Wednesday, April 29, 2015

no. 405 - leo cardenas

Who is the man: Leo Cardenas was entering his third and final season with the Twins in 1971, after playing in 160 games for Minnesota in 1970.

Can ya dig it: That's a very off-center card. I should probably look around for something with a right-hand border.

Right on: This wouldn't be the only time that Cardenas performed the "the fish was this big" pose. He does it on his final card, too.

You see that cat Cardenas is a bad mother: Cardenas was a gold glove shortstop with the Reds in the 1960s and made the All-Star team four times with Cincinnati.

Shut your mouth: This is just the second time that Topps refers to Cardenas by his given name of Leo on his card. For his first 10 cards, Topps called him "Chico" Cardenas.

No one understands him but his woman: Cardenas served three months in jail in 1998 for assault after he broke a co-worker's arm with a bat. Cardenas became irate after spotting his wife sitting in a car having lunch with the co-worker. Cardenas claimed self-defense in the case.

(A word about the back): Cardenas appeared in 160 games in 1969 as well, and led the league by playing in 163 games in 1964.

Monday, April 27, 2015

no. 404 - astros rookie stars

Who is the man: Buddy Harris and Roger Metzger both spent the great majority of the 1970 season in the minor leagues, Harris in the Astros organization and Metzger in the Cubs organization. Harris pitched in two games with the Astros and Metzger had two at-bats with the Cubs.

Can ya dig it: Metzger features that blacked-out cap 1971 Topps loved so much. But the blue bill says he's wearing a Cubs cap.

Right on: Topps correctly predicted Metzger as a rookie star. After he was traded to Houston for Hector Torres, Metzger proceeded to play in 150 games in 1971 and lead the National League with 11 triples. OK, his on-base percentage was .294.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: You just saw Metzger's OBP, no they ain't.

Shut your mouth: Buddy's real first name is "Walter".

No one understands him but his woman: After Metzger's playing career ended, he became a high school math teacher.

(A word about the back): Harris posted some mean ERA and strikeout totals in the minors, but he didn't play in the majors beyond 20 games in 1971. This is his only Topps card.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

no. 403 - joe coleman

Who is the man: Joe Coleman was on the brink of the greatest period of his career. In a pivotal decision, he was traded from the Senators to the Tigers on Oct. 9, 1970.

Can ya dig it: Coleman is wearing a Senators uniform and cap. The airbrushing makes the cap look very odd. Who has a red stripe going down the side of a blank cap?

Right on: That's horrible airbrushing. It looks like an ink blot up there. Blend it in, man!

You see that cat Coleman is a bad mother: After Coleman arrived with the Tigers, he became one of the best pitchers in the American League. He won 20 games twice and struck out 200 batters each year between 1971-73.

Shut your mouth: While in high school, Coleman attended a camp run by Ted Williams, who reportedly taught Coleman how to throw a curve ball. Years later, Williams was Coleman's manager with the Senators.

No one understands him but his woman: In 1978, Coleman was sold from the A's to the Blue Jays after A's owner Charlie Finley flipped out because Coleman gave up a home run (Finley was trying to get rid of Coleman anyway). A's manager Bobby Winkles resigned because Finley had just sold the A's best reliever.

(A word about the back): I'm trying to envision the state of frenzy that would occur today if a pitcher went 3-0 in his first three games with a complete game in each of them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

no. 402 - dodgers

Who is the man: The Dodgers were climbing their way back in the early 1970s and finished second in 1970, their best finish since placing first in the National League in 1966. It would be the first of four second-place finishes for L.A. That kind of behavior would get a manager fired these days, but not Walter Alston.

Can ya dig it: I do not know where the Dodgers are in this photo, but it appears they are posing in the stands, which is cool. Look at it quickly, and it seems as if they're sitting in the bleachers at a small college gymnasium.

Right on: I have no idea what the numbers across the bottom of the photo mean.

You see that cat Alston is a bad mother: Manager Alston is seated in the front row, sixth person from the left, or if you want to use the numbers at the bottom as a guide, between the 7 and the 8.

Shut your mouth: These are the Dodgers, so I should be able to ID at least some people. Let's see how I do: Next to Alston on his left is pitching coach Red Adams. At the far right in the front row is a young Bill Buckner. Next to Buckner is a young Steve Garvey. And next to Garvey is a young Ted Sizemore. That is a tremendously fun trio. Next to Sizemore I believe is coach Junior Gilliam. Third from the right in the front row is coach and future Phillies manager Danny Ozark. To Alston's right is coach and future Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield. The second row is more difficult to ID, but Von Joshua is the last guy on the right. After that uniform numbers aren't visible and the team is too far away to ID anyone else.

No one understands him but his woman: Gilliam is the only player in the front row with his legs crossed. Make of that what you will.

(A word about the back): So far, Maury Wills has the most games played in a season (165) out of all the team cards that have been shown.

Friday, April 17, 2015

no. 401 - tom murphy

Who is the man: Tom Murphy was a big part of the surprising California Angels in 1970. He won 16 games, second only to Clyde Wright's 22 victories, as the Angels finished third in the AL West.

Can ya dig it: Murphy looks better than most executing the pitching follow-through pose.

Right on: Background vehicle! For a moment I thought that was a VW bug, but I think it's a van of some sort.

You see that cat Murphy is a bad mother: Murphy began his 12-year career as a starter, but remade himself into a reliever after being acquired by the Brewers. He saved 20 games in back-to-back years in 1974 and 1975, posting a 1.90 ERA in 1974.

Shut your mouth: Murphy was part of a trade between the Brewers and the Red Sox that sent Bernie Carbo to Milwaukee in 1976. The Brewers were sinking and placed last in the division that season, while the Red Sox were the defending AL champions. Murphy and Bobby Darwin, who was also sent from Milwaukee to Boston, gloated to teammates in the locker room about leaving the Brewers.

No one understands him but his women: Murphy was one of two American League pitchers to get a hit in 1974, one year after the start of the designated hitter. He singled in the 11th inning of a game against the Royals on June 12th.

(A word about the back): That's an interesting and unexpected factoid: Murphy's first pitch in professional baseball was an HBP.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

no. 400 - hank aaron

Who is the man: Hank Aaron delivered another consistently hammerin' year in 1970, with numbers that nearly matched his 1969 figures. However, he finished 17th in MVP voting in 1970, compared with third in '69, quite possibly because the Braves were first in 1969 but fifth in 1970.

Can ya dig it: I'm not crazy about these "cap tilted up" photos. It makes it appear as if Topps was trying to hide the Braves logo because it thought Aaron might be traded. And it would be crazy to trade Hank Aaron. Right, Braves?

Right on: The facsimile signatures on Aaron's Topps cards all read "Henry" except for his 1975 Topps card, which reads "Hank".

You see that cat Aaron is a bad mother: How many times have you read or heard the following words: "As far as I'm concerned he's the home run king."? I hear that at least on a weekly basis. Gotta be pretty bad-ass to get that kind of tribute weekly.

Shut your mouth: Aaron received two MLB contract offers based on his play with the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns. One was from the Giants and one from the Braves. Aaron said he would have signed with the Giants, but the Braves offered 50 more dollars. Aaron has said that 50 dollars is all that kept him and Willie Mays from being teammates.

No one understands him but his woman: Aaron married Billye Williams, a morning TV show host after first meeting her when Williams arranged an interview with Aaron for a series of segments called "Billye at the Bat". After hyping Aaron's upcoming appearance, the Braves slugger failed to show. But Williams was not deterred and eventually got an interview with him on the air.

(A word about the back): I feel cheated. That's the same photo that's on the front.

Monday, April 13, 2015

no. 399 - jim french

Who is the man: Jim French played in a career-high 69 games for the Senators in 1970. With the exception of his 13-game .297 batting average as a rookie in 1965, the .211 that French hit in 1970 also was a career-high.

Can ya dig it: This is a terrific-looking card and probably one of the best-conditioned cards I own in this set.

Right on: This is the final card issued during French's career.

You see that cat French is a bad mother: French may not have hit for a high average but he knew how to get on base. According to SABR, French is one of 13 major league position players through 2007 who accumulated more walks than hits during their careers (minimum 100 at-bats). French totaled 121 walks and 119 hits.

Shut your mouth: After his career ended, French became a practicing lawyer. He received his degree from John Marshall Law School. Another baseball connection to John Marshall Law School: umpire Dan Bellino has a degree from the school.

No one understands him but his woman: French has three Topps cards (1969, 1970, 1971). He is in almost the exact same pose in all three cards.

(A word about the back): French appears to be harboring some tobacco in that photo.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

no. 398 - howie reed

Who is the man: Howie Reed was entering the final season of his 10-year major league career in 1971. He was coming off one of his most prolific seasons as he appeared in 57 games and compiled a 3.13 ERA.

Can ya dig it: I've mentioned this a few too many times to feel comfortable about it anymore, but Reed's eye color matches with his uniform.

Right on: Final card!

You see that cat Reed is a bad mother: Reed won 19 games in a season twice in Triple A, once for the Dodgers' farm team in Spokane in 1963 and the other time for the Astros' farm team in Oklahoma City in 1967.

Shut your mouth: Reed was known to pitch with a toothpick or Q-tip in the corner of his mouth.

No one understands him but his woman: Reed gave up a three-run home run to Twins pitcher Mudcat Grant in the 1965 World Series.

(A word about the back): I don't know if I'm reading the bio right. It reads to me that Reed threw 7 1/3 innings of no-hit ball in his first start. But when I look up that game, Reed gave up five hits and they were scattered through the game.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

no. 397 - alvin dark

Who is the man: Alvin Dark was entering his fourth and what would be final season as manager for the Cleveland Indians in 1971. He was fired 103 games into the 1971 season.

Can ya dig it: I really like the red caps the Indians wore in the 1960s/early '70s.

Right on: The photo is such a tight crop on Dark's head that you can barely make out the famed Yankee Stadium frieze.

You see that cat Dark is a bad mother: Dark took two teams to the World Series. His 1962 Giants lost the Series to the Yankees, but his 1974 A's won it all against the Dodgers.

Shut your mouth: Dark lost his managing job with the Giants in 1964 after a controversial newspaper interview in which he accused his players of making "dumb plays." Dark said he was referring specifically to baserunning errors by Orlando Cepeda and Jesus Alou. But since the Giants featured a great number of minority players on the roster then, Dark was accused of blanketing the team as dumb and of being racist.

No one understands him but his woman: Dark worked for A's owner Charlie Finley on two separate occasions, causing some of his players to question his intelligence/sanity.

(A word about the back): This is the second straight manager card that mentions only his playing career.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

no. 396 - dick schofield

Who is the man: Dick Schofield was entering his final season in the major leagues in 1971. He came over to the Cardinals from the Red Sox in late October, 1970.

Can ya dig it: Schofield is wearing a Red Sox jersey in this photo. Schofield changed teams so often, particularly late in his career, that he appears cap-less four times between 1967-1971.

Right on: You can find a card of Schofield in the 1954 and 1955 Topps sets. It blows my mind when lesser known players like this span cards from the '50s to the '70s. For some reason, I can adjust to an Aaron or Killebrew or Robinson doing that, but Schofield?

You see that cat Schofield is a bad mother: Schofield has received credit for fixing the broken Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960, when future season MVP Dick Groat was struck on the wrist by a pitch from Braves hurler Lew Burdette in September of that year. Groat was done for the season, but Schofield stepped in at shortstop and batted .403 for the rest of the month and the Pirates clinched the pennant and then the World Series.

Shut your mouth: Schofield was ejected just once in his 19-year major league career. As a bonus baby for the Cardinals in 1953, he sat the bench most of the season. Manager Eddie Stanky got in an argument with umpire Augie Donatelli during a game against the Giants. As they argued a couple of towels flew out of the dugout. As Stanky returned to the dugout, Donatelli warned him that if he saw another towel emerge from the dugout, there'd be an ejection. Stanky told Schofield, who he knew wouldn't play, to throw a towel. Schofield did, and Donatelli threw him out.

No one understand him but his woman: Schofield and his wife Donna raised three athletic children. Son, Dick, would have a 14-year MLB career of his own. Daughter, Kim competed in the 1976 Olympic track and field trials. Another daughter, Tammy, was a standout golfer. Kim's son is Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth.

(A word about the back): This card has been worked over, front and back. It is one of those 1971 Topps hand-me-down cards that my friend had and I obtained through a trade for some late '70s Yankees.