Wednesday, March 31, 2010

#157 - Pedro Borbon

Card fact: I just looked up all of Borbon's Topps cards. He is not smiling on any of them. None.

What I thought about this card then: I did not like Pedro Borbon as a kid. He played for the Big Red Machine, which I hated. And he had that damn Grinch look on his face all the time. He seemed most unpleasant. I wished him ill.

What I think about this card now: I'm not as anti-Borbon as I once was, but I'm still wondering why he couldn't muster a smile for a single card.

Other stuff: Pedro Borbon was a reliable relief pitcher for the vaunted Reds teams of the 1970s. He put up some impressive season win totals for a reliever, which is a testament to his offense.

Borbon's son, also named Pedro, pitched nine years in the majors, including a season for the Dodgers in 1999. I wasn't aware he lasted so long in baseball.

Now, when you mention Pedro Borbon, folks will mention two things:

1. The "Airplane" movie line: "Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota ... Mota ... Mota."
2. The fact that he tore apart a Mets cap with his teeth during the 1973 NLCS Rose-Harrelson brawl between the Reds and Mets.

Back facts: I should keep track of how often the Dodgers are mentioned in the cartoon. It has to be almost in double figures now. There are also a lot of guns in these cartoons.

Other blog stuff: Shirley Partridge, a.k.a., Shirley Jones, was born on this date in 1934. The Partridge Family actually was off the air by 1975. Fortunately, I have never seen an episode.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

#156 - Dave Kingman

Card fact: The "orange-brown" color combo -- the candy corn combo -- takes the lead with its 17th card in this set.

What I thought about this card then: I don't think I saw this card in 1975, but I did see it a couple of years later. I remember being surprised to see Dave Kingman as a Giant. I watched a lot of Mets games in the late 1970s and always knew Kingman as a Met.

What I think about this card now: The color combination goes well with the Giants, which is plain disgusting if you ask me.

Other stuff: Kingman was a 6-foot-6, free-swinging slugger who could whiff four times in a game or hit a couple of titan blasts. It really was all or nothing with him. I think people like to embellish his career a little bit, because he had such an ability to hit monster home runs. And it didn't hurt that he played in two major markets -- New York and Chicago.

However, even though some folks will say Kingman was one of the most "feared" hitters of the 1970s, I did not fear him at all when he came up to the plate against my team when he played for the Mets. That's because Kingman struck out at a crazy pace. He was almost an easy out in this area. "Phew, Kingman's up. Here's out number two." His ability to get on base was not good.

He did have a couple of excellent seasons for the Cubs, when he somehow figured out how not to hit .221 for an entire season. But that was pretty much it. And that's how a guy with more than 400 career home runs cannot get into the Hall of Fame. Seriously, we laughed when this guy came to the plate. He was awkward in the field, too.

Also, he didn't get along with reporters very well.

Today, Kingman is known for his home runs, the Tommy Lasorda tirade he fueled after hitting three homers against the Dodgers, and playing for a team in each of baseball's then four divisions (Mets, Padres, Angels, Yankees) in the same season -- the only player to do that.

Back facts: This is the second cartoon that shows a ball going completely through a catcher's mitt. That's got to hurt.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song in the country at this time in 1975 was "Lady Marmalade," by LaBelle. Gitchi, gitchi, ya, ya, da, da.

Monday, March 29, 2010

#155 - Jim Bibby

Card fact: It has been a whopping 74 cards since the last "light blue-green" color combo card was featured. By the way, I've got to start referring to these color combinations by their given names. I will refer to this as the "day baseball" combination from this point forward.

What I thought about this card then: Jim Bibby was a Ranger, and we held the Rangers in high regard in my house for inexplicable reasons. I believe Bibby was one of the first Rangers cards that we ever saw. He had the mustache and the hair going, so he was definitely a cool cat.

What I think about this card now: Still a classic card. One of the better ones in the set in my opinion.

Other stuff: Bibby just died last month so his career has been mentioned quite a bit lately. Bibby was a hard-throwing right-hander, who was signed out of college by the Mets, but known mostly for his time with the Pirates. He was a starter for the 1979 World Series champions and the starting pitcher for the National League in the 1980 All-Star Game. He went 19-6 for the Pirates that year.

Bibby also threw a no-hitter against the A's when he pitched for the Rangers. In the early stages of his career, he spent two years of active duty in the Army and was a truck driver in Vietnam.

Bibby is one of six members of the 1979 Pirates who have died. The others are Willie Stargell, John Milner, Bill Robinson, Dave Roberts and Dock Ellis.

Back facts: I wasn't aware that Bibby came up with the Cardinals until reading the back of this card. I just looked up his rookie card from 1972. It's one that he shares with two other players. It's rather comical. It's obvious he's wearing a pinstriped Mets jersey, but his cap is airbrushed bright red.

Other blog stuff: Former Brewers closer Danny Kolb was born on this date in 1975. He had a great season in 2004, then imploded when acquired by the Braves in 2005. Never the same after that.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

#154 - Mike Lum

Card fact: This is the third player in the set so far who was born in Hawaii. The first two were Milt Wilcox and Charlie Hough.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I thought that Mike Lum had something to do with Lum's restaurant. If you are old enough, you remember that Lum's was a family restaurant chain during the 1960s and 1970s. When I was a kid, there really weren't a lot of chain restaurants around. There was McDonald's. There was A&W. There was Howard Johnson's. And there was Lum's. I think there is only one Lum's restaurant remaining, but I still remember the plastic baskets the hot dogs and french fries came in.

Anyway, I thought Mike Lum had something to do with those restaurants. But he didn't.

What I think about this card now: It looks like Lum is posed in front of a fairgrounds grandstand.

Other stuff: Lum was one of the first players of Asian descent to play in the major leagues. He was a regular for the Braves during the early 1970s. After he was traded to the Reds prior to the 1976 season, he became more of a role player and pinch-hitter. But his career lasted until 1981. He was one of only six players to pinch-hit for Hank Aaron.

Back facts: If you hit three home runs in a game against the Padres, does it really count?

Other blog stuff: Interesting that I mentioned restaurants with a card that features a color combo that I call the "Burger King" design. I actually remember when the first Burger King came to our city. It was the beginning of the end for Lum's.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

#153 - Rick Reuschel

Card fact: This card is a real disappointment coming after Rick Reuschel's 1974 card. But I guess Topps had to ration its action shots in the 1970s.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. It does look like a card I would make fun of though. Sorry, Rick.

What I think about this card now: Well, not so much the card, but the name. I am much relieved that I have been pronouncing Reuschel's name correctly all these years. It is indeed, RUSH-el. I was never sure about that.

Other stuff: When I think of Rick Reuschel, I think of how he had some good years for the Cubs, then went to the Yankees and things fell apart. Even when he returned to the Cubs, things didn't go well. It wasn't until he signed with the Pirates and then when he joined the Giants that he regained his form that he had during his first stint with the Cubs.

I also remember him appearing to grow larger and larger as his career progressed. He was always a portly fellow. His nickname was "Big Daddy." I noted that he is listed as 6-3 and 230 pounds on his 1975 card, and 6-3 and 240 pounds on his 1991 card. But he seemed to me to have gained more than 10 pounds during those latter years.

Back facts: How many people do you know whose full, given first name is "Ricky"?

Other blog stuff: More birthday items. Mariah Carey is 40 today. Wow. Time is moving much too fast.

Friday, March 26, 2010

#152 - Mario Guerrero

Card fact: With this card, the orange-brown color combo ties the green-light green combo for the overall lead with 16 cards each. These two color combos will remain No. 1 and 2 for the next 50 cards or so. Then there will be changes.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. My knowledge of Guerrero was from his late '70s cards as an Angel and an Athletic. I wasn't impressed. A backup infielder from the American League West? Yawn.

What I think about this card now: A nice shot of what I believe is Fenway Park (the parks looked so different in the '70s). And for once, the background isn't crooked.

Other stuff: Geez, what can I say? Guerrero pioneered the major leagues for Guerreros to come. Pedro and Wilton and Vladimir followed. But Mario was the first. To my knowledge he's not related to any of them, not even Juan Guerrero, who played a single season for the Astros in 1992.

Mario Guerrero was the bridge at starting shortstop for the Red Sox between Luis Aparicio and Rick Burleson. He also was involved in trades that included Sparky Lyle and Vida Blue.

(EDIT: Mario Guerrero died on July 2, 2023).

Back facts: That's an interesting cartoon. Ninety-six baseballs for a doubleheader, huh? I miss doubleheaders. ... Also, the record that Guerrero tied was for shortstops. Bobby Knoop set the record for second basemen with six in one game in 1966.

Other blog stuff: Lots of notable '70s figures were born on this date. Among them: Bob Woodward, Diana Ross, Leonard Nimoy, Vicki Lawrence, James Caan and Steven Tyler.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

#151 - Steve Brye

Card fact: Steve Brye is in an almost identical pose on his 1977 Topps card. You could put those photos side by side and do one of those exercises in Highlights magazine in which you have to find 5 things different about the two pictures.

What I thought about this card then: Not a lot. But my brother, who had the card, apparently had some thoughts. More on that in a second.

What I think about this card now: More tilting in the background.

Other stuff: Steve Brye was a fourth-outfielder type for the Twins, as well as the Brewers and Pirates. His only true season as a starter was 1974 when he played in 135 games. He played through the 1978 season.

But he is a big part of my childhood because my brother chose to make Brye the favorite player of his stuffed lion. I mentioned this before on the other blog. It drew a reaction from one of Brye's relatives. Someone who is married to Brye's cousin dropped me an email telling me she was entertained by the story and wondered why Brye was the "lucky" player chosen by my brother. I told her I had no idea. What's more, I don't think my brother would have an idea either. We were ages 9 and 7 at the time. Kids make no sense then.

Back facts: If I wasn't so tired and ready for sleep, I would look up whether the record for most years leading the league in losses is still four. Someone please do it for me.

Other blog stuff: Tom Glavine was born on this date in 1966.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

#150 - Bob Gibson

Card fact: This is the final card of Bob Gibson during his career. Of course, through the magic of the hobby's never-ending retro craze, there are many, many new cards of Gibson long after his retirement.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. Even though he appears on one of those MVP subset cards that I saw when I was a kid, Gibson the player never registered when I was youth. Legendary baseball writer Roger Angell introduced me to Gibson many years later.

What I think about this card now: I acquired this card early in my quest to complete the set about six years ago. A person at work traded it to me. It's in surprisingly good shape and I didn't give up much to get it. I was quite pleased with the deal, which also brought me the '75 Lou Brock card.

Also, what a great color combo to use with Gibson! It works perfectly.

Other stuff: If I was forced to come up with my favorite pitcher of all-time who was not a Dodger, I think I'd pick Gibson. I absolutely admire his domination and his refusal to back down to the hitter. I love his no-nonsense attitude and his unwillingness to compromise. The game was survival to him. He wasn't making a conscious effort to be intimidating. He was doing what he thought he had to do to succeed. But, make no mistake about it, "Hoot" was mean to opponents and surly to teammates.

Gibson's final season was in 1975. He went 3-10 with an ERA over 5 and he announced that he would retire at the end of the season. In his final appearance, he came on in relief in a 6-6 game and surrendered a grand slam to Pete LaCock that won the game for the Cubs. According to his wikipedia page, Gibson said, "When I gave up a grand slam to Pete LaCock, I knew it was time to quit."


(Edit: Bob Gibson died at age 84 on Oct. 2, 2020).

Back facts: Not too many losing seasons in there. Between 1960 and 1974, he won more games than he lost every year.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song in the country on this date in 1975 was "My Eyes Adored You," by Frankie Valli. More sappiness from the mid-70s.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

#149 - Tim Foli

Card fact: This is another one of the cards that I pulled from the first packs of cards that I ever purchased.

What I thought about this card then: I thought it was a cool shot of Foli, looking very suave -- despite the glasses -- after a casual swing of the bat.

What I think about this card now: I believe this photo features the very same ballpark as the photo in the Jim Rooker card in the previous post. But the fence and the warning track are much farther behind Foli than Rooker.

Other stuff: Foli was a solid fielding, rather poor hitting shortstop who enjoyed a long career with the Mets, Expos, Pirates and Angels, mostly. His average and on-base percentage were lousy most years, but he kind of put it all together for the 1979 Pirates and was one of the key members of the We Are Family World Series champions.

Foli was known for his explosive temper, and he was involved in several confrontations and fights both as a player and a coach. I was raised to believe that guys wearing glasses were the timid types. But perhaps that's what got Mr. Foli so upset. Damn stereotypes!

Back facts: I don't know how long it took me to make the connection that the "Pee Wee" mentioned in the cartoon was THE Pee Wee Reese. But it was a lot of years.

Oldie but goodie: Here is one of the cards that I have owned longer than almost any one in my collection. Thirty-five years. And it's got the rounded corners to prove it.

Other blog stuff: In a bit of a take-off on White Sox Cards' suggestion, I'm calling this color combo the "seaside combo." You've got tan (the beach) and light blue (the water). It works for me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

#148 - Jim Rooker

Card fact: In contrast to the green-light green color combo, the blue-orange combo has been one of the least-used combos so far. I believe only the tan-light blue combination has appeared fewer times.

What I thought about this card then: Nothing.

What I think about this card now: There are a few photos in this set that are taken in this location. I am puzzled as to where they are in the ballpark. Is that strip of green the back fence? Is that strip of brown the warning track? Is that Candlestick Park? I suppose if everything wasn't tilted I wouldn't be so disoriented.

Other stuff: Jim Rooker was a steady contributor to the starting staff for the Pirates teams of the 1970s. His best season might have been his 1974 season, finishing with career highs in ERA, strikeouts and wins. Rooker also started Game 5 of the 1979 World Series, even though he was a limited contributor for the team that year. The Pirates were down 3 games to 1 to the Orioles at that point, but they went on to win that game and the next two to claim the Series.

Rooker is probably best known to recent fans as the broadcaster who, after watching the Pirates put up a 10-spot in the first inning against the Phillies in Philadelphia, said on the air that if the Pirates didn't win the game, he would walk home. Well, the Pirates blew the game. After the season, Rooker walked for charity, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

Rooker also writes children's books, had a political career and cares for dogs. I'm exhausted just listing all the stuff he does.

Back facts: I wonder how 131 players compares to how many players make their major league debuts per year these days. I'm sure it's more. A lot more.

Other blog stuff: Happy birthday to former Dodger pitcher Ramon Martinez (Pedro's big brother). He's 42 years old today. But the only birthday I'll be celebrating today will be my daughter's.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

#147 - Pedro Garcia

Card fact: This card officially puts the green-light green combo into the overall lead with 16 cards. The orange-brown combo had led from the beginning all the way to this point. Truly a momentous day! We'll have to see if orange-brown can re-take the lead.

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

What I think about this card now: This was one of the cards that I saw for the first time when I was trying to complete the set a few years ago. When I read the name, it sounded familiar to me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had absolutely no knowledge of this player.

Other stuff: Pedro Garcia made a big impact with the Brewers in his debut, finishing the season with the league lead in doubles with 32 and coming in second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. But his season was very Angel Berroa-like. Low on-base percentage, lots of strikeouts, few walks. Garcia declined quickly and was out of the majors by 1977. Unfortunately, Berroa is still sticking around. Damn expansion.

Back facts: Error by Topps. The date of Mantle's 565-foot home run was actually April 17, 1953. April 18th was an off-day for the Yankees.

Other blog stuff: The Disney movie "Escape to Witch Mountain" was released on this date in 1975. I thought that movie was very cool when I was kid. One of the first movies I ever saw. No, DVDs back then, kids. We went to the theater.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

#146 - Padres/John McNamara

Card fact: This is John McNamara's first appearance as the Padres' manager on a baseball card. He replaced Don Zimmer, who was let go after a 60-102 season. McNamara managed San Diego to the exact same mark in 1974, yet got to keep his job.

What I thought about this card then: I thought McNamara looked like an elf.

What I think about this card now: McNamara is still somewhat elfian, but I'm also distracted by the guy on the right with what appears to be a towering mound of hair. Or maybe it's a shadow.

Other stuff: McNamara started his major league managerial career with the A's in 1970, but my first encounter with him was with the Padres. I didn't like him much when he managed the Reds, and liked him a little more when he took over for the Red Sox. Of course, Boston fans don't have much nice to say about him. And Dave Stapleton really has unkind things to say about McNamara. Let's just say he thinks he should have replaced Buckner on defense in Game 6.

Back facts: Nate Colbert is listed on the Padres checklist, but he is listed as a Tiger on his own card. He was traded to the Tigers on Nov. 18, 1974.

Other blog stuff: Time to see if Topps left any key Padres players out of the '75 set.

The Padres used 43 players in 1974. That is the most of any of the teams we have seen so far. San Diego was five years removed from expansion and absolutely sucked. The Padres didn't even have a winning season until they had existed for 10 years. So they threw a lot on the wall and hoped some of it stuck.

Out of the 43 players, Topps featured just 24 in the set. That is just 55.8 percent, the worst percentage so far. Also, three of the players from that '74 team are featured with other teams -- Colbert (Tigers), Steve Arlin (Indians) and Clarence Gaston (Braves). But two of the players in the Colbert trade -- Ed Brinkman and Dick Sharon -- remained Tigers in the '75 set, cutting down even more on the number of Padres in the set. Topps did try to make up for that by featuring two airbrushed Padres who didn't even play for the team in 1974 -- Danny Frisella and Brent Strom.

Topps didn't really leave out anyone notable. The biggest ones were pitcher Mike Corkins (25 appearances) and two hitters at the end of their careers -- Horace Clarke (90 at-bats) and Matty Alou (81 at-bats).

So the Padres sink to the bottom (a position they should know well) as far as the percentage of players representing their team in the '75 set. There were just too many comings and goings for Topps to handle:

1. Tigers 78.37% of players featured
2. Orioles 78.13%
3. Royals 70.59%
4. Expos 68.29%
5. Phillies 62.5%
6. Padres 55.8%

Friday, March 19, 2010

#145 - Ken Holtzman

Card fact:
One of the most pleasing cards in the set. A top-notch pitcher of the era, who played on a World Series winning team, featured on a card with a border color that complements his uniform and team colors.

What I thought about this card then: One of my favorites. In my mind, Holtzman was actually much, much taller than he appears on this card. Also, when I looked at the card, I pictured him pitching from about 6 feet up. I am surprised when I see the card now and realize Holtzman is obviously at ground level.

The picture of Holtzman represents everything that I thought was cool about a pitcher at the time.

Also, and this has nothing to do with what I just said, but I cannot think of this card without also thinking of the frogs that we caught in our backyard. We would corral them and force them to live in a habitat devised by 9-year-olds, which basically was grass and twigs in a sand bucket. We'd care for the frog for three days and then wonder on the third day why the frog was dead.

I have no idea why I think of that when I see the Holtzman card. I must have obtained the Holtzman card around the time we caught a frog, or had the Holtzman card nearby. But anyway, that's a glimpse into the nonsensical world in which I live.

What I think about this card now: I love it because it reminds me of my childhood more than almost all of the cards in the set.

Other stuff: Ken Holtzman was a standout pitcher for the Cubs in the 1960s. The fact that he was Jewish made for interesting comparisons to Sandy Koufax (they are both left-handed, too). Holtzman couldn't match up to that, but did pretty damn good. He threw two no-hitters for the Cubs -- against the Braves and Reds -- and then was traded for Rick Monday just before the A's began their dynasty.

Holtzman was a key starter for those Swingin' A's teams and even hit a home run in the 1974 World Series against the Dodgers (boooo!!!!). Later, Holtzman was sent to the Orioles as Charlie O. began his fire sale. The Orioles didn't keep Holtzman too long, sending him to the Yankees. Holtzman struggled with New York, got on Steinbrenner's bad side and ended up finishing his career back with the Cubs.

Back facts:
Does "splinter" mean you have a rubber bat? I've never understood that cartoon.

Also, Holtzman probably has the greatest bio write-up that ever existed on a baseball card. One sentence. Pure awesomeness.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, the movie "Tommy" was released. Does anyone play pinball anymore?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

#144 - Jim Wohlford

Card fact:
This is the sixth card of someone named "Jim." That falls behind "David," "Bob" and "Joe." But shockingly there's been just one "Mark" in the set so far.

What I thought about this card then: No thoughts. Didn't see it.

What I think about this card now: I like the distant Coca-Cola advertisement in the background. Now THAT is subliminal advertising.

Other stuff: I didn't see Wohlford's 1975 card, but I did see his 1976 card.

That is significant, because I thought he looked exactly like my friend, Jeff, the Royals fan from Kansas. And I found it interesting that there should be someone on his favorite team that looked liked him. Now, you can say what you want about how dopey Wohlford looks, but you leave my friend Jeff alone.

Also, because Wohford and George Brett both had long blond hair and played for the Royals, I would get them confused. Really.

Anyway, Wohlford was coming off the best season of his career in 1975. In 1974, he reached 500 at-bats for the only time in his career. He would never even reach 400 at-bats the rest of his time in the big leagues, even though he played until 1986. He was known as a defensively skilled outfielder.

Wohlford also claimed in a Chicago Tribune article that he was the one who said, "Ninety percent of this game is half-mental," not Yogi Berra.

Back facts: Did Brooks Robinson really cry about the fact that he played all those games at third base? I think he LIKED doing it.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song on this date in 1975 was "Black Water," by the Doobie Brothers. Good song, especially for 1975 when there was an awful lot of junk on the pop charts.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#143 - Cliff Johnson

Card fact: This is Cliff Johnson's rookie card.

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

What I think about this card now: Hoo-boy. Not a lot. The photo is pretty much identical to Johnson's 1976 Topps card, which was one of the very first doubles that I ever had.

Other stuff: Johnson didn't spend very much time with the Yankees, but that's how I most remember him. He was one of the very few Yankees that didn't irritate me. I don't know why. Probably because he wasn't a regular player. Johnson got into a famous brawl with teammate Rich Gossage in 1979, and was shipped to Cleveland shortly afterward.

Johnson holds the record for most career pinch-hit home runs with 20.

Back facts: You can tell Johnson paid his dues in the minors. Six years of bus rides before he reached the big leagues. But he stuck around once he arrived, playing in the majors until 1986.

Other blog stuff: I have decided to switch a couple of the color combo names. The green-yellow combo, which I originally called the "Lemon-lime design" is now in need of a name. That's because the yellow-green combo, which you saw on the last post, will be called the "lemon-lime design," since the yellow on the top and the green on the bottom suits it better.

That means I need a name for green-yellow again. Suggestions? Peas and corn? Oakland A's? The colors used by 60 percent of high school/college teams across America? Something about St. Patrick's Day?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#142 - Bob Reynolds

Card fact: This is the last card in Reynolds' career. In fact, he has just two Topps cards.

What I thought about this card then: I absolutely loved it. One of my all-time favorite cards in the set. I thought the pose was terrific. Never mind that it is the worst pitching follow-through ever, I thought he looked like someone out of the wild west with the mustache and long hair and pointing at the camera. My brother had this card, since he was an Orioles fan, and I really wanted that card badly.

What I think about this card now: It's still awesome, especially now that I know some background on Reynolds.

Other stuff: Reynolds was thought to be a can't-miss prospect out of high school. He could throw more than 100 miles an hour on a regular basis. But he also was a one-pitch pitcher, and therefore made into a reliever. He did well for two seasons with the Orioles -- 1973 and 1974 -- and pitched for Baltimore in the 1974 ALCS. But in 1975 he was 0-5 and bounced between the Orioles, Tigers and Indians.

An interesting story recounts his time in the major leagues. He just missed out on a baseball pension because he came 34 days short of having five years of big-league service. After being sent down to Triple A by Indians player/manager Frank Robinson in 1976, he found himself facing Robinson in an exhibition game. Reynolds retired Robinson on a fly ball, then angrily yelled at Robinson, demanding to know why Robinson sent him to Triple A. Robinson promptly ran across the  field and punched Reynolds out. Reynolds never returned to the majors.

Back facts: Another gun cartoon. That just adds to the wild-west nature of the "Bullet Bob" card.

Other blog stuff: All right, I am a child of the '70s. Therefore, I must mention that Erik Estrada was born 61 years ago today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

#141 - Mickey Stanley

Card fact: We finally have arrived at one of the cards that came out of the first packs that I ever bought.

What I thought of this card then: Stanley was one of three Tigers that I pulled out of those first packs. John Hiller and Ron LeFlore were the other two. Because of that, I became a closet Tigers fan. I still like the Tigers to this day, probably because of the fortuitous collation on that spring day in 1975.

Also, I thought Stanley was very old. He looked like someone my dad would know. But Stanley was all of 32 years old at the time of this card's making.

What I think about this card now: That is an awfully small bat that Stanley is holding.

Other stuff: Stanley was known as an outstanding fielder and his biggest claim to fame is being moved from outfield to shortstop to replace the weak-hitting Ray Oyler for the Tigers' pennant stretch run in 1968. Even though Stanley had never played at shortstop, he performed well there and the Tigers ended up winning the World Series.

Stanley's wikipedia page praises him thusly: "He is considered a living legend to many Tiger fans around the universe." The universe? I don't know. I think that guy on Saturn is a White Sox fan.

Back facts: Another cartoon figure with a beard. That's two in the last four cards.

Other blog stuff: Happy birthday to Mickey Hatcher! Another Mickey! One of the heroes of '88 is 55 years old today.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

#140 - Steve Garvey

Card fact: This is the first All-Star card I ever saw.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the all-time coolest cards of my early collecting life. I had the mini Steve Garvey card, and for a long time, I never saw the regular-sized Garvey. When I finally acquired the regulation size Popeye, it seemed freakishly big and somehow so wrong. It took a long time getting used to it.

What I think about this card now: It's still a classic. Garvey's stance is instantly recognizable and I love the trees in the background.

Other stuff: I could write a long time about Garvey, but I'll keep it short. He is the first star of my favorite team that I ever knew. Garvey was just beginning to break out as I was beginning to learn about baseball. Although he was hugely popular with a lot of fans, he was never my favorite player. He was just too smooth and clean-cut for me. I preferred the guys with long hair and mustaches. When Garvey and Don Sutton got in that brawl in 1978, I was both horrified that players on my favorite team would bicker and also pleased that someone on Garvey's own team saw him as a bit irritating. Sutton won more of my respect on that day.

That's not to say I was totally down on Garvey. I was proud to have him on my team and sad when he left. Garvey was a tremendously clutch hitter and watching him during the 1978 postseason was awesome. He seemed to hit everything. He had a mechanical way about him, but he was awfully good.

I always remember him as a young guy. It's sad to know that he is 61 years old.

Back facts: Not only was Garvey a bat boy for the Dodgers, but he worked as a bat boy for the Tigers and the Yankees, too.

You'll note that 1974 was Garvey's real break-out season and he reached the All-Star Game that year through write-in ballot.

Other blog stuff: Here is the regular Garvey and mini Garvey (overhandled by a 9-year-old) side by side.

Also, it's time to fill in the All-Star team with Garvey's addition:


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


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

Friday, March 12, 2010

#139 - Horacio Pina

Card fact:
This is Horacio Pina's final card.

What I thought about this card then: Not only did I never see this card when I was a kid, but I had absolutely no knowledge of Horacio Pina until I started trying to complete the set five or six years ago.

What I think about this card now: He is definitely airbrushed into his Angels cap and uniform.

Other stuff: Pina was a relief pitcher for the Indians, Senators, Rangers, Athletics, Cubs, Angels and Phillies. He apparently was a useful member of the staff during the A's run to the World Series title in 1973.

Also, he was traded from the Cubs to the Angels in July 1974 for somebody's favorite pitcher, Rick Stelmaszek.

After four years out of the majors, he came back to pitch in two games for the Phillies in 1978.

Back facts: Ed Cicotte and Ed Summers were minor league teammates in the early 1900s. The pitch Summers threw was called the "finger-nail ball," which is more accurate than "knuckleball."

Other blog stuff: Another green-yellow card. "Lemon-lime" it is!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

#138 - Del Unser

Card fact: What is with the Phillies and players whose last name starts with "U"? There has been Del Unser, Chase Utley, Tom Underwood, Bob Uecker. I mean, in the history of the major leagues, there aren't a lot of players who had a "U" kicking off their last name, but the Phillies seem to have ended up with more than their share.

What I thought about this card then: I remember having an inexplicable interest in Del Unser, but it wasn't because of this card because I didn't have it. It might be the 1976 card, when he was with the Mets.

What I think about this card now: More ballfield tiltage in the background.

Other stuff: Unser began his career with the Senators and was a regular center fielder for several years, both with Washington and then with Philadelphia. Then, about the time he moved on to Montreal, he became known as a pinch-hitting specialist. The rest of his career he was a pinch-hitter and role player. He set a record in 1979 when he hit a pinch-hit home run in three straight at-bats.

Back facts: I wasn't able to find out if there were any more former major leaguers who lived to be at least 100, but if you want to read an involved analysis of the life expetancy of major league ballplayers, I stumbled across one. The condensed version: MLB players live five years longer than the average American male.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song in the country on this date was "Have You Never Been Mellow," by Olivia Newton-John. I'm fairly certain that song title is grammatically incorrect.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#137 - Terry Forster

Card fact:
The card facts are getting harder and harder to come by -- did you know Terry Forster is tied with Dave Collins for the most years spent in the big leagues for anyone born in South Dakota with 16? You do now.

What I thought about this card then: Not in my collection.

What I think about this card now: Forster has quite the hopeful expression on his face, especially considering the world is going downhill behind him.

Other stuff: Forster earned a quick reputation as a top-notch relief pitcher, spending just 10 games in the minor leagues, and leading the league in saves with 24 in 1974. Later, he was sent to the Pirates with Rich Gossage in a deal that brought Richie Zisk to the White Sox. Then he became one of the Dodgers' first signings of the free agent era.

Forster had a good first season for L.A., but then struggled with injuries. He's the guy that gave up the home run to the Giants' Joe Morgan in the final game of the 1982 season that knocked L.A. out the playoffs. Morgan famously pumped his arm while rounding the bases as if he had just won something -- when actually all he had won was a game and third place in the NL West standings. Nice work, Joe. The Dodgers still finished ahead of you. Oh, and your broadcasting sucks, too.

Later Forster became known for his weight and was called out by David Letterman on national television. Letterman dubbed Forster a "fat tub of goo." I remember watching Letterman at the time and marveling at what a random thing for Letterman to say, to just pick out this relief pitcher that few people knew and riff on his weight. But, as usual, it was funny.

Back facts: The cartoon doesn't say so, but I'm pretty sure those five 1-0 games by Carl Hubbell didn't involve any relief pitching.

Other blog stuff: A moment to acknowledge the passing of Willie Davis, one of the greatest outfielders the Dodgers ever had. An incredible natural talent. Goodbye 3-Dog.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

#136 - Jim Mason

Card fact:
Another color combo that we haven't seen for 50 cards. Good to have you back, green-yellow!

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. The first Jim Mason card I had was the 1977 card of him with the inaugural Blue Jays team.

What I think about this card now: Mason kind of has a Tim Lincecum thing going with that hair flip. It looks rather girly. Yes, girly enough to be categorized as a "dude who looks like a lady."

Other stuff: Mason's only a season of playing in more than 100 games came in 1974 when he started 152 games as the Yankees' starting shortstop.

It was a dark time for the Yankees at the position. Mason replaced the weak-hitting George Michael. Then, Mason followed his 1974 season by hitting .152 in 1975. Topps didn't even give him a card the next year. Mason was replaced at shortstop by Fred "Chicken" Stanley, another light hitter.

No wonder Yankees fans flipped over the rather mediocre Bucky Dent! Compared to the guys before him, he was practically Cal Ripken.

Back facts: Mason continues to hold the record of most doubles in a game with four. He holds it with many other people. In fact, 17 players have hit four doubles in a game since Mason did it. The most recent was Alex Rios on Aug. 17, 2008.

Other blog stuff: What do you think? Should we call this color combo the "lemon-lime" combo?

Monday, March 8, 2010

#135 - Charlie Spikes

Card fact:
Another card in which the signed name is not the same as the listed name. Charlie's actual first name is Leslie.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card (I still do). We loved his name. Spikes? Baseball spikes? Get it? Children are so easily amused.

What I think about this card now: That sure looks like a bat knob that Spikes is holding, but I don't know where the rest of the bat is. ... Other than that, Spikes looks totally bad-ass.

Other stuff: Spikes was thought to be an up-and-coming slugger for the Indians, judging by his first two seasons with Cleveland. Topps thought so, giving Spikes a card number ending in a "5" after just his second full year. But he really took a downturn the next three years and the Indians traded Spikes to the Tigers for Tom Veryzer. After a couple years as a part-time player for the Braves, he ended his career in Japan in 1981.

Back facts:
Carroll Hardy hit into a double play in his pinch-hit appearance for Ted Williams. Hardy also pinch-hit for Roger Maris and Carl Yastrzemski. He later became player personnel director for the Denver Broncos in the 1970s.

Other blog stuff: This blog is just over one-fifth of the way through. Card No. 132 (Randy Moffitt) was the official one-fifth mark.