Sunday, July 31, 2011

#610 - Ron Hunt


Card fact: This is the final Topps card of Ron Hunt during his playing career.

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

What I think about this card now: Topps isn't fooling me with that "Cardinals" cap. Hunt is airbrushed from his Expos get-up because he was obtained off waivers by the Cardinals in early September 1974 and Topps was out of luck getting a photo.

Other stuff: Hunt came up with Mets, who were in their sophomore season in 1963. He became the Mets' starting second baseman and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting to Pete Rose that year.

Hunt played for the Mets for four years but was dealt to the Dodgers in the Tommy Davis deal. Then, after a season with L.A., he was shipped to the Giants in the first trade between the two teams since their moves out to the West Coast.

Hunt's reputation for getting hit by pitches really grew while he played for San Francisco. Beginning with his first season with the Giants in 1968, his HBP totals jumped and he led the league in HBP for seven straight seasons. His phenomenal 50 HBPs in 1971 while he was with the Expos is the most recorded in the modern era.

Hunt played with the Expos through 1974 and ended his career with the Cardinals. After his career, he eventually started a baseball camp, which he has operated for more than two decades.


Back facts: The cartoon means to say: "Who stole home the most times in a career?" Although the Baseball Almanac site says Cobb stole home 54 times, not 35.

Other blog stuff: I'm really starting to believe my speculation on whether Topps waited to fill in the players who would represent the higher numbers in the set. If you look at the cards since No. 600, only Rod Carew and John Ellis are what you would have called "definites" for the set. Every other player has been either at the very end of his career, the very beginning, or was traded recently. Ellie Rodriguez doesn't fall into those categories, but he also didn't have a card the previous two years, so he wasn't a definite either.

I'll be tracking the rest of the cards.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

#609 - Ellie Hendricks


Card fact: Ellie Hendricks returns to the Topps set with this card. He did not appear in the 1973 and 1974 sets.

What I thought about this card then: I remember seeing a mangled mini version of the Hendricks card, but I couldn't tell you whether it was owned by me, my brother or a friend.

What I think about this card now: Hendricks gets progressively happier in his cards through the years (really, take a look). This is one of his final cards, and you can see he is quite happy.

Other stuff: Hendricks was an enormously popular Orioles player, who is credited as one of the keys to Baltimore's impressive pitching rotation of the late '60s and early '70s. He was known as a great handler of pitchers and was at his most active between 1969-71 when the Orioles went to the World Series each year. He was involved in a famous controversial play in the 1970 World Series in which he collided with the home plate umpire and Reds runner Bernie Carbo on a play at the plate.

Hendricks was dealt to the Cubs in 1972, but returned to the Orioles the following year, as more of a third-string catcher. He didn't hit much at all -- batting .220 for his career -- and was traded again to the Yankees in the huge nine player deal on June 15, 1976.

He returned again to the Orioles in the late '70s as a player-coach. He then moved on to be a bullpen coach for Baltimore for 28 seasons, and was the longest tenured active coach for a period.

Hendricks died of a heart attack just shy of his 65th birthday in December 2005.


Back facts: Hendricks hit a home run in Game 1 of the 1970 World Series, the same game in which he was involved in the controversial play.

Other blog stuff: The green-purple border combination ties the orange-brown combination for first place with its 52nd card.

Friday, July 29, 2011

#608 - Gene Michael


Card fact: This is the final Topps card of Gene Michael during his playing career.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. Michael looked ancient to me.

What I think about this card now: It is way, way off-center and I need to fix it.

Other stuff: Michael is known for his career with the Yankees as a player, coach, manager and administrator. He had his most success as the general manager with the Yankees in the 1990s, helping build the team that won four World Series titles in five years.

As a player, Michael was signed by the Pirates, then traded to the Dodgers for Maury Wills in 1967. A year later, he was purchased by the Yankees and played for New York through the end of the 1974 season. He played for the Tigers in 1975.

Michael, nicknamed "Stick," was your typical good-field, no-hit middle infielder that thrived in the '70s. He batted .229 for his career, but knew the game, which really served him well in his front office jobs.

I remember Michael being a guest during a Yankees broadcast a few years ago. He was fascinating to listen to -- intelligent, revealing and full of stories. He should have been able to talk for the whole game.


Back facts: Robert "Bobby" Mitchell was never an ace pitcher. He was more of a fill-in type guy. The first "full-time" left-handed pitcher was J. Lee Richmond, who also pitched baseball's first perfect game.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1983, Steve Garvey's consecutive games played streak ended at 1,207 after he was unable to play in the second game of the Padres' doubleheader against the Braves. He dislocated his thumb in a collision at home plate in the first game.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

#607 - Jim Holt


Card fact: Jim Holt is looking way up in the sky because he doesn't want to show you that he is really wearing a Twins cap. Holt was traded from the Twins to the A's in August of 1974. He is painted into a green-and-gold jersey.

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

What I think about this card now: One of the more unsettling "looking up" cards in the set. Also, you might be interested to know that Holt's uniform number with the A's was 38. His uniform number with the Twins was 26. And you can see the number 26 on the bill of his cap. Can't fool me, Topps.

Other stuff: Holt played first base and the outfield for the Twins and A's between 1968-76. He was a part-timer for most of his career, although he hit .297 in 132 games for the Twins in 1973 when Harmon Killebrew was dealing with a knee ailment that sidelined him for a good chunk of the season.

The Twins traded Holt for Pat Bourque late in the season in '74 (Bourque was returned to the A's after the season). Holt's biggest moment with the A's was knocking in two runs as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the '74 World Series against the Dodgers. Holt's single broke open a close game and a close series and gave the A's a 5-2 victory. Oakland would go on to win the Series in 5 games.


Back facts: I don't know why "an accomplished big league hitter" is necessary. He's in the big leagues. He's a hitter. I think that makes him "accomplished."

Other blog stuff: The orange-brown border combination has moved back into first place with its 52nd card. It's apparently going to be a dogfight until the end.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#606 - Bruce Miller


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

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. For some reason, I thought he was a pitcher, even though "2B-3B" was staring at me the whole time.

What I think about this card now: Miller looks quite friendly for someone with a bad-ass mustache.

Other stuff: Miller played four major league seasons for the Giants from 1973-76. He started with the White Sox, then was dealt to the Angels. The Giants acquired him for infielder Al Gallagher in 1973.

Miller was a part-time player. The only season he stayed out of the minors was 1975 when he .239 in 99 games for the Giants.

Miller became a teacher and school coach in his native Indiana after his playing career.


Back facts: I wonder if the cartoon, specifically the reference to Baltimore and the moving van drawing, gives any old Colts fans bad flashbacks?

Other blog stuff: '70 singer Maureen McGovern was born on this date 62 years ago. "The Morning After" is just a horrible '70s song. Of course, it won an Oscar.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#605 - John Ellis


Card fact: This is the only time in John Ellis' 13-year major league career that he received a card number ending in a "5" or a "0." In 1975, he was coming off his best major league season.

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

What I think about this card now: It's a terrific catcher's shot. I like the background.

Other stuff: Ellis came up with the Yankees and was named to the Topps' rookie team after his 1970 season. He stayed with the Yankees for four years before he was dealt to Cleveland in the deal that brought Graig Nettles to the Yankees.

Ellis enjoyed his finest seasons with Cleveland in 1973 and 1974, appearing in 127 and 128 games, respectively and batting above .270 each season.

Afterward, his production faded. He would appear in more than 100 games only once more in his career. He was traded to the Rangers in December 1975 and spent the final six years with Texas, mostly in a supporting role to Jim Sundberg.


Back facts: That's a nice story in the write-up. Ellis played in the minors for Syracuse and Kinston, N.C., in 1969. The game to which Topps is referring was in Yankee Stadium, so my guess is Ellis was on the road when he got the call to the majors. It doesn't take an all-night trip to go from Syracuse to New York. I guess it's possible from Kinston, if he was driving.

Other blog stuff: The green-purple border combination has just created a three-way tie at the top with orange-brown and green-light green, all with 51 cards apiece.

Monday, July 25, 2011

#604 - Oscar Zamora


Card fact: This is Oscar Zamora's rookie card. Despite that, he is airbrushed into a Cubs cap. He was purchased by the Cubs from the Astros in June of 1974.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I don't recall thinking much of it. I do remember my brother being horrified by his 1978 Topps card (it's just a big head shot of Zamora airbrushed into an Astros cap, nothing to get worked up over).

What I think about this card now: I'm just realizing that the familiar barn-like baseball facility that appears on a lot of Astros cards in this set is in the background of the photo on this card. So Zamora was definitely an Astro in this photo.

Other stuff: Zamora may have appeared on his first card in '75, but he had been pitching professionally in the minors since 1965, with the Indians and Astros organizations. He finally broke through with the Cubs and didn't do too badly for a poor club.

Zamora's success declined in '75 and '76 and he returned to the minors. He was reaquired by the Astros for the 1978 season. After that he pitched in sporadically in the minor leagues.

Zamora was one of just four Cuban natives to appear in major league baseball during the 1970s.


Back facts: Zamora is the subject of the cartoon on the back of his own card. But Topps botches the honor by screwing up the year. Zamora led the Cubs in ERA in 1974. He was in the minors in '73.

Other blog stuff: I'll stay with the Chicago theme. On this date 57 years ago, "Sweetness" Walter Payton was born.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

#603 - Lew Krausse


Card fact: This is the final Topps card issued of Lew Krausse during his career.

What I thought about this card then: This is another one of those cards that I associate with my brother because it was part of his collection. I was relieved that he had the card because we both didn't know what to make of the guy.

What I think about this card now: Krausse had Topps cards from 1963-73, but wasn't issued one in '74 because he barely played in the majors in '73. If you look at those earlier cards, he looks his age. But that '73 season must have been trying, because when I was a kid I thought Krausse was about 51 years old based on this photo. It still looks that way to me (although I concede I was being a little harsh as a youngster). Krausse was actually 31 at the time of this photo.

Other stuff: Krausse came up to the majors with the Kansas City A's in 1961 and was the youngest player in the big leagues at the time. He remained with the A's through the '60s, working as both a starter and reliever.

Krausse was dealt to Milwaukee and then to Boston. He returned to the A's in '73 but didn't get called up and was purchased by the Cardinals, where he played one game. Krausse made a comeback with the Braves in '74, pitching in 29 games. He was released after the season, signed again by the A's, and pitched in the minors in '75.

Krausse's father, also named Lew, pitched for the Philadelphia A's in the early '30s.


Back facts: Of course, the Cubs do have lights now, installing them 13 years after this cartoon hit packs.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, the Royals fired Jack McKeon and replaced him with Whitey Herzog. It proved to be a solid move as the Royals would make the playoffs three straight years under Herzog. But McKeon is still managing to this day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

#602 - John Vukovich


Card fact: John Vukovich is airbrushed into a Reds cap. He was traded from the Brewers to the Reds on Oct. 22, 1974.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. In fact, I didn't even know Vukovich existed until his final card, from 1981 Fleer. By then his career was a matter of at-bats from being over. Also, I thought he was Brewers pitcher Pete Vukovich's brother for a long time. They are not related.

What I think about this card now: The two Vukovichs don't look alike at all. I don't know what I was thinking.

Other stuff: Vukovich is associated mostly with the Phillies. He came up to the majors with Philadelphia and spent 1970, 1971 with the team. After two years with the Brewers and one with the Reds, he returned to the Phillies and stayed there the rest of his career.

Actually, he rarely played for Philadelphia the second time around. But the fans liked him.

After his career, he became a coach, mostly with the Phillies, even serving as interim manager for Philadelphia in the late '80s. His coaching career lasted almost two decades, despite being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2001.

Vukovich remained a coach through 2004. Despite surgery back in '01, he became ill again in 2006 and died at age 59 in 2007.


Back facts: It is almost painful when I see high school exploits brought up in the card bios of major leaguers.

Other blog stuff: The orange-brown border color combination reties the green-light green border combo for the overall lead with its 51st card.

Friday, July 22, 2011

#601 - Juan Beniquez


Card fact: This is the first Red Sox card that my brother pulled from this set. He was and is a Red Sox fan.

What I thought about this card then: Beniquez looked a little too sophisticated to me to be a ballplayer.

What I think about this card now: It took me a long time to get a card of Beniquez that I liked. For quite awhile, the card that I had of him was cut so it was slightly larger than the other cards in the set. That really bothered me.

Other stuff: Beniquez's career was just getting started in 1975. He came up with the Red Sox in 1971 as a shortstop before converting to the outfield a couple of years later. From there, he would play for Boston, Texas, the Yankees, Seattle, the Angels, Baltimore, Kansas City and Toronto. His career lasted 17 seasons. I remember pulling a card of his in the late '80s, back when I wasn't paying a ton of attention to baseball, and I thought "holy crap, this guy is still in the majors?"

Beniquez is noted for having his best seasons with the Angels in the mid-80s after he had already reached his 30s and had been in the league for more than a dozen years. He hit over .300 four straight years between 1983-86.


Back facts: I knew about this Johnnie "Dusty" Baker guy from his cartoon before I acquired his mini card in 1975. It was nice to see that he actually wasn't a Pig-Pen sort of character.

Other blog stuff: Like I said in the previous post, it's time to take stock of the set as I do every 100 cards or so. There will be one more of these at the end of the set.

1. COLOR COMBINATIONS

The green-light green border combo, which was in fifth place during the last set review, is now the overall leader with 51 cards. But I know one color combo that will make a decent charge in the final 60 cards. Here are the totals right now:

1. Green-light green: 51
2. Orange-brown: 50
3. Green-purple: 50
4. Purple-pink: 49
5. Pink-yellow: 47
6. Yellow-red: 36
7. Orange-red: 31
8. Light blue-green: 30
9. Brown-orange: 29
10. Yellow-light blue: 28
11. Green-yellow: 26
12. Orange-yellow: 26
13. Blue-orange: 22
14. Brown-tan: 22
15. Red-blue: 22
16. Red-yellow: 22
17. Tan-light blue: 22
18. Yellow-green: 22

2. POWDER BLUE UNIFORMS

Twelve more for 76 total.

3. LOOKING UP

Seven more players showing us their nostrils for 24 total.

4. DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY

Two more dudettes (Dave Roberts and Dick Pole) for 11 total.

5. DECEASED

Six more players have passed on for 54 total.

6. CHAW

Not a single one for the last 100 cards. Total still at 4.

7. MLB SONS

Four more players had sons in the majors for a total of 26.

8. ROOKIE CUP/ALL-STAR

8/17.

We're done with All-Star cards. But we're not done with Rookie Cuppers.

9. MOST POPULAR FIRST NAME

Jim is holding onto a one-card lead over Dave/David. 24 cards to 23 cards.

10. MINIS

A total of 105 mini cards so far. That's 17.5 percent of the set, up two percent.

And there you are. Fifty-nine more cards to go. I'll try to make it fun.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

#600 - Rod Carew


Card fact: This is the very last card I needed to complete the 1975 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had it and it was a very cool card. Carew's bat looks at least 70 feet long.

What I think about this card now: Carew wasn't exactly known as a slugger. I associate this pose with sluggers.

Other stuff: Carew was another one of the first baseball superstars that I knew. He seemed to have a lot of fans among my friends, which was a bit odd, because there isn't anybody in my state that knows a thing about the Twins. But I remember his 1976, 1977 and 1978 cards as being very coveted.

Of course, Carew is a Hall of Famer, hit .388 in 1978, was the rookie of the year in 1967, a member of 18 straight All-Star teams, and a member of the 3,000-hit club. He was also the subject of one the first baseball biographies I ever read. I have known the story about him being named after the doctor who delivered him on a train since I was a wee lad.

Carew signed with the Angels as a free agent after a famous falling out with the Twins' notoriously stingy owner Calvin Griffith. After 12 years with the Twins, Carew spent seven more with the Angels.

He later became a hitting coach for the Angels and the Brewers.


Back facts: When I was a kid I thought that George Torporcer was kneeling on the ground looking at bugs. He needed his glasses to get a good look at the bugs! That's how little boys think.

Other blog stuff: Normally, I do the set review every 100 cards. But I also need to do the All-Star update with this card. So I'll do the All-Star update here, and do the set review with the next card.

Carew fills the second base spot for the American League:

AL

1B - Dick Allen
2B - Rod Carew
3B - Brooks Robinson
SS - Bert Campaneris
OF - Bobby Murcer
OF - Jeff Burroughs
OF -
C - Carlton Fisk
P - Gaylord Perry

NL

1B - Steve Garvey
2B - Joe Morgan
3B - Ron Cey
SS - Larry Bowa
OF - Hank Aaron
OF - Pete Rose
OF - Jim Wynn
C - Johnny Bench
P - Andy Messersmith


Some of you may be thinking, "only one more All-Star and the teams are complete!" Well, as one commentor already gave away way back 300 cards ago, there will be no more All-Star cards.


Topps did not give Reggie Jackson an All-Star card in the 1975 set even though he was the starting right fielder for the American League in the 1974 All-Star Game. So the one outfield position in the A.L. is forever left blank because of Topps' goof.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

#599 - Nate Colbert


Card fact: Damn, Nate Colbert is happy to get out of San Diego! Colbert is airbrushed into a Tigers uniform after being traded from San Diego to Detroit in November 1974.

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

What I think about this card now: These "looking up" photos are very '70s, and really some of the ugliest cards ever. I excuse almost everything from the '70s, but not these cards.

Other stuff: I first knew Nate Colbert from his 1977 Topps record breaker card, the one that celebrates the five home runs he hit in a doubleheader against the Braves in 1972.

That was one of the highlights of his career with the Padres, which lasted from 1969-74. He was the first San Diego star slugger, making the All-Star team from 1970-72. In 1972, he hit 38 home runs and knocked in 111 runs, finishing eighth in the MVP voting.

Colbert also finished above 100 strikeouts six straight years. He endured a lousy year in '74 as back problems cut into his production, and he was dealt to the Tigers. He spent 1975 with both Detroit and Montreal, then ended his career in '76 at age 30 with both the Expos and A's.


Back facts: Juan Pancho Herrera played three seasons for the Phillies in the early '60s. He likely was confused with Jose Loco Herrera who played four seasons for the Astros and Expos in the late '60s.

Other blog stuff: The green-purple border color moves into a tie for second place with the orange-brown border color with this card. Both have 50 cards apiece and are one behind overall leader green-light green.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

#598 - Bruce Kison


Card fact: I don't know why Bruce Kison has the black band on his left uniform sleeve. The Pirates wore a No. 21 patch in honor of the deceased Roberto Clemente during the '73 season. But I'm not sure if the band is related to that, too. It appears on at least one other card in the set.

What I thought about this card then: I pulled this card from that pack I bought at the drug store. The packs that I purchased in 1975 were so few and far between that the cards that came from them were much more special than the ones that came in trades.

What I think about this card now: Kison looks like a guy I knew in high school.

Other stuff: Kison was a tall, skinny pitcher who was a starter on two Pirates World Series champions, in 1971 and 1979. He won the first night game in World Series history in 1971. He's also known for getting married on the same day that the Pirates won the World Series in '71.

Kison moved on to the Angels after the 1979 season. He struggled with injuries his first two years. He spent his final season, in 1985, with the Red Sox.

Kison later worked as a coach with the Royals and Orioles. He was part of Orioles manager Dave Trembley's coaching staff in 2007.


Back facts: I find it interesting that the cartoon refers to "Skinny" Hal Brown, on the back of 6-foot-4, 175-pound Bruce Kison's card.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, Yankees catcher Thurman Munson's run-scoring single in the first inning against the Twins is nullified because the tar on Munson's bat handle exceeded 18 inches. The Twins won the game 2-1. This game indirectly led to the famed "pine-tar game" involving George Brett eight years later, according to Graig Nettles. Nettles said in his book that he remembered the Munson incident, and brought up the pine tar rule to Yankees manager Billy Martin, who brought Brett's bat to the attention of the umpires.

Monday, July 18, 2011

#597 - Winston Llenas


Card fact: This is Winston Llenas' final Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card, as I did with several of the Angels cards. I thought the bunting pose was cool.

What I think about this card now: Llenas is also shown bunting in his only other solo Topps card, in the 1974 set. He had seven sacrifice bunts for hits in his career. Is that enough to show him bunting in back-to-back sets?

Other stuff: Llenas started out in professional baseball when he signed as a teenager with the Kansas City A's back in 1961. He was released but a year later signed with the L.A. Angels. He played in the minors for the next six years before getting called up in 1968.

Llenas played with the Angels between 1968-69 and then 1972-75. He was used a lot as a pinch-hitter and led the American League in pinch-hits and pinch-hit at-bats in 1973. He finished his career batting .230.

His number is retired by Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League, where Llenas led the team to repeated success as a player, manager, GM, and team president.


Back facts: Well, we've finally got a player displaying a "chaw," but it's a cartoon Nellie Fox on the back of this card.

Other blog stuff: The green-light green border combo has moved back into sole possession of the overall lead with its 51st card.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#596 - Ollie Brown


Card fact: This is Ollie Brown's first card as a Philadelphia Phillie, the last of his six major league teams. He is airbushed into an Angels cap in the 1974 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: It was a mild favorite. When we would go to my grandma and grandpa's house on Sundays, they were able to pick up the Philadelphia Phillies games on television (we couldn't do that where we lived even though we were only 13 miles away). I distinctly remember seeing Ollie Brown in one of the games.

What I think about this card now: It looks very similar his 1976 Topps card, except better. This one has Brown with a mustache, wearing a helmet and in front of a batting cage.

Other stuff: "Downtown" Ollie Brown began with the Giants, playing four years for them in the 1960s and demonstrating a terrific throwing arm.

The Padres made Brown their No. 1 pick in the expansion draft in 1968. He was their starting right fielder for three-plus seasons before being traded to the A's in May of 1972 (for Curt Blefary and Mike Kilkenny).

Brown spent the next three years with the A's, Brewers and Astros, mostly in a supporting role. He was picked up on waivers by the Phillies before the 1974 season and used quite a bit as a pinch-hitter for Philadelphia from 1974-77, including in the playoffs against the Dodgers.

Brown's brother Oscar played for the Braves in the early '70s. Another brother, Willie, was a star running back for USC in the '60s and played in the NFL with the Eagles and Rams.

(EDIT: Brown died in April 2015).


Back facts: Not much to mention except it sure would be great to see the blooper pitch back in baseball.

Other blog stuff: The green-yellow border combination is heavy on the head-and-shoulders shots for some reason. The last nine cards with that color border have been head shots, some of the super-tight variety. And there are some other notable head shots preceding the previous nine. Just thought you should know.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#595 - Joe Niekro


Card fact: This is a card of a player on the precipice of fame. In 1975, Niekro was purchased by the Astros from the Braves. Niekro would then begin a 10-year career with the Astros in which he won in double figures eight times and won 20 games twice.

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

What I think about this card now: Seeing Niekro in any uniform other than an Astros uniform seems strange.

Other stuff: Niekro pitched 22 years in the majors, mostly with Houston. But he began with the Cubs. After a couple of decent years, he was dealt to the Padres and things didn't go so well in San Diego. He then played for Detroit and then Atlanta, where he teamed with brother, Phil.

In Atlanta, Joe focused on the knuckleball that his brother threw so well. Combined with his other pitches, he became a powerful member of the Astros' pitching staff and he won 20 games in back-to-back seasons in 1979 and 1980. Niekro led the Astros into the postseason in 1980 by starting and winning the special playoff game against the Dodgers.

In 1985, Niekro was traded to the Yankees in a deal that sent Jim Deshaies to the Astros (of special interest to me since I have interviewed both Joe Niekro and Jim Deshaies). Niekro reunited with Phil again with the Yankees.

Niekro's final team was the Twins. He pitched in Minnesota through 1988. His most famous moment with the Twins was when he was caught with a nail file on the mound. The clip of Niekro waving his hands as the nail file sails from his uniform has been played over and over again.

Niekro later worked as the pitching coach for the Silver Bullets, the all-female baseball team in the mid-1990s.

Niekro, the father of former Giants first baseman Lance Niekro, died from a brain aneurysm at age 61 in 2006.


Back facts: Note that the cartoon specifies that it's asking about the first Ladies NIGHT. The first ladies DAY, according to my limited research, was June 16, 1883, by the New York Giants.

Other blog stuff: Today's my birthday. Unfortunately, there is not a single player in this set that celebrates his birthday on July 16. But that doesn't matter. Because it's my birthday.

Friday, July 15, 2011

#594 - Jim Fuller


Card fact: This is Jim Fuller's only solo Topps card. This is the second straight card of a player who had only one solo Topps card, and there seems to be a large concentration of players of this nature at the end of the set -- as if Topps was trying to fill up the set.

Now, I know that this was common when Topps issued its yearly set in series. The late series included players who were late call-ups or recently traded. But the 1975 set was issued all at once, as it had been in 1973 and 74, too. It makes me wonder if Topps had some sort of order established for the set early on, in which it would fill in names for each card number and then, when it came to the higher numbers in the set, it would fill in the spots with whatever incidental players were left -- kind of like choosing sides in gym class.

I don't know if there's anything to this or not, but it's always been a question in my mind. I guess I should study the '73 and '74 sets and see if they include a significant number of "incidental" players in the higher numbers.

What I thought about this card then: I associate it with my youngest brother because he had this card. I think it was the mini card. He's an Oriole fan. He was only five at the time, so he wasn't too into cards.

What I think about this card now: The border is way off-kilter.

Other stuff: Fuller was a minor league legend for the Orioles, hitting home runs and setting records along the way. But Fuller also struck out a ton.

His most productive season in three major league seasons was 1974 when he played in 60 games, batted 189 times, hit eight home runs and struck out 68 times. In his major league career, 130 of his 315 at-bats were strikeouts and he was a career .194 batter.

Fuller played a year for the Astros in 1977, then was dealt to the Pirates in 1978. He played in the minors that year and that was the end of his pro career.


Back facts: The cartoon ballplayer looks a little too enthusiastic with that knife. Is that a bat that he is cutting? I can't tell for sure.

Other blog stuff: Linda Ronstadt, whose hit "You're No Good," hit No. 1 in 1975, was born on this date 65 years ago.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

#593 - Gene Lamont


Card fact: This is Gene Lamont's only solo card as a player. He appears on a 1971 Topps rookie card, sharing it with Lerrin LaGrow.

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

What I think about this card now: I associate Lamont totally with being a coach and a manager. He has been one or the other in the majors since the mid-1980s. So when I see this photo, he doesn't look like a player to me. It looks like Topps snuck a photo of a coach into the set.

Other stuff: Lamont played five seasons in the majors, all as a backup catcher for the Tigers. Except for the 1974 season, he didn't play in more than 15 games a season. But in '74, he worked as the backup for Jerry Moses (Bill Freehan was moved to first base) and appeared in 60 games, batting .217.

Lamont started his coaching career in the Royals organization. Then he became the third base coach for Jim Leyland with the Pirates. Lamont got his first major league manager job with the White Sox (1992-95) and then worked as the Pirates manager from 1997-2000. Lamont has rejoined Leyland with the Tigers. He is Detroit's third base coach.


Back facts: Please click on the scan to get a better look at the most awesome cartoon in the set.

Also, Lamont was the 44th major leaguer to hit a home run in his first big-league at-bat. A total of 109 players have accomplished that feat.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson was born.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

#592 - Balor Moore


Card fact: This is Balor Moore's last Topps card until the 1978 set. He underwent arm surgery in 1975 and didn't play in the majors in '75 and '76.

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

What I think about this card now: Always enjoy seeing the Coca-Cola sign on Montreal Expos cards.

Other stuff: Moore was a reliable starter for the early Expos, especially during the 1972 and 73 seasons. He went 7-16 in 32 starts in 1973. His strikeout average was second in the National League in '72. But he barely pitched during an injury-plagued '74 season and had elbow surgery the next year.

Moore was acquired by the Angels in 1975 and he pitched a handful of games for them in '77. But the Blue Jays purchased him after that season, and Moore pitched in 37, 34 and 31 games respectively in '78, '79 and '80. Toronto used him as both a starter and reliever.

Moore hung up the spikes after the 1980 season. He went into business after his career. An extensive interview of Moore about his beginnings in baseball can be found here.


Back facts: That's quite a feat mentioned in the write-up for Balor Lilbon Moore.

Other blog stuff: Cheech Marin of "Cheech and Chong" fame was born on this date in 1946. You don't hear much about "Cheech and Chong" these days, which would have been hard to believe back in the late '70s/early '80s because they were everywhere. They were enormously popular with us teenagers. In fact, I remember someone in my junior high class bringing in a Cheech and Chong record and playing it for the class. My teacher must've been pretty hip or clueless to the drug references.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#591 - Glenn Abbott


Card fact: This is Glenn Abbott's first solo card. He appeared on a four-player rookie card in the '74 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see this one. But Abbott's smile on his 1976 Topps card was a little alarming to me.

What I think about this card now: There aren't a lot of A's cards in the set that do not have a green or yellow border. This is only the sixth A's player card without either color in the border.

Other stuff: Abbott was a starter and reliever for the A's, Mariners and Tigers. He was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft of 1976 and was one of the team's top pitchers in its first year with the club. I always wondered what it was like to go from a team at the top of baseball, like the A's, to a brand new, lousy team like the Mariners. Must've been eye-opening.

While with the A's, Abbott was part of the first four-pitcher no-hitter as Oakland blanked the Angels on the last day of the 1975 season. Vida Blue started that game and lasted five innings. Abbott came in to pitch a perfect sixth inning.

Abbott pitched longer than any of the original Mariners, lasting through 1983. After his career ended in 1984, Abbott eventually went into coaching and is a minor league pitching coach for the Mets.


Back facts: The cartoon seems kind of random. The A.L. Fireman of the Year in 1964? McBean had a great year with the Pirates in '64, but not sure why it was worth mentioning here.

Other stuff: I have finished re-scanning the remaining cards in the set whose scans I had lost. I'm noticing the re-scans of the backs might be a little light. I'll have to tinker with that.

Also, while re-scanning, I updated the count on my total mini cards. It was all out of whack. The total is now correct in the labels.

Monday, July 11, 2011

#590 - Cesar Cedeno


Card fact: Cesar Cedeno was only 23 at the time this photo was taken (if it was taken in 1974), and he had already appeared on five Topps cards, including receiving the coveted #200 in the 1974 set.

What I thought about this card then: I pulled it from a pack that I bought in a walk to a drug store, and it immediately captured the role as my favorite card throughout much of 1975. Cedeno was another one of those players who I wished was a Dodger. I finally got my wish -- in 1987 -- as Cedeno ended his career by playing for L.A. Unfortunately, he didn't get on a Topps card as a Dodger.

What I think about this card now: Although it's an interesting photo -- is Cedeno walking to the plate preparing mentally for his next at-bat or is he just noticing a bug on the ground? -- it is not a good photo. Shadows all over the place.

However, these were the kinds of cards we really liked as kids. And you might remember that many of the Astros photos were taken at their barren-wasteland training camp. This at least changed things up a little.

Other stuff: Cedeno is one of the first "up-and-coming" stars that I ever knew. He was part of one of those four-part "At Bat" series books by Bill Gutman. I featured the one I owned that covered the stories of Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Steve Garvey and Thurman Munson. The one I took out of the library told the stories of Carlton Fisk, Pete Rose, Bobby Bonds and Cedeno.

Cedeno was called "the next Willie Mays" by many, including his Astros manager Leo Durocher, who had managed Mays. Cedeno had power and speed and piled up the doubles early in his career. He was also a multiple Gold Glove Award winner.

Injuries caught up to Cedeno a little and after more than a decade with the Astros, he was traded to the Reds for Ray Knight. His playing time slowly decreased with the Reds, and he finished out his career with the Cardinals and Dodgers. He later worked as a coach in Latin American leagues as well as in the minor leagues.

Cedeno's career was marred by an off-season incident in 1973 in which he accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend. He was jailed briefly, charged with involuntary manslaughter. It's debatable whether the shooting affected his career, but his torrid career start ended right around this time.


Back facts: "Perhaps baseball's next super-star ..." No pressure.

Other blog stuff: I lost all of my scans for the rest of the cards in the set. So guess what I've been doing lately? Re-scanning 70-plus cards! Weeee! I suppose it could have been worse and I lost the scans around card 143.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

#589 - Braves/Clyde King


Card fact: This is Clyde King's first-and-only appearance on a card with the Braves. He was hired to replace Eddie Mathews in the middle of the 1974 season.

What I thought about this card then: I associate it with that sheet of flimsy '75 team cards that we ordered from Topps. Perhaps the Braves card was positioned first (I don't remember if they were in alphabetical order).

What I think about this card now: Well aside from this being probably one of the last examples of someone wearing black-framed glasses until Joe Maddon came along, somebody, please, PLEASE tell me what the story is with the little dude in the three-piece suit just above King's head. That is some team card craziness.

Other stuff: The Braves finished 88-74 and in third place in the National League West. But King lasted only into the middle of the 1975 season before he was let go. It was the '70s and the Braves were about to get really awful. King was replaced by someone named Connie Ryan to finish out the '75 season. Dave Bristol took over for 1976.


Back facts: The checklist doesn't look right without Hank Aaron's name at the beginning. But Topps was on the ball after the offseason trade of Aaron to the Brewers. New acquisition Dave May's name is listed in the middle of the second column without any signs of distress.

Other blog stuff: Let's see if the '74 Braves were represented properly by Topps.

The Braves used 36 players in 1974. Topps featured 28 of those players, including Danny Frisella, who is listed as a Padre in the set, and, of course, Hank Aaron, who is listed as a Brewer.

Of the players not featured, there isn't much of note. Pitcher Jack Aker appeared in 17 games for the Braves, but didn't even finish the season with them, getting purchased by the Mets in June. Utility player Ivan Murrell had 133 at-bats for the Braves, but it was the last season of his career.

The Braves fair quite well in terms of the percentage of '74 roster players featured in the '75 set:

1. Twins 81.25% of players featured
2. Tigers 78.37%
3. Orioles 78.13%
4. Braves 77.78%
5. Reds 77.14%
6. A's 75.0%
7. Dodgers 74.29%
7. Astros 74.29%
9. Giants 71.43%
10. Indians 71.11%
11. Royals 70.59%
12. Red Sox 70.27%
13. Angels 68.89%
14. Expos 68.29%
15. Brewers 66.67%
16. Rangers 65.79%
17. Cardinals 65.12%
18. White Sox 65.0%
19. Phillies 62.5%
20. Mets 62.16%
21. Pirates 61.5%
22. Padres 55.8%

Friday, July 8, 2011

#588 - Rick Auerbach


Card fact: This is the first card of Rick Auerbach wearing an actual Dodger uniform. He's airbrushed into a Dodger cap and uniform in the 1974 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: OK, it's story time. When I was around 8 or 9 or whatever First Communion age is, I received a watch from my grandfather as a gift for the occasion. The watch had a brownish background, but when you tilted the glass toward the light, the brown would glow a deep orange. It reminded me of root beer and the orange glow the drink gives off if you have it in the right kind of glass. I claimed that the watch was "root-beer-colored." I went on a root beer kick. I coveted root beer candies, especially those root beer Bottle Caps candies. I wanted to go to the A&W drive-thru all the time.

When I pulled this card, it became an instant favorite for the same reasons. The deep orange and the brown. The orange stands in the background. It was a Root Beer card!

What I think about this card now: The adult in me sees a photo taken in Candlestick Park. Bleah. I need some root beer.

Other stuff: Auerbach came up to the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers, starting at shortstop for the young franchise at the age of 22 in 1972. He hit just .218 that season and was eventually acquired by the Dodgers as insurance for starting shortstop Bill Russell, who had some injury issues.

Auerbach hit .342 in a supporting role for the Dodgers in 1974. After a down year in '75, Auerbach was relegated to a pinch-hitting/back-up role. He wound up with the Reds (after bouncing through the Mets and Rangers organizations without ever playing in the majors for them), and hit above .300 twice for Cincinnati as a pinch-hitter.

Auerbach ended his career with the Mariners in 1981.


Back facts: I remember being taken aback by the cartoon because it lacked a cartoon figure in it. It was just a bunch of words! Also, I enjoy how Topps refers to "Dirty Al" Gallagher in the past tense. Gallagher may have ended his major league career in 1973, but he's still kicking!

Also, Russell apparently was so well-known to card collectors that he didn't require a first name in the write-up. By the way, the whole Bill Russell-Celtics' Bill Russell/Rick Auerbach-Red Auerbach thing was lost on me as a kid. I didn't follow basketball.

Other blog stuff: With this card, the orange-brown border combo reties the green-light green border combo for the overall lead with 50 cards apiece.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

#587 - Chris Ward


Card fact: This is the first and only solo Topps card of Chris Ward.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't know it existed. In fact, it is yet another Cubs card from this set that features a player I knew nothing about until I tracked down the card while completing the set in 2004. The Cubs sure had a lot of players in '74 that made little impact.

What I think about this card now: The cap he's wearing looks like some sort of denim trucker's cap.

Other stuff: Except for a single at-bat in 1972, Ward's entire major league career occurred in 1974 when he played 92 games for the Cubs. He finished with 28 hits in 137 at-bats, hitting a mere .204.

Ward would return to the minors for the 1976 and 1977 seasons, playing in the Chicago, Cleveland and San Diego organizations.


Back facts: Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell was a U.S. congressman in North Carolina. In fact, his tour as a congressman ended just before this card came out as he did not win a fourth term in 1974. But Mizell went on to serve in the Ford, Reagan and Bush administrations.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 2005, the sports of baseball and softball are dropped from the Olympic Summer Games. Summer without baseball. This makes no sense.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

#586 - Tim McCarver


Card fact: Tim McCarver is airbrushed into a Red Sox cap in this photo. He played for St. Louis most of the 1974 season, but was purchased by Boston in September of 1974 and spent the rest of '74 and the early part of '75 with Boston.

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

What I think about this card now: This was one of the final cards I needed to finish off the set. Players who become famous broadcasters are often difficult to track down.

Other stuff: McCarver is so well-known as a broadcaster that it overshadows the fact that he played in the major leagues for 21 seasons and was a four-decade player. He spent most of his career catching for St. Louis and Philadelphia, but also played for Montreal and Boston.

Some of McCarver's notable moments as a player was hitting the game-winning home run in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the 1964 World Series for St. Louis and scoring the winning run for the National League in the 10th inning of the 1966 All-Star Game. He finished second in the National League in MVP voting in 1967.

McCarver was noted for fostering successful relationships with pitchers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. McCarver became Carlton's personal catcher during the latter years of McCarver's career.

After his playing career, McCarver worked as a broadcaster for local Philadelphia and New York television, then branched out to national television. As a young fan, I remember him broadcasting on WOR in New York (or was it Secaucus, N.J?),  and I enjoyed his broadcasts.

Now, of course, he is reviled by many fans for his work on Fox's weekly broadcast. McCarver isn't the same broadcaster as he was back when I was young. He does make a lot of mistakes and does overexplain things, but he never bothered me as much as Joe Morgan.


Back facts: I think that every aspect of Hank Aaron's year in '74 was addressed in cartoons in the 1975 set. Aaron was traded from the Braves to the Brewers on Nov. 2, 1974. Milwaukee also sent a minor leaguer, Roger Alexander, to Atlanta a month later to complete the deal.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1932, Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges is shot twice in his hotel room by a former girlfriend, showgirl Violet Valli. Jurges, shot in the shoulder and hand, doesn't prosecute and Valli is signed to sing in nightclubs based on her fame. Jurges recovered from his injuries and helped the Cubs win the 1932 National League title.