Wednesday, December 27, 2017

no. 738 - russ gibson

Who is the man: Russ Gibson had completed his first season with the Giants when this card was issued. He played in a mere 24 games, much less than he was used to playing for his hometown Red Sox.

Can ya dig it: Gibson has five Topps cards. This is the only one in which he isn't squatting in a catcher's pose.

Right on: Gibson is a circle dotter.

You see that cat Gibson is a bad mother: Gibson nearly caught a no-hitter in his major league debut. The Red Sox were playing the Yankees and fellow rookie Billy Rohr was pitching. Rohr had a no-hitter until the final out in the ninth when Elston Howard hit a single. Rohr finished with a one-hitter and the Red Sox won, 3-0. Gibson went 2-for-4 and scored a run.

Shut your mouth: Gibson spent 10 years in the minors before he made his big league debut. In 1966, he was a late cut by the Red Sox and drove from Florida to Arizona to join the minor league team. When he got there, he told Red Sox manager Dick Williams that he was thinking of quitting. Williams told Gibson, "Don't quit. I'll make you a player-coach." But instead Gibson didn't quit and was on a major league roster the next year.

No one understands him but his woman: Gibson was the starting catcher in Game 1 of the 1967 World Series. He's noted for a play in which he tagged out the Cardinals' Julian Javier, although photos showed he may have tagged Javier with an empty glove.

(A word about the back): The Giants' starting catcher, Dick Dietz, played in 148 games in 1970, so there wasn't much room for a backup catcher.

Friday, December 22, 2017

no. 737 - preston gomez

Who is the man: Preston Gomez managed the second-year Padres to another last-place finish in 1970. It'd be more of the same in 1971.

Can ya dig it: Gomez sure looks like he knows what he's doing for someone leading a team that lost 99 games.

Right on: Another spotless and sharp 1971 high number. Love it.

You see that cat Gomez is a bad mother: Gomez was the Dodgers' third base coach when they reached the World Series in 1965 and 1966 and 1977 and 1978.

Shut your mouth: Gomez's first name is actually "Pedro". He was nicknamed "Preston" after his hometown of Central Preston, Cuba.

No one understands him but his woman: Gomez is known for lifting pitcher Clay Kirby in the eighth inning for a pinch-hitter while Kirby was pitching a no-hitter against the Mets. The Padres were trailing 1-0 but after Kirby was out of the game, the Mets added two more runs to win 3-0. The Padres still haven't pitched a no-hitter.

(A word about the back): A testimonial from Smokey!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

no. 736 - mel queen

Who is the man: Mel Queen was back in the majors in 1970 after spending most of 1969 in the minors with the Reds. The Angels purchased him in late October, 1969.

Can ya dig it: A rare full-body nonaction shot from 1971. Nice.

Right on: I don't know what I did to deserve such a sharp specimen of a high-numbered 1971.

You see that cat Queen is a bad mother: Queen is one of those fascinating major leaguers who played in the big leagues as both a pitcher and a position player. He can be found on cards early in his career listed as an outfielder. But the best one is his 1967 Topps card in which his position is listed as "P-OF".

Shut your mouth: Queen later became a very well-known pitching coach, development coach and farm coordinator in the Blue Jays organization during their heyday in the 1990s. Queen is credited with developing several notable Jays, the last of which was Roy Halladay. "There's no one I made that drastic a change to and verbally abused the way I did Doc," Queen once said after Halladay won his first Cy Young Award in 2003.

No one understands him but his woman: Queen was married to the sister of pitcher Jim Lonborg.

(A word about the back): Queen's game-winning hit in the final game of the 1970 season came after the White Sox had gone ahead in the top of the 13th on a home run by Bill Melton. Queen was pinch-hitting for catcher Joe Azcue.

Monday, December 18, 2017

no. 735 - mike shannon

Who is the man: Mike Shannon endured a difficult 1970 season after being diagnosed with a kidney disease in spring training. He was allowed to return to playing in May, but he struggled and by August his condition had worsened and doctors ended his season.

Can ya dig it: This is Shannon's final Topps card issued during his career.

Right on: The setting for this photo is very similar to the one on his 1970 card, except Shannon is not wearing a jacket under his uniform on his '70 card.

You see that cat Shannon is a bad mother: Shannon hit a couple of key World Series home runs for the Cardinals. He launched a game-tying home run off of Whitey Ford in Game 1 of the 1964 Series. In 1967, he hit a homer off of the Red Sox's Gary Bell in the second inning of Game 3, putting the Cardinals up 3-0 in an eventual 5-3 victory.

Shut your mouth: Shannon has been a broadcaster for the Cardinals for more than 45 years. He started the year after his baseball career ended, joining Jack Buck in the booth.

No one understands him but his woman: Shannon married his longtime girlfriend, Lori Bergman in 2015. His first wife of 48 years, Judy, died of cancer in 2007.

(A word about the back): Sorry, hopeful Topps bio writer, Shannon would not be back before the end of the season. Those are his career-final totals.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

no. 734 - rob gardner

Who is the man: Rob Gardner spent most of the 1970 season pitching for Triple A Syracuse in the Yankees' organization. Playing an hour away from his hometown of Binghamton, he put on a sterling display, going 16-5 with a 2.53 earned run average.

Can ya dig it: Gardner is wearing a Cubs uniform, which he had not worn since the 1967 season. This is an ooold photo.

Right on: This is Gardner's first Topps card since the 1968 set.

You see that cat Gardner is a bad mother: Gardner pitched 15 scoreless innings in his fifth major league appearance, a no-decision against Chris Short and the Phillies in 1965. The game between the Mets and Phillies was called a tie after 18 innings due to curfew.

Shut your mouth: Rob's first name is actually Richard. His mother called him "Robin" as a nickname but Gardner hated it, so it was shortened to "Rob" and stuck.

No one understands him but his woman: Gardner found out he was starting his first major league game from watching TV in his hotel room. He was called up from Buffalo and arrived too late to to go to the ballpark. He went to his hotel, switched the game on and saw on the scoreboard that he was starting the next day.

(A word about the back): That one victory that Gardner received for the Yankees in 1970 was his 20th victory of the season.

Monday, December 11, 2017

no. 733 - lee maye

Who is the man: Lee Maye played most of the 1970 season with the Senators. He was acquired off of waivers by the White Sox in September of that year.

Can ya dig it: This is subtle airbrushing compared with some of the other final-series airbrush jobs.

Right on: This is Maye's final card of his career.

You see that cat Maye is a bad mother: Maye's best season came in 1964 with the Braves when he led the National League in doubles with 44.

Shut your mouth: Maye also tried to hold down a singing career while playing baseball. His song "Half Way (Out of Love)" that came out in 1963 sold nearly 500,000 copies. Maye said he would go home from the ballpark and sing into a tape recorder. That's how he wrote songs.

No one understands him but his woman: Maye struggled to find a job in baseball after his playing career ended. He had several fights with teammates and disagreements with others in the game and he encountered racism as well.

(A word about the back): One of the more interesting write-ups in 1971 Topps, but I don't think Maye was actually a member of the Platters. He sang with friends of his, a few of which went on to become part of the Platters, the Penguins, and other singing groups.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

no. 732 - bob reed

Who is the man: Bob Reed enjoyed his longest stay in the major leagues in 1970, appearing in 16 games for the Tigers.

Can ya dig it: I love seeing wide expanses of green with the grandstand in the distance, as well as a vehicle and possibly palm trees.

Right on: Those giant "TV" numbers are so 1960s.

You see that cat Reed is a bad mother: Reed was a fourth-round selection by the Tigers in the very first major league draft in 1965. He was one of just nine players selected by the Tigers that year that made the majors.

Shut your mouth: This is Reed's only solo Topps card. He also appears on a two-player rookie prospects card in the 1970 set.

No one understands him but his woman: Reed was done pitching in the majors in 1970 and through with pro baseball period by 1972. There's not much else out there about him.

(A word about that back): That "Life" line truly is. That's the life of his major league career.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

no. 731 - jim qualls

Who is the man: Jim Qualls spent most of 1970 in the minors in the Cubs and Expos organizations. He was then traded to the Reds on March 31, 1971.

Can ya dig it: I'm certain that on a clear day you can spot this card from 10 miles away.

Right on: I just love this card for the ludicrously loud airbrushed cap. Yep, that's definitely a RED(s) hat!

You see that cat Qualls is a bad mother: Qualls is known in Mets history as the guy who broke up Tom Seaver's perfect game with a one-out single in the ninth inning in July, 1969.

Shut your mouth: Qualls said he received hate mail after breaking up Seaver's no-hitter -- from kids. "You could tell by the handwriting it was just kids, little Mets fans: 'You bum, don't show up in New York.'" Qualls said.

No one understands him but his woman: Qualls played two years in Japan after his major league career ended in 1972. He said he enjoyed playing there, but once when he was asked to play right field in Hiroshima, he said, "No way, not a white guy, not there. There were bottles coming out of the stands!'"

(A word about the back): The late trade has Topps all confused: "Jim is Expos' only switch-hitter." The bright red cap says otherwise.

Friday, December 1, 2017

no. 730 - jim rooker

Who is the man: Jim Rooker won 10 games in his second full season with the Royals in 1970. He was the only starter on the staff to reach double figures in wins.

Can ya dig it: The scoreboard is the star of the show on this card. I'm assuming that's a Coca-Cola sign.

Right on: Going through a pitching motion in the outfield with the warning track in the background isn't fooling anyone.

You see that cat Rooker is a bad mother: Rooker was a mainstay in the Pirates' starting rotations of the mid-1970s and one of the team's most consistent pitchers.

Shut your mouth: Rooker famously said, "if we don't win, I'll walk back to Pittsburgh," when he was broadcasting a Pirates game from Philadelphia in 1989. The Pirates scored 10 runs in the top of the first, prompting Rooker's statement in the bottom of the first. The Phillies wound up winning the game, 15-11. After the season, Rooker fulfilled his promise with a charity walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.

No one understands him but his woman: Rooker ran for political office twice. He lost both times.

(A word about the back): Rooker hit .201 for his career, but, by far, his best hitting seasons were the 1969 season mentioned (.281, 4 home runs) and the 1974 season (.305, 5 doubles, 2 triples).