Monday, October 31, 2016

no. 591 - jackie brown

Who is the man: After nine years in the minors, Jackie Brown made his first appearance in the major leagues in 1970, pitching in 24 games for the Senators.

Can ya dig it: One of my favorite cards from those first 1971 Topps cards I owned as a young teen. The dark background drew me instantly (it could be a night card, but I'll probably never know for sure). And the Senators were such a strange team to a young kid in the late '70s. Who were they?

Right on: Rookie card!

You see that cat Brown is a bad mother: Brown spent most of his major league career as a reliever, but was a starter for most of 1974 with Texas and 1976 with Cleveland. In 1974, he outpitched the Angels' Nolan Ryan with a 5-0 victory, causing Brown's teammates to start calling him "ace". It didn't last long, though, as Brown ended up back in the bullpen.

Shut your mouth: Brown was the White Sox's pitching coach in the early 1990s. In explaining pitcher Alex Fernandez's turnaround season in 1993, Brown explained it simply: "If your objective is to not let the hitters hit the ball, it's going to be a long year."

No one understands him but his woman: The Expos traded for Brown in 1978, sending the Indians Andre Thornton in exchange. Thornton would go on to multiple 30-home run seasons for Cleveland.

(A word about the back): Brown's brother Paul pitched in 36 games for the Phillies between 1961-68 (there was a 5-year visit to the minors between 1963-68). He went 0-8 in his career.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

no. 590 - alex johnson

Who is the man: Alex Johnson was coming off the best season of his career when this card was issued. He batted .329 to win the American League title on the final day of the 1970 season. But in 1971 he was in the midst of his most controversial and tumultuous year.

Can ya dig it: I hope you know that I love bat-rack photos.

Right on: I don't know what's going on here, but it appears that the Angels are wrapping up batting practice. Johnson looks like he's exiting the dugout with his bat and glove and perhaps there's a clubhouse man behind him cleaning up.

You see that cat Johnson is a bad mother: Johnson was an immense talent and multiple teams were willing to overlook his difficulties to acquire him. He only really fulfilled those expectations in 1970 when he compiled 202 hits and recorded the only batting title in Angels history.

Shut your mouth: Johnson's inability to get along with management and teammates was an established habit by the time he arrived with the Angels. When manager Lefty Phillips was asked to compare Johnson to another controversial player, Richie Allen of the Phillies, Phillips scoffed, saying, "Once you get Richie Allen on the field, your problems are over. When Johnson gets to the field, your problems are just beginning."

No one understands him but his woman: After repeated fines and benchings, the Angels suspended Johnson after he failed to run out a groundball in June of 1971. A grievance was filed by Marvin Miller on the behalf of Johnson that said that Johnson was emotionally troubled and should have been disabled rather than suspended. An arbitrator sided with Johnson.

(A word about the back): Here we go again with "new" marks. Every current record, or mark, that is set is new. Redundancy 101.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

no. 589 - bob barton

Who is the man: Bob Barton played in 61 games in his first season with the Padres in 1970, backing up starting catcher Chris Cannizzaro.

Can ya dig it: Barton signs his name with some prominent "Bs". I like it.

Right on: I know Barton for his 1972 Topps In Action card, notable because many of the In Action players are stars or very good players (Barton's 1971 season was by far his best season).

You see that cat Barton is a bad mother: Barton recorded just nine passed balls in 380 games played in the majors. He also threw out 41 percent of base stealers during his career.

Shut your mouth:  Barton hit a ninth-inning grand slam against his old team, the Giants, during a game on June 18, 1971. The home run put the Padres ahead 9-5. But the Giants scored five runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game 10-9.

No one understands him but his woman: Barton was used by Players Union head Marvin Miller to undermined club owners' argument that the reserve clause was good for marginal players because teams could deal them to another club that could use the player. Miller brought up a specific example, Barton, a player who had spent three years with the Giants' big league club but was barely used. Miller's argument was that if Barton could choose to play where he wanted, he might be able to succeed, instead of waiting for a club to trade him.

(A word about the back): Those 1970 stats make me wonder what would have happened if Barton took that University of Kentucky basketball scholarship.

Friday, October 21, 2016

no. 588 - tom bradley

Who is the man: Tom Bradley pitched for the California Angels (and for their minor league club in Hawaii) in 1970 and was traded to the White Sox on Nov. 30, 1970. You can see the collar of his Angels uniform in the photo.

Can ya dig it: This card is before its time. It wouldn't be until 1993 that you could see a turquoise cap on a baseball card when the Florida Marlins were invented. Of course, this is 100 percent airbrushed.

Right on: I just featured this card on my main blog. It was beaten out of a spot in my night card binder.

You see that cat Bradley is a bad mother: Bradley got off to a quick start in his first season with the White Sox in 1971. After 14 starts, he was second in the AL in earned-run average behind Vida Blue at 1.67. Later in the year he was profiled in Baseball Digest.

Shut your mouth: Bradley received the nickname "Omar," which was a reference to Omar Bradley, the well-decorated senior officer in the Army during World War II. Interestingly, Tom Bradley is credited with giving Rich Gossage his nickname "Goose."

No one understands him but his woman: Bradley found out about his trade to the Giants when he reported to the White Sox business office for his job of selling season-ticket packages.

 (A word about the back): Bradley started the 1969 season in Class A ball, and also appeared in AA and AAA, as well as the majors that year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

no. 587 - sonny jackson

Who is the man: Sonny Jackson served as the Braves' starting shortstop in 1970, appearing in 103 games and batting .259.

Can ya dig it: Jackson is shown bunting on his card for the second straight year. He's also shown bunting on his 1974 Topps card, meaning three of his final five Topps cards show him as a bunter.

Right on: Looks pretty deserted in that stadium.

You see that cat Jackson is a bad mother: Jackson finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting (to the Reds' Tommy Helms) in 1966 with, by far, his best season. His 27 sacrifice hits that season is in the top 10 for most in a season from the last 50 years.

Shut your mouth: When Jackson was installed at shortstop for the Astros in 1966, he admitted his arm wasn't the strongest. "My arm's not a shotgun, but the ball will get there in time," he said. "I'm not concerned about that. I'm just worried where the ball ends up."

No one understands him but his woman: Jackson broke a 56-year-old record when he established a new high for stolen bases by a rookie with 49 in 1966. That record stood for just 11 years when the Padres' Gene Richards stole 56 in 1977.

(A word about the back): Jackson's 11 stolen bases were surpassed on the team by only Felix Millan, who had 16. Not exactly a base-stealing team.

Monday, October 17, 2016

no. 586 - dick woodson

Who is the man: Dick Woodson spent most of 1970 with the Twins as a reliever. The rest of the year he was with Double A Evansville.

Can ya dig it: Poor Dick is working while everyone else just stands around.

Right on: "Dick Woodson" is one of the great baseball names on par with Pete LaCock and Rusty Kuntz. In fact, I'd be so bold to say that I think Woodson's name is only surpassed by former auto racer Dick Trickle.

You see that cat Woodson is a bad mother: Woodson was second on the 1972 Twins pitching staff in victories (14), games (36), innings pitched (251.2) and strikeouts (150).

Shut your mouth: During a game early in the 1969 season, Woodson gave up two home runs to Reggie Jackson. On the next at-bat, Woodson knocked Jackson down twice. Jackson responded by charging the mound and barreling over Woodson.

No one understands him but his woman: Woodson was selected by Players Union head Marvin Miller for the first salary arbitration case in 1974. Woodson was making $23,000 for the Twins and asked for $30,000. He was awarded the $30,000, causing Twins owner Calvin Griffith to moan, "This is going to kill us."

(A word about the back): I believe I've mentioned this before: the phrasing "possessed with an excellent fastball" is both odd and wonderful. An excellent fastball "possesses" him.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

no. 585 - willie davis

Who is the man: Willie Davis was in the midst of the greatest period of his career, from approximately 1969-73. In 1970, he set a career-high with a league-leading 16 triples and batted above .300 (.305) for the second of three straight years.

Can ya dig it: Another bat-choker from the '70s. Love it. Davis hit 182 career home runs with that grip.

Right on: My introduction to Davis was his 1975 Topps card. He seems a lot older on that card than on this one, and they're just four years apart.

You see that cat Davis is a bad mother: Davis ended his career holding a bunch of Los Angeles Dodgers records. He still holds club marks for at-bats, hits, runs, triples, total bases, and owns the longest L.A. Dodgers hitting streak at 31 games.

Shut your mouth: Like several L.A. players from this period, Davis appeared on a bunch of TV shows, including The Flying Nun and Mr. Ed.

No one understands him but his woman: Davis set a World Series record when he committed three errors over back-to-back plays during Game 2 of the 1966 Series against the Orioles. He lost two fly balls in the sun and overthrew third base, allowing two runs to score. He would win three Gold Gloves later in his career.

(A word about the back): I like that back photo. It should have appeared on the front of one his cards.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

no. 584 - indians

Who is the man: The Cleveland Indians barely avoided a second straight last-place finish in 1970, edging out the Washington Senators. Still, it was a long way from their third-place finish in the 10-team American League in 1968.

Can ya dig it: That's a different perspective for the team photo. I'm not sure where the team is posing, but you can see the scoreboard in what must be Municipal Stadium in the background.

Right on: The photo artfully crops out what I'm certain was advertising at the top of the scoreboard.

You see that cat Dark is a bad mother: Manager Alvin Dark, I believe, is seated in the first row directly between the two fellows seated on the ground.

Shut your mouth: It's too difficult identifying the players on what was essentially a group of unknowns (save for Sam McDowell). I'd love to know where Tony Horton is, though. Horton, whose final season was in 1970, didn't appear on any Topps cards during his seven years in the majors.

No one understands him but his woman: Not quite a leisure suit on the guy at right, but an excellent homage to late '60s/early '70s business wear.

(A word about the back): The 20-loss season by Luis Tiant was still fresh in Indians fans minds when they turned over this card.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

no. 583 - ron cook

Who is the man: Ron Cook was in the middle of his second season in the majors when this card was issued. Unfortunately, it would be his last as he injure his rotator cuff during winter ball after his rookie year.

Can ya dig it: That's quite the stare by Cook. Kind of a cross between intense concentration and terror.

Right on: Rookie card!

You see that cat Cook is a bad mother: Cook went 4-for-17 at the plate during his rookie season. Two of those hits were triples.

Shut your mouth: Cook claimed that he picked off Lou Brock twice at first base in the same game in 1970. I can find no mention of this in the baseball-reference stats of the games between the Astros and Cardinals in 1970. There is one pick-off by Cook cited, but it's on Joe Torre.

No one understands him but his woman: When you know that Cook started his pro career as a hitter, the triples thing makes sense. He batted exclusively with the Class A Binghamton Triplets in the Yankees' organization in 1966 and spent the '67 season in the minors as both a hitter and pitcher.

(A word about the back): It seems odd, during the very pitching-heavy period of the late 1960s that a 3.11 ERA would lead all pitchers in Double A ball in 1969.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

no. 582 - dave cash

Who is the man: Dave Cash played about two-thirds of the 1970 season with the Pirates and a third with Triple A Columbus. His 64 games in the majors was good enough for Topps rookie honors at second base.

Can ya dig it: What a great card. Dave Cash looks absolutely committed to knocking the little baseball player off the trophy.

Right on: This is Cash's first solo card. He appears on a 1970 rookie stars card with Johnny Jeter.

You see that Cash is a bad mother: Cash played the heck out of the game between 1974-76, appearing in 162 games in '74 and '75 and 160 in '76. He averaged 684 at-bats and 203 hits in the span.

Shut your mouth: Cash came up with a slogan, "Yes We Can," when he arrived with Philadelphia in 1974, writing it on T-shirts for his teammates. He also appeared on a song called "Phillies Fever," in which Cash, Garry Maddox, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt talk over a funkified, '70s beat.

No one understands him but his woman: Cash left his first managing job, with the Batavia Clippers, in mid-season in 1990 after his wife had a run-in with the team's mascot. His wife had missed a Batavia home run because Chipper the Clipper was in front of her. When she asked the mascot to move, the large blue bird shook its butt at her, causing her to complain to the GM, and an argument ensued.

(A word about the back): This is the ninth Topps rookie all-star we've come across in the set. By my count we're missing an outfielder and that's it.