Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#49 - Steve Renko (MON)

A veteran with numerous ball clubs (Expos, Cubs, White Sox, A's, Red Sox, Angels, Royals), Steve wore many different uniforms.  He finished his career 12 games under .500 with an ERA of about 4.00.  He's also the first above 200 pounds card seen in a while.  I always loved these cards with the player wearing the wind breaker under his uni.  Was it a fad back then?  I see this all the time in the 70's cards.  Steve was traded in the middle of a year to an expansion team in its first year - for Donn Clendenon.  This would figure in Steve's ring total - Zero!  What a bummer, to be traded away from a team just before they win a Wolrld Series, and to never win one yourself.

Cartoon:  I wonder if Steve also enjoys horseback riding.  Are they the same, riding horses and horseback riding?  The only thing missing is a polo mallet.

Ballpark background:  This is a recurring theme in Expos ball cards, it seems.  The spring training site.  You can see the palm trees over Steve's right shoulder.  What I like, though, is the transformer on the telephone pole.  Didn't Candlestick have one of those?  I forget. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From the Bleachers - My Baseball Blog Has Moved

Check out my baseball blog - called "From the Bleachers" - at its new address.  I write about baseball from a number of different angles, but always from a fan's point of view.  There are quite a few stories from both the bleachers and box seats.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

#48 - Dick Sharon (DET)

I don't remember Dick Sharon when I was a kid.  I vaguely remember this card, but the thing that stands out most is the way he's holding the bat.  His uniform number appears on his left wrist band, #27.  Sharon was traded five times in a three year career.  He was drafted by the Pirates in 1968, and traded to the Tigers prior to his major league appearance in 1973.  This 1974 card would be his first of his career; he would have only two total.  After the '74 season, he would be traded again, this time to the Padres for what would be his final year.  After the '75 season he would be traded three more times, from the Padres to the Cardinals, then to the Angels, then finally to the Red Sox. He never ended up playing in the majors for the Sox, so in effect he was traded three times after his final appearance in the majors. 

Cartoon: It's no wonder Dick only played three years in the bigs.  Jumping on the ball is sure to get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Ballpark background: Dick is giving the photographer his money's worth during batting practice at Comiskey Park.  The Tigers have their road uni's on, and that astroturf infield appears again.  I also notice the signature arches through the back wall of the lower deck.  It's Comiskey fer sure.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

#47 - Dick Ruthven (PHI)

I would care to guess that this is Mr. Ruthven's first Topps card of his 14 year career.  I Googled 1973 Topps Dick Ruthven and came up with nothing.  So unless Mr. Stufflestreet at 1973 Topps Photography knows something I don't, I'm going with this card being his first.  In any case, his 1973 season was his rookie year.  His ML debut was in April of that year, so I think he was with the club through spring training '73 and this photo was taken there [see update below].  The pitcher's followthrough pose is one of my favorite poses in baseball card tradition.  His powder blue uni was the Phils' road outfit back then.  I must say I never liked the "swoopie P" Philly threads, and I hated the powder blues.  I much prefer today's modern/retro get-ups with the little blue stars as "i" dots. 

Ruthven pitched for the Phillies twice in his career, and saw post-season action with most of those powerful teams of the late 70's and early 80's.  He received a ring in '80, after getting a no-decision in game 3 vs. the Royals.  Dick pitched nine innings and left with a tie game.  The Royals won in the 10th for one of their two victories.  He also pitched for the 1984 Cubs team, but apparently didn't make an appearance in the playoffs against the Padres. 

Cartoon: Dick lists electronics among his hobbies, but the cartoonist is showing electricity.  Tharn't much 'lectronics that go into a regular light bulb.  A soldering iron fixing a transistor radio with the Phillies game on (Harry Kalas I'm guessing was the announcer in 1974) might be a better cartoon.  I'm launching my career on this blog of cartoon critic.  Gary Larson beware.

Ballpark background: This doesn't appear to be like any major league park I remember seeing, so I'm guessing that the Phils are playing at another team's spring training site. [Update: A reader named Shawn sent me a photo of a early/mid-70's era Shea Stadium showing this section of fence as being in front of the left field bullpen.  Shawn pointed out part of the "3" in the 358 sign right behind Ruthven's right behind.  His body is blocking the rest of the number.  Thanks Shawn!]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#46 - Pat Kelly (CWS)

Here, Harold Kelly is known as Pat.  I think he was known as Pat everywhere else, too.  Pat wasn't a power hitter, popping only 76 homers over 15 years, and his pose here while choking up on the bat shows that he knew the best way to hold the bat for himself.  It looks like a loose grip on the bat, as if he were going to spray hit, going wherever the ball is pitched.  Even though this is a ballcard pose, he has a determined look on his face.  His batting glove is in his back pocket.  But judging from his career stolen base numbers, that might very well be his sliding glove, which might possibly explain why he isn't wearing it while holding the bat.  He swiped 250 over all.

Kelly played for the Kansas City Royals in 1969, being picked in the expansion draft.  The Twins looked like they didn't have a place for him, and an expansion team was perfect to step into an everyday player role.  He snatched 40 bags in '69, a career high.  Kelly got one chance at a ring, playing with the '79 O's in their seven game loss to the Bucs.

Cartoon:  So it was Pat's incredible athletic ability that cracked the bell.  Maybe it was from the shotput, and recorded for an AC/DC song.

Ballpark background:  Pat is posing at Yankee Stadium on what looks like a cloudy day.

The Favorite Team

Recently I have received several comments and emails from readers expressing their die-hard allegiance to their teams.  Although that wasn't the point of their notes to me, it is nonetheless part of most all of us.  Who is your favorite team?  Having a favorite team can really make a certain set of cards special to us.  It has for me.  Well, I'll use that to talk about mine.

I grew up, and have lived my whole life, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I live about 30 miles east of SF and 20 miles east of Oakland.  The City and the Peninsula are Giants territory.  The East Bay (proper) is A's country.  But a fascinating thing about the Bay Area and the rest of Northern California is that living outside of these two areas allows one to be a fan of either - or BOTH! - teams.  It is unlike any other metro area of the country that has two teams.  You simply AREN'T a fan of both the Yankees and Mets, the Cubs and Sox, the Dodgers and Angels.  So, I grew up a militant fanatic of both teams.  When asked how I could cheer for both teams (prior to 1989, that is), I would always answer that it was easy because it wasn't like they would ever play each other when it counts.  It was only in 1995 when the Oakland Coliseum built Mt. Davis to woo the Raiders back to Oakland from LA - and subsequently destroy my bleacher seats - that my allegiance shifted a good bit to the Giants.

But a very special thing happened in 1974, the year of this set, and also in 1973, the year that contained most of the photography in this set, as well as the year of highlights covered by special cards in this set.  The special thing was that the Oakland A's won the World Series.  I was the ages of 8, 9 and 10 when these three victories took place, '72, '73 and '74.  And '74 was my biggest collecting year, so the A's naturally had a big effect on me through this set.  It was that really special time as a kid when things were grand with your own team.  You didn't have to worry about house payments, getting a job, or girls yet.  You were free to be a kid.  And when your team wins, you do a lot of jumping up and down.  And reviewing their cards with fondness when you grow up.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

#45 - Dave Johnson (ATL)

Dave Johnson, who would later(?) be known as Davey, had a career of 13 seasons in the bigs, a majority of them with the Orioles.  This card is the first card in the set showing a full time second sacker.  It's also the first card in the set, to my knowledge, where the player had at least one World Series ring each as both a player and manager.  Davey got rings with the O's in '66 and '70 and as manager of the famous Mets team of '86.  His 1974 season would be his last full season in the bigs.  He had a blowout year in '73, smacking 43 homers (breaking Rogers Hornsby's all time 2B HR record) and batting in 99.  His numbers were way off in '74 (.251/15/62), and after only one at bat in the 1975 season - a run scoring double - Davey was released by the Braves early in April.  He missed the rest of the '75 season as well as the entire '76 season.  Does anybody know why?  He was signed as a free agent by the Phillies in '77, seeing limited action in '77 and in '78 as well, when he was traded to the Cubs in August.  He played his last eight weeks of big league ball on the North Side before being cut after the season ended.

This photo is a bit strange for an action shot.  The ball is seen behind Davey's behind.  It is easy to jump to the conclusion that he swung and missed.  But... He hit right handed, so this was snapped on his follow through swing.  It looks like he either fouled the ball at the plate and it bounced up behind him or maybe it hit off the catcher or umpire and ricocheted back.

Cartoon:  Davey is a licensed pilot.  Speaking of pilot, here he is shown in a TV cartoon series pilot flying by the Umpire State Building, cutting in front of Bugs Bunny who is waiting on top of the tower to catch that ball.  The show never debuted.  This blog post used two past tense conjugations of verbs that ended in silent T's, just so you know.  Ricocheted and debuted.
Ballpark background:  I can see Mets uniforms in the dugout beyond Johnson, and this looks like the Shea Stadium dugout shown in other card shots over the years.  So, I'm going with Shea Stadium.  Final answer.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

#44 - Mel Stottlemyre (NYY)

This is not only one of my favorite cards in the 1974 Topps set, it's one of my favorite cards of all time.  It's Mel's pose, simply classic for a pitcher, and that cartoonish smile on his face.  Mel's body type and his long, slender nose just make this card perfect.  Mel is so form-fit for this pose that a majority of his cards have this stance in the pic.  I love them all.  A few have slight variations of this pose or a wind-up pose.  One action card of Mel exists as a specialty card in the 1965 set showing game 2 of the 1964 World Series.  This '74 card was Mel's last card of his career, as 1974 was his last season.  His '74 offensive stats show him "appearing" in 3 games, with no at bats and 1 run scored.  I'm guessing he was a pinch runner at least once, and may have pitched in a game where the manager made a move that caused a loss of DH privileges, but where Mel never came to bat.

Mel had a pretty decent career in pinstripes when you figure in the Yanks performance over that 11 year span.  Mel was unfortunate enough to play his 11 year career smack in the middle of the Yankees 15 year World Championship drought between 1962 and 1977.  He did, however, play in the 1964 Series his rookie year in a losing effort to the Cardinals.  Mel had two sons that played in the majors, Mel, Jr., who had a brief stint in 1990, and Todd, who pitched longer than his father, for 14 seasons spanning the late 80's to the early 00's.  Todd ran up some post-season appearance totals, and although his dad played his entire career with the Yankees, Todd racked up two WS championships with the Blue Jays in '92 and '93.  I also love how Mel crosses all three T's in his autograph with one stroke of the pen.  This wasn't the first shot in the photographer's set, as Mel's grass stain on his left knee indicate a variety of poses in total.

Cartoon: Thanks to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, Mel's home movies are now available on YouTube.

Ballpark background: Mel is wearing the classic Yankee road uniform.  I much prefer the plain gray threads with no trim and the plain letters (no trim either) to their current duds with the piping and letter outlines.  Much more classy.  Well, that's beside the point.  The only ML park I can think of that would match this photo is Shea Stadium with it's two-pole light tower and open view with trees in the background, but I don't think the Yanks played there in '73.  So, I'm going to give an educated guess that this pic was snapped at somebody else's spring training yard.