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.