Tuesday, December 31, 2013

UGH...THOSE 1972 TOPPS "AWARDS" CARDS...(#621 THROUGH #626): TODAY, CARD #624 "MINOR LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR"

The next card up for "review" on my 1972 "Awards" sub-set thread is card #624, "Minor League Player of the Year", which originally featured a landscape orientation and images of two different trophies. Take a look:


Again, not that attractive a card, and something that NEVER would have happened later on when "rookie-mania" took hold in the late 80's! But nevertheless, it WAS cool that Topps had such a card for minor league awards. Would have been nice if they kept such a practice in place.
Now, not that you would have any idea who actually won the award(s) unless you scanned the back of the card, but the 1971 Minor League stud was none other than future all-star second baseman Bobby Grich, then of the Baltimore Orioles.
So with that, I went and redesigned the card with Grich as the subject, not the awards themselves.
Take a look-see:


I had to totally recreate the whole card, and make it a portrait orientation to accommodate the photo used, but I think it still came out ok, no?
As for Grich himself, before carving out an excellent Major League career, he had a monster 1971 season playing for the Orioles' Triple-A farm club in Rochester.
In 130 games as a shortstop, Grich POUNDED the International League, hitting .336 while smashing 32 homers with 83 runs batted in and 124 runs scored with 299 total bases.
These were NOT middle infielder numbers you often saw during the 1960's and 1970's!
And it was for those numbers that Grich was a solid pick for Minor League Player of the Year.
Once he jumped to the Majors for good in 1972, he became one of the best second baseman in the game for the rest of the decade, considered one of the best fielders at his position, winning four Gold Gloves as well as leading the league in putouts, double-plays and assists multiple times.
But he was no slouch at the plate, as he retired with almost 2000 hits, 224 homers, 1000+ runs scored and 864 runs batted in after seven years in Baltimore and ten years in California as a member of the Angels before hanging them up after the 1986 season.
It's funny how initial perception stays with you. My first over-the-top maniacal card-collecting year was 1977, and the guys that were designated as "All-Stars" on their cards remained somewhat legendary to me, and Grich was one of them.
Even though later on I learned the game and understood where guys like Toby Harrah, Ron LeFlore and even Grich stood as far as "star players" were concerned, those 1977 "All-Star" cards stayed with me to this very day, giving those players and extra bit of status that never faded after almost four decades.
Next up on this "awards" sub-set thread: card #625, "Rookie of the Year". 
Keep an eye out for it in the near future…

Monday, December 30, 2013

1975 "CY YOUNG AWARD" SUB-SET: WHAT IF? 1951

Back in the early 1990's I picked up the latest SABR Journal and it had a great article that wondered who would have won the Cy Young Award, had there been one, between 1901 and 1955, and who would have also won the award had they given it out in both leagues between 1956 and 1966.
I LOVE stuff like that, as I was also always imagining what the outcome would have been if "this or that" had come to pass.
Well, I recently got the idea to create a "Cy Young Award Winners" series based on the awesome 1975 "Most Valuable Players" sub-set, highlighting who the winners were, or WOULD have been, between 1951 and 1974.
For the "winning" pitchers prior to 1956, as well as the OTHER league winner for those "single-winner" years (56-66), I went with who the SABR people felt would have won as covered in that previously mentioned article.
Heck, if it was good enough for SABR, it's always good enough for me!
Now I'm sure there will be a pick or two that you don't agree with (there were some I wasn't totally convinced of myself). But it IS fun to start the discussion with the SABR picks!
Today we'll start with 1951, as I created a card that showcases who SABR assumed would have won the award: Sal Maglie in the National league and Ed Lopat in the American League.
Take a look at my card design:

My Lopat and Maglie virtual cards for a virtual card!

Both Maglie and Lopat didn't have a Topps card that year, so I created one for each player (as Topps did for Roy Campanella and Maury Wills for their M.V.P. set). So in essence, I have imagined cards for an imagined card.
Here's a closer look at the "created" cards for this post:


 
Maglie had a brilliant 1951 campaign, as he lead the Giants in that dramatic pennant winning season with a 23-6 record along with a 2.93 E.R.A.
He pitched in 42 games, of which 37 were starts, and he not only threw three shutouts that year, but threw in four saves as well. Not bad for a guy pitching in only his second full season in the big leagues, at the ripe "old" age of 34!
As it was, Maglie finished fourth in Most Valuable Player voting that year. But it seems he would have been a good pick to win a Cy Young Award in the National league if there was one that year.
For the American league, SABR felt that Ed Lopat of the Yankees would have own the award, based on his 21-9 record and 2.91 E.R.A.
Lopat appeared in 31 games that championship-winning season in the Bronx, and pitched four shutouts with 20 complete games.
There were some other big game winners that year for the A.L. (Bob Feller, Ned Garver, Vic Raschi), but oddly enough they all had high earned run averages that off-set their other accomplishments, and I think that's why SABR went with Lopat.
I think I personally would have gone for Bob Feller instead, or maybe Raschi, but hey, like I said earlier, if SABR makes a pick I can easily go with it too and sleep well at night.
Next up: the 1952 "winners", one who you already know since he took home the American League M.V.P. that season, Bobby Shantz.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A CARD THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN- 1977 EDDIE MURRAY

Now, even though Eddie Murray's 1978 rookie card is one of my favorite cards to this day, I always felt that since the guy was the 1977 American League rookie of the year, it would have been nice to have a card for him for that season.
This doesn't really fit into either a "dedicated rookie card" or a "missing" card, but I still wanted to design one for the future Hall of Famer since he was one of my favorite players growing up.
Take a look at my imagined 1977 card for the great switch-hitter:

Next to Mantle, the greatest switch-hitter in the game?

Odds are Murray probably would have been included on one of those awful multi-player rookie cards like Andre Dawson or Dale Murphy, but since we know how much I am NOT a fan of those cards, I went with a dedicated card for him here.
I won't get into Murray too much here, since I covered that when I profiled his rookie card, but wow, what an understated superstar he was.
While the Schmidts, Ripkens, Murphy's, etc were racking up awards and acknowledgment, all Murray did was quietly rack up 3000+ hits, 500+ home runs, 1900+ runs batted in and more.
The man was awesome, simply put.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

HALL OF FAME LEADERS IX: 1974 HOME RUN LEADERS

Up next on my thread of 1970's leader cards featuring solely future Hall of Famers is card #202 from the 1974 set, Home Run Leaders featuring two of the decade's best: Reggie Jackson and Willie Stargell.
 
 
 
A nice card showing classic sluggers at the height of their careers, as Jackson lead the American League with 32 in 1973, on his way to his only Most Valuable Player award, while Stargell blasted a Major League high 44 homers, while finishing second in M.V.P. In the N.L.
Both players were well on their way to Hall of Fame selection, as Reggie was a major cog in the Oakland A's AND New York Yankees dynasties of the '70's, while Stargell was about to become "Pops" on the 1979 Pirates championship team, after already playing a huge part of the 1971 World Series winning squad.
Combined we're looking at 1038 lifetime home runs along with 3242 runs batted in and six home run titles over the course of 42 years of Major League ball, as well as five top-3 M.V.P. finishes with both of them winning the award once each (Reggie in 1973 and Stargell in 1979 as co-winner with Keith Hernandez).
They were also part of seven championships between them (Reggie with five and Stargell with 2).
After their superstar careers were all said and done, Stargell found himself elected to the Hall in 1988, with Reggie joining him in 1993.
Easy to see why this is a very cool "Hall of Fame" League Leader card from the 1970's of two of the game's top sluggers from that era.

Friday, December 27, 2013

R.I.P. PAUL BLAIR: CENTERFIELDER PAR EXCELLENCE: 1944-2013


February 1, 1944- December 26, 2013.

Sad to hear that former Orioles, Yankees and Reds center fielder Paul Blair passed away yesterday at the age of 69.
Blair was the finest fielding center fielder of his day, winning eight Gold Gloves in nine years, and was a member of four championship teams (1966/1970 Orioles and 1977/1978 Yankees) during his 17-year career spanning 1964 and 1980.
Rest in peace "Motormouth", you'll be missed by many.

RANDOM QUICKIE: DON DRYSDALE'S APPEARANCE IN THE 1970'S

A while back I created a "Career Capper" 1970-style card for the late Dodger pitching great Don Drysdale, wishing Topps would have had a card for him post-retirement in that year's set.
Well it turns out Drysdale did indeed make an appearance in the 1970's,  on the Dodgers team card from 1970, #411.

The "Big D" on the right, #53.
 
That's the "Big D" on the extreme right side, middle row glaring at the photographer.
A nice little surprise I never knew about, and has me now scanning team cards from the decade looking for players I never realized were included in team shots, whether they be already-retired players or guys that switched teams over the off-season (like the Reggie Jackson appearance on the 1977 Orioles team card I profiled earlier on this blog).
I'll be posting more of these little gems in the future, so if you're into this type of stuff keep an eye out for them.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT- 1970'S BASEBALL TRIVIA PART XXX




Happy Holidays everyone…Had to skip a rare day yesterday. Christmas kept me busy all day long.
Note the other post on the "All-Time All-Stars" I have today as well as the weekly quiz!
Here are this week's trivia questions…Take a shot and see what you can get.
This week I focus on stolen base leaders of the 1970's.
All questions deal with league leaders.
As usual the answers will be posted tomorrow.

1. Among all stolen base leaders of the 1970's, who had the most hits in the season they lead the league in swipes?

2. Who had the LEAST amount of hits in a season they lead the lead in steals?

3. Who hit the most home runs in a stolen base leading season during the decade?

4. Who hit for the highest average among all stolen base leaders of the '70's?

5. On the flip side, who hit for the lowest average the year they lead the lead in steals?

***SPOILER ALERT! ANSWERS BELOW: 

1. Lou Brock, Cardinals. 200 in 1971.

2. Davey Lopes, Dodgers. 103 in 1976.
 
3. Bert Campaneris, A's. 22 in 1970.
 
4. Bobby Tolan, Reds. .316 in 1970.

5. Omar Moreno, Pirates. .235 in 1978.

TOPPS 1976 "ALL-TIME ALL-STARS"- AN EXPANDED VIEW #2: 2ND BASEMEN

The next installment in my thread regarding the 1976 "All-Time All-Stars" sub-set moves on to second base, where the Sporting News picked Rogers Hornsby as the all-time all-star at the position.
Now what if there was both an N.L. AND A.L. Team picked? Who would have been the American League second baseman?
First off, I can't really argue with the Hornsby pick for the "all-time" team outright, as " the Rajah" was second only to Ty Cobb in career batting average at .358, along with seven batting titles, just under 3000 hits (2930), as well as some feats that may never be seen again, such as his five year stretch where he AVERAGED over .400 between 1921 and 1925!
He TWICE took home a Triple Crown (in 1922 and 1925), and was the first National League player to hit over 40 homers in a season when he smashed 42 in 1922.
He batted over .400 three times, topped by an astounding .424 average in 1924, and just missed out on another when he hit .397 in 1921.
Hornsby was a hitting machine, and his spot on an "all-time" team is A-OK by me!
However, as I mentioned earlier, I always wondered who would have been the American League representative for an all-time team had they picked one, and  I decided that in all probability it would have been early 20th Century SUPER star Napolean Lajoie.
Already a star for the Philadelphia team of the National league the final few years of the 1890's, Lajoie famously jumped leagues during the tumultuous player-snatching between leagues in the first few years of the new century, and he didn't miss a beat when he suited up for the American League's entry in Philly.
All he did in 1901 was tear the league to shreds, and when the dust settled on the American League's first season, Lajoie was the king of the hill, claiming the Triple Crown as he lead the league in runs, hits, doubles, homers, runs batted in, batting average, on base percentage, slugging and total bases!
His .426 average is STILL the high-water mark for the league and will almost assuredly never be topped.
A five-time batting champ, Lajoie finished his 21-year career with a .338 average to go along with 3243 hits, 1504 runs scored, 657 doubles, 163 triples and just under 1600 runs batted in with 1599.
In 1914 he joined Cap Anson and Honus Wagner as the only players with 3000+ career hits, and even after his Major League days were over in 1917, while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the ripe old age of 42, he won the International league batting title, hitting a smooth .380!
Like Hornsby, Lajoie was a machine at the plate, and was one of the first Hall of Fame inductees, getting elected as part of the second class in 1937.
As far as picks go for second base, I think Lajoie is a "gimmie" for the A.L. slot, so I've kind of had it easy so far with my picks on this topic.
So take a look at the Sporting News pick that Topps issued, Rogers Hornsby, as well as my design for the American League counterpart, Napolean Lajoie.

The Sporting News pick...

My pick for the N.L. team.

Next up, the shortstop position and what may be the first "iffy" pick to raise some eyebrows, as I choose my American League "all-time all-star" to pair up with the Sporting News pick, Honus Wagner.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

UGH...THOSE 1972 TOPPS "AWARDS" CARDS...(#621 THROUGH #626): TODAY, CARD #623 "CY YOUNG AWARD"

Continuing on this thread regarding the 1972 "awards" sub-set, today we take a look at card #623, the "Cy Young Award" card featuring the Cy Young plaque.
 
 
Beautiful huh? (yawn…)
So today I offer up my redesign of the card, this time featuring the two recipients from 1971: Vida Blue in the American League and Fergie Jenkins in the National League.
Take a look:



Again, just a nicer card with the actual players featured instead of the "hardware". Hope you all agree…
As I mentioned in my post of the "M.V.P." card earlier on this blog, Vida Blue burst on to the Major League scene in 1971 with an amazing 24-8 record along with a 1.87 earned run average and 301 strikeouts.
For that he took home both the M.V.P. And Cy Young awards at the ripe old age of 21.
On the National League side, Fergie Jenkins got his award after finishing third the previous year (and would finish third the FOLLOWING year).
To win the award he fashioned a 24-13 record with a 2.77 E.R.A. along with 263 strikeouts. On top of that Jenkins was absolutely in control on the mound, issuing only 37 walks in 325 innings of work!
Easily the most overlooked "big winner" among Hall of Fame pitchers from the era, Jenkins would end up with 284 career wins to go along with 3192 strikeouts and a 3.34 E.R.A.
He would also be the first pitcher to amass over 3000 strikeouts while issuing under 1000 walks, finishing just under the wire with 997 career base on balls. He'd be joined later on by Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling.
Next up on this thread: card #624: "Minor League Player of the Year"- Bobby Grich.
Keep an eye out for it…

Monday, December 23, 2013

ONE OF MY FAVORITES: 1979 LARRY BOWA (#210)

Here's another card I always liked, the 1979 Topps Larry Bowa card (#210):

A rainbow of purples!

I just loved the way the colors of his uniform, the Phillies banner along the bottom of the card, and the "All-Star" banner all went well together, making for a nice overall look with a decent action shot of Bowa following through in an at-bat.
Now if only that "Topps" logo and baseball was NOT an element of the 1979 design, I think we would have had a much nicer set design…
I don't know why, but it was always easy for me to forget that Bowa had three All-Star cards in his career: 1975, 1979 and 1980, book-ending Dave Concepcion's three-year run as N.L. All-Star at the position.
He kind of always fell under the radar with me when it came to the "All-Stars" of my youth, especially with Concepcion hogging up the shortstop spotlight in the latter half of the '70's.
Another thing I find funny is that I always considered the 1979 an "ugly" set, yet I now have profiled quite a few cards from '79 that are some of my favorites (Carew, Brett, Palmer, Bowa).
Guess I had it all wrong (just like my feelings on the '73 set as this blog goes on)…
Go figure...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

#1 DRAFT PICKS OF THE 1970's. A SPECIAL SUB-SET...DAVE ROBERTS: SAN DIEGO PADRES: 1972

Today I post my third design in my imagined 1979 sub-set featuring #1 draft picks of the decade, 1972's #1 overall pick: Dave Roberts, after my initial designs of Mike Ivie (1970) and Danny Goodwin (1971).
Take a look at my third "card" in the set:

The second #1 overall pick for San Diego in the 1970's.
For the second time in the young decade (and not the last), the San Diego Padres once again had the #1 overall pick, and after picking Mike Ivie with the #1 pick in 1970, in 1972 they went with the highly touted prospect out of the University of Oregon.
In a unique situation, the Padres signed Roberts the day after the draft, and then had him appear in his first Major League game later that day!
This made Roberts the sixth player to go straight to the Majors after signing at the time.
He spent the rest of the season with the Padres, hitting a "respectable" .244 with five home runs and 33 runs batted in. Not bad when you consider he had no minor league time at all!
On top of that, the following year he had what was perhaps his best season in the Majors. 
After spending some time in the Minors early in the year, Roberts was called back up to the Majors and responded by posting career highs in average (.286, home runs (21) and runs batted in (64).
But sadly for San Diego this was NOT a sign of things to come, as Roberts responded to his 1973 campaign with a horrid season in 1974.
That year, while playing games at short, third and outfield, Roberts just flopped as he hit a wretched .167 with five homers and 18 runs batted in.
His season was so bad that from July 21st until the rest of the season he batted .095 without a single run batted in!
The Padres tried getting Roberts' career restarted, but after some failed experiments at almost every position out on the field, they traded him to the Texas Rangers (after being reacquired by San Diego from the Toronto Blue Jays in February 1977) in October, 1978 along with Oscar Gamble and $300,000 for Kurt Bevacqua, Bill Fahey and Mike Hargrove.
For Roberts the change of scenery didn't help his career get back on track, and he was relegated to part-time player for the next four years, playing for Texas, Houston and Philadelphia.
After appearing in only 28 games for the Phillies in 1982, hitting .182 with two runs batted in, Roberts was out of baseball for good.
For the Padres however, things would get much better with their NEXT First Round pick in the amateur draft, as they'd go on to pick a tall, lanky kid from the University of Minnesota named Dave Winfield with the fourth overall pick in 1973.
Not a bad rebound from their bust of a pick the previous year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

MISSING IN ACTION- 1970 MIKE MARSHALL

It's been a while since Mike Marshall has made an appearance on this blog when it comes to "missing cards". And lord knows he has a few of them throughout the 1970's.
I already designed a "missing" 1979 card for him, which I posted here a while back, and I'm in the middle of designing a 1978 card for him in a Texas Rangers uniform ("Photoshopping" a Texas uniform is turning out to be quite a b*tch!).
But for today, allow me to present to you all a "missing" 1970 edition of the Mike Marshall hit-parade, showing the former all-star reliever in a Seattle Pilots uniform, for whom he played in 1969 totaling 20 games and 87.2 innings of work.
For the somewhat forgettable season he posted a 3-10 record along with a 5.13 earned run average.
But things would change rather quickly for Marshall, as he soon became arguably THE relief pitcher in the Majors by 1972, pitching for the Montreal Expos before moving on to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
1972 would see him post his first truly great year, as he went 14-8 with 18 saves and a sparkling 1.78 earned run average over the course of 65 games of relief work.
It was a sign of things to come.
While over in L.A. he'd win a Cy Young Award in 1974 when he posted a season for the ages, appearing in a still-record 106 games, going 15-12 with a 2.42 E.R.A., saving a league-leading 21 games while totaling a mind-boggling 208.1 innings out of the 'pen!
Incredible!
As I stated in my previous post regarding Marshall, he was a constant headache for Topps, at first refusing to pose for a photo on a baseball card, and eventually refusing to appear on a card all-together.
Hence the missing Marshall cards in 1978/79/80.
His missing 1970 card seems to be more of a decision by Topps rather than Marshall himself, since his playing time in '69 was a bit sparse. But I can't be 100% sure.
Anyway, here's a design I whipped up for a 1970 Mike Marshall card showing him in that great Seattle Pilots foam-green uniform before they became the Milwaukee Brewers the following year.
 
Marshall before his mid-70's reliever "super-run".
 

Friday, December 20, 2013

LONG TIME NO SEE: 1970 DANNY MURPHY (#146)

How's this for a guy who went a chunk of years between baseball cards?
When Topps issued a Danny Murphy baseball card in their 1970 set (#146), it was the first time Murphy appeared on a card since 1963.
Funny enough, in '63 Murphy was an outfielder for the North-side Chicago Cubs, yet when he resurfaced in 1970 he was now a pitcher for the South-side Chicago White Sox.
Take a look:

As a Cub outfielder in 1963...

...resurfacing as a White Sox pitcher in 1970.

Murphy made his big league debut back in 1960 as a seventeen-year-old, appearing in 31 games for the Cubs in the outfield.
Over the course of 75 at-bats he hit .120 with a homer and six runs batted in, which gave him a ticket back to the minors for the bulk of 1961 and 1962, though he did see a bit of time at the Major League level (18 games and 48 at-bats).
But for the next six years Murphy was stuck in Minor League ball playing for four organizations: Cubs, Indians, Astros and White Sox.
Though he did appear as a pitcher in two games while with the Cubs' B-Level Minor League team of Wenatchee in 1962, it wasn't until the White Sox got him that they converted him into a pitcher, hoping to turn his luck around.
Beginning in 1966 he was a full-on pitcher, starting 30 games for the Sox Double and Triple-A teams Evansville and Indianapolis, going a combined 11-12 with a 3.88 E.R.A.
After a few more decent years pitching in the Minors, Murphy finally made it back up to the Majors in 1969, appearing in 17 games for the South Siders and going 2-1 with a nice 2.01 earned run average.
The Sox thought enough of his performance that they had him back up in 1970 in a full-time middle relief role, appearing in 51 games for 80.2 innings, going 2-3 with a bloated 5.69 E.R.A.
Sadly for Murphy, that was the extent of his Major League action, as he found himself pitching for Boston's Triple-A affiliate Louisville team in 1971, posting a 1-2 record with a brutal 7.85 E.R.A., which would be the last pro-pitching he would do.
Oddly enough, Topps gave him a card in their 1970 set based on his 17 appearances in '69, but decided to exclude him from their 1971 set even though he posted those 51 appearances in 1970.
Go figure…

Thursday, December 19, 2013

JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT- 1970'S BASEBALL TRIVIA PART XXIX



Hello once again folks. Time for the weekly trivia test.
This week I focus on M.V.P.'s of the 1970's. Give it a shot and come back tomorrow for the answers…

1. Among all M.V.P.'s in the 1970's (besides Vida Blue), who sported the lowest batting average during their award winning season?

2. What batter drove in the fewest runs during their M.V.P. season?

3. Who scored the fewest runs during their M.V.P. year?

4. Who had the lowest On Base Percentage among M.V.P.'s in the 1970's?

5. Among all M.V.P.'s of the 1970's, who hit the fewest home runs during their winning season?

***SPOILER ALERT! ANSWERS BELOW: 

1. Johnny Bench, Reds. .270 in 1972.

2. Pete Rose, Reds. 64 R.B.I.'s in 1973.
 
3. Willie Stargell, Pirates. 60 runs in 1979.
 
4. Thurman Munson, Yankees. .337 OBP in 1976.

5. Pete Rose, Reds. 5 homers in 1973.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

HOW AND WHY? 1972 TOPPS MIKE FERRARO #613

Once again it's time to visit with a card that demands some answers as to why the player depicted copped a slot in a set when he didn't even play in the big league in YEARS.
Today we look at Mike Ferraro and his 1972 card (#613).
 
Four at-bats in 1969, a card in 1972.
 
What gets me is that at the time this card was issued, Ferraro last appeared in the Major Leagues in 1969 with the Seattle Pilots, and ONLY in five games, good for four at-bats and zero hits!
In the years between those at-bats and this card, he was in the Minors playing for Rochester, Triple-A team for the Baltimore Orioles.
I'll admit, he had some solid seasons up there in Rochester, but why did Topps feel the need to give Ferraro a spot on that awesome 1972 set?
Four at-bats three years ago does not warrant a card in my book, unless you're some highly touted prospect/rookie.
Turns out Ferraro played a pretty full season in the Majors in 1972 for the Brewers, but then that was it, career over as far as big league playing time went.
For the season, Ferraro appeared in 124 games, good for 381 at-bats and 97 hits, which translates to a .255 batting average while playing third and short.
Funny enough, after seeing some full-time work in 1972, Topps didn't even go and give him a card in 1973!
So four at-bats in 1969 gets you a card in 1972, but 381 at-bats in 1972 doesn't get you a card in '73?!
Awesome! I love the thought process here…
By the way. For you younger kids out there (and by "kids" I mean those of you in your mid 40's), you'll remember Ferraro from his managerial days in Cleveland in 1983 and in Kansas City in 1986. 
Now it may seem that I'm really slagging Topps for having guys like this on cards, but really I DO love these cards! It's part of what makes card-collecting so fun!
It keeps the likes of the Ferraro's (or Raich's, or Fife's, or Geddes') alive years after their playing days were over, and I'll just never get tired of looking these guys up when I come across their cards.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

TOPPS 1976 "ALL-TIME ALL-STARS"- AN EXPANDED VIEW #1: 1ST BASEMEN

I've always been a HUGE fan of Topps' 1976 sub-set: "All-Time All-Stars".
I remember first seeing these cards as a seven year old kid and I was blown away staring at photos of Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, among other greats of the game.
With most of these players it was the very first time I even SAW photos of them, like Rogers Hornsby and Honus Wagner.
And staring at those insane stats on the backs were a thrill for a young stat-geek before the age of the web and before my dad would buy me my first Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia a few years later.
I was hooked!
Since then I always wondered what the FULL "all-time" team would have been had the Sporting News held a vote for BOTH the National League's all-time team and American League.
I imagined who would be a "lock" and what position would be a toss-up.
Well today I want to start this thread off by looking at the first basemen, both the elected, Lou Gehrig (and rightly so), and who I think would have been elected for the N.L., Cap Anson.
Let me begin by stating now that this is purely conjecture, as I do not have the final vote-tally from when the Sporting News did this back then to mark the 100th anniversary of the "Major Leagues". So I'll have some fun with this and pick who I think would have, or "should have" won the spot for the unrepresented league back in 1976.
Again, this IS NOT about who would be voted TODAY, but back in 1976 when the original voting was held.
So here we go…

For first base the National League wasn't represented, as Lou Gehrig is and was the obvious choice for the position. 
This is DEFINITELY one of those "locks" I mentioned earlier!
The "Iron Horse" is one of the top players bottom-line, and even today there isn't a first baseman that could arguably topple him from the top spot among first sackers.
But I felt that if there was a pick for the National league back in 1976, it would have been Cap Anson.
Keeping "politics" out of this (and believe me, I was tempted to NOT pick Anson solely on his questionable "objections" to who played in the Majors or not), I just feel that Anson was the best all-time first baseman of the N.L. at the time the Sporting News held this vote.
How can you argue with a 22-year career (not including his five year National Association years) that produced the first member of the 3000 hit club, over 1700 runs scored, 1880 runs batted in, and a sterling .331 career average.
Statistics aside, Anson was also one of the most important figures of early baseball, helping the game survive various struggles and becoming "America's Pastime", along with other important figures like Albert Spalding and the Wright brothers (Harry and George), among others.
When you add in Cap Anson's N.A. stats, they're just eye-popping: 1999 runs scored, 3435 hits, 2075 runs batted in, and a .334 average.
He was easily the charter member of many of the milestone clubs!
So today I designed a card for Anson in that awesome 1976 "All-Time All-Stars" sub-set, filling out the first base position for BOTH leagues.
 
The Sporting News pick...

My pick for the N.L. team.
 
Next up: second base and my American League pick, joining Rogers Hornsby at the position.
Stay tuned…

Monday, December 16, 2013

HALL OF FAME LEADERS IX: 1973 STRIKEOUT LEADERS

Today we will look at quite possibly my favorite leader card from the decade: the 1973 "Strikeout Leaders" card (#67) featuring two budding superstars of the 1970's, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan.
The reason I was SO into this card was the fact that both Carlton and Ryan had HUGE breakout years in 1972, and this card was a marker of some sort of what was to come in the next 10-15 years.
Let's take a look:
 
Just an awesome card of things to come...
 
Carlton's 1972 season was one for the ages, as he exploded onto the baseball world with a monstrous 27-10 record along with a 1.97 earned run average and the lead leading 310 K's.
Of course we all know that what made this performance even more extraordinary was the fact that he was pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, who went 59-97!!! 
Quite simply, the guy almost won HALF his teams games that year! Incredible.
Carlton went on to collect four Cy Young Awards (the first to do so), as well as 329 career wins, 4136 strikeouts and 55 shutouts in 24 seasons on the mound.
Needless to say, when Cooperstown came calling he was in without a problem, getting elected in 1994.
Steve Carlton was THE dominant pitcher in the game between 1977 and 1983, and this card was a great kick-starter as far as the legend of "Lefty" was concerned.
Luckily for all of us, it just so happened that someone else burst onto the baseball world with an amazing 1972 season, giving us all a glimpse into what was about to be a SICK 27-year career unmatched on the mound before or since: Nolan Ryan.
After pitching for the New York Mets for five years and having moments of brilliance, it wasn't until he was famously traded to the California Angels that Ryan became an instant legend.
His 1972 season took everyone by surprise, as he went 19-16 with a 2.28 E.R.A. But what got everyone going was his Major League leading 329 strikeouts and nine shutouts.
He was an instant force on the mound, blowing everyone away and giving us a peek at what we were about to witness for the next 20+ years!
The very next year Ryan whiffed a Major League record 383 batters (which still stands), and was well on his way to throwing SEVEN no-hitters, 12 one-hitters, and 18 two-hitters! 
How ridiculous is that!?
By the time the "Ryan Express" gave the arm a rest after the 1993 season, he won 324 games, threw 61 shutouts, and struck out a STILL amazing 5714 batters.
I look at this league leader card and just sit amazed at how these two guys were on their way to Hall of Fame careers, dominating batters for the next two decades.
I also think back to the 1980 Topps set and remember how they both also had those nice "all-star" cards for the first time in their careers as well.
Amazing card for Hall of Fame collectors.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

THINGS YOU NOTICE AS A KID: "ALL HEAD ON BILL HANDS"- 1975 BILL HANDS (#412)

Now, I wasn't sure about what I'm about to post, until I actually went and MEASURED my suspicions to be absolutely sure, but the cap on Bill Hands' 1975 Topps card (#412) is HUGE!
I mean, look at this noggin"!

"To serve man..."
 
It's laughably odd with it's "Kanamit"-like size, no?
I recently went back to post on it, and for some reason started thinking I was imagining it. So I did what ANY card-nerd would do: I put it up against other cards with similar poses and "measured", and by golly, this guy's cap IS INDEED larger!
Granted, it's terribly un-scientific, but my "test" was clear enough.
It's something I first noticed as a kid over 30 years ago, and always had it on my mind when I thought of "funny cards".
Seems when the airbrush "artist" went to paint on a Texas Rangers cap, he got a little carried away and added a bit to complete the job.
If it doesn't hit you at first, keep looking, it will! It sneaks up on you sometimes...
Hands' career was pretty much over by the time this card came out, as he appeared in 18 games for the Rangers in 1975, all starts, going 6-7 with a 4.02 earned run average.
The high point of his career was easily 1969 while pitching for the Chicago Cubs.
That season he teamed up with Fergie Jenkins, forming a 20-game winning one-two punch, going 20-14 with a nice 2.49 E.R.A. while starting 41 games, good for 300 innings on the nose.
All told, he retired with a 111-110 record and 3.35 E.R.A in 374 career games between 1965 and 1975, pitching for the Giants, Cubs, Twins and Rangers.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

UGH...THOSE 1972 TOPPS "AWARDS" CARDS...(#621 THROUGH #626): TODAY, CARD #622 "M.V.P. AWARD"

Following my introduction to this topic from last week focusing on the awful 1972 sub-set of "awards" cards, we take a look at the "Most Valuable Player" card (#622), which originally depicted the actual award plaque instead of the players who took it home in 1971: Vida Blue and Joe Torre.
 
 
Again, as I have stated before, why Topps went with the idea of having cards of hardware instead of the players themselves is beyond me.
So allow me to show you all my redesign of the card, this time featuring Blue and Torre after their awesome 1971 campaigns.


A bit better than the original, no?!
Vida Blue just exploded in 1971, winning both the Cy Young and the M.V.P. by posting awesome numbers like a 24-8 record with a 1.82 earned run average, as well as eight shutouts and 301 strikeouts.
Just fantastic numbers for someone in his first full season of Major League ball.
It was a sign of what was to come, as the Oakland A's became a three-time world champion dynasty between 1972 and 1974, with Blue anchoring the pitching staff, bolstered by guys like Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Blue Moon Odom and Rollie Fingers.
As for the National League Most Valuable Player, Joe Torre was already a star in the big leagues for some time, and actually had an excellent 1970 season splitting time between catching and third base for the Cardinals, hitting a robust .325 with 21 home runs and 100 runs batted in. For that effort he finished with M.V.P. Consideration when votes came in.
The following year, he WAS the player taking home the award, having by far his best season in a solid 18-year career.
In 1971, now solely entrenched at third base, Torre was on fire as he hit a league-leading .363 with 24 homers and a league-leading 137 runs batted in.
He also lead the N.L. with 230 hits and 352 total bases, getting him 21 of 24 first place votes when M.V.P. balloting came around at the end of the year.
So again I have to ask: why not have the players themselves on this card, celebrating some awesome performances, than some static image of a plaque?
Oh well, at least it gives me the opportunity to "fix" it all right here, some 40+ years later!
Next time, we look at my redesign for the Cy Young Award card (#623), featuring Blue again and Fergie Jenkins.

Friday, December 13, 2013

#1 DRAFT PICKS OF THE 1970's. A SPECIAL SUB-SET...DANNY GOODWIN: CHICAGO WHITE SOX: 1971

By now anyone who is into recent baseball history, more specifically the June amateur draft, knows that there has only been one player that was TWICE drafted #1 overall on two separate occasions: Danny Goodwin.
In 1971, Goodwin was the overall #1 pick by the Chicago White Sox as a catcher out of Peoria Central High School in Illinois, but he decided to pursue a college career instead, leaving Chicago high and dry as he went off to Southern University and A&M College in Louisiana, alma mater of Hall of Famer Lou Brock.
For Chicago, it wasn't necessarily the biggest loss, since the first round of the 1971 draft only yielded one future star if the game, Jim Rice.
However Rice went at #15, getting picked by the Boston Red Sox, so it seems highly probable that the White Sox would have picked some other relative "bust" had they not chosen Goodwin.
Just as a point of reference, the players picked between #2 and #5: Jay Franklin, Tommy Bianco, Condredge Holloway (what a name!), and Roy Branch.
See what I mean?
Anyway, after four years at college, Goodwin still impressed scouts enough that the California Angels decided to pick him #1 again in the 1975 draft (which will be profiled in the near future right here).
Sadly for the Angels, it was also a wasted pick, as Goodwin never did pan out on the big league level.
All told, between the years 1975 and 1982 Goodwin averaged about 45 games a season for the Angels, Twins and A's, mainly as a designated hitter, ending up with a .236 lifetime average and 13 home runs to go along with 81 runs batted in.
He DID have some kick-ass seasons in the minors, but just couldn't continue that performance in the Majors.
He even managed to get a season in Japan in 1986, playing for Nankai, but only batted .231 with eight homers and 26 ribbies in 83 games, and called it a career.
In 2011 Goodwin was honored as the very first college player from a historically black university to be elected to the National College Baseball Hall of Fame after his stellar college career between 1971 and 1975.
Goodwin will always be that trivia answer regarding his two #1 picks in '71 and '75, and today I present my second design for the imagined 1979 sub-set of #1 overall draft picks of the 1970's, following my Mike Ivie design, who went #1 in 1970.
Keep and eye out for my next post on this thread, 1972's #1 pick Dave Roberts, coming soon.
The first of his two #1 pick years...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT- 1970'S BASEBALL TRIVIA PART XXVIII




Hello again...
Today's trivia will deal with 200+ strikeout seasons by pitchers during the decade of the 1970's.
See how many you can get. As usual the answers will be posted tomorrow.


1. Who was the only pitcher to fan 200+ batters in a season with UNDER 200-innings pitched?

2. Who walked the fewest batters in a season in which they also struck out 200+?

3. Who lead his lead in strikeouts with the fewest amount in a season for the decade?

4. Who faced the lowest amount of batters during a season which saw him strikeout 200 or more batters?

5. Who sported the lowest strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio among 200 strikeout pitchers during the '70's?

***SPOILER ALERT! ANSWERS BELOW: 

1. Dennis Eckersley, Indians. 1976. 199.1 innings.

2. Fergie Jenkins, Cubs. 1971. 37 walks with an amazing 263 K's.
 
3. Nolan Ryan, Angels. 1979. 223 strikeouts.
 
4. Dennis Eckersley, Indians. 1976. 821 batters faced.

5. Wilbur Wood. White Sox. 1972. 4.61 K's per nine innings. He pitched an incredible 376.2 innings that year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"GIMME A DO-OVER"- PART XXVII: 1972 #310 ROBERTO CLEMENTE "IN ACTION"

I've always known that I'd get to THIS card at some point.
What was Topps thinking by using an image of Roberto Clemente obviously pissed at a strike call on his 1972 "in action" card (#310)?!
I've always tried to stay clear of those "in action" cards since so many of them are RIDICULOUS, but this one needs my attention.
Take a look at what Topps threw out there:
Really?! This is the "action" photo Topps went with?
Seriously? Of ALL images to use, THAT'S what they went with?
I'm sure Topps had at least ONE image of Clemente running the bases, or fielding his position, or even swinging the bat, no?
Clemente's "regular" card was also an epic "fail" as far as images are concerned, and I redesigned it a while back on this blog. 
I would actually go as far as saying that the best Clemente card in the 1972 set was card #226 World Series Game Four with him leading off a base. Nice photo on THAT one, even with the ass that's making an appearance on the left side of the frame. Take a look:

Nice photo here (except for the ass on the left).
Nevertheless, allow me to redesign that "in action" card here:
Classic Clemente right here!
At least there's some "real" action going on, right?
I'm not going to start messing around with those "in action" cards from 1972, but I WILL admit there may be a Hall of Famer or two that I'll 'fix" in the future.
stay tuned…

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"WHEN AIRBRUSHING GOES TERRIBLY WRONG"- PART XII

Today's airbrushing card classic features former pitcher Tom Bradley on his 1971 Topps card (#588).
Take a look:
 
Dig the signature on the card...
 
Seems like the "artist" Topps used decided to phone it in and settle for airbrushing the ONLY the White Sox cap color, ignoring the team logo.
Looks like another one of those "color-inside-the-lines" jammies we've seen before (1972 Hal King for example).
Awesome…Gotta love it!
I just love cards like this!
By the way, please note the FULL autograph with middle name: "Thomas William Bradley".
Bradley was coming off of his first two years in the Majors, getting sparse action with the California Angels, who drafted him in 1968 out of the University of Maryland. You can see a small bit of California's uniform around his collar.
1971 was actually the first of three pretty good seasons for Bradley, as he went on to post a 15-15 record with a nice 2.96 E.R.A. and 206 strikeouts.
He started an amazing 39 games that year, enough for 285.2 innings even though he only completed seven games. But he DID post SIX shutouts in those seven complete games.
1972 was almost identical to 1971, as he went 15-14 with a 2.98 earned run average and 209 strikeouts while starting 40 games, good for 260.0 innings. Of those 40 starts he upped his complete games to eleven, though his shutout total dropped to two.
Nevertheless not a bad arm to have starting every fourth day!
1973 was a small step backwards, as he moved on to the San Francisco Giants, but decent when all was said and done: Bradley ended up with a 13-12 record over 34 starts, good for 224 innings and six complete games. His strikeout total dropped noticeably, totaling only 136, but perhaps it was a sign of things to come…
In 1974 he was not nearly as effective a starter, going 8-11 with a bloated 5.16 E.R.A. over the course of 21 starts and 30 appearances. He managed only 134.1 innings and notched only 72 K's. But he DID have two shutouts among his eight wins.
However, by 1975 he was pretty much done, as he managed to pitch in only 13 games, six of them starts. 
He ended his final year in the big leagues with a 2-3 record and eye-popping 6.21 E.R.A.
He appeared in his last game on September, 15th of '75, ended his career at the age of 28.
Bradley went on to a lengthy career as a college head baseball coach, leading Jacksonville University from 1979 to 1990 before moving on to his alma mater, the University of Maryland from 1991 through 2000.

Monday, December 9, 2013

MEET THE NEWEST HALL OF FAMERS! LaRUSSA, COX AND TORRE!

I think a hearty "CONGRATULATIONS" needs to go out to the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre!
News just broke of all three being inducted into Cooperstown today, and it could NOT have gone any other way.
The three new Hall members represent the third, fourth and fifth highest winning field skippers in Major League history.
Tony LaRussa was the big winner with 2728 wins as a manager, with Cox winning 2504 and Torre getting 2326 wins respectively.
Funny enough, all three started managing Major League ball within three years of each other: Torre in '77, Cox in '78 and LaRussa in '79.
"Cheers" to all three and their winning ways!

Managing Iowa in 1979. The beginning...

Cox at the beginning of his managerial career, with the 1978 Braves.

The beginning of Torre's managerial career, with the Mets.

OSCAR GAMBLE IS BACK! A LOOK AT HIS WACKY 1973 CARD (#372)

You KNOW I can't go long on this blog without some new mention or profile of that '70's baseball icon: Oscar Gamble!
Today I want to take a look at his action-packed 1973 card (#372):
Someone's popping up from a hole in the ground!!!
First off, it's obvious Topps did a basic airbrush job on his Philadelphia Phillies uniform, getting rid of the "P" on the front but leaving the rest as-is. 
If you didn't notice it right off the bat, you'd have to realize this when you notice that the player standing upright next to him is a National Leaguer, non-other than Cincinnati Reds all-star shortstop Dave Concepcion. So the image is from a Phillies-Reds game some time in 1972.
Oscar was traded by the Phillies in November, 1972 to the Cleveland Indians with Roger Freed for Del Unser and Terry Wedgewood.
It IS a great action shot, no doubt, as it seems Gamble was just forced out at second base and they're all looking towards force, perhaps at the completion of a double-play (?).
But what always made me chuckle was the "floating" head of the Reds' second baseman in that dust cloud at Gamble's feet! 
You'd miss him if you didn't look closely. (I can't really tell who it is, maybe Darrel Chaney? But I'm really guessing here).
Love it!
Those 1973 horizontal cards were brilliant, even though a ton of them had crappy photos (Luis Alvarado anyone?).
They still made for a classic set, and I have to admit, ever since I started this blog, it has made me appreciate the '73 Topps set more and more for all of it's quirkiness, peculiarity and unique insight into baseball during the era.
I'll definitely be profiling many more cards from this set in the future!
Heck, it seems like I've already redesigned a bunch of them here already!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

UGH...THOSE 1972 TOPPS "AWARDS" CARDS...(#621 THROUGH #626): TODAY, CARD #621 "COMMISSIONERS AWARD"

I don't know what many of you feel out there about that 1972 Topps "Awards" sub-set (#'s 621-626), but I have always hated those cards!
The concept was great! But why on earth Topps felt kids (or adults for that matter) would be interested in cards that featured plaques and trophies OVER the very players that "won" the awards is beyond me, especially since a few of those players were super stars and future Hall of Famers!
I mean, jeez! What kid was happy to pull out a card of the "Commissioner's Award", instead of having another Brooks Robinson card in their collection!?
I know I've seen a couple of redesigns featuring the actual players who won the awards depicted on the cards somewhere on the web, but I've also gone ahead and redesigned all six of the cards, with the player (or players) who actually won the hardware depicted on the actual card.
To kick off this "sub-set" thread of a sub-set, we'll start in numerical order and profile the aforementioned "Commissioner's Award" card (#621), which was actually won by Baltimore Orioles legend, Brooks Robinson.
Take a look at the card issued by Topps:
 
Seriously? What kid was happy with THIS card?!
 
Give me a break!
Allow me to "jazz it up" a bit with a redesign showing Brooks during the year he won the award.

I'd like to think kid's would have preferred this...

Better, no? I sure do think so!
Rather have a player depicted than some trophy.
Anyway, this was definitely a fun sub-set to work on, and I'll be profiling the other five cards in the near future.
Keep an eye out for them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!- THE ODD PAINT JOB ON FRITZ PETERSON'S 1976 CARD

Can anyone explain to me what is going on with Fritz Peterson's 1976 Topps card (#255)?
While it looks like his image was airbrushed COMPLETELY, it doesn't make sense since he was already a starter for the Cleveland Indians for almost two years at that point.
It doesn't really look like a "regular" airbrush job, but look at the card and decide for yourself:
 
One of the more inexplicable airbrush/touch-up jobs...
 
Look around his legs and the terrible paint job of whatever scoreboard was in the background. ???
What was it the "painter" was covering up back there? Why was it so necessary?
Really odd.
Does anyone know what the original photo was like?
Was it an old Yankee photo? And what was up with the background? What was back there that had to be airbrushed a solid green?!
I would love to know anything regarding this card!
As you ALL know by now, Peterson is perhaps best known for swapping families with teammate Mike Kekich in the early-70's while with the Yanks.
Funny enough, he swap worked out very well for Fritz, as he remained married to the former "Mrs. Kekich" and started their own family with four more kids over the years.
Sadly for Mike Kekich, it didn't work out nearly as well, as he and the former "Mrs. Peterson" divorced relatively soon afterwards.
Ahhh, those wild 1970's!

Friday, December 6, 2013

#1 DRAFT PICKS OF THE 1970's. A SPECIAL SUB-SET...MIKE IVIE: SAN DIEGO PADRES: 1970

I've always been very interested in the June amateur baseball draft through the years.
I was particularly psyched when Topps decided to have those "#1 Draft Pick" designations on those 1989 cards as a small sub-set.
How cool was it to see those draft picks on a card? Guys like Jim Abbot, Andy Benes, etc?
Well, I thought it would be kind of cool to create a sub-set for the 1979 set that would have all the #1 overall picks of every draft during the '70's.
I based the design off of Topps "Record Breaker" cards in the set, with minor tweaks here and there.
Today I'll start with the #1 overall pick in June of 1970, Mike Ivie, with all the other #1 picks to follow in the near future.
Take a look:
 
 
Ivie was taken first by the San Diego Padres out of Decatur, Georgia's Walker High School as a catcher.
Although he managed to make it up to the Majors at the age of 19 in 1971, appearing in 6 games, he was sent down to the Minors for the next few years before getting called back up in 1974.
1975 saw his first substantial playing time, playing in 111 games, good for 411 plate appearances, but it was nothing really to write home about, as he hit .249 with eight homers and 46 runs batted in. (In all fairness those were some terrible Padre teams however, and he wasn't surrounded by the best guys).
Sadly for him (and the Padres), that first "full" season would pretty much represent his output during his 11 year career.
In February of '78 San Diego traded Ivie to the Giants for Derrel Thomas, and in 1979 he gave San Francisco arguably his finest season, as he hit .286 with 27 homers and 89 runs batted in, doing so with only 402 official at-bats.
But that really would be it for Ivie as far as any substantial accomplishments on the big league level.
The Giants sent him to Houston during the 1981 season, playing sparsely until the Astros released him at the end of April, 1982.
After that he signed on with Detroit in May of the same year, but didn't manage much and was released about a year later, ending his career.
As far as 1st overall picks, Mike Ivie didn't pan out as the Padres hoped, but he did stick around for eleven years, good for 857 games, MUCH better than some of the other picks we'll see as I profile them one by one in the near future.
Stay tuned as we next look at the only guy to be a #1 overall pick TWICE in Major League history…

Thursday, December 5, 2013

JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT- 1970'S BASEBALL TRIVIA PART XXVII




Once again, it's time for this week's trivia questions. This week's trivia deals with 20+ home run seasons during the 1970's. Answers will be posted tomorrow down below:


1. Of all 20+ home run seasons in the decade, what player had the fewest hits?

2. Of all 20+ home run hitters, who had the fewest R.B.I.'s for the year?

3. What player had the fewest runs scored in a 20+ homer season?

4. Who had the fewest at-bats with 20+ homers in a season during the '70's?

5. Who had the lowest batting average in a season among 20+ hitters during the decade?

***SPOILER ALERT! ANSWERS BELOW: 

1. Dave Kingman, Giants. 62 hits in 1973.

2. Oscar Gamble, Indians. 44 in 1973.
 
3. Willie McCovey, Giants. 43 in 1975.
 
4. Cliff Johnson, Yankees & Astros. 286 in 1977.

5. Dave Kingman, Giants. .203 in 1973.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HALL OF FAME LEADERS VIII: 1973 BATTING LEADERS

By 1973 Topps decided it would no longer have statistical leader cards for the National and American leagues, but just portray the leader of both leagues on the same card.
It would remain this way for the rest of the decade and make for some classic leader cards featuring some of baseball's all-time greats.
Today we take a look at the 1973 Batting Leaders card (#61), which shows to of the game's best, Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs and Rod Carew of the Minnesota Twins.
 
Topps' first year of dual league leaders.
 
Each lead their league in batting in 1972 and as such, we are given a nice card featuring two future Hall of Famers.
Billy Williams hit a robust .333 to pace the National league, also slamming 37 home runs and driving in 122 runs, good enough for an M.V.P. award most years if it wasn't for a guy in Cincinnati named Johnny Bench.
It would be the only batting title for "Billy from Whistler", but combined with all the other achievements during his 18 year baseball career he would be elected to Cooperstown's hallowed halls in 1987.
Next up we have the batting champ of the 1970's, Rod Carew. In 1972 Carew sported the lowest batting average of all his seven batting championships, but it would be the first of six batting titles in seven years! George Brett would break his string in 1976 by only two points! Or we'd be looking at seven titles in a row between 1972 and 1978.
Carew was a machine in the 70's and into the 80's, and was WELL on his way to Hall of Fame enshrinement on his first try in 1991.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"GIMME A DO-OVER"- PART XXVI: 1973 #175 FRANK ROBINSON

Now, I love the 1973 Frank Robinson card (#175).
I love the horizontal layout, the action shot of Robinson following through on a swing and the catcher and umpire looking up, making me believe he just smashed one over the wall for one of his 586 career dingers.
However, I just cannot look past the fact that he is obviously in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform that was airbrushed, and he was obviously playing against the Phillies as evidenced by the catcher's uniform.
The airbrush job wasn't awful. But to be honest it's not like Topps tried to do much.
All they did was airbrush away the team logo on the front of his jersey, but left the distinct Dodger red player number right there on the right side of the lower chest area.
It sucks since this is one of the better Hall of Fame player action cards of the '73 set. However, it DOES say "Angels" at the bottom of the card, so I'll go ahead and redesign a 1973 Topps card for Frank Robinson, using a portrait image I found online.
Sadly I couldn't find a useful landscape action shot of him to keep the same format as the original.
Here's to you Frank! Just an awesome player who was overshadowed by the Mickey Mantles, Willie Mays, Hank Aarons and Roberto Clemente's of the world, even with two M.V.P.'s, a Triple Crown, and becoming the first African-American Major League manager in baseball.
1973 would actually end up being his last really "big" season in the big leagues, as he went on to hit 30 homers with 97 runs batted in as the first designated hitter for the California Angels organization before moving on to Cleveland and managerial destiny.

As issued by Topps. Notice the airbrushed Dodger uniform.

Robinson in an Angel uniform.

Monday, December 2, 2013

ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITES: 1978 EDDIE MURRAY ROOKIE CARD

Today I'd like to profile another of my all-time favorite cards: 1978 Topps Eddie Murray (#36) rookie card.
God I love this card!
The colors, the great image of the young star, the rookie cup at the bottom. It was perfect!
What a cock-sure look on the young slugger's face, coming off a rookie of the year season in 1977 which saw him slug 27 homers with 88 runs batted in while hitting at a .283 pace.
Take a look:
 
An all-time classic rookie card!
 
That rookie season was ONLY the beginning for Murray, as he would go on to become one of the most consistent hitters in baseball history over the course of the next 21 years.
From 1977 through 1996, TWENTY YEARS, Murray would never drive in less than 76 runs in any season, including six 100+ and six 90+ seasons.
In those twenty years, he'd also hit 20+ homers 16 times, and would finish with eight top five finishes in M.V.P. voting!
A little known bit regarding Murray and his amazing career: In 1990 he would lead the Major Leagues in batting with a .330 average, yet never get credit for a title since Willie McGee hit .335 for the Cardinals before getting traded to the A's, where he would only hit .274, lowering his season average to .324 combined.
But as it is, his .335 average is what counts towards the N.L. title, with George Brett hitting .329 to lead the American league, leaving Murray with the odd fate of having the highest batting average for the 1990 season without winning the title.
Seems like the perfect example of Murray's career: a guy who basically stayed in the shadows, producing year after year without much fanfare, while guys like Cal Ripken, Robin Yount and Willie McGee took the spotlight and awards by season's end.
But when it was all said and done, Eddie Murray put together a monster of a Hall of Fame career, hitting 504 home runs, driving in 1917 runs, scoring 1627 of them himself, and totaling 3255 hits!
After hanging them up in 1997, he was an easy inductee to the Hall of Fame in 2003, getting named on 423 of 496 ballots.
It only leaves me wondering what sportswriters left him OFF the ballot!
The whole "unanimous" paranoia of Hall of Fame voting leaves me shaking my head every time…

Sunday, December 1, 2013

LONG TIME NO SEE: 1970 PAUL RATLIFF (#267)

Talk about perseverance! 
I recently took a closer look (for no reason whatsoever) at card #267 of Topps 1970 set, which is a multi-player Twins rookie card, and looked up the stats for each guy.
I normally don't bother with these cards since they very frequently depict guys that never even made it up to the Majors, so it'd be like shooting fish in a barrel if I decided to pick those player choices apart here.
But the name Paul Ratliff sounded familiar, and when I "Googled" his name I saw that he actually appeared on a baseball card way back in 1963 on one of those God-awful looking multi-player rookie cards. 
You know the cards, Pete Rose's rookie is one of them.
Ugly doesn't even begin to explain how these cards look!
Anyway, getting back to the 1970 card, I realized this guy went seven years between cards, and was STILL on a rookie-card all those years later.
Take a look at both cards:

Ratliff as a 19-year-old prospect in 1963..
 
His next card appearance seven years later, in 1970.
 
Seems Ratliff came up as a 19-year old for the Minnesota Twins in 1963 and got into 10 games, good for 24 plate appearances and four hits while playing behind the plate.
But sadly for him, that would be it, as he was sent back down to the Minors where he toiled for the next six years, flip-flopping between the Twins and Senators four times in the late-60's.
If you look at his Minor League numbers, nothing really stands out. But in 1969 he did hit an admirable .302 over the course of about half a season with Double-A Charlotte.
I guess that was enough for Topps to give him a slot on card #267 along with another Twins prospect, Herman Hill.
For Ratliff, the next three years saw him get into a handful of Major League action for both the Twins and the Milwaukee Brewers, totaling 135 games between 1970-1972, before walking away from the game at the age of 28.
Seven years between cards. That's one of the lengthier gaps I've come across between cards.
Let's see if I can dig up some others.

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Everything baseball: cards, events, history and more.