Saturday, April 22, 2017

NICKNAMES OF THE 1970'S: "THE LITTLE GENERAL" JOHNNY BENCH

Here’s a long-overdue “nickname” card for the great Johnny Bench, the “Little General”, who led the Cincinnati Reds through their “Big Red Machine” juggernaut teams of the decade to consecutive World Championships in 1975-76:


Though not really the most recognized nickname of the decade in baseball, Bench was tagged with it early on when it was clear this guy was a leader as well as a natural on the diamond.
All he would go on to do is win the National league Rookie of the Year as a 20-year old in 1968, win TWO Most Valuable Player Awards by the age of 24, and win those aforementioned championships by the age of 28.
Just an incredible career that took him straight to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1989, as if there was any chance of that NOT happening!
One of the all-time great catchers regardless of era.

Friday, April 21, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1971 MINNIE MENDOZA

Here’s a “not really” missing 1971 Minnie Mendoza card that really came out well, for the long-time minor league player who got a cup of coffee in 1970:


Mendoza FINALLY got to the Majors after 16 years in the Minor Leagues, originally appearing way back in 1954!
In his MLB cup-of-coffee he appeared in 16 games with 16 at-bats, collecting three hits and batting .188.
But don’t let those numbers fool you. This guy flat out HIT in his 20 years in the Minor Leagues, collecting 2462 hits and batting .290!
Granted, most of his hitting was in the lower levels, but I’m curious as to why he didn’t get more of a shot in the Major League level after some really fine seasons.
After his brief ZMLB appearance he was back in the Minors until the 1973 season, where he played for Monterray in the Mexican League at the age of 39.
Pretty interesting career to look into!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

1975 "IN ACTION"- TOM SEAVER

Here’s the next 1975 “In Action” card, this time it’s Mets ace Tom Seaver, who was on his way to a third Cy Young Award by the time the season was over:


After posting a record of 11-11 in 1974, Seaver came back with a vengeance in 1975, going 22-9 with a 2.8 earned run average and 243 strikeouts, leading the league in wins and K’s.
He was in prime form in the mid-70’s, putting together nine straight 200 strikeouts seasons while getting tabbed to ten all-star teams in his first eleven seasons.
Of course, being in your prime didn’t mean that the improbable could happen, as Mets fans found out on June 15th of 1977 when Seaver found himself traded to the Cincinnati Reds for four players, which at the time seemed like the rich (Reds) were getting richer.
But as baseball has shown everyone many times, having a team that is STOCKED doesn’t translate to championship seasons every time, as the Reds suddenly found themselves second-fiddle to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the West, never making it to the World Series with Seaver on their team.
Nevertheless, Seaver would ride his power-pitching straight to the Hall of Fame, finishing up with 311 wins, a 2.86 E.R.A., 61 shutouts and 3640 K’s.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

1960'S SEASONAL LEADERS- EARNED RUN AVERAGE

The next “Decade Leader” card for the 1960’s is Earned Run Average, sporting a couple of all-time low E.R.A.’s no matter what the decade:


Of course for the National League we have St Louis Cardinals great Bob Gibson, who posted one of the lowest E.R.A.’s in history at 1.13.
He achieved this with help from no one else but himself, as he posted 13 shutouts accounting for all but nine of his 22 wins, yet the guy STILL lost nine games that season!
He completed 28 of 34 starts, almost threw nothing but zeros in HALF of them, yet still came up with nine losses. Incredible!
Of course he would take home the Cy Young Award AND MVP for the N.L. For his troubles, along with his fourth Gold Glove and fifth all-star nod, on his way into the hallowed doors of Cooperstown.
Over in the American League, the decade’s lowest ERA was posted by “El Tiante” Luis Tiant, who was sadly overshadowed in the “Year of the Pitcher”, but would have EASILY taken home a Cy Young had he posted the numbers he did any other season.
All Tiant did that season for the Cleveland Indians was go 21-9 with nine shutouts over 32 starts, 19 of which he completed, and sport a sparkling 1.60 E.R.A. along with 264 strikeouts!
Forget Cy Young Award, those are MVP numbers!
However, there was a guy named Denny McLain winning 31 games for the eventual World Champion Detroit Tigers, so Tiant went home empty-handed.
He would actually go on to struggle over the next three seasons until making an awesome comeback with the Boston Red Sox in 1972, once again leading the A.L. In E.R.A. With a sub-2.00 figure, this time at 1.91.
He’d be in the Majors to stay after that, pitching through to 1982 and finishing with 229 wins along with 49 shutouts, a 3.30 E.R.A. and 2416 strikeouts over his 19-year career.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NEGRO LEAGUE LEGENDS- SATCHEL PAIGE

Today’s “Negro league Legend” is none other than arguably the most well-known star and personality of them all,  pitching great Satchel Paige:


From his start as a 20-year old playing for the Birmingham Black Barons in 1927 to his final Major League appearance as a 59-year old for the Kansas City Athletics, Paige became an American icon not only for his on-field play but for his infectious personality.
Though his career Negro League record is listed as 100-50 over 18-seasons, he won countless other games along the way, as was the usual for the Negro Leagues as they played exhibition and non-league games during gaps in their schedule.
His stories are legend, enough so that by the time the Baseball Hall of Fame got off their ass and finally began electing Negro League all-time greats to Cooperstown, Paige was the very 1st to be so honored.
A 5x time Negro League all-star, 2x American League all-star, Negro League champ in 1942 with the Homestead Grays, and Major League World Champion with the 1948 Cleveland Indians, Paige left a baseball legacy that few could come close to.
If you haven’t already please do yourself a favor and read up on anything you can regarding the anecdotes on Paige, from BOTH his Negro league days through to his Major League tenure!
Honestly, if I were to go and write a full bio on the guy, it would end up being a BOOK! So forgive the relatively short write-up here.
Some guys are such legends there really isn’t much that needs to be said...

Monday, April 17, 2017

MAJOR LEAGUE FOUNDERS: JOE BATTIN 1876-1976

Next up in my “Major League Founders” thread is former infielder Joe Battin, who played 10 scattered years as a professional player between 1871 and 1890:


Battin originally came up for a single game for the Cleveland club of the National Association in 1871 at the age of 17, followed by a single game two seasons later for the Philadelphia Athletics before finally becoming a full-time player in 1874.
An early “good-field/no-hit” player, he played in the Major Leagues’ first two seasons in 1876 & 1877, putting in his best season at the plate during the inaugural 1876 campaign when he batted .300.
Considering his next highest batting average as a pro would be the .250 he hit the year before, that .300 average was indeed an aberration.
He would be out of pro-ball until 1882 when he played for the Pittsburgh club of the American Association, for whom he’d play the next season as well.
In 1884 he’d play for no less than three clubs, in both the AA and Union Association, batting a cumulative .164 average while playing shortstop.
Again, he’d miss a few seasons before coming back to pro-ball in 1890, his last action as a Major League player, when he’s suit up for Syracuse of the AA at the age of 36, batting .210.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1973 JOHN GAMBLE

Here’s a “not so missing” 1973 card for former shortstop John Gamble, who appeared in a scant six games for the Detroit Tigers during his rookie 1972 season:


Gamble played in the first six games of what would be a short 13-game career in 1972, going hitless in three at-bats in pinch-hit roles while playing one game at shortstop.
The following year he’d play in seven games for Detroit, oddly enough listed as a designated hitter yet not having a single plate appearance (?), though he did score a run.
Sadly for him that would be it for the Majors, though he would stick it out in the Minor Leagues until the 1976 season in Triple-A ball.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

1975 "IN-ACTION"- JOHNNY BENCH

The next 1975 “In-Action” card in my series is none other than the great Johnny Bench, smack in the middle of his incredible career leading the “Big Red Machine”:


Bench already had two MVP’s under his belt by the time this card would have hit the market, and was just about to become a two-time world champion with two straight World Series wins in 1975 and 1976 against the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees respectively.
He would put together a career rarely seen by ANY player, let alone a catcher: 14 all-star games, 10 Gold Gloves, two home run titles and three RBI titles, all while donning the “tools of ignorance” for 17 seasons, all with the Reds.
Look for my “Nicknames of the 70s” card for the “Little General” coming soon!

Friday, April 14, 2017

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 1970'S: DON MONEY SETS ERRORLESS STREAK FOR THIRD BASEMAN

Thanks to my buddy John Seibel, I was sent an awesome photo (and idea) just perfect for a 1970’s “Highlight” card, Don Money and his errorless streak at third base during the 1974 season:


How great is this picture?!
Money, who was one of the top defensive third baseman of his era, played in 86 straight games without an error, with 78 setting the new record as shown on the decorated base he’s holding.
Oddly enough he’d go on to play various positions soon after this, even starting the 1978 all-star game for the American League at second base, leading to his all-star card in the 1979 set.
He wasn’t all defense however, as he’d hit as many as 25 home runs in a season (1977), as well as collect as many as 178 hits (1974) during his 16-year career.
The four-time all-star would retire after the 1983 season with 1623 hits, 176 homers and 798 runs scored over 1720 games.
Thanks John for the photo and card-idea!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

1960'S SEASONAL LEADERS- SHUTOUTS

Next up in my 1960’s “Seasonal Leaders” thread is shutouts, and we have a couple of doozies at the top of the decade, Bob Gibson and Dean Chance with their excellent seasons in 1968 and 1964 respectively:


Of course, Bob Gibson had a season for the ages in ‘68, throwing 13 shutouts on his way to a microscopic 1.13 earned run average and a 22-9 record. Though how on earth he had NINE losses is beyond me even though I read through all the box scores! It just seems impossible to do!
But in the “Year of the Pitcher” of 1968 all sorts of craziness happened, and Gibson’s loss total was one of them.
The 13 shutouts is good for second all-time in Major League history, tied with Jack Coombs of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1910, and only behind the 16 thrown by Grover Alexander in 1916 and George Bradley in MLB’s inaugural season of 1876.
For Dean Chance, his Cy Young winning 1964 season was also one for the ages, as he cruised to a 20-9 record with a minuscule 1.65 ERA and 11 shutouts over 46 games, with 35 of them starts.
The 11 shutouts are the fourth highest total by a pitcher in any MLB season, and was accomplished by eight hurlers, with only Chance and Sandy Koufax doing it in “modern” times.
As a matter of fact, since Gibson’s 13 shutouts in ‘68, only TWO pitchers have reached double-digits since then, Jim Palmer with 10 in 1975 and John Tudor with the same amount in 1985.
Tim Belcher is the last pitcher to throw as many as eight shutouts in a season, which he accomplished in 1989, a season in which he only posted 15 wins. More than half of his wins were shutouts. Amazing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1977 HENRY CRUZ

Here’s a “missing” card for Henry Cruz, who I also created a 1979 “missing” card for some time ago:


Cruz appeared in 49 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 1976 season, batting .182 with 16 hits in 88 at-bats while playing all three outfield positions.
He’d find himself in the South Side of Chicago for the ‘77 season, being selected off waivers by the White Sox on September 7th, and for whom he’d play the next two years before playing out his pro career in the minor leagues and Mexico through 1985.
Oddly enough, before being selected by the White Sox in 1977, he was tearing it up in the Pacific Coast League with the Albuquerque Dukes, batting .353 with 88 ribbies and 95 runs scored in 133 games, easily his finest pro season.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1972 RUDY ARROYO

Here’s a “not so missing” 1972 card for Rudy Arroyo, who pitched the sole nine games of his Major League career in June of 1971:


Arroyo would make his debut on June 1st, and end up pitching his last game three weeks later, pitching 11.2 innings over those nine games, picking up a loss for his only decision along with a 5.40 ERA.
He’d pitch in the minor leagues for the next three seasons, but would never make it back to the big leagues, eventually retiring after the 1974 season after only six games with St. Petersburg of the Florida League.

Monday, April 10, 2017

1975 "IN-ACTION"- GAYLORD PERRY

The next 1975 “In Action” card in my new thread is Indians ace Gaylord Perry, who was smack in the middle of a great run that would lead him right to Cooperstown:


Perry was coming off of his fourth 20-win season in 1975, already leading BOTH leagues in wins with 23 in 1970 and 24 in 1972.
A work-horse, he logged 300+ innings six out of seven seasons between 1969 and 1975, with a high of 344 in 1973.
He’d go on to win yet another Cy Young Award in 1978 at the age of 39, this time in the National League while with the San Diego Padres, and would go on to finish with 314 wins along with 3534 strikeouts, 53 shutouts and a nice 3,11 ERA over 777 games, 690 of which were starts.
The five-time all-star would finally find himself in the Hall of Fame in 1991 when he was named on 342 of 443 ballots, capping off an awesome 22-year career.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

AIRBRUSHING ALL FOR NOTHING- 1977 DAVE DUNCAN INTO A WHITE SOX UNIFORM

Just wanted to take the time out to spotlight the 1977 Dave Duncan Topps card today for a couple of reasons, first off being the airbrushing job:


As with a bunch of the other Chicago White Sox in the 1977 set, Duncan was airbrushed into the organization’s new uniforms, giving us airbrush classics like this one.
Definitely not the worst of the bunch, but it turns out it was all for nothing since Duncan, who was traded by the Baltimore Orioles in November of 1976 for Pat Kelly, ended up being released right before the 1977 season began, on March 30th.
He’d never catch on as a player again in the Majors, but as we all know he would go on to an incredibly successful coaching career, beginning with the Cleveland Indians in 1979 and running straight through to 2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Between 1983 and 2011 he continuously worked as a coach for manager Tony LaRussa, including the Oakland “Bash Brothers” run and later on the Albert Pujols-era Cardinals, leading to three championships (1989, 2006 and 2011).
On a side note: though he showed some “pop” as a player, hitting as many as 19 home runs in 1972 with Oakland, his 1966 minor league season was eye-popping on the back of a baseball card!
With the Modesto Reds of the California League, he hit an incredible 46 home runs, along with 112 runs batted in and 103 runs scored in only 439 at-bats!
His NEXT highest home run total in the minors was 15, which was the previous year!
I don’t know what was going on that season in Modesto, but something HAD to be different. No? Makes no sense.
Anyone have a clue? Would love to hear it...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

FUTURE STARS- TOM SEAVER

The next “Future Star” card in the series is that of eventual Hall of Fame pitcher extraordinaire Tome Seaver, who was in the middle of his first full season as a Cincinnati Reds player after his heart-breaking trade (to us New Yorkers anyway) the previous season:


Though he didn’t put up the numbers that made him one of the game’s best while the ace of the New York Mets between 1967 and midway through the 1977 season, he was still effective, averaging 12 wins per season, including what should have been a FOURTH Cy Young season during the strike-shortened 1981 campaign.
That year he went 14-2 with a .875 winning percentage (both league leading numbers), along with a sparkling 2.54 earned run average and 87 strikeouts over 23 starts and 166.1 innings.
Of course, the world was wrapped up in “Fernando-mania”, so Valenzuela wound up with the award, just one of the short-ends the Reds got when you consider they had the BEST record in baseball in 1981, but because of that ridiculous “split-season” ruling they didn’t even qualify for the playoffs since they weren’t in 1st place at the beginning of the strike or at season’s end (figure that one out!).
Anyway, Seaver was a star baseball player before he was even a pro, commanding HUGE attention during his college days, eventually leading to some controversy when he originally signed with the Braves in 1966, only to have the signing voided, allowing the New York Mets to make arguably the best pick in franchise history in the 1966 amateur draft.
The man would end up 311-205 record with 61 shutouts and 3640 strikeouts along with a brilliant 2.86 ERA over 20-seasons and 656 appearances, 647 of which were starts.
The man WAS 1970’s power-pitching along with Nolan Ryan!

Friday, April 7, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1975 ROB ELLIS

Here’s a “missing” 1975 card for former Milwaukee Brewer Rob Ellis, who appeared in 22 games during the 1974 season:


Ellis played mainly in the outfield over those 22 games, along with a single game at Third, while batting a very respectable .292 with 14 hits in 48 at-bats.
It was the first Major League action he saw since his rookie 1971 season when he debuted with 36 games for the second-year franchise.
In 1975 he would play in what would end up being the last six games of his abbreviated three-year career, collecting two hits in seven at-bats while scoring three runs.
All together, he’d finish with a .229 lifetime average with 38 hits in 166 at-bats, all while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1973 DAVE DOWNS

Here’s a “not really” missing 1973 card for Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Dave Downs, who appeared in his only Major League games during the 1972 season:


Downs pitched in a grand total of four games for the Phillies in 1972, all starts, going 1-1 with a shutout and very nice 2.74 earned run average over 23 innings.
I don’t know why he never made it back based on that performance, though I’m sure injury had something to do with it as he missed the 1973 season completely, even Minors, then followed that up with only six games in 1974 with Rocky Mountain of the Carolina League (A-Ball).
He would also miss the 1975 season, before playing out his final 11 pro games in 1976 with Spartanburg in A-Ball, going 1-6 with a bloated 9.39 ERA.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

FANTASY 1976 CARD: ROLLIE FINGERS AND THE SALE THAT WASN'T

Came across a very nice shot of Rollie Fingers in Boston Red Sox garb and just had to create a card for him and the sale that never was:


For those of you who are not familiar, Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley was facing a HUGE problem with Free Agency on the horizon for all of his stars, including his top reliever Rollie Fingers.
Rather than lose them all to the highest bidder, he was determined to cash in ahead of time, and decided on somewhat of a fire sale.
This included selling pitcher Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1.5 million, and Joe Rudi along with Fingers to the Red Sox for $1 million apiece.
However, once the sale went through Baseball Commisioner Bowie Kuhn came along and determined that these sales were NOT in the best interest of the sport, and nullified the deals.
Fingers was a member of the Red Sox for just three days, from June 15th-18th, and never appeared in a game.
It was back to Oakland for him where he’d finish up the 1976 season with a 13-11 record along with a 2.47 earned run average over 70 games, with 20 saves in 134.2 innings pitched.
Just as Finley feared, he lost the core of his three-peat championship club to free agency, including Fingers who signed with the San Diego Padres where he’d star for the next four seasons, pacing the National League in saves his first two years with 35 and 37 respectively.
Of course he’d go on to finish a Hall of Fame career with four years with the Milwaukee Brewers, ending up at 341 saves with a 2.90 ERA and 114 wins over 944 games, all but 37 of them out of the bullpen.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1973 RON LOLICH

Here’s a “missing” 1973 card for former Cleveland Indians outfielder Ron Lolich, a player I already created a 1974 card a while back:


Lolich appeared in 24 games during the 1972 season, batting .188 with 15 hits over 80 at-bats with a couple of home runs and eight runs batted in.
It was during the 1973 season that he’d see the bulk of his Major League action, appearing 61 games and collecting 32 hits over 140 at-bats, good for a .229 average.
Sadly for Lolich, that would be the last of his MLB action, as he would move on to the Japanese League with the Nankai Hawks in 1974 and 1975 where he would club 27 and 22 homers before moving on to the Kintetsu organization in 1976 before calling it a pro career.
He’d end up with a .211 Major League average, with 48 hits over 228 at-bats in 87 games, all but two of those games with the Indians, the others being with the Chicago White Sox, for whom he came up with in 1971.

Monday, April 3, 2017

1975 "IN-ACTION"- CARL YASTRZEMSKI

Here’s a new thread I’m starting that’s going to be really fun to put together, a 1975 “In Action” sub-set just like Topps did in 1972.
The first player will be Boston Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski:


With so many great in-action cards in the 1975 set, it always bothered me that so many of the stars DIDN’T have action cards, so I figured I’d find some good in-game photos of the day’s best players and run a sub-set that was clean, devoid of “extra” type, and focused on the photo itself.
Of course, Yastrzemski by 1975 was smack in the middle of his Hall of Fame career, but still an all-star and feared American League batter.
It was a transition season of sorts for Yaz and the Red Sox, as the veteran slugger was giving way to young upstarts like Fred Lynn, Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, players who’d carry on what Yastrzemski took over from Ted Williams in the early 1960’s.
Of course, that 1975 season was a magical one for the Boston organization, with the team playing (though losing) against the “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, and having BOTH the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the form of the same player, Fred Lynn, that being the first time in Major League history that happened.
Throw in a player that would end up in the Hall of Fame in Jim Rice, a borderline Hall of Famer in Dwight Evans, and of course the future Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, and you have a team that defined "loaded".

Sunday, April 2, 2017

NEGRO LEAGUE LEGENDS- JOSH GIBSON

Today we add the legendary slugger Josh Gibson to my “Negro Leagues Legends” 1972 sub-set, celebrating what was at the time the 25th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color-line in Major League baseball:


Really, what needs to be said about one of the all-time baseball (of ANY league) legends anyone has ever seen?
I remember when I was a kid in the late-70’s/early-80’s, before the internet and information at the tips of your fingers, I would see that image of Gibson in the Guiness Book of World Records, along with their statement that he clubbed over 800 home runs during his playing career, as well as over 70 in a season, and just marvel and wonder about the “what if’s”.
What a treat it would have been to have fully documented numbers and achievements by Gibson against all players. Luckily what we do have are his numbers against his fellow Negro National League players, and they were just as amazing!
By the time Gibson retired at the young age of 34 in 1946, he put up a career average of .350, with 107 home runs in 1825 at-bats. Mind you, this doesn’t take into account all the home runs he blasted in other games such as the Dominican, Mexican, and Cuban (Winter League) games!
Informally, Gibson is credited with a .359 career average with 962 homers, hitting as many as 69 in 1934 and 55 the year before, including barnstorming games.
There’s so much I could write here, but for those who haven’t already, just read up on ANYTHING you can regarding Gibson’s career, it’ll blow your mind, including some of the anecdotes, and you’ll see why he’s considered not only one of the greatest catchers of all-time (in any league), but one of the greatest players, period.

Sadly, he passed away at only 35 years of age, never really seeing all the accolades that would come his way after he was no longer with us.
Such a shame. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

"WTHBALLS" ISSUE #10: 1977 "MISSING IN ACTION W/BONUS HANK AARON CARD




I'm happy to announce the availability of the next issue of "WTHBALLS", issue #10: 1977 "Missing in Action".
This issue features a "career capper" for all-time greats Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, as well as cards for Billy Williams, Tony Oliva, Andre Thornton, Minnie Minoso and many more.
The issue also comes with a full-color postcard of the Aaron card, ready to be collected as-is or cut-out to add to your 1977 set! They look great in a penny-sleeve and rigid holder.
As usual, this issue is a 24-page full-color comic-sized magazine and can be purchased for $5 each plus $2 postage.
Don't forget, I also have every back issue available if you missed one! Please contact me for combined shipping rates for multiple issue orders!
Thank you to all who have been collecting these, it's been a blast getting these made for my own personal collection and it's great to see all this work get some attention from others.
Take Care
Gio/wthballs

1960'S SEASONAL LEADERS- STRIKEOUTS

Next up in my 1960’s “decade’s Leaders” thread is strikeouts by a pitcher, and we have two big guns to speak of, Sandy Koufax and Sam McDowell, who K’d 382 and 325 batters respectively in seasons during the decade, setting the high-water mark between 1960-69:


Of course, Koufax and his 382 strikeouts set the new modern Major League record in 1965, topping the 349 strikeouts Rube Waddell put up in 1904.
As a matter of fact, until Koufax came along the National League record for strikeouts in a season was the 267 by Christy Mathewson in 1903! So that number jumped by nearly 50% thanks to the “Left Arm of God”!
In the American League, McDowell’s 325 strikeouts in 1965 made him the first pitcher to top 300 K’s in a season since the great Bob Feller did it 19 years earlier when he fanned 348 batters in 1946.
“Sudden Sam” would also top 300 K’s in 1970, when he struck out 304 batters to lead the league for the fifth time in six years, his last K-crown.
Two power-pitchers in the prime of their careers right here, bringing back the strikeout game after a few decades of low seasonal leader totals.

Friday, March 31, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1970 MERRITT RANEW

Here’s a “missing” 1970 card for one of the Seattle Pilots in their lone 1969 season, former catcher Merritt Ranew:


Ranew appeared in 54 games for the Pilots, his first taste of Major League action since the 1965 season when he played for the California Angels.
In those games for Seattle he batted .247 with 20 hits over 81 at-bats while filling in behind the plate as well as a few games in the outfield and one at third base.
Those would be the final games of his five-year MLB career, finishing up with a .247 average, collecting 147 hits in 594 at-bats with five teams between 1962 and 1969.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1974 JIM FOOR

Today’s “not so missing” card is for former pitcher Jim Foor, who had a brief three year Major League career, the last of which was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1973:


Foor appeared in the last three games of his big league career in 1973, pitching 1.1 innings with a walk (intentional) and a strikeout, not factoring into a decision.
That would give him a total of 13 career games in Major League ball, the first 10 of which were with the Detroit Tigers where he picked up his only win (against no losses), though getting hit hard (eight earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched).
All told he finished with a 1-0 record with a 12.00 ERA over those 13 games and 6 total inning pitched.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1976 TOM EGAN

Here is yet ANOTHER of those Angels’ catchers who could have gotten a card during the 1970’s, Tom Egan:


Egan joins the incredibly long list of California catchers like Jeff Torborg, Charlie Sands, Ike Hampton, John Stephenson and Art Kusnyer who have received customs from this blog!
Talk about your revolving door!
For Egan, he put in eight years with the Angels with two with the Chicago White Sox squeezed in, playing his last Major League games in 1975 when he appeared in 28 games, batting .229 with 16 hits over 70 at-bats.
That would give him an even .200 batting average over ten seasons, with 196 hits in 979 at-bats in 373 games, all but one at the catching position (he appeared as a first baseman once in 1971).
What exactly WERE those Angels doing with their catchers during the 1970’s? So many it’s amazing...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

MAJOR LEAGUE FOUNDERS: DOUG ALLISON 1876-1976

The next “founders” of the Major Leagues is Doug Allison, former catcher who’s career spanned the pre-N.A. Days through to the inaugural decade of the Major Leagues:


Allison began his career with the Geary of Philadelphia squad in 1868 before becoming one of the legendary members of the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, who went undefeated and put baseball on the map as the burgeoning sport of America.
An innovator of the sport, he is the first known player to use a glove, in his case buckskin mittens in 1870, and is credited as being the first catcher to stand right behind the batter to help prevent base runners from stealing a base.
He played all five of the National Association seasons, with no less than SIX organizations, before ending up with the Hartford team in 1875, a team he’d play for the next three seasons, the latter two being the first two years of the newly formed Major League.
His professional career would span 1869 through 1883 (not playing 1880-1882), and would retire with a .271 lifetime average over 318 games.

Monday, March 27, 2017

NEGRO LEAGUE LEGENDS- WILLIE WELLS

The next Negro Leagues legend we spotlight is shortstop extraordinaire Willie Wells, who put together a 25-year professional career between the NPL and Mexican Leagues between 1924 and 1948:


A ten-time all-star, Wells was also a Cuban League Most Valuable Player twice, in 1929/30 and 1939/40, and holds the Negro National League record of 27 home runs in a season in 1926, this third year as a pro.
As was one of my previous players spot-lighted, Mule Suttles, Wells was a part of the “Million Dollar Infield” along with Ray Dandridge and Dick Seay playing for the Newark Eagles.
Though an excellent hitter, Wells was particularly known for his defensive skills at short, and is credited as mentoring Jackie Robinson with infield defense including turning a double-play.
As for his offense, Wells recorded stats for the Negro Leagues are impressive, retiring with a .319 batting average along with a .510 slugging percentage and exactly 100 home runs in 756 games played.
A member of the Mexican and Cuban Halls of Fame, Wells was also inducted into the American Hall of Fame in 1997 by the Veteran’s Committee, capping off the career of one of the greatest shortstops in Negro Leagues history.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

GREAT AIRBRUSH OR OLD PHOTO: 1978 DICK DRAGO

Here’s a card that’s always interested me because of an unanswered question, the 1978 Dick Drago card, and “is this an airbrush job or an older photo?”:


I understand it can easily be a photo from his first tour with the Bosox between 1974 and 1975, and it does seem to fit.
However I stare at that cap and I’d swear it looks airbrushed to me. What do you all think?
Drago split the 1977 season with the California Angels and Baltimore Orioles, posting a 6-4 record with a 3.41 earned run average over 49 games, all out of the ‘pen.
He’s put together a nice 13-year career between 1969 and 1981, finishing up with a 108-117 record, along with a 3.62 ERA over 519 games, 189 of them starts.
His best year was easily his 1971 season with the Kansas City Royals when he went 17-11 with a 2.98 ERA and four shutouts over 34 starts and 241.1 innings pitched.
That effort even got him a fifth place finish in the American League Cy Young race as he led the Royals staff to a second place finish in only their third season in the league with a 85-76 record.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1972 MARV LANE

Here’s a 1972 card for former career Detroit Tigers outfielder Marv Lane, who made his Major League debut during the 1971 season with a scant eight games:


In those eight games, Lane hit .143 with a couple of hits over 14 at-bats, with an RBI and walk thrown in.
He would only play in eight more games the following season, followed by six in 1973 before getting the most action of his five-year career in 1974 when he played in 50 contests, batting .233 with 24 hits, 16 runs scored and nine RBI’s.
After playing in the minors during the 1975 season, he made it back to the big leagues in 1976, playing in the final 16 games of his career, batting .188 with nine hits in 48 at-bats, closing out his MLB tenure with a .207 average, 37 hits, 23 runs scored and 17 RBI’s over the course of 90 games.

Friday, March 24, 2017

1976 PROJECT- A RE-DO FOR NELSON BRILES

Here’s a redone 1976 card for former pitcher Nelson Briles, at the request of “Reader Jim”, who wanted a card of the righty with the team he actually played for the year before, the Kansas City Royals:


Briles wrapped up his second season in K.C. With a 6-6 record over 24 games, 16 of the starts, with a 4.26 earned run average and 73 strikeouts in 112 innings of work.
On November 15th however, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for speedster Dave Nelson, and I have to remind everyone that Topps managed to produce one of the better airbrush jobs of the decade just in time to have an “accurate” card for the upcoming 1976 set:

Pretty damn good no?
Briles originally came up with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965 and had his best years there, leading the National League in winning percentage in 1967 after posting a 14-5 record, followed up by a 19-11 record in 1968, both with sub-3.00 ERA’s.
Over the course of his 14-year career he posted a 129-112 record, with a 3.44 ERA and 1163 strikeouts in 452 appearances and 2111.2 innings.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1975 LARRY COX

Here’s a “missing” 1975 card for catcher Larry Cox, who was just starting out his career in the mid-1970’s with the team that signed him, the Philadelphia Phillies:


Though he wouldn’t get his first baseball card until the 1977 set, as an airbrushed Seattle Mariner player, he did actually get some playing time in the Majors in 1973, 1974 and 1975, all with the Phillies.
For creating a 1975 card I based it on the fact that he appeared in 30 games in 1974, batting .170 with nine hits in 53 at-bats while catching.
It was the most action he saw in his first three MLB campaigns before coming back as an “original” Mariner in ‘77.
Ironically, when he did get that 1977 rookie card, he didn’t even play in the big leagues the previous season.
But we know what Topps had to do to have both the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays well-represented in that ‘77 set for both teams’ inaugural seasons.
Nevertheless, Cox would play nine years in the big leagues, finishing up after the 1982 season with a .221 batting average based on 182 hits in 825 at-bats over 348 games, most with Seattle.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1979 ART GARDNER

Here’s a “not so missing” 1979 card for a guy I already created a “missing” 1978 card, former outfielder Art Gardner:


The 1978 card I created a while back for him was as an Astros player, for whom he played the first two of his short three-year career.
This card has him for the team he closed out his MLB career for, the San Francisco Giants, a team he suited up for just seven games during the 1978 season.
In those seven games, all pinch-hitting & running appearances, Gardner went 0-3 with two runs scored and a caught stealing.
Thus would wrap up Gardner’s time in the Majors, finishing up with a .162 batting average with 16 hits over 99 at-bats in 86 total games.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1972 JOHN VUKOVICH

Here’s a “missing” 1972 card for a guy that saw enough action during the 1971 season that I had to double-check to see if I had it wrong that he was left out of the ‘72 set, John Vuckovich:


Vukovich played in 74 games for the Philadelphia Phillies that year, hitting .166 with 36 hits in 217 at-bats.
Brutal numbers there, for sure, but man when you think about some of the guys that DID get a card in the ‘72 set, it leaves you scratching your head, no?
Granted, turns out he wouldn’t even play in the Majors during the 1972 season, but he will make it back in 1973, now as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, before moving on to the Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and back to the Phillies for the final five seasons of his 10-year career.
All told he’d finish up with a .161 career average with 90 hits in 559 at-bats while playing all infield positions while playing for two World Champs (1975 Reds and 1980 Phillies), though he didn’t get into Post Season action himself.
He would also get two brief stints as manager, two games heading the Chicago Cubs in 1986 and nine games in 1988 with the Phillies.

Monday, March 20, 2017

FUTURE STAR- RICK MONDAY

Let’s go and give the very first #1 overall amateur draft pick, Rick Monday, a “future star” card in my on-going 1978 sub-set:


By 1978 Monday was a veteran player who was entering the second season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the third and final team of his successful 19-year career that also saw him suit up for the Kansas City/Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs.
Between 1966 and 1984 he would be named to two all-star teams and play in three World Series, all with the Dodgers, including the 1981 team that won it all against the New York Yankees.
Of course, if we’re taking about Rick Monday, we have to mention the moment he entered baseball (and American) folk lore when he snatched an American flag from two protesters (of what I have no clue) who jumped onto the field at Dodgers Stadium on April 25th, 1976 while he was still a member of the Cubs.
Monday, who was playing centerfield, ran over and grabbed the flag in full sprint and kept running, much to the crowd’s delight, until he handed the flag off to Dodger pitcher Doug Rau in front of the L.A. dugout.
Back to that 1965 amateur draft: after the outrageous bidding war for all-world amateur Rick Reichardt the previous year, which resulted in the Los Angeles Angels winning his rights to the tune of $200,000, Major League baseball felt something needed to be done, coming up with the draft that we all follow to this day.
Coming out of Arizona State University, where he led the team to a College championship (along with teammate Reggie Jackson) over Ohio State, he earned All-America and was named College Player of the Year as a sophomore.
This made him a natural pick for #1 in a somewhat light-year, as evidenced by the picks that followed him in Les Rohr (Mets), Joe Coleman (Senators) and Alex Barrett (Astros).
As a matter of fact of the first 20 picks, the most successful player besides Monday would arguably be either Ray Fosse (7th) or Jim Spencer (11th).
Have to point out that in the second round, the Cincinnati Reds picked a kid out of Oklahoma that would fare pretty well in the big leagues, Johnny Bench, the 36th overall pick!
Nevertheless, Monday went on to have a very nice career, finishing up with 1619 hits and a .264 lifetime average along with 241 homers and 775 runs batted in over 1986 games.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

NEGRO LEAGUE LEGENDS- MULE SUTTLES

Today we celebrate another Negro League legend, power-hitter George “Mule” Suttles, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006 after a 23-year career:


Suttles played between 1921-1941 and was known for both his prodigious power and hitting for average, leading his league in home runs twice as well as doubles, triples and average once each all between 1926-1930 while with the St. Louis Stars.
While playing for the Newark Black Eagles in the late-1930’s and early-1940’s, he played along other Negro League legends Dick Seay, Willie Wells and Ray Dandridge, part of what was knows as the “Million Dollar Infield”.
According to available documentation, Suttles finished his NBL career with a .329 batting average and 129 homers, second only to yet another legend, Turkey Stearns who has credit for 176 in league play.
Baseball author Bill James ranked Suttles as the 43rd greatest player of all-time in ANY league back in 2001, as well as the second-best left-fielder in Negro League history.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

1960'S SEASONAL LEADERS- PITCHING WINS

Today’s 1960’s high-water mark in stats is pitching wins, and anytime you can have a new card with Sandy Koufax on it is a good day!
Check it out:


Koufax topped the National League with 27 wins in 1966, in what would sadly be his last year in the Majors due to arm trouble which led him to retire prematurely.
It was the last season in a five year run rarely seen before or since by any pitcher in Major League history.
In those five years between 1962 and 1966 he led the league in wins three times, earned run average five times, shutouts three times, and strikeouts three times!
He took home three Cy Young Awards and an MVP (1963), finished second in MVP twice, was named to the all-star team every season and pitched the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Championships (1963 & 1965).
On the American League side of course, we have Denny McLain and his 31 wins from the “Year of the Pitcher”, 1968.
As a 24-year older, McLain just dominated A.L. Batters, going 31-6 with a 1.96 E.R.A., six shutouts and 280 strikeouts! Needless to say he took home BOTH the A.L. Cy Young Award and M.V.P. That year, a year that saw the Detroit Tigers win it all after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
He wouldn’t disappoint in 1969 either, winning 24 games and tossing nine shutouts while sharing the Cy Young with Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar.
But sadly for McLain, troubles began the very next season and he’d be out of baseball after 1972 at only 28-years of age.
Back to Koufax for a second: I always wonder what he could have done during that 1968 “Year of the Pitcher” season. Who knows, perhaps HE could have been the last 30-game winner?

Friday, March 17, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1974 BRIAN OSTROSSER

Here’s another player with an ever so brief Major League career, former New York Met shortstop Brian Ostrosser, and a “Not So Missing” 1974 card:


Ostrosser’s entire Major League career spanned four games for the “Amazin’s” during their “You Gotta Believe” season that saw them reach the World Series, eventually losing to the dynasty of the time, the Oakland A’s.
He went 0-5 in his time at the plate, with two strikeouts, while playing flawless shortstop.
The following season he’d split time playing for the Mets and Cleveland Indians minor league system, where he would wrap up his pro career after 1975.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1970 FRANCISCO LIBRAN

Today’s “Not Really Missing” card is for an original 1969 San Diego Padre shortstop, Francisco Libran:


Libran’s entire Major League career encompassed 10 games for the Padres in their inaugural season, collecting one hit (a double) in 10 at-bats for a batting average of .100, along with an RBI.
He’d be back in the minors the following year, batting .250 in single-A ball before finding himself in the New York Mets system in 1971 where he batted .211, before playing out his pro career in 1972 with the Pueblo Pericos of the Mexican League.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1977 GILBERTO RONDON

Here’s a “missing” 1977 card for Gilberto (Gil) Rondon, pitcher for the Houston Astros, who played the bulk of his brief Major League career in 1976 with 19 appearances:


Rondon made his debut during the bicentennial year, and went on to post a 2-2 record over those 19 games, with a 5.70 earned run average and 21 strikeouts in 53.2 innings pitched.
Sadly for him that didn’t translate to a permanent spot on a Major League roster, and he’d spend the next two seasons in the minors for both the Houston and New York Yankee organizations before making it back up to the big leagues for four games with the Chicago White Sox in 1979.
Those four games, in which he posted no record along with a 3.72 ERA would be the last at the Major League level, as he would find himself playing in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system through 1981 before calling it a career.
All told he’d finish with a 2-2 record over 23 games, with a 5.40 ERA and 24 K’s in 63.1 innings of work.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

NEGRO LEAGUE LEGENDS- CRISTOBAL TORRIENTE

The next Negro Baseball Leagues legend is one of the greatest Cuban players of all-time, Cristobal Torriente, who played between 1912 and 1932 for both Cuban and Negro League organizations:


Torriente holds the Cuban Winter League career high-water mark for batting average at .352, and also went on to retire with a .331 Negro League BA, winning titles in 1920 and 1923.
One of my favorite quotes in ANY baseball lore is one attributed to Indianapolis ABC’s manager C.I. Taylor, who stated, “If I see Torriente walking up the other side of the street, I would say, ‘There walks a ballclub.’”
In 2001 Bill James rated Torriente as the 67th greatest baseball player ever for his book “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.”
In 1939 he was one of the first to be elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, and though it took a long while, he was finally elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Monday, March 13, 2017

MISSING IN ACTION- 1976 LARRY MILBOURNE

Here’s a “missing” 1976 card for long time infielder Larry Milbourne, who was left out of the set after having his rookie card in the 1975 version:


Milbourne actually had MORE plate appearances in 1975 than 1974, yet didn’t get the card the second time around for some strange reason.
During the 1975 season Milbourne appeared in 73 games for the Houston Astros, batting .245 with 32 hits over 151 at-bats while playing both second base and shortstop.
Oddly he would even be omitted from the 1977 set even though he amassed over 160 plate appearances, much more than a bunch of the guys included that year.
He would stick around the Major Leagues for eleven-years, finishing up with the Seattle Mariners in 1984, batting .254 with 623 hits in 2448 at-bats over 989 lifetime games.
He was a solid player for the New York Yankees in 1981 when they took home the American League championship before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, batting a cool .313 while playing the infield
He contributed even more during the post season, batting a combined .327 (including a scorching .462) in the ALCS, with 17 hits and 10 runs scored over 14 total games.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

MAJOR LEAGUE FOUNDERS: JOE START 1876-1976

Today’s “Founders” player is Joe Start one of the top first basemen in the early days of organized ball, dating to BEFORE the Civil War:


By the time the Major League was formed in 1876, Start was already known as “Old Reliable” for his play at first base at the age of 33.
A player for organized ball in the Brooklyn, NY area in the early 1860’s, Start was part of some of the top teams of the pre-National Association era, including the formidable Brooklyn Atlantics, who had undefeated seasons in both 1864 and 1865.
During all five seasons of the N.A., Start played for the New York Mutuals, anchoring the infield with innovative play such as playing off the bag.
Once the Majors got going, Start wasn’t slowing down, as he proceeded to play another 11-years, mainly for the Providence Grays after a year both at Hartford and Chicago.
His play never diminished as he played well into his 40’s, retiring after the 1886 season at the age of 43.
All together, NOT counting his 10 or so years in pre-pro baseball, Start would finish with a .299 batting average with 1417 hits over 1070 games, with 852 runs scored.
Considering he averaged about 70-75 games a season over his career, those are some pretty good hit totals that could easily had him finish close 3000 had he the chance.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1977 BILLY BALDWIN

Here’s a “not so missing” 1977 card for brief New York Mets outfielder Billy Baldwin, a player for whom I already created a 1976 “missing” card as a member of the Detroit Tigers a while back:


After a bit more than a “cup-of-coffee” with the Tigers during the 1975 season, where he appeared in 30 games in his first taste of the big leagues, Baldwin found himself in Queens, NY as a member of the Mets, where he’d get into a scant nine games, batting .273 with six hits over 22 at-bats.
Turns out those two seasons would be the only action he’d get to experience in the Majors, closing out a brief career with a .231 batting average with 27 hits in 117 at-bats with 10 extra base hits.
He’d hang on and play a couple more seasons in the minor leagues, for both the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates, before playing in the Mexican League in 1980 for Tabasco, before closing out an eight-year pro career.

Friday, March 10, 2017

FUTURE STAR- RON GUIDRY

I know I’ve been a bit heavy on the Yankee players for this thread so far, but it really was an accident as I find great pre-MLB images to use for this idea.
That being said, today’s “Future Star” is none other than my favorite pitcher growing up, Yankee lefty, “Louisiana Lightning” Ron Guidry, who had a season for the ages in 1978:


Guidry’s breakout Cy Young season of 1978 was something else, posting a 25-3 record with a winning percentage of .893 (still the Major League high-water mark for a 20-win season), along with a league-leading 1.74 earned run average to go with nine shutouts and 248 strikeouts.
Easily the Cy Young winner, he missed out on the American League MVP Award, which was given to Jim Rice for HIS awesome year for the Boston Red Sox.
A model of consistency, Guidry would anchor the Yankees pitching staff until 1988, retiring with a career record of 170-91, good for a winning percentage of .651, along with a 3.28 ERA and 1778 strikeouts and 26 shutouts over 368 appearances, 323 of which were starts.
He was named to four all-star teams and took home five straight Gold Gloves between 1982-1986, along with three 20+ win seasons and two ERA crowns.

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