Thursday, November 29, 2012

no. 118 - cookie rojas

Who is the man: Cookie Rojas completed his first season with the Kansas City Royals in 1970. He was traded from the Cardinals to the Royals in June of that season, and was entering the '71 season as the Royals' starting second baseman.

Can ya dig it: This is an often-cited favorite card of the 1971 set with good reason. It's a great double-play action shot with a scoreboard in the background. The game in the photo took place on Aug. 16, 1970. Rojas is retiring the Yankees' Ron Woods at second and throwing to first to get Gene Michael to complete the double play. The Yankees won the game by the score you see on the board, 5-1.

Right on: Topps is being a little cute with the "infield" position listing. True, Rojas played three games in the outfield and two games at shortstop in 1970. But he played 107 games at second base!

You see this cat Rojas is a bad mother: Rojas was suspended for five games after flipping out during the 1999 NLDS while a coach for the Mets. An umpire called a fly ball by Darryl Hamilton foul and Rojas thought it was fair. He was so vehement that he bumped the ump and manager Bobby Valentine nearly fell over trying to hold back Rojas.

Shut your mouth: The umpire turned out to be right. The ball was foul.

No one understands him but his woman: Rojas' actual first name is "Octavio." "Cookie" is an Americanization of the Spanish nickname "Cuqui."

(A word about the back): Still with the "utility man" stuff! Rojas did spread out his position responsibilities early in his career with the Phillies. But he was mostly a second baseman starting in 1967.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

no. 117 - ted simmons

Who is the man: Ted Simmons had just completed his rookie season when this card hit packs, appearing in 82 games for the Cardinals and platooning behind the plate with Joe Torre.

Can ya dig it: Ted appears to be squatting on the sidelines in what seems like Dodger Stadium. Is that Dodger Stadium? I have such a terrible time IDing ballparks.

Right on: Rookie card! A good one, too.

You see this cat Simmons is a bad mother: Simmons was known to have a temper during his playing days. When a player with a temper encounters another player with a temper -- even if he's a teammate -- bad things happen. In 1977, Cardinals pitcher John Denny, known for his loud mouth, received a whooping from Simmons behind the dugout.

Shut your mouth: Simmons did not get along with Cardinals manager/GM Whitey Herzog, and in 1980, Herzog responded by trading Simmons to the Brewers. But the deal turned out far better for the Brewers than the Cardinals.

No one understands him but his woman: Simmons has received a lot of backing from the "Put Him in the Hall Already" crowd. But Simmons was on the ballot for just one year in 1994 and received so little support that he was deemed ineligible for further consideration.

(A word about the back): Wow. Simmons is so clean-cut here. Hey, Archie, where's Jughead? I grew up with the long-haired, tough-guy Simmons of the mid-1970s. This makes no sense to me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

no. 116 - ken sanders

Who is the man: Ken Sanders had played in the major leagues in 1964, 1966 and 1968, but didn't get a card until pitching in 50 games with a 1.75 ERA for the Brewers in 1970.

Can ya dig it: Those blue eyes combined with the Brewers uniforms of that era are absolutely freaky.

Right on: Rookie card!

You see this cat Sanders is a bad mother: Sanders set a franchise record in 1971 for appearances with 83. It still stands as the Brewers' record.

Shut your mouth: After that 1971 season, Sanders said, "let's buy a house, we'll be here forever." He was traded nine months later, and then again two months after that.

No one understands him but his woman: Between 1970 and 1975, Sanders was traded four times and released once.

(A word about the back): OK, just absorb the last sentence there: "Greatest baseball thrill was setting Venezuelan League record for pitchers by accepting 13 chances in one game."

I don't believe that for a second.

Monday, November 19, 2012

no. 115 - donn clendenon

Who is the man: Donn Clendenon had wrapped up the second of his three years with the Mets when this card came out. He produced one of his best seasons in 1970, hitting 22 home runs and knocking in 97 in 121 games.

Can ya dig it: This is one of the first 1971 cards I ever saw. It was a huge score to my 13-year-old way of thinking when I landed it in a trade (this card is an upgrade of the card I landed when I was 13). It was an early favorite of mine.

Right on: I don't know what Clendenon has in his right hand, but it must be valuable enough that it's causing him to hold his bat by the elbow and brace himself against the batting cage like he's going to fall over.

You see this cat Clendenon is a bad mother: The last player to join the 1969 Miracle Mets, Clendenon was the MVP of the 1969 World Series, socking three home runs and batting .357 against the Orioles.

Shut your mouth: Orioles star Frank Robinson said to the Mets before the '69 Series, "no hard feelings, but you guys can't beat us," to which Clendenon responded by saying his team would "kick your ass, maybe in four straight games." Good call, Donn.

No one understands him but his woman: Clendenon was drafted by the Expos in the expansion draft and then traded to the Astros in the deal that brought Rusty Staub to Montreal. Clendenon, who had taken a job at a pen company, announced his retirement from baseball. The Astros tried to void the trade, but Montreal refused to give up Staub. In a meeting between baseball officials and Clendenon, Clendenon was accused of being paid to retire by a third party and there were threats that the Astros would buy the pen company and fire Clendenon. But in the end, the Astros received player and monetary compensation from the Expos and Clendenon stayed with Montreal and continued playing.

(A word about the back): The record for RBIs in a season for the Mets is now 124, shared by Mike Piazza and David Wright.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

no. 114 - billy conigliaro

Who is the man: Billy Conigliaro had a great breakout season for the Red Sox in 1970, hitting 18 home runs in a little less than 400 at-bats to land a giant trophy on his card. Couple that with brother Tony's 1970 season and the Conigliaros were the talk of Boston that year.

Can ya dig it: Billy's card comes just nine cards after Tony's card. That makes me wonder if Topps ever positioned baseball brothers even closer in a card set (aside from those ones in which they appear on the same card). If I had the time, I'd do up the research.

Right on: This is also the third rookie trophy card in the last 14 cards.

You see this cat is a bad mother: Billy and his brother each hit a home run on July 4, 1970 in a game against the Indians. Their own family fireworks on the 4th of July!

Shut your mouth: Conigliaro did not react well to the trade that sent Tony from the Red Sox to the Angels. He criticized the team, claimed Carl Yastrzemski ran the club, and implied that team cliches kept him from starting. The Red Sox traded Billy to the Brewers a year later.

No one understand him but his woman: For a long time after his retirement, Conigliaro stayed away from baseball. But within the last 10 years he has returned, prompted by his wife, who he married in 2002 after being a longtime bachelor.

(A word about the back): Billy signed with the Red Sox after being selected in the first round in 1965. Tony came to Billy's high school graduation and announced the Red Sox's draft choice on stage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

no. 113 - jerry crider

Who is the man: Jerry Crider pitched in 32 games -- mostly in relief -- for his new team, the White Sox, in 1970. He was dealt to Chicago from Minnesota in May of that year.

Can ya dig it: This is another one of those cards that I obtained from my friend's older brother a long time ago. It's another upgrade candidate.

Right on: That's an awfully tight shot of a pitching wind-up pose. And I'll bet Crider doesn't even have a ball in that glove.

You see this cat Crider is a bad mother: After Crider retired from baseball in 1974, he moved to Mexico and became a hunting and fishing guide there for 17 years. Anyone willing to move from the U.S. to Mexico has got to have some bad-ass in them.

Shut your mouth: Crider's major league career was finished by the time this card came out. His last MLB season was 1970, and this is his only solo card.

No one understands him but his woman: Crider has been credited with helping find and name the Goulds turkey, the fifth North American species of turkey. I really don't know what that means, but it sounds impressive.

(A word about the back): You don't hear people mention the stat "chances accepted" anymore. I don't know if it was even mentioned that much in 1971.

Friday, November 9, 2012

no. 112 - manny mota

Who is the man: Manny Mota, believe it or not, was the Dodgers' regular left fielder in 1971. I always have a difficult time with that because I've only known Mota as Pinch-Hitter Extraordinaire.

Can ya dig it: This is the first 1971 card I ever saw. It was lying in a street gutter as I walked home from school. It was in pieces. I picked them up, taped them together, and kept the card for a long time, even though one piece in the middle of the card was missing. It had to be a good five years after the 1971 set came out that I saw the card.

Right on: The "G." in Mota's signature is the abbreviation for "Geronimo," which was Mota's mother's surname.

You see this cat Mota is a bad mother: Mota cemented himself forever in pop culture by making it into the script of the movie "Airplane." The often-cited "pinch-hitting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota ... Mota ... Mota ..." line will last long after Mota's gone. That's bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Former Los Angeles Times writer Jim Murray, describing Mota's ability to come up in any situation and get a hit, said: "He could get wood on a bullet."

No one understand him but his woman: In 1970, Mota hit a foul ball that hit a 14-year-old boy in the head. The boy died five days later. In one account in the L.A. Daily News, it mentioned that such a tragedy has never happened again. But the link to the story doesn't appear to be functioning anymore.

(A word about the back): Considering how regularly that Mota hit above .300 during this time, it surprises me that the Dodgers ever took him out of the outfield. But I suppose if you acquire Jimmy Wynn and then Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith, you have no choice.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

no. 111 - yankees rookie stars

Who  is the man: Both Loyd Colson and Bobby Mitchell made their major league debuts in 1970. Colson pitched in one game for the Yankees. Mitchell made 10 appearances for New York. Mitchell spent most of the year with Triple A Syracuse, while Colson was with Double A Manchester, N.H.

Can ya dig it: I never realized I had such a grossly miscut card in this set until I scanned this card. Wow, I've got to do something about that.

Right on: That's a pretty nice shot of Mitchell, even though it's a small photo.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Colson may have a bad-ass look on his face, but it's just a front. Rookies ain't bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Colson's game for the Yankees in 1970 was the only major league game he played. He pitched two innings in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers on Sept. 25. He allowed an eighth inning run but struck out three batters in a row.

No one understands him but his woman: Mitchell played the final three years of his pro career in Japan.

(A word about the back): Despite the drastic miscutting? All right. In five years in the majors, Mitchell never stole more than seven bases in a season. Must have used up all his speed in the minors.

Monday, November 5, 2012

no. 110 - bill mazeroski

Who is the man: Bill Mazeroski had just completed what would be his last 100-game season for the Pirates, the only major league team for which he played.

Can ya dig it: That's a terrific shot of what I believe to be Three Rivers Stadium through the batting cage. The stadium was brand spanking new at the time.

Right on: As a kid I loved getting cards of well-known players who were at the tail end of their playing careers. To me, star players from the '60s who wrapped careers up in the early '70s -- Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Billy Williams, Juan Marichal, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, etc. -- were players I only read about in books and magazines. So to see them on a card was something special.

You see this cat Mazeroski is a bad mother: Mazeroski hit the only home run to decide a Game 7 of a World Series. It doesn't get badder than that.

Shut your mouth: During Mazeroski's Hall of Fame induction speech in 2001, he started off by recognizing all the people who traveled to Cooperstown "to listen to me speak and hear this crap."

No one understands him but his woman: Mazeroski never got to give the induction speech that he had prepared. He broke down in tears and, although his time at the podium was very emotional, the speech remained unsaid.

(A word about the back): Most of Mazeroski's fielding marks are now held by Joe Morgan.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

no. 109 - steve hovley

Who is the man: Steve Hovley was an original Seattle Pilot, who was traded to the A's from the Brewers in the middle of the 1970 season.

Can ya dig it: Nice work by Topps getting Hovley in an A's uniform -- in the first series no less -- given the short turnaround time, especially for that time period.

Right on: I call this pose "The 1981 Donruss pose," since it seems like one-fourth of all cards in that set show a player with a bat on his shoulder.

You see this cat Hovley is a bad mother: Hovley is most famous for his several mentions in the book "Ball Four," and I guess he's bad ass for being one of the players that writer Jim Bouton liked. As you know, there were a lot of players that Bouton didn't seem to like, judging from the book.

Shut your mouth: Hovley's famous quote in Ball Four is: "To a pitcher, a base hit is the perfect example of negative feedback."

No one understands him but his woman: Teammates ridiculed Hovley for his long hair and intelligence. He was a counterculture type in the baseball world. His nickname was "Orbit," which Hovley said he didn't mind, "In fact, I get reinforcement from it," he said in Ball Four. "It reminds me I'm different from them and I'm gratified."

(A word about the back): The photo on the back is used again on the front of Hovley's 1972 Topps card, except with him airbrushed into a Royals cap.