Friday, December 28, 2012

no. 128 - frank johnson

Who is the man: Frank Johnson was entering what would be his final major league season when this card arrived. Johnson was a lifetime utility player for the Giants, playing from 1966-71. This is his final card.

Can ya dig it: This is one of just two solo cards that Johnson had during his career. The other is in the 1969 Topps set.

Right on: Johnson's jersey looks like he's wearing an advertisement for KFAN, a sports radio station in Minnesota.

You see this cat Johnson is a bad mother: Johnson hit his first major league home run after filling in for an injured Jim Ray Hart in 1968. The home run led the Giants to victory and kicked off a four-game winning streak.

Shut your mouth: When a fan asked Johnson for his memories of Kentucky, Johnson responded with "Kentucky is a good state. Memories you don't want to know."

No one understands him but his woman: Johnson was traded to a Japanese team in 1972 in a deal for Toru Hamaura. It was termed the first international baseball trade in history. Johnson played in Japan for a year, but Hamaura never played in the majors.

(A word about the back): Lots of information about Johnson's minor exploits on the back. He played in the minors for six years before getting called up to the majors.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

no. 127 - danny thompson

Who is the man: Danny Thompson had just completed his first season in the major leagues when this card arrived. He proved necessary to the Twins after starting second baseman Rod Carew went down for just about the rest of the season after tearing knee ligaments on a play at second base while being upended by a rolling slide from the Brewers' Mike Hegan.

Can ya dig it: Fresh-faced Danny is showing all you youngsters the correct way an infielder prepares when the pitcher throws to the plate.

Right on: Rookie card!

You see this cat Thompson is a bad mother: Cursed throughout his career with injuries, Thompson suffered the most devastating news of all when he was diagnosed with leukemia during the winter of 1973. Yet, he played in at least 97 games each of the next four seasons.

Shut your mouth: The Twins actually traded Thompson, cancer and all, to the Rangers in the Bert Blyleven deal in June of 1976. Thompson died from his disease six months later.

No one understands him but his woman: In a UPI article that revealed Thompson's cancer fight, Thompson's wife, Jo, addressed her husband's obstacle-strewn baseball career, saying, "Danny's just like that character in 'Lil' Abner' -- a rain cloud follows him around."

(A word about the back): I guess I'm going to have to be the one to say it: Going from the .366 that Carew was hitting in 1970 before his injury to the .219 Thompson hit in Carew's place is quite a drop-off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

no. 126 - danny coombs

Who is the man: Danny Coombs was in his first season with the Padres after playing the first seven years of his major league career with Houston. He'd play one more season for the Padres and that would be the end of his career.

Can ya dig it: Those brown sleeves don't say "big league" to me at all. They say, "I'm going out back to work on the tractor."

Right on: Coombs looks like a tough guy here, which is interesting as you will see later.

You see this cat Coombs is a bad mother: Coombs didn't even play baseball in college. He was a basketball player for Seton Hall. He was noticed by scouts while playing semipro baseball.

Shut your mouth: Coombs went to Brewer High School in Brewer, Maine. Last July, he was honored as the city's "bicentennial athlete" in recognition of its 200th anniversary. Coombs quipped: "Did they look back into the 1800s to see if there was anyone there?"

No one understands him but his woman: OK, look again at Coombs' photo up top. Now look at his card from 1968. Quite the difference, huh? If you look at all of Coombs' other cards, he looks very similar to his 1968 card. He is also called "Dan" instead of "Danny." This is the only card in which he is referred to as "Danny." Sounds like someone wanted to change is identity.

(A word about the back): I love it when Topps mentions that a player on a team that is only two years old has set a franchise mark. Not exactly knocking down Yankees records is he?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

no. 125 - ray fosse

Who is the man: Good gosh, I don't know. I am used to the Snidely Whiplash version of Ray Fosse. This cat, I don't know.

Can ya dig it: Because of the black chest protector dominating the photo, Topps had to squeeze Fosse's signature in the lower right corner.

Right on: Lots going on in this photo. Fosse's putting on his shin guards Michael Jackson-style (one glove on). He's staring into the distance at someone he doesn't appear to like. And is that Connie Mack in the dugout off to the left? Looks like someone in a suit.

You see this cat Fosse is a bad mother: Fosse went on a 23-game hitting streak in 1970 to take control of the Indians' starting catching position from Duke Sims. Sims would be traded by Cleveland the very next offseason.

Shut your mouth: Fosse still harbors bitterness about the play at the plate in which Pete Rose bowled him over during the 1970 All-Star Game. He said for a column that Rose tries to downplay the incident as something that happened between friends. Fosse says he and Rose were never friends. They went out to dinner with Sam McDowell and their wives before the All-Star Game, mostly because they were all there in Cincinnati as all-stars and didn't have anything to do, not because they were good buds.

No one understands him but his woman: Fosse separated his shoulder in the collision with Rose -- a play widely blamed for derailing Fosse's career (although Fosse was sidelined by a variety of injuries). But the fracture was not discovered until the following year. Fosse tried to play with the injury for the rest of the 1970 season (another injury ended his season on Sept. 3 of that year).

(A word about the back): "Developed into perhaps the AL's finest backstop in 1970 ..."

Here are the starting AL catchers in 1970: Elrod Hendricks, Jerry Moses, Joe Azcue, Ed Herrmann, Bill Freehan, Ed Kirkpatrick, Phil Roof, George Mitterwald, Thurman Munson, Frank Fernandez, Paul Casanova.

Well, if it wasn't for Munson, I'd say Topps had a case. Even if you discount Fosse's offense, he was one terrific defensive catcher.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

no. 124 - don gullett

Who is the man: Don Gullett had just completed his rookie season with the Reds in 1970 when this card arrived in packs.

Can ya dig it: As I've mentioned before, Gullett often looks on the verge of tears on his cards. But other than that, dig the full-name treatment of his signature!

Right on: Rookie card!

You see this cat Gullett is a bad mother: One year out of high school, Gullett pitched in five games for the Reds during the 1970 postseason, two games in the NLCS and three in the World Series against the Orioles.

Shut your mouth: Shoulder issues ended Gullett's career before he was even 30. Gullett told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2002 that it took a long time for him to get over that. "I was bitter," he said. "I wasn't mad at anybody. I was just very bitter at the fact that my career ended at 27."

No one understands him but his woman: I was trying to figure out where Gullett's 1968 Topps card was, and then I realized I was doing it again. I always get Gary Nolan and Don Gullett confused, which I suppose is because they were both Reds pitchers from the '70s, with great promise, who were done in by arm problems.

(A word about the back): It must have been such a relief to the copywriters at Topps when the bio on the back came as easily as it must have for Gullett.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

no. 123 - 2nd series checklist

Who is the man: Again, I don't know who the man in the red helmet is. I've wondered though whether the artist based it on any particular player. Pete Rose perhaps?

Can ya dig it: The checklists in this set are different than they were beginning in the mid-1970s. Topps put two checklist cards within the first series. As you can see, the second series doesn't start until card No. 133. I referred to this in the last checklist post. And there is an explanation in the comments.

Right on: This must have been fascinating to collectors back then. Since only the first series was out, they all got a look at which players would be on cards 133-263 before the second series arrived.

You see this checklist is a bad mother: Well, there's something called "Base. Coin check list" at the top of the second column. That's rather intriguing. I don't know when the coins were released during the course of the 1971 set. It's possible the coins were already out when the first series was out, or maybe this was a complete mystery when it popped up on the checklist. Perhaps somebody who collected cards then can enlighten.

Shut your mouth: This was the last checklist that I needed for the set. You'd think it would've been the one from the short-printed portion of the set. But I did manage to get a nice pristine version.

No one understands him but his woman: Well I'm not too thrilled that the secret's out on all the cards that will be coming up next on the blog. I'd like it to be somewhat of a surprise. But you probably don't care.

(A word about the back): There you go, a whole mess more upcoming cards are out of the bag.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

no. 122 - eddie watt

Who is the man: Eddie Watt was in the prime of his career at this point as the Orioles' main relief pitcher. But he had just come off a somewhat difficult postseason. The Orioles beat the Reds  in 5 games for the World Series title. But Watt gave up a home run to Lee May in Game 4 that prevented the O's from a sweep.

Can ya dig it: What do I love more -- the palm tree in the distance or the circle dot in Eddie's signature?

Right on: Watt's got the same unsmiling look on his face in virtually all of his baseball cards. I believe it's mostly to keep the chaw in his mouth. You can't see it here, but it's evident in some of his other cards.

You see this cat Watt is a bad mother: Watt hit three home runs in his career. Two of them came against Johnny Podres and Sam McDowell.

Shut your mouth: The home run that Watt gave up to May didn't sit right with Orioles fans. For the rest of his career with Baltimore, fans would boo Watt when they saw him come into a game.

No one understands him but his woman: Watt was teammates with the very colorful Moe Drabowsky. Watt said Drabowsky was always bringing snakes to the ballpark. Watt was one of the few who didn't mind putting the snakes around his neck.

(A word about the back): Yeah, let's not mention that home run to May. Let's go all the way back to '64 and Aberdeen instead.

Friday, December 7, 2012

no. 121 - cubs rookie stars

Who is the man: Two more players who made their major league debuts in 1970. Jim Dunegan pitched in seven games for the Cubs, all in relief. He went 0-2 in 13 1/3 innings. Roe Skidmore played in exactly one game, had one at-bat, got a hit, and batted 1.000 for the season.

Can ya dig it: Dunegan appears to be in a batting pose, not a pitching pose. In fact, you can barely see part of his bat in the upper left-hand corner. This makes sense because Dunegan was an outfielder before switching to pitching in 1970.

Right on: Both of these guys look old for rookies. Dunegan was 23 at the time. Skidmore was 24.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: No they aren't. They're rookies. They're CUBS rookies. That makes them even less bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Dunegan's nickname was "Lurch," not because he moved or looked like the Addams Family character, but because he drove the team station wagon during road trips while he was with Class A Quincy. He frequently brought the vehicle to a quick stop, lurching it forward, to keep teammates awake on night trips back home.

No one understands him but his woman: Neither Dunegan nor Skidmore ever played in the majors after the 1970 season. Skidmore had just the one base hit (against Jerry Reuss), but he played 12 years in pro ball, hanging on until the 1976 season.

(A word about the back): A converted outfielder and a Braves reject. That's who the Cubs were hoping to be stars in the 1970s.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

no. 120 - willie horton

Who is the man: Good question. Who IS that? I only know Willie Horton with the monster fu manchu mustache. This looks totally strange to me.

Willie Horton was coming off an abbreviated 1970 season. An ankle injury at the end of July ended his year.

Can ya dig it: I'm sorry, but that's not a swing that Horton is executing. I don't know how card photographers let players get away with that limp-backswing stuff back in the day.

Right on: Horton is one of 21 children. Right on!

You see this cat Horton is a bad mother: Where do I begin? Horton did road work in the ice and snow during the offseason in order to keep off weight prior to the 1970 season. In 1974, he hit a high foul pop directly over home plate. The ball struck a pigeon, which fell at the feet of Red Sox catcher Bob Montgomery. On the next pitch, Horton singled.

Shut your mouth: During the 1967 race riots in Detroit, Horton entered the fray -- in uniform -- and pleaded for calm. Unfortunately, the riots raged for a week.

No one understands him but his woman: Horton's full name is William Wattison Horton. But on his 1975 Topps card, he is listed as William Wallison Horton. For a long time, I thought "Wallison" was Horton's middle name. And "William Wallison" has a nicer ring to it, for me, than "William Wattison." Topps got me all screwed up.

(A word about the back): We have a rare typo in the '71 set. It looks like Topps wanted to write "highest major league batting avg. ever" and somehow merged "avg." and "ever" into "aver."

Monday, December 3, 2012

no. 119 - frank lucchesi

Who is the man: Frank Lucchesi took his first major league managing job before the 1970 season and guided the Phillies to a 73-88 record, good for fifth in the National League East.

Can ya dig it: There have been four manager cards so far. In every one, the manager is looking off to his left.

Right on: On both my '71 and '85 Topps blogs, the most recent post features a manager who was fired by Phillies GM Paul Owens and then replaced by him.

You see this cat Lucchesi is a bad mother: Lucchesi  is so bad-ass that he gives you answers to questions you didn't even ask.

Shut your mouth: Lucchesi was famously assaulted by second baseman Lenny Randle while managing the Rangers in 1977. Randle was upset about losing his starting job to rookie Bump Wills. Lucchesi reacted angrily to Randle's complaint, telling reporters: "I'm tired of these punks saying play me or trade me. Anyone who makes $80,000 a year and gripes and moans all spring is not going to get a tear out of me." Lucchesi was quoted in the papers. Shortly after, Randle told Lucchesi he wanted to talk to him. After an exchange of words, Randle punched Lucchesi in the face, breaking the manager's cheekbone in three places and putting him in a hospital for a week.

No one understands him but his woman: Lucchesi eventually lost his job with the Rangers because of the incident. Refusing to a settlement with Randle, he had the player arrested, which didn't go over well with the public. Lucchesi later filed a civil suit against Randle. The manager was fired three months after the assault.

(A word about the back): I already mentioned this on Twitter, but that has to be the freakiest floating head of all-time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

no. 118 - cookie rojas

Who is the man: Cookie Rojas completed his first season with the Kansas City Royals in 1970. He was traded from the Cardinals to the Royals in June of that season, and was entering the '71 season as the Royals' starting second baseman.

Can ya dig it: This is an often-cited favorite card of the 1971 set with good reason. It's a great double-play action shot with a scoreboard in the background. The game in the photo took place on Aug. 16, 1970. Rojas is retiring the Yankees' Ron Woods at second and throwing to first to get Gene Michael to complete the double play. The Yankees won the game by the score you see on the board, 5-1.

Right on: Topps is being a little cute with the "infield" position listing. True, Rojas played three games in the outfield and two games at shortstop in 1970. But he played 107 games at second base!

You see this cat Rojas is a bad mother: Rojas was suspended for five games after flipping out during the 1999 NLDS while a coach for the Mets. An umpire called a fly ball by Darryl Hamilton foul and Rojas thought it was fair. He was so vehement that he bumped the ump and manager Bobby Valentine nearly fell over trying to hold back Rojas.

Shut your mouth: The umpire turned out to be right. The ball was foul.

No one understands him but his woman: Rojas' actual first name is "Octavio." "Cookie" is an Americanization of the Spanish nickname "Cuqui."

(A word about the back): Still with the "utility man" stuff! Rojas did spread out his position responsibilities early in his career with the Phillies. But he was mostly a second baseman starting in 1967.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

no. 117 - ted simmons

Who is the man: Ted Simmons had just completed his rookie season when this card hit packs, appearing in 82 games for the Cardinals and platooning behind the plate with Joe Torre.

Can ya dig it: Ted appears to be squatting on the sidelines in what seems like Dodger Stadium. Is that Dodger Stadium? I have such a terrible time IDing ballparks.

Right on: Rookie card! A good one, too.

You see this cat Simmons is a bad mother: Simmons was known to have a temper during his playing days. When a player with a temper encounters another player with a temper -- even if he's a teammate -- bad things happen. In 1977, Cardinals pitcher John Denny, known for his loud mouth, received a whooping from Simmons behind the dugout.

Shut your mouth: Simmons did not get along with Cardinals manager/GM Whitey Herzog, and in 1980, Herzog responded by trading Simmons to the Brewers. But the deal turned out far better for the Brewers than the Cardinals.

No one understands him but his woman: Simmons has received a lot of backing from the "Put Him in the Hall Already" crowd. But Simmons was on the ballot for just one year in 1994 and received so little support that he was deemed ineligible for further consideration.

(A word about the back): Wow. Simmons is so clean-cut here. Hey, Archie, where's Jughead? I grew up with the long-haired, tough-guy Simmons of the mid-1970s. This makes no sense to me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

no. 116 - ken sanders

Who is the man: Ken Sanders had played in the major leagues in 1964, 1966 and 1968, but didn't get a card until pitching in 50 games with a 1.75 ERA for the Brewers in 1970.

Can ya dig it: Those blue eyes combined with the Brewers uniforms of that era are absolutely freaky.

Right on: Rookie card!

You see this cat Sanders is a bad mother: Sanders set a franchise record in 1971 for appearances with 83. It still stands as the Brewers' record.

Shut your mouth: After that 1971 season, Sanders said, "let's buy a house, we'll be here forever." He was traded nine months later, and then again two months after that.

No one understands him but his woman: Between 1970 and 1975, Sanders was traded four times and released once.

(A word about the back): OK, just absorb the last sentence there: "Greatest baseball thrill was setting Venezuelan League record for pitchers by accepting 13 chances in one game."

I don't believe that for a second.

Monday, November 19, 2012

no. 115 - donn clendenon

Who is the man: Donn Clendenon had wrapped up the second of his three years with the Mets when this card came out. He produced one of his best seasons in 1970, hitting 22 home runs and knocking in 97 in 121 games.

Can ya dig it: This is one of the first 1971 cards I ever saw. It was a huge score to my 13-year-old way of thinking when I landed it in a trade (this card is an upgrade of the card I landed when I was 13). It was an early favorite of mine.

Right on: I don't know what Clendenon has in his right hand, but it must be valuable enough that it's causing him to hold his bat by the elbow and brace himself against the batting cage like he's going to fall over.

You see this cat Clendenon is a bad mother: The last player to join the 1969 Miracle Mets, Clendenon was the MVP of the 1969 World Series, socking three home runs and batting .357 against the Orioles.

Shut your mouth: Orioles star Frank Robinson said to the Mets before the '69 Series, "no hard feelings, but you guys can't beat us," to which Clendenon responded by saying his team would "kick your ass, maybe in four straight games." Good call, Donn.

No one understands him but his woman: Clendenon was drafted by the Expos in the expansion draft and then traded to the Astros in the deal that brought Rusty Staub to Montreal. Clendenon, who had taken a job at a pen company, announced his retirement from baseball. The Astros tried to void the trade, but Montreal refused to give up Staub. In a meeting between baseball officials and Clendenon, Clendenon was accused of being paid to retire by a third party and there were threats that the Astros would buy the pen company and fire Clendenon. But in the end, the Astros received player and monetary compensation from the Expos and Clendenon stayed with Montreal and continued playing.

(A word about the back): The record for RBIs in a season for the Mets is now 124, shared by Mike Piazza and David Wright.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

no. 114 - billy conigliaro

Who is the man: Billy Conigliaro had a great breakout season for the Red Sox in 1970, hitting 18 home runs in a little less than 400 at-bats to land a giant trophy on his card. Couple that with brother Tony's 1970 season and the Conigliaros were the talk of Boston that year.

Can ya dig it: Billy's card comes just nine cards after Tony's card. That makes me wonder if Topps ever positioned baseball brothers even closer in a card set (aside from those ones in which they appear on the same card). If I had the time, I'd do up the research.

Right on: This is also the third rookie trophy card in the last 14 cards.

You see this cat is a bad mother: Billy and his brother each hit a home run on July 4, 1970 in a game against the Indians. Their own family fireworks on the 4th of July!

Shut your mouth: Conigliaro did not react well to the trade that sent Tony from the Red Sox to the Angels. He criticized the team, claimed Carl Yastrzemski ran the club, and implied that team cliches kept him from starting. The Red Sox traded Billy to the Brewers a year later.

No one understand him but his woman: For a long time after his retirement, Conigliaro stayed away from baseball. But within the last 10 years he has returned, prompted by his wife, who he married in 2002 after being a longtime bachelor.

(A word about the back): Billy signed with the Red Sox after being selected in the first round in 1965. Tony came to Billy's high school graduation and announced the Red Sox's draft choice on stage.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

no. 113 - jerry crider

Who is the man: Jerry Crider pitched in 32 games -- mostly in relief -- for his new team, the White Sox, in 1970. He was dealt to Chicago from Minnesota in May of that year.

Can ya dig it: This is another one of those cards that I obtained from my friend's older brother a long time ago. It's another upgrade candidate.

Right on: That's an awfully tight shot of a pitching wind-up pose. And I'll bet Crider doesn't even have a ball in that glove.

You see this cat Crider is a bad mother: After Crider retired from baseball in 1974, he moved to Mexico and became a hunting and fishing guide there for 17 years. Anyone willing to move from the U.S. to Mexico has got to have some bad-ass in them.

Shut your mouth: Crider's major league career was finished by the time this card came out. His last MLB season was 1970, and this is his only solo card.

No one understands him but his woman: Crider has been credited with helping find and name the Goulds turkey, the fifth North American species of turkey. I really don't know what that means, but it sounds impressive.

(A word about the back): You don't hear people mention the stat "chances accepted" anymore. I don't know if it was even mentioned that much in 1971.

Friday, November 9, 2012

no. 112 - manny mota

Who is the man: Manny Mota, believe it or not, was the Dodgers' regular left fielder in 1971. I always have a difficult time with that because I've only known Mota as Pinch-Hitter Extraordinaire.

Can ya dig it: This is the first 1971 card I ever saw. It was lying in a street gutter as I walked home from school. It was in pieces. I picked them up, taped them together, and kept the card for a long time, even though one piece in the middle of the card was missing. It had to be a good five years after the 1971 set came out that I saw the card.

Right on: The "G." in Mota's signature is the abbreviation for "Geronimo," which was Mota's mother's surname.

You see this cat Mota is a bad mother: Mota cemented himself forever in pop culture by making it into the script of the movie "Airplane." The often-cited "pinch-hitting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota ... Mota ... Mota ..." line will last long after Mota's gone. That's bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Former Los Angeles Times writer Jim Murray, describing Mota's ability to come up in any situation and get a hit, said: "He could get wood on a bullet."

No one understand him but his woman: In 1970, Mota hit a foul ball that hit a 14-year-old boy in the head. The boy died five days later. In one account in the L.A. Daily News, it mentioned that such a tragedy has never happened again. But the link to the story doesn't appear to be functioning anymore.

(A word about the back): Considering how regularly that Mota hit above .300 during this time, it surprises me that the Dodgers ever took him out of the outfield. But I suppose if you acquire Jimmy Wynn and then Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith, you have no choice.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

no. 111 - yankees rookie stars

Who  is the man: Both Loyd Colson and Bobby Mitchell made their major league debuts in 1970. Colson pitched in one game for the Yankees. Mitchell made 10 appearances for New York. Mitchell spent most of the year with Triple A Syracuse, while Colson was with Double A Manchester, N.H.

Can ya dig it: I never realized I had such a grossly miscut card in this set until I scanned this card. Wow, I've got to do something about that.

Right on: That's a pretty nice shot of Mitchell, even though it's a small photo.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Colson may have a bad-ass look on his face, but it's just a front. Rookies ain't bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Colson's game for the Yankees in 1970 was the only major league game he played. He pitched two innings in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers on Sept. 25. He allowed an eighth inning run but struck out three batters in a row.

No one understands him but his woman: Mitchell played the final three years of his pro career in Japan.

(A word about the back): Despite the drastic miscutting? All right. In five years in the majors, Mitchell never stole more than seven bases in a season. Must have used up all his speed in the minors.

Monday, November 5, 2012

no. 110 - bill mazeroski

Who is the man: Bill Mazeroski had just completed what would be his last 100-game season for the Pirates, the only major league team for which he played.

Can ya dig it: That's a terrific shot of what I believe to be Three Rivers Stadium through the batting cage. The stadium was brand spanking new at the time.

Right on: As a kid I loved getting cards of well-known players who were at the tail end of their playing careers. To me, star players from the '60s who wrapped careers up in the early '70s -- Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Billy Williams, Juan Marichal, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, etc. -- were players I only read about in books and magazines. So to see them on a card was something special.

You see this cat Mazeroski is a bad mother: Mazeroski hit the only home run to decide a Game 7 of a World Series. It doesn't get badder than that.

Shut your mouth: During Mazeroski's Hall of Fame induction speech in 2001, he started off by recognizing all the people who traveled to Cooperstown "to listen to me speak and hear this crap."

No one understands him but his woman: Mazeroski never got to give the induction speech that he had prepared. He broke down in tears and, although his time at the podium was very emotional, the speech remained unsaid.

(A word about the back): Most of Mazeroski's fielding marks are now held by Joe Morgan.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

no. 109 - steve hovley

Who is the man: Steve Hovley was an original Seattle Pilot, who was traded to the A's from the Brewers in the middle of the 1970 season.

Can ya dig it: Nice work by Topps getting Hovley in an A's uniform -- in the first series no less -- given the short turnaround time, especially for that time period.

Right on: I call this pose "The 1981 Donruss pose," since it seems like one-fourth of all cards in that set show a player with a bat on his shoulder.

You see this cat Hovley is a bad mother: Hovley is most famous for his several mentions in the book "Ball Four," and I guess he's bad ass for being one of the players that writer Jim Bouton liked. As you know, there were a lot of players that Bouton didn't seem to like, judging from the book.

Shut your mouth: Hovley's famous quote in Ball Four is: "To a pitcher, a base hit is the perfect example of negative feedback."

No one understands him but his woman: Teammates ridiculed Hovley for his long hair and intelligence. He was a counterculture type in the baseball world. His nickname was "Orbit," which Hovley said he didn't mind, "In fact, I get reinforcement from it," he said in Ball Four. "It reminds me I'm different from them and I'm gratified."

(A word about the back): The photo on the back is used again on the front of Hovley's 1972 Topps card, except with him airbrushed into a Royals cap.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

no. 108 - john cumberland

Who is the man: John Cumberland finished up the 1970 season with the Giants after being traded by the Yankees in July of that year, therefore the airbrushed cap.

Can ya dig it: There is a lot -- I mean a LOT -- of territory on that cap. It may be the highest I've seen a player wear a cap on a baseball card. It looks like he's got a marmot in there.

Right on: This is the second airbrushed cap in the set, and I think I'm going to start keeping track of how many there are in the set.

You see this cat Cumberland is a bad mother: Cumberland achieved his first major league win while pitching for the Yankees in 1970. It was a wet, miserable night in the fog in Washington as the Yankees beat the Senators. Cumberland called the conditions "comfortable," and said that in his home state of Maine "we had to shovel the snow off the field to play."

Shut your mouth: As the pitching coach for the Red Sox during the mid-1990s, Cumberland was asked how he felt after Roger Clemens gave up a home run on his first pitch of spring training. "It doesn't bother me," he said. "I'm sure it didn't bother him either."

No one understands him but his woman: Cumberland was brought in from the bullpen to become the Giants' No. 3 starter for the rest of the 1971 season. Cumberland helped the Giants to the postseason that year. But after an 0-4 start in 1972, he was sold to the Cardinals and barely pitched in the majors again.

(A word about the back): American Legion ball or not, throwing a one-hitter while striking out 22 is pretty damn impressive.

Friday, October 26, 2012

no. 107 - roy foster

Who is the man: After seven years in the minors, Roy Foster received the starting left-field job for the Indians  in 1970 and didn't disappoint, hitting 23 home runs and batting .268 in 139 games to win Topps All-Star Rookie honors and one giant trophy on his card.

Can ya dig it: There is no card in my 1971 set that is in poorer condition than this card. I meant to upgrade it before it was Foster's turn in the rotation, but I never did. So you'll just have to live with the creases and scuffing.

Right on: This is Foster's first solo card. He appeared on a two-player rookie card in the 1970 set.

You see this cat Foster is a bad mother: Foster kept Thurman Munson from being a unanimous pick as American League Rookie of the Year in 1970. Foster received one of the 24 votes -- Munson got the other 23. Therefore, Foster finished second in ROY voting. The Sporting News actually named Foster the top AL rookie, not Munson.

Shut your mouth: Foster hit a home run in his first game in the major leagues. It came in the fourth inning of the season-opener against Orioles starter Dave McNally. The Orioles won 8-2 and McNally pitched a four-hitter, but Foster accounted for two of those hits and both Indians runs. He also hit a run-scoring single in the first inning.

No one understands him but his woman: You don't see "Junior" spelled out in someone's name all that often.

(A word about the back): I can't focus with all those creases.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

no. 106 - tom dukes

Who is the man: Tom Dukes was the leading relief pitcher for the second-year Padres in 1970, saving a team-high 10 games.

Can ya dig it: This is one of the '71 cards I acquired as a teenager in a trade for some late '70s Yankees. You can see the card is a little more worn than some of the others featured on the blog.

Right on: Dukes has a squinty-eyed look here that I don't trust.

You see this cat Dukes is a bad mother: Dukes set a record by recording five strikeouts in a minor league game in 1964. The record has since been tied, but 5 Ks in an inning? That had to be one bad-ass inning.

Shut your mouth: Dukes once appeared in nine straight games, which tied a major league record. The record is now 13 straight.

No one understands him but his woman: On the day of the famed "longest night game," a 1-0, 24-inning affair between the Mets and Astros on April 15, 1967, Dukes was called up to the big club by Houston. He was told to report the next day, so Dukes, who was in Nashville, Tenn., at the time, decided to start the drive and at least get to Dallas for the night. But as he was listening to the game and it went into extra innings, he kept driving to Houston, figuring the team might need him. He was 50 miles away from the Astrodome when Norm Miller crossed the plate on a ball that rolled through the legs of shortstop Al Weis for the game's only run in the 24th inning. Dukes wasn't needed after all.

(A word about the back): I wonder if the word "ace" is in quotation marks because Dukes saved just 10 games, went 1-6 and had a 4.04 ERA? Nah, I guess that's just me being sarcastic.

Monday, October 22, 2012

no. 105 - tony conigliaro

Who is the man: Tony Conigliaro was coming off the best season of his career when this card hit packs. The Red Sox traded him anyway, in October of 1970.

Can ya dig it: The Red Sox logo on Conigliaro's cap is blacked out, which was a common practice for Topps at the time (the 1969 set is littered with blacked-out caps). This is the first blacked-out cap in the 1971 set, but there are many others, particularly in the higher numbers.

Right on: Again, I must admire how players signed their names back in the day. "Conigliaro" is a long name and you can read every damn letter.

You see this cat Conigliaro is a bad mother: Of course, the most famous moment of Conigliaro's career was when he was struck in the face by a pitch from the Angels' Jack Hamilton in 1967, causing permanent damage to his career. But it didn't stop Conigliaro at first. His comeback was so striking in 1969 that he easily won Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Shut your mouth: According to Congliaro's SABR bio, Ted Williams warned a business partner of Conigliaro's that Tony was crowding the plate too much and that "it's serious time now. The pitchers are going to get serious." That was the day before Conigliaro was hit by Hamilton's pitch.

No one understands him but his woman: Conigliaro's trade to the Angels shocked the baseball community, and Congliaro himself was stunned. Speculation is that the Red Sox sensed that Conigliaro's vision problems had returned and that the player would never be more easily traded than he was at that moment. The Red Sox didn't explain the trade much, but the deal was a smart one. Conigliaro struggled with his eye and had other injuries while with the Angels.

(A word about the back): Wow, that's a giant Angels logo airbrushed on there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

no. 104 - dan frisella

Who is the man: Dan Frisella was coming off his breakthrough season in the majors when this card arrived. In the winter after the 1969 season, he learned to throw the forkball from pitcher Diego Segui. Frisella then moved from a starter's role to a bullpen role and became an effective counterpart to Tug McGraw in the Mets' bullpen in 1970. The 1971 season would be his best in the majors.

Can ya dig it: I know Frisella from his 1975 Topps card, all long-haired and airbrushed. (He was listed as "Danny" beginning in 1975). It's nice to see Frisella from a different perspective.

Right on: Those are some bushy eyebrows on the man they called "Bear."

You see this cat Frisella is a bad mother: I mean absolutely no disrespect by this at all, but the nature of Frisella's death -- he was killed on New Year's Day, 1977 in a dune buggy accident -- struck me as very cool when I was a kid. On the list of "ways to die," dune buggy rollover was right up there for me. Of course, now, I think of living to be 100 as very cool.

Shut your mouth: Frisella was playing for the Brewers when he died. The Brewers president at the time was Bud Selig. According to the Associated Press, here is his quote when he found out that Frisella had died: "Isn't that awful? That is a real shocker. I'm dumbfounded."

No one understands him but his woman: Frisella's wife was athletic, too. She played end and safety in a woman's professional football league.

(A word about the back): The bio credits Frisella's curveball for his success in 1970. No mention of the forkball.