Thursday, June 30, 2011

#583 - Andy Etchebarren

Card fact: This is Andy Etchebarren's final card as an Oriole. He spent 12 season with Baltimore before being signed by the California Angels in 1975.

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

What I think about this card now: One of the cards of Etchebarren that presents him in a kinder light. Some of them (I'm thinking '73-74 and '76-78 Topps) made him appear as if he was Herman Munster's more athletic cousin.

Other stuff: Etchebarren was a fixture behind the plate during the Orioles' peak years of the late '60s and early '70s. He exchanged starts with Elrod Hendricks through much of that time and later teamed up with Johnny Oates and Earl Williams for the O's.

Etchebarren didn't hit much, but he had a decent on-base percentage for a .230 hitter and knew how to draw a walk. And, obviously, he knew something about handling a pitching staff, given who Baltimore had on the mound at the time.

After his career ended in 1978, Etchebarren worked as a coach with the Milwaukee Brewers. He then returned to the Orioles and managed and coached in their minor league system until three or four years ago.

(EDIT: Etchebarren died on Oct. 5, 2019 at age 76).

Back facts: The cartoon reads like Chuck Hartenstein was no longer with us in 1975, or at least retired. But the joke would be on Topps. After seemingly finishing up in the majors in 1970, "Twiggy" returned to pitch 13 games for the expansion Blue Jays in 1977.

Other blog stuff: The movie "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" debuted on this date in 1971. "If she's a lady, I'm a Vermicious Knid."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

#582 - Eduardo Rodriguez

Card fact: One of two players named Rodriguez in the set. The other is Aurelio Rodriguez.

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

What I think about this card now: Rodriguez looks cold. He's all bundled up.

Other stuff: Rodriguez was primarily a middle relief pitcher for the Brewers between 1973-78. He spent his last season in the majors with the Royals in 1979. He played in his native Puerto Rico after that.

Rodriguez died of a heart attack on his 57th birthday two years ago.

Back facts: Rodriguez was born on the same day as my wife. I'm pretty sure she doesn't know who Eduardo Rodriguez is.

Other blog stuff: I like to mention this every June 29th. On this date in 1990, Dave Stewart of the A's and Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers each pitched no-hitters. Only the second time that had happened and the first time since 1917. As a Dodger fan, I was particularly proud because both players came up with the Dodgers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#581 - Darrel Chaney

Card fact: Darrel Chaney is one of only two major leaguers to spell his first name like that. The other is Darrel Akerfelds, a pitcher for the Phillies and Indians, among other teams. I know this is a player fact, not a card fact. But it's all I've got.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But my brothers and I were absolutely horrified by his 1976 Traded card. Mercy.

What I think about this card now: This was one of my more beat-up cards in the set at one point. I've upgraded, but there's still an annoying streak going down the right side of the card.

Other stuff: Chaney was known as a good-glove, no-hit infielder for the championship Cincinnati Reds. He mostly backed up shortstop Dave Concepcion, who knew a thing or two about fielding himself.

After serving in Vietnam in the late '60s, Chaney played seven seasons with the Reds, appearing in three World Series and winning one. He was dealt to the Braves after the '75 Series and enjoyed his first season as a starter at shortstop. He did fairly well in '76, but couldn't hold on to the starter's role. After 3 more years, he was released by the Braves in '79.

Chaney later did some broadcasting work with Atlanta.

Back facts: Regarding the cartoon question: After about the sixth unsuccessful stolen base attempt wouldn't you call it a day?

Other blog stuff: The late, great Gilda Radner was born on this date in 1946. As a kid, when I had a chance to sneak a peak at Saturday Night Live, the comedian who made me think that this skit show was something strange, weird and amazing was not Belushi, Akroyd or Murray. It was Radner. I wish I knew what skit she was in that struck me, but I do remember thinking: "So. This is adult humor. I don't get it. But it's funny."

Monday, June 27, 2011

#580 - Frank Robinson

Card fact: This is the second appearance of Frank Robinson in the 1975 set. He's also featured as the manager on the Indians team card. I'm pretty certain that would have blown my mind as a kid, but I never saw this card of Robinson.

What I thought about this card then: See above.

What I think about this card now: Robinson is airbrushed into his Indians cap. He was dealt from the Angels to the Indians in September 1974.

Also, I enjoy the "Des. Hitter" mention. What could that be? Destitute hitter? Despicable hitter? Desperate hitter?

Other stuff: I forgot to mention above that this is the final card featuring Frank Robinson as a player (except for all the retro cards of the last decade or so). Robinson was named player-manager by the Indians on Oct. 3, 1974. From that point, he was featured on cards as a manager, a second career that would last all the way until a few years ago.

Robinson, of course, is one of the greatest players of all-time, a 500-plus home run hitter, an MVP in both leagues and one of the last Triple Crown winners (1966) in major league history. He played in five World Series. For awhile there, I'd be willing to say he was the most underrated superstar of the last 60 years. I think he's received a little more attention recently, but probably not enough.

Robinson's greatest feats came with the Reds and Orioles (he was famously declared "old" when he was traded from the Reds to the Orioles), but he also played for the Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He came to the plate 185 times as a player-manager for the Indians in 1975-76, getting 43 hits (.232 avg) and hitting 12 home runs.

(EDIT: Frank Robinson died at age 83 on Feb. 7, 2019).

Back facts: These players with a ton of stats really do a number of the clarity of the cartoon question. I believe the question intended to say "Name the only player manager in the major leagues today."

Other blog stuff: Dodger flop Daryle Ward was born on this date in 1975.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

#579 - Skip Pitlock

Card fact: This is Skip Pitlock's second and final Topps card. His other card is in the 1971 set.

What I thought about this card then: No knowledge of it. I didn't have any knowledge of Pitlock either until I acquired this card while completing the set in 2004.

What I think about this card now: The slanted background returns. And those shadows in the bottom left corner look slightly ominous.

Other stuff: Pitlock would pitch to just one more major league batter after this card was issued. He faced Billy Williams of the A's in 1975, giving up a run-scoring single.

Pitlock came up with the Giants and was a starter in 1970, going 5-5. He spent the next three full seasons in the minors, two in the Giants organization and one in the White Sox organization. When he returned to the majors in 1974, he was a reliever, appearing in 41 games for Chicago.

Pitlock was traded to the A's in June of '75 in the deal that landed the White Sox Chet Lemon. Pitlock retired after the 1976 season.

Back facts: It seems to me that the trivia question in that cartoon would be tough to illustrate, which probably explains why you see what you see there.

Other stuff: The green-light green border combination reties the orange-brown combo for the overall lead with 49 cards each.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

#578 - Dave Tomlin

Card fact: This is Dave Tomlin's first solo card.

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

What I think about this card now: Tomlin is definitely airbrushed into a Padres cap and jersey (and doesn't look pleased). But with him not having a previous card (I want to say he was on one of those multi-player rookie cards, but I can't find an example right now), I'm wondering if he's actually wearing a minor league uniform or a Reds uniform, which is the team he was with before the Padres. I'm assuming it's a Reds uniform.

Other stuff: Tomlin was a career-long relief pitcher for mostly the Reds and the Padres from 1972-86. Even though he played 13 seasons in the majors, he had relatively few cards. They spanned from 1975-80.

This is mostly because after 1980, he appeared in only 14 more games with the Expos and Pirates. Before that, Tomlin appeared in 67 games in '75 and 76 games in '77 for San Diego. He was then traded to Texas straight up for Gaylord Perry. Perry went on to win the Cy Young Award for San Diego, while Tomlin was released in spring training and picked up by the Reds.

With Cincinnati in 1978, he went 9-1 but had a 5.78 ERA. Such was life with the Big Red Machine. Tomlin performed better in '79 and appeared in three postseason games for the Reds.

After his playing career, he became a pitching coach in the Expos and Braves organizations. Since 1996, he's been a coach and manager in the minors for the Red Sox.

Back facts: "Dave had 2 saves for Padres in 1974." The Padres were a bad team in '74.

Other blog stuff: Two more key celebrities of the '70s were born on this date. Singer Carly Simon is 66. Comedian Jimmie "Dy-no-mite" Walker is 62.

Friday, June 24, 2011

#577 - John Morris

Card fact: This is the last card issued during John Morris' career. He had only three Topps cards and the one previous to this one is in the 1971 set.

What I thought about this card then: I had/have the mini card. I thought Morris was 48 years old. He was actually around 33.

What I think about this card now: He still looks a lot older than 33.

Other stuff: Morris, not to be confused with the outfielder who played for the Cardinals in the late '80s/early '90s, pitched for five teams between 1966-74. His best success came with the Pilots/Brewers between 1969-71. Morris was selected in the expansion draft of '68 from the Orioles.

Back facts: The "green monster" is one of my favorite cartoons from this set. Also, the back of this card looks unusual without an orange crayon scribble across the monster drawing. My original mini of Morris (I've since upgraded) has the orange scribble, and it's become as much a feature of the card as the green-on-red type.

Other blog stuff: This is the third straight green-purple bordered card. Except for subsets, this is the first time the same color combination has been featured on three straight cards. The streak has pushed the green-purple combination within one of the overall lead.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

#576 - Phil Roof

Card fact: Both Phil Roof and his fellow member of the all-construction team, Tom House, feature green-purple borders in this set. Sadly, Hank "the Hammer" Aaron does not have a green-purple bordered card. And Lenny "Nails" Dykstra was only 12 in 1975.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. I didn't know who Phil Roof was until about 10 years ago.

What I think about this card now: The same thing I think when I see any Phil Roof card: how did this guy hang on for so long?

Other stuff: Roof was your definition of a backup catcher. He played from 1964-77 in the major leagues and except for a couple of years with the Kansas City A's in 1966-67, he was a supporting player. His lifetime batting average is .215. Except for the 1975 season when he hit .305 for the Twins, his best batting average in a season was .235.

So, it stands to reason that he was a pretty good defensive catcher. Roof played for not only the Twins, Kansas City and Oakland, but for the Milwaukee Braves, the Angels, the Indians, the Brewers, White Sox and expansion Blue Jays.

After his playing career, he was a manager in the Twins organization for two decades, retiring after the 2005 season. He appeared briefly as the bullpen coach for Minnesota this season.

Back facts: You just don't see a lot of guys having back-to-back sub .200 seasons in the major leagues these days. Or maybe you do. I'm not really keeping tabs on the backup catchers.

Other blog stuff: A happy 51st birthday to former Astros pitcher Jim Deshaies, one of my favorite interview subjects and a favorite announcer in the Houston area.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

#575 - Gene Clines

Card fact: Gene Clines is airbrushed into a Mets cap and uniform after being traded from the Pirates to the Mets on Oct. 22, 1975. The Pirates acquired catcher Duffy Dyer in the deal.

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

What I think about this card now: Clines had some mean sideburns. They grow even more impressive on his later cards.

Other stuff: Clines came up with Pittsburgh, and his best assets were his speed and defense. He played a part-time role on those perennial pennant-winners. His best season came in 1972 when he hit the crap out of the ball (.334/.369/.421). But he fell quickly after that and was dealt to the Mets.

From there, Clines skipped around from the Mets to the Rangers to the Cubs. His final season was with Chicago in 1979.

Afterward, Clines became a hitting and outfield coach for a number of teams, including the Cubs, Astros, Mariners and Giants. His stay with the Giants coincided with their trip to the World Series in 2002 and Clines was featured prominently, considering that Barry Bonds was one of his "pupils."

Clines is now a senior adviser for Player Development with the Dodgers. His main role is to assist the best Dodgers hitting prospects.

(EDIT: Clines died at age 75 of Jan. 27, 2022).

Back facts: I think Topps is being a little kind giving Clines a card number that ends in "5."

Other blog stuff: Two very key celebrities of the '70s were born on this date. Kris Kristofferson, who I knew at the time as an actor in sappy movies starring Barbra Streisand, is 75. "The Bionic Woman," Lindsay Wagner was born 62 years ago.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that "The Muppet Movie" debuted on this date in 1979.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

#574 - Tony Taylor

Card fact: Tony Taylor returns to the Topps set in 1975 after being omitted from the 1974 set. Taylor was released by the Tigers in early December of 1973, then signed by the Phillies two weeks later, probably too late for Topps to do anything about it for the '74 set.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But I do remember Taylor's last card, from the '76 Topps set. He seemed like a big man to me. But he was only 5-foot-9.

What I think about this card now: Looking at the '76 card, it appears that the '75 and '76 cards came from the same photoshoot.

Other stuff: Taylor was appearing on baseball cards way back in 1958. He came up with the Cubs, but was traded to the Phillies in May of 1960. He became an all-star later that year, and was a regular at second base or third base the next 11 years.

Taylor played for the Tigers in the early '70s, participating in his only postseason series in 1972. He returned to the Phillies to close out his career, working mostly as a pinch-hitter. I vaguely remember the 1976 NLCS and Taylor being added to the Phillies coaching staff because Dick Allen threw a stink about Taylor being left off the NLCS roster.

Taylor later did become a coach and worked as a manager for the Phillies in the minors during the 1980s.

(EDIT: Taylor died at age 84 in July 2020).

Back facts: Another card with lots of stats. There's been a rash of them lately. The cartoon makes almost no sense. Sure, the 1973 World Series lasted seven games, but it certainly wasn't the only one.

Other blog stuff: This is the first purple-pink bordered card in 47 cards. I would've thought this combination would be a contender for the overall title, but it's got to bust a move.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

#573 - Orlando Pena

Card fact: This is the final Topps card of Orlando Pena issued during his career.

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

What I think about this card now: I believe Pena is wearing a Cardinals uniform in this photo as he was traded by the Cardinals to the Angels in September of 1974.

Other stuff: Pena was known as a junk-ball pitcher, but used his variety of pitches to compete in the majors from 1958 to 1975. His first baseball card was in the 1959 Topps set. From that point, his appearance in the major leagues was sporadic. He was used as a reliever with the Reds at the start of his career, but when he went to the Kansas City A's, he became a starter. He lost a league-high 20 games in 1963.

Pena returned to a relief role for the A's and the Tigers, appearing in 50 games a season regularly. But by the late '60s, he was back in the minor leagues. Pena lacks a baseball card from 1969-73 as he bounced between the minors, the Indians, Pirates and Orioles.

He found a spot with the Cardinals in 1974, and enjoyed a renaissance at age 38, appearing in 46 games and registering a 2.21 ERA. He had one more season with the Angels in '75. After his career, he became a scout for the Tigers. Even at age 77, he's still listed as a scout.

Back facts: Hank Aaron might be on more '75 cartoons than any other player. The phrasing of the question is kind of odd.

Other blog stuff: The blog is taking a breather for a couple of days. It will be back with a new entry soon though.

Friday, June 17, 2011

#572 - Roger Nelson

Card fact: This is the final Topps card of Roger Nelson's career.

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

What I think about this card now: Where to begin? This does not look like a man who played major league baseball. And what is that insignia on his melted cap, a treble clef?

Other stuff: Nelson never pitched for the White Sox after he was traded to them in October 1974. In fact, he was released by the White Sox in March of '75, probably before a lot of kids pulled his card out of a pack that year.

Nelson came up to the majors as a member of the White Sox. Then after a visit with the Orioles, he was selected by the Royals in the expansion draft. He became a key part of Kansas City's first starting rotation, going 7-13 with a 3.31 ERA.

Nelson didn't do much the next two years, but had a 2.08 ERA in 34 games in 1972 for K.C. That enabled the Royals to trade him to the Reds for Hal McRae. Nelson had two mediocre years for the Reds, then bounced around between the White Sox, A's and Royals until 1976.

Back facts: Topps makes a valiant effort in the write-up, but it's all for naught as the White Sox went and released Nelson.

Other blog stuff: The orange-brown border combo regains sole possession of the overall lead with this card, the 49th orange-brown bordered card.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

#571 - Dave Lemanczyk

Card fact: This is Dave Lemanczyk's rookie card.

What I thought about this card then: I obtained this card in a trade in 1975. I thought Lemanczyk looked like he was going to cry -- in fact he appears as if he's going to cry on a lot of his cards. I also remember the background of the photo being a lot gloomier than it is. I mean the sun is shining in the photo, but I remember it as being darkness behind him.

What I think about this card now: I'm having a heck of a time spelling his name.

Other stuff: Lemanczyk came up as a reliever and part-time starter with the Tigers. But after he was taken by the Blue Jays in the 1976 expansion draft, he became a regular in the rotation for newbie Toronto.

Lemanczyk won 13 games in 1977. After a brutal 1978, he made the All-Star Game with the Jays in 1979, but didn't pitch. He was traded to the Angels in 1980 and ended his career that year.

Lemanczyk now has a baseball school on Long Island.

Back facts: Lemanczyk was born in Syracuse, which automatically made me look up where he went to school. He attended high school at Westhill, which I know well, and went to college at Hartwick, which I also know well. There aren't a ton of major leaguers from Upstate New York, so every one is special.

Also, I like how Deron Johnson didn't get a card in the '75 set, but he did get a cartoon.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1978, the Reds' Tom Seaver pitched the only no-hitter of his career. This, no doubt, frustrated Mets fans, who are still waiting for the franchise's first no-hitter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#570 - Jim Wynn

Card fact: This is the first and only Topps card of Jim Wynn featured in Dodger gear. He is airbrushed into an L.A. uniform in the 1974 Topps traded series, and he is airbrushed into a Braves cap (while wearing a Dodger jersey) in the 1976 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: This is another one of those cards that I saw for the first time in my trip to Cooperstown in 1975. It became one of my all-time coveted cards because I didn't obtain it for years. It was one of the last Dodgers I needed to complete the '75 team set.

What I think about this card now: It doesn't really look like Wynn. But I think that's just because his enormous smile in the photo. He was more serious-looking on most of his other cards.

Other stuff: Wynn came over to the Dodgers from the Astros in a deal that sent Claude Osteen to Houston before the 1974 season. Wynn bounced back from a miserable '73 season and helped the Dodgers reach the World Series in '74. He was named the National League's Comeback Player of the Year.

It was Wynn's last great season. He tailed off in '75 and was dealt to the Braves in the deal that gained the Dodgers Dusty Baker. Wynn closed out his career with Atlanta, the Yankees and the Brewers.

But before his arrival in L.A., Wynn spent 1963-73 as a hard-slugging center fielder for the Astros. Nicknamed the "Toy Cannon," he hit more than 200 home runs for Houston, a considerable feat since he played his home games in the monstrous Astrodome.

Wynn, who had his uniform number retired by Houston, now does TV postgame analysis for the Astros and does community work for the team.

(EDIT: Wynn died at age 78 on March 26, 2020).

Back facts: Yaz remains the last Triple Crown winner. And Topps is just plain redundant with that blurb at the bottom (EDIT: Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012).

Other blog stuff: We have completed the entire N.L. All-Star starting roster with the addition of Wynn:


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


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

Four Dodgers on the team. That's why the N.L. won, you know.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

#569 - Frank White

Card fact: This is Frank White's first solo card. That's the third straight card in which that is the case. However, this is not White's rookie card. He appeared on a four-player rookie card in the 1974 Topps set.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But, like most Royals of the period, I associate him with my friend Jeff from Kansas. White was another favorite of his. Those 1976 Topps Royals were hard to keep because Jeff was always after them. Who knew that in upstate New York I'd have a tough time holding on to Royals cards?

What I think about this card now: White is listed as being 5-foot-11, but he looks as short as teammate Freddie Patek in this photo.

Other stuff: White played all 18 of his major league seasons for the Royals and is still with Kansas City as a color commentator.

White came with Kansas City in 1973 and after some early struggles offensively, became a mainstay in the infield, winning the Gold Glove eight times and playing in the postseason for the Royals seven separate years. White even became a solid offensive player, showing some power in the mid-80s by slugging more than 20 home runs in 1985 and 1986.

White's number 20 was retired by the Royals. He later worked as a coach before moving into the Royals' front office for several years. He now works on Royals broadcasts.

Back facts: White's graduation from the Royals Academy is mentioned on several of his baseball cards. The Royals Academy always fascinated me. I envisioned it as an actual school where players would attend classes and learn nothing but baseball. But actually it was not much more than Kansas City setting up a complex in Florida in which it would teach fundamentals and life skills to up-and-coming ballplayers who maybe weren't top prospects. It lasted only from 1971-75 before closing up shop. White and U.L.Washington are its most famous graduates.

Other stuff: A happy 85th birthday to former Brooklyn Dodgers great Don Newcombe.

Monday, June 13, 2011

#568 - Dale Murray

Card fact: With this card, the green-light green border combination ties the orange-brown border combo for the overall lead with 48 cards apiece.

What I thought about this card then: This is one of the cards that I pulled out of the first three packs of baseball cards I ever bought, back in 1975. Everything about the card is ingrained in my brain. When I see it, I'm immediately transported to my bedroom on 6 Chadwick Road.

What I think about this card now: Is that a backstop way off in the distance? Look at how far away Dale Murray is from it! I'm surprised there is any room in front of Murray for a photographer to take a picture.

Other stuff: This is Murray's rookie card. He started off with a bang for the Expos, registering a 1.03 ERA in 32 games as a reliever.

Murray spent his entire 12-year career as a reliever, appearing as a starter in just one game out of 518. (While with the Reds, he lasted barely an inning in his only start in 1977). In 1975, Murray went 15-8 in 63 relief appearances. In 1976, Murray led the National League in appearances with 81.

Murray played for Montreal, Cincinnati, the New York Mets, Toronto, the New York Yankees and Texas. He was traded from Montreal to Cincinnati in the trade that sent Tony Perez to the Expos. Later, he went to the Yankees from the Blue Jays in a deal that gained Toronto Fred McGriff, Dave Collins and Mike Morgan.

Back fact: I know this cartoon as well as any cartoon in the set. Yet, it isn't until now that I have attempted to look up why there is a picture of a football player with a question about a Phillie winning a World Series game.

It turns out that this is another cartoon mix-up. Dean Look was a baseball player with a three-game career with the White Sox in 1961. He is better known as a collegiate football star and NFL player, who later became a longtime NFL referee.

The only pitcher to win a World Series game for the Phillies as of 1975 was Grover Cleveland Alexander who won Game 1 of the 1915 World Series against the Red Sox.

There are so many things as a kid that you just chalk up to "well, I don't understand that because I'm a kid." It turns out the cartoon would have confused anyone!

Other blog stuff: I still have that card of Murray that I pulled out of those first packs. A rookie card collector pulling a rookie card:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

#567 - Jim Sundberg

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

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see a Sundberg card until his 1977 Topps card.

What I think about this card now: Sundberg was one of those guys who seemed to look the same no matter what year it was or how long he had been in the majors. Unchangeable.

Other stuff: When I was a kid, I would only hear about Sundberg from TV broadcasters. The Rangers were never on TV, except when they played the Yankees. But during the Game of the Week and This Week in Baseball, I would hear about the catcher from Texas being one of the best catchers in the game. I'm sure Joe Garagiola, who always talked up catchers, mentioned him a lot.

Sundberg is known as one of the best defensive catchers to have played the game. He played from 1974 to 1989 and won six straight Gold Gloves between 1976-81. Sundberg was a fairly decent hitter, especially during the peak of his career. He tailed off offensively in the early '80s.

The Rangers dealt him to the Brewers after the '83 season. Then Sundberg was traded to the Royals ahead of the 1985 season. He was the primary catcher for Kansas City when they won the World Series. Sundberg later played for the Cubs and the Rangers again.

After his career, he was a TV broadcaster and now works as a VP of public relations for the Rangers.

Back facts: One of the longer write-ups that you'll see in the set. Topps was really tested by guys who had just a year or two in pro ball.

Other blog stuff: While looking up "on this date" items, I always come across airplane crashes. Plane crashes, I have noticed, don't happen nearly as often as they did when I was growing up. It used to be commonplace in the '70s and even '80s to read about large plane crashes maybe 7-8 times a year, many of which happened here in the U.S. I've done absolutely no research on this, but they don't seem to happen nearly as often anymore, which is terrific. I don't remember this being publicized -- I'm sure some airline has, though.

Sorry about that detour. Baseball-reference is acting loopy and that's the best that I could do.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

#566 - Ray Burris

Card fact: Ray Burris' full name of "Bertram Ray Burris" appears in his signature on all of his cards in which a facsimile autograph is featured. Because it is so long, it makes for some interesting cards. His 1982 Topps card shows the signature sideways from the bottom of the card to the top.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see a Burris card until the 1977 Topps set.

What I think about this card now: It is probably the most miscut card in the entire set, and I need to upgrade.

Other stuff: Burris was a starting pitcher for 15 seasons in the majors from 1973-87. He pitched for some poor teams, specifically the 1970s Cubs and the late-to-early 1980s Mets. But when he landed with Montreal  in 1980, he was part of solid team that came very close to the World Series in 1981.

Burris was the starting pitcher in that fateful Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. He allowed just one run in eight innings and left the game with it tied 1-1. Of course, the Dodgers would go on to win the game and the series on Rick Monday's home run off of Steve Rogers.

Burris later pitched for Oakland, St. Louis and Milwaukee. After taking a job as a pitching coach in Milwaukee, he actually returned to the mound for the Brewers in 1987. When his playing career was officially done, he became a coach and worked in the front office. Most recently, he's been a pitching coach in the Tigers organization for Double A Erie.

Back facts: Burris spent most of his career as a starter, but one of the seasons when he was mostly a reliever was in 1974. He started just five of 40 games (Burris also relieved quite a bit in 1982-83 for the Expos).

Other blog stuff: 1970s bad-ass second baseman Dave Cash was born on this date in 1948.

Friday, June 10, 2011

#565 - Joe Torre

Card fact: I hate to break it to you, but Joe Torre is not really wearing a Mets cap. He is airbrushed into the cap because he was traded from the Cardinals to the Mets on Oct. 13, 1974.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But I did associate Torre with the Mets for a long, long time, even though he was primarily a Brave and a Cardinal during his playing career.

What I think about this card now: Torre has a great card in the 1971 Topps set. This is the complete opposite of that.

Other stuff: Torre had a very good playing career, but nobody remembers that because he is fifth all-time in wins by a manager. Torre's stint with the Yankees, in which he won four World Series titles and appeared in six World Series overall, erased an overall perception of Torre as a great player, a decent broadcaster, and a mediocre manager. Up until his stay with the Yankees, he enjoyed moderate success managing the Braves and Cardinals, but that was overshadowed by his poor Mets teams of the late 1970s.

Torre came up with the Braves and was a catching all-star throughout the 1960s. He was traded to the Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda before the 1969 season and moved from behind the plate to first base and third. When he set up shop permanently at third base, his batting numbers soared. He enjoyed tremendous seasons in 1970 and 1971 and was named N.L. MVP in 1971.

Torre ended his playing career with three years with the Mets, and was a player-manager in his last season in 1977. His managing career ended 32 years later with the Dodgers. He's now executive president for baseball operations for MLB.

Back facts: Wow, that cartoon is full of information, isn't it? Johnny Blanchard was a part-time player for the Yankees who went 4-for-10 with two home runs in the 1961 World Series against the Reds.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1944, Joe Nuxhall became the youngest person to ever appear in a major league game, throwing 2/3s of an inning for the Reds at age 15 in an 18-0 loss to the Cardinals.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

#564 - Tommy Davis

Card fact: There aren't a lot of capless players in this set -- thank goodness -- but Davis is not the first. Two other players have been featured without a cap -- if you don't include the Ralph Garr card, in which his helmet has fallen off his head in the photo.

What I thought about this card then: I had the mini card, and it is one of the first cards I think of when I think of my minis. It almost kind of came to represent the minis. The king of the minis. It's hard to argue with a guy in an Afro on a mini card.

What I think about this card now: I don't know why Davis is pictured without a cap. Many times Topps featured players without a cap because they had been traded recently or Topps believed a player was about to be traded (perhaps rumors of a trade were afoot). But Davis was in the midst of a four-year stay with the Orioles at this point.

Other stuff: Davis was a well-traveled player between 1959-76, competing for 10 teams in his major league career. But he didn't begin to bounce around until after suffering a broken ankle while sliding into second base during a game with the Dodgers in 1965.

Davis had been a two-time N.L. batting champion with standout seasons for the Dodgers in 1962 and 1963. His 153 RBIs in 1962 is still a Dodger record. He possessed both speed and power. But after the injury, his power diminished and he was dealt to the Mets after the 1966 season.

After one quality season with New York, he was shipped to the White Sox and then the Pilots and then the Astros, all within a three-year period. While with Houston, then Oakland, then the Chicago Cubs, he was more of a part-time player. It wasn't until he arrived in Baltimore and became the Orioles' full-time designated hitter, that Davis began to show what he exhibited back in the mid-1960s. He drove in over 80 runs in 1973 and 1974.

Davis finished his career with the Angels and Royals. He later became a coach for the Mariners (he is featured as a coach in the 1982 Donruss set).

(EDIT: Tommy Davis died April 3, 2022 at age 83).

Back facts: I'm not sure, but this might be the most jam-packed card in the set. We'll have to check out Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron before I know for certain.

Other blog stuff: R.I.P. to 1960s Tigers hero Jim Northrup, who died Wednesday at age 71:

This was the final Topps card of his career.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

#563 - Wilbur Howard

Card fact: Wilbur Howard has already appeared on this blog once before.

What I thought about this card then: I have the mini card, but I believe it's one of the few that I have acquired after 1975. I don't remember thinking anything about this card as a kid.

What I think about this card now: Howard is airbrushed into an Astros cap. This is his first solo card, but he appeared in the 1974 Topps set on one of the four-player rookie cards and he is wearing a Brewers cap. Howard was traded from the Brewers to the Astros at the end of March 1974.

Other stuff: Howard was mostly a fourth outfielder for the Astros between 1974-78. He played in 121 games in 1975, finishing with 111 hits and ranking in the top 10 in the National League in stolen bases with 32.

Back facts: I have no idea why the number 15 is printed in giant block letters. It's a departure from the format used for all the other cartoon answers.

Other blog stuff: On this date in 1965, Rick Monday became the first player drafted in the inaugural major league player draft. The Arizona State sophomore was selected by the Kansas City A's.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

#562 - Gary Nolan

Card fact: Gary Nolan received a card in the set even though he missed the entire 1974 season after shoulder surgery. He also barely pitched in 1973, appearing in just two games.

What I thought about this card then: I didn't see it. But Nolan was one of those inexplicable favorites of mine when I was a kid. Inexplicable because 1) he was a Red, and 2) I had no idea who he was.

What I think about this card now: It's a classic. But I'm wondering how old the photo is considering he hadn't had a full season since 1972.

Other stuff: Nolan was a hard-throwing phenom who appeared in the major leagues as a 19-year-old after being the Reds' number 1 pick in 1966. Nolan struck out 206 batters in 226 innings and went 14-8 in 1967, finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting.

In what would become a recurring theme, Nolan dealt with arm and shoulder issues the next two years. He recovered to go 18-7 in 1970, starting Game 1 of the World Series against the Orioles. He helped the Reds to the World Series against in '72, but then disappeared from baseball for two seasons with shoulder issues.

By the time he returned in 1975, he was a control pitcher with admirable accuracy. He won 15 games in back-to-back seasons as the Reds won the World Series each year. But arm troubles occurred again, Nolan was traded to the Angels, and he retired in 1978.

Nolan became a casino dealer in Las Vegas after his playing career, and later a casino host at the Mirage. He recently patched up a falling out with the Reds and returns for Cincinnati hall ceremonies.

Back facts: I'm sure the cartoon would have thoroughly confused me if I saw it as a kid. Gene Autry's singing career was a dated reference even in 1975.

Other blog stuff: The 1975 Topps (it's far out, man) blog eclipsed 50,000 unique visitors in the last 24 hours. Thanks all, for viewing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

#561 - A's/Alvin Dark

Card fact: The A's had the best damn team cards in history. You cannot argue this point without showing your bias. Best. Damn. Team. Cards.

What I thought about this card then: As you know, I didn't think much of team cards as a kid, but I'm sure I thought this was slightly cool.

What I think about this card now: I wonder how much time it took the photographer to line up the players in alternating uniform colors? Or did they have it down to a science since they did it every year?

Other stuff: Alvin Dark makes his first appearance with the Oakland A's as he replaced Dick Williams as manager for the 1974 season. Dark would lead the A's to their third consecutive World Series title. He would last until the end of the '75 season, getting fired by Charlie Finley after the A's lost in the ALCS to the Red Sox.

Dark was in his fourth of five major league managing stints. He also managed the Giants (he was the third manager to lead teams from both leagues to the World Series), Kansas City A's, Indians and Padres. Dark is the oldest surviving manager of a World Series-winning team.

Back facts: Many familiar names there, but of course I get the biggest kick out of "Washington, H./PR"

Other blog stuff: Let's see how well Topps represented the World Champions of 1974 in the '75 set.

Oakland used 36 players in 1974. Topps featured 27 of those players in the set, including Darold Knowles airbrushed into a Cubs cap. It also featured Billy Williams as an Oakland A, even though he didn't play for them in 1974.

Topps didn't skip any major contributors to the A's team, but there is one player who played quite a bit in '74 who did not get a card in 1975.

Deron Johnson began with the A's and played in 110 games total in 1974. He was dealt from Oakland to Milwaukee in June of 1974 (for Bill Parsons, who did get a card). Then, in September, he was purchased by the Red Sox and finished the season in Boston.

Topps must have either thrown up its hands at Johnson's ever-changing team ways, or it was scared off by his .171 average in 351 at-bats. The thing that I find amusing is Topps did feature Johnson as a Red Sox player in the 1976 set. But the Red Sox released him in October of 1975 before the '76 set even came out. Johnson played for the White Sox for most of '75 before getting dealt back to the Red Sox at the end of September. Topps wisely chose not to feature him in the 1977 set.

Anyway, Topps featured 75 percent of the team in its 75 set. Here is where the A's rank:

1. Twins 81.25% of players featured
2. Tigers 78.37%
3. Orioles 78.13%

4. Reds 77.14%
5. A's 75.0%
6. Dodgers 74.29%
6. Astros 74.29%
8. Giants 71.43%
9. Indians 71.11%
10. Royals 70.59%
11. Red Sox 70.27%
12. Angels 68.89%
13. Expos 68.29%
14. Brewers 66.67%
15. Rangers 65.79%
16. Cardinals 65.12%
17. White Sox 65.0%
18. Phillies 62.5%
19. Mets 62.16%
20. Pirates 61.5%
21. Padres 55.8%

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#560 - Tony Perez

Card fact: Tony Perez's cards between 1972-75 are very similar and rather boring. However, I loved his 1976 Topps card, and the 1977 Topps Perez is phenomenal.

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

What I think about this card now: Already mentioned it. But I like Tony's signature.

Other stuff: Perez and the RBI went hand-in-hand during the 1970s. He finished second behind teammate Johnny Bench in total RBIs for the 1970s. He is 27th all-time in career RBIs with 1,652.

Perez was considered the heart of the Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s by manager Sparky Anderson. While Perez was with the team, Cincinnati went to the World Series four times and won in 1975 and 1976. Although I always knew him as a first baseman, Perez broke through the Reds lineup as a third baseman. He started at third between 1967-71 as Lee May played first. Perez then moved over to first when May was traded to Houston in the Joe Morgan deal.

Perez was traded to Montreal after the Reds' Series title in 1976. The Reds received two pitchers, Woody Fryman and Dale Murray, from the Expos. Perez continued to be productive with Montreal, and then with Boston after signing with the Red Sox as a free agent. But Cincinnati wouldn't return to the World Series after Perez's departure (until 1990). Many believed Perez's departure was too much for the Reds to overcome.

Perez returned to the World Series (along with Morgan and Pete Rose) in Philadelphia in 1983. He then spent his final three seasons back with the Reds. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2000.

Perez managed for a year with the Reds and a year with the Marlins. His son Eduardo Perez played 13 seasons in the majors.

Back facts: Joe Morgan now holds the N.L. career putout record for a second baseman with 5,541. Eddie Collins holds the major league record with 6,256.

Other blog stuff: The best part of having the '75 set in a binder is that it is so colorful with all of the various borders shining back at you. Because of that, I never liked it when back-to-back cards featured the same border color as Tony Perez and Bob Montgomery do.

But I'm enjoying it on the blog. I don't have to change the color settings on the header.

One less thing to do! (Hey, it's the weekend).