Wednesday, August 29, 2012

no. 87 - jack heidemann

Who is the man: Jack Heidemann was a 20-year-old rookie in 1970 and had just finished his first full season when this card was issued in 1971.

Can ya dig it: Quick! Which stadium is that? New York? Oakland? I'm just not old enough to guess these early '70s baseball backgrounds.

Right on: This is the fourth straight card with a player with a long last name. And the streak ends with the next card.

You see this cat Heidemann is a bad mother: He doesn't look "bad" at all on this card, and it's even worse when you turn the card over. But if you look at a later card, you can see that badness come out all over.

Shut your mouth: During the 1970 season, Heidemann went 5-for-5 in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game, he went 0-for-4.

No one understands him but his woman: Heidemann was the youngest player on the Indians in 1970, which means he got left behind by his older teammates periodically. But Heidemann said he did get to hang out with them after the game, too.

(A word about the back): He looks positively Howdy-Doody-esque.

You can see Heidemann's 1970 stat line. He got 445 at-bats despite hitting .211 with little power. That's the way things were for the Indians in the '70s.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

no. 86 - mike kilkenny

Who is the man: Mike Kilkenny had just completed his second season in the majors as a swingman for the Tigers. His ERA skyrocketed in 1970, after being named the Tigers' top rookie in 1969.

Can ya dig it: We're on a little bit of a streak of players with long last names. Lachemann, Grabarkewitz, Kilkenny. And the streak isn't over.

Right on: Every time I see Kilkenny's card, I think of South Park.

You see this cat Kilkenny is a bad mother: Kilkenny threw four shutouts in his rookie year.

Shut your mouth: According to wikipedia, Kilkenny gave up Frank Robinson's 500th home run in 1971. But this newspaper report from Sept. 15, 1971 says that Kilkenny surrendered Robinson's 499th home run in the first game of a doubleheader. Then Fred Scherman allowed Robinson's 500th in the second game.

I know you're shocked, but wikipedia is wrong.

No one understands him but his woman: Kilkenny is one of the few major leaguers to play for four major league teams in one season (Dave Kingman is the one who is most often cited). He played for the Tigers, A's, Padres and Indians in 1972, getting traded three times.

(A word about the back): Kilkenny returned to Canada to play baseball for a Canadian league team, the London Majors, helping them win a title in 1975. Kilkenny just had his number retired by London in June.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

no. 85 - billy grabarkewitz

Who is the man: The Dodgers thought he was their new third baseman after the season he had in 1970. Billy Grabarkewitz played in 156 games in his first full season in the majors, made the All-Star Game, and led the team in home runs with 17.

Can ya dig it: A terrific spring training scene in the background. Of the two Dodgers on the left, the guy wearing No. 45 is pitcher Jerry Stephenson. The seated player could be a number of people.

Right on: Grabarkewitz signed his full last name! Legibly! RIGHT ON!

You see this cat Grabarkewitz is a bad mother: Grabarkewitz played a part in the famous extra-inning rally that gave the National League the victory in the 1970 All-Star Game. He delivered the second of three singles for the N.L. in the 12th inning. The third single, by the Cubs' Jim Hickman, sent home Pete Rose, who bowled over catcher Ray Fosse to give the N.L. the victory.

Shut your mouth: People write plenty about Grabarkewitz, as he's one of the great one-year wonders in baseball history. But I have never heard anyone talk about Grabarkewitz in all my years of following baseball. To this day I am not entirely positive how his last name is pronounced.

No one understands him but his woman: Grabarkewitz received a major push from the Dodgers as a write-in candidate for the 1970 All-Star Game. Grabarkewitz didn't think it would work. "They don't even know how to pronounce my name," he said. "How could they spell it?"

They didn't spell it. Most people wrote in "Billy G." He didn't get enough votes to get in, but N.L. manager Gil Hodges made him a reserve anyway.

(A word about the back): Grabarkewitz hit 17 home runs for the Dodgers in 1970. He'd finish his seven-year major league career with 28.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

no. 84 - marcel lachemann

Who is the man: Marcel Lachemann appeared in 41 games in relief for the Oakland A's in 1970 in the most successful season of his three-year major league career.

Can ya dig it: The vest-style uniforms were just about on their way out in the early 1970s. They kind of look out of place on a 1970s card.

Right on: You have to dig a guy with a long name who signs all the letters in his name legibly.

You see that cat Lachemann is a bad mother: Lachemann is currently in his 45th season in major league baseball. The former MLB coach and manager is a special assistant to the general manager with the Angels. ... oh, and he apparently appeared in a Bud Light commercial in 1984.

Shut your mouth: Lachemann would pitch in just one more game in his major league career after this card hit shelves. He pitched a third of an inning and allowed two hits and two runs.

No one understand him but his woman: Lachemann resigned as special assistant to the Rockies GM in 2011 in a philosophical disagreement with the way pitchers were developed in the organization. But he promised to remain in baseball, saying, "I don't think my wife could put up with me day-in, day-out."

(A word about the back): Marcel's brother, Bill, was a catcher in the Dodgers organization and his other brother, Rene, was a bat boy for the Dodgers. What did Marcel have against the Dodgers?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

no. 83 - mets rookie stars

Who is the man: Tim Foli made his first appearance in the major leagues in 1970, getting four hits in 11 at-bats in five games with the Mets. Randy Bobb didn't make it out of the minors in 1970. After playing in 10 games combined for the Cubs in 1968 and 1969, he spent 1970 in Triple A Tidewater.

Can ya dig it: I can't get used to Foli without glasses. He had cards through the 1985 season, but he appears without glasses only on this card and his 1972 Topps card.

Right on: Both players have four letters in their last name. I wonder if Topps paid attention to stuff like this?

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Foli was a hot-head, sure, but he was a rookie in 1971, so there was nothing bad-ass about either of them at the time.

Shut your mouth: Early in his career, Foli got into a confrontation with Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool. The first baseman accused Foli of intentionally bouncing balls to first base during infield practice and then refused to participate in a warm-up with Foli before a game. Foli confronted Kranepool in the dugout and a scuffle broke out.

No one understand him but his woman: Bobb is wearing a Mets cap but he never played a regular-season game for the Mets. In fact, he never appeared in the major leagues after this card came out.

(A word about the back): OK, now I see why Bobb got a card. Throwing out Pete Rose on the first major league pitch you see is pretty impressive.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

no. 82 - casey cox

Who is the man: On the strength of his 13 starts in the 1969 season, Casey Cox became a full-time member of the Senators' rotation for the 1970 season. When this card hit store shelves, Cox had just gone 8-12 in 37 games, including 30 starts, with a 4.45 ERA.

Can ya dig it: This card was part of a 1971 lot that I received in a trade as a young teenager, hoodwinking a Yankee fan I knew for some well-loved '71s that were once his older brother's. The Cox card was one of my favorites and is truly one of the best cards in the set.

Right on: Cox is pitching in Yankee Stadium, I do believe. Before the renovation of the mid-1970s.

You see this cat Cox is a bad mother: Cox had a relief outing that lasted 8 2/3 innings against the Indians in 1969. You sure don't see that anymore. If you did, the pitcher would be an instant hero.

Shut your mouth: Cox battled alcohol addiction during his playing career (his career had an abrupt ending after being traded to the Yankees -- I wonder if alcohol played a part). But according to a story in the St. Petersburg Times from nine years ago, he hasn't had a drink since about 1983.

No one understands him but his woman: Despite his success as a starter in 1970, Cox asked Senators manager Ted Williams if he could return to the bullpen in 1971.

(A word about the back): Cox lasted 5 1/3 innings in his start against the Orioles on June 23, 1969, allowing no runs on five hits. Darold Knowles came on in relief and promptly blew the game, surrendering five runs in the seventh and eighth as the Orioles won 5-3.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

no. 81 - felix millan

Who is the man: Felix Millan was the Braves' starting second baseman, and he had just completed his most successful season in what was then a five-year major league career.

Can ya dig it: Millan is most known for how severely he choked up on the bat during his at-bats. But he wasn't featured by Topps with a bat in his hand until the 1970 set. And then not again until the 1976 set.

Right on: Is Millan pictured at Shea Stadium? It'd be appropriate as he was traded to the Mets in 1973.

You see this cat Millan is a bad mother: Millan got into a famous brawl with Pirates catcher Ed Ott in 1977. After Ott slid hard into Millan trying to break up a double play, Millan shouted at Ott and hit him with the baseball. It didn't turn out to be a smart bad-ass move because Ott drilled Millan to the ground, injuring his shoulder and ending his career.

Shut your mouth: What Ott was probably saying when he sent Millan to the turf.

No one understands him but his woman: Millan and the Mets lost to the A's in 7 games in the 1973 World Series. Millan still blames himself somewhat for the Mets' defeat, saying he didn't play well. Millan made a crucial error in Game 1 of the Series that led to two unearned runs and a 2-1 Mets loss.

(A word about the back): There's a mathematical error in Millan's write-up. Millan's lifetime batting average at the time was .284 and he hit .310 in 1970. That means he topped his lifetime batting average by 26 points, not 37.

Monday, August 6, 2012

no. 80 - bill melton

Who is the man: Bill Melton had just come off a 30-home run year in just his third major-league season. He would have another one in 1971 and lead the American League in home runs.

Can ya dig it: Have I mentioned this before? The blue White Sox uniforms are very cool. I think it's time to put some color back in the White Sox.

Right on: Melton might want to watch the amount of pine tar on that bat.

You see this cat Melton is a bad mother: Melton hit a home run on the last day of the 1971 baseball season to break a three-way tie with Reggie Jackson and Norm Cash and clinch the A.L. home run title. It was the first time a White Sox player had ever led the league in home runs. And the White Sox had been around a long time, even in 1971.

Shut your mouth: Melton is now a White Sox broadcaster for Comcast Sports. I don't know his announcing style, but wouldn't it be nice if someone would could give Hawk Harrelson a rest?

No one understands him but his woman: Melton suffered back problems that eventually lead to an abbreviated career. It also hindered his fielding, which wasn't great as it was. White Sox announcer Harry Caray used to moan about Melton's fielding. But Melton came by his back issues trying to save his son from falling off the roof during the 1971 offseason. Melton was on a ladder fixing some shingles on a flat roof and his son was up there with him. His son slipped and fell, Melton caught him, tossed away the ladder, and then fell backward six feet ...onto his tailbone.

(A word about the back): Melton's experiment in the outfield would end with the 1970 season. He didn't play in the outfield for the rest of his career, which lasted until 1977.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

no. 79 - wade blasingame

Who is the man: Wade Blasingame was nearing the end of his 10-year major league year, but he had one last decent year in him with the 1971 Astros in which he started 28 games and went 9-11.

Can ya dig it: It looks like there isn't a tree for miles wherever Blasingame is standing.

Right on: I've had this card for two or three years. I thought Blasingame was an infielder until I started researching this post. I'm really not up on a lot of '60s ballplayers.

You see this cat Blasingame is a bad mother: The last time Blasingame was featured on a set tribute blog, several people posted testimonials to Blasingame's character. Sounds like a great guy. I suppose that could make him a bad mother.

Shut your mouth: Blasingame's name lives on in Saturday Night Live lore because of a hilarious Will Ferrell sketch in which he plays a tacky lawyer who sues dogs. "Hi, I'm Wade Blasingame. No, not the ballplayer. The attorney-at-law."

No one understands him but his woman: Blasingame played at about the same time as another Blasingame, Cardinals, Reds and Senators infielder Don Blasingame. But the two weren't related, despite repeated questions about their connection. They're the only Blasingames to play in the majors.

(A word about the back): Topps really goes out of its way to avoid mentioning any major league highlights in the write-up. The guy won 16 games for the Braves in 1965, but let's talk about that American Legion won-loss record.