Monday, January 31, 2011

#439 - Ed Brinkman

Card fact: This is the final Topps card of Ed Brinkman's career.

What I thought about this card: I associate this card with my brother as it was one of the first cards he pulled during 1975. My brother was a Red Sox fan, but his default teams then were the Rangers and Tigers.

What I think about this card now: I enjoy the Oakland A's frolicking in the background in their golden jerseys. I also like the word "Brink" on Brinkman's bat.

Other stuff: Ed Brinkman is the poster child for shortstops of the 1960s and 1970s. His lifetime batting average is .224 despite 15 seasons and 6,045 at-bats. Brinkman hit above .240 in just two seasons -- 1969 and 1970. His on-base percentage was abysmal.

Brinkman was on the field for his glove. He was known as a fielder who could cover lots of ground and he won a Gold Glove with the Tigers in 1972. In fact, he finished ninth in the AL MVP voting that year despite batting .203.

Brinkman was a high school teammate of Pete Rose and received a large signing bonus from the Washington Senators. He played with Washington for 10 years before being sent to Detroit in a big deal in which Aurelio Rodriguez, Joe Coleman, Denny McLain and others exchanged teams.

Brinkman finished his career playing for the Cardinals, Rangers and Yankees in 1975. He later was a manager in the Tigers' organization and a longtime coach and scout for the White Sox. Brinkman died at age 66, of complications related to lung cancer in 2008.

Back facts: Back in the '70s, it was OK for cartoonists to stereotype all nationalities. Lou Novikoff was a war-time outfielder for the Cubs between 1941-46.

Other blog stuff: The purple-pink border is waging a fierce battle for third place with green-light green and both are closing in on pink-yellow for second place. Both purple-pink (the My Little Pony design) and green-light green (the lime design) are at 33 cards each. Pink-yellow (the marshmallow peeps design) is at 35.

Two of the three border combinations just mentioned are a little more than a week away from making a major run on the No. 1 color combination, orange-brown.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

#438 - Don Carrithers

Card fact: This is the second of six straight cards that I also have in mini form. That is a record so far.

What I thought about this card then: I remember it being one of my favorite mini cards. I don't know why.

What I think about this card now: The chaw makes a reappearance! I've been a little disappointed by how few players have displayed their filthy, disgusting habit on cardboard. Maybe Don Carrithers will inspire a few more now.

Other stuff: Carrithers was mostly a relief pitcher for the Giants and Expos between 1970-77. He played briefly for the Twins at the end of his career, which ended by the age of 28, mostly because he suffered from injuries throughout.

Carrithers was dealt from the Giants to the Expos in April of 1974. Carrithers is pictured here in Candlestick Park, which makes me suspicious. But he's definitely in a non-airbrushed Expos uniform.

Back facts: I often wonder when card backs read "Don's greatest baseball thrill was ..." whether it actually was the player's "greatest thrill" or whether Topps is feeding you a line.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1958, the fans' right to vote for starters in the All-Star Game was taken away by commissioner Ford Frick after Reds fans stuffed the ballots prior to the '57 All-Star Game. Bowie Kuhn returned the right to the fans in 1970.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

#437 - Al Cowens

Card fact: This is Al Cowens' rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. Cowens wasn't known yet for being a decent hitter, but I thought he was cool anyway.

What I think about this card now: Never mind the card. What's up with my scanning? I must have gone through a lazy period back when I was scanning the set. The last couple cards have been way crooked.

Other stuff: Cowens came up with Kansas City and was a big part of the Royals' AL West championship teams in the late 1970s. His breakout year was in 1977 when he finished second in the AL MVP race to Rod Carew. He also received his only Gold Glove award that year.

Cowens was involved in one of the most notorious on-field brawls in baseball. While with the Royals in 1979, Cowens was hit in the face by a pitch from the White Sox's Ed Farmer. His jaw was broken. Farmer also hit the Royals' Frank White, breaking his hand. I remember it being a big deal and very upset that this guy I had never heard of had taken out two players on one of my favorite teams.

A year later, Cowens was on the Tigers (he was traded to the Angels in the Willie Mays Aikens deal after the '79 season, then dealt in May of 1980 to Detroit for Jason Thompson). Detroit faced Chicago and Farmer was pitching. Cowens hit an infield grounder. While Farmer turned to watch the fielding play, Cowens ran to the mound instead of first and attacked Farmer. A warrant was issued for Cowens' arrest and he was suspended by the league. The two players would later make up during that season.

Cowens later signed with Seattle and spent much of the '80s with the Mariners. He later played in the Pacific Senior League. He died in 2002 at age 50 from a heart attack.

Back facts: Al Bumbry was featured on card #358. Unfortunately, his cartoon is not about Al Cowens.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1958, Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella suffers a broken neck in a car accident in Long Island. Campanella is paralyzed for the remainder of his life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

#436 - Ken Frailing

Card fact: This is the first and last solo Topps card of Ken Frailing issued during his career.

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

What I think about this card now: When I was trying to complete the set back in 2004, this was one of the few players I came across who I had never heard of prior to seeing his card.

Other stuff: Frailing was a relief pitcher for the White Sox and Cubs between 1972-76. He was dealt to the Cubs in the trade that sent Ron Santo to the White Sox. Frailing's career was shortened by an arm injury.

(EDIT: Ken Frailing died at age 74 on Aug. 25, 2022).

Back facts: The 55 appearances that Frailing made during the 1974 were just shy of half of all the major league appearances he had during his career.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1901, the American League officially becomes a major league alongside the National League. Only a minor league prior, the major league AL's teams are Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia. Buffalo, Indianapolis and Minneapolis are dropped.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

#435 - Dave Nelson

Card fact: Here is another one of the set's weaker excuses for a player getting a card number ending in "5." Nelson hit .236 for Texas in 1974.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the most prominent cards in the entire set in terms of evoking memories from that first year of buying and collecting cards. The Nelson card was obtained in a pack purchased late at night (it was probably around 8 in the evening, but it seemed like late at night to me) at a drug store. I had been sick and gone to the emergency room. It couldn't have been too serious because my dad took me to the store for a little cheering up (and no doubt to get a prescription filled). Nelson is the only card I clearly remember pulling out of that pack, but it became one of my favorites out of the whole set.

What I think about this card now: There are so many spring training shots in this set, that a photo obviously taken prior to a game really stands out.

Other stuff: Nelson was a speedy second baseman for the Indians, Senators/Rangers and Royals from 1968-77. His real emergence in the majors came after he was traded from Cleveland to Washington and then after the Senators moved to Texas. In 1972 and '73, Nelson became one of the top base-stealing threats in the American League. He was second in the league in stolen bases in '72 and third in '73.

By today's standards, Nelson accumulated a few too many CS's and also didn't get on base as often as you'd like for a lead-off guy. After back-to-back down years, the Rangers sent Nelson to the Royals for Nelson Briles. That's right, one Nelson for another Nelson. Dave Nelson played for K.C. in '76 and '77.

After his playing career, Nelson coached and worked in the minor leagues for a variety of teams. He also dabbled in broadcasting, which led him to his current career, working Milwaukee Brewers games for FSN.

(EDIT: Nelson died at age 73 on April 23, 2018).

Back facts: The trivia question in this cartoon was one of the first that I ever absorbed. I've known about that Dodgers' switch-hitting infield all of my collecting life. Also, because of the way the bats are drawn in the cartoon, I thought the baseball player was carrying two shovels.

Other blog stuff: Here is the card that I pulled out of that pack while fresh out of the hospital:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#434 - Bob Locker

Card fact: This is the final card of Bob Locker issued during his career.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. But upon my return to collecting, starting out by trying to complete this set, this was one of the first cards that I picked up. I was at a collectibles shop and one of the dealers had this huge box of nothing but '75 cards. I would go there around noon each week and try to nab as many '75s as I needed.

What I think about this card now: It's off-center and I should upgrade.

Other stuff: Locker's claim to fame is he pitched 10 seasons in the major leagues, appearing in 576 games, and did not start a single game. That was very unusual in the 1960s and '70s. After five years with the White Sox, he was traded to the Seattle Pilots. He pitched for Seattle and then Milwaukee before being purchased by Oakland.

Locker had his best success with the A's, settling into a set-up role for relief pitcher Rollie Fingers during the 1972 World Series championship season. But he was dealt to the Cubs after the season. Locker enjoyed another strong season with Chicago, but apparently told Chicago management that he would play only one season with the Cubs, because he wanted to return to Oakland where his family was.

The A's reacquired Locker for 1974, but Locker underwent arm surgery and didn't play the entire year. After the season, he was sent back to the Cubs in the deal for Billy Williams. He pitched in 22 games that final season in '75.

(Edit: Bob Locker died Aug. 15, 2022 at age 84).

Back facts: You can see Locker's lost '74 season in the statistics. Topps must have loved the transaction of Oakland trading Locker back to the Cubs in October of 1974. Normally, that would require Topps to pull out the airbrushing equipment and paint Locker into a Cubs uniform. But since Locker had played for the Cubs already in 1973, Topps just pulled out an old photo of Locker. Problem solved.

Oh, by the way, what are the chances of the cartoon guy running the bases surviving after getting drilled in the back of the head by a line drive?

Other blog stuff: Former Blue Jays and Cardinals pitcher Tom Bruno was born on this date in 1953. I interviewed Bruno once. He was a pro angler at the time. One of the best interviews with a former major leaguer I ever had.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#433 - Larry Demery

Card fact: This is Larry Demery's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: Wasn't aware of it.

What I think about this card now: A big thumb's up for the sideways signature and the black, satin jacket. A big thumb's down for the vacant, mug shot stare.

Other stuff: Demery was a relief pitcher for the Pirates between 1974-77. An arm injury ended his career. He is the son of former Negro League pitcher Artist Demery. Larry's brother, Art, also played pro ball in the Royals organization.

(EDIT: Demery died at age 70 on Feb. 20, 2024).

Back facts: I suppose the pitchout is to fool the base runner on first if you're talking about attempting to pick him off of first. But I always thought the pitchout was intended to get a jump on the runner attempting to steal second.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1999, it was announced that televised Mets games would move from WOR to WPIX. The Mets had been on WOR since 1962, and was the station that I watched the Mets on when I was a kid and in college. Eventually, WOR disappeared, and I blame the migration of the Mets. It was comforting to turn to Channel 9 and see the Mets and I felt lost after it was gone.

I sound like a Mets fan, don't I?

Monday, January 24, 2011

#432 - Ken Berry

Card fact: This is the final card issued of Ken Berry during his career. In fact, he wasn't a Brewer by the time the set came out. And if you pulled this card after June of '75, he wasn't in the majors anymore.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card, but I can't recall a thing. Since Berry disappeared right as I was becoming interested in baseball, I knew very little about him. I still don't know all that much. For the longest time, I got him confused with Rick Barry, the basketball player. That's very strange, because basketball was not a popular sport in my house growing up.

What I think about this card now: Berry looks like an actor from the '70s, but I'm blanking on the name.

Other stuff: Ken Berry was a starting center fielder, mostly for the White Sox, during the 1960s. He then played with the Angels in the '70s before ending with the Brewers and Indians. Berry was a fair hitter, but he was known mostly for his fielding and ability to make leaping catches.

Berry won two gold gloves. He also made one All-Star Game, in 1967, despite finishing the year hitting .241. He played from 1962-75. After his career, he coached in the minor leagues with the White Sox and founded a youth league in Kansas. He also was an advisor for the movie "Eight Men Out," and received a small speaking role at the end of the movie (he plays a heckler).

An in-depth interview of Berry can be found here.

Back facts: "Ken" must have come from Berry's middle name.

Other blog stuff: How about if I show the mini card next to the regular card?

That's starting off your Monday right.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#431 - Rod Gilbreath

Card fact: This is the second of six Topps cards that Rod Gilbreath had during his career. The positions he played according to the designation on each Topps card were as follows:

'74: 2B-3B
'75: SS
'76: 2B
'77: 2B-SS
'78: 2B
'79: 2B

I don't know why I thought that was interesting to list. But I did.

What I thought about this card then: The spacing between the letters in Gilbreath's name isn't as prominent as it is in the Marty Pattin card. But it was noticeable enough to me as a kid that it bothered me a little.

What I think about this card now: That uniform and those sideburns just scream the '70s.

Other stuff: As illustrated above, Gilbreath was a middle infielder for the Braves in the 1970s. After coming up to Atlanta in 1972 as the second-youngest player in the major leagues, he was in the majors to stay by 1975. He became the regular starting second baseman for Atlanta between 1976-78. The Braves were perennial basement dwellers at that time, happy to have players like Pat Rockett and Junior Moore patrolling the infield. Gilbreath wasn't terrific either, barely hitting .250.

After 1978, Gilbreath was released, and acquired by the Pirates. He never returned to the majors. He eventually coached in the Braves' minor league organization and then became Atlanta's director of minor league operations.

Back facts: It's been awhile since we've had an armed cartoon character on the blog. Good to see cartoony packing heat again.

Other stuff: Here is the Gilbreath card that I pulled out of a pack back in 1975:

Not bad at all.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#430 - Luis Tiant

Card fact: It's been 48 cards since the last non-All-Star, yellow-red bordered card.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. No doubt, I would rank it among the best, if not the best, card in the set.

What I think about this card now: You just read it.

Other stuff: My first memories of major league baseball was watching the 1975 World Series on television, specifically Carlton Fisk's Game 6 home run. But I also remember a lot of talk about Luis Tiant at that time. My dad must have been the one doing the talking. I know Tiant amused him, and as a Red Sox fan, he was pretty pleased with how he performed for the Red Sox in the postseason that year.

Tiant's strange pitching wind-up, in which he turned toward second base, was the talk of baseball at that time. Roger Angell, my favorite baseball writer, gave the following titles to Tiant's wind-up, all intended to describe what he went through with his motion:

1. Call the osteopath
2. Out of the woodshed
3. The runaway taxi
4. Falling off the fence
5. The slipper-kick
6. The low-flying plane

So, that's who I think of when I think of the '75 World Series. Not Fisk. Not Carbo. Not Bench. I think of Tiant and his Game 1 and Game 4 victories, especially the 6-0, 5-hitter in the first game against the Reds. In fact, Tiant became such a big part of rooting for the Red Sox in the late '70s, that his history before the Red Sox still takes me by surprise.

Tiant was plucked off the garbage heap in 1971. After a phenomenal 1968 season for the Indians, he lost 20 games in 1969 and was traded to the Twins. In Minnesota, he broke his shoulder blade and was done for the year. The Twins released him. After a minor league fling with the Braves, the Red Sox acquired him, and he became a beloved figure in Boston.

I was crushed when he signed with the Yankees after the 1978 season. He enjoyed his last good season in 1979 and then finished things out with the Pirates and Angels in '81 and '82.

Tiant, one of the best-known Cuban-born ballplayers today, remains a popular figure at age 70. ESPN recently aired a documentary on him.

Back facts: Topps is stating the obvious with the write-up at the bottom. Twenty-two wins and 311 innings pitched pretty much says it all.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1934, Bill Bixby was born. Don't make him angry ...

Friday, January 21, 2011

#429 - Jim Dwyer

Card fact: This is Jim Dwyer's first solo Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: Dwyer was another one of those guys who looked "ghostly" to me. I don't know why really.

What I think about this card now: Lots of dead space in the photograph.

Other stuff: Dwyer enjoyed 18 seasons in the major leagues even though he managed no more than 260 at-bats in any one season. After toiling for the Cardinals, Expos, Mets and Giants, he found modest success with the Red Sox in 1979 and 1980. He was then picked up by the Orioles, who made him into one of their many successful platoon outfielders of the late '70s and early '80s.

Dwyer helped the Orioles reach and win the World Series in 1983 (he hit a home run in the O's Game 1 loss). He continued to produce for the Orioles -- hitting 15 home runs in 241 at-bats in 1987 -- through most of the decade. He ended his career with the Twins.

Dwyer, nicknamed "Pig Pen" for the general state of his uniform, has coached in the Twins organization in several capacities since 1995.

Card facts: I didn't know what a perfect game was in 1975, and I remember being puzzled by the cartoon. Also, whenever I saw major league statistics end with a minor league listing, I thought that was bad news for the player. But it wasn't for Dwyer.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1960, Stan Musial tells Cardinals management he is overpaid and should have his salary reduced after an unperforming 1959 season. His pay is cut from $100,000 to $80,000 a year.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

#428 - Dave Hamilton

Card fact: This is the 15th Oakland A's card so far, and 10 have had either a border that was green or yellow or both. I smell favoritism.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. Dave Hamilton avoided my collection so successfully that I didn't pull his card until the 1980 set, which also happened to be his final Topps card.

What I think about this card now: You've got have the ball in your glove, son, to be a truly effective pitcher.

Other stuff: Hamilton spent nine seasons in the major leagues, chiefly as a relief pitcher. Out of 301 games pitched, he started just 57. He pitched in all three seasons that the A's won the World Series during the '70s, but he only made postseason appearances for Oakland in 1972.

Hamilton was traded with Chet Lemon (I never knew Lemon started out as an Athletic) to the White Sox in 1975. He was used almost exclusively as a reliever, throwing in a career high 55 games in 1977. After that he skipped around between the Cardinals and Pirates before returning to Oakland for his final two seasons in 1979 and 1980.

Card fact: You don't hear all that much about Ted Williams breaking his elbow in the 1950 All-Star Game. It was on a line drive by Ralph Kiner in the first inning. Williams crashed into the wall, broke the elbow, but STAYED IN THE GAME. He proceeded to go 1-for-4.

Today, players are removed from the All-Star Game after an inning for no reason at all. Modern players make me so ashamed.

Other blog stuff: On this date, Negro League slugger and Hall of Famer Josh Gibson died at age 35 from a brain tumor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#427 - Clarence Gaston

Card fact: Clarence Gaston is wearing a Padres uniform in this photo. He was traded from the Padres to the Braves in November of 1974. Fortunately, Topps had taken a handy "looking up" photo of Gaston just in case, so you can't see the Padres cap he's wearing on his head.

What I thought about this card then: Another one of those cards that I pulled on a July day  in '75, I remember my brother making fun of Gaston's last name. "Clarence has a lot of GAS." That type of thing.

What I think about this card now: It seems so weird seeing his name as "Clarence." Most people now know him as Cito Gaston, which is actually what Gaston prefers to be called.

Other stuff: Gaston came up with the Braves, and was acquired by the Padres in the expansion draft. He enjoyed one great season, in 1970, when he hit .318 and was named an All-Star. But he never came close to hitting that well again. By the time he was traded back to the Braves in 1974, he wasn't starting much anymore. With Atlanta, and then with Pittsburgh at the end of his career, he was backup. He had a good throwing arm, so I imagine he was used as a defensive replacement a lot.

Gaston became much more famous as manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was the first African-American to lead a team to the World Series title and helped the Blue Jays to back-to-back championships in 1992 and 1993. He was let go in 1997 and a lot of people wondered why he wasn't rehired by anyone (he did turn down a few opportunities). But the Blue Jays rehired him as manager in 2007. After the 2010 season, he stepped down, probably for good.

Back facts: Gaston did finish third in the National League in assists with 16 in 1973.

Other blog stuff: Here is the original '75 card of Gaston that I pulled 36 years ago:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

#426 - George Medich

Card fact: George Medich was known as Doc Medich for just about his whole career, but he was never referred to as "Doc" on the front of a Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: I vaguely remember owning this card early in 1975. A Yankee fan probably demanded that I trade it to him. And I didn't have it anymore.

What I think about this card now: Medich is the original "Doc" to me. Before Gooden, before Halladay. But after some other folks, like Edwards and Cramer.

Other stuff: Medich came up with the Yankees and was pretty successful from the start, winning in double figures in each of his first three seasons. That enabled the Yankees to coax Willie Randolph and Dock Ellis from the Pirates in a trade after the 1976 season.

Medich pitched for the Pirates for a year, then went through the most tumultuous period of his career, traveling from the Pirates to the A's to the Mariners to the Mets to the Rangers in an eight-month period of 1977. He pitched for Texas for six years, then ended his career with Milwaukee in 1982.

After 10 years without a postseason appearance, he finally reached a World Series in his last season, throwing two forgettable innings for Milwaukee in a 13-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 6. Medich gave up six runs and five hits in two innings of relief.

Medich received his nickname because he was a medical student in college and then received his medical degree. He became an orthopedic surgeon after his baseball career ended. Sadly, he was plagued by drug addiction and pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a controlled substance in 2001. He was sentenced to probation and his medical license was suspended.

Back facts: The cartoon recounts the greatest feat in the history of time.

Also, the notation of a dash for a player's ERA confused me as a kid. I didn't know why it was there. Later, I found out it was there because Medich had no definable ERA in 1972. He gave up two runs without retiring a batter in one game. His ERA was infinity. I think it would be cool if Topps wrote "infinity" instead of the dash, but maybe they thought that was cruel.

Other blog stuff: A member of the 1975 Topps set, Billy Grabarkewitz, was born on this date. The man with the last name that's fun to say is 65 today.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#425 - Tito Fuentes

Card fact: I don't know how Topps did it, but this is the only one of Tito Fuentes' Topps cards between 1974 and 1978 in which he is not wearing a head band. On his '74 card, he wears an orange head band around his cap. On his '77 card, he wears a yellow head band underneath his cap. On his '76 and '78 cards, he wears a head band around his cap with his first name written on it.

What I thought about this card then: This was one of my favorite cards in 1975. I remember pulling it from a pack on a hot July day while on vacation. I was drawn to the pink-yellow border and Fuentes' pose. I had no idea at the time that the Giants were so evil.

What I think about this card now: One of the few major leaguers that you'll find who dotted the "I" in their name with a star.

Other stuff: Fuentes is a much-beloved former Giants player, who also played for the Padres, Tigers and A's. He was one of the last Cuban players signed before the U.S. embargo on Cuba. He came up with San Francisco in 1965.

After a trip to the minor leagues in 1968, he returned to the Giants and settled in as their regular second baseman by 1971. He was a good fielding player who accumulated a lot of base hits. His on-base percentage wasn't the greatest, but folks in the '70s weren't too big on OBP.

After the 1974 season, Fuentes was traded to the Padres for Derrel Thomas. He played regularly for San Diego for two years then signed with the Tigers in which he hit .309 with 190 hits in 1977. But with Lou Whitaker on the horizon, Fuentes was let go. He ended his career in Oakland. Afterward, he went into broadcasting and still does broadcasting work for the Giants.

Back facts: Fuentes' fielding percentage in 1973 was .993, which would remain a National League record for second basemen until Ryne Sandberg recorded a .994 mark in 1986.

Other blog stuff: On this date 69 years ago, Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

#424 - John Lowenstein

Card fact: This card puts the purple-pink border combination alone in third place with 29 cards thus far.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. First card of John Lowenstein I saw was in the 1976 Topps set. I've only known him with a mustache.

What I think about this card now: It's weird. No mustache. No permed-out hair. No giant eyeglasses. He doesn't look the Lowenstein I know.

Other stuff: Lowenstein was a lifetime platoon hitter, except for the 1974 season, which was the only season out of his 16-year career in which he had more than 400 at-bats. He played his first eight years with the Indians. But after a trade to the Rangers, and being released the following offseason in 1978, he received his big break.

The Orioles picked him up and that began the most notable part of his career. Lowenstein played seven seasons with Baltimore, exclusively as a lefty-platoon guy. I distinctly remember Earl Weaver always platooning him and Terry Crowley with Gary Roenicke during the 1979 postseason. It seemed like every time the Orioles played, they'd send eight pinch-hitters to the plate.

It actually drove me a little wacky because I wanted the Angels to win the ALCS against the Orioles that year and then wanted the Pirates to beat the Orioles in the World Series. But every time I turned around Lowenstein was getting a hit. Or maybe it was Crowley. I don't know. They seemed interchangeable.

It didn't help that Lowenstein was the wacky media-friendly type. He received a lot of publicity. (I particularly like this quote of his: "Nuclear war would render all baseball statistics meaningless.")

Lowenstein also won a World Series ring with the Orioles in 1983. His major league career ended in 1985. After his playing career, he became a color commentator for the Orioles.

Back facts: The first World Series night game was Game 4 of the 1971 World Series on Oct. 13 in Pittsburgh. The Pirates won 4-3 against the Orioles. Pinch-hitter Milt May drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded base hit in the seventh inning.

Other stuff: On this date in 1970, outfielder Curt Flood filed a lawsuit challenging major league baseball's reserve clause. That didn't lead anywhere ...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

#423 - Clay Kirby

Card fact: The purple-pink border combo has just tied the green-light green border combo for third place overall with this card. It will move ahead of green-light green with the next card.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. The first Clay Kirby card I knew was his last one, in the 1976 Topps set. He's displaying a chaw on that card. Unfortunately, no chaw on this card.

What I think about this card now: It's no match for his 1972 In Action card, which is one of my favorites.

Other stuff: Kirby started out in the Cardinals organization, but he was selected by the Padres in the expansion draft and became a starter for that first San Diego team in 1969. He ended up leading the league in losses with 20, just as a pitcher for an expansion team should.

Kirby remained a regular part of the Padres' starting rotation until after the 1973 season when he was 8-18. He was traded to the Reds for a disgruntled Bobby Tolan and Dave Tomlin. Kirby won 22 games over two seasons for the pennant-contending Reds, but he didn't pitch in the postseason for Cincinnati in '75. In the offseason, he was dealt to Montreal for Bob Bailey. He went 1-8 in 22 games for the Expos in 1976 and that was his career.

Kirby died in 1991 of a heart attack at age 43.

Back facts: I don't know, that cartoon looks more like Fred Flinstone than Tarzan. Still a nifty little cartoon. Leroy "Tarzan" Parmelee pitched mostly for the New York Giants in the 1930s.

Other blog stuff: Charo was born on this date. The year is up for debate. When I was a kid, Charo was one of those actors that was on TV everywhere, and I couldn't figure out why. She'd be on The Love Boat one minute, The Tonight Show the next, the Donny & Marie Show the next. She'd come out, do her little "cuchi, cuchi" act and leave me totally perplexed as to why people were laughing. That '70s humor. I couldn't figure it out sometimes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

#422 - Brian Downing

Card fact: This is Brian Downing's first solo card. He makes an appearance on a four-player rookie card in the 1974 set.

What I thought about this card then: This was a card I didn't see until I was trying to complete the set about six years ago.

What I think about this card now: Downing seems transfixed by something off-camera.

Other stuff: Brian Downing was a catcher-outfielder-DH type who came up with the White Sox. He was dealt to the Angels in the deal for Bobby Bonds (and Rich Dotson, Thad Bosley and Chris Knapp), which proved to be Downing's big break.

Downing enjoyed a breakout year in 1979 when he hit .326 in 148 games and made his first All-Star team. The Angels won the A.L. West that season, and there was a lot of talk about Downing's weight-training prior to the season and how it led to his great season. It was the first time that I heard of a baseball player weight-training. That may seem silly to younger fans who know players to train with weights on a regular basis. But it just didn't happen in the 1970s.

Downing continued to play well for the Angels, helping them to another pennant in 1982 and 1986. His time behind the plate decreased and he became more of an outfielder and DH. Downing's career lasted until 1992 with the Rangers.

Back facts: I think the term is "clothes-line hit" or "he clothes-lined that." A "clothes line" is what holds up your delicates in the summer breeze.

Other blog stuff: The green-light green border combo makes a return after being absent for 63 cards. With this card, it is now in third place among the color combos. Only orange-brown and pink-yellow are ahead of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

#421 - Mets/Yogi Berra

Card fact: This is not the most expensive checklist in the set, which surprised me when I was collecting it. I figured Yogi's face would boost the cost a tad.

What I thought about this card then: Not much. You know those team cards.

What I think about this card now: Lordy. How many players did the Mets have on their team? It looks like there's 70 people there. Also, the guy in the bottom right corner looks like he's wearing a Red Sox jacket.

Other stuff: Yogi Berra was in the third of his four years as Mets manager. It would not be a good one. The Mets had just come off a World Series appearance in 1973. But they went 71-91 in 1974, good for 5th in the N.L. East. Ace Tom Seaver dealt with hip issues and had an off-year. It would mark the beginning of the decline of the Mets, which would last until the mid-1980s. Berra would be replaced in 1975 and the Mets would finish dead last between 1977-79.

Back facts: There are three players on this checklist who did not play for the Mets in 1974. Gene Clines would come over in a trade for catcher Duffy Dyer. Bob Gallagher came to the Mets from the Astros in a deal for Ken Boswell. Joe Torre was dealt from the Cardinals to the Mets in the offseason for Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore.

(EDIT: Yogi Berra died on Sept. 22, 2015).

Other blog stuff: How well did Topps represent the Mets of 1974 in its '75 set? Let's take a look.

New York put 37 players on the field in 1974. Topps featured 23 of them, including three players airbrushed into new non-Mets unforms -- Dyer, Sadecki and Boswell. Twenty-three players is not a lot. It's one of the smallest numbers for a team set so far.

But the only notable player left out of the set -- and I use "notable" very loosely -- is somebody named Dave Schneck, who had 254 at-bats as an outfielder for the '74 Mets. They would be the most at-bats in a three-year career for Schneck, and his final game would be on Oct. 1, 1974. A .205 batting average that year just didn't cut it with the Mets or with Topps.

Here is where the Mets rate with the other teams 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. Brewers 66.67%
11. Cardinals 65.12%
12. White Sox 65.0%
13. Phillies 62.5%
14. Mets 62.16%
15. Pirates 61.5%
16. Padres 55.8%

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#420 - Larry Bowa

Card fact: Larry Bowa is one of only two starters on the 1974 N.L. All-Star team who didn't play for the Dodgers or the Reds. Hank Aaron is the other one.

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

What I think about this card now: I am clouded by my childhood adulation of Bowa, and all I can see as one of the greatest cards in the set that I would have killed for as a kid.

Other stuff: Out of all of the players who I wished was on the Dodgers when I was kid, Bowa was first and foremost. He was a five-time All-Star and a Gold Glover. Meanwhile, I suffered (somewhat ungratefully) with Bill Russell, who had some periodic fielding and hitting issues.

Bowa, who never made his high school baseball team, was the fiery cornerstone of the Phillies playoff teams of the 1970s, and he had a standout postseason in 1980 when Philadelphia won the World Series. Later, Bowa was dealt to the Cubs along with Ryne Sandberg in an epicly bad trade for Ivan DeJesus. Bowa played 3-plus seasons for Chicago before ending his career with the Mets, which I totally don't remember.

Bowa went on to manage the Padres and Phillies, and memorably so. I don't think I was aware of his volatile nature until he became a manager. Bowa later became third base coach for Joe Torre with the Yankees, and came over to the Dodgers when Torre was named Dodgers manager. Too little, too late for me.

Back facts: Ping Bodie was an outfielder for the White Sox, A's and Yankees between 1911-21.

Other blog stuff: The National League infield is now complete with the addition of Bowa:


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


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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#419 - Dave Goltz

Card fact: This pose comes up a lot on Dave Goltz's cards. He is in similar poses on his 1973, 1977, 1979 and 1981 cards. (I just realized that he's in this pose every odd-numbered year. Freaky!)

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. His 1976 Topps card was the first one I saw.

What I think about this card now: It appears he's posing on a high school or American Legion field.

Other stuff: Hoo-boy, Dave Goltz. Dodger fans don't have fond memories of Goltz. He began with the Twins and had some good seasons with Minnesota. He broke out with a 20-game year in 1977 and became the staff ace. It gave him ammunition for free agency after the 1979 season.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, had stayed away from the first few years of free agency. Signing Goltz, and reliever Don Stanhouse, was their first big move in the free agent market, and it failed miserably. Goltz struggled during that 1980 season, going 7-11 and pitching with a 4-plus ERA. He started the special playoff game after the Dodgers and Astros ended the regular season tied for first in the N.L. West. Goltz lasted three innings and took the loss.

Goltz pitched in relief in the 1981 World Series for L.A. He ended his career with the Angels in 1983. Afterward, he sold real estate and insurance and coached a community college team in Minnesota, where he still lives.

Back facts: You don't hear much about total bases anymore. Nice cartoon, though.

Other blog stuff: I just had to retype this entire post. I hit some key and it wiped out the entire thing. Lovely.

Monday, January 10, 2011

#418 - Leo Foster

Card fact: This is Leo Foster's first solo card.

What I thought about this card then: I thought Foster was a scrub. His batting average on the back was not good. He belonged with the scrubs.

What I think about this card now: For the last six cards, every other card has been a "light blue-green" border combination. Someday, someone with knowledge is going to give me insight into the card printing process of the '70s and tell me why these things happen.

Other stuff: Foster was a utility infielder for the Braves and Mets during the mid-1970s. The most at-bats he had in a season was 112 in 1974 when he hit a whopping .196, two points below his career batting average.

After the 1977 season, he was traded to the Red Sox but never played for them.

Back facts: The Yankees were actually called the "Highlanders" in 1911. But I suppose that would confuse the collecting kiddies.

Other blog stuff: I haven't done this for awhile. Here is the original Leo Foster card I pulled in 1975, much worse for wear after 35 years (although most of the damage was done in that first year):

It's more well-centered than the one I have now.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

#417 - Skip Lockwood

Card fact: Skip Lockwood appears to be airbrushed into an Angels cap and uniform, which is somewhat puzzling. That's because he was airbrushed into an Angels cap on his 1974 Topps card, after he was traded from the Brewers to the Angels in October 1973. You would think that with an entire year to get a photo of Lockwood in an Angels uniform that Topps would be able to go without the airbrushed look. But that cap ain't looking right.

What I thought about this card then: Oh, boy, this was one of those cards that I really, really liked for no reason. My brother had this card. I thought it was very cool. I think it was because of his name, which is strange because "Skip" is actually a terrible first name. It's a step away from "Skippy," and no one wants that.

What I think about this card now: What is that mountain/hill/mound called that appears in the background of all of those Cactus League photos? I know someone has mentioned it before. Help out the poor Northeasterner.

Other stuff: Lockwood is known mostly for his relief work for the New York Mets during the late 1970s. But before that he was a starter, and before that he was a third baseman. He converted to pitcher in the minor leagues. After coming up with the Seattle Pilots, he was a starter for the Brewers in the early '70s. When he came over to the Angels in an eight-player deal, he became a relief pitcher.

Lockwood bounced from the Angels to the Yankees to the A's to the Mets in a matter of months before finding his niche at Shea Stadium. He pitched there for five years. His final season was 1980 with the Red Sox.

Lockwood later became a bank president and CEO of an internet marketing company (he's a graduate of MIT). He's also a motivational speaker.

Back facts: As you can see, "Skip" was a nickname.

Also, you see at the bottom the write-up that conveys the panic that Topps felt about all the traveling Lockwood did between the end of 1973 and mid-1975. First they mention the Brewers trade, then they cram in at the end that he's not really an Angel at all! Oops! He was traded to the Yankees after their little airbrush creation.

The Yankees released Lockwood in early April of 1975, so even the sentence that Topps included at the last minute was obsolete by the time many kids pulled this card from a pack.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1980, Duke Snider was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 11th year on the ballot. I suppose there may have been some complaints that it took him so long to get into the Hall, I don't know for sure. But I guarantee you it was nothing compared to the wailing and gnashing that goes on now.