Monday, December 30, 2013

no. 246 - tony taylor

Who is the man: Thirteen years into his career, Tony Taylor hit above .300 for the first time in 1970. But he'd be traded by the Phillies to the Tigers in June of 1971 for a couple of minor leaguers.

Can ya dig it: A bit of an odd pose there. Taylor appears to be rearing back to throw, which you don't normally see from a non-pitcher on a card. It's also a little odd that it's next to the batting cage.

Right on: Let's break down the "infield" designation on Taylor's card. He played 59 games at second in 1970, 38 games at third and one at shortstop. He also played in the outfield 18 times.

You see this cat Taylor is a bad mother: Taylor, although he played for 19 years, is probably best known for his diving play at second base that robbed the Mets' Jesse Gonder of a hit and preserved Jim Bunning's perfect game in 1964.

Shut your mouth: Taylor played for the Phillies for 15 seasons, but he cried when he learned that he was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies in 1960. "I was angry, hurt," Taylor told the Allentown Morning-Call. "I was playing day games next to the great Ernie Banks. I did not want to go to this strange place -- Philadelphia."

No one understands him but his woman: As of 1998, Taylor had hit the most career home runs for a player who never hit as many as 10 in a season. The most he hit was nine in 1970 and he finished with 75 for his career.

(A word about the back): Taylor held the Phillies' record for most career games played at second base until Chase Utley broke it.

Monday, December 23, 2013

no. 245 - jim kaat

Who is the man: Jim Kaat won 14 games for the Twins for the second straight year in 1970 and won the eighth of his 16 straight Gold Gloves.

Can ya dig it: I'd say you don't see those old-style overhangs in ballparks anymore, but there is one at the ballpark where I live.

Right on: Kaat was featured in essentially the same pose on consecutive cards for Topps from 1968-71.

You see this cat Kaat is a bad mother: "Cat Kaat." Heh. ... When the Twins fired pitching coach Johnny Sain in 1966, Kaat, who had won 25 games under Sain, protested the firing in an open letter in a Minnesota paper. Then Kaat bought a Great Dane, which he named "Prince Johnny Sain."

Shut your mouth: When Kaat's father caught him trying to avoid lawn-mowing chores, he told him: "You can't make a living playing pro ball. You have to learn to work." Kaat played pro ball for 27 years.

No one understands him but his woman: Kaat was the oldest player in baseball in both 1979 and 1983.

(A word about the back): All these years later, Kaat is still the biggest winner in Twins history with 190 total victories.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

no. 244 - bob tillman

Who is the man: Bob Tillman had completed his final season in the big leagues when this card was released. He was traded to the Brewers in December of 1970 but never played for Milwaukee as he was released less than two months after he was traded.

Can ya dig it: This is Tillman's final card.

Right on: Dugout shots are always cool. Bat rack shots are always cool. Player-holding-bat-on-top-step-of-dugout shots are always cool. This is a cool card.

You see this cat Tillman is a bad mother: Tillman caught two no-hitters during his career, by the Red Sox's Earl Wilson and Dave Morehead.

Shut your mouth: Tillman struggled to hit for much his career and had particular trouble with the curve ball. Boston writer Larry Claflin once wrote: "The curve ball to Tillman is what television is to movie theaters."

No one understands him but his woman: When Dick Williams took over as Red Sox manager that was the end of Tillman. During a game in May, Tillman tried to throw out the Tigers' Al Kaline on a steal attempt. The throw caromed off the head of relief pitcher John Wyatt and into the on-deck circle, allowing Kaline to take third. Kaline would later score the winning run -- the first run Wyatt had allowed all year. Williams benched Tillman for the next 38 games and the Red Sox sold him to the Yankees three months later.

(A word about the back): This is where the single line of stats in '71 Topps comes up short. You could have seen Tillman's complete major league stats for his whole career had '71 Topps been like most of the previous Topps sets up until then.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

no. 243 - carlos may

Who is the man: Carlos May had just completed a much-heralded comeback season in 1970 after he blew off part of his right thumb while cleaning a mortar unit when serving in the Marine reserves in the summer of 1969.

Can ya dig it: May's thumb was an obsession of mine as a kid, which I detailed before. In this picture, the thumb part of his right hand is covered up by a batting glove and May's left hand.

Right on: I'm assuming May's accident happened after his photo for his 1970 Topps card was taken (photos were often taken during the previous year's spring training then). Yet, his 1970 Topps card goes out of its way to obscure his right thumb from view. Perhaps, Topps specifically chose that photo after learning of the accident. But you can see May's right thumb in his 1977 Topps Big League brothers card with Lee May.

You see this cat May is a bad mother: Playing eight years in the major leagues after losing a thumb is pretty bad-ass, but so is being the only major leaguer to wear his birth date on his uniform, which May did every May 17th.

Shut your mouth: Wikipedia claims that Carlos and Lee May were the first brothers to appear in the same All-Star Game when they did so in 1969. But SABR reports that Mort and Walker Cooper of the Cardinals were the batteries for the National League in the All-Star Game in 1942 and 1943.

No one understands him but his woman: In the book "What It Means To Be A White Sox," by Bob Vorland, May said that in his first game back after the accident, the fans gave him a standing ovation and he cried at home plate.

(A word about the back): As a kid pulling this card out of a pack, it had to be quite a thing to read "after losing a thumb" on the back.

Friday, December 13, 2013

no. 242 - jim ray

Who is the man: Jim Ray was becoming a key member of the Astros bullpen when this card was issued. He had just completed his third full season with Houston and appeared in 52 games, all but two in relief.

Can ya dig it: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first 1971 Topps card I ever saw or owned that did not come from the gutter. As you can tell, it's pretty well worn and I need to upgrade. I wish I knew how I acquired it, but that story is lost forever.

Right on: Ray seems absolutely hypnotized by what's going on in front of him.

You see this cat Ray is a bad mother: Ray struck out 115 batters in 115 innings pitched in 1969. That'll get people's attention.

Shut your mouth: Depending on where you read, Ray's nickname was either "Ray Gun" or "Sting" (as in "sting ray"). I like "sting." That's a fantastic nickname.

No one understands him but his woman: Do a search for Jim Ray and mostly what you come up with are references and stories about Jim Ray Hart, who played at the same time as Ray. Seems everyone wants to talk about players with three names.

(A word about the back): Ray achieved that .800 win percentage with an 8-2 mark in 1969.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

no. 241 - dave nelson

Who is the man: Dave Nelson is making his first appearance on a card with the Senators after he was traded from the Indians in December, 1969. He spent much of the 1970 season in the minor leagues.

Can ya dig it: I'm assuming that structure behind Nelson is the dugout and stands to a spring training stadium. Which one? You got me. I believe the Senators trained in Florida.

Right on: You can see the MLB logo prominently on Nelson's left sleeve. The logo was still pretty new at this point as it debuted on baseball uniforms in the 1969 season.

You see this cat Nelson is a bad mother: A trivia question that popped up periodically on baseball cards in the '70s referred to Nelson stealing second, third and home all in the same inning. It happened on Aug. 30, 1974 against the Indians. Only three people have done it in American League since (Paul Molitor, Devon White and Chris Stynes).

Shut your mouth: Nelson once pulled the hidden-ball trick against Bob Coluccio and the Brewers. He tagged out Coluccio at second base after asking Coluccio to move his foot so he could brush dirt off the base. After Coluccio got chewed out in the dugout, he came back out yelling at Nelson, saying Nelson embarrassed him and his team. "I didn't embarrass your team," Nelson said. "You did."

No one understands him but his woman: Nelson considered quitting baseball when he was in the minor leagues after experiencing racism during a trip down south in 1964. But his mother reminded him that his idol was Jackie Robinson, and Nelson kept playing.

(A word about the back): It looks like Nelson's head disappears into nothingness in the photo, but I'm not calling it a floating head because I can see a neck.

Monday, December 9, 2013

no. 240 - clyde wright

Who is the man: Clyde Wright was definitely the man heading into the 1971 season. He had just won AL Comeback Player of the Year honors after winning 22 games and throwing a no-hitter in 1970.

Can ya dig it: Wright's got his collar up in Yankee Stadium.

Right on: Wright is the most recent major leaguer to be named "Clyde." But teammates called him "Skeeter."

You see this cat Wright is a bad mother: Wright had one win in 1969 -- ONE -- and came back with 22 in 1970. That is badness.

Shut your mouth: When Charlie Finley wanted to use orange baseballs, they tested them out in a game against the Angels in 1973. Wright said the dyed ball was so slippery he couldn't grip it, and added that they should "hide it somewhere and pretend it's an Easter egg."

 No one understands him but his woman: Wright pitched for three years in Japan, and made a memorable impression from the start. Early in the season, he was pulled from a 1-1 game in the sixth inning. He refused to give the ball to the manager and charged off the mound, firing the ball into the dugout. He went in the clubhouse, tore off his uniform and threw it in the bathtub. People started calling him "Crazy Wright."

(A word about the back): Wright still holds the Angels record for victories in a season, tied with Nolan Ryan, who won 22 in 1974.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

no. 239 - red schoendienst

Who is the man: Red Schoendienst and the Cardinals had fallen on hard times in 1970. After going to the World Series in 1967 and 1968, Red and the boys plummeted to a 76-86 mark in 1970, the franchise's worst record since 1959. The Cards would rebound in 1971 though.

My observation on the front: This is another one of my early 1971s, complete with a crease in the southeast corner and not a single sharp edge.

Right on: You can call him Al ... or maybe you can't.

You see this cat Schoendienst is a bad mother: Schoendienst's longevity is astounding. Nineteen years as a player, 14 years as a manager, 30-plus more years as a coach and 90 years on this earth. He'll be 91 in February. It's totally cool that you can find a card of Schoendienst in the 1948 Bowman set and the 1990 Topps Traded set.

Shut your mouth: Schoendienst fought a well-publicized battle with tuberculosis in the late 1950s, but in a Sports Illustrated article, he fumed over the attention he received for coming back from the disease. "For over a year now it's been TB, TB, TB. I'm a ballplayer, not a doctor or a patient. This story you wrote here is just too dramatic for me. It just wasn't that tough."

No one understands him but his woman: On the same day Schoendienst got married, his new bride, Mary, watched him play a game a third base. During the game, a line drive nearly decapitated Schoendienst. After the game, the team's manager congratulated Mary on her marriage. She thanked him, then said, "Please get Red off third base before he gets killed."

(A word about the back): That .993 fielding mark mentioned lasted until Ryne Sandberg broke it in the mid-1980s.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

no. 238 - chuck dobson

Who is the man: Chuck Dobson. continuing with a solid five-year stretch for the A's, set career highs in 1970 for games pitched, innings pitched, wins, complete games and shutouts. He also set career highs for walks, home runs allowed and runs allowed.

Can ya dig it: I've said it before, I'll say it again, I don't think there's really a ball in that glove.

Right on: There is something odd but also funky about the A's old caps that just said "A" on them. They're like The Fonz's team.

You see this cat Dobson is a bad mother: Dobson is featured on the fifth card in this set in most memorable fashion.

Shut your mouth: Dobson was known to voice his opinion and it got him in trouble with regard to amphetamines. He admitted to using "greenies," and when Commissioner Bowie Kuhn cracked down on players' use of the drug in spring training of 1971, Dobson told the Sporting News: "If the commissioner says we can't use them anymore, then the next time someone asked me whether I use them, I'll say no, go around the corner and pop." Dobson and Kuhn had a conversation after that.

No one understands him but his woman: Dobson and Reggie Jackson were the first interracial roommates in baseball history in 1968.

(A word about the back): At least one of those league-best shutouts in 1970 was pitched by Dobson on an amphetamine high.