Tuesday, March 2, 2021

NOT REALLY MISSING IN ACTION- 1976 NINO ESPINOSA

On the blog today, a "not so missing" 1976 card for former New York Mets pitcher Nino Espinosa, who appeared in only two games the year prior, his second taste of the Big Leagfues in as many seasons:


Espinosa was still only 21 years of age when he went 0-1 with an 18.00 earned run average over three innings in those two games, giving up eight hits and six runs.
He would fare much better in 1976, going 4-4 with a respectable 3.67 ERA over 12 appearances, five of them starts, throwing 41.2 innings.
Over the next three years, he would be a solid starter for both the Mets in 1977 and 1978, then the Philadelphia Phillies in 1979 when he'd top 10+ wins each season, with a high of 14 in 1979, tossing over 200 innings each time.
Sadly for him though, 1980 would see him appear in only 12 games for the eventual World Champion Phillies, as he would finish with a record of 3-5 with a 3.77 ERA before splitting what turned out to be his last season in the Big Leagues in 1981.
In that final season, still only 27 years of age, he'd play for both the Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays, appearing in 14 games, going 2-5 with an ERA of 6.15 over 73.2 innings of work, apparently leaving the game for good shortly after.

All told, he finished his Major League career with a record of 44-55 over eight seasons, with an ERA at 4.17 over 140 games and 820.1 innings pitched, with 24 complete games and five shutouts along the way.


 

Monday, March 1, 2021

EXPANSION DO-OVER: TOMMY SMITH

Up on the blog today we have an expansion do-over for Tommy Smith and his 1977 card, originally showing him in an airbrushed Seattle Mariners uni in expectation of the upcoming inaugural season for the new franchise:


Understandably up against the wall, Topps had to scramble for both the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jay players in advance of their first seasons as member of the Major Leagues, which led to some classics as we all know.
Smiths wasn't one of the worst by far, but for those who don't remember the original, here you go:

In November of 1976 he would be drafted by the new Seattle Mariners organization as part of the expansion draft, where he would go on to play the last games of his career, 21 to be exact, where he hit .259 with seven hits in 27 at-bats.
In 1976 he’d see the most playing time of his five Major League seasons, appearing in 55 games for the Cleveland Indians, while hitting .256 with 42 hits in 164 at-bats, driving in 12 runs and scoring 17 himself.

All told, Smith played in 121 games in five seasons, hitting .232 with 63 hits, driving in 21 while scoring 28 over 271 at-bats between Cleveland and Seattle.


 


 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

ON-CARD ALL-STAR: 1970 SAL BANDO

Here's a fun card to "fix", the 1970 Sal Bando, showing the fact that he was the American League starting third baseman in the 1969 All-Star game:


It's amazing to think that he beat out perennial All-Star and legend Brooks Robinson, but when you look at the season Bando put in that year, it was much deserved!
Bando had what turned out to be the best year of his 16-year career in 1969, hitting 31 homer while driving in 113 runs, scoring 106 and collecting 171 hits, all career-bests, while making his 1st All-Star team and finishing 16th in the MVP race.
A huge cog in the machine that would eventually be the three-peat World Champion A's teams of the mid-70's, he would end up making four All-Star teams over his career, while placing top-4 in MVP votes three times with a high of second place in 1971 when teammate Vida Blue took home the honors.
Bando put together a very solid 16-year career that saw him take home three championships, participate in four all-star games, and finish in the top-10 in MVP voting three times.
His five 20-homer and two 100+ RBI seasons were a nice compliment to Reggie's offensive exploits, and with Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace and Bert Campaneris thrown in you can see why those A's teams were so strong.
Then again, with starting pitching like Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Rollie Fingers et al, yeah, they were going to kick-ass no matter what…

 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

SPOILER ALERT! A SMALL HINT AS TO THE NEXT WTHBALLS PACK! (DON'T LOOK AT IMAGE IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED)

For those that would like a small hint as to the next pack, see attached image.



Now what do all these players have in common as far as baseball cards go?
 
These right here will be randomly inserted, ONE to each pack of my next release, a 1960's "special".
A really fun pack to put together, and they look great! I still have to finish cutting wrappers and sorting all cards, but I should have them ready for release next week.
Of course, for those that want to have the whole 15-card insert set as well, they will be available to purchase, learning from my mistake from the "Dedicated Rookies" 1960's special a few months back! So no worries!
These inserts are like my old 1930's set released a few years ago: nice 2.5" x 2.5" velvet touch thick card stock. It makes for a very nice feel!
So keep an eye out for another email in about a week!
Hope everyone is well and safe!
Gio/wthballs

MINOR LEAGUE DAYS- WILLIE HORTON

The next player added to my long-running 1971 "Minor League Days" lineup is former Detroit Tigers slugger Willie Horton, who tends to get overlooked for his era:


Horton was playing what turned out to be his final Minor League season in 1964, playing for the Syracuse Chiefs and having a very nice season that saw him hit 28 homers with 99 runs batted in as a 21-year-old.
He'd get the call up to the Majors at the end of the year, playing in 25 games, and would be up for good the following year, a season that saw him named to his first All-Star team while finishing eighth in the A.L. MVP race.
It's easy to forget how good a career Horton put together between 1963 and 1979 with all of his contemporaries stealing the spotlight, but a quick look at what he accomplished on the baseball diamond is nothing short of impressive.
In 18 years as a big league outfielder and designated hitter, Horton slammed 325 homers with 873 runs scored and 1163 runs batted in, with a .273 batting average and just under 2000 hits (1993).
14 of his 18 seasons in the sun were spent in the Motor City, where he was an important member of their world championship team of 1968, hitting a career high 36 home runs while driving in 85 and batting .285 (in a season where Carl Yastrzemski won the batting title with a .301 average).
He topped 20 homers seven times in his career with three 100+ RBI campaigns, on his way to four all-star selections and two top-10 MVP finishes (1965 & 1968).
He finished up his career as a designated hitter, and in 1979 had a comeback year at the age of 36 that saw him hit 29 home runs with 106 RBI's while collecting a career high 180 hits with the Seattle Mariners.
After a partial 1980 season that saw him play in only 97 games, he was released by Seattle just before opening day in 1981, and though he did sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates soon afterwards, he never played a Major League game again, closing out a nice career after 2028 games and 7298 at-bats.

 

Friday, February 26, 2021

FANTASY CARD- 1974 BILL MADLOCK

Here's a card I knew I'd be tackling one day, a 1974 fantasy card featuring a "dedicated rookie" for four-time batting champ Bill Madlock, the catch of course showing him as a member of the team he came up with in 1973, the Texas Rangers:


I already created a "dedicated rookie" years ago on the blog showing him as a Chicago Cub, but I figured another version as a Ranger would complete the "set".
He would put in 15-seasons under the Big League sun, hitting .305 with 2008 hits in 6594 at-bats over 1806 games between 1973 and 1987, while getting tabbed for three All-Star games.
Is he a Hall of Famer?
I’d say he falls a bit short, but then again, if there are NO other four+ batting title holders not in the Hall, does that raise the argument for Madlock?

Perhaps it does...


 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

FIXING AN ADMITTEDLY ALL-TIME CLASSIC: 1978 MIKE PAXTON

Today on the blog, I am finally "fixing" a card that I'm sure many of you would NOT want fixed, the classic 1978 card for former pitcher Mike Paxton, who had himself quite an airbrush job.

Here's what Topps had out there in the Spring of 1978:

And now here is my re-done card with real image:


Always loved the 1978 Mike Paxton card, which along with the Greg Minton card from the same set and the Mike Jones card from 1977, made for some strange imagery on Topps baseball cards.
While Topps did it’s thing to airbrush caps and uni’s in the 1970’s to portray guys on the correct team, this one went above and beyond!
Looking at it, I’m assuming it was either a Minor League color image, or a black and white image that was colorized.
Classic Topps from the era!
Paxton had himself a very nice rookie year for the Red Sox in 1977, going 10-5 with a 3.83 ERA over 29 appearances, 12 of them starts.
Of course, the ultimate irony is that Paxton didn’t even PLAY for the Red Sox in 1978, as he was part of the Dennis Eckersley deal in March of 1978, sending him to the Cleveland Indians, where he had another nice year that saw him post a record of 12-11 with a 3.86 ERA in 33 appearances, 27 of which were starts, with two shutouts and a save.
Sadly for him, he developed arm trouble the following season, seeing his ERA balloon to 5.92 while going 8-8 before managing to appear in only four games in 1980 before calling it a career.

 

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