Friday, February 27, 2015

no. 384 - rollie fingers

Who is the man: Rollie Fingers started what would wind up being a career-record 19 games for the A's in 1970. But he was entering a pivotal year when this card was issued. By the end of 1971, Fingers was an established late-innings reliever.

Can ya dig it: That photo is very green.

Right on: Fingers without a handlebar mustache is always wrong.

You see that cat Fingers is a bad mother: Fingers, along with '70s pitchers like Sparky Lyle, helped create the role of the closer as we know it now. When Fingers was moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen, he did not return to the rotation after finding success as a reliever. He remained a reliever. That was a new concept, and he rode that new concept to the Hall of Fame.

Shut your mouth: The Reds offered Fingers a contract to pitch in 1986 after he was released by the Brewers, but the Reds' "no facial hair" policy scrapped that. Fingers told the Reds GM, "You tell (owner) Marge Schott to shave her Saint Bernard and I'll shave my mustache."

No one understands him but his woman: Fingers got into a locker room fight with fellow A's pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom just before the 1974 World Series. Odom made a comment about Fingers' wife, touching off a grappling session in which Odom tackled Fingers, sending him backward into a shopping cart where he hit the back of his head on a metal hook on a locker. Fingers needed six stitches. But he played in the Series, helped the A's to their third straight championship, and Fingers and his wife, Jill, appeared in the victory parade.

(A word about the back): Fingers' father was George Fingers. According to, Fingers played in 1938 for the Williamson Colts, a Class D team. Although he's not listed on the roster that's supplied for that team, a player on that team was Stan Musial.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

no. 383 - rod gaspar

Who is the man: Rod Gaspar was a recent Padres acquisition as he played for the Mets and the Mets' Triple A team in Tidewater in 1970. The Mets traded Gaspar to the Padres in October, 1970.

Can ya dig it: Gaspar is wearing a Mets uniform in Shea Stadium there. He never does appear in a Padres uniform on a Topps card.

Right on: I'm sure if I was a kid collecting cards in 1971, Gaspar's well-parted "dad" hair would have made his card ripe for mockery.

You see that cat Gaspar is a bad mother: Gaspar led the National League outfielders in double plays turned with six for the Miracle Mets in 1969.

Shut your mouth: When the Orioles' Frank Robinson heard that Gaspar had predicted that the Mets would sweep the Orioles in four games ahead of the 1969 World Series, Robinson said, "Who in the hell is Ron Gaspar?" Orioles teammate Paul Blair said to Robinson, "That's not Ron. That's Rod, stupid!" to which Robinson responded, "All right, bring on Rod Stupid."

No one understands him but his woman: Gaspar blamed his poor season in 1970 on his refusal to go play winter ball in Venezuela as Mets manager Gil Hodges suggested. He reported to camp out of shape and managed just 14 at-bats in the majors that year.

(A word about the back): Gaspar's claim to fame is scoring the winning run in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. He scored on a controversial bunt by J.C. Martin. Orioles pitcher Pete Richert fielded the bunt, but his throw to first hit Martin int he hand, scoring Gaspar for the game-winner in the 10th. The Orioles argued that Martin ran inside the baseline.

Monday, February 23, 2015

no. 382 - jake gibbs

Who is the man: Jake Gibbs was entering his final season in the majors when this card arrived. In fact, he said in June of 1971 that he'd retire at the end of the season. This is the last card of him issued during his career.

Can ya dig it: This card has a few problems. The name and team lettering appears "smeared" and the bottom left edge appears as if it touched white paint.

Right on: Gibbs looks like he's about to swing in front of Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks. (the catcher's cap and shin guards initially looked red to me, but Hendricks was one of the few black catchers around then. On closer inspection those are orange shin guards).

You see that cat Gibbs is a bad mother: Gibbs was the favorite player of former Orioles manager Dave Trembley when he was a kid. Trembley told me that when I interviewed him for a story.

Shut your mouth: Gibbs was a star quarterback in college and chose baseball over pro football even though he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and Houston Oilers. "I never had any regrets about choosing baseball," Gibbs said in Maury Allen's book "Yankees: Where Have You Gone?" "I knew I would have a longer career in baseball than in football, and I did."

No one understands him but his woman: Gibbs is the Yankees starting catcher link between Elston Howard and Thurman Munson.

(A word about the back): After his retirement, Gibbs returned to Ole Miss for good, becoming the baseball coach and working there until 1990. He retired with 485 victories.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

no. 381 - fred gladding

Who is the man: Fred Gladding remained one of the top relief pitchers in the National League in 1970. After saving an NL-best 29 games in 1969 for the Astros, he saved 18 in 1970.

Can ya dig it: I wonder how comfortable it was wearing a windbreaker under a uniform jersey?

Right on: Gladding looks a lot older than his 34 years in this photo. I just watched video of him being interviewed in 2012 and except for a few extra pounds and less hair, he looks the same.

You see that cat Gladding is a bad mother: Gladding was the first pitcher in the National League to be recognized officially as a season save leader, as the save wasn't made an official stat until 1969. (Ron Perranoski for the Twins was the first official AL save leader).

Shut your mouth: Gladding was traded for Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews in 1967. Mathews was at the end of his career and would play in 67 games over 1967-68 for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Gladding did well for the Astros, but missed out on the Tigers' World Series championship  in 1968.

No one understands him but his woman: Gladding was the Tigers pitching coach when Mark Fidrych came up with Detroit in 1976. In the video I watched, he recalls Reggie Jackson jawing at Fidrych before the famous Monday night nationally televised game on June 28, telling Fidrych he was going to take him into the upper deck. But Jackson didn't play in that game.

(A word about the back): I see Gladding was still wearing those horned-rim glasses, which were on their way out of fashion in the early '70s.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

no. 380 - ted williams

Who is the man: The Senators bottomed out in Ted Williams' second year managing the team. Washington finished dead last in the AL East in 1970 after going 86-76 in 1969.

Can ya dig it: I saw this card during my early collecting days and it stuck in my brain. When I started collecting the 1971 set, I thought it would be forever before I acquired it. I was practically giddy when I bought it at a small card show in town with no trouble at all.

Right on: This is quite a difference from the photo Topps used of Williams in the 1970 set.

You see that cat Williams is a bad mother: In his first year of managing, Williams led the Senators to their only winning season in their 11-year existence between 1961-71.

Shut your mouth: When Williams reported to his first big league camp in 1938, the veteran Red Sox players knew he was a hot prospect but made sure to make him miserable that first year. His outfield competition, Ben Chapman, Joe Vosmik and Doc Cramer, gave Williams a hard time in particular. When camp broke, Williams saw the list of who was headed to train with the big league club and he wasn't on it. Enraged, he yelled at the three outfielders: "I'll be back. And I'll make more money in this f---ing game than all three of you combined."

No one understands him but his woman: In "Ted Williams, My Father," a 2014 book written by Williams' daughter Claudia, she remembers a time as a girl when she plugged the toilet while her father was on the phone. As water began to drip from the ceiling, a furious Williams ripped the phone from the wall and threw it across the room before realizing he now could not call a plumber.

(A word about the back): So far, Williams and Lum Harris are the only managers in which Topps writes about their playing careers instead of their managing careers. In Williams' case, I guess I'll give it a pass.

Friday, February 13, 2015

no. 379 - wayne granger

Who is the man: Wayne Granger was a relief pitcher extraordinaire when this card was created. In 1970, he set a major league record for saves in a season (35), one year after setting an MLB mark for appearances in a season (90).

Can ya dig it: Granger appears to be saying "so you're a wise guy, eh?" out of the side of his mouth.

Right on: That's a nice look at Granger's three-quarters arm motion.

You see that cat Granger is a bad mother: Granger finished eighth in the Cy Young Award voting in 1970, which was pretty good for a relief pitcher back then.

Shut your mouth: Granger was known for his scrawny stature. Reds teammate Pete Rose said he looked like "a professional blood donor."

No one understands him but his woman: Granger gave up a grand slam to Orioles pitcher Dave McNally in the 1970 World Series. It's the only time a pitcher has given up a grand slam to another pitcher in a Series.

(A word about the back): I wonder if collectors who know nothing about past baseball terminology read a card like this and wonder how a baseball pitcher could be a fireman, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

no. 378 - tito fuentes

Who is the man: Tito Fuentes enjoyed his second straight respectable season in 1970 after being sent down to the minors in 1968. For the man who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1966, he was working his way back.

Can ya dig it: Topps wants to make sure you see that Fuentes is bunting, that's why his signature is squeezed into the corner. Also, he apparently hadn't started dotting the "I" in his name with a star yet.

Right on: Fuentes' position is listed as "infield" because he played second, short and third in 1970.

You see that cat Fuentes is a bad mother: The man wore headbands over his cap with his name written on them. Of course he was bad ass.

Shut your mouth: Fuentes has been known to refer to himself by his uniform number "23," as in "How are you, this is '23'". He legally changed his name when he became a U.S. citizen so that "23" reads like it's his middle name: Tito 23 Fuentes.

No one understands him but his woman: In the famed Dodgers-Giants brawl in which Juan Marichal clubbed John Roseboro with a bat, nobody mentions that Fuentes also brought a bat into the melee. Fortunately, he didn't hit anyone with it.

(A word about the back): I'm not clear on which two Dominican League records Fuentes tied after reading that write-up. I'm assuming most hits in a game (5) and most doubles in a game (3).

Sunday, February 8, 2015

no. 377 - greg garrett

Who is the man: Greg Garrett had thrown his final major league pitch by the time this card was pulled out of packs. His last game for the Reds was in late April 1971, he was then sent down to the minors and never returned.

Can ya dig it: Garrett is wearing an Angels cap and uniform. He was traded to the Reds in December, 1970.

Right on: This is Garrett's only solo card. He appears as a rookie star with two other Angels prospects in the 1970 Topps set.

You see this cat Garrett is a bad mother: Oh, brother, is he. Garrett retired from baseball before he hit age 25 because he kept getting in disagreements with management. He won All-America honors in badminton at Cal State Fullerton after his baseball career ended. From there, he played professional slo-pitch softball and was known for blasting enormous home runs. After that, he began powerlifting and won three world champions after hitting age 40.

Shut your mouth: Garrett's career went south when he was in the Reds' minor league organization. Garrett once pitched a game where he went eight innings and the team lost in extra innings. The manager, Vern Rapp, spotted Garrett in the clubhouse with a beer and chewed him out for having a beer after a loss. Garrett told Rapp that he was going to enjoy the beer. A week later, Garrett found himself in the Giants organization.

No one understands him but his woman: Garrett was forced to give up his weightlifting career after both kidneys started failing and he needed a kidney transplant (after a successful transplant, he won gold medals in bowling and softball toss in the National Transplant Olympics). In 2001 he was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer and died in 2003 at age 56. Rumors circulated that Garrett's illnesses were related to steroid use, which family members denied.

(A word about the back): Except for 8 2/3 innings, 2 games, a loss and a handful of other stats, those are Garrett's complete "life" numbers.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

no. 376 - expos rookie stars

Who is the man: Clyde Mashore played 13 games for the Expos in 1970, batting .160 in 25 at-bats. He spent most of the year in the minors. Ernie McAnally spent all of 1970 pitching for the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.

Can ya dig it: I enjoy the distant palm tree.

Right on: Topps is kind of on point with McAnally as a rookie star. In 1971, he would win 11 games in 25 starts for Montreal. OK, the 3.90 ERA was a little high.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: HA! The franchise was barely even two years old at this point.

Shut your mouth: This is McAnally's first card and possibly the start of little collectors making his name the butt of their jokes.

No one understands him but his woman: Mashore came to the Expos in a trade with the Reds. Cincinnati received Ty Cline in exchange, who would go on to star for Cincinnati in the 1970 postseason.

(A word about the back): McAnally was selected in the 20th round of the 1966 draft by the Mets. Other future major leaguers drafted in that round were Ed Goodson and Dave LaRoche.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

no. 375 - steve hargan

Who is the man: Steve Hargan was one of the best pitchers in baseball the final two months of the 1970 season. He went 10-1 with eight complete games during that span and approached the 1971 season as the Indians' Opening Day starter. Quite a turnaround for someone who spent the first half of 1970 in the minors, with the Indians hoping they could unload him on somebody.

Can ya dig it: I have been fascinated with this card since I was youngster. Why on earth are Hargan's eyes so big? What did he spot? Or is he just goofing around and the photo made it in the set anyway? Strange, strange photo.

Right on: That's a nice view of the way ballparks looked back then. They're fun to sit in -- you can appreciate how much you are a part of history.

You see that cat Hargan is a bad mother: Hargan, in his first full season in 1966, made a relief appearance in the seventh inning of a 4-4 game against the Angels. He proceeded to pitch the next 10 innings without allowing a run. The Indians won in 17 innings.

Shut your mouth: Hargan received national attention in 1966 after pitching his first career shutout, which was against Boston. The media found out that Hargan went to see a hypnotist two days before his shutout in order to try to quit smoking.

No one understands him but his woman: Hargan was the oldest pitcher on the first Toronto Blue Jays pitching roster in 1977. He was 34.

(A word about the back): That All-Star Game selection was the only one of Hargan's 12-year career.