Monday, February 28, 2011

#466 - A's Do It Again

Card fact: The photo here appears to be from the end of one of the games in the 1974 World Series. It's difficult to determine which one since Rollie Fingers successfully closed out three of the four A's wins in the Series. I'm going to say it's from Game 5, which would have been the finale and the most appropriate.

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

What I think about this card now: Out of all the cards in the set, it seems the most hastily put together. Unlike the other cards in the postseason subset, there's no banner telling you it's the World Series, etc. Fortunately, the blurb at the bottom saves the day and mentions the Series.

Other stuff: Rollie Fingers was named the Series MVP after appearing in four of the five games. The A's, of course, were the last team to win three straight World Series until the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000.

Back facts: Wow, that's a lot of stats crammed into a little space. I find it interesting that the pitching stats were not included, considering it was a pitchers' World Series. The Dodgers hit just .228 as a team and the A's were even worse, hitting .211.

Other blog stuff: That's the end of the postseason subset. Tomorrow we return to player cards, beginning with a stinkin' Giant.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

#465 - '74 World Series, Game 5

Card fact: This was an Awesomest Night Card Tournament quarterfinalist on the other blog. The card is sitting in the center pocket of the first page of my night card binder.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card, but I don't recall thinking much about it. Ignorance is bliss.

What I think about this card now: I've mentioned before that it's the saddest night card ever. My favorite player, Ron Cey, is watching Joe Rudi trot around third base on his way home with the eventual winning run. Rudi hit a seventh inning home run that broke a 2-2 tie in Game 5.

Other stuff: In the fourth 3-2 game of the Series, the pivotal moment came as the seventh inning began. Some nasty behaving Oakland fans were throwing debris at the Dodger left fielder, Bill Buckner, causing a five-minute delay. While this was going on, the new Dodgers pitcher, Mike Marshall, neglected to warm-up for some unknown reason.

Rudi, the first hitter in the inning, noted this and figured the first pitch from an un-warmed-up pitcher would be a fastball. He guessed right, and deposited that first pitch into the left field bleachers for the game-winning home run.

Buckner made things worse in the eighth inning when he led off with a single that got past outfielder Bill North. Buckner, who could run back then, tore around second and on his way to third. But Reggie Jackson gathered in the ball, fired to Dick Green, whose accurate toss to Sal Bando gunned down Buckner. The Dodgers didn't have anything left after that.

Back facts: Steve Garvey had another hit in this game. He had eight total in the Series and hit .381, by far the best in the Dodgers' lineup.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, the U.S. Attorney General confirms that the FBI kept secret files on the personal lives of presidents, congressmen and others, on the orders of J. Edgar Hoover, who had died four years earlier.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

#464 - '74 World Series, Game 4

Card fact: I believe this is a photo of A's starting pitcher Ken Holtzman hitting a home run in the third inning of Game 4. It gave the A's a 1-0 lead at the time.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. This bothered me a lot, because I had a great deal of interest in the World Series cards. If I couldn't own the card, at the very least, I wanted to see it. But for a long time, this was the elusive card of the World Series subset.

What I think about this card now: It looks like Andy Messersmith got the pitch too high.

Other stuff: Even though Holtzman hit that home run, the Dodgers came back to hold a 2-1 lead on Bill Russell's two-run triple in the fourth inning. It stayed that way until things fell apart in the sixth for the Dodgers.

Messersmith walked Bill North to start the inning. He then threw wildly to first on a pick-off attempt, sending North to second base. Sal Bando, in a Series-long slump, then blooped an opposite-field single to right, scoring North. Messersmith made matters worse by walking Reggie Jackson. Joe Rudi, the No. 5 hitter, laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. After an intentional walk to Claudell Washington, pinch-hitter Jim Holt knocked a solid single to score the second and third runs of the inning. A groundout scored the fourth run of the inning.

The Dodgers tried to rally in the ninth, placing two runners on base. But Dick Green made a standout lunging dive on a ball hit by Von Joshua, and turned it into a game-ending double play.

Back facts: This was the only game of the series that did not end with a 3-2 score. In fact, the sixth inning of this game almost matched the total runs in each of the other four games.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1935, the Yankees released Babe Ruth. Say what you want about the Dodgers trying to trade Jackie Robinson to the Giants (Walter O'Malley didn't care WHO you were), but the Yankees released Babe Ruth!

Friday, February 25, 2011

#463 - '74 World Series, Game 3

Card fact: This is the first of two appearances by Rollie Fingers in the World Series subset. He and Joe Rudi both appear twice.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. I do have an older version of this card that I must have obtained when I was a teenager, but I have no idea where or how I got it.

What I think about this card now: Fingers is an excellent choice for this card. Not only was he important to this game, but he was the Series MVP, appearing in four games in the Series.

Other stuff: For the third straight game, the score was 3-2. This game was the turning point of the series. The Dodgers rocketed the ball off of starter Catfish Hunter and Fingers but only had home runs by Bill Buckner and Willie Crawford to show for it.

Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson hit a nubber off the end of his bat that catcher Joe Ferguson lunged for but watched glance off his glove for an error. Jackson who had thrown his bat away in disgust on the play, made it to first. Bill North scored on the play, the first of two runs scored in the third inning by the A's. Starter Al Downing gave up a run-scoring single to Joe Rudi in the next at-bat. The A's scored their third run the next inning when Bert Campaneris knocked in Dick Green who had walked.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, were busy unloading line drives directly at infielders, who turned them into double plays. Crawford hit one in the fourth and Steve Garvey in the eighth. Buckner's homer came in the eighth and after Hunter escaped the inning on Garvey's DP, Fingers came in for the ninth. Crawford hit a home run to start the inning and Joe Ferguson reached on an error. But Ron Cey struck out and Bill Russell hit into the Dodgers' third double play of the game to end it.

Back facts: The series moved to Oakland for Game 3 and stayed there since it lasted only five games.

Other blog stuff: Here is the older version of this card. But it isn't one I pulled in 1975. It's a mystery to me:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

#462 - '74 World Series, Game 2

Card fact: Topps used only purple-pink and pink-yellow borders for the World Series cards.

What I thought about this card then: Well, as the only World Series card that depicts the Dodgers doing something successful, I considered it my "shred of decency" card. If anyone would bring up the A's Series win in '74, I'd pick up this card and say, "Yeah, but who won Game 2?" Hey, it was all I had.

What I think about this card now: The card shows Joe Ferguson returning to the dugout after hitting what proved to be the game-winning home run in the sixth inning. It was a two-run shot that gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. I can pinpoint Walter Alston, Jimmy Wynn, Doug Rau and Davey Lopes (behind Rau) in the dugout, but I'm not 100 percent sure on the others. If anyone knows the other players, feel free to shout them out.

Other stuff: Ferguson delivered the big blow, but the other Dodger heroes were Don Sutton and Mike Marshall. Sutton held the A's scoreless for eight-plus innings, surrendering just two hits until the eighth. Then, when Sutton hit Sal Bando and gave up a double to Reggie Jackson to start the ninth, Marshall came in to do his thing.

First, Marshall allowed a two-run single to Joe Rudi that cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-2. Then he struck out Gene Tenace. That brought up pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom. The A's put Angel Mangual in as a pinch-hitter and pinch-running "specialist" Herb Washington in at first, replacing Rudi. Marshall, who had an excellent pick-off move, snared Washington at first for the second out. He then struck out Mangual to end the game.

Back facts: Catcher Steve Yeager, who was a very light hitter, went 2-for-3 and drove in the Dodgers' first run.

Other blog stuff: I neglected to mention that the '74 World Series was the first all-California World Series. So, I'll do that here. Since that time, there have been three more (1988, 1989 and 2002).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#461 - '74 World Series, Game 1

Card fact: That is Reginald Martinez Jackson there in the photo. He's pictured here most likely because he knocked in the first run of the World Series, a home run to left-center field off of Andy Messersmith in the top of the second inning.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I really should have disliked Jackson because of what he did to the Dodgers, but I was too young to know anything about the '74 World Series. It wasn't until 1977, and when Jackson was with the Yankees, that he became a problem.

What I think about this card now: It's pretty cool. Wish I knew if he is hitting that homer in this photo.

Other stuff: Game 1 set the tone for the rest of the Series. Four out of the five games in the Series were decided by 3-2 scores, and the losing team scored two runs in every game of the series.

Jackson knocked in the first run, but Ken Holtzman played a key part, too. As the starter, he went only four-plus innings (Rollie Fingers came in during the 5th inning and lasted until the 9th. Catfish Hunter got the save!). But Holtzman scored the A's second run when he doubled with one out, went to third on a wild pitch, and came home on Bert Campaneris' sacrifice bunt.

The third A's run proved costly for the Dodgers. In the eighth inning, with Campaneris on second and one out, Ron Cey (ouch) threw errantly to first on a ground ball by Sal Bando and Campaneris scored. The run was costly because Jim Wynn would homer in the ninth inning for the Dodgers and pull them within one.

Back facts: Boy, do I love boxscores on the back of baseball cards. You can see that the Series started on a Saturday, which surprised me a little because as a kid I remember the Series always starting on a Tuesday.

A couple notables for me is that the Dodgers' starter, Messersmith, got two hits. Also, L.A. outhit Oakland 11-6. The Dodgers stranded 12 runners.

Other blog stuff: All the World Series cards in this set that I saw as a kid were minis. I had Game 1, Game 2 and Game 5 all in mini form.

Here is Game 1 in regular and mini form:

Also, there is a cool video on the 1974 World Series. I was alerted to this by wobs of the 1974 Topps-Pennant Fever blog.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

#460 - '74 N.L. Championships

Card fact: That is Pittsburgh's Frank Taveras in the photo. I'm reasonably sure the other guy is Steve Garvey, but it's kind of hard to tell.

What I thought about this card then: You have no idea how awesome I thought this card was in 1975. Think of it: I loved action cards, because they were so rare then. I loved moment-in-time cards (I still do). I loved cards of Dodgers doing well. Add it all together and this quite possibly was the card that I was most impressed with in the entire set.

What I think about this card now: The dust rising from second base is terrific.

Other stuff: If that is indeed Garvey, then this is a play from the third inning of Game 1 of the 1974 N.L. Championship Series. Garvey hit a one-out double off of Jerry Reuss at Three Rivers Stadium. He was stranded there, but the Dodgers won the game 3-0.

Back facts: The Dodgers were almost as impressive with their pitching in this series as the A's were in their championship series. Don Sutton threw a four-hit shutout in Game 1, then allowed just three hits in Game 4. Andy Messersmith did pretty good in Game 2, too. Only a blow-up by Doug Rau in Game 3 mucked things up.

Other blog stuff: If you're a team collector, would you put this card in your binder if you rooted for the Dodgers or Pirates? Right now, this card is in my team binder, but I don't know if it would be if the Pirates were my favorite team.

Monday, February 21, 2011

#459 - '74 A.L. Championships

Card fact: This is the first card in an eight-card subset reviewing the 1974 postseason. It is a similar format to what was used by Topps from 1972-74, one card apiece for the respective league championships and then a card for each game of the World Series. In 1970 and 1971, Topps also devoted a card to each game of the league championship series.

In fact, designating a card for each game of the World Series was a Topps practice from 1967-75. Sadly, that practice would end with the 1976 set.

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

What I think about this card now: I cannot figure out which play this is during the A.L. Championship. That's obviously Brooks Robinson sliding into what appears to be second base. In all of the games of the series, Robinson rarely got on base (he either flew out, grounded out or hit a home run). I can find only one possibility, in Game 2, when Robinson reaches on a walk with two outs and then Earl Williams grounds out from second to first for the third out. But why would Dick Green be vaulting over Robinson as if he was turning a double play if it was a simple grounder to second for out No. 3?

I sure hope this a photo from the A.L. Championship. It'd be sad if it wasn't.

Other stuff: The A's won their third straight A.L. Championship in four games, but it wasn't all that easy. The A's lost Game 1 and Games 3 and 4 were nail-biters. NBC broadcast the series. The announcers were Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek and Frank Robinson.

Back facts: You have to love linescores on the back of baseball cards. Game 3 looks like a hell of a game. Vida Blue threw a two-hitter, struck seven and walked none.

Other stuff: The purple-pink border combination ties the pink-yellow border combination for second place with this card. Both have been featured on 35 cards, so far. The two color combinations will pick up a few more cards in this subset as they're just about the only color combinations featured.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

#458 - Ross Grimsley

Card fact: Ross Grimsley is airbrushed into an Orioles cap on this card. He was traded from the Reds to the Orioles on Dec. 4, 1973 in a deal that sent Junior Kennedy and Merv Rettenmund to the Reds. The trade worked out pretty well for the Orioles.

What I thought about this card then: I remember think that there was something "off" about this card, but not being able to figure out exactly what it was. I knew nothing about airbrushing and usually airbrushed cards didn't register with me. But this one did.

What I think about this card now: Even though it's an obvious airbrush job, the Orioles bird doesn't look too bad.

Other stuff: Grimsley was another one of those eccentric pitchers of the 1970s. He was known both as "Scuz" and "Crazy Eyes," and wore a giant white man's Afro once he was able to get away from the Reds' strict grooming rules. During the '72 season, he reportedly corresponded with a self-described witch who was sending him good luck charms. Grimsley has some classic baseball cards (specifically 1978, 1980 and 1981 Topps).

Grimsley was a strong, young pitcher for Cincinnati and pitched in four games of the 1972 World Series against the A's. He won 18 games in his first year with Baltimore in '74. He signed as a free agent with Montreal in 1977 and proceeded to win 20 games for the only time in his career in 1978.

Grimsley's career ended quickly after that. He was traded to Cleveland in 1980, and ended his playing career back with Baltimore in 1982. He later became a coach in the minor leagues.

Back facts: Another Dodgers cartoon question.

Other blog stuff: This is the last player card for awhile. We begin another subset tomorrow as we relive the 1974 postseason.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#457 - Mario Mendoza

Card fact: This is Mario Mendoza's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: Absolutely horrified by it. Aside from Bruce Ellingsen, it was the one card that neither my brother nor I wanted in our collection. I was fortunate enough not to end up with it. I think my brother got stuck with it.

A couple of years after this card came out, I became best friends with a boy named Mario. I'm sure I was a bit disturbed when I first found out his name.

What I think about this card now: Quite an impressive signature Mendoza has.

Other stuff: Mendoza was a good-fielding shortstop who played nine years in the major leagues despite a legendary inability to hit. The term "The Mendoza line," which refers to hitting below .200, is a reference to Mario Mendoza, who hit .215 during  his career, but had single-season batting averages of .118, .180, .185 and .198.

Mendoza says the player who came up with the term was Seattle teammate Tom Paciorek, although Paciorek blames Bruce Bochte. "The Mendoza line" became commonly used when George Brett mentioned it in an interview during his quest for .400 in 1980. ESPN's Chris Berman pounced on the phrase and the rest is history.

Mendoza, who played in the Mexican League before coming to the Pirates, ended his major league career in 1982 with Texas. He later played and managed in Mexico and also managed in the minor leagues.

Back facts: I've already mentioned this cartoon and Sparky Lyle's "love" for birthday cakes on the other blog.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1954, the Dodgers signed Roberto Clemente to a one-year, $5,000 deal with a $10,000 bonus, beating out several team eager to sign the outfielder. However, the Dodgers would lose Clemente to the Pirates in the Rule V draft the following year.

Friday, February 18, 2011

#456 - Bob Coluccio

Card fact: This is the middle card in a Topps Bob Coluccio trilogy. Coluccio had just the three for Topps, but they're great ones. They illustrate the metamorphosis phenomenon that was so common in the '70s. Coluccio goes from a clean-cut West Coast kid to a roadie for a rock band.

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

What I think about this card now: It is a neat, and unusual shot of Coluccio looking the pitch into the catcher's glove. It was rare to get close-ups of game action at this time.

Other stuff: Coluccio was mostly a center fielder for the Brewers, White Sox and Cardinals from 1973-78. His best seasons were in '73 and '74 when he started for Milwaukee. Coluccio was fast, but couldn't get out of the .220s at the plate. Brewers announce Bob Uecker called him "The Macaroni Pony."

Coluccio played a season for the White Sox in '75, then spent all of 1976 in the minors. He was traded to St. Louis, barely played for them, then was traded to the Mets after the '78 season. Coluccio never played for the Mets.

After his career, he became a real estate agent.

Back facts: Nelson Briles, who pitched for the Pirates at the time, sang the National Anthem before Game 4 of the 1973 World Series.

Other blog stuff: This is a very rare morning post (well, "morning when it's light out"). I forgot to scan the back of the card, and then I couldn't sleep -- no doubt because I was broken up over not scanning the back. So there you are. I apologize for upsetting your routine.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

#455 - Don Wilson

Card fact: One of the more unfortunate cards in Topps' history. Don Wilson died in January of 1975, after Topps' cards went to print. If there was an attempt to pull the card from the set, it didn't succeed.

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

What I think about this card now: It's just sad. I look at it, and all I can think of is *sadness*

Other stuff: Wilson was probably the Astros' first great pitcher. He had tremendous stuff, but it took him awhile to harness it. He enjoyed some terrific games, striking out 18 in a game once and throwing two no-hitters. Wilson struck out 235 batters in 1969, the same season in which he led the league with 16 wild pitches.

Wilson pitched all nine of his major league seasons for Houston and won in double figures in all but one of them. He was an All-Star in 1971, possibly his best season.

Wilson died at age 29 on Jan. 5, 1975. He was found in the passenger seat of his vehicle in the closed garage of his home with the car's engine running. The garage was attached to the house and Wilson's son also died in the incident. His wife and daughter were hospitalized. The cause of death was listed as accidental.

During the 1975 season, the Astros wore Wilson's number, 40, on a patch on their jersey. Here is an example in the 1976 Topps set:

Wilson's number was also retired in April of 1975.

Back facts: It's a little rare to see a player's complete stats from the start of a career to the end of a career on a baseball card, but that's what we have here.

Other blog stuff: I missed posting on Wilson's birthdate by four days. But the dream isn't over yet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#454 - Doug Griffin

Card fact: One of two players in the set with the last name Griffin. The first one was featured back in May.

What I thought about this card then: I pulled this card in a pack I bought after a walk to the drug store with my brother. I remember this as quite a long walk, although it probably wasn't that long at all. But the extent of the trip was entirely along a busy street, which probably drove my mother crazy. Here was her 9-year-old and 7-year-old sons walking along a hectic street, flanked by businesses, a movie theater and a strip mall, all to get a few baseball cards.

Today, few parents would ever let kids that young head for the store without adult supervision. It sure was a different time.

What I think about this card now: It's nice to see a tilted field again. It's been awhile. Also, Doug Griffin looks rather nonchalant with his swing.

Other stuff: Griffin was a smooth-fielding infielder who spent most of his seven years in the majors with the Red Sox. He was acquired by Boston in 1970 in a deal that sent former Red Sox hero Tony Conigliaro to the Angels.

Griffin emerged as a surprisingly strong player for Boston and finished fourth in the A.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 1971. He had his best season in 1972 when he won the Gold Glove at second base. But Griffin was hounded by injuries throughout his career. He had back problems, but also couldn't avoid getting hit by pitches. His hand was broken twice (once by Gaylord Perry and once by Billy Champion). He was hit in the head by Nolan Ryan in 1974, which may have shortened his career. He also got beaned by Dick Bosman in 1975.

Griffin's playing time decreased in '75 when the Red Sox acquired Denny Doyle. By the postseason, Doyle had crowded Griffin out at second and was the primary starter in the '75 World Series against the Reds. Griffin retired after the 1977 season. He spent his post-baseball career in the construction business.

(EDIT: Griffin died on July 27, 2016).

Back facts: There are always hijinks at old-timers games (not "old-timer" games). I wonder what made the Phil Rizzuto incident worth noting?

Other stuff: For the second straight post, let's take a look at the card that I pulled in 1975:

Not only did I survive that trip to the drug store, but this card survived the trip and everything else that's happened in the last 36 years.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#453 - Claude Osteen

Card fact: Claude Osteen is airbrushed into a Cardinals cap as he was traded from the Astros to the Cardinals in August of 1974. He was also airbrushed into an Astros cap on his 1974 Topps Traded card after being traded in December of 1973 in the Jim Wynn deal.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the cards that I pulled while on vacation in the summer of 1975. I remember liking it quite a bit and being totally oblivious to the fact that there was something funny about the cap he was wearing. I had no idea at the time that Osteen had spent a good bulk of his career as a consistently successful member of the Dodgers' rotation.

What I think about this card now: I'm wondering what jersey Osteen is really wearing. Dodgers or Astros? I'm going with Astros. That color on the jersey doesn't look too fake.

Other stuff: Osteen was a two-time 20-game winner for the Dodgers during a career that spanned from 1957-75. Other than the Cardinals and Astros, he also played for the Reds, Senators and White Sox. He was the key figure in the 1964 trade between the Dodgers and Senators that sent Frank Howard to Washington.

Osteen wasn't a big strikeout pitcher and gave up a ton of hits, but he was also a workhorse in the Dodgers' rotation, often incurring 30 decisions in a single season. He reached the All-Star Game three times. After his career, he became a pitching coach for several teams, including the Dodgers.

Back fact: That's a lot of stats. I like the half inning he pitched for the Reds in 1961.

Other blog stuff: Here is the original Osteen I pulled from that pack in the summer of '75:

Still should've known the cap was airbrushed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

#452 - Angel Mangual

Card fact: This is Angel Mangual's final Topps card. He appeared on just four Topps cards between 1971-75.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I don't recall thinking much about it, except that Mangual's brother, Pepe, made his solo card debut in the 1976 Topps set, confusing the heck out of me. I just assumed that Pepe was really Angel and proceeded to confuse the two brothers for the next few decades. I would also get them confused with former White Sox and Mets manager Jerry Manuel, who will also be featured in this set.

What I think about this card now: It seems strange for an A's player not to have a card with a green or yellow border. There are so few of them.

Other stuff: Mangual was a platoon-type player for the A's during their dynasty era. He was acquired from the Pirates in a trade for Jim "Mudcat" Grant and finished third in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting in 1971.

Mangual also delivered the game-winning pinch hit in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the World Series against the Reds in 1972. Mangual won three World Series rings with the A's, but didn't hit very well after his rookie showing. His career ended with the 1976 season.

(EDIT: Angel Mangual died at age 73 on Feb. 16, 2021).

Back facts: Topps is keeping the family theme going by mentioning the Cruz brothers, Jose, Hector and Tommy, in the cartoon. Tommy Cruz played just three games for St. Louis in '73.

Other blog stuff: If you recall on the Willie McCovey post from two days ago, I wondered about the confusing cartoon.

Well, a reader has deduced that Topps may have mixed up the cartoon question and the answer. He said the question, which asked who was nicknamed "The Hat," seems to refer to Harry "The Hat" Walker. But the answer, which was "Jerry Lynch with 18," refers to former pinch-hitting great Lynch who had 18 pinch-hit homers in his career.

So I guess that means we need to be on the watch for a cartoon that asks "Who holds the record for most pinch-hit home runs in a career?" and answers with "Harry Walker." Wouldn't it be great if that happened?

Thanks, Jonathan!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

#451 - Rick Dempsey

Card fact: This is the second straight card of a player who competed in four different decades. Rick Dempsey barely qualifies as he played in five games in 1969.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see a Dempsey card until he was with the Orioles.

What I think about this card now: Well, for one, the upper left corner is bent. Secondly, Dempsey isn't in a full catcher's crouch, which makes me think that he's either illustrating when a catcher signals to a pitcher that he wants the ball thrown high, or the ground is wet.

Other stuff: Dempsey is known as one of the better defensive catchers of the last 40 years. He lasted as long as he did not because he could hit -- he couldn't -- but because of his ability to handle pitching staffs. His best success came with the Orioles when he won a starting role even with his limited hitting ability. He contributed to two Orioles World Series appearances and found his hitting stroke in the 1983 Series against the Phillies, winning Most Valuable Player honors.

Dempsey later played for the Indians, and then the Dodgers, where he was a backup catcher on the 1988 Series-winning team. He finished out his career with the Brewers and then back with the Orioles in the early '90s.

Dempsey got on my nerves as I was growing up, as most Orioles did. He was kind of a clown and when he first did that rain-delay act in which he impersonated Babe Ruth and slid on the wet tarp (I think it's appropriate that there is a tarp in the background of the photo on this card), I didn't think it was all that funny. But the TV stations did, and they played it over and over and over again. I think it was on "This Week in Baseball" for two months straight.

Dempsey since has worked as a color man on Orioles broadcasts (big surprise), and coached in the O's organization. He's been thought of as manager material for quite awhile.

Back facts: The write-up grudgingly credits Dempsey for a fine showing with the bat, but there is no evidence in the stats.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1995, the Dodgers signed Japanese pitching star Hideo Nomo, and a million card collections were born.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

#450 - Willie McCovey

Card fact: This is the first Topps card of Willie McCovey in an actual Padres uniform. He is airbrushed into a Padres cap in the 1974 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: I don't remember which brother had this card, but I do know it was around. The thing is that I knew McCovey only as a Padre for a couple of years. The first time I saw him was on this card, and I identified him as a Padre. Little did I know that McCovey's Padre years were the worst part of his career.

What I think about this card now: Don't just stand there, do something!

Other stuff: Willie McCovey was one of the greatest power hitters of all-time, spending most of his career with the Giants. He was a four-decade player, starting in 1959 and ending in 1980. He went 4-for-4 in his major league debut (against Robin Roberts) and won the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award in '59 despite playing in just 52 games.

McCovey's most famous moment came in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series. McCovey came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, runners on second and third and the Giants trailing the Yankees 1-0. McCovey scalded a line drive that Bobby Richardson leapt to snare for the third out. I admit I am conflicted by this moment -- both bummed that the Yankees won another World Series and thrilled that the Giants lost in the most painful way possible.

McCovey continued to hammer N.L. pitching through the '60s and won the NL MVP award in 1969. But his performance trailed off in the early '70s, and he was traded to San Diego for Mike Caldwell after the '73 season. McCovey started OK with San Diego, but ended up hitting abysmally for both the Padres and during his brief stay with the A's.

He was reacquired by the Giants, and I remember his triumphant 1977 season when he re-emerged for one last solid season and won Comeback Player of the Year honors.

"Stretch," who has had his share of health issues the last few years, is an advisor to the Giants.

(EDIT: McCovey died at age 80 on Oct. 31, 2018).

Back facts: This might be the most confusing cartoon in the whole set. I do not know what it means and it's too late to go on a fact-finding mission. The question asks "Who was The Hat?" which I would assume to be a nickname. But then the answer comes back with "Jerry Lynch with 18." With 18? With 18 what? 18 hats?

I know Jerry Lynch was one of the best pinch-hitters of all-time. I have a card of his from the '56 set. I should check it and see if he's referred to as The Hat and how that connects with the No. 18. Anyone with more free time than I, please take a crack at enlightening me.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1999, the Padres signed country singer Garth Brooks and invited him to spring training as a non-roster invitee. How'd that work out, San Diego?

Friday, February 11, 2011

#449 - Charlie Williams

Card fact: This is Charlie Williams' first appearance on a Topps card since his Topps debut in the 1972 set.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. The first card of his I saw was in the 1976 set. I would confuse him with another Giant, Randy Moffitt, only because they were both Giants relievers and photographed in the same spot down the right-field line in Candlestick Park.

What I think about this card now: I like the folding chairs in the background. It's a very sunny spring training photo.

Other stuff: Williams was almost exclusively a relief pitcher during his major league career from 1971-78. A New York boy -- he was born in Flushing -- Williams started out with the Mets. But he will forever be known as the player traded to the Giants straight-up for Willie Mays on May 11, 1972. (The Mets did throw in $50,000).

(EDIT: Williams died at age 67 on Jan. 27, 2015).

Back facts: I believe there's a typo in the cartoon. The answer should read 60 feet, 6 inches, not 60 feet, 60 inches. Also, "Prosek" is quite the middle name.

Other blog stuff: Burt Reynolds -- kind of a big deal in the 1970s -- was born on this date 75 years ago.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

#448 - Frank Duffy

Card fact: This is one of the first cards that I obtained in both regular and mini version.

What I thought about this card then: My friend when I was a kid, Jennifer, never knew this, but Frank Duffy reminded me of her. But it's only because he had long brown hair and glasses just like she did. She'd probably kill me if she knew that, but I haven't seen her in over 25 years.

What I think about this card now: That is yet another poorly tended field behind Duffy.

Other stuff: Duffy's greatest success came during a four-year period as the Indians' regular shortstop. He also played for the Reds, Giants and Red Sox during a career that spanned the entire decade of the '70s. Not any earlier and not any later. He was another one of those good-field, no-hit shortstops of the '70s.

Duffy is probably most known as the player (along with Van Geishert) who enticed the Giants to trade George Foster to the Reds in 1971.

Back facts: I thought that was Duffy in the cartoon when I was a kid.

Also, I did a little calculating based on the write-up that boasts of Duffy's great finish in 1972. If Duffy went 30-for-91 to end the season, that means he was 62-for-294 the rest of the year, or a robust .211 batting average.

The '70s was bad news for the Indians.

Other blog stuff: Here is the regular-sized Duffy and mini Duffy together. The regular-sized Duffy is not the one I had in 1975, but the mini one is.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

#447 - Terry Crowley

Card fact: Terry Crowley is airbrushed into a Reds cap and uniform. In fact, this is almost positively the same photo shoot that led to Crowley's 1974 Topps card when he was still with the Orioles. Crowley is pictured in Yankee Stadium on each card. You can see the Anacin sign in each photo.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't know about it.

What I think about this card now: Topps had quite a bit of time to get Crowley in a Reds uniform. He was acquired by Cincinnati in mid-March of 1974. I know the majority of the photos back then were from spring training. Perhaps Crowley didn't arrive in time for Topps' photographer.

Other stuff: Crowley was an outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter who is most known for his years with the Orioles. He started out with Baltimore before being acquired by Texas at the end of 1973 (he's featured as a Ranger in a 1974 Topps Traded card even though he never played for the Rangers). The Reds then picked him up four months later.

After a couple of years with the Reds and a very brief period with the Braves, the Orioles reacquired Crowley, and thus began the most successful portion of his career. Crowley was a key part of manager Earl Weaver's platoon system, and Crowley enjoyed his best years in 1979 and 1980 as a pinch-hitter.

Crowley ended his career in 1983 with Montreal and ranked in the top 10 in all-time pinch hits when he was done. He later became a hitting coach for decades for both the Orioles and Twins. It was recently announced that Crowley would not return to the Orioles as full-time hitting coach and work only part-time in the Orioles' organization.

Back facts: I've often wondered when the phrase "The Big Red Machine" began. I always associated it with the 1975 and 1976 Reds teams, but I suppose it could have started as early as 1970 when the Reds reached the World Series.

Other blog stuff: This is the first orange-brown bordered card in 45 cards. It's still first overall, but let's see if it hangs on to No. 1 in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#446 - Bart Johnson

Card fact: This card is in the top five of the cards that we made fun of the most as kids in 1975. Bart Johnson is right up there with Bruce Ellingsen and Gene Locklear.

What I thought about this card then: It horrified me. I believe it was the combination of Johnson's overgrown curly hair and his name, "Bart," that made me never want to have the card. My brother owned it, and I was so happy he was stuck with it.

What I think about this card now: It's not as bad as I thought then. It's fairly apparent that Johnson is bad-ass. His 1974 Topps card is awesome.

Other stuff: Johnson was a very talented athlete, who played basketball in college and was recruited by John Wooden. He selected baseball over basketball because he said his chances of making an impact in the pros was better in baseball.

Johnson possessed a terrific fastball, but he enjoyed only limited success on the mound. Injuries were a bit of a problem. An offseason basketball injury had him playing the outfield early in his career. But he returned to pitching and was both a starter and a reliever. He was at the height of his success in 1974, winning 10 games.

A herniated disc caused by a slip on a wet mound cost him the entire 1975 season. He returned to lose 16 games for the White Sox in 1976 and his last season was in 1977.

Johnson was kind of an outspoken character. When the White Sox wanted to send him down early in 1974, he threatened to retire and try out for the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics.

After his career, Johnson became a longtime scout for the White Sox.

(EDIT: Bart Johnson died at age 70 on April 22, 2020).

Back facts: I suppose it could have been worse when I was a kid. Johnson could have been "Clair Johnson" on the front of his card.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, the Number 1 song in the country was "Fire" by the Ohio Players. They were the ones who featured lovely ladies on their album covers, covered in whipped cream or honey or something. I don't know. I was 9.

Monday, February 7, 2011

#445 - Felix Millan

Card fact: I've mentioned before that I suspect Topps tried to match the border colors with as many A's as possible. I have also mentioned the same suspicion with the Mets. This is the 13th out of 18 Mets cards that has at least one of the Mets colors featured in the border.

What I thought about this card then: Oh, boy, this was one of my early favorites as a kid. The Mets held a special place in the collecting world then, and I gravitated toward Felix Millan for some reason. I saw this card, but I didn't have it.

My friend, the Mets/Yankees fan, had the card, and because of him talking about Millan incessantly, we became very familiar with Millan's habit of choking up on the bat. He brought his hands up very far up on the bat handle (he had 121 sacrifice hits in his career). It would be very comical to see that practice from a player today.

What I think about this card now: Millan looks like he just spotted his mother-in-law.

Other stuff: Millan was just what you wanted from your second baseman in the 1960s and '70s. He played in a ton of games, piled up a ton of at-bats and a ton of singles, and was a Gold Glove fielder.

Millan started out with the Braves and was their second baseman until after the 1972 season when he was traded to the Mets. Millan finished out his career as the Mets' starter at second, but it came to an abrupt end. During a game in August of 1977, he was involved in a brawl with Pirates catcher Ed Ott. Ott slammed Millan to the ground, injuring his shoulder and Millan would never play another major league game.

During the late '70s, Millan played in Japan.

Back facts: Bob Heffner was the second pitcher to record three putouts in an inning when he did so in 1963. Jim Bagby of Boston was the first in 1940. Since those two, the feat has been matched by Rick Reuschel (1975), Jim Beattie (1978), Ed Lynch (1986), Mike Harkey (1990), Mike Hartley (1991), Jeff Innis (1991), Roger Clemens (1992), Bill Swift (1992), Jack Armstrong (1993) and Brian Meadows (1998).

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1994, Michael Jordan signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox.