stuff: I still need a name for this pink-yellow color combo. I'm going with the "Easter colors" combo unless I (or someone else) can think of something cool.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

#82 - Pat Kelly

Card fact: One of three people named Pat Kelly to make the major leagues. I know certain Yankees fans don't believe that there was another person named Pat Kelly besides that semi-sorry excuse for an infielder that played for the Yankees in the mid-1990s. But there was. And this one was better.

What I thought about this card then: I felt a little guilty about having this card. That's because I shoplifted a pack of cards from a drug store in 1975 and this card was in the pack.

What I think about this card now: You are never going to hit a ball anywhere with a follow-through like that.

Other stuff: Kelly probably had his best years with the White Sox, but he had his most success with the Orioles, when he was a role player and helped Baltimore to the World Series in 1979. Kelly died of a heart attack in 2005.

Back facts: Both the Pat Kelly on this card and the Pat Kelly of the Yankees were born in Philadelphia.

Oldie but goodie: There is the original card. The original shop-lifted card. That crease has been in the card for so long that whenever I think of the Pat Kelly card (which is almost every hour, by the way), the card has a crease right through the face.

Other blog stuff: Let's go with another anniversary. On this date in 1975, the Steelers beat the Vikings, 16-6, to win Super Bowl IX. How did we get through the rest of January back then?

Monday, January 11, 2010

#81 - Ron Reed

Card fact: This is the only card in Reed's long career in which he is shown wearing a mustache. It's strange. Before this card, no mustache. After this card, no mustache. I'm starting to wonder whether this is actually Ron Reed.

What I thought about this card then: Well, interestingly, because he is showing a mustache, I thought he was cool. It was a prized card that, nonetheless, was traded away for some '75 minis.

What I think about this card now: Reed is 6-foot-6, but he doesn't look that tall to me in this photo. ... Damn, maybe that really ISN'T Ron Reed.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the dugout scene in the background with the hanging towels and the random bat resting on the bench.

Other stuff: Reed was kind of the Deion Sanders/Bo Jackson of his time -- a guy who could play professionally in two different sports. I don't believe Reed played in the NBA and in the major leagues in the same calendar year, like Sanders and Jackson did, but it's impressive anyway. Reed, a star for Notre Dame, played in the NBA from 1965-67.

My knowledge of the NBA is nil. Did they make NBA trading cards in the '60s? Can you find a Ron Reed NBA card? I might have to research this myself.

Another thing: I once read an article in a magazine that detailed the signing habits of major leaguers of the day. The article said Reed was rather unpleasant. I don't know if that was a fair representation of him, but that stuck with me all this time.

Back facts: Look, Reed is the answer to the trivia question on his own card!

Other blog stuff: I've got nothing, so I'll go with a birthday of an actress I quite like. Amanda Peet is 38 today.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

#80 - Carlton Fisk

Card fact: I do believe that building in the background of this photo is the tallest building you will see in this set or maybe any card set. I'm not sure what it is. Possibly the team hotel?

What I thought about this card then: An instantly awesome card. The yellow-and-red all-star borders made this card extremely desirable. And we didn't see all of the all-star cards in 1975, so the ones we did see -- Fisk, Bench, Rose, Morgan, Cey, Garvey, Campaneris -- were very valuable to us.

What I think about this card now: The serious look that Fisk always seemed to show on his cards made him appear extra cool to us as kids. Now, he just seems cranky.

Other stuff: I am honestly conflicted about my perception of Fisk. On one hand, he was a talented Red Sox player who worked intensely hard his whole career and was one of the best catchers ever. He also seemed to loathe the Yankees. That's a plus. On the other hand, he just seemed so uptight, getting in little feuds all the time. I'm not sure what to make of him.

However, his 12th-inning home run in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series is my first baseball memory, so I could never say I dislike the guy.

Back facts: Did you know the president decides a tie in the commissioner vote? I didn't.

Other blog stuff: Like the Topps all-rookie team, I've decided to list the All-Star team for the AL and the NL, according to the Topps' all-star cards. I'm catching up here, so this is what I have so far:

AL

1B -
2B -
3B - Brooks Robinson
SS -
OF -
OF -
OF -
C - Carlton Fisk
P -

NL

1B -
2B -
3B -
SS -
OF - Hank Aaron
OF -
OF -
C -
P -

Saturday, January 9, 2010

#79 - Gary Matthews

Card fact: This is the last card in the third rotation of teams in the set. Like the first rotation, it began with the Red Sox and ended with the Giants. The fourth rotation will march to its own drummer.

What I thought about this card then: It pains me to say this, but there are too many Giants cards in the 1975 set that I thought were cool. I was such a dumb 9-year-old. But both Matthews and Garry Maddox seemed cool to me, and I liked their '75 cards a lot. I pulled the Matthews card in some packs that we bought at a drug store while vacationing in southwestern New York in the summer of 1975.

What I think about this card now: Well, other than it is a stinkin' Giant, the field is tilted again.

Other stuff: Matthews enjoyed a fine career for the Giants, Braves and Phillies (and one decent year with the Cubs). He was the source of some pain for my favorite team with a home run he hit in the 1983 NLCS.

He's a definite "bad ass" club candidate (his 1981 Topps Traded card is a wee bit scary), and he is the FIFTH guy already in this set to have had a son play major league baseball.

But his 1975 card is quite a come down from his 1974 card:

That's one of the greatest cards from the 1970s right there.

Back facts: I didn't know the origination of the phrase "Texas League hit" or "Texas Leaguer," so I looked it up. Apparently, it came from a player, named Art Sunday, who arrived in Toledo from the Texas League. He hit so many balls that fell just between fielders that the hits began to be called "Texas Leaguers."

Also, I'm not sure what a "free hitter" is. Perhaps they meant "free-swinging hitter"? Matthews did strike out a fair amount.

Other blog stuff: SCANNING IS DONE! All 660 cards in the set are scanned. I went on a marathon scanning session to finish it off. What a relief.