Tuesday, December 28, 2010

#43T - Jim Wynn "Traded" (LA)

Just to reiterate, Jim Wynn was traded for the player just previous to him in this set, Claude Osteen, shown on card #42.  What I've noticed about cards in the Trades set is that many of the trades take place in December of the previous year, while trades made after the New Year don't make it into the set.  I'll need to follow the dates listed on these cards to figure out a cutoff point for Topps publishing.  Hmmm, now a good way to do that?  Excell spreadsheet?  Back of a used envelope?...  Okay, nevermind.  I just looked at the back of all my Trades cards.  Most of the trades were between December 3 and 7, 1973, with a few as late as Dec. 11, and one in November.  It seems that these deals were probably made at the winter meetings and heavily promoted by Topps in their upcoming set.  The latest trade included in this set was Dec. 11. 

I'm also using the "Airbrush" label on this card.  While there are no grotesque attempts at logo, hat or uniform revisions, there is the small matter of the Dodger blue wool at the tip of the bill on Wynn's cap.  A fairly easy change, maybe fit for an up and coming rookie airbrush artist at Topps.  All in all, I would say this is not a very flattering picture of the Toy Cannon.  It says, "Hey, man, if you mess with me, I'll rearrange your face before I go back to bed." 

Ballpark background: If this is in a ballpark, it has a rather un-major league-like roof held up by spindly columns.  Likely, this was taken at spring training.  So, I cannot determine where it was shot.  Maybe, if Wynn got together with Osteen for whom he was traded at that golf course I think Osteen's shot was taken, then I can imagine that the roof beyond is covering the driving range.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

#43 - Jim Wynn (HOU)

Jim Wynn was also known as the Toy Cannon.  This was a rather colorful nickname, and I never knew if he received this because he had a great arm or not.  Maybe he had a bad temper, but his nickname might have more appropriately been the Loose Cannon.  I wonder who gave him that nickname.  Wynn played most of his career with the Astros including his first few when they were known as the Colt .45's.  Jim was traded during the off season to the Dodgers and appeared in their '74 World Series loss to the A's.  This was as close as he would ever come to a ring.  He played for the '77 Yankees, but was realeased during the season.  He was traded for the card previous in this set, #42 Claude Osteen.  Wynn's Trades card will appear next in this blog.

Wynn had some pop in his bat, hitting 291 homers in his career, but batted for a fairly poor average, only a .250 clip.  Each game I did research for to try to pin this photo down had Jim as the 'Stros leadoff hitter.  He hit only .220 in 1973.
Cartoon:  Look at those musical notes just floating by.  That's a sure indication of jazz.  Snapping one's fingers is Jazz, too.  Hey, this guy's also wearing a long sleeve undershirt, just like Wynn in the photo.  Typical Candlestick day game in June or July.  Frigid winds and players wearing sleeves.

Ballpark background:  Here, Jim hits the ball up in the air at Candlestick Park.  I did some research on the '73 game logs between the Astros and Giants to see if I could place this photo to a specific plate appearance, and I couldn't pin anything down on Wynn.  He popped up a couple of times, and flied out to left, and flied out to center a number of times.  There were also some nondescript accounts such as "Wynn made an out to second" where it doesn't say if he lined out, popped out or grounded out.  For all I know, this shot could have been taken on a foul pop that made the stands during an at bat that had a completely different outcome than a pop up.  Judging by the angle of the sun, it's a day game rather than a night game that starts in the summer still in daylight.  There's a Giants player in the background, and by the look of the angle it's probably the first baseman.  Willie McCovey spent some time on the bench against the Astros in '73, and from the logs it looks like this player might be Dave Kingman, as this player is right handed.

Friday, December 24, 2010

#42T - Claude Osteen "Traded" (HOU)

As airbrush jobs go, this isn't one of the bad ones.  This trade has an interesting twist in the 1974 set.  Osteen was traded for the very next card in the set, #43 Jim Wynn.  How often does that happen?  Something that sticks out is that Claude's nickname, "Gomer," which was shown in the #42 card's cartoon, is in the headline here. 

Ballpark background: This photo may have been taken somewhere other than a ballpark.  Osteen's uniform really doesn't look like a uniform.  I'm guessing that his hat that was airbrushed was NOT a Dodger hat, but rather a golf hat, and those trees in the background are on a fairway somewhere.  Just over his right shoulder next to that tree looks like a sand trap.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

#42 - Claude Osteen (LA)

Claude Osteen pitched for a long time, an 18 year career, most impressively with the Dodgers.  Although he pitched for a successful team in the Dodgers, with a WS victory ('65) and a pennant ('74) the season after his trade, the bookends of Osteen's blue tenure, he finished his career just one game over .500, just shy of both 200 wins and 200 losses.  He was a permanent fixture in the Dodger rotation, albeit not the most successful one.

Claude was traded in the off season to the Astros, so his '74 picture never had its fulfillment.  In fact, he was traded yet again late in the '74 season from the Astros to the Cardinals.  He finished his ML career the following year with the White Sox.  With Osteen's card, every baseball team has now been represented in this 1974 set. 

Cartoon: Well, somebody needs to have a nickname of Goober.  Wonder who it might be?  The cartoonist got the TV series reference right with the combat boots, the helmet and grenade.  I wonder if he ever threw that pitch.  Now that's what would be known as an exploding fastball.  Yuk, yuk, yuk. 

Ballpark background: It really looks to me like there's ivy on the centerfield fence behind him.  I know of only one place that could have happened in a 1973 photo shoot.  Wrigley Field.  I'm a bit troubled by the lighter green above what appears to be the top of the ivy, but from an angle such as this, the wire "fan guard" as it were might look like this.  I know there are some bleacher seats left empty for a batter backdrop, and they are painted green.  I sat there once in the mid 80's.  The "400" distance marker would be a clincher, but maybe Osteen is blocking it due to the camera angle?  I don't know.  If this is Wrigley, it would be the first appearance in the set.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

#41 - Bobby Floyd (KC)

Who?  I remember this card from my youth, but never really thought much of it.  I simply don't have a place in my memory for Floyd. Bobby finished his career just one homer shy of Duane Kuiper.  This was his last card, as he played his last game in June of '74.  Notice his three different names.  His full name is Robert, his card goes by Bobby, but he signs Bob.  There is a discrepancy between the stats on this card and Baseball Reference.  His '73 season shows him going 25 for 78 with a .321 average.  BR gives him an additional hit, 26, for a .333 clip.  Who has the typo?  Was there even a typo?  Could a scoring decision have been reversed after his career was over, giving him an additional hit?  Bobby was traded from the Orioles in mid-June in the 1970 campaign, depriving him of a World Series ring.  He didn't play much at all for the O's that year, having only 2 at bats.  He picked it up in KC at the old Municipal Stadium, hitting .326 in a limited role the rest of the way.

This is the first card in this set of a second baseman.  Forty-one cards in.  And it's not a full 2B card, as Bobby is a utility player who splits time at another IF position.  I have a dummy post that I placed earlier in the set to act as a temporary place holder for labels that haven't been used yet.  So right after I post this, I need to go in and wipe it out from that dummy post.  If you click on the Dodgers team label or the DH position label in the lower right margin, this dummy post will show up.  I think I'm correct that there is still one team yet to appear, the Dodgers.  I know there hasn't been a DH position yet in this set, so after those are done, my dummy post will have served its usefulness.

Cartoon:  Evidently, Bobby never used his hobby against opposing pitchers.  Otherwise he might have broken Hank Aaron's record.

Ballpark background:  Oakland Coliseum.  Where else?  It leads the ballpark backgrounds so far in this set, according to my label list that is keeping count.  Which park will win it all in '74?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#40 - Jim Palmer (BAL)

Nineteen seasons in the big leagues, six World Series appearances, three rings.  I'd say Palmer belongs in the Hall of Fame, for sure.  He was the center of a great Baltimore pitching staff of the late 60's and 70's.  He also did underwear commercials, and the chicks dug him.  Or is that digged him?  My spell checker is placing a squiggly red line under the word digged, so maybe the chicks dug him.  I remember great matchups between the A's and O's in my childhood: Blue, Odom, Hunter and Palmer, Dobson, McNally, Cuellar.  Never were it an easy task to beat the Orioles.  The A's took them down twice in the '73 and '74 ALCS, and the O's won in '71.  I remember this card when I was a kid, but somehow the image isn't what I remember about Jim Palmer.  Maybe it's the shadow from his hat that crosses his eyes.  I don't know.  Either way, it wouldn't have been easy to get a hit off him.

Cartoon: What happened in game 11?  How lucky were his socks then?  Did this have anything to do with underwear?  Socks are classified as underwear, right?

Ballpark background: Palmer is wearing home whites, and the batter's rump is in road gray.  The blueish fence in the background is consistent with other Oriole players in this set whose card photos were obviously taken at Memorial Stadium.  So, that's what I'm guessing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

#39 - Ken Suarez (TEX)

I don't remember this card from my youth, although I'm sure I had it then.  Ken's career seems to be filled with micro facts.  He played very few games, and his '73 campaign with the Rangers was his high point with 90 games played.  He was almost totally at catcher, except in 1968 he played one inning of left field for Cleveland, one inning of "outfield," one out at second base and two outs at third.  I wonder if those non-catcher appearances were in the same game, as if they did this to get somebody else to play all nine positions.

I found out some strange things about Suarez whilst doing some research.  Although he has a 1974 card, he never played in the majors in '74.  His last game was in Sept. of '73.  He was traded to the Indians just before the start of spring training in '74, and was one of the pieces in the Indians late '74 trade with the Angels for Frank Robinson.  I'm wondering if Ken was in the minors for the '74 season (and beyond?) and was involved in two trades as a minor leaguer, and this is the reason why he has no further major league stats.  He has no card in the Trades set.

Cartoon:  Ken is a deputy sheriff, but it doesn't say where.  I'm sure it's not Mayberry.  Well, I wonder.  When did the Andy Griffith show go off the air?  Could Ken have replaced deputy Fife?  He probably would have been good at catching criminals with a baseball bat.  Louisville Slugger?

Ballpark background:  Ken is posing here at the big ballpark in the Bronx.  Yankee Stadium as it is also known. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

#38 - Don Kessinger (CHC)

Don Kessinger was the traditional weak-hitting shortstop that could field well.  Back in those days, if a shortstop could field, he was given a pass on his bat.  No Ripken, A-Rod, Jeter or Tejada of today.  Nope.  And Don was that somewhat tall, skinny kid that naturally ended up at shortstop.  He came along several years after All-Star shortstop Ernie Banks was moved to first base, and after only a few years in the bigs, he became the All-Star shortstop.  The Cubs had a lot of All-Star shortstop action in the 50's to the 70's.  He played 16 seasons in the majors, yet hit only 14 home runs.  He never played in the post-season, either.  One of his All-Star appearances appears on the back of this card under the star - where else?  Two for two isn't bad in the Summer Classic.

I remember seeing Kessinger play short on TV when I was a kid.  I watched him on radio, too, when they played the Giants.  He was the fixture SS for the Cubbies.  This 1974 season would be his last All-Star team. 

Cartoon: Don gained 25 pounds eating the spread in the dressing room prior to the game, and promptly got six hits in six at bats that day.  Oh what a day for Oscar Meyer.  I guess all that MSG made him see stars.  Hey, Doc Ellis pitched a no-hitter on LSD, so why can't Kessinger go 6-for-6 on MSG?

Ballpark background: Here's a shot of Kessinger with an amazing amount of real estate behind him.  Or, third base side at Candlestick Park.  This Astro-turf layout was certainly bigger than the Brady Bunch back yard.  Candlestick and the Oakland Coliseum were the two parks with the most foul territory until the Giants built a new park.  The A's now rule foul ground.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

#37 - Dave Sells (CAL)

Something I just noticed here.  This card is of an American League pitcher, and the back of the card says he bats right.  What does that matter?  He doesn't bat at all.  The DH was in effect starting in '73, there was no interleague play, and the DH wouldn't be used in the World Series until 1976.  I guess this info is put here just in case the manager loses his mind and does something stupid enough to lose the use of the DH rule for that game and his pitcher had to bat.  I'm applying this recent revelation retroactively to all other AL pitcher cards I've done so far. [Update: Dave's batting stats on BR show one game played in 1973, as opposed to 51 pitching appearances in his pitching stats.  I guess the manager did make some move that put Dave in the lineup, but he never got his turn at bat.]

Anyway, on to Dave Sells.  He was strictly a relief pitcher in his four seasons in the majors.  He was called up in August of 1972, then took a major role in the Angels bullpen in '73.  He made 51 appearances, finishing 37 games.  This translates into ten of what we now call "saves."  He spent all of his career in LaLa Land, between the Angels and Dodgers.  In '74 his presence was cut in less than half, and by '75 he was a minor bit player, being traded in a "player to be named later" deal with the Bums, only to make two appearances with them.

Dave was a much better hitter, batting 1.000 for his career, greatly eclipsing Ty Cobb for lifetime average, and out-slugged Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth with a 1.000 slugging percentage and a 2.000 OPS.  He knocked in a run every single plate appearance ever, which is as good as my five year old on Wii Baseball.  Okay, he had one at bat with the Dodgers in '75.  But still.  I wonder if he got to keep the ball.

Cartoon:  This looks like the box office at a movie theater.  Dave is shaking his finger at this poor young woman.  No, I think he may just be a loner and is ordering one ticket.  Ever go to the movies alone on a road trip?  Looks to me from this cartoon that it isn't Dave Sells, it's Dave Buys.

Ballpark background:  Dave is standing on a piece of grass that Babe Ruth spit tobacco on forty five years earlier.  I'd say that description is close enough to figure out that Dave is standing in Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

no# - St Louis Cardinals Checklist

Several things strike me as I look at the front of this card.  One, check out the names in the autographs: Robert Gibson, Louis Brock, Joseph Torre and Kenneth Reitz.  Are these autographs or signatures?  Two, the penmanship back in the 70's was quite different than today.  Reggie Smith, Lou Brock, Ted Sizemore and Tommy Agee are good examples of 3rd grade cursive being put to good use with pride.  Like we see with Reggie Smith's Hancock, there are both readability and flair.  Most of today's autographs, although not really examples of bad ability, are attempts to give a signature way of signing without legibility.  How it looks is what matters.  Autographs of a generation earlier than these 70's have even more flair and craftsmanship, the pen being a sculpturing tool as well.  What's in a name anyway?  I like Jose Cruz's accent on the "e" and McCarver's underlining of the "c."  Three, there are only 12 autographs.  I think there were only 12 for the Orioles card I posted earlier in this set.  I wonder why so few?

I wrote in yesterday's Cardinals team photo that this team didn't click with me as a kid.  In reviewing the names on the back of this checklist, they're all very well known to me.  They just have the least "teamy" feel.  Must have been the astro-turf and average record for a decade.

Cartoon: None, and maybe that's a good thing.

Ballpark background: None

Monday, December 6, 2010

#36 - St Louis Cardinals (STL)

One of the things that immediately stood out to me as I read the back of this card was that the great, all-time Hall of Fame name of not only one of the Cardinal greats of all-time, but one of the all-time greats, Stan Musial, is completely missing.  Huh?  What!!!???  Yeah.  There's Hornsby, Brock, Medwick, and Mize on the offensive side, and Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson on the pitching side.  Stan the Man?  Yoohoo, where are you?  Wow.  Have all of his great feats been surpassed by one player or another over the years?  This is hard to believe.

For some reason, the Cardinals of the 70's don't register too well with me.  I looked at and played with those cards just as much as I did the other teams, but those teams just didn't click with my inner kid.  I recognize all the players just like any other team, but the teams didn't make as much of an impression.

Cartoon:  None.

Ballpark background:  This photo looks like spring training with the big palm tree in the background.  There are scores of onlookers behind the team, and it wouldn't surprise me at a Grapefruit League event.  Team photos taken during the season in a team's home park usually occur with empty stands in the background.

Labels Update

I have updated the Labels page at the top of the blog.  New labels have been added over time to keep track of various things.  I've added a Traded with no Trades card, because there have been players traded before the season and not make it into the Trades set.  I'm also keeping track of players and managers who have won World Series some time in their careers.  I'm also adding an airbrush label to keep track of those wonderful paint jobs.  Horizontal layout cards, too.  Each card I post has the "Cards" label because there are cards from the 660 set, the Trades set and from the team checklists that are not numbered.  Also, I'm adding a "players" label to all cards that show a player, to keep track of the number of player cards total.  I'm sure there will be more added before I'm done, but these are the latest.

I'm open to suggestion from readers as well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

#35 - Gaylord Perry (CLE)

Gaylord Perry is a Hall of Famer with a 22 year career, his longest stint being the first 10 years of his career with the Giants.  He played for seven more teams in the remaining 12 years of his career.  I once saw him in an old-timer's game with all 8 teams across his jersey front.  He played with a great Giants team over his 10 years, with fellow Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey all on the same team.  Of course, the year he was traded to the Indians, he had his career best in wins, ERA, strikeouts and won the AL Cy Young award.  Typical of Giants in those days.  The year after Cepeda was traded, he won the MVP and a World Series with the Cards.  Mays won a pennant with the Mets after he was traded.

In a strange set of events, Gaylord pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson on September 17, 1968, winning 1-0.  The very next day, the Cards returned the favor as Ray Washburn no-hit the Giants in a 2-0 victory.  Back to back no-no's at the 'Stick.  What a series to have tickets for.  Only 14,000 fans saw either game, and I can only wonder how few saw both.  Only 4700 saw that second game.  In a legendary story, a previous manager of Perry's allegedly said that because of his weak hitting he thought a man would be put on the moon before Perry hit a major league home run.  One hour after Apollo 11 landed, Perry hit his first home run.  But, according to snopes.com, this story could very well be an urban legend made up only after Perry hit the round tripper.  Either way, it's a good story, and either way, the Indians had dumb looking hats.
Cartoon:  If Gaylord heads an insurance company, how come he's doing door-to-door selling?  "Hi, I'm a future hall of famer.  You might die at any moment, are you covered?  Also, somebody might get electrocuted by your doorbell button."  I know that line anywhere.  I must admit, I've never sold insurance door-to-door in a baseball hat.  Raffle tickets for Little League, maybe, but never insurance.

Ballpark background:  This is unmistakably the Oakland Coliseum.  Behind Perry is the third base dugout.  Or is it the first base dugout?  You know, I'm thinking the tarps were on the outfield sides of the dugouts, so this is probably the first base dugout.  That would make sense because the first base dugout at the Coliseum has always been the visitor's dugout.

Friday, December 3, 2010

#34 - Andy Kosco (CIN)

Andy Kosco.  Member of the Big Red Machine.  Really?  I simply don't remember him when I was a kid.  I glanced at the 1974 Reds roster - 35 players are listed for the entire season - and Andy is one of only four players I don't readily recognize.  Man, with a 25 man roster, I easily recognize 31?  It's amazing what baseball cards, radio and TV can do to a kid's mind.  That stuff in ingrained in the brain.

Here, Kosco looks like a daunting figure, maybe a Ted Kluszewski Lite.  He just looks like a big man.  As I'm keeping track of in the labels, not many ballplayers in '74 were over 200 lbs.  Andy played 10 seasons in the majors, for 7 teams and had 8 uniform numbers.  As it turns out, 1974 was his last year.  And since he batted only .189 in 37 at bats, I'm sure this was his last card, too.  His last game was on July 30, even though he wasn't released by the Reds until October 25.  His card says he was an outfielder, yet he played third base in '74 more than twice as often as the outfield.

Cartoon:  A home run into the bleachers?  Big deal.  The ball has shoe polish and a bandaid on it, no doubt pitched by Mike Scott.  So how did Big Andy hit it so far?  Well, even thought the fence was 461 feet to left center at Yankee Stadium, this card came out when the Big Ballpark in the Bronx was being remodeled.  The fence was considerably shortened to, like, 399 feet in left center.

Ballpark background:  Okay, this is Shea Stadium again.  Same light tower, same flag.  Same yawn.

Monday, November 29, 2010

#33 - Don Newhauser (BOS)

This is the first Red Sox card in the set, and only the Dodgers are without a card yet.  I certainly know Newhauser more from my ballcard collection than I do from watching baseball.  But isn't that what ballcards are for?  Didn't we as kids learn a lot about baseball from looking at these things thousands of times?  The top star tells us Don was a "short reliever."  This, I think, is 70'sspeak for something akin to a closer.  Or maybe a setup man?  His 1.84 ERA is impressive, but the 38 walks (more than strikeouts!) makes him a suspect as opposed to a prospect, I'm sure.

I haven't checked the '72 or '73 checklists yet, so with Don starting each year in the minors, and never playing in the Bigs after 1974, I'm inclined to believe that this was his only card.  I always like this pitching pose, one of looking in after the follow through.  Beaucoup bodacious sideburns, Don!

Cartoon: Uhm, yeah.  Anybody who has ever watched David Letterman's "Will It Float?" episode with a baseball, or has watched a ball land in McCovey Cove in San Francisco knows that a baseball doesn't sink in water.  It floats.  It is obvious that the Topps cartoonist came before either was known.  Or, wait...maybe Don's sinker is soooo good that it really does sink in water!  Now that is a good sinker!

Ballpark background:  The blueish green fence and the Orioles logo on the scoreboard just behind Don's glove give this away as Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.

Friday, November 26, 2010

#32 - John Grubb (SD/WASH)

John (Johnny?) Grubb.  Yes, there's a lot here.  This is the first Padre card of the set, and it's also the first Washington/Nat'l League card.  I love how they spell "National" and "League."  His name is John on this card, but it is Johnny on his BR page.  Though the card makes a big deal out of his 21 at bats in 1972 and his being one of the Padres leading hitters in 1973, he makes the NL All-Star team in 1974.  And not for the Washington National Leaguers.  Nope, these boys in yellow are the Sandy Eggo Padres, like in waffles for breakfast on the beach.  The beach in San Diego is beautiful, and sandy.  There are numerous waffle shops near the beach.  I know, I went there this summer. 

Grubb played a 16 year career, but was only approached being a regular player with the Padres.  He played for that amazing 1984 Detroit Tigers team, picking up a World Series ring against...hehehe...his former team.  Dontcha just love it when that happens?  He racked up 99 homers in his career, one shy of triple digits.  I love the color scheme of the Padres cards.  Kind of a mix of goldenrod (remember your Crayola sets?) and butterscotch, this color in the Padre pennants is simply delicious.  John's also one of those crossover players, batting left while throwing right.  This picture of him looks like some dude named Kevin I used to know.  Except Kevin never wore a hat.  He looks here like, "Hey, there's a deranged Mets fan on LSD that's going to try to fly off the edge of the third deck!"

Cartoon:  He hit safely in 5 of the 6 games he started?  Well, you can go 1 for 4 every day and hit safely in all 162 games, shattering Joe DiMaggio's record, yet end up with a .250 average.  Actually, though, for only playing in 7 games, hitting in 5 of them for a .333 average is not something to laugh at.  But it's a cartoon, so I'll laugh at it because that's what cartoons are for.  And, say, what kind of middle name is Maywood, anyway?

Ballpark background:  With just a light tower over his right shoulder and a flag pole over his left, this was so obviously taken at Shea Stadium it's not even funny.  That's because just a few cards prior in the set was #29 Phil Niekro at Shea Stadium, and there's the same lights and flagpole.  Not funny, I know.  But Shea Stadium nonetheless.

Monday, November 22, 2010

#31 - Mgr/Coaches Preston Gomez (HOU)

This is the first manager/coach card in this set.  The manager's photo is smaller due to the cut and paste heads of the coaches.  This is just classic ballcard type of stuff.  Off the top of my head, I don't know if the '74 Cubs team card is this way, but I've seen at least one Cubs team card that was made up of all cut and paste heads.  There really aren't stats on the back, but there is a handy little summary of each one's playing experience.  I like seeing the coaching staff, because it places them in time with a team, and there's little to no other stats for coaches.  Managers have their own pages on stat websites, but where would one go for coaches or even bullpen catchers? 

Anyway, I remember little about Preston Gomez, but I do remember hearing his name all the time.  This card probably helped that greatly.  Roger Craig and Bob Lillis have certainly made the rounds in ML history.  I couldn't have possibly known this from this card, but a bit over a decade later, Craig would become one of the most popular skippers for the Giants.  The world of baseball, with it's inside, good ol' boys network is an interesting study in itself.  I wonder if anybody's written a book about it.  Gomez was born in Cuba.  I'm wondering when he came here to the States.  Surely before Castro took power.

Okay, here's the first airbrush job on a non-Trades card.  It's only a small head shot, but notice that Roger Craig's hat has been airbrushed.  He wasn't a coach for the 'Stros in 1973, so Topps took the liberty to paint him up like one.  I 'spect Hub Kittle's probably fairly old by now, being born back in nineteen and seventeen.

Cartoon:  None

Ballpark background:  This looks like a dugout to his right, and the fence has non-major league advertising.  I'm guessing this is spring training.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

#30 - Bobby Bonds (SF)

I remember Bobby Bonds as a kid, and always liked him as a player.  He was talented and made some great catches in the outfield, the collision catch high up on the chain link right field fence along with Mays being an all time great film highlight.  He was a soft five-tool player who played in the shadow of the great Willie Mays.  Bonds had great speed and a good sense for the outfield.  Playing in Mays' shadow had its numerous advantages, learning first hand from the greatest who ever played the outfield.

Bobby was a multiple 30/30 guy.  He was the 30/30 standard until Canseco came along and put up a 40/40 season.  Bobby will always be remembered for this, and for his 300/300 career.  He came up as a chip off the old Mays block, but the chip wasn't nearly as big.  Nobody could ever match Mays, and in some sense there was a disappointment with Bonds' "deficiency" in that regard.  Heck, McCovey and Cepeda didn't help out in that regard either.  He didn't have a good relationship with the media (falling short of Cooperstown may have had something to do with that), and it's obvious that it rubbed off on Barry.  Bobby's career had a strange wind down as he played for six teams in his last five years.  This card was Bonds' last with the Giants as after the '74 season, the next Willie Mays was traded to the Yankees for the next Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer.

Cartoon:  It's a good thing Bobby went into baseball instead of going into track.  Barry might have been a track star.  Here, he's got the longest set of spikes I've ever seen.  I also like Bobby's middle name.

Ballpark background:  This shot was snapped at Candlestick Park during batting practice.  Bonds is wearing his home uni, and the differing dirt colors are evident between the home plate area and the foul area warning track.  It was so windy at the 'Stick that the dirt closest to the fans' eyes was crushed brick, which didn't make nearly as much dust.  Astroturf graced (AHEM! - I almost choked to death there) the 'Stick in those days.  You can just make out the seam at the home plate cutout next to Bonds' left sleeve.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

#29 - Phil Niekro (ATL)

What can I say about a Hall of Famer with a 24 year career?  He started out in Milwaukee two years before they moved to Atlanta.  Phil's knuckle ball was the thing that made him famous, and his knickname was "Knucksie."  He is brother to Joe Niekro, and uncle to short lived Giants first sacker Lance Niekro, who isn't known for throwing knuckle balls while having it around the infield.  Phil never made it to a World Series, and only played in two NLCS, losing both of them with the Braves.

His uni is a bit odd, I think, as he's wearing a pullover top with a belted pant.  I've never liked these Braves threads in my life, not even in 1974.  Phil tossed a no-hitter in 1973, the year this photo was taken, and probably after the photo was taken, as he threw it in August.  Phil had one of those classic multiple team careers where he finished with the team he played for the longest or first.  Although he only pitched three innings for the Bravos at the end of his career.
Cartoon:  I think it probably turned out for the best that neither played football.  I guess one could infer that they didn't play either baseball or basketball with each other.  Havlicek's got a nice haircut.

Ballpark background: This was taken at Shea Stadium.  That light tower just keeps appearing in all kinds of cards.  And that flag is a bit of a fixture, too.  Notice the Mets player in the background.  This position on the field must have been the photographer's favorite of all time.  So many players regardless of team have appeared here and from this angle.  Or so it seems.

Monday, November 15, 2010

#28 - Manny Sanguillen (PIT)

Manny Sanguillen was a childhood fixture for me.  He was the catcher for the Pirates.  I forgot that he played some outfield, as the bottom star reminds me.  It didn't matter, he was the catcher.  His card said catcher, and that's how kids laid out their cards when playing or trading.  Manny was the epitome of a bad-ball swinger.  Maybe one of the most famous bad-ball swingers in baseball.  Bad Vlad and a few others come to mind as well.  But, when you can consistently put up a .300 average for a catcher in the 70's, you can swing at as many bad pitches as you want.  And if you hit them for base hits, all the better.  He was also instrumental in the Bucs two championship teams in 1971 and '79.

Manny is from Panama, and is only the second foreign born in this set so far.  He's also shown on a horizontal layout.  I'll be keeping track of horizontal player cards in the labels.  All team cards and some special cards might be horizontal, too, but I'll just keep track of players.  I'm not sure why his home is listed as Panama, Republic of Panama, but I'm sure Topps had a reason to put it this way.

Cartoon:  Manny is the anti-Benjie Molina.  I wonder if this cartoon is drawn out of regard for how fast Manny gets down the line to back up first base, or because Manny wears his gear to the plate and runs around the bases.  [Update 2-6-11:  I just noticed that this cartoon shows Manny as a left handed catcher!]

Ballpark background:  This is a difficult ballpark to determine.  It seems he's wearing a road uniform, as the uni color appears to be slightly darker than the white trim in the elastic belt and sleeve.  There is real grass, which was kind of a rarity in the NL in the mid 70's.  The dark seats that go all the way down to the field and the dark barrier are also problematic for me.  Not Candlestick or Shea.  Could this be Wrigley with a painted brick barrier?  The batting cage is in the background.  Maybe it was a spring training facility of somebody in the Grapefruit League.  I simply don't know.  So, I'm placing this in the category of undetermined.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

#27 - George Scott (MIL)

I always like seeing players with the same last name as me.  Knowing my family tree extensively, I am sure there is no relation.  Other notables are Jake Scott, the Miami Dolphin safety from the undefeated team, Fast Freddie Scott from the Detroit Lions past, Luke Scott who played for the Astros a few years ago, and a few assorted NFL linemen.  There's also that Astros dude that used sandpaper on the ball, Mike.  Byron?  A few namesakes include a professional mile runner, professional golfer and a Chicago news anchorman.  George Scott had a decent career of 14 years, was a slugger for a good part of it, and was coming off one of his two best years when this card was released.

Cartoon: Note, George is only ONE of the flashiest fielding first sackers in the bigs.  We all know the cartoonist knows Willie Montanez is simply THE flashiest, he just can't say it.  Not PC, even in 1974 terms.  And George's cartoon is backhanding a ball from behind.  His next move is to cross dribble between his legs twice, then an alley-oop to Michael Jordan at the hoop.  Oh, wait.  Maybe it will be to Wilt the Stilt at the top of the key for a sky hook.  Okay, wrong sport.  After I post this, I'll go onto YouTube to try to find some George Scott flashy action.  I know he was flashy, because his last year he played part of a year with the Royals and his uniform number was 0.  Having a number of 0 in the 70's was flashy, almost by definition.

Ballpark background:  Add one part Brewers road uniforms, one part yellow shirt behind George's right thigh, one part yellow sock just below George's right knee, then we sprinkle a bunch of yellow in the crowd beyond him, top with a sloping dugout roof toward the field, mix well, bake at 475 for 15 minutes, and out pops the Oakland Coliseum.

Situation ID: [Updated 03-20-11]  This action shot of Scott was at the Oakland Coliseum.  It looks as if he is watching a popup.  If this photo was taken in 1973, then it was likely on Saturday, August 18, a day game, when cleanup hitter Scott fouled out to first baseman Deron Johnson leading off the second inning off of pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom.  The A's took the game 6-3, on their way to their second of three consecutive WS victories.  Here, George has no middle name shown on this card, while his BR page lists Charles as his mid-moniker.

Monday, November 8, 2010

#26 - Bill Campbell (MIN)

Bill Campbell played for seven teams over 15 years.  This card appears just after his rookie year.  This photo was taken while Bill was a rookie.  Looking at his career, Bill got screwed out of possible World Series rings by both Bucky Dent and Don Denkinger.  Did you know that Denkinger was the home plate ump for the Bucky Dent game?  I'm not sure that's even a coincidence, but it struck me as interesting just long enough to type it.  Bill pitched in one World Series, in 1985 with the Cards, and appeared in three games.  He relieved John Tudor after Tudor got rocked for 5 runs in 2.1 innings in game 7, a day after Denkinger's botched call.  What a relief appearance.  Hey, Bill, you're down by five runs in the World Series after the ump tossed it for us.  C'mon in and hold'em while we rally to win.  Of course, that's no big deal.  The Angels came back and won under similar circumstances.  Oops, sarcastic jab from a recently less disgrutled Giants fan.

Notice Campbell's vitals.  He's 6'-3 1/2".  I've never noticed a 1/2" mark on anybody's height before on a card.  Heck, I'm 5'-10 1/2" and I always round down to 5'-10".  Like on my driver's license.  His BR page says 6'-3", so I'm going with that.  Maybe Topps was bored the day they did Bill's card.  Maybe Topps was experimenting with a new card design software package and was fiddling with the stacked fractions feature.  No?  How would you know?

Cartoon:  Bill operated a radio in 'Nam.  So did Robin Williams.  Robin Williams is a Giants fan, so I doubt he likes Bill.  But one never knows.  Plus, Williams is more funny by default.  I'm sure when Robin Williams and Billy Crystal go to a game together, they talk about Bill in 'Nam.  Old school mic.  Say, didn't Radar carry a radio on his back in M*A*S*H*?

Ballpark background:  Oakland Coliseum, no doubt about it.  I like Bill's Twins uni, too, set against the green seats of the Coliseum.  I think it would be funny if the artist airbrushed "Twinks" on his threads to see if anybody would notice.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

#25 - Ken Singleton (MON)

Ken Singleton had a pretty good career spanning 15 seasons.  He played in two World Series with the Orioles, winning the second in 1983.  Here, he just got through his best season in Montreal, at .302/23/103.  He looks really young and really good.  One batting glove.  Cool old Expos hat.  Ken's ready to play, and he could be on my team. 

Cartoon:  Ken throws either righthanded or lefthanded?  Huh?  In baseball?  His card says he throws right, and so does Baseball Reference.  He was a switch hitter.  Did the cartoonist mess up?  Or does he really throw with both hands, but only with right in a real game?  I like how he makes downward arm motions and the balls come out perpendicular to his motion.  Singleton has some guns, I guess.  Mechanical help.

Ballpark background:  It looks like Ken was posing behind the Little League snack shack.  You know, the one where I bought much of my 1974 set.  Singleton's got on a home uni, and after looking at some Google images of Parc Jarry, I'm sure this pic was snapped during spring training.  There appears to be a foul line crashing into a chain link fence with no foul pole.  Maybe this was on a practice field.  [Update: 1975 Topps has a card of Expos' Bob Bailey showing the same building.  The palm trees in that card give it away that this is indeed spring training.]  [Update: Notice the wax stain down the middle of the back of the card.  I think the wax from the packs picked up some dirt from grubby little kid hands like mine.]

Friday, November 5, 2010

#24 - John Hiller (DET)

John pitched 15 years for the Tigers, and only the Tigers.  He had a pretty decent career, and his 1973 was a terrific year out of the bullpen.  He saved 38 games (as we would calculate that today) and had an ERA of 1.44.  He didn't quite fit the role of the current closer, as he finished far more games than he saved, and had 15 decisions.  This meant that he was often brought in to take care of multiple innings at the end of the game.  This is reflected throughout his career stats.

Although I was a fairly aware baseball fan during his career, and although I remember this card very well, I must say that I don't remember much of John Hiller as a pitcher.  Did he get the notice that he deserved?  Did I ignore him or the Tigers?  I don't know.  John is also a Canadian who grew up in Toronto.

Cartoon:  I guess Toronto had sandlots just like every other North American city.  I wonder if this cartoon is a public service of Topps for those US card collectors who are ignorant of Canada.  You know, Toronto has sandlots just like every other North American city.  I already said that, didn't I?

Ballpark background:  This photo is a real poser, but I think I have an answer.  First, I wondered about the huge beam that was about to hit Hiller in the head.  What was this thing hanging from?  What was this thing to begin with?  It looks like it's stuck in the air.  Is this some kind of minor league park with a weird roof?  Next, I noticed the red barrier that stops at the 3rd base dugout.  This says County Stadium in Milwaukee, but the lack of an upper deck that wraps at the foul pole would kind of eliminate that choice.  Until I looked through Google images and finally Clem's Baseball.   It seems that from 1954 until 1974, the 3rd base stands extended only a few dozen yards beyond third base.  Grandstands ran from just about that point to near the left field corner, and a separate bleacher section in the outfield.  If this Hiller photo was taken in 1973, then the pieces of the puzzle fit rather nicely.

The thing just to the left of his head is the edge of the upper deck on the third base side, with the "loge" or press box level in between the top and bottom of this thing.  I'm guessing the angle (i.e. steepness) of the upper deck is the same as the angle of a line drawn from the camera lens to the upper deck itself.  This would give an illusion of nothing holding up the upper deck.  The supports holding up the upper deck would be just out of this picture.  The grandstands down the left field line look from all the Google images to be more steep than the permanent stands behind home plate and extending to the edge of the upper deck.  The thing sticking out of Hiller's right shoulder is the top of that grandstand, while the thing sticking out of his lower left back that angles just above the outfield fence beyond is the edge of that grandstand as it follows the angle down.  There's a player just behind his left glute with the foul pole above his head.  Just to the right of that foul pole is a slightly angled view of the edge of the bleachers.  So, it makes real sense why that red barrier at the dugout and the yellow face of the dugout edge look so much like County Stadium when I visited in 1986.  My guess is County Stadium.

Monday, November 1, 2010



#23T - Craig Robinson "Traded" (ATL)

Here's the first Trades card of the set.  "TRADED"  What a mark to have on a baseball card.  "Robby" goes from the Phils to the Braves.  The Trades set had a different format from the regular cards.  A new photo was issued, showing the player with his new team, but rather than re-hash the players stats on the back - because he already had a card in the set - Topps decided to do a mock newspaper story giving tidbits of the trade and other info.  But, as far as I can tell, all the Trades photos except one were airbrush jobs because Topps didn't yet have a current photo of the player on their new team.  (Another reader commented to me that Bob Locker's card used a two year old photo when he was with the A's, and was traded back to them, so Topps used the filed shoot.)  Topps took photos of players each year to include in the following year's set.  Most were taken during the season at a ballpark, while some were taken during spring training.  So if a player were traded in the off season, there would be no way for Topps to get a new photo of the player donning his new threads.

This was a separate set issued later in the year, but I don't know when.  There have been several players so far that were traded during spring training that didn't have cards in the Trades set.  I don't know what the cut off point was for being included in the Trades set, but at December 3, Craig got into the set.  I'll have to keep track of this somehow.  Maybe a new "page" at the top could show trade dates vs. getting into the Trades set.

Ballpark background:  This photo was taken in Candlestick Park.  You can see the VIP box at the top of the park next to his left ear.  Craig was in a Phillies uniform, and it was airbrushed with Braves colors.  His red-collared powder blue zip jacket was painted black and white, and his Phils hat was given two colors, blue on the edge of the bill, and white on the hat.  The artists (ahem!) missed the blue on the side panel of the Braves two-tone hat at the seam, and the white is taken all the way to the left side of the hat outline.  Topps seemed to take a good number of photos looking up from under a player's hat.  These are the easiest airbrush jobs.  Under the bill of his hat next to his forehead you can see an inverted number "18," which was his uniform number with Philly.  Groovy sunglasses on both cards, Craig!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

#23 - Craig Robinson (PHI)

It's really funny looking at non-star players from eras past.  Here, Craig Robinson looks like the guy in my high school yearbook who won the award for "most likely to remain the same the rest of his life."  He's 5'-10" and 165 lbs.  This is otherwise known as Average Joe.  With a bell curve for dude size, Craig fits 37% of all American males.  And such dudes can be a major leaguer when they grow up.  I like that Craig is wearing one batting glove, and that photographers love to capture gloves laying on grass.  Craig is a humble guy, too, as he even chokes up on the bat for a photo op.  I didn't know that Eugene was a team in the PCL in 1971.  I always thought the AAA had larger cities, like Portland and Las Vegas.  I looked it up, and sure enough, Eugene, OR had a PCL team from 1969-73.

Craig was with the Phils in 1973, but was traded to the Braves in December.  The next card in this set will be his traded card.  Craig's 1974 season with the Braves was a regular one, playing in 145 games, and getting over 500 plate appearances.  His next three seasons (his last) he would not play even 40 games in a year.  He finished his career just one home run behind Duane Kuiper on the all time list.  Kuiper had one.

Cartoon:  Being signed is pretty darned thrilling, I guess.  Craig didn't win a World Series or MVP or break records, I guess as well.  Otherwise he might have said those things were most thrilling.  What kind of pen did they use to sign contracts back in 1970?

Ballpark background:  Although it looks like a great big lawn, I'm pretty sure this is Shea Stadium.  Those twin 10,500 foot high light tower poles look like the ones at Shea.  All the way to the left of Robinson's chin you can see the edge of the second deck sticking out, with the "lower deck" seats under it.  I don't know what they were called, but it was kind of the next seating level in the "bowl" up from the field box seats.  Other shots in this set and other years' cards give this away as Shea.