Friday, December 30, 2016

no. 612 - indians rookie stars

Who is the man: Ted Ford and Steve Mingori enjoyed their first appearances in major league games in 1970, while Lou Camilli first appeared in the majors in 1969. All three players were stars on the Triple A Wichita Aeros team in 1970.

Can ya dig it: Chief Wahoo is photo-bombing Ford's picture.

Right on: Camilli may have appeared in the major leagues first, but he's the only one of the three here to never receive his own solo Topps card.

You see these rookies are bad mothers: "Cleveland Indians" and "bad-ass" do not go together in the 1970s.

Shut your mouth: Camilli, who played sparingly for the Indians from 1969-72 once said, "They ought to change our name to the Cleveland Light Company. We don't have anything but utility men."

No one understands him but his woman: Steve Mingori was a Leap Year Day baby, born on Feb. 29, 1944. He is one of only 13 major leaguers to be born on Feb. 29.

(A word about the back): We have every possible batting preference on the back of this card. Bats right, bats left and bats both.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

no. 611 - tom phoebus

Who is the man: Tom Phoebus experienced a disappointing 1970 season with the Orioles, although he made his only World Series appearance that season and received the victory. In December, he was traded to the Padres in the deal that landed Baltimore pitcher Pat Dobson.

Can ya dig it: The card is trying to convince you that a Padre was in Yankee Stadium in 1970. ... Well, as much as they can convince you with a guy who appears to have no team affiliation whatsoever.

Right on: Phoebus looks like a cross between 1960s Western actors Ernest Borgnine and Dan Blocker.

You see that cat Phoebus is a bad mother: Phoebus pitched complete-game shutouts in his first two major league starts in September 1966.

Shut your mouth: When Phoebus was traded from the World Champion Orioles to the cellar-dwelling Padres, he tried to remain positive, saying, "I believe the desire to win overcomes everything." Phoebus won three games for the Padres in 1971 and San Diego finished last for a third straight season.

No one understands him but his woman: Phoebus threw the first no-hitter of the 1968 season, against the Red Sox. His catcher for that game was Curt Blefary, who played relatively few games behind the plate. But in '68 the Orioles dealt with injuries and Blefary caught 40 games that season. Phoebus didn't mind because the two were good friends in the minors.

(A word about the back): The "S.D." on Phoebus' hat is not right at all.

Friday, December 23, 2016

no. 610 - amos otis

Who is the man: Amos Otis was coming off a breakout year in 1970 -- his first full season in the majors and his first season with the Royals -- when this card was issued. Somewhere in that time frame, the Mets, who had traded Otis for Joe Foy the previous offseason, were muttering "crap, what have we done?"

Can ya dig it: Otis seems pretty happy with his new team.

Right on: Excellent signature. Also, this is Otis' first card in a Royals uniform. He is cropped so closely on his 1970 card that you can't tell he's really a Met.

You see that cat Otis is a bad mother: Otis was named an All-Star four straight years and won three Gold Gloves. He played for the Royals in the postseason five of six years between 1976-81.

Shut your mouth: Otis was one of those players who made the game look effortless and, as usual, some interpreted that as giving no effort. Otis was called lackadaisical and moody all the while making one-handed catches better than anyone.

No one understands him but his woman: Otis was the 19th strikeout victim during Steve Carlton's 19-whiff game in 1969 (it was the first 19-strikeout game at the time).

(A word about the back): Otis' 176 hits in 1970 was the high for his 17-year career.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

no. 609 - leo durocher

Who is the man: Leo Durocher, in his fifth year as the Cubs' manager, led Chicago to a second straight second-place finish in the NL East in 1970. The Cubs finished five games behind the Pirates, but one game ahead of the Mets, who frustrated the Cubs in 1969.

Can ya dig it: This card is way off-center, but it's much more obvious here. I don't even notice it when it's in my '71 binder.

Right on: Durocher looks like someone's drunk uncle in this photo. The photo also is suspiciously similar to his photo on this card.

You see that cat Durocher is a bad mother: Durocher managed the Dodgers to their first pennant in 21 years in 1941, the Giants to their first pennant in 14 years in 1951 and won the Giants a World Series in 1954. Oh, and he also said "nice guys finish last." That's pretty bad-ass, although not very nice. (He actually said something like "the nice guys are all over there, in seventh place" but why let a quote get in the way of a good story?)

Shut your mouth: Durocher was nicknamed "The Lip" early in his playing career because of his nonstop talking. He famously did not get along with his fellow Yankees when he started with them in the late 1920s. Babe Ruth called him "the All-American Out".

No one understands him but his woman: Durocher was married and divorced three times. His third wife, Laraine Day, divorced him in 1960, but accepted his Hall of Fame award on his induction day in 1994. Durocher had died three years earlier.

 (A word about the back): I mentioned on the last manager card how odd it was to see someone born in 1911 on the back of a card. Well Durocher was born in 1906!

Monday, December 19, 2016

no. 608 - mike wegener

Who is the man: Mike Wegener spent his second season in the Expos' starting rotation in 1970. But it wasn't nearly as successful as his 1969 season, and he found himself in the bullpen more often.

Can ya dig it: Is that the stadium in the distance? Wegener looks like he's way out in a pasture somewhere. Granted, it's a pasture with palm trees.

Right on: This is the second straight post of a player's final card.

You see that cat Wegener is a bad mother: Wegener went 3-for-4 with four runs batted in during a start against the Mets on July 11, 1969. A solid-hitting pitcher with a career .193 batting average, Wegener delivered a three-run double in the third inning of that game in which he pitched seven innings and got the win.

Shut your mouth: Wegener spent 14 years in pro ball but just two in the majors. After 1970, he toiled for seven years in the Expos, Mets and Giants farm systems.

No one understands him but his woman: Wegener gave up Willie Mays' 3,000th hit on July 18, 1970.

(A word about the back): Wegener missed most of the first two months of the 1970 season after offseason surgery for bone chips in his throwing elbow.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

no. 607 - paul ratliff

Who is the man: Paul Ratliff enjoyed the most playing time he received in any of his four major league seasons in 1970. He appeared in 69 games in his first stay in the majors since 1963.

Can ya dig it: This is Ratliff's only solo card. He appears on a four-player rookie card in the 1963 Topps set and a two-player rookie card seven years later (ouch) in the 1970 set.

Right on: Not a bad card for your only card.

You see that cat Ratliff is a bad mother: It's a stretch, but Ratliff was hit by a pitch seven times in 1970 (in just 149 at-bats), which was good for 10th in the American League that year. Had to be a tough guy to do that, right?

Shut your mouth: Ratliff is remembered for a bit of a bonehead play during a game against the Tigers. Pitcher Earl Wilson struck out for the final out of the inning, but Ratliff trapped the pitch, requiring him to either tag Wilson or throw to first. Instead, Ratliff rolled the ball to the pitcher's mound and walked off the field. Wilson proceeded to sprint around the bases, getting all the way past third, before the Twins retrieved the ball and caught Wilson in a rundown between third and home.

No one understands him but his woman: Ratliff, who was traded to the Brewers in the middle of the 1971 season, actually appears on another card, although his photo is credited to someone else, Ellie Rodriguez.

(A word about the back): Ratliff's biggest thrill came during the Twins' 10th game of the 1963 season on April 20. The two-run single only brought the Twins within 10-7 of the White Sox, who entered the ninth with a 10-4 lead. So it's not quite as exciting as it was written.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

no. 606 - chuck taylor

Who is the man: Chuck Taylor was in the middle of his third major league season and third season with the Cardinals when this card was issued. He appeared in more games (56) than any other Cardinals pitcher in 1970 and recorded eight saves.

Can ya dig it: This is a beautiful card. Vibrant colors with the blue sky, green grass, dirt sideline and the Cardinals red. And you get a nice view of the MLB logo patch.

Right on: I frequently wonder how often Taylor was asked whether he had anything to do with the name of the popular sneaker (although back in the '70s I remember them simply being called "Converse").

You see that cat Taylor is a bad mother: Taylor made an immediate impact as a 27-year-old rookie for the Cardinals in 1969. He was put into a starting rotation with Bob Gibson, Nelson Briles and Steve Carlton and proceeded to win six straight games.

Shut your mouth: During Taylor's rookie year, famed Cardinals announcer Jack Buck said, "Anyone named 'Chuck Taylor' from 'Bell Buckle, Tennessee' (the site of Taylor's high school) has to be a winner."

No one understands him but his woman: Taylor is the only major league "Chuck Taylor" in history, but there's another one on the way. The Mariners just selected minor league outfielder Chuck Taylor from the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 draft a few days ago.

(A word about the back): I can't stress how weird it is to read "a veteran of Little League ... baseball".

Friday, December 9, 2016

no. 605 - orlando cepeda

Who is the man: Orlando Cepeda was coming off the best season of his three-plus years with the Braves when this card was issued. He slugged 34 home runs, hit .305 and shockingly didn't receive a single MVP vote.

Can ya dig it: No one has come out to see Cepeda. Even the dugout is empty.

Right on: All of Cepeda's Topps Braves cards are the same. Batting stance, batting stance, batting stance.

You see that cat Cepeda is a bad mother: Cepeda is another guy who absolutely mauled the ball in 1961. He hit 46 home runs and drove in 142 for the Giants, finishing second in the MVP vote to Frank Robinson.

Shut your mouth: Cepeda and Giants manager Alvin Dark did not get along. At one point, Dark kept a public ratings system on his players. Cepeda rated a negative 40 compared with Willie Mays' 100. "There are winning .275 hitters and losing .310 hitters," Dark said.

No one understands him but his woman: Cepeda served 10 months of a five-year prison sentence in Puerto Rico for possessing 165 pounds of marijuana. The Puerto Rican native became a disgrace in his country and lost all of his money before returning to the United States and fixing his life.

(A word about the back): The write-up kind of makes you believe he achieved all of those numbers with San Francisco. But that .325 and MVP was with St. Louis.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

no. 604 - john gelnar

Who is the man: John Gelnar enjoyed the most productive season of his five-year career in 1970, appearing in a career-high 53 games for the Brewers, the most on the staff.

Can ya dig it: It's another Brewer in Yankee Stadium. We must've come across a dozen of these by now.

Right on: This is Gelnar's final card. He had only two solo cards for Topps (1970, 1971).

You see that cat Gelnar is a bad mother: Gelnar was the first relief pitcher in Milwaukee Brewers history. He came on in relief for starter Lew Krausse in the fourth inning against the Angels on April 7, 1970. Unfortunately, he didn't do so well, turning a 4-0 deficit into a 7-0 deficit in four batters.

Shut your mouth: Gelnar, who went 3-10 for the Pilots in 1969, is a figure in some stories in Jim Bouton's "Ball Four". In one anecdote, Gelnar was recounting a conversation on the mound with manager Joe Schultz. The Tigers had two men on base and Gelnar wondered about the next batter, Tom Matchick: "Any particular way you want me to pitch him, Joe?" Gelnar asked. "Nah, bleep him," Schultz said. "Give him some low smoke and we'll go and pound some Budweiser."

No one understands him but his woman: Gelnar helped the Royals get Lou Piniella away from the Pilots. Seattle traded Piniella for Gelnar and Steve Whitaker.

(A word about the back): Gelnar's first major league games were with the Pirates. His first strikeout victim was the Cubs' Billy Williams.

Monday, December 5, 2016

no. 603 - pirates

Who is the man: The Pittsburgh Pirates won their first division title since 1960 when they took the NL East by five games over the Cubs in 1970. Pittsburgh was then swept by the Reds in the NLCS. But the Pirates would have the last laugh in 1971.

Can ya dig it: This was an organization on the cusp of their greatest decade since the 1920s. It's cool to see them at the beginning.

Right on: Just in case you didn't know who the bat boy was, he's seated in the front wearing three bats.

You see that cat Murtaugh is a bad mother: Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh is seated directly above the bat boy.

Shut your mouth: I was practically giddy because this team photo is the first to feature players with jersey numbers on the front in a long time. But then I found the same team photo with ID's underneath, so it's very easy to spot everyone. Roberto Clemente is the first guy seated on the left in the front row. Bill Mazeroski is at the opposite end of that row. Manny Sanguillen is two people to the left of Mazeroski. Al Oliver is the first player on the left in the middle row. Steve Blass is standing near the center of the back row between two large pitchers, Bob Veale on the left and Dock Ellis on the right. Finally, Willie Stargell is the second guy in from the right in the back row.

No one understands him but his woman: The traveling secretary never gets IDed. Let's get him in here. He's John Fitzpatrick and he's standing at the far right of the middle row next to pitcher Luke Walker.

(A word about the back): A little surprisingly (although not that much if you really look at the numbers), almost all of the Pirates' individual all-time season marks remain intact on this card. The only more recent player to crack the list is Kent Tekulve, who now holds the Pirates mark for most games pitched in a season with 94 in 1979.