Thursday, September 27, 2012

no. 97 - floyd wicker

Who is the man: Floyd Wicker was a former Cardinals prospect just trying to hold on in 1971. He'd be traded to the Giants in June of 1971 and retire at the end of the season.

Can ya dig it: I think Wicker is wearing an Expos uniform. He played for the Expos during their expansion season in 1969, mostly as a pinch-hitter.

Right on: This is Wicker's first and only solo card.

You see this cat Wicker is a bad mother: I found this hard to believe, but I came across a story about Floyd Wicker that was published in the Burlington, N.C. News-Times TODAY. That's right. On the same day I did this post, there is a newspaper story about the same guy, who played in 81 major league games 41 years ago. What are the odds? Wicker had to be a bad mother to pull off that feat.

Shut your mouth: Wicker says he was a Mickey Mantle and Yankees fan when he was a kid "because they were always in the World Series and always winning." Ugh, those kids drove me nuts when I was young.

No one understands him but his woman: This is Wicker's only solo card (he's on an Expos prospect card in the 1969 set), and he's cap-less. Except for what appears to be a dugout behind him, there is no evidence from the photo that he is even a ball player. That's an unfortunate card for your only card.

(A word about the back): The helmet on Wicker's head features a great, big, airbrushed "M." Wicker played just 15 games for Milwaukee and that wasn't enough time to get a photo of him as a Brewer.

Monday, September 24, 2012

no. 96 - joe hague

Who is the man: Joe Hague started the 1971 season with his first season as a starter under his belt. He split time starting at first base and in the outfield for the Cardinals in 1970.

Can ya dig it: I like the formal signature. Joe's middle name was Clarence.

Right on: Using "Cards" on all of the Cardinals cards seemed odd to me as a kid, but I can appreciate it now. With that font, Topps would have been forced to squeeze the letters to get "Cardinals" to fit. It has done that with "Diamondbacks" with some current sets and it doesn't look good.

You see this cat Hague is a bad mother: Hague's first hit in the major leagues was a home run, hit off of the Dodgers' Bill Singer in the top of the sixth inning on Sept. 20, 1968. It was his second major league game.

Shut your mouth: Hague was unhappy with his situation with the Cardinals in 1972. A trade with the Padres had fallen through, a trade that would have freed up the starting right field position for Hague. Instead he was forced to platoon, and said in a newspaper article that he wasn't happy about it. Two months later, he was traded to the Reds.

No one understands him but his woman: Hague would use the word "mullet" instead of a curse word. He said he developed the practice as a youngster to keep from swearing.

(A word about the back): The head shot appears to be from the same photo session as the photo on the front. That's pretty common in this set, but I wonder how many examples there are?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

no. 95 - luis tiant

Who is the man: Luis Tiant was at the crossroads of his career when this card came out of packs in 1971. Tiant broke his right shoulder blade while making a start in May 1970 and missed the rest of the season. He was released by the Twins in spring training of '71 (he was picked up by the Red Sox in mid-season but did so poorly he didn't even get a card in the 1972 Topps set).

Can ya dig it: Tiant looks so grumpy in his early cards. I think it's because he didn't have the fu manchu going until the 1973 season. That lightened him up a little.

Right on: Seeing Tiant in anything other than a Red Sox uniform is plain strange.

You see this cat Tiant is a bad mother: Tiant created his own brand of cigars, called "El Tiante cigars, after his nickname. I can't think of anything badder.

Shut your mouth: When the Baltimore Orioles went to Cuba to play a couple of exhibition games against the Cuban National Team in 1999, Tiant was not happy. "We should never forget what has happened to the people in Cuba for 40 years. All baseball cares about is getting players out of Cuba. It doesn't care about the suffering, just money. The Orioles shouldn't have gone to Cuba."

No one understands him but his woman: Tiant began his American baseball career in the minor leagues in Charleston, S.C. "I couldn't speak very good English, but I understand racism," he said.

(A word about the back): Tiant's Mexico City home came about because he began his pro career with the Mexico City Tigers in 1961 before being signed by the Indians.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

no. 94 - don hahn

Who is the man: Don Hahn had completed his rookie season in 1970, appearing in 82 games and hitting .255, which would be the highest season batting average of his seven-year career.

Can ya dig it: Hahn was traded to the Mets probably before most collectors pulled this card in 1971. Montreal shipped him to New York on March 31, 1971.

Right on: Rookie card, baby!

You see this cat Hahn is a bad mother: Hahn led indirectly to the premature ending of fellow Mets outfielder George Theodore's career. During a game on July 7, 1973, Hahn and Theodore collided as they hit the wall together, chasing a hit by the Braves' Ralph Garr. Theodore dislocated his hip on the play and was never able to run like he did before, exiting pro ball after the 1975 season. Hahn, apparently, was shook up on the play, but walked away unscathed. Garr finished with an inside-the-park home run.

Shut your mouth: In a story for the San Francisco Chronicle, Hahn said his son, Dustin, was a more advanced ball player than he was at the same age. Dustin was signed by the Orioles but only made it to Class A ball.

No one understands him but his woman: Hahn came over to the Mets in a deal that sent 1969 World Series hero Ron Swoboda to the Expos. A lot of fans never forgave Hahn for that.

(A word about the back): I think it's pretty impressive that Topps had Hahn's spring training stats from 1969. Those probably aren't mentioned very much on card backs ... or so I assume.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

no. 93 - senators rookie stars

Who is the man: Norm McRae appeared in 19 games for the Tigers in 1970, his second season in the major leagues. He was part of the deal that sent Denny McLain from the Tigers to the Senators. Denny Riddleberger was an August deadline acquisition from the Pirates in 1970. He pitched in 8 games for the Senators, his first major league games.

Can ya dig it: McRae, who appears to have a Michael Strahan thing going in the dental department, is wearing a Tigers jersey.

Right on: Considering that Riddleberger didn't arrive with the Senators until Aug. 31, 1970, I'm impressed that Topps has him in a Senators cap. I'm wondering if that's a night shot. Sure is dark behind him.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Sorry, they're rookies. Go fetch my equipment, rook.

Shut your mouth: McRae would never pitch in another major league game after this card was issued.

No one understands him but his woman: McRae continued his baseball career in the Mexican League, first as a pitcher and then as a manager. McRae was a Jersey boy. I'm assuming he picked up enough Spanish to be able to manage a Mexican League team.

(A word about the back): Riddleberger was one of those rare lefties who hit right-handed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

no. 92 - fred wenz

Who is the man: Fred Wenz was a relief pitcher for the Phillies who appeared in a career-high 22 games in 1970. He would not play in another major league game after this card was issued.

Can ya dig it: I wonder how many kids Wenz confused with this pose? He's posing as a catcher, yet he's a pitcher.

Right on: Wenz seems like an absolute character. From his chaw-aided grin to his glorious signature.

You see this cat Wenz is a bad mother: Wenz pitched for 10 seasons in the minor leagues before getting to the majors. He didn't even make it to Triple A until after he had been playing professionally for seven seasons. That's persistence. And a little bit of bad-assness.

Shut your mouth: In an interview with Phillies alumni, Wenz was asked what career he would have chosen if he didn't play baseball. Wenz said he would've gone with his "first love" and become a veterinarian.

No one understands him but his woman: This is Wenz's only solo card. He appears on a Red Sox three-player rookie card in the 1969 set.

(A word about the back): Wenz's nickname was "Fireball," which I know to be the nickname of 1950s Cincinnati Reds reliever Frank Smith. I suppose it was a common name back them for those pitchers with a mean fastball.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

no. 91 - bob lemon

Who is the man: Bob Lemon was entering his first full season as Royals manager in 1971 after taking over for Charlie Metro during the 1970 season.

Can ya dig it: Some nice foreshadowing in this photo as Lemon would go on to two separate stints of managing for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

Right on: I remember Lemon during his glasses days with the White Sox and the Yankees. It's odd to see him without them.

You see this cat Lemon is a bad mother: Lemon made it to the World Series four times, twice as a player and twice as a manager. He's also one of the few former pitchers to have notable success as a manager in the last 50 years.

Shut your mouth: Lemon's managerial style was adopted from manager Al Lopez. Lemon's biggest attribute was his low-key nature. He didn't say much and didn't hound his players. Speaking about Yankees manager Billy Martin, who he replaced in 1978, he said "Where maybe I keep things inside, he lets them come out."

No one understands him but his woman: Lemon led the Royals to their first winning season in 1971. But after a below-.500 season in 1972, owner Ewing Kauffman fired Lemon, saying he wanted someone younger.

(A word about the back): If that's not the exact same photo as the one that's on the front, it's one click of the shutter away.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

no. 90 - joe pepitone

Who is the man: Joe Pepitone was about to embark on his first full season with the Cubs in 1971, after spending 56 games with Chicago in 1970. He was purchased by the Cubs from the Astros in July 1970.

Can ya dig it: Pepitone is growing out his hair after his clean-cut days with the Yankees. Or, I guess, growing out his sideburns -- he didn't have a lot of hair on top by then.

Right on: Looks like a great day for a picnic.

You see this cat Pepitone is a bad mother: Hoo-boy. Where to begin? Pepitone's been arrested a couple of times for drug possession and drunk driving, both which happened in dramatic fashion (busted by police after running a red light in the first case, arrested after being found bloodied and disoriented after a car crash the second time). He's also been charged with assault. All of this years after his playing career ended.

Shut your mouth: Pepitone is one of the star players in "Ball Four." Most of his mentions have to do with his vanity. Jim Bouton talks about Pepitone's toupees and how one came off of Joe's head when he removed his cap for the National Anthem.

No one understands him but his woman: Pepitone played in Japan in 1973 but didn't like it, complaining about the language barrier (each team was allowed two foreign-born players and Pepitone said that the other foreigner on his team spoke Mexican), as well as the baseball traditions in Japan. A promotions director for another team in Japan lit into Pepitone, calling him "a worthless piece of merchandise." He also said of Pepitone, who complained that he had to carrry his own bags, "for the $70,000 Joe was paid, he should've carried the entire team's bags."

(A word about the back): "Always controversial" -- wow, that's not something you saw in card write-ups back then, or maybe ever. It's the first two words in the write-up!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

no. 89 - ken brett

Who is the man: Ken Brett had just completed his first full-fledged major league season when this card hit store shelves. He appeared in 41 games in 1970. But he had made an impact for Boston already -- three years prior.

Can ya dig it: I'm thinking there's no ball in Brett's glove.

Right on: I believe Brett's signature features his nickname, "Kemer," which is terrific. His full first name is Kenneth. But that's not "Kenneth" or "Ken." It must be "Kemer."

You see this cat Brett is a bad mother: Brett famously pitched in the World Series for the Red Sox as a 19-year-old in 1967. In Game 7, he came into the game in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and got Tim McCarver to ground out to end the inning. Red Sox manager Dick Williams said Brett had "the guts of a burglar."

Shut your mouth: Brett made fun of the number of teams he played for (he played for 10 in 14 major league seasons) in a Miller Lite Beer commercial in 1984.

No one understands him but his woman: Brett's younger brother, George Brett, didn't play with Ken in the majors until Ken arrived with Kansas City in 1980. During a pitching change, Ken was called in from the bullpen and George says, "they opened up the gate and he came running in like an airplane -- arms spread out like wings, banking left, banking right. ... I'm on the mound with Jim Frey, our manager, and Jamie Quirk. ... And I looked at Jamie and he looked at me, and I said, 'Now I know why he's been traded 10 times."

(A word about the back): This is Brett's first solo card and the first opportunity for Topps to mention his World Series appearance.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

no. 88 - hal king

Who is the man: Hal King was coming off the most playing time he would ever receive in the majors when this card was issued. King, platooning with Bob Tillman in 1970, appeared in 89 games with 204 at-bats, hitting .260.

Can ya dig it: It's awesome that King is "protecting" his throwing hand in the pose, much like he'd do in an actual game. It always seems weird when catchers pose on vintage cards and have their throwing hand out in front of them, as if that would ever happen.

Right on: Did King dot the 'I' in his last name with a baseball? It's hard to tell, but I'm going to believe that's what he did.

You see this cat King is a bad mother: King is often cited by Reds fans as the man who helped turn around Cincinnati's 1973 season. On July 1, 1973, King hit a pinch-hit, game-winning, two-run home run in the ninth inning to give the Reds a comeback 4-3 victory over the Dodgers. The Reds, in fourth place at the time and nine games behind the division-leading Dodgers, would go on to win the division.

Shut your mouth: A year later, King was sent out to pinch-hit again in the seventh inning of a tie game with the Dodgers on July 2, 1974. He struck out and the Dodgers won the game ... and won the division.

No one understands him but his woman: King's 1973 season really is remarkable. He played in just 35 games and had eight hits the entire season. Four of those hits were home runs.

(A word about the back): The last line of the bio write-up sounds like they're talking about an Astros groupie.