Monday, February 29, 2016

no. 506 - bobby knoop

Who is the man: Bobby Knoop completed his second season as the White Sox's second baseman in 1970, but by the time this card was issued, he had been traded to the Royals.

Can ya dig it: Knoop, who would go on to be a longtime major league coach, appears to be in full coach mode in this photo, right down to pretending to bat with what appears to be a fungo bat.

Right on: Knoop may have the same bat on his 1970 Topps card.

You see that cat Knoop is a bad mother: Knoop won three straight Gold Gloves for the Angels from 1966-68 and teamed with shortstop Jim Fregosi on a Gold Glove keystone combo in 1960.

Shut your mouth: Knoop probably has had his name pronounced incorrectly as "Noop" or "Kah-noop" many times. But it's actually pronounced "Kah-nop."

No one understands him but his woman: Until Garret Anderson matched him, Knoop was the only player to be voted the Angels' most valuable player four times.

(A word about the back): I wonder if eight years between "first year in pro ball" and "first game in majors" is the longest so far in this set? I should have kept track, but I'm not going through 500 posts now.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

no. 505 - ollie brown

Who is the man: Ollie Brown enjoyed the best season of his career in 1970, producing 23 home runs, 89 RBIs and batting .292. He was one of three players on the second-year Padres to hit over 20 homers.

Can ya dig it: I like how Brown's arm positioning in front of the clouds makes it appear as if he just caught a streaking ball. Cool photo.

Right on: Ollie is not a nickname. That's cool, too. His nickname was "Downtown." Heck, it's all cool.

You see that cat Brown is a bad mother: Brown was credited by former catcher and teammate Chris Cannizzaro with having the best right field arm he ever saw after Roberto Clemente.

Shut your mouth: Brown started his career with the Giants. While in rookie ball in Salem, Va., he was stunned to find out that the black players on the team could not stay in the same hotel as the white players. After a couple weeks of stewing about it, he confronted his manager and said the team either sends him to another city or he quits baseball. The Giants switched him to their team in Decatur, Ill.

No one understands him but his woman: Brown is known as the "original Padre" because he was the first player San Diego selected in the expansion draft.

(A word about the back): The expansion draft was actually in 1968.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

no. 504 - ken wright

Who is the man: Ken Wright was entering his second year in the majors when this card was issued. He worked in a career-high 47 games his rookie year in 1970, all from the bullpen. He logged just 53 1/3 innings.

Can ya dig it: I miss the overhead windup.

Right on: Thanks to the photo angle -- a modified hero shot -- Wright looks like a giant. He was 6-2.

You see that cat Wright is a bad mother: Wright appeared in the most games on the Royals' pitching staff his rookie season.

Shut your mouth: When the Yankees swindled Lou Piniella from the Royals for pitcher Lindy McDaniel, they also received Wright in the trade. He pitched in just three games for the Yankees.

No one understands him but his woman: Wright was part of a letter-writing campaign among some former major leaguers seeking a revision to MLB's pension rules to include anyone who had played in a major league game. Currently, any player who has competed in 43 MLB games is eligible for a pension. Wright and former Oriole Jim Hutto wrote letters to many Hall of Famers and said they didn't receive any response.

(A word about the back): Pitcher double plays is not a stat you hear about much.

Friday, February 19, 2016

no. 503 - gates brown

Who is the man: Gates Brown was entering another season as the Tigers' primary pinch-hitter when this card was released. He was going through a bit of a low period as the previous two years he had hit under .230.

Can ya dig it: Brown has an extraordinarily tall head. Or at least it seems so on his cards.

Right on: Brown is pictured with a bat in his hands on all of his Topps cards from 1965-1974. I don't know if that's a record, but it makes me want to do research.

You see that cat Brown is a bad mother: Brown hit an extraordinary .370, mostly as a pinch-hitter, during the Tigers' World Series championship year in 1968.

Shut your mouth: Brown served time for breaking-and-entering when he was a teenager. When he started his baseball career, he spent his second year in the minors in the Southern League. The combination of being black and an ex-con in the South was too good for heckling fans to resist. But Brown led the league in hitting that year in 1961, and "by the end of the year, they were all on my side," Brown said.

No one understands him but his woman: Brown was the Tigers' first designated hitter.

(A word about the back): The noted halfback didn't play baseball in high school.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

no. 502 - cubs

Who is the man: The Chicago Cubs were entering the 1971 season after a second straight second-place finish in the National League East. After falling to the Miracle Mets in 1969, the Cubs lost out to the Pirates in 1970.

Can ya dig it: This is one of the stranger cards in the entire set. It doesn't follow the pattern of any of the other team cards. Not only does it not show a photograph of the entire team posing together, but Topps didn't place the banner team name across the top like it did for every other team card.

Right on: This floating heads team card began the Cubs team card tradition that continued through the 1970s. Except for 1973 and 1975, the Cubs' team card from 1971-79 was a collection of floating heads.

You see that cat Durocher is a bad mother: Manager Leo Durocher gets the biggest head in the bunch. He's directly above the Cubs logo.

Shut your mouth: I tried to identify most of the players here, but the signatures are small, the players before my time, and my eyes are tired. I did find Durocher, Joe Pepitone, Billy Williams, Randy Hundley, Ernie Banks, Don Kessinger, Joe Decker, Ron Santo, Larry Gura and Fergie Jenkins before I gave up.

No one understands him but his woman: Willie Smith is featured on this card (second from the left at the bottom). But he was also shown on his own card listed as a Cincinnati Red about 50 cards ago. Smith was traded from the Cubs after the 1970 season.

(A word about the back): The pennant-winners listing tells the tale of Cubs futility at this time. The most recent pennant winner was 1945 (and they wouldn't have another one until 1984).

Monday, February 15, 2016

no. 501 - andy etchebarren

Who is the man: Andy Etchebarren was entering his fourth season platooning with Elrod Hendricks for the starting catcher position for the Orioles when this card was issued.

Can ya dig it: Terrific photo. One of the best. You can read everything but the "Etch" on the back of his uniform.

Right on: That's quite a cut for a career .235 hitter.

You see that cat Etchebarren is a bad mother: Etchebarren was known for his defensive prowess, including his ability to handle one of the best starting rotations in baseball history in the Orioles of the early 1970s.

Shut your mouth: Etchebarren's looks were often mocked by those in baseball. Broadcaster Joe Garagiola once said that Etchebarren might benefit from crashing into the screen at Yankee Stadium because "it might rearrange some of those parts."

No one understands him but his woman: Etchebarren was selected to back-to-back All-Star Games in 1966 and 1967 but didn't play in either game.

(A word about the back): OK, I'm piling on, but holy Wally Moon, Etchebarren belongs in the Eyebrow Hall of Fame.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

no. 500 - jim perry

Who is the man: Jim Perry was heading into 1971 as the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons.

Can ya dig it: I hope you can tell he's Gaylord Perry's brother from this photo.

Right on: It took me so long to know who Jim Perry is. I'd say that he might be one of the more forgotten players to have received a double-zero card number (for those times when Topps was specifically awarding double-zero numbers for star players, anyway).

You see that cat Perry is a bad mother: Perry is part of the second-winningest brother combination in big-league history. Jim and Gaylord won 529 games, 10 fewer than Phil and Joe Niekro.

Shut your mouth: Early in his major league career, Perry took a job in the offseason selling bomb shelters. Perry, who tended to give up the home run ball, said, "I ought to get one for myself."

No one understands him but his woman: Perry was left unprotected by the Twins for the expansion draft in 1968. He wasn't chosen and won 20 games in 1969.

(A word about the back): Well, I guess if the card is going to have a crease, the best place for it is the back.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

no. 499 - 5th series checklist

Who is the man: Since these cards were issued in 1971, we can assume that the batter on the checklist card, whoever he is, is a Cardinal, Red, Phillie or Senator. They wore the red helmets at that time. (The White Sox switched to red caps for the 1971 season, but since '71 cards are based on the 1970 season, we can leave them out).

Can ya dig it: Once again, the checklist gives collectors a jump on the 5th series by appearing 25 cards before the 5th series even begins.

Right on: Hey, collectors! Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski, Vida Blue and Harmon Killebrew are coming in the 5th series!

You this checklist is a bad mother: This checklist features the famed Lowell Palmer. That's pretty rockin'.

Shut your mouth: "N.L. Rookie Inf." The checklist is forced to Infer "Infielders."

No one understands him but his woman: I'm assuming I have that card of John Matias since I've completed the set. But I can't tell you what it looks like at all. Guess I"ll have to wait for it to turn up on the 1971 Topps blog!

(A word about the back): The card number has appeared at the top center for the third straight checklist.

Friday, February 5, 2016

no. 498 - john kennedy

Who is the man: John Kennedy finished out the 1970 season with the Red Sox after being purchased from the Brewers in June. Kennedy would stay with the Red Sox through the end of his career in 1974.

Can ya dig it: John Kennedy in Yankee Stadium with the American flag in the background. It's just too presidential of a photo.

Right on: Kennedy's position is listed as "infield," and it's accurate. He played first, second, third and short in 1970.

You see that cat Kennedy is a bad mother: Kennedy hit a home run in his first MLB bat, a pinch-hitting appearance that broke up a no-hit attempt by the Twins' Dick Stigman. Stigman had retired 17 straight batters when Kennedy homered with two outs in the sixth inning on Sept. 5, 1962.

Shut your mouth: Kennedy was made the Dodgers' regular third baseman in 1965 after Jim Gilliam retired. But Kennedy struggled to hit and then was injured. Gilliam came out of retirement and took back the third base job.

No one understands him but his woman: Kennedy not only shares his name with the 35th president of the United States, but the same birthday, May 29. This was a pretty big deal for someone who started his career with the Washington Senators with a Kennedy in the White House. Kennedy told former SABR director Paul Hirsch that a love letter written to him by his fiancee once was delivered to the White House by accident.

(A word about the back): Kennedy sure could pick his home run moments. The inside-the-park homer came against the Indians' Rick Austin in the fifth inning, tying the game at 3-3. The Red Sox would score two more times in the inning and go on to win, 8-4.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

no. 497 - horacio pina

Who is the man: Horacio Pina pitched in a career-high 61 games for the Senators in 1970, logging just 71 innings, with a productive 2.79 ERA.

Can ya dig it: Another shot in Yankee Stadium but kind of a different look than a lot of the other "frieze" photos in the set.

Right on: This is Pina's rookie card even though he had been in the majors since 1968.

You see that cat Pina is a bad mother: Pina is the first Mexican native to win a World Series ring. He was a relief pitcher for the Oakland A's when they beat the Mets in the 1973 World Series.

Shut your mouth: Pina formed a strong bond with his manager, Ted Williams, in part because Williams spoke some Spanish. Williams had a Mexican background on his mother's side. Pina learned how to fish from Williams and they would go to the movies together.

No one understands him but his woman: Pina's last name has a tilde over the "n," but it never appeared on his cards or on his uniform. Pina didn't pay any mind, saying in an interview a few years ago, "I didn't know what that little thing over the 'n' was even called! It was only later I found out it was called a tilde."

 (A word about the back): Pina would later pitcher another Mexican League no-hitter -- this one a perfect game -- during a 21-4 season in 1978.

Monday, February 1, 2016

no. 496 - woody woodward

Who is the man: Woody Woodward was entering his final major league season when this card was issued. He would play in 136 games in 1971 -- the second most of his career -- but retire at age 29 at the end of the season.

Can ya dig it: Woodward's eyes match the sky.

Right on: I can't imagine how many fans gave him the Woody Woodpecker laugh.

You see that cat Woodward is a bad mother: Woodward was on the field for his glove. In 1967, he led all National League second basemen in fielding percentage.

Shut your mouth: Woodward hit the only home run of his nine-year career in 1970, a two-run shot off the Braves' Ron Reed. Afterward, teammate Wayne Granger said, "We figured out that if he keeps hitting home runs at this pace, it will only take him 4,198 years to catch Babe Ruth."

No one understands him but his woman: Woodward's only four-hit game came in the same game that pitcher Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams.

(A word about the back): Something happened between 1971 and now because Woodward's .984 fielding percentage in '67 is now listed at .982.