Friday, April 29, 2016

no. 528 - wally bunker

Who is the man: Wally Bunker struggled through arm problems the entire 1970 season and didn't win a game until September. It would be his last full season in the majors.

Can ya dig it: I wonder if he wore that holey shirt in an actual game.

Right on: Final card of his career.

You see that cat Bunker is a bad mother: Bunker was the only rookie pitcher of the 20th century to win as many as 18 games when he went 19-5 for the Orioles as a 19-year-old in 1964, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Shut your mouth: Bunker and his wife, Kathy, wrote a children's book, "I Am Me" that was published in 2015.

No one understands him but his woman: The Royals named Bunker their Opening Day starter in 1970, but only after he cut his long hair.

(A word about the back): Bunker's won-loss record in 1962 is the exact opposite of his won-loss mark in 1970. How nice of Topps to point that out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

no. 527 - cleon jones

Who is the man: Cleon Jones had one heck of a beginning and ending to his 1970 season. He struggled so mightily at the start that he was hitting .167 at the end of May. But he ended the season with a 23-game hitting streak, a record for the Mets at the time.

Can ya dig it: I've said this before, but Jones ages very quickly on his cards. This is the first card in which he appears visibly older than his earlier cards.

Right on: Probably should get a version of this card with a bottom border.

You see that cat Jones is a bad mother: Jones was the Miracle Mets' hitting star, batting a blazing .340 in 1969 and blasting the Braves in the NLCS with a .429 average.

Shut your mouth: Jones' Mets career ended in 1975 after a dugout shouting match with manager Yogi Berra. Jones was unhappy that he was pulled for pinch-hitter Ed Kranepool and refused to go back out on the field, instead storming off to the clubhouse. Berra was so upset over the incident that he told management, it was "him or me." The Mets tried to trade Jones but didn't succeed and he was released. Berra was fired two weeks later.

No one understands him but his woman: Jones was charged earlier in '75 for indecent exposure as police said he was found nude in a vehicle with a 21-year-old woman,  who was also charged with indecent exposure and narcotics possession. In an odd press conference after the charges were dropped, Jones appeared at press conference with his wife, Angela, while Mets chairman M. Donald Grant ripped Jones for soiling the Mets' image of "having clean ballplayers." By the way, I'm finding out for the first time that the 21-year-old unemployed waitress was from Johnson City, N.Y., which is the next town over from where I grew up. That was probably big news in the Binghamton Press at the time. I wouldn't know. I was 9 years old.

(A word about the back): The write-up is in error. Jones hit .429 in the 1969 NLCS. He hit .159 in the World Series, but did catch the final out.

Monday, April 25, 2016

no. 526 - ray jarvis

Who is the man: Ray Jarvis split the 1970 season between the Red Sox and Triple A Louisville. After the season he was traded to the Angels in the big deal that sent Tony Conigliaro to Anaheim.

Can ya dig it: The printing flaw on the card makes it appear as if one of those laser pointers is targeting Jarvis' forehead.

Right on: Jarvis has just two Topps cards. This is his last one.

You see that cat Jarvis is a bad mother: Jarvis threw his first major league pitches to Frank Robinson. Robinson hit one of them for a triple. But Jarvis retired the next three batters to leave Robinson on third.

Shut your mouth: Jarvis never played for the Angels. He was cut from the team in spring training 1971, played in the minors and was finished in the major leagues by 1972, a victim of arm problems.

No one understands him but his woman: Jarvis is one of 61 players who have struck out five times in one game, the record for a 9-inning game. Of those 61, only Jarvis and five others were pitchers.

(A word about the back): The Rhode Island-born Jarvis played ball as a kid on the state house lawn because there was no park where the kids could play.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

no. 525 - ernie banks

Who is the man: Ernie Banks was entering the final season of his Hall of Fame career when this card was issued. He'd play in just 39 games for the Cubs in 1971 and retire after the season.

Can ya dig it: I used to have a higher conditioned '71 Banks but traded it away to a Cubs fan. I found this one pretty quickly afterward at a card show, so it's all good.

Right on: This is the final Topps card of Banks issued during his career.

You see that cat Banks is a bad mother: Banks was known as the most powerful shortstop in baseball history during his career. He still holds the record for career home runs by a National League shortstop with 512 (although not all of them were hit while he was playing short).

Shut your mouth: Banks and Leo Durocher did not get along when Durocher was named manager of the Cubs in 1966. Durocher felt he was forced to play an aging Banks, while others said Durocher was simply jealous of Banks' popularity in Chicago. Banks once said, "Leo thought he should be Mr. Cub."

No one understands him but his woman: After his retirement, Banks worked at several places. He tried to get involved in banking and even started at the ground floor, working as a teller. But he said fellow employees treated him like a ballplayer and not a co-worker. He even addressed the problem with the bank's social psychologist.

(A word about the back): Banks is now 22nd on the all-time HR list and has been joined by Joe Morgan, Dale Murphy, Mike Schmidt, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols as NL'ers to win back-to-back MVPs. But he still holds the season record for home runs by a shortstop!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

no. 524 - mickey stanley

Who is the man: Mickey Stanley was coming off a fine season with the Tigers when this card was issued. He led Detroit in hits, runs, triples, stolen bases (a whopping 10) and won his third straight Gold Glove in center field.

Can ya dig it: You're getting a fine look at that windbreaker Stanley is wearing under his uniform.

Right on: I like the bare-bones scoreboard in the background.

You see that cat Stanley is a bad mother: Stanley helped the Tigers win the World Series in 1968 when he was moved from the outfield to play shortstop, a position he had never played in the majors. After the Tigers clinched the pennant, Stanley was moved to short by manager Mayo Smith, who was seeking another bat in the lineup for the postseason. With Stanley replacing weak-hitting Ray Oyler at short, that allowed Al Kaline, Willie Horton and Jim Northrup to play the outfield. Stanley, who regularly took infield practice before games, made just two errors during the Series and neither had an impact.

Shut your mouth: Stanley played 15 years for the Tigers and was still with the club in 1977 when the Tigers were bringing up future '80s superstars. Catcher Lance Parrish once said to him, "Hi, Mr. Stanley. I was in eighth grade when you were in the World Series."

No one understands him but his woman: Despite the fame Stanley received for playing shortstop in the Series he said he didn't enjoy it because he was "just waiting to screw up."

(A word about the back): That photo appears to be fairly old. Stanley looks quite a bit younger here than he does on the front.

Friday, April 15, 2016

no. 523 - john odom

Who is the man: John "Blue Moon" Odom was coming off of elbow surgery when this card was issued. He returned to the A's pitching staff in May 1971 after an abbreviated 1970 season.

Can ya dig it: This is the first time Odom's nickname appears on the front of his baseball card. In the only previous card to feature his autograph, in the 1967 set, the signature simply reads "Johnny Odom."

Right on: Love the kelly green shirt under Odom's uniform. I prefer it to some of the darker forest-green looks the A's exhibited later.

You see that cat Odom is a bad mother: Well, what should I address here: his locker room fight with teammate Rollie Fingers before the '74 World Series? His near fight with teammate Vida Blue? His bumping of home plate umpire Bob Engel after getting called out in the '72 World Series? His shootout in the street in Macon, Ga., with some young burglars that led him to getting shot in the neck and chest between the '71 and '72 seasons?

Shut your mouth: During Odom's 1969 breakout season, he was quoted as putting down the Indians lineup. Indians starter Sam McDowell responded by challenging Odom in the papers. Odom responded by saying, "Sam's dumb. If I had his stuff, I'd win 25 games a year."

No one understands him but his woman: Odom was part of a no-hitter in his final major league victory, in 1976. Pitching against his old team, the A's, he teamed with fellow White Sox hurler Francisco Barrios to no-hit Oakland, despite walking nine batters in five innings of work.

(A word about the back): You never hear about "chances accepted" anymore.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

no. 522 - twins

Who is the man: The Minnesota Twins experienced a season of deja vu in 1970. They won the American League West, just as they did in 1969. And they were swept 3-game-to-none by the Orioles in the ALCS, just as they were in 1969.

Can ya dig it: I am still so used to the Metrodome and the Twins playing on artificial grass that I find it odd to see the Twins among actual green grass, whether it's Metropolitan Stadium or Target Field.

Right on: The Twins don't have a lot of non-uniform people posing in the photo like some of the team shots in this set. It looks like there are a couple of clubhouse/trainer sorts at the far right of the second row and that's it.

You see that cat Rigney is a bad mother: Bill Rigney was entering his second season with the Twins after taking over in 1970 for the fired Billy Martin. The team shot is a bit far off and not in focus, but I believe the silver-haired Rigney is the sixth person from the left in the front row.

Shut your mouth: Rigney has his own card just 10 cards away. So I can't write about him anymore here. Don't want to use up material! 

No one understands him but his woman: It's much too blurry to ID players. But someone who knows the Twins of this period better than I would have a chance at citing some of them. I think the guy on the far left in the front row is Cesar Tovar but it could just as easily be someone else.

(A word about the back): Those 328 hits that Dutch Leonard allowed in 1940 seems like a massive total in light of today's hits allowed, but it doesn't even make the top 500 in hits allowed per season. In fact, during the early '70s, a few pitchers -- Mickey Lolich, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry and Wilbur Wood -- were putting up 300-hit totals.

Monday, April 11, 2016

no. 521 - leron lee

Who is the man: Leron Lee played in 121 games his rookie season as the Cardinals' starting right fielder in 1970. He'd never play in as many games for the rest of his major league career.

Can ya dig it: This is Lee's first solo card.

Right on: Lee's signature on this card (and this card) shows an upper case "r" in his first name. But his name is not featured that way in the printed version, on any of his cards, or in articles or online.

You see that cat Lee is a bad mother: Lee broke up a no-hitter by the Mets' Tom Seaver in the ninth inning during a game in 1972. It was a lot bigger deal before the Mets had a no-hitter to their credit. Not as much of a deal since Johan Santana did his thing.

Shut your mouth: Lee said that early in his career he wound up filling in for Lou Brock when Brock needed a spell. Once Brock came up to him during a white-hot day and said "give me a break today, play left field." Lee agreed, and then Brock said, "Nolan's pitching," referring to Nolan Ryan. Lee said: "That was great. I struck out three times on 11 pitches."

No one understands him but his woman: Lee's claim to fame is his pro career in Japan. He became one of the most successful Americans to play Japanese baseball ever, racking up several records in his 11-year career there. He was the first American player to stay in Japan year-round and married a Japanese woman.

(A word about the back): It drives me nuts when basic baseball terms like "doubles" are capitalized.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

no. 520 - tommy john

Who is the man: Tommy John was the ace of a 100-loss team in 1970. He was entering his final season with the White Sox.

Can ya dig it: This is the last action photo in the 1971 set, with more than 200 cards to go.

Right on: Foreshadowing shot here in Yankee Stadium for the future Yankee.

You see that cat John is a bad mother: John made modern medical history by recovering from a surgery that had never been performed before on the elbow of a major league pitcher and winning 20 games less than two years after the surgery.

Shut your mouth: When John injured his arm, it was right after he was passed over by Mets manager Yogi Berra for a spot on the NL All-Star Game pitching roster despite leading the league in victories, which annoyed John. Some speculated that John hurt his arm overextending himself in a bid to prove Berra wrong. John called that idea "a really ignorant statement."

No one understands him but his woman: The day after John's surgery, his wife Sally gave birth to their daughter, Tamara. Since John couldn't move his arm, he had to be fed, dressed and bathed just like his infant daughter.

(A word about the back): It's not listed on his stats here, but John led the league in 1970 in wild pitches with 17, the most he threw in any season of his career.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

no. 519 - willie crawford

Who is the man: After finally receiving some decent playing time in 1969 and being able to exhibit some of his enormous talent, Willie Crawford regressed a bit in 1970, batting just .234 in 109 games.

Can ya dig it: One of my favorite Dodger cards in the set. With palm tree and batting cage in the background, a helmet-wearing Crawford sizes up the photographer and takes a lazy swing.

Right on: I can confirm by the number 27 on Crawford's bat handle that it is indeed his bat.

You see that cat Crawford is a bad mother: Crawford hit a home run in the World Series in 1974, a ninth-inning shot against Oakland closer Rollie Fingers to pull the Dodgers within 3-2 as the leadoff hitter in the inning. The next hitter reached on an error, but then Ron Cey struck out and Bill Russell hit into a double play to end the rally and Game 3.

Shut your mouth: The Dodgers compared a young Crawford to Roberto Clemente and Tommy Davis, while the A's compared him to Willie Mays and Willie Davis.

No one understands him but his woman: Crawford died at 57 from kidney disease. He had a drinking problem when his career ended and found out in treatment that he was harboring anger for always being platooned and rarely getting a chance to start.

(A word about the back): Wow, that's quite a smile, Mr. Crawford.

Friday, April 1, 2016

no. 518 - joe grzenda

Who is the man: Although Joe Grzenda appeared in more games in his first year with the Senators in 1970 than he had any other year in his career, it was a struggle. He posted a 4.98 ERA in 49 games.

Can ya dig it: I'm not sure if this is a night card. He appears to be posing in front of darkened stands, which could easily be during the day. But the light shining on him could indicate it's night.

Right on: This is the third of Grzenda's four Topps cards and by far his best one. In his first two, he's without a cap. In his last, he's staring to the sky so you look up his nostrils.

You see that cat Grzenda is a bad mother: Grzenda bounced back in 1971, recording a 1.92 ERA for Washington and was the Senators' best relief pitcher.

Shut your mouth: Grzenda, who played for six major league teams and 12 minor league teams, once famously told The Sporting News, "I'd like to stay in baseball long enough to buy a bus, then set fire to it."

No one understands him but his woman: Grzenda was the last Washington Senator on the mound at RFK Stadium in 1971, which was after it was announced that the team was moving to Texas. He was pitching in the ninth against the Yankees in the final game of the season when fans swarmed the field before the final out. The players charged off the field to safety and the game was forfeited to the Yankees. Grzenda kept the ball he was holding and when MLB baseball returned to Washington in 2005, before that first game, Grzenda handed the ball to President George W. Bush, who threw out the first pitch with it.

(A word about the back): Grzenda made his major league debut in 1961 but didn't get a card until Topps' 1969 set.