Saturday, April 30, 2011

#525 - Tom House

Card fact: This is the last card of Tom House before he donned the white man's afro that appeared on most of his subsequent cards.

What I thought about this card then: The inevitable. That House looked a little nerdy to be playing baseball.

Also, this is another one of those cards that I associate with my brother because it was one the cards he pulled early in '75.

What I think about this card now: I wonder what those two Mets in the background are discussing?

Other stuff: House will forever be known as the player who caught Hank Aaron's record 715th home run in the bullpen at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. He caught it on the fly, which was something that I had wondered for a long time. I thought it might've bounced.

House was a relief pitcher for the Braves, Red Sox and Mariners from 1971-78. Out of 289 games pitched, he started in 21 of them, and most came at the end of his career with Seattle. During his time with Atlanta, he was one of the more consistent relievers in the National League. His ERA in 1974 was 1.93 in 56 games, probably explaining why House received a card number ending in "5" in this set.

After his playing career, House became a noted pitching coach. House studied sports psychology, earning his PhD, and used it during his coaching career. He was a key figure in Nolan Ryan extending his career those years when he was with the Rangers.

Several years ago, House famously confessed to experimenting with steroids during the '70s and said that many pitchers did so during that time. In fact, he said he believed that steroid use has declined since that time.

Back facts: I missed posting on House's birthday by a lousy day. I suppose if you're reading this in California or Hawaii as soon as I post this, then it still is House's birthday. So, I'll cling to that.

The card back says House's ERA in '74 was 1.92. Maybe Topps didn't round up.

Other blog stuff: 1970s actress Jill Clayburgh was born on this date. For those who remember the '70s, she was in a lot of notable films (all of which I was too young to see), and it was sad to read of her passing a few months ago.

Friday, April 29, 2011

#524 - John Doherty

Card fact: This is the only card of John Doherty issued by Topps during his career.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. He reminded me of Moose from the Archie comic books. Who didn't read Archie when they were a kid?

What I think about this card now: That is one impressive display of the single ear-flap helmet.

Other stuff: Doherty's major league career lasted just two years, 1974 and 1975 with the Angels. He was a part-timer first baseman and outfielder. He played in 74 games in '74 and just 30 games in '75. In 1977, he was traded to his hometown Boston Red Sox, but never played in the majors for them.

Doherty is one of two people named John Doherty to play in the majors. The other is pitcher John Doherty, who played for the Tigers in the mid-1990s. I interviewed pitcher Doherty many times during his first year of pro ball in Class A Niagara Falls. I believe the first time I saw him on the roster that year, I thought of the card of first baseman Doherty. Then I probably immediately looked to see if they were related. They aren't.

Back facts: Nothing like seeing a liner screaming toward you in the dugout.

Other stuff: On this date in 1953, Babe Ruth League baseball became known by its current name. It used to be called the Little Bigger League.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

#523 - Tom Paciorek

Card fact: One of the first Dodgers that I obtained in 1975. Steve Yeager and Geoff Zahn were the first, and then it gets hazy after that. But I know Paciorek was in the next group.

What I thought about this card then: I remember noticing the sweat under Paciorek's helmet and that he seemed like he needed to clean himself up.

What I think about this card now: A nice view of Dodger Stadium in the background.

Other stuff: Paciorek was a top prospect when he was drafted by the Dodgers. He was a touted defensive back for the University of Houston and eventually had his number retired by the team. But with L.A., he had trouble breaking through in the outfield and ended up being a platoon-type player.

The Dodgers traded him to the Braves in the Dusty Baker deal. Paciorek received a few more at-bats with Atlanta and hit well his first season with them, but struggled after that and was released twice by the Braves. The Mariners picked him up and that is where he found his niche. In 1981, he hit .326 as a starter during the strike-shortened season and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting.

Paciorek continued as a semi-regular with the White Sox for three years before finishing up with the Mets and Rangers. He played for 18 seasons even though many of those were in a platoon role.

After his playing career, he became a broadcaster, most notably with the White Sox and the Braves. Chicago's Ken "He Gone" Harrelson reportedly hung the nickname "Wimpy" on Paciorek, who was broadcaster through 2007.

Back facts: I'm pretty certain that in 1975 I didn't know what a halfback was or why Steve Garvey was being mentioned on the back of Paciorek's card.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1956, Frank Robinson hit the first of his 586 career home runs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#522 - Gary Sutherland

Card fact: This is Gary Sutherland's debut card as a Detroit Tiger. He skipped around a lot, but he had his best success with the Tigers.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. I had no idea who Sutherland was for decades. He's another guy who was at the tail end of his career as I began to be interested in baseball.

What I think about this card now: Now THAT is a batting cage shot. It's like Sutherland is in a batting cage theme park.

Other stuff: Sutherland was a utility infielder for most of his career except on two occasions. The first was in 1969 during the first year of the Expos. Sutherland was selected from the Phillies in the expansion draft and became the Expos' starting second baseman in 1969. He scored the first run in Montreal history.

Sutherland didn't last long as the starter, platooning the following year, and then losing his job altogether and getting demoted to the minors. After some time in Houston's minor league organization, he was acquired by the Tigers and inserted as their starting second baseman.

Sutherland started at second for the 1974 and 1975 season. His 149 games played with the Tigers in '74 was a career high. He was not great at getting on base -- despite hitting lead off -- but Detroit was pretty much the worst team in baseball in '74 and '75, so they took what they had.

Sutherland ended his career with bits of seasons with Milwaukee, San Diego and St. Louis. He later worked as a scout in the Padres organization and is now in the Angels' front office.

Back facts: Mentioning a minor league feat that occurred seven years into a major league career is not cool, Topps. Not cool.

Other blog stuff: American Top 40 radio host Casey Kasem was born on this date 79 years ago. I spent many a pre-teen Saturday night listening to American Top 40. I am going on record as saying I hated the long distance dedications.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#521 - Dennis Blair

Card fact: This is Dennis Blair's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. The first card of Blair's I had was his 1976 Topps card. It also was one of the first doubles I ever had. Just him and Cliff Johnson in my tiny dupes box.

What I think about this card now: My, what a tall, thin person Blair was back then! For some reason, that didn't strike me on his 1976 card. But it's very obvious here.

Other stuff: Blair was a starting pitcher for the Montreal Expos for a mere two years, 1974 and 1975. He started well, but by 1976, he was back in the minors.

He was traded to the Orioles in 1977 and is airbrushed into an Orioles cap on his 1978 card, but he never played in the major leagues for Baltimore. He emerged back in the majors briefly with San Diego in 1980, but that was the end of his playing career.

Back facts: Hey! A sportswriter cartoon reference! I like that!

The write-up about Blair being "possessed with fine control" is very odd. I suppose it's better than being "possessed" with something else, but I think Topps could have worded it differently.

Other blog stuff: My natural reaction when seeing this card was to equate Blair's appearance in the photo with Herman Munster. But then I read Josh Wilker's post about this very same card. And I read the reaction of one particular commenter. I think I'll just let that thought go ... sheesh.

Monday, April 25, 2011

#520 - Amos Otis

Card fact: The last three purple-pink bordered cards have been of players with a card number ending in a zero. Reggie Smith, Nolan Ryan and Amos Otis.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. The first card of Otis that I saw was his 1976 card. I associate that card instantly with my friend Jeff, who was from Kansas. His family moved to New York and it was my first knowledge of a Royals fan.

Otis was Jeff's favorite player and he raved about him the way I saw no one else do unless they were a Yankee fan. I wondered what a strange world it would be to live in an area where the majority of people were rabid Royals fans (keep in mind, the Royals were good every year then).

What I think about this card now: I like the wide view of the ballpark in the background. ... oh, and the sideburns.

Other stuff: Otis was a central part of the great Royals teams of the late 1970s. He manned center field and received three gold gloves with his easygoing fielding manner that often included the now-standard one-handed catch.

Otis was acquired from the Mets in a deal for Joe Foy that proved to be a horrible trade for New York. Otis proceeded to make the All-Star team four straight years. He finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1978, and hit over .400 against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

In 1980, Otis hit over .400 again when the Royals faced the Phillies in the World Series. Otis played 14 of his 17 seasons with the Royals. He ended his career in 1984 with the Pirates.

Back facts: Why in the world would you capitalize "thefts"?

Other blog stuff: Former Twins and Cubs player Jacque Jones (whatever happened to him?) was born on this date in 1975.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

#519 - Jim Todd

Card fact: This is Jim Todd's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had this card. He would joke that you could look up Todd's nostrils.

What I think about this card now: Let's play a game of "does he really have a ball in his glove?" I think he does.

Other stuff: Todd was a relief pitcher between 1974 and 1979. His best season was in 1975 when he appeared in 58 games for the Oakland A's, went 8-3, and saved 12 games with a 2.29 ERA. He appeared in all three games of the A's playoff series loss to Boston that fall.

Todd never enjoyed another season that strong and was shipped back to the Cubs for the 1977 season. He later pitched for the Mariners and then ended his career back with the A's. He pitched in the minors for the Giants in 1980 before retiring.

Back facts: For a long time, I wondered whether a player would be out if a fielder caught his foul pop in the dugout. I would have saved myself a lot of wondering if I had only looked at the back of this card in 1975.

Other blog stuff: It's a holiday, so I'll take a break from research. Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

#518 - Leo Cardenas

Card fact: This is the second-to-last Topps card of Leo Cardenas issued during his career. Topps listed Cardenas by his nickname "Chico" during the first part of his career. He was "Chico Cardenas" on his cards from 1961 through 1969. Then, Topps listed him as "Leo Cardenas" from the 1970 set through 1976.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. It was decades before I knew who Cardenas was. I'm still not entirely clear.

What I think about this card now: The batting cage is the star of the show in this photo, isn't it?

Other stuff: Cardenas was a starting shortstop mostly with the Reds and Twins. He still has a connection to the city of Cincinnati, making regular appearances at club functions. He enjoyed his best seasons with the Reds and was a four-time all-star there. He won a Gold Glove in 1965.

Cardenas was traded to the Twins on Nov. 21, 1968. He played there through the 1971 season and was a regular part of the Minnesota A.L. West champion teams of the late '60s/early '70s. He closed out his career with the Angels, Indians and Rangers.

Back facts: Pretzel Pezzulo (not "Pretzels") was a pitcher for the Phillies in 1935 and 1936. All but one of his 42 games pitched came in 1935 when he was 3-5 in 84 innings pitched.

Other blog stuff: The pink-yellow border combo is now just one card away of catching the orange-brown combo for the No. 1 spot. Can you feel the excitement?

Sure you can.

Friday, April 22, 2011

#517 - Checklist, 397-528

Card fact: This is the second and last tan-light blue bordered checklist card. There's only one other checklist card left and it is another pink-yellow one.

What I thought about this card then: Probably didn't have it. Probably wouldn't have thought anything about it if I did.

What I think about this card now: For the first time, a checklist card comes along during a rare easy day for me. But I still have nothing to say.

Other stuff: I've got nothing else. Sorry.

Back facts: Topps still hasn't figured out whether it's "checklist" or "check list." I don't think it's going to come to a conclusion by the time the set is over.

Also, the back gives you a look at who is on cards 518-528, which we haven't covered yet.

Other blog stuff: A trio of '70s stars were born on this date. Glen Campbell, Jack Nicholson and Peter Frampton

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#516 - Don Hood

Card fact: This is Don Hood's sophomore card. It looks a lot like the photo on his 1974 card, although obviously not taken in the same stadium.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. First card of his I saw was his '76 card when he was with the Indians.

What I think about this card now: It looks very similar to this card. I'm wondering how the Orioles kept their relievers straight. And, strangely, Hood looked more like Burt Reynolds than Bob Reynolds did.

Other stuff: Hood was a relief pitcher with the Orioles, Indians, Yankees, Cardinals and Royals, lasting 10 seasons through 1983. He received some starts while with Cleveland, but spent most of his time as a middle reliever.

Hood was acquired by the Yankees in a trade with Cleveland. New York reliever Rich Gossage hurt his hand in a clubhouse brawl with teammate Cliff Johnson in 1979. The Yankees responded by shipping Johnson to the Indians for relief help in Hood.

Back facts: All right, this cartoon has me confused and I'm too lazy to figure out definitively whether it's wrong or not. The only Jake Gibbs to play major league baseball was a catcher for the Yankees in the 1960s and early 1970s. He never owned an NFL team, although he was a college football star and was headed for an NFL career as a quarterback before signing with the Yankees. But Jake Gibbs is the only Gibbs to ever play in the majors.

So, either there's some other guy named Jake Gibbs, who went by another first name besides Jake and another last name besides Gibbs, or the cartoon is totally screwed up. And as for that famous NFL Gibbs, Joe, he never played major league baseball.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1898, Phillies pitcher Bill Duggelby hits a grand slam in his first major league at-bat. That feat would not be repeated for 107 years when Jeremy Hermida of the Marlins hits a slam in his first at-bat in August of 2005.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#515 - Manny Sanguillen

Card fact: This photo appears to have been taken on the same day as this one. Must've been pretty chilly down there in Florida that day.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. The first card of Manny Sanguillen's I saw was the electric fireball 1976 card.

What I think about this card now: Sanguillen has several classic cards, but this is not one of them. He looks a little perturbed by what he sees to his left.

Other stuff: Sanguillen was one of the best hitting catchers of the 1970s, part of a renaissance at the position, led by Johnny Bench and also including Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Ted Simmons. In 12 seasons with the Pirates (and one with the A's), Sanguillen hit .296 for his career and was a three-time all-star.

Sanguillen was famed for his free swinging. Vladimir Guerrero reminds me a lot of what Sanguillen used to do. He used to swing at balls that seemed to be a foot over his head.

In 1971, he hit .379 in the World Series against the Orioles, supplying more hits than anyone besides Roberto Clemente. After Clemente's death, Sanguillen was tabbed to replace Clemente in right field, but the move didn't work and Sanguillen returned to catcher.

Sanguillen was famously dealt to the A's for manager Chuck Tanner, who ended up leading the Pirates to the 1979 World Series title. Sanguillen was back with the Pirates by then as Oakland returned him to Pittsburgh one year after acquiring him.

Sanguillen now operates a concession stand at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Back facts: Sanguillen recorded only 35 stolen bases in his career.

Other blog stuff: Today is Dodger manager Don Mattingly's 50th birthday! Win one for the birthday boy today, guys.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

#514 - Jose Cruz

Card fact: Ladies and gentlemen, the second-worst airbrushed cap in the entire set. Rudy May is still the worst, but this is very piss-poor.

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

What I think about this card now: The "H" is so freakishly large and the cap is so freakishly traffic-cone orange that I'm sure an actual cap like that could be viewed from space.

Also, Cruz's signature cites his nickname "Cheo."

Other stuff: Jose Cruz was one of the most popular and effective hitters ever to play for the Houston Astros. I remember him being a pain in the booty to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1980s. He was the one player that I feared on that team.

Cruz started out in St. Louis, but was purchased by the Astros in late October of 1974, necessitating the airbrushed monstrosity. Cruz blossomed with Houston and became very popular as the Astros began to field contending teams in the '80s. I remember Howard Cosell being particularly enamored with Cruz during the 1980 postseason.

Cruz was an All-Star only twice despite three straight seasons of hitting above .300 during the mid-1980s. He lasted 19 years, retiring after part of a season with the Yankees in 1988. He later became a base coach for the Astros for a number of years, only recently departing in 2009.

Cruz's son, Jose Cruz Jr., played for 12 years in the major leagues.

Back facts: I'm pretty certain that sinker cartoon has appeared in other years of Topps sets.

Other blog stuff: OK, it's not Jose Cruz's birthday, but it IS his son Jose's birthday today. The former Mariner, Blue Jay, Giant, Diamondback, Red Sox, Dodger, Padre and Astro is 37 today.

Monday, April 18, 2011

#513 - Dick Pole

Card fact: This is Dick Pole's solo debut. ... I'm sorry, everything I write in this post is going to sound dirty.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had this card, since he was a Red Sox fan. We were oblivious to the name. We though his long straight hair was strange. Definitely dude-looks-like-a-ladyish. A real ugly lady.

What I think about this card now: I posted this card on a Monday. Because I thought you might need a laugh. Because I'm here for you, the reader. You're welcome.

Other stuff: Dick Pole, of course, goes in the baseball names Hall of Fame, if such a Hall of Fame was constructed by 11-year-old boys (or, ahem, immature collectors). I find it remarkable that he was able to operate in the public eye for so long with a name like that. It's truly admirable.

Pole began as a Red Sox prospect and started and relieved for Boston. His career was altered when he was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of the Orioles' Tony Muser in June of 1975. The liner broke his jaw and damaged the retina in his right eye, eventually costing him most of the vision in the eye.

Pole later was drafted by the expansion Mariners and pitched two years for Seattle in 1977 and 1978. After that, he pitched in Mexico. He later made a name for himself as a pitching coach, mostly with the Cubs and the Giants, but he coached for a number of teams over two decades. He was most recently a coach for Cincinnati through the 2009 season.

Back facts: Pole could have been known as "Richard Pole," but don't think that people would have grown wise to his disguise. Good for him, going by Dick. He wasn't afraid to whip it out there ... I know, I should have more self-control than that.

Other blog stuff: I'm pretty sure that the whole fascination with Dick Pole and Pete LaCock came from this post. I could be wrong. Worth a read though.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#512 - Larry Milbourne

Card fact: It's been 178 cards since the last rookie cup card. That's the biggest gap between rookie-cuppers, with only one more rookie cup card to go.

What I thought about this card then: A little intrigued, a little freaked out by this Milbourne fellow. As a 9-year-old, I thought he was very distinctive. With the exotic sideburns and the helmet, he seemed muppet-like to me.

What I think about this card now: Milbourne looks a lot different here than he did for most of his career. After this card, he lost the crazy burns, grew a mustache and seemed ready to be accepted by society. With this card, I'm not so sure.

Other stuff: Milbourne may have won the Topps rookie cup, but he was not much more than a utility player for his entire 11-year career. He bounced from the Astros to the Mariners to the Yankees to the Twins to the Indians to the Phillies. He also had repeat stays with the Yankees and Mariners. He reached more than 400 at-bats in a season only once, in 1982, when he played for three teams.

Milbourne did play well enough for the Yankees to win plenty of playing time in the 1981 postseason. He hit .462 in New York's ALCS victory over the Oakland A's, and played in all six games for New York in its loss to Los Angeles in the World Series.

After his career, Milbourne managed in the low minors in the early 1990s.

Back facts: Milbourne's "fine rookie campaign" consisted of 36 hits and nine RBIs. It was so impressive that Topps didn't make another card of Milbourne until the 1978 set.

Also, as a kid, I thought you could actually hit in a major league game by holding your bat upside down. Thanks to this cartoon.

Other blog stuff: We just need an outfielder to complete our All-Rookie team:

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

Saturday, April 16, 2011

#511 - Rangers/Billy Martin

Card fact: Let's see if I can convince myself that Billy Martin is wearing Rangers garb in the inset photo. He is airbrushed into a Rangers cap in the 1974 set. This cap looks more realistic, but the jersey almost looks like a road Twins jersey. Martin was manager of the Twins in 1969, but I don't believe he had facial hair at the time. And why would Topps drag out a five-year-old photo of Martin, especially when he managed the Tigers from 1971-73? So I'm saying Martin is definitely wearing a Rangers get-up.

What I thought about this card then: Just like the last team card featured, the Astros, I had this card in mini form. No thoughts other than it was itty-bitty.

What I think about this card now: The Lone Star scoreboard rules. Also, I believe Jim Bibby and Fergie Jenkins are book-ending the back row. They always grow pitchers bigger.

Other stuff: The Rangers had their first real encounter with contention in 1974, thanks to Martin's first full season with the team. Texas finished second in the A.L. West after being dead last in 1972 and 73. The Rangers were third in 1975, but Martin didn't make it to the end of the season. He was fired when the Rangers got off to a 44-51 start.

Back facts: There is not one thing out of place on this checklist. No misspellings, players out of order, unlisted players. Nothing. Probably not the first one in the set, but there's probably only been 5 or 6.

Other blog stuff: Here is where we see how well Topps represented the 1974 Texas Rangers.

The Rangers used 38 players to get out of the basement in 1974. Topps featured cards of 25 of those players. That includes Alex Johnson, who is airbrushed into a Yankees cap in the 1975 set. Nobody significant from the team was overlooked. Catcher Duke Sims, at the end of his career, had the most at-bats of players not featured with 118. There were an awful lot of fringe players on the team, though.

So that puts Texas at 65.8 percent, which is in the bottom third of the list so far:

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. Rangers 65.79%
14. Cardinals 65.12%
15. White Sox 65.0%
16. Phillies 62.5%
17. Mets 62.16%
18. Pirates 61.5%
19. Padres 55.8%

Friday, April 15, 2011

#510 - Vida Blue

Card fact: Possibly the most representative card of the entire 1970s. The most colorful card set of its time, featuring the most colorful team of its time, featuring the most colorful name of its time. You can't get more colorful than this card.

What I thought about this card then: I saw it on my first trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame. One of the exhibits was a display of every baseball card from the 1975 set, since it was the most recent Topps set at the time. I saw the Vida Blue card for the first time and was mesmerized. I eventually ordered it through a catalog because I could not stop thinking about it.

What I think about this card now: The photo is one of the most majestic in the set, right up there with the Nolan Ryan record-breaker card.

Other stuff: I could write for a long time about Blue, but I'll whittle his career accomplishments down to his break-out 1971 season (24-8, 1.82 ERA, Cy Young Award and MVP), the fact that he is the only pitcher to start for both the American and National leagues, that he is a three-time World Series champion, and he was one of the hardest-throwing left-handers to ever play the game.

My first association with Blue is pulling the 1971 MVPs card from the 1975 set out of one of the first packs I purchased. But my first recognition of who Blue was didn't happen until 1976 when commissioner Bowie Kuhn prevented A's owner Charlie Finley from selling Blue to the Yankees. I remember reading about the saga in the newspaper.

Blue later hit the paper for his involvement with drugs, testifying in the Pittsburgh drug trials. After his career ended in 1986, he started to work in the community, and has worked for several charitable causes. At one point in the early 1990s, he came through my area of the country to speak in his wife's hometown. I don't know if Blue is still married to this woman, but I always thought it odd that someone from a hick northern town would be married to Vida Blue.

Back facts: Nobody wore a glove until 1875??? It's a wonder this game ever caught on. Charles Waite was a first baseman for the Boston Red Stockings. He wore a flesh-colored glove so no one would notice.

Also, regarding Vida Blue's sparking 1-0 shutout: I think it would've been more impressive if he was behind hitters throughout. Otherwise, it's redundant.

Other blog stuff: The pink-yellow border combination is now within two cards of catching overall color combo leader, orange-brown. I never would have figured pink-yellow would have the most cards in the set, but it could happen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

#509 - Dave Hilton

Card fact: This is the second straight card of a player wearing a batting helmet. I suppose you're wondering if that's the first time that's happened. Nope. It happened once before. Card #375, Roy White, and Card #376, Steve Yeager.

I look so you don't have to.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I had a lot of mini cards of Padres for some reason. They were a mini kind of team.

What I think about this card now: It's a card I've had some difficulty finding well-centered. The previous Hilton card I had was WAY off.

Other stuff: Dave Hilton's career spanned just 1972-75, but he's featured on two notable cards. The first is his rookie card in the 1973 Topps set (he is referred to as "John Hilton." He shares it with Mike Schmidt, so it's better known as Mike Schmidt's rookie card. Also, I prefer to call it "Ron Cey's second-year card," because my favorite player, Cey, is the third player on that card.

The other notable Hilton card is his 1977 Topps card in which he's airbrushed into a Blue Jays uniform as expansion Toronto acquired him in October of 1976 from the Padres. But Hilton never played in the majors for the Blue Jays. In fact, his final major league season was 1975, two full years before his 1977 Topps card came out. Oops.

Hilton played his entire major league career with San Diego, never playing in more than 74 games in a season and hitting .213 for his career. He played in Japan in the late '70s, then return to the U.S. for a couple more minor league seasons. He later worked as a coach with the Brewers and managed in the minors.

(EDIT: Hilton died at age 67 on Sept. 17, 2017)

Back facts: Hugh "One Arm" Daily lost his left hand in a gun accident. He was a standout pitcher in the 1880s and a fan favorite. But he was a hot-headed, cranky son-of-a-gun who switched teams often because he was uncontrollable.

Other blog stuff: Pete Rose is 70 years old today. Can you believe it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#508 - Bob Hansen

Card fact: This is Bob Hansen's one-and-only Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. Never heard of the man.

What I think about this card now: Hansen has a vaguely maniacal look about him even though a more rational person would pass it off as enthusiasm combined with a sweaty brow. It's quite a memorable card for your only card.

Other stuff: Hansen was a pinch-hitter and first baseman for the Brewers in 1974 and 1976. He was drafted by the Seattle Pilots in 1969. After spending several years in the minors, he finally came up with Milwaukee in '74 and contributed a .295 average in 88 at-bats.

Hansen never made it out of the minors in 1975. He was back with Milwaukee in '76 but hit just .164 in 24 games. That was the end of the majors for him.

Back facts: It looks like Don Zimmer slobbered some tobacco juice on the back of this card.

What an odd cartoon. Zimmer wasn't the only one who chewed tobacco in the majors. Granted, Zim usually looked like he had an excess amount in his mouth.

The bio reads like Topps is straining for words in order to fill space.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1980, the Kansas City Royals fielded the first "Q" battery. Dan Quisenberry pitched and Jamie Quirk caught.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#507 - Tom Carroll

Card fact: This is Tom Carroll's rookie card. He was featured on just two cards by Topps, 1975 and 1976.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. So, this is one of those cards that to this day  looks right only in mini form. The regular size looks too LARGE.

What I think about this card now: I never understood the collared look with the uniform jersey.

Other stuff: For a long time, I thought Tom Carroll was related to fellow Reds pitcher Clay Carroll, but he's not.

Carroll had a two-year major league career with the Reds. He pitched in 28 career games, going 8-4 in 125-plus innings. After two years with Cincinnati, he spent all of 1976 in the minors. He was then traded to the Pirates but didn't make the majors and retired soon afterward.

Carroll later became an analyst for some engineering/information technology corporation. I won't go deeper into it than that because his job profile makes my head hurt. It's safe to say he's a pretty smart dude.

Back fact: The cartoon might look a little familiar to you if you read my other blog. I used this cartoon -- altered, of course -- and placed it on the sidebar.

Here it is. All professional-like and everything:

Other blog stuff: I recently went to a card show and upgraded a handful of '75s. Some of the off-center cards look OK in person, but are glaring on the blog. I don't plan to scan these new cards in place of the ones I have on the blog already, so I'm not sure why I'm mentioning it here.

But I suppose if it has to do with '75s then it should be mentioned here. So here are the upgrades:

Collecting the 1975 set never ends.

Monday, April 11, 2011

#506 - Leron Lee

Card fact: I am not convinced that Leron Lee is not airbrushed into an Indians uniform on this card. If there is airbrushing it appears almost imperceptible. The uniform looks like an actual uniform and the cap looks like a real Indians cap. It doesn't seem possible that they were airbrushed. But the stadium background makes me suspicious. It seems to be the same background that is on his 1974 Topps card, when he was with the Padres. If that's the case, then why would a player in the American League be in a National League stadium?

Lee was obtained off waivers by the Indians on March 28, 1974, which seems like plenty of time for Topps to obtain a photo of Lee as an Indian. But that wasn't always the case in the '70s.

What I thought about this card then: This was one of the cards that I obtained early on in my first year of collecting. Probably not in those first packs I purchased, but not long afterward. Wait until you see the condition of the original.

What I think about this card now: It appears, by his signature, that Lee should have been referred to as LeRon Lee. But that's not how his name appears in the record books.

Other stuff: Lee was mostly a part-time player for the Cardinals, Padres, Indians and Dodgers between 1969-76. His biggest claim to fame may have been breaking up a Tom Seaver no-hitter in the ninth inning with a single during a game between the Padres and Mets in 1972. The Mets have still yet to pitch a no-hitter.

But Lee drew the most acclaim in Japan. He played there for 10 years after is major league career and is one of the most successful American-born players in Japanese baseball. He owns the highest career batting average by a Nippon Pro player at .320.

Lee later worked as a hitting coach. He is the uncle of Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee.

Back facts: I had no idea who Herb Score and Mudcat Grant were at the time I pulled this card, but I've known the names for more than 35 years.

Other blog stuff: OK, here is the Lee card that I pulled from that pack in the spring of 1975:

I'm sure that made its way into a back pocket at some point.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

#505 - Chris Speier

Card fact: One of the best cards in the entire set. Definitely in the top 10. And that is 100 percent fact. No opinion there. I'm a Dodger fan for crying out loud!

What I thought about this card then: Absolutely loved this card. Would not trade it for anything.

What I think about this card now: Well, he's a Giant, so I hope he's just hit a pop fly out.

Other stuff: Chris Speier had a remarkably long career, lasting from 1971-89. He started his career with the Giants and ended it with the Giants. In between, there was an eight-year period with the Expos, and bit parts with the Cubs, Twins and Cardinals.

Speier started out as a hot-shot youngster with San Francisco and made his only All-Star teams in the second, third and fourth years of his career. But he settled into a pattern as kind of a mediocre hitter. His main attributes were a strong glove and decent walk totals. He hit .246 for his career.

After he was done playing, he coached and managed for several minor league teams in the Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks, A's and Brewers systems. Most recently, he has been the bench coach for the Reds.

Speier is the father of major league relief pitcher Justin Speier, who last pitched for the Angels in 2009.

Back facts: I suppose if it's a Giant card, you've got to put a Dodger pitcher in a grass skirt. Whatever amuses you.

Also, I don't understand the write-up. What is the 4-6-3 single putout? And why is base hits one word?

Other blog stuff: Presenting the original Chris Speier card I pulled in 1975, which I've also mentioned on the other blog:

Thing of beauty.

Friday, April 8, 2011

#504 - Buddy Bradford

Card fact: This is the second and last card of a player named Buddy in this set. The other was Buddy Bell.

Actually, there is a third player named Buddy in the set. Buddy Solomon was a pitcher for the Dodgers that we'll see when the Rookie Prospects cards show up. But he is referred to by his given name "Eddie" in this set.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. In fact, there was an African-American pitcher named Larry Bradford who pitched for the Braves in the late '70s. By the time I was aware of Buddy Bradford, I assumed they were the same person and Buddy decided to go by his given name of "Larry."

What I think about this card now: It is all kinds of miscut. I might have to search out a new copy at the card show coming up.

Other stuff: Bradford was a platoon-type player for several teams, mostly the White Sox, between 1966-76. He didn't hit for a high average (.226 for his career), but he had some power, which kept him attractive to some teams. The Indians, Reds, Cardinals and the White Sox, for a second time, all traded for him.

After his major league career ended in 1976, Bradford played for a year in Japan. He later became a successful businessman.

Back facts: OK, I am going to say this one time. The final pitch that Don Larsen threw to pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell that was called strike three by Babe Pinelli and clinched the only perfect game in World Series history was NOT A STRIKE. Too close to take? Maybe. But irksome just the same.

Other blog stuff: Today's date produced plenty of baseball breakthroughs. On this date in baseball:

  • The Cardinals debuted their "birds on a bat" uniforms in 1924.
  • Pete Rose made his first major league plate appearance in 1963 (he walked).
  • The Astros and Dodgers played the first MLB game on synthetic grass in 1966.
  • The Royals, Padres, Expos and Pilots all made their MLB debuts and each won in 1969.
  • Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record with No. 715 in 1974.
  • Frank Robinson made his debut as baseball's first African-American manager in 1975.
  • The Mariners registered their first major league victory in 1977.
  • Jim Abbott made his major league debut in 1989.
  • Chan Ho Park was the first Korean to play in an MLB game in 1994 (his team was no-hit by Kent Mercker)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

#503 - Fred Stanley

Card fact: I'll be darned if I go through all of the cards in the set right now, but I'm about 70 percent sure that this is the only card in which the player's position is defined solely as "infield." If you want to prove me wrong, you know what to do.

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

What I think about this card now: My knowledge of Yankee Stadium comes post-renovation, 1976 onward. This photo doesn't remind me much of Yankee Stadium. If the Anacin ad wasn't there (and Stanley wasn't in his home pinstripes), I'd think it was a different park.

Other stuff: Fred "Chicken" Stanley was my hero back in the late '70s when it seemed like every player on the Yankees could hit. Stanley was used as a defensive replacement for New York between 1973-80, mostly at shortstop. He had a very weak bat, hitting .216 for his career. It was a delight to see him in the Yankees' lineup.

Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto loved Stanley because he knew how to play shortstop well. If I remember correctly, Stanley could bunt, too, which also won Rizzuto's blessing.

Stanley also played for the Seattle Pilots (he was the last Pilot active in the majors), Brewers, Indians and Padres before playing for New York. He finished up with Oakland in 1981 and '82. After his playing career, he worked for years as a coach and manager in the minors. He was also the Brewers' assistant general manager. He has been the Giants' director of player development for the last four years.

Back facts: I doubt Stanley received any kind of sense of vengeance from hitting his grand slam against the Brewers. He played for them three years before the grand slam, and as you can see by the stats, didn't get a single at-bat (yes, I do know the Brewers were the former Pilots).

Other blog stuff: Actor James Garner was born on this date in 1928. He's acted on many shows and in many movies, but I remember him from "The Rockford Files" because it was one of my dad's favorite shows.