Wednesday, May 30, 2012

no. 56 - duane josephson

Who is the man: Duane Josephson was traded to the Red Sox before most people pulled this card from packs in 1971. He went to Boston on March 31 of that year and Tony Muser and Vicente Romo went to the White Sox.

Can ya dig it: There is a whole mess of baseball equipment going on this photo. Bats and gloves and helmets and shin guards everywhere. Great stuff.

Right on: Someone needs to explain to me why a batting cage in a card photo automatically makes the card great. I'm not disputing it, I just don't know the reason.

You see this cat Josephson is a bad mother: While playing in Triple A in 1966, Josephson hit a double during a game in Tulsa. The ball struck the clock on the outfield fence, setting it on fire. The Tulsa fire department had to be called to put out the blaze. That is some bad stuff.

Shut your mouth: Josephson's best day at the plate came in 1971 against the Orioles. After nearly getting beaned by pitcher Pat Dobson, Josephson hit two home runs. After the second homer, he let Dobson hear it while rounding the bases. "You couldn't print what I called him," he said.

No one understand him but his woman: Josephson's career was cut short at age 30 after being hospitalized twice with pericarditis. He returned home to his wife and six children. He continued to suffer heart ailments, eventually dying from a heart attack at age 54 in 1997.

(A word about the back): Josephson really was referred to as "Josie" during his career. But I'm sure no one brought up "The Pussycats" around him.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

no. 55 - steve carlton

Who is the man: Steve Carlton's 1970 season was a great disappointment after his breakthrough 1969 season. Carlton won seven fewer games, lost eight more, and his ERA rose from 2.17 to 3.73.

Can ya dig it: This is one of those photos where you can tell that the pitcher is a tall man.

Right on: Seeing Carlton as a Cardinal is strange. He's a Phillie, plain and simple.

You see this cat Carlton is a bad mother: Winning 27 games in a season in which your team goes 59-97 and finishes last is as staggering now as when it first happened in 1972. In fact, the more I think about it, the more staggering it gets.

Shut your mouth: Well, this is an easy one. Carlton stopped talking to the media in 1973 and that was it. He became known as the guy who wouldn't talk.

No one understand him but his woman: Carlton's unusual training habits led to him going mum in the media. Reporters criticized his training techniques after he followed his 27-10 season with a 20-loss season in '73.

(A word about the back): Topps prefers to dwell on Carlton's 1969 season, and I understand why. There was a lot to say.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

no. 54 - 1st series checklist

Who is the man: I don't know who the man in the red hat is, but at least you know where I got my blog header.

Can ya dig it: The checklist post is always good for getting a sneak peek at what players are coming up next. Some pretty good ones on the horizon.

Right on: The 1971 checklists are some of the greatest checklists Topps ever made. Some years the checklists are terribly ugly -- full of clashing colors and shapes. But not '71. It's too cool.

You see this checklist is a bad mother: It starts off with "World Champions." Seems pretty bad to me.

Shut your mouth: Did Topps really need to abbreviate "series" to "ser."?

No one understands him but his woman: The rookie cards on the checklist omit the "rookie stars" label that is found on each of the rookie cards. The checklist must not be impressed.

(A word about the back): It seems odd to me that the second series checklist (card No. 123) is listed in the FIRST series. But maybe Topps was giving collectors an advance look at what was coming in the second series.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

no. 53 - paul blair

Who is the man: Paul Blair was in the midst of the peak part of his career in 1970, although a beaning during the season would lead many to speculate that he was never the same afterward.

Can ya dig it: I don't know where this photo was taken. It looks like one of those Arizona spring training sites. But the Orioles are a Grapefruit League team.

Right on: The Orioles have some terrific cards in this set. This is one of them.

You see this cat Blair is a bad mother: Blair was known as the premier fielding center fielder in the major leagues during his career. He won eight gold gloves, including seven straight.

Shut your mouth: I don't think that is possible. Blair's nickname was "Motormouth" because he wouldn't shut his mouth.

No one understands him but his woman: Blair insists that his hitting decline had nothing to do with the beaning but because Frank Robinson was traded away after the 1971 season. Robinson hit behind Blair and he saw plenty of fastballs with Robinson following him.

(A word about the back): The pitch that broke Blair's cheekbone (a different account has the pitch breaking his nose), was thrown by Angels pitcher Ken Tatum on May 31.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

no. 52 - braves rookie stars

Who is the man: Both Oscar Brown and Earl Williams made their major league debuts in 1970 with a certain degree of success. Brown would hit better than he ever would, batting .383 in 47 at-bats. Williams also hit above .300, going 7-for-24 for a .368 average.

Can ya dig it: As I've mentioned before, I like the old-style Braves uniforms and seeing two guys wearing them just reinforces that.

Right on: This is the first rookie stars card of the four that have been shown that features two African-American prospects.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: They're bad at something, and that's at being bad-ass. Rookies can't be bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: It's interesting that Williams is listed as a first baseman, as he would go on to a career as a catcher. Williams didn't move to catcher permanently until early in the 1971 season. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year honors that year. But he became known as a subpar defensive catcher, specializing in passed balls -- with a whopping 28 in 1972.

No one understands him but his woman: Oscar Brown is not the same person as outfielder (Downtown) Ollie Brown. That is his brother. Oscar Brown played exclusively with the Braves, lasting until 1973. He played in a career high 76 games in 1972, but hit just .226.

(A word about the back): I never knew Earl Williams was so tall.

Friday, May 18, 2012

no. 51 - steve kline

Who is the man: Steve Kline had just completed his first season in the major leagues, going 6-6 in 1970 in 15 starts for the Yankees.

Can ya dig it: Kline is often referred to as "the right-handed Steve Kline" to avoid confusion with the left-handed Steve Kline, a reliever with the Expos, Cardinals and other teams from 1997-2007.

Right on: Rookie card!!

You see this cat Kline is a bad mother: Kline is mentioned in the cartoon of his 1974 Topps card as "one of the A.L.'s most eligible bachelors." I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it's completely bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Kline was a promising starter for the Yankees, pitching more than 200 innings in 1971 and 1972. But arm problems hit and Kline was dealt to the Indians in a trade that New York fans hated. But then Kline recorded a 5.07 ERA in 1974 for Cleveland and one of the player the Yankees got in return was Chris Chambliss. Kline was promptly forgotten.

No one understand him but his woman: Kline worked as a lumber broker for many years after his playing career. I had to look up what a lumber broker is. I'm told he is "a professional who facilitates the sell of timber between growers, saw mills, lumber yards and consumers." OK, that doesn't clear it up much.

(A word about the back): "Moundsman" is not a word you hear in baseball anymore.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

no. 50 - willie mc covey

Who is the man: Willie McCovey had just completed his last great season in 1970. After the 1970 season, he'd have some good years, but the monstrous years for which he was known in the late 1960s were behind him.

Can ya dig it: Even though McCovey is cut off at the waist in this photo, you really get a feel for how tall "Stretch" is. He looks like he's eyeing a baseball that is 8 feet off the ground.

Right on: McCovey's most famous moment, his wicked line drive that was caught to end the 1962 World Series and immortalized forever in a Peanuts comic strip, will be 50 years old this fall.

You see this cat McCovey is a bad mother: Two of the baddest pitchers in baseball history -- Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson -- were intimidated by McCovey. Don Sutton said of Drysdale "In the four-and-a-half years I played with Don, I think McCovey is the only player he was afraid of physically." Gibson called McCovey "the scariest hitter in baseball."

Shut your mouth: McCovey claims that when he watches a game in person now, he is there for the duration. "I'm not one of those who leaves in the sixth inning," he said. "Those are Dodger fans. We don't do that up here."

Willie, this Dodger fan has never left a game early in his life.

No one understands him but his woman: McCovey, 74, has spent much of his later life in a wheelchair because of abundant knee surgeries. But in rehab recently, he met his girlfriend, a 39-year-old from the Philippines, who took over his treatment.

(A word about the back): A mere 126 RBIs in 495 at-bats. That's pretty damn good.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

no. 49 - don money

Who is the man: Don Money had just completed his second full season in the major leagues in 1970. After a fine season at shortstop in 1969, a season after which he was named to the Topps' All-Rookie team, he was moved to third base in 1970 to make way for Larry Bowa.

Can ya dig it: I can't get used to Money in anything other than a Brewers uniform. So, no, I can't dig it.

Right on: There's too much air over Money's cap. It makes him look short.

You see this cat Money is a bad mother: His last name is "Money." No need to look any further.

Shut your mouth: In April of 1976, Money hit a grand slam against the Yankees, only to have it called back because the first base umpire said he called time before the pitch was thrown. This was before I followed baseball avidly, but if it happened one year later, I would be convinced that the umpire was in cahoots with the Yankees. Too many things seemed to go the Yankees' way back then.

No one understands him but his woman: Money played in Japan after his major league career but didn't last long. His family didn't like life in the country and his daughter didn't like her school. Money claimed he was promised a home in a tree-line setting and ended up with an apartment complete with cockroaches. Money left in midseason.

(A word about the back): Floating head! I've decided to keep track of the floating heads in the set by adding it as a label. So far we're up to five floating heads.

Friday, May 11, 2012

no. 48 - dave baldwin

Who is the man: Dave Baldwin had just finished the most successful portion of his major league career in 1970 -- four years as a reliever with the Senators and Brewers. He wouldn't return to the majors again until 1973, for three games with the White Sox.

Can ya dig it: Wow, I'm sure if I was collecting cards as a kid in 1971, I would hate this card. It'd be on the "no give-backs" list.

Right on: That's some hairdo. What do you call that?

You see this cat Baldwin is a bad mother: He is indeed. After his career ended in '74, he earned a Ph.D in genetics. He published his baseball memoir in 2008, called "Snake Jazz," and a collection of poetry under the pen name DGB Featherkile. But for me, the most bad-ass achievement is that he has a painting -- called "Fugue for the Pepper Players" -- displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Shut your mouth: Baldwin played for the Senators when Ted Williams was the manager in 1969. Like most pitchers at the time, they would get riled up when Williams went into his often-told "pitchers are stupid" speech. In "Snake Jazz," Baldwin recounts Williams saying, "I'll bet not a single one of you even knows how a curve ball curves," to pitchers during spring training,

Baldwin spoke up, mentioned the Magnus force on a spinning ball and illustrated it with a baseball. The explanation stole Williams' thunder. The manager simply said, "Well at least one of you knows."

No one understand him but his woman: In 2000, Baldwin spoke at the Science of Baseball Symposium. His topic was the decision processes of baseball managers.

(A word about the back): This is Baldwin's final card, so this is the only picture on a card of him wearing a Brewers cap -- if it's not airbrushed on him.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

no. 47 - johnny jeter

Who is the man: Johnny Jeter is the FIRST Jeter to play in a major league baseball game. Derek Jeter is the third (Johnny's son, Shawn Jeter, was the second).

Can ya dig it: I don't know what to love more, the helmet-cap combo or the old-style batting cage.

Right on: First solo card for Jeter!

You see this cat Jeter is a bad mother: Jeter hit two home runs in a game against the Mets when he was with the Padres in 1972. Unfortunately for Jeter, the Padres lost the game, 8-6.

Shut your mouth: The Padres acquired Jeter at the end of the 1971 season to be their starting center fielder. In 1972, Jeter played in more games (110) than he would any other year of his career. But he hit just .221 and the Padres traded him after the season to the White Sox.

No one understands him but his woman: Why "Johnny" when he signed his name "John"?

(A word about the back): A Louisiana native, Jeter attended Grambling State University in Grambling, La. A dozen Grambling State players have made it to the major leagues. The most successful of those is Ralph Garr, who played on the same Grambling team as Jeter in the 1960s.

Monday, May 7, 2012

no. 46 - dave campbell

Who is the man: After failing to latch on with his hometown Detroit Tigers, Campbell made the most of a trade to San Diego in 1970, playing in a career-high 154 games for the second-year Padres. He hit only .219, but stole 18 bases and hit 12 home runs, which placed him among the team leaders.

Can ya dig it: I first came across Campbell when he was working as a broadcaster and studio analyst for ESPN baseball. When I found out that Campbell was once a major leaguer, I assumed he was the former pitcher for the Braves in the late 1970s, who was also named Dave Campbell. I never knew there was ANOTHER Dave Campbell. (Let alone this guy).

Right on: Kind of an awkward photo here, cropped strangely and off-center. It is such a severe head shot that Topps had to squeeze the signature in on a diagonal.

You see this cat Campbell is a bad mother: Campbell was forever working to make himself valuable. Not only did he play every infield position, but he practiced behind the plate, too, so teams would know he could catch if they needed a backup catcher. When he got hurt, he begged the Padres GM to let him do the color commentary for team broadcasts. When he was starting out as a broadcaster, he couldn't find a job, so he went to work as a manager in the Padres' organization. Then, when he found work as a broadcaster, he invented a baseball board game called "X-Tra Bases."

Shut your mouth: Campbell is known for his unflinching style in the broadcast booth. He's not afraid to criticize. That likely led to the Padres not renewing his contract when he worked as a broadcaster for them during the 1980s.

No one understands him but his woman: Here's a look at Campbell's board game. I'm too lazy to see if I can explain how it's played.

(A word about the back): I mucked up the scan. That gray bar in the right corner isn't really on the card.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

no. 45 - jim hunter

Who is the man: Jim "Catfish" Hunter had pitched six years in the major leagues by this point and had yet to win 20 games. That would all change in 1971 when he would have the first of five straight 20-win seasons.

Can ya dig it: Iconic mustachioed players from the mid-1970s always look so strange in their earlier photos. Hunter does not look like himself at all here. I'm sure I was totally taken aback when I first obtained this card. Yet, he doesn't show up with a mustache on a card until the 1973 Topps set.

Right on: Some odd cropping on this image.

You see this cat Hunter is a bad mother: Hunter was wounded in a hunting accident when he was a senior in high school. Practically blew off his foot and lost one of his toes. A lot of scouts stayed away after that, but he ended up with a Hall of Fame career. And that is bad ass.

Shut your mouth: Hunter refused to choose a team that would represent him on his Hall of Fame plaque. So his cap on his plaque has no logo.

No one understand him but his woman: Hunter lost a battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease at age 53 in 1999. During his battle with the disease, he credited his wife, Helen, for providing him constant care, dressing him and cutting his food. "Once in awhile," he said. "We sit there and cry together."

(A word about the back): Topps never did call Hunter "Catfish Hunter" on any of its cards during his career, although I think they came around on a Topps Tribute card after his death.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

no. 44 - johnny edwards

Who is the man: Johnny Edwards was 33 years old in 1971 and had been in the league since 1961. That's a lot of crouching. So 1970 was Edwards' last season of more than 500 at-bats and 110 games. His playing time started to decline after 1970.

Can ya dig it: Edwards is shown in batting stances in his early cards, but is in a catcher's crouch in his later cards. I'm thinking that Edwards' reputation as an excellent defensive catcher led to more "defensive" poses as the years went on.

Right on: Edwards is known for catching no-hit performances, although his first attempt, with the Reds' Jim Maloney, didn't pan out. Edwards caught 10 innings of no-hit ball from Maloney, but Maloney gave up a hit, a run and the game in the 11th. But Edwards and Maloney combined again a couple of months later for a actual 10-inning no-hitter. Edwards also caught a no-hitter by the Cardinals' Ray Washburn in 1968.

You see this cat Edwards is a bad mother: Edwards holds the record for most putouts in a season by a catcher with 1,135 in 1969. Of course, it helped that the Astros had three starters that struck out at least 200 batters that season -- Larry Dierker, Don Wilson and Tom Griffin. The other starter, Denny Lemaster, struck out 173.

Shut your mouth: Edwards wasn't around to see Maloney lose that no-hitter the first time. He was removed in extra innings for a pinch-hitter. "Boy, was I mad," he said.

No one understands him but his woman: Richard Kendall, for SABR's research journal, named Edwards as the second most dominant defensive catcher in MLB history.

(A word about the back): "Was with Reds & Cardinals" is kind of an odd, out-of-the-blue sentence. The Astros aren't good enough for Edwards?