Friday, December 31, 2010

#409 - Bob Robertson


Card fact: Is this the only card with a photo showing the player holding the bat by the barrel instead of the handle? Damned if I know. It's 3:40 in the morning, I'm not checking now. But let's say it is.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I always thought that Bob Robertson had plastic hair, based on this photo. In fact, all of Robertson had the appearance of a wax figure to me. I don't know why I thought that way.

What I think about this card now: I think the shadow across the face really kills the photo. That usually doesn't bother me with these '70s cards, but this one does.

Other stuff: Robertson came up to the Pirates as a three-time minor league home run champion. He was expected to provide impressive power to the Pittsburgh lineup. For a couple of years he did, especially during the Pirates' pennant-winning seasons of 1970 and 1971. Robertson is probably most known for hitting four home runs in the National League Championship Series against the Giants. It was a record, which has since been tied twice.

After those two years, Robertson's hitting fell off dramatically. He had knee surgery and became a part-time player for the Pirates. He was released before the 1977 season and didn't play in the majors until the Mariners picked him up for the following year. After a year with the Mariners and an abbreviated 1979 with the Blue Jays, his career was over.


Back facts: I guess you could say Robertson was a "Wood Man" in 1970 and 1971.

Other blog stuff: This is the final card featured on the blog in 2010. We've gone through 337 cards in the set in the past year. We'll wrap the whole thing up in 2011. Here's to more dy-no-mite '75s in the new year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

#408 - Clyde Wright


Card fact: It has been 143 cards since the last yellow-green bordered card. That is a record, so far, and the reason why "yellow-green" has dropped to the bottom in the color-combo standings. This is only the 13th yellow-green (lemon-lime combo) card.

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

What I think about this card now: Nobody's pitching follow-through looks like that.

Other stuff: Wright was a top pitching prospect with the Angels. After hurling a 4-hit shutout in his major league debut in 1966, he spent most of the next couple of seasons in a relief role. The Angels released him after he went 1-8 in 1969. But he returned to the Angels the following spring and went on to a 22-win season, winning Comeback Player of the Year Honors. He also threw a no-hitter that year, and was the losing pitcher in the All-Star Game. He was the one who gave up the winning hit to Jim Hickman, who brought home Pete Rose, who bowled over Ray Fosse.

Wright remained a top pitcher for the Angels until going 11-19 in 1973. He was traded to the Brewers in a nine-player deal, but didn't fair much better with Milwaukee, losing 20 games and posting a 4.42 ERA. The Brewers traded him to the Rangers. After a year with Texas, Wright played in Japan for three years.

Wright is the father of former major leaguer Jaret Wright, who was a sensation with the Indians in the late 1990s and pitched in the majors for 11 years.


Back facts: There is a mistake in the stats. Topps lists Wright as playing for the Angels in 1974, but he played for the Brewers. That bit of misinformation threw me off. Before doing research on Wright, I studied the photo for signs of airbrushing since I thought Wright was dealt from the Angels to the Brewers in the '74 offseason.

Other blog stuff: This is the second straight player shown who does not have a middle name. Just thought you should know.

Monday, December 27, 2010

#407 - Herb Washington


Card fact: We've reached not only one of the most unusual cards in the set, but one of the most unusual cards of all-time. It is believed to be the only card that lists a player's position as pinch-runner, or, more accurately, "pinch run." This is Washington's only card.

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

What I think about this card now: One of my all-time favorites. You have one of the most interesting experiments in baseball. You have the bright purple-pink borders clashing with the bright gold-and-green uniform. You have Washington in a dated-yet-wonderful pose. You have him wearing just a single glove. You have the empty stands. Classic, classic card.

Other stuff: I wrote about this card on the other blog. So I'll keep it brief here. Oakland owner Charlie O. Finley thought Washington, a world-class sprinter, could give the A's an edge. Washington hadn't played baseball since high school and didn't really know the game. But in 1974, he played in 91 games as a "designated runner." He never batted nor played the field.

Washington was actually just one of a few players that Finley brought to the team in a bid to add unprecedented speed. But the experiment ultimately failed. Washington was released a month into the 1975 season.

Washington later went into business, starting out with McDonald's franchises, and then got into banking. He founded a hockey team in Ohio and was one of the first African-American owners of a pro hockey team. He is listed as living in Youngstown, Ohio. His daughter left a comment on my post at NOC, saying that her father would sign if I could find an address. Unfortunately, any address I've been able to come up with has not been correct.


Back facts: This might be the greatest card back in history. I could stare at it for a very long time. The stat line is most unusual, and I guarantee you've never seen "Major League Base Running Record" before.

Other blog stuff: Unfortunately, I have to take another brief break on the blog. See you in a few days.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

#406 - Bob Gallagher


Card fact: This is the final Topps card of Bob Gallagher's career. He had just two Topps cards. The '74 card was the other one.

What I thought about this card then: I vaguely recall seeing this card somewhere and being somewhat unsettled by Gallagher's unruly hair and his stare off into the distance.

What I think about this card now: I was not going to categorize this card as "airbrushed," since the photo angle hides any Astros logo. But I think there is some funny business going on with Gallagher's jersey, so I'm saying it's airbrushed.

Other stuff: Gallagher, whose grandfather played in the majors and managed the Red Sox, played just four years with only 255 at-bats. He came up with the Red Sox, spent most of his time with the Astros, and was traded to the Mets in the Ken Boswell deal  in October 1974. He played just 33 games for the Mets.

I always got Gallagher confused with "Dirty Al" Gallagher, who played around the same time. The non-dirty Gallagher became a high school teacher after his playing career.


Back facts: Any card that has a cartoon of a hippopotamus on the back rocks.

Other blog stuff: I could say that Carlton Fisk or Ozzie Smith were born on this date. But instead I'm going to say Mario Mendoza was born on this date 60 years ago! The namesake of the Mendoza line has yet to appear on this blog. It's always nice to look forward to something.

Friday, December 24, 2010

#405 - John Montague


Card fact: This is John Montague's first solo Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: I had it and I thought Montague looked a little too sad for someone who was a professional baseball player.

What I think about this card now: It's miscut and kind of messed up on the top with the yellow showing.

Other stuff: Montague was a relief pitcher for the Expos, Phillies, Mariners and Angels. After a couple of respectable relief seasons for Montreal, he was waived and his career was looking a little dicey. He didn't do well with the Phillies, but was purchased by a new franchise, the Seattle Mariners.

With Seattle, Montague actually did some starting and also recorded the first save in Mariners history. He pitched three seasons for Seattle, then was traded to the Angels. He ended his major league career with California in 1980. He was picked up by the Blue Jays in 1981, but didn't pitch for them.


Card fact: This might be the most egregious example of giving a card number ending in a "5" to someone who doesn't deserve it. Back then, cards that ended in the number "5" were reserved for semi-stars. But there would be a slip-up once in a while, and this is a definite slip-up.

Also, Elston Howard is actually credited for inventing the batting donut. Or "doughnut," if you're a stickler.

Other blog stuff: It's time to take a break for the Christmas holiday. All you '75 Topps fans have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

#404 - Ted Sizemore


Card fact: This is the first time Ted Sizemore appears on a card with his familiar mustache. He stayed with it until the end of his major league career in 1980.

What I thought about this card then: I liked it a lot. Sizemore was one of my favorites for unknown reasons. He had the fortune of playing virtually his entire career for some of my all-time favorite teams -- the Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies and Red Sox. There was only one year with the Cubs that fouled things up.

I remember pulling this card from a pack purchased during a trip to the drug store not long after school was let out for the summer. I considered myself very fortunate to have this card.

What I think about this card now: It's quite off-center.

Other stuff: Sizemore came up with the Dodgers and was named the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1969. But the Dodgers traded him away a year later to get Rich Allen. The trade did clear the way for Davey Lopes to take the second base position with L.A. (only after that experiment with Lee Lacy didn't work out). And the Cardinals had a starting second baseman for five seasons.

St. Louis traded Sizemore back to the Dodgers in 1976 in a deal for Willie Crawford. But he lasted only a year and was off to the Phillies in a deal for Johnny Oates. Sizemore finished out his career with the Cubs and the Red Sox.

After his career, he worked for the Rawlings glove company and is now the president for the Baseball Assistance Team, an MLB organization that provides assistance for former major, minor and Negro league players who are down on their luck.


Back facts: Sizemore must have hit second behind Brock a lot in 1974.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally were declared free agents, paving the way for free agency as we know it today.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

#403 - Tom Buskey


Card fact: This is Tom Buskey's rookie card.

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

What I think about this card now: Buskey always looks so sad on his baseball cards. I know, I know, he only had like six of them. But he looks sad on most of them.

Also, I believe Buskey is airbrushed into an Indians uniform. He was traded from the Yankees in late April of 1974.

Other stuff: Buskey was a career relief pitcher -- 258 games pitched in eight seasons and not a start among them. He began his career with the Yankees, but came over to the Indians in the famous trade that brought Chris Chambliss and Dick Tidrow to New York.

Buskey proved to be a reliable reliever for the Indians, setting what was then a team record for saves in a season with 17 in 1974. But after a couple of years, Buskey's ineffectiveness won him a trip to the minors. He eventually landed with the fledgling Blue Jays and pitched for them until ending his major league career in 1980.

Buskey died from a heart attack suffered at home at age 51 in 1998.


Back facts: One of Buskey's saves in 1974 was for the Yankees before he was traded. Also, Buskey gets a cartoon that is related to his team. Lucky guy.

Other blog stuff: Let's continue the Steve Garvey references for a second straight day. On this date 62 years ago, Garvey was born.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#402 - Bob Tolan


Card fact: Here is another name that does not match the signature on the card. I remember Tolan being called "Bobby," but Topps always referred to him as "Bob" on his cards.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But no doubt I would have thought it was cool.

What I think about this card now: I can't figure out what that yellow tuft is behind Tolan's hair at the back of his head.

Other stuff: Tolan began  his career with the Cardinals, but blossomed into a full-time outfielder with the early Big Red Machine teams in Cincinnati in the early 1970s. Tolan led the league in stolen bases in 1970 and later was a key figure for the Reds in their NLCS victory over the Pirates, scoring all three runs in a Game 2 victory.

Tolan ruptured his Achilles tendon playing basketball during the offseason and missed the entire 1971 season. He won Comeback of the Year honors with the Reds in 1972. But 1973 began a downward slide for Tolan. His hitting suffered, and he squabbled with management. He left the team without permission and broke team rules by growing a beard. At the end of September he was suspended for the rest of the season and missed the playoffs.

The Reds traded Tolan to the Padres ahead of the 1974 season. Tolan filed a grievance against Cincinnati and won the case, but his hitting wasn't the same. After a couple years with San Diego, he joined the Phillies as a part-time player in '76. He left for Japan after a dismal season between the Phillies and Pirates in 1977. Later Tolan worked as a coach for the Padres.

Tolan's son, Robbie, was a prospect in the Nationals organization. He was shot by a police officer in 2008 during a dispute and the resulting injury may have halted his baseball career.


Back facts: As a kid, I thought players were special if the cartoon referred to the team for which he played.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1982, Steve Garvey signed a contract to play with the Padres, disappointing Dodger fans everywhere. I know someone who changed his favorite team from the Dodgers because of this. I do not understand that decision.

Monday, December 20, 2010

#401 - Mike Wallace


Card fact: This is Mike Wallace's first solo card. Wallace is featured on just two Topps cards by himself (he's on one of those 4-rookie cards in the '74 set). In both of them, he is airbrushed into the cap of his new team. He is airbrushed into a Rangers cap in the 1977 set.

What I thought about this card then: I was deprived as a child. I never saw it. For the longest time, I only knew Mike Wallace as the guy on 60 Minutes.

What I think about this card now: One of the more obvious and terrible airbrushing attempts in the set. The cap is barely on Wallace's head and the N.Y. logo is much, much too big. Wallace's long hair isn't helping matters.

Other stuff: Mike Wallace played five seasons in the majors. He came up with the Phillies in 1973. In his first game, the second part of a doubleheader against the Mets, he threw a complete game, allowing one run, walking none and getting the victory. He worked almost exclusively as a reliever during his career, starting just four games.

In 1974, he was traded to the Yankees and went 6-0 for New York. He remembers teaming with another pitcher on a combined shutout against Jim Palmer and the Orioles during September of that year. After that, he pitched with the Yankees in '75, then with St. Louis and Texas before his major league career ended in 1977.


Back facts: The write-up says Wallace "joined the Yankees last June." The trade between the Yankes and Phillies was May 3, which means Topps is saying Wallace joined the Yankees from the minor leagues. He began his New York career with Syracuse, the Triple A team of the Yankees then.

Other blog stuff: Both Cecil Cooper and Oscar Gamble were born on this date in 1949. They're both 61 today.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

#400 - Dick Allen


Card fact: This is the first time that an all-star card has landed on a century number, meaning I need to update the all-star list AND update the state of the set on the same post.

Normally, I do both under the heading of "other blog stuff." But this time I will feature the all-star update in the "card fact" portion. Here it is:

AL

1B - Dick Allen
2B -
3B - Brooks Robinson
SS - Bert Campaneris
OF - Bobby Murcer
OF -
OF -
C - Carlton Fisk
P -

NL

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

What I thought about this card then: I didn't have it. But I vaguely recall someone else having it. I remember some cool kid I knew owned it, and I thought it was unattainable. Not that I wasn't a cool kid or anything.

What I think about this card now: Just a great card. But I've had a difficult time getting it well-centered. This one is better than what I had.

Other stuff: Lordy, where do you start? Allen was one of the most controversial figures in baseball history. He started out as a powerful star for the Phillies, winning N.L. Rookie of the Year honors in 1964, but was relentlessly booed by Philadelphia fans during his time there. Because of perceptions that he was difficult, he was traded to St. Louis for Curt Flood, a deal in which Flood famously refused to go to Philadelphia.

Allen was then traded to the Dodgers, who after a year, sent him to the White Sox in the Tommy John deal. Allen enjoyed a resurgence in Chicago, capturing the A.L. MVP award in 1972 and recording three strong seasons, despite a '73 season abbreviated by a broken leg. But Allen left the White Sox in mid-September after a feud with teammate Ron Santo. The White Sox shipped him to the Braves in the offseason. Allen later returned to Philadelphia for 1975 and 1976 and finished his career with Oakland in 1977.

Throughout the latter stages of his career, Allen is pictured wearing a helmet, even while in the field (such as on this card). Allen began wearing a helmet in the field in Philadelphia when fans started hurling objects at him.

Topps used three different first names for Allen during his career. It started out with "Richie," which is what he was called while with the Phillies. Then with the 1970 set, Topps shortened Allen's name to "Rich." It stayed that way until 1973 when it became "Dick." Allen said that he was always called "Dick" growing up and thought "Richie" was a little boy's name.

Allen is considered by many as a Hall of Famer and possibly the most obvious example of a player being undeservedly left out of the Hall. Detractors say Allen's career was a little too short and his fielding was not good.


Back facts: There is the sad fact, White Sox fans. Traded to the Braves, right on the back of his White Sox card!

Other blog stuff: Inventory time! After 100 more cards, let's see what we have:

1. COLOR COMBINATIONS

Orange-brown has poured on the coal and padded its lead after holding only a one-card edge after 300 cards. Some of the earlier leaders/favorites, like green-light green, purple-pink and green-purple have fallen way behind. Last-place yellow-green didn't have one card in the past 100:

1. Orange-brown: 40
2. Pink-yellow: 34
3. Green-light green: 27
4. Yellow-red: 27
5. Purple-pink: 26
6. Green-purple: 25
7. Blue-orange: 20
8. Brown-tan: 20
9. Orange-yellow: 19
10. Red-orange: 19
11. Tan-light blue: 19
12. Yellow-light blue: 19
13. Red-blue: 18
14. Green-yellow: 17
15. Red-yellow: 17
16. Light blue-green: 16
17. Brown-orange: 15
18. Yellow-green: 12

2. POWDER BLUE UNIFORMS

Eleven more cards, including this one, to total 49 so far.

3. LOOKING UP

Just two more players looking to the skies for a grand total of 11. That's got to increase later in the set.

4. DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY

One guy who seemed like a gal to me back then. So the grand total is 9.

5. DECEASED

Eleven more departed players to add -- including a couple of recent ones in Ed Kirkpatrick and Ron Santo who weren't even in the last 100 cards. The total is at 39.

6. CHAW

Jackie Brown is the third player to display a chaw on cardboard thus far.

7. MLB SONS

Four more players who had sons who played in the majors. That's 19 total.

8. ROOKIE CUP/ALL-STARS

7/11

9. MOST POPULAR FIRST NAME

Jim has passed Dave/David and is now the overall leader with 17 players with that name.

10. MINIS

We had a mini surge. A total of 55 cards in the set thus far I have in mini form. That is 13.8 percent, up slightly from 100 cards ago.

All right, time to hit the next 100! Up next, one of the worst airbrush jobs in the entire set. Just awful.

Friday, December 17, 2010

#399 - Terry Harmon


Card fact: The last two Phillies cards have featured the brown-tan color border. Six of the last 25 cards have had brown-tan borders.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. But I always got Terry Harmon and Tommy Hutton confused. Both infielders. Both Phillies. Both with T.H. for initials.

What I think about this card now: Just Terry Harmon and his shadow.

Other stuff: Harmon was a lifetime utility infielder for the Phillies. He signed with Philadelphia in 1965 and stayed with them until his release in 1978. He was there for his fielding, because his hitting wasn't much. He batted below .200 in three seasons of his career, including .130 in 1974. He had just 15 at-bats in 27 games in '74, which makes me wonder why he got a card in the '75 set.

After the end of his career, Harmon went into broadcasting. His wiki page says he works for one of the 24-hour cable shows that hawk jewelry.


Back facts: I assume when the cartoon says "both ways," it means that Mantle hit a homer to center field as a lefty and a righty.

Also, given that Harmon had just two home runs to this point (he had four for his career), I looked up the pitcher who surrendered Harmon's inside-the-parker. It was none other than Jerry Reuss. The Astros did win the game, 5-3.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 2004, a three-team deal was supposedly completed between the Yankees, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. The Yankees would get Randy Johnson and Kaz Ishii. The Diamondbacks would get Shawn Green and Brad Penny, and the Dodgers would get Javier Vazquez and prospects. The Dodgers backed out the last minute. Phew! Not that L.A. won much with Green and Penny, but that would have been awful!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

#398 - Elias Sosa


Card fact: Elias Sosa is rocking an airbrushed Cardinals cap while posing in Candlestick Park in San Francisco. He was traded from the Giants to the Cardinals in mid-October of 1974.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. I didn't know Sosa until he was a Dodger in 1976.

What I think about this card now: Quite the signature -- loops all over the place.

Other stuff: Sosa was a relief pitcher for 12 seasons with the Giants, Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers, A's, Expos, Tigers and Padres. He started just three of the 601 games in which he pitched. He was your classic relief workhorse, especially with the Giants, A's and Expos in which he averaged 60-70 games a season.

Sosa is probably most famous for allowing the second of Reggie Jackson's three home runs during Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. The 1977 Topps Sosa card was one of the first Dodgers I pulled that year, so I was extra disappointed in Sosa's gopher ball.


Back facts: You see the mention of the trade on the back. Sosa was actually traded from the Cardinals to the Braves in May of 1975. He pitched just 14 games for St. Louis.

Other blog stuff: This is the 40th orange-brown bordered card in the set. That is six more than the next highest color combo.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#397 - Bill Freehan


Card fact: This is the only Topps card in Bill Freehan's career in which he is not listed exclusively as a catcher. The 1974 season was the only one in which Freehan played more games at a position other than catcher. He played 65 at first base and 63 beind the plate.

What I thought about this card then: Me no see. The first card of his I saw was his 1976 Topps card.

What I think about this card now: I have never known how to pronounce Freehan's name. I've always pronounced it "Free-HAN," which I suspect is wrong.

Other stuff: Freehan was born in Detroit, played his whole career with the Tigers, and was both a solid hitter and a record-setting fielder. All of those ingredients made him a hero among Tigers fans. He has but two transactions in his entire 15-year career. He signed with the Tigers in 1961 and was released by the Tigers in 1976.

Freehan was an 11-time all-star. His best seasons came in 1967 and 1968, when he was third and second, respectively, in A.L. MVP voting. He set a number of records for fielding, and caught more games than any other player in Tigers history. He ended his career ninth all-time in MLB history in total games caught.

After his career, Freehan did some broadcasting, then became the University of Michigan baseball coach in the 1990s.


Back facts: I learned about the term "hitting with your foot in the bucket" by reading a story as a young teenager about Al Simmons and the Philadelphia A's famous 1929 World Series comeback against the Cubs. It's been a long time since I ever heard any one mention a major leaguer as hitting with their foot in the bucket. I'm sure the coaches clean that right up these days.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, "Young Frankenstein" was released. "Roll, roll, roll in ze hay!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

#396 - Fred Norman


Card fact: Fred Norman's pose on this card is quite similar to the one on his 1976 Topps card. But they were definitely taken at different times as he's featured in different stadiums. Either that or Topps did some cutting and pasting.

What I thought about this card then: I acquired it fairly early in 1975. I still have that card. It has a crease that travels down the center of the card, top to bottom, from the top part of the card to about the mid level of Norman's cap.

What I think about this card now: It's nice. For a Red. A Norman card was once the oldest card I owned. So that's the card I think of when his name comes up.

Other stuff: Norman began in the majors as a 20-year-old pitching for the Kansas City A's in 1962. He ran through quite a few teams before emerging as a consistent starter for the Padres in the early '70s. But Norman is most known for being a starter with the Big Red Machine teams of the mid-1970s. He pitched with Cincinnati for seven years, winning in double figures each year. His final year was with Montreal in 1980.


Back facts: "Tiny" Bonham was a 20-game winner for the Yankees in the 1940s. He's listed as 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. That's not tiny. But it's not fat either.

Other blog stuff: Bill Buckner is 61 years old today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

#395 - Bud Harrelson


Card fact: It has been 101 cards since the last red-blue bordered card. That might be a record. So far.

What I thought about this card then: I don't recall seeing it.

What I think about this card now: Bud Harrelson was known for being able to put down a sacrifice. But this is the only time that Topps showed him bunting or in a bunting pose during his career. That's too bad.

Also, what the heck is that structure in the background?

Other stuff: Harrelson was part of the Mets' first three pennant-winning teams, playing shortstop for the 1969 and 1973 World Series teams and working as a coach for the 1986 World Series team. As a shortstop, he was your typical good-field, sort-of-hit player that you found at the position in the 1970s.

As a kid, I knew Harrelson more as a Phillie, which is where he spent the end of his playing career (along with the Rangers). I also knew all about his fight with Pete Rose during the National League Championship Series in 1973. But I didn't know that the fight was started when Harrelson made a self-deprecating remark about his hitting, comparing how the Reds hit against Jon Matlack in the previous game to Harrelson's spartan batting skills. Apparently, Rose didn't like that. Harrelson wouldn't have known it though if Joe Morgan hadn't tattled the information to Harrelson that Rose wasn't happy. That may have touched off the fight when Rose went into second base on a double-play ball hit by Morgan.

Once again, Morgan doesn't know when to shut up.

After Harrelson's playing career, he went on to coach and manage the Mets into the early 1990s. He now owns an independent baseball team on Long Island.


Back facts: I wonder how they got "Bud" out of Derrel McKinley Harrelson.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1926, a member of the Boys of Summer, Carl Erskine, was born. He is 84 years young today.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

#394 - Larvell Blanks


Card fact: This is Larvell Blanks' rookie card. It is also the first time in the set that players from the same team are featured in back-to-back cards. That didn't happen too often in the 1970s. It was usually an indication of a last-minute change. Neither Gary Gentry of the previous post nor Larvell Blanks played very much for Atlanta in 1974. So either card could have been a last-minute swap out for another player who may have retired suddenly and forced the inclusion of either Gentry or Blanks.

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

What I think about this card now: Lots of things:

1. It's a bit crooked. But you should have seen the previous version of this card. That was criminally crooked.

2. I always thought "Larvell Blanks" sounded like a Saturday morning cartoon character.

3. I believe the background of this photo features the same stadium that is in the background of the Gentry card photo. Don't ask me what stadium that is.

4. Blanks' position is "infield." He played all of two games in the field in 1974. Both of those were at shortstop. So I don't know why Topps couldn't have narrowed it down more than "infield."

Other stuff: Larvell "Sugar Bear" Blanks came from an athletic family out of Del Rio, Texas. He managed only one year as a starter in the majors -- playing in 141 games for the Braves in 1975. The rest of his major league career, from 1972 to 1980, was spent as an infield backup for some of the worst teams of the 1970s -- the Braves, Indians and Rangers.

After his career -- he also played in Mexico -- Blanks taught and picked up golfing. He now plays on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour. Blanks' cousin, Lance Blanks, a former NBA player, is the current general manager of the Phoenix Suns.


Back facts: The cartoon is a reference to man whose single-season stolen base record was broken by Lou Brock in 1974. But I have no idea why there is a bear holding a bat. Hamilton did not play for the Cubs. He played for the Phillies, Boston Beaneaters and Kansas City Cowboys.

Other blog stuff: Here is an interesting "on this date" fact:

On this date in 1975, Larvell Blanks and Ralph Garr were traded to the White Sox for Ken Henderson, Dick Ruthven and Ozzie Osborn. So I am featuring Blanks' card on the date he was traded 35 years ago.

Also on this date, Ralph Garr was born. So he was traded on his 30th birthday.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

#393 - Gary Gentry


Card fact: This is the final Topps card issued of Gary Gentry during his career.

What I thought about this card then: I remember this card came to me in a big trade with a friend. I recall being quite fascinated with it. I don't know why. Probably the mustache.

What I think about this card now: I like how there are many of the elements of a stadium in the background. Bleachers, backstop, press box. Cool.

Other stuff: Gentry's claim to fame came during his rookie season with the New York Mets in 1969. Gentry pitched the division-clinching victory in September, pitched the league championship-clinching win against the Braves, and won Game 3 of the World Series, adding a two-run home run. He was truly an amazing part of the Amazing Mets.

Gentry pitched well for the Mets the next few years, then was traded to Atlanta with Danny Frisella in exchange for Felix Millan and George Stone. Gentry suffered an elbow injury soon after the trade, and it led to the end of his career. He was finished not even two months into the 1975 season.


Back facts: You can see that Gentry barely played in 1974. He pitched three games. It makes me wonder why Topps produced a card of him for the '75 set. I have a suspicion he was a late fill-in for an unknown player who may have retired. That suspicion has to do with the card that will be featured in the next post. (Ah, suspense!)

Other blog stuff: The last three orange-yellow bordered cards all have had Mets connections. There is Gentry, and before that was Tom Seaver, preceded by Ray Sadecki.

Friday, December 10, 2010

#392 - Bruce Bochte


Card fact: This is Bruce Bochte's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I didn't like it. I thought Bochte was wearing makeup.

What I think about this card now: Signing your name with a lower-case letter to start your first and last name is a definite attempt to set yourself apart. Either that or Bochte really didn't like the capital letter "B."

Other stuff: Bochte was a good contact hitter for the Angels, Indians, A's and especially the Mariners. His 1979 season with Seattle led to his only All-Star appearance. He drove in 100 runs and hit .316 that year. Bochte played 12 seasons in the majors, finishing up with Oakland in 1986.

After his career, some labeled him as a spacey kind of guy for his thoughts on nature, earth and how human beings fit into the whole thing. It's called cosmology, and there is no way I can explain it sufficiently. This where-are-they-now article about Bochte gives you his thought process better than I could.


Back facts: Frank Isbell is another old-timey player. He played for the White Sox between 1898-1909.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1971, the Mets traded Nolan Ryan and three prospects to the Angels for Jim Fregosi.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

#391 - Don DeMola


Card fact: This is Don DeMola's rookie card. He'd have only two Topps cards in his career. His 1976 card was his last.

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

What I think about this card now: Once again, the Coca-Cola ad is prominent on an Expos card. This is one of the best examples, and rivals the Ernie McAnally card. Also, I'd love to know what the sign says beyond the green fence -- "in the to keep" is leaving me in the dark.

Other stuff: DeMola came up with the Yankees in the late 1960s, but was released and out of baseball in 1972. He signed with Montreal and competed as a reliever in 85 games for the Expos in 1974 and 1975. He played in the minors in the late '70s, but never returned to the majors.

DeMola later got into the fur business and teaches some baseball.


Back facts: So much to comment on here:

1. I have never heard the term "kicks" in reference to arguing with an umpire. I've heard of a lot of old-time phrases that others haven't (ballhawk, etc.), but this is totally new. How would you use that in a sentence?

2. The 1975 card says that for 1972, DeMola was "not in organized ball." His 1976 card says that DeMola "did not play." So, did Topps do some research between 1975 and 1976 and find out that DeMola just sat on his ass the entire 1972 season? Is that why they changed the wording?

3. How do you know when a baseball "smokes"?

Other blog stuff: DeMola was just featured on another blog. Funny how that happens.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

#390 - Ron Cey


Card fact: Well, the moment has arrived. This is my most favorite card in the set. It's also my most favorite card of all-time. Favorite card when I was a kid. Favorite card now. I traded HANK AARON for this card, for crying out loud. And, no, I don't regret it one bit.

What I thought about this card then: Must. Have. Card.

What I think about this card now: Between the two blogs, I'm sure I have posted this card more often than any other. It's about the 6th or 7th time. I think I've said all I have to say about it. It became my favorite during 1975, I traded the '75 Aaron card for it, and then somehow, tragically, I lost that first '75 Cey card.

Why did Cey become my favorite then? Well, I've studied my younger self enough to come to the conclusion that I liked players with long hair and mustaches and that wore helmets. Add the fact that he was a Dodger, and I think it was a natural fit.

Other stuff: Cey is the best slugger the Los Angeles Dodgers have ever had. He led the franchise in career home runs until Eric Karros broke it. He came through in the clutch in some big postseason moments, most notably during the 1977 NLCS against the Phillies and the 1981 World Series against the Yankees. I remember being especially proud of him when he broke the N.L record for RBIs in the month of April in 1978. And how about the diving catch on a bunt by Bobby Murcer in the '81 World Series?

"The Penguin" had a distinctive trot around the bases -- very much like a waddle. And his batting stance was memorable, too.

I still have no idea why the Dodgers traded him to the Cubs after the 1982 season. No one has been able to give me a good reason. Hey, I liked Pedro Guerrero, too, but put him in the damn outfield.

Cey is now one of the Dodgers' biggest ambassadors, a frequent TTM and in-person signer -- as I will attest. His daughter, Amanda, is a big-time event/party planner in San Francisco.


Back facts: I didn't know what monuments were as a 9-year-old. I thought those rectangular drawings in the cartoon were gas station pumps. I thought Jimmy Piersall was fielding a fly down at the local Sunoco station.

Also, I double-checked the game facts in the write-up. They're all correct. Cey was 3-for-4 with 7 RBIs, two homers and a bases-loaded single. He also struck out looking.

Other blog stuff: This is the second Dodger all-star on the N.L. team so far, so let's add Cey to the list:

AL

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

NL

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

#389 - Tony Solaita


Card fact: This is Tony Solaita's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. I did pull his 1978 Topps card and knew at an early age that he was the first and only major league player to be born in American Somoa.

What I think about this card now: What is that ghostly Royals figure in the dugout doing?

Other stuff: Solaita was known as a terrific and powerful hitter in the minor leagues, but didn't get much of a shot in the majors until coming up with Kansas City in 1974. From that point he was mostly a backup first baseman and designated hitter with the Royals, Angels and Blue Jays. He then played in Japan in the early 1980s.

After his career, he returned to American Somoa -- he grew up there as a boy before moving to Hawaii -- and helped revive Little League baseball there.

Solaita was murdered in 1990 in a dispute over a land transaction.


Back fact: Those might be the most lengthy minor league stats in the whole set. Check out that 1968 season in High Point-Thomasville.

Other blog stuff: Johnny Bench was born on this date 63 years ago. He'll always be Mr. Krylon Spray Paint to me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

#388 - Steve Stone


Card fact: This is the first card featuring Steve Stone wearing a mustache. He'd appear in a mustache on each Topps card until his transformation on the 1981 card in which he was clean-shaven, had shorter hair and was fresh off a 25-win season.

What I thought about this card then: My brother and I thought he was an odd-looking fellow. Looking at it now, Stone looks like a friend of mine when I was a kid -- minus the mustache, of course.

What I think about this card now: Well, first, nice coordination of the glove color with the team color. Secondly, there aren't a lot of photos in this set in which the photographer shot up at the subject. I'm not sure why they chose Stone for that treatment. He wasn't exactly a dominant pitcher at this time.

Other stuff: Stone was your typical 1970s pitcher. He was his own kind of guy and he wasn't going to follow the ballplayer traditions of the previous 80 years without thinking about it first. Other 1970s pitchers -- the Carltons, the Marshalls, the Lyles, the Lees, etc. -- were the same way, a new breed. Stone was well-read and did things like visiting a psychic in a bid to improve his pitching.

Stone came over to the Cubs from the White Sox in the famous trade that sent Ron Santo to the White Sox. Stone returned to the White Sox in 1977, then signed with the Orioles as a free agent before the 1979 season. In 1980, Stone started 37 games, pitched 250 innings and won 25 games against 7 losses. He captured the Cy Young Award in a vote that many feel robbed Mike Norris of the award.

But Stone's reliance on the curve ball that season led to arm issues. He had only one more major league season and was retired by 1982.

Stone is now known more for his broadcasting than his career. He began broadcasting in 1983 and paired up with Harry Caray in Chicago for nearly 15 years. He was quite popular. He later teamed with Chip Caray, but became involved in controversy with Cubs players, who complained he was too critical of them on the air (why am I not surprised that Moises Alou was one of the complainers? I do not like anything I hear about that guy).

Stone left the Cubs after that 2004 flap and after a few years landed with the White Sox. He is now partnered with Ken Harrelson.


Back facts: Arbitrary capitalization of "shutout" in the write-up.

Other blog stuff: I have no more words. Make something up on your own.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#387 - Jim Spencer


Card fact: It's been a dozen cards since we last saw a bat pictured on one of these cards. That's just too long if you ask me.

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

What I think about this card now: Jim Spencer looks like he could fill out a cap.

Other stuff: Spencer started out as the regular first baseman for the California Angels in the early 1970s. He was know for his glove -- he won two Gold Gloves -- and could hit a little. He was traded to the Rangers where he started DHing, then went to the White Sox in the Bill Melton deal.

 It was during that time that I discovered Spencer. He was part of the Southside Hitmen team, although a relatively small part. But he had 18 home runs in 1977 and I was really annoyed when he was traded to the Yankees for virtually nothing. Spencer played in the postseason for the Yankees in the 1978, 1980 and 1981, and I no longer liked him.

He finished his career with Oakland in 1982. Spencer died of heart attack in 2002.


Back facts: According to baseball-reference, Richard Darwin Miller was actually Ralph Darwin Miller. He played in 1898 and 1899 for Brooklyn and Baltimore.

But he's not the only major leaguer to have reached 100 years of age, according to several sources, including this one, which says there have been at least 15 major leaguers to live to be 100. Tony Malinosky, who played a single season for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937, is believed to be the only living major league centenarian.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1978, Pete Rose left the Cincinnati Reds to sign with the Phillies.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

#386 - Checklist, 265-396


Card fact: This is the first pink-yellow bordered card in 33 cards. Once the overall leader, it is now trailing badly behind orange-brown.

What I thought about this card then: Beats me.

What I think about this card now: It's funny how these checklist cards come along at the best times. I just had a whirlwind 36 hours. I certainly could use a quick-and-easy post.

Other stuff: The name of Dick Sharon is misspelled as "Sahron" at card No. 293.


Back facts: Another sneak-peak at the players coming up in cards numbered 387-396, including my most favorite player of all-time (no it's not Don DeMola).

Other blog stuff: A lot of big trades have happened on this date in history. Among them:

1957: White Sox send Minnie Minoso and Fred Hatfield to the Indians for Early Wynn and Al Smith.
1958: Dodgers trade Gino Cimoli to Cardinals for Wally Moon.
1963: Tigers trade Jim Bunning to the Phillies for Gus Triandos, Jack Hamilton and Don Demeter.
1964: Dodgers trade Frank Howard, Phil Ortega, Ken McMullen and Pete Richert to the Senators for Claude Osteen and John Kennedy
1968: Astros trade Mike Cuellar, Elijah Johnson and Enzo Hernandez to the Orioles for Curt Belfary and Curt Mason.
1973: Reds send Ross Grimsley to the Orioles for Merv Rettenmund and Junior Kennedy.
1974: Expos trade Ken Singleton and Mike Torrez to the Orioles for Dave McNally, Rich Coggins and a minor leaguer.
1988: Orioles trade Eddie Murray to the Dodgers for Ken Howell, Brian Holton and Juan Bell.
2007: Marlins send Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Dallas Trahern, Mike Rabelo, Eulogio De La Cruz and Burke Badenhop.

Friday, December 3, 2010

#385 - Dock Ellis


Card fact: Another blue-orange card. This is my favorite color border combination and it's really on a streak now with six of the last 22 cards being blue-orange.

What I thought about this card then: As I mentioned in a tribute post to Ellis after he died, this was a card that I first saw in my friend Jennifer's house. She collected some cards in 1975 and the Ellis card was my favorite of hers. I thought everything about the card was perfect. Finally, that same year, I obtained the mini card and didn't have to lust after someone else's card anymore.

What I think about this card now: Dock Ellis was a Junior? I never knew that.

Other stuff: So much has been written about Ellis in recent years that I'm sure everyone knows his colorful baseball story -- the no-hitter on LSD, the curlers in his hair, the charges of racism. Let's just say that Ellis was a damn good pitcher, but some other things got in the way, some of it his own doing, some of it not.


Back facts: I also mentioned before how cool it is that there is a cartoon about a doctor on the back of a card of someone named Dock. And yes, Dock was Dock's real first name.

Other blog stuff: If you have the regular-sized Dock Ellis card and the mini Dock Ellis card, then you must feature them together:


That's for you, Jennifer.