Wednesday, February 29, 2012

no. 22 - phil roof

Who is the man: Backup catcher Phil Roof arrived in Milwaukee in January of 1970 in a big swap with Oakland. After a little more than a year with the Brewers, he was shipped to Minnesota, where he spent six seasons.

Can ya dig it: Second straight card of a player with a devilish grin. This one doesn't seem as creepy as McGinn's. But Roof looks like he's up to something.

Right on: I like the action going on behind him. It almost has a dream-like quality.

You see this cat Roof is a bad mother: Roof played 16 years in the major leagues, despite a career batting average of .215. How'd he do it? Well, I could say it was the '60s and '70s and you could do stuff like that with catchers then. But I'll just say, "He was bad-ass, that's how."

Shut your mouth: Phil Roof appeared on a baseball card in 1982 even though his career ended five years earlier. Donruss mistakenly put Roof's name on his younger brother Gene Roof's card and didn't correct the error. I'm sure little brother was thrilled about that.

No one understands him but his woman: Roof was the first player acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays. He was acquired two weeks before the 1976 expansion draft. How do you explain that you're part of team that doesn't have any players yet?

(A word about the back): "Phil provided a number of game winning hits for the Brewers in 1970." He had 23 hits! He had to be the most clutch player in history.

Friday, February 24, 2012

no. 21 - dan mc ginn

Who is the man: Dan McGinn was the first relief ace in Montreal Expos history. McGinn appeared in 74 games for the Expos in 1969, the second most appearances in the National League that year. (Roy Face also relieved for the 1969 expansion Expos, but he wasn't used nearly as much as McGinn).

Can ya dig it: I don't know, McGinn's grin is kind of creeping me out.

Right on: Is that a bandage on the index finger of McGinn's pitching hand? Hope he took that off before entering a game. I don't think that's allowed.

You see this cat McGinn is a bad mother: McGinn hit the first home run in Montreal Expos history. It came in the Expos' first game and it came against TOM SEAVER. A bad mother, I'm telling you.

Shut your mouth: McGinn's career lasted just four years. After back-to-back 7-10 seasons with Montreal, he fell apart in '71, was traded to the Cubs, and went 0-5 in '72. On the good side, he's been the pitching coach for the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the last 12 years.

No one understands him but his woman: When McGinn pitched for Notre Dame, the team would hold practice indoors in the field house before the weather was warm enough to go outside. The field house was old and dark, and McGinn threw in the '90s with little control. Catchers were hard to find.

(A word about the back): With 154 hits and 78 walks, McGinn's WHIP in 1970 was a lousy 1.77. That's about right for an expansion team.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

no. 20 - reggie jackson

Who is the man: Reggie Jackson had four seasons under his kelly green belt when this card was issued. He was just coming off a disappointing 1970 season, hitting just .237. He'd have a pretty fine '71 though.

Can ya dig it: Oh, I can. Jackson looks nothing like he did in later years, which makes this card extra sweet. He's in full '70s Oakland A's regalia. A single bat isn't good enough for him. And I don't know what made him decide to start the "M" in his middle name all the way at the beginning of his first name, but I could stare at that signature all day.

Right on: I was fortunate enough to acquire this card and the Nolan Ryan card in the set as a young teenager when the cards cost me nothing. I scammed ... er, traded for them with a neighborhood friend in exchange for some more current Yankees.

You see this cat Jackson is a bad mother: I never thought Jackson was bad-ass as some did -- he seemed too needy -- but coming up with "I'm the straw that stirs the drink" is pretty mother badding bad.

Shut your mouth: That's what Thurman Munson said to Reggie. Or was it Billy?

No one understands him but his woman: The rumor goes that the Mets -- who had the No. 1 pick in the 1966 baseball draft -- didn't select Jackson because he had a white girlfriend. Jackson instead went to the A's with the No. 2 pick (the Mets drafted Steve Chilcott).

(A word about the back): As often as I rooted against Reggie, I was always proud of the fact that he was a lefty.

Monday, February 20, 2012

no. 19 - skip pitlock

Who is the man: Skip Pitlock had just completed his first season in the major leagues in 1970. He started 15 games for the Giants and went 5-5 with a 4.66 ERA.

Can ya dig it: If Topps was trying to make Pitlock look like a dopey cartoon character, mission accomplished.

Right on: This is Pitlock's rookie card. He would appear on only one other Topps card, in 1975. He had grown a mustache by then.

You see this Pitlock is a bad mother: Pitlock was a left-handed sidearmer, whose motion was bad-ass enough for him to do well as a rookie. But he didn't return to the majors until 1974, so maybe hitters caught on to the gimmick.

Shut your mouth: Pitlock had 25 at-bats in his major league career. He struck out in 18 of them. But he did have one career home run.

No one understands him but his woman: Pitlock's major league debut came against the Cardinals. Bob Gibson was the other starter. Pitlock gave up four runs in the first three innings and the Giants lost 4-1.

(A word about the back): Semipro ball? Come on, Skip deserves better than that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

no. 18 - norm miller

Who is the man: Norm Miller was at the end of the height of his career when this card came out. And by "height," I mean around 200 at-bats a year.

Can ya dig it: I think I love action shots in 1971 Topps more than action shots in any other set. All Miller is doing here is taking a pitch and it's the most fantastic looking take I've ever seen. You can practically see Miller saying, "I don't know -- maybe that was a strike."

Right on: Miller wrote a memoir three years ago called, "To All My Fans From Norm Who?"

You see this Miller is a bad mother: Miller had a practice of wearing his warm-up jacket like a cape. In fact, he's doing it on the cover of his book. I don't care how goofy some may think you look, wearing your jacket like a cape in front of 25-plus grown teammates is bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Miller's first major league at-bat was at Dodger Stadium in front of his family and friends. He was told he wasn't going to play, but then someone told him to grab a bat and go to the plate. Miller did what he was told, and when he arrived to hit, the umpire said, "welcome to the big leagues, son. It's a lot easier to hit if you take your jacket off."

No one understands him but his woman: Miller was the first Jew to play for the Houston Astros.

(A word about the back): This card is an example of the infuriating nature of the single line of stats in 1971 Topps. The write-up talks about the fantastic 1969 season Miller had, how he far exceeded his totals in multiple categories. Yet, you don't know what those totals are because there are only stats for 1970. Argh!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

no. 17 - billy sorrell

Who is the man: Good question. Billy Sorrell had just completed his most successful major league season. He played in 57 games for the fledgling Kansas City Royals in 1970. It would be his third and final season in the majors.

Can ya dig it: I really do dig the setting sun skyline behind Sorrell.

Right on: There's no telling what uniform Sorrell is wearing. Could be the Royals, or the Mets who purchased him in 1968, or the Giants for whom he played in 1967, or the Phillies for whom he played in 1965. If I could identify spring training stadiums, I might have a clue.

You see this Sorrell is a bad mother: Sorrell's baseball card claim to fame is that he shares a rookie card with Fergie Jenkins in the 1966 Topps set. But he's not that bad-ass, or else it wouldn't be referred to as "The Fergie Jenkins Rookie Card."

Shut your mouth: I thought this guy was a pitcher for a long time. Yeah, I know it says "3b-ss" right on the front, but the photo says "pitcher" to me.

No one understands him but his woman: We've reached the first player in this set that I had never heard of until obtaining his card. There are a lot of players like this in this set because 1) it's such a large set and 2) it came out four years before I started collecting cards. I'm still not sure why Sorrell received a card in this set.

(A word about the back): Uh-oh, the dreaded Little League, Connie Mack and American Legion ball trifecta. You know there isn't much to say when a card is calling you a Little League veteran.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

no. 16 - ken singleton

Who is the man: Ken Singleton had just finished his first season in the major leagues in 1970. The Mets made him the third pick in the 1967 amateur draft, but he would have the vast majority of his success in the major leagues through his 10 seasons with the Orioles.

Can ya dig it: What's going on behind Singleton? There's a player to the right of him who appears to be dancing a jig or something.

Right on: This is Singleton's rookie card. Two of the last three cards reviewed in this set have been rookie cards of two of the more consistently productive players of the '70s.

You see this Singleton is a bad mother: Singleton has been such a composed, understated and reasonable individual throughout his playing and broadcasting career that it's difficult to find anything "bad" about him. But he kind of looks like a bad-ass in this photo, so let's go with that.

Shut your mouth: Singleton's wife writes a blog called Married to Baseball. She identifies herself as "Mrs. Singy." In one blog post, Ken Singleton relays that his mother threw out his baseball cards. His mother is quoted as saying, "They were probably all bent up and old. I would not throw away anything good." Bent up and old IS good!

No one understands him but his woman: Both Singleton, who has broadcasted for the Yankees since the late 1990s, and his wife deal with confused Orioles fans on a regular basis. They're always asking them when Ken is going to "come home" to broadcast for the Orioles. But Singleton, a New York native, is devoted to the Yankees.

(A word about the back): The Bronx Federation League is a sandlot league that was frequented by scouts during Singleton's time in high school. Playing in the league at the same time was Rod Carew.

Friday, February 10, 2012

no. 15 - andy messersmith

Who is the man: Andy Messersmith had just completed his third season in the major leagues, all with the California Angels. He was about to blow up in 1971 with the first of his two 20-game win seasons. And he did it all without the curly locks that he was known for with the Dodgers.

Can ya dig it: My brother had one of those magnet boards as a kid in which you could place all the magnets of the major league teams in order by how they were positioned in the standings. The magnets were the logos of the time -- the 1970s. The Angels logo in the '70s was the logo you see on the sleeve of Messersmith's uniform. It was far taller than any of the other logos. Given the limited space that you had to place each team in their proper spot, the Angels logo was always poking other magnets out of their places. It drove me crazy, and it wasn't even my magnet board.

Right on: Messersmith is just one of 17 pitchers to win 20 games in both the American and National leagues.

You see this Messersmith is a bad mother: Well, Messersmith is most famous for ousting the reserve clause and ushering in free agency -- a way of life for the insanely rich ball players of today. I can't think of anything more bad-ass in terms of the life that players live today. He should get a cut of all their salaries.

Shut your mouth: Messersmith began the contentious contract negotiations with the Dodgers during spring training in 1975. According to the book "The Lords of the Realm," by John Helyar, published in 1994,  Messersmith became so offended during contract talks, after Dodgers GM Al Campanis brought up something personal, that Messersmith refused to negotiate with anyone other than Dodgers president Walter O'Malley. Messersmith reportedly has never disclosed what Campanis said.

No one understands him but his woman: When Messersmith won his free agency, he signed a 3-year contract with the Braves for $1 million. He struggled to live up to the contract. Today, a player making the major league minimum basically has Messersmith's contract. He'll make the same amount in three years.

(A word about the back): I like how Topps completely glosses over Messersmith's record in 1970. Just not flashy enough, I guess.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

no. 14 - dave concepcion

Who is the man: Dave Concepcion had just completed his first major league season for the Big Red Machine in 1970. He appeared in 101 games and would go on to a 19-year career with the Reds.

Can ya dig it: This is Concepcion's rookie card.

Right on: Those batting gloves from this period look positively prehistoric.

You see this Concepcion is a bad mother: This card is the model for one of the freakiest cards that I have ever seen. It was from the 2009 Upper Deck Goudey set, and I'm sure it's given some collectors nightmares.

Shut your mouth: Toward the end of his career, there was a lot of talk about Concepcion bouncing throws to first base in order to get a runner out. Announcers implied that the ball would pick up speed on the artificial turf on the way to first. That is impossible. What Concepcion was doing was saving time by not turning and setting his feet before he threw. He would only do this with particularly fast runners or on awkward throws.

No one understands him but his woman: Concepcion was Joe Morgan's double play partner for eight years. I wonder what that was like.

(A word about the back): The other rookie in the Reds' opening day lineup in 1970 was left fielder Bernie Carbo, who went on to finish second in National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Monday, February 6, 2012

no. 13 - white sox rookie stars

Who is the man: Charlie Brinkman and Dick Moloney were members of a young battery that spent the majority of their time in 1970 with the White Sox's Triple A team, the Tucson Toros. Moloney also pitched in Double A with the Mobile White Sox.

Can ya dig it: This is the first "rookie stars" card in the set. The rookie cards in this set -- much like some of the other sets from the late '60s and early '70s -- fluctuate in format. There are a lot of cards like this -- two rookies from the same team per card. But there are others that feature three players -- from different teams. That's a bit strange to a collector like me who grew up with multi-player rookie cards being consistent throughout the whole set.

Right on: Charlie Brinkman is the brother of famed "good-field, no-hit" shortstop Ed Brinkman, who played mostly for the Senators and Tigers.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Rookies are never bad mothers. They're rookies. I refuse to believe they did anything bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Both players are featured on this card by names that they were not commonly called. Charles Brinkman became Chuck Brinkman on his later cards. Dick Moloney never had any later cards, but he was known as Richie, not Dick.

No one understands him but his woman: Moloney pitched in exactly one game in the major leagues. That's it.

(A word about the back): There you see reference to Moloney's one game. He pitched in one inning, allowed two hits and struck out one.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

no. 12 - johnny callison

Who is the man: Johnny Callison had just completed his first season with the Chicago Cubs. He had been traded by the Phillies in exchange for Dick Selma and a young Oscar Gamble. Callison's first season with the Cubs, in 1970, would be his last full-time season. He'd be a platoon player through the end of his career in 1973.

Can ya dig it: Love those camera tricks that make it look like a player is using a two-foot long bat.

Right on: Callison is probably most famous for hitting a walk-off, three-run home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth in the 1964 All-Star Game, giving the National League the victory. He was just the third player to hit a walk-off homer in the All-Star Game. Long after his retirement, Callison said he was asked so often about the home run that he felt like Bill Murray in the movie "Groundhog Day." And, yes, I mentioned that because it's Groundhog Day.

You see this cat Callison is a bad mother: During the Phillies' famous collapse in 1964, Philadelphia trailed by two games on Sept. 29th. Callison was sick with the flu and didn't start. But he pinch-hit and singled. He refused to come out for a pinch-runner, and was so sick that he wore a jacket because of his fever, which was a violation of baseball rules. Callison couldn't even button the jacket himself. He needed teammate Bill White's help.

Shut your mouth: Callison was from Oklahoma and because he could hit, hit for power, run, field and throw, he was compared to Oklahoman Mickey Mantle. Callison didn't like the comparison and struggled with it, especially early in his career.

No one understands him but his woman: Callison hit more than 30 home runs in 1964 and 1965 and hit at least 20 in 1962 and 63. But after 1965, he couldn't hit more than 19 in a season. Callison tried wearing glasses and undergoing a stringent exercise program, but nothing worked. People said Callison had lost his confidence, and the shy, introspective Callison admitted that he was "the biggest worrier around."

(A word about the back): Even Topps goes all the way back to Callison's mid-60's heyday for his bio information. It's as if everyone knew he was washed up.