Sunday, July 31, 2022


Greetings everyone!
Up on the blog today, we move along in my on-going “expanded league leaders” thread to the top three American League home run hitters for 1976, proudly displayed on a 1977 card:
This would have been an awesome card to have issued by Topps, as we’ll see later on.
But first, we begin with the home run champ for the Junior Circuit in 1976, third baseman Graig Nettles of the New York Yankees, who hit 32 homers for the American League champs, a career-best for him at that time.
Normally, 32 homers would not lead your league, but the 1970’s was somewhat of a “dead-ball” era for homers, with the low-to-mid 30’s being a great total for the A.L. then.
Nettles also set career-bests at that time with 88 runs scored and 93 runs batted in, all numbers (including his home run total) he would top the very next season with 99, 37 and 107 respectively.
Behind him with 27 homers in 1976, a tie between Sal Bando of the Oakland A’s and Reggie Jackson of the Baltimore Orioles, who BOTH found themselves on new teams for the 1977 season, while also airbrushed into these new uni’s for their 1977 Topps card.
Now THAT is the reason this expanded league-leader card would have been awesome to pull from a pack back then, as we would have had Bando as an Oakland A’s player while a Milwaukee Brewer on his base card, but more importantly to us card nerds, PROOF that Reggie Jackson was an Oriole for a year, with this card showing him in Baltimore garb.
Certainly a small twist on the 1977 Topps set if this card were included in that set!
Amazing to think that Jackson led the American League in 1976 with a slugging percentage of only .502! Talk about a sign-of-the-times!
Next, week? We move on to the 1976 RBI leaders for the National League!
See you then!

Saturday, July 30, 2022


On the blog today, we add the great Orlando Cepeda to my 1970 "In-Game Action" thread, showing off the cards that were part of my two-part custom set released over the past few months:

Cepeda was a much heralded prospect coming up in the Minors before making his Big League debut in 1958, and of course, he would not disappoint, as he would take home the Rookie of the Year that season, hitting .312 with 188 hits, 25 homers, 96 RBIs and a league-leading 38 doubles, in what was to become a "typical" season for the future Hall of Famer.
While Cepeda's career was productive enough to get into Cooperstown, it's well known that if not for his bad knees, his final statistics could have been mind blowing.
Nevertheless, by the time he retired, he posted final numbers of: 379 homers, 1365 runs batted in, 2351 hits and a .297 average, with a Rookie of the Year (1958) and M.V.P. award (1967) thrown in.
It took a little while, but he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 after being selected by the Veteran's Committee.
What a power trio San Francisco had in Cepeda, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey! Power to the ultimate degree!”

Friday, July 29, 2022


The next "Negro Leagues Legend" to get the spotlight here on the blog, all-timer Willie Wells, who put in an amazing 25-years in pro-ball 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.

Thursday, July 28, 2022


On the blog today, we spotlight a rare and fun situation for Topps cards, regardless of the era: the fact that Don Kessinger had a solo card as a player in Topps 1979 set, as well as being profiled on the team card as their manager:

The longtime All-Star shortstop for the Chicago CUBS found himself on the Southside of town, traded for a Minor Leaguer in August of 1977.
Before the 1979 season, he was tabbed as the new manager of the White Sox, enough time for Topps to have him in the small manager inset on the team card, while still having him on a solo card as well.
I remember as a kid thinking this was so cool, and that they should have done the same for New York Mets Joe Torre the previous season.

Kessinger was really a great player who gets lost over the years, making six all-star teams over his career, along with two Gold Gloves for such a great Cubs team at the time.

Originally up to the Majors in 1964 as a 21-year-old, he would play the first 12 years of his career on Chicago's North Side with the Cubbies, before moving on to the St. Louis Cardinals for a season and a half, then the Chicago White Sox for the last two and a half years of his 16-year career.
In 1979, his last season of his career, he was also named manager of the White Sox before handing over the reigns to a young up and coming field general, a guy named Tony LaRussa.
For Kessinger, he would finish his career with 1931 hits, 899 runs, 100 stolen bases and a .252 batting average over 7651 at-bats and 2078 games played.
As a manager however, he didn't have the same result, lasting only 106 games into the 1979 season before getting let go, leading the team to a record of 46-60.
His replacement, Tony LaRussa, who incredibly is STILL managing to this day, which boggles my mind.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022


Good day everyone!

Up on the blog today, we have the great Satchel Paige with a "missing" 1961 Fleer "All-Time Greats" card, adding to my Josh Gibson version posted here a couple weeks back:

The Paige and Gibson cards were added as a bonus to my 1963 Fleer "Lost Second Series" set released a few months back.
As for 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 58-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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022


Next up on the blog with my on-going All-Star game Highlight cards through the decade, the classic 1971 game, of course most remembered for the mammoth Reggie Jackson blast off of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who started the game for the National league:

As we all remember, the American League entered the bottom of the third inning trailing the National League 3-0 after home runs by Johnny Bench and Hank Aaron.
After a lead-off single by Luis Aparicio to start the inning, Oakland’s young slugger was called upon to pinch hit for starter Vida Blue, and what followed was historic, as Jackson sent the pitch soaring into the light tower above the roof of Tiger Stadium, cutting the lead to 3-2.
By the time the inning was over, the A.L. took the lead 4-3 thanks to another two-run homer by yet another future Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson after a walk to Rod Carew.
When you look back at this All-Star game, it was about as loaded a game with superstars as ever, with Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer making up the roster. Just amazing.
Although Reggie Jackson already made his mark in the Majors by the time this home run happened, it was for many the first time they really noticed the young slugger on such a national stage.
I’ve always been in awe of the footage, with Jackson running the bases like a King among men, knowing of course what the future was bringing very shortly: three straight championships beginning in 1972 with the Oakland A’s, followed by two more while with the New York Yankees in 1977/1978, with the birth of the “Mr. October” moniker.
It’s as if the phrase “larger than life” was created for him as he marched towards a Hall of Fame career through the 1970’s and 1980’s, whether you loved him or hated him.
Me? I loved him as a kid growing up in Brooklyn at the time he brought his talents to the Bronx. I still do!

Monday, July 25, 2022


On the blog today, we add the great Hank Aaron to my on-going 1963 Fleer "Lost Second Series" thread, from my custom set released a few months back:

Aaron was smack in the middle of his incredible run as one of the all-time greatest the game has ever seen.
The man was simply out of this world...
Let his numbers do all the talking: 2174 runs scored, 3771 hits, 624 doubles, 98 triples, 755 home runs, 2297 runs batted in, a .305 batting average no less than 21 all-star selections!
Just tremendous!
He also had eight top-5 finishes for MVP, including taking home the award in 1957, as well as three Gold Gloves won consecutively between 1958-1960.
It's incredible to look at his 15 years of topping 100 or more runs scored, 11 seasons of 100 or more runs batted in, five more seasons of 90+ RBI's, and TWENTY STRAIGHT years of 20 or more home runs.

Sunday, July 24, 2022


On the blog today, we have a 1977 “expanded league leader” card featuring the National League’s top three home run hitters of 1976, with two players you’d expect to see from the era, and a surprise third-place finisher:

Of course we begin with Hall of Fame slugger Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies, who smashed 38 homers, good for his third straight home run title, on his way to eight such titles before he was done.
It was a great season for the third baseman in 1976, as he would also take home the first of his eventual ten Gold Gloves, while finishing third in the MVP race at season’s end.
Just one home run behind him with 37 homers, none other than “Kong” Dave Kingman of the New York Mets, who topped his previous career-best by one homer while also making his first All-Star team.
Of course this led to one of my all-time favorite Topps cards, his 1977 slab with the beautiful blue “All-Star” banner running across the bottom. Just a perfect baseball card!
In third place with 32 home runs, which would have been good enough for a share of the A.L. title that season, Rick Monday of the Chicago Cubs, who easily bested his previous career-best of 26 homers from 1973.
Monday, the very first #1 overall pick in the history of the Amateur Draft in 1965, gave the Cubs a great season in 1976, hitting .272 with a career-high 107 runs scored in what turned out to be his last season in the “Windy City” before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Winter for Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus.
So there it is, the top three home run hitters of 1976 in the National League celebrated on an “expanded” league leader card in the 1977 set.

Saturday, July 23, 2022


The next Negro League Legend from my custom set released last year to get a spotlight here on the blog is one of the great power hitters, Turkey Stearnes:

Over the course of 18 seasons between 1923 and 1940, Stearnes put up impressive numbers, finishing his career with a .344 batting average while clubbing 183 home runs, unofficially the NBL record.
The man was such an accomplished all-around five-tool player that Bill James ranked him 25th in all-time players, regardless of league!
The great Satchel Paige was even quoted as saying that he considered Stearnes just as good as legend Josh Gibson, or anyone else who held a bat in his hand.
He batted over .400 three times and led the Negro Leagues in home runs seven times, while also leading the league in triples six times between 1923 and 1936.
Sadly, as was the case with so many NBL greats, by the time Stearnes was recognized by Cooperstown with induction to the Hall of Fame, he had passed away 21 years prior in 1979 at the age of 78.

Friday, July 22, 2022


Up on the blog today, I spotlight my “missing” 1985 Barry Larkin USA card that could have been part of the 1985 Topps set (which also featured the ever popular Mark McGwire pre-rookie, Oddibe McDowell, Shane Mack and Corey Snyder cards, among others):



I remember first seeing this special sub-set when first opening packs back then, and thought they were really cool, and already recognized a few names here and there thanks to my trusty Street & Smith yearbook which also featured a College Baseball section in the back.

Years later of course, we realized that Topps missed a chance at a pre-rookie card for Will Clark, and the subject of today, Cincinnati Reds future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.

However it is absolutely understandable how this occurred, as Topps really picked the main players on the 1984 USA Olympic team, so the younger players fell by the wayside.

Larkin was a two-time All-American at the University of Michigan, even though he originally went signed on to play football under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, and helped lead the Wolverines to the College World Series in 1983 and 1984.

In 1984 and 1985 he was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, and eventually had his number “16” retired by the school in 2010.

In the 1985 draft Larkin was the fourth overall pick in the first round by the Cincinnati Reds, and they did very well with that pick, as he would go on to put in his entire 19-year Major League career with the organization, taking home the 1995 N.L. MVP Award while also helping the team win it all in 1990 with a stunning upset of the favored Oakland A’s.

By the time Larkin retired after the 2004 season, he finished with 12 All-Star nods, three Gold Gloves, six Silver Slugger Awards, 2340 hits, 198 homers and 379 stolen bases to go with his .295 career average.

In 2012, the cherry was placed on top of it all with his selection to the Hall of Fame.

Not a bad Big League resume to say the least!

Thursday, July 21, 2022


Up on the blog today, thought it'd be fun to look at another 1977 OPC-to-Topps image variation, this one for former All-Star reliever Bill Campbell:

OPC Version

Topps Version
Just two different airbrushed images for the man, for some reason.
Campbell was entering his first season with the Boston Red Sox after a magnificent 1976 season for the Minnesota Twins.
In 1976 all the man did was go 17-5, with a 3.01 earned run average and 20 saves over 78 games, tossing 167.2 innings, ALL in relief!
He would not disappoint the Boston faithful in 1977 either, as he would go 13-9 with a 2.96 ERA and 31 saves over 69 games, throwing another 140 innings, again entirely out of the bullpen, good for a fifth-place finish in the Cy Young Award race at season's end, as well as a tenth-place finish for MVP.
He would go on to pitch five years for the Red Sox, before bouncing around a bit for the last six seasons of his 15-year career, ending up with a 83-68 record along with a 3.54 ERA over exactly 700 appearances, all but nine out of the bullpen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


On the blog today, figured I'd get another "Nickname of the 1970's" card done, this one of former Big League second baseman Tito Fuentes, aka "Parakeet", on a 1973 template:

Fuentes was about to enjoy his best season in the Big Leagues in 1973 while with the San Francisco Giants, collecting 182 hits and batting .277, with 78 runs scored and 63 runs batted in.
The man was a good contact hitter throughout his career, though he wasn't one for collecting a base on balls.
I was always interested in Fuentes as a kid because I could never figure out (before the days of the internet) why a guy who had pretty much an all-star season in 1977 seemed to disappear immediately.
While playing for the Detroit Tigers that season, Fuentes had arguably his best year in the Majors, hitting .309 with 190 hits and 10 triples with 83 runs scored.
As a kid who worshiped stats back then, you notice that nice line on the back of his 1978 card (You also couldn't help but notice his hand-written "Tito" headband around his cap, which also makes an appearance on his 1976 card as well).
But then he just vanished, and back then you didn't have all the access to information we do now, so you couldn't figure out why (football was the WORST for this! Guys came and went like nobody's business).
Anyway, it wasn't until years later that I learned Detroit let Fuentes go because they had an up-and-coming star on their hands in Lou Whitaker, who would eventually be the Rookie of the Year in 1978, and team up with another rookie, Alan Trammell to play 19 straight seasons together, until 1995.
It seems Fuentes couldn't hang on with anyone else and was out of the game after 13 games with the Oakland A's in 1978.
Pretty dramatic end to a decent 13 year career that was reasonably productive right until the end.
Fuentes did make a career for himself in the game after his playing days were over, hooking up with the Giants as their first radio announcer for their Spanish-speaking broadcasts beginning in 1981.
Eventually he was even elected into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum in 2002 in San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


The next baseball star featured in my on-going 1970 "In-Game Action" series is Pittsburgh Pirates great Willie Stargell:

Over 21 seasons, he would lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to two world championships, take home an MVP Award in 1979 (shared with the Cardinals Keith Hernandez), and get named to seven All-Star teams.
"Pops" would also have a great three-year run between 1971 and 1973 that saw him finish second, third and second respectively in MVP voting, winning two home run titles, an RBI title and even lead the league with 43 doubles (1973).
Luckily, I got to see him towards the end of his career in the late-70's/early-80s before he retired after the 1982 season.
His final numbers? Hall of Fame worthy as he'd finish with 475 home runs, 1540 RBIs, a surprisingly high .282 batting average and 2232 hits over 2360 games and 7927 at-bats.
Think about those numbers in UNDER 8000 at-bats!
Of course when eligible for the Hall of Fame, he was in, with 82.4% of the vote in 1988.
So sad that he would pass away at only 61 years of age in 2001.
Rest in Peace "Pops"...

Monday, July 18, 2022


Thought it'd be fun to revisit a blog post from August of 2015, featuring my 1972 "dedicated rookie" for Houston Astros great J.R. Richard:

Here's the original post write-up that accompanied the card:

Always one of my favorite subjects for card creations, here's a "dedicated rookie" 1972 card for former Houston Astros fireballer J.R. Richard.
Richard appeared in his first four games during the 1971 season, and blew the MLB world wide-open when he struck out 15 batters in his first start.
It would take a few years, but he'd become the power-arm all-star by the 1975 season, and would go on to post two 300+ strikeout campaigns, four straight 200+ K years,  four straight seasons of 18+ wins (1976-1979), and an E.R.A. crown in 1979 before tragically having his career cut short in 1980 by a stroke.
His final numbers are indicative of what we could have expected well into the 1980's had he not been cut down at the age of 30: a 107-71 record with 1493 strikeouts and a 3.15 ERA in 238 games and 1606 innings.
It really would have been something to see Richard and Nolan Ryan team up to rack-up incredible numbers together.
One of the ultimate "what could have been" stories in baseball during my childhood for sure…

Sunday, July 17, 2022


On the blog today, we move on to the American League and their top three hitters for the 1976 season, displayed on a 1977 “expanded league leader” card:
It was a historic batting race that season, as three players were fighting for the crown down to the last weekend: George Brett, Hal McRae and of course Rod Carew.
By the time the (controversial) dust was settled, the young Kansas City Royals third baseman, Brett came out the victor, taking home the first of what would be three batting titles over his illustrious career, hitting .333 to McRae’s .332, and reigning champ Carew’s .331.
Now, I mentioned “controversy” earlier, because on the very last day of the season, with the Royals playing the Twins, all three players were in the same ballpark vying for the crown, and Brett dropped a hit in front of Twins’ outfielder Steven Brye, whom some folks claim let up too early, allowing Brett to win the title.
There were calls of racism coming in to play here, with Brett beating out teammate McRae on the inside-the-park homer when the pop-up bounced over Frye’s head and rolled to the wall while Brett circled the bases in his last at-bat in the ninth-inning.
Incredibly, the fourth-place finisher in the A.L. batting race was Minnesota twin Lyman Bostock, who finished the year at .323. So heading into that last series of the season, the top FOUR hitters in the league were head-to-head for that crown the final three days of the year.
Just amazing. Wish I could have seen that.

Saturday, July 16, 2022


Greetings everyone! It's that time again!

The newest WTHBALLS custom set is upon us, and it's the SECOND series of 1970 "In Game Action" cards.

Like the first series, this series is also 25 cards along with a sticker and vintage 1970 New York Mets Kelloggs Decal (to complement the Orioles decal from Series one), all packaged inside an Ultra Pro two-piece 25-card hard case with color wrap!
In addition to all that, everyone will get the "updated" Al Kaline card, a "fix" from my Series One Kaline that I had a little fun with! 26 cards total!
Sets are $20 each plus $4.50 postage. Of course as usual, if you buy more than one set, postage always stays the same.
See photos attached for the cards and packaged sets.
My paypal is the usual:
Thank you all for the continued support and interest!
Be well and safe!


Moving on in my new thread celebrating the All-Star games held between 1969 and 1978, we have the now classic 1970 game, of course remembered for Pete Rose and his game-winning take-out of American League catcher Ray Fosse at the plate:

Played at the new Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, it was the first All-Star game played at night, and featured starters Jim Palmer going up against Tom Seaver.
The game was scoreless until the sixth inning, when the A.L. put up a run, then added a second run in the top of the seventh before the N.L. got on the board in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the eighth, the A.L. answered back with two runs, giving them a commanding 4-1 lead and looking at their first All-Star win since 1962.
But in the bottom of the ninth against young Oakland A's pitcher Jim Hunter, the N.L. came back and scored three runs to tie it, helped by a Dick Dietz solo shot, setting up an extra-inning game that would give us an iconic moment in the game's history.
Scoreless to the 12th inning, the N.L. had Pete Rose single with two outs against California Angels' pitcher Clyde Wright, followed by another single by Los Angeles' Billy Grabarkewitz, sending Rose to second.
Up comes the Chicago Cubs' Jim Hickman, who lines a single to center field, sending Rose flying around third straight for the plate.
As we all know by now, the young Indians catcher Fosse was preparing to catch the throw in from centerfield, and just as he caught the throw, Rose comes and barrels into him, causing him to drop the ball, thus giving the N.L. their All-Star win.
Of course Rose has caught a lot of flack ever since then, some saying derailing Fosse's career just for an exhibition game. I tend to agree.
The Red Sox Carl Yastrzemski was actually named the game's MVP, only the second time a winner was chosen from the losing team, based on his four hits.
Clyde Wright took the loss while Claude Osteen got credited with the win.

Friday, July 15, 2022


On the blog today, a card that really represents a BUNCH of cards that I'd love to redo in the future, "missing" All-Star cards for actual starters of the previous season's game instead of some random selections Topps began doing in 1981, this being a 1983 All-Star card for actual A.L. starter Dennis Eckersley in the 1982 game:

Getting into card collecting around 1976/1977, I grew accustomed and EXPECTED my All-Star cards to represent the game's starters from the previous year.
In 1981 I was hit with a ton of bricks when I saw that Topps was now straying from that path when the great J.R. Richard, for some reason, did NOT have the All-Star banner across the top of his card, as was the case for Willie Randolph, Ben Oglivie, Graig Nettles and Ken Reitz.
What the hell man!?
When the 1982 cards came out, yep, we had more of the same, and by 1983 it was expected that Topps truly abandoned the "starter" criteria in favor of their own choices.
To this day it bothers me, and yes, I'll be fixing this in the future.
For Eckersley, he was the starter for the American League in the 1982 game held in Montreal, and pitched the first three innings, giving up three runs and eventually taking the loss, the big blow being Dave Concepcion's two-run homer in the second inning.
The National league went on to win the game 4-1, continuing their winning streak that began back in 1972.
The other player not given the All-Star treatment even though he was a starter in the 1982 game?  Cecil Cooper.

Thursday, July 14, 2022


Today on the blog we celebrate the great Negro League star Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, who had a card in my custom "Negro League Legends" set produced last Summer:

It’s tough to find a concise time-line of his baseball tenure, but it is alleged that Radcliffe played for over 30 teams and collected more than 4000 hits, hit 400 home runs, won over 500 games and struck out about 4000 batters.
A long time teammate of the great Satchel Paige, Radcliffe once caught a shutout by Paige in the first game of a double-header, then went out and pitched a shutout himself in the second game!
Six times Radcliffe played in the Negro league East-West game, three as a pitcher and three as a catcher, while also pitching and catching in two and six other all-star games respectively.
Remarkably, as part of a publicity stunt, Radcliffe was “signed” at the age of 96 by the Schaumberg Flyers of the Northern League in 1999, throwing one pitch to become the oldest player ever to appear in a game.
A character on and off the field, you can find more anecdote regarding Radcliffe than you can statistics, sadly the result of lost record-keeping for the Negro leagues over the years.
Just Google his name and try reading the bits and pieces that were recording over his long life, definitely an entertaining read!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022


Next up in my on-going 1970 "In-Game Action" set is the great Jim Hunter, aka "Catfish", who was still in the beginning stages of his eventual Hall of Fame career:

In his 15-year career, which wrapped up in 1979 due to arm troubles, Hunter racked up 224 wins, a 3.26 earned run average, 42 shutouts and 2012 strikeouts.
He took home the Cy Young Award in 1974 in his last season with the A's, came in second for the award the following year in his first year as a landmark Free-Agent with the Yankees, and threw a perfect game back in 1968 at the young age of 22.
A big-game pitcher, Hunter was a member of no less than five World Champion teams: 1972-74 Oakland A's, and the "Bronx Zoo" Yankee teams of 1977-78.
Did you know that Hunter is the last pitcher in the Major Leagues to complete 30 or more games in a season? 
In 1975 he completed 30 of his 39 starts, on his way to a 23-14 record with seven shutouts and a 2.58 E.R.A.
Between 1971 and 1975 he won 20 or more games each year, a great five year run which saw him win 111 games.
As a matter of fact, Hunter was the first pitcher since the all-time great Walter Johnson to win 200 games before the age of 31! And the only other guys at that time to also do it? Christy Mathewson and Cy Young. Incredible.
Sadly arm troubles and diabetes started to affect his career, forcing him to retire in 1979 at the age of only 33.
The final feather in his baseball cap would be a Hall of Fame induction in 1987 along with Chicago Cubs great Billy Williams, giving him a solid place in baseball history, if he didn't have one already...

Tuesday, July 12, 2022


When I released my 1963 Fleer "Lost Second Series" set a few months back, I also included two special cards of Negro League giants Josh Gibson and Satchel paige that were "missing" from the 1961 Fleer "All-Time Greats" set.

Today I spotlight the Gibson card, with Paige to follow in a week or so:


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. 

Monday, July 11, 2022


The next of my "missing" 1963 Fleer cards to get the spotlight is the great Frank Robinson, one of the most overlooked players the game has ever seen:

Frank put in a 21-year Big League career that saw him win Rookie of the Year in 1956 when he smashed a then record-tying 38 home runs as a rookie, win the NL MVP in 1961 when he helped the Cincinnati reds make it to the World Series, then become the first player to win the award in both leagues when he helped the Baltimore Orioles shock the world by sweeping the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966.
Oh yeah, he also won the Triple Crown that year, leading the American League in runs, homers, RBIs, batting, on-base-percentage, slugging percentage and total bases.
Just a killer year for a guy that was already established as one of the best players in the game.
Funny thing is that this was arguably NOT even his best season as a big leaguer at that point!
Just look at some of his season’s slugging and hitting his way through the first ten years of his career with the Reds!
Though he won the National League MVP in 1961, I always thought his 1962 season was the best of his career, when he hit .342 while collecting 208 hits, leading the league with 134 runs scored and 51 doubles, hitting 39 home runs and driving in 136, while throwing in 18 stolen bases and leading the league with a .421 OBP and .624 slugging! HUGE!
And to think that was only good for FOURTH in MVP voting that year, behind winner Maury Wills, Willie Mays and Tommy Davis.
But that 1966 season was extra special because it also gave Robinson a World Championship, as the Orioles and their young pitching staff went on to surprise everyone and SWEEP the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
Nevertheless, his Big League resume: 586 home runs, 1812 ribbies, just under 3000 hits, Rookie of the Year, and two M.V.P. awards (one in each league). You know his resume, I'm sure.
I was just too young to really be following the papers back then, but I wonder if there was any talk about continuing as a player to get to the 3000 hits. Anyone out there know?
2943 was so enticingly close to the magic hit number, but I'm assuming he really didn't have much left in the tank after only 53 hits his final three seasons.


Sunday, July 10, 2022


On the blog today, we move on to the 1977 Topps set and “fix” the league leader cards with “expanded league leaders”, starting off with the National League and their top three hitters of 1976:
We start off with Chicago Cubs hitting machine Bill Madlock, who won his second straight batting title in 1976, hitting .339 after hitting a blistering .354 the previous season.
Turns out the man would go on to win four batting titles before he was through, taking home the other two in 1981 and 1983 while with the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting .341 and .323 respectively.
By the time he retired, he finished his career with a .305 batting average, with 2008 hits in 6594 at-bats over 1806 games between 1973 and 1987.
Just three points behind Madlock in the batting race, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey (Sr.), who came into his own in 1976 (as if the “Big Red Machine” even NEEDED yet another star hitter!), hitting .336 with 189 hits in 562 at-bats.
He also scored 111 runs and stole 34 bases for the eventual World Champions, who possessed a line-up that was just silly: Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, George Foster and Griffey.
He would put in 19 seasons as a Big Leaguer, also topping 2000 hits (2143), with a career average of .296 between 1973 and 1991.
Of course, he also had a son who would go on to do a few things on the baseball diamond. Not too shabby!
In third place with a .330 batting average was the DEFENSIVE outfielder extraordinaire, Garry Maddox of the Philadelphia Phillies, who set his career-best average with 175 hits in 531 at-bats, slapping 37 doubles and stealing 29 bases for the N.L. East champs.
That season he also took home the second of his eight Gold Glove Awards, appreciated as one of, if not THE best defensive outfielder in the game at that time, leading to his now classic nickname, “The Secretary of Defense”.
By the time he hung up the cleats, he finished with 1802 hits in 6331 at-bats, good for a .285 average over 1749 games between 1972 and 1986.
Next week, we move on to the American League and THEIR top three hitters!
See you then!


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