Thursday, February 16, 2017
no. 629 - john hiller
Who is the man: John Hiller was at a turning point in his career when this card was issued. He suffered three heart attacks on Jan. 11, 1971 and there was no guarantee when kids were pulling his card from packs that he would ever play again.
Can ya dig it: Any Hiller card that is not the 1975 Topps Hiller card doesn't look like a Hiller card to me. I pulled the '75 Hiller out of the first pack I ever bought and it was an immediate favorite. I still hold an attachment to that card.
Right on: Hiller wearing the jacket over the uniform makes me think it's going to rain there at Yankee Stadium.
You see that cat Hiller is a bad mother: After Hiller's heart attacks, the Tigers took it easy with the pitcher. They kept him on to be an instructor during the spring of 1972. But Hiller wanted to pitch. By July of '72 Hiller and manager Billy Martin had convinced the Tigers' brass to let Hiller play. He threw better than ever and in 1973 set what was then a major league record 38 saves in a season.
Shut your mouth: Hiller grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, and naturally played hockey. He also played baseball, and during a tryout in Toronto, former major league manager Charlie Dressen told him, "son, I hope you haven't thrown out your hockey skates."
No one understands him but his woman: When Hiller retired in 1980, he was the last remaining member of the 1968 World Series champion Tigers team.
(A word about the back): Hiller's mark of six straight strikeouts to start a game was matched by four other pitchers until the White Sox's Joe Cowley began a game with seven straight strikeouts in 1986. Later in '86, the Astros' Jim Deshaies struck out eight in a row to begin a game and that's where the modern-day record stands. The Mets' Jacob deGrom also struck out his first eight batters in 2014.