Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#382 - Don Baylor

Card fact: Don Baylor's card looks very similar to teammate Paul Blair's card. It's a good way to get youngsters mixed up.

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

What I think about this card now: Baylor has basically had the same look his entire baseball life. If I've seen him smile, I don't remember it. He always looks vaguely annoyed.

Other stuff: Baylor is one of the most successful designated hitters in history. He also may have remained with the Orioles his entire career if Baltimore wasn't so interested in getting Reggie Jackson. Baylor, along with Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell, was shipped to Oakland for Jackson and Ken Holtzman.

Baylor lasted just a year with Oakland before signing with the Angels in California's big free agent splurge. He would go on to win the AL MVP award in 1979, then continue on with the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins and back to the A's. He made the postseason with six different teams between 1970-88, including three straight appearances between 1986-88 for three different teams.

After his playing career, he became a hitting coach, then was the Colorado Rockies' first manager. He later managed the Cubs, and is now hitting coach for the Diamondbacks.

(EDIT: Don Baylor died at age 68 on Aug. 7, 2017).

Back facts: This might be the most perfect cartoon in the entire set. The cartoon mentions Ron Hunt's feat of leading the league in getting hit by a pitch seven straight years on the back of the card of a player who would go on to surpass Hunt's career HBP total and become one of the all-time leaders in hit by pitches!

Baylor has 267 career HBPs, good for fourth place all-time. Hunt has 243, which is sixth all-time.

At the time of the cartoon, Baylor had 33 career HBPs, and had led the league in the category with 13 in 1973. But he was far from the single-season totals of 35 and 28 in the mid-1980s when he led the league in HBPs four straight years.

How did Topps know?

Other blog stuff:  The No. 1 song in the country on this date in '75 was "Fly Robin Fly" by the Silver Connection. What a god-awful song.

Monday, November 29, 2010

#381 - John Curtis

Card fact: This is John Curtis' card debut in a Cardinals uniform. But it's not his first card featured as a Cardinal. He is in the 1974 Topps Traded set. It's a particularly gruesome hatless photograph of him.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. Most of the minis I pulled came early in 1975, and Curtis was one of the first Cardinals I ever saw on a card. He represented the Cardinals for me at that stage. That must have explained why I didn't think much of the team then. If only Lou Brock or Bob Gibson had been my first Cardinal card.

What I think about this card now: Interesting signature.

Other stuff: Curtis was a much-traveled left-handed pitcher who bounced between starting and relieving for the Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants, Padres and Angels. He lasted 15 seasons, compiling an 89-97 record. Much of his starting came during his earlier years with the Red Sox and the Cardinals, and during the 1980 season with San Diego when he enjoyed one of his best years.

After his career, Curtis pursued his interest in writing, providing freelance stories for various publications, including Sports Illustrated and the Boston Globe. He also coached in an independent baseball league.

Back facts: OK, I guess the Dodger fan is going to have to correct the cartoon here.

The cartoon addresses the famous gaffe by Dodgers catcher Mickey Owen against the Yankees in the 1941 World Series. Tommy Henrich advanced to first base on a third strike after the ball got past Owen.

But note that the cartoon says "Owen" (no first name) "threw wild," implying that Owen was the pitcher and he threw a wild pitch. Well, that's all kinds of screwed up. Hugh Casey was the one who threw the pitch, and I don't believe it was wild. It's just that Owen missed it, Henrich reached first base, the Yankees rallied to win Game 4, and won the Series.

Other blog stuff: Dodgers announcer Vin Scully was born on this date 83 years ago. No, he wasn't on the job yet for Owen's dropped third strike.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#380 - Sal Bando

Card fact: This is the third Oakland A's card that has featured a green-and-yellow border. That can't be coincidence, seeing as the A's were the defending World Series champs.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see a card of Sal Bando until he was a Milwaukee Brewer. I do remember my friend, an Oakland A's fan, talking about him a lot though.

What I think about this card now: Topps cut the poor coach/manager out of the shot!

Other stuff: Bando was one of the key members of the Swingin' A's dynasty in the 1970s, playing third base for them for 11 years, first in Kansas City and then in Oakland. Bando was the captain of those often dysfunctional teams and was known as much for his fielding as his hitting. He never won a gold glove, with Brooks Robinson in the same league as him.

Bando finished second in the MVP voting in 1971 and was in the top five in MVP voting in both 1973 and 1974 (despite hitting just .243 in 1974). As with most of the A's from those teams, he departed as a free agent, signing with Milwaukee in 1976. He had two solid seasons for the Brewers before age and injury caught up with him. The final games of his career were in the American League Division Series against the Yankees in 1981.

Bando later became the general manager for the Brewers (something I totally forgot). He was GM for seven years and was probably most noted for letting Paul Molitor go to the Blue Jays.

Bando's younger brother, Chris, also played in the majors. For the longest time, I thought Chris was Bando's son.
(EDIT: Sal Bando died at age 78 on Jan. 20, 2023).

Back facts: Have you ever seen that "How It's Made" show when they featured baseballs? I saw that and also the one where they show how graphite softball bats are made. Always interesting stuff.

Other blog stuff: It's a rare morning posting today. Stupid blogger wouldn't let me upload an image last night.

Also, I'm taking a break on the blog for a little bit. Everyone enjoy their Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#379 - Bernie Carbo

Card fact: This is Bernie Carbo's first card in a Red Sox uniform. I don't count that horrid attempt by Topps to airbrush him into a Boston uniform in the '74 set. Just a brutal card.

What I thought about this card then: It was a personal favorite. I loved the batting cage action. I wrote about it once here. It reminds me of playing ball in the backyard.

What I think about this card now: Still a great card. I wonder if that is the press box in the top left corner.

Other stuff: Carbo was kind of a wild-and-crazy guy who started with the Reds, playing in the 1970 World Series and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He then moved on to the Cardinals and then the Red Sox. While with Boston, he hit one of the most famous pinch-hit home runs in World Series history in 1975, delivering a three-run home run in the eighth inning to tie the game at 6-6 against the Reds in Game 6. Boston would later win on Carlton Fisk's home run in the 12th.

Carbo later confessed to taking drugs during the '75 World Series. His behavior (he hung around a lot with Bill Lee) helped get him traded to Milwaukee in the George Scott-Cecil Cooper deal. He later returned to Boston, but didn't stick around for long, bouncing between the Indians, Cardinals and Pirates.

Drug problems plagued him after his career, but he has been sober for more than 15 years. He worked as a hairstylist, but now runs a religious ministry and works in Red Sox alumni relations.

Back facts: I'd love to see someone try a true underhanded pitch.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song on this date in 1975 was "That's the Way I Like It" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. I never liked that song. So that's NOT the way I like it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

#378 - Derrel Thomas

Card fact: Another large gap for the "purple-pink" color combo. It's been 38 cards since the last one. This color combination has really fallen off the pace.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. It's been 10 cards since we've come across a card that I didn't see in 1975. I think that's a record.

What I think about this card now: Derrel Thomas looks slightly P'Oed.

Other stuff: Thomas, the No. 1 pick of the 1969 free agent draft by the Astros, became a starting infielder for the Padres and Giants, then transformed into a valued utility guy for the  Dodgers. He played every position except pitcher during his career. He played five games at catcher for the Dodgers in 1980 (L.A. loved putting him all over the field).

Thomas was acquired by the Dodgers before the 1979 season and served as the team's starting center fielder for much of the year. He played on the World Series-winning L.A. team in 1981, but didn't play in the Series against the Yankees. In 1983, Thomas went 4-for-9 for the Dodgers in their NLCS loss to the Phillies.

After Thomas' career ended in 1985 (he also played for the Expos, Angels and Phillies), he fell into drug problems and spent 47 days in prison on cocaine charges. He later spoke to groups about his 1992 prison term and led clinics. He continues to work in the Dodgers' organization.

Back facts: Thomas played in 20 games in the outfield for the Padres in 1974, 19 of them in center field. He also played 22 games at third base in '74, which is 17 more than he played at shortstop, but apparently Topps was not impressed.

Also, I really want to put an "r" in Thomas' middle name.

Other blog stuff: In honor of Rodney Dangerfield, who was born on this date 89 years ago:

"I went to see my doctor. I said, 'Doctor, every morning when I get up and look in the mirror I feel like throwing up. What's wrong with me?' He said, 'I don't know, but your eyesight is perfect.'"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

#377 - Tom Hilgendorf

Card fact: The orange-brown border color combination is kicking ass. This is the 39th card with this color combination, which is now six more than the next highest. It's possible that orange-brown is going to end up the overall winner.

What I thought about this card then: Tom Hilgendorf is the poster-child for those cards that featured players who looked much older to me than they actually were. (I guess in this case poster-child isn't the best phrase. But "poster-man" doesn't sound right).

I had Hilgendorf pegged for 48 years old. His 1976 card doesn't do him any favors either. Hilgendorf was actually 32 when this card came out.

What I think about this card now: Is Hilgendorf wearing his cap tilted to the side? Well there's nothing "old" about that.

Other stuff: Hilgendorf was a relief pitcher for the Cardinals, Indians and Phillies between 1969-75. He was actually signed in 1960, and it took him nine years to make the majors. Hilgendorf was a lefty specialist for the Indians. After being traded to the Phillies, he enjoyed his best season in 1975, going 7-3 in 53 relief appearances with a 2.14 ERA. But the Phillies released him at the start of the 1976 season. He was picked up by the Pirates a week later, but never pitched in the majors again.

Hilgendorf was one of the victims of the famed "Ten-Cent Beer Night" in Cleveland in June of 1974. The game eventually was forfeited to the Rangers because of drunk, rowdy fans. A riot erupted in the 9th inning, and the players armed themselves with bats for fear of being harmed. Hilgendorf suffered a concussion when he was hit by a steel chair. The next day, he pitched in relief and got the win.

Back facts: Bauer still holds that World Series record.

Other blog stuff: Ken Griffey Jr. was born on this date in 1969. He's 41. And he still looks younger than Hilgendorf on this card.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

#376 - Steve Yeager

Card fact: Feast your eyes on the first Dodger card I ever pulled from a pack that I purchased with my own allowance.

What I thought about this card then: Well, it was just about the coolest card on the planet for a couple of months. I distinctly remember standing in the middle of the playground at school (our school had a very expansive playground area), staring at my Steve Yeager card. I took my cards to school quite often in 4th, 5th and 6th grade.

This card is probably the reason why I like this particular batting pose on cards so much. It's also probably the reason why I like cards that feature players in their batting helmets.

What I think about this card now: Yet another orange-brown bordered Dodger card. Humph.

Also, check out those sideburns.

Other stuff: As much as I liked this card, Yeager was a constant thorn in my Dodger-rooting side as a kid. He couldn't hit, and he always batted eighth in the order. I don't know how many rallies I saw die because he came up to bat.

Yet, I was fiercely proud of Yeager when his injury led to the invention of that flap that hung from the chin of a catcher's mask to protect a catcher from getting struck in the throat. The flap came about after Yeager was hit in the throat by a broken bat from teammate Bill Russell, piercing his esophagus. Yeager was standing in the batting circle at the time, and he had nine pieces of wood taken out of his neck. Trainer Bill Buhler later made the flap that covered the neck. Now, catcher's masks are created so the helmet comes down to protect the neck area.

Yeager was a good defensive catcher with a terrific throwing arm. And he was the best indication that I had that the Dodgers were going to win the World Series against the Yankees in 1981. The light-hitting Yeager hit two home runs in that series and the Dodgers won 4 games to 2.

Yeager is known for a variety of non-baseball things among Dodger fans. He is the nephew of famed pilot Chuck Yeager. He had a small part in the Major League movies. He once posed for Playgirl. I always thought he was trying to look like Michael Caine.

He later became a coach in the Dodgers' organization.

Back facts: I believe my first knowledge of what a grand slam was came from this card.

Other blog stuff: Here is the first Dodger card I pulled in 1975:

That is the finest piece of history I'll ever own.

Friday, November 19, 2010

#375 - Roy White

Card fact: This was one of four 1975 cards that were the first cards I purchased from a mail-order catalog, which happened on two separate occasions. The first two were George Brett's rookie card and Barry Foote. The second two were Roy White and Ralph Garr.

What I thought about this card then: Out of the four cards that I ordered, this was the only one that I had not seen. But White was one of my favorite players, and I knew I had to have the card. When I received it, the mustache surprised me. I didn't know that White had a mustache, as he had shaved it off by the late 1970s.

What I think about this card now: There's a lot to like about this card, Yankeeness aside. The puffy clouds in the background. White's tremendous signature. The batting cage. The batting helmet.

Other stuff: One of the drawbacks of having two blog is that if I write about the player already on one blog, I don't feel like writing about him again on the other blog. I did a post about White recently on Night Owl Cards.

So, the abbreviated version of that post is White was a lifetime Yankee, yet he was one of my favorites as a kid, and I nicknamed myself "Roy" when I played baseball in the backyard (although I selected the name long before I had heard of Roy White). Later, White stood out as one of the quiet, non-brash Yankees that I appreciated.

A switch-hitter, White played 15 seasons for the Yankees. He was an All-Star in 1969 and 1970, knew how to take a walk, and hit a very quiet 160 home runs in his career. After the majors, he played in Japan. Later he was a coach for the Yankees and A's.

Back facts: Mike Schmidt's hit in the Astrodome came on June 10, 1974. The ball actually hit a speaker 117 feet above the playing surface and 329 feet away. The ball then fell to the field. According to Astrodome ground rules, it was a live ball. Schmidt had thought it was a home run and was in his home run trot. So the Astros held him to a single.

Other blog stuff: Actress Jodie Foster was born on this date in 1962. What does she have to do with 1975? Well, until very recently, I thought she played one of the main characters in the '75 Disney movie "Escape to Witch Mountain," which was one of the first non-cartoon movies I ever saw. But it turns out Foster never acted in the movie. The part was intended for her, but she had a conflict, and Kim Richards took the role.

Another childhood memory debunked.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

#374 - Eddie Watt

Card fact: This is the final card Topps issued of Eddie Watt during his career.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I didn't have a lot of the 1975 set back then, but I sure did have a lot of Phillies pitchers -- Watt, Schueler, Twitchell, Ruthven. Yet, the Steve Carlton card eluded me.

Anyway, I do remember wondering why Watt was all hunched over and low to the ground. Even back then I knew a fake pitching pose when I saw one.

What I think about this card now: It looks like Watt is posing in a community park. The department of parks and recreation building appears to be looming behind him.

Other stuff: Watt was almost exclusively a relief pitcher during his 10-year career in the majors. He played with the Orioles from 1966 through 1973 and was one of the key relievers out of the bullpen during Baltimore's glory days between 1966 and 1971. He reached double figures in saves each year between 1968 and 1971.

Watt was purchased by the Phillies during the offseason of 1973. After one year with the team, he was released right before opening day in 1975. So this card was inaccurate by the time collectors got ahold of it in '75. Watt finished up his career with the Cubs in 1975.

Back facts: I can't tell you if that's an accurate likeness of Gladys Gooding. But I do know she's the most famous baseball organist ever. She started out playing the organ for the New York Rangers before being brought over to Ebbets Field. She played there from 1942-58 and was hugely popular.

Other blog stuff: As you know, I like to feature the mini card next to the regular-sized card periodically. Here is big Watt and little Watt:

Both of them are nicely miscut.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

#373 - Bill Sharp

Card fact: Bill Sharp received three Topps cards during his major league career. This is the second of the three.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had this card. It was not one of our favorite cards. But it wasn't one of the cards that we poked fun at in 1975. Just missed the cut, I guess.

What I think about this card now: I can see why we didn't like it as kids. The hair sticking up out of his cap is a little annoying.

Other stuff: Sharp was a defensive standout who was picked in the second round of the 1971 amateur draft by the White Sox. He started well during part of a season in 1973, and remained a regular in the outfield for the White Sox in 1974.

Chicago traded Sharp to Milwaukee in May of 1975. He continued to start for the Brewers into the 1976 season, when a knee injury began to affect his playing time. He didn't play in the majors after 1976.

Back facts: Topps likes the term "ballhawk." It was used in one of the cartoons earlier in the set. I also like Topps' long-winded praise of Sharp's defensive abilities.

Other blog stuff: Tom Seaver is 66 years old today. I just posted his card over the weekend. I'll feature a card of someone on his birthday yet!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

#372 - John D'Acquisto

Card fact: This is John D'Acquisto's first solo card.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the first cards I ever pulled from a pack, so it's got a special place in my collecting heart. Even if it is a Giant.

What I think about this card now: A pretty lame pose there by John.

Other stuff: D'Acquisto started off quickly for the Giants in 1974. He went 12-14 and led the team in strikeouts with 167 in 215 innings. He was named to the Topps All-rookie team (but did not receive a trophy on his card). But D'Acquisto had a disastrous sophomore year and eventually was dealt to the Cardinals in the offseason of '76. St. Louis had him for a couple of months before trading him to San Diego. With the Padres, he remade himself into a reliable relief pitcher. He stayed with the Padres through the rest of the '70s. Then he ended his career with the Expos, Angels and A's.

After his career he became an investment banker but was involved in a fraud case and sentenced to prison for 63 months in 1996. Later it was determined that he was set-up by others in a much bigger scam. Those people were then sent to prison and D'Acquisto was released in 2002. Virtually all of the counts against him were dropped.

Back facts: This cartoon has been stuck in my brain since I was 9. But I'm quite certain that I didn't even know what a walk was when I was 9.

Other blog stuff: Here is the card that I pulled out one of those first three packs that I bought in 1975:

Monday, November 15, 2010

#371 - Gates Brown

Card fact: This is the last Topps card of Gates Brown issued during his career.

What I thought about this card then: Oh, it was a favorite. Something about the photo, which appears to catch Brown in mid-gab, made me like it a lot. Oddly, I remember trading the card away. But I don't know why.

What I think about this card now: The wind-breaker, or whatever it is, under the uniform still seems strange even though it was very common in the '70s.

Other stuff: Brown is known for a few things. He was one of the best pinch-hitters in baseball history. He had to be, because he wasn't a great fielder due to his roundish stature. He hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, as a pinch-hitter. During the Tigers' World Series championship season in 1968, Brown was called upon to pinch-hit repeatedly and enjoyed great success, hitting .370 in 92 at-bats.

Brown is also known for a famous story in which he ended up having to stuff hot dogs down his jersey when called upon to pinch-hit. Brown wasn't in the starting lineup, so he decided to grab a couple of hot dogs, only to have manager Mayo Smith tell him to pinch-hit. He hid the hot dogs in his uniform and proceeded to hit a gapper for a double. He was forced to slide into second -- head first. When he emerged, he had ketchup, mustard and hot dog bits all over him. Cracked everyone up.

Brown later worked as a hitting coach for the Tigers during the late '70s and early '80s.

(EDIT: Gates Brown died on Sept. 27, 2013)

Back facts: Hector Torres was an infielder for a number of teams between 1968-77. But he didn't receive a card in the 1975 Topps set because he didn't play in the majors in '74.

Also, Topps will tell you Gates holds A.L. pinch-hitting mark, but it's not going to tell you which one. Figure it out for yourself, buddy.

And, you can see Brown's first name was William. "Gates" was a nickname given to Brown by his mother. He says he has no idea why his mom called him "Gates."

Other blog stuff: You may have noticed I took the day off on this blog yesterday. Things are a little hectic now. I hope I'm back on a regular schedule, but it's a little uncertain at the moment.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

#370 - Tom Seaver

Card fact: The first sideways signature in the set. But it's not a terribly uncommon occurrence.

What I thought about this card then: I don't think I actually saw this card in person. I probably saw it in a magazine or other publication. I know it was a desirable-yet-unattainable card for me.

I've mentioned this before, but the first baseball glove I ever owned was a Tom Seaver model in 1976. I changed my favorite team to the Mets and my favorite player to Tom Seaver for one day, the day I received the glove. I quickly realized that was foolhardy and changed my favorite team back to the Dodgers. But for a long time after that, I hoped that Seaver would get traded to the Dodgers. It wasn't an unrealistic expectation, as there were rumors all the time in the '70s that Seaver would be traded to L.A. (he was originally drafted by the Dodgers).

What I think about this card now: The Mets have a lot of cool "hanging out by the batting cages" cards in this set. Unfortunately, the shadows detract a bit from the photo, although at the time I thought it added to the mystery and coolness of Seaver.

Other stuff: I often wonder what it was like to be a baseball fan during Seaver's breakout seasons in the late 1960s. By the time I knew who he was, in the mid-70s, he was an established star and the Mets were slowly sinking to the basement of the NL East. Still, it was major news when he was traded to the Reds in 1977. Dubbed the "Midnight Massacre" in New York, I still remember reading about it in the newspaper while seated on the floor of our living room.

As the years go on, Seaver's later years grow hazy. I barely remember his time with the White Sox, although I do recall being very happy that his 300th win came against the Yankees. I just had to look up the reason why Seaver didn't pitch in the postseason for the Red Sox in 1986, his final year. I forgot about the knee injury.

Seaver has worked off-and-on as a broadcaster, both for the Mets, Yankees and network television. Although he seemed capable, I wasn't a fan of his most recent stints with the Mets. He seemed to make every excuse to bash current players. He and Keith Hernandez would have a field day.

(EDIT: Tom Seaver died at age 75 on Aug. 31, 2020)

Back facts: I believe Tom Niedenfuer "blew up" in the 1985 NLCS against the Cardinals.

Seaver leads the National League in most seasons of 200-plus strikeouts with 10. Roger Clemens leads the American League with 11. Nolan Ryan is the overall leader with 15.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1974, Steve Garvey won the National League MVP award. Say what you want about Garvey, but there are a lot more Dodger fans out there because of him. (Yes, yes, he probably fathered some of them). And, yup, that is a good thing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

#369 - Merv Rettenmund

Card fact: People took so much more pride in their penmanship then than they do now. There is no chance, if Merv Rettenmund played now, that you would be able to make out more than the "R" in his last name when he signed an autograph.

I know that's not a fact. It's an observation. I suppose I should have made this category "card observation."

What I thought about this card then: This was one of my favorite cards in the set. I don't know why. I do know it came from a pack that I bought after a summer walk to the drugstore. Those were the best walks. The only destination was to a place where you would purchase cards.

What I think about this card now: It's a strange one. If you squint a little, it appears if that stadium construction in the background is a UFO. And Rettenmund looks a bit wacky with the helmet on his head and that stupid backswing pose that they made players do back in the day. There is no way you're hitting a ball anywhere with a lazy backswing like that.

Other stuff: Rettenmund played 13 years for the Orioles, Reds, Padres and Angels. He started off quickly as a key part of the Orioles' World Series teams between 1969-71. He hit very well in '70 and '71. But his hitting declined to below average year after year until he was a part-time player and reliable pinch-hitter.

Rettenmund then built a second career as a hitting coach for a number of major league teams. He has a rather, um, promotional, web site.

Back facts:

1. The cartoon question forgot the word "the." But drawing Marilyn Monroe could get a little distracting, I guess.

2. Mervin Weldon Rettenmund has to be in the top 10 of best baseball names ever.

3. You should never put on the back of a baseball card that someone is "a fine athlete." If he's playing major league ball, he's "a fine athlete," no matter what John Kruk says.

4. "Hits ball solidly." Not in 1974.

Other blog stuff: That's the original card that I pulled out of that pack at the drug store.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

#368 - Vic Albury

Card fact: This is Vic Albury's rookie card. He only had three Topps cards. He didn't even have a traded card.

What I thought about this card then: This is another one of these guys that I had no clue existed until I went about completing the set six years ago. We are really in the midst of a run of 1970s nobodies the last few cards.

What I think about this card now: Albury looks like he's up to something.

Other stuff: Vic Albury pitched for four seasons with the Twins between 1973 and 1976. His best season was 1974 when he went 8-9 for the Twins, starting 22 games and pitching 164 innings. After his playing time decreased in 1976, he bounced around in the minors in the Yankees and Indians organizations through 1979.

(EDIT: Albury died on April 18, 2017).

Back facts: I don't know where Topps received its information, but according to the baseball rule book, under Objectives of the Game, 1.12, "The catcher may wear a leather mitt not more than 38 inches in circumference, nor more than 15 1/2 inches from top to bottom." There are also limits for the space between the thumb and the rest of the fingers, and the webbing. That seems to contradict what the cartoon is saying.

Also, I started to go through the 1973 Twins season to see how many of those 10 shutout appearances were relief outings (I'm sure all of them were). But I got distracted by the attendance figures for Twins games. Mercy. They were awful. Nobody went to games in the early '70s, did they?

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1981, rookie Fernando Valenzuela beat out Tom Seaver to win the N.L. Cy Young Award.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

#367 - Craig Robinson

Card fact: This is the last Topps card of Craig Robinson issued during his career. He only had two -- '74 and '75.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I thought he looked strange. I know it was because of those glasses.

What I think about this card now: That's an awfully regal pose for someone wearing those glasses and that uniform get-up.

Other stuff: Robinson was a backup infielder for the Phillies, Braves and Giants between 1972-77. He enjoyed one year of full-time duty, which was the primary reason why he received a card in this set. He played in 145 games and batted 504 times for the '74 Atlanta Braves. But he hit only .230.

The following year, he endured a season in which he hit a combined .065 for two teams. Topps must've thought "enough of that" and stopped issuing cards of him, even though he career lasted through the 1977 season.

Back facts: This cartoon always confused me. Why is Billy Martin receiving a trophy of a giant thumb? Is it because he got thrown out of a lot of games? I'm guessing that's it, but I'm sure it stumped a few people.

UPI, by the way, is United Press International. It used to be as big a deal as the Associated Press. It ain't anymore.

Other blog stuff: This is the third "blue-orange" bordered card in the last five cards. These color combinations tend to come in clumps. I'm not familiar enough with 1970s printing habits to know why that is, but I'd sure like an answer if anyone knows.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

#366 - Ken Sanders

Card fact: Ken Sanders is airbrushed into an Angels cap on this card. He was released by the Indians in mid-season of 1974 and picked up by the Angels a week later.

What I thought about this card then: It absolutely freaked me out. I just addressed this card on the other blog. I was disturbed by the ball player who kind of looked like a woman -- but not really. Unlike some of the other players that we laughed at and tried to sneak into friends' collections, this card genuinely bothered me. I didn't want it in my collection at all.

What I think about this card now: I don't know why guys got haircuts like that in the '70s.

Other stuff: Sanders was a career relief pitcher for 13 seasons and nine teams from 1964-76. He started just one of the 408 games in which he appeared. His best stats are the 1.75 ERA he put up for the Brewers in 1970, and the league-leading 83 games he appeared in for Milwaukee in 1971.

But Sanders didn't play for an above .500 team (except for a brief appearance with the '68 Oakland A's) until the end of his career, which explains his 29-45 career won-loss mark. After his career, Sanders went to work for the Players Alumni Association. He also built a successful career in real estate.

Back facts: The write-up sounds so formal. "Accepted chances"? Does that mean he had the option of turning down the ball if it came to him? According to Baseball Almanac, 13 chances is the record for a major league pitcher, but Sanders is not listed. Perhaps Sanders' feat happened in a minor league game.

Other blog stuff: Television's "The Incredible Hulk," Lou Ferrigno, was born on this date in 1951. Too bad we don't have a card with a green-purple color border today. It was named in honor of the Hulk.

Monday, November 8, 2010

#365 - Bob Bailey

Card fact: This is the first player to feature the "3B-OF" designation on his card. It's not a super-rare position combination. Pete Rose was playing both positions at about the same time. And the current third baseman on my most favorite team could be headed in the same direction next season.

But it was rare enough for me to look through all the previous cards to see if it had shown up yet. The things I do for you people.

What I thought about this card then: I thought Bob Bailey was 53 years old. It turns out he was only 32 at the time of this photo.

What I think about this card now: I believe that might be a Coca-Cola billboard off in the distance. The Coke ads like to appear in the Expos cards.

Other stuff: Bailey was a bonus baby, signed for a heap of cash out of high school by the Pirates. He became known as a decent hitter with power but not much of a fielder. After a few quality years for the Pirates, he was traded to the Dodgers in the deal that sent Maury Wills to Pittsburgh. Bailey proceeded to hit .227 in back-to-back seasons with the Dodgers (73 hits in 322 at-bats each year). The expansion Expos then purchased Bailey.

With Montreal, Bailey enjoyed his best seasons, become a regular power hitter for the Expos. By the time his career ended in 1977, he held several franchise records for the Expos. He later went into coaching.

(EDIT: Bailey died on Jan. 9, 2018).

Back facts: Will White was a pitcher between 1877-1886. He had some interesting won-loss records. His nickname was "Whoop-La." I don't know what that has to do with glasses either.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1990, Darryl Strawberry signed with the Dodgers, beginning a very uncomfortable three-year period for this Dodgers fan.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

#364 - Doug Bird

Card fact: This is the first post on this blog composed during the time change. So I began this post as it approached 2 a.m., and now it is just after 1 a.m. So, I'm going back in time as I document collecting the 1975 Topps set. I'm going back in time while I go back in time! That's heavy, man.

What I thought about this card then: This is another player that shares his first name with my brother. But I don't think my brother was too fond of Doug Bird. I know we thought the guy's last name was funny.

What I think about this card now: If Bird wasn't wearing the baseball duds, he'd look like he stepped off the set of Little House on the Prairie.

Other stuff: Bird was a consistent reliever for the Royals during their rise to prominence. He relieved for them in the 1976, 77 and 78 A.L. Championship Series against the Yankees. But Bird also worked as a starter. In 1976, he started 27 games, then went back to full-time relieving in 1978.

Bird was later traded to the Phillies, and then he signed with the Yankees as a free agent. The Yankees proceeded to trade him to the Cubs. With Chicago, Bird was used mostly as a starter. Bird ended his career in 1984 with the Red Sox.

Back facts: The 30 saves that Bird compiled in his first two years in the major leagues amounted to half of his total for his career, which last 11 years. He saved 60 games overall.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1973, New Jersey became the first state to allow girls to play Little League baseball.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

#363 - Carmen Fanzone

Card fact: This is the last Topps card of Carmen Fanzone issued during his career. He had only three.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. This was one of those players who was absolutely not in my consciousness until I returned to the hobby and started to collect the entire 1975 set in 2004.

What I think about this card now: Well, you've got to start with the mustache. ... and you've got to end with the mustache.

Also, I'm wondering how you pronounce his name. Is it "Fan-ZONE" like "the ESPN fan zone" or is it a more ethnic pronunciation? Please tell me it has nothing to do with ESPN.

Other stuff: Fanzone was a utility player, mostly for the Cubs, for five seasons. He was rather popular, which strikes me as a strictly Cub-fan thing. They seem to gravitate toward the mediocre players. But Fanzone was very good at playing a variety of positions, and did have one semi-decent year in 1973.

His popularity seemed to come from his ability to play the horn. He played the National Anthem before Cubs games and went into the jazz music profession after his career ended. He is married to a Grammy-winning jazz vocalist.

Back facts: That cartoon is ... uh ... different.

Also, I enjoy write-ups like this in which the writer is desperately trying to avoid mentioning the player's drawbacks. Fanzone is "ready and able to jump into any spot and do the job." That is, as long as you don't ask him to hit more than .224 for his career.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1974, Mike Marshall became the first relief pitcher to receive the Cy Young Award.

Friday, November 5, 2010

#362 - Steve Hargan

Card fact: This card marks Steve Hargan's return to the Topps set after a three-year absence. His previous Topps card was in the 1972 set. He had a card ever since 1966, but he fell into rough times in the early '70s.

What I thought about this card then: This is what a Texas Ranger should look like, and Hargan is probably one of the reasons why I think all the Rangers should have wild hair and a mustache. This was one of the early cards I received in that first year of collecting and I thought Hargan was at least 8-feet tall. Later, I saw his 1968 Topps card for the first time, and I couldn't believe it was the same person.

In fact, Hargan is also clean-shaven in his 1972 card, too. That was right before he "went away" for two years. By "went away" I mean he toiled in the minor leagues, but given his drastically changed look doesn't it seem like he did hard time?

What I think about this card now: It looks like his uniform shirt is untucked. I hate that Prince Fielder crap. Tuck your shirt in mister.

Other stuff: Hargan was a steady but unspectacular starter for the Indians during the 1960s. In 1970, he went 11-3 for Cleveland with a 2.90 ERA. But the following year, he was a dreadful 1-13 with a 6.19 ERA. He struggled early in 1972 and was sent to the minors for two years.

During that time, he was acquired by the Rangers. He bounced back in 1974 with a decent season, then had two so-so years before getting drafted by the expansion Blue Jays. He finished up his major league career with Atlanta in 1978.

Back facts: I'm quite sure I didn't take the cartoons literally when I was a youngster, otherwise I would be really freaked out that there was a scoreboard that actually EXPLODED.

Other blog stuff: I'll just take a moment to remember Mr. Anderson:

RIP, Sparky. I think your enthusiasm and positive attitude will continue to serve you and your family well.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

#361 - Dodgers/Walter Alston

Card fact: This is the 15th card in the set to feature the "brown-orange" color combination (not to be confused with the "orange-brown" combination). Out of those 15 cards, three have been Dodgers. So, the Dodgers represent one-fifth of the cards with this color combination, which suspiciously resembles the Giants' color combination. I am not putting it past Topps to pull something sneaky like this even way back in 1975.

What I thought about this card then: Naturally, I thought it was cool to see all of the Dodgers in one place. It was the one team card that meant something to me.

What I think about this card now: It is sad to see Walter Alston relegated to a tiny circle on the team card. Up until this point, Alston had received his own card in most of the sets since he became manager (his '62 Topps card is terrific, I have to feature it one day). I didn't know that when I was collecting in '75. Otherwise I would've been disappointed. Manager cards rule!

Other stuff: The Dodgers were coming off their first pennant victory and World Series appearance since 1966. After four straight seasons of finishing in second place in the N.L. West, L.A. had finally placed first and beaten Pittsburgh in the NLCS. They would go on to lose to Oakland in the World Series.

Alston was nearing the end of his 23 years as Dodger manager. The 1974 team would be his last World Series team, after taking the Dodgers to the Series in 1955, 56, 59, 63, 65 and 66. He retired in 1976 after signing 23-straight one-year contracts.

Back facts: This is a successful, veteran team so there wasn't a lot of trading or airbrushing going on with the Dodgers. But Jim Brewer, Willie Crawford and Don Sutton are the only connections (besides Alston) between the 1966 N.L. champs and the 1974 N.L. champs.

Other blog stuff: Time to figure out how well Topps represented the National League champs of 1974. Normally this gets a little tedious. But this one is going to be fun for me.

The Dodgers used just 35 players in 1974. That is tied for the second-least among the teams featured so far. Topps didn't leave out anyone big from the previous year. In fact, out of the players left out of the set, the one with the most at-bats had a whopping 18.

The player that didn't get a card who I found the most interesting is Charlie Manuel, the current Phillies manager. He played in four games for the 1974 Dodgers.

So, Topps featured 26 of the 35 players, which is pretty darn good. Here is where the Dodgers rank in comparison to other teams reviewed so far:

1. Tigers 78.37% of players featured
2. Orioles 78.13%
3. Dodgers 74.29%
4. Giants 71.43%
5. Indians 71.11%
6. Royals 70.59%
7. Red Sox 70.27%
8. Angels 68.89%
9. Expos 68.29%
10. Cardinals 65.12%
11. White Sox 65.0%
12. Phillies 62.5%
13. Pirates 61.5%
14. Padres 55.8%

Third place. I'm quite happy about that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

#360 - George Scott

Card fact: All of you people who think Chris Berman was the first person to be nicknamed "Boomer"? George Scott is going to come to your house and do some deck work on your ass.

Scott was the original "Boomer." At least to me.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But if I did, I would think it was smashing. Action cards didn't come around very often. So it's great, even if Scott isn't moving very much here.

What I think about this card now: This is the first time we get to see Scott's necklace of shells featured on a baseball card. He claimed it was strung with second basemen's teeth.

Other stuff: Scott came up with the Red Sox, which I didn't know as a kid. I knew him as a Brewer, and when the Red Sox acquired him in the trade that sent Cecil Cooper to Milwaukee, I thought it was a novel thing -- Scott in a Red Sox uniform. It turns out that Scott was picking up where he left off, mashing taters over the Green Monster.

I'm not sure why Scott was dealt away to Milwaukee in the first place. It came in a giant 11-player deal in 1971. The Brewers got the better end of the deal as Scott went on to lead the league in home runs in 1975. Scott was also a terrific fielder, winning the Gold Glove Award eight times. He named his glove "black beauty."

I've mentioned Scott a couple of times on the other blog, so I'll stop here.

Back facts: Topps is playing coy with the write-up. It's telling you that Scott "holds club records." But that's as far as it's going to go.

Other blog stuff: Dwight Evans, the guy who seems to be on the last card needed by '70s set collectors everywhere, celebrates his 59th birthday today.