Tuesday, November 25, 2014

no. 353 - carl taylor

Who is the man: Topps claims Carl Taylor is a Brewer, because he was traded from the Cardinals to the Brewers in late October 1970. But Taylor never played for the Brewers. He was dealt from Milwaukee to Kansas City in February 1971. So when kids pulled this card, it was not only out-of-date, it was an untruth. Carl Taylor never played "catcher-of" for the Brewers.

Can ya dig it: This is one of those awful '71 photos that doesn't give the faintest clue that the man pictured is a ballplayer. He looks like he's waiting for the subway.

Right on: We get a good look at a concrete post, so Topps can feature Taylor's facsimile without writing it on his face.

You see that cat Taylor is a bad mother: Taylor hit an amazing .348 in 104 games for the Pirates in 1969, which was the same average as the National League's batting leader that year, Pete Rose. Taylor didn't have enough at-bats for the title though.

Shut your mouth: Taylor is one of 28 players to hit an "ultimate grand slam," which is defined as delivering a game-winning grand slam while three runs down in the game's final at-bat, although this writer doesn't like the term very much.

No one understands him but his woman: Taylor is listed as a catcher on his card, but he hadn't played any games at catcher since 1968.

(A word about the back): "A versatile man"? Make it "a versatile player" or else I don't know what we're talking about here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

no. 352 - denny doyle

Who is the man: Denny Doyle was coming off his rookie season in the majors, appearing in 112 games for the Phillies with 413 at-bats and a .208 batting average.

Can ya dig it: Once again it takes scanning for me to notice a diamond-cut card.

Right on: First solo card! He appears with Larry Bowa on a rookie stars card in the 1970 set.

You see that cat Doyle is a bad mother: Doyle was the only player on the Red Sox or Reds to hit safely in all seven games of the epic 1975 World Series.

Shut your mouth: Doyle was thrown out at the plate by George Foster in the 9th inning of Game 6 of the '75 World Series to force the game into extra innings. Three innings later, Carlton Fisk would hit his dramatic home run to win the game. Doyle would tell Fisk: "You ought to thank me. If I had scored the winning run, you wouldn't be nearly as famous."

No one understands him but his woman: On Doyle's website for his very successful baseball school, he claims to be a pioneer in the use of video for evaluating baseball talent.

(A word about the back): 413 at-bats and 16 RBIs!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

no. 351 - jim shellenback

Who is the man: Jim Shellenback produced what would be his finest major league season in 1970, appearing in 39 games and posting a 6-7 mark and a 3.69 ERA.

Can ya dig it: Shellenback was no older than 27 when this photo was taken. I know. I didn't even believe that when I wrote it, but it's true.

Right on: That's a good look at the Major League Baseball logo on his left shoulder.

You see that cat Shellenback is a bad mother: Shellenback suffered a badly broken right leg in a car accident in 1967 and was told by doctors he would never play again. When his leg emerged from the cast, it was shorter than his left leg. He missed a year-and-a-half rehabilitating, but he would play through 1977.

Shut your mouth: Shellenback's uncle, Frank Shellenback, was a pitcher for the White Sox in 1918 and 1919. He also was the last remaining legal spitballer in professional baseball.

No one understands him but his woman: I missed posting this on Shellenback's 71st birthday by one lousy day.

(A word about the back): Can you imagine letting a rookie go 11 innings in his first start in a 1-1 game today? He'd be a folk hero.

Monday, November 17, 2014

no. 350 - billy williams

Who is the man: Billy Williams produced his best season to date in 1970, hitting 42 home runs, knocking in 129 runs and batting .322 for the Cubs. He finished second in the NL MVP voting behind Johnny Bench.

Can ya dig it: Williams looks young in all of his baseball card photos, until he grows a beard near the end of his career.

Right on: I am quite happy about the condition of this card. Only some minor nicks on the bottom corners.

You see this cat Williams is a bad mother: An incredibly consistent hitter, Williams made the Hall of Fame in 1987 and held the NL record for most consecutive games played until Steve Garvey broke it.

Shut your mouth: Williams struggled with his fielding early in his career. Ron Santo, who would be his long-time teammate, remembered Williams' problems while the two were in the minor leagues. "He played first base and he couldn't even catch pop-ups," Santo said.

No one understands him but his woman: Williams married someone also named Williams, Shirley Williams.

(A word about the back): Williams' consecutive games played streak ended in 1970 when Cubs manager Leo Durocher gave him the day off on Sept. 3 against the Phillies.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

no. 349 - rich reese

Who is the man: Rich Reese played in a career-high 153 games in 1970 after a breakout year in 1969 in which he batted .322 for the AL West-winning Minnesota Twins.

Can ya dig it: That's quite the wide stance there.

Right on: It appears that the Twins are playing the Yankees in this photo. I'm wondering if Thurman Munson is the catcher, which would make yet another cameo for the king of early '70s cameos.

You see this cat Reese is a bad mother: Reese is probably most remembered by Twins fans as the man who hit a pinch-hit grand slam in 1969 against the Orioles to win the game for Minnesota and end pitcher Dave McNally's win streak at 17 straight games, which was one short of the AL record.

Shut your mouth: Reese went on to work for Jim Beam after his baseball career and eventually became CEO for the company. He said he gave the name to the vodka drink "Blueberry Muffin".

No one understands him but his woman: Reese was beginning what would be a precipitous decline in 1970. In '71, he'd hit .219 and a couple years later he couldn't get to .200. Reese replaced Harmon Killebrew at first base when Killebrew returned to third in 1968. But the Twins' investment in Reese caused them to term infield prospect Graig Nettles expendable and he was dealt to the Indians. Reese was a part-time player for the Twins by '73.

 (A word about the back): Sure, career highs in games, at-bats, runs and stolen bases (woooo -- five!), but Topps neglects to mention that Reese had four fewer hits in 1970 than 1969 despite 82 more at-bats. Fewer doubles, homers, RBIs, etc., too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

no. 348 - fred norman

Who is the man: Fred Norman spent most of his 1970 season with the Dodgers until he was claimed off waivers by the Cardinals very late in September of that year.

Can ya dig it: I'm pretty certain Norman is wearing a Dodgers uniform in this photo. There's no way Topps would have been able to get a photo of him as a Cardinal at such a late date (you had to wait for later series to be issued for that).

Right on: The rough borders on this card match Norman's unkempt look in the photo. I like it.

You see that cat Norman is a bad mother: Norman was a regular member of the pitching staff for the Big Red Machine. Between 1973 and 1979 he won in double figures for the Reds every single year.

Shut your mouth: Norman probably wasn't even a Cardinal when most kids pulled this card out of packs. He was traded to the Padres in June of 1971.

No one understands him but his woman: Norman pitched for 14 pro teams in his first 11 years in baseball.

(A word about the back): All of those 1970 stats, except for one game, one inning pitched, and one hit, were achieved with the Dodgers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

no. 347 - ted uhlaender

Who is the man: Ted Uhlaender had completed his first season with the Indians in 1970, after being traded from the Twins in a big six-player deal that sent Graig Nettles to the Indians and Luis Tiant to the Twins.

Can ya dig it: That does not appear to be an actual bat that Uhlaender has in his hands. Some sort of weighted, on-deck deal, I'm guessing.

Right on: Uhlaender is wearing a chaw in his cheek, which he is also featuring on some of his other cards, most notably his 1968 Topps card, which was one of the first '68s I ever saw ("what weird names players had back then," I remember thinking).

You see that cat Uhlaender is a bad mother: Uhlaender hit .283 in 1968. That was good enough for FIFTH in the American League that year. In 2014, .283 in the AL would get you 44th place. So that story I read last year about how much the offense was struggling is bunk.

Shut your mouth: Uhlaender was a catcher growing up. After getting to the majors, he was able to convince some the people back home in Texas that he was still a catcher. "We're close to the Mexican border and our newspapers are always early editions so they don't have boxscores," he told the Sporting News.

No one understands him but his woman: Uhlaender's daughter, Katie, is an Olympian in skeleton. She finished fourth in the Sochi Olympics last winter. Uhlaender's death in 2009 shattered, then inspired Katie. She wears her father's NLCS championship ring from the 1972 Reds around her neck, and I admit I get choked up when I see her talk baseball (she knows her stuff) and her father.

(A word about the back): That write-up is practically in a foreign language. "NA Class AAA-West" and "loops" all over the place.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

no. 346 - lum harris

Who is the man: Lum Harris was entering the 1971 season after a disappointing 1970 with the Braves. He had enjoyed his best year as a manager in 1969 for N.L. West champion Atlanta only to see his team fall to 76-86 the following year.

Can ya dig it: Harris looks both mesmerized and terrified. A very odd expression.

Right on: Possibly the bluest eyes I've ever seen on a baseball card.

You see that cat Harris is a bad mother: Harris managed the Braves to their first title while in Atlanta. The Braves clinched the 1969 N.L. West crown on the second-to-last day of the season.

Shut your mouth: Harris was a good friend of Paul Richards since the 1930s when they played together. Through the following decades, as Richards rose through the ranks as a manager and then general manager, he added Harris to his staff, getting him jobs as a manager with the Orioles, Astros and Braves. But in 1972, Richards was reassigned and Harris fired. They never spoke to each other again.

No one understands him but his woman: Harris was the first manager to lead a team that played an entire season under a dome. The 1965 Astros finished in ninth place while playing on dead grass during the first year of the Astrodome.

(A word about the back): Topps goes way back to Harris' minor league pitching days in the bio.

Monday, November 3, 2014

no. 345 - joe horlen

Who is the man: Joe Horlen just came off of his second straight 16-loss season when this card was created. He went 6-16 for the last-place White Sox in 1970.

Can ya dig it: Horlen appears to be shocked by where he threw that ball.

Right on: We are on a streak of two straight cards featuring a player wearing a windbreaker under his uniform.

You see that cat Horlen is a bad mother: Horlen finished second to the Red Sox's Jim Lonborg in the 1967 American League Cy Young Award voting after winning 19 games for Chicago.

Shut your mouth: Horlen was the White Sox's player representative in 1972 when the players staged a strike at the start of the season. The day after players voted to strike, Horlen was released by the White Sox.

No one understands him but his woman: Horlen's first name is actually "Joel" and he's listed as Joel Horlen on the front of all his baseball cards until the 1968 Topps set, when he becomes "Joe". Horlen said that he was always known as "Joe" growing up and he didn't know how media and fans began calling him "Joel".

(A word about the back): The White Sox beat the Tigers 6-0 in Horlen's no-hitter. Chicago scored five of its runs in the first inning, and Horlen drove in the fifth run with a base hit. It came against Johnny Podres.