Friday, May 26, 2017
Who is the man: Marv Staehle was coming off, by far, his busiest season, appearing in 104 games for the Montreal Expos in 1970. That's 72 more games than he played in any other of his seven big-league seasons.
Can ya dig it: Well, here is one of the more memorable cap airbrushings in the entire set. Instead of making Staehle look like a ballplayer, he instead looks like he's delivering milk.
Right on: This is Staehle's only solo Topps card. He appears three times on two-player rookie stars cards, in 1965, 1966 and 1969. In only one of them is he wearing an actual, non-airbrushed cap (1965).
You see that cat Staehle was a bad mother: Staehle played in 1,239 games in the minors, compiling 1,286 hits and batting .286. He led the South Atlantic League in hitting in 1963 with a .337 average for Nashville.
Shut your mouth: Staehle remembers one at-bat in Nashville when he hit a foul ball down the third base line that sailed into the concession stand and hit a large mustard jar, splattering fans with mustard.
No one understands him but his woman: Staehle's final season was with the Braves. He and teammate Hank Aaron would walk to the ballpark together during road games. Imagine that.
(A word about the back): They didn't even dare airbrush an Atlanta logo on the cap. Odd.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
What a card: Mike Hedlund was in the midst of by far his best major league season when this card was issued. Hedlund started 30 games in 1971, nearly twice as many in any other year of his career, and went 15-8 with a 2.71 ERA.
Can ya dig it: It's not quite as visible as it is on some of his other cards, but Hedlund really had some red hair.
Right on: I sure do miss seeing ballplayers milling about in the background of baseball card photos.
You see that cat Hedlund is a bad mother: Hedlund's first major league appearance came as an 18-year-old for the Indians in 1965. During a May 8 game against the Red Sox he relieved Floyd Weaver after Weaver gave up a three-run home run to Tony Conigliaro, Hedlund retired Carl Yastrzemski on a ground out and Eddie Bressoud on a fly ball to finish the inning.
Shut your mouth: To illustrate how different it was for pitchers back then, Hedlund said in an interview that when he was with the Indians, his pitching coach was Early Wynn, and Wynn told him, "when I hand you the ball, I want you to pitch 300 innings."
No one understands him but his woman: Hedlund one of several major leaguers who went over to Vietnam in the offseason on a goodwill tour, visiting soldiers during the Vietnam War. Hedlund visited in 1971, along with players like Bob Gibson, Graig Nettles, Dock Ellis and Bobby Bonds.
(A word about the back): That's some nice research in the bio.
Monday, May 22, 2017
Who is the man: Chuck Tanner received his first manager card after being hired for the final 16 games of the Chicago White Sox's 1970 season. The team went 3-13 under him.
Can ya dig it: This marks Tanner's return to Topps cards after his last card as a player in the 1960 set.
Right on: This is also the first Topps appearance of the White Sox's red caps and red pinstripe uniforms. All of the previous '71 White Sox cards showed players in the blue-and-gray duds from 1970. But you can tell this photo was taken in 1971 because that's the year the new red uniforms debuted.
You see that cat Tanner is a bad mother: Tanner was the manager of the Pirates' "We Are Family" World Series championship team in 1979.
Shut your mouth: Tanner was fired by the Pirates in 1985 after a terrible season in which the team was plagued by drug scandal. Tanner said later, "I would've fired myself."
No one understands him but his woman: Tanner was manager for the A's in 1976 when he was traded to the Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillen and a bunch of cash. It's one of just three instances in which a manager was traded.
(A word about the back): Topps apparently missed some players because looking at a few different sites now tells me there were six players to hit a home run on their first major league pitch before Tanner did it.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Who is the man: Ray Culp was pitching in what would be the last of his four straight seasons of double-figure victories when this card was issued. He won 64 games between 1968-71.
Can ya dig it: That collar, created from the windbreaker under his uniform, makes it appear as if Culp is participating in something more formal than a ball game.
Right on: I remember seeing Culp's 1969 Topps card, looking at the back, and thinking, "hey, this guy is good." Outside of the superstars, I knew very little about 1960s players as a kid. Culp was one of the first notables that I discovered.
You see that cat Culp is a bad mother: Culp pitched seven straight complete-game victories to close out the 1968 season, including four straight shutouts. His final shutout was a one-hitter against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.
Shut your mouth: Culp tied an MLB record in 1970 by striking out the first six batters he saw in a game against the Angels. But the Angels won the game, 2-1, in 19 innings.
No one understands him but his woman: Culp played a part in the Phillies' famous 1964 collapse by not playing a part. Depending on your source, Phillies manager Gene Mauch skipped over Culp in favor of repeatedly starting Jim Bunning and Chris Short on two days' rest because Culp was hurt or Mauch was mad at Culp. The Phillies' catcher at the time, Clay Dalrymple, said Mauch held a grudge against Culp because Culp gained 10 pounds during the season.
(A word about the back): That's quite the praise by the bio writer. It's true that the Red Sox fleeced the Cubs by obtaining Culp for minor leaguer Bill Schlesinger. A lot of time has passed since 1971 though and the Red Sox did acquire Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek from the Mariners for Heathcliff Slocumb.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Who is the man: Byron Browne played in 104 games for the Phillies in 1970, his most playing time since his rookie year in 1966.
Can ya dig it: Now that's keeping your head down through a swing. You have to look up eventually, sir!
Right on: This is Browne's final card.
You see that cat Browne is a bad mother: Browne was named to Topps' All-Rookie team in 1966 and can be seen preparing to annihilate his rookie trophy on his 1967 Topps card.
Shut your mouth: Browne led the league in strikeouts with 143 in 120 games in 1966 and his reputation for whiffing followed him to several major league stops. His wikipedia page cracks wise by saying, "to some cynics, his chief contribution was the refreshing breeze on hot and humid South Philadelphia evenings which emanated from his regular swings and misses."
No one understands him but his woman: Browne's first major league at-bat came during Sandy Koufax's perfect game against the Cubs on Sept. 9, 1965. Browne lined out to deep center field.
(A word about the back): A ninth-inning grand slam to beat the Padres on my birthday? I think I've found a new favorite player.
Friday, May 12, 2017
Who is the man: Paul Lindblad continued to be a workhorse for the A's in 1970, appearing in 60-plus games for the second straight year as an integral part of the team's bullpen.
Can ya dig it: Unlike many throwing poses from the time, Lindblad is holding onto the ball. He's going to dazzle you with his grip.
Right on: Check out that splendid signature. Can you imagine any current player unveiling such a careful signature?
You see that cat Lindblad is a bad mother: Lindblad appeared in three games in the 1973 World Series, a couple in crucial situations, and posted a 0.00 ERA in 3 1/3 innings to help Oakland to a second straight Series championship.
Shut your mouth: The following year, the A's returned to the postseason and won a third straight World Series, but Lindblad didn't appear in a single game because the Oakland starters were so dominant. Of course, that would never happen today.
No one understands him but his woman: Lindblad was fond of coin collecting and purchased a metal detector, bringing it with him on road trips.
(A word about the back): This doesn't have to do with the back, but before I forget, Lindblad was traded to the Senators in early May 1971. One of the player the A's received in exchange was Mike Epstein, who was just featured three cards ago.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Who is the man: Jose Azcue had completed his second season with the Angels when this card was issued, appearing in 114 games for the Angels.
Can ya dig it: Azcue looks quite animated on this card, even happy. But the Angels wouldn't make him happy in 1971. Upset over the Angels' contract offer, Azcue sat out the entire 1971 season.
Right on: This is the final card of Azcue issued during his playing career.
You see that cat Azcue is a bad mother: Azcue led American League catchers in fielding percentage in 1967 and 1968. When he retired, his .992 percentage was second only to Elston Howard among catchers all-time. (Azcue is now 45th all-time).
Shut your mouth: Azcue was referred to as "Joe" on his Topps cards from 1962 through 1969.
No one understands him but his woman: Azcue lined into the first unassisted triple play in 41 years when Senators shortstop Ron Hansen made history on July 29, 1968.
(A word about the back): My attempt to find out how many catchers have caught at least two no-hitters, without spending an hour on research, has failed. One day when I have more free time I'll do the research and then no one will have to endure my same frustration.