Tuesday, February 28, 2017

no. 633 - rookie stars, american league

Who is the man: Both Bobby Brooks and Pete Koegel managed just seven games in the majors in 1970, spending the vast majority of their seasons in Double A or Triple A. Scott Northey didn't even sniff the majors in 1970.

Can ya dig it: This is a very nice-looking card (except for Koegel's blacked-out cap).

Right on: Koegel is posed in front of that familiar hill that is part of Tempe Diablo Stadium, which was the spring training site for the Brewers in the early 1970s. My guess on why Koegel's hat is blacked out is possibly because he's wearing a Pilots cap (the Pilots trained at Tempe Diablo in 1969 and 1970).

You see these rookies are bad mothers: It is quite likely that there is no more less bad-ass card in this set than this one. Not one of these three received a solo card. Northey's major league career was already done at this point.

Shut your mouth: Northey's father, Ron Northey, played for the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds and White Sox in the 1940s and 50s. He died the same year this card was issued.

No one understands him but his woman: Bobby Brooks was nicknamed "The Hammer" while coming up through the A's organization. He declined to be compared with Hank Aaron and suggested he was "The Little Hammer".

(A word about the back): Some sizeable "life" totals, almost all spent in the minors. All three of these players played their first professional season in 1965.

Friday, February 24, 2017

no. 632 - darrel chaney

Who is the man: Darrel Chaney's average increased 41 points in 1970 over his rookie year in 1969, but he played in just 57 games, mostly because a young player named Dave Concepcion had taken over at shortstop.

Can ya dig it: That appears to be artificial turf. I'm not used to seeing artificial turf anymore. It looks weird.

Right on: The position designation says "infield," but Chaney played the vast majority of games (all but three) at shortstop or second.

You see that cat Chaney is a bad mother: Chaney played in three World Series with the Reds, 1970, 1972 and 1975.

Shut your mouth: During the early 1980s, Chaney rigged the doorbell to his home so that when it was pressed, it would air Reds announcer Marty Brennaman's excited calling of Chaney's grand slam for the Reds during a game in 1974. "When you don't hit many homers in the big leagues, you have to cherish one like that," Chaney said.

No one understands him but his woman: Chaney and his wife, Cindy, are closing in on their 50th wedding anniversary. They've been married 49 years.

(My observation on the back): All I can think of when I see that Juan Marichal gave up Chaney's first home run is the famous Bob Gibson line about how he knew it was time to retire when he gave up a home run to Pete LaCock.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

no. 631 - eddie fisher

Who is the man: Eddie Fisher appeared in 67 games for the Angels in 1970, his most appearances in a season since 1966 with the World Champion Orioles.

Can ya dig it: I think there's a guy standing up on the top edge of the stands below Fisher's right arm.

Right on: Fisher was very confusing to a kid like me who was in a perpetual haze about famous people before my time. At one point I thought that Fisher played baseball and was also a famous singer (confusing him with the '50s crooner of the same name). Then there was the chess player Bobby Fischer and I somehow thought there was a guy who pitched and played chess.

You see that cat Fisher is a bad mother: In 1965, Fisher appeared in 82 games for the White Sox. He saved 24 and won 15, finishing fourth in the AL MVP voting. There was just one Cy Young Award then and Sandy Koufax won unanimously in '65. Fisher may have received the AL award if there was one (or perhaps they wouldn't give it to a reliever then).

Shut your mouth: In 1973, the White Sox featured two knuckleball pitchers on their starting staff, Wilbur Wood and Fisher.

No one understands him but his woman: Fisher knew how to throw the knuckleball when he played for the University of Oklahoma, but coach Jack Baer didn't like the pitch and didn't want him using it. One game, Fisher was struggling and tried a knuckleball, which the batter hit for a double. Baer told Fisher afterward, "Now you know what you can do with that (pitch)."

(A word about the back): I still can't get used to these '71 bios. The guy plays for the '66 Orioles and they've got to talk about Legion ball.

Monday, February 20, 2017

no. 630 - roberto clemente

Who is the man: Roberto Clemente struggled with a wrist injury and continued back problems in 1970, limiting him to 108 games. But he led the National League in batting right up until September until his back restricted his playing time.

Can ya dig it: Clemente's signature is a piece of art.

Right on: This is the last card I needed to complete this set. I didn't receive it until after I started the blog, but I was confident I'd land it before 629 cards had passed. I was fortunate that Captain Canuck sent me this copy.

You see that Clemente is a bad mother: One of the most revered ballplayers of all-time. The demand for Major League Baseball to retire his number 21 remains strong and that doesn't happen without being a bad-ass.

Shut your mouth: Clemente says he was kidnapped while on a road trip with the Pirates in San Diego during the 1969 season. Four men forced him into a car at gunpoint, stole his wallet and All-Star ring and Clemente feared he would die. The men eventually returned Clemente's items and brought him back to his hotel. He didn't discuss the incident publicly for more than a year. And it's the first time I've heard about it.

No one understands him but his woman: Topps, after calling Clemente by his proper first name in his first two cards (1955 and 1956), inexplicably starting referring to him as "Bob" in the 1957 set and didn't stop with that nonsense until he was back to "Roberto" in the 1970 set.

(A word about the back): Clemente is one of only two players to compete post-1950 to finish in the top 30 all-time in triples (166). The other is Stan Musial (177).

Thursday, February 16, 2017

no. 629 - john hiller

Who is the man: John Hiller was at a turning point in his career when this card was issued. He suffered three heart attacks on Jan. 11, 1971 and there was no guarantee when kids were pulling his card from packs that he would ever play again.

Can ya dig it: Any Hiller card that is not the 1975 Topps Hiller card doesn't look like a Hiller card to me. I pulled the '75 Hiller out of the first pack I ever bought and it was an immediate favorite. I still hold an attachment to that card.

Right on: Hiller wearing the jacket over the uniform makes me think it's going to rain there at Yankee Stadium.

You see that cat Hiller is a bad mother: After Hiller's heart attacks, the Tigers took it easy with the pitcher. They kept him on to be an instructor during the spring of 1972. But Hiller wanted to pitch. By July of '72 Hiller and manager Billy Martin had convinced the Tigers' brass to let Hiller play. He threw better than ever and in 1973 set what was then a major league record 38 saves in a season.

Shut your mouth: Hiller grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, and naturally played hockey. He also played baseball, and during a tryout in Toronto, former major league manager Charlie Dressen told him, "son, I hope you haven't thrown out your hockey skates."

No one understands him but his woman: When Hiller retired in 1980, he was the last remaining member of the 1968 World Series champion Tigers team.

(A word about the back): Hiller's mark of six straight strikeouts to start a game was matched by four other pitchers until the White Sox's Joe Cowley began a game with seven straight strikeouts in 1986. Later in '86, the Astros' Jim Deshaies struck out eight in a row to begin a game and that's where the modern-day record stands. The Mets' Jacob deGrom also struck out his first eight batters in 2014.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

no. 628 - john bateman

Who is the man: John Bateman enjoyed the most playing time of his 10-year career in 1970, appearing in 139 games and compiling 520 at-bats in his second year with the Expos.

Can ya dig it: I have to bring it up again: that windbreaker-under-the-jersey look just seemed like part of the uniform to us kids during the 1970s.

Right on: I wish the signature wasn't right over the MLB patch.

You see that cat Bateman is a bad mother: Bateman is the only catcher to catch a team's first no-hitter for two organizations. He caught the Astros' first no-hitter, by Don Nottebart, in 1963. He caught the Expos' first no-hitter, by Bill Stoneman, in 1969.

Shut your mouth: Bateman died in 1996, but he lives on with his own Twitter account in which he chronicles the 1972 Expos season.

No one understands him but his woman: Bateman played his entire career with one kidney and was named sports chairman of the Canadian Kidney Foundation. He told the foundation he lost the kidney due to a high school football injury, but he never played football in high school. He actually lost the kidney during a drunken barroom fall.

(A word about the back): Bateman's birthdate is incorrect. He fibbed and said he was born in 1942 when he was actually born in 1940. The inaccuracy wasn't discovered until after his retirement.

Friday, February 10, 2017

no. 627 - steve hamilton

Who is the man: Steve Hamilton was picked up on waivers by the White Sox in early September, 1970. The Yankees let Hamilton loose after he spent 8 years with the club and went 4-3 in 35 relief appearances with a 2.78 ERA that season.

Can ya dig it: If you can't dig the "I" dotted with a star in Hamilton's name then what can you dig? Hamilton isn't the only player who did that (Tito Fuentes), but he's one of the more famous examples.

Right on: This airbrush/crop job would have worked quite well 20 years later and looks not all that jarring in retrospect. But this was long before the White Sox featured black pinstripe uniforms. (EDIT: White Sox wore black pinstripes in the 1960s).

You see that cat Hamilton is a bad mother: Hamilton played two seasons for the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers and is one of only two athletes to compete in the NBA Finals and the World Series. Gene Conley is the other.

Shut your mouth: During the 1964 season, Hamilton's son, Robert, was born. Young Robert woke up his father five times one night and when Hamilton finally did get to sleep, "I had a hideous dream," he said. "I got traded to the Mets and they were just about to start a 60-game road trip. I couldn't get back to sleep after that."

No one understands him but his woman: I first came across Hamilton while reading a Sports Illustrated story on baseball players and chewing tobacco. The article emphasized the nastiness of the habit and mentioned a time when Hamilton swallowed his chaw while on the pitching mound. He then proceeded to throw up all over the back of the mound. I believe that is what prevented me from ever considering chewing tobacco.

(A word about the back): About that "folly floater," which he first unveiled in 1969. The most cited story is when he broke it out against Indians hitter Tony Horton. Horton swung at it and fouled it off. Horton then motioned for Hamilton to throw it again, which Hamilton did. This is where the story relies on artistic license. The common version says Horton fouled off the pitch again, into Thurman Munson's glove, and then crawled back to the dugout on all fours. But if you watch the video, Munson ran for awhile before catching the pop up. And Horton didn't start crawling until he was maybe four steps away from the dugout.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

no. 626 - freddie patek

Who is the man: Freddie Patek was enjoying his first season with the Royals when this card was issued. After enduring a disappointing 1970 season after starting at shortstop for the Pirates in 1969, Patek was traded to Kansas City in six-player deal.

Can ya dig it: Patek returns to being called "Freddie" by Topps after a one-year experiment with "Fred" in the 1970 set.

Right on: He's a Pirate in this photo! Yellow piping! You can't fool me!

You see that cat Patek is a bad mother: Patek was the shortest player in baseball during the 1970s, yet started for the Royals from 1971-79 and led the league in stolen bases in 1977.

Shut your mouth: Patek was in the running for the AL MVP award in 1971 but says he choked near the end of the season. "The last month I had too many reporters coming up to me and saying, 'You know what? You're the MVP," and I went from about .300 to about .260 or .270. And I thought, 'You idiot.'"

No one understands him but his woman: Patek and his wife, Jerri, raise money for his Kim Patek Foundation and the Spinal Cord Society. The Pateks' daughter, Kim, was paralyzed from the neck down in an auto accident in 1992. She died in 1995.

(A word about the back): Patek's height is listed here as 5-foot-5. That's down an inch from his 1969 card, where he's listed at 5-6. Beginning in 1973, he would be listed as 5-4 for the rest of his career and that's the height that I knew for him. But Patek says 5-5 is closer to his actual height.

Monday, February 6, 2017

no. 625 - lou brock

Who is the man: Lou Brock achieved his first .300 season since 1964 by hitting .304 in 1970 with 202 hits, his third 200-hit season.

Can ya dig it: For whatever reason, I'm just noticing now that Brock is carrying a bat. It's an odd crop because you can't see his hands.

Right on: I love Brock's cards. He was a baseball titan when I was just getting to know this game. I've never gotten over that.

You see that cat Brock is a bad mother: People had started talking about Brock losing a step during the early 1970s. So he went out and set the record for most stolen bases in a season with a staggering 118 in 1974.

Shut your mouth: Brock used to take 8-millimeter movies of pitchers during practice so he could study their deliveries and moves to first base. Don Drysdale noticed it one day and asked Brock what he was doing. "Taking home movies," Brock said. Drysdale said, "I don't want to be in any of your movies, Brock." The next time Drysdale faced Brock, he knocked him down.

No one understands him but his woman: Brock had one of the most oft-cited offseason jobs as owner and operator of a flower shop. He even appeared in a commercial for the phone book Yellow Pages from his shop in 1974.

(A word about the back): Brock may have set a record for his 6th straight year of 50 or more stolen bases in 1970, but for the first time since 1965, he didn't lead the National League in stolen bases. The Reds' Bobby Tolan broke Brock's streak with 57 to Brock's 51. (Brock would start a new streak in 1971 that lasted until 1975).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

no. 624 - athletics

Who is the man: On the verge of greatness, the Oakland A's had finished the 1970 season in second place in the AL West. Beginning in 1971, they would win the division five straight seasons.

Can ya dig it: I can dig an A's uniform from the 1970s.

Right on: Not just any team can wear yellow socks.

You see that cat McNamara is a bad mother: It's a little difficult to pinpoint manager John McNamara in this photo. Obviously he's one of the six dudes in the front in the color-coded white hats. McNamara wore No. 11 for the A's, so he could be to the left of the sitting bat boy.

Shut your mouth: Most of the players are covering up their numbers with their arms, but I can spot a few of them. In the front row, second from the left is pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom. At the far right in the front row is catcher Frank Fernandez. In the back row, Rollie Fingers is the sixth guy in from the left. Pitcher Diego Segui is the third guy from the right. Pitcher Jim Roland is to the left of Segui. I believe pitcher Chuck Dobson is the tall guy on the far right.

No one understands him but his woman: In every '70s team photo there seems to be a guy wearing a brown blazer with brown slacks.

(A word about the back): The A's put up some giant numbers in their early history. Almost all of the above records remain. The only new addition is reliever Billy Koch, who cracked the above list with 84 appearances for the 2002 A's.