Thursday, March 31, 2011

#496 - Pepe Frias

Card fact: This card achieves the hard-to-reach trifecta of batting helmet, batting cage and Coca-Cola ad in the background.

What I thought about this card then: I remember my brother and I ragging on poor Pepe relentlessly when we were kids. This was in the top five of ridiculed cards as a youngster. I think it was all based on his batting average and his name "Pepe."

As I got older, I wondered about his signature. It looked like it said "Chrysalis," which I knew from "Chrysalis Records," the label that signed Blondie, Pat Benatar, Huey Lewis and the News, and others. Leave it to me to associate new wave rock with a Latin American ballplayer.

What I think about this card now: Frias appears to be facing the wrong way if he wants to get a hit.

Other stuff: Frias was a utility infielder with the Expos after spending several years in the minors. He only played in at least 100 games once until he was sent to the Braves. Atlanta suddenly made him its starting shortstop in 1979 and he performed OK, hitting .259 in 140 games.

Frias finished out his career as a backup with the Rangers and the Dodgers. I remember being particularly embarrassed over having a 1981 Fleer card of Frias as a Dodger, considering how little regard we had for him back in 1975.

Back facts: Frias is actually not 5-foot-1. That is a typo. He is 5-10 or 5-11, depending on where you get your information.

Also, I have never heard of the term "cousin."

Other blog stuff: Here is the original '75 Frias that I pulled from a pack and that we kicked around so often:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#495 - Nelson Briles

Card fact: This is Nelson Briles' only card in a Royals uniform. That '74 Topps Traded airbrush atrocity doesn't count.

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

What I think about this card now: I love how the Royals in the background, who may or may not be playing catch, frame Briles. It's a nice photo.

Other stuff: Briles was a control-type pitcher for the Cardinals, Pirates, Royals, Rangers and Orioles. He pitched in some big games and did well in them. With St. Louis as a youngster in 1967, he threw a complete-game victory in Game 3 of the World Series against Boston. With the Pirates in 1971, he threw a two-hit shutout against the Orioles in Game 5 of the World Series.

Briles won 19 games for the Cardinals in 1968 but his performance fell off and he was shipped to the Pirates. After a couple of 14-win seasons, Pittsburgh sent him to Kansas City. After a couple years there, Briles finished out his career with the Rangers and Orioles.

Briles was known for his singing ability. He performed a night club act for a little while and sang the National Anthem during the 1973 World Series.

Briles also worked as a broadcaster and front office man for the Pirates and Mariners. He died in 2005 of a heart attack at age 61.

Back facts: Well, I like that highlight in the write-up!

Other blog stuff: Remember the last card and all the discussion of game-show host Peter Marshall? Well, today is Marshall's 85th birthday.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#494 - Pete LaCock

Card fact: This is Pete LaCock's rookie card. I think it's safe to say the world was never the same after this.

What I thought about this card then: I vaguely remember seeing it. Perhaps a friend of mine had it. I remember it as one of those goofy-faced players that we relentlessly mocked. I also remember being amused by his name, but having no idea why.

What I think about this card now: That sure is a majestic shot for a guy who was hitting .204 on the back of this card.

Other stuff: LaCock is a legend on the sophomoric humor circuit. In fact, LaCock and a future '75 Topps subject, Dick Pole, have starred in front of standing room-only crowds for years. The mere presence of their cards throw collectors into giddy fits of hysteria.

Aside from that, LaCock was a part-time player for the Cubs and Royals between 1972-1980. He actually worked his way into a starting role at the end of his career with the Royals. In fact, LaCock has the honor of hitting a home run in the first major league game I ever saw in person on July 15, 1978 against the Yankees. Yes, the first home run I ever saw in person was hit by LaCock. It was all downhill from there.

LaCock later played in Japan, and has worked as a coach in the minors and in independent leagues, most recently in 2009 for the Tucson Toros.

LaCock is the subject of a famous quote by Bob Gibson. On the occasion of his retirement, Gibson said, "When I gave up a grand slam to Pete LaCock, I knew it was time to quit."

Back facts: LaCock's father was the longtime host of "Hollywood Squares." Peter Marshall's given name was also Ralph Pierre LaCock. I often wondered why LaCock didn't go by Pete Marshall, too.

Then again, I suppose he wouldn't be the legend he is now if his name was Marshall. Dad knew what he was doing.

Other blog stuff: The pink-yellow border combo has crossed the 40 threshold with this card. It's the third combination to do so, and could have a real shot of taking over first place by the time this blog is done.

Monday, March 28, 2011

#493 - Don Stanhouse

Card fact: Don Stanhouse returns to Topps after sitting out the '74 set. He made his debut in the 1973 set.

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

What I think about this card now: Good god, look at that mustache. How in the hell did he feed himself?

Other stuff: Stanhouse became remembered as the closer for the 1979 World Series finalist Baltimore Orioles. But before his time with Baltimore, he served as both a starter and reliever for the Rangers and the Expos.

Stanhouse was an all-around star athlete in high school and began his career as an infielder. He didn't have great success with the Rangers and was shipped to Montreal in the Willie Davis deal prior to the 1975 season. After a year of inactivity, Stanhouse enjoyed a decent 1976, starting 26 games and going 9-12. The following year, Montreal switched him to the bullpen and Stanhouse responded with his best season, going 10-10 with 10 saves.

Baltimore than acquired him and Gary Roenicke in a deal that sent Rudy May and Bryn Smith to the Expos. Stanhouse was installed as a full-time reliever and quickly became known for his flaky behavior. He had an unsual pitching delivery in which he held the ball forever before sending it to the plate. Hitters hated it. He was nicknamed "Stan the Man Unusual" and "Fullpack" because manager Earl Weaver would go through a pack of cigarettes while watching Stanhouse work himself in and out of jams on the mound.

I remember broadcasters yukking it up as TV showed Weaver hiding in the hallway between the dugout and the clubhouse, sneaking a cigarette because he couldn't stand to watch Stanhouse pitch.

After the 1979 season, the Dodgers acquired Stanhouse in its first big entry into the free agent market. Stanhouse hurt his back and tanked, with an ERA over 5.00 in 1980. He didn't even pitch for L.A. in 1981. He came back to Baltimore for a season in 1982, but struggled again and his career ended.

Stanhouse is now a venture capitalist and an entrepreneur, married for almost 30 years and the father of three grown children. And the mustache is gone.

Back facts: I don't know why they didn't use this cartoon on Dave Nelson's card.

Other blog stuff: This is just the 16th yellow-green bordered card. That is four fewer than the next lowest border color total.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

#492 - Rich Hebner

Card fact: Topps insisted on calling Hebner "Rich" throughout his career, even though I always knew him as "Richie," and Hebner referred to himself as "Richie," judging by the signature.

What I thought about this card then: Like the Doyle Alexander card, this is an action card from the set that I did not see as a kid. Since the Hebner card follows the Alexander card in sequence, and they both have green-purple borders, I always associate the two cards with each other.

What I think about this card now: I like the outfield wall logos framing Hebner. The one on the left is the Braves logo and the one on the right, I believe, is the Astros logo.

Other stuff: Hebner was a top prospect with the Pirates in the late 1960s. He hit well for Pittsburgh as the team's starting third baseman for eight years and participated in 21 postseason games for the Pirates.

He signed with Philadelphia as a free agent in 1976 and moved his position to first base because the Phillies had Mike Schmidt. He remained fairly productive but had little speed and his performance started to fall off. He was traded to the Mets, then to the Tigers, then reacquired by the Pirates.

Hebner finished up with the Cubs in 1984 and 1985. He later worked as a hitting coach and minor league manager for several teams. His most recent stint was in 2009 with the Frederick Keys in the Baltimore organization.

Hebner is most famous for working as a grave-digger during the offseason, back when players had to hold down second jobs.

Back facts: I love animal cartoons, but it's almost impossible that anyone who read this cartoon knew who Paul Gilliford was. His entire major league career consisted of two games and three innings pitched with the Orioles in 1967. His ERA was 12.00.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1987, the Mets acquire David Cone from the Royals for Ed Hearn and two pitching prospects that went nowhere.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

#491 - Doyle Alexander

Card fact: I could be wrong, but I think this is Doyle Alexander's last card without him featuring his trademark mustache.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. I feel robbed every time there's a '75 Topps card with an action shot that I didn't see as a kid.

What I think about this card now: Lots of people in the stands today.

Other stuff: Alexander compiled a 19-year career in which he displayed moments of greatness interspersed with periods of plain average pitching. He played for eight teams and produced some memorable seasons, like going 17-11 for the Rangers in 1977, back-to-back 17-win seasons for the Blue Jays in 1984 and 1985, and a 9-0 record to close out the 1987 season with the Tigers.

Alexander was also involved in some of the more notable trades in history. He went from the Dodgers to the Orioles in 1971 in the deal that sent Frank Robinson to L.A. He went from the Orioles to the Yankees in the deal that brought Tippy Martinez, Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor and Rudy May to Baltimore. He's also been traded for John Montefusco, Duane Ward, and of course, John Smoltz. The Smoltz deal in 1987 is why most younger fans know the name Doyle Alexander. It's known as one of the most lopsided trades in history.

Alexander lost a major league high 18 games in his final season in 1989. He also led the league in home runs allowed with 28.

But I know him most for being airbrushed from head-to-toe into a Rangers uniform while on the mound in the middle of Yankee Stadium on his 1977 Topps card.

Back facts: This exact same cartoon question was asked on another '75 card. In fact, it was on Ron Reed's card. At least the cartoon is different on each card.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1951, Mickey Mantle hits a home run estimated at between 654-660 feet during an exhibition game against UCLA at Bovard Field. The ball clears the field and the width of a football field before landing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

#490 - Reggie Smith

Card fact: This is the first card of Reggie Smith in an actual Cardinals uniform. He's airbrushed into a St. Louis uniform and cap in the 1974 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: It took me a long time to see this card. I didn't come across it until I was trying to complete the set six or seven years ago.

What I think about this card now: It's unbelievably terrific. I feel like I should make a list about all of the things that I love about this card. But I'll restrain myself.

Other stuff: Reggie Smith was one of my favorite players of the 1970s. That makes two straight cards of two of my absolute favorites. As I documented on this post, the first Smith card I saw was his 1976 Topps card, and from that point, I thought he was badass, and I wanted him to play for the Dodgers.

He did end up playing for the Dodgers -- he was acquired in a trade with St. Louis for Joe Ferguson -- and competed in three World Series with L.A. He finished fourth in the MVP voting in both 1977 and 1978, the Dodgers' back-to-back World Series seasons.

Smith began his career with the Red Sox, and finished runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting during Boston's "Impossible Dream" season in 1967. He ended his career with one season with the Giants in 1982. He later played in Japan. He now runs a bunch of baseball camps under the name "Reggie Smith Baseball Centers."

Back facts: The record for slugging percentage in a single World Series is 1.727 by Lou Gehrig in the 1928 World Series. According to, Donn Clendenon does not hold the slugging record for a five-game World Series, even though the '69 World Series was five games and even though the person listed as the record-holder -- Sean Casey in the 2006 Series -- has a slugging percentage of 1.000, which isn't as good as 1.071. So, I'm confused.

Other blog stuff: With this card, the purple-pink border combo crosses the 40 mark. Orange-brown is the only other color combo to do that so far. Soon, I'll be doing an inventory on how all the border combinations rank.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#489 - Cecil Cooper

Card fact: There is not a happier card in the set. Really. I checked.

What I thought about this card then: Oh my goodness, it might have been my favorite card in the whole set at one point. I absolutely loved it. Cecil Cooper was at the start of his career at this point, but I thought he was going to be a superstar. I had nothing to base this on except hope and a smile. It turned out, I was pretty on target. Maybe he wasn't a superstar, but he had a great career.

What I think about this card now: Love the palm trees.

Other stuff: Cooper was a sweet-swinging first baseman who started out with the Red Sox but made his biggest impact with the Brewers. He was dealt to Milwaukee, along with Bernie Carbo, in the deal that returned George Scott to the Red Sox.

In 1980, Cooper hit .352 and finished second in the A.L. in batting average because George Brett hit .390 (I was rooting for Cooper the whole way). Cooper was an RBI machine for Milwaukee, driving in more than 120 runs three separate times. He also finished his career with 415 doubles and finished in the top 10 in the MVP race four times.

After his playing career, he coached in the Brewers' organization. In 2007, he replaced Phil Garner as interim manager for the Astros and managed the team for a couple of years.

Back facts: Goodness, that might be the most offensive cartoon in the whole set. And why couldn't they write "Sadaharu" Oh?

Other blog stuff: I was surprised to see that I had not scanned the original Cooper card that I pulled out of a pack in '75. I just checked and apparently I don't have that card anymore. I have no idea where it went as I'd never trade it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#488 - Bill Travers

Card fact: This is Bill Travers' rookie card. Or "Billy Travers," as he apparently preferred.

What I thought about this card then: I did not see it.

What I think about this card now: Please note the Oakland A's in the background. And note the pained expression on Travers' face as he looks to the stands for help in facing the World Champion A's.

Now look at Travers' card from the 1976 Topps set.

The guy needs help facing the A's! He's been looking for a year now! Somebody HELP HIM!

Other stuff: Travers pitched most of his career for the Brewers. He struggled with arm problems in the minors, but emerged with Milwaukee in 1974. A forkball helped him stake a spot in the rotation, and he enjoyed a few solid seasons with the Brewers. He went 14-8 in 1979 and 12-6 in 1980.

After the 1980 season, he signed a free agent deal with the Angels. But arm problems struck again and Travers pitched in only 14 games over three seasons for the Angels, ending his career in 1983.

Travers later played on the candlepin bowlers' circuit in Massachusetts, his home state.

Back facts: A "bottle bat" is a bat that doesn't taper from the end to the handle. The bat's body is all one width and wide, like a bottle. It then ends suddenly at the "bottle neck," where the handle begins. It's almost as if the bat is two separate pieces. It's strange. But then again, so is the name "Heinie."

Other blog stuff: Happy 67th birthday to George "Boomer" Scott, born today in 1944. He didn't use no bottle bat.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

#487 - Astros/Preston Gomez

Card fact: The 1974 season was Preston Gomez's first with the Astros, although he does have a card as an Astro in the '74 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. The people were so tiny!

What I think about this card now: Look at the man standing second from the left. Is he wearing a tuxedo?

Other stuff: Gomez lasted less than two years with Houston. After finishing fourth in the National League West in 1974, the Astros plunged to last in 1975 and Gomez was replaced by Bill Virdon.

Back facts: Both Ken Boswell and Jose Cruz are listed on the Astros checklist even though neither of them played for Houston in 1974. Both are airbrushed into their Astros uniforms (wait until you see the Cruz card).

Other blog stuff: Time to see where the Astros rank in terms of how well Topps represented the '74 Astros team in the '75 set.

The Astros used 35 players in 1974. Topps provided cards of 26 of them. That includes three players who were featured with their new teams, Bob Gallagher (Mets), Ollie Brown (Phillies) and Claude Osteen (Cardinals).

Topps didn't miss anyone significant from the '74 team. Johnny Edwards wasn't featured, but he caught in 50 games for Houston in the final season of his career.

So, 26 of the 35 players were featured for 74.29 percent, which is the same percentage as the Dodgers. Here is where the Astros rank:

1. Twins 81.25% of players featured
2. Tigers 78.37%

3. Orioles 78.13%
4. Dodgers 74.29%
4. Astros 74.29%
6. Giants 71.43%
7. Indians 71.11%
8. Royals 70.59%
9. Red Sox 70.27%
10. Angels 68.89%
11. Expos 68.29%
12. Brewers 66.67%
13. Cardinals 65.12%
14. White Sox 65.0%
15. Phillies 62.5%
16. Mets 62.16%
17. Pirates 61.5%
18. Padres 55.8%

Monday, March 21, 2011

#486 - Ray Fosse

Card fact: Well, it's not much of a fact, but I challenge you to find two back-to-back cards that feature more memorable mustaches than this one and the previous card.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had this card, and we thought it was amazing. Snidely Whiplash had his own card!

What I think about this card now: It's even more amazing. The A's green-and-gold uniforms were lost on us kids because everyone wore wacky uniforms in the '70s. But 35 years have passed and I now realize how fortunate we were to see ballplayers running around in those things.

Other stuff: Ray Fosse is most known for getting bowled over by Pete Rose on the final play of the 1970 All-Star Game. The play is blamed for ruining Fosse's career, but the fact is there was plenty of blame to go around throughout his career.

Fosse was injury prone and always seemed to find his way off the field. He was leveled by Jim Rice in another home plate collision late in his career. In 1974, he suffered a back injury trying to break up a fight between teammates Reggie Jackson and Bill North. But in between all the injuries he was known as a tremendous handler of pitchers. Before his '74 injury, he was the A's top catcher, helping pitchers like Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman and Catfish Hunter lead Oakland to a dynasty.

Fosse came to the A's in a trade with Cleveland that sent George Hendrick to the Indians. Fosse later returned to Cleveland, and also played for Milwaukee and Seattle before ending his career in 1979. After his playing days, he became a broadcast announcer for the A's, and still announces Oakland games.

Back facts: Spider Jorgensen was the Brooklyn Dodgers' starting third baseman during his rookie year in 1947. The Dodgers won the pennant that year. But Jorgensen would never come close to playing that well again and was out of the majors by 1952.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1968, Kansas City's new baseball franchise was named. The Royals were born. They're going to be good again. You just wait.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#485 - Sparky Lyle

Card fact: This was the second-to-last Yankee card I needed for the set. The last was Graig Nettles. Why do I specifically remember the Yankees? Because they're so blasted difficult to land where I live.

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

What I think about this card now: There is an "8" hanging from the fence in the background. I'm wondering if that is an "8" for the retired number of Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. Or maybe it's just a distance marker.

Other stuff: Sparky Lyle was one of the greatest relief pitchers of his time. He was so good in 1977 that he won the Cy Young Award, which rarely happened at the time. But that didn't stop the Yankees from acquiring Rich Gossage to be the Yankees' new closer, eventually pushing Lyle out the door.

Lyle became famous outside of baseball for writing "The Bronx Zoo" in 1979, a tell-all book about his Yankees teammates during their 1977 and '78 championship seasons. It was the first book of its kind that I ever read -- I read it when I was 13 or 14 -- and a real eye-opener into what happened behind the scenes on baseball teams. Especially that part about sitting on birthday cakes.

Before he came to New York, Lyle was a successful closer for the Red Sox. He was dealt to the Yankees for Danny Cater prior to the 1972 season, which proved to be a terrific deal for New York.

After Lyle's Yankee days ended in '78, he went to the Rangers, Phillies and White Sox but didn't have the kind of success he had with New York.

After his career, he made plenty of appearances around the country and managed for a little bit. He even showed up in our town to pitch in a charity event before a minor league game. A guy I worked with hit a double off of him. I believe it was the only hit Lyle gave up in three innings of work.

Back facts: Lyle's entrance song was indeed Pomp and Circumstance, which I know as the graduation march. It seems like an odd thing to play when a reliever enters the game, but that's what they played.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1931, Hal Linden was born. Barney Miller was my all-time favorite show at one point. I miss sitcoms.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

#484 - Glenn Beckert

Card fact: This is the final Topps card of Glenn Beckert issued during his career.

What I thought about this card then: This is another card that I remember pulling during a family vacation in Western New York. I remember being struck by how tiny Beckert was (although it was only because the photographer took the shot from so far away) and also by how tiny Beckert's bat was.

What I think about this card now: I like the shadow underneath Beckert's signature. It's cool.

Other stuff: Beckert started out with the Red Sox, but came up to the majors with the Cubs. He teamed with Don Kessinger to form the Cubs' middle infield combination during the 1960s and early '70s (I still confuse the two).

Beckert was a four-time all-star, a good fielder, and seldom struck out. He finished third in the National League in batting average in 1971, and really piled up the hits during his career. If it had lasted more than 10 years, he could've been among the all-time hits leaders at the rate he was going.

After that '71 season, his output declined and he was traded to the Padres in 1973. Beckert was merely a backup for San Diego, and he retired in 1975. After his career, he worked as a commodities trader.

(EDIT: Beckert died at age 79 on April 12, 2020).

Back facts: My, what a violent cartoon.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1975, the movie "Tommy" debuted. This is another one of those movies from that time that weirded me out when I was a kid.

Friday, March 18, 2011

#483 - Steve Ontiveros

Card fact: This is Steve Ontiveros' first solo card. His rookie card is one of those four-player cards in the 1974 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the most memorable cards of my first year of collecting. I pulled this card after one of my trips to the drug store, and it was always a favorite.

What I think about this card now: As a kid, I never noticed the person behind Ontiveros in the photo. But I do now. I'm not positive on the ID of the player. It doesn't appear to be a Giant because of the color scheme. But if it is a Giant, a pitcher by the name of Don Rose wore the number 41.

However, because of the color scheme, I'm saying it's either a Padre or a Pirate. There was no one who wore the No. 41 on the Padres (unless it was a coach). But the Pirates did have a player who wore No. 41. It was pitcher Jerry Reuss. And he certainly was goofy enough to wear a sun hat during a game. So I'm hoping that's who it is.

Ontiveros has another classic card in the 1976 set. He's charging around third base with Mike Schmidt in the background.

Other stuff: Younger fans remember Steve Ontiveros as a pitcher for the Oakland A's. But that's not the same guy. They're not even related.

Ontiveros was an infielder who played for the Giants and Cubs between 1973-80. He didn't get to start regularly until he was dealt to the Cubs, along with Bobby Murcer, in a deal that sent Bill Madlock to the Giants. Ontiveros became the Cubs' regular third baseman, and he had a strong first season with Chicago in 1977.

After playing three more years with Chicago, his career ended in 1980. He went to Japan and played there until 1985.

Back facts: I distinctly remember reading the 1974 stats on the back of Ontiveros' card and thinking he deserved a rookie cup on the front of the card.

Other blog stuff: Here is the card that pulled out of that pack in 1975:

Still no rookie cup.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#482 - Tom McCraw

Card fact: This is the final card of Tom McCraw issued during his career.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had this card. It was one of those cards that I was glad he had. I had no interest in acquiring it.

What I think about this card now: McCraw is airbrushed into an Indians cap. He was purchased by the Indians from the Angels in July of 1974. It appears that Topps left McCraw in his Angels jersey.

Other stuff: McCraw was a first baseman and outfielder for the White Sox, Senators, Indians and Angels. He spent the first seven years of his career with Chicago. He had speed but didn't have a ton of power, which is unusual for a guy who played so many games at first base.

McCraw was the first designated hitter in Angels history. After his playing career, he became a major league hitting coach and worked for several organizations for 30 years, just concluding that phase of his career a few years ago. He was a regular on Frank Robinson's coaching staffs.

Back facts: I really wish that McCraw had seven fewer at-bats for the Angels in 1974. Then all of his listed stats for the Angels and Indians in 1974 would match up exactly. Symmetry rules!

Other blog stuff: After losing a little bit of ground as the overall leader, the orange-brown combination is pulling away again. This is the 45th orange-brown card so far, which is six more than the next highest combination.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#481 - Will McEnaney

Card fact: This is Will McEnaney's first solo Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: The card I had was just as miscut as this one. But I don't recall having a problem with it. Off-center cards were much more common back then, and we barely batted an eye.

What I think about this card now: It's off-center! I need a replacement!

Other stuff: McEnaney is known mostly for getting the final out in both of the Reds' World Series-clinching wins in 1975 and 1976. He also appeared on a pretty famous Sports Illustrated cover at the tender young age of 23.

McEnaney pitched in 124 games in his career, all in relief. After three years with the Reds, he bounced around with the Expos, Pirates and Cardinals, and his career was over before the '80s began.

McEnaney ran a business for several years and most recently was featured in a newspaper article because he was the scoreboard operator for a Class A team for the Florida Marlins.

Back facts: I always thought players were fortunate when they received a cartoon about their team on the back of their card.

Other blog stuff: Here is the McEnaney card I pulled out of a pack in 1975:

Maybe all of the '75 McEnaneys are off-center.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

#480 - Carlos May

Card fact: Carlos May is one half of one of the brother combinations in this set. His brother, Lee May, was featured way back on card #25.

Other brothers with cards in this set are Phil and Joe Niekro, Gaylord and Jim Perry, Graig and Jim Nettles, Bob and Ken Forsch, and George and Ken Brett.

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

What I think about this card now: I love how the player in the background practically GLOWS because of the White Sox's uniform. Please let it be Dick Allen, please let it be Dick Allen, please let it be Dick Allen.

Other stuff: May started off strong with the White Sox, despite getting most of his right thumb blown off during a mortar unit cleaning accident while in the Marine reserves. His incident was a mild childhood obsession of mine.

May was named the Sporting News rookie of the year in 1969, even though Lou Piniella won the actual MLB rookie of the year award that year. May continued to put up decent numbers for Chicago throughout the early 1970s. But by the mid-70s, he was expendable and acquired by the Yankees the day after his birthday in 1976.

May played in the World Series for the Yankees that season, but it was his last hurrah. He didn't play much in '77, and ended his career with the Angels that same year. He then played four years in Japan, and now works in community relations with the White Sox.

Oh, and he's the only guy to wear his birthdate, "May 17," on the back of his uniform. He switched his uniform number from 29 to 17 after his first season.

Back facts: I think Topps was being a little generous giving May a card number ending in zero. May took a downturn in 1974.

Other blog stuff: The No. 1 song in the country on this date in 1975 was "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers. "And I ain't got no worries, cause I ain't in no hurry at all."

Sure would like to be that dude.

Monday, March 14, 2011

#479 - Ken Boswell

Card fact: Ken Boswell is wearing an airbrushed Houston Astros cap. He was traded from the Mets on Oct. 29, 1974.

What I thought about this card then: I was oblivious to the airbrushing job. Also, I can't recall where I obtained this card in 1975, but I did own it. I must be getting old.

What I think about this card now: Not good. One of the least interesting cards in the set. If I can't even remember how I obtained it in '75 -- a year in which I was goofy over every card I got -- then you know it isn't that riveting.

Other stuff: Boswell played second base for the 1969 Miracle Mets, a fact that I didn't know until long after Boswell retired. I associated him completely with the Astros, even though that was at the tail end of his career. He came up with the Mets in 1967 and was playing regularly with them by '69. Boswell was a solid fielder, and in the 1969 NLCS, hit two home runs against the Braves.

Boswell continued to be the chief starter for the Mets through the 1972 season, but his offense tailed off in '73 and Felix Millan took over. Boswell was dealt to Houston for outfielder Bob Gallagher after hitting just .216 in 1974.

He was a backup with the Astros. His career ended after the 1977 season.

Back facts: Boswell's three pinch-hits in the 1973 World Series came in three at-bats. But I couldn't figure out whether he still holds the record.

Other blog stuff: Here is the original Boswell card that I pulled in 1975:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#478 - Tom Burgmeier

Card fact: No fact today. Got to make this quick. I'm losing an hour of sleep ahead of working four straight 12-hour days. Who's the idiot that moved daylight savings time from April to March?

What I thought about this card then: My brother had this card. Tom Burgmeier's pitching pose is very odd in combination with the grin on his face. He's crouched so low and his right arm is pressed so close to his body that he looks like some sort of four-legged creature forced to walk on three legs because his front right leg is crippled. Either that or he looks like he's stuck his head through the hole in one of those life-sized cardboard cutouts, this one set up so you can pretend you're a baseball player.

What I think about this card now: It's a very strange pose. Given how close it is to St. Patrick's Day, I'm almost getting a leprechaun vibe.

Other stuff: Burgmeier was a relief pitcher, mostly with the Royals, Twins and Red Sox, from 1968-84. Out of the 745 games in which he appeared, he started only three games and two of those were in the first year of his career.

Burgmeier was a situational lefty and pretty reliable. He didn't rack up a lot of saves as he often came in during the middle of games. (He did set a Red Sox team mark for lefties with 24 saves in 1980, his only All-Star year). Burgmeier's ERAs were almost always under 3, especially during his years with the Red Sox.

Burgmeier became a coach after his career, but not until the 1990s. He worked as a pitching and bullpen coach, as well as a video coordinator for several teams in the Royals organization. He also worked in the Orioles organization.

Back facts: Ah, the old Fireman ratings. The Rolaids Relief Man points system is a forgotten statistical measurement of the past. It was quite the big deal during the '70s, though.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1960, the White Sox unveiled a uniform innovation that I appreciate to this day. They put the players' last names on the back of their jerseys.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

#477 - Tom Hutton

Card fact: I've got no facts for this card. His eyes match with his uniform. How's that? There's your fact.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. The first card of Tom Hutton's I saw was his 1976 Topps card. He had the white man's afro going. But his hair was so light, it looked gray, so I thought he looked like a little grandpa swinging the bat. I'm sure Hutton would be thrilled by that, seeing as he was 28 at the time.

What I think about this card now: That is one impressive signature. It puts just about every modern day ballplayer's autograph "skills" to shame.

Also, Hutton has already been featured on the backs of two different cards in this set. Same cartoon, but different cards.

Other stuff: Hutton started in the Dodgers organization and had some terrific seasons in the minor leagues, but just couldn't break through L.A.'s lineup. He was traded to the Phillies in a deal for Larry Hisle (Hisle never played for the Dodgers). The Phillies were a lot worse than the Dodgers at the time so Hutton had no trouble breaking through, working as a backup infielder and outfielder with Philadelphia.

Hutton later played for the early Blue Jays teams and finished up his career with the Expos. Since his playing career ended, he's been an announcer for a variety of teams and worked several years for ESPN. I remember him working with the Expos back in the 1980s. Last I knew, he was a color guy with the Marlins. I always see him when MLB Extra Innings has its free preview every April.

Back facts: The Brooklyn Dodgers' games in Jersey City were perceived by some fans as a sign that Walter O' Malley was willing to move the team elsewhere. O'Malley said that wasn't necessarily true at the time -- he was hoping to get a new stadium in New York -- but of course it did end up being true.

Other blog stuff: Jimmy "The Toy Cannon" Wynn was born on this date in 1942. We have yet to arrive at his card in the set. It's a great one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

#476 - Ed Figueroa

Card fact: This is Ed Figueroa's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I apparently didn't like it very much because there are creases all over it. I wish I had scanned it to show its miserable condition.

What I think about this card now: Digging the blue glove. The man should be a Dodger.

Other stuff: First things first. Ed Figueroa was the home starting pitcher in the first major league game I ever saw in person. He pitched for the Yankees at the time, and most importantly, he lost.

Figueroa was acquired by the Yankees from the Angels in the trade that sent Bobby Bonds to the Angels (the Yankees also acquired Mickey Rivers). Figueroa had just had his breakout season in the majors, going 16-13 for last-place California in 1975.

While with the Yankees, he won 20 games in 1976, becoming the first Puerto Rican pitcher to win 20 games in the major leagues. Figueroa continued to be a top-line starter for the Yankees during their years of three straight World Series appearances from 1976-78. His postseason record, however, was miserable. He was 0-4 in seven starts with a 7.47 ERA.

Figueroa ran into arm problems in 1979 and pitched in just 16 games. He was purchased by the Rangers in mid-season 1980, but struggled mightily in Texas. He ended his career rejoining Billy Martin in Oakland, in 1981.

Figueroa, who was first signed by the Mets, and served in the Vietnam War, is the uncle of Astros pitcher Nelson Figueroa. After retirement, Ed started a restaurant in his native Puerto Rico, which he still runs.

Back facts: Figueroa was a busy guy before reaching the major leagues. He was 28 by the time he broke through as a starter/reliever with the Angels in 1974.

Other blog stuff: Players in this set who were born on this date are Cesar Geronimo (#41) and Dock Ellis (#385).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

#475 - Darrell Evans

Card fact: This is the fifth Braves card to feature the light blue-green border color. There have been only 22 cards with this color combination and five have been Braves.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I thought Darrell Evans looked like a tough guy. He reminded me of a kid I knew whose first name also started with "D." He was kind of a tough guy, too. For being 9 years old, anyway.

What I think about this card now: I know Evans is posing as if he's in mid-swing, and in mid-swing one leg is positioned in front of the other leg. But with the way this card is cropped, it looks as if the bat is pulling Evans somewhere he doesn't want to go.

Other stuff: Evans has been called one of the most underrated players in major league history. He was a powerful hitter, a good fielder, and could draw walks. His career lasted 21 years and he accumulated 414 home runs and 1,354 runs batted in. Yet, he's one of the few players with more than 400 career home runs not in the Hall of Fame.

Evans was the first player to hit 40 home runs in both leagues -- hitting 41 for the Braves in 1973 and 40 for the Tigers in 1985. He was a consistent force for three MLB teams, the Braves, Giants and Tigers. But his career batting average was just .248, which likely is the biggest reason -- valid or not -- why he isn't considered for the Hall of Fame.

I've periodically mixed up Evans with Dwight Evans. Not only do they have the same last names and same initials, but their careers spanned almost the same years and almost the same time, and their statistics are remarkably similar. Dwight didn't hit with quite as much power as Darrell (he has a lot more doubles and triples), and he got on base more than Darrell, too.

After his career, Darrell Evans managed and coached in several leagues, most recently in independent leagues in California.

Back facts: Baseball really loves its pie humor, doesn't it?

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1904, New York Giants players left Alabama while being pursued by law enforcement for their arrest after they beat an umpire unconscious during an exhibition game. The players apparently were egged on by manager John McGraw. Those Giants are just no good, I'm telling you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#474 - Luke Walker

Card fact: This is the final card issued of Luke Walker during his career. It's also his only card -- he had eight Topps cards -- in which he's wearing a mustache.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. In fact, until very recently, I had no idea who Walker was.

What I think about this card now: Ah, the slanted field in Oakland has returned.

Other stuff: Walker was a starter and a reliever, mostly for the Pirates, from 1965-1974. His major league career was over by the time this set hit stores.

Walker is most known for his early 1970s performances for Pittsburgh. The Pirates were a playoff contender and Walker received starts in the 1970 playoff series against the Reds and the 1971 World Series against the Orioles. He lost both games. He threw the first pitch in the first World Series night game in Game 4 in 1971.

Walker went 15-6 with a 3.04 ERA for the Pirates in 1970, finishing 10th in the N.L. Cy Young Award voting. His performance declined after the 1971 season. After two more years with the Pirates, he was purchased by the Tigers in December 1973. He pitched mostly in relief during his final season with Detroit in 1974.

Back facts: Walker might have been more popular in the early '70s if he went by his first name. Another Jimmie Walker was making a name for himself starring in "Good Times," which debuted successfully in 1974.

Other blog stuff: The purple-pink border combo moves into sole possession of second place with this card. It is just four cards behind the orange-brown border combination.