Monday, December 5, 2016

no. 603 - pirates

Who is the man: The Pittsburgh Pirates won their first division title since 1960 when they took the NL East by five games over the Cubs in 1970. Pittsburgh was then swept by the Reds in the NLCS. But the Pirates would have the last laugh in 1971.

Can ya dig it: This was an organization on the cusp of their greatest decade since the 1920s. It's cool to see them at the beginning.

Right on: Just in case you didn't know who the bat boy was, he's seated in the front wearing three bats.

You see that cat Murtaugh is a bad mother: Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh is seated directly above the bat boy.

Shut your mouth: I was practically giddy because this team photo is the first to feature players with jersey numbers on the front in a long time. But then I found the same team photo with ID's underneath, so it's very easy to spot everyone. Roberto Clemente is the first guy seated on the left in the front row. Bill Mazeroski is at the opposite end of that row. Manny Sanguillen is two people to the left of Mazeroski. Al Oliver is the first player on the left in the middle row. Steve Blass is standing near the center of the back row between two large pitchers, Bob Veale on the left and Dock Ellis on the right. Finally, Willie Stargell is the second guy in from the right in the back row.

No one understands him but his woman: The traveling secretary never gets IDed. Let's get him in here. He's John Fitzpatrick and he's standing at the far right of the middle row next to pitcher Luke Walker.

(A word about the back): A little surprisingly (although not that much if you really look at the numbers), almost all of the Pirates' individual all-time season marks remain intact on this card. The only more recent player to crack the list is Kent Tekulve, who now holds the Pirates mark for most games pitched in a season with 94 in 1979.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

no. 602 - marty martinez

Who is the man:
Marty Martinez suffered a down season in 1970 after a couple of semiproductive years with the Braves and Astros in 1968 and 1969. He'd be dealt to the Cardinals at the end of the 1971 season.

Can ya dig it: You can see by the signature that Martinez's actual first name is Orlando.

Right on: That Astros logo needs to come back, I don't care if no one plays in the Astrodome anymore.

You see that cat Martinez is a bad mother: Please note the "infield" position designation on Martinez's card. He played all over the infield, the outfield, even caught 30 games during his career. Oh, and he pitched in a game.

Shut your mouth: Martinez is known for scouting and signing future Mariners Edgar Martinez and Omar Vizquel.

No one understands him but his woman: Martinez managed one game for the Seattle Mariners. It was on May 9, 1986 against the Red Sox (a 4-2 loss). Seattle had fired manager Chuck Cottier the day before and hired Dick Williams. Martinez served as interim manager before Williams' arrival.

(A word about the back): The Braves picked up Martinez from the Twins in the Rule 5 draft. Twins president Calvin Griffith dismissed the loss of Martinez, causing Braves manager Billy Hitchcock to say, "All I know is we weren't the only club interested in drafting Martinez. I know of at least two other clubs who wanted to make him their first draft choice."

Monday, November 28, 2016

no. 601 - ken tatum

Who is the man: Ken Tatum spent his sophomore season with the Angels in 1970, but was dealt to the Red Sox in October in the deal that sent Tony Conigliaro to Anaheim.

Can ya dig it: This card looks in much better condition than it is. There are two significant creases, one to the right of Tatum's right ear and another along his very long neck.

Right on: It still mystifies me that Topps blacked out caps during this period. How could they possibly think that this was a realistic depiction of a major league player? This ain't the Cleveland Browns, there are no logo-less caps in MLB!

You see that cat Tatum is a bad mother:
Tatum aced his rookie test, saving 22 games in 45 appearances with a 1.36 ERA to finish fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1969.

Shut your mouth: Tatum very nearly ended Orioles center fielder Paul Blair's career when he struck him in the head with a pitch during the 1970 season. Blair's nose and cheekbone were broken and he missed three weeks. But his vision was never altered.

No one understands him but his women: In 1995, the L.A. Times wrote a story about the history of the Angels' trials with relief pitchers. It mentioned Ken Tatum as the Angels' all-time leader for fewest hits and runs allowed in a season (at least 40 appearances). Tatum allowed just 51 and 13 in 1969. Tatum's hit record fell shortly after the article, as the Angels enjoyed a series of standout closers in Lee Smith, Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez. Percival broke the runs record in 2002 by allowing just 12. Granted, Tatum was pitching more innings per appearance than Smith, Percival and K-Rod.

(A word about the back): Topps keeps you in suspense about the major off-season trade by not mentioning any names. It was Ken Tatum, Jarvis Tatum and Doug Griffin to the Red Sox for Tony Conigliaro, Ray Jarvis and Jerry Moses.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

no. 600 - willie mays

Who is the man: Willie Mays entered the 1971 season the newest member of the 3,000-hit club. He delivered his 3,000th hit on July 18, 1970 against the Expos' Mike Wegener. It was part of resurgent season for Mays, who had struggled with injuries in 1969.

Can ya dig it: Any card of Willie Mays is exciting, but this certainly is not the most exciting photo.

Right on: The expression on Mays' face is one that appeared quite a bit on his cards. He seems a bit sore about something, but he also might be in the middle of ribbing someone for all I know.

You see that cat Mays is a bad mother: Widely considered the greatest all-around player in baseball history. Likely the most famous five-tool player ever. What's more bad-ass than that?

Shut your mouth: Mays was playing for the Negro League's Black Barons of Birmingham, Ala., in the late 1940s when Giants scout Eddie Montague noticed his play while scouting another player. Montague told the Giants: "You better send somebody down there with a barrelful of money and grab this kid."

No one understands him but his woman: Mays' famous over-the-shoulder catch of Vic Wertz's drive with the score tied 2-2 during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series is considered Mays' best catch by many. But Mays has said his best catch was probably a diving catch of a wicked drive by the Dodgers' Bobby Morgan in 1952. With two men on base and two out, Mays caught the ball in Ebbets Field outstretched, while parallel to the ground, then knocked himself out when he fell into the wall.

(A word about the back): What I am guessing was an ill-placed piece of tape has torn away a portion of the write-up. Here it is in full: "The only player with more than 300 Homers to top 300 Stolen Bases, Willie holds NL mark with 6,662 Putouts in outfield. Hit 20 or more Homers 17 times to set big league record. Voted Sporting News Player of 1960's."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

no. 599 - norm cash

Who is the man: Norm Cash's career seemed to be on the decline after the 1970 season as he managed just 15 homers and a .259 average in 130 games. But he had one more great season in his holster and that would be the 1971 season.

Can ya dig it: Love the first baseman's stretch pose. The glove looks huge and Cash's back leg tiny.

Right on: It looks like someone left Cash to pick up all the equipment.

You see that cat Cash is a bad mother: Cash produced one of the best underappreciated seasons of the last 60 years. In 1961, Cash led baseball with a .361 average, hit 41 home runs, drove in 132, recorded a .662 slugging average and a 1.148 OPS. Unfortunately, someone else hit 61 home runs that year.

Shut your mouth: Cash later admitted he used a corked bat in 1961.

No one understands him but his woman: Cash was the first Tiger to hit a ball completely out of Tiger Stadium.

(A word about the back): Cash was 36 when this card came out. He doesn't look 36 in the photo.

Friday, November 18, 2016

no. 598 - rick wise

Who is the man: Rick Wise was in the midst of arguably his best season (some would campaign for 1975) when this card was issued. He'd win 17 games with a 2.88 ERA for a last-place team and be named an All-Star for the first time.

Can ya dig it: I always enjoy the "separate worlds" baseball stadium shot, where players are shown in the dugout while activity goes on above them in the stands. It really seems like two distinct worlds. Hell, different planets even.

Right on: The shoulder stripes never appealed to me.

You see that cat Wise is a bad mother: In this very season of 1971, Wise pitched a no-hitter against the Reds and hit two home runs in a 4-0 victory. For the year he hit six home runs.

Shut your mouth: Wise has one of my favorite quotes about the designated hitter: "The designated hitter rule is like having someone else take Wilt Chamberlain's free throws." I don't expect today's specialized world to understand that.

No one understands him but his woman: Wise is part of one of the most lopsided trades in history, the deal that sent Steve Carlton from the Cardinals to the Phillies. But Wise, at the time, was viewed as a more reliable pitcher than Carlton, who had somewhat raw, unharnessed ability then.

(A word about the back): Can you imagine giving a pep-talk to the Little League team that did nothing but strike out against one guy for six innings?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

no. 597 - ken suarez

Who is the man: Ken Suarez spent the entire 1970 season with Triple A Wichita. Only in a 752-card set would he get a card.

Can ya dig it: I have no idea why Suarez is featuring an airbrushed cap. He had been with the Indians since 1968 and was featured in full Indians uniform on his 1970 Topps card.

Right on: I remember seeing this card when I was a kid. I was repulsed by the blacked-out cap. It looked like some sort of knock-off baseball card to me.

You see that cat Suarez is a bad mother: Suarez singled with one out in the ninth inning to break up a perfect game attempt by the Orioles' Jim Palmer in 1973.

Shut your mouth: Suarez is known for being the first player in Rangers history to file for salary arbitration. Five days after he filed, the Rangers traded him back to the Indians. Suarez filed a grievance with the Players Association asking that the traded be nullified. He refused to report to the Indians and retired instead.

No one understands him but his woman: Suarez made the U.S. baseball team for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Baseball was a demonstration sport and in 1964 that meant just a single game. Suarez was on the team that beat an amateur squad from Japan, 6-2.

(A word about the back): The write-up is a little confusing, but Suarez's first hit in professional baseball was indeed a grand slam. It helps take your mind off all those zeroes in the stats.