Monday, September 30, 2013

no. 218 - tony cloninger

Who is the man: Tony Cloninger was entering his second-to-last major league season in 1971, trying to hang on as a regular member of the Reds' starting rotation.

Can ya dig it: This is the last time that Cloninger appears in a non-airbrushed baseball uniform. He is a high-number card in the 1972 set, wearing an airbrushed Cardinals cap.

Right on: Nobody has come out to see Cloninger pretend to throw.

You see this cat Cloninger is a bad mother: Cloninger is most often cited for his bat. In a 1966 game no one will forget, Cloninger hit two grand slams and drove in nine runs against the Giants. That wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime offensive performance. Cloninger could hit. He once pitched a one-hitter and hit a home run against the Mets.

Shut your mouth: Cloninger won 24 games for the Braves in 1965. It's got to be one of the quietest 24-win seasons in the last 50 years. No one talks about it.

No one understand him but his woman: Cloninger had one of the best fastballs of the 1960s. But in a decade that featured Koufax, Gibson, Marichal, Drysdale, Sam McDowell and Jim Maloney, his name doesn't come up much.

(A word about the back): Thank you for mentioning the 24 wins, bio writer. Cloninger was bothered by wildness periodically and led the league in walks and wild pitches that 1965 season, too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

no. 217 - ed stroud

Who is the man: Ed Stroud had just finished his most productive season in the major leagues. Mostly a part-time player up until 1970, he received 433 at-bats in 129 games with the Senators, batting .266.

Can ya dig it: This is the final card of Stroud issued during his career.

Right on: Is there anything happier than choosing your bat out of a shopping cart? Stroud doesn't think so.

You see this cat Stroud is a bad mother: Stroud's best asset was stealing a base, and he was nicknamed "The Creeper" for his deceptive move off first base.

Shut your mouth: After Stroud had his jaw broken by a pitch, the Orioles' Paul Blair told him, "I hope you didn't pay that plastic surgeon for that face of yours. You either got to get your money back, or you got to get another operation."

No one understands him but his woman: Stroud's other nickname was "The Streak" for his ability to run. Taken out of context, "The Streak" and "The Creeper" don't seem like they could represent the same person.

(A word about the back): Stroud was a Halloween baby.

Also, I looked up his "top day in the majors." It came against the Yankees. In the first game, Stroud went 2-for-4 with a triple and a home run off of Stan Bahnsen (the Yankees won 13-4). In the second game, he went 3-for-5 with a double and home run off Fred Talbot and a single off Jim Bouton (the Senators won 6-2).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

no. 216 - cards rookie stars

Who is the man: Both Reggie Cleveland and Luis Melendez were key members of the Cardinals' Triple A team in Tulsa in 1970 and received call-ups during the season. Cleveland got knocked around, going 0-4 with a 7.62 ERA. Melendez hit .300 in 70 at-bats.

Can ya dig it: My, my, this card is lousy shape. I guess I'm not finished with this set after all.

Right on: Both Cleveland and Melendez look hypnotized.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: No way. Rookies were just rookies in 1971. Don't make it a bigger deal than it is.

Shut your mouth: Cleveland battled weight issues during his career and early on with the Cardinals it earned him the nicknames "Double Cheeseburger" and "Snacks."

No one understand him but his woman: Melendez's 1975 Topps card features one of the best cartoons ever, especially for Melendez.

(A word about the back): Cleveland's father was in the Canadian military and he played for the Canadian forces' high school in Alberta, where he lettered in baseball, hockey ... and curling.

Friday, September 20, 2013

no. 215 - diego segui

Who is the man: The man is Diego Segui, American League ERA champion of 1970 in his third separate stint with the Athletics.

Can ya dig it: Every time I see one of these off-center portraits, I wonder what the photographer didn't want us to see -- in this case to the left of Segui.

Right on: That's a lot of green in the photo.

You see this cat Segui is a bad mother: Segui had the best season of his 15-year major league career with the Seattle Pilots in 1969. He was the best pitcher on that team made world famous by Jim Bouton's "Ball Four." That's a pretty bad-ass achievement right there.

Shut your mouth: Segui was often accused of throwing a spitball because he often blew on his hands during the extend period of time he took between pitches. Segui denied it saying his forkball might react like a spitball, but was exclusively a forkball.

No one understands him but his woman: Segui played for seven different teams and at one point was frustrated by switching teams all the time. In an interview with the Boston Globe he asked "Why don't they like me, so that I have to go from one team to another so much?"

(A word about the back): Segui started 19 games in 1970, which meant he appeared in relief 28 times. The 162 innings pitched is pretty low for an ERA champion.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

no. 214 - al ferrara

Who is the man: Al Ferrara was entering his last season in the major leagues when this card hit packs. In his last full season, in 1970, he batted .277 in 372 at-bats for the Padres.

Can ya dig it: This is Ferrara's final card from his career.

Right on: Yet another of the first 1971s I ever received. I traded for it on the front porch of my friend as a young teenager.

You see this cat Ferrara is a bad mother: As a member of the Dodgers in the 1960s, Ferrara had show business connections and made TV appearances as an actor in Gilligan's Island and Batman. He also was a classically trained pianist who played Carnegie Hall when he was 16.

Shut your mouth: At the end of his career, Ferrara was traded to the Reds in exchange for backup outfielder Angel Bravo. In his first game with Cincinnati, he misplayed a ball in the outfield and manager Sparky Anderson was waiting for him on the top step when Ferrara returned to the dugout. Ferrara told him, "What do you expect for Angel Bravo, Willie Mays?"

No one understands him but his woman: Ferrara is an answer to a trivia question regarding Tom Seaver's 19-strikeout game in 1970. Ferrara was Seaver's final strikeout victim, allowing him to tie the record for most strikeouts in a game. Ferrara was also Seaver's 10th straight strikeout in the game. (To this day I remember guessing both the team Seaver performed this feat against and the final batter he struck out when a Mets broadcast asked the trivia question way back in the early '80s. I was quite proud of myself).

(A word about the back): All I see are mentions of Ferrara's ancient exploits from minor league days. Give me something from the 1970 season, please!

Monday, September 16, 2013

no. 213 - frank baker

Who is the man: Frank Baker was entering the 1971 season with his first major league experience under his belt. He played in 35 games for the Yankees in 1970, batting .231 in 117 at-bats.

Can ya dig it: This is an upgraded version of a very beat-up Baker card I obtained in a trade with a young Yankees fan when I was a teenager. The only reason he was willing to deal such an old Yankees card was because it was such a disaster.

Right on: Baker looks so wistful on this card. It's almost as if he already misses his career.

You see this cat Baker is a bad mother: Baker hit exactly one home run in 146 career games, but he made it count. He hit a grand slam in the eighth inning against the Indians' Dick Bosman on Sept. 28, 1973, an 18-4 victory for the Orioles. OK, so the score was 14-4 before Baker hit his slam. I'll bet it was still a titan blast.

Shut your mouth: Baker was known as a quality fielder, but he committed two errors that led to two runs for the Senators in the last game in Washington Senators history. The Senators held a 7-5 lead over the Yankees in the ninth inning of that game, but the game was forfeited to the Yankees when fans stormed the field.

No one understands him but his mother: Baker isn't the only Frank Baker to play major league ball. The legendary Frank "Home Run" Baker was a hero of the 1911 World Series. If that's not confusing enough, there was an African-American outfielder for the Indians who played at the same time as the Yankees' Baker who was also named Frank Baker.

(A word about the back): You'll notice there's no reference to batting in his write-up. That's because .231 would be the best average he'd have in the majors. In three more seasons, he wouldn't break .200.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

no. 212 - rich hebner

Who is the man: Rich Hebner was two full seasons into his 18-year major league career when this card arrived. He had just made his first appearance in the postseason, going 4-for-6 in two games for the Pirates in the 1970 NLCS.

Can ya dig it: That's a pretty cool angle for the photo. Hebner almost looks 3-D against the backdrop of the stadium.

Right on: I know Hebner with a mustache. This just looks weird.

You see this cat Hebner is a bad mother: Hebner's biggest claim to fame was that he was a gravedigger at a cemetery that his family ran. He dug graves in the offseason and continued to do it after his baseball career ended. That is pretty bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Ask a Mets fan who was around in 1979 about Hebner and you'll likely hear a mouthful. Hebner was acquired by the Mets in 1979 and didn't like it. Having played for nothing but winners with the Pirates and Phillies, he made it known he wasn't happy and the fans let him have it. Think they still hold a grudge?

No one understands him but his woman: Hebner had a few quirks when he came to bat. He would always pull on the back of his collar. Also, when he missed a pitch, he would flip his bat and try to catch it.

(A word about the back): This has got to be one of the few players that has his batting average as a high school freshman on a Topps baseball card.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

no. 211 - phil hennigan

Who is the man: Phil Hennigan was entering his second full season in the major leagues with the release of this card. He pitched in 42 games in 1970 after a nine-game showing with the Indians in 1969.

Can ya dig it: This is another card I obtained in a trade as a teenager. I didn't know anything about Hennigan then, and I'm ashamed to say I didn't increase my knowledge about him any before I started this post. So let's learn together.

Right on: Hennigan is looking very stately there in Yankee Stadium. It's as if Bob Sheppard is announcing his name.

You see this cat Hennigan is a bad mother: The first major league batter Hennigan faced was the player on the card in the previous post, Rod Carew. Hennigan retired Carew on a fly ball.

Shut your mouth: Hennigan is quoted in the "Gigantic Book Of Baseball Quotations" thusly: "When I was in the majors, I worked on a nudist ball. It had nothing on it."

No one understands him but his woman: Hennigan's final card features a photo in which he is airbrushed into a Mets cap and is more of an advertisement for Pepsi.

Not the greatest way to go out.

(A word about the back): Hennigan pitched all but one of his 42 games in relief in 1970. In 1971, he was the Indians' top "fireman," to use the parlance of the time. He saved 14 games.

Friday, September 6, 2013

no. 210 - rod carew

Who is the man: Rod Carew had just completed an injury-plagued season when this card was issued. A rolling block from the Brewers' Mike Hegan tore ligaments in his knee during a June 22, 1970 game, basically ending his season.

Can ya dig it: This is the first time on a Topps card that anyone saw Carew smile. And it would be essentiallly the last time until his 1981 Donruss card.

Right on: Win Twins!

You see this cat Carew is a bad mother: The first time I ever experienced a player flirting with hitting .400 in a season was with Carew in 1977. I can't remember how late in the season he was hitting .400, but I do remember him still over .400 near the end of June. Of course, he finished at .388 and that is bad ass.

Shut your mouth: Carew and his wife were involved in a distressing incident on an airplane after the death of their 18-year-old daughter in 1996. The Carews objected to how a photo of their daughter was being treated and stored by a male flight attendant. The pilot eventually told the Carews to leave the plane and apologize to the flight attendant, who they thought was rude. "I bit my tongue and apologized," Carew said.

No one understands him but his woman: Carew's marriage to his wife, who is Jewish, prompted death threats. For a long time, Carew was thought to have converted to Judaism. But he said publicly a little over a year ago that he once intended to convert but never did (despite what the Adam Sandler Hanukkah song says).

(A word about the back): Carew's stats are always awesome.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

no. 209 - steve renko

Who is the man: Steve Renko, entering his third year in the majors when this card arrived, had just come off a season in which he was one of two starting pitchers for the Expos with a winning record (the other was Carl Morton, who won an amazing 18 games for the last-place Expos).

Can ya dig it: Renko appears quite tall in this photo and he's listed at 6-foot-5. Asked about his success during his career on a recent radio show in Kansas City, Renko said, "well, I was big, strong and threw at people."

Right on: Some interesting eyebrows you've got going, Steve.

You see this cat Steve is a bad mother: Renko began his pro career as a first baseman and was a decent hitting pitcher, batting above .250 for a season several times. He was a career .215 hitter with six home runs. Until 2005, he was known for a while as the last pitcher to hit seventh in the batting order.

Shut your mouth: Renko played three innings at first base during a game between the Expos and Pirates in 1972. It was an extra-inning affair and Renko played first in the 10th, 11th and 12th. He fielded his position cleanly, too, with five putouts including an unassisted play on a groundout from Pittsburgh's Jose Pagan.

No one understands him but his woman: Renko pitched five one-hitters in his career and lost a no-hitter in the 9th inning while with the Red Sox in 1979. Rookie Rickey Henderson lined a hit off of first baseman Bob Watson's glove with one out in the ninth inning.

(A word about the back): My goodness, look at that smile. I made a comment on another blog that Renko never smiled on his cards. Perhaps this is why.

Monday, September 2, 2013

no. 208 - billy martin

Who is the man: Billy Martin was hired by the Tigers as manager prior to the 1971 season. It was his second MLB managerial job. Martin managed the Twins in 1969 but was fired after the season, in part because he punched out his own pitcher, Dave Boswell, in a bar.

Can ya dig it: Martin is actually wearing a Twins uniform and cap but it has been airbrushed only in the way that Topps could do airbrushing between 1968-72. It is wonderfully blatant.

Right on: Check out the cute little circles that Martin used to dot his "I"s.

You see this cat Martin is a bad mother: Nawwwwwwww! He was a putty cat! I count 18 separate physical fights between Martin and players, fans and marshmallow salesmen during his playing and managing career. I'm sure I'm missing some.

Shut your mouth: Martin had one of the most famous sports quotes of the 1970s. As the Yankees manager in 1978, he had had enough of rumors that he was going to be fired. After a game against the White Sox, he told reporters in Chicago's O'Hare Airport, referring to Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner: "One's a born liar and the other's convicted."

No one understands him but his woman: Martin was hired by Tigers general manager Jim Campbell in a bid to recapture the magic the Tigers achieved in the late 1960s. Campbell fired very popular manager Mayo Smith and selected Martin because of his fiery reputation. The veteran Tigers players hated him and outfielder Jim Northrup called Martin the worst manager he ever had. Martin was fired in September 1973 after telling his pitchers to throw spitballs against the Indians.

(A word about the back): My, that "D" is very large on Martin's cap.