Sunday, October 31, 2010

#357 - Ken Forsch

Card fact: This is the second group of baseball-playing brothers featured on this blog. The first two were Ken and George Brett. There will be more by the time this blog is done.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card, but I didn't think much about it. You can only come up with so many thoughts about a head shot.

What I think about this card now: When Topps got the colors of the borders to match with a team's colors, it had itself a great card. Red and orange is perfect for the Astros.

Other stuff: Ken Forsch was the oldest of the Forsch brothers. Ken arrived in the majors in 1970, and his brother Bob came up in 1974. Both pitched for 16 seasons in the majors, and both pitched a no-hitter in the major leagues. They are the only brothers to do that. Ken pitched his no-hitter against the Braves in 1979.

Forsch later was traded to the Angels for Dickie Thon and delivered three straight double-figure win seasons for California. Forsch was basically a .500 pitcher for his career, but he didn't walk a lot of people. He played for several mediocre teams and didn't enjoy the postseason success that his brother did.

Forsch is now the assistant general manager for the Angels.

Back facts: Ken gets a cool middle name like "Roth," while his brother got the middle name "Herbert."

Also, Topps misspelled Bob Forsch's name as "Fursch" in the write-up.

Other blog stuff: On this date, Mickey Rivers was born. A Halloween baby, he is 62 today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

#356 - Rico Petrocelli

Card fact: I am too outraged by the fact that Chris Cannizzaro received a card number ending in "5," and Rico Petrocelli did not to even come up with a fact. You may address your complaint letters to Topps.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. I remember his final Topps card, his 1977 card, because it was one of the few Red Sox I owned from that year. My brother was/is a Red Sox fan and all Red Sox automatically went to him. I would only get dupes.

What I think about this card now: Who is Petrocelli smiling at? Any guesses?

Other stuff: People made a big deal in the '80s and '90s when shortstops started putting up big home run totals, but Petrocelli was a slugging shortstop in the 1960s. His power gradually increased until a break-out 1969 season when he hit 40 home runs and drove in 97. His batting average, on-base and slugging percentages took huge leaps that he wouldn't match for the rest of his career.

Petrocelli was always a strong fielder, but when Luis Aparicio came over to the Red Sox in the early '70s, Petrocelli moved to third base (I didn't know he was a shortstop until a long time after his career ended).

Petrocelli hit two home runs in the 1967 World Series and hit .308 in 26 at-bats during the 1975 World Series. A career-long Red Sox player, he retired after the 1976 season as injuries started plaguing him.

Afterward, Petrocelli worked as a minor league coach and manager and did some TV work on Boston-area stations. He is still a radio presence in New England.

Back facts: If you think the cartoon question is random, get a load of the write-up at the bottom. Unless Petrocelli was drawing zero walks every other year, who the hell cares?

Other blog stuff: The "orange-brown" color combination is back into sole possession of the overall lead as this is the 34th orange-brown bordered card in the set.

Friday, October 29, 2010

#355 - Chris Cannizzaro

Card fact: This is the final card of Chris Cannizzaro issued during his playing career. In fact, he didn't play in the majors at all in 1975. His last major league game was Sept. 28, 1974.

What I thought about this card then: I did not see it, yet somehow I have the mini card. Almost all of my mini cards were acquired in 1975. But I must have obtained this one somewhere else.

What I think about this card now: That is an atrocious airbrushing job. Did San Diego ever wear caps that looked like that? They certainly didn't in 1974. My guess is he was wearing a Dodger uniform in this photo, as he played for Los Angeles in 1972 and 1973. His 1972 Topps card was one of the first Dodgers I obtained from that set.

Other stuff: Cannizzaro was the definition of a journeyman player. He caught for six different teams during a major league career that stretched from 1960 to 1974. His first Topps card is in the 1961 set, yet there are four years in the '60s in which he didn't have a card.

Cannizzaro played during the first season of the New York Mets in 1962 and is possibly most known for Casey Stengel mispronouncing his name as "Canzaroni." Cannizzaro also was an original San Diego Padre. It was there where he received the most playing time, since San Diego was in dire need of talent. He was also the Padres' first All-Star, playing in the game in 1969.

After his career, Cannizzaro became a coach with the Braves and Angels. He now works as the University of San Diego's director of baseball operations.

(EDIT: Cannizzaro died in December 2016)

Back facts: I'm dumbfounded that Cannizzaro received a card number ending in a "5." That was usually reserved for minor stars. Cannizzaro hit .183 in 1974 and .190 in 1973. He hadn't even had more than 300 bats since 1970.

Other blog stuff: I've got to get up early in the morning. No other stuff today.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

#354 - Dick Bosman

Card fact: This is the final card of Dick Bosman as a Triber. He would be traded to the A's in 1975 and end his career in Oakland in 1976.

What I thought about this card then: I pulled this card early in the collecting year, and it was a mini card. To me, Bosman looked very pissed off, and about 49 years old. He was actually 30 at the time of this photo and probably not pissed off at all.

What I think about this card now: For the longest time, I thought Bosman was the pitcher who got in a fight with his manager, Billy Martin, in a bar during the late 1960s. But it was actually Dave Boswell who got in the fight with Martin, who was then the Twins manager. Bosman never even played for the Twins!

Other stuff: Bosman pitched 11 seasons in the American League, mostly for the Senators and Rangers. He is known as the last pitcher to start a game for the Senators and the first pitcher to start a game for the Rangers.

After being traded to the Indians, he threw a no-hitter against Oakland in 1974 (Bosman lost a perfect game when he made a throwing error in the fourth inning). The A's would go on to win the World Series that year and then acquire Bosman the next year. I wonder how often that happens, a team gets no-hit by a pitcher and ends up acquiring him?

After his career, he became a pitching coach for the White Sox, Orioles and Rangers. He's worked with Tampa Bay for the last seven years.

Back facts: I recall hearing that Johnny Bench sang, but I do not remember watching him sing on TV. Although he could have been on an episode of Hee-Haw and I totally blocked it out.

Other blog stuff: I wanted to show the back of my mini card, just so my youngest brother can get some credit on this blog:

That scribble in orange crayon is his handiwork. He was about 4 at the time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#353 - Luis Melendez

Card fact: The "pink-yellow" color combo, which hasn't been featured since the league leaders cards, has returned to rejoin the "orange-brown" combo for the overall lead with 33 cards apiece.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. In fact, I know extremely little about Luis Melendez.

What I think about this card now: I can't make out what Melendez signed between "Luis" and "Melendez." But his nickname was "Torito," or "little bull." That must be it.

Other stuff: Luis Melendez was a promising outfielder in the Cardinals organization but didn't live up to his billing. He had semi-decent, 300-at-bat seasons in 1973 and 1975, but was finished with his playing career in 1977, six years after it began.

Melendez played in the Puerto Rican Winter Baseball League and went on to manage there after his playing career. He then became a low-level minor league manager for the Cardinals and the Phillies, managing the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League in 2003 and 2004. Batavia is not too far from me.

He is now a manager for the Gulf Coast Phillies.

Back facts: This is one of the most hilarious cartoons ever. Who wrote this cartoon, Luis Melendez?

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1991, Jack Morris pitched one of the best games I've ever seen, throwing a 10-inning, 1-0 shutout in Game 7 of the World Series against the Braves, to lead the Twins to the title.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#352 - Darold Knowles

Card fact: Back on this post, I mentioned that the first card I ever pulled from a pack of cards that I bought was either the Hal McRae card or another card. This is the other card. If I was forced to make a decision between the two, I'd say this is the card that I pulled first. But I really can't recall.

What I thought about this card then: Well, no doubt, I thought it was cool if it was the first card I ever pulled. I do know that I had no idea that Darold Knowles was airbrushed into a Cubs cap (while in the Oakland A's stadium).

What I think about this card now: I can't believe I had this card for so long before realizing his cap was airbrushed, especially since the look on Knowles face seems to indicate that he's pulled a fast one. "I wonder if they'll be able to tell that I'm wearing a fake Cubs cap," he seems to be saying.

Other stuff: Knowles was a much-traveled relief pitcher who found his niche with the Oakland A's dynasty of the early 1970s. After playing for the Orioles, Phillies and Senators, he was traded to Oakland in the middle of the 1971 season. He became a key part of the bullpen, used mostly to set-up reliever Rollie Fingers.

Knowles pitched for the A's championship teams in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He famously pitched in all seven games of Oakland's World Series against the Mets in 1973. Interestingly, he didn't pitch in either the '72 or '74 Series (he was injured in 1972).

Knowles' effectiveness declined a little in 1974, and after the season he was sent to the Cubs in a package deal to acquire Billy Williams. A couple years later, he was sent to the Rangers. He played for the Expos and Cardinals to close out his career. He later worked as a coach for the Cardinals and Phillies.

Back facts: The cartoon question doesn't specify why Pete Gray played with one arm, but the cartoon certainly illustrates it. I remember finding this cartoon kind of shocking when I was a youngster.

Other blog stuff: Here it is: Maybe, possibly, the first card I ever pulled from a pack of cards:

Neat, huh?

(EDIT: I have since become completely certain that this is the first card I pulled out of a pack that I bought).

Monday, October 25, 2010

#351 - Bob Boone

Card fact: This is the 19th player featured in the set so far that had at least one son play major league baseball (Bob Boone had two). I never realized how common this was until I started keeping track of it on this blog.

What I thought about this card then: The Boone card is one of the first cards that I saw that was not part of mine or my brother's card collections. It was part of a group of cards that I acquired in a trade with a friend. It instantly became one of my favorites. I'm not sure why. It probably had something to do with the helmet Boone is wearing.

What I think about this card now: The olive-green warm-up jacket that Boone is wearing stands out. In fact, it blends in quite well with the photo background.

Other stuff: Boone is part of a three-generation major league baseball family. There have been just two others in MLB history (the Bells and the Colemans are the other two). His father Ray played the infield for the Indians and Tigers in the '50s, and his sons, Bret and Aaron, played the infield for a whole mess of teams over the last two decades.

Boone enjoyed a lengthy playing career himself, catching mostly for the Phillies and Angels (and the Royals at the tail end of his career). He was undoubtedly my favorite non-Dodger catcher. He hit fairly well for Philadelphia and was a three-time All-Star. After his hitting tailed off in the early '80s, he was acquired by the Angels and was part of the team's rise as a legitimate playoff contender. Boone won seven Gold Gloves, five with the Angels.

Boone hit .311 in the postseason, playing in a whopping 36 playoff games, and was part of the 1980 Phillies championship.

After his playing career, he became a manager for both the Royals and Reds, but didn't have much success with either team.

Back facts: The best part of seeing complete stats on the back of baseball cards is getting to know the minor league affiliates of major league teams. I was totally aware that Reading, Pa., and Eugene, Ore., were affiliates of the Phillies in the '70s based on my reading of card backs.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1908, the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is introduced to the public for the first time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

#350 - Bobby Murcer

Card fact: If there was a book on "The History of Airbrushing," this card would be Exhibit A in the lengths that Topps would go to to depict a player in the correct uniform.

I already posted about this card once, so I won't go into much detail, but to sum it up, Topps is telling you that Bobby Murcer made the American League All-Star Game as a Giant. Ohhhhhh-Kaaaaaaay.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. If I did, I think I might have wondered how a Giants player ended up at Yankee Stadium.

What I think about this card now: I've basically already mentioned it. It's possibly the most untrustworthy airbrushing job ever.

Other stuff: Bobby Murcer, a.k.a. "the next Mickey Mantle" when he came up in the 1960s, was thought to be the guy who would pull the Yankees out of their doldrums of the late '60s/early '70s. But he wasn't. Murcer was a talented player, Gold Glove fielder, and one of the highest salaried players in the game, but unlike Mantle, he wasn't surrounded by All-Star performers.

Murcer was eventually traded to the Giants for Bobby Bonds in October of 1974. He struggled with his power in Candlestick Park and was shipped to the Cubs two years later. Murcer then returned to the Yankees for the early part of the 1980s as a part-timer player.

After his playing career, he became an announcer for the Yankees and worked in that capacity for two decades. In late 2006, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After a two-year battle, he died from brain cancer complications in 2008.

Back facts: Cyril Roy "Stormy" Weatherley was an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians in the late 1930s and early '40s. I doubt if anyone remembered him even in 1975.

Other blog stuff: Time to add another player to the 1974 All-Star lineup. I will place Murcer under the American League column, despite Topps' attempts to confuse me:


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


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

By the way, I realize I'm posting a Giants card immediately after the team clinched a spot in the World Series. Yes, it's coincidence, and no, I don't like it one bit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

#349 - Ray Sadecki

Card fact: Ray Sadecki is airbrushed into a Cardinals cap and uniform as he was traded from the Mets on Oct. 13, 1974, which was too late for Topps to get a photo of Sadecki as a Cardinal (unless they wanted to go back to when he pitched for the Cardinals between 1960-66).

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. Sadecki is another one of those guys who retired right as I was getting into baseball, so it was decades before I knew who he was. He did have one final card in the 1977 Topps set, as a Brewer, but since he didn't pop up in another set after that, he meant nothing to me.

What I think about this card now: One of the poorer photos in the entire set. Just lousy.

Other stuff: Sadecki was traded for some heavyweights in his career. In 1966, he went to the Giants in exchange for Orlando Cepeda, who ended up helping the Cardinals to a World Series and winning MVP honors. In 1974, Sadecki was sent from the Mets back to the Cardinals for Joe Torre, who ended managing the Mets.

Sadecki started out with St. Louis, and was a 20-game winner for the 1964 pennant-winning Cardinals, who defeated the Yankees in the World Series. In 1968, while with the Giants, he had one of his better seasons, striking out a career high 206 and recording a 2.91 ERA. But he led the league in losses with 18.

He returned to the World Series with the Mets in 1973. He was a swingman during his time with New York, relieving and spot starting. He gained a save in the World Series against the A's.

After getting traded back to the Cardinals in 1974, he didn't stay there long. He was traded again in May of 1975, this time to the Braves. He bounced around to the Royals, Brewers and then back to the Mets before closing his career in 1977.

(EDIT: Ray Sadecki died on Nov. 17, 2014)

Back facts: Harry "Peanuts" Lowery, an outfielder with the Cubs and Cardinals mostly, got his nickname from his small stature as a kid, not because he liked peanuts.

Other blog stuff: Since everyone is enjoying the Yankees' defeat so much, I'll mention a Yankee loss that I enjoyed a lot. On this date in 1981, the Dodgers beat the Yankees 5-4 in Game 3 of the 1981 World Series. This is one of the more memorable games that I have ever watched. My favorite player, Ron Cey, hit a 3-run home run against Dave Righetti in the bottom of the first. Dodgers starter Fernando Valenzuela worked in and out of trouble. Cey then scored the eventual winning run on a double play grounder. Then in the eighth, Cey halted a Yankee rally, by diving to catch Bobby Murcer's foul bunt and doubling the runner off of first.

The Dodgers were down 0-2 in the Series at the start of the game, but would go on to win the rest of the Series. My favorite player was the catalyst. I'll never forget it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

#348 - Tony Muser

Card fact: This is the final Topps card featuring Tony Muser as a White Sox player. He was traded to the Orioles in the middle of the 1975 season.

What I thought about this card then: This was another one of those cards that I saw both in regular form and in mini form (I had the mini card). In fact, it seemed every kid I knew who collected cards in 1975 had the Tony Muser card. It was just always there.

What I think about this card now: I'm sure there have been some teams that have worn the "TV" numbers on the sleeves of their uniforms recently, but I don't remember them being as large and apparent as they were for the White Sox in the '70s.

Other stuff: Muser was a part-time, role-player kind of a first baseman, mostly with the White Sox and the Orioles. He was given the starting first base job for the White Sox in 1973, and his wikipedia page almost laughingly mentions Muser's career highs of 4 home runs and 30 RBIs that year.

Muser was more of a contact hitter and solid fielder. But as his time with the Orioles progressed, he stopped hitting. He spent 15 games with the Brewers in 1978 and that was that. He became a coach and eventually worked his way up to managing the Royals for five years. He is now an instructor in the Padres organization.

Back facts: OK, I must address the write-up.

It says:

"Tony is unbelievably consistent."

He's not just "consistent," but so consistent that you cannot believe it. And what is the proof that he is consistent beyond belief?

"He regularly hits around the .285 mark ..."

Well, I'm sorry. If someone is going to be UNBELIEVABLY consistent, then they must hit .285 on the nose every time. Not "around," not "regularly," but every time and always.

Other blog stuff: The orange-brown color combination has just broken a two-way tie at the top with "pink-yellow" to be the overall color combination leader, so far, with 33 cards.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

#347 - Mike Caldwell

Card fact: This is the first time that Mike Caldwell makes an appearance on a card with his familiar mustache and  longish '70s hair. On his 1974 card, he is wearing an airbrushed Giants cap and is clean-shaven.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. The first card of his I saw was his 1977 Topps card in which he is airbrushed into a Cardinals cap. That's notable because Caldwell was traded from the Cardinals to the Reds in March of 1977, probably before many collectors obtained their card of Caldwell as an airbrushed Cardinal.

What I think about this card now: If pitchers really looked in that intently for the catcher's signal, I think batters would be hesitant to get in the batter's box.

Other stuff: Caldwell began his career with the Padres, then was traded to the Giants in the deal that sent Willie McCovey to San Diego. A couple of years later he was on the move again, to the Cardinals, and then to the Reds. Cincinnati held on to Caldwell for just a couple of months before trading him to the Brewers for a couple of minor leaguers.

That trade was a steal for Milwaukee. The next year, 1978, Caldwell went 22-9 with a 2.36 ERA for the Brewers. He threw an astounding 23 complete games and was second to Ron Guidry in the A.L. Cy Young Award voting. From that point, he became a steady starter for the Brewers for seven years.

As a starter for the 1982 World Series team, Caldwell started Game 1 and Game 5 against the Cardinals and won both games. But St. Louis won the series. Caldwell pitched for the Brewers through 1985 before getting released. He's now a pitching coach in the Giants' organization.

Back facts: The "Shoe Polish" incident, also known as the "Shoeshine Incident," was during Game 4 of the 1957 World Series between the Milwaukee Braves and New York Yankees. Jones, who played for Milwaukee, led off the 10th inning as a pinch-hitter. He jumped away from a low pitch that was called a ball. Jones argued that the ball hit him in the foot, pointed out shoe polish on the ball, and was awarded first base. The Braves went on to score three runs in the inning, win the game, tie the Series at 2 games apiece, and eventually win the Series.

As for the stats, 1974 was Caldwell's first decent year. You can see for his won-loss total from 1973 and 1974, he swapped the wins and losses. Now that's a turnaround season.

Other blog stuff: Former Dodgers shortstop and manager Bill Russell was born on this date. He is 62.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

#346 - Bobby Darwin

Card fact: This is the 43rd card of a player wearing a powder blue uniform and also the 43rd card that I have in mini form. But all the mini cards that I have are not of players wearing powder blue uniforms. I've looked.

What I thought about this card then: Like I said, I had the mini card. I wish I scanned it, because it looks like it has been folded in half ... twice.

Also, I remember looking at the back of Bobby Darwin's card and seeing that he played for the Dodgers before he played for the Twins and wishing the Dodgers had not traded him. Even back then I thought the Dodgers were getting screwed on their end of trades.

What I think about this card now: Anytime I see a player swinging a bat without batting gloves -- even in a posing situation like this -- it looks bad-ass.

Other stuff: Darwin began his professional career as a pitcher. He pitched in one game for the Angels in 1962, then went back to the minors for seven years. When he re-emerged, he was with the Dodgers and pitched in three games. But he had also learned to play the outfield. By 1971, he had left pitching behind and was a full-time hitter.

The Dodgers traded him to the Twins, which is where Darwin found his niche for a few years. His best season was 1974, when he hit 25 home runs, drove in 94 and was among the top 10 in the league in both categories. Darwin knocked in at least 80 runs for three straight years for the Twins, but he was also a free swinger, leading the American League in strikeouts three straight years, too.

After '74, Darwin's offensive performance declined. He became more of a part-time player, then ended his career with the Red Sox and Cubs in 1977.

Back facts: We'll get to George "Doc" Medich's card eventually. ... Another arbitrary capitalization of the word "hits."

Other blog stuff: Continuing with the World Series theme of the last couple of days, on this date in 1988, the Dodgers won their most recent World Series title. Orel Hershiser pitched a four-hitter and was named MVP to become the fifth player to win the Series MVP and LCS MVP awards in the same season. I was never happier, baseball-wise, than on that day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#345 - Clay Carroll

Card fact: I am semi-certain that the photo for this card and for Clay Carroll's 1976 Topps card were taken at the same time.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. However, I did think that Carroll and Tom Carroll, who appears later in this set and also played for the Reds, were brothers. It turns out they're not related at all. Funny what you learn after all these years.

What I think about this card now: I need to upgrade. Air bubbles all over this card.

Other stuff: Carroll pitched for five major league teams between 1964 and 1978, but he's mostly known for his eight years with the Reds. Carroll was a valuable reliever for the Big Red Machine. He led the National League in saves in 1972 with 37, which was a league record for 12 years, and finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting.

Carroll continued to be a key reliever during the Reds' run, until Rawly Eastwick came along and the Reds traded Carroll to the White Sox. Carroll, who began his career with the Braves, played for the White Sox, Cardinals and Pirates to close out his career.

Back facts: Jim Rice now holds the record for most double plays in a season with 36 in 1984. In fact, out of the top 10 all-time in grounding into double plays, seven are Red Sox players.

Other blog stuff: Yesterday was a lousy day for the Dodgers in baseball history. Today is much better. On this date in 1981, Rick Monday hit a 9th-inning home run against Steve Rogers of the Expos to clinch the National League pennant. Also on this date in 1988, the Dodgers beat Dave Stewart of the A's to take a 3-1 lead in the World Series. In 1996, Raul Mondesi was named National League Rookie of the Year, the third straight year a Dodger had won the award.

Monday, October 18, 2010

#344 - Ben Oglivie

Card fact: Ben Oglivie returned to the Topps set in 1975 after being left out of the 1974 set. Something about a .218 batting average in 1973.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. I didn't know about Oglivie until his days with the Brewers, even though he had been in the majors for seven years before even coming to Milwaukee.

What I think about this card now: I'm stuck on wondering how Oglivie's name was supposed to be pronounced. We pronounced it "Ogilvie," but there is no "i" between the "g" and the "l" in his name, so now I'm confused. I suppose its "O-gli-vee."

Other stuff: Oglivie was a powerful outfielder who came up first with the Red Sox. He wasn't able to get established with Boston and was traded to Detroit in 1973. After some pretty good seasons with the Tigers, he was traded to Milwaukee for Rich Folkers and Jim Slaton (Slaton ended up signing back with the Brewers a year later).

Oglivie blossomed with the hard-hitting Brewers. He became a member of "Harvey's Wallbangers" and his 1980 season, in which he slugged 41 homers and 118 RBIs and hit .304, was so far above anything that he had done before that it probably would have been credited to steroid use in today's cynical times. As it was, Oglivie tied Reggie Jackson for the league lead in homers and became the first non-American player to lead the league in home runs.

Oglivie finished his career with Milwaukee in 1986, then went to Japan to play. He is now a coach in the Tampa Bay Rays' organization.

Back facts: I never get tired of cartoons that mention the Dodgers.

The write-up seems a tad odd to me. If Oglivie was such a good defensive outfielder, than how come he ended up a valuable pinch-hitter and designated hitter -- two job titles that don't require any defense?

Other blog stuff: This is an extraordinarily bad date in baseball history for the Dodgers -- Reggie Jackson's 3 home runs in Game 6 of the '77 World Series; Oakland's only win against the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series -- a bottom of the ninth blast by Mark McGwire; and an 11-0 pasting by the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS last year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

#343 - Danny Frisella

Card fact: Danny Frisella is airbrushed into his Padres uniform. He seems to be wearing a Braves cap, as Atlanta was the team he played for before he was traded to San Diego for Cito Gaston in November of 1974. The pose on this card looks like his pose on this card, although he has a lot more hair here.

What I thought about this card then: This was one of those card we really disliked as kids, one of the 7 or 8 cards that we tried to slip into other collectors' card stacks and hope they didn't notice. In fact, I think this was the original  "Oh, no, It's Him" card, because this was one of the first cards I saw from the 1975 set.

What I think about this card now: I think the reason we didn't like it is because of the horrible airbrush job, and how Frisella is looking to the sky.

Other stuff: Frisella was a career reliever, mostly with the early '70s Mets teams, but also with the Braves, Padres and Brewers. Even though New York was a perennial contender in the first half of the '70s, Frisella never pitched in the postseason, since he barely pitched in 1969 and he was shipped to the Braves before the Mets' 1973 pennant-winning season.

Frisella was killed in a dune buggy accident near Phoenix, Ariz., during the offseason on Jan. 1, 1977. It was the first time I had ever heard of a player dying during his major league career. Frisella was still featured in the 1977 Topps set as the cards had already gone to press by the time of his passing.

Back facts: Francis "Salty" Parker played all of 11 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1936. I hardly think he merits a cartoon.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, the movie "Benji" was released. Wow, that dog was popular when I was a kid. Benji folders. Benji notebooks. Benji book covers. I've still never seen that movie.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

#342 - Leroy Stanton

Card fact: This is the first card that I ever saw in both regular-sized form and mini form. In 1975, during my first year of collecting cards, my friends and I had so few cards that there were players that we knew to be on regular-sized cards and players that we knew to be on mini cards. It was as if players on regular-sized cards didn't exist on mini cards and vice versa, even though we knew that they did.

I had the mini version of the Leroy Stanton card first. When I saw the regular-sized version if Stanton, it practically blew my 9-year-old mind.

What I thought about this card then: This was my favorite Angels card in the set. It was also one of my favorite cards in the set, period. I liked the batting pose.

What I think about this card now: The jacket under the uniform is obvious, but we didn't give it a thought as kids. It never seemed strange.

Other stuff: Stanton started out with the Mets, but came over to the Angels in the deal that also brought Nolan Ryan to California in exchange for Jim Fregosi (I mentioned this trade just four cards ago). Stanton had five productive seasons for the Angels.

He was selected by the Mariners in the expansion draft, and became one of the team's leading sluggers (along with Ruppert Jones and Dan Meyer) with 27 home runs and 90 RBIs in 1977, Seattle's first season. The next year, Stanton hit just .183 with three homers, and that was his final season.

(Edit: Stanton died in a car crash at age 72 on March 13, 2019).

Back facts: The cartoon is etched in my brain, but I haven't hard the term "tweener" in decades.

Also, this is the second straight time that the card write-up mentions a very impressive game by the player featured.

Other blog stuff: Here is the mind-blowing regular-sized card and mini-sized card, side-by-side:

Friday, October 15, 2010

#341 - Hal Breeden

Card fact: This is the last Topps card issued during Hal Breeden's major league career.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. In fact, this was another player that I never knew existed until I set out to complete the entire set five years ago. It's hard for me to believe that I went three decades without knowing about this guy. In fact, even after obtaining the card, I kept thinking Breeden was a pitcher. I don't know why.

What I think about this card now: He's a first baseman. Got it?

Other stuff: Breeden played for five seasons with the Cubs and the Expos. He never played in more than 105 games in any one season. He started with the Braves organization and was traded straight-up for Hoyt Wilhelm in a deal with the Cubs.

With the Cubs, Breeden played with his brother, Danny, who had a brief major league career. But Breeden's best success came in 1973 with the Expos. He hit 15 home runs in 290 at-bats. The Expos played him in half their games in 1974, but his power production was not what it was the prior year. He played one more year and then went to Japan to play for three years.

(EDIT: Breeden died on May 3, 2021).

Back facts: If you look at Breeden's vitals, you'll note that he threw left-handed, but batted right-handed. That is very rare. I noticed this before checking his wiki page, and wiki notes it in the second sentence of the write-up. You see a lot of right-handers batting lefty, but not the other way around.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, Luis Tiant won his second game of the World Series to help the Red Sox tie the Reds at two games apiece. Tiant threw 163 pitches. 163!!! Looouie says you can take your lefty-righty matchups and STICK IT!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

#340 - Paul Splittorff

Card fact: It's been 66 cards since the last purple-and-pink bordered card. That's a long time for a color combination that's a favorite to win the color combo World Series.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it, although the first card of his I did see looks a lot like this one. Like many of the Royals from the '70s, I associate Paul Splittorff with my friend Jeff, who moved to my neighborhood from Kansas.

What I think about this card now: Between the purple-and-pink border and the powder blue uniform they're doing their darndest to distract you from the palm tree in the corner. But I see it!

Other stuff: Splittorff was a career Royal, pitching 15 years for Kansas City. He was there for the bad times and the good. He won 20 games in 1973, the first Royal to win 20. He also won 19 during the Royals run of pennants in the late 1970s.

Because of Splittorff's glasses, he was one of the first nerdy-looking players that I knew. But I also distinctly remembering something that Splittorff did that was definitely not nerdy. He used to stare down batters after striking them out. It was weird and cool at the same time. I wonder how that would go over today.

Splittorff became a broadcaster for the Royals after retiring. Recently there's been a lot of talk about his broadcasting. He began to sound funny on the air and viewers speculated that he was drunk or had a stroke. Splittorff said he hadn't had a stroke, but was suffering from an illness that affected his speech. He took some time off. He's back working, but apparently still not 100 percent. From what I've read, some fans just want him off the air.

EDIT: In May of 2011, his family confirmed that Splittorff was suffering from oral cancer and melanoma. He died on May 25.

Back facts: Splittorff apparently earned a card number ending in zero based on his 1973 showing, because 1974 was a bit of a comedown.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 2009, I started "1975 Topps (it's far out, man)."

Yup, this blog is one year old today! I whipped through 340 cards in 365 days. That's not too bad. Or it's awfully sloppy. One of the two. Thanks for reading. It's been a lot of fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#339 - Jim Fregosi

Card fact: You're looking at one of my brother's first favorite cards. It's among the first cards he ever owned, if not THE first, and it's the main reason why he and I liked the Rangers when we were youngsters.

What I thought about this card then: I associate it with my brother. There was a time when his favorite team was a tie between the Red Sox and the Rangers. That's long behind him, though.

What I think about this card now: The card had kind of mystical, hazy feel when I was a kid. I don't know how else to explain it. But looking at it as an adult, it seems like a boring old batting pose. All the mystery is gone.

Other stuff: Jim Fregosi started out as one of the first stars of the Los Angeles Angels. During the 1960s, Fregosi was a regular All-Star, winning five straight selections. His hitting was respectable for the time, although nothing great now. He hit for the cycle twice. He could also field and was the Angels' regular shortstop throughout the 1960s.

Fregosi then became the answer to a trivia question as the player who was traded to the Mets for Nolan Ryan in December 1971 (the Angels also received three other players). Fregosi was a bust, suffering through injuries during his time with the Mets, who allowed him to be purchased by the Rangers in the middle of the 1973 season. From there, Fregosi was a role player with Texas and then Pittsburgh.

 Immediately upon his departure as a player in 1978, he found instant success as manager. He led the Angels to the American League West title in 1979. But he couldn't repeat that success, and his next few teams struggled. A stint with the White Sox yielded only a series of fifth-place finishes. But he made it to the World Series as the manager of the Phillies in 1993. He later briefly managed the Blue Jays and is now a scout for the Braves.

(EDIT: Fregosi died at age 71 on Feb. 14, 2014).

Back facts: I've had a heck of a time finding this card without crooked borders. Every time I look for an upgraded Fregosi card, the borders are off. I've upgraded enough times so the front of the card doesn't look terrible, but the back is WAY off.

Also, the cartoon question is a bit confusing: "What was Lefty Grove's name?" Well, I think you just mentioned it there, son.

Other blog stuff: You may have noticed I posted a Rangers card immediately after the Rangers clinched a spot in the ALCS. Did I do that on purpose? Nope. But it does give me an opportunity to say: GO RANGERS.

It's the only team left that I actually wanted to advance.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#338 - Rick Stelmaszek

Card fact: This is the last Topps card issued during Rick Stelmaszek's playing career. He didn't play in the majors past 1974.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. In fact, I was totally unaware of this player until I was completing the set a few years ago. I'm kind of proud of my knowledge of ballplayers from the mid-1970s. Thanks to collecting baseball cards back then, I got to know just about all of them. But when completing the set, I came across a handful that were completely new to me, and threw me for a loop -- "how did I miss this guy?" Stelmaszek was one of the ones I missed.

What I think about this card now: Stelmaszek is majorly airbrushed into a Cubs cap. It appears he's wearing an Angels uniform, which is funny, because on his 1974 Topps card, he is airbrushed into an Angels cap. Stelmaszek appeared on a couple of those three-rookie cards in the early '70s, but the '74 and '75 cards are his only solo cards, and he's airbrushed into his new team on both of them!

Other stuff: Stelmaszek was a career backup catcher for the Senators, Rangers, Angels and Cubs between 1971-74. He didn't have more than 44 at-bats in any one season, and he hit .170 for his career. I'm actually surprised that he made the set this year. He must've been one of the last players to make the cut.

After the Cubs, Stelmaszek kicked around in the minors with teams like the Yankees and Expos until taking up a coaching career. He has been a coach with the Minnesota Twins for the last 30 years.

For all things Stelmaszek, you need to visit Johngy's Beat. The blog's author was a neighbor of Stelmaszek and his blog is filled with stories about him. He also sponsors Stelmaszek's page. I may not have heard of Stelmaszek a few years ago, but I sure know about him now.

(EDIT: Rick Stelmaszek died at age 69 on Nov. 6, 2017)

Back facts: Stelmaszek's father's last name was "Stelmack"? Perhaps dad altered the family name? Or maybe a bloop by Topps?

Also, I just missed publishing this card on Stelmaszek's birthday, which was Friday.

Other blog stuff: On this date 60 years ago, Susan Anton was born. If you remember Susan Anton, then you really are a child of the '70s. I don't think I've thought of her in 30 years.

Monday, October 11, 2010

#337 - Kevin Kobel

Card fact: This is Kevin Kobel's first solo card.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. The first card of Kevin Kobel's that I saw was his 1979 Topps card. For some reason, I pulled that card a lot that year. (It wasn't one of the double-printed cards in the set either).

What I think about this card now: It's a pleasant, sunny day at Yankee Stadium. That Anacin ad appears a lot in the background of baseball cards.

Other stuff: Kobel played parts of six seasons in the major leagues between 1973-80. He was a starter mostly in 1974 and 1977. He spent the other years primarily as a reliever. Kobel received the most decisions of his career in 1974 when he went 6-14 for the Brewers with a 3.99 ERA, pitching a career record 169 innings.

Kobel was purchased by the Mets in 1977. After a solid season as a reliever and periodic starter in 1978, he was made a starter for the '79 season, going 6-8 with a 3.51 ERA in 27 starts. Kobel was traded to the Royals in the middle of the 1980 season, but never played in the majors again.

Back facts: A couple of things. First, I am always interested in any ballplayer who is from Buffalo. You'll note the back reads that Kobel's hometown is Colden. That is a small speck of a village south of Buffalo, in snowbelt land. It's also close to where Kobel went to high school at St. Francis.

The other thing is we have seen this cartoon before. It's the exact same cartoon that appeared with this card. That was just 14 cards ago! I never knew that any of the cartoons were repeated in this set until I posted this card. I must admit I'm a bit disappointed.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song in the country on this date in 1975 was "Bad Blood" by Neil Sedaka, which also featured Elton John. I never understood why this song was popular. I mean there was a lot of bad music in the '70s, but this song wasn't even catchy. I didn't get it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

#336 - Rennie Stennett

Card fact: In my opinion, this could be the worst photograph in the entire set. There is too much space above Rennie Stennett's head. His face is entirely in the shadows. His arm is cut off so you have to guess as to what he's doing there and, well, let's just say the whole thing is awful.

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

What I think about this card now: See above.

Other stuff: Rennie Stennett was both a starting outfielder and infielder for the Pirates throughout the 1970s. I was first introduced to Stennett by his 1976 Topps Record Breaker card, which documented his most famous achievement, going 7-for-7 in a 9-inning, 22-0 thrashing of the Cubs in 1975.

Stennett doubled and singled in the first inning, singled in the third inning, doubled and singled in the fifth inning, singled in the seventh inning, and tripled in the eighth inning. He scored five times.

Stennett was known as a good fielder and hitter. In 1977, he led the league in batting at .336, but broke his leg in August and was finished for the season, failing to get enough at-bats to win the batting title. After that, his hitting tailed off. By 1979, the year of the "We Are Family" Pirates, Stennett played in just 108 games and managed just a couple of appearances in the postseason, as Phil Garner had taken over Stennett's second base position by then.

Stennett left as a free agent after the season to join the Giants. His career ended after the 1981 season.

(EDIT: Stennett died of cancer May 18, 2021).

Back facts: The play during the 1972 NLCS that Topps is mentioning in the write-up came in Game 3 of that series. It actually happened in the fourth inning of that game with the Reds winning 2-0 at the time, so I think "saving" the victory is a stretch. Bench had led off the inning with a triple, then was thrown out on Cesar Geronimo's fly ball to left field.

Other blog stuff: Phillies infielder Placido Polanco was born on this date in 1975.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

#335 - Jim Palmer

Card fact: You could tell me that the border colors were selected totally at random, but I would refuse to believe you when it comes to this card. I am saying that it is a FACT that Topps chose the orange-and-brown border for the Jim Palmer card because it would look so cool.

What I thought about this card then: I know I saw it, and I know I thought it was one of the greatest cards in the set, but I can't remember who had the card. I know it wasn't me.

What I think about this card now: Probably one of the top 10 cards in the set in terms of summing up the 1970s. You've got a close-up of a '70s matinee idol, displaying the cartoon Oriole front-and-center, with his face covered in shadow. It's '70s perfection.

Other stuff: The Hall of Fame pitcher was consistently the best pitcher in the American League throughout the 1970s. In fact, the 1974 season that immediately preceded this card was his only real down year. He suffered through elbow problems during the season, pitching just 178 innings and winning seven games.

Palmer didn't get a lot of respect from me during his career as I've documented before. I rooted against him a lot.

Late in his career he did some broadcasting and, of course, after his career he went into broadcasting full-time and is probably known to many younger fans as a broadcaster, not a Hall of Fame pitcher.

What? You expect me to document his 1966 World Series appearance against the Dodgers? Not here, man.

Card fact: I missed the anniversary of the achievement mentioned in the cartoon by one day.

I'm not sure what Topps means by "marvelous comeback." Going back through the records, it looks like Palmer disappeared from the Orioles' rotation between mid-June and mid-August in 1974 because of his elbow issues. When he came back, he did produce a few key victories, including a shutout of the Red Sox on Sept. 4 and another shutout of the Yankees on Sept. 17. He also pulled out a narrow 3-2 victory against the Royals on Aug. 31. But there were some losses mixed in there, too, going down the stretch.

Palmer's one postseason start in 1974 resulted in a 1-0 loss to the Oakland A's in Game 3 of the ALCS. He allowed just four hits, but Oakland's Vida Blue allowed just two.

Other blog stuff: It's official. the brown-orange color combo (not to be confused with this card's orange-brown combo) will be known as the "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup" combo. All 18 of the color combinations now have been named.

During one post in the future, I'll feature all the names again and see if any of them need to be renamed.

Friday, October 8, 2010

#334 - Greg Gross

Card fact: This is the second straight card of a player with alliterative first and last names. Greg Gross follows Dick Drago. That's the first time that's happened in this set (and perhaps the last).

What I thought about this card then: Not in my field of vision in 1975.

What I think about this card now: I think the backgrounds on the Astros cards might be the most fascinating of them all. They're so bleak and weird. I still say that's a horse stable in the background. I like the '70s car parked in the distance, too.

Other stuff: Greg Gross enjoyed one of the finest rookies seasons in 1974. He finished third in the National League in batting average (.314) and second in the league in Rookie of the Year voting. The Astros kept Gross as their right fielder for the next two years. But Gross didn't do a lot besides hit singles, so he was traded to the Cubs for part-time infielder Julio Gonzalez.

A year later, Gross went to the Phillies in the deal that brought Manny Trillo to the Cubs. Gross couldn't break into the Phillies' talented outfield, so he settled for a backup role, and soon became one of the best pinch-hitters in baseball. Gross spent 10 seasons with Philadelphia as a part-time bat. He ended his career back with the Astros in 1989 and is among the top 5 in career pinch-hits in baseball history.

Gross then became a coach in the majors and minors, first with the Rockies, then with the Phillies. He is now the Phillies' batting coach.

Back facts: I apologize for the scan with this card and the next card to follow. I was monkeying with the settings for a couple of cards, and I guess I thought it was OK. But obviously it's too dark.

Anyway, that's a nice characterization of William Howard Taft in the cartoon, although I don't think they made him appear as large as they did with the Babe Ruth drawings.

Other blog stuff: Another outfielder has been filled in on the Topps All-Rookie team:

1B - Mike Hargrove
2B - ?
3B - Bill Madlock
SS - Bucky Dent
OF - Bake McBride
OF - Greg Gross
OF - ?
C - Barry Foote
P - Frank Tanana