Tuesday, October 30, 2012

no. 108 - john cumberland

Who is the man: John Cumberland finished up the 1970 season with the Giants after being traded by the Yankees in July of that year, therefore the airbrushed cap.

Can ya dig it: There is a lot -- I mean a LOT -- of territory on that cap. It may be the highest I've seen a player wear a cap on a baseball card. It looks like he's got a marmot in there.

Right on: This is the second airbrushed cap in the set, and I think I'm going to start keeping track of how many there are in the set.

You see this cat Cumberland is a bad mother: Cumberland achieved his first major league win while pitching for the Yankees in 1970. It was a wet, miserable night in the fog in Washington as the Yankees beat the Senators. Cumberland called the conditions "comfortable," and said that in his home state of Maine "we had to shovel the snow off the field to play."

Shut your mouth: As the pitching coach for the Red Sox during the mid-1990s, Cumberland was asked how he felt after Roger Clemens gave up a home run on his first pitch of spring training. "It doesn't bother me," he said. "I'm sure it didn't bother him either."

No one understands him but his woman: Cumberland was brought in from the bullpen to become the Giants' No. 3 starter for the rest of the 1971 season. Cumberland helped the Giants to the postseason that year. But after an 0-4 start in 1972, he was sold to the Cardinals and barely pitched in the majors again.

(A word about the back): American Legion ball or not, throwing a one-hitter while striking out 22 is pretty damn impressive.

Friday, October 26, 2012

no. 107 - roy foster

Who is the man: After seven years in the minors, Roy Foster received the starting left-field job for the Indians  in 1970 and didn't disappoint, hitting 23 home runs and batting .268 in 139 games to win Topps All-Star Rookie honors and one giant trophy on his card.

Can ya dig it: There is no card in my 1971 set that is in poorer condition than this card. I meant to upgrade it before it was Foster's turn in the rotation, but I never did. So you'll just have to live with the creases and scuffing.

Right on: This is Foster's first solo card. He appeared on a two-player rookie card in the 1970 set.

You see this cat Foster is a bad mother: Foster kept Thurman Munson from being a unanimous pick as American League Rookie of the Year in 1970. Foster received one of the 24 votes -- Munson got the other 23. Therefore, Foster finished second in ROY voting. The Sporting News actually named Foster the top AL rookie, not Munson.

Shut your mouth: Foster hit a home run in his first game in the major leagues. It came in the fourth inning of the season-opener against Orioles starter Dave McNally. The Orioles won 8-2 and McNally pitched a four-hitter, but Foster accounted for two of those hits and both Indians runs. He also hit a run-scoring single in the first inning.

No one understands him but his woman: You don't see "Junior" spelled out in someone's name all that often.

(A word about the back): I can't focus with all those creases.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

no. 106 - tom dukes

Who is the man: Tom Dukes was the leading relief pitcher for the second-year Padres in 1970, saving a team-high 10 games.

Can ya dig it: This is one of the '71 cards I acquired as a teenager in a trade for some late '70s Yankees. You can see the card is a little more worn than some of the others featured on the blog.

Right on: Dukes has a squinty-eyed look here that I don't trust.

You see this cat Dukes is a bad mother: Dukes set a record by recording five strikeouts in a minor league game in 1964. The record has since been tied, but 5 Ks in an inning? That had to be one bad-ass inning.

Shut your mouth: Dukes once appeared in nine straight games, which tied a major league record. The record is now 13 straight.

No one understands him but his woman: On the day of the famed "longest night game," a 1-0, 24-inning affair between the Mets and Astros on April 15, 1967, Dukes was called up to the big club by Houston. He was told to report the next day, so Dukes, who was in Nashville, Tenn., at the time, decided to start the drive and at least get to Dallas for the night. But as he was listening to the game and it went into extra innings, he kept driving to Houston, figuring the team might need him. He was 50 miles away from the Astrodome when Norm Miller crossed the plate on a ball that rolled through the legs of shortstop Al Weis for the game's only run in the 24th inning. Dukes wasn't needed after all.

(A word about the back): I wonder if the word "ace" is in quotation marks because Dukes saved just 10 games, went 1-6 and had a 4.04 ERA? Nah, I guess that's just me being sarcastic.

Monday, October 22, 2012

no. 105 - tony conigliaro

Who is the man: Tony Conigliaro was coming off the best season of his career when this card hit packs. The Red Sox traded him anyway, in October of 1970.

Can ya dig it: The Red Sox logo on Conigliaro's cap is blacked out, which was a common practice for Topps at the time (the 1969 set is littered with blacked-out caps). This is the first blacked-out cap in the 1971 set, but there are many others, particularly in the higher numbers.

Right on: Again, I must admire how players signed their names back in the day. "Conigliaro" is a long name and you can read every damn letter.

You see this cat Conigliaro is a bad mother: Of course, the most famous moment of Conigliaro's career was when he was struck in the face by a pitch from the Angels' Jack Hamilton in 1967, causing permanent damage to his career. But it didn't stop Conigliaro at first. His comeback was so striking in 1969 that he easily won Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Shut your mouth: According to Congliaro's SABR bio, Ted Williams warned a business partner of Conigliaro's that Tony was crowding the plate too much and that "it's serious time now. The pitchers are going to get serious." That was the day before Conigliaro was hit by Hamilton's pitch.

No one understands him but his woman: Conigliaro's trade to the Angels shocked the baseball community, and Congliaro himself was stunned. Speculation is that the Red Sox sensed that Conigliaro's vision problems had returned and that the player would never be more easily traded than he was at that moment. The Red Sox didn't explain the trade much, but the deal was a smart one. Conigliaro struggled with his eye and had other injuries while with the Angels.

(A word about the back): Wow, that's a giant Angels logo airbrushed on there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

no. 104 - dan frisella

Who is the man: Dan Frisella was coming off his breakthrough season in the majors when this card arrived. In the winter after the 1969 season, he learned to throw the forkball from pitcher Diego Segui. Frisella then moved from a starter's role to a bullpen role and became an effective counterpart to Tug McGraw in the Mets' bullpen in 1970. The 1971 season would be his best in the majors.

Can ya dig it: I know Frisella from his 1975 Topps card, all long-haired and airbrushed. (He was listed as "Danny" beginning in 1975). It's nice to see Frisella from a different perspective.

Right on: Those are some bushy eyebrows on the man they called "Bear."

You see this cat Frisella is a bad mother: I mean absolutely no disrespect by this at all, but the nature of Frisella's death -- he was killed on New Year's Day, 1977 in a dune buggy accident -- struck me as very cool when I was a kid. On the list of "ways to die," dune buggy rollover was right up there for me. Of course, now, I think of living to be 100 as very cool.

Shut your mouth: Frisella was playing for the Brewers when he died. The Brewers president at the time was Bud Selig. According to the Associated Press, here is his quote when he found out that Frisella had died: "Isn't that awful? That is a real shocker. I'm dumbfounded."

No one understands him but his woman: Frisella's wife was athletic, too. She played end and safety in a woman's professional football league.

(A word about the back): The bio credits Frisella's curveball for his success in 1970. No mention of the forkball.

Monday, October 15, 2012

no. 103 - rich severson

Who is the man: Rich Severson had just completed his rookie season with the Kansas City Royals, appearing in 77 games and batting .250. He played mostly at shortstop but some at second base.

Can ya dig it: Rookie card!

Right on: This is Severson's only card and he sure got a good one for it to be his only one. One of those great early action shots that you can find in 1971 Topps.

You see this cat Severson is a bad mother: Severson has a hand in another great card from the 1971 set. He isn't shown in the picture, but he sets up the photo, according to this account.

Shut your mouth: Severson comes from the same high school , Western High School in Anaheim, Calif., as two notable figures in sports history -- Andy Messersmith and Tiger Woods.

No one understands him but his woman: I'll say. I could find precious little information on Severson outside of his major and minor league statistics. Severson was out of the majors by 1971 and spent time in the Royals and Phillies minor league organizations until 1973.

(A word about the back): What's more distracting? The glowing write-up of Severson on his high school exploits, the arbitrary and unnecessary abbreviating of "fielding," or the distant figure just over Severson's right shoulder on his mug shot photo?

Friday, October 12, 2012

no. 102 - astros rookie stars

Who is the man: Ken Forsch kicked off what would we be one of the greatest brother pitching tandems in major league history with his first four major league appearances in 1970, going 1-2. Larry Howard would play in 31 games during his first major league season, batting .307. It's a bit surprising he didn't get his own card, considering how many players did get their own cards in the '71 set.

Can ya dig it: You can barely see the old Astros' shooting star logo on Forsch's uniform. Love the little shooting star.

Right on: A little bit of free advertising behind Howard. But I can't make out what it says.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Sorry, rookies. You have to earn your bad mother status.

Shut your mouth: Forsch pitched a no-hitter against the Braves on April 7, 1979, what was then the earliest no-hitter in a season. Forsch's spring training was a wreck, full of injuries that included getting bit by an insect that caused his left elbow to swell up. After pitching the no-hitter, teammate Joe Niekro said, "I want to find that spider that bit Kenny. Maybe it'll help me, too."

No one understand him but his woman: Howard played in the major leagues through the 1973 season, including 157 at-bats with the Astros in 1972. But he never received a solo card from Topps.

(A word about the back): Forsch struck out 189 batters in 207 innings pitched for Houston's Double A and Triple A teams in 1970.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

no. 101 - les cain

Who is the man: On the strength of his blazing start to the 1970 season, Les Cain was named the Topps All-Star Rookie pitcher. He didn't receive any votes in the A.L. Rookie of the Year voting though. Twenty-three of the 24 available votes went to Thurman Munson.

Can ya dig it: Cain signing his name "Les 'Sugar' Cain" is the greatest thing I've seen today.

Right on: Those TV numbers players wore on their sleeves back in the '70s sure are distracting.

You see this cat Cain is a bad mother: Cain was the first pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Shut your mouth: Cain struggled with a shoulder injury throughout his brief career (1968-72) and it eventually forced him out of the game. Fellow Tigers pitcher John Hiller told the Detroit Press that in 1972, he was coming back from a heart attack and Cain was coming back from his shoulder injury. Tigers manager Billy Martin told both of them to warm-up. "I'll keep one of you and release the other." Hiller went on to be one of the Tigers' greatest relievers. Cain was sold to the Giants.

No one understands him but his woman: Cain filed a disability claim against the Tigers in 1973, saying he was forced to play even though he was injured. Cain received a favorable ruling and was awarded $111 a month for life.

(A word about the back): Cain threw four no-hitters in his career, the two in winter league, one in the minors and one in high school.

Monday, October 8, 2012

no. 100 - pete rose

Who is the man: Pete Rose was at the traditional peak of his career in 1971, coming off yet another above .300 performance and an appearance in the postseason (where he had a rather mediocre NLCS and World Series).

Can ya dig it: I'm just now noticing Rose's habit of crossing the "T" in his first name with the back end of the second "E." I suppose that's pretty normal, but I would cross the "T" before I even wrote the "E." (Yes, I think of things like this).

Right on: The "outfield" designation seems odd to me as someone who was introduced to Rose when he was a third baseman in the mid-1970s. But Rose played the outfield almost exclusively in the late '60s and early '70s.

You see this cat Rose is a bad mother: Two of Rose's most famous on-field baseball plays are bowling over catcher Ray Fosse during the 1970 All-Star Game, and sliding hard into shortstop Bud Harrelson, prompting a bench-clearing brawl in the 1973 NLCS. He was one determined bad-ass on the bases.

Shut your mouth: Rose's nickname "Charlie Hustle" was a derisive slam by the Yankees' Whitey Ford. But Rose turned it into a compliment.

No one understands him but his woman: Rose and his girlfriend, Kiana Kim, are due to be the stars of a reality show featuring their family that's supposed to air on TLC later this year. Oooh, I can't wait.

(A word about the back): " ... scored winning run in '70 All-Star game." Topps makes it sound so exciting.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

no. 99 - mark belanger

Who is the man: Mark Belanger had just completed his third of nearly a dozen straight years as the starting shortstop for the Orioles. After rapping out 152 hits in 1969, the lifetime .228 hitter came down to earth in 1970, hitting .218.

Can ya dig it: Anytime I see Belanger pictured holding a bat on his card, it looks a little silly. But Topps featured him with a bat on his rookie card in 1967, as well as in 1972, '74, '77, '79 and '82.

Right on: Belanger has a nice, clean signature, although it's a bit obscured by his dark shirt sleeve.

You see this cat Belanger is a bad mother: Belanger is the only player in big league history to play in 2,000 games and not reach a .300 slugging percentage. You have to have the goods on someone to be able to do that. Or field particularly well. Or play during the 1970s. Or just be plain bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Belanger's 17-year-career with the Orioles ended after Belanger was critical of legendary manager Earl Weaver. Belanger felt that Weaver's managerial abilities were slipping and said so publicly at the end of the 1981 season. Soon after, GM Hank Peters told Belanger that the team had decided to go with younger players and he was not re-signed.

No one understands him but his woman: Coaches noticed Belanger's fielding ability right away. Orioles coach Billy Hunter said that Belanger, even at age 18, was almost too good. "If anything, he was too smooth," Hunter said.

(A word about the back): Sentences like the one that ends Belanger's bio drive me crazy. Those are two unrelated thoughts there, bio writer! It's like saying, "Well-known for his love of pie, he's in the other room watching TV." Huh?

Monday, October 1, 2012

no. 98 - joe decker

Who is the man: Joe Decker had just completed his rookie season with the Cubs as this card hit wax packs. He appeared in 24 games for Chicago in 1970, making 17 starts.

Can ya dig it: That warm-up-jacket-under-the-uniform look is never coming back is it?

Right on: Rookie card!

You see this cat Decker is a bad mother: During the early part of his pro career, Decker threw so hard and was so wild that teammates would refuse to bat against him during spring training.

Shut your mouth: Decker was convinced that he pitched better when he was easy-going. "I try to tranquilize myself when I pitch," he said. "If I'm lethargic, I have better stuff."

No one understand him but his woman: Decker's full name is George Henry Decker Jr. I have no idea how that produces "Joe."

(A word about the back): Decker came in the sixth inning for his first major league appearance. He pitched four innings and allowed two hits and no runs. Decker allowed his first hit to Cleon Jones.