Friday, February 28, 2014

no. 267 - rich morales

Who is the man: Rich Morales had finished his second full season with the White Sox in 1970, playing wherever they needed him (he played short, third and second) and hitting a paltry .161.

Can ya dig it: Morales was definitely a glove man during his eight-year major league career, yet this is the only one of his five Topps cards in which he is shown fielding.

Right on: Those blue White Sox caps really tell you this was from a long time ago.

You see this cat Morales is a bad mother: Morales has one of the worst career batting averages for a non-pitcher with at least 1,000 at-bats in major league history. He hit a career .195, which ranks in the bottom 10. Sure, maybe you don't consider that bad-ass, but think of all the people who have played ball who would have been out on their asses long before 1,000 at-bats if they hit that poorly.

Shut your mouth: Morales' son, also named Rich, played briefly in the minors and is a scout for the Orioles. He was interviewed in the book "Minor Players, Major Dreams" about having a father who was a major league player. "One kid came up to me in the third grade and said, 'are you Rich Morales?'" he said. "I said 'yeah.' He goes, 'your dad's Rich Morales?' And I said, 'yeah, he is.' And he goes, 'can I be your best friend?'"

No one understands him but his woman: Morales is a fairly common name in the majors with players like Kendrys Morales, Franklin Morales, Jerry Morales and Jose Morales. But Rich Morales was the first Morales to make the majors, in 1967.

(A word about the back): "Chisox." I don't see that used much anymore.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

no. 266 - bill stoneman

Who is the man: Bill Stoneman had completed his second season for the second-year Montreal Expos. He won just seven games in 1970, but he'd win 17 games in '71.

Can ya dig it: I don't know what that green structure is in the background, but it appears on a lot of early '70s Expos cards.

Right on: Stoneman has a look on his face like he just airmailed that pitch.

You see this cat Stoneman is a bad mother: Stoneman pitched a pair of major league no-hitters. His first came in the ninth game the Expos ever played and his second was the first MLB no-hitter pitched in Canada.

Shut your mouth: Stoneman didn't use an agent to negotiate his contract for the 1974 season, which would be his last in the majors: "You don't need a lawyer to tell the club you had a lousy year," he said.

No one understands him but his woman: Stoneman built the Angels into a World Series champion as general manager for the team for eight seasons. But he stepped down in 2007, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife. "She didn't know when she married me that I would have a mistress," he said. "Right now, I'm leaving my mistress."

(A word about the back): I don't think that's a mustache on Stoneman, but it sure looks like one.

Monday, February 24, 2014

no. 265 - jim northrup

Who is the man: Jim Northrup produced the third of his three best seasons in 1970. Between 1968-70, he was a potent force in the Tigers' lineup, good for 20-plus home runs. His play began to decline after 1970.

Can ya dig it: I'm sure that bat is larger than it appears, but it looks like he could hit the ball no more than 20 feet with that thing.

Right on: Crooked field! There were a lot of those when I was chronicling the 1975 set. I don't recall quite as many in this set, or maybe I'm just not paying attention.

You see this cat Northrup is a bad mother: I can't think of anything more bad-ass than getting a game-deciding triple in Game 7 of the World Series off of the pitcher (Bob Gibson) who had mowed down your team in two straight games. And that's what Northrup did in 1968.

Shut your mouth: Northrup did not get along with Tigers manager Billy Martin. "It was all 'I, I, I' and "me, me, me," Northrup said about Martin. "I did not respect him in any way. But I had to play. So I ignored what he said and played ball."

No one understands him but his woman: Northrup was an intelligent guy even though it took him 40 years to graduate from high school because he signed with the Tigers. He considered going to medical school before choosing a baseball career.

(A word about the back): Wow, reading that second sentence makes me want to have been around to see him in 1968.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

no. 264 - joe morgan

Who is the man: Joe Morgan managed one of his better seasons with the Astros in 1970, setting what was then career highs for runs, doubles and runs batted in. He was voted an All-Star for the second time in his career.

Can ya dig it: This is a very different card, especially by card standards of the day. There are three people in this photo and you can't see the faces of any of them.

Right on: First card of Series 3. You will see 41 more action cards in the set (excluding the World Series subset), all of them in Series 3 and 4.

You see this cat Morgan is a bad mother: The first player I ever knew to win back-to-back MVP awards. That left an impression.

Shut your mouth: I think I screamed this at the TV for Morgan more than any other national broadcaster.

No one understands him but his woman: The fact that Morgan is anti-"Moneyball," yet was one of the most "Moneyball" players of all-time is the most fascinating "generations clashing" baseball story of the present day. Writer Joe Posnanski's contention that Morgan's disagreement with Bill James-style baseball analysis is rooted in "us versus them" "they didn't play baseball" beliefs is spot-on and sad.

(A word about the back): Look at all that talk about walks. The man knew how to get on base.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

no. 263 - john ellis

Who is the man: John Ellis played in 78 games in 1970 and received Topps All-Star rookie team honors at first base ... even though he's shown posing as a catcher.

Can ya dig it: First solo card! It's also the seventh rookie trophy we've come across. And that is some kind of signature.

Right on: This is the final card of the second series in the set. Get ready for a lot of action cards, because Series 3 is filled with them.

You see this cat Ellis is a bad mother: Ellis was named the top rookie in spring training for the Yankees in 1970. That was pretty good because the Yankees also had a rookie catcher named Thurman Munson in camp that year.

Shut your mouth: Ellis once mentioned in an interview that the pitcher that he had the greatest connection with on the field was Gaylord Perry. That's interesting, considering Perry's spitball reputation.

No one understands him but his woman: Indians manager Frank Robinson once called out Ellis in the press, saying that if Ellis didn't play the way Robinson wanted, he wouldn't catch for him. In the offseason, Ellis was traded to the Rangers.

(A word about the back): That writeup for Ellis has "Thurman Munson is our starting catcher, where do we put this guy?" written all over it. I also think Topps put the "catcher" designation on Ellis' card because of the photo. Ellis caught only two games in 1970.

Friday, February 14, 2014

no. 262 - padres rookie stars

Who is the man: Both Jim Williams and Dave Robinson spent the vast majority of their 1970 season playing for the Triple A Salt Lake City Bees. Both were regulars for Salt Lake, but neither were particularly strong that season.

Can ya dig it: This is another one of my early 1971s. The more I do this, the more I want to upgrade those cards.

Right on: Both Williams and Robinson don't look very thrilled to be part of a franchise that wasn't even three years old.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: Ha! That's a laugh. The Padres' career won-loss record at this point was 115-209. There were no stars or bad-asses coming from that team.

Shut your mouth: Neither of these guys would have another Topps card. In fact, between the two of them, they would play in only seven more games after this card appeared. All seven were recorded by Robinson.

No one understands him but his woman: One of the two home runs that Robinson would hit in his career was against Juan Marichal.

(A word about the back): It figures that Williams is a Dodger reject. The Padres seemed to pick up a lot of Dodgers discards, especially in the 1970s.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

no. 261 - darold knowles

Who is the man: Darold Knowles was on his way to the Oakland A's when this card was created. The Senators dealt him to Oakland in May of 1971, along with Mike Epstein, for Frank Fernandez, Paul Lindblad and Don Mincher.

Can ya dig it: I can always dig palm trees.

Right on: I can't get used to Knowles without his mustache. He was wearing it on the very first card I ever pulled out of a pack that I purchased.

You see this cat Knowles is a bad mother: Knowles appeared in all seven World Series games in 1973. That's something you'd never see today.

Shut your mouth: Phillies manager Gene Mauch said of a young rookie Knowles, "he's got the courage of a daylight burglar."

No one understands him but his woman: Knowles played one year for the Expos in 1978, but welcomed his free agent status, saying that taxes, language issues for his family and political unrest in Quebec were too much. He played for the Cardinals in 1979.

(A word about the back): Knowles' won-loss record should be plastered on every site that derides wins and losses as a way to evaluate pitchers. Knowles set career highs in appearances (71), saves (27) and registered a 2.04 ERA all while winning two games and losing 14.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

no. 260 - tommy harper

Who is the man: Tommy Harper enjoyed what was probably the best season of his 15-year career in 1970, hitting 31 home runs, stealing 38 bases and batting .296.

Can ya dig it: I do not dig the early Milwaukee Brewers uniforms.

Right on: Harper is before my time so I don't know what his batting stance was, but he appears to be leaning out over the plate a little here ... that is if there's actually a plate where he's standing.

You see this cat Harper is a bad mother: Harper's 73 stolen bases for the Seattle Pilots in 1969 remains the franchise record for the Pilots/Brewers.

Shut your mouth: Harper was fired from his coaching job by the Red Sox in 1985 after he spoke out against a team policy that permitted only white employees to be admitted to an Elks Lodge near the team's spring training camp. Harper filed and won a lawsuit against the team. Years later he returned to the Red Sox to work as a consultant.

No one understands him but his woman: Harper was the first and only player to record the season's first at-bat for the Pilots. They became the Brewers the next season.

(A word about the back): Of course, the write-up sounds more impressive than it is. The franchise had  been in existence for only two years. Still a very good season.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

no. 259 - dave marshall

Who is the man: Dave Marshall spent his first season with the Mets in 1970 after being traded, along with pitcher Ray Sadecki, from the Giants in December 1969.

Can ya dig it: This photograph is off-center two different ways, but especially left to right. Weird cropping.

Right on: I wonder when the last time the "hands on knees" pose appeared on a baseball card? It's probably more recent than I'm figuring.

You see this cat Marshall is a bad mother: Marshall was a member of Topps' 1968 all-rookie team even with a modest 174 at-bats, 1 home run and a .264 batting average. But you can't take that giant trophy on his 1969 card away from him.

Shut your mouth: Marshall is one of those players that some say was the inspiration for the Sam Malone character in Cheers. Marshall apparently used to tend bar after his playing career. But most sources say Sam McDowell, who was known for his drinking problem, was the real inspiration.

No one understands him but his woman: Marshall has one of the most atrocious airbrushed cards in the 1973 Topps set. And there are a few of them in that set.

(A word about the back): Marshall's grand slam against his old teammates came in the first inning of that game and came against Gaylord Perry. Marshall allegedly told at least one reporter that Perry told him he hit a spitter.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

no. 258 - dick green

Who is the man: Dick Green was entering his eighth season as the Oakland A's second baseman in 1971. He batted a meager .190 in 135 games in 1970.

Can ya dig it: Those green-and-gold A's unis from the early 1970s are glorious. Look at that thing. Doesn't it make you want to invent a time machine?

Right on: This is another case of a photo showing an infielder looking to backhand a ball from the general direction of the backstop. This just doesn't happen for infielders, Topps.

You see this cat Green is a bad mother: Green received the Babe Ruth Award for the 1974 postseason despite going 0-for-13 over the five games. Green was honored with the award because of his fielding. It would also be the last time he played in the majors. That's a pretty bad-ass exit.

Shut your mouth: During the 1970s, Green repeatedly said he was going to retire only to change his mind. It wasn't until 1974 when he actually went through with it, taking with him three World Series rings. Like I said, bad-ass exit.

No one understands him but his woman: Green was upended at second base by Johnny Bench and especially Hal McRae during the 1972 World Series. Green barely responded to being bulldozed and claimed he relished the contact.

(A word about the back): Green was not even 30 when he was the oldest-serving member of the A's. That fits with my perception of Oakland as a team that is constantly rotating players in and out of the organization and has been for decades.