Friday, November 5, 2010
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.