Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#555 - Al Oliver

Card fact: I'm not 100 percent sure, but this photo could have come from the same shoot as his photo on the 1974 Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. I knew his 1976 Topps card very well though.

What I think about this card now: This is a prime example of a member of the subhelmet hat alliance. It looks a little goofy, but Al Oliver is taking it very seriously.

Other stuff: Oliver was a primary component of the 1970s pennant-winning Pirates teams. He would later become a key member of the lineup for the Rangers and Expos, but I will always think of him as a Pirate.

Oliver was your classic No. 3 hitter from the '70s. With Willie Stargell in the lineup, Oliver was the guy counted on to get on base and supply power, and Oliver could do both. He didn't have a ton of home run pop, but drove in more than 80 runs nine times and had a lifetime .303 average. He led the National League in hitting with a .331 average in 1982.

Oliver was also a solid fielder, known as "Scoop" in his later days when he played first base more than the outfield. After he was traded to Texas (in a four-team swap that landed the Pirates Bert Blyleven), he changed his uniform number from 16 to 0. I don't know why. I always thought it stood for "O," as in "Oliver," rather than the number zero, but I don't know that for certain.

Oliver is often mentioned as a Hall of Fame candidate. Oliver claimed that he was a victim of collusion by baseball owners in the late '80s, and he should have been able to extend his career past 1985, possibly obtaining 3,000 career hits.

Back facts: Oliver hit .321 in 1974 with nearly 200 hits and all Topps could think to write about was some mumbo-jumbo about him being difficult to face.

Other blog stuff: Brooke Shields was born on this date 46 years ago. I cannot think of 1980 without thinking of Brooke Shields and those Calvin Klein ads. She did a number on us 15-year-old boys.

Monday, May 30, 2011

#554 - Rich Gossage

Card fact: You might expect the card to say "Goose Gossage," but card companies didn't start identifying Gossage as "Goose" on the front of cards until the mid-1980s when Fleer and Donruss began doing so.

What I thought about this card then: It seems a little odd to see Gossage without his trademark Fu-Manchu, but not terribly so, as my brother had this card and we were acquainted with Gossage before he went all New York on everyone.

What I think about this card now: Always liked the red White Sox caps.

Other stuff: Gossage was one of the most imposing relief pitchers of his time, part of a new breed of reliever that included Al Hrabosky, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Sparky Lyle. Except for one season when he went 9-17 for the 1976 White Sox, Gossage was a reliever exclusively. He led the league in saves three times, the first time in 1975.

His best seasons came with the Yankees. He was famously signed by New York after the 1977 season, even though the Yankees already had Lyle, who had just come off a Cy Young-winning season in '77. Gossage took over the closer role with a standout '78 and became the Yankees' primary reliever through the 1983 season.

Gossage later pitched for the Padres, Cubs, Giants, Rangers, A's and Mariners until 1994. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. He makes many public appearances and is active in his community in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is where he grew up.

Oh, and one more thing ... George Brett.

Back facts: That is some kind of season he had in 1971 at Appleton.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1982, Cal Ripken Jr. began his consecutive games played streak by starting at third base against the Blue Jays.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

#553 - John Boccabella

Card fact: This is the final card issued of John Boccabella during his career. He didn't play in the majors past 1974.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. My knowledge of Boccabella, and his terrific name, came from the 1969 Topps card, which I obtained with a bunch of other '69s from the older brother of a friend.

When I was completing the '75 set years later, I came across the '75 Boccabella card and couldn't believe he was still playing. The distance between 1969 and 1975 seems like decades to me, because of the age I was in the '70s, even though it's only six years' time.

What I think about this card now: The angle of this photo makes it seem as if Boccabella is floating over the field, like Bjork in the It's Oh So Quiet video.

Other stuff: Boccabella was a career-long backup catcher for the Cubs, Expos and Giants between 1962-74.  He was selected by Montreal in the expansion draft in 1968. His claim to fame with the Expos was basically how the public address announcer pronounced his name when he came to the plate. It was very, shall we say, theatrical.

Back facts: That has to be the slowest route to 320 career hits in history.

Boccabella's two home runs in one inning came against the Astros. It was the sixth inning. He hit the first off of Jim Ray and the second off of Jim Crawford. The Expos scored eight runs in the inning and won 12-8.

Other blog stuff: Sean Spencer was born on this date in 1975. Another Yankee that went nowhere that I had to hear too much about from the New York hype machine.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

#552 - Jack Brohamer

Card fact: It's been 77 cards since the last light blue-green bordered card. The day baseball color combo just climbed out of last place.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. It was one of my first minis. It's pretty beat up now.

I thought Jack Brohamer seemed like a very happy fellow.

What I think about this card now: It still looks like a happy picture. I like the diagonal nature of the signature, too.

Other stuff: Brohamer was mostly a second baseman for the Indians, White Sox and Red Sox between 1972-80. He was a starter for the Indians, working with shortstop Frank Duffy. But when Duane Kuiper came along, Brohamer was dealt to the White Sox.

Brohamer battled for playing time with Chicago as the White Sox had Jorge Orta at second. When the Red Sox acquired Brohamer via free agency, he didn't get to start because the Red Sox also picked up Jerry Remy in the offseason. Remy became Boston's starter at second.

Brohamer returned to Cleveland in 1980 and finished as a bench player. After his career, he worked in his family's sheet-metal business.

Back facts: The triple play mentioned in the writeup happened in the first inning of a game between the Brewers and the Indians. Cleveland pitcher Milt Wilcox gave up a home run to the first batter of the game. Joe Lahoud, then walked Bob Coluccio and Dave May. George Scott singled, scoring Coluccio and sending May to second. Then Don Money came to the plate and lined out to Brohamer at second. Brohamer stepped on second base to force out May who had left second on Money's hit, and threw to first to catch Scott for the third out of the triple play.

The Indians won the game 10-5.

Other blog stuff: May 28 is a big day for night game history. On this date in 1941, the Senators played the first night game at Griffith Stadium, against the Yankees. Five years later, the Yankees played the first night game in Yankee Stadium, against the Senators.

Friday, May 27, 2011

#551 - Larry Christenson

Card fact: I'm fairly certain that the photo for this card came from the same photo shoot as the photo on Larry Christenson's 1974 Topps card.

What I thought about this card then: I valued Phillies cards almost as much as Rangers cards back then. But Christenson kind of unnerved me with his squinty-eyed stare.

What I think about this card now: There is almost a hypnotic effect going on with the glare of the stadium seats over Christenson's left shoulder.

Other stuff: Christenson was a young pitcher with promise in the Phillies organization. Philadelphia needed pitching and brought Christenson and Dick Ruthven up quickly in hopes that it would translate to success. Christenson did eventually prove to be a consistent starter in the Phillies organization in the late '70s as Philadelphia repeatedly made it to the postseason. In 1977, he went 19-6.

Christenson suffered from injury issues during the second half of his career. He had an injury-plagued 1980, when the Phillies went to the World Series. He did manage to start Game 4 of the World Series, but was battered by the Royals in the first inning (I remember it vividly because I was rooting for the Royals -- one of the few times I rooted against the Phillies in a non-Dodger game).

Christenson's career lasted through 1983, and he played entirely for the Phillies. He worked in investing after his career and is now president of Christenson Investment Partners. He does many appearances with the Phillies and spends time with charitable causes.

Back facts: Hey! A night game cartoon! Not very realistic though. There would be a few incidents if you had to field with lanterns.

Other blog stuff: I'm a bit late with this one, but a heartfelt RIP to Paul Splittorff who died earlier this week:

Wherever my childhood friend Jeff is these days, I'm sure he has a heavy heart. He was a favorite.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

#550 - Ralph Garr

Card fact: This photo is a repeat of the photo on Ralph Garr's 1974 Topps card. I didn't realize that sad fact until trying to complete the '74 set six years ago.

What I thought about this card then: It may have been the first time I ever saw a card and thought to myself "I must have this card." I have thought this very same thought perhaps hundreds of times since, but this was the first time.

It was during my first trip to Cooperstown as a 10-year-old. In the basement of the Hall of Fame, there was a display of all of the year's Topps baseball cards. Since this was 1975, all of the '75 cards were on display. Mesmerized, I tried to absorb every last card. I would have stayed there for 12 hours if my parents let me, and I felt like I was rushed the entire time. I didn't even want to look at the rest of the exhibits after seeing this display.

Then I saw the Ralph Garr card. I had never seen anything more incredible in my life. I was both in awe and jealous as hell that I did not have that card, or even knew anyone who had it. But I made it my mission to obtain the card. It was one of the first cards I ever sent away for in a mail-order catalog.

What I think about this card now: It's one of the milestone cards in my collection. I still think it's better than the '74 card, but I remain disappointed that it is a reused, albeit closer-cropped, photo.

Garr has been a key player throughout my early collecting life. His 1976 card, in which he's portrayed laughing in the dugout, is another childhood favorite. And his 1980 card was the last one I needed to completed the set.

Other stuff: Ralph "The Roadrunner" Garr was known for two things on the baseball field, hitting for a high average and stealing bases. He led the National League in hitting with a .353 average in 1974, and had 149 hits by the time the All-Star Game was played that year. He finished second in the NL in batting two other times with the Braves, and was the league-leader in triples in 1974.

Garr became the Braves' top-paid player in 1975, but the arbitration process was a bit ugly. Garr's season in '75 wasn't as good as the one prior, and the Braves made good on trade rumors by dealing him to the White Sox for Ken Henderson, Dick Ruthven and the famed Ozzie Osborn.

Garr hit .300 twice for the White Sox, then his skills began to decline. He played a little more than a year with the Angels before being released. He has been a scout for the Braves for a number of years.

Back facts: I never liked that cartoon. It's like it is implying that Mike Marshall didn't deserve the award.

Other blog stuff: On this date, 72 years ago, Brent Musberger was born. I cannot believe I have been watching this guy announce sports for 36 years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

#549 - Bill Butler

Card fact: The original Billy Butler! ... Actually, there was another Bill Butler besides this guy and the current Royals designated hitter. He was an outfielder for the 1884 Indianapolis Hoosiers of the American Association.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. For some reason, I could never get it in my head that Butler was a pitcher. I always thought he was a hitter. And that was long before the current Billy Butler came along.

What I think about this card now: It looks like Butler has just spotted his nemesis across the way.

Other stuff: Butler pitched for seven seasons for the Royals, Indians and Twins. He was an original Royal, going to Kansas City from the Tigers in the expansion draft. He started 29 games for Kansas City in that first year in 1969, going 9-10.

Butler moved between the majors and minors the next four years, getting dealt to Cleveland in 1972. When he arrived in Minnesota in 1974, he seemed to find a spot in the majors for good, getting the occasional start for the Twins in 1974 and 75.

Butler was back in the minors in '76 and traded to the Dodgers in 1977, but he never played for Los Angeles and retired the next year. He finished with a 23-35 record and a 4.21 ERA in 134 games.

Back facts: Gee whiz, is that what 16-year-olds looked like in 1975?

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1951, Willie Mays made his major league debut. He was 0-for-5.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

#548 - Charlie Sands

Card fact: This is the final card issued of Charlie Sands during his career. It is also one of three cards in the set of Angels catchers. Tom Egan and Ellie Rodriguez are the other two. All three are posed in catcher's crouches.

What I thought about this card then: Didn't see it. Sands was another one of those players I had never heard of until trying to complete the set decades later.

What I think about this card now: You've got to give Sands bonus points for wearing the chest protector and the shin guards. Neither Egan nor Rodriguez went that far.

Other stuff: Sands was a backup catcher for the Yankees, Pirates, Angels and A's between 1967-75. Sands played in just one game with the Yankees in '67, but stayed the entire season with the big league team because he was a Rule V draft pick-up.

After 1967, Sands didn't play in the majors again until 1971. He had one at-bat for the Pirates in the 1971 World Series.

Sands is also known for catching all 29 innings of what was once the longest game in professional baseball. Playing for the Miami Marlins on June 15, 1966, Sands helped the team beat the St. Petersburg Cardinals (coached by Sparky Anderson) 4-3.

The record for the longest pro game is now the famed 33-inning affair between Pawtucket and Rochester in 1981. But that game was suspended in the 32nd inning and resumed two months later. The 29-inning game remains the longest uninterrupted professional game.

One other thing: Sands was the only major league player by the name of Sands until future Dodger great Jerry Sands was called up to the majors this year. The two are not related.

(EDIT: Charlie Sands died on Aug. 22, 2016)

Back facts: John Summers definitely is known more by his nickname "Champ." Champ Summers would play 11 major league seasons, mostly for the Reds and Tigers and appear in the World Series with San Diego.

Also, the copy writer on this card must have a lisp. I'm pretty certain "missed" does not have three s's.

Other blog stuff: Speaking of Ellie Rodriguez, he turns 65 today.

Monday, May 23, 2011

#547 - Von Joshua

Card fact: This card is among the first five Dodgers I acquired in 1975, although I couldn't tell you how I received it.

What I thought about this card then: Always liked the helmet. It appeared shiny to me.

What I think about this card now: At this point, Joshua already had been featured on four Topps cards, which I think is a little strange considering he had no more than 159 at-bats in any season to that point.

Other stuff: Joshua was a backup outfielder for the Dodgers for five seasons until he was picked up on waivers by the Giants prior to the 1975 season. I became furious at the Dodgers for allowing Joshua to go to the enemy when he proceeded to bat .318 in 545 at-bats for Giants in '75. It's the first moment of hatred for the Giants that I can remember.

Joshua enjoyed three straight seasons as a starter -- two with the Giants and then one with the Brewers. But he returned to the Dodgers in 1979 and became a supporting outfielder again. His final season was with the Padres in 1980.

Joshua was a hitting coach in the Dodgers organization for nine seasons. He also worked for the White Sox, Blue Jays and Cubs. He became the Chicago Cubs' hitting coach in 2009 after Gerald Perry was let go. He has spent the last two seasons coaching for Iowa, the Cubs' Triple A team.

Back facts: The write-up reads like a how-to for beginning hitters.

Lee Smith now holds the longest errorless streak at 546 games between 1982-92.

Other blog stuff: You'll be happy to know that I made it through this post without my nose running all over the keyboard. I know that is TMI, but I just wanted to let you know what I go through for this blog.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

#546 - John Knox

Card fact: This is John Knox's first solo card. He appeared on one of the 4-player rookie cards in the 1974 set.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. Knox is another one of those players that I didn't even know existed until I started to put together the set again in 2004.

What I think about this card now: It's amazing how many of the backgrounds on these cards make the player look like he's the last person on earth. Where is everyone?

Other stuff: Knox played four seasons in the majors, all for the Tigers, between 1972-75. The 1974 season was his best, when he appeared in a career-high 55 games, had a career-high 88 at-bats and hit .307.

Despite a career .274 average, Knox was only a part-time player -- known more for his fielding -- for Detroit. He was also used as a pinch-runner.

Back facts: There is even a baseball card set that commemorates the Mets' trip to Japan in 1974.

Other blog stuff: Former Dodgers pitcher Tommy John was born on this date 68 years ago.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

#545 - Billy Williams

Card fact: You're looking at one of two cards in the set that was purchased for me by my mother. The other one was the Carl Yastrzemski card. My mom went through a very brief phase of buying me cards several years ago. Unfortunately, it stopped as quickly as it began.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. I associate Billy Williams with being with the A's and wearing a mustache, even though that is not how the majority of baseball fans from the '60s and early '70s remember him. But that's what collecting cards as a 9-year-old can do.

What I think about this card now: Williams is airbrushed into an A's cap. It's not a bad job, although I don't think the A's wore electric-green caps. The border colors sure do match with the photo though.

Other stuff: Williams was traded to the A's in October of 1974 after 16 seasons with the Cubs. One of the most beloved Cub players of all-time, Williams enjoyed a Hall of Fame career in which he hit for both power and average. He finished second in the MVP voting in both 1970 and 1972.

Once I figured out that Williams was more Cub than A, I knew him mostly as the guy who Steve Garvey surpassed as the player with the most consecutive games played in the National League (1,207-1,117).

Back facts: A fill-in-the-blank trivia question! That's a first.

Other blog stuff: Let's see regular-sized Billy next to mini-Billy:

Friday, May 20, 2011

#544 - Steve Mingori

Card fact: The orange-brown border combination is back in the lead again with 47 total cards.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But the 1976 Steve Mingori card was a personal favorite, probably because I was influenced by my friend the Royals fan, and the fact that Mingori was left-handed.

The mid-to-late '70s Royals are one of my all-time favorite non-Dodgers eras. So folks like Mingori stand out to me.

What I think about this card now: I like the batter-pitcher confrontation going on in the background. They seem like the only two people on the field (or maybe the pitcher is really an infielder. It's hard to tell).

Other stuff: Mingori's career spanned the entire 1970s, starting with the Indians in 1970 at age 26 and ending with the Royals in 1979. He spent 1973-79 with Kansas City, which was his hometown team.

Mingori became a valued left-handed reliever for the pennant-winning Royals. He threw sort of side-armed, which complemented other righty relievers out of the pen like Mark Littell. Mingori appeared in seven games for the Royals in the postseason between 1976-78.

Mingori worked as a pitching coach with the Blue Jays after his playing career. He died in 2008 at age 64.

Back facts: Well, that's a cool cartoon. According to baseball-reference.com, 11 major league players were born on Feb. 29th, including Pepper Martin, Al Rosen and Terrence Long.

Other blog stuff: OK, this blog is dedicated to the '70s, so this is the only reason I would mention this. On this date 65 years ago, Cher was born.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

#543 - Larry Biittner

Card fact: Larry Biittner returns to a Topps set after being left out of the 1974 set.

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

What I think about this card now: My, what a big glove you have Mr. Biittner.

Other stuff: This is the second straight card of a player who competed for both the Senators and the Rangers. Pete Broberg and Larry Biittner were teammates on that first Texas Rangers team.

Biittner was a good contact hitter, but didn't have much power for someone who played first base. His best season came with the Cubs in 1977 when he played in a career-high 138 games, hit 28 doubles and batted .298. Overall, he played for the Senators, Rangers, Expos, Cubs and Reds.

Biittner's role in the second half of his career was as a pinch-hitter and he became quite successful, finishing 12th all-time in total pinch hits at the end of his career with 95. Biittner was also the first free agent signed by the Reds. Cincinnati famously avoided signing free agents during the late '70s before finally jumping in with the Biittner signing in 1981.

(EDIT: Larry Biittner died on Jan. 2, 2022 at age 75).

Back facts: The information about Biittner being a pitcher is notable because he was once called upon to pitch while with the Cubs in 1977. Chicago trailed Montreal 13-3 when Biittner took the mound. He allowed six more runs, but struck out three batters.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1956, the Pirates' Dale Long hits a home run in the ninth inning against the Cubs. He will hit home runs in each of the next seven games to set a record. It is later equaled by Don Mattingly in 1987.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#542 - Pete Broberg

Card fact: This card marks the debut of Pete Broberg's mustache. It rises to spectacular levels on his 1976 Topps card, but is never the same after that. Some of his latter cards feature him sans mustache or with a more modest one.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card. Like all of the Rangers cards, I thought it was great. Rangers cards with players who had mustaches were doubly great.

What I think about this card now: Still a terrific card. The batting cage in the background adds something extra.

Other stuff: Broberg was a pitching star for Dartmouth College who went straight from college ball to the major leagues with the Washington Senators. He spent two years with Washington and Texas before he was sent down for the 1973 season.

He was back in business in the majors in 1974, although barely (with an 8.07 ERA in 12 games), but a trade to Milwaukee revived him. In his best season in 1975, he went 14-16 with a 4.13 ERA. He played another rocky season for the Brewers, then another one for the Cubs, before ending his career with a 10-12 mark with Oakland in 1978. He was signed by the Dodgers for the 1979 season but released before he got a chance to play for them.

After his career, Broberg went to law school. He's been a practicing attorney in Florida for the last 20-plus years.

Back facts: Well, there's the last minute addition of Broberg's trade to the Brewers at the end of the write-up. I never realized there were so many of those in this set until I did this blog.

Also, Sven is a tremendous middle name.

Other blog stuff: RIP, Mr. Killebrew.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#541 - Roger Metzger

Card fact: The card that features the most squiggles in the player's signature. Look at that thing. I dare you to try to replicate that with an Etch-a-Sketch.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the many cards I received from my friend in my very first trade. Although I should rephrase that as "my very first non-relative trade." I'm sure I traded with my brother before this point.

What I think about this card now: Back on the prairie with the Astros. But Roger Metzger looks happy about it.

Other stuff: Metzger is considered by some as the best shortstop the Astros ever had, which I suppose could be true considering his best competition is Craig Reynolds and a player who never got to fulfill his full potential (Dickie Thon). Metzger was a good fielder and speedy runner. He was a triples machine. But he didn't hit very much at all, batting .231 for his career.

Metzger played eight seasons for Houston, from 1971-78. He started out with the Cubs in 1970, and finished up with the Giants between 1978-80. He famously suffered an offseason incident in which he cut off the tips of four fingers in a tablesaw accident prior to the 1980 season.

Metzger became a school teacher after his major league career.

Back facts: It was all about Hank in 1975.

Also, I'm glad to know that "Roger can always be counted upon to come with the big play." Never mind those stats there then.

Other blog stuff: How about a look at that card I obtained in my first trade?

An oldie but goodie.

Monday, May 16, 2011

#540 - Lou Brock

Card fact: This is the third and final card of Lou Brock in the set.

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

What I think about this card now: It makes me think of how I acquired it. When I was attempting to complete the 1975 set back in 2003/04, the Brock card was one of the first "big cards" from the set that I obtained. I gained it in a trade with a co-worker, and am still amazed by how little he wanted for it, and by how great the card looks. It's in terrific shape.

Other stuff: Well, you all know about Lou Brock, don't you? Saying that he was the bridge between Maury Wills and Rickey Henderson sounds like an insult. So, I'll just say that Lou Brock was THE king of the stolen base when I was a child. He studied the art of stealing more than anyone, and back when I was a kid, they wrote odes to his base-stealing ability. I addressed most of my childhood knowledge of the man in one of the first posts on this blog.

Brock was at the height of his popularity in 1975, after just setting the single-season record of 118 stolen bases in 1974. Of course, he finished with more than 3,000 hits and was a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame. But I think Brock doesn't get a lot of attention these days, compared with some of the past greats.

(EDIT: Lou Brock died at age 81 on Sept. 6, 2020).

Back facts: Topps lobs a softball on the trivia question.

Other blog stuff: The pink-yellow color combination reties the orange-brown color combo for the overall lead with 46 cards each. It's a back-and-forth race now.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

#539 - Jesse Jefferson

Card fact: A couple of days after the pink-yellow border combination pulled even with the orange-brown border combo, orange-brown comes back with its first offering in 52 cards to regain the overall lead with 46 cards.

What I thought about this card then: I did not see it. The first card of Jesse Jefferson's I saw was his 1976 card when he's with the White Sox. Still rockin' the Afro, though. The nice thing about Jefferson's cards is he pitched from 1973-82, and he's featuring an Afro in every one of his cards.

What I think about this card now: It's good to see the tilted background again. A nice wide view of the ballfield falling off the shelf.

Other stuff: Jefferson pitched for nine seasons for the Orioles, White Sox, Blue Jays, Pirates and Angels. With the exception of his first two years in the majors, he had a losing record in every season, resulting in an unenviable 39-81 career won-loss record.

A lot of that came as a result of being on the expansion Blue Jays for the first four years of its existence.

Jefferson led the league in errors committed by a pitcher, twice (1977 and 1981).

Back facts: Have you ever tried to squat while flat-footed? You won't be squatting for long. I think the stance is more a matter of necessity than being "correct."

Other blog stuff: Still waiting for those erased comments to reappear, Blogger. The weekend is half over.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

#538 - Duffy Dyer

Card fact: Duffy Dyer is airbrushed into a Pirates cap (duh!). He was traded from the Mets to the Pirates in late October of 1974 for Gene Clines.

What I thought about this card then: I never saw it. But we thought Dyer looked very goofy on his 1976 Topps card.

What I think about this card now: Wondering who the man in the background is. I'm assuming Dyer is posing there in Shea Stadium with his Mets teammates. But the man in the back looks more like an umpire.

Other stuff: Dyer was your typical "defensive catcher" between 1968-81. He played a supporting role behind Jerry Grote with the early 1970s Mets. He appeared for one at-bat in the 1969 World Series.

With the Pirates, he backed up Manny Sanguillen until Sanguillen was dealt to Oakland. Dyer then teamed with Ed Ott behind the plate. I always thought the Duffy Dyer-Ed Ott combination was the best catching platoon name combo in history.

After Dyer's playing career, he worked as a coach and manager in the A's, Cubs, Twins and Padres organizations.

Back facts: Bobby Winkles was freshly fired from the Angels' managerial job when the 1975 set came out. He led Arizona State to the College World Series title in 1965, a team that included Rick Monday and Sal Bando, as well as Dyer.

Other blog stuff: I believe the site is back up to speed after Blogger's issues, except for the missing comments that Blogger says will be added by the weekend. If you see anything strange, let me know.

Friday, May 13, 2011

#537 - Tommy Harper

Card fact: With this card, the pink-yellow border combination moves into a first-place tie with the orange-brown border combination with 45 cards apiece. Whether this is a pivotal point in the great two-tone color border combination race remains to be seen.

What I thought about this card then: My brother had it. I believe it was a mini card. And it had creases in it.

What I think about this card now: You can't get happier than this card. Sunny disposition, sunny day, sunny border combination.

Other stuff: Tommy Harper played for eight teams during a 15-year career. He made the most impact with the  Reds, Red Sox, and in his one year with the Pilots. Harper broke out with the Reds in 1965, leading the league in runs scored (in 645 at-bats), and was Cincinnati's leadoff hitter for the next three years.

After being selected by Seattle in the expansion draft, he became the Pilots' lead-off hitter. He was the first batter in Seattle history and scored the franchise's first run. He finished the year with a league-high 73 stolen bases, the most stolen bases in the American League in 54 years.

Harper played for the Red Sox from 1972-74, providing a traditionally slow team with speed. He led the league with 54 stolen bases in 1973.

Harper closed out his career with the Angels, A's and Orioles. He later became a coach for the Red Sox and Expos and is still in the Red Sox's organization as a consultant.

Back facts: As you can tell by the notation at the top, a baseball card collector didn't believe that Topps' write-up at the bottom was message enough that Harper was now with the Angels. He or she wrote the team name in pencil, too. (It wasn't me. I purchased this card either at a card show or a collectibles shop).

Harper was traded to the Angels for Bobby Heise, who, interestingly, is airbrushed into an Angels cap on his card. Harper didn't last long with the Angels, being picked up by the A's later in the '75 season.

Other blog stuff: The late George Carlin was born on this date 74 years ago. I tried to type an excerpt of his terrific Baseball vs. Football monologue, but Blogger decided to go on "maintenance" and wiped out the second half of this post. So, I'm not going to go through the effort again. You can blame Blogger.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

#536 - Bob Moose

Card fact: Bob Moose's appearance on this card is in drastic contrast to his appearance in the photos on his Topps cards for the 1974 and 1976 sets. I wonder if this is an earlier photo of Moose, from as early as the 1972 season.

What I thought about this card then: Obviously, I thought it was amazing. A friend of mine had this card. It was one of the few '75 cards that he had (but he did introduce me to the 1972 set). He didn't have a big interest in baseball -- proof of this was he was both a Yankees and Mets fan, which I still am doubtful is possible. But he did like items that stood out, no matter what they were, and this card stood out.

What I think about this card now: Bob looks like he's ready to field a comebacker.

Other stuff: Moose grew up in western Pennsylvania and ended up playing his whole career for his hometown team. He broke in with the Pirates in the late 1960s and busted out in 1969 by no-hitting the Mets in September of that year. He finished with a 14-3 record and a 2.91 ERA.

Moose started and relieved for the Pirates throughout his career. In 1972, he was in the starting rotation, but appeared as both a starter and reliever in the National League Championship Series against the Reds. He didn't fare well as a starter in Game 2. Then in the decisive Game 5, Moose entered as a reliever with two men on and no outs. He retired the first two batters, but then threw a wild pitch that allowed George Foster to score with the winning run.

After the 1973 season, Moose struggled with injury problems for two years. He moved back to the bullpen in 1976, appearing in 53 games, and was ready to be the Pirates closer the following season. But he was killed in a car accident in October of 1976 on his 29th birthday.

Back facts: You can see that Moose pitched in just seven games in 1974. He suffered a blood clot problem in his shoulder and had to have a rib removed to alleviate pressure on a compressed vein. He didn't pitch after late May.

Other blog stuff: If you'll allow me to be morbid, Moose is the 50th deceased player we've come across in this set.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#535 - Gene Tenace

Card fact: Fifteen of the 20 Oakland A's cards featured so far have either yellow or green as a border color.

What I thought of this card then: It was one of my favorites. I pulled it while on a family vacation and it came from my all-time favorite pack purchased in 1975 (the pack also contained Bake McBride and Garry Maddox). For a long time that year, I would keep the cards that I pulled from that pack separate from all my other '75 cards. That pack was special.

What I think about this card now: The lighting makes it almost appear as if the photo was taken at night. But we know there were precious few night cards in the '75 set.

Other stuff: Gene Tenace entered baseball history in 1972 when he homered in his first two World Series at-bats during the A's triumph over the Reds. He would go on to hit four home runs total and was named the World Series MVP.

It was his big breakout season and he continued to be a key part of the A's three straight World Series victories. Tenace alternated between first base and catcher during this period. In 1974, he enjoyed a peculiar season in which he hit .211 in 158 games, hitting 26 homers, driving in 73, leading the league in walks with 110, and striking out 105 times.

Tenace was part of the first big free agent class and moved on to San Diego. He returned to the World Series as a support player with the Cardinals in 1982, and finished his career with the Pirates. After his playing days, he became a coach with the Pirates, Astros, and most prominently, the Blue Jays. He returned to Toronto recently when Cito Gaston returned to manage the Blue Jays.

Back facts: This same cartoon trivia question was used just nine cards ago. Different cartoon, but same question. Sheesh.

Also, Tenace's first name of "Fury" is an apparent Americanization of the Italian "Fiore." I think.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1991, Jose Canseco is photographed leaving the New York apartment of Madonna. Years later, she was hanging out with A-Rod. Madonna sure liked the drug-abusing ballplayers didn't she?

Monday, May 9, 2011

#534 - Alex Johnson

Card fact: Alex Johnson is wearing an airbrushed Yankees cap, as if you couldn't tell. Whoever was given the task of airbrushing players into Yankees caps for the '75 set, had a difficult time.

What I thought about this card then: Never saw it. One of those cards that I saw for the first time when I was completing the set 7 years ago.

What I think about this card now: Is that a scoreboard in the background? I can't tell.

Other stuff: Johnson was one of the most confounding baseball players of the '60s and '70s. A player with enormous talent and a powerful build, Johnson was dealt from team to team because managers and teammates couldn't get along with him.

Johnson played for the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Angels, Indians, Rangers, Yankees and Tigers. His best seasons were with the Reds in 1968 and 1969 and with the Angels in 1970 when he won the A.L. batting title.

But Johnson, who was widely considered as a pleasant and amiable fellow off the field, infuriated his teammates with his on-field play, refusing to hustle on the bases or run down plays in the outfield (his fielding ability was sporadic, especially early in his career). While with the Angels, he was fined and suspended repeatedly. It got so tense that Johnson wouldn't speak to his fellow teammates (he was in reported scrapes with teammates while with the Reds, too). He started shouting obscenities at teammates and the media. After being suspended indefinitely, his cause was taken up by Marvin Miller and the players union. The union's argument was that Johnson was emotionally unstable and the team should have recognized that.

Johnson later finished his career with the Indians, Rangers, Yankees and Tigers. His lackadaisical habits in the field continued to be a problem, and he was out of the majors at age 32. He played a year in Mexico and then took over his father's trucking service.

(EDIT: Alex Johnson died on Feb. 28, 2015).

Back facts: Johnson's brother was a halfback for the New York Giants.

Other blog stuff: The green-yellow border combination continues to be the recent domain of the airbrushed photo. Four of the last five green-yellow bordered cards feature airbrushed subjects. Johnson was airbrushed since he was purchased by the Yankees in early September of 1974.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

#533 - Rudy Meoli

Card fact: This is one of just four Topps cards of Rudy Meoli during his career.

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

What I think about this card now: I have read a number of times now about how this was considered one of the great cards in the set by kids collecting in 1975. I'm sure if I saw it when I was a kid, I would think the same thing. It is an action card during a time when action cards barely existed. Not only that, it is one of the more unusual action cards that you will see -- a batter popping straight up. No doubt the catcher is running madly right now attempting to grab the foul ball.

The combination of the unusually dramatic photo and the yellow-red border made young collectors believe this player was a superstar. All of the yellow-red bordered cards evoked the same belief, since all of the all-star cards also featured yellow-red borders, only with a star for the position instead of a baseball.

Other stuff: Meoli was a backup shortstop for the Angels, Cubs and Phillies. He started out as a potential starting shortstop candidate with California and received the starting job in 1973, but managed to hit just .233 in 305 at-bats. The rest of his career, which lasted until 1979, was as a supporting player.

Back facts: Meoli's six RBIs came in a game the Angels won 19-8. His inside-the-park home run was in the fifth inning with the Angels already winning 16-5. Each starting pitcher in that game lasted two-thirds of an inning.

Other blog stuff: I also have the OPC version of the Meoli card. If you're wondering why I'm not showing the OPC version, it's because I've already done so.