Thursday, January 28, 2016

no. 495 - felipe alou

Who is the man: Felipe Alou batted .271 in 154 games in his first year for the Oakland A's in 1970. But by the time this card was issued, he had already been traded to the Yankees.

Can ya dig it: This photo possibly was taken during the same game as the photo on this card. I don't know for sure as I couldn't match any of the fans in both cards, although the guy in the lower left might be in both photos.

Right on: This is even a more glorious card than the one I just linked. Action pix like this is one of the big reasons '71 Topps is in my top 3 Topps sets of all-time.

You see that cat Alou is a bad mother: Considered to be a pioneer for Dominican players, Alou was the first native of the Dominican Republic to get regular playing time in the majors.

Shut your mouth: The Alou brothers are among the most famous baseball brothers in MLB history, but their actual surname is "Rojas." A mistake after he was signed led Felipe to be called by his mother's surname, "Alou," and he didn't feel that he could correct anyone. Also, "Alou" is pronounced incorrectly. It's actually pronounced with the second syllable sounding like "low."

No one understands him but his woman: Alou's brothers, Matty and Jesus, were each married for a long time. Matty had been married 49 years when he died in 2011. Jesus married in the late 1960s. Meanwhile, Felipe Alou was married four times, but has been married to his fourth, Lucie, since 1985.

(A word about the back): The Alou batters hit consecutively in the batting order during that eighth inning in 1963. Manager Alvin Dark put both Matty and Jesus in as pinch-hitters ahead of Felipe's regular turn in the order.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

no. 494 - braves rookie stars

Who is the man: Both Ralph Garr and Rick Kester spent most of 1970 with Triple A Richmond, and each made a quick visit to the majors for the third straight year.

Can ya dig it: This is the second Braves rookie stars card in the set. The other card featured one notable player and one forgotten player, too.

Right on: As you can tell by the massive dings, this was another hand-me-down '71 that I acquired in a trade as a youngster. I'm curious as to which of those cards had the highest number in the set. We must be getting close.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Ralph Garr has one of my favorite cards in the entire 1975 Topps set, but he was four years away from that at this point. Rookies ain't bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: During an appearance at his alma mater at Grambling University last year, Garr told a reporter for the school paper that only one player was the best who ever played. "There's no one who ever played the game of baseball better than Henry Aaron," he said. "That's my opinion and I believe that as long as I live."

No one understands him but his woman: Kester had appeared in his last major league game by the time this card was issued. He showed up only on these multi-player rookie cards, three consecutive years, in fact. In each case, someone else on the card went on to a more notable career -- Darrell Evans, Ralph Garr and Tom House.

(A word about the back): Stealing home for your first MLB stolen base -- heck, that IS pretty bad-ass.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

no. 493 - dave may

Who is the man: Dave May was coming off his first full season in the majors when this card was issued. He was traded from the Orioles to the Brewers in June of 1970 and played in 100 games for Milwaukee.

Can ya dig it: This is a rather vibrant photo. I don't know if it's the reproduction of this card or if they're all like this. Sharp.

Right on: Good for Topps getting May in a Brewers uniform instead of him in some blacked-out Orioles cap.

You see that cat May is a bad mother: May is forever the trivia question, "who did the Braves get when they traded Hank Aaron?" That's pretty bad-ass. It's even on the back of his card.

Shut your mouth: When May was playing for the Rangers in 1977, he batted in a game in September against the Angels' Nolan Ryan. He swung at a Ryan pitch and lost a contact lens. While he and others looked for the lens, Ryan said, "Oh, just forget about it, you're going to strike out anyway." May asked the bat boy to get his glasses. He then drilled a Ryan pitch down the line for a double, scoring the decisive third run in a 3-2 victory. From second base, May hollered to Ryan, "Is that a strikeout?"

No one understands him but his woman: Orioles teammate Bobby Grich once called May "the greatest batting practice hitter ever."

(A word about the back): I know the Orioles were pretty good in 1969, but mentioning that someone was a team's "No. 1 lefty pinch-hitter" sounds like damning with faint praise.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

no. 492 - ken boswell

Who is the man: Ken Boswell had completed his second season as the Mets' primary second baseman when this card was issued. He appeared in 105 games, with switch-hitter Al Weis playing at second in most of the Mets' other games.

Can ya dig it: Ken Boswell is retiring the Cardinals' Vic Davalillo in this photo.

Right on: This photo appears to be taken from the same game as the photo on this card. Same teams and pretty much the same angle.

You see that cat Boswell is a bad mother: Boswell slammed a pair of two-run home runs during the 1969 NLCS against the Braves. He hit .333 in that series, helping the Mets to the sweep.

Shut your mouth: Boswell admitted in the Stanley Cohen book "One Magic Summer" that he couldn't focus at the plate when there wasn't anything on the line. "I bet I never got a hit with two out and nobody on. I just couldn't concentrate in those situations. I liked to hit when there were men on base and it meant something."

No one understands him but his woman: Boswell was one of the few bachelors on the '69 Mets team. He said New York women would come on to him, offering to cook him spaghetti. "They'd have a better chance if they fixed spare ribs and chicken," he said in the New York Times.

(A word about the back): Now you know why Topps showed Boswell fielding. Notorious for being a good-hit, no-field player, Boswell erased that reputation by setting the NL errorless mark in 1970. That record is now at 141 games and held by former Cub Darwin Barney.

Friday, January 15, 2016

no. 491 - jim hardin

Who is the man: Jim Hardin appeared in the most games of his career in 1970, pitching in 36, which is even better than 1968, when he started 35 games and won 18.

Can ya dig it: Hardin seems a mere second from spitting.

Right on: Are those Yankee Stadium autograph hunters in the background?

You see that cat Hardin is a bad mother: In Hardin's second season in the majors, he made a real charge to win 20 games. He stalled at 18 though because he lost five of his final six decisions.

Shut your mouth: Hardin was killed at age 47 in 1991 when the plane he was piloting stalled in strong winds and came crashing down in a shopping center parking lot.

No understands him but his woman: Hardin was on the verge of making the major league roster for the first time in 1967. But during an off-day he was stung in the foot by a stingray and went a week before he could put on a shoe. His wife said, "You spend five years in the minors, and you step on a stingray just as you're about to get a chance?"

(My observation on the back): Auburn is the town in Upstate New York, not the university.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

no. 490 - deron johnson

Who is the man: Deron Johnson was in the midst of a career renaissance when this card was issued. He hit 27 home runs and knocked in 93 runs in 1970. Both totals were his best since his monster season in 1965.

Can ya dig it: It looks like Johnson had a heck of a time signing the "D" in his first name.

Right on: Another favorite from my early years of owning 1971s. You could shoot a closeup of Johnson in that pose (well, in 1971 you couldn't, but you can now), but this is so much more fun. Look, Johnson is playing in front the largest air vent in the world!

You see that cat Johnson is a bad mother: Johnson finished fourth in the MVP voting in 1965 after hitting 31 homers and droving in 130 runs for the Reds. Johnson did have the good fortune of hitting behind Frank Robinson that year.

Shut your mouth: Johnson was diagnosed with lung cancer while serving as hitting coach for the Angels in 1991. He died in April of 1992.

No one understands him but his woman: Johnson was the first major league player to hit 20 home runs in a season while playing for teams in the American and National leagues. In 1973, he had one whole home run with the Phillies and 19 with the A's.

(A word about the back): Johnson received a bunch of football scholarship offers out of high school, including one from Notre Dame.

Monday, January 11, 2016

no. 489 - luis alvarado

Who is the man: Luis Alvarado was entering his first season with the White Sox when this card was issued. He was dealt from the Red Sox in December 1970, which explains the blacked-out cap.

Can ya dig it: This is an interesting card. Alvarado was traded to the White Sox with fellow infielder Mike Andrews for Luis Aparicio. Mike Andrews wore No. 2 for the Red Sox, and that appears to be Andrews behind Alvarado in the picture.

Right on: This is Alvarado's first solo card. He appears on a Red Sox rookie stars card with Billy Conigliaro in the 1970 Topps set.

You see that cat Alvarado is a bad mother: Alvarado has one of the more memorable 1970s baseball cards in the 1973 Topps set. It's a personal favorite.

Shut your mouth: Alvarado's nickname was "Pimba," but there's little to explain why. Alvarado was a native of Puerto Rico. "Pimba" in Portugese is a common term for a style of romantic/sexual pop music in the country.

No one understands him but his woman: The remembrances of Alvarado on this site are mostly very positive, except for one insistent and cryptic poster who does not appear to have a favorable memory. But the commenter never says why.

 (A word about the back): I'm embarrassed to admit that I never knew the International League gave out a Rookie of the Year Award and has been doing so since 1950. Yankees prospect Ben Gamel won the award last season. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

no. 488 - jerry stephenson

Who is the man: Jerry Stephenson spent most of the 1970 season in the minor leagues. He did so well there that he was called up in September and pitched in three games. He didn't do so well with L.A., allowing seven runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Can ya dig it: It's very fortunate that Stephenson has a Dodger card. Those were the only 3 games he pitched in for L.A after being acquired from Milwaukee before the season. He returned to the minors and never pitched in the majors again.

Right on: Final card!

You see that cat Stephenson is a bad mother: I'm half convinced that Stephenson got a card in this set because he put together a terrific minor league season in 1970. He led the league in both wins and earned run average while with Triple A Spokane.

Shut your mouth: When Stephenson was sent down to the minors before the season in 1967 he called Red Sox manager Dick Williams "flaky," and said, "he thinks he's a drill instructor."

No one understands him but his woman: Stephenson was labeled as kind of goofy as a young pitcher for the Red Sox in the mid-1960s. One account had him dying his hair with peroxide and it turning out green. Stephenson's response years later to that story is that it was made up.

(A word about the back): Stephenson is listed here as surrendering 7 runs in 7 innings for an ERA of 9.00. I'm assuming that's some rounding off as baseball-reference says his ERA that year was 9.45 (7 runs in 6 2/3 innings).

Monday, January 4, 2016

no. 487 - paul schaal

Who is the man: Paul Schaal was coming off his first full season at third base for the Royals in 1970. He stepped in after Kansas City traded regular Joe Foy to the Mets in the deal that landed K.C. center fielder Amos Otis.

Can ya dig it: This is the seventh action-packed Royals card so far.

Right on: I don't know what that yellow figure is in the stands to the right. Possibly a vendor carrying something large? Just a guess.

You see that cat Schaal is a bad mother: Schaal was named to the Topps all-rookie team for his 1965 season with the Angels. He's sporting a rookie trophy on his 1966 card.

Shut your mouth: Schaal studied to be a chiropractor after his playing career. He was a practicing chiropractor for more than 30 years before retiring to Hawaii.

No one understands him but his woman: Schaal lasted in Kansas City until a slow start in 1974. A rookie named George Brett stepped in, and Schaal was shipped back to the Angels.

(A word about the back): I always wondered about these "greatest baseball thrills." Did they actually ask the guy? Sure, an inside-the-park home run in extra innings to win the game is definitely a thrill. But "greatest" is so subjective.