Wednesday, February 27, 2013

no. 150 - sam mcdowell

Who is the man: Sam McDowell was THE MAN heading into the 1971 season. He had just finished off the first and only 20-win season of his career. He had struck out 304 batters, the second highest total in his career, and good for his fourth straight year of leading the league. This would lead up into a 1971 full of upheaval for Sudden Sam, who actually quit in the middle of the '71 season when his contact was voided by commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

Can ya dig it: I've had this card since I was a teenager. I tell you, the intense look on McDowell's face freaked me out then. He looks half-crazed!

Right on: Another instance of wearing the warm-up jacket under the jersey. You just don't see that fashion statement anymore.

You see this cat McDowell is a bad mother: McDowell was once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with a headline that said "Faster Than Koufax?"

Shut your mouth: McDowell's drinking ways the last four years of his career got himself into trouble with a host of people. Once when McDowell was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, his manager for the Giants, Charlie Fox said, "So what else is new? It happened every year with Cleveland, too. If he keeps stepping out of line, he'll be a pauper. We already have our fines set up. We call it the 'Sam McDowell Fund.'"

No one understands him but his woman: McDowell's wife, Carol, divorced him and gained custody of the children when his drinking got too much after his career. The action helped spur McDowell to find help for his disease and eventually led to a career in helping other athletes in a variety of ways.

(A word about the back): Exactly one strikeout per inning in 1970. Both stats are impressive.

Monday, February 25, 2013

no. 149 - mike hershberger

Who is the man: Mike Hershberger spent 49 games with the Milwaukee Brewers in their first season in 1970. He was pictured with the Seattle Pilots on his 1970 Topps card -- after being dealt from the Athletics in January of 1970 -- but of course never played as a Pilot as the franchise moved from Seattle to Milwaukee after the 1969 season.

Can ya dig it: I am falling in love with the Brewers cards in the set. This one, plus this one and this one obviously were taken on the same day -- pregame practice at Yankee Stadium. I love all the players in the background.

Right on: This is Hershberger's final card.

You see this cat Hershberger is a bad mother: Hershberger led the league in sacrifice flies in 1966, but he stayed in the majors for 11 years thanks to his fielding -- particularly his terrific throwing arm. He was among American League assist leaders and led the league in double plays turned by an outfielder several times.

Shut your mouth: Hershberger played for the Kansas City A's from 1965-67. In an interview last year a couple of months before his death, he said that he was surprised that no one on the team has written a book about all the experiences the players had with Charlie O., the mule that owner Charlie O. Finley had travel with the team.

No one understands him but his woman: Hershberger's successor at the right field position for A's was Reggie Jackson in 1968. Nine years later, Hershberger was a spectator in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium when Jackson hit his three home runs in Game 6 of the World Series.

(A word about the back): "He was released 11-10-70." Ouch. The White Sox, the team for whom he played his first four years in the majors, signed him for the 1971 season before he retired.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

no. 148 - john mayberry

Who is the man: John Mayberry received his first extended stay in the major leagues in 1970, playing in 50 games. He struggled at the plate, hitting .216. That would be the theme of his career with the Astros.

Can ya dig it: The little guy behind Mayberry is almost definitely Joe Morgan. Morgan wore No. 18 for most of his time with the Astros, and that appears to be the edge of a "1" next to the "8."

Right on: This is Mayberry's first solo card. He appears on a two-player rookie card in the 1970 set with someone named Bob Watkins.

You see this cat Mayberry is a bad mother: When Mayberry retired, he owned the single-season home run marks for two organizations, the Royals and the Blue Jays.

Shut your mouth: Mayberry was part of one of the two worst trades in Astros history, and the trades were connected as they came within three days of each other. On Nov. 29, the Astros traded Morgan to the Reds and obtained first baseman Lee May in the deal. With May on the team, Mayberry was expendable and the Astros dealt him to the Royals on December 2 for a steaming load of crap. ... I mean, Lance Clemons and Jim York.

No one understands him but his woman: Mayberry was shipped off to the Blue Jays after the 1977 season. Depending on which account you read, the transaction was attributed to Mayberry's poor play in the 1977 ALCS and manager Whitey Herzog's disappointment with him or rumors of drug use.

(A word about the back): The Topps AAA East All-Stars? Topps had its hand in everything, didn't they?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

no. 147 - bob priddy

Who is the man: Bob Priddy was entering his final season in the major leagues in 1971. He was coming off a 41-appearance season with the Braves in which he saved a career-high eight games.

Can ya dig it: This is another card from the second series that I received when I was a young teenager. You can see the multi-creased corners. The positive aspect of getting a card so early is I have known who Bob Priddy was since I was 13 years old. How many other people can say that who weren't around when he was pitching? That's the beauty of baseball cards.

Right on: Final card of Priddy's career.

You see this cat Priddy is a bad mother: I found a couple of photos of Priddy, including two in which he's just released the ball toward home. He apparently had a flamboyant delivery. Looks like it'd be pretty distracting for the batter.

Shut your mouth:  Priddy appeared on cards dating back to 1964. He comes the closest to cracking a smile on this card. In all the other ones, he looks rather glum.

No one understands him but his woman: Priddy was signed as an infielder and played his first minor league season in the Pirates' chain in the batting lineup. He converted to pitcher the following season.

(A word about the back): Players like this illustrate the weakness of the card-back layout in the '71 Topps set. Priddy's conversion from hitter to pitcher is shown in the statistics on other cards. But since Topps showed only one year of stats in '71, you don't get that interesting stat line.

Friday, February 15, 2013

no. 146 - ralph houk

Who is the man: Ralph Houk was entering his sixth year of his second stint as manager of the Yankees as the 1971 card set hit stores.

Can ya dig it: It doesn't get any more managerial than that. Can we have some patriotic music to go with that photo?

Right on: This is one of Houk's better manager cards. He's got a lot of them that I like. The 1962 one is probably the best. Dated, but fantastic.

You see this cat Houk is a bad mother: Houk was known for his temper. Considering how combustible he was, he kept it relatively in check. He was ejected 45 times from games, which is good enough for 14th among major league managers all-time.

Shut your mouth: Houk was known for his gruff handling of players. He took no lip. "None of us questioned Ralph," said former Yankee Tony Kubek in the book "Sixty-One." "He was The Major."

No one understands him but his woman: As I wrote on the 1985 Topps blog, Houk once decked singer Gordon McRae for apparently dancing too close to his wife. Both decker and deckee denied that it happened.

(A word about the back): "An outstanding leader of men ..." If that sounds like military-style praise, it's because it is. Houk was a major in the Army during World War II, and "outstanding leader of men" would be a phrase used to describe him by people like Tommy Lasorda once he became a manager.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

no. 145 - bill singer

Who is the man: Bill Singer was coming off a very difficult 1970 season after winning 20 games in 1969. He missed half the season due to various ailments and appeared in just 16 games.

Can ya dig it: Singer's 6-foot-4 height was a selling point right out of high school, and you can tell on some of his cards that he was a tall dude. This is one of them.

Right on: Singer does not have a ball in his glove, I don't care what he's telling you.

You see this cat Singer is a bad mother: Singer missed the first two months of the 1970 season after he contracted hepatitis. He spent three weeks in the hospital. In just his third start after his return, he no-hit the Braves for 7 2/3 innings as the Dodgers won 7-0. A month later, he would pitch a no-hitter against the Phillies.

Shut your mouth: After Singer's showing against the Braves, he told the Associated Press, "I just had a devil-may-care attitude. I guess that's why I did so well. The hepatitis boy got 'em."

No one understands him but his woman: In a bizarre exchange with Dodgers assistant to the GM, Kim Ng, Singer -- an employee of the Mets at the time -- mocked Ng's Chinese heritage. Singer blamed his behavior on his diet and being drunk, and he was fired.

(A word about the back): Singer also missed time in 1970 after breaking a finger while running the bases.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

no. 144 - jackie hernandez

Who is the man: Jackie Hernandez was the starting shortstop for the expansion Kansas City Royals in 1969, but his playing time was almost cut in half in 1970. He hit .231 in 83 games.

Can ya dig it: Hernandez is striking the batting pose in Yankee Stadium.

Right on: This is another one of the first 1971 cards I ever owned. Something about the second series in this set. My friend's older brother must have bought a lot of cards when the second series was in stores.

You see this cat Hernandez is a bad mother: Hernandez recorded the assist on the final out of the 1971 World Series. He fielded a grounder from the Orioles' Merv Rettenmund and threw him out at first base to clinch Game 7 of the Series for the Pirates.

Shut your mouth: I mentioned Hernandez just five posts ago. He helps run a baseball academy with Paul Casanova, and is on the video that I linked there.

No one understands him but his woman: Hernandez's on-card progression from capless youth with the Twins in the 1968 set to bushy-haired, mustachioed veteran for the Pirates in the 1974 set is rather amusing. He doesn't look like the same guy at all.

(A word about the back): Nobody ever uses the word "loop" for "league" anymore.

Friday, February 8, 2013

no. 143 - steve blass

Who is the man: Although Steve Blass recorded a sub-.500 won-loss record in 1970, going 10-12, he was in the midst of a five-year period that solidified him as one of the better starters in the National League. He went 18-6 and threw seven shutouts in 1968 and had the best year of his career in 1972.

Can ya dig it: Blass would enjoy a tremendously successful postseason in 1971. It's always interesting to see the card of a ballplayer that is issued just prior to the defining moment of his career.

Right on: It almost looks like there are sofas in the dugout.

You see this cat Blass is a bad mother: Blass pitched a complete-game four-hitter in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series, leading the Pirates to the championship over the Orioles. He struggled at the beginning of the game. But after Orioles manager Earl Weaver tried to rattle him by complaining to the umpire that Blass was not standing on the rubber properly, Blass allowed just one hit the rest of the game.

Shut your mouth: I was introduced to Blass when I read Roger Angell's masterful article about him, "Gone for Good," which details Blass' famous inability to find the plate after the 1972 season. It is filled with anecdotes that are just heartbreaking. The story affected me for a long time. There is one point, in 1974, when Blass gets sent down to the minors, his decline well-known throughout the nation. After a really bad start in Toledo, Blass is so upset that he gets on the bus without showering or taking off his uniform. The team stops in a restaurant and Blass walks in with a two-day beard growth still in his uniform. The patrons just stare at him. "God, that was an awful trip," Blass tells Angell.

"God, that was an awful trip." That sentence has stayed in my brain all these years.

No one understands him but his woman: Blass' demise was so incomprehensible that they named the sudden loss of one's pitching ability after him. It's called "Steve Blass Disease."

(A word about the back): It almost looks like Topps took the photo out front and stuck some glasses on Blass.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

no. 142 - mack jones

Who is the man: Mack Jones was entering his final major league season when this card appeared in packs. He'd play in just 43 games for the Expos in 1971.

Can ya dig it: This is the last card issued of Jones during his career.

Right on: Dig the folks in the stands. They look like kids, but they're too far away to tell for sure.

You see this cat Jones is a bad mother: Jones delivered four hits in his very first game in 1961. Two of those hits came against Bob Gibson.

Shut your mouth: Jones is a 1960s slugger that you don't hear about often. He hit more than 20 home runs three times and hit 31 in 1965 for the Braves. He was part of a Braves team that year that featured six players who hit more than 20 home runs, which is pretty impressive considering how pitching-dominant the 1960s was.

No one understands him but his woman: Jones was selected second by the Expos -- after Manny Mota -- in the 1968 expansion draft. He was hugely popular in Montreal and called fans in Quebec, "the greatest baseball fans in the world."

(A word about the back): I like the nice round number of 3,000 career at-bats.

Monday, February 4, 2013

no. 141 - frank quilici

Who is the man: Frank Quilici played 111 games as a backup infielder for the Twins in 1970. This would be his last card as a player.

Can ya dig it: Quilici's playing career was over by the time most collectors pulled this card. He was released by the Twins in April of 1971 and immediately found a job with the Twins as a coach.

Right on: Outside of this card, this is probably the most off-condition card that I have in the set. This is one of the cards I received in a trade as a teenager, part of some hand-me-down 1971s from my friend's older brother.

You see this cat Quilici is a bad mother: Quilici began a six-run third inning with a double off Don Drysdale in the Twins' 8-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series in 1965. He came up later in the inning and hit a single.

Shut your mouth: Quilici worked on Twins radio broadcasts during the 1970s and 1980s.

No one understand him but his woman: Quilici won the Twins' managing job at age 33 in 1972. I wonder how the players felt taking orders from a 33-year-old?

(A word about the back): Quilici played his first season of pro ball in 1961 mainly at shortstop. But for every other year in the minors and in the majors, the vast majority of his games were played at second base.

Friday, February 1, 2013

no. 140 - gaylord perry

Who is the man: Gaylord Perry had just completed a 1970 season in which he set what were then career highs in victories (23), games started (41), shutouts (5) and innings pitched (328 2/3). He finished second in the Cy Young Award voting to Bob Gibson.

Can ya dig it: I can't get used to seeing Perry with dark hair. Gray that man up!

Right on: Do you think he just threw a spitball?

You see this cat Perry is a bad mother: Perry was a master at getting into the heads of hitters and managers with his "will I or won't I throw a spitball" bit. During a single season in 1972 with the Indians, hitter Mike Epstein threatened to come out to the mound with a bat, A's manager Dick Williams ordered umpires to have Perry change his shirts, and Tigers manager Billy Martin brought a bloodhound to the game to sniff baseballs.

Shut your mouth: During the 1971 NLCS, a TV reporter sat in the stands next to the Perry family while Perry was pitching. The reporter asked Perry's 5-year-old daughter "does your daddy throw a grease ball?" The daughter said, "It's a hard slider."

No one understands him but his woman: Perry repeatedly denied throwing a doctored baseball until finally confessing in a book in 1974. But after the book, he continued to deny throwing a spitball, even suggesting that the book was a ruse.

(A word about the back): 23 complete games. And he pitched for 22 years. Just sayin'