Monday, October 12, 2015

no. 461 - jim hart

Who is the man: Even though Jim Hart was a young man at the time this card came out, his career was in decline. He spent half of 1970 in the minor leagues, his first stint in the minors since 1963.

Can ya dig it: You can see by the signature, his full name is James Ray Hart, and he was most often referred to as "Jim Ray Hart." But Topps would not call him that until the very last card of Hart's career. He is "Jim Ray Hart" on his 1974 card. All other cards he is "Jim Hart".

Right on: Hart looks as if he's batting in the middle of a cow pasture.

You see that cat Hart is a bad mother: Hart finished tied for second place in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1964, and he hit at least 23 home runs each year between 1964-68.

Shut your mouth: Hart was not a good fielder and didn't like playing third base, once saying famously "it's just too damn close to the hitters."

No one understands him but his woman: Hart was out of the majors by the age of 34 and his performance fell off a number of years before that. Publicly, people blamed injuries for Hart's decline, but an alcohol problem was also a significant factor, and it followed him into his post-career life.

(A word about the back): Third place for batting .355 made me look up the California League leaders in 1961. The two players who batted better than Hart were a Dodgers prospect named Don Williams (.363) and a Phillies prospect named John Upham (.356), who played briefly for the Cubs in the late 1960s.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

no. 460 - fritz peterson

Who is the man: Fritz Peterson was coming off the best season -- his only 20-game-winning season -- when this card was issued.

Can ya dig it: I'm used to seeing these old-time Yankee Stadium action shots taken from the opposite side of the mound. It's nice to get this perspective. Of course, Peterson is a lefty, so you'd have to shoot on the third base side to get this shot.

Right on: This is Peterson's best Topps card, easily. He isn't in that awkward pose with his left arm shooting out as he is in half his cards. He doesn't look fat (1974). He doesn't look like Snidely Whiplash (1975).

You see that cat Peterson is a bad mother: Peterson had impeccable control. He led the league in walks per nine innings for five straight years between 1968-72.

Shut your mouth: In Peterson's 2009 book "Mickey Mantle Is Going To Heaven," he refers to his wife, Susanne, as "the new wife" throughout because she didn't approve of the book.

No one understands him but his woman: Peterson is known most these days for swapping wives with teammate Mike Kekich. While Peterson's ex-wife and Kekich split up quickly, Peterson remains married to the former Susanne Kekich more than 40 years later.

(A word about the back): I've got admit those 40 walks in 260 innings pitched looks impressive.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

no. 459 - jim lefebvre

Who is the man: Jim Lefebvre had just finished his third straight season in a platoon role for the Dodgers. His 109 games played in 1970 was the most since his 136 games in 1967.

Can ya dig it: It doesn't appear as if Lefebvre will be fenced in for long.

Right on: I'm having a hell of a time typing "Lefebvre".

You see that cat Lefebvre is a bad mother: Lefebvre was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1965. There was nothing very impressive about his stats, but he beat out Joe Morgan for the award, so I have no complaints.

Shut your mouth: Lefebvre punched Tom Lasorda in the face in a television studio in 1980. Lefebvre had just left the Dodgers, where he was coaching, to coach for the Giants. Between tapings for their respective interviews, the two got into it (Lefebvre had been fired by the Dodgers), and Lefebvre leveled Lasorda with a single punch.

No one understands him but his woman: Lefebvre played four seasons in Japan, and he's the first player to win a World Series (1965) and a Japan Series (1974).

(A word about the back): This is one of the first '71 Topps I ever owned. It doesn't look right without scuffing all over it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

no. 458 - white sox rookie stars

Who is the man: Both Ron Lolich and Dave Lemonds spent the entire 1970 season in Triple A, but for different teams. Lolich hit .292 with 16 homers for the White Sox's Triple A outfit in Tucson. Lemonds posted a 4.07 ERA in 22 starts for the Cubs' Triple A team in Tacoma.

Can ya dig it: I think Lolich might have some chaw, otherwise why would he be making that face?

Right on: Topps blacked out the top section of Lemonds' Cubs cap.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: The two of them combined had one solo Topps card -- Lemonds' 1973 card -- so, no, they're not bad mothers.

Shut your mouth: Lolich is the cousin of famed Tigers starting pitcher Mickey Lolich.

No one understands him but his woman: Lolich is one of precious few major leaguers to hit an "ultimate grand slam." That is when you hit a walk-off grand slam that enables your team to win by a single run. Lolich's ultimate grand slam came in the 9th inning of the Indians' 8-7 victory over the Red Sox on April 22, 1973.

(A word about the back): credits Lolich with 27 home runs in 1969. The White Sox's HR leader that year was Bill Melton with 23.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

no. 457 - willie smith

Who is the man: Willie Smith spent another season as mainly a pinch-hitter in 1970. He appeared in 87 games for the Cubs, but with just 167 at-bats.

Can ya dig it: Smith, who was traded to the Reds on Nov. 30, 1970, is wearing a Cubs jersey in this picture. Topps has cropped the image closely so all you notice is Smith's far-away brown eyes.

Right on: Second straight card featuring a player's final card.

You see that cat Smith is a bad mother: Smith hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning on Opening Day for the Cubs on April 8, 1969. The Phillies had tied the game in the top of the ninth when Don Money hit a three-run home run. Then the Phillies went ahead 6-5 in the top of the 11th on Money's run-scoring double. But Smith responded with the real money hit when he sent a Barry Lersch pitch over the right-center field fence with Randy Hundley on base to give the Cubs the victory.

Shut your mouth: Smith was the first of four Willies to reach the upper deck at old Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium. The other three were Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey and Willie Mays.

No one understands him but his woman: Smith started his major league career as a pitcher, throwing for the Tigers in 1963 and the Angels in 1964. Angels manager Bill Rigney converted Smith to an outfielder because his bat was too good to leave out of the lineup. But Smith did pitch three more times in 1968 for the Indians and Cubs.

(A word about the back): Smith's page does not list his birth date for whatever reason. But his birthday -- Feb. 11, 1939 -- is on this card.

Monday, September 28, 2015

no. 456 - bob meyer

Who is the man: Bob Meyer had closed out his career when this card was issued. He pitched in just 10 games for the Brewers in 1970 and was released by Milwaukee in March of 1971.

Can ya dig it: For this set it appears that Topps just lined up all the Brewers in Yankee Stadium and took their pictures.

Right on: This is Meyer's final card.

You see that cat Meyer is a bad mother: Meyer led the minor leagues in wild pitches several times. Between 1960-63 his yearly wild pitch totals were 11, 18, 13 and 11.

Shut your mouth: Meyer pitched for three different teams in 1964, the Yankees, Angels and A's.

No one understands him but his woman: Meyer is often cited for pitching a one-hitter and losing. It came on Sept. 12, 1964 when he was pitching for the Kansas City A's. He gave up only a double to the Orioles, but that runner came around to score on a pair of sacrifices. Meanwhile, Orioles starter Frank Bertania also pitched a one-hitter, except he didn't allow any runs.

(A word about the back): I don't know if that Sept. 12, 1964 game remains tied for the AL record for fewest hits in a nine-inning game, but I do know why it isn't the major league record. During Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 against the Cubs, Chicago starter Bob Hendley surrendered just one hit.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

no. 455 - don kessinger

Who is the man: Don Kessinger had completed his second straight Gold Glove season in 1970 when this card was coming out of packs.

Can ya dig it: I believe Don is facing the wrong way. The field is behind him.

Right on: I've always thought the player's number written inside the C of the Cubs logo was a little weird. Not as weird as those blue striped jammies that the Cubs wore in the '80s, but weird.

You see that cat Kessinger is a bad mother: Kessinger was widely regarded as one of the best fielding shortstops of the late '60s and early '70s. He's 15th all-time in career assists as a shortstop.

Shut your mouth: Kessinger, a player-manager for the White Sox for one year, retired as a player and a manager on Aug. 2, 1979, the same day that Yankees catcher Thurman Munson died in a plane crash.

No one understands him but his woman: While managing the White Sox, Kessinger used position player Wayne Nordhagen to pitch twice in one week. Nordhagen gave up two runs in two innings in his first start, but pitched a scoreless ninth in his second.

(A word about the back): Those 14 triples were a career-high for Kessinger. The Dodgers' Willie Davis led the league with 16.