Wednesday, September 28, 2016

no. 580 - tony perez

Who is the man: Tony Perez had just completed arguably his best season when this card was issued. In 1970, he hit a career-high 40 home runs, drove in a career-high 129 runs and batted .317.

Can ya dig it: Perez has some terrific cards. This one may not rank up there with his '66, '67, '70, '76 or '77 cards, but it's a nice reflective shot. I enjoy the bat on the shoulder, the helmet and the batting glove.

Right on: This would be the last time that Perez would be listed as a third baseman on the front of his card (he was still a third baseman for the '72 Topps set, but there are no positions on the front of that set). He would move to first base full-time in 1972, and his 1973 Topps card is his first at first base since the 1967 set.

You see that cat Perez is a bad mother: The Hall of Famer won the 1967 All-Star Game with a home run off of Catfish Hunter in the 15th inning.

Shut your mouth: When Perez was traded to the Expos, Perez's wife said that their sons, Victor and Eduardo, wanted to know if the Expos catcher (Gary Carter) could hold as many balls in one hand as Johnny Bench. (Both sons would go on to play professionally, and Eduardo reached the majors and then became an ESPN broadcaster).

No one understands him but his woman: Perez's wife's name is either Petuka or Pituka. I've seen it spelled both ways multiple times.

(A word about the back): Albert Pujols now holds the NL mark for most homers in April with 14, set in 2006.

Monday, September 26, 2016

no. 579 - marty pattin

Who is the man: Marty Pattin enjoyed his most successful season to date in 1970, winning in double figures for the first time and pitching in 233-plus innings, striking out 161.

Can ya dig it: Half the pitchers during the 1970s look like they're doing the hokey pokey in their card photos. "You put your right hand in ..."

Right on: Look at all that advertising in the background that I wish I could read but I can't.

You see that cat Pattin is a bad mother: Pattin's 126 strikeouts for the Seattle Pilots in 1969 was good for second on the team. Only Gene Brabender with 139 had more.

Shut your mouth: Baseball-reference says Pattin's nickname is "Bulldog," but he is most often called "Duck," for his ability to imitate Donald Duck.

No one understands him but his woman: Pattin married his first wife, Vera (she died in 1996) when he was in college. The entire Eastern Illinois University baseball team came to the wedding and formed an arch with baseball bats for Pattin and his bride to walk under.

(A word about the back): The best part of playing for a two-year-old franchise is saying that you once held the all-time club record in several categories.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

no. 578 - ron hunt

Who is the man: Ron Hunt was in the middle of what would be his most famous season when this card was issued. He would end 1971 with a still unmatched 50 hit-by-pitches for the year.

Can ya dig it: Hunt is wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey and cap in this photo. He was traded to the Expos in late December 1970.

Right on: I came across so many mentions of Ron Hunt on the back of my baseball cards when I was kid in the 1970s that I knew his legacy of being hit without ever watching him play. Hunt's career HBP total has since been surpassed by Don Baylor and Craig Biggio, but no one was praised more for his ability to literally take a pitch than Hunt.

You see that cat Hunt is a bad mother: Hunt would frequently toss the ball back to the pitcher after getting hit by a pitch. Imagine a batter doing that now. There'd be riots.

Shut your mouth: When Hunt retired, he held records for most HBPs for a career, a season, consecutive seasons (7) and in a game (3). "They may be dumb records," Hunt said. "But they're the only ones I got."

No one understands him but his woman: Hunt was involved in the first trade between the Dodgers and the Giants since both teams moved out to the West Coast before the 1958 season. He was dealt from L.A., along with Nate Oliver. to San Francisco for Tom Haller and a minor leaguer.

(A word about the back): I believe the NL record that Hunt set for career HBPs surpassed the career mark by Honus Wagner, who was hit by 125 pitches. Frank Chance had around the same total. It's a bit difficult to determine whose record Hunt passed because a lot of prominent HBPers played in the 1800s (Chance was one of them) and pre-1900 stats are often discounted.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

no. 577 - jim lonborg

Who is the man: Jim Lonborg was enjoying a comeback summer for the Red Sox when this card was issued. He struggled with shoulder problems all during the 1970 season and appeared in just nine games.

Can ya dig it: Lonborg has such a goofy expression on some his cards. Here he seems to be saying, "oops, watch out grandma, I almost nailed you with that pitch!"

Right on: I would get Jim Lonborg and Jim Bunning confused for years. And here in the 1971 Topps set, they are three cards apart.

You see that cat Lonborg is a bad mother: Lonborg will be forever known for his Cy Young season in 1967 when he led the Impossible Dream Red Sox to the World Series.

Shut your mouth: Lonborg pitched a one-hitter and a three-hitter in back-to-back appearances in the '67 World Series (Game 2 and Game 5). He paid partial credit to Sandy Koufax for the performance, saying that he had a conversation with Koufax, who was a broadcaster for the Series, before pitching. They talked about visualizing pitching a game in his mind before going on the field, and Lonborg said it helped.

No one understands him but his woman: When Lonborg retired from baseball and was figuring out what to do next, his wife Rosemary said, "Why don't you become a dentist? You like health care. You've always looked good in a uniform." Lonborg did and is practicing to this day. He's said he'll retire in 2017.

(A word about the back): Lonborg's 1967 season is mentioned on the write-up of each of his Topps cards from 1968-71. Then, in the 1972 set, after his trade to Milwaukee, the write-up simply says: "The Opening Day pitcher for Louisville, 4-16-71, Jim hurled 12-3 win vs. Rochester on his 29th birthday."

How the mighty have fallen.

Friday, September 16, 2016

no. 576 - cubs rookie stars

Who is the man: Adrian Garrett and Brock Davis each played briefly in the majors in 1970 at three and six games, respectively. Garry Jestadt spent all of 1970 in the minors, on three minor league teams.

Can ya dig it: This is the third version of the rookie stars cards in this set. We've already seen the two-player, one-team rookie stars cards, and the three-player, multiple-team rookie stars cards. This is the three-player, one-team rookie stars card.

Right on: A bunch of reclamation projects on this card. Garrett was getting his first taste of the majors since he played four games for the Braves in 1966. Davis had a similar four-year gap, last playing in the majors for the Astros in 1966. Jestadt had spent the vast majority of his career in the minors since 1965.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: No way. This set has now featured five rookie stars Cubs. The five combined would have five solo Topps cards in their careers (2 each for Garrett and Davis, 1 for Jestadt, none for Jim Dunegan or Roe Skidmore).

Shut your mouth: Brock Davis' actual first name is "Bryshear".

No one understands him but his woman: Both Garrett and Jestadt played multiple seasons in Japan.

(A word about that back): Note the birthdates for Garrett and Davis. They were 27 or 28 years old when this card was issued. Davis appeared on a rookie stars card with Willie Stargell in the 1963 Topps set for crying out loud!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

no. 575 - bill freehan

Who is the man: Bill Freehan was enjoying a bounce-back season when this card was issued. His 1970 season was rough. His stats plummeted, his season ended early so he could undergo back surgery, and fans booed him after the release of his diary of the Tigers' 1969 season called "Behind the Mask".

Can ya dig it: I don't know why the crop is so tight on Freehan. Did he spill his lunch on his jersey? Makes for a distinctive card though.

Right on: Yankee Stadium all the way.

You see that cat Freehan is a bad mother: Freehan was known for his defensive ability and handling of the Tigers' pitching staff. He finished second in the AL MVP voting in 1968 to teammate Denny McLain.

Shut your mouth: Freehan's diary wasn't nearly as scandalous as Jim Bouton's "Ball Four," which came out the same year. But McLain had been suspended over a gambling investigation and Sports Illustrated published excerpts of Freehan's book, referring specifically to McLain and whether the team gave him special treatment. While the Tigers struggled, Freehan was viewed as airing clubhouse secrets.

No one understands him but his woman: Freehan recorded the final out of the 1968 World Series, catching Tim McCarver's foul pop up.

(A word about the back): Freehan set all kinds of old-timey catching stat records during his career (putouts, chances, etc.). When he retired, he owned the best career fielding percentage for a catcher at .993. He is now 30th all-time as catchers like Mike Redmond, Damien Miller and Chris Snyder have surpassed him. There are 13 active catchers in the majors with a better career fielding percentage than Freehan.

Monday, September 12, 2016

no. 574 - jim bunning

Who is the man: Jim Bunning was in his final major league season when this card was issued. He had returned to the Phillies in 1970 after bouncing between the Pirates and Dodgers in 1968 and 1969.

Can ya dig it: Bunning senses a disturbance in the stands.

Right on: This is the final card issued during his career.

You see that cat Bunning is a bad mother: Lots to cite for the Hall of Famer, but I didn't know that when Bunning retired, he was second only to Walter Johnson in career strikeouts with 2,855.

Shut your mouth: Bunning was elected to the city council in his native Kentucky in 1977. That started a political career that would include terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate until he stepped away in 2009. During the state Senate race in 2004, Bunning said his opponent "looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons" and later accused one of his opponent's staffers of roughing up his wife during an event.

No one understands him but his woman: Bunning pitched the fifth perfect game in major league history, against the Mets in 1964. He's the only player to throw a perfect game on Father's Day, which is appropriate as he has nine children.

(A word about the back): The bio is correct. Bunning did indeed reach 100 career National League victories during the 1970 season. He finished 1970 with 101 career NL wins.