Wednesday, September 29, 2010

#14 - Paul Popovich (CHC)

This card shows Paul with the Chicago Cubs.  He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 1, 1974, just a few days before opening day.  Even though he was traded, Topps did not issue a card of Popovich in its Traded set released later in the year.  Maybe this was a belated April Fool joke, or maybe Topps thought the trade itself was an April Fool joke.  In any case, Paul would play only two more years, '74 & '75, in a limited role with the Bucs.  What never shows on his card is that when he was traded in June of 1969, the Dodgers sent him to the Expos, who traded him to the Cubs that same day.  I'm not sure if it was part of a three-way trade, or whether the Expos planned the maneuver as the middle-man.

This is the first card in this set where the nondescript "infield" position shows on a card.  His career was spent mostly at second base, with some short and third mixed in.  In '74 he played about evenly between 2B and SS with the Pirates, with a majority of his second sacker action coming from starts, and all of his stints at short from being inserted later in the game.

Cartoon: I'm not sure what bonuses were back in the early 60's, but 40 grand seems like quite a lot.  It seems that Topps is playing with words here, as Paul received only a "reported" bonus.  Didn't he get a real one?

Ballpark background: This photo was taken in 1973 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, one of the home ballparks of my youth.  In fact, 1974, the year of this Topps set, was the year of my first visit there.  The green stuff you see behind Paul is actually artificial turf.  It's a bit too green and uniform looking for astroturf, but that's what it is.  I'm not sure why it looks so green, as Candlestick Park in the 70's had some of the most horrifically streaky, faded looking carpet in the Bigs.  This photo must have taken advantage of the reverse-grain velvet effect.  The orange seats were real box seats with real metal bars dividing up the rows.  The dugouts weren't dug out, but level with the playing field.  There are what looks like 25 towels hanging from the visitor's dugout wall.  As was typical at the 'Stick, the shadow line from the upper deck divided the sun drenched box seats (tank tops and shorts) from the freezing reserved section (parkas and down coats, even in summer).  Only the front row or so of the reserved seats see sun in this shot.

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