Saturday, May 31, 2014


Here's another one of those players that got a card one year for NO apparent reason, yet was omitted from another set after substantial playing time the year before: infielder Don Mason of the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres.
First up, he was brought to my attention when I spotted his (badly airbrushed) 1971 Topps card, which when considering he only appeared in 46 games and 41 plate appearances in 1970 with the Giants, leaves you wondering why he even got a card in the first place.
His numbers from 1970 are both sparse and dreadful: 36 at-bats, five hits, a .139 average and one run batted in with zero extra base hits.
Take a look at the original 1971 Topps card (more on this at the end of the post):

So while I was looking at his career stats in regards to the 1971 card I noticed that the guy had decent playing time in 1969 yet was left out of the 1970 Topps set.
In 1969 Mason played in 104 games with 292 plate appearances, hitting .228 with 57 hits, 13 runs batted in and 43 runs scored. He even managed to knock four doubles and two triples. So why no card for him the following year?
That lead me to design the "missing" card for him, and got me searching for a decent picture of him as a San Francisco Giant.
Take a look:

Luckily, not only did I find this shot, but I also came across a nice photo of him as a San Diego Padre, and with that bad airbrushing job of him for the 1971 card, I decided to re-do it with the better picture.
I never redesign a card of a non-star, but I couldn't resist since it all kind of fell into my lap.
Here's my redesign of the 1971 card, with the photo of him in a Padre uniform:

Mason's career lasted eight years, from 1966 to 1973 playing for the two teams shown above.
But it was really only in the 1969 and 1971 seasons that he saw any substantial playing time.
His last season of big league action, 1973, saw him tally eight at-bats in eight games for San Diego before he was out of the Majors for good.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Today's customized "highlight card that should have been" depicts Roberto Clemente's 3000th Major League hit, which he collected on the last game of the season against the Mets on September 30th, 1972.
As we all know the hit would be his last, as he sadly perished in a plane crash while delivering supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua on December 31st of the same year.
Take a look at my design:

It really would have been nice to have a card like this in the 1973 Topps set, especially considering everything that it could have represented for fans and admirers of the Hall of Famer.
I often forget that Clemente was pinch-hit for in this game, and wonder how different this story could have been had he not doubled in that last at-bat, becoming the eleventh player at the time to reach the historic mark.
Clemente finished with those 3000 hits on 9454 at-bats, good for a career .317 batting average to go along with an M.V.P. award in 1966, eleven Gold Gloves, 12 all-star games and four batting titles in 18 seasons.
In a rare lucid moment, Major League Baseball decided to hold a special election in 1973 and induct Clemente into the Hall of Fame without the standard five year waiting period.
Next up on this thread, another milestone that would have been nice to see represented on a card: Steve Carlton and his 19 strikeouts from 1969 celebrated in the 1970 Topps set.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Thursday trivia time again!
And today we'll take a look at pitchers who just missed out on leading their league in one of the "big three" categories: wins, E.R.A.or strikeouts, something these guys never ended up doing in their careers.
The names may be familiar to you, but as league-leaders they could have had their names in spot-lights had their luck fared  just a little better.
Take a shot and see what you can get:
 1. This guy could have had a killer season in 1979 had he gotten his E.R.A just 0.05 lower to lead the National League, a year which saw him gain both 10+ wins and saves. Who was he?

2. This shaggy dude missed leading the National League in wins by one when he had a successful debut season North of the border in 1978. Who was he?

3. This guy toiled throughout the '70's for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but came within 0.05 of leading the league in E.R.A., finishing second behind John Denny of the Cardinals in 1976. Who is it?

4. This pitcher anchored the "Big Red Machine" teams of the mid-70's, yet never lead the league in any of the "big three" stats, but came within one win of doing so in 1974, settling for second place behind Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers and Phil Niekro of the Braves. Who was it?

5. Here's another Cincinnati Reds pitcher, and he came ever so close to denying Steve Carlton a pitching Triple Crown in 1972, posting an E.R.A. just 0.02 off the mark at 1.99. Who was it?


Tom Hume, Reds. He finished behind J.R. Richard of the Astros.

Ross Grimsley, Expos. Gaylord Perry lead the league with 21 that year.

Doug Rau.

Jack Billingham, who posted 19 wins that year.

Gary Nolan.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Today we take a look at 1969, the first season after MLB lowered the pitching mound after the "Year of the Pitcher" in 1968 in hopes of stimulating offense, as baseball was losing ground to the N.F.L. in popularity as "America's Game".
Yet while offense did indeed increase a bit over the previous year, there were still some stellar pitching performances to be had.
And the guys that ended up taking home the Cy Young hardware as top pitchers of their respective leagues were Tom Seaver in the N.L. and Denny McLain and Mike Cuellar in the A.L.
As you all know, for the first (and only) time in Cy Young voting, there was a tie, and it has made for somewhat of a unique card in my thread of an imagined "Cy Young" 1975 sub-set.
Take a look at the end result:

I struggled a bit with this one, trying to come up with a nice, clean design that showed all three pitchers, without altering the continuity of my sub-set too much.
And while I wanted to be a bit more "creative" with this card, the best design really was the ho-hum split panel you see here.
Let's start with the National League's top pitcher, Tom Seaver.
While he burst onto the Major League scene as N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1967, and followed up with a solid sophomore season in 1968, this was the year "Tom Terrific" was born, leading the New York Mets to the most improbable World Championship in ages, defeating the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles juggernaut and posting eye-popping numbers that not only would get him the first of THREE Cy Young Awards, but a second place finish in Most Valuable Player voting as well.
Let the numbers speak for themselves: a 25-7 record, 2.21 earned run average and 208 strikeouts, along with five shutouts and a .781 winning percentage.
Fantastic! And only a single vote for Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro prevented Seaver from unanimously winning the award.
Of course, we all know that Seaver would wind his career with Hall of Fame numbers, totaling 311 wins, a 2.86 E.R.A., 61 shutouts and 3640 strikeouts, easily entering the hallowed halls of Cooperstown in 1992 after seeing his name on 425 of 430 ballots.
I hate to say it since it was at the expense of the Yankees, but I was in attendance the day Seaver logged his 300th win (on Phil Rizzuto day of all days), in 1985 at Yankee Stadium, and man was it a scene! And I have to admit I went home elated at what I just witnessed.
Over in the American League things got a bit more sticky, as voters ended up with a tie, picking the 1968 A.L. Cy Young winner (and Most Valuable Player), Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers, AND Mike Cuellar, who excelled in his first year as a Baltimore Oriole after some decent years in the National League, mainly as a Houston Astro.
Both pitchers received 10 first place votes, and it's understandable why, with their final numbers being so close.
Denny McLain followed up his 30-win season of '68 with a nice 24-9 record, along with a 2.80 earned run average, nine shutouts and 181 strikeouts over 41 starts, while Mike Cuellar was equally as impressive, posting a 23-11 record with a 2.38 E.R.A., five shutouts and 182 strikeouts over 39 starts for the powerful Baltimore pitching staff that also featured Dave McNally and Jim Palmer.
And while both pitchers didn't end up in the Hall of Fame like their National League counterpart, they did fashion nice Major League careers, Cuellar ending up with a 185-130 record, and McLain with a 131-91 mark.
OK, next up we move into the 1970's, and take a look at the 1970 Cy Young Award winners: Jim Perry of the Minnesota Twins and Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Here's a guy who get's overlooked quite a bit when we think of pitchers from the 1970's: Dave McNally.
And it's really a shame since not only was he an all-star performer for a bunch of years, but he was also instrumental in eradicating baseball's reserve clause in the mid-70's along with more notable names like Curt Flood and Andy Messersmith.
But before we get to all of that, let's take a look at the 1976 Topps card I designed for him, showing him as a Montreal Expos player:

This would have been his final card, as he never played beyond the 1975 season and appeared in that Topps set as a Baltimore Oriole, the only team he played for before that last "hurrah" North of the border.
For the 1975 season, McNally started 12 games for the Expos, and posted a 3-6 record with a 5.24 E.R.A and 33 strikeouts in 77.1 innings pitched.
However it was how he ended up playing in 1975 that made history.
Never intending to play beyond 1974, McNally actually retired before being convinced by Player's Union Executive Director Marvin Miller to add his name to the grievance the Player's Union filed contesting the age-old "Reserve Clause" along with star pitcher Messersmith.
As explained online under the "Seitz Decision" (named for the ruling arbitrator Peter Seitz):

"In 1975, Messersmith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and McNally of the Montreal Expos had had their 1974 contracts renewed by their teams on the basis of this reserve clause. Since neither signed a contract during that option year, both insisted that they were free to sign with other teams the following season. The owners disagreed, arguing that under the reserve clause the one-year contracts were perpetually renewed.
The two players submitted the grievance to arbitration, and Seitz later issued his ruling that Messersmith and McNally were free to bargain with other teams because organized baseball could only maintain a player's services for one year after expiration of the previous contract."

This was HUGE, as it lead the the free for all we all know today as Free Agency.
For McNally, he ended up retiring at the young age of 32, leaving behind quite a resume: four 20-game winning seasons, two World Championships, a 184-119 career record, and a title-winning shutout in the 1966 World Series where the Orioles upset the favored Dodgers, sweeping them 4 games to none.
McNally threw a four-hit shutout against losing pitcher Don Drysdale to go along with shutouts thrown by teammates Wally Bunker and Jim Palmer.
He's also the only pitcher to hit a grand slam in the World Series, doing so in Game 3 of the '70 series against the Reds, and only one of two pitchers (Roger Clemens the other) of winning 12 straight decisions three times in his career, including 17 straight over the 1968 and 1969 seasons.
On top of all of that, he also came into the big leagues with a bang, tossing a 2-hit shutout against the Kansas City Athletics on September 26th, 1962 at the ripe old age of 19! Nice…
So call this a "career capper", or a "missing in action" card, but let's close the books on McNally and his solid career with one last card.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Not only are these "highlight" cards a blast to design, but the 1971 cards are especially fun to work with, as the bold black border allows colors to fly off of them!
Today is one such card, celebrating Ernie Banks' 500th Major League home run, which he blasted on May 12th of 1970 at Wrigley Field against the Atlanta Braves.
Take a look at my card design:

Once again,  it would have been nice to have such a card inserted in Topps' set that year.
The photo I used was tagged as a shot from 1970. However I don't think that's correct since he's not wearing a batting helmet.
But it does work with the card so I let it fly, but not before I added a yellow tone over it.
Man, that 1970 baseball season was chock full of highlights! 500 homers by Banks, 3000 hits by BOTH Aaron and Mays, 1000 games by Wilhelm: you think Topps could have really filled out that set nicely with a substantial sub-set!
Then again, they DID issue that beautiful "Greatest Moments" set (that was already too expensive for me to chase even back in the early '80's as a kid!).
Anyway, Banks finally reached the inevitable on that May day, becoming the ninth player in history at the time to reach the milestone.
He'd eventually end his career shortly thereafter with 512 homers, complimenting his awesome Hall of Fame career which saw him retire as the all-time Cubs leader in games, at-bats, extra-base hits, homers and total bases.
Getting inducted into Cooperstown was merely a formality for one of the game's most popular player to this very day.
Hope you enjoy this design as much as I do.
"Let's play two"!!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014


So here's an interesting one for all of you.
Seems that former player Danny Walton went five years between cards from 1973 to 1978, so he makes for a subject for my "Long Time No See" thread.
However, when you take a look at his stats and see his playing time the years immediately before each card, you have to wonder why Topps even bothered in the first place!
Making Walton more of a "What Were They Thinking" subject over anything else.
Even though Topps gave him a slot in their 1973 set (card # 516), turns out Walton never even played in the Majors the previous year, 1972.
And on top of that he only saw action in 35 games in 1971, good for only 91 plate appearances split between the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees.
So why would he get a card in 1973, shown here?:

We then have to wait until 1978 to see another slab of cardboard depicting Walton, this time as a Houston Astros player, after appearing in only 13 games totaling 21 plate appearances in 1977. 
Here's the '78 card (#263):

Let's not even delve into the airbrushing job here…
What's most interesting is the fact that if we were to go by his playing time in both 1971 and 1977, then Walton was "missing" in the 1972, 1974 and 1976 sets since he saw more playing time the previous years, warranting a card.
Strange how it really was a crap shoot with some of these guys (Hector Torres comes to mind), where they'd get a card that was questionable, yet go "missing" when you think they would have had one.
As for Walton, he managed to carve out a sporadic nine-year career spanning 1968 to 1980, usually as a player off the bench who could play some infield and outfield.
In those nine years he totaled 297 games and 880 plate appearances, eeking out a .223 average with 28 homers and 107 ribbies.
I don't want to rag on they guy, but his batting averages between 1971 and 1977 were as follows: .193, (no MLB in '72), .177, (no MLB in '74), .175, .133 and .190.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


I always got a kick out of New York Met Art Shamsky's 1971 Topps card (#445).
Once again you have to wonder why Topps, who presumably had some options when it came to photos for players, decided to use a shot of Shamsky at the plate getting brushed back by a pitch.
Take a look:

Not a bad action shot, but why this particular moment?
I guess it was "different", and that's always a good thing in my book.
But the shot from behind, with Shamsky contorting out of the way of the incoming pitch was a bit odd of a choice.
I cannot for the life of me figure out who the opposing team is from the catcher. Does anyone know? I'm guessing the Astros like a lot of the Mets cards from the set.
As for Shamsky, he had an eight year career that left a couple of lasting marks on the game.
He was a part of the "Miracle Mets" team that won it all in 1969, hitting .300 as a platoon player manning the outfield and first base.
It was a pretty solid year for him, as he also hit 14 homers and drove in 47 runs with only 303 at-bats.
He even led the team in hitting for the NLCS, batting .538 helping the Mets make it to the Fall Classic.
A few years before that, he also had a bat sent to the Hall of Fame for being (to this day) the only player to hit three home runs in a game in which he did not start!
That happened back on August 12th of 1966 when he played with the Cincinnati Reds, the team he came up with.
Inserted as part of a double-switch in the eighth inning, he hit a homer in the bottom of the eighth, bottom of the 10th and bottom of the eleventh.
Each homer extended the game for the Reds, though they ended up losing to the Pirates 14-11 in 13 innings.
However by 1972 he was out of the Majors after 23 games with the Cubs and A's, and he finished his career with a .253 average, 68 homers and 233 runs batted in. 
Later on he became (among other things) a broadcaster with the Mets, and even managed a team in the Israeli Baseball league in 2007.

Friday, May 23, 2014

"HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE 1970'S" #12: RYAN HIT'S 100.9 M.P.H. IN 1974

What kid DIDN'T know that Nolan Ryan hit over 100 miles per hour in 1974 with a pitch!?
If you didn't even follow baseball you would have known from skimming through a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, which all of us did every year when the new copy came out.
It was like some magical number: 100.9, and it seemed non-human to be able to do that.
Granted today we have guys like Aroldis Chapman throwing pitches that make 100.9 seem antiquated, but Nolan Ryan's "100.9" was something all of us held near and dear as part of the Nolan Ryan legend.
So today allow me to present my design for a 1975 "Highlights" card that would have celebrated this achievement, following the design Topps had for the Highlights sub-set in the same set:

This was right at height of Ryan's super-human run of fast pitches, no-hitters, and 300+ strikeout seasons that had batters shaking in the cleats, and who knew that he'd be able to keep it going for almost another twenty years!?
Just awesome.
For all the hype the recorded pitch got, it would have been cool to have a card like this as party of the set, no?

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Trivia time again, and today we will look at the 1977 season with it's power explosion among sluggers in the Major Leagues.
No less than 19 batters hit 30 or more homers that year, up from only four the previous year!
So let's jump right in and see how many you can get.
As usual answer posted tomorrow…
1. We all know the Dodgers set a record with four batters hitting 30 or more homers in 1977. But the Red Sox almost duplicated the feat the very same year. Three batter topped 30 homers: Jim Rice, George Scott and Butch Hobson. Who was the Red Sox batter who hit 28 homers in 1977, denying the BoSox equal history with the Dodgers?

2. Who were the only two catchers in the Majors to top 30 homers in 1977?

3. Who was the only 30 home run hitter that season to bat under .250?

4. Who was the only 30 home run hitter in 1977 who had an OBP above .400?

5. Besides George Foster, who blasted a Major League leading 52 homers, who was the only other Major Leaguer to hit 40 or more that year?


Carl Yastrzemski with 28.

Johnny Bench, Reds & Gary Carter, Expos. Both hit 31 taters that year.

Ron Cey, Dodgers. He hit .241 in 1977.

Reggie Smith, Dodgers. His OBP was .427.

Jeff Burroughs, Braves. He hit 41 homers in 1977.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Well, here's a card that didn't need much work since both M.V.P. Winners in 1968 were pitchers, so the card images remain the same with only the banner text needed a change.
1968, the "Year of the Pitcher".
And what more evidence does anyone need than the fact that both Most Valuable Players that year were indeed moundsmen: Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals and Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers.
First, let's refresh our memories and look at the 1975 sub-set design for the Cy Young winners:

As I stated, all that was changed here was the banner title.
The two pitchers collected some serious hardware that year, as they posted memorable pitching performances that still resonate to this day!
In the American League, Denny McLain was already a solid starter for the Tigers as the 1968 season opened, but MAN did he explode that year, posting sick numbers like a 31-6 record with a 1.96 E.R.A. and 280 strikeouts!
He also threw 28 complete games with six shutouts in 41 starts, good for 336 innings pitched.
Staggering by today's standards.
Yes, he's the last Major League pitcher to post 30+ wins, but he's actually also the ONLY pitcher in the past 79 years to reach that number! 
You have to go all the way back to 1930 and Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean before you find another 30 game winner.
McLain would also win another Cy Young the following year (shared with Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar), but would quickly deteriorate, having his career come to an end just four years after his monumental 1968 display.
It's hard to imagine because they guy always looked so much older than he really was on his cards, but McLain was only 24 years old in 1968! Look at him, he looks ten years older at least!
He never even made it to 30 years of age during his playing days, as he left the game after the 1972 season when he split time with the Atlanta Braves and Oakland A's.
In the National League, we all know the story there as well: Bob Gibson was absolutely LIGHTS OUT, rolling to a 22-9 record with a microscopic 1.12 earned run average and 268 strikeouts to go along with his 28 complete games and THIRTEEN shutouts!
You know, even though I have gone over every single box score from his '68 season, I STILL can't believe how this guy lost nine games that year! It's baffling to me even today.
Gibson was smack in the middle of his pitching hey-day, posting the third of his five 20+ win seasons, winning the first of his two Cy Young Awards, and leading the Cardinals to the World Series for the third time, though losing to the Tigers in the Fall Classic.
Let's also not forget that Gibson also took home the fourth of his nine Gold Glove Awards that season as well.
About as fierce a competitor the game has ever seen! 
On a side note-that 1968 season was so ridiculous as far as pitching went, it's the equivalent to what the 1930 National League season was to batting.
Check out these facts from that season:
No less than seven pitchers posted sub-2.00 earned run averages; the American League leader in batting was Carl Yastrzemski with a crisp .301 average, McLain's 1.96 E.R.A was only good for fourth place in his league, with Luis Tiant, Sam McDowell and Dave McNally all posted lower numbers, and my favorite number of all: there were 49 Major League pitchers that season who posted an E.R.A. under 3.00! Forty-Nine!
There were only 20 teams in the Majors then, so we're talking 2.5 pitchers a team had an E.R.A. under 3.00.
There were also nine guys who posted a WHIP under 1.00!
Just amazing.
It's no surprise Major League Baseball swung the pendulum the other way right quick, trying to boost offense as they were losing ground to American audiences to the N.F.L., lowering the pitching mound and eventually creating the much disputed Designated Hitter in the American League five years later.
Anyway, next up on this thread is the 1969 season, and it'll be a bit of a change, showing three pitchers instead of two, as I stated earlier Denny McLain would share the Cy Young with Mike Cuellar for the American League honors, while Tom Seaver would win the National League award as he led the "Miracle Mets" to an unlikely World Championship.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Remember when winning or leading anything in BOTH leagues was something to be in awe over?
Hitting 30 homers in both leagues, leading both leagues in a statistical category, and especially winning an award in both the American and National League.
Well before players started jumping from team to team in the '90's and 00's, Gaylord Perry's feat of winning a Cy Young Award in both leagues was quite an accomplishment, and it was one of those things I was really impressed with.
So allow me to present my design for a 1979 Topps card celebrating this special achievement:

Before Pedro, Randy and Roger came along inn a different baseball world, Gaylord Perry's Cy Young wins in 1972 and 1978 were quite special.
It was actually up there with Frank Robinson winning the Most Valuable Player award in both leagues, and I wish Topps would have "spiced up" the otherwise boring 1979 set with a card like this.
Pitching in his first season for Cleveland in 1972 after about ten years in San Francisco, Perry delivered, as he posted a record of 24-16 with a sparkling 1.92 E.R.A., five shutouts and 234 strikeouts for a second to last place team.
But those stellar numbers were enough for the baseball writers to award him the top pitching prize, as well as finishing in sixth place for A.L. Most Valuable Player.
Fast forward six years and we now have Perry pitching for the San Diego Padres (after three years as a Texas Ranger), and Perry once again delivered for his new team, going 21-6 with a 2.73 E.R.A. and 154 strikeouts, once again being selected as the top pitcher in his league, this time the National League, becoming the first to pull off the feat in the award's 23 year existence at the time.
Not until Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson both coincidentally won the Cy Young in 1999, marking a win in both leagues for the both of them (Pedro in 1997 for the Expos and '99 for the Red Sox while Randy first won the award in 1995 with the Mariners and then '99 with the Diamondbacks), would another pitcher come along and duplicate Perry's performance.
We can now add Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay to the group, as Clemens won the award seven times (3x with the Red Sox, twice with the Blue Jays, once each with the Yankees and Astros) and Halladay twice (Blue Jays and Phillies).
Nevertheless, Perry being the inaugural member of this club was worthy of a special card in my book, so I'm glad I got to design one, albeit 35 years later!

Monday, May 19, 2014


I have never been a fan of the photo Topps used for Ernie Banks on his 1971 card (#525).
What makes it all the more "important" for me is that it just so happens that this is the last card of Banks' career, and it could have been handled so much better.
Take a look at what Topps had out there in 1971:

What an odd pose for the camera. 
They went to the trouble of having him stand for a photo to be used, yet it looks like they caught him off-guard as he was looking elsewhere about to say something to someone.
I know I must sound petty here, but come on!
What would it have taken to use a better shot of the future Hall of Famer and "Mr. Cub"!?
So I went ahead and used a nicer shot of the most popular Cubs player of all-time and present to you my version:

Nothing colossal or anything.
Just a nice card of Banks during his last year as a Major League player before he retired, on his way to Hall of Fame induction in 1977.
One of my all-time favorite players…

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Now I'll be honest with you.
With all my nerdy baseball studying over the past 35 years or so, I never knew of former New York Met Dave Schneck, and I promise you, I have studied team rosters, especially from the 1970's and 1980's to the point of embarrassment.
But when I came across that SABR article I cited earlier regarding players with the most at-bats or innings pitched without a Topps card, his was the one name I had no clue about.
Needless to say it was something I needed to "fix" asap, so please let me offer a 1975 Topps Dave Schneck card now:

Actually you can make a case for a "missing" 1973 Topps card for Schneck as well, as he collected 134 plate appearances in 1972 in what was his rookie year.
But for now let's focus on the real omission as far as Topps is concerned: his 1974 season.
That year Schneck appeared in 93 games, good for 272 plate appearances.
Granted he only hit .204 with five homers and 25 runs batted in, but that is definitely substantial playing time for inclusion in a card set.
I wonder of Topps just never had him under contract for a card at the time.
Turns out Schneck's entire career were the three years between 1972 and 1974, as he was shipped by the Mets to the Phillies as part of the Tug McGraw/John Stearns deal in December of 1974 and toiled in the Minors for Philly, Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs for another three years before hanging them up.
I think I'll still design a 1973 card for him as well, so for you N.Y. Met fans out there keep an eye out for it in the near future.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


What a great card this Bill Sudakis 1975 Topps edition (#291) is!
Take a look:

The sun was blasting this afternoon!

The colors of both the image and card design explode off the cardboard, and it left an impression on me to this day.
I remember as a kid it was almost a sin that the card wasn't of some superstar since it was so freaking cool.
The photo is also pretty sweet, showing Sudakis either on-deck or between pitches while at-bat on a nice super-sunny day, shadow running across his face.
I've always loved this card.
As for Sudakis the player, things were not so sunny as far as his career went.
1974 was actually his only year in pinstripes after playing for the Dodgers, Mets and Rangers between 1968 and 1973.
After a lackluster year in the Bronx, he found himself splitting time between the Indians and Angels in 1975, appearing in only 50 games and hitting .154 with two homers and nine runs batted in.
It would be his last year in the Big Leagues, finishing his eight year career with a .234 average with 59 homers and 214 runs batted in over 530 games.
But man, what a card he leaves us with to gawk over all these years later…

Friday, May 16, 2014


Here's another "highlight" card that would have been nice to have seen in a Topps set, this time in the fabulous 1972 offering: a card celebrating the 500th home runs of both Harmon Killebrew and Frank Robinson.
Take a look:

The future Hall of Famers reached the milestone almost a month apart during the 1971 season, with Killebrew getting there first on August 10th, and Robinson joining him on September 13th.
The pair would eventually end up with 1159 home runs between them! Killebrew smashed 573 lifetime homers while Robinson topped him with 586.
The superstars were definitely at the tail ends of their careers at this point, but still had a couple good years ahead of them, while Robinson would also go on to make additional history as the first African-American Major League manager in history when he was named skipper of the Cleveland Indians in 1975.
I was lucky to find this nice picture of them from the 1971 all-star game I believe, making it the perfect shot for this card.
I added a tonal quality to it to "blend" with the border design a bit, but I think it made for a nice creation.
Hope you all agree.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


It's time for the 50th trivia Thursday on this blog, and today we'll look at Rookies of the Year throughout the 1970's.
See how many you can get, and I'll post the answers tomorrow, as usual.
1. Among all R.O.Y.'s in the decade, who had the most hits in their award winning season?

2. What 1970's R.O.Y. hit the most homers in their initial season?

3. What R.O.Y. pitcher in the '70's posted the lowest E.R.A.?

4. Who struck out the most batters among 1970's R.O.Y. winners?

5. Who posted the most wins in their 1970's R.O.Y. season?


Alfredo Griffin, Blue Jays. 179 in 1979.

Earl Williams, Braves. 33 in 1971.

Jon Matlack, Mets. 2.32 E.R.A. in 1972.

John Montefusco, Giants. 215 K's in 1975.

Mark Fidrych, Tigers. 19 wins in 1976.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Today we move past the "Koufax-Era" and spotlight the 1967 Cy Young Award winners in my imagined 1975 sub-set based on the awesome M.V.P. version Topps had in their set that year.
Turns out the card I needed to design took a little more work than expected since the National league's winner that year, San Francisco Giant Mike McCormick, was actually pictured as a Washington Senator in the 1967 set.
So, along with the as-issued card of American league winner Jim Lonborg of the Boston red Sox, I had to create a Giants card for McCormick before I dropped them onto the 1975 sub-set card.
Here's what McCormick's card looked like in the 1967 set:

And here's my creation, showing him as a Giant pitcher:

Now let's move onto my design for the sub-set showing the Cy Young Award winners for the 1967 season:

This was the first year that there was a Cy Young winner picked for BOTH leagues, so we are now past the SABR selections of presumed winners in whichever league wasn't represented between 1956-1966.
Both pitchers really came out of nowhere to post career years that season.
Jim Lonborg helped lead the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series appearance since 1946, mainly on the shoulders of Triple Crown winner and Most Valuable Player Carl Yastrzemski.
By the time the season ended Lonborg's numbers were outstanding, finishing with a league-leading 22 wins against nine losses, along with a league-leading 246 strikeouts and a 3.16 earned run average.
He also started a league-high 39 games and completed 15 of them, good for 273.1 innings pitched and two shutouts.
It was only his third full season in the Majors, and sadly for Lonborg easily the high point of his career, though he did win 18 games for the Phillies in 1976 with an even better E.R.A. than 1967 at 3.08.
However immediately after his great '67 season, he faltered in 1968 to a 6-10 record with a 4.29 E.R.A., never really coming close to all-star numbers again in his 15 year career.
In the National league, McCormick was a well worn veteran by the time he rejoined the Giants after four seasons of toiling in the American League for the Baltimore Orioles and Senators between 1963-1966.
Originally up in the big leagues as a seventeen year old for the New York Giants in 1956, he actually won the National League E.R.A. crown back in 1960 at the ripe-young-age of 21 when he posted 2.70.
That season also saw him go 15-12 with four shutouts and three saves, but would be his best season in the Majors until 1967 rolled around.
Finding himself in the N.L. again seemed to revitalize his career, as he cruised to a 22-10 record with a nice 2.85 earned run average and five shutouts to go along with 150 strikeouts.
To be honest, I personally wonder why the award didn't go to either Jim Bunning or Fergie Jenkins, both future Hall of Famers, as their numbers seem to be better overall.
But McCormick left them in the dust when voting was announced, 18 votes to one each for Bunning and Jenkins.
Like Lonborg, sadly McCormick's career would quickly fall apart, as he was only able to win 12 games the following year, and 11 the next before playing out the last two years of his career with the Giants, Yankees and Royals to the tune of a 7-4 record with an above-6.00 E.R.A. before calling it a career after 16 seasons.
It really was a curious oddity that these two guys would pop out of obscurity and claim the top pitching prize in the same season, leading their team to excellent seasons before falling out of sight somewhat by the time the decade came to a close.
Definitely one of the more interesting Cy Young Award years of the era.
Next up on this thread, the "Year of the Pitcher"!
1968 and the absolute domination of Denny McClain and Bob Gibson, not only Cy Young Award winners for the respective leagues, but Most Valuable Players as well!
Stay tuned…

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#400's DURING THE 1970's FOR MY 400th POST

Another personal milestone for this blog, the 400th post in just about a year, and we all know what that means: profiling every card numbered "400" in Topps' sets through the 1970's.
Let's jump right in and take a look shall we?

1970: Denny McLain

I always thought Denny McLain was somewhat of a chameleon since he had two "looks" as a ballplayer: the geeky bespectacled guy you see here on this card, the the chubbier, no-glasses dude later on.
Really did look like a completely different person later on.
Anyway, this card catches McLain at the height of his career, two straight Cy Young Awards, a 30-win season and a world championship with the Tigers in 1968.
A decent card in an otherwise bland set.

1971: Hank Aaron

Bleh. Kind of boring card for "Hammerin' Hank".
Maybe I'll redesign this one in the future.
Hank Aaron still had a few really good seasons left in him when this card came out, and was on his way to baseball immortality in just a few short years.
It wasn't just about his home runs. The man's career totals in hits, runs, R.B.I.'s, total bases, you name it!
I've always loved the fact that Aaron's career was one of excellent consistency. He never had the MASSIVE season that everyone seems to have.
This guy (like an Eddie Murray) just had all-star seasons every single year for about 20 years.

1972: Tony Oliva

Just coming off of his third batting title, and first since he exploded on the baseball scene his first two years in the mid-60's.
Oliva sadly is one of those "what could have been" had he avoided injuries that plagued him throughout his career.
Nevertheless, the man was a hitting machine, and besides his three batting titles, he lead the American League in hits five times, doubles four times and even slugging percentage once (in 1971) before he hung them up after the 1976 season.
Nice card of the Twins legend.

1973: Gaylord Perry

Love this card!
Perry was coming off of his first Cy Young season, posting 24 wins for the lowly Cleveland Indians.
Great in-game action shot.
Perry of course would go on to win 300 games, overtake Walter Johnson for the all-time strikeout mark (before being topped a few times over since), and eventually get himself inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.

1974: Harmon Killebrew

Another great card!
Killebrew at the plate, ready to "jack" another ball out of the park at the tail end of his career.
All the guy who they'd call "Killer" would do in his career is blast 573 homers, have eight 40+ home run seasons, and lead his league in positive offensive categories 15 times.
Besides being voted A.L. M.V.P. in 1969, Killebrew would also finish in the top-5 in voting five other times throughout his 22 year career.

1975: Dick Allen

I think you all know by now how much I love Dick Allen!
I've always liked this card, with Allen in the filed wearing his batting helmet.
Winner of the Rookie of the Year in 1964, Most Valuable Player in 1972, and a league leader in one offensive category or another 12 times, the "Wampum Walloper" was an awesome player and an awesome character who STILL isn't as appreciated as he should be in my eyes.
351 home runs in only 6332 career at-bats! Think about that for a minute.

1976: Rod Carew

Even though this card just has a shot of Carew in the dugout, I've always thought this was a "classy" card of the seven-time batting champ.
Just love the colors all-around on this card.
Smack in the middle of his hitting domination, it would be one year later when he caught everyone's attention as he flirted with the magic .400 mark in 1977, finishing at .388 and an M.V.P. award.
3000 hits, a .328 career average, and the Hall of Fame in 1991 (along with the 1973 card above!).

1977: Steve Garvey

The very first card I was in "awe" of as a kid.
What a nice card, and I'm not 100% sure, but I'm almost positive this was the first time I really understood what that extra banner at the bottom really meant when I pulled this card out of a pack as an eight year old in 1977.
Love the photo Topps went with.
I still don't truly understand the extreme lack of support Garvey received for Hall of Fame induction when he was eligible.
THE all-star first baseman for the National League for over a decade, six 200-hit seasons, an M.V.P. in 1974 (along with a second place finish in 1978), and five National League pennants.
Throw in five 100-R.B.I. Seasons, 2599 career hits, 272 homers and four Gold Gloves, I feel you have to have him in Cooperstown if you have guys like Jim Rice and Jim Hunter in there.

1978: Nolan Ryan

Great card, great set, great player!
What else can we say about Nolan Ryan?
Just about ready to jump ship in Anaheim when this card came out, he'd go on to become the first player to average over $1 million a year, top the WORLD in no-hitters and strikeouts, and become a legend of legends when it comes to "power-pitchers".
As a side note: I did always think he looked a bit weird with those blank looks he'd always sport on cards. 

1979: Jim Rice

Nice card of Rice beaming a million dollar smile coming off of his incredible 1978 M.V.P. year where he managed to lead the league in both home runs AND triples (how freaking cool is that?).
Rice would eventually make it into the Hall of Fame in 2009 known as perhaps the most feared hitter in the game in the late-70's and early-80's along with Dave Parker and George Brett.
A monster at the plate: 2400+ hits, 382 homers, 1451 runs batted in and a .298 lifetime average.
Five times would he finish in the running for Most Valuable Player besides the year he took it home.

So there you have it: all ten cards numbered "400" in Topps' 1970's sets, celebrating my 400th post on this blog.
Hope you're all enjoying the blog after about a year.
It's really beyond fun for me to work on it, and I hope to keep it going well beyond the 500th, dare I even say 1000th post!
Thanks for reading so far…

Monday, May 12, 2014


So HOW did Topps fail to celebrate the fact that TWO of the greatest players in baseball history collected their 3000th hit during the same season by not honoring them with a card in the following year's set?!
Both Hank Aaron and Willie Mays notched their 3000th career hit during the 1970 season, Aaron on May 17th and Mays on July 18th.
I know there weren't any "special" cards like this in the 1971 set, but come on!
Talk about something worth having slapped onto a card!
So let me take this moment to upload my design for a 1971 "highlight" card celebrating "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron  & "Say Hey" Willie Mays on their 3000th knock.
Take a look:

"Hammerin' Hank" & the "Say Hey Kid"

Love the photo I came across with both of them beaming in front of the camera!
Aaron would finish with 3,771 hits, at the time the second most all-time (behind Ty Cobb), while Mays would finish with 3,283, good for seventh all-time at the time of his retirement.
Hope you're all enjoying these "highlight" cards of the 1970's, 'cause I sure am having fun designing them!
Many more to come in the near future.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


I don't want to seem rude here to Mr. Lowenstein, but man did this card spook me as an 8-year old when it came out:

I mean, come on right?!
John Lowenstien is downright dark and ominous on that card. (Not like I'm a prize or anything myself, believe me)
But it's like he's "Death" and was about to step out onto the field to claim a life right smack in the middle of a game.
This was one of those cards that my cousin and I would always pull out to gawk and giggle at when we were at each other's house.
Nowadays I just love it for the cheesy 1970's wildness that it represents.
Sort of a time capsule of the days when ballplayers let the hair flow, sideburns burn and mustaches…well… 'STACHE!
Gotta love it...
On a side note-there also seems to be some strange airbrushing/touching up going on between Lowenstein and the background. Kind of reminds me of the 1976 Fritz Peterson card I profiled a while back.
I can't tell if he was airbrushed, or cropped out of one photo and dropped onto this one.
Either way it wouldn't make any sense since he was already playing for the Indians for seven years at this point.
So why Topps didn't have a solid image of him for this card has me puzzled.
And look at his autograph, if you can even see it. Really thin, almost non-existent  signage to the left of him, about ear-high. Strange. Wonder what was up with this card.
I'll always remember Lowenstein as one of the most successful platoon players of the 1980's, when he was paired up with Gary Roenicke on the Baltimore Orioles.
For example check out their awesome combined 1982 season where Lowenstein and Roenicke outright mashed the ball in part-time rolls.
The two combined for 45 homers, 140 runs batted in, 209 hits and 127 runs scored in 715 at-bats! Granted it's a bit more playing time than a "regular" full season, but not by THAT much.
Lowenstein ended up with a very decent 16-year career playing for the Indians (1970-77), Rangers (1978) and Orioles (1979-85), generally as a part-time player.
As a matter of fact his 1974 season with Cleveland would be the only time he posted enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title throughout his career.
But a decent career nevertheless, and a classic card in my eyes in 1977.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


I've been on somewhat of a rant lately regarding California Angels catchers and how some were inexplicably omitted from Topps sets while others were given cards for much less playing time.
Today I want to put a spotlight on a guy that fit BOTH categories, albeit having a "missing" card three years in row, catcher John Stephenson.
First off, he did manage to have a card in Topps 1971 set, even though he only played in 23 games in 1970 for the San Francisco Giants, good for 43 at-bats and only three hits (a paltry .070 average!).
Take a look:

Why he got a slot in this set is beyond me.
However, perhaps it was a good thing the poor guy got that card, since he was pretty much persona-non-grata in Topps' eyes the following THREE years, where he wasn't given a card in any of those sets!
Now I usually don't profile multiple "missing" cards in one post since each one is worthy of their own attention in my eyes.
But for Stephenson it all ties in together to make for a very strange case, so I am going to post up all three of my "missing" John Stephenson designs here:




I stretched it a bit with that 1973 image. Not quite full-resolution but I think it still worked adequately enough.
I mentioned Stephenson last week when I posted about the missing 1974 Jeff Torborg card.
Seems Torborg, Stephenson and Art Kusyner were ALL ignored by Topps in the early '70's, while other Angels' catchers like Charlie Sands and Rick Stelmaszek, who played a lot less than the other three, got cards.
For Stephenson, he was pretty much the Angels' number-2 catcher behind Jeff Torborg, and played in 98, 66 and 60 games in 1971, '72 and '73.
His at-bat totals were decent enough to warrant a card (compared to others who got one) in each year: 279, 146 and 122).
Granted, it's not like he "tore it up" those years, hitting about .240 altogether, but it stiall confuses me as to why some guys got a card when others didn't.
I'm not aware of any contractual problems between Stephenson and Topps, so I'd love to know what was up.
Anyone out there have an idea?
But at least today I can help "fill-out" a player who was missing from a Topps set multiple times, even if there are only a few of us who care. ;)

Friday, May 9, 2014


Take a look at the 1973 Topps card for pitcher Vincente Romo:

At first glance the airbrushing job is pretty funny and makes me want to spotlight it as an airbrushing failure.
But then again, the more I look at it the more I appreciate the effort that was put into the job.
I love the shading and shadowing job the "artist" did on the cap and left shoulder.
And Lord knows working with that awesome mustard-yellow Padres color must have been glorious.
There was even an attempt at the embroidered stitching on the "S.D." logo on Romo's cap! How awesome is THAT!?
Funny? Yes. But a nice job nevertheless wouldn't you agree?
Oddly enough, as a kid in the early '80's Romo was probably the first player I noticed as a "long time no see" guy when he appeared on a Topps card in the 1983 set as a Los Angeles Dodger.
It was a cousin of mine who reminded me that Romo had a card in the 1975 set as a Padre, and nothing in between.
As far as I can remember it was the first time something like that came to my attention.
After the 1974 season Romo went off to pitch in the Mexican League for the next seven years before making it back to the Majors with the Dodgers.
In 1982 Romo appeared in 15 games at the age of 39, starting six of them, posting a 1-2 record with a 3.03 E.R.A.
That would be his final taste of the big leagues, but he'd get that last card a year later in one of my all-time favorite sets, 1983's offering by Topps.
By the way, I just love those Padre uniforms from the early 70's! 
Taking a line from the sit-com "Night Court", "What a bold fashion statement!"

Thursday, May 8, 2014


It's Thursday, and you know what that means.
We take a breather from 1970's baseball cards and delve into 1970's trivia.
Today's topic is "teammates".
See how many answers you can get!
Answers will be posted tomorrow…
1. What two teammates combined for the most wins in a season during the 1970's?

2. Which two teammates combined for the most home runs during a season in the '70's?

3. What pair of teammates combined for the most stolen bases in a season during the 1970's?

4. What two pitching teammates combined for most strikeouts in a season during the "wild" '70's?

5. What slugging teammates drove in the most combined runs in a season during the '70's?


1.  Mike Cuellar & Dave McNally, Orioles. 48 wins between them (24 each) in 1970.

2. Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, Reds. 85 home runs, 45 for Bench and 40 for Perez in 1970.

3. Lou Brock and Bake McBride, Cardinals. 148 thanks in large part to the record-breaking 118 by Brock in 1974.

4. Nolan Ryan and Bill Singer, Angels. A whopping 624 strikeouts in 1973 with Ryan's 383 and Singer's 241.

5. Once again the Reds' combo of Bench and Perez in 1970 with 277 R.B.I.'s. 148 for Bench and 129 for Perez.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


If you're someone who grew up in the late-70's/early-80's like me and followed baseball somewhat seriously, you always came back to George Fosters 50-homer season of 1977 from time to time since he was the only guy to achieve such a feat in your lifetime.
52 homers in 1977. It was just awesome, and to many younger fans out there who may not believe it, it really seemed for a while that no one would hit 50+ homers again since we had home run leaders consistently in the high 30's in the early-80's.
When the 1978 set came out my friends and I were shocked when there wasn't some sort of "highlight" card for Foster's power display.
Well, 26 years later, here's one I designed:

Just imagine it: Foster's 52 home run season was the only 50+ homer season between Willie May's 52 homers in 1965 and Cecil Fielder's 1990 total of 51.
ONE player in 25 years managed to top 50 homers in the Major Leagues.
What a season Foster had for the Cincinnati Reds that year!
Following M.V.P. years in the decade by teammates Johnny Bench (70,72), Pete Rose (73) and Joe Morgan (75,76), Foster came up HUGE, slamming those 52 home runs while also hitting for average at a .320 clip, with 197 hits, a league-leading 124 runs scored and a whopping 149 runs batted in.
Those numbers made him the sixth Red's M.V.P. In the '70's, and pushed Foster to the top of the heap after finishing second in voting the previous year.
For a while there he was an R.B.I. machine, driving in 90+ every year but one between 1976 and 1983.
His 1981 season is often overlooked, as he drove in 90 runs, just one off the league lead (Mike Schmidt had 91) in only 108 games, along with 22 homers, good for third in the league.
The following year he signed with the Mets as a free agent, becoming the first $2 million a year player in Big League history.
It wasn't until Kirby Puckett in 1989 that we would see a $3 million dollar a year player (followed about a week later by Rickey henderson actually).
His four+ years with the Mets were decent, but he never had that "all-star" year the folks at Shea were hoping for, and he did catch some grief for it.
Nevertheless he had a decent 18-year career overall, finishing with just under 2000 hits, 348 homers and 1239 runs batted in with a .274 batting average.
Throw in five all-star selections, an M.V.P., and a solid cog in the "Big Red Machine" Reds of the mid-70's and he certainly left his mark on the game for the era.
If you're liking this "highlights" thread on my blog, keep an eye out for the next one, which shines a light on Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, who both reached 3000 hits during 1970, leading to a 1971 card I designed celebrating the two.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Today we'll look at the final year of the "Koufax-era" in my imagined 1975 Cy Young Award sub-set, 1966.
After a run of domination hardly seen in Major League baseball before or since, Koufax would retire from the game at season's end and shock many fans because of serious arm-trouble.
Along with Koufax and his third Cy Young in four years, the fine folks at SABR picked Jim Kaat of the Minnesota Twins as the American League Cy Young winner had they chosen one in each league at that time.
First up, my card design:

This would be the final year of voting on one winner for the award before they began voting on winners for both leagues beginning in 1967.
Koufax was once again out of this world spectacular, posting a record of 27-9 with a 1.73 earned run average and 317 strikeouts, all league leading figures.
He also lead the league in games started (41), complete games (27), innings pitched (323) and shutouts (5), easily taking home the award and unexpectedly capping a Hall of Fame career before injuries halted his career at age 30.
Sadly the season was also marred by the Dodgers' surprising loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series, getting swept mainly because of the "Birds" up-and-coming young pitching studs Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker and Dave McNally, along with a surprise performance by reliever Moe Drabowsky in the first game.
Six years later Koufax was inducted into the Hall of Fame, getting named to 344 of 396 ballots when voting was announced.
Perhaps only Pedro Martinez' run in the late 90's/early 00's was there be another pitcher who had a run that far out-shined the rest of his league for a few years like Koufax's run between 1963-1966.
Over in the American League, the Twins were once again the beneficiaries of a fine performance by one of their young pitchers, this time Jim Kaat.
After a nice five year run between 1962-1965, Kaat came into his own in '66, finishing the season with a league-leading 25 wins (against 13 losses), a 2.75 E.R.A., and 205 strikeouts, while also leading the league in starts (41), innings pitched (304.2) and complete games (19).
He also picked up his fifth of what was to become 16 Gold Gloves in his 25 year career while finishing in fifth place in M.V.P. Voting.
Kaat would have two more 20-win seasons, in the 1970's while pitching for the Chicago White Sox, before switching over to relieving the final few years of his lengthy career in the early-80's with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Next we take a look at the first season where TWO Cy Young winners were selected, one for each league, 1967.
For the National League we have Giants pitcher Mike McCormick, while in the American League we have Red Sox hurler Jim Lonborg.
Two guys who easily had career years that season.

Monday, May 5, 2014


When I went to write up this post for today's topic I realized that somehow I've only profiled Gaylord Perry once (??) in the entire run of my blog, and the guy is one of my favorite "characters" from the decade.
I'll have to double-check that, maybe I missed labeling a post at some point.
But for now let's move ahead with the subject of today: redesigning Perry's 1972 Topps card.
Take a look at what Topps had out there for his 1972 card:

Not necessarily a bad card, but definitely in need of a redesign since not only does it show Perry in his San Francisco Giants uniform (he was traded to Cleveland around Thanksgiving of 1971), but 1972 ended up being a banner season for the Hall of Fame pitcher.
First up I offer you my 1972 redesign:

Just a nice action shot of Perry on the hill for the Indians during his award-winning year. A bit nicer than the "yearbook"-type pose on the issued card, don't you think?
In his first season pitching for the Indians, all Perry did was post a 24-16 record with a 1.92 earned run average, 234 strikeouts and 5 shutouts.
Those numbers got him his first Cy Young Award, as well as a sixth place finish in M.V.P. voting, all while playing for a team that went 72-84, good for fifth place in the American League East.
Not bad at all.
In somewhat of a coincidence, his National League counterpart in Cy Young winner that year, Steve Carlton, also pitched for a sub-.500 team (actually a last place team in Carlton's case).
Go figure.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Back in August of last year I profiled pitcher Bob Garibaldi and his 1971 Topps card (#701) because it showed him as a Kansas City Royal player even though he  never appeared in a single game for them in his career.
As a matter of fact, Garibaldi would never appear in another Major League game after the 1969 season, leaving us with a pretty cool mystery as to how he was photographed in a Royals uniform since he never suited up for them (I suspect it was a Spring training shot during the 1971 pre-season).
But it was only after I profiled this card that I realized that he was also given a high-numbered card in the 1970 Topps set (#681), even though he only appeared in ONE game during the 1969 season, good for only five innings!
Here's the card:

It's wild to think that this guy got a card in BOTH the 1970 and 1971 set based on one game and five innings!
For his career Garibaldi totaled 15 games and 26.1 innings over four sparse years pitching for the San Francisco Giants, finishing with an 0-2 record and a 3.08 E.R.A.
He pitched in the bulk of his games during his rookie year in 1962 with 9, then got into four games in 1963, a game in 1966 and that final game in 1969.
I'm sure it's little or no consolation to him, but at least he walked away from the game with TWO baseball cards as a Big Leaguer.
"Half-full" right?!

Saturday, May 3, 2014


You know, California Angels catchers of the early to mid 1970's got "dissed" left and right by Topps.
My last "Missing in Action" subject was Angels' backstop Art Kusnyer, and today's player is another California signal-caller, Jeff Torborg, who should have had a card in the 1974 set.
But before we get into the player, take a look at my design for the "missing" card:

You think a guy who caught no-hitters by BOTH Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax in his career would get a little love, especially since he did actually play in 102 games in 1973!
In those 102 games played he had 284 plate appearances and started more than half the Angels games that year with 95.
Then take into account that Topps instead went ahead and gave a card in their 1974 set to both Charlie Sands and Rick Stelmaszek, who appeared in only 17 and 22 games respectively as the Angels fourth and fifth string catchers the previous year!
How does that compute?
If you're keeping track, I've only named four catchers here, yet I stated Sands and Stelmaszek as the fourth and fifth string.
Turns out (and thank you to reader "ecloy" for the heads up) Topps also omitted ANOTHER Angels catcher that year by leaving out their second-most active back-stop in 1973, catcher John Stephenson, who appeared in 60 games, good for 132 plate appearances.
So Topps leaves out the three most active Angels catchers of 1973 and gives cards to two guys who totaled 39 games between them!?
I just can't figure it out.
Nevertheless, with the missing 1973 Kusnyer card, this 1974 Torborg card, and in the near future the missing Stephenson cards (yes, there were multiple missing cards for this player in the decade), I hope to fill in all the blanks for Angels catchers of the 1970's.
I'll also be writing about Charlie Sands and his TWO inexplicable cards during the '70's as well.
Keep an eye out for all of them here…
As for Torborg, after a very successful college career playing for Rutgers University in New Jersey in the early 60's Torborg was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1963.
He made it to the Majors in 1964 and went on to play seven years for L.A. as a back-up catcher before being purchased by the California Angels in March of 1971, where he went on to play for another three seasons.
After the 1973 season, as the Angels primary catcher among a slew of guys behind the plate that year, Torborg was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher John Andrews.
Turns out both players never appeared in another Major League game again.
Torborg was out of the game as a player for good, but he almost immediately made a go of it as a Major League manager, landing the job of Cleveland Indians skipper during the 1977 season (remember his card as manager in that awesome manager sub-set in the 1978 Topps set?).
This lead to an on-again/off-again eleven year managerial career between 1977 and 2003 managing five teams: the Indians, White Sox, Mets, Expos and Marlins.
Some of you may also remember that Torborg was the Marlins manager at the beginning of what was to be their World Championship season in 2003 before being replaced by Jack McKeon after a rough 16 and 22 start.
As a player Torborg never really became a full-time player, but man was he lucky with the opportunity to catch some memorable games for some memorable pitchers!
On September 9th, 1965 while with the Dodgers he was behind the plate for Sandy Koufax's perfect game against the Chicago Cubs.
Then on July 20th, 1970 he caught Bill Singer's no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies (funny enough he'd also be a teammate of Singer over in California).
But if that wasn't enough, Torborg ended up catching Nolan Ryan's first of a record seven Major League no-hitters when he was behind the plate for Ryan's masterpiece on May 15th, 1973 against the Kansas City Royals.
Not a bad string of historical experience for a part-time catcher in ten years!
As for Angels' catchers, next week I should have a card (or two) designed for yet another missing player, John Stephenson, who really got shafted multiple times by Topps.
Keep an eye out for it...

Friday, May 2, 2014


I'm a strikeout fan. A HUGE strikeout fan.
Power pitchers have always been "Gods" to me, from Tom Seaver through Dwight Gooden through Randy Johnson to today's K-Kings like Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander.
And for a kid who idolized power-pitchers, the 1970's were the apex of strikeout kings, giving us all-time legends like Seaver, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, and the all-time "King of Kings", Lynn Nolan Ryan.
Though he catapulted himself to superstar status in 1972 in his first year with the Angels, it was 1973 that just affirmed his spot in the annals of baseball history.
Not only did Ryan throw two no-hitters during the season, but in his final start he whiffed batter number 383, thus breaking Sandy Koufax then eight-year-old Major League record set in 1965.
What I always found incredible about the whole thing was that Ryan set the record in the 11th inning of his final start of the year!
He fanned the final batter he faced, Rich Reese, for the final out of the inning before the Angels won it in the bottom of the inning, thus ending Ryan's historic season.
An 11-inning complete game with 16 strikeouts!
What a way to cap it off…
Sadly Topps was too wrapped up with Hank Aaron's home run festivities (and rightly so I have to admit) to give Ryan a nice tribute card in honor of his feat in their 1974 set, so I went ahead and designed one myself.
Take a look:

I took the Aaron layout of card #1 and utilized it here for Ryan's highlight card.
The older I get, the more Nolan Ryan's "legend" grows with me.
With all the pitch-count watches, careful handling of young pitchers and innings limitations in today's game, Ryan's Major League resume just gets more and more incredible as time goes on.
A freaking machine…
27 years of fire-balling power, well into his 40's.
"Ryan Express" indeed!


Everything baseball: cards, events, history and more.