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!