Friday, October 30, 2015

no. 468 - frank fernandez

Who is the man: After a few years as a backup with the Yankees, Frank Fernandez played his first season with Oakland in 1970. He hit just .214 in 252 at-bats, but he hit 15 home runs.

Can ya dig it: I remember seeing this card when I was first getting acquainted with 1971s as a youngster. I was fascinated with how colorful it was. And then I wondered how a player I had never heard of had received such a wonderful card.

Right on: This is the final card of his career.

You see that cat Fernandez is a bad mother: Fernandez is fascinating to stat heads. He produced a freakish career in which he accumulated both more walks and strikeouts than hits. His on-base percentages were astronomical when compared with his batting averages and he's known as the greatest baseball player to hit below .200 for his career.

Shut your mouth: Fernandez is remembered for an incident against the Orioles in 1970 in which he hit a liner so forcefully that it hit third baseman Brooks Robinson in the shin and ricocheted into the hands of shortstop Mark Belanger, who threw wide to first for an error. What had been a hit when it left Fernandez's bat became an error and Fernandez, who didn't get many hits, seethed at second base. When he scored later on a hit by Bert Campaneris, he flung his helmet into the air toward the press box and was promptly ejected. Broadcaster Harry Caray observed, "All Fernandez is making all the fuss about is whether he hits .200 or .198 this season."

The story gets more interesting when Fernandez comes across the official scorekeeper a week later while both are watching boxer George Foreman work out.

No one understands him but his woman: Fernandez played for three different MLB teams in 1971 and for the A's twice. Oakland traded him to the Senators in May, then purchased him from the Senators in June, then traded him to the Cubs in August.

(A word about the back): Fernandez's HR on Opening Day 1968 came against the Angels' George Brunet in the second inning. Brunet allowed just three hits in seven innings but took the loss.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

no. 467 - al santorini

Who is the man: Al Santorini endured a brutal sophomore slump in 1970, after tying for the team lead in pitching wins for the expansion Padres in 1969. Santorini and Joe Niekro each won a team-high eight games in '69.

Can ya dig it: Santorini appears to have a spectator for his photo session.

Right on: This is one of those ubiquitous tilted backgrounds that you find on '70s cards.

You see that cat Santorini is a bad mother: Santorini was the No. 11 overall pick in the 1966 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves.

Shut your mouth: Santorini struck out 12 Mets in a 4-0 complete game shutout while with the Cardinals in 1972. "Never since I was in high school have I had 12 strikeouts," Santorini said after the game.

No one understands him but his woman: Santorini is referred to as "chunky" in the same article. It's the first word of the AP story.

(A word about the back): Oof, That 1970 pitching line has to be one of the worst in the entire set.

Monday, October 26, 2015

no. 466 - ken berry

Who is the man: Ken Berry played the last of his nine seasons with the White Sox in 1970. He was traded to the Angels in November 1970 in a six-player deal.

Can ya dig it: Berry is pictured in full White Sox gear, but Topps has airbrushed the Sox logo from his cap.

Right on: I'm always fascinated by writing under the bill of the cap. I don't know what the writing says here -- probably something mundane like "Ken Berry" -- but I want to know.

You see that cat Berry is a bad mother: Berry had a reputation as a fine fielder who made outstanding leaping catches. He won two Gold Glove awards, including his first in 1970.

Shut your mouth: Berry plays a heckler in the movie "Eight Men Out," based on the book about the Chicago Black Sox scandal. He is seen standing up in the stands, hands cupped around his mouth, yelling at Shoeless Joe Jackson, "Hey professor! Read any good books lately?" After Jackson hits a triple, Berry the heckler stands up again and says, "Shoeless Joe! Can you spell cat?" to which Jackson responds, "Hey, Mister, can you spell shit?"

No one understands him but his woman: Berry, who was an advisor on the Eight Men Out film, was originally supposed to play the part of the thug who threatens to kill Lefty Williams' girlfriend if he doesn't throw the last game. But the person in charge of casting changed his role after hearing his voice and thinking it'd work as the heckler.

(A word about the back): A 1.000 fielding percentage for a season is pretty good for an outfielder, but Berry doesn't make it in the all-time list. There have been 10 outfielders who have recorded a 1.000 fielding percentage while playing more than 150 games in a season (Nick Markakis and Brett Butler have done it twice). Berry played in just 130 games for his 1.000 in 1969.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

no. 465 - tim mc carver

Who is the man: Tim McCarver had completed his first season with the Phillies when this card was issued. He appeared in just 44 games for Philadelphia in 1970 after breaking his finger on a foul tip off the bat of Willie Mays.

Can ya dig it: This is McCarver's first card appearance in a Phillies uniform. He's listed with the Phillies in the 1970 Topps set, but his photo is a close-cropped head shot so you can't see McCarver's Cardinals uniform.

Right on: Lots of stuff going on in the background. Security on the left side. Phillies lined up on the right.

You see that cat McCarver is a bad mother: McCarver set a major league record for the most triples in a season by a catcher when he hit 13 in 1966.

Shut your mouth: I could go the broadcasting route here, but instead I'll go here.

No one understands him but his woman: McCarver and his wife, Anne, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary just last year.

(A word about the back): When I was a kid, I didn't know a thing about the minor leagues. I often wonder while reading the minor-league-heavy '71 write-ups whether the kids collecting then had any idea what they were reading.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

no. 464 - aurelio rodriguez

Who is the man: Aurelio Rodriguez played for the Senators in 1970. In his only season with Washington during his 17-year career, he set career highs in home runs (19), RBIs (83) and stolen bases (15).

Can ya dig it: Rodriguez is airbrushed out of an Angels helmet there in Yankee Stadium. He played for the Angels from 1967-69 and I guess Topps never got him in a Senators uniform.

Right on: Rodriguez was traded to the Tigers in the big eight-player deal with the Senators that famously sent Denny McLain to Washington. With this card, this blog has now featured seven of the eight players in the deal. The only one yet to be featured -- McLain -- won't be seen for awhile.

You see that cat Rodriguez is a bad mother: Rodriguez  won the Gold Glove in 1976, signaling the end to Brooks Robinson's 16-year reign as the Gold Glove third baseman for the American League.

Shut your mouth: Rodriguez is the original A-Rod.

No one understands him but his woman: Rodriguez is famously absent from his 1969 Topps card. In his place is the California Angels' bat boy Leonard Garcia. Some have surmised that Rodriguez was playing a prank, although that's doubtful because he barely spoke English when he came up to the majors in the late '60s. The mistake more likely happened in a mix-up in the Topps archives as it searched for a photo of Rodriguez (this was during the time when current players were not posing for Topps because the players union believed they were not being adequately paid).

 (A word about the back): The Mexican Center League was a feeder league for the Mexican League and lasted from 1960-78. Among the other future major leaguers who began there was Fernando Valenzuela.

Friday, October 16, 2015

no. 463 - tom kelley

Who is the man: Tom Kelley spent all of the 1970 season in the Braves' minor league system after being acquired by Atlanta in May of that year. The Braves and Topps must have known something because in 1971, he would pitch in 28 games, his first significant major league work since 1966.

Can ya dig it: Kelley is wearing an Indians jersey, and the photo, at the most recent, is from 1969. But I suppose it could be as early as 1967 as that's the last time Kelley actually played for Cleveland in a major league game.

Right on: Kelley's hair is much too neat. Go run some wind sprints, sir.

You see that cat Kelley is a bad mother: Kelley's 1965 season for the Triple A Portland Beavers was something to behold. He went 16-3 with a 2.38 ERA, struck out 190 and pitched a no-hitter.

Shut you mouth: Kelley died just 21 days ago. At age 71.

No one understands him but his woman: Look up Tom Kelley and you're going to get more than enough references to the former Twins manager, which is not spelled the same way.

(A word about the back): Look at that sterling 1970 record. Kids pulling this card must have wondered what the hell.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

no. 462 - senators

Who is the man: The era of good feeling in the nation's capital ended after just a year. After finishing fourth under new manager Ted Williams in 1969 with an 86-76 record, the Senators fell back to last in 1970 at 70-92.

Can ya dig it: I don't know what the team is standing/sitting on in front of the seats. Is it dirt around the field? Is it concrete? I don't think it's grass. It looks gray or blue.

Right on: You would think this would be the last Senators team card. But technically it's not. Even though the Senators moved to Arlington, Texas, for the 1972 season and Topps airbrushed all of the Senators players' individual cards and listed them as Rangers, the Rangers' team card that year features this exact photo. You can clearly see "Senators" on all of their jerseys, but the team name at the top of the card says "Rangers".

You see that cat Williams is a bad mother: Ted Williams is in the first row, fifth from the left.

Shut your mouth: Identifying players when they don't have numbers on the front of their jerseys is difficult, especially when the photo is taken from this distance. I'm going to assume the tallest guy in the back row is Frank Howard, but beyond that I can't venture a guess.

No one understands him but his woman: The man in the dark jacket on the right certainly gets a prominent position in the photo. I don't know who it is, but it looks like it could pass for Senators owner Bob Short, the man who moved the team.

(A word about the back): This is the second incarnation of the Senators and they had been around for only 10 years at this point. Still some pretty good seasonal records considering the bottom standings say the team finished ninth, tenth, tenth, ninth, eighth, eighth, sixth, tenth, fourth and sixth.

Monday, October 12, 2015

no. 461 - jim hart

Who is the man: Even though Jim Hart was a young man at the time this card came out, his career was in decline. He spent half of 1970 in the minor leagues, his first stint in the minors since 1963.

Can ya dig it: You can see by the signature, his full name is James Ray Hart, and he was most often referred to as "Jim Ray Hart." But Topps would not call him that until the very last card of Hart's career. He is "Jim Ray Hart" on his 1974 card. All other cards he is "Jim Hart".

Right on: Hart looks as if he's batting in the middle of a cow pasture.

You see that cat Hart is a bad mother: Hart finished tied for second place in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1964, and he hit at least 23 home runs each year between 1964-68.

Shut your mouth: Hart was not a good fielder and didn't like playing third base, once saying famously "it's just too damn close to the hitters."

No one understands him but his woman: Hart was out of the majors by the age of 34 and his performance fell off a number of years before that. Publicly, people blamed injuries for Hart's decline, but an alcohol problem was also a significant factor, and it followed him into his post-career life.

(A word about the back): Third place for batting .355 made me look up the California League leaders in 1961. The two players who batted better than Hart were a Dodgers prospect named Don Williams (.363) and a Phillies prospect named John Upham (.356), who played briefly for the Cubs in the late 1960s.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

no. 460 - fritz peterson

Who is the man: Fritz Peterson was coming off the best season -- his only 20-game-winning season -- when this card was issued.

Can ya dig it: I'm used to seeing these old-time Yankee Stadium action shots taken from the opposite side of the mound. It's nice to get this perspective. Of course, Peterson is a lefty, so you'd have to shoot on the third base side to get this shot.

Right on: This is Peterson's best Topps card, easily. He isn't in that awkward pose with his left arm shooting out as he is in half his cards. He doesn't look fat (1974). He doesn't look like Snidely Whiplash (1975).

You see that cat Peterson is a bad mother: Peterson had impeccable control. He led the league in walks per nine innings for five straight years between 1968-72.

Shut your mouth: In Peterson's 2009 book "Mickey Mantle Is Going To Heaven," he refers to his wife, Susanne, as "the new wife" throughout because she didn't approve of the book.

No one understands him but his woman: Peterson is known most these days for swapping wives with teammate Mike Kekich. While Peterson's ex-wife and Kekich split up quickly, Peterson remains married to the former Susanne Kekich more than 40 years later.

(A word about the back): I've got admit those 40 walks in 260 innings pitched looks impressive.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

no. 459 - jim lefebvre

Who is the man: Jim Lefebvre had just finished his third straight season in a platoon role for the Dodgers. His 109 games played in 1970 was the most since his 136 games in 1967.

Can ya dig it: It doesn't appear as if Lefebvre will be fenced in for long.

Right on: I'm having a hell of a time typing "Lefebvre".

You see that cat Lefebvre is a bad mother: Lefebvre was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1965. There was nothing very impressive about his stats, but he beat out Joe Morgan for the award, so I have no complaints.

Shut your mouth: Lefebvre punched Tom Lasorda in the face in a television studio in 1980. Lefebvre had just left the Dodgers, where he was coaching, to coach for the Giants. Between tapings for their respective interviews, the two got into it (Lefebvre had been fired by the Dodgers), and Lefebvre leveled Lasorda with a single punch.

No one understands him but his woman: Lefebvre played four seasons in Japan, and he's the first player to win a World Series (1965) and a Japan Series (1974).

(A word about the back): This is one of the first '71 Topps I ever owned. It doesn't look right without scuffing all over it.

Friday, October 2, 2015

no. 458 - white sox rookie stars

Who is the man: Both Ron Lolich and Dave Lemonds spent the entire 1970 season in Triple A, but for different teams. Lolich hit .292 with 16 homers for the White Sox's Triple A outfit in Tucson. Lemonds posted a 4.07 ERA in 22 starts for the Cubs' Triple A team in Tacoma.

Can ya dig it: I think Lolich might have some chaw, otherwise why would he be making that face?

Right on: Topps blacked out the top section of Lemonds' Cubs cap.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: The two of them combined had one solo Topps card -- Lemonds' 1973 card -- so, no, they're not bad mothers.

Shut your mouth: Lolich is the cousin of famed Tigers starting pitcher Mickey Lolich.

No one understands him but his woman: Lolich is one of precious few major leaguers to hit an "ultimate grand slam." That is when you hit a walk-off grand slam that enables your team to win by a single run. Lolich's ultimate grand slam came in the 9th inning of the Indians' 8-7 victory over the Red Sox on April 22, 1973.

(A word about the back): credits Lolich with 27 home runs in 1969. The White Sox's HR leader that year was Bill Melton with 23.