Tuesday, March 3, 2015

no. 385 - maury wills

Who is the man: Maury Wills was entering the final full season of his 14-year career when this card was made. In 1970, he played in 132 games and stole 28 bases as a 39-year-old.

Can ya dig it: This is just the second Topps card of Wills as a Dodger. He didn't even show up in a Topps set until 1967 when he was with the Pirates.

Right on: Every time I think about how many more Maury Wills Dodger cards there could have been, it irks me.

You see that cat Wills is a bad mother: Once known as the best base stealer of all-time, he held the record for most stolen bases in a season for 12 years after stealing 104 in 1962. He is one of the few players who landed an MVP award based on his base-stealing talent.

Shut your mouth: Back in the '50s when Topps signed everyone they could to a contract, they still limited themselves to "sure things" and everything they heard said that Wills wasn't. In the "Baseball Card Flipping Trading and Bubble Gum Book," Sy Berger explains the fallout of not signing Wills:

"Maury stayed angry at us for quite some time after that, as you can well imagine, even after he made it to the majors. He didn't sign up with us until about his eighth year with the Dodgers. He was the only major leaguer we didn't have under contract. You couldn't blame him of course. So after that we went back to signing everyone in the minors."

No one understands him but his woman: The 1962 MVP Award that Wills won belongs to his ex-wife. He's said that she won't let him have it back.

(A word about the back): Wills' two-homer game on May 30, 1962 came in the first game of a doubleheader against the expansion Mets. He hit six home runs that season, which was a career high.

Friday, February 27, 2015

no. 384 - rollie fingers

Who is the man: Rollie Fingers started what would wind up being a career-record 19 games for the A's in 1970. But he was entering a pivotal year when this card was issued. By the end of 1971, Fingers was an established late-innings reliever.

Can ya dig it: That photo is very green.

Right on: Fingers without a handlebar mustache is always wrong.

You see that cat Fingers is a bad mother: Fingers, along with '70s pitchers like Sparky Lyle, helped create the role of the closer as we know it now. When Fingers was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen, he did not return to the rotation after finding success as a reliever. He remained a reliever. That was a new concept, and he rode that new concept to the Hall of Fame.

Shut your mouth: The Reds offered Fingers a contract to pitch in 1986 after he was released by the Brewers, but the Reds' "no facial hair" policy scrapped that. Fingers told the Reds GM, "You tell (owner) Marge Schott to shave her Saint Bernard and I'll shave my mustache."

No one understands him but his woman: Fingers got into a locker room fight with fellow A's pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom just before the 1974 World Series. Odom made a comment about Fingers' wife, touching off a grappling session in which Odom tackled Fingers, sending him backward into a shopping cart where he hit the back of his head on a metal hook on a locker. Fingers needed six stitches. But he played in the Series, helped the A's to their third straight championship, and Fingers and his wife, Jill, appeared in the victory parade.

(A word about the back): Fingers' father was George Fingers. According to baseball-reference.com, Fingers played in 1938 for the Williamson Colts, a Class D team. Although he's not listed on the roster that's supplied for that team, a player on that team was Stan Musial.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

no. 383 - rod gaspar

Who is the man: Rod Gaspar was a recent Padres acquisition as he played for the Mets and the Mets' Triple A team in Tidewater in 1970. The Mets traded Gaspar to the Padres in October, 1970.

Can ya dig it: Gaspar is wearing a Mets uniform in Shea Stadium there. He never does appear in a Padres uniform on a Topps card.

Right on: I'm sure if I was a kid collecting cards in 1971, Gaspar's well-parted "dad" hair would have made his card ripe for mockery.

You see that cat Gaspar is a bad mother: Gaspar led the National League outfielders in double plays turned with six for the Miracle Mets in 1969.

Shut your mouth: When the Orioles' Frank Robinson heard that Gaspar had predicted that the Mets would sweep the Orioles in four games ahead of the 1969 World Series, Robinson said, "Who in the hell is Ron Gaspar?" Orioles teammate Paul Blair said to Robinson, "That's not Ron. That's Rod, stupid!" to which Robinson responded, "All right, bring on Rod Stupid."

No one understands him but his woman: Gaspar blamed his poor season in 1970 on his refusal to go play winter ball in Venezuela as Mets manager Gil Hodges suggested. He reported to camp out of shape and managed just 14 at-bats in the majors that year.

(A word about the back): Gaspar's claim to fame is scoring the winning run in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. He scored on a controversial bunt by J.C. Martin. Orioles pitcher Pete Richert fielded the bunt, but his throw to first hit Martin int he hand, scoring Gaspar for the game-winner in the 10th. The Orioles argued that Martin ran inside the baseline.

Monday, February 23, 2015

no. 382 - jake gibbs

Who is the man: Jake Gibbs was entering his final season in the majors when this card arrived. In fact, he said in June of 1971 that he'd retire at the end of the season. This is the last card of him issued during his career.

Can ya dig it: This card has a few problems. The name and team lettering appears "smeared" and the bottom left edge appears as if it touched white paint.

Right on: Gibbs looks like he's about to swing in front of Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks. (the catcher's cap and shin guards initially looked red to me, but Hendricks was one of the few black catchers around then. On closer inspection those are orange shin guards).

You see that cat Gibbs is a bad mother: Gibbs was the favorite player of former Orioles manager Dave Trembley when he was a kid. Trembley told me that when I interviewed him for a story.

Shut your mouth: Gibbs was a star quarterback in college and chose baseball over pro football even though he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and Houston Oilers. "I never had any regrets about choosing baseball," Gibbs said in Maury Allen's book "Yankees: Where Have You Gone?" "I knew I would have a longer career in baseball than in football, and I did."

No one understands him but his woman: Gibbs is the Yankees starting catcher link between Elston Howard and Thurman Munson.

(A word about the back): After his retirement, Gibbs returned to Ole Miss for good, becoming the baseball coach and working there until 1990. He retired with 485 victories.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

no. 381 - fred gladding

Who is the man: Fred Gladding remained one of the top relief pitchers in the National League in 1970. After saving an NL-best 29 games in 1969 for the Astros, he saved 18 in 1970.

Can ya dig it: I wonder how comfortable it was wearing a windbreaker under a uniform jersey?

Right on: Gladding looks a lot older than his 34 years in this photo. I just watched video of him being interviewed in 2012 and except for a few extra pounds and less hair, he looks the same.

You see that cat Gladding is a bad mother: Gladding was the first pitcher in the National League to be recognized officially as a season save leader, as the save wasn't made an official stat until 1969. (Ron Perranoski for the Twins was the first official AL save leader).

Shut your mouth: Gladding was traded for Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews in 1967. Mathews was at the end of his career and would play in 67 games over 1967-68 for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Gladding did well for the Astros, but missed out on the Tigers' World Series championship  in 1968.

No one understands him but his woman: Gladding was the Tigers pitching coach when Mark Fidrych came up with Detroit in 1976. In the video I watched, he recalls Reggie Jackson jawing at Fidrych before the famous Monday night nationally televised game on June 28, telling Fidrych he was going to take him into the upper deck. But Jackson didn't play in that game.

(A word about the back): I see Gladding was still wearing those horned-rim glasses, which were on their way out of fashion in the early '70s.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

no. 380 - ted williams

Who is the man: The Senators bottomed out in Ted Williams' second year managing the team. Washington finished dead last in the AL East in 1970 after going 86-76 in 1969.

Can ya dig it: I saw this card during my early collecting days and it stuck in my brain. When I started collecting the 1971 set, I thought it would be forever before I acquired it. I was practically giddy when I bought it at a small card show in town with no trouble at all.

Right on: This is quite a difference from the photo Topps used of Williams in the 1970 set.

You see that cat Williams is a bad mother: In his first year of managing, Williams led the Senators to their only winning season in their 11-year existence between 1961-71.

Shut your mouth: When Williams reported to his first big league camp in 1938, the veteran Red Sox players knew he was a hot prospect but made sure to make him miserable that first year. His outfield competition, Ben Chapman, Joe Vosmik and Doc Cramer, gave Williams a hard time in particular. When camp broke, Williams saw the list of who was headed to train with the big league club and he wasn't on it. Enraged, he yelled at the three outfielders: "I'll be back. And I'll make more money in this f---ing game than all three of you combined."

No one understands him but his woman: In "Ted Williams, My Father," a 2014 book written by Williams' daughter Claudia, she remembers a time as a girl when she plugged the toilet while her father was on the phone. As water began to drip from the ceiling, a furious Williams ripped the phone from the wall and threw it across the room before realizing he now could not call a plummer.

(A word about the back): So far, Williams and Lum Harris are the only managers in which Topps writes about their playing careers instead of their managing careers. In Williams' case, I guess I'll give it a pass.

Friday, February 13, 2015

no. 379 - wayne granger

Who is the man: Wayne Granger was a relief pitcher extraordinaire when this card was created. In 1970, he set a major league record for saves in a season (35), one year after setting an MLB mark for appearances in a season (90).

Can ya dig it: Granger appears to be saying "so you're a wise guy, eh?" out of the side of his mouth.

Right on: That's a nice look at Granger's three-quarters arm motion.

You see that cat Granger is a bad mother: Granger finished eighth in the Cy Young Award voting in 1970, which was pretty good for a relief pitcher back then.

Shut your mouth: Granger was known for his scrawny stature. Reds teammate Pete Rose said he looked like "a professional blood donor."

No one understands him but his woman: Granger gave up a grand slam to Orioles pitcher Dave McNally in the 1970 World Series. It's the only time a pitcher has done that -- both hit a grand slam in a Series and give up a grand slam to a pitcher in a Series.

(A word about the back): I wonder if collectors who know nothing about past baseball terminology read a card like this and wonder how a baseball pitcher could be a fireman, too.