Saturday, April 28, 2012

no. 43 - steve kealey

Who is the man: Steve Kealey had just completed his third season with the Angels in 1970, although he appeared in just 17 games as a reliever.

Can ya dig it: So many of the structures on major league baseball fields in the 1970s look like high school facilities. I know most of these photos were taken during spring training, but it really shows you how relatively little money was in baseball as compared with the game today.

Right on: This is Kealey's first solo card. He appeared with some very memorable glasses on a 1969 Angels Rookie Stars card.

You see this cat Kealey is a bad mother: Kealey, even though he was groomed in the minors to be a relief pitcher, threw a shutout in his first professional start on Aug. 21, 1969. It came against the Baltimore Orioles, who would go on to appear in the World Series that season.

Shut your mouth: Kealey grew up in California and was a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But when it came time to try out, the Dodgers were offering a one-day tryout. The Angels were offering a three-day tryout. Kealey figured his chances were better at a three-day tryout and turned down his boyhood favorites.

No one understands him but his woman: For 35 years, Kealey was the last White Sox pitcher to hit a home run in a major league game. He hit it on Sept. 6, 1971. In 2006, the White Sox's Jon Garland hit a home run in an interleague game.

(A word about the back): Among Kealey's high school teammates at Torrence Torrance High were future major league pitcher Bart Johnson and future MLB catcher Fred Kendall.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

no. 42 - boots day

Who is the man: This is Boots Day's first solo card and first card with the Montreal Expos. He appeared on a three-player rookie card with the Cubs in the 1970 Topps set.

Can ya dig it: Day was the first batter to appear in Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, in 1971. He hit a curve ball from Jim Bunning back to the mound for an out.

Right on: Day was a regular platoon outfielder for the Expos in 1971 and 1972. In 1973, he was known more for his pinch-hitting. He delivered 13 pinch hits for Montreal.

You see this cat Day is a bad mother: His name is "Boots." I think that's a pretty bad nickname.

Shut your mouth: The nickname was given to him by his sister when he was a baby. OK, maybe it's not so bad-ass anymore.

No one understand him but his woman: Day grew up in a town that is an hour-and-a-half from me. He enjoyed a legendary high school career and was considered untouchable by virtually every opponent. Except one. Future major league second baseman Dave Cash also played in the same area and was the only player who could hit Day. They'd also meet on the basketball court and no one could stop Cash, not even Day.

(A word about the back): Have I mentioned the inclusion of "total bases" in the statistics in the 1971 cards? That was a bit innovative at the time, I think, although no one talks much about total bases anymore.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

no. 41 - rick austin

Who is the man: Rick Austin had just finished the most active season of his major league career in 1970. He appeared in 31 games for the Indians in his rookie season and pitched 67 2/3 innings.

Can ya dig it: The old wishbone C that the Indians wore interests me as I thought that was always the domain of the Cincinnati Reds. I wonder if there was a copyright war?

Right on: Rookie card! We've come across a lot of these already and we're only 41 cards into the set.

You see this cat Austin is a bad mother: Austin's father was the first athletic director and football coach for his high school, Lakes High School, in Lakewood, Wash. His father actually picked out the school colors. That's pretty bad-ass for a kid to play for his high school team and tell his teammates, "You see those uniforms there? My dad decided what colors you'd be wearing."

Shut your mouth: Austin has just two Topps baseball cards -- this one and one in the 1976 Topps set (In between he was in the minors and played one year in Japan). By the time he reappeared in the '76 set, he had grown long hair and a thick mustache. It doesn't even seem like the same person.

No one understand him but his woman: Austin drew a bunch of attention for his baseball skills, but what he really wanted to do was follow his father and become a college quarterback. That didn't happen as he became a star pitcher for Washington State.

(A word about the back): That's a pretty scary head shot. It almost looks inhuman.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

no. 40 - lee may

Who is the man: Lee May was coming off his second straight 30-home run season (and the second of three straight) when this card was pulled from packs. Unfortunately, he was also dealing with the disappointment of the Reds losing to the Orioles in five games in the 1970 World Series. May hit the ball that made Brooks Robinson even more famous, as he made a tremendous play on May's liner in Game 1 and threw him out.

Can ya dig it: One of the odd action shots for which '71 Topps is known. May is not facing the camera and bordering on being on the fringes of the photo. Still a cool shot.

Right on: The Phillies player leading off first base is Ron Stone. Credit for figuring that out goes here.

You see this cat May is a bad mother: May drove in 100 runs in a season for three different teams, the Reds, Astros and Orioles. Only 10 other players have done that.

Shut your mouth: I totally associate May with being a Baltimore Oriole. He was on the downside of his career at that point and my memories of him are of a slow, hulking player (he was only 6-3) who had trouble fitting a helmet on his head. He deserves more credit than I gave him.

No one understand him but his woman: A number of baseball followers have said that May didn't get the attention that he deserved and that he could have made the Hall of Fame if he didn't play during the offensively depressed era of the 1960s and 1970s. Playing in the Astrodome hurt his numbers, too.

(A word about the back): Floating Head!!!!!

I had never heard of the Reds' version of "Murderers Row." I believe the other two people in the trifecta were Johnny Bench and Tony Perez.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

no. 39 - tigers rookie stars

Who is the man: Lerrin LaGrow and Gene Lamont each arrived in the major leagues in the same year, 1970. LaGrow pitched in 10 games for Detroit. Lamont played in 15 games with 44 at-bats.

Can ya dig it: It's interesting to me that LaGrow and Lamont are paired up because I always thought that both of them were players who looked much older than they were (check out LaGrow's 1979 Topps card or Lamont's 1975 Topps card). It's strange to think of them as rookies as both looked 45 from the start.

Right on: This is the second straight alliterative rookie stars card! First it was C&C and now it's L&L!

You see these rookies are bad mothers: No they're not. They're rookies.

Shut your mouth: LaGrow's most famous major league moment was in the 1972 ALCS, when he plunked Bert Campaneris in the ankle with a pitcher. Campaneris, who had three hits already in the game, tossed his bat at LaGrow, who ducked as it sailed over his head. The bench-clearing brawl followed and LaGrow and Campaneris were suspended for the rest of the series.

No one understands him but his woman: Lamont, the third base coach for the Tigers and a former manager for the White Sox and Pirates, is apparently notable enough to have a fake Twitter account. I can't imagine what would be entertaining about pretending to be a third base coach, but life is full of mysteries.

(A word about the back): You can see that Lamont was a Christmas baby. Also, the home run he hit in his first major league at-bat came off Red Sox pitcher Cal Koonce.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

no. 38 - jim colborn

Who is the man: This is the first solo card of Jim Colborn. Look how pleased he is.

Can ya dig it: Colborn is one of three Royals pitchers to throw a no-hitter. The others are Steve Busby and Bret Saberhagen.

Right on: Colborn's blue eyes match with the Cubs' baby blue road unis.

You see this cat Colborn is a bad mother: Colborn runs his own baseball league, called the "Jim Colborn Baseball League." If you have a baseball league named after you, it's pretty much a given that you're a bad mother.

Shut your mouth: When Colborn was pitching coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he got into several arguments with players on the team. He was eventually let go from his job in 2007.

No one understands him but his woman: Colborn became the Brewers' first 20-game winner, winning 20 in 1973. The feat was totally unexpected as the Cubs traded him at the end of 1971 and Colborn proceeded to go just 7-7 in his first season with the Brewers. After his 20-game season, Baseball Digest did a story on him and called it "Jim Colborn -- the Unknown 20-Game Winner."

(A word about the back): Yup, he still looks very pleased.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

no. 37 - rich mc kinney

Who is the man: Rich McKinney had just completed his rookie season with the White Sox in 1970. He played his first games ever at third base during that season.

Can ya dig it: Those three older fellars in the stands seem to be admiring McKinney's ... uh ... moves.

Right on: Rookie card! This is also the only card of McKinney's in which he is not airbrushed into a different uniform. His 1973 Topps card is particularly famous.

You see this cat McKinney is a bad mother: Baseball Digest compared McKinney to Hall of Famer Luke Appling when McKinney came up in 1970. That's about the only time that McKinney was considered a bad mother.

Shut your mouth: McKinney is perhaps most famous for committing four errors in one game while playing for the Yankees against the Red Sox in Fenway Park in 1972. Those four errors led to five unearned runs scoring.

No one understands him but his woman: McKinney was nicknamed "Orbit" by his teammates because of his aloof personality.

(A word about the back): Ah, high school and college highlights. The first refuge of the biographer of a .168 lifetime hitter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

no. 36 - dean chance

Who is the man: Dean Chance is pictured with the New York Mets, a team for which he took the mound for all of three games. He was traded to the Tigers in March of 1971 and spent his final major league season in Detroit.

Can ya dig it: Even though Chance was purchased by the Mets on Sept. 18, 1970, I do believe that this is actually a picture of Chance in a Mets uniform. Somehow, in the final 12 days of the season, Topps found a way to get a photo of him in Mets apparel.

Right on: This is the last card of Chance issued during his career.

You see this cat Chance is a bad mother: Chance was one of the first pitching stars for the Los Angeles Angels and will forever be remembered for his 1964 Cy Young Award season when he became what was then the youngest player to ever win a Cy Young Award. That in of itself is bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Chance wasn't happy playing with the Angels, who weren't very good in the 1960s. He would complain about his teammates' poor play behind him, which drew criticism. He also constantly created trade rumors that featured him as one of the key players being moved.

No one understand him but his woman: Chance's colorful personality led to relationships with the likes of actress Ann Margaret, singer Frank Sinatra, and Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner. During the offseason, he would promote boxers. After his playing career, he became a carnival barker and traveled across the country. He later returned to boxing, founding the International Boxing Association. Chance married in 1961 but it didn't last. Maybe not even his woman could keep up with Chance.

(A word about the back): That 1.65 ERA that Chance recorded in 1964 remains an Angels organization record.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

no. 35 - lou piniella

Who is the man: Lou Piniella was two years removed from his 1969 American League Rookie of the Year Award. But he followed up that year with an even better season in 1970, hitting above .300 for the first time.

Can ya dig it: The Royals are one of the main beneficiaries of Topps' decision to incorporate action shots into a set for the first time. There are a handful of Royals in action in this set.

Right on: I think those are just extra thick dots above the i's in Piniella's last name. But at first glance they look like he dotted his i's with stars.

You see this cat Piniella is a bad mother: I'm sure that base that Piniella threw when he was manager of the Reds thought he was a pretty bad man.

Shut your mouth: When Piniella worked as a broadcaster during Fox's airing of the 2006 ALCS, his conversation with fellow broadcaster Steve Lyons ended up getting Lyons fired. Fox said Lyons' comments were racially insensitive (he joked that Piniella stole his wallet, insinuating that's what a Spanish-speaking person would do).

No one understand him but his woman: Piniella's move in 2003 from being a manager with Seattle, a winning organization, to being the manager of Tampa Bay, a perennial loser, was baffling to some people. But Piniella and his wife, Anita, wanted to be closer to their Tampa home. Both are Tampa natives.

(A word about the back): As someone who only knew Piniella as playing for the Yankees (and, boy, did we despise him), it's strange enough to see him in a Royals uniform. But playing for the Orioles and the Indians? I don't think I ever knew that until now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

no. 34 - sandy vance

Who is the man: Sandy Vance had just completed his rookie season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was voted the Dodgers' rookie of the year after the 1970 season.

Can ya dig it: I recall seeing this card as a youngster and being instantly drawn to Vance, hoping that he had a long and prosperous career with the Dodgers, but not realizing that this was his only baseball card.

Right on: The chain-link fence is out of sight. Love those old-style spring training props.

You see this cat Vance is a bad mother: Vance features the names of two of the greatest pitchers in Dodger history -- Sandy Koufax and Dazzy Vance -- in his name. I can't think of anything more bad-ass than saying, "name's Sandy Vance. Sandy as in Koufax. Vance as in Dazzy."

Shut your mouth: According to Vance's wikipedia page, his oldest son decided to root for the Giants during the 2010 World Series. Because of this, Vance's daughter, a Dodger fan, has barely spoken to her brother since. I have no idea if this is really true.

No one understand him but his woman: Vance developed arm injuries in 1971 and didn't play in the major leagues after that season. Vance was part of a talented crop of young Dodger talent in the late '60s and early '70s, but one of the few top prospects who didn't pan out.

(A word about the back): Vance's totals for Stanford were good enough to get him in the school's Hall of Fame.