Sunday, February 28, 2010

#128 - Bill Lee

Card fact: This is a card of one of three players in major league history named Bill Lee.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had the mini card. I thought Lee looked like a stately, reserved gentleman in this photo. Boy was I wrong.

What I think about this card now: There's a lot of green on that card, both on the border and in the photo.

Other stuff: Lee's career has been well-documented because he's a media dream. He's articulate. He says wild stuff. He speaks in a humorous way. I have enjoyed him ever since he called his manager, Don Zimmer, a gerbil. I thought it was the most appropriate, hysterical characterization of someone ever. I still think it's funny.

The man who once claimed that smoking marijuana made him resistant to bus fumes while jogging to the ballpark, actually was and is a baseball traditionalist who has a great appreciation for the game to this day. A reporter at my newspaper once interviewed him for a story, and I kicked myself that I didn't get the opportunity to do it myself.

Back facts: Hey, what do you know? He's a lefty.

Lee's best seasons were the two most recent you see on this card and his 1975 season. In 1976, he was injured in a brawl with the Yankees (the one in which Lou Piniella barreled into Carlton Fisk at home plate) and lost a lot of time.

Other blog stuff: Lee's baseball-reference page is sponsored by someone who expresses a common thought that I find annoying. Yes, the Red Sox spend a bunch of money. But you can't say they're the same as the Yankees. Let the Red Sox spend a ton of money for, oh, 40 more years, and then you can say they're the same as the Yankees.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

#127 - Glenn Borgmann

Card fact: The 1975 card is already Borgmann's third card of his career. His college reputation apparently preceded him because 1974 was his first full season.

What I thought about this card then: I would have been highly entertained by his name if I had the card. But I didn't.

What I think about this card now: I guess that's what you call a "baby face." Borgmann was known as the "Baby Bull" in college.

Other stuff: Borgmann was called "the Johnny Bench of college baseball" when he played at Miami-Dade. Scouts expected big things of him. Borgmann started a couple of years behind the plate for the Twins, but he's mostly known now as the guy who lost his starting job to a 20-year-old, Butch Wynegar.

Back facts: Baseball-reference says Borgmann's middle name is "Dennis," not "Davis." I'm really hoping it's Dennis, because that would mean Borgmann would have double Ns in his first, middle and last names. Besides, there already was a Glenn Davis in baseball.

Also, you'll note the promise that Borgmann held. Not a lot of card write-ups say someone is "headed for stardom" before they show absolute signs of doing so. And we know that Borgmann never reached stardom.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song on this date in 1975 was "Pick Up the Pieces," by the Average White Band, said the Average White Guy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

#126 - Checklist, 1-132

Card fact: The '75 checklists come in two color combos: pink-yellow and tan-light blue.

What I thought about this card then: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I can't even tell you whether I had it or not.

What I think about this card now: Thank God, a checklist. No research, no fact-checking, no memories. Yeah, it makes for a boring post, but I just spent 10 hours straight of non-stop thinking. I need the break.

Other stuff: What? You think I can expand upon a checklist card? OK, how about this: I firmly believe that a checklist needs to be a part of every set. And by that I mean, it must be a numbered card within the set that you must collect to complete the set. None of this "random checklist inserted in every third pack" that people end up using to insulate their attic. Make the checklist collectible again, damn it!

Back facts: One of the most interesting parts of the checklist to me -- and I use the word "interesting" in its very loosest definition -- is spotting the actual checklist card listed on the checklist. You can see in this case that it's down in the lower right, and that it's called a "Check List." Apparently, they couldn't decide whether it was one word or two.

Other blog stuff: Former Indians infielder Jack Brohamer (card #552) was born on this date 60 years ago.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

#125 - Ken Singleton

Card fact:
It's not really a card fact, or even a player fact. It's more of a personal family anecdote. Ken Singleton is the favorite player of my youngest brother.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see. It was a long time before I knew that Ken Singleton played for any team other than the Orioles.

What I think about this card now: What is Singleton looking at? Is someone threatening to jump from the top deck?

Other than that, the border goes very well with the Expos uniform.

Other stuff: Ken Singleton was a very consistent, durable player his entire career. He had a heck of a season in 1979, finishing second in the American League MVP voting to his former teammate, Don Baylor. I have a feeling Singleton's '79 season played a part in my brother picking him as his favorite player as my brother would have been 9 that year.

Singleton went into broadcasting after his career was over and I vividly remember he and Duke Snider calling games for the Montreal Expos (we could get the Montreal channel in Buffalo). He has been a Yankees broadcaster for a long time. He is pretty much the voice of reason in the insane asylum called YES, which broadcasts most Yankees games. Personally, I don't know how he stands it.

Back facts: I need to start counting the cartoon references to the Dodgers. There's been several of them. ... Also, I like the random capitalization of "assists" in the write-up.

Other blog stuff: I'll go with a birthday since I just alluded to annoying YES broadcasters. Paul O'Neill was born on this date in 1963.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#124 - Jerry Reuss

Card fact:
This is a card of the only player who I know for a fact reads my blog.

What I thought about this card then: No knowledge of it. The first Reuss card I saw was the 1976 card, which I spent half of January talking about on Night Owl Cards.

What I think about this card now: Every last Jerry Reuss card is unbelievably awesome and if you dispute that statement, I will fight you to the death.

Other stuff: Besides Jerry Reuss reading my blog? Well, if you must. Reuss was a fine pitcher for a lot of teams, but mostly for the Pirates and my beloved Dodgers. He was my favorite Dodger pitcher for the first half of the 1980s, and keep in mind Fernando Valenzuela was on the team then. Reuss no-hit the Giants and beat the Yankees in the World Series. You cannot please a Dodger fan more than doing those two things.

Reuss now works for the Dodgers and has always been known for his sense of humor.

Back facts:
Today you would have to update that cartoon to say, "What is a doubleheader?"

Other blog stuff: With news yesterday that 2010 Topps Heritage has hit eBay, I start to think about what I always think about when someone mentions Topps Heritage -- I hope I'm around for 2024 Heritage, which would be the tribute to the '75 Topps set. There are lots of variables happening between now and then, but I'll just go ahead and say this -- I am completing that set.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#123 - Johnny Briggs

Card fact:
Here we have an example of the "hero shot," in which a player's photo is taken from below so the player appears to be some sort of giant. The first example of this in the 1975 set was with the Nolan Ryan highlights card. I haven't researched enough to see if there are other examples.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the earliest cards I received back in 1975. It didn't come in my first packs. I think it might have come in a trade. I just know I've known about this card for a LONG time.

What I think about this card now: Those are some kind of sideburns.

Other stuff: Briggs wasn't a star, but he did manage to hit 139 home runs in his career. Yet, I'm pretty sure the vast majority of baseball fans have never heard of him. Briggs played for 12 seasons and also spent a year in Japan.

Back facts:
The cartoon is no longer true. Since 1957, the following folks have hit at least 20 triples in a season: Curtis Granderson (23 in 2007), Willie Wilson (21 in 1985), Lance Johnson (21 in 1996), George Brett (20 in 1979), Cristian Guzman (20 in 2000) and Jimmy Rollins (20 in 2007).

Oldie but goodie:
Here is the card that I first clutched as a 9-year-old. Again, I'm shocked that it is in as good of shape as it is.

Other blog stuff: Players in this set who are celebrating birthdays today are Ken Boswell (1946) and Ron Hunt (1941).

Monday, February 22, 2010

#122 - Al Hrabosky

Card fact: Hey! Back-to-back purple-pink combo cards! My little pep talk must have worked.

What I thought about this card then: I did not see it. However, Hrabosky's "Mad Hungarian" routine was well-known to me growing up in the '70s. We thought the guy was crazy for going behind the mound before each pitch, taking a deep breath, pounding the ball in his mitt and then trudging back up the mound. Every pitch he did this. Crazy.

What I think about this card now: It's very strange seeing Hrabosky without a mustache and beard. That was his trademark. Apparently, now he's a Cardinals broadcaster and not only goes without a 'stache and beard but has short, graying hair. What's more, he's not even Hungarian! I am shattering all of my childhood beliefs in this blog entry.

Other stuff: I mostly saw Hrabosky on Mets telecasts, since the Cardinals weren't very good in the '70s and they never appeared on NBC's "Game of the Week." The Mets broadcasters -- Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy -- got a kick out of Hrabosky's routine.

I've read that batters didn't appreciate the antics. But I really don't remember anybody doing much about it. I know batters today probably would flip out over it more.

Back facts: It was a long time before I knew what a "bonus baby" was. I didn't know what babies had to do with baseball.

Other blog stuff: The blog went over 5,000 visits on Sunday. A respectable number for a niche blog about a card set from 35 years ago. Or maybe not. I have nothing to measure it against.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

#121 - Bill North

Card fact:
This is just the sixth purple-pink card so far. This is a color combo that is expected to WIN the whole thing. Come on, purple-pink, let's pick up the pace!

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But I really liked players with speed as a kid and North's 75 stolen bases in 1976 left an impression on me. When the Dodgers acquired him in 1978, I was thrilled. But things didn't work out like I had expected.

What I think about this card now: Almost all of North's cards look like this one -- standing there with a bat on his shoulder. Quite dull. His 1977 card is one of my all-time favorites. I'll have wax eloquently about it some day. But the rest are very unmemorable.

Other stuff: North was one of the best base stealers of the 1970s. He really made the A's dynasty of the mid-1970s go. He also helped bolster the A's reputation as a bunch of bickerers as he got in a clubhouse fight with Reggie Jackson that injured both Jackson and would-be peacekeeper Ray Fosse.

North was the last Swingin' A to leave during Charlie Finley's gutting of the three-time champions. He was traded to the Dodgers in May of '78. The Dodgers made the Series that year, but North hit just .234 with L.A and was a Giant the following year.

Back facts:
The stork makes multiple appearances in the '75 cartoons.

Also, it's a real shame the '75 Topps cards did not include stolen bases. North led the American League in stolen bases in 1974 with 54. He was the A's stolen base king until Rickey Henderson arrived.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song in the country on this date in 1975 was "You're No Good," by Linda Ronstadt. One of the best pop songs of the year, in my opinion.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

#120 - Steve Busby

Card fact: In one of the more famous photo gaffes in Topps' history, this is a picture of Royals catcher Fran Healy, not of Steve Busby.

Like me, you may be desensitized to mistakes like this, just because there have been so many through the years. But take a moment to think about how big a mistake this was. Busby had been in the majors for three years. He had just enjoyed the best season of his career in 1974, winning 22 games and throwing his second no-hitter in as many seasons. He was an emerging star. And Topps screwed up the photo. It would be akin to Topps using a photo of current backup Royals catcher John Buck on Zack Greinke's card. Can you image the criticism if that happened today?

The only photo of Busby in the 1975 set is in a highlights card.

What I thought about this card then: Someone -- I don't remember who -- had the mini card. My memories of Busby back then involved my friend from Kansas who moved into my neighborhood. He was a die-hard Royals fan and a big Busby fan. I knew my friend during the period when Busby was trying to recuperate from rotator cuff surgery. Busby didn't play a game in 1977, a summer that included many visits to my friend's house and many reassurings by my friend that Busby would be back better than ever.

Personally, I didn't care. I wasn't a Royals fan. But it's obvious my friend really, REALLY cared. A year later, he moved back to Kansas. Busby returned to pitch, but he was never the same. I always wondered how my friend handled that.

What I think about this card then: It's really a terrible photo, isn't it? I wonder what the process was that made Topps pick that photo -- the wrong photo. It hints at a rush job.

Other stuff: Since Busby was out of the game for almost two full years, and didn't appear on a card in the 1977 set, he was a bit of a novelty when he appeared in the '78 set. I don't know why he was in the 1978 set. He didn't pitch a single game in 1977.

Busby pitched until 1980, then retired after an eight-year career. He's worked as a Rangers broadcaster for quite awhile.

Back facts: How about those nearly 300 innings pitched in 1974?

Other blog stuff: I'll throw out a birthday: Livan Hernandez was born on this date in 1975. Although that's up for debate.

Friday, February 19, 2010

#119 - Tommy Helms

Card fact:
Tommy Helms is in an identical pose on his 1974 Topps card. It's possible that both photos were taken at the same time.

What I thought about this card then: Tommy and I never ran into each other.

What I think about this card now: It must be lonely attempting to field ground balls out on the prairie, or wherever Helms happens to be in this photo.

Other stuff: Helms was the 1966 National League Rookie of the Year with the Reds, and made the All-Star Game a couple of times in the late 1960s. Then, in 1971, he was sent to the Astros in a blockbuster deal that basically transformed the Reds into the Big Red Machine. The Reds obtain Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo, Jack Billingham and Ed Armbrister in that deal.

Helms, who briefly managed the Reds during Pete Rose's gambling episode in 1989, is the uncle of Florida Marlins third baseman Wes Helms.

Back facts:
How cool is "Vann" for a middle name? I wish my middle name was "Vann."

Other blog stuff: I've yet to come up with a name for this color combination. But I looked over the suggestions for the red-yellow combination a couple of posts ago, and I like Johngy's suggestion of "strawberry cheesecake." It fits and that's what I'm going with. Plus, I have loved cheesecake since I was very little. You can't go wrong with cheesecake. You just can't.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

#118 - Mike Anderson

Card fact:
This is just one of many examples in which the Phillies are paired up with the color green. I don't know why that is. But it happens again in the Topps sets of 1978, 1981 and 1988.

What I thought about this card then: I vaguely recall one of my friends having this card. But no other thoughts.

What I think about this card now: That is not good batting form.

Other stuff: This is terrible of me to say, but for a long, long, LONG time I thought Mike Anderson, an extra outfielder for the Phillies for several years, was one of the many players caught up in the Pittsburgh drug trials of the early 1980s. Those are the ones that exposed Dave Parker, Vida Blue, Lonnie Smith, Keith Hernandez and others as drug users. But after doing a little bit of research I didn't come across Anderson's name at all. I might have gotten him confused with Al Holland, who was also named in the drug trials and was a Phillie.

So, if my limited research is accurate, my apologies to Mr. Anderson for thinking unkind thoughts all these years.

On a completely unrelated note: If you have Anderson's 1979 Topps card, you know that it features one of the worst airbrushed caps (it's an Orioles cap) ever.

Back facts:
Babe Ruth was a big man. But he wasn't 500 pounds. Geez.

Other blog stuff: I'd like to take a moment to remember former pitcher Jim Bibby, who died this week at age 65. Bibby's card is coming up on this blog fairly soon, and he was always one of my favorite non-Dodger pitchers. I rooted for him in the 1979 World Series and he was the starting pitcher for the Pirates in the decisive Game 7 of that series.

He was taken from us too soon. R.I.P., Mr. Bibby.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

#117 - Orioles/Earl Weaver

Card fact:
This was the last team card I needed to complete the '75 set. In fact, it was one of the last cards period that I needed to complete the set. Earl Weaver's a popular guy, I guess.

What I thought about this card then: If I was aware of it, I don't remember it. Such is the life of a team card.

What I think about this card now: Well, I'm happy to finally have it in my possession as it was a source of a small amount of consternation back when I was collecting the set five or six years ago.

Other stuff: Earl Weaver was a very entertaining guy, even though I didn't root for him that much. Broadcasters loved talking about him. I miss the days when Weaver and Billy Martin were in their managing prime. Nobody argues like those two guys did.

This is a bit morbid to say, but I'm always surprised that Weaver is still around. He seemed old to me for most of his managing career, and when he was elected to the Hall of Fame, I was a bit shocked that, you know, he was still ticking. But he's 79 years old, and when I was watching him manage, he was in his late 40s and 50s. Like Sparky Anderson, it must've been the white hair that was throwing me off.

(EDIT: Weaver did eventually pass, on Jan. 19, 2013)

Back facts: That's a list of a lot of veterans. A playoff team. The Orioles were about to enter a period of rebuilding and would re-emerge in the late '70s revamped but just as strong. Jim Palmer is the only player connection between those O's teams of the late '60s/early '70s and the O's teams of the late '70s/early '80s.

Other blog stuff: Let's see how well Topps did representing the Orioles' team of 1974.

As a veteran team, the Orioles didn't use a lot of players in '74. Thirty-two players suited up in orange and black. Topps produced cards of 25 of those players. That's a percentage of 78.1, which is the second-best percentage so far.

The only semi-notable player missing from the Orioles' 75 team set is Wayne Garland. He pitched in 20 games for the Orioles in 1974, going 5-5. Don Hood pitched in the same number of games, but in 35 fewer innings than Garland and got a card.

Here is where the Orioles stack up with the other team cards reviewed:

1. Tigers 78.37% of players featured
2. Orioles 78.13%
3. Royals 70.59%
4. Expos 68.29%
5. Phillies 62.5%

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#116 - Lerrin LaGrow

Card fact:
Everyone knows that this is the only guy with the first name of Lerrin to pitch in the majors, don't they? Well now you do.

What I thought about this card then: I did not have it.

What I think about this card now: LaGrow looks older than he is, and in almost all of his cards he looks so darn serious. He resembles just about every adult man I knew when I was a kid. They all looked like they were an angry moment away from giving you a whooping.

Other stuff: Lerrin LaGrow is probably most known for having a bat hurled at him. During his second year in the major leagues, he pitched for the Tigers in the 1972 American League Championship Series against the A's. In the seventh inning of Game 2, Bert Campaneris came to the plate already 3-for-3 with two stolen bases. LaGrow hit Campaneris in the ankle with his first pitch. Campaneris responded by helicoptering the bat at LaGrow. Fortunately, LaGrow ducked and it missed. Both Campaneris and LaGrow were suspended for the rest of the series.

Later, LaGrow was an effective reliever for the White Sox. He also had a fairly decent year for the Dodgers in 1979. Just about everything about 1979 was indecent for the Dodgers, so that's a nice feat by LaGrow.

Back facts: I wonder if there is a size limit to catcher's gloves now? It seems like something someone would exploit.

Other blog stuff: I've yet to come up with an idea for this color combo name. I can't go with ketchup and mustard as I'm considering that for the yellow-red combo. I know red and yellow are very common in fast-food restaurants. McDonald's, Wendy's, Sonic, Denny's all use the colors. So I could go with the "food vendor" combo. Some marigolds are red and yellow. Fire is red and yellow if you're feeling particularly pyro. Any thoughts?

Monday, February 15, 2010

#115 - Joe Ferguson

Card fact:
This is the second straight year in which another player is featured prominently in the photo on Joe Ferguson's card. In his 1974 card, a Phillie is bending down in the foreground. I don't know who it is. With this card, I'm relatively sure that is Bake McBride sliding into home.

What I thought about this card then: Sadly, I did not see it. Later, when I was a teenager trying to get all the Dodgers from this year, this was probably my favorite card out of all the '75 Dodgers that I acquired.

What I think about this card now: If that actually is Bake McBride in the photo, than this picture appears to be from a game on May 27, 1974 in St. Louis. The Cardinals won 7-2. McBride scored twice. But in the second inning, he doubled off Andy Messersmith. The next batter, Ted Sizemore, doubled and there was a throw home to try to catch McBride at plate. McBride scored and Sizemore advanced to second on the throw.

Other stuff: When I was a kid, I wanted the Dodgers to ditch Steve Yeager and make Joe Ferguson their full-time catcher. When you look at Ferguson's hitting stats, they aren't great. But they're a little better than Yeager's. And when I was watching the Dodgers in the late '70s, Yeager seemed useless at the plate. An automatic out. Ferguson at least seemed to get on base once in awhile.

Ferguson hit two notable home runs for the Dodgers. His homer off Vida Blue in Game 2 of the 1974 World Series gave the Dodgers their only victory in that series. His homer in the 10th inning of the first game of a series against the Astros in 1980 gave the Dodgers the first of three straight victories that forced a one-game playoff with the Astros at the end of the season. Then Dave Goltz pissed the momentum away.

Back facts: Yet another "perhaps" to lead-off the write-up. And I'd like to know a little more about the ballgame before I accept that a game against the Cubs in August is crucial. The Dodgers didn't win any pennant in 1973, so don't tell me a win against one of the worst teams of the '70s was crucial.

Other blog stuff: Four of the Dodger cards shown so far feature orange and brown borders. None feature blue. I'm still not over that.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

#114 - Dick Lange

Card fact:
This is the middle card in Dick Lange's card trilogy. He debuted in the 1974 Topps set and closed in the 1976 Topps set. His entire career encapsulated in three tidy cards.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card -- I had a lot of Angels mini cards for some reason -- and I wondered why Lange's photo was taken from so far away.

What I think about this card now: The same thing I thought about then. Why so far away? He wasn't a tall guy -- just 5-foot-10. The thing that make it even more puzzling to me, is he is posed in a similar fashion on his 1976 card and positioned just as far away -- except on the '76 card he's wearing longer hair and a mustache.

The mountains in the background are a nice touch. I like those Catcus League shots. I've never been anywhere near Arizona so it seems rather exotic to me.

Other stuff: There is precious little to be found about Lange. He stood out in the minor leagues, but couldn't stick in the big leagues. His 1974 season was his best, but the Angels were lousy then and his record wasn't great. He was done with the majors at 28 years old.

Back facts: Hey! A cartoon about a Dodger! That always fills me with pride. ... Also, there are a lot of enjoyable middle names in the 1975 set. Otto is one of them.

Other blog stuff: Damaso Marte, the former White Sox reliever, was born on this date in 1975. It is also my brother's birthday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

#113 - Elliott Maddox

Card fact:
Elliott Maddox is the only player in major league history with the first name of Elliott. Tampa Bay's Elliot Johnson has come the closest to matching Maddox's feat, but he came up one "T" short.

What I thought about this card then: This is the first Yankees card I ever saw. That's big when you live in Yankee country.

What I think about this card now: The photo always seemed like a painting to me. That makes me suspect that it is airbrushed. But it doesn't appear to be. Maddox was acquired by the Yankees from the Rangers in spring training of 1974, so Topps had plenty of time to take a photo of him with his current team. The pinstripes look legit.

Other stuff: Maddox was a fine defensive player who could hit on occasion. He's kind of known for suing the Yankees after slipping on the field at Shea Stadium (the Yankees played at Shea then) and hurting his knee. Maddox didn't win the suit.

Back facts: Here is an example of when a cartoon is educational. I have known about Lou Gehrig's career grand slam record since I knew about baseball. Aside from Hank Aaron's career home run mark, it might be the record I've known about the longest. And it's all because of this cartoon.

Also, I enjoy the write-up. Controversy! Mentioning controversy on the back of a baseball card was rare back then.

Other blog stuff: Hell, it's the weekend. I'm done thinking.

Friday, February 12, 2010

#112 - Larry Hardy

Card fact:
This is the first and only Topps card of Larry Hardy.

What I thought about this card then: I distinctly remember pulling this card out of a pack while I was on vacation with my parents in 1975. Hardy, even though he was 24 years old when this photo was taken, struck me as being about 45. Hey, I was only 9. Everyone looked old to me.

What I think about this card now: It takes a real man to wear what the Padres players wore in the 1970s. That cap looks nothing more than embarrassing, yet Hardy doesn't appear to be fazed at all.

Other stuff: Even though Hardy made a significant showing as a rookie, pitching in more games than any other rookie in history, he was done in the majors by 1976. He started coaching in 1978, and  was a member of the Rangers' coaching staff in the late 1990s.

Back facts: Even as a kid, I thought that Hawaii was a pretty exotic location for a minor league team.

The record for most games pitched by a rookie is now held by Sean Runyon of the Tigers, who appeared in 88 games in 1998.

Other blog stuff: There are a number of players in this set that were born on Feb. 12: Pat Dobson, Don Wilson, Ray Corbin, Len Randle, Enzo Hernandez and Don Stanhouse.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#111 - Wayne Garrett

Card fact:
The first card, I believe, in which a second player is featured prominently in the photo. I think that is John Milner. If I am correct, then Milner is stalking Garrett, because he also shows up in Garrett's 1976 Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: Finally, a card I saw back in 1975. My friend had this card because he hoarded Mets and Yankees. I thought any card in which the player was not posed was cool. So this card was dy-no-mite.

What I think about this card now: Did Topps pick this particular combination to match Garrett's red hair?

Other stuff: Young Mets and Yankees fans have this incredible ability to make their favorite players sound better than they are. I don't know why that is, but Garrett is an example of one of those guys who I thought was great because the many New York fans who surrounded me said so. It turns out he couldn't even hit .240 for his career. He also was The Blob of the 1973 World Series.

Also, Garrett's brother, Adrian, played in the majors. Adrian appears on Topps cards in 1974 and 1976, but misses out on the glorious 1975 set.

Back facts: Another "perhaps" in the write-up. The Topps guys didn't like to do research did they?

Other blog stuff: Pop history lesson: on this date in 1975, the Warren Beatty/Goldie Hawn movie "Shampoo" was released. It was the fourth biggest movie of that year.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

#110 - Wilbur Wood

Card fact:
I always thought having the initials "W.W." would be cool. Wilbur Wood is one of 31 people to make the major leagues with those initials. Other notables were Walt Weiss, Willie Wilson, Wally Whitehurst and Whit Wyatt. (Yes, I really did just look that up).

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. This is quite a streak of cards here that I didn't see as a kid. But that streak is about to end.

What I think about this card now: Whenever I see a '70s card of a player wearing a warm-up jacket under his uniform, I notice it immediately. But when I was young, I never noticed it.

Other stuff: Wood was one of the most successful knuckleball pitchers in history and was noted for his durability. He suffered a career-shortening injury when he was struck on the knee by a line drive by the Tigers' Ron LeFlore and retired in 1978.

Back facts: Wood's four-straight seasons of 20 wins leap right off the scan. And you'll notice that he also lost 20 games in 1973. Wood wouldn't extend his streak to five straight seasons of 20 wins. But he did lose 20 games again in 1975.

Other blog stuff: I was once considering calling this the "primary colors" color combination, but I ended up using that with the red-blue color combo. I'm thinking of just calling this the ketchup-and-mustard combo. The food references seem to work for me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#109 - George Hendrick

Card fact:
it's been awhile since we've had a color combo match a team's colors. The red/blue combo goes nicely with the Indians' ensemble.

What I thought about this card then: Wasn't aware of it. The first Hendrick I saw was the '76 Topps card in which he's wearing that awesome Indians visor. It was so awesome that he brought it back out for his '77 Topps card.

What I think about this card now: Hendrick was one my favorites growing up, so any of his cards are automatically cool.

Other stuff: Hendrick was always there when I was growing up. His career began a couple years before I started following baseball and he was still there until I graduated from college. I remember his straight-up batting style, and he was one of the reasons I rooted for the Cardinals to win the World Series in 1982.

St. Louis swindled San Diego by trading Eric Rasmussen for Hendrick in 1978. Then the Cardinals obtained John Tudor for Hendrick before the 1985 season. St. Louis sure was smart back then.

Also, Hendrick supposedly is the player who started the trend of wearing uniform pants down to his ankles. OK, maybe I don't like him so much anymore.

Back facts: The cartoon is fascinating isn't it? Daily has a very interesting wikipedia page. He has all the ingredients of a bigger-than-life figure. A surly personality, a few standout years followed by a sharp decline, and a mysterious postcareer.

As for Hendrick's write-up: "Perhaps George's finest major league game occurred ... when he belted three homers in the contest." Perhaps? Hendrick had been around for only four years. Was he in the habit of hitting three or more homers a game regularly?

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song on this date in 1975 was "Fire," by the Ohio Players. One of the first songs to employ fire engine sound effects. Perhaps the only one.

Monday, February 8, 2010

#108 - Tom Hall

Card fact:
I don't have a fact. But Hall shares the name of the father of my best friend when I was growing up. Had I known who Tom Hall was when I was a kid, this would be the source of endless amusement.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw a single one of Tom Hall's cards. He was one of those players who disappeared just as I was getting to know baseball, and I didn't become aware of him until decades later.

What I think about this card now: Hall sure is happy in a lonely looking ballpark.

Other stuff: There is not a lot of information out there about Hall. He was mostly a reliever for some pretty good teams in the late 1960s Twins and early 1970s Reds. Apparently, he had good stuff, and put up good numbers as a reliever, but injuries got in the way. He was traded to the Mets just as the Reds began back-to-back World Series title campaigns. He pitched in 36 games for the Royals in 1976, but didn't receive a card the next year. He was then released by the Royals in 1977.

Back facts: Hall was just 158 pounds. Can you picture a pitcher weighing that little now? Tim Lincecum weighs 170 and everyone thinks he's tiny.

Other blog stuff: The green-light green combo has crept within one of the orange-brown combo, which is the overall leader right now. But orange-brown is about to put together a major streak. Will it ever be caught? The suspense is killing you, isn't it?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

#107 - Jim Barr

Card fact:
Not much to say. How about this: this is the first card featuring the orange-yellow color combo that is not either a team card or a White Sox player. That's reaching, but that's all I've got.

What I thought about this card then: Don't remember it. However, the 1976 Topps card was deemed the favorite card of one the various animal characters (it was a bear) that were in my room. Yes, the bear had a name. Yes, I wrote the name of the bear on the card. Yes, I still have the card. No, you're not going to see it.

What I think about this card now: Look at the stands. That is approximately how many people that I think should turn out for Giants games.

Other stuff: Jim Barr, with the exception of two seasons with the Angels, was a career Giant, which meant that I didn't care for him much. But he had a career losing record, which was always fun.

Barr's name came up during the 2009 season when Mark Buehrle broke Barr's record for most consecutive batters retired. Buehrle retired 45, which included a perfect game thrown against Tampa Bay. Barr didn't throw a no-hitter/perfect game when he set the record of 41 straight in 1972. Instead he was perfect from the third inning on in one start, and perfect until the 7th inning in his next start.

Back facts:
My goal is to feature one of these players on his birthday. Barr has come the closest so far, as his birthday is Wednesday.

Also, I'm not too pleased about the write-up. I'm glad I wasn't watching baseball during that bit of ugliness.

Other blog stuff: It's official. I'm calling the orange-yellow combo the "Oscar Mayer weiner combo" as it resembles the hot dog maker's packaging and famous mobile.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

#106 - Mike Hargrove

Card fact:
The first card of Mike Hargrove's career.

What I thought about this card then: Not part of my collection. Hargrove's 1976 Topps card was one of my favorites. It's a very simple card -- a picture of Hargrove pointing his bat at the camera, a familiar pose on many 1970s cards. But something about it grabbed me. In fact, I liked Hargrove's cards in the '77, '78 and '79 sets, too.

What I think about this card now: If they had just moved Hargrove's card number up one place, Topps could have had back-to-back rookie cup cards. I wonder if that has ever happened in any Topps set?

Other stuff: Hargrove is one of those guys who had both a long and successful playing and managing career. When you go through baseball history, there really aren't a ton of folks who succeeded for so long in both areas.

Hargrove was nicknamed the "Human Rain Delay" for all of his maneuverings before he got into the batter's box.

He quit as manager of the Mariners in midseason in 2007, even though the team was playing well at the time. He now manages a semiprofessional baseball team in Kansas.

Back facts: Hargrove won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1974, clobbering runner-up Bucky Dent with 67 percent of the vote, compared to Dent's 12. George Brett finished third.

Also ... Dudley?

Other blog stuff: Just two days after adding the third baseman to the Topps rookie team, it's time to add a guy at the other infield corner:

1B - Mike Hargrove
2B - ?
3B - Bill Madlock
SS - ?
OF - ?
OF - ?
OF - ?
C - ?
P - Frank Tanana

Friday, February 5, 2010

#105 - Buzz Capra

Card fact:
This is Buzz Capra's first card, even though he pitched in 24 games in 1973, 14 games in 1972 and had been in the league since 1971.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. The first card of Capra's that I saw was his 1976 Topps card. That is the case for a number of cards, probably because I bought twice the number of cards in '76 that I did in '75.

What I think about this card now: Capra looks a tad excited in this photo. The close-up view is a bit alarming.

Other stuff: Capra featured one of the best nicknames in baseball (his real name is Lee), and is one of those famous one-year-wonder pitchers that baseball historians seem to love so much. Capra's best year, by a million miles, was 1974 when he went 16-8 for the Braves -- his first year for Atlanta -- and won the National League ERA title. He was Pitcher of the Month in June of 1974, made the All-Star team, and was part of a memorable year in Atlanta, which also included a home run hit by some dude named Hank.

Capra got hurt the following year and never won more than six games in a season for the rest of his career, which was done in 1978.

Back facts: Capra was purchased from the Mets, who didn't have room for the player on their vaunted pitching staff.

Other blog stuff: Speaking of Hank Aaron, today is his 76th birthday. Only 555 more cards until we get to yours, Hank.