Friday, August 1, 2014

no. 315 - ron fairly

Who is the man: Ron Fairly had just completed his first full season for the Expos when this card was created. After steadily declining with the Dodgers over the previous few years, his career enjoyed a little bump in 1970.

Can ya dig it: The two-handed scoop! None of this one-handed ole stuff for Ron.

Right on: Love me a chain-link fence in the background of a baseball card. ... Oh, and palm trees.

You see this cat Fairly is a bad mother: Fairly batted .379 (11-for-29) with a couple of home runs in the 1965 World Series, which the Dodgers won in seven games over the Twins.

Shut your mouth: Fairly had a difficult time adjusting to the Expos after he was traded from L.A. in 1969. "When I showed my four-year-old son, Mike, where I would be playing (on a map) after the trade," Fairly said, "he looked at me sadly and asked, 'Does this mean I don't have a daddy anymore?'"

No one understands him but his woman: Fairly was the first player to appear in the All-Star Game for both Canadian franchises, the Expos and the Blue Jays.

(A word about the back): Fairly appeared in the 1959, 1963, 1965 and 1966 World Series for the Dodgers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

no. 314 - jeff torborg

Who is the man: Jeff Torborg completed his seventh and final season as the Dodgers backup catcher when this card was released. In fact, he was probably already a California Angel as they purchased him from L.A. in March of 1971.

Can ya dig it: This card is a victim of my quest to collect every Dodger card. The much more pristine version of this card is in my Dodger binder.

Right on: I'm guessing the guy in the background is a coach. Maybe Danny Ozark?

You see this cat Torborg is a bad mother: Torborg caught three no-hitters, including Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 and Nolan Ryan's first no-hitter in 1973.

Shut your mouth: Torborg left his job as a broadcaster for Fox to coach the Montreal Expos in 2001. It was his first managerial job in eight years.

No one understands him but his woman: When Torborg was hired for his first managerial job with the Cleveland Indians in 1977, his wife Suzie prepped their three boys: "I said,'Daddy will almost surely lose his job,'" she told the New York Times. He did, two years later.

(A word about the back): The Dodgers' offer to Torborg was reportedly their first $100,000 signing bonus.

Friday, July 25, 2014

no. 313 - tom hall

Who is the man: Tom Hall enjoyed the most productive season of what was then a three-year career in 1970, pitching 41 of his 52 appearances in relief, winning 11 games and posting a 2.55 earned-run average.

Can ya dig it: I see the "Win Twins" logo on Hall's shoulder. I like it.

Right on: Hall appears to be pretending to throw a pitch a long way from the field.

You see this cat Hall is a bad mother: Hall was a key member of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine bullpen between 1972-74, appearing in 143 games and averaging more than seven strikeouts per nine innings.

Shut your mouth: Hall was nicknamed "The Blade" because he was 6-feet and only 150 pounds. You can sort of see that in this photo.

No one understands him but his woman: Hall was overlooked for a photo in the 1977 Topps set. He pitched in 36 games between the Mets and Royals in 1976, and did return to the Royals for the 1977 season. He should have appeared in a Royals uniform in the '77 set.

(A word about the back): The bio write-up is referencing Jim Perry, who led the Twins with 278 1/3 innings in 1970 and struck out 168 batters.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

no. 312 - harry walker

Who is the man: Harry Walker was entering his fourth season as the Astros' manager in 1971. He managed them to a fourth-place finish in 1970 with a 79-83 mark.

Can ya dig it: Nothing says "manager" quite like hands on hips.

Right on: Confession time: I had no idea that Harry Walker and Dixie Walker were brothers until I researched for this post. It's amazing what escapes me.

You see this cat Walker is a bad mother: Walker drove in the winning run in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series, the one in which Enos Slaughter beat the throw by Johnny Pesky to home plate.

Shut your mouth: Walker was known for his ability to talk. In "Ball Four," Jim Bouton defends Walker from teammates who complained about how much Walker talked by pointing out that what Walker said often had substance.

No one understands him but his woman: Walker is the only National League player to win a batting title in a season in which he played for two teams. He was traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies in early May 1947 and proceeded to win the batting crown that year with a .363 average.

(A word about the back): Walker was 5-for-15 in 1955 when he was a player-manager.

Monday, July 21, 2014

no. 311 - lee stange

Who is the man: Lee Stange had already been released by the White Sox when this card was pulled from packs. He would not play another major league game after 1970.

Can ya dig it: Stange's cap is blacked out because he's actually wearing Red Sox attire. He was picked up by the White Sox in June of 1970. You can see Topps chose a photo in which Stange's arm strategically blocks the Boston name on his uniform.

Right on: Blacked-out caps were a staple of cards issued in the late '60s and early '70s. I probably didn't discover them until the early '80s, but I remember being horrified by how they looked. They seemed very unprofessional to me. Whereas bad airbrushing sometimes escaped my attention, there was no way a blacked-out cap did.

You see this cat Stange is a bad mother: Stange won 12 games for the Twins in 1963 in a little more than a half a season. He was in the minors for the first half.

Shut your mouth: Stange's nickname was "Stinger," but he says he doesn't know who started calling him that.

No one understands him but his woman: Stange retired after the 1970 season and found himself the pitching coach of the Red Sox in 1972. "I had no idea a chance to coach in the major leagues would come so quickly," he said in a Sporting News article.

(A word about the back): I'm sure it's happened before, but I had never heard of someone pitching and being the team's bullpen coach at the same time.

Also note that Stange's sideburns are a lot longer in this photo than on the front, as the picture on the front is likely from 1969 or earlier.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

no. 310 - tommie agee

Who is the man: An appropriate question. In this photo, "the man" is second from the left, sliding into second base. There's a lot going on in this photo.

Can ya dig it: One of the classics of the 1971 set, I've owned this card for a long time and it's always been a favorite.

Right on: With a minimal amount of research, I settled on May 30, 1970 as when this play likely occurred. In that game at Shea Stadium, Tommie Agee stole second base twice, once in the first and once in the sixth. It could be either play. The fielders match up because in that game, the Houston second baseman was Joe Morgan, shown at right, and the shortstop was Denis Menke, who is No. 11, second from right. The clincher for me is that Nolan Ryan was the Mets pitcher that day, and he is featured on another action card in the '71 set that I believe is from the same game. I know I'm making a few assumptions to arrive at this game, but it's not like there's any grant money riding on this. The only thing in the photo that gives me pause is that the umpire (who would be Ken Burkhart if this is the right game) looks like he's making an out call, or preparing to make one. However, it also looks like it's a wild throw, which would indicate Agee was safe.

You see this cat Agee is a bad mother: Agee went down in history as a star for the 1969 Miracle Mets with his performance in Game 3 of the World Series that year. He hit a home run in the first inning. Then he made two standout catches in center field with runners on base to preserve the Mets' win. He made a running backhand, sno-cone catch off Ellie Hendricks with runners on first and third, and later made a diving catch on the warning track on a drive by Paul Blair with the bases loaded.

Shut your mouth: Mets outfielders disliked Shea Stadium because of the swirling winds and poor visibility. "I hated it," said former Met Cleon Jones. "Every guy before me hated it. But Tommie never complained."

No one understands him but his woman: Agee was dealt to the Dodgers after the 1973 season and is featured with the Dodgers in the 1974 Topps Traded set. But he never played a regular season game for Los Angeles, getting released before the season began. He finished his career one hit short of 1,000.

(A word about the back): This is the first Mets floating head. Out of 25 floating heads so far, 18 have been either Reds or Phillies.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

no. 309 - dick ellsworth

Who is the man: Dick Ellsworth pitched in 14 games for the Brewers after he was purchased from the Indians in August of 1970. His final major league season was in 1971.

Can ya dig it: I think it's fairly nifty that Topps produced a card of Ellsworth as a Brewer given his brief time with the club in 1970.

Right on: Final card of his career.

You see this cat Ellsworth is a bad mother: Ellsworth won 22 games for the Cubs in 1963, one year after he lost 20 games.

Shut your mouth: Three days after Ellsworth signed a contract with the Cubs right out of high school, Chicago manager Bob Scheffing decided to put him on the mound in the team's annual charity game against the White Sox. Ellsworth was supposed to pitch only an inning or two, but ended up throwing a complete-game four-hit shutout. "(Ellsworth is) ready to help us right now," Scheffing said after the game. "Can't say anything else until someone scores a run off him, can I?"

No one understands him but his woman: Ellsworth lost 22 games in 1966, setting franchise marks for most losses in a season by a left-hander, as well as most hits, runs and earned runs allowed.

(A word about the back): Two of Ellsworth's teammates on that high school team were future Reds pitcher Jim Maloney and future catcher and manager Pat Corrales.