Wednesday, April 30, 2014

no. 287 - mike fiore

Who is the man: Mike Fiore was a back-up first baseman for the Red Sox in 1971 after being acquired from the Royals in May of 1970.

Can ya dig it: The first-base pose isn't as common as the catcher, shortstop or pitcher pose, so when you see it, it really stands out.

Right on: Fiore has three solo Topps cards, in the 1970, 1971 and 1972 sets. In every one, he is in this pose.

You see this cat Fiore is a bad mother: Fiore hit the first home run in Kansas City Royals history, launching a blast off of the A's John "Blue Moon" Odom in April 1969.

Shut your mouth: Fiore got off to a hot start in spring training in 1971. He was so hot that reporters started asking manager Eddie Kasko if George Scott's starting job at first base was in danger. An intrigued Kasko was non-committal. But when Scott was asked, he said: "No way it's going to happen." And it didn't.

No one understands him but his woman: Fiore is not to be confused with the late 1980s University of Miami player and school Hall of Famer of the same name. That Mike Fiore played for the U.S. Olympic team and works with agent Scott Boras.

(A word about the back): Yeah, looking at those stats, I don't think Scott's job was ever in doubt.

Monday, April 28, 2014

no. 286 - jerry mc nertney

Who is the man: Jerry McNertney was traded from the Brewers to the Cardinals shortly after the 1970 postseason. He had enjoyed his two most prolific major league season with the Pilots/Brewers in 1969 and 1970.

Can ya dig it: How can a Cardinal be in Yankee Stadium in 1971? Well, when he's really a Brewer ... or a Pilot. It's difficult to tell.

Right on: Why did photographers pose players looking off into the sky like this? This is nothing you'd see a baseball player do. He looks like he's lost his helium balloon.

You see this cat McNertney is a bad mother: McNertney was called the "Weekend Warrior" when he played for the Cardinals in 1971. He would fill in at catcher for Ted Simmons that season because Simmons spent the weekends fulfilling U.S. Army Reserve obligations.

Shut your mouth: The sponsor of McNertney's baseball-reference page specifically references McNertney's "piercing blue eyes." And this card supports that they are indeed piercing.

No one understands him but his woman: McNertney is mentioned several times in the book "Ball Four". Author Jim Bouton pokes fun at McNertney's straight-laced, Midwestern personality. McNertney later said he never read Bouton's book.

(A word about the back): "Most Aggressive Player"? That's a pretty cool award. I'd like to see that presented in the major leagues.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

no. 285 - sal bando

Who is the man: Sal Bando was at the doorstep of greatness in 1971. In fact, he had already had a terrific season in 1969 and came down to earth a little in 1970. But his time as a key player in the A's dynasty of 1972-74 was yet to come.

Can ya dig it: There's a good look at the uniforms that the current A's often pay tribute to during their throwback games. Great stuff.

Right on: It may just be my eyes, but the green of Bando's cap doesn't seem to match his sleeves or socks.

You see this cat Bando is a bad mother: Bando was the captain of the Swingin' A's. The captain of a team that won three straight World Series? Your legacy is cemented after that.

Shut your mouth: Bando, along with Bud Selig, is famously blamed in Milwaukee for letting Paul Molitor leave for the Blue Jays after the 1992 season. Bando, the Brewers GM at the time, supposedly said during negotations that Molitor was "only a DH".

No one understands him but his woman: Bando appeared briefly on The Simpsons. During a scene in which Homer Simpson is painting his driveway to honor "the best team ever," the 1974 A's, Bando drives up with his Oakland teammates and says, "Look, that guy remembers us."

(A word about the back): I'm not sure what the bio is referring to when it says that Bando led AL third baseman for second time. Second time in what?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

no. 284 - jim gosger

Who is the man: Jim Gosger was entering his second season with the Expos in 1971 after playing in 91 games for Montreal in 1970, his most playing time since 1967.

Can ya dig it: Gosger displays the left-handed batting pose on his 1969, 1970 and 1971 cards -- all with different teams (Pilots, Giants and Expos).

Right on: This is Gosger's last Topps card, even though he played in the majors through 1974.

You see this cat Gosger is a bad mother: In 1966, Gosger enjoyed the only two-home run game of his career, hitting two blasts off of the Tigers' Denny McLain.

Shut your mouth: Gosger is immortalized in Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" as the ballplayer who hid in the closet while his roommate became amorous with a lady friend. When the woman said, "Oh darling, I have never done it like that before," Gosger opened the closet door and said, "Yeah, surrrrre."

No one understands him but his woman: Gosger may appear as a Giant on his 1970 Topps card, but he never played for the Giants, being purchased by Expos in April of 1970.

(A word about the back): The one sport that Gosger excelled in that isn't mentioned in the bio is track. Gosger was known as a speedster even in the major leagues.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

no. 283 - dick such

Who is the man: Dick Such spent his only time in the major leagues in 1970, appearing in 21 games on the mound, including five starts. His career stats are 1-5 with a 7.56 ERA.

Can ya dig it: Such is wearing a wicked gum stain on his uniform that I didn't notice until scanning the card.

Right on: Rookie card! Only (solo) card!

You see this cat Such is a bad mother: Such would enjoy a much more memorable baseball career as a pitching coach, particularly with the Minnesota Twins. He was the Twins' pitching coach during their World Series champion years of 1987 and 1991, heading hurlers like Frank Viola, Jack Morris, Bert Blyleven, Rick Aguilera, Jeff Reardon and Steve Bedrosian.

Shut your mouth: Such, looking back on his career a few years ago, said: "If I knew then what I knew now, I might have hung around longer." Wouldn't we all, Dick. Wouldn't we all.

No one understands him but his woman: I see he signed his name "Richard Such." I'm sure that's what he would go by if he was starting his career today. Nobody's named "Dick" these days.

(A word about the back): That 1967 York team was a horrid hitting club. The collective team batting average was .217. Such suffered the worst from it with his 0-16 mark, but York also had another pitcher on the team, Rupe Toppin, who had a 1.94 ERA in 25 games (with a 7-7 mark). Doug Ritter posted a 2.85 ERA but was 4-11. The York White Roses averaged 2.54 runs a game and went 43-95.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

no. 282 - jose pagan

Who is the man: Jose Pagan was a part-time player and superb pinch-hitter for the Pirates in 1970.

Can ya dig it: Pagan is listed as playing shortstop on this card, but the record shows that he didn't play a single game at short in 1970.

Right on: This photo, in which Pagan appears to be in the middle of a conversation with the photographer, is a lot like the photo on his 1969 Topps card, right down to the black batting glove on his right hand.

You see this cat Pagan is a bad mother: Pagan delivered what would be the game-winning hit in Game 7 of the World Series in 1971. With the Pirates ahead 1-0 in the eighth inning, Willie Stargell led off with a base hit against Mike Cuellar. Pagan followed with a double to score Stargell with the Pirates' second run. The Orioles would score in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 2-1, but that would be the final.

Shut your mouth: Pagan was the starting shortstop for the Giants when they went to the World Series in 1962. "People talk about shortstops and don't mention Jose Pagan," Orlando Cepeda said after Pagan's death in 2011. "He was a hell of a shortstop."

No one understands him but his woman: Pagan wanted to manage after his playing career ended and set his sights on being the major leagues' first Puerto Rican manager. But he didn't get a chance, coaching with the Pirates in the 1970s and managing in winter ball.

(A word about the back): Pet peeve of mine. The first sentence connects years a decade apart, yet they have no connection whatsoever. OK, carry on.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

no. 281 - danny walton

Who is the man: Danny Walton enjoyed the most productive season of his sporadic major league career in 1970, hitting 17 home runs in 117 games as a rookie. But he also struck out 126 times. He'd be dealt to the Yankees in June of 1971.

Can ya dig it: That scuffed-up helmet without a logo makes another appearance on a Danny Walton card. He's featured wearing the helmet in a head shot on his 1973 Topps card, probably a photo from the same session (my guess is that he's actually wearing a Seattle Pilots helmet).

Right on: I believe the Pilots ... er, Brewers are holding infield drills behind Walton. I can only hope Mr. Coach is holding a fungo bat.

You see this cat Walton is a bad mother: Walton was the 1969 Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year. Playing for Oklahoma City, he hit .332 with 25 home runs and 119 runs batted in.

Shut your mouth: Walton has just four Topps cards, even though his major league career started in 1968 and ended in 1980 (he was sent down to the minors at least seven separate times). The interesting thing to me is that on those cards, he is not wearing a legitimate cap with a logo in any of them. In 1970, he is not wearing a cap. In 1971 and 1973, he has the logo-less helmet I already mentioned. In 1978, he is wearing a clearly airbrushed Astros helmet (it's my theory that Walton is actually wearing an Albuquerque Dukes uniform and helmet, as he played for the Dodgers Triple A team in 1976 and 1977).

No one understands him but his woman: Walton tore up his knee during the 1970 season and never fully recovered, ruining a promising career in which he had his own fan club in the Brewers' left field bleachers.

 (A word about the back): That is pretty close to the photo that's on Walton's 1973 card. The only differences are that Walton has his mouth open in this photo and that someone airbrushed an "M" onto his helmet.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

no. 280 - fergie jenkins

Who is the man: Fergie Jenkins was on top of his game at this point in his career and was entering what would be his only Cy Young Award-winning season in 1971, although he would finish second for the award two other times and third two other times.

Can ya dig it: Welcome to one of two stars of the 1971 set that I owned way back when I was a teenager. Out of the maybe 50 initial cards I obtained from the set back then, Jenkins was one of them (I've yet to upgrade). I'll keep you in suspense on the other. It's coming up later.

Right on: The warm-up jacket that Jenkins is wearing under his jersey looks like it's seen better days.

You see this cat Jenkins is a bad mother: I don't care how far "wins" as a pitching stat has fallen, winning 20 games a season for six straight years -- which Jenkins did from 1967-1972 -- is flat-out bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Jenkins wrote a book called, "The Game Is Easy, Life Is Hard." Possibly the greatest title for a baseball book ever.

No one understands him but his woman: Jenkins has had a difficult time with his personal relationships. His first marriage ended in divorce. His second wife died in an automobile accident. His fiance killed herself. "In my life I've been part of many funerals," he once said. "At one point I told a reporter I should be in a rubber room."

(A word about the back): He's still the best Canadian hurler in baseball history. I suppose Ryan Dempster would be a distant second. Others of note: Eric Gagne, Rich Harden and Erik Bedard.

Monday, April 7, 2014

no. 279 - lefty phillips

Who is the man: Lefty Phillips was entering the 1971 season after guiding the Angels to their second straight third-place finish in the American League West.

Can ya dig it: Just a wonderful dugout shot. Towels resting neatly on hooks. Lefty poised over the bat rack.

Right on: As you can see by his signature, "Lefty" is a nickname.

You see this cat Phillips is a bad mother: Phillips came to the Angels from the Dodgers, where he was the pitching coach for the bad-ass 1965 rotation that included Koufax, Drysdale, Podres, Perranoski, among others.

Shut your mouth: Late in the '65 season, Johnny Podres was throwing shutout ball against the Astros. But after four innings, Phillips wanted to replace Podres with Howie Reed. Podres told Phillips, "Lefty, I know you don't like me, but I"m pitching another inning." Podres won the game for his final victory for the Dodgers.

No one understands him but his woman: Phillips didn't last with the Angels past the 1971 season. That was the year batting champion Alex Johnson and the Angels famously waged war against each other. Phillips suspended Johnson five times that season and the Angels finished fourth.

(A word about the back): That "first year in pro ball" refers to his managing career as he was a long time pro scout and coach before he became the second manager in Angels franchise history.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

no. 278 - jerry grote

Who is the man: Jerry Grote was entering his sixth season as the Mets' regular catcher as this card hit packs. He batted .255 in 1970, but he was really in there for his defense.

Can ya dig it: This has to be one of the few times that this image has appeared on a baseball card. It's not exactly flattering to the card subject. Grote appears to have popped up and has cast his bat aside in disgust as he dutifully runs it out.

Right on: I believe the Cardinal in the dugout is coach Dick Sisler, who wore No. 5 for St. Louis in 1970.

You see this cat Grote is a bad mother: All you need to know is Johnny Bench thought he'd be playing third base for a living if he and Grote played on the same team.

Shut your mouth: Grote was involved in a flap with home plate umpire Bruce Froemming in 1974. The Mets thought umpires were pocketing baseballs when they rubbed them up before the game and it was reported in the local paper. Froemming then delivered five dozen baseballs to the Mets with a note that said "count them." During that game, a pitch from the Mets' Harry Parker got by Grote and hit Froemming. Froemming accused Grote of letting it past him on purpose. Grote said he was crossed up and also "all I consider is where the accusations come from. That article about the missing baseballs must have really hit home."

No one understands him but his woman: Grote retired in 1979 to spend more time with his family. But his wife filed for divorce and Grote returned to the majors in 1981.

(A word about the back): I would assume that one of the people who shares the catching mark with Grote is Hal King, who also caught 24 innings without an error for the Astros in that game. Houston won 1-0.