Thursday, July 29, 2010

#269 - Doug Rau


Card fact: I'm not 100 percent sure on this, but I believe this is the only '75 Topps card that I have that I also have in mini form and O-Pee-Chee form. The rare '75 trifecta!

What I thought about this card then: Doug Rau was a childhood favorite. I rooted for the underdog quite a bit as a kid, and Rau was the No. 4 starter in the Dodgers starting rotation of my youth. You can't get much more underdog than a No. 4 starter.

What I think about this card now: Was this photo taken at Vero Beach? Did the Dodgers color code the bleachers at their spring training site to match the Dodger Stadium seat coloring? If they did, that is awesome.

Other stuff: As mentioned, Rau was a key part of the Dodgers' pitching staff during their success of the late 1970s. The rotation that I knew growing up was: Don Sutton, Tommy John, Burt Hooton, Doug Rau and Rick Rhoden. I badly wanted Rau and Rhoden to become stars. They didn't reach the star level, but they did do pretty good for themselves.

Rau reached double figures in wins for five consecutive seasons with the Dodgers. His 1977 World Series showing was plagued by a famous mound argument with Tommy Lasorda (Lasorda sets an all-time record for cursing during the 3-minute conversation). But Rau was a bit more effective in the '78 World Series.

Arm trouble caught up to Rau in 1979, and he missed the entire 1980 season. His last season was 1981 with the Angels.

Rau's first major league at-bat was a memorable one -- he tripled. It took another 35 years before another pitcher tripled in his first MLB at-bat.


Back facts: This is one of my favorite cartoons in the set. Apparently sports fans always smoke pipes while watching television.

Other blog stuff: I'm taking another short break on this blog. I'll resume with a card of a four-decade player in a few days.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

#268 - Hal McRae


Card fact: This might be the first card I ever pulled from the first pack of cards I ever bought. It is between this card and another card that I haven't featured yet. I don't think I'll ever figure out which one it was, unless I undergo hypnosis.

What I thought about this card then: It's a rather bland card, but because it came out of that first pack, I studied it forever and thought it was a very cool card and McRae was a very cool dude.

What I think about this card now: It's rather bland. But I don't know whatever became of that original card.

Other stuff: Hal McRae was a key member of the Royals' pennant-winning teams of the late 1970s. Traded from the Reds partly because of his less-than-stellar fielding abilities, McRae blossomed as a designated hitter for the Royals and was known as a doubles machine. He finished fourth in the A.L. MVP voting in 1976 and was a three-time all-star.

McRae had a hard-nosed playing style and his slide into second base that knocked Willie Randolph almost into left field during the 1977 ALCS led to a rule saying that players had to slide into second base, rather than try the cross-block tactic that McRae did.

After 19 years in the majors, McRae later became a coach and manager, managing both the Royals and the Devil Rays. He is now the video coordinator for the Marlins, and that's a bit interesting as his video tirade is one of the most well-known in sports history.

McRae is the father of former major leaguer Brian McRae, who played for the Royals, Cubs, Mets, among other teams.


Back facts: McRae had 539 at-bats and 88 RBIs in 1974. It seems a bit odd to be mentioning his pinch-hitting abilities.

Other blog stuff: With this card, "green-purple" has officially tied "pink-yellow" for the overall color combo lead with 23 cards. But "pink-yellow" will bounce back soon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

#267 - Dick Ruthven


Card fact: One of the best action cards in the set. Yes, I know that's opinion.

What I thought about this card then: When I was 9, this was one of my favorite cards in the set, if not my favorite card in the set. It is one of the cards that caused me to root for the Phillies when they weren't playing the Dodgers.

What I think about this card now: I cannot figure out where Ruthven is in the park, or what he is doing. I'm guessing that is old Veterans Stadium in the photo. When I was young, I thought he was throwing a pitch on the mound. But it looks more like he is on the sidelines, as if he's warming up in the bullpen. As far as I can remember, Veterans Stadium's bullpens were behind the outfield fences. So I'm not sure where he is.

Other than that, I love the logos in the background, and it's nice to know that Ruthven could pitch with a club for a right hand.

Other stuff: Dick Ruthven came to the Phillies without ever pitching in the minors. He, along with Larry Christenson, were considered the up-and-coming pitchers of the early '70s that would join with Steve Carlton and help Philadelphia to the postseason. That turned out to be true, although Ruthven took a roundabout way to that point. He was traded to the White Sox and then to the Braves within a two-day period in December 1975.

But Ruthven returned to the Phillies in 1978 to held the team repeat as N.L. East Division champions. He lost Game 2 of the NLCS to the Dodgers. In 1980, he won 17 games and made the All-Star team for the eventual World Series champions. Later, he pitched for the Cubs, ending his career in 1986.


Back facts: You never hear much about the "palmball" anymore. ... Also, I continue to be amused by the capitalization of baseball terms like "spring training" and "win."

Oldie but goodie: Here is the state of the original Ruthven card that I pulled in 1975:


Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, Alex Rodriguez was born. Wow, and I thought '75 was such a great year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

#266 - Sandy Alomar


Card fact: This is the second card in the last nine to feature a player who fathered not one, but two major league players. First it was Dave LaRoche. Now, it's Sandy Alomar, father to Sandy Alomar Jr. and Roberto Alomar.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. But Alomar's 1968 Topps card was the first '68 card I ever saw.

What I think about this card now: They really had to squash down that signature to fit it into that tight head shot, didn't they?

Also, Alomar's cap is obviously airbrushed. He was purchased from the Angels by the Yankees in July of 1974, not enough time for Topps to get a photo of Alomar in a Yankee uniform during those days.

Other stuff: Alomar played for 15 seasons with the Braves, Mets, White Sox, Angels, Yankees and Rangers. His most successful seasons were with the Angels in the early 1970s. He wasn't much of a hitter, but he could steal a base and the Angels put him at the top of the lineup A LOT in 1970 and 1971. He led the league in plate appearances each year with 735 and 739, respectively.

Alomar was a solid defensive player, although he struggled with throwing. Both of his sons were known as very strong defensive players with hardly a weakness. And, of course, Roberto hit a lot better than dad.

Alomar was the Mets' bench coach under Jerry Manuel before being dismissed after last season.


Back facts: Herb Washington's card will show up on this blog in a few months.

Other blog stuff: Mick Jagger was born on this date in 1943. He is really getting up there.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

#265 - Ron Bryant


Card fact: This is the final card of Ron Bryant's all-too-quick career.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. Didn't know who Bryant was until decades later.

What I think about this card now: Well, I just noticed that he signed his name "Ron Bear Bryant." That's terrific.

Other stuff: Just like Jim Perry two cards ago, Bryant is one of those guys whose career ended just as I began to follow baseball and I never knew who he was until years later, when I acquired his card.

Bryant is known for putting together a terrific 1973 season for the Giants. He won 24 games and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. But the following year, he was 3-15 with a 5.61 earned-run average. He was out of baseball by the end of 1975.

In between that very high high and the very low low, was a "swimming pool accident" during spring training of 1974. There are numerous references to the "swimming pool accident" in accounts of Bryant's career, but no other details -- just that it messed up his career.

It turns out that Bryant suffered a major gash in his side, and it was said to have happened on a swimming pool slide. Apparently, Bryant was known to like his drinks and his parties, and maybe the two combined to create a career-ending incident.

But Bryant was an easy-going sort, and even though his career ended after 8 seasons, he ended up taking a job as a casino card dealer in Reno, Nev.


Back facts: Tony Solaita was a 1970s player for the Angels and Royals. We'll see him later in the set.

Also, notice that Topps wants no part of Bryant's 1974 season in the write-up.

And, just like Jim Perry, Ron Bryant was a switch-hitting pitcher.

Other blog stuff: In honor of today's Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, on this date in 1999, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount, George Brett and Orlando Cepeda were inducted into the Hall.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

#264 - John Milner


Card fact: OK, we have a doozy of a card fact for you today -- at least by my standards. Here it is:

This is the third of four straight cards in which John Milner is in the exact same pose. Topps had Milner pose the same way during the first four cards of his career. Here they are:


I think by 1975, Milner was saying, "can't you just re-use the one from last year?"

What I thought about this card then: I remember my friend -- the kid who had to have every Met AND Yankee card -- owned this card. Like most of the Mets cards of that year, it was cool because the Mets were still a cool team back in '75.

What I think about this card now: It looks a lot like the card of Milner from the previous year.

Other stuff: Milner was the Mets' regular first baseman in 1974, and he produced some decent power years for the Mets in the mid 1970s. His nickname was "the Hammer," just like another guy who played at that time. You might have heard of him. In fact, according to Milner's wiki page, Hank Aaron was Milner's hero.

Milner went to the Pirates in the huge four-team deal in December of 1977 that involved names like Willie Montanez, Al Oliver, Bert Blyleven and Jon Matlack. Milner became more of a role player and was a valuable member of the 1979 World Series champion Pirates, hitting .333 in the Series. Milner also played for the Expos.

He testified in the Pittsburgh drug trials in the mid-1980s, admitting to drug use. He died at age 50 from lung cancer.


Back facts: Not only did Tom Greenwade sign Mickey Mantle, he also signed Hank Bauer, Elston Howard, Bobby Murcer and Bill Virdon for the Yankees. And he helped persuade the Brooklyn Dodgers to bring Jackie Robinson into the major leagues.

Other blog stuff: Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, was born on this date. She is 59.

Friday, July 23, 2010

#263 - Jim Perry


Card fact: This is the final card of Jim Perry during his playing career.

What I thought about this card then: Me no see.

What I think about this card now: You may have been able to fool 9-year-old kids in 1975, but I can tell now, Mr. Topps, that Jim Perry is wearing a Tiger uniform with a Tiger cap that has been airbrushed into an Indian cap. It's not your finest work, but it's certainly better than what you did to Perry here. Good gosh.

Perry was traded from the Tigers to the Indians in a three-team deal with the Yankees in mid March of 1974, a full year before the 1975 set came out, but Topps still couldn't get a photo of Perry as an Indian.

Other stuff: Perry is one of those players who finished his career just as I became aware of major leaguers. Therefore I feel like I am still trying to catch up on his career. I knew multiple anecdotes about Perry's younger brother, Gaylord Perry (doesn't it seem odd to refer to Gaylord as "younger"?), long before I was aware of Jim Perry's pitching career.

That's a shame because Jim Perry had a very nice career himself. But if it wasn't for a two-year period with the Minnesota Twins, he may have been even more overshadowed by brother Gaylord. In 1969, Perry went 20-6 for the Twins, who won the first American League West Division title. The following year, Perry was 24-12 for Minnesota and captured the Cy Young Award.

With the exception of an 18-10 season for the Indians in 1960, that two-year stint was his best performance and sparked a series of solid years for Perry to close out his career. Out of his 215 career victories, more than half (113) came in the final 7 of his 17 years in the majors.

After finishing second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1959, Perry spent a good portion of the first half of his career as a reliever. Yet, he and Gaylord are second only to the Niekros in all-time victories by brothers.

By the way, I never heard whether Jim Perry threw a spitball. There's so much I don't know about the guy.


Back facts: Abner Powell was already the answer to an earlier trivia question in this set. That seems a bit odd.

Also, note that Jim Perry was a switch-hitter. That seems a bit odd, too.

Other blog stuff: I was just looking up the TV shows in 1975. A number of them had a direct impact on my life growing up. Among them: Happy Days, Welcome Back Kotter, Good Times, Little House on the Prairie (sad to say), Barney Miller, Monday Night Football, Rockford Files, the Jeffersons, Emergency! and the Six Million Dollar Man.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

#262 - Rowland Office


Card fact: This is Rowland Office's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: Sadly, I never saw it.

What I think about this card now: Where to begin? The first time I saw this card was when I was trying to complete the set about 5 or 6 years ago. I was at a collectibles shop thumbing through '75s in various conditions. I looked at the card, thought it was miscut and put it back. A time or two later, I was back in the store, came across the Office card, thought it was miscut and didn't buy it again. Then I was at a card show and saw the card and said to myself, "Hmmm, that's miscut, too. That must've been one of those cards that had that problem consistently."

Well, eventually, after viewing the card about a dozen times, I realized, "Hey, dumb-ass, the card isn't off-center. The SUBJECT is off-center." I can't believe it took me that long to realize that. But the fact is I simply wasn't looking for the subject to be off-center. It's pretty much expected that the subject would be centered, except, you know, on half of the cards in the 1969 set.

So combine the off-center photo with Office's rather goofy, quizzical expression and one of the best names of the 1970s, and you have one hell of a rookie card.

Other stuff: Office played 11 seasons in the majors, mostly for the Braves, back when the Braves were pathetic. He began as mostly a defensive replacement in the outfield because he had a lot of speed. But he put up some adequate offensive numbers -- at least by 1970s Atlanta standards -- to survive in the lineup. He signed with the Expos as a free agent after 1979 and his playing time decreased with a strong influx of young standout outfielders in Montreal. He ended his career with two games for the Yankees in 1983.


Back facts: It was the 1970s. You had to be a professional in two sports to make ends meet.

Baseball-reference.com says that Rowland's middle name is spelled with one "n,' as in Johnie.

Also, the write-up almost reads like an insult at the start. I mean, they're mentioning a grand slam he hit in a spring training game? But then you find out he was a non-roster invitee. That's a little more interesting. However, they didn't need to capitalize "spring training game," and they certainly didn't have to use the word "invited" twice.

Other stuff: On this date in 1975, Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman pitched a complete game and stole second in a 3-1 win over the Reds.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

#261 - Andy Hassler


Card fact: This is Andy Hassler's rookie card.

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

What I think about this card now: Yet another Angel in this set who is wearing a black arm patch. As Steve, from White Sox Cards, commented in the last Angels player post, the patch is in the memory of an Angels prospect, Bruce Heinbechner, who died in a car accident in the spring of 1974.

Other stuff: Hassler played 14 seasons for six different teams. Everyone can use a lefty on the mound. During the 1975 and 1976 seasons, he lost a franchise record 17 straight games. This was the time when the Angels had Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana on the staff, so fans must have just thrown up their hands when it was Hassler's turn on the mound.

But Hassler had his moments. He pitched two one-hitters. He participated in the postseason with the Royals in 1976 and 1977 (losing twice to the Yankees) and the Angels in 1982. He also was on the Cardinals' NL championship team in 1985.


Back facts: Since this set came out, two other National Leaguers have hit two grand slams in one game. The first was the Cardinals' Fernando Tatis, who hit two in ONE INNING off the Dodgers' Chan Ho Park in April of 1999. What a sickening day that was. The second happened just last year, when Josh Willingham hit grand slams in back-to-back innings for the Nationals.

Also, in case you were wondering about Hassler's major league debut, he started the game against the Yankees, pitched four innings, allowed six hits, five walks, two runs and took the loss in a 3-0 defeat.

Other blog stuff: Today is the Mad Hungarian's birthday. Al Hrabosky turns 61.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

#260 - Johnny Bench


Card fact: This might be THE card of the 1970s. I know that's opinion, but I probably could write an essay on why it should be fact.

What I thought about this card then: I've said this several times before, but when I held this card in my hands as a 9-year-old, it had me so freaked out that I thought it would vanish, either via a gust of wind or by someone stealing it, or simply through spontaneous combustion. The card was just too cool to be possessed by someone like me.

I can remember where I was when I held the card. I was on a city street, standing in front of a store that had an awning over it. The only reason I would be at that particular site is because I was on my way home from the drug store after buying a pack of cards. So I must have been opening them on the way back and I pulled this card out of a pack. But I no longer own that Bench card that I pulled when I was 9. I must have traded it away. I was probably too freaked out by it.

What I think about this card now: For me, it's one of the iconic cards of the '70s. I know Bench's 1976 Topps card is great, but this one just means more to me. Bench has that catcher's crouch down pat, his glove looks like it just came out of the box yet it's perfectly broken in, and his signature is tremendous. Hell, I don't even like the Reds and I'm saying that.

Other stuff: Johnny Bench was at the height of his popularity at this point, one of the biggest stars in all of sports. I think, as a kid at that time, there were two sports figures that ruled above all others: Johnny Bench and Joe Namath. Later it would be Reggie Jackson and Roger Staubach, but Bench especially ruled right during the time that I became interested in baseball.

This was at the start of the Reds' back-to-back World Series titles and Bench had a kick-ass performance against the Yankees in 1976, so that just made him seem immortal.

Bench was also the closest thing to a sports TV star for me at that time, appearing on the Bubble Yum and Krylon Spray Paint commercials. He was always appearing on This Week in Baseball. Later, he hosted "The Baseball Bunch," but I was a teenager by then and too old for kiddie shows like that.

As for his playing ability, I could list his achievements forever. I think it's enough to say that he changed the perception of the catching position forever.


Back facts: I don't remember Sparky Lyle being referred to as "The Count." That was John Montefusco's nickname. Montefusco didn't have a card until 1976, though.

Other blog stuff: It's been 80 cards since we've had an All-Star. So I'm looking forward to adding another name to the All-Star list for 1974:

AL


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

NL

1B - Steve Garvey
2B - Joe Morgan
3B -
SS -
OF - Hank Aaron
OF -
OF -
C - Johnny Bench
P -

Monday, July 19, 2010

#259 - Len Randle


Card fact: Even though Randle did not have more than 250 at-bats in a single season until 1974, this was already his fourth Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: Well, I had the mini card and what a fantastic card it was/is. I don't think it ever crossed my mind to think what he was doing. If I had, I probably could have figured out it wasn't anything good.

What I think about this card now: Damn, Randle is disgusted! What did he just do? Did he foul out? Strike out? Get his pitch but not hit it square? I suppose he could be yelling in pain, but with his bat position it looks like he's reacting to a swing. It's certainly an interesting card photo.

Other stuff: Randle reached the majors in quick fashion, never playing lower than Triple A. He switched between the minors and majors until 1974, when he had a solid season playing at a variety of position. He was a regular starter from that point, but all hell broke loose in 1977.

Randle had been the regular second baseman until that point. But the Rangers went with rookie Bump Wills as the starter in spring training. During a meeting with manager Frank Lucchesi, Randle punched Lucchesi in the face, breaking the manager's jaw. Randle was fined and suspended 30 days and then traded to the Mets before his suspension ended.

I remember reading about this incident in the newspaper as a kid. I was too young to know about the Swingin' A's inter-team squabbles and fights. Instead, the Lucchesi-Randle incident, the Sutton-Garvey locker room fight, and the Martin-Jackson yelling match in the dugout were my introductions to the fact that players on the same team don't always get along.

Randle played for the Mets a couple of years, landing on another fantastic baseball card in the 1978 set. He also played for the Yankees, Cubs and Mariners. It was with Seattle in 1981 that he made "This Week in Baseball" immortality when he got on his hands and knees and attempted to blow foul a ball hit by Amos Otis.


Back facts: Wow, that's a violent cartoon. Could Topps have known about Randle's future outburst?

Randle also made my all-middle name team. Completely made up of 1975 cards, of course.

Also, how often does the word "spry" make the back of a baseball card?


Here are the regular-sized card and the mini card side-by-side. I scanned them a little crooked unfortunately. As you can see, the mini I pulled out of a pack back in '75 had issues. So many miscut cards back then!

Other stuff: The No. 1 song in the country on this date in 1975 was "Listen to What the Man Said," by Paul McCartney and Wings. This man says, "my vacation is over." But there's another one coming in a week! Woo-hoo!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

#258 - Dave LaRoche


Card fact: I've got nothing, so let's start a tally on which teams come immediately after a checklist card. This time, it's a Cub. The last time, it was a Twin. More useless information, courtesy of the 1975 Topps blog.

What I thought about this card then: Well, we have a "dude looks like a lady" entry. We thought that long hair looked awfully girly, completely discounting the chest hair and the hint of a mustache.

What I think about this card now: Tough one. Not much to think about. And since I'm just staring at the screen, I'll move on.

Other stuff: Dave LaRoche was almost exclusively a relief pitcher for five teams during 14 years in the major leagues. His best seasons probably came with the Angels in the late 1970s.

In a famous story, which is on his wikipedia page, LaRoche was known as a complainer. One time, teammate Rod Carew got so fed up at LaRoche's whining that he challenged him to a fight. The two had it out in a broom closet in the clubhouse.

LaRoche also threw an eephus-style pitch, called "La Lob" during his career. He finished up with the Yankees and appeared in the World Series in 1981. He is now a pitching coach for the Blue Jays in the minor leagues.

LaRoche is probably most known now as being the father of two current major leaguers, Adam and Andy LaRoche. Andy used to play with the Dodgers, but now, because they've been traded so often and because they both share four-letter first names that begin with "A," I have a hell of a time keeping track of where they are or even who they are. This is why parents need to select names for their children that are distinct from their siblings.


Back facts: I like the complete transaction details in the write-up at the bottom. Also, Lynwood is not a good name. I can see why he went by "Schoolboy."

Other blog stuff: On the other blog, I noted that I may have to change the color-combination attributed to the Dave Lopes card. It appears that the actual color combination on the card is "brown-orange" not "brown-tan." I apparently have a copy in which the orange color is faded. So I have changed the Lopes label to "brown-orange," so that the color combination standings are accurate.

I'm sure you're all relieved.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

#257 - Checklist, 133-264


Card fact: This is the second of the two border color combinations that Topps used for its 1975 set checklists. The first checklist in the set displayed the pink-yellow (marshmallow peeps) combo, while this checklist features the tan-light blue (seaside) combo.

What I thought about this card then: Again, I don't have the foggiest idea whether I had this card or not. I'm guessing I didn't, because I don't recall the tan-light blue borders on the checklists.

What I think about this card now: Once again, I'm relieved that it's checklist time, and I don't have to do any research. I'm in birthday recovery mode, and I'm a year older for crying out loud. It's nice of the '75 set to give the old man a break.

Other stuff: There is no other stuff. Just names and numbers and tiny square boxes.


Back facts: My goodness the back of this card is severely miscut! I'm just noticing that for the first time.

Also, you get a sneak peek at what cards are coming up on the blog as they're featured immediately under the checklist listing at No. 257.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, Wilbur Wood pitched his second straight start for the White Sox and hurled his second straight shutout. It wasn't quite as amazing as you might think as the All-Star break was between the two starts. But still pretty impressive.

Friday, July 16, 2010

#256 - Billy Champion


Card fact: I will take a chance and say this is the first card in the set in which the player's signature features not one circle for the "I," but two circles.

What I thought about this card then: I had this card and thought he looked vaguely "womanish" but not enough to add it to the "dude looks like a lady category."

What I think about this card now: Billy Champion's card was featured in my post on players who underwent 1970s metamorphoses. He displayed quite the change between his 1974 Topps card, and this card, and his 1976 card. Also, he has one of the great names for a professional athlete.

Other stuff: Champion was both a starter and a reliever for the Phillies and the Brewers from 1969-76. His only winning season came in 1974 when he went 11-4 for the Brewers.

Champion later became a scout and coach. He is now the pitching coach for the Uni-President Lions, a perennial power in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

(EDIT: Champion died on Jan. 7, 2017).


Back facts: Jim Mason's feat was also mentioned on his own card in this set.

Other blog stuff: Among the more notable baseball occurrences on this date:

1853: The New York Clipper publishes what is believed to be the first tabulated baseball boxscore.
1897: Cap Anson becomes the first ball player to accumulate 3,000 hits in his career.
1902: John McGraw begins his 30-year stay as New York Giants manager.
1920: Babe Ruth becomes the first player to hit 30 home runs in a season.
1985: The National League wins its 13th All-Star Game in 14 seasons behind LaMarr Hoyt's pitching.
1990: Steve Lyons slides head-first into first base to beat out a bunt, then stands to brush away dirt by absent-mindedly dropping his pants.

Also on this date, a baseball fan was born. It's my birthday today. I plan to celebrate by watching some baseball.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

#255 - Dwight Evans


Card fact: One of the last cards I needed to complete the set. One of the final five.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had this card, the mini card. He was a big fan of "Dewey."

What I think about this card now: First, a very nice shot of Fenway Park.

Secondly, why is this card so difficult to obtain? I'm not the only one I've come across who is trying to complete this set who has struggled to land the Evans card. He was a good player all right, but he is by no means considered a major star or an expensive card to purchase.

Other stuff: Dwight Evans is one of the most popular players in Red Sox history (perhaps explaining my question above). He started out as a great fielder, and he had a terrific arm. I don't know how many times his arm was mentioned during the Saturday Game of the Week (the Red Sox were on all the time). But it was often.

During the 1970s, his hitting was buried in a tremendously powerful lineup, and he could be expected to hit about .250. But in the 1980s, his hitting emerged and he became a very consistent batter with good power.

Evans is mentioned for the Hall of Fame periodically, which surprised me when I first heard it because he didn't seem to be Hall of Fame material during his playing career. But his longevity, his fielding, plus his ability to draw a walk and get on base probably makes him very attractive in Hall of Fame arguments.

Evans made one of great plays in the famed Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. In the top of the 11th inning with Ken Griffey on first base, Evans snared a long drive off the bat of Joe Morgan and doubled Griffey off of first base.


Back facts: Another cartoon mention of Babe Ruth! The cartoonist must have loved drawing him.

Also, I don't know why you would put Evans in left field with an arm like that. A quick look at baseball-reference confirms that he spent very little time there, and most of it was at the start of his career.

Other blog stuff: Posting on this blog may be sporadic the next few days. I'll be in vacation mode. But I'll try to get to it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

#254 - Mike Torrez


Card fact: The final card of Mike Torrez in an Expos uniform. But that's not saying much. He didn't stay with any team for very long. Just three seasons with the Expos.

What I thought about this card then: I had this card as a 9-year-old. I remember thinking that Torrez was cool, based on absolutely nothing except his baseball card.

What I think about this card now: Cars in the photo! There are cars in the photo! Awesome.

Other stuff: Torrez pitched for 18 seasons with seven different teams and enjoyed success with all of them, except for maybe the Mets at the end of his career.

Torrez was involved in some of the more famous transactions of the 1970s. Some of the players that he was traded for during three separate transactions: Dave McNally, Rich Coggins, Ken Holtzman, Reggie Jackson and Dock Ellis. Torrez won 20 games for Baltimore in 1975, enabling the Orioles to trade him and Don Baylor to the A's for Jackson. The following year he was traded to the Yankees. Then, the next year he signed as a free agent with the Red Sox.

Torrez is probably most known for giving up the home run to Bucky Dent in the special playoff game between the Red Sox and the Yankees in 1978. Seeing that Torrez spent the previous year with the Yankees, I was practically convinced that he had arranged with his previous teammates to surrender the home run. Oh, I was pissed.

Torrez went on to spend more time with the Red Sox than any other team. According to his wikipedia page, he is now the pitching coach for the independent league Newark Bears.


Back facts: There was no need to put "A.L." in the phrasing of the trivia question. We all know the N.L. is never going to adopt that still-dorky rule.

Oldie but goodie: Here is the original Torrez card that I pulled. I'm a bit hazy on where I got it. It might've been in a trade with one of my friends:


Other blog stuff: Today is Bill Cosby's 73rd birthday. Back in 1975, I knew him only as that guy who talked to all the cartoon characters on "Fat Albert." Hey-Hey-HEY! It's FAAAAT Albert!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

#253 - Jesus Alou


Card fact: For 11 years, if Jesus Alou appeared on a Topps card, his older brothers, Felipe and Matty, did, too. That changed in 1975. Jesus Alou was the only one of the Alou brothers to appear in the '75 Topps set.

Also, this is the first card in the set to feature someone without a cap.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it.

What I think about this card now: What on earth is Alou doing? Look at that vein bulging in his forehead!

Other stuff: Alou was the youngest of the Alou brothers, and the one with the most promise. But following his brothers appeared to be too difficult, and Alou didn't quite live up to his potential. He was selected by the Expos in the expansion draft after several years with the Giants. He also played for the Astros, A's and Mets. He played for Oakland in the 1973 and 1974 World Series.

Alou is the uncle of Moises Alou and former relief pitcher Mel Rojas.

Alou was the only one of the Alou brothers that I knew for a long time. Felipe and Matty ended their careers just before I became interested in baseball, but Jesus was around until 1979.


Back facts: I need to start counting how many times Babe Ruth is mentioned in cartoons. I think this is at least the third or fourth time.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1902, Bid McPhee resigned as the Reds' manager. McPhee was a 19th century star for the Reds, especially noted for his fielding. When he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I found out he was born in a town in our area and promptly wrote a newspaper article about him. I had to inform the town that someone born in there was a Hall of Famer. Almost everyone in the town had no idea who he was.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

#252 - Fred Scherman


Card fact: This is Fred Scherman's final Topps baseball card in which he is not airbrushed into another uniform. He appears again in the 1976 set, airbrushed into a Montreal Expos cap and uniform.

What I thought about this card then: Did not see it.

What I think about this card now: They should have used red and orange for all of the Astros cards. It matches nicely.

Other stuff: Scherman was a relief pitcher during the first half of the 1970s. Most of his success came with the Tigers. He appeared in 69 games for Detroit in 1971, registered a 2.71 ERA and won 11 games. The following year, he helped Detroit to the ALCS and pitched two-thirds of an inning in Game 2 against the A's.

Scherman was traded to the Astros, then purchased by the Expos. His last season was 1976.

Scherman gave up Frank Robinson's 500th career home run in 1971.


Back facts: A question like the one in the cartoon makes me want to spend the next hour researching whether "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" really IS the most popular baseball song. I mean you can't just make wild, unsubstantiated statements like that without demonstrating some kind of proof. You're opening yourself up for all kinds ...

Sorry, it's the journalist in me.

Other blog stuff: Today is former Royals player and manager Hal McRae's 65th birthday. I am less than two weeks away from featuring McRae's card on the blog. One of these days I'm going to post a card of a player on his birthday.

Friday, July 9, 2010

#251 - Fran Healy


Card fact: This is the second appearance of Fran Healy in the 1975 set. His first appearance was entirely unintentional. ... I think.

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

What I think about this card now: Wow, Healy could really get low to the ground in that catcher's crouch. His elbows practically have grass stains.

Other stuff: I may not have seen the Healy card when I was a kid, but Healy was a big part of my growing up years. Since I lived in Yankee country -- before the days of 70 cable channels -- I saw a lot of Yankee games on WPIX, Channel 11. But I listened to even more games on the radio, because I had a radio in my bedroom, but not a TV. Fran Healy was a member of the Yankees' broadcasting crew in the 1980s and he seemed to be on the radio a lot more than on TV. Healy and Phil Rizzuto were quite a pair. Healy seemed a bit of a goof-head, like Rizzuto, but it made for interesting listening.

Healy later was a broadcaster for the New York Mets, and I saw him a lot on the old SportsChannel station, paired up with another colorful broadcaster, Keith Hernandez.

Even when Healy was a player, I heard a lot about him -- first from my Royals friend from Kansas, and then, after he was traded to the Yankees for Larry Gura, from my friends who were Yankees fans. Healy received notice with the Royals for catching Steve Busby's two no-hitters. And when he was with the Yankees, he was known as one of Reggie Jackson's few friends on the team.

He sure received a lot of publicity for a backup catcher.


Back facts: No, no, not that John Edwards. Edwards was a catcher for the Reds and Astros in the 1960s and early '70s. He set the record in 1969 with the Astros with 1,135 putouts. It remains the record.

Other blog stuff: I have to say I'm enjoying the new template designer now that I've adjusted to it. I can get a better representation of the border colors up in the header. Just trying to serve you, the reader.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

#250 - Ken Brett


Card fact: There are six pairs of brothers in this set. I have not featured both brothers of any pair on this blog until now. George Brett was card No. 228 and here is his older brother, Ken.

What I thought about this card then: No knowledge of it.

What I think about his card now: The photo is awfully similar to his 1976 Topps card.

Other stuff: Ken Brett played for 10 different teams in a 16-year career, but had several notable moments during that span. He remains the youngest pitcher to participate in a World Series game. He was 18 years old when he pitched for the Red Sox in the 1967 Series against the Cardinals.

I remember Brett mostly because of is reputation as a tremendous hitter. He hit .262 for his career, recording 91 hits in 341 at-bats, including 10 home runs, 18 doubles and 44 RBIs. He probably would have had even better stats had he not pitched in the American League for most of the late 1970s.

Brett was the winning pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game in 1974, and pitched a year for the Dodgers in 1979. Later he played for the Royals, joining his brother George, for the end of his career.

Brett died after a six-year battle with brain cancer in 2003.


Back facts: Love the cartoon duck.

Also, I don't know why Topps bestowed the number 250 upon Ken Brett. Sure, he was a fairly good pitcher at the time, but 250 was usually reserved for better players. In the years immediately preceding 1975, #250 went to Willie McCovey ('74), Manny Sanguillen ('73), Boog Powell ('72), Johnny Bench ('71) and McCovey again ('70).

Other blog stuff: This is the first time deceased players have been featured in back-to-back cards. ... Ah, that's happy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

#249 - Danny Thompson


Card fact: This is the second-to-last Topps card of Danny Thompson during his career. His final one would be issued less than a year before his death.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. In fact, I never pulled a card of Thompson during the two years he was alive when I was collecting. That explains why it took years before I knew who Thompson was and about his sad story.

What I think about this card now: I wish I could read all of the advertisements in the background.

Other stuff: Danny Thompson was the Twins' starting shortstop in the early 1970s, enjoying a strong season in 1972. But Thompson was diagnosed with leukemia in 1973. Through various treatments, he continued to play for the Twins, albeit in a somewhat more limited role. Thompson was traded to the Rangers in 1976. After the '76 season, he succumbed to his disease, making him one of the few modern-age ballplayers to die from a disease while still an active player.

A golf tournament in Thompson's name continues to be played in Sun Valley, Idaho, each year.


Back facts: I wonder if Thompson was really plagued by injuries or if Topps didn't want to mention his cancer battle on the back of his baseball card.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, three Cardinals were thrown out at home plate on throws from the outfield in a single game against the Giants. Considering how the Cardinals imploded in tonight's game against the Rockies, this seems appropriate.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

#248 - Randy Jones


Card fact: Do we have a photo at Dodger Stadium? I'm not very good at this, unless it's really obvious.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. My introduction to Randy Jones was on his 1976 Topps card.

What I think about this card now: It's still odd, after all these years, to see Jones without his perm/afro.

Other stuff: Jones pitched on some lousy Padres teams, but managed back-to-back breakout seasons in which he won 20 games each season. I remember his 1976 season well when he went into the All-Star break with a 16-3 record. Jones started the All-Star Game and received the win, after saving the National League's victory the previous season.

Jones suffered a nerve injury near the end of the year and didn't enjoy another winning season the rest of his career. He was traded to the Mets in 1980 and endured two rocky years before calling it quits after 10 seasons. Jones now runs a caterng business, is the maker of his own barbecue sauce, and does radio announcing with the Padres.


Back facts: It appears Topps really doesn't want to tell you about Jones' 1974 season. Let's all talk about 1973 and hope nobody notices that 8-22 record.

Other blog stuff: This is the third straight card to feature the color tan in the border. Sadly, that streak will end at three.